Tag Archives: challenge

Happy Easter

21 Apr

Happy Easter to all my readers and followers wherever you are in the world!

It seems like this Lenten time has gone quicker than ever before and this year is going even quicker. I did manage to keep my Lenten promise of exercising or doing something to benefit my health each day. I have been struggling with a very bad cold this week but I still managed to wrap myself up warm and get out of the house of a 30 minute walk around the village.

I feel quite proud of myself that I managed to keep my promise. There were many occassions when I really didn’t want to get my trainer on or get the bike out and go for a ride but I managed to and, despite the cold that I has completely knocked me for six, I feel a lot better for it. In the beginning it was hard but once it becomes a routine it becomes easier, mentally and physically. Now I am in the routine, I’m determined to keep going with my daily goal of doing something every day to improve my health and fitness. First I will make sure that I am fully recovered from this awful cold.

I will be spending the next few days relaxing and eating chocolate. I hope that you will also be enjoying your time with family and friends.

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Fast approaching Easter

3 Apr

With only a few weeks until Easter, I am on track to complete my Lenten promise which was to be active every day. Lent is 40 days long which means that technically Sundays don’t count – if you include the Sundays in Lent there are 44 days. I have been keeping fit on Sundays even though I could have been having a rest. The weather has been good so it makes sense to get out when possible.

So far I have been combining running, cycling, netball and doing core strength exercises. I have started to notice that my stamina and endurance is increasing and I’m feeling more confident. However, I haven’t been able to lose any weight which is disappointing because that would be a nice side effect.

I must admit that I prefer to get out on the bike or put my trainers on and go running rather than doing core strength exercises. Even though it doesn’t take as long (there is no way that I can do more than 15 minutes of planks, sit ups, push ups etc) I really hate it. I can tell that it is having a positive impact on my running, cycling and my endurance in general but I just don’t like doing them. We also do these exercises at the end of a netball practice and I hate it with a passion.

Over the last 29 days, I have run or biked a total of 105 kilometers or 65 miles as well as taking part in 5 netball sessions and 6 sessions of core strength exercises. I’m pleased with that. It’s certainly not the longest ever run or biked but my knee is holding up. This time last year I was barely able to limp around 2 kilometers twice in one week. This is definitely progress!

It is often said that it takes 30 days to form a habit so I hope even when the next two weeks are over that I am able to continue with my exercise habit. I might not have time to go as often but even being active four or five times a week would be great. If the weather stays nice then I will have no excuse!

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Getting fit in Lent

7 Mar

Despite the fact that I noticed a while ago that there are Easter egg and chocolate rabbits in the shops, I hadn’t realised that this meant we were also fast approaching Lent. In fact I only remembered that it was Pancake Tuesday when everyone I knew on Facebook was posting pictures of pancakes that evening.

It has been a while since I have given up (or taken up) something for Lent and I thought I had missed the boat. It was getting short notice to decide exactly what I should do –  after all you don’t want to commit yourself to something that after a few days you realise is going to be impossible to achieve.

Rather than give up something, I have decided to take on something. For me this is slightly easier psychologically because I don’t feel like I am denying myself, rather that I am making positive steps towards something.

For that reason I have decided to get fit for Lent. Every day I will try to do some sporting activity that gets my heart rate elevated. Over the course of Lent, I hope that I will see a noticeable difference in my fitness levels and I will weigh less than I do now. This doesn’t mean that I will be running 12 miles a day, every day until the middle of April. Firstly, I am no where need fit enough to do that and, secondly, it is important to do a range of different activities and not the same ones all of the time.

I hope that I will be able to getting more running done but also some strength exercises, like sit-ups, press-ups and planks, to help with stamina and endurance. I plan to make a log of all of the exercises that I do and I will share this at the end of Lent so you can see how I have done.

I’m quite excited about this mini-challenge. The weather is getting nicer outside which means it is the perfect time to be getting active again.

Have you decided to give up or take something on for Lent? If you have I wish you all the best and hope that you can resist temptation until April 18th!

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40 Before 40: Challenge #29 – update

15 Feb

I’ve been busy reading more books from The 40 Books Every Woman Should Read. Here are the latest books that I’ve read.

Sexing the Cherry by Jeanette Winterson

This was a strange book. I don’t know what sort of genre it was – it was a mixture of fantasy and historical. It also incorporates The Twelve Dancing Princesses which is a commentary about women’s role in society. I found the book very surreal. If the book had have been much longer, I am not sure that I would have stuck out reading it until the end.

Beloved by Toni Morrison

The story is set after the American Civil War and tells the story of a woman who murders her daughter. When a mysterious woman returns, she is convinced this is the ghost of the child that she murdered. The book is hard to understand at first because it flips between different time periods, so you do have to concentrate to know where the part of the story relates to.

When I realised that this was essentially a ghost story, I wasn’t convinced that I would like the story. But the story is very intriguing. How the ghost affects the family and the mother in particular is interesting.

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

By far the worst part of this book is seeing the dates that the diary entries were made knowing that the hope of them being free isn’t going to happen. The contrast between the musings of a teenage girl (complaining about classmates etc) and the description of the harsh conditions is mind blowing.

The House of Spirits by Isabelle Allende

Four generations story. set in Chile. It’s an incredible read. It was super easy to read even though the book was almost 500 pages long but it was incredibly tragic as well as very funny at the same time. It is for books like this that I wanted to do this challenge; to discover new authors and great works of literature that I wouldn’t normally get the opportunity to read. I would easily say that this is in the Top 5 of my favourite books. There is pretty stiff competition with the amount of books that I have read so that is high praise indeed.

This was a joy to read. It’s the story of four generations of an eccentric family in Chile and charts the tragedy, hilarity and surreality of their lives in an ever-changing world. One minute I was laughing out loud, the next silent in shock at the events that were unfolding in the story. I would go as far to say that this was one of my favourite books that I have ever read. This was another long read but I doubt it will be long before I am re-reading it once again.

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

This was an incredibly long book. Whenever I was thinking that there was no way that the books could continue for much longer, there was a plot twist and I was completely engrossed in the story again.

This was a long book (my edition was 884 pages long) but was a great read. Set during the American Civil War, it is essentially a story of love and loss, focused on the main character Scarlett O’Hara. Throughout the book, I was wondering how on earth the story could keep going and going, but there was always a clever plot twist to stir things up again and leave the reader wanting to read on. I haven’t seen the film but I wonder how the whole story can be possibly cut down to the length of a film without losing part of the great story. I’m so glad that I stuck with this book and read it until the end.

Willful Creatures by Amiee Bender

This was a book of story stories. They were honestly the most bizarre stories that I have ever read. They were very surreal and made me re-think how a short story can be written. To show you what I mean, these were some of the outlines of the stories: a family of potatoes, who try not to be eaten, a boy who is born with keys as fingers and he has to find out what each of the keys opens and a man who keeps a small man locked up in a cage like a bird.

After reading most of the stories, I did have to wonder if I had read the story right and that I some how hadn’t misinterpreted it completely. The stories are brilliantly imaginative and entertaining.

Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer

All of these stories had a strong religious tone to them, which I think probably says a lot about the background of the author. The first story in the collection is called “Brownies” which brought back a lot of memories for me because I also went to Brownies, when I was a child. Even though you would think that this story couldn’t have a religious tone to it, one of the leaders of the Brownie pack was overtly religious. I thought the stories were interesting: overall, I wasn’t completely bowled over by the collection as a whole.

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

There are a lot of books of short stories on this list and this was another of them. The first part of the collection were stories exploring relationships between men and women and love. The story called “Unaccustomed Earth” is about a widower, who has found love with a new companion but decides not to tell his daughter because he wants to remain independent.

In the second part of the book, the three stories were related and told the story of two childhood friends, who, later in life, fall in love but decide not to pursue a relationship because she is already engaged to someone else. The ending is really sad. There weren’t many happy endings in any of the stories.

I have now read 25 out of the 40 and I am really enjoying this challenge.

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Update on Challenge #8

7 Feb

For challenge 8 on my #40Before40 list, I am attempting to watch all of the Top 250 films of all time as listed on iMDB. I realised in November that I hadn’t watched any of  the films since September so I am getting back into my film watching to give me a fighting chance of completing this challenge.

Here are the films I have watched recently:

11. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

To be fair, this wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  I’m a little bit confused about what the difference between an orc, a goblin, an elf and a hobbit but I have been able to work out who the good guy are.However, the other two films are also on the list and I will have to watch them as well. So I have time to work out who is whom.

30. Once Upon A Time in the West

Westerns really aren’t my thing. I think my day put me off watching them because they always used to be on the TV when we were growing up. It involves an mysterious harmonica-playing cowboy and I can still hear the haunting tune that he played in my head. It wasn’t awful but it just wasn’t my sort of film.

54. Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

I have tried to watch this film before but failed miserably by falling asleep. I managed to say awake for the whole of the film and actually found it quite funny in parts. It’s the story of what happens when a nuclear war is triggered by mistake.

57. Grave of the Fireflies

This is a Japanese animated film. It’s another war film from the list and is about a brother and and sister who are separated from their parents during the war. It was a very heart warming story with an incredibly sad ending.

58. Paths of Glory

Set in World War I, this is a dramatisation of a court marshall of French soldiers because of cowardice. The commanding officer attempts to defend the soldiers and highlights the flawed tactics of his direct commander. It was an interesting story.

84. Double Indemnity

Insurance salesman falls in love with a clients wife and sets out to plot his death to claim on an accident insurance policy. I found it interesting that the film starts with the main character admitting that he had something to do with the death. The rest of the film is then an explanation of what happened leading up to the confession.

93. Singin’ in the Rain

I can’t make my mind up if I liked this film or not. I do generally like musicals so it isn’t that I don’t like the genre itself. The film hasn’t particularly aged well – a lot of the comments would be seen as sexism or discriminatory these dates, especially as the backdrop for the film is Hollywood movies.

135. On the Waterfront

This was a story about the mob trying to gain control of the waterfront and the underhand dealings that go along with that. I found the story hard to follow at first and the story didn’t keep my interest that much. There was a great fight scene in it though.

150. The Wolf of Wall Street

I genuinely thought this was just a remake of the original but it definitely isn’t. I didn’t watch this when it came out in the cinema because so many of my friends said that they didn’t like it. I thought it was ok and the story was so ridiculous that it was funny. I’m not sure I’d sit down and watch it again.

162. Fargo

The most incredible thing about this story is that it was based on a true story. When a kidnap plot goes wrong, murder and mayhem follow. I always like true stories and this was no except. I still can’t believe that it actually happened though but a great film and definitely worth a watch.

173. There Will Be Blood

A silver miner, who portrays himself as an honest family man, buys land from people at a pittance in order to drill for oil. As the title of the film suggests this doesn’t end well because a local priest realises what he is up to and a feud between the two develops and threatens the whole of the community. Daniel Day Lewis won one of his Oscars for this role and his performance is mesmorising.

199. Mad Max: Fury Road

It took me ages to work out what on earth was happening in this film. It’s set in some futuristic world in a desert, where people are controlled by a tyrant, until rebels try to break free. There isn’t a lot of dialogue but there is lots of action, with fight scene after fight scene.

215. Before Sunrise

Two strangers meet on a train and decide to spend the day together in Vienna. As I spent a few weeks in Vienna a few years ago it was nice to recognise some of the locations in the film. The film itself wasn’t as soppy as I thought that it would be; there was something innocent about two people agreeing to make a perfect memory of one day together.

217. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

I’ve read all of the Harry Potter books but I’ve only seen one or two of the films. I remember reading this book and being utterly terrified by it. Seeing the dramatic representation on screen was just as terrifying. None of the other Potter films are on the list so I would if the reason that this one makes the list is because of the computer graphics used. Either way, I really enjoyed it.

While I was reviewing the list of films that I am yet to see, I noticed that there were 3 that I have seen which I hadn’t noticed were on the list. I have seen Amélie (which I saw when Netflix sent the DVDs to your house – remember those days?), Donnie Darko (with the scary rabbit) and Monsters Inc. which I can probably recite line for line because I have seen it so many times before.

That means that my current total of films that I have seen from the list is 135, which means only 115 to go! Hurray!

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40 Before 40 – Challenge #35 update

27 Jan

Another one of my challenges is to read 40 non-fiction books. I don’t often read non-fiction as I prefer to get my teeth into a novel. However, I have noticed that I have accumulated a lot of (unread) non-fiction books on my shelf. This challenge will give me the opportunity to read some of the books that have been gathering dust and also to learn some new things.

So far I’ve read 10 books so 25% of the challenge is already completed. Here is a quick review of the books that I have read so far.

1. Marching Powder by Rusty Young

This is the story of the time a Brit spent in a Bolivian jail after getting caught while trying to smuggle a large amount of cocaine into the country. I heard about the book while I was in La Paz in Bolivia, while I was standing outside of the jail featured in the book. I always find it interesting to read about places that I have already busy and this had an added dimension because I had seen the jail from outside but thankfully not from the inside. The story itself was fascinating. It explained the prison system in Bolivia (you have to rent your cell from the authorities)

2. My Wimbledon Glory by Andy Murray

I chose to read this book after I realised that sports books and biographies are non-fiction – this could prove to be a life saver in this challenge. I thought this book gave an interest insight into the world of professional tennis. Of course, this was the story of the run-up to Murray’s historic Wimbledon win in 2013. It was a great read because it felt like I was re-reliving some of the previous tennis tournaments as I was reading.

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3. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

I was so disappointed with the book and I would never have finished this if I had’ve chosen it for the challenge. I was really hoping that it would have been enlightening – the story is about how the author spent a year trying to improve her life and happiness. It was less of an epiphany and more of a bit of common sense written over pages and pages of boring drivel.

4. Be A Travel Writer, Live Your Dreams, Sell Your Features by Solange Hando

As I am hoping to launch my own travel website, this was a great book to give me some ideas about articles and about how to write them. This book was more aimed at writing articles for online and offline publications and how to pitch your ideas rather than writing for a blog or website. I will definitely be re-reading certain chapters of this book over the coming months when I continue making more preparations.

5. What’s Next Gen X? Keeping Up, Moving Ahead and Getting the Career You Want by Tamara J. Erikson

I was lent this book by my former boss. I have always been scpetical about the labelling of generations into Baby-Boomers, Millennials etc but this book was fascinating and I really felt that the advise was relevant to me. It gave me lots to think about, especially in regards to office dynamics and politics.

 

 

6. Roald Amundsen and the Exploration of the Northwestern Passage

This was a short book that I picked up when I visited the Fram Polar Ship Museum in Oslo. The museum itself was great and the book gives a detailed account of the exploration and the events that happened.

7. Feel the Fear but Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers

This was an interesting book. Basically, it tries to explain reasons why we are so fearful about change and suggest techniques to help us overcome these fears. Some of the examples in the book I could identify with and I think it will be useful to know the techniques and try and use them in the future. I did read some reviews to say that this book was solely aimed at women who had recently come out of relationships and were finding it hard to move on but I didn’t get this sense at all.

8. How to Make Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

I have had this book on my “to read” shelf for a long time. It was an interesting book about human psychology and the basic premise of the book is “be nice”. That’s so of it really. By being agreeable, people will want to spend more time with you or do business with you. It seems logical that people who are easy to get along with will have no problem finding friends. However, I wonder if you did follow all of the advice in this book if you would end up feeling very unsatisfied with life. You would just end up doing what other people want and forfeit a large part of your personality to get along with people. Having said that, I will follow some of the advice that the book gives, especially because some of the examples that were given did ring true to me and I think the advice could help me in some areas.

9. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

By far the worst part of this book is seeing the dates that the diary entries were made knowing that the hope of them being free isn’t going to happen. I was almost will them on to escape to freedom, despite me being aware of the outcome. The contrast between the musings of a teenage girl (complaining about classmates etc) and the description of the harsh conditions is mind blowing.

10. Every Second Counts by Lance Armstrong

It was interesting to read this book as it was written before it was revealed that Armstrong was not the clean athlete that he always claimed to be. The thing that annoyed me most was that throughout the whole book he was protesting his innocence with regards to doping – for me there is a clear distinction between someone saying they are innocence and writing a book which people used their hard earned cash to buy. I really think that it rubs salt into the wound. I also thought that the tone of the book was very arrogant and I became very irritated by the constant name dropping.

40 Before 40: Challenge #25 – completed!

19 Jan

Over the past week, I have managed to complete Challenge #25!

Here are the remaining 9 recipes that I needed to complete in order to finish the challenge.

Arabian Rice

This recipe used seitan, which I have never tried nor heard of before. It’s a protein-substitute. It was a pretty easy recipe to make and I decided to make it spicier that the recipe said and perhaps I shouldn’t have because it ended up being a bit too fiery. The seitan was ok as well. I can’t really see me using this as an ingredient again but it was more than edible.

Caramelized Rice Pudding Cakes

Easy to make but it takes a while because the mixture has to set in the fridge for at least 12 hours. I love rice pudding and i never would have thought about make them into cakes and then frying them. Yummy!

Baklava

This turned out well and I was surprised. You have to bake the nuts and filo pastry and then “feed” the baked result with a sugar and water syrup mixture. It didn’t taste like other authentic baklava that I’ve had before but it was a good imitation.

Easter Buns

We had Easter Buns in January! And I will probably be making them again in April. It took a lot time to proof the dough – around 100 minutes in total. I was impressed that I managed to make the dough and it rose so well. Two thumbs up!
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Stuffed Polenta and Mojo Sauce

I would happily make this again (and I will because I’ve got 500g of a packet of polenta left). I did forget to add the oil before putting it in the oven and I thought it would be dry but it turned out well. I wasn’t such a fan of the sauce that was with it.

Triple Nut Plait

This was an absolute nightmare. At one point I was even thinking about throwing the whole thing in the bin and giving up. Making the dough itself was no problem but I found that I had far too much filling for the plait and everything just oozed out, which seemed like a waste of time and food. I managed to salvage it in the end. It didn’t look like it did in the book – but I have found that quite a few of the recipes looked nothing like the pictures provided, even though I have followed the recipe to the letter.

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Pitta Breads with Egg Salad

This was easy to make and tasted great. You don’t actually need to have the pitta breads as an accompaniment. If I made it again (and I think I would) I would just eat it without the egg salad. Another complaint of mine throughout this challenge is how many ingredients it takes to make a recipe. In this case I personally don’t think it’s necessary to have the chickpeas added into the mixture. The recipe says to use only 90g (most cans are 400g) and there is enough texture and crunch from the other ingredients so by not having them included you don’t really lose anything.

Macaroni Salad

This is another recipe that I would make again but I would be a bit more careful with the portion sizes. The recipe said that this made enough for 2 large portions but it ended up being more like 4 large portions. I was surprised that the ingredients (onion, sweet potato, red pepper) that were blended to make the sauce actually tasted good. I would have never thought about putting them together and blending them. The book also says that the sauce can be used on its own as a dip instead, which I might try one day in the future.

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Autumnal Apple Dream

It took me a while to find coconut cream to use in this recipe. I am not a huge fan of coconut anyway so I don’t think that I would make this again. It was easy to make and I had all the ingredients apart from the coconut cream at home but I would need to find a substitute for the cream, if I was to make it again.

As I have mentioned in previous post this challenge was inspired after I watched the film Julie & Julia. It tells of the story of Julie Powell, who successfully made all of the recipes out of Julia Child’s classic French cookbook “Mastering the Art of French cooking” in a year. Powell’s achievement of cooking 524 recipes in one year. And she was cooking classic French recipes! It has taken me almost a year to cook 100! C’est la vie!

And, finally, thanks to all the people who have supported me on this challenge. My many vegan recipe tasters are definitely the best. Everyone that I spoke to about this challenge has been open-minded and ready to embrace my eccentricity. I’ve been really touched by peoples’ support, encouraged by comments (both personally and people who have contacted me through my blog) and I’ve learnt a lot about cooking, ingredients and baking. It’s been fun but I’m glad this challenge is finally complete.