Tag Archives: challenge

Homemade

30 Aug

The weather has taken a turn for the worse. I’m sort of glad because it was far too hot but now it’s just turned into torrential rain resulting with me being completely reluctant to leave the house for anything that isn’t a life-or-death situation.

As a result I have spent the weekend reading (yay!), watching films (yay!) and completing one more of my 40 Before 40 Challenges (yay!). This weekend I’ve made jam!

I’ve always wanted to have a go at making jam but I was scared to. Something that most people normally buy in a supermarket must be very difficult to make, right? WRONG! I found it suprisingly easy.

I didn’t pick my own fruit because a) a bit late in the fruit picking season to go and pick them myself, b) it’s been raining – a lot, and c) if I did go and pick them myself I would have spent most of time eating them rather than just picking them and putting them in the basket. As there was an offer on in the supermarket and I love them, I made blueberry jam.

My first attempt at blueberry jam

As I say it was relatively easy and you don’t need many ingredients. I used blueberries, sugar, lemon juice and plant-based pectin which makes my jam vegan! You basically put everything in a pot and boil it! I was always so impressed by the people on GBBO making their own jam and now that magic is gone.

We had it for breakfast and it’s very tasty and not too sweet!

I also decided to make lemon curd – another favourite on GBBO that I’ve always been amazed by. It is a bit tricker than making jam because the eggs can split but it turned out great. My wrist wasn’t too happy at the constant stirring though! I actually think this tastes better than what you can buy in the shops but as you can’t buy this in the shops here I guess that’s not so impressive!

Homemade Lemon Curd

I now have enough jam and lemon curd to last for a few months and I won’t hesitate to make them again on a rainy afternoon!

Challenge #35 – completed

6 Jul

My aim to read 40 non-fiction books before I am 40 is over. I’ve never been a big lover of non-fiction so I decided to attempt to clear my shelves of some of the books I’ve been meaning to read but haven’t. I must say I enjoyed this challenge more than I thought I would. Here are the books I read to complete the challenge:

The Healing Self: Supercharge your immune system and stay well for life by Deepak Chopra and Rudolph E. Tanzi – I get the irony of me finishing reading this book, just as lockdown started. There were interesting anecodes in the book but I would say that there was anything majorly life changing about the book. It advocated practising meditation, eating less meat and not drinking alcohol which are fairly standard practices for people who want to improve the quality and longevity of their lives.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion – this book is about the author’s struggle with coming to terms with her husband’s death while dealing with her daughter’s serious illness. I found it fairly indulgent and the most interesting part for me was how she dealt with her grief rather than her feelings of obligation to her daughter. A lot of the thoughts about grief and loss were familiar to me. I wished the whole book was devoted to exploring this rather than just dipping into the subject.

Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff – I credit this book with being the main reason I managed to finish the first draft of my novel. It’s a great read about why people fail to tackle goals they set themselves and how to recify this. There are lots of practical examples and tips to help you achieve any goal, no matter how big or small. To read a full review, check out my writer’s website here.

How to Get What You Want in the Workplace by John Gray – this is the third book of John Gray’s I’ve read for this challenge. I like the advice he gives and how it makes you rethink about how communications between men and women differ. In some respects, this books gives very similar advice and observances to the other books I read but I still found it useful and I’m trying to incorporate the advice into situations at work, though that is difficult at the moment when I’m working from home!

Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour by Kate Fox – This was a very interesting and funny book. The author looked at all aspects of English life from the pub, to queuing and attitudes towards brands of cars. Parts of it were funny and parts really made me think differently about social situations and the class system in England. I would love to read more books like this.

Dare To Connect by Susan Jeffers – I’ve tried to read this book before but failed. I managed to get through it this time and loved it. (I guess before it wasn’t the right time to read it). It’s all about connect with people and how having the right connections with the right people can help you achieve happiness. A great book.

A Rebel’s Guide to Inner Peace by Mahima Lucille Klinge – part autobiographical work, part self-help book, I found this interesting. I actually received this when I went to a conference arranged by the author last year. It was interesting to read more about how she had come to be at the point in her life where she was coaching people to improve their lives and as a reminder about the things I learnt at that conference. I am grateful I went on the conference and read this book as I benefited from it greatly.

How to Work with Just About Anyone by Lucy Gill – after reading this book, I realised that I have it easy as work. All the examples given in the book seemed to involve utterly awful people. If my work colleagues were that bad I would quit my job and be done with it. There was some good advice though which, again, I will hope to use in the future… if I haven’t forgotten it all after working from home for so long.

Finding Ultra by Rich Roll – as running an Ultra marathon is also on my list of things to do before I am 40, I thought this would be a great place to find tips for me to use in my training. The author was an over-weight middle-aged man who realised his lifestyle was slowly killing him so he changed his lifestyle and fell into long distance running. He went on to complete in the world’s most grueling competitions, such as Ironman races. It’s an inspiring story and, although I doubt I will compete in Ironman’s, I have learnt a lot about training for an Ultra. I highly recommend it if you are interested in competing over longer distances.

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch – this book had me in floods of tears at the end and I don’t care who knows it. The author wrote the book as a legacy to his young children after he was diagnose with terminal cancer. So many parts of the book struck a chord with me and the book was a reminder that although life is short, you can achieve your dreams, whatever they are.

I have now completed 22 of my 40 challenges. I’m starting to worry about completing the travel-related ones on time but I am pushing on regardless.

Challenge #9 – completed

4 Jun

Lockdown life handed me another great opportunity to tick another of my challenges off my list. You would be right for guessing this doesn’t have anything to do with my challenges that involve travelling. This challenge required focus and quiet time with my laptop.

It’s a lot of people’s dreams to write a novel and it has been one of my dreams for a long time. I’ve tried and failed to complete a first draft of a novel a few times – most recently in 2018. I decided lockdown was the perfect opportunity to try and crack the mission I’ve wanted so much to achieve but have so far failed.

So at the end of April, with a headful of ideas that I thought might be worth writing about, I started with the intention of finishing the first draft by the end of May. I wanted to write at least 800 words a day and, because my mum wasn’t able to come and visit but I had to take my holidays from my day job, I decided to write 2’000 words on these days.

I know it doesn’t sound like a huge amount of words but it is. Especially when you are writing without a definite plan of what is happening in the story. I knew exactly what I wanted the main character to be like and what difficulties she had to overcome but I didn’t know much else.

Some days it was easy to reach 800 words and some days it was hard because either I was tired or I wasn’t sure what was happening in that bit of the story. But I managed to finish my first draft on the afternoon of the 31st May 2020. I can honestly say I’ve never felt so emotionally and physically drained in all my life.

The story is far from perfect and the writing is scary in places despite it not being a horror story but I’ve tired so many times to write a first draft and failed that it is a big achievement.

I need to put a lot more thought into the characters and the plot which will be hard work but I have a good framework to go back to and improve. I also have a list of things as long as my arm that I need to research!

For now I’m having a break from the story. A writer friend of mine suggested two to three months before going back to it which seems like a good timeline to me. I woke up from a dream last night, realised what I was dreaming about needed to be included in my book, made a note of it on my phone and fell back to sleep so on a subconscious level I’m still thinking about it.

I have been thinking if a publishing house might want to publish it but even if they don’t after countless revisions, I’ll probably self-publish it anyway! That seems like a long way off in the distance. For now I’m glad to have a break from it and enjoy getting back to writing some short stories and come back to my porject last on this year.

If you are interested I have set up my own writer’s website. I’m also trying to blog semi-regularly there about all things writing and stories as well. Check it out if you have time: www.lyndsaylomax.com

Challenge #26 – completed!

19 May

Last weekend I finished another one of my challenges. I have now learnt 40 origami designs!

There are so many videos on the internet which so many different and designs and techniques that it has been a great challenge to complete during lockdown. All you need is a stack of paper and internet connection.

Here are the last 15 designs I made to complete the challenge. Some of them were easier than others. I tried to make a balance of easy and difficult ones to make the challenge more interesting.

In case you’re in any doubt they are (top left to bottom right): a tie, tulip, diamond, envelope, box, butterfly, sweet, star, dress, jellyfish (looks to me more like a UFO), heart, sword and 3 dinosaurs recreating Jurassic Park!

I think my favourite one from this batch was the butterfly. I’ve tried to make a couple of butterflies before but never managed it. This was fairly easy to make.

My favourite overall design has to be Pikachu!

I have now officially completed half of my challenges. So I’m about right on target. I’m slightly nervous about my travel challenges… I’ll have to see if I am able to complete them in the time remaining!

Challenge #38 – completed!

13 Apr

Lockdown has gifted me with some time to crack on and try and complete more of my challenges. One of the challenges I never thought I would be able to complete was Challenge #38.

I have never been able to touch my toes. I’ve always used the excuse that my legs must be too long. I had heard that it’s possible for anyone to be able to touch their toes by stretching each day. That was why this challenge was on my list – to see if this theory was true or no just fake news on the internet.

As I have been trying to exercise in some form each day I decided I might as well throw in some stretches and see if I would be able to tick this off the list. I found a 30 day programme of stretches on the internet (working up to 5 minutes of stretching a day) and decided to do this after every run or workout that I’d completed.

Drum roll please…. I did it!

It’s an awful picture but it proves that I did it! I managed to touch my toes after 13 days of doing the stretching programme. I’m still amazed I was able to do it. It seems like it is true that anyone can touch their toes if they stretch every day. In fact, I am sure stretching every day is beneficial even if you don’t want to touch your toes!

I have now completed 19 out of the 40 challenges on my list. Almost half way there!

Challenge 40 – completed

25 Mar

Life under lockdown is tough. I am managing to spend time on trying to complete challenges on my 40 Before 40 List. Of course, travelling is a no-no so I am concentrating on those that I can achieve by being locked in the house.

Last week I completed Challenge 40! The original challenge was to start and maintain my own travel website but I decided to change it to create a piece of art because I’ve done a bit of travel writing and I have to say I prefer travelling to writing about it. I made the change well before the Coronavirus outbreak!

So I made this:

In case you can’t tell, it’s a wolf. Okay, so it isn’t a painting by hand or something that I’ve conceived of myself. But I still think it’s impressive and you can’t say that it’s not art, even though I’m not sure what the exact definition of art is!

All of the materials were included in the pack that I ordered and then it was fairly simple to put together. The picture is made up of tiny squares, each with a symbol on them. You then have to look up on the key what colour needs to be glued into that square.

The squares are really tiny. I’m glad I didn’t order one that was bigger – I would have been doing it forever. This took me about a week to do. I did end up getting slightly addicted to it; just telling myself I will do another 10 minutes and still being hunched over the desk an hour and a half later. During this mad times, it provided a good distraction from everything going on in the world right now.

Incidentally, I have managed to almost destroy my left shoulder from leaning over it. I’ve had heat packs and all sorts on it trying to ease the pain. I have suffered for my art.

There are a lot of other challenges I can work on while I am house-bound. I am hoping to be able to tick off some more over the coming weeks. So stay tuned!

Challenge #16 – completed

9 Feb

I’ve completed another challenge!

Challenge number 16 on my list was to save money for a rainy day. I’ve always been good-ish with money but I’ve never really had a good amount of savings to draw on in case of an emergency.

I’ve read several sources that say it’s a good idea to have at least three months’ salary saved up. I have no idea why it’s 3 months rather than two and a half or even 5. It seems like an arbitrary amount without a lot of reasoning for it – a bit like the recommended 10’000 steps a day that are supposed to keep you fit!

As that’s what’s recommended that’s what I’ve done. I started saving last year after I started a new job and put away a little bit each month. If I’d been frugal during the month then I could save a bit more. It’s surprising how quickly an amount each month manages to grow into 3 months’ salary. Luckily I didn’t need to dip into these funds during the past year so it was just a case of save, save, save.

I’m hoping not to be forced into using these savings in the near future but we are in the middle of a restructuring process at work so I can’t honestly say for sure that this is what will happen. Perhaps I find myself out of work again, perhaps everything is business as usual. It’s hard to know or guess what the future will hold in the next few months but I do feel slightly better knowing I have something in reserve for a case like this.

If you don’t have money squirrelled away for the future, I would recommend doing it. Saving a little and often makes the whole process virtually pain free!

Challenge #30 – completed!

4 Jan

In the dying hours of 2019, I completed the latest of my 40 Before 40 challenges. Okay, that is slightly over-dramatic. I completed it at about noon on the 31st December 2019 because I had the day off and I was feel guilty that I hadn’t really done anything productive. But I finally solved my Rubik’s cube.

I have tried it a few times in the past and got more and more frustrated with it. It seemed like I managed to get part of it completed but then ‘messed’ up another side that I had already completed. This time I sat down and and completed the whole thing in one sitting. If I ‘messed’ up parts that were finished, I took a deep breath and started again.

Back together again!

I probably sound like a genius but I’m not – I did use a guide to solve the cube that I found online. The chances of you winning the lottery is much, much more plausible that being able to solve it just by randomly turning the sides. In fact, it took Rubik (the Hungarian inventor of the puzzle) more than 6 months to solve it himself.

Even with instructions it was tricky and I had to concentrate to make sure I was doing the next step correctly. And there are certain steps that you need to do in order to complete it. First you need to start with getting a white cross in position and then getting the correct corner pieces in position. I didn’t know that the middle square in a 3×3 cube doesn’t move so that determines what ‘face’ it is. You can’t just complete the white face without the corner and edge pieces being in the right place.

A lot of the solving of the puzzle is based on algorithms. When you see people on TV solving them in a matter of seconds, they must have memorized all of the algorithms previously and then just move the pieces in accordance to the moves they have memorized. It took me ages longer than the person who has the world record for solving a Rubik’s cube (4.22 seconds in case you were wondering) but I did it. I can’t actually put into words how satisfying it was when I turned the side for one last time and realised that it was finished.

I had thought that this could be a party trick of mine. I could take a Rubik’s cube with me to parties to impress friends and family by magically solving the cube. Or even show strangers on the bus, after all it doesn’t take up that much room in my handbag. The reality is that I would probably produce the cube and then spend another hour sitting in a corner, swearing quietly to myself while everyone slowly loses interest. So my search for a part trick continues but there is one less challenge on my list…

Challenge #28 – completed

13 Dec

I have cashed in my Christmas present from last year and can also mark another one of my challenges as completed! This was a very enjoyable challenge but that might be because during its completion I go happier and happier. Over the past two weeks I have spent 6 hours learning about and tasting wine on a wine degustation course.

Both of the evenings began with a smell test. There were 12 different scents that we had to try to identify. It was incredibly difficult because you don’t have any context to place the smell. You convince yourself that you can smell X but when you are told that Y is the answer you instantly know that Y is correct. On the first evening I got one out of 12 correct and the second evening I got 3 out of 12. The lecturer told us that you can get better at identifying aromas but it takes a lot of practice. He also explained our recognition of smell and aromas is heavily linked to the environment that we grew up in. For example, if you always ate watermelon as a child on holiday, the smell is linked to your memories and is much more easy to recognise than someone who does have this smell linked to a memory. The weird thing was that both myself and my boyfriend were convinced one of the smells was rose but it was actually hay. I guess I will be getting a bunch of hay for Valentine’s Day because neither of us can tell the difference.

The first evening focused on the world of wine, what conditions were best for growing wine and how to assess wines with all of your senses. We were shown how you should taste the wines and what differences you can look out for in different wines: “Do you also get the heady scent of mushrooms and coffee, darling?” We blind tasted 8 different wines during this evening. Some of them I didn’t like at all. My favourite of the whole evening turned out to be a 7 CHF  (or 5 GBP) bottle. 

The second evening focused on wine and food. I knew that on food programmes that wine is paired with specific meals and ingredients but I never knew why. Depending on what wine you pair with which foods the whole flavour of the wine can change. We tried this out by drinking wine on its own, then after eating a dried tomato and then after eating salt. How our perception of the wine changed with each combination was incredible. There is no way that you would think the wine was the same. Last year we went to a independent wine fair in Strasbourg and ate some strong, stinky cheese in between tasting wine. We now know that this has a huge effect on how the wine tastes so we might have a shock when we come to drink some of those bottles and they taste completely different to what we thought.

This knowledge is good to know for future tasting and it means that even though we have different tastes in wines we can ‘alter’ the flavour of the wine with what we eat with it.

We were also shown how temperature effects wine, how long it is best to store wine and how the wine glass can also affect how a wine tastes. There was also an instructional video about how to open a sparkling wine bottle with a bread knife. I will be trying that outside in the summer with a very inexpensive bottle in case it goes wrong. There was a huge amount of information packed into both of the evenings. The course was in German so I also learnt some new words related to food and wine.

I’m so glad that I had this on my list. I’m far from being an expert in wine but I know that the most expensive wines are not always the best and what I can eat to make a wine more pleasant for my palette.

 

A weekend in Kiev

15 Oct

Over the weekend I was visited my 33rd European country – Ukraine. It seems that there are always political news stories about Ukraine and I confess that I don’t read enough to know 100% what all the implications are.

A few people gave me raised eyebrows when I mentioned where I was spending the weekend but that didn’t stop me from having a great weekend in Kiev.

Kiev city

Kiev is a very smart modern city. I loved the old style buildings from the Soviet era mixed in with the new. The city was vibrant and full of life. All of the churches we saw were incredibly stunning. We didn’t realise that it was the start of a long public holiday when we arrived and on Saturday the Main street was closed to traffic. Being able to stroll down the street of a European capitol city and enjoy music and fire-eaters is something special.

Monuments

I love that many Eastern European countries have lots of monuments and memorials to people and battles that we’re not so aware of in Western Europe. I think one of my favourite monuments was in Kiev. It was called the People’s Friendship Arch. It’s beautifully made and commemorates the 1’500th year since the city of Kiev was established.

Chernobyl

The highlight of the trip was a full day tour of Chernobyl. I haven’t seen the HBO series and before going I didn’t know a great deal about the disaster and what actually happened. The tragedy happened during my lifetime but I was only 4 so I don’t remember news reports at the time.

You can only visit Chernobyl if you have a guide because specific areas are still dangerous and there are no road signs so I can imagine it would be easy to get lost if you don’t know where you are going.

We joined a group tour and our tour guide was fantastic. She could answer all the questions we put to her and had a great sense of humour which, in a case like this, must help to keep you sane.

The videos and photos that you have seen of creepy dolls, abandoned school buildings and former inhabited places overgrown by weeds and vegetation are true. I think my overwhelming feeling was of sadness. Not only did people leave a thriving new city which had the very first supermarket in the whole of the Ukraine but they thought that they would be coming back to their homes in a few days. The land we visited will never be inhabited again because, on a long-term basis, it’s not safe for human habitation.

We were regularly checked for radiation poisoning but I felt this was more a bit of entertainment than anything else. We had a dosimeter with us the whole time that told us how much radiation we had been exposed to. For the whole day we had been exposed to the same amount of radiation as you would be exposed to on a one hour flight. Also if you were contaminated, what could you do? You can’t take a pill to change it. What’s done is done.

 

 

Food and drink

No trip away is complete without sampling the local food and drink. We stumbled upon a local microbrewery and decided to have a beer tasting which included 6 beers.

We also tried borsch – a traditional beetroot soup, khachapuri – originally a Georgian dish and delicious dumplings! Now I’m back home it’s definitely time for a few salads to compensate for how much I ate.

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Passport Stamps

Of course, one of the most exciting things about visiting a country that isn’t in the EU is that I got another two stamps in my passport.

In November I will be heading to Tenerife for some winter sun and then to Nice and Monaco, which will become the 34th country I have visited in Europe.