Tag Archives: Challenges

One more challenge completed!

16 Sep

I’ve been thinking for the best part of the last week if I have completed another one of my #40Before40 challenges.

I wasn’t sure if that I had done counted or not but, after I wrote down on paper the criteria, I am now convinced that I have completed Challenge #20 from my list: to throw a birthday party for myself.

I can’t remember the last time I had a birthday party. To be honest, I am not really a huge celebrator of birthdays not because I don’t like getting old, but more because it is a bit of a faff to organise and people tend to let you down. I thought I make the effort to have a party and see if this time that I felt different about inviting people over to celebrate.

In my consideration of the criteria for a party, I came up with this list:

  • Invited guests
  • Uninvited guests
  • Selection of food and drink
  • Birthday cake
  • A rousing chorus of Happy Birthday
  • Presents
  • A speech from the celebrating person
  • Party game
  • Huge amounts of tidying up

Let’s look in turn at each of these:

Invited Guests

Either by Whatsapp or by mouth people received an invitation to come. My original idea was to make handmade or printed invitation but then I would need to find out peoples’ addresses to send them. It was a lot easier to send everyone a message and get a quick reply if they were able to make it or not.

Uninvited Guests

There is always someone who turns up unannounced or someone brings some one to the party who hasn’t specifically been invited. In my case, this was the neighbours’ cat. As we had a BBQ, we were outside and the cat made an appearance. I think he was scared about the number of people who were there and he didn’t stick around for long.

Selection of food and drinks

If anything, we prepared a selection of food and drinks that was far, far too much. One fridge was full with beer and the other was full with food. There was plenty of food to go on the grill, salads, finger food and desserts. We had so much left over but enough room in the freezer to save it for another time.

Birthday cake

I didn’t plan to have a birthday cake but I was fairly confident that one of my guests would bring one for me. Luckily, my friend, Stefan, didn’t let me know. He made me a fantastic Spider-Man cake that I am sure that he spent hours and hours made. It not only looked amazing, but it tasted incredible too.

A rousing chorus of Happy Birthday

I was treated to Happy Birthday in English and in German, which I think deserves double points. I think I did have Happy Birthday sung to me last year but it is an essential part of birthday party.

Presents

I was treated to some lovely presents. The main theme of my presents was a high alcohol content. I think I should be ok for alcoholic drinks from now until next March. I will need to consume it all before I take on my challenge of not drink for a year. It seems more and more unlikely that I will be able to achieve this and I haven’t decided when to start this challenge yet. I have been trying to find a “good time” to do it but I don’t think that such a thing exists.

A speech from the celebrating person

I did make a small speech to thank everyone for coming and making the party a success. I was actually really pleased about how many people had made the effort to come.

Party game

There was a Swiss game of King’s Chess that was played in the garden area outside. I’m still not 100% sure what the rule of the games were but it involved throwing wooden blocks at your opponents’ posts and being the first to knock down the King in the middle.

Huge amounts of tidying up

It’s strange that you spend so long cleaning your place for guest to come round and when they have left you have to start the cleaning all over again. The washing machine was put on about five times, the floors in the apartment had to be wasted again, the recycling taken to the recycling centre, crockery returned to the right guest and tables and chairs that we had borrowed from relatives returned as well.

Looking at the evidence, it is fair to say that I have now completed Challenge #20 of my #40Before40.

I did genuinely enjoy the party. I wasn’t able to talk to everyone as much as I would have liked (which is the downside of hosting so many people) and it was hard work getting everything ready and tidying up but it was worth it and I would do it again. Thank you to everyone who came to join the celebrations!

Four years to go…

5 Sep

It is now only four years until my 40th birthday and hopefully in this time I will have completed all the items on my #40Before40 list.

One year into the challenge I have completed 4 out of the 40 challenges. This sounds disappointing but several of the challenges are well underway and should be completed sooner rather than later.

The challenges I have already completed are:

  • Enter a photography competition
  • Go to the Opera
  • Go vegan for 3 months
  • Watch a series of 24 in 24 hours

Here is an update of where I am with the rest of the as-yet incomplete challenges:

  1. Pass C2 Goethe German exam – planned for November 2018. My life is currently a sea of German verbs, Grammar and practice exam papers and I am motivated so that I don’t have to take any more German lessons after the start of November.
  2. Visit 40 countries in Europe – visited 26 out of 40 and at least two more visits planned before the end of 2018.
  3. Go paragliding
  4. Enter a photography competition – completed on 16.01.2018
  5. Write my will and plan my funeral
  6. (Re)Learn the flute
  7. Go alcohol-free for a year
  8. Watch every movie on iMDB Top 250 Films list – watched 120 out of 250
  9. Write a novel (at least 50,000 words) – I have a number of ideas that I am currently working on and then I just need to chain myself to a chair and write.
  10. Beat at least one of my running PBs for 10k, 10 miles, half marathon or marathon – I have been struggling with a knee injury for most of this year so unfortunately I will have to try to complete this next year and hopefully my knee will be fit enough to get me round quickly enough
  11. Read the Bible cover to cover
  12. Go to the Opera – completed on 04.07.2018
  13. See the Northern Lights
  14. Go vegan for 3 months – completed on 15.07.2018
  15. Have something that I have written published
  16. Save money for a rainy day
  17. Write a diary for a year – currently in progress
  18. Take a Hot Air Balloon ride
  19. Take part in an Ultra race – I was hoping to do this in 2019 but with the knee injury that I have had in 2018, I might have to wait until 2020
  20. Throw a birthday party for myself
  21. Watch a series of 24 in 24 hours – completed on 25.11.2017
  22. Learn how to wolf whistle
  23. Try snowboarding
  24. Take an overnight sleeper train
  25. Cook every recipe from one cookbook – currently in progress – completed 60 out of 100 recipes
  26. Learn how to fold 40 origami designs
  27. Read 40 novels in German – read 6 out of 40
  28. Take a wine degustation course
  29. Read The 40 Books Every Woman Should Read read 15 out of 40
  30. Solve a Rubik cube – currently in progress
  31. Take up a new sport
  32. Catch, cook and eat a fish
  33. Make an item of clothing to wear
  34. Stop biting my nails
  35. Read 40 non-fiction books –  read 6 out of 40
  36. Fly long-haul business class
  37. Have a haircut at least 4 times a year – this is in progress but I am not going to tell you every time I have a haircut! That would be far too boring to read about!
  38. Be able to touch my toes
  39. Downsize – get rid of anything I don’t need or want by selling, giving away or donating
  40. Start and maintain my own travel website – the planning for this is well underway and I am hoping to go live in early 2019

Slow and steady progress – I will get there in the end!

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No regrets…

2 Sep

…at least not yet. This weekend I have done something drastic that in 10 weeks, or precisely 69 days, will come to fruition.

I have entered the C2 German exam. This is basically the highest qualification that a foreigner can attain when studying another language.

At the moment I have the time to sit and work my way through the grammar and the practice tests. If I waited until next year then I would just be putting off the inevitable. At least now I have a goal and something to work towards. I am hoping that it will help to focus me a bit more and that German words will learn to stick in my head, rather than me forgetting everything the second I have finished reading it.

The exam is relatively intensive. There are four modules: reading, writing, listening and speaking. I don’t have a favourite module (I used to when the level of German that I was learning was a lot easier!). I am under no illusions that if I was to sit the exam today that I would either fail outright or scrape a pass in some parts but not in others. But I do have some time left and between now and then. It would be nothing short of an impossibility that by November 10th I don’t improve just a little bit. I am already imagining myself being the very proud owner of a certificate by the middle of December, when the results come through.

As if that motivation isn’t enough, the first challenge of my #40Before40 is to pass the C2 German exam. One more challenge crossed off the list is perhaps more motivation than I can put into words. But this is definitely one of the most difficult challenges on my list. I guess it is time to hit the books and make sure I give myself a good chance of passing. Wish me luck!

Proof that I’ve taken the first step!

Cookbook challenge

20 Jul

My vegan challenge has ended but my quest to cook every recipe from a cookbook continues. Over the past few weeks, these are the recipes that I have cooked.

Carrot heart Sushi

I have made sushi before but never before with a heart made out of carrot running down the middle. It was a bit fiddly to “carve” the heart into the carrot and at one end it looked more like a heart than the other end. It was quite a nice idea and something a little bit different to do.

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Smoked Tofu and Crunchy Veg Sushi

This was a straight forward recipe to do. I could see me making this again in the future as an alternative to using salmon in the sushi. All in all, both of the sushi recipes were good and easy to make. But is it only me who ends up making misshapen sushi?

Squash Soup with Caramelized Ginger

I’m not sure how I managed to find a squash in July because I always thought that squashes were in season during autumn. As soon as I saw it, I knew that I had to buy it so that I could tick this one off the list. It wasn’t very hard to make but the squash that I bought was about five times the amount that the recipe required so I ended up making some soup to freeze as well as roasting some of the squash to have as a side dish for a evening meal.

Indian Chickpea and Pomegranate Salad

The hardest part of this recipe was getting the seed out of the pomegranate. I have never bought a pomegranate before and there must be a simpler way to cut into it than the way that I did because it ended with the red juice of the pomegranate being sprayed all over the kitchen counters and all over me. Nevertheless, it was a tasty and filling lunch. If I made it again, I would make sure that I bought the pomegranate pre-prepared.

Courgette Cake

I have never made a cake without eggs before but this recipe, obviously, didn’t contain any eggs. I had to proof the mixture and I am not sure if I left it for long enough because it didn’t look like it had risen as much as it should have. This cake was described in the book as being “perfect for a snack during the day” and I thought it would be a nice alternative to eating fruit during the working day. Unfortunately, my boyfriend tried a piece and the cake was gone before the end of Sunday evening.

Baked Sweet Potato with Lentil and Avocado Salad and a Grapefruit Dip

This was the recipe that helped me perfect my lentil cooking skills (finally!). The salad was really easy to make once the lentils were cooked and cools. I am not sure I have had a baked sweet potato before (I definitely haven’t done it myself before). This was a nice change from salads for lunch. I didn’t add the grapefruit to the dip because I couldn’t find any grapefruits in our local supermarket when I went, so I added some chives to the dip inside which complimented the lentils.

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Grilled Mini Peppers with Rainbow Bulgur

This was another new option that I tried out for lunch. Before changing to a vegan diet, I haven’t eaten bulgur wheat before but I am definitely a convert! The thing that took the most amount of time was cooking the bulgur and waiting for the mini peppers to cook in the oven.

Chia and Cashew Pudding with Apricot Purée

I haven’t ventured into cooking many of the dessert options in the book. But it just so happened that I had all of the ingredients in the cupboard so I thought that I would do it. It was a bit messy because most of the ingredients need to be put into a blender and it was a bit of a pain to get it out. Waiting for the chia seeds to swell up took the longest amount of time for the whole recipe. Because the pots that I had were small, I ended up making four so that we could have it for dessert for two nights in a row.

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Peanut Butter and Puffed Rice Crispies

I wanted to take these on a hike that I went on but I made the mixture slightly too wet and they hadn’t set overnight so I couldn’t take them with me. They weren’t hard to make but I am not sure that I would make them again – they tasted okay but they weren’t so special.

That makes 47 out of a possible 100. Almost half-way there!

V is for Victory (and Vegan) – Part II

17 Jul

As I mentioned yesterday in this blog post, I have now completed Challenge #14 on my #40Before40 list. Although the challenge is over, I will be continuing to eat vegan (at least part-time) for a while into the future. And these are the reasons why:1.If you have been following my blog for a while, you will know that I have been simultaneously this challenge along side my challenge to cook every recipe from a cookbook which is the 25th challenge on my list of #40Before40 challenges. I am about half-way through this challenge so there are still plenty more dinners, desserts and salads that I need to eat in order to complete this challenge as well. Come back soon to hear how I have been getting on with the latest recipes I have cooked.2. In order to celebrate my achievement, I will be having a vegan BBQ for some of my friends to enjoy some of the new recipes that I have learnt over the past few months. I really do think that this is an achievement. Before I started the challenge, I was a meat-eater and I went cold turkey for this challenge. (Possibly not the best turn of phase in the instance – perhaps cold tofu is more apt?) There will be some meat options at this BBQ party but more than 90% of the food will be vegan.3. I recently read an article on BBC about the growing rise of flexitarianism, which is people who eat vegan or vegetarian part-time. As my other half is keen to get back to eating meat (even though he has not gone hungry during this time), it seems like this would be a reasonable solution: I can chose to eat vegan but when we eat together we can eat meat and dairy products.4. I have lost quite a lot of weight during the past three months. I am a little worried that if I switch back to my diet from before that I will put all of the weight on again. However, I haven’t felt like I have been starving myself in the same way as I have felt when I have been on other diets. Being at least a part-time vegan would mean that I would be able to continue to control my weight.5. It may sound arrogant to say it but I know that this challenge has had a positive impact on the environment. I have been eating a lot more locally grown products. I won’t bore you with details about how much water, carbon dioxide and grain I have saved during this time. But there are lots of details about this on the internet if you are interest. This alone is motivation for keeping to a vegan diet for at least some of the time.6. I haven’t found it too difficult to refrain from eating meat. My Achilles heal is cheese. Living in Switzerland with the thought of not eating cheese during the winter fondue season would feel like Hell on earth for me. This is the reason why I chose to do this challenge in the summer months. So never having cheese again is not something that I could contemplate. If you hear news from Switzerland by the end of the week that there is a cheese shortage then you know that I have been making up for lost time!7. Being a vegan isn’t that bad. It can be tricky to eat out sometimes but more and more restaurants are catering for people with different dietary requirements. As I have said, I have never been hungry (apart from the very first week) and there are definitely lots of options, if you can plan ahead and are creative!Those are the reasons why I will be sticking with veganism for the moment. Come back soon to see if I do manage to complete my 25th challenge of cooking every recipe from a (vegan) cookbook!salad-2756467__340.jpg

Films I have seen recently

13 Jun

I have made a renewed effort to watch as many films as possible lately from my Challenge #8: To watch all the films on iMDB’s Top 250 list. What has helped is that my boyfriend is now onboard with the project so I have someone to watch the films with even though he is not a film buff. Luckily this means that he hasn’t seen the films that I still need to see so I have no guilt for making him sit through films he has already seen.

Here are the films that I have seen recently.

2. Godfather

It says a lot about a film when the least disturbing part of the film is when someone wakes up with a horse’s head in their bed. I actually thought that the Mafia did leave horses’ heads in peoples’ beds but actually that myth has been brought into society’s consciousness from this film. It’s funny how films have the ability to do that. Although the film was long, I was so engrossed in the action that I didn’t realise how long it was.

6. Schindler’s List

Obviously I knew what the theme of this film was before I sat down to watch it and I think I have seen parts of it before but I definitely haven’t watched it all the way through. I wasn’t expecting it to be a fun way to spend a Saturday evening and it wasn’t. But it is an important story to tell and that is why it is high on the list. The best part of the movie was having to watch a young Liam Neeson for three hours.

73. Vertigo

I found this movie a strange watch but strange in a good way. A man hires his former school friend and detective to follow his wife because she keeps disappearing and he doesn’t know where she is going. He doesn’t suspect that she is being unfaithful but that she has some psychological issues and that she might harm herself. The former decective does this and discovers that something isn’t quite right. He is suffering from vertigo after an incident that forced him to retire from the police force. I won’t spoil the ending but the scene where James Stewart’s character has a weird dream was disturbing. I can see why people think that this is Hitchcock’s best film. Incidentally, I miss his cameo in the film so I might have to watch it in the future to see if I can spot him.

74. North by Northwest

I didn’t realise that this was a Hitchcock film but I did manage to spot him in his cameo appearance at the start of the film when he is a man who misses the bus. Cary Grant must have been the George Clooney of his day. But I was troubled by how calm and collected he was when he is kidnapped in a case of apparent mistaken identity. Some of Grant’s lines reminded me of Connery’s Bond: very short and witty one-liners. I was disappointed by the ending. Mini Spoiler Alert! There was a near-impossible situation that I was dying to know what had happened but you never really know how they get out of it.

90. Full Metal Jacket

This is a film about the Vietnamese War. It showed the harsh reality of life in the military and life at war. I can’t put my finger on it but it had a different feel to other war films and wasn’t just scene of people getting blown to pieces (although there was a bit of that too). Probably I found the film particularly interesting because I went to Vietnam last year and learnt lot about a war that I didn’t know a lot about. The film portrayal is always different from the reality. I noticed that this is where the phase “Me love you long time” comes from as one of the Vietnamese prostitutes says it to some of the soldiers in the film.

144. Mr Smith goes to Washington

I am slowly falling in love with old black and white films. Smith is appointed to the Senate and wants make changes that will positively influence the lives of the people he is serving. His desire to make improvements is dislike by his fellow senators, who try to discredit him. This story is as relevant today as it was when it was made. I really enjoyed it.

183. Shutter Island

I have been avoiding this film for a number of years. It turns out that I thought this film was not the Ewan McGregor film with a similar name that was panned by the critics but a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio. At about one hour into the film, I realised what the plot twist was and I felt very smug about being able to work it out so quickly. However, it didn’t spoil the film for me because the acting was so good. Personally, I think that this movie should be much higher up the list. I would highly recommend it, if you haven’t already seen it.

244. Beauty and the Beast

This is the 1991 animated version and not the recent remake starring Emma Watson. Being a huge lover of animated films, I have no idea why this one passed me by, especially as this is the only Disney where the male lead character is under a spell and it is the female that needs to save him, rather than the other way round. Funnily enough, I did know most of the songs. We visited Disney in 1991 and 1993 and I remember the songs being on repeat. It’s funny how irrelevant things like that stay with you for 27 years but I can’t remember where I put my keys.

And so, I have now seen 103 film out of 250 or 41% complete (which sounds more impressive!)

 

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Challenge #25

16 May

Challenge #25 is currently under way. This challenge was to cook every recipe from one cookbook. The inspiration for this came from a film called Julie and Julia, that I saw and is based on a true story. A bored New Yorker (Julie) decides to cook all 524 recipes from Julia Childs’ “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in a year.

My challenge is not so daring. There was no way that I was going to choose such a long and complex book to cook but I thought it was an interesting challenge because: don’t we all have at least one cookbook at home that we have tried only a handful of recipes from?

Because I was new to being a vegan, I decided (with the persuasion of my friend, Stefan) that a vegan cookbook would be a book to chose. Then I could use recipes from book during my three months of being vegan. The book I chose is called Vegan on the Go. I don’t consider this cheating – I still have to cook all of the 100 plus dishes.

If you make a quick calculation, 100 dishes into 90-ish days means that I should be able to complete this easily in the time that my other challenge is running.

In practice, this hasn’t really happened. If I make a salad for lunch, I will make it to have for a couple of days. To cook 100 dishes while I am working full-time is also difficult because some of the recipes take a while to prepare. 14 of the dishes are desserts so these can’t be eaten for breakfast or lunch, even if I want to.

So, I will be cooking as many of the recipes in the coming months and then finishing off with the rest later.

Here is my progress so far:

Spinach and Banana Smoothie – I have had a lot of smoothies and this one was very similar to what I normally make. I did substitute the orange for grapefruit as we had this ingredient at home and needed to use it.

Guacamole – this is one of my favourites and the recipe was very similar to the one that I normally use.

Hummus – again I have made this a lot in the past and the recipe was almost the same as what I normally use.

Brocolli cakes with Mango and Avocado Salsa – I made these and put them on the grill and they were really easy to make. I was a bit worried that they would disintegrate during cooking but they didn’t. The salsa was delicious and I have made that again to have with grilled vegetables.

Gazpacho –  this took ages to make. I had to peel fresh tomatoes, deseed and core them. It took a long time and the kitchen looked like a bomb had gone off after I had finished. The result was good. It was the first time that I had even eaten Gazpacho. I enjoyed it, especially as we ate it on the balony in the sunshine.

Brocolli Cream Soup – in case you are wondering the cream in the soup was coconut milk, which does not come from a cow. Brocolli and Stilton is one of my favourite soups but this was a nice alternative. I would happily make this again and again.

Creamed Carrot Soup – again this was made with coconut milk. The recipe also had ginger in it which gave the soup a refreshing kick to it. Delicious!

Spicy Quinoa Chilli – I made this back in November last year. The recipe is basically the same as a chilli with meat but the meat is substituted with Quinoa. I made far too much of it and was eating it for about four days. It was a good job that it was nice or it would have ended up in the bin!

Panzanella (Italian Bread Salad) – I’ve made this a couple of times to take into work with me. It is so easy to make and so tasty as well. The receipe says to take the dressing in a bottle and then add it to the salad. I had to take an unused travel shampoo bottle with me because we didn’t have any small bottles to transport the dressing. Putting the bottle in the dishwasher was a mistake because it was too hot and the bottle melted a bit.

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Sweet Potato Burgers with BBQ sauce – as I am yet to find a vegan BBQ sauce in Switzerland and I am not a huge fan of it anyway, I missed this bit of the recipe out. The burger was easy to make. The main ingredients were sweet potato, courgette and breadcrumbs. It really didn’t take too long to make. I now have to convinced my boyfriend that these are worthy of a regular place on our BBQ.

Sweetcorn frittatas with Mango Chutney

This was a bit messy to make. You have to salt and then squeeze water out of the courgettes which takes time. The actual making of the mixture was pretty straight forward and they were cooked quickly. I made a jar of the chutney because we had two large mangoes to use and I thought it would be nice to have with other dishes like a curry or on the side of a salad. I think I was heavy-handed with the curry powder but apart from that it was delicious. I served it with salad as well.

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Asparagus Quiche – rather than make a one large quiche, I made four smaller ones so that I could take them into work. I cheated slightly because I didn’t make the pasty myself but used shop-bought vegan pastry instead. I should have added chillis to the filling but there weren’t any in the shop, so I used chilli flakes instead. I think the fresh chilli would have enhanced the flavour but it still tasted good.

Fruity Macadamia Cream – I made this back in November as well. I didn’t like the texture of it. Maybe I hadn’t blitzed the macadamica nuts enough but the others said that they liked it. I wouldn’t make this again, unless I had to.

12 recipes from just over 100 done!