Tag Archives: Challenges

Staying strong

28 Apr

Two weeks into my vegan challenge and I am still going strong. This week has been a bit more difficult because we had a team dinner on Thursday but I managed to enjoy the evening and some food without too much hassle.

I have to say that I generally am feeling pretty good. I am sleeping better but I am not sure if this is because of the diet or just because I am more tired this week and I have slept better. But I have heard that sleeping better is one of the positive side effects of a vegan diet. I don’t think that I have lost weight (which is another health benefit, if you need to lose a few pounds) but we don’t have a pair of scales at home so I can’t be sure.

Anyway, here are some of the highs and lows from this week.

Soups

Soups are one of my favourite things to eat and it is easy to make a homemade vegan soup at home. Last Sunday it felt like I spent most of the day making soup. I made a Gazpacho soup, a Spanish soup that is served cold. Apparently this is one of my boyfriend’s favourites –  who knew? Luckily it got the seal of approval from him but it was fairly time consuming to make. I’m not sure that I would make it again unless I found a simpler recipe. I also made a carrot, ginger and coriander soup using carrots from our garden, which I put in the freeze for a week in the future, and a broccoli soup to eat during the week after work so that I don’t have to spend a lot of time preparing something. I must say that the broccoli soup was delicious. An absolute favourite of mine is Stilton and Broccoli soup which is off-limits but I didn’t miss the cheese at all.

Packed lunches

Taking packed lunches into work has been a life saver because there isn’t a huge variety of vegan-friendly sandwiches and salad available in supermarkets. So long as you plan in advance, a homemade pack lunch is perfect. I made an Italian bread salad to have twice this week at work. It was really easy to make and I even made the croutons for the “bread” art of the salad. It didn’t take any time at all to make and, because the weather has been so warm, I sat outside in the park and enjoyed my lunch there.

Although the choice for sandwiches isn’t huge, I have discovered that there is a vegan range in Coop (one of the supermarkets in Switzerland) which has some really nice vegan wraps. As I ran out of time to make all my packed lunches this week, I tried the hummus wrap and was really impressed by it.

Recipes

The soups and the Italian bread salad have all come from my vegan cookbook which has not only given me some great recipes but also ideas about how I can make substitutions in my own cooking. Some of the recipes are a bit complicated and they require quite a few ingredients but I am slowly building up a good range of ingredients to draw upon in our cupboards. Again with the recipes, as with everything else, you need the time to plan and to make the dishes. I have already realised that I need to find a lot more alternatives or I will find that the diet becomes very boring very quickly.

The first BBQ

Although we can’t grill meat on the grill, we can grill vegetables! We had our first BBQ of 2018 last weekend and we didn’t go hungry. I made a spicy salsa, a guacemole, salad and a huge variety of vegetables. It was delicious! I was keen to try making a lentil burger to go on the grill but Markus wasn’t so keen. It remains on my to-do list and we will definitely be trying it one day soon.

Team event

On Thursday we had a team event at a very nice restaurant in Zürich. Not many of the team know that I have taken up a vegan diet and I’m not sure what they will think when I say that I am doing in voluntarily. There are lots of vegan restaurants in Zürich but this wasn’t one of them. It turned out the only thing I could have was a salad which grilled vegetables. I checked that the house dressing wasn’t made with milk, cream or honey. It was cruel to watch everyone else tucking into a medium rare steak or fish but I genuinely enjoyed what I ordered. I cringed when someone mentioned having a dessert but then I saw that they had a mango sorbet on the menu and it made me smile. The choice available to me was limited but I still enjoyed the evening.

Disappointments and small victories

11 Mar

I was so excited on Thursday because I was ready to tick off one more item off my #40Before40 list. Unfortunately, the paragliding we had scheduled to do in Iquique was cancelled because the wind was too strong.

I was disappointed but obviously in the interest of health and safety it was the best thing to do. The guy whose company it was actually explained to us the reasons why and said he really wanted to take us up there.

As a Brit, I find it a little bit strange that sports get cancelled because of weather, particularly “a bit of wind”. I’m pretty sure as a teenager that I took part in athletics competitions in hail and I definitely played hockey in 2 inches of snow.

We will try again at the next available paragliding place on our trip.

The bitter taste of disappointment was sweetened a little when we went sandboarding in the evening instead. If you know my #40Before40 list as well as I do, you will know that one item on the list is to try snowboarding.

Although they are not quite the same, it’s given me a bit of an idea about what I am up against.

I wasn’t 100% happy with the lack of instruction that we were given. Everyone else in the group had snowboarded before and I think that it would have been good to be able to have some tips of what to do.

It was quite exhausting because you had to walk up the sand dunes after every run and re-wax the bottom of the board with a candle before going down again. Obviously you don’t have to do this with a snowboard.

Also there was no aprés-ski available – no small bar at the bottom of the hill where you can get a beer or two. I will never not admit that I am more of a social winter sports person than any sort of winter sport athlete!

Still it gives me a bit of hope that I should be able to enjoy snowboarding to a small degree when I finally take the plunge and try it. That will have to be next season now as the snow will have gone by the time we get back. Only around 8 months to wait…

40 Before 40: Challenge #29

3 Mar

Challenge #29 on my list was to read all the books on the 40 Books Every Woman Should Read. This is a list of 40 books by female authors, the majority of whom, to my shame, I am not familiar with or even heard of.

At the start of the challenge, I had already read 4 of the books on the list, mainly because we were forced to read them at school and not necessarily because I was particularly interested in reading them.

As I have got older, I tend to read only contemporary books. There are quite a few older books on the list, like Little Women and Jane Eyre. To be blunt, I wasn’t looking forward to reading these at all. It was always hard work reading them as a young adult.

For this update, I have read two of these “older” books and I have to say that I have really enjoyed them. Below are some of my comments about the books that I have read from the list.

Near to the Wild Heart by Clarice Lispector

This is one of the authors from the list that I haven’t heard of. She is actually Brazilian and the book was originally written in Portuguese. Before I started to read the book, I found out that her writing style has been compared to that of James Joyce, who made famous the stream of consciousness narrative style. In fact, the title of the book is actually a quote from Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I enjoyed reading Joyce for my English Literature A-Level exam so I was hopeful that I would also find this book enjoyable.

The main character is Joana and the story provides flashbacks between her childhood, her adolescence and present day. It tells the story of her relationship with her husband and their divorce (which must have been scandalous to read in the 1940s) and the woman, who her husband gets pregnant. In one part of the book, Joana meets with this woman, Lidia, who she knows is having an affair with her husband. Her reaction was a bit strange as she is not particularly bothered by this.

I really enjoyed this book. Sometimes the book was hard to follow because it flipped between different times but some of the descriptions and the writing was incredible.

Little Women – Louisa May Alcott

I had this book as a child but I only managed to ever read a couple of chapters of it. It is perhaps one of the most famous books on the whole list. The story is of a group of four sisters, who are growing up during the time of the American Civil War. Their father is away working as a pastor and the four girls and their mother are left at home waiting for news about his return.

The four young women have very different characters and personalities: one is a tomboy; another very quiet and interested in art; another the mother figure of the group, when their mother is absent; one is very shy and musical.

The story tells what becomes of the sisters as they grow up, which includes marriages, deaths, births, work and extensive trips to Europe.

The BBC showed an adaptation of the book between Christmas and New Year. As it was after I had read the book, I thought it might be a good idea to watch it. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get into it. Perhaps the characters didn’t look as I thought they would have done. I also found the American accents a bit uncomfortable. As I was reading the book, I did have the tendency to forget that the story was set in America and not in England and so it sounded a bit funny to my ears. I only got about 20 minutes into the programme and I decided to stop. I guess, in this case, the book was better than the screenplay.

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

I always find this book confusing. Is it Jane Eyre written by Charlotte Bronte or Charlotte Bronte written by Jane Eyre? Again I think that this was a book I had when I was younger that stayed on my book shelf unread. In the end I really enjoyed this book, so it was a shame that I had left it so long to read this book.

As many books from this era begin, Jane Eyre is an orphan, who is unwanted by her uncle’s family, who she is put into the care of. Eventually, she is sent away to a boarding school, where she is educated and thrives, but not before she watches her best friend in the world die of consumption. She goes on to be a teacher at the boarding school but, after getting a job as a governess of a child in a private house.

Jane falls in love with the Master of the house and is due to marry him until the wedding is stopped because Mr Rochester is already married. His wife is actually a lunatic who lives in the attic (all very bizarre). Jane leaves in the middle of the night because she does not want to become his mistress. Exhausted and hungry, she comes across a house where the people take pity on her and nurse her back to health. The new Master of the house gives her the job of a new governess of a school for poor children. He wants to marry her but she is still thinking about what happened to her Mr Rochester, who she still loves and always will. She goes off in search of him to see what has happened to him and… I won’t spoil the whole thing. You can read it yourself.

I liked the book because, although it was a romance, it wasn’t too over the top. I think a lot of books talk about love as it is some magical spell that transforms people suddenly, when in most cases love is a lot more dignified and isn’t necessarily know to the beholder immediately.

Also I learnt the word “lugubrious” which means looking or sounding sad or dismal. This is my new favourite word. If I was still at school, I would be desperate to get this into one of my exam scripts. I might try to get it into one of my short stories.

I have now read 7 out of the 40 books that I need to complete this challenge. I am so glad that I decided to have this one my list. I’m really enjoying it.

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40 Before 40: Challenge #17

2 Feb

I am officially 8.5% of the way through the seventeenth challenge on my 40 Before 40 list. My 17th challenge is to write a diary every day for a year. 31 days of the year have already been and gone so I can be very accurate with how much of this challenge I have completed.

The reason I decided to add this challenge to my list was because I have tried several times to write a diary for a whole year and I have always failed after a few weeks. I’m not sure why I have managed to fail so often but this time I am determined to complete the challenge. Of course, if I fail to complete the challenge again in 2018, I still have a few more years to try to complete it.

Recently I have been wondering why people write diaries at all. Famous diarists, like Anne Frank and Samuel Pepys, would never had known that their daily musings on every day life would be still being read today and the insights that they would be able to give to us into historic events.

I have no doubt that what I sit down and write each time before I go to bed will possibly never be read by a wider audience and probably not even by myself. Personally, it had more to do with the act of sitting down at the end of the day to reflect on what I have achieved and what I have found difficult about the day. I have found, even at this early stage, that it offers time to sit quietly after a day which might have been very busy or stressful. This is something that modern life doesn’t often allow us to have.

I was hoping that it would also help to clean out my thoughts before I go to bed and, therefore, help me in my New Year’s Resolution to get more and better quality sleep. Unfortunately, I haven’t found this helps all that much. People often advise that writing something down that you are struggling with during the day is a good way for you to get these thoughts out of your head. I find the opposite is true. After writing things down, I find that I want to think more about these things and try to solve them if possible.

I will persevere though. It takes 66 days to form a new habit. So I still have a number of days to go until this has become a habit. It does help that I have set a recurring alarm on my phone so that I remember to do it every day and the diary lives on the bedside table. There is no way that I have been able to forget to make my diary entry for the day. Every habit needs a bit of encouraging and I hope that my sneaky tricks to make sure that I write every day will get me closer to ticking off another challenge from my list.

My very colourful diary

My very colourful diary

40 Before 40: Challenge #4

24 Jan

My fourth challenge on my #40Before40 list is to enter a photography competition. On the face on it, this doesn’t seem to be a very hard challenge but, as with anything that has a creative element to it, it can sometimes be difficult to be objective and to assess something that you have created.

Also, I am very much an amateur photographer. I don’t claim to be an expert at all. I tend to just point and shoot what I see. I know that I have taken a few good photographs but this has often been as a result of good luck rather than good judgement.

I am a bit of a purist when it comes to photography. Lots of people spend hours and hours after taking a photograph using Photoshop and various other editing tools. People improve light and colours and, in my opinion, sometimes this means that the photo doesn’t look “real”.

Apart from cropping a few photos to make sure that they are better framed, I leave my photos well alone. The fact that I am not so familiar with all of these editing programmes also has a bit to do with it. A photo captures a certain point in time and it is often the case that an “imperfect” moment helps to give more character and a better impression than something that has been edited post-production.

It was hard choosing the photos to enter for the competition. The photos that I have been really proud of never look as impressive when you are trying to look at them through the eyes of a critic.

In the end, I decided to enter three photos. The competition was for photographers, both professionals and amateurs alike, who are based in Zurich and the surrounding areas. There was no limit on what images could be entered so long as the photograph was your own.

Two of pictures I entered were taken in Switzerland and one of them was taken when I was in Cambodia in April 2017.

Here is one of the photos, which I have called A Goat’s Eye View because why should birds get to see everything?

I very much doubt that the photos I have entered will make the shortlist of the Best 50 which are then exhibited to the public in Zurich. The public will then be able to vote for the winner. I will, of course, let you know if I do get a surprising result!

40 Before 40: Challenge #1

17 Jan

My first challenge for my #40Before40 is to pass the C2 Goethe German exam. On the European Framework of Languages this is the highest level and means that you are almost on the same level and understanding as a native speaker.

One of the reasons I moved to Switzerland was to learn a language. A lot of people I know, and I mean mainly British expats, don’t bother to learn the local languages. It is possible to survive working here in an international company where the preferred language is English. However, I feel it is a bit of a shame not to try to learn it because, I believe, your experience will be much better for it.

That is not to say that it is easy. I came here not knowing a word of German and now I still don’t think I know any of it some days. It requires a huge investment of time, brain power and perseverance. So, I have worked doggedly for the best part of four years and slowly but surely I am getting there.

I have now finished my C1 course. So that means I am one more level away from completing this challenge. If you have every been stuck on a level in Candy Crush, you will know that “just completing one more level” is not as easy as it sounds. I will begin the C2 level when I am back from my travels in March.

To become even a little bit closer to being considered as a native speaker, I know that I have to improve quite a bit. Mistakes are not looked upon kindly in the exam. Also I know that I need to work on managing my stress levels in the build up to the exam because it is pretty unbearable how stress I manage to get myself. I dare say it is worse for people who know me.

I am under no illusions that this could be hard to achieve but I am going to give it my best shot and see what happens. I have got this far so that has to mean something.

One thing that I found equally laughable and endearing is that a colleague of mine confessed that I have inspired her to take her German exams as well. I never thought that I would inspired anyone to do anything, let alone take German exams. From the sound of it, she is doing more work and preparation than I have for the last four years.

But as a former boss of mine once said: You only need to be one mark above the pass mark. Everything else is wasted effort.

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40 Before 40: Challenge #14

15 Nov

Challenge 14 on my #40Before40 list is to eat vegan for 3 months. I haven’t started the challenge yet but I have started some research into it. I think that this challenge is certainly doable but I will have to plan in advance.

I have already had a look in supermarkets to see what alternatives they offer. One of the supermarkets here has a coconut oil spread alternative to butter. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I haven’t tried it yet because I don’t know if I am just not going to eat butter at all. I don’t eat a great deal of it anyway.

I have stopped drinking milk and have tried almold, oat and rice milk as potential alternatives. I am not particularly taken by any of them and almond milk is by far the worst. They seem to be a lot thinner than milk and a bit sweeter to the taste. I have also noticed that no matter how much I put in my cuppa, it doesn’t make it go the right colour. You will know what I mean if you are British and reading this. We have colour charts like most countries have for paint for our tea.

I have also swapped my normal breakfast of museli and youghurt for chia seed pudding made with my milk substitute, which hasn’t been so bad. Of course, when I do get going with it and I can’t have eggs and bacon for breakfast, I will definitely be complaining.

There is a good range of meat free products available in Coop. It’s mainly bean burgers, falafel and so on. All of this I can make myself, if I do manage to get myself organised. They also sell dairy free cheese. It will possibly taste like plastic but it is good to know it is there.

I have also spent quite a bit of time online researching some receipes. I googled best vegan breakfasts and I got a list of receipes that say “drizzle over a bit of honey…” If it has honey on it then it isn’t vegan. I was hoping that I would be able to find a list of lunch ideas which says “to the horseradish add roast beef”. That would make the challenge easier but I don’t think that I will find that.

I plan to start this challenge in earnest next spring/summer. As more fruits and vegetables are available in spring and summer, I think it will be easier to do it at this time of year. It will be tough not to have sausage on the BBQ but I can have grilled vegetables which I like just as much.

In the meantime, I will be continuing my search to find alternatives and ways to make sure that I get all the vitamins and minerals that I need. This is defintiely going to be a challenge! If any of you have any vegan receipes or tips that you would like to share with me, please feel free to get in touch!vegetables-2898523__340