Wasn’t Expecting That

My story – Challenge 45

It’s been 24 days since I arrived in St Christopher’s Close. Just a small cul de sac; 15 houses in all. I’ve not had the pleasure of meeting all the residents yet but of those I have, I can vouch most are pleasant enough. As in any place, there are a few oddities but it wouldn’t be right for everyone to be the same.

Whilst it has only been a short amount of time, I have certainly learned a lot about the people I have met and heard some gossip about one or two of the others too. I suppose it’s part of my job description to find out so much; some people would love to have the skills I have but it might only disappoint them. They would probably find they prefer their fantasy world.

Today finds me at Janie and Barry’s for ladies tea and biscuit morning. I think I must be coming down with something to have accepted the open door invitation. I did visit on my first morning in the neighbourhood, took advantage of borrowing some sugar and fled pretty quickly. I really didn’t like the tone of Janie’s voice and the things she did with her arms. I don’t think for a minute that she works out but those arms are big.

I look at the cakes she has to offer. Janie certainly doesn’t go out to impress; a supermarket chocolate swiss roll and rich tea biscuits. At least she has put them on a plate. Karen down the road always makes a superb victoria sandwich and those sweet melting moment biscuits. I am just dribbling thinking about them. Well hopefully Janie’s other friends will turn up with some goodies.

The door bell goes but as I said, it is a bit of an open house so Janie doesn’t have to move from her chair. She tries to put her best telephone voice on and hollers “Come in ladies. We are in the breakfast room today. Thought you could look at the lovely roses I have been growing. I have spent many hours tending them and I am sure you would like the opportunity to appreciate them…”

The breakfast room is just a small extension off the kitchen. Janie and Barry live in one of the smaller houses in the close. I have admired those roses a lot. I don’t think that Janie can take the credit though; Barry likes to escape Janie’s nagging so when there is daylight, he is always to be found in the garden. Janie doesn’t seem to venture out there much. Now I am excited to see who else is here today. Oh no. It’s Anne and Penny. They never say anything; just listen to Janie gossip about everything and anything. If only I could get out of here. It’s so hot. An open window is what you would expect. I am really not feeling myself. How soon, is not too soon, to be seen as being rude to leave?

“And then, after the screaming and swearing, there was lots of crashing and banging. I wanted to call the police but Barry said leave well alone. He just turned up the t.v. I don’t know what he was watching some sort of programme about cars and they were just old ones at that. I really didn’t like the noise and I was so concerned about the kids but Barry just told me to keep away from the window and make him a cup of tea. I really think the kids should be taken away from those two and it is always on a Friday night too. To be a fly on the wall. I wish we could move…..”

I really must be coming down with something, I drifted off but I was soon brought back by Janie’s shrill voice. I’m sure she didn’t take a single breath. Unfortunately Anne and Penny seemed to be enjoying all the details of Janie’s poor neighbours’ fight. I actually feel I know the neighbours, James and Julie very well by now, and they certainly knew how to act well. Their two small children had been on a sleepover at their grandparents so James and Julie took advantage of a bit of free time to rehearse their lines for their local amateur group. Julie has been cast as a villain, which was not her at all; I know on good authority, she wouldn’t hurt a fly. James, hearing and seeing Julie in a totally different light, got a bit amorous. I will leave the rest to your imagination but let me tell you, don’t even go down Janie’s route of gossip. To be a fly on a wall would just not be interesting for her. Thinking about, she wouldn’t have known where to look on Friday!

I see that Penny is making short work of that Swiss Roll. Not a pretty sight at all with her mouth wide open eagerly listening to the gossip whilst waving her hands trying her hardest to swipe something away. I really need to get out of this place. So hot. Trying not to let my head fall on the table. I must try to feign interest in this conversation.

I concentrate on Penny to try to keep upright. Actually she is quite pretty in an odd way. I think she just has the wrong glasses on. Too big for her face. Wow she has the most amazing eyelashes. She is trying so hard to listen to the conversation but she is just swiping her eyes this time. Janie really needs to open a window or she will have us all fainting.

“You should see the outfits she runs in – I really don’t know what she is trying to prove with all that exercise thing and all sorts of times of the day. And the men that go into the house. It just makes me shudder. She stands at the door quite brazen, waving them off whilst they thank her for her services. I would love to be on a fly on the wall. What is this Close turning in to. Can you hear that buzzing…..”

The gossip has turned to the charming widow, Caroline. She took up running when her late husband was diagonised with cancer as a bit of release. She is very creative and was a seamstress by trade. Every now and then, her sewing machine is brought out to alter some friend’s outfit for a wedding. I understand that Caroline and her husband where very much in love and had lots of wonderful friends who like to look out for Caroline now that she is on her own. Measuring Bob’s inside legs for his best man trousers certainly would not have been innocent in Janie’s eyes although I can assure you that’s all it was. That bit was very boring but Caroline’s account of her wedding many year’s ago would have brought tears to anyone’s eyes. Whilst she had that faraway look in her eyes, she actually made you feel that you were sitting right with her as she quoted all the speeches made, the love between the newly married couple and the happiness of it all. She certainly gave Bob some ideas for his best man’s duties.

“She thinks she is wonderful when she brings all that homemade food to the parties. How she has the time and she can’t do any housework. Always too dressed up for that and she rushes out of the door to get her precious daughter to one of her after school clubs. She is quite a charming girl though that daughter; just like her father. Now the bottom on that man. I wouldn’t mind been a fly on the wall in the shower room. Be careful of that tea, Anne……”

I just knew that Karen would be a topic of Janie’s gossip. Janie doesn’t do much in her daily routine but trying to find some fault with the “perfect” Karen is Janie’s mission in life.

I start to swoon as I think of Karen’s lovely cakes; just a crumb would be delicious and the sweetness of the cherries on those biscuits would just be enough. I can certainly see why Anne has spilled her tea; I can confirm that Karen’s husband Joe’s bottom is pretty tasty. He works out all the time. I think he has to; he would be as fat as a pig with all that lovely food Karen conjures up. Mind you, Karen is a dietitian so she does cook healthy meals. She does live by what she teaches though; everything in moderation.

Anne has gone very starry eyed. She certainly has a thing for Joe. I often see her spying out of her window when he returns up from work. Just another of her fantasy world she shares with her vast rag doll collection. She actually makes them and gives them to the local children’s hospital. Before giving them away, she tells them all her secrets; how she would loved to have married and had children but her priority had always to look after her elderly parents who she had nursed until their death. She has spilt her tea and it certainly looks like what I need…..

BANG….the place goes quite dark.

“that fly has been getting on my nerves. That’s got rid of that. Did I tell you about my Charlie. He is just so wonderful……”

Ouch that book is very heavy. I don’t think I am going to make this. I suppose that I have had more than my fair share of life. The fly community must seem very boring to the human, and I admit that we can be very annoying, but we certainly do get to know about people. After all, we are that fly on the wall that you humans would like to be.

Life is a Battlefield but we are strong

42 days left and whilst life can feel like a battlefield, I actually like living in it. Well now for the totals this week:

28 completed

10 ongoing/planned

4 changes 

8 still to do

After reading the Challenge Yourself book, I did start getting up early. It was a struggle and for several days I felt it might have a negative effect but I can know say I feel great. Probably the turn around came with the weekend and not lounging in bed but getting on with things.

So this week, I have earned 3 ticks:

Challenge 44 – go out for dinner and pick something that sounds awesome but you wouldn’t normally pick.

Skate Wings were delicious

I could have achieved this much earlier but than would I have gone out so much. One thing I have decided in my 50th year is to, where possible, avoid the restaurant chains and hopefully try something a bit different. Chris and I were off to cinema on Saturday. It is situated at Port Solent so there were lots to choose from. We opted for a fish restaurant. I like fish but don’t tend to order it. I am a bit ignorant with it and sometimes I don’t know how to eat it plus the bones put me off. I ordered skate wings which was delicious. Not a fish I had tried before (more a haddock person) but will eat it again. Restaurant was great too.

Challenge 45 – write a short story.

My story

It took me a while to be confident; gained this from the Challenge Yourself book. I really enjoyed this and even printed it in book form for the family to read. They were impressed. I will share later.

Challenge 39 – mum and daughter pamper evening – bake whoppie cakes, eat cakes and watch 13 going on 30 and paint nails.

Yum yum!

I can’t believe that it has taken us so long to do this challenge and we have already seen 13 going on 30 once this year but it is one of my favourites. Who can resist a film with Mark Ruffalo in. The songs in it are amazing – Ice Ice Baby, I Wanna Dance With Somebody, Jessie’s girl etc. My favourites though are Thriller; fantastic dance scene and Love Is A Battlefield. We made whoppie cakes from the kit I had been sent from the baking club. They were very yummy. Kathryn chose a red for me to paint my nails with whilst she went for a nice frosted cupcake colour for her own. I am sure that we will be able to have lots of evenings like this once Kathryn has finished her degree. Not many days left for that either.

I am still very optimistic that I will achieve all my ticks. I am hoping to finish my cross stitch kit in the next couple of weeks which is a big achievement and frees me up to complete the others. I might even have read Kathryn’s 10 favourite books on time too.

Life is a battlefield at the moment but it is fun.

Cook Tropicana – Let Me Take You To My Place

I have no idea why I have left all my cooking challenges to the end but here was one I was looking forward to attempting ; challenge 7 – cook a three course meal.  I decided that I would like to make this a family meal so Easter Sunday seemed like an ideal time; Jordan would be home from London and Kathryn was on Easter break busily getting ready for her finals.

So first of all, let me take you to the corner of the house which I have taken over. We really do have a lot of cook books. I thought it would be good to use these for my menu.

So the rules were:

  1. Cook a three course meal – with each course being from three different culture. There was absolutely no reason that I couldn’t have something British but I decided to try something different.
  2. There must be something (whether it’s a little part or the whole thing) in each dish that I haven’t made before.

Here goes for the menu:

The starter – Indian  -Spiced Crab Cakes with Tamarind Mayonnaise

Fish cakes are one of my favourite thing. They are so much more interesting now than the ones I used to be served up as a child. So what was different about these for rule no two. I managed to get this passed; the use of crab. Never used it before and I don’t think I had ever eaten it before. Whilst everything else I used was fresh; fresh ginger, garlic, coriander etc, I did use tinned crab instead of fresh. The actually cooking of the fish cakes brought a lovely aroma to the kitchen. I really enjoyed the preparation of these; George Michael play list kept me company as I chopped up the herbs. I prepared ahead and starting cooking just before serving. The finished result was very tasty and enjoyed by everyone.

I had quite forgotten I had this book in our collection. I am looking forward to using it again.

The main – Italian – Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli

After the success of the pasta machine, I thought I would make my own ravioli. Was feeling quite confident about this. With the actual filling made, I proceeded to make the pasta. Things were looking good then very quickly the pasta didn’t seem to come out well. After a few minutes of panic, decided to just roll out the pasta manually. The result were what probably looked like dumplings. My family tucked in though and they were very tasty dumplings! Our local shop sell some very good fresh ravioli – might use this in future!

Oops – nice though!

The dessert – French – Profiteroles

My first cookery book

I try to avoid making pastry and have never made choux pastry before so I was quite excited about trying this. Kathryn helped me out with this and it was much easier than I thought. We were so impressed with the little buns when cooked. We decided to have a bit of a break between courses as the starter and main were very filling. The actual finished result was delicious. I have many recipes for this dessert but went for Delia’s because she spooned the mixture rather than piping. I didn’t want too much pressure.

This was a wonderful challenge and one which I will be repeating in the future. Whilst not everything was perfect, I certainly had fun trying. Crab cakes will definitely be on the menu again and I am planning on trying savoury choux buns too. I haven’t been put off my pasta machine; I will keep trying.

Got To Be Starting Something

It is seven weeks until D-Day and I have got:

25 completed
11 ongoing/planned
4 changes 
10 still to do 

I can say half of my challenges are done. 49 days are left to complete the other challenges; it is possible.

Two of my ongoing challenges are reading books, and one of them will be easy to complete. Not sure about reading Kathryn’s books but I will keep on and who knows.

I did actually turn to a book to help me with my challenges on Friday. I had originally visited Amazon’s website to look for a book to help me with my write a story challenge. Reluctant to part with any money, and also to keep with my “let’s try and read the books I have already purchased challenge set by myself!”, I decided to check out my kindle library. I will explain that at a later date, I promise. I came across a book I purchased in September 2014 (actually it was a freebie) called Challenge Yourself, I Dare You: A Better You In 30 Days! by Stuart Ralph. I thought it would be a good and quick read; good reviews and only 43 pages.

I read it and it did inspire me.  On Friday, I did a 30 minute run, unloaded the shopping, walked to the bottle bank, did the ironing, had a 30 minute visit from my sister, walked to shops to buy some forgotten items for the cake, made a lovely dinner, emailed the author of the book, baked attempt one of the showstopper challenge, walked 22,211 steps and made a very good start on my story. Most of those things would have been done on Friday. Starting my story was due to reading the book.

The actual message is simple; take 30 days to give up or start something. I wish that I had read it before I started the challenge but better late than never. I felt the author was my friend and that he believed in my challenge. He encouraged me to believe I could do whatever I wanted. I am actually lucky as I am surrounded by people who do believe in what I am doing; my family. However, I don’t think they appreciated the fact that I now believe I can sing. Whilst making my three course meal challenge on Sunday, I did a brilliant duet with George Michael singing Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me.

This morning I started on my 30 day challenge – I decided to get up earlier every morning to get myself organised so I could leave the house for a leisurely walk and not the run I normally do! Well first day and I started this blog post, did an exercise DVD, tidied the kitchen and arrived at work two minutes early. Good start but feeling very tired now. Hopefully I will adjust and get those challenges completed!

Our Cake, Stuck to the Middle of the Tin

Challenge 42 ticked

I couldn’t do this challenge until Easter and was so excited to use my new tin. Wasn’t sure how the cake was going to be a showstopper but had an idea with the filling. I have had Mary Berry’s Ultimate Book of Cakes for years and I never had the urge to make that delicious chocolate cake on the cover picture. I actually thought I would like to use the filling with our showstopper. It did mean using gelatine; not my favourite ingredient.

My faithful tatty book

First of all, the cake needed to be made. Now normally I wouldn’t worry about baking a cake. It was a bit of an unknown as the tin was a different size to our normal tins plus this wasn’t our normal Victoria sandwich. I decided that the best cake would be the vanilla cake recipe supplied with the tin as the measurements would be correct. What I didn’t do which I normally would always recommend doing, is read the recipe, then read it again. Do this before you actually start to bake. The recipe hadn’t been printed correctly (that is my excuse and I am sticking to it!) and didn’t seem like a recipe I had followed before. Result was the cake didn’t smell right whilst cooking, it looked pale when cooked and the cake stuck to the tin. Friday night I went to bed very deflated .  Kathryn also remarked that I wouldn’t earn a tick if it wasn’t completed.  What a cheek, this was her challenge too!

Remembering one of my favourite quotes; a winner never quits, I got up on Saturday morning, found a similar recipe on good old Google and baked again. A very good result.  I had greased the tin with the “pockets” well, and with lots of help from Chris, the cakes came out of the tin in one piece.

Now to use the gelatine. Good old Mary proved a very good friend here. She explained how to “sponge” gelatine (that had me scratching my head). Anyway after reading Mary’s tips on how you should sprinkle the gelatine onto the liquid and not the other way round and after a certain point to put the bowl into warm water, my gelatine was ready to be added to my chocolate mixture to make the mousse.

Thankfully Kathryn decided the artistic part of the cake belonged to her so she took over filling the cake bottom pockets with raspberries and mini eggs. We layered with chocolate mousse, added top layer on and put in fridge overnight.

Pockets filled
Kathryn did her artistic bit on Sunday morning, when she added melted chocolate drizzle over cake. Carrot and mini eggs became our decorations and we had made a showstopper that I am sure Mary and Paul would be proud of.
Cake photo courtesy of Kathryn
 Did I mention I did get a tick for this?!!

It’s all about the food

8 weeks until D-day and this is the position:

23 completed
12 ongoing/planned
4 changes 
11 still to do 

I have not actually got any ticks this week but I thought I would inspire myself by moving two of my still to do into my planned category. I have to say I am so excited about these and they are going to happen at the weekend.

The first one is challenge no 42 – at Easter, make an Easter showstopper with daughter. For this, we have purchased a new bit of bakeware. It was a bit pricey but I do intend to use it a lot. Here is the beauty.

Cake tins for Easter Showstopper

I can’t promise a showstopper as seen on the Great British Bake Off but it will still be amazing.

Easter Sunday will see me abandoning the usual roast and attempting challenge no 7 – cook a three course meal consisting of three dishes which belong to three different cultures. There were rules:


I will reveal all later but this little beauty will be brought out again.

I have warned the family that the three courses might come out over the course of the day and they might not turn out perfect! Jordan did say that there is nothing to say it has to be perfect. We will have the cake to fall back on.

I am still busily stitching away and also took part in a 3 hour zumbathon for charity with Kathryn at the weekend. This certainly was good practice for the 10k run will be doing in June. It was also longer in time than my 10 mile run!

On our way to zumbathon – happy then!
Tonight’s update

Next week there will be more ticks!

Read Them and Weep

My book reading has certainly changed over the last year. I don’t have time to read so much with the challenges plus trying to read a proper book (really can’t be done when eating breakfast) is hard work. March actually saw me doing something I try to avoid; I had two books on the go. Whilst they were different books, they did have something in common and it did become a bit confusing until I realised why something seemed familiar.

Challenge 6 – Read your daughter’s favourite books

At the beginning of March, I started reading one of Kathryn’s favourite top ten books; The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Don’t be put off by the description:




The book makes you laugh and cry, makes you think and question things and also made me fall in love with all main characters in the book; the book thief, Liesel, her foster parents, Max, the Jewish fist fighter and not forgetting Rudy, the Jesse Owen fan. I even loved Death, although I did wonder if he/she was giving too much information away and ruining the end of the book!! After all, for Death, as said, there is only one ending.

I have read books before; Jodi Picoult’s The Storyteller, which stays in my mind, about the Jews during the war and they always leave me cold thinking that humans could be so awful to other humans. Whilst I know that it wasn’t every German who would treat the Jews in this way and it was the dictator, this book allowed me to appreciate how the German people would have faced the war and what punishments they faced if they didn’t follow the rules.

The book took me a month to read. It is one of Kathryn’s bigger books; over 500 pages. Most chapters are short so reading one before sleep wasn’t the problem and the story was fascinating. I think that I am so busy with my other challenges that I just don’t find that extra 5 minutes in the day to read and it was an actual physical book which I now find hard to read whilst eating!

Looking forward to watching the film now.

As I had a 3 hour train journey to Cardiff in March, I did start a new book on the kindle as I didn’t want to carry a book around with me. Two days before my trip, one of my top 5 favourite authors, Dani Atkins released her new book, This Love. I was warned by the author that tissues might be needed. A good book for me is when I can get straight into the story and I can’t put it down. Dani’s books are always like this for me. I always feel I am at the scene and I love Dani’s use of words.

Whilst I had a bit of feeling of what was going to happen, the prologue certainly threw with me. Trying to pinpoint where it happened in the main character, Sophie’s life was a teaser for me. Sophie doesn’t allow herself to get close to many people and lives a very cocooned life. After losing everything in a fire and being rescued by the gorgeous Ben, she has to face many of her issues.

I did get to one point in the book and thought am I going to be disappointed because I know what is going to happen. Did I want to like the book just because it is written by Dani Atkins? She is not one of my favourite authors for no reason though; a twist or two in the story certainly changed the dynamics.

This book was unusual for me because I didn’t actually stay in bed for an extra ten minutes to complete the last chapter. I saved it to the end of the day to enjoy (if that is the right word) as I didn’t actually want it to end. The ending was everything that I expected, and whilst it did need the tissues, it was beautiful and sensitive.

The similarity between the two books were that both of the main characters had lost brothers and both brothers remained in their conscience and helped guide them in their lives.  They also both taught you that sometimes secrets are best kept that way.

I certainly feel I get a lot from the books I read.  They help me escape from life but also I learn so much too.

Happy reading.





She Works Hard for Her Ticks

It is 9 weeks until Tina’s D-day; the day I need to complete my challenges. Here is the position so far:

23 completed
10 ongoing/planned
4 changes (all confirmed accepted)
13 still to do (most of them achievable)

With 23 completed, I could look at it with my glass half empty and think 27 left; not achievable. Instead, my positive head is on, and I am looking at the 9 ongoing activities. A few of these are having to be almost treated as work (the rare enjoyable type) and certainly in the last few weeks, I have worked hard on one in particular and hope to complete by end of April. Putting that date down gives me an aim. The challenge is number 29, start and complete a sewing project.

I am not the fastest of cross stitchers; I just plod along at my own pace. Something I do with most of things in my life! I am also not known for finishing the projects. Having this as a challenge has made me want to finish it and it has also made me realise how much I enjoy stitching and when I have finished, I have my next one waiting to do. A great big hint to the kids; well a link to the site where they could buy the kit from and I had a happy mother’s day! I wanted this one because of the umbrella. I will not open until I have finished my first cutie.

Gorjuss Puddles of Love

I am at the moment trying to stitch every night but have made Tuesdays my big stitching day. I normally share a picture with Kathryn as the evening comes to an end. Last week was very exciting as I had finished the face.

Face completed

Yesterday, I did wonder if the end of the April is realistic (small voice is whispering you have got until 6 June). There is still a lot to do but I’m sure if I put my mind to it, this girl can!

Today’s start – end of April!!

As previously mentioned, I do actually get to watch a bit more television now. Last week I enjoyed watching Drew Barrymore in Miss You Already and last night’s film was Mother’s Day. I’ve caught up with Broadchurch, Mary Berry and this week’s film was Flashdance – I knew every scene!  Definitely a great hobby that I am going to look forward to continuing once my challenges are all ticked.

Tuesday evening’s work

Certainly working hard for my ticks.