Let It Grow

Well another tick for me. Well two actually; numbers 11 and 12 – grow your own plant with materials provided by your daughter and then pick out and plant a vegetable of your choice.

I kept putting of this challenge because gardening has never been my thing and I certainly didn’t know what to do with the seeds. I got them out of my box quite a few times and looked at them. I’m not that good with keeping plants either but this 50th year, I did get some practice. Chris bought me this lovely peace lily and orchid They are still living! Jordan also bought us herb seeds and a pot for a stocking filler at Christmas and we have had fresh coriander and parsley. Watching it grow has been fun (we are like kids seeing them sprout up) and actually using them in recipes was rewarding.

I still put this challenge off. Chris had started a contract with a garden centre so that proved helpful. We went along to one of their branches and bought the items we thought we would need. They remained in their bag for several weeks. Last week, I thought I would do something about it. Sunday saw me clutching a present from Chris: a diblet and cell tray trowels (I really didn’t have a clue!), I started to plant seeds in our seed trays. As well as peas and marigolds given to me by Kathryn, I planted carrots, spring onions, rocket leaves and peppers. Tuesday, Chris sent me a photo of the rocket growing. Must have done something right. A week later, everything apart from the peppers have “sprouted” so might need to thing about repotting and then deciding where to plant for the final growing.

Ready to be planted
Tuesday leaves coming up
No peppers yet
Peas, carrots and marigold

Maybe gardening will be my new hobby.

If You Judge A Book By Its Cover

I think I can put another tick against challenge no 5 – read a book every month of a genre you don’t/don’t often read. I say think as Kathryn suggested my May book and I have only got half way through and decided that I can’t waste anymore of my life on that particular book. I will explain later my reasons.

Here are the books I did read:

June – Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (Kathryn’s choice)
July – Cut – One Woman’s fight against FGM in Britain Today by Hibo Wardere
August – The Sand Men by Christopher Fowler (Jordan’s choice)
September – Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
October – Carrie by Stephen King
November – Our Life on Ice by Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean
December – Mr Stink by David Walliams
January – 50 New Year’s Resolutions -How To Make Them, How To Keep Them by Fiona Steinkemp
February – Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
March – Edinburgh Visitor Guide 2016/2107 by David Wheater
April – Animal Farm by George Orwell
May – How To Be A Woman by Caitlan Moran

I have enjoyed most of the books and I will be reading a lot more of Agatha Christie. Some of them have been hard going; classics in particular. However, I do plan to dedicate September to reading one of this genre. Self help books have not been one of my things but as well as my January read, I have also enjoyed Challenge Yourself, I Dare You so I will be making this type a regular read.

So now I must share with you why I can not read anymore of How To Be A Woman. My relationship might never be the same with Kathryn again.

Should you judge a book by its cover?

The description of the book doesn’t tell you too much but the last paragraph probably explains why I didn’t enjoy it:

“Part memoir, part rant. Caitlin answers the questions that every modern woman is asking”

The book has 313 pages; not a huge book. Why, after 10 days of reading am I only half way through and basically feel like what is the point. One of the points is to realise I am and should be proud of being a feminist. I do think that Caitlin has made a few good points but my problem is I do not enjoy her memoirs at all. Maybe this is because I am a stick in the mud and the thought of my children (one male and one female) behaving in the way she has, is not what I want to know. Don’t get me wrong; they will always be doing something I don’t know about and that’s the way I like it! 160 pages along and it appears that Caitlin is an absolute star; she appears to have landed a job at the age of 16 in a music journal office in London and has her own place to live with her boyfriend at the age of 18. Maybe if I allow myself to be tortured for another 10 days, I will get to find out how to be a woman. Personally, at 50 (okay closer to 51), I am quite happy with the way I have lived my life, know how I want to dress and enjoy the activities I want to. At 18 years old, I experienced the “club scene”, knew it wasn’t for me and found what I wanted. In my mind, making my own choices is being a feminist.

So sorry Kathryn (and Caitlin), I might be being narrow minded, but the book is going into the heading in my kindle of “books I am not enjoying”.

2 out of 3 ain’t bad

Last Saturday, Kathryn and I set off to London on a  coach  to complete 3 of my challenges:

  • Challenge 2 – visit the Ritz (change of venue due to afternoon tea being a little more expensive than poor student (Kathryn) can afford
  • Challenge 3 – while in London for the Ritz, gone and see a show you haven’t seen before
  • Challenge 20 – try some sort of course with your daughter

Due to a change of plan with going to the Ritz, we were combining 2 and 20; Jordan had given us a Christmas present for the Cookery School in London to do a Cookery course. We picked an afternoon tea course so we were going to be shown how to make and also participate in making tea plus eat it afterwards.

With the show, we put the pressure on Jordan; Kathryn and I gave Jordan the name of 2 shows that we wanted to see and got him to pick one and organise the tickets for us. When we set off, we didn’t know each other’s choices and just had an envelope with tickets in and instructions to get us to the theatre. At the coach station, we told each other the choices.

Kathryn’s choices

The Lion King
Book of Mormons

My choices

42nd Street
Stepping Out

On the coach we opened the envelope. Jordan had chosen Stepping Out with Amanda Holden starring.

To relieve some boredom (and to get back at the fact my theatre choice had been chosen), Kathryn decided that I should have a German lesson. Well, I soon got her back for that; remember Phoebe trying to teach Joey French in one of the Friend’s episode. That was exactly what it was like. My pronunciation was definitely not coming out the same as I was hearing it. By the end of the coach journey, I could almost remember the German for:

I am an accountant
On Wednesday, I dance at Zumba
But last week I read

By the end of Saturday, I remembered nothing. Oh well, another challenge on the way.

We had lots of time before the course started so instead of taking the tube, we decided to walk. Walking instructions are easy to find when you have a mobile phone; following the starting instructions are another matter. No idea what go north on this road means. Needless to say, a few wrong directions but we did find our destination. On the way, we did pass the Ritz. We are going to have tea there one day.

We needed food. I spotted a Slug and Lettuce and decided that would be a good place to go. One of my things now I am 50 is to try to avoid the chains but Slug and Lettuce does give you reasonably priced food and a variety of choices. I went semi healthy and chose a chicken Caesar salad in a tortilla bowl. I wasn’t expecting this but it was nice.

It was then time to get wet. My weather app hasn’t been too helpful recently but it had said rain in London between 12 and 2 so I was prepared. Gave us an excuse to pop into some shops. Then we headed to Little Portland Street for our course.

We were both a bit nervous about this. There were eight of us altogether and the other people were very nice. We had a glass of wine at the start; probably not a good thing for me. Course started promptly at 2 p.m. and we were shown how to make a sweet pastry which we were going to be using for small lemon tarts. Then we were shown how to make bread and how to prove it. Some mixture had already been made to use for some rolls. This was our first job; we were expected to roll into rolls. Now something you should know is I hated home economics at school. I was never going to be a cook and I was happy to give up the subject. Ironic that as soon as I had my own kitchen and, with the aid of cookery books, I began to enjoy cooking. Memories of my dread at school came back and whilst I would never shine in this cookery course, I certainly know I had the skill to pull off some, if not all of the recipes. Some would need practice but in Tina’s way, I will do them.

We were soon filling pastry cases, watching lemon curd and jam being made, getting tips on how to make a ganache (I will be trying this), preparing scotch eggs, slicing and buttering bread (really do you need all that butter) and watching scones being made. It was soon time to eat what had been prepared. With a glass of sparkling wine, we sat down and toasted to our tea. It was all yummy and the cucumber in the sandwiches which had been salted and allowed to drain with a saucer on top, was very good. The rather delicious cake with cream in the middle and ganache on top but it was a little too much after all the other delights.

All in all, the course was very good and I came away with some good tips but I am not sure if I would take part in another course like this. I alway follow recipe instructions but do like to have the freedom to make my own mistakes and learn about them in my own.

The streets of London were very crowded and Jordan’s detailed instructions to get us to the theatre had to be abandoned due to the station being closed. We thought we would walk there. Once again, directions proved a little difficult to decipher and it probably took us longer to get there.

The show was at the Vauderville theatre situated in the Strand. On presenting our tickets, we were told to see one of the other ladies who would reseat us. I had given Jordan a budget for our seats and we should have been seated in the upper circle. We were changed to stalls and had a great position. Feeling very good for the change certainly encouraged me to buy a programme for my 50th box.

Stepping Out isn’t one of the singing musicals we normally go for but more a comedy with characters who had sad stories to tell but with a very good feel ending. It was written by Richard Harris as a play and later into a film with Liza Minnelli playing a former Broadway dancer. Mavis now teaching a weekly tap dancer to a group of women and one man who have different personal issues but enjoy their one night trying to learn to tap. Mavis hears about a competition and decides to enter the group in it.

I don’t think I have seen the film but it has always been highly recommended by Lana, our Zumba teacher. Amanda Holden, who plays Vera in the production we saw, actually saw the film and decided she would love to act in a theatre production with some of her acting friends.

I was intrigued by the play and I managed to escape to my own little world watching it. It was a play which I laughed so much at but cried too with the pain each character went through. The cast was fantastic and played each character so well. It was easy to miss something going on in the background. The first half is short. The final half longer and leads you up to the finale which you are expecting.

There are so many shows in the West End that it is hard to pick one to go to. That’s why we gave the choice to Jordan. The theatre wasn’t full which is why we probably had a change of seats but I really enjoyed the show and am pleased that we went to see something different.

On starting this post,2 Kathryn has told me that I am not allowed a tick for challenge 20 which disappointed me. With only 12 days left, I don’t think I’ve enough time to fit a different course in. Oh well, guess 2 out of 3 isn’t bad and going to have to get ready for not getting 50 ticks! We did have a lovely day in London.

Under Pressure

Just 21 days to go. These weeks are going very quickly. Certainly feeling the pressure.

As of today, the position is:

33 completed
9 are ongoing or in planning stages
3 will be completed on Saturday
5 to do

On Sunday, after feeling very under pressure with making croissants, I did finish one of my other challenges; up cycle/DIY something from a charity shop. I bought a frame just after Christmas and thought I would have ago at trying to paint it shabby chic style. The frame cost £3 and was a metallic gold style. Not the most perfect for shabby chic but as I am not the most creative, anything was going to be a challenge.

Original frame

To make life easier for me, I decided that with help from Chris, I would take the frames apart and just paint one. To find out how I should do it, I just typed how to shabby chic a picture frame. I found some great tips and needed to buy paint, sandpaper, paint brushes and a white candle.

There were 9 points on my instructions to follow. I actually started it three weeks ago and then left the final step. I was a bit concerned here that I would get it wrong. Just in case I did, I thought I would paint a second frame too.

Not being very creative, I was actually impressed with each step. I did find that I was a bit too rough with the sandpaper but the effect was better than I thought I would achieve.

Challenge 43

When I was first given these challenges, Kathryn asked me what I thought of them. I had some that I was a bit frightened about and this was certainly one. One thing I struggle with is creativity. As I say, the result is not perfect but it was a wonderful way to pass a Sunday afternoon. I will certainly have a go at doing something like this again. Hopefully Christmas will see some creativity.

Okay, so 17 challenges left to get a tick. I am going to make my children feel the pressure as I need their help on my to do list. Apart from my 50th task, which I can’t do until 6th June, the other four need their help because they are involved. I accept that this has been difficult because Kathryn has been doing her final exams, and Jordan is living in London and appears to have a life (note Kathryn that for once, you are put first. Youngest children are always mentioned last normally but this is your present to me!).

So pressure on and help me with the following quickly:

Challenge 18 – Learn 7 – 10 (new) German words a week – arrange weekly vocal tests with your daughter. I really need your help here, Kathryn. Languages scare me and I don’t think this is achievable – putting pressure on.

Challenge 19 – Spa day with your daughter* (*paid for by your daughter too!)!!!! Pressure on again, Kathryn. We can forget about you paying for it. Poor students can’t afford that!

Challenge 28 – Take a dance class with your daughter. Come on, get those dancing shoes on.

Challenge 35 – DVD night with your kids – one film chosen by each. Jordan, you don’t get let off. We need a date for this and soon. I know the film I am choosing.

Now kids, a bit of pressure on you. HELP! An extra pressure for Kathryn: SEND ME THE PHOTOS FOR CHALLENGE 26!

The language challenges are going to be tough for me. I am hoping that Kathryn is going to let me have a tick if I make an effort and promise I will keep up. So under pressure.

Voulez-vous faire des croissants?

Challenge 30 – Make croissants. Now did I want to make croissants? I can say after reading the recipe from Paul Hollywood’s How To Bake, I really didn’t want to make croissants. I was so frightened about this challenge and I kept putting it off.

First of all, about Paul Hollywood. When I first saw Paul Hollywood on Great British Bake Off, he came over like a Simon Cowell type judge of the baking world; the villain you want to hiss at like you would in the pantomime. Just like Simon Cowell, he is the bad boy you can’t help liking and all contestants want to impress. Jordan has bought me two of his books, the one I was using for the croissants and British Baking. I have used British Baking more but both books do have a good layout; the croissant recipe explains what ingredients to use and there is a step-by-step photograph section. Easy stuff!!

First part of the recipe is easy enough. The good old food processor was used and the instructions are very clear for this. The first part of the dough was made easily. Croissants take a long time to do because there is a lot of chilling to do; the dough needed to go in the fridge for an hour.

Next part didn’t seem too difficult but I didn’t achieve what Paul was asking. The butter has to be chilled and you have to bash it with a rolling pin. I did not have the skills for this at all. Not to be put off, I consulted other books; my favourites let me down and didn’t have any recipes but the food processor book did. It said to dot the with butter. I took that method but folded as Paul’s recipe. I was not convinced and, at this stage, I thought I was doing this recipe for a tick and would never make croissants ever again. The shop over the road sold them so why should I! I put the dough back in the fridge for another hour.

I had to roll out and fold into three, three more times chilling for an hour in-between each folding; the dough, not me! I was at this stage thinking are these ever going to be edible. To make up for the likelihood of them failing, I baked a Victoria sponge just to prove I could bake!

After the last roll out and fold, the dough had to be put back in the fridge overnight. Despite my changing the method a little, I did actually think that it did look like Paul’s photo so was hoping it would turn out okay. That didn’t stop me waking up at 6.15 a.m. and rushing down the stairs to check I had added the yeast correctly at stage 1. Huge relief when I found I had.

The final process of making the croissants needed to be done; rolling the dough to a particular size, cutting the pastry into 12 triangles and then rolling up into a croissant. I had convinced myself this would be hard but it was much easier. Had to leave to rise for 2 hours before baking. By 9.50 a.m. we had croissants which, surprise, surprise, looked like croissants and tasted like them too!

I ask myself the question again; voulez-vous faire des croissants? The answer is yes I will make you croissants. Would you like normal, almond or pain au chocolat?

Crazy Mummas, See What They’ve Done

Crazy, that’s what Kathryn said I was. That was a statement she made when I said I was continuing with my 30 day challenge of getting up at 5.30 a.m. every morning (well week days anyway). I am into my 4th week and as the weeks progress, it is a habit I am enjoying.

Reading the book, Challenge Yourself, I Dare You, has certainly inspired me to get on with my challenges and today I have 25 days left to finish. I also added another to the completed list; I have finally finished my Sweet Tea cross stitch. I actually started this challenge in August so it has taken me 9 months to complete.


This challenge, no 29 – start and complete a new sewing project has to be on the top 10 of my favourite challenges. It has made me restart a hobby that I enjoyed and made me a bit more disciplined. Apart from this week when I have devoted all spare time into doing my back stitch, I have tried to put aside time during the week whereby I can stitch. I am hoping to continue and carry on with my next project that Jordan bought me for Mother’s day (well with a bit of a hint from me!).

Start and complete a new sewing project

Here are a few things I learned from this challenge:

  1. Joining a cross stitch group encourages you to complete your project!
  2. Whilst enjoying the other stitcher’s achievements, don’t compare their timings. I am a plodder when it comes to most things so I tried not to get disappointed when someone else did the same project in 3 months!
  3. Find your own methods that work for you. I always start in the centre of a design as instructed and I always save the backstitch to the end. Other than those rules, I work my own way.
  4. When you make a mistake, if it’s too late to unpick, work round it. Don’t let it put you off. I did make a bit of an error and it did hold me up, but then I decided to stitch in another place and work it out at the end. I did just that and I don’t think it makes a difference. Just makes it unique.
  5. Don’t think you hate a stitch and allow it to put you off. I had a dread of back stitch. It took me five days to complete it but I really enjoyed it. I will not dread it so much in the future as it made me so happy when I saw the picture coming to life (even the drunk rabbit, Kathryn!). I was so overjoyed with my french knot (even if it is out a fraction. I can live with it!).
  6. Don’t open new project until one you are working on is finished. I am going to open it at the weekend.

Gorjuss Puddles of Love – next project

So I have now completed 30 challenges – just 20 to go! Maybe I need to get up at 5 a.m.!

The Boy From Wham Will Help You Reach That Goal

This Saturday, Chris and I set off with music on to complete challenge 22 – visit somewhere in England you never have before. There are lots of places in England I haven’t been so think I will make this a regular occurrence. For this challenge we were off to Goring on Thames. I do like villages and towns with water; I loved Arundel which had the River Arun running through. I actually plan to go back there. Another big favourite is Bourton on the Water, the Venice of the Cotswolds, with the beautiful river Windrush.

In this case, I actually wanted to go to Goring to say goodbye to my idol, George Michael. It felt a bit mad going but whilst I can never take the title of super fan, George has been part of my/our life. We love listening to his music and we chose to go to what would have been George’s last concert on our 25th wedding anniversary. We knew it would be a memorable day but we never thought it would be the last time George would perform. It was the day that I knew how much George’s music and his fantastic voice meant in our relationship.

I did feel a bit weird asking Chris if we could go there but he was all for it. With George singing to us, we reached our destination by 9.20. Chris had done more research than me and could point out George’s house as we approached the village from the bridge and we were able to see the many memorials left from the car. We parked up and headed through the pretty village and headed to see the house. I don’t know why I thought it was a bit mad, there were other couples (all our age!) looking too, and four months on there still lots of messages from fans, fresh flowers, photos and funny items like a wispa bar and bottles of Tropicana. It felt sad that this was where my idol had died and that he would not be making any more beautiful songs.

I would never meet my idol either; although I don’t think I had wanted to anyway. I don’t think he would have disappointed me; more than likely the other way round. I would have said something stupid or giggled like a little girl that I would have regretted forever! I much prefer idolising from afar.

We visited a few shops and enjoyed a lovely breakfast in the village. Everyone is friendly in the village and we had a lovely chat with one shop assistant, a lovely South African lady who had a lovely tale to tell of how she came to be living in England and working in Goring. We then had a lovely walk along the Thames and enjoyed the views along the way including the full view of George’s house before stopping to have a drink at the Miller at Mansfield.

On our way home, we stopped at Popham Airfield for tea and cake. As Chris had turned down the chance of a flying lesson to help me get my tick, how could I object. I actually do love visiting airfields so not a big deal!

All in all, I have two boys that have to thank for helping me with this challenge, my husband and George, my secret love.

I Know, I’ve Come So Far and It’s Not That Far To Go

34 days to complete the challenges. Can it be done?

29 completed
10 ongoing/planned
4 changes
7 still to do

There still looks an awful lot to be completed but I am confident that it can be achieved. A few are frightening me; languages to name one…or two in the case of German as well as French. Keep putting it off because of the cross stitching project.

Talking of the cross stitching project, I did want to have that finished at the weekend but still not achieved. I have picked something I am capable of but perhaps a little too big for me. I am nearly there but have a lot of stitching in the same colour to finish off. Oh and then there is the back stitch. I will keep going and it will be a big fat tick.

Sweet Tea Latest

I am slowly getting through Kathryn’s 10 favourite books and thoroughly enjoying them. I even read one whilst eating lunch (I think Kathryn might have done the same with that one). On Friday, Kathryn was not impressed that I hadn’t actually read a lot of that particular book but I was determined to finish it and it was a great read. I will also be downloading my last book of a different genre in the next week so that will be another big tick.

Kathryn’s Favourites

This week I am hoping to finish my upcycle/DIY something from a charity shop. I did start this a few weeks ago so I will put the finishing touches together and hopefully another tick done.

Challenge 43 – A start

There are 4 challenges that I am confident that I can complete in the next 35 days. I shall concentrate on the other 17 now!

It’s All About The Cake

I have now completed another cooking challenge – challenge 13 – bake a cake you never have before

I have taken advantage of this challenge and practiced this quite a few times really. With the aid of the Baking club, I have made all sorts of cakes and bakes including biscotti, hot cross buns, banoffee cookies and a delicious chocolate honeycomb cake. This month’s kit is for eclairs which I am keen to try after the success of the profiteroles. I have also made some lovely cakes from A Year of Cakes which I have loved. When I reached 50, I was quite trim; gained a bit of weight with all this eating but it’s worth it for the challenge!

I thought I would celebrate the anniversary of the first date I had with Chris, by trying to bake an old favourite of ours which we would buy at a pub which Kathryn often visits now. I don’t think they serve food now but when we were her age, the pub had a display of delicious desserts; our favourites were cheesecake and the black forest gateau. I have actually made both this week although the cheesecake was for part of another challenge. The challenge was originally to host a coffee morning for Macmillan or something similar. I did raise a little bit of money by baking this delicious bake and taking it to work but I wanted to do something at home.

Raspberry and Assam Tea Loaf

I decided to hold various events at home for our local radio station’s Cash for Kids charity and need to raise £100 by December. On Friday, I had my two friends for lunch and made a delicious White Chocolate and Raspberry cheesecake from Mary Berry Everyday (just a little hint here – would actually like the book!). I don’t think any of the cheesecakes we had at the pub had white chocolate in them but now I have discovered this one, I will be making it again. I am nearly half way to my £100. I would love to be there by the end of this challenge.

I Love Cheesecake and Mary Berry!

Now to the black forest gateau. I tried to make this many years ago but it didn’t go so well. I decided to use another Mary Berry recipe for this and had to make a fat-less sponge. My favourite cake to bake is using the all in one method so this was different for me. It mixed up well, baked well but I did have my doubts when I looked at the cooked sponge and had to slice it into 3 layers. With the help of Chris, this was achieved and the finished result didn’t look too bad at all.

We can eat this!

One thing that I must look at in future is to maybe not to make so big; having said that we have made short work of eating the cake. I can confirm it was as delicious as the cake we used to buy at the pub. I might actually take a couple of weeks off the baking now!