#91 Make a list of 25 things I like about myself


I was going to write this in my journal on the grounds that it might come across as bragging but then I thought sod it! We all deserve to love ourselves once in a while!Totally self-indulgent, but at least now I can cross number 91 off my list!


1. I am a good mother and I have a strong bond with both my children

2. I've been through a lot (domestic violence, depression, divorce) and have not only survived but come back stronger and more resilient as a result

3. I am not afraid to stand up for what I believe in

4. I don't just moan about things on Facebook; I take action

5. I try to do what I can to help other people, whenever I can

6. I am not hugely motivated by money

7. Despite my great age, I am definitely not middle-aged (and hope never to get old)

8. I love that I was finally brave enough to not worry about what people think and got tattoos/a piercing

9. I like my right foot: I used to like my left foot too till a Morton's Neuroma and hammer toe messed it up

10. I am left wing and proud of the fact

11. My eyes are green with yellow flecks but sometimes they appear to be blue; I like that they intrigue me

12. My fingers are long and my nails are long and shapely

13. My core ambition – to one day live in Cromer – hasn't changed for twenty years or more

14. I love education and am continuously learning new things

15. I'm compassionate and caring

16. I have a weird sense of humour

17. I am finally starting to understand who I really am

18. I can write really well

19. I make people cry when I speak on stage (it's a good thing, allegedly!)

20. I'm an optimist

21. When I have a good idea, I tend to throw myself into it 100% without thinking about the obstacles

22. I smile like Cameron Diaz

23. I can smoke the odd cigarette here and there without becoming a smoker

24. I flit from one hobby to the next; it means I'm a master of none, but I am interested in lots of things

25. I'm definitely a cat person, not a dog person


Hmm harder than I thought actually! But I'm quite pleased with the list overall, I'm not such a bad old thing 😉

I challenge you to write your own list!


Thing #27 Completed …make all my own Christmas cards


If you’re on my Christmas card list you’ll have received one of my wonderful (!) home-made cards this year. Last year I made half a dozen and this year I managed over thirty cards. I spent two Sunday afternoons making the cards. The secret, I have discovered, is to keep them as simple as possible, and to be very aware of what I stick on them as chunky things can result in people having to pay extra postage! I think I’ve just about exhausted my Xmas card supplies now, but I’ll be stocking up again in time for Xmas 2014 because I really enjoyed doing this!

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Thing #47, part one: Lebanese Cuisine


We were in Oxford at the weekend and decided to go to Al Shami in Jericho for a late Sunday afternoon lunch – and our first experience of Lebanese cuisine.

A very odd salad!

Having never eaten Lebanese before we could perhaps have done with some guidance on the menu but we decided to dive in and order four mezzes and two mains, plus some bread, between two of us and a couple of Lebanese beers.

Before our order arrived we were presented with the most unusual “salad” I've ever seen … Carrot sticks, some sort of pickled thing, olives, radishes, one whole spring onion, a quartered lettuce, a beef tomato (whole) and a green pepper (also whole) … We picked at it but weren't entirely sure how to eat it!

Then the mezze dishes arrived, closely followed by the mains, so we ate them all together. The mains – meatballs in tomato sauce, and some sort of lamb dish, also in a (tastier) tomato sauce, served with rice and cracked wheat – were okay but not especially inspiring – but the mezzes – a potato and garlic dish, roasted aubergine with tomato, meat pasty type things and some sort of dried, cured beef strips – were excellent, very tasty and well presented too. The potato dish and the dried beef in particular were superb, spicy and flavoursome without being overpowering and I'd definitely have them again. I also really liked the bread, which was some sort of flatbread.

We really enjoyed our meal, despite the slightly underwhelming main courses. The downside of this particular restaurant is the atmosphere. When we arrived there was a large party there who were quite noisy, but as soon as they left the place descended into silence. Ok it was a Sunday afternoon and there was only us and one other person there but when a restaurant is so quiet you can hear the other diner crunching on their dinner …. It would be much better with some authentic music in the background!

So overall we enjoyed our meal and left feeling thoroughly stuffed, and I would definitely eat at Al Shami again – but I think next time we'll pick six or eight mezze dishes and skip the mains – and I'm tempted to take in my iPod and a portable speaker and set Spotify to play some Lebanese belly dancing music!


Thing #68 completed: Get another tattoo!


IMG_3672So in May last year I got a tattoo, after many years of thinking about it. (You can read the story of why I wanted a tattoo here, and see the first one here.) It was a simple black outline of a phoenix in the shape of a heart, and I love it. But …. over the months I realised that much as I loved it, I wanted a bit of colour on there, but I had no idea what. And then it came to me – a small red rose inside the heart.

Being the daughter of a Yorkshire lass I guess I should have stayed well away – and everyone knows I hate red roses. Or rather, up till now I hated red roses. See, the relationship with my children's father, who I left in 2001, was rocky to say the least, and every time we had an argument he bought me red roses as an apology – and I quickly grew to hate roses as a result.

Sadly, he died seven weeks ago today. I've been completely side-swiped by the emotions that have hit me as a result. While we weren't close when he was alive he was the father of my children and I knew him for half my lifetime, and I've been left feeling not relieved but deeply sad for my children, sad that I won't be able to share their future with him and sad for the waste of a life.

And then it came to me. Why not reclaim the rose for myself, and at the same time have a lasting memory of someone who I did love, once, and who I find I'm missing more than I ever anticipated.

So this one is for me: for freedom, for emancipation, for love for myself and those around me. And it's for you too, Ian. Rest in peace, you old bugger.

Thanks to Amy at Real U Tattoo, Oxford for bringing my idea to life!


Great TED videos


I've been watching TED Videos to cross one of the things off my list. I particularly like this one from Amy Cuddy … I'll be doing Wonderwoman poses in the toilet from now on!


Here are two others I've watched and enjoyed:


Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk


Thing number 2 on my list is to visit five new (to me) seaside resorts. We've just come back from a week in Cromer (my most favouritest place on earth!) and while Cromer is most definitely not new to me, I did take the opportunity to visit somewhere that was – Wells-next-the-Sea.

Wells is about 25 miles from Cromer and is an interesting little place. The town itself is nothing special, just your average seaside town, though, it does have a cute little harbour which was packed with chilren fishing for crabs from the harbour wall. Also in the harbour is an old cargo ship called Albatros. The ship has a very interesting history. Among other things, it was used to take Jews from Denmark to Sweden during WWII, returning with weapons for the Danish army. It was used as a cargo ship right into the 1980s and then was commissioned by Greenpeace as an educational centre. Nowadays it is a rather lovely bar and restaurant, serving local real ales and Dutch pancakes on deck and in the hold. (You can find out more about the Albatros by clicking here.)

Wells-next-the-Sea is actually about a mile from the sea, and while you can park nearby, or take the little narrow gauge train to get there, we decided to walk down the road along the East Fleet river which runs between the sea and the harbour. It's a nice walk, well worth doing.

At the bottom we were all in need of a cuppa and a bit of cake and as it happens there was a rather nice beach cafe waiting for us.

Then we went up a slope, round a corner and across a wooden walkway onto the beach. I'd heard a lot about the beach huts at Wells and they really are quite a wonderful sight. They are mounted on stilts and you can probably tell how long they've been there by the height, as the older huts' stilts and steps have become partialy submerged in the soft white sand. I didn't realise Wells also had quite stunning sand dunes too. Wells is actually something of an estuary beach – at high tide the water fills the river and washes across the sand, leaving a long dune in the middle of the sea. We were there at low tide, however, and we couldn't see the sea as it was at least a mile away! So you have soft sand and huts on the left, a long stretch of wet sand with a dune in the middle of it, and then the river, about a metre deep, meandering its way out to sea. Apparently it's very easy to get caught out by the tide – people wade through the river to the flat sands on the other side, but when the tide turns it rushes in quickly – so there is a siren to warn people when the water is approaching.

The beach was very busy so we walked across to the dune, along the length of it and back across to the furthest beach hut so we could take some photos without people in them! It was a lovely place to walk and I can imagine it would be even more spectacular on a cold bright winter's day!

However, I found it a bit … unusual, I suppose. A bit of an odd place for a beach holiday. For me the beach means the sea as well as the sand, and at Wells the sea is so far away as to be absent. Swimming in the shallow river wouldn't have quite the same appeal!


So all in all, I'm glad we visited Wells-next-the-Sea – and I'd definitely go back for pancakes on The Albatros! – but I don't think I'd want to holiday there.


#89 Completed: Grow and eat some fruit


When I did my first 101 things in 1001 days list one of the things was to grow and eat five different vegetables or fruit and I managed that – growing tomatoes, beans, chilis, peppers, tomatoes and herbs. But where was the fruit on that list? Somehow I managed not to grow any at all. So for this list I decided to grow one type of fruit and a few months ago we bought a small black currant bush which grew ferociously and put out a decent amount of fruit. At the weekend I harvested the currants – about three or four handfuls – and then baked a truly awesome apple, plum and black currant crumble … yum yum!



Two more things crossed off the list


Yesterday evening my good friend Clare came round for a barbecue and we had a lovely time sitting out in the garden drinking and chatting. The conversation somehow turned to my list and some of the things on it. And when I mentioned #61: Ride in a Convertible Clare smiled and said she could help meet with that one. So this morning we went for a spin in her lovely BMW Z4 with the roof down – and I loved it! Really enjoyed the freedom of having the wind in my hair as we sped along the country roads. So that's something crossed off the list – and something to put on the next list: Own a Convertible!

I've also just joined a book club so that's number 11 completed. The book club is at the museum in Wantage and the first book I've read with them is Andrew Millar's Pure. It's set in France shortly before the Revolution and I didn't think I'd enjoy it because I'm not a fan of historical fiction – but I absolutely loved it, so there's a benefit of being a member of the club, as I would not otherwise have ever read this book! It was really interesting hearing everyone's views on the book and there were some things that I had missed and others I had understood in different ways. Very interesting experience, and I have already ordered the book for next month's meeting!

Thing #98 completed – take an online course


When I added this thing to the list I wasn't really sure what I was planning on doing – perhaps a creative writing course, or learning to play the guitar. But then I heard via a Facebook group about Coursera, who were running a course called Pay Attention: ADHD Through the Lifespan – and given that I was just about finishing my book at the time, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to develop my knowledge and understanding of ADHD.

So for the last twelve weeks I've been watching a lecture, taking a quiz and doing additional reading – and today I completed the final lecture of the course. It's been great fun – the lecturer, Dr Anthony Rostain, seemed a bit stuffy at first but showed his humanity several times and I will miss our weekly meetings! I've got a far greater understanding of the neuroanatomy of ADHD and how medication helps, and I feel much more confident talking about the causes of ADHD too.

To pass the course and get a certificate you need 90% … I've just totted up my scores and I have 97%, and I know that your lowest score in one module is disregarded anyway, so while I won't quite make 100% I won't be far off!

To anyone thinking of doing an online course I say go for it. I have already signed up for some more courses with Coursera!


Thing #70 completed: Get a Fish Pedicure


So I've been intrigued by the idea of a fish pedicure since I first heard about it a couple of years ago, hence why it was on the list. I came across an offer from All Your Life spa in Cheltenham for a free makeover and photo session which included the chance to have a fish pedicure, so I booked it, mainly as a birthday treat for Katie and so we could spend some fun time together, but also so I could give the fish pedicure thing a go and cross it off the list.

The afternoon was great fun – despite my lack of natural girliness I enjoyed having my makeup and hair done, and loved the OPI gel manicure … My nails are still blue and shiny nearly two weeks on! Then we had a photoshoot – I normally hate having my photo taken but the photographer was fab at relaxing us both and it was actually loads of fun, and I even le some of the photos!

Once we'd seen the results and had some afternoon tea our experience was drawing to a close … But not before we spent 15 minutes in the fish spa …

And hmmm. Not sure I enjoyed it actually! Basically you sit on a padded bench and dunk your feet into a tank of water, and instantly the little fish start nibbling away at something … Dead skin I guess, though I have loads on my heels and they seemed to prefer my toes! You can feel them nibbling and while it doesn't hurt, it does feel like small electric shocks and wasn't altogether pleasant! It tickled like mad too, especially when the fish swam between my gaps toes. It wasn't horrible, but I can't say I enjoyed it much either, and I don't think I'll bother again …. Glad I tried though, and that's another thing crossed off the list!