Archives for category: Wellbeing

Since I devised my list of 40 things to do before I’m 40, I have had a birthday. In only one day I changed from having forever to complete my tasks at a youthful 37, to feeling completely overwhelmed by the knowledge that I have less than two years before the big 4.0. When you consider there’s a couple of trips abroad to be had at the very least, that’s a lot of planning to be done.

I have managed to tick a few things off the list.

I visited a Michelin starred restaurant.


My lovely husband took me to Simpsons for a birthday lunch. The staff there couldn’t have been more welcoming and friendly, although I confess I did feel something of a fish out of water. The food was very………..complicated. Lists and lists of ingredients. But it was all completely delicious. I’m not a food blogger and would have been far too embarrassed to start taking pictures, so you are spared that at least. We each had a different taster menu of four courses, and where possible chef prepared the plates so we both got to try a bit of everything. The highlight was the braised ox cheek. So soft! And something neither of us had tried before. After the meal the waiter bought some complimentary macaroons on a plate with ‘Happy Birthday’ piped in chocolate. I felt very special and, whilst I don’t feel the need to repeat the experience frequently, it was a lovely treat.

I have restored a piece of furniture

Specifically this little desk, picked up on Ebay for a song.


I chose it to fit into a little nook in my living room. We have only two rooms downstairs, and no spare bedroom space, so carving out an area to work has been a bit of a challenge. This small desk is perfect, and could easily evolve into a study desk for either of the children’s rooms as they get a little older.

It’s got a mid-century vibe to it, teak and well made. The replacement handle was probably why it was so cheap, but I liked the mixy-matchy vibe. My ‘upcycling’ was relatively simple: I sanded it down, revarnished all over, and gave the drawers a lick of paint. Dulux tester pots were perfect for this.

I’m really pleased with the result.

It’s very much my style I’d say, and compliments my G-plan coffee table and wall unit. Next I’m after a sideboard to put the TV on. They are fetching some lofty prices of late, way above my bargain threshold. Its strange to think you couldn’t give them away just a few years ago!

I have learnt how to read Tarot

Well, perhaps that should say learnING, since its a slow process to become really knowledgeable. I am fortunately a quick learner, especially once I have an interest in something, there’s no stopping me! I have a decent working knowledge of each card and some basic spreads, but its more about developing one’s intuition and learning to see the cards in relation to each other as a whole.

I am enjoying it much more than I thought I would. I bought a set of The Housewives Tarot, a fabulous deck featuring illustrations that could have been designed especially for me! They are very easy to use for the beginner, with detailed images and clues. I am tempted to invest in a tradition Ryder Waite deck next, some Tarot cards are so beautiful and I can see it would be an easy collection to fall into.

The Four of Wands is one of my favourite images

I’ve been reading for everyone who’ll let me. Friends, husband, even the lovely ladies on my pregnancy forum have been getting daily card pulls. As you would expect, some seem more successful than others but I think I am improving. I find it difficult to read for myself though; it’s limiting to talk to yourself about a card’s reading, I need people to listen. Typical extrovert behaviour.

In truth, I remain sceptical about spirits, magic and all things mystic, and recognise that cards are heavily open to interpretation. I do believe in an individual’s guiding energy though, and if we choose certain cards, there may be hidden meanings it would be helpful to discover. Tarot has been one of my best discoveries this year.

Now that I look at it, I really need to get much more of a move on if I’m to finish the list before 40. There are a number of other slow burners: I am trucking through West Wing Season 4 and the List of 32 Books That Will Change My Life, plus November is my vegetarian month, and the husband is dying to teach me poker.

If all goes well over the next few weeks, the part time working (a Serious One) will become a reality too. Watch this space!


It’s true that there are a thousand posts like this in the blogosphere. Here is mine.

I wrote this list acutely aware of the fact that, as I turn 38 next month, I have a ever-decreasing time frame in which to achieve all these things. With that in mind, many of the items are ‘smaller’ and more achievable; I’ll save the novel writing for the Before I’m 50 list.

When I asked friends and Mr Google for ideas, the same obvious ones came up. These include: running a marathon, climbing a mountain, swimming with dolphins, bungee-jumping/sky diving etc. Whilst I’m not totally risk averse and actually quite enjoy heights, there are many things ‘extreme’ that just don’t appeal. The List needed to be things I WANTED to do, rather than felt I had to. Plus, I avoid running on principle. It’s too trendy and bad for my knees. Besides, if nature wanted me to run it wouldn’t have built me so jiggly. Built for comfort, not for speed. There are some physical activities, I’m not totally lazy, but quite a lot can be ticked off whilst enjoying a sit down and a nice cup of tea.

Not all of the things on the list are firsts. But if I have done them before, its not been lately. There are experiences from my youth I’d like to relive before I’m scared of breaking a hip.

I have randomised the order from my original notebook so I didn’t get caught up on priorities. I go into this with a view to completing ALL items.

Without further ado….


The List


1. Reduce to part time working: This is a serious one, and its been part of my life plan for a couple of years. I resent leaving my children as much as I do. I love them and I miss them.  At the moment we can’t afford to drop a penny to meet our modest budget so I’m working all the hours, but I’ll get there.

2. Go glamping: Like, in a yurt or something. Somewhere I can sing round the campfire but still get a dry towel and charge my phone.

3. Dance until dawn: I’ve done this before, but not within the last 15 years or so. I love still being awake when the sun comes up, it makes me feel naughty.

4. Learn how to ride a bike: I can get on one, and peddle it forwards, but I’m screwed when I get to a corner. I’m not after a star turn in the Velodrome, but maybe a rental weekend and a ride in the country would be nice. Don’t judge me, I was a bookish child.

5. Host a swishing event: I’ve been looking for one to go to for YEARS in Birmingham but it appears no-one hosts them. I’m worried there’s a very good reason for that, but I’m willing to give it a go. There’s a couple of local charities I can support so I am thinking or organising it as a clothes swapping based fundraiser,  maybe Autumn time as people’s wardrobes are in transition.

6. Watch all of The West Wing: I’m two seasons in, but as its not currently on Netflix its at the back of my viewing queue. Definite cold weather viewing, I’ll get on this towards the end of the year.

7. Host a radio show: No idea how to go about this one. I just want to inflict my *cough* eclectic music taste onto someone.

8. Have an overseas family holiday: I was 23 before I flew on a plane, I want my children to experience this earlier. Will be looking at Europe breaks for next summer.

9. Go on a Murder Mystery weekend: Not a night, a proper full on weekend. These ones look brilliant!

10. Publish a knitting pattern: The only knitty thing to make the list, and admittedly a little reluctantly. I felt like I had to have one in there. I suck at designing, but I should nurture my creative spirit.

11. Decorate every room in the house: This isn’t as lofty an ambition as it sounds. We only have a small house, and I’m not including the kitchen and bathroom as they were done last year. So it’s only five rooms in all, and that includes the hallway.

12. Mow a lawn: Just because I’ve never done it. We have a lawn, but it’s normally Big G’s job.

13. Learn how to play chess: Really keen to do this, cause its like, intelligent innit?

14. Read the Lord Of The Rings trilogy: I couldn’t get into the films, but I have enjoyed the Game of Thrones books, so willing to give fantasy genre another chance. I live with a LOTR geek, so I have access to all the literature.

15. Sleep under the stars: Maybe I can slip out of that yurt one night.

16. Have a boudoir photo shoot:  OBVIOUSLY, I need to lose two stones first.

17. Win a TV quiz show: I now have one appearance under my belt, so the next step is to actually win one!

18. See a ballet:  Since I’m not sporty, I should be cultured. Opera is a step too far, but ballet I can do.

19. Learn how to make a signature cocktail: Because a sophisticated, ballet-going lady such as I should have her own drink.

20. Restore and revive a piece of furniture:  I’m thinking sanding and painting rather than replacing dovetail joints, but I’m openminded.

21. Perform on stage again: I’ve done quite a bit of amateur theatre in the past, but the time-guilt combo of career and parenting but a stop to it. I used to love it though, and hope to again.

22. Eat at a Michelin starred restaurant: Spoilt for choice in Birmingham, since we have more Michelin restaurants than any other UK city outside London. Maybe one for a special lunchtime.

23. Go bellydancing: Although generally exercise shy, I do love to dance. And I do have a belly.

24. Learn how to read Tarot: I think of myself as a healthy sceptic when it comes to all things mystical, but I do think card reading can be a useful way to self-reflect, providing you use them to clarify your own thinking and not see them as messages from the beyond.

25. Swim five lengths: As embarrassing as my cycling this one. I’m not a strong swimmer, and generally expend all my energy staying afloat. I’d love to learn a proper strong swimming technique. My daughter is a fish; I want her to see mummies can swim too.

26. Start a pension plan: So I said this list was all about WANT, but this is a NEED. Well, I have to be sensible sometimes, I am nearly 40.

27. Get a colonic:  Out of nothing more than gruesome curiosity.

28. Practice basic yoga:  This is something I should already be doing, I need to work harder at finding a local class.

29. Cook every recipe from a cookbook:  I’ve just bought Nigel Slater’s iconic Real Fast Food, and the recipes look accessible and delicious. Unfortunately there are also over 360 of them. That’s a meal every other day. I don’t even make toast every other day. I MAY revise this down to 100 recipes. Or something.

30. Go vegetarian for one month:  I did this in a half-arsed manner for Lent one year. I do worry about eating so much intensively farmed meat, and can see a veggie could be healthier for me, and almost certainly better for the earth.

31. Have my nails ‘done’ properly: My idea of a manicure is to trim my hangnails with the kitchen scissors. I see girls with glossy, glittery talons. I want a bit of that.

32. Play poker: I suck at cards, which I’m willing to accept as throughout life I have been blessed with wonderful luck in love. Poker rules feel like something I should know, though.

33. Drive on a motorway: I have a THING about driving. I need to get over myself.

34. Go to a high tea in a classy hotel: Like I said, a list of WANTS. I always want cake.

35. Read the 32 Books That Will Change Your Life:   From this list here. I have a head start having read 5 or 6 of them already.

36. Plant a wildflower garden:   Just because it would be so pretty! And it would mean less lawn to mow.

37. Visit Scandinavia: I hesitated to put grand travel plans, since I didn’t want budget restrictions to hamper my success. But the truth is I am woefully poorly travelled, and this is one part of the world I have long wanted to visit. It may well be a trip for my 40th as things stand.

38. Sew myself a dress: Sewing is something I feel like I should be good at given my knitting prowess, but its a skill I’ve never really nailed. I blame it on a sewing machine which has never worked properly. What do you mean, a poor workman blames his tools? (grumble, grumble).

39. Play with some kittens:   I just love them, and I haven’t cuddled any for ages!! I’ve had my babies, my life is devoid of cute. I need kitten cuddles and I need them now.

40. See a West End show: I saw Les Miserables about twenty years ago. I’m due a revisit.


Almost a week in and I’m not flagging! Here’s the story so far…

Workday mornings are proving a struggle. My timings are so hectic since I already get up at 6.30am and refuse to rise any earlier out of principle. It’s all I can do to race out of the house with a banana in my hand and a coat pocket full of walnuts. I’ve missed the dry body brushing the last couple of days too. I remember as soon as I’ve jumped into the shower, but by then it’s too late. You can’t dry body brush a wet body.

The rest of the routine has been largely a breeze though. This is absolutely not going to be a weight loss plan. I am eating LOTS. Much more than before. In fact, I feel like I’m almost constantly eating to quiet that nagging voice that keeps telling me something is missing. Probably sugar. Porridge with fruit for breakfast, houmous on rye toast around 10am, big lunch of bean chilli/rice/soup/salad, more houmous on oat cakes…. Really, there is loads to choose from.

The children were off school yesterday (the heating broke, although our house is ironically even colder so they were no better off), and preparing fishfinger sandwiches on soft, white bread and doling out leftover Halloween sweeties was an unexpected challenge. Of course, one could argue that if I altered their diet to a healthier one too, that could have been avoided. However, wrestling the biscuit tin from the vice-like grip of tiny carb-junkies* is not a task I was up to in my temporarily weakened state. One battle at a time please.

Revelation of the week has been goats cheese. Just how frigging gorgeous is a slab of chevre heated up in the oven? Yeah, see earlier point about not losing weight this month. Seriously, it’s a taste sensation! While it may be nicer with a glass of red wine, for now the oatcakes and lemon water are doing their job. Absolutely sublime.

Last night’s virtuous roast dinner was a small amount of free -range chicken, with olive oil roasted spuds and lots of vegetables. I passed on the gravy, but reader, I did cheat. I make amazing Yorkshire puddings. But what I once considered a gift became a bit of a curse yesterday as I just couldn’t resist. That’s dairy and wheat in one fell swoop. Urgh. Still, it wasn’t a lot. And the lack of any severe reaction (I’ve been reading horror stories on the net of vomiting, hives and pain) has confirmed that I don’t have any heightened sensitivity. I felt slightly bloated afterwards; enough to put me off cheating again if I can help it. Someone at work asked if I had lost weight. I haven’t, but my tummy feels noticeably flatter and my face is looking a little slimmer.

Sadly, I had my phone stolen last week and have yet to sort a replacement, so you are spared any pictorial selfie journey. Maybe that’s a good thing.

Wow, 10am already. Must be houmous time.

* I exaggerate, they eat lots of fruit and veg and stuff too. Please don’t judge.


No, no, no. Not a starvy, fasty, juice-y one. Just a planned period of time where I spoil myself with some clean, wholesome food; instead of ramming grease and simple carbs down my neck during the brief interludes from manic office and mothering life. Why not. I’m worth it. Plus I NEED it.

I’ve always fancied that I look a little younger than my 37 years. Not that hanging on to youth is a big prize in my opinion, my 1991 perm and acne deserve to stay buried in the annals of history, but looking ‘fresh’ is something I value. Recently, my face and figure have been racing up to my birth certificate age however, and are in danger of lapping it. No longer do people appear surprised when I tell them my age (and yes I know much of it is politeness, like when an old lady at the bus stop tells you she’s ’82, you know’ and you have to look incredulous), in fact they are more likely to tell me I’m looking ‘tired’, ‘ill’, ‘pale’, ‘rundown’. Pick a vaguely insulting adjective of your choice.

It’s got the point where blusher ain’t cutting it. But more importantly than my appearance, I’m starting to worry I’m just not a very nice person anymore. I am tired a lot, and grumpy. I complain and I snap irritably at my children. Yes, life is busy, but I’m not doing myself any favours with my appalling diet and exercise regime. I think I may have the worst eating patterns of just about anyone I know. Certainly more than anyone else in my demographic. I eat like a 17 year old boy. A neglected one, who lives in a hovel smoking weed and eating takeaways intermittently. Not that I smoke weed. Honest. My addictions lie elsewhere. Sugar, wheat, salt. All the crappy stuff. And the exercise thing? Well, I just don’t. Ever.

I have a monthly massage to help my slumpy knitter’s shoulders at the fabulous Natural Health Centre. My therapist Jean is an advocate of healthy living, and a fantastic advert for it I may say. Very glowy. She told me about Jane Shrivner’s Detox Programme. I had heard of it before. It’s one of the original round of programmes that were very popular a decade or so ago, combining eating well with exercise and beauty treatments. I was working at The Body Shop at the time and sold a gazillion cactus bristle brushes for the dry body brushing which is an important part of the detox. My therapist knows Shrivner professionally, and tells me she has updated the detox several times. It’s the orginial book I bought though, and read cover to cover. And do you know what? I am totally up for this. Not in the half-arsed give-it-a-go way I consider a lot of things, but in a proper stick-to-it 30 day kind of way.

The key thing about this particular detox is that its not particularly restrictive in any way. Yes, it means cutting out caffeine, sugar, wheat and dairy, but although that may be a challenge there is nothing there I feel I really should be eating anyway. I have chronic rhinitis (perpetually snotty nose in layman’s terms) and I have wondered if an exclusion diet might help identify if wheat is a problem; I eat it A LOT.

Instead of fretting about what I can’t have, I’ve been able to think of loads of nourishing and good foods I can have. And no girl from good Irish stock is going to cry at the loss of wheat when potatoes are still on the menu (roasted in olive oil no less!). The only thing I’m struggling with is giving up eggs. In my world, they are not dairy, and I only have eggs from the farm up the road so they are as organic as organic can be. I may re-introduce them before 30 days, we’ll see. I love eggs.

But before I go and buy all of Holland and Barratt, I have been preparing. You know; fail to prepare, prepare to fail and all that. I have pages of lists of meal ideas and things I will be able to eat. PAGES. My plan is to start at the weekend as I have a quiet one planned and two days annual leave booked Mon/Tue. I have already quit caffeine and booze and come out the other side of the headaches so that’s not so bad. I anticipate some difficulties given my intensely emotional attachment to food (how does one celebrate without cake??), but it’s only 30 days. And Autumn is such a fabulous time to detox. January Schmanuary. When is it more important to get your immune system in tip top shape than just before winter hits?

At the moment all of the Christmas festivities seem a long way away, whilst all the socialising budget is eaten up with Christmas shopping, so it’s a good month to lay low and eat brown rice.

Wish me luck!

I thought I should insert some kind of ‘before’ picture of myself here, but I bottled it, so here is a picture of some lemons instead. Very Detox-y