27 of 40 – Fabulous Me

Yes, I have got the numbering right.  There were a few covered in the previous post at the festival…

This is an unusual New Thing, in the fact that not only was it not planned in advance, it wasn’t recognised as a New Thing until afterwards.  It is also leading on to more New Thing, although I am counting it as all wrapped into one.

When it was my birthday, one of my presents was a voucher for Marks and Spencer.  Husband was off with son so I took a Day Off and decided to spend the voucher.  I pottered round the local store, found a couple of things to try on, happily pootled into the changing rooms…and emerged to hurl them disgustedly at the shop assistant snarling about how I now remembered why I hated shopping for clothes.  No, really, I do.  They don’t fit, or they don’t suit, and I never know what goes with what.  I end up in basic black jeans with a top. All the time.  It makes it easy to get dressed in the morning, mind – Clean jeans? Check. Clean top? Check. Done.

The lass laughed but then said earnestly that she would find me something. She was only young (21 the next day!) and so very eager, with all the other assistants saying, “Oh yes, she *IS* good.” that I didn’t have it in my heart to refuse.

So off we trotted round the store, with her picking up all sorts of things from all sorts of collections.  “What about this?” as she holds up a bright purple patterned dress.  “Um.” “Oh, you’d be surprised,” she said.  “What about this?” as various other tops, trousers, jumpers, cardigans, vests, jeans etc got pulled out of piles.  “You’d be surprised,” she assured me.

So I gave in.  If she wanted me to try it on, then I’d try it on.  Even the black blouse with the Peter Pan collar.  There were a very few things I vetoed because I knew the colour just would NOT work on me and would wash me out, but other than that I just held out my arms and acted as a carrier for her. 

We staggered back to the changing room and she piled it all into a large cubicle, hanging the items up as outfits.  “Right, try that one on first, and then we’ll go with that one.  This will go with…this, and then we’ll swap. OK, off you go.”

So I did.  First on, as I was instructed, was the purple patterned ruffled jersey dress. Urk.

Oh. My. Goodness.  Once I got over the boldness, it was amazing.  And the lovely assistant was in raptures about how well it fitted, telling me (very quietly and almost embarrassed) that I had an amazing figure and that my bum looked fantastic in it; and that I should stop hiding.

So that one went into the ‘keepers’ pile.

As did the black and white dogtooth check trousers, with red assymetric top.

And the burgundy jeggings. (JEGGINGS?!)

And the glittery top.

The coloured jeans.

The cropped trousers. (Cropped, I tell you, cropped!)

And I swanned about in the changing room, admiring myself in the mirror, feeling like someone out of Vogue; feeling like Joanna Lumley in a fabulous, modern, edgy but appropriate way.

More and more got piled onto the keepers pile. A scarf, shoes (brogues!) and I just went with it, and went for it.

I had the money (a bonus from work that had been sitting there) and I had clothes that made me feel fabulous.  If I didn’t buy them just because it was a lot of money to spend in one go, then it was a bit ridiculous – spreading the money over some months wouldn’t make it any less money.  And who knows what would be available then.

So I got help to carry it all to the till, and staggered out the shop, feeling a bit like Pretty Woman.

Since then I have been wearing my new purchases (as instructed by my friends, who told me very severely that I needed to, and not to leave them hanging in the wardrobe.) and I have been feeling fabulous.  It takes a little longer to choose what to wear, but I am wearing stuff I would never have thought of, and I feel amazing – today I am in brown cropped jeggings with zipped ankles, a gold sequinned jumper, peacock feather earrings and a chunky necklace.  (No, there aren’t any photos. Sorry.)

I have also booked myself in to have a fabulous haircut to go with it. Not having been to the hairdresser for nigh on six months, if not longer, then I am pretty certain the Creative Director I am booked with will shout at me, in the nicest possible way.

But in the meantime I will sparkle and glow, and prance and enjoy being Fabulous Me.

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23 of 40 – The Wristband Salute, aka my first festival

 

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I saw the festival mentioned online, I looked it up, and I was smitten!  So, with husband’s agreement, I got us some tickets…and booked us into a local Travelodge!  Maybe not the traditional festival accommodation but we are old enough to know when camping may well not be the best option for us anymore (AND it was cheaper!!)

At the end of August I looked at the sudden change for the worse in weather and my heart sank, but my luck was in and we had brighter break especially for the weekend.  The whole joy of the festival, for me, was that it was based in and around woods. There were all sorts of things planned, I got the programme in advance, and it was all about playing.  Things I was sure that cherub would enjoy (cowboy training, anyone?) and things I wanted (stone balancing and storytelling.) But more than anything, I just wanted to reconnect with my ability to *play.*

Ideally in sunshine.

As I said, our luck was in. It threatened to rain a number of times, but until 5pm on Saturday, it held off. And at that point, we just adjourned to the hotel, grateful for dry clothes and hot showers (I won’t say we were grateful for comfortable beds, because they weren’t…!)  And on Sunday we had blue skies, and a waterproof backed picnic rug so any squelchiness could easily be ignored.

Did I enjoy it?  Yes, yes and thrice yes.

We watched shows, IMAG1138

balanced stones (New Thing 24 of 40),and made mushrooms,

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I learned the Charleston (25 of 40) and how hard it is to play a musical saw.  My son indeed went to cowboy training camp and had a go at learning to lasso.  They were just starting to pack up and I suddenly realised how much *I* wanted a go. It was only kids doing the session, but I really really wanted to try. So I leapt up and asked for a go. (26 of 40)  My only regret is that I stopped when I ‘felt I ought to have done’ rather than whenever they asked for their equipment back!  I will learn from that.

And I will remember life is more about relaxing and playing, about sitting on the floor in the woods and not worrying about clothing, about going to see what looks interesting and not slavishly following a plan.

I went for a nature walk with cherub today. We collected half a bag full of interesting leaves, sticks, nuts etc.  And petted some dogs and played tag.  It looks as though at least a little bit of the festival is still with me.

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22 of 40 – Make like a seal…

The only experience I had of swimming under water was a very brief encounter with a snorkel, involving me promptly going too deep, trying to breathe water and coming up spluttering before walking promptly back to the beach.

So when I saw a special offer for a trial scuba diving lesson in the local swimming pool, I was only partially tempted. It was indeed a New Thing, and it looked interesting, but I wasn’t completely convinced.

However, I then saw an advert for a trial dive whilst on holiday.  Scuba diving in your swimming pool is one thing, scuba diving off Scapa Flow is quite another.  More specifically, off the blockade ships in Scapa Flow…Image

Those things you can see in the water?  Those are the tops of ships sunk during the First World War to barricade the UK’s largest natural harbour.  And I’d just signed up to dive round them.

I went with Scapa Scuba, who were brilliant. They picked me up and took me with another idiot adventurer to the Churchill Barriers where we met up with the other two of our group.  We were introduced to each other and to the facilities – a rock round the headland for the men, and a hollow on the top of the hill for the ladies!

Then it was a briefing, some training and our instructor got into the water.  The two we’d met with at the barriers went first so they could then go off on their way, then it was time for me to start getting ready.

First a quick trip up the hill…

Then ‘just’ put the dry suit in the back of the van.  Rob was our ‘land instructor’ and said all I needed to do was to put my feet in and pull the suit up like a giant pair of wellies.  Yeah, right.  Up to my thighs and I can’t reach round the excess suit to haul it any further up. Rob is grabbing handfuls and heaving it up – although I had to point out that some of it was ME and not the suit…

OK, so I get the suit on, arms in and everything. I then need to ‘just’ pull the neck over my head so I could get zipped up at the back.  No chance. I can’t reach my shoulders let alone the headpiece. Again, Rob came to the rescue and I finally emerged from the van. Apparently it had been rocking so violently the others weren’t sure what on earth was going on!

By this time, Carolina was waiting for me in the shallows so it was time to hurry the best I could down to the shore.  Back pack thingie on, weights round my ankles, scuba gear connected, head covering hauled on (thanks, Rob) and into the water.

Float back and stick my feet in the air. I can so do that bit 🙂  Flippers on and now for the shallows training.

This is where we go through all the stuff Carolina had told us at the van that we have now forgotten. Except we have to do it underwater.

First, put face in water and breathe.  Check.  Yeah, I can do that.

Next kneel down and we do more under water.  Start to kneel down, feel water gradually rise up face, panic and come back up again.  OK, start again. Stick face in water FIRST and THEN start kneeling.  That works.

Until there is water under my nose in the mask.  Splutter, panic, back to the surface.

Apparently this is normal. Water under the nose is fine.  Calm breaths, try again.  I can do this.

Can’t kneel down – legs go every which way but the way they should.  Back to the surface.

Finally make it down and my knees are not quite on the bottom, but are bouncing and I am not sure if this is right. Try to signal to the instructor and we end up back on the surface. Then I get water in my mask and we haven’t had the lesson about clearing it yet. So, that’s right, back up we go.  Bobbing up and down like one of the seals in the area.

At this point in my narration, my son interrupts to ask, “Did you actually do it?” “Yes, I did.” “OK, go on telling the story…”

I did finally make it through the shallow water training and set off, Carolina’s arm through mine as she guided me round.

If I could have squeaked under water, I would have. Within moments, there was a flat fish fluttering its way across the sea bed, a crab waving at me and a water snail on a bit of seaweed. It was so exciting! It honestly had not dawned on me that there would be sealife down there. I thought it would be all about the ships and the barriers. And it was so amazing. I was then very conscious that my flippers were dragging on the sea bottom and stirring up the little critturs’ homes. So I am signalling to Carolina that although I am OK, there is something wrong and try to explain through hand signals.

And up we are again on the surface. She said the look on my face was priceless – very clearly, “No, I do not want to go back up. Again.” but it was the only way she could let me know that, yes, she understood me, and no it was ok.

So off we went again. I never did make it as far as the blockade ships, but I was dead hot at spotting the wildlife. After a while I could feel one of my flippers coming loose, but I was so not wanting to go back up to the surface yet again that I kept quiet until it was really unavoidable. I signalled what was going on and Carolina pulled me upright. And, oh, I am in shallow water, literally only up to my waist. It is time to get out.

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And out of the dry suit….and back up the hill.

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21 of 40 – How low can you go?

If you don’t try anything, then you can’t fail. More than that, if you are not seen to try, you can’t be mocked for making the attempt. You can’t be laughed at for looking a fool, or even for trying it in the first place. Or for wanting something that the others see as stupid. Or for going against the Group Think.

You also shrivel and don’t trust yourself anymore. Don’t trust your likes and dislikes. Your wants. You do what you think that others will find acceptable. You contribute to the Group Think. Even when you watch others doing something that you would like to do. And you wonder to yourself, “How do they do it? How do they not *care?* How do they just enjoy themselves?”

Of course, part of it is about where you grew up, the environment, the family, the school. Part is your own personality. And part is about just doing it anyway.

A little while back I Ran in a Race. I wrote about it here as a Something New, but the real New Thing was about overcoming the fear of embarrassment and shame. Yes, I came last (but only just and up against two hulking great Dads) and yes I stumbled and almost fell flat on my face (but I didn’t) and yes I enjoyed it and laughed all the way through (until I realised I had taken part in front of so many parents and people who knew me and oh my goodness could *crucify* me. But didn’t. At all. In fact, it was such a tiny blip in their lives only one person said anything to me about it afterwards at all, and that was a ‘Well done for doing it, I couldn’t have.’)

Anyway, I am currently on holiday. We timed our trip to match with a local festival with all sorts of entertainment, including an open air entertainer. First the kids were called up to have a go at limbo dancing. Then it was the adults’ turn. I damped down all the fear and stepped forward. In fact, I stepped up first. There must have been 8 or 9 in the end, from teenage lads to mums. And it was fun. The crowd cheered every success, the teenage lad had good style and we congratulated each other when we did well. It was good, honest, non-cynical, country living FUN.

The only rules were to get under the bar and stand up again without letting your elbows or hands touch the ground.

I managed the bar right down low. I did wonder, to be honest, if my…ahem…natural assets would prove a problem, but lying on the floor and wriggling backwards worked. And my ‘party trick’ has always been to be able to stand up from cross-legged without hands. So I won 🙂

But the best bit was going back to my son. I’d like to say I got a hug and admiration from him, but, to be honest, he just wanted to see what I’d won! No, the best bit was a lady grabbing me and saying, “You’re on my team!” There was another challenge and I was roped in for that one, too. I was part of the team, I was part of the crowd. I was part of life. And it was good.

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20 of 40 – Having a Brazilian

No, not one of *those.* (Although that would indeed be a New Thing, although not one that is likely to happen, and definitely not a photo post!)

THIS Brazilian all came about because of a conversation I had with Tetraplegic Bhoy. I was a bit stuck and needed a nudge to get on with Trying New Things so I asked him for a suggestion/challenge. He was a real sweetie and thought long and hard about a New Thing he thought I would enjoy and came up with this: “I want you to think of a cuisine you have never sampled (say Lebanese for talking sake), find a restaurant that specialises in it and give it a go.”

Well, part of me was very touched by the thought that had gone into this, because Yes, that is something I would enjoy. Part of me wondered if it would actually count as a New Thing because trying new cuisines is something I like to do and have done a lot of. And part of me was trying to work out how on earth to do it, bearing in mind I live in South Wales and have a small cherub so logistics was a challenge.

“Keep on working on it, we don’t get great reward from the things that fall on our lap.” So, no, he wasn’t going to give me a ‘get out clause.’

Right then. Mentally roll up sleeves. See what can be done…

Check local big cities and see what there is. Lebanese? Tried it, like falafels. Greek? Very meat based. Italian? Husband’s favourite. Carribean? Tried stalls at events. Portugese? Nepalese? Indian? Chinese? Thai? All tried before. Yell.com. Google search. Getting difficult here to find something let alone work out how to get there.

But, I am not going to be beaten. Off to Glasgow for work, with husband as well. This had GOT to be an ideal opportunity. Now, if only to find somewhere I have not already eaten. Googlemaps round the hotel to find restaurants.

BINGO!

Brazilian!

Right. OK, hubby mine, this is where we will be eating on Monday night – two blocks from the hotel and, no, I have NO IDEA what it will be like. No recommendations, no wandering past and thinking it looked good, no being guided by the menu. Just turning up because it was a New Thing.

It took a little while to get there. Having got up at 04:30 to catch a flight there, and been up on my feet most of the day I was pretty tired. I also have something going on with one of my feet so it is a bit painful to walk. Especially two blocks plus ‘scenic detours’ (aka getting lost). However, I reminded myself that I am grateful to have feet that work, a lovely warm evening to walk in, and an opportunity to go out with my husband, and just got on with it.

Well, it looked like a bar from outside, which is not surprising when I read from the menu that ‘Boteco’ means bar. Not the sort of place I would normally head for, for dinner out with my husband for the first time in months.

Never mind. It’s my challenge. And even if the food is awful, it will still make a good post…

I am delighted to report the food was NOT awful. And I took plenty of pictures.

The criteria was to try things that were definitely Brazilian. So, up first was a starter to share:

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Husband chose a Brazilian beer, and I went for a cocktail. Not one to normally choose a cocktail I was a bit puzzled by some of the names (of the contents, let alone the actual cocktail names!) so had to ask. When I found one had Brazilian rum in it, I HAD to go for it…

IMAG0979 Now, the challenge with this one was that it had fresh strawberries in it, blitzed but not very finely. And a small straw. Yes, you work out the physics on that! I wasn’t too sure about the flavour, but as the evening wore on, it somehow tasted better and better…

Husband’s main course was Feijoada:

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and I had an unfeasibly large pot of fish and prawn moqueca:
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Truly, this could very easily feed two people. Epic proportions. And made of deliciousness. Tiny tasty prawns, with giant king prawns, and chunks of white fish in an oh my goodness sauce. With a plate of rice. And a bowl of ‘plaintain flour’ crumbs to sprinkle over the top. At least, that’s what I think they said it was.

Vast amounts but it didn’t stop me going for dessert, though! Brigadeiro. The menu described them as ‘chocolate truffles.’ I expected some kind of chocolate ganache based dessert. What I got was not what I expected.
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I had planned on taking a photo of the inside of one, but it was gone before I remembered. I blame the strawberries in the cocktail. It was chewy, gummy, kind of caramel-y but not (which is good as I am not that keen on caramel) and I can only advise that you do not put a whole one in your mouth at once as you may not be able to speak again for days. A half one was difficult enough. But, oh my, I still remember the taste.

Oh, and if you want to know what ‘strawberry and coconut cream with sponged biscuit base, made with freshly grated coconut and decorated with fresh strawberries.’ looks like…IMAG0986

I don’t know if the food we ate was typical of Brazil, but I do know it was worth the trip to find it. I recommend the place, and even if the bar itself isn’t all that friendly to ‘wheels’ (I didn’t pay enough attention on the way *in* as I didn’t know if it was going to be good enough to recommend. And I didn’t pay enough attention on the way *out* as, well, I blame the strawberries…) there is seating outside, if the weather is atypical of Scotland. Full menu can be found here.

Thank you for the challenge. Accepted, completed and uploaded.

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19 of 40 – Cheesy goodness

“OK, anyone got any ideas for New Things to try?”

“Make cheese.”

“Make cheese?!”

“Yup, it’s easy.”

“Uh, I don’t think so.  I mean, I’ve SEEN dairies and all the complicated equipment they have in them.”

Anyway, a few weeks ago it was my birthday. (Yes, if you are paying attention, I should really change my user name…) And through the post came a big, exciting box. With my name on it. A few days *before* my birthday. So, I waited.

Then, on the appropriate day, I opened it. Oooh. Intriguing. Loads of bubble wrap round a bottle, some plastic basket thingies, a digital thermometer and a book: Making Soft Cheese.  And you know something?  It didn’t look difficult after all.  In fact, I got quite excited about it.

So, I took it as a hint, a nudge, and general encouragement!

I also took my birthday money and headed off to Lakeland, to buy myself a Maslin Pan. You know something, I had NEVER heard of one of those before. Ever. USED one, on the other hand? Loads of times, making jam with my mum! Just never knew it had a proper name. Anyway, digressing…

So, I got all the bits together, bought a two litre container of milk, waited for a free evening. Threw away the milk that had, by now, gone off, and bought some more.

The thing that took the longest time was making sure everything was scrubbed clean before I started. If I had a dishwasher, I would have lobbed everything in it and considered it sterlised. I don’t, so I couldn’t.

But then, once I actually started?

Wheeee!!!

Heat 2 litres of milk to 95 degrees. Turn the heat off. Tip in 100ml white wine vinegar. Very quick stir. Leave it alone. Watch curds separate and leave clear whey behind. Ooooh. Magic!!

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Scoop out curds. Chase curds round the pan. Try and sieve them out. Drain through a muslin cloth for an hour. IMAG0972Scoop into plastic mould basket thingie. Press down lightly. Leave for an hour.

Ta-dah!! Haloumi!!

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I achieved CHEESE!!!

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18 of 40 – How (not) to make pop cakes

Step 1 – Drool over pop cakes, read forums on top tips on making them, look at cute pictures of artistic designs.

Step 2 – Convince yourself you already have enough tins, tubs and baking equipment and not to start another craft. And that pop cakes are going to be WAY too sweet with all that frosting mixed in.

Step 3 – Get money for your birthday and go out and buy a silicon pop cake tray. Balls of cake, not frosting mix = not too sweet.
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Step 4 – Make up cake mix with son, and his playdate. Get abandoned to finish it off and load into the silicon tray.

Step 5 – Resist the temptation to poke at the silicon, and leave it to cool in the tray as per the instructions.

Step 6 – Pop out perfect little round balls of cake. Whooot!
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Step 7 – Remember the Top Tips and use melted chocolate to stick the sticks into the balls of cake.

Step 8 – Twizzle the ball of cake gently through melted chocolate.

Step 9 – Use upturned colander to support sticks as the chocolate dries.
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Step 10 – Watch as the coated cake balls gently, yet inexorably, crumble round the stick and slide off.

Step 11 – Take the uncoated cake balls, add petit four cases, chocolate and edible glitter instead.

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