Day 11 – Breton stripes, vin and kouign amann

Day 11 started badly. I got up too late, got in the shower too late, dried my hair too late , and was generally running around the house in a bit of a flap. Thankfully the wonderful Mr TwentyNine came to the rescue with a mug of coffee.

Wet hair, hot coffee

I can’t claim that it was the caffeine that helped me, as I gave that up and switched to decaff beverages over 2 months ago (FYI – best decision I ever made!) but it hit the spot and calmed me down. My husband is a saint.

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So today my parents returned from France after a deliciously long 5 and a half weeks. Don’t even get me started on how jealous I was of that!

As they live only a quarter of a mile from where I work I decided to pop up and see them at lunchtime… until I remembered I was wearing my 4.5 inch wedges and that my vest top would do little to protect me from the chilly wind. Cue a phone call: “Dad, can you come and get me from work? I’m wearing stupid shoes with no jacket and if I walk to you I’ll break my ankles or freeze – or both.”

To be honest, he knows me too well to be surprised by a) the phone call or b) the inappropriate attire.

A few minutes later I was safely inside my parents’ living room – surrounded my more flippin’ birthday presents! Totally unexpected considering they’d given me a present for my un-birthday in France a few weeks before, my beautiful Alyssa Smith Lucky Silver Clover necklace.

And now to my surprise I also had a gorgeous silver Roxy purse, a lovely scarf with cream/navy blue Breton stripes , a little stuffed crab made from the same stripes as the scarf (I’d been cooing over these in windows all summer while we were over there) and a bottle of Mateus Rose – a firm favourite tipple of mine. Alongside this, they gave me and Mr TwentyNine a bottle of Bordeaux, and the best bit – a pack of 4 mini Kouign Amann.

Now, if you’ve never tried Kouign Amann – and if you like your desserts sticky, buttery and salty – then you must buy one or make one NOW! The Wiki description says:

Kouign-amann (pronounced [,kwiɲaˈmɑ̃nː] (kween a-mon), Breton pl. kouignoù-amann) is a Breton cake. It is a round crusty cake, made with bread dough containing layers of butter and sugar folded in, similar in fashion to puff pastry albeit with fewer layers. The resulting cake is slowly baked until the butter puffs up the dough (resulting in the layered aspect of it) and the sugar caramelizes. The name derives from the Breton words for cake (“kouign”) and butter (“amann”). Kouign-amann is a speciality of the town Douarnenez in Finistère, in the west of France, where it originated in around 1860.

I’ve found a recipe here which I’ve never tried, so I can’t vouch for, but he does say “It is strictly forbidden to think about diets while you’re making a Kouign Amann” so he certainly knows what he’s on about. It’s not for the faint-hearted. Or those with existing cholesterol problems, for that matter.

Kouign Amann and Breton stripes

Anyway – try the recipe or get yourself over to Brittany now and buy one! We found a little shop that did miniature Kouign Amann in different flavours while we were in Pont Aven, so it might be worth experimenting with that too if you’re brave. I was particularly fond of the Grand Marnier!

Food For Thought

This is all.

Amen.

Day 10 – Korma Chameleon

I have to confess to letting day 10 slip by without much happening.

It was a Monday in work at the busiest time of year… what else can I say?

The one exciting thing that came along to break up the 8:30 – 5:30 dullness was the arrival of my magazines! Yay! I design, edit and produce a bi-annual publication where I work, and the day it all finally arrives in print is the nicest feeling.

Until some sod finds a last-minute typo I’ve missed. Grr.

My magazines. (And a thumb that I have only just realised is very wrinkly! Yuk!)

But that was the only highlight of my working day, and by the time it got to coming home I had a stinking headache from staring at the screen for 9 solid hours.

Oh how I long for a job that allows me to look further than 12 inches away from my own nose!

Food For Thought

It goes without saying, after that brief and dismal update, that the best part of my day was dinner!

After week of Mr TwentyNine following my healthy eating plan, I’d promised him a chicken korma as a reward. I do confess here that our chicken kormas normally consist of:

– Chicken (weird huh?)
– A jar of Asda’s ‘Good For You (but still full of preservatives and all other kind of shit)’ sauce
– Microwave rice

This has been a Monday evening ‘tradition’ of ours for a good few years now – occasionally slipping to a Tuesday if Monday is too busy, or a Friday if Monday seems too far away!

But after a week of cooking all our meals from scratch, filling everything with fresh delicious flavours, and finally being one of those people whose houses you walk past and the smells wafting out make you want to knock on the door and claim to be a long-lost family member, I couldn’t bear to have tea out of a jar!

I don’t know if that makes me a food snob – or just healthy?!

Anyway, after a bit of online searching for a healthy chicken korma recipe, I found the perfect one on BBCGoodFood. It had 5 star reviews and relatively low calories*, and seemed pretty easy to cook.

*I should note here that yes, the calories were very reasonable if – as the recipe suggests – you serve 4 people with it. However, if you’re a curry-guzzling greedy guts like me and Mr TwentyNine, and you make the korma with the same quantities but divide it between two of you, it becomes considerably less virtuous!

Low-fat chicken korma

This was sooo good, and I have declared that I will never cook korma from a jar again! Even Mr TwentyNine said he preferred it to his usual, which is quite a compliment!

I’ll share the recipe here because it definitely is worth a try. (Yes, you do have to buy a jar *insert Psycho music here* of korma paste, but believe me – I’ve done it the long way round before, completely from scratch with all raw ingredients, and it took FOREVER! Even I can’t give up this jar! ) I did use slightly less chicken and therefore only 3tbsp of the paste, so that’s worth noting if you are going to divide it between just a couple of you.

Try it – and enjoy! 🙂

Ingredients

  • 1 onion , chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves , roughly chopped
  • thumb-sized piece ginger , roughly chopped
  • 4 tbsp korma paste
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts , cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 50g ground almonds , plus extra to serve (optional)
  • 4 tbsp sultanas
  • 400ml chicken stock
  • ¼ tsp golden caster sugar
  • 150g pot 0% fat Greek yogurt
  • small bunch coriander , chopped

To cook

  1. Put the onion, garlic and ginger in a food processor and whizz to a paste. Tip the paste into a large high-sided frying pan with 3 tbsp water and cook for 5 mins. Add the korma paste and cook for a further 2 mins until aromatic.
  2. Stir the chicken into the sauce, then add the ground almonds, sultanas, stock and sugar. Give everything a good mix, then cover and simmer for 10 mins or until the chicken is cooked through.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the yogurt and some seasoning, then scatter over the coriander and flaked almonds, if using. Serve with brown or white basmati rice.

PER SERVING376 kcalories, protein 40g, carbohydrate 28g, fat 11 g, saturated fat 1g, fibre 3g, sugar 26g, salt 1.1 g

Recipe from Good Food magazine, February 2012.

Day 9 – Brushing up

Today was a Big Day in my world.

For the first time in more than 5 years I started a new painting.

*insert appropriate happy dancing emoticon here*

I was so unbelievably nervous about it though! I got myself in a right tizzy trying to decide what to paint. Everything I looked at suddenly seemed ridiculously complicated and way beyond my perceived capabilities. Boat scene? No, could never make the sea look realistic. Sunset? Ooh I don’t know about such complex blending for my first piece. People? Skin tones – are you kidding me??

Eventually I settled on a scene I had photographed in Pont Aven this summer. If you’ve never heard of Pont Aven, it’s on the southern coast of Brittany and is famous for its artists (Paul Gaugin, Emile Bernard, Paul Serusier). It is the prettiest little place you can imagine, and it’s also the place that really inspired me this summer to get back into painting – so it seems fitting that I paint it!

Pont Aven, Brittany

La Promenade Xavier Grall, Pont Aven

The scene I have chosen is near to the second photo above, on La Promenade Xavier Grall, and features a small bridge (not the one above!) surrounded by trees and flowers, with water gently rushing underneath.

And very nervously… here’s what I have done so far:

The very beginning of my painting!

NB. It is instagrammed, it’s not quite so garish IRL!

I’m really pleased with it despite the little self-doubt demon on my shoulder going “It’s crap! Give up now!” And more importantly, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

What do you think so far? I’d love to receive your (gentle on my fragile confidence) comments below!

Food For Thought

Another delicious dinner tonight, and another clear plate from Mr TwentyNine!

Chicken stir fried in an orange, ginger and soy sauce with noodles, red pepper and red onion.

This was another recipe from Resourceful Cook – really loving this website.

I have promised Mr TwentyNine he can have a chicken korma tomorrow as a ‘reward’ for his healthy eating in the past week, bless him, but the healthy recipes will resume afterwards!

Does anyone have a great recipe to recommend that’s less than 500 calories a portion? I’d love to know!

Day 8 – Home Comforts

The best thing since starting my new bedtime regime is that I’m even waking up on time at the weekends. I used to have this thing where if I overslept on a Saturday or Sunday (and I DID oversleep, a lot!) I would get so angry with myself for wasting half of my ‘free’ day! So being up and in the shower by 8am on a Saturday is a gooood feeling.

I dragged Mr TwentyNine out to the shops this morning in search of laundry nets.

Who says I don’t lead a thrilling life?

But unfortunately my new washing machine has stressed the importance of having these, warning (threatening?) that it may trap my delicates in unreachable places if I don’t. Sounds too painful to risk!

Of course a quick trip to Wilkos turned into quite a lengthy tour around Wilkos, and we left with a few armfuls of stuff – including two fab plant pots in bright green and pink for half price (£2.49 and £3.49 respectively). Worth going in there right about now actually, if you have a shop near you – almost all their garden stuff was going cheap, presumably having given up on our British summer for once and for all!

I also managed to wangle a detour to Superdrug to pick up a bottle of Barry M magnetic nail polish. I know I’m desperately behind the times but I only heard about it the other day and really wanted to give it a go myself. Have to say it’s lovely , especially the colour I got. Please ignore my stubby won’t-grow-for-toffee nails and applied-in-the-car paint job!

Barry M Magnetic Nail Polish in Burgundy

Back home (via a McDonalds strawberry sundae – so shoot me, it was a sunny day and I couldn’t resist!) I had a bit of a housework day. Making the most of the sunny weather, and desperate to try out my new washing machine, I washed and dried four loads of clothes. And I only watched two of the cycles going round and round while my machine flashed prettily, I swear.

Later in the afternoon I decided to wash the windows. We’d borrowed my father-in-law’s window washing brush attachment for our hose, after the sun coming in through the windows the evening before (or trying to) had highlighted about an inch of grime on the outside! Yuk. I’ve never been keen on the idea of bringing in window cleaners (why do I imagine they’re all perves who’d try to turn up while I was showering/changing/dancing round naked?) so it had to be a DIY job.

Bloody. Knackering. And I got more water on myself than the windows. By the time I had finished the conservatory and side windows and got to the front of the house, I was very conscious that I was giving the neighbours a bit of a free wet t-shirt show so finished up rather hastily.

A lazy evening followed, and we even got suckered into watching The X Factor. I hate the show with a passion since we went up to watch the live auditions in Birmingham last year, and got to see first-hand what a farce the whole thing is. Ok, we all know that it’s pre-planned, they get rubbish people in to make fun of them, they’ve groomed the good ones for months before the auditions and got them to bring their sob stories (pregnant wives/doddery old grans/brood of 15 children) along with them; but being there and experiencing it first hand was a very uncomfortable experience! We left half way through the filming and didn’t look back.

That poor nervous guy at the end last night… The show will chew him up, improve their ratings and then spit him out. I can hardly bear to watch it.

But hey ho, it’s a bit of mindless Saturday night TV and that was just what we were in the mood for. And I got to watch Gary Barlow for an hour, which is never a bad thing. (I liked him even back at the start of Take That when he was fat with bleach blond hair – that is dedication!)

And I almost forgot! We stuck to our annual tradition of watching Last Night of The Proms too. (With Mr TwentyNine being a musician, I have to put up with these things every now and then!) He has played at the Royal Albert Hall before – and won UK’s Most Promising Young Musician for his effort (proud wife alert!) – so I’m always fascinated to see it.

I was sat there remarking how much I’d love to go there one day – I’ve only ever been to London 3 times, and always for a specific purpose – never to just do the tourist thing. Anyway, browsing the RAH website on my phone I looked at December and saw that the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (with the Bach Choir) are performing Christmas song and carols on 3rd December… for years now I’ve been saying how I would love to go to a really decent Christmas concert (I’m a total Christmas nut, as you’ll find out in a few months!) – so Mr TwentyNine booked us 2 tickets!! Eeek! I was actually welling up with excitement, and have already starting counting down the days (86, if you were wondering).

Food For Thought

Tonight’s dinner was a huge success!

Pork loin marinated in lemon and herbs, with onion, parsnip, fennel and carrot wedges.

Mr TwentyNine cleared the plate again, a definite sign of how good it was! It was the first time he’d ever eaten fennel, carrot or parsnips, and also the first time he’d ever eaten ‘exposed’ onion like that but he assures me he thoroughly enjoyed it all. What a winner!

Washed it all down with a bottle of Wolf Blass sparkling chardonnay – parfait.

Day 7 – That Friday feeling!

Day 7 came and went fairly stress-free – work was busy but with my new super positive attitude it didn’t bother me too much. My ‘to do’ list didn’t get a look in, with everything else that was thrown at me, but fingers crossed I’ll get a chance to tackle it on Monday!

The big news of the day is – the washing machine is installed! Hurrah! My sister and her builder boyfriend came over this evening, and within an hour or so the worktop end was moved, the washing machine was in place and Mr TwentyNine and I were leading the boyfriend around the house asking him to quote for all manner of other jobs we want doing!

(In case you’re wondering – paving the driveway, putting down a new lounge floor and tiling the bathroom. We would try it ourselves, but given last night’s washing machine escapade I’m pretty sure it would end in divorce or death-by-screwdrivers.)

Fairly quiet evening after they went, chilling out watching “Just Go With It”. I’m not a huge Adam Sandler fan, but I felt the need to force myself to see Jennifer Aniston’s body in the film to remind me (as I reached for the Dairy Milk) that I’m a long way from my perfect figure and give me a bit of an incentive!

It seems to have worked – afterwards I did a couple of lunges. Towards the biscuit tin, I admit, but exercise is exercise right?

I do love Friday evenings, with the promise of a whoooole lovely long weekend stretching ahead. Can’t wait!

Food For Thought

Cheated a bit tonight – it was late by the time my sister and boyfriend left, so I just chucked together some pork chops, bacon and scrambled egg with a few little plum tomatoes. Sounds like a weird combo but it worked! Back on the proper recipes tomorrow.

Day 6.2 – How NOT to install a washing machine!

“Would it help if you took your bra off?”

There are times in your life when hindsight affords you the opportunity to look back and realise you should have done something differently.

Like how last Saturday when we bought our new washing machine and the Comet employee asked if we’d like to pay £15 to have it installed, we quite clearly should fallen at his feet in gratitude and said “Yes, yes, a thousand times YES!”

Instead, we’d exchanged that look that only couples who have been together for as long as we have can, a silent communication of:

Me: £15? I could buy a new handbag with that.

Mr: I am man. Ug. Have tools. Ug ug. Can install machine with eyes closed. Comet employee must think I am a fool. *beats chest with fists*

Me: Are you sure? DIY is not your forte… remember the bedroom blind disaster? Where the second you held it up to the window to check it would fit, you dropped it, broke the blind and the vase beneath it?

Mr: Woman. If your shoes and hairdryer and other assorted crap hadn’t been in the way so I tripped over them while installing said blind, that would not have happened. This is a simple two pipe installation. How hard can it be?  

Me: Point taken.

Turning back to the Comet employee: “I think we’ll manage.”

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The problems began with the unpacking.

Mr TwentyNine had just successfully un-installed the old machine – waste pipe in a bucket to stop the kitchen flooding with water and everything – and he had now passed me the honour of being the one to unwrap the new machine. So off comes the outer plastic wrapping, and then the cardboard and polystyrene lid, and the layer of clear film wrapped around the top edges to stop them getting scuffed. Off comes the polystyrene side pillars, and the various bits of sticky tape holding things in place. And then I am presented with a problem. There’s a clear, sticky film covering the whole of the back and side of the machine which I am pretty sure is meant to stay there. It’s applied meticulously around all the little nooks and crannys and pipes and it’s even going underneath some screws . Yes, in places it’s a bit loose but I’m pretty sure it’s there to stay.

“That needs to come off”, says Mr TwentyNine.

“What? No it doesn’t!”

And so we embarked upon a twenty minute debate about whether or not to take off the bloody film, while we peeled bits off, stuck bits back on, called various parents and friends to ask for their advice, and threatened to choke each other with the cold pipe.

Eventually it came off, purely because it was now in too much of a ripped up state to stay on there.

Although the base of the packaging was still intact, Mr TwentyNine now decided it was a good time to take out the packaging bolts (the ones that they put in place to stop the drum moving around while in transit). This went relatively smoothly, we slid it across the floor towards where it was going to sit under the worktop, and I thought it might be plain sailing from here on in.

Soooo wrong.

It soon became apparent that you have to be a) a bodybuilder, and b) a genius to get the machine off the base packaging. The polystyrene came a good 3 inches up the sides of the machine all the way around, and when we tilted the machine we realised there were two huge pointy bits that went up under the machine too, so lifting it a bit and then sliding it off wasn’t an option. I should take a moment to point out that while Mr TwentyNine is over 6 foot tall and quite strong, I am a 5′ 4″ weakling and therefore in this situation I was as useful as a chocolate kettle.

After half an hour of watching Mr TwentyNine lifting, tilting, turning and sliding the machine while I helpfully shrieked “Mind the door!”… “Mind the cupboard handles!”… “Mind my foot!!”; me attacking the polystyrene with first a pair of scissors and then my biggest baddest meat knife; both of us threatening each other with divorce, violence and ultimately death… I declared “Fuck it – let’s just lift. 1, 2, 3…” and with only a few jarred vertebrae and torn ligaments, we lifted the bugger off the polystyrene and onto the floor.

Again, there was a brief respite in the mayhem while the cold water pipe was attached, and Mr TwentyNine patting himself on the back at remembering to put the u-shaped plastic holder on the waste hose, the importance of which had been stressed to us by the Comet employee (who had clearly come across our type before, and hadn’t let us leave without issuing a full set of instructions and “Don’t forget, if you do x, y and z you WILL flood the kitchen, break your new machine and ultimately implode the universe” type warnings).

The next problem came in the form of getting the waste hose into the waste pipe. Our washing machine space in our relatively tiny kitchen is set in a corner, with a cupboard to a right angle on one side and the end panel of the worktop on the other side, thus rendering it impossible to do anything behind it once the machine is in place. Unfortunately, the waste hose on the back of our new machine was considerably shorter than the old one, and if we left enough space for us to get in behind the machine to guide the hose, the hose then wasn’t long enough to reach the waste pipe. Still with me?

After fruitless attempts to get the hose in place by sticking our arms down behind the machine and flailing the hose around in vague hope that it might helpfully drop itself into the waste pipe, it was decided that I, being the smallest one by approximately one foot and five stone, would have to squeeze in behind the machine, under the worktop and put it in place.

Yes, he photographed my struggle. Very helpful.

Getting in wasn’t a huge problem. I reversed myself in, hit my head on the worktop a couple of times, but after that it was relatively easy to put the hose in place thus ensuring our kitchen would not be flooded with dirty washing water. Go me.

Getting out was another matter.

First there was my head, which had seemingly inexplicably grown to watermelon proportions since I had crawled underneath, and now just would not fit through the gap between the machine and the worktop. With Mr TwentyNine shuffling the machine forward, while I left one arm behind clutching the waste hose making sure it didn’t pull back out of the pipe, I finally managed to squeeze my sweaty face out.

Then I realised I must have also had breast enlargement surgery while I was down there.

Me: I’m stuck, I seriously can’t get out of here.

Mr: What’s the problem? You got your head out ok!

Me: Yes. But now I can’t get my left tit past the cold pipe.

Mr: *thinks a moment*… Would it help if you took your bra off? 

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I eventually squeezed out (bra intact, thank you very much) and Mr TwentyNine found some kind of superhuman strength to shove the machine back under the worktop.

It didn’t fit.

I kid you not, after all that the bloody machine needs about a centimetre more space for it to even fit in.

Swallowing some serious pride, I placed an SOS call to my little sister, who is handily dating a builder. He is coming around tonight to move the end of the worktop for us. And then I can FINALLY get my washing done while the sun’s still shining!

Halle-freakin-lujah.

On the plus side I did at least get to plug it in and turn it on, and I have to say – as far as washing machines can be – it’s a pretty one. Plus it makes more little blips and bleeps than my iPhone, which is obviously almost as important as how it washes!

‘Sammy’ the Samsung EcoBubble!

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

There are certain times in life where only a McDonald’s will do.

Last night was one of them.

Days two to five

Day Two

I’m sorry, it’s going to be mostly about food again!

Spent a blissfully lazy morning coating one of my new canvasses with a couple of base coats, while keeping half an eye on the F1 (what a start to the race that was eh?!) and stuffing myself with the seashell chocolates that a colleague had kindly bought me for my birthday. I resisted the temptation to pop the cork on the fizzy wine that accompanied the chocolates though – sadly it seems to be only in France that you can get away with drinking before midday without being labelled a raging alcoholic!

On a side note, I think the French have a better standpoint on alcohol altogether! They don’t, as a whole, drink it to get drunk like we do over here. I went to so many festivals and events in France this summer, most of which had a good handful of beer tents set up in the streets with the regular bars also opening from the early hours, and did I see one drunk person rolling around in the streets making an idiot of themselves? No! *sigh* We English could definitely learn a thing or two from that! Every event we have now in Cornwall now, from the quaint little local festivals to pub gigs or larger events at the Eden Project, turns into a massive piss-up! It’s very intimidating if you’re there sober and I always feel really sorry for those who try to take their children along!

I digress. That was a shameful attempt to convince you all that drinking alcohol at 10am is actually a responsible thing to do, sorry!

The above happened next. Did I mention my mother-in-law is some kind of super chef?! Proud to confirm that I cleared the whole plate and washed it down with a bottle of red and a slab of that lovely pink cake you see in the background. And than sat and moaned a lot about how full/fat/lazy I was – a LOT!

It was a great afternoon though, lovely for Mr TwentyNine to spend some time with his Mum too. For reasons too long and complicated to mention, she’s only just recently come back into our lives but I’m so glad she’s there now. Life is too short for not talking!

And I think that officially marked the end of my lengthy birthday celebrations – from right back to 18th August when I had my un-birthday in France. I do know how to drag a good thing out for as long as possible! 😀

Days Three to Five

As much as I’d like to pretend that my job is SO enthralling that I have pages and pages to write about it every day – it’s not!! Hence why I have shoved days three, four and five together, to echo the way my days when I’m here chained to my desk merge into one anyway.

OK, it’s not that bad.

They unchain me for toilet breaks.

Actually, this week for me has been about making a new start in my current job. I think my inherent lack of knowing what I actually want to do for the rest of my life career-wise, coupled with my infrequent stabs of regret at not going to university and following my dream career path into a job in advertising, has made me feel what I thought was a real bitterness towards and dislike for my current job role. It’s taken me stepping back, swallowing my boulder of pride and admitting that actually, it’s a great job – the only problem is me! Ok, ok, I do have tonnes of work to get through, as I effectively do two roles which more often than not require my attention to be in 10 different places at the same time. And honestly, like any job I suppose, I do encounter some arsey people who make me sit here, chin resting on my hand, wishing my life away and daydreaming of retirement. But it’s actually a good job, with decent pay, a fantastic boss and some people who I now class as my closest friends.

So I’ve reminded myself of all of the above, and this week I have made every effort to turn things around. And it has worked!

SLEEPING PATTERNS

All my life I have been a total night owl. For the past ten years, I think I can count the number of times I’ve been asleep before midnight on one hand! I would have to stay up till I was shattered, go to bed, and then read a book until I literally couldn’t bear to keep my eyes open any longer before finally falling asleep. Even when I was little, if my parents insisted on turning out my bedroom light I’d endeavour to read my book in the slim slither of light coming through my door from the landing.

All that changed this week! I have been making a real effort to ensure I’m in bed by 10pm at the latest, and although I might still have a sneaky half an hour read on my beloved Kindle before drifting off I’m never awake past 11pm. As a consequence, I’m able to wake up so much earlier in the morning and give myself a decent amount of time to get ready, have breakfast, and spend some much-needed time with Mr TwentyNine (who has never understood my night owl tendencies and is thrilled about the earlier bedtimes!) It’s all obvious stuff, I know, but it’s been a difficult habit to change!

GLAD RAGS AND WAR PAINT

As a consequence of the above, I now have more time for both of these. For the past few mornings I’ve thought really carefully about what outfit to wear, tried a few different styles, worn some killer heels (admittedly mainly killer in the sense of what they do to my feet!), and I’ve made time to do my make-up carefully at home instead of trying to do it in the car while Mr TwentyNine drives me to work.

Seriously,eyeliner and eyebrow pencil applied while negotiating speed bumps  – NOT a good look.

The result? I’ve received so many compliments!

It has made such a difference to my day.

Working in an environment with fresh-faced bouncy teenagers around, it’s very easy to feel like a dreary old has-been. But not any more! On Tuesday I wore my lovely nautical blazer that Mr TwentyNine bought me for my birthday, and literally everyone I knew who I saw throughout the day commented on it. Even a particularly style-conscious male colleague of mine who I’m pretty sure spends more time on his hair every day than I do (I don’t know if he reads this, but if he does he’ll know it’s about him!) said I was looking ‘hot’.* As a result, I am walking round with my chin held high, maybe even a slight swing of the hips, feeling pretty damn good about myself and my day.

*N.B. Don’t worry Mr TwentyNine – his sexual preference means he’s more likely to hit on you than me!

BEING A SHINY HAPPY PERSON

I hold my hands up and admit I have been a bit of a miserable cow of late when it comes to work. But when you’re drowning under a million and one tasks, and your phone rings or email pings with yet another request from someone to do something boring and menial and ESPECIALLY when it’s something they could have done themselves in the time it took them to contact you, it’s often easier to be snappy than happy. And so I often am.

Not any more! What a difference a smile and a few kind words makes, not only to the person you’re talking to but to yourself! I am going out of my way to help people, suggest new ideas, and talk to people who I normally avoid because they have a) Verbal diarrhoea, b) B.O. or c) something they want me to do.*

It feels so good!

* I still keep a good distance between myself and the ones with B.O.

FOCUSSING ON THE POSITIVE, BANISHING THE NEGATIVE

This was Mr TwentyNine’s idea and, simple as it is, it works a treat. Now I’m quite aware he probably suggested it to try to put an end to my – by now – fairly predictable texts to him throughout the day.

Me: How’s it going?

Him: Pretty good thanks! How about you?

Me: Crap as usual. Need a new job. Hate it here.

Him: Awww we need to try to sort something out for you.

^ Unfortunately, as supportive as he always is, even I now know what that last line translates to:

THE REAL HIM: *bangs head on desk* *thinks to self “What does she want me to do about it?”* *looks at watch, thinks of all the things he needs to do and wonders if he really has to waste any more time on this pointless daily exchange?*

Bless him. He’s wonderful, he really is, I just whinge a LOT!

But whatever – his recent suggestion that actually maybe I was making things worse for myself by sitting here moping all day (surely not?!) and that if I tried embracing what I was doing I might enjoy it, actually bloody worked. Nice one hubby, gold star for you!

OVERALL then it has only taken a few pretty minor, pretty obvious changes to turn my job around in the space of three days to make it feel like something I really enjoy doing again. I feel so motivated and almost (almost) caught myself looking forward to coming in this morning. Despite the fact that it was blazing sunshine outside, and Mr TwentyNine was heading off for a ‘business networking golf competition’ *cough* day out in the sun occasionally dropping in the word ‘file’ and ‘computer *cough*.

Somehow, I felt that I was just as lucky. 🙂

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

On one last side note – FOOD! Always good to bookend a post with food I reckon!

I’m following a website that a friend recommended called Resourceful Cook, which gives you some great recipes and the shopping list needed to get them, with the idea being that you use lots of the same ingredient twice – hence the ‘resourceful’ bit. Now, Mr TwentyNine has always been the fussiest of fussy eaters. When I met him, he only ate meat and potatoes. I gradually managed to wean him onto rice and pasta, even with sauce if there were no ‘bits’ in it, but he has never ever been able to make himself eat fruit or veg. As a result, my own fruit and veg consumption dropped dramatically – when there’s only two of you in the household, it’s just too much hassle to cook two separate meals every night! So I shamefully admit that I got all too comfortable with shoving some kind of mass-produced breadcrumbed process meat substance in the oven, with accompanying additive-filled potato of some size/shape/texture.

Recently (after coming back from holiday and finding out we’d put on half a stone each!) Mr TwentyNine dug out a CD that he had asked his hypnotherapist to record a few years ago to encourage him to eat healthily, and so I leapt on this opportunity to say “Do it – because I’m going to start serving you healthy meals whether you like it or not!”

And it’s working, readers!!

Monday night I served up a pork, sweet potato and apple hash with mixed leaf salad – he ate it all.

Tuesday night was parmesan and oat crusted chicken breast, with asparagus tips and watercress – he ate it all.

Tonight I took a huge leap and served him up a salad (cue look of horror and a “What – no meat at all?!?” comment) of grilled aubergine, peppers, and courgette with rocket and feta cheese, in a mixed herb dressing – and to his credit he ate probably about half! Still a massive step forwards!

Baked chicken in a Parmesan and oat crust with low-carb grilled asparagus, watercress salad, and mustard dressing

Grilled vegetable salad tossed with rocket leaves and feta cheese in a mixed herb dressing

As a result I am completely rediscovering my love of cooking! This evening I found myself getting home, flinging down my keys and bag and going straight into preparing dinner without even getting changed or taking off my work ID lanyard!

Tomorrow night is pork loin marinated in lemon and herbs, with carrot, parsnip and fennel. *drool*

AND my new washing machine gets delivered at some point between 7am and 7pm tomorrow (with true courier style non-specific timings!) . Day 6 looks set to be awesome.

Day 1

So it happened – I turned 29, and the universe didn’t implode or anything! So I have no good reason for not getting on with this blog.

I had an amazing day with Mr TwentyNine, and was suitably spoiled rotten. We spent a leisurely morning browsing around Truro, where I was treated to a gorgeous pair of boots and a nautical blazer (I’ve been lusting after one of these for ages, and suspect that as usual I’ve probably left it until they’ve gone out of fashion, but that at least is true to my own style!).

With blood sugars running dangerously low, we headed over for lunch at the fabulous One Eyed Cat restaurant.

I was thrilled that we’d been reserved a seat on the balcony, which looks down onto the very well-stocked bar. (Mental note to let my Dad know that they use Grey Goose Vodka, a bottle of which he was given for his 60th birthday!) I was also facing the fantastically quirky mural of Truro on the wall, which in my opinion absolutely makes the place!

I was a very happy girly, and even more so when – after devouring our appetiser of bread and dips in a matter of seconds – my eagerly ordered ‘Moules Frites’ arrived.

Bearing in mind that I’d just spent almost three weeks in France and experienced a few flawless versions of this dish while I was there, it had a lot to live up to… but didn’t disappoint! In a simple but bursting-with-flavour sauce of cream, white wine, onion and parsley, the mussels were big, juicy and cooked to perfection. Perfect portion size too – better than the French on that aspect, who seem to serve up a whole month’s mussel harvest in one bowl! Mr TwentyNine had the beef burger with fries, and seemed suitably impressed.

While the restaurant downstairs was very busy, upstairs had only a handful of tables occupied and our waiter was very attentive and friendly. It was a relaxed and happy atmosphere.

Dessert felt like a bit of a challenge to both of us as we were so full from our main courses, so we decided to share.

Warm, gooey, chocolatey – perfect!

The only disappointment was that they didn’t have any decaf coffee. I swore off caffeine about 2 months ago in an effort to banish my niggling headaches, and it has been so effect that I haven’t touched it since! So I settled for chamomile tea instead while Mr TwentyNine enjoyed his caffeinated coffee. We were surprised to realise we’d been there for 2 hours! It hadn’t felt that long at all.

Now came the important part – a trip to Truro Arts.

I studied art all through secondary school, and took it on to College where I did A-levels in Fine Art and Graphic Design among others. Art and design has been my passion for as long as I remember, but a severe crisis in confidence over the last ten years made me push it aside as a hobby, and consequently I haven’t painted a picture for about 6 years.

I am determined that this year, that will change. And Mr TwentyNine, being the most supportive husband an age-paranoid confidence-devoid wife could wish for, is behind me every step of the way and insisted on kick-starting my return to my painting with a set of new materials, for a new start.

I felt ridiculously nervous going into the shop and trying to choose things! My loss of confidence has resulted in me feeling like everyone can see right through me, and bizarrely made me convinced that whatever I put in my basket to take up to the counter, whoever served me would be laughing at my choices. I know that sounds like the ramblings of a crazy person, but it’s truly how I’ve felt and probably a good contributor to the reason it’s taken me so long to get to this point.

Choosing paint colours was getting me all flustered and I was starting to get the ‘I don’t know what I’m doing’ feeling, so I grabbed a good set of the basics and a few others before moving on to the canvasses.

Miraculously, things then seemed to fall into place.

I was looking at different sizes of shapes and canvasses and instinctively my mind was starting to superimpose paintings onto them. I could see images, compositions, colours, styles. I could see the shape my paintings were going to take, I could even see where I would hang them on the wall at home. It was brilliant to be feeling that way after so long! I chose just a few canvasses – a set of three 10cm x 20cm, one 30cm x 40cm and one 50cm x 50cm. With one last longing gaze at the nearby easels (which our bank balances would’ve balked at following what else we’d spent this month) I positively skipped over to the brushes and chose a gorgeous set of Winsor and Newton finest quality synthetics.

And above is a picture of the collection I ended up with! I’ll stress here that I could have bought SO much more. Truro Arts have an absolutely brilliant selection of arts and crafts materials and, had my budget been limitless, I would have been buying the place out of stock and hiring a van to take it all home in!

So there we go, I am all set up to get painting again and I am so excited. I think this will be a key to getting me back to feeling like myself again.

Of course I can’t leave this blog post without mentioning my other purchase of the day… a Samsung EcoBubble washing machine! I know, it’s definitely a sign of being seriously aged when you start to get excited about buying new white goods, but I can’t help it. It’s so lovely and silver and shiny, and will look fabulous in my kitchen. Big shout out to Comet in Truro for the fabulous customer service, with the whole experience topped off by the £50 knocked off the cost! It gets delivered on Thursday, and I’m almost hoping I actually do wet myself with excitement so I can test its cleaning abilities! Ha! I will be sure to blog about THAT!

We ended the whole day with a trip to see my sister, who choked me up by giving me a very pretty necklace with a special meaning, and home after that to chill out on the sofa with a bottle of wine, bag of popcorn and the ‘Rio’ Blu-Ray.

What a great start. Day 2 has a lot to live up to – bring it on!

3 days to go…

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…and I’m not scared yet! Not at all!

Maybe a bit though.

Just got back from a blissful, sunny 18 days in France where I had little else to worry about other than sitting with my own thoughts, drinking copious Kir Bretons and eating my way into a baguette and BBQ induced coma.

Inevitably spent a lot of time dwelling on my impending 29th birthday. I had insisted on having an un-birthday while I was away too so that I could celebrate with my parents (who will still be living la vida francais on the Big Day) which seemed like a fabulous idea at the time.

2 birthdays = good.

2 cakes = great.

2 lots of presents = No? Well, was worth a try, and I did at least get one early!

We had a fabulous time, after my decision that I wanted to feel like a child again for the day led us to the Pont Scorff Zoo in blazing pass-me-the-water 35 deg C heat. (If you’re ever in Brittany, I can’t recommend this place enough. Best zoo I’ve ever been to, more than worth the slightly high entry price, but definitely set aside a whole day for it!)

We’d barely got over the hangovers caused by the post-zoo BBQ/Merlot marathon when my Dad’s 60th birthday rolled around, much to his horror – and mine! When did my Dad get to be 60? Why does his 40th feel like it was yesterday? How did that time go by so quickly? I don’t know who wanted to cry more, me or him!

The double-whammy of our two birthdays (ish) really brought it home to me why I’m making such an effort with this year. Time does march on seemingly behind your back, and if you let it, it breaks into a sprint. I used to have a colleague who hated the idea of time passing so much that he would cover the digital time in the corner of his computer monitor with a Post-It note, and would only sit at a desk that wasn’t facing a clock! While my efforts haven’t been quite as literal as his, I am definitely guilty of having done my best to ignore the tick-tock of the last decade, and that’s what has to change right now! I am going to face time head-on and embrace every tick and every tock!

I’ll try and do a blog post a day, with the thought that if I don’t have anything to say – then I’m not doing enough to make every day count! I have several things in my mind that I want to do/achieve, and I’m taking a big step towards one of them on my birthday (actual birthday!) – so watch this space!