Sunday, 21 July 2013

A Great Swim

Hello and sorry for the really long absence. I am still alive although yesterday morning I wasn't too sure I would be saying that today. It was time to tick one of my big challenges off my list - the Great Manchester Swim.
The swim was a mile in the Manchester Ship Canal and I was really nervous. I was confident I could do the distance but having done no open water swimming before there was still the potential for disaster. My friend didn't help when she casually told me on the morning of the swim when she casually told me that a professional swimmer had drowned in the canal the week before. I think she was still suffering the effects of the previous night though so I'll let her off.
My wave wasn't setting off until 12.35 but I was there really early. It was a lovely sunny day which meant there were lots of people out watching so for an hour I just sat in the sunshine, relaxing and enjoying the atmosphere. As it got nearer to 12.35 though, I got more and more nervous. I just wanted to get in and get going.
Check in for my wave opened at around 12.00 so at about half eleven I got changed ready to meet my cheerleading team (my mam and cousin Niamh!). Because it was so hot wetsuits were optional but they recommended first timers wore them as they give you extra buoyancy. At this point anything that was going to help in any way seemed like a good idea so I decided to go with it. And first challenge complete - I managed to get into it. They are not flattering items!!!



Finally it was time to check in. The whole thing was really well organised. I had a chip attached to my ankle which not only timed me but was also tracked all the way around to make sure I didn't get into any difficulty. There were plenty of safety canoes out on the water too so despite being nervous I did feel very safe. Once I got through check in, there was an acclimatisation area to get used to the temperature and feel of the water. Apparently the water temperature was 22 degrees but it still felt cold when I got in. Soon warmed up once I was out there though.
After a quick dip in the acclimatisation area it was time for a warm up and then we were off! There were some pretty serious swimmers in there, triathletes etc and a couple of first timers like me. I decided right from the start not to worry about what anyone else was doing. My time wasn't that important to me, I just wanted to get round, raise some money for charity and enjoy the experience. And I did all three! I positioned myself near the back and just took it slow and steady all the way round.
Swimming in open water made more of a difference than I thought. In the pool I can do a mile in around 40 minutes, this took me one hour five minutes. I had expected a bit of a current but there was more than I thought, it's much easier to veer off in the wrong direction and weeds, twigs and leaves in your way are not fun! I loved it though, it's an amazing feeling out there. Just feel really free and a little bit naughty as this picture shows

Although I was towards the back I felt fine most of the way round but the final bit towards the finish line was pretty tough going. I could see the finish line but it felt like a very long way away. I wasn't giving up at that point though, I'd come too far to not finish it. And people have been very generous in sponsoring me so I wasn't going to let them or World Vision UK down. This is where my cheerleading team really helped me out. I could hear them both shouting and it made me keep going. I was a bit wobbly when they pulled me out of the water, but smiling and so proud!

video

So why did I decide to put myself through this? It's all part of my fundraising challenge. I've decided to concentrate all my fundraising efforts on World Vision UK. I've done the swim, I'm taking part in the Team World Vision running challenge, running a sweepstake and collecting used stamps. Please have a look at my fundraising website to find out more about all my fundraising activities.
So far the swim has raised £178 (£222.50 with gift aid!) online and I have more sponsorship offline which I need to collect now I've done it. If you've not sponsored me yet, there's still time. My sponsorship page is still open

PLEASE CLICK HERE AND SPONSOR ME NOW!!! THANK YOU :-)

Wonder when entries for 2014 open? I'd definitely do it again.,




















Saturday, 8 June 2013

Running for their lives

I'm not a runner. Never have been. In fact, I thought Dan was a little bit crazy. He's the runner in this house and in true Dan fashion he doesn't do it half heartedly - he's obsessed!!! But I went to watch him in the Great Manchester Run the other week and all of a sudden I got it! I think the nice weather helped but it was just a really lovely day. Great atmosphere, kind of a buzz around town and after the run spent the afternoon with lots of his parkrun friends. Loads of people, all different abilities and reasons for running but all having a great day together. Started to think to myself 'I want a bit of this' and decided to get in training so I could be there next year.

I've been lucky that I've got Dan as my very own coach. He's just the right mix of bossy and supportive to keep me going. He got me a training plan together and off we went. And then I saw this.

If you know me well or you read this blog, you'll know that World Vision is a charity I support. I sponsor a little girl through them and think they do fantastic work. I'm already doing some fundraising for them with my Great Manchester Swim challenge but this just seemed ideal. Dan is a regular parkrunner and has been nagging me to go along for a while. I'd already managed to get myself talked into going today so why not take on the challenge.





The idea of the Team World Vision 5k challenge is that you commit yourself to running a certain number of parkruns in a year. At first I was going to go for 12 but I thought that was a bit of a copout so I've gone for 24. I think going from absolutely nothing to 2 a month is challenging enough.

So this morning was my first parkrun. I was down at Alexandra Park with Dan nice and early. Too early for my liking, it just gave me more time to get nervous. Seriously, I felt sick and I was frightened to death. I don't even know what I was scared of, but I was scared! I was convinced I wouldn't be able to do 5k, we've not gone that far while training yet, and even if I did I was sure I was going to be last. So much so that when they were explaining the course route and said just follow the person in front I was convinced I wouldn't even be able to see the person in front they'd be so far ahead.

So the run - it was hard work!!! But I made it, and I actually quite enjoyed it in a I'm going to die kind of way. Oldham parkrun is hilly - VERY hilly and it was hot out there. I still managed to get round four minutes faster than my last 5k run (a long time ago!) though - and that one was flat!!! I was hot, tired, sweaty and looked a mess but I made it in 41 minutes 15 seconds and I was very proud of my little self. Oh - and I wasn't last!!!!!

There's even photographic evidence for those (like me!) who can't quite believe I spent my Saturday morning running. One down, twenty three to go - you can sponsor me here or by texting JANY£5 (or whatever you want to donate) to 70070. Thank you so much.

Oldham parkrun #145 8th-June-2013

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Cake!

It's been a busy old week at Dotty Towers (aka my house). I've been in the kitchen all week getting ready for my Cake Break event - part of my challenge to raise £1001 for charity.

Actually I only started baking on Thursday night as I wanted everything nice and fresh. It just feels like I've been at it all week. Normally I love baking but I've found this a bit stressful. I love a bit of party planning too so I don't know why I was so stressed out. I think it was because I had no idea how many people were coming so I didn't know how much to bake. I didn't want to do too much but I didn't want to run out. I had enough really but I was still up at silly o clock yesterday baking emergency scones.


As well as scones I made chocolate cake, carrot cake, brownies, vanilla cupcakes, chocolate cupcakes and loads more. I was in such a tizz yesterday morning. I just waned it all to go well and was worried that nobody would come. I wanted to get the room looking pretty too and just felt like I had far too much to do and I'd taken on too much.

Everything was fine though. I got it all set up on time and people came!!! I was pleased with how the table looked and nobody noticed the blood on the bunting! (paper cut). My mum did a brilliant job brewing up and the cakes went well. The quiz was popular too and got everyone talking to each other.



I didn't set prices for the cakes, just asked for donations. That was definitely the best way to do it as everyone was very generous. So far I've raised £153.30 for the Multiple Sclerosis Society so it was well worth all the stress.

The total raised for my charity challenge is now £256.23. My next charity event is the Great Manchester Swim for World Vision. Not long now, probably means it's time to stop eating cakes.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

An Update - and a Cake Break

I've had a complaint :-( Apparently my mother doesn't know what I've been up to as I've not blogged for a while. So just for her (and anyone else who cares) here's a quick update.

I've completed 18 challenges now so my list is 17% complete. I've got loads more in progress too. My postcard challenge is coming along nicely thanks to my wonderful friends and penpals. I've got a load here that have come in over the last few weeks so I need to get them photographed and added onto here.

I've found another Dave!!! If you read my blog you'll know I've been rubbish at getting Dave's to have their photograph taken with me. I've not even asked every Dave I know never mind geting started on strangers. People who know me don't believe me but I'm shy really. There was a Dave on the FC coach to Rushall last week though so I've got a photo with him to add. I still need to work on that challenge though. I'm not even into double figure Daves yet - a long way from the 101 I need.

I had a lovely day at the rugby with my dad a couple of weeks back. Unfortunately I couldn't manage to be the lucky mascot against Bradford twice but despite getting beat it was great to be back down at Hornets. I'm hoping I can get to a few more games. I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed rugby.

I'm still working hard to raise £1001 for charity. The Great Manchester Swim is getting closer and outdoor training starts this month. Getting scarily close now. A more enjoyable way of raising money will be happening on Saturday when I'm holding a Cake Break event.


Cake Break is an annual event to raise money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. I love baking so thought I would use my hobby to raise money for a good cause. Basically I bake and all my lovely friends come along, eat cakes, drink brus and donate whatever they can to the charity. I'm holdng the event at Hope Methodist Church on 11th May from 10-12. Everybody welcome, please come along.

If you're not local or you can't make it along for whatever reason you can still donate and get involved. Theres four different ways you can join in.
  1. Buy a Cryptic Cake Quiz for £1
  2. Children aged 10 and under can enter a colouring competition for 50p
  3. Raffle tickets are available for 20p each
  4. Box of 6 vanilla cupcakes for £5.00
Options 1 - 3 can be sent anywhere by post. Cupcakes I can only do local really. Please get involved and help me support this great cause by clicking on the donate button below.



 

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Lucky Mascot?

I've blogged before about going to the football with my dad but we also used to go to the rugby. We lived right next to the Athletics Ground where Rochdale Hornets used to play and from being tiny my dad would take me round there on a Sunday afternoon. I was rugby obsessed and even though I watch more football these days I still reckon rugby league is the best sport ever to watch as a neutral.

I've not got to a Hornets match since 2006 though. Don't know why really, I suppose I moved out of Rochdale and getting anywhere on a Sunday is a bit of a nightmare. They're still my team though and I always keep an eye on how they're doing. I miss my rugby and keep saying I'm going to get back down to Spotland for a game so I thought putting it on the list would make sure I did.

This challenge has been on my mind this week for a couple of reasons so tomorrow I'm off to the match. The first reason is this awful picture that appeared on facebook last week


It's an absolutely terrible photo but I don't care because it reminds me of good times back when I was a kid. For those of you who don't know - yep, the kid is me and I'm sat on the knee of Aaron Sawyer. He played for Hornets in the 80s and was my first ever hero. The guy was great!!!! He was my favourite ever Hornets player and the reason why Manly are the team I support in Australia. I didn't even know this photo existed until I was tagged in it on facebook last weekend. Brought back great memories and made me want to get back to the rugby - although possibly not sitting on players knees anymore!!

The second reason was the cup draw. We're playing Bradford Bulls. It got me thinking back to the 1990 -1991 season. That was a depressing year. The year before had been great and we'd gone up into the championship. Getting promotion was great, but we weren't really ready for it. We only won one game in that championship season - against Bradford! And yours truly was the mascot - looks like I was a lucky one.

So tomorrow you'll find me down at Spotland, cheering on the Hornets and hoping that just like on October 14th 1990, I'll be the lucky mascot.

COME ON HORNETS!!!!!!!

Monday, 8 April 2013

On Top of The World

I suppose if you're one of my football-type-mates you'll think this is going to be a blog post about FC United. It isn't sorry - but keep reading and then have a look round. There are a few FC type posts. You could click on the join button too - that would be great ;-)

What I am going to blog about is my trip to Blackpool and more specifically to the top of the tower.Being up there really did feel like I was on top of the world. I could see for miles. Anyway I'd been up it as a kid with my dad but it was on the list of challenges because I'm terrified of heights. And I mean terrified! This is the girl who once had to have the mini baby big wheel stopped because I was crying so much.

The tower has changed a lot since I was 7. I suppose its a long time ago now. Its now the The Blackpool Eye. Looking at the website didn't make me feel any better about going up there, I mean a glass floor 380 feet up just doesn't sound like my idea of fun!

We went over to Blackpool on Saturday dinnertime mainly because Dan was running the Blackpool half-marathon on the Sunday morning. We decided to make a weekend of it as I love Blackpool and it would be a good chance to get another challenge ticked off.

Saturday was just a nice chilling day, wandering around the prom and the piers although every time I looked up at the tower I felt sick. I also managed to get another challenge ticked off when I visited Gypsy Sarah Petulengro and had my fortune told.


I've always been a bit sceptical of stuff like this but interested in it at the same time so it was really interesting to have it done. I thought it would all be a bit vague so you can read what you want into it but she was pretty direct and spot on with a lot of stuff. Still not sure if I believe in it or if it's just lucky guesses and picking up on signals but it was interesting and I believe more now than I did before.

Sunday afternoon was the moment of doom. We'd booked the tickets online ages ago or I'm sure I would have bottled it. My stomach was doing backflips as we walked down towards the tower. All the waiting around didn't help either. Once I got there I just wanted to get in the lift, get to the top and get straight back down again but I had to queue, watch a film and then queue again.

When we finally got in the lift it was made of glass. I hate heights and lifts aren't my strong point either - especially glass ones! Setting off and being able to see all the way down did nothing for the nerves and I grabbed onto the nearest person - luckily it was Dan! Once I got used to it it wasnt too bad though, I was just starting to relax and we were at the top - it only takes 69 seconds.

It wasn't actually as scary as I expected. The proper floor bit was fine but I wasn't too keen on the glass bit. I wanted to go on it but it just didn't feel right. I ended up holding onto a post and backing onto it VERY slowly. I did relax once I'd been up there a bit though, I was walking normally on it and I even managed to look down!!!!

So here we are - on top of the world (well Blackpool!), absolutely terrified but so glad I did it.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Happy Birthday Dan!

Well it's the husbands birthday today. One of my challenges is to make a cake for somebody so today seemed like a good day. I know it doesn't seem like much of a challenge when you look at how baking obsessed I am but when I wrote the list I was hardly doing any baking.

Anyway I've made up for it not being as much of a challenge as some by going completely over the top with it. Dan's a runner and every Saturday morning takes part in parkrun so I thought I'd make some parkrun themed cakes for him to share with all the runners down there.

 
 
I started off with cupcakes. I tried to do a grass effect in green buttercream and added the letters DFYB in sugar paste. It stands for Don't forget your barcode and you need to be a parkrunner (or married to one!) to understand the significance. The 100 is for Dan's mate Simon who was completing his 100th parkrun that morning and not an indication of how old Dan is!
 
Cupcakes are ok but they were never going to feed everyone at parkrun so I decided to make a big layer cake aswell. I've made big cakes before and decorated them but this was my first attempt at fully icing such a big cake. It didn't look as good as I'd hoped but I know what I need to do next time. It seemed to go down well on Saturday morning though and thats the main thing!
 
 
I had a complete nightmare with this cake (and the cupcakes!). Friday just wasn't my day in the kitchen at all. If you'd asked me at 10pm on Friday I'd have said I was never going to bake again. It was never gonna last though. I did a bit yesterday and it's been another full on baking day today to produce Dan's birthday afternoon tea - Dotty style!
 
 

The butties were a bit of an afterthought so we just ended up with whatever I could find in the fridge - ham and philedelphia. Everyone knows that afernoon tea is all about the cake anyway! And theres a lot of cake - 2 scones each, a cream egg brownie and vanilla chocolate cupcake. And theres even more cake in the kitchen as I had to make them all up in baches of 12.

So there you have it - I made a cake (los of cakes!) for someone. All thats left to say is Happy Birthday Dan!!!

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Random Tea

Today's challenge was to turn to a random page in a recipe book and cook whatever was on that page. I love cooking and I love trying new recipes so I was looking forward to trying this one. My only worry was that I was gonna end up with some recipe for a vegetable side dish or something. I'm sure posh peas are very nice but they're not exactly going to do me and the hungry runner for tea!

I decided to use my Jamie's 30 minute meals book to make sure I got a proper meal. Flung it open and it landed on this page

I was well impressed when I saw what it was - I couldn't have planned it better. Piri-piri chicken! I love it. Anyone who knows me well will know I spend a lot of time in Nandos so I just knew this recipe was gonna be my thing.

I didn't manage to get it done in 30 minutes - mainly because I didn't have a liquidiser - but it didn't take long and I had an impressive looking meal for not much effort at all. The full menu was piri-piri chicken, rocket salad and dressed potatoes followed by portugese tarts for pudding. Lovely :-) I'd post a picture but the food didn't hang around long enough.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Something Yummy For Money

One of my challenges is to raise £1001 for charity over the 1001 days. Should be do-able as it doesn't have to be all at once and it doesn't have to all be for the same charity. It's only a quid for each day of the challenge.

I was already at £70 after the FC United Minithon but with it being Comic Relief last week I thought it was the perfect opportunity to raise some more. I'm very into baking at the moment and there were bake sales going on everywhere so it was an easy way to make money. I made cakes for my work, Dan's work and Hope Methodist Church.

 
 
This was the set I made for Dan's work. I decided to go with a bit of a red nose day theme. They weren't sold for a set price here so I can't be sure exactly how much my cupcakes made. They just asked for donations so to count it toward the challenge I divided the total amount of cash donations by the number of people who donated cakes and came up with the figure of £14.63
 
 
 
For my work I made another box of the comic relief cupcakes and also a box of lemon cupcakes. We sold these at 20p per cake and all mine were sold so they made £4.80. The cake sale at work was manic - 200 kids, parents and grandparents. I've still got the bruises on my legs where I was pinned against the wall by a cake table!
 
 
For church I made strawberry and vanilla cupcakes with comic relief toppers, lemon cupcakes (some with lemon buttercream and some with sherbet lemon sugarpaste). I also had my very first attempt at cake pops without too many disasters. I was really chuffed with my little self as my cakes sold out in less than 5 minutes :-) The cupcakes were sold for 50p each and the cakepops for 30p making a total of £13.50
 
Over the three cake sales my cakes raised £32.93 for Comic Relief. My total raised for charity so far now stands at £102.93 - over 10% of the way there!! The big one is coming in the summer with the Great Manchester Swim, find out more and sponsor me here.
 

Sunday, 17 March 2013

An Armenian Meal

If you read this blog often (or at all!) you'll know that me and Dan love our meals out. So far we are loving the challenge of finding new places to eat but we were struggling to think of where to go next. A quick search on trip advisor and we found this place - The Armenian Taverna

We had no idea what traditional Armenian cuisine included but it sounded like something a bit different and the reviews were great so we decided to give it a go. So on Friday night we headed into town and found a little place we've probably walked past hundreds of times before. It's opposite the town hall, just a little door that you'd probably never notice but it's well worth finding.

I've got to admit when we first went in I wasn't too sure about the place. It's downstairs in the cellar and the further down the stairs you get the mor you feel like you're going back in time. It's all red gingham and ornaments! But get past that and the place is lovely. It had a really nice family run feel to it which you don't get in many places anymore.

Because we knew absolutely nothing about Armenian food we decided to play it safe and go for the Armenian Banquet.
Armenian Banquet - Starters: hummus, falafel, tabouleh, baba ganouge, kufta, yershig, taramasalata, mutabal, binirow borek, chef’s lavish bread;
Main Course: a selection of chef’s mixed kebab - chicken, minced lamb, lamb chop and pork cooked over charcoal - served with rice and with a skewer of grilled onions, peppers and tomatoes;
Dessert: Coffee and an Armenian delight.

I'm still not entirely sure what everything was but I loved it all. I love meals were you can just sort of tuck in and have a bit of everything so it was great.

I definitely want to go back, think I'm going to be more adventurous this time though and choose something off the main menu. It all looks good though so I don't know what to pick.

I'm now at 4 out of my 10 new restaurants and I've loved them all (maybe I just love food!). Think I'm going to try the greek place next...

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Holiday Highlights

Well I survived my first week back at work. Nearly killed me when the alarm went off at half five on that first morning but once I got out of bed it wasn't too bad. Got me thinking I haven't told you what I got up to in the holidays though.

As usual, I didn't get through even half of what I had planned. I'm always full of big ideas but the reality of my holidays is usually pjs, slippers and slobbing in front of Jeremy Kyle. I did manage to get a bit more than that done at least.

I did loads of baking. I'm really into it since I did my cupcake class. Treated myself to some new nozzles and cutters from Hey Little Cupcake so I've enjoyed experimenting with them and seeing what I can come up with. I love making cakes and usually I enjoy eating them but I have to admit I'm a bit cupcaked out. I've given a lo of my cakes away to other people this week though and they seem to have gone down alright. I've even had one lady ask me to make some for her daughters birthday with a big party cake - and she's going to pay me!!! Well chuffed with that, it's fun to do and if I can make a bit of extra cash from it - BONUS!

I've done lots of snuggling up with my letters so I've managed to complete my reply to every letter within a week of receiving it challenge. I'm well chuffed with my little self!! I just hope that now I've finally caught up I can stay that way but I don't hold out much hope.

My favourite day of the holidays though was the Thursday when I travelled up to York to meet my penpal Clair and complete another challenge. I'd been looking forward to it for weeks and bounced out of bed on the Thursday morning in a giddy mood. The closer we got to York though the less giddy I got and the more nervous I became. We got along great in our letters and texts but what if it was all a bit awkward. People who know me think I'm nuts but honestly I'm really shy with people I don't know. And then I had the worry of not recognising her, what if I walked right past her at the train station? That would be embarrassing.

Clair had said she would stop that proplem by holding up a sign with my name on. However, the trains were all over the place so I ended up on an earlier train that was running late meaning I was there first. And then Clair was running late because she was stuck behind a tractor - a sign of things to come! I hadn't realised just how far out in the country she lived.

After worrying about not recognising her, it was actually quite funny when Clair arrived. She walked into the station through a different door to the one I was stood at. I saw her out of the corner of my eye and was 99% sure it was her. Not quite sure enough to shout her though so I ended up chasing her around the station for a few minutes while she tried to find me!

When I finally caught up, we went to her car where she introduced me to her husband Mark. The three of us spent a lovely day together. We had dinner at Wetherspoons (italian burger - yum!!) and then they took me out for a drive in the countryside around where they lived. Clair had described her town in her letters but I had no idea how far out in the country it was. It was so pretty, surrounded by hills and the moors. I saw the Kilburn White Horse and a beautiful monastry. I was really excited by the sight of a red phone box which Clair and Mark thought was hilarious. It was a really nice day and I hope we can do it again soon.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Panama Hatty's

So, last night was new restaurant 3 of 10 and we went to Panama Hatty's. It's up near the top of King Street (posh, you know!!) and not where I thought I was going at all. In my head I was going somewhere just off St Annes Square - good job Dan knows what we're doing! The place I was thinking of looks nice though so I'll have to find out what it's called and add it to the list of places to try.

Anyway, back to Panama Hatty's - even before I'd eaten anything I loved the place. It was just gorgeous! It was dark though so the pictures aren't the best.


For our starter we shared the Panama Super Sampler. We got potato skins, onion rings, chicken, ribs, onion rings, tortilla chips, corn on the cob with barbecue sauce, sour cream and salsa. Yum!!! As soon as this arrived I knew it was going to be good and couldn't wait to get started.



My main course was Andaman Sea Bass - cooked in paper with chilli, lemongrass, lime, ginger, garlic and oyster sauce. It came with noodles and veg stir fry. Best piece of fish I've had in a long time, probably ever! It just kind of melted in my mouth, I loved it.


I didn't really need a pudding but I wasn't going to let that stop me! I only ever really eat a meal to get to the pudding. I couldn't decide between the toffee rocky mountain or the Hatty's Lemon Cheat - luckily neither could Dan so we decided to get both and share them. They were both huge concoctions of meringue, ice cream, cream and syrupy sauce type stuff. Very sickly but still scrummy.

So there you have it - three new restaurants, three restaurant wins! I'm liking this challenge, wonder where I can go next? :-)

Monday, 18 February 2013

A Plea

Ok, I admit it - when I first started writing this blog it was only because Dan had one and I don't like to be left out of anything. I didn't think anyone would actually read it! So when I set having 20 followers as a challenge I never thought I would ever get there. I'm amazed with how well I'm doing with this one really - I've got 8 followers already. If you're one of those eight, thank you!

In the last couple of weeks I've realised that far more than those eight actually read this though. I've had comments from people I've seen, on facebook and in letters from people I never realised had ever been here. If thats you can I ask you to please, please become a follower. It's pretty hassle free for you - you just need to click the blue button (I think it says something like Join this Site) and job done! It would mean a lot though and help me on my way to completing another challenge - I can't do this one without your help.

I'm off work this week so I'm hoping I can crack on with a few challenges. Me and Dan are off for a meal tonight. We're going to Panama Hatty's in town. Never been there before so it's another one towards the ten. I'll tell you all about it tomorrow!

On Thursday I'm off to York to complete another challenge - meeting up with a penpal. I can't wait. I love York and I think me and Clair will get along great. She seems determined to find me some Dave's while we there too, so maybe I'll make progress with that challenge. I really need to!!!

Other than that it will just be a nice chilling week at home - dig the family tree cross stitch out, do some reading, maybe make a start on learning to knit and get back to practising my typing. Gonna try and get loads of swimming in too - I really need to get some kind of proper raining plan together. My week is starting to sound a lot less chilled - still sounds like fun though. Right, I'm off to decide what to wear tonight.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

No pancakes, no pop

So, did you all enjoy your pancakes yesterday? I was very jealous as everybody seemed to be mentioning them and I wasn't having any. I'd like to say it's because i'm being super healthy but I'd be lying. It's more to do with the fact that Dan wrote off the frying pan a few weeks back and I've not got around to replacing it yet.

Pancakes yesterday (at least for most of you!) means that Lent starts today. I always try o give something up so this year decided to combine my no Diet Coke for 30 days challenge with giving it up for Lent. I know it doesn't sound that difficult but I swear the stuff is addictive. Those of you who know me well will know I'm always clutching a can or bottle of it. It felt very strange not popping in the shop on my way to work this morning for a can.

By about 7.30am this morning I was suffering Diet Coke withdrawel. Getting really supportive comments from the husband such as "the first few days will be like Trainspotting" and "I can offer you methadone in the form of Panda pops". He can mock but I will do it!!! Already wondering what I'm going to drink when I'm out for a meal on Monday though.

In other news, I'm still doing well with the letter writing challenge. I've got 13 to reply to but they've all arrived since the weekend so I'm more or less up to date. Getting through the books for the reading challenge - I'm finally reading The Lovely Bones and know I will end up bawling. Next week I'm off to York for the day to meet up with a lovely penpal. That'll be another challenge ticked off and she seems to have made it her personal mission to help me find Daves so look out for more of them!

Saturday, 2 February 2013

I Can Do This

I love swimming. So when I first heard of the Great Manchester Swim it sounded like a good idea. Enough of a challenge while doing something I enjoy and a great opportunity to raise some money for charity. Now I've actually entered it I'm less convinced it's a good idea. It just sounds scary now. One mile in open water round Salford docks - what was I thinking?!?

I'm determined to do it though. It'll be a good achievement and hopefully I'll be able to raise quite a bit of money for my charity. If you read my blog often you'll know that World Vision is a charity I support. I sponsor a child through them and have been so impressed with everything they do. Sponsoring Princess has been such a rewarding experience so now it's time for me to give something back. While child sponsorship is a big part of what World Vision do, they do so much more.


"World Vision works to make a serious and sustainable impact on poverty and its causes, especially as they affect children. We are committed to long-term change, which means connecting people. Whether it’s enabling people in developing communities to support each other, or linking donors to those in need through child sponsorship, or creating networks to campaign for justice, we believe that getting people connected is the best way to make a difference.

That’s one reason why we put so much emphasis on advocacy. While individual programmes can mitigate the effects of poverty, it’s only by speaking up for and with those who are marginalised that we can influence the policies of governments and international bodies and so address the underlying causes of poverty."
 
They can't do all this fantastic work with no money which is why I want to get involved and do some fundraising for them. So back to the swimming, as I said it seemed like a good idea at the time. I keep saying I can swim a mile no problem. And yeah, I can in a nice heated pool with a natural gap for a little rest every 25 metres. I'm guessing it's not going to be quite the same in the ship canal though. For a start it's gonna be cold. I was over there the other week and it looked cold, wild and choppy. My swim is in July so I'm hoping it will be warmer but let's face it we're in Manchester so I'm not holding out too much hope for hot! The other thing that only dawned on me last week was that I won't be able to touch the floor - that means I've got to do the whole mile non-stop!
 
I went to the swimming baths this morning to get some training in. After working out I wouldn't be able to stop on the day I decided to forget about distance and speed and just concentrate on stamina, swimming as far as I could without stopping. I didn't manage a mile but I was pretty impressed with my little self. I swam 46 lengths in 25 (ish) minutes. I make that 0.7 miles - not bad for a first attempt. Still work to be done but if I get myself a decent training plan and stick to it, I reckon I'll be ok. Terrified but ok!

Salford Watersports Centre also do open water swimming training sessions a few times a week so I'm going to try and get down to a few of those after work. They're not on yet as it's too cold so I'll have to try a few of those.

Anyway I've wittered long enough - basically all I'm trying to say is yes, it's gonna be tough but I AM going to do this. If you want to support me and support the fantastic work of World Vision then please visit my sponsorship page at www.virginmoneygiving.com/janetyarwood or click on the link on the right. Thank you :-)



Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Soooo behind

It doesn't seem to matter how hard I try, I'm always behind with something. I'd love to be one of these really organised people who has everything under control but that's just not me. I try my best but never quite manage it :-(

One thing I'm always behind on with my letters. I love letters! I find writing them really relaxing and getting them is great. Its always nice to see pretty post bringing good news and gossip rather than boring old bills. I've got loads of penpals so I've always got letters to write and nice post coming through my letterbox. Its great! The only problem is with so many penpals, a couple of nights of not writing and I've got a huge pile of letters needing replies. I always seem to be behind. I finally managed to get caught up with my letters at the weekend though. At one point I had nobody to write to. So this seems like the perfect time to start my reply to all letters within a week
challenge. I've got to keep it up for a month. Its easy at the moment a I've got a pile of three - two came yesterday and one today. I just need to make sure I get those replied to tonight before the pile grows a bit more tomorrow. I really enjoy writing my letters so if I could just manage to get myself organised this challenge shouldn't be too difficult to complete.

There's loads of other stuff I'm behind with but I'all get there in the end. The main one is this blog. Ive been rubbish at keeping it updated lately. There's been quite a bit going on though so I need to make the effort to get blogging again and tell you what I've been up to. I'll never make it to 100 blog posts at this rate!

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Yum!

Anyone who knows me will know I like cooking. I love messing about and trying new recipes to see what I can come up with. And without being big headed, I do alright. I 'm pretty confident in the kitchen and I'll give more or less anything a go. I've never really done much baking though. I make a cake and I reckon it'd taste alright, it just wouldn't look that great. I haven't got a clue where to start with decoraing them. You see all these gorgeous cakes and cupcakes and I'd love to be able to do something like that. That's why I decided to put going to a cake decorating class on my challenge list.

While I've never really been much good at making cupcakes, I'm really good at eating them! Some of my favourites are from Hey Little Cupcake in town. It's not far from Dan's work and every now and again he'll suprise me by bringing a cupcake home. They are scrummy. I was really chuffed when he got me a voucher to do a cupcake decorating class there for christmas.

Today was the day of the class and I set off feeling all excited. I was a little bit nervous too though as I've never done anything like this before. I was convinced everybody would be better than me and I'd come up with the worst cupcakes they'd ever seen. I don't hink I did too badly for a first attempt though. Here's what I managed to create



The cupcakes were ready made for us, as was the buttercream. They did go over how to make everything but it was more about teaching us how to pipe and decorate.

 

We started nice and easy with the cookie monster - no piping! We had to smooth butter cream over a plain cupcake then roll it into blue sprinkles. The eyes were made with white chocolate buttons and chocolate drops and we used a mini cookie for the mouth. Really simple but it looks great. He's so cute!


Next up was the oreo cupcake. This was a chocolate cupcake with an oreo baked into it. Then came my first attempt at piping. Plain buttercream with a plain round nozzle. Getting all the air out of the piping bag was a bit tricky but once that was done the piping wasn't as difficult as I expected. Two and a half swirls then finish off with a mini oreo and some oreo crumbs.


La Paris was next. I love this one, it's very me with all its pinkness. Its a chocolate cupcake with strawberry buttercream. Trying to remember which nozzle it was, some kind of  inverted swirly one I think. I need to get my head round them all because I want some. The little hearts are chocolate and were just scattered over the top.


This one is like your classic cupcake and it's called Viva Las Vegas. Chocolate cupcake with chocolate buttercream, gold dragees and white chocolate stars.


My spring garden was the most difficult cupcake to make. The green buttercream is just plain vanilla with colouring added. The piping was tricky. It was like a spaghetti press and instead of swirling round you had to lift up and do a splodge at a time. The flowers and butterflies are made from sugarpaste. They had some really cute little cutters and I want them too! It was all a bit fiddly but worth it in the end. I love the colours.


The final cupcake was a cute little rose. The piping was tricky on this one. I'd got used to swirling up from the ouside but this one was piped from the cenre out and needed to be kept level-ish. It took me two attempts but once the buttercream was on I added a sugarpaste leaf and some edible glitter.

I had a really fun afternoon. I'm dead pleased with how well my cupcakes turned out and I'd definitely feel more confident to have a go at home now. I'm feeling a little shopping trip coming on when I get paid to buy nozzles and piping bags and other cute things to decorate with. I want to do some of their other classes too. In the meantime I've got six cupcakes to get through. Me and Dan have halved Cookie Monser and Viva Las Vegas and the were both yummy. Have to admit I'm a bit gutted about destroying my hard work but the feeling doesn't last long once you're eaing them. Yum!

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Back to work tomorrow :-(

I suppose i shouldn't complain really. Apart from the norovirus its been a good holiday. Christmas is always my very favourite time of the year and it was another good one this year. And I've managed to get lots of challenge-y stuff done whilst I've been off. I've done lots of reading, mainly books i got for Christmas. During the holidays I managed to finish The Christmas books by Charles Dickens, With Love at Christmas by Carole Matthews, The life by Martina Cole and The Life and Times of the Real Winnie the Pooh by Shirley Harrison. My pile of books read for the read my own height in books challenge now stands at 48.5 cm - a third of the way there!
I've done quite a bit of craft when I haven't been reading. I've made a good start on the felt and cross stitch decorations that Kerry kindly sent me but I forgot to buy stuffing when I was in town so I can't finish them off yet. I've done a bit (and I mean a bit!) on the family tree cross stitch and I've been trying to get my head round knitting. I've not actually done any knitting yet but I've no real excuse anymore. I had a lovely knitting kit, how to knit book and knitting for dummies book for Christmas so I should be all ready. I'm still hoping my mother-in-law will take pity on me and give me lessons. Problem is she's seen my one and only attempt at knitting and it wasn't pretty. That's why its on the list!
Dan bought me a voucher for a cupcake decorating class so that will be another thing ticked off the list next week. I can't wait, it's at a gorgeous little place down Spinningfields. I get to bring six of their cupcakes home so I know however bad the decoration ends up, the cake will still be yummy :-)
He's also paid my entry to the Great Manchester Swim which sounded a lot less scary before I was actually committed to it. I did my first training swim yesterday and I'm quite chuffed with myself because I did manage to swim a mile. It wasn't particularly fast and it wasn't non stop but I can work on that. It wasn't bad for a first attempt. The fun bit is going to be when I transfer it to the open water. I've never done anything like that before but I've got until July to get myself ready. As well as getting the swimming challenge done I'm hoping this can be part of the raising £1001 for charity. I've got a fund raising pack from World Vision and hopefully I'll be able to get loads of sponsorship in to support their fantastic work.
Talking of world vision, I've had three letters from Princess over the holidays. It's always great to hear from her. Makes the work that world vision do seem so much more real. Of all the challenges I've completed so far sponsoring her has definitely been my favourite. It's such a rewarding experience. When you think that for me its one less can of pop a day (and I'm supposed to be cutting down) the difference it makes to communities like Princess' is amazing.
Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without films and sales and they've both helped me out with challenges. I added quite a few films to the A-Z challenge and got some lovely plates in the housing units sale for January's purchase for the house.
So there you have it, two weeks off work, lots of fun and lots of stuff done. Just a shame it has to come to an end.