In order to do something different each week of the year, I have a list of challenges to undertake...

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Week 34 - Get a Full Week's Sleep

I am a 'night owl'. I am more than happy to be up carousing late into the night, or catching up on work items at midnight and after. Many's the film I have seen the latter three quarters of, having come in from the pub and put on the TV.

On the other side of the coin, this means that I am not a morning person. I'm not given to strong sentiments, being an easy going kind of gal - but I do HATE THE ALARM CLOCK. Even though I am very fortunate to work from home and don't have to be 'in the office' before 9am, and the alarm is set for a modest wake-up of 8am, I STILL have trouble dragging my sorry self out the pit.

I'd love to be more of a morning person - to spring out of bed and get things done first thing would be fantastic! If I could get out for my run at 8am for half an hour or so, then how well would that set me up for the day!

But there is nothing on earth which would tempt me to do so, as things stand - but is this because I don't get enough sleep? If I stopped being such an owl and got to bed at a sensible hour, would I jump out of bed with the sun, shaking the sleep from my eyes to welcome the brand new day with joy!?

To test this one out, my challenge is to get an average of 8hrs sleep per night for a week, which is going to involve some earlier nights.

I've logged the times, and with a concerted effort at GOING TO BED, I have clocked up just 15 mins short of an average of a full 8hrs per night over the week. Hardly worth hanging the flags out for, but I reckon that compared to the estimated 7 1/2 hrs I get on average normally, this is an improvement.

Have I jumped out of bed with a spring in my step? Well, no, not really - but I do think that this is a work in progress and I should pursue the matter - try for 8 1/4 hours per night, perhaps?

My Challenge is completed - and although not life-changing, it has given me the impetus to take this further.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Week 33 - Draw A Picture

Here ya go...

So that's my week 33 Challen.... no? Just kidding you!

Now this week's Challenge is a bit of an odd one - given that we spent about 3 years of our first 6 doing nothing other than drawing pictures, I bet, like me, the last time you drew anything was - er - when you were six.

Except if you are my big sister Helen, of course, who not only has drawn pictures since that age, but also charges good money for doing so.

We did so many drawings at that age not just to do all that tedious learning about coordination and as a precursor to writing, but also because we enjoyed it - drawing was fun!

So why do so few of us do it now? Because we think we are no good at it? Is it talent, or is it practice? Talent, undoubtedly plays a large part in producing a pleasing pic, but lets see what a little bit of practise can do - and lets see if it's as much fun now as when I was at primary school.

My first efforts did not bode well - although partly this was my choice of subject. Domino cat was rubbish as a life model - staying sphinx-like for about 2 minutes before wandering off.

Oliver cat less of a fidget, but black cats are like black blobs to my untrained eye. 

I went for some still life instead, and think I have a fairly recognisable trug, and passable beetroot and garlic, even if the courgettes on the left look like sausages. 

Then headed into the garden to have a go at the tomato plants, but got bored of all that wibbly wobbly green foliage.

So this evening I had a crack at emulating a print of Louis Degas 'Bird with a Bare Bum' which I have hanging in the bedroom. Actually, I'm not altogether sure that's what the original is called, but it's my house - my name.

And here's my go.

What have we learned? That drawing takes concentration - you have to immerse yourself in it. This makes it very therapeutic - mindless hobbies where you can daydream (e.g. winter digging on the plot) are restful in their own way, but hobbies that you have to give your full attention to (e.g. riding) mean that for that time, you can't worry about any cares or the stresses of life.

Oh - and that Helen's pretty safe from competition...

So that's my week 33 Challenge - done!

Monday, 12 August 2013

Week 32 - Enter an Allotment Show

You might think that this Challenge is not too tough as I already have the allotment bit, and we do, indeed, have an annual show; however, it does take a considerable amount of planning and forethought in order to participate properly!

I'm happy to enter any and all classes where I have something to enter, pretty much regardless of quality - don't get me wrong, I'm as competitive as the next one in the queue, but I also know that I want to encourage people who may be reluctant to 'join in' something like this, thinking there is some sort of mystique to showing veg.

No, there isn't - you just take the best you have, present it properly, and pay your 25p entry. Job done. Classes with stiff competition might make your - say - runner beans look a bit rubbish, but there will be some classes that - actually - you've got some good stuff in there! Not to mention that some classes will be less popular, so even if your spring onions are so-so - if there are only two or three entries, you are going to get a second or third, regardless. 

It's not just the veg classes - domestic classes are fun too. I bake a bit anyway, so it's not a hardship to make a nice fruit cake a couple of weeks in advance and take that down; and the show schedule always includes a 'cake from supplied recipe' so everyone is doing the same thing there.

The only thing that I find can cause a bit of a panic is the timing - before now, I've been down to pick things on the Show morning so it's as fresh as possible, then find myself in the kitchen with an hour to go surrounded by 5lb of runner beans feverishly sorting through to find the 7 best matching ones.

No - that does not make for a fun day.  So now, I leave everything alone for a week before hand then go down on the Saturday for a grand picking session. Saturday evening sees me sorting through beans, potatoes, beetroot, courgettes, rhubarb and anything else I have ready to enter, and chose the best. Over a glass of wine - hurrah!

Sunday morning, I pack everything into the car and off we go to stage the entries. Big sister Helen visits for the weekend, and her and mum come along with their entries too.

Everything is staged by 2pm, then the judges do their stuff for a couple of hours whilst we have a mooch round the site, listen to the band and enjoy the barbecue and a couple of drinks at the bar.

Then the moment of truth - not so hot for me in the domestic classes this year - in fact big sister Helen's fruit cake beat mine , but I had some good results in the veg classes, so I'm very pleased about that.

I've sent Helen back to the south coast home with courgettes, beans, cake, garlic and wine, mum and my neighbours have been offloaded with rhubarb, beans and spare cake; and all I need to do now is work out how to get another few pounds of beans in the freezer and how to deal with the courgette mountain...

But my week 32 Challenge - is done!

Monday, 5 August 2013

Week 31 - Clean out the Fridge

I used to have a fridge/freezer, which had the fridge bit at the top, so seeing exactly what was in there was a doddle. Now I have an undercounter fridge which seems to have more hidden corners in it - although Domino cat does find it more convenient for browsing should the door be open for more than a second or two.

I suspect that the collection of half used jars that lurk in the back might need some scrutiny, and I noticed a couple of ring marks on the shelves the other day. That coupled with the top door shelf containing a piece of ginger which shrinks and dries a little more each day of the several months that it has been there, along with a wizened half a lemon means that the fridge could do with a clear out and a good clean.

A half remembered piece of information about bicarbonate of soda made me go and have a look online about fridge cleaning, and sure enough Ch4 'DIY - Cleaning Tips - How to Clean a Fridge' stared off by detailing the every week task of 'removing fridge shelves and compartments and wash them in warm soapy water, then rinse & dry...'

Every week. Blimey! Best get the marigolds on and look sharp!

My stocktake revealed a jar of elderly pickle, which went in the batch of ratatouille I was making; a lock'n'lock of homemade tomato/pepper sauce, also elderly. That went in the ratatouille too. A few capers were left in the jar, which I chucked in the salad I had for tea; but the tomato puree kept - no one takes any notice of the 'once opened eat within 5 days' on tomato puree tubes, do they?

I put the two unopened jars of redcurrant jelly in the cupboard & kept out the open one; and I chucked away the ginger & half lemon.

All shelves duly washed with warm soapy water; the body of the fridge wiped down with bicarb of soda (2tsp to a litre, if you were wondering). I pulled the fridge out, cleaning the outer surfaces, and the (rather revolting) floor underneath. I even dusted the grill thing at the back.

Then put it all back together again - and I have a shiny tidy fridge - so that's my week 31 Challenge - done!