Journal, Personal

Turning Forty

The countdown had to end at some point, the “days until I am forty” could simply not last forever! So here I am, forty at last. The only people who say it isn’t really a big deal are the ones that are already over forty anyway, the ones that look at you like you may as well get planning your funeral before you start anything else, are generally those under forty.

Its not to say that I woke up on my birthday and everything had changed, far from it, physically I felt very much the same, just a day older. In the grand scheme of things the earth was still round, planes had not fallen from the sky, the dead had not come back to life, and generally the end was not nigh! Mentally it was a slightly different story though, I guess in my mind I had crossed a threshold. I knew I was no longer a thirtysomething and I was already missing it. Being a thirtysomething meant you had only just left your twenties behind, and twenties were young, right?! Now, the only way I will be called young would be if I was found dead! The even more depressing thing about being a fortysomething is that the next big milestone birthday is fifty! FIFTY!!

Still, its here, and I need to start getting used to it.

One thing that turning (or even approaching) forty does to you is make you reflect on things a bit, a primary one being your health and physical condition. I would certainly not consider myself to be unfit, although I do still have a few pound to lose, but my fitness levels are definitely up there. I am cycling 11 miles a day, five days a week, I am now running three days a week as well, and its fair to say that I am far fitter now than I ever was in my twenties!

All this can change in a moment though, and you never know when you health can suddenly fall away. Previously I have run a number of half marathons and raised money for cancer charities, only this year I am doing something a bit different… I am hanging up the running shoes (for now anyway) and jumping on my bike to cycle from London to Brighton raising money for the British Heart Foundation.

Heart disease is still one of the biggest killers in the UK and cruelly took my grandad from us on Christmas day when I was just 13 years old. It was a very dark christmas day.

I knew he was ill, but I had never fully understood the gravity of it, and I had certainly not expected him to die, at least not yet anyway.

I still remember a lot about the day, it had been a nice morning unwrapping presents with my sister, my mom had been busy cooking the christmas dinner for lunchtime, and had just served it up and called me and my sister to come and sit down to eat, I was very much looking forward to it. I took a bite of my first roast potato and heard a knock at the door. Where I sat at the table meant I was closest to the front door, so I got up to open it, to find two of my uncles outside looking very sombre. I was caught off guard and so just let them in without questioning their lack of festive greetings, as they walked into the kitchen and just looked at my mom without saying anything. It was a delay of about two seconds, and she just knew, about five seconds later it hit me too.

My uncle Geoff is also a keen cyclist, and he talked me into doing this ride, he was one of the uncles stood on the door that christmas day to deliver the news. So we’re both pretty passionate about this cause. As I turn forty, I begin to wonder if I have done enough to keep healthy and keep this dreadful disease away. I have been actively doing cardio exercises for a number of years now, and intend to carry on for as long as I can. I need to keep my heart healthy and strong for my two little girls now, as well as for myself.

So I am writing this to ask for a little support for my ride, help me hit my humble target of £250 towards British Heart Foundation by clicking on the link and heading over to my Just Giving page here. If you can spare £1, great. If you can spare more, even better. If you can’t spare anything at all, then can you just spare 10 seconds to share my page and encourage your friends to support me.

Thanks
A.

365 project, Journal, Parenting, Personal, Photography

365 project: days 117 -126

So the final countdown begins for the big four zero. There’s a party to plan for and I intend to make it a week of celebrations! I can’t pretend I am looking forward to the day when I can no longer say that I am still in my 30s, but I may as well push through that barrier with some acceptance and embrace the positive of what I do actually have around me. I know its just another day, and I technically won’t wake up and feel any different, but that landmark just says to me “Nothing else significant, and no other special celebrations now until you’re 50!”. In fact the only way I can be considered young by anybody now is if I was dead! Oh joy!

Ah well, on with the photos, and I am now up to day 126! Mini celebration, kinda means I have this thing under control and theres a very real chance I will make it through until the end!

117: The May day bank holiday Monday is traditionally a rather wet affair, as if the rain clouds are pre-booked in advance every year. We decide to spend the day at home and have our friend coming to visit with her little boy, so decide to make the best of staying in and get the kids to make and decorate some biscuits, which kept them entertained for a while.

Day 117 - May 2nd
Day 117 – May 2nd

118: One of those days with very little to report, except for the fact that the scaffolding that went up for a small job fixing a window four weeks ago is still up. The window was done in an afternoon, but the scaffolding is still here and beginning to anoy me!

Day 118 - May 3rd
Day 118 – May 3rd

119: I was lucky enough to be invited to a bloggers only evening to help promote the launch of a new chocolate store in the jewellery quarter. If you check back a couple of posts you’ll find the article I posted on the evening. It was a lovely evening and I was grateful to be a part of it. I learnt a thing or two about chocolate, got to taste some fancy new ones and even got to make my own!

Day 119 - May 4th
Day 119 – May 4th

120: Olivia has become a fantastic big sister and really looks after her new little sister, giving her lots of kisses and cuddles, and now has taken to including her when it comes to playing with accessories, including headbands.

Day 120 - May 5th
Day 120 – May 5th

121: Its BBQ Friday! The weather forecast is looking up for the weekend, and so I get the BBQ cleaned and light it up, throwing on some of the food I’d thought ahead and purchased the day before. Friday night meant burgers and beers for me. What a way to spend a Friday evening, at home and with my ladies, cooking meat over fire… RAAHHHH!!

Day 121 - May 6th
Day 121 – May 6th

122: The wife can’t help herself while she’s off work, passing the time with online shopping! This time for our daughter, buying her a mini trampoline. I was planning on saving this for her birthday, but to be honest, anything that stops her jumping on the sofa and our bed at the moment, is a bonus! With the afternoon turning into a bit of a downpour, we had at least something to keep her entertained indoors too!

Day 122 - May 7th
Day 122 – May 7th

123: Sunday showers us with more sunshine, and although the forecast is for a thundershower at some point late in the afternoon, the day starts warm and bright and so we make the most of it. Out comes the BBQ (again!) and out comes the gazebo also, along with the paddling pool. It was a lovely afternoon in the sun, and to make things even better, no rain arrived whatsoever! Good old fashioned fun in the garden!

Day 123 - May 8th
Day 123 – May 8th

124: I figured it had been a few weeks since my last proper portrait of Olivia, and I like to keep these up regularly. My favourite portrait lens is the 85mm f/1.8 lens, very popular with portrait photographers. It takes a wonderful flattering picture, and a little bit of sunshine finishes the photo!

Day 124 - May 9th
Day 124 – May 9th

125: This little lady is becoming an absolute delight in the last few weeks. The days of screaming just because she’s awake seem to have completely vanished, now she is spending most of the day happy, smiling and even laughing, only having a whinge or a few tears when she’s hungry, needs a clean nappy or can’t get to sleep, all easily fixable! Its the smiles and the laughing that do it for me though, they are so heart warming!

Day 125 - May 10th
Day 125 – May 10th

126: The godo weather can’t last, but the rain does leave behind a certain fresh quality to the air. Sadly the big downside is that heavy rain gives the cherry blossom trees that line the road a real battering and they lose a lot of their petals. The cherry blossoms did seem to start flowering early this year, and normally the flowers are gone within a couple of weeks, although this year they seem to be hanging on and on!

Day 126 - May 11th
Day 126 – May 11th
Photography

A taste of chocolate heaven

I love to see new businesses start up, and even more so to see them do well. When someone with a passion and a skill decides to take it to the next level, I wish them all the luck in the world!


This week I was lucky enough to be invited to a bloggers event after the recent opening of a new chocolate shop in the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham, which was aptly named The Chocolate Quarter. It is a family run chocolate making business, selling a unique range of their very own creations, and these guys like to get creative!

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On arriving I was given a very warm and friendly welcome from Jay, who ran the store along side his family and delivered our evening, sharing his extensive knowledge on the creation of chocolate, and shared many samples from around the world, made from beans from far away countries such as Tanzania, Madagascar and Ecuador.

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Not long after we arrived, we were all offered a hot chocolate, although I can’t lie about the fact I was slightly disappointed to find out it was made with water, and not milk, like I am used to. Jay was only too happy to explain that the milk dilutes the taste of chocolate and using water helps to bring out the proper flavours. Given that we were clearly not using cheap powdered supermarket chocolate here, you could see exactly what he meant. It was delicious, and yes was an instant convert, and yes I went back for more!

We were also lucky enough to be privy to some new samples for their as yet unreleased Fathers Day range, with flavours such as Stout, Bacon and Whiskey. The stout was a clear favourite with a number of us!

The special fathers day collection
The special fathers day collection

The next part was a lesson in tempering chocolate, the intricate details of heating and cooling the chocolate to create the perfect shine and ‘snap’, and then after being shown, creating our own truffles. It wasn’t rocket science, but still sadly looked like my two year old daughter had sat in my place and tried her hand at giving it a go, but in my defence it was my first attempt! There was chocolate everywhere, but thankfully a whole lot of thought had clearly been put into this evening for us and they had covered all number of details. We were particularly grateful for the disposable aprons, wipes and gloves! They even gave us presentation boxes to take our creations home in after we had coated them in cocoa, icing sugar and coconut!

With our leftover tempered chocolate we were treated to a fantastic fondue with a whole assortment of fruits, doughnuts, honeycomb and Turkish delights. It was the kinda moment when you drop all thoughts of slimming world, weight watchers or how tight your jeans have become and lose yourself in chocolately drunkenness! All nicely washed down with a glass of Prosecco.

At the end of the evening, before we left we even had the chance to purchased some discounted chocolates to fill the rest of our presentation box, from an amazing selection of flavours. It was so hard to decided which ones to pick without shouting “ALL OF THEM… GIVE ME ALL OF THEM!!”.
I managed to whittle it down to coffee & buttery caramel, viennese truffle, sea salt praline, amaretto & marzipan and violet cream before tearing myself away and running to the car to avoid spending a small fortune in there!

The Chocolate Quarter is definitely worth a visit for anyone wanting an experience, not just a box of chocolates! This wonderful warm and friendly family are only too happy to take the time to talk you through the chocolate and try samples, and the personality that shines through makes other chain based chocolate shops look cold, clinical and run by amateurs!

Will I be going back? You bet!

They can be found at http://www.thechocolatequarter.com/

365 project, Journal, Parenting, Photography

365 project: days 111 – 116

As we approach the end of April, we look at heading into my birthday month and the imminent arrival of my 40th birthday, which continues to approach like a speeding train heading towards a car stranded on a level crossing! Still, on a plus note we are looking at Chloe finally having the harness off her legs, providing her hips are now as they should be, although the consultant, as nice as he is, seems very wishy washy in his diagnosis. I want to hear things like “Yes, this isn’t right, lets fix it with this” not things like “well, I’m not sure, would you like to try this just to be on the safe side?” The onus should not be on the parents to make a decision when you have been referred to, waited weeks for, and travelled to the childrens hospital for a specialist consultant to assess and diagnose. Still, if its coming off then the appointment is on my actual birthday, what a present that would be!

111: Its time for a change in the kitchen and the red that the wife initially thought was a terrible idea is now up and she loves it, and so do I. Sometimes you have to take a bit of a gamble!

Day 111 - Apr 26th
Day 111 – Apr 26th

112: An unscheduled Ofsted inspection at work causes the day to be a little stressful, but at least I have my girls to come home to. I loved this shot, our little angel is now 3 months old and growing at quite a rate, and getting noticeably heavier by the day too! All too soon those little hands won’t be so little any more!

Day 112 - Apr 27th
Day 112 – Apr 27th

113: The term April showers was part of the proverb “March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers”, first recorded in 1886. This year it has been more evident than ever, as most days have featured at least one or more showers. It makes taking the little ones out to the park a bit of a gamble!

Day 113 - Apr 28th
Day 113 – Apr 28th

114: April showers, as it suggests often means that between these rain showers there can be periods of beautiful sunshine, and with bluebells popping up all over the place its starting to get very colourful outside. The upcoming bank holiday weekend is the annual bluebell walk at a local farm, which we’re sadly unlikely to make.

Day 114 - Apr 29th
Day 114 – Apr 29th

115: Staying on the weather theme, we decided to stretch our legs and get some fresh air by taking a walk to the local supermarket. As Olivia decided she also wanted to head to the park, we opted to take the car instead. We hadn’t even finished strapping the girls into the car when some black, end-of-the-world type clouds drifted over, it started to go very dark and a giant rumble of thunder unleashed a 15 minute hail storm, making it look like it had been snowing outside. In my 39 years on this planet I’d never seen anything like this before. As quickly as it started, it was over, and out came the blue sky and sunshine!

Day 115 - Apr 30th
Day 115 – Apr 30th

116: Our quiet weekend at home was continuing, which suited me around lunchtime as it was the Russian F1 GP today. We did at least manage to make it out to the park today, although Olivia wasn’t really herself and so we didn’t stay long. After a film and a few drinks in the evening with the wife, we were both ready for bed, as those early mornings can take their toll, but we still had to stay up and make sure Chloe had her last bottle of the day. Its definitely worth leaving it as late as possible as she is starting to do really well at sleeping through until the morning now. We have been really lucky with these two, and we are so grateful for it.

Day 116 - May 1st
Day 116 – May 1st