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I get so excited when I get letters and cards in the post. And the last two days I have been super excited because there have been early birthday cards waiting for me in the mailbox when I got home from work both days. The first from my mum and dad, and the second from my Grandpa. No, I haven’t opened them yet, I’m a good girl who waits for her actual birthday to open things. But after nearly 27 years of birthday and Christmas cards, I know their handwriting :)

Rasmus and I were talking the other night about my list of 26 things to do before my 27th birthday. I have two days to go so am kinda assuming I won’t fit any more in. (Maybe… I have one idea for a last minute completion…) He asked me how many I could tick off as completed and we went through the list. On quite a few of them I said something along the lines of, “ok, so technically I haven’t done that, but I kinda half did it so I think that counts.” A statement that my husband apparently disagreed with :)

I’ll go through the list sometime this weekend and post a big finale list up here for you to see how close I came. But honestly, I am not too upset about the ones I didn’t manage. The list, if you recall, was meant to be a way to help me make the most out of every day, to remind me to spend time doing the things I love, so that I could look back on this year and be happy with what I had achieved.

So the fact that I think over half are either incomplete or partly complete doesn’t really bother me too much. Some will go straight onto next years list (yes! I’m doing it again!) and others will be forgotten. Because in addition to all those completions, I’ve done so many more things that I enjoyed, that I’m proud of. It’s about living a life that feels full. And this year I think I did that.

It’s been a quiet week on here, but not at home.

I bought a sewing machine! It’s a brand new singer. Those of you who have been following my list of 26 things to do before I am 27 will know that means I have achieved half of one of my things. I’m supposed to also “learn how to use it” but with only two weeks until the big day, I’m not promising anything!

I’ve also been busy with church work, writing the teaching for April on events from Holy Week which I’ve loved digging into. Our expression (translation: group) at church is this amazing group of people from all over the world. I’ve seen us grow so much closer to each other over the last six months and it makes our gatherings so much better as we trust each other to really talk about the important things of faith, the challenging things, the hard things, and also the joyful things. I really do look forward to it every week!

And work is very very busy as I get closer to a lot of deadlines around our big general assembly in 10 days time.

But I’m about to escape it all, good and bad, for a long weekend in bonnie Scotland! We haven’t been up to visit my Grandpa in the Highlands since Christmas 2009 so he was definitely owed a visit! I’m praying for the forecast rains to blow further north so we can do some walking in the beautiful hills around his house. And we might even fit some whisky tasting in somewhere :)

See you after the weekend – hope yours is sunny and happy!

After my last post when I started to panic about how much I haven’t crossed off my list of 26 things yet (maybe you missed that – it might have come right after I pressed “publish” :) life decided to be super nice to be me and give me a hand with the list.

I can now cross off number 8: Finally go to that American diner in Brussels. Finally is really the appropriate word here since it’s a whole 11 and a half months since I wrote that. But it was worth the wait…

Rasmus and I had visited another church on Sunday morning where I’d been invited to speak for a few minutes about my heart for the women asylum seekers I’ve been getting to know (another point on the list improving weekly) and we were driving home discussing what to do for lunch and he (wonderful man that he is) said “what about that diner place?”

YES! Fabulous idea. We managed to find a parking space in the crazy busy square that is Place Brugmann and then only had to wait for 15 minutes despite not having a reservation. Clearly it was a divinely inspired idea to go there.

We both went for tex-mex options since we’d done burgers the day before at the Irish pub (I know I know, our healthy diet got kinda put on hold this weekend), all washed down with dessert-in-a-glass banana milkshakes.

I loved it! The decor is pink, yellow and turquoise with vintage coca cola signs and pictures of curvy 60’s women on the wall. There’s proper chrome bar stools and even one of those fun barber signs that spins. The food was good too. I got the enchiladas and when they first arrived I though “that’s not very big” but then I started eating and realised I have only ever eaten enchiladas either a) in America or b) cooked by Americans, i.e. large portion sizes! This was actually the perfect amount and combined with the thick milkshake I definitely had no excuse to order dessert.

Which is frankly a shame since they have an exciting menu of ice cream sundaes and brownies. So although I can officially cross this one off the list, I am leaving it uncrossed-out in the hope that someone will take me back again for dessert before my birthday :)

(No photos sadly coz it was an impulse visit and we didn’t have a camera… the photo here is from the website)

You might remember that when I turned 26 I wrote a list of 26 things to do before I turned 27. Lists seem to be all the rage all over lady-blog-land with women everywhere making lists of things to do before the next birthday or before they’re 30 or before they die. I sometimes worry that all these lists with huge plans and dreams will only encourage us to believe the lie that modern women can have it all – the husband, the family, the amazing (probably creative) career, the frequent travel to exotic locations, the widely read blog, a book published, the house always perfectly clean. I’m pretty sure that’s not possible.

But I’m also pretty sure we can do and achieve much more than we let ourselves believe. I think insecurity is a huge issue for women today, with too many giving up on dreams or plans because they think it’s beyond their reach. Me included.

I wrote that list ten months ago because I didn’t want this year to slip by and me to not feel I had achieved as much as I could have. I wanted to be intentional about living the life I want and pursuing my dreams one day at a time. I tried not to make the list unachievable but make it about the things I love, the things that make me feel happy and successful (in a way defined by me, not by other people).

So how am I doing, with less than two months to go?!

  1. Exercise twice a week at leastahem, well, it’s not quite happening but it’s not an 100% fail either…
  2. Learn how to make sushi – not done.
  3. Start painting/crafting again – not really done – it’s hard to find the time to fit this in, but it’s not really an excuse for not doing something I love (and as someone pointed out, I’d included it twice in my original list!)
  4. Buy a sewing machine and learn how to use it – not done. but I remember this nearly every day and plan to remedy it soon!
  5. Successfully grow something we can eatone chilli!
  6. Have a party at the beach – not done yet… maybe as a birthday trip?
  7. Find armchairs for our flatdone! kind of. We bought an armchair for our lounge that we both love – it’s only one but considering how few of the others I can cross off yet, I’m claiming this one as done.
  8. Finally go to that American diner in Brussels – not done. anyone want to make a date with me to go?
  9. Get some wedding photos printed – half done. I am about 75% through designing our album, just need to get it finished.
  10. Finish watching the Godfather trilogy – watched #1 and #2. Someone is going to have to bribe me to watch the last one though because I was so entirely depressed after finishing #2.
  11. Learn to be more naturally tidy at homecan I comment on this one? Rasmus? I think I’m better than I was…
  12. Visit the Ardennesdone! we took my parents on a day trip to Spa when they last visited…
  13. Drink champagne on “normal” days, just to celebrate being happydone. a number of times, the last time being on Saturday evening :)
  14. Make Flødeboller (marshmallow puff things) – hmm. not done. need to get on this.
  15. Finish reading one book a month:done (and in progress!) I am reading lots of books this year and I love it!
  16. Travel to a new countrydone! I’ve been to Hungary, Morocco and Luxembourg this year – all brand new countries! (And to Tuscany, not a new country but a new province…)
  17. Spend a day in a spa with a friend(s) – done! with Jen and my mum one wonderful day in September.
  18. Get good enough at Danish to have a proper adult conversation with Rasmus – done! I’m not exactly fluent but I’m good enough to have “secret” conversations that friends around can’t understand!
  19. Make ice creamdone. I made cherry ice cream. But still, once is not enough really. Need to get the machine out again and try some other flavours.
  20. Become good at making bread from scratchin progress. I’ve been making some but it’s quite a time consuming project…
  21. Organise my bookmarked/cut out recipes and cook thempart done. They are organised and one or two have been made – although there are so many I couldn’t possibly get through the whole lot by the end of the year!
  22. Write at least one hand written letter every weekpartly done. I don’t think I’ve been good enough to do every week but maybe every other week. (One lucky lady has something going in the post today…!)
  23. Keep getting to know the women at the asylum centre on our streetin progress. I love these women so much. They’ve gone through so much to get here that it seems a small effort to offer them friendship.
  24. Have a picnic at Villers Abbey – not done. Anyone want to plan one with me?
  25. Keep writing my blog regularly… doing better… :)

Total:

9 completed.

9 in progress or partly done.

7 not done.

Hmm, I better get busy – 56 days to go…

Look!

The chilli I picked was green. We left it a week on my cake stand that sits on the kitchen island (because it’s too beautiful to hide away) and it turned RED.

We had no idea that would happen so were somewhat surprised! Anyone have an explanation?

Also on my list of 26 things is the ambitious “grow something that we can eat” goal.

Well, despite great efforts on my part, frequent talking to the plants to encourage them to grow and the purchase of a very cool hot pink watering can, the entire summer was a huge failure of epic proportions on the green front.

The tomatoes failed. The basil failed. The radishes failed. The lavender failed. The cherry tomatoes failed. The mint failed.

Clearly the tweny minutes of sunlight they could get in our flat and the ability of our flat to stay 2 or 3 degrees cooler than outside temperatures was not the optimal conditions for growing a glut of fresh vegetables and herbs.

And clearly I have not inhereted my parents’ green fingers.

BUT!!!

To my delight and joy my chilli plants grew strong and green and the day they started flowering I literally danced and skipped and almost cried – much to the amusement of Rasmus.

And one of those precious flowers actually defied the horrible growing conditions and produced this one chilli…

THIS. This is the results of many hours of hard work and many prayers said over all my plants. This one chilli.

We are going to greatly appreciate eating it…

This week I visited a new country, crossing off one of my list of 26 things. It was three days of work so not much free time to explore, but we did get a boat trip on the lake and an evening of great food and Hungarian wine tasting in a beautiful wine cellar.

Here are a few photos from my three days in Hungary…

One of my goals on my list of 26 things to do before I am 27 was to get good at baking bread from scratch.

I decided though that the pre-requisite for this goal needed to be figuring out how to actually get my bread maker to work. I bought it second hand about 18 months ago for a bargainous €10 (I only had to lug it home on a tram and a metro) but my first two attempts to make a simple white bread were disastrous! I have no idea what I did wrong because I am normally so good at following recipes, but both times the bread came out dense and tasteless.  After my third attempt with a brown bread mix that didn’t actually mix before it baked, I gave up and put the bread maker to the back of our storage area.

But determined to master this bread-making thing I decided to have one more attempt with the bread maker before assigning it to the “going to the dump” pile. And this time I was successful! I used a bread mix for rugbrød, a dark and dense Danish bread full of seeds and good things. I’ve made it twice since and Rasmus now happily munches away on it for breakfast every morning and I feel victorious!

In the aftermath of my bread-maker success I’ve started to attempt from-scratch bread making. First up was a incredibly easy recipe for flat-bread that my mum passed on which we’ve made two or three times since she showed me how when thye visited. The awesome part is that you cook it on the griddle (or bbq) and it literally takes about ten minutes to be ready (after all the kneading and rising of course) and tastes amazing with some sea salt on top.

Then this weekend I attempted Pioneer Woman’s Cinnamon Bread. Rasmus argues it’s really more cake than bread. Well, I wasn’t going to argue that it was the most healthy bread in the world, but it was pretty much delicious, especially toasted and covered with melted butter (adding to the healthiness of course) like I had it this morning.

And it looks so pretty!

So now I need more bread recipe recommendations please, to continue my education!

… and here is the photographic proof

:)

One of my list of 26 things to do before I am 27 is to finish at least one book every month. I love to read. As a child I was a huge bookworm and the local library was one of my favourite places. I believe one of my early teachers even asked my parents to stop me reading a bit so that my other subjects could catch up.

I read most nowadays when I have a chance to travel somewhere. Yesterday I was in London for work so had about four hours on the Eurostar to finish reading a book I started a few weeks ago, The Piano Teacher. I think it was a Christmas present, it had been sitting patiently on my bookshelf for a few months.

It’s set in Hong Kong, before, during and after the second world war. There are two parallel stories. One around the characters Trudy, a Chinese- Portuguese woman, and Will, an English man, who meet just before the invasion of the Japanese. The second story takes place twenty years later when Claire, a newly arrived English woman (the “piano teacher” of the story) meets an older Will.

I happened to start reading it at the same time as my friend Claire. She got bored of it and stopped not that far in. I admit the story gets going a bit slowly. The first quarter or so is setting up the relationships between the three main characters and it can sometimes feel a bit stilted a slow.

But then…

Once the Japanese invade the story really gets interesting. The depiction of Hong Kong during the invasion and in the prisoner camps is fascinating and the deeper motivations and strengths and weaknesses of the characters come to the surface. The tension between the characters, the slow move towards an ending which you can sense but not quite figure out until it arrives.

The end is tragic and poignant and beautiful all at the same time. Is that too much? The writing was not always mind-blowing but the story was good enough to carry it through. I would definitely recommend it.

Although Claire, knowing a little what kind of books you like, I’m still not sure you’d like it even if you made it to the end :)

p.s. while I was in England I took the opportunity to stock up on English books (and spent a blissfully long time browsing in the bookshop). Waiting for me now (once I have finished Wolf Hall, which I am so nearly done with) are: The Very Thought of You by Rosie Alison; The Help by Kathryn Stockett; and The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway.

Anyone read any of them and can recommend which one to start first? Or have other recommendations for me to add to my amazon basket?