When I was 35 I made a list of 40 things I wanted to do before I was 40. It was quite a mixed list – everything from riding the wooden escalators in Macy’s in New York to making my own lemon curd. I wasn’t sure how I’d get on with it to be honest. I did wonder if once I’d bought the notebook I might let it fall by the wayside, but actually I really got into it. Having a list gave me a sense of purpose – something to focus on when I was feeling a bit lost or bored or not sure what to do on a Sunday afternoon.

I turned 40 in April and although I didn’t manage everything on the list I came pretty close. (You’ll have to go and read it to see which I missed.) In fact I enjoyed it so much that I decided to make another one.

50 things to do before I’m 50.

It’s kind of scary to think about. 40 feels like a pretty cool age, prime of lime and all that, but 50? I don’t know. 50 feels different. 50 feels OLD. Like a proper grown-up. Am I still going to be able to wear t-shirts with cats on when I’m 50? Can I still eat party rings and read Nancy Drew books? It feels like uncharted territory.

When I first wrote the 40 things before 40 post I didn’t have 40 things on the list. I wanted to get it started though, to get the ball rolling, and then I added more things to it as I thought of them. I wanted to do the same with my 50 things before 50 list. Ten years is a long time so I have plenty of time to add things as I go along. Who knows what opportunities might present themselves or what new interests I might stumble across?

This is just a starting point then, so if you have any suggestions please do let me know, the more specific the better. I find that having really specific goals gives me a much better focus and is far more satisfying to tick off.

Here’s my list of 50 things to do before I’m 50:

  • Stay at Gladstone’s library
  • Take a road trip in a convertible (ideally a blue roadster so I can pretend to be Nancy Drew.)
  • Go to the airport and take a random flight
  • Make a Baked Alaska
  • Become a Granny (bit out of my control but I’m adding it anyway)
  • Stay in an old school VW camper van
vintage vw camper

Photo by Eric Muhr on Unsplash

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In association with Red Tractor

Hoorah! It’s here! October! I can now officially start to get excited about Christmas, (possibly in secret as I’m not sure everyone is ready for it), eat warm apple crumble for breakfast, and generally embrace the deliciousness of autumn. Cooked apples and hot pudding are about as autumnal as it gets without actually putting on a halloween costume, which I why I choose to make an apple tarte tatin for this blog post.

apple tarte tatin with rough puff pastry

Let’s skip back a bit though, to an email I had a little while ago from the people at Red Tractor.

‘The Red Tractor logo is ace,’ they said, (I’m paraphrasing*), ‘but we want more people to know more about it! Can you help?’

‘Of course!’ I said, rolling up my virtual sleeves and putting on my imaginary pinny. ‘Show me the meats!’

‘Well that’s just it,’ they said, ‘it’s not just about meat…’ View Post

GAWD 23 years is a LONG TIME isn’t it?? More than half my life in fact. Over 8000 days.

Oh hang on, 8000 days somehow doesn’t sound as much does it? Let’s stick with 23 years.

Donkey Sanctuary

Any excuse to use the ‘Belle looking like the very small host of a donkey documentary’ photo.

Anyway, you’d hope that over that time I would have learnt a few things – you know, picked up some tips and tricks, stuff not to do. So here’s a list I came up with of some of the things I’ve learnt as a parent.

1.  You will always be a parent. Even when they grow up and leave home they still need you, just in different ways. (Mainly cash based.)

2.  Don’t take a toddler into a big Asda when they are tired or hungry. It WILL end in tears, probably yours in the car park.

3.  There is never a ‘right’ way to cut sandwiches – what was right yesterday will be wrong today so always check.

4.  Even when they get older and should have realised by now, your children will still think you know the ‘answers’. Belle asked me yesterday when the right amount of time is to tell someone you love them.

5.  Every school concert you ever go to will make you want to poke forks into yourself and then your youngest will leave school and you will cry quietly to yourself at the thought of never going to another badly performed nativity.

6.  Having pizza for two meals in one day is totally legitimate. View Post

Laura Dockrill has been a crush of mine for quite a few years now. She writes and performs with such an honest, imaginative voice – she’s just a joy. When I was asked if I fancied interviewing her ahead of her appearance this month at the Cheltenham Literature Festival I had a quick chat with the cats about it and they agreed that we definitely should. (I *may* have been spending too much time at home on my own lately.)

Laura Dockrill Cheltenham festival

Hi Laura, thanks so much for taking the time to answer some of my questions! I’ve followed (stalked) you on Twitter for ages, and so I’m thrilled to get to ask you some questions. [Me playing it cool.] Let’s start with Angry Cookie. This book is something slightly different for you in that it’s a picture book aimed at younger children – where did the inspiration come from and how was it different from writing for older readers?

I wanted to show anger in a different light and portray it as friendship, the importance of asking our friends if they are ok even if they push us away, even if it means we keep coming back. That is the importance of the reader, to keep coming back, to not give up on the cookie. And the cookie- I wanted to choose a traditionally stereotypically ridiculously sweet treat that could have all these anger issues to demonstrate that it can happen to absolutely everybody. I wanted to write something for little ones as I always visit them at school and never ever have anything for them to read so it was about time. And I’ve always wanted to work with Walker so it was a dream come true! View Post

In association with Planted

‘If I make some chocolate pancakes with a peanut butter sauce,’ I asked Belle one day this week, ‘will you eat them?’

‘Will I eat some chocolate pancakes,’ she said, looking like she might have misunderstood the question, ‘if you make them for me right now?’

‘Yes,’ I said.

‘Well yes,’ she said, ‘obviously.’

And so I did.

dairy free chocolate pancake recipe

I’d been trying to think up something to make with the cartons of Planted I’d been sent to try out, and who doesn’t love a chocolate pancake?

If you tend to look for dairy free alternatives, Planted could be worth trying the next time you’re shopping. It currently comes in two flavours – oat drink with banana and coconut drink with cocoa – and two more flavours are on the way along with smaller, ready to drink cartons.

Both flavours are vegan approved by the Vegetarian Society, and are fortified with calcium (for maintenance of normal teeth & bones), vitamin D (for absorption of calcium & phosphorous) and vitamin B₁₂ (for normal function of the immune system). They also tick the conservation box – a donation of 2p for every 1L carton sold goes to the Woodland Trust, the UK’s largest woodland conservation charity.

How to make dairy free chocolate pancakes

These dairy free chocolate pancakes are super quick and easy to make. All you need for the pancake mix is: View Post

In association with Breville

Smokey prawn quesadilla recipe

Belle is very much a creature of habit. She knows what she likes – Netflix, pizza, chocolate chip brioche – and she tends to stick to it. You will NEVER catch Belle browsing Prime Video while eating a burger. Just never.

She is also what I would call a fussy eater.

I’d always imagined that she would grow out of fussy eating. I thought that one day she would turn around and proclaim a new found love for courgettes, or request fresh fish for dinner, but it doesn’t seem to have happened. Sometimes she surprises me though and eats something that I would never have put her down for, like the sweet potato and peanut butter quesadilla at her favourite restaurant in Taunton, (Eat The Bird), which is served with avocado and sriracha chilli sauce.

Really Belle??

Ask her if she likes avocado and she will say no, but mashed up in a tortilla with some spicy sauce and apparently that’s a different thing entirely. I have tried making it at home a few times, but I’m not sure I ever get the balance of ingredients quite right. At Eat The Bird she always gets half of her quesadilla to take away and that isn’t as much fun either when you’re already AT home.

I also tend to mess it up a bit because I have to do it in a frying pan and then flip it over. (Not one of my many talents.)

When Breville sent me one of their Ultimate Grills then, and asked me to create a recipe, I knew exactly what I wanted to do – a quesadilla. No more flipping, authentic Eat the Bird style griddle markings – what’s not to love? I decided to branch out from Belle’s filling of choice though and make something that was speedier, (i.e. no sweet potato roasting required), and that showed off the grill a bit more.

I settled on prawns because they are delicious, (obvs), and super easy to cook on the Breville Ultimate Grill. View Post