How did four weeks pass me by? I knew I’d missed a couple but would have sworn it was only a fortnight.

The herbs are doing well.

Ok, the sage and rosemary are. I have a fantastic sage butter pasta recipe but I need to make it again so I can take a picture. Because buttery pasta flecked with sage is so hard to imagine.

I somewhat ran with things once I’d done some planting and created an entire vegetable garden.

It looks nice when the lawn is mown. The crucial thing was that I spent very little. The paving slabs were coming up from a patio I’m changing, the cobbles were taken from around the pond that we’re changing and the pots were knocking around (some more heavily knocked than others!). I read something about French potage gardens and loved the idea of mixing in some flowers. I love alpines but wasn’t sure where to put them. In my potage garden naturally!

As if that wasn’t enough I got the husband involved and he built me a planter from old bits of decking. It’s placed on what used to be patio and the trellis will get trimmed soon. It was a quick solution to stop Morley and Satch using the bed as a litter tray!

Look inside! I grew these from seeds (the other stuff was all plug plants)
Radishes, two types of lettuce and... a surprise! I’ve still got the packets if I can’t work it out when they get bigger.

It’s been good fun as we’ve been able to get some fresh air and not work constantly on the businesses. Baby also seems quite fond of watching us labour so that was good.

Tonight between cooking dinner and editing client work I baked a cake I haven’t made in years. I used to make it when I did a lot of walking as a teenager as it kept well and was highly calorific. Seems crazy that the latter was a positive.

I’ve returned to it for a number of reasons. I’m already baking more as a life without treats seems pretty miserable and cake is cheaper than wine but I’m trying to look to traditional recipes to further push the budget. Over the years I’ve got into the habit of making luxurious fruit, nut and chocolate cakes. Almonds instead of flour, an entire jar of Nutella; it was hugely decadent but rare.

These were cakes that would have been alien to my grandmothers, particularly my father’s mother. Granny was a straightforward cook. Actually scrap that. She was a terrible cook but she baked well. Simple, practical cakes to sustain my farmer Grandad.

Sticky Gingerbread

This makes enough for a large roasting dish. I’m going to cut mine in three, wrap two in greaseproof paper then foil and freeze them. I won’t lie, you’re going to use a lot of pans.

Ingredients:


  • 225g butter
  • 225g black treacle
  • 225g soft brown sugar
  • 340g plain flour
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ pint milk
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Method:


  1. Grease and line a roasting tin with greaseproof paper. If it’s a manky old pan then your cake will taste of manky old pan. Be warned.
  2. Melt butter, treacle and sugar together in a large saucepan.
  3. Mix flour and spices in a big bowl.
  4. Heat milk to blood temperature and stir in bicarbonate of soda. Blood temperature is just body temperature but sounds far more gothic and it’s nice to counterbalance the vintage baking with a bit vampiric pondering.
  5. Add treacle mix to the flour and stir really well, scraping from the bottom. It takes a while but don’t use a mixer.*
  6. Once you have a nice homogenous mix, beat in the eggs. Actually I sometimes do this to help it along. I certainly don’t beat them beforehand. Another bowl would be the death of me.**
  7. Add the milk gradually. If you’re like me you’ll start slowly, get bored then make it hard on yourself. Persevere, it will come together. Do not consider using an electric whisk!
  8. Pour into your prepared cake tin and bake at 150°C for 45 minutes. Check and perhaps add a piece of greaseproof paper on top if it’s browning but not cooked. It’s done when a skewer comes out clean.
  9. It keeps really well. I’m simply freezing it because the husband and I lack will power and this is going to last three weekends. 
Picture
The beautiful lining was done by the husband. I am rubbish at it (too impatient) and usually get crinkled cake edges.
* It stretches the gluton or something. I used to know this stuff as I did a course with the Leith School of Cookery but I’ve been bunging stuff together for over a decade and just know what works without remembering the theory.

** Joke! I obviously mean dishwasher.

 
 
Some months ago I showed the husband the above video. He liked it (so much that “all retch and no vomit” is his current sig on forums) but as we tend to do, it was filed away in our minds. I find the statement “this video will change your life” which usually accompanies this video to be a touch hopeful but nevertheless, it can be a catalyst to change.

On Monday, the husband and I made a change because for us the answer to the question of what we would like to do if money were no object was easy to answer. We’d like to spend time together with our son, explore creative projects. He’d play the guitar and I’d bake. We’d travel and recreate the highlights of our travels thus taking the experience into our very souls.

For starters he’d quit his job.

Friday was his last day.

And breathe!

Now we’re not totally mad. We’ve got three months worth of mortgage, council tax etc in the joint account if we live frugally. I own a successful marketing agency, let out a number of properties and we’re about to launch a business I have high hopes about. This is probably about as calculated a risk as we could make and we’re in a fortunate position but it is very scary. Still, our son won’t be tiny forever and at five months old he’s just getting really awesome.

I’m returning to The Thursday Column to chart this journey. Hopefully it’ll be something to look back on fondly from our holiday home in Istanbul a few years down the line. I’m thinking the husband is making some tea while I glance over my files as a reminder of how it all began before the interviewer arrives to do one of those god awful pieces on women who have perfect lives and who you always hope have cellulite.*

I really hope that is what happens.

Meanwhile, as I dream of drinks overlooking the Blue Mosque (I have done this before, it’s utterly gorgeous) my current activities are a little less grand. For I have planted herbs and fried falafel.


* I’ll have cellulite. Pinkie promise.

The Herb Pot

Picture
I have always failed at growing herbs so was rather excited to read an article in the March edition of Red Magazine that was all about easy to grow herbs, reliable vegetables and so forth. Rosemary, thyme and sage were thus on my list to try. Imagine my joy then a couple of weekends ago when on Gardener’s World (it was the first time I’ve seen it and boys was it exciting) Monty Don explained how to plant just these three. I waited as long as I could before bounding upstairs to wake the husband to talk about horticultural grit.

He took my enthusiasm rather well considering he’d been up between 2.15 and 5.45 with our son who was rather under the weather. It was 11am so he’d had chance to sleep in fairness and I had made him a coffee. That afternoon we headed out and spent £15 on grit, three plants and some plant food. Yikes! That’s hardly budgeting but I’m trying to have faith that we’ll have lots of herbs all summer and it’ll be worth it.

For this project I used:


  • Cobbles from a badly designed pond by my houses’ former owner
  • 1 large plastic container (left over from a plant my mum gave us for the garden)
  • Top soil from the hole my mum dug to insert plant into said garden
  • Horticultural grit (£3.99)
  • A Rosemary plant (£2.99)
  • A Sage plant (£2.99)
  • A Thyme plant (£1.49)
  • Herb food (£2.99)

 What I did:

  1.  Filled the container with cobbles to leave a space about 9 inches deep
  2. Mixed soil and grit 50:50 and planted the herbs within this
  3. Gave it all a good water, poured on some feed and put it in a sunny spot

Where I’ve been going wrong it seems is that these “Mediterranean” herbs like well drained soil and sun. By planting them in compost I was keeping them too damp.


Falafel

Picture
Part of my plan is to eat good food as cheaply as possible. I had a 500g bag of dried chick peas and decided to make Falafel. I made 8 servings for around £3 which is great. Where the expense lies is the salad but I bought a punnet of “living salad” from Lidl and am hopeful of keeping it alive and reharvesting it.



Ingredients:
  • 1 litre vegetable oil (£1.59 from Tesco**)
  • About 100g plain flour (about 8p)
  • 500g dried chick peas (£1.09 from Tesco – I’m sure these can be bought in bulk for far less)
  • 3-4 small onions (about half of a 69p bag from Lidl)
  • ½ bulb of garlic (24p from Tesco)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 medium free range eggs (approx 70p from Tesco)
  • 3 tbsp Tahini paste (£1.49  for a 180g jar from Sainsbury’s)
  • 2 tbsp dried cumin
  • 2 tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp dried ginger
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon

Method:
  1. Soak chick peas for 24 hours then simmer for an hour.
  2. Finely chop onion and garlic (I use a food processor) and sweat in olive oil until soft.
  3. Put 1/3 of the chick peas in the food processor with 1 tbsp Tahini paste and blitz. Add an egg and process until smooth. Scrape into a large bowl and repeat twice.
  4. Add onion mixture and spices and mix thoroughly.
  5. Heat oil in a large lidded pan until a small cube of bread sizzles upon contact.
  6. Take large dessert spoonfuls of falafel mix and drop into the flour, dust lightly then roll between your hands. Make 24 falafels.
  7. Using a slotted spoon lower the falafels into the hot oil. Only cook 3-4 at a time or you’ll lower the temperature of the oil. They’re ready when they’re a dark golden brown. Drain well on kitchen towel.
  8. I allowed three per person so kept six aside and froze the rest. While they taste best straight from the pan I was batch cooking late afternoon so to serve they went on a dry baking tray in a 180 oven for 15 minutes to warm through.



** Oil used for frying can be used three times. Just allow it to cool and decant back into the bottle. It looks manky I warn you.



 
 
For nearly a month now the only news I’ve come across has been that which people on my social media platforms have commented on. So unless it is a hot topic on Mumsnet or inspires a friend to post a link on Facebook I’ve been in the dark. I rather imagined this would be the case and that my world would get very small after my son was born and would then gradually open out again. It came as a surprise to one of the midwives on the maternity ward however, when she remarked on a hurricane or some such and was surprised I had no idea what she was talking about. I’m not sure how she thought I’d be gaining information what with it being my fifth night in a hospital with poor WiFi signal on a ward that didn’t feature a newspaper the entire time I was there. Perhaps she thought the husband was rushing to my bedside to discuss the weather rather than how the baby was doing.

At any rate one story has popped up in enough places that despite my most blinkered stumbling through the days I have picked up the gist of it. Two Australian DJs phoned King Edward VII Hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge had been admitted for Hyperemesis gravidarum pretending to be the Queen and Prince Charles. Then amid criticism for the nursing staff who gave out personal information, Jacintha Saldanha committed suicide.

A sad thing to happen but bewilderingly there has been utter vitriol for the DJs and I can’t for the life of me see what they did wrong or how they are in any way responsible. People are responsible for their own actions. Yes they can be pushed to desperation by the actions of others but if Saldanha truly killed herself due to this one instance of public humiliation then she must have been near the edge already. That she was a mother and in a caring profession makes me quite uneasy as surely someone should have seen she was having problems. I completely fail to believe the media storm was anything but the final straw in the life of a desperate woman.

I’m left wondering why people get so angry and why they directed it at the DJs. Is it because it can’t be directed at Saldanha? After all, it is her actions that have devastated her family. When dealing with grief anger is a normal response and given the fury I have at times felt towards my father and stepfather for dying on us, I can’t begin to imagine how you process someone choosing to inflict that upon you (and sorry but I just don’t buy mental illness as an excuse, depression or whatever just isn’t on a par with cancer).

We aren’t allowed to judge those that take their own lives. We’re meant to be understanding and sympathetic. Does this mean that we are left with judgement needed to be directed somewhere, anywhere and in this instance the DJs are an easy target?


 
 
I must be quite quite insane.

This time last year our house was in the final stages of being renovated whilst I planned my wedding and tried to establish a freelance career. It was a bit much and the noise and flow of people through the house saw me put the copywriting to one side.

A year on and while juggling my fledgling agency and a newborn baby it seemed a great time to get a new kitchen...

My reasoning was based on the fact the kitchen fitters weren’t available any earlier and I wanted it doing at some point. Would it be any easier with a toddler? With a small child? At least a baby sleeps most of the time and doesn’t move much. It’s fine actually and it’s only taking three days (then a few days with a plasterer then shopping for light fittings and tiles then trying to find a decorator and hmm...).

The business isn’t terribly optional what with the husband having been made redundant but the upside is he can take care of our son while I try to cobble together enough brain cells to work.

And the baby can’t be dropped as he’s the point of pretty much everything. He’s also pretty vocal about his needs being met.

What is strange is that it’s been six weeks since I posted and yet PFB (Precious First Born*) is only 15 days and the husband only took down the old kitchen tiles (kick starting the kitchen renovation) on Sunday. While I feel like I’m living in a slight fog of sleep deprivation and dairy cow empathy I’m actually about as focused and driven as I’ve ever been. I’m loathe to procrastinate at my laptop as time spent typing is time spent not gazing at the utter perfection of PFB.

As soon as I realise I need a screen break I bundle PFB into the pram and we head out for a walk. I wrote the above between tasks because I needed to get some of it out of my head and wanted to get back into the habit of writing but I’m done now. I intend to regain the habit of writing this column but for now I have a baby to gaze at and a husband to celebrate with.

He came home from picking my stepsons up from school with good news. He got a job offer today!

* Gotta love Mumsnet terminology! 

 
 
My stepsons eat slowly. While desperate not to give them issues over food, the husband and I also recognise aspects as being a control method. Some time ago I realised the eldest seemed to relish his father’s attention telling him to eat up and stop messing about. My solution was the introduction of half an hour of time that is just for the two of them after the youngest has gone to bed. I’m tough on bad behaviour but am determined never to punish sad behaviour. This boost of one to one time has seen a lot of naughty for attention actions (by my interpretation) disappear.

A recent initiative is two small alarm clocks minus batteries. They start the weekend with 30 minutes and can earn additional minutes by eating their tea within 30 minutes, tidying their rooms etc. The time earned is spent on the computer or Xbox. It’s early days but seems to be working. It takes the husband and I out of the equation to a large degree as the boys can choose to eat sensibly or not, earn computer/Xbox time or not.

Today the youngest managed it and the husband took him off to watch TV while I cleared up. The eldest took another 25 minutes. We had a brief talk where I said he didn’t have to eat absolutely everything but we had to make him eat something. I reminded him that I have always said that if he has requests then I’ll cook what he’d like but that our meal this evening wasn’t something new; it was something he’d eaten before and liked.

He didn’t contradict me. He just sat there thinking and pushing rice and peas around his plate.

“I think it’s just luck.”

“What?”

“I think it’s just luck what I’ll decide I want to eat.”

“That doesn’t help me plan does it sweetheart?”

“No Kay.”

And he speared the last piece of bacon and put it in his mouth.


 
 
“Argh, F...IDDLESTICKS”

Well that’s a new word. I honestly don’t think I have ever uttered it before and am certain that’s the first time I’ve typed it.

I’m rather proud of myself and am taking it as my win for the day. I’m exhausted and in rather a lot of discomfort. I got up from the sofa to be hit with a new wave of pelvic pain yet gripping the mantelpiece did not swear in front of the kids.

I fear what constitutes an achievement is diminishing by the day. And on that note, this will suffice for this week’s column.

 
 
To clarify, I don’t foresee him getting busy any time soon but I’ve seen a lot of horror films and my suspicions have been raised.

I’m the first to admit I’m not great with technology. So when the screen in the living room that I refer to as a TV* challenges me I generally let it go (with the exception of the time I smashed the remote control). Oh I rant and rave but generally concede that it is evil, the husband uses voodoo and don’t get involved.

But the boiler is not complex. Yesterday the button that makes you switch between the options for on, off and timed wouldn’t move. When he got in, the husband suggested it may be that I needed to adjust the thermostat. So today I did just that and got nothing. I turned the boiler off and then on again then got cross. The husband (there is no escape – I send cross angry texts when he has the audacity to be out of the house) was sympathetic but said there was nothing he could do. Understandably.

Then I hit upon an idea.

What annoys me is that these things never happen to him. He’ll walk in through the door, press the button and the options will scroll. He has learnt not to speak at this point as I’m liable to start screaming.

But what if I could prove I do the exact same things he does? So I grabbed my phone and turned the video on. Filming myself I pressed the button...

...and it worked!

The house will not concede that it acts one way for me and another way for him. I’m happy as not only is the heating now set to ‘on’ but I feel like I’ve discovered a magical loophole to things not working for me when I use the exact same method as the husband.

So why do I think he might kill me?

It’s not because I’m driving him mad. It’s because the realisation that my house is sentient and doesn’t like me is very rarely a good thing.

Our house doesn’t look evil like the Amityville house and it doesn’t feel evil (especially not in the way “the house of unmitigated evil” did**) but it’s not good. In the Amityville Horror the wife repeatedly voices her concerns but her husband is too involved, set on a path towards her and the children’s ultimate murder.

The husband merely raised an eyebrow when I told him my possessions were causing me suspicion but there’s no proof. I pointed out that if he tolerated this then the children would be next but he just laughed. Upon reflection Crowded House and Manic Street Preachers lyrics may not be the best way to make ones point.

I’m not sure what the best course of action is.

* It is not a TV but a third screen for the computer system that runs the house’s media. Similarly we don’t have stereos but squeezeboxes that play simultaneously across all three floors of the house. This explains why I have a husband that doesn’t fish, play golf, watch sport (other than motorsport and that doesn’t seem to consume people in the way football or rugby does) or go out drinking with the lads.

** I wondered why a pretty double-fronted detached seven bed house was in our budget. It was because we wouldn’t have stayed a night in that house if you’d given it to us for free. I swear, the walls in the basement looked like they were bleeding. I lightly said “that’s paint right?” and the estate agent said “almost certainly” (he wasn’t a fan of the place either).


 
 
Once upon a time nine dead babies was the kind of thing I’d have noted a passing sadness for the parents of. Last Friday it became deeply personal as it became apparent that a number of pregnant women were going to have a fight on their hands.

There has been a rise in the number of reported cases of Whooping cough, so far in 2012 there have been three times the cases of the entirety of 2011. Children in the UK get vaccinated at two months old meaning there is a window of time where newborn babies are incredibly vulnerable. Whooping cough can be pretty nasty for adults and older children but as nine sets of parents have learnt so far this year, it kills babies.

The good news is that on Monday, vaccines started being rolled out for women between 28 and 38 weeks pregnant. Given to expectant mothers (whether they’ve previously been immunised or not), the resultant antibodies we produce get passed onto our unborn children fortifying their defences for those vulnerable first eight weeks. Of course, there are plenty of women angry that it has taken so long. I cannot imagine the impotent fury of those with newborns or whose labour is imminent as this has hardly come out of the blue.

The stories started slowly on Mumsnet; GP surgeries that hadn’t seen the news (or read their emails) and who weren’t giving appointments for jabs. While I’ve read positive reports of GPs calling their pregnant patients to offer them the vaccine, plenty of us have had to fight.

I called on Tuesday and was told they weren’t doing them yet. I’m 34 weeks pregnant today (which according to some reports is the best time to have the jab) and fortunately had read the story of a woman who knew the NHS from the inside. I politely explained that I required a service that was government policy and that I’d be getting it somewhere. If they couldn’t provide the care I required could they please give me a contact number so I could book with another surgery. The receptionist said she’d check again and amazingly it turned out I could have the vaccine and would I like an appointment for the same afternoon as I was booked to see my midwife?

I think the worst argument I’ve read was the woman who managed to speak to a manager who was deciding between allowing her the vaccine that was earmarked for the booster jabs of school children. The plan was to treat the school children and give the pregnant women the delivery due in a fortnight. The manager asked the pregnant women whether she wanted to deny children the vaccine. Of course she did! Two weeks would make no difference to the children already immunised and with relatively developed immune systems but she was already 36 weeks pregnant and every day she was producing antibodies, the better for her baby. She got the vaccine.

I’m not objective, I recognise that. This is a clear indicator of how I’m starting to take policy and its enactment deeply personally.

That’s not to say I’m not new to fighting. I successfully got a GPs appointment (as opposed to a nurses’) at the family planning clinic when I had my coil fitted. It was a second attempt and I wanted anaesthetic gel. But it was different. In that case I saw my request as exactly that, a request. While I believe women should have choice regarding their treatment but fair enough if that means waiting longer or having to travel further.

With demanding my vaccine I was defending my child. I wasn’t prepared to wait until it was convenient for the surgery to help him, I’m his mother and it’s my job to take care of him.

My midwife asked whether I’d considered having the flu jab at my appointment and I said I was about to have it. She smiled and made a note on my record. I added that I was having the Whooping cough jab at the same time. “I didn’t think we were offering it yet” she said. “That wasn’t going to stop me” I replied with a smile. She laughed despite herself in a way that clearly demonstrated approval.

It has to be a tough job and I imagine midwives are having a frustrating time as they are the ones that deal with the majority of the fears and concerns of the hormonally unhinged section of society that I currently enjoy membership of.

I feel a bit like a pin cushion having had a jab in either arm and like previous times I’ve had the flu jab I’m starting to feel like I’m coming down with a cold. But I can at least comfort myself with the knowledge that every bit of neck ache and extra tiredness is for him.

This new subjectivity serves a purpose. By losing my ability to prioritise anything over my child, my body ensures that he never slips far from my thoughts. Frustrating as baby brain is, I remember every antenatal appointment and class. It’s comforting as for several months now I’ve felt somewhat dreamily that I’ve suffered an invasion of the body snatchers. If it achieves something then I can live with that.

Still, the slippery slope starts here I fear...

 
 
I’m not a patient woman but while I will never have the sympathy for machinery that the husband wishes I had, I have accepted that some things need to come in their own time. The husband is a prime example of this. He once asked why he hadn’t met me when he was single (ie. before his first wife) and I pointed out I was underage and my parents were the sort to have pressed charged for statutory rape. But I believe that you meet people when you need to. The husband came into my life at exactly the point I needed him. And of course his first marriage was vital for two huge reasons – my stepsons.

But even though I know that some things need waiting for it doesn’t make life’s limbo periods any easier. I know that in the near future I’ll be looking back on this time with a degree of wistfulness. I’m 33 weeks (about 7½ months) pregnant and after this week I’m going to be reducing the number of meetings I arrange. I plan to spend more time pottering around and resting. I’m sure that the challenges of a newborn will soon cast this period in a rosy light but right now it’s somewhat frustrating to struggle with complex tasks like bending over and getting something out of the washing machine.

I fear I’m not one for whom a beatific glow comes naturally. Perhaps I should try knitting, would that give me that contented nesting mother look?

Still, the limbo is less about impending parenthood than it is about our financial future. The husband’s employer seems to be drip feeding details about his redundancy (although it seems they will be pretty good to him overall and he’ll be getting his paternity leave) and we’re waiting to hear about a number of jobs he’s been put forward for by various recruitment consultants. We’re also looking at a couple of business ventures but uncertainty over cash flow and when the husband will actually be leaving means these are also things we’re waiting to get started on.

I guess it comes down to me struggling to accept that there are factors that I cannot influence. In the past few years I’ve taken greater and greater charge over my own life from going freelance and becoming my own boss to deciding that company reps would never be anything but hurdles to negotiate - it struck me with sudden clarity that it would be absurd to not have my house because the person at the mortgage company handling our case said no. No disrespect to the individual but they were just playing with numbers on a computer, in the grand scheme of my life they were a transition character. I just had to establish why they were saying no and present a case that beat them.

Similarly, when I spoke to a rep from the cheapest car insurer when gathering quotes about a year ago and she said I was illegible because the car was an import, I thanked her and hung up. I then rang straight back and tried again with another rep. I correctly guessed that she suffered from either inexperience or the ability to think intelligently and how to work around the system.

But while there are always ways of doing things, at times that way involves waiting. Sitting and letting them unfold at their own pace. I ordered some bulbs for the garden a few months ago and they recently arrived as only now are they ready to be planted. I have conceded my will to the garden (even I refuse to fight with mother nature*) and happily move with the seasons but there’s a pattern to them. There is no rhyme or reason that is shared with the husband and I regarding the shadowy factors affecting our lives.

Of course, it’s up to us how we respond. As Eleanor Roosevelt wisely observed, ‘nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent’ and you are only as passive as you allow yourself to be. If we let things get us down in a significant way then that’d be a bit pathetic. It’d be conceding power to people who have no interest in us. None of it is personal and making it so would be simultaneously egotistical and weak spirited.

But it still rather sucks.

You can be as positive as you like but waiting is rather boring!

* Although I may attempt some encouragement towards bringing on labour by using the likes of clary sage oil in a few weeks time! 


 
 
I read an article this week where a psychoanalyst was negative about the trend for five year plans. I don’t think like that, for me my 40 before I’m 40 list is about aspirations and dreams. Just as I’ve only done 22 of the things on my 30 before I’m 30 list, I see this as something to inspire me. I won’t see myself as having failed if I don’t achieve it all, instead if I only manage a handful of things, I’ll have done some awesome things!

Categorised because 40 is a lot!

Food

1)    Eat at the Fat Duck

This was originally what I wanted for my 30th Birthday present but didn’t want to do it pregnant.

2)    Run a restaurant

This will most likely be a pop-up or supper club rather than a restaurant in the traditional sense.

3)    Do a sugarcraft course

My cakes taste great. I can’t decorate them for toffee.

4)    Make jam

Doesn’t seem hard.

5)    Cook all of the recipes in the Le Cordon Bleu at Home cookbook

There are 90 lessons. I’ve done about three

6)    Learn to make sushi

I already have the stuff I need. I really should just do it!

7)    Teach the boys to cook

Slightly value and the youngest will be 9 when I turn 40 but he can be a fair way there.

Travel and Experiences

8)    Take my stepsons on their first foreign holiday

They have never left the country and we’ve discussed it with their mother. The hope is to go to Spain next summer. My parents took me to Spain a lot as a child so it’s rather special to me. Naturally the baby will be coming with us but taking him abroad is a given.

9)    Take an annual trip with the husband

My mum and dad had time away from my brother and I. The first will probably be to a hotel in Manchester while the baby is at my mothers’ but what is important is that I am a wife as well as a mother.

10) Swim in the Dead Sea

Mmm floaty light.

11) Spend a week in Rome

I’ve never considered Rome for a mini break as I want to do it at leisure and see lots of sights. One to save up for.

12) Take the husband to the Far East

I can’t wait to show him!

13) Visit Egypt

My mum, brother and eldest stepbrother have all been and it looks amazing.

14) Experience the thermal pools in Iceland

Not that there’s much else to do in Iceland...

15) Attend the Goodwood Revival

Cars and Fashion together. What’s not to love?

16) Run the London Marathon

The idea of this terrifies me but I’d love to see London from that perspective.

17) Go on safari

I was never bothered until I did a mini elephant safari in Sri Lanka and was blown away by watching them in their natural habitat. Now I just need to convince the husband that he wants to go!

Fashion

18) Learn how to apply eye liner

I can’t. I need to be taught.

19) Buy a red lipstick

I have never worn red lipstick. Apparently there’s a shade for everyone.

20) Go blonde

I went red in the pursuit. I think it needs trying properly (ie. via hairdresser) once.

21) Fit back into my corset

My corset is tiny. I currently have a waist measurement over 40 inches. I want to lose the baby weight.

22) Have a dress made for me

My sister-in-law-to-be is having her wedding dress made for her. I was never that bothered about my wedding dresses (I’ve had three) but like the idea of something I wear time and time again.

23) Buy more designer shoes

I bought my Jimmy Choo’s when I threw out my ex husband and my Louboutins when I passed my PhD. I like the idea of my collection reflecting key moments in my life. Speaking of which, having a baby is a pretty big deal... is the Prada S/S range still in the shops?

24) Attend London Fashion Week

I’m not too concerned about trying to get tickets to a show but there’s so much else going on that sounds fabulous.

Home

25) Complete a large cross stitch kit

I’ve done cross stitch for years but rarely finish anything as I’m not a fan of the finished article (I do it because it’s meditative). I’d like to actually finish the one I’m working on now though. No real reason.

26) Make annual photo books and DVDs

I already sort my images but this is the next stage. I want to chart the children growing up.

27) Read a Dickens novel

I’ve read loads of the classics but have never finished a Dickens. My best was getting through ¾ of Great Expectations. It bugs me.

28) Rebuild the deck and get a garden room

To be exact, pay someone to do this for me.

29) Decorate seasonally

This is something I started in January when the living room felt really bare after the Christmas decorations came down. I have a few Spring/Summer decorations (eg. bud vases) and want to roll this out so that year round the house keeps changing its look.

Money

30) Pay off the mortgage

Really quite hugely aspirational since we have about 33 years left on it but our monthly repayments are small so once we’re settled regarding the husband’s post redundancy move I’ll look to increase them.

31) Not become a millionaire but...

Sure it’d be nice to be a millionaire but my focus is on having an income that requires minimum input such as that from rental properties, owned businesses and so forth. The husband and I have lots of ideas about how to make this happen.

32) Have a plan in case all three kids want to go to medical school when they grow up

See above.

33) Invest in a piece of art

The husband and I have been discussing future investments and rather fancy taking a punt on art. We’d only buy something we loved so it would be risk-free in that respect but you never know, we could hit on the next big thing.

34) Understand the stock market

Because I haven’t a clue.

Skills

35) Learn to ski

I wanted to do this at university but I had ME (Myalgic encephalomyelitis) then I focused my travel on the Far East. I imagine I’ll be terrible at it but want to give it a go. I reckon I’d rock après ski though!

36) Blow glass

I want to do a glass blowing course. I reckon a day long experience would do, just enough so I have something I can look at and think ‘I made that.’

37) Be able to touch my toes (again)

Just before I became pregnant I touched my toes for the first time as an adult (after doing The Shred). I want to be able to get back to that point and stay there. I’ve never been very flexible but want to change that, if only to help me stay healthy as I get older.

38) Teach my (biological) son to swim

I can’t wait to do this. I was getting excited at the Huggies Little Swimmers at Sainsburys today. I met a foster mum in a pool a short while back and she had taken her foster son from 6 weeks.  

39) Learn a foreign language

I’ve been lazy. I didn’t even learn Malay when I lived in Malaysia. But I’d like to buy a property abroad one day and my current choice would be Istanbul so I want to learn Turkish.

And finally...

40) Make a 50 before I’m 50 list!

It’s the only way to go.