40 Things Before I’m 40: Annual Update (2019)

On my 33rd birthday three years ago,  I posted a list of 40 things I want to do, achieve and experience before I turn 40 years old in 2023. I’d originally started the list when I turned thirty but I hadn’t launched my blog at that point so it existed solely in the relative privacy of one of my numerous notebooks for a few years. By the time I actually (finally) shared it in my little corner of the internet I’d already ticked off a few items and so it felt like I had a tiny bit of a head start.

I write an update each year on or around my birthday so I can keep track of how I’m getting on (and keep myself accountable). This one documents my achievements for the year to date as I celebrate thirty-six trips around the sun.  Thirty-six!  I can’t quite wrap my head around that.  I still feel like I’m sixteen.

In the last twelve months I’ve only managed to fully tick off one more thing – #9: Re-read all of the Harry Potter books, though there are several more in progress (numbers 12, 17, 22 and 28, all described below) which will hopefully be completed by the time I come to write next year’s update.

 

THE LIST

1. Own a kitten (completed November 2015, age 32 and then again November 2017, age 34)

Three and a half years ago we adopted a feisty little ginger kitten called Pumpkin. He very quickly became part of our family and all of us adored him. He had a purr like a motorbike, a wonky leg and a habit of getting himself into tight spots with the other neighbourhood cats. At the start of November 2017, just two weeks after we got back from our holiday-of-a-lifetime to Florida, Pumpkin went missing. He never stayed out all night so when he didn’t come home one evening we knew something was wrong. We searched everywhere and eventually it transpired that he’d been fatally hit by a car. In short, losing him absolutely devastated us. The memory of it still does.

After several weeks we couldn’t bear the silence or the loneliness any more. Pumpkin had taken up such a big space in our hearts and all of us felt empty without a feline presence in the house. We began to think about adopting another kitten – not to replace him because he was utterly irreplaceable. More to give us somewhere to focus our love. Within a couple of weeks a litter of four kittens came available and we fell in love with Felix and Luna. They’re now almost 18 months old, are completely bonkers and we couldn’t be without them.

Our handsome boy Pumpkin, not long before we lost him.

Felix just after we adopted him

Luna at nine weeks old

2. Get another tattoo

3. Start writing a book

4. Go to New York

5. Embrace my natural curls

6. Get married! (completed June 2014, age 31)

Neil and I celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary next month (and fifteen years together in August!). I honestly can’t believe how quickly the time has gone. We don’t really do much to celebrate our anniversaries, though we’ve already decided we want to do something special for our ten year wedding anniversary. In a way I’m glad we did it the ‘wrong way round’ and got married after we had our girls – I loved that they could be a part of our day and they still talk about it now.

The husband and I on our wedding day five years ago

7. Learn to dance

8. Start a family blog (completed March 2016, age 32)

I’ve been blogging now for just over three years and simply can’t imagine not doing it. It’s become a big part of my life and I’m continuing to work hard to be able to turn it into a viable career path. I’m enjoying immersing myself in all the new things I still have to learn and I feel like I’m slowly building up a little community of online friends. I have met quite a few in person now: Kerri-Ann from Life As Our Little Family; Jenny from Let’s Talk Mommy; Lucy from Capture By Lucy; Laura from Little Ladies Big World; Penny from Parentshaped; Katy from Otis and Us; Suzanne from Inside, Outside and Beyond; Caro from The Twinkle Diaries; Jess Soothill, Pamela from Scottish Family Living and Emma from Brummy Mummy Of 2!

It’s always a little bit nerve-wracking meeting new people, especially ones from the internet that you feel like you already know but don’t really – not properly anyway. Of course it turns out that they are all just as lovely in real life! I’m slowly and gradually beginning to build up a loyal and genuine group of followers too and I absolutely couldn’t do it without Neil and the girls, my biggest supporters. I am forever grateful to them for putting up with my crazy requests, letting me shove a camera in their faces without warning and spending hours glued to my laptop and/or phone. I can’t wait to see how it continues to grow over the next few years.

A January meetup in Birmingham with a lovely bunch of bloggers (L-r: Jess, Jenny, Pamela, Kerri-Ann, me, Suzanne and Caro)

9. Re-read all the Harry Potter books (completed July 2018, age 35)

It may have taken me almost eighteen months, but I did it!  I have really enjoyed re-immersing myself in all of the Harry Potter books: there were hundreds of little details that I had forgotten about and it almost felt like I was reading them for the first time.  They’re so full of messages that I want my girls to know – things like loyalty and bravery and friendship, standing up for what you believe in and finding the light in the dark, and family.  And of course Dumbledore’s infinite wisdom is inherently present and woven through every story. They’re wonderful.  I wrote this post documenting my thoughts about it all and then finished off the experience properly by taking the girls to the Warner Bros Studio Tour in August of last year for our ‘big summer day trip’, which we all absolutely loved.

My beloved Harry Potter books

10. Embrace my inner hippie

11. Learn how to put on eyeliner

12. Create a beautiful garden (work in progress, started Nov 2016 and still ongoing)

I’ve not crossed this one out yet as it’s obviously going to continue to be a work in progress – it takes time and patience to create a beautiful garden. In November 2016 we finally bit the bullet after saving up for ages and had landscapers come in to sort out the scrubby patch of ‘grass’ (ahem, weeds) that was our back garden. We now have a raised lawn with borders, a trellis to hide the bins, and a patio.  I’ve now planted the borders with a couple of roses, some evergreen shrubs and lots of colourful Spring bulbs, so it’s getting there slowly.

Not much colour yet but hopefully the garden will start looking better and better over the coming months.

13. Experience hot tub cinema

14. Swim in the sea

15. Go to Paris for a long weekend

16. Take the girls to Disney in Florida (completed October 2017, age 34)

I didn’t go to Disney as a child, though I loved listening to the stories my best friend told me about her trips to Florida.  I knew without a doubt that when I had children of my own I would take them there – I wanted them to experience the magic she told me about. The husband and I spent many hours talking about when might be the ‘right’ time to go – we wanted the girls to be old enough to be able to remember the trip and at the same time we wanted to make sure they were young enough to still believe in the magic, at least a little bit. We spent years saving up (for a family of six it’s a huge expense – totally worth it of course, but an awful lot of money for just one holiday, even if it is a trip of a lifetime) and eventually travelled out there in 2017. We managed to keep it secret for nine whole months, eventually telling the girls about the surprise a month before we were due to fly. The video of the moment they found out is below.

Of course we had an absolutely fantastic time! The Disney magic is real, for sure. It was hard work – keeping six people with very different wants and needs happy, with jet lag, heat and overexcitement added into the mix is quite tricky – but despite that we loved every second of it. We made so many memories, reconnected in the way we hoped we would and had a lot of fun. We’re already planning (and saving up for) a return trip so that we can see all the areas of the parks that we missed first time round as well as explore what else the Sunshine State has to offer. Of course I took hundreds of photos and had so much to write about that I ended up writing five posts in total: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four and Part Five. I also created a vlog of our time there which I absolutely love watching and so do the girls (also below).

Meeting Mickey Mouse was my personal highlight of our whole trip – the moment I felt like we were really there.

And this is one of my favourite photos from our holiday. The teenager and the littlest gazing at Cinderella’s Castle.

17. Have a love-bombing day with each of the girls (work in progress, started November 2018)

Now that Ella is at high school (I can’t believe we’re almost at the end of her first year there already) whilst her sisters remain at primary school, it means that sometimes the inset days and ‘back to school’ dates are different.  I took advantage of this back in November last year when Ella had a day off for teacher training, cleared my diary of all work and obligations and decided to give her a ‘Yes Day’.  We had six whole hours together and I told her that she could choose to do whatever she wanted and I would say yes to it (within realistic time and monetary boundaries).

I had no idea what she would choose to do and considering she could have asked for us to do absolutely anything at all she decided quite modestly to do the things she currently really enjoys: tea and cake at her favourite café followed by shopping for clothes and then an afternoon snuggling on the sofa watching her favourite YouTube videos together.  They were such simple requests but they made her so very happy and we spent a really lovely day together chatting and laughing and cuddling.  I forget sometimes just how much one-to-one attention can fill them up and make them feel so very loved – I need to create space to do it with Mimi and Lola at some point over the next few months too.

Ella and I on her lovebombing day last year

18. Upcycle a piece of furniture

19. Meet a celebrity (completed October 2016, age 33)

For five years (up until the end of 2017) I worked in Harley Street in London and I used to quite regularly see celebrities wandering around the streets: Fearne Cotton, Emma Willis, Russell Howard and Peter Andre are the ones that spring to mind.  I was nowhere near brave enough to actually approach them and ask for a selfie though! Besides, I wanted this particular item on the list to be a meaningful one so I’m really happy that I managed to fulfil that requirement. Meeting Cheryl Strayed and getting my book signed after a talk she gave in London a few years back was very poignant for me.  I love her book ‘Wild’ (and, unusually, the film adaptation too – I normally hate films based on books but Reese Witherspoon did such a fantastic job that it was impossible to do anything other than love it) and have since read several other of her books too – they’re all brilliant.  I still think about the conversation I had with her even now, three years on from our encounter.

Cheryl Strayed talking about her experiences on the PCT and how they inspired her to write ‘Wild’

20. Girly day with my daughters

21. Take some online photography classes

22. Proper spa day (work in progress)

For Christmas 2018 my husband and stepdaughter gave me a voucher for a spa day at Moddershall Oaks, a luxury country spa retreat in Staffordshire.  I’ve been there twice before, both several years ago now: once for a friend’s hen-do and once for the evening wedding reception of a different friend.  It’s an absolutely beautiful venue and the spa facilities are fantastic – I can’t wait to go back.  My stepdaughter wants to be the one who comes with me (and I can’t say I blame her!) so we just need to figure out a date that works for us both.  I’m planning to have the full works: massage, facial, manicure and pedicure.

23. Climb a tree (completed September 2016, age 33)

This happened completely spontaneously when we discovered some very climb-able trees whilst out exploring a new walking route. It was super fun (and challenging) and now every time we go for a walk down the canal we have to visit the ‘Ladder Tree’ and climb up as high as we can go.

Me, up a tree

24. Volunteer

25. Join a yoga class (completed October 2015, age 32)

Yoga is one of my few ‘non-negotiables’. I’ve been doing it for three and a half years now and I go every week without fail – absolutely nothing gets in the way of it (apart from a sick child or us being on holiday).  The only exception has been these past three months and it’s been through circumstances rather than choice that I’ve not been able to attend.  I’ve really felt the difference in my mental wellbeing from not going to my weekly class and I can’t wait to get back to it properly.

I wrote this post about my journey after I’d been doing it for a year and I can honestly say that it still makes a huge difference to my overall mental, emotional and physical health and I am incredibly grateful that I found my wonderful teacher/s when I did.

Me practising Wheel Pose. Getting there but need more practice!

26. Ride on the back of a motorbike

27. Be a tourist in London

28. Move house  (work in progress, started April 2019)

I’m thrilled to be able to say that this one is now a work in progress!  We’ve been talking about moving for years.  The house we currently live in is the first home we’ve ever owned and we intended to be here for maybe 4 to 5 years or so before moving on.  Those four or five years ended up turning into over a decade as our third daughter arrived and our personal circumstances, jobs and finances changed.  We looked around at other properties every so often but never found anything we really loved.

In February this year we had a fire in our kitchen and as awful and upsetting as it was, one positive to come out of it is that it’s served as a bit of a catalyst to make us take action.  We started searching property websites and quite quickly found a house that looked like it had potential.  On impulse, we booked a viewing for that same day and fell instantly in love.   Once the kitchen at our current house was finally fully replaced, we put it on the market and have already had several viewings and an offer in the space of just a couple of weeks.  We are keeping everything crossed that we can sell our house quickly so that we can put an offer in on the house we’ve found as it really is perfect for us.  Hopefully when I write this update next year I can tick this item off the list as completed and we’ll be fully settled into our new home!

The ‘for sale’ sign outside our house!

29. Do an Open University degree

30. Watch the sunrise and the sunset on the longest day of the year

31. Raise £1000 for charity

32. Go to a gig (completed July 2016, March 2017 and May 2019)

The husband and I saw James Bay perform in the beautiful outdoor setting of Cannock Chase Forest in the summer of 2016 and what an experience that was! Watching the sunset as he played was incredible and we were so lucky with the weather. We then went to see Olly Murs perform in Birmingham in March 2017 and it was such a great show that we saw him again just a couple of weeks ago on his ‘I Know You Know’ tour.  The husband has a little bit of a man-crush on Olly and I have to admit I’m in agreement with him.  All three gigs were absolutely brilliant in completely different ways and they’ve definitely given me the bug again now.  I’d love to see Ed Sheeran play live too.

James Bay playing Cannock Chase Forest in July 2016

Olly Murs in Birmingham March 2017

Olly Murs in Birmingham May 2019

33. Have a boudoir photo-shoot done

34. Get my ears pierced again

35. Take the girls to a festival

36. Do a Colour Run

37. Go paintballing

38. Do ‘Go-Ape’

39. Take a 3 month sabbatical from work

40. Have my 40th birthday in Hawaii 🙂

So there you have it… nine items ticked off, four in progress and twenty-seven still to get started on.  That means I need to average completing seven or eight items a year if I’m going to complete it all by the time I’m forty. I’ve definitely got my work cut out for me over the next four years. It blows my mind more than a little bit to realise that when I turn forty my stepdaughter will be 21, my eldest daughter will be 16, my middle daughter will be 14 (very nearly 15) and my littlest will be 13! It seems so far away when I think of it like that but I know that four years is going to go incredibly quickly. I can’t wait to choose which ones to complete next.

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