40 Things Before I’m 40: The Big 4-0!

On my 33rd birthday seven years ago, I wrote a post called ‘40 things Before I’m 40‘. It was a list of forty things that I wanted to do, achieve and experience before I turned forty years old.  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 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’ve written a ’40 Things Before I’m 40′ update each year on or around my birthday so I could keep track of how I was getting on (and keep myself accountable).  2021 was an exception to the rule: no post was written as I hadn’t ticked a single thing off thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.  Covid put a big spanner in the works in general actually – two years of limited capacity and restrictions on activities and travel has meant I’ve ended up quite a long way from finishing the list.

I adjusted my expectations and decided that I wanted to at least make it halfway – I aimed to complete twenty of the forty things.  I didn’t quite get there – I managed 17 in total.  I’m ok with that, I learned a long time ago to get better at letting go of the things I can’t control.

This 2023 post – the final update now that I’ve actually hit the milestone birthday – documents my achievements overall.  I celebrated forty trips around the sun a few weeks ago.  Forty!  I can’t quite wrap my head around that. I still feel like I’m eighteen years old inside (although the rapidly increasing number of worry lines on my forehead probably give the game away that I’m definitely not a teenager any more!).

In the last 12 months I ticked off three more items from my 40 Things Before I’m 40 list:

  • #5 – embrace my natural curls
  • #15 – go to Paris for a long weekend
  • #38 – do ‘Go-Ape’  

It’s been interesting to observe how my priorities have shifted as I’ve got older and to accept that I’ve changed my mind about things.   As my birthday drew ever closer I wasn’t even sure I actually wanted to do all of the things on the list any more anyway.  The me I was before would have felt like a failure, now I’m able to see it as being true to myself. I’m a different version of myself to who I was when I first wrote this list and growth can show up in the most unexpected of ways – I’m trying to embrace that.

Me, at forty.


40 Things Before I’m 40: The List


(Completed November 2015, age 32 and then again December 2017, age 34)

Seven 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. He was just two years old. Losing him absolutely devastated us. The memory of it still does to be honest.

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 as a way of giving us somewhere to focus our love. Within a couple of weeks a litter of four kittens became available through the Cats Protection League and we fell in love with Felix and Luna. They’re now five and a half years 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


(Work in progress)

I think I’ve pretty much settled on the design and style I want, it just needs refining a little bit and finalising properly.  I also need to decide for sure where I want the placement of it to be.  As a sort-of test run, I tried out a temporary tattoo from Inkbox – it was quite a lot bigger than the one I want but I really liked it and think it was a good way to help me make some choices that I’d been unsure about.  I was very impressed with the quality of the tattoo and how easy it was to apply.  It lasted for ages too.  Now all need to do is get brave enough to actually book an appointment to have it done for real!

This temporary Inkbox tattoo is similar in design to the real one I want to get


(Completed August 2022, age 39)

I have worn my hair straight since I was twelve years old.  I haven’t used actual straighteners for about ten years now, I just blow-dry it (still damaging, I know, but slightly less so at least), and I can honestly count on one hand the number of times I’ve left my hair to dry naturally since starting secondary school.  I don’t think I’ve ever left the house with it in it’s natural wavy/curly/frizzy state in the last 28 years.

I know it’s ridiculous and I am honestly the first person to advocate for feeling comfortable in your own skin exactly as you are and not needing to conform to society’s idea of beauty.  I wear minimal makeup on my face and fully accept my body with all it’s softness & edges & freckles but apparently I still have a rather complicated relationship with my hair.  It frustrates me, which is why I put this particular challenge on my list.

Last year we went on a family holiday to Nerja in Spain for a week in August.  It was HOT.  Far too hot to be bothering with hairdryers, especially after being in the swimming pool and getting my hair wet most days.  So one day I just left it to dry naturally on it’s own.  It wasn’t pre-planned, the need for comfort simply won out over the need for straight hair that day.  I even left the safety of the villa we were staying in and went out into town.  It felt good.  Odd, but good. I’m not sure whether I’ll repeat the experience anytime soon but at least I know I can do it and *whispers* actually sort-of like it.



(Completed June 2014, age 31)

Neil and I celebrate our ninth wedding anniversary in June this year (and nineteen years of being together in August!). It feels like forever ago – the girls were 12, 7, 6 and 4 years old respectively when we got married – and yet I honestly can’t believe how quickly the time has gone.  So much has happened since then and somehow both everything & nothing has changed.  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 nine years ago


(Completed March 2016, age 32)

I’ve been blogging now for over seven years and simply can’t imagine not doing it. It’s become an integral part of my everyday life and I’m continuing to work hard to be able to turn it into a viable career path by working with travel and lifestyle brands. I’m still enjoy immersing myself in all the new things there are to learn about the business and I feel like I’m slowly building up a little community of online friends.  I’m excited to see how it hopefully continues to grow over the next few years.


(Completed July 2018, age 35)

It may have taken me almost eighteen months in total, but I did it! I thoroughly 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 2018 for our ‘big summer day trip’, which we all absolutely loved.  We’re going again this summer and we’re all really looking forward to it.

My beloved Harry Potter books


(Work in progress, started 2019)

My Mum has often called me a witch (in a loving way!) – I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve called her just as she was about to pick up the phone to call me for example.  I dabbled with all sorts of ‘hippie’ things when I was a teenager – astrology, beads and braids in my hair, a belly ring – and then at some point I stopped in favour of trying to get in with the cool crowd at high school and college. It’s taken me over 20 years but I’m finally starting to find my way back to that version of me, the one who I feel is the real me, the one I’ve buried deeply underneath ‘boring and sensible’ ever since.

I have a deep love of hippie shops – I always used to be drawn to them on holidays in Spain and would spend hours browsing them. Night markets too – I just love all the trinkets. There is a hippie shop in Bude – ‘Wildwood’ – which I adore losing myself in every time we visit Cornwall. It’s full of dreamcatchers and silver jewellery and colourful glass and I always have to buy something from there whenever we go.

I’m very slowly and tentatively incorporating elements of this part of me back into my life: I’ve started wearing rings again (bracelets and anklets are next on my list); I fell in love with the henna tattoo I got at a festival a few years ago and I began using essential oils for our family wellness and in our home.  I’ve had two tarot readings done this year (this is who I asked to be my guide) – I went in completely open-minded, gave her absolutely no information about me whatsoever and the accuracy and detail of what she shared with me absolutely blew me away.  I also want to learn more about Enneagrams, Human Design, moon phases and more.  It feels good to be re-discovering this side of myself.


(Completed May/June 2021, age 38)

We were lucky enough to be offered a three-night gifted stay at Cameron Lodges on the shores of Loch Lomond in western Scotland and we decided to extend our adventure into a week-long half term road trip and explore Edinburgh first as well.

I’ve been wanting to visit Scotland for the longest time so to finally have the opportunity to travel there as a family was very exciting.  I loved Edinburgh and even though we were there for four whole days and we packed a lot in, it felt like we barely scratched the surface of what this gorgeous city had to offer.  We scaled Calton Hill and admired the spectacular 360 degree views, joined in a Harry Potter tour, meandered down quintessential Circus Lane, played on a haar-covered Portobello Beach, fell in love with the Royal Botanic Gardens, and explored as much of the beautiful Old Town as we could.

We didn’t get the chance to visit Edinburgh Castle, be amazed at Camera Obscura, wander around Dean Village or climb Arthur’s Seat though – those are on our list for next time because we will be back for sure.

From Edinburgh we drove across to the west.  Our time at Loch Lomond was like being in a whole other world – a real contrast to the hustle and bustle of the city.  It was peaceful and tranquil, remote and wildly beautiful.  We played adventure golf, hired bikes and discovered a magical faerie trail in nearby village of Luss.  There was so much to do at Cameron Lodges site itself as well, we could easily have stayed for a week and done something different every day.

Travelling to new places is something I really, really love to do.  There are so many incredible locations in the UK that I’ve never been to before and exploring a small part of Scotland has definitely given me the itch to discover more of what other hidden gems our island contains.

Exploring Edinburgh in Scotland

Skipping stones on the banks of Loch Lomond in West Scotland


(Completed May 2023, age 40!)

Technically this trip was actually completed a few days after my fortieth birthday but I’m counting it as being ticked off because, well… because I can.

Nineteen years ago, when we were both 21, my best friend and I escaped to Paris together to spend a few days wandering around the city.  She was in her final year of uni and I had not long returned from over a year of travelling in Australia and New Zealand – I still had itchy feet and was nowhere near ready to settle down and re-join the real world.  We stayed in an extremely dodgy hotel, ate delicious food and saw as much as we could.  It was absolutely brilliant.

As we both approached 40, we decided to re-create the trip (with the exception of the questionable accommodation – we opted for a much more comfortable and respectable AirBnB instead this time) and make some new memories to mark the occasion and to celebrate our friendship that’s stood the test of time over the last thirty-three years.  We knew it would be a slightly different trip to the original one as our lives are at very different stages – I now have teenagers whilst she has two toddlers and is currently six months pregnant!

We knew we’d make it work though, and we did – it was really comforting to know that we still travel well together after all these years.  We met up in London early on a Thursday morning, caught the Eurostar to France and spent three days/two nights exploring as much of Paris as we possibly could.  We had an awesome time and literally spent all day every day seeing the sights (the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre, the Palace of Versailles and so much more); wandering off the beaten track; taking photos; enjoying the food; and talking about anything and everything.  It was wonderful and exactly what I needed.

Exploring the pretty streets of Paris with my best friend



(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 and years saving up (for a family of six it’s a huge, albeit totally worthwhile, expense) and eventually travelled there in 2017 when the girls were 10, 9 and 7 years old. 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. It was hard work – keeping six people with very different wants & needs happy, with jet lag, heat and overexcitement added into the mix is quite tricky – but despite the inevitable challenges 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, visit Universal Studios and 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 (Magic Kingdom), Part Two (Epcot), Part Three (Celebration), Part Four (Hollywood Studios) and Part Five (Animal Kingdom). I also created a vlog of our time there which I absolutely love watching and so do the girls (see 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.


(Work in progress, started November 2018)

In November 2018, when Ella was at high school and Mimi & Lola were still at their primary school, I took advantage of the two schools having different inset days, cleared my diary of all work and obligations and gave Ella 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, on tea & cake at her favourite local 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 really happy and we spent a 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 still need to create space to do it with Mimi and Lola at some point over the next few months too, though it’s harder now that they’re all at the same high school.  We’ll make it happen somehow!

Ella and I on her lovebombing day


(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 was very poignant for me. I love her book ‘Wild’ (and, unusually, the film adaptation too – I normally dislike films based on books but Reese Witherspoon did such a fantastic job of portraying her that it was impossible to do anything other than love it) and have since read several more of her books too – they’re all brilliant. I still think about the conversation I had with her even now, six years on from our encounter.


(Completed June 2019, age 36)

There are some absolutely incredible photography communities in the world. My firm favourites are Click Community, Hello Storyteller, Unraveled Academy and Phlock. They each offer online courses designed to teach new skills, improve current ones and help you progress in your photographic journey whether it’s a full time career or a passionate hobby.

There are many courses that I would like to take within all four communities (I have a long list that’s growing week by week!) so in June 2019 I took the plunge and signed up for Angie Mahlke’s ‘Minutiae: Documenting The Details’ class through Hello Storyteller. I can’t even begin to explain how much I learnt and the difference it has made to my photography since then – I loved it.

The following month, July 2019, I joined in with Click Community Annual Summer Photo Hunt which I thoroughly enjoyed.  I’ve taken part every year since as well.  It’s not an online course as such but I really felt my photography improved as the month progressed and I definitely grew as a photographer as I figured out creative ways to interpret the prompts. My husband then fulfilled my Christmas wish and bought me three Click Community breakout courses for Christmas that I still have lined up to do – I can’t wait to dive into them. 

One of the images I captured during the online photography class I took part in


(Completed September 2016, age 33)

This happened completely spontaneously when we discovered some very climb-able trees whilst out exploring a new-to-us 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


(Completed October 2015, age 32)

I started going to a yoga class in October 2015, six months after my Dad died. I wrote this post about my journey and the difference it made to me after I’d been doing it for a year. For three and a half years I attended every week without fail (apart from a sick child or if we were on holiday). Yoga became one of my few ‘non-negotiables’ and I felt better physically, mentally and emotionally for having a regular practice.

In early 2019 we had a fire at our house and whilst all the renovation and refurbishment works were going on I had to be at home to supervise the contractors. This meant I couldn’t go to yoga for months and then what with moving house quickly followed by the two-year long Covid-19 pandemic, sadly I’ve not picked it back up again (yet).  I’m absolutely determined to get back on my mat and start practising again properly.

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


(Completed December 2019, age 36)

We put our house on the market at the end of April 2019 and, after months of stress and uncertainty, finally moved into our new home just two weeks before Christmas 2019.

We’d lived in our old house for eleven years (almost exactly to the day!) and it held so very many memories for us – both good and bad – and it was time to move on. Those four walls had seen multitudes of joy, grief, laughter, tears, hope, frustration, trauma, triumph, happiness and love and I was sad to leave it.

We’ve now been in our new-to-us house for three and a half years and it’s gone in the blink of an eye.  The pandemic hit full-force just three months after we moved in so up until now we’ve not been able to do much to make it feel properly like ours.  Now that things are returning more to normal we’ve been able to have a decorator in to paint everything as well as an electrician to sort out some ‘interesting’ lighting and wiring configurations.  The girls are slowly personalising their bedrooms and I have a long list of projects (the kitchen, the bathrooms, the lounge, the garden!) that I want to get started on.  Finances and time mean we can’t do it all at once and it’s hard being patient – I know it will be worth it in the end though.

Moving day! Leaving our old home for the last time…


(Completed June 2020, age 37)

I have long been a lover (and chaser) of sunrises and sunsets – ever since I went travelling in 2003 – and it’s been a desire of mine to watch them both on the Summer Solstice for many years now.   My wish came true in 2020, during the first long lockdown of the Covid-19 pandemic.  Of course I’d hoped I’d be somewhere a lot more exotic to witness them but actually, it turns out, home was the perfect place to be.

I’ve written more about my connection to sunrises & sunsets and what they mean to me in this post here.

Sunset on the Summer Solstice, June 2020


(Completed July 2016 to May 2023, ages 33 to 40)

The husband and I saw James Bay perform in the beautiful outdoor setting of Cannock Chase Forest in the summer of 2016.  It was our first gig together (unless you count V Festival back in 2005) and what an experience it 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 in May 2019 on his ‘I Know You Know’ tour and May this year on his ‘Marry Me’ tour. 

In June 2022 we went to see Ed Sheeran in Manchester for his ‘+x/=’ tour and he was absolutely amazing.  I’ve loved his music right from the very start of his career so it was a bit of a dream come true moment for me.  So much so that I spontaneously booked tickets to see him again in March this year, the day before he launched his newest album ‘Subtract’, so we were the first people to hear his new single, ‘Eyes Closed’, played live.  He’s an incredibly talented artist, musician and performer.

I’ve also taken Ella to two gigs, just the two of us: Alec Benjamin in London and Dermot Kennedy at an intimate venue in Manchester, which she absolutely loved.  Seeing her face as she experienced it for the first time made my heart so happy.  We’ve also been to see Dermot Kennedy in Birmingham as a family this year, thanks to a serendipitous encounter on an aeroplane on the way home from Chicago that is far too long a story to try and explain here.  That one was pretty awesome. 

We currently have one more lined up for this year – the Goo Goo Dolls next month in Birmingham.  I’m ridiculously excited for this one – their music was the soundtrack to my college life and has been a staple part of every Spotify playlist I’ve had ever since – so it’s going to be a bit of a magic moment finally getting to see them live.

It has been so good to see live music again after the pandemic put a stop to every single event.  Introducing our girls to going to gigs and having the wonder of collectively experiencing music alongside so many other people has been fantastic and I really hope it’s instilled in them a desire to keep going to more. 

All of the gigs we’ve been to over the years have been absolutely brilliant in completely different ways and I now have a long wish list of artists I would love to see play.

James Bay playing Cannock Chase Forest in July 2016

Ed Sheeran in Manchester, June 2022


(Completed August 2019, age 36)

The last festival I went to was V Festival all the way back in 2005. I can’t believe that was eighteen years ago! Neil and I had only been together for about a year and we had a good time soaking up the music and the atmosphere. After we had the girls I started looking into family friendly festivals that we could take them to so that they could experience the festival vibe too. Just So Festival (Cheshire), Elderflower Fields Festival (Sussex), Timber Festival (Derbyshire) and Camp Bestival (Dorset) all looked like fantastic options, but somehow we could never make the dates work.

Then in 2019 Sunshine Festival in Worcestershire got in touch with us and kindly offered us a family ticket for the August Bank Holiday weekend. We went on the Sunday and had a fantastic time. The girls loved the music, the atmosphere, the circus and (of course) the ice cream and we even had the unexpected bonus of hot, sunny weather too. You can read our review of Sunshine Festival here.

Ella, Mimi and Sophie getting into the festival spirit

38. DO ‘GO-APE’

(Completed May 2023, age 39 – five days before my 40th birthday!)

Neil orchestrated this one for me as a birthday surprise. He told me to keep the date free and that I needed sturdy shoes – that was all the information I got given in advance so I had absolutely no idea what we were going to be doing.  I thought maybe Ninja Warrior or Clip ‘n’ Climb, both of which aren’t too far away from us.  Go-Ape didn’t even cross my mind as a possibility so when he eventually told me where we were going (half an hour before we were due to leave!) I was instantly very excited (and, honestly, a little bit nervous).

He booked the Treetop Challenge package so we would get to do all five of the adventure courses and it would last for 3-4 hours in total.  We were really lucky with the weather on the day – it was chilly but sunny and we soon warmed up with how physical all the different obstacles were.  We completed the safety briefing and mini training course and then we were free to head off and start our adventure.

It was awesome!  It was tough in places – I’m ok with heights but I do not like ‘edges’, so I found certain parts of the course extremely difficult.  Neil doesn’t like heights at all so I was incredibly impressed that he did it alongside me and overcame his fears.  But despite the challenges, we had the best time – the ziplines were really fun and the sense of pride and accomplishment at finishing the entire course (even though there were definitely moments when I thought “I can’t do this”, before giving myself a talking-to and doing it anyway) was immense.  10/10 recommend and I would do it again for sure.

Neil and I at the end of the Go-Ape course Treetop Challenge course #smashedit



(Work in progress.  Sort of.)

In July 2022 I took the whole month off from my therapy work.  I was approaching burnout and really needed a break. I’d planned to use the time to catch up on some behind-the-scenes projects that needed developing but in reality that didn’t actually happen and instead I ended up focusing on some other important things that demanded my attention.  I went back to work in August and the cycle began again.  It was a start and it was significant – I learned a lot about myself during that time – it just wasn’t quite long enough to put into action all the ideas I had for how to transition my work over to a way that works better for myself, my clients and my family.

Now, a year later, I’m really recognising the patterns and feeling more and more that something needs to change.  I don’t currently have a definitive plan for when this three-month sabbatical will happen, I just know that it will and I’m trusting that it’ll be when I need it to be.



As predicted, this one didn’t happen as my birthday fell right before Ella started sitting her GCSE exams – the timing of it all just didn’t work.  I’m ok with that, I know we’ll get something booked in eventually.  All I need to do is decide where I want to go!

Me, on my fortieth birthday, May 2023

So there you have it… seventeen items ticked off, four are an ongoing work in progress and nineteen were left still to get started on.  They’ll most likely get transferred over to my next list – 50 things before I’m 50!

It’s been fun trying to complete this project over the last ten years and I’ve definitely done things I didn’t think I’d be able to; learned a lot about myself along the way; had experiences I never would have dreamed of; and have made memories that will stay with me forever.

It still blows my mind more than a little bit to realise that I’m forty years old and that my stepdaughter is 21 and has finished uni, my eldest daughter is 16 and in the middle of her GCSEs, my middle daughter is very nearly 15 and my littlest girl is 13 years old!  It’s completely true what they say – the days are long but the years really are incredibly short. 

I have no idea what the rest of this year holds.  2022 and 2023 (so far) have held some amazing moments.  They’ve also been incredibly hard in between those moments for numerous reasons and there have been many personal tests and challenges along the way.  What I do know is that I’m absolutely determined to make the most of every single minute that I can because you never know what’s coming next.  So here’s to making the next decade as memorable as possible in the the very best of ways.

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