Being My Own Boss

The seventeenth challenge on my list of 30 wasn’t exactly something I had planned when I started this crazy idea back in February. However it is the one which will be the most difficult, definitely the most challenging, and the one that will have the most long-lasting impact. On 1st September, (the same day that I went surfing), I made contact with my local enterprise office, which was the beginning of my journey towards becoming self-employed. There were meetings, conversations, questions, forms, things to be clarified, lots of uncertainty on my part, and a judging panel, but last week I was given the goahead to operate
JD Audio Transcription
as a business.

 

I have been transcribing people’s audio files on an infrequent basis since I began working in Derry in 2007. I created the Facebook page a year ago and began making more of an effort to find transcription work when I was unemployed. I’ve managed to find a few regular customers (mainly involved with research) who seem happy with my work and happy to recommend me. I slowly started to realise that there is a need for this type of work, it’s just a matter of finding it. After experiencing lots of office politics and organisational changes in the places I’d worked, I was beginning to like the idea of working for myself, offering people an honest service, adjusting how I work, and being involved in more things that I enjoy. I never was a 9-5 office person, and although I wouldn’t consider myself a business person, I know I’m hard working and responsible, and I’m up for the challenge.

 

So what does JD Audio Transcription do? I transcribe audio of a non-legal/medical nature. I transcribe interviews, lectures, focus groups, workshops, conferences, seminars, radio programs, online content, material for books, and personal stories. Transcription is often required by students or researchers, which is always very interesting. I also want to expand my service to community groups, charities and people who have a story to tell. It could be used to archive the history of a family or a particular area. It could be used by people who have stories to tell but would prefer to talk than type. I have lots of ideas in my head, so I just have to find ways of advertising them and getting them out there. If anyone could like the Facebook page or pass it on, I’d really appreciate it.

 

Working with the people in the Inishowen Partnership who help set up businesses in our local area has been a great experience so far. They’ve offered me training, listened to all my concerns and motivated me and believed in my idea. They admitted that they hadn’t worked with a blind person before, but they couldn’t have been more helpful. Family and friends have also been very encouraging. It’s brilliant to have people around you who believe in your ideas, even if you don’t always believe in them yourself. The transcription business is the first of a couple of ideas that I have. I have to start somewhere, and I think this might be the easiest for now. I could never see myself working from home every day, so the other idea will be a great contrast. Before this, I wouldn’t have believed that I had the skills or the confidence to become self-employed. There is so much help out there, and it is a good option for people with disabilities to consider. It is very disheartening for people when they can’t find suitable jobs, or their disability dictates how they live and prevents them from being employed. There is a lot of help out there, and even just talking about an idea with someone can be interesting. I might be back job hunting this time next year, but in the meantime I’m going to be brave and give my ideas a go.

If you never try then you’ll never know 🙂

 

 

 

 

Have you ever tried wood turning?

If not, you really should!

When I was asking people for suggestions for my 30 challenges, Darragh suggested making a memory box from wood. I liked this idea and definitely wanted to do it, but the original plan of how I would make it changed a bit in the meantime. I have a good friend who’s son makes lots of brilliant things from wood. He recently won an award for his business, and he is constantly coming up with new ideas and new things to make. He offered to help me, so last week I got the protective mask on and got to work.

Being in a work shed surrounded by tools isn’t something I’m really used to, but I enjoyed the different environment. Being out of my comfort zone is part of the challenge after all! The thought of using the lathe that turns the wood was a bit scary too, but it was kept at a slow speed and isn’t too loud, so I enjoyed it.
We started off with a square block of teak wood, which was secured to the lathe. As it turned, we chiselled it, hollowed it, sawed it to separate it, sanded it with four different types of sandpaper, buffed it with sawdust and coated it with flax seed oil. At the end of all that, we had made a small bowl with a lid that I can keep things in.

It is fascinating how a square slightly rough piece of wood can be crafted into a smooth
perfectly proportioned bowl within a few hours. I was surprised to learn how much woodturning relies on the sense of touch. You can feel every change as it happens, and of course it was all totally hands-on, so it was a perfect challenge that I really enjoyed. I had a brilliant teacher who let me touch everything, described everything in detail and encouraged me to make decisions along the way. What I haven’t mentioned about my teacher is that Sean Og is only fifteen! I’m really greatful to him and his parents for letting me experience and learn something I knew nothing about.

30 Ted Talks

Here’s the list and quotes from some of the 30 Ted Talks I challenged myself to listen to in August. Some were recommendations, but most were chosen related to the things I’m interested in and thinking about these days. Hopefully you’ll watch and enjoy some of these as much as I did. I should put the links, but that’s effort!

1. How to find and do the work you love
Scott Dinsmor
“80% of people work in jobs they don’t enjoy because they think they have to.
Surround yourself with people who inspire you.”

2. How to find your passion and inner awesomeness
Eugene Hennie
“Ask yourself what do you like? Embrace yourself. Once you embrace it, everything else becomes easier.
Make the impossible the new possible.
Embrace confrontation.
Do what’s right.”

3. Every kid needs a champion
Rita Pierson
A must listen for everyone who teaches or works with children in any way.
“While you won’t like all the kids you teach, the key is to never let them know.
Teaching and learning should be a joy.
Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them.”

4. The power of vulnerability
Brene Brown
“The ability to feel connected with people is why we are here.
We need to believe that we are enough.”

5. Dog friendly dog training
Ian Dunbar
I love the work that this man does, and he always makes a lot of sense.
“You get a little puppy. His only crime is that he grew!
Dogs, horses and humans are the three species that are so abused.
They are so beatable, that’s why they get beaten.
Teach a dog to want to do what you want it to do.
Let the dog think that it is training us. Allow what was once the distraction in training to be the reward.
We have to learn to enforce a behaviour without force.
Training dogs and teaching children is very similar if approached in the correct way.”

6. What must our dogs be thinking when they look at us
Billy Collins

7. Which country does the most good for the world?
Simon Anholt

8. How to get your ideas to spread
Seth Godin

9. The single biggest reason why start-ups succeed
Bill Gross
“Execution definitely matters a lot. The idea matters a lot. But timing might matter even more.”

10. The dangers of wilful blindness
Margaret Heffernan
“People know there is a problem with something, but they say nothing.
Humans are all, under certain circumstances, wilfully blind.”

11. Every conversation can change a life
Pat Divilly
I listened to this again after hearing it first in February when it went online. One of my favourite talks, and definitely worth a watch.
“The world is a mirror and when you go out there smile at people and take an interest in people … believe in people when you don’t believe in yourself then your whole world changes.”

12. Measuring what makes life worthwhile
Chip Conley

13. How to make work/life balance work
Nigel Marsh
He talks a lot of sense!
“. We should stop looking outside. It’s up to us as individuals to take control and responsibility for the type of lives that we want to lead. If you don’t design your life, someone else will design it for you, and you may just not like their idea of balance.”

14. The happy secret to better work
Shawn Anchor
This is very funny!

15. in the key of genius
Derek Paravicini and Adam Okelford
I absolutely love Derek’s story and Adam’s work. Reading his book is brilliant, and this talk gives a small idea of what it’s about.

16. How autism freed me to be myself
Rosie King

17. The world needs all kinds of minds
Temple Grandin

18. What I’ve learned from my autistic brothers
Faith Jegede Cole
“Normality overlooks the beauty that differences give us, and the fact that we are different doesn’t mean that one of us is wrong. It just means that there’s a different kind of right… The chance for greatness, for progress and for change dies the moment we try to be like someone else.”

19. How I learned to communicate my inner life with Asperger’s
Alex Generous
A very funny insight into the life and challenges of someone with Asperger’s.

20. How I use sonar to navigate the world
Daniel Kish
“It’s impressions about blindness that are far more threatening to blind people than the blindness itself.”
I love this quote!
He’s a funny guy. Echolocation has its uses, but I’m not going to give up my dog to use it any time soon!

21. Questions that move us forward
Hugo Pereira
“What have I experienced in life that is worth sharing?”
“We are the average of the five people we spend most of our time with… Are they challenging you enough?”
“Would you do anything different in your life if you knew you could not fail?”
“If there is a small hint that you want to change something, then what is holding you back?”

22. Try something new for 30 days
Matt Cutts

23. Kids, take charge
Kiran Bir Sethi
“When children are empowered, not only do they do good, they do well.”

24. Why would God create a tsunami?
Tom Honey
I don’t know, and I still don’t after listening to this!

25. Rethinking foster care
Molly McGrath Tierney
Someone recommended this. Have no experience and not sure if I totally agree.

26. The transformative power of classical music
Benjamin Zander
This is really good.

27. How architecture helped music evolve
David Byrne

28. When meds fail: a case for music therapy
Tim Ringgold
I totally get everything he says. The connection that people have with music and how it affects us is powerful.

29. How I started writing songs again
Sting.
I really like Sting, so it was a nice surprise to find this. The songs are great, as well as his down to earth talk.

30. Do schools kill creativity?
Ken Robinson
“I don’t mean to say that being wrong is the same thing as being creative. What we do know is, if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original — if you’re not prepared to be wrong. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong. And we run our companies like this. We stigmatize mistakes. And we’re now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make. And the result is that we are educating people out of their creative capacities.”
This was an entertaining and educational talk to end my Ted talk challenge.

Surfing!

Even though I’ve lived beside the beach in Buncrana for most of my life, I’m a little bit afraid of waves. I’m afraid for a good reason though. When I was eight, I was knocked over and turned head over heels by a wave on holiday in France. Ten years later I was on holiday in Thailand with my family. We spent a good part of Christmas day on the beach. The following morning we found ourselves in the middle of what we knew later to be the Asian tsunami!
Not only have I still continued to go places on holiday and swim in the beach, I decided that one of the 30 new things I wanted to do this year should be related to water. I knew that Torie had gone surfing before, so I knew there were people not too far away who were willing enough and crazy enough to help a blind person overcome a fear of waves. After finally finding the courage to contact Dan from
Long Line Surf School
by email, I knew there was no going back. Challenge 13 was planned for 1st September, and my PA Donna and I found ourselves at the surf school just outside Limavady at ten o’clock this morning.

Dan was full of enthusiasm when he met me to bring me surfing. I was nervous and not so enthusiastic. When I say I’m going to do something, I stick to it, so I put on the wetsuit and we headed for the beach. Benone beach is one of Ireland’s longest beaches. At seven miles long, there was plenty of space for Donna to walk Sibyl and let her off for a run. The surf school has been operating for five years, and there are six instructors in total, based in Benone and Portrush beaches. Their passion for what they do, along with the fact that they want to make surfing an option for as many people as possible with different abilities through their
disability surf lessons
is very impressive.

After chatting with dan for a few minutes, I quickly relaxed because I knew I could trust him. He’s a trained lifeguard after all. We walked in the water so I could feel the size of the waves and how deep we’d be going. It was always shallow enough which was perfect for a first lesson. I knew if I fell off I could stand up really quickly. Then he showed me how to lie on the board on the sand, before taking it into the water. The nine foot board means it’s long enough for the instructor to move and direct from behind. The first while was like bodyboarding, and I went into a few waves facing them, and then out to the shore. The feeling both times was brilliant, even though I found facing the oncoming wave a bit freaky at first. After a while Dan would tell me when to kneel, and I’d move quickly from lying to kneeling on the board as the wave took it into the shore.
We went back on to the sand again to learn how to balance and put one foot forward after kneeling on the board. I did this lots more times in the water. Apparently I have good balance on the board, especially for a beginner. All that yoga must be paying off!

Obviously the point of surfing is to stand on the board and ride the waves. Dan had a brilliant way of building me up to this gradually, though there was never any pressure to do anything. He’d suggest different things I could do, but If I’d wanted to stay on my tummy on the board for an hour, he’d have let me. The more I went on one knee, the more I was tempted to stand. The more I thought about it, the more I put myself off. We decided I’d do it three more times, as the weather was starting to change. The waves became a bit bigger, and it was harder to walk out towards them. I got a few ear-full and eye-fulls of water along the way, but when you’re totally soaked, you don’t care anymore. On my second last surf in to shore, I stood up before I even had time to think. The feeling was amazing, and I wished I could have balanced longer. Instead I half fell into the water and poor Dan nearly got his hair pulled as I tried to kneel in the sand. Did I mention he had the patience of a saint? I stood again for the final time before jumping into the water and laughing. I was buzzing at that stage. I could have ran the length of the beach!

Surfing with Long Line was such a brilliant experience. The work they do is amazing, and I can’t recommend them enough. It’s a great feeling when you decide to do something completely out of your comfort zone and actually really enjoy it. It takes a certain kind of person to make that happen, and Dan did an amazing job. Believing I could do something that I know nothing about, and describing what was happening during the lesson so well made this challenge work. And it worked so well that I really really want to go back sometime and do it all again.

Hunting for Animals

Yesterday was one of those days where I had the chance to go somewhere with a friend, but with the weather being unpredictable, we had no real plan. I’m never bored and always find something to do, so it didn’t really bother me when she started driving. We came up with an idea that might tick off the ninth challenge on my list of 30.

One of the 30 challenges I set myself was to touch an animal that I’ve never felt before. This mightn’t seem hard, but I’ve touched lots! Since I was small, I’ve been very familiar with horses, donkeys and all the animals you might find on a farm. I’ve touched many different pets and types of birds, even an ostrich, and that was actually in Buncrana! I had a friend in school who kept many strange animals as pets, and he always enjoyed shoing them to me when I visited his house. I’ve been fortunate to have travelled to some interesting places, where I’ve had the chance to touch lots of amazing animals. I rode on a camel in Lanzarotte when I was eight. I petted a kuala bear and a kangaroo, (and got bitten by a baby one) in a big park in Sydney. I rode on an elephant and held a baby tiger in Thailand, and it was there that I also got to hold my favourite animals ever, (after dogs of course!) The first time we went there was just before Christmas. As we walked down the street on Christmas day to go and get dinner, we met a man coming towards us holding a small monkey. I thought my family were joking when they said I could touch it. I held the monkey and got a photograph, and he was so cute! The next time we were there I met one on the beach and fed it some pineapple. If there was a place you could go and spend a day playing with them, I’d be in heaven!

So after touching all those animals, it was going to be hard to find something different. I have heard of a lady in England who went to a sanctuary where the owner let her touch a wolf! That would be terrifying and amazing, but I had to be realistic and try and keep it as local as possible! So I went to
tropical world
in Letterkenny and held two lizards. I’d never been there before. They have lots of birds, reptiles and animals, including marmosets an lemurs, which I wanted to touch but I wasn’t allowed. One Lemur in particular was very noisy and seemed like lots of fun!

In the reptile area I had the chance to hold a bearded dragon, which is a lizard with spikey skin. If you rub your hand towards it’s head, it feels more spikey than if you do it in the opposite direction. The second one I held was a blue tongue skink, which sounds disgusting, but wasn’t at all. It actually felt like it was made from hard plastic, as it’s skin had little bumps on it. They have no teeth, but the claws are quite sharp, so I had to let it lie on my arm on my coat so that it wouldn’t jag me. Both were very still and calm, and really used to being handled. They weren’t slimy like you might expect lizards to be. The girl showing me them was very friendly and was able to tell us lots about them. I have some photographs and two videos, but the birds beside us were so noisy that you couldn’t hear anything else.

Sibyl came with us and behaved very well, although she was very curious. The animals were curious about her too! We are having a quiet day today, although it is her 3rd birthday. We went for a short walk and met a friend for breakfast. She had a chew and chilled out for the afternoon. She seems happy enough, I think as long as she knows that dogs are still, and always will be my favourite animals!

30 Challenges List

I’ve reordered the list of the 30 challenges, with the things I’ve already completed at the top.
I’ve made a few changes because I want to be excited about doing most of these things. It could change again, so suggestions always welcome.

1. Visit a city that I’ve never been to before. (Poland for my birthday)
2. Eat traditional food associated with a particular country. (dumplings in Poland)
3. Bake a cake. (Nephew Danny’s 9th birthday cake)
4. Do a short course to learn something new. (intro to CBT)
5. Take part in ‘darkness into light’ on 7th May. (lovely experience)
6. Do something historical in Belfast, since I lived there for three years and did nothing!
(I did the titanic tour with Nicky, thanks to part of my birthday present from the girls.)
7. Find Bruce Springsteen tickets for a Croke Park concert. (amazing gig!)
8. Educate myself more about mental health.
(Recently learned lots about ADHD through a transcribing job.
Also signed up for a workshop with Jigsaw Donegal but it’s not until October.)
9. Attend a musical or theatrical performance of a genre that’s not usually my type of thing!
Got this covered. People will be very surprised when they hear where I’m going!
10. Go surfing. Did I really write that? I’ll be terrified!
11. Touch an animal that I’ve never felt before.
12. Complete a 30 K walk in one day (a kilometre for every year)
I need to plan a route for this.
13. Work in the cottage bar
14. Walk the Croke Park Dublin skyline
15. Make a memory box from wood.
16. Shave someone’s head.
17. Learn a useful life skill.
18. Spend time in a recording studio watching how it works.
19.Go gliding!.
20. Do something (not fundraising) for a charity that I’ve never been involved with before
21. Something artistic or creative, since I’m not good at this stuff.
22. Work on a farm for a day.
23. Learn to make homemade pizza.
24. Learn to bake scone bread.
25. Climb Sliabh Sneacht
26. Learn to do a few simple hair styles (I can only straighten and curl it)
27. Do another outdoor activity Suggestions?
28. Learn to make homemade cosmetics
29: Get my ears pierced, and don’t let them close up this time!
30. Keep a diary. Write, blog and record as much as possible.
Use this to make an audio documentary of my challenges when I’m finished in February 2017.

I intend to do the final one anyway, but would love to end by doing something really special in February 2017. I just don’t know what yet.

Birthday Celebrations In Belfast!

I know, you’re thinking when is this birthday thing ever going to end? It’s not every year you turn 30, so you might as well make the most of it.
My five best friends went together and gave me a brilliant thoughtful present that they knew I’d love, and that I’ve been looking forward to since February.

Last Friday Nicky and I took buses from Dublin and Derry and met up in Belfast for a weekend in Benedicts hotel. It’s one of my favourite hotels ever, with helpful friendly staff and a great welcome for guide dogs. I’m always impressed by the bowl and bed for the dog in the room, and this time the receptionist who showed us to our room said that if the dog liked the bed, the manager said I could keep it because they have lots!
We ate dinner in Made in Belfast in the Cathedral Quarter. I absolutely love this place! Again the staff were amazing, particularly the man working at our table who could not have been more helpful. When I thanked him at the end, he said he was only doing his job! The steak was lovely, and I really wanted dessert but I was too full up to even attempt it.

On Saturday morning after a lovely breakfas,t we got a taxi to the Victoria shopping centre so Nicky could go to the apple store. After he bought a charger and we asked about a couple of products, we found a Costa coffee to pass a bit of time. A staff member brought us to a nice seating area and came back to take our order. This was nicer than standing at a busy counter, trying to keep Sibyl away from food and low tables of nice smelling things. When he brought the coffee and muffins, he would only take £2 from me, saying that he wanted to give us our drinks free, and that I could use my money to buy something for the dog instead! People are so nice.

Along with our hotel, my friends booked us tickets to do the Titanic tour in the Titanic
exhibition centre. It’s not something I’ve really thought much about doing, but after living in Belfast for three years and doing nothing cultural at all, it was about time I did something. When we went inside the huge building, the first person we met was Stevie. It turned out that he would spend most of the next two and a half hours with us, doing much more than his job required him too. We had tickets for the longer tour inside the building, as aposed to the shorter discovery tour which takes place outside and is accompanied by a tour guide. At first we thought this might be a better option since we had no guide, but it turned out that the other one that we did was much better and really informative and interesting. We wore headphones which gave us short audio described pieces at different stages of the exhibition. There were also some videos we could listen to as we walked around. Obviously it was very visual, so there were bits we missed out on, but the audio was a great addition. There was a great variety of things to experience, including a short cablecar type ride that you went on to experience the sounds, the heat and the working conditions of the people who worked in Belfast during the building of the Titanic. There were a few seats along the way, and we watched a short film in the cinema towards the end of the tour. It is very well put together, with lots of things to entertain children if you had them with you. The staff are helpful and really know their jobs well.
The fact that we had nobody with us, and there was no tour guide inside made it a bit more difficult to know exactly what direction to follow on each floor. The staff kept an eye out for us, and Stevie was practically there for most of it. He took lots of time talking, explaining and describing things, as well as sneaking lots of pets of Sibyl along the way. She was very patient throughout the afternoon.

When we finished the tour, Stevie brought us to the carpark to wait on our taxi back to the hotel. The only small downside of the weekend happened when it came, and the driver said he didn’t have to take the dog because even though he worked for a particular company, he was driving his own private car. We asked him if he would call us another taxi then. When he did, and told his colleague that he didn’t want to take “a big animal”, they obviously told him who was boss, because he quickly changed his mind and said he’d take us. We didn’t speak on the way back, and I was careful that Sibyl didn’t put her face or head anywhere near him. He was helpful with his directions when we got out of the car, and we weren’t expecting that.
We met a friend for dinner in a lovely Italian restaurant, had a couple of drinks in the hotel bar and all sat chatting in our room for a while before she went home.

We didn’t stay around Belfast long after breakfast on Sunday. It was frustrating not really knowing my way around much, because the weather was great and I’d have like to have walked more with Sibyl. There is a park with grrass close to the hotel, and it took a bit of practice for Sibyl to find the lights, even though it wasn’t too complicated at all. The location of the lights are different in Northern Ireland. They aren’t very consistent which is annoying. Sibyl wasn’t trained to locate the button like O.J was, but I’m teaching her how to do it because it’s very useful. This weekend reminded me that I need to find reasons to go to Derry regularly and practice this with her. Our town just isn’t busy enough.

So there’s just one other birthday celebration to go. That is the Bruce Springsteen ticket I managed to find and by for myself. Because of course you should always buy yourself a present too, right?! The concert is this weekend, and to say I’m excited is an understatement!!

Darkness into Light 2016

This morning at 4:15 A.M, I took part in the first darkness into light walk ever to be held in our town. For anybody who doesn’t know, DIL is an annual fundraising event to raise money and awareness for Pieta house, the centre for the prevention of suicide and self-harm. The walk from darkness into light simbolises the hope that pieta house brings to the people who might need it’s services. The first walk took place in the Phoenix Park in Dublin in 2009, with a few hundred people taking part. This year walks took place in almost 180 venues around Ireland, as well as in other countries around the world. It is amazing how such a simple idea can be such a success.

I went to bed early but couldn’t really sleep. I gave up and got up and had a shower at 3 A.M! I felt wide awake, and Sibyl was too. Dougal had the sense to know that it was the middle of the night, but Sibyl was full of life so I brought her for the walk with me. I went with my mum and my three aunts. It was a very mild night, not cold like I had expected. We joined over 400 other people at the local secondary school and began the 5K walk in the dark at 4:15. The event was very well organised, with lights along the way. We brought torches, but weren’t as prepared as the people who had lights on their pet dog’s collar. We’ll have to do that next year! I kept forgetting it was so dark because obviously I didn’t really notice. I found it funny when people didn’t recognise each other, and didn’t recognise voices when people said hi as they walked past. It was all very normal for me. The route was very well chosen, and we had to walk along the beach for part of it, which I loved. We came back to where we started just before 5:15, as it was gradually starting to get bright. The birds were singing, and the atmosphere was very special.

There was tea and refreshments in the school for people who had taken part in the walk, but it was very busy, so we went to my aunt’s house and had a lovely breakfast and a chat. I came home at 7 and fed Sibyl, who went to her bed as quickly as she could. I think she had the right idea!

30 Challenges Update

Here’s the updated version. I’ve completed five so far, a couple more have to happen on specific dates, and I have no idea about the rest yet.
Again, any suggestions or help welcome.

1. Complete a 30 K walk in one day (a kilometre for every year)
Notice that I changed mile to kilometre!
2. Work in the cottage bar
3. *Find Bruce Springsteen tickets for either of the Dublin Croke Park concerts.
So happy that I have these. Now, trying to meet him would really be pushing things, wouldn’t it??
Or would it?
4. Walk the Croke Park Dublin skyline
5. Take part in ‘darkness into light’ on 7th May.
6. Learn to bake scone bread.
7. Touch an animal that I’ve never felt before.
*8. Do a short course to learn something new.
I’m just finished an 8 week introduction to cognitive behaviour therapy. It’s really interesting.
9. Make a memory box from wood.
10. Shave someone’s head.
11. Attend a musical or theatrical performance of a genre that’s not usually my type of thing!
Got this covered. People will be very surprised when they hear where I’m going!
12. Learn a useful life skill, such as first aid or self-defence.
13. Spend time in a recording studio watching how it works.
14. Read one book every month, and review it afterwords.
15. Get my ears pierced, and don’t let them close up this time!
16. Do something for a charity that I’ve never been involved with before
Not Fundraising!
17. Learn more about a career that I’m interested in.
Spend a day shadowing somebody in their job.
18. Spend a day on a farm.
19. Learn to make homemade pizza.
20. Climb Sliabh Sneacht
I’m walking more and trying to get fitter before I do this.
*21. Visit a city that I’ve never been to before.
22. Learn to do a few simple hair styles (I can only straighten and curl it)
*23. Eat traditional food associated with a particular country
*24. Bake a cake
25. Do a water activity
26. Learn to make homemade cosmetics
27. Do something historical in Belfast, since I lived there for three years and did nothing!
– 28/29 Suggestions welcome!
30. Keep a diary. Write, blog and record as much as possible.
Use some of this to make an audio documentary of my year of challenges, when I’m finished in February 2017.

I intend to do the final one anyway, but would love to end by doing something really special in February 2017. I just don’t know what yet.

30 Challenges: Baking a Cake

I’ve been very slack with my 30 challenges idea, having done nothing in March, but April is a different story.
Well it started that way anyway. My friend Francina has started baking cakes during the last year, and she’s really amazing at it. She suggested that I bake one with her help, so last Friday we spent 3 hours baking one for my nephew Danny’s ninth birthday.

I have baked apple tarts, buns and banana bread, but I know absolutely nothing about cakes, so this was fun. We followed Donal Skehan’s recipe for chocolate cake, with the most amazing sweet cream ever in the middle! Francina gave instructions, measured and supervised, while I poured, sieved and mixed, and tried not to mess her kitchen too much! While the cake was cooking, we organised the icing. Danny loves football, so Francina cut out black and white pentagons and hexagons to put together to make a football on top. We used letters on the icing to write ‘happy birthday Danny’, and she even dyed some cream to make grass around the bottom. When Fran decides to do something, it’s always done 100% and this cake was no different.

Apart from having lots of fun, I learned a lot about baking cakes. There are lots of useful gagets you can use to measure ingredients and design the cake. The thing for piping the cream was my favourite! I also learned that vodka has it’s uses when sticking icing together. Don’t worry, the alcohol does evaporate!
We put the cake in a box and I gave it to Danny the next day after dinner. I don’t know if it was because his birthday is today so the cake was three days early, or if it was because it was football related, but he was so excited and thanked me about ten times, telling me that it was the best cake he’s ever had. It did taste lovely!

I have lots of photographs and videos of the baking process. Pity I’m useless with technology and don’t have someone hear to put them up on my blog.
Thanks so much Fran for taking the time to do this and making it so enjoyable. Thanks for helping me to do another new thing for the first time this year.