Well thank you Vietnam……

for making my first mid-life crisis, empty-nest adventure so wonderfully brilliant. From Hanoi to Hue to Ho Chi Minh city,  I have fallen hopelessly in love with this wonderful country and it’s people and quite honestly I can’t wait to go back.

Because that’s the beauty of modern technology. If you can use the internet, all the information you need is available to book your own itinerary. We trawled through Trip Advisor, Booking.com and Air B&B, making notes, reading reviews and finally pulling a trip together that we hoped would tick as many of our boxes as possible in three weeks. We booked a mixture of Homestays, overnight trains, budget hotels, treks, cruises, street food tours, cooking courses, taxis, internal flights, mopeds and even a posh hotel, all from the comfort of our kitchen  before we left, our accommodation when we there or even the airport at last minute.

And amazingly, nothing went wrong. Not one single thing. It all turned out to be a brilliant adventure from start to finish, all of which I will tell you about and pass on tips in my next series of blogs.

I know I keep harping on about it but life is short and there’s a big amazing world out there, offering experiences that you can’t ever really describe but which enrich your soul and hopefully make you a better human being. This fifty-something window of opportunity is too good a chance to miss especially if you’re still fit enough and brave enough to step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself.

 So follow my blogs over the next few weeks as I try and show you that life at fifty doesn’t have to mean a Thrifty Fifty Travel card or a Saga Holiday. It’s not too late for an adventure and it’s never, ever too late to chase a sunset!

 

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Waiting For That Lightbulb Moment

Now I’m  the wrong side of fifty, I notice that I’m getting more intolerant,  although if you asked Mr D, he would probably say I’ve been an intolerant old bag for years.  But let’s be honest, life seems to be getting more and more complicated in this 21 century where technology is supposed to be making things easier. Sadly I have a massive list of things that piss me off these days, but the one that’s really getting to me right now, is light bulbs.

This morning I stood in front of a shelf in Sainsbury’s,  trying to retrieve five dead light bulbs from my handbag without looking like a shoplifter, feeling completely and utterly useless as I tried to find  new bulbs that vaguely resembled the ones I had in my hand. It used to be simple once, 40w for lamps, 60w for your average overhead and 100w if you didn’t care about unflattering harsh lighting  or  going blind. Most were bayonet, occasionally  you had to buy a racy screw in. Now, quite frankly, it’s bloody ridiculous.  How can there possibly be such a huge selection? Every lamp in our house seems to require a different bulb and I can’t even work out what wattage they’re supposed to be. Led, halogen, GLS, Eco, long life, C rating, E rating, A Rating Eco Stick, blah blah bloody blah. Even the box doesn’t give a clear picture so you have to take a massive risk and open the box hoping you’re not going to drop it on the floor, then measure one against the other while trying to juggle the dead ones, a handbag and a basket. And when you give up and in desperation ask an assistant, they don’t know either.

Thankfully in our wee Highland toon, we are fortunate to have Pat Fraser’s TV and Electrical, a proper shop that has the answers to  all things reliant on the national grid and if it hadn’t been a Sunday that’s where I would have been, handing over my dead bulbs and in an instant they would have been replaced and I would have headed home happy. Instead I headed home in a very bad mood with a random selection of bulbs, of which I now know two are wrong. Frankly I’m past caring, it’s easier to light a frigging candle.

So whose fault is this? How did it start? How have we gone from three bulbs to what seems like a lightbulb free for all? Why do we need so many? Who is to blame? Europe? The French? Donald Trump? It must be Donald Trump.

Please someone  enlighten me.

 

 

 

Step 1. It only takes five minutes girls……

And I’m not exaggerating. It literally only takes five minutes to throw together a cocktail of goodness with the added benefit of hardly any peeling and no cleaning apart from a quick rinse under the tap. Such is my love for my Magic Bullet, and no it wasn’t purchased from Anne Summers, that I seriously miss it if I have to go away. For so far over the past year, it has kept the bugs from my door, improved my skin and hair and most importantly helped to keep the dreaded hot flushes at bay. It’s not the only factor, that’s in the next post, but by adding the right ingredients, it has certainly helped.

I am aware that it’s an investment, the cheapest I can find at the moment is £79.99 from John Lewis  but I can honestly say that my purchase of the Nutri Bullet, that was wisely recommended by personal trainer Jim Russell,  goes down as my best buy of 2015 along with my tickets to Cafe Mambo s opening party. It has now become part of my life and trust me, I have the patience of a rabid wasp, so if I can find five minutes a day to throw this goodness together, anyone can. We all know we should be eating our five a day, green leafy veg and all that, but quite honestly it can be a bit dull munching through it all when our lives are busy and we’re struggling with our culinary creativity. Well the joy of the Bullet is that you could get twenty a day if you wanted to and still make it taste like a pina colada.

The trick is to keep it simple and don’t go marching in all Lara Croft and hard core at the beginning. One third veg and two thirds fruit is the best option, as if you wade in, all kale, broccoli  and cabbage for your first smoothie, you may never touch it again. You can keep it simple by buying frozen berries and veg. Not only is it cheaper, it’s easier. You won’t get much waste, you will always have ingredients to hand and they contain just as many nutrients and arguably slightly more than the fresh variety. The other joy of the Bullet is that unlike other juicers and blenders, you don’t have to do much peeling or chopping, obviously use a bit of common sense, no one likes avocado peel, and you can throw in seeds and nuts and frozen stuff and it just blends it to a lovely, yummy, healthy pulp.

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Just throw it all in and fill to the max line with water or pressed apple juice.

So my suggestion for starters is:

2 balls of frozen spinach

2 large florets of frozen broccoli

handful of frozen or fresh berries of your choice

1 small banana

A dollop of natural, full fat yoghurt (it’s not fat that’s the issue it’s sugar and it’s great for your digestion)

a handfull of mixed seeds, especially linseed as it’s great for menopausal symptoms.

water or pressed apple juice

add mint as it will make it taste like a mojito!

If you buy the bullet you get a recipe book and there are loads of ideas on line.

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Now, if you put in a lot of fruit, your smoothie will contain a few calories so I would suggest that you have it in the morning as a breakfast substitute or take it to work. It is perfect if you have it half an hour before exercise. You don’t want to be drinking it in the evening after a meal while watching the Telly. I usually make it up the night before so it’s ready and waiting for me in the fridge and if you are using frozen ingredients it won’t be too baltic to drink.

It’s not a miracle cure all, it won’t stop you going grey or turn your husband into Brad Pitt but it will help to keep your immune system healthy and balance your hormones. As I said, it’s part of a jigsaw and getting exercise is equally important as well as cutting down on a few bad boys with a record of triggering hot flushes such as caffeine, spicy foods and alcohol. Sorry but you can’t have it all ways, there has to be a bit of give and take.

But that’s for another blog……one step at a time girls, one step at a time.

 

 

Unlight My Fire, Cos These Darn Hot Flushes Just Aint Cool Girlfriend..

……but trust me, it doesn’t have to be this way. There is a way out of this conspiracy against women, this curse that could actually make you believe that if there is a god, he is definitely a man. No woman would inflict such torment on the female race at a time of their lives when all the hard graft of child and husband rearing,( although that could be classed as the same thing in some cases), is over. Just when you think your body and life is your own again, bam, it hits you like the proverbial bus, a torrent of volcanic heat that burns you up from the inside out, usually without warning and with blatant disregard for the appropriateness of the situation. As we all know ladies, its hard to hold a sensible conversation over a cocktail when your face is the colour of the cranberry juice, perspiration is trickling through your cleavage and all you really want to do at that moment is rip your clothes off and run naked from the room.

I have been so pissed off about this, as I like to be in control, and I have always tried to work health issues out for myself with diet and exercise. I’ll try any alternative before I take the chemical option but that’s just the way I am. So I’ve been doing a bit of an experiment over the last year and I have some conclusions that I am going to share over the next few blogs. My hot flushes are now negligible, I now get a full nights sleep and life is bearable. Yep, if you want to give it a go it will take a bit of effort and a few lifestyle changes but hopefully if it works for you too, you will also lose a bit of weight, if you want to of course, get fitter, feel happier and generally set yourself up for a healthier and more energetic old age. Because quite honestly, I don’t want to have to check into any hospital if I can help it and I also want to boogie my way into retirement not shuffle.

But a word of warning. If you are going to take up the challenge, take it with a friend, as there’s nothing worse than having bags of energy and feeling great, wanting to dance all night in Ibiza and then  having no one to groove with.

So watch this space or preferably follow this blog or like my Facebook page, if you fancy giving it a go, as I would love to get your thoughts on what works and what doesn’t. Because life’s too short to be spending it in a pool of perspiration and stiff joints.  Yes, I may drop dead tomorrow, as I’ve already outlived my mum and my granny, but if the only sleepless nights I get are in Ibiza and I breath my last breath on the dance floor, then that for me will be just perfect.

 

WELCOME TO MIDDLE AGE

Well I finally did it. I finally came out in public and asked for a free cup of coffee with my ScotRail Thrifty Club 50 card. To be honest, I only plucked up the courage as I was with my elderly parents-in law and thought that I may pass it off as one of theirs as I asked for three coffees and flashed the card so quickly, that he wouldn’t be able to see my jauntily angled, glamorous headshot beaming out at him from the blue plastic. Sadly, the coffee wasn’t worth waiting for, as annoyingly it was half the size of the other two, probably because, I surmised through gritted teeth, they think I may need frequent trips to the toilet if I consume a normal cup of coffee. And we wouldn’t want that would we madam, numerous fifty something’s queuing for the toilets and all hyped up on caffeine? We don’t want any trouble. Doubly annoying, was the fact that he handed it straight to me and not my mother-in-law, there wasn’t even a hint of hesitation which was another blow to the ego on top of the trainee in the hairdressers last week, asking if I preferred any particular magazine. Giving her a free rein to make a choice was not a good idea. No Elle, Marie Clare or Cosmo for me, she gave me bloody House Beautiful and Homes and Gardens, obviously to go with my greying hair. So depressing.

Anyway, when my Thrifty Fifty card arrived, it was accompanied by a nice little flyer which advertised the many benefits of admitting to being middle aged. Aside from the travel discounts and the miniature coffee, (but only one per journey Madam), the leaflet enticingly offered discounts on events, concerts and entrance to venues. T in the Park? The Hydro? Groove Inverness? Not a chance. Madam, you are a mature woman now, please show some decorum. It’s the National Trust, The Hampden Experience and classical concerts for you. You can groove if you want to my dear, as long as you stay in your seat. Don’t get me wrong, I love a stately home as much as the next person, but I’d rather be living in one than visiting and I’d obviously naively assumed that National Trust discount was more ‘Senior Railcard’ than ‘Nifty, thrifty, fifty’. I would love to meet the researchers behind the marketing, I wonder whether any of the team are over thirty?

As I write this, I am once again sitting on a train, this time heading to London Paddington from Oxford. You can tell it’s the South East as there are four carriages for First Class. Inverness Edinburgh has 8 seats if you’re lucky. Even the announcer sounds more like an airline pilot. I used to commute on this train every morning from Oxford to Reading, in the days when there were individual compartments with sliding doors, like the Harry Potter train for my younger readers,(if I have any), but without steam, (I’m not that old), or chocolate frogs. It was always warm and cosy with it’s under seat heaters, glorious on a cold winter morning when my feet were frozen to my eighties, synthetic stilettos. Sadly, while quicker, it is not quite as cosy on this train, in fact I am a tad chilly and there is no trolley and a train journey is just not the same without the trolley and it’s dodgy coffee, which is always too strong. Of course it’s not helped by the fact that two milk sachets, (the new cows udder shaped ones are mildly more manageable than playing Russian roulette with the mini long life milk cartons), are simply not sufficient. And no trolley also means that I don’t get the opportunity to grapple with my conscience again as I try to choose between a Kit Kat, Sour Cream Pringles or a packet of Kettle Chips. For the trolley, in my opinion is the highlight of a jaunt out of Inverness, a cosy accompaniment to the joy of gliding through the majestic beauty of the Scottish Highlands,a totally underrated service that brings happiness to many. Lord help the messenger who has to deliver the “No Trolley on this service” announcement to a train full of Highlanders on a day oot.

So, Scotrail Marketing team, you need to up your game. While I admit that the aforementioned rant and my admission that I’m turned on by the trolley service, may in fact indicate that I’m slowly turning into a fifty something grumpy old bag, I’m not quite ready for your depressing pigeon hole. I can still manage to drink a normal sized coffee without having to pee fifteen minutes later, I do not yet have grandchildren that I want to take to the Zoo and I would prefer a Cosmopolitan and a day out at the Spa than 2 for 1 tickets to The Scottish Maritime Museum. Fifty something I may be, ready for walking tours I am not.

Although if the 2 for 1 walking tour involved cocktail bars, I could possibly be persuaded.

scotrail.co.uk/club50

 

IT’S A HANDBAG JIM BUT NOT AS WE KNOW IT!!!!

Dear friends. I have just emptied my handbag onto the kitchen table, as quite frankly the daily rummage for my car keys was getting beyond a joke and sadly the realisation has dawned that one of my youthful aspirations will never be achieved. So, I have looked deep into my own eyes in the mirror and told myself, gently but firmly, to just let it go, to free myself of an unrealistic goal and to never again be burdened by the gnawing and psychologically damaging effects of guilt. Today I allowed myself to confront the full horror of my handbag’s contents, acknowledge that it will never, ever be power woman tidy and that it is, in fact, ok not to be perfect. To be honest, the fact that it looks like an exhibit for the Turner Prize is actually quite satisfying, as the more I look at it, the more I realise that this mad pile of stuff is my reality, an honest reflection of who I am, a little snapshot of my life.

So let’s start at the beginning. Throat sweets, 3 varieties of, in ripped bags. Yes I had a sore throat this week and I am happy to report that the Jakemans of Boston, Original and Famous Throat and Chest Soothing Menthol Sweets, tasted very much like Sambucca. However, it’s the ripped bags that say more about me than the throat sweets. Not for me, a carefully opened bag, nicely folded and secured tidily. Oh no, these bags are ripped open by a woman with no patience, who holds no truck in finding a pair of scissors, which if she had, would have prevented the bag from splitting straight down the middle. Why I’m trying to keep the sweets in the ripped bag is a complete mystery because most of them are lying in a sticky heap amongst the other bottom-of-handbag detritus. My packet of Ibuprofen is similarly distressed, not for me a neat, un-squashed packet that other women seem to have, along with tissues, nail files, handbag-sized umbrellas, neatly folded shopping bags and other useful, womanly things. I’m trying hard not to be bitter.

Then there’s the lipstick, five of the same type, in a safe, natural pearl, plus one slightly off-piste racy red. I think I put the red one on once, then promptly calmed it down with the pearl, complete coward that I am. There were also two lip glosses, obviously  in case the other six got mislaid, as well as a three year old concealer. I think my game plan here, was to have one lipstick in an evening bag, one in the car, one in my handbag and one spare but somehow eight lippies seemed to have found their way into the same place. How? I have no idea. It breaks my heart really, as I do try.

I also have two notebooks, one with a lovely William Morris pattern, bought as a present from a dear friend. There were three. No idea what happened to the other two. Sadly there’s not much of interest in it. And then there’s a little battered one I bought in Ibiza, a replacement for the Spider-Man one I initially bought which turned out to be full of graph paper. Why any child would want a Spider-Man notebook full of graph paper on holiday, I have no idea, but it’s probably not as strange as a grown woman buying a Spider-Man notebook in the first place. If you must know, it was the only one the shop had. To go along with the notebooks, I have three pens, a blunt pencil, two pink golf tees, one broken golf tee, three 5p coins and a golf ball marker.

The toothbrush, still in it’s packet is from a vending machine at a Premier Inn, remnants of a weekend away. You actually get two, plus toothpaste for your 2.50 and this is the spare, which will now, no doubt, sit in the bathroom cupboard for the next three years along with the other might-come-in useful mini shampoos, shower caps and body lotions. There’s a bracelet, a little bit of sunshine and sparkle,  bought at The Hippy Market in Ibiza and there’s normal stuff like hairbrushes, hair bands, keys, reading glasses (sadly), sunglasses, a calculator and perfume, aptly titled Flowerbomb.

The garden vouchers, however, are looking at me accusingly, as my August birthday present from my Dad is supposed to have been spent on bulbs which should, by now, have been planted and snuggled up cosily underground before the frosts come, ready to remind me of me old Dad when they appear with a glorious hurrah in the Spring. I meant to plant some last year too. As usual, the best laid plans and all that, mañana mañana. Guilt, guilt and more guilt.

When I’ve finished writing this, I will tidy my bag. I’ll throw out the receipts and the sticky sweets, put the various bits and pieces where they’re supposed to be and move the garden vouchers to my car, which will hopefully remind me to buy the bulbs tomorrow. And for a short time my handbag will be clutter free and compartmentalised. I know it won’t last though. Next week it will be back to normal but hopefully full of new stuff, new stories and probably several lipsticks. Because, quite frankly, if a woman’s handbag is supposed to be a reflection of her life, I now realise that I  wouldn’t actually want it any other way.

DO YOU REALLY LIKE IT? WE’RE LOVIN IT, LOVIN IT, LOVIN IT…..

When one of your kids utters those immortal lines, “for God’s sake Mum, you’re so embarrassing, you’re not 15!”,  you just know you’ve had a really good time and as I reflect on the night that the gorgeous Mrs W introduced me to Dubsmash, it still makes me laugh. Quite honestly ladies, this phenomenon should be prescribed on the NHS. It should be a part of every girls night out or even better, a spontaneous girls night in fueled, of course, by a  sip or two of Prosecco.

For those of  you unfortunate enough not to have discovered  it yet, obviously because “you are far too old“, Dubsmash is the app that brings the age old art of  miming with a hairbrush in the bedroom mirror straight into the 21st century. What’s fab about it is you can mime by yourself and annoy your friends,( my little sister thinks I’m funny), or what is much more fun is to gather some pals, then record, trash, re-record, trash, re-record etc etc to your hearts content  until something resembling perfection, or more usually, complete carnage is achieved. Then you can save your efforts and bore your friends senseless with them on facebook. And trust me, it is seriously funny watching them back. I, for example, had no idea I was such a nodding dog and I plead guilty  to complete over-characterisation whereas Vikki was the expert, the glam coordinated one, the Posh Spice of the group assisted by Victoria, who managed to look cool, beautiful and serene despite knowing absolutely none of the words.

Seriously though, if anyone had told me that an app had the capability of entertaining three grown women for five hours and reduce them to tears of giggling hysteria, I would never have believed you, but it did and for that I am eternally grateful. I am also grateful that our creative offerings ranging from DJ Pied Piper, Baccara and The Spice Girls to Doris Day, Tammy Wynette and dodgy lines about beautiful lips from Abigail’s Party, performed prone on the sofa by this point,  can be saved and churned out again and again and again  to make us giggle once more. Luckily for you, dear reader, I can’t seem to upload our productions, which is  mercifully a very, very good thing.

Yes, my child, I do realise that I am, in fact, 52, but for five hilarious hours I was 15 again and back in my bedroom, and as far as I am concerned, there is nothing wrong but absolutely everything right with that.

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