Sushi chef? Easy.

This week I have mostly been hiding my hamster face away after having my wisdom teeth out. It’s not all bad, there are a lot of programmes on Netflix, but after a whole season of Prison Break in 4 days, I’ve decided to try to engage my brain again and write something.

To save your eyes and my brain power, it’s a quick one today! All about (did you get it from the title?) making sushi! Now, I’m a huge fan of sushi, despite being a (dreaded) vegetarian and I would have liked to think that is quite simple from my intent watching of the sushi chefs whenever I go and eat. One night a few months back I had a few hours to myself and was having the lovely Al over for dinner. Went to the shop to mooch around and see what looked interesting and, as if it was meant to be, starter sushi making kits were on special offer!

My first attempt was okay, rice was bland and not cooked enough, the fillings weren’t all too thrilling… But it stuck together and I made a few simple maki rolls. Covered in enough soy and wasabi, it was edible. To make the experience more successful, I sent a SATC posed photo to the ‘girls only’ whatsapp group that my friends and I use almost daily, I think you’ll agree, probably not as fetching (or daring!) as Kim Cattrall!

My second attempt was much better, I did some research on rice seasoning and even experimented with a couple of different rolling techniques. The result was much more tasty and I’ve now been able to tick something off the list!

Speaking of the list… I’ve added a few more challenges to it.

19. Learn a line dance
20. Frame more pictures
21. Make a career move

I’ve updated my pin board, so all are included. Now to keep checking these things off! click here to see it

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Hanging out in the middle of the sky (and raising a ton of money!)

On the 31st August, I finally bit the bullet and completed the most terrifying thing on my list. After a restless night, some supportive (and some not so supportive) messages, a sense of humour failure and a good brain rack of ways to get out of it, I was at the airfield and more than a little bit anxious with no option but to grit my teeth and get in the plane.

In the time it took me to have my briefing and suit up, the crowds had rolled in. I never realised how much the people you care for in life become your extended family until that morning. My family, friends of the family, my girls, their families, supporters of the charity… They all came to wish me luck and be my cheerleaders for the day. I felt so special and full of love for these people and very lucky that a generous Will Carman filmed and photographed the day for me to remember, you can watch the video here.

I couldn’t be more thankful for my brother and adopted brother coming with me, they sat with me in the tiny, rickety plane, grinned when I thought I’d pass out from fear and exited for their jumps in their own comical styles. Strapped to an instructor with more strength to push me out to the hatch than I had to resist being pushed to the hatch, I found myself suspended in mid air just waiting to fall to my certain demise!

The first 6000 feet of the drop were horrendous! Like an extended G Force on an amusement park ride churning your stomach constantly (and giving you a Wallace and Grommet face) but then the parachute opens and it’s like no calm you’ve ever experienced in your life. You are literally just hanging out in the middle of the sky, in silence and tranquility with views for miles around. During all of the anticipation of jumping, I could never have imagined how perfect the descent could be.

At the bottom I heard the biggest roar of screams and whoops from all of those wonderful people who came to share the day with me. We all watched the video of my dive, Mama JuJu let them all know what their donations to the day would do for the charities, there were a few tears (not from me, I was too elated) and a lot of smiles and laughs.

At final count, all the people who supported me in this experience have raised over £900 for the Young Citizens of Rwanda and Aunty Project charities. This provides a relief of fundraising for a whole year for the charity workers and gives them a chance to start getting ahead of the next years funds. Not only this, but every single one of you has supported me in making a leap (no pun intended. Ok, a little pun intended) that I never thought I would have the courage to make.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you all rock.IMG_4345.JPGIMG_4342.JPG

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A time to soar… a time to dive…

Jules stealing a kiss

Jules stealing a kiss

I realise it has been a while since I posted, but I wanted to wait until my site was set up to collect donations to the charities that I am supporting in completing my sky dive this month. Two off the list in one go!

Firstly, about the fundraising. My second mum, mama (now nana) JuJu, is an active part of fundraising and relief for those affected by the genocide in Rwanda. She is just super woman. She runs online shops, makes and sells clothes, collects goods to be sent over to Rwanda and fundraises, all whilst running her own dance classes and being a wonderful mum / partner / friend (and now nana). I’ve watched on in awe and decided that it’s time to get off my bum and do something to help. Every year a group of volunteers go over to a village in Rwanda and spend time there with the local people, distributing aid and helping out on various projects. One of these projects is the Young Citizens of Rwanda (YCR). This charity was set up by a local woman named Jemrose, she gave up her life in Nottingham to move to Gitarma and help an orphanage. From there, she rented a house and took on 5 young boys, raising funds to be able to pay for rent, school fees, food and clothing for them. Her family grew as she took on more children, she currently has 5 girls and boys living with her. Whilst the children grown and move into the world on their own, her house is still their home and she is still their mum. She really is an inspiring lady. Supporting her, The Aunty Project formed.

The Aunties are a group of ladies who are now (you guessed it) Aunties to these young people. The Aunties sponsor individuals in need, they provide help in housing and providing education and life skills to those old enough to be out in the world, with the aim of setting them up to become self-sufficient and independent ‘Young Citizens of Rwanda’. One of the girls that the Aunties are looking out for at the moment is Rozalie, she was a toddler in the genocide when her parents were killed. Her eldest brother took on caring for the family but the house he was given is now in a state of disrepair. Rozalie was befriended by an older man and became pregnant. Unbeknown to her, he was married. When he learned of her pregnancy, he killed himself in shame and Rozalie was excluded from her community, even her family turned their backs on her. With a young baby to support, she was supported to set up a small stall selling fruit and vegetables but her brothers stole from her every time she made profit. The Aunties have chosen to help Rozalie in moving to a new area, closer to Jemrose and get her set up with a new home, some basic education and the opportunity to re-start her stall in a safer area so that she can support herself. All this costs just £40 and transforms lives. This is why I have chosen the YCR and The Aunty Project as the charities to donate my fundraising to. I think you’ll agree, these are some amazing people doing a wonderful thing.

A small plug for my fundraising page: https://www.givey.com/rebeccaelston1

Now… for the sky dive! I am booked in and ready to jump on the 31st August. Yes, 31st August 2014, as in 30 days from now. Needless to say I am in a constant state of shock that I decided this would be a good idea but after writing the information about YCR and The Aunty Project, I’ve reminded myself that being scared for one day is nothing in comparison to the state of fear that so many live in their whole lives. For anyone who considered the cost of the jump, obviously I will be paying for this myself, every penny of sponsorship from others will go to the charities that I mentioned before, it would hardly seem right to do it any other way.

Brother Tom, the adrenaline junky, is away this week on a sky diving break in Portugal. He sent me a video that was designed to get me excited about my jump but just served to intensify the panic! He and my adopted brother Gary are trying to arrange to come in the same flight as me for the jump, I’m not sure whether this is a good thing or not! We will see… I’m sure I will be telling you all about it as soon as it’s done!

Trials and tribulations of arranging a family holiday

Since I last posted on Friday I have been genuinely amazed that people have actually read my writing, I’ve had 178 views from as far away as Mexico and Australia. This has left me rearing to go and get my items checked off so that I can ‘blog all about it’. With my new found enthusiasm, I’ve even managed to add a couple of things to the list:

17. Take Queue (Steve) for a beer
18. Start and keep a blog to track my progress through to 30 (ok, this one is a bit of a cheat but I still feel it will be an achievement if I can keep it up for the next 20 months)

Despite being a bit sniffly this weekend, I’ve taken a short break form feeling sorry for myself to read lots about blogging and I’m excited to start to put some lessons into practice. I’ve also been looking at family breaks and have started to get Mum on board (pictured with a scared face, above). Being the only daughter of 4 children, and the eldest, I can be known to occasionally be a little bossy and take over planning these things for us. It doesn’t always go to plan, the boys (my collective term for my brothers) don’t respond well to family meetings being called or my organised fun, so it will be a challenge to find something that appeals to all of their interests and a time when they are all available and willing to come!

Tom, the oldest of the boys, is based in Scotland and is a Royal Marine. His adrenaline junky ways make everything I suggest seem tame and it is difficult to hold his interest for more than an hour at a time… When he is not working, he can be found skydiving, bungee jumping or abseiling somewhere. The last time he spent an afternoon with me he taught me a knife disarm, a gun disarm and explained to me how to deflate a lung and put an IV into someone, all while I was trying to watch re-runs of the American Office on our relaxing sofa afternoon.

Andrew, the middle of the boys, is also based in Scotland, though not located close to Tom. He has the closest interests of all of them to me, so should be keen for this break, but he doesn’t often get time off work. He is in the Navy, working in the submarine service, which I think might have added to his already warped sense of humour (a bunch of people in a confined space under water for months at a time have to find ways to amuse themselves!). I took him with me as a guest to a wedding a couple of months back, we had a brilliant time, lots of laughs. I’m sure he will agree, it is just a matter of pinning him down!

Joseph is the youngest of the boys. He will always be my baby brother, as much as he towers over me. He is still in Nottingham at home, which means I get to spend lots of time with him at the minute. He has been busy at university open days (which is where the mummy and me selfie was taken), finishing his college qualification and looking for some summer work before he leave us to go on his uni adventure this September. Next summer he might just be too cool to come away with us boring old fogeys, can always play the guilt card to get him there though.

The last time we all had a weekend away together it was… Challenging… Mum and Dad very kindly (and a bit nostalgically) booked a family caravan weekend for us all, like the ones we used to have as a young family. In theory, it was a great idea. It had 3 bedrooms, near the coast and lots to do in terms of on site entertainment. Joe was too young to join us at the pub then, so I spent a lot of time in the bingo hall with him and Mum, collecting tickets for unusual and unnecessary prizes. Tom and Andrew, newly old enough to ‘hit the pubs’ spent a lot of time doing what most boys in their late teens / early twenties would. They were quite unruly! It seemed a stressful weekend at the time and I’m sure we all vowed “never again” but some of our favourite memories come from that break, I only hope that the next one creates something similar for us to build into our family back catalogue of embarrassing stories.

So the difficult task begins. A break with enough space for everyone, enough to keep people entertained yet still together, somewhere far enough from a pub to deter the boys from abandoning my organised fun but close enough to activities for us to do together and not get bored. All at a time that 6 adults can clear their diaries.

Wish me luck!

Flash Mob!

The 12th April this year was to be the wedding day of my very good friend, Becky. Quite a few of us did dancing in our younger years and most of us left it behind as a hobby, Becky turned it into a career and it is one of her great passions, so what better and more fitting gift for her on her wedding day than a flash mob!

Having watched my share of flash mob videos, I loved it! And with my thirty before thirty list not being as easy a task as I had hoped, I was even more excited to have a life achievement to document.

I would love to say that I had any part in the idea, but I didn’t. Quite a few bottles of champagne into her hen do, one of her colleagues mentioned what a great surprise it would be to all break into organised dance at the wedding reception. This went down brilliantly with the group of tipsy hens and, to everyone’s surprise, an email went out the following week with a request for volunteers and a demo video for us to learn ahead of the wedding.

The lovely Cat offered to host ‘rehearsal’ at her house while her other half was away and kids in bed (here is the evidence rehearsal ). It was chaos, we could only hope that the thought would count for Becky on the day or that everyone else would do so well that we wouldn’t be noticed.

The day of the wedding came, all of the ladies were excited, the brother in law of the bride was set up with a camcorder to capture every moment and then the opening lines to ‘I wanna dance with somebody’ came on and we erupted into dance! The camcorder battery died, people didn’t have partners, Becky thought it was a dance she must know and started to try to join in, people had practiced differently… It was wonderful! Luckily there is some video evidence, it is dark and grainy but something to look back on for years to come and remember the time that a bunch of ladies came together to create a memory for us all to keep forever (the finished product can be viewed here Becky’s Flash Mob).

Becky loved it, her new husband loved it and it set the tone for the rest of the night. There was dancing, our friend Charley and her partner organised a limbo competition, ties came off, drinks were flowing and everyone who didn’t know each other before became friends for the night.

22 months to go and only another 29 things to do.

The pre-thirty panic

I’m not sure whether it was the realisation that I only had two years left before the big milestone, if it was remembering the whole list of things I had been putting off, thinking I had ages left before I had to be a grown up or if it was the fact that, out of nowhere, all of my friends seemed to be settling down, getting married and having babies, but some time around my 28th birthday the panic set in. It suddenly seemed that I had achieved nothing, I had no plan and was floating somewhere that felt like my mid twenties but was undeniably my late twenties and time was speeding up.

To combat the sense of powerlessness that had come over me, I did what any rational person would do, I started a list of thirty things that I must do before I turned thirty, so I had concrete evidence of some life achievements! All of the things I had previously thought I would do one day now had a deadline. I have only told a few about my challenge, most people were excited by it, some thought I was mad, one person suggested I blog about it which gave me the inspiration to start this page. I’m not entirely sure who would be interested in reading about a stranger going through a pre-thirty life transition but at the very least I will have something to subject my future children to.

As I write this, I have a list of only 16 and 20 months left to do those and think of another 14. The panic has less subsided and more transferred to completing the list!

I have asked others for input and searched the internet for inspiration, but it seems to me that the best way to complete this list is to keep it at the front of my mind, taking care to add things to it each time I hear a story and say “I would love to do that”, I am not holding out a huge hope to complete the whole thing but I feel determined to try my hardest and hope that each new thing I try gives me a new memory and achievement that I can take with me.

So here is the list so far…

1. Learn to smoke a pipe
2. Learn some basic Spanish (enough to get by on a holiday)
3. Go skiing
4. Master the art of yoga
5. Go fishing with my dad
6. Go on a meditation retreat
7. Go to a festival
8. Run in an organised 10k
9. Be a part of a flash mob
10. Throw a cocktail party
11. Get a new tattoo
12. Do a sky dive
13. Make sushi from scratch
14. Arrange a family weekend break
15. Raise money for charity
16. Spend more time with my best friend’s baby, Frank

My 30 before 30 pin board

Some of these seem strange but all have a special reason to me and I can’t wait to do them.