An anniversary ~ 22nd April

Today is the first anniversary of  thisissixty.blog.  Inspired by blogs I had enjoyed reading I decided to start my own. My first post ‘What’s in a name’ attracted just fourteen views. These days I’m getting between two and three hundred – not a massive number but an impressive increase.

Now that I have many more readers it occurs to me that some of you may be interested in hearing how I came up with the blog name, so for my anniversary post I have decided to re-post that very first post:

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Well, here it is … the first post on my new blog, This is Sixty.

I pondered for some while over the name. Ensure that your blog name tells people what you are about I was advised, but did I really need that? My aim wasn’t to attract scores of followers or related advertisements (indeed, I paid for an upgrade in order to avoid exactly that).   The fundamental reason for setting it up was as a hobby, a vehicle for my writing, which might cover all manner of subjects….what I like, what I think, what I feel, what I do. I might even post the odd bit of flash fiction, a poem, a recipe. It’s MY blog after all. Self indulgent perhaps, but I wanted a name that captured the essence of ME.  So I pondered for longer…..and then longer still.  I considered, rejected, decided, changed my mind and despaired.  How could it be so difficult?  Then one evening I received a mail from an old school friend inviting me to her 60th birthday party and the train of thought that this set off provided the solution.

I am very fortunate in having a large circle of friends and acquaintances, some older, a few younger, and several whom, during 2016/7 would, like me, celebrate their sixtieth birthdays. I was the first.  Sixty! I could barely believe it then and it still sometimes brings me up short several months on. How on earth did that happen? Where have all those years gone?
“So what’s it like being sixty, then?” a younger friend had asked me shortly after my birthday celebrations.

Well, sixty is certainly different from what it used to be. My earliest memories of my grandmother, Kitty, date from when she would have been only fifty seven or eight. Even then she was an old lady. Her mode of dress at home was, almost without exception, a wrap-around pinafore or pink nylon overall, designed to protect (let’s not mince words here) her decidedly old-lady clothes. She wore flat brown lace-ups, sometimes with ankle socks and I never once saw her in the heels. I’m sure she’d have thought them totally inappropriate for someone her age. I don’t recall ever seeing her wear makeup, not even a smear of lipstick.  Her social life certainly didn’t involve meeting up with girlfriends for a pub lunch (perish the thought) or a spa day.

Sixty in the 1960s was considered pretty old – not ‘the new 40’ or ‘the new 50’ as it is variously described today, not middle-aged (it still isn’t technically speaking, but if we take middle-aged to mean the middle of adulthood, we might just stretch it). Sixty was just OLD. And it was only a decade away from the three score years and ten that was then generally considered to be one’s lot.

But that was then and this is my friends and me now – highlighted hair, always made up, nails painted and clothes that could be just as well worn by someone thirty years younger (provided they had good taste, of course)!  I don’t consider myself at the forefront of musical modernism but take a look at the CDs in my car and you’re just as likely to come across Guns ‘n’ Roses or Springsteen as Mendelssohn or Strauss. Friends of mine now in their seventies are no different.  We might be grandmothers (and in a couple of cases even great-grandmothers) but we go to the gym, lunch with girlfriends, drive our own cars and generally do whatever is reasonable to avoid giving in to our advancing years, (I say ‘reasonable’ because I draw the line at surgery or injecting my forehead with toxins)!

“So what’s it like being sixty then?” my friend had asked.
I pointed to myself and said. “Like this. THIS is sixty.”

I hope you’ll drop by again.

The Spring Garden

The sunshine always makes us somehow notice how much work needs to be done to bring the garden under control. Noticing is about as far as it goes for me; I do not do gardening. I will deadhead the odd rose but my hands never, even gloved, touch the soil. Our garden is not large, but at 66ft long, neither is it a tiny one. I would be perfectly happy if it were. Fortunately, whilst gardening is not his favourite activity, Husband is willing to take on the task. It will be the garden that will force us to move house one of these days.  I do like it to look nice. By this I do not mean formal. I do like to see the formal arrangements that grace stately homes and the like, but prefer something more casual for domestic gardens.

I ventured out side to see what’s going on.

Several lily shoots. These should grow to around 5ft high.

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Bare parches on the rockery need the slate rearranging. It has a tendency to slide down when it rains heavily.

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Several of the rockery plants are in full bloom.

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The campanula (I think) are beginning to flower. Such a beautiful colour.

Comment added later……..reader Alison says that she is no expert but thinks this is periwinkle. I think she is correct.

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Grape hyacinths (muscari) in abundance. They’re everywhere. Pretty when in flower but so untidy once they’re over.

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Hebe (or is it some kind of euonymus?). Here since the winter and still looks good.

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The roses are sprouting dozens of little shoots, the lavender’s looking good, and the lilac tree is promising a huge flush of blooms but the California lilac, so glorious last summer, seems to have withered. I’m not sure it will recover.

And Oscar still sits patiently beside the shed, King of all he surveys. Introducing Oscar

Oscar

 

 

 

 

 

Midweek update

After the dullness and chill of so many months it feels rather churlish to say that I was too hot, but today’s glorious sunshine turned my office into a mini greenhouse! If it’s the same tomorrow then the blind will have to come into use but I really didn’t want to shut out the best sunshine in months. I opened the window and let it pour in and now, at home, we’re sitting with the French doors open and it really feels like summer. A blackbird is singing beautifully and we have a pair of blue tits eating the peanuts

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Back to where I was: I have a nice office at work and I’ve recently taken delivery of some new (chosen by me) furniture. I have a comfortable chair for visitors and a couple of decorative plants; I’m making it my own.  The view from the window could be better – it overlooks the car park and the entrance where the lorries arrive (all day and all night). It is also next door to the Council tip, but on the bright side I can hear the seagulls (greedy scavengers, they are particularly drawn to rubbish sites). I like seagulls and once wrote a post in support of these much maligned creatures.  In praise of seagulls   Oh, and I have a large box of tissues. A HR office can occasionally be an emotional place!

The task of finding a car continues. I’ve had open top sports cars in the past and found that the excitement of driving them has fallen short of expectation.  I’ve driven large cars, small cars and medium size cars and my requirements are now very explicit. I’ve considered running costs – fuel, road tax and insurance, reliability, safety, emissions and performance and come to the conclusion that an updated version of what I already have is my preferred option. Add to this the fact that I really like driving it, and it seems pointless to compromise. Further to the essentials, the colour  matters; I only want black, dark grey, red or white. I thought I’d found just the thing at a garage 30 miles away and paid a £200 (refundable) reservation to hold it until I could get there to look at it.  An hour later they rang to say they’d sold it. That’s not supposed to happen so I wasn’t very happy. I found another this afternoon but it is in Hemel Hempstead. So again I’ve paid the reservation fee and the company are bringing it to a closer branch so that I can test drive it. Apparently this can take up to TEN working days though usually doesn’t. Fingers crossed that it will suit. If I buy it, it will be my fourth red car.

Slimming World on Monday confirmed another half pound loss. A new mantra is needed – focus, focus, focus.

My daughter has just arrived to stay for a couple of nights whilst she is working closer to here than to home – how useful we are! It’s so nice to have her here. We’re going to spend the evening relaxing. That’s the kind of chill I never mind.

Lazy Sunday Afternoon

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After yesterday’s beautiful sunshine it’s been raining again. My delight that Spring had arrived was short-lived. Instead of an afternoon out looking at cars as planned, I turned to my old favourite activity and baked a cake. I used the honey & almond recipe from the recently mentioned Three ingredient baking book but this time I turned it into a five ingredient cake by adding almond extract and chopped glacé cherries. Very successful! It tasted like Bakewell tart without the pastry. Then I settled down to read the Sunday papers. And that was pretty much it until it was time for dinner. I’m not  often that lazy.

The trouble with lazy afternoons is that they don’t offer much scope for interesting observation or writing so I’ll tell you about something that happened yesterday afternoon instead. I’ve been thinking about replacing my car for a while. Past experience reminds me that whilst this seems a fun proposition before you actually start the process, the reality is that it can be a bit of a pain what with deciding what you want, tracking a suitable specimen down (it’s not going to be brand new so it gets a bit more difficult), and organising insurance to coincide with picking it up and driving it away.  To make it a little more complicated, I’m not trading in my existing car. It is a little newer and has fewer miles on the clock than my husband’s car so we’ve agreed that he will take it over, and instead I will trade in his car – so more insurance to re-jig.

Anyhow, we went to the local Vauxhall garage where I bought my current car from but found nothing on the forecourt that fitted my requirements. No-one came to talk to us so we went inside. The salesman didn’t look up as I approached and I was forced to speak first. His complete disinterest in my custom was so evident that we left shortly after. There had been no greeting, he hadn’t taken any bother to find out what I was looking for, hadn’t asked whether I was looking to trade-in. Not a single question. He didn’t even stand up which is surely just common courtesy.  It was just the first look at finding something to replace my existing car, but for all he knew, I might have been in the market for a brand new one there and then. I’ve identified some possibilities online and will resume the search with a little more vigour later in the week.

Tomorrow’s plans include the gym in the morning, coffee with gym friends, a bit of essential home admin, hair blow dried late afternoon and then Slimming World. With regard to the latter and the question you might ask, the answer is ….slowly, very slowly. 🙁

 

A disappointing dish

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An avid watcher of Masterchef, Id heard of sumac but assumed it to be some sort of spice blend.  I was wrong; apparently sumac is a single spice, derived from any one of 30+ species of the rhus genus or Anacardiaceae family. (I’m not a lot wiser but here’s a picture of one of them).

Daughter bought me a copy of one of my favourite magazines, Delicious, and in it I found a recipe for Chicken Musakhan, a dish which originates from Palestine.  I had all the ingredients to hand except for sumac. It wasn’t difficult to find (Tesco World Foods section £1.50) so perhaps less exotic that I’d thought. It smelt deliciously citrusy.

The chicken was marinated overnight in a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice and four teaspoons of sumac.  Four teaspoons!! Clearly this didn’t have the same pungency as chilli! The following evening two pitta breads (the recipe suggests either these or flatbreads) were generously spread with sliced red onions that had been sautéed in a little oil and yet more sumac. Once cooked, the chicken was laid on top. The only bit of the recipe missed out was the few pine nuts sprinkled on top.

The suggestion was to serve with a cucumber and parsley salad but not keen on parsley, I mixed chopped cucumber with some edamame beans. It looked like this:

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It tasted like … … … chicken on top of onion on top of pitta bread Image result for sad face images. What a disappointment! Sumac must be one of the mildest spices available. The chicken had absorbed a slight lemon taste but that was probably from the lemon juice in which it had been marinated for twenty four hours. The sumac barely added anything to the dish.  Have you eaten anything flavoured with sumac, or had experience of using it in cooking?

NB: Should you ever find yourself in the position of foraging for sumac, remember that some sumac species are poisonous but culinary sumac is easily identifiable by its red bulbs. Don’t touch the white sumac bulbs.  If you’re tempted to buy it, best do so from a reputable retailer!

Nailing it

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After my regular blow-dries, my monthly manicure would be the last thing I’d give up. I refer here not to a ‘file & polish’ which is how some define a manicure, but to the full works including cuticle care, soaking and oiling of nails. My mainicurist (I’ve been going to her for 13 years) also provides an excellent and relaxing hand massage.

The picture above shows my nails 7 days after painting. People  express surprise when I say that I expect my nail polish to last 10 days (even though I am hopeless at remembering to wear rubber gloves for household tasks).

Some complain that nail polish ‘doesn’t stay on’ or chips badly in no time. I have to say here – it’s not the nail polish; it’s the way it’s applied. On one of the blogs I read the author was saying that she was disappointed in a particular nail polish because it needed two coats. ALL nail polish needs two coats (even that which claims to be single-coat) if you want it to last. And that’s not all. After preparing nails (buffed to remove any flakes), first on should be a good ridge-filling base coat. This is what will stop your nails discolouring and will give a smooth base on which to apply colour. Leave this to dry and then paint two coats of polish (I leave around 10-15 minutes in between). Leave for another 15 minutes and then apply a good quality top coat. And make sure to take it over the top of the nail where they are most likely to chip. Then do nothing much for the rest of the evening (it will be touch dry quite quickly but will not completely harden for several hours). Best thing is to have an early evening bath/shower and apply polish before settling down to watch something on TV.  Invest the time at this stage and you’ll only need to paint your nails three times a month.

I am very choosy about which brands of polish I wear and, at the very least choose a “3-free polish”  which contain no formaldehyde, toluene or dibutyl phthalate. Better still go for a 5 free, 7 free or even 9 free brand. I’m not going to go into all the different chemicals and reasons for avoiding them but there’s a wealth of info on Google if you’re interested. I tend to use use OPI (3-free), Benecos and BioSculpture (5 free). The higher-free brands tend not to be mainstream and can be hard to find other than online. The problem with this is, as I have found to my cost, that the colours are difficult to determine.

I used to have my nails gelled and occasionally still do if going on a longer holiday. ‘But it ruins your nails,’ say some.  Indeed it does if you are not prepared to pay to get it taken off properly (picking or chipping it off WILL certainly ruin your nails as will using cheap gel). Only use a premium quality soak-off gel that is guaranteed not to damage the natural nail.  I have only ever had Bio Sculpture gel and yes, it’s more expensive. I had gels for a while whilst strengthening my own brittle nails. It worked wonders and I now have strong, good nails but I haven’t had them regularly gelled for eight years. Bio Sculpture gels are is known industry-wide for how gentle they are and they contain no known allergens.

I love a pedicure too and treat myself at the start of every summer. During the winter months I take the opportunity to get my feet ‘summer-ready’. This involves doing my own pedicure (nowhere near as luxurious or relaxing as having someone else do it)  using a Scholl Express Pedi. These have really come down in price since I had mine a few years ago. This one can now be bought on Amazon for £13.99 and whilst Boots sell a pack of replacement rollers for £12.99, Home Bargains offer the same for just £4.99. I leave the nail polish off during the winter months,  and then every other night before bathing (better before as afterwards the skin is really soft and can get damaged), I use the Express Pedi for just a couple of minutes. Every night I apply   The Blue Lemon‘s foot balm. Favourite is the divine-smelling lavender and geranium. On alternate nights I massage my toenails with bio-oil to stop them drying out. The entire process of looking after my feet takes up less than 20 minutes a week.

Z5

 

Bargain day

It’s five days since I posted. I ask again – where does the time go?

It’s been a morning of unexpected bargains. After the gym I went to withdraw some money from the building society (I have to go to the dentist on Monday and the bill will be £130 – no bargain there). Whilst in town I popped into Roman where, a couple of weeks ago, I’d seen a top I liked, taken it to the counter and discovered that I’d left my bank card at home. I knew exactly where it was; I’d been using it for an online purchase and left it (as I have done on several occasions) next to the computer. I hadn’t made a special journey back to the store but, as I was there, I thought I’d see if they still had the top. They did, but now it had 25% off. First bargain of the day.

Sadly it’s the last day of trading for our local M&S. Always a ‘lower level’ branch, the company have decided that it’s not profitable enough. Apparently the people of the town haven’t been spending enough in there.Perhaps if they’d filled the women’s clothing section with the best they had to offer we’d have bought more. Unfortunately the racks have too often been filled with the unimaginative, garish leftovers with 70% off.  It’s not that I never found anything among these offerings but I hate stuffed-full sale racks and for the most part I’d still not have bought what was there even with 90% off!  The worst aspect of the closure is that we will lose the food hall. There will be nowhere in town (barring Farm Foods and I never go in there) to buy food and given that we have no Waitrose here either, I shall miss M&S greatly. Anyhow, I was talking bargains.  Some of the shelves were empty but there were several store cupboard items reduced by 50%. I bought lots of tins of tuna and salmon plus  a few other bits and pieces. Apparently all the freezer items had been similarly reduced but they’d almost all gone. No matter – I’d never have fitted them in my still-too-full freezer.

Finally, in Tesco I spent £42 but forgot to hand over my ‘£6 off a £40 shop’ voucher. I remembered just as I was leaving the checkout and asked the cashier if she was able to refund on it. She couldn’t but she told me that if I took it to customer services they would give me a gift card to the value …and they did.