30 Challenges For My 30th Year – Review

A year ago I decided to set myself 30 challenges to achieve before I reached the age of 30. That’s today – lets see how I did:

  1. Learn how to juggle – an actual juggler from a circus said that I could juggle so this one is definitely in the bag ✓
  2. Run in a 10k road race – I ran the Edinburgh 10k in 56 minutes ✓
  3. Run the 5km Deerstalker – Team “Run like you stole something” did a great job with me on this one ✓
  4. Climb Edinburgh’s 7 hills – done ✓
  5. Watch extended versions of the Lord of the Rings films – this was a slog! ✓
  6. Read The Iliad by Homer – this was even more of a slog! ✓
  7. Perform at the Fringe – I cheated on this… I performed at the top of Arthur’s Seat in the middle of August though, so that counts right? ✓
  8. Go 1 month without chocolate, sweets or cake – did it, would rather not do it again! ✓
  9. Learn greetings in 30 languages – привет! ✓
  10. Raise £500 for charity – £632.50 – this was by far my biggest success and I’m really grateful to everyone who donated ✓
  11. Write a novel – still needs some work but that’s a yes ✓
  12. Solve a Rubix cube – after a month of trying I needed a tutorial but I did it ✓
  13. Write 5 short stories – a collection of five short stories The Freaks – done ✓
  14. Submit something I’ve written to a writing competition – I did enter, I didn’t win ✓
  15. Sing at a karaoke bar Organising people for karaoke was tough… but I did something more exciting over the course of the year – Kev and I brewed our own beer! I think from a list of 30 I’m allowed 1 substitution (especially since beer brewing was on my original list) and the results are delicious so I’m calling this one done ✓
  16. Visit Edinburgh Castle – loved the view, shame it’s so buggy inaccessible! ✓
  17. Give blood 3 times – did, three more pints given ✓
  18. Improve my conversational French – I can now ask if things have dairy in them in French… ✓
  19. Create a video blog – despite no effort my YouTube channel has almost had 1000 views (although I admit that a chunk of these are from uploading our school production of Little Shop of Horrors from an old VHS)! ✓
  20. Set up my “One Item Museum” website – I love the idea of this website so much 🙂 ✓
  21. Carve something wooden – world’s most useless spoon! ✓
  22. Make some cheese – this was surprisingly tasty! ✓
  23. Design my Christmas board game idea – proud of this one
  24. Design own Christmas cards – I cheated and combined this with the board game… but it was well worth it! ✓
  25. Record 10 ukulele covers – some of them turned out ok considering I was recording them on my kitchen floor on an iPad with no external mics!  ✓
  26. Try foods from 30 countries – I wasn’t too diligent about recording this, but a box of 20+ sweets from CyberCandy along with the monthly meals from different countries has been a tasty experience ✓
  27. Host a dinner party on top of Arthur’s Seat – there were compromises due to weather but this was awesome ✓
  28. Create own flavoured vodka – Peanut Butter Cup vodka! ✓
  29. Spend a random weeknight under canvas – in a bivvy no less (it was surprisingly warm and awesome waking up to the stars during the night) ✓
  30. Walk at least 2 days (and hopefully all of) the West Highland Way – challenging but awesome at the same time – so glad David and Matt could join me ✓

To finish I just want to thank Ruth and everyone else that put up with my silly schemes all year.  Thank you. 🙂

Edinburgh’s 7 Hills

Today I completed another one of my 30 challenges – I finished climbing Edinburgh’s seven hills. Here’s a photo from the top of each:

  • Castle Rock
  • Calton Hill
  • Blackford Hill
    Blackford 1
    Blackford 2
  • Braid Hills
  • Corstorphine Hill
  • Arthur’s Seat
  • Easter Craiglockhart Hill
    2013-03-27 09.52.26

Job done!

The One Item Museum Project

One Item Museum
My One Item Museum project website is live and I’m really happy as it has started gaining really awesome submissions. The purpose of the site is to get people to share what the one item in their house is that they feel deserves to be in a gallery or museum. The submissions have already included several items of original art, a World War 1 soldier’s kit trunk, a vintage motorbike and some dress designs from a fashion designer in the 1940s – so cool! 🙂

What do you have in your house that’s museum/gallery-worthy? Submit it now!

The website itself is far less complicated than was originally planned – I started out thinking about building a site that people could submit images to from scratch before quickly realising that piggybacking the site on Tumblr would save me a lot of headaches. Then there came the design – again this is far simpler than I started out with for one reason – getting it done. I think in the future I’d like to have only one item per page with a controller to move on to the next thing – the background for this would look like a museum with each item in a separate frame. Still – it’s all very exciting in the stripped down format. 🙂

End Of The Year Roundup

Happy Hogmanay!

Another year gone! This has been another year with lots of great positives; a great holiday to Kendal, a great holiday to Arran, a great Scottish road trip (although “cold” doesn’t even begin to describe it!), a fun time learning about beekeeping, a great holiday in Thrieve, a lovely wedding in Glasgow, completing the “Thing A Day” challenge in February (which vastly improved my Photoshop skills!), watching every single Bond film (in order), designing a couple of websites, a cool trip to London, seeing Neil Gaiman perform with the original radio cast of Hitchikers Guide and many many many trips to the zoo… all in all a good year.

Music – My Favourite Tracks From 2012

  • Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – Immigrant Song & What If We Could?: The book was brutal but brilliant, the film was even more brutal and had some unbelievable filming, and the soundtrack? My favourite thing to listen to whilst working for the whole year… it’s poinient, harsh, loud, dark and expansive in a way that you’ll only understand if you’ve seen all of the snowscapes in the film.
  • Frightened Rabbit – State Hospital: An awesome tune from an awesome EP that I first heard at an awesome gig… I can’t wait for the next album to land.
  • Chvrches – The Mother We Share: It’s hard to pick a favourite track from this band… something of a feat considering they’ve only got four tracks! I can’t wait to hear more material from these guys – even though this isn’t my normal style of music I just can’t get enough of it!
  • Muse – Madness: Best tune by Muse. Fact. Slow, blissed out grooves and stunning guitar solo. I still can’t believe their Jools Holland performance wasn’t mimed it was so close to the album version.
  • Pomplamoose – Don’t Stop Lovin Me: Amusing and silly and a bit catchy. 🙂
  • Katy bar the door – The Tide: When will the album get here?! Good luck to these guys – it sounds like it’s been a tough year for them management wise.
  • We Are Augustines – Book Of James: Support act for Frightened Rabbit who almost stole the show – these guys know how to rock!
  • Wheeland Brothers – Sand In My Sheets: I discovered this band by searching for “Ukulele” on Bandcamp but I found something way more that – this band do surfer, skater, ska, chillout music better than anyone else I’ve heard – such a party band!
  • The Lumineers – Ho Hey: Love it. Have I been listening to too much folk? Can you ever listen to too much folk?
  • fun. – We Are Young (feat. Janelle Monáe): Although maybe technically a 2011 track I first heard them this year and I guess they are yet another band that shows a great pop/rock combo can be, pun intended, fun!
  • Of Monsters and Men – Little Talks: Happy, rocky, upbeat, folky fun.
  • The Black Keys – Gold on the Ceiling: Such dirty guitars!
  • Amanda Palmer – Want It Back (NSFW video warning!): So much to love about this album – great work!
  • The Speks: Many car journeys have been spent listening to this album (including one when Martha wasn’t even in the car!)

Films – My Favourite Films Of 2012

  • Super 8
  • Attack The Block
  • Prometheus
  • Haywire
  • The Dark Knight Rises
  • Columbiana
  • Big Easy Express
  • Drive
  • Whip it
  • Zombieland
  • Avengers Assemble
  • Skyfall
  • Safe House
  • The Bourne Legacy

Films – My Worst Film Of 2012

  • Gentlemen Broncos

Books – My Favourite Reads Of 2012

  • Stieg Larsson – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
  • Stieg Larsson – The Girl Who Played With Fire
  • Stieg Larsson – The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest
  • Sam Kean – The Disappearing Spoon
  • John Lloyd & John Mitchinson – The QI Book Of The Dead
  • Terry Pratchett – Snuff
  • Stephen Fry – The Fry Chronicles
  • Bear Grylls – Mud, Sweat & Tears
  • Malcolm Gladwell – Outliers
  • Nathan Poell – Post-Apocalypse Dead Letter Office
  • Scarlett Thomas – PopCo


I posted in January about my resolutions for the year… here’s how I did:

2011 Resolutions:

  1. Ditch the bus – success
  2. Use salt rockcrystal deoderent – success
  3. Stop using shampoo – success
  4. Cut out unnecessary commitments – success
2012 Resolutions:
  1. Take a photo every day – success – check out my album on Facebook
  2. Give 200 things to charity – success
  3. Make more of an effort to catch up with friends – success – many enjoyable hours have been spent with friends this year
  4. See more gigs – specifically I said “not just Frightened Rabbit (although maybe just once!)” – I failed to see more than just one gig, but Frightened Rabbit were fab so what can I say – success!
  5. Have an adventurous holiday – success!

30 Challenges

I won’t have any resolutions for 2013 – instead I’m working through a rather long list of challenges to achieve before I’m 30… here’s the progress so far!:

  1. Learn how to juggle
  2. Run in a 10k road race
  3. Run the 5km Deerstalker
  4. Climb Edinburgh’s 7 hills
  5. Watch extended versions of the Lord of the Rings films
  6. Read The Iliad by Homer
  7. Perform at the Fringe
  8. Go 1 month without chocolate, sweets or cake
  9. Learn greetings in 30 languages
  10. Raise £500 for charity
  11. Write a novel
  12. Solve a Rubix cube
  13. Write 5 short stories
  14. Submit something I’ve written to a writing competition
  15. Sing at a karaoke bar
  16. Visit Edinburgh Castle
  17. Give blood 3 times
  18. Improve my conversational French
  19. Create a video blog
  20. Set up my “One Item Museum” website
  21. Carve something wooden
  22. Make some cheese
  23. Design my Christmas board game idea
  24. Design own Christmas cards
  25. Record 10 ukulele covers
  26. Host a dinner party on top of Arthur’s Seat
  27. Create own flavoured vodka
  28. Spend a random weeknight under canvas
  29. Walk at least 2 days (and hopefully all of) the West Highland Way
  30. Try foods from 30 countries

Lots still to do! 🙂 With these things to look forward to 2013 is going to be a busy and fun year!

Thirty Challenges – Carve Something

So I carved something! It bares almost no functional resemblance to its namesake the “spoon”, but I learned skills and stuff and I’ll definitely carve something else again soon! Skills learned:

  1. To not cut or friction burn yourself
  2. To inspect the wood before starting to cut
  3. To spend time making a good rough version with an axe
  4. To choose a good bit of wood
  5. To use an actual spoon as a template!

Christmas Cluedo

Sometimes I get these crazy ideas…! As part of my 30 Challenges I thought it would be a cool idea to design my own board game version of Cluedo AND use it as our Christmas cards this year. A playable Christmas card game – imagine that!. Of course it took far far longer than I expected to take – mainly because I have neither Adobe InDesign nor the skills to use it or any of the free alternatives! In the end the cards were designed using GIMP for images and Scribus for layout – both are awesome free/open tools although despite having used GIMP loads of times before I found both to be frustratingly fiddly, especially when dealing with getting things to align to a grid exactly. I’d expected the project to be easy – download someone else’s Cluedo board vector, rename the rooms, add some colour, done! But that wasn’t the case at all – I had to remake the board from scratch for a start, and then none of the other steps were quite as easy as I expected.

But enough moaning… I have to say that I’m really proud of this. It was definitely a labour of love but it was a fun learning experience and it’s proved that given some time (and a fair bit of Googling) I can put together something for print that isn’t embarrassing, is of decent finish and is hopefully fun to play. The layout is fairly simple – board and logo on the outside of the card, message and story on the inside. Then there are 2 inserts: 1 with the rules, 1 with the playing pieces/counters/cards. (Sorry to everyone who gets the card – there’s quite a lot of cutting out to do!). Also in the envelope are the detective notes and 2 dice. The final thing was printed at Edinburgh Printing (who, for the record, I didn’t select based on the imagery on their website – check it out!!!!).

The story itself is fairly dumb but it isn’t about murder because that’s not really in the festive spirit!

With the nights drawing in like a huddle of penguins caught in a blizzard it’s time to put another log onto the fire and sit down for a little board game. You might recognise this one – it’s awfully similar to Cluedo!

It’s Christmas eve and a local small-time thief has escaped from the police. Dressed up as Santa he has broken into Festive Heights mansion to steal the Christmas presents. The residents of Festive Heights are all at home but since the six friends are all relaxing in different rooms Bumble Black the thief cuts the power so that he can move around more easily. Amid the confusion someone knocks the thief out – but no one knows who, with what or even in which room! Just as everyone scrabbles to light candles Black comes to and runs outside… right into the handcuffs of the waiting police (who had followed his snowy footprints to the mansion). As things are beginning to settle down in the house real Santa arrives and parks his reindeer outside; Santa needs help working out who knocked out fake Santa, in which room and with what weapon so that he can give them a special reward!

Good luck!

The suspects are:

  • Carol Cranberry – RED
  • Mary Mistletoe – GREEN
  • Twinkle Star – YELLOW
  • Scott Snowflake – WHITE
  • Frank Frost – BLUE
  • Charles Chestnut – BROWN

And the weapons are:

  • Candy cane
  • Christmas tree
  • Stocking full of toys
  • Snow globe
  • Sack of cards
  • Frozen turkey

Check a preview of the finished article:

A note about copyright… I don’t own the rights to Cludeo (obviously!) – this was just a little project for some family and friends and, as such, isn’t for sale. If anyone ever wants me to design them a board game then I’d be very happy to do so!