Thing 3: Keep bees

Beekeeping in Romania

I don’t remember when I first decided that I’d like to keep bees, but it’s pretty high on the list of things I’d like to do – not least as it appeared at number 3 on my 30before30 list, well above buying a house, or a dog, for example.

I can’t tell you exactly what it is, but I think that beekeeping is a fascinating tradition, and bees are fascinating creatures. It’s not that I’m desperate to make and sell my own honey, although I’m more than happy to eat it until I fall over, so perhaps it’s some kind of romantic ideal that I’ll be relaxing in my garden surrounded by my bees.

So point number 4 on the list of 5 ‘essentials’ of beekeeping, as I learned on last night’s beginner’s course was ‘You will get stung’. Now, that doesn’t sound too relaxing, does it?

I have started attended a Beginner’s Beekeeping course/lecture series at the Twickenham and Thames Valley Beekeepers’ Association, or rather I started last night. Huddled into a lovely, warm and friendly shed with a low roof and full of bee-themed items and an intriguing case of books on one side of the room, around 40 of us listened for 2 hours to the first lecture: Introduction to beekeeping in Britain. We learned the 5 ‘essentials’, including ‘Don’t try to out-aggress the hive, they will always win’, and ‘bees are not pets’; watched a video on the hive itself, complete with futuristic, computer-keyboard style music every time a bee moved; asked stupid questions; learned about the evolution of bees (wasps learning to socialise apparently); and numbers in the hive.

A fact I found fascinating: a beehive can be considered a single organism, and each bee a cell within in – this is referred to as a superorganism and one of the books on our reading list (yes, there’s a reading list) deals with this topic. I’ll probably end up reading it, although I might need a biology degree to understand it all.

Next week is The Community of the Bees, and covers the hive and all the roles within it. I’m very excited!

On a boring personal note; I can’t tell you how nice it is to be doing something I have wanted to do for what feels like ages! This feels like I’m now free of formal education and can choose to educate myself as I see fit – I can become the kind of human who keeps bees.

Hooray to that.


Image credit: Beekeeping in Romania by Charles Roffrey CC BY-NC-ND. Flickr.

Things for 2015

So I’m a bit late, as usual, but 2014 is over, and my first year of 30before30 with it!

How did it go?

Of the 30 things I set back at the start of 2014, I have completed/am working on 7 of them. That’s not bad! I also owe you a kind of blog post on one of the others, but I haven’t managed to sit down and do it yet, what a massive surprise.

What’s the plan for this year?

This year might be a quieter one, by the look of things. I would like to begin ice skating lessons – although I have just passed up the opportunity to start his week, due to potential traffic issues – so once I’ve sorted out my misgivings on that front hopefully I can update the blog! Buy a house was going to be a big one, but it looks as though that’s unlikely too – too many things would have to come into place so while we’re almost certainly moving out of our current abode, we will continue to be renting for possible another year. Actually, maybe while I’m still near enough to Twickenham, I could look into this beekeeping stuff… hmm, another target there! I’m going to look into volunteering opportunities, I think too, maybe as soon as this blog post is over! Aaaaand, as much as I want to visit Galicia this year, there are no plans in place just yet.

By my count that’s somewhere between 3-5 to do this year. Not counting the updates to those currently in progress.

Wish me luck!

Best of luck in your 2015 endeavours,

kimguin x

Thing 14: Graduate MSc

While I still insist this was kind of cheating as I pretty much knew this was happening, I’ve completed a 30before30 and in July 2014 I graduated with a distinction in Information and Library Studies from Robert Gordon University!

Graduation selfie - pre-ceremony with the parents, boyfriend, and housemate.

Graduation selfie – pre-ceremony with the parents, boyfriend, and housemate.


The moment itself! Getting a bop on the head from the principal (no, I don't understand either) and receiving a cardboard scroll.

The moment itself! Getting a bop on the head from the principal (no, I don’t understand either) and receiving a cardboard scroll.

The university were kind enough not only to pass me with a distinction (you what?!) but they also gave me the Dorothy Williams award for my dissertation and its (apparent) contribution to information literacy/education. My dissertation was an evaluation of RHUL’s new discovery system in contrast to our traditional WebOPAC, using skills and opinions of undergraduates and academic staff in our Media Arts, Drama & Theatre and English Lit departments. It was tough. But it was worth it. I already find myself thinking about what kind of research I might do in the future… uh oh!

You don't want to know how long it took me to catch that thing.

You don’t want to know how long it took me to catch that thing.


Like a good librarian, I tweeted the day, and have just Storified it for your viewing, as the support I got from everyone was totally lovely.
A very rewarding day, a great dinner, my favourite people, and thank gods it’s over! Onto new things :D
Since graduating, I was asked to write a short newsletter article on my experience by the lovely chap I sat next to throughout the ceremony  – thanks very much, and all the best, Philip. I also volunteered to take part in this great cpd25 event on applying to Library school, where I gave a short presentation on my time at RGU and sat on a panel with other wonderful graduates and students and talked about our experiences. Many, many thanks to Pete Williams for the opportunity. I’ve also submitted a poster based on my dissertation to the LILAC conference in 2015 – wish me luck!
OK, so I’m ticking off Thing 14 4 months too late :) Another one done.

Thing 5: Finish a novel

No, I haven’t finished a novel. Don’t get your hopes up.

What I have been doing is attempting NaNoWriMo14. I first attempted NaNo a good few years ago, when I was in 6th Form, I believe. My dad successfully wrote the novel he’d been thinking about for years, I failed miserably. After that, I didn’t try again, and didn’t think I would bother, frankly.

It’s now 2014, I have another failed novel under my belt – although I have a good 20,000 words of it which may one day be used once I work out what the fuck the plot might be – and an annoyingly productive writing buddy (while I was trawling to 20,000 words of incoherence, he managed this) who suggests that NaNo14 might be worth a punt.

This time round, we planned. I learned from various colleagues over the years, and the writing of ****; planning scene by scene, at least mostly, really helps when trying to hit a certain wordcount and make progress that you can actually measure. So I put together a kind of scene by scene, or at least Important Stuff That Needs To Occur and Character Development Too plan. I set myself a target of 1500 words a day, to hit 45,000 words at best, but expecting that I would hit 1200 and therefore 30,000 instead. Which seemed fair. This doesn’t feel like a huge novel.



Yeah… there’s a theme there, isn’t there? Excitement, commitment, lack of sleep, then kind of stopping to care. I’ve written nothing on it since 19th November. Oops.

Still, I have to say that I’m actually quite pleased with my progress. For the first fortnight I set time aside almost every day to write something, and I very nearly kept it up. I found it easier to get into the rhythm of the writing each day, I enjoyed it, and I added to it in ways that I didn’t expect. For the first time in ages I felt that the story was running away with me, and I couldn’t help but carry on writing. That’s a pretty exciting feeling. And while I’m not convinced that many of the words are good, or will stay, at least I have 18,000 of the buggers to work with so that I can turn this into the story I wanted to write.

Also, although this does sound stupid, I want to finish it. Although I’m not finishing it, I want to, I know where it’s going, I still feel connected. Of course, what I actually need to do is pull my finger out and get the stuff written, but it’s progress!

So that’s why I’m adding this to Thing 2 – it’s not done yet, but by 30 maybe it will be! Wish me luck, all (and go and buy Matthew’s book!)

Thing 2: Go back to burlesque dance

Shh yes, it has been a while since I updated this.

I’m going to put together some sort of recap of the year, and see how many of these 30 things I’ve actually managed to do in year one. It needs to happen before the end of this calendar year, so wish me luck!

In previous posts, before 30before30 began, I have mentioned my feelings on burlesque, which are still mixed. Following the post I just linked to, I started attending a burlesque class every Thursday, which happened to be just down the road from me. I did this for about 8 months, and occasionally took part in shows as a dancer (all clothes remained on). At the time, this was great fun, it was a nice thing to spend my Thursday evenings on that was local, a bit silly, and completely different from all the other stuff I was doing.

However, studying got way too much, and I gave up at least a year ago. I thought that I missed it, although I’ve since found a lot more freedom and more fun things to do (ahem, jive). So I wrote going back on this list. About a month ago, I went back to a new class in a new location. And I haven’t been back since.

It was fun! Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed it, but I’ve found that I’m just not that into learning a routine anymore. While I had said I would be interested in dancing in shows again, I’ve found that I’m actually not as keen to take part as I had thought.

I’ve been asked by a friend if I felt that I was gaining something, or pleasing some exhibitionist side of me, by taking part in shows. And I still don’t really have a proper answer. I guess yes, to some extent, but it’s not a need that I really feel I need to go overboard to fulfil. So it just didn’t seem that important to me once it was over…

I can’t really explain it. On one hand, and if I’m being honest, burlesque is not something I could tell a lot of people that I do – it involves a lot of explaining that no, I don’t take my clothes off, yes, some other people do, but I’m just a kind of chorus dancer – but on the other hand it’s fun to be on stage and dress up and dance about… but part of me is a bit uncomfortable with the overall motive. For someone who doesn’t like ogling to take part in a burlesque show is a bit weird – or is it? I think until I’m clear about why I’m doing it, it’s always going to make me feel a bit weird, and so I’m no longer interested in doing it.

I’m trying very hard here not to make it sound like I’m being a snob, because I do believe that it’s a great thing to watch and do, and now the classes are doing some great stuff like asking girls to put together their own routines to do solo acts (awesome!) but for me, it’s no longer a thing I’m that excited about. I’ve transferred my love elsewhere, I think.

So that’s thing 2 done. At least for now. Any updates will follow… and further Thing updates will hopefully be a bit more exciting that this one!

Thing 1: Jive

I have had Thing 1 in draft since April 17th, so apparently I’ve been doing this a lot longer than I remember… This week is my 5-month jive-iversary, so I think I can safely say that Thing 1 is truly in progress.

I have wanted to learn to jive for a number of years, ever since I went to a family get-together and saw how effortless and fun it looked. I am categorically not a dancer – as my friends will testify – although sometimes I will prance about in the kitchen like a prat, it’s not what anyone would call stylish. I have never taken a dance class before (forays into burlesque do not count, as they mostly involved striding about in heels, which isn’t really dancing), so I was a little nervous about doing this. But, you know. You only get one first chance to stamp on the feet of many strangers, so why the hell not?

I gym in Kingston, for my sins, and at the start of this year was thoroughly sick of it – so I was pretty happy to discover an advertisement for Everything’s Jumpin’, who are running classes in the very area. By some stroke of luck they run on a day I would have to be in town anyway to gym, so what a marvellous excuse.

It’s now been 4 months, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that I totally love it.

Lead & Follow

Before I started I was pretty sure I’d be no use at following a lead, or doing anything a man – let alone a stranger – asked me to do. It is, in fact, very, very easy. With a little verbal instruction, I’ve learned cues for various spins, turns and kicks, and can (almost) execute them correctly. Sometimes to my partner’s surprise. There are, of course, still moments where I stand uselessly on the floor, having been released at an angle I’m not used to and having 0 clue where to go next. There is also one guy in particular who I’m pretty sure makes it his mission to throw in something ad hoc and totally peculiar just to see my face. Only once so far have a made something of it, and I’m still learning the golden rule of ‘blag it’. But when there are cues, and I know how to follow them, it’s pretty fun – and feels quite smooth – so I’m now just glad I don’t have to make up the dance moves myself and there are some rules involved for safety!


There’s a lot of spinning involved in swing jive, and although I was forewarned that I might feel sick or dizzy, so far I’ve mostly got away with it.


Most of the time I wear these:


Half the men there have amazing dancing shoes, so I got carried away and bought these:


So far they just hurt, so I’ll be working on that!


There’s a lot I could say on this topic, to be honest, and some of it might come up elsewhere – but for now: pretty much everyone I’ve met at the classes has been lovely. There are a few amazing dancers who go, and even then when I mess things up they laugh along with me. I feel really comfortable, and happy, and to be honest – a lot more confident.

More later. Let’s just get this post out!

And finally – a video of the class – I’m in it somewhere but I won’t tell you where.


Thing 29: Meet all of my internet friends!

This is super exciting.

OK, so it hasn’t happened yet, but my three best internet friends and I have made a pact to get together for the first time, in five years time. This is something we have been talking about for years, and with a spread between Europe, the US, and New Zealand, we’re a pretty far-flung bunch. So it’s not like we can just meet up whenever we feel like it. When I visited New York last year for my birthday we were thinking of having a mini US meetup then, but unfortunately that fell through. This, however, won’t. I’m sure. I don’t know where I’ll be in five years time, but when that trip comes around I’m going to meet these ladies and it’s going to be awesome!

It has been… about 12 years since we met (I think!). When The Two Towers came out in the UK I became a full-on fangirl: forums, fanfiction, elvish screennames, baking lembas bread in the kitchen – all of that. The forum in question that brought us together was called Council of Elrond, and we have since migrated through LiveJournal, to Facebook and Twitter, and onto Tumblr. I mentioned my early online nerdom in this old post on social media and the internet. What I didn’t mention then was how much I feel I’ve grown with these ladies. They are my longest/oldest friends. When anything went wrong during those fragile teenage years, I trusted them for advice. When I got accepted into uni, we celebrated together. Marriages, children (not mine) – we’ve seen a wide range of things. A friend recently asked me how I felt about having online friends, and I immediately started gushing about how exciting and brilliant everything was. Apart from the not meeting part, obviously.

The plan so far is to visit New Zealand, and tour the Lord of the Rings landscapes that brought us together. This also means that, if I plan it right, Thing 30: Visit Fiji, might also get a look in. Gods know if I’m flying that far I need to hit as many birds with that fearful stone as I can…

So this is a mini update for now – and bloody hell do I owe this blog some more updates! But this is a start. Thing 29: In progress.

x _kimguin

Thing 15: Go to Mexico/fly alone – part one

I’ve only ever been good at air travel when I was too young to know any better. Between the ages of 18 months and about 10 years I was a dream companion: slept well, excited about the plane, talkative, finished meals – even on the ten hour trawls to Vancouver we made semi-regularly throughout my childhood to visit family. From the age of 10, however, the unreality of it all struck me and I became the worst traveller you could luck out and get stuck with. It’s not that I’m scared of flying, or falling, but the whole experience is so alien and there are just so many aspects I can find to dislike! Something changed in me, and previously comfortable air travel turned into a nightmarish, long, experience; packed like sardines into a plasticky, cold and yet unfresh-air conditioned tube with tens of other passengers, terrifyingly loud suction toilet flushes and – worst of all – the cloying small of overmicrowaved, tinfoil-covered food… ugh.


I’m still convinced now that flight is a myth: they surely just rearrange your surroundings while you sit, distracted, in your metal tube with other passengers…

Anyway, the point really is that I hated flying, to the point where the fear of being ill onboard (usually during the sickening landing process) brought me out in a cold sweat and I avoided eating pretty much throughout the travel experience, and probably in advance as well. A tip: just because you don’t eat, doesn’t mean that your body won’t try to be sick – but it will be much worse.

Now, I have to admit, I’ve made some progress. For last year’s birthday, two friends and I spent two weeks in New York and the seven-hour flight together was pretty uneventful (aside from an elbowed water glass onto a sleeping friend on the return journey – oops). I even enjoyed the food!

But when my boyfriend was successfully awarded a three-week travel scholarship to Mexico, courtesy of his course of study and work at Kew Gardens, and suggested we make a holiday of a final fourth week to mark the end of my MSc – I was a little petrified. The flight would be long, I’d have to eat more plane food, and I’d have to get out there on my own. There would be nobody to hold my hand, or the sickbag, and I would be solely responsible.

But hey, adults fly alone all the time – why shouldn’t I be one of them? So, pushing my fear to the back of my mind for most of the process, we happily went about booking a one-week stay in a beautiful all-inclusive resort near Cancun, on the Caribbean coast and near the second largest reef in the world. We booked everything in January, and up until about three weeks before I would still hyperventilate from time to time at the thought of flying, let alone flying on my own.

17th May came along, my parents kindly (so kindly!) drove me to Gatwick airport where I checked in, remembered my passport, and we ate M&S samosas. I made it through security, through duty free almost unscathed (new eyeliner! Still in the box!), and then onto the departure gate.


At this point I was actually not as terrified as I look in this grainy photograph. (Also, can someone tell me if taking photos in airports is illegal? I’m still waiting for the knock on the door.) I felt oddly calm. Resigned. Confident. The plane was there. I was there. My only toothbrush was aboard and I was going to follow that bastard to Cancun.

Through the tube, onto the plane, past the space-age booths and vastly-abundant legroom section, into cattle class where I was seated happily in an emergency exit seat. Apart from a mild disaster trying to extricate the tiny screen from under my seat so that I could fall asleep in front of Marvel’s Thor 2: The Dark World and fail to hear any of Inside Llewyn Davis, and a weirdly dehydrated salmon sandwich – all went well. Having selected a special ‘low lactose meal’ I was fed first – score! Unfortunately, low lactose was equivalent to low taste, and my salad, chicken with carrots, and fruit wasn’t as exciting (and almost as low lactose)as the thai curry and chocolate pudding that the couple next to me ate. But hey, what can you do? Despite a new selection of Kindle books, and far too  many viewing options I was sufficiently bored and hungry about 8 hours in that I began to feel totally sick – not a good sign. But in spite of a rather graphic nature documentary (thanks for nothing, Attenborough) I managed to doze off long enough that by the time we arrived in Cancun I was ready and excited.

In Part Two: the trip to Mexico.

As a final few words here, however: I FLEW ALONE! I WASN’T SICK! I REMEMBERED EVERYTHING I NEEDED! For me, this is a big achievement. Since my anti-plane tendencies developed I’ve been worrying that the sickness or fear of sickness would really prevent me from going places in future – quite literally, if you’ll pardon the pun. I now know that I can do this thing along with a lot of other humans, and I have it in me to not only tolerate flying, but kind of enjoy it. I do know what I’m doing, and I don’t have to just keep it together long enough to get to the other side, but I can actually relax up there and eat my weird low-lactose food and read my books. Thing 15: firmly ticked off.


Thing 28: Operation Chocolate Fondant

I’ll admit it, I watch a lot of Masterchef. And at least once every elimination round, someone will choose to wow the judges with a chocolate fondant. Each and every time, there’s a collective gasp from the judges. ‘Not a chocolate fondant!’ we cry. ‘Don’t they know how difficult that is?’ ‘I thought isolating the Higgs Boson was going to be hard, but… a chocolate fondant?!’

And yet, every single time (in my memory, which is as scientific as it gets, clearly) the chocolate fondant bounces out of the oven and oozes seductively over the plate, eliciting gasps and (chocolate – geddit?) brownie points from all concerned. ‘This person is clearly a culinary genius!’ they shout. ‘For surely no-one has ever made a successful chocolate fondant before. All hail…’

Yeah, sure. Apart from every bugger to grace the Masterchef kitchens. Sounds so difficult, I reckon even an idiot like me can make one. And so, I’ve decided to begin 30 Before 30 with the chocolate fondant challenge. And we’ll see if I’m laying it all on a bit thick…

Take One. I’m using Nigella’s Molten Chocolate Babycakes recipe, because it was number 5 on the list when I googled ‘chocolate fondant’, and I trust Nigella to make things as effortless as possible. Also, I halved it because there’s only two of us in the house at the moment, and while I’m sure someone once told me halving baking recipes willy-nilly is a dangerous affair: I like to live on the edge.

Onto the pictures!

These are my ingredients. If for some reason you want to listen to me instead of Nigella above, please remember this is half of the real recipe and makes only three little fondants.


After buttering three tiny pudding tins and putting a circle of baking paper in the bottom (top?) of each, I started by melting lots of lovely chocolate, and adding 25g butter to 175g caster sugar. Then I spent about 10 minutes wishing I’d let the butter get to room temperature first. Super top tip, that (maybe where all those Masterchef contestants went wrong?).


Eventually we got it to behave, then added two beaten eggs, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and 75g flour. It was a terrifying batter that just looked horrible and eggy until the chocolate was added. Then it immediately became heavy – or it was seizing up… Here it is going into three little pudding tins.


So then the tiny pots went in the fridge for most of the day until we’d had dinner. Until this point, I was pretty calm, feeling pretty smug about the situation. What could go wrong? I yell at the TV weekly that Masterchef contestants are doing it wrong, so I must know what I’m talking about, right? It wasn’t until they went in the oven that the tension set in. What if they didn’t work? How cocky could I be without deserving some sort of karma?

200 degrees C, straight in the oven from the fridge, for 12 minutes.

The moment of truth…


They worked! To be honest, they started sinking as soon as they were put on the plate, but ha! Take that, Masterchef! I will forever be unimpressed by your chocolate fondant-ing. Although I probably shouldn’t pretend I can make my own pastry, or macaroons, or anything too hard… We ate them with raspberries (and some of us with ice cream) and they were SO rich. Very much worth it. Cheers,  Nigella. I knew you wouldn’t let me down.

28. Make a chocolate fondant.

Thing 28 is done. The first thing ticked off the list. (And I haven’t quite finished my real target of a Masters dissertation yet. Yet!) 29 things to go.

What else should I learn to cook?

_kimguin x




Two Point Oh.

OK, so I  lied.

Since I’ve been studying for my MSc I’ve been quietly making a list in the back of my mind of Things I Would Do If… And now I’ve come to the end of it (almost) it’s time to live the dream. There is a list of 30 Things I aim to do before I’m 30 above, and starting most likely from next week I’ll be beginning actually achieving some things!

For some reason, and I think I’ve moaned about this here, I don’t like writing goals for life. I kind of fall into things and adapt to them. It’s going pretty well. And people who plan things have always scared me a bit (and rarely stuck tot hem, in my experience). But when I noticed that I’d be developing  a wishlist this did seem like the sensible thing to do.

So this is just a holding post, to be honest, a preparation for the real thing. I hope you’ll keep reading and give me tips – there’s still 3 more things to fill on the list!