Thursday 25 February 2016

Lenten Acts

Day 2: No Scrubs

Today's challenges were all about cleaning up for other people (see here)

Well, I have been trying to put extra effort into filling, running and emptying the dishwasher at home.  This seems to have been working - right now the dishwasher is empty and there are only a few dishes to go into it.  It's probably cheating, but I think I also managed to have a reasonable attitude about doing my allotted chores on the annual weekend away we have with our dance group.

Day 3: Roots

Today's challenges were about investing in our home communities (details here)

I struggled to figure this one out.  And then I remembered that I teach an evening dance class for vulnerable adults who cannot live independently.  It's actually a total blessing for me to run this class - no matter how miserable the weather or tired I am feeling, the class is always fun and we are always glad to see each other.  Perhaps there are other places I could volunteer, but with a full-time job, part-time business and all that goes with attempting to pretend I am a proper grown-up, being paid to tutor a class fits right now and it's not quite the sort of thing it would be straightforward to volunteer to do in any case.

Day 4: 999

Today's challenges were about meeting immediate needs (suggestions here)

Another toughie, especially as I was on a weekend away when this challenge was laid down.  I like to think I was meeting the immediate needs of the group to be fed, watered and entertained, but that's in a very 'first world problems' kind of a way.  I did later have a look at the wanted ads posted at work, but none of them were in my power to grant, so I picked up some items for the foodbank at church in the next shop I did.  That should really be a more regular donation, I am out of the habit of picking things up when I shop and am even worse at remembering to take them over to church.

Day 5: Quiche?

Today's challenges were about sharing food (like this)

I suppose I managed this one, Beloved was feeling ill so I did the cooking and we typically eat together.  I really do believe in sharing food and I provided quite a bit of it for the previously-mentioned weekend away, but I don' think wither of these really counts as the kind of sacrificial giving and spiritual preparation is meant to be all about.  I did later take on baking some goodies for my colleagues for another member of the team, but again, that's a very comfortable activity in an environment that is utterly familiar to me.

Day 6: Cupboard Love

Today's challenges were about passing on things in our cupboards (charity collections, people in our circles)

I've been intending to do this for quite some time.  Reading these challenges made me think of a number of items that could be passed on.  And I still haven't done it!  Perhaps tonight, as I am packing for yet another trip, I can pack an additional bag or box for passing on.  It's also ages since I went to a clothing or jewellery swap and I do enjoy those.  Perhaps this is the year to make a foray into organising one...

Day 7: All ears

Today's challenges were all about listening to others (in person, on the phone, other ways)

I missed this one on the day in question and it was unnaturally quiet in our house due to Beloved's lingering lurgy affecting her throat and voice.  We do sometimes joke that we should get out more and see other people, so I expect there are people who could do with touching base.  It was really nice to skype recently with a friend who moved away to a different country.  Perhaps I'll phone my Mum...

Day 8:  Dirty cash

Today's challenges were about what we do with our money (specifically giving and budgeting)

I nipped over to Acts435 and made a few donations.  I love that site - it's like shopping to help people.  I am also considering my regular giving at the moment and trying to find the balance between giving regularly and automatically and physically handing over cash or making a spontaneous gift when something resonates with me.

Day 9: Dial up

Today's challenges were all about prayer (especially for needs in the news)

This was sort-of-easy but it did help boost the things that prompt me to pray.  I habitually pray on seeing or hearing an emergency vehicle, so offering something up over news articles seemed like something of an extension of that.

Day 10: Spur on

Today's challenges were all about being encouraging (anonymously and in person)

I tried to give verbal encouragements, but I think they might have been a bit vague.  Perhaps I will branch out into encouraging facebook posts.  They have a weird in-person yet also public character.

Day 11:  L.O.V.E

Today's challenges were rolled into one about expressing love (in ways that the recipient will appreciate)

Big fat fail here.  Must do better.

Day 12:  Chocolate Tuesday

Today's challenges were all about giving away chocolate (chocolate, chocolate, chocolate)

I tried to give chocolate to people at a meeting I went to but there was competitor cake and chocolate came second.  Then I put the chocolate out for all the people in my corridor at work.  It all disappeared, so I hope that has lead to a few people feeling blessed.  Although, what's the deal with suggesting chocolate-based challenges in Lent when there's a chance that folks will have given it up for the duration?  I'm not sure how I feel about my intended blessing being someone's moment of temptation.

Day 13:  Second fiddle

Today's challenges were about putting someone else first (here)

I'm not totally sure about this one. I did try to put it into practice by attending more specifically to Beloved's needs, and at least one of my gestures was noticed and appreciated, but I don't know whether it is a good move to suggest that people cave in and don't work through to find a solution for something that they are going to have to live with.  Additionally, a number of the people following the 40Acts challenges will be women and I don't think that equating letting someone have their way with love and sacrifice is wise for anyone in an abusive relationship.

Day 14: Acknowledge

Today's challenge is about acknowledging someone who has had an influence on your life (perhaps a relative or teacher)

I'm working on this one!

Wednesday 10 February 2016

Lent 2016 - 40 Acts

So, since Lent is a Thing, and I have been a terribly lax blogger of late, I am going, yet again, to try and get into the swing of it and join the folks at 40 Acts in doing 40 things before Easter.  You get Sundays off, is Tradition.

Today is about circles.  I have sketched mine as suggested.
V. sketchy, back-of-envelope styley.
And what it shows me is that my life is firmly based around Scottish Dance.  Which shouldn't be that surprising, and isn't.  It does emphasise how my family is largely removed from my everyday life.  That's what living 500 miles away and being replaced by foster children will do for a person.  That's what happens when siblings grown up and grow into different life seasons at different rates.  That's what happens when your conservative christian relatives don't know what to do with your same-sex fiancée.

I have been able to keep some friends from our previous church, but only really because we do other things together as well.  Current church is super-supportive.  Friends in other circles are supportive too, even if they can't figure out which name belongs to which of us.

I am also thinking of attempting a buy-nothing Lent, even though I am not prone to much excessive buying, but I haven't figured out the rules yet.

Now to go pray for all my circles and think of ways to practice generosity to them...

Friday 2 October 2015

October 2015 Little Draw 01

So, apparently there's a Thing.  It's called The Big Draw and it's all about drawing in October.

I like to draw.  I don't draw very much.  When I was in Sixth Form and had given up Art as a subject I would, most weeks, do my own version of whatever my sister had been set for her Art homework.  Sometimes I left them in her sketchbook and got marks for them.

These days I don't draw much beyond the odd doodle.  Or measurement diagrams for DIY or dressmaking.  And precious few of those.  But the idea that I could 'just make marks with meaning' rather appeals to me.

So, I shall draw some things in October.  Maybe even as many as one every day.  Maybe not, I'm not always good at that sort of thing.

But I drew something on the first.  Here it is:

Tuesday 23 June 2015

How to propose

Content warning:  The following post contains sickening romanticalness, read at your peril.

It's a tricky thing, a proposal.  There are expectations.  And if you are a same-sex couple you have to figure out whether, or how, to address those.  Obviously, this isn't a blueprint for how *you* should propose, but more of a memory about how I did so.  Not necessarily in this order, but if I put it all in order we'd probably be at 'Proposing in Eleventy-One simple steps'.

So, yeah, did some proposin' this weekend.

1. Find out who's going to do the proposing

Now if you're traditionally minded and of different genders, this might be obvious.  But it might not.  In our case, my Beloved spent a year or so asking me to marry her every day so that I would know she still loved me and was invested in our relationship.  As such, we determined that if there was ever to be an actual down-on-one-knee-ring-in-hand proposal I would have to do it.

2. Find out what the proposee would like

Over the course of time I picked up a few hints (these were all actual statements made by my beloved in pretty much as many words) that I wanted to work into the proposal itself:
  • Notice in writing, in triplicate, delivered at least 6 weeks before the proposal itself.
  • Cake (I cannot for the life of me remember when/why this was mentioned, but it was at some point so it went on my mental list).
  • Signage - Beloved specified that there had to be a sign so that she would know I was proposing.  Possibly in order to effect her escape.
  • Running shoes - she threatened to attempt to run away should she spot the sign, so stipulated that I should have my running shoes on in case I needed to catch her.
And for a bonus point I wanted pink champagne, because someone brought a bottle of the same champagne that I had for my 18th birthday to Beloved's 21st.

3. Deliver Notice of Intention to Propose Marriage

Beloved received this beauty one weekend morning last year:

4. Sort out the bling

I went and got my great aunt's emerald ring restored and sent a very scary email to my now future in-laws asking if there was any suitable family ring for my Beloved.  I got a response saying they couldn't think of anything so started contemplating having something to match my ring commissioned.

Later a family ring did turn up on her side, so we had a few conversations about whether this was the ring she wanted and went about getting it in turn restored.  This took Sandy Menzies a fair while - apparently the setting was porous and thus pesky.

5. Pick a date

I picked a Friday afternoon just before a week when we would see both sets of parents and would be able to tell them in person.

6. Come up with a plan

Plan A was to use my weekly afternoon off to turn our living room into a tent (reflecting our mutual love of camping) using swathes of fabric, a sari and various scarves.  Lay out cushions, blankets and squishy things along with a small table set with cake and fizz.  Then go meet Beloved from work and head for the gym as usual and return home to my beautiful proposal.

7. Have your date scuppered

A few short weeks before my intended date, a couple of our friends got engaged.  I shouldn't have been surprised, being as how there is an established engagement season in the northern hemisphere but I worried about treading on their toes.  I was wavering over whether my planned proposal was too soon.

And then Rowan Tree Tents sent me to set up a tent on the afternoon in question and that was the end of that.

8. Pick a new date

I realised that the 7th anniversary of our first kiss was going to be at a weekend (I warned you about the soppiness, you read on so on your own head be it) and that we could once again stay up all night to watch the sun rise over the North Sea.

9. Allow the proposee to think that your romanical notion is their idea

Imagine my relief when Beloved suggested the very romantical sunrise watching (obviously she didn't include 'and then you can get your sign out and propose') I had been trying to figure out how to suggest.  Beloved had been getting suspicious of any ideas that I had which included walking up hills or going somewhere just the two of us.  Now she was going to be the agent of her own undoing *mwah hah hah haa*.

10. Gather supplies using subterfuge

It's awkward buying champagne when the person you want to suprise with it is in the shop with you.  Fortunately I had an additional ulterior motive (of which, more next week) for sneaking inexplicably round Tesco so she ascribed my weird behaviour to that.  I was, however slightly scuppered yet again by the supermarket I had to visit for other reasons not having the champagne I was planning on, so I had a speedy dither and settled on the pink one wearing a Wimbledon jacket. 

I also had to make a sign.  I made a very dinky little sign.  Fortunately I had another excuse for getting out my wood-burning tool, Beloved never suspected a thing.
The dinkiest proposing sign in all the land.

And I made cake.  It's usually easy to think up an excuse for baking.  So I did.

11. Be thwarted by sleepies

At 2am on the overnight in question, Beloved announced that since it was forecast to rain she was going to sleep rather than go for that romantical walk.  I offered to let her have an hour or so's sleep then take her out to the beach in the car.  She said she would be grumpy if I did.  So I let it go and set a normal-ish alarm.

12. A plateful of breakfast helps the proposing go down

Yes folks, a plateful of croissants is to proposing marriage as a spoonful of sugar is to medicine.  I got up, made the breakfast*, put on my running shoes and knelt at my Beloved's bedside.

11. Say it with cake

I said it with this cake:
'Marry me?' takes up a surprising amount of space on a cake.  I didn't think a practice run was appropriate, somehow. 

Because, really, who can say no to cake?

12. Forget to eat all of your breakfast because of the excitement

The coffee will go cold, the croissants will go chewy, but how often is it appropriate to eat cake and drink champagne before 9am?

*Of course I wasn't nervous, I knew she would say yes and the plan would be well-received.  So that can't be why I poured the first half-cup of coffee into one of the champagne glasses, can't be that at all.

Friday 10 April 2015

Camera toys

Well, OK, one of the toys wasn't that new, but it hasn't got out much since arriving in my life.

I have owned my Canon 1100D for almost two years now.  Finally going digital means that I take a lot more photographs (although I still have a tendency to miss "the moment" because I'm busy experiencing it), especially since doing a half-day workshop at a local photography company and understand a little better how to get the sort of results that I like.  Until last summer I didn't really own anything but the camera itself.  Then I dropped it.  I am very grateful that the kit lens has a plastic bayonet, it wasn't all that cheap a repair but it was significantly cheaper than a replacement zoom lens.

Camera Toy #1 - 50mm lens

For the *mumble mumble* months it took me to organise that lens repair, I picked up a 50mm portrait lens.  While that falls within the 18-55mm of my zoom lens, it was a focal length that had been suggested for a lens to use as a portrait lens and was fairly inexpensive.  I had a lot of fun playing with this one.  Took some good photographs.  Having a fixed focal length makes you think about where you should be standing and makes for a faster shot, which is good when you take a lot of pictures of people dancing.  Especially as they often do so in low light conditions.

Camera Toy #2 - Tripod

A tripod is just a handy thing really.  Mine appeared at Christmas and is nifty.  It means that you can use the timer and be in your photographs, but mostly it means that there's no camera shake from your hands or breathing or anything.  Which means that it plays very nicely with toy #3:

Camera Toy #3 - Remote

This is the newest of my acquisitions and it does a whole heap of things that I will have to investigate - like taking shots at intervals for a defined period, or putting on a 99-hour timer.  What I used it for last weekend when I took it out for a play was twofold - being in my pictures without the weird countdown thing and slow-shutter night shots.  Once I'm a bit more comfortable with the remote I want to try for some star shots.

Tuesday 31 March 2015

Two Tents

Yes, that's a terrible camping-related pun.  I apologise.

I have mentioned previously that I am the owner of one half of the magnificent Bell Tent below.
Beautiful tent in the wonderful Comrie woods.
I even, in case you ever decided that you needed to know, explained how to pitch such a magnificent beast.  Well, now it is possible to put that information to good use without welcoming a 30 kilo monstrosity into your life year-round.

Ladies and Gentlebubbles, I give you Rowan Tree Bell Tents.

So we have started an adventure in entrepreneurship, just in case we weren't busy enough already.  My to-do list expands every time I think about it.  Extra tent = extra bunting.  Lending tents to other people = a more organised kitchen system than 'shove it all in a plastic crate'.  Of course, there's a possibility that doing many of these things will lead to more how-to posts and more blogposts in general, but that mostly depends on how reliably I get my camera out!

Friday 13 February 2015

When is clutter not clutter?...

When it's display...

So, recently I got around to two tasks that had been on my 'to do' list for a while.  That mirror at the top of the photograph?  Yup, that's been leaning against my bedroom wall for about two years.  I have now hung it on said wall (no scrutinising the angle at which it hangs, or its dusty state, please) and no longer have to stoop to see myself in it.

I also managed to nail up two strips of moulding and thereby got six pairs of shoes off the shoe rack in the hallway that was filled to overflowing.  It was a very simple job, and here's how I did it:

  1. Buy 2.5m length of pine moulding
  2. Leave length of moulding leaning in the corner for a while to acclimatise
  3. Keep meaning to get around to putting up that moulding
  4. Finally determine that today's the day
  5. Measure the width of a pair of your shoes - remember to this across the widest part and with the heels a little way apart, I didn't and it's only by sheer luck that each end shoe squeezes on
  6. Assess how many pairs of shoes you will be able to fit in the available space
  7. Take your moulding and saw lengths of (width of shoes) x (number of pairs)
  8. Do a lot of strange holding up shoes and lengths of moulding to figure out how high to put them.
  9. Figure out which nails will be short enough to go all the way into the wall without bending
  10. Position the moulding as levelly as you can (lesser mortals use spirit levels for this sort of thing) and tap in a nail about a quarter of the way in from each end
  11. Hang shoes!