Wednesday, 23 April 2014

What I learned during Lent 2014

I don't think there's really much value in doing A Thing unless one evaluates the effects of The Thing, at the very least in terms of insights gained.  So I've been thinking a bit about what wearing the same 30 items of clothing for 46 days has revealed to me...

Once I hit on a combination that works, I tend to stick to it

A lot of the things I posted throughout Lent were definitely Outfits.  And the same Outfit cropped up a number of times.  Often these items that go together have been purchased at or around the same time.  In other areas of life I think I reflect this too - I have Ways of doing things.  Mostly I think they are the most efficient or effective or thorough ways, but mostly they are just the way I first learned to do them.  Sometimes with some post-hoc justification.

I wear things for years

That khaki skirt?  I think I've owned that for at least 8 years, possibly longer.  And while relatively recent purchases feature strongly on my Lent list, there are items in my wardrobe that go back to my school days.  Which is before we get onto the heirlooms that I have inherited from various friends and relations.

I have favourites and like to wear a uniform

That jersey blazer?  It was mere weeks old at the start of lent and it was worn 16 times.  Nothing else was worn more than 6 times.  And the items that were worn 6 times each were all worn to work several times.  So either that striped jersey blazer is just my ideal item of clothing (and it might be - it works with trousers, shirts and dresses, it can go to work but it casual enough for the weekend, the arms are ever so close to being long enough and it's very comfortable) or I could do with adding something to share the burden.

Lent is at an awkward time of year for this sort of experiment

My first few outfits feature a lambswool jumper, a heavily-knit tunic and thick opaque tights.  By the end I was in summery dresses with thin or no tights.  If the aim of the game was to cut down on clothes it would probably be most meaningful to carry it out twice a year in winter and summer, allow for layering and a few mid-weight things for transitional seasons and chuck the rest.

I am toying with the idea of putting some of my clothes away for the summer.  I live in the kind of climate where very few things are only worn in one season, but there are some things (woolen skirts, for example) that I'm not going to want out again until September or October.  And as my in-use storage space is limited, giving everything else a bit more freedom to move might result in it being easier to see and thus get into rotation.

I own a lot of clothes

This was revealed more by the Big Holy Saturday Spring Clean than by the 30-item exercise, but even though I was wearing the same 30 items for 46 days, I only scratched the surface of the clothes that I own.  And some of those clothes would get a lot more wear on other people.  Perhaps it's time to adjust to a sparser wardrobe containing only quality items that actually fit well and that will really last, where possible from independent or ethical suppliers.  It certainly might be time for a clearout.

I have weirdly good recollection of where I got my clothes

Only one item (that khaki skirt again) am I not sure whether I bought it on sale or at full price.  All of the others I know.  Many of them I could even give you a ballpark figure for what I paid.  Which brings me to my next insight...

I very rarely pay full price for my clothes

Only two of the items on my list were acquired at full price.  And one of those was bought at TK Maxx, so it wasn't the manufacturer's full price.  The only full price item in my list that was bought at its original outlet is the flare jeans.  And when you are the dimensions I are, jeans are pesky creatures that very rarely show up to fit in the sales or second hand.

It's a lot easier for me to take on projects that affect only me

We were better at using up all or most of our delivered veg during Lent, but sometimes that meant neeps for dinner every night and you've got to be a willing participant to put up with that.  We are also very used to having a meat component in our day-to-day diet.  I have spent time previously being nearly-vegetarian and eating very little meat while on a budget, but it is much harder to impose these things on someone else.  The veg delivery is changing now with the seasons, so the neeps should run out soon.  Perhaps we'll miss them.

It is possible for neeps to be a tasty part of the winter diet

And the answer is roasting them with salt and pepper in chunks with other root vegetables.  They were't bad parboiled and fried off before going into a risotto either.  If they're going to be mashed, my preference is for there to be carrots and either parsnips or potatoes in there too, but if they have to be alone then a generous helping of butter and back pepper helps them go down.  My next experiment will be to put them into a cake in place of carrots.

Taking on a specific project for a defined period of time is beneficial

I am so easily overawed by the enormity of a task that I never start it.  If I had decided to 'evaluate my wardrobe' I wouldn't have known what to do.  But I have wound up thinking a lot about the items I chose for my Lent project (even if very little thought went into putting them on the list) and about other items that I haven't been 'allowed' to wear for the past six weeks.  So I might just re-evaluate my clothes and perhaps I'll make some changes, but I might just continue on in my whimsical and individual way, dressing the ways that I like to dress.

I haven't been all that good at blogging my adventures, but I have built up a stash of articles and I feel good about that.  Perhaps my next few should avoid the topics of clothes.  There's probably some mileage in the veggies though.

And perhaps I will take on other projects.  More worthy projects even.  That could be good.

Lent 2014 - Days 42-46

Last few days of Lent 2014 all summarised in one handy spot.

The end of last week was busy at work, so blogness got neglected.  Sorry about that.  Hopefully this mad spray of posts will do something to make up for it.

Day 42 - This outfit became a bit of a staple over the course of Lent.  It's the classic 2-16-13 combination.  This time with a cheap pair of flat brogues that I picked up last year or the year before.  It is handy to have neutral shoes that just slip on in my life.

Day 43 - It's a classic red dress/red shoes combo and so item 12 gets another outing.  It was even warm enough that an additional layer wasn't required.

Day 44 - Unfortunately I cannot remember what I was wearing on Day 44.  It was definitely composed of items on the list, but what they were I have no idea.

Day 45 - a Friday outfit of linen shirt (25) and red cords (26) with which I attempted a double necklace arrangement.

Day 46 - this was the Great Day of Tidying as outlined in a full blogpost here.  I wore green cords (17) and a checked shirt (19) with the sleeves rolled up.  It seemed like an appropriate day for Spring cleaning during the Harrowing of Hell and I wore an outfit appropriate for a long day of housework.  Then a moosh of broderie anglais and tartan for an evening of dancing.

How to pitch a Bell Tent in eleven easy steps

I am the deliciously pretentious owner of half a genuine Bell Tent.  Fortunately the Other Half owns the other half* so there has never yet been a scheduling conflict.

One of the most wonderful features of a Bell Tent, after the distinctive aesthetic, is the ease of pitching.  One person can erect one of these beauties alone fairly swiftly.  It's downright speedy when there's more than one of you.  And here's how we go about it, with excessive picture references:

First, pick a spot and lay out your under-tent tarp

Pick a nice level spot with suitable windbreaks and, if possible, a beautiful view.  If camping in a group it's nice to all face the entries to your tents into a central space.  The tarp prevents the bottom of your groundsheet from getting covered in grass and mud or soaking the canvas when you put it away.  And another layer between you and the cold, hard ground is always a bonus.

Second, peg out your tent

On this particular occasion, this broke the mallet.  Now we have a nice new wooden mallet that will hopefully last longer than the season-and-a-half its predecessor managed.  Now is also the time to tuck the corners of the under-tent tarp under the tent.  For pretties.

Third, find the door

A small but vital step, should be fairly easy to find if you remember where you decided to put it during step 2.

Fourth, leave your shoes outside and enter the tent

This prevents your mucky shoes from leaving detritus all over the inside of the groundsheet and reduces the number of passes required with the tent hoover** later.

Fifth, unpack your chandelier

This step can be skipped if you have no chandelier.  But you should have a chandelier.  Canvas and candelight, what could possibly go wrong?  We keep ours in its original box for now but sometimes the bubble wrap causes difficulties.

Sixth, check where the centre of your tent is

This may not be a strictly necessary step, but I like the way it all looks rather like the Sorting Hat in this picture.

Seventh, insert centre pole

This step is easiest if you have a willing volunteer/conscript/minnion/friend construct said pole and pass it in to you, so you can stay in the centre of the tent, but it can be managed singlehandedly without incident.

Eighth, erect the pole remembering to include chandelier

Up you go!  If you were clever and marked a little cross on the floor of the tent to let you know where the centre is you can make use of that now.  Sliding the chandelier under the foot of the pole at this point is easiest.  You can lift the foot of the pole once everything's pegged out, but it's far easier to do now.

Ninth, add the door pole

There's a secret to this: pass the door pole into the tent feet first with one of the joints nearest the bend still unjoined.  Pop the doorframe out into the correct 'V' shape once in the tent.  Poke the pokey bit through the designated hole and tie down the feet with the ties provided either side of the doorway.

Tenth, peg out the guyropes

Discover one missing and remember that at the end of your last trip as you struck the tent in the rain it came undone so you put it somewhere safe to re-attach later and it has never been seen again.  Improvise with string, while also improvising a mallet with a rock.

Eleventh, add bunting, get the kettle on and start enjoying your camping experience

I manufactured the bunting myself, in rather a hurry, out of a worn-out duvet cover.  I am rather pleased with it.  And a cuppa is exactly what a thirsty work crew needs before they furnish the newly-erected abode.

* I can't claim the credit for this joke, she made it first.
** More on this in a subsequent post.  It is a truly marvelous contraption.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Everyone's in there.

This Sunday was Easter Sunday.  I was in the singing group so wound up sat at the front, all keen-like.

And the scripture was, unsurprisingly, John's account of the resurrection.  And we were asked to consider why Mary was crying.  She cried for the death of her friend (who is a saviour if not a friend of sinners).  She cried because his body was not there.  In that, I think perhaps she cried for herself.  She had been deprived of the touchstone for her grief.  If we deal with death by dealing with our dead (which I hope we do) then not having a body to grieve over hampers our grieving.  Like the families of soldiers blown to smithereens in the trenches, where there wasn't enough to identify or bury.  Like the friends of teenagers who disappeared and were never heard of again.  Like the relatives of the victims of the recent air crash and ferry capsizing.

It is good to notice when experiences or people we can relate to show up in the Bible.  And I like to think that we are all included in there without too many stretches of the imagination.  Of course, I also like to stretch my imagination.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Lent 2014 - Days 39-41

Last weekend catchup of Lent 2014.  It has fairly flown by.

I wore a great many things.  It was a busy weekend.  So it's another summary table:

But there is a picture of today:
Spot the sneaky afternoon Maltesers!
Today's clothes were all about being comfortable.  It had been a busy weekend and a late night and I had to return a hire car before work so I was only getting out of bed if I could do so in comfort.  Also skipped adding accessories.  It's a wonder I managed to eat breakfast through my sleepies.

This photograph does show the ridiculous length my hair has got to these days.  Plaited like that it still reaches my waistband (loose it reaches to about my hips), and there's a fair distance from the top of my head to my waist.  That's probably almost three feet of hair.  Ridiculous.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Lent 2014 - Day 38

Flat discipline

Pub food last night, pizza for a colleague's leaving do tonight, it's not a good week for eating simply and getting through vegbox veggies.

Lone discipline

Fuzzy, but glad it's Friday!


Linen skirt (item 25):  It's a workhorse, this skirt.  I'll be cycling around town this afternoon running errands and there's no problem with that while wearing this.
Orange vest (item 18):  It's a basic and a staple but today it makes me feel like I'm joining in with Spring, which may have actually Sprung.
Striped jersey blazer (item 13):  This thing is becoming a total workhorse.  I wonder if there are spring-time variations available in other colours... and if it always does that weird thing up by my right* shoulder.

Footwear - oh the embarrassment of still not having polished these boots.
Accessories - little yellow enamel heart earrings to pick up the orange from the vest and my ampersand pendant for whimsy.  Nice and straightforward.

And I've got bare legs!  As is typical when switching to the occasional bare-legged day I have on trainer socks and ankle boots so my feets stay toasty.  And I'll be throwing some tights or something on before I leap on my bicycle, I don't need the wind whistling around my thighs just yet.

*I had to think about this for quite a long time, before I realised that a photograph of me taken in a mirror will mean that my right hand side is on the right.  I blame too many hours staring in confusion at X-rays during anatomy tutorials.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Lent 2014 - Day 37

Flat Discipline

Last night we ate baked potatoes with salad, tuna mayonnaise and cheese.  Tasty stuff.  Tonight friends who moved out of the country are in town so we are meeting them in the pub for tea.  Never mind, eh?

Lone discipline

Out of practice at this malarkey.


Khaki skirt (item 29) - it's a practical, comfortable workhorse with jeans-styling, which means POCKETS!  This makes me happy.  The generously cut flared A-line does hang strangely though, doesn't it?
Floral shirt (item 16) - Still not my favourite colours or a pattern that feels particularly 'me' and now that I see the lumpy silhouette it gives I don't know if I can put up with those things in the name of comfort (which it has).  We shall have to see if I will ever actually enact my regular threat to take this to a charity shop.

Footwear:  Purple not-leather mary-janes.  I liked these shoes, with their sturdy mary-jane styling and tiny little heel so much in brown that I bought them in purple too!  My tan and red mary-janes were supposed to replace them but I can't quite give them up yet.  Sometimes you just need a purple shoe that's easy on the feet but respectable looking.  Even if they now look decidedly shoddy.
Hosiery: All my nude tights are in the wash.  It's only the white and purple flowers that are saving this from not feeling like a spring outfit.

Ho hum, off to the pub.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Spring has sprung

OK, so this photograph was taken yesterday and it's not been so bright today, but it's definitely getting warmer.  I have foregone heavy outer layers and thick jumpers, the nights are getting lighter and I've been having some strange dreams that I'm going to ascribe to it being very cosy in my bed these nights and not at all to the large quantities of cheese being eaten in the house at the moment.

There might even be good conditions for gardening over the next few days.  I am, however a lazy gardener and will not do things unless I absolutely have to.

Lent 2014 - days 24-36 catchup

So, I'm utterly rubbish at keeping up with myself in terms of recording my efforts.  But I have been efforting.

I've even managed to reconstruct what I was wearing for most of the last ten days.  Somehow I feel this is faintly ridiculous, and definitely too lame to count as a very mild superpower.  Less easy is remembering what I have eaten and cooked.

Flat discipline

We've received yet more vegetables.  We've eaten a fair amount of them, but I don't feel that we are quite as on top of things as we were, possibly due to tiring of potatoes as our main source of carbohydrate (or, as the beloved likes to think of it, stodge).  Things we have thought up to use our tatties and neeps include:
  • Mash.  We have to hide the neeps in with other veggies, but it works.
  • Gratin.  Layer 'em up with other veggies and cheese or cream.
  • Risotto.  Not so much use for the tatties, but you can sneak a snatch of neep in there and you get let off the absence of tattie if you've used up the last few useable bits of last fortnight's kale.
In more exciting news, this most recent vegbox has included multiple salad greens which have made our lives vitamin filled and tasty.  And launched an excuse for prawn cocktail or coronation chicken when we see these things with yellow stickers on.

I have no idea how much meat or fish we have eaten but there seems to be a slight build-up in the freezer, so we will need to work through that at some point.

Lone discipline

I think this really has to be a handy table format.
So there you are.  I wore things.  I even wore things on day 27, I just can't remember or reconstruct what they were.

I managed to take a couple of photographs over the past 10 days, but only 2 or 3.  I shall post them below regardless.
Day 30 - complete with big, soft, floaty scarf.
Day 30 bonus what-I-wear-outside shot
Day 36.  Someone asked me if I had hurt my wrist.
So there we are.  Today is very minimal and I've resorted to those dark tights again.  I prefer this dress with a necklace but didn't put one on this morning.  I think I look a bit more exciting on my travels today as that means I add the trenchcoat and scarf above.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

We don't make the guestlist.

This has been a bit of a refrain in my life recently.

It's a reminder to set aside pride and remember who's actually in charge of the feast.  It's a reminder to set aside judgement and to love mercy.  It's a reminder to set aside control and have faith.

Jesus loved a party.  Jesus loves a party.  And invites us to party with him.  Not just in the hereafter (but that's a topic for another post).  It dampens a party when there's someone sitting in the corner humphing about the other partygoers.  But perhaps it only really spoils the party for the humpher.

We are none of us invited to the party in our finished state.  We are all works in progress.  Which means that no-one is at the party by virtue of their present state.  So we are all wrong about something.  And it won't be until the end of the pre-party that we'll figure out who is wrong about what.  And realise that we're all family anyway and we shouldn't let these petty differences come between us.

Also,  the phrase has come up in a 'we don't get to decide who's on the guestlist' context, but perhaps there's some room for 'we do not deserve to be on the guestlist'.  I don't want to beat my breast and lament my unworthiness, begging you to tell me that I'm quite nice really, but if I'm on any list it's not because I earned my place on it.  I was put on that list by the one planning the feast.  The feast is about him and what he has done to deserve it, not what I have done or who I am.  And because I've taken up the invitation extended to me, I start to become who I truly am and start to do what I am truly here to do.

At least, that's the theory.