Sunday, 22 August 2010

Dreams, redux - warning, long!

I did Lottie Love's D is for Dreams challenge about 10 days ago. It seemed to spark my subconscious into actually thinking about the bigger life questions, because I want to revisit that challenge.

First though, I know two bloggers doing the "101 things in 1001 days" challenge: Skippy & Minirhi and Rachel is doing 30 Things Before I'm 30. I have my own list of 30 before I'm 30 - the idea of doing a new thing every 10 days for three years just seemed overwhelming, given my impending move to London to become a student!

My 30 before I'm 30 list
1) Visit Egypt again - Nile, Pyramids, Cairo, Aswan etc. Possibly a dawn hike around St Catherine's Monastery.
2) Visit Jordan (Completed: October 2010)
3) Visit Israel, especially Jerusalem (Completed: April 2011)
4) Hike the Inca Trail
5) Visit Venice before it sinks (New Year 2010)
6) Hike the Two Moors Way (Complete: July 2010)
7) Hike/cycle another long distance path (Coast to Coast? LEJOG? Appalachian Trail?)
8) Visit my relatives in the Orkneys (Booked for September Summer 2011)

Learning things
9) Learn Arabic, at least to basic conversation level (In progress: Oct 2010 - May 2011)
10) Get my Master's degree (In progress: LSE 2010-11)
11) Learn archery (starting summer 2010 - basic qualification done)
12) Get my Mountain Leader (Summer) Award (2010-2012)
13) Take singing/banjo/guitar lessons
14) Record singing/banjo/guitar/piano
15) Learn one dance style (In progress: Lindy Hop & Charleston aka Swing Dancing)

Making things
16) Make a corset
17) Knit myself socks from 4-ply yarn (In progress: Dec 2010)
18) Find my "style" (House of Colour day, summer 2010)
19) Make more clothes than I buy
20) Do another year of "Homemade Christmas gifts"

Charity/ethical things
21) Volunteer overseas for 2-4 weeks
22) Become an Army/Sea cadet Instructor
23) Volunteer in a soup kitchen or homeless shelter over Christmas (complete 2010)
24) Extend fairtrade / organic / happy meat shopping ethics beyond groceries
25) Stop sending Xmas cards (apart from close family) in favour of charity donations

Other things
26) Go to a professional opera production (2010/11)
27) Go to a professional ballet production (2010/11)
28) Run a 10k race or do a Sprint Triatholon
29) Buy a house
30) Plant a vegetable garden

On a related theme, I have a list of things I'd like to accomplish while I'm at LSE. Some are duplicated of the above, but some are new. This list will probably grow before it starts to shrink!

Things to do at LSE
1) Graduate. Duh. Perhaps this should read "Graduate well". I'm not going to put myself under pressure to get a Distinction since I've finally learned that Academic Achievement Is Not The Be All And End All.
2) Learn Arabic
3) Intern in politics or a think tank
4) Audition for a choir...and ideally join!
5) Have an article published, eg in The World Today

Finally, my subconscious presented me with a life-long dream: I've had variants of this for several years, and some elements have persisted for over a decade. I have no idea how this would work out in practice, given my current circumstances. However, Lottie's challenge was to dream regardless, and maybe the universe will arrange things in such a way you can spot the opportunities to make it happen.

My life at some indeterminate point in the future...
...looks very little like my life at present or even in the foreseeable future. I want to have experienced (not just seen) much more of the world. I love learning about other cultures and history, and standing in the wilderness with a vista, and no signs of human activity. That's pretty much (one of) my idea(s) of bliss. However, I've also learned that however much I love to travel, I need somewhere to call home, somewhere I have roots in both physical and social senses.

Thus, I need to combine the wilderness with a place I can truly call home. Apart from one 4.5 year period, the longest I have lived anywhere in the last 14 years is 18 months, and while I'm very practised at boxing up my life and moving it, I'd really like to not have to do it too many more times. What I see as my dream future then, is this:

I have a smallholding, which is self-sufficient year-round for vegetables, any fruit the UK can grow, meat & eggs. There is a small amount extra which I preserve or sell. The smallholding takes in visitors of several types. There's a camping barn & field, and probably a bunk-house. In the term-time, school groups come to work the soil, tend the animals and learn basic cooking with ingredients they have picked themselves. In the holidays, families and groups of friends come and stay for holidays. There's a space which can be used to run yoga, photography, music and other "retreat" style workshops. I have two adopted* children and a stable relationship with a significant other. I have time to raise the children, and be active in local & charitable organisations. I grew up in a village with a real community feel, a summer fete, a maypole festival and all the other trappings of a quintessential English village: I'm determined to find a corner of England where those traditions live on, and make my home there.

*I really can't envisage the whole pregnant-and-baby stage. I've tried, and my mind insists that The Dream starts when they're at least toddling. I've given up arguing with it on this point.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Lottie Loves: Finishing School E is for Eyes (and Easy-peasy)

So the challenge this fortnight had two parts. Firstly, to have an eye test. I have these every 2-3 years anyway to keep my prescription up to date. So, check.

The second was to wear mascara every day for a week. I'm usually pretty good about this, but have been making effort to do the bare minimum of eyeliner (green or brown) mascara (brown) and lipstick ("Spiced Apple" from Clinique, apparently discontinued).

Roll on Lottie returning from holiday and the next Challenge!

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Lottie Loves: Finishing School D is for dreams

I have lots of day dreams. My problem isn't not dreaming about the future, it's knowing which dream to turn into reality. A goal is, after all, just a dream with a deadline. I read an article in Red magazine this month about dream boards, aka mood boards. I'm really, really, not a visual person (and I've done a couple of learning preference things which proved that!). So, sitting down with a pile of magazines, some scissors and some pritt stick is fairly close to my idea of hell. However, I do like concepts and abstract relationships.

I've just read the first chapter of "Women who run with the Wolves" by Clarissa Estes. A post-doctoral Julian psychoanalyst, she is also the keeper of oral stories for two family traditions. The first story she tells is of La Lopa, the Bone Woman. La Lopa gathers the bones of the dead, and sings them back to life. She days, "Come, gather the shards of your soul, sing from beyond your heart, and heal yourself." All the bones and all the songs are within each of us, waiting to be uncovered. I know what I shall dream about tonight.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Lottie Loves: Finishing School challenges A to C

I've never been particularly good at "girly" things. But I'd quite like to be, and I've - via a very roundabout route - come across Lottie Loves and her Finishing School.

A is for Attitude
The first fortnight's challenge is to think about your Attitude, in the form of things you like about yourself.

In no particular order, I like:
  • My intellect, and the way I can combine unrelated approaches and concepts to solve problems
  • How I feel when I make an effort to keep my home and myself in shape FLYlady was a small miracle when I came across her method earlier this year.
  • My self-belief: I can do (almost) anything if I put my mind to it - and so can you!

B is for Bra
To avoid TMI, let's accept I've done this one.

C is for Clothes
Around 18 months ago, I "had my colours done" with House of Colour. I found out that I'm an Autumn, and I suit browns, golds, deep greens and reds. This shouldn't really have been a surprise, but it was. I now understand that if I'm wearing black the answer isn't to apply for make-up in an attempt not to look dead, it's to wear brown instead. I followed HoC's advice and threw out some of my wardrobe that was in the "wrong" colour, and have been very good about only buying colours that are "right". I haven't really been ruthless enough about getting rid of all the wrong ones though. So...

Earlier this month I had the second step, an Image Day. This told me that I'm a Natural Ingenue, which means I like - and suit - fitted, demure (but not prissy) and pretty clothes and accessories. Fortunately, all my favourite vintage style clothes fit this. It's also taught me that if I'm going to wear trousers, not only should they not have a (masculine) fly or pockets, but I need to wear them with heels. Case in point - I wore frilly t-shirt, brown cords and a shrug with flats for part of the day, then switched to heels, and instantly felt and looked better. The Image Day ended with the injunction to throw out anything unsuitable from the wardrobe, which coincidentally is the C is for Clothes challenge from Lottie.

I've binned some shoes, got some others ready to take to a charity shop, and have a large suitcase over half full of clothes that don't fit, don't suit me or will otherwise never be worn again. It's proving hard to do but I'm slowly getting there by breaking it into chunks: I'll just sort this rail. I'll just sort that drawer. I'll just sort my shoes. I reckon another couple of hours and it'll all be done. Then - revelation - I'll have enough room to hang everything properly AND be able see what I have and what I now have a reason to buy to fill a gap.

Bring on the shopping!

Friday, 6 August 2010

Darn I'm good: beef in red wine sauce

As usual, I've made it up as I've gone along, then decided I'd quite like to be able to recreate the dish at a later date. This is the first time I've tried to thicken a wine-based sauce: normally I just accept that cornflour is the work of the devil and don't even try. However, I make a mean roux-based white sauce, and figured it can't be that different, right?

So roughly:

Ingredients - serves 2
1lb beef (I used chuck and rump steak) diced into 1" ish lumps
Half a bottle or so of full bodied red wine (I used a New Zealand Merlot)
8 or so baby leeks, cut into 1-2" lengths, about pencil thick
1 tsp chopped garlic (I use Very Lazy garlic)
1 1/2 oz butter
3/4 oz flour
1/2 tbsp horseradish sauce
(You could also add mushrooms, but my guest doesn't eat them, and I didn't have any!)

Melt half the butter over a low heat, stirring in garlic. Add beef, and stir until coated, stir in leeks. Cover - leaving a steam gap - and simmer gently until beef is browned. Add 1/2 pint red wine and simmer over a low heat for a further 20 mins. Ish.

In a small pan on an even lower heat, melt the remaining butter. Stir in the flour a little at a time until you have a thick paste. Remove from the heat. Add the remaining liquid from the meat pan a ladle at a time, stirring thoroughly to ensure no lumps. Add more wine until the sauce is liquid again.

Pour sauce over meat, stir in horseradish sauce a little at a time, tasting between each addition. The exact quantity will depend on the flavour of the wine and how much extra wine you added! (Add chopped mushrooms at this point, if using). Cover - with a steam gap - and simmer very gently until one of the following occurs: 1) your guests arrives; 2) the sauce is thick enough for your liking; 3) 15 mins has elapsed.

You could also leave it to cool, then reheat later and serve, but watch the skin that forms on the sauce and stir it in well!

I served with beetroot, courgette, carrot and cauliflower roasted with olive oil, oregano and sage.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Not quite Two Moors Way Update #2

I really am bad at this regular updates lark. The real part #2 of the Two Moors Way trip should go up later this week.

In brief news - my Marmot Grid tent was awesome. The Primus spider stove was awesome, and had what seemed to be a never-ending gas cartridge. My old, old hiking boots were sadly not up to the job though. After 10 years, 4 continents and well into 4-digits of miles, they are unequivocably Past It. The rolling sole rolls no longer, and has a depressed ball of the foot tread instead of a raised one, making walking less efficient than with an normal shoe, instead of more. There's zero cushioning left in the soles, so every rock and rough surface can be felt on the feet: think the princess and the pea. They rubbed in brand new and interesting places, making for judicious use of tape as the week wore on. Finally, I tried some brand-new-out-of-the-box boots on Friday, and they were more comfortable than my old broken-in (=beat up) ones.

Time for some new boots before I go to Jordan in October!