When was it even August? I’ve forgotten it even existed. I’ve been travelling a lot and busy a lot, so I haven’t had much time at my laptop. By the time I get home, I need to either do laundry (Bold liquitabs with softener, if you’re asking), prep my lunch (a lot of vegetables) and scrape the eyeliner off my face before bed.
There has not been much time for reflection. But still, NO EXCUSES!
Delightful living conditions
Somewhat embarrassingly, I washed the windows properly for the first time this month. I only recently worked out how to open them inwards so as to clean the outside. Everything is sparkly now!
To be brief, I was pretty good this month. I caught up with old friends from university and from my travels, made the effort to meet a friend for breakfast on a weekday, travelled to see people and made skype calls to keep in touch.
I’m so very lucky to have met such funny, warm, generous people throughout my life and to be able to pick up with them after long stretches of time with nary a stitch dropped in the embroidery of our friendship (wow, that got flowery!). I am grateful for them and the brief snatches of time we can have together when our schedules and lives collide.
August is also a pretty birthday heavy month and I was sufficiently organised to have cards and presents sent out on time.
This month I had my friend Carrie over for dinner. I was actually pretty pleased by this. The aim was to have a Mid-Week Supper, like you see in recipe books and think “who on EARTH is inviting people to their house mid-week? I don’t live in Downton Abbey, this is ridiculous!”, but to actually do it. The brief is that there’s to be no tidying up, no major effort and the time slot is 7pm to 9pm. Luckily, Carrie lives around the corner from me, so it’s perfect. I’d planned a dead easy pasta dish (Crack Pasta from Ramshackle Glam, and LET ME TELL YOU, IT ABSOLUTELY IS) and a crumble for dessert. There was wine, but we didn’t drink it.
For me, the main thing is to think through the evening and work out what the pitfalls. Carrie brought flowers, so I asked her to vase them up for me – that took a bit of pressure off me trying to talk to her and cook at the same time. I had the table set and the crumble (apple and tinned rhubarb, because apparently I have no idea when rhubarb season is) made before she arrived. We hung out in the kitchen chatting while I put things together, we had seconds of pasta (BECAUSE IT IS THAT GOOD) and it was just terribly easy. I think I’m starting to nail it.
I had scheduled a Book Group, but everyone was away and I was a bit relieved to have some quiet time, so that probably gives me minus hostess points, if anything.
Confident in the kitchen
With my new recipe situation (see below), I have tried out a few new bits and pieces. I have noticed that my usual problems still occur – I try and do washing up, laundry and stir-frying at the same time and there is a WORRYING tendency to just sub in other ingredients than stipulated, plus I always make way too much. I make way too much because I am a single person making a dish for 2+ people, plus I tend to just ignore certain quantities. I round up, so 100g bacon becomes ALL THE BACON in the packet, because I don’t want to waste the remaining bacon (which would be wrong on so many levels).
What I’m saying is, I failed to follow the instructions for a SALAD, but it turned out fine.
Erm, I’m going to write a post on this.
I threw myself into social situations where I did not know people. I did not die. This was a relief. I didn’t do terribly well at speaking to the people I didn’t know- and in one case I did really badly speaking to someone I knew of vaguely a long time ago, but he didn’t remember me- so I should probably work on that a bit better.
Healthy Mind & Body
I wore a lot of sunscreen and sunglasses this month. I was pleased by this. Every year I get sunburnt despite investing half my earnings in sunscreen and knowing FULL WELL of the risks of sun damage. This year, I was only slightly pink (not burnt) the odd time.
Art and culture
My Vogue subscription brings me such joy. I love it with my whole heart and want to shyly shake Alex Shulman’s hand. I can afford less than 1% of what is on the pages, but to me, it isn’t about purchasing, it’s about inhaling the gorgeous art on each page. The writing is excellent, the photography breathtaking. It’s over two hundred pages and less than £5. It doesn’t matter to me that I would never wear the outfits from a shoot. What matters is seeing the models, styled, in beautifully imagined and constructed pieces.
This month I sat with coffee and three issues and inhaled the beauty of the glossy pages. This was my art for the month.
The culture this month was the Undressed: A Brief History of Lingerie exhibition at the V&A. As is standard with the V&A, it was brilliant and intimate and delivered on the brief. Moving through the decades with men and women’s underwear, the fabrics, the technology, the marketing, the class indications and the messages portrayed, I actually went round twice.
I’m not entirely sure why I am so fascinated by lingerie, but I am. I’m horrified, but enthralled by the tiny-waisted corsets from Victorian times (there were x-rays of corset wearers demonstrating just how badly they damaged women’s’ bodies), the fabrics and fastenings catch my attention, the embroidery and fixings my imagination.
For Christmas, I go home to Belfast. If I leave it later than the summer, it becomes ridiculously expensive for the 55 minutes of flight time. This month, I stopped procrastinating and booked flights for just shy of £200. Hurrah! I’m not going to work out how much that is per minute. I’m not a masochist.
Every summer I have notions of sitting in a park somewhere and reading quietly in the sunshine for hours. The best I did this time was sit in a bench, batting away wasps, internally screaming at the accordion player who took up residence three benches along from me for twenty minutes until I could take it no more and stomped off. I don’t think I did especially well this summer – I had very few ice cream cones.
Needless to say, I didn’t really work on this. It was the summer, it was nice and hot (and then HORRIBLE AND HOT) and it’s not the time. That being said, I was a Good Employee and attended our work Sommerfest with minimal complaints. I went, I networked, l left at a sensible hour. I resented giving up my free time a little, but I also lent my phone to the DG and now his wife’s number is in it, so that may have earnt me a few brownie points.
My book came! I was D E L I G H T E D with it. Seriously. I made two mistakes – one on the centring of the cover text (but really only noticeable to me) and one in getting the first page wrong. I thought I was cleverer than the system. I am never cleverer than the system. Best money I have spent in a long long time. The quality is excellent and I get a thrill seeing the blue (obviously) spine on my bookshelf amongst the Real Books.
The other completed project this month was that I finally tidied up my recipes. Having dithered for years over the Best Way to store recipes, I had a notebook (with run ink stains and a broken spine), a plastic wallet of recipes snipped out of magazines and a folder of haphazard scribbles and photocopies.
Perfect is the enemy of the good, I reminded myself. And so I set about converting everything I had into photocopied A4 pages, hole punched and but in a standard ringbinder with weird German dividers (imagine a10cm wide strip of thin card that just sits in the middle of the pages. You cannot determine the different sections, it just marks out that there are different sections. It’s useless).
It’s not pretty, it’s not terribly robust, but all twelve of my brownie recipes are in the same format and easy to find. It’s easy to flip through, will be easy to add or remove recipes, it does the job.
Finally, I sat down with all the receipts and brochures from my Canada trip and glued them in a scrapbook. Utterly satisfying. I even decorated the cover with Canadian flag stickers. Hurrah.