Monday, 27 October 2014

time for tea


Hello and welcome!  I can't believe it's time for our monthly cup of tea again, and I'm absolutely bursting with things to share! I thought we'd have an autumn stroll and picnic at this lovely canal-side spot.  Do keep your coat and mittens on - it's sunny but there's a nip in the air.  Nothing that a flask of tea and a good wedge of carrot cake won't sort out.  The season of cinnamon is upon us.  I think I could have cinnamon on everything at this time of year!

First, I want to share a little secret.  This is more of a Time-Travel for Tea post.  I'm catching up with you a fortnight early as when everyone else holds their monthly soiree, I will be on holiday.  I am making the most of having two weeks off this half term and The Man and I are spending a fortnight abroad.  Island hopping.  In the Caribbean! By the time you read this, our Grand Holiday (as we've been calling it) will be drawing to a close, so perhaps next month I'll be able to tell you all about it.  But it was nice that we could both take the opportunity to splash out a bit and see a new part of the world, and it will be lovely to have a whole two weeks together.  I'm usually a backpack-and-youth-hostel type of traveller, and so this seems like a very grown-up venture to me.  

Having said that, I'm still taking the backpack as I find them so much more convenient than suitcases!

You find me in the middle of packing: with documents and travel guides and clothes strewn about my flat, its nice to be able to take a walk by the canal, enjoy the glorious autumn colours and leave the organised chaos behind.  With any luck it will think about what it's done and pack itself. I did finally get that bikini after my two months at the gym. My first ever!  Must make sure that gets packed.  I was extremely glad to leave the gym behind, but I suppose I have to be grateful that I'm now down over three and a half stone.

What have you been up to this month?  Has it kept you busy? I have been adapting to a new job and I find it hard work being the new girl!  I've gone from knowing the routines and systems inside out, to not having a clue where my next classroom is.  However, I do love my new school.  The pupils are lovely, lively and charismatic.  They're so engaged and it's a lovely, busy environment to work in. My new colleagues have been so helpful and friendly, and I'm really glad I took the plunge and changed jobs.  Even if I do have to get used to being the new girl!

My commute now takes me through the centre of London on the tube, and I've been taking full advantage of the location.  I am revelling in being able to get straight into the centre of the city after school, which has lead to no small number of outings and adventures.  I've spent evenings watching acrobats, having dinner with friends, sampling the delights of London Cocktail week, indulging in a musical at Evita, and even solved a crime.  (More on that another time) All this has left almost no time for crafting though, so I hope as the evenings become colder and darker, that I will spend more time being cosy inside with something creative. Have you managed to find some time to spend crafting?  Are you working on anything?

It's also been busy with the Guides as we had a camp for 400 girls across the county.  It POURED down, but only at night, so as long as your wellies were on, it was fine.  And as long as you didn't climb out of your tent at 5:00am to watch the lightning as some of our girls did. (Not me: I slept through the whole racket!).  On the Saturday, 300 Brownies came to join us, and as it got dark, I got to lead the most enormous campfire sing-song.  It was incredibly warm as I was so close to the fire, continually circling it and inciting all 700 girls to join in with the songs, and actions.  I lead a mean campfire if I say so myself! Everyone had a fab time; weekends with the Guides are always a winner.

Things have also been busy on the international front with Guides.  We held the international trip selection weekend recently for the whole of London and the South East, and we've got around  40 very excited girls heading off to Vietnam, California and India.  Most exciting for me though, is that I am leading a trip for a group of eight 18-26 year-olds.  We began planning our adventure over the weekend and have settled on doing some volunteer work with children in Ecuador, South America.  We're investigating the possibility of linking up with Guides there too.

Sitting here and letting this all pour out (speaking of pouring, have a another cuppa - there's plenty in the flask and it's still piping hot!) makes me think about blogging.  I miss it when I don't do it in a while, and I think I need to create time to do it.  It's a good way to get stories down.  And I think I ought to start doing a monthly Guiding post as it's such a huge chunk of my life, but almost never features here.

I also realise that I've been doing all the talking - I've hardly touched my cake!  Let me cut you a bit more, and I'm going to sit back and hear about your month now while I gobble up my slice (and perhaps a second...).

When it's time for you to leave, we'll head back along the canal, but we must remember to return here again next autumn as it's so beautiful.  And we will also travel forward two weeks in time to the end of the month to hear how everyone else is getting on.  It's been really lovely to see you - have a wonderful November!

If you want to share a cup of virtual tea with other corners of the internet, head over to Abi at Creating Paper Dreams.  The tea posts were her lovely idea and you can find lots of bloggers to sit down and enjoy a cuppa with.

Kisses xxx

P.S. When this goes live, I will be in the Cayman Islands. There's no way to type that without seeming at least a little bit smug :D

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

london love: little venice to camden town


I don’t know about where you are, but there’s been some pretty yucky weather around recently.  I now leave for work in the dark in a morning, and often in the rain. But it’s OK because as soon as I get to the tube, the flask of tea comes out, a podcast goes on, the knitting appears and I have my little morning oasis of calm.



Having said that, October can also produce some glorious weather, and a couple of weekends ago, my family descended for a London jaunt and we went for a wander.  We walked part of the Jubilee Greenway (marked footpaths all around the city) and this particular stretch was new to a us all.




A couple of miles took us along the canal towpath from Little Venice through to Camden and it was simply idyllic.  Removed from the hustle and bustle of the city all around, calm, quiet and full of the glorious colours of Autumn.  This walk is now earmarked in my head as a good thing to do with any new visitors to London as it shows a lovely side of the city that I think can be easily overlooked.




Kisses xxx

P.S. Where has the gorgeous, golden, autumn weather gone?  It seems we've hit winter drizzle but without having quite reached mulled wine season yet...

Saturday, 18 October 2014

thoughts on 500 snaps of summer


Well, it’s been a while hasn’t it? This half term has really flown by and somehow things have gotten away from me!  But this isn’t a complaint at all; I like to be busy and London is always so enticing that it’s easy to find myself in the city most evenings, and my flat has become that place I pass through to sleep every so often! I’ll return soon with a full account of what’s been going on (actually, I’m saving it for the Time for Tea post hosted by Abi at Creating Paper Dreams each month. Last month’s passed me by so I’m looking forward to sitting down with a cuppa and catching up with everyone!).  For now, I wanted to start by looking back over #500snapsofsummer.


In the final analysis, I didn’t make it. 500 pictures that I really love over summer was about 100 too many, although I must have taken well into the thousands.  So was this project a failure?
The answer to that is a resounding NO!


I LOVED it and it has been one of my favourite projects that I’ve EVER taken on.  And I will be doing it again next year!  Not only have I loved doing it, but I feel that I’ve learned a great deal, and gained a lot of insight from the process.  So in this post, I’m going to share a few of my favourites, and discuss some of things I feel I have gained from attempting #500snaps of summer.


One of the biggest things I have learned is that it’s good to delete. There were ever so many days when I would return from a day’s jaunt with well over 100 pictures on my camera, only to find that there were a mere handful that I really liked.  I do tend to take multiple versions of the same shot, and I’ve found that it’s good to be ruthless: I pick the best, and consign the rest to oblivion (or wherever it is that deleted pictures go).  This means that my photo library feels more organised, up-to-date and it much more straightforward to manage as I don’t have to sift through piles of pictures to find what I’m looking for.


I have also discovered the value of processing and uploading straight away. I don’t enjoy the computer aspect of photography, which means I tend to put it off.  However, processing smaller chunks as soon as I’ve taken them is much easier, and I’m more eager to have a look at the pictures when they’re fresh.  Given that I know that 100 photos can be trimmed down to ten or so when I discard the ones I don’t feel excited about, I can approach the task knowing it’s not going to take hours of screen time.  The whole thing is now streamlined to transferring photos to laptop, deleting like a loon, tweaking the few that have survived the cut, and uploading to Flickr. Job done!


It might be work saying that I don’t use Photoshop or do much editing. And I almost never crop. I will occasionally adjust the brightness sliders in the generic laptop photo-gallery software, but that’s about it. I don’t enjoy the computer work, and therefore have decided that I don’t want to invest the time or money in a photo-editing suite.  I don’t crop either. What I can do is keep learning how to get the best photos I can straight out of the camera.  I know I like softer, slightly over-exposed images, and I can often get that look by continuing to fiddle with my camera settings.  I always shoot in Manual mode so I have the option to do this.


One particularly important lesson was to Take. Camera. Everywhere. I have never regretted having it, but there have definitely been times when I regretted leaving it behind. On a side note, I have decided to invest in a new camera bag to make it easier to transport my camera around.  At the moment I just chuck it in my handbag, which isn’t really big enough, and doesn’t protect my camera at all.  But I don’t want to carry two bags everywhere; I want a camera-safe handbag to put all my stuff in and go. I need to remind myself that if it’s a choice between taking the camera, or taking something else, ALWAYS TAKE THE CAMERA.


Play to your strengths and your likes. I have taken a lot of pictures of food.  I like food a lot.  I have saved almost none of those photos because they don’t look good.  I think my memory of some of those delicious culinary moments isn’t particularly visual.  So the photos don’t really hold much value for me.  That doesn’t mean I’ll stop taking them, but I have decided to cut myself some slack and accept that in all probability, I won’t like the final object.


So playing to my strengths means more pictures of people: as I mention below, I seem to place the highest value on these shots.  I love to capture the people in my life and I’ve been really delighted with the outcomes.  I also like to get photos of the places I’ve been; in London you may think this means pictures of famous landmarks and so on, but it’s the ones of my London that I love.  The London of a local who has found a lovely new cinema, or a restaurant with deep-fried macaroni cheese, or signs with incredible lettering.  These are my strengths.


It was hard to cut down to a handful of photos I love (My first edit for this post contained about 50 images) and I think that’s because I was careful to include only pictures that I felt had value to me.  Pictures that represented my summer, the wonderful people in my life, London, and freewheeling around the city in a highly irresponsible manner.  The 15 or so I’ve selected are not representative of my summer at all.  But it’s interesting to see that when I forced myself to really be selective, I’ve gone for pictures of people rather than places, and that I’m in a large number of them.  Thanks to the joy of the self-timer, the input of the odd other photographer here and there, and my huge and ever-growing vanity. In fact, now that I look, 5 of them are self-timed, and the camera-on-the-ground look seems to be rapidly becoming my signature style!


If nothing else, I have learned that I LOVE photography.  It is, and continues to be, something that makes me happy and excitied, and enables me to capture moments and preserve memories. #500snapsofsummer has been a wonderful focus, so watch this space as next year I have every intention of preparing in advance and completing it!


Instead of, y’know, deciding on a whim that it’s July and maybe it would be nice to take some photos.


Maybe you’d be interested in joining me next year?


Kisses xxx

P.S. I would also like to say thanks to those of you who followed along with me on this project.  I appreciate it's not always the most interesting thing to see an endless stream of photos appear, but I have really valued your comments over the summer!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

end of summer in brighton


I'm beginning to feel distinctly autumnal!  That might be the sniffles under which I am labouring stoically without the merest hint of a complaint, it might be the grey, overcast sky, but I suspect it has a lot to do with lots of cups of tea and hiding under blankets.  So without further ado, this is the final installment of Brighton photos from last weekend.










Kisses xxx

P.S. And the last 11 photos from Brighton take #500snapsofsummer up to a grand total of 390, leaving 110 to go.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

my dream team


Last weekend, I had the great pleasure of meeting up with these ladies.  We travelled to Cambodia together in the summer of 2013 to work with the Girlguiding movement, teaching English to young girls and doing leadership training sessions to empower the young women who volunteer to lead Guide units in Cambodia.  We had an incredible time, and I think a bit part of the reason I loved that experience was this team. 



I was asked if I'd be interested in leading a team to Cambodia about two years ago, after I'd taken part as a team member of a similar project working with Guiding in Armenia.  I JUMPED at the chance and was over the moon.  The rest of the team were then selected at a weekend training, I was given a set of mug shots and email addresses and then about 18 months ago, we met for the first time.

Those who selected this team did a nigh-on perfect job.  We just clicked, and we haven't stopped laughing together since.  It was great for me to be involved in a group of women who share my love of Guiding, my desire to travel and a great sense of fun and adventure.  They also had a willingness to accept that things wouldn't always go to plan and made the best of some...interesting?...situations.



We spent three weekends together planning the project, along with other teams who were heading to other locations across the globe.  We had phone conferences, emails and an impressive paper trail of documents containing everything from health forms and risk assessments to boarding passes and lists of activities that the insurance company say we absolutely cannot do.

And then we were off, and spent three weeks living in the same room.  The room changed, but our ability to get on and laugh together still hasn't.  We can't meet up very often as we all tend towards full schedules and are based all across the UK.  But when we do get together, it's just fantastic.  Our weekend was wonderful, a day in Brighton proved a hit and now I look forward to our next get-together.  It might be a while away, but I know it will be brilliant. 



Kisses xxx

P.S. This weekend however, I have got the inevitable back-to-school sniffles and so I'm going to spend the weekend reacquainting myself with my duvet and enjoying some soup, knitting and chain tea drinking.

P.P.S. Nine more pictures for #500snapsofsummer bringing it up to 379 and leaving 121 still to take.

P.P.P.S. Exercise24 is not happening this weekend, but currently stands at 5 hours and 20 minutes.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

flash gordon at the british museum


The last weekend of the summer holiday (seems a long time ago now!) found a friend and I finishing off dinner and a cocktail before heading to British Museum for the evening.  But this time, it wasn't for the exhibits; the museum galleries were closed.  No, we were heading to these grand surrounds for an outdoor screening of Flash Gordon. This was a film that the man had introduced to me a few months ago, and having watched it, I couldn't believe that I'd never seen it before.  It's truly something to behold. And as the man was away from London with work, I got the chance to introduce this epic film to someone new.

The event was to launch the BFI's Sci-Fi season, and they held a number of outdoor screenings of cult classics.  We were treated to an interview with the director, Mike Hodges, who claimed the film is as bonkers as it is because the crew all spoke different languages and didn't understand each other, and he never believed it would see the light of day, never mind become a cult classic. Then Brian Blessed himself took over the microphone, got carried away and re-enacted some of his scenes complete with sound effects.  I think it's safe to say that the mic was unnecessary... But he voiced his oh-so-famous line 'Gordon's Alive?' to rapturous applause!




We were right at the front of the grass by the screen; an area lots of early arrivals seemed to have avoided due to possible cricked necks.  But their loss was our gain as we not only had a bit more space than those who were tightly packed in the middle of the lawn, but we were also able to lie flat on the grass and have a perfect, uninterrupted view of the screen. I know this last picture isn't the greatest photo ever taken, it does highlight the importance of sweeties when you go and see a film. Oh, and if you are one of the poor unfortunates who has yet to experience Flash Gordon, watch it IMMEDIATELY.  You will be very happy indeed.

Kisses xxx

P.S. That's another 5 pictures for #500snapsofsummer which brings the total to 370 and leaves a mere 130 to follow.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

one photo and twenty words


Truly amazing friends with a shared love of Guiding, travel and dreaming big.  I can't wait for our next adventure.

*********************

One Photo and Twenty Words is a lovely monthly post hosted by Abi over at Creating Paper Dreams.  Head over there to check out some more pictures.

Kisses xxx

P.S. The #500snapsofsummer total is not forgotten, but learning the ins and outs of a new job has really eaten up my time!  However, this picture brings the total up to 365, with 135 pictures left to take, and I have plenty more waiting in the sidelines...

P.P.S. Exercise24 is also back on track this week and stands at 4 hours and 14 minutes.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

getting crafty


It's been one of those weeks where plans haven't quite worked out.  Three days out that were planned have fallen through, sometimes at the last minute, and there's no one to blame because sometimes that's how life works out.  So I've done some pouting, but that got dull quite quickly.  And so I've tried to turn frustratingly cancelled days out into productive, crafty days in and I've really enjoyed relaxing with a project or two.  And by planning in a few exciting things for the evenings and weekends to come, there is still plenty on the cards to look forward to.  




Progress is still continuing on my giant map project.  I think when it's done, I'll put together a full series of photos showing it come together. I've been working on it since January and it feels good to see how far it's come even though there have been some frustrating moments with it.




I've also been doing a bit of knitting this summer, because the best time to get back into knitting is when it's very warm, obviously.  I've learned to knit lacy patterns and add beads to my work, and I'm hoping to have a new shawl or two to keep my neck cosy in autumn.





That's all for now.  I still have some photos from the summer that I haven't shared yet, but it's safe to acknowledge that I am quite far short of the goal.  So instead of using my camera just for July and August, I'm going to allow myself to continue to take my photos for #500snapsofsummer right up until 21st September, which will technically be the end of summer according to the calendar. I'll do a bit of a progress report next week.

Kisses xxx

P.S. That's another 13 photos for #500snapsofsummer, which means that so far I've taken 364 and have 136 left to take.

P.P.S. Exercise24: 3 hours and 37 minutes.  Thank you so much to all the people who left their tips for motivation.  I will definitely try them out!