Adventures in Seeing #3: Welcome the Unexpected?

Unfortunately, sometimes the unexpected is very difficult to welcome. Shortly after I started taking photos for this topic, something very sad happened within the family.  We had, to some extent, seen it coming, but it still arrived very suddenly, with no warning. The dust has not settled yet, but for the foreseeable future we are likely to have significant changes to our lives, and we’ve had to put long term plans on hold. It’s not all bad news though – we will be seeing more of some of our dearest family members, and I think it may be for the best in the long run.

But it has meant that Adventures in Seeing got put on the back burner, and my creative spark is currently out to lunch. 

I have kept up with Creative Sprint, which has been a life saver – I can do as much or as little as I can manage, and it’s about playing  rather than making ‘art’. 

I’ve managed a little bit on the new Year of Stitches sampler, which I started before the news broke. The background is canvas and Bondaweb coloured with Inktense blocks, and then sheers added. Given that these are not at all my usual colours, I’m surprised I have so many threads that work. It needs concentration though, and I don’t have a lot – it took four goes to get the spacing of the bottom line correct. I’m also finding it difficult to make decisions about how to proceed, so it progresses slowly.

The knitting has been the biggest victim: I’ve shelved the sampling, which demands more brain space than I currently have available, but I have a relatively mindless scarf on the needles which I can just about manage, albeit with frequent mistakes. I suspect it will be a scarf I never wear, because of the memories associated with it, but it keeps my hands busy. 

So that’s why I’ve been MIA. Curiously, I’ve been sleeping really well since the bomb dropped, and managing to control any tendency to brood. But last night I had a really bad night – so maybe things are getting back to normal…


Adventures in Seeing #2 – Awaken the Senses

This week’s exercise focuses on food – either a ‘food event’ or the preparation of a meal. My problem was that my main ‘food event’ this week was a trip to the supermarket – which I don’t find very inspiring. We did eat out a couple of times, but a bowl of soup, or a cream tea, didn’t really provide the inspiration for multiple photos.

On the other hand, I don’t cook much any more. When Wensleydale retired, he took over the cooking, so these days I only make cakes (for special occasions) and bread. No special occasions on the horizon, so bread it was. 

When we first married I made my own bread by hand, using fresh yeast, but that stopped when the babies arrived. After eating shop bread for years, I now use a bread maker. It doesn’t have the romance and ritual of making bread from scratch, but it’s quick, easy and the result tastes better than shop bought.

Kim Manley Ort suggests thinking about each ingredient, its appearance, taste and smell,  where it comes from, and what it contributes to the end product. Not many ingredients in a loaf of bread, although I do add a few extras to mine.

1. In my Panasonic bread maker, you put the yeast in first. I’ve tried several different dried yeasts over the years, but I always come back to Doves. It seems to work better.

2. I buy flour from our favourite farm shop, Saddleback. It’s ground nearby from local and Canadian flour, and makes a delicious loaf. I like to mix wholemeal flour for flavour and texture, and white to improve the rise. The additions the mill makes to the white are a bonus.

3. Salt and sugar – just the ordinary stuff from Waitrose, though sometimes I use honey from the farm shop, rather than sugar. 

4. Water. From the tap. And before that from an artesian well deep in the chalk, so it’s got a lot of calcium in it. I’ve no idea what that adds to the bread, but perhaps it’s good for my bones.

5. The secret ingredients, from Holland and Barrett. Clockwise from top left, sunflower, pumpkin, hemp and flax seeds. I use a lot of these, and the little packets from supermarkets don’t last very long, so it’s more economical to buy them from H&B. They add flavour and crunch to the bread, and according to Gordon Ramsey they improve the glycemic index.

6. And, also from H&B, flax oil. Since I started adding flax seeds and oil to our bread, my formerly flaky nails have got much stronger. Not perfect, but they now get to a decent length before they break. 

7. Looking down into the bread maker bucket before cooking.

The end product is at the head of this post. Of course I can’t photograph the taste and smell, you’ll have to imagine those. After trying this exercise, I realise that the sight, smell and flavour of bread is far more than the sum of its parts. The ingredients themselves are mostly beige, and yet the bread is a beautiful brown. With some exceptions, the ingredients don’t have noticeable flavours or smells, and yet the smell and taste of bread is unmistakeable. 

I meant to take a photo of the first slice I ate this morning, with a boiled egg, but it looked so good I just tucked in.