Saturday, 28 December 2013

Kaleidescope Creativity

PatternPie day.

It started out like this.

 Hours of fiddling about, produced this.

Opened in PatternPie (by WellCrafted Software), these are just a few of the 360 possible 'scopes'.

I made a video.

(Once upon a time, I made PatternPie animations, capturing each of the 360 scopes and makong a viseo that way. Here's one I made earlier One I Made Earlier.  I can't remember how I did it, though.... I'm working on it. In the meantime, I filmed it straight from the screen, with my phone.)

Mindful Meditation

Once, many years ago, I was on the number 50 bus, going home after a busy afternoon in town. The bus was packed and I was sitting downstairs at the back. I was wedged between two fellow passengers, and there were people standing the length of the aisle. I wasn't going far. I knew that when it was time for me to get off, it would need some strategic planning - start getting up while the bus is stationary at the stop before mine. Make sure I'm standing close enough to the driver as he nears my stop, so he knows I need to get off, not just standing.

None of this fazed me. I remember being totally content. Calm. I closed my eyes and sat there, travelling through Digbeth, Bradford Street, Moseley Road...

A few years later, I was waiting sitting on a bus, going home after a busy afternoon in town. This time I was not calm, or content. I was savagely discontent. I was stressed out. I was harrassed and harried. The journey was the same, the bus was the same, the fellow passengers were the same, and I remembered distinctly that day, when I had been in the same situation, and that I had had a completely different experience.

What had happened in my life during those two bus journies that could make them so staggeringly different? The simple answer is that I had stopped practising yoga.

I started practising yoga when I was about 13. I was determined to be able to do this.

Veruschka by Richard Avedon, 1972

It was an image for a book which became something of a handbook for me, Vogue's Body and Beauty Book.

This is my actual copy.

They should have called it a bible. I was obviously predisposed to be interested in yoga and fitness and wellbeing. I don't know why or where it came from, but being 13, I had no idea of the impact yoga would have on my life.

At a very distinct point in my life I had lost faith in eveything I had once believed. I started eating meat and drinking coffee and eating all kinds of processed shite. I stopped doing all the things I had believed would endow me with a sense of wellbeing, bring me closer to enlightenment. I started doing all the things I believed would harm me, disturb my equilibrium or damage my health.

ike all 'good habits', they weren't that hard to break. I had expected it to be more difficult. I had expected some kind of horrendous, physical reaction - warts, mouth ulcers, acne - but the truth was that I simply became more carefree.

"You're much more fun since you started eating meat," Marnie informed me.

So it's not surprising that it's taken me so long to come to the conclusion that I need to turn this ship around. I don't think I will ever be as fanatical as I was, but I do need to restructure my interior.

I feel extremeley grateful that I have so much positive experience with being mindful and being 'in my body'. Having experienced it so profoundly and for so many years, I'm confident that it's not going to take too much effort to get myself back to that state of being.

That's not to say I don't need help!

I found this article on How to Meditate in The Guardian Online, which I will glean for advice!


Friday, 27 December 2013

Pay Attention, Live Tastefully

I've just watched this video, a TEDx talk by Dr. Parmjit Singh called, Pay Attention, Live Tastefully.

Mindfulness meditation
 Illustration: Cristina Guitian

Excellent advice. Here are some quotes from the last few minutes of the talk.

"Attention is a trainable skill, and learning to deliberately pay attention to the whole spectrum of your experience, non-reactively, leads to architectural brain changes that support positive mental habits and traits."

"There is more right with you than there is wrong. We often live in a world where comparison is, in fact, prided upon. We say we need to learn from each other, but those comparisons, though they are good in some ways, because they make us progress, in fact, all this comparitive thinking has brought us all this affluence we seek.

Yet, it has a dark side. You cannot be equal to anybody else. It is impossible for you to be like anybody else. In some ways you will always be better, and in some ways you will always be worse."

"The only way you can find what is right with you is simply turning your attention inward. Only by sitting and working with the thing which we call our mind. What is good in you can only be discovered if you pay attention to the entire spectrum of your life."

The following is a quote that I saw this morning on Facebook, posted by my cousin in Australia:

"Whatever you hold in your mind will tend to occur in your life. If you  continue to believe as you have always believed, you will continue to act as you have always acted. If you continue to act as you have always acted, you will continue to get what you have always gotten. If you want different results in your life or your work, all you have to do is change your mind."



Friday, 20 December 2013

Christmastime, Mistletoe and Wine!

Listening to the radio this afternoon, I hear a segment on Christmas gift giving. It seems that we're moving away from the tradition of giving gifts, as 'everyong has everything they need.' How wonderful! They interviewed economists and people on the street. The experts said that buying someone a gift for 100 kroner (£10) when it is something the recipient would only spend 50 kroner on, is a loss of 50 kroner.

The people on the street spoke about the amount of times they'd received gifts that they really didn't want, or that they had no use for. It's all a waste of money. The solution they say, is to give money, or nothing at all.

I like this trend. I hope it takes off and Christmas reverts to being a time of joy and feasting as it was traditionally.

This year, I decided quite early on that I'd send cards to people instead of gifts. Then I thought about the cost of paper - both fiscal and ecological - and that it will sit on a mantle for a couple of weeks, before being thrown away. The cost of the stamp, the environmental cost of transport... I'll make digital cards, use my creativity and my time to convey a big virtual hug to all my loved ones.

I do really and truly believe that this is the way forward.

Something I do believe in, is making gifts, or giving gifts of things that are of real value and use.
Books, for example, whether they're appreciated or not, they ought to be. Book reading needs to be encouraged at every level, from parents reading to pre-schoolers to the older members of the family finding new joys between the pages of books they might never choose for themselves.

Candles are also a good choice. Whether they're appreciated or not, they can be burned or passed on.

Then there's gingerbread! 

Here in Norway (where it's called pepperkake) and the rest of Scandinavia, gingerbread is synonymous with Christmas. I scoured the net for a good recipe, then made my own version.

The recipe I relied on most heavily, I actually found in a free recipe magazine!

As the dough needs to be set in the fridge overnight, I'll post the full recipe and the resulting yield in another post.

I like this idea, too. Place lace over the dough and roll with a rolling pin. The image has a click throught link to the source.

Until then, eat drink and be merry!


Friday, 13 December 2013

Big Rings & Short, Painted Nails

I've got a board on Pinterest with this title, Big Rings & Short Painted Nails.

I'm not sure when this mini obsession started, but I don't think it had fully taken me when we were in England at the start of the summer... otherwise, I'd have come home with lots of Barry M nail varnish and charity shop rings.

Quite a few of the pictures on this boards are of women with their hands covering their faces, like this.

rings and bracelets

I thought this was a bit odd. How did they take the picture? I thought, assuming that they'd taken the picture themselves. How revealing. Obviously, just because I don't have the kind of social life which revolves around mutual portrait taking, doesn't mean it's not common elsewhere.

The point is, though, all of these women had something I wanted, silver, turquoise and a manicure.

Recently, I was inspired by this picture...

The disembodied midriff of a fashionista, it's easy to imagine what the rest of her looks like, her glowing, dewy skin, accurately dishevelled hair... it inspired me and I attempted to recreate it - the hands, at least.

Here's my version...

It was great fun, but also, something unexpected happened. Choosing the colours, painting my nails, selecting similar rings, finding an approximate pose and then taking the myriad of photographs needed to achieve something I was happy with, had the effect of stripping away those magical layers of want and desire (not wanton desire!).

I know I haven't got the fabulous stole or waifish layers, but the point is that what we envy, I think, more than the actual subject of the images we see, is the image itself. 

It used to be the case that the photograph you took of the sunset bore no resemblance to the real thing (neither did it do it justice), but now, with Instagram with its tools of manipulation, you can make that cloudy sky look even better than the real thing. 

The hunger of modern existence, the hunger that's never satiated, can be abated. In the name of research (and vanity) I asked my lovely son to take this photograph of me...

With my turquoise and silver and fancy manicure, this image could easily be one of the images I'd see online and hastily pin to my Pinterest board. Yet, sitting here with my real self, I don't gasp in admiration of my own hands. I see them, not like this, static and disembodies, with a couple of fancy filters. I see them picking raisins out of the plughole in the kitchen sink, I see them having a fag on the back step and pulling tangles out of my hair. And, yes, all those rings really get on your nerves after a while.

Ultimately, it was a healthy exercise in perception, which I will try again. The legs with the ankle jeans and loafers with no socks, for example.

Or the messy bun and giant, ear muffling scarf.

#winter time snow, a knitted scarf and easy bun hairstyle

It will be a project. Which I can call art or therapy, and it may have the added bonus of brightening the long solitary winter.

Have a go! 

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Norwegian Apple Cake

Due to the snow storms, and living where we live, I couldn't pop out and buy sugar, so I had to substitute the sugar with light syrup. I substituted the milk for water, as I always do.

Also, you'll notice that the measurements in the original recipe (also at the bottom of the post) are given in decilitres - this is what they do here in Norway. It's taken me a good few years to fathom out how to convert, quickly, dls into something I can work with.

So here's my recipe:

3 eggs, room temperature*
100mls syrup
100mls water, approx, cold/room temperature
450mls spelt flour (+ half a cup, if too wet, which mine was)
100g butter
2.5 tsp baking powder
3(5 if layering) medium eating apples
1tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
cinnamon + sugar for sprinkling on the top

Melt the butter and add the syrup to it while it's still warm. Stir until it's a uniform consistency. Leave to cool while you beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl.

Add the water to the butter and then whisk the butter mix into the eggs. Sift in the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.

Mix well to combine. (I used an electric, handheld mixer)

Pour into a greased or lined baking tray. Deseed and cut the apples into wedges (no need to peel!) and bake at 180oC/Gas mark 4, for 30-40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out 'clean'... you'll have to gauge what's wet batter and what's wet apple.

*It's important that the eggs are room temperature. If they're straight from the fridge, they's cool the butter and it will solidify before it blends and create a curdled looking thing. Not good.

I used a 25cms x 18 cms baking tray.

With such a limited surface area, there was only room for three apples shoved into the mix, which meant there was a lot of cake with no apple.

A lot of cake with no apple!

Next time, rather than use a larger tray, I'll just layer the batter with the apple wedges - batter, apple wedges, batter, apple wedges... but I might use a slightly bigger tray, because the extra apple would make it more volumous, and therefore it will take even longer to cook. Mine took a good 50 minutes as it was.

Here's the ORIGINAL recipe, translated from Norwegian:

Note: I actually read the recipe wrong - I thought it read 1.5dls of sugar, so I only used 100mls of syrup. Both Kenneth 39 and Noah 10 said it was sweet enough!
Oddly, the original recipe had no cinnamon in the actually batter, so I added a teaspoon.

3 eggs
3.5 dls sugar
1.5 dl milk
4.5 dl flour
100g butter
2.5 tsp baking powder
5-6 medium eating apples
cinnamon + sugar for sprinkling on the top

Mix the eggs and sugar together.
 Melt the butter and add the milk.
Stir the milk + butter mix into the egg + sugar mix.
Sift in the flour and baking powder and combine well.
Pour into a greased or line baking tray.
Peel and deseed the apples and cut into wedges. push into the batter, tighly spaced.
Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.
Bake at 180oC for 30 minutes

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Apple Cake

I'm making this tomorrow, for Kenneth's birthday. I might have to make myself some kind of pie... I made carrot tart once, which was delicious. Or I could make scones. With the weather the way it is, I'll be surprised if I get any sleep, so I'll need the carbs to keep me sane/happy! :D

Here's the recipe, and the picture that went with it... If it's a success, I'll post the English version with my own photo.

Eplekake i langpanne

3 egg
3,5 dl sukker
100 g smør
1,5 dl melk
4,5 dl hvetemel
2,5 ts bakepulver
5-6 epler
kanel og sukker til å strø på toppen

Visp eggedosis av egg og sukker. Smelt smøret, ha i melk og hell i eggedosisen. Rør om og sikt inn mel og bakepulver, og bland godt.
Ha røren i en smurt eller papirkledd langpanne.
Skrell eplene, ta ut kjernehuset og del dem i passende skiver/båter. Stikk eplebitene tett i tett ned i deigen. Strø kanel og sukker over toppen. Stek kaken i ca 30 min, på 180 grader.

See the original post here.