Sunday, October 31, 2010

365 Days, Day 146

Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier 'n puttin' it back in (Will Rogers)

Take, if you must, this little bag of dreams, Unloose the cord, and they will wrap you round (W B Yeats)

My handbag is coming along slowly. Being somewhat out of practice, it has taken me ages to do fiddly little things. But I am enjoying it immensely.

I have heard it said that you can tell a lot about a woman by looking inside her handbag. This is not a job that any man should do single-handedly. You do not know what strange, forgotten and uncommon items may be lurking inside, at the bottom, in the dark corners where fingers do not always reach.

Come to think of it, I am not sure what the contents of our handbags actually say about us... Who decides what the contents say? Psychologists? Must be males who thought up such a notion. We females know that we have a need for many interesting things to be carried around with us. What about man-bags… what lurks therein?

In the meantime my new handbag progresses, eagerly awaiting a multitude of dreams.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

365 Days, Day 145

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks (John Muir)

It is solved by walking (A Latin proverb)

Squelching leaves and mud underfoot, we walked through the forest and across the golf course fairways. Lily is starting to understand that if she comes and walks next to my feet when I say “heel” – she gets a treat.

I am starting to prepare for my Reiki course which I will do next weekend: I have to cut out coffee, alcohol and chocolate! And have to follow a vegetarian diet for the next week. It is also recommended that we take long walks this week. I can do that.

When I first started walking in our forest, I got lost – it seemed so vast and confusing. I am finally getting to know my way around now and have a picture in my head of what walks lead where. I have built up a relationship of trust with our forest. Like when at school bonding camps, you had to work in pairs and build up trust in one another. One of the pair is blindfolded and has to walk quite a circuitous route perhaps even up or down stairs, guided by their partner talking to them. It is quite frightening, having one your senses suddenly removed. I felt like that in the forest at first: I had no idea of where I was, but I was alone – I didn’t have a partner guiding me. Frightening for me because in life I have always had someone there to ‘hold my hand’. Here in the UK I have often had to do things ‘blindfolded’ on my own. It has all been a bit of an adventure.

Lily dashed off across the fairway, free of her leash, ears folded back over one another like a little cap on her head. I walked in the opposite direction to Tom (to dispose of her toilet-ings) and she spent exhilarated moments rushing between the two of us, trying to herd us back together. She could only relax once her pack was reunited. I know the feeling, Lily, I know the feeling.

To find new things, take the path you took yesterday (John Burroughs)

Friday, October 29, 2010

365 Days, Day 144

The memory is like a cat scratching my heart (Marina Oswald)

After about 20 years of marriage, I'm finally starting to scratch the surface of that one [what women want]. And I think the answer lies somewhere between conversation and chocolate (Mel Gibson)

I scratched the surface of metal plates to make this art work. There are nine panels suspended in a frame. I have left it hanging outside the front door at Estelle Street.

A scratch can be negative, as in making marks with a sharp object on skin. Or it can be good – when you have an itch that needs scratching. You can start from scratch – start again from the beginning. You can make things from scratch – like making custard from milk, eggs, cornflour, vanilla and sugar rather than using custard powder. And if you add a block or two of chocolate to the bottom of each bowl, it is delicious.

Do you remember when you were at nursery school and you had to paint colours on your page and then scribble black wax crayon over the paint… and then you scratched a drawing onto the black and a beautiful rainbow picture was revealed? I loved doing those. I can still feel the excitement - not knowing what it would look like… building up layers and then scratching away the darkness and having pretty colours shining through.

Sometimes in life we build up our metaphorical layers to protect ourselves. Later when we are secure and happy, we can start to scratch away those layers and be delighted by the happy shiny little ‘me’ below the surface. Think back to when you were little and innocent and had no layers. That is the little-me that we could aspire to… Little-me remembers standing in the garden, wearing a navy dress with a red flower/bow and drawing on my blackboard. I was so happy in that moment, creating my own little art work. I think now, I can recapture that joy when I am creating. Today I started making my handbag, and I felt joyful inside, just like the little-me.

I am also rather happy when indulging in the little pleasures of life, like “conversation and chocolate” and…

Thursday, October 28, 2010

365 Days, Day 143

Autumn, the year's last, loveliest smile (William Cullen Bryant)

Winter is an etching, spring a watercolour, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all (Stanley Horowitz)

Autumn's the mellow time (William Allingham)

Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn (Elizabeth Lawrence)

Chris has always delighted in the change of seasons here in the UK. When I visited her in Hitchin, in Spring, she took me on a walk and pointed out all the flowers, many of which were new to me. She commented that here each season is clearly recognisable, unlike in South Africa, where the seasons just tend to melt into one another. I did not really comprehend this until we moved here.

We are in the midst of Autumn. The days are much shorter and it gets light later in the morning, the birds also have a sleep-in. The leaves on the trees have change dto the warm yellows, reds, oranges and browns. Maybe it’s because we have a forest at our doorstep with numerous vast trees that it is so noticeable. Yesterday during the Lily-walk, squelching our way through the mud, I looked around and “watched” Autumn. In places the ground was thickly carpeted with fallen leaves which were a soft covering for the slippery mud. As leaves fell onto the ground and onto my face*, I felt at peace. Thank you, Universe, for showing me why I am here. I suddenly felt I wanted to show and share with my friends and family, the beauty from the outside which is softening me as a person. But, I only had Lilly to talk to…

So while there is a softness to me, there is a pervading sadness too. The Autumn years of my life are rather lonely. Adaptability involves sacrifice…

[I wrote this blog knowing I would go into the forest and take some Autumn photos today. So off I went with camera dangling around my neck and Lily in tow – I seemed to have to drag her quite a bit today… I took two photos and then my camera’s battery died. So I went to Plan B (always good to have one of those up your sleeve) – I collected some Autumn leaves and photographed them at home. I only noticed the teeny slug on the leaf when I looked at the photo!]

* How exquisite to have Mother Nature kiss your cheek with a soft little sweep of a leaf: a precious moment. Thank you Gaia.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

365 Days, Day 142

Excess on occasion is exhilarating. It prevents moderation from acquiring the deadening effect of a habit (W. Somerset Maugham)

In everything the middle course is best: all things in excess bring trouble to men (Titus Maccius Plautus)

I think I don't regret a single 'excess' of my responsive youth - I only regret, in my chilled age, certain occasions and possibilities I didn't embrace (Henry James)

Sometimes it is deliciously decadent to be greedy. I can be very greedy at times. Although looking back on my life: there have been certain occasions and possibilities that I did not embrace and have missed out on some delicious excesses.

I have lived most of my life sensibly and moderately, not much to excess. I do enjoy (imported) chocolate, ‘special’ coffee [Ariél please bring me MORE!], being lazy and sleeping late…

A girl can never have too much French perfume or too many shiny pretty things or too many shoes. I lust after shoes. I lust after… hahaha I can’t tell you ALL my secrets!

I regret…

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

365 Days, Day 141

For light I go directly to the Source of light, not to any of the reflections (Peace Pilgrim)

She lacks confidence, she craves admiration insatiably. She lives on the reflections of herself in the eyes of others. She does not care to be herself (Anais Nin)

Imaginary evils soon become real ones by indulging our reflections on them (John Ruskin)

Serve others for they are reflections of the same Entity of which you are yourself another reflection. No one of you has any authenticity, except in reference to the Original. Feel always kinship with all creation (Sri Sathya Sai Baba)

Reflections. Sitting here in the dark with the rain beating down relentlessly, I am aware of my mortality, my transience.

When we interact with others, often subtly, the way they react to us or even approach us affects our reaction to them. We reflect their tone. What I find fascinating is when I smile at a stranger, the different reactions I get. Most often a smile forms on the face of the person smiled at; sometimes a quizzical look crosses their face...

My reflection in the mirror lets me know that I am no longer a spring chicken, but a mature woman who has lived a good life. My warm eyes reflect the good heart inside. The wisdom of my soul is reflected in my eyes, I think. A reflection may confuse, and not reflect what you would expect. I may have made mistakes along the way, but I have never intended any harm.

So I reflect on my journey in this life and think I have left an impression of myself that some people have taken away with them… What I see of myself from the inside may not be what is reflected or perceived on the outside.

I wonder how you see me?

Monday, October 25, 2010

365 Days, Day 140

Television is not real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs (Bill Gates)

Chocolate, men, coffee: some things are better rich (Anonymous)

I have become used to going to coffee shops by myself. I’m okay with it. I take a book to read and sip my latte whilst stopping every now and then to observe my fellow customers, and passers by.

I sometimes feel nostalgically sad when I see groups of girlfriends out having coffee and laughs together. So many friends I have had coffee with over the years…

When Ariél was still at school, we started doing menu planning for the week (an effort to be super-organised. It didn’t last very long) – we would go to Woolies Café on Monday afternoon when I fetched her from school, plan our menus for the week while we had a coffee and then buy the ingredients for the whole week (the basics we bought from Pick ‘n Pay).

Coffee at Woolies Café with Kyle sometimes, and with Roarke sometimes – very special moments which I cherish. My beautiful boys.

Now it’s Costa coffee at the weekend with Tom. Or at our special coffee shop in Brighton, the one on the corner that makes the most divine chocolate croissants. Or amoretto coffee at Tulleys Farm. And these days it’s also a cuppa with Gill…

Coffee with a special friend makes my world go around. Thanks for the memories.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

365 Days, Day 139

Only those who truly love and who are truly strong can sustain their lives as a dream.

You dwell in your own enchantment.

Life throws stones at you, but your love and your dream change those stones into the flowers of discovery.

Even if you lose, or are defeated by things, your triumph will always be exemplary.

And if no one knows it, then there are places that do.

People like you enrich the dreams of the worlds, and it is dreams that create history.

People like you are unknowing transformers of things, protected by your own fairy-tale, by love

(Ben Okri)

The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones (Chinese Proverb)

I have just finished reading a play script called Stones in his Pockets by Marie Jones. I have to create a poster for it, so needed to get a sense of the tone of the play. It was a well written, interesting script. I am looking forward to seeing this production.

Stones are fascinating little objects. I like picking up stones where ever I go – I chose one that I am attracted to and keep it. Gill says she always has a few stones in her pocket from special places. On my computer desk I have an oval rose quartz, which I like to hold in my hand. It is said to be the stone of love: it promotes feelings of love and well-being. I like the feeling of calm it gives me. This stone is a flower of peace for me.

My godmother, Hazel gave me a labradorite crystal before I moved to the UK. She called it her stone which was like the silver lining in a cloud; it is a darkish stone but held in certain light, it has a shiny, blue-green and gold sheen to it. The qualities of labradorite are

  • It stimulate imagination
  • It develops enthusiasm and thus, new ideas
  • Helps in meditation

Yesterday, in Brighton, Tom bought some little stone arrowheads form a Native American themed shop. The energy in this little shop is calming and somehow draws you in. I am interested to see what he going to do with his little arrowheads…

Sarah has a beautiful rose quartz lamp, which she had in the bathroom when I she ran me a special bath in my (ex)blue bath. I loved the soft gentle light it gave off…

I think of the pyramids in Egypt, Stonehenge, and the Easter Island statues… those huge energy-filled stones have been around for thousands of years. I muse over the stories that they could tell. In the meantime I will carry around my little pocketful of stones and try to move the mountain - one stone at a time.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

365 Days, Day 138

We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another (Lucretius)

A woman has two smiles that an angel might envy, the smile that accepts a lover before words are uttered, and the smile that lights on the first born babe, and assures it of a mother's love (Thomas C. Haliburton)

When angels visit us, we do not hear the rustle of wings, nor feel the feathery touch of the breast of a dove; but we know their presence by the love they create in our hearts (Author unknown)

I saw these little African angels in an art shop in Brighton a while ago and fell in love with them. Today there was only one left, so I captured it for eternity before it too was gone.

Had a lovely day out in Brighton with Tom; we went down by train and spent the morning wondering around the lanes and alleyways, revisiting favourite little shops. I went into my favourite shoe shop: Irregular Choice. Such beautiful artwork-shoes! I melted onto the shop floor and my arms and legs fell off: the shoes were so exquisite. Tom waited outside, not having a notion of the emotions in the shop.

I have been looking for fabric to make a new handbag and had an idea of what I wanted. I went into yet another fabric shop with little hope of finding anything. I came out with something I had not even thought of, something very different and rather masculine. I just knew I had to have it when I saw it. I shall make it more feminine with accessories. The shop assistant told me it was Gaultier fabric, and that they don’t often get anything like it in. Now I need some interesting lining…

The angels visited with us on our outing to Brighton: as we left, the heavens opened and the rain came pouring down. From the train window, I saw a magnificent rainbow.

Friday, October 22, 2010

365 Days, Day 137

For me, the cinema is not a slice of life, but a piece of cake (Alfred Hitchcock)

All the world is birthday cake, so take a piece, but not too much (George Harrison)

She tells enough white lies to ice a wedding cake (Margot Asquith)

I made cupcakes today, which is why I am on the cake theme. In the middle of baking the cupcakes, I realised that I had no vanilla essence or extract. I searched every cupboard because I always have vanilla! The only vanilla I could find was vanilla flavoured coffee sachets, so I poured half a sachet into the cake mix. Mistake! The mixture tasted of coffee: coffee cupcakes… not good.

I baked the cupcakes and cooled them. Then it was time to make icing. I noticed that the icing sugar was billowing a bit. I only iced half of the little cakes because there was not enough icing – I like it to be quite thick. Whilst I was talking to Ariél on the phone, I wandered back into the kitchen where I had mixed the icing. The ENTIRE counter surface was covered in a white layer of billowed icing sugar!

I was reading my emails with Lily on my lap. There must have been a spot of cupcake mixture on the recipe which was now lying on my desk. I noticed Lily licking but did not pay much attention until I noticed that she had licked a huge hole in my recipe. There was an email from Jack looking for extras for a riot scene for a movie that is being filmed. This reminded me of the four times that I have been an ‘extra’ in film/TV. None of them were successful.

Ariél and I were extras on some Afrikaans soapie and they made me wear yellow! My worst colour ever: I look pale and ill when I wear yellow.

I walked off of the set half way through the day of some soapie, because we’d filmed a scene early in the morning then had lurked about for hours in a dodgy little room with a dodgy urn and polystyrene cups and instant coffee (I am used to “craft” from the movie sets where there is filter coffee, (sometimes cappuccino), hot chocolate, numerous teas, biscuits, fruit). We just waited and waited around with no idea of when we were going to be needed again. Eventually we were told (by a rude AD) that we were only going to be needed much later that afternoon. I decided I had had enough and just left.

Kyle, Roarke and I went to be extras on another Afrikaans soapie. We spent the entire day in a church! They were filming a funeral scene. Kyle and Roarke said the experience was like a day being in hell. They did quite like the lunch though.

I was a personal tutor on Prey and they needed some extras to walk past the swimming pool (where we later ‘skinny dipped’ that night). I was roped in. “Sound speed and ACTION!” I started walking. “CUT! CUT! CUT!” shouted the D.O.P. Get that bright pink hair off the set: it’s ruining the shot – it’s ALL we can see!” I had to slink away nonchalantly with my bright pink hair held high.

I shall eat a cupcake now while I watch Bedazzled for research purposes– it has been suggested that I play the Genie inspired by the Liz Hurley devil role. And I don't think I will be rioting as an extra in the local movie. I have learned my lesson.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

365 days, Day 136

Look and think before opening the shutter. The heart and mind are the true lens of the camera (Yousuf Karsh)

There is only you and your camera. The limitations in your photography are in yourself, for what we see is what we are (Ernst Haas)

As I have practiced it, photography produces pleasure by simplicity. I see something special and show it to the camera. A picture is produced. The moment is held until someone sees it. Then it is theirs (Sam Abell)

The camera can photograph thought (Dirk Bogarde)

Capturing a moment in time is rather empowering. That moment is like an insect being fossilised in amber for eternity.

I remember watching a documentary on Annie Leibovitz and noticing how she manages to capture the soul of her subject. Her photographs have that extra je ne sais quoi that most other photographers just don’t have. The photographs of Eugene Atget (1857 - 1927) also have an enigmatic quality to them. They both have a true gift for seeing and capturing that indefinable extraordinary soul of the moment. Their work is inspirational for me.

I have loved using a camera in my art work. Like a child I cannot wait to see how the images I have captured are going to come out. I am often disappointed with my results though, because I do not always manage to capture the exquisite moment that I see with my eyes: I have so much still to learn. I would really like a long zoom lens to capture things that I can see in the distance and want to bring closer. I particularly enjoy close-ups, because there is an element of abstract in the picture when taken up close and out of context.

Photographs have formed the basis of most of my art works, either providing inspiration or forming part of the actual art work. I am revisiting my art journals for inspiration for a new art work. Delicious little journeys, with moments of surprise and delight at the moments in time and space that I have captured in the past.

I will continue to capture my little world that I see to be held for a time in the future, when I will revisit and be enchanted with the fossilised moment.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

365 Days, Day 135

I fell off my pink cloud with a thud (Elizabeth Taylor)

I adore that pink! It's the navy blue of India! (Diana Vreeland)

Tickled Pink: to be happy

In the Pink: in good health

When I first dyed my hair bright pink, one of my favourite reactions was from M. one of my ex-pupils. She turned around and saw me and squealed, “Oh my &*$%: your hair!!” Priceless reaction; thanks M.

Pink is not as harsh or aggressive as red; it is the only primary colour + white that has its own name. I am drawn to pink; I like the girly-girl-ness of it. I do not like to see a man wearing pink: total turn-off (as are white shoes especially on a man; what I do like to see a man wearing is a suit. Hmmm).

I wrapped my paintings in the pink and white striped paper and tied them with ribbon. I took a deep breath, steeled myself and took them to the gallery. R. was very sweet; she said their walls were really too full at the moment. They will be rethinking in the new year, so they are not really accepting more artist’s work at the moment. But she said she would have a look at my paintings when she had a moment. And would be very honest about them. This was yesterday. I have not yet heard anything. But I am positive that when she does look, she will be delighted by them. I loved painting each of them. Gulp.

I am deciding if Paloma Shugar should have pink hair. She is going to be my main character for my next art work? book? She is being formed in my imagination…

One of the students at the EBD special school at which I taught last year called me Pinky, because of my hair. I didn’t mind: it was a lot better than some of the names I was called! I have been told by an airport security man that my hair was raunchy! Still trying to figure that one … Tom and I had this discussion; we decided that I do not really come across as ‘raunchy’…

I have had pink hair many times, with other colours in between, but always come back to pink. This year, I was inspired by a red handbag to change my hair colour to red for winter. My beautiful red handbag, you were not meant to be… So now do I change my hair colour back, so I can once again be in-the-pink and have matching handbag, boots and hair?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

365 Days, Day 134

We live in the mind, in ideas, in fragments. We no longer drink in the wild outer music of the streets - we remember only (Henry Miller)

Fragments came floating into his mind like bits of wood drifting down a stream, and he fished them out and fitted them together (Elizabeth Gray Vining)

It's impossible to move, to live, to operate at any level without leaving traces, bits, seemingly meaningless fragments of personal information (William Gibson)

Our life, at any given moment, is made up of fragments. Sometimes the pieces do not seem to fit together; they are only smidgeons of the whole. I like the idea that our lives are like collages. All the pieces which are scattered together do not have to ‘make sense’. Sometimes they might make sense, with hindsight.

Our lives could be like a movie, where fragments are played out and seem disconnected. Gradually the threads start tying up and get woven together. From the sidelines little multicoloured threads can still be added, for spice and ‘colour’. Although in a movie, one would hope there is script that is being followed, whereas in our lives, there probably isn’t a script…

Enjoy the little fragments in your life: the little ‘wow’ moments, the frantic moments, be in the sad moments and the hectic ones. Savour the special moments - for times when you are sad and lonely. Your little fragments of memory can be flipped through like a collage journal…

I flip through my collage journal reliving the fragments of memory and I feel warm. I smile. Thank you for being part of my memory journal.

Monday, October 18, 2010

365 Days, Day 133

Work, love and play are the great balance wheels of man's being (Orison Swett Marden)

Just as your car runs more smoothly and requires less energy to go faster and farther when the wheels are in perfect alignment, you perform better when your thoughts, feelings, emotions, goals, and values are in balance (Brian Tracy)

If you wait until you are sure you will never take off the training wheels (Author unknown)

Life is all about balance and moderation. I think we should be kind to ourselves. Have shock absorbers so we do not have too hard and bumpy a ride. Have enough time to play and love and eat and work. Our holistic selves also need to be alignment: body, mind and soul. If our emotions are out of alignment: they will play havoc with our health.

Feed your body; a little of what is “bad” for it is sometimes a good thing. Feed your mind: read, discuss, communicate. Feed your soul: listen to music, look at beauty, smell the earth, taste your lover, feel textures.

Make sure you oil your wheels with whatever lubricant (had to spell that carefully) is available in your life right now. Smile. It will help balance your wheels.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

365 Days, Day 132

It is easily overlooked that what is now called vintage was once brand new (Tony Visconti)

Everything I buy is vintage and smells funny. Maybe that's why I don't have a boyfriend (Lucy Liu)

Vintage was originally used to refer to a season’s yield of wine. These days is used more colloquially to refer to things old, old-fashioned, from another era. Vintage clothing is big here in the UK; there are loads of shops which sell vintage clothing. Sometimes it is really clothing from a bygone era, often clothes are made in the style of clothes from a previous era and are labelled as “retro”. I think if one is patient and shops in the right area, one can find some real vintage bargains.

I had to smile when we were in South Africa, there is a road of “antique” shops on the way to the hospital where my dad was. One of the shops boasted the slogan: Modern Antiques.

I really love going in to London: today we went on an outing to Greenwich Market. There is a second-hand market near the station where there are some lovely vintage pieces, and there are also some sad second-hand pieces. And there are some interesting pieces that catch one’s eye. There was such a table, where I could have spent loads; the items were really expensive though. I bought a Tibetan Travelling Shrine Box and a watch with convex lens – for some future artwork…

At the Greenwich market itself, all of the stalls have hand-made crafts; it was interesting to wander around and feel inspired. I bought a little stamp of the letter D, which I shall use of part of my signature on my paintings.

We took the Docklands Light Rail to Bank station. The journey was lovely – we got to see views that we usually miss on the underground. We took a tube to London Bridge and wandered along the Thames River and had some lunch overlooking the river.

Then the two vintage people returned home safe and sound, feeling relaxed and happy – to a wild Lily who needed walk…

Saturday, October 16, 2010

365 Days, Day 131

Kiss your life. Accept it, just as it is. Today. Now. So that those moments of happiness you're waiting for don't pass you by (Author unknown)

Everything you want is out there waiting for you to ask. Everything you want also wants you. But you have to take action to get it (Jules Renard)

Ask yourself whether the dream of heaven and greatness should be waiting for us in our graves - or whether it should be ours here and now and on this earth (Ayn Rand)

I've continued to recognize the power individuals have to change virtually anything and everything in their lives in an instant. I've learned that the resources we need to turn our dreams into reality are within us, merely waiting for the day when we decide to wake up and claim our birthright (Anthony Robbins)

Not content to wait a moment longer, she climbed into car and rode off into the sunset.

All the preparation had been thought about carefully, plans had been made and now it was time for action. No looking back, no regrets. It felt good, after so many idle months, to finally be finally going out to claim her birthright. Greatness, here I come!

So many little threads to be visited: supply teaching to earn some basic money, add to that some possible exam invigilation if it comes up, Reiki course, art to gallery, more art to be created, art arriving in container, concierge-ideas…

She was kissing her life, accepting it just as it was…then. The moment of happiness was in her right at that moment.

Friday, October 15, 2010

365 Days, Day 130

Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures (Henry Ward Beecher)

Even if all these needs are satisfied, we may still often, if not always, expect that a new discontent and restlessness will soon develop, unless the individual is doing what he is fitted for. A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself (Abraham Maslow)

A writer should write with his eyes and a painter [should] paint with his ears (Gertrude Stein)

I have felt at-one with myself while painting. It is often difficult to get started, but once I am underway on a project, the time just flies. I need so much more practice. Having finished this series (Games Women Play with [men]), I am wondering what is next. I will revisit my work journals and see what grabs me. It is quite exciting for me – like dipping into a forgotten box of letters…

I had this idea once, to have a photo session with the women in my life, in soft light and drapes, and then to paint them. But I have not yet done that.

Something whimsical I have always wanted to paint is the illustrations for I know an Old Lady. I know all the words to this nonsense rhyme. This could be a sideline.

I have two easels on the way! At the moment they are at sea, in our container aboard the MSC Marina. One of the easels was made for me by my late father-in-law; the other one was made by my dad and I sort of nicked it off him! Not really, he did offer it to me when he was in hospital and had loads of time to think of things.

So, if the paint is dry, I shall be packing up my paintings tomorrow and taking them to the art gallery. Wish me luck on my brave little adventure!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

365 Days, Day 129

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly (M. F. K. Fisher)

Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good (Alice May Brock)

It's the company, not the cooking, that makes a meal (Kirby Larson, Hattie Big Sky, 2006)

I am going to share some recipes with you. Seeing as the photo is of a mushroom (you’d never have guessed? I was on my Lily-walk in the forest today when I saw this half-dried neglected mushroom lying next to the path. It had to come home and be photographed – that was the end of Lily’s “heel” training because I needed my left hand to gingerly carry the fragile mushroom) - my recipes will be mushroom recipes.

Mushroom Soup.

This recipe can be prepared in 20 minutes.


* 25g butter

* 1 small onion, peeled and sliced

* 225g button mushrooms, washed and sliced

* 25g flour

* 600ml chicken stock (home-made if you have some in your deep freeze)

* 150ml milk

* Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the butter and fry the onion until soft. Add the mushrooms and sauté for about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, and then add the stock and milk gradually. Bring to the boil stirring all the time. Season well, cover and simmer gently for about 20 minutes.

Serve hot, garnished with chopped parsley if liked.

Comfort food:

Jamie Oliver’s Grilled mushroom risotto

A mushroom risotto can be taken in many different ways, depending on what kind of mushrooms you have and whether they are introduced at the very beginning of cooking or just added at the end, as I’m going to do here. The inspiration for this recipe came when I was in Japan and saw mushrooms being cooked completely dry on a barbecue or griddle pan. This way of cooking brings out a really fresh and nutty flavour in them; perfect for being dressed lightly with olive oil, salt and lemon juice or stirred into a risotto at the last minute before serving.


  • 1.5 litres hot chicken stock
  • a handful of dried porcini mushrooms
  • olive oil
  • 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 sticks of celery, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 400g risotto rice
  • 150ml white wine
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 large handfuls of wild mushrooms (try shiitake, girolle, chestnut or oyster – definitely no button mushrooms, please!), cleaned and sliced
  • a few sprigs of fresh chervil, tarragon or parsley, leaves picked and chopped
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 25g butter
  • 2 nice handfuls of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  • extra virgin olive oil

Heat your stock in a saucepan and keep it on a low simmer. Place the porcini mushrooms in a bowl and pour in just enough hot stock to cover. Leave for a couple of minutes until they’ve softened. Fish them out of the stock and chop them, reserving the soaking liquid.

In a large pan, heat a glug of olive oil and add the onion and celery. Slowly fry without colouring them for at least 10 minutes, then turn the heat up and add the rice. Give it a stir. Stir in the vermouth or wine – it’ll smell fantastic! Keep stirring until the liquid has cooked into the rice. Now pour the porcini soaking liquid through a sieve into the pan and add the chopped porcini, a good pinch of salt and your first ladle of hot stock. Turn the heat down to a simmer and keep adding ladlefuls of stock, stirring and massaging the starch out of the rice, allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next.

Carry on adding stock until the rice is soft but with a slight bite. This will take about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, get a dry griddle pan hot and grill the wild mushrooms until soft. If your pan isn’t big enough, do this in batches. Put them into a bowl and add the chopped herbs, a pinch of salt and the lemon juice. Using your hands, get stuck in and toss everything together – this is going to be incredible!

Take the risotto off the heat and check the seasoning carefully. Stir in the butter and the Parmesan. You want it to be creamy and oozy in texture, so add a bit more stock if you think it needs it. Put a lid on and leave the risotto to relax for about 3 minutes.

Take your risotto and add a little more seasoning or Parmesan if you like. Serve a good dollop of risotto topped with some grilled dressed mushrooms, a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Tom: guess what I’d like this weekend for a meal (besides sushi)?

My four paintings are almost finished – I have to ready myself to be brave enough to take them to the gallery once completed… And then I will start on a new series. Not sure of the theme yet. No, as beautiful as this little skirted mushroom is, it won’t be mushrooms. Although having said that…

Will keep you posted.