The Changing Seasons, September 2020

Fallen kowhai blossom. Image: Su Leslie 2020

After a dry and quite mild winter, September has turned very cold, very wet, and very, very windy.

Instead of sitting on the deck, camera in hand, poised to capture shots of tui and kereru gorging on the newly arrived kowhai blossom, I’m sitting indoors (wearing Ugg boots) watching the beautiful yellow kowhai flowers blow around the lawn.

I’m sad not so much for the missed photo opportunity but for the loss of an important food for our native birds.

September has been THAT kind of month.

Between the weather, the pandemic, a surgery that doesn’t seem to have made anything better (though at least not obviously worse), and a general low-level exhaustion — if I weren’t hosting this challenge I’d be wondering whether I should even participate.

Indeed if it weren’t for a trip to the Muriwai tākapu (gannet) colony last weekend, I doubt I’d have a post.

But if anything speaks of the changing seasons, it is migratory birds.

When I visited Muriwai in mid-August, almost no gannets had returned to the colony from their wintering in Australia. By last weekend, all of the main breeding sites were densely occupied; nest-building was clearly visible, and I suspect that many of the birds may already be incubating eggs.

Having spent the winter discussing the building of new raised beds and garden areas, T and I had planned to spend some serious time on the various projects this month. We’ve made progress, but until the wild weather passes, we won’t be able to finish building and actually plant anything.

In the meantime, the blue borage and calendula are growing like mad, and my motley collection of pelargonium cuttings have all taken and are waiting to be planted out.

About the Changing Seasons

When I took over hosting The Changing Seasons from Max at Cardinal Guzman, I carried on using the format that Max had developed.

Over the years though, I think that we’ve all evolved different ways of approaching the challenge and for some, the original guidelines may seem prescriptive or even off-putting.

My own view is that The Changing Seasons is simply an opportunity to reflect on the month that has passed, and to share those reflections in whatever way feels appropriate. For some bloggers, it’s a framework to record and reflect on particular interests and projects — like a garden. For others, every month is different, and so there is no set way of approaching it.

I think we do need guidelines, especially for those who are new to the project. But do those we have still work? I’m interested in your views.

In the meantime, here is Max’s original statement.

The Changing Seasons is a monthly challenge where bloggers around the world share what’s been happening in their month.

If you would like to join in, here are the guidelines:

The Changing Seasons Version One (photographic):

Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery that you feel represent your month

Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.

Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so that others can find them.

The Changing Seasons Version Two (you choose the format):

Each month, post a photo, recipe, painting, drawing, video, whatever that you feel says something about your month

Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!

Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so others can find them.

One thing that won’t change though. Include a ping-back to this post, and I’ll update it with links to all of yours.

Update

 

First freesias

The first freesias to pop up in our garden. Image: Su Leslie 2020

Every year, long-ago planted freesia corms burst forth at our place and bring a scattering of flowers — often in the strangest places.

I’m not complaining though; their scent is wonderful.

Friday flowers

Negative space

Image: Su Leslie 2019

Is negative space the space you don’t like, or the space that is not there? And if it’s not there how can you tell? — Emma Bull

I read somewhere that negative space exists to give the eye a place to rest. Implicit in that of course, is that there is something to rest from.

I guess that’s what distinguishes negative space from space which is merely empty.

Understanding that distinction — and becoming comfortable with it — is not easy for many of us. We fill the frame, fill the page, fill our stomachs, our homes and our time (and our children’s time).

And then, at some point, we talk about simplifying, editing, down-sizing, stepping back. We are looking for the negative space in which to make sense of life.

Crikey, I hear you say, that’s a bit philosophical for a photo challenge.

Ah, but in the company of many thoughtful photographers (indeed lens artists), I think musing on the philosophies that inform our work has its place.

I play a lot with negative space in my photos.

It has been a slow and not always conscious process, though  I do remember the first time I was aware of trying to take something out of an image, rather than trying to fit it in!

Looking though my archive, I notice that many of my images have quite high contrast between positive and negative spaces.

There are some exceptions.

Lens-Artist Photo Challenge | negative space

Kia ora. Welcome to virtual afternoon tea in Maori language week

Paramanawa o te Mahura; afternoon tea September 2020. Image: Su Leslie 2020

Nau mai. Welcome.

As it’s te wiki o te reo Māori (Māori language week) in Aotearoa New Zealand, I’m challenging myself to improve my te reo (language) skills wherever I can.

My first challenge was translating virtual afternoon tea!

This will probably have friends who are kaikōrero te reo (fluent speakers)  cracking up with laughter, but I think we may be partaking of tuihono paramanawa o te Mahuru —  online refreshments of September.

Whatever we call it though, there is ti in the pot; te mīhini kawhe (the coffee machine) is at the ready and although the kai (food) is simple, there’s plenty to fill your puku (stomach).

First of all, thank you everyone for your kind wishes last week when I mentioned my surgery. It seemed to go well (biopsy results pending) and I am incredibly grateful to the staff at Waitakere Hospital who treated me  with mānawanawa (patience),  atawhai (kindness), and great tautōhito (skill). I’m also grateful for my country’s (underfunded, yet still incredible) public health system.

After my initial bounce-back, I’ve been feeling a bit meh the last couple of days, so I really wasn’t joking about the simple kai.

The crunchy. Rosemary Parmesan crackers with some Whitestone aged cheddar on the side. Image; Su Leslie 2020

I think I may have stumbled upon the quickest ever way to make “crackers” —  assuming that, like me, you have a package of dumpling pastry tucked away in the freezer.

Because everyone intends to make that big batch of fiddly, time-consuming pot-stickers, right?

Anyway, it turns out that if you lay the pieces on some baking parchment, brush them with olive oil, chopped rosemary, sea salt and maybe some Parmesan, then bake them for about eight minutes in a fairly hot oven, they make really tasty, and very crunchy, crackers.

The gooey. Chocolate brownie and raspberries. Image; Su Leslie 2020

I’m not normally a big fan of chocolate in desserts and baking, but I do like brownie. This one is made with beetroot in place of most of the flour (the other dry ingredients are cocoa and coconut flour) and uses coconut oil instead of butter. It is delicious, especially if you like your brownie very chocolate-y and not very sweet.

I have cream and ice-cream if you’d like to add some to yours, but for me, just some raspberries are ka pai (good).

So pull up a tūru (chair) and let’s kōrero (talk).

Why a virtual tea party?

When Del (at CurlsnSkirls) and I started talking about a virtual tea party, we saw it as a fun way to share our love of kai and korero. It is that of course, but for me at least, it’s also an affirmation of how important you — my blogging whanau — are to me. Over the years you’ve shared your thoughts, stories, advice and support and I really would like to invite you all round to mine and cook for you.

But since that’s not going to happen anytime soon, I hope this will do instead.

The invitation

I’d love to hear from you. What are you doing/reading/making? Your thoughts on the food, the drinks, and whatever I’m rambling about. What’s making you happy or pissing you off?  Your comments make blogging so much more interesting.

And if you’d like to contribute a post of your own — even better. Maybe a shot of your cuppa and/or whatever you’re having with it. A recipe if you like.

I’ll update each of my posts with a ping-back to everyone’s in the same way as I do with The Changing Seasons.

#virtualteaparty2020 for anyone on Instagram who wants to post images (or video?)

Update

Brian at Bushboy’s World has not only brought coffee and cake, but is joining in learning some te reo too. Ka pai.

My dear friend Sarah at Art Expedition has baked my absolute, all-time favourite cake — carrot. Perfect with a cup of Darjeeling from one of her beautiful blue and white cups.

Janet at This, that and the other thing  has baked a beautiful blueberry crisp to go with her High Grown Kenyan tea. Brewed in a beautiful pot and served in a matching cup — utterly lovely.

Irene at My Slice of Mexico has not only brought us some Camotes de Puebla — sweet potato treats from the Mexican state of Puebla, but she has shared her recipe too.

Aggie at Nomad joins us from London where she and her family are now living.

Ju-Lyn of All things bright and beautiful has put a new twist on a favourite dish and I can’t wait to try it. I’m not letting the cat out of the bag, so you’ll have to visit her post to see what I’m talking about.

A Wonderful Sheep has some of her aunt’s delicious cooking and a recipe for soy sauce eggs, which I absolutely have to try

Yvette at Priorhouse  has a selection of teas, and coffee — and some beautiful photos of the flowers in her garden

Ladyleemanila has brought some of my favourite British biscuits — Hobnobs anyone?

My lovely co-host Del at CurlsnSkirls has baked some digestive biscuits (she knows I love them too) and a yummy cake with fresh berries.

Save the date: Thursday 17 September

Virtual Tea Party; an invitation

Yep, it’s nearly time to grab a cuppa (and a few goodies if you feel like it) and head over to mine for a virtual afternoon tea.

I’m having (hopefully minor) surgery — possibly as you’re reading this — so will be spending the next few days recuperating. I tell you this because the quality of the food on offer at the tea party will depend a bit on how I’m feeling.

So be prepared for anything: I might try out the black velvet cake recipe I found, or I could be sending the Big T down the road for a packet of gingernuts.

But whichever way it goes, I hope you’ll join me for a virtual catch-up. I’ll be putting the kettle on sometime next Thursday afternoon and you’ll welcome to join me any time.

Growing

A week of glorious sunshine has delivered lots of new growth and flowering in my garden. It’s especially exciting to see the plum blossom, but I think the bees are happiest amongst the borage flowers. You’ll have to take my word for that now — I was up too early to catch any in action.

This week’s Lens-Artists Challenge | Pick a Word offered Growing (amongst others). I thought I was done yesterday with Comfortable — but how could I resist flower photos.

And it’s Friday.

#fridayflowers

Comfortable

cat

Cats can make themselves comfortable anywhere, but sunshine and a fluffy rug don’t hurt. Image: Su Leslie

Children are pretty good at finding the adults they want to be around. When he was young, the boy-child would often make a beeline for a particular person and (sometimes literally) throw himself into their arms, ignoring everyone else present. Gotta say, he had great instincts.

tom tom and evelyn001

First meeting; the boy-child and his great aunt and uncle. Image: Leslie family archive

What makes you comfortable? A sunny afternoon at the beach?

coromandel-beach

Image: Su Leslie

Sharing a drink with a friend at the end of the day?

IMG_7140

Image: Su Leslie 2020

There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort. — Jane Austen

I have no aspirations to luxury but I do like my home to feel comfortable.

writing desk

A comfortable place to work. Image: Su Leslie

cushions

Recycled kimono sash cushion covers. Image: Su Leslie

knitted throw

Knitted lap blanket for those afternoons snuggled in the armchair with a good book. Image: Su Leslie 2020

Lens-Artist Photo Challenge | pick a word.  I chose comfortable