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?

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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

Last photos, August 2020

last photo aug 2020

Brian at Bushboy’s World had the fun idea of posting the last photo of each month, without editing or explanation. It’s such a simple idea and seems to be appealing to more and more of us.

In August, I actually used my phone camera for more than just snapping the shopping list before I go out, so I’ve included my last image from that too (below).

IMG-8855

The rules for Brian’s challenge are simple:
1. Post the last photo on your SD card or last photo on your phone for the 31st August.
2. No editing – who cares if it is out of focus, not framed as you would like or the subject matter didn’t cooperate.
3. You don’t have to have any explanations, just the photo will do
4. Create a Pingback to Brian’s post or link in the comments
5. Tag “The Last Photo”

Not here today #17

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With the boy-child, Cambridge, England. Image: Leslie family archive 2006

With the current lock-down over, technically I am able to leave Auckland. However, as there are still cases of Covid-19 being transmitted within the city, I think I’ll be staying put a while longer. My desire for a holiday isn’t greater than my respect for the health of other New Zealanders.

So today’s #notheretoday is a little different. It’s certainly true that I can’t currently ravel to England, but the physical and geographical barriers are less in my mind than the temporal one.

“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” — LP Hartley “The Go-Between.”

No longer is my son small enough to pick up and hold in my arms. He now has a full set of (beautifully regular) adult teeth, and there’s a different aesthetic at play in his choice of t-shirt.

But the smile is the same; he still has the dog, and I love the twenty-two year old boy-child with as much intensity and absolute joy as ever.

The Changing Seasons, August 2020

dance me to the end of love Art play. Image: Su Leslie 2020

Well, August. A month of two halves.

It started well enough; a visit to the hairdresser, dinner with the boy-child and his partner at a new restaurant, preparing to host a dinner party — even checking flights and accommodation for a trip to Christchurch.

Then Covid-19 re-emerged in the community and Auckland returned to Level 3 lock-down for 19 days, ending last night. Today we begin a period in Level 2.5, and wait to see what will  happen next.

Confinement to barracks meant I had no excuse not to embrace my “Arty August” project. If I’d been hoping for 31 finished pieces of work, I would have been disappointed. Luckily my goals were more about process than product and I’m happy. I’ve played a lot with watercolours — trying to understand washes and blending; experimented with some air-dry clay that’s been in the art box for a while, and transformed a pair of thrift-shoes into a … 3D collage?

Embracing process doesn’t come naturally to me; I am very goal-oriented and naturally tend to become incredibly frustrated when my output doesn’t match my vision.

A few years ago my friend Claire — who is both a talented artist and a very good teacher — said something that stuck with me and helps me find value in everything I make, even when it’s simply marks on paper. She suggested that in each piece of work there is something good; maybe just a tiny part of a sketch that really works, or a blob of colour that’s pleasing. The trick is to find that one thing and enjoy it, celebrate it, and use it to move forward. In the last month I’ve covered lots of sheets of watercolour paper with blobs of colour. None screams out to me as the basis for a work in itself, but together, they suggest materials for a collage.

And if that’s good enough for Eric Carle in The Very Hungry Caterpillar –it’s definitely good enough for me.

As always, when I’m at home a lot, I cook a lot.

I am finding more and more that I want to eat a largely plant-based diet, and mushrooms are not only a favourite food, but work really well to provide the texture and depth of flavour found in meat dishes. I also love miso and am experimenting with making a miso glaze/sauce for mushrooms. The first attempt was pretty good, but needs tweaking.

And continuing my obsession with scones; I went right back to basics with a recipe from Maw Broon’s Cookbook. If you’re not familiar with Maw Broon (i.e. if you’re not Scots), she is the matriarch of a comic strip called The Broons which has appeared in the Scottish newspaper The Sunday Post, since March 1936.

Maw Broon’s Cookbook contains recipes that have formed the basis of Scottish cooking for generations. Many were handed down from mother to daughter, and on again.

I was interested in the recipe for Puff Scones because it uses buttermilk, and because it calls for plain flour, baking soda and cream of tartar — instead of the more usual self-raising flour. I’m not sure if it was the combination of ingredients, or the fact of adding the acid and alkaline raising agents as separate entities, but the scones were amazing. Seriously; they were the lightest, fluffiest scones I’ve ever made (and I’d thrown in some cheese which often makes them more dense).

They have the Big T’s approval, so now I have to try Maw Broon’s treacle scones … and maybe a wee Dundee cake.

About The Changing Seasons

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.

If you do a ping-back to this post, I can update it with links to all of yours.

Update

Please visit these bloggers to find out how July played out for them:

Pauline at Living in Paradise

Suzanne from Life at No. 22

Tracy at Reflections of an Untidy Mind

Joining us this month is Ann-Christine, or Leya, who many of you will know as a host of the great weekly Lens-Artists challenge.

Tish at Writer on the Edge

Marilyn at Serendipity Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth

Little Pieces of Me

Lani at Life, the Universe and Lani

Ju-Lyn at All Things Bright and Beautiful

A Wonderful Sheep

Brian at Bushboy’s World