The Changing Seasons, August 2019

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In an extremely dreary month, I resorted to buying cut flowers to inject a little colour. Image: Su Leslie 2019

August is often a month in which I feel like hibernating. This year, with rain every day (yep, actually every single day), cold winds and heavy grey skies, I really haven’t felt  like venturing far from home. I know I’ve been busy at home — I’m just not quite sure what I’ve been busy doing.

My photos offer a few clues.

There has been a lot of baking this month; mostly sourdough-based. I’ve been making a sourdough wholewheat bread for a few years, and was getting quite reliably good results until a few months ago. My most recent loaves aren’t developing the gluten properly, and I’m obsessively testing variations on my recipe to understand what is going wrong.

I’m still not sure, but in the process of experimenting I’ve made a lot of sourdough pancakes/hotcakes (excellent for breakfast with berries), some good banana bread, a tasty wheat/rye loaf — and the best basic San Fransisco-style sourdough of my bread-making “career.”

In other news:

I discovered the multiple-exposure function on my camera and have had fun with that.

A bunch of supermarket tulips brought some much-needed floral inspiration as the weather has hammered my neighbourhood’s gardens.

In Whanganui last month I found three bags of dyed, carded wool for felting at $4 per bag. I couldn’t resist buying them, and have had a couple of attempts at wet-felting. I’m not at all happy with the results so far, but — like sourdough baking — I am determined to learn this skill, even if it’s only to make myself a scarf.

And in a moment of (probable) insanity; I decided to refurbish our dining chairs; bought from IKEA over 20 years ago.

I started out just thinking I’d smarten up an ugly, but comfortable $5 op-shop chair. Then I realised the colours I had in mind would work really well with our dining room furniture.

Somehow, I transitioned from that one little “paint-and-upholstery” job to making new seat frames for six chairs (bonus: I learned how to use a jig-saw); stripping and painting six grubby, waxed, wooden frames (plus one that was varnished); and upholstering seven chairs in turquoise and white striped canvas. Only one is completed so far — and boy have I learned a lot from it!

Not captured in the photographic record; I’ve also read more than usual (fiction and non-fiction); and completed the first assignment in a NZ Certificate in Horticulture course I signed up to. As you do …

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

Take a look at these lovely bloggers’ August posts:

Sarah at Art Expedition

Ruth at Ruth’s Arc

Marilyn at Serendipity — Seeking intelligent life on Earth

Tracy at Reflections of an Untidy Mind

Tish at Writer on the Edge

Jude from Life at the Edge

Joanne at My Life Lived Full

Little Pieces of Me

Lani at Life, the Universe and Lani

DJ Ranch

Pauline at Living in Paradise

Ju-Lyn at All Things Bright and Beautiful

Brian at  Bushboy’s World

Gill at Talking Thailand

A wonderful sheep

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Changing Seasons: March 2019

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Storm clouds on the horizon. Symbolism in retrospect — taken exactly one week before the Christchurch terror attack. Big Omaha Wharf, New Zealand. Image: Su Leslie 2019

This is the most difficult Changing Seasons post I’ve ever written.

How do I describe the way a month that could easily have passed without comment suddenly became one that no New Zealander will ever forget?

Because at 1.40pm on Friday 15th, a terrorist murdered fifty Muslim men, women and children practicing their religion in two mosques in the city of Christchurch — and changed this country for ever.

A terrorist left 48 more worshipers with serious physical injuries, and hundreds more to deal with the psychological trauma of having witnessed the carnage or dealt with its aftermath.

A terrorist shattered families, brought fear and anger to the Muslim community, defiled a city trying to rebuild itself after deadly earthquakes, and dragged these little islands out of our illusion of peace and safety.

In the two weeks since, we have seen the best and the worst of humanity. Hundreds of thousands of Kiwis have turned up at mosques and vigils and rallies to offer condolences, flowers, cards, food, music, prayer, haka, hugs, tears and above all — aroha, or love.

Our Prime Minister has behaved with sensitivity and compassion that is being admired beyond our shores.

Our government has tried to put aside politics and act decisively to make legislative changes to gun and other laws.

And the racist underbelly of our society is being exposed and scrutinised like never before. On the plus side, when people are coming forward to talk about the abuse they routinely experience in this country, they are being believed at last. On the minus, the xenophobic violence and hatred continues.

It is too early to know if this act of terrorism will (ironically for the terrorist) bring about positive change in New Zealand, or if, when the next big news story comes along, we’ll go back to “business as usual.” I hope for the best, but truthfully am not that optimistic.

So what do I have to show for March? Certainly not photos of candles and placards and grieving. Others have done that (sometimes beautifully) but for me personally, it has felt intrusive.

So here are a few shots that haven’t made it into other posts this month.

Food features heavily as usual. The Big T and I celebrated his birthday a week before the Christchurch attack with lunch at the Sawmill Brewery in Matakana. A beer tasting tray and some shared plates of delicious food — perfect. And I’m still grappling with sourdough pizza; trying to make a base that is light, crispy and easy to work. I’m not there yet, but my boys aren’t complaining.

 

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.

Please visit these amazing bloggers for their perspective on the month just gone:

Jude at Life at the Edge

Little Pieces of Me

Tracy at Reflections of an Untidy Mind

Tish at Writer on the Edge

Suzanne, at Being in Nature joins us for the first time.

Pauline at Living in Paradise

Yvette at Priorhouse Blog

Sarah at Art Expedition

Lindsay at Squeak of a Nuthatch

Deb at The Widow Badass Blog

Joanne at My Life Lived Full

Ladyleemanila

Marilyn at Serendipity — Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth

Gill at Talking Thailand

Ju-Lyn at All Things Bright and Beautiful

 

The Changing Seasons: October 2018

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I really should stop organising to travel at the end of a month; it plays havoc with The Changing Seasons scheduling.

I’m off to Sydney on Sunday to visit Sculpture by the Sea, a fantastic exhibition that is installed annually along the coastal path from Bondi to Tamarama Beach. With luck I’ll have lots of photos to share — but not until November.

Which leaves me wondering what I’ve done with this month.

Part of it certainly has been spent woolly-headed and lethargic from the absolute worst cold I can ever remember having. But that only accounts for about 10 days, and my photo folder for October is the smallest it’s been in ages. So however I have occupied my time, much of it obviously hasn’t seemed worth recording.

I’ve done a lot of sewing — mainly cushion covers to freshen up our living room.

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I’ve baked bread, including a couple of variations on sourdough.

First came some impromptu flatbreads from dough that was intended for crackers …

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… then Rewena Paraoa, or Maori bread.

Maori bread is something I have been aware of for a long time, but knew nothing about. I found an old recipe, and was surprised to find it’s basically a sourdough, using boiled mashed potato mixed with flour and water to create the starter.

Neither wheat nor potatoes are native to New Zealand, and arrived with European settlers. Prior to that, kumara (sweet potato), yams, taro and ti pore (Pacific Cabbage Tree) were probably the principal sources of carbohydrates. Both were brought from East Polynesia by the country’s original migrants, probably around in the 13th century. As far as I know, pre-European Maori did not make bread.

Potatoes are easier to grow than kumara, and were widely adopted into the Maori diet. The use of potatoes in sourdough cultures is not unique to Maori, and was once widespread, but interestingly I had found no reference to it prior to finding this recipe. It certainly produced a starter culture much more quickly than the flour and water version that the Big T and I made a couple of years ago. My potato starter (which I actually made with kumara out of curiosity), was ready to use after two days, while our original starter took around two weeks.

The finished loaf was ok; a bit dense, and I forgot to salt the dough properly, but it was edible, and I’d certainly attempt it again.

Eroded sea-shell. Image: Su Leslie 2018 Exposing the inner workings. Eroded sea-shell. Image: Su Leslie 2018

One of those little philosophical moments …

I found this tiny, eroded shell in a little bag of rocks and other stuff tucked inside one of my son’s shoes. He had obviously planned to take the bag (and the shoes) home after a visit to us, but somehow they got left behind.

It reminded me of a time –long past — when we went to the beach together, bringing home assorted treasures destined to be forgotten.

From the outside, the shell is relatively smooth and uniform. It is only when the interior is exposed that we can see the complexity of growth and change. The passage of time does that.

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

Tracy at Reflections of an Untidy Mind

Tish at Writer on the Edge

Joanne at My Life Lived Full

Deb at The Widow Badass

Marilyn at Serendipity — Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth

Babsje at Great Blue Herons, who joins us for the first time. Please take a look at this great blog, including a second Changing Seasons post.

Lee at Ladyleemanila

Little pieces of me

Jude at Under a Cornish Sky

Ruth at Ruth’s Arc

Pauline at Living in Paradise

Sarah at Art Expedition

Ju Lyn at All Things Bright and Beautiful

DP Photo Challenge: growth, take 2

Flour, water, salt and time, plus a bit more time and heat. Close up shot of wholemeal sourdough loaf, still in baking pan. Image: Su Leslie, 2018

Flour, water, salt, time and heat. Just-baked loaf of wholemeal sourdough bread. Image: Su Leslie, 2018

The Daily Post asked this week for photos that evoke growth.

For me, sourdough bread is perhaps one of the purest examples of how natural growth processes can be utilised to create something sustaining and delicious.

Flour and water are combined, and left as a food offering to the yeasts and bacteria that exist all around us. Over time, and with extra food, this mixture grows sufficiently in bulk and strength that with the addition of yet more flour and water, the resultant dough can be kneaded and proved and ultimately baked.

Flour, water, salt and time: the beginnings of a sourdough loaf. Bowl containing ball of proving sourdough. Image: Su Leslie, 2018

Flour, water, salt and time: the beginnings of a sourdough loaf. Image: Su Leslie, 2018

Learning to bake sourdough bread has been one of my projects for the last couple of years. With every completed loaf, my knowledge and confidence also grows.

 

 

Magic Monday

Still warm. Two homemade loaves of wholewheat, seeded sourdough bread, resting on a cooling rack. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Still warm. Home-made sourdough bread. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Today has been bread-making day, and now there are two loaves of wholemeal sourdough cooling on the kitchen bench.

All cooking is slightly magical, but sourdough is especially so. A paste of flour and water  that we first made two years ago (called a starter) provides food for the natural yeasts and bacteria that hang out in our kitchen. We add flour, water and salt; and natural fermentation does the rest.

Two loaf pans with sourdough, kneaded and ready for proving before being baked. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Sourdough; mixed, kneaded and ready for final proving. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

RegularRandom: five minutes contemplating breakfast

The walnut and cranberry sourdough bread I baked a few days ago is still fresh enough not to need toasting, and was perfect with my morning latte.

In the spirit of mindful eating, I’m trying to make food more visually appealing, using our more interesting crockery, and setting the table with a cloth hand-embroidered by my paternal grandmother — whom I never met.

I’m sharing my breakfast contemplation as part of  Desley Jane‘s RegularRandom challenge. If you’d like to know more about  Five Minutes of Random #regularrandom (or just want to see some great photography), check out Musings of a Frequently Flying Scientist.

Quest for improvement

Sourdough foccacia with rosemary and olive oil. Image: Su Leslie, 2016


A year or so ago the Big T and I created a sourdough starter: flour, water and whatever bacteria and yeasts inhabit our kitchen. We feed it, keep it warm and sniff it a lot to check its health. We also bake bread: mainly wholewheat, but sometimes fruit bread or foccacia.

Over the year our bread has got better but there is always room for improvement in our quest for the perfect loaf.

Proved dough ready for toppings and baking. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

Lunch: greek salad with homemade sourdough foccacia. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

The last morsel. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

 

This week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge theme is Quest.