Saturday, January 05, 2019

Artisnal...

Our word for today is "artisanal" or artisnal. - made in a traditional, non-mechanical way - made by hand. It applies mainly to food or drink, such as, bread kneaded by hand, possibly using a homemade starter.

Artisnal also refers to locally made cheeses, beers, preserves...the list goes on. These foods are a little more expensive to buy, but they are tastier, more eco-friendly, support local artisans and generally make the world a better place.

I wanted to write about artisnal foods, because a friend had given my son a book on making bread - Tartine Bread. She actually brought over some bread she had made from the book and it was to die for. Apparently, they had been talking or texting about food - this is life for a foodie - and the subject of bread came up!



Well, this is bread from absolute scratch!! OK, you don't have to grow the wheat, but you do have to "grow" the starter. Making a homemade starter is not for the faint of heart. We began on Thursday with 5lbs of flour - half white and half whole wheat. I mixed the two flours together in a large bowl and my son made a rather runny paste in a small bowl with some of the flour and water. He worked it for about 15 minutes to get out the lumps and what can I say, he's a foodie, so he could easily have worked it another 15 minutes. It's like knitting, once you start, it's difficult to stop!!



Today we check the paste to see if it has fermented. We will then have to feed it and work with it until it is sweet smelling (this can days or weeks) and can then be used to leaven our dough.

Next, he will knead the dough by hand, lovingly and I know it will taste like mana from heaven. It is not by chance that many of the great hymns refer to God as bread - Bread of Heaven, Panis Angelicus - Bread of Angels. Bread and wine - food of the Gods!!



Coming down to earth, my son's goal is to make the perfect hamburger bun. Well, of course, it doesn't stop there. I can see us finding the perfect organic beef, using lettuce from the garden (in June), making tomato jam (ketchup) from tomatoes I froze in the Fall and, of course our artisnal relish and mustard. This is not your quick evening meal. This is a life's work, a religion.

I think we'll have to say Grace!

The pictures? Well, since we haven't made the bread yet, these are foods to eat with bread.

PS - I knew my writing partner would have no problem with the word "artisnal", she makes the most awesome bread as well.

Friday, January 04, 2019

Felt...

Our word for today is "felt." As as noun it means a cloth made by pressing or rolling fibre together. As a verb, to felt, is the process of pressing fibres together to make a cloth or a shape. Felting, in fact, is an art form, with artists creating amazing pieces in every dimension!!



They are creating two dimensional pictures using fibre, felted cloth and felting needles. The process is a little like painting except that wool is your paint and felting needles, your brushes.  It's a lot of fun.



They are also creating three dimensional pieces that could be considered sculptures in felt.




I started felting a few years ago. Because I distribute fibre and felted fabric to craft stores, I really felt (no pun intended) I needed to know more about the process. As with any process there is a learning curve. I began where I saw an entry point. I can draw (a little) so I though that I would start by drawing with fibre on fabric. I could see the possibilities. However, I needed to progress to the next stage. I had to make three dimensional figures - cute figures, like the ones I saw on-line.



I began with a teddy bear that was midway between a two and a three dimensional figure. I then moved to a very obvious free-standing, OK, sitting teddy bear. I added mice, lady bugs, bees. I see room for improvement. Their faces have to be sweeter. In fact, I have re-done the insects - pictures to come.



I am slowly progressing to larger projects. I was actually thinking of taking on this guy. Wish me luck!

Have a creative day!

Monday, December 31, 2018

Fulcrum

Our word for today is "fulcrum." I have a love-hate relationship with this word.  It means a pivotal point. In fact, fulcrums are essential, if you want an "easy life." Think of the importance of hinges on doors, or that gadget that holds an oar in place on a row boat or the small grey rock I place under my spade in the garden to lift out the Hostas for re-planting.

Yes, fulcrums make life easier. They make things work. However, I don't like the sound of the word. The "ful" sounds too much like "fool" and the "crum" is "crumb." Put them together and they sound nasal, pedantic, almost silly. On the other hand, fulcrum, is too elevated a word for the small inconspicuous devices it describes.



Fulcrum is to physics, as catalyst is to chemistry. What can I say, I love the word catalyst. It sounds like crystals and reminds me of diamonds. A catalyst makes chemical change happen or at least happen faster. It is liquid energy, whereas a fulcrum is some overlooked mechanical pivot, that, OK, maybe makes the world go round, but you wouldn't necessarily know it.



Now apply these words, these concepts to life. If you were choosing a partner, for example, would you want a catalyst or a fulcrum? Would you want some sparkly bit of glamour, who could change your life in a moment? Or would you want the steady rock, the one who bears the weight of the changes, easing the burden of life's transitions, as unobtrusively as a hinge or an oarlock?

In literature, the answer is most beautifully illustrated in Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. It's worth the read.

The pictures? The best I could do for fulcrum.

Have a pivotal day!!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Medium...

Our word for today is "medium." On the surface, it's a very common, unpretentious, almost banal word. Do not be deceived! It has a depth, that borders on the mystical......

I first thought of "The Medium is the Message." I'm a great fan of Marshall McLuhan, who was probably the first person to make us aware that who or what carries the message to us is almost as important as the message itself. Consider, for example, the medium in a seance. Without this medium there would be no communication with the "otherworld."



Social Media is now the primary conveyer of our messages to the world. Can we go as far as to say that without Social Media, we could not communicate with the general public? Or the general public with us. How valid is what we hear or what we read, if it comes from Twitter, Instagram or Facebook? To what extent do people trust our messages on the same platforms? Is there a trusted medium out there?

Who reads newspapers anymore? (Well, I do.) Who watches TV apart from Netflix or its various incarnations? Who listens to the radio? In fact, journalists, our mediums of truth, are being restrained, imprisoned, killed. Be afraid be very afraid!



I'm on Facebook far more than I should be. It's a bit of a time waster and ironically, I really don't have that much time to waste. But that's an aside. Once caught up in the ever changing milieu of messages, ads that look like messages, and propaganda that looks like a friend's post, one can easily be hypnotized into believing almost anything.

I know that social media is not the only medium we can use. There is still writing, painting, music, dance, theatre. However, that on-line stream of information is constant, immediate and accessible to almost anyone, anytime, anyplace. Therein lies its power.



What every happened to the nondescript "medium." You know - Coffee - medium, no sugar. Or, sweater size - medium, no collar. Or height - medium, dark hair. I used to think that I would go through life always a medium, a universal average, nothing very special or spectacular. But I now know that as a medium - a conveyer of knowledge or opinion - I can be very powerful!! I do, though, need to get my numbers up.

Have a spectacular day!!

Friday, December 28, 2018

Intricate

It was my turn to give a word in our writing exercise today. This time, it just popped into my head - intricate. I thought of the word partly because I was thinking of the intricate detail that artists bring to their work. I know that some can simply draw a few lines on a canvas and everyone calls it Art. I wasn't thinking of them.



I was thinking of fine detail, of filigree, of the hours working with many colours, of the delicate strands, the filaments used to shape, shade and sharpen an artistic piece. Partly, I admire the patience - writing and re-writing a paragraph, for example, until the right words are in the perfect order to covey not just the message, but the feeling, the angst, the joy, the layers of meaning beyond the words and the syntax.



I was also thinking of the thought processes behind the work. The times when the artist says, "I need something more here." or "I have to correct and imbalance there." Intricate elements are then added. A gown may be trimmed with lace, a jacket, braided or a glove, appliqu├ęd.



Where does this knowledge of what to add and what not to add, come from? Where in the intricate workings of the brain does the artist know when to stop and when to keep going? Some look to nature. Few things are more complex than the veining of a leaf, the shading of a flower or the composition of an insect. The magic happens, though, when an artist creates a leaf on paper, a flower from fabric or an insect in sheet metal and we say, "Wow!"


The pictures? Bits of Art and nature.

Have a special day!

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Hangover...

Our word for today is "hangover." It might be more appropriate to write this for New Year's Day, when celebrants have had too much alcohol to drink the night before. Of course, some have hangovers everyday. So today would be just like any other.

Fortunately, it's been a long time since I've suffered a hangover from drinking too much. Yes, with age comes maturity, for some. A favourite expression in the pubs in England on Sunday was "hair o' the dog?" It was a way of starting a conversation, as many nursed a hangover on Sunday, brought on by Saturday night parties.



I'd forgotten the exact meaning of the phrase, but according to wikipedia, it was considered a cure for a bite by a rabid dog. Put a few hairs of the dog on the wound to cure it - drink some booze the next day to fix your hangover. It was a popular remedy from the time of the ancient Greeks, observed in most European countries and by extension a good part of the world.

The word hangover, however, is not just limited to the negative effects of alcohol, it is also used to describe something that is now obsolete. For example:



1. When we first bought our house, we had a clothesline in the back yard -  a hangover from when people (women) hung clothing out to dry. Some still do. It saves on energy, well, maybe not human energy. :)

2. Our house still has a milk box - a hangover from when milk was delivered to your door every morning. (We obviously treat milk now, to make it last longer - what's been lost?) Today, we often find, in our milk box, mail from a postman (person) who was too lazy to climb the steps to our front door.



3. It's the rare family, in Toronto anyway, that parks a car in their garage. In fact today many people are converting their garages, especially in laneways into small flats. In fact, we still have some very large homes, in the city, with carriage houses - a hangover from a time before cars, when the wealthy owned carriages and the horses to pull them, as well as, the groomsmen, footmen, drivers etc.



Will cars soon be considered a hangover from an earlier time? What else might disappear? The landline "phone on the wall" is almost obsolete. Maps are passe´, churches are being converted to condos, retail shops to nail salons, and gas stations to restaurants. In fact, the only thing I see that has made a comeback is the bicycle. People ride now in winter, there are more and better bike lanes (we still need more and better bike lanes). There are public bike racks, and areas to rent bikes conveniently around the city.

Can I dream of other activities that I would like to see revived?

The pictures? Hangovers from an earlier time and the penny farthing, from a time when money was worth more. Now there are no pennies and I'm not sure there were ever farthings in Canada.

Have a memorable day.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Entangle

It was my turn to provide a word for our writing exercise today. Sometimes, it's not easy to just "come up with a word." Yes, verbiage clutters my mind all the time, however, when asked to isolate just one word for a writing exercise, I'm often "stuck."

I did, though, ask the cosmos for this one. I looked out the window at a mesh of branches interlaced against a sullen sky and thought of entanglements. Even stripped to the bare bones, nature is complex. Life is intricate and people, perplexing.



We complicate our lives or others complicate our life for us. We may set upon a path that seems direct, even easy in its simplicity, only to find detours. We may be forced to navigate unmarked roads, un-blazed trails. We may wander for a long time in a tangle of underbrush, looking for a clearing.



I know we have inner compasses - Faith in ourselves - Belief in the goodness of others - Hope in times of utter hopelessness, but we still must find our own way out of the entanglements that snare us. Sometimes we have to break a branch or two to find that clearing. We might have to, for example, disentangle ourselves from relationships, or from forces that distort our compass. Or wait patiently for the mists to clear.



The image of untangling the entangled is perhaps easier for knitters to grasp. We often untangle yarn. We may sit for hours, finding the free end and then tracing it through its many switchbacks, loops, knots and general mayhem until we have a smooth ball of wound yarn with which to work our magic.



Because once we have that clear path, we can create a most amazing life!!

Have an un-entangled day!!