Wednesday, 29 August 2018

WOYWW 482

Better late than never… It’s been rather a busy day and I’ve only just had the chance to get this post sorted.

Here’s my studio today.

WOYWW 482

Chaos reigns eternal. No change, except a bit more mess. I did manage to tidy up my wools a bit, though, over on the other side.

I’ve been busy again with the embellishments for my scarf. I finished the butterflies and have started making some crochet flowers. I shall just keep going until I think I’ve got enough! They are fairly quick to do, and relaxing while watching TV.

05 Butterflies and Flowers 29-8-18

I’m glad I made a mistake with one of the butterflies and only did 6 “petals” instead of 8 – when folded over to create the butterfly, it makes a slightly smaller one, of a different shape. Serendipity, and nothing like a bit of variety! The larger flowers are done in several layers, and are quite 3-d.

Kitties

The kitties had their annual kitty MOT this week, and the first of the annual boosters of their inoculations. They were so good! They didn’t make a sound, either when the needle went in, or when they suffered the indignity of having a thermometer shoved up their bums. They looked slightly anxious but the lovely young Polish vet was so gentle with them, and she spoke to them softly, and gave each one a stroke after it was all done. They have gained so much weight since last year – last August, Lily weighed 1.33 kilos and she now weighs 3.3 kilos so that’s a gain of a whole kilo! Ruby was 1.23 kilos last year, and is now 3.6 kilos so she’s gained even more. She remains the heavier of the two, and is pretty solid! The vet said their weights were healthy and they shouldn’t gain any more without being overweight. They are eating well, and getting plenty of exercise running around the garden.

Here’s lookin’ at you, kid!

07 Here's Lookin' at You Kid

Kitty chorus – feeding time at the zoo!

Health Update

I still haven’t got an appointment for my CT scan to see if I really have developed another hernia (I’m pretty sure I have), but the support garments lady is coming to see me on 11th September for a fitting, which is progress.

The man from the company that supplied the power assist system for my wheelchair was down in our area yesterday and serviced my wheelchair for me. Good to go for another year.

Sourdough

Last weekend I made my best sourdough bread ever! I am following a particular Youtube video and this really seems to work.

34 VG Sourdough with Whole Wheat 26-8-18

35 VG Sourdough with Whole Wheat Sliced 26-8-18

Fantastic crumb this time – look at all those lovely traditional sourdough holes!

I made this loaf with half-and-half white and whole wheat flour instead of using wholemeal rye. I’m not sure if the improvement was due to this, or my improving dough-handling skills.

I have just started another batch, and this time I’ve divided the wholemeal half into half-and-half wheat and rye, to see how that goes. I do like the flavour of the rye.

Busy weekend ahead

This week, from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon, I am attending a Christian conference, non-resident, as the place is just up the road from us. I have been asked to sing and I received the list today – they want a lovely lot of songs, including a few from my repertoire which I haven’t sung for ages. I had a long practice session this afternoon and they are still a bit rough round the edges, but I may have another go this evening, and will certainly set aside some time tomorrow for further practice, and I think they will be OK. My friend is also singing, which is great. I’ve booked in for all the meals except breakfast, and my hubby is joining me for the first and last meals. It will also be a lovely opportunity to meet up with several old friends.

I have also been asked to bake the challah bread for the Friday evening meal, so I’m going to do that tomorrow as well, and work on my sourdough throughout the day. The sourdough doesn’t need a lot of work, but it needs quite a bit of attention – several folding sessions at two-hourly intervals etc. so it’s fairly time-consuming in that I have to be here, tied to the kitchen timer! There should be a nice baking smell in the house tomorrow.

Fermentation

My kombucha is going very well indeed. This time I set aside 6 bottles for second fermentation, with raspberry puree, which is delicious. The Scoby (Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeasts) – the “dead jellyfish” that you use as a starter, has grown a lot and it’s doing a fantastic job. This fermented tea is so delicious, and has so many health benefits. I start a new batch on Fridays, and start the second fermentation of the previous batch at the same time – this is ready in three days.

I have also made a small jar of fermented dill cucumbers just to see how they worked. After three or four days on the kitchen counter, they are sensational. Definitely something to do again. Absolutely no effort required – I just cut up the cucumbers into strips, stuck them in a jar with some dill and chopped garlic, and topped the whole thing up with brine, covered it and left it to its own devices. I just had to “burp” the jar morning and evening to let the CO2 escape. It’s now in the fridge, but I don’t think it will be there for long!

The other day my hubby saw me at work in the kitchen and asked, “Are you working on your liquids?” – not drinks, haha! He said this in a rather dark tone of voice as if he was suggesting that they were the product of Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory.

Other food

My hubby has started bringing in fast quantities of apples from our tree. His brother was over today and he confirmed that they are Bramleys – we didn’t know what variety they were. They are very good apples. My hubby peels and slices them for me, and then it’s up to me to do something with them. This year I’m determined to be a bit more adventurous than just stewing them. I’ve already fermented some, but my hubby doesn’t like those much. I am going to make more apple butter in the slow cooker this year, and I’m going to attempt to dry some. I don’t have a dehydrator but understand you can get good results using the oven on its lowest setting. I’m not going to have much time to attend to this for a few days, though.

I haven’t done much other stuff in the kitchen as my recent cooking days have yielded lots of freezer fodder and we’ve been noshing on that. I’m making a salad for tonight, including a sweet potato salad that I made this morning with fresh herbs from the garden, and a mixture of mayonnaise and home-made yoghurt (now being made from an heirloom culture I got online – fabulous). Once my bought mayonnaise is all used up, I’m not buying any more. My friend who got me started on fermentation gave me a recipe for her fabulous mayonnaise made from kefir, and that’s definitely the way to go. I saw a Youtube video last week where the woman said, “Read the labels on the back of foods in the supermarket. If you can’t pronounce any of the ingredients, don’t buy it!” Lol!

Have a great week, everyone.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Best Sourdough Bread Yet

Last night I completed my best sourdough loaf to date. I had had endless problems getting it right. I am grateful for Trevor J. Wilson for his brilliant Youtube video on how to get an open crumb from a stiff dough (low hydration) and after 4 or 5 attempts at this (I’ve lost count!) I finally got it right last night.

Part of the problem I had before this may have been due to the rye flour I was using in combination with my normal white bread flour. I decided to replace this with whole wheat bread flour and it was certainly better. However, I also think it was something to do with my improving dough handling skills.

With the rye, the dough was soooo sticky, and whenever it was left to rest, it spread dramatically, so that I thought if I left it much longer, it would walk out the door.

Anyway, here’s last night’s effort:

34 VG Sourdough with Whole Wheat 26-8-18

35 VG Sourdough with Whole Wheat Sliced 26-8-18

I am thrilled with the lovely open crumb. The flavour is fabulous, too.

My only complaint (I’m such a perfectionist!) is that there wasn’t quite enough oven spring. Next time I’m going to pre-heat my Dutch oven for an hour rather than half an hour and see if this helps.

Just for the record, here are my previous efforts.

My first effort, back on 19th June.

02 Sourdough Bread 19-6-18

Not a very open crumb, but not bad for all that. Good flavour. After this, my starter began to fail because I hadn’t been feeding it correctly, and I had to start again.

This pathetic offering was a result of using a moribund starter – 9th July.

06 Failed Sourdough Bread July 18

15th July. Not much oven spring.

20 Sliced Sourdough 15-7-18

21st July. Again. Pretty flat, and not very open crumb.

22 Sourdough Cut 21-7-18

29th July. Getting better.

24 Successful Sourdough Cut 29-7-18

This was the first one I made with Trevor’s method, on 12th August. It came out very well.

28 First Really Good Sourdough Loaf 12-8-18

30 First Really Good Sourdough Loaf Cut 12-8-18

I wasn’t quite happy with the crumb, so decided to experiment, increasing the hydration. This was a big mistake.

The first time it spread out completely flat. I scraped it all up and threw it away, and tried again the next day, and the same thing happened, but I was reluctant to waste yet more good food, so decided to add the sourdough starter crackers ingredients and try and rescue it as biscuits, but it started to rise, so I thought I might as well bake it as bread, and this was the result – 20th August.

32 Sourdough Revamped from Cracker Recipe Cut

Pretty dense, but definitely edible! A rather curious sourdough loaf with the addition of coconut oil and baking soda, but at least it didn’t end up in the bin. The top was horrendous because it was well and truly stuck on the lining I’d put in the bowl.

I decided to go back to Trevor’s original hydration of 65%. Something went wrong – it was still terribly sticky and difficult to handle, and then, when I took it out of the oven, it was completely stuck onto the bottom of the Dutch oven, and I had a terrible job the next day, to prise it out, using my flexible metal spatula. It was a bit overdone, but it tasted OK. 21st August.

33 Sourdough Stuck in Casserole 21-8-18

That brings us up to the latest one, made on Saturday 25th August, with the 50-50 mix of white and whole wheat flours.

34 VG Sourdough with Whole Wheat 26-8-18

Definitely a success.

I now need to find out if I can still use Trevor’s method and then divide the dough so I can make two small loaves. If not, then I can no longer use the small bannetons I bought, which will be a shame. I haven’t got a big one, and the loaves made with Trevor’s method were all given their final proving in a bowl.

I have also had awful problems with the dough sticking in the bowl/banneton, and the top being ruined. I’ve tried with and without a liner, with the same result. It seemed impossible to get the flour to stick on the sides of the bowl/banneton. This last one was better, though. I lightly spritzed the bowl with water and sprinkled semolina all over it (found out online that semolina is pretty good because it’s gluten-free, and it’s the gluten in normal wheat flour that turns to glue and you can’t get the bread out). I did this in advance, and then just before putting the dough in, sprinkled it again with more semolina. My hubby went out and bought me some rice flour and I am going to use that next time – even better, I’ve been led to understand, and a better colour too – white, so should make better patterns. If I can’t divide the dough without spoiling the structure, I am going to have to try and get a bigger banneton if I want the nice spiral ridges so characteristic of traditional sourdough.

If I can get just a little more oven spring, I shall be well satisfied. I’m definitely getting there now, though, and it’s thanks to Trevor and his brilliant method.

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Some Thoughts on Creativity

While browsing Youtube the other day, I stumbled across a first-class video on the subject of creativity. It was a talk presented by Tina Seelig, of Stanford University’s School of Engineering. The talk, entitled “Six Characteristics of Truly Creative People,” was primarily directed at companies and organisations but could equally well be applied to individuals. She has written a book on the subject, in which she came up with an intriguing diagram which she calls the “Innovation Engine” – a sort of Moebius strip of interlocking characteristics, all of which are essential if one is to be truly creative.

The Innovation Engine

The aspects on the inner part are all things found within ourselves – imagination, attitude and knowledge. To feed our imagination (which is the basis of all creativity), we need the right attitude, and we need knowledge to formulate our ideas and put them into practice. On the outer part are aspects impinging on us from outside of ourselves – our culture, habitat and resources. We are all influenced by the culture in which we grew up, and the environment which surrounds us can either fire our creative imagination or put it to death. Resources are so much more than money – they include all the things we have, and sometimes it’s really good not to have much money, because one is forced to use the limited resources at one’s disposal. In the video, she got some of her students to create something from their rubbish bins, and they came up with some surprising results. Could we, as artists and crafters, do likewise? I know I have often used rubbish, such as chicken packaging, in my art, and I like to challenge myself with the question, “Could I make art out of this?” – whatever it is, and my hubby usually answers with a resounding “No!” which I immediately take as a challenge to prove him wrong!

All the characteristics on the Innovation Engine are important, and depend on each other. It is arranged so that parallel items are related, for example Culture and Attitude. Relating Habitat and Imagination, Tina Seelig showed a typical kindergarten environment, with a very fluid layout – brightly coloured moveable furniture, with easy access to all sorts of colourful and stimulating equipment. Moving on to your average school, there were desks in rows, and this progressed to the regimented cubicles that so many people are forced to work in for their employment. Contrasted with this were the work environments of Google and other innovative companies, with all sorts of fun and stimulating surroundings, and comfortable furniture laid out in such a way as to encourage people to sit and chat and brainstorm together. Such companies encourage their employees to take time out and rest – take a nap, and the ideas will come! So often good ideas come to us in dreams. In this way, one’s habitat can fire one’s imagination rather than crippling it.

This sort of thing got me thinking about our education system in general. I’ve thought about this a great deal in recent years, especially after I started Zentangle, which is a drawing method that I originally liked to describe as “drawing for people who can’t draw” – until I thought about it a bit, and re-phrased it “Drawing for people who think they can’t draw.” All pre-school children draw. They all dance and sing, however “badly,” according to educated adult standards! Little children are naturally creative, and have well-developed imaginations. As soon as they start school beyond nursery and kindergarten, the system begins to develop the left brain, which is involved with reasoning and logic, and facts. Right-brain activities such as music and the arts are generally looked down upon and not considered such valuable skills because it’s the “Three Rs” that enable people to pass exams and get jobs. The emphasis is always on getting qualifications – bits of paper that say that you know how to come up with the “right” answers. Music and art are fine for hobbies, but “get a real job.” In these days of limited financial resources, a lot of music in schools is now extra-curricular with teachers not being on the payroll but self-employed, and schools in impoverished areas often have very little musical education at all and no facilities – I saw a horrifying programme on TV a few years ago where the poor music teacher in one inner-city school had no musical instruments for the children except yogurt pots that they could bash with sticks. OK, she was thrown back on her resources and had to make do in as creative a way as she could (one of the points Tina was making in her talk) but it was a graphic example of the lack of importance that the powers that be, in our culture, put on creative imagination. A young orchestral conductor went in and provided instruments, and opened up a whole new world for those children, some of whom had never even heard classical music before.

If we don’t educate the whole person, where are the future ideas going to come from, that enrich the lives of us all? We NEED creative people in industry, science, medicine, and every profession. Apart from that, education is supposed to be about producing fully-rounded individuals who can make the best of themselves and live fulfilled lives for the benefit of themselves and others. How else are our communities and the wider nation supposed to improve themselves if people are not encouraged to have the skills that come from a creative imagination?

Tina says we are often far too limited in our solutions to problems, and our education system encourages this by training us to find “the right answer,” when it would be far more creative to pose the questions in a different way, so that there is no one single “right answer” but many ways to answer the question, in a way that encourages us to use our creative imagination.

I love this “thinking outside the box” approach. In my art, I like to experiment with different materials just to see what happens. Not always having the “right” equipment or materials to achieve the results I want, I have to improvise. This is often a lot more fun than just opening a pack of this, or a tube of that, or the exact colour from the complete range – having to work a bit harder at it, one is learning all the time, and gaining far more satisfaction in the long run. Another example of this is thinking beyond the normal art suppliers who usually charge a high price for their products, and looking elsewhere – I use decorating and DIY materials and often raid the cake decorating aisles for equipment. I also use a lot of tools that I inherited from Dad, which were more to do with his interests than mine, but all so useful!

Cooking can be a bit like this too. Where is the satisfaction in simply slavishly following a recipe, and perhaps not even attempting a recipe in the first place because one hasn’t got all the exact ingredients? Substituting these for what one actually does have, one can end up with new and exciting flavours. I use tools and implements for the “wrong” purpose too – one of my favourite kitchen tools is a butter curler. I never curl butter, but it’s brilliant for scraping seeds from melons and squashes. My strawberry huller is in constant use for cutting out the ends of kiwi fruits, and I use my grapefruit knife for removing the flesh from melons. Taking risks is half the fun in all creative endeavours, and often leads to exciting and unexpected results.

Making mistakes. Failure. Doing it wrong. These words are so limiting, and encourage people to give up, and also make us fearful to try anything new. Instead, Tina says we should look on the failures as part of the learning process, to add what doesn’t work to our arsenal of knowledge and experience, and to build on them. I have often made what I initially thought was “a right mess” but before throwing it in the bin in disgust, have made myself think about it in a different way, and build on it, and in the end, have been much more pleased with the result than I would have been, had it “worked” in the first place.

I think truly creative people are rule-breakers, rebels. I know I’m a rebel. I have my own ideas about how to do things, and don’t like people telling me what to do!! Perhaps this is why I am constantly glad that I never had the opportunity to go to art school. I remember I had a friend when I was young, who had recently come out of art school. She was always a rebel and a highly creative person, and she had had to fight hard in order to be allowed to follow her chosen specialty at college – embroidery. In those days, this was looked down upon as the pursuit of little old ladies and not “proper art.” (I am glad that attitudes have changed since then!) I remember thinking at the time that so much that was coming out of art colleges in those days was very “samey” and had a very distinctive style which I called “1960s Art College” (which I personally didn’t like), and how hard it must be for the students to retain any creative individuality if they were forced into the college’s mould. My friend, being a rebel, and capable of being pretty stroppy especially when challenged, came out with her individuality intact! I was always very impressed with that.

Of course I am not against formal art education, and I know that things have improved a lot in recent years (see my post on the high standard now achieved at my old school). There is much to be gained by being taught how to develop and organise one’s work, and basic skills on which to build one’s own creativity – I do sometimes regret not having had this advantage, but I do believe it’s left me freer to follow my own inner guiding and inspiration. Anyway, there’s always Youtube – if you want to know how to do anything, it’s on Youtube!!

All this has got me thinking about my Dad. He was a superlative amateur musician, highly skilled at all the wind instruments (with the exception of the clarinet and the recorder) and he was also no mean keyboard player. He told me that when he was still at school, he had to make a decision about his future career, and it was a sharp tussle between music and medicine. What finally decided him was that if he became a professional doctor and an amateur musician, he would be left alone to lead a happy and fulfilled life, but if he became a professional musician and an amateur doctor, he was likely to get locked up! On a more serious note, he said that if he had chosen music as a career, he would have had to limit himself to one instrument, and would probably have spent his life in the ranks of an orchestra, being forced to play only what was on offer. As it was, he could pick and choose, and although he played in orchestras all his life, he could also indulge his passion for chamber music, and he had so much fun with all the social aspects of this, making musical friends wherever he went, and being in constant demand for his talents. He had so many creative interests outside of work, including his clocks and engineering skills. He went through various phases in his life where one interest or another occupied his time, and looking back, I can see a lot of him in myself, although I do not aspire to his level of genius! We have both moved on from one thing to another, learning all the way, and being excited to learn new things and gain fulfilment from new achievements. Some people may say these crazes and phases lead to a rather undisciplined way of life, as it often heaps up ever more UFOs (UnFinished Objects) but you have to go where the creative flow leads you! Mum never understood this, and when I was a child, she often used to say, “Don’t start anything new until you’ve finished what you are doing.” This can rob you of a lot of joy if the spark has gone out. The spark can come back though – after a number of years, the bug for knitting and crochet has come back, and I’m picking up some pretty ancient UFOs and getting satisfaction from finishing them at last. (This is one reason why I’m such a hoarder. People say “If you haven’t used it for two years, you won’t use it. Chuck it out.” If I throw anything out, you can guarantee that next week, I’ll want to start using it again, even if I haven’t looked at it for twenty years!! Confession time: some of my UFOs are over 30 years old.)

One thing Tina emphasised in the video was the importance of paying attention. I am always telling my hubby that he doesn’t notice things! When we are out and about in the countryside, there are so many miraculous little things, and if you keep your eyes open, you can spot them, and marvel at them. Just looking at ordinary things, and seeing strange juxtapositions of objects, can make one see the funny side – Dad and I were always doing this when we were out together – both seeing something in a funny way at the same time and laughing, with no need for explanations, for example a lorry emblazoned with the legend, “The Chard Meat Company,” or a house with an estate agent’s board outside saying “Sold by Force.” These things spark the imagination and one conjures up all sorts of bizarre images! There is so much fun to be had out of the most mundane things in life, if one just keeps one’s eyes open.

Training oneself to do this, the skill transfers to other areas of one’s life, enabling one to think outside the box and find solutions that might not otherwise come to mind. It also undermines a natural tendency to perfectionism which can be so limiting.

I have been thinking a lot about the Innovation Engine over the past few days, and how I can use it to develop my own personal creativity, thinking about how the various influences impinge on my own life, and how I can use them.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

WOYWW 481 Felt, Crochet and Sourdough

I can’t believe another week has flown by… We are nearly at the end of August, for goodness sake.

Still no movement on the studio front apart from tidying away my disaster of a felt box which I had discovered was all wet because I hadn’t emptied a bottle of soapy water and it had leaked all over everything. It’s all now cleaned up and dried and put away so there’s a slight improvement in floor space on that side of the room.

I have been continuing to work on felt embellishments for my striped scarf.

05 Felt Balls and Flowers 21-8-18

I have made several little calla lily lookalikes, and I’ve also started covering the white cores with coloured fleece, as you can see on the left in the photo.

To add a bit of variety, I thought I’d do a few crochet embellishments as well, so after a quick search on Youtube I found some very nice flower patterns, which I haven’t started yet, and this delightful Dutch video on crochet butterflies – even though I don’t understand Dutch, the filming was so clear that I was able to follow everything, and I’ve written out a pattern that I can follow.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zh1uEIyN0rc&list=PL-OKjxuL-AQjnRsxxRNohlLOr1oAF1Y7s&index=7&t=0s

I have completed one, and am working on the second.

01 Butterflies WIP 21-8-18

They are a bit lumpy but once they’ve been steam pressed, they will be fine, I am sure. They are such fun to do, and don’t take long.

Sourdough

I decided this week to have another go with the sourdough, following the very good video I mentioned last week. Because my first attempt seemed very dry compared with the baker’s dough on the video, I thought I’d try increasing the hydration of the dough by 10 percent, which was a total disaster – when I turned the dough out onto the table towards the end of the process, and left it to rest, when I came back, it resembled a pancake and was practically flowing out of the door!! There was nothing I could do about this and I was really fed up by this time, as it was the end of the day and I was tired, so I binned the lot.

The day before yesterday I had another go, this time reducing the hydration by 5 percent and the same thing happened. I thought it was a shame to waste good ingredients, although bread flour isn’t that expensive, so I scooped it all up, and decided to make it into sourdough crackers which are made of excess sourdough starter with some added flour, coconut oil, an egg and some additional salt. I can’t remember but I don’t think I added the egg, but I did add some coconut oil and another teaspoon of salt. The cracker recipe says you have to leave it to rest for several hours, and when I came back, the dough was rising all over the place so I thought, what the heck, I’ll bake it as bread and see what happens! I didn’t take that much care over the folding and shaping, so I didn’t expect stellar results, but it did produce a loaf, and as anticipated, the crumb was much more dense than that of true sourdough.

31 Sourdough Revamped from Cracker Recipe 20-8-18

32 Sourdough Revamped from Cracker Recipe Cut

It tastes pretty good, though.

Yesterday I thought I’d have another go, and this time use the Youtube baker’s recommended 65 percent hydration again, which I’d done the first time I’d tried his method. I thought that on that occasion the crumb was a bit dense because I hadn’t exactly mastered his method of folding and shaping, so this time I took extra care over this.

Initially the dough did resemble his much more – on my first attempt it was so dry, which I put down to the fact that the rye flour I mix in has a higher absorbency – I thought I could compensate for this by increasing the hydration but after two failed attempts, this obviously wasn’t going to work. This time it seemed a lot less stiff to start with, and I thought all was going to be well. However, with each folding session, it seemed to get more and more wet, until at the turning out onto the table stage, I knew it was going to spread again, and so it did. I was getting so desperate with it at this stage that I thought I couldn’t possibly waste any more dough, and I’d bake it anyway.

As happens every single time I bake sourdough, the final moulded dough sticks to the cloth and will not turn out cleanly onto the baking sheet or into the casserole I use as a Dutch oven. Pulling the cloth away destroys the integrity of the boule and spoils the top surface and because the skin of gluten that you work so assiduously to create is broken, there isn’t enough oven spring and the bread does not rise sufficiently in the oven. I have tried normal bread flour to dust the cloth (not recommended because it’s too high in gluten and sticks like glue), rice flour and semolina (both low in gluten) but everything sticks.

Yesterday’s effort was a total disaster. It stuck big time to the cloth despite copious amounts of semolina – there was only one small central area which didn’t stick. The trouble is, when you flour the cloth inside the bowl or banneton you use for the final proving, the flour won’t stick to the sloping sides but slides down to the bottom.

Worse was to come. I took the lid off the casserole half way through the baking as instructed, and when I came to take it out of the oven I noticed it was rather overdone. Then I couldn’t get it out of the casserole because it was stuck fast! The whole thing is terrifyingly hot so there wasn’t much I could do except leave it in there to cool off a bit. It is still completely stuck. I shall have to wreck the loaf to get it out. Grrrr and double grrrr! I don’t know what’s going on…

The baker on Youtube is a lovely man who has answered everyone’s comments on the video, so I think I’m going to ask him for some help! I’m obviously doing something wrong and am wondering if it’s something to do with the rye flour. If I have to abandon this, I shall be rather sad because we do love the intense flavour of this.

So I think the latest effort may end up being sourdough croutons!!! At least there are lots of variations in the sourdough universe, and whatever I do, and however unsightly it may be (crumb too dense, top looking like a lunar landscape, whole loaf looking like a squashed flying saucer, etc. etc.) at least one thing is consistent – the delicious flavour! I am so determined to get this right, though, and will NOT admit defeat!!

Other fermentation

09 Kombucha After 2nd Fermentation 21-8-18

On Monday the three days required for the second fermentation of my first batch of kombucha (fermented tea) were up, so I put the bottles in the fridge. Cooling a carbonated liquid helps retain the gas in the liquid, so opening the bottles tends to be a somewhat less explosive experience than at room temperature. Yesterday I opened the first bottle, and released the wire clip very, very, veeerrrrry slowly, with the bottle in a bowl in the sink and my eyes tightly closed like a kid watching Doctor Who from behind the settee, and it was pretty lively even so! I strained the liquid into a bowl and saw that as the Youtube video had said could happen, it had grown a little baby Scoby (Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeasts – the culture used to ferment tea into kombucha). (in the photo, you can see it on the surface of the mango one on the right, and in the raspberry one, it has got stuck in the neck of the bottle. Goodness… it will probably shoot out and get me in the eye when I open that one!!) Unfortunately I couldn’t keep this because it had flavouring in it (in this case, mango puree) but I had no conscience about putting it in the compost bin because Scobies make excellent compost to feed the garden. The man on the video said if you don’t strain it, swallowing a Scoby by mistake can be a bit of an unnerving experience (like drinking a jellyfish) but it won’t do you any harm – it’s full of gorgeous probiotic bacteria and goodness for your system. (You can feed them to animals who love them! Or you can cut them up and dry them to make dog treats. They need probiotics too.) Anyway, my first batch is delicious – I can’t taste too much mango, but it tastes rather like cider. I haven’t tasted the raspberry one yet. In addition to drinking it as is, I am also using it as an ingredient in a rehydration drink I am making as a change from St. Mark’s Solution (a rehydration drink designed by St. Mark’s Colorectal Hospital in London for ostomates) – I drink a litre of this every day. I’ve been making up the new recipe with the brine from my fermented apples until the kombucha was ready – all adds variety to the spice of life! I think it’s delicious, but when I offered my hubby a taste, he pulled a face!!

Kitties

From being ultra teenagerish and stand-offish, suddenly Ruby wants cuddles all the time in the evening once they are in from the garden and have had supper. When not on my lap she likes sleeping on the back of the settee behind me. Last night Lily purloined her favourite spot and for a couple of hours they were happy up there together. Is this the new latest place? Lily seems to have abandoned the hammock!

05 On Back of Settee 21-8-18

Here they are on the outside of the kitchen window, in the vain hope I’ll open up and let them in.

03 On Kitchen Windowsill 19-8-18

And here’s Ruby cuddled up with the teddies after my hubby brought them (the teddies, not the kitties) in from the sitting room window.

04 Ruby in with the Teddies 19-8-18

Lily is loafing around the TV. She is fascinated by the screen saver that comes on if the DVD player goes into standby. Lily is a bit of a TV addict anyway, and particularly enjoys wildlife programmes.

Hospital appointment

I have done a blog about this in detail, but suffice it to say here that I saw my surgeon last Thursday, and the stoma nurse. It is possible that I have herniated again… I suspected this and told him, and after examining me, he couldn’t be sure so he’s booked me in for a CT scan (awaiting appointment for that). If I have got a hernia again this will be the biggest bore ever – it will mean I went through ALL THAT at the beginning of the year for nothing – further major surgery, followed by infected haematomas and the beginning of sepsis and coming close to death. It will be much more difficult to deal with now, because of the presence of the mesh, and also I have already had the hernia repaired twice. Oh grrrr… Anyway, I’m not going to worry, but wait and see what shows up, and if I have got a hernia, I think my surgeon will agree with me to leave well alone, get adequate support asap (stoma nurse arranging appointment with support garments lady – my existing ones now 18 months old and probably too stretched to work properly any more, in addition to my having lost weight), and hope against hope that it doesn’t cause another obstruction. They reckon that between 50 and 75 percent of ostomates will get a hernia and it’s a very difficult problem to deal with.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Floral Mini-Album Pt 17 Tags and Tabs for Pages 5 and 6

Recently I made a new mini-album, about my mum who died in December. I was unable to publish anything about this until now because it is a present for her best friend, who sometimes visits my blog, and I wanted it to be a surprise for her. I wrote a series of blog posts as I did each stage of the project, so I didn’t forget what I did, and they will be published in sequence now the project is finished and has been given to our friend.

If you want to see the finished project, please click here.

I forgot to photograph the original papers for the tags for page 5, or to include the Infusions in this photo, but to begin with, I applied Violet Storms and Violetta infusions to the paper from the paper stack, and then added  Hickory Smoke Distress Ink all over, using a blending tool, to smooth out the texture a bit, and to darken it.

182 Page 5 Inking Tags

I distressed the edges with Black Soot Distress Ink (again, no photo, I’m afraid).

Moving on to the tag for page 6 (the reverse of the tag for page 5), this was another one which didn’t require much treatment because the original paper from the paper stack wasn’t too bad. I merely double-distressed the edges, using Peacock Feathers and Black Soot Distress Inks.

184 Page 6 Disttressing Tags

Here are the pieces, matted onto black cardstock.

185 Pages 5 and 6 Tags Matted

I cut and inked the tabs for these tags as before. I cut them from a scrap from one of my Tim Holtz paper stacks (can’t remember which one, I’m afraid, as the papers have got muddled up). For the side showing on page 5, I used Dusty Concord and Vintage Photo Distress Inks, and for the side showing on page 6, Peacock Feathers Distress Ink, and I distressed all the edges with Black Soot Distress Ink.

186 Pages 5 ad 6 Inking Tabs for Tags

I then proceeded to stick the tabs onto the tags, without thinking what I was doing, and twice I stuck them in the wrong place! I was able to remove them by softening the glue on the double-sided tape with my heat gun, but when I attached them wrongly the second time, I added a bit of Scotch Quick Dry Adhesive to restore the stickiness somewhat, and this did NOT want to soften with the heat gun, and when I pulled them off, they also lifted some of the colour from the printed paper. Grrrr. What a mess! I tried to cover the exposed white card with Peacock Feathers Distress Ink but you can see in the next photo that it still shows like crazy… I was so cross with myself for being so stupid, and all I can do is to try and add some judiciously placed embellishments when the time comes, to cover up this boo-boo!!

187 Page 6 Tags Tabs in Place, Showing Damage

Here at last are the two tags with their tabs in the correct place – one showing the side for page 5, and the other for page 6.

188 Pages 5 and 6 Tabs in Place on Tags

This photo shows the tags in place, the first showing page 5, and the second turned over to show page 6.

189 Pages 5 and 6 Completed Tags in Place

Here are the pages again, this time with the tags pulled out, to show how they co-ordinate with their respective pages.

190 Pages 5 and 6 Tags Pulled Out

Pages 4 and 5 aligned, to show the double-page spread, complete with tags.

191 Pages 5 and 6 Completed Tags in Place

Here are all the pages, from 1-6, stacked up, showing how the tabs line up on the page edges. Not only do they enable the tags to be pulled out, but they also help turn the pages, as well as adding a decorative element.

192 Pages 1-6 Completed Tags in Place

Monday, 20 August 2018

Floral Mini-Album Pt 16 Tags and Tabs for Pages 1-4

Recently I made a new mini-album, about my mum who died in December. I was unable to publish anything about this until now because it is a present for her best friend, who sometimes visits my blog, and I wanted it to be a surprise for her. I wrote a series of blog posts as I did each stage of the project, so I didn’t forget what I did, and they will be published in sequence now the project is finished and has been given to our friend.

If you want to see the finished project, please click here.

I have discovered a very useful tutorial on Youtube for using your envelope punch board to make tabs. I decided to make tabs for the page tags, to make it easier to pull them out, and also to indicate that there is actually a tag inside the page to be pulled out! The tabs also add a decorative element.

168 Pages 1 and 2 Cutting Tabs for Tags

I cut the tabs for the page 1 and 2 tag rom the red paper from the paper stack, and punched them with the envelope punch board, and rounded the bottom corners with my corner rounder punch. I inked half of each tab piece with Dusty Concord Distress Ink, using an ink blender, and then distressed the very edges all round with Black Soot Distress Ink.

I put 1” wide double sided tape on each side of the tab, and trimmed the excess with a small pair of curved scissors.

169 Pages 1 and 2 DS Tape on Tab for Tag

The tabs folded over and stuck down onto the top edges of the two tags, with the inked side on the page 1 side of the tag, and the plain one on the page 2 side, to match that paper.

170 Pages 1 and 2 Tabs in Place on Tags

Here are the two pages (one for each album) with the tags inserted, showing the tabs at the top.

172 Pages 1 and 2 Completed Tags in Place

This is what the tags look like when they are pulled out.

173 Pages 1 and 2 Tabs Pulled Out

I didn’t do a lot to the paper I chose for the tag for page 3; just some double distressing, first with Hickory Smoke, and then with Black Soot Distress Inks.

174-Page-3-Distressing-Tags_thumb2

Page 4 needed a bit more work. At this stage I forgot to photograph the paper as it was, but you can see it in the photo that follows. I also forgot to photograph the process for altering this paper, but I smooshed it with Pumice Stone Distress Ink first of all. This is a very subtle colour and is useful just for dulling down rather bright colours. My ink pad needs re-inking so I had to repeat the process, and afterwards, because it still didn’t show up very much, I applied ink onto the paper with an ink blender, and spritzed it with water, and dried it with my heat gun. I am quite pleased with the result.

This photo shows the double distressing I did on these tags, first with Frayed Burlap Distress Ink, which is a very similar colour to Pumice Stone, only slightly darker – nice and subtle – and finished with Black Soot.

175-Page-4-Inking-and-Distressing-Ta[2]

This photo shows the tag matted and layered on black cardstock, and lying on top of the original, unaltered paper from the paper stack. Unfortunately I had problems with this photo too – not sure what was going on with the camera – the light was most peculiar and the colours were not right, and after manipulating it in my photo editor, the original paper is almost right (a bit darker in reality) but the tag has come out too brown!

176-Page-4-Tag-on-Original-Paper_thu

Moving on to making the tabs for these tags, I cut them from the drab grey-ish paper from the paper stack (small sample in the centre of the picture) and punched them with the envelope punch board as before, and inked them as follows: for page 3, I used Peacock Feathers Distress Ink, and for page 4, Dusty Concord, and distressed the very edges of both tabs with Black Soot Distress Ink.

177-Page-3-and-4-Inking-Tabs-for-Tag[1]

Here they are, in situ on the two tags – the left one shows the side for page 3, and the right one, for page 4.

178-Pages-3-and-4-Tabs-in-Place-on-T[1]

You will see that in this case, I have glued the tabs onto the centre of the tags. Here are pages 3 and 4 with their tags in place.

179-Pages-3-and-4-Completed-Tags-in-[1]

This is how they appear with the tags pulled out.

180-Pages-3-and-4-Tags-Pulled-Out_th

Finally, laying them under pages 1 and 2, you can see how the tabs line up. On the left you can see page 1 on top, and on the right, page 4 is on top (for the 2 albums).

181-Pages-1-4-Completed-Tags-in-Plac[2]

There won’t be a tab on the tag for the final page, because it has a flap that can be used to pull it out from the page.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Floral Mini-Album Pt 15 Page Tags for Pages 1 and 2

Recently I made a new mini-album, about my mum who died in December. I was unable to publish anything about this until now because it is a present for her best friend, who sometimes visits my blog, and I wanted it to be a surprise for her. I wrote a series of blog posts as I did each stage of the project, so I didn’t forget what I did, and they will be published in sequence now the project is finished and has been given to our friend.

If you want to see the finished project, please click here.

In this session I started work on the large tags to go inside each of the pages, which were constructed hollow for this purpose, and also to conceal the hidden hinge binding system.

Just a reminder of how the pages are constructed:

003 Pages - Pieces Assembled

I began by cutting six pieces of black cardstock for the tags to go inside three of the four pages, and a larger piece for the final page – this was scored so that the shorter side would fold over as a flap.

162 Page 8 Scoring Tags

I then decided which papers to use for each side of these tags, to co-ordinate with the pages as the tags were pulled out. I stuck them inside each hollow page so that I wouldn’t get confused as to which belonged to which page. On the left you can see pages 1 and 2 for both albums (page 2 is on the reverse of page 1), and pages 3 and 4, all with their tag pieces slipped inside.

163 Pages 1-4 with Papers for Tags

In this photo you can see the same arrangement for pages 5 and 6, 7 and 98.

164 Pages 5-8 with Papers for Tags

Beginning to work on the tag for page 1. At the back is the original paper, and at the front, the two tags, altered with the Infusions and Distress Oxides shown on the left – Violet Storms and Violetta Infusions, followed by smooshing with Wilted Violet and Candied Apple Distress Oxides (the latter is one of the new ones I got at the craft show). Once this was dry and the pieces were ironed to get rid of the wrinkles, I double-distressed the edges with the Distress Inks on the right – Dusty Concord followed by Black Soot.

165 Page 1 Inking and Distressing Tags

The reverse of this tag, which will be visible when pulled out from page 2, was created with unaltered red card from the paper stack, simply distressed just at the edge with Black Soot Distress Ink. I don’t know what happened to the camera when I took this photo and the next one – the light was very peculiar and the colours weren’t right – I did my best with my photo editor but they still aren’t quite right, and they are also a bit out of focus.

166 Page 2 Tag Distressed - Odd Colour

Here are the two tags – on the left, showing the side for page 1, and on the right, the side for page 2. Again, trouble with the camera.

167 Pages 1 and 2 Tags Matted - Odd Colour

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