Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The Wildness of Things.

I began this post a week or so back, a post about the arrival of autumn, of the sudden profusion of posts online about leaves and rain and weather of all sorts, of lighting fires and digging out ones winter woolies, and the pleasure of it all. But now, in the midst of Sandy, that part of what I wanted to say all seems so irrelevant. Of course we have not been affected by it here, but I am put in mind of the times we do experience the Wildness of Things, and how it shakes us to our bones, reduces us to the tiny things we are in the grander scale of bigger things, and just how vulnerable we truly are when nature rages and heaves itself up out of its bed, and towers over us so terrifyingly.
Here in this little temperate island of ours, storms on the scale of what the US is experiencing right now are extremely rare, but living practically on the beach, and with our house at sea level, it is something I think about on a regular basis during winter months, when we lie awake in bed, our little house rocked by howling winds as the sea booms and thunders outside the windows.

As I sat up stitching, into the small hours last night, I was thinking about my sister in Virginia, and all those people out there who are being affected by the storm.
Times like this, things have a way of slipping neatly into perspective, don't they?
At the moment Jay is away again, this time he is down under in Sydney, and as per usual there has been the usual litany of minor 'disasters'.
Car trouble, check, internet gone, check, people sick, check, cold snap and no fuel brought in, check.
But as I said, everything is in perspective, and my inner Pollyanna is well and healthy.
And so, in the midst of all this stress and mayhem I sit and stitch, and count my blessings as I do, forever grateful for this moderate, nonextreme country I have found myself in.

And here is what I have been working on while Holding The Fort (I do like that expression!)
Inspired by the looming winter months filled with nights I have just described, this little piece has, as usual, taken forever to finish.
I have this notion that if I ever actually take to making things on my machine then I'll get loads done, but that is not likely to happen any time soon, and anyway, is likely to be a complete fallacy. I hand make my small things because usually, my studio is my car, or my kitchen table, in between a myriad of other appointments and tasks throughout my day. They are made, literally a stitch at a time, and at times it feels like a meditation, at others like a muse, with ideas flowing through my head as I work, stories unfolding in a dreamlike manner, hints and voices and realisations, all tumble together into a tangled weave of something with potential.

So I stitch and sew in the dark hours, and I send heartfelt thoughts and wishes to all and any of you who have been affected by the weather these last few days.
May whatever help you need come your way on swiftly wings, and with it the return of things to As They Should Be.

Friday, 26 October 2012

This Moment.

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. 

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.
Inspired by Soulemama. 

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Of Snow And Ice And The Frozen Lands.

I love when something drifts into your ether, and for some reason, on this particular occasion, buries itself deep inside you, and takes hold of your Interest with tenacious hands, and soon you begin to notice all kinds of Things of Interest relating to it positively popping up in front of you.
For months now I have been filling my head and heart with all things of the far, distant North, and farthest South too. Increasingly, as the weeks go by, I have been dwelling, in my mind, in places of ice and water, reading of explorers of a frozen world few of us have seen, watching this drama about Ernest Shackleton, trying unsuccessfully, to see this exhibition about his journey, (although it will be on for two years, so I'm not worried about missing it!), being unexpectedly inspired by a talk I attended by a wonderful geologist-turned-textile-artist called Ann Fleeton, at this months Irish Guild of Embroiderers meeting, gathering books and images and inspiration.

Dark Ice by Camille Seaman.

But it all started with the happy coincidence of two things coming my way within days of each other, which settled onto the already lingering taste of two books I had read in the last year. The first book was The Stillpoint, by Amy Sackville, which I have to say is one of the finest written books I have read in many a year. It contains one of the most heartbreakingly romantic love stories, as well as descriptive writing that will make you swoon, and read and reread countless paragraphs again and again.
The other book is less to do with snow and ice, and more to do with the kind of desolate places that some of the characters of The Stillpoint find themselves. The book is by Judith Schalansky, and is called 'Atlas of Remote Islands, Fifty Islands I have not visited and never will.' Incredibly beautiful and thought-provoking, and in fact, winner of the German Arts Foundation prize for The Most Beautiful Book of the Year. It is a book I keep by my bedside and dip into continuously.

The Last Iceberg Series by Camille Seaman.

So, the two things. First, these incredible photographs by Camille Seaman, which are just majestic and beautiful and completely enthralling to me. (She also photographs clouds like no one I have seen before.)
And then this most wondrous thing that I found via the lovely Nancy, of The b In Subtle, which I now have my heart set on and will go on some day! A ship, The Noorderlicht, a century-old Dutch schooner, which carries a boatload of artists and scientists into waters around Norway's archipelago, who's mission is 'to seek out and foster areas of collaboration to engage in the central issues of our time'. In other words, to 'discuss' global warming and related issues, and to make art about it. The project is called The Arctic Circle , and well worth checking out. As I write this, Irish artist Ruth Le Gear  is there now, collecting arctic water in tiny bottles.
I am...jealous.
I have not stopped thinking about it since first coming across it.
I would give anything to be there right now,  in this magical place who's time is limited, and who's face is changing by the year. To record something of it in my own small way.

The Last Iceberg Series by Camille Seaman.

In all of this, my light relief has been rereading Philip Pullman's Northern Lights. So today, when I saw it, I could not help but purchase, and immediately immerse myself in, a very beautiful, small book by him called Once Upon Time In The North, a sort of precursor to Northern Lights. It was the small size of it, and the cover, that did it, a cloth-bound thing of beauty that had on it an engraving by John Lawrence. Indeed it is filled with such engravings, beautifully rendered, on almost every page.

So I sat in the hairdressers for a little over an hour, while the best kind of misty, autumnal rain quietly closed in around this seaside town of ours, a haze of silver and grey outside the window, and lost myself in a grim, desolate icebound island, where sour, suspicious people live alongside panserborne, or polar bears, a once proud, great culture, and now seen as nothing but drunkards, vagrants, who skulk the bleak streets of the dismal town.
When my time was up, I put away my book, and took a winding road up into the rain clouds, between two mountains, surprised at the lack of icebergs in the grey sea below, through the silent silver haze, listening, as I do most days, to music from the north lands, this time Sigur Rós, (Iceland is about as far north as my music taste goes, for I am well and truly stuck there, without hope, or desire, to be unstuck!), my head filled with snow and ice and frozen lands.
When I arrived at school, it was too wet to stand around chatting, so as I waited in my car I opened facebook on my phone, and the first thing I saw was a post from Charlie and Caroline Gladstone, a video called A Homeless Polar Bear in London. I had to take a look.

As I said, I love how these things all just come together like a beautiful dance that is perfectly choreographed, and suddenly your day just seems like a story, or a dream, with all things dovetailing beautifully.
This time a dream of expansive snowy landscapes, vast tundras of ice, blue icebergs and polar bears, and crowds of white sea birds relentlessly thronging the bitter air.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Vittles And Sustenance.

or How Pinterest Saved The Day.

If you did not grow up in Dublin in the 70's and 80's, then it is impossible really to explain just what it meant to have a mother who knew how to cook, and cook beyond what she had been taught by her own mother, or in school! We were encouraged to cook too, all five of us, and all things were endured, no matter how unusual or challenging, through our various fads and fancies, including my announcement at 11 that I had decided to become a vegetarian.
To this day, my absolute, hands down, favourite thing in the world is our family gatherings, when we all converge in the kitchen of my parents house, and proceed to put together a Meal of Excellence, overseen, of course, by our own Maitre d', our Mum. Like any good meal, there are many layers to it, and that goes for the preparation too. One person is an excellent saucier, another likes to be given the role of tournant, filling in wherever needed, another is definitely the patissier, and there will always be a number of sous-chefs, happy to interchange with one another, depending on how busy, or enthusiastic they are on the day. And of course, there is the one or two who are happy to act as stewards, a fine Meal of Excellence in return for clean up duties, a fair exchange, in their book. All of these roles happily transposing between us all.

Goat's cheese stuffed butternut squash.

Over the years, my own interest in food and nutrition has been a constant, initially, as a young teenager, due to my choice to not eat meat in a country that thrived on the meat-and-two-veg variety of meals, but there was also the influence by my inheritance of books from a great aunt that really helped to set me off on a path of bettering things. I didn't really pay much heed to books like 'How to Levitate', but it was the old home remedies ones that really got me. Two in particular, Folk Medicine, A Vermont Doctor's Guide To Good Health by D. C. Jarvis, and Folk Remedies by Lelord Kordel. I'd like to say thank you to my Mum for her patience with me in my explorations in this as a young teenager!
I'm not sure if I somehow knew I would need this knowledge and dedication in later life, but it turns out I did. As I have mentioned occasionally here, for years now I haven't eaten gluten or sugar, and at this point in my life I find, while I am not a vegan, per se, I do eat a largely plant based diet, with little or no dairy, or animal protein.

Rice noodles with crispy tofu.

This has been a long and gradual journey, with many bumps and rocky bits, and I can tell you it is by no means over. It is not easy. I have gone through so many different phases, diets, versions of diets, it'd make your head spin. However, it is quite amazing to look around now and see just how common it is, this whole food exclusion thing.
I am aware that there are lots of people out there who 'don't believe' it all, that think it's a fad or fashion, but I don't believe it is, not given the very real symptoms I, and many others I know, are living with daily. I also have my own theory about why we find ourselves increasingly unable to digest, or process, a growing list of very ordinary, and common, foods.

Lentil cakes with homemade pesto, wilted greens, and lemon thyme courgette fries.

So here it is.
In the last twenty years, for the first time in the history of the world, humans in the western world can eat whatever they want, whenever they want.
All year round.
And that is the problem. We eat what we like.
All year round.
Our bodies have reached saturation point.
If we were eating locally and seasonally, as our not so distant ancestors did, then we would be rotating food, and our bodies would get a break from things throughout the year. Let's take wheat, for example, probably the most common food intolerance going. Think about it, your average person eats wheat literally for every meal. Every day.
All year round.
It's no wonder our bodies reach a point of 'WAIT! I've had enough, I don't NEED any more right now!' But we continue to eat it, because, sure what else would we eat? And we like it. The same could be said of dairy, another extremely common intolerance.
We simply eat too much, too often, of too many things.

Butternut squash gnocchi with sage butter.

Now this, of course is my inexpert, and non professional, tuppence worth about the whole thing, but it makes sense to me.
But it is so hard to eat any other way, isn't it? Eating habits are extremely hard to break, or change. I know, I've been doing it for many years now. And it's been an incredible journey, and I've learned a few things about myself along the way which have surprised me. The main one being that I have willpower and can actually do something difficult that I really don't want to do! I always thought I couldn't.
So, in the process of all this discovery, food has become quite a focus for me. From the time I finally gave up all the things I couldn't eat, I spent about four years in a bit of a downer when it came to food. Eating held no pleasure for me any more, everything was such an effort and with such little reward, because it rarely tasted anyway remotely delicious, and always like a sad excuse for food. It was dreadful.

Red lentil and hazelnut patties.

So, about six months ago I decided I'd had enough, and I set about finding food that I could not only eat, but that I could relish, and also confidently serve to 'normal' dinner guests. All I can say is, thanks be for the internet! Thanks to Pinterest, and through it the discovery of incredible food blogs out there, I now have a growing menu of delicious recipes and food ideas that are beyond anything I've eaten before, and over the next while, mixed in just the right proportion, I hope, I'd like to share some of these recipes with you. I promise you don't need to be intolerant to anything, in fact, you don't need to be anything other than interested in Good Clean Food. I promise you won't be disappointed!
These photos are to whet your appetite, so to speak, and I hope they do!

But I am curious, do any of you find you can't, or choose not to, eat certain things? Or if not, do you have someone in your life who does? I'd love to know what your experience has been, and I welcome all questions and comments!