Sunday, 31 May 2015

Reflective Moments

Since we've been back from Portugal life seems to have been really hectic catching up.  A month out of 'normal' life seems to leave a raft of 'normal' stuff to catch up with including, among many other things, taming the garden and getting this year's produce on the go, catching up with work and long distance family visits.  It all takes time and makes time fly. 

Only today I commented to Phil, whilst giving the house a long overdue clean, that I really don't understand how people find the time to keep their houses spotlessly clean, especially as we don't even have kids.  Phil replied that perhaps that is because I try and reserve a fair amount of time to do creative things instead.   It was a bit of a 'nail on the head' moment as my bad mood wasn't about the fact that I hated cleaning, it was more the fact that I felt that I wanted to be doing something creative instead.  Sometimes it is easy to forget that you need time to be yourself and do what you really want to do.  Easier said than done at times I know.

It is important however to take time to reflect in whatever way feels right to you.  For me photography is often the perfect way of taking time to concentrate on things outside of 'everyday' life.  There is a certain irony in that, as after all much of what I photograph is what exists in the natural world.  It just sits there doing its normal, everyday natural thing until a spot of light suddenly hits it and makes the likes of me take notice.  I can be mesmerised for minutes at a time by the tiniest spot of light on the tiniest island of sand on the beach. 

So when the big world fills your life with a multitude of big things to think about and deal with just remember that sometimes the tiniest moment, the tiniest patch of light on the tiniest patch of sand can mean all the difference in adding a very important perspective back in to your life.  It's not all about thinking big.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Jim Morris - A 78 Year Old Inspiration

Vegan Bodybuilder Proves You Can Be Buff at 78

A 78 year old body builder is inspiration enough but a 78 year old vegan body builder is even better.  That is not because it is impressive that someone can be vegan, 78 years old and a body builder; after all we all know that being vegan is not only healthy and life giving but can easily be packed with more than enough protein to support activities such as body building. No, it is more the fact that Jim, by his very inspiring nature, is getting all these messages 'out there' and people are taking notice.  Being Peta's oldest pin up has kind of helped with grabbing the headlines too!

The vegan bit aside, Jim is an inspiration on many different levels as revealed in the short film below. Sometimes being 'labelled' can hinder life's progress and other times it can reveal new pathways for yourself and many others.  Jim has experienced both but the bottom line is, it's not what you are but who you are that matters.  He has a gentle, inspiring, passionate and humble way about him and that is the essence of what makes him special.  

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Tablespoon Vegan Fudge

Grab your tablespoon; you've pulled........or you will do if you make this for a loved one! This quick and simple recipe requires no cooking, a few vegan cupboard staples (or equivalents if you haven't got the exact things) and only a tablespoon to measure it all out. The only inconvenience is waiting for it to set before you can eat it, although there would be nothing to stop you attacking it beforehand with said tablespoon!

It was as usual a Driftwood Vegans 'rummage in the cupboard' job to see what we had. The coconut oil and cocoa powder I would say are the only two ingredients that you couldn't swap or leave out but even then you could use raw or normal cocoa powder or even carob powder.  I used almond butter but any nut butter could be used.  The maple syrup could be swapped for agave for example (although I favour the taste of maple).  You wouldn't have to put in vanilla paste or salt (although I think both tastes are nicely decipherable in the end result) and any nuts or fruits could be used.  I used milled chia seeds, dessicated coconut and ground almonds to 'bind' it but again, any different combinations of all or some of these or other similar ingredients could be used in the same way (protein powders, milled flax seeds).  Basically, as usual, I encourage you to experiment.  As long as the mixture looks relatively thick when you are mixing it all up, it stands a good chance of creating a big block of fudgey loveliness at the end.

Tablespoon Vegan Fudge

4 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons almond butter
1 tablespoon vanilla paste
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon milled chia seeds
2 tablespoons dessicated coconut
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon ground almonds
2 tablespoons walnuts (crush them in your hand a bit)
1 tablespoon sultanas
Pinch of salt

In a bowl, mash up the coconut oil if it is still solid then add the almond butter and continue the mash up vibe until well incorporated.  Add in the vanilla and syrup and mix before adding in the dry stuff and mixing it in good and proper.  Turn it into whatever sized mold you desire and stick it in the freezer for a couple of hours and then the fridge to store.  Cut as desired to serve.


Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Chard Mushroom and Leek Cheesy Tart

It was one of those evenings when neither of us had any particular plan of what to cook for dinner.  Phil went for a surf as soon as we got home and I was left studying the kitchen cupboards and fridge for inspiration.  

The inspiration however, came from the garden in the end. Last years colourful planting of rainbow chard, now pushing upwards with full springtime force, caught my eye through the kitchen window and at that point I knew that had to be part of the plan.  

We had, rather lazily, a packet of shortcrust pastry in the fridge and the plan developed into some kind of chard tart. A further rummage in the fridge resulted in a leek and three medium sized mushrooms.  I fancied a bit of creamy cheesiness so reached for the cashews as the base....and I was off. 

A few roasted rosemary potatoes on the side and a random mixture of courgettes and tomatoes (from saved freezer stocks) completed the plan.

Chard Mushroom and Leek Cheesy Tart
Makes one 8" tart

1/2 packet of ready rolled shortcrust pastry (188g approx)
Oil for frying
1 medium leek
3 medium mushrooms
6 large chard leaves (colourful is good!)
1 clove garlic
Juice of 1 lime (or lemon if you don't have)
1 large handful of cashews
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 tablespoon brown miso
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 cup (approximately) plant milk (I used oat milk)

Thinly slice the leek and start frying in oil.
Slice the mushrooms and add to the leeks once they've started to soften and brown.
Thinly slice the stems of the chard and add in, along with the minced garlic.
Once the mixture looks softened, add in the thinly sliced chard leaves and wilt down.
Add in the juice of half the lime and cook for another couple of minutes or so.
Set aside to cool slightly.

Grind the cashews to a powder either in a food processor or spice blender. 
Tip into a bowl and add the remaining lime juice, yeast flakes, oregano and miso.
Mix together as much as you can to incorporate the miso eveningly.
Add in the milk a bit at a time until the sauce has a 'single cream' consistency.

Roll out the pastry and line a greased tart dish with it.
Fill with the chard mixture and then pour the sauce on top, spreading it evenly.
Bake at 200 degrees C for approx 30 minutes or until nicely browned and set.


Sunday, 10 May 2015

Bluebells and Foxes

The weather was kinder to us this weekend (last weekend was a wash out) so it was time to catch up on garden tasks once more.  In relative sunshine yesterday but a stiffer, yet not too chilly wind today, we cleared, planted, and generally sorted.  By mid afternoon today we had everything in the back garden as set as we could beyond waiting for seedlings to grow. The task of making further badger fortifications/adaptions in the front garden could wait for another day.  It was time to reward ourselves with an amble around 'our wider patch' so we set off for the coastal path.  

We were only 10 minutes into our walk before a fox jumped out on the path in front of us and sprinted for about 20 metres before diving into the beach side scrub land.  We stopped and followed its progress but lost it briefly behind a rise.  A rabbit scarpered on the opposite side, indicating the invisible pathway the fox was taking below.  The fox then reemerged into view with a small rabbit in its mouth.  It must have got lucky and gained a meal on its journey, although all be it not very lucky for the unfortunate rabbit.  As hard as it is being vegans, to see a life being taken, nature is nature and the fox needs to feed itself and the cubs it might have been heading in the direction of.

Having lost sight of the fox, we continued on our walk along the coast path.  Further along the headland, and out of the dunes, we began to see more and more wildflowers.  Bluebells were very much in evidence, their blue haze mirroring the every changing blue hue of the sea below as the sun intermittently appeared from behind the dark clouds.

We finished our walk at the local pub, sat supping a pint whilst overlooking the beach.  The landscape of the beach is ever changing through the seasons and from year to year.  This year the river mouth has moved to the centre of the beach with, in addition, several river-lets being dispersed along the beach.  In previous years when this has happened there has been an attempt to 'dig out' the old course of the river again at the eastern cliff edge to make it safer for the impending tide of tourists but invariably this has never been that successful. The river chooses its own path; tourists or not. 

We watched as a lone SUP'er (stand up paddle boarder) had some fun on tiny waves and also commented on the amount of seaweed that had built up on the beach recently, before finishing our pints and starting on the 15 minute walk back home.  It was good to be out and about in the wild after a weekend spent confined to bringing some order and vegetable growing potential into our own garden.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Nature Inspired Art

In nature, mathematics, and the arts, two quantities are said to be in the 'golden section' if the ratio between the sum of those quantities and the larger one is the same as the ratio between the larger one and the smaller. Yeah.....whatever!!!!

Yes, I did indeed learn about this 'rule' when I was studying photography and yes, I do find myself subconsciously applying this when taking photographs a fair amount. However, the bottom line is that nature is endlessly creative, and people create art inspired by nature. So enough of the science, rules, and explanations and let's just be creative and appreciate nature.  I hate maths anyway.

The above video of strobe animated sculptures is just one such example of nature inspired work that utilises the 'golden section' to hypnotic effect.

Phil and I are hugely influenced by nature; physically, emotionally, and therefore creatively.  After all, isn't surfing a wave a form of art? And I have lost count of the amount of times a small patch of light, texture, or shape, that has momentarily appeared in my pathway and field of view, has stopped me in my tracks and had me reaching for my camera.

Phil spent many a happy moment on our recent trip in Portugal creating and 'playing' with rocks Michael Grab style on beaches whilst I roamed at the opposite end searching the details of nature for beautiful forms to capture and photograph.  This is how nature can be appreciated, entertaining and creatively inspiring.  In addition, Phil found that the practice of placing the stones needed a calm mind and a steady hand, which created a sense of grounding and balance within himself. Interacting with nature in this way produced an unexpected harmonising and healing effect. You could say it was natural art therapy.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Cornish Bank Holiday Soundtracks

It's the first May bank holiday weekend and this signals the start of 'silly season' in Cornwall, when the city dwellers charge down in their shiny 4x4's panicking at the mere sight of a Cornish hedge and moaning about the lack of interweb signal just at the moment they were going to 'strike their next deal' whilst eating a plastic wrapped  'rustic' pasty from Ginsters that they bought from the 'genuine' Cornish pasty van at Exeter services.  Nuff said.

We drove in the opposite direction laughing at them.  Our laughing faltered slightly at Saltash when we hit roadworks and traffic jams before we had even crossed the border. Luckily our local knowledge (many years ago Scooby worked in Saltash), had us diving behind the back streets and out over the Tamar Bridge before you could even say 'dreckly'. It did however bring to mind a recent Cornish musical discovery to us; Bagas degol.

Bagas degol are a modern Cornish folk music trio who use a bagpipe and dub powered fusion to blend traditional tunes and modern rhythms.  We like a bit of dub so this unusual Cornish take on the genre really caught our attention.  As we drove through Saltash, one particular track sprung to mind as, by their own admission, it is a 'wry nod to the joys of summer traffic congestion'.

Whilst their music seems to have an embedded Cornish individuality to it, each track has a different mood and flavour. From the humorous 'Saltash Dubbing' we move to the more serious, haunting yet warm 'Descending Dub' which incorporates a hint of Cornish Moroccan guitar vibe.  Its simplistic beat draws you into a foot tapping, eye closing moment of reflection.

Next up is a cheeky little number which demands even the shyest of dancers get up and at least have a self conscious wiggle in full dub 'stylee'.  Only last night we planned and booked our next trip in Miles the Camper to take us to the shores of Brittany.  If there was any song that held the excitement and promise of what Breton treats might lay in store in July, then this is it.  

Back to the shores of Cornwall but still with a slight hint of our Celtic neighbours.  You get the feeling that they don't take themselves too seriously; there is a real sense of enjoyment, fun and play within their music that at the same time embraces all that is individual and independent about Cornwall.  

We will be exploring and looking out for more music from Bagas degol in the future.