Uncategorized

Moving (with correct links!)

MovingThis week I made the brave (for me) move from wordpress.com to a self-hosted site on wordpress.org.  I’ve been putting it off for ages but the time has finally come for me to spread my wings and get more involved in my site design and functions.

So what do you need to know?  Well, my domain name remains the same and if you subscribed through the subscriber box then you will continue to get email notifications from me.

However, if you followed me on wordpress using the follow button I will only appear from now on in your wordpress reader.  If you would like new posts emailed to your inbox then please re-subscribe using the subscriber box on my sidebar.

Click here to go to elizabethmilligan and re-subscribe.

Thank you and see you on the other side ♥

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Uncategorized

Moving

Moving

This week I made the brave (for me) move from wordpress.com to a self-hosted site on wordpress.org.  I’ve been putting it off for ages but the time has finally come for me to spread my wings and get more involved in my site design and functions.

So what do you need to know?  Well, my domain name remains the same and if you subscribed through the subscriber box then you will continue to get email notifications from me.

However, if you followed me on wordpress using the follow button I will only appear from now on in your wordpress reader.  If you would like new posts emailed to your inbox then please re-subscribe using the subscriber box on my sidebar.

Thank you and see you on the other side ♥

Food, foraging & recipes

A time for baking

It’s early.  I’m up before the sun and the air in the cottage is cold after a night below zero.  There is a frost on the ground and through the kitchen window all looks still, bar the occasional blackbird flitting around on the gravel path.

The sky still looks grey so it’s difficult to tell what kind of day it’s going to be.  I don’t always get on with grey days in the middle of winter.  I’m sure I’m not alone.  I once asked my mother how she felt on days like these and her response was one from another generation.  She shrugged and said that when the weather is miserable she looks outside and feels thankful for the warmth of the house, for central heating and modern appliances.  On days like these she said, she likes to bake.

I put the kettle on to boil water for tea and reach down into the cupboard for the large mixing bowl.  I fetch the scales and two bags of flour, one granary and one strong white and measure out a combined 500g into the mixing bowl.  This is my standard recipe and I vary the flour depending how I feel.  One of my favourite mixtures is 80% spelt flour to 20% rye but neither are easy to find round here so I make do with what I have.

I set the bowl aside and gather together yeast, sugar and salt.  One teaspoon of sugar and one of salt go into a small jug to which I add 100ml of hot water from the kettle, making myself a cup of tea at the same time.  When the sugar and salt have dissolved I add another 200ml of cold water from the tap and pour a sachet of dried yeast over the top, giving it a stir and leaving it for a few minutes.  I use fresh yeast when I can get it on account of the smell but the dried seems to work just as well.

Making my tea, I look outside to see a squirrel dart across the yard and up into one of the cedar trees.  Quick, slight movements.  They’re fast, these little red squirrels with their tufted ears and fat fluffy tails.

I take a sip of tea and plunge my left hand into the mound of flour feeling the cool softness against my skin.  I make a well with my fist and pour in the liquid, stirring with a metal spoon.  Just as the dough is coming together I add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, pausing to watch the green oil seep into the mixture.  I use the spoon to push the dough around the bowl, collecting every last speck of flour.  I love it when I can turn the dough out of an almost clean bowl.

The dough plops out onto the floured worktop with a satisfying thud and I start to knead.  This is the part I love the most, losing myself in thought as I work the dough into a lovely smooth, silky ball.

I think about my mother baking in her kitchen in the middle of winter with the rain lashing the windowpanes.  Turning out trays of scones, loaves of bread, biscuits for the grandchildren.  And I think of my grandmother before her doing the same.  Recipes passed down.  My grandmother baked without ever using scales.  Just a spoon and a good eye for measuring.  My mother, my grandmother and all the women before them doing exactly what I am doing now, kneading dough to bake bread to feed their families.  It’s a nice thought that connects me to my past.

After five to ten minutes the dough is ready and I shape it into a fat sausage and place it in a loaf tin which I have greased with butter.  I always use butter for greasing.  I sprinkle the top with flour and cover with a damp tea towel.  I sit it near the heater to rise and put the kettle on for another cup of tea.

I take my tea to my computer to do some writing while I wait for the bread.  I love these mornings.  The simple act of baking bread brings me home to myself, nourishes something deep inside, sets me up for the day.  By the time everyone else is up and around I’m already settled into my day.

I put the oven on to warm up and set the temperature to 200c. After half an hour the bread is ready to go in.  I take a knife, place a couple of slits in the top of the loaf to let it vent, and pop it in the oven, setting the timer for 40 minutes.  I go back to my writing.

Forty minutes later I remove the loaf from the oven, tip it out of the tin and give it a gentle knock on the bottom.  It sounds firm and hollow so is ready.  I set it down to cool and enjoy the smell as it wafts around the cottage.  I’m looking forward to fresh bread and coffee for breakfast.

I glance outside again.  It’s still early but I can see that the sky is turning a deep shade of blue.  Maybe it’s going to be a good day after all ♥

Bread recipe

Inspiration, issues & comment

Focus – lessons from a vintage camera

FocusAt one point all my photos were taken with a vintage Pentax from the 1970’s.  It was on loan to me from a family member and when I bought a Nikon film SLR back in 2001, I handed the Pentax back, thinking I wouldn’t miss it now I had my shiny new camera.

How wrong I was.

I not only missed the feel and smell of the camera, the sound of the shutter, the thumb action of the manual wind.  But also the clarity of the photos.  The sharpness.  The colours.

I recently found out the camera was sold for $10 in a garage sale during a house move.  I inwardly cringed when I thought of it going to someone who may not have cherished it as much as I did.  Hopefully that was not the case.

At the time I persisted with my new camera, trying to get to grips with it and produce the quality of photos I was used to.  Somehow I never quite got the hang of it and it was eventually relegated to the back of the cupboard and replaced by a small digital camera (Sony Cybershot) and more recently a digital SLR (Nikon D3200).

It turns out I would have been better paying $10 to keep the Pentax rather than the $1,000 or so I shelled out for the shiny new SLR and zoom lens which I hardly used on account of the space it took up.  But that’s not really the point.  The point is that when I think about using the Pentax, what I really miss most of all is the moment of focus.

Yes, I know, I can use manual focus on a digital SLR too but for some reason it’s just not the same.  Why is that?  I think it may be something to do with the simplicity of the old Pentax.  It was so easy to focus yet if you messed it up it could ruin your shot.  There was something about those few seconds of holding ones breath, looking once more at the shot through the lens, and slowly getting the perfect focus before finally pressing down on the shutter button.

It’s all so easy nowadays, isn’t it?  Just stick the camera on autofocus and away you go.  Looking through the lens but at the same time not really looking.  You can take as many shots as you like until you get a good one.  It’s the same with computers, smartphones and social media where we are reading everything but not really reading anything at all.  How can we?  It’s impossible to take in all the information we are bombarded with.

Our focus has become splattered in a million directions and we, as a result, have become splattered in a million pieces.  Knowing a little about everything, doing a little of everything.  Without any real focus or depth.

Obviously some people have an amazing ability to focus and get things done.  Me?  Not so much.  Which is why I’m going back to basics and reminding myself of the vintage Pentax and the point of focus.  It never let me down when I was taking a photo.  Maybe it could help me now.

Pause.  Reflect.  Focus.  Act.

It’s time to turn off autofocus and see if I can make this my motto for 2015.

Oh, and if you know of a 1970’s Pentax that needs a good home, please give me a shout ♥

Inspiration, issues & comment

Wild thing I think I love you

Once wildLast year, rather than making new year resolutions I would doubtless break, I chose a word to live by.  That word was WILD.  I wanted to see more of my wild self, my wild soul, my true essence.  It was time to break down the barriers, let go of the layers and discover the wilder, freer version of myself that I knew existed somewhere deep inside.

Choosing a word to live by was a powerful process, so much more positive than the age-old tradition of resolutions which are usually forgotten and broken by February anyway, leaving us feeling once again like we have failed in some way.  This last year I would only have to ask “what would my wild self do now” and I would have the answer or direction I was seeking.  I’m sure the whole process was helped by spending most of the year in the wilds of France.  It was a year of letting go and peeling away the layers to see what lay beneath.

So did the wild woman show her face?  Yes, she did!  I felt my wildest truest self when I was walking barefoot, feeling the sun-warmed earth beneath my feet.  When I was chopping wood, swinging the axe and using my strength to provide fuel for the fire.  When I stood looking into the face of a young deer, the split-second before it barked a warning to the herd and sprang off.  When I was standing amongst the trees under an ice-cold shower washing off the sweat and dirt of the day.  When I was writing, taking photos, being creative.

Last year was a year of shedding skins and coming to gentle realisations.  The realisation that less is more.  Less material things, less commitments, less busyness, less interaction.  More nature, more time, more thoughts, more writing, more laughing, more knowing myself.

Was I scared when I set out on this journey of what I might find?  Hell, yes!  But I have realised that being scared is usually the start of something good, great even.  I’ve learned more about myself in these past twelve months than I have in years of distracting myself away from who I truly am.

I have learned that being wild is about letting go of who we think we are and embracing who we truly are.  It’s about trusting ourselves and not caring what anyone else thinks about us or what we are doing.  Refusing to give airtime to the naysayers and harbingers of doom.  They’re not my people.  Why should I care what they say?

It is about the importance of experience over material possessions.

It’s about digging deep and gently visiting the dark places in our minds with compassion and forgiveness.  This was maybe the hardest thing of all this year, but in shedding light on the darkness I have started to see myself differently.  I have stopped judging myself and have started accepting myself.

It’s about learning to see the passing years not as wasted dreams or time that has escaped, but as years of experience and a growing wisdom.  Learning to settle in our skin.

It is about bringing our soul, our personality and our true essence into our work and the way we live our lives. Standing in our power and daring to live the life we want to live, based on our own values and philosophy.

It’s about breaking the rules, breaking free and allowing ourselves to just be ♥

Nature, photography & France

The Bay

The BayIt’s early morning as I slip out of the cottage door and head down the short lane alongside the garden.  There’s a faint pink glow in the sky as the sun starts to rise behind the clouds.  The tide is high in the bay and there’s almost no room to walk along the sandy shore.  All I can hear is the gentle lapping of the tide and the early morning chattering of the Brent geese that apparently winter here every year.

There’s a slight chill in the air but it still doesn’t feel cold enough for a January morning.  I only have on a thin top beneath my jumper and jeans and the scarf thrown around my neck keeps me warm enough.  The water sounds loud to my sleepy ears after the quiet stillness of the cottage at night, nestled between the ancient cedars in a corner of the well-tended gardens.  The only disturbance is the occasional squirrel using the roof as a shortcut between trees.

I fleetingly wonder what my friends and family think of this latest escapade.  It wasn’t really what we had planned at all.  We thought by now we would have work and an apartment in Bordeaux and would fast be heading back to the life we knew before.  But I guess the universe had another plan because here we are in another housesit on the beautiful Arcachon Bay with just enough work to keep us ticking over and plenty of time to explore the area, to keep writing, taking photos, working on our various projects.

I look out over the bay with its tides and changing weather, oyster farms and resident and visiting bird populations.  I take a deep breath and register the feeling of calm and peace that has been with me since we came here.  The first rays of sun are just beginning to pierce the clouds as I make my way up the lane again and quietly let myself back in to the little wooden cottage, our home for now.

Inspiration, issues & comment

Calm amid the chaos

Calm in the chaosSo here we are on 21st December, the winter solstice and shortest day of 2014.  We’re drinking coffee and eating dark chocolate pretzels and I am sitting here on the sofa (that also doubles as the bed in our tiny studio) trying to find a moment of calm to gather my thoughts.  Running boy is in the kitchen, literally one metre to my right, cleaning and packing up.  The Sunday football is on the radio, the washing machine is whirring with a final wash and our suitcases and boxes lie open and half packed a couple of metres to my left.

We’re on the move again.  Today is our day for packing up and cleaning the tiny 26 square metres of space that has been our home for the past eleven and a half weeks.  Tomorrow we will drive to the bassin d’arcachon and unload and unpack into our next housesit, a cute wooden cottage of 60 square metres on the bay overlooking the oyster farms.  The following day we drive to the airport to fly back to the UK for a week or so of catching up with friends and family before returning on new year’s day to start our housesit proper.

It’s been an interesting time of late and has been a challenge to find calm amid the chaos, but we’re getting there and we’re moving forward in the right direction.

This is what I’ll be doing to re-energise as December and 2014 come to a close:

Some quiet journaling as I work my way through the Winter Joy Retreat

Quiet contemplation and thinking about how I want to feel as we move into 2015

Listening to this song and feeling festive

Watching this with my niece and nephew and singing along

Having a bath using this blend of essential oils

Spending time with family and friends enjoying long winter walks, cosy pubs, good food and laughs.

Wishing everyone a wonderful end to 2014 and a very happy new year – see you in 2015 ♥