Saturday, July 13, 2013


Seeing as I have a bit more time on my hands at the moment than I have had for some years I've been trying to get into the habit of using my camera more (photos here). Several of my friends have done the 365 challenge, ie a photo a day for the whole year - some have even done it more than once! I've been intrigued particularly by the variety and ingenuity of images posted on those days when it gets to almost bedtime and you realise you haven't taken one yet, as well as the wide range of day to day photos.

The first few months aren't quite such a challenge, but to keep finding new things around you on the days when you don't really go anywhere or do anything 'interesting' requires a whole different mindset as you walk around. I'm used to keeping my 'photographer's eye' open when travelling etc, but to do so day after day within the same environment is a challenge - especially when the day looks all set to be grey, dark and miserable! One recent photo published was all (unintentionally) blurry, but it had been the only photo taken that day, the photographer said ''s terrible. But also not terrible, because that's the glowing white face of a girl I love a lot'. This reminded me of a bunch of photographs a child took with my camera one time at kindy - odd angles, half faces etc yet the child was delighted with them as they didn't just see the photos, but the associations and stories that went with them - which begs the question of priorities, who do we take photos for? Ourselves to keep memories alive, or for others to understand and/or appreciate too?

I've started taking more photos in the garden, partly to record the progress made as I try to get it back in to shape, but also because I want to capture something of the beauty I see in it. However with a camera that is starting to sulk I'm finding close-up work a challenge as it really doesn't want to focus there. This has led to some interesting results at times, where the original object of the photo is blurry but what is just behind it is crystal clear and often quite striking - just a pity that that glimpse isn't usually enough to make a decent picture in itself. I'm sure there is (yet) another metaphor for life here, about allowing yourself to see past the obvious to what is just beyond it but getting only a tantalising glimpse rather than the whole picture - is it enough to work with? Or do you need to go back and revisit it, and hope that this time you'll see more? Do we keep the blurry reminder as well as the new insight? As usual, far more questions than answers...

Saturday, July 06, 2013

....but what has FWCC ever done for us?

A bit like the Romans, the Trade Unions and every other version of the original Monty Python sketch there are those in our YM who see FWCC as something that we give money to but seem to see very little from in return. Thankfully they are few in number and less and less vociferous these days, not sure if that is due to the amount of legwork done by various Friends over recent years on behalf of FWCC or if it is a case of a few Quaker funerals solving the problem (as sometimes that is the only way certain 'problems' are solved!), a change of heart or other concerns taking over. However, I can appreciate that sometimes it is hard for those who don't get involved beyond their own Meeting or Worship Group to appreciate what we get for the fifth of our annual YM budget that gets spent one way or another on FWCC in terms of donations, funding our own reps to attend events, bringing visitors to YM etc.

But without FWCC there would be no Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) and without QUNO the world would be a poorer place, it is official! Andrew Tomlinson and Jonathan Woolley being the names on there that you're looking for, who make it clear they are named on behalf of their teams.

I've known a few interns and board members of QUNO over the years and met one or two of their long term staff. The Geneva Summer School used to be on my 'to do one day' list, but other things got in the way (mainly other more local Quaker events!) and like inter-railing it never quite happened, but I've long held an admiration for the work they do. When I was 17 on the Quaker Youth Pilgrimage I heard Duncan and Katharine Wood talk about their time at QUNO Geneva during the fairly early days of the Cold War, bringing diplomats from both sides together to simply get to know each other and discover that the 'others' were people too, with families, and hobbies etc not some demons as their respective media portrayed them. Whilst serving afternoon tea in the garden may not seem world changing, in its way it was as important as the more official work done. The research that comes out of QUNO these days and the briefing papers they provide which not only help NGOs and lobbyists but those UN offices who don't have the resources to fund their own research staff, has been invaluable and shifted world opions on such issues as child soldiers and landmines.

QUNO is one of those things I always feel I ought to know more about, but despite the fact that I'd have to check their website to see what the current list of concerns being worked on is I remain extremely grateful for its existance, for the endless work done in our name and for the changes this work brings - even if at times it may feel like John Woolman's campaign against slavery, ie long, slow and amidst a lot of ignorance about the details, but hopefully whilst not necessarily well informed I hope we're a bit quicker to support them as they speak truth to power.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

chocolate pud

I found alpro soya chocolate desserts in PaknSave the other day, the first time I've ever found them in this country - they've always been on my list of 'things I miss' from the UK, so out the window went all my resolutions about foodmiles and processed food and I treated myself to a pack. Only to discover that actually, my homemade avocado chocolate mousse is far richer and more satisfying - and given how cheap avos are around here, decidedly less expensive! 

Avocado Chocolate Mousse:
1/2 cup honey (preferably runny)
1/2 cup water
2 medium avocadoes (about 300g flesh, needs to be smushable not firm!)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup cocoa powder
juice of half a small lemon

put everything into a food processor and blend (or use a electric cake beater), chill and eat. Apparently it keeps well for up to 10 days but I've never managed to make it last that long to test the theory!

It was both something of a disappointment, and a relief that the bought stuff didn't live up to expectations - maybe the recipe has changed? It seemed more watery than I remember. But realising I could create something more satisfying out of predominantly local ingredients (the avos, lemon and honey, I don't think we grow any cocoa in this country... yet!) was definitely a bonus. 

 I'd been reviewing my budget lately and seeing how it was shaping up given how pared back it had been in the light of my reduced income, and I was pleased that my purchasing of processed foods had plummeted - partly as I have more time to make more things from scratch, I didn't really want to have to force myself to walk past the chocolate puds each time I went to PaknSave to keep on budget! I've only so much will power to go around when it comes to chocolate I can eat... 

Each week I'm now making my own bread, milk (from almonds), oatcakes (yay for my bargain mouli grater and restored cast iron pan! Another thing you don't seem to be able to buy here is oatmeal - hence the need to grind oats finer), fruit & nut chocolate slice (gluten and added sugar free) and more often than not a date and walnut loaf, although that is because I'm trying to adapt an old favourite recipe to make a decent gluten free version - not that I need it to be GF, but friends do and it is nice to have something else to take to pot luck meals that they can eat too (thankfully they aren't allergic to nuts as well!). It still keeps coming out too dry... going to try adding some oil next time. 

I rarely used tinned food, not even tinned tomatoes which used to be a staple ingredient for me! Admittedly that is usually because we have tomatoes from the garden on the plant or in the freezer, or locally grown ones from the market around the house, not that I've learned to cook without them altogether! I have time to soak batches of chickpeas and dried beans, cook up a pot full and freeze them in portions. I use the nuts left from my milk making to make rissoles and nut loaf etc and haven't bought ready made veggie sausages etc for use at home in ages although they sure come in handy when I'm staying at someone else's house for a while.

I used to cook most meals from scratch with extremely little processed food when I was a student, but that was due to a combination of one of my flatmates dietary restrictions and limited budgets. These days whilst the budget is still tight, I have far less desire to use them even when I can afford them, having got used to cooking without them I notice the 'bought' taste in a way that no longer appeals. I suppose it is similar to milk chocolate and cows milk cheeses etc no longer having any appeal, whereas I never thought that day would come when I first started to cut them out - although those do make me sick which is an added incentive to do without! 

I'm still working on decent replacements for Engine Shed smoked tofu and Macsween's Veggie Haggis though...