Looking out

Dark berries
Keeping my eyes open

In my youth I was rubbish at taking photos and I do like the fact that the digital age has revolutionised photography. I think the most important thing I’ve learned about taking photos is the importance of keeping my eyes open, seeing the details. Although we can capture a wide vista in a photo, often it will include elements that would preferably not be there; the lens tends to record a lot of things that our eyes simply edit out. I like a nice close-up shot like the berries in this photo, but this is not a good photo because for some reason the soft-focus areas have pixellated. I could crop them out, to be sure, but then I would end up with an oddly-shaped photo. Either way, it would not be perfect, and that’s the point – does it need to be?

I think keeping your eyes open, getting a clear view of both the vistas and the details, is an important life skill. I think the more we get used to how things look in real life, the better we will become at judging our own efforts fairly. ┬áLet’s not edit out the less than perfect things in our photos and let’s not edit out the less than perfect things in our lives. Let’s live it as it comes.

Here are two examples of today’s efforts:

Chutney labels
Those labels
Treacle tarts
These tarts

The chutney labels aren’t perfectly applied; the filling escaped from the tarts and the pastry crumbled on a couple of them. Instagram would not approve. My tummy, on the other hand, has absolutely no issues with either of these efforts, and my tummy is far more important than Instagram. It has also been around longer, so I guess it knows more about real life than Instagram does.

Considering those tarts I have to conclude that they will look a whole lot better when I cover them with custard at luncthime. Maybe many things that don’t look so good on their own would look better with custard? It’s just a thought.

Evaluation

Last sprinkles
The last sprinkles in this home

Continuing with the theme of moving home, I find myself evaluating many of the things I use, deciding if they are things that I want to pay to move across the town I live in. Some things are so ingrained in my life that there is no need to query at all, which is the case with most of my furniture, although there are a couple of pieces I don’t love and I may use the move as an excuse to unburden myself of them.

It is the little pieces that I think about, the books and magazines and, most keenly, bits and pieces in my kitchen. I have more tea caddies than I need, for example, and once I’ve made this year’s chutney I will be able to thin out the empty jam jars.

I can tell you one thing I shall be glad to leave behind when I move out of this flat and that is the bath. I have disliked the bath here since the first time I got in it. I haven’t disliked it enough to take up showering instead, but it is a terrifically uncomfortable bath to lie in. I have started viewing possible flats to move to and I am eyeing up the baths and dreaming of lying there in comfort.

I also catch myself thinking along the lines of “the last time” I will do something in this home. Whilst I am a fair way off actually doing things for the last time, I am aware that time is approaching and thinking how strange it will be. Of course, when the time comes to, for example, make the last cup of tea in this home I will be so busy that I won’t really mark it until later.

Speaking of the last cup of tea, am I the only one who occasionally broods on the fact that one day I will drink my last cup of tea? I probably won’t know it is my last one, but it is sitting there, at some point in my future, like the bullet with my name engraved upon it. It’s a concept that fascinates me.

I don’t think the buns in my photo will be the last buns I bake in this home, but those are definitely the last sprinkles I will apply here. That’s hundreds, or even thousands, of things I will not have to take with me when I move!

Getting Cake Done

MRD Cake
Montana Red Dog Cake (all will be explained)

Recently I have been reading that lynchpin of the world of business and personal organisation: “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. I have said elsewhere that I am incredibly late getting to this particular party and I’m doing it now mainly to get it off my ‘must look into this someday’ list. David Allen himself promotes having such lists and so if nothing else comes of this read-through, I will have taken action on one point. I don’t think I will ever have enough enthusiasm to dive right into the process, which is slightly like the Marie Kondo approach in that you have to empty everything that you have any involvement with into massive in-boxes and then process it all so that no open loops are lurking in your head. I can only handle such systems in very small doses, but the way I look at it gradual improvement is better than no improvement at all.

To sustain me whilst I have been reading about, and even doing little bits of, organising my life and whilst I have also been working on my Gaudi cardigan, I have been baking things. It seems to me that one thing I can ‘get done’ very easily is a cake. Last weekend I made Bakewell Tart to my mum’s recipe for, I think, the first time in my life and it was very successful. Having reminded myself that I can actually make a decent pastry crust, I then proceeded to make a minced beef pie for tea one evening. Then today it is the turn of Montana Red Dog Cake.

To be absolutely honest with you, this cake does not exist. Well, the cake exists, but the name doesn’t. I just made it up this afternoon. The cake is just a coconut sponge baked in a loaf tin and topped with oodles of coconut buttercream*. However, when I cut the first slice I realised how much the buttercream looks like snow piled on a cabin roof and Montana Red Dog popped into my head.

“Montana Red Dog” is the title of one of my favourite episodes of “Alias Smith and Jones”, in which our heroes find themselves snowed-in at a cabin in the Montana mountains and pass the long winter days playing cards with the other guys who have been prospecting for gold with them for some months. When someone steals their gold, they set up a game of Montana Red Dog which apparently is a card game that only fools play because once you start losing you just lose more and more heavily; it is, in fact, a scam.

My cake isn’t a scam, though, it is a yummy treat made all the better by reminding me of a pleasurable hour of TV viewing.

Now, back to organising things. Or just reading, which is pretty much the same thing, surely?

Have a great weekend.


* Many thanks to my sister Alex for reminding me how lovely coconut cake is whilst we were swimming yesterday. I hope she will be equally grateful to me for reminding her of Montana Red Dog!