Ceramics is back in full swing after we've all returned from Europe and North America. I do so love the creative outlet that is Hobby Ceramics. My class each week is such a nurturing group, and I absolutely adore playing around with paints, pencils and functional bowls and platters and teapots and jugs.
And look what's out of the kiln!
I'm still pottering around experimenting with underglazes and designs. Quite pleased with this bowl. I used gold lustre across the back of the necks of the cicadas. Do cicadas have necks, one wonders?
I like the textured effect of different ceramics' paints.
This series of 4 bowls is the experimental precursor to the painting and design of a largish jug with a lid. I envisage them all as a dessert set with warm custard and various decorative nuts and berries for some exotic Clafoutis.
The lavenders are raised so I'll give you a closer look below.
Tiny, teeny little bug in the middle of the bowl.
Lavender scattered randomly around the edges of the bowl.
Did you pick it??
Of course, I forgot that I was going to paint the bowl in 'Harvest Gold' CoverCoat Opaque Underglaze - first!
So back to the drawing board I went and came up with something not quite the same, but still along the idea of the theme. It doesn't really matter what design I use - they're all so much fun to plan and to work with. I intend on really bejewelling this bug with gold lustre and other shiny bits and pieces.
Well, not really. It's just because you're such a Loyal Reader that I felt that some explanation was due.
I axed 'FlyingFructoseFree', my sugar-free blog, this morning - all in a good morning's work. I imported the Posts that I wanted to keep here and released the rest into the drift of electronic detritus filling our world.
It's not that I'm not still passionate; it's just that in the interests of efficiency in my workplace environment. I'll continue to publicly ruminate on the implications of health reports that I read and hear about. I'll just add sugar to the grist of my healthy ageing mill that is this Magpie's Nest. I'm so busy living that when I Blog it helps to have the same workplace here. If you're not a Blogger then this won't mean much, but if you are retired and becoming interested in the freedom of expresssion that blogging creates, then I'd be happy to fill you in.
I've been having lots of increasingly cranky talks to Telstra lately, my broadband provider. It keeps dropping out and I've been talking to all sorts of people in the Philippines repeating the same information. If they'd been in my class their deficiencies and inattention to efficient note taking skills would have been scathingly recorded on their reports. The internet is my retirement workplace: it's my library, my coffee break room, my networking mechanism. When my connection frequently breaks then you better believe I'll be on to 'them'!!
I have an interesting new website to show you in regard to healthy ageing. They 'Followed' me on Twitter and usually I ignore the commercial 'Followers', but this one looked like a source of fascinating insights into insights into the ageing Baby Boomer consumer. Their website demonstrates that they are taking ageing seriously! TheWISEAgency - "Engaging the Ageing"- just look at the content of their Tweets. It makes for fascinating reading. Some examples are:
A company worth a closer look - especially if you are into marketing!!
I'm off to Manildra to buy bread flour directly from the flour mills. A scientist friend who actually developed famous strains of wheat, told me that bread flour has a higher protein structure than the usual flour I buy. Apparently it's all about the protein and the starch content.
Loving this Learning Life!!
For those of you who don't know, Squidoo is a kind of 'How to' site where people create all kinds of 'lenses' or instructional Posts. The lens makers usually link their instructions to commercial products, and I guess that is okay for people want to follow instructions to the letter. Why not? It's like a blog except it's more like a recipe for building, making,organising, forming strategies, something in life. I find it fascinating and useful to consult.
Squidoo would be a particularly helpful free online resource for parents or grandparents of young children, but really there's something there on just about anything.
I shudder each time I think of what I fed my own young children. 'Treated' them with love. All the fruit juice, green cordial, sweets and chocolates and desserts in their young lives makes me wonder how they ever grew up as wise and clever and kind as they have. And yes they've both battled with weight and teeth issues. Now I wish that all my university degrees had helped me do something really useful. But it's never too late and this blog is what it's all about!
David Gillespie suggests that cooking with dextrose is a way to avoid the problems of fructose whilst still participating in our sugar-conscious culture. The recipe for Pannacotta in his book is fabulous and I make it often when entertaining. There's also a coconut version of it.
Jo, PirateMummy has a lens on Cooking with Dextrose, that is a useful place to start with if you haven't bought David Gillespie's Sweet Poison Quit Plan. Jo includes a few yummy recipes so that you can take a plate along to a gathering, or entertain at home without compromising your values. The cheese cake is something I'm going to have a go at soon.
Dextrose behaves differently to table sugar. I've looked up Dextrose in my copy of Harold McGee's Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture. I was hoping to find some scientific insights to help me understand how to work better with dextrose. Unfortunately I didn't find it terribly helpful in terms of clever things that a passable amateur cook could create. Chapter 12 is the sugar chapter and it is worth a read.
Apparently dextrose caramelises and boils at a lower point than table sugar. I wanted to be able to use this information, but I haven't done so yet.
My wish is that some of the celebrity chefs that I Follow on Twitter would use the science to create fabulous dishes that were good for us too. That's the challenge I'm putting out there!
Barclay and Brand-Miller's article, 'The Australian Paradox: A Substantial Decline in Sugar's Intake Over the Same Timeframe that Overweight and Obesity Have Increased',(Nutrients 2011, 3, 491-504; doi:10.3390/nu3040491) appears to contain a few connudrums of its own. But then I read Sarah Wilson's Sunday blog on the pointlessness of arguing, and decided to ratchet my tone down a notch or three, just in case I'm strengthening your resolve to go out and eat a whole heap of white table sugar. I guess you wouldn't be reading here if the subject didn't concern you somehow.
So these are my genuinely dispassionately (I'm trying) expressed points on the puzzles in this 'Australian Paradox' article:
My challenge for food prep people everywhere is to use only natural raw produce, in balanced quantities that take account of energy needs, creatively reducing it to make flavours and sauces that are derived from nothing but the raw produce. It's not rocket science.
For the first time ever, the number of overweight people on Earth outweighs the number that are undernourished.
Professor Rob Brooks, Director Evolution and Ecology Research Centre from the University of NSW, on connecting protein consumption, sugar consumption and obesity, really adds insight into how various food groups interact and connect to obesity.
I am very keen on looking at inter-disciplinary contributions to the obesity debate. I love that more and more researchers are posting their results on open access forums. I usually check out academic credentials and what book or programme the author's got for sale on their site to quickly assess their (self)interest in the topic.
Oh, you want to know my interest? I want to lose weight and be healthy into an active old age. That's all. The only vested interest is in my own body, and perhaps the healthy longevity of my spouse and offspring, and parents, and ...
After reflecting on my Post yesterday about the 'Australian Paradox' and it's skewed argument hiding under the umbrella of clever language, it seems to me that an argument such as Professor Brook's one, shows just how complex the obesity question is.
The protein point seems to focus on how much daily protein a person needs to counter carb cravings.
Reminds me of The BodyTrim system. I hate that sites promise the secrets, but until you're paid up they won't reveal all. That's why I prefer to chase up the science myself. I should warn you that the BodyTrim video automatically connects each time you go to the BodyTrim site regardless of how many times you've been on it. Very annoying, but the 'system' there is the same as the argument in this article. I was an adherent of this, and still am persuaded by the arguments to a degree. The focus here is on small, regular amounts of quality protein. I found that I couldn't face so much animal protein, even when I cut down the amounts to less than 50 grams. I'm still working on it.
Prof Brooks explores the economic basis of obesity linking the cost of protein to the cost of sugar and carbs in general. I've noticed time and time again when I meet up with ex-students a few years after they've left school, that they've often put on noticeable weight. Perhaps it's a result of the lack of compulsory sport. Perhaps it's lack of money and cheap fast food available in their area. Perhaps it's ignorance of nutrition and exercise and healthy lifestyles?
Prof Brooks just might have something here. For us all.
The premise that you and I have to agree on before we proceed any further is that cross-links can be made between the behaviour of dogs and the behaviour of humans. If that doesn't ring true for you STOP READING NOW.
What it all means is up for discussion so I'm just putting it out there. I'm sure that something quite profound is happening in terms of how we humans become obese, and it's something to do with personality and our tendency to seek comfort. And context related behaviours.
Gawn. You're clever. Surely you can connect the dots for us.
These women are twins, litter mates who have been together since birth. They do just about everything together. Just about ...
The lady in the forefront of the image is happiest sleeping all day on the triple comfort down quilt on the human's bed. She's the bottom of the pack, without power and she's accepted this. She has to lick the Boss Girl's face. She is always the Licker. never the Lickee.The Lap Dog stirs only at the sound of the fridge being opened or when her sister barks in such a way that she seeks the lap of her human. She is so secure in her comfort that everyone else in the household can be downstairs or outside, and she doesn't stir. Not interested. No way. Not at all. She has to be growled at to go downstairs and outside to the toilet. When in the back yard she gets close to the back door so that she rush in at the first opportunity. She is easily bribed with food. Her sense of smell is acute, as is her sense of hearing relevant to cheese being unwrapped - only the sharpest of cheddars, the most gourmet of Trunkey Creek hams. Food is her life. Next to sleep. Maybe before sleep.
The lady in the background of the image is constantly on alert. She's the Boss Girl. She gets to demand a face wash from the Lap Dog. Her self-appointed job is to guard the humans and the rest of the pack when her appointed boss is out at work. When the boss is home she follows him everywhere. If he's in Sydney for work she gives the Other Human daggered-looks because he hasn't appeared at the expected time. She races up and down the stairs barking at someone walking two blocks up the road, if she can see them. She can not be bribed with food. Throughout the day she demands that her humans open the back door to allow her to race in and out, many times. Many, many times.
This behaviour all changes when we go for a walk. Once out that front door the world transforms the Lap Dog's behaviour. She charges ahead darting everywhere, changing direction many times and dragging the three of us off into the bushes. Nay, she sprints! Human has to jog, to run to catch up. Her nose is constantly a-quiver. The footpaths and parks are a banquet that she never wants to leave. We should enter her in the Tractor Pull because the thrust of those shoulders would drag anything over the line, especially if the scent was there. Perhaps we should get her to earn her Maffra Cheddar as a sniffer dog. Now there's an idea.
I should explain that we're the kind of dog humans that believe that when you walk with the dogs that the walk is a means of sensory enrichment and mental stimulation for the dogs, and that for humans to drag them along without allowing them frequent sniffing stops is pure cruelty. If a human needs non-stop exercise then leave the dogs at home. With our canines we cover miles in retracing our steps constantly to check out the smell that may have escaped us. That's exhausting.
Observe closely the dog leads. Lap Dog is leading, her lead pulled tight as she strains to chase down each and every new scent. Her whole little body trembles with joy as we investigate the outside world together. Boss Girl's lead is slightly slack. She spends much of the time on the walk looking like Prince William's security detachment. She's checking the world for danger.
To help you formulate your hypothesis I've entered the information into a table. There's a profound truth lurking here if only we knew the key.
Seeks comfortable spot and doesn’t move
In and out, follows humans and sits beside them
Loves food; great sense of smell; easily bribed
Can take or leave food much of the time; not interested in bribes
Is half a kilo heavier
Is half a kilo lighter
Leads the pack; runs at a gallop; boundless energy and excitement; body primed to dart here, there and everywhere; sniffs everywhere; drags the pack and is clearly leading
Guards the pack; is dragged by Lap Dog on double lead; sniffs with one eye scanning horizon for danger
Meanwhile, I'm profoundly grateful that something that is great for me - exercise in the fresh air - brings so much joy to my little companions.
Is it your fault that you're sick? Are you paying the price for all those accumulated poor choices you've made in the past and continue to make each minute of the day? If you're under 40, are you an up and coming Obese Baby Boomer in serious training? Is there something here you can learn from, even if it's only the same message we've all heard before. It's worth repeating.
It seems that we ageing Baby Boomers are making lard large contributions to our own health problems and this has a big impact on a nation's health budget. Improved early childhood health outcomes and living conditions for our generation mean that there are large numbers of us around entering our retirement years. It's not that science is necessarily keeping us alive, it's just that more of us have survived into our early sixties than generations before. Whether our health allows that numbers game to play to our advantage is a whole other question. The obesity issue is one big hurdle to overcome in that game.
Are you a technically 'obese' Baby Boomer? Is your poor health largely a consequence of your weight? It seems that we Baby Boomers might have been intelligent Movers and Shakers in our various fields, but one look at us will confirm that there's something we haven't quite got a handle on, no matter how active our neurones are - and current brain researchers such as John Medina of Brain Rules will tell you that those neurones may not be as active as we think if we don't exercise on a regular basis.
Sociological research papers that I've been studying lately indicate two groups of baby Boomer populations - those born from 1946 to about 1956, and those born between 1957 and 1964-ish. It depends on who is doing the research. Some definitions of 'obesity' on the net include:
"Obesity is an abnormal accumulation of body fat, usually 20% or more over an individual's ideal body weight." TheFreeDictionary
"The WHO definition is:
As ever there is disagreement about the true value of the BMI, but it's interesting to work out where you weigh in on the argument using this calculator on the Australian Monash University site. A word of warning - do get your conversions entered in accurately or you'll almost die from the shock as I did. I went from almost 'morbidly obese' to 'overweight' at 5'6 1/2" and currently weighing 80 kgs simply by making a mistake on date entry! The numbers let you know that it's in my interests to read this stuff too.
The Centre for Obesity Research at Monash University states that "Obesity is shaping to be the pathogen of the 21st century. Obesity is now a disease considered at least equal to smoking as a preventable cause of premature death. Obesity ruins health, destroys quality of life, and generates premature death. Obesity is now epidemic in our community with more than 20% of Australian adults obese (i.e. they have a Body Mass Index greater than 30 kg/m2)."
US studies are reporting the phenomenon as well.
So what can we do? Obviously I don't think it's too late in middle-age to start taking health seriously or I wouldn't be blogging here, in fact starting at any age is supposed to be a good thing after consulting your doctor.
It's very difficult in our current Australian foodie culture to find role models of celebrity chefs taking health seriously and creatively designing ultra-healthy dishes that also contain that spirit of adventuring to the boundaries of the culinary repertoire. Sugar is added to just about everything you can think of. It seems that our palates have been so conditioned that we don't know when we're hooked.
I'm as hooked on MasterChef as the next person and I'm impressed with the portion sizes prepared. At least that's helpful. However, there's just no attempt to cook with 'sugar alternatives' like dextrose for those of us wanting to avoid that intense fructose overload.
As for the exercise, just writing this blog has me feeling guilty so I'm off to walk the HorseFluFloozies even if the weather is looking quite, quite inclement.
Who knew that a loaf of bread would sing when taken out of the oven? I leant down and placed my ear close to the hot loaf, and it really was singing, softly serenading me, telling me how clever I was to follow the instructions and end up in a happy, bready place.
Jim Sullivan's 'My Bread' book is spot on. The instructions are worded very clearly and the photographs of each step are very helpful. My non-cooking husband was able to help me decide on various stages of readiness by assessing my effort compared to Jim's illustrations.
I have been so inspired that I've baked two loaves of bread in 36 hours. It does take planning, and knowing that I was going to a friend's place for lunch today and wanting to take a sugar-free offering, I baked a loaf full of Kalamata olive pieces. We are due at her place at 12.30 and the bread needs to cool for an hour so I have planned it all exceptionally well: *BIG smug smile*. I'll have to wrap it in a tea towel as I don't seem to have any paper bags large enough. Jim Lahey recommends storing the bread on the bench in a brown paper bag if it's not eaten at once. Apparently it stores well that way for a day or two, avoiding sweating and mould.
My bread romance all began when we had a book group luncheon at the home of a friend whose husband had just retired and so was available to bake us a loaf of divine bread to go with the almond soup on the menu that day to go with 'The Little Coffee Shop in Kabul'. It was such a treat that I asked how it was made and the hosts produced Jim Lahey's book on bread making that they'd bought from the Australian 'Books for Cooks' on a recent trip to Melbourne. I had to have my own copy, and reading the story of Jim Lahey's bread adventures was an enchanting narrative all by itself.
I am now a Two-Loaf Bread Baker! I've learned that Jim's instructions need to be followed closely. When he tells you about tea towel fabric, he knows what he is talking about. When he gives you length of time guidelines then following them is important. Ovens and bread flours differ as do our individual abilities to follow instructions. I used Italian 'OO' flour and not bread flour as Lahey advises, because that's what I had in the cupboard. I don't really know what I'm doing, but the bread tasted great last night. Lahey suggests using bread flour for its heavier texture.
Jim is relaxed about 'mistakes' preferring to put them down to individuality. His own bread story is based on replicating Roman bread loaves and in those kitchens we don't think they had the precision tools that we have today. So far I've used cup measures, but for the next loaves I'm going to follow Jim's advice about precision in weighing things. 4 gms of yeast is not weighable by any tool that I have, so I guess that's not what he means.
The great thing is that now I have something homemade and non-sugared to take the home of a generous friend. In the old days I'd take Belgium chocolates or some such. It's so great to know that I can still create something special as a gift.