Friday, 14 December 2018

Where's the time gone?

I can't believe it's already almost Christmas. Where has the time gone?

I had a week off last week, and I was looking forward to spending it at home, there was so much I wanted to do. Probably too much, because at the end of the week, I not only didn't feel relaxed at all, but also like I hadn't done anything at all. It was just a bit of an odd old week. But looking back, I have actually done quite a lot (see below). Maybe just not everything.

After a very long time, I finally took my acrylics out again. I started gently with adding more pages to my colour mixing book, and at the same time creating background pages with the left over paints in one of my art journals.

I also got a big old canvas out, that has been sitting around for a while because I didn't really know what to do with it. But now I finally have my own desk at work, after 2.5 month, with a very bare wall to stare at, so I thought this large canvas would be perfect. For some reason, I'm feeling drawn to painting landscapes at the moment, so I just slapped some paint on, thinking I might paint something from imagination. But I soon realised that wasn't really quite working. This will need a bit more work, a bit of looking through references and my photographs to find the right image that I would like to escape to from time to time at work. So there's not much yet to see on that canvas, but just picking up brushes and covering it with paint felt good.

I even spent a nice morning in the Kunsthaus (art museum) in Zürich, especially looking for landscape paintings, and it was a wonderful and inspiring experience, and after a week of feeling rather restless, finally calmed me down a bit. The best bit was not only to find inspiration, such as colour, subject matter, composition, style etc. The works of the Swiss artist Ferdinand Hodler, Giovanni Segantini and Albert Anker reminded me that I don't need to look further away for inspiration, as I tend to, but that I live in a country that has rich traditions and stunning landscapes - and they are not that far from my doorstep.

I was not only experimenting a bit on my canvas, but also in the kitchen. One thing I really wanted to make this week was bake a bread. A spelt bread. And then, I decided to not just go and make an ordinary spelt bread, but to attempt a sourdough spelt bread. Somehow, I always thought that sourdough was this mysteriously complicated affair that really only a professional baker could ever manage to make. Turns out that it is actually quite simple. All you need is basically water and flour. And patience. Because it takes at least five days until your starter, or mother, is ready and you can start baking. I found a very quick and simple recipe for baking my bread, and it came out disappointingly flat. I guess it was just a bit too quick and simple. Good things need a bit more time. But although it didn't look very pretty, it was actually very tasty. Even my Mum was very impressed and more than happy to take some of it home. And that means a lot! I've since looked up some more recipes and ordered a book as well. And I bought a banneton, which I've never even heard of until a few days ago. The mother has gone into the fridge for the moment, until the Christmas break, when I will have more time to try and attempt another bread. She might be asleep at the moment, but she's certainly smelling deliciously sour.

I also pickled some cucumbers and made Sauerkraut, both the traditional from white cabbage, and another one with red cabbage. The cucumbers are already ready to eat, but the Sauerkraut will need some more patience and another few weeks.

I'm looking forward to when I'll have some homemade spelt sourdough bread with homemade Sauerkraut!

Thursday, 18 October 2018

What a summer it's been... and a visit to the zoo

Well, this summer certainly wasn't what I expected it to be. One of the worst ever. I did this drawing in my sketchbook in mid August, and oh boy, little did I know how accurate it was going to turn out to be a few days later.

The bronchitis I had at the end of July/beginning of August caused my chronic condition to flare up. It was one of the worst flare ups so far, and I spent another four weeks at home off sick. My doctor was very close to admitting me to hospital and considering surgery, but thankfully decided to try another round of medication first, and the meds did their job and things improved quickly. I also radically changed my diet. I've been wanting to make some changes for a long time, but never quite got round to it. But this time, I had the motivation I needed, and it went all very smoothly. I've even lost some weight. Those hated 10 kilos that I've put on in the last 4 years because of medication, and just wasn't able to shift. And now they just drop off by themselves, a very welcomed side effect of my new diet and life style - I'm also practicing yoga again regularly and go for walks much more often. In fact, at the moment, I'm feeling pretty good. Actually, I haven't felt this good in a very long time, in years. It's not all perfect, there are still issues, but all in all, things are looking positive. So in the end, a lot of good came out of it all, even though it certainly didn't feel like it back then, in August. But looking back, I think it was just the wake up call I needed. Yes, my UC and me, we're sorting this.

I didn't get much drawing, sketching or painting done since then. On the days, when the medication didn't floor me completely, I worked on setting up a new health and food journal. I went through 10 years of chronic illness, through old journals and doctor's reports, I did some research and wrote it all up. It was very therapeutic and helpful, in many ways. I'm now keeping a detailed daily food and health log, which is also very useful. And I bought a whole shelf-full of books. Books on anti-inflammatory and gut friendly nutrition, on the gut itself, on spices, herbs, herbal teas and infusions, natural remedies.... It's still going to be a long journey figuring it all out, but it's worth it.

I didn't have much time yet to look through and start using my new cook books, the only recipe I tried out so far was this kohlrabi potato soup with smoked salmon, chive oil and cress. It was delicious, and I'll definitely make it again.

From mid/end September on, I went on holiday for 2 1/2 weeks, to lovely, sunny Dorset. After everything, it was good to get away for a bit, and spend time outside and explore coast and countryside. I took my sketchbook, pens and watercolours with me, but in the end, I only got two pages filled. The second one was a weak attempt to get into and catch up with Inktober. But I'm afraid I have to give that a miss this year. I'm in an "all new" mood, and have been busy clearing out stuff at home - including a pile of clothes that are now too big - yay! But I hope to get back to making art again soon. Once I moved away all the stuff that has been piling on my studio desk...

I took of course loads of photos in England, but I haven't had a chance to go through and edit them so far. Instead I'm sharing a few photos from a visit to the zoo here in Zürich, that I took during our last holiday in July. N and I love visitng the zoo here in town, it's so beautiful, and now they've added a new enclosure - Australia, with the koalas as main attraction.

The emus and wallabies are free to roam and mingle with the visitors. The wallabies were a bit shy, though, and prefared to keep their distance. The emus, on the other hand, were very interested in investigating...

The elephants enjoyed some quality family time.

The Masoala hall is always a special place to visit. You never quite know what you're going to see. It's something different every time. But there's always something to see. And this little mouse lemur was just the sweetest little creature!

That plant must be especially delicious, because on our way back, we saw this little fellow. Usually, they just sit motionless upside down on tree trunks.

Gecko from Nordljus on Vimeo.

One of the animals you pretty much always see, is the chameleon. This time, we saw four different ones. What characters they are. And their colours, patterns and textures are just amazing.

The end of another wonderful day at the zoo, and one last glimpse back in the later afternoon light, before the zoo shut it's gate, and the animals got some well deserved peace and quiet.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

The end of the heat wave and a visit to the local wildlife park

Ice lollies. They're basically what gets me through summer... I'm not a summer person at all, it's my least favourite season, and anything beyond 25 degrees Celsius is far too hot for me. But I think I'm not the only one who's glad that this heat wave is finally coming to an end. And my bronchitis has cleared up as well, at long last, last weekend, and I've got some energy back.
I've made some more banana kiwi lollies, but I also have some shop bought ones in the freezer. These melon and strawberry ones have been around for decades. The only ones of my favourite ice lollies that are still around. And I've eaten a lot of these this summer....

Cooking is also not something I feel like doing when it's 30+ degrees, and I usually don't know what to get and make. But this cucumber salad is perfect. Delicious and refreshing. I used to make cucumber salad with a "normal" salad dressing with vinegar and oil, but no matter how much herbs and salt I added, it always ended up watery and tasteless. This one is my Mum's recipe, I meant to ask her about it for ages, and now that I finally have, I immediately added it into my illustration recipe book, so that I won't forget it anymore. It still gets a bit watery, but it keeps its taste, and I love it.

During our holiday, we went to the nearby Wildlife park, which is always worth a visit. We didn't really expect to see many animals, it was a hot summer afternoon, and I expected most of the animals to hide in the shade and sleep. The enclosures are large and built to imitate the animals natural habitat as closely as possible, which means that there's plenty of room for them to be out of sight. But we were so spoilt, in fact, I don't think I've ever seen so many different animals in a single visit!

Moose are one of my favourite animals, and I'm always happy to see them, and what a treat to see them so close up! A big one was resting right next to the fence, and a small one was nibbling at the trees a few metres away.

Of course there's plenty of wildlife in the woods and grass along the paths as well.

The mouse house is always worth a visit. They are just so sweet. But rather hard to capture, they are so quick.

The shy and beautiful wildcats were also strolling around right in front of your eyes. Such gorgeous animals.

We were so lucky to see the bears not only once, but twice! They came all the way down from the woods to the water, I guess they were hot too and wanted to cool down.

Junior had a splash in the water...

... while mummy bear was just staying cool and relaxed.

After we came back to the café for an ice lolly, the bears came back too. They too wanted a little snack.

We also saw the foxes, the alpine marmots, the wild boars, the bisons, including a baby bison!, the wild horses, and of course, the deer. But I didn't get many good photos, my wideangle/macro zoom lens is not really suited for animals. But it was a wonderful afternoon. We also went to the zoo, and I hope to share some photos from there next time.

Friday, 3 August 2018

More lazy summer days, and more holiday photos

Well, this week hasn't been much different than last week. My bronchitis still hasn't cleared up and I've spent another week at home resting. I'm really getting fed up with it now. And it's still hot, even hotter than last week, which doesn't help. So not much time in the studio, but I got at least one sketch done. And I've edited some more photos from our holiday.

Back in April, I put together a new watercolour palette with 24 colours. Some I've been using for a while, and some of them were entirely new ones. This is what the new palette looked like three months ago, with all the pans filled with to the brim with delicious Daniel Smith paints.

And this is what it looks now. I'ts quite obvious, well, it certainly is when looking at the box in real life, which colours were used a lot - and which ones weren't. There's not much left of either Payne's Grey or Alizarin Crimson, which I use mixed together as a shadow colour. And I love Sap Green. The only ones of the new additions that I did use where Rose of Ultramarine and Goethite.

It's useful to look at your palette after having used it for some time, and see if there's any changes you might want to make. Maybe a certain colour didn't work out quite as well as you thought, and you might want to swap it for another one. Or you find that there's a colour missing that would be really useful. There's such a great range of paints available these days, in any medium, and it's very easy to get carried away and buy a colour just because it's so gorgeous.

We went on a couple of outings in the area. One trip was to the beautiful Seleger Moor. I've posted some photos from my last visit there back in May, when all the rhododendrons and azaleas, their main attractions, were in bloom. Even though there's not so much blooming at this time of year, it is still worth a visit. It's just a peaceful place to be, and of course there's always the frogs, bees and hummingbird moths.

This gorgeous frog was sitting right in the middle of the path. Perfect for taking photographs. Can you see the mosquito in his back, sucking his blood? Poor little thing. I can imagine how he felt, I've got bitten about eight times while we were there. There's even a little insect sitting right on his nose tip.

For our the last day of our holiday, we decided that we had done enough walking and that we wanted something a bit more relaxing. What better thing to do than take a boat trip. We took the train to Rapperswil and got on the boat for a short 12 minutes journey to Ufenau. It's a charming little island owned by the monastery of Einsiedeln. It has two medieval churches and a restaurant, and you can walk all around the island, with beautiful views of the mountains and the emerald, crystal clear water of Lake Zurich.

We even saw this bussard, sitting on a leaveless branch right above our heads. It kept calling to its mate, which answered somewher in the distance. Just amazing.

I will definitely go to this little island again some time this summer. Maybe do some sketching too. For for now, it was time to get on the boat again for the almost 1 1/2 hour journey back to Zürich. We had been thinking about getting off somewhere along the journey, but it was so nice and relaxing to just sit on the boat, in the breeze, and watch the world slowly pass by, so that we decided to stay. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I would have been happy enough to just take the next boat, which was already waiting there, and do the journey all over again.