Saturday, 31 May 2014

Saturday 26th April - Knife Skills and Foraging

April and Spring have most certainly sprung. The meeting and workshop fell in to two sessions, one before lunch in the familiar surrounds of the St John’s Church Hall and the afternoon session led us out into Meanwood Park.

We had a good turnout for the morning meeting and mini knife skills workshop. Although, with this being double billed with the foraging workshop, some people had visions of us whittling our own weapons, in readiness for spearing local wildlife! Honestly, do we look like the types who would do that....? Well, not all of us do!

Kevin Maudson and his lovely wife Helen, from Del Verde Restaurant, joined us to talk through a chef’s guide to chopping, dicing and slicing. I thought Kevin would be a little nervous surrounded by the Darling Roses eagerly wielding their sharpest of knives – Lynsey had a full briefcase full of knives (Tarantino style).

Kevin demonstrated the best ways to slice and dice onions and how to julienne a carrot, before he showed us how to debone a chicken amongst other chicken butchery things (it started getting quite gory so I helped out in the kitchen at this point). He then went on to show us all how to make some flourishing touches with a lemon, something to add a little 'je ne sais quoi' to our dinner parties! It was short but very sweet, and we all really enjoyed our little step inside the pro-kitchen - next stop Masterchef.

It was an emotional session - above, the highs and the lows
Some people enjoyed it a little too much!

There was a birthday party booked in the hall after our meeting, so it was all hands on deck to de-stink and tidy up. No-one wants a party that smells of onion and raw chicken! Luckily we were just getting Henry the vacuum back in the cupboard as Malcolm turned up for the pre-party inspection.

From there, some of us went home, and others gathered for a quick picnic lunch before we re-assembled at the side entrance to Meanwood Park to meet with the amazing Mina Said-Allsopp. Mina was there ready and waiting for us to run through the rules of Forage Club. I must say we all looked a treat with our wellies, baskets and wise woman sticks (Val).

Mina introduced us to the St George’s mushroom, we all had our very own one to get to know and make friends with. Mina explained the three steps to mushroom recognition: 1 - sight, 2 - cross-reference with three reliable sources (ideally two books plus one reputable website) and 3 - conduct a spore test. (To do the spore test, lay the mushroom out overnight, half on a piece of black paper and the other half on a piece of white paper. In the morning the mushroom will leave a spore print, similar to a finger print. Each type of mushroom has a completely unique spore print, allowing you to safely identify the mushroom.)

We entered the park and within 10 feet Mina had us picking cherry blossom from the nearest trees, tasting the subtle differences between the pink and the white. It wasn’t to everyone’s taste, but when you got a good piece most of us agreed that it had an almondy taste similar to marzipan.

We then walked only another few feet before we started feasting on a flowering currant bush, something that is so very common and yet I had managed to go over 40 years without ever stopping in the park and having a nibble. Again, most of us were pleasantly surprised (quite sweet, fruity and fragrant - more reliably pleasant for everyone than the blossom had been). From there it was endless taste, touch and smell sensations, never have three hours gone so quickly. Poor Mina and her bump were exhausted but we were so lucky to have been able to spend the afternoon with her. It was such an interesting insight into what we have at our disposal, literally on our doorsteps. Thank you Mina for a wonderful day.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Saturday 29th March - Unity & Hope and Block Printing

After a long, grey and grim winter (eeh bah gum), we were relieved to feel some long awaited Spring warmth when our March meeting and workshop date rolled round.

In the morning we were joined by Sophia Sheikh from the charity Unity and Hope, who delivered an inspiring talk about the lack of funding and support for adult survivors of child abuse. She spoke about how the project started, and the work she has been doing to raise awareness and put pressure on the government to provide funding. As a group we were all moved and agreed that the work of Unity and Hope was vital in bringing about much needed change. If you would like to find out more about what they do, please go to their website ( and also please take the time to sign the petition to improve the responses to adult survivors of sexual abuse -

After the talk we moved on to lunch and, as ever, the shared lunch table trembled at the trestles with lovely delights. I think we must all carry Mary Poppins carpet bags every time I see how much is produced and shared on the day – incredible.

Following lunch, Jayne took to the craft table and talked us through the best ways to approach block printing.

Everyone was excited to have a ‘messy’, creative workshop again, following our more recent ‘active’ sessions. Jayne had a number of lovely examples and tips and hints to share with us before she set us all free with the inks and blocks. There was a mad clammer for blocks and workspace, but we soon found ourselves working in small groups sharing ideas and materials.

We were given an apron and a tote bag to do our worst / best with.

We all ended up with two lovely unique creations, paint all over our hands and smiles on our faces.

The hall looked like we had had a ball, and was probably a close second to the wreath making class in terms of messiness and length of time to put right at the end, but it was worth it.

Friday 28th March - Life Drawing Class

Well, if you weren't there on the night, and I told you that our tools included bread and huge paper discs, would you be able to guess where they came into play? The night started with that all-important glass of wine, and then we got our sketch stations set up.

Jayne started the session off with an excellent prep talk about how we are all GOOD at art and it’s our inner negativity that tells us we can’t draw. As she rallied us into a state of ‘can do’, Jayne explained how we would work through a number of different exercises to reawaken our inner artists and remind our brains how to draw. As you can imagine the room was a little chilly, but Suki was a trooper and said that she had worked in much harsher conditions.

Before we knew it, Suki was on all fours and we were tracing her outer lines in one continuous line, using a pencil with a huge paper disc on the end to prevent us from looking at what we had drawn. This exercise was truly enlightening; everyone was surprised at what they produced, although my own efforts resembled a young Elvis Presley and not Suki. Wine and snacks kept us all sustained as we worked on sketch after sketch. It was fast paced and most of us could see the progress we had made in such a short period of time. Some efforts were really stunning and captured the moment, others looked beautiful and some were very abstract. Jayne was a supportive and encouraging teacher who brought the best / something out in all of us and Suki was truly amazing, much more than just a naked woman in the room. She was inspiring and created shapes and lines that were simply wonderful to draw.