So Many Learning Curves – Taking on GoPro Hero4 and Thermomix!

new go pro hero 4 out of the box The new GoPro Hero 4
It was a coincidence that I landed myself with two, totally new to me, need to learn how to use them, bits of technology, within the space of a month.

One was the Thermomix, a high end food processor that you see used on Masterchef a lot and the other was a GoPro Hero4 video camera, a tiny and robust high definition camera often used for filming high adrenaline sports from the participant’s perspective.

The Thermomix was something I had wanted for a long time, the GoPro was a recent desire brought about by wanting to include video in my photography and being totally rubbish at it.

When I returned to the UK I had intended to buy a Thermomix, mainly because I was restarting my UK kitchen from scratch after an extended break and if you are going to cough up for a machine that replaces ten different appliances it makes sense to buy it before you fall victim to crowding your work surfaces with said appliances.

new thermomix cooking machine New Thermomix
A Thermomix will grind; it turns whole spices into powder, it grinds parmesan (even the rinds!) and it turns rice into rice flour and sugar into icing sugar. It blends, chops and weighs things. It will also mix cakes, knead dough faultlessly and emulsify sauces like hollandaise and mayonnaise, it will whisk, it will control heat things so you can temper chocolate and activate yeast, it will cook whole meals and it will steam things.

Thermomix can only be bought direct from the company that designs and makes them and you buy from personal demonstrators, you don’t just go to a shop and buy it. It is, without putting too fine a point on it, flipping expensive and you really need to know how your cooking life can benefit from it before you buy one.

Whilst the new version that I have has a built in recipe book and idiot proof functions to guide you through the recipes step by step to get the best from it you do need to learn how to use it and you do need to change the way you think about cooking, particularly if you are a “make it up as you go along” cook. It is quite hard to go from being an incredibly hands on cook who can see when a cake batter is ready to pour and can smell when a curry has the right balance of spices to being distanced from the food by it being inside a stainless steel jug.

But you learn and you waste a few things but the things you waste are made up for by the things it gets right. In these early days I have tended to underestimate it’s power, (this machine is seriously powerful) so I have turned coleslaw into mush and over mixed macaron mixture but the ease with which it has produced hollandaise (which I rarely make because of the resulting tantrum when it splits) and the fast and faultless yeast dough it produces and the smooth sorbets and ice creams it makes and the ease with which it produces a mid week risotto supper is making me persevere.

It encourages me to cook things that I am often too lazy to do, like pavlova (using up the egg whites when the yolks went into the hollandaise!), cinnamon swirls and anything that needs loads of chopping – me and sharp knives is always a game of Russian roulette, there will eventually be blood.

Fortunately there are loads of YouTube videos and blogs on Thermomix and Australia particularly has a very active recipe forum, so I am learning how to use it and I’ll report back on how it goes.

Thermomix UK

Thermomix Recipes Australia

I had seen a few GoPro cameras over the years, strapped to various appendages on visiting divers, but I hadn’t paid much attention to them because I was mainly concentrating on my own diving and my own still photography and also because I didn’t see the resultant footage as the divers took them home with them!

It was whilst I was exercising my boot fetish in County Sports in Haverfordwest a few months ago that I saw a display of these small, sturdy cameras and all the different ways you could mount and use them and I became intrigued, mainly by the high definition of the shots and the “take it anywhere” design of the camera.

After researching the cameras I decided that it I was ever going to do anything with video this was the camera that could help me, particularly for the diving footage I want to do and the high definition, very vivid, scenic shots I like.

So one day late in September I popped in for a chat with Chris Locke who uses a GoPro himself and who knows loads about them. He told me they didn’t have any in stock because a new one, the GoPro Hero4, was about to be brought out. I asked to see one as soon as they were available and he said he would call me as soon as they came in.

I, in my ignorance, had no idea how popular these things are or how big a breakthrough the new version was going to be. People sell their soul to get their hands on these things and because County Sports actually do what they promise I got a Hero4 on the day it was released, which apparently makes me very lucky and the GoPro community very disappointed because I now have to learn how to use it and am not producing stunning footage straight out of the box.

gopro hero 4 hand mounted for diving Hero 4 hand mounted for diving

I’m off to Mexico in a few weeks and that will be where I hope to get some decent footage but in the mean time I am learning all I can because this camera doesn’t just take video footage, it takes time lapse, day and night, it takes burst shots, ten a second, it takes stills and the video footage is 4k cinema quality at up to 120 frames per second which, with the software, you can slow down for sharp slow motion footage.

I’m particularly interested in the time lapse – did a test shoot of the plumbers putting in a shower door which I can’t show you because of all the messing around and exposing of body parts! – sunrises, sunsets, clouds, waves, that kind of thing and I’m really interested to see if the night time lapse can capture starscapes and if the cloud cover in Pembrokeshire ever breaks up, which seems unlikely, I’ll try and test that before I go to Mexico.

I have high hopes for this camera even though I don’t think I am GoPro’s target customer, I’m a 48 year old female who would rather gnaw her own hand off than make a shaka gesture (not Hawaiian, think it looks stupid) and I just want to film pretty stuff, oh and my cat!

County Sports Haverfordwest – GoPro Dealer Pembrokeshire

GoPro UK

Outstanding GoPro Hero4 Night Lapse Footage by Vimeo user Waterlust

Both these “toys” need effort to master; my desk is covered in notes of camera settings for different modes and my computer and Pinterest is crowded with recipes and suggestions for making the most of the Thermomix but this means I am learning and learning is good, learning is life and it makes me happy to learn, it is a positive response to difficult times, I’m going forward, learning all the time.

Slow Motion Wave at Abermawr

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Wave Therapy

wpid-img_20141021_093903.jpg It has, in short, been a dreadful summer, not weather wise but emotion wise and more things have gone wrong than it is fair to expect.

My Dad was already ill when I returned from Turkey; he just hadn’t mentioned it, as is often the case with gentlemen of his generation! Sadly he got worse and whilst being treated for leukaemia he developed an infection that proved intractable. He passed away at the end of the summer despite his own determination and the strongest efforts of the High Dependency Unit in West Wales General Hospital.

He put up an amazing fight and I am glad that I was here and not in Turkey and I got to spend those last weeks with him. It reminded me of who I come from; whilst sick his strongest characteristics came to the front, his determination, his belief in science and technology, his bravery, those are good traits to go forward with.

Sadness, as usual, cripples creativity and finding a way to surmount that is hard. Grief makes me quiet, makes me feel less like sharing things, it makes me feel insignificant. I sort of fade away. I wonder why anyone would want to read what I write or look at what I photograph. That feeling takes a lot to overcome.

When all else fails I go back to the sea, looking for the optimism I need.

abermawr pembrokeshire in late summer Abermawr in late summer
There is something about the clean cold waves of Pembrokeshire, they smell right, they taste right, and I never feel more like myself than in the wave. Somewhere in the wave is me. Looking for the bright sky through the surging white foam, trying to work out which way is up!

When all else fails, the waves of choice are at Abermawr, a pebble banked stretch of quiet nowhere, slowly being gnawed away at by the relentless sea, between Strumble Head and Abereiddy, not glamorous, not the most scenic beach in the world, but the “home” beach for me.

Here my late husband proposed to me, one summer night at sunset whilst behind him, leaving a line of light across the darkening sky, a meteorite burnt up at the right romantic moment.

dog walking abermawr pembrokeshire Shadow at Abermawr
Here I body surfed in the late afternoon waves as they buried Diana.

Here my daughter, four years old and hanging on around my neck laughed and shouted “More! More!” as big waves from an Atlantic front threw us high in bursts of spray.

Here my Dad took me on Sunday afternoons and I stood wobbling on the pebble banks, barely a year old, clinging onto him as the pointed out the distant outline of the ferry to Rosslare skimming the horizon.

All my life I keep coming back to Abermawr. So this is where I go when the sadness presses me down, so the waves can lift me up. Now it’s not just me in the wave, its Dad too, because he was all about sea and I can hear him in the low deep down rumble rush of the surf on the stones and I see him in the changing colours of the curve of the wave as it prepares to break and in the relentless, regular, march of the swell I realise we are forever moving on. That’s the trick, you keep going on.

fishguard bay and lower town pembrokeshire evening Fishguard Bay and Lower Town
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Rebuilding Home – Inside the House – things that worked and things that didn’t

Hallway, new floor Hallway, new floor
If the garden was bad the inside of the house was worse. When we arrived we only had one small loo and shower and we only had that because my lovely plumber Ian came out to the house, waded through the crap and got it up and running before we came home.

Essentially we came home to a house that had no bathrooms, no central heating, no hot water, rats nests and a collapsed ceiling in the utility room, every room needed to be redecorated, the wiring was buggered, there wasn’t a floor that wasn’t covered in animals stains and not a wall that hadn’t had assorted liquids thrown up it.

Beloved daughter had dealt with the worst of it – the blood stained mattresses and the abandoned ashes of some relative nobody gave a crap about! – but the whole house needed refurbishing. Fortunately we’re good at this sort of thing, it’s what we do. We build a plan, we follow the plan.

We start with the basics – heating, hot water, electrics and cleaning – and we work from there. And slowly it gets done, with occasional breaks to curse people who do such bizarre things to a home.

In an attempt to turn a really bad situation into a more positive one I decided to radically redesign the interior of the house rather than just replace all the damage. I decided to lay a new travertine floor in the hall, turn our second sitting room into a library, totally redo the utility room and all the bathrooms, aiming for a more cohesive theme and bringing in a lot of the art and textiles we have collected on our travels.

We went into the refurbishment with the attitude of “okay, you trashed my home; now watch me make it better!” Won’t be beaten. Not ever!

Ottoman embroidery, framed Ottoman embroidery, framed
We’re five months in now and we’re getting there. It hasn’t all been plain sailing because every day we would find new problems – a washing machine hose rammed down the main drain in the utility room meant we had to dig the floor up to get it out, all the wiring to the exterior lights and the internal bathroom fans had been cut in the attic and that took a while to trace – but we have had a lot of help from local workmen who have gone above and beyond and now we’re in the “making it pretty” stage it’s starting to be fun rather than heartbreaking.

The main thing that didn’t work was my decision to use Wickes to supply the utility room units because they had “take away kitchens” so that would make the job quick. Terrible decision! Wickes kitchen suck and our Wickes takeaway kitchen took weeks to arrive and we had to alter and reinforce every single unit because the quality was so poor. Lesson learned – use Howdens in future!

The travertine for the main hall really worked, I adore it and the tiler (Patrick) did an amazing job laying it and the slate floor in the utility room. My daughter thinks I am mad to put rugs on the hall floor, but I have two huge Laura Ashley aubusson rugs and their soft faded rose colours go with the pale gold of the travertine.

Auction find - little welsh dresser Auction find – little welsh dresser
Framing a couple of old ottoman tapestries has also worked, bringing part of the Turkish life back to Pembrokeshire. The heavy gold thread embroidery against dramatic red and black backgrounds, framed in white wood, injects more colour into the hallway.

I’ve recently rediscovered my love of auctions and bringing old things buried under assorted cast offs back into a home. The small county auctions, no catalogue in advance, cash on the day, are a favourite hunting ground. So far we’re got a lovely little welsh dresser, some beautiful prints, a heavy Turkish rug and an oak library desk and table.

Some online finds have helped the bathroom budget but the walk in showers and the old cast iron bath would have stayed at the other end of the country without our trusty delivery man Don who has driven the length and breath of the UK to collect, at reasonable costs, bargains from afar.

The gallery, back to how it should be The gallery, back to how it should be
So all in all we’re getting there, lots more to do but it’s coming, office done, kitchen done, utility done, three bedrooms done, gallery done, sitting room done, cloakroom done, shower room done, couple of bedrooms, two more bathrooms and the library left to do but the plan is clear and it all pulls together more every day.

Those who helped:-

Plumber – Ian of IRW Plumbing and Heating – 07795 277237 landline 01437 454044

Tiler – Patrick of P Busby Maintenance 0775 916 2122 land line 01646 602 895

Building Supplier – Travis Perkins Fishguard particularly Nick Jones and Danny who searched high and low for specific tiles, including weird ones, and generally went out of their way to help.

Pembrokeshire Picture Framing who have done sterling work framing my (not easy) ottoman tapestries and restoring prints we found at auction.

Carrier – Don of D.F.Couriers – 0779 2073773 – who has been brilliant and cheerful and helpful with whatever we have asked him to fetch, no matter how strange the request!

The Furniture Directory a family run business in Freystrop that have the nicest selection of homewares and furniture in the county, free delivery included and I never go there without coming home with something I love. Daughter has to be physically restrained when entering the premises too. This place is deadly!

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