Despite the title, these pixels are anything but lazy. This is a site of my own photos, my own art, my own written text and more. There are no memes. This is not a portal to someone else’s brain. It is an outlet for my own creative soul. I plan to post words and pictures about things that interest me and all the projects I'm exploring in multiple formats: long, short, deep, and shallow. Share and enjoy.

Three Dozens

Posted
11 months ago

I enjoy bread. Gluten and carb naysayers be warned, this is a bread-friendly space. Sandwiches. Toast. Even just nibbling the heel with a bit of butter or olive oil. We always have bread in our house.

One of the historical touch-points for this pandemic lock-down also turned out to be bread-friendly. As people sheltered at home, directed to avoid the outside world for a few months, fearful of an un-quantifiable viral transmission risk, hoarding toilet paper and learning the nuanced stresses of multiple hours spent video chatting, many people turned to baking. Flour and yeast came to such short supply that commercial bakeries were offering online sales of their stockpiles, and Canada’s most famous flour supplier streamlined production by packing in plain brown paper bags because they could not manufacture the branded sacks fast enough.

I was well-stocked for flour. On the day I came home from the office with my laptop and set up a work from home office in my basement, I made sure to wander upstairs shortly after and pull my sourdough starter out of the fridge with the vague notion of maybe baking some bread while I was home.

I think I started making sourdough in 2015. I’d watched a documentary on Netflix about the history of naturally leavened breads — which was more exciting than it sounds — and the perception that this traditional approach to food, including the process of long fermentation and simple ingredients, had a holistic nutritional advantage over industrial bread production. I was intrigued. Shortly afterward I bought a bread-making book, set out on the counter some flour and water to ferment into a levain, and then fumbled through a dozen failed bread experiments. That starter lived about two years before it stagnated from distraction. My success rate was low, and my summer had been busy, and one day I pulled it out of the fridge after neglecting it for about two months and it was a grey box of goo.

In the spring of 2019 we took a trip to San Fransisco and (I likely need not elaborate on my inspiration) upon our return I hatched a new bread-making plan and brand new starter. A little more research. A little more patience. A little more practice. And between May 2019 and March 2020 I baked a batch of bread every week or so, each a little different than the last, but increasingly closer to personal perfection.

Traditional sourdough is that classic domed loaf with the slice across the top blossoming like a flower in the springtime. The Kid, who shares my appreciation for bread-based food, noted one morning that it would be so much smarter if I baked actual sandwich-shaped loaves of bread. “Are you allowed to do it that way, dad?” ...to which I promptly replied by ordering a second cast iron loaf pan from Amazon and running the experiment. My standard batch of dough turned out to be a perfect recipe to divide in half and create a pair of mini sandwich loafs roughly 21cm x 12cm. Perfect for the toaster. Perfect for a grilled cheese.

“Neat.” I thought -- and I went back to baking a classic dome.

Then came the pandemic.

My starter had warmed up on the counter, the last loaf we’d bought from a grocery store was dwindling nearby, twenty kilograms of flour lurked in my pantry, and I pulled out my tools and started mixing a batch of dough. Five hundred grams of flour. Twelve grams of salt. Three hundred and sixty grams of water. And a portion of my starter. Proof. Bake. And voila: two mini-loaves of sourdough sandwich bread to hold us over until the grocery stores are back to normal. That should be enough, right?

Today marked two months since I got pulled into the pandemic panic that ramped up at my job, and this morning I cut into the thirty-sixth mini-loaf of pandemic sourdough I’d baked since this story began. Three dozen. Eighteen batches. In the meantime, online communities have sprung up to share advice and tips and photos. Friends have quizzed me for secrets. We stood on a street corner and one of our neighbours suggested a bread swap. Pandemic sourdough has defined this span of time almost as much as the daily news briefings or the long hours in my basement office or the endless video calls.

Will I still enjoy bread when this is all over? Some time in the future, I imagine at least, I’ll be telling a grandkid or two about the year twenty-twenty as we sit together and nibble on the heel of a loaf of fresh sourdough. “This was actually what we ate. Bread like this. Made from this same starter. These pans. This kind of bread. Every day. It fed us and kept us a little bit happy through a sad and crazy time.”

“That doesn’t seem so bad.” They’ll say.

Garden Update, Part 1

Posted
11 months ago

Usually by the time May long weekend arrives each spring I'm in garden-panic-mode.

May long weekend is a consistent chronological milestone we tend to use locally as the weekend when a garden can be safely planted as the ground as fully thawed and the risk of spring snow or a killing freeze has largely passed. Any later and the season is too short. Any sooner and one risks losing delicate seedlings to a mid-May reminder that we live in a northerly winter city.

Thanks to the ongoing pandemic sheltering orders, I've been spending a lot of time at home, and a lot of my free time in the backyard. The less fun tasks that lead into planting days over that May long weekend -- raking, tilling, pruning, weeding, and picking up the accumulated trash -- are often time consuming and become a minor blocker between that limited spring time and the patient joys of cultivation.

Yet here I am, after the first week of May, with a raked yard, a tilled bed of soil, a refreshed compost, and garden ready to plant.

Ready?

Actually, the potatoes and onions have been in the ground for a week. And the garlic that ignored my requests to grow last year has this year emerged in abundance. The berry bushes -- raspberries, haskaps, and saskatoons -- are leafing out, and my apple tree is promising to show some colour in the next few days.

I started a small batch of more delicate long-season plants in my basement window sill. The tomatoes usually fail from lack of attention, but working from home has allowed me to keep them appropriately watered, lit, and even breezed, a strategy I researched online about simulating wind and outdoor air with a small fan to encourage stronger stems. Those plants still have a couple more weeks of indoor love, but I may start introducing them to the backyard as early as this afternoon.

In other words, as May long weekend sneaks up to startle us all with realization the year is nearly half over and the summer is officially upon us, this year I'm going to surprise her right back and spend it with a carefully planted garden... assuming it doesn't pull a fast one and rain on us.

Quarantine Sketchy

Posted
11 months ago

I've been struggling with the idea of posting happy things during the pandemic lockdown.

Many people I know -- we all know -- have lost jobs, health, sanity, and even that comforting thread of normalcy. Sharing pictures that ignore this fact creates a fuzzy line between cheerleader and oblivious. The obvious solution is to stop posting. Yet, dropping out of sight, ignoring that some people just want to know that others are out there, is a gap that cannot be ignored. So... what to do?

In my wanderings I had been taking lots of random photos of the garden, of spring, of new life emerging from the ground and soil and seemingly dead tree branches. The snow melted over the span of a week, the sun came out, and little shoots of green appeared as I walked by. I snapped. Or clicked. Or whatever it's called when one presses a silent virtual button on a touchscreen. Alas, I didn't want to just upload, so besides just wavering between either deleting or wantonly posting these average phone pics of my walks, I instead sat down one evening recently and began to use them as a layered inspiration for some sketching.

Backup. Nine months ago when we were wandering around the UK and Ireland, I happened upon an art store where I bought a sketchbook and some ink pens. Paper, time, and inspiration. I returned home with a dozen or so rough travel sketches. I've never been an artist, but I've filled more than my share of pages with attempts. The idea of travel sketching appealed to me, and so when I came home I had this notion that I would continue. But the familiar sights nearby work and through our neighbourhood seemed to lack the inspirational push that I required to keep it up.

A few months passed on I came into possession of an amazing birthday gift: an iPad (and later the dedicated Apple Pencil stylus) turned my artistic inclinations through a new tool: a useful tablet for writing and gaming and video became an incredibly useful sketchpad, too.

Back to May 2020 and I find myself with limited access to travel inspiration, but a penchant to draw.

To be fair, the iPad allows me to cheat a little bit. Those inspirational photos that I snap have served as not only memory joggers for the sights I've captured, but I had adopted an artistic style that blends some cheater enhancement gained from using each pic as a starting layer in my sketching software. Simply: I've been starting with a rough trace of the photo. Atop the photo, a blank transparent canvas lets me capture the rough shape and outline of the object. Quickly. Broadly. And then I ditch the photo and do detail work and colour work and texture work completely from my own mind.

But, yes. I'll admit to a bit of lazy pen work on the high level structure.

The idea of travel sketching is often thought of as loose, however. It is an art form that is accomplished with the time and tools in hand. A pencil, some paper, a quiet spot on a noisy street corner where one furiously grabs the barest details from a scene to fill a gap of time and story. It strikes me as something of an exercise in mental impressionism, an act of capturing a feeling of a place as much as a photo captures the detail.

The end result is not the sketch, then, but the feels it leaves on the person who looks at it.

So back to the beginning: Many people I know -- we all know -- have lost jobs, health, sanity, and even that comforting thread of normalcy. Sharing pictures that ignore this fact creates a fuzzy line between cheerleader and oblivious. The obvious solution could easily be to stop posting. The less obvious solution is to stop posting reality.

The sketches, to me at least, are a fusion. They are traced from photos, hacked from reality, blended from memory and image, and at the same time impressions of a moment in time layered with colours and textures and scribbles. Travel sketches of a moment in time when travel meant something besides getting on a plane or in a car and going away physically, but instead escaping the complexity of reality for fresh air in a garden or a park or along a riverbank.

I continue to struggle with the scope of posting anything during this time, a moment when a global pandemic has uprooted the very notion of normal, but I think creating art from that mental space and sharing it is anything but oblivious.

Lazy Pixel Lazy, A Reboot

Posted
11 months ago

I used to write a lot.

In fact, for sixteen years I kept a personal blog that may have manifested as little more than an online journal of my life but accumulated nearly two million words worth of content before I shut it off for professional reasons. Simply, I didn’t want people who worked for, with, or above me to dig through the archives and hold me accountable in my forties for something I’d written in my twenties. The entire contents now live, password protected, on a private server in my basement waiting for the day that someone, likely a much older me or my now-tweenage daughter to realize that those words hold some kind of personal historical record worth revisiting.

Between shuttering that blog, and today I’ve written a smattering of other things but nothing has inspired me to sit down day after day and put words and ideas to text like that blog ever did.

By some weird coincidence, today is exactly 500 days since I wrote my last post there, my “so long... this is done” post. And while that was a blog written and designed by a twenty-something trying to fill a writing niche that the world demanded, this site is one designed by a forty-something trying to fill a writing niche that his soul requested. Five hundred days later I’m rebooting. The Pixelazy Project is, or will be, a collection of writing — personal, opinion, idea-driven, and largely inconsequential, save for a potential historical record worth revisiting someday.

No personas. No themes. No topic. Just words that I feel like sharing.

All that stated, I should warn potential readers that I have lots of odd ideas about being online in the 2020s.

I’m bored of purposeless content. I’m frustrated by uninformed opinion. And I have little tolerance for unoriginal text or images.

What I post here will be my own pixels. Thus, despite the title, the pixels are anything by lazy. It will be my own photos, my own art, my own written text. There are no memes. This is not a portal to someone else’s brain. It is an outlet for my own. I plan to post writing about things that interest me in multiple formats: long, short, deep, and shallow. If I opt to keep writing for another sixteen year stint, that would bring me close to my sixties and the last thing anyone wants is a sixty year old trying to stay relevant in whatever the world looks like in the mid-30s.

I used to write a lot. I plan to again.