I have recently spent two Sundays learning new skills. Both events were ‘Gift’ days and as Christmas is approaching and you may be looking for ideas, I thought I would share my experiences with you.

In August a friend asked me if I would like to join her for a one day ‘Thai’ cookery course. Unknown to her, when she phoned, it was soon to be my birthday and I was thinking of what my ‘treat’ to myself should be. (I always give myself a birthday gift – why not?) This year it would be learning more about Thai flavours.

The venue was The Arches Cookery School based on a farm within the North Yorks National Park https://www.archescookeryschool.co.uk/   I had already attended courses there before and can fully recommend it. Set within an old stable block the scenic drive and rural landscape is restful in itself.

The group numbers are small so you can chat and observe your fellow cooks. Sarah is very informed, encouraging and throws out hints and tips with abandon (so, listen).

Lunch is part of the day and you have an opportunity to taste the dishes you will be cooking and taking home for dinner. It just needs finishing and heating – what’s not to like?

I had attended the ‘Thai’ day previously and yet, this was different. The dishes were different (previous day had focused on fish, this one had more meat choices) and I learnt more about ‘balancing’.

The take home message from both was the same – make your own Thai Curry Paste (Red and Green). The difference between homemade and that in a jar is astonishing. It freezes well so can be made in larger amounts for quick future meals – and is really simple to make.

(Please note – all photos credited below, too busy cooking to use camera myself)

The next Sunday I was off to Preston Park, Eaglescliffe, to spend the day improving my camera skills.  Earlier in the year my youngest daughter had given me her ‘old’ camera. Although it appeared to be a straight forward Compact Digital I struggled to take decent photos. As a birthday treat the eldest daughter bought me a one day ‘Getting Off Auto’ course with a company called ‘Going Digital’. https://www.goingdigital.co.uk/

‘Back in the day’ when I was young I had had an SLR with a variety of lenses so thought that I would, at least, understand some of what was being said. I have to admit – I struggled.

I had expected fellow attendees to have similar cameras and, like me, to be total beginners at the digital camera technology, this was not the case.

Many knew exactly what they were doing and were there to brush up on their skills, improving their technique.

The instructors, Bev and Ian, were informed, enthusiastic and Patient. As the morning moved towards lunchtime I gradually remembered/learnt what Apertures, ISO, AWB were. I learnt about my camera and its various settings – many settings I didn’t know it had!

The afternoon in the park practising skills of both camera and composition were of great benefit as Ian walked amongst us advising and correcting (well, correcting me especially).

Although early in the day I felt I was struggling with the information all my queries were answered clearly and I came away thinking the day had been beneficial.

In the end I took some decent photos and have since been out in my local park practising – just need to remember how!

Photo Accreditation

Steamy Kitchen – Photo by John Legrand on Unsplash

Food Preparation – Photo by Alyson McPhee on Unsplash

Bowl of Food – Photo by Sharon Chen on Unsplash

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