Monthly Archives: September 2010

One Hundred and Fifty Fall Leaves

A trip to the dollar store this week found me with a mixed bag of fake fall leaves made from.. well… whatever kind of shimmery fabric they make fake flowers out of. I’m not typically a fan of fake flowers or foliage, but for some reason these caught my eye and seemed like they had some kind of good potential for a fall decoration.


After dumping them all out on the floor and fluffing them to try and disperse that fresh “factory produced” smell, I decided that a garland was the way to go. So I hauled out my Singer and started playing. By running the machine without any fabric in it, you can create a sort of thread “chain” that works as a nice beginning to the garland, and as spacers between the leaves. Some leaves are singles, others I stacked two at a time before running them through, which looks especially cool with the sheer leaves.

At the end of the garlands I threaded short stacks of buttons to act as weights to hold them down.

By sewing them all on the the same direction, they ended up looking like falling leaves.

More on how I used the garlands to come…

Gallery

A Few SLO workdays

This gallery contains 9 photos.

Hubbs had a business trip this week that brought him to a town very close to our hearts: San Luis Obispo. This is the town where we went to school, and where we met almost 6 years ago. The trip … Continue reading

Just Add Chickens

My sweet Hubbs has been hobbling around home the past few days, sore from this weekend spent making good on his Valentine promise: some chickens and their very own Hubbs-built coop. With a weekend finally free, he was able to get to work cutting the pile of lumber that’s been staring him down since February; he’s got lots to show for his hard work: the doors working, the little roost in place, and a second floor is built and ready for eggs. The only thing we need now is a roof and some chickens, so, I think its time to start figuring out what our little flock is going to look like.

The Garden Ark, as the coop plans are named, holds 4 chickens. I’m interested in all pets earning their keep, so I want to find 4 chickens that lay beautiful looking eggs and lots of them. And I want friendly chickens who don’t mind being held sometimes.

I’ve done some reading online about good chicken qualities and have come across very dignified sounding breed names, like Barnevelder, Australorp, Ameraucana, and Welsumer (Although the more research I do, the more I think those grand names belong to pretty common kinds of chickens!). According to the reading, having one of each of these chickens should yield us a solid dozen per week, including blue, dark red, green and brown eggs.

Get ready to see chick pics in the next couple weeks!

Some pointers from a cactus guy

While enjoying a free class on succulents this morning at our local nursery (thanks again for the invite, T!), I saw that my conception of succulents had been far too narrow. Cactus, of course, I expected to see. But geraniums? Cucumbers? Some kinds of poinsettias?  And all this time I thought succulents were either sharp or boring…

The instructor explained that the easiest way to kill your succulents is to let them be wet and cold at the same time. So he advised planting them in pots and bringing them indoors during the winter – even your 10 foot tall potted cactus which would be “the coolest houseplant ever!” (this is debatable, I think…).

When I got home I promptly removed my mint-chocolate geranium cutting from the water jar that it (hasn’t) been rooting in, since just learning that the best way to root a succulent is to leave it on the counter for a week to dry out and then just plant it.
And, unrelated but learned in the class, if you bring home beach sand to use in your garden, boil it first to get rid of any lingering sand bugs. This tip was in the context of planting succulent gardens that look like the bottom of the ocean.

So there’s my helpful succulent tips for the day, in case more are growing in your yard than you originally thought.

Lemon curd cookies!

With fresh lemon curd in the fridge and a picnic to go to, what else could I do but make lemon filled cookies? The best part was finally getting to use Grandmas tiny aspic and cookie cutters -that small tin is about two inches in diameter!

It also led to finding my new favorite butter cookie recipe. Very easy, food processor friendly, and delicious results.

Once they were baked and just cooled, a a dollop of lemon curd went inside each sandwich. I expected the filling to make a lemony mess out the sides, but surprisingly it all soaked right into the cookies and glued them together!

And if you’re wondering (as I was) what exactly aspic is all about, all I can say is that after some research, I’m more uncertain than before, and not likely to be making it soon.

Lemon Curd

Large, lemon-filled vases were a central part of wedding decor last week, and they’ve been doing their part since then to also cheer up our living room. That is, however, until we noticed some of the sunny yellow begin change to dull fuzzy green… time to salvage what we could and make lemon curd!

My favorite lemon curd recipe can easily be made in a food processor. To speed up tedious zesting, use a vegetable peeler instead of a grater to cut big slices of lemon zest at a time.

The great thing about this recipe is you whir the ingredients together, cook it for 10 minutes, and strain. Then you’re done! No egg separating, tempering, or double-boiling.

There is some question about the safety of canning lemon curd, which comes from the varying pH of fresh lemons. The UGA has a recipe using bottled lemon juice, with a predictable acidity, which ensures it will be safe to eat. I had big plans of testing the pH of my lemons and making  pH paper to do it (who knew this was possible!?) BUT all plans were thwarted when I splashed a large amount of boiling water on my wrist and had to go ice and get bandaged up. So maybe next time.

In the end I did get the lemon curd in the jars and processed, but think I’ll keep them in the fridge just to be safe.

~Until tea time!

Taking a Better Picture #3

Tip #3: Get out of the sun – whatever you’re shooting probably looks better in the shade.

Full sun can be bad for picture taking. Painful grimaces from sun in the eyes won’t make for the natural, relaxed portrait that you’d like to take. And the garden that is so rich in color and detail will be reduced to a choppy mess of white reflections on green leaves with black shadows when the bright morning or mid-day sun is blaring down on it.

Look at this example of Hubbs holding the herb bouquet. My eye sees the green blob of leaves and then its drawn right down to the dark shadow-shapes that break up the hand and the sweatshirt below it.

Then we stepped into the shade and tried again. Now we can see all the differences in color and leaf quality that’s happening in the bouquet, and my eye isn’t drawn away from the subject by distracting shadow-shapes and lines.

Here’s another example. First, books outside in so much afternoon sun that I mainly notice the triangular shadows.

Here’s the pile of books moved to the shade – I can actually read some of the titles now, and I pay more attention to the books than to the shadows created by the books.

Warning! Look for solid shade with no mottling. Tree branches and lattices can create shadows that look bad on books, and even worse on faces. Look closely at your subjects’ face when you get ready to snap the picture, and make sure they don’t have shadows splotched across them.

So look at the picture before you click the shutter, and if you see lots of harsh shadows, try reposing the picture in a shady spot. Another fun thing to experiment with is waiting till the early morning or late afternoon when the sunlight is nice and diffused to take your picture. You can also get great results on an overcast day when the clouds remove all the harsh shadows for you. You (and your subject!) will be much happier with the results.