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    A few of my favorite things

    Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

    Fresh produce. We recently discovered a tiny farm with a produce stand close to our home, and I love stopping by for fresh, yummy goodness. Today we got squash, plums, tomatoes, strawberries… it doesn’t get better than that.

    Fun blogs about doing art with kids. These two are my current favorites- SO inspiring!  Filth Wizardry (best name EVER!)  and The Artful Parent.

    Books about butterflies. We’re obsessed with them around here recently. A World Of Butterflies is stunningly gorgeous- an art book more than an identification guide. We found Butterflies & Moths (Smithsonian Handbooks) to be much more helpful in that regard.

    Pruning back our flowers. I don’t even know if pruning is the right word- basically just taking all the dead brown yucky bits off. (We had some casualties around here during the couple day heat wave.) There’s just something wonderful about pulling off all of the deadness to reveal the green beneath… I think there’s a potential post in that, so I’ll leave it for now. :)

    Finding a fun new recipe. I discovered what looks to be a delicious one for curry chicken salad. If it turns out as wonderful as it looks, I’ll share tomorrow!

    What’s one of your favorite things today? Do share!

    The Post about Zucchini

    Friday, August 27th, 2010

    The alternate title of this post is, “The Post Where I Learn that Zucchini is Spelled with an H”…

    I love the idea of gardens full of produce.  That beautiful cornucopia of squash, tomatoes, beans, and all things fresh and good.  Don’t forget those delightfully green and refreshing cucumbers!  I love gardens.

    I don’t have a garden but I am hoping that 2011 will be the year of my first garden.  We will see…

    While I love the idea of gardens, I am not always sure what to do with the produce that my wonderfully generous neighbors pass onto me.  So I decided that this summer will be the year that I learn how to feed zucchini to my family.

    I don’t find zucchini by itself all that exciting.  I think it is stunning to look at.  I love the bright, vivid green and yellows motled together on a smooth shiny surface.  I just love it.  However, eating it has always left me a bit disheartened.  I don’t find the flavor as exciting as I wish I did.

    So to remedy my bias toward zucchini I have decided to learn some recipes that will utilize its true yumminess.  Here are a few that I have found:

    Lemon-Zucchini Cookies (See my comments below before attempting these delicious cookies)

    Stuffed Zucchini with Potatoes and Peas

    Zucchini Oven Chips

    Zucchini Gratin

    Double Chocolate Zucchini Brownies

    Zucchini Bread

    I have made two of these recipes (the lemon-zucchini cookies and the zucchini bread).  Both turned out super yummy.

    Now before you make either of those, I have a confession.  I hate following recipes.  I am what you might call an “organic cook”.  Not organic in the sense that I only purchase organically grown items, but organic in the artistic sense of the word.  I like to use recipes as guides.  I rarely, if ever, follow a recipe exactly as it directs.  I add a little bit of this and a little less of that depending on how the fancy strikes me.  My results are not always consistent but usually they turn out great.  Some people might call that a flaw, but I just call it Cooking Character.  I have Cooking Character in spades.

    The bread recipe above turned out delish!  The only change I really made to it was that instead of egg substitute I used actual eggs.  I think I used about three eggs, maybe four.  I also used my whole zucchini which came to more like 3 1/2 cups instead of the 2 1/2 the recipe calls for.  I do really like the amount of spice in this recipe.  It turned out quite flavorful.  Kind of heavy, but I don’t mind heavy.

    The cookie recipe was all wrong, in my opinion.  It turned out amazingly delicious but I just wanted to warn you that I am recommending a recipe that I completely changed.  Hear me out first before you skip that one by.

    I started out making it as Martha Stewart recommended but I thought it was too runny and not really sweet enough.  As is, I think it would make a nice tea type cookie.  That’s not really what I was craving so I added about 1/2 C brown sugar and added more flour, maybe about 3/4 C.  Then I decided to add a few eggs because I have a huge carton of fresh, delicious eggs sitting on my counter.  Why not?  I also added some baking soda so that they would rise a bit.  Oh also, in the interest of full disclosure, I added some applesauce as well.  Ok, ok, ok, I also doubled the recipe, did half butter and half applesauce, and in the additional flour that I added about 1/2 C was whole wheat flour.

    OK, so basically I made an entirely new recipe but I think if you try the recipe Martha Stewart suggests, you will like it.  That’s all I am trying to get across here.  It also makes a great jumping off point if you want to experiment and try it your own way.  I have eaten way too many.  I’m feeling a little ill.  Like WAY too many, not just a few too many…

    The next recipe I am going to try is similar to the zucchini gratin recipe above.  My mom was telling me about it over the phone.  You basically make a quiche type dish with eggs, zucchini, bread crumbs, cheese, etc and bake it until it is solid in the center.  I might make that tomorrow night.  I think it will be super yummy!

    Finally, the old stand by recipe in our house for using up zucchini and other summer squashes is a stir fry.  How can you go wrong with that?  It’s always fresh tasting and (dare I say this word one more time?) delicious!

    Do you have any favorite zucchini recipes?  Please share them in the comments.

    I have a confession to make

    Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

    I write poetry.

    There.  I admitted it.

    I usually don’t think of myself as creative.  Creative is my aunt, who is an author.  Creative is my friend, who takes such beautiful photographs.  Creative is Martha, not our Martha, but the other one :)

    You know what?  I’m done downplaying it.  I’m creative too.

    I bought myself a notebook at Target on New Years, and I’ve been consciously making time to write.

    How do you nurse your inner creative sparks?  And how do you keep yourself and the others you share your life with from downplaying your own and their own creativity?

    Getting Crafty in 2010

    Monday, January 11th, 2010

    LensBaby7

    My sister and I have been talking about working together on a bunch of projects this year.  We are both very excited to make both things for our homes and for ourselves and our children.  Today we spoke for a little while and solidified our intent to get our craft on.

    She started making a tangible list of projects and that has inspired me to make a list of projects too.  With the thought of creative list making in mind, I was wondering what blogs inspire you.  We have discussed it here on MDM in the past, but I was wondering if anyone had any new inspiration blogs to offer.

    A few that I have been enjoying and gleaning inspiration from are:

    Burdastyle – a site dedicated to sewing and altering patterns to express your own individuality.  There are a whole bunch of free patterns that you can download and and print out, and some that are offered at very low prices.  Their blog is very active and frequently makes say out loud, “I want to make that!”

    The Purl Bee – While I would classify myself as NOT being a knitter, I do enjoy fiber arts and one day will put myself in that category.  Until that time, I find a lot of inspiration for projects from the Purl Bee.  They have many knitting projects but they also have a lot of other types of projects too.

    Nap Time Crafts – I love this site because it constantly reminds me that even with small children I can still make time to work on projects.  She has really colorful and cute projects for herself and her home and often puts together tutorials for the things she makes.  She’s very big on sharing knowledge and telling her readers how she made things and I LOVE that attitude.

    The Little Green Notebook - This site is run by a woman who is a great home decorator.  She is getting back into the game and opening her business after having children.  She posts projects she has worked on for both herself and her clients, things that inspire her and how she did the occasional project too.  I find a lot of inspiration from both her designs and in where to buy certain items.

    Steep Street - As a photographer, I have been finding great inspiration from this blog.  She always inspires me with her creative use of PhotoShop and her ability to capture the light and see things in angles that I might not think of.  She has really inspired me to learn my software better and be able to use my tools to create more creative art pieces.

    What has been inspiring you lately?  Are there any projects that have been bouncing around in your brain lately?  Are there specific colors or themes that have really been catching your eye lately?  Where are you finding your creative inspiration?

    Decorations

    Friday, November 6th, 2009

    Thanksgiving

    I love holidays.  I love time with family and food and presents.  I also love decorations.  My house feels dressed up, and I get to be creative.  I bought the Indian corn, gourd, and pumpkin at the grocery store for $5.00, and the mini straw bales from a craft store for $10.00.  I’m happy with how it turned out :)

    Do you decorate for holidays?  Do you just hang a wreath on the door or do you have an inflatable Santa and 9 reindeer on your roof?  How do you decide and why?

    Photography Tips

    Saturday, October 10th, 2009

    There is this other blog that I occasionally update called MomShots.  My goal in creating MomShots was to learn how to photograph my children so that I could get professional quality results and teach other parents how to do that too, as I learned.  This October is my two year anniversary of learning photography.  I don’t claim to be a photog expert but I do know that I have learned so much in that short time frame and have transformed my photography.

    I am much more happy with my results since I discovered these five tips.  I want to share with you, dear MDM readers.  These tips helped me take my photography to another level.  Maybe they will help you.  I am much more happy with my results since I discovered these five tips.  You do not need a fancy camera (though it doesn’t hurt to have good tools).  You can achieve results you will love with any camera by following these simple guides.

    Tip List:

    • Get close.  Get real close.
    • Get down on their level.
    • Focus on the eyes.
    • Be aware of your background.
    • Be flexible and take lots and lots of shots.

    My first tip here about getting really close was a huge change for me.  For some reason I avoided taking close ups like they were the plaque.  I just didn’t do it.  Once I broke through my photographic mind block I really enjoyed these new shots I was getting.  You can really focus on one person and get a feel for your subject’s zest for life.
    Summer Fun

    The tip of getting down on their level was something that blew my mind.  I could not believe what a difference it made.  Suddenly my shots of my kids went from a boring “adult holding a camera” view to suddenly seeing the world at the child’s level.  If you incorporate this into your photos, you will possibly jump for joy by how much of a change this brings instantly to your shots.
    Cora at the Beach

    Focusing on the eyes is a great way to make sure that you get the attitude and expression you are looking to capture.  You don’t always have to have the eyes in the center of the frame but if they are a prominent feature and in focus, you will enjoy your results much more.  Sometimes you will get so captivated by the eyes that you will ignore all the gunk stuck to their hair and face!
    Mag_by_chair

    Being aware of your background is a huge subject that takes lots of practice and thought.  The basic idea is that you want to avoid backgrounds that are distracting or detract from your subject.  A classic example of this is to take a photo and then you realize that there are trees or sticks in the background that appear to be growing out of their head or body.  Realistically we know that nothing is growing out of our children but it can be distracting and unpleasant to look at.  Think about the background and a neutral background is not what you are going for, try something fun.
    Gar_tractor_tire72

    Taking photos of children can sometimes get frustrating because they don’t always want to do the things you would like them to do.  Children have a mind of their own and love to exercise that independence.  In order to save your sanity remember to be flexible.  Try new things and if possible make your photo shoot into a game.  The most important thing to remember is to take tons of photos.  With digital photography you can take many more shots then you might have been able to justify with film.  Don’t be afraid to take as many shots as you can.  The more shots you take, the better the odds are that you will end up with a few that you really love.

    The last bit I want to pass onto you is that once you have learned these tips feel free to expand on them.  Feel free to try new things and ways of looking at your subjects.  The old adage about rules being meant to be broken is a fun thing to apply to photography.  Let your creativity guide you and you will love your results!

    An excuse to not put things away

    Saturday, August 29th, 2009

    I have a lot of crafting supplies. A lot. I’m a collector (voracious hoarder? You say tomato, I say tomato) by nature, and I enjoy 1) having  lots of options, 2) being able to put my hands on exactly what I’m imagining, 3) buying pretty things, 4) looking at pretty things. Add to that my tendency toward dabbling in many different crafting genres, and the end result is A LOT of supplies.

    Did I mention there’s a lot?

    I struggled for a long while figuring out the best storage solutions for all the supplies, and I’ve pretty much hit on what works for me. It’s a strange conglomeration of containers that resides in my closet.

    100_4023

    The top shelf is the sewing machine and other sewing items- yarn, crochet needles, knitting needles, yarn, thread, scissors, rotary stencils, etc.

    The second shelf holds the Cricut and all related items- as well as paper cutters. And apparently sandpaper and bottle of pink paper flowers.

    Third is scrapbook paper and embellishments, and that section overflows into the  fourth shelf in those lovely Martha Stewart boxes.

    The ground houses all the generic supplies (glue, scissors, tape) and various inks, glimmer mists, and stencils.

    And there’s more in the rest of the closet – stamps, fabric, stationary, chipboard and o-wires.

    (Somehow my clothes, shoes, and bags fit in there too.)

    It’s really nice to have everything in one place and accessible when I need it. But because it’s put away and out of sight, I find I don’t “need” things as often, because I get distracted by the rest of life and forget about the 17 projects I have going and the other 15 I’m thinking up.

    Earlier this week I got out the sewing machine to work on a set of baby blankets I’m making for a friend who is having twins. I got almost done with one blanket and hit a rough patch, so I put it aside. But since the sewing machine was out, I decided to tackle some other projects I’ve been thinking about but hadn’t gotten to, because it was “too much trouble to get the sewing machine out”.

    100_4012

    Pillows for Z and A to play their favorite game on- appropriately called “Fall on the pillow”. They were later used as stepping stones:

    100_4015

    A new bag to cart A’s toys to church on Sunday:

    100_4017

    Two easy, quick projects out of the way and done, and all because the instruments to make them were out and ready. I wonder how many other projects I would magically find time for if the sewing machine (or scrapbook stuff, or knitting stuff) was always out.

    I’m tempted to pick a supply and leave it out in plain sight for a week, and see what comes of it. Will you join me? Let me know what you’re leaving out in the comments.