Thursday, April 17, 2014

crocheted easter baskets

the easter bunny has been busy!  the holiday bug bit (fairly last minute) again and i managed to whip out a few of these little easter baskets for a few little friends.  i finished five to deliver today and need to make three more for monday.

i think they turned out so so cute!  i followed this pattern that i found on pinterest.  the bottom of the bowl i followed exactly and then for the sides i modified the stitch to the one i used for my dishclothes to give the bowls more of a basket weave effect. 
if you're looking for a quickie handmade easter project, these would fit the bill. each bowl took me about an hour to crochet and was made with scrap yarn.
the details:
100% cotton medium weight yarn
size E crochet hook (i love those tight stitches)
* for the bottom of the bowl, i completed through step 8 (48 stitches), the edge was then 7 rows tall plus the finishing row.  my completed bowls measure 3 inches across and 2 inches high
*i found the hello kitty bunny eggs in the easter section at target

hoppy easter, ya'll!

how does your garden grow?

i am just so so excited that gardening season is finally upon us once more!  it's been such a long winter; we actually had snow in the forecast on tax day this year!  craziness!

this year is going to be even better than last year.  a dear friend of ours has invited gabriel and i to share in his gardening experience.  he has 150 acres and two big hoop houses.  yes, please!

from the looks of the blossoms already appearing, we will have tomatoes and strawberries in early may!  hooray!

we spent three hours under this glorious blue sky saturday, and it was amazing.

g chatted nonstop with homer.  i loved it.  i am firmly convinced that a child can never have too many of the grandfatherly types in his life.  (plus, i got a few quiet minutes with my camera).
these are the remnants of the turnips, last fall's cover crop.  they were planted after the last harvest to deter weed growth and then tilled under in early december to enrich the soil.

the bees are loving these early blooms.

and i loved photographing them, although i am learning that macro photography is quite difficult with the iphone.  it refocuses every time it moves or the wind blows.  bees move a lot, so it's hard to keep up with them, plus it was a very windy day.  i must remember to take my big camera next time.

here is the bees' home.  we actually got to meet tennessee's state beekeeper as he was checking on the bees while we were there. 

g helped plant the cucumbers.  this saturday we're scheduled to help plant corn and zinnias.

and i will, of course, be taking more pictures.  and maybe crocheting.  and possibly taking a walk in the woods.  and taking more pictures.  and picnicing.  happy days ahead!

good-bye farm!  we'll see you again real soon!

linking up with mammasaurus and "how does your garden grow?"

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

52 weeks: february squares

wah!  i seem to be falling behind on all my year long projects!  i think it's the combination of changing seasons and winter lasting too darn long.  for example, i was going strong on my granny squares until basketball season ended.  without realizing it, i had gotten into the habit of carrying my crochet bag to practices and games.  i could usually get a square done in that time and still enjoy the game and atmosphere.  i know i'll enjoy carrying my crochet bag to the lake this summer as well.  it and a good book kept me company under a shade tree on many hot afternoons as the boys splashed.  now is the problem though.  i like to crochet while i'm doing something else.  yes, i'm a multi-tasker.  this week i've gotten into a rhythm of crocheting on the couch with g while he watches netflix on his ipad and i watch the flight 370 mystery on cnn.  the february squares are finally done.  maybe i will start the march squares at the farm this saturday.  hooray for a three day weekend!  and warmer weather!  and picnics in the great outdoors!

it's still so neat to me to document our lives in color.  the first squares were for our cub scout blue and gold banquet, the second for our kitty, pepito, the third for valentine's day, and the fourth for the olympics.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

menu plan: shepherd's pie

i've been having the urge to learn how to cook some of the dishes of my childhood (and record them in my holiday mini-album).  shepherd's pie is one of them.  sadly, my mom doesn't even remember making it!  what?!  i googled it and went with the simplest recipe i could find.  it was even a bit too complicated as my dad is a notoriously picky eater.  seriously, the only condiments/spices he will allow to touch his food are butter, salt, and pepper.  i'm not even exaggerating.  it's actually the butter that i remember most.  i remember there being pockets of butter in the (instant?) mashed potatoes on top when it came out of the oven and even butter leaking into the meat below.  mmmmmmm.  butter. 

i pretty much followed the recipe, except for nixing the onion, boiling the carrots with the potatoes before dicing them and adding them to the meat mix (no crunchy carrots!), and no beef broth because i didn't have any (boo).  plus i added a little parsley flake to the top for color (dad would not approve).  g has actually requested it again.  this is a shocker as he used to not care for potatoes overly much.  i'm going to try it again this week using a cheaper grade of ground beef, no worcestershire (it was good, but didn't taste like the one my mom made for my dad), and making sure i have beef broth this time.    i think it will be just exactly right then.

i love that i baked it in the cast iron skillet just like mom uses and dished it up on my brother's old lassie plate.

this week's menu plan:
sunday - dinner out
monday - bacon and eggs
tuesday - chicken noodle soup
wednesday - dinner at church
thursday - shepherd's pie
friday - tammy's? poppyseed chicken?
saturday - fried ham, crash hot potatoes, green beans

Monday, April 14, 2014

quality literature: the valley of amazement

"the valley of amazement" is back to the amy tan that i love.  my favorites of hers are definitely the period pieces.  this one is early 1900s china.  it was fascinating to watch both china and the role of women in the culture there evolve over the course of the story.  as it's a novel on the life of a courtesan, it can be a bit graphic at times (if this bothers you, you could skip chapter four, courtesan training, and you would miss the bulk of it), but the characters and history are worth the read.  i enjoyed it even more after reading amy tan's npr interview and knowing the research and family connection that went into it.  if you've never read any of her work, i'd suggest starting with "the joy luck club" or "the bonesetter's daughter."  those are my absolute favorites of hers and, really, a couple of my all time favorite books.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

florida photos: roadside attractions

i don't know about you, but i have a strong innate desire to stop on the side of the road and photograph wildflowers in the spring.  i don't often give in to this urge as i'm a little nervous about stopping on the side of the road.  back home, in florida, i'm a little more comfortable with the country roads, plus i have little boys who see ditches full of water and think, "crawdads!"

so, we had another successful crawdad excursion this trip.  g got enough again for aunt linda to cook him up a mess for breakfast.

troy got to show off his jewelry making skills once more.

and since it wasn't raining this year, avery and i got to enjoy the wildflowers.

he picked this little bouquet for his mom.

while i took my flowers home in photographs.

i've always thought it was interesting that wildflowers in florida (and probably most places) tend to be concentrated in certain color families.  in florida there is a great deal of white and yellow with a dash of purple. (and, coincidentally, these were my high school colors which i always thought was way cool).  probably, this has something to do with what the bugs like.  isn't that little green guy cute?  the little bee in the top photo has less discriminating tastes as he's enjoying the flavors of the non-native european crimson clover. 
speaking of native species, i was super excited to spot this beauty and realize it was a giant sundew!  i'm so used to seeing the tiny red ones that i never realized there were other varieties in florida. 
we also have carnivorous pitcher plants.  these are their buds.  hoping to get more pictures of the plants when we go back this summer.

while avery and i were investigating the flowers, g and troy were still busy with the dip nets.  one would think that this little guy was just a baby . . .
but the size of this behemoth tadpole would indicate otherwise.

not sure what this is, but it reminded me of mountain laurel.

not sure if these are pipeworts, bog buttons, or hatpins.  i never realized there were all different sorts of these.  must investigate further next time!

arrowhead.  and if you're in florida, i found a fun (free) app called "nature viewing along the great florida birding and wildlife viewing trail" that has flowers, butterflies, and birds. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

iphone camera and photo editing apps

g and i made a "coiniverous" bank for his 4th grade ffa project.
i got a new iphone 5s last week!  i LOVE it!!!  i've waited patiently for 2.5 years to own an iphone and this little baby does not disappoint.  the two main reasons i wanted it were the camera quality (hello 2.2 aperture!) and the diversity and functionality of the apps available (i am blown away by how much better the apps are for the iphone than for droids). 

here is a very brief overview of the camera apps i've downloaded thus far.  i may post more in depth reviews of some of them as i have more time to play and really learn what all they can do.

iphoto (free - itunes has it listed at $4.99, but it was a free dowload for me) - i added this one simply for the information button that tells me the date and time each photo in my gallery was taken or edited (very helpful with project life).  the photos app that came loaded on the phone did not have this information, but i've kept it as well since i can't find a button on iphoto that lets me delete unwanted photos.

procamera ($4.99) - this is an amazing app with many functions that i have yet to explore (including a self-timer).  the camera app pre-installed on the iphone is extremely basic.  what i was drawn to with procamera is the ability to separate the focal point from exposure.  really cool function.

the rest of the apps discussed below are all for post-processing.

this photo is straight out of the camera (sooc).

pictapgo ($1.99) - this app is so simple to use and has a wide array of free filters.  i prefer it as it easily adds the warmth and brightness that i like in my images.  it also has a nice selection of black and white filters that i know will come in handy.

vsco (free-ish) - this is the photo editing app that was popular when i first got my droid.  it wasn't available on the droid back then (but apparently is now).  it comes with a limited amount of filters with many more available for purchase.  it also allows you to adjust things like temperature, contrast, and brightness separately.  there is a much higher learning curve on this one to get the photos to come out exactly the way you want them to and it tends to give a more artsy/processed look.  it's a great app, but i'm not sure how much time i'll have to devote to it as pictapgo meets my current needs so much better and quicker.  i do like that it has an in app photo community, so i've kept it on my radar.  i love looking at beautiful photos.

sooc.  after mowing the lawn for the first time this spring.

pictapgo.  love the color saturation on this one.

vsco.  more of a vintage vibe.

my lawn is a beautiful place where weeds flowers abound.

pictureshow ($1.99) - and speaking of the vintage vibe . . . in searching for an app similar to vsco for my droid two years ago, i stumbled upon a fun app called vignette.  it has lots of toy camera filters and cool frames.  i loved playing around with it and wanted something similar for my new iphone.  vignette isn't available on the iphone and it took me FOREVER to find a comparable app.  i seriously looked through a lot of vintage/retro duds before finding pictureshow.  pictureshow is everything i wanted it to be and more.  so so fun to play with.

in pictureshow you can add toy camera filters, frames, light leaks/bokah, texture (like scratches and stains), text, and so much more.

while i prefer to make my photo editing choices post processing, i have discovered one fun sooc option in pictureshow that i like.  you can fire off four images and then adject the frame and filters to get this filmstrip/photobooth look.  i haven't quite mastered the timing and angle yet, but ha!

diptic ($0.99 + $0.99) - diptic is another photo app that i had on my droid.  it allows you to make photo collages.  i used it to size edit my phone pics to 3x4 and 2x2 so i could print them without editing them on my computer first.  the iphone version is much better.  i went ahead and paid an extra $0.99 for an upgrade that allows me to change my aspect ratio to 3:2 which is the size for 4x6 prints.  the iphone version also allows me to delete all borders between photos so i can bleed my prints all the way to the edge.  score.

diptic.  can you believe g and i took out a holly bush all by ourselves with just an ax and shovel?

a beautiful mess ($0.99) - a fun little app that allows me to add colorful text and borders to photos. 

a beautiful mess (also available on android).  perfect for pointing out those little details and for dull indoor photos.

collect (free + $1.99) - this app is perfect for 365/project life.  i'm not using it for journaling/note-taking, but it's great for that.  i mostly wanted the option of more type-written journaling in my project life albums without my having to get on the computer to do it.  for this, i went ahead and splurged on the $1.99 upgrade for annette haring's version (i first saw this app on her instagram feed).

at first i thought it was silly that i had to find all these different apps to do all the things that i wanted done with my photos.  then i realized that i was being silly.  these apps are all in the same place on the same phone and it takes just seconds to do each little thing.  they all combine and interact so well.  for example, the left image was taken using the procamera app then the text was added with the collect app.  the image on the right was edited in pictapgo.  then i combined them both on a 4x6 canvas in diptic so they'd be ready to print straight from my camera.  i love it!