Saturday, July 30, 2016

Pear Butter and Other Canning

While perusing my canning cookbooks, I came across some pear recipes.  In the end, the one I used was online, here.  My boys were skeptical of the star anise but we made it once as-written and it is pretty great.  And we wondered, are there other kinds of anise?  I went and got more pears for another batch (and pictures, of course!)

I made more peach preserves.  It's the easiest thing to come by in large quantity, a box of good peaches, and a crowd pleaser, definitely.    I used my favorite recipe as previously posted.

And lovely strawberry... preserve.  Jam?  I'm not sure.  Poor strawberry stuff, no spices; just lemon and sugar - and I used all the lemons.  I ate that strawberry after the pictures, and it was delicious.

I'm thinking that these would all be perfect for a tea party, and perhaps I should make some lemon curd.  Have you made lemon curd?  I'll have to look for a recipe unless you can suggest one...?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

July 2016 Garden Report

As you can see, the garden is doing its job.  I'm not sure I've done mine, but considering I only planted two thirds of the garden, and we had two hail storms early in the season, we're going alright.  

We had a couple of rounds of snap peas - one of my favorite things.  I intended to plant more but I'm thankful for what we had, as they are so much better fresh than store-bought.   

Currently, we have a daily allowance of tomatoes - perfect for throwing in salad or fajitas.  There is nothing like a fresh-picked tomato.  Soon, we'll have some big ones ready for salsa and marinara.  The tomatillos are taking over - how did I not know this would happen?  Their lovely little lanterns are fun, though.

I wish I had planted corn, potatoes, onions.  They seem like no-brainers but since they don't come in pots, I did not get them done.  What should we plant next year??

Monday, July 18, 2016

hot air balloon rodeo, Steamboat Springs

We decided to track down a hot air balloon festival this summer, and spent the weekend in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.  This beautiful little town has good food, beautiful hikes, friendly locals, and a yarn shop!  What more could you ask for??  

We watched balloons from sunrise to sundown, seriously.  I am going to mostly let the pictures do the talking but wanted to point out two things.  The "rodeo" portion of this festival is when the balloon pilots attempt to touch down on the surface of the lake.  I think most of them managed it without any problems.  You can see the yellow balloon with the flowers is still dripping as it rises.  Also, out of twelve hand-painted balloons in the world, there are two in this crowd!  They are the circus balloon and the cowboys.  

To see more, including a time-lapse video (my first attempt at that,) you can check out the whole set here.  

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

artist: Jessica, quilter

Like many crafters, I have lots of projects in the works.  One of my current projects is a personal little photo essay, if you will, on artists and craftsmen.  This involves finding such people, and then convincing them they should be photographed.  (This has proven a little more challenging than I had expected.  I think many artists have a difficult time sharing or explaining their process.)  The idea for this project came simply from my appreciation of all the people I've encountered over the last five or ten years who, like me, enjoy making things with their hands.  I've met everyone from dyers and spinners to car fabricators, wood workers, painters, and more.

Of course, I am not the first person to think of this.  Check out the Craftsman's Legacy for a fascinating video series on everything from handmade clocks to long bows.

I'm working a little closer to home, though, with Jessica, a quilter.  Jessica heard about my project through a mutual friend, and inquired over email whether I had photographed a quilter yet.  I had not, and we made a date.  

I showed up at Jessica's studio expecting to snap some pictures and chat a few minutes.  However, as often happens, I really enjoyed the visiting, getting to know a little something personal about another human, and craft.  I stayed a couple of hours while she answered all my questions about her process, her inspirations, her own projects.  Jessica teaches, and quilts for hire; she has an extensive fabric stash, which comes in handy when students need just the right contrast.  After I'd wandered around taking pictures, she said, "I saw you found my reds."  Did I ever!

I also loved her thimble collection, which reminded me of a dear friend who was also a thimble collector.

Amazing blocks and quilts poured out of piles, racks and boxes: blocks just pressed, and blocks to be pressed; and bobbins and fat quarters, quilts on walls and quilts on chairs... blocks on tables, ready for assembly, and fabrics auditioning for the next quilt.

Jessica encourages all her students to make or contribute to a Quilt of Valor.  

After teaching students to piece blocks and quilt tops, they often ask her to do the quilting on her longarm machine; she showed me her queue of upcoming pieces, and gave me a demonstration.  Beautiful work.  To be sure, I walked away inspired.  Perhaps my quilting muse has returned after all these years.  Hmm... to be continued.  Thank you, Jessica, for sharing your beautiful work, inspirations, and smile!

For more pictures of Jessica and her work, you can look at the whole album here
For more on my series of craftsmen and artists, check here.

What inspires you?  Do you find you rub elbows with makers in unexpected ways?  

Monday, June 27, 2016

June in pictures

A weekend with my favorite girl, including a tea party, dance recital, and swinging at the park: 

Here and there in downtown Denver:

...including Denver Comic Con and lots of fascinating cosplayers.

The best date-week with my husband, whom I just adore to the moon, with breakfast at a cute little diner in the Berkeley neighborhood, Kyle's Kitchen; we loved the mismatched mugs.

While the kids were away at camp, I had a little photo session with another artist-craftsman, Jessica, a quilter.  I was definitely inspired by all her beautiful work.  Just maybe, I will get back to quilting sometime soon.

Wrapping up the month with a beautiful wedding in Longmont.  Perhaps more on that later?

Monday, April 25, 2016

7 Herbs I Love to Grow

I have learned my lesson.  After months of keeping finicky plants alive only to find out no one in my family likes it, our plants now have to pass a multi-use test!  Herbs, on the other hand, are just plain lovely to have around, although I like them to be multi-talented, too.  Here are my top seven (in alphabetical order), and why I grow them.

 BASIL : Honestly, I love this one just for the scent!  But then there's pesto.  If I did nothing else but make pesto, we still could grow more basil.  We also use it fresh in pasta and in marinara sauce.  Beware, it needs constant picking.  

CHIVES : Let's start with, the bees love chives.  The flowers are lovely and are constantly visited by pollinators.  As far as culinary uses, we put it in Lime Chive Butter (great on corn), as well as in mashed potatoes, breakfast casserole, and when I roast whole chicken.  

DILL :  We need it for pickles, and it can be difficult to buy a handful of dill stalks.  I also put it in potato salad.  I love the smell, too; it's very aromatic if you brush by, and it just smells like summer.  
PARSLEY : Easy to grow, very hardy, still growing around here well into the cold season.  Our corn chowder, and mac n cheese, just would not be the same without it.  And we feed it to our lizard!  

ROSEMARY : Well, rosemary is really only a two-trick pony but considering it does not take up much space, it is worth the money.  It goes in a chicken dish everyone loves and mmmmmm focaccia.  

SAGE : I've told you about my sage before.  Like many of these little green darlings, it's just so nice in the garden.  Last year, I neglected to cut it back early and had some beautiful blooms, but this year it's already got a crew cut.  But to round out my description here, we put it mostly in scallop potatoes.  YUM.  

THYME : We have lemon thyme and common culinary thyme.  This year, I pulled up the common thyme plant, which is in the way of my new garden path.  I chopped it into several pieces, and planted it in a few new places.  It's a great ground cover, aromatic, and we put it in things like mac n cheese and roasted chicken.  The lemon thyme smells wonderful to crush in your hands.

We also have grown oregano - I'm still pulling that out every year, and mint - which I like in my tea but it only gets to visit in pots.

So tell me, what is your must-have herb or garden item?