Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Birds in a Row

These clips were a present from my good friend, they are so whimsical and fun, and they are making a perfect photo display until I can get the wall pieces up that are meant to hang there!

Then I'm not sure where they'll perch- but a possibility is in a studio space. I managed to carve out a little spot for myself this spring- but it's not quite organized well enough to house all my stuff and work as a creative work space for me. So that's going my task in the next few weeks, I'm going to need that space if I want to make a good showing at Brandon's big craft sale, and also so that I can work throughout the winter on making supplies for next summer's farmer's markets.

The other spot is need to work out is one for my Clay works, right now we're all jumbled together in the shop (my Husband and Father in -Law and I). It can make the space tight, it's a giant spot, but it's all one big open space, with no sections or walls- so when one of us is working on a project we tend to take over (glaze buckets left out, sawdust on the floor- it's a mess). What I need to do is make up a plan for that space, and figure out storage solutions for everything so that we can make it work for us.

I think that space is so important in order to create work, and it makes it so much easier to fit in these creative passions. Otherwise the world really does get in the way, it's far too easy to say that you can't try out a new technique if you don't have a spot to try it, or worse, you do have a spot but it's too jumbled up to use it for anything. It's important to keep these creative- seemingly unimportant parts of our life alive, but it can be tricky to do that sometimes, and a messy spot is not conducive to creativity (for me at least).

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Plum Preserves

It was a good year for the plum tree out back- since we've moved here I haven't been able to use them for anything- there was either not enough, or they were too small or I was too busy, not so this year. My mom managed to alert me to the fact that there were tons of plums that were perfectly ripe, so I made a batch of preserves- just by halving and pitting the plums and simmering with a cinnamon stick, some crystallized ginger, star anise and sugar. They look lovely but are slightly bitter because of the skins, however when you eat them with something- like a scone, or ice cream, they're very tasty, the bitterness gets mellowed, and I'm not sure about the star anise, it might not really have a place in there.

So in order to avoid the bitterness I skinned the next batch of plums, simmered with a minimum of sugar and a cinnamon stick, and then added gelatin (2 packets to about 1 1/2 pints liquid gives a nice spreadable consistency) to make it set ( I have given up on certo, I have no luck with it- though I will try it with my crab apples later on- one last chance). Unfortunately the addition of the gelatin turned my golden jam into a revolting skin-like colour- almost like the colour of solidified Bacon fat, It's slightly better now, since I've boiled it again, it's a little more peachy, I know I could add food colouring- but there's such a small amount- we'll eat it up quickly.

Despite the colour it is tasty- slightly sour, and not too sweet, very fruity- That's one thing about gelatin- it doesn't require the sugar that pectin does to set- so your jam can have only 1/2 cup of sugar in it, not the 8 cups that certo asks for. That means your jam tastes more like fruit, not just sweetness, which is nice.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Great Expectations

This week was a big birthday week around here- there is so much cake I'm not sure what to do with it anymore. Not only did someone turn a big 1, but I turned 28, the day before her. 48 hours of birthday is a lot of birthday, it can easily go horribly wrong, but the day was fantastic, not really extraordinary - though we did have a fairly special dinner (crustaceans were harmed, and I don't feel guilty at all- I did feel a bit guilty but then the first morsel of meat hit the butter and the guilt was all gone).

Part of what made the day fantastic, I think, was that I had clear expectations for it and I communicated those expectations to the one who could make it happen (in some cases that person was me). I usually sort of dislike holidays, well, maybe just the holidays that I'm not supposed to be in control of- Valentines, My Birthday, Mother's Day, I live for holidays where I can make cakes, and decorate and control the food supply. I like to do things that make others feel special on special days and I have often felt like I shouldn't do that for myself, that's it's in poor taste or pathetic or something. This birthday I ignored that feeling and it worked great- I used my lovely cake plate and pitcher, we ate from the good china dishes, I made the best birthday cake ever- the one I usually make for other people- upside down ginger nectarine cake (recipe forthcoming)- and it was oh so tasty, and pretty. And when people say "you made you own cake?" disbelievingly, (or pityingly) I have just said yes and smiled because the day was honestly how I wanted it to be.

I don't know for sure if the presence of my daughter makes me more grateful for the little aspects of a regular sweet happy day, and more able to keep my expectations in check but I do know that one of my favorite parts of the day was taking her upstairs after dinner to give her a bath while my Mom and Husband cleaned up the dishes.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

One Year...

My Sweet pea is one this week, ONE! it seems like just yesterday that she came into our lives, and now here she is all grown up. I can't really believe it's been 365 days of breastfeeding, diaper changes and growing- oh my god the growing! She has marked this week by cutting a molar, in addition to her two top side teeth, soon I think she'll be done with teething- then maybe she'll start growing hair? She has also started to demand our food- no longer will she eat her own pureed stuff, it must be our food or breast milk. She's polite enough about it- she points at what she wants then cocks her head on the side and kind of chirps at us, smiling a charming smile all the while. Once she eats it she beams at us, she is so intent on growing up.

This tiny girl has changed my life in so many ways, all for the best, and she is such a gift to us, I feel like I can't even remember a time before her. She is so strong and smart and joyful, and now she is a toddler, no longer a baby but a girl.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Monday Inspiration: Van Gogh

Van Gogh, Flower Beds in Holland, 1883. (source)

Van Gogh, vase with poppies and daisies (source)

Van Gogh, Flowers, (source)

Van Gogh- ugh so typical right? Van Gogh went from being an outsider in his lifetime to becoming the 'ideal' painting- a little rough, a little stylized- but still totally representative and accessible. Usually I don't pay attention to these type of artists (the masters- you could call them)- they're great paintings-yes-but they're so often shown, that honestly, I haven't really spent much time looking at the works themselves. And I thought I should remedy that- especially as I'm very much interested in flowers right now- and specifically the type of flowers that Van Gogh painted- field flowers.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

One man's trash...

I found this guy in a box destined for a garage sale, while cleaning up. I guess at some point in my life I looked at it and thought that I would never like something so...kitchy. Well I was wrong because this guy has been delighting me to no end, just look at his little frowny mouth, he's so disapproving, it's as though he's lamenting the fact that someone only put colour on his eyelids! His eyelids are green! Then not another speck of colour (besides the pupil of course, let's not be ridiculous). What is going on here? Is it an attempt to make the turtle shape flower pot more chic, more minimalist? Is it an albino turtle? Are there more out there?

I had just decided that what my house needed was more white accessories, especially in the form of pots to plant herbs in for the kitchen. Then I come across this white turtle pot! In my own garage! Seriously? Sometimes the lord smiles on you... and sends you a disapproving turtle.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Monday Inspiration: Cleaning up

Hi Folks, I wasn't going to post today, I am caught in the middle of a huge cleaning/cooking/shopping working streak preparing for the Babe's Birthday Bash, but my clean office is calling to me so here I am. My Mother in Law and Sister in Law stopped by today and were ever so helpful, I had to get over my fear of letting the in-laws clean my house of course- which is a hard one. I get along great with my in-laws, we bought their house from them, even, and it's fine-(mostly) really fine- which is unusual I think.

Something about allowing my husbands mother to clean my house though makes me crazy. I can't figure out what it is- I don't hesitate to ask my father in law to help out with handy-man stuff. Plus this house is giant, with mouldings and doors that need dusting, it's a ridiculous amount of work- and I have other things to do that take my priority away from vacuuming.

I allow my mother to do alllll sorts of things around the house when she comes out, but I have a block when it comes to my In-Law. I know she wouldn't think less of me if she knew about my dirty oven, she lived here herself and knows how hard it is to keep this place clean( it was her full time job). For some reason I guess it feels I'm letting things slip, I'm not living up to my responsibilities -which is hard to think out because I don't really think my job is housework, do I? I am a card carrying feminist who believes in equal (if different) work loads in the household, my marriage is a partnership, and my husband is not mine to look after or 'mother' any more than he is expected to 'father' (hmmm...father used as a verb has a totally different connotation... interesting...) me, but for some reason this whole idea of my husband's mother helping my clean gets to me, makes me feel inadequate or something.

To be clear my MIL is totally cool about cleaning in our house, she is discreet and awesome, and in no way causes me to cringe, or feel bad, also she does a bang-up job, way better than I do, it's honestly a total treat for me to have her vacuum. Also, she cares about me, and genuinely wants to help me, so why can't I allow myself just to enjoy that? hmmm? That's something I need to work on, how do you all manage with your in-laws? do you let them clean?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday the 13th, and a black cat to boot

You'll have to excuse the blurry photos- capturing a baby and a kitten clearly is tough work- especially on their first meeting. They've mellowed out since this meeting. N instantly had a face of happiness that I've never seen before-a squidgy-eyed super-happy-and-isn't-this-the-best look, she was almost shaking with joy.

K found this kitten while he was driving to work, it was on the side of the road- and it has a few cuts on it's face and head- he said it's eyes were bleeding when he first got to it. Probably it hitched a ride under a car, then fell out. It's sweet, though I'm not sure we're keeping this kitten, a friend of mine fell in love with it- so perhaps she will be the new owner. For now it's sleeping out in our shop- chasing us around while we work.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Summer of Food : August

August is such a unique month, it's hot and hazy, things are reaching their maximum growing capacity, and it's almost fall- and you're almost looking forward to it cooling down. One of the reasons I love living in Manitoba is the change of seasons- we have very distinct seasons here- and July and August are definitively summer- but August is a little sweeter to me (not only because it's my birth month- as well as N's birth month). August is when you notice that the world is fertile- that the plants have started to set seed, that this cycle of life is continuing, it's at it's height in August.

It's comforting to know that August is always like this- blistering hot and humid- bright and buzzing and full of seeds and life, It's the last hurrah of Summer before Autumn comes in with it's cool crisp air and it's quiet nights, whispering about winter time blankets of snow. It's August that makes winter in Manitoba not only bearable, but even slightly welcome, because it's heat is so intense you can hold onto it all year.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Monday Inspiration: Luminaries

These luminaries are made by Lux Mineralis. The website is pretty cool- and the luminaries themselves are gorgeous- when I was searching pottery luminaries today I got a bunch of pretty cheesy hits- incense burners with cacti shaped holes- bad glazes etc. But then these popped up, and they so make up for it- and make me want to spend the day carving some stamps or pinching a few luminaries myself.

Friday, August 6, 2010

One Small Change- August

I keep on forgetting what month it is! I was all set to do a little recap on how my composting is going ( I'm really enjoying it- and I have a cute little bucket under the counter and everything) and then I realized that it's august- and I need to do another change! how the time flies. This month I'm going to save my seeds.

Usually I buy garden seeds- and I plan to buy some next year- but mostly I'd like to save some from the plants I enjoy this year. I've planted mostly Heirloom seeds so it shouldn't be a problem- I'm going to do a bit of research which I'll share about how my seed saving is going. Seed saving doesn't have a huge environmental impact but every little bit helps I suppose- it's a bit more of a financial change- plus I'll be assured that all my seeds are chemical free for next year and I think that any step closer to organic is a good one.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Cousins and Flowers

These are some pictures I took with my sister's 'new' digital SLR camera- it's nice- really nice (super macro! yay!)-I think I could take some serious photos with something like that. Though I do okay with my cheap 5.1 mega pixel (as though that extra .1 makes all the difference) digital (all the photos on the blog so far have been with that one) it's not an ideal camera. And now that I'm starting to use the camera more and take some photos I feel like I could frame (and potentially sell), maybe it's time for a new camera.

Although what really appeals to me is learning how to develop my own photos- and go technologically back in time with pin hole cameras, or glass plates. I think the actual hands on work involved in developing the film is what I crave- that's why I love pottery and painting and sewing it's about keeping my hands involved. Photography feels detached to me- though I am quite proud that I've started to get the hang of capturing some of the qualities of light I want to capture in photos- it's too cerebral maybe, and not enough physical work for me.

What kind of cameras do you use? What appeals to you about photography as a medium?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

with a cherry on top

Hi Folks- I haven't been around for a while- things have been busy here- still are-but are promising to quiet down a little- I think. My Grandmother passed away last week- after a short illness- that was tended to so lovingly by her children. We heard about it while my nieces and nephews were out visiting us, and so we had a little toast to her the adults with a shot-( a tradition with K and I) and then I made cupcakes- gramma style- with maraschino cherry juice in the icing and a cherry on top- for a cupcake toast.

My grandma was wonderful- she was strong and true to herself- she always spoke the truth and never hid the things she did that other grandma's maybe wouldn't tell their grand kids. We all knew that grandpa was engaged to another girl before grandma went walking by in her tight sweater- that she manufactured their meeting by asking him for rides home, When her future mother in law said that she thought maybe Sy (my grandpa) was too tall for her, my grandmother famously responded with "I think he's just right". She was sassy and fun and told us all that she hated school too, she made the most mouth watering desserts, and was the life of the party.

Our family sings happy birthday crazy loud- with extra choruses of 'for he's a jolly good fellow', and loud trilling whistles- because of her- we say 'bingo' when something is exciting- or someone says something really true- because of her. We party late into the night- dance-and all know the words to 'the ants go marching' because of her. She was the glue of our family- our identity-our bond to each other- and we will miss her.