It has truly been a while since I’ve posted on this blog. A lot falls by the way side when you have a baby. Photography has been one of the last things on my list of to dos. But luckily, I decided to take my Nikon D300 with me when we went camping a few weeks back. Lett’s Lake, in Mendocino National Forest, is truly beautiful and I feel like the photos pretty much took themselves. I had some fun switching some images to black and white where I felt the colour was unnecessary. I’m not a landscape photographer; Ansel Adams pretty much did that better than anyone. No, I like looking for form, textures and sometimes the colour. However, there are a few landscape shots just because the landscape was calling out to be recorded. I do not profess to be any good at it. Below are my best shots, landscape photos included. Hope you enjoy.
I’ve been feeling immense guilt at having not posted in over a month. I was in the midst of a move, and blogging about creativity was far from my mind. That’s not to say that I haven’t been creative. I’m lucky to have a job that requires creativity on a daily basis, so that even if I am not creating at home, I am creative at work. I have some great “Keep It Simple Genius” recipes I will be posting soon. Right now, I thought I’d share some photos.
Photography is something I’ve been away from for quite some time. I’ve been meaning to get back in the saddle but have not been inspired to take the ol’ camera out of the saddle bag as it were. Then I was asked to photograph a fundraising event at my local art center. The event is called the Soup-er Bowl ( get it? ) which leads to no end of confusion when said verbally without the benefit of seeing the pun. It’s my favourite event because it involves ceramic bowls and soup – LOTS of soup. My sister would approve as she is a soup junky. Basically, you pay $45 and you get to choose a bowl that’s been hand-made by one of the students ( my mother-in-law makes amazing bowls!) and then you taste up to 14 different soups from local restaurants and vote on the best one. I treat it like an Olympic sport. Have you ever tried to eat 14 different soups at a sitting? It is tres difficile. But I’m usually up to the challenge – it’s called a muumuu and no food all day leading up.
This time around I was simply the photographer. As sad as it was to not participate in the yumminess, I was freed to just focus on getting the shots.
The lighting was tough – mixed lighting (mostly halogen) in a dim, cavernous room at night. My flash unit wasn’t working because I had an accident with a leaking battery that killed it. Aargh! So, I had to rely on a steady hand, highest ISO I could use without too much noise and a wide open aperture at f 5.6
Sorry if a bit of photography speak snuck out and made you blank out momentarily (the photographer in me).
I was nervous about doing documentary photography. So much happens at the same time it’s hard to know where to be and how to choose the shot. If you lose the moment it’s gone. Not to mention that I’m shy about being all up in peoples’ grill. It’s not really my forte, but I tried to relax and just have fun with it. I even got up on a stool in the middle of the crowd to get better perspective. I was surprised to discover that people just forget that you’re there (so much so I had to make sure they didn’t knock me from my stool). I can’t say that I had a break-out, spectacular, Henri Cartier Bresson-esque photographic moment, but I was pleased. Here are the results:
So, as I’ve mentioned before, we didn’t put much thought into our garden this year being that we thought we were buying a house and moving out. Regardless of our neglect, the garden thrives on. And to his credit, my hubby waters the place every morning before he goes to work. In regards to actually planting anything, those that were are long gone:
This is the Bok Choi I planted in early spring hoping to have it ready before the heat…unfortunately my timing was again off, and it bolted. I kept it in the bed, hoping that they would have some seeds to harvest…but alack and to my horrified dismay: seed pods with no seeds in them! Can anyone say Monsanto? I blame them for everything!
But on to cheerier, hardier things:
Early summer my hubby discovered a squash plant of unknown origin growing in a corner of one of our raised beds. Actually, he found many, but pulled all but one. This move is something he regretted, because as the plant grew, it formed lovely flowers, but no fruit.
With our non-expert, non-researched, unfounded opinions, we concluded that the plant would be a dud because there were no other plants around it to aid fertilization. So my hubby, unsure of what to do with the many gangly arms the plant was putting out, decided to strap them along the top of our fence. If they weren’t going to bear fruit, they were at least going to green up the place and we were going to enjoy their blooms. Well, sure enough, suddenly the splendid thing started to bear fruit…and it turns out to be a most amazing squash (exact type not yet identified) that I had discovered I loved last year at the farmer’s market!
Well, if we wanted to stop it from bearing fruit we couldn’t. The thing is a monster growing machine of the most impressive kind. Our impromptu “Hanging Garden” is such a success it even reaches into our neighbors yard where it also hangs it’s fruit tantalizingly. We are not opposed to sharing, so when I finally met our neighbor the other day, I encouraged her to please pluck and use the squash encroaching on her side of the fence. Not just that side of the fence, but the back-end too:
The trick is to know when to pick them. One must wait until they are a deep red-orange for optimal tastiness, but weight is also a factor and I’m not sure if the stems can sustain such a load for too long. If anyone can hazard a guess as to the type of squash it is, please let me know!
I ventured out into the back field to take these shots, knowing full well I’d pay for it. You see, the back field is empty save for two things: moles and goat head weeds. Both have their disadvantages for gardens…and walking. We seem to have the mole problem taken care of this year, the goat heads are another thing. My hubby has been waging war with them since we moved here. If you’re not familiar with them, feel free to wikipedia the awful things. They grow, well…like weeds, and produce the hardest, spikiest seed that when in contact with anything rubber and full of air, aka bike tires, will pop them like no ones business. If one is unfortunate enough to track several of those into the house, and say those awful things actually relinquish their spiky hold on the soles of your shoes, then watch out! My bare foot has come in contact more than once with those nasty buggers hiding in the carpet tufts and has never failed in eliciting a scream of pain followed by a stream of expletives.
When visiting the field, one has to resigns oneself to the fact that there will be a lot of goat head removal before going even near the garden or the house or even drive-way (where our bikes reside). Check out the bottom of my flip-flops from my short photo-op adventure:
More than once, a spike has managed to make its way all the way through the sole to my tender tootsies. Nasty stuff.
Moving on from nastiness, I leave you with a few images of the glorious growth in our Accidental Garden:
(okay, we did plant the tomatoes, but also unplanned ‘cuz my boss begged me to take a few off his hands (he had over 60 tomato plants donated to the club and couldn’t fit them all)…so kind of accidental if you think about it…)
What to do with 8 oz of Lavender oil and 2 cups of lavender buds?
I don’t know. I haven’t come close to using all that, but I can show you what I did do to use about 16 drops of that 8 ozs.
Important: Before beginning experiments, decant lavender oil into a dropper bottle; this will make life a lot easier.
Lavender Laboratory Experiment #1 : Lavender Relaxation & Refresher Spray
- Fill clean, dark-coloured, spray bottle with filtered water (can be distilled but not necessary)
- add 4-8 drops lavender oil
- That’s it. What? You expected more? If this were rocket science, I would not be doing this my friend.
Shake and spritz liberally. But not too liberally if you need to get things done because it might put you to sleep.
Lavender Laboratory Experiment #2: Foot Scrub
What you need:
- Clean container with screw top lid
- sugar (any kind; the grain and texture is up to you. I used pure cane sugar)
- olive oil
- Approx. 8 drops lavender oil
- pinch of lavender buds
My jar was a small face-cream-sized jar, so I used a 1/4 cup sugar and filled the rest with olive oil and mixed it. You can use another oil like almond or grape for example, but a thick oil is
nice for something as gnarly, dry and cracked as your feet very moisturizing for your deserving tootsies.
Note that lavender buds are optional…they can look a little bit like mouse turds on the floor of your tub after a good foot scrubbing…so if you’re not easily spooked (meaning you don’t have a tendency to jump into the air landing on the most elevated surface available while screaming “mouse! mouse!”), it’s easy enough to wash down the drain and adds a nice touch to the scrub, otherwise just leave it out.
Lavender Laboratory Experiment #3: Lavender Salt
- Any amount kosher salt (in this case about 3 tablespoons)
- An appropriate amount of lavender as to not over or underwhelm the salt (in this case, a pinch)
Note: If you have a sea salt mill, combine coarse sea salt and lavender buds in the mill for a more fragrant salt.
Aye, aye captain, but what to do with lavender salt?
It’s amazing combined with lemon and butter(or olive oil) as a rub for chicken destined for the grill…or so I’ve been told and plan on trying.
Or perhaps on buttered popcorn…yum!
Here’s what I did do:
Pan fried asparagus with butter and lavender salt.
Need I say more?
…okay, just a little more:
As you can see, my experiments are none too scientific as I didn’t provide any measurements ( okay, I did mention a ‘quarter cup’ once and ‘a pinch’ more than that…but how big are your fingers compared to mine? See what I mean?),which is to say, experiment for yourself and see because how am I supposed to know how much scent or flavour you like? Have fun and let me know how your experiments turn out. Got any amazing lavender recipes or home-made cosmetic ideas? Please share!
The entrance fee was a mere $5 dollars and well worth it. Vendors were set up all around a lavender field full of the Grosso and Provence varieties.
Both my friend and I were rather excited and frolicked through the place gaily for several hours. There was food, wine, stuff to buy, wreath making, photo ops and an outdoor spa demonstrating some of the products.
In the end we came away with some pretty neat stuff. We wanted to buy the whole place, but in an attempt to be conservative ended up with a 16 oz bottle of lavender oil and a bag of edible lavender to split and from which we could make all the other products on display there ( or so we hoped in our inspired state).
Did I end up using any of my portion of lavender oil (all 8 oz of it)? That my friends is for another post. For now, just enjoy the lovely view of lavender! Get yourself to a lavender festival if you get the chance- a great way to spend a few hours ( and a few bucks)!
If you read this blog it’s a) because you know me or b) because you actually like what I post. To both groups I say thank you. It’s not easy taking on a blog this unfocused. Most successful blogs I read are on one topic and one topic only. I admire those who can do it. I, however, am an all-over the place girl. My creative energies go in way too many directions to count. This blog is a way of trying to find a common tie…haven’t found it yet, except that it comes from me. I’m a “Renaissance Girl” someone told me. I like that.It explains why try as I might, I am unable to channel my energies into one thing. And, you know what? I’m okay with that.
So, thank you to those who embrace the chaos and tune in to whatever I’m up to this time! You are much appreciated (and probably a Renaissance Guy or Gal yourself!)
I leave you with a few recent pics…just because.
No credit to myself, the garden is looking pretty swell.
It’s my hubby who goes out every morning and waters the place. He also fought a valiant battle with earwigs and won. It took a bit to come up with a strategy, but once implemented the earwig populations was decimated. Our beer traps were not working so well- it caught snails and slugs but they weren’t the main issue. No, my hubby launched his attack at night, headlamp beaming on the hopelessly exposed earwigs who had unwittingly emerged from their day time hiding places to manger (pronounced “monjay” en Francais) on our romaine. The strategy? Flick as many possible into a bowl of soapy water. The survivors who missed the dip: death by rock. I myself was not out there. I was lying in bed, trying to sleep over the din of rock hitting its target- Crack! Crack! Crack! It must have been satisfying because he was out there for quite some time. He proudly showed me the shriveled and mashed carcasses the next morning.
I won’t show you shots of the massacre lest it unsettle you. But here’s a lovely escargot, another garden terror. Our method of snail removal is to toss them over our fence into the back field. This guy is blissfully unaware of his upcoming aerial flight.
Our spring onions have been way over grown since fall. We decided to keep them in to see what would happen. After all, isn’t this just one grand experiment?
Last month they started flowering, and now check out the seeds:
Unsure of how to harvest, but unwilling to resort to google, I simply picked up a bowl and started massaging the heads until the seeds fell, en mass, into the dish.
My sister had taught me a nifty trick with morning-glory seeds: to separate seeds from the husks, simply blow. Seeds are heavier and will remain in the dish. So I figured, maybe it’s the same deal with these seeds. Thankfully, I was right and didn’t end up with an empty dish.
So now we’ve got seeds galore. Not sure what to do with them as it’s a little late, perhaps, to be sprouting them for this year. But I feel like such a pioneer when I gather seeds instead of buying them at the store. I feel like, “wow, I am da shit, I keep a self-sustaining garden”. The next step would be to actually label the seeds I harvest as it makes for some awful guess-work when the next season comes around. So, yeah, I’m a pioneer but not a very organized one…
The elephant garlic that started to magically grow this year, having skipped the previous year when it was actually planted, had started to grow flowers on top. We caved and googled ” when to harvest elephant garlic” and learned that we were really late. For some reason we thought we had to wait until the stalk shriveled and dried. Not so, you’re supposed to wait until the bottom leaves brown but the rest is still green. Then stop watering for a few days to allow it to begin to dry and then pull it from the ground. So we scampered out to the garden ( as if a few extra seconds would make us any less late in harvesting the things) and we gingerly pulled them out and found:
Note the little garlics hanging off the roots. No idea what that is exactly- must be its way of propagating itself. I imagine if left in the soil we’d have a whole planter box full of elephant garlic come next spring.
Our green beans are growing..or should I say green bean singular. I think I will need to buy a miniature frying pan, because at this rate, that’s what I’ll be serving up, one green bean at a time. I can’t imagine that we will ever have a handful all at once…but you never know.
I leave you with a few more shots of the garden and its bounty!
I lack inspiration at the moment. My work schedule has shifted…I feel shifted…it’s going to take me some time to figure out how to reorganize my creative life.
In the meantime, since I missed taking part in the local photography club slide show ( a bi-annual community event)…just totally gapped, dropped the ball, forgot it was taking place… I am posting the photos I was going to show at the event here instead.
I had an “Ah ha! Ho ho! Hee hee!” moment just last week as I cruised through the aisles of the local grocery, desperate for a quick meal but not ready to totally compromise on quality. Standing at the meat counter I was eyeing the salmon, debating between the chilean farmed fish for 8.99 per lb and the wild caught at 19.99 per lb. Reason won out and I decided on the affordable since fish is always a hit or miss with the hubby, and then what caught my eye was a nice pile of these suckers at 89 cents each. The guys at the counter are always awesome and ended up throwing in a few extra.
Back at the ranch I had my hubby start-up the grill whilst I prepped the salmon, skin on of course!
On tin foil drizzle liberal amount of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt.
Lay salmon skin side down.
add salt and pepper on top (to taste)
add slices of lemon on top. Fold tin foil mostly closed.
Once the grill was ready, the salmon went on. Couldn’t tell you exactly how long since we usually determine its done-ness by poking at it. Roughly 10 minutes.
Then on went the oysters which required only a minute or so.
This folks was literally the fastest meal we’d every prepared. And all our weariness from the day was usurped by our excitement over this special treat.
Once the oysters come off the grill, all you need are lime wedges and Tapatio sauce and you are good to go. Be sure, as you crack it open with a sturdy knife, to not spill the delicious juices – you’ll not only burn the crap out of your hands but you’ll also miss out on the added tastiness of the brine.
please try to ignore the purple on my thumb; as an art teacher to kids, I bring my work home with me on my clothes and hands!
Now, my hubby is not a fan of fishy stuff, but he loves this. Surprising indeed! And I have encountered all manner of gloppy, slimy, uncooked, fishy horrors during my stint in Korea, but this is nothing like that. It is pure yumminess all the way and you should try it!
Here’s how the salmon turned out:
And because the tin foil was not all the way closed, steam was allowed to escape and the skin was able to get crispy:
Laying the skin down on oil with salt is key to crispness!
And, because I don’t like to do without greens, here’s the simplest greens prep ever:
Steam a nice bunch of collards, turnip, spinach or mustard greens ( I cheat and buy a cleaned and cut bag with a mix of all of those greens at Trader Joe’s). If you use any of those greens it will take only 5 minutes since they cook up super fast. If you use Kale, expect about 20 minutes. Remember that it shrinks down like crazy, so don’t be afraid to steam what looks like a gargantuan amount.
Remove from water, drizzle a teaspoon of light soy sauce and a half teaspoon of sesame oil on top. Gently mix. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top:
Highly recommended: canned beer. It serves two purposes: 1. a yummy pairing with delicious oysters and 2. as a beer-can trap for awful slugs that keep eating our garden veggies.
Die slugs, die!
It really works! Cut the can in half, fill with about an inch of the beer you can’t finish or has gotten too warm to be refreshing anymore.
Okay, okay we’ve talked about slug death, now on to life! Baby bird life!
The joy of the grill is not just the food but the entertainment we get from the birds that visit our little yard. Right now we have a bunch of hungry blue bird babies and two very tired parents who are continually feeding them. It’s truly remarkable how non-stop it is. Approximately every minute one of the parents lands with some grub to put in their gaping mouths. The babies are making quite a racket with their chirping.
It’s a cut-throat brutal world for the birds. There’s always a threat that another bigger bird will come and drag the babies out for a wee snack. Mom and dad are very watchful and are always suspicious of us. We are always hyper aware of the chirping and when we don’t hear it we fear the worst. But so far, so good.
One wonders how the fattened up babies are going to squeeze out of that hole!
It’s nice to know everyone is well fed.
So try out the oyster thing, it will be well worth it and it’s about the easiest thing you could prepare for a meal.
Many posts ago I started on the path of succulent propagation. My biggest experiment was using the “let it sit” method with a few leaves I’d gathered that had fallen from a succulent plant at the garden center – NOT stealing as they would have been considered cast offs and no doubt swept up and tossed.
So, to refresh, the method is to let them lie on a bed of Perlite in filtered light until they push out roots and then begin to form their own little plant. A while ago they put out a few tiny roots, but check it out now! The little plant is starting to form at the base ( you’ll probably need to click on the photo to enlarge it so you can really look closely):
Also, the heads of my Hens and Chicks have robust roots and are more than ready to be planted…if only I had a place to put them…
And, as I may have mentioned before, the art of becoming a succulenteur is really about experimentation. I just made a new observation about one of my succulents. It could almost seem to be a deliberate experiment with two test groups, but in reality it is all just coincidence that I had the same succulent type planted in two very different locations. One is outside in full sun, the other in filtered light. Check out the difference between the two!
The first one is in full light, the second in filtered. Note how in full light and heat they have balled up and tightened. In the filtered light they have opened up and stretched that neat webbing to its max. Both are doing well, but they adjust to their conditions in order to do so. Also, the one in full light popped out a lot of babies ( off shoots) in early spring due to lots of consistent rain…unlike the ones in filtered light which rely on my non-consistent watering patterns!
On the garden front…well, the Bok Choi bolted. This is the third attempt and the third failure. We’ve had really odd changes of temperature. I’m pretty sure the week of scorching heat is what caused them to bolt. But if it weren’t for the heat, I’m sure the pests would have done them in:
Note all the munched leaves.
Our little planter with chard turned into a potty for some nocturnal animal. All the sprouts were dug out and I believe if you look close enough you can even see a turd in the bowl. Boo!
Okay, since we’re on the track of failures at the moment, I may as well tell yo that some of my succulents started looking rather weird in the way they were forming their leaves. Also, I noted aphid-like critters on some of them. It seemed to be spreading, so I uprooted the ones that looked diseased.
Also, because of the funky weather, my living rock succulent’s flowers shriveled up and died without actually blossoming. I thought the whole plant would die, but it seems to be doing okay if you disregard the desiccated flowers at its center.
Onwards to brighter things! The Romain is doing fantastic. We had our first garden salad of the year a few days ago. The roses are in bloom, my Lambs Ear are taking over the entire patch and the bees are loving the flowers that just started blossoming from them. My Lavendula Dilly Dilly ( yes, the actual name of the lavender I planted, of course I chose it for its name!) is getting ready to bloom as well.
Our Purple Iris has run its course
But replacing it is a new kind:
And my established Hens and Chicks are also blooming:
And finally, after three years here, a lovely California Poppy has decided to join our accidental garden!
Annnnd we have a blue bird family in our little bird house. Every time we step into the garden you can hear the little babies chirping from inside, saying “feed me, feed me, feed me!” Our presence in the garden worries the parents who stand around with worms and insects in their beaks flitting to the roof of the house then away again unwilling to reveal to us where their precious babies are. And in accordance the babies fall silent too; until my hubby and I freeze in our actions to the point of shaking with the extended exertion of it until finally the mommy or daddy decide we’re no longer a threat and finally deliver the food to the anxious and voracious babies.
Also, now that it’s getting hot, we are visited by our friendly neighborhood lizards who love our concrete step leading into the garden.
All in all, we are rather happy with our little backyard. We haven’t invested as much time in it as the previous year, but it is still a delight. Everything seems so alive and so active.
So, despite some failures in the gardening department, on the whole I think it is much more of a success. I’ll leave it at that!