Burdock may be unwelcome in a farmer’s field, but our backyard bees are loving it! (Click through to see the high-rez version.)
Remembering our girl, who we lost one year ago today, when she was only six years old. These are some of our favourite photos from when she was all grown up.
Ah, Valentine’s Day. One of those things that can turn a dark day bright when you’ve got someone to share it with. For our part, M. got a cuddly hippo (adopted through WWF) and a chocolate teddy bear (since devoured), I got a new linen tablecloth and the driveway shovelled (by someone not-me), and we reached the end of the day with all errands successfully run and two magnificent fluffy loaves of fresh-baked Anadama bread ready and waiting to be pounced on the next morning. Not bad for a recovering-from-the-ick day.
Patience, it turns out, is the key to many doors – good home-made bread being one of them. Especially when it comes to using the sponge method. Yesterday’s adventures with baked goods saw a re-acquaintance with an old favourite (if you have the Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special cookbook and haven’t tried the Anadama bread yet, do – it’s worth all the careful measuring, multiple stages and long waits in between). Normally I’m too impatient to make yeast bread, but I’ve been rediscovering the concept of patience lately, and the culinary milieu of Hippo Corner has vastly improved as a result. So it seems there are some advantages to having to constantly experiment and plan in order to stock the house with food that is (a) safe for both of us to eat, (b) nutritious enough for someone with an (involuntary) less-than-normal-calorie-intake, and (3) still yummy enough to inspire immediate consumption. (See what I did there? Take that, list sticklers!)
Another check-mark on the plus side, is that making your own food is way cheaper than buying the pre-fab grocery store variety. Today was a pancake morning, followed by an afternoon of soup making, and baking in the evening. Hearty, home-made blended veggie soup with good thick bread to dip in it has been my salvation these last couple of weeks. Feels even better knowing that most of the ingredients involved are organic and locally sourced. Although let’s face it, yumminess and the full-belly factor are serious rivals for top tier where priorities are concerned these days. (Did I mention that the cake experiments have begun? Tonight’s gold medal goes to a mouth-watering and ridiculously easy orange-almond-Kahlua vegan sponge cake.)
Another thing checked off the long-overdue-to-do list: A new filing cabinet for the music room!
The only thing keeping it from completion at this stage was a stuck runner. So naturally we called Mr. Fixit (aka Grond), and he basically went: look, poke, wiggle, look some more, wiggle some more, all done fixed, in about two seconds. Which is precisely what we figured would happen.
Ta-da! The finished project, in place and ready to go. Music filing, here we come.
Finally started making my own granola, a habit I should have picked up ages ago, given how easy it is (and how insane the mark-up is on store-bought cereal, especially the good quality kind). We used the recipe in the Candle Cafe cookbook as a jumping off point, but really once you’ve done it once, you can pretty much wing it. Today’s batch was made with rolled oats, slivered and shaved almonds, raisins, craisins, maple syrup, canola oil, coconut, pumpkin seeds and a teaspoon of vanilla. Even with three cups of oats as the base it made a surprisingly small amount, so I think I’ll start with a minimum of 5 cups next time. As an added bonus, it fills the house with much the same aroma as baking oatmeal cookies. The only disadvantage compared to making cookies and muffins is having to be on hand to stir the mixture every 5 minutes or so, so it doesn’t singe. Absolutely worth it, though. If I really want to get back to my granola roots (reminiscing on my parents’ Birkenstock and health food co-op days), I should start making my own yogurt too. Might be a nice goal for the spring, once we’ve attended to the (somewhat neglected) veggie garden.
Mark’s card design ideas for this year. We ended up going with the first one for our Christmas cards. (All can be clicked on to view full size.) Wishing everyone a 2015 filled with all the things you love best, and at least a few happy surprises along the way! -T&M
These two have always made me think of some kind of cosmic alien life form, not bound by the dimensional restrictions that normally apply to humans. The first one is aptly titled ‘protozoa’. The second one, ‘Transit’, could be an alien egg just about to hatch – or, as suggested, something in transit from one form to another.
I like the juxtaposition in these three between the concepts of fire/heat and water/coolness. These are all examples of Mark’s digital “paintings”, which combine original photographs with digital layering and manipulation (you can find a brief explanation of the process he uses below the pictures). All can be clicked on to see a larger version.
The Creative Process:
Mark starts by taking a ton of original photographs, using his trusty Canon Rebel (an old model, but good). When collecting “fodder” (as he likes to call it) for his digital art, he is often drawn to things with intriguing texture and contrast (so his collection includes a lot of close-up macro-photography of things like rusted metal, weathered antiques, moving water, and so on). The digital manipulation process ranges from something as simple as punching up the contrast and saturation, to many painstaking hours of layering (sometimes using dozens of different photos) and playing around with all manner of different filters and tweaking, most of which is well beyond what mere mortals can comprehend (he has more than once shown me Photoshop tweaks I didn’t even know existed; I think he has access to a secret Photo-mage level of menu not allowed to the likes of us regular folks).
In the best laid plans category, I had one a while back to start featuring more of Mark’s art here, since he doesn’t have a blog of his own – something I’ve been sadly remiss in keeping up since the intial posting of a selection from his beautiful Planets series. As part of this year’s November challenge, I hope to rectify that lapse on my part. More to come in the near future.
Sometimes things appear when you least expect them. In the case of our newest acquisition, we were nearing the end of a woefully unsuccessful bookshelf hunt. As one is wont to do when in a furniture store, we were wandering around listlessly, gazing wistfully at all the ridiculously over-priced things we could never possibly afford, when we espied a comfy, homey-looking couch that looked just right for a brief respite. We sank into it, and noticed with surprise the $88 price tag. Obviously that couldn’t be for the couch we were sitting on, unless there was some glaring structural integrity issue (especially given that there was an identical couch across the room marked at $799).
On a whim, we flagged down the nearest sales guy, and asked what the deal was with the mark-down. Could it really be because of one little tear in the front left-hand corner? As it turns out (the friendly sales guy explained), their latest advertising scheme proclaimed discounts up to 90% off. So, to skirt any potential nasty legal issues, there had to be at least a couple of items in the store that genuinely were reduced by 90%.
Still wary, we pressed further. No structural issues, no bad smell, no stains. It was, indeed, what it said on the tag. We thought about the sad, sagging, ripped-up, disintegrating thing that our old couch had become; I thought about how I had (more than once) considered tossing said old couch out on the lawn and setting fire to it. We looked at the price tag.
A few minutes later, we were signing the paper and handing over the cash. A few days later, two cheerfully robust moving guys were hauling it up the steps into our house. (We were both amazed to notice that the younger of the two did most of the hauling on his own, with the couch literally over one shoulder; that’s what lugging furniture around for a living does for you.) The old couch was unceremoniously shoved out onto the porch where it now resides in its temporary role as cat-paw-warmer, and the rest is (admittedly very brief) history.
It may not be the most beautiful colour, but it’s amazingly comfortable, and laughably tall when compared to the other chairs in the room (think Gandalf sitting with hobbits; at last, something made with long-legged people in mind!). We think the plethora of colourful blankets adds a bit of bohemian flare, although they’re mainly there to discourage Dude from scratching the new fabric (he’s partly the reason the old couch looks the way it does). It has been nap-tested, lounge-tested and bounce-tested (from a seated position only), and so far has passed with exemplary marks in all categories.
(Oh, and we did eventually find a bookshelf. Even with shipping and taxes added, the couch still came to less – and was a far more satisfying story.)