Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Accidental Photo Success

I got a new camera recently. I bought it mostly because it's known to have a great macro feature, exactly what I missed most about a camera that I had a few years ago. It also has a powerful zoom on it. I haven’t had any training in photography and don’t really expect to produce anything award winning with it, just some decent photos for my blog and my Etsy shop.

The first day I had the camera I was playing around with the various settings. I wasn’t trying to be creative, just testing out the different features and getting to know the menus. I took photos of things close and far. I tested out the Pet Continuous feature while following a bunny hopping around my yard.

This is one of the photos I took, zooming out to my neighbor’s back yard. I just love the trees and the way their shadows weave together against the stockade fence. It looks a bit like roman numerals.

To me, it is an accidental success... by someone who has no idea what she's doing. Please leave a comment and tell me what you think, or what you see in it.

I’d like to make “Accidental Photo Success” a reoccurring post title, like ”Finished Object Friday”, “Quote of the Week”, or like my friend’s KnitXcorE’s “Vinyl Monday’s”. But, the truth is, when you're counting on “successful accidents” to happen, you can’t be sure when you might have post material again. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My Desk Staff

My position at work is unique. Although I work in a department of about 70 people, I have no immediate co-workers. I do a variety of work for many people, and yet I really only answer to one person (the person at the top) and I have no one below me.

(Sounds a bit like a riddle. Are you expecting my next line to be: Who am I?)

I’m not going to ask that. I’m going to introduce you to my little desk staff that I’ve created for myself. When I get overloaded with work, I delegate tasks to my staff. When the work isn’t done correctly, I get to yell at them! Nah, just kidding about that.

There’s Bear, Moose, and Loon,


Lamby, Pedro & Ox, and Glass Bear 1 & Glass Bear 2.

They are each good at what they do, as you can imagine. I don’t know what I’d do without them. Good help is hard to find and I’m always on the lookout for additional staff. If you know any bric-a-brac looking for a new career, have them fill out an application!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Sampling of Tag Sale Finds

It was beautiful and sunny in my part of the world this weekend. I took a vacation day on Thursday since that was supposed to be the very best day temperature-wise, and it was! Although I worked on Friday, it did give me the feel of almost having a long weekend anyway.

We hit quite a few tag sales Saturday and I got some awesome finds. Here is just a sampling of what I bought.

Some vintage items for my new Etsy shop, Maple Street Treasures.

A great wooden bowl, some kitchen utensils, buscuit cutters, and some books.
Some cool flower pots.
Also vintage although not quite as old as the other items.
I also found a great assortment of craft items. I’ll be keeping some of these and giving some to my fellow “crafties”.

Group shot of the great goodies!
An assortment of zippers... all for just $.50!
Can you believe what a great find this is?
A whole baotload of maps! Can you guess what I'll be doing with these?
I'll show you in a future post.
A bunch of brand new craft scissors in different scalloped patterns.
I’ll check the ones I’ve got and give away the duplicates.

And glitter!
Hmmm, I think I know someone who might like the glitter.

Oh, and I forgot to take a close up picture of the little spool of Daisy trim that you can barely make out in the center of the group photo. This is going to be perfect for some throw pillows I’m making. They will be featured in a future post as well.

So there, now there are more posts for you to look forward to. It seems I have more post ideas than I have time to write actually write them!

Hope you had a wonderful weekend!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Weekend With Friends

We had our close friends from Connecticut come to visit recently and we had a wonderful time together, as always!

We started the weekend off with a drive out to our favorite barbecue place. I posted about this place before, but that time I failed to show photos of the great food. This time I remembered!

 Fried Chicken
Pulled Pork

Then it was off to a neighboring town’s Farmer’s Market. Yes, it is the one that I am selling my crafts at, but I took the week off to entertain my guests. It was fun to go as a customer and be able to relax and browse the other vendors’ booths.

This particular week’s theme for the market was “Pets and Health… Perfect Together!” There were lots of dogs there. We saw many different breeds of dogs that were walking around with their owners, but there was also a booth with dogs for adoption. I tried to take some good photos of them, but as puppies will be puppies, they never stayed still long enough. Here’s what I got:


There were also a couple of very well behaved dogs doing a demonstration. I believe they were dogs trained to be service dogs. It was amazing how these dogs followed the subtle commands from the handlers. Each was busy doing what they were commanded to do without being distracted by the other.

 That's the good dog in the center... not the one tugging at his lead!

When we got home, we took a walk to park to listen to the community band. Sorry, no pictures. I was traveling light and didn’t bring the camera.

The next morning we had a great breakfast at the corner café. More food pictures:

Then we were off to the Hometown Celebration on Main Street. It was a beautiful day and we strolled the street, shopping at the vendors and listening to the bands.

There was an awesome used book booth. This husband and wife team was selling some really unique books, not the same old titles you usually see at flea markets and tag sales. Most of these books were children’s books and all of them were vintage! I could have spent all day looking over these books and I could have bought so many more than I did. I finally decided on four that intrigued me the most.

And now for one more food photo:

Some really yummy Blueberry Muffins made by Carol, my visiting friend. I don’t know how she packs so many blueberries into her muffins. The insides are just loaded!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Potato Salad... Kay's Way

We're having a few friends over on the 4th of July for some traditional picnic fare, so what would the 4th be without potato salad? Growing up, it was always my mom who was asked to bring the potato salad to family functions. Maybe it was because she made a damn good salad, or maybe it was because no one else wanted to make it and she enjoyed doing it.

It's really a simple recipe, but Mom thought it was something special and that she had all the secrets of potato salad making figured out. She guarded the recipe and never told all her secrets outside our own kitchen walls. (Except once when my cousin asked her if she would share it with her, but I guess she had her reason for doing so.)

Well, today I am going to share the recipe with you because I think good recipes should be shared. Besides:

1) I'm not making money off the recipe.
2) I really don't care to be the one who everyone goes to when they want potato salad at a picnic. I'm just as happy if someone else makes it.
3) I don't think the recipe is anything that anyone else hasn't already figured out.

Like I said, it's a simple recipe without a lot of fancy ingredients which makes it likable to even a fussy eater like my husband. She didn't use eggs or dill or relish or any exotic ingredients. It's just good old potato salad. So here it is:

Potato Salad... Kay's Way

Kay's Secret #1: Start with whole potatoes boiled with their skins on, or as Kay would say, "with their jackets on". You'll know when they are done when the skins begin to split.

There's probably much debate on the skins on/skins off method, but I agree with mom on this. By boiling the potatoes in their jackets, the texture of the cooked potato is wonderful. When you cut them you get nice tender potato chunks with lots of soft potato goodness on the outside that mixes in with the mayo to make it taste yummy. If potatoes are peeled and cut before boiling, every piece cooks to the same "doneness"; and if you don't cook them long enough, the potatoes seem almost slippery or slimy in the mayo (yuck).

Cool the potatoes and then peel them. I usually cook the potatoes the night before and stick them in the fridge overnight. The skin peels off really easily, warm or cold, using just a butter knife.

Have your kids help with this step. My sister and I were helping to peel potatoes long before we were old enough to use a sharp knife!

Cut the potatoes into bite size chunks.

Next, chop up some celery and onion.

No secret here, except maybe the fact that Kay used to chop the onion so small that even the pickiest child wouldn't be able to detect them in her salad.


Sometimes, when she was walking on the wild side, Kay would add chopped green pepper to it "just for color". I loved it when she did that and I would probably add chopped red peppers to mine except my hubby wouldn't like it that way.

Add the chopped veggies to the potatoes.

Kay's Secret #2: Salt, pepper, and cider vinegar. That's no secret you say? All potato salad recipes use salt and pepper? And many have vinegar in them, too? Ahhh, but most of them call for the vinegar to be added to the mayo. Kay's recipe has you adding it to the bare potatoes. Again, I side with mom on this one. If you add it to the mayo, you get runny mayo. If you add it to the potatoes, the tangy flavor seeps into the potatoes and your mayo keeps its proper consistency. Much better!

So, pour vinegar into your shallow mixing spoon and sprinkle it around the bowl. Repeat a couple of times. Add salt and pepper and mix. Repeat this a few more times until the salad has about 6 or 8 mixing spoons full of vinegar. Don't over salt, but be generous with the pepper if you like. Kay always was. (I don't know how old I was when I discovered that potatoes did have little black specks in them naturally!)

Okay, so now you can take a little break and let the flavors soak into each other. Now's the time to do the dishes or start your pasta salad. Let the potatoes sit for 10 or 15 minutes, or pop it in the fridge and finish it just before serving.

To finish it, just add mayo. Of course Kay used Hellmann's Real Mayonnaise. You can use whatever brand you like, but it won't taste like Potato Salad... Kay's Way unless you use Hellmann's.

As I said before, Kay didn't add eggs to her salad. She knew that egg was often an essential ingredient to potato salad, but that some people didn't like it that way. So her solution was to garnish the salad with sliced hard boiled eggs all around the rim of the bowl so people would have the choice. I don't garnish my salad because my hubby would really hate it that way- even if they were just sitting on top. (Don't even talk about eggs in front of him.)

So, that's it. Next time you need to make potato salad, give this recipe a try and let me know if you get any compliments on it. And maybe thank Kay with a wave toward the sky.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The knitting I've been working on... or not.

I found this great pattern for a cardigan, Gaia , that would be perfect to wear to work with a business skirt, as well as with jeans or other casual wear. I was very excited about starting this little cardigan and bought the exact yarn that the designer used, right down to the color, which I love. The yarn is a cotton blend made of all recycled fibers which makes it a perfect sweater to wear year round; even in the summer on a cool night or in the air conditioning at the office.

I started knitting it in May and found the pattern very easy follow and the yarn a dream to work with. I really looked forward to having this sweater done quickly so I could get on with some other deadline knitting I had.

Of course, things haven't gone along as planned. I was making great progress and had only one sleeve and the button band left when I decided I wasn't happy with a few things. It wasn't that I was unhappy with the pattern.... the pattern is great. I was unhappy with some of my workmanship mostly, but I also decided I hadn't measure accurately enough and needed  to make the armholes a bit longer. And while I was at it, I decided to do one less decrease on the front neck edges to make the shoulders a bit wider (my personal preference).

So, I frogged back a serious amount of finished product!

Since this sweater had worked up so quickly (the first time), I still had hopes to be able to complete it and move on to my other knitting in time for the deadlines, but I quickly realized that there was no way I could get it all done.

I had to abandon the Gaia and start making my bunny friend, Margaret. You remember her from a few posts ago?

Now it's been several weeks since I finished all the deadline knitting and the sweater is still not complete! Even if I was busy with other things in my life, there have been at least four Tuesday Night Knit Nights that I could have should have been working on it, and it could be should be almost finished by now! I was at Knit Night every Tuesday. I remember being there. I even have proof in some photos that were taken at Knit Nights. So what's the problem?

Distraction? Yes, I've been distracted. By conversation, magazines, books, birdhouses. Yes, birdhouses, but that I'll save that for another post.

Okay, let's be honest here. I really just didn't have it in me to pull the sweater out of my knitting bag and spend the time and concentration figuring out where I had left off.

Until this week. Tuesday night I stopped procrastinating, and in spite of having a couple new faces in our group to talk to (which could have been a great distraction to me), I pulled out my sweater and got to work.

It took me a few minutes of untangling, reviewing my notes, and looking at my work to get my placement, but I was soon knitting along happily again.

I now have renewed the excitement I once felt about this project and can't wait to wear it. Yeah, yeah. I know it's been beastly hot lately, but have you ever been in my office? Enough said. Stay tuned for "finished" photos.