Friday Featured Favorites: Wicker and Wonderful

I… love… baskets. I don’t know what it is about baskets that makes them so appealing to me, they’re just fun!

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So naturally I was pleased to find the Etsy shop JGBaskets, with a wonderful variety of baskets. And when I say variety, I mean Variety!

The basket on the left is a mail basket. She also has stair baskets, bread baskets, napkin baskets and wall baskets (all of which are worth looking at!)

Jan, the owner of the shop, got started about 28 years ago, when she decided to get a kit and make herself a basket. Apparently, her first basket wasn’t a roaring success, but she kept at it until, as you can see, she got fantastic results!

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Besides selling on Etsy, Jan sells her baskets at art shows. As well as weaving, she’s tried her hand at cross stitch, macramé, quilting, crochet and rug hooking. What really impresses me is that she runs her Etsy shop on the side, and works as a surgical technologist and surgical assistant during the day.

I really enjoyed featuring this shop today. I kept running into it, and seeing different, fun baskets every time. I love the simple, beautiful look and I look forward to coming back to see what else she has. By the way, she has some really fun Easter baskets you have to check out!

Once again, the shop is JGBaskets.

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Sarah

Chocolate – and the pleasures of life

I like chocolate in just about any form… candy bars, white chocolate, hot cocoa, ice cream, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, semi sweet, cocoa, Nutella, cake, cookies, cocoa nibs… the list is endless!

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It’s really, really easy for me to just keep eating/munching/sipping on chocolate. Admittedly, when you’ve had enough, you’ve had enough, like with super rich, amazing hot cocoa.

It helps that chocolate, especially the darker it gets, is actually good for you! I don’t feel as guilty munching on it then.

Which brings me to something I’ve slowly come to realize… even when food is good for you, you don’t need to pig out on it!

This is something I’ve come to realize from reading French Women Don’t Get Fat, by Mireille Guiliano. She points out that you don’t need to have lots of something to enjoy it, and often your treat tastes best in the first few bites.

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What sparked the idea for this blog post was a bag of dark chocolate chips on the table, which I naturally took advantage of by putting some chocolate chips in a little cup and munching on them while I worked on a few things in the kitchen. What’s strange is that, practically from the beginning, I planned on getting a second helping before leaving the room. I was nearly done with my first batch, when I suddenly realized I didn’t really feel like having anymore! Naturally, I wanted more, but I had had enough.

I have fallen into the bad habit of thinking I need more to really be satisfied… and that chocolate, or something else, is the only thing that will satisfy me. As Hannah and I realized recently, and laughed over for about 10 minutes, was that we fall into the habit of saying the extra collection we get of some treat (weather it’s chips, chocolate or fruit) is our treat, and all the rest of the munching didn’t really count!

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Food is a good thing – well, most of the time. And there is nothing wrong with eating! As I have mentioned before, cooking makes me happy… food makes me happy!

But one problem I realize I’ve had is relying on food to make me happy.

I have just as much, if not more sometimes, pleasure in the company of friends and family, or the early blossoms of March, or a nice cup of tea, or finishing Northanger Abbey, or taking a walk, or loving my dog, or listening/playing music. I don’t need food, even chocolate, to make any of those things better than they already are.

What about you? What are some of your favorite simple, awesome pleasures? I’d love to hear about them!

Hope everyone continues to have a great week!

Sarah

 

Photographing Food

I love food. Food makes me happy.

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And occasionally I remember to take pictures of the dishes we make! So I thought I’d share a few of those photos here.

Admittedly, some dishes, like pilafs, are really hard to photograph. And another difficulty I find myself facing is that we usually have our main, photo-worthy meals in the evening when the lighting is… difficult.

The beautiful heart shaped cake to the left was made several years ago for Valentine’s Day. I forget what recipe we used for the cake, but it was delicious.

And something I’ve noticed more recently is that we didn’t serve the cake on a Fiesta Ware plate, which we normally would’ve done… so it was pre-Fiesta Ware days!

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Then there are also times when I happen to have my camera with me – or nearby – and I notice something that would be interesting to photograph…

which was the case with the coffee grounds pictured on the left. It was just too interesting looking for me to resist, especially since my current camera focuses very nicely. In this case I like how it either looks like chocolate or dirt or like what it actually is. Naturally, I took lots of pictures, but I liked the way this one turned out.

img_2364 I believe this was the mince pie we made recently. It was looking so wonderful and yummy in the light that, of course, I had to take pictures of it!

Solid things seem to be the easiest to take pictures of. Like I said before, pilafs or rice pudding, or anything with a squishy, gray-ish color makes it difficult to photograph. The best thing to do with those dishes, if you want to take pictures of them, seems to be to put a nice garnish on top and don’t get too close… allow people to imagine what the gray-ish dish is.

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The most recent food thing I’ve taken pictures of is the hot cocoa to the left… the wonderfully thick, rich, amazing Hot Cocoa.

I was trying to take pictures of it, and for some reason it was pretty unsuccessful. Maybe the lighting was off. However, I did manage to get this nice close-up of the surface, in which you can see the reflection of the orange slice and a little of the room. Yummy!

winter-orange-2A couple years ago I decided to challenge myself to taking pictures of food. It’s an ongoing challenge, since a dish will sometimes strike me, while others don’t work. Tonight’s meal of carrot soup and chicken with couscous was pretty, but I doubt it would be easy to photograph.

So, this year, I think I’m going to challenge myself to something even tougher. And… I’m going to challenge you too.

Find something you find especially difficult to capture, either photograph or paint or whatever the case may be, and try to capture it.

img_3043In my case, I’m going to challenge myself to Photograph my family. For some reason I find it difficult to photograph people, which is sad considering they’re much more important than most (if not all) things I take pictures of.

So, anyway, I challenge you to photograph or paint something you’re unfamiliar with this year. Challenge all the photographers or artists you know. I’ll go ahead and do a blog post on my process and the final results by April (although I should be able to manage it in March)

So there we go! Now the challenge is out, and I’d better get to it 🙂

Hoping everyone has a great finish to their week,

Sarah

 

In with the new!

Wow! we’re a little more than half way through the first month of 2017! I didn’t see that coming.

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I have tons of plans for 2017! I usually have to think about them for a while before getting going on them, and talking about them beforehand really doesn’t help me.

However, I’m going to be daring… and make a sort of resolution.

It’s not an actual resolution, because that makes it sound boring. Anyway…

I’m talking about it here – first of all, because I’d love to share it a little with you – also, hopefully it will help me keep to it if more people know about it.

It’s recently come to my attention that I really enjoy playing music. I always had trouble figuring out how I wanted to play with music, but I miss it, so I really hope to get back into it during 2017.

img_2348I’m sure it’s been mentioned at some point that I play the violin, guitar and piano. I have less experience and knowledge with the piano and guitar, but they’re both very understandable instruments and I love all three of them.

So… I’ll be pulling out the guitar and violin to tune them! I’m especially interested in working on hymns, because I know several pretty well and enjoy them, and we’ll see where I go with that!

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Technically, this might not be the best time to be picking up another, time consuming thing. I can juggle a few things, like Etsy, eating, sleeping and thinking. But not much more.

However, I feel ready to try something new (or old). Plus, music is a wonderful, essential language. So, I am looking forward to this year, and praying that I can incorporate music comfortably into my life.

I’d love to hear what everyone has planned for the new year! Do you have anything that you’ve been wanting to get back to or a new adventure you’re thinking of trying?

Welcome to 2017 everyone! It’s still a new year, and I’m praying it’s a great one for everyone!

Sarah

5 Things

This Christmas season has been a little weird. For one thing, I haven’t been here celebrating Christmas on our blog as much as I was hoping.

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I blame the weather. We had a long and beautiful Autumn, and everything is delayed so it literally doesn’t feel like Christmas. Everything feels a bit vague and I basically don’t have anyone’s presents ready. Plus, there’s a cold going around!

However, just yesterday Hannah and I were talking about how we didn’t want to look back on this Christmas as the ‘worst’ Christmas. Every Christmas I remember, there’s always great things about it.

So, I thought I’d list 5 Great Things About This Christmas:

1. Our Christmas Tree. We’ve been going for smaller trees the last couple years – all of which have been wonderful – but this year we managed to find a beautiful, full, happy Christmas tree. We decorated it in retro/vintage style, since we’ve been seeing so much fun retro things on Etsy.

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2. Christmas Tea Parties. We had a party with our girl friends last week, with mini mince pies, some fun tea, pretty new velvet dresses and the traveling fascinator (probably we’ll bring that up later). Then a couple days ago we had another party, and had an amazing cookie exchange, more wonderful tea, fun company and Mummy scones! Both teas were absolutely wonderful

3. Baklava! We got to make Lebanese Baklava with some friends. It was surprisingly easy, sort of meditative and such a lot of fun. There’s nothing like the blessing of friendship! Plus, the Baklava, which I finally got to have today, is amazing. Especially when you don’t eat it all at once.

4. Peppermint Patty! Abigail discovered a shop on Etsy by the name of Deep Midnight Perfumes, which is on vacation right now but you totally have to check it out! Abigail got some perfumes for her birthday, and then sweetly got perfumes for an early Christmas present. Abigail got Fezziwig’s Tea, Hannah got Blitzen’s Blast and I got Peppermint Patty. I love all of them, but Peppermint Patty is awesomely deep, pleasant and minty. (by the way, the descriptions the owner has for her perfumes are amazingly accurate!)

old-fashioned-christmas5. Changing Tradition. This year more than usual I’m realizing that the Christmas celebration doesn’t have to be… well, a cookie cutter celebration. Due to various changes, this Christmas was bound to be a little different, and we were trying to focus more on experience than gifts – after all, there’s only so much you can get for people! So, some of the gifts are a little less of a surprise, and we all know the celebrating will be extended. As our friend Lexi points out at our various tea parties, the point is not that the event is perfect, but that we get to spend time together.

And a few other awesome things come to mind, so I’ll mention them really quickly. I made my doll, Mildred, a Christmas dress, which is so cute! I discovered I really like cinnamon with oranges. Just today I discovered a new tea shop, which I am quite thrilled about!

Now, off to read The Christmas Carol. I’d love to hear what you’ve enjoyed so far this Christmas season! Please share in the comments.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Sarah

 

Monkey Bread and Dinosaurs!

I was reminded this year of how strange life is. You’d think I’d remember that sooner!

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We have lots of wonderful Christmas movies to watch (starting tomorrow evening!) but there just doesn’t seem to be enough Thanksgiving movies!

Someday, I’ll put together a list of good Thanksgiving movies. If anyone has suggestions, please share!

However, I remembered recently the movies we have watched close to Thanksgiving, and definitely not always related to Thanksgiving.

One movie we thought up that seemed a little related to Thanksgiving was You Can’t Take it With You. Somehow, being directed by the same guy that did It’s a Wonderful Life seems fitting for this holiday.

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It’s a very good movie, and probably very good for Thanksgiving, and I’d recommend it to you.

For a seemingly totally-not-Thanksgiving movie, last year we watched Jurassic World the day before Thanksgiving. I enjoyed it more than I expected, and having monkey bread to work on was a good excuse for looking away if it got too bloody 🙂

I decided to look up Thanksgiving Movies on Bing – after all, there’s a list for everything – and was reminded that Spider-Man (2002) featured an uncomfortable Thanksgiving dinner, so maybe we’ll watch that this year 🙂

Putting movies aside, there are various things I remember doing around or on Thanksgiving Day. Several years ago we delivered some monkey break to our friends at nighttime. There’s nothing quite like driving at nighttime when it’s cold outside!

Of course, nothing can beat waking up to the smell of smoking turkey (he tried to quite cold-chicken, but it didn’t work) and for some reason working on the dishes after dinner has become a favorite in recent years. A couple years ago Abigail and Hannah were writing madly and abandoned me to work on all the dishes. It was surprisingly fun! (no, this is not a guilt trip, sisters!) And then, of course, there’s the tradition of trying to clean the bar for extra room.

img_2008Last year we went for a walk after dinner and met at our park. It was extremely cold and Annie (on the left) was really happy. She laid down and we buried her in leaves and we had a panting, happy pile of leaves!

A few things I plan on doing tomorrow is:

walk. I really enjoyed it last year and look forward to it this year.

I will not munch beforehand. I think I’m going to challenge myself not to eat anything, unless I need to test it (which really is necessary!)

I will be happy. Of course, just saying you’re going to be happy, and plastering a smile to your face, doesn’t work, but I will remember to breathe and not worry.

This month has gotten a little out of hand, and really crazy, and it seems like there are a lot of things we have to deal with. But maybe that makes it an even better time for Thanksgiving, when we can remember what we have and that, in the end, everything will be OK.

So, let me wish you an early Happy Thanksgiving. May you have a wonderful day, full of happiness, new traditions or oddities and peace.

Hope you have a great holiday weekend,

Sarah

P.S. please share your interesting stories! I heard about a lady that married on Thanksgiving so she wouldn’t have to cook the big dinner. It didn’t really work. Do you have any of your own stories?

Thankfulness Thursday: Change

Yes, it’s November again. I agree, it came way too quickly! But I’m not complaining. November is awesome.

This is the third Thursday from Thanksgiving Day, and it’s time for Thankfulness Thursday! Of course, it’s also the day before a Craft Fair we’re participating in, so this post might be a bit rushed.

img_1992(The pictures featured here are from our latest outing to the Bosque. It was amazing looking!)

Last year I think I did a Thankfulness blog post about the things I was thankful for that had changed or developed in the past year. I think I’ll do that again.

So here goes:

Variety of food. I don’t know why, but it seems like I’ve especially discovered how much variety there is in food. It probably has something to do with our amazing Jerusalem cookbook. I am also learning how to develop my own recipes, and I think I’ve been fairly successful so far.

I’ve made a few sales in my shop!!! I am very happy about this, understandably.

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Processing. Trying to take in stressful situations is always challenging and I doubt there’s any approach that works every time, unfortunately. But I’m slowly learning how to react and work under stress. My Etsy shop is less of a burden and more of a challenge.

On that note: Direction. I think I’m starting to figure out where I’m supposed to be going! For some reason I’ve never been able to find something to settle with, but I think I’m going in the right direction.

Challenge. It’s really easy to get comfortable and stop challenging yourself… at least it is for me. Admittedly, I haven’t actually challenged myself to do something new, but I am preparing to, and that’s a good first step!

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Gelato. We were introduced to an amazing gelato place in the depths of downtown. It was simply wonderful!

So, technically, I really haven’t gotten some things done that I wanted to by now. But Thanksgiving comes at just the right time when you’re regretting what hasn’t changed or gone on in the past year, and just before you can reassess what you want to do in the future.

img_2008I find it very nice to look back on what’s changed in 2016 – I know I’ve forgotten a few things – and be satisfied with what I have.

Also, I have to add, I’m really thankful for what our readers here!

So, I always love to hear what everyone has to say. Please feel free to mention a few things you’re thankful for, that have either occurred in the past year, or that you’re just thankful for in general!

Hope you have a great Thanksgiving Month and the rest of the week is great too

Sarah

The Animal Kingdom

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I love animals. This might sound typical, but dogs are probably my favorite, but most animals are really fun.

So, I take pictures of animals. It’s really rare to get good photos of them, so I often keep the kind of bad pictures (especially of birds) since I might not get a better opportunity. I thought I’d share a few here.B & W Butterfly Photoshoot 2

I actually started this blog post a couple months ago, but I was reminded of it today when I was editing some photos of ducklings.

The butterfly to the left is at our Botanic Garden, which has a butterfly pavilion. I have several wonderful photos of butterflies thanks to them. Otherwise, the only chance I’d get is with some lilac our neighbor has that attracts Monarch butterflies.

3rd Pic of Porcupine

On the left, a real animal – maybe. There we were, walking along, just about done with our Bosque walk. We turned around the corner and saw a weird looking bush! Then it started moving, and I realized we were staring at a Porcupine, lazily walking across our path, completely – and thankfully – oblivious of our dog!

We’ve seen plenty of interesting animals at the Bosque, including of coyotes.

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Now a tiny animal!

These were our card-making mascots. Ridiculously soft and cuddly…

if they weren’t so tiny.

They were about the size of Annie’s (our dog) eye. Maybe not that small, but it felt like it.

As you can see, her whiskers are about as long as her body!

As I said, I have a lot of pictures of animals, many of them not too good. So I’m having a bit of trouble figuring out what to show you! I’ll include a slideshow now, with pictures that include robins, bunnies and whatever else catches my fancy.

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Someday I think I’ll just settle down somewhere very quietly and take pictures of birds and squirrels. We had a great opportunity to get some pictures of a squirrel, but our cameras weren’t ready.

However, while it is awfully fun to have photos of these wild and interesting animals, it’s also important to enjoy the moment when you’re living it.

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And then, sometimes, you get the opportunity to live in the moment and take pictures to remember it later.

We were standing near a pond when a mother and her ducklings came meandering down, very close to us. Thankfully, I had my camera ready, and got lots of photos of them!

Of course I would have loved to take one home, but at least I have photos of them!

So there we go. I love doing random blog posts, and it’s fun to include some of my photos. Maybe some time we’ll do a blog post about our epic mountain adventures!

So, what’s your favorite animal? Any funny pet stories? (if you have a pet, of course there’s a funny pet story!) I’d love to hear about them!

Hope the rest of your week is great!

Sarah

Heading into Winter

Running a shop, even if it is online, is good for me. It makes me plan for the future a little more.

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I decided to make a few items that are…. well, gift-able. The kind of thing it’s easy to get someone, because you know they’ll probably like it, but at the same time it’s not a huge phenomenon. Probably cheap. A little seasonal. Cute and different.

However, I have to admit, I actually had the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in mind when I made my latest listings.

We went to the Balloon Fiesta a few years ago, and I remember distinctly that it was much colder than I expected. Early October doesn’t tend to be that cold in New Mexico. However, when you’re getting up before the sun is anywhere near rising, it’s quite chilly, and some nice hot chocolate is in order.

img_1675That’s exactly what I had in mind when I made a couple Winter Headbands – one pink plaid, pictured on the left, the other black.

Sometimes you want something that will warm you, but you don’t want to go all the way and wear a hat. I thought these would work perfectly. They’re flannel, so very nice and cozy.

I had an interesting time designing these. The pink one was supposed to have elastic in the back, but what with one thing and another – I chickened out. Hopefully next time. I thought adding a flower would complete it nicely. I think it has a nice rustic, lumberjack (except for girls) style.

img_1695The second Winter Headband I made was interesting to take pictures of. It’s very, very black!

This isn’t actually the first time I’ve taken pictures of it. A lady on Etsy asked me to make a couple Seatbelt Covers out of black flannel. I had enough left over of this wonderfully soft fabric to make something else. So, I managed to get a headband out of it.

It’s such a dramatic, simple color, I thought I should go for a very classy look, with white buttons sewn on one side. It should look really nice in a snowy setting!

img_1696This turned out to be a strangely difficult project to finish. It was just one of those times you’re tired of working on something, no matter how interesting or simple it is (as these headbands ought to be)

However, I am super pleased with how these turned out. They have a lot of promise, and there are so many options, so hopefully I’ll be making more to put on my shop.

I also think these would work really well for the Balloon Fiesta! It’s really crazy there, so it’s kind of nice to have something that will fit snugly, but doesn’t get in the way.

Here is a link to my Pink Plaid Winter Headband on my Etsy shop…

And a link to my Black Winter Headband.

As for what you can expect on my Etsy shop in the next couple months… well, I’m still thinking about that, unfortunately.

I think I’m going to go on working on some gift-able things, including more headbands and fuzzy things.

As for actual Christmas items, I’m definitely still thinking about that. However, I would love to hear what you think I could do for Christmas! I invite you to leave your ideas in the comment section at the bottom of the page.

Thanks for stopping by and I look forward to hearing from you!

Sarah

 

Saturday Random Recipe: Quinoa!

Here’s a recipe I’ve been meaning to share with you for a quite a while. For weeks I’ve been building up to it, so now I’ll finally get to it!

This recipe was a part of my collection of Summer Recipes, great for doing when you don’t feel like heating up the house, and generally enjoying the produce of the Summer. Unfortunately, Summer is practically over, and my thoughts are turning to soups and apples. However, I will share this recipe in celebration of Summer. September is generally the best of Summer anyway, when we can usually get access to good Summer fruit, and enjoy cooler days.

I think I’ve already mentioned this recipe, from Mireille Guiliano‘s cookbook, for Fruit Salad with Quinoa, which serves 4-6. Here it is:

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice (or lemon juice)
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon zest lime (or lemon, or omit)
  • 1 pound mixed fruit (strawberries, peaches, grapes, melon, blackberries, raspberries)
  • Fresh mint sprigs

Cook the quinoa according to the package instructions. Drain and cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together the liquid ingredients

Prepare the fruit. Place all the fruit in a serving bowl and add the cooled quinoa. Add the liquid mixture and toss to combine. Garnish with mint and serve.

dscn7895First of all, this recipe is really flexible and fun. You can probably use whatever fruit you have on hand. I find I really like peaches or nectarines with it. (and don’t worry about measuring how much fruit you use. Just do as much as you want)

A few important things to know:

rinse the quinoa! I didn’t for a while, but it really helps to lessen the unusual, sort of bitter flavor. Also, the mint garnish is very important. It provides a fun, fresh flavor. Plus, be ready to add more lemon juice or honey, depending on what you want.

I also find that it’s not necessary to let the quinoa cool completely. I like how it softens the fruit a little when it’s warm, but this salad is best cooler.

I really, really like this salad. It kind of helped me get into quinoa, which I find has it’s own personality that you have to get used to. I also really like this recipe for get-togethers with friends (they have to be the right friends. If you bring a fruit salad with funny looking soppy bits, they may not get the idea). It provides a fresh, unusual, side dish thing that, conveniently, provides some protein, which is sometimes needed with these random get-togethers.

And there we go! That wasn’t so hard…

Oh, and keep Mireille Guiliano in mind, because I’ll be bringing her up again soon.

By the way, I’d love to hear what your favorite quinoa recipe is! I’m still trying to figure it out, so I’d love to hear from you!

Hope you continue to have a great weekend,

Sarah