Archive for September, 2008

How to Charm Me

September 29, 2008

Henry, 27 months

1. Tell me, in breathless, painstaking detail, what you had for lunch at school that day when I pick you up. You know, the lunch I made you that morning. “I gotta peach, Mama! And noodles!”

2. Refer to the skin of the peach as the “wrapper” and the pit as the “pinecone.”

3. Announce your latest injury in terms of public awareness, not because you need me to do something about it. “I got bloods, mama. I okay!”

4. When presented with a favorite food, clap your hands and say, “I LOVE it!”

5. Tell me, “Mama? I a lucky boy.”

You sure are, Henry. We are, too.

What a nut. Yes, those are kid’s garden gloves, a firehat, a beaded necklace, a kid’s saw, a kid’s drill and a kid’s thermometer in this photo. And a giant hole in the foot of his pajamas. He’s clearly a multitasker with an ability to accessorize!

The photo up top is my Best Shot Monday, for more, go to Tracey Clark’s site!

When the subject isn’t the subject

September 26, 2008

Oh, and a double posting today, because today is the last day to post a photo tip and and enter to win a $50 Amazon gift card at Beyond Megapixels. Did you do it yet?

In photographs, you can often tell a story in a different or unexpected way. For example, did you need Will’s face to know that he found this crab at the beach and was saying, “Mom! Look!” or does the story convey without it?

The next time you take photos, try using depth of field to isolate something that wouldn’t normally be the main subject of your photo, and see what interesting things you come up with.

How to do it?

1. Set your camera on aperture priority, and dial it down to the lowest f-stop you have. The lower the f-stop, the shallower your depth of field will be, or in other words, less of your photo will be in sharp focus. This is a good thing, because it allows you to isolate and feature something in your image.

For this picture, I used a 28-75 mm lens at f/2.8. If you’re using a kit lens (the one that came with your camera) you will probably be able to go to about 4.5. And if you have a 50 mm lens, you’ll be able to go to 1.8 or 1.4. (But if you have a 50mm 1.4, you aren’t reading photo tips from ME! :)

2. Using your focus points, compose your shot, keeping something other than the subject’s eyes in sharp focus. Make sure there is some space between what you are trying to isolate and the background. Experiment with keeping different aspects of the photo in focus and out of focus.

3. Press the shutter button, and there you have it!

Point and shoot users, you can do this too. Many point-and-shoot cameras offer aperture priority as a setting (called AV on Canons), or use your portrait setting and focus on your desired subject.

Food Friday: Apple-Oat Muffins

September 26, 2008

All of a sudden it is feeling a lot  like fall, so naturally?  We went apple picking. Even Henry, age 2, can reach the apples on the lowest branches, so it was a successful venture all around.

For our first foray into cooking with apples this fall, we decided on apple muffins. I took the backbone of this perfect muffin recipe, altered it slightly and came up with Apple-Oat muffins. And, pausing to wipe the crumbs off my shirt, I can tell you I think this is one of the best apple muffin recipes I’ve ever made.

Apple-Oat Muffins

1 stick butter (1/2 cup)

1 cup light brown sugar, very loosely packed

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups flour (I used one cup unbleached white and one cup King Arthur’s White Wheat)

1/3 cup rolled oats

2 tsp. baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. allspice

1/2 cup milk, plus 1-2 tablespoons if needed

2 1/2 cups diced, peeled apple

Preheat oven to 400.

Cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla and eggs. Add flour, spices and baking powder, stir gently.

Add apple chunks and milk, adding milk slowly to keep batter sticky. Add a few more tablespoons of milk if necessary to stir batter.

Fill tins until heaping——this is important for tall, lovely muffins——sprinkle a few oats on each muffin and bake 20-25 minutes. You can also mix oats and brown sugar and sprinkle on each muffin for a crispier, sweeter crust.

Tell me what YOU do with apples in your house. Pie? Crisp? Gnaw them whole?

Happy fall!

Nude Tuesday

September 23, 2008

Maile Wilson, one of my favorite photographers ever, blogs and previews her work over at Daily Relish. Check it out–beautiful stuff happens there.

Maile has begun hosting a fun activity each week, Crapshoot Tuesday. She picks a photo that she might have thrown away for technical imperfections, but saves for what it captured. I love it! And boy, do I have one for you this week.

I was lucky enough to enjoy a walk on New York’s Fire Island this weekend on what had to be one of the most gorgeous days of the year. I had my camera out on our walk through the dunes, I snapped one quick snapshot of the beach to show my boys and then put it away when I saw the salt spray flying on a beautiful, nearly deserted stretch of barrier beach. Deep in conversation, it was several minutes later before Jess, Dan and I realized we were about to walk through a short stretch of nudists. On a nude beach.

With nowhere to go but forward, we forged on. Bodies, bodies, bodies, naked, naked, naked, naked. One guy even wore a crisp polo shirt—and no pants. Naked bodies of all shapes, sizes, ages, genders and grooming standards—all just running, jumping, playing in the surf, playing volleyball, lying on the beach, resting a leg casually on the back of a lawn chair, I don’t think I need to show you a picture for you to have a clear image in your mind.

But I will.

Because I got home, and downloaded my photos. And as you Facebook friends noticed, I was startled to discover that last photo I shot? Had the entire nude colony in the background.

Behold.  Just a lovely day along the Atlantic Ocean, yes? Beach behind us is almost completely empty. See crowd ahead.

Come closer, won’t you?

And a little closer…

And if THAT isn’t a keeper for Crapshoot Tuesday, I don’t know what is! If you’ve got something to share at Crapshoot Tuesday, I encourage you to post your crappy photo and a comment over at Maile’s!

And before I get angry mail saying “some of my best friends are nudists,” let me just say, nudists–you’re amazing and lovely. I admire your confidence and take on the world. You all looked like you were having a wonderful time, and thank you for sharing your stretch of beach with our Puritanical ideals for a few minutes.

BLT (The L stands for LOVE)

September 22, 2008

I keep saying summer isn’t over yet, and this sandwich is proof. I dined on this delicious BLT Saturday night for dinner during a little weekend getaway, and, well, YUM. That’s a yellow Brandywine tomato, picked that morning from my yard. And bacon. Yum.

Thank you to my lovely hosts and my wonderful traveling companion!

This little bundle of goodness serves a few other roles today. It’s my Best Shot Monday, and you know where to go for more of that.

Also, photo website Beyond Megapixels is doing a little giveaway when you post a photo tip between now and Friday, September 26.

So here’s today’s tip: Food Photography

Photographing food has a lot to do with the dish you’re photographing and less to do with the photography, I think. Or maybe another way to say it is that it’s hard to make something yummy look bad.

But since I need to add a tip to make this a legit contest entry, here you go:

Turn off the flash and get close if you want to improve your food photos. Use a fast lens (the popular 50mm 1.8 is cheap and great for food photos), dial up the ISO if you must, fill the frame and start shooting. If you’re shooting indoors at night, a tripod or something to stabilize your camera is a good idea.

Yum. Got a photo tip to share for a chance at a $50 gift card? Post it over at Beyond Megapixels this week.

Food Friday: Summer Spaghetti

September 19, 2008

Well, the calendar may be pointing to fall, but the tomatoes, they keep on coming. Tonight we’re going to have a summer favorite, Summer Spaghetti, also known in our house as Jess’ mom’s summer pasta. Or just tomato-basil pasta.

Now, I’m not sure that I make it just like anyone in Jess’s family—in fact I don’t even make it the same way twice. So this isn’t really a recipe, but more of a gentle suggestion for turning a popular summer salad into a meal that even kids will eat.

In this case, I have more cherry tomatoes than I know what to do with, so I will take care of most of them by making this. The rest will go into tomato soup, since I don’t have to worry about skinning them. You can use cherry tomatoes or regular for this salad.

Summer Spaghetti

Cook a pound of pasta to package directions (despite the name, I rarely use spaghetti–gemelli, rotini and penne are all good shapes to try here).

While the pasta is cooking, chop your tomatoes and basil. How many tomatoes? As many as you have, or as many as you think you’d like to have in this salad. Helpful, eh? Try this. Take the bowl that you’ll be using to serve the pasta, and chop tomatoes until they fill the bottom third or so. You can always add more to make a more favorable pasta/tomato ratio later.

Once the tomatoes are chopped go twice around the bowl with a fruity green olive oil and once around the bowl with the best balsamic vinegar you can spring for. I sometimes add a little garlic to pep things up, too. Then stack a pile of fresh basil leaves together, roll them up and cut them into ribbons, and mix them in. Repeat as necessary for your basil preferences. Finally, add salt and pepper to taste, and wait for the pasta to cook and the tomato mixture to get juicy.

Once cooked, drain the pasta, cool it slightly and add it to the tomato-basil dressing. If you’ve got any interesting cheeses, or even just plain old supermarket mozzerella, dice it up and sprinkle it in.

Voila! Summer Spaghetti.

Yum. Summer isn’t quite over yet.

Thanks to all you Food Friday posters who are going strong, even when I don’t post on Fridays, I love it! Keep them coming!

Not sleeping like a baby

September 17, 2008

This sweet newborn defied the odds during our photo shoot last week, and stayed awake to be ABSOLUTELY sure he didn’t miss a thing. (A good trait to have, since he is the third child in this family–he needs to keep up!)

Have you ever seen such an alert, bright-eyed baby, just ten days old?

He didn’t make me eat my words, though. All newborns will eventually go to sleep, and he did, too.

Next thing you know he’ll be borrowing the car

September 11, 2008

Year two of nursery school, day one, and as you can see, he was ready to say goodbye before he even got in the door.

How does it all go so fast?

It doesn’t help that I held a delicious newborn yesterday, either. Talk about getting slapped around by karma. (Pictures to come. He is so darn sweet.)

But look at these two goofballs. This is proof that it gets that much more fun as they get older.

(Note to parents of tweens and teens—let me stand uncorrected, if necessary, about that last statement, please!)

Eight years ago today

September 9, 2008

Happy anniversary, love.

Food Friday: Homemade Cream of Tomato Soup

September 5, 2008

I have an embarrassment of tomatoes to work through right now. Our garden is plentiful, plus we have some from the farm where we get our vegetables weekly. Then this past week I helped harvest at a farm specializing in heirloom tomatoes, and I came home with with pounds and pounds and pounds of gorgeous yellow, green, purple, pink, orange and red tomatoes. MMMM. 

We’ve been eating tomato sandwiches and BLTs all week (which I LOVE), we’ve had tomato-mozzarella salad, we’ve had Jess’ Mom’s Summer Pasta, which I’ll share here soon and I’ve made a few batches of this golden brew. I think the original source of this was the New York Times in the 1970s, but it was part of my mom’s repertoire for so long that I think of it as her recipe.

I’ll give it to you in it’s original, unblemished state, but you’ll probably live longer if you adopt some of the modifications I use. I make this so many times in the tomato season that I can’t make it in the high-fat style or I would be as round as some of my tomatoes. The recipe itself is truly for the lazy, since it requires no seeding, coring and peeling of tomatoes and just the barest bit of chopping.

The heady scent of this soup—the pure, distilled essence of tomato and basil, plus all the good things that make those flavors even better—is as close as we’ll ever get to bottling summer. Try it and see if you agree!

Cream of Tomato Soup

1 stick butter ( I use about 2 tablespoons)

2 Tablespoons olive oil ( I use 1)

1 large sweet onion, chopped in large chunks

a handful of fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, diced

2-3 pounds fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped

3 Tablespoons tomato paste (go ahead and use the whole can)

1/4 cup unbleached flour

4 cups chicken broth

1 teaspoon sugar

1 cup heavy cream ( I use 2% milk, and I think it is fine, but see what works for you–half cream, half milk? Whole milk?)

salt and pepper to taste

Heat butter in a large pot. Add oil, onion, basil and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally until the onion wilts. Add tomato paste and fresh tomatoes, stir to blend. Simming for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a small bowl, mix the flour and 5 tablespoons of broth. Blend and add to tomato mix. Add remaining broth and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour through a fine sieve, return to heat, add sugar and cream, then salt and pepper to taste. Simmer and stir for 3-5 minutes, serve with a garnish of chopped fresh basil. Good with bread!

What are you doing with tomatoes this week? And as usual, if you’ve got a Food Friday post to share, link to it in the comments!

What happens when you leave your children with me

September 4, 2008

It all started so innocently. They wanted to play house with a giant box that we keep in the basement for cabin fevery winter days.

We decided painting it with finger paints and handprints would be a great idea.

Then we ran out of finger paint, so they continued work on their color palette with poster paints and brushes.

Which quickly turned into body painting.

And more body painting…

Clearly body paint makes you into a superhero, which is what three of the four are demonstrating here.

Or a “scary monster.”

The final results?

I’ve never seen four children so anxious to have their picture taken. And they had as much fun washing it all off as they did putting it on.

My personal favorite of the day…

So, any takers for a play date?

Edited to add: Lest you think I am a complete loon, let me share a little secret. I have an outdoor shower!

This one’s for the ladies

September 3, 2008

Okay, I leave you for days on end with a picture of a foot, sorry about that. I even had a PR person pitching me on a product start by saying, “Ouch, I hope your foot feels better!” Definitely a sign that I left that post up too long.

I hope you’ll forgive me. Since we were last together we managed to sneak in a mini beach getaway and a family gathering seating 10 people at every meal. I’ve also picked more than 100 pounds of tomatoes since I last wrote, too, so expect more on that soon.

But today I’ve got a burning question for the ladies, because, despite being something of a PR hack myself, I just can’t really buy into or fully understand this product name.

Pro comfort? What exactly is pro comfort in a tampon? Because some of us are amateurs, and wouldn’t seek PRO LEVEL COMFORT?

Believe me, I’m sympathetic to the agency working on the old tampon account. I picture an old-style agency guy holding a cigar and barking from behind his massive mahogany desk as his dark-suited junior account reps quake in front of him, holding the storyboards (representing three all-nighters of work) that he has summarily dismissed in less than 30 seconds. Also? This scene is playing in black and white with the crackles of a reel-to-reel projector.

“Fred, Bob? Give me something fresh, something new, something unexpected in a tampon pitch. On my desk by COB today or you’re finished in this business!”

What Bob and Fred came up with in 1967.

But honestly, PRO-LEVEL COMFORT?

Would it be going out on a limb to suggest a man might be behind that line?

Because I’d don’t think I’d want to meet the woman who thinks that way.