Friday, December 28, 2012

Pork Butt.

Remember "snow days" when you were a kid?  The sky grey and overcast, the air frigid and sharp with the smell of winter, the household calm with everyone absorbed in quiet activity, reading, hobbies.  Lunch time rolled around and greeted you with a crispy grilled cheese and cold milk.

I just came from there.

So maybe there's no snow, the air is still cold at 40 degrees and smells decisively like winter.  I slept in and spent the morning drinking americanos and reading the Times online.  A grilled cheese seemed in order.  Of course I rarely make a boring grilled cheese and never ever with "cheese food"; I opt for melty real cheeses like muenster, provolone, gouda and/or fontina and often include some sort of sliced meat.

Today's selection was very simple.  I didn't have any good, rich, grainy bread so I was forced to use too-soft "wheat" bread.  Mild provolone won out over gouda because it would complement well the thick slice of leftover Christmas ham I was using.  That baked pork butt was the magic ingredient, turning an average afternoon grilled cheese into a delightful and imaginative visit to a long ago childhood.


Christmas was the second time I made ham.  My first ham stemmed from a desire for home made split pea soup a few months ago in which a meaty ham bone is key.  What's the best way to acquire that but to make a bone-in ham.  Wandering into new territory led me to ask my mom and grandma, both very experienced in making soups, who advised me to look for "pork butt".  I thought maybe that was just a term my very frank-speaking grandma used but at the store I found bone-in pork butt.  Perfect.

For that first ham I followed a recipe for Baked Ham with Sweet Bourbon-Mustard Glaze.  It was easy and very apparent that you really don't need an actual recipe to make a ham.  You can seemingly mix anything you want to make a glaze as long as you include something sweet such as molasses, brown sugar, syrup even coconut nectar and something liquidy and acidic such as orange or apple juice.  Then you put it in a low-300 degree oven until the ham reaches about 140 degrees, basting periodically to build up the layer of glaze.  Done.

This time I made a glaze with some basics I had on hand: the small remaining amount of maple syrup from the fridge with a bit of molasses to compensate, Bragg's apple cider vinegar ("the best" I've heard), the handful of brown sugar left in the pantry and prepared yellow mustard just because.  I again used only a Pyrex dish to cook it in, I refuse to buy a roasting pan and rack which doesn't seem nearly as versatile as my beloved Pyrex collection.

The resulting ham was delicious, of course.  I served it with some leftover redskin mashed potatoes, reheated with some Boursin cheese stirred in (yum!).  The vegetable side dish was green beans with mushrooms.  I steamed the beans to maintain their crispness and sauteed sliced cremini mushrooms and green onions in the bacon fat left from the Christmas morning bacon (yum, again!) then combined them.

We've been picking off the ham since Christmas, snacking on cold chunks just pulled off and making cold or hot sandwiches, including the amazing grilled ham and cheese this afternoon.  In the next couple days (as my work schedule permits) I will prepare the ham bone for the split pea soup by slicing off good sandwich-sized pieces and picking the rest off into soup-sized chunks.

When I make the split pea soup I'll try to remember to document the process for the learning cooks who may read this because it's really easier than you may think.  The world of soup seemed intimidating to me because I am partial to thick, hearty soups/stews and always thought they were difficult to make.  I wonder if that is a sign of my cooking skill progression, now that I think about it.  I consider myself a solid "intermediate" because I can cook well without recipes but still turn to them for inspiration and guidance.  Nonetheless, stay tuned.

[I labeled this post as "frugal" because ham is relatively inexpensive and you can use it in endlessly creative ways making it stretch as far as you want, including the bone.]

Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Christmas as a child-free adult who lives far from family and works full-time in retail is really not a holiday at all.  It is only a guaranteed (for now) day off after the stress of fulfilling holiday obligations in between long, anxiety-ridden work days.  I'm not exactly a Scrooge or a Grinch, but I carry no joy though the holiday season.

A thought I have been pondering these past few days stems from a comment I read posted after a photography blog article.  The commenter states,

"A point that I think can't be ignored is the over-saturation of social media -- we spend so much time sharing that we don't spend any time actually thinking, or creating. Let's remember one vital point: creativity happens in the empty, lazy spaces when we're 'wasting time'...and that just doesn't happen if we're wired on technological crack."

I added the bold on the statement that stood out most, though his surrounding thoughts on social media are ones I share and have been struggling with for the past few years.  I want to shake his hand for his frankness in so precisely proclaiming the idealistic frustrations I've had with social media.

Those two sentences pulled from his comment have fueled a stream of thinking in the past couple days that has yet to lead me to any conclusion.  It's like following a sheen of motor oil on a puddle in a parking lot -- you know it came from somewhere and you can't figure out it's path or it's future turns but you continue to study it with curious fascination.


In an addition to my previous post on my Summertime Fluevogs, I was able to use some of my "lazy spaces" today for a family photo.

2012.12.25.  [Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS UD]

Monday, December 17, 2012

16. something you made.


Exactly one thousand days after bringing home my beloved Summertime Fillmore sandals from John Fluevog they have found a sister.

On an warm, early spring day three years ago I spent the day in Seattle with my camera.  I came home with many, many photos, a bouquet of flowers from Pike St. Market and my Summertime Fillmores.  I paid full price (ouch) but have never regretted it because "cost-per-wear makes them practically free." (#6, in the middle, that's me.)  I chose the Antracite color, a grey-ish inky purple, and found they work with most of my wardrobe.  Throughout the years of regular wear and compliments from strangers I often thought about the other color they came in, pink rose (which is really tan) and commented frequently that if they were closed-toe I'd wear them year-round.

Apparently I have earned some good shoe Karma because after cruising resale sites for years without much hope of ever finding them at a reasonable cost in good condition, I recently found a pair through the FlueMarket and made contact with the seller.  She was fundraising for a puppy's medical care so it was a win-win all around. The shoes arrived the other day in beautiful condition and fit just like my originals.  Around this same time I also stumbled on a pair of Summertime Moonbeams that I didn't even know existed -- a closed-toe cousin of the Fillmore!  They were in my size, black, excellent condition and well-priced.  Fluevog shoes are designed in families and I'm bring them home to roost.

I finally had time today to photograph them today, though my flash batteries died before I grouped them for a family shot.  When it's charged again I'll get creative.

2012.12.16.  [Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM]

Friday, December 14, 2012

13. lights

On December 13th "lights" refers to Christmas lights, even if I struggle to think otherwise.

Big city lights.
Christmas lights.

As family grows further and time in retail grows longer my Christmas spirit fades.  The little tree-in-a-box that lives in storage came out of hiding this year only because it may be in long term storage next Christmas and it desperately needed pruning.

Bought on clearance post-holiday 2006, it was a small, manageable, pre-lit tree at a bargain price and since we didn't have one I thought it appropriate.  Each year it seemed that more lights stopped working until a few years ago only about 25% still lit up.  Then due to pure Scrooge-ness I stopped using it.

Earlier this week I frothed up a spiced eggnog and rum (or two.  or three.)  and meticulously untwined, untwisted and snipped out the entire lighting system on the tree.  An hour (and one Top Gear) later it was beautiful in it's nakedness.  Of course I immediately began to restring new lights on it only to discover the strand of warm white LED lights only covered the top half.  So I have a bottomless-lit tree and carry no guilt about leaving it that way.

This evening, while relishing a perfectly medium-rare-done steak and an accompanying Cabernet Sauvignon, I looked up and saw lights.  First before me was the Christmas tree in it's simplistic state and beyond was the new lamp that I love but carries a disappointing back story.  Next to the tree is a torchiere lamp common to my dwellings.  To quote someone dear and very near, "Torchiere: French for piece of shit lamp."  I never denied it.

2012.12.13.  [Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM]

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

10. under

Under where?

2012.12.10.  [Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM]

This was not my original concept for "under", by the way, this was.  But the result was too unlike what I envisioned and while I was lying on my office floor day dreaming in the afternoon sunlight the kitty joined me.  He, however, took the opportunity to groom and my camera was within arm's reach therefore I documented it.  Sorry, kitty.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

8. someone you love

The someone I love within viewfinder range is quite private and not entirely enthusiastic in front of a camera.  This results in very few photos and rare public publishing.

Sometimes I can capture a portrait, other times a candid.  After that I rely on the "passive" portrait (to coin a phrase), which is any type of indirect candid photo.

2012.11.20.  [Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM]

Saturday, December 8, 2012

7. stars

Straddled between a hard, urban center and it's suburban sprawl was the Community Thrift Store.  Able to attract quality merchandise as well as questionable clientele, it was my absolute favorite store during my high school years.

My parents provided us with the basics but any supplements, such as fashions and trinkets, we acquired on our own.  Being a fashion follower from a young age that meant working as soon as I could, starting with delivering newspapers when I was thirteen (back when kids still brought them door-to-door).  It also meant a series of part-time, low-wage jobs, affording me very little discretionary income.  This lead me down the path road to thrift stores.

Community Thrift Store was my favorite by far, with the most competitive prices on surprisingly good items with fast turnover and ever-changing selection.  I can look around my house and see numerous treasures bought on the cheap.

One infamous find was the Aquarius glass I discovered lost in a sea of nondescript and tacky glassware.  I instantly knew that it's design would be my first tattoo.  At the time I was maybe 16 and didn't even have my driver's license; I knew a tattoo was not in my foreseeable future but that glass was my hope and inspiration.

Fast-forward about 5 years and I am sitting in some crappy, college house-apartment meticulously tracing the goddess-esque water bearer on thin paper in front of a shade-less incandescent lamp.  In my wallet is a wad of hard-earned, convenience store-working money set aside for my very first tattoo.

I have no regrets about the design or location given my circumstances at the time.  If I did it again now it would be larger, more detailed and in bold color as the original design, but I am 15 years older, wiser and more financially stable.  I long to expand the original design and may have an incredible opportunity if the future unfolds as planned.  (But when does that really happen.)

Today's Photo A Day topic is "stars".  Without waiting until dark and literally taking a photo of the heavenly stars, I looked around my office because I knew there was some item with stars that would tell a story.  Then I saw the carefully wrapped glass sitting quietly on my book shelves.  Incorporated in the art work are tiny white stars.

I still have the original glass purchased so long ago, the tall one on the right; I have carefully moved it all this time.  For a number of years it was stored without access and nostalgia was tugging at my memory.  With thanks to eBay I was able to find not only an identical pint-sized glass but also a tumbler with the same design.  They are both copy-written 1976 (my birth year) but only the larger size is branded with the Arby's logo, suggesting it was a promotional item back when fast food restaurants actually gave out decent and usable collector items.

2012.12.07.  [Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM]

I'll toss in a freebie photo for fun.  This is my sister and I in front of the store's original location around 2003. It has since moved as I have since moved.  I never visited their new location and have never found another thrift store quite as fantastic.

That's me on the right.

Friday, December 7, 2012

6. from your country

About once a month I indulge in fast food, rotating through some major restaurant chains such as Burger King, Wendy's and Jack in the Box, my favorite.  Occasionally I'l try a regional or local place like Mooyah's which is quite good.  It all depends on what I'm craving or where I have coupons.

Usually I simply want a cheeseburger combo meal with fries and a drink.  My favorites are the Sirloin Burger and Jumbo Jack at Jack in the Box and the Whopper at Burger King, all with cheese (of course) and no pickles (too overpowering).  If a new burger is featured that looks good I'll often try it; Burger King had a series of BBQ burgers this past summer and one was absolutely incredible!  I love love love traditional french fries and my favorite is usually Wendy's though Sonic's tater tots are delicious too.  Drinking soda is a rarity for me, I usually choose unsweetened iced tea but sometimes a Dr. Pepper is in order.

The theme is this Photo A Day is "From where you live/your country:  Take a photo of something from your country – a flag, something unique, a traditional dish, or something a little bit more common."  Fast Food chains are ubiquitous worldwide, but I instantly knew this was a perfect opportunity to indulge in a guilty pleasure while satisfying the requirements.

I love Jack in the Box tacos!  They are unlike any taco I have ever had.  A traditional taco shell is filled with the taco meat (a seasoned combination of beef and texturized vegetable protein) and is then deep fried (God bless America).  Then a slice of American cheese, shredded lettuce and taco sauce are added.  That's it.  I found a You Tube video of the process.  This deliciousness is easily attainable at 2 for a dollar only in certain parts of these fine United States of America!

[Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM]

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Pancetta Pizza.

"I may not be awesome but I'm pretty freakin' fantastic."

Yes, I am quoting myself from earlier this evening as I was making dinner.

It all began while inventorying the refrigerator prior to grocery shopping.  I had some unused pancetta left over from the amazing stuffing I made on Thanksgiving along with a random package of pizza crust mix in the cupboard.  I searched online for a pancetta pizza and found a recipe for White Bean and Pancetta Pizza that included ingredients and flavors I enjoy.

The recipe is simple and open to interpretation, two attributes I gravitate towards especially on a work night. I adjusted to scale it down for two people and assembled it in a more pizza-traditional manner.  The following is my interpretation of the recipe from Food & Wine:

White Bean and Pancetta Pizza

4 ounces pancetta  (I used a package that came diced)

Extra-virgin olive oil

1 large garlic clove, roughly minced

1 teaspoon-ish rosemary  (I used dried, ground with a mortar and pestle)

1/2 teaspoon-ish paprika ( I used sweet paprika, yum!)

One 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

2 pieces Naan flatbread

5 ounces Fontina cheese (sliced or grated, it will melt any way)

Preheat the oven with a pizza stone to 450°.

In a skillet, cook the pancetta in 2 tablespoons of oil over moderate heat, until crisp; using a slotted spoon transfer to a paper towel-covered plate.

While the pancetta is cooking mash the beans in a medium bowl, a potato masher works well.

Add the garlic, rosemary and paprika to the leftover oil in the skillet and cook for a quick 20 seconds being careful not to burn the garlic, which is why I chop more than mince.

Pour the garlic and oil mixture into the mashed beans and stir to blend.

Brush the flatbreads with oil and spread with the bean mixture. Top with the pancetta and cheese.

Bake the flatbreads until the cheese is bubbling, 5-7 minutes; transfer to plates, let cool a bit and serve.

2012.12.03.  [Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM]

Food & Wine recommends a pairing with Chardonnay.  I selected my favorite sparkling wine, Gloria Ferrer's Blanc de Blanc, which I have mentioned previously.

One pizza is enough for a "healthy" appetite, whereas I had half tonight and saved the other half for work tomorrow.  I foresee enviable comments in the break room.

As for the availability of ingredients, I do not live in a metropolitan area was able to find everything at the two grocery stores in town, so no excuses!  The flatbread comes two in a package and I bought two, leaving another set to experiment with later in the week.  I love the protein-filled mashed beans as a "sauce" which is a great carrier for herbs and spices and allows endless vegetarian options.  I would love to hear other ideas for variations because I have a feeling this will make regular rotation in my meal planning.  I'm thinking sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and goat cheese!

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Turkey and Wild Rice Soup.

When my Grandma and Mother both told me soup was easy make I did not believe them.  What I actually didn't believe was that I could make the thick, stew-y soups that I like to eat --- soup that sticks to your bones, unlike thin broth-soups.

I wish I could remember precisely the first soup I made; it was at our first apartment and I called my Mom as soon as I could knew it was a success.  Now every time I make soup I think of my Mom and Grandma and will often call or email them with the success story.

This time around I made Turkey and Wild Rice Soup with Thanksgiving leftovers (because I cook for leftovers!).  I used a recipe I made successfully before, Chicken Wild Rice Soup I, which is delicious, easy and leaves much room for variation -- which is why I love the creativity of cooking more than the science of baking.

It begins with the basics, chopped onion, celery and carrots.  I always increase the amount of veggies in recipes, in this case doubling the aforementioned.  You saute them in butter, a bit more than the recipe calls for because the amount of vegetables has increased.

I love my blue dutch oven!

Then you add the mushrooms, I use the pre-packed, sliced crimini/baby bella mushrooms.  At this point I also added 3 cloves of garlic using a garlic press, which the original recipe does not call for.  Since turkey is not as potent as chicken I wanted to amp up the flavor a bit.

According to the photo I am sauteing at just under medium, which is because I am using a crappy Hotpoint stove that are so prevalent in rentals.  The recipe states you should be at medium heat which would burn the butter in my case.  Use your judgment, or artistic licence as I like to state.

At this point you add the flour to begin your roux, or in other words, the beginning of the thick and creamy.  As you stir in the flour the mixture becomes a gloppy mess.  

Don't fret, you didn't mess up, this is normal.  Now you slowly add the stock, about a cup or two at a time and stir continuously; you will see the gloppiness morph into a smooth, thick texture.  Maintaining a medium-ish heat is important to keep from breaking the roux, causing it to separate.

Once all the stock is stirred in and the consistency is smooth you can add everything else: meat, rice and seasonings -- curry powder, mustard powder, dried parsley, black pepper, slivered almonds and dry sherry.  I have skipped and/or substituted for the almonds and dry sherry but the curry is essential in my opinion.  It is  added in a small amount so as not to scream, "Curry!" but enough to add a distinguishing warmth.  You can amp it up by adding coriander, turmeric and/or cumin but being careful to keep it subtle.  The recipe calls for the addition of half & half at this time; this is truly an option.  I tend to use only one cup or less, if at all, it is not necessary for success in this soup.  I taste it every half hour or so when I stir and add flavor if I feel it's needed.  Below is a photo of the finished rice ready to add to the soup base.

This soup can quietly simmer on the stove for hours.  It is perfect to make on days when you're not sure when anyone will be home but want something warm and comforting when they arrive.  It freezes splendidly. I portion it into individual containers, cover it with plastic wrap (making sure to press the wrap to the surface of the food, removing air pockets which prevents freezer burn) and store in the freezer for work lunches or lazy evenings.

Once the work was done on this dish and clean-up was complete, I called my Mom and chatted for a bit.  There is something comforting about home-cooked soup that makes me miss chilly winter evenings and having family close by.  And seriously, soup is really easy to make.  Listen to you elders, they know.

[Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM]

Turkey Stock.

I cook for leftovers.

Thanksgiving is the ultimate setup for a smorgasbord of leftovers.  After the stuffing is depleted, the green beans have gone bad and the turkey is well-picked of meat it's time for carcass disassembly.  By hand, I pick off the remaining meat into separate bowls for white and dark because I use them each differently to their advantage.  Giant pieces of fat and soft skin are discarded but the rest is put right into a slow cooker crock to begin turkey stock preparation.

This was my first Turkey roasting experience but I've had plenty of practice making chicken stock from leftover grocery store rotisserie chickens.  The process is the same but the time difference is noticeable   It took an hour just to deal with the carcass and another half hour to prepare the stock.

The slow-cooker method is the only way I have ever made stock.  Simply put in the poultry parts, onion, celery and carrots (only a rough chop is needed) then season with garlic cloves, whole peppercorns and a bay leaf or two.  At this point I put it in the fridge overnight.  The next morning all you do is fill the crock with water, set to low for about 4 hours then simmer a few more.  Because I am frugal and hate to waste, I have a covered tub in my freezer where I throw the ends of the aforementioned vegetables as I acquire them to use for stock.  They are only needed for flavor and are strained out and discarded anyway.

I have two programmable slow cookers, a large 6 quart and a smaller 3 1/2 quart; I love them and ended up needing both for the turkey which was originally 9 pounds.  Later in the day the tedious task of scooping and straining begins.  If anyone has a less time consuming method than mine and wants to share it, please do so.  I place a large mesh strainer (like this) over a large batter bowl and scoop out the solids with a slotted spoon.  When the strainer fills I press the contents down to extract as much liquid as possible and then put them in a plastic bag to discard.

(As I was straining this batch I found meat pieces I missed, or was unable to get to, that I set aside in bowl.  I used the meat to make turkey salad sandwiches which tasted okay, a little bland.  I felt great about salvaging every last piece though, it was very "frontier" feeling.)

With this turkey broth batch I filled not only my two quart batter bowl (which is what one rotisserie chicken generally yields) but also my 4 and 2 cup Pyrex measuring cups.  They went into the refrigerator covered with plastic wrap overnight to solidify any fat left on top which is scooped out later.  Usually I use most of the stock the following day for a soup, braise or other dish.  Any remaining stock is poured into covered plastic containers and then frozen.  Large yogurt tubs work great for this purpose.

In this Thanksgiving turkey's case, I made the stock yesterday and used 6 cups today for Turkey and Wild Rice Soup which is my next post.

[No photographs for this post because turkey carcass creates greasy fingers which is not compatible with a camera.]

3. something you held

[Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM]

Thursday, November 29, 2012

22. grateful

The time surrounding Thanksgiving is very busy and tiring for me, as my day job in retail management keeps me running (literally) up to 12 hours a day this time of year.  On Thanksgiving day I am simply grateful for a day off.

This year I decided to cook a Thanksgiving meal for the first time on my own.  As good fortune winked my way a couple-friend of ours found an airline flight deal and came down to visit.  In hindsight I now know that a rookie Thanksgiving-day-meal-cooker should always have a veteran by their side.  As a team we successfully pulled it off.

Turkey:  I ordered a fresh heritage turkey, the farm recommended cooking it like this, Heritage Turkey Recipe.  The almost ten-pound turkey fit in my large Pyrex dish so I was not forced to purchase a roasting pan.  (I love Pyrex, another post altogether.)  I also successfully made gravy last minute without a recipe, I remembered the method for roux and tried to follow it as best as I could remember.

[Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM]

Stuffing:  Since the turkey farm recommends not stuffing a heritage turkey I tried this Ciabatta Stuffing with Chestnuts and Pancetta Recipe which was incredible.  I am not sure if I will ever try another stuffing recipe and will likely make it again throughout the year.

Mashed Potatoes:  no recipe needed, of course.  I used redskin potatoes (leaving the skins on) and roughly mashed them (leaving good chunks) with real butter, sour cream, milk, salt and white pepper.  I love rustic mashed potatoes and white pepper blends much better than black.

Vegetable: I've never liked traditional green been casserole, but a number of years ago my newest sister-in-law made Alton Brown's Best Ever Green Bean Casserole and it really was the best ever.  His recipes are notoriously laborious and this one indeed had a number of steps but ended up wonderful.  The leftovers only re-heated well for a couple days though so it's best to consume quickly.

Pie: Thank you Whole Foods for a delicious pecan pie, a.k.a. "candy in a crust" -- I enjoy the art of cooking more than the science of baking.

[Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM]

Wine: lots.  Due to my work schedule I could not enjoy a glass of wine with each dish as I was hoping.  I did open a dry Riesling, a Beaujolais Nouveau (of course) and something else I don't remember.  In hindsight I should have taken some tasting notes.

The day was not without it's snafus of course.  I left the thermometer in the turkey only to find out an hour later that it was not a leave-in thermometer.  Then as I was basting the turkey I tapped the end of the glass baster against the side of the Pyrex dish and the tip broke off.

[Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM]

As a whole, Thanksgiving Day this year was fantastic -- a day spent with friends being grateful for what we have and, more importantly, who we have.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

16. the view from your window

What I see when I'm sitting at my computer, not looking at the monitor:

About an hour later, while gazing through the window I saw the sun just setting behind the houses and took my camera out to photograph this:

[Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS UD]

15. in your bag

On the 15th I drove down to my nearest metropolitan area and visited the closest locations of two stores I don't get to very often, Whole Foods Market and World Market.  I make this trip about once a month, it aids in maintaining my sanity while living in a small (by my standards) town.  My excuse was Thanksgiving preparation, but any reason would suffice really.

I keep a running list of Whole Foods items so when I get there I can keep focus, otherwise my pocketbook suffers dearly.  Generally there are always a number of bulk food items needing replenishment in my pantry, this time they included botanical (naturally caffeine-free) tea and salt and pepper for my grinders.  Bulk herbs and spices are very well-priced at Whole Foods so when my small jars empty I refill them from there -- I love it!  I have discovered many styles of spices I never knew existed and I love experimenting with them, one being Spanish sweet paprika and Chipotle chili pepper powder.

Coarse salt and peppercorns were a priority because my grinders emptied a couple weeks ago and I was using my backup McCormick grinders I had saved from when we moved and hadn't received our household goods yet.  I selected pink Himalayan salt and a smoked peppercorn blend.  Honestly, I have no idea the difference between those and conventional table salt and pepper but I will soon learn.

For the photo of the (yester)day I am showing you what's in my bag, my spice bag.

[Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM]

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

13. where you slept

A cold front slipped in bringing last night's temperature below 30 degrees.  I spread the blanket over the bed and set up the space heater just in case.

[Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM]

Sunday, November 11, 2012

9. small

Keeping the original intent of this blog, today's photo from yesterday's challenge displays a creative example of a small change making a big difference.

For the past 6 years I have worked for the same company which requires it's employees to wear name badges on a company-issued lanyard.  As I am very active at work this lanyard is constantly flapping around getting caught on objects and is a general nuisance.  The standard clip that attaches the name badge is the worst offender due to the metal tabs you pinch together to open it (I have no idea what the technical term is).  After years of frustration I finally had the idea to do something about it.  I changed the clip --  a super simple solution that I embarrassingly never thought of previously, of course neither had any other of my co-workers.

During November and December we wear holiday lanyards so I had to switch that clip as well, which is the  one photographed.  I also adjusted it's length by taking apart the safety release, trimming the fabric and putting it back together.

My photo of the day shows my replacement clip attached to the lanyard next to the original one removed.  I did some rough cloning to remove the company name.  I am proud of my easy fixes and it makes a significant difference in my daily performance.

[Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM]

Friday, November 9, 2012

8. something you do everyday


This evening I enjoyed the best grilled cheese sandwich ever.  "Enjoyed" is an understatement; it was divine.

When visiting friends in San Francisco we drove into the Sonoma Valley to the tasting room at Gloria Ferrer Winery where we tried their Blanc de Blanc Carneros Sparkling Wine.  I am very, very particular with Chardonnay and this selection earned my firm approval.  Because Spec's truly cares for my well-being, I am able to find this wine here in the depths of central Texas and I purchased a bottle this evening.

Am I the only one who makes a dinner selection based on wine preference?  Good.

Rudi's Organic Bakery makes a Rosemary and Olive Oil Bread that is incredible!  Due to blind luck I am able to find it here and buy it periodically.  Grilled cheese sandwiches seemed a reasonable pairing with the Blanc de Blanc so I assembled them -- 1 1/2 pieces each of muenster and provolone cheeses and 4 or so thin slices of black forest ham on the rosemary bread which I (real) buttered on both outside pieces and pan-grilled until crispy.  Sometimes it really is only a few select ingredients that compose delicious combinations.

[Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM]

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

6. a favourite thing

Some time around 1993 I went to the Gross Pointe Garage Sale with my friend Dave.  It was held in a parking garage and was really more a flea market/craft fair than a traditional garage sale.  My memory is embarrassingly poor and the only reason I recall the event at all is because of this charm which originally came on a black cord as a long necklace.  There must have been a two-for deal because I also bought another very dated piece that is hidden away in a box somewhere.

When unpacking after moving in 2005 I found the charm again, took it off it's cord and attached it to my keys.  My key chain always contains the fewest amount of keys necessary to leave the house and only one adornment.

I removed the other three keys for this photo's purpose but left my car key because it too is most certainly a favourite thing.  I purchased it brand new right after college and 12 years later I love it as I did when driving off the lot for the first time.

[Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM]

** edit addition **
The New York Times recently published an article on key chains with a number of interesting clip styles shown.  You Don’t Need a Lot of Brass (By DAVID COLMAN Published: November 14, 2012)

I have a point here somewhere.

Creativity is seemingly never constant.
Is creativity like a muscle, weakening when not exercised?
Creativity.  You have it or you don't.

Whatever.  I can't seem find the best words to begin.  Probably because I'm not in the shower, which somehow transforms me into a philosophical and literary phenom.  I try to remember my brilliant phrasing and write it down as soon as I can reach pen and paper with a dry hand but usually only end up with a few words scrawled before every thought escapes me.  

A few nights ago I was trying to understand why I wasn't writing anymore.  Could I blame my anti-Facebook movement?  Did I feel I lost my audience?  Did I ever have an audience?  At some point (while loofah-ing?) I decided it was due to my perfectionist tendencies but all I was able to write down was, "convincing a perfectionist that it's all just a rough draft".

While writing I re-read, edit, re-word, re-edit then repeat repeatedly.  It is very time-consuming and I am rarely truly satisfied with the outcome.  I must remember that blogging is not akin to an article or study published in a professional journal.  It's the internet.  Just like the song that regularly plays at work (and has earned a spot on my Playlist in My Personal Hell, "Have you read my blog today, 300 million little USA's".  Now I can't think because it's re-playing in my head.


Soon after I began using my DSLR camera I discovered the trend of 365 and 52 projects, where you take one photo a day or per week.  The variation and personalizing of these projects is endless.  I have never participated because I had my own almost daily rhythm of photography that I was satisfied with.  Well, now I am not satisfied with my paltry rhythm and after finding this particular photo-a-day challenge while reading this blog I decided to try it.  I began today and will do my best to flex my creative muscle daily.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


I love clothes.

From my earliest memories I recall standing before my side of the yellow dresser I shared with my older sister.  I had to stand tip-toe to reach into the top drawers.  It would be mid-day and I would want to change outfits into something more appropriate for my next activity.  Or I was bored.

Today I stand at my open-faced shelving or in my very first walk-in closet where I stand tip-toe to reach my neatly stacked shoe boxes.  I decide what to wear based not just on my plans but for the weather.  And I am bored.

November is designed for layers of knits, sharp jackets and soft scarves.  I desperately want to play with new colors and mix textures and I especially want to open boxes of leather boots to smell the grain, feel the weight and dream of all the wonderful places I will walk in them.


I dream of walking city streets, smelling the restaurants and cafes as I pass, hearing pieces of conversations I don’t understand.  I want to pretend I’m reading but secretly people-watch, making up stories for strangers based on their shoes.   I want to meet friends for cocktails and my sisters for a stroll in the park.

In this fantasy world I am always impeccably yet creatively dressed.  I wear the same clothing repeatedly, though never looking the same, because I choose quality pieces and care for them well.  People compliment my footwear.  I smile and say “Thank you.”


I live in Texas.  It is November and 83 degrees.  My favorite sandals saw another day paired with my one and only beloved pair of denim capris.  Attempting to feel more “autumn” I wore an open-knit sweater though the heat inevitably forced it’s removal.  I drove an hour to the nearest two-story mall and bought a new pair of low-calf, leather boots.  I smelled them and dreamed of all the wonderful places I would walk in them.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


''October is reliably a good month. I'm waking up, and I feel like I'm being released from my summer, what I would call, jail cell.'' 

Growing up in the Great Lakes region the long, lolling days of summer was the reward you reaped for enduring the dark, endlessly cold winter.  My love for summer sunshine even drew me to Arizona for a couple years in young adulthood.  Moving to Texas then should have been a breeze, falling back into the glorious warmth of the south.

“Glorious warmth” is a grossly incorrect term for a Texas summer.  Just as the north provides a bitter, skin-biting, nose-hair-freezing cold wind, the south performs an equally horrific and opposite production rivaling the blistering, relentless heat blasting from a jet engine.  Periodic mirror checks are required simply to verify your face has not indeed melted away.  Due to a lack of sensational adjectives to describe the summer down here I will simply refer to it as “Texas summer”.

Just as a Michigan winter forces you indoors a Texas summer holds you captive as well.  You run between climate controlled areas (home to car, car to work, work to store) shaking off dripping sweat from your forehead as you would shake clumps of snow from your scarf.  The Michigan winter fogs your glasses indoors when entering the cold just as your Texas sunglasses fog when exiting the air-conditioned chill.

Air-conditioning -- I struggle to talk about it without resorting to whining and complaining.  I programmed our home air-conditioner to 84 degrees for two reasons, to control the cost of energy use and because I like to lounge in shorts and a tank top.  If it was too warm we clicked it cooler by a few degrees but eventually the system would kick it back up to 84 again just in case we forgot.  How some people can live with 72 degrees inside their house baffles me; I am in long pants and sleeves at that temperature and I cannot imagine the bill each month.

At home I am in command of the climate control, in commercial buildings I am not which is a large issue for me.  I drive to work in a tank top and shortly after I arrive must pull on one (or two) of the sweaters I keep on hand simply to stay warm.  When my fingertips begin to tingle and my hands lose strength I don my "old lady knitting gloves" in order to continue working.  Later in the day before I leave I peel off the layers and walk out the doors into the wall of Texas summer where for one small moment I wish that I loved it.

I love the warmth of sunshine, loathe extreme heat and hate excessive cold.  Where on the Seasonal Affective Disorder spectrum does that put me?  Or is it simply another cycle of Major Depressive Disorder that I've struggled to control my entire life?

According to the National Library of Medicine, “People who live in places with long winter nights are at greater risk for SAD.  A less common form of the disorder involves depression during the summer months.”  Is this where the phrase, “can’t win for losing” comes into play?  SAD in Michigan winter or SAD in Texas summer?  Or is it MDD year-round and the search for a perfect climate is futile?  Or is weather simply an easy excuse?

Ignoring the questions I am simply thankful that “Spring” is here, that I can open the windows to allow the soft warmth to rinse out the stale air indoors.  I can read on my front porch, smell the fresh air and listen to the children play outside after the long, couped-up season indoors.  For the first time in months I am thinking of a camera outing outside.

Finally, finally “I’m waking up, and I feel like I’m being released.”

Saturday, August 25, 2012

I've been reading.

“He that loves a book will never want a faithful friend, a wholesome counselor, a cheerful companion, an effectual comforter. By study, by reading, by thinking, one may innocently divert and pleasantly entertain himself, as in all weathers, as in all fortunes.”
 - Barrow

“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.”
 - Mason Cooley

“Reading is sometimes an ingenious device for avoiding thought.”
 - Arthur Helps

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Furniture Transformation: Color Choice.

If furniture could talk my desk and dresser set could weave tales any old war veteran would be proud of.

After I graduated from college in 1999 my living situation was unstable at best.  During those uneasy years I acquired a matching desk and dresser from a friend who knew he would never get around to refinishing them.  I am carrying on in his legacy.  If they needed work all those years ago they certainly still need it over ten years and three moves later.

They are well-worn and ugly.  Fortunately they are built solid or I would have replaced them long ago.  For years I've been wanting to do something with them and continuously weigh my options.  The idea of new furniture is appealing but, by and large, most newer furniture is poorly constructed, very expensive or, in some cases, both.  I've previously written about an ergonomic desk but it's difficult to justify the cost when what I have is adequate.  And the discomfort in my hands and wrists is simply a reminder to take more breaks.

I am hesitant to share photos because they are that ugly.  They have some original faux-aging elements  which look even worse with the added actual aging.  The original hardware was horrid and made loud clanking sounds at the slightest touch.  They were removed and lost long ago.  With no money I made due with what I had, old black hosiery and an ugly gold-tone chain belt.  Please, no judgement.

My Mom would paint them in a heartbeat.  She is the handy-woman in the family and will paint anything.  I have strong reservations about painting over wood because the thought of removing it after changing my mind is haunting. The cordovan-esque finish is in poor shape but the color is nice which is why I've left it alone for so long.  However pleasing the current color is it does not make up for the horrible design and as much I hate painting over wood, a real color is the best way to distract from it.

This leads to the next stumbling block, the color.  If you know one thing about me it's that I love color and settling on one is challenging.  Earlier in the year I was focused on selecting a color and spent some time reflecting on our current home furnishings in order to maintain a cohesive palette without feeling too contrived.  We have a casual mix of warm and cool tones in woods and textiles with vintage pieces and sleek electronics.  It's a look that reflects both of us without leaning too much toward one gender and we are very comfortable with it.  

Taking this all into consideration I decided to seek a color in the blue/green range that would work with warm and cool tones.  Effectively, a neutral color that was actually a color.  I went to a home improvement store and selected quite a few paint chips ranging from blue to green in various tones and tints.  At home, I spread them on the dining table that sits between the living room and kitchen, this way I could see them regularly throughout the day and night in different lights, at different times and in my various moods.  As I would sit to eat I would also look over them and after a few weeks realized my eyes regularly rested on one color in particular, Bayside.

I purchased the tester-size tub and painted the frame of a mirror that I could move around the house to view in different light and decide if I truly wanted to commit to this color on a larger scale.  Currently the mirror resides over my computer desk and I do still like the color.

The photo is a pretty extreme crop taken at a high ISO so even with noise reduction the quality is poor.  If your viewing screen has somewhat decent color calibration you should get a good idea of the color from the photo and the link I placed above.  The wall to the left is a standard baby blue if you need a basis for comparison.

The reservations I still have on painting are paint durability and possible color choice remorse. I do take care with my belongings but I also actually use them and this obviously results in wear and tear.  How easily will chipped areas take touch up?  We likely have numerous moves ahead of us and no furniture makes it through unscathed.  What happens if I don't like the color on a larger scale or if the color <gasp> enhances the ugly design?  On top of all this, I am currently using both pieces and have nothing to take their place while I'm working on them.

I have never refinished furniture in this form before and welcome any advice, opinion and experience.  This is only the beginning of what I see as a long process.  My next important point of consideration for this furniture transformation is hardware, but that is for a new post.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

I Love "Riverside".

A few months ago I joined the Killeen Civic Art Guild to seek out inspiration and meet other like-minded people.  They presented an informal artists' challenge, "I Love This Song... to create a piece of art that illustrates a favorite piece of music."  

Working from a given theme is something I have little experience with, hence this really is a challenge. Of the two songs I immediately wanted to work from I have completed only one piece.  The other is still a viable concept but I need more time to execute it.

This past winter I stumbled upon Agnes Obel, an incredibly talented singer/songwriter/pianist.  Her entire album "Philharmonics"  is stunning but one song in particular has touched me, "Riverside".

My collage interpretation is fairly literal and though it is a simple design finding the right pieces was difficult.  I think it carries the tone of the song as I hear it.  Actual size is approximately 8 1/2" x 8 1/2".

When I eventually complete the other song's concept I will share it.  Open-ended time limit however.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Black, White and Grain.

One of my favorite Christmas gifts is a book my Dad picked out for me while I was in college studying fashion merchandising and experimenting avidly in photography.  "Appearances: Fashion Photography Since 1945" is an incredible book documenting exactly what it titles and it is beautiful.  I periodically flip through it and wistfully dream of recreating the excitement and glamour of cutting edge fashion and the (often gritty) urban locations.

Needless to say, I love black and white fashion photography and it's grainy magazine photos have inspired many collages of mine.

This was finished recently and is relatively simple in design but strong with the contrast between bold color and the grainy, monochromatic model in an angular pose.  I've been wanting to use her for some time but didn't have quite the right background to equal her in strength compositionally.

The following collage is an older one which draws from black and white photography as well, though exudes a much different tone.  It could be titled, "Spaghetti Romance", taken from the label on the small VHS tape in the lower corner.  Taking into account the revolver (cap gun?) images and the man peering from behind the doorway the  title could be rather appropriate.

Finally, one more for this series that I made during a short time when I was using rubber cement as an adhesive, which in hindsight was a poor choice;  I was not aware of it's poor aging characteristics and at the same time did not consider my work as "real art" and wasn't concerned about how it held up over time.  But I do love the color tones and the intimacy of the photograph.

There is certainly more inspiration to be found with black and white fashion photography and you can be certain I will share it here in whatever form it takes.

(A networked printer/copier/scanner is a beautiful and convenient tool.
Once it is properly set up and installed.)

Monday, July 2, 2012


"Office" implies work, where a clock is generally necessary.  "Studio" suggests a creative space where time may be measured by stages of a project as opposed to numbers on the wall.  So my dilemma is to clock or not to clock in my office-studio.  (I'm still having a terminology debate; When I refer to it as "my room" I shiver with flashbacks from adolescence and college roommates.)

Circumstances and choices currently allow me the luxury of free time.  Bearing equal weight are the difficulties and sacrifices that come with it.  Depending on my mood I waver between complaining and appreciating the affects of working part-time and living a less than socially active lifestyle.

On a peaceful, cloudy Sunday like today we are drinking coffee and each relaxing in our own way.  I slept in until 7:30 this morning and proceeded to prepare Barbacoa in the slow-cooker.  Since then I've been relishing the smell of cilantro, lime, onion, chipotle and beef while sipping through a pot of coffee at my computer, gazing out the window as much as looking at the screen.  He slept in later (missing the fresh coffee) and is internally processing his projects-in-progress with the company of Top Gear.  Watching the clock is not a priority except in anticipation of dinner and in planning the pico de gallo preparation.

Back to the time discussion though.  Why write about it today?  (Other than the obvious fact that I have it.)  My brother shared Tim Kreider's New York Times piece this morning about time and one thought I pulled from it is this, 

"The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done."

This idea should be posted in every work space as a reminder to periodically slow down and step back.  My office-studio is the "space and quiet" that I have wanted for so long.  I feel as if I am "standing back from life" whether I choose to shut the door in complete silence or leave it open, allowing the white noise of the computer to dissolve into the television from the living room.

As for the clock question, I have temporarily placed a small analog clock near my doorway because I have been "tricked" when looking into the hall only to see the reflection of the kitchen clock in the mirror.  It is not twenty minutes after four, as the first glance assumes, but rather twenty minutes to eight.  Oops.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

New Work Space, For Now.

The past few weeks have seemed like a quickly spoken, run-on sentence -- a lot happening but not much completed.  Now that Texas summer hibernation is in full-swing I have few reasons not to pull out my dry-erase planning board and get to work.

At last, I am working on my new desktop computer built specifically for my photographic needs and excessive multi-tab internet browsing.  (A blog post will follow with specifics.)  This new computer needed a new work space because until now I was working on photos with my husband's desktop and surfing on my one-and-only laptop.

Carving a new work space out of a 10' x 11' room takes time, planning and purging, all three of which are highly susceptible to procrastination and diversion tactics.  So when my husband finished the computer it was time time to tackle this:

Yes, this is me at work in my office.  Nothing is staged and I'm not looking at the camera because I was sans makeup and hair goop.  That corner straight ahead is my computer work space "before".

Ideally I want a functional, ergonomic desk and chair but two obstacles lie before me, not wanting to spend money and finding a suitable location for my late 1950's Singer sewing machine (partially seen under boxes in the above photo).  Since creativity is often sparked from tightwaddery I decided to work with my existing pieces and only add when no solution is found otherwise, a concept I carry through to many areas in my life actually.

Using my office floor planning kit I played around with a few configurations and decided on one that moved as little as possible, this allows me to settle in and slowly work out the kinks without needlessly rearranging again.

I found a great website with ergonomic work space information and tried to incorporate what I could with what I have.  A monitor's viewing distance should be about 20"-40" directly in front of you.  Since the sewing machine cabinet is only 18" deep I stacked the boxes I was unable to empty behind the desk to provide a perfect location, which is great because nothing else fits the guidelines at all.  The keyboard and mouse are too high and the IKEA dining chair I borrowed from the dining space is woefully uncomfortable for any extended time.

A few other factors are not ideal either.  The CPU takes up valuable desk space but it does not fit under the cabinet.  The drawers are filled with sewing supplies leaving no space for computer accessories.  When I move my left arm backwards I hit my elbow's nerve on the shelving unit which further aggravates the existing nerve problem I have there.  Finally, I love the window and the light it provides but having it just to the right of the monitor can make for difficult viewing at times.  These are issues I will tackle as I find possible solutions, they do not render the space unusable or unsafe.

Finally I would like to point out the change in wall art.  Down and out went the seventies retro crap pieces and in it's place I hung an original art piece given to me years ago by a dear friend in Arizona and a mirror painted beautiful Bayside blue (a color with a story).  Coincidentally, I used the existing nails in the wall and found the frame bottoms lined up perfectly.

[Photos: Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS UD]

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Finally, I Can See.

With time on my hands I have projects in the planning.  One such project is the photographic labeling of my shoes, because my love for footwear is equal to greater than my love for projects.

Countless years ago, I do not remember precisely, I must have seen a costume room on television where all the articles were packaged safely and neatly in bags and boxes each with a photograph and description of the contents.  What a grand idea, so I filed it away under "Someday When I Have a Wardrobe and Closet Worthy".  Well, the time and place may not be perfectly matched with the description but it's close enough to give it a try.

My office/studio was already set up (I love having that dedicated space!) so instead of moving my gear into the bedroom closer to the closet I carried the shoe boxes out three or four at a time to photograph.  I made this a fun and functional time by trying on some of my favorites and making sure the boxes and packing materials were adequate, such as taping box corners and adding tissue paper when needed. 

These photographs are not intended to be great artistic works, simply a visual document to accurately portray the shoes.  Therefore to expedite the project I simply had the prints made at Walgreens, where they conveniently had a "buy 25 get 25 free" sale on 4x6 prints.  I needed 47 so I added a few nicer photos of some shoes I had taken previously.  One hour and $5 later I was ready to complete the project.

Smaller boxes required some photo edge trimming and I even cut a few prints in half to affix part to the box top and the other to the box itself.  On the back I wrote the brand, style, color, when and where I purchased them and, when applicable, for what occasion.  This is easiest with the original box and receipt which I try to keep together. The following is an example of the type of photo I used.  These are my current favorite summer sandals, an adequate alternative to my favorite gold flats which I have worn out, hence rendering them unwearable (those who know me well know those shoes well too).  Born Concepts, Bryleigh:

For good measure, my favorite gold flats, Cole Haan Air Gabi (RIP):

I used clear tape (not the frosted Scotch tape that I hate) and attached the top of the photos to the front of the box so I can flip the photo up and see the label on the box and the information written on the back of the photo.  The shoe boxes are not organized on the shelves, eventually I would like to but I can't figure out a good system.  It would make sense to sort them by classification but that would result in having to struggle with boxes on the bottom of stacks.  An alternative is keeping the out of season shoes on the bottom with the in-season on top, but that naturally occurs anyway simply through use.  I have already over-thought the issue so I am leaving it as is for now.

My widest lens begins at 18mm and is not wide enough to capture the whole closet, but then again does a woman really want her entire closet open to the world?  Likely not.  Not pictured here are the four large boot boxes on the floor to the right, the out-of-box shoes on a shoe rack on the floor to the left and the other out-of-box shoes on an over-the-door shoe rack on the door to the right.  Yes, I have too many shoes.

Photo 1: Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM
Photos 2, 3, 4: Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS UD

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Pitcher...

While at the grocery store this morning I saw a fellow wearing a well-worn t-shirt bearing this sentiment.  Nothing good came up easily with a Google image search so I made one myself using clip art and Power Point.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Flash Challenge Setup.

If you are reading this you are likely aware of my original blog, marlene b. photography where I simply share my current photographs.  Someday I will develop my .com in a gallery style for a comfortable viewing and searching experience.  But for now it is what it is and it suffices.  My "creative" blog is more relaxed, in part because I assume there is a tiny audience and with such little readership I have little to lose.  Sometimes I want to share a little more about my photographs without cluttering up the photo blog so this is a perfect medium. 

I belong (using the term loosely) to a local photographers group on Facebook consisting mostly of local portrait photographers who own their own business, which I do not.  As with other online photo groups, they are beginning a weekly photo challenge, beginning with "Flash photography.  Use your speed light on or off camera to capture a unique image."  Since I like experimenting with my speed light and currently have ample time on my hands I decided to participate.  

In my mind I have a stove top for thoughts and frequently use the term "back burner" to refer to ideas that I am subconsciously working on and don't want to forget.  The temperature on these "pots" can fluctuate and I'm always tinkering with the "recipes".  (I love analogies.) Yesterday I combined two pots into one recipe, the Flash challenge and some small glass bottles.

On the window ledge above the kitchen sink we have a few small, glass bottles that catch sunlight beautifully.  I have photographed them before though I have a different concept I want to try.  I decided to use those bottles as the subject for the Flash challenge without forgetting that I still want to play around with the new concept as well in the future, so it's still on the back burner.  This is the resulting flash image:

Now why didn't I share this on my photoblog?  Because I posted two other images from the same shoot, a couple fragrance bottles that I've been wanting to photograph as well.  Also because I wanted to share my setup shot, something I've been doing frequently since following a particular "Setup" thread in a photo forum.

This poor quality cell phone photo shows how I set up the shot.  Canon 450D with 50mm f/1.4 lens on a Manfrotto tripod (on loan from my incredibly generous brother) outfitted with a wireless remote trigger release and a wireless flash receiver.  On the cheap-o tripod is a Yongnuo 468 speed light with equally inexpensive softbox (secured to the flash with a stretchy, elastic thing because otherwise it slides off) and set atop the other part of the wireless flash receiver.  On the stool is a foam core, bi-fold presentation board to bounce and reflect the light from the flash.  The softbox on the flash is to soften and spread the light and to prevent glare on the glass.  I had to cover the window behind the camera because it's reflection was evident in the purple, round-bottom bottle.

EXIF for those interested:
ISO: 100

Exposure: 1/5 sec.
Aperture: 6.3
I forget what the flash was set at, 1/8 maybe.

Monday, May 21, 2012


 Artist's Disclaimer: Due to location limitations and financial tightwaddery I have been photographically frustrated and spending more time at home on projects, collages and Facebook.

Recently, I picked up the May editions of Elle Decor and Harper's Bazaar, a splurge at $5.99 and $4.99 respectively.  They are two of my favorite magazines to collage with because I actually enjoy the content before I cut them up, the print and paper quality are good, and they are 9 inches wide as opposed to the typical 8 inches.

I like to attend open studio hours at the art guild but find working on photographs is not very portable.  So this past week I took my newest magazines with the intention of flipping through them while enjoying being part of a group, like a brain-storming session.  I ended up with a few stacks of color stories, my favorite being a soft pink and ivory tonal group.  Since the colors are calming I knew the design should be simple and any added elements needed to blend together yet hold their own compositionally. 

The resulting collage consists of only seven pieces and is approximately 8 1/2" x 8 1/2" including the protruding fingers, a new feature I've never used before.

Looking back, I rarely work within only one hue.  The reason I enjoy collage is experimenting and playing with color combinations, especially contrasting colors.  There are two I found that mostly follow a single color theme, both older and sized at 8 1/2" x 11".