Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Etsy Sellers: Make a Light Box! Go! Now!

After one too many cloudy days or late evenings meant I had to put off shooting items for my etsy site, I finally relented and decided to make myself a light box. I followed the directions from the strobist blog. Two afternoons later (I ran out of "scrounged" up tissue paper), I had a light box.

So far, it's so good. In fact, it's awesome to have. I don't have to wait for sunny days to take photographs and it looks like I'll spend less time editing in photoshop. The first pictures turned out pretty well.  (I used the wide angle lens for the first few just 'cause that's what was on my camera at the time.) 

I switched to the macros lens for the next two shots. 

Other than resizing to make it easier to download here, I didn't edit these photos at all. I still have to get at least one and maybe two more desk lamps so that I can have the option of  having light on one (as on this picture where you can see the shadows under the sachet), two, or three (to create that "floating" effect) sides.  I'm also really looking forward to playing around with different backgrounds.

I had to make this one pretty big so that I can shoot my bags, but I think I'm going to make another smaller one and remove the bottom of the box so that I can shoot on different surfaces. I'll post here once I make that one. 

Monday, June 15, 2009

Weekend Project

The old man kindly installed a retractable clothesline in our backyard and laundry has now become one of my favorite things to do. OK, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but hanging clothes out does remind me of when I lived in Thailand. Except for that then we didn't have any electricity or running water so we washed our clothes by hand and hung them to dry because there was no other choice, not for the fresh smell and to save a few bucks a month. Still, there's something deeply satisfying about hanging out clothes to dry. 

I feel like I should have a big wicker basket, wear a "housedress" and tie my hair up with a scarf to fully inhabit the quaint vision. The only down side is that we miss out on the extra benefit of the lint trap on the dryer: somehow it sucks up all the little white hairs that cover our clothes (the source of which can be seen in the lower left hand corner of the second picture -- sort of like that photo of Elvis where he's sitting inside the screen door of his house at his own funeral).

Friday, June 12, 2009

I'd Taken a Long Break, but I'm Feelin' the Love

I'd taken a little break from etsy this winter and have gradually gotten back into the swing of all of the creating, posting, listing, and commenting that is etsy. It feels good to be back and feels extra good when other etsians choose your items to be featured in treasuries, blogs, and front pages.

Here are a couple of treasuries that made it to the front page. The first was designed by Birribe, a Swedish etsian with a very electic mix of charming items including jewelry, shawls, and mossbrushes in her shop. The second plum themed one was by Ear Candy Arts who makes bright beaded earrings. I think the last might have been an admin front page...

The next two are currently in the treasury. The first is by Beadin' By the Sea, a Washington State based jeweler with gorgeous pictures of her work.

This one is by beezmiller who creates hilarious, colorful sock creatures in Chicago.

Lastly, Angie of Handmade by Angie, featured Lars and Addie on her blog as part of her regular Friday Feature of etsy sellers. Apparently her muse appreciates the power of alliteration more than mine does!

Thanks, all!

Ultimate Minnesota Comfort Food

The recent plague of unusually cold and grey days have begged the question, "Is it June in Minnesota or October in London?" When you spend a few weeks out of every year in subzero temperatures in a state where snow on the ground six months out of the year is a very real possibility, summer is sacred. A few days of mid-June cloud cover is enough to send even the most stoic soul into conniptive fears that an ironic Mother Nature is punishing us for global warming by taking away our summers. This calls for heavy doses of warm milky tea and a serving of serious comfort food. "Hot Dish", which is our fancy phrase for casserole in Minnesota, is just what's needed to cure the grey day doldrums.

The marvels of Hot Dish have been documented by local artist Adam Turman...

... and also on postcards and dish towels over at Keep the Faye.
But even these feats of visual artistry cannot convey the powers of a good hot dish; it really is something you must try yourself. And so I give you my mother-in-law's recipe for Tater Tot Hot Dish, perhaps the most popular hot dish in Minnesota or at least in our neck of the woods because, really, who doesn't like tater tots? It's a recipe that's so easy even a bachelor can handle it (the recipe card that we follow is from my husband's single days when this dish was a welcome break from a steady diet of frozen pizzas). Still, like a (tasty) blank canvas, it can be varied enough to meet anyone's preferences -- you can skip the meat and use another can of cream of celery instead of the cream of chicken to make a vegetarian version, add some sprinkles of truffle oil if you want to go a little bourgie, or use spicy Italian sausage or chorizo in place of or alongside the plain hamburger if you want to go ethnic.

Tater Tot Hot Dish

1.5 lbs ground beef (we use ground turkey to great results)
1 small onion diced
1 bell pepper diced (we don't always include this because my husband doesn't love them)
1 package frozen mixed vegetables
1 package tater tots (because you'll be throwing the whole thing in the oven for a while, it works out fine for the tots and the veggies to both be still pretty frozen)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of celery soup
1/2 can of milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. While browning the meat, onions, and peppers, line the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan with a single layer of tater tots (save a handful for the top). Add the can of cream of chicken soup, the can of cream of celery soup, vegetables, and 1/2 can of milk to the browned meat. Mix well. Pour the mixture into the pan and place the remaining tater tots on top.

Place in the oven for about 45 minutes. After the check-out guy at our local market recommended it, we started adding grated cheddar cheese to the top for the last five minutes or so. It's a great addition because, hey, everyone likes cheese and because we've got to somehow make up for the animal fat that we've lost by using turkey instead of beef.

Eric eats his with just a little black pepper on top. I like mine with ketchup (because you know what I say: you can never get too many vegetables) and some hot sauce (because my favorite comfort foods all have a little spice to 'em). It's tasty when warmed up too!

Enjoy! And thanks, Lu, for the recipe.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Right as Rain Creations: Aptly Named.

Months and months ago, I started what I called "Friday Feature" wherein the goal was for me to feature an etsy product every Friday. Well, I've come to realize that regular blog themes based on alliteration and days of the week just doesn't work for me. My muses don't follow a seven day pattern.

So I've opted to feature when the muse strikes... and boy, the muse bopped me over the head a good one.

Megan at Right as Rain Creations makes luscious lotions that I cannot say enough about. Minnesota winters are cold and dry. Really, really dry. But even in the middle of winter, with chapping and chaffing at its worst my husband (who washes his hand often at his job in a research lab) and I only had to reapply once every few days. When the skin on my knees and thighs got red, itchy, and flaky, I put on some of Right as Rain's lotion and -- I kid you not -- the next morning I saw a marked improvement. After a few days, my skin was as soft and silky as a newborn baby. (OK, maybe not that much, but did you really expect a miracle?)

After we finally used up our first 4 oz, I was ready to place an order for a larger bottle. My first bottle was "April Showers." I liked the scent well enough, but wanted something new. I e-mailed Megan and asked her for advice on a gender neutral scent since both my husband and I were hooked. She responded promptly with a few suggestions and I decided on Green Tea and Cucumber. When it arrived, I feared it was a little too feminine for my husband, but I didn't say anything and let him smell it for himself. He asked if it was too masculine for me. Needless to say, I was impressed with Megan's olfactory insights.

It's probably a little pricier than what you might pick up at CVS or Walgreens, but we have to use it so infrequently that we can't afford NOT to buy it. Our four ounce bottle lasted both of us through the winter. Besides, it's well worth it for the personalized service and the comfort of knowing that there's a person behind the product working to make sure ingredients are as natural as possible. ... Oh, and with our 8 oz purchase she included a sample of her "Chai Tea" body cream -- thick and sweet enough to eat!

Friday, June 5, 2009

When you have to eat crow... eat cod instead.

I have to admit that when my mom gave me and Eric The Everything Cooking for Two cookbook by David Poran, I was dubious. The food snob in me would not allow that a good recipe could come from a cookbook that did not have glossy, full color photos or was not a tradition-laden tome like The Joy of Cooking or the magazine Cooks. Two years later, after countless meals from this handy little, now grease-stained book, I stand corrected. I stand so corrected, that I'm posting two recipes from the book: one for flavorful, light cod cakes topped with a refreshing papaya salsa and the other for basmati rice with peas and cumin. Together, these recipes make a relatively easy summer meal and, just as the title of the book promises, they provide exactly enough sustenance for two. Enjoy!

Caribbean-Style Cod Cakes

3/4 pound cod fillet 1 T grated fresh gingerroot
1 1/4 cups plain breadcrumbs 1 T fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup mayonnaise 1/2 t cayenne pepper
1 egg lightly beaten 1/4 ground allspice
juice of 2 limes 1 c peeled and small-diced papaya (mango works too)
6 scallions, thinly sliced 2 T chopped fresh cilantro

1. Simmer the cod in salted water until it begins to break apart. Drain in a colander and break apart well. Let cool.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a baking sheet.

3. When the fish is cool, mix together the fish, bread crumbs, mayonnaise, egg, half the lime juice, half the scallions, the ginger, thyme, allspice, cayanne, and salt and pepper to taste. Form into 4 equal patties and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, make the salsa by mixing together the papaya, the rest of the lime juice and scallions, the cilantro, and salt and pepper to taste. (I let the salsa sit for at least a few minutes for the juices to work their magic.) Serve the salsa on top of the fish.

Cumin and Sweet Pea Basmati Rice

1 cup basmati rice
2 T butter, divided
1 small white onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 t cumin seeds
1/2 c frozen peas (he recommends defrosted, but I use them frozen with fine results)
1 1/2 c chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste

1. Wash the rice under cold running water until the water runs clear. Soak the rice in cold water for 30 minutes.

2. In a small saucepot, heat 1 T of the butter on medium and saute the onion, garlic, and cumin seeds for about 3 minutes or until the onions are lightly golden.

3. Drain the rice, add it to the pan, stir well. Add the peas and broth, and bring to a simmer. Immediately reduce the heat to the lowest setting, and cover the pot.

4. Cook for exactly 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and add the remaining butter and sale and pepper. Stir gently to avoid breaking the grains of rice. Serve immediately.

Thanks, mom! And thanks David Poran.