Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Garden treats & a resident

Hi readers,

Tonight, I made an awesome recipe for quinoa using fresh basil & cherry tomatoes from our garden.  Our poor, sad garden that has received zero amount of attention from me; yet there they were, beautiful basil & tiny tomatoes, at the ready.  I vow to make more of an effort with the garden next year, as the veggies and herbs that come from it are amazing!  Anyway, here is a pic of my yummy ingredients:

While I was there, I spotted our tiny garden resident: a black swallowtail caterpillar.  Here's the story with this guy: the Bachsters and I went swimming at our neighbor's pool last week and she was kind enough to give us a bunch of veggies from her garden while we were there (I had a few really great salads last week).  Buried deep in the greenery of the carrots was a black swallowtail caterpillar.  The kids were thrilled!  So he officially moved next door to our garden!  Here is a picture of him, taken 7 days ago (please note my daughter's pruny hands from swimming):

And here's his picture from today.  I can't believe how much he's grown in such a short time!

The kids are in the kitchen right now, all pretending to be black swallowtail caterpillars & all munching on big pieces of romaine lettuce, "because caterpillars have to eat a lot."  I'm grateful for our resident caterpillar, for inspiring large-quantity-veggie-consumption!

Have a nice evening!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Book Nook - Comfort Knitting & Crochet Afghans

Hi readers,

Well, here I am recommending another knitting book without having done any of the projects myself!  This begs the question: does a good knitting book necessitate clear, correct patterns, or it it just enough to have great projects that the reader can enjoy perusing through and be inspired by?  Hmm, I think maybe the answer is a little bit of both.  But that still won't stop me from telling you all about this book!

In Comfort Knitting & Crochet Afghans by Norah Gaughan & Margery Winter (and the Berroco Design team), there are 51 afghan projects, and they are all beautiful.  I love that the authors make a point to put in a variety of styles to suite every type of person and their type of household.  There's also a wide range of difficulty, which also makes this an appealing book.  Surely, every knitter (or crocheter) can find at least one afghan that would look beautiful in their home and that they have the skills to execute.

So, here are the ones that I wold love to work on, if I had the time & if there weren't already a million projects in my queue:  the Basketweave afghan is a very simple basketweave pattern.  I love that it's so simple - but it looks so classic.  I also like that it fits a double bed.  This would be perfect for my 5 year old's room!  I also love the Garter Stripes afghan.  The colors are great - they remind me of Pottery Barn's stuff.  This would be great for our Little Guy's bed, once he outgrows his crib!  Meditate is also beautiful, with the complementary shades of mauve.  Actually, someone on ravelry did this in blues & it looked awesome.  Vintage is really a really cool pattern & I think it would be neat to make it a larger size vs. baby-blanket sized.  And I love Sunny Day - these are just the right colors to perk you up on a dreary winter day.

I can't decide whether I like the knitting and crochet format all in one book.  I don't know how to crochet, so when I found a couple of afghans that I liked, but were crochet, I was a bit disappointed.  I suppose if you like the project enough, you could just learn it, but if it's a more complex design, that could just cause frustration.  I wonder if the authors considered just doing 2 books, one for knitting & one for crochet?  Or, maybe they could have made the first half of the book knitting projects & the second half of the book crochet - split them up?  I also wonder about the yarn featured in every project - Berroco's Comfort.  It's an acrylic & nylon blend.....would it be warm?  Let's face it, that's why you throw on an afghan, right?  I do like that the yarn is inexpensive, especially nice since many of the projects call for a bunch of it (21 skeins!).

The photography is great (you know I had to go there)!  I've seen Thayer Allyson Gowdy's photographs before, I believe in Martha Stewart's magazine & they are just right.  The photos show the projects well.  I also like that the styling is very different for each afghan.  It really gives them all their own personality & life, so to speak.

If you are considering starting an afghan, I recommend you check out this book.  There's an afghan in here for everyone, and just in time for the cooler days of Fall!


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Hot air balloons

Hi readers,

This afternoon, the Bach Family went to the Grove City (Ohio) hot air balloon festival.  And we got there just in time - they were launching the balloons just as we were walking up!  We counted 11 of them at one point in time!

It was pretty neat to see so many balloons up close & personal.  A few went right overhead:

They also had tethered balloon rides, but apparently they ran out of vouchers about an hour into the festival.  I believe it too - the line was incredibly long.  So instead, we treated the Bachsters to giant cream puffs from Schmidt's, a Columbus classic!


You can see how huge & yummy these cream puffs are!  We just had ourselves a little cream puff picnic right there amongst all the hot air balloons.

Hope you're having a nice weekend too!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Book Nook - Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook

Hi readers,

I love to bake in the Fall.  So this time of year, even though I know it's still technically summer, I start to get the itch.  And, just this morning, I made the Bachsters and myself a big yummy batch of blueberry muffins, which are always a hit.  I got the recipe from marthastewart.com (which is a great source for tons of recipes) & they turn out perfect every time.  The recipe for the muffins was originally published in Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, which if you like to bake (or eat baked goods!), you must check out!

It's impossible to look through this book & not find something you want to bake - or eat!  There are so many yummy recipes & lots of pictures to accompany them (I love that).  There are cakes, cookies, pastries, breads, etc.  I've baked a lot of the recipes from the book & everything comes out great.

Probably my favorite recipe from the book is the pumpkin bread.  It makes 2 loaves, which is good for us because we demand generous portions here at the Bach Haus!  Martha says that the bread is even better the 2nd day & she's right.  If it can last that long.  If you make one recipe from this book, try this one first.  It will satisfy your need for Fall baking & your sweet tooth!

Earlier this year, I went to a grown-up-girls slumber party & I made the cherry-streusel coffee cake for breakfast for everyone.  It was soooo yummy & the ladies (& myself) all gobbled it up.  Since I had extra streusel, I turned around & made it again the following weekend for my family's Easter get-together.  I also made the yellow butter cake with chocolate frosting for my daughter's 5th birthday.  This cake recipe is really good & very flavorful.  I added some extra confectioner's sugar to the dark chocolate frosting, but just because we like ours a little sweeter.  The cake & frosting were delicious & held up very well in the fridge.

Another tried & true recipe from the book is the fudgy chocolate brownies.  Doesn't that just sound yummy, just by title alone?  These are not super-sweet brownies, but I make these when I want brownie sundaes.  These brownies, plus a really good vanilla ice cream, plus warm hot fudge, plus whipped cream.......oh my gosh!  We served this dessert at a big family get-together last year and there was not a morsel left.  Resistance is futile, people!

I've also baked the classic crumb cake & the marbled pound cake, but it's been a while since I've made them.  It wasn't for a specific event, just for fun.  They're good too.  If I do the crumb cake again, I might hold back a bit on the crumb topping - it was a lot, even for me.  But very tasty!  I almost forgot: the cornmeal drop biscuits have a really nice crunchy texture & they are a snap to make.  These are a great option if you want biscuits but don't have any buttermilk in the fridge.

There are a few recipes in the book that I have not yet made, but would like to try.  The macaroons are high up on the list - you will probably be hearing about these from me soon!  I also would like to try the cream cheese & chive biscuits.  My neighbor gave me some chives for our garden & I want to make these to share with her as a little thank you.  I'd also like to try the pear-spice bundt cake.  What a beautiful presentation this recipe has, with the pear chip garnish.  It would be perfect for a big get-together with family & friends.

Is all this making you hungry?  It is me!  And since I just ate 3 of those awesome blueberry muffins (yes, 3) I can't justify more baking today.  But there will be soon, I promise! 

One more thing about the book that I should note is that this is a handbook.  There's a good bit of basic baking information here - how-to's, equipment discussion, etc.  This would be very helpful to someone who doesn't do a lot of baking.  Me, er, I do too much!

This book will surely inspire any baker!


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Good news!

Hi readers,

I just got some good news about one of my photos & I wanted to share.  I took a picture of the Bachsters at the Slate Run Fall Festival last Fall & it's in this Fall's edition of the Columbus Metro Parks ParkScope magazine!  This is a quarterly magazine that is available at all the area metro parks and is also sent to those with a Columbus Dispatch subscription.  We use our magazine all the time to find out what programs are going on at the parks.  My little models are getting lots of citywide exposure!

Here's the link to the Columbus Metro Parks website.  If this link doesn't take you straight to the page with the Bachsters (page 6), just click on the ParkScope magazine on the home page for the link.  Here's the picture:

Check out ParkScope, especially if you live in the Columbus, OH area.  There are tons of great park programs & they are all listed out in the magazine, by location.  And lots of interesting articles & photographs, too.  I'm glad to be part of it!


Monday, August 16, 2010

Book Nook - Kitten's First Full Moon

Hi readers,

Here at the Bach Haus, we just love Kevin Henkes.  He's got all these adorable books about mice characters (Lilly, Chrysanthemum, Wemberley) and the stories are great, as are the illustrations, both done by Henkes.  He has a real talent for storytelling that is appropriate for his audience.  They are books that kids & parents alike can love.

Kitten's First Full Moon seems to be a departure from the style we had come to know & love.  But even though this book is very different from his mice-books, this is a wonderful book in its own right.  The illustrations are black & white, very different from the Lilly books (and others).  But I think the black & white adds charm & hits the right tone here - it just would not be the same with color illustrations.  Kitten is outside at night, with only the light from the moon to guide her.  Doesn't everything look black & white then?

The style of illustration is a lot different than Henkes' other work as well.  There are big, heavy lines and lots of simple scenes.  But again, that style works well for this book.  I don't think it would work at all for Chester's Way, but here, it's perfect.

I should probably mention what the story is about.  Kitten sees the full moon in the sky and thinks it's a big bowl of milk.  She keeps trying to get the bowl of milk, but has no luck.  The ending is very sweet, but I won't spoil it for you!  So, just like the black & white palette and the thick-lined illustrations, the storyline is sweet & simple.  I personally love children's stories in which a character completely mistakes one thing for something else.  They're just endearing, I think.  And kitten is an endearing character - we want to see her get that bowl of milk she is trying so hard for!

This book won the Caldecott Award in 2005.  I'm glad the book has received such a prestigious award.  It's charming & sweet and it's one of those books where there's more than meets the eye

Have you (or any children close to you) read this book?  Please let me know if you enjoyed it!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

If I was a flower....

Hi readers!

If I was a flower growing wild and free
all I want is you to be my sweet honey bee

 and if I was a tree growing tall and green
all I want is you to shade me and be my leaves

I've been listening to the Juno soundtrack.  This song is called "All I Want Is You" by Barry Louis Polisar.
Hope you are having a nice weekend!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Book Nook - Knitting Mochimochi

Hi readers,

Recommending a knitting book that one hasn't actually knit anything from is the equivalent of recommending a cookbook from which one hasn't made any of the recipes.  You can only really discuss the surface things like the pictures, or how you feel inspired to make certain things from the book, etc.  So take everything I'm about to write with that grain of salt:  I haven't knit anything from this book!

With that said, I love this book!  And one of the things I love about it is the photography.  I know, it's a little strange for me to launch right into a discussion on photography - this is a knitting book after all - but this book does photography very, very well.  Allow me to gush: there are little knitted alligators and they are pictured coming out of the sewer.  There are squirrels on wheels, photographed at the skating rink.  There is a knitted TV Guy, pictured watching TV (competitive ice skating, we learn) on the couch, with a beer & TV dinner in front of him.  And my favorite of all, Plucky Mushrooms, pictured in the grass with a lawnmower coming up fast from behind.  The pictures really help tell the "story" of the knitted critters and they add to the overall humorous tone of the writing.  The photographer didn't phone this one in - you can tell the thought & effort she put into the photos.  On a side note, I'm amazed at some of the poor photography in some recent knitting books, things like out of focus subjects (and not in a creative way), photographs that don't show the knitted item well, etc.  So it's nice to see a knitting book that gets photography right!

I also really like this book because of the humor.  The knitted items themselves are funny (feet eaters!) & then the author describes them in such funny ways  There are little hamsters and one of them has a little bubble above his head that says "make us for cute addicts and their enablers."  Really, I chuckled throughout this book.  How many knitting books can you say that about?

Not only does the author give us lots of funny descriptions, but she has also created a book-full of cute & whimsical critters that appeal to kids & grown-ups.  Pigs with wigs, a moose who thinks he's a bird, a grouchy couch......there is much cuteness here.  I also love that many pages are devoted to knitting techniques & how-to's (with lots of clear photos throughout!), so that when you decide which one to knit first (this is a tough decision) you'll have all the info. you need to re-create it as shown.  Some knitting books skip this stuff, but I always appreciate when it's there, handy for the reader.

So, I'm sorry I can't report on how well-written the patterns are, but this book is great for reasons beyond that.  Great photography, adorable knitted items, lots of humor in the pages and lots of knitted inspiration.  I love knitting books that are more than "here's a pretty sweater to knit" & this one-of-a-kind book is just that.  Check it out just to get a chuckle.  And if you do knit anything from it, let me know!  As for me, I think I'm going to knit those adorable mushrooms.  They, like everything in this book, are just too cute!


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Focus on Photography week: wrap-up

Hi readers,

As promised, here are a few more photos to share from my "focus on photography" week.  It's been a great week: I've taken some decent shots & we've explored some new places we've never been to before.  However, I've been putting a lot aside this week, so it will be nice to get back to normal.

This first shot is a dragonfly my 6-year-old caught in our butterfly net.  She actually caught 2 at one time & this is one of them.  She's fast!

This next shot was taken at Slate Run wetlands.  I was so excited to be getting some good shots of a monarch butterfly - he was going from flower to flower, letting me get the lens right in his face.  Well, it turns out this is not a monarch, but a viceroy butterfly, which is a very good look-alike.  I was totally fooled!

Also on that same shoot, I came across these lovely little yellow wildflowers.  I like the bright yellow together with the background green:

Any photography enthusiasts out there: have you been getting some good shooting in lately?
Hope everyone had a nice weekend!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Photos to share

Hi readers,

I have a few photos to share from my "focus on photography" week.  We've been going to lots of parks and ponds & having a great time.  Here are just a few pictures from this week......there will be more to come, I promise!

Hope you are having a nice week, too!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Book Nook - Close Up Photography

Hi readers,

The "focus" of this week here at the Bach Haus is macro photography.  I've checked out many books on the subject & I really like this one:

Close-Up Photography in Nature by Tim Fitzharris.  There are two main reasons that I recommend this book.  First, the author's photography is outstanding.  To make a photography book stand out among the others, your photos have to be pretty good.  I like his style a lot.  There are a couple of pics in here that I keep thinking I wish I took that! when I see them.  There's a walking stick with a dark background & light shining on its body (page 97) - the light makes the shot.  There's also a backlit bee (last photo in the book) that also showcases great light.  Just about every butterfly picture that's in the book inspires.  Even if macro photography is not your hobby, this is a beautiful book just to look through.  For those of us interested in macro, Fitzharris not only provides beautiful pictures, but also the techniques used to get the shot.

The second reason I like this book is that the author not only tells you the set up for the shot, but also shows you.  In many of the photo descriptions, he puts in a silhouette of his camera body along with the lens/extension tube/supplementary lens/etc. that was used.  It's one thing to read about all this equipment, but it's another to see it visually & see how it's stacked on the camera body.  Photographers are visual people, after all & I found this really helpful.

I also like that he shares some tricks he used to get the shot.  For example, there's a photo of a marmot (page 23) & the author tells us that he smeared some peanut butter near its burrow to get it to sit still for a shot.  What a clever trick!  I love it when photographers are forthcoming with this kind of info. - I would have never thought of doing that!  Chapter 4 is titled "Subjects in the Wild" and in this chapter, the author gives all sorts of tips for photographing certain critters.  For frogs & toads, for example, Fitzharris tells us a little bit about where to find them, what they'll be doing when you find them, the equipment & techniques he recommends for getting the best shot.  It's really as if you had a professional photographer sitting down with you & saying, "well this is how I do it and what I've learned in all my years of experience" & then showing you some awesome photos as an example.  Well, that's really what you get with this book!

There's a lot of great information in this book.  Some of it is still over my head, unfortunately, but that's ok.  Photography is a life-long interest.  How boring it would be if you knew everything there is to know upfront.  Then, there would be no reason to get out there & push yourself & try new techniques & equipment.  This book does a good job giving the photographer lots of useful information and new ideas to work with.

Be on the lookout for macro photos from me this week!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Deadlines & dragonflies

Hi readers,

"I love deadlines.  I especially like the whooshing sound they make as they go flying by."
-Chris Messina as Eric Powell in Julie & Julia

Well, July 31st was my big self-imposed deadline to get my big knitting project finished, the one I can't quite reveal yet (sorry).  And the date came & went and I am not anywhere near being finished.  But that's the beauty of that whole "self-imposed" business - no one's going to fire me for it!  So, there is a new date to work towards - Thanksgiving.  And I'll be very thankful when my little project is finished so that I can start some new things I've been wanting to put in the queue!
The good news is that I finished my 5-year-old's knitted toy last night & it turned out great!  She loves it and I love it.  It all came together at the end - I was doubting myself a lot as I was finishing it up.  I'm so pleased with it that I'm going to submit it to knitty, the online knitting magazine.  Their website is here for those of you not familiar with it.  Wish me luck on getting it published!  So, that one's under wraps for a while too, I'm afraid! 

Today, I went to Slate Run for a little photo shoot.  I was at the park for a while & then explored the Wetlands.  I could not believe the amount of bugs at the Wetlands - it felt almost prehistoric!  There were tons of cicadas especially & they were so loud that I couldn't hear the focus beep on my camera.  A very large bug - cicada probably - landed on the back of my pants at one point & I shrieked (the kids weren't with me so I didn't have to put on my brave-with-bugs-face) & I swear that bug shrieked too when I swatted him off!  Here's a pic of one of the many cicadas (actually, it was neat to see so many - usually at home we hear them, but rarely see one):

I had set out to get some butterfly shots.  These were both taken at Slate Run Wetlands.  I don't know what kind of butterflies these are - the first one I know is very common, I see him all the time:

I was feeling especially ambitious, so later this afternoon I packed up the Bachsters & we went to one of the parks for a dragonfly program.  I didn't get any good shots to share, but I'm happy to say that my oldest caught 2 dragonflies!  She's so proud of herself - and also amazingly fast!  But it was a hot day & after a while we were all ready to pack it in.  Smoothies & air conditioning to the rescue!

I hope you had a nice weekend too!