Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ice Cream Sundays - {malted vanilla with peanut brittle}

Malted vanilla ice cream with peanut brittle and milk chocolate pieces was such a yummy ice cream and we had so much fun photoshooting it in our backyard, that I just couldn't wait to share.  The recipe is from the awesome Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones by Kris Hoogerhyde and Anne Walker (excellent photography by Paige Green) - I just love everything about this book, including this recipe, the first one I made from it.

I was a little skeptical to put peanut brittle in my ice cream.  Peanut brittle, which is so delicious, but can sometimes break a tooth, seemed too hard for ice cream.  But, I wanted to give it a try, so I made a double batch (of course) and put peanut brittle in half of it.  I didn't use the book's recipe for the peanut brittle, however, because my store doesn't sell raw peanuts and the authors really emphasized using raw peanuts.  So I used the peanut brittle from the Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Book, also an excellent book.  I hope to have both of these up on Book Nook soon!  Anyway, I omitted the bacon (!) from that recipe, and it made a very tasty, if not tooth-shattering, batch of peanut brittle.  I was good to go!

For the milk chocolate pieces, I used the stracciatella technique from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz, which is also excellent (are you getting tired of that weekly link to this book?).  The milk chocolate didn't want to cooperate as stracciatella, but I tried to make it work.  So, we ended up with globs rather than a nice thin stream of milk chocolate, but no one complained.

Side by side, the peanut brittle version won, hands down.  It added a wonderful sweetness to the ice cream, and softened quite a bit.  Next time, it'll be a double batch with the peanut brittle in it all.

As for the photo shoot, we headed out to the backyard on a beautiful afternoon earlier this month.  Looking at these shots makes me want to photoshoot and eat malted vanilla ice cream with peanut brittle (definitely) and milk chocolate pieces over and over again!


Monday, September 24, 2012

Book Nook - Where Women Create

Where Women Create: Book of Inspiration by Jo Packham and Jenny Doh:

I just finished three of the Where Women Create books, and this one was my favorite of the bunch.  23 artists are featured - each artist tells about her art, what inspires her, what are "her colors" and gives a tip or two on how to be organized.  There are tons of pictures of the artist's workspace, her art and a shot of the artist too.  I really enjoyed taking a peek at the various artists and learning about what they do.  Each artist's chapter is a nice length - I felt like I got just the right amount of insight into that person's artistic life, and there are website and blog links for each artist in case you want to learn more about that person.  This book was an inspiring look at some talented women leading creative lives.

I also enjoyed Where Women Cook: Celebrate! by Jo Packham & The Publishers of Somerset Studio:


This one is set up similar to the Inspiration book in that each chapter features an "artist" (in this case, it's a foodie), a little about what that person does, and then sets the scene for some kind of celebration that they had and what food they served.  Then, there's a recipe or two, and of course, tons of pictures.  There are a lot of really interesting ladies featured here, many I've heard of (Ashley English, Helene Dujardin & Molly Wizenberg), and some that were totally new to me.  Website & blog addresses are included in this book too, but this time they're all in the back.  It's a fun little book that might put you in the mood to throw your own get-together.

Last, we have Where Women Create: Book of Organization by Jo Packham and The Publishers of Somerset Studio:

This one is an honorable mention.  If you like to look at cool vintage storage shelves/bins/containers, then check out this book (from the library - I'm afraid I can't recommend you buy this one).  That's basically what this book is: vintage eye candy.  There's not really much information other than what you see, and I felt a little frustrated by the way the book was set up (which is funny, considering it's a book on organization).  Artists are featured, but never really discussed except to show their stuff & how they store it.  It would be helpful to know that that particular artist does so that we can learn why this storage might work for them.  In one part of the book, an artist mentioned a couple of times how this vintage blue storage shelf (or something like that - I'm too lazy to find the exact quote!) is her go-to organization salvation.  But we never see this blue shelf.  So, if you love the other Where Women Create books, I'd suggest checking this one out just for fun.  But again, borrow it from a friend or the library, because this one is not as inspiring as the Inspiration book or as useful (with all those recipes) as the Celebrate book.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Ice Cream Sundays - {cookie dough}

I made chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream earlier this summer for Little Dude's birthday, per his special request.  In fact, I also made chocolate and strawberry for his birthday, too.  Not only do birthdays last for more than one day in our family, but now we seem to be adding additional cakes (DD had 2, Little Dude had 3) and a variety of Mama's homeade ice cream to the mix (DD had 3 kinds and so did Little Dude).  Our oldest DD's birthday is later this week, and so far it looks like it will be a reasonable 2 cakes, 2 different ice creams.  It's the Bach way!

So for the chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, I used David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop (of course!).  The chocolate chip cookie dough recipe is very easy to make and it actually tastes like regular ol' cookie dough, minus the raw eggs.  I omitted the nuts because I wanted mine to taste as close to the Ben & Jerry's version (which was essential to my life through the 1990s) as possible.  I paired this "mix in" with the vanilla ice cream, Philadelphia style, which has no egg yolks in it, therefore it's a nice white color.  I chose this vanilla over the custard style vanilla in the book not only for the color, but also because the custard style is so rich it almost demands you eat it and enjoy it just as it is.  The Philadelphia style is a bit more laid back and just goes with the flow.

It was a great pairing and made a very yummy ice cream.  I would recommend eating it sooner rather than later (definitely not a problem around here) because a couple of days after Little Dude's party, it seemed like the cookie dough just wasn't its usual happy self.  It wasn't bad, but just not as fresh as the first serving.  So gobble it up right away (and in celebration of cookie dough and the 90s, eat it while you enjoy Friends and Seinfeld reruns.  Preferably on a Thursday night).

A note about the picture: I couldn't resist taking this shot, as I enjoyed this ice cream around the same time I was reading the book.  I'm sorry to say, but ice cream makes us fat (it's the carbs), but that doesn't stop me from making it (probably more than I should).  But I think you've got to give yourself little treats now & then and believe me, chocolate chip cookie dough is a very yummy treat.  Everything in moderation, right?! 


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Lithopolis Honeyfest

I mentioned a couple of posts back that the Bach family went to the Lithopolis HoneyFest earlier this month, and I wanted to share a few pictures from our day there.  It was a great festival, and the little town of Lithopolis (Ohio) is adorable!

A trio of beekeepers:

A very aggressive pipe-cleaner bee:

We definitely want to come back and check out all the cute antique shops and coffee house we saw in Lithopolis:

Such a cute little town....such a fun little festival!


Monday, September 17, 2012

Book Nook - I Brake For Yard Sales

I Brake for Yard Sales (and Flea Markets, Thrift Shops, Auctions and the Occasional Dumpster) by Lara Spencer:

Occasionally this summer, I would come home and announce to DH, "well, it's official: I've turned into my mother."  This was always stated after I got home from a garage sale (which is what we call them here in Ohio).  My mother loves garage sales.  If I bought a purse at our local Goodwill, which I also did earlier this summer, I came home and announced to DH that I officially turned in to his mother - my MIL absolutely loves buying purses at Goodwill.

Perhaps our Moms are onto something here: you can get quality items, dirt cheap.  And that's what I Brake for Yard Sales is all about - how to work yard sales, thrift stores and flea markets to get some amazing deals on items for your home.

The author, Lara Spencer, is not interested in yard sale toys or clothing or household items like dishes.  Her focus, and the focus of the book, is furniture and maybe some lamps for your side tables.  This book is all about decor.  So, if you love to scour antique shops for vintage jewelry, or shop garage sales for kids clothes, or hit the thrift shop on sale day to score a new purse......well, this book might not be as useful.  Spencer even gives you tips on how to spot sales to avoid (in her opinion) - if there's a minivan parked in the driveway, it's probably not the sale for you (or, rather, her). 

However, if you love to buy furniture and/or redecorate, this is your book.  Page after page, you will find photos of beautiful furniture that she purchased and made fabulous.  Tables, chairs, lamps, art....and dog statues.  On each "find" she discloses the price she paid for it, and often, how she scored the find.  There are many before & after photos as well, which are sure to inspire you to check out your local paper's garage sale section.  I love the $5 coffee table she bought and the $79 buffet table that she painted a cheery red.

There are also lots of tidbits of information here.  She shares some of her favorite design websites (I checked out one of her recommendations - The Paris Apartment - and fell in love with several French-style goodies - too bad I can't afford any of them).  There's also estate sale etiquette, how to negotiate, basic info on painting furniture, names of popular fabrics and a list of her favorite places to shop in the "little black filofax."  There are also tons of interior shots of her two houses (yes, she has two houses.  I think the subtitle of the book, the part about the dumpster, is a bit of a gimmick.  She never once shows us any dumpster finds).  Anyway, there's also pictures of homes of her friends and Kathy Griffin's home, which Spencer redecorated in her thrift-store-chic style.  The book is a lot of fun to look through, and if you're shopping for furniture, there are some great tips on how to get some great finds at great deals.  Tips that can help you save bundles of cash over what you would pay retail. 

My mother, and MIL, would surely approve.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Ice Cream Sundays - {peanut butter}

Our oldest DD doesn't like peanut butter.  She always has her PB&J sandwiches without the "PB" - we call them "just jelly" sandwiches.  But the peanut butter ice cream in David Lebovitz's book The Perfect Scoop is so sweet and yummy, that even she couldn't resist its charms.  She says it's one of her favorite ice creams, which is saying a lot for a kid who doesn't like peanut butter.

The recipe is a cinch to make - combine 5 ingredients in a blender, swirl them up, let the mixture sit in the fridge until really cold and then churn in your ice cream maker.  It's so easy!  Of course, you should plan on making hot fudge to go with it......peanut butter ice cream just begs for hot fudge.  Oh, and do a double batch - that's also a must.

DD's birthday is at the end of this month, and she's already requested peanut butter ice cream to go with her cake.  I can't wait to bust out the blender again & make another double-batch of this great ice cream!


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Photography news to share - focus on photography week

I have some great photography-related news: I won 1st place in the Lithopolis HoneyFest photo contest!  I am so excited about it!  I worked hard to get this shot of a honeybee - we went to our favorite Metro Park, Inniswood, twice because I just wasn't happy with my first round of shots.  I'm glad we went back because it gave me a chance to capture this very busy bee.  Here's DD and a little bee friend of hers checking out my photo and ribbon at last weekend's festival:

I'm also happy to tell you that I have a picture in the Fall edition of ParkScope, which is Columbus Metro Parks' quarterly magazine with great articles and program info.  This shot was taken at Chestnut Ridge last fall.  I actually don't know these people, but I hope they saw their pictures in the magazine & like the shot:

I also now have a Zenfolio website....want to see some of my favorite photos?  Here's the link:  Some of them have been featured here on the blog, others might be in a future post.  Let me know what you think!


Friday, September 14, 2012

The right light - focus on photography week

If you've ever read books or articles about photography, one thing you've probably noticed is that capturing the right light is always emphasized.  Many experts advise photographers to shoot in the golden light of sunrise, or just before sunset.  The light in early morning or later in the evening is usually golden, soft and magical.  It really is the best time to shoot!

I thought I'd share a few shots that I've taken in the beautiful light before sunset (I hardly ever see the light around sunrise.....I'm not a morning person!).

Here's an old shot of DD in a field of Queen Anne's Lace.  I love how the light plays off the flower she's twirling:

Here's another old shot, of our other DD.  There's nothing remarkable about this shot - she's snuggling with her blanket, the clutter of outdoor toys and our house in the background.  But the light is remarkable:

I love this shot, even though most of it is out of focus.  Maybe that's why I like it: the light steals the show:

It's also interesting to see how this "golden-hour" light changes with the change of seasons.  This shot, of a big magnolia bloom, was taken in March, a bit before sunset.  The light here is cool and unassuming:

This shot was taken just a few days ago - I love how this little insect is positively bathed in yellow, from the light as well as the goldenrod.  There's no doubt that this shot was taken in summer:

My challenge is to try to capture beautiful light in all of the seasons (it's so hard to do in winter) as well as make shots taken throughout the day look as magical as those taken at sunrise or sunset.  I'm still trying to meet those challenges; but in the meantime, I'm going to shoot as much as I can right before sunset (and sleep as much as I can around sunrise!).


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Get the shot......or not - focus on photography week

Being a nature photography enthusiast, every now and then I come across some ethical issues related to taking shots in nature.  How disruptive should one be to get the shot they want?  A good example of this dilemma occurred this Spring.  We had a cardinal nest in our backyard and one day our 7-year-old and her friend discovered that they could get in the bush where the nest is and the baby birds would pop up and eat bugs that they dropped into their mouths.  Of course, once I found this out, I asked her not to do that again, that she might have scared Mama and Papa bird away.  Later that day, however, I thought...."there's a nest of baby birds.  I could get a great shot!"

DD and I went back to the bush and all was quiet.  She said the babies didn't come up until you actually fed them.  Here was my dilemma.  On one hand, I really wanted a nice shot of baby birds.  On the other hand, I didn't want to mess with nature.  I chose the latter, and told her to make sure we stay as far away from the nest as possible.  I never got my bird shot, but I'm happy about the choice I made.  Here's the vacant nest as it looked today:

The best shots are one in which you are a quiet observer, in my opinion.  Earlier this summer, I was at one of our local Columbus Metro Parks and I noticed a bumblebee in the brush by the path.  I couldn't figure out what it was doing in there, but it was definitely moving around.  On further inspection, I saw what was happening: a very well-camouflaged praying mantis had caught the bumblebee and was eating it.  I sat there, watching and firing off shots.  After a while, the praying mantis noticed me, and he stopped eating to look at me.  I sat there and watched him - I was far away enough where I wasn't disturbing him.  After he checked me out, he went back to his meal.  I took a few more shots and then quietly left.  I love this shot because it reminds me of that moment, just the praying mantis and I looking at each other.

There are many, many ways in which nature photographers can bend the situation in their favor: using flash, going off trail, taking shots of captive animals, taking shots of dead animal parts, like a dragonfly wing, to name a few.  But I think the best shots are the ones you get without those "tricks" because you'll always look back and know that it was nature, in its true state.  And you were there, a part of it.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Book Nook - Expressive Photography

Expressive Photography: The Shutter Sisters' Guide to Shooting From the Heart by Tracey Clark and the Shutter Sisters:

In celebration of "Focus on Photography" week here, I thought I'd tell you about a wonderful photography book that I recently discovered.  This is a great book for anyone with a camera (which is just about everyone), not just those "serious-amateurs."  I loved this book for helping me to get out of that shoot-everything-mindlessly-mode and into a more creative, heartfelt way of looking at photography.

The shutter sisters is a group of very talented women who love to take pictures.  Some of them take pictures for a living, others enjoy photography as a side thing.  Each Shutter Sister takes on a specific chapter, and all the chapters feature photos from every group member.  The chapters are: horizons, portraiture, nature, spaces, childhood, stillness, documentary, creatures, table & togetherness.  Each chapter contains the following topics: approach, perspective, composition, lighting, details & processing.

Full of inspiring ideas, this book is geared towards helping you see the emotional aspect of photography.  Instead of putting your child by a beautiful tree in bloom, this book might suggest that you let your child climb the tree to get some spontaneous, fun shots.  Or maybe have your child relax on a low branch, reading their favorite book to impart a sense of peeking in at something they might be doing.  Or maybe focusing on shooting in the beautiful light before sunset.  These are the kinds of things this book explores: how to take ourselves from shooting bland shots to pictures that exude a sense of place and/or emotion.

I was so inspired by this book that I looked up a few of the Shutter Sisters, and their blogs, as well as their collective blog (here's the link).  In addition to this book, many of them offer e-courses & photo challenges.  I'd love to take one of the online courses from some of the members, but even if I don't, the book has infused me with inspiration to get out there & shoot from the heart.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Ice Cream Sundays - {avocado} - focus on photography week

Every year, I like to have a "focus on photography week" here in this space, and this is the week!  I wanted to incorporate the photography aspect into my regular Ice Cream Sundays, so here's a little behind-the-scenes look at one of my photoshoots.

First, the ice cream.  As I've mentioned in previous posts, I'm going through David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop "Julie and Julia" style.  And the green ice creams are my equivalent to Julie Powell's aspics.  I'm a little afraid of them, to be honest, and have been putting them off.  But, my local grocery store was having a pretty good sale on avocados recently, so I had to jump on the chance to make avocado ice cream.  I was trying to get pumped up about it by reminding myself about the $1 per avocado.

One thing about this ice cream: it smells like avocado as soon as you open the container.  Some may find that off-putting.  Another thing to know is that it really tastes like avocados.  That may also be off-putting.  If you love avocados and enjoy them both savory and sweet, this is a great ice cream.  For me, I love avocados in guacamole and burritos, but I have a hard time getting excited about them as dessert.  Once, when I went through a raw-foods diet phase, I made chocolate pudding that was essentially avocados mushed up with cocoa.  Eating it was a real mind game: if you could fool yourself into believing it was chocolate pudding, it was pretty good.  If you happened to get a whiff of avocado, or remember what the pudding was made of,  it made you want to retch.  But I digress........

As for the photography, I wanted to try to capture the green color of the ice cream, since for me, that was its best feature.  I found a green-rimmed bowl and a green placemat that I thought might look good:

 Once my props were all set up, it was time to scoop the ice cream.  But this is a very hard ice cream, so I had to wait.  I figured I'd take a few shots while I was waiting:

After shooting for a few minutes, I realized that getting an accurate color was a challenge - the ice cream was looking too brown.  I switched lenses, angles and played with the white balance.  Out of all my initial shots, I liked this one the best.  This is probably the one that I would have posted on the blog:

In the book, there is a "perfect pairing" recipe for an Avocado Licuado con Leche milkshake.  I definitely wanted to try that to see if I could get some decent shots, and also to see if avocado ice cream could transform itself into something I would be excited about.

I liked the lighting here, but wasn't crazy about the napkin I had in the background (color-wise or wrinkle-wise).  I wanted to see if I liked it better with a different background:

I liked the rust color against the green, but I thought the shot was kind of boring (and still wrinkly).  To give it one last try, I tried a "perfect mess" shot, which, frankly, I can never seem to pull off.  With me, it's just mess!

Time to clean up and drink the milkshake, both a bit reluctantly:

A day or so after the photoshoot, I remembered that DD has a shirt that has the saying "Green is Cool" on it.  I thought this might be a neat thing to incorporate into the avocado ice cream shots, so I set out to do another photoshoot.  For no other reason than I liked the milkshake more than the ice cream, I made another milkshake for shooting.  Then, I added a re-usable straw (vs. putting another lime in it), had DD put on the shirt and we headed outside.  First, a shot of the shake only:

I like the green grass with the green shake and the out-of-focus straw.  Next, to try to get a good shot with the shirt.  It's much more difficult with little models because they don't always hold still where you set them.  DD complained that her hand was getting cold.  And her shirt was being uncooperative (can you tell that not much ironing happens around here?):

I offered the milkshake to DD for her hard work, but she declined!


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Urban Farmhouse

A couple of weeks ago, I saw an ad in our community paper for Urban Farmhouse, a vintage/antique store in a little town not too far from ours.  Sadly, the ad was for the brick & mortar store's closing (the online store lives on).  Vintage goodies....on sale......we are so there.

So, yesterday, Little Dude and I hopped in the car for a little drive out in the country, to Thornville Ohio.  Here are a few pics from the shop.........

There were still lots of dishes left - I ended up getting a few neat pieces for some upcoming food photography:

I sort of regret not buying this old advertisement for canned peaches.  There was also a vintage French chocolate advertisement that I probably should have bought:

In addition to some food photography props, I also came home with a little wooden box to keep on our kitchen counter for the day's mail, as well as this neat little (although impractical) bracelet:

If you are in Central Ohio & love a good bargain on vintage goods, check out Urban Farmhouse (or online if you're not in the area).


Monday, September 3, 2012

Book Nook - Why We Get Fat

Why We Get Fat (and what to do about it) by Gary Taubes:

At the beginning of summer, I found myself in a situation that most women dread: swimsuit shopping.  It was a depressing site in every way: the "matronly" styles that I was looking at, the sizes that I guessed would be right for me, but the worst part, by far, was the mirror system in the dressing room.  Staring at me was every part, inch and angle that I had been blissfully ignoring prior to that day.

I came home without a swimsuit, and without any self-esteem.

I'll admit, I have the weirdest body: I'm skinny in some areas and cushy in others (which is actually addressed in Why We Get Fat).  I'm not obese or overweight......I just wanted the cushy parts to go away.  Luckily, I had been reading this book at the time of my dressing-room-of-doom experience, so I knew exactly what I needed to do: cut carbs.

That's the crux of this book - if you cut out carbs, you will lose the weight (and fast, more than likely) and be healthier.  So, since my day in the dressing room, I've been going low-carb (or trying really hard to).  And I'm here to report: it works!  I lost some weight and my pants started to fit me better.  The "matronly" swimsuit that I ended up buying earlier in the summer is now a little loose on me.  I've had a few people ask me if I've lost some weight.  All because I've given up carbs........who knew?

Reading about nutrition and food has been sort of a pet project for me this year.  Compared with some of the other books I've read, this one is a little dry.  But maybe that's a bit unfair of me, because in a book like this, the best/only way to present the work is by relaying the facts and discussing the studies that have been done.  So, it's not the lightest reading, but if you want to be lighter, you'd better read it!

One thing that was surprising was a few shots of naked people for various body studies.  The nudity is in the name of science, but I wasn't expecting to see it, so it was a surprise.  Just to warn you!

DH and I always joke that he's a 90-percenter on all of his projects.  He likes to do something until he reaches about 90% completion, then he loses interest in it and never finishes.  I did a 90-percenter on this book, but I think the reason I just couldn't get to that last 10% was that I kept thinking ok, I get it.  The first 90% made so much sense to me, that I couldn't be bothered with the last bit.  I was already putting what I read into action.  I did end up finishing the last unread part, but I was already a convert.

As Fall approaches, the motivation to look good in a swimsuit diminishes.  But there are many health reasons to lose the weight, besides being thinner.  Carbs do many bad things to our bodies (like heart disease) and it makes sense to eliminate them, or eat less of them.  It's hard to do - carbs are everywhere in our diet, even hidden in processed foods.  And I haven't given them up completely: I still love ice cream!  But since I've been eating mostly fats and protein, and cutting way back on carbs, I've seen a big, positive change.

If you are interested in losing weight, I highly recommend this book.  You'll learn why the standard weight-loss method of eating less and exercising won't work, and why lowering your carbs will.  There are a couple of helpful lists that spell out what you can and can't eat, which now have a prominent place on our fridge.

If you read this book & go low-carb, let me know how it works for you!


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Ice Cream Sundays - {lemon sorbet}

I'm not a big sorbet person - I'll always choose ice cream over sorbet- but this lemon sorbet is just the thing to enjoy in these last hot days of summer.  Of course, it's from my favorite ice cream cookbook, The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz.  It's sweet and lemony and "puckery" as Lebovitz describes it.  I added the optional 1/4 cup sugar to make it a little sweeter, but it was still a whole lot of lemon!

My 7-year-old said, "this is just like eating lemonade."  Her observation couldn't be more on-target - it is just like frozen, yummy lemonade.  Perfect for hot late-summer days.

On a hot day, which would you prefer to cream or sorbet?