Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Taking in His glorious expansive creation!

*lyrics from Hillsong United: Oceans on Zion album

Monday, April 29, 2013

Hello from Florida!

Just stopping in to say a quick Hello from beautiful St. Augustine! I haven't been to the beach yet but have a sunrise photo shoot in the near future planned! 

There are so many beautiful fountains in this city! I love it! 

Today I visited the touristy area of St. Augustine with my Aunt Hanna today walking through the shops on St. George Street and had a super delicious salad called the 1905 at Columbiana... it was soo good! 

 Got to see the oldest wood school house in the U.S. ... we didn't go inside but I snapped a picture anyway. I was totally diggin the old weathered wood... can you say DIY project! ;) Haha!
 There are so many lovely plants here. Since its more tropical I am seeing a lot of things that I don't normally see in Va. Snapped a photo of these pretty pink Coleus for my mom! They'd look pretty in her garden back home! 

And lastly another beautiful fountain outside the Columbiana where we ate. 

Well that's all for now! 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Off On An Adventure!

Hey friends! I'm off for my 1st road trip adventure of the 3 I promised myself I'd do this year! So its some fun in the sun to the white sandy beaches of St. Augustine for a few weeks! Along with a mini visit within that trip to St. Petersburg! 

 I have to be honest, I'm actually not at all looking forward to the hot Floridian weather... or the bright sun. Ha! What can I say, I would always rather be cold and I avoid the sun because I have such light skin that I burn very fast (no skin cancer for me thanks!) but I am VERY MUCH looking forward to spending time with my Aunt Hanna and exploring the beautiful old city of St. Augustine and all the art and culture it has to offer! As well as some early morning walks on the beach!
 Seriously! I'm giddy about all the photo opps there are sure to be! 

And I'm also looking forward to visiting my Grandmother in St. Pete and hitting up all the art galleries and shops in the Tampa and St. Pete area! The Don Cesar Hotel- pictured below is across the bay from her condo which is on the 9th floor so it has gorgeous views! You can see it as a small pink blob... or look through the telescope and see it pretty well!
Any way, I just wanted to let you know my blogging may be rather irregular and laid back... I'll be in the vacation mindset! But also getting lots of material for when I get back! 


Photo Credit: Internet sourced

Friday, April 26, 2013

From Creative Stock

Three summers ago, while up at the family summer cottage in the beautiful Adirondack mountains, I was digging under the eaves looking for treasures and came upon a box full of my Poppy's photographs and even older images of my Grandmother's side of the family from the late 1800's. It was pretty sweet and I set out to spend the rest of the summer scanning all these images and setting them into an acid free scrap book style book to best preserve them.

Below are scanned images of some of my Poppy's orginal's. He worked at the Binghamton Press for 30 years the majority of which he was their Chief of Photography. I just loved finding these as I inherited all of his cameras when he passed away in 2001. I had never really known he was a photographer until after his death and those camera's awoke a deeper creativity in me that took me on to photo classes in high school and pursuing and completing a degree in Studio Art in college. 

I LOVE the one below, it so captures the essence of the 1970's to me!

Binghamton, NY gets a lot of winter.. I love all of his weather shots.. I have about 20 different prints and tons of negatives. 

Just wanted to share these. It always amazes me when I look at these discoveries as well as those about my Dad's Dad- The Grandfather and see how deeply my love of art, creating and appreciation is rooted in my family.  I grew up at my Grandfather's knee watching him paint, inherited all my Poppy's camera's when I was 13 and when my Grandfather moved to a nursing home while I was in high school, my Aunts and Uncles graciously gave me all of his painting supplies (and it was A LOT). I completed my Bachelors in Studio Art from the University of Mary Washington going on 3 years ago and honestly.. aside from a few odd supplies.. these gifts from my grandfathers saw me through 4 years and not having to buy much of any supplies for my photo, drawing and painting courses. I can look back at my film photographs and know that I captured those images through the same lens and view finder as my Poppy and when I look at my paintings.. I know they are painted by the same brushes, palette knives and paints that my grandfather once used. 

I dunno.. to me, that's just really special!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thrifty Thursday: Class & Trash

Last Friday one of my college girlfriends drove down from NOVA to visit for the afternoon. 
It was so nice to see her and just have a girls day! We went for lunch at Proper Pie (which will be its own post) and then headed to my and now Gillian's favorite thrift store in the Richmond area. 

 It may not look like much to the unknown eye, but to me it is a thrifter/DIY/artist/ all around old things paradise! They had lots of old windows and doors if you ever had need of one for a DIY project as well as some great fixer upper lawn furniture. 

 Hello gorgeous wrought iron gazebo! If I could take you home and put you in storage until I meet the right guy, fall in love, and get married I would! You'd be so pretty to say "I do's" under!

And these pretty white metal chairs! A little elbow grease to clean them up and then a fresh coast of bright yellow or blush pink paint and they'd be just like new!
 Metal wagon wheel, wrought iron picnic table.. oh the possibilities! 

 I really loved this glass vanity set. It was so pretty with the insides blush pink and the gold detailing. I should have grabbed them at just $5 a piece but I couldn't think of where I'd put them because well I have many pretty glass things much like these so I passed. Sigh. I'm sure they'll find a good home though. 
 This bold black leather chair caught Gillian's eye. I agreed it had a nice masculine look. Personally it reminded me of a lot of the furniture that was in my Nana and Grandfather's house growing up. 

After testing it out... 
 And getting my opinion on comfort... 

 She decided to get it. I have to add that Gill and her husband just bought an adorable house... and suddenly have more rooms to fill so this was going to be Mike's "man chair". I can't wait to see it in their house!

 As you can see, the shop is just packed with great finds for the imaginative thinker. 
Gill really loves this big old lamp post and wants to put it on her back patio... someday ;) It was here the 1st time she checked out the shop on her way back from her photo session with me a few months ago.  

I found a great find for myself there too, but it's gonna be saved for another post. It was a fun day of catching up and sharing a mutual love of bargain shopping with Gill. If you have an afternoon to spend I high recommend checking out Class and Trash in Ashland, Va! 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Visual Pick Me Ups

Since about January I've been really getting into keeping fresh flowers in more places around the house.  Pretty much my entire life I can remember fresh flowers on the kitchen table in our house. My mom has always been really good about it and its something she likes to have around to brighten up a space. 

My go to flowers, probably because they are my mom's favorite are carnations. These pretty flowers get overlooked a lot for the more exotic and romantic flowers like lilies and roses so they are always really reasonably priced at the market and they actually last way longer than most other flowers. If we get a brand new just cut bouquet ours can last 2-3 weeks! They also have a nice sweet fragrance and come in so many both natural and now altered artificially colors. 

I just find its nice to wake up every morning and see some bright color on my bathroom vanity to greet me each day. And through out the day as I may pass by where I've started putting out little vases its like a visual pick me up every time!
A cheery silent Hello!
One of my favorite flowers, though they don't last nearly as long are tulips. I just love how they look. 
We have a local grocery store that puts out discount bouquets twice a week right after their shipments of fresh flowers come in and 8 times out of 10 the discounted ones looks brand new and haven't even bloomed. Sometimes it takes a bit of looking through whats available to find the most closed buds but for $5 a week to have lovely fresh flowers its worth it! And it gives me the opportunity to have something different depending on what's in their inventory. 
So getting baby roses doesn't feel as frivolous when you didn't drop a big wad of $ for them! And these actually lasted a good two weeks. 

The other thing, now that spring is here and things are beginning to bloom is just getting cuttings from my mom's garden! That I think is the best way to have fresh flowers!

We have these beautiful camellia bushes that are actually from my Great Grand Mother Dorothy's garden! My grandmother brought down a portion still with roots and all years ago and they have been replanted at each home we've lived in! There are a few other plants in our garden that came originally from upstate NY and her garden as well! The camellia's grow these big fat pink blossoms.

The bushes get weighed down by them because there are so many and they are quite heavy. So I helped them out and cut off quite a few to brighten up inside. A lot of the blossoms fall off so I gathered the best ones up from beneath the bushes and placed them in a bowl with water and VOILA! A whole 'nother way to display flowers! 

The one other reason I enjoy keeping fresh flowers around is it gives me the opportunity to use some of the vases and apothecary bottles I've collected over the years and to use some of the ceramic one's I've made! Like the bowl above and the bud vase below!

Do you like keeping fresh flowers about the house? Have any favorites?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Candied Violets

So last week, while I was home one morning and taking my yorkie Fritz on a walk I had an internal dialogue with myself, this occur pretty often I must admit. But this one when something like this,

"Those are violets that grow like weeds in our yard, right? That's what Dad calls them, I think. (pause) Aren't violets edible? How could I use Violets in something?"
 (long pause as I continued to walk with Fritz) 
"Wait! Violets are one of the flowers commonly used for candied flowers! Like at For The Love of Chocolate in Carytown. And they are so crazy expensive there! I wonder if I could make candied flowers? I'm sure I could make candied flowers! And they'd essentially be free! I need to go do some research on edible flowers and candying them!" 

And then I quickly turned homewards with Fritz to do said research! And all of my thoughts were correct and the little purple flowers growing like weeds in my yard are in fact common violets and you can indeed eat them (Warning: if your yard has been chemically treated DO NOT use any edible plants from your yard for consumption! Our's hadn't been treated since well before winter so I went for it) and they can indeed be candied if you have the patience to do so!

So while it was still early and the violets hadn't yet been hit by full sun and gotten wilty I went outside and picked probably close to 100. I have an issue with quantity when it comes to projects like this, I always go for "MORE if more" over the Less if More and always pay for it in the end. 

The rest is pretty simple but is not for the impatient. This is a tedious and time consuming task so for a 1st time I'd start with 20 very nice looking Violets as large as you can find from a safe area that has not been treated with chemicals or pesticides and is not close to a road or busy traffic area as exhaust fumes can be absorbed into surrounding plant life making it unsafe for consumption.

Now I looked through a lot of different "candied flower" recipes and found two common themes for creating the glue that will adhere the sugar to the petals. I used the more old fashioned one because I had it readily available and because I eat raw cookie dough and cake batter but if you plan on serving someone who may be pregnant... go for the simple syrup instead of the egg white glue. 

Candied Violets Recipe: For Approximately 20 candied Violets
* Use only common Violets like the ones you see pictured here, Do Not use the more indoor common African Violets- those are for looks and not eating! 

Version 1 
20 freshly picked and washed violets with stems on- atleast 2 inches of stem
1 Egg white- from eggs you trust- beaten just til frothy. 
1/4-1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1 clean small soft bristled paint brush
Parchment Paper
2-3 toothpicks
Small Scissors (for trimming off stem once candied)

Version 2
Simple Syrup- to make put 1 cup water in small pan and heat to warm not boiling- then add sugar starting with 1/2 cup and stir until dissolved- continue adding until sugar no longer dissolves- you have simple syrup!
Everything in Version 1 minus egg whites. 

1st- clean your violets! However you rinse them make sure they get a good rinse and under a gentle flow of cool water, shake off gently then place on paper towels and allow to dry for 30 minutes. 

Now, assemble your Candying station- I recommend sitting down at a table. Have a bowl for your sugar, bowl with your "glue" of choice, paint brush, a plate to work on the violet and a lipped baking sheet to place the finished sugared violets on. 

Pick up your violet and brush each petal front and back with the liquid glue. Then sprinkle sugar over petals to coat, front and back... may need to touch up in areas brush missed. If flower looks wet after coating with sugar, coat it again. Once flower is nice and coated carefully lay it on parchment lined baking sheet and arrange petals face up how you'd like it to dry (enter tooth picks)- then snip off the stem with scissors. 

Repeat for each flower! 

Once all flowers have been candied- double check to see if you need to sprinkle more sugar over any and then place in a dry cool place away from people and pets to dry for 24-48 hours. Don't cover with clear wrap- I did and when I checked them the next day they'd gotten floppy- need to be left to open air so flowers can dehydrate and set. 

Once stiff and dryed out place in an airtight container and keep for up to 1 month! 

Use them as a pretty way to sweeten your tea (remove after sugar has dissolved) or to top cakes, cupcakes or even fresh fruit! 

Basically, after going to the trouble I would say this was a fun project.. though I was at it for 4 hours because of the 80 some violets I sugared... I have a knack for choosing tedious tasks! But aside from how pretty they come out and harken back to Victorian times which is one of my favorite Eras. Candied flowers are basically a pretty way of transporting sugar to your mouth. Its really not worth the effort unless you have a particular use for them like above mentioned suggestions in which case if you are willing to sacrifice a few hours it is definitely worth it over the crazy expensive price to buy them in specialty shops and is a rather fun and meditative activity! 

You can also candy Rose petals, Carnation Petals, John Jump-Ups, Fuschia, Impatiens, Pansies, as well as herbs like mint and lemon balm leaves which are especially great to put in your tea both to sweeten from the sugar on it and flavor!

Play around, just BE SURE to use plants from areas you trust and that you have identified for SURE as being EDIBLE! A quick internet search will pull up a lot of sites that are focused specifically on Foraged Food and even mention the taste of each edible flower!

DO NOT use store bought unless they are Organic and you really trust the seller but personally even then I would not use store bought unless maybe I specifically went to a florist and got their ok as a seller and DO NOT use flowers that are growing in either a place you know has been sprayed with chemicals or pesticides or you are unsure of having been sprayed or is near a road!
 Always better safe than sorry so if it means foregoing then accept it and instead add some of the edibles I mentioned to buying list for your spring/ summer herb pot/ garden so you can know for sure what's going into their soil and being sprayed on them which should be nothing except water. :)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Baked Strawberry Pie with Gluten Free Crust

So most birthdays we do cake... but it used to be that around spring we'd have strawberry pie... sometimes just because and sometimes for my mom's birthday since that's what she always had growing up for her birthday. 

So this year I decided I'd surprise mom and make her a strawberry pie for her birthday since she has been out of town on a church retreat. But our fridge was full to the brim with chicken stock and a million quart containers of Brunswick stew from the Spring Stew fundraiser my Dad and the men's group do at the church. Therefore the traditional gelatin based strawberry pie we always have wasn't going to have somewhere to set up in the fridge. 

Also gelatin kind of freaks me out because you never know if you've done the recipe right until its been 24 hours and you can see if the filling has set up and I didn't feel like possibly messing it up. (Yes, I know, I have perfectionist issues!) Plus the idea of a baked pie to go with the Homestead Creamery Vanilla Ice Cream I'd bought at our local farmer's market when I bought the strawberries just sounded better. 

So after doing a bit of recipe searching on the web I found what I felt would be the tastiest and semi easiest pie to bake (number of ingredients wise) and got to work!

While I am no longer following a strictly gluten free diet thanks to having my celiac tests come back negative... I used a gluten free pie crust because well... it is SERIOUSLY the best pie crust ever!

The recipe I took my cues from The Little Epicurean blog and I'm going to have to go back to visit because she had lovely photographs and lots of recipes I think I'd enjoy! 

I followed her recipe for the filling with a few adjustments along with her directions for pie construction but used my own gluten free pie crust.

Once you make this pie... you will find the idea of eating any store bought Strawberry Pie offensive! Why would you when you can have this goodness without a huge effort!?

So here it goes:
Gluten Free Baked Strawberry Pie:
(Modified Version of The Little Epicurians)
2 quarts washed hulled and sliced Strawberries (next time I'm going to use 3 quarts)
1/2 cup granulated sugar or more depending on strawberries sweetness (I used closer to 1 cup)
3 tbs cornstarch (next time I plan on doubling this to 6 tbs or testing out using tapioca powder)
1/2 tsp sea salt

For the crust:
I use Pamela's Bread Mix and follow the recipe on the back for Pie Crust.  I highly recommend it! It has the perfect balance of sweet and savory so it works for either kind of pie. It also comes out nice and flaky and holds up really well to juicy fillings. All you need to add is butter &/ or shortening ( I use both) and some ice cold water. Bonus... its Gluten Free but your friends and family will never know!
A few tbs milk
Large grain sugar- either turbino or decorative clear sugar sprinkles

To Make:
1. Follow recipe for pie crust. 
2. Once chilled roll out 1 ball of dough and carefully (extra careful because gluten free tends to break much easier than regular flour) place dough over greased pie dish and gently press into form. Trim off excess around edge using a knife. 
3. Place pie dish in fridge to chill while preparing strawberries. Also Preheat Oven to 450.
4. Wash, hull and drain strawberries. Slice- I sliced mine into 1/4 inch thick slices instead of quartering. 
5. Place stawberries in mixing bowl and add sugar (as much as you need according to how sweet your berries are) cornstarch and salt. Mix well with a spoon, the berries will naturally start giving off some juice which will help everything blend. 
6. Pull out pie dish and gently pour berries into the pie
7. Roll out your top crust between two sheets of parchement paper and gently lay over the top. Using thumbs firmly press crust around edges or use a fork
8. Cut 4 slits in pie around center to allow steam to escape
9. Brush a light coating of milk over crust and then sprinkle large grain sugar over
10. Bake in oven at 450 for 10 minutes, then turn down to 350 and bake another 45 turning pie every 15-20 so crust bakes evenly!

Let stand for at least an hour or two before serving. 

 If you don't have parchment paper you can use wax paper but seriously... there are so many uses for parchment paper.. you should have it in your kitchen as a staple!

The easiest/ best way to transfer your rolled out dough to place into or over pie dish without tearing dough... use your rolling pin and preferably 2 hands... but hey, I needed a photo! Also keep parchment paper along for the ride to keep dough from sticking to itself!

And VOILA! A beautifully baked Strawberry Pie! As you can see below... my pie had some leakage issues once we cut into it. All the same it tasted delicious! But I'm going to play around next time and make mini pies so I can figure out if adding more cornstarch or some tapioca and in what amount will do the trick!

We enjoyed the delectable sweet strawberry goodness and flaky gluten free crust with some Homestead Creamery Ice Cream all the same! The filling was delicious.. but seriously the crust... we all LOVE how good that Pamela's Gluten Free crust is!