Thursday, July 12, 2012

Shadows and Light

I have a theory about how a house becomes a home--I think it's when you receive your first big packages in the mail to your new address.  Of course, there are lots of other ideas about this topic:  a house becomes a home when there is love inside; when a wedding takes place there; a child is born in it. Since I have not been married nor do I have children, and I think the love one is just a give in, I am going to stand by my theory and say, yes, a house is a home when you receive packages to it.

Like I did today. Two packages.

First Package: My Cowboy Studio External Flash Transmitter and Receiver for my camera arrived today. Super Yay!

Second Package: My very own copy of Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury edited by Sam Weller and Mort Castle, featuring stories by Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Audrey Niffenegger, and Joe Hill (who wrote the book Horns, which my friend Ross gave to me as a "moving from one house to another house" present--and it was a fantastic read, and I highly recommend it).

There are many other authors, and because, yes I just received this book less than 5 hours ago, I have not had a chance to read any of the stories--but I am telling you all, it is going to be good, and you really should consider a copy--Available at amazon, and those of you in La Crosse, order it from Pearl Street Books. Give those independent sellers some love.

So, I have new camera equipment and a new book. The next logical step is...a Photo-shoot!

Since my partner in crime is at work and I don't have any new friends in town yet, I had to use myself as a model, which means I rolled around in the grass, with mosquitoes and gnats buzzing in my face. The grass made me pretty itchy too, and it was fairly hot.  I did just finish working a very long day and I was feeling a little anxious about not getting enough exercise. Well, let me tell you, running out in front of your camera before the 10 second timer goes of, laying down, trying to look in some way decent, and then jumping back up, all without glasses on in 80 degree heat becomes quite a work out.  Derby Girls, think explosive squats over, and over, and over again. It is about the same thing.

My goal was to create something moody using my new light system, something that would of course create intense shadows, but would mainly showcase the book.  I had the good fortune to talk with Sam Weller about this book in March at the Gene Wolfe Gala, and I have been looking forward to its release ever since.

I saw a little while ago Sam was running a contest on his twitter for recipients of the book to showcase and promote it in a creative way--I hope others took up the challenge.  I had the idea for this photograph for couple of days ago knowing that both packages were arriving on the same day,  I thought "Genius! Photos of my new book with new camera equipment".

Now,  I know this photograph isn't is, if anything ok. What it is, is my first attempt  figuring out how to use this lighting system outside. Had I had a beautiful model/girlfriend/bestfriend/husband/wife/boyfriend to take photos of instead of myself, I think it would have come out even better...but here it is:

Pretty much what I look like after getting up to work at 6:00 am and working ten hours and then coming home to work on wedding photography.  All in all it was a pretty good day. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Opening Windows

We have been experiencing a heat wave here in the Midwest--but yesterday morning the temperatures finally dropped and Ethan and I were able to investigate how exactly to open our storm windows.  For this entire last month in our new house, only a few of the windows opened.  We knew the others had to, but with our busy schedules and then ensuing heat, we admittedly allowed ourselves to partake in our air conditioning--a luxury we have only ever used in the last year of our seven years together. Somewhere in between his working in a meat cooler with several layers on to keep warm even in the height of summer, and myself working in a kitchen with very poor humidity control--we decided we would use our air conditioning when the temperatures reached the mid nineties or higher.  Luckily, this only lasts a few days at the most.  Using the conditioning gives us headaches, and generally, I believe, keeps us from acclimating to the world in the ways we need to survive.

Last weekend was particularly bad in terms of temperature and my mood.  I had Monday free, so I was determined to find the yarn shop in Rochester and maybe someplace good to eat.  I set out on my adventure, and quickly began to sweat so profusely as well as simultaneously pelted by the moisture sucking wind,  I became pretty disoriented and eventually lost. I drove right past the shop without even noticing it.

I ended up coming home and with all the windows shut, and the majority without a known way to open  them--I began to feel claustrophobic.  The way I dealt with this was by writing, which helped a lot and calmed me down. It wasn't until yesterday, with the break in the heat that we discovered how to open the rest of the windows-and I am finally beginning to feel a little at home.

The wind can breath through my home, I can listen to the bugs and leaves outside of my creative writing space and magically I feel no longer a prisoner--but a girl who made a choice. A choice to live somewhere else, to learn new things, to try.

Just the simple act of opening windows brought me new life.  I felt excited about exploring my neighborhood, which has some amazing bike trails just blocks away from our front yard.

And because the world needs more photos of flowers, here are two of the images from our hike yesterday. It was really a good Saturday, filled with our first visit to the Rochester Farmers Market, exercise, and lots of communication with friends.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Raspberry Basil Scones

One thing I love about baking is pairing different flavors--sweets and savories. I enjoy coming up with odd couple ingredients and making them work.  A quick google search shows I am definitely not the first person to be inspired to try basil in a sweet bakery treat, but this is my first attempt.
Fresh Raspberries from Hoch's Orchard in La Crescent, MN and Basil from State Line Produce, IA.

To make my Raspberry Basil Scones you will need:
1 cup Fresh Raspberries
1/2 cup Fresh Basil, chopped
3 Cups of All Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Natural, Unbleached Sugar
5 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Salt
3/4 Cup Cold Butter
1 Egg, gently beaten
1 cup Buttermilk
and for a little color and texture, 1/4 cup poppy seeds, but this ingredient is totally optional
Pre-heated oven at 400 Degrees F.

First, measure out all dry ingredients into a big bowl.
All Dry Ingredients purchased from the fabulous Bulk Room at People's Food Co-op Rochester

Mix by hand gently until all the dry ingredients are well incorporated. 

Then, take the cold butter and cut it into smallish pieces dropping them into the dry mix. Use a pastry knife, fork, or your hands to cut the butter into the dry mix until it is crumbly. 
For those of you with lactose intolerance, try using soy butter and almond milk in place of the above dairy ingredients.

Next,  Pour in your raspberries and basil, and mix gently. 

Crack your egg into a measuring cup or bowl, and then measure out the cup of buttermilk. Mix both of these wet ingredients together, until just slightly blended, but not overly whipped. 
Create a whole in the center of your dry mix and pour your wet ingredients into it, and then begin to combine the mix by hand, until the dry ingredients are just moistened.  You want the dough to be sticky, and not overly worked. 

At this point, I suggest putting the dough into the fridge for 15 minutes to help the butter hardened up again. This will help your pastry to be fluffy and flaky in all the right ways.

Once the dough has rested in the fridge for a bit, poor out the dough onto a slightly floured surface, and gently knead it to form a big circular dough round, about an inch thick. For a sturdier scone, knead more. I want mine fluffy, so I barely kneaded them at all. 

  Cut the round into eight wedges and place on a lined baking sheet, or in my case, a casserole dish, because I still cannot find my cookie sheets from the move.  I like to top the uncooked scones with a little more sugar to give them a nice sweet coating on the outside. 
Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown.   Mine have come out fluffy, just like I wanted. They didn't rise quite as much as normal scones, but I think this is because it is really warm in my house (baking on the first day of July will do some weird things) and I think I accidentally turned my oven off for a few minutes in the baking process.  This is the first baking project in my new home, so figuring out the oven is part of the adventure!  
I just took my first bite, and they are amazing!!!

* All Photos by Maura Henn,