July 29, 2010

scratch that.

Shadow is one of my favourites to take pictures of. Mostly because he doesn't mind having his photo taken and he is a very photogenic dog. Here is a set of six photos I took within about eight seconds of each other.
gettin' his scratch on
He sure does enjoy a good scratch.

July 27, 2010


Definitely been blogging less because the summer is just too good (and short) to pass up any opportunity to be out and about. For example, this is a photo I took of an amazing field of sunflowers just down the highway from where I live. Too good, right?
Driving by it this past week I've been longing to take a picture of it. Now that I have a picture, I want to share it with you. Hope you're enjoying your summer and the moments in the sun.

July 21, 2010


This is a picture of the button tufted camera bag made by Britt who blogs at Cucumbersome.
I am inspired. I want to baby my camera too. Right now it just gets shoved in my purse.

That's no way to treat a camera.

So I'm inspired by Britt's design and am working at fashioning a similar case for my own SLR. I'll share more with you when it's complete.

July 16, 2010

diana results.

Way back in November I shared with you the little crush I had on the diana camera. I also made promises to post the first photos from diana for you. Well, it's over half a year later and I have finally completed and developed my first roll of film. I am pleasantly surprised at how well they turned out because every time I took a photo I was worried that it wasn't going to work out; that either I moved and it would be blurry or that I held the shutter open for too long. I feel like I had a pretty good success rate. 17 out of the 20 photos I remember taking were deemed suitable enough to process according to the place I got the film developed. Not bad for a first try. Here are some of my favourites.

My biggest problem was making sure my object was in the centre of my frame, something I'll concentrate on better next time. I've already loaded up the diana again (this time to take square photos) and am looking forward to becoming even better at using her.

July 15, 2010

alphabet walk blog hop: the letter q.

Today I'm participating in the Alphabet Walk Blog Hop initiated by One Sydney Road. If this is your first time at Brown Boots, welcome! It's so nice of you to come visit. To paraphrase Seasame Street, the letter of the day is Q.

This first set of photos are a literal interpretation of the letter Q.

This second set is composed of photos where there is a Q-lettered attribute of these summer scenes.

Hope you enjoyed these. Feel free to browse around the rest of the site and see what else is happening here at Brown Boots.


July 8, 2010

book club: the secret life of bees.

Last night was book club night and we had a lot of fun discussing our book for June The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. Set in South Carolina in 1964, this is the story of fourteen year old Lily Owens who leaves home in search of freedom from her oppressive/abusive father and answers about her mother who was killed when Lily was four. She ends up in Tiburon, South Carolina after her stand-in mother/black nanny insults three very racist men from her hometown. In Tiburon she meets the black beekeeping Boatwright sisters, August, June, and May. Lily discovers the worlds of beekeeping and honey, the Black Madonna, and the power of sisterhood. This is a novel that inspires and makes you feel good.

One of the topics we discussed last night was how prominent race issues were in the book but how, at the same time, it didn't feel like Sue Monk Kidd was shoving the issue into the spotlight. Instead she artfully and subtly weaves issues of race in South Carolina in the 1960s into the story line. As a reader, you are able to feel the injustice of race politics even more strongly because of how she shows you the difficulties, she doesn't just tell you about them. That is the mark of a great author.

We also discussed the importance of sisterhood and community and how difficult it is feeling like you do not belong anywhere. We also spent a lot of time talking about T. Ray, Lily's dad (but as she says "I called T. Ray because 'Daddy' never fit him). We talked about who he truly was, if he ever told the truth, and if he was more involved in the killing of Lily's mom than he ever lets on in the novel. We also spent some time discussing what happens in the future for Lily, Zach, August, and the Daughters of Mary. It was really fun imagining beyond the story together. Shelley did a great job leading the discussion asking really interesting and poignant questions that really got us thinking.

Overall, this was a great book club night sitting out on the balcony - because it was just too stinkin' hot inside - with iced tea, lemonade, and great discussion. For the month of July we are reading The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill (a Burlington, Ontario based writer, so close to home). Feel free to join us while we aim to read it by August 3rd. Did you read The Secret Life of Bees with us or have you read it before? If so, what did you think of it? What did you love and what did you not? Leave your comments below.

July 2, 2010

blog love: more favourite freebies.

Okay, so this week I have shared all my secrets. Secrets of where I find all the awesome online graphic freebies, that is. I want to leave you with two sites that you probably already know and love, but if you don't know about them, you'll probably be happy I told you.
deviantART is a hub of artistry online. I like to use it for stock images but especially textures. You can spend hours searching around the site just admiring all the different graphics and textures that are offered. Have fun.

The second site I want to share with you should be no stranger for those who love fonts. dafont.com has hundreds, if not thousands, of fonts that are available both for a cost and for free. These fonts are created by different individuals and are categorized, making it is easy to find the font you need for a specific project. Some of my favourite fonts right now are Jane Austen, Traveling Typewriter, Learning Curve, DJ Kitchen. Hope you enjoy browsing through the variety of fonts and looking for your own favourites.
What are your favourite places for freebies on the web? Any of your favourites I've missed? Please share your favourite freebie hide-outs by leaving a comment below.

And since it is Friday, I'll leave you for the weekend with a few different things that I liked or felt inspired by this week:

Beautiful wedding invitations by Betsywhite (via snippet & ink).

This Tennessee mountain wedding (via Style Me Pretty)

Colourful crochet craft.

Have a great weekend!

July 1, 2010

blog love: pioneer woman.

Happy Canada Day! For those of us in Canada today is a day for barbeques, cottaging, spending time with family and friends, and fireworks. Food too, lots of food. So I guess it is appropriate that today's freebie comes from a lady who also has a cook book and whole recipe section to her blog. Ree, the Pioneer Woman, is a power blogger. By that I mean that her beautiful website includes a variety of categories, from cooking and homeschooling, to confessions and photography, this is one well-rounded blog.
But it is the photography section that I want to focus on today. Ree and a few others occasionally offer tutorials on how to use Photoshop and your camera better and often there are photography contests on the blog (with sweet prizes like Photoshop and DSLR cameras or Kitchen Aid stand mixers). Ree has done something really special though for those of us who use Photoshop. She has composed two different sets of actions (get them here). What is an action you ask? It is a package of predetermined adjustments and layers that go over your original photo to make it look softer, or more vintage, or brighter, or something different. I love Ree's actions because once it is done running it becomes one layer whereas other free actions I've used merge onto your original photo, so there is less flexibility in using them and testing them out on your photo. Of course they are also adjustable, meaning that you can change the opacity of the action if you feel it is too strong in its original form (some of them are meant to be adjusted even). Ree's actions are free and she has two sets of them. The first set includes actions called Lovely and Ethereal, Vintage, B&W Beauty, Boost, Quick Edge Burn, Old West, and Define & Sharpen. The second set of actions include Warmer, Cooler, Dim the Lights, Colorized, Sunshine, Bring Out The Eyes, Seventies, Heartland, Sharpen THIS!, and Sepia Tone. They are perfect to use those times that you do not want to spend lots of time fixing up a photo but it just needs a little pick-me-up. If you haven't discovered the Pioneer Woman Actions on your own before now, I hope you love them and, like me, wonder what you ever did before without them.

Thank you Ree for making such easy to use and wonderfully simple actions for Photoshop that even a beginner like me can use to make my photos four times better than anything I could do on my own!

June 30, 2010

blog love: clip art.

Keeping on theme with the graphics inspired favourite freebie websites from yesterday and the day before, today I want to share three great websites and blogs for free clip art online. This isn't your ordinary Microsoft-Word-from-the-90s clip art, mind you. Instead, this is a selection of unique graphics and vintage images that can be used for your own graphic designs or else printed out and framed as art in your home.

First up is the blog Vintage Printable. As I write this they're currently going through some reconstruction of their site, so you might not find it as interesting as you will in a few days. But trust me, when you do go visit and it is running at full capacity, the selection of images is broad and unique. You can find very specific images: from pathologies to botanical prints to blue prints to portraits to images from old books... You get the idea. I personally love the selection of maps and old community service announcement posters. You can literally spend hours searching through all the different images that they have. Enjoy yourself.

Up next is Tack-O-Rama, a site that is full of 'retro resources for designers.' This site has clip art but also fonts, stock photography, tiles, and custom shapes. I haven't used it too much yet, but it is fun looking through all the images and graphics reminiscent of the 1950s.

Lastly, I want to share with you the blog Graphics Fairy. Similar to Vintage Printable, this site has over 1,200 free clip art images available. She also uses her clip art finds in DIY crafts with tutorials. The Graphics Fairy uses images she finds or has at her home and posts new images every day (since 2007). That's a lot of images to browse through.

So hopefully you'll find yourself with too many images to deal with after this post (a good thing), and that you'll be able to use these resources the next time you're looking for the perfect image for your project.

June 29, 2010

blog love: eat drink chic.

Today is the second post in a series cataloguing my favourite places on the web for amazing freebies. This time I want to introduce you to Amy Moss of Eat Drink Chic. Based in Melbourne, Australia, Amy is a graphic designer who focuses on design for parties, weddings, entertaining, home, and fashion on her blog and provides inspiration, DIY ideas, and free downloads of stationery printables for all sorts of events. See her whole selection here.

I love her website because there is so much freebie selection and a wealth of creative ideas. I find her site encouraging in that I could throw a beautiful party while remaining on a budget by using her printables to join everything together (only using paper and my printer). I also am inspired to work at creating my own printables for events because I have learned so much from what she does.

I hope you enjoy browsing through Amy's site and are equally inspired and enthralled by what you find. Thank you Amy for all the hard work you put into your designs and downloads - they're truly amazing.

June 28, 2010

blog love: catalog living.

I was thinking of waiting until Friday to share with you a site I discovered on the weekend (via Young House Love) as it does not quite fit the theme of this weeks posts, but I just couldn't wait. The site is Catalog Living and it is updated and maintained by Molly Erdman, a Los Angeles-based actor, writer, and comedian. Started just a few weeks ago, Molly imagines the lives of the people (Gary and Elaine) who live inside catalogues such as Pottery Barn's, West Elm's, Williams-Sonoma's, and other furniture/living companies'.

She definitely has an eye for the comedic and odd items inside the 'finished' catalogue photos. Hope you enjoy reading through this new site as much as I do.

blog love: pugly pixel.

Good morning! I hope you all had a nice weekend. Caleb and I spent it up at the cottage with some friends. It was a really nice time.

Last week I left you with a hint that I was doing something great this week at Brown Boots. Here it is: I love using Photoshop to create images and touch up photos and recently I have found different blogs that offer, very generously, free downloadable web graphics, clip art, and Photoshop actions. I just have to share them with you. So each day this week I will be sharing with you my favourite go-to places on the web to get such wonderful freebies.

First up is the wonderfully fun and creative Katrina over at Pugly Pixel. Her specialty is clip art. She has the best downloadable 'paper cafe' filled with a variety of paper products including kraft paper envelopes, air mail envelopes, recipe cards, vellum envelopes, and different sheets. She also has doilies, medallions, tags, masking tape, and even macarons for you to use. How kind!

Not only are her downloads free but they are beautiful and oh so simple to use. She also makes some that are meant to be printed, so if you don't use Photoshop, I encourage you to hop on over to her site to check out the beautiful images anyway. You might find something you'd like to print out and use for a card or some other paper craft. See her whole collection here.

Thank you Katrina for all the hard work you put into creating such cute and versatile images for people like me who aren't quite that proficient with graphic design!

Check back tomorrow for the next awesome site for freebies on the web.

June 25, 2010

shoo fly, don't bother me.

It's Friday, and that means another summer weekend. As summer has officially started more and more time is being spent outdoors. I don't know about you, but it seems like mosquitoes and any sort of biting-insect love me. That's why I was so pleased to read Ashley English's Small Measures on Design*Sponge for natural insect repellant. By mixing up your own repellant or just using a few drops of certain essential oils you can keep the bugs at bay without worrying about what sort of manufactured chemicals you're spraying onto your skin.
As someone who is trying to eliminate the number of chemicals and toxins in our household, these ideas for natural insect repellant are a welcome alternative to store bought solutions.
Happy camping (or cottaging, or being outdoorsy) this weekend. Next week I have a special surprise theme for the week that I'm sure you'll love.

In the meantime, here are some links to check out over the weekend:

A beautiful girl's nursery via city love.

Painting with markers.

Addressing pretty mail.

A wonderful (and gluten free!) Saturday lunch.

June 24, 2010

tsol by shad.

There was a time during high-school when I really liked hip-hop. Maybe it was just because my friends did or maybe it was because my ears were younger and my mind liked/could handle the loud beats. I don't really listen to it now because the content in most hip-hop/rap is not something I want to fill my mind with and not a lifestyle I want to emulate. (At this point in my life, I'm more readily drawn to something like Sleeping at Last or Bon Iver.) However, when it comes to Shad and his new rap album TSOL (on iTunes or find it at HMV in the 'urban' section), I can't stop listening to it. In fact, I like the entire album so much I don't think I can even pick a favourite song. To paraphrase Brian Reagan, 'they're all favourites.'
Shad is an amazing lyricist. I'm always left feeling challenged by one lyric or another to evaluate my life and how I'm living. This isn't mindless rap. Shad's lyrics are clever, are flavoured with irony, and are always thought provoking. Every time I listen, something new catches my attention.
I feel like I really get to know Shad as a person and that we could be friends. I think one of the things I most appreciate about this album is the place of humility that it comes from. Throughout the entire album you can hear the obvious talent Shad has and yet he constantly announces that being a rap artist is a blessing and something he didn't quite expect to happen. It is refreshing to see those roots so clearly.
This album is pleasing to the ears, the mind, and even the soul. I hope you pick up a copy today and let your own mind be wowed.

Want more Shad? Check out his blog here, his MySpace here and Facebook here, and articles from the Toronto Star here and here.

June 23, 2010

toy story 3 treats.

Toy Story 3 came out last Friday. It makes me and Caleb feel so old to see that Andy is going off to college and that his dog is old and his toys are going to be given away because we were really young when the first movie came out. Nevertheless, everyone around us keeps saying that it is Pixar's best film to date, so I'm definitely interested in going to see it sometime.
If you also are from the Toy Story generation, or just love those good friends Woody and Buzz, then you might want to celebrate their third film with some treats. Bakerella created some great recipes for Disney Family to help you get in the mood of movie-watching. Below are a couple of my favourites. Her cake pops are so cute and look fun to eat too!

If you really want to jump into the Toy Story 3 action, there are lots of other treats and crafts to do here.

June 22, 2010

penne frittata with basil and ricotta

A week or two ago Caleb and I had this delicious Penne Frittata with Basil and Ricotta, and it is so easy to make and very delicious that I just had to share it with you.
I found the recipe over at Sunday Suppers and it has recently been featured in Martha Stewart Living. Caleb found the basil a little too strong, so I think the next time I make it I'll try a little less, or else some other sort of combination of flavours. I used my favourite penne made out of kamut flour instead of wheat and it tasted just fine. In fact, we almost ate the whole dish for dinner!

June 21, 2010

public bikes.

This summer Caleb and I are looking to become a one-car family. He does a lot of driving for work, so that means I might not always have access to a car. Luckily I'm really looking forward to biking places. Unluckily, I don't really have a bike to do that. Again, luckily, Miss. B over at the Blah, Blah, Blahg (and of The Bright Side Project) shared a little bike love the other day and I discovered a beautiful bike that has the look I like and has a few different speed options, something other bikes I've liked in the past do not. (Single speed bikes are not a good idea when living near the Escarpment - lots of hills.)

Public's bikes are made for cities and I love that their vision is for cities to reclaim streets and sidewalks for bikes and pedestrians (and that they want rush hour in America to look like the video below).

June 17, 2010

an epic yarn.

Now it is time to combine two of my favourite things: video games and textile crafts. I never even imagined a mixing of such two very different past-times, and yet, here we are today with just that.
Last night Caleb and I watched Nintendo's E3 presentation (we embrace our nerdiness) and Nintendo showcased a new game called Kirby's Epic Yarn to be released this fall. The 'epic yarn' is not telling of just the hopefully great storyline but also describes the screen setting/background of levels and Kirby himself. It is all made to look like fabric, embroidery, and yarn. It is so beautiful and creative and well done... I was almost drooling by the end.

Be sure to check out the promotional video of the game here - it looks so fun and really cute. Caleb and I can't wait to play it.

In other gamer news that is less cute but more of a throwback, Goldeneye 007 is coming to Wii. I never got past the third or fourth level in the original N64 version (for an eleven year old girl the music and dark setting were just too scary!) but maybe this time around I'll be better at it. Anyway, looks pretty fun.
Well, that's all the nerdiness I'm going to share with you today. Do you have a favourite videogame from when you were young that you'd like to see brought back? Do you have a favourite one now? (I do too, find out what I think of Super Mario Galaxy 2 soon!) I'd love to hear your thoughts and fond memories about gaming - just comment below.

June 15, 2010

a few dress sizes.

I am slowly becoming a photography enthusiast. You already know of my love for the Diana camera, but what you might not know is that I love using my DSLR to snap shots too. I'm trying to bring it as many places with me as I can - and in that strain I'm also trying to use it. Caleb tells me, and I admit, that I'm notorious for bringing it places and then never using it. (Mostly because I don't want to be that girl with a camera, you know? The one that makes everyone else feel awkward if the lens is pointed in their direction? Maybe that's just me.)
Anyway, I love using my camera, and then playing with my photos to make them even better using Photoshop. Thanks mostly to the Pioneer Woman and her wonderfully simple tutorials, I've learned a lot about how to use Photoshop better. The other day, I also found this little tutorial by Jen Kiaba via Paper n Stitch for cinching in things in a photo, distorting them to look different.
This is definitely a sort of airbrushing that I don't think you should get too carried away with (is there any sort of airbrushing you should get carried away with? Probably not). But, for something artistic like the dress image above, I think it could be a fun tool to play with. Click here for the full tutorial instructions.

June 8, 2010

colour collective.

Have you discovered Colour Collective yet? If not, you should traipse on over there immediately and admire Lauren Willhite's eye for colour. The concept is simple, she makes it seem simple anyway, taking colours from an inspiration piece and creating a beautiful pallette. They are a great starting point for any sort of creative project - a small design project or styling a whole room. A lot of her inspiration is from various designers, artists, and photographers. What a neat way to look at pieces of art. Below are a few of my favourites from her site.

What a great practice, to look at images and work to extrapolate a beautiful colour pallette. Looks like it might be a fun thing to do. I'd like to try it, what do you think?

Update: Oops, maybe you have heard of Colour Collective - apparently Lauren is over at Design*Sponge this week as the guest blogger. I guess I'm just behind in the times.

June 7, 2010

book club: the boy in the striped pajamas.

Happy Monday! I hope your weekend as as fun as ours - two barbeque parties, baseball, and a movie night.
This week I want to start off by introducing a new recurring section of Brown Boots, the Book Club. Starting back in January, me and a small group of my girlfriends have regularly got together to discuss a novel we've all read. The Good Book Club, as it's officially known, has a few very simple rules: 1. We only read novels, 2. Whoever picks the novel for the month is responsible for leading the discussion, and 3. Official snack of the book club is brie, a baguette, and chocolate. (Unofficial rule number 4. We always try to watch the movie of the novel, if there is one, to see how it compares.)

I thought it would be neat to share with you all the different novels that we're reading and let you know what we're reading for the next month, in case you'd like to follow along.

For the month of May we read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne. This is a story of nine-year old Bruno and his friend Shmuel (said like shmole). The setting is during World War Two, although Bruno doesn't really know that. Bruno's dad is a high-ranking soldier and he has to move to a place called Out-with because the Fury told them to. One day Bruno is out adventuring around their home and comes upon a fence with a boy behind it. They develop a great friendship that transcends fences and prejudice. I won't spoil how the book ends (you should read it to find out!). Boyne does a marvelous job at not making this a book specifically about the Holocaust, but about any and all places in the world where there are fences (real or metaphorical) dividing people from one another.

One of my favourite questions that Mel asked us was about whether there are any places in our lives where we experience fences. Our fences are not as serious as the one in the book - where a genocide is occuring - but can be as simple as not understanding the deep poverty experienced by those living in the east end of Hamilton. Or, not making an effort to get to know new immigrants to Hamilton. We definitely left feeling challenged to surmount the fences in our lives and work at understanding people better.

We also watched the movie following our discussion, and even though it is only an hour and a half, we all felt that it stayed true to the novel (unlike some movies where they change the ending and spoil the story!).

For the month of June we are reading The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. Feel free to join us!

June 4, 2010

new pillows.

Good morning, today I want to share with you some pillows that I made last weekend and now have a home in our family room.
I used this, this, and this fabric from Ikea to make these pillows. At first I was hoping to make spring-like floral print pillows but once I saw the aforementioned fabric my mind went elsewhere. Godzilla and post-war Japanese city themed pillows are the result. I love my new pillows (Caleb does too) and I put a zipper in at the bottom using this tutorial. With the zipper in the bottom I can take the covers off to wash, or can easily change them for another season/style instead of having the storage issues of different throw pillows in my linen closet. Super simple and easy to make, you should try your own!

May 31, 2010

lemon raspberry oatmeal muffins.

Finding out I was allergic to wheat one year ago took a toll on my baking adventures. I am still learning how to substitute different flours into my baked goods to yield similar results (and taste) as using good ol' all purpose flour. Many of these trials have resulted in sub-par baked goods or outright failures, but on Saturday morning I baked some muffins, and boy, were they delicious!
These muffins are light and fluffy with a mild lemon flavour that compliments the raspberries just right. This tangy citrus flavour is balanced out nicely by the sweet oat meal, making this a delicious recipe that is easy to make.
Lemon Raspberry Oatmeal Muffins

Adapted from The Complete Canadian Living Cookbook, by Elizabeth Baird.

The original recipe calls for two cups of all-purpose flour so if you'd like to do that, feel free. Even if you aren't allergic to wheat or have a sensitivity to gluten, using different flours in your everyday baking is a great way to integrate more food types into your diet. Different grains have different benefits, and everyone's body can use more diversity in the types of foods we eat.

This recipe also calls for buttermilk. If you don't have buttermilk on hand, don't worry, I never do either. Instead for every 1 cup of buttermilk called for in a recipe use one cup of regular milk with 1 Tbsp. vinegar or lemon juice stirred together and left to sit for 10 minutes to let the acid permeate the milk. There, you have a pretty close resemblance to butter milk.

1 cup oat flour
1 cup buckwheat flour (these are the two I chose for this recipe, but choose whatever types you want)
1¼ cup buttermilk
1 cup packed brown sugar
1½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

1 cup quick coking rolled oats

1 Tbsp. grated lemon rind

2 eggs

⅓ cup vegetable oil (I use canola because it is very flavour neutral)

1 tsp vanilla

¾ cup frozen raspberries

Preheat oven to 375℉.

In a large bowl combine flour and buttermilk. Let sit for 10 minutes (or longer, make ahead the night before and allow to sit overnight - soaking the grains makes the muffins nice and moist).

To the flour and buttermilk mixture add brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, rolled oats and lemon rind.

In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, and vanilla. Pour over dry ingredients and mix until the dry ingredients are moistened.

Sprinkle frozen raspberries (feel free to use more than amount above) over mixture and fold into batter.

Spoon into greased or paper-lined muffin cups and bake for 20-25 minutes or until tops are firm to the touch. Let cool in pan on rack for 5 minutes. Transfer to racks and let cool completely.

Yield: 24 muffins (although the original recipe says 12, so I guess it depends on how much you pour into your muffin cups - I filled them ¾ full).

Store in airtight contain for 2 days or freeze for up to 2 weeks.

May 26, 2010

hitting the wall.

What to do with an empty wall?

Hang a collection of different pieces of art (on the cheap)

Hang any collection:

Not sure how to hang your collection on your wall? Then check out the nifty design*sponge video below of Amy Merrick sharing how she hung her plate wall.

May 25, 2010

urban garden.

In Canada, Victoria Day - the wonderful kick off to cottaging long holiday weekend in May - is also a great opportunity to get the garden growing. Although we live in a small apartment with only a few plants, in the spirit of outdoor gardening I want to share a great book I read a few weeks ago by Gayla Trail of the ten-year strong gardening project You Grow Girl. The book is Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from Small Spaces and while it specifically targets the challenges of growing food in small urban spaces, there are tips and tricks throughout the book that anyone interested in growing their own fruits and vegetables will benefit from.

My favourite thing about the book is that it actually makes me feel like I have a chance of growing great food in my own small space. The book empowers you by providing lots of information about countering pest infestations in natural ways and also reviews a variety of different fruits and vegetables and what sort of environment they require in order to survive. She also includes lots of tips and tricks for container gardening (even growing upside down tomatoes!). Gayla also includes a few recipes and preserving techniques for your bountiful harverst. She makes gardening look like something that you are able to accomplish and enjoy the results of your hard work regardless of the space you are gardening in. Run to your local library or favourite bookstore to get your hands on a copy of this wonderful guide - you won't be disappointed.

find more previews of the book here

May 22, 2010

friendly music.

I want to continue on the thread of awesome-music-made-by-people-we-know from yesterday.
This first video is made by my old camp friend's husband Mike. The entire song - Firefly by Owl City - is composed using just his voice, mouth, and drinking glasses. He is amazing and this video will surely blow you away.

And if your head has not completely exploded yet at his amazing talent and ability to put together such complex sounding music, check out his cover of Party in the USA by Miley Cyrus.

As well, I need to mention that Shad is coming out with a new album on May 25. He is a super talented hip hop artist from Canada who does not spend time rapping about money, sex, and power - but issues that are real while using witty lyrics and impeccable rhythm. You can get his new single before the album comes out here and see all of his work here.
Below is one of his music videos - one of my favourite music videos of all time.

Update June 24: Mike was recently on Canada AM. Check out the video here. Also, Shad's album is out and it is great!

May 21, 2010

peanut butter cups.

Last night, for 'girls' night,' I had an opportunity to make some peanut butter cups. All week I had been craving some choclate-y goodness so when I was given the opportunity to make the dessert for our night I just had to make these delicious little cups.
Best when slightly chilled, these little guys are very sweet with just the right amount of saltiness - just enough salt that it seems an afterthought. If not restrained, I could probably gobble up half a dozen of them and then suffer a sugar-high for the next week and a half. These babies are sweet and good, but a single one makes a good serving (or two ... depending on how long the 'dessert portion' of your meal lasts into the evening).
The original recipe is found in Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It by Karen Solomon (Ten Speed Press) - a book I first discovered here. I followed her recipe precisely for the batch I made last night.
The original recipe calls for confectioners' sugar but I think that substituting fine sugar or granulated sugar in place of the confectioners' sugar will make the inside just a teensy bit grainier and even more crumbly - something I thought would add just a little additional texture to these lovely peanut butter cups.

Peanut Butter Cups
Adapted slightly from Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It

1 cups fresh roasted and salted peanuts
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon neutral vegetable oil, like canola or sunflower
2 tablespoons fine or granulated sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon salt


2 cups chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

I used milk chocolate, a chocolate I love, which made them very sweet. For less sweet cups use semi-sweet or dark chocolate.

Place paper or silicone liners in cupcake pan nearby.

To make the filling, in a food processor, puree the peanuts for 3 to 4 minutes, until they are very smooth - almost like the creamy peanut butter you buy at the store.

Add the honey, oil, sugar, vanilla, and salt and puree until completely combined.

Using about 2 teaspoons at a time, form 12 evenly sized balls of the peanut butter mixture and flatten into discs that will fit into the centre of the cupcake liner but not touch the sides.

To prepare the coating microwave the chocolate on high for 1-minute, stir well with a fork to distribute the heat. Microwave for 1-minute more and stir again. You may possibly have to heat your chocolate for another 30 - 60 seconds, what you're aiming for is melted chocolate that looks satiny and comes off the fork in ribbons with no clumps.

Working quickly, place just less than a tablespoon of chocolate in the bottom of a liner. Move the chocolate around so it completely covers the bottom and the sides part-way up. Gently drop the peanut butter disc into the centre of the liner and tap it gently into the chocolate, being careful not to push it all the way through the chocolate to the bottom.

Cover the peanut butter centres with another half-tablespoon (approximate) of chocolate, covering the top completely and allowing it to surround the sides of the peanut butter centre.

To smooth to tops either use a spoon or gently shake the cupcake pan. Let sit, undisturbd, for at least 4 hours, until the cups harden completly.

Note: After waiting 4 hours, our cups were still not solid (and we ate our first 'taste-test' cups with a spoon). Although advised in the cook book not to refrigerate, I have and they taste delicious and slightly hard and they melt ever-so-slowly in your hand as you eat them.

These will store up to 2 weeks in an airtight container, that is, if you don't eat them all immediately.

Yield: 12 peanut butter cups

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