Fight the Funk Friday

Linking up with Ozzypip--You go, Philippa! Way to do a linky!

No great shakes on the exercise front this week.

I blame no less than four birthday celebrations in five days.

Saturday and Sunday were already discussed in a previous blog post. Then my husband took me out for dinner on Tuesday for my actual birthday. Then my husband and I met friends for dinner on Wednesday for my friend's birthday. (I'm exactly 364 days younger than her, which I remind her every year.)

I was on my feet quite a bit Saturday and Sunday, but didn't really rack up a lot of steps. My husband and I went for a very long walk on Monday and I have the mosquito bites to prove it. Tuesday and Wednesday were exercise-free since I was having to bounce for dinner as soon as work was done. And last night, Thursday, I chose to go to my Weight Watchers meeting rather than the gym. Going to those meetings helps me stay focused--I've learned they're pretty critical to my personal success, especially on weeks I haven't done so hot. I use the eTools but I've found doing it online only doesn't work as well for me--far too easy to lose focus. I compare going to WW to going to church: For 45 minutes once a week I'm completely focused on health and I get my jam on again for the rest of the week.

Friday, Aug 22: 8,477 steps (good walk on the canal but not much moving around otherwise during a long work day)

Saturday, Aug 23: 5,225 steps (but several hours on my feet and also working a pasta machine with a hand-crank!)

Sunday, Aug 24: 7,801 steps (groceries, party prep, making pasta with a rolling pin which has to be a good upper body workout, and again, several hours on my feet)

Monday, Aug 25: 10,717 steps (a 3 1/2 mile walk on mostquito-infested roads)

Tuesday, Aug 26: I celebrated my birthday by getting the lowest step count of the week, only walking 2,525 steps. But that's about 1000 more than I would have otherwise--I took a few laps around the backyard every time I took the dogs out.

Wednesday, Aug 27: 4,463 steps--I had a short errand to run before meeting our friends for dinner so I did pick up a few extra steps, anyway.

Thursday, Aug 28: 4,483 steps. Better than I thought I'd be, but still not where it needed to be. But this week is a new week!

My eating wasn't terrible-horrible, although there was some cake that may have been involved. Still, there's bunches of room for improvement. I'm sure learning how to make pasta will fix that. (Umm...well...that's my story and I'm sticking to it, anyway.)

More playing with #Waterlogue app while enjoying my birthday bouquet while it lasts...

More playing with #Waterlogue app while enjoying my birthday bouquet while it lasts...

On the other hand, in terms of "fighting the funk," I did spend a whole lot of time outside this past week, soaking as much sunlight up as possible. I really can feel November's cloud cover looming. And, of course, there was a ton of family and friend time, which is also good for mood improvement in my case, as I'm blessed with great relationships with both family and friends! Although I was also happy for the recovery time of being alone in the house afterwards.


This week's Fight the Funk recommendation:

Spend time with a happy dog.




Thinkin' About It Thursday

This week, I'm thinking...

  • That if I have one more birthday celebration (mine or anyone else's) I really won't want to get on the scale again anytime soon.
  • That going out to dinner two days in a row on weekdays also means I miss two consecutive days of exercise.
    • See first bullet point above.
  • That I've seen more family and friends in the last six days than in the last six weeks.
  • That I'm enjoying that, but I'm also looking forward to a quiet weekend.
  • That I won't get that quiet weekend for awhile since we're going to see DD at college this weekend.
  • That I can't wait to see her new living arrangements.
  • That I'm hoping we don't have to buy her anything else for her dorm room.
  • That it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that when I got my new Artisan Pasta book from UPS today, the very first page I flipped to had a recipe for Chocolate Pasta.
  • That I apparently have an unfailing radar for chocolate.
  • That maybe I can convince my husband to like pasta if it's got chocolate involved.
    • As long as it doesn't also involve melty cheese.
    • Because that makes him gag.
  • That the dogs are sticking close because after watching DD's taillights go down the driveway Monday they're terrified all their humans will start disappearing on them.
  • That end-of-summer flies are the most obnoxious kind of flies of all.
  • That three flies can be obnoxious enough to feel like there's 60 in the house.
  • That they keep running into me as I'm walking down the hall because they don't fly out of the way fast enough.
  • How dogs seem to want to eat flies.
  • That the sight of Sammy trying to catch a fly is entertaining.
  • But that I hope I'm out of the room if he ever does catch one and eat it.
    • Hashtag gross.

A Not-So-Random App Review (with Quilty Implications)

This is random, but not entirely off-topic as I can definitely see quilty (and dye-y) implications from this.

The very first experiment.

The very first experiment.

I follow Lyric Kinard's blog, and this morning she posted about an app she'd started playing with, named Waterlogue. I immediately downloaded it and started messing with it myself. 



I love this app. 

Mind you, I've got several photo-editing apps and most have some sort of watercolor filter effect but I've never seen any of them work as well as this one. 

I was posting these images to Twitter and a couple of folks checked out the app and have since downloaded it themselves. Unfortunately, we also discovered it's only available for iPhone/iPad, but not Android*. Sorry about that!  

My favorite Happy Sam photo.

My favorite Happy Sam photo.

It has 12 different filters with very different effects--my photos here only include three or four of them. It's fascinating to watch how each filter interprets your original photo. You definitely get a lesson in line and color as each filter breaks your photo down into component parts. 

Other than just good, clean fun, what are the quilty and hand-dye-y applications? Well, gee, let me count the ways. At the simplest, you could print the resulting image onto fabric and thread-sketch or quilt it up for a nice art quilt. You could use the watercolor image as a guide for an applique version: It breaks complicated colors from a photo down into much simpler color splotches (which is a very technical artistic term) that would make it easier to interpret those colors into fabric. You could use the outlines it creates in some filters as a guide to hand-draw the image onto your fabric. For hand-dyeing/painting, the benefits are pretty obvious: It gives you a clear view of what colors appear in the photo that you could easily use as a guide for creating a project. 

(I stole this photo from one that @sewexcitedquilts tweeted this morning of sunrise on a lake. Thanks, Jackie!)

(I stole this photo from one that @sewexcitedquilts tweeted this morning of sunrise on a lake. Thanks, Jackie!)

The app is $2.99. I'd say I've already had about $3.75 worth of fun and I've only had the app for about four hours. When I start using it as a way to create a quilt design? Priceless.

I'll close this blog out with a gallery of the original photos with their filtered counterparts. I've got it set in autoplay to change images every two seconds, but you have controls on the right and left to move forward and back if you want to see something again. If you can't see the gallery in whatever way you're receiving this blog, just go straight to my website.  

*The Waterlogue blog explains that they have no plans to release it on Android. They're a small, independent iOS developer and Android is much harder to program with reliable stability as it's used on such a wide variety of devices. If you want to read the whole blog post, go to their blog.  (You may have to scroll down to find the pertinent post.)

A Little Bit about Birthdays and Food

So yep, a birthday happened here. This week, I turned 49. Age doesn't bother me--I guess I figure I've earned every one of these years or something. Still n' all, it often surprises me to think, "Oh. I'm 49. How did that happen?"

I'd rather have reached 49 than the alternative. Thus, no hiding my age or being coy or cagey here. It is what it is, and I've had a great 49 years. Looking forward to the rest!

(For those of you reading this through feed readers or email, there's a photo gallery that appears here with controls for sliding photos back and forth. You may not see it in feeds and may need to check the website version.)

This year for my birthday, I did a cooking class at the New York Wine and Culinary Center and invited a few family members to join me. There were eight of us: me and my husband, my son and daughter, my nephew, my mother-in-law, and my brother-in-law and his girlfriend.  You work in pairs, so I paired with my daughter, my husband was with my mother-in-law, my son and nephew worked together, and my brother-in-law and his girlfriend were a pair. I went with eight as that's the number to fully surround one island in the classroom (four stations of two people each at every island). Everyone cooks their own dishes, but then you can share around the island--or even through the classroom--as you may choose. (The gallery shows my family and everyone's dishes--my son and nephew brought in a ringer and a chef-in-training did their plating for them. You can tell.)

I've taken several classes there before and have blogged about them in the past (here's one, and here's one, and here's one with a recipe I learned at a class, and here's another one). My favorite is the Farmer's Market class, so that's the one I chose for my birthday celebration. You start out by meeting at the Farmer's Market in the town where the institute is located, and the chef talks you through the process, lets you know what proteins and pantry items are available at the institute, and then gives you a portion of your registration fee back in cash and sets you loose on the vendors. You make up your meal plan as you go, making use of the chef as consultant as needed. My daughter and I were partners since she's a vegetarian and I was game to go meat-free, and we decided it would be fun to learn how to make pasta. I've looked into doing it in the past, but had never taken the dive. What better time, though, than when surrounded by chefs and culinary students?

DD and my ravioli

DD and my ravioli

And now I'm hooked.

I made the ravioli, and my daughter made the sauce. She riffed off a sauce she sometimes makes at home--also with no recipe. (My daughter has developed my love for free-wheeling cooking. Recipe? We don't need no stinkin' recipe.)

We filled the ravioli with a mixture of risotto, arugula (we wanted spinach but there wasn't any at the market--at this time of year? Really?), and garlic. The sauce has roasted red peppers--and she roasted those peppers too--tomato, onion, garlic, and fresh basil. Then we sprinkled some of the arugula over the top for pretties. Everyone loved it!

I fell in love. Just like making bread from scratch, there's something so wonderfully elemental about creating your own pasta from the egg up. I immediately started dreaming up all sorts of combinations of ravioli fillings and sauces.

The next day, on Sunday, I made homemade ravioli for a pasta salad for our family celebration (me and my father-in-law share a birthday). Without a pasta maker, I was rolling it out by hand with a rolling pin so it wasn't quite as thin, and I wasn't able to make as many ravioli. So, rather than pasta salad as a side dish, I served it as an appetizer. This time the ravioli was filled with ricotta, roasted red peppers bought from a store, fresh grated parmesan, and garlic; I tossed it with grape tomatoes, fresh basil, and more fresh grated parmesan. Even though the pasta was a little more chewy and thick because my rolling technique was a little rough, people still loved it. And I had a blast.

And so, my husband bought me a pasta maker for my birthday--and a drying rack, and a ravioli mold. The shipment should get here tomorrow. Mind you--this isn't self-serving for him. He doesn't actually like pasta, and he hates gooey cheese (so he's not big on cheese-filled anything). He'll eat it if I make it but it's nothing he'd look forward to. So buying me a pasta maker is truly an act of love on his part. And I'll be giving a lot away.

I also ordered the book Making Artisan Pasta by Aliza Green. It got good reviews; I should get that one later today.

And then, because it was on sale and I'm on fire, I bought a new Craftsy class: Homemade Italian Pasta with Guiliano Hazan. ready for more pics of pasta to come!




Fight the Funk Friday

Two quick notes before I begin:

1. I've noticed that the Fight the Funk image--and often other pictures--don't show up in Feedly for some reason. They used to, so some glitch happened somewhere. I haven't had time to figure it out yet--so if you want to see the pics, you'll need to click through to the website. Sorry!

2. For those of you who were asking: Princess Doggie (Spencer) has experienced a full recovery from whatever her mysterious malady was. By late last night she was back to her usual freakish self. It's good to have her back, as annoying as she can occasionally be. Freak.

And so, on to my Fitness Friday/Fight the Funk Friday. Be sure to check out ozzypip too! Sandy at Quilt Cabana Corner is on vacation this week, racking up the steps and ready to knock us all down a few pegs on that leaderboard. Looking forward to hearing her report when she's back!

Friday 8/15: Walked the canal with Sammy for 90 minutes. Total 10,455 steps for day.

Saturday 8/16: Planned on walking the canal with Sammy for 30 mins. Ended up walking the canal with DH for 90 minutes instead. I told him he was almost as fun a walking companion as Sam but not as nice to scratch behind the ears. Total 13k steps for day. (Also got groceries in the morning which accounted for nearly 2500 of those steps--we were way behind in our grocery shopping!)

Sunday 8/17: Slept. A lot. Apparently my body needed some recovery time. (2,325 steps--woo.)

Monday 8/18: Gym and elliptical for 45 minutes. Total 11,183 steps for the day.

A very happy walking companion wearing his "oopsie" bag--which remained empty--and my wrist wallet with car keys and ID attached to his collar. He's happier when he's got a job.

A very happy walking companion wearing his "oopsie" bag--which remained empty--and my wrist wallet with car keys and ID attached to his collar. He's happier when he's got a job.

Tuesday 8/19: Beautiful day with lousy weather predicted for the rest of the week, so I opted to do a canal walk with Sammy rather than the gym. I was dragging a bit again, and my shin started cramping up partway through the walk. I completed the entire walk (45 minutes, about 2.5 miles) but slower than usual with a couple of breaks for stretching; total 7,464 for the day.

Wed 8/20: Gym and elliptical for 45 minutes. Total 11,210 steps for the day.

Thur 8/21: I went to my WW meeting--which is during my usual workout time after work, so Thursdays are a little trickier in terms of getting steps in. Total 3,071.

This week, I moved from somewhere in the 30s to ranking #17 on my leaderboard in FitBit. I'd like to be in the single digits but to do that I have to get better at working more steps into the day rather than just when I'm getting to the gym. Still n' all, not too shabby for my first full week back in the game.

This week's #fightthefunk recommendation: Good sleep is key to a good mood. I've often had a cup of chamomile tea at night to try to help me sleep, but to be honest, I'm not a huge fan of the flavor of straight chamomile. Meh. I was much happier when I discovered this wonderful Chamomile Lemon Tea. (The link is for Amazon, but I get this in my local Wegmans grocery store.)

It's not a strong lemon flavor at all--just very nice and mellow and tasty. Although some insomnia nights still require actual sleeping meds, this tea helps me settle down on an average evening, and get in the mood for some zzzs.

A New Craftsy Class that I Helped Make Happen! Woo!

Okay, so I must have been one of thousands who helped make this happen, but still--it just goes to show it's worth it to submit ideas!

Probably around a year ago now, after I'd taken a couple of the cooking classes from Craftsy, I submitted a comment saying that I'd love to see them do classes geared at new cooks: college kids, young adults in their first apartments (or, frankly, anyone who has finally decided to cook for themselves rather than order take-out, but I was mostly thinking about my own kids). Although a lot of their classes are certainly "beginner cook appropriate," I could really see potential for something that starts from scratch--so to speak.

A couple of days ago, I got an email from Craftsy. "Guess what? Remember that comment you submitted? We've just launched a new class just like you'd asked!" (Or words to that effect.)

Even better: It's a teacher that I really enjoy and know without a doubt that my son and nephew (both 20-somethings) would really like too: Brendan McDermott.

So I immediately bought the class myself, as well as sending along the link to every young adult in my contact list. Hey--I just tried to poach an egg for the very first time a couple of weeks ago. I can clearly use a few foundational technique lessons myself!

I feel a little bit like an aunt: I'm not really directly involved in this class's birth, but I'm a close relative!

Without even having watched it yet, I have no reservations about recommending 20 Essential Cooking Techniques with Brendan McDermott. (That being said, I'm going to start watching mine this weekend.) If you want to check out Brendan McDermott as a teacher first, get the free mini-course Complete Knife Skills with Brendan McDermott--my review of that class is here.

By the way, Craftsy does have plenty of free mini-classes--I've taken several. This link goes to a page with all of them listed., back to our regularly scheduled programming...

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Thinkin' About It Thursday

This week I'm thinking...

  • About how tired I am now that I'm exercising regularly again and I'm wondering when all that "extra energy" I normally get from exercising will finally kick in.
  • About how well I'm sleeping, though, for the first time all summer, so that's a bonus.
  • About how I know in another few days things will even out and my body won't be quite in as much shock.
  • About how I still don't have much quilty mojo but that'll come back too.
  • About the fact that DD heads back to school on Monday for her senior year of college.
  • About how much I'll miss her, but I won't miss the stacks of cr*p in the family room. 
  • About how she can't get her car packed fast enough for my taste because somehow the stacks of cr*p in the family room are multiplying frighteningly fast as she moves out of the bedroom and basement and lands in the family room as a transition point before it eventually (and better!) all ends up in the trunk of her car.
Princess doggie doing her best to win my sympathy.

Princess doggie doing her best to win my sympathy.

  • About my princess doggie.
  • How she is clearly not herself, but doesn't have specific enough symptoms to go to the vet.
  • Whether I could call them and say, "Well, she's just not as freakish as she usually is."
  • And... "for her, calm isn't necessarily a good thing."
  • And... "She actually sticks by my side in the back yard. That's just not right." 
  • That my work task list seems to be using fertilizer--it just keeps growing no matter how many tasks I prune off it every day
  • That I turn 49 next week.
  • That I've always preferred "0" years to "9" years because 9s are the end of a decade, 0s are the start of a brand new one.
  • That this birthday next week starts my "sabbatical year," as Frances puts it. 
  • That I may be in for a lot of changes between my 49th birthday and my 50th one, sabbatical year or not.
  • That I really enjoy the #twilters because they make me feel like I'm still in the quilty world even though I haven't touched my machine in nearly a week.
  • That I have a lot of other very random thoughts wandering through my head this afternoon so this should probably just end here before it devolves.

Craftsy Class Review: Building Flavorful Soups with Peter Berley

Craftsy Logo


And now, it's time for my review of Building Flavorful Soups with Peter Berley.

As summer winds its way down towards fall, I start thinking of chilly nights with the smells of something tasty cooking on the stove. I've been wanting to focus some energies around learning how to build my own soups for awhile. The fact of the matter is, I only have one soup I make regularly that I use a recipe for (Pumpkin Bisque with Smoked Gouda--amazing); the rest I make up on my own anyway. But I wanted a few more ideas, better techniques, things that could send me off and running in any number of directions. 

Parmesan broth with toast, a poached egg, shredded Gruyere, and chives. 

Parmesan broth with toast, a poached egg, shredded Gruyere, and chives. 

And so, I bought this class. Peter Berley provides techniques and recipes for several types of broth that can be used as the base for a variety of soups. He starts out pretty simple, with a very basic tomato broth and a Parmesan broth, both of which I was immediately ready to try out myself. It uses Parmesan rinds and since I've gotten in the habit in recent years of buying good Parmesan and grinding it in my food processor, now I know what to do with all those rinds I slice off first!

I made the Parmesan broth and dressed it up exactly the way he suggested in the class--not too bad. I'd never poached an egg before without using my egg cooker--it didn't turn out pretty, but it worked.* And I was surprised that I actually enjoyed a poached egg floating around in a soup! Still n' all, I'll want to do some more doctoring to that one. I can imagine using the Parmesan broth with tortellini, diced tomatoes, and fresh basil, for example, or as a cooking liquid for any sort of pasta or rice. Yum.

I've bought a bunch of tomatoes to try out his method of making tomato broth, but our family plans changed on Sunday so I haven't had a chance to make it yet. I'm hoping to get to that sometime later this week, and turn the broth into tomato rice soup, a family fave.

I'm also looking forward to following his instructions for making chicken broth. It's similar to what I've seen before but has some differences to it, so I'm anxious to try it out. However, that will probably wait until a rainy weekend as it has more kitchen prep time involved.

Peter Berley has a very relaxed delivery. Indeed, sometimes I felt it was a little too relaxed. I've grown accustomed to food instructors who use cooking time as a chance to give more information, some chemistry background to what's happening on the stove or in the oven, suggest substitutions, and so forth. With Peter Berley, there is occasionally "dead air," and it feels a hair awkward at times. Still, he's easy to listen to when he is talking, and I did learn a fair amount more about making broths as bases for soups.

That being said, I do wish there had been something along the lines of the chart that Molly Stevens provides in her Secrets to Slow Cooking: Mastering the Braise class (see my review here), to give me more ideas about how to combine different ingredients within flavor profiles. He mentions variations in passing, but having an actual chart in the class materials would've been very helpful so I wouldn't have to keep running back to the different lessons to remind myself of the possibilities.

However, one soup helps keep away vampires and ghosts. So that's a win.

While this wasn't my favorite of the Craftsy cooking classes, I did still learn a lot from it and will be continuing to play around with his recipes and suggestions. The printed materials will stay in my kitchen recipe binder for reference. If you're a fan of soups, I do think this one is worth adding to your queue.

The Basics:

  • 6 lessons, ranging from about 24 minutes to about 37 minutes (absent the first lesson which is his three minute introduction)
  • Lessons cover vegetable and herb broths and soups, Japanese Dashi variations and Asian soups, using shellfish, meat, and poultry in broths, soups, and stews, and pureed soups.
  • Many of the broths he covers are either vegetarian-friendly or could be easily made so. I was specifically watching for this as my daughter's a vegetarian. 
  • He briefly touches on refrigerating or freezing the broths, although he doesn't spend a long time on that. 

So, for Building Flavorful Soups with Peter Berley, I think I'd give this class one thumbs-up, one thumb in the middle. Again, not my most favoritist of the cooking classes I've taken on Craftsy, but I definitely learned quite a bit and have some good ideas for moving forward. My second thumb would be fully up if there'd been a chart as I'd suggested above, or if Peter Berley had filled some of the dead air with more information about flavor profiles and other ingredients that play well together in soups with certain bases, that kind of thing.

*For instructions on poaching eggs, I did a quick refresh-my-memory check and used Alton Brown's method. Peter Berley doesn't cover that in the class.

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A Finish and a Craftsy Class Review: Thread Art with Lola Jenkins

Online Quilting Classes

Let me just start by saying, I had a ball with this!

The Craftsy class at hand is Thread Art with Lola Jenkins. My project ended up varying greatly from what she did in the class--so what you see here is inspired by, but not an exact replica of, the techniques she teaches in the class.

I'm hoping you'll see what fun I had with this and want to hightail it right over to Craftsy to sign up for her class!

Hawaiian flower, my own photo taken in 2010

Hawaiian flower, my own photo taken in 2010

The foundation of the class project is using a copyright-free image to base your artwork upon. She gives a lot of ideas about where to get your copyright-free images, and provides one in the class materials (The Girl with the Pearl Earring); it was one I do really like and debated doing myself. But I generally don't want to do what I know a bunch of other people are doing, and it wasn't a portrait I had ever wanted hanging in my house. I went back to one of my own photos (taken in Hawaii in 2010)--one I've always intended to translate into fiber in some way or another.

Photoshopped outline of flower

Photoshopped outline of flower

I'm not particularly good at drawing realistic things freehand, so I used PhotoShop to get an outlined version--more or less. There was at least enough outline for me to follow and trace the main parts. 

I stuck to the outline of the flower and each petal, plus the center stamen. I knew I'd be doing later quilting to give it more dimension.

I chose to do it on a white background so that the oranges and yellows of the flower would really show up well. I used one of my PFD fabrics as I had nothing else white in my stash that didn't have any print to it.

Windowpane light box

Windowpane light box

Then I used my trusty built-in lightbox (!) to do the tracing. Someday I'll have neighbors in that currently-empty-lot and and they'll wonder why the crazy lady next door keeps taping things in the window. I should come up with  messages to write on the back of the images I'm tracing. "Call the Mothership." "The Bear Flies at Midnight." "Send brownies." Messing with the neighbors' minds: always a good time.

Lola Jenkins makes several suggestions in the class (for which you're going to need to buy the class to find out!) about other things to do to your design, but none of them were speaking to me for this particular image. I finally landed on what I think was probably my most brilliant idea of the whole process. I pulled out my Hawaiian quilt block book, chose a block design that had a great outside edge to it, and used only that part of the block to create a frame for the project from one of my hand-dyes. Love it. May have to do that more often! I also free-hand drew leaves around the outside of the flower to help balance the entire thing. I drew the leaf I'm most comfortable free-handing. @Nonnie_p pointed out that it looked suspiciously philodendron-esque. Hey, when you find what works, stick with it. 

I knew I'd be able to shade the leaves fairly well--I've done that before. The flower was a bit intimidating, though, with all the ruffley bits. I kept going back over and over again with slightly different colors or adding in a line here or there, and I'm fairly pleased with the way it turned out. 

Dimension in the petals

Dimension in the petals

I debated for awhile what color thread to use in the petals to make the dimension even more obvious. Black would be too heavy. But invisible thread may not be interesting enough. I had finally settled on red thread until I actually sat down to do the stitching...the red wasn't jazzing me as I pooled it on the petals to test it out. Then I realized--wait! I had all those Superior "Try Me" special variegated threads I'd been picking up lately. Bingo! One in orange, yellow, and red variegation. FTW.

I had a lot more fun stitching the petals than I thought I would--I was a bit nervous about this part, as I knew it could go from helpful-dimension to way-wrong-angles in the blink of an eye. But, again, I was pretty happy with the way it turned out. And that thread really is pretty. I also did some thread painting in the black center, and you can nearly see a corner of the stamen. I'd used a yellow thread to do circles in the stamen area, but the circles are so dinky and I could see what I was doing so poorly that it ended up being more of a scribbly-fill. But it worked, so I moved on.

I stuck to the theme of Hawaiian quilting and echo-quilted both the flower and the border, and I went with a simple fused binding with one of my black hand-dyes--nothing fancy.

And so, my finished class project!

And the back looks pretty spiffy too! (Used another of my hand-dyes)

And the back looks pretty spiffy too! (Used another of my hand-dyes)

And so, for my review of the class itself:

1. I had a ball doing this. It was a fun combination of quilting with my old fave hobby, coloring. (Coloring in geometric design coloring books was my main form of stress relief in college, in my pre-quilting days.)

2. I learned a new technique that can be applied in many ways in future art quilts.

3. I got more comfortable with free-form thread sketching, contouring, and so forth.

4. I realized I'm actually not too bad at shading and drawing. Still no Van Gogh, but hey, good enough for horseshoes!

5. Lola Jenkins is a very artistic person and I enjoyed hearing her tips and suggestions for tools, techniques, and different ways to achieve results. Please note that the description of my approach above is inspired by her class but doesn't follow it exactly. You really should check out her class to see how she does things. I have a few take-away ideas that I can easily see myself putting into practice in other projects even if I didn't use them here.

The Basics:

  • 11 lessons, ranging from about 6 minutes to 35 minutes
  • She addresses choosing materials, supplies and resources, how to set up your sewing machine, etc, and then has one full lesson on finding copyright-free art with some very helpful ideas.
  • The next lessons are about turning a photo or image into something you can trace on fabric, adding other elements to the design, transferring the designs onto fabric, creating your quilt sandwich, stitching it out, coloring (over two lessons, with specific tips about eyes, lips, and shading), and final steps to set the color. The last lesson is a gallery of her own work which gives plenty of inspiration!

I really enjoyed this class. Two thumbs up! 

One more time, that's Thread Art with Lola Jenkins. Get out your colored pencils and get ready to have fun!

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Fight the Funk Friday (And Some Happy Just Has to Happen)

Welcome to the inaugural "Fight the Funk Friday" post!

I came to a realization this week. It's not actually the first time I've had this epiphany, but every so often it strikes me again and feels like a fresh, new thing.

If I think of exercise and eating right and all that as being about weight, heart health, strength, and all that, it's just not that much fun. I know it's good for me, but what I tend to end up doing is thinking, as I'm working out, "How did I let myself get this out of shape?"  It's not so much that I'm beating up on myself because I learned long ago that's not the way I want to be. But it does tend to lead me more towards comparing where I am now to where I'd rather be. Sure, that can be motivating, but too often it just seems way too far away. So calling a weekly blog post "Fitness Friday" was only partially motivating to me. I couldn't help but mentally add in "Or not-so-fitness..."

The realization I had this week was that, for me, the main benefit of getting serious cardio is this:

Exercise is a mood-altering drug.

I've been in a funk this summer. It's unusual for it to hit me in the summer--my funkiness is usually pretty winter-related. However, it's been a rough summer, I've not gotten outside a whole lot except when I was working, and things just haven't gone the way I'd normally like them to go. Bring on the funk. Cranky. Perpetually imagining the worst-case-scenarios. Insomnia. Hermit-ing.

On Wednesday, I made myself get to the gym, regardless of how little I was in the mood for it. Once I was on the elliptical (for the first time since the beginning of the summer) I felt good that my body was moving again. And then Pherrell Williams' "Happy" came on my playlist, and I was grinning. Suddenly, I was in a completely different mental place than I'd been for the last several weeks. Endorphins abounded. By the time I was in my car driving home, I had the windows wide open and was treating my neighboring cars to a concert of songs from E.L.O. to M.I.A. while doing the "driver's seat boogie." Memories of that feeling got me back to the gym on Thursday even while I was still feeling the stiffness from Wednesday's workout. I wanted that drug again.

We have a strong strain of what my older sister once referred to as "melancholia" that runs through our family. Various leaves on our family tree have it with more severity than others, but it's definitely a genetic thing in these parts. One thing I've learned about myself over the years is that the best way to control my version of it is by getting really solid cardio sessions in at the gym. I enjoy walking along the canal with Sammy, I enjoy swimming laps in my backyard pool. I know those are good for me too, but they don't quite click my brain into another place the way 45 minutes of serious sweat on the elliptical does.

So from now on, I'll be labeling these posts "Fight the Funk Friday." I made a nifty little logo for myself. And I'll be hashtagging #fightthefunk (a quick search on Twitter didn't turn up anything untoward already using the same hashtag--hopefully that'll stick!). It'll be my way of reminding myself that regardless of how fit or unfit I may feel on any given day, the best way for me to stay in a good mood is to get myself some serious cardio.

I'll be fighting the funk by getting that heart rate up. Join me?

By the way, I may also be fighting the funk in other ways, so other non-gym-related things might occasionally get #fightthefunk 'd. Feel free to fight your own funk however you need to!

I've been inspired to do these posts by Ozzypip and QuiltCabana. Thanks, y'all! (Go give 'em some love, won't you?)

Side note:

The other thing I've been enjoying again this week is my favorite post-workout treat: Thistle Farms shower gel in Tea Tree Mint scent. I seriously love this stuff. It feels and smells great. Be sure you read all about Thistle Farms--great organization. (I've interviewed Becca Stevens for my work podcast,  had a tour of their facilities, and had conversations with some of the women. Great stuff! And no--I'm not an affiliate. I'm just making a suggestion!)

And just to leave you with a smile on your face...My other favorite version of this song on YouTube.

Thinkin' About It Thursday

This week, I'm thinking...

Cooperstown, NY

Cooperstown, NY

  • How nice, and absolutely necessary, it is to get away for a while with my husband, even if just for a couple of days.
  • That I still have to dye 24 scarves for sure, maybe 30 if I want breathing room for last-minute additions to the list.
  • That it'll be a long time before I dye something purple again.
  • That the previous statement is probably not true since I do happen to like purple.
  • That Sam is a fun playmate on a sunny, breezy day.
  • That my daughter is shaping up into a very good cook.
  • That it turned out to be neither invisible nor red thread.
  • That I'm narrowing in on actually finishing a quilt project for the first time in several weeks.
  • That said daughter will soon be going back to college to start her senior year.
  • How time flies.
  • That I'm getting old.
  • That it's nice that my husband and I are getting old together and still have a great time going away for weekends together.
  • That no matter how old I get, I'm still the youngest is my family, and younger than my husband, so I can still rub it in.

Fitness Friday

I've been reading @ozzypip's and @quiltcabana's Fitness Friday posts and have started wondering...if I blog about it, will it come? Perhaps doing a Fitness Friday post will bring fitness back into my life. I know I quilt a lot more because I want to have something to blog knowing I've got a FF post coming up, maybe I'll get my tuckus out of my computer chair and get moving again. (Counterintuitive, I know: get my tuckus into a computer chair to write a blog post about how I should get my tuckus out of my computer chair...)

A very willing workout partner

A very willing workout partner

So today's inaugural Fitness Friday, in a nutshell, is "nuttin'." I am so far off the wagon I no longer even see the dust trail. I've just been sitting by the roadside picking daisies, waiting for the next wagon to come trumbling along. I had been doing great for awhile, but then things got super-busy round-about mid-May and it's been downhill ever since. Now that my big summer events are over, though, I have a few weeks to try to get myself back into some sort of routine before the travel kicks in again.

But first, I have to figure out where my Fitbit ended up when I changed out of sopping wet clothes in the front seat of my car somewhere in the middle of Ohio.  

Tomorrow my husband and I go away for the weekend. We come home Monday afternoon. We're only heading about a 3-hour drive away which is close enough to be easy to get to, but far enough to feel "away." Our habit is to do a ton of walking so I'll probably earn some decent steps without having to really think about it. That'll be a good way to get my body used to real moving again. Then, when I'm back home, it's off to the gym.

If my daughter would stop bringing potato chips and bagels into the house, that would help a whole lot too. Dang kids.

Gee--I've written my first post and I'm feeling fitter already! Time to go search out that Fitbit. 

Thinking About It Thursday

This week, I'm thinking,..

It's like candy! (Dyed roving for spinning)

It's like candy! (Dyed roving for spinning)

  • About whether invisible thread or red thread would work better.
  • How good it feels to sleep without needing a pill.
    • And how fantastic a luxury a hot cup of non-toxic coffee is first thing in the morning*.
    • With fat-free French vanilla creamer, of course.
  • About whether I'm awake enough yet to hold a drop spindle for any length of time.
    • So I can play with all the pretty pretty colors of roving I was just gifted by an online friend. (Thanks, friend!)
    • And how pretty all colors are, really.
  • About whether I feel like messing with invisible thread, in any case.
  • That it's probably time to change my needle before using either invisible or red thread.
  • How I need to iron 20 purple scarves again because I re-purposed some of my hand-dyed scarves as table runners for our work event and they were rather haphazardly folded as we were breaking down and packing on the last night.
  • How I need to count all the scarves again to remind myself of how many I have left to dye in the next few weeks.
  • How red thread would probably look best.
  • That I've got very old dye concentrates sitting in my dye studio that probably just needs to be tossed.
  • About whether or not I can get another batch of purple dye concentrate out of the powder I have left.
  • That I really need to stop clicking on Craftsy sale emails.
  • About whether or not I've got enough scarves left to dye or will have to do one more order.
  • About whether I've got the right shade of red thread.
  • That I should make another batch of soup.
  • That my dogs seem to have finally forgiven me for July.

*To understand this reference, you'll need to listen to this week's podcast episode here.

Announcing the 2014 Banned Books Week Challenge!

Woot woot! It's time to engage in a little nonviolent protest again. And we get to do it with quilts!

Although I fully support everyone's right to determine what they and their children will read, I also support my right to do the same. Banning books from libraries does not protect freedom, it restricts it. Books are open pathways to ideas, meaningful discussions, and growth--even if (even especially if!) one does not agree with what's inside the covers. Besides, I was an English major in my undergrad years. Hence, I support Banned Books Week in celebrating literature!

Tanesha of Crafty Garden Mom podcast and blog and I are once again hosting the Banned Books Week challenge (and giveaway--whee!). And this year we're giving you a little more heads-up than in the past--ain't that just grand?

The 2014 Banned Books Week Challenge

My 2012 BBW challenge, "Alice's Spider," based on Go Ask Alice by Anonymous.

My 2012 BBW challenge, "Alice's Spider," based on Go Ask Alice by Anonymous.

Banned Books Week is September 21-27, 2014. You will find lists of books that have been banned or challenged and other resources on or the American Library Association website at They also give a lot of ideas about ways to observe Banned Books Week in your area.

For our challenge: Create a small wall quilt that somehow represents a book from the banned/challenged book list that you have read and particularly loved, found meaningful, or otherwise want to celebrate. How you choose to represent the book is up to you—it could be a scene from the book, words from the book, or just represents the book in some way.

Please be aware that book cover images and illustrations in books are copyrighted art. You would need permission from the publisher/artist to depict those images exactly. You may, of course, use them as inspiration for your own artwork!

My 2013 BBW challenge, "If You Walk By," from The Color Purple by Alice Walker

My 2013 BBW challenge, "If You Walk By," from The Color Purple by Alice Walker

The Deets

  • Create a mini-quilt based on a book on a banned/challenged book list that you read and enjoyed. The quilt can be any size, but "mini" keeps it manageable. You can do a mug rug if you want! No specific sizes required.
  • Use any type of quilt techniques you enjoy, any type of surface embellishment you choose--whatever flips your switch! 
  • Starting the week of September 21: Post pictures of your completed quilt(s) in the Flickr group for this challenge. We're using the same Flickr group as previous years, so please clearly label your post with "2014" in the title so we know what the new ones are!
  • Include your artist's statement in the description of your photo in the Flickr group. (Or, should you be a blogger, just include a link to your blog post about the quilt in the description. ) The artist's statement should include the title and author of the book, why you chose that book, and anything else you want us to know about your mini-quilt.

During Banned Books Week, Tanesha and I will be blogging/podcasting about the entries and there will be...yes!...prizes!

I did this last year, and I'm doing it again: I offer this same challenge in my quilt guild, and with the help of Kate, a guild friend who's also a librarian at our town's public library, for the second year in a row we've arranged for the library to display during Banned Books Week quilts from our guild members who participate. Why don't you ask your local library if you can display your finished project there?

BBW quilts on display at my local public library. Unfortunately I didn't write down what each represented--sorry!

BBW quilts on display at my local public library. Unfortunately I didn't write down what each represented--sorry!

Tanesha and I will both be posting about BBW over the next several weeks to help motivate and inspire you, and have some fun to boot. We'll also be posting about our own projects as we're so moved. So stay tuned!

Craftsy Class Review: Fire up the Fish with David Bonom (and a recipe!)

Craftsy Logo

I'm ready to review my next class! Welcome to Fire up the Fish with David Bonom.

I'm trying to overcome a lifetime aversion to seafood. I grew up eating fresh perch (and sunnies and croppies) out of Lake Ontario, filleted and fried in cornmeal. Other than that, I've really not been a fan of anything coming out of the water. Over the last 10 years I've been trying a lot more varieties of fish, and have begun to nearly like some of them. I'm still not a fan of shellfish of any kind--and believe me, I've tried most of them. Shrimp--well, that's just nasty. (And yes, I've tasted a few preparations. Couldn't get through any of them.) My husband's family is big into clambakes. Can't do it. The only way I'll eat a clam is if it's heavily battered and fried--basically once it's a vehicle for the batter, I can live with it. My theory is that I have a sister who's deathly allergic to shellfish so my DNA has a genetic aversion. That's my story and sticking to it.

So determined to try one of Bonom's recipes, I thumbed my nose at the rain and grilled anyway.

So determined to try one of Bonom's recipes, I thumbed my nose at the rain and grilled anyway.

David Bonom, however, made me want to start throwing all sorts of fish on the grill. He still couldn't make shrimp look good to me but to those of you who like shrimp already, you'd probably be into what he does with those. The same goes for his lesson on lobster tails--not my thing, but for those of you who already like lobster, your mouths would probably be watering.

Mind you, this is a technique class, not so much a recipe class. He does give the recipes for every preparation he uses, but he only briefly talks about possible variations or how to create your own recipes, which I'd hoped would be more prevalent. But I got so much inspiration it ultimately doesn't matter.

The class was tremendously inspirational for me. We hadn't ever tried to grill a fish at our house but after watching the lessons all the way through, I was chomping at the bit.

Swordfish on the grill, just starting out.

Swordfish on the grill, just starting out.

And, most notably, I was ready to try a fish I'd never been brave enough to order in a restaurant before: swordfish. He made it look so good in the class, I had to give it a go!

Armed with what he'd said to look for in a good, fresh, piece of swordfish, I took a quick jaunt out to my grocery store and found two smaller swordfish fillets that had all the qualities he said to look for and none of the ones he said to avoid.

I also got all fancy on its butt. Although I stuck to his recipe for the dry rub, I decided it called for a little fruit salsa, so I was making up a recipe as I wandered through the produce section. I'll post my recipe at the end--it turned out very tasty.

The fish was really quite simple. I've done enough grilling, and enough dry rubs, to be confident on both counts. I had picked up some useful tips from his classes, though, and had absolutely no problem with my swordfish steaks sticking at all.

I even followed his suggestions for how to get the best grill marks. Mighty pretty, if I do say so myself.

This being my first time out of the gate with (1) grilling fish and (2) working with swordfish, I overcooked it just a hair. I should've pulled it off the grill maybe just one or two minutes sooner. It tasted fine, but it was a little on the dry side. Not too much of a problem, though, since I had my fruit salsa nicely freshening things up. And the end result is that I really, really liked it. I'll definitely be doing this one again.

Pretty grill marks! Or, grill hashtags, for you #twilters out there.

Pretty grill marks! Or, grill hashtags, for you #twilters out there.

Back to the class. David Bonom was very easy to watch. It is important to remember, as I said before, that it's primarily a technique class. Although he does give plenty of recipes and talks a little here and there about possible variations and substitutions, he spends most of his time talking about the actual grilling--starting with a little discussion of the difference between charcoal and gas grills and setting up for the right temperature, he moves into how to prep the fish, how to prep the grill, what to watch for in terms of doneness, different tools and equipment (baskets, foil, etc.), how to check for temperature, and troubleshooting. The class goes from different types of fillets to whole fish to shellfish, and also includes fish cakes.

Not only do I feel a lot more confident about grilling fish, I feel a lot more confident about cooking fish in general and will more easily be able to tackle it in my kitchen when grill season is over.

The Basics:

  • 10 lessons. Absent the first that's just a brief intro of about 1 minute, the rest range from about 3 1/2 minutes to 12 1/2 minutes. Short as they are, though, they're packed with good information.
  • Lessons include: Setting up the Grill; Fish Steaks & Firm Fillets; Tender Fillets; Whole Sides; Whole Fish; Shellfish without the Shell; Shellfish in the Shell; Fish Cakes; Troubleshooting.
  • Included in those lessons are discussions of dry rubs; marinades; stuffing; using baskets, skewers, and foil packets; how to test for doneness; and what to do if your fish cake falls apart on the grill. (!)

I enjoyed this class a whole lot more than I thought I would. Although I'm posting this review after only doing one type of fish, I already have plans for a couple more from the class. I'm ready!

Again, that's Fire up the Fish with David Bonom. Two thumbs way up!

Finished product--grilled swordfish with mango peach salsa (and roasted baby potatoes)

Finished product--grilled swordfish with mango peach salsa (and roasted baby potatoes)


Sandy's Mango Peach Salsa

(Amounts for two or three people)


  • 1 T butter
  • Half a Mayan sweet onion (or any sweeter onion), diced
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Half a mango, peeled and diced
  • One peach, peeled and diced
  • a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar--tropical flavor if possible*
  • Dash of salt

Directions: Saute the onion in butter until starting to caramelize. Add garlic and saute for about 30 seconds (don't burn the garlic). Add in the mango and peach and saute with other ingredients just to incorporate. Add balsamic vinegar, stir through, then turn heat to low and reduce the vinegar by about half or to taste, stirring occasionally. Add a little salt to taste. Serve over fish. Leftovers could be chilled and used for other things--like maybe over vanilla ice cream for dessert...nummy.

*I used one named Sunny Pineapple Balsamic Vinegar that was quite tasty. If you don't have a flavored vinegar, use a good balsamic--preferably white balsamic so the fruit doesn't look dirty--and then consider squeezing fresh lime or fresh lemon juice into the mix.

Need help knowing how to deal with a mango? Check this video out.

Home again, home again, jiggity...well...

Maybe not quite so jiggity jig.

I got home from my work event and board meeting week last night. I was gone eight days in all, including travel time, but it was a long eight days. The trip there was pretty uneventful, fortunately, since I was on a schedule and had to arrive at a certain time that first Saturday in order to get everything set up and ready for the start of the event.

The event went swimmingly with only a few hitches here and there that no one else even knew were hitches...which is how it should be. The board meetings that followed were solid, and I've got some very exciting walking papers for my work life this coming year which is how I like it. If I'm going to be busy, I may as well be busy doing meaningful work.

But it went downhill from there. I made the mistake of getting in my car to head home.

A significant potion of the drive home looked like this.

It took--I kid you not--an hour and a half to go two miles in this particular traffic jam. And it wasn't the only jam I sat in. And several times the rain was so loud I had to turn off my podcasts and drive in (rain-loud) silence because I couldn't hear anything anyway.

The double whammy of construction and horrible rainstorms all along Lake Erie (most of my route went along the south and east sides of Lake Erie) meant that my usual 12-14 hour drive--depending on traffic around Chicago--clocked in at 19 1/2 hours. I was two hours later than I'd wanted to be getting into Shipshewana, IN, on my first leg of my trip home on Friday, and three-and-a-half hours later than I'd expected to be pulling into my driveway yesterday. 5 1/2 extra hours of driving. Bully.

I've made this trip probably 12-15 times over my lifetime, and this one took the cake for Most Annoying.

Sitting in my car in the Cracker Barrel parking lot

Sitting in my car in the Cracker Barrel parking lot

I'll tell the story on my next podcast episode, though won't dwell on it since you all tune in to listen to quilting, not whining, but as a teaser, the excitement includes: a toxic water alert, an insanely badly managed Burger King, bad coffee, a 5-second sprint through the Cracker Barrel parking lot  in a torrential downpour resulting in--well, you'll have to tune in to find out, nearly rear-ending another car when everyone slammed on their brakes unexpectedly when a lake appeared in the middle of the expressway, and being in the bathroom in complete darkness (complete darkness) when the power was knocked out in a roadside rest area.

Fun times.

But here's the bright spot.


My 20 minutes in Lolly's (I got there at 5:40 and they close at 6 on Fridays) resulted in these.

I've never tried Quilter's Dream batting so I picked up a crib-size package to try out.

I've been testing out several marking pencils of late and have heard good things about Roxanne's, so I got a package of those.

My trial-size bottle of Best Press that lives in my retreat tackle box is nearly gone, so I decided to pick up a new scent. (I'll keep the empty old one around and just refill it. Still, fun to try new pretty smelly things!)

And I succumbed to more charm packs, though I really shouldn't. But I'm a fan of William Morris and couldn't resist Morris Modernized. I bought two packs because I've learned most designs call for that many.

Today, Sunday, was pretty much a Pajama Day for me. I watched a couple of episodes of my current Comfort Food TV--Murder She Wrote--while enjoying my Real Coffee Sans Toxins, and then watched several lessons in my current Craftsy class. We spent the afternoon at "Guardians of the Galaxy" (great movie!), and now we're home again and I'm pretty much ready to go back to bed. I'll do my best to make it to a reasonable hour, though.

No sewing today. Hope to get back to it in a day or two to have something to actually talk about when I do get to posting my next podcast episode...

I feel for the people who are continuing to suffer the effects of the toxin alert for water from Lake Erie due to an algea bloom; it affects significant portions of Ohio and some parts of Michigan. I was able to drive out of it, they're not. Prayers for you, folks--hope your water tests okay and it clears up quickly!


Thinkin' About It Thursday

Hey, y'all.

When you read this I'll still be out of town for work, so I'm doing a little future-casting here. It might be more appropriately entitled "What I Think l'll Be Thinkin' About Next Thursday."

  • That I really do love my job.
  • That I've just about had enough of restaurant and cafeteria food by now, and am thinking fondly of the simplicity of my usual lunch salad at home. 
  • That I'm looking forward to sleeping in my own bed again.
  • And playing with my doggies.
  • And, of course, seeing my husband and daughter again--and maybe strongarming my son into stopping by for dinner shortly after I'm home.
  • But that I'll have fun doing a meet-up with a listener/#twilter in Shipshewana tomorrow on my drive home. (I hope. As of this writing, plans have just barely gotten in the works for a meet-up so fingers-crossed it works out!)
  • That by this time next week I'll be in a slower, quieter mode at work for at least a two or three weeks, and I may actually be rested up enough to be getting some quilting done. 
  • And that I'm really ready to be home and welcomed by this face again...

July Craftsy Class Update

I'm writing this early and scheduling it to post since I'll be out of town for the last week of July, when I'd normally be posting this. So it's possible I'm under-reporting my completions, but I doubt it. My last couple of weeks in town before my travel are jam-packed so progress on Craftsy stuff will be limited.

Just as a note: This month I found myself consulting the Peter Reinhart classes (Artisan Breadmaking and Perfect Pizza at Home) several times for reference. The focaccia I've made for a couple of events, based on the recipe and techniques he covers in both of those classes has become an oft-requested item in my husband's family! But it just proved to me how much I love the fact that there's no time limit on these classes. Once you've got 'em, you've got 'em!

New Completions


Classes in Progress


My thread art class project in progress

My thread art class project in progress

  • Thread Art with Lola Jenkins. Very close to done--and having an absolute ball with it! Can't wait to get home and have the time to finish this project.
  • Building Flavorful Soups with Peter Berley (see "Classes added..." below).

Classes added this month

(+4--with only a little twinge of guilt because most of them were on big sale, and I've already finished one and am working on the other.)

It's been in my wish list for a long time, and came on sale at the same time as I was feeling pretty good about having finished so many classes...and so, now I own

  • Building Flavorful Soups with Peter Berley. I've started watching this one but may not get around to trying any of the techniques or recipes until later in August when I'm looking forward to the crisper evenings of fall and pots of soup simmering on the stove. I do, however, have some Parmesan rinds set aside for a very tasty-sounding broth he covers early on in the class.

Another that's been on my wish list for awhile and came on sale mid-month at 50% off (so how could I resist?):

Okay, so this one was brand new to me, but I've been talking with my husband that I feel like we should be including more fish in our diets and that I'd like to take a class in cooking fish just to see if I couldn't expand my repertoire a bit. When this class came on sale--and I was feeling particularly over-tired and self-indulgent--I bit. (Pun intended, ar ar ar.)

  • Fire up the Fish with David Bonom. We'll see if he can convince me I like more types of fish than I think I do. This is definitely a summer class for me, though, since it's about grilling. Our grill season is pretty limited here in Western NY. I'm sure I'll be able to adapt some of the concepts to my its-too-dang-snowy-to-fire-up-the-grill rest of the year indoor cooking.

And another photography class and another 50% off sale. This class doesn't depend on having a DSLR--it's all about composition and telling stories. Since I was two days away from leaving for a work event at which I knew I'd be primarily responsible for taking photos we'd use in future publicity, I went ahead and bought it, started watching the lessons the same day, and finished it before I left. Again, here's the link for my full review.

Classes To Be Completed

Current count:  17 (+1. This month was tough to keep track of because I had a couple that were sort of "in and out" classes.)

Completed Classes (all topics)

Current count: 29 (+3) (And I've alphabetized them!)

(Usual transparency statement: This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. Thanks for supporting this podcast and blog!

Craftsy Class Review: Creative Photography with George Lange

Welcome to Creative Photography: Capture Life Differently, with George Lange.

This one was a quick finish for me--I allowed myself to simply watch all the lessons to absorb what tips and tricks I could before heading out to my summer work events this weekend--events at which I tend to end up being the de facto "official photographer."

I had to think through how I was going to review this class. For me, I didn't actually get a whole lot of new information out of it. Most of it turned out to be things I already knew--which I suppose makes me feel better about what I apparently already do pretty well. I've been working on my composition and ability to tell a story through photos for a long time, and taking this class really just confirmed for me that I've learned a lot over the years!

But for someone who is just getting into photography or who would like to step it up in terms of composition and telling stories with photos, this would be an excellent class.

One of my all-time fave pics I took of DD when she was about 8. This photo exemplifies things Lange talks about in the class.

One of my all-time fave pics I took of DD when she was about 8. This photo exemplifies things Lange talks about in the class.

First off: This is a composition class, not a settings class. In other words, the techniques you learn are related to how to set up a shot, how to use ambient (natural) lighting, how to create a scene, how to capture a moment/mood/feeling, and so forth. It's not about which f-stop or shutter speed to use. In fact, he really only loosely references settings in a backhand way once in awhile. (For that kind of information, check out my review of Basics of Digital Photography with Rick Allred.) The point of this class is all about capturing the subject matter most effectively, and conveying a mood.

The good news is, that means you can get a lot out of this class even if you're taking pictures on your cell phone. The principles are the same regardless of how you're capturing your shot. (He even starts right out in the first lesson saying that!)

The second thing I appreciated about this class is that he discusses in one lesson issues around sharing photos on social media. He makes some very good points that I think it would behoove all of us to pay attention to. I've not seen that covered in other photography classes yet, and I liked the fact that he addressed it.

He does also have good examples of lighting and action shots, and talks about "between moments" (in other words, take lots of pictures without worrying yet about which one is the "hero shot," as he calls it). I'll probably be using my "sports" setting a lot more at my events next week, which makes my camera take several quick photos in succession when I click the shutter. What you think might be the best shot when you're taking them may change when you see all your pictures later.

DS when he was 3.  Another photo that exemplifies things Lange discusses in the Craftsy class. (Can you see the Easter egg?)

DS when he was 3.  Another photo that exemplifies things Lange discusses in the Craftsy class. (Can you see the Easter egg?)

I think what I found lacking in terms of my needs and what I was hoping to get out of this class was that most of his examples seemed to be based on things he could control: He set up shots, he put people in positions where the lighting would be best, he asked them to get into certain poses or do certain kinds of actions, and so forth. For me, I'm shooting completely candid shots in the middle of events where lighting is often quite iffy (I hate hotel conference centers!), I have no control over where people are sitting or standing, and I'm trying to be as unobtrusive (invisible) as possible. I was hoping he might address how to work in those situations a little more. Still, I have some new ideas about angles I might use or situations I might take better advantage of, and certainly many of his set-up shots are meant to mimic candids so I had some take-aways from that as well.

Again, I clearly walked into this class with a pretty solid foundation on composition, so there were only moments of newness for me. But for someone who hasn't spent as much time working on her photography as I have, there may well be a lot of new and useful information here.

Lange clearly loves his work and finds creative ways to make his points--certain phrases will definitely stick in my head. And I did love seeing his photos--great stuff. If you would like to see your photos more creatively composed, I do recommend this class.

The Basics:

  • 7 lessons, ranging from six minutes (intro lesson) to 25 minutes. Most are in the 10-15 minute range.
  • Lessons include "Do the Unexpected," "Create a Stage," "Be in the Moment," "Beyond Good Enough," "Capture All of Life," and "Social Sensitivity."
  • You do not need any particularly kind of camera to take this class. Again, it's all about composition, not settings or lenses or anything technical.
  • He spends a fair amount of time on photos of children, so those of you with kids, take heed!

Again, that's Creative Photography: Capture Life Differently with George Lange. (As of this posting, it's still 50% off!)

(Usual transparency statement: clicking on Craftsy links in this post helps support this blog and podcast. Thanks!)

Thinkin' About It Thursday

Well, some of you remarked how much you enjoyed this post and would like to see it as a series. So I'll do my best!

What I'm thinking about this Thursday:

  • How, even if the colors haven't been changed, freshly painted walls are still quite nice to look at.
  • That hosting a party for 70-plus people the same week as I have painters underfoot and my busiest, most stressful workweek is crazy talk.
  • That Rescue Remedy actually [sort of] works.
  • But that watching a clan of family and friends--some of whom haven't been in the same place for decades--having fun together and reconnecting is worth the sleepless nights.
  • But that next time I'll hire a dish washer.
  • That I have a great group of my own kids and my nieces and nephews, and that they've got a great group of friends. 
  • Who, even when they've crashed on my floor and gotten about four hours of sleep, are still willing workers on clean-up duty the next day. (They may have been walking like zombies, but they were cleaning zombies so I'm good with that!)
  • That although it's not his favorite place to be, Sam is Sam and will make five days at the kennel work for him. (He made friends.)
  • That Spencer will take awhile to forgive me for that same five days at the kennel. (Hint: That's no smile on her face. That's pure hysteria.)
  • That pretty new thread can be almost as recuperative as chocolates.
  • And that this is a wonderful way to recover. 

(Tune in to this channel in a couple of weeks for a return to quilty talk.)