Project 365

I’ve been involved in Project365 – taking a picture every day and publishing it on Flickr – for 28 days.  I’m pretty proud of myself; they say most people fizzle out around the 3 week mark.  But I’m determined to see this through, and am having a good time with it.

The point of the project is to make you a better photographer, and I believe it is.  I know I desperately need to work on my portrait photography, but my landscape photography is improving (although it’s nowhere near as good as Twenty Four at Heart‘s), my food photography is definitely improving and I’ve simply become fascinated with macro photography.  To that end, I cannot WAIT until Spring when the flowers begin to bloom and all the interesting little buggies come out to play on them.  Especially considering that Beloved planted literally hundreds of bulbs this fall around the house – crocus, daffodils, tulips and a couple of others I don’t recall; it’s going to be beautiful.

I’ve been so super busy lately – I promise to get around to visit you all and leave comments this weekend – that I thought I’d end this week’s posting with a sample of some the photos I’ve taken for Project 365.  I’d love to know what you all think of them – which ones you like and which ones could be improved (I know that several of my readers are very talented photographers).  I really do value and appreciate all of your opinions.

And have a lovely weekend, y’all.

Vases and My Wine Hutch Needs Dusting

This the the trio of vases that sit on top of our wine hutch; they fit so well into our green and gold dining room and we liked them so well that we more or less decorated around them.  I was at a loss for what to photograph one day, so I took this and was quite pleased with it.  It was taken with the prime lens, I believe, but don’t hold me to it.

Fluffy Snow on the Hemlock

We have several large evergreens in our backyard – several hemlocks and two huge, beautiful blue spruce trees; they are lovely and picturesque covered with snow.  This is the tip of a hemlock branch.   Taken with the macro lens during a recent snowfall, that bright white spot in the foreground is a falling snowflake.

Steamboat Willie

I have a large collection of Jim Shore figurines, and my favorites are a series of “black and white” retro Mickey and Minnie Mouses.  The Jiminy Cricket I posted a couple of weeks ago is another.  I have quite a few, so I’m sure you’ll see more in the coming weeks and months.

Wintry Street

It was snowing quite hard the other day, so I went outside to see if I could capture it.  This was taken from our driveway, looking down the lane of trees in the yards of our street to the corner.  The gray sky, dark, bare trees and white snow made a wonderful contrast that translated well into black and white.  And I think I did a decent job capturing the falling snow.

Flamin’!

The Young One requested pad thai for his birthday dinner.  So while I was preheating my cast iron wok, which is a lovely, shiny black, I turned down all the lights and really cranked up the gas flame underneath.  Again, this was taken with the macro lens, and I am VERY happy with how it came out – the colors, the composition, the angle, the lighting and the reflection in the black ceramic stove top.  Hands down my favorite of this set.

A Public Service Announcement

Weight Watchers is a wonderful organization.  It has helped millions of people lose billions of pounds.

I lost a great deal of weight 20 years ago by attending Weight Watchers meetings, back when they were still using the carbohydrate-controlled exchange system and weren’t afraid of ground beef (if they’d told me to cut ground chuck out of our menus, I’d never have been able to stick with it – we were so cash-strapped at the time, it was our primary source of protein). Needless to say, I haven’t done very well when trying this new Points system they’ve implemented (and keep changing – what’s up with that?) and this newer philosophy of “You can eat anything you want, as long as you stay within your points range!”

Uh, ’cause me?  Once I find out there’s 14 points in a bottle of red wine, I’m all like “Hells to the yes!  Zero point soup for lunch and we’re drinking dinner tonight!”

Because I have absolutely no effing will power, and the Points system is all about will power.  And it pretty much goes without saying that just because you can eat an entire package of Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches and stay within your Points range, it doesn’t mean you should.

Not that I would, of course.

(Hell, no – I’m drinking dinner!)

(You laugh.)  (You shouldn’t.)

At any rate, this is by no means a slam against Weight Watchers.  It’s just that I have issues with the way they’ve changed things up.  In fact, I ran across something recently that makes me wonder why they’ve deviated from their plan 40 years ago at all.

Because in the early 70s?  It seems their strategy was simply to starve their members to death.

Click on the link.  PLEASE, click on the link.

This has apparently been out there forever, so if you’ve seen it before I apologize.  If you haven’t, it’s a series of Weight Watchers recipe cards circa 1972.  While they contain no nutritional information, that’s okay because they do have technicolor pictures on the fronts of the card that raise all sorts of questions about the dubious nature of the nutritional content anyway (to say nothing of the dubious artistic talents of the person or persons in charge of the photographs; were they blind or simply dropping acid???).  The cards claim to be “classic adaptations” – but they don’t say adaptations of what.  Which is probably just as well.

There’s also commentary accompanying each card that is simply friggin’ HILARIOUS.  By the time I got to the one where the food surrounded what appeared to be a bowl of bong water, I was falling out of my chair.

(Note to my children:  I have no idea what what bong water looks like, nor dropping acid; I, um, had someone describe them to me.)

(That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

Oh, and when you get to the one of the Liver Paté, make sure and click on the link that says “We all are.”  She may have been at a loss at how to describe it, but her readers weren’t.

And I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to forgive them, because I can say unequivocally I never wanted to know what bukkake is.

What Makes Me Happy on January 27

Oh, I am SO busy today!  There’s no time for a “tribute”, but y’all hear so much about these guys, do we really need one?

Evey day of my life is a tribute to

The Young One

and

My Beloved

Happy Birthday to The Young One and Beloved.

Y’all make me so happy every day and I love you both more than you will ever know.

For more happy Spins, visit Sprite’s Keeper and they Spin Cycle.

What Makes Me Happy on January 26

This week’s Spin Cycle is “Happiness.”  During the last week in January, I have a LOT to be happy for.

Today, I’m happy about this:

My Little Hedgehog Baby

Really, that’s what I called her.  Born on January 26, 1987 she came into this world with a head full of hair that did nothing but get thicker the older she got.  At six weeks old, it stood straight up on her head, and there wasn’t anything we could do about it.  (I wrote about her entrance into the world here, if you’re interested; it was quite the experience.)

A Smart Girl

Darling Daughter has always been smart.  Scary smart.  And she worshiped her older brother; they were inseparable, and are still very close.

All Gussied Up for the Prom

Remember the head full of hair?  You don’t EVEN want to know how long it took to the hairdresser to finish this up-do.  I swear the poor woman was trembling from exhaustion when she was finished.  And if you look closely, you’ll see my princess is wearing a tiara.  That’s just the way she rolls.

The Graduate

Although there were times I wondered if she’d live to see graduation (because her loving mother was tempted to KILL her), but graduate she did.   I can’t remember the last time I was as proud as I was that day.

Now, she’s a 23-year-old woman who is about to become a member of the Elks Lodge?  Don’t ask me how that happened, but she loves it – they are making her the lodge chaplain this year as well as putting her in charge of the children’s activities and fund-raisers.  Because that’s the way she rolls.

Happy Birthday, dear.  You make Mom very, very happy.

Swedish Meatballs

You might notice something a little different today.  Yup, all of the photos are watermarked with the URL to this  blog.  This is something I never thought I’d have to do, and it’s certainly not anything I ever wanted to do.

Bread and Onions

This month, I noticed that while the number of visitors to my site had increased, mostly for legitimate reasons, my bandwidth usage has gone through the roof.  (Since I self-host my blog, bandwidth = money.)  Also, the number one search term bringing visitors to my site this month is “gorillas.”

Gorillas??

Clarified Butter

It took me awhile to figure out why this was happening, but the reason soon became apparent:  several of the images on my blog seem to have become quite popular.  Which is all well and good, really – if you want to use my images, you’re more than welcome to.   However, most of the people using them are hotlinking to them.  Hotlinking is the use of a linked object, often an image, from one site into a web page belonging to a second site – in other words, you’re not grabbing an image and hosting it on your web server, you’re simply linking back to MY site; the image shows up on your web page, but my website is bearing all the burden.

Spices

It’s like…internet welfare, y’all.

It’s also known as leeching, piggy-backing, offsite image grabs and – quite appropriately – bandwidth theft.  This is a bad thing, folks.  If you want an image from my site, just ask – I’ll be flattered as all get-out and not only send you the image to use but probably tell you exactly how, when, where and why I took the damn thing.

At any rate, I almost put some code on my site that would replace all hotlinked images with one that said, “I Steal Images From Jan’s Sushi Bar” but there is at least one image housed on my server that requires the ability to hotlink to it (I’m aware of it and it’s not the source of the bandwidth drain).  So, I removed some of the images from my server (you will find the disclaimer on this post), and labeled the other offenders that I’m aware of with “This Photo is the Property of Jan’s Sushi Bar.”  All images from this point forward will be watermarked, and I’ll gradually go back and watermark past images.

If I can’t keep people from hotlinking to them, I can at least advertise where they came from.

Frying the Meatballs

Anyhoo.  Swedish meatballs.  Not only one of Beloved’s favorite dishes, but one of The Young One’s as well, judging by the way he licked his plate Saturday night.  This is a new recipe (for me), adapted from one by Alton Brown (who, while he irritates the bejeebus out of me – can’t they just take him off of Iron Chef, for crying out loud?  he doesn’t contribute a damn thing to the show – has the occasional great recipe, and this is one of them).  It is easy, and it is goooooood.  Served with homemade egg noodles, as I did this last weekend, it is the epitome of comfort food.

Swedish Meatballs

Swedish Meatballs

serves 6, or Beloved and The Young One

2 slices fresh bread

1/4 cup milk

3 tablespoons clarified butter, divided

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

A pinch plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 ½ pounds lean ground beef

2 large egg yolks

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

3 cups low-sodium beef broth

1/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 200° F.

Tear the bread into pieces and place in a small bowl along with the milk. Set aside.

In a medium-sized skillet or saute pan over medium-low heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the clarified butter. Add the onion and a pinch of salt; cook until the onions are soft and translucent, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the bread and milk mixture, ground beef, egg yolks, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, pepper, allspice, nutmeg, and onions. Beat on low speed for 1 to 2 minutes.

Using your hands, shape the mixture into meatballs, about one ounce each.

Heat the remaining butter in the skillet over medium-low heat. Add the meatballs and saute until golden brown on all sides and cooked through, about 7 to 10 minutes. Remove the meatballs to an ovenproof dish using a slotted spoon and place in the warmed oven.

Once all of the meatballs are cooked, decrease the heat to low and add the flour to the pan or skillet. Whisk until lightly browned, approximately 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add the beef broth and stir until the sauce begins to thicken. Add the cream and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce reaches the desired consistency. Remove the meatballs from the oven, cover with the sauce and serve over noodles, mashed potatoes or steamed rice.