Long Live Summer

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Does anyone else hit the end of July/beginning of August and instead of dreading the end of summer, begin longing for autumn?  I find myself doing that almost every year, and I've just noticed the first twinges.  I'm trying to rally, though, because summer really is a magical time of year.

From ripe veggies, ready for pickling...

To fresh flowers to poke into an old Coke bottle...

To road trips with family and friends.

I feel like so many of us spend our lives rushing from one stage to the next, without taking time to stop and notice what's going on around us.  I know I do!  Since I got into iPhotography (taking artsy-fartsy photos with your iPhone), I've started seeing my world in a whole new light.

Whether it's the house I drove past for years...

Or the sky from the grocery store parking lot, just before a storm breaks.

Whether you take photos with a big fancy camera (and earn yourself the nickname 'Party Pics' at your pal's wedding) or with the cellphone you keep in your pocket, it's pretty hard to deny that summer is a pretty awesome time to be snapping, even if it's just around your neighborhood.  

I wish I had more of an opportunity to travel this summer.  I still love looking through my photos from last summer's adventure to England.  Alas, work and school have kept me stateside.  I'm thinking about entering this contest from Shutterfly, though.  (Remember them?  They're the place where I ordered my super cute Christmas cards with my baby Lilly's face on them.)  They're running a nifty photo contest right now and the grand prize is a trip to the Bahamas for four, complete with a professional photo shoot to commemorate the trip.  It sounds pretty simple - each week has a theme and you get prizes just for entering.  Week 2 is winding down, but there are still three more weeks.  Next week is "Water Fun," and I did go to a water park last week when my college roommate came by for a visit.

Definitely something to ponder, if I can get up the courage to post my pictures to a wide audience than my blog readers and Instagram friends.  

What about y'all?  Do you feel like summer is passing by too quickly or are you ready for falling leaves and pumpkin pie?  Am I the only one who had ditched her everyday pocket camera for her iPhone?  Will you be entering Shutterfly's contest?  As always, I'd love to hear about it!

Christmas in July

Monday, July 16, 2012

I have posted a couple of times about my Barbie ornament tree, but here's a quick and dirty rundown:  Every year, my mom buys me a Barbie ornament from the Hallmark store and it goes on my special white, 4-foot tall "Barbie tree."  I have over 100 and love them all.

Imagine my distress, therefore, when I read that Mattel was discontinuing its partnership with Hallmark after this year.  Meaning, that after 20-something years of getting my Barbie ornaments, they are no more!  At least they'll be going out with a bang, as some of this year's ornaments are really pretty.

This weekend was the Hallmark ornament premiere.  In July and October, Hallmark releases its ornaments.  The best Barbies come out in October, but there were some good ones out.  I'm really looking forward to October, though.

Tweed Indeed

Matinee Fashion

I picked up these two, and I'm still thinking about this one:

Student Teacher

Like I said, though, the best ones come out in October.  These three will DEFINITELY be coming with me!

2012 Celebration Barbie

 Proven├žale Barbie

Stunning in the Spotlight

I'm honestly a little embarrassed about how bummed I am that I won't be able to get any new Barbie ornaments after this year.  I guess I'll just have to turn to eBay to collect the ones I don't have from previous years.  (That's the consumer spirit!)

Am I crazy for being this sad?  Do y'all collect any special ornaments each year?  Is July way too early to even be talking about this?  Let me know!


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

My mom and I were at a local estate sale shop on Sunday, just moseying around, when I spotted this very nifty faux bamboo side table, complete with caned bottom.

It was marked $65, but it was half off since it was Sunday, bringing it to $32.50.  I got it for $20.  Bargain!  Except I don't have a place to put it.  

My bad.

But look at it!  It's so nifty and combines two of my favorite motifs: bamboo and caning.  There were also some STUNNING caned chairs.  But if I don't need another side table, I certainly don't need 8 more chairs.  See?  I'm not a total slave to my impulses.

 Now I just have to figure out what to do with it.  I'm not loving the scuffed up wood finish, so I did what any good DIYer does these days when needing inspiration:  PINTEREST.

Pale blue lacquer?

Glossy red?

Classic white?


What do y'all think?  Help a sister out!

In a "Pickle"

Sunday, July 1, 2012

I'm about to let you in on a secret: I'm really in to pickling right now.  Okay, if you follow me on Instagram, it's not much of a secret.  But seriously, I have discovered The Joy of Pickling, which, incidentally, is the name of my newly purchased book on the subject.  You know, in case I get bored with the recipe I've been using.

I knew I wanted to grow my own cucumbers and make pickles last year.  So I did.  Except...I'm not very good at growing cucumbers.  As in, I've grown a grand total of six.  And only four were pickle-worthy.


Luckily, I live in a town that has a Farmer's Market.  And guess what they sell at farmer's markets?  (Besides the sunflowers pictured above - I was super hipster that day).  CUCUMBERS!  And OKRA!

So I bought enough cucumbers to make six pints of pickles and enough okra to make one pint.  I'll let you know how they taste in mid-August.  My granny says you have to leave them alone for six weeks to really get them good and flavorful.  And I don't argue with my granny when it comes to good eats.

In case you want to give pickling a go yourself, here's my grandmother's recipe:

Alma's Dill Pickled Cucumbers
Fresh picked cucumbers
White vinegar
Hot peppers (I used serrano)
Mixed pickling spices

1. 24 hours ahead: Mix up a bowl of brine (1 cup salt to 8 cups water) and place your cucumbers in the bowl.  Use a plate to weigh them down and keep them covered.  Soak for 24 hours.
2. Remove cucumbers and pat dry.
3. Fill your clean mason jars with hot water and set them aside.  This is to keep the abrupt temperature change in step 11 from shattering the glass.
3. Make a vinegar solution of 2 cups vinegar to 3 cups water and pour into a large pot.
4. Add 2 tablespoons of mixed pickling spices.  You can find these in a grocery store in a little tin.
5. Add several bunches of fresh dill (in the refrigerated section with the veggies).
6. Bring the concoction to a boil.
7. Add your cucumbers and remove from heat.
8. In a clean quart-sized mason jar, place 2 cloves of garlic, 2 small hot peppers (I only used one pepper per pint-sized jar), and a bunch of dill.
9. Cram the cucumbers into the jar.
10. Bring the vinegar solution back to a boil.
11. Pour the solution into the jars so that the cucumbers are covered.
12. Screw the lids onto the jar "fingertip tight," meaning don't use the palm of your hand, just your fingertips.  The air has to be able to escape the jar during the sealing process and if the lid is too tight, it can't.
13. In a large pot of water, bring enough water to cover your jars to a simmer.
14. Carefully place the jars in the simmering water for 5 minutes.  Don't leave them too long, or your pickles will be mushy.
15. Remove from pot using tongs or a tool made especially for this purpose (the Ball company makes the one I use) and set aside to cool.

Your pickles will be at optimum flavor in about 6 weeks, though you can eat them after about one.  The longer you leave them, the more like pickles they will be and the less like tangy cucumbers.

I used a modified version of this recipe for the okra.  I modified it mostly because I ran out of peppers and didn't brine the okra so I added salt to them.  We'll see how it goes.  

My super cute labels came from Limeshot Design and were totally free.  I just printed them on 67 lb. card stock and hot glued them onto my cooled jars.

Hope everyone else is enjoying summer's bounty as much as I am!