Monday, May 25, 2020

Food Art - Creative Serving Receptacle

My basil crop was growing well and I needed to pick and use it. After making a good sized batch of pesto there was still quite a bit ready for use on the plants so I tasked my husband with finding a recipe that uses a lot of it. (Basil continues to grow well if it is harvested before it goes to seed. I had already pinched the flowers off once and preferred to harvest instead of pinch with as large as the plants were.) He found some Asian recipes but did not have all of the flavoring components needed. This all happened just before our once every two weeks shopping in this time of trying to limit potential exposure during the coronavirus pandemic. For our next shopping trip we headed for one of the large Asian markets in town. Unknown to me on the list was also a pineapple fried rice recipe's ingredients that my husband had made note of from one of the foodie channels he follows.

Trying to be efficient gathering what is on your shopping list is a challenge when visiting a store you are not very familiar with. We only had to ask twice where something was. After getting home and putting away the groceries my husband asked if I would like fried rice for lunch. He did not have to twist my arm for my affirmative reply. He got busy cooking and I went off to work on something. When called for lunch I was presented with a very creative serving dish full of pineapple fried rice topped with a parrot. It turns out the fried rice video had included a bit on making a pineapple parrot decorated bowl to serve the rice in. I had to take some photos so I could share this bit of food art. And yes, the fried rice was delicious.

What about the basil I started off talking about? That recipe might be dinner tonight.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Great Backyard Bird Count Wrap-Up 2020

I had someone ask me how many different types of birds I saw during the Great Backyard Bird Count. In our City event on the Saturday of the bird count, between the three groups, we collectively found 34 species of birds. Gardens Park includes several different types of habitat, both terrestrial and aquatic so it is a great place to walk and count birds. I counted for about 30 minutes late in the afternoon on the Friday just sitting at my back door and watching what came to my feeder, water feature and the surrounding area. On the Sunday of the bird count I walked my 4+ acres for about an hour and a half. Between these two times at home I identified 16 bird species. Some birds flew past too fast to be identified and some hid too deeply in thickets and hedge rows to get a good enough look at them to id them. Photos of a representative bird from each of the 16 species are found below.

First row: Blue jay, Carolina chickadee, Carolina Wren, Cedar waxwing
Second row: Eastern bluebird, Eastern phoebe, House finch, House sparrow
Third row: Mourning dove, Northern cardinal, Northern mockingbird, Red-tailed hawk
Fourth row: Ruby-crowned kinglet, Turkey vulture, White-winged dove, Yellow-rumped warbler

Not all of my photos were taken this year but most were taken the same time of year. Click the image to enlarge it.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Jujube Butter

I took pictures late last summer when I made some jujube butter from a larger than normal crop of the fruit so that I could write up a blog post about the process. I wish I had managed to write it then because I would have still remembered exactly what I did to make the jujube butter. It was delicious. Now that I am trying to get back to writing a post a week I will write down my best recollections.

The picture of the colander full of jujubes shows the harvest that I turned into a batch of fruit butter. I do remember a few specifics. I looked at some jujube butter recipes as well as apple butter recipes and
put together a plan from what I liked from reading all of them. I sure wish I had made notes when I was done. I did cut out the single pit (it is much like a date pit) from each piece of fruit before beginning to cook. I also left the skins on, unlike the instructions in the jujube butter recipes.

What I am unclear about is whether I cooked the fruit before or after using my food processor to puree the jujubes or what other ingredients I added. I think it is most likely that I put the jujubes in a large pan, added some water and simmered until tender. I may have added some cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves or honey as these were suggested additions in the jujube and apple butter recipes I looked at. (All except the honey, I traditionally substitute honey for sugar when possible.) I think it was after cooking that I blended
everything in the food processor. Perhaps I simmered it some more if it did not have a firm enough consistency yet. Hopefully I will get a bumper crop again in August and manage to create another tasty batch of jujube butter and take good notes. If I do, I will update this post.

When the jujube butter was finished I scraped it into a container. It had the consistency of a thick icing. It was very good on toast but my favorite thing to spread it on was heated, store bought frozen pancakes. I did not even need any dairy butter when eating the pancakes topped with jujube butter.

Have you made jujube butter? If so, I'd love to hear about your process in the comments.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Artist Spotlight - Ellengant Creations

My husband and I have seen and almost purchased the work of this talented polymer clay artist for ourselves for years. (I did purchase one of her fish ornaments for a family member several years ago.) She is known for creating whimsical sea creatures and dragons. Last year she added cats to her hand crafted menagerie. Her name is Ellen and she came up with a wonderful business name that I think perfectly captures her work, Ellengant Creations.

So what about this piece we purchased last fall? Ellen created it almost two years ago for a group show in Mansfield, "Inspired by Nature". My husband and I
were both enthralled with it, however we could not justify the purchase at the time. We both saw the piece again at BRIT's Fall Gallery Night Artisan Market last year and decided it was time for it to come home with us. It fit in perfectly next to a corner cabinet near the top of the stairs. The variety of technique, sea creatures and textures draw you in. This is a very elaborate work and the more you look at it, the more you discover. At a glance one thinks, "Oh that's nice."
Upon careful examination one thinks, "That's amazing!" From the painted canvas background to the polymer clay canes, fish, barnacles and more this piece is truly a work of art that evokes the wonders to be found under the sea.

In addition to a photo of the entire polymer clay on canvas piece, I have added closeups of some of the bits I particularly like. You can click on the images to enlarge them and better appreciate the details.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Design This - Fashionable Beaded Lanyard Holder

So many businesses require badges today and a popular way to keep up with one's badge is to wear it on a standard, flat fabric lanyard holder. During this past holiday season I had a customer, who while looking at my jewelry, asked if I had any beaded lanyard holders. I did not but told her I would consider doing a custom one if she was interested. From her purse, she pulled out a beaded black one to show me what she had in mind.
She was looking for an additional option to be able to wear to work. I took a measurement and her contact information so I could send her some ideas from the materials I had to work with.

I took a picture of two options I came up with from looking through my supplies. One option would use wood and howlite beads and the other would use kiwi jasper and white cat's eye beads. My customer chose the option with the jasper beads. I mocked up the design and sent a photo to get feedback. She liked the design and wanted a continuous strand of beads, without a clasp. I was able to achieve this by using a couple of
crimp beads and covers on either side of the back center bead. I used a large lobster claw clasp strung with the beads to hold the split ring that a badge would attach to. After finishing the lanyard holder I decided to experiment with making a pendant that could be interchanged with the split ring or even worn with it so that the beads could be worn as a necklace or as an even fancier lanyard holder. I gave this pendant to my customer as a freebie to try it out. Let me know what you think of the concept in the comments.

The second photo is a composite of two of images of the completed lanyard holder and the third photo shows the pendant added to it. Photos enlarge when clicked.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Yellow-rumped Warblers Have Returned

While yellow-rumped warblers have probably been in the area for a while this winter, I saw my first one this morning. At first I was wondering what little gray birds were flitting around, some of them were pretty nondescript. I grabbed my binoculars and it clicked that I should be looking for some patches of yellow. Some birds can be shy about showing their namesake patch on their rump. Depending on the subspecies of yellow-rumped warbler, time of year, age and sex of the bird their may also be yellow patches on their sides, top of head and throat. The bird pictured here is likely an immature or female myrtle yellow-rumped warbler.

Over the past few weeks I have noticed other migrants coming back to the area such as American goldfinch and dark-eyed junco. I also start to see more sparrows again this time of year such as the song sparrow I saw yesterday. This could be due to migration or trees and shrubs that have shed leaves to make the little brown birds (lots of similar looking sparrows) easier to spot long enough to try to tell them apart. Seeing all of the bird activity gets me pumped up for the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). My city of Dalworthington Gardens will be hosting a GBBC event on Saturday, February 15 from 10am - 1pm. We will gather in the annex before going out to see how many species of birds we can identify in Gardens Park. I'm looking forward to it.