Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Lightbox on a Budget

I am a professional photographer.

I remind myself of that every day because it just seems so unreal that I would even attempt something so audacious.

But I am a professional photographer who is on a very limited budget. And who cooks and takes pictures of her food. And who needed to be able to take better pictures of her food.

Hence I felt that I needed some sort of lightbox. A lightbox is a box that allows a photographer to shoot with diffused rather than sharp light. It literally takes the object you are shooting out of the background because the background that you are using is white or black. It makes your pictures all happy happy joy joy.

Or at least you hope that it does anyways.

But because of the whole limited budget thing I can’t just run out and buy something.

Enter Pinterest.

Oh how I love Pinterest. I need an extra day or two a week just to make and look at and think about the things that I have “pinned”. And there on Pinterest I came across a “how to make your own lightbox” tutorial. And then that led me to another one…and another one. And I thought,


I didn’t take pictures of the process, you can find it here >>>> Wiki Lightbox

Lets see how I did shall we?


I will admit that I made some modifications. Instead of the tissue paper that they suggested I went to the local fabric store and bought some inexpensive light weight polyester fabric. It gives great diffusion and is very similar to what you would find on professional lights. And it doesn’t tear at the drop of a hat.

I also employed duct tape. Why? Because I am my Grandpa Pringle’s girl that’s why and he firmly believed in duct tape for everything.

I used plain white drawing paper that I have in a large roll but I may change that to use poster board which has a bit more strength.

The other major modification is that I didn’t cut a large square out of the top of the box. I am not lighting from that angle and it seemed that it would compromise the integrity of the box. Also, I am going to cut a “flap” in that area so that I can shoot from above. Maybe.

At any rate lets look at some of the test photos that I took today and you can tell me what you think.


Pretty cool eh! I must admit that I am more than a little proud of myself. I did have to run out to Target at one point because I couldn’t find the other small lamp that I KNOW I had around here. Perhaps it was cleaned out inadvertently. Oh well.


I think I will call this one “Still Life at Chez Knit”


You know, these aren’t half bad. I am rather tickled.

Or I would be if I wasn’t gasping for air because Max the Wonder Dog just let off a terrible “fluffly” right behind my desk chair if you know what I mean.


The aftermath.

I will say now that I know how this works I am going to “tinker” with the design a bit.

And for those of you wondering where my “52 Food Adventures” post is, since that generally shows up on Tuesday. It will be a day late. I am making something that I haven’t ever made successfully before and it won’t be ready until tomorrow.

But it looks VERY promising.

And there will be pictures.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Day Has Come

My baby is 21 years old today.


I cannot believe it. How can it be true. Where has the time gone.

When the progeny were little we would tell them that we had ordered a special box that we were going to stick them in so that they wouldn’t grow or age. It was in the mail and on it’s way we would tell them. For some reason they didn’t believe us. I cannot imagine why.

But today is the day that the last of the progeny, my Noodle Bug……My Benny Boo……My Noodie Poodie….she is 21 years old.

How did this happen?

Shoe Queen we are so proud of the woman that you have become, despite our occasionally miserable parenting.
You were born with a sunny and funny disposition and you have kept it.
Your drive, in all things, to be the best that you can be makes Dad and I so proud of you.
Your fashion sense is unique
You SHOES! Oh your SHOES!
The voices that you can come up with are amazing.
The fact that you love pickles makes me so very proud
You math skill which have come totally from your father.

I am going to get all emotional here and swamp my key board. Lets just take a look a some pictures shall we. One picture for each year.




Top-286 (rev 0)

1991_Summer(rev 0)

I am not sure if she is smiling or leaving me a present in her diaper

1992_sleeping (rev 0)

I am sorry but this is just one of my favorite pictures.

1993_Dad_and_Beth (rev 0)

1994_Dressing_Up_C (rev 0)

Already her fashion sense was in evidence.

1995_Cottage__1_-1(rev 0)

Who doesn’t wear patent leather Mary Janes and white socks to the 4th of July parade

1996_Beth_birthday(rev 0)

Stylishly dressed for her birthday party. And in her favorite purple dress too! She wore that dress EVERY Sunday until it fell apart. The ladies in the nursery didn’t know her name, they just knew her as The Girl In The Purple Dress.

1997_LHP___girls (rev 0)

Oh yes, they were all SOOOOOO happy that we made them wear the exact same dress.

image_13_2_2009-27(rev 0)

Shoe Queen and her cousin JMan.

image_7_9_2007-45(rev 0)

 One of my favorite pictures. What you don’t know is that Cartoon Girl is actually trying to squeeze the life out of Shoe Queen. Good Times.

2000_so_happy (rev 0)

Now THAT’S a happy bunch.

image_13_2_2009-48(rev 0)

Ah the glasses. And soon the braces. What we do to our children!

Top-135 (rev 0)

We are firm believers in ice cream at every opportunity.

Tiffany Battey,Beth Quigg,Elyse Morse, Leah Chalet

Shoe Queen turns 12. And I obviously have no idea how to take a picture yet.


A pickle on a stick? Why not, I am already nerdy.


River rafting with the cousins. We all needed ice cream after THAT experience.


You never know when we might break into show tunes here at Chez Knit.


IMG_0164You know, I think I have seen that look directed at me.

image 29-4-2009



Shoe Queen and Slim Jim. Aren’t they adorable.

So Benny Boo Noodle Bug Noodie Poodie. A big Happy Birthday from your weeping and distraught momma. Who wishes that you hadn’t grown up nearly so quickly but who is so proud of the person that you grew up to become.


Don’t leave me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, January 27, 2012

7 Quick Takes (Vol 151)


Oh the Winter doldrums are in full swing. We haven’t seen the sun for most of the week. And it is snowing.

So lets blather!

Remember, when you are done reading my dull and humdrum side splitting Quick Takes, click on the picture above to be whisked, at the speed of the snow falling outside my window, over to Conversion Diary.

As if I didn’t have a bazillion other things to do in life…

I have decided that I need to play around with dyeing yarn. It is really all Bonnie’s fault. She just had to go and dye some yarn and then talk about it on her blog. And she had to talk about it at knitting night. And it doesn’t look all that difficult….

Famous last words…..

So I am just going to experiment a bit before I jump in full force.


Did you know you can dye yarn with Kool-Aid? Well you can. And once I have done this then I will come back and show you the results.

Wish me luck.

It doesn’t take much to make us happy here at Chez Knit. We started getting the Wall Street Journal again.


It is SO expensive to get the WSJ so several years ago we canceled it. Oh did I miss it. But after a time they start sending you the “We miss you” letters and the “We want you back” emails and then they off a fabulous deal (which will only last a year or so). AND we could get it plus the online addition all for one low price.

Sign me up!

It was so nice to power up the WSJ on the ipad and lay in bed to read it last night. The high of luxury.

Still loving Pinterest.

Just thought you would want to know.

But I have no idea how I am ever going to cook/bake/make/take all the things that I have pinned.

It has been so hard to come down off of our “holiday sugar high”. Man oh man. I will admit that we usually have a small supply of chocolate of some kind that I keep in a jar in the closet in my office. But HHBL and I felt that it should not be refilled for a while. It isn’t that we eat a bag of candy a week, far from it, but we just needed to go as close to clod turkey on the chocolate and candy as we could.

But there are times every day when I find myself wandering through the kitchen and into the pantry to find something sweet. And there isn’t anything…

Well, other than that Hersheys candy bar that I found and consumed.

It is hard.

I want candy.

Because I don’t have ANYTHING ELSE to do around here at Chez Knit. And also to dovetail with my “use it or clean it out” mode. I am going through all my cook books to see which ones I want to keep. I don’t have vast quantities of cook books, only about 30-40, but I was struck by how dusty some of them where when I cleaned recently. If some of them were covered with dust that must mean that I hadn’t pulled them out for a while let alone cleaned in that area. And so, in keeping with the whole trying to be a better meal planner etc. I have been going through them, flagging the recipes I want to try, putting the recipes, title only and type of recipe, into a data base so that they will be easier to find.

Stop looking at me as if I am some nerdy overachieving geek.

Databases are good. And I was born to spreadsheet.

If the cook book is one that I can’t find at least 10 recipes that I would like to try then it goes bye bye.

That hasn’t happened yet but the theory is good.

Hard as it is to believe, I might have had a bit too much coffee on Wednesday.

I know! I didn’t think it was possible.

I had the usual gallon upon arising. And then at Bible Study we had our “before discussion monthly get together” and Kathy brought an entire “to go” container of coffee from Brueggers Bagels and I filled up the travel mug and drank that down. I remember thinking at the time that this might not be a wise idea. But I did it anyway.

I was like the energizer bunny until right about 4p.

Then I came down from the caffeine high and bottomed out and was perhaps a bit comatose.

But it was fun while it lasted.

It is snowing today. And it also rained. And it is cloudy and cold. So we need some humor.

Monty Python is always funny. I just needed them today.

Oh fine, just one more then.

I can’t seem to stop myself.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Oh What To Do

I am conflicted.

I just don’t know.


Maybe not.

Should I?

Shouldn’t I?


Do you think that I should put this tomato out into the bucket with the other stuff going to the compost pile in the garden?

Or should I wait a bit to see if I can yet use it?

Decision, decisions.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

52 Food Adventures-Little Pillows of Goodness

It is Tuesday and that means that I get to tell you about something that I made or ate that I haven’t ever had before.

First of all I have to tell you that I have absolutely no excuse for not having had these lovely little things.

No excuse at all. I mean if Bill Clinton can come to Cleveland for his first pierogi then I should have been eating them all along. What can I say, sometimes I am slow.

And of course I couldn’t just go out and buy some already made pierogi that are sold in abundance at the West Side Market. Oh no not me. I had to make them from scratch. I was going to take photos of the entire project but once I got started on them I just threw up my hands and said,



That is because it quickly became apparent that this was a messy process. I used Martha Stewart’s pierogi recipe that came out of some issue of her magazine. The pictures were lovely and clean. No flour flung left and right. No mashed potatoes stuck to the wall. But Martha has minions to do her bidding.

I have the dog.


Alpha Male I am always willing to help you in the kitchen. You need only ask.


At any rate, where was I? Oh yes, pierogi.

Just as an aside. Can anyone tell me what the plural of pierogi is? I am confuzzled on that.

What I can say about this recipe is that pierogi are little pillows of goodness. Dough filled with potatoes and cheese. Boiled and then fried in butter.

Just take a minute to think about that.


You could eat them just like this. Boiled until they float to the surface, drained and then sloshed with a bit of brown butter.




You can do this with them. Fry them in a bit of butter until they are crispy on the outside and then serve them with sour cream, crumbled bacon and chives.

Mother of all that is holy!


Ummmmmmmm, they were soooooooooo good.

And just as a last bit. Martha’s recipe makes a BOAT LOAD of pierogi. And I will confess that I actually ran out of rolling out/stuffing/boiling mojo before the dough and potato filling ran out. I stuck a bit of dough in the freezer to see if you can freeze it and then use it later. Martha didn’t tell me and I need to know.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Lonely Mitten

There is much weeping and moaning and gnashing of teeth here at Chez Knit.

A day of mourning was called on Friday and into the weekend.

A mitten was lost.

Now if you are not a knitter then you might not understand the agony I experienced on Friday when I arrived home and realized that I only had ONE of my newly completed, barely ever worn and not even photographed yet mittens.


I pulled into the garage, gathered up all my stuff, grabbed my mittens….

Only there was just one mitten on the seat. Hmmmmmmm. I looked around. I looked under the passenger seat. I looked in my library bag. I looked under the driver’s seat. I looked beside the doors thinking that may be it had fallen down into some space there.

I looked everywhere.

Nada. Zilch. Zippo. Nien. Nyet. Nope.



No lovely burgundy mitten knit with Berroco Ultra Alpaca. No toasty fingers on a cold winter day.

The pain and agony was immense. Weeping and gnashing of teeth. Shouting of imprecations. Calling on the phone to all the places that I had stopped and begging them to find my little lost mitten.

No go.

So I just had to knit some new ones over the weekend.



The Replacement Mittens

You can bet your bottom dollar that when I wore them to church yesterday I kept them close to me. I don’t think that my poor little heart could take another lost mitten.

Friday, January 20, 2012

7 Quick Takes (Vol 150)


Another week has flown by on swift winter wings. And it is time for your weekly dose of blather. So buckle up it is going to be a bumpy night (I might have been watching too many old movies). Remember, when you are done here then click on the picture above to be whisked, at the speed of the fast approaching weather system, over to Conversion Diary.

Now lets BLATHER!

I might have mentioned that this past summer HHBL and I bought a new mattress. It had been 10 years since our last mattress purchase and it was definitely time for a new one. And we made a drastic change in the type of mattress.

Yes, it is “firm” underneath BUT it also has memory foam AND a pillow top.

Oh my stars and garters it is the most fabulous thing EVAH! I get in bed at night and my weary body sinks down into luxury and happiness and comfort. My shoulder issues have disappeared.

But there in lies the problem so to speak. The bed is fabulously comfortable. My body is fabulously comfortable, especially when it is warm and cozy under the flannel sheets. And therefore I am having a bit of trouble getting up in the mornings. My arising time has slowly crept towards 5:45a from the usual 5:15a. And today it was actually 6a. HORRORS!

Of course it is also very cold and snowy and dark outside this time of the year. And the heat doesn’t turn up until about 6a. And it is really dark outside and it is always harder to get up in the dark…and the cold. And I already knew that Lea and I weren’t walking this morning as the temp was going to be about 11F and that is NEVER fun.

I can find a boat load of excuses but really, I just like the mattress.

Speaking of the cold and snow. Every year it takes more effort to keep my feet warm. The hand knit wool socks go a long way towards helping in that department but when it gets really cold I am finding that I need to wear two pair of socks, a wool pair and a lighter cotton pair, to keep the tootsies even a modicum of toasty.

And I am also still struggling to find a truly warm pair of slippers for house wear. I will admit that I purchased my last pair from Wally Mart and the minute the temp dipped below 50F I stopped wearing them because they are useless. I am currently subbing a pair of “Pseudo Crocs” with fleece linings that also came from Wally Mart. They are OK but still not warm enough. I will keep looking.

I may actually have to buy some heavier wool for some thicker socks. I am attempting to knit only from stash for the time being but this is more of a comfort issue.

And an excuse to knit socks.

In keeping with my “NO politics after 8p” rule, I did not watch the Republican debate last night. I value my sleep much more than I value listening to them bash each other.

I have to say that as far as keeping my sanity and sleep patterns is concerned this is one of the best things that I have done for myself since I became more “politically conscious”.

I slept like a baby. And by the time that I arose all the pundits had parsed the debate for me. I like it when others do all the heavy lifting.

The BHAG of scanning in old pictures continues daily. If I don’t scan a bit every day then this gargantuan thing will never get done. And besides, I need a good laugh at least once a day.

Marybeth Reeves and II cannot IMAGINE why Mary Beth Reeves and I are dressed up like psychotic bunnies. The really frightening thought is that we might have even wore these outfits to school. GADS! I am even wearing my Saddle shoes, which I absolutely wore until they fell apart. I loved those things.

I used to hang at MB’s house for lunch early in my high school career. She lived right across the street from the high school. The house is no longer there and MB moved away some time around Sophomore year. Does anyone know where she went? I sure would like to know. 

This week we finally had the ejection pump in the basement fixed.

Don’t know what an “ejection pump” is? Well, if you have a full bathroom in the basement, a bathroom that is below the level of the septic tank, you need one. It ejects things UPWARDS and into the septic system.

Do I need to explain this any further? I am hoping not although I can if I must. Just know that the pump had slowly been dying over time. It hadn’t ever really been well after the whole “multiple paper towel flushing” incident many years ago. The one where the ejection pump became, shall we say temporarily inoperative, and yet people kept flushing the toilet. And that meant that the effluent (look it up) had to go somewhere and that somewhere was out onto the carpeting.

Ask TMO about my reaction upon finding the effluent on the carpet. Go ahead and ask her. I believe she still has nightmares about it.

But thanks to Nick our trusty plumber it is all done.

We won’t be able to eat for awhile do to the cost but at least we can use the bathroom in the basement.

Have you been watching “Downton Abbey” on Masterpiece Classics. I have as we all know. Love Love Love it. Totally hooked. In fact I had better go and set the DVR to record Sunday night’s episode.

Do you know who Simon Schama is? He is a British historian, author and critic. Watching his 15 part series “The History of Britain” was good but time consuming. And he evidently doesn’t like Downton Abbey, calling it a steaming, silvered tureen of snobbery.

Of course it is Professor Schama. Why else do you think we watch it. We KNOW it has improbable storylines and is historically inaccurate. We don’t care. It is FICTION for the love of Peter, Paul and Mary. Get down off of your overly educated high horse and tell us something that we don’t know.

Like who actually killed the little princes in the tower.

Sorry, obscure historical reference. I will try not to let it happen again.

In other words, put on your big girl panties and get over it.

The sun is shining this morning. The sky is a clear blue and no clouds are in sight. And that just makes me nervous. The calm before the storm.

And sure enough, we are supposed to get more snow tonight. The weather person is telling us that they are giving us a “heads up” that sever winter weather is on the way for tonight and into tomorrow.

Sigh. Our “snowless” state was nice while it lasted. Thank goodness I don’t have to go anywhere tomorrow.

Oh Spring come quickly. And just remember baseball Spring training starts in just a few short weeks. And Baseball Opening Day is April 4.

That isn’t TOO far away.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Popovers For Dinner Are Good For Me Right?

There are times when HHBL isn’t home for dinner. And on those nights I sometimes indulge myself with making something odd and specific for dinner.

Tonight it was popovers.

I have a strange and strong love for popovers. And when I have perfected the recipe I will tell you about it and show you how to make them.

But it is not this day.

This day I am just eating these light and eggy nuggets of sheer goodness.



With lots and lots of butter.


And a lovely, cold glass of Menage a Trois Chardonnay. The perfect compliment.


What? You mean I am not supposed to slather on butter to the point that it runs down my chin and onto my fingers?

What do you know? I had three of these pillows of perfection for dinner. They were FABULOUS.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

52 Food Adventures–Thai Curry

Or, How I came to see the beauty of Coconut Milk

My choice this week for something that I have never made or cooked with or eaten is….Coconut Milk.

And I picked it because I wanted to make a particular family recipe, that has come down to me from my Great Aunt Margaret. Aunt Margaret and Uncle Kenneth were, for 10 years, Presbyterian missionaries to the country of Siam. Thailand to you and me….

You know, THAI CURRY.

This recipe came from her. And she brought it back from Siam when they had to return in 1937. And it is……FABULOUS.

I want to apologize in advance for the quality of the pictures. It was night time when I was cooking this. And I hadn’t ever made the recipe before. And there might be some pictures that are missing from the process.


Remember, the recipe link is down at the bottom of the post.


The first thing that you do is open the can of coconut milk. It is going to look solid and congealed on the top. That is the “cream”. You need to scrap that out, put it into a bowl and set it aside because you are going to add it at the very end.


It looks like marshmallow fluff and it smells like all the coconuts in the whole world have come to reside in your house. I just stuck my nose down in there and gave it a good sniff.


Then you are going to give the chopped onions a bit of a saute. I will tell you that the original recipe called for pearl onions to be added later in the recipe. I have an aversion to canned pearl onions as I think they have WAY too strong a flavor and aftertaste. So I fiddled a bit with the recipe.


Turn the heat down to low and then add the coconut milk


Then mix in the curry and the peanut butter. I found that it was best to sort of mix the curry into the peanut butter first and then add it to the coconut milk. I will tell you that I only use McCormick Curry (Spice Islands is owned by McCormick incase you wondered). I like the taste the best. And every curry tastes different so find one that you like and stick to it.


Then in goes the lemon juice and the brown sugar. Half a lemon seems to just about right for my taste.


Then the shredded chicken goes in.


Then the smooshed up garlic. All you need to do is smash it a bit, not even chop it. It is going to melt into the sauce and be wonderful.


Finally throw in a small stick of cinnamon. It sounds odd but you absolutely need it.

Just remember….to take it out before serving. I forgot. HHBL found it. Oops.


And finally, throw in some raisins. The recipe says to use them as a condiment but I put them in the actual curry so that they could plump up a bit. Then give everything a good stir.


But try not to be TOO enthusiastic about stirring.

Let everything cook gently while you are making your jasmine rice. Your house is going to smell just like a Thai restaurant!!


>>>>    THAI CURRY    <<<<

Oh, I have to tell you just a short family story to go with this. The final picture is taken on one of my Blue Willow plates. Grandma Amsler (Margaret’s youngest sisiter) also used Blue Willow plates, which is why I love them absolutely and completely. One day, many years ago, Grandma A. had placed her entire set of Blue Willow dishes out on a shelf. I think she told me once that she was cleaning out the cupboard where the dishes were kept and she needed to put the dishes some place temporarily.

At any rate, the shelf gave way. The dishes gave a gigantic SWOOOOOSH….and crashed to the floor. Almost all of them were broken. Now Grandma was a Presbyterian minister’s wife and there wasn’t money to be able to buy any dishes….

But Aunt Margaret took care of that.

She bought Grandma a new set.

What a sister!