absolute beginner

I briefly mentioned a recent book purchase, Plate to Pixel, in a post earlier this month. I'm not done reading and absorbing, but I've been skimming through and one of the things I've really loved about Helene's styling is the rustic table top backgrounds she uses. I didn't see any explicit directions in the book or on her blog (although there is a brief scene of her painting some wood in this promo video), but I've got piles of old fence boards, so I made up my own version. I finally finished it this weekend, and when the skies went dark and a freak thunderstorm rolled through this afternoon, I decided to set it up on the porch and try it out. 

image from www.flickr.com
I painted one side a robin's egg blue that I had laying around (someday it will be an accent wall in my laundry room), and sanded the other side, so it's two backgrounds in one! I still need to work on adjusting my camera settings, I think these might be a bit too bright and over-exposed, despite the grey skies. I even started playing around with this reflector set I recently bought, it was quite a bargain! I used the diffuser disc on the photo above and directly below, but there's still some glare. I think I better go read some more, and learn how to adjust my camera better. 

image from www.flickr.com
Obviously, my styling and composing skills are rather lacking still, but I am going to keep practicing. In the meantime, I've got some raspberries and cream to eat. Oh, I thought you might like to see the whole background thingie: 

image from www.flickr.com
Here are the very technical instructions (wherein I probably don't use any of the proper woodworking terminology): I took three 6' fence boards, and sawed each in half. Then I cut a couple pieces of 1×2 boards that I also had laying around to the width of the three boards together. I sanded everything and laid three boards down, wrong side up. I put wood glue along one side of one of the 1×2 boards, and positioned it across the three boards. I tried to just nail the 1×2 to the fence boards, but the nails just wouldn't go in, so I used my smallest drill bit (1/16") to drill through them (two holes for each fence board) and then pounded the nails in. After doing this four times, my drill bit broke, so I went up to the next one, and hoped it wasn't too big. Luckily, it wasn't so I continued to add the second 1×2 to the other end. Then I placed the remaining three fence boards on top of the 1×2's, and did the same thing again, except instead of the nails going from the 1×2's into the fence boards, I went through the fence boards into the 1×2's. the nails I used had flat heads, and this is the side that I painted, so they show a little through the paint. I was going for rustic, so this doesn't bother me, but I probably could have used finishing nails and counter-sunk them and used a little wood filler to hide them. Then I painted and sanded the one side. I've left the other side naked so far, but I may stain or wax it eventually. This is so much nicer than my ugly green counter tops for taking pictures of food (and maybe other things too!). 



I'm sewing today, just because I can (Happy President's Day!). I'm also practicing taking pictures with my new 50mm f/1.8 lens. I went the bargain route, so it doesn't have auto-focus. I have to do it all on my own. It's quite a challenge.


One sewing project: hankies! Just for fun. I found this woven plaid at Joann last fall. It's soft, soft cotton, so it will feel nice against my nose. I love vintage hankies, but I can never bring myself to use them, but this fabric was on sale, super cheap, so I don't think I mind if they get a little snotty.


Look at those dreamy eggs!

And this sweet dog:


I may need to adjust the aperture for shots like this. Still, he's so cute.


This one is actually from a few days ago, when the snow was melting. I like water droplets. 


pumpkin patch day

Today Winston and I went to Summers Past Farms for Pumpkin Patch Day. The pumpkin field is small, but there were still lots of pumpkins to choose from. I picked this pretty Cinderella pumpkin right off the vine.

I have been using my iPhone camera more than my Nikon lately, and I've got a couple favorite camera apps that really make a difference. For taking pictures I like Darkroom Premium. It waits until you're holding your phone steady to snap the shutter, so pictures come out nice and crisp. The photo above has no other effects, it's straight out of the camera. All the editing programs are fun too. Tiltshift Generator is a current favorite. Look, mini pumpkins!


And the Best Camera app is pretty great too. It has all sorts of fun filters you can apply and stack and re-order for different effects. It would be nice if they added the ability to adjust the intensity of the features, but maybe they'll add that eventually. After the pumpkin patch we went to a beekeeper meetup in Balboa Park, and I took a picture of this tree:


I used the Jewel, Candy, Vignette, and Frame filters. Not bad for a 3 megapixel camera and a $2.99 app, right? There are lots of good, free apps too. I wrote about a few just the other day, if you're interested. 

Now that I see my pictures big on my computer screen, I feel like I had a pretty productive and successful photography day, if I do say so myself.


Today I covered my camera strap with cute fabric.


It was a vintage wool Liberty of London tie I had squirreled away, waiting for just the right project. I really love it.


I was feeling like I haven't been very productive lately, but I actually have been working on some things. I'm just a little scattered right now.


Two little softies will be on their way to Australia this week for a new book, and I've finally figured out a pattern for the pink and brown quilt I need to make.

My new little layer, on the other hand, has been very productive. One of her very first eggs was a double yolker


And two last words: Greek Nachos. Yum. Okay, that was three words. 



I like giraffes, don't you? Maybe it's because they are tall that I find them so appealing. I do not, however, have quite as long a neck.


This is from my trip to the Boise Zoo last month. It's a nice little zoo, and I had fun getting photography tips from my brother as we walked around. It was like we had our own little photo safari.

I've been working on my jelly roll quilt. 126 triangles down, 78 more to go. I've started putting pieces up on my design wall and I think I'm going to love this quilt. I really like creating my own originals, sorting through fabric and finding just the right combination, but sometimes it's so nice to just let someone else do all the thinking work, and just enjoy the patchwork zone that I get into, cutting, sewing and pressing.

Winston is laying on his back, paws in the air, and just started wagging his tail for no apparent reason. He's such a happy dog, I can't help but smile when I'm around him. Yesterday morning I was loading the car with bags for Good Will. I left it open while I went back in the house to get ready for work. When I cam back out to leave, a good 20 minutes later, there he was, sitting in the driver's seat, ready to go! I was tempted to take him with me to work, but it wouldn't have been much fun for him to lay under my desk all day.

pioneer weekend

I pretended to be a pioneer this weekend, except for the electricity and indoor plumbing, oh, and the washer and dryer and gas stove, but other than those little conveniences, it was just like being a pioneer.

I haven't been cooking much more than dinner lately, so I decided to spend a little more time in the kitchen this weekend. When the Angry Chicken mentioned making butter, and 70-some comment-ors shared their enthusiasm, I had to jump on the bandwagon and try it too. I did it in a more pioneer-like way, and shook a pint of cream in a quart-sized mason jar. It was fascinating how the texture changed. First it just got all thick and frothy, and I was worried my jar was too small. Then I could hear it sort of thunk-ing around, and then suddenly it was a solid mass and finally, it turned pale yellow and there was a chunk of butter sitting in a pool of milk. This would be a great home-school science lesson! I recently scored a bunch of mini jello molds, which will soon be turned into pincushions, so I pressed the butter into one of them and let it harden in the fridge for a while and then turned it out on a plate.


The pint of cream made that-which I would estimate is 3/4 to 1 cup, plus another half a stick. I salted it very lightly, really just a couple shakes of kosher salt, and when I tasted it right after it was finished I was worried that I put way too much in, but today it's much better. And I have been eating a lot of slices of bread and butter.

So that was my weekend to-do list up there, and I didn't get it completely finished, but I did make quite a lot of progress. Make Butter: check!

Next up was Make Pickles. I will not be able to tell you how successful that venture was for two or three months, however. Here's a little more pickle backstory: Mr. HeyLucy loves a good antipasto salad, and the last time we had pizza the salad was a little disappointing. We are also trying to be more thrifty and not eating out, so this will be a good thing to try and make ourselves at home. Summer garden plans are in the works, so if the homemade pickling thing works out, we'll plant lots of pickle-friendly vegetables. Also, I was talking to a couple Persian friends at work who told me all about torshi, Persian pickles. One of found this recipe and sent it to me. I modified it a little, and made it a bit more Italian style (because I'm such an Italian cuisine expert). Here are all my vegetables, ready to be mixed and put in jars. The bowl is full of herbs and vinegar, and it smelled delicious, although now I need a break from the smell of vinegar for at least a couple days.


Vegetables are pretty! Clockwise, from the top left we have green pepper, cucumbers (the little persian ones), herb-y vinegar, cauliflower, carrots, cooked eggplant (not too much of that, I wasn't sure if we would like it), whole garlic cloves, and celery. I ended up with five quarts and one pint. Now it has to sit for a couple months and then we can enjoy it! Make Pickles: check!

Next up, Sew Skirt. Didn't happen. I have some pretty grey linen for a Summer skirt, and I want to sew lots of rick-rack around the bottom, but the fabric store I went to on Friday only had purple, so I will have to go on a rick-rack hunt next week. Sew Skirt will move to the top of the list for next weekend.

Gather Moss. I don't think I'm ready to take the dogs out again, my hand should be healed by next weekend, however, so that stays on the list. The dogs each got a little brushing, and therefore quality one-on-one time with me instead, and it's not like there was a moss emergency. My terrarium in the little house studio is doing quite well, I will have to take a progress picture so you can see how pretty and green it is.

Sew Blouse. Well, it's cut out, so that one gets a partial check. I hope to work on it this week, so expect to hear more about this later.

Sweep Driveway. We have a big driveway. Between dogs digging and chickens scratching, and wind blowing, it gets messy. I got a lot swept, so I'm giving myself a check mark, but there is one more corner to do, so it will be back on the list next week too.

Do laundry. Done! Although not yet put away, at least it's all folded. Maybe tomorrow I will finish putting it away, and then I will get my check mark.

Make Pincushions. Well, I tried, but more experimenting is needed. I did make a strawberry with emory sand, so I'm kind of excited about that. I made one attempt with the aforementioned mini jello molds, but I have to try again. No check mark, back on the list.


I'm excited to make some new little sets, with wool-stuffed pincushions and emory-filled strawberries, and maybe even matching needlebooks.

Bake a Cake. Specifically, Nigella's Clementine Cake. I've been wanting to make this forever, or at least for the last three months. So forever might be an exageration, but I finally did it today. And it's good, but not quite as outstanding as I was expecting. She does say that she prefers it the next day, so maybe my opinion will change tomorrow. I think I might like it more with a simple orange glaze. It's flourless, so it might be a good recipe to add to your reportoire if you need a gluten-free cake. Also, it's not all that exciting to look at:


So that was my weekend to-do list. I should have included Pick Flowers, because that would have earned me another check mark.



I hope you won't mind just a few more pictures of daffodils and grape hyacinth, but we have to enjoy them while we can!


I love that bright orange center, and how about that extreme bokeh, eh? 


I just love these tiny things. That photo is worth looking at full-sized. This version is straight out of the camera, but I played with some Photoshop actions and added those versions to flickr.


I'm tired of that apple pie post, so it's time for something new. Unfortunately it's almost 10 p.m. and I'm tired, so I'm going to write a short post about fungi. I like mushrooms, but I don't know much about them. Interestingly, we have quite a unique specimen growing on one of our oak trees. We know it is interesting because one day we found a note on our front gate from a gentleman who was making a documentary about mushrooms and he asked if he could return to film our Chicken of the Woods mushroom for his movie. We called him to let him know we were happy for our fungi to have it's 15 minutes of fame, but sadly, his funding fell through and the compelling drama of the world of fungi has yet to be made.


Our tree has since died, but we left the massive trunk standing, and the Chicken of the Woods are still growing.

Last week, Jamie Oliver made Wild Mushroom and Venison Stroganoff and he used a chicken of the woods mushroom. I'm not sure if my culinary skills are up to something so exotic. I've never cooked venison and don't know any hunters, but it did look pretty good.


I also got some macro filters for my camera last week and took some extreme closeups.


For those of you not fond of fungi, I'll leave you with a little Winston shmoopie love.


How can you not love that little furry face?

a few pictures from the farm and a list

I’m still trying to learn how to use my zoom lens, and I was practicing this morning. Sally kept walking closer and closer. I think I have a picture that is nearly all beak. In this one you can see her pretty blue eyes. Er, eye.


The dogs run through the dew and drink out of Sally’s pool in the morning, then go lay in the dirt, so they’re always a bit disheveled looking in the morning. Here’s Winston’s dirty face:


There has been quite the chicken soap opera going on around these parts, but it will take several entries to share that tale. In the meantime, meet Colonel Sanders:


Something I really need to work on: check the white balance before taking pictures! I was so concerned about my aperture and shutter speed that I forgot that the last time I used my camera I was taking pictures in the kitchen in the evening and had the white balance set on incandescent. Doh! So that’s why everything is blue. That’s also not the first time I’ve done that. When will I learn?

And now, a list of movies that should not be viewed on an empty stomach:

  • Big Night
  • Eat Drink Man Woman
  • Howard’s End
  • Mostly Martha

Do you have any to add to the list? I’m just trying to serve the public here at Hey Lucy, and prevent any unnecessary hunger pangs.

I watched Mostly Martha last night, but it was after dinner, so I was okay. Next on my Netflix queue is No Reservations. I’m going to see how it compares to Mostly Martha. I usually hate Hollywood remakes (for example, Shall We Dance, the Japanese version, is far superior to the U.S. version), so I have very low expectations.

the last post about my feet until the next one

Thank you all for the best advice ever. How could I not order the shoes after 14 comments telling me to get them. And I even took my mom’s advice and thought long and hard about whether I would be able to wear them for a long time or if they would go out of style too quickly to be worth the price. BUT, since they aren’t really trendy, just unique, I thought I’d be able to wear them for years and years. Alas, there has been a tragic outcome to this footwear fairytale:


Dear Nordstrom.com: Camper’s size 41 does not equal size 11. Not even a small 11. I don’t think it’s actually more than a 10. A small 10 at that.

I was able to squeeze my feet in there for the 52 seconds it took to take this photo, but there’s no way I’ll be able to wear these puppies. It’s so sad. So, it’s back to the store they go. I guess I’m going sandal shopping instead. And I really do need some sandals. I’ll fill you all in on the adorable sandals I’m sure I’ll find, because despite this shoe tragedy, I’m still an optomist.

Mr. HeyLucy even thought the shoes were cute, and brought me tulips to cheer me up (okay, not really. He did bring me tulips, but they had nothing to do with the shoes, they were just on sale at the grocery store, and he knows I love them).


Next time, here at Hey Lucy, there will be knitting! and sewing! But for now, I leave you with a picture of Winston, who will be getting a haircut this week. The poor little guy seems to get hot quite easily. At least I think that’s why he jumps in the geese’s water dish and gets his feet wet, and then runs through the dirt so they’re good and muddy, and then doesn’t understand when I get mad at him for jumping on the bed.


I was trying to take a picture of that big white iris you see in the upper right corner, but someone kept getting in the way. 

pictures of dogs

I promise this post isn’t going to be only about dogs, but Keri said I could post a picture of Winston every day, if I wanted to, and odd dotty wanted to know more about the animal photography lecture I went to, and I aim to please. So first, here is Winston pouting again, because I’m not paying attention to him. That dog works himself into a frenzy when I get home from work every night. Actually, he gets nearly as excited to see me when we’ve been apart for five minutes. I can’t even go to the bathroom in peace if he’s in the house. Tomorrow I have to leave from work to go to my mother-in-law’s house and won’t be back until Friday. I’m a little worried about how he’s going to handle that. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to bring him along, but I don’t think his hyper-activeness will be appreciated since I’m going to take her in for cataract surgery, and he’s never been there before. I’m sure he’ll survive for two days, right?


As for animal photography, let me just start by saying that this is how most of my pet photos turn out.


It has it’s own sort of charm, I guess.

Here are some things I learned (and some of these really apply to any kind of photography, and a lot of them are really just common sense):

1. Be patient! Don’t expect to have a 15 or 20 minute photo session with your pet. In fact, just shoot for a minute or two at a time.

2. Let the animals get used to you and your camera. Just have your camera out and press the shutter a few times to get them used to the noise. This is helpful with especially shy or nervous animals, or animals who aren’t used to cameras. If you want to shoot your pet in a particular area, hang out in that area with some treats or toys so that they become interested in that area on their own. Then, once they are comfortable there, start taking pictures!

3. Try to always work in natural light. Animals, even more so than people, get terrible red-eye when you use your flash. If you must use a flash, then an off-camera flash with a diffuser is the best option.

4. Get down at your pet’s level. Trying to see things from their perspective makes for much more interesting shots. Also, try to capture their personality by photographing them doing what they do most. I’ve noticed that most of my photos of Lucy are taken when she comes to check out what I’m doing. I know cats are curious in general, but she always has to know what’s going on. I don’t have as many pictures of Petey, because he’s either sleeping or zooming around, bouncing off the walls, which brings me to the next tip:

5. Learn how to shoot in ‘Action’ mode. Unless I want a bunch of pictures of a sleeping Petey, I’m going to have to learn how to do this.

6. Take lots and lots of pictures! You’re sure to end up with a few good ones.

Any other ideas/tips would definitely be welcome, or links to your favorite pet photos. Please share in the comments!

And for you non-dog people, I also like taking pictures of flowers:


I also have a healthy eating report! This picture is not super great, but this meal was pretty tasty:


It’s Thai-style Halibut with Coconut Curry Broth, and it’s from this book, which I mentioned before. It was super easy and delicious, and I will definitely be making it again. In fact, I think I’ll make it tonight, but with vegetables instead of fish. Another favorite from the same book is Greek Style Stuffed Peppers, which we’ve made quite a few times, but using ground turkey instead of ground beef. I’ve also been making a healthier version of Shepherd’s Pie, I’ll share that recipe next time, if anyone is interested.