Thursday, September 29, 2011

Busy Busy Week or Two

Got back from a trip to east Tennessee to do some college tours for my 18 year old, and to visit my sister in Maryville.  Last fall we did a tour of Maryville College and this past week we went back up that way to tour University of Tennessee at Knoxville and drove across the mountains to look at Warren Wilson College.  This week we will attend a joint presentation here in town of Emory, Notre Dame, and University of Virginia, and in October do a tour of University of Memphis (to give the local folks a fair shot).  Christian Brothers University here in Memphis, where Hannah did some dual enrollment last year, is also under consideration.  And, although we haven't done a physical tour, Oglethorpe in Atlanta may be  getting an application also.  So we've been knee deep in emails from various universities and colleges, setting up application accounts, and wading through all of this.  Application deadlines range from November 1 to November 15 -- so this is the priority over the next couple of weeks!

It didn't help that all four of us came back from our trip with colds.  Hopefully next week will see Hannah completing her "personal statement" to submit with the applications and we can get them all in.
(note: my camera batteries died during these pics, so the quality is worse than usual)
soon to be college girl, with my b-i-l
daughter #4
dad takes a turn
It wasn't all work up in the mountains, though.  We drove up with my brother in law to a piece of land up on a mountain that some friends of theirs own and the girls spent time swinging on a rope swing, looking at bear marks on a storage bin, and exploring around a bit.  The drive was steep, with some hairpin turns.  The drive over the mountains to near Asheville, NC was beautiful, too.  The weather was perfect the entire time and we had picnic dinners outside at the picnic table at my sister's house.  There is so much to do in that part of Tennessee!  I'm kind of looking forward to driving Hannah up and back for school and seeing all the sights if she ends up that way for college.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Giveaway!

Well, hush my mouth!  I've been given the opportunity to host a Blog Giveaway.

What do I have to give away?  A digital copy of My Memories Suite Digital Scrapbooking software from  This is a $40.00 value, and you can have it for free (my favorite price -- especially if it doesn't add to clutter).

What do you have to do?  Simply leave a comment here on this post and in two weeks I'll use a random number generator to draw the winner.  Visit, look around and share here what you might create with this software, or your favorite paper pack or layout.

Now, in full disclosure My Memories gave me my own copy of My Memories Suite for my own personal use, and I have spent the past week messing around with it and playing with it.  I would also get a portion from any sales using the coupon code I provide at the end of this post.  You don't have to enter the giveaway or do anything special to use the coupon code.  Just copy and paste it when you place your order.

I had an issue downloading the software to my new Mac Pro, but their tech support responded immediately and told me what I needed to do (duh -- who knew I needed a computer password -- I am so low low tech -- it was totally my problem, not any problem with the software) and got me up and going in no time.

Anyone that knows me knows: 1.  I'm not much of a photo person; 2. I am low tech, tech averse, and pretty computer illiterate (I can do word processing, I can do email -- usually, and I can do this blog -- usually); and 3.  I've never been into scrapbooking, especially cutesy style scrapbooking (no offense to those that like that) -- perhaps related to my singular lack of photo-taking through the years, causing a lack of photos to use in said scrapbooking -- and that doesn't even get into the issue of all that tedious sorting and cropping and tricking out of pages.  But, who doesn't like a finished memory book or photo album?

This digital scrapbooking software gets around all of that -- I was able to put together a nice page of a couple of contrasting photos of my pond (what?  you think I should do photos of my kids?), with a stone textured background page, and some fancy text using the templates and materials included in the software and it took me maybe 15 minutes (most of which was looking around and trying different things -- once you know where things are you can whiz through production).  The software seamlessly interacted with my photos in iPhoto, and one can do cropping, effects, and manipulations within My Memories Suite.  Now, I know this is nothing for a real "scrapper", but -- remember, this is me -- the non-scrapper.

One interesting feature is the ability to import backgrounds and elements from wherever into the program, so you are not limited only to what MyMemories produces or sells (the company has a lot of free stuff at their site, and also backgrounds and elements that they sell).  I suspect (though I don't know for sure) that one could scan in one's own art and incorporate that.

Another feature is the ability to take the finished page (or pages of an album) and share them -- by email, or to a disc, print them out oneself, or have them professionally printed.  The software includes the ability to add music and video components, to create a multi-media interactive "book".  Here's the page I did.  It was a cinch to export the page from the My Memories Suite program as a jpeg to my computer, and then upload it here.

I really don't know how this compares to other digital scrapbooking programs, but it sure seems to do a lot, seems to do it well, and (most importantly) I could make it work without having to watch tutorials or buying a "for Dummies" book.

How would I use this?  I can see using it to produce special interest "albums" or books for me or my family:  a year in my garden; a homeschooling yearbook; a family cookbook; a heritage book containing birth certificates, immigration documents and old photos scanned in.  With this software I can almost see it happening . . . .

So, to recap:  Leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of My Memories.  If you "follow" you'll get another chance (be sure to tell me so I don't miss it), and the good folks at My Memories say if you "like" their Facebook page you should have another chance (tell me this, too) and in the meantime here is a coupon code good for $10.00 off the purchase of My Memories Suite v.2 Digital Scrapbooking Software, and a $10.00 coupon for My Memories Digital Scrapbooking Store : STMMMS96861 .

The giveaway will close midnight October 1 central time, and I'll announce the winner on October 2.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

more knitting and autumn colors

Fingerless mittens are fairly easy to knit -- even fair isle (multi colored) ones.  They are just a straight cylinder, with ribbing in the cuffs -- you don't even have to put in a bona fide thumb like I did in these, you can just leave a slit, like a button hole for the thumb.  The straight cylindrical shape makes it easy to use Fair Isle patterns of varying sorts and numbers of rows.  I make copies of black and white pattern charts of Fair Isle rows, pick the the number of rows I want (a 2 row pattern, 5 row pattern, etc) and patterns with the correct number of repeats to fit the stitch number in my piece, and then use markers or colored pencils to try out different color combinations.

I knit these fingerless mittens a few autumns ago.  I was struck by the September/October colors in my yard -- the chartreuse leaves and purple berries of the beauty berry (calicarpa) bushes I have, juxtaposed with the blackened susans (rudbeckia), the deep blue of October skies, the greenish brown loden color of adjacent tree trunks.

Brought out our autumn table cloth and sunflower placemats for our kitchen table finally.  Sometimes the beauty berry leaves will fall off the plant before the berries are all eaten by the birds and squirrels, which is then very striking!

Linking to The House in the Roses Show Off Your Cottage Monday

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Freezer Pickles

I thought I would share my bread and butter freezer pickles, a very easy recipe.  Although freezer pickles and jams are not as aesthetic as lovely jars of canned fruits and pickles, they are so quick and easy that they leave you with no excuse to not lay in your own store, freezer or refrigerator space permitting.  These cukes were, unfortunately, not from my own garden (my cucumber plants having suffered a malingering and wasting away kind of existence over the summer despite my best efforts, and they did not produce well -- heck, the plants didn't even grow very well), but they are from my quarter share CSA that I get each Saturday from Mammaw's Heirloom Vegetables at our very small farmer's market that's held in the parking lot of our local family owned hardware store.

This recipe is from Andrea Chesman's Summer in a Jar: Making Pickles, Jams and More, which gives small batch canning recipes, and includes a chapter on freezer pickles and jams.

Combine 4 cups thinly sliced cukes and one thinly sliced onion with 1 1/2 teaspoons of pickling salt and let stand for about 2 hours, then drain them but do not rinse.

Combine 1 1/4 cups white vinegar, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon turmeric, 1/4 teaspoon celery seed, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and pour it over the cucumbers.

Pack them into freezer containers, leaving about one inch head space and freeze.  They defrost in the fridge in about 8 hours, so I get a container out of the freezer before bed, and then just keep what we don't use the next day in the refrigerator, where they will also keep for several weeks.  Since these pickles are not cooked or processed their color stays bright and they stay pretty crisp.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sunday afternoon

I have been very virtuous.  I have had a glass of water, when what I really wanted was a coke.  And I have been breading and frying eggplant slices for Eggplant Parmagiana tonight and to put in the freezer . . . when what I REALLY wanted was a coke.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

some art pages

Back earlier in the summer I won a blog giveaway of a free art workshop on the online event "Artful Gathering".  The workshop I won (an $80+ value!) was Pam Carriker's Visual Journalism 101, which was comprised of 5 sessions in July.  Ironically,  the free workshop was kind of like the proverbial $600 tomato that gardeners grow:  I had to upgrade our internet speed, upgrade my mac's operating system, buy supplies of course, and ultimately had to have a whole new computer to take advantage of this opportunity.  But it was all worth it, as I learned some really great paint and composition techniques -- since I have next to no art background.  Above and below are two of the pages I made.

And below here, is the altered book page I did for August's altered book round robin.  The theme for this book was "Sewing".  I found a couple of sewing images in an old book and layered them and some paper on to a sewing pattern paper, along with a sewing themed nursery rhyme.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Ever the Optimist

Gardening, like parenting, means one must be ever the optimist, having faith that all will turn out in the end, that all will be provided for, hoping and trusting for good results yet refraining from getting too caught up in the end product -- learning to take pleasure in the process.  Because, surely who would even begin these endeavors if the only reason is a "good" end result.  These are my thoughts as I pull out the blighted beans and defoliated tomato stalks, to make room . . . .

And is there anything more optimistic than planting a fall garden here in our zone 7(A?B? -- I forget, as it has changed during my adulthood -- we're included with northern Mississippi now, rather than the rest of Tennessee)?  A cloudy, cool(er) day (it IS cooler, only 75 degrees, but very very muggy), with a light rain that has lasted several hours -- the product of a cold front coming from the northwest meeting with the northern most rain bands of Tropical Storm Lee.

So a great day for planting seeds for plants that will hopefully grow through the fall and maybe even the winter.  Will it be moist enough for the seeds to germinate?  Or will we get torrential fall storms that wash them away?  Once they germinate will the temperatures moderate so the baby seedlings don't burn up in the hot weather September often has here?  Will we get a frost in early October to zap the babies before they get enough strength to withstand the cold (our average frost date is October 15), or will a killing frost hold off this year until near Christmas, making us wish we had planted more lettuce, left those tomato vines for a second flush of produce?  And will the seedlings put on enough growth before the dwindling daylight places them into a holding pattern until the days begin to lengthen once more after the Solstice?  Plant too early, and they die from heat and drought.  Plant too late and they don't put on enough growth until Spring.

But that's all about the end result.  Today is touching the living Earth, "tickling the earth" as people have done since the beginning.  Planting the seeds as the rain dampens my clothes.  Smelling the microbes doing their work in the soil, as you can when the temperature is moderate and the ground moist (this is what "smelling the rain" actually is -- the microbes in the soil responding to the moisture).  I've done what I can do.  The harvest to come?  We'll see.  It's really not the point.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Colors of Early Autumn

Last Saturday we got some purple hull peas as part of our CSA share, so I spent some of that morning shelling them.  You used to be able to buy fresh (not dried or frozen) shell beans and peas in regular grocery stores here in the south through the late summer and early fall, but now you either have to grow them yourself or buy them at a farmers market or produce stand, as they seem to have disappeared from the large regional and grocery chains (along with decent looking fresh okra!).

Looking at the beans as they fell from their cozy pod nests into the bowl, I was struck by their colors and thoughts of knitting entered my head.  I and my group of friends all taught ourselves and each other to knit years back when our 18/19/20somethings were all wee babes, and over the years I have knit a goodly number of socks and hats, as well as a few pullover sweaters.

Sometimes I like to find my color combinations in the garden or in nature.  I have a set of 100 felt tip markers, and I'll match the marker lids to the colors I see.

And here is the yarn I found in my stash to match the colors of the purple hull peas:

Not quite knitting weather yet -- but maybe if we have some cooler rainy afternoons in the next week or so perhaps I'll start something.  Perhaps a hat, or some socks, or maybe just some wristies (cuffs for wrists and lower arms) -- that would be quick and easy.

Linking to Tuesday Garden Party and Show off Your Cottage Monday