Typical.

Anyone who’s dealt with a Holga will find it not at all surprising that out of the entire roll of film I shot the other day on Route 66 here in Tulsa, this turned out to be the best shot:

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I don’t even know why I shot it. I was pretty sure I didn’t have any shots left, but I just saw it sitting there and figured I might as well try, since I had to advance the film either way. Somehow I just knew it was going to end up being the best thing on the roll, too. Three rolls in, and I am already learning to appreciate — and exploit — the Holga’s decidedly off-kilter world view.

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She’s definitely coming along with me to Illinois this weekend. Maybe I’ll get lucky and that Agfa film Ron ordered for me will come in before I leave Friday. That’d be cool.

I swear, I’m gonna have to design my own camera bag just to accommodate all the equipment I’ve been accumulating lately. Heaven help us if I ever track down my old Magimatic….

Emily

Craftster project

Craftster‘s latest challenge is “Super Ugly to Super Awesome.” You have to take something old that cost less than $20 and recon it into something cool. I used an old chair that I’d tried (and failed) to repaint once before. I’d gotten about a fourth of the way into the project and then abandoned it, and the chair sat around here in its half-finished condition for years. It moved with us in that condition. It was awful. I finally got sick of looking at it and decided to use the Craftster challenge as an excuse to do something about it.

I used a “bee” theme because we’d just harvested honey when I started the new paint job, and I was really amped up about our hive. I think it turned out pretty cool.

Here it is, in all its glory:

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Finished front.

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Finished back.

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Closeups of back.

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Closeups of front.

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Closeup of seat.

And a couple of before shots. I’d been trying to do a Route 66 theme, but I actually started this thing before we ever traveled 66, and I just kind of didn’t get it. I was also using some techniques and types of paint that were ill-suited to the project. The result was pretty bad. I think you can see why I ditched it before I finished:

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I doubt it will win the challenge, but that’s OK — I already won a cool chair. 🙂

Emily

10 on Tuesday: Blessings

Today’s 10 on Tuesday topic was “10 Favorite Things to Complain About.”

I couldn’t have said this 10 years ago, but right now, I can’t think of 10 reasons to complain. In fact, I can’t really think of even one legitimate reason to complain. My life is pretty good. So I’m going to list 10 reasons to be thankful instead:

1. Jamie
2. Ron, who hardly ever complains when I do crazy stuff like painting murals all over the walls
3. My dogs
4. Church
5. My awesome staff at work
6. Our bees
7. Our chickens
8. Our solar panels
9. My woodstove
10. Gretchen

What are you thankful for?

Emily

Doo, doo, doo …

… lookin’ out my back door:

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Not the greatest shots from the greatest angles, but the sunset was too pretty to ignore this evening.

This weather is just the way I like it: cold enough for a fire at night, but warm enough to go out and take advantage of the sunshine during the day. I did lunch with Joy, which means I totally forgot to eat because I was too busy taking Holga pictures along 11th Street.

I made it up to myself by fixing a four-egg omelet with fresh eggs, a splash of leftover cream from my truffle project, and some leftover mozzarella and cheddar cheese from last week. I cooked it in real butter over the woodstove, which heated up quickly once I stoked the fire a wee bit. That stove is perfect for omelets. It’s a nice, even heat that just browns the bottom to perfection and cooks the whole thing quickly, but very gently. I have to finish a project and do some studying this evening, but if time allows, I will head out to the grocery store later to pick up some ingredients for chili and posole. I’m basically turning the living room into a second kitchen for the winter.

Hope you’re having a good evening.

Emily

Chocolate recipes

As promised, here are my Christmas candy recipes. When I say “butter,” I mean butter, not margarine, and when I say “chocolate chips,” I mean chocolate, not “chocolate-flavored pieces.”

Turtles

Labor-intensive, but worth the trouble if you or someone you love is crazy about turtles.

1 can sweetened condensed milk
Three 12-oz. bags chocolate chips
About 2 tbsp. canola oil
About 3/4 c. pecan pieces
1/2 stick of butter

Boil the unopened can of milk in a pan of water for two hours to turn it into soft caramel. While it boils, toast the pecan pieces in butter over a low flame until butter starts to brown. Remove from heat and let cool. Mix chocolate chips and oil in a microwave-safe dish and microwave until chocolate is melted, stirring every 30 seconds.

Line cookie sheets with waxed paper. Use a teaspoon to make puddles of chocolate 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter on the cookie sheets. Arrange six pecan pieces on each puddle to make the legs, head, and tail of the turtle. Chill until the chocolate hardens.

When the caramel has cooled, open the can and place a spoonful of caramel in the center of each turtle. Chill for a few minutes, then spoon melted chocolate over each turtle, completely covering the caramel, and chill until chocolate hardens. Store in sealed containers in the refrigerator. Makes about 50 turtles.

Stained-glass windows: Use this recipe, but sprinkle the waxed paper with about a half-cup of chopped nuts or coconut before wrapping up each log. Not my favorite candy, but quick, easy, and great for adding color to gift baskets and whatnot.

Ribbon fudge: Make two batches of Fantasy Fudge — one peanut butter, one chocolate — and layer them in a greased 9×13 pan. To make peanut butter fudge, substitute a cup of cheap peanut butter (NOT all-natural — it’s too oily!) for the chocolate chips. Also, I recommend using a large jar of marshmallow cream instead of a small one for each batch. My all-time favorite fudge recipe.

Black walnut fudge: Stir a cup of black walnuts into a batch of Foolproof Chocolate Fudge. Not the world’s best fudge, but worth the five minutes it takes to make it. I suspect a small jar of marshmallow creme would improve it.

Truffles

This recipe is basically an easier-to-measure version of the one in the Complete Wilton Book of Candy, which I highly recommend. Time-consuming but very easy, and great for impressing people. Best with Ghirardelli chips, but Nestle will do in a pinch.

About 3/4 c. heavy cream
18 oz. chocolate chips (about a bag and a half)
Sprinkles, chopped nuts, coconut, powdered sugar, cocoa, whatever

Bring cream to a boil over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, stir in chocolate chips, and set pan in the fridge for half an hour to set up.

Drop teaspoonfuls of chocolate onto waxed paper and return chocolate to fridge until it’s the consistency of stiff playdough. Form chocolate into balls and roll in something nice (nonpareils, chopped nuts, coconut, cocoa, powdered sugar, etc.) Store in the refrigerator. Makes about 50 truffles.

Emily

Somnambulism

“Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.”
— I Thess. 5:6

I missed church this morning because my cell phone, which I use as an alarm clock, didn’t wake me up.

It’s possible that the phone simply malfunctioned (it’s happened before, and I’m going to buy a real alarm clock this afternoon, just in case), but when I finally woke up, I was in the middle of a confusing and unsettling dream, so I think maybe the alarm went off, but the lines between sleep and consciousness were so blurred that I simply shut it off without ever realizing I’d heard it.

Interestingly, this frustrating experience with the alarm really illustrates the Lesson-Sermon I missed, which deals with the subtle ways in which error operates. This quote and the one above are from today’s Lesson:

“Evil thoughts and aims reach no farther and do no more harm than one’s belief permits.”
— Mary Baker Eddy

We used to live in an apartment building less than 100 yards from a railroad track. Our bedroom was on the side of the building closest to the track, and the whistles and clacking of the wheels were so loud that I would often hear them in my sleep, think that the train was coming through the wall, and take off running down the hall in terror.

I wasn’t exactly sleepwalking — the whistle was loud enough to wake the dead — but in that hazy point of consciousness between sleep and wakefulness, I couldn’t understand what was happening, so instincts took over, and I reacted based on the only information I had, some of which was true (a train was nearby), and some of which was false (the train was coming through the wall). I couldn’t distinguish between the real and the imagined until I’d regained complete consciousness of my surroundings.

That’s just the way error likes to operate: It catches me on that line between sleep and consciousness and incorporates just enough reality into its claims to trick me into thinking it’s true. If I’m awake to Truth, error can’t make me do anything. But if I’m half-asleep, it’s easy to get confused and let it trick me into doing things that don’t make any sense — like shutting off the alarm while I try to unravel a confusing situation that exists only in my imagination, or running down the hall to escape from a train that’s just rolling along the tracks where it belongs.

Emily

Christmas candy

This is what eight hours in the kitchen looks like:

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Clockwise from top: black walnut fudge, ribbon fudge, stained-glass windows, turtles, more ribbon fudge, more stained-glass windows, and a pile of truffles in the center.

The black walnut fudge turned out OK. When you consider the fact that I made it in the microwave in under 10 minutes, it’s awesome. The stained-glass windows are like rocky road. Very easy. The turtles are more trouble than they’re worth, but they look kind of cool. The truffles are also pretty labor-intensive, but the payoff is better. The ribbon fudge — a layer of peanut butter fudge topped with a layer of chocolate fudge — is the best.

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I found this hilarious decoration at Vintage Holiday a couple of years ago and finally remembered to pick up gumdrops to go on its branches. What a horrible candy … but a truly swell dispenser for it.

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And here’s my little Christmas display in the living room: vintage aluminum Christmas tree, new color wheel (complete with CFL bulb), and a string of LED Christmas lights hanging above the whole scene. How festive.

I know I promised recipes earlier, but they’ll have to wait. My 40-hour sleep deprivation marathon is winding down, and I’m starting to get really spacy. I’ll try to post candy recipes tomorrow, when I’m coherent. For now, it’s bedtime.

Goodnight,
Emily

On a roll

So. I’ve been up since 8 o’clock yesterday morning, and I am feeling GREAT. So great, in fact, that after lunch at Ike’s with some friends of ours from Chandler, I headed over to Reasor’s and bought (hopefully) all the ingredients I’ll need to do my Christmas candy this year.

Most years, I go all-out making candy to give to friends and take to holiday parties. I haven’t really been in the mood to mess with it in a couple of years, but with the tree finally up and my pretty little LEDs hanging above the window today, I feel good and Christmasy, so I think this evening, I’ll attempt ribbon fudge, chocolate fudge, chocolate truffles, turtles, stained-glass windows, and candy dishes.

I’d like to make some divinity, but I think I’ll wait, as it’s a bit temperamental in damp weather, and between today’s misty skies and the 15 years that have elapsed since the last time I made a batch, I don’t feel quite up to the task.

The candy dishes are a new one for me. I’ve looked at the recipe — which is quite simple — a zillion times, but I never quite worked up the nerve to try it. We’ll see how it goes. Recipes and photos forthcoming when I finish these projects….

Emily

UPDATE 1: As of 5:24 p.m., the ribbon fudge and black walnut fudge are done and cooling in the fridge, the truffles are on their second cooldown, and I just finished making the caramel for the turtles. I hope the black walnut fudge turns out well. I tried a new recipe. Based on the spoon I licked, I think it will be passable … not spectacular, but certainly edible. Next up: melting the chocolate and toasting the pecans for the turtles and making the stained-glass windows.

Oh, and P.S.: I’m still not tired. 🙂

UPDATE 2: The truffles are finished, the fudge is all finished and cut into bite-sized pieces, and the turtles are in the refrigerator so the chocolate can set up. I also decorated my gumdrop tree, which is a truly dreadful bit of kitsch I picked up at Vintage Holiday a couple of years ago but never got around to using. It’s perfectly awful. I’ll photograph it later. Right now, I have to pick up more chocolate chips, as I’ve run out and still have to make stained-glass windows.

Thirty-six hours without sleep, and I’m still going strong. My teacher is awesome. 🙂

Sleepless in Red Fork

If it were not for what the human mind says of the body, the body, like the inanimate wheel, would never be weary. The consciousness of Truth rests us more than hours of repose in unconsciousness.”

— Mary Baker Eddy

I’ve just finished up an all-nighter … which represents a wonderful and much-needed healing.

For the past month or so, I’ve felt exhausted. All the time. For no apparent reason. It finally got to the point where it was interfering with my daily activities: Every time I’d sit down to study, I’d fall asleep in my chair, and I even caught myself drifting off at my desk at work a few times when things got slow. It was ridiculous.

I finally got tired of feeling so rotten and called my teacher, who gave me a prayerful nudge in the right direction. I made up my mind last night that I was going to swap those “hours of repose in unconsciousness” for the “consciousness of Truth” that Mrs. Eddy talks about.

As of 8 a.m., I haven’t been to bed, but I have cooked dinner, cleaned up the kitchen, read a half-dozen Sentinels, given the house a surface cleaning, put in a simple indoor clothes-drying system, finished painting black stripes on a chair I’m reconning for a Craftster contest, and started decorating for Christmas. At this rate, I expect I’ll have the tree up and the chair all but finished by the time some friends of ours come by to meet us for brunch in a couple of hours … and best of all, I don’t feel so terribly tired any more.

Hope your weekend is off to as good a start as mine.

Emily

UPDATE: Tree is up, chair is ready for detail work, and I’ve showered and dressed. Go me!