Saturday, June 29, 2013

Picking and Preserving Strawberries

I went strawberry picking with my sister-in-law and my nephews this week and picked over twenty pounds of strawberries.  (And I probably would have picked more if my nephews were a little more interested.)  It always seems like such a good idea at the time.  But then, of course, I have to come home and do something with them.

So far I've managed to make strawberry sauce, from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, which is delicious.  I made it to add to plain yogurt, but I'm going to have a hard time not putting it on top of anything it could possibly go with.  (That was fun--I chose an 85 degree day in my non-air conditioned house to can something that requires constant stirring of a boiling pot for fifteen minutes.)  And I made a cold-process strawberry shrub.  (Thankfully, no stove required!)  Shrubs are amazing and so easy to make.  I highly recommend mixing one up.  I normally make non-alcoholic drinks with shrubs by mixing with sparkling water, but I'm going to try some cocktails with this batch.  I've also frozen a bunch of strawberries for later use, but I still haven't quite figured out what I'm going to do with the rest that are in my fridge.  I was originally planning some strawberry rhubarb jam (with our own out-of-control rhubarb,) but I haven't gotten around to that yet.  Maybe today.

flat overflowing with strawberries
there were two of these
4-cup measuring cup full of cut strawberries
cut up and ready to go
6 half pint and 1 4-oz jars of starwberry sauce
strawberry sauce

Friday, May 17, 2013

New Canning and Crochet Books

My birthday was a few weeks back and I got some wonderful new canning and crochet books: 

Crochet Stitches Visual Encyclopedia by Robyn Chachula
- I can never have enough stitch dictionaries, which are basically lists of instructions on how to do different stitch patterns.

Creating Crochet Fabric by Dora Ohrenstein
- This book is supposed to be amazing if you write your own patterns--or have any interest in doing so.

Food in Jars by Marissa McClellan
- Food in Jars is one of my favorite canning websites so I definitely wanted the book.

The Joy of Pickling by Linda Zedrich
- We love pickles around here, so an entire book about pickling seemed like an obvious choice.

So far I've mostly just looked through them and picked out things I want to make--like Gingery Sweet Pickled Vegetables (Joy of Pickling) and Cantaloupe Jam with Vanilla (Food in Jars.)  I also did a little Tunisian crochet swatching from some stitch patterns in Crochet Stitches Visual Encyclopedia for a possible summer scarf pattern.  (And learned I need more practice at Tunisian crochet.)  I'm sure I'll let you know as soon as I get around to making anything from them.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

New Design - Felted Bubble Bowls

three felted wool bubble bowls

I have a new felted bowl design available in my Etsy shop that I'm pretty excited about--I'm calling them bubble bowls.  I kinda love these little round, roly-poly bowls.  As is my usual habit, most of the ones I have done so far are in bright colors, but I am working on some in a more subdued color palette.  I'm thinking these should be available in different sizes, so those are currently in progress.  I'll let you know how it goes.

blue felted wool bubble bowl

green felted wool bubble bowl

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Gardening and Growing Plants From Seed

I have kind-of a love/hate relationship with gardening.  Mostly because I'm not very good at it.  I kill houseplants frequently and I'm not disciplined enough to take care of my garden the way it should be taken care of.  I almost never manage to stake the tomatoes, I let bugs and weeds get completely out of control and I often forget to water.  I keep at it though, because I love being able to pick fresh, organic food from my yard.  Besides, if you are a canner, having a garden is pretty much a must.  It means I can make jars and jars of tomato sauce and pickles for practically nothing.

small vegetable plant seedlings in a tray
seedlings about a month ago

One part of having a garden that I definitely do love is starting plants from seed indoors.  It's almost like magic to start with dirt and tiny little seeds and end up with living things.  And it seems especially magical to do that when there's snow on the ground outside.  Plus, growing your own seedlings is so inexpensive compared to buying seedlings.  One package of seeds often costs about the same amount as one or two seedlings so if I want to grow something in bulk (like paste tomatoes), it seems like the only way to go.

tall tomato plant seedling
tomato plant seedling today

My plants grew so well this year that I now have more tomato plants than I have room to plant, so I hope I can find people who want to adopt some of them.  (The problem was exacerbated by the fact that I couldn't resist a special pack of five different kinds of tomato seeds and so had to plant those along with my pear and paste tomatoes--giving me seven different types of tomatoes to find room for.)

Monday, April 22, 2013

New Logo Rubber Stamp

Ruth & Hazel logo stamp with packaging
adorable packaging

I just received my hand carved rubber stamp with my business logo from Brown Pigeon on Etsy and I love it!  The owner, Meagan, was lovely to work with and the entire process was super easy and fast.  If you need a custom stamp of any sort, I definitely recommend this shop.

Ruth and Hazel logo stamp with stamped image on paper

Of course I neglected to buy ink for my stamp, so I had to try it out with an old green stamp pad I found in a drawer.  Try to picture it in blue.  I'm planning to stamp all of my bags for my craft shows and my packaging and anything else I can think of.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Product Photography - Before and After Editing

I'm not much of a photographer so I struggle with product photography.  I try to stick with very simple photos (hopefully letting the products speak for themselves), although I have been attempting to use more interesting camera angles in the past year or so.  I take most of my pictures inside in a fairly small homemade light box.  The items that don't fit in the light box--like ones taken on my mannequin, Helena--get photographed outside because I don't have a good place to do it indoors.  So for those, I try to wait for an overcast day and hope it's not raining or snowing--obviously I much prefer to take pictures inside.

Granny Square Brooch on a mannequin

My editing process is extremely simple.  I use Photoshop Elements to make the background white, crop and occasionally brighten or darken or slightly adjust the hue, though that's not usually needed.  My main concern is getting the colors to look like they do in life--I never want someone to be disappointed when they receive their purchase.

dark photo of felted coasters showing lightbox
Original photo

cropped and edited photo of felted coasters
Edited and cropped

No matter how I try to streamline the process, I still end up taking lots of pictures to get ones I'm satisfied with.  I took 434 pictures yesterday and I should have 21 Etsy listings when I'm done editing them.  I never realized how much time I would have to spend on photography when I started my business--I feel like I'm never caught up.   I hope to continue to improve so I can spend a little less time taking pictures and more time making the things I need to take pictures of.