Fruit trees and summer memories

blueberries4blog-11I grew up on a property in South Seattle with a lot of fruit trees. June cherries, July blueberries, August Italian prunes (plums), apricots and blackberries, September apples & pears (and quince too, but there was only one tree and we never found or developed a recipe that made them very desirable to eat). It was as if the original owner planned to have a new fruit coming ripe one after another all summer long. Actually, I’m sure he did. He also built the house on the property and it was a wonderful home in which to grow up. My family owned the home for more than 25 years, we enjoyed the fresh fruit all summer long almost every year.

blueberries4blog-5So much of how I remember the summers of my childhood include something to do with fruit—picking fruit, sharing fruit and of course eating fruit. Like the time my brother and I decided we couldn’t wait for our parents to get home from work to pick the delicious cherries that were at their peak. We were latchkey kids back in the day, but it wasn’t that big a deal. I was nine or ten years old and my brother three years older. We had rules like no cooking, no unapproved friends over, among many others. A big one during the summer was that we were not to climb the trees unless our parents were home.

Against the rules, we climbed the trees (all the time!), especially the cherry trees, to reach high into the branches to get the reddest, juiciest cherries. We had a couple of beautiful cherry trees that seemed built for kids to climb. And then there were others that were a little bit tricky. Well this one day we must’ve been up in the trees for at least 2 hours (there were six cherry trees). I’ve never had a strong fear of heights and I was up in the trees even higher than my older brother. We were in a cherry induced delirium, no doubt.

We were in such a stupor from the cherries that we missed The Daily Call from my mother. She called every afternoon to check how things were going, make sure we were following “the rules.” This was of course before cell phones (early 1980s) and to miss The Daily Call was tantamount to declaring we had died, or the house had burned to the ground in my mother’s mind. Not being able to reach us, she contacted my father and he had to leave work early to see what had befallen us. Unfortunately my brother realized we’d missed The Daily Call just as my father was pulling into the driveway. I on the other hand, was still in the cherry delirium. Uh-oh!

My brother tried to explain about the cherries and how they were practically speaking to us, calling our names. I don’t recall that we were severely grounded, just a stern discussion about the rules and why they exist, especially for my big brother who was responsible for me after school. I think my parents actually understood. They loved cherries too!

Seattle Center Flag Pavillion late 1970sA few years prior to that incident, my beloved grandmother (who didn’t do air travel) took the bus from Alabama to Seattle and spent a few summer weeks with us sometime around the late 1970s. (That’s me in pictured above with my grandma, mom and brother at the Seattle Center Flag Pavillion.) It must have been in August because she made the most delicious plum fruit leather I’ve ever had to this day. Soft, but chewy with just the right balance of tangy and sweet. She even cut it up and wrapped it in cellophane. She also made jars and jars of jam and jellies as grandmas must do, but the fruit leather was like candy to me as a child.

APPLESThen there was the year we had so many apples my parents invited several families from our elementary school PTA over for a cider party. The school principal brought his vintage wooden cider press and the families brought their empty milk bottles. We sent every family home with several gallons of fresh cider each and a few boxes of apples too!

blueberries4blog-7And the blueberries. There were so many that we’d invite the neighbors over to pick them during the prime window of ripeness. We’d arm ourselves with the biggest Tupperware mixing bowls we could find along with any plastic cup with a handle. The handle was ever so important to the picking technique so that you could hook the cup on your thumb and pretty much pick with 2 hands. In a couple of hours we’d pick a mountain of berries. We always gave away more berries than we ate.

My family sold the property more than a decade ago, but my mom transplanted a few of those trees to her current house and she’s added new ones. She gives us a few quarts of her harvest each year. I’m not big on blueberries cooked in various other foods (I.e. Muffins, pancakes, pie, etc). Having practically grown up on a fruit farm, I’m spoiled for fresh fruit and that’s the almost only way I’ll eat it most of the time.

blueberries4blog-4Harvesting fruit trees on your property, or tending a garden with family and friends can create wonderful memories to last a lifetime. Every time I have plums or fruit leather I think of my grandmother. I’d love to have pictures of her making fruit leather when she was here in Seattle. I encourage you to pull out your camera from time to time to capture those memories. Then once you have a few moments recorded, don’t just leave them on your computer or external hard drive. I’d love to knit together your images into home movies or a photo slideshow you’ll love to watch over and over for many years to come.

Last year we purchased a couple of small blueberry bushes and they’ve really taken off in size. My husband, unlike me, loves blueberry cooked in anything. I would love to grow enough to have blueberry pancakes once or twice a month year round as a special treat. Our blueberry harvest will probably total around a quart this year (I’m being optimistic), but we think we chose a good spot for the bushes to thrive into the future and make great family memories for many years to come.

blueberries4blog-2

More Product Photos: Vintage Table Linens

4etsy-vintage-linens-38

Happy Monday! Here are the results from Friday’s photo shoot, this time pretty vintage table linens. The location was tight, so I had to get creative with the angles. Again, these will be for sale in the near future in the BellaGrace Inspired vintage and handmade store on Etsy.

[UPDATE: These pretty vintage linens and a few other pieces are now currently for sale in the BellaGrace Inspired Esty store!]

4etsy-vintage-linens-16

4etsy-vintage-linens-29

I was listening to ( and sometimes watching) the fantastic food photography workshop on creativeLive while prepping the linens (ironing…) and setting the scene. It provided wonderful real time tips and also inspiration. All I needed to complete the picture was fantastic looking food.

4etsy-vintage-linens-43

4etsy-vintage-linens-10

Have a wonderful week!

Etsy Photo Shoot: Vintage brass doorknobs

4etsy-vintage-doorknobs-4

I was very pleased with the results of today’s photo shoot. It was a grouping of vintage Victorian era brass door knobs. The polished brass in the ceramic bowl, against the dark background made for an interesting vignette. Props are so important to setting the scene. Rustic southwest ceramic with traditional Victorian? Interesting intersection of time, place and cultures, but I think it works. These classic doorknobs will be for sale in the BellaGraceInspired etsy store very soon.

4etsy-vintage-doorknobs-2

4etsy-vintage-doorknobs-5

brass doorknobs in ceramic bowl

4etsy-vintage-doorknobs-3

4etsy-vintage-doorknobs-7

4etsy-vintage-doorknobs-6

bowl of vintage brass doorknobs

What’s Up in My Cloud: Bye-Bye Google Reader, Hello…Change

up-in-my-cloud-iconSo Google Reader is no more. And has been off the grid for more than a week now. Google Reader had been part of my daily ritual almost since its inception in 2005. The demise of Google Reader hasn’t been as disruptive as when the Oprah Show (another part of my daily ritual) went off the air, but finding a suitable replacement has been a challenge.

In a Google Reader Rut

I have to admit to having been in somewhat of a Google Reader rut. For years. I used it daily (many times a day) to keep up with my favorite websites in a way that felt to me to be an efficient use of my time.

I loved that for a long time most of the feeds included the entire article (with pictures) and I didn’t have to be sucked into a full website experience that would just end up with me going even further down a rabbit hole that wasn’t originally intended. Then many sites and their feed services got smart and would only put up partial articles, maybe with some, but not all of the images and I would then be forced to go to the site to get the full article. That was still better than visiting 60-70+ sites a day.

Skimming the headlines in a feed reader is enough for me to take the temperature of a site’s offerings and decide if I want to dig for more. It was great to also be able to do that on my iPhone, iPad or using the Google Reader web app on both those devices. A perfect time killer when waiting in line at the Department of Licensing, right?

But back to my Google Reader rut. I tried other RSS feed readers, mostly on iOS devices and really never stuck with an alternate for the time it would take to get through the learning curve. I just kept going back to Google Reader. And I’ve heard that some people actually receive their RSS feeds through Outlook? What a nightmare for your inbox!  I’m subscribed to approximately 70 feeds at any one time. No, Google Reader worked just fine for my needs.

Next Steps and Alternatives

toddler looking at plate of grapes

Despite the Google Reader shutdown being announced in March of this year, I dragged my feet almost to the bitter end. In mid-June I cleaned out my Google Reader faves (starred items) etc. Then exported my OPML file using Google Takeout (which apparently Google will allow you to do until July 15). I researched alternatives to Google Reader including Feedly (free…for now), Feedbin‎ ($2/month or $20/year), Newsblur (limited free account or $24/year for premium), NetNewsWire ($10 while app is in beta, $20 after), and Feed Wrangler FeedWrangler ($19/year), just to name a few. There are several additional alternatives to Google Reader out there that you can try out for yourself if you’re able to invest the time.

And the Winner Is…Only Time Will Tell

I started using Feedly more than two weeks ago because it was being recommended by several podcasters I regularly follow and whose opinions I respect. Feedly seems to be the most popular right now because it’s currently free and they made it super easy to transfer all my feeds over. Feedly also has iPad and iPhone apps that sync so that you can hop from device to device—just like I used to do with Google Reader. It’s most glaring drawback for me is the lack of search functionality–the ability to search through all my past feeds. Feedly support reports that it’s a feature they are working on for the future. A nice feature is that now my faves (aka. saved, starred, etc.) can save to my Pocket account to read/refer to later.

I took a hard look at a paid option such as Feed Wrangler with it’s less than elegant interface, but with sync between and free Feed Wrangler apps for iPhone and iPad. It would be nice to have a 10-day trial for some of these paid options. And…Feedbin looks good too, comparably priced, but without the iOS apps (at the time this article was written).

Even internet biggies like Digg and AOL  have come out with their own free feed aggregators. I’ve played with them a bit and and Digg may end up being my back up, but in my brief time with it, the feeds weren’t updating fast enough. It’ll also be interesting to see the social media spin they each will include in future updates given their origins.

The Future of Feed Readers

But my question remains: if Google couldn’t make a go of it with a free RSS reader, then how will any other company succeed with a free offering? Or another way to pose that question is: how long will these options remain free? Or how will the advertising landscape change within the screen real estate of this new crop of RSS readers? Given what the paid offerings are currently, I would actually have paid Google a couple of dollars a month to keep Google Reader going.

Don’t Look to Replace, Look for the Next New Thing

Okay. Change is hard. For me, there was no replacement for Oprah. I never switched to Ellen or Katie Couric or any other daily TV talk show. I fill that time with audio podcasts now, of which the range and quality of topics and discussion make the daily TV talk show format seem so 1994. (…my addiction to audio podcasts is a topic for another article). My point is along the same lines: Google Reader was so 2009, right? It’s time has come and gone and now there’s room for a new generation of RSS readers that may turn out to be easier to use, more in tune with emerging social media trends and will better facilitate my engagement with my online interests and their related communities.

Now It’s Your Turn…

Were you a Google Reader user? If yes, what are you using now? If no, how do you currently consume your favorite blogs and other websites?

Kid App Review [NEW FEATURE]

Preschooler App Reviews and My Thoughts on Technology for Kids

toddler on ipadMy parents got my daughter an iPad a couple of years ago for her second birthday! She’s now in preschool and just turned four and the iPad has proven to be a great learning tool for her. Since I spend a “not-insignificant” amount of time searching and evaluating apps for my daughter, I’ve been thinking to work this into a regular blog post for my readers.

I have a couple of apps that I use regularly to scour the Apple App store for educational apps as well as apps that are just plain fun. (I’ll include the names of those apps in an upcoming article.) No, I’m not a professional educator, just a mom who recognizes that technology doesn’t have to be a time waster in our children’s lives, but a quality learning tool that can benefit them with our guidance.

I hope to write at least couple of reviews each month to start, based on my experience and my daughter’s experience with a particular app and how it’s helping her at whatever her current level is, right now that’s whatever is relevant to 4-year-old preschooler, but I’m sure  some of the information will apply to kids of all ages.

Some weeks will be a review and some weeks will just be a list of apps I recommend that you try out with your child. Sometimes I’ll include some tips for using the iPad with your child and helpful links. There are a few things I look for when I’m searching, such as:

  • Educational Category: This could be math, counting, ABCs, writing, phonics, rhyming! etc.
  • Layout & Flow: user interface design is near the top of my list
  • Graphics Quality: it’s important to me as a designer that the graphics look good, but I can overlook if the content is good.
  • Price: I discovered a lot of really great apps that were free at the time I downloaded them (may or may not still be free) and a few that cost between 99 cents and $5. Another price related consideration: is it a full-featured app, or just bare bones requiring in-app purchases or an additional cost to upgrade to/unlock a worthwhile experience?

I’m sure there are other criteria not on the above list that I’m always (subconsciously) including in my analysis. I’d love to hear what’s important to you when choosing apps for your kids. Also let me know in the comments which kid apps are your favorites.