Rainy Day Playdough

This maybe a bit out of place on my blog, but I make playdough at least once a month with my kid and thought I’d share.

This cooked playdough recipe keeps my preschooler busy for at least a couple of hours on a rainy day. From helping to measure the ingredients, to mixing in the food coloring and then the actual playtime, we’ve got plenty to do and it keep us out of trouble.

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Combine 1/2 cup salt, 1 cup flour, 1 cup water, 1 tablespoon cooking oil and one tablespoon cream of tartar in a saucepan and cook over low heat while stirring with a fork or small whisk. Remove from heat when it just starts to clump. It’ll look a bit like mashed potatoes. Scrape sides of pan and gather into a ball as best you can.

When cooled enough to handle divide into pieces (equal to the number of colors you want to create). Knead in food coloring. I highly recommend wearing gloves to avoid staining your hands with the food coloring. Store in plastic bags.

Let the hours of fun begin!

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.

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More Product Photos: Vintage Table Linens

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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!]

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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.

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Have a wonderful week!

Etsy Photo Shoot: Vintage brass doorknobs

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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.

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brass doorknobs in ceramic bowl

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bowl of vintage brass doorknobs

2013 Tulip Festival

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Tulips have always been my favorite flower. I was married in Mexico in April of 2003. I had a bouquet of white tulips, with even more purple tulips included in the reception table centerpieces. They had to be flown in. DO YOU KNOW HOW EXPENSIVE THAT IS? Truthfully neither do I because of all of the details of my not-so-big-fat-Mexican wedding, I wanted those tulips at any price.

When we got married again a week later (yes, you read that correct, we got married in Mexico then again in my hometown seven days later!!) we were in Seattle and we got armloads of tulips—more purple tulips of course—from the Pike Place Market at a screamin’ good deal.

We now live in the Seattle area and every year around our anniversary I get to see tulips at all the markets and I’m pleasantly reminded of both of my weddings.

It comes as a surprise to my friends that I’d never been to the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. It certainly did not disappoint this tulip lover.