Composition

Gareth has brought up the Acorn website to listen to BBC TV while he paints. He started painting again about a month ago, which means I have started taking photos again.

We are talking about composition, about seeing the shot in my mind and then creating it, about moving from opportunistic photography into something deliberate, intentional. Taking my time to see the shot, to let it come to me rather than me rushing to it.

We are looking at the masters. He has me listening to the Modern Art Notes podcast and the interview with Edward Burtynsky. I am on InstrGram following the New York Times Food Section, Food52, and a host of food bloggers, looking at how they are composing their shots, lighting their shots, plating their food. I am taking pictures of my meals with my phone.

I am wandering the neighborhood with my camera, shooting landscapes right now but I am getting ready for the garden, getting ready for spring. I am getting ready to write again.

Here is what I've been eating at home and not writing about. More to come soon.....

Easy Scones

Today the sun is out in full force. The air is warm. The snow that fell last weekend is melting at a rapid pace. Stepping outside you can believe that spring is near.

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Welcome 2016

The holidays are over and life is settling back into its normal everyday rhythm. I'm taking down the tree this weekend and organizing my holiday gear a little more effectively, a trend that I intend to carry over to the rest of the house. 2015 was another quiet year for this blog, mostly because I was busy, Gareth was busy, there wasn't much interesting going on in the kitchen - just good workaday meals that come together easy at the end of the day.

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Outside the Tourist Zone in Amsterdam

So I haven't been blogging much while in Amsterdam because there really hasn't been much to blog about food-wise. I encountered a nice French bakery up near Centraal Station in the heart of the city and got a decent crepe from a local chain restaurant. But I personally haven't had much opportunity to get out there and try the local cuisine.

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What to Do with $10 of Tomatoes

This is truly the best time of the year in my little corner of the world. If you live out in farm country like I do, everything is in season right now, so everything is fresh and readily available at the local farm stand. This includes ginormous boxes of stewing tomatoes for next to nothing. We scored a beer-case of them from Hopkins Produce for about $10. So this long Labor Day weekend was stewing tomatoes weekend.

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Chicken Booyah

I grew up with chicken booyah. While my family didn't make it, just about everyone else's did. Of unconfirmed Belgian origin, you'll find it in the peninsula of Wisconsin that juts into Lake Michigan and the surrounding area where a concentration of Belgians settled. The easiest way to explain booyah is like this: quarter a couple of stewing chickens and simmer them in a large pot until the meat falls off the bones and the bones break open releasing the marrow and you have at least a gallon of stock.

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Everything I Know About Biscuits is Wrong

So when you neglect your hobby for an extended period of time, you may find when you return to it that things are not quite as you left them. Which is how today's blog post started when none of the cameras I own had a charged battery. I had to go with my little Nikon CoolPix because I could quickly replace its disposable batteries and get things up and running. Which means all of the innovation is in the baking and not in the photography. 

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Three-Day Paella

February is transitioning into March and it is colder and snowier than it's been all winter. The best way to counteract this dreariness is with a little Spanish cuisine. Paella is a good choice because it is delicious, and prepping some of the required components will help keep the house warm and cozy and smelling delicious through the weekend.

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Stroganoff Deconstructed

My counterpart made beef stroganoff last night, and in the process of planning this dish, he decided to go the Deconstructionist route. This is a bit of a Modernist approach, but don't worry - we're not encasing the sauce in little alginate spheres or anything too weird. And we did stop to consider at what point this approach would cross the line from cool to pretentious and feel we have stayed well on the cool side of that line.

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Buttermilk Biscuits

This has been The Year of the Pie for me as I stretched to improve my skills in this area. It was also The Year of the Great Pie Failure as more and more of my efforts ended in disaster. From my attempts to decorate pies with cutouts on top to my expansion beyond my comfort zone of fruit fillings, I haven't had a pie turn out in months. This includes my plans for Thanksgiving. This month's Shoo Fly Pie was a spectacular fail, and my buttermilk pie was only slightly better. Failure is a necessary part of the learning process however disappointing it may be.

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On Honoring Family Heritage

My great-great-grandmother on my mother's side was named Princess Teske. And she had a story to match the name. She was kicked out of her Amish community when she voluntarily left to marry a nice Catholic boy. It was her blood that sang in my veins the first time I drove through the mountains of Pennsylvania Dutch country on the early morning leg of a college road trip, the mist in the valleys below pink with the rising sun. It felt like home, and I knew I would return. A few years after that, I did move to nearby Maryland.

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Apple Sour Cream Pie

The first pie I mastered was Door County Cherry Pie. This was the pie we had at every holiday while I was growing up and is still my favorite. When I moved to Maryland, those tart little Door County cherries were no longer available to me, and I had to relearn cherry pie with the larger, sweeter bing cherries that are so readily available out here. While I struggled with the unfamiliarity of these cherries and tried to get some of that tart cherry flavor I grew up with into my pies, I eventually began looking to other fruits. And, in my trusty Betty Crocker cookbook, I found what would become the signature pie of my early days as a wife - Apple Sour Cream pie. I made this pie so many times it became My Pie. And, even though I haven't made it in years, I still think of it that way.

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Reflections of a Carnivore

This is the year the deer have chosen my yard. They have always been present in my 5 acres of mostly wooded property - wandering through and sampling the natural vegetation, spending an afternoon napping in my fern bed, and occasionally interacting with my cat. But this year, a small group of them appears to have taken up a more permanent residence.

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A New Approach to Ribs

Granted, it's been a quiet year for the blog so far. We continue to spend most of our time on home maintenance and aren't really doing anything interesting in the kitchen. But with the summer cook-out season in full swing and Independence Day right around the corner, I decided to share the secret to perfect ribs. And it's not the grill.

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Shooting Star Pie

It's officially barbecue season, and nothing tops off an afternoon of grilled meat quite like a home made pie. I've been working on my pie decorating skills, using cookie cutters to cut shapes into the top crust of my pies. For Memorial Day, I tried something different.

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Spaghetti and Meatballs Done Right

I am a lover of sloppy joes but have long been a hater of bolognese. This has perplexed my counterpart for most of the 25 years he's known me. After all, they are both ground meat in a tomato-based sauce served over starch. So what's the big deal? To be honest., I'm not entirely sure. But, rather than belabor the whimsical nature of my palate, I'd like to share his favorite take on the classic Italian meat sauce - spaghetti and meatballs.

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Mary Cooks: Easy Chicken Taco Meat

Tonight, with my counterpart skim-coating the new ceiling in our bathroom, I was provided with another opportunity to try my luck in the kitchen. Regular readers know that the results of my cooking do indeed appear to depend on luck - sometimes good, sometimes bad, but generally indifferent. But tonight I had one of my rare successes, and this time luck had nothing to do with it.

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Working and Food

It's Day Four of National Blog Posting Month and I have missed another day. I had the best o intentions yesterday, and even had several good ideas - I simply ran out of time.

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Nourishment

May is National Blog Posting Month, or NaBloPoMo. The challenge is to post every single day for the entire month. I signed up to participate, mostly because I want to get better at this, but also because I've been feeling uninspired this year. My posting has become infrequent and somewhat erratic. I'm hoping this challenge will help me rediscover my voice and improve this blog for those of you who continue to read it. But, here it is May 2 already and I'm a day behind. Such is life.

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Lavender Shortbread

Every now and then I take a break from the blog and focus in on my craft. I've spent the last couple of months reading other people's blogs, considering their recipes, examining their photos, and trying out new things myself - both with the camera and in the kitchen. I've been working with my new light box, playing with props and trying to set up scenes for my food. I've also been trying new recipes.

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