Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Finding A New Hobby - Photography

The beauty about this hobby is that it should cost you absolutely nothing to get started. There are so many different ways that you can set things up to shoot, lighting tricks that can be used, lenses, shutter speeds, you get the picture. (Sorry, had to use that pun at least once).
As many times as I have read about all the different things you can do, the best advice I ever got from someone was to just take pictures. The more you take, the more you learn. It is so much easier and more affordable to hone this skill and make it a viable hobby for you due to the fact that cameras can take digital images now. You can immediately look and tell if you were able to get the shot you were trying to get. These are some pictures that I was able to take with my The first two pictures are of my daughter on Easter. This is an example of what you can do with the picture with editing and all the other fun gadgets and apps they have. I didn't spend a dime on any expensive software or even work on the photo from my computer. It was all done from my phone. No excuses, use what you got, and develop your hobby of turning pictures into art. 
There are also some websites that will take your pictures and help you create a digital scrapbook and will print and bind the pages for you for a much cheaper price than you might spend on actual scrapbooking.  You can still personalize your pages however you would like, it's just all done digitally. is a good site, but I liked better.  The prices are comparable so I suggest you play around with both sites and go with your own personal preferences.


Monday, April 9, 2012

Finding A New Hobby - Remake Your Outdoor Shed

I wish I could claim this idea, but this one comes from my Father- in -law.  My family and I packed up and flew up to New Hampshire to visit my wife's family for Easter weekend. While we were there, I got to see all the work my Father-in-law has been doing since the last time we've been up there.  He is always working to improve his house and property in some way, so I always come back with a wealth of ideas that I didn't have before. This is just one of the projects that I noticed:  the cover to the shed door outside.  Being from New England, my Father-in-law is very proud of their Colonial heritage and he was able to create a Colonial flag on the outer door to the shed in a way that looked weathered and had been there for years.  He measured the pattern for the stars and stripes exactly and made sure they were equidistant apart and proportionate (as all flag recreations should be-I learned).  He then sanded it to make sure it had the same weathered look as the rest of the shed.  He also mentioned that he was not quite finished with it;  he plans on putting a paint/glaze mixture over the flag that is the same color as the rest of the shed and then wiping it off immediately. This will  give the exposed wood the same worn/weathered look as the rest of the shed.  I thought this was so interesting and could see others doing something similar with many different inspirations that come from their own heritage. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Strawberry Jam

So after a long move from Virginia to Florida and all the things that come with moving, I can now finally say that we are officially moved in.  We finally unpacked and threw away that final box that was left over from the move and had a huge garage sale with all the unneeded things we had left over.  As I was driving the last bit of items to the donation center after I had cleaned the garage, I noticed a sign at our local farmers market, "Strawberries Now Here."  A quick left turn and a few dollars later and I had a whole flat of fresh strawberries.  I made a lot of jam and jellies last year, but strawberry season was one of the few that I missed out on and I wanted to make sure that I didn't miss out on it again this year.  The recipe for the Strawberry jam I make is as follows:

5 cups of crushed strawberries: I simply cut mine in halves and place in a strainer, wash and then place them in a pie plate and crush them with a potato masher.  Some will use a food processor, but I don't do this because it tends to mess with the texture of the jam. 

4 Tbls of Lemon Juice: This helps bring out the natural pectin in the fruit to help ensure your jam will set.  Very important, do not skip.

1 pkg of Pectin: I use the surejell brand.  I can't tell you the plus and minuses of all the different brands, I just know that this is the one I have always had success with so I stick with it. 

7 cups of sugar: Yes, this seems like a lot of sugar, but remember this recipe makes roughly 8-10 1/2 pint jars of jam.  There are also many sugar free jam recipes out there, but this is most definitely not one of them.

As you can see, I should be set for a while on strawberry jam as I was able to repeat this recipe three times with the amount of strawberries I got from the one flat.  I heated the crushed strawberries until I got a nice rolling boil going over medium heat along with the lemon juice.  Make sure you stir often to avoid scorching, making jam is a process that does not need to be rushed.  Once you have a nice rolling boil, add your pectin and stir until dissolved.  Once pectin has been completely dissolved you can add your sugar.  It is very important to add all the sugar at once and not in stages.  To help with this process, I usually premeasure my sugar in a bowl and set it aside until needed.  Once you have stirred all the sugar into the strawberries wait until you are able to get a good rolling boil while stirring.  Once this happens, stir for about a minute and remove from heat.  Be careful at this stage and be prepare to remove it from heat if it begins to rise, which it has a tendency to do at times. 
Once you've removed your jam from the heat, check to make sure that it is gelling, either with the fork test or the cold plate test.  Before you start jarring you will also want to remove the foam that has accumulated on top of the jam.  I find that a large serving spoon works best for this.  Once you are sure that your jam will gel, place it in the jars that you have prepared and process via water bath for the appropriate time determined by your elevation.  For more tips on the actual canning process you might want to check my link and videos I made of the process at this link: Canning Tips - Hot Pepper Jelly
Canning and making jams and jellies can be one of those new hobbies that you can find to be difficult to understand at first.  The best advice I can give you is to just try it.  Experience is the best teacher especially with this hobby because it really is, as any hobby or artwork is, unique to the creator.