Monday, March 30, 2009

organizing recipes

In my quest to pretend I can actually cook (imposter!) I am thinking about embarking on an effort to organize my recipes. My current system (if you can call it that) of clipping and stuffing into a binder pocket does nothing to get me excited about cooking.

I would like to store my recipes online. I'm looking for a site that:
• is free
• is nicely designed (very important!) and intuitive
• allows me to categorize my recipes in different ways
• allows me to print them out
• lets me upload photos
• lets me make a cookbook out of them
• prints a grocery list from selected recipes
• lets me put in an ingredient and pulls recipe recommendations
• has a rating system
• can track nutrition information

A tall order, I admit. A few I have found in my quick search are Taste Book, Epicurious, and MyRecipes. I want to pick the right one before I go to the effort of typing in all of my favorite recipes.

So, I'm curious. Have any of you tried a site like this? Do you have an recommendations?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Cookin' up a storm

A storm for me is once or twice a week. For someone who has relied entirely to much on Costco frozen meals and Wendy's, this is an accomplishment. I wanted to share with you a few of my successes, all recipes from Real Simple. I would make each of these again (and again...) Clicking on the name will link you to the recipe.

Macaroni and Cheese with Cauliflower

Lemony Shrimp with White Beans and Couscous

Turkey Meat Loaf with Mashed Potatoes

Bon appetite!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

photo shoot

My super-talented friend Darla recently needed a couple of girls to shoot for a project. Of course, I was happy to volunteer Abby and Sarah for the job! The shoot was fun and she did a great job. This one is probably my favorite.

You can see more of this sugary sweetness over on her blog. Leave a comment and tell me which is your favorite. Thanks, Darla!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Shooting in RAW

I recently decided to make an attempt at shooting my photos in RAW. If you just said "huh?", this site provides a very detailed explanation of what this means. But in a nutshell:
"A raw file is essentially the data that the camera's chip recorded along with some additional information tagged on. A JPG file is one that has had the camera apply linear conversion, matrix conversion, white balance, contrast, and saturation, and then has had some level of potentially destructive compression applied."

In other words, you can buy cookies already made at the grocery store. They have probably been sitting there for 2 days and are starting to get a bit stale. OR, you can buy all of the ingredients, take them home, combine the ingredients just as you prefer, and bake them fresh.
There are some downsides to shooting in RAW. Namely, the file sizes are about 4 times larger (at least). It takes a lot more space to store the photos when you've uploaded them, longer to process them, and you can't fit as many on a card when you are shooting. (There is a price to pay for freshly baked cookies—mostly your time).

I decided to do a test to see if I could tell a big difference. Below is a photo I took on a tripod. It isn't a great shot, I confess, but that isn't the point of this test. I shot this image in ƒ/4.5, ISO 400, at 1/40 shutter speed.

There seems to be just a bit more detail in the RAW image (left), and the colors are are subtly warmer.

Next, I overexposed the image.

Then, I opened both in Photoshop Camera RAW and applied the same exposure adjustments.

This is where you can see the most obvious impact. You can recover information more easily if you shot in RAW and your image is overexposed. (Notice the detail in the pot).

Next, I underexposed the image. (Actually, the exposure on the plant is quite good, but the background is really dark).

Again, I opened both images in Camera RAW and lightened them.

Here the difference is more subtle, but you might be able to see that the shadowy areas lightened up with more detail in the RAW version.

I have to admit the jury is still out on whether RAW is the way to go for a hobby photography like me. Maybe another test is in order. Your thoughts?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Saturday news

The day is no longer gray. And I remembered I have something to say.

ITS A GIRL! Baby Sofia is my newest niece, born on February 27 at 7lb,10oz and 21.75 inches. Healthy as can be and beautiful. I stole (borrowed) these photos from Tim's Facebook page. Congratulations Tim and Petra and Elijah! We are excited to meet her.

Friday, March 6, 2009

gray day

I should post today.

I don't know what to say.

The day is gray.

(and snowy).

Sunday, March 1, 2009

an account of our trip

Family blogs can be much like family Christmas letters. I mean, who (except the family in question) really cares if their prize pink poodle won best of show and their super-smart first grader is about to go to college? A post such as this about a trip such as this could quickly become a brag-fest, so rather than bore you with all the details, I'll tell you about the disappointments. That is more fun, right? Then you can say "I'm glad I didn't have a vacation in Mexico" and there won't be any jealousy.

1) The worst part of the whole trip was that we had to come home after 5 days. I mean, what kind of vacation ends like that? A real vacation would go on forever.

2) The pool was so big that you just couldn't possibly enjoy the whole thing. What a bummer.

3) We got really tired of tipping everyone who served us our food, made our beds everyday, and brought us piña coladas by the pool.

4) A person could also get very tired of authentic Mexican Chips and Pico (I didn't, but you could) since they serve it at every meal.

5) Cancun has been in the news lately. Did you know half the cops in Cancun are crooked? Really. It was a terribly dangerous place. We, and the other 5 million tourists around us, feared for our lives the entire time.

6) It actually sprinkled one afternoon and got a little cloudy. Terrible thing for the weather to do. And every now and then, we just couldn't bare to sit in the sun any longer. A person can get too much sun, you know.

7) Mom and Dad wouldn't stop talking about how they should sell the farm and disappear in Mexico for the rest of their lives. I mean, invite them on one trip and they go all crazy on ya.

8) My cards filled up from all the pictures I took. I had way too many pictures to sort through to post here, which I why it took me so long. So, without further adieu, I'll share a few of my favorites. Try to look past the disappointment that is just radiating from our faces.

If you remember this post and this post about which dresses I should buy the girls for the wedding, you might be interested to see these were the winners. (Not because I was sensible about spending all that money on the other ones, but because the other ones were actually back-ordered and I couldn't get them in time!) It probably worked out for the best, since there was no wedding to attend, but we still dressed them up for dinner at night.

I got up one morning to find Dad out playing beach volleyball. Doesn't he just fit right in with the speedos and bikinis?

The best part about vacations is the sleeping in (oops... I mean... I hated that part!)

There was a pool-side vendor that sold these little ceramic items that you could paint. She would then fire them and give them back to you the next day. Our little crafter Abby had to do one about every day so we came home with several colorful sourvenirs.

We almost worked up the guts to go para-sailing, but we just had too hard of a time getting off our beach chairs long enough to go sign up. I love this shot with the cruise ship in the background.

Mom and Dad vacation like pros. I think they might have been doing it behind our backs for years.

Dad was Sarah's favorite playmate.

One thing I wish we could have brought home with us was Sarah's curls that sprung up in the humid air.

If you would like to see more, you will need to click here. Otherwise, I'll just warn you that I'm about to say something really terrible.

I hope someday that you can have a vacation as awful as this so you can write about all the disappointing things that happened to you on your trip.