Thursday, April 30, 2015

Sharing Our Common Interests, And The Liebster Award

Liebster Award, June Anderson Liebster Award, Under The Plum Blossom Tree Liebster Award

    Since I started blogging just over a year ago, I have met many interesting and talented people from all over the world, people I would love to meet in person, have a coffee with, and talk face to face, about our passions and the blogging and social media world.  We have common interests, and a desire to share them, and these common interests are what link us. For instance, I met Pauline from the blog Cloverhome on Instagram several months ago. Pauline lives in Nederland (also known as "The Netherlands" in the US) and is a talented photographer who blogs about her love of flowers and nature, has some great DIYs on her blog, and you can also learn interesting things about life in Nederland from her.  Imagine my surprise, when recently she nominated me for the Liebster Award.

I hadn't heard of the Liebster Award, and from a Google search I found that this is an award that is passed around in the blogging community, as a way of recognizing and connecting with bloggers who are relatively new to this media.  A nominee has a series of questions to answer, then in turn, nominates others for this award as well.  So, here are the answers to the questions I was asked, followed by my own nominees for this award.

What made you decide to start blogging?

I was inspired to start blogging because of my love of photography and scrapbooking.  These have been a large part of my life for some time, and telling the stories of my family through photos and words is both a creative outlet and an important part of documenting my family's history.  Over the years, especially as my children became older and less interested in mugging it up for the camera, I started photographing other parts of my life - the things I love, such as my garden, and the things I see around me in my every day life.  So, it seemed a natural progression to start a blog, as it is still telling stories through photos and words, but in a different format.

What do you find most challenging about blogging?

At first the challenge was figuring out how to use Blogger and design the site itself.  After that was done, I must echo what other bloggers say - finding the time is the biggest challenge. The most valuable bit of advice about blogging I've read, is to figure out what a realistic schedule is for posting and then stick to it.  For the most part, this has worked out for me.

What is your favorite thing about being a blogger?

I love the variety of tasks involved in putting blog posts together - creating my own content, whether it is making a piece of art, growing flowers in my garden, or cooking a favorite recipe, and then the act of putting that content together with my photos in a meaningful way in order to communicate, in a broad sense, my ideas about the world.  

What is the story behind your blog name?

I have a lot of interests and from the beginning I decided that this blog could be a place where all of those interests could come together.  I wanted the name to sound like somewhere, a place, a destination, that anyone might relate to, and what better symbol than a tree?  Humans have been attracted to trees for, well, perhaps millions of years, for various reasons.  But for us modern people, I think we are drawn to trees for their aesthetic qualities as well as for practical reasons, and my thought is that we tend to want to spend time under them doing a variety of things that we love - reading, picnicking, making art, counting stars, being lovers - to name just a few.

What kind of tree to name my blog after was an important choice.  You may have noticed that I've written a bit about plum blossom trees and the fact that in Japan, these particular trees have a very personal meaning; because their blossoms come and go so quickly, they are a visual reminder of life's fleeting moments.  Right now is the time to find and enjoy happiness!

What are your three blogging essentials?

A camera, a computer, and the notebook that you see in the above photo.  I write down ideas and make notes in this notebook, as well as keep track of individual blog posts and the photos I've used.

What blog posts do you like to read?

I have to tell you that my number one favorite blog is A Beautiful Mess.  I discovered Elsie Larson about ten years ago when she was first submitting her work to the major scrapbook magazines.  I find her advice about blogging incredibly informative.  And because I still love to scrapbook and have shifted much of my memory keeping to pocket style albums, I enjoy Ali Edwards' blog. I occasionally read Grace Bonney's Design*Sponge; I like the variety of topics she and her team write about and I listen to her podcast After The Jump.  They also have fun hashtag challenges.  Another blog that features podcasts I listen to is EnJOY it by Elise Blaha Cripe.

And what would my blog roll be without the fantastic women I've 'met' from across the sea? I have Instagram to thank for that - after getting my first smartphone about a year ago, I immediately started brainstorming ideas for a way to become a part of the Instagram community.  That is when I found Emma's blog A Quiet Style and joined in with her Instagram hashtag Gathered Style.  It was from Emma that I discovered that she and many others (including Pauline from Cloverhome) have taken workshops on styling and photography from Emily Quinton, who runs the blog Makelight, which I now also read.

What one thing would you never leave home without?

Well, it's one thing that carries a few things - my purse, which has, among other items, a phone with a great built in camera.

Can you describe yourself in three words?

Enthusiastic, Imaginative, and Industrious.

What is your favorite flower?

Dahlia!  The range of varieties and colors of dahlias is amazing; see my post Summer Garden: Dahlias to find out more.

What is the most underestimated flower?

Dandelion.  At least in the temperate climates of the world, dandelions are everywhere, they're hardy and fast growing, and a lot of people hate them and call them weeds, but they really are beautiful. 

What advice would you give to a newbie gardener?

Just start!  I know, it's a catch phrase right now - a meme I guess - but it's so true!  The only way to be a gardener is to just start being one.  For years, I wished I had a garden, I thought my yard was too small for one, I didn't know anything about gardening, and I couldn't figure out how to get started.  One day, I just decided to get out there and do something, and ever since then, it's become a big part of my life.  
Even if you only have enough room for a container garden on your patio or an apartment balcony, start with just one or two or six plants - whatever you are comfortable with.  See what happens, and then learn from it.  You'll soon know what to do next.

So now that you know a little bit more about me, here are my nominations to pass on this honor:

meeni - Madeline Norris is a multi-talented artist who works in several medias, creating a wide variety of colorful stylish dolls, homewares, paintings, collages and jewelry. For her dolls and homewares she uses both vintage and new fabrics.  Her paintings and collages are also made with new and vintage papers, and her jewelry is made with glass beads that she created.  She also plays music and sings.  I met Madeline on Instagram where she features some of her handmade items, and there you will find that she also loves flowers and is a baker.  

Leaf and Petal Vintage - Karen is a collage artist who loves vintage paper.  I first caught a glimpse of her images on Instagram and then found her blog from there.  Right now, her cut and paste collages are full of images of women from vintage magazines that she has placed in some very amazing scenery. She also collages images cut from vintage dress patterns. She also enjoys writing, gardening and horticulture. 

Muff and Teacake - Carol's blog is all about living a creative family life.  There are ideas for children's books, photography tips, and featured crafters who share their works, to name just a few of her recent posts.  Carol is also on Instagram and loves to photograph flowers.

The Rules: (It appears these are loosely drawn - maybe they could be called guidelines.)

Each nominee must link back to the person who nominated them.

Answer the 11 questions given to you by the nominator.

Nominate three other bloggers who have less than 200 followers.

Create 11 questions for the nominees to answer.

Let the nominees know they have been nominated.

My questions for you:

What made you decide to start blogging?

What do you find most challenging about blogging?

What is your favorite thing about being a blogger?

What is the story behind your blog name?

What advice do you have for someone who is thinking of starting a blog?

What blogs do you like to read?

Coffee or tea?

What is your best photography tip?

Can you share one tip for creating a fabulous Instagram feed like yours?

Where do you find inspiration for your art or craft?

What are three tools of your trade?

Oh, yes - one more thing!  Of course, there is no pressure to join in - only if you fancy it!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Asparagus Soup

asparagus soup, soup, fiestaware, rimmed soup bowl, fiesta rimmed soup bowl, spring soup, spring soup idea, soup for spring

    We can all agree that a doctor's waiting room is no place we really want to be at, but no matter why you're there, you might find yourself perusing the assorted magazines left lying about for your reading pleasure.  On one such occasion, I was looking through an issue of Family Circle magazine and came across a recipe for Asparagus Soup.  I found some scratch paper and wrote out the recipe while I was waiting.

This soup is a perfect lunch or dinner on one of those magical spring days with unsettled cool weather, alternating rain and sunshine.  Having a bouquet of spring flowers on your table just makes it all the better.

Here is the recipe as it appeared in the magazine, then afterwards, I will tell you what variations I use.

Asparagus Soup

1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed (reserve tips)
2 T. butter
1 medium onion, diced
3 cups chicken broth
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. dried dill
1/8 t. white or black pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)

1) Cut tips from asparagus, set aside.  Cut remaining stalks into 1/2" pieces.  Melt butter in a 4 quart saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and cook 3 minutes.  Add asparagus stalks and cook an additional 2 minutes.  Add broth, potatoes, salt, dill and pepper.  Bring to a boil.  

2) Reduce heat to medium and cook 10-12 minutes, uncovered, until potatoes are done.  Meanwhile steam or saute tips.

3) Remove soup from heat and let cool.  Puree until smooth.  Stir in heavy cream.  Serve warm or chilled, garnished with tips.

asparagus soup, soup, vegetables, asparagus, onions, potatoes, fiestaware, vegetables in fiestaware
If you've never pureed soup in a blender before, it must be cooled first, otherwise you may have a big mess on your hands.  So be sure to cool the soup for about 15 minutes before putting it into the blender.  

Although the recipe calls for 3 cups of broth, I open a 1 quart container of broth and use the whole thing.  I've found that a lot of the liquid evaporates while cooking the vegetables, so extra is required.  If you don't have that much broth, you can use the water from the steamed tips, or just add plain water.  

And lastly, I substitute rice milk for the heavy cream, and vegetable oil instead of butter. 

asparagus soup, recipe, asparagus, still life asparagus

Do you have a favorite recipe you like to make in the spring time?  Tell me about it!  Happy cooking, and enjoy!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Spring Garden

spring garden, crocuses, purple crocus, purple crocuses, garden
    It seems like it was just yesterday that it was autumn and I was planting spring bulbs in my garden and anticipating their arrival.  Suddenly, the spring season is upon us here in the Willamette Valley, and I'm feeling like all those moments between then and now have gone by entirely too quickly.  Now that I am getting back into the swing of taking photographs of, well, everything, I thought it would be fun to share both the early stages and the current happenings in my spring garden. 

In the first picture above you can see that these purple crocuses were only too happy to show themselves.  They've been a part of my garden for a few years now and appear to be spreading - there were only one or two last year, but now there are many more.  The muscari and yellow crocuses below, on the other hand, are some of the bulbs I mentioned planting last fall, and are just now getting established. The one thing I've learned about bulbs is - wait.

spring garden, muscari, garden

spring garden, crocuses, yellow crocuses
Daffodils are up next - they arrive right after the crocuses.  I love this bright yellow color - it livens up the garden and best of all, I can see them from my kitchen sliding glass door.  There is nothing quite like a cup of coffee and some flower viewing as the sun rises.
spring garden, garden, daffodils, spring daffodils
All these flowers coming alive in my garden reminds me that I forget that trees that don't appear to have flowers, such as maples and oaks, actually do bloom.  Jimmy reminded me of this one time.  So as to not neglect those flowers, here is a photo of his maple tree, with its tiny maroon and red flower blossoms.  So interesting!
spring garden, maple tree flowers, maple tree flowering, tree flowering, tree flowers
I love gardening days this time of year... waiting for the rain clouds to break, then heading out into the fragrant air with your raincoat and mud boots on, then not caring when it begins to rain again, because you are just having too good a time digging, planting, and pulling weeds.  We had just such a day recently when I took this photo of the wheel barrow.  Such good memories..
spring garden, garden, spring rain, wheelbarrow

I'm saving the best for last... tulips!  I'm starting to love the variety of them occurring here, and the fact that they have almost entirely surrounded the maple tree.  I think this coming autumn I will be planting just a few more bulbs and will have achieved full tulip heaven in this spot.
spring garden, tulips, spring tulips, pink tulips, orange tulips
spring garden, garden, bulbs, garden bulbs, tulips, muscari, crocus

Thank you for visiting my garden and please stop by again.  And if you have a garden you would like to share, leave me a comment with your link!

spring garden, garden, sun, clay sun, smiling sun, garden sun, smiling garden sun, blue sky, fence

Friday, April 10, 2015

A Springtime Greeting, And Hello Again

a springtime greeting and hello again, tulips, yellow tulips, spring flowers

    It's spring here in the Willamette Valley and I think it is one of the most beautiful springs I can remember!  Flowering ornamental fruit trees and colorful rhododendrons and azaleas are in full bloom, displaying a riot of color all over town, picking up my spirits and making me feel happy.

This past Easter Sunday, I brought this lively bunch of store-bought tulips to my 91 year old mother, who now lives in a nursing home just a couple of blocks from where I live.  I wrote about my mom here on the blog when she turned 90 almost two years ago, but what I didn't mention was that she has Alzheimer's.  Maybe you have experience with this - maybe you have a loved one who suffers from this debilitating disease.  If you've visited my blog in the past, you may have noticed my absence for periods of time.  In the near future, I plan on talking more about that, and sharing stories of how our family dealt with my mother's condition; for now, I am still processing everything that has happened, and dealing with the day to day issues connected with being the family member responsible for watching over mom. 

So, for today, this is my way of saying hello, again, and getting back into the swing of blogging.  In my next post, I will be sharing whats happening in my spring garden.  As always, thanks for visiting!
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