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Archive for July, 2010

I am sending you my warmest greetings from my Mom’s garden.

Yes…I am still here…house sitting for my parents…and it seems that it will last some more days.

If you wondered what I am actually doing here then I’d like to let you know that I am relaxing and enjoying every single minute of these days.

It’s so lovely and calm here.

Actually, it’s kind of a vacation for me – a couple of days being spent off my usual routine.
 
 

Yes, most of the time I look like this.

Then, when I feel like doing something more productive, I grab my camera and find myself a project to shoot and to show you.

This time I’ve decided to chronicle my Mom’s new addiction – recently she’s been really fond of acquiring various creatures with eyes for her garden.

And I love it.

Well, I’m her daughter.
 
 

I remember the times when my Mom used to say she never wanted to have things like these in her garden.

Ever!

But then, one special day, someone gave her one of these guys sand I suppose it pushed some major button in her brain that she didn’t even know existed and things started to happen really fast…
 
 

Every time I come to visit I find two or three new pieces of this rapidly growing collection.
 
 

Today I’ve found out that of all the animals or creatures frogs are most frequent here.
 
 

With mushrooms being a close second.
 
 

And snails – there’s a lot of those, too.
 
 

Look, another one.

Oh, I really love the attitude of the carried frendo.

Who knows where they’re going.
 
 

And this mole – he seems to be pretty pleased by having the opportunity to live in this garden as well.
 
 

Another pair of mushrooms.

They have already grown perfectly into this environment.
 
 

Mama frog and a baby frog.

Cute!
 
 

Don’t get scared.

It’s just a tree.

An old and smart tree.

It gives lectures every other day.

I sit and listen.
 
 

Dad likes to know everything about the weather by just looking out of the window.

Thanks to this helpful and colorful buddy, the direction of wind is clear.
 
 

I am completely in love with this little one.

He’s just lovable.
 
 

It’s clear – Mom adores frogs.

Don’t they look like real ones?

In fact, I gave my Mom this present and she loved it.

At least she said so…
 

Well, dear friends, I hope you enjoyed this crazy, head-spinning tour.

And of course, there’s more colorful and lovely stuff coming soon.

With love,

Petra
 

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These hot summer days call for rather unusual measures.

The heat is so high that recently I’ve been finding myself freezing various things just to stay cool and within my senses – there’ve been popsicles (strawberry or yogurt), there’ve been tea and coffee flavored ice cubes, there’s been delicious orange granita…and now, coffee granita.

Though I feel a little cooler now there’s one thing that makes me feel a little uneasy.

In fact, my urge to freeze things has developed into such a state that I am becoming a little afraid…of myself (so, just for the sake of your own safety, if you don’t feel like ending up in a freezer, please, don’t come too close to me these days).
 
 

There’s nothing easier than making your own homemade coffee granita.

1. Just prepare two cups of your favorite coffee – espresso or instant, both are yummy.

2. Add 10 teaspoons of sugar…and pssst, just for kicks, pour in some flavored liqueur (coffee, vanilla, cream…anything that makes your soul happy).

3. Allow to cool.

4. Pour this coffee mixture into a larger, shallow container and use plastic wrap to cover the top.

5. Place the container into the freezer for about 1 hour.

 
 

6. After one hour, remove the mixture from the freezer and, using a fork, break up the ice crystals that have formed.

Hm, now I see what making granita is all about…it’s about a vigorous and aggressive fight against the crystal structure of ice.

7. Cover and return the container back to the freezer.
 
 

8. Repeat this procedure four more times – every hour, until the mixture is thoroughly frozen. Be sure to break any big chunks and keep your granita fluffy.

9. Keep frozen until ready to serve.

Yummilicious!
 
 

I am sure you or your guests will highly appreciate this interesting twist on coffee or dessert.

Enjoy, dear friends.

See you soon.

With love,

Petra
 

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I am going to try to keep this easy, all right?

There’s no need for you to close this site, pack your things and flee to a secluded island.

Don’t let the aperture scare you!

Actually, the aperture is a good friend, it can serve your needs quite magically.

If you are using a point-and-shoot camera, you don’t even have to worry about anything – the camera does it all for you. But if you’re a ‘big’ DSLR camera user, then you might want to have a look into the magical world of the aperture.

So, what is that aperture?

Basically, it is the hole in you lens, or the eye of your camera – opening and closing as you wish.

See? I told you it’s not difficult.

And what does that hole/aperture do?

Well, primarily, there are two types of situations when the aperture can serve you well.

First, when the light conditions in the place where you’re taking photographs are not so good (low-light situations) you can open the aperture wide thus letting more light into your camera allowing it to work more effectively.

And the other kind of situation, the one that I am actually demonstrating here with the pictures, is using the aperture opening to influence the depth of your photographs.

Come, have a look at what I mean, there are plenty of examples here…
 
 

This is where I demonstrate the depth of the photograph (people usually call that the ‘depth-of-field’).

The picture on the left-hand side has the front subject in sharp focus while the subjects in the background are out of focus. This is called the ‘shallow depth-of-field’. It is so aptly named – you see shallow, you don’t see deep.

On the other hand, the picture on the right-hand side can be described as one with the ‘great depth-of-field’. See? It really is deep – the subject in the foreground is almost of the same sharpness as the ones in the background.

And you know what?

It’s under you control to decide what kind of picture you want to take – whether it’s the shallow one or the deep one.

Isn’t that awesome?

And yes, it has something to do with the numbers I’ve pasted into the pictures.
 
 

The ‘f/number’ that I’ve pasted into the pictures for you is meant to describe the aperture setting I had used while taking the particular picture. In photography, the ‘f’, or ‘f-stop’ or ‘f-number’ is used when the aperture is being discussed.

To practice the control over you camera’s aperture, all you need to do is to search you camera manual and find the little article on the aperture.

Once you find it and learn where that little button is, just do this: go for the lowest numbers (like 2 in my picture) if you want the shallow depth-of-field and go for the highest numbers (like 22 in my picture) if you want the ‘deep’, all-focused pics.

Your lowest and highest numbers might be different than mine since lenses differ in this aspect.
 
 

So what’s this again?

Petra?

Deep or shallow?

Yes, it’s deep, because I had my camera set at a high number – 22 in this case – making everything from the foreground to the background being in focus.
 
 

This is another example.

Three happy apples posing just for you.
 
 

The front apple is enjoying the focal attention while his friends are standing in the background being out of focus.
 
 

Here, all three apples enjoy being in focus.

I’d call this picture ‘One for all, all for one’.
 
 

Here, some peas also want you to see what the aperture is all about.

That’s so kind of them.
 
 

Low number – shallow depth-of-field.

There are times when you want to isolate your subject…when you want it to be in sharp focus while having the background out of focus. Portraits or food photos are good examples of these situations.
 
 

High number – great depth-of-field.

There are different situations when you’ll definitely want to have as many details in focus as possible. Just imagine taking a picture of a landscape, for instance, with all its trees, animals, hills, river, clouds…everything crisp and clear.

Note: I really need to let you know of this fact – the smaller the f-number the wider is the aperture opening. A little technical detail that you can remember or forget right now. I give you the permission.

I hope this all made at least a little sense and was of some help.

I wish you a lot of fun while playing with your aperture.

Go and have fun!

See you soon.

Love,

Petra

 

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Pink and Green

As I let you know last week, we are currently moving…and I am lucky enough to be spending this ‘precious time’ house sitting for my parents, thus delegating all the moving on my beloved boyfriend.

He’s one fortunate guy.

Thank you my dear boyfriend for being so strong and brave. You are truly precious!

Just imagine, he’s already done about 80 per cent of the work.

Awesome!

And now, what does that have to do with the rain boots?

Well, this house where I am staying right now is just full of colorful things – for some reason my Mom is really into colors.

So I got the idea that I might post a few pieces to color up your day.
 
 

I’ve spotted these boots the other day and since it was raining all day today I thought it was the perfect time to capture their uniqueness.
 
 

My Mom usually wears them when she goes to discos on Friday evenings.

Not!

She puts them on when she goes to her garden!

Those are definitely the most chic gardening shoes I’ve ever seen.
 
 

I had to make a picture of them (or two, or twenty) – the color combination of the gorgeous pink and the lush green seemed too beautiful and irresistible for me to overlook.

Oh, and the neighbor saw me – taking pictures of rain boots – in the rain – under an umbrella.

Hm, he said nothing…

Bye for now, dear friends, I will be back with more colorful stuff soon…

Have a wonderful week!
 

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Well, this might be the most interesting thing I’ve ever baked.

I’d describe it as decadent, fascinating and delicious.

The combination of a mildly sweet pie crust and a rather strong lemony filling will not allow you to stay indifferent to this tart.

You’ll either love it or…you’ll love it even more.

The taste is definitely intense, but very impressive, delicious and refreshing – especially to all the lemon lovers out there.
 
 

This is what you need to prepare this yummy treat.
 
 

1. First, we are going to use the flour, butter, egg yolk and the sugar (2 tablespoons).

Place all these ingredients in a medium bowl and with your hand, first combine them and then knead until you have a nice dough ball.

But don’t you work too much at this point, dear friends – I mean, don’t overwork the dough since pie crusts don’t like it, they want to remain flaky after baking.
 
 


2. Now, place the dough ball between 2 sheets of parchment paper and roll it out into an 11 – 12 inch (28 – 30 cm) circle.

Wow, this rolling between two papers, that’s something. I definitely recommend it if you want to make you life easier.
So much easier. It’s a pleasure to work this way. No sticking to the working surface whatsoever – you can forever forget that.
 
 

3. Have ready an 8 – 9 inch (20 – 23 cm) tart pan (with removable bottom, preferably, though I didn’t use that).

Spray the pan with a little oil.

Remove the top paper from the rolled out dough and invert the dough into the pan (along with the remaining paper that will end up being on top now).

Lightly press the pastry into the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan.
 
 

4. Remove the paper…
 
 

…only to crumple it and lay it out over the pastry again. Fill the paper with pie weights or just dried beans or peas.

Pop into the oven and bake at 375 F (190 C) for about 9 minutes, then remove the paper along with the weights and bake for another 5 minutes.

Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to only 300 F (150 C).

Yeah, we are blind-baking (or pre-baking) here. This process keeps the unfilled pie crust from puffing up in the oven or becoming too soggy when the tart gets filled and baked.
 
 

5. Meanwhile we can prepare the filling for our tart.

Squeeze the juice out of four small lemons.

Make sure the juice contains no seeds – we don’t want this kind of surprise in the tart. Unless we wanted that, for some reason…
 
 

6. In the bowl of you electric mixer mix the eggs with the sugar (1/2 cup – 100 grams) for about 5 minutes or until smooth, fluffy and almost white in color.

Then add the cream and the lemon juice and mix again shortly.
 
 

7. Fill the crust with the filling and bake at 300 F (150 C) for about 40 minutes or until the filling doesn’t wobble.
 
 

8. Remove from the oven and let cool on the wire rack.
 
 

9. We are going to cover the whole tart with a nice lemony and syrupy glaze.

To prepare the syrup, pour the water and sugar (1/3 cup – 70 grams) into a saucepan. Place the saucepan over medium-low heat and heat the mixture up.

Peel the remaining lemon and slice it into thin rounds. Add the lemon rounds into the saucepan and let the mixture cook for about 15 minutes, stirring every now and then.

Then pour the mixture over the tart and spread it evenly.

And that’s it.
 
 

Mmmmmm…

 
 

Yummy!

I recommend chilling the tart before serving.

Also, store it in the refrigerator.

Enjoy, dear friends.
 

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Orange Granita

Mmmm…my first encounter with granita…that was something truly amazing.

It happened during my vacation in Italy a couple of years ago.

Oh, I will never forget that moment.

Actually, I was spending the holiday with my sister and her family then. One lovely morning we decided to have a proper look at the village we were staying in…so – under the burning Italian sun – we walked every street, saw every sight and met ever person possible.

Phew!

My feet still get depressed when they remember that.

After a couple of hours, as knackered as people can get, we decided to relax in a cute café sitting on top of a hill and offering a magnificent sea view.

And GRANITA.

First of all, the cup I was given amazed me with its wonderfully colorful content.

And then…wow…that first mouthful…OH, THAT FIRST MOUTHFUL…it was the most refreshing,  invigorating and memorable dessert in my whole life.

During all the years that followed, just until recently, I hadn’t even dared to think I could prepare that delectable treat at home (you know, they make it in those big ‘freezing-and-mixing’ tanks).

But now the things have changed.

And you know what?

Granita might be the simplest and easiest dessert there is.
 
 

THESE are the ingredients!
 

1. First, pour the juice into a saucepan and place it over medium-low heat.
 

2. Add the sugar and stir.
 
 

3. Add the lemon juice and continue stirring just until the sugar has dissolved.
 

4. Remove from heat.
 
 

5. Then find a larger (4 cup – 1 liter) ‘freezer-friendly’ container and pour the mixture in.
 

6. Cover with a piece of parchment paper and put in your freezer.
 
 

7. After about 2 hours into the freezing process, remove the container from the freezer and move the liquid around with a fork, breaking the forming crystal structure. Put back in the freezer.
 

8. Repeat this process about 3 more times (every 2 hours). Then let freeze for as long as you wish.
 
 

This is what I got after leaving the mixture in the freezer overnight.

Wonderful granita!

See? It’s doubled in volume.
 
 

To serve the orange granita, you can use some fresh oranges. Just cut an orange in half and, using a spoon, remove its flesh. Let freeze for a couple of hours. That way you’ll get a nice, cooling and impressive bowl.

Enjoy, dear friends.
 

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Terrific Moving Tips

Okay, I have a little secret to share.

Since it seems pretty sure now, I can officially say that we are moving. We’ve just sold our flat where we’ve spent almost five years and decided to head for another town and for some new life experiences.

And you know what?

I am all happy about it (AHAI).

Do you like my new abbreviation?

I guess it’s gonna go viral!

Yeah, being humble is one of my biggest strengths.

Anyway, I’ve been AHAI for the past few days. Okay, my consumption of chocolate bars might have tripled and I might have been trembling with fear here and there (okay, it looks more like random spasms), but all in all, I see this as a great experience and an open road to new opportunities.

Change is good.

At least, they say so (TSS).

As a true blogger I also thought that I’d definitely share my moving experiences with you. You know, the little tricks on how to do things better and more effectively. Like how to get those twenty pairs of shoes into one box or that you should establish an ‘open me first box’ that will contain loads of chocolate bars and a bottle of vodka.

I was planning all that feverishly only to find out that my fate has something way better prepared for me.

My fate and my guiding angels are so kind that they sent my parents for a holiday at the exact same time when our packing needs to be done…leaving their dog and canary and zillions of plants to be taken care of by their sweet daughter…which is me, of course.

My parents know nothing about the fact that we are moving, we just didn’t want to spoil their holiday.

So here I am, packing my necessary cooking stuff (because, you know guys, I will bring you new cooking posts at any conditions, nothing is going to stop me in that) and leaving for my parents’ house delegating all the moving onto my beloved boyfriend.

Girls, it’s all about delegation.

That is the only thing that really matters.

DELEGATION.

And my boyfriend?

Well, he’s doing fine… he’s munching on a chocolate bar and is AHAI. But don’t worry about him – he’ll be given very precise phone instructions.

See you soon, dear friends.

(P.S. Mom’s kitchen stuff is awesome!)
 

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