Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hallowe'en 2012

I hope you all had a good Hallowe'en.  My husband had to do all the decorating this year, including pumpkin carving, as I wasn't that into Hallowe'en.  Why you ask?  Well, because:
a) we don't have any kids at home right now so it just didn't seem that fun and 
b) I was way more into doing my latest DIY home project which I will give you a sneak peek of at the end of the post.

It all turned out for the best though as Jonathan has hidden talents as a pumpkin carver,

window dresser,

and ghost maker.  

And I got some more done on my project.  Win, win, I would say.

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WISH Wednesday #55

When I saw these Pumpkin Die-oramas over at The Art of Doing Stuff I just knew they would be fantastic for a Hallowe'en WISH Wednesday post.  Are these not perfect. Kind of like Faberge was into pumpkins instead of eggs and had only the dollar store at his disposal.

The Art of Doing Stuff

If you go to the website you can see more details and read about how to make your own die-orama.  Should you decide to make one you absolutely must include the glowing skulls - are they not the best.
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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Squash Soup

On the weekend I made some squash soup.  It was so delicious that we had it for dinner with toast and cheese two nights in a row.  Here's the recipe in case you are in need of a little soul-warming tastiness.

2 small onions, diced
1 Tbsp oil
1 squash, peeled, seeds removed, and chopped
2 small (or 1 large) apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
2 carrots, diced
6 cups chicken broth or bouillon
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsps curry powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tsps creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup low-fat evaporated milk

1.  Cook onions in oil for about 5 minutes.
2.  Add squash, apples, carrots, chicken broth, and seasonings.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook for about 30 minutes until the vegetables are soft. 3.  Remove from heat and add peanut butter. 
4.  Puree until smooth (although I left mine lumpy)
5.  Add evaporated milk

I also took some photos of the soup to try out my new-found information about best backgrounds for food photos (see this post if you don't know what I'm talking about).  I used the raft of bed slats that I made as a backdrop before it got put on the mantel.  I can't say that the photos were a great success.  It's such hard work to make food look any good in photos (in my opinion, anyway) and I rarely get it right.  I'm going to keep trying though.

And Juno was my photography assistant for the photo shoot.

Or was she the security detail?

Or was she the wannabe tester?  Hard to tell.

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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Mantel Decor Made from Wooden Bed Slats

When we took apart a twin size IKEA bed to get rid of it, I saved the wooden bed slats that go under the mattress.  I had an idea for them that I finally accomplished this past weekend.

I pulled the ribbon off the slats that joined them together.  I thought it was going to take a lot of prying with tools, but actually I just had to pull on the ribbon and the majority of the stalples came out (well flew out) and I took the rest out with pliers.

Then I checked the front side of each of the boards so I could place the holes and knots where I wanted them to be. 

I then glued and nailed and screwed some boards on the back to hold the slats in place.  This was a true do-it-myself project - thus the random assortment of boards and nails and screws.  I know, I know, a fine furniture maker I am not.

I then turned the raft of slats over and painted them white.  Not so hard, eh?

I know some people would have left it as wood and others would have distressed the boards once they had been painted - all of which are nice options, but I wanted a simple white backdrop for some mantel displays so I painted it a few coats of white paint.

Then the decorating began!

I used some braided jute twine hung across the boards as the base of my display.  The jute twine was already braided as youngest son had made a DIY boho guitar strap from it.  After almost a year of use he decided that a real strap would be more comfortable so the braided twine was returned to the string basket.  I attached it to the back of the boards with nails.

I then hung some painted faux acorns (from Pier One, I think?) with invisible thread and used a fancy paperclip to hang a painting of a sunflower that I made in art class. I also made a faux oak leaf out of some corrugated cardboard material.  

I decorated the rest of the mantel with two tin IKEA lanterns, a branch from our Amur Maple tree in a sap bucket, some faux bois vases (this mantel isn't anything, if it isn't faux),  

and some sheets of birch bark.  

Hard to imagine those boards were under an IKEA bed for years and years.

Stay tuned for the exciting adventure of how the bed slats-cum-mantel boards get dressed for Christmas.
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Linked to Sunday Showcase at Under the Table and Dreaming,
Power of Paint Party at Domestically Speaking,
Home Decor and Organizing Link Party at Organize and Decorate Everything,
Favourite Fall Projects at The Inspired Room

Saturday, October 27, 2012

How to Style Food Photos

I am quite sure I'm not the only one that finds it difficult to take good pictures of food. It's tricky business!  But if you have a blog and want to do posts about recipes and food then you end up taking pictures (sometimes okay and sometimes crappy) of food to illustrate your post. Your goal is to make the food look mouth-watering, to make everyone drool a little, to make it look so irresistible that we all want to take a bite.  Not an easy task.

I think one of the keys to making the food look good is the styling.  Of course it is important to get the angle and lighting and focus correct, but I've also been noticing how much the backgrounds in food photography matters.  The colour of the dish, the type of table or tablecloth, and the props all help to set the feeling and mood of the photograph.  I'm one to analyze, so these are my observations:

The first step is to decide what type of mood you want your photo to evoke.  Some foods lend themselves to certain looks.  For example, a hearty stew looks fantastic in an earthenware bowl while a delicate pastry looks pretty on a bone china plate.  There are other foods, though, that the mood depends entirely on what you as the photographer want.  For example, a slice of quick bread would look equally good styled on an earthy rustic bread board or a refined china tea service - it all depends on how you envision the look. Have a look at the quick bread in the photos below and you will see what I mean.  The pictures have completely different moods - one is more elegant and formal and one is more rustic and informal - yet they are both great photos.
Delish (on left) and BHG (on right)
Once you have narrowed down the mood of your photo then it is time to make some other decisions, like what type of dishes to use, the background, and any props to be included in the photo.

The first decision to be made is what type of dish should be used to put the food in.  Pure white dishes are by far the most common - the benefit, of course, is that the food is the star attraction.   

What Katie Ate

While white is wonderful, coloured dishes can compliment the food and provide an interesting ambiance.

Skinny Taste

Black dishes have the benefit of being a neutral and setting a dark moody ambiance.

Smitten Kitchen

While most of the photos I looked at had dishes with no pattern on them, if the dishes were patterned they usually had an all-over design that related to the food in terms of colour or where the food came from.

Cannelle et Vanille

Next to white, the most common type of dish to display food on was rustic pottery or earthenware dishes - they give a lovely homey charm to the photo.

Style at Home

Wooden platters, bowls, or cutting boards were also popular as they allow the food to be spread out while providing a rustic organic setting.

Style at Home

I've also seen lots of photos where the food is simply left in the pan it was cooked in or arranged on cooling racks.

Kiss My Spatula
The next most important decision is what to use as the background.  The most effective photos have simple backgrounds.  I found there was a wide variety of backgrounds used, but some of the more popular ones included white planks, 

Ribbon and Circus
wooden tables or boards,

A Sweet Spoonful

or a variety of table linens.

Ribbon and Circus
Once you have the dishes selected and a simple background then you need to consider what kind of props (if any) you will use to style the photos.  One of the most common ways to style a food photo was to include a towel or serviette to add a bit of texture, colour, or pattern (or all three). In addition sometimes other dishes and cutlery were also used to compliment the arrangement.

Martha Stewart

Often a few of the ingredients from the recipe were arranged in the photo to add interest and draw the eye to the finished product.


Similarly, sometimes crumbs from the bread or muffins itself were scattered artfully around.

Cook Your Dream
There you have it - my not-so-expert observations on styling food to take enticing photographs.  Now I'm off to give these ideas a try.

To read other tips about food photography, check this post.

By the way, if the photos make you hungry you can click on the source under each photo to find the recipe.

Linked to Weekend Bloggy Reading at Serenity Now

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Painting the Dining Room Table

I've been pining to paint our dining room table for years. Fortunately my husband is on-board with the idea. The big debate now is what colour to paint it and whether to keep the top as natural wood or paint it as well.  Oh, and whether to paint the chairs or not?  

Our dining room furniture was bought by my grandparents in the 1920s. They were missionaries in China and when they returned to live in Canada, they purchased this dining room set second-hand from another missionary family. The set, which likely dates from the early 1900s, includes a table, a sideboard, and a china cabinet. The chairs (with the exception of the armchair) have all fallen apart so we use black IKEA chairs instead.

The dining room set is made of oak that has been stained a dark mahogany as was fashionable in the Edwardian period.   I always have a tablecloth or runner on the table as the surface is not in the best shape in a few places.  Plus I love buying table linens at thrift stores and entertain myself by using different table linens every few days. 

I've been combing the internet for inspiration as to what colour to paint the table. Let me show you what I have found.

I could paint the table black and refinish the top and leave it wood-toned.

Or do the table and chairs white with a natural wood tabletop.

Miss Mustard Seed

Or I could paint the entire table white and keep the chairs black.  

Stories of a House
While I like both the black and white options, the colour I'm seriously considering is gray.  You can see in the photo of our dining room that the lower cabinets in our kitchen are gray and I was thinking I would use the same paint on the table.  What do you think?  Too matchy with the kitchen? Or a brilliant plan to tie everything together and create a visually calm room. 

The next three pictures were the best photos I could find with gray dining room tables.  


If I went with gray then the black chairs would need to change.  I was considering painting our IKEA chairs a yellow colour like in the photo below.  The advantage of the yellow is that the chairs would look good with the gray table and kitchen cabinets and with the pale green walls and dark green tiled floor.  Also the dining room is open to the family room which has a sofa that has green, gold, and brown in it and a gold framed etching over the fireplace.  I thought that painting the chairs yellow would tie the dining room and the family room together.  The biggest disadvantage is that the yellow chairs wouldn't go with all my tablecloths (although they do match a surprising number of them - I've been taking note).

I like the woven seagrass chairs with the gray as well (like in the photo below).  I can't see replacing all the chairs, but maybe we could get four to go around the table on most days and when we have a crowd we could bring out the black IKEA chairs. Our table has two leafs and can extend to sit at least ten people, which happens on occasion when everyone is home and we have company.

Or I could just go wild and paint our table turquoise.  Mind you it wouldn't relate to anything else in the room, but I sure would love the table painted in one of my favourite colours.

Thoughts?  What would you do?  I'd love to hear what you think.

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