Friday, April 30, 2010

Bridge to Spain


I don't think that a week goes by without the thought of Spain crossing my mind. This has especially been the case in the last few weeks since two of my favorite festivities have taken place: Semana Santa (Holy Week) and Feria. We are anxiously waiting for the year when these two festivities are scheduled back to back so that we can plan a two week trip across the pond. (Hopefully with some luck we'll be there again before this happens too.) While I don't see myself wearing a flamenca dress unless pm wears one of these (ha ha!), I guess we'll see what happens. Que sera, sera. Whatever will be, will be.

For whatever reason I have Spain on the brain big time today. It may have to do with the warm breeze and sunshine, although my guess is it has to do with my desire to travel. I'm getting a case of the travel bug again. Not sure when I will be able to find a remedy for it, but I am hoping that it is sooner rather than later.

So this photo is of the bridge (la barqueta) that pm got to cross everyday on his way to the university. Not a bad view, right? (Check out other images of this bridge here). I'd say there are very few bad views in Sevilla in general. Until we meet again at least we have plenty of photos.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pentax O-ME53

I've been kind of a slacker lately and haven't wrote much on here. While the feminine part of ampm is an unusual female that doesn't like shopping, I do. I'm also a self-defined gearhead (definition #4 ;)), especially with anything camera related.

Our most recent camera gear acquisition was a Pentax O-ME53 magnifier eyecup for our Olympus e510. I found it on ebay for a price I couldn't pass up. The e510 is great, but the original eyecup sucks, especially if you wear glasses. (Which we both do). Also the magnification is nice, keeping in mind that we like to use old manual lenses and the viewfinder of an entry level camera is not best suited for manual focusing.

Despite being a different brand, the eyecup fits the e510 just fine; it may be a little tight, but in case you want to modify it, there are instructions in this dpreview forum thread.

So here are a couple pictures taken in the last two days using the OM 50mm f1.4. I have yet to test it with longer lenses, but thus far I've been getting more pictures in focus with a manual lens than ever before.

Seeley Avenue


design on a dollar

Welcome to our living room and to my corner of the sofa. It's from here that I do a lot of my writing, brainstorming, and relaxing. Now that I have shared that, I just had to share one of our recent digs (a la home decor variety).

For the most part and admittedly against all stereotypes of the female gender, I do not enjoy shopping. While there are plenty of things that I want, I can almost always come up with a reason as to why I do not need to buy them. It is because of this that I often prefer to avoid shopping all together. My name should be featured in the definition of buyers' remorse, as I often have it before I even step foot into a store.

However, there are a few exceptions to this rule. I love thrifting and knowing that I got a great deal. I also enjoy shopping for other people and for homewares. (By homewares I mostly mean nic-nacs and design pieces). I also enjoy shoe shopping - even if it just means I try them on.

Now this is where the photo of our living room and my love for (1) good deals and (2) homewares come into play. Those snazzy pillowcases you see are a new addition to the room. In our monthly sweep through of the Crate and Barrel Outlet last week I found these gems. I have been determined to find pillowcases for some time now and was ecstatic when I stumbled upon these and their 98% off price tag. (Yes, I said 98%. Normally priced at nearly $100, I got these for $1 each. Talk about thrifty!).

For as much as PM (and certainly other men) loves The Big Lebowski (there goes another stereotype), I'd have to say these pillowcases are to me what the Dude's rug was for him. They really tie the room together.

That is my edition of design on a dollar. How do you think we did?

Monday, April 26, 2010

reach for it.

Thought I'd shine light on another "old" photograph from our Flickr stream. (It's funny as I write "shine light on" the afternoon sunshine is streaming through the blinds and shining plenty of light on me.)

I love watching everything come into bloom during spring. It all seems to grow so quickly, making it hard to believe that only a few short weeks ago there was more brown than green on the ground. I was amazed just how green everything was over the weekend. Too bad we didn't have a camera on hand to capture all the rich colors. The overcast skies sure helped illuminate all the blooms and buds. Can't wait for some of our indoor plants to catch up!

On a side note: We just got about 8 rolls developed from two of our favorite cameras: Holga & Kiev. This means we'll have plenty of new photos to post both to the blog and to Flickr in the coming weeks. Other than that, it's just another manic Monday. One soon to be filled with paella and red wine. mmm!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Apple cobbler

An overcast day is always a good day to brush off the apron, roll up the sleeves, and get to baking. It also helps to have a full bag of apples and overripe strawberries in the fridge.

I thumbed through various apple recipes, knowing that a twist to any recipe would be necessary. I opted to make an apple cobbler, partly out of my laziness to not want to make a pie crust. I have been unsuccessful lately with my pie crusts. The recipe never seems to be quite enough dough to cover the entire pie, thus causing the filling to ooze and drip out the sides. Some day I'll master the art - Hopefully it is by Thanksgiving!

While I will admit baking does not yield the same amount of creative liberty that cooking does, it does still allow for some "outside of the recipe-thinking". Naturally, it is never a wise decision to mess with the amount of baking soda, baking powder and flour. I do think though that substituting oil for butter, yogurt for milk, and orange extract for vanilla are all perfectly acceptable options. I have personally done each and all have been successful.

So today (and mostly likely the rest of the weekend) I will have my cobbler and eat it too.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

rss taste test.

Last night we decided to taste the fruit of our efforts. And by fruit, I literally mean fruit. About six weeks ago we brewed our first stout - a raspberry slow stout (aka RSS). I'll explain more about the name in a minute.

Overall, I'd say I was impressed with the body, aroma, and taste of this one. It has some very complex flavors on the front end and a very strong hint of raspberry as an afterthought. It's pretty rich and creamy, and even has some hints of coffee and chocolate. A lot going on in this small sampler glass. With that said, it needs more time to condition in the bottle. I think the flavors still need to mellow out a bit, and the carbonation isn't quite right yet. In two weeks this brew is going to be ready to drink, share, and enjoy.

The biggest problem I have about homebrewing is the wait. Whenever we try a new recipe, I always get anxious to see how the end result will be. This is also, mind you, why I will never brew wine. Beer from start to finish is ready to enjoy in under two months. I would not have the patience or will power to wait 1-2 years to sample my wine. I'll happily leave winemaking up to the Spaniards, Chileans, and Californians.

All right, back to the name: RSS. We started this brew out from a Northern Brewer kit - Sweet Stout to be exact. It was our first time using lactose in the brewing process and (gasp) our first time using wet yeast. (I don't think I am going to ever be able to go back to dry yeast). We started the brew process and gave the yeast a good 24 hours to work its magic before pitching it into the wort. [For all you brew newbies - wort is unfermented beer. It has no alcohol content yet.]

Now here is where the problem began to arise; the problem that led to the name. I wake up in the morning after brewing expecting to see the fermentation process going full steam. Wrong. Nothing was happening, at all. This has never been the case before. I waited all afternoon - still nothing. Panic began to sink in. Was the yeast expired? Was the wort too hot when we pitched the yeast? Did we forget to add something? We decided to wait until that next morning - a good 36+ hours later before really panicking.

Next morning still nothing. I consult brew forums and posts to see if this is "normal." I am just about to head out the door to get more yeast when I see a bubble! Amen! We've never had such a slow start to our fermenting process. Hence, this is why we are calling this brew the Raspberry Slow Stout. (We infused fresh Michigan raspberries during the secondary fermentation process and added a little of extract during bottling.).

Anyway, that's the history behind this one. We'd love to hear stories from other homebrewers - leave us a comment on the blog or on our Twitter @ampmcrafts. Salud!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

from the archives: we planted a seed.

We planted a seed...

The one problem that exists with having a Flickr Pro account is that you often forget to look at photos posted in the past. With that said, I love that the Pro account in many senses serves as our photo archive/hard drive. I enjoyed paging through some of our old classics, and am going to make a point to post an "oldie, but goodie" from time to time on our blog.

The photo makes me smile. It makes me smile for a couple of reasons:
(1) The seed we planted began to grow, and
(2) The seed grew from the plantable paper we used for our wedding invitations. (Talk about a great way of literally watching your love grow.)

The best part of it is. . . I just found some of the leftover plantable paper! [The second best thing being that I do not have to make wedding invitations this year. For as fun as it was, I am glad that work is long complete. :)] Perfect timing, considering I am getting anxious to get some plants (mostly herbs & specifically basil) growing around the house. I don't think the rule of thumb - waiting until Memorial Day to get plants in the ground - applies for indoor plants. Or does it?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sitting & smiling.

While flipping through old photos today, I ran across this one. This one was taken was some very dear pals of ours came to visit. (They are both in the background by the painted trees, and here is the shot they were getting at the same time this picture was taken).

It is pictures like this that make me fall in love again with the awesome photos you can take on a Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim. Check out the Flickr group here.

Anyway, today I was particularly drawn to this photo. We had a busy weekend - party with relatives in St. Paul, MN - and seeing this photo of myself sitting on a bench by the lakefront in the sunshine makes me feel at home.

Not that I want to return to winter, but this photo makes me feel both comfort & warmth. Makes me want to soak up the sunshine. It also has me wondering how these trees look now. It sure did look neat to see neon colored trees in the white covered ground during the winter. I'll have to take a walk soon and check it out.

Happy Monday all. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to return to my bench in the sunshine. :)

Note: Turns out the tree painting, "
Painted Forest," was a project with the Chicago Park District & Moore Landscapes. I must have missed out on this bright orange bench. Darn.

Friday, April 16, 2010

fire en colores

fire en colores

I never realized that not all fire hydrants are red. In fact, I have been surprised by how many colored hydrants I have encountered more recently.

This photo is just a sneak peak into one of my current photo projects. This particular photo was taken in St. Louis, MO. It was a balmy 85 degrees this day and seeing this hydrant reminded me of running through the sprinkler on a hot summer day. Always wanted that sprinkler to be a water hydrant. Oh well.

Let's bring on the weekend. Tax-free. Yipee.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Superstitious in the South

While the photo may not be of the best quality, the underlying message, in my mind, is nothing but quality.

14th floor, really 13th floor...

Please do correct me if I am wrong, but is omitting the 13th floor because of superstition just a southern thing? I do not believe I have ever noticed this missing floor here in the Midwest. Apparently this is a very common act in the south. The #13 is the same as a black cat crossing your path, walking under a ladder, or breaking a mirror.

I find it quite humorous. After all, if you are on the 14th floor, in retrospect you are really on the 13th floor. What difference does it make? It is just a number. I am not convinced the omission of a floor would give the worrisome any peace of mind. It must.

While I may not believe in superstition, I am careful not to jinx things. For example, if I am flying Northwest, I refuse to refer to them as "northworst" until after I have landed safely (and on time!) at my destination. The times when I have not done this the flights have been delayed, postponed or unreasonable uncomfortable. Anyway, that's just me.

I'd be curious what little "cautions" others swear by. Thoughts? Stories? This photo definitely sparked an interesting conversation for us.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Project Update: bits & birds

The spring breeze has brought us dozens of project ideas and new directions. We assure you that the promised tutorial will be coming shortly.

In a recent raid of the Anthropologie sale bids we came across these cute door knobs. I immediately thought of Spain and all the beautiful azulejos. It's my goal (with the help of pm & his power tools) to use these knobs for a decorative shelf/towel hanger. I've got the perfect vision of what I want in my head. Now I'll just need to find the right match of wood and trim. My eyes will be peeled for another bargain. Design on a dollar, here I come. (I'd say dime, but goodness knows the deals are never that good at Anthropologie, even in the sale bin.)

Why the birds? We were recently inspired by these origami birds at a coffee shop, and wanted to try our hand at making them. We've got a great entryway leading to our living area where I plan to use these little guys. We've got lots of folding and cutting to do until then. Again, we'll keep you posted on our progress.

So yes, it was a productive weekend. Oh, and we brewed (yes, again!). This time we tried our hand at a white tea steam beer. It's fermenting away as we speak. The brew master, pm, will be posting more on that here soon. (It may just include the secret recipe, so stayed tuned!).

Friday, April 9, 2010

FestiFools - Crazy fun!

Festifool Magnets!

We are deeply saddened we will not be able to participate in Ann Arbor's FestiFools event this weekend. This gem of an event involving over-sized paper mache puppets, was one of our #1 favorite townie traditions.

Not only is an extremely creative way to celebrate April Fool's Day and foolishness in general, but it's a great family-friendly event. You walk up and down Main Street and see adults, teenagers, tweens, and children all smiling, laughing and enjoying.

We will for sure be checking out the event's snapshots on the Flickr Group and bookmarking Myra Klarman's wonderful blog (and photography!).

While we can't be there in spirit, we are happy to be offering a portion of the proceeds for our FestiFools photo magnets (as seen above - click here for larger image - and on our Etsy shop) to FestiFools, an Ann Arbor non-profit organization. Please feel free to mix & match.

Don't miss this event. Sunday, April 11. 4p.m. sharp. Downtown Ann Arbor on Main St.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Smile! You're outside.

SMILE! You're outside

Love it. Love it. Love it!

I've got to say, I am a sucker for sidewalk art. (As noted here in a previous post.) It's a shame that I wasn't wearing my Merrells; this photo would have been 100% complete then. *sigh

I feel like this saying really does capture the great outdoors in way we never vocalize. "Smile! You're outside." Exactly. After being shut indoors for a long, cold winter it sure is easy to step outside (preferably in the sunshine) and smile.

Being outside and doing things outdoors certainly does make me happy. I love to hike, camp, swim, walk, and explore. In fact, I like to plan out (or in many cases just think about) all the fun warm weather trips we'll make in the spring/summer/fall. Last year I really wanted to camp at Sleep Bear Dunes in Michigan. This year, it's my goal to make it happen. It's funny that we actually live closer to the park now, even though we're out of state. I've got quite the laundry list of places I'd like to go in the warm months this year too. Now if only it was easier to have access to more vacation days. :P

Not being a native of Nashville, Tennessee (where this photo was taken), I wonder if this message wouldn't have been more appropriate for a more northern climate. I could imagine the folks from the east coast would appreciate seeing this message after this past brutal winter. Oh, but wait -- for 4-5 months of the year I guess it would be covered in snow, slush and ice. Regardless, I hope this message makes its way to many sidewalks around the country.

Time for me to step outdoors and get a breath of fresh air. Smile and all.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Back flips, blues & beer on Beale St.

Beale St.

This photo say it all. And, in case you missed the title of this post, so does that.

You want to get a glimpse of what happens on Beale St. in Memphis - here it is. While we may not have had the weather on our side this day, but there certainly were plenty of people walking up and down this street. We planned our visit to Memphis on the same weekend as the NCAA Women's Basketball Championship, so, yes there were crowds. Most of our time in Memphis consisted of crowds. We couldn't see the Peabody Marching Ducks because of the crowds, and we had to wait more than an hour for ribs at Charles Vergos' Rendezvous. All in all, all the waiting was well worth it. In fact, we are still recovering from BBQ overload.

But anyway, back to the picture. I was intrigued with all the old ads painted on the buildings. (You'll see more posted to our Flickr stream in the weeks to come, no worries.) Beale St. seems to have a sensory overload of ads, whether they are painted on the building facades or right at your fingertips in the form of beer vendors. It is impossible to walk more than 10 feet without encountering a "Big Ass Beer" cart on this street. No better place than here for a street crew to come in and do back flips for change. (By change I mean $$.) Entertainment at its best - performers, beer, and charm.

Memphis was an interested city. A city that seems to be undergoing a lot of change, or at least somewhat in need of it. Don't know where else you can go for back flips, blues or beer? It's gotta be here!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Getting into Gear Guacamole

Time to get back in gear! We just returned from a southern adventure to the barbecue belt (TN, KY, MO). We will give more of an update on that soon - complete with photos, recommendations, & stories.

Avocados were on sale the other day. That can only mean one thing -- guacamole. Yum, yum! The perfect treat for the celebration of spring and the season of outdoor picnics. We made it through the winter folks!

Here's the recipe (thanks to the Joy of Cooking, Pg. 72 in my edition). I have adapted it slightly.
Mix and mash.
4 medium avocados
1/4 c lime juice
1/2 sweet onion (of the purple variety. :))
2 cloves garlic
splash of hot sauce
1-2 ripe tomatos
black beans
salt to taste

Friday, April 2, 2010

project teaser.

Easter eggs are everywhere. So are bunnies, baskets, jelly beans, and cadburg eggs. Don't forget all the tacky decorations lining the aisles of the supermarket and visible in all too many window displays.

Our decorations are going to be bigger, badder, and better. Well, maybe not bigger - I have seen a few too many over-sized stuffed bunnies. And, surely not badder; unless of course, that by badder you mean wicked. :)

Stay tuned for our very first tutorial coming soon. (We hope that our second round works out! :P)