I’ve mentioned more than once (I’m bound to repeat myself given the minute amounts of sleep that I get) how crappy a photographer I am but I’m going to make this my next challenge.

My bestie (an amazing photographer who blows me away all the time) found a great site with hints on how to improve.

http://thepioneerwoman.com/photography/2011/01/ten-important-things-ive-learned-about-food-photography/

I’ll tackle one each week and hopefully by summer I’ll be much better.  I’ve already started down this road by actually pulling out a proper camera.

How about everything else?  I find that I need these check-ups to make sure that I am keeping up to what I’ve promised myself but I also want to be honest.  I also kind-of think of these postings as a way to check if “I’m better” yet.  I should start to put in a few more mental challenges and I’ll also keep looking for other ways to spend less.

1)  Starbucks:  I fell off the wagon a few times during Lent and still need to make up 3 days.   But what happens then?  I’m more than a bit freaked-out by how much money that I’ve saved during this period and spent half of what I saved on donations to a food cupboard.  I didn’t feel right about benefitting so much from a thing that is supposed to symbolize suffering.  Mind you-in my own way I SUFFERED.

2)  Clothes:  I’ve bought none.  I’m really proud of this considering we even went for a quick trip to New York state and I only bought stuff for the kiddo, birthday presents and cleaning supplies.  I’m making my way through my closet and now have a game that I play with a few colleagues called; keep, toss or how should it be changed?  So far I’ve gotten rid of:  2 pairs of pants (the lining is weird in one and the other ALWAYS needs to be ironed which I will never realistically do), a sweater (too hot everytime I wear it-even in January I just about combust) and two pairs of shoes (showing wear and I have to say-I REALLLLLYYY don’t like wearing tatty shoes).  I’ve changed; pink trench and added a wide belt to a dress that previously just never worked (hearts to you Sophie and Melissa  for the suggestion).  I’ve kept an obscene amount and my closet looks like a BOMB has gone off.  Here is a quick snap of the baby “helping” me sort (Yes, photo from phone=bad.  I know.)

Here is what I would have REALLY like to purchase online and keep it for my very precious object to be petted and kind of covetted-all of which are bad things.

I was having a really bad day and was sort of feeling that this might make me feel happier.  It wouldn’t have.  It would be pretty though but I’m glad I’m not getting the bill for it now.

Coach Hampton Signature

3)  Using the library:  I’m doing surprisingly well with this.  I renewed a book on CD that I’m listening to in the car to and from work, I paid for the book that the baby ate (gee…I was really popular that day.  Parent award is on it’s way I’m sure) AND I read about a cool book in a magazine (it’s a subscription that I already had and had already paid for) and instead of ordering it I have placed it on hold and the library will contact me when “Some Tame Gazelle”  by Barbara Pym.  According to the description in “Real Simple” this month it is “a comic novel about two sisters in an English village in the 1930’s…For the ideal Pym experience, you should be wearing flannel pj’s and have a cup of tea”.  Sounds like a party to me!

4)  Pantry Challenge for this week:  More beans-this time I’ve got Jacob’s Cattle.  This is what I think I will try.
http://localkitchenblog.com/2009/03/21/jacobs-cattle-beans-with-bacon-sage/

Jacob’s Cattle Beans with Bacon & Sage

INGREDIENTS
1/2 lb Jacob’s Cattle Beans (I used Gasless variety), soaked in cool water overnight
3 pieces good quality bacon (5 oz)
1 small onion (1/2 cup), chopped
2 celery stalks (1 cup), chopped
1 medium carrot (1/4 cup), chopped
4-5 small cloves garlic (2 tbsp), minced
2 heaping tsp dried, crumbled sage, separated
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
a couple of splashes of white wine
olive oil, for garnish (optional)

METHOD
1.Transfer beans and their soaking liquid to a medium saucepan and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Add water to cover beans by 1 inch if necessary. Reduce heat to low and simmer gently, partially covered, until beans just soften; about 30 minutes.
2.Meanwhile, cook bacon in a large skillet, over medium heat, until crisp, about 5-7 minutes. Remove bacon and drain on a brown paper bag or paper towels. Pour off all but 1 tbsp of bacon grease (pour through a fine sieve into a small glass Ball jar for use in other recipes. Store in refrigerator.). Deglaze pan with a splash or two of white wine and scrape up all browned bits.
3.Reduce heat under skillet to low and add the onions, celery, carrot, garlic and 1 tsp of sage. Add a little salt & pepper. Saute, uncovered, over low heat, very slowly, for about 20 minutes. Do not brown vegetables.
4.Add vegetables to the beans, with the bacon, crumbled, and 1/2 tsp of salt. Simmer, partially covered, until beans are tender and cooking liquid has thickened, about 1 hour 15 minutes. During the final 5 minutes of cooking, add the remaining 1 tsp of sage and adjust seasonings.
5.Serve hot, drizzled with olive oil and accompanied by handmade, multi-grain bread.
Yields 4 servings.

For a reward I will make something that I’ve been dying to try.  Something sweet and salty will sort of take the sting out of not having my pretty new purse or maybe I should look at as a reward for paying more on my credit card bill?

http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/salted-caramel-squares

Ingredients

Pastry Shell
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg white, beaten

Caramel
2 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Directions

1.PREPARE THE SHELL: Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on the short sides. In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer at low speed, cream the butter. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar. Add the whole eggs and beat until incorporated, then beat in the flour and salt. Press the pastry into the prepared pan in an even layer, 1/4 inch thick. Freeze until firm, 10 minutes.

2.Line the pastry with parchment paper and fill with pie weights. Bake for 35 minutes, until just set. Carefully remove the pie weights and parchment. Brush the shell with the egg white and bake for 20 minutes longer, until golden and cooked through. Let cool.

3.MEANWHILE, MAKE THE CARAMEL: In a saucepan, bring the cream, vanilla bean and seeds to a simmer. Cover; keep warm.

4.In a large, heavy saucepan, stir the sugar into 1/4 cup of water. Simmer over moderate heat, without stirring, until a deep amber caramel forms, 7 minutes.

5.Remove the caramel from the heat and carefully add the cream. When the bubbling subsides, stir in the butter. Insert a candy thermometer and cook over moderately high heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the caramel reaches 240°, 10 minutes. Discard the vanilla bean and stir in the salt. Pour the caramel over the shell. Refrigerate until firm, 4 hours or overnight; bring to room temperature. Remove the bar from the pan using the parchment overhang; cut into squares.

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