Carrie Allen – Lemon Thyme Fig Jam

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Figs. Not everyone loves a fresh fig but none can deny their lush, velvety beauty, the deep purple, greens and browns on the outside, and the visual burst of ripe redness inside.  I love figs on a cheese plate drizzled with honey.  I love fig jam even more.

Making jam gives me so much pleasure – the chopping of the fruit, measuring of the ingredients, watching the slow bubbling of the mixture coming together as a thick syrupy jam.   Time literally slows down. I adore making jams of all kinds and these days tend to experiment with the flavor and fruit combinations.

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I’ve mentioned before my grandmother in Virginia first taught me and inspired me to make jam.  She and my grandfather planted fruit trees on their property nestled next to the water of the Chesapeake Bay.  Every summer we made jam from the cherry trees, peach trees, apple trees, grape vines and more. She also loved canning.  After the summer’s bounty and canning sessions she would fill a large wooden cabinet in the basement with her jars of jam, pickled beans, okra, watermelon rind, bread and butter pickles and more.  When those old wooden doors creaked open the rows of colorful jars gave me so much delight.  I would sneak down to the cool basement just to open the doors and stare at the beautiful bounty.

Years later, when I came across Marisa McClellan’s book Food in Jars, it was love at first site.  If you are new to jam and canning, check our her site for tips and tricks on canning 101 to get started.

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Recently I made a fig jam and added fresh thyme and lemon juice.  The taste gives it deeper, brighter layers than a typical fig jam.  Try it out and let me know what you think.

Lemon Thyme Fig Jam Recipe

Ingredients:
8 cups coursely chopped fresh figs
4 cups sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions:
1. Remove the stems from the figs and coarsely chop.
2. Wash your lemons, and using a vegetable peeler or pairing knife, cut thin strips of the lemon rind, being careful not to include the white pith from the lemon rind.
3. Juice the lemons.
4. Put the figs, sugar, lemon peel, lemon juice and sprigs of thyme in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Stir to combine.
5. Bring contents to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently.  Reduce heat to low and let simmer 45-50 minutes, depending on desired thickness.  Make sure the mixture does not stick the bottom of the pan.  While the jam is stewing prepare the jars in a boiling water bath.
6. Remove and discard thyme stems and lemon rind (although a few pieces left in give a bright burst of lemon flavor, which is lovely).
7. Add in vanilla, making sure to stir well. You can use an immersion blender to chop up the fig skins – pulse until desired consistency. (I tend to leave it as is.)
8. Remove the pot from heat and ladle into 4 regular-mouth pint-sized prepared, sterilized canning jars.  Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

 

 

 

 

 

Carrie Allen – Transitions

I love the cool, crisp Fall in New England.  The cooler days, the changing leaves, the dark evenings, all make me want to curl up around a fire and have meaningful conversations with my friends and loved ones.  This season always makes me pause and think about the year ahead – as it feels like a beginning with the kids back to school, and I start planning out the festive holidays to come.

The fall has so much bounty that inspires me: gorgeous dahlias, zinnias, cosmos, leaves turning their golden hues, apples heavy on the limb – ready for picking, pumpkins and gourds of all shapes and sizes.

All of this quietly stirs up anticipation within in me… thinking about what is to come, what I can create and make, bringing friends together.

As the season quietly transitions from Summer to Fall with the days getting shorter and cooler, this site is also quietly transitioning.  August Ardor remains all about passion.  I still welcome guest posts, written by my insanely talented friends, whenever they feel moved to share anything about their passions; however, I want to bring some focus to my efforts, which can be wrapped up around a table.

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I have always loved gathering people together, planning delicious meals, flipping through cookbooks (another deep passion of mine) and setting a fun and inspiring table.  I know my love for this grew out of spending summers with my Grandmother Corinne Earle every summer in the country, down on the Chesapeake Bay in Lancaster County, Virginia.  She was the ultimate southern hostess and taught me to garden, make jam, set a table, make biscuits, steam crabs, plan a party and more.

Beautiful design, in every form from architecture, to interiors, to painting, to setting a table all inspire me.  I want to focus on these topics – entertaining tips and tricks, recipes, inspirational thoughts, mindfulness, healthy living, and beautiful design.  Krister will share his passions and architecture.

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Today as the blog takes it’s new focus, Krister and I are launching my long-time dream of August Table, an online store with handmade block print linens that we have designed and had made in India, along with curated products that we love –  to help inspire you to be the baker, the cook, the entertainer, the designer and the gardener.  All things that I am deeply passionate about.

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Helping inspire others around the table is a passion project.  If you gather in the kitchen, around the table, on a picnic blanket, you are hopefully with people you love and care about and have healthy delicious food, which can be very simple and fresh – not a huge ordeal.  The main goal is to make connections.  Slow down.  Savor each moment and every bite. Relax and Enjoy.  A common thread I always talk about is slowing down and unplugging.  Perhaps it’s because I too get easily caught up in email, busy life, my wonderful job in corporate innovation, trying to pack in too much all the time.

I long for quiet days filled with beauty and slowness, which can take many forms.  Making time for creation, things that inspire me, including writing this blog, help me find my quiet days of beauty.

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I’ll close with this quote by author and poet Victoria Erickson:

If you inherently long for something, become it first.  If you want gardens, become the gardener.  If you want love, embody love.  If you want mental stimulation, change the conversation.  If you want peace, exude calmness.  If you want to fill your world with artists, begin to paint.  If you want to be valued, respect your own time.  If you want to live ecstatically, find the ecstasy within yourself.

This is how to draw it in, day by day, inch by inch.

 

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

Carrie Allen – Coffee Love…and morning rituals

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My love of coffee is epic – the aroma, the flavor and warmth all create an intoxicating experience.  Admittedly,  I cannot face the morning without a strong cup of coffee, so I relish the fact that my loving husband brings me a steaming mug every morning in bed.  I can smell the coffee as I wake and I pause in gratitude and luxuriate in the first few sips.  Drinking a good cup of coffee is an indulgent experience for me, a part of my morning ritual.

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Image by rawpixel.com

Morning rituals are important.  Your morning sets the tone for day and it’s too easy to jump out of bed and run straight into your day without mindfulness and intention, allowing stress and anxiety to creep in with racing lists and thoughts running through your head.

Previously I’ve talked about connections, finding quiet moments and finding delight in simple pleasures. Creating a morning ritual helps with all of these things and actually helps push you towards achieving your goals, however big or small.

One of my new morning rituals is reviewing my FLOW planner, which my dear friend Mia Moran recently published.  It helps you get your thoughts out of your head and create space for you to design and define the life you want, from big life goals down to seasonal goals, to monthly and even weekly.  I love it.

Other ideas for morning rituals are journaling, meditating, exercise, stretching and yoga.  The idea is to have purposeful, quiet time with yourself.  If you treat yourself well, you are more present, loving and quite frankly fun for everyone else in your life. I know adding in extra things into your already busy schedule sounds hard… but waking up a little bit earlier and spending some quality time with yourself makes everything else easier.

“The true way to live is to enjoy every moment as it passes, and surely it is in the everyday things around us that the beauty of life lies.”  Laura Ingalls Wilder

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

Carrie Allen – Connections…

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Today I have spent the better part of the day reflecting, reflecting on my family, my friends, my unconditional love for my children, my deep love for my husband (my soul mate and best friend), reflecting on nature, relationships, on stillness… on quiet…. and on connections.

As I slowed my mind down, attempting to transcend the clutter of my racing thoughts, I realized how beautiful the friendships I have are, and how we all must disconnect in order to fully connect with others.  Disconnect the cell phones, the emails, the screens and all the other daily inputs consuming our focus and thoughts.

Today I stood outside in the wilderness of Vermont, alone, and listened to the stillness.  At first I only heard quiet…but as my mind adjusted to this slower rhythm I started to hear the cadence and patter of the snow falling off the trees from last night’s dusting, the rustle of leaves in the soft breeze, a far off call of a bird.  I took many deep breaths and filled my lungs with the cold, crisp air and closed my eyes. I felt joy in being alive.

Life goes by in the blink of an eye.  Our busy lives and full schedules make it slip by even faster.  It’s too short to not slow down and find connections.  Connect with nature. Connect with your children. Connect with your family.  Connect as a family.  There is a difference there.

Connect with yourself. Think about what makes you happy.  What fills you with excitement and passion. What do you like?  Spend less time worrying and more time being grateful for those who love you and all of life’s goodness.  Look at what is right in front of you with fresh eyes as if you are seeing them for the first time.

So again…get off the devices.  Slow down and look your children, friends, loved ones in the eye and listen.  Ask them how their day was and really listen.  Nothing is more important and precious in life than loving and being loved.  Without connections life is hollow, lonely and empty.  Don’t waste what you have.  Choose to be happy, to be at peace.  If you look for the good, you’ll find it.

 

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love. Read more about her inspiration here. 

 

 

Carrie Allen – Cry, heart, but do not break

To be human is to know pain.  During times of loss and personal crisis, we are thrown into chaos and can often tumble into despair, misery, bitterness, anger and angst.  Whether it be physical or emotional pain, we all have dark hours. In those darkest hours, it feels like you are so completely alone and you lose hope.  I know, I’ve been there.  Yet to be human is also to be resilient.  We do heal.  Things get better.  It just takes time.   Albert Camus asserted that “there is no love of life without despair of life.”

Everyone has his or her own path for grieving, for mending…for coping.  For those I know hurting now, try to slow down and find solace in quiet moments, simple things.  Focus on the senses. The way a breeze feels on your skin.  The taste of a treat.  The texture of a fabric. A soft touch. Smell. Breathe. Taste. Just be.   Staying present and intimate with the moment, requires mastering maitri, the Buddhist practice of loving-kindness toward oneself, that most difficult art of self-compassion.

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When my brother Robbie passed away in 2001, it was a horrifically dark time.  In my attempt at trying to find order, to cope, I chose to paint a portrait of him, painted from a small wallet-sized senior high school photo of his. I still have it today, it’s scratched and worn, but Robbie’s spirit shines through.

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I painted through my tears. I painted and painted, reworking it over and over.  My intention was to paint a portrait of my brother for my father as a gift, to help him heal.   I spent many months with the painting.  I realized much later that my colors were skewed.  His vibrancy does not come through.  I think my sadness shrouds the painting still.

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Robbie’s birthday was July 29.  He is always with me but these last few weeks even more so. I honor him with this post. This entire blog is a tribute to him. I miss him every day.  His passion and zeal for life and adventure touched so many.

The day after he died in March 2001 his close friend wrote a poem for him.  I close now by sharing it with you here.

Jilted
To Robbie, March 23, 2001

I loved a man who danced with Life;
He’d twirl her in his arms
Until she dropped exhaustedly-
Too heavy with his charms.
I used to look on jealously,
And wonder if he knew
How quickly I’d replace her
If he’d only ask me to,

Because I feel I wouldn’t tire,
But last into the night.
I’d take his turns and twists and dips
With all my strength and might.
We’d cha-cha, tango, maquerena
Till the dawn broke in,
And once we thought we’d had enough,
We’d jitterbug again.

Unconstant Life, you drew him in
Until you recognized
How much he needed loving you,
How much of you he prized.
So whimsically you threw him off,
Refusing one more dance
To one with whom I’d dance forever
Given half a chance.

Love, Kathryn Dunnington

Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love. Read more about her inspiration here. 

 

Hannah Dunscombe – Naive Melodies

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There’s a little boy and girl who live across the street from me in a handsome pink Victorian house. When I first moved into my shabby apartment building with a condemned front deck five years ago, the girl across the street was just a toddler, and an only-child. About a year and a half after I settled in, a large cradle appeared in their front window and a tiny new person appeared in her parents’ arms.

As I’ve watched the kids across the street grow, I’ve felt more and more removed from the comfort of my own childhood. When I first moved to Boston, I was excited to make my first real apartment after college into a home. I created a studio, decorated the walls, cared for plants, adopted pets, mopped the floors, and lovingly kept our dishes clean. But I didn’t really feel like an adult.

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I was working a minimum wage job that I didn’t care much about, barely scraping by, and every year that went by was another year that I hadn’t done much with my education. I could never afford to go home for the holidays, so I missed them. I found that I had some of the fatigue of being an adult – of having big plans but always being too tired to see them through, and instead focusing on cooking dinner, running errands, and getting as much sleep as I could so that I could do it all over again tomorrow – but I felt removed from the autonomy that I had always imagined all adults possessed. And even then, I didn’t have nearly as much of the responsibility that I observed in the parents across the street.

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I sometimes use childhood photos as inspiration for paintings and drawings. They both remind me of my childhood and allow me to better relate to my parents. I use photographs of strangers on the street or at the park and use them as subjects, and imagine what their lives are like. Sometimes I change the backgrounds to expand the plot of the scene. I’m most drawn to photos where the subjects’ faces are turned away from the viewer because I can relate to people more without the specificity of facial features and expressions. There is more available for interpretation in posture and gesture. I can read into their story like a picture book without words.

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Last year, I was staying home sick when I heard the sounds of an aluminum ladder making contact with the dilapidated deck outside my room. Over the course of the next two months, the landlord paid a construction team to sand off all the old paint, build level floors, install handrails, and put on a fresh coat of white paint. For safety reasons, they had screwed my door shut from the outside when they started construction. But as soon as they wrapped up, I was so eager to stand in a place I had never stood before in my own house that I climbed out of my roommate’s window with a screw driver and unfastened the door myself. I noted that when the door closed, it made a satisfying “click” when the latch caught on the strike plate. I brought out a collection of secondhand chairs that I had collected from the side of the road, and invested in hanging flower baskets and a watering can. My house of four years had suddenly grown a new limb, and I now had a place to look out over the street and feel like a part of the neighborhood rather than its eye sore.

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There are little shifts like these that slowly budge the breadth of my understanding of being an adult. Shifting to a full-time job. Adjusting my expectations of how often I can create artwork. Commuting two hours each day. Securing health insurance. Starting a retirement plan. Watching my parents retire. Breaking off a longterm relationship that began when I was still a teen. Watching my brother marry his wife. Watching my ex marry his wife. Seeing my grandfather for the last time and recording his voice. Paying the bills. Building credit. Having a deck where I can come home from a long day and daydream about having a place of my own, while I watch the parents across the street shepherd the kids home from school.

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As I get older and accumulate more adult experiences, I find myself relating more to the parents than the children in my drawings and paintings, even though I’ve only ever played the role of the latter.

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I’ve noticed that in most of my compositions, the parents are often off to the side, or in the background, guiding the children, sheltering them, reading the paper, making sure everything is well. They are not the center of attention, and not engaging in anything exciting.

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I think about how my parents did this for my brother and I when we were children, after a decade of shabby apartments and piecing together their rent. They bought a house near a park. They bought us new shoes every year that we wore on walks to the park. They bundled us up in hats and snow pants and pulled us on sleds. They brought home books from the library so they could read to us every night. There is a lot of selflessness there, to raise a child into an adult, but the children must figure out where to go from there. Meanwhile, the children I draw are playing, exploring, and being comforted. They exemplify vulnerability, hope, and energy. Drawing the parent/child dynamic allows me to meditate on the different roles that we play throughout childhood and into adulthood and parenthood.

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I was recently sitting on the deck after just having finished a book. It was a Sunday afternoon and I could hear the local high school band playing “Pomp and Circumstance”. It took me a second to recognize it. Its echo was diluted by the sounds from the main road and the train tracks. The kids going by on scooters. The neighbors across the street were ushering the kids to the van. The younger brother came out of the house singing, “N-G-O! N-G-O! N-G-O!” I was in the process of spelling this out in my head when he followed up with, “And Bingo was his name-o!”

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Two different groups of kids sharing songs that convey the beginning and end of childhood. It took me a little while to recognize both.

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Hannah Dunscombe is a photorealistic painter and portrait artist from Upstate New York. She graduated from Alfred University in 2012, studied Old Master techniques in Paris, and currently lives in Brookline, MA. She spends as much time as possible out on her deck, reading, writing, and drawing.  http://www.hannahdunscombe.com/

 

Stefan Barton – Woodcuts

I am not a photographer. I mostly paint and draw. I really only take pictures with a camera if I feel I have to. I do it because I think nobody else would. The images are surprises I find in nature, in artifacts and in the play of light and shadow on some sort of topography. There are pictures of rips in plastic-foil glued to window panes, cracks in concrete walls, shriveled and nevertheless sprouting vegetables, light coming through glass-bricks, cracks in floating ice sheets on a river – and trees. What is different about the following tree pictures is that I manipulate them with my computer. Read on and find out why.

On a random road-trip through the countryside one of us got car-sick and we stopped for a short break. I got out of the car and walked around a little bit, eager to continue with the driving. Then I noticed something odd in a pairing of trees in front of the wall of some dilapidated and rather ugly farming-compound: nothing of importance, just a vague geometric sensation, an aesthetic challenge presented by the coincidental arrangement of lines and spaces. I debated with myself, but then got the camera out of the car and took a picture. I wanted to preserve the sight and find out if the vision would hold up on the computer, in a different environment, at a different time…

Some weeks later, I stood at the living-room window, staring at a row of far away linden trees. Again it took me quite a while to decide to get the camera, feeling a little silly. A hint of dancing, floating, naked figures, headless…

Another tree I could see from the same window, looking back at me somehow…

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Walking in the countryside, armed with camera. The realization that in a forest, in small groupings and single trees, there are countless perspectives, countless compositions of trunks, branches and twigs. I would sometimes run around among the trees for hours, circling them, walking away, getting nearer, studying the bodies, arms, faces, eyes. I could imagine seeing myself from a distance: some weirdo with a camera running randomly around in the forest, obsessed with something invisible in the canopies, in the bark of tree trunks, stumbling, unaware of the path, spellbound, unable to look away. Or standing motionless for minutes, seemingly lost in thoughts.

Afterwards, the downloading of selected images, manipulations with software. Careful cutting and deleting of content, rearranging, little alterations, leaving authenticity to a certain extent intact, the taste of the original randomness, a sense of believability, the possibility of the composition. Simultaneously creating an odd shift in reality, a perforation of it.

The manipulations leading to something recognizable, hinting at something familiar, classifiable, interpretable.

Is there something in forestscapes that wants to be seen; are there hidden images in trees, manifestations, truth in observation?

The way of the wood – branching, the dendritic ramifications – is in reality too chaotic for us to recognize the true emergent and complex structure of trees. It is chaos –  and self-organization. A tree is in its slowness something like a frozen fractal. But it is slow only to us. In its own temporal reality it grows rampant, shooting upward waving about greedily for light, competing for height and size. The procession of days is a flicker.

There is beauty in trees. They are reassuring and steadfast. But they are also mysterious, incomprehensible.  One can, as in clouds, choose to see metaphorical images, maybe meaning. The barren treetops and the geometry of wood transcend the apparently mindless growing-ons and sproutings. One can refine it, purify it, even show the absurdity of it.

Wood doesn’t blush.

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Stefan Barton resides in a village near Hamburg, Germany where there are many patient trees, but he spent 20 Years in the US (San Francisco and Boston Area). He works on paintings, drawings and printmaking. Once in a while he is transfixed by taking pictures and manipulating these in a peculiar way. To see more of his images contact Stefan (stefan.bartongmail.com ) visit  http://clex-werk.blogspot.de/  or look at a book:

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