“You have to learn to love the small things in life, like a hot bath. You have to love the small things, when you have nothing else”
― Joe Abercrombie, The Blade Itself
I introduced my kids to fractals. We started out simply: drawing a triangle, locating the points, and repeating the pattern as far as we could on a sheet of paper. We drew a window and made a fractal by repeating the window smaller and smaller in the upper left quadrants.
Fractals are repeating patterns. They are found in nature in objects like bird feathers, tree branches, our lungs, ferns, and nautilus shells. They are found in music, of course, as music is mathematics we can hear and fractals are mathematical concepts. Until recently, the idea of fractal mathematics was thought to be too abstract to even think about too much. It wasn’t until Mandelbrot approached the subject and broke it all down that the world was able to embrace this seemingly complex study and view it as simply many small parts repeating and completing the whole. Fractal geometry is all around us and it is beautiful.
Interestingly enough, it appears that the Ancients may have had a better grasp of the fractal nature of life than what we did until Mandelbrot’s “discovery”. Hercules fought the Hydra, a mythical beast whose heads would split into two every time one was cut off. A legend about the inventor of chess portrays him creating this new game for a king and the king enjoying it so much he rewards the inventor with anything he wants. He chooses a grain of rice (or wheat, depending on the version) to be placed on the first square of the chess board, two grains on the next, four on the next, and eight on the next square, and so on and so forth, until the quantity and weight of the grains had become too large to measure. This exponential growth is a fractal concept.
There is quite an interesting video on TED, a talk by Ron Eglash on ‘The fractals at the heart of African designs’. It’s a short 16 or so minutes long and well worth your viewing time. He explains fractals much better than I just have (I’m not a mathematician!) and goes on to show photos and diagrams of fractals at play in African villages and artwork.
So with all this amazing fractal art around us, why not display some functional fractals in your own home? Here are just a few options available. Click through to the original pins that will take you to vendors selling these goods. These are not sponsored pins.
Fractal Foundation Online Course is an excellent website to teach you more about fractals. I highly recommend a visit to explore more because math is fun and beautiful!
This selection of functional fractal art and home goods is only scratching the surface of what’s available. Do you have any ideas to add to this list?
Despite the fact that I enjoy slow cooking and think nothing of marinading pork adobo for three days, taking a week to cure a batch of bacon, or allowing a slow rise of dough in refrigerator before baking, sometimes a quick and easy meal is the way to go. We’re always busy here in our household doing something. School, field trips and outings, entertaining guests, the endless chores that come with owning a largish country house containing four humans and four four-legged animals, work and blogging, playing and having fun … rest assured that just because we are here all day long, it isn’t always easy to keep everything balanced!
There are also my personal hobbies like
eating reading books, cooking and baking, and current events.
Yes, I did list current events as a hobby. I have breaking news alerts set up on my phone on certain topics so I know the very latest about what’s happening in the great, big world out there. I’ve enjoyed current events since we regularly had to choose one to share with our class in high school and I’ve been hooked ever since. Right now I’m staying on top of MH370, the Ukraine situation, and a spreading Ebola virus. Oh, and did you hear that the Black Plague was pneumonic and not bubonic?! My world is rocked right now.
Seriously, you should read that article. Fleas didn’t cause it! Amazing! I am fascinated by viruses and have
eaten read The Hot Zone about a dozen times, in case you were wondering.
Some days, all I have the energy to accomplish in terms of dinner is a quick and easy meal and this one fits the bill. It makes more than enough for this family of four to eat several times throughout the week. This base recipe stands well on its own but can be easily dressed up to add variety when eating it as leftovers. Add in your favorite seasonings, sauces, or dips to the leftovers for a new spin on a basic, yet satisfying meal. A friend suggested using meatless chorizo, a great idea for vegetarians!
This is a great and easy weeknight pasta and sausage skillet recipe that shouldn’t take you any more than 30 minutes from start to finish. It’s a keeper!
- 1/4 c. olive oil
- 1 lb. sausage, your favorite kind
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 bunch broccolini, washed and coarsely chopped
- 1 lb. pasta, your favorite kind
- 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Boil a large pot of water and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Remove sausage from casings (discard casings) and add sausage to the hot oil, breaking it apart as cooks through, about 5-6 minutes.
- Add the garlic to the sausage once it is no longer pink and cook, stirring constantly for one minute or until fragrant.
- Stir in prepared broccolini, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 5 minutes.
- Remove the skillet from heat and set aside.
- Combine pasta and sausage mixture in a serving bowl and stir in cheese.
- Season with salt and pepper and serve.
- This recipe stands well on its own but it lends excellently to different sauces when served as leftovers.
- Stir-in ideas: cayenne pepper, spicy dip, white sauce, chive cream cheese, dijon mustard sauce, cilantro
Pinterest is one of my favorite internet tools. If you’re a visual person who enjoys looking at organized lists of pretty pictures and you’re not on Pinterest, you should get on that. One of the best new-ish features on Pinterest is that there are unlimited “secret” boards so I can pin research for articles, gift ideas for friends and family, and all the exercise-oriented stuff that I never use and no one is the wiser.
Those are my secret boards. Guess they’re not so secret anymore!
If you’re new to Pinterest, it can be daunting to get started. Where do you begin? What kind of boards should you create and who should you follow? For beginners, create whatever kind of boards make you happy! You can always edit them later and you really can’t go wrong.
Pinterest will recommend boards and pinners for you to follow but if you’re looking for a few of my favorite pinners on Pinterest, here are some. And feel free to follow me, too. I recently passed 5,000 followers on Pinterest which is a huge milestone for me and I’m humbled and thrilled that so many people out there find my pins inspirational enough to feed their addiction along with me.
Because it is. Addicting. Pindiction?
I briefly tried to run two Pinterest boards, one for myself (Amber Roth De Grace) and one for Fine Craft Living. That was just too much, what with homeschooling two kids and freelance writing and running a household. I only have so many hours in the day, you guys! I’m just using my personal Pinterest now and have boards like Eat, Go, Drink, Hair, Self-Decoration, and Home. As you can see, these already align well with what Fine Craft Living is all about. If you’re on Pinterest, check me out!
Here are a few of my favorite boards and why you should follow them. There are many other fantastic ones out there but these are some whose content I re-pin most often.
Half Baked Harvest: food and recipes
PurePearls.com: pearls, gemstones, jewelry, travel, fashion
how sweet eats: food and recipes, home goods, arts and crafts, design, fashion
one part gypsy: clothing, bohemian everything, home goods
Plum Deluxe: travel, food, home goods, quotes, design
Kathryn Meeker: travel
Bahamas Ministry of Tourism: all things Bahamas, food, travel, design, fashion
Stone Brewing Co.: craft beer, homebrew, travel, design, food and recipes
Heather Physioc: vegetarian food and recipes, design, fashion
Four Peaks Brewing Company: craft beer, homebrew, food and recipes, design
Haiku Kwon: travel, food and recipes, quotes
My Life’s A Trip: travel
Keegan Adriance: food and recipes, design, home goods, fashion
Norrie Vladuchick: food and recipes, costuming, fashion, design, handcraft goods
Megan Powell: craft beer, food and recipes, fashion, home goods, quotes
Tabitha Phillips: food and recipes, childhood, home goods, fashion, handcraft goods
What are your favorite Pinterest accounts to follow?
Spring is knocking on the door.
Full-breasted and proud robins are gathering, inspecting the ground for early worms. A warmer wind sweeps through still-naked and weary branches, causing them to shiver and tap beats against each other. A veined pattern can be seen on the ground at the end of one corner of our property, almost like a caul, signs of a mole burrowing under ground that is beginning to soften into a delightfully mushy mess.
Spring is the time for rebirth. It is a time to open the windows, sweep out the cobwebs of a long winter, and let hope know that it needs only hang on for a little while longer until sunbaked days return. It is a time to prepare, to cultivate, to cleanse and purify. Surely winter is not death, it is a restful sleep, a season for rejuvenating pause. Spring is the reawakening and it is nearly upon us.
Since the earliest times, Spring has been an important part of worship and life. The Bible has Jesus, crucified and then resurrected after three days, an everlasting symbol of Life itself. Ancient Egyptians had the Mother goddess Isis, who represented fertility and birth. While Bacchus is the god of drunkenness and revelry, his association with Dionysus, who is the god of wine and fertility (among other things), and that his festival occurred shortly before the Vernal Equinox, can be seen as another ancient celebration of Spring.
Here are four things you maybe didn’t know about spring.
1. Vernal means “spring” and equinox means “equal night”. During the vernal equinox (or autumnal equinox, if you’re on the other side of the equator), the center of the sun is positioned directly over the equator, causing both day and night to be nearly the same amount of time. The date of equal day and night actually occurs before vernal equinox but it is the day in which the sun rises due east and sets due west, and is the day that begins six months of light at the North Pole and six months of darkness at the South Pole. If it doesn’t make sense that the sun rises and sets due east and west but the actual date when day and night are equal are the same, keep in mind that our orbit is not a true circle but rather is an ellipsis.
2. There is all indication that the Sphinx was built facing due east, at precisely the point where the ancients knew the sun would rise on the vernal equinox. This portrays intimate knowledge of the heavens and a reverence enough for the changing of seasons and rebirth of spring that a large monument was built to keep watch for it year after year, as it still does today.
3. Zoroastrianism celebrates their New Year, or Nowruz, on vernal equinox. This practice dates back thousands and thousands of years and is still common in areas with those of Persian descent, like Afghanistan, Iran, and surrounding countries. All across the world, before Nowruz, houses are thoroughly cleaned (spring cleaning) and families prepare for the upcoming year. While Nowruz is a secular holiday at this point, its roots probably originated with Zoroastrianism because it is held that Zoroaster himself introduced vernal equinox as the time for new beginnings.
4. Even if you’re not a believer in astrological symbology, you’ll probably recognize their names as constellations that can be seen in the night sky. Since ancient times, man has looked to the skies for signs. In our modern age, astrology and astronomy mix and mire and share many like morsels of knowledge. In the current stage of our Earth’s precession, the sun presides in Pisces as vernal equinox dawns. The Age of Aquarius is yet to come. Astronomically, we will enter Aquarius around 2597. Astrologically, it is debatable.
I know I’m looking forward to welcoming all the splendors of Spring.
What is your favorite way of greeting and preparing for Spring?
I had a request last week for this recipe, which I shared a version of once before and is lost on the internet somewhere. This comes from “The A.W.E.F.U.L. Cookbook” (The Association of Walking Epicurean Females Usually Lunching), that I purchased in 2007 in St. Lucia, while honeymooning. All credit goes to the cookbook.
I wish I had a photo but, alas! I do not. I will be making this again soon, though…
- 1 egg, then add enough milk to make 11 fluid ounces
- 1 tsp. salt
- 3 T butter
- 1 1/4 tsp. yeast
- 1 T. sugar
- 18 oz. white flour
- 1 egg
- 8 oz. gruyere or sharp cheddar
- Dissolve the yeast in a little of the warmed milk then mix with the other dough ingredients. When ready, punch down and divide into 3 equal portions. Knead until the air is expelled and shape each into a snake approximately 18" long. Cut cheese into thin straws. Flatten each snake, and place cheese all the way along the length. Roll up dough around cheese trying to make sure there are no holes, as the cheese leaks out in cooking. Place 3 cheese filled snakes to lie one on top of the other at their middle. Plait to each end. Place on a prepared baking sheet. Leave to rise in a warm draught free spot. When dough has doubled in bulk (approximately 1 hour) gently brush all over surface with beaten egg. Bake in 180C oven for 20ish minutes or until golden brown.
- It may take longer for the second rise if you don't live in the Caribbean.
- 180C is 350F.
- This is super tasty bread.
It is official! Our lodging has been secured for the 7th annual Austin Psych Fest 2014 in Austin, TX. I can’t wait to share a bunch of photos from the charming place we will be staying. We found it on Airbnb and it is nearly the same price per night as if we were staying in a budget hotel except it’s a full house to ourselves. I prefer unique lodging when we travel, whether it’s a house rental or a hotel offering something special. This is our first time choosing a rental through Airbnb and the site makes it convenient to choose a suitable place, the transaction is secure and easy, and communication with the host(s) is efficient – all done right through their site.
What is Austin Psych Fest?
Well, it is a music festival. This will be the third multi-day festival my husband and I have attended together, the others being Roadburn Fest (Tilburg, Holland) and Maryland Death Fest (Baltimore, MD). We travel for beer and we travel for music. Austin is a city that offers some of the best of both those worlds and we are stoked to gather with other musically like-minded individuals to listen to, view, and experience this psychedelic festival.
Where is it located?
Austin Psych Fest will be held at Carson Creek Ranch again this year. It’s an outdoor venue featuring beautiful natural elements like meadows, pastures, and it’s right on the Colorado River. There are camping areas right on the Ranch (we aren’t camping), three stages with light shows
… light shows! …
and the expected array of band merch, local food, handcrafted clothing and goodies, and art exhibits.
Why am I looking forward to attending Austin Psych Fest?
For starters, like I mentioned above, I love traveling, especially for music and craft beer. Food is high on that list, too, and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into some of what Austin has to offer. I’m obviously too young to have had a chance to attend one of the most famous music festivals, Woodstock, but I can’t help but feel that Austin Psych Fest embodies much of the liberated, free, acid-tinged, groovy experience that Woodstock must have been.
I’ll be covering the event for a digital magazine through mobile photography, so I’m thrilled to be doing that to share with everyone who views that publication. I hope to be writing about the event, too – a recap of this year’s festival and tips on how to plan your own trip next year.
Because that’s one reason why I enjoy writing, to share ideas on how to best experience a new place or event.
What bands will I be hearing at Austin Psych Fest 2014?
Okay, you guys. This is where I start getting tingly with excitement. Some of my favorite bands will be performing at this year’s event and I’m overjoyed to have the opportunity to see so many of them in the same place. Here are just a few, with sound clips for you to have yourself a little listen.
The Black Angels – I’ve seen them a few times before. Excellent every time, everywhere.
The Black Lips – You may recognize this particular song from a T-Mobile commercial that’s currently airing.
Graveyard - I love Swedish rock. Enough said. I’ve been following these guys for years and they continue putting out gold.
Dead Meadow – I’ve seen them several times and they are always on my frequent listening rotation.
Terakaft – Tuareg guitarists. Amazing stuff.
These are only a very small sampling of the incredible artists that will be bringing their psychedelic magic to Austin Psych Fest 2014. The current full line-up can be viewed here.
So when is Austin Psych Fest?
May 2-4, 2014.
Are tickets still available?
Yes! Who knows how long they’ll last, though. Regular admission for the entire festival is right around $157.59 and a deluxe pass is $260.59.
Weekend camp passes cost around $80 and do not get you into the festival. Likewise, if you want to camp, you’ll need to pay the additional cost for a spot.
Is Austin Psych Fest on social media?
What should we check out in Austin while we’re in town? We’ll have a few extra days to explore!
I was invited to attend a beer writers’ meetup this past weekend by local celebrity, Sara Bozich (check out her site for all that’s hip in the Harrisburg area). There were several bloggers there who I’ve followed for quite awhile online and never met before so this was a fun opportunity to put voices to faces and names that up to this point have just been pictures and text on a computer screen.
We met at Al’s of Hampden in Enola, PA, and I was thrilled to have an excuse to check out their restaurant and brewery, Pizza Boy Brewing Company, for the first time. Their new facility is right around the corner from their previous location but they’ve gained a tremendous amount of space in the trade-up in brewing capacity, kitchen area, and seating area for patrons. During warm weather, you can sit on the enclosed patio which has several garage-style doors that are opened to bring the outside ambiance into where you’re seated.
Al’s of Hampden’s menu includes a variety of pizzas, strombolis, sandwiches, subs, and meals. My husband and I split The Wissler stromboli, which had pepperoni, ham, banana peppers, and garlic oil inside. We opted for a cajun spice on top and it was served with the standard side of marinara sauce. What a delicious stromboli! It had a balance of sweet, tangy, spicy, crunchy, and creamy. I’d order this over and over.
It looks like there are right around 100 rotating taps at Als of Hampden, many of the options being Pizza Boy Brewing Company beer that is brewed on-site. While there were some fab choices like Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA, Weyerbacher Heresy, and Bell’s Two Hearted, I chose to sample the Pizza Boy offerings. I had a Pizza Boy/VooDoo collaboration that was a black farmhouse saison, aged in wine barrels. I also tried their Citra IPA, Arck Angel 4IPA, and tasted the Hoptart, an unusual sour-type beer brewed with grapes ( must?) and dry hopped.
Al’s of Hampden’s new building has been open for almost a year and when we arrived at 1pm on a Saturday, it was packed. Order your beer by its number on the board above the bar. I think using electronic screens for menu boards is so smart and while I’ve been to places that use them where it’s hard to read because of glare from windows, the menu at Al’s of Hampden is crisp, clear, and easy to read. The restrooms were clean and even with so many people at the restaurant and bar, there were no waiting lines. Lines are the worst, aren’t they?
Following are shots I took while touring Pizza Boy Brewing Company. They have a lot going on back there and I would keep my eyes and ears open for more of them in the future, if I were you!
I don’t make it up to Harrisburg often but would absolutely venture up there again just to go to Al’s of Hampden and have more Pizza Boy beer. If you want to know more of what’s happening in the capital city area, check out sarabozich.com and Stouts and Stilettos.
If you’re interested in making a weekend (or longer) trip to Central PA, there are many excellent options! I’ll be posting some sample itineraries for you here on Fine Craft Living within the next month or so.
The Details for Al’s of Hampden and Pizza Boy Brewing Company
Address: 2240 Millenium Way, Enola, PA 17025
Hours: Sunday-Wednesday 11am-10pm and Thursday-Saturday 11am-11pm
Ever since I was young I have been fascinated by the history of my family. Where did we come from? What did my ancestors do for a living? Did they love to travel? What scandals were they involved in? What mysteries can I find and hopefully solve?
One memorable assignment I had to do in elementary school was to choose an elderly relative and interview them. I interviewed my great-grandmother, Effie Kopp Smith. She was living in a nursing home at the time and I loved visiting her – although I remember disliking giving her hugs because she had these mischievous little chin hairs that tickled my face! She wore thick glasses, smelled of camphor, and had the jolliest laugh I knew in my then-short lifetime.
We often think of genealogy in patriarchal terms: who your father’s father’s father was. The men. I’ve forever had a fascination with my matriarchal lineage. Any culture who honors the Mother as a person of power and wisdom is one to which I gravitate. Great-grandma Effie was my mother’s mother’s mother. My grandmother, Betty Jane Smith Matthews, is still living, still a firecracker, and still living in the same house that she was born in going on a century ago, in 1926. Isn’t that amazing?
That kind of living history excites me and that interview with Effie was the first time I ever had a taste of genealogy and realized how interesting the study of one’s past is. Effie told me about when she was a little girl, how she would run beside wagons and chase them. I’m sure my mom still has that interview somewhere – I need to look for it.
Periodically over the years I would try to research our history here and there using the internet. More often than not, I’d run into dead ends where sites like ancestry.com would tease me, telling me they had the information I was looking for but that I’d have to pay to access it. I’d put off spending the honestly nominal fee and not be able to find any other information and give up for another two years.
About a month ago, I decided to just pay the cost for a month’s membership to ancestry.com and I wish I would have done so years ago.
Ancestry.com has a treasure trove of information available for those who pay for membership by the month or year. I went from not knowing who my maternal grandfather’s parents’ names were to being able to trace their line the whole way back to them being Sheriffs of Nottingham (yeah.. the antagonist in the Robin Hood story) and even traced Grandpa Matthews’ line back to the Vikings in Norway and Sweden.
My husband and I assumed that the name De Grace was French, since we knew Grandpa Joseph De Grace came from Canada, New Brunswick, to be exact. Imagine my surprise when, just last night, I discovered that the De Grace family wasn’t in New Brunswick for long before emigrating to the United States – and before that they came from Palma, Mallorca! Spain! They were the Gras family over there. Amazing!
My biggest roadblocks so far have been military records, my Cherokee bloodline, and illegitimate children/adoptions.
Some may see researching genealogy as a time-consuming interest, and indeed it is. But it’s one that is important to me. I want to put faces to names and add names to the tree … our tree. I want my kids to know where they’ve come from. Someday, I want to retrace our roots with heritage travel. I want to take my parents to see where our ancestors walked, lived, worked, breathed, loved, and died.
I’ll be adding genealogical information on here periodically, both personal tidbits that I find interesting in my own tree and tips for you to discover your own roots.
Have you researched your own genealogy?
(I am not affiliated or sponsored by ancestry.com. I do hope to become an affiliate for them at some point! I promise to let you know when and if our relationship changes.)