things to do with bamboo...part tres

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Our bamboo reaches much higher than Jeff can climb,
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grows so tightly entwined,
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and the thin, spindly branches, growing out of each node of every stalk,
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makes cutting it back an extreme undertaking---but a necessary one for the surrounding trees.
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Honestly, we don’t mind the workout. I can’t imagine wanting to trade our bamboo for a few more lazy and care-free days a year.
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And if we didn’t have it we would never have learned, first hand, what an incredible plant bamboo is.
And, we wouldn’t have been forced to come up with so many things to make with it:
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like the planet’s smallest crystal balls…
(ok, not really crystal---they’re glass, one inch in diameter)
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bamboo shot glass / sake cups
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the nodes of each stalk (or culm) of bamboo are solid, and in between the nodes, the bamboo is hollow.
So to make a cup, or vase, or mug, you cut just above one of the nodes and that end becomes the bottom of your container.
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Speaking of mugs, these are made from a different bamboo stand that grows down the road from our house. The bamboo is larger in diameter than ours. These mugs are almost 4 inches in diameter. I’m really fond of this larger bamboo and have quite a few of these stalks that we haven’t decided what to do with yet. I suppose I’m hoarding them…
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With the thin branches, Jeff has made hair sticks …
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that can often be found in my hair…or on the back of the couch…or nightstand…or shelf in the bathroom…or dining table…or the bookshelves…or by my computer…
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Beads were glued to the tops…
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and the other ends were sanded to a point.
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And the rainsticks…Jeff has made plenty. This one was made quite a few years ago. They were popular at the festivals we use to participate in.
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They are made by drilling holes down the length of the bamboo, in a spiral, through one side and out the other.
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Then he would poke wooden skewers through the holes and glue them in place.
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One end is solid (from the node), in the open end he would pour in dried mung beans. (Of course, he would always tell people they were Skittles.)
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Then he would close up the other end with a piece of wood he had cut and sanded down to fit and glue it on top. And that is how you make a rainstick.
When you tip it over, the beans hit the skewers, inside, as they fall down the length of the bamboo and make a sound just like rain.
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Jeff creates the carved designs on the sides, free-hand, with his dremel tool.
Today’s designers are loving bamboo as an eco-friendly material. Often, I’ll check out and run a ‘bamboo’ search. Today, I found a really cute and clever idea by sung-un chang. They call it the Boo Bag
---it’s a reusable grocery bag made from bamboo fabric, fits in its own bamboo container which is used a handle for the bag when it’s in use. I love cleverness.
I also like to check out the Bamboo Arts & Craft Gallery provided by the Bamboo Arts & Craft Network Culmunity (<—that’s cute) at where members from all over the world share their projects and ideas of treasures made from bamboo.
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But right now, our bambusa is waving goodbye.
I am always on the look out for bamboo ideas. If you ever come across any exceptional uses for our lovely grassy friend in your travels, I’d love to hear about it.
(Here are part uno and part dos of our bambusa series, in case you missed it.)

looking through the viewfinder…

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Just days ago, I became aware of a photo technique involving pictures being taken with one camera through the viewfinder of another camera over at The Sometimes Crafter blog. (a wonderful blog that should be thoroughly checked out) The technique is not at all new; only my knowledge of it is (as usual). It’s called TtV and stands for Through the Viewfinder.
As I was reading Christina’s post about her TtV experience, I could feel the top of my head getting warm from that light bulb turning on again. I lifted my gaze, refocused my eyes on the shelves right above my monitor, and rested them on an old Super Ricohflex camera Jeff bought over 10 years ago at a thrift store. I’ve never used it; the double lens was stuck and didn’t know how to fix it. Shortly after, I had pretty much stopped using film. And, it has stayed, all this time, right where I had put it.

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I opened it up, peered into the viewfinder screen, and suddenly remembered why I had held on to the camera.

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I love the way the picture on this tiny screen looks inside the camera; it seems almost magical---like looking at an old color movie projection.

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Words can’t describe it, and neither do my photos, really, but I intend to keep trying.

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I shared with Jeff my excitement about this new discovery. He worked on the Ricoh’s lenses and was able to get them to move.

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This allowed me to manually focus on objects close or far away. It seems to be permanently stuck on a very short depth of field, but that would usually be my preference anyway.

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Then, he took care of another problem I was having---light seeping in between the two cameras and causing a reflection glare. He made me a box to fit over the viewfinder chamber that works really well.

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Here a few photos I have taken through the viewfinder of my Super Ricohflex camera. I’m having a lot of fun with my new toy.

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There are all sorts of tutorials online and I’m learning that there is more that I can do to get even better looking photos---
Russ Morris gives a very detailed account regarding his findings at Through the Viewfinder: A Tutorial.
My photos don’t have the typical black frame you would normally see around the edges of TtV photos, like the ones you see here at Through The Viewfinder fickr group. I believe if I was able to get a screw-on macro lens for my SLR camera and built a contraption like the ones here in their discussion, which shows some really creative ways to build a tube to connect the cameras, I could have that same effect---if I wanted.
Or, I can always have fun with just plain editing. Larushka: What is TtV anyway? explains a simple way to create TtV-like photos from any photo you already have with photoshop or GIMP photo editing software.
But for now, I think I’m going to have to get that garden gnome to jump down off his pedestal and start helping us with some yard work while the weather is still cool enough for it.

the delicacy of a spinach pie…

spinach 18Spanokopita (span-noh-KOH-pee-tah) – this flaky, scrumptious combination of spinach, onions, feta, phyllo pastry, and butter has been a home-cooked treat at our house ever since our daughter, Ayla, embarked on her path of mastering the kitchen sciences when she was 14.

spinach 2She was both earnest and remarkable at it; if I was any help at all to her, it was simply due to an ability to relinquish my control over the kitchen and hope that she would leave it as she found it---and, to get out of her way.

 spinach 1She poured over the few cookbooks that I owned, and then started checking more out from the library. It seems like every Christmas and birthday, we would buy her another book or a small appliance to help her along her journey.

spinach 3I think I miss her soups and sandwiches the most when she not at home. But her spinach pie is what is always requested if she’s able to attend a family gathering. She made it for us recently, and this time I paid special attention and took some photos.

spinach 4It seems people shy away from making this because the thin, paper-like, layers of the phyllo pastry intimidate them.

spinach 5But it really shouldn’t; they are already made. You just need to buy a box, simply lay them in your baking dish, one at a time, and drizzle a bit of butter in-between each layer. If they tear in the process---no worries; you won’t be able to tell.

spinach 6Spanokopita (the Greek term for spinach pie) is an incredible treat when it is homemade and this recipe is so much better than any I have ever had in a restaurant.

spinach 7One thing I’ve realized about this dish, is if the spinach and phyllo are co-stars, then the onions and feta are the supporting actors that actually got to take home the golden statue. They are what make this recipe mouth-watering.

spinach 8According to Ayla, the onions should be white and the feta should be the kind sold in solid blocks which are stored in its own liquid, and not crumbled or seasoned. Here in the states, Vigo is a brand that she likes the best. It comes in a blue and white container and is saltier tasting than others.

spinach 9One other tip: the phyllo tends to dry out if it is out to long. So take only what you plan on working with, within ten minutes are so, out of the box and put the rest back in the fridge.

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  • 2 (10oz) pkgs. frozen spinach
  • 2 c. feta cheese
  • 2 c. small curd cottage cheese
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • Two handfuls of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Couple dashes of ground nutmeg
  • 1 stick of butter, melted
  • Package of phyllo dough 

spinach 11This recipe is doubled from the original and can be halved. It fills a large 10 x 15 inch baking dish. We like to have enough for leftovers; it’s wonderful the next day and I like to snack on it cold right from the fridge. If you only make half, then you would want to use a 9 x 13 inch dish.   

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First thing you want to do is heat your oven to 350°. Then, place spinach in glass bowl and microwave until completely thawed.
Drain entirely. (See photos for Ayla’s process of squeezing the excess liquid out of the spinach. I’m not sure where she got that idea from, but it works.) 
Add feta, cottage cheese, eggs, and onion to spinach. 
Stir and add parsley, oregano, salt and nutmeg.
Drizzle butter onto the bottom of a glass baking dish and place one sheet of phyllo over it.
Drizzle every sheet with butter until you feel you have enough to support the bottom of the pie---about seven to nine sheets.
Spoon all of spinach mixture on top and begin placing phyllo sheets on top with butter again---the same amount.
Bake, covered, for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 10 minutes, until golden brown. That’s it! That’s all there is to it…honest.

Spanokopita can be made the day before and stored in the refrigerator until it is time to bake if you would like. If you need to prepare it earlier, just freeze it and thaw it out before you bake it.

*To Ayla---thank you for letting me document you :-) I’ve already eaten all of the spinach pie and am already missing you, very, very much.
love, love, love,

I hope you try this golden,flaky treat for yourself--- I know you will not be sorry,