Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Think Spring

Wherever you are, I hope you are warm and that soothing rays of sunlight are shining down upon you. Our reality here in Maine right now is the picture above.  And more snow is headed our way tonight.  

I say, screw reality.  

I'm about ready for mojitos, crocuses, open-toed shoes (or just shoes of any kind that are not fleece-lined, waterproofed, and lug-soled) and the sight of green, green grass.  Since I can't have any of those, I'm indulging in retail therapy and food therapy both, and I don't feel the least bit guilty. If you feel like indulging along with me, click on the links in the captions to visit the sites where I found these lovely images.   

Isn't it time for some flowers and bunnies, and maybe a recipe involving eggs and lemons and fresh herbs?  

Tulip Magnolia Branches and Hungarian Storage Jars from Terrain

Little Hopper Taper Holder from Anthropologie

Bunny Cupcake Stand from Pottery Barn

Bluebird Eau de Parfum from Olivine Atelier

Okay, so the perfume is maybe more summer than spring, but as we hit record-breaking cold temperatures here in Maine this week, I think a little summer would be perfect about now, too.

Spaghetti Pangrattato with Crispy Eggs from Smitten Kitchen

I'm going to make this recipe tomorrow for dinner.  Tonight I'm making blood orange and fennel salad. The theme for me until the snow melts is sunshine in a bowl.

Sending love your way . . .

xo Gigi

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Beautiful, Delicious, and Funny Things

Hello, my chickadees!  I'm not gonna lie.  This winter is turning out to be one for the books.  Any of you who live here in the Northeastern corner of the US know exactly what I'm talking about.  This photo is one I took of the banks of the Fore River on a day when the temperatures were below zero degrees Fahrenheit and we had fifty mph wind gusts.  I processed the shot after the fact to make it feel more like a painting than a photo, but the blustery snow was very real.  Today, Mr. Magpie is down at his job in Lowell, Massachusetts, a place which currently bears the dubious honor of being the snowiest city in America, with 111" so far this year.  Here in Portland we're expecting a few more inches tonight.  I think we could deal with the snowbanks over our heads if it weren't for the bitter cold.  

For kicks, you can compare this photo of our house with the one a couple of posts ago.  We've had more snow since this shot, but we've raked as much of it as possible off the roof and broken as many of the icicle-daggers as we could.  When I look back over my gardening calendar of the last two years, I realize that we had our first crocuses in the back yard by mid March both years.  I highly doubt that will be the case this year, a fact which, if I were a pessimist, would make me very bitter, indeed.  Instead, I've decided to look on the bright side.  All this snow means my perennials are under a thick blanket of warm insulation during all this cold weather, so even my roses and lavender should be fine when spring finally does arrive in July.  Just kidding.  June.  It will be here in June.

Our backyard during a storm

As usual when the weather is this intense and we're all feeling a little stir crazy, I've been seeking inspiration everywhere I can.  I thought I'd share with you a few recent glimmers of beauty, inspiration, and/or joy.  My brother Mark once posed the following questions to me about the things we encounter in life: "Is it beautiful?  Is it delicious?  Does it make me laugh?" he asked.  He then went on to say that  if it doesn't meet one or more of those three criteria, he didn't want or need it.  Mark is one of the smartest and funniest people I know, and I've used his three questions many times since to help myself decide about making purchases, selecting films to watch, books to read, or even to make bigger life choices.  Somehow, many choices do boil down to these categories for me, especially since I think beauty can be found in a well-told story, a smart turn of phrase, a kind gesture, or the accomplishment of even the smallest of goals. 

So, in true magpie fashion, I offer this list, in no particular order, of a few beautiful, delicious, and funny things:

~ This story told by Bill Murray about Gilda Radner.
~ This recipe for Dorie Greenspan's chocolate World Peace Cookies 
~ This bike trainer, which I truly believe is the only thing that is keeping Mr. Magpie and me at all fit or at all sane this winter--and sanity is a very beautiful thing, indeed . . . as are muscles.  :)
~ This baking show, which satisfies my love of baking, my Anglophile tendencies, and, since its a competition, is the closest thing to watching sports on TV that I will ever willingly do.  In fact, I don't have TV.  I watch this on my MacBook.  I also watch The Great Allotment Challenge on YouTube, for all of the above reasons except baking.  Just replace that with gardening, and there you have it. 
~This mystery show.  More Anglophile tendencies catered to quite happily.  Plus mysteries to solve--yes!  Plus there's Robson Green and James Norton to watch.  A beautiful addiction.
~This book by Nancy Marie Brown about a Viking woman who sailed off the edge of the known world five hundred years before Columbus.  Fascinating and well written. 

And finally, just thought I'd add the latest issue of Artful Blogging to the list.  I have a little bit of writing and a photo featured in the Blogging Buzz section this time around, but I'd say take a peek for all the other gorgeous inspiration inside.  

I hope you are faring well, my friends.  As always, you can find me on Instagram and Pinterest, as well as those other crazy social media platforms listed along the right side of the blog.  Just click on the icons to pop over for a visit.  I'm now on Twitter, too, so if you are as well, please be sure to connect with me.  I love staying in touch with you.    

Monday, February 9, 2015

Still Life and Valentine Inspiration

Seventy inches of snow have fallen so far this winter, and more is on the way.  Outside, the feeders and platforms in our yard are crowded with guests.  Inside, everyone seems ready for a respite from the storms.  I've been shooting still life photos like crazy, getting the most that I can from the stark and evocative winter light.  

In the late afternoon, I'm loving the light coming through the southwest windows of the living room.  In the above shot, I'm looking down on a bouquet of wax flowers (Trader Joe's for $2.99, thank you very much).  In the background is the very chippy, distressed top of my favorite little antique cupboard.  This shot has been processed A LOT, with many layers of textures, etc. 

The walls in our living room are painted in Benjamin Moore Palladian Blue, which I know is a trendy color these days, and I think the reason why is because while it is blue, it functions much like a neutral. It has a good bit of green and grey in it, and it shifts all day long, never staying any one color.  It reminds me of sea glass most days, and it also makes a pretty wonderful backdrop for many colors, especially golds, browns, ivories, and burgundy reds.

Another favorite still life spot is beside the window in my study, which is a rather dark, northeast facing room.  This makes the quality of light that streams in perfect for darker, contemplative shots. That's where I took the pear still lifes a few weeks ago, and it's where I got the shots above and below.  The hydrangea above is on my very beat up wooden floor.  I've removed a lot of the saturation out of this shot to let the eye focus more on the light and shadow.  This is the same dried hydrangea that you see in the shot against the Palladian Blue wall, but here, I think it takes on a decidedly more moody quality.

The shot above was also taken in my study.  I've included a picture of the setting below, so you can get a sense of how I work.  I've set up a vintage, handmade boat-shaped box as a kind of makeshift shadow box for creating vignettes to shoot.  If I lean it on a table against the closed bathroom door (don't worry, there's another bathroom downstairs!) I get great light coming in from the side, and I really love side-lit still lifes.  Open, the box gives me a great dark back drop.  Closed, I get a chippy white and dreamy backdrop, complete with cracks and nail holes.  Love.  

I started this blog six years ago this month (I can hardly believe it's been that long), and I named it The Magpie's Fancy because I am an avid collector of bits and pieces of things that shine, either literally or figuratively--or both.  In fact, purely by coincidence (truly--I just realized it as I was typing this), the little map pins that are in the bottle photo above are the very same pins that appear in the very first post I ever published.  Still life photography is one of my favorite ways to put my collecting habit to good use.

I hope you are well, chickadees!  I've got loads to share, including this here little bit of Valentine inspiration from Terrain.  More soon!  xo Gigi