Life as a grad student


I’ve been in classes at the University of Baltimore for a little over a month now, and so far I’m loving it. My classes (typography & photography) are very interesting and I can already put some of what I’ve been learning to use at work. Plus, I’ve been getting to know the city, albeit a small section of it, which has been exciting for me.

My photography class has been quite fascinating. I never knew how much went into taking and editing photos — it has given me such a respect for professional photographers. I’ve taken photo classes before, but neither of the classes went into as much details as this class has. I guess that’s grad school for ya. I think the most helpful things I’ve learned so far have been metering, bracketing and editing in camera RAW. I <3 camera RAW (I should make that into a T-shirt) — it’s incredible the difference in editing the uncompressed versus compressed files.

This week, our assignment is to shoot landscapes and turn them into Black and White images. It’s been a challenge to brainstorm cool places to go to take photos that will be interesting each week. I see things all the time as I drive that I file away in my mind to revisit when it fits for an assignment. The power lines, for example, I’ve driven by many times. When we were assigned our Converging/Intersecting Lines assignment, I knew exactly where to go. I’ve taken my camera all sorts of places, and each week the photos get better and better.

Here are some of my favorite images from class so far, and the topic we covered:

Short Depth of Field

Smith_short-dof1 Smith_short-dof

Long Shutter Speed




Something I Love


Where I Work/Study



Smith_framing1 Smith_framing2 Smith_framing3

Positive/Negative Space


Converging and Intersecting Lines

Smith_lines3 Smith_lines4 Smith_lines2 Smith_lines1




Smith_texture3 Smith_texture2 Smith_texture1

Spacial Relationship


Life is really busy right now. Grad school, work full time, family visits, bridal shower planning, other life activities — it’s tough to juggle everything. But, I don’t regret for a second taking on all of it. It’s been a great experience so far.

Shiro Plum Jam – a.k.a. Sour Patch Kids Jam

Have you ever heard of a Shiro Plum? Me either. Not until I stumbled upon them at my local farmers market this weekend. I love buying fruits and veggies to can at the farmers market and went last Sunday morning to pick up peaches for a batch of peach  butter (yum). I noticed these bright yellow plums with an irresistible price tag: $1/pint. I had no idea what they were or what I would make, but I took five pints home with me.

Shiro PlumsEver

After I bought them, I heard the man at the farmstand tell another customer that the Shiro Plums are sour — I was nervous, but excited to try to make something delicious with them.

After finishing up a batch of pasta sauce and a batch of peach butter (yes, I was a canning overachiever last weekend), I started working on the Shiro Plum jam. I looked up recipes online, but most called for way more plums than I’d purchased and vanilla bean. I don’t stock that in my kitchen, so I scrapped those ideas.

Instead, I looked to my trusty canning book, the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. If you like canning and you don’t own this book, buy it! No, I do not get money from sharing this book with you — although Ball should pay me to be their spokesperson. I’d rock it.

Anyway, I digress. I found a plum jam recipe and decided to go for it, knowing it wasn’t meant for the Shiro variety. Here is my tweaked version of the Ball plum jam recipe.

  • 5 lbs. of Shiro Plums
  • 50 grams of powdered pectin
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 8 cups of sugar

Five pounds of plums gets you about 5-6 cups of plum pulp. To get the plum pulp, all you need to do is break the skin of the Shiro Plum and squeeze the pulp out. It is super easy, super slimy and super fun. Remove the peels. Remove the pit. No blanching necessary.

When all of your plums are pitted and peeled, I suggest putting your pulp through a food processor. Just pulse it a few times, no need to pulverize it. I suggest doing this because the pulp of the Shiro plum can be a bit stringy — sort of like the stringy pulp of pumpkins.

Then, boil your pulp w/ the half cup of water. When it reaches a boil, turn down the heat and whisk in your pectin. When your pectin has been added back in, add in your 8 cups of sugar. You are probably thinking, “Dear sweet lord, that is diabetes in a pot.” Well, yeah. It is Just don’t eat it all yourself and you’ll be fine. It’s definitely more sugar than a lot of the Ball recipes call for, but I didn’t want to stray especially since the plums are more sour than normal plums.

Cook the jam until it starts to thicken. I learned a trick from my trusty canning book — put a plate in the freezer and let it chill. When you want to test the stage of your jam, place a spoonful on the cold plate, then run your finger through it. If the jam parts like the Red Sea and stays parted — congrats, you are the Moses of jam and it is ready to can! If it closes back up immediately, it need to cook longer before it is ready to set.

Shiro Jam

I canned the jam in 10 8-oz. jars. TEN. That means I paid about $.50 per jar (I’d calculate w/ sugar and pectin added, but I hate math). That’s pretty darn good. Process your jars in your water bath for 10 minutes, then take those bad boys out and they are good to go.

I saved a little of the jam so I could try it without needed to pop open a jar and it is so yummy. SO YUMMY. It tastes like Mother Nature’s version of Sour Patch Kids.

shiro jam2

Ever heard of Shiro Plums? Ever made jam from it? I only saw a recipe or two online using Shiro Plums, so I’m interested to hear if anyone else has discovered these little yellow beauties.

Elephant Trunk Flea Market


Some might call me crazy, and others will totally understand, but I planned my Maine vacation around two things: the start of my master’s degree program and the Elephant Trunk Flea Market.

If you are an HGTV lover, more specifically a Flea Market Flip (FMF) lover, Elephant Trunk Flea Market will immediately ring a bell. It’s a giant flea in New Milford, Connecticut that often plays host to Lara Spencer and her FMF competitors. The gist of the show is two teams of two go through a flea market and buy old crap, transform the crap into something awesome, and then resell the awesome goods at a flea in New York City. You win based on making the most profit. Buy low, sell high.


I love this show an unreasonable amount. I also think I’d kick ass if I ever got to go on the show. Some people do the most outrageous, hideous flips. Psh, my taste is impeccable and my stuff would sell in an instant! (That’s confidence, not cockiness… right?) HGTV PICK ME FOR FLEA MARKET FLIP!

But for real, my office mate and buddy Carrie and I love to talk about how we’d rock FMF. So when I knew we were going to Maine and would have to pass through Connecticut on the way there and back, it just made sense to stop at one of the featured FMF fleas. Originally, we planned to come home on Saturday, but since Elephant Trunk is only open on Sundays, we extended our trip for an extra day. Darn! 


I should give my husband the kuddos he deserves — not all spouses would be cool with spending more money on a vacation just to go to a flea market. He’s the best.

Anywayyyy, we got to the flea market shortly after it opened to the public and the parking lot was already insane. You’ll see in some of the photos that it was supper foggy at first, but it cleared up quickly and filled up even quicker. Holy smokes, there were TONS of people! Right away, the flea market met my expectations — so many vendors, so much neat stuff.


We weaved through the whole market in about an 1 hour and 15 minutes. I would have loved to have taken more time and gone slower, but we did have to get home at some point.


Once we saw the whole thing, I knew what I wanted to buy. Don’t hold your breath — it won’t be exciting to anyone but me.


Growing up, my dad had (and still has) these carved wooden mallard ducks. Many vendors had similar ducks, but one had a mini. I saw it and loved it. For a whole $7, it was mine.


You are probably thinking, “What the heck — a whole post about a flea market from a DIY blogger and no crazy purchase?!?” Well, remember that we’d already spend a lot of cash monies on vacay and had my tiny car to drive home in. Plus, I’m working on two furniture pieces now, and didn’t reallllly need another project. The duck was just fine of a purchase for me.

By the time we left the flea to get back on the road, the parking lot was just nuts and the parking spot vultures were out. I was glad we go there early.

Overall — great experience. Brian liked it way more than I thought he would. There are so many different vendors with such a variety of things to sell that there is something for everybody. The two things I would say I was surprised by: lack of furniture, cost. It wasn’t that there wasn’t furniture. Many vendors had tables. But compared to the show where the contestants seem to have unending choices of desks, chairs, tables, etc., I thought there’s be more or a selection.

I also thought things were priced high. I guess all of the $15 tables and chairs sold at 5(ish) a.m. (you can pay an early bird fee and go before anyone else). Or vendors are more likely to bargain when a huge camera is in their face.

Complaints aside, it was awesome. I wish we had a giant flea market like it in Maryland. If you know of one that I am just completely unaware of– TELL ME!!!! If you have the chance to check it out, I recommend it. Who knows, you might find a little duck of your own.