March 30, 2019

We’ve been self-isolated because of COVID-19 for a couple of weeks now and are doing pretty well: Carla and I are together – it’s tough for people who live alone; we are using Google Hangouts and Facetime to keep up with friends and family, and we get out every day to walk – I’m going 5 or more miles most days. Our co-mother-in-law in South Africa is in a much tougher quarantine. She can only leave the house and yard for an hour or two each day for shopping.

But it gets old. As I was out walking this morning, brownies just jumped in my head – well, the idea of brownies – no one was pelting brownies at my noggin. I came home and Carla and I found a Brownies recipe online at and were delighted to discover we had all the necessary ingredients.

Brownie Ingredients

It’s a photo project so of course I put things in place

Brownie ingredients mis en place

Meanwhile, Carla pulled together the ingredients for the frosting.

Frosting ingredients

I put things next to the stove in the order they would be used.

Brownie ingredients ready for assembly

After melting ½ cup of butter I removed the pan from the heat and mixed in the sugar. Once that was incorporated, I whisked in one egg at a time. I was a bit trepidatious – many years ago we tried to make treats to mail to the boys in college and when we added the eggs they just scrambled instead of mixing in. We hadn’t learned about tempering – adding eggs, or whatever, to a small bit of the hot stuff so they wouldn’t cook. Watching the video, they didn’t worry about that in this recipe; nevertheless, I tempered the first egg. Then in went the vanilla extract. After that was all mixed together I added the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder, and salt.

I poured it into a prepared square pan – slightly bigger than the one in the recipe. I think it was too big, the brownies were pretty thin. While they baked Carla made the frosting – it was very thick.

Frosting for Brownies

The recipe calls for a bake time of 25-20 minutes. I pulled them at 20 because of the larger pan and our oven cooks pretty hot.

A pan full of brownies.

Carla frosted them.

Brownies ready to eat

A note about the photo above, the frosting didn’t look that nice in real life; it was very thick and impossible to spread easily. I’ve been spending time the past few weeks refreshing my Lightroom and Photoshop skills. I have an old Wacom tablet that I pulled from the far corner of my desk to use in Photoshop to do some content-aware fill on the frosting blank spots. Here is the original

Frosted brownies – pre-Photoshop

As the videos I’ve watched over the past weeks promised, using the Intuos Pro table made the selection soooo easy.

We didn’t wait until dessert – we had a mid afternoon treat.

Brownies! Yum!

I’ve lost a few pounds since the New Year; in addition to the exercise, cutting out sugar, sweets, and desserts was an important part of that change. I need to be careful about putting those pounds back on- but brownies on a rainy, quarantine Sunday afternoon are sometimes called for.

These aren’t the best brownies I’ve ever eaten, but then short of putting anchovies in them any brownie is a good brownie. Next time we’ll cook them in a slightly smaller square pan and maybe find a better frosting. But hey, these are simple and very good.

As I mentioned above, I used Photoshop on a couple of the photos above. If you are a Lightroom and/or Photoshop user, I highly recommend, Matt Kloskowski’s training. I’m doing a refresh on his Lightroom course and hope to start his Photoshop course this week. During the quarantine he has produced a series of free “Stuck Inside” videos. His post on the Wacom tablet is what prompted me to pull my tablet out to try again. He’s also been posting a lot of free tutorials including a series on “How to Get the Most from Adobe”. If you are a current Lightroom/Photoshop user who feels you need some help, or if you are thinking about subscribing to the Adobe Creative Cloud but are skittish about the complexity, give these resources a try. Of course, he has plenty of great full length courses available – and are currently 50% off. I’m not an affiliate; I don’t get anything if you subscribe, I just really like his technique and training skills.

Another thing I’ve spent the last week doing is switching from a mouse – which I’ve used forever – to a trackpad. There is definitely a learning curve; I’ve tried off and on in the past, but with all this time available I’ve committed to give a full try. Using a trackpad – and the trackpad feature on the Wacom Tablet – gives a lot more options for navigating on my Mac. One week in and I look longingly at the mouse in my desk drawer less and less.

So that’s what we are up to!

[Note added 3/31/20]
A note on the photography lighting. I shot these pictures with my Sony A660 using a Godox TT350S flash mounted on camera pointed up and the little reflector card extended. The slave was a Godox TT685S mounted on a light stand shooting into a reflective umbrella. It was a bit easier to maneuver with only one light stand – especially with two of us moving around the kitchen. I shot in TTL (Through The Lens) flash mode; while I adjusted lighting as I went, a typical ratio was the TT385 at +1 and the slave TT685 at +1.3. The lighting may not be as vibrant as when using two stand-mounted flashes but I think it worked well at lighting the subjects with few annoying shadows.

[Note added 4/2/20]
After reviewing Matt Kloskowski’s Lightroom System 2020 I added a vignette to the first two and the last one photo to give a little bit of a spotlight effect so we can bring attention to the objects and not all the background.

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