Thursday, May 28, 2015

Wedding Season Get-ups!

Now that Memorial Day weekend has come and gone, it's the official start of wedding season!  
I don't know about you, but I absolutely love weddings... everything about them! 
Especially getting dressed up - here are some of my favorites for this season.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Southwest Adventuring

I don't know about you, but I absolutely loved the long weekend (and I really wouldn't mind having just one more day to relax!).  John and I spent our Memorial Day weekend adventuring with friends and family in New Mexico and Arizona.  

We really wanted to use the long weekend for a mini vacation, but since we are leaving for Europe in less than a month (what?!), we figured it would probably be best to save money and stay local-ish.

Here's a quick recap of our weekend exploring the Southwest!


We left for New Mexico after work on Friday, and we didn't end up getting in until about 2AM.  
We went straight to bed, and woke up very excited for an amazing breakfast at The Range - they have massively large portions of New Mexico goodness... exactly what we needed to start the weekend off right!

We spent the day hanging out at John's mom's house.  She has a great backyard with a beautiful view... and Scout very much enjoyed being able to run free and chase birds!

As much fun as John and I had this weekend, I'm pretty sure that Scout had even more.  
Really, on a scale from 1 to 10, her enthusiasm was an 11...
John's mom has the sweetest dog, and Max and Scout get along so well and basically played together the entire time. I mean really, could they be any cuter?!

Later in the day we met up with our good friends Jared and Faerl for a quick hike and some delicious food and drinks.

Funny story: Faerl and I met at a dog park... her dog Marble and Scout really hit it off! Fast forward a year, or so, and Jared and Faerl have become some of our best friends.  John and I had just moved to New Mexico, and knew absolutely no one, and Faerl and Jared were such a blessing to us!

 Sunday morning, the four of us met up to hike the Sandia Crest trail.
(Not pictured: The delicious pre-hike breakfast burritos. So. Tasty.)

We dropped off a car at the top of the mountain, and the plan was to hike up and drive down.  
When we got to the top (about 10,600 feet elevation), it was so cold, and we were certainly not dressed properly!  Thankfully we grabbed a few more layers so we wouldn't die (literally for me, figuratively for them).

 As much as I enjoy all that Arizona has to offer, I really love a good forested hike!
The views were beautiful, and the weather (for the most part...) was perfect.

We stopped for lunch, and it started to rain/sleet... not my kind of thing! I used to live in Michigan, and I really shouldn't be such a wimp, but when it comes to cold weather, I just can't hang.  
We decided to turn around and head down in case of lightning, etc.

Not surprisingly, shortly after turning around, the sleet let up.  Shocking, I know.  
Why is it that whenever you decide to turn around, the weather will cooperate, but whenever you decide to keep going the weather gets worse and worse?!

Scout and Marble were quite the hikers.  They went between exploring, chasing, and wrestling with each other... You best believe we had some tired pups on our hands when all was said and done.

By the time we finished hiking we went about 9 miles, but since we had to turn around, we had to drive back to the top of the mountain to get our car.

And we, of course, couldn't pass up the photo opp! :)

On Monday we headed back to Arizona with a pit stop at Petrified Forest National Park.  
Petrified Forest is the only National Park in Arizona that we hadn't been to, and we were looking forward to checking it off our list.

The park was very cool, but if I'm honest, I just don't think I quite "got" it.  Basically, there's a bunch of super old trees (over 200 million years old) that fossilized and turned into stone. 
It was cool, but it was kind of just a bunch of rocks/fossils laying around that looked like trees.

If you're super into geology, then you would probably love this stuff, but I think this park will be a one-and-done kind of thing for me. (I'm sure there are some geologists out there that think I'm absolutely crazy for saying that!)

It was pretty crazy how old everything was and the badlands made everything look like we were on the moon!

Don't get me wrong, the fossilized trees were absolutely beautiful (and the colors were amazing!), but it's just that there wasn't much to do, it was more of a snap a photo and leave kind of thing.

All in all, John and I had a great weekend exploring New Mexico and Arizona... there is so much beauty in the Southwest, and we are enjoying getting to experience it all!

Friday, May 22, 2015

5 Food Photography Hacks!

Food photography... Yikes! 

I’ve sure come a long way since I started blogging – and if I’m being honest, I absolutely cringe looking at old blog posts.  Isn’t it funny (and kind of scary...) looking back at old blog posts and seeing how much you’ve improved?

I have a long ways to go (like graduating from my iPhone, for example!), but making progress is always encouraging! Probably the most obvious way to take better pictures of food is to use a real camera.  However, using a DSLR requires learning, time, and skillz that I just don’t have... so I’ve got to make do with my iPhone!

Here are 5 practical tips that are easy to implement to improve your photography of food.

ONE  |  Accessorize your photos

Just like a pair of earrings helps dress up an outfit, an accessory or two can also make photos of your food more visually appealing!  

I’ve started using linens and cutting boards to provide layers and different textures in food photos.  You can accessorize by adding in some fun silverware – I found this gold cutlery at West Elm and absolutely love it (sometimes silver will make funny reflections of light in photos, but the gold is pretty fuss free!).  

You can also add accessories to your photos by using the ingredients that went into your meal.  For example, made tacos? Include a lime or avocado in the photo.  Made chili? Add fresh garnishes to the top... easy peasy!

TWO  |  Smaller portions

I’ve found that my photos look best when my plate is full and there aren’t a ton of empty spaces on the plate; but conversely, looking at massive portions of food isn’t overly appealing to me either. 

To compromise, I use smaller plates.  This way, the food will better fit the plate and you won’t need a blue plate special to fill empty space.

THREE  |  Natural lighting

Natural lighting is key for good pictures of food. However, finding time to take pictures using natural light can be pretty difficult if you’re working long hours during the day.  

To help solve this natural light dilemma, I’ve started using this lighting kit... and boy, oh boy, it has made my blogging life a million times easier.  It was recommended to me by Mia, and it was well worth the investment – it’s easy to set up and use, and it folds up and can be shoved under a bed without being an eye sore!  

The best part?  I can take photos at 11pm and still have nice lighting!

FOUR  |  Neutral backdrop

Several months ago I discovered the amazingness of white foam board.  Life changing.  
For real, it provides a neutral, clean backdrop that highlights only the food.  

A few months ago I stepped up my game further with some marble contact paper (aka, adult stickers!).  I bought this roll and have only used a fraction of it.  It’s a muted backdrop, but still has a little pizazz!  

Similar to a muted background, I’ve found that I much prefer white plates.  My day-to-day place settings aren’t white, so I simply bought a plate (or two...) from Home Goods to use for photos.

FIVE  |  Clean your plates

Clean. your. plates. Y’all, this is so easy and there is no reason why everyone shouldn’t do this.  
Keep a paper towel with you, and before you take any photos, simply clean any drips, spills, or crumbs off of the plate.  

As they say, you begin eating with your eyes, so any plating clean-up that can be done is well worth the effort.

What are your food photography secrets?!

Monday, May 18, 2015

DIY Pup Pops!

So this whole thing started while going through the drive through at Starbucks (not surprisingly).  
The barista who handed me my beverage was admiring Scout sitting in the passenger seat, and asked if Scout would like a puppacino.

A puppacino?! You better believe she would like a puppacino!

And not surprisingly, Scout loved it.  
Look at that smile (Scout's, not mine... just to be clear)!!

Anyway, Scout had never had anything like that before and went absolutely bananas (no pun intended) over it.  So, the hunt was on to create at-home puppacinos.

I was perusing the internet for recipes, and came across some home made frozen treat ideas.  
Frozen treats sounded like a great idea given the Arizona summer heat.

And then came the pup pop!
These pup pops are frozen, but have the consistency of ice cream, not ice (so you don't have to cringe while they are eating it!).

What you need:
- A half of a banana
- 1 tbs of honey
- 2 tbs of peanut butter
- 1 small container of non-fat Greek yogurt

Simply blend all ingredients in a blender.

Make sure you have a proper taste tester to ensure it tastes great!

Pour the mixture into little dixie cups (it should make about 3 dixie cups about 2/3s full), and pop into the freezer.

After the pup pops are frozen, you should be able to crack the cups and pop out the treats.

And without further ado, serve to your favorite pup!

Friday, May 15, 2015

DIY Jute Chargers

I'm not going to lie, I'm a little bit obsessed with table settings... linens, napkin rings, chargers - I love it all!

The only problem? The prices add up quickly!
Chargers from Pottery Barn, for example, are easily $15/each, and after you buy a set you're pushing $100 pretty quickly. 

I had some left over jute from my DIY vase, and I decided to put it to good use and make a DIY plate charger! I only had enough jute to make a single charger, but I fully intended to complete the set this weekend (...while starting a new TV series - any suggestions?!).

What you need:
- A hot glue gun
- About 20 feet of jute (per charger)

Ultimately, the amount of jute you need will depend on the thickness of your rope, but 20 feet/charger is a pretty good starting point for a standard dinner plate charger.

Side note, you can buy 50 feet of jute for $5-8 (depending on the thickness) from Home Depot (that's only $3-4/charger). This is notably cheaper than JoAnn and Michaels... so save yourself some money and skip the craft store - Home Depot for the win!

The process is quite simple (which are always the best DIYs!).

Using the hot glue gun, begin to form a circle (which will be the center of the charger), and glue the jute around as you continue to build and wrap outwardly.

Continue this process until you near the end of the jute.
Insider tip: It is helpful if you hold the jute for a few seconds after gluing to help let the glue cool.

 Before fastening the end of the jute to the charger, use a little bit of glue on the end so that it won't fray.  After securing the end and done gluing, press the charger flat and pull off any globs of glue that are super obvious. 

Keep in mind that plates will be on these, so imperfections won't be noticeable!

At only $4 a piece, you don't have to worry about a set of 12 breaking the bank.

I absolutely love how it turned out - rustic and simple... pair with a soft linen napkin, and you've got a perfect combination!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Sriracha Meatballs

So apparently I'm obsessed with Sriracha.
I can't help it... it's just so delicious!

I'm not really into meatballs - maybe it's the name or the shape, but they just aren't for me. 
Butttttt, when I stumbled upon this recipe, I knew that I had to try it.
It's easy, fast (30 minutes from start to finish), healthy, and incorporates Sriracha... 
AKA, a must make!

For the meatballs:
- 1lb of ground turkey
- 1 tbs of minced garlic
- 1 egg
- 2 tsp of chopped cilantro
- 1 tbs of Sriracha
- 1 tsp of soy sauce
- 1 cup of bread crumbs
- 1 tsp of pepper
- 1 scallion minced

Combine all of the ingredients and form into meatballs.

Heat 3 tbs of oil in a pan, and brown the meatballs for 2 minutes, flipping halfway through.
 Transfer the meatballs to a lined baking sheet, and bake for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees.

While the meatballs are baking, make the teriyaki sauce.

What you need:
- 1/2 cup of soy sauce
- 1/3 cup of honey
- 1 tbs of sesame oil
- 2 tbs of Sriracha

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan and stir over medium heat until the honey is dissolved.
Once the sauce is complete, add 2 tbs of sesame seeds.

Once the meatballs are done baking, pour over the sauce and serve with a side of quinoa (or brown rice!).  I was surprised at how much John enjoyed this dish (probably because it is very different than most things I make), and it will definitely be on repeat!

Monday, May 11, 2015

I got it from my mama

Hope all the mommas out there had a fabulous Mother's Day! We enjoyed the weekend celebrating with John's mom who was in town visiting.

Here's a quick recap of our time together, which included eating way too much delicious food!


Dinner at O.H.S.O Brewery.

Hiking Camelback Mountain.

Mountain Biking in the McDowell Mountains.

 Mexicannn Food.  Gettin' our margarita on!

Enjoying the uh-mazing weather and sunny skies!!

Mother's Day brunch at The Gladly.

Since John and I don't live near family, we really love soaking up all the time we can with "familiar" faces.  It was so nice to have visitors, and we are looking forward to getting together again soon!
John and I feel so blessed to have such wonderful mothers, grandmothers, and women in our life!

And although I wasn't able to spend time with any of the women on my side of the family, I wanted to make sure that I shared the love for my mom and grandmas who shaped me into the person that I am today! I love them all dearly!

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