Wednesday, August 31, 2011

New Lens Love

I'd like to introduce you to my new (amazing) addition to my photo gear. In case I haven't mentioned it before, I shoot with a Nikon D3100 and for the past few months I have been using the kit lens. I was patiently waiting for the right time to add another lens that would be better suited for portrait photography when I found this little gem. It is a Nikon E Series 50 mm f/1.8. I could get technical and talk about aperture settings but instead I'll explain it this way: this lens allows a lot of light in and it allows me to create a lot of blur in the background. The new versions of the lens cost $150 and more. However, I did a lot of research and found that the older lenses (which still mount with Nikon's cameras) were not inferior. They simply don't interface digitally so I don't get a meter read and have to shoot entirely in manual mode. (Blah blah blah, right?) So "E Series" means that this little guy is older than I am, and therefore I got it for $25 on Ebay. Take a look at these photos!

After I took this shot of my sweet boy I knew that it was $25 well spent!

Sadie was my most willing model yesterday.

 A lot of times as the photographer I am stuck behind the lens, but I like to be in pictures too. That's what timers are for, so I took a few self portraits yesterday.

In the photo above, back-light becomes a gorgeous abstract backdrop!

My beautiful Savannah.

I am so happy with the image quality I am getting and I can't wait to see what moments I will capture with this little lens that I am just having so much fun getting to know.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cookies and Cream

So, I have finally decided that it is time to make cupcakes their own label. I realize that I'm becoming a bit obsessed with them and though you will still find them under "Food" they can now be found under "Cupcakes" as well. I'm sure most of you won't object. I love making them. Also, maybe its strange, but I love photographing them as much as I love eating them. They're just so pretty. Anyway, today's post is, as promised, the cookies and cream recipe. I made these adorable little cupcakes for my Dad's birthday this past weekend. Anyone who knows my Dad knows that Oreos are his favorite cookie and I was thrilled when I found this recipe on a blog that I follow because it has a whole Oreo right inside, plus lots of the chocolatey cookie crushed up and mixed in it too. Here's what you'll need:

1 box yellow cake mix (+ ingredients needed for that mix)
1 package Oreo cookies
1 package mini-Oreos (optional)
4 & 1/2 sticks butter at room temperature
6 & 3/4 cups confectioners sugar
1 & 1/2 tbs milk
1 tsp vanilla

I realize as I typed that up that everything I've ever said about being health conscientious went out the window. Oh well...all things in moderation! So first you will want to make your cupcakes. Make your cake mix as your particular box instructs and then put all of your oreos in a plastic bag and beat them with a rolling pin, or wooden not (as I did) grab the closest thing to you (it happened to be scissors that I had used to cut the Oreo package seemed like an okay idea until I nearly jabbed myself in the face because I got over-zealous!) This is a great recipe to make if you need to release some stress! So once your Oreos are crushed and you feel good, put half of them right into your batter.

Mix well. Until your batter looks like cookies and cream!

Just try not to lick the bowl when you're done with this batter! I couldn't resist. Once your batter is ready, grab your cupcake pan, fill it with your liners, and place one whole oreo in each one. Then spoon batter right on top of it. I know cupcake directions generally say to fill it 3/4 of the way full, but I filled theses babies right up to the top.

Put your cupcakes in the oven. Note that because of the Oreo in the bottom you may need to decrease your baking time. While they're in the over you can make your frosting. saw the ingredients. This recipe makes a lot of frosting. So make sure you have a large mixing bowl!

I'm sure you could half the recipe but I haven't actually tried. While I didn't need all of the frosting for 2 dozen cupcakes, but I did use more than half. It depends on how fluffy you want your cupcakes to be. This buttercream recipe is Martha Stewart's and it is awesome! I'm quite sure it will be my favorite buttercream from now on. Simply mix all 4 &1/2 sticks of butter (yes that's right!) and 1 and 1/2 cups of the confectioners sugar. Beat until pale and fluffy. Gradually add 5 and 1/4 cups of sugar (again, that's right!) and beat together. Add milk and vanilla and finally, add the rest of your crushed Oreos and mix well. I enlisted two happy little volunteers for help with cleanup.

 When your cupcakes are done baking, let them cool completely.

Now its time for my favorite part...dressing them up!

I use Wilson's pastry bags to pipe my icing on, however this time (because I didn't take my time and thorougly crush the Oreos) I had to cut the end off and forgo using a tip of any kind. I think they still look pretty great. The baby Oreo on top is the perfect finishing touch.

The best part? The secret Oreo in the middle. Now all you need to add is an ice-cold glass of milk.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Under the Sea

I have neglected my blog for a few days, but for good reasons. I had a very busy weekend. One of the highlights was the opportunity to meet the Ramsey family and take pictures at Macy's Little Mermaid birthday party. I took a lot of pictures...a lot... It made it really hard to narrow them down and I'm still in the editing process but I'm posting a few of my favorites on my photography page Stories From Behind My Lens so be sure to take a look! I also celebrated my dad's birthday this week and made some amazing cookies and cream cupcakes so I will be sure to post that recipe soon. Happy Monday to all.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Snack of the Day... (Secret Recipe!)

So I have confessed to you, my readers, my love affair with cheese. In this post I will share with you one of my favorite ways to eat cheese. This recipe is (to my knowledge) top secret. It was passed down to me by my Dad. I'm not really sure what inspired him to create this little snack, but he made it often for my sister and I when we were young and we both loved it! Before I go any further I should warn you, its a little bit odd...but you could become addicted. Ok, here's what you american cheese single. Yes, that's it. We are going to make "Cheese-in-the-Microwave." (Fancy name, huh?) Here's what you do. Take your cheese and fold it. Fold it in half, then fold that half into two squares. Keep folding those squares until you have two tiny little stacks of cheese like so:

It is important to have this many layers (eight). If it isn't stacked high enough it will fall flat when you cook it. Cook it? Yes...into the microwave it goes. Keep it on the little plastic wrapper for easy cleanup. Set your microwave for about 45 seconds to one minute...

Cook time will vary depending on the microwave so you may have to experiment. Take a peak as it cooks. If it begins to get too brown, its burning (and that will make your house smell me.) If you don't let it cook long enough the cheese will stay too soft. Your snack should come out looking something like this:

They are crunchy, puffy, layers of cheese. A great snack for kids and grownups too. Come know you're curious! Please share if you try this!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Thrift Store Props


Last month (when I was in lovely West Virginia) my cousin Elizabeth, my sister Meghan, and myself took a fun afternoon to go treasure hunting. For those who knows Elizabeth, she is extremely creative and artistic, and she has a knack for turning ordinary things into something amazingly cute! She and my Aunt know where all the great spots are for finding antiques and/or old stuff (it takes all kinds!) in Greenbrier County. When we went I was already dreaming up some photography ideas and i was looking for specific props: a chair with some personality, and an old suitcase. I was thrilled to find these!

As you can see, I didn't even clean them up for their first photo shoot. I actually kind of liked how the chair looked like it had been sitting in someone's barn for a while. I promise to clean it up before anyone's sits on it though. I love the details that are carved into the wood and even the seat has character. I got the chair for $10. (It was marked $15. Don't be afraid to haggle a little!) I tossed around the idea of painting it, but I think I'm going to stick with the black for now. It's more classic.

The suitcase I was kind of picky about. I wanted it to look old, but not old like junky-old. I also looked at several different colors. This one is nice and neutral and its a good size, plus it was just over $10. It would be great in senior portraits, and I have visions of portraits of newborns on the the suitcase... I have seen lots of great ideas on Pinterest! I can't wait to use these two props so look for them to make appearances in the near future. Oh, and speaking of taking pictures...I am photographing a birthday party this weekend so look for those photos in a blogpost soon. I am so excited.

I need to find a good treasure spot here in Knoxville. I know we have a lot of secondhand stores and antique shops, I'm just not sure where to begin. Right now I'm looking for a desk to give a makeover to. With all that I have going on I need a little bit of work-space as you can imagine! What about you? Ever find something just perfect for you at thrift store, flea market, or some such place? Do tell.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Princess Savannah

"It's the age of princesses and pirate ships and the seven dwarfs. Daddy's smart and you're the prettiest lady in the whole wide world... I don't know why all the trees change in the fall, I know you're not scared of anything at all. Don't know if Snow White's house is near or far away, but I had the best day with you today..."

Thursday, August 18, 2011

My Refrigerator

I thought after yesterday's post that we needed something a little bit lighter. You'll either enjoy this post or think its the silliest thing ever. I used to subscribe to a magazine (Rachael Ray) that had a little feature called "What's Inside" where a celebrity stood by a picture of their refrigerator and broke down what was inside. I know its kind of silly but I always found it fascinating! Maybe there was a staple they kept that I should have known about. Maybe they were snacking on things that I didn't think about but should try. For whatever reason I loved to see what other people kept in their fridge! So today...though I'm no celebrity and perhaps this won't be nearly as interesting...I thought I would show you what's in my refrigerator. I just went to the grocery store last night. I usually shop for a two-week period which I find saves money. Though it is a large amount of money in one trip I have found that I spend less than I do when I make several small trips. So it is nice and full today. (Don't you love that? I do!) Okay, here goes:

What can I say about all of the cheese? I'm from Wisconsin! I try to keep lots of fresh fruit because my kids will eat it for snacks. Berry season is my favorite! I once met with a nutritionist and she pointed out that there is a lot of dairy in my diet (yogurt, cheese, milk...) so I do try to balance that with the fruit and veggies. I'm not a huge meat-eater, but I like to make hard-boiled eggs or a little egg with english muffin for breakfast sometimes for protein. I am a breakfast girl! I always have breakfast and coffee. Before I conclude this I am going to share a recipe that is a great one for using those berries! (Just in case you didn't find the refrigerator thing as interesting as I do.) It's my own variation of Pineapple Lush. Rather than a whole cake here is a quick and simple way to make Pineapple Lush Cups:

1 angel food cake cut in cubes
1 can crushed pineapple
1 tub whipped topping
1 box instant vanilla pudding
Berries of your choice

Mix the pineapple, whipped topping, and dry pudding mix until well blended. In small cups (punch cups are perfect!) layer cubed angel food cake, lush mixture, and berries parfait style. That's it! You're done. This is a perfect summer dessert because its so light and fluffy. 

So what do you keep in your refrigerator? Anything I should know about? Share your favorite snack or staple! I love reading your comments. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

On My Mind...

There are so many things exploding in my mind right now its like a fireworks show. Really, if you could get in there for just one minute, you might be scared...or you might feel excited. That's what I'm feeling; a great mixture of both. Last night as I was trying to process the overload I thought to myself, what better way to sort it out than to blog about it a little bit. So buckle your seat-belt and hang on... Please note that the following are in no particular order! First of all, I am currently in the process of starting up not one, but two at-home-businesses. The first that I have already told my readers I was dreaming of is a little photography business. I say "little" because for now I'm going to be doing this "on the side." (This is on the side of my part-time jobs: babysitting and working as a tanning consultant at a nearby salon, and of course my family and ministry!) I have had so much fun behind my lens this summer and with at least 4 sessions coming up in the fall I decided it was time to try to make something out of this hobby. Look for a Facebook page and more details coming soon!

My second business venture is a repeat for me. I am now an independent beauty consultant for Mary Kay (and when I say that I hear "Take two!" in my mind.) I started this journey years ago...and I played around with it, had a lot of fun and earned a lot of free makeup and skincare products, but never really worked at it. This time around I plan to work hard, schedule parties, (I mean that isn't really work. Who doesn't love a party where you get to play with makeup!) and really teach women all the wonderful things I have learned about beauty from Mary Kay. I am not a salesperson. I am, however, a great teacher and pretty good with a makeup brush. I love to teach people how to take better care of their skin and have products on hand that can help them in the process. You will probably see more about this on my blog from time to time. I often think of all the time and money that we are willing to invest to gain material possessions. Think about it girls...your face is one of the few things that is yours for your whole life! We had better treat it well as we age. ...That brings me to another thing that has been on my mind...

In just a couple of months I will be...30. Yes, its true. I'm in the twilight of my 20's. On the one hand there is part of me that is really excited! I have a lot of things to be so proud of in my life and I love so much about it. I'm also looking forward to my birthday itself because my hubby is already planning an awesome birthday party that I'm super excited about. (I only told him all year long that he had to throw one (!), but he came up with an impressive idea.) But then on the other hand...its 30. There is something sobering about it. Not that I feel like I'm getting old, but, it is quite the reminder about the passage of time and how our life on earth is but a vapor. I want to make it beautiful.  While I'm on the subject of the passage of time I'll talk about my little guy.

Maybe I should say, my not so little guy! Landon is still months away from his January birthday but its already screaming at me...FIVE! This year will be his last year at home with me and I am already freaking out a little bit. At the same time, I have big plans for us. Lots of memory making and a new addition to our schedule -  some studying!

Landon is so smart and loves to learn. After Labor Day I plan on having a couple of "school" days with him a week to help prepare him for kindergarten. Goodness...I can't even say that word without tear-ing up so you all should start praying for me now. Lest you think I am forgetting that I will still have a little one at home with me, rest assured, I couldn't forgot my little monkey, Savannah. I have big plans for her too!

Just this week we bought her some "big girl" panties (My Little Pony, of course!) and I'm thinking about potty training... I say I'm "thinking" about it because I don't want to commit in case we start and I see that she isn't at all ready. I learned that lesson the hard way with Landon. I also have big plans to move Savannah out of her crib and design her new room. I'm sure there will be blog posts about this, but just to give you a little preview...there will be lots of pink involved!

Lastly, and definitely not the least important thing on my mind, is the fact that Discovery Church will be launching Discovery Student Ministry this fall! It's kind of like having a baby in a way. Craig and I have been talking about this and praying for this since we got married and before. Ten years is a long time to be pregnant! This is a dream come true for both of us and I can't wait to see what it will look like. More blog posts to come on this subject too!

Well, the ride is over...I hope I haven't exhausted you too much. There are so many things on the horizon, I just had to share the view with you, my friends, family, and faithful readers. Thanks so much for your prayers, love, and support!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Snack of the Day

I'm not really sure that water is a snack, but I wanted to share this particular one because it has become my favorite this summer. Twist is water with a a twist of juice and it is so refreshing! I love flavored water because I'm not too great at drinking just water. However, a lot of them leave a weird taste in my mouth or have a lot of sodium. Twist has 9 calories per serving, 0 mgs of sodium, and it actually tastes like water with real fruit in it! I find it at Kroger and it comes in 4 different flavors. My two favorites are West Indies Lime and Wild Strawberry. Just a quick post to share about a product that I think is worth trying. I'm sure most of us don't drink our 8 glasses of water a day and this is a sweet way to get more of something that is good for you. Happy Monday!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Friends and Dreams...

I very rarely start a post and find that words don't come... However when I sat down to try to put my thoughts together for this post I went completely blank. It isn't because I don't have much to say about these photos, but more because they speak for themselves. It may also be because I am going to share something in this post that I have been thinking but haven't actually said out loud to many people and I'm a bit nervous... I am posting just a couple shots from our session here, and several (including couples shots) on my photography page (Stories From Behind My Lense.) These pictures were taken in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina last week and the beautiful subjects are my sister's friends but truly they are more like family. They have a bond that they are so blessed to share...and they know this! They laugh together, encourage each other, hang out and act silly together, pray for each other... It was my privilege to take these pictures! The other thing on my mind is that this session (and the few others that I have had recently) have prompted me to consider taking my photography to a more professional level. I am dreaming of pursuing more training, designing a website, and marketing myself just a bit. I would appreciate your prayers as I decide if this is the right step to take, and I would love to hear from you. I welcome any thoughts, comments, or advice!