Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The One With the Star Wars TOMS

Occasionally, I get to give really awesome gifts. It makes me so very excited when I find the perfect present for someone. My dear friend, Cara, had a birthday the day after Thanksgiving this year and I just happened to come up with the best gift ever for her. Custom made Star Wars TOMS.
A few months ago I was browsing around Etsy and found lots of custom designed and hand-painted TOMS shoes. I fell in love with the idea. I will eventually need some with cherry blossoms for my shoe collection. But in the meantime, I was absolutely thrilled to find someone who wanted to begin making Star Wars themed TOMS. And since she was just starting out she gave us a great deal to be her first order! They turned out so well! And Cara loved them!

Here's R2-D2
And C-3PO
Aren't they just ridiculously cool? If you have a Star Wars fan in your life who needs these for Christmas or a birthday, you can purchase a pair here. Not the biggest fan of R2 and C-3PO? Alyssa (the artist) wants to make several different sets with different characters, so you can contact her for more details!
Unfortunately, I have yet to see these babies in person. All pictures were taken by Alyssa for her Etsy listing. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

The One in My Shoes

Hello! I'm a featured guest blogger over at Crayon Freckles today! I'm so excited that Andie allowed me to participate in the "In Her Shoes" series on her blog.
If you have been sent this way from my post over there, you may be interested in some of the following:
Things I Love About Ellie, Olivia's Month-by-Month and yummy dinner and dessert recipes (see tags for more specific categories!).

If you came this way on your own, you can read my post about mommyhood below:

Hello! I’m Michelle. I’m a full-time mommy and part-time blogger and aspiring photographer over at The One With The Cupcakes
where I share recipes, crafts, photos and any other random thing that strikes my fancy.

A big thanks to Andie for letting me participate in this great series!

Like Andie, I’ve always been excited about being a mom. Even when I was in college studying Spanish and Elementary Education, I knew that once kids came along I would want to stay home with them. What I wasn’t in any way expecting was that my first, Ellie, would be born before I even finished college. Talk about surprises. My husband, Steve, and I had been married just over a year when she was born, at the beginning of my senior year. I stayed home with her that first semester and then finished my last semester that following spring with the help of amazing friends and family. And here I am. Less than a year and a half after graduating. I have no work experience of any kind, no job title, no résumé builders, but another little wonder, Olivia, has joined our happy home.

I am beyond blessed with my little girls. They bring so much joy and life, not only to me, but to everyone around them. Ellie is all energy and giggles. She is strong willed and smart and is already very much the bossy big sister. But she is also the best friend who, whenever Olivia whines a little, comes rushing to her aid bringing her toys and stuffed animals to play with. Ellie loves Elmo, and giving kisses, and playing dollhouse and coloring. She is my tigress, my bubbling fountain of laughter, my brand-new day every morning.

And Olivia. She is my steadfast one. She is very contemplative and methodical. She seems so quiet, but really she is just waiting for her opportune moment to break out with a roar or a squeal or a laugh that just about melts your heart. She is my old-soul, my friend from ages past. She takes my breath away with her wonderfulness.

As much fun as we have, the three of us girls being at home together, it is a struggle sometimes, to make ends meet on one entry-level professional income. It’s hard to be such a young mom because most of my peers don’t have children yet. It’s hard to not be doing all the grand things I was planning on doing with my life at this point. It’s hard to change diapers and make sandwiches and not be out changing the world, as I thought I would be right about now. But I know that I have this one fleeting and precious opportunity to raise kind, smart and giving children that I can someday give back to the world. I have this one chance of a few years to make a lasting impression on these beautiful girls I have been given. The rest of my life can wait.
It has always alarmed me that stay-at-home moms have to really fight for respect for what they do. We are concentrating whole-heartedly on raising the next generation. We are their earliest teachers. Their life coaches. We are molding them into being thoughtful, respectful human beings. We realize, more than anyone, that children are the messengers we send into a future we will never see, which demands great sacrifice in the present. What about that is lacking of respect?

My girls are still very young, but every night I pray that, through my example, they will learn to be kind, loving and respectful. Kind, because as humans we are all hurting in some invisible way and a little kindness means a lot. Loving, because from great love stems the ability to see what others need and improve social situations by providing that. And respect. Respect for oneself and one’s own life, value and ambitions. And respect for the lives, value and ambitions of everyone else. Respect does not mean you always agree with everyone, but it does mean you try to imagine they might believe what they do for a reason. Teaching them these things is not going to be easy, but I’m determined to love them through everything, provide them with experiences and opportunities that shape them into moral, socio-conscious people and give them a peaceful home from which they can learn, grow and thrive.

And along the way, I want to keep track of every adorable thing they do, teach them how to make fabulous desserts, and build blanket forts for make-believe. So that's me! Feel free to stay awhile and explore!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Speechless Sunday

It's officially the season of gift-giving. And I'm so excited! 
Also, how awesome would it be if your job was to create and take pictures like this? I feel like the invention of Pinterest might actually make it a possibility. Via.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The One On Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you have a wonderful day with friends and family.
Last night's Friendsgiving was a huge success. Everyone brought amazing food and plenty of beer and wine. I am pretty sure a good time was had by all. Today we are headed east a bit to celebrate with Steve's family. I'm looking forward to some honey baked ham and mashed potatoes. And more pie, of course.

We snapped a few Thanksgiving pictures just for fun. And because we're actually moving out of our cute little house soon, I thought we'd take some in front of our home. We've loved this home so much and will definitely miss it. But we're on to good things, too. (More about that later.) Ellie wasn't being too cooperative. She didn't want to take pictures but rather wanted to get in the car to go see Grandma, Grandpa and Cyril James (her cousin who is turning 2 tomorrow). 
Anyway, hope you have a lovely day full of laughter and great food! I know I will!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The One With the Salted Caramel Chocolate Pie

I am absolutely obsessed with salted caramel. I love, love, love it! And another thing I love? Thanksgiving. Yep. It's right up there as one of my favorite holidays. I love Thanksgiving food. So. Very. Much. My mom is an amazing cook and I miss the amazingness that is her Thanksgiving feast. I'll be trying my best to replicate it on my own this year. We're having a "Friendsgiving" on Wednesday evening before everyone heads to spend the actual day with their families. I've got a 23 pound turkey defrosting. And 20 pounds of potatoes. And several pounds of bacon, sausage, apples, bread, craisins and celery waiting to be made into stuffing. And in the spirit of the season, plenty of pie-making supplies. I have my traditional Milk Chocolate Toffee Cream Pie that I always make (but is remaining a hard-kept secret at the moment). And I'll also be making a few Salted Caramel Chocolate Pies. And you could, too! Unless, of course, you're coming here for Friendsgiving. Because I've got that covered.

But if you're not coming to my house for Thanksgiving, or you just crave salted caramel and chocolate like I do, then you should whip this bad boy up. It really is easy as pie. So easy, in fact, I almost hate to share it because it's like giving away some magnificent secret.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Pie
  • Chocolate pie crust
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 Tbls granulated sugar
  • 4 Tbls O'Mara's or Bailey's Irish Cream With a Hint of Caramel
  • Sea salt for garnishing
  • Caramel sauce
In a microwave safe bowl, melt the chocolate chips. First, microwave for 30 seconds. Stir and microwaves for 10 more seconds. Keep heating in 10 second intervals, stirring between each, until chocolate is melted. Set aside to cool. Beat whipping cream and sugar until stiff peaks form when you lift the beaters out. Add the Irish Cream With a Hint of Caramel, one tablespoon at a time, beating well between each addition. You don't want to over-beat and ruin your whipping cream, but you also want to make sure you don't leave it too soft or it won't set up well. It definitely needs to be thick enough that any imprint you make with the beaters, stays. Using a spatula, gently fold in the cooled chocolate mixture, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure you combine everything. Spread into the pie crust. Garnish with sea salt. Freeze for one hour or refrigerate for 4-6 hours. When you're ready to serve, drizzle caramel sauce over the top, either on the whole pie or on individual pieces.

This recipe originally came from here. I used O'Mara's and it turned out wonderful. If you go with the freezer option and then serve immediately, you will notice that the Irish Cream has a bit more of a kick to it. If you refrigerate your pie for longer it still has a little punch, but it decreases with time. Don't worry, though, that little kick is an important part of your pie-eating experience.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The One With the Nacho Bake

As a mom, I am always looking for healthy meals that can fills my babies up with protein and vegetables. Enter: the nacho bake! It uses fewer tortilla chips than regular nachos and has lots of protein and veggies. It is also really easy to make double the meat and beans one night and save it for a few nights later. That way, on the second night, you only have to chop your vegetables and assemble and you have a super quick meal ready!
Nacho Bake
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 4 tablespoons taco seasoning
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 can refried beans
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 2 bushels green onions, diced
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Tortilla chips
Preheat oven to 350.
Cook ground beef in a medium skillet over medium heat until browned. Add water and taco seasoning and stir together. Bring to a simmer and then reduce heat. Simmer on low for 5 minutes. Add refried beans and stir to incorporate.
In a 9x13 inch pan, break tortilla chips along the bottom to form a crust layer. Spread the beef and bean mixture on the chips and sprinkle 3/4 of the tomatoes and green onions over the top. Top with cheddar cheese. Bake for 20 minutes.
Cool for 5 minutes and then top with remaining tomatoes and onions and sprinkle some broken chips on top for a little added crunch.
Serve with a dollop of sour cream and enjoy!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The One With the Turkey and Stuffing Bake

If you're impatient for Thanksgiving to get here, like I am, this could help hold you over. It's basically Thanksgiving in one dish. It's amazing. Of course, this would be good all year round, too.
Turkey and Stuffing Bake
  • 1 pound ground turkey (preferably pre-seasoned with Italian seasonings)
  • 2 Tbls olive oil 
  • 3 Tbls flour
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 10.5 ounce can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced medium
  • 3 celery stalks, diced medium
  • 1 loaf crusty white bread, cut into large cubes
  • 2/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbls butter
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add ground turkey and cook until browned. If you used unseasoned turkey, add sage and any other spice you'd like. Add the flour and stir to coat. Add chicken broth and cook, stirring until liquid thickens, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to an 8x8 Pyrex or other baking pan.

Rinse out skillet and pat dry. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add onion and celery and cook until tender, 8 minutes. Remove from heat. In a separate bowl, stir together the cream of chicken soup and water. Add that, along with the bread and cranberries, to the onion and celery mixture. Toss until combined. Stir in eggs. Spoon bread mixture over turkey mixture. Cut the butter into small pieces and distribute over the bread mixture. Bake until juices are bubbling and bread is golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
This recipe is a variation of one I saw in Martha Stewart's Everyday Food magazine. It originally called for 3 1/2 cups chicken broth instead of 1 1/2 cups chicken broth and 1 can cream of chicken soup, plus 1 1/2 cups water. But I ran out of chicken broth. I think it turned out really great this way, but you can also try it the other way!

And even if you're not a big fan of cranberries, I would really suggest you incorporate them. They really add something special to the dish. It's like a full Thanksgiving dinner in every bite. Now if only it incorporated some mashed potatoes...

Linked up at Tastetastic Thursdays on A Little Nosh. Featured on Weekend Spotlight.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The One With the Commons-Style Chicken Wraps

Oh, the good old days. For me, at least for now, "the good old days" refers to being a freshman in college. I had awesome roommates, awesome classes and an all-you-can-eat meal ticket combined with a non-existent fear of the Freshman Fifteen (which is, of course, how I came by those pounds eventually). Not an insignificant highlight of each week was Chicken Wrap Tuesdays. At lunch time, the Commons, our all-you-can-eat buffet provider, served chicken wraps. And they were so. very. good. It didn't matter that you had to stand in line for forty-five minutes to get one. So the roomies and friends and I all met up for lunch on Tuesdays so we could all enjoy the wonder that is a chicken wrap together.

Even before I attended the University of Portland, the legend of the Chicken Wrap had reached my ear. The summer before I started my friends, Jenny and Mia, brought home the chicken wrap deliciousness and gave me my first taste. I've been hooked ever since. 

Fast forward x amount of years later and I no longer have a free pass to Chicken Wrap Tuesdays. No worries, though, I have found the perfect recipe for making them at home:
 Chicken Wraps
  • Mission's Garden Spinach Herb Wraps
  • Rice (fully prepared)
  • Chicken breasts
  • Romain lettuce
  • Tomatoes, diced, if desired
  • Olives, sliced, if desired
  • Ranch dressing
Cook your rice as directed. Dice the chicken breasts and cook them over medium heat. Once they are fully cooked, drain any excess juices and return to stove. Still over medium heat, add 3 tablespoons of olive oil as well as garlic salt and any other chicken seasonings you desire. Grill the chicken pieces until they have nice, crispy edges (do not overcook). 
Microwave each wrap individually (so they don't stick together) for about 10 seconds. Place open on a plate and add 2/3 cup rice, bits of lettuce, chicken pieces and tomatoes and olives, if desired. Drizzle with ranch dressing. Close up and enjoy!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Friday, November 11, 2011

The One With the Petite Almond Scones

Apparently, creating the Egg-Free Chocolate Chip Scones last week has created some sort of addiction for me. I can't seem to stop making them. Or eating them. While preparing some last week I was reminded of Starbucks' Petite Vanilla Bean Scones and thought I'd like to try making something similar. And so I did, only instead of vanilla, they're almond (because almond flavoring is so very amazing). And these ones are egg-free, too! (Just in case you're like me and absolutely refuse to go grocery shopping.)

Egg-Free Petite Almond Scones
  •  2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar + 1 tsp for sprinkling
  • 1 tsp + 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cold
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (or sour cream)
  • 2 Tbls water
  • 1 Tbls olive oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a medium bowl, mix flour, 1/3 cup sugar, 1 tsp baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Use a grater or chop the butter into small pieces and use your fingers to work in the butter until the flour and butter mixture resembles coarse meal. A pastry cutter might also come in handy for this part.
In a small bowl combine sour cream, vanilla and almond extract, water, olive oil and 2 tsp baking powder. Using a fork, stir the sour cream mixture into the flour and butter mixture until large dough clumps form. Be careful not to over-work the dough. Use your hands to mold the dough into a ball. Lightly flour a cutting board or some other surface and press the dough ball until it is flattened, but still about an inch thick. Use a rolling pin to smooth out the top. Use a sharp knife to cut into 12 triangles. Transfer onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and place in oven. Bake for 15-17 minutes, until golden. Cool for 5 minutes and then serve.

While the scones are in the oven, make the

Almond Glaze
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 Tbls almond extract
Use a fork to mix together the powdered sugar, water and almond extract.If you need to thin the icing, add more water, one tablespoon at a time, until it reaches the consistency you desire. Once the scones have cooled, drizzle the glaze over the top for the perfect touch of sweetness.

P.S. These for breakfast would be a fantastic way to celebrate 11-11-11 day! Just sayin...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The One With the Chicken Korma

Steve loves Indian food. He likes to get it from the carts downtown. But that can get expensive after awhile, so he asked me to try to make some. I was hesitant at first, but then I found this recipe that seemed pretty doable. I've made it a few times since, simplified the recipe a bit and served it to plenty of people who are big fans. So now I'm passing on my version to you! This recipe is very mild, so no worries if you aren't big into spicy food-ventures.
Chicken Korma:
  • 4 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced small
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric 
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp cornstarch mixed with 1 tsp water
  • Salt for seasoning
Heat oil over medium heat in a large pan or wok. Cook bay leaves in hot oil for 30 seconds. Stir in diced onion and cook until tender, 3-5 minutes. Mix in garlic, ginger, turmeric, coriander, cumin and chili powder.
Stir in chicken pieces and cook for about 5 minutes.
Pour in tomato sauce and chicken broth, reduce heat, cover and let simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.
Add plain yogurt and heavy cream, stirring to incorporate. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in the cornstarch and water mixture, and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat to cool and thicken for about 5 minutes.
Serve over a bed of white rice. Season with salt as desired.

If you have leftovers, this is really yummy the next day. We mix any leftover sauce with the remaining white rice and refrigerate. The following night for dinner we dip tortilla or pita chips in it. It's really good. You should try it.  

I linked up at Tastetastic Thursday on A Little Nosh

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The One With the Baby Snoopy Costume

I posted the girls' Halloween costumes earlier, but I wanted to show another view of Olivia's Snoopy costume. This costume is such a simple DIY project and costs so little. So if you're interested in creating your own Peanuts gang, here's how to:

I used:
  • Aviator hat (Olivia's is from the Build-A-Bear Workshop, because she's as tiny as a teddy bear) - $7
  • Red scarf (came with the hat)
  • White sleeper (already owned)
  • Black felt for ears, spot and tail - $2
  • Woodstock that plays the Peanuts theme song - $5
Total: $14

Cut out a circle (5 inch diameter) for the spot and stitch it onto the sleeper. Cut out two tail pieces and sew them to each other for dimension, leaving about half an inch at the base unstitched so you can spread it and stitch it onto the sleeper. Cut out ear shapes and stitch them onto the aviator hat. For all of the stitching I used black thread. Don't worry about making it perfect - it only has to last a few hours (and in the end you can take out the stitching and you have your sleeper back).
Use liquid eyeliner of black face paint to make a little nose on your baby Snoopy. To prevent your child from strangling him or herself with the scarf, use a safety pin to keep it in place so it can't tighten. And always  keep an eye on your baby while they're in costume.

Ellie was dressed as Sally Brown. In fact, she started the whole thing by having Sally-esque hair that flips out in the back.
  • Blue dress (Pumpkin Patch) - $17
  • Blue socks (Target) - $1
  • Black shoes (already owned, from Payless)
Total: $18

We used a ton of hairspray to try and curl Ellie's bangs in the front to look like Sally's. They held up for about five minutes, just long enough to get some pictures.
The best part is that all of these costume pieces (well, except the hat and scarf, I suppose), are reusable as regular clothes. I like that part a lot!

Monday, November 7, 2011

The One With the Dinosaur Hoodie

Ellie's BFF Jake just turned two. Jake loves dinosaurs. I love Pinterest. I saw the idea to make a dinosaur hoodie out of a regular sweatshirt and got really excited! (Not having boys myself means I need other people's boys to bestow boyish crafts upon.) So I bought an $8 hoodie from Target. And a few dollars worth of felt from JoAnn's. A seam ripper, scissors and a sewing machine later... voila! A dinosaur hoodie:
I think he likes it. Well, at least his mom likes it. I'm not sure how aware he is of the coolness that is his jacket. But he was good enough to model it anyway.
Pretty cute, huh? Almost makes me want to get a boy of my own just so I can dress him up as a baby dinosaur. Almost... maybe not just yet.  

P.S. If you want one of these made for a kiddo in your life, let me know! I would love to do it!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Streamlining Saturdays: Reducing Paper Waste (Sustainability Edition)

I mentioned last Saturday that we are composting now and attempting to reduce our waste in general. One of the main things that fills up our garbage can each week is paper waste: paper towels, plates, and napkins, cotton balls, Kleenex, etc. So we're going paperless.

Going paperless hasn't turned out to be very hard at all. You just have to replace your general disposable paper with permanent things. We aren't getting paper towels anymore. Instead, I have a color-coded washcloth system that makes them obsolete.
  • Baby washclothes to clean the girls up after meals and before bedtime, washing hands and faces.
  • White washclothes to wash my  face every morning/evening instead of using disposable makeup removing clothes or cotton balls.
  • Striped dish washclothes and towels for the kitchen (obviously) and cleaning the table after meals.
  • Pink waschlothes for cleaning the bathroom.
  • Orange washclothes for dusting, windows and other little household messes.
  • Blue washclothes are for cleaning the floor.
As long as you wash your washclothes in hot water and detergent, there is really no reason to not use them again and again. I separate bath towels and the white and baby waschlothes from the cleaning washclothes to avoid them coming into contact with the harsh chemicals used for cleaning.

We have also decided not to buy paper plates anymore. We use regular dinner plates if just a few people are coming over. And if there is going to be a party we have thin, plastic, reusable plates from CostCo. They take up much less space than regular plates but can be hand-washed and reused. 

Reducing paper waste is much less expensive, and in the long run, more convenient than constantly running out of paper towels or plates. We still use paper napkins at dinner time, but at least they are compostable along with any leftovers from the meal.

So that's what we're up to lately... Happy Saturday!

Friday, November 4, 2011

The One With the Mommy Photography Tips

This post could also be called, "Confessions of a Mommy Photographer" because I'm going to admit that I am certainly no professional, and a lot of my pictures are the result of trial and error, and a lot of learning from mistakes. But, I have been receiving several compliments and inquiries regarding my pictures of the girls (and I am SO flattered!). So, I wanted to compile some tips and suggestions for all the mommies out there who want to take great pictures of their kids. While I don't claim to know everything, these are a few of the things that have worked for me.

Let's focus today on portraits. These are not action shots, but staged or somewhat-staged photographs. In other words, I contemplate what, where and how I'm going to take the picture before I do. Whether you have a DSLR, a point-and-shoot, or a phone camera, these tips can help you get better shots.
1. Get good lighting. Get outside whenever possible. If you are taking pictures indoors, which is likely, especially if your kids are very young, open up! Open up your curtains and blinds. Put your kids next to the light source. Find a favorite place and stick to it. I often photograph the girls in the living room where I can use our big picture window as a light source. Or on the bed in our bedroom because we have a lot of windows in there, too.
   Avoid using your flash whenever possible, and instead opt for turning on as many lights as possible.
   Photograph in rooms that are painted white or another bright color that reflects instead of absorbs light.
   (If you do have to use your flash, step back from your subject and zoom in. Get the flash as far away from your child as possible so that it doesn't wash out the colors in their beautiful face.)
This picture of Liam was taken while he was sleeping in his bassinet outside a big window,
the main light source in the room.
Putting a white blanket behind your child can help to reflect some light, as well
as reduce "background noise" in your photo. 

2. Keep snapping. As an amateur I don't have a lot of experience with correct lighting and positioning and such, and then throw in temperamental babies and I've got a problem. I snap many, many pictures to end up with a just a few keepers. But that's ok! It's the beauty of digital. If you've got some wigglers on your hands, or just an average toddler, it is going to take some effort to get good shots. 
In all honesty, it probably took at least 50 shots to get one where both of the girls were
cooperating. The more babies you add, the more pictures it is going to take to get a good one.
3. Steady yourself. A lot of blurriness happens when you're chasing around rambunctious children. Don't add to the blurriness yourself by having an unsteady hand. Hold you camera with both hands, and if possible, lean against a wall or a counter or something to steady your body.
4. Open up your aperture. If you have a DSLR I would recommend a lens like the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 lens. It allows your aperture to open up really big (f1.8) so that you can get a ton of light in your picture. Of course, you have to mess with your shutter speed so you don't get too much light. If you just have your standard lens, practice with decreasing your shutter speed and increasing you ISO in the manual settings.
    If you don't have a DSLR, most digital cameras come with several different settings. Play around with your camera and get to know it. Try photographing an inanimate object in your living room in the afternoon and mess around with the settings on your camera until you find one that allows you to capture lots of light.
This was taken in Olivia's room, which is not extremely well lit. I used my 50mm lens to
open up the aperture in order to get a soft, light picture.
5. Don't neglect post-production. I would love to say that all my shots are straight-out-of-camera and that I just naturally take these. But that's not true... not yet, anyway. Even if you don't have Photoshop or something fancy like that you can do a lot with just whatever picture editor came on your computer or with your camera. Try increasing the brightness and the contrast. For softer looking pictures, lower the saturation just a bit. If you do have Photoshop, play with the "Curves" under "Image - Adjustments" to get some more light in your picture.  
6. Finally, keep trying. At least for me, this hasn't been an overnight process. It takes practice and a lot of it. It takes looking up tutorials online (there are so many). And it takes time and patience to get better. 

Most importantly, though, give yourself a break. Your pictures don't have to be perfect to capture memories your children will treasure. Even pictures you snap on your phone are going to be special to them someday. So don't hold yourself to the impossible standards of professionals who happen to be able to take amazing pictures of their children every day.
 P.S. The following sites are some that I have used to gather tips and inspiration. I would recommend you check them out:
  • Katie Bower over at Bower Power has an adorable little boy she likes to photograph. She's got lots of tips and she's totally self-made!
  • The Pioneer Woman offers great little posts about all sorts of photography-related issues, including lighting, getting to know your camera, and post-production. She even has some awesome actions for Photoshop that I am a huge fan of!
Linked up at Crayon Freckles

    Wednesday, November 2, 2011

    The One With the Egg-Free Chocolate Chip Scones

    I never seem to be able to keep eggs in-stock. I don't know what's wrong with me. Anyway, I wanted to make something yummy for breakfast, but everything I could think of required eggs. Yet again, necessity is the mother of invention. I adapted a simple scone recipe to come up with this recipe that is so delightful and fluffy and plain scrumptious that you should definitely try it. Especially if you are a vegetarian. Or just out of eggs.
    Egg-Free Chocolate Chip Scones
    •  2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
    • 1/3 cup sugar + 1 tsp for sprinkling
    • 1 tsp + 2 tsp baking powder
    • 1/4 tsp baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cold
    • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
    • 1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
    • 3 Tbls water
    • 1 Tbls olive oil
    Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees.
    In a medium bowl, mix flour, 1/3 cup sugar, 1 tsp baking powder, baking soda and salt.
    Use a grater or chop the butter into small pieces and use your fingers to work in the butter until the flour and butter mixture resembles coarse meal. A pastry cutter might also come in handy for this part.
    In a small bowl combine sour cream, water, olive oil and 2 tsp baking powder. Using a fork, stir the sour cream mixture into the flour and butter mixture until large dough clumps form. Add chocolate chips (or blueberries, raisins or whatever else you can think of). Be careful not to over-work the dough.
    Use your hands to mold the dough into a ball. Lightly flour a cutting board or some other surface and press the dough ball until it is flattened, but still about an inch thick. Use a rolling pin to smooth out the top. Sprinkle with the remaining teaspoon of sugar. Use a sharp knife to cut into 8 triangles.
    Transfer onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and place in oven. Bake for 15-17 minutes, until golden. Cool for 5 minutes and then serve. 
    This is a really easy breakfast for impressing company or just having a cozy meal with family. It seems fancy but is really very simple. Might I suggest serving this with peppermint tea for a holiday brunch or just a nice treat to get you in the holiday spirit (it is finally upon us!).

    I shared this link at Tastetastic Thursday on A Little Nosh and Crayon Freckles

    Tuesday, November 1, 2011

    The One Where Olivia is 8 Months Old

    When does it become inappropriate to take naked baby pictures? Probably soon, which is why I squeezed some more in before it was too late.

    Olivia has become our sweet little adventurer this month. She has mastered rolling as a sufficient mode of transportation and spends most of her time rolling around the house, picking up every little piece of lint and scrap of paper she can find. Needless to say, I've been working to improve my vacuuming and sweeping skills. 

    She's also quite talented at reaching. She stretches and stretches and then wiggles just a bit until she gets what she wants. It's the most adorable thing I've ever seen. She loves hey pink ball and lights up when she finds her bead roller coaster. And she got her first teeth! Two brand new chompers. And she was an angel about it. 

    It is getting to be so much fun to have two. Ellie loves playing with Olivia, reading her stories and making her laugh. At lunch today they were cracking each other up. And they keep each other company on stroller rides through the mall. Isn't having a sister the best? I think it comes second only to having daughters.

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