Thursday, February 28, 2013

Echo's Bunny Suit

Oh my gosh, I'm one of those moms that dresses their kids up in costumes and photographs them! My dad bought Echo this adorable bunny suit and I couldn't resist a spring photo shoot this morning. At least it's more tasteful than the pink bunny suit from a Christmas Story so hopefully she won't hate me for it later. Personally I think it's amazingly adorable. Babies are so lucky, they can dress up as bunnies (or any other animal they want) any time and it is perfectly socially acceptable!

Here is the amazing miss Echo in her fabulous bunny suit!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

More Garden Prep

Spring has been in the air lately, well off and on it has, and I was inspired to not only work in my garden but also to give my blog a spring makeover! Yay!

This weekend the weather was so lovely that I worked on some Spring garden prep. I worked on clearing my larger raised bed of leaves and acorns (many of which had already started to grow roots) and improving the soil quality. I thin the lack of good soil really hurt me last year so this time I mixed in quite a bit of composted cow manure and peat moss to make the soil rich and light. Eventually I can use my own compost to enrich the soil but it isn't ready yet. Hopefully this will improve my garen production this year.  

Both raised beds are prepped and planted now
I planted both beds with radish, swiss chard, lettuce and a few carrots. I'm excited to get this growing season started. My rosemary and mint are starting to make a comeback after winter as well. They are my only two perennial plants in the garden and it's nice to see a little something green in there.
 In addition to my raised beds from last year, Eric built me a new one with a lattice this time. I plan on growing green beans and peas in here but I haven't planted it yet

Above is a view of my whole garden set up at this point. I'm sure we will be adding to it as the years go on but for now this should be all (probably even more) than I can handle.

Monday, February 25, 2013

PB and J Yogurt Parfait

Ya'll, I have found the next big thing for breakfast! This is truly a fantastic combination and I must say I'm patting myself on the back for coming up with it :-)

I have been in to making granola lately and recently came across this recipe from A Beautiful Bite. I liked it because it had simple ingredients and seemed easy to make. We love granola in this house but it can be very expensive, it's amazing how much money making your own can save you.

We also have a lot of homemade yogurt on hand since Eric has been making it regularly and I have been experimenting adding different flavors and toppings to it. One of the ways I like to flavor my yogurt is by adding a swirl of jam to it. We have some fantastic raspberry jam that my mother in law gave us (homemade by a friend of hers) and it goes great in yogurt, it tastes just like the yogurt you buy at the store that has fruit on the bottom.

Yesterday morning around breakfast time inspiration struck and I realized that peanut butter and jam were a natural combination and the PB and J yogurt parfait was born!

If you make your own yogurt or just buy plain from the store I highly recommend this combination, delish!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Working With Off Camera Flash

I've never been a terribly technical person and even though I am a professional photographer now I sometimes have a hard time with the technical aspects of my trade. One of the things I love about digital photography is that I can experiment and learn by doing and I don't have to waste a ton of money on film and then wait to see the results of what I've done. I learn much better by experimentation and hands on activities than from a book so this is an ideal medium for me.

For a long time I was scared of flash and tried to avoid it at all costs. Once I began shooting weddings however using flash became a necessity and I purchased an external flash for my camera. This alone made a huge difference in my work since I was then able to direct the light where I wanted it to go and bounce the flash off of walls and ceilings to create softer lighting.

This was working great for a while and still works great in some situations but I have recently seen the need for a more elaborate lighting set up. Thanks to some advice and gentle prodding from my photography partner I purchased an extra external flash, some light stands and a remote flash trigger system and began experimenting with using my flashes off camera. here are the results so far.

Echo gets to be my model, poor kid :-)

The two photos above were taken with the flashes off camera, one bouncing off the ceiling and one off the wall. It makes for nice even lighting and true to life colors. See how different the effect is than with a shot taken with the on camera flash as seen below.

These are my light stands and flashes. Notice on the left how half the picture is black. This happens when my shutter speed is too fast, I recommend staying with a shutter speed of 200 or less.

 Of course in my mind you still can't beat natural daylight as was used in the photo above. Sometimes this is just not possible however and when that's the case off camera flashes are a great option. I really feel that with a bit more practice they will help take my photography to the next level.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Integrating Play Space In The Living Area

Anyone who follows me on Pinterest can see that I've developed a big interest in interior design geared towards children of late. There is something a bit more magical and fun about spaces designed with children in mind. Eric and I can't stop talking and making plans for the tree houses and play areas we want to design for our kids (Echo and her future siblings) and we don't want relegate their play areas to a separate part of the house. We want to the kids to feel that the house is theirs too, the whole house, not just their designated rooms. As full fledged members of the family they should be able to enjoy the living space as much as the adults.

The nice thing about owning your own home (soon to be paid off in full!) is that it gives you a lot of freedom to do whatever you want with the space, we can be as wacky as we want! And since we don't really view our home as an investment but as a place to live and raise our growing family we don't really need to be concerned with resale value when we make plans for building play areas in to our main living space.

I've been able to find some pretty excellent examples of children's play areas on pinterest, here are some of my favorites.

None of these are exactly what we want but we do plan to have some climbing space and a reading nook/hideout. We have some pretty exciting plans for all this but luckily we have some time since Echo won't be climbing for quite a while. Who knows what kind of cool designs we will come up with in the meantime?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Sitting Up

Echo is growing and maturing at an astonishing rate. The period between 4 and 6 months witnesses a crazy amount of development and she is literally changing every single day! She will be 5 months next week, how the heck did that happen?

Yesterday She sat up on her own for the first time! This of course means that I put her in a sitting position and she stayed there, not that she got in a sitting position by herself. She also pushed up her front half while lying on her tummy, what they call a mini push up, for the first time yesterday. it's amazing to watch her grow so fast. It makes you realize how little time they spend as babies, I want to soak up every minute of it. I'm excited to see what other new milestones she conquer over the next few months.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Homemade Tortillas

This is one of the easiest and tastiest recipes I've ever made. Going with homemade tortillas is totally worth the extra effort. personally I am crazy about corn tortillas (way better than flour!) and they are whole grain to boot! Try it out sometime, here is the ridiculously easy recipe I used.

Mix 2 cups masa harina or masa flour with 1 1/2 to 2 cups water (you want it to be soft and pliable but not crumbly). Divide in to 8 equal portions and keep covered while you work so they don't dry out. Using a tortilla press, press the dough between two sheets of wax paper. Mine still came out a little thick with the press so I used a rolling pin to get them a bit flatter after I pressed them. Cook in a hot cast iron skillet until just starting to brown, about a minute on each side. Store in a covered dish until you are ready to eat them so they won't dry out. 

These are so great for tacos and don't fall apart like store bought tortillas. Yum!

Eating Healthy On The Cheap Part 2

I've been thinking a lot about the way I shop and cook lately and how it has totally changed in the past few years. I used to find a recipe I wanted to make, go shopping that day and get all the ingredients for the recipe, and then come home and cook it. I would do this pretty much every day and needless to say I spent a lot more than I needed to on groceries. I still shop this way from time to time but now it's an occasional treat rather than a way of life. The biggest key to eating cheaply and healthily is to be creative. Here are a couple of tips that I find helpful for eating well and saving money.

A potato, broccoli and bacon hash that I made up on the fly for dinner last week.
1. Don't feel like you have to buy every ingredient that a recipe calls for, get creative with substitutions and think about what you can eliminate from the recipe altogether. You can really rack up a bill at the grocery store buying all the fresh spices and specialty ingredients for a specific recipe. Do you really need that fresh oregano for your dish? Can you used dried or substitute with the basil that is growing in your garden? Don't be a slave to the recipe, mix things up!

2. Cook from your pantry! This is still hard for me, I try to do regular pantry tours to remember what I have and make a point of using it. It's amazing how much food you waste if you forget about all the things you have taking up space at the back of the pantry, try to rotate things out and use them regularly.

3. Stock the pantry well, buy ahead when things are on sale. This one is a no brainer, stock up on sale items and freeze them if you have to.

4. Go meatless or cut back on meat. This will make a huge difference in your grocery budget. Do you really need meat in every meal?

5. Buy dried instead of canned. Dried beans are about the cheapest food item you can buy. Plus they are yummy and good for you! Have lots of these on hand.

5. The internet is your best friend when it comes to eating cheap and healthy. When cooking from your pantry you can easily google recipes involving whatever ingredients you have on hand. This saves you a trip to the store and cuts down on the amount of food you waste.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Springtime and Garden Prep

 So many plans and happenings in the yard this month that this is going to be a long post! First of all I'm very excited to say that we finally got our compost bin up and running. All it took was a big plastic trash can with some holes drilled in it and a wooden frame to set it on to allow for drainage. This is a project we've been wanting to do for ages but we kept putting it off. Now between recycling and compost we hardly have any trash, yay! Plus I have high hopes that this will improve the quality of my garden greatly this year. Sadly the compost won't be ready for a while yet but it's a good start.

Hooray compost!

Speaking of the garden, I haven't too much time for it yet this year. It's been too cold to take Echo outside with me while I work in the main garden beds but I am trying to grow some things in containers on the back deck. I can work out there while she is sleeping in her room and still be able to hear her when she wakes. Out back I am working on some lettuce, carrots and peas. Sadly it looks like the squirrels had a field day digging in my pots the other day so I'll have to see which if any of my seeds survived. 
Some of my containers on the back deck, in the sunny corner

I did spot a little lettuce sprout today in my outside planters, maybe the squirrels didn't get everything

I'm also starting some tomatos inside so they will have a good length of time to grow before I move them to the big garden outside. I wasn't planning to grow tomatos from seed this year since they didn't turn out well last year but the guy I buy seeds from always throws in a freebee and this time it was tomatos so I'm giving it a go. 

Baby tomatos
 In other yard news some of my blueberries are already getting blooms and my daffodils and forsythia are starting to bloom! It was so refreshing to go out in the sunshine today. As much as I love rain it was nice to see the sun and I took Echo out with me for a bit to enjoy the fresh air.

Blueberry blossoms

Echo lounging outside


 Below you can see all the seeds I'm planting this year. I tried to stick with things that are supposed to be very easy to grow. I enjoy gardening but I'm not prepared to spend a ton of time on it. Honestly I'd rather be playing with my baby girl than laboring in the garden. Still, I enjoy the thrill of watching those little green shots come up so hopefully by sticking with the easy stuff I can have some fresh veggies without too much work. This year I'm planting green peas, green beans, carrots, radishes, tomatos, lettuce, chard. cucumbers and basil from seed. I will probably buy a few more mature pepper plants later since they are harder to grow from seed and I had a ton of success with them last year.
 As you can see my main raised beds are currently empty, but hopefully I'll get to planting them soon!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Seatbelt Covers for Echo

I love love love my travel system that we got as a baby shower gift for Echo. This includes a stroller and infant car seat and it is super cute and practical. However, the one thing that bothers me about it is that right from the beginning the car seat straps rubbed against her neck and left little red marks after a car ride. I hated seeing her with those red marks (even though she didn't seem particularly bothered byt them  so I wanted to come up with something help cushion her sensitive skin from the straps. 

All it took was some scrap fleece fabric and the use of my awesome snap pliers that I got for Christmas.   I cut the fabric in to long rectangles, folded both ends under to meet in the middle, and attached snaps at the edges. 

I threw these together in literally 2 minutes because we were headed out the door so I'm sure I could have done a better job but so far they have done the trick beautifully! Now more red, irritated skin on my babies skin :-)

Monday, February 4, 2013

Home Made Yogurt

In our quest to make more of our food items from scratch, we made home made yogurt for the first time this weekend! Well, ok, really Eric did it, this was his baby.

I added honey, chocolate chips and dried cherries to my yogurt when it came time to enjoy it, yum!
We were both excited by how easy and inexpensive it is to make yogurt at home. Here is the procedure.

Bring 4 cups of full fat milk to 190-200 Degrees, do not boil!

Remove from heat and allow milk to cool to 120 degrees.

Whisk 2 Tbs store bought yogurt (with live cultures). We used plain greek yogurt for ours.

Pour in to jars and place jars in a  cooler. Fill the cooler with hot water (120-125 degrees) and put a lid on it.

Let sit for 6 to 8 hours.

Remove from cooler and put in the fridge.

If you want to make greek yogurt, which is what we did, you should removed the yogurt from the jars and place in a dishtowel lined colander. Set the colander in a large bowl and let the whey drain out of the yogurt for an hour or two. Then put the yogurt back in the jars.

We saved our whey and used it to make pizza dough that evening because we had heard it added a nice flavor to breads however we couldn't really tell any difference from our normal pizza dough. I also heard whey is good for your plants so maybe I'll try that next time.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

January Photo Roundup

I am once again trying to ween myself off of facebook and so far have been pretty successful, checking it only occasionally. All in all I think it's just a time suck and not even the healthiest time suck at that. At least when I waste time on pinterest I get some inspiration out of it! Anyway, in the interest of spending less time on facebook I am going to be posting photos here on my blog and on shutterfly from now on. This will be the abbreviated photo collection but as always if you want to see all my photos you can go to my shutterfly.

Not much going on this January but here are some photos from this month, mostly of the adorable miss Echo :-)

giggling while daddy makes her fly


Sleeping in mommy and daddy's bed

Eating brunch at Chicken and the Egg in Marietta

Reese and houseplants

Sophie levitating
Enjoying her rope toy

Bright eyes

Sitting in her high chair like a big girl

Wearing the hat I made her in her exersaucer