Friday, July 31, 2015

"Learning to see creatively" is just the lesson this amateur photographer needed!

 I have always loved the "idea" of creative photography. I see a beautiful sunset or even a messy but precious mundane moment with my boys and I think to myself- "I would love to have this captured in a photo." But the quandary is, how to get from the picture in your mind to the image on the back of your camera. Photography is an art form but also a learned skill set.
    A couple of years ago, just as our family began to grow and there were fleeting moments in time that needed capturing, my wonderful husband bought me a Canon rebel camera. That was the best gift he has ever gotten me! I loved having a nice camera to take photos of all the kids firsts and growth. After learning some of the technical skills needed to make the most of that camera, I decided it would be fun to "upgrade" to a full frame with a new level of potential. So just recently I bought a new to me, old news to the rest of the world Canon 5D. I bought it and a 85mm lens used and. Am so excited to have new equipment and capacities to capture snapshots of my life.
  A great guide to start my new creative journey with has been "Learning to see creatively" by Bryan Peterson. This is actually a classic photography textbook that has been around for some time but was just recently revised. It provides so much great information on just how to go from seeing a creative image in your mind and making hay a reality on your camera. The first section focuses on how to find those unique shots, the science behind cameras and the advantages of different lenses. This is a great starting place as the first step is figuring out which lense will achieve the "feel" your are going for. 
  The book moves on to the "elements of design" which covers the creative elements such as line, shape, form, texture, pattern, and color. There are so many awesome images through the this book to actually illustrate these different elements. It is so helpful to actually be able to see what Peterson is writing about, words don't do a lot of justice when it comes to photography! Peterson really enjoys the use of color in his work and proceeds to write up a section and color coordinated images for each of he primary colors.
  He then moves on to the topic of composition and goes into details about how to actually compose your desired shot. He discusses filling the frame up with your subject to connect your viewer with your subject. The advantages of your horizontal vs. vertical- each perspective can produce an awesome image. Of course, he covers the classic "rule of thirds" which is a great stand by for a well composed photo. Another neat idea is to find a natural frame within your shot to frame your subject. I appreciated that he added at the end of the chapter his section on "Breaking the Rules." Peterson explains how sometimes the most creative images come from going against the suggested rules of photography and composing your own view. 
   The book goes on to cover the use of light in photos and the magic it can create. It gives some great examples of the same subject photographed at different times of the day to show the difference in perspective. The direction of light and its influence is covered as well.
  The last chapter is on the use of photoshop. It gives a lot of great tips on how to master this complex software and make it work the best for you.I really appreciated this short chapter as I have had photoshop for awhile but Am still somewhat baffled by it!
 This book will be a great resource to have on hand while continuing on my photography journey. While I am more interested in pursuing lifestyle type photography, as I have young kids to practice on, I enjoy the creative tips and image inspiration shared in this book! Hopefully, as I get some practice in with my new camera, I will have some images to share wiith you all!
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Blueberry Season is upon us! And the best blueberry recipe around

I enjoy instilling family traditions into my boys' lives, especially those I relished as a child. One such summer tradition is blueberry picking! Here in Southern Oregon, blueberries are bountiful and delicious. By mid July, we've usually visited one of the local blueberry patches and pick a few buckets of sweet, blue beauties.
 The little boys love being able to free range thru the rows of ripe berry bushes,  eating as many berries as they can possibly stuff into their little mouths. I love taking home an ample supply of berries for making lots of treats. 
   My absolute favorite blueberry recipe is one I found on a pamphlet from the Bluberry Coucil picked up while blueberry picking with my family as a teenager. Every time we pick berries, I automatically make Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes with Blueberry Ginger Sauce. We all know that blueberry pancakes are delicious, but this recipe takes them to a whole new level.

 My family loves these pancakes so much, I just had to share the recipe with all of you! 

Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes with Blueberry Ginger Sauce 


  • 1-½ cups part-skim ricotta cheese or drained small-curd cottage cheese
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • 4 egg yolks
  • ½ cup flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel (yellow part only)
  • 8 egg whites
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries


  1. In a medium-sized bowl, combine ricotta, butter and egg yolks until blended
  2. In a small bowl, stir together flour, sugar and lemon peel
  3. Stir dry ingredients into ricotta mixture
  4. In a medium-sized bowl, beat egg whites until they form soft peaks
  5. Fold egg whites and then blueberries into batter
  6. Over medium heat, form cakes by spooning ¼ cup of batter per pancake onto a hot lightly greased griddle or skillet
  7. Cook cakes, turning once, until browned, about 4 minutes
  8. Serve with Blueberry Ginger Sauce

Blueberry Ginger Sauce
  1. In a large saucepan, combine 2 cups fresh blueberries, ¼ cup sugar, 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1 tablespoon finely chopped crystalized ginger or ½ teaspoon dried ground ginger
  2. stir in 13 cup water
  3. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil
  4. cook and stir until sauce thickens, about 1 minute

This is one dish that just consistently brings me nostalgic joy. I love these fluffy, moist pancakes studded with fresh blueberries and smothered in a tart sauce with a bite to it! 

My little boys seem to be big fans as well!  I love creating our own family culture- our own traditions, routines and recipes. 
 What are some beloved traditions or recipes your family enjoys?

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Epantry-My virtual cleaning closet

am a huge fan of virtual shopping. Of being able to order just about anything I need (or want!) while never having to pack up all 3 of my boys and drive anywhere. Online shops are so nice for finding gifts and items I could never find in local stores. But I'm also finding it's a great option for buying some of the things I could find at the local stores.
I've being a regular user of Amazon's Subscribe & Save for some time now; being able to get household necessities at a discounted price and delivered to my  front door for free has been amazing. I regularly order diapers, laundry detergent and even a big enough box of toilet paper to last us about 3 months! This service has been a lifesaver to a Mama of 3 busy boys who lives far enough out of town to make a shopping trip a big event!
 Recently though, I have found a site I like even more than Subscribe & Save. Epantry offers the convienence of Subscribe & Save with more style and substainability. Epantry makes me want to buy cleaning supplies! I love Epantry's ever growing selection and their commitment to offer sustainable products and brands. Some of my favorite brands like Mrs. Meyers and Method have a broad offering of products and scents on the site. I also have really come to love Epantry's exclusive brand, Grove Collaborative. I have tried a new item from this line with almost each of my orders. I love their tea towels and usually always have one of them serving as my "pretty" kitchen towel. Another one of my most favorite products that I can only order from Epantry is their 100% pure soy candle. It comes in a few different scents but I love the Eucalyptus and Spearmint so much I haven't talked myself into trying another yet. I love that it is fully and proudly American made and it is the best quality candle I've yet to find. It lasts so long for such a petite size.

 Some other fun products I've got to try out from the Epantry brand are their pop up sponges (which are a lot of fun!) and  their generous sized lip balm. 
The lip balm was a free gift that came with my order this month- a perk to being a VIP member! Along with occasional free gifts and samples you also get free shipping, which is always a real plus in my book. 
One of the biggest reasons why I will be staying a loyal customer to Epantry is their amazing customer service! Being a small startup company they seem to have a close knit team who really care to know their customers. I have personally contacted their support team several times now and am always impressed with their response. They go above and beyond to meet your needs and solve an issues you may have. I love the feeling that they actually care and enjoy providing people with great products and service! 
 Next time your cleaning closet is running low, do yourself a favor and let Epantry stock it back up!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

My New Roots: the perfect garden season cookbook

We are in no way, shape or form a vegetarian family. In fact, being a family with 3 growing boys and a big and tall dad and living on a beef ranch, we are pretty much the farthest thing from being vegetarian. Meat is pretty much an essential for every dinner time meal for the approval of the men in this house. That being said, we also currently have a very abundant summer time garden that is putting out more produce than possible to suffice as just an occasional side dish or salad. These farm fresh veggies and greens need to be incorporated into as many meals as I can- out of necessity and to give my family the most nutritious diet I can provide. 

  My New Roots by Sarah Britton could not have gotten into my hands at a better time, right before the peak of the kitchen garden season here in Southern Oregon. It has been so empowering to skim they the recipes and realize how many of the vegetables and ingredients I have on hand, or rather growing in my garden right now! No running to the store to hope to find the veggies needed for one of Sarah's inventive dishes. All I need to do is walk out to my overflowing garden beds and harvest my ingredients right before preparing the meal. There are few things that make me feel more capable and self reliant than growing food and then being able to turn around and turn it into a delicious, even gourmet meal for my family and friends.

   My New Roots is an absolutely gorgeous book full of innovative vegetarian recipes that are even more enhanced by the entrancing photos of said recipes. I enjoyed reading the introduction where Sarah explains how as a designer she became enamored with food for its artistic traits which started her blog and later led to this beautiful cookbook. Sarah explains how she chose to divide up the cookbook into seasons, which I love, and the benefits of eating in season. She goes on to share some of her "essential techniques" that I found to be very helpful knowledge in the kitchen.

The first season in the cookbook is Spring- which is then further broken up into categories of breakfast, small plate dishes, main dishes and desserts. The Carrot Rhubarb muffins look like a decadent breakfast treat. I have made a strawberry chai seed jam before that I loved. I would be curious to try out Sarah's recipe and see if it elevates this sweet, yet healthy spread even more. From the small plates, I am intrigued by Sarah's "life changing bread" recipe that she is apparently pretty famous for on her blog. And I may just have to run quickly and use up the last of my fresh, spring Oregon strawberries for her strawberry chamomile no-churn frozen yogurt!

Having a large summer garden full of produce that ripens each in their own time table, I appreciate that Sarah breaks up the Summer section into early and late summer. The rooibos ginger sun tea sounds like the most refreshing summer staple drink ever. Another amazing drink recipe is the "real deal ginger ale". I love ginger ale and have been wanting to try my hand at perfecting a homemade version for some time. I also really like that you are given 2 extra alternative versions to try- hibiscus lemon and orange clove, yum! The caramelized onion, olive and kale calzones look like a delicious, hearty veggie main dish.
The Late Summer section just keeps the amazing flavors of summer coming. After going for our traditional annual blueberry picking trip in August, I will be giving the blueberry cardamom chia pudding a try! And when my tomatoes finally ripen up, I will definitely be making up a big dish of the heirloom tomatoes with oil cured olives and crusty bread. The buckwheat crepes with creamy purple string bean slaw sounds perfect for my crop of purple beans coming into season as we speak.  The grilled peaches with blackberry sauce will be an amazing way to use the multitude of berries my little boys bring home to their Mama.
Then we are on to the Autumn section where we come into more hearty fare, such as a warm spinach, bacon and egg salad for breakfast . I am intrigued by the 10-spice chocolate chili for a fall dinner idea. The chai spice upside down plum cake will be a most comforting dessert.
The Winter section follows suit with comforting vegetarian based dishes such as chunky banana bread granola and a delicious looking cranberry carrot loaf. I look forward to have a big stockpot of the four corners lentil soup simmering away in my stove top this winter. The salt 'n' pepper chocolate chip cookies just have to be made to at least try once!
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review and it has been the perfect summer addition to my cookbook collection! I cannot wait to try out so many of these recipes.