Monday, July 28, 2014

How it Feels to be Me Today (aka You may have spaced your kids too far apart when you can't even take an airplane to Europe and then swim across the Mediterranean to get the teen, because you wonder who would watch your toddler while your husband is at work.)

My boy got back from Israel last night, and I am happy.

This is not a political blog. I try and make it a place to come and laugh at life's mysteries, not bemoan them, and to whistle in the dark if nothing else.  But I can only be flippant 99% of the time.

My boy was in Israel with the missiles, and he was there when the airport shut down, and he was there without me.

And though my son flew home, one of his counselors was called to fight.  While I feel relief, other mothers are consumed with worry.

I stand with Israel and I truly, honestly believe that Israel does it's very, very best to do right by its people despite the fact that there will be times when politics get in the way of a simple yes/no, right/wrong answer.

I don't believe that Hamas keeps the best interest of its people in mind.

That said, I risked the nonpolitical, humorous nature of my blog to tell you this: 
Children's lives matter more to me than who started fighting first.  Our children and their children are dying.  To quote Leadbelly, "We're in the same boat brother". We can't stop Jewish children from dying without trying to bail out the boat.

I am heartbroken for every baby all the world over who has to suffer for any reason, but particularly for these children. 

Still, I have my boy back, so we celebrate. 

And celebrate we did, with Mexican food and Dr. Pepper and Dr. Pepper ice cream. It was pure joy.  With caffeine.

But at the same time I cried.  I cried all day long.  I cried for the babies, the babies on both sides, who happened to be born in conflict, who will be staying in a country at war, whose earliest memories will be of hiding and fear rather than play dough and story time.  And I don't really know what to do with that part, except to write this.

So, here's my view in a nutshell:  

Israel = good.  

Babies = good.  

Fighting = bad.  

Hah!  I found my flippant side again.  

May it last.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Shea, Do You Have any Butter? Do you need any butter? Come WIN some FREE shea butter!!!!!

One thing I've noticed about blogs recently, and that is...they give a lot of stuff away. I haven't won anything yet, but I know I'm going to one of these days dag nab it!

Anyway, I decided that if this was going to be a real, live blog (as opposed to the "fake blog" I've been keeping since 2006) I should get on the bandwagon and give something away. Or help give something away as the case may be. Imagine how happy I was to find out that it's ORGANIC! Yippee!!!!! Now...if only I'm eligible to participate!

Wonderfully Messy Mom & Beauty by Shea have come together to bring you the great opportunity to win a 1/2 lb. brick of 100% Raw organic shea butter harvested from Ghana.

Want to know more about Shea Butter? You can check out the full review here

There are some amazing benefits to shea butter like Vitamin A, E, K. 

And so many ways to use it too: moisturizers, lip balms, hair conditioning, the possibilities are endless!!!! Well, I'm sure they end somewhere, but you don't know until you try now, do you?!?!?

Come enter to win yours here: (And don't forget that second to last one - "like" Do Try This at Home (if you don't already). :-)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, July 25, 2014

Food Photography: Helping Food Look as Great as it Tastes!

This post was originally written by the amazingly talented Valerie Laramee way back in 2010, and actually just a month or two before I got my very first DSLR camera. However, it is every bit as relevant four years later! (Especially if you had been struggling like I was to find a way to make your food not look like barf.)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Food Photography~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
By Valerie Lamaree

Just a few tips from me. I don't profess to be some kind of crazy amazing food photographer, but I enjoy cooking a lot, and trying to make my food look pretty, and I enjoy taking photos, so it stands to reason that I would end up taking photos of food.

I think back to my own childhood, and I think of all the memories I have that are kind of hazy- or just not there. This is in the back of my mind a lot when I take photos of my kids' everyday lives, just little details, their toys, their activities, the things they make. I want them to have a picture of their childhoods to look back on, and what they eat is a big part of it. (It's a bigger to some than others- my Nicholas is a real little gourmand. )

So, anyway, I just want to share some tips that I use, some examples of food photos that I like, and am proud of, and I want to encourage everyone to take photos of your own food, especially things that you make that are special, or that are real standbys in your home. Write your recipes down (or type them) and pass these down to your kids. I think they'll be happy to have them when they are older.

My first tip is that anytime you make something special, or that took a lot of time, take photos of it! How cool will it be some day when your kids are talking about those cool cookies Mom sent to school for Halloween to be able to show them the photo.

Another tip is to start collecting some cool dishes or serving platters to use. I find a lot of cool plates and stuff at TJ Maxx. I also keep my eyes open after the holidays to get nice trays and things on clearance. JoAnn's and Michael's really mark their stuff down after the holidays. the Halloween plate above came from JoAnn's after Halloween, and I think I paid $2 for it.

My challenge to myself for this summer is to see if I can find some cool, vintagey looking stuff at yard sales or flea markets to use in food photos. I want some cool looking old silverware.

One technique I use a lot is to open up my aperture and focus in on one food item, while using more of the same food item and/or ingredients from the recipe in the blurred background.

Get close to the food.

Arrange things so they look cool. Try stacking cookies instead of piling them on a plate.

You can't really go wrong with cookies though. They look good piled on plates too.

Or just on the cooling rack.

I like food to be photographed in an appropriate setting, so I use my kitchen a lot, with a wide aperture to blur out the BG. (My kitchen looks a lot nicer with a little blur on it )

A word to the wise- be super careful photographing soups, stews, or anything that might be confused with a pile of regurge on a plate. If you are very conscious with your setup, you'll have no problems.

I used a round cookie cutter to help mold my rice into a perfect circle to hold this gingered beef.

You want to avoid anything that would end up looking like this:

If you have any friends who own restaurants, offer to take food photos for them, if you have an interest in food photography. My friend Charlie produced some amazing stuff for me to photograph, and he has used a lot of my photos on his websites and menus and stuff.

Having plenty of time, and plenty of space, and tons of natural light can also make a pretty huge difference in the kind of photos you can get. His restaurant was perfect for photos.

Here are some websites that have inspiring food photography:

The Pioneer Woman

My Tartelette

La Tartine Gourmande

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

You Have to Watch Those Impulse Buys

I couldn't help it.  There was a really good sale.  Besides, who doesn't need a bag full of baby?!?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Chocolate Mousse Smoothie: Secret Smoothie Ingredient #2

When I was around 12 years old, my mother quit making chocolate mousse because good mousse = raw egg.

The break with good mousse remains a point of contention between her and my dad, thirty-something years later, not least of which because we all continued to eat our fried eggs happily ever after.

I'm only revealing my parents' personal life that way to say that it's been a good, long time since I've had my mom's chocolate mousse.  So the taste of this smoothie probably doesn't measure up quite as well as I imagine.  Still, I think most people would be amazed at the taste of such a healthy alternative.

By the way, if you haven't made friends with Secret Ingredient #1, you should probably go backwards and try this recipe first.  For real.  It's like, all Paleo and diet and stuff, but still tastes like yum.

Meanwhile, my boy was saying how he wanted bananas in our smoothies, because of the smoothie-ness of bananas. So I went searching for thicker-than-peanut-butter-but-still-not-a-banana thickener. You know...because I don't like bananas. Or fruit. And yet I keep trying to pretend I'm a healthy eater.

And here is the winner, hands down:

Why yes! As a matter of fact that IS a green thing about to make its way into my delicious chocolate smoothie...

Here's the rest of the recipe for a smoothie you won't believe is actually semi-kind'a healthy:

Liquids always go into the blender first:

1 1/2 cups almond millk
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 - 1/3 cup coffee
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

That's because otherwise the blender makes all kinds of unhappy blender noises (kind of like the ones it makes when one forgets to pit the dates).

If you want it to be all Paleo and stuff, make sure and use a grade "B" syrup.  For reasons that I assume have to do with processing, getting an "A" in maple syrup is not always a good thing.

Next up, the not-liquid:

4 dates, pitted
1/2 a delicious, buttery, (ok so it HAPPENS to be green!) avocado
1/8 - 1/4 cup cocoa

On the other hand, if you don't care if it's Paleo or has sugar or whatever, I highly recommend throwing in a handful of chocolate chips at the very end and then blending 10-15 more seconds.  It's delicious that way.

You can actually adjust the cocoa from 1/8 cup to 1/4 cup depending on how rich you want it, and the coffee from 1/4 to 1/3 cup, depending much coffee your mom drank when you were a child.

And then blend!  I blended it forever. And ever and ever and ever. Because of my fears about dates.  But also because there's an amount of time that you're supposed to continue blending after everything has gotten all nice and blendy, and I can never remember exactly how much time that is.

In any case, it ends up all yummy like this:

And the only job left is to drink it!

Or, y'know...if you're me - photograph it while trying to keep your toddler from spreading the decorative coffee beans as far across the house as possible.

Happy Not-Drinking-Any-White-Sugar-At-All-While-Still-Having-A-Delicious-Treat Day everyone!!!!

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Five Tips for Better Images! (Without Buying Stuff!!!)

The long awaited (by me!) first guest blogger at Do Try This at Home is Megan Love!

Megan is a professional photographer out of Gilbertsville, Pennsylvania and has just opened her brand new studio! She's helping me start the photography series with some easy steps that anyone can take, no fancy equipment necessary!

By the way, that is NOT a picture of Megan!  It is just a Pinterest sized picture so that everyone and their brother will run to go put this post on Pinterest.  Megan is much prettier than that.  And has better hair.

~~~~ *~~~~~ * ~~~~~ * ~~~~~
Tips for Creating Better Images 

1 Try New Angles.

Growing up my mom took a lot of photos and she still does. I can actually remember her standing with a camera in her hand. She did it the same way resulting in photos that were always similar. To create an image that is more interesting change your angle. Get on your stomach or stand on a chair while shooting. People might look at you a little weird but your images will definitely be more interesting.

2 Shoot vertically and horizontally.

When people take pictures they tend to just pick up the camera and shoot. But you can create a totally different feel to your images if you just turn your camera vertically. Try to shoot everything with your camera vertical and then horizontal. Eventually you will start to see your images in both views and see what works best in any situation.

3 Place your subject on the sides of the frame.

This is what photographers call shooting for the rule of thirds. When everyone starts taking pictures its natural to place the subject in the middle. Try to place the subject on either side of the frame. This will create a more dynamic image and it’s actually more pleasing to the viewer’s eye.

4 Take the picture before having the subjects look at you.

When people are interacting with each other or nature it’s ok to take the picture without them looking forward. It can actually create a more intimate feel when an image is taken and the subjects don’t even notice. It’s allows you to capturing real emotion and true moments.

5 Capture the details.

I really enjoy details and people forget to shoot them. There are details everywhere all you have to so it look for them. Including details in your images will give your images more power to tell stories.

Now grab your camera and go out and shoot. Some of your best shots might be done when you are just practicing!

~~~~ *~~~~~ * ~~~~~ * ~~~~~

If you LOVE these pictures and want to see more of Megan's Work, visit her here! And if you've got a tip along these lines, let's hear it!

The next guest blogger in this series will be the fantabulous Valerie Laramee on tips for improving FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY and in particular a wonderful secret to making the soupier recipes look less like barf!

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