Thursday, July 31, 2014

TBT - Why You Should Definitely, Definitely Take My Imaginary Parenting Classes (Part XXVIII)

My sweet pea took her trip to Israel during much calmer times (Summer, 2011) than my boy (who just got home on Sunday).

I thought it would be nice to hear the joyful ramblings of a teen who just got back from the trip my boy did not experience.  I love that she came home not just with pictures, but requesting to guest blog!

Notice that she took "pretty and scenic and memorable" pictures, but she saved the ones with the swear words and inappropriate body parts just for ME!!!!  You should definitely, definitely be taking my parenting classes folks!!!!!!  (Warning: swear words & stuff)


Hello everyone out there in blog world! This is my only my second guest blog post ever, the first one being when I got a jellyfish sting on my arm when I was 12. I recently got back from the best summer trip ever in the whole world. It was called Ldor vDor, and for those of you who don’t speak Hebrew, that means generation to generation. My group went from pre-world war II settlements in Prague, Czech Republic, to touring concentration camps and ghettos in Poland, and finally to the beautiful Jewish homeland of Israel. The whole trip altogether was 5 full weeks. Five full weeks of 39 Jewish teenagers running around multiple airports with 4 counselors and a security guard (with a gun). I had a fantastic time and it was life changing and I learned about responsibility and whatnot.

Of course, as I was traveling through multiple countries, I kept an eye out for silly signs and foreign English fails for my mommy to use in her blog. Five weeks away from home and you would be surprised how many funny signs we came across. Especially in Poland. 

In case anybody was wondering, it didn’t taste very good at all. 

Probably because it was Zartbitter. 

We saw a random communist bus. I don’t know why.

In krakow, people fart on street signs :

When we were leaving Poland to go to Israel, we had a 7 hour layover in Frankfurt airport. My group of friends wandered over to the bookstore to buy some foreign magazines to keep us entertained. At the store, we giggled at the names of towns to tour. This one pretty much speaks for itself:

Then we arrived in Israel. Israel is my favorite place in the whole world except for maybe my summer camp. Not only because it is the land of my ancestors and all historical, but also because in Israel, hummus is very convienient. You know you are in Israel when hummus comes in pudding cups at gas stations.

And last but not least, while we were touring Tel Aviv and learning about the city’s historical roots, we came across this sign:

Translation: 31 Penis street. 

40 teenagers walking past this street made for a lot picture taking. We got a lot of stares from the locals, because in Israel, it means something totally different and completely appropriate. 

I hope you enjoyed my silly Israel pictures. I have pretty and scenic and memorable ones too of course, but these are the ones I brought just for my mom's blog. I plan to go again next year and hope to bring you more!

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 the 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.

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.

More posts in the "Tips for Improving Your Photography" Series:

Five Tips for Better Images! (Without Buying Stuff) - By Megan Love

Letting your Kids Call the Shots: Tips for Getting Great Photos of Your Kids - by Meg Kelly Anderson

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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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