Life Lately

Monday, June 13, 2016

Hey guyyyysss. I knew I could suck you into this post with a really cute puppy at the beginning. Just wanted to post some photos from the last month or so on here. Things have been pretty sweet here in Salt Lake. The highlights: helping my friend Cassie pick up a cute puppy, hiking in neature, light painting, and trying out some new, not-so-unhealthy recipes. Here is the photo documentation :)

His name is Duke :)

Just look at that face.

 Hiking in Big Cottonwood canyon with Victortilla.

Look, there's totally snow up there still! Well...there was in mid-May.

Digging this light at Rustic Chicken.

Light painting at the Great Salt Lake! This was so much fun. In fact, let me tell you where I did this because it's a really sweet spot. If you're heading towards the Great Salt Lake/salt flats on I-80 West, you take the exit for Saltair Palace and then take a right on the frontage road. Then keep going until the jersey wall on the left ends. Park immediately, and then look for the gate that will lead you towards the lake. It's a dream. And you won't get the stink of the lake, I promise :)

Wearing my dad's letter jacket :)

Nate and I took one photo and decided not to smile haha. Bliiiinded by the light...

Okay...also...Nate is incredddible at drawing bison. This was seriously his first try.

And finally—vegan/gluten-free chocolate-coconut baked donuts! I tried out this recipe from A Dash of Megnut, and it's amazing. Go check out her stuff, mmkay? Tip: Make sure you don't try to eke by without a gluten-free flour blend. Anything without xanthum gum isn't going to stick together, and it's just going to be really annoying. This was take number two for me, this time with the flour blend.

June is like one long Friday, don't you think?

7 Sweet Ways to Use Sugar

Monday, May 23, 2016

I spend quite a bit of time on here talking about sugary cake recipes, and it's kinda gotten me thinking about other ways I could be using the sugar in my kitchen. Here are seven great ways to use sugar—aside from baking with it.

Face (and body) scrub

Exfoliating your face one to two times per week is key to keeping your skin smooth and radiant, and you can use a face scrub to do this. You can even make your very own face scrub at home using a few simple ingredients, such as superfine (caster) sugar, some coconut oil, and your favorite essential oils. You can also play with ingredients like coffee grounds, tea, and citrus peel. Superfine sugar (also called caster sugar) makes for a great ingredient for your face scrubs because it isn’t as abrasive as granulated sugar, and according to this article, it actually contains the alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) glycolic acid. Glycolic acid is great for your skin because it gently eats away at the outermost layer of your skin, allowing for that fresh skin underneath to shine through. Just be sure to protect your skin with an SPF product after using your scrub, as your skin will be more sensitive to sunlight. Tip: Try using your face scrub as a body scrub as well for smooth supple skin all around.

Lip exfoliant

Sugar also makes for a great lip exfoliant that keeps your lips soft and supple, even in dry weather. Try making one at home using sugar, coconut oil, and your favorite essential oils.

Hand scrub

Did you recently work on a car or bike, only to be left with grease stains all over your hands? Use equal parts liquid soap and sugar at the sink and scrub your hands thoroughly to remove the stains.

Flower food

Did you know that sugar is a substantial ingredient in those little flower packets that come with bouquets of flowers? Try adding a few teaspoons of sugar to your flower water, along with a couple teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to fight bacteria growth. Bonus tip: put your flowers in the fridge at night to help them last even longer.

Soothe your tongue after spicy food

Chose to add a little too much spice to the chili you ordered for dinner? Sugar can help. In fact, the Scoville scale that is used to give a numeric measurement to the spiciness of various chili peppers is actually based on the amount of sugar water needed to dilute a chili pepper. Simply grab a sugar packet and add it to about 8 ounces of water; then drink the sugar water to soothe a tongue that’s on fire.

Heal a wound

Yep—this traditionally African therapy seems to be effective on cuts, scrapes, burns, and pressure sores. The sugar actually draws water from the wound and into the dressing, which inhibits bacteria growth in the wound. It can also help reduce swelling, promote the formation of connective tissue, speed up the healing process, and reduce scarring. To use sugar on a fresh wound, start by extracting any foreign objects or debris from the wound and cleaning it thoroughly using soap and water. Pat it to dry. Then, pour sugar directly onto the wound, making sure some of it actually gets into the wound. Alternatively, you can add honey to the wound if you’re having trouble getting the sugar to stay in place. Then cover the wound completely with a bandage and secure the bandage in place with tape. Change the bandage and repeat this process once a day.

Remove stains

You can use sugar in the laundry room as well on a few different types of stains. For tea stains, for example, add a few tablespoons of sugar to a quart of warm water, and then soak the stained fabric in the mixture for a few minutes. Then rinse the fabric in warm water and then let it air dry. For grass stains, meanwhile, you’ll want to use the sugar to create more of a paste. Start with a bowl containing half a cup of sugar and add enough warm water to create a paste. Spread the paste onto the grass stain and then wash the clothing as usual. The sugar contains enzymes that will actually break down the chlorophyll pigments in the grass. Repeat this process if necessary to remove the grass stain completely.

How to Take Stellar Blog Photos in Your Home

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Whether you’re a food blogger, a crafting blogger, or a party planning blogger, chances are you know the pains of trying to take good blog photos within the walls of your own home. Not all homes are designed for great photography, after all (especially rentals), and as bloggers we often have to make a photo shooting session work in less-than-ideal conditions. If this description speaks to you, here are some tips for taking better photos for your blog inside your home.

Use natural sunlight.

There truly is no substitute for natural sunlight in photos taken indoors, and many great bloggers will plan their indoor photo shoots around when natural sunlight will be streaming in through their windows. This can be tricky, as the sun travels throughout the day, and it might require you to study how sunlight travels through your home throughout the day. A kitchen window that sees a lot of sunlight in the morning, for example, might be relatively dark come late afternoon. Locate areas in your home that see a great deal of sunlight and determine when the best hours to shoot in those locations are. And whatever you do, avoid the temptation to supplement natural sunlight with indoor lighting. Incandescent lighting tends to give off an overly warm hue—and fluorescent lighting a green one—so it will only throw off your white balance. Instead of flipping on that light switch, up the ISO as needed.

Don’t be afraid to move furniture.

Subsequently, you might need to move furniture around in order to have the right surface to shoot on when sunlight is hitting a certain window in your home. Maybe, for example, the sunlight hitting your living room window at 4 p.m. is perfect for doing some food photography, but the area immediately next to that window is largely empty. Go ahead and move the coffee table over and shoot on that. You may feel silly doing it, but you’d be surprised at what bloggers will do just to get the right photo.

...or to take photos in a weird location.

On a similar note, don’t be afraid to take photos in a location that seemingly doesn’t make sense. If you’re a food blogger, for example, don’t feel confined to taking photos in your kitchen. Some kitchens, after all, simply don’t get good lighting. Even if your bedroom, of all places, sees the best sunlight in your home, don’t be afraid to create a little setup next to your bedroom window using a small coffee table and a backdrop.

Use mobile backdrops.

You may be wondering with all of this shooting in odd locations how exactly you can keep your photos looking professional. The key here is working with mobile backdrops. It’s a good idea to have some go-to materials that you can always lay out over a flat surface and photograph on. If you were to lay out some kraft paper over a coffee table, for example, and photograph a few cupcakes on that, no one would know just by looking at the photo that you actually took the photo in your living room. Here are a few examples of great backdrops:

  • A roll of kraft paper
  • A chalkboard table runner
  • Large poster boards (like Canson art boards)
  • Faux marble contact paper
  • A large slab of marble (yes, food bloggers own these)
  • Faux wood planks

Trick the viewer with framing.

With the odd-location and mobile-backdrop tips in mind, this next tip is key: you can trick the viewer with how you frame the photo. Simply put, if you zoom in enough so that all edges of your backdrop lie outside of the photo’s frame, no one is going to know whether you took the photo in a kitchen, in a bedroom, or in a bathroom.

Set up a studio if you need to.

If studio-style photography is more your forté when it comes to photos for your blog, then you might benefit from setting up a small studio somewhere in your home. A great photo studio doesn’t need a lot of fancy equipment, either. You might, for example, only need a white muslin backdrop, a couple of light stands for off-camera flashes, and some umbrellas to diffuse the light. You can set a studio up in your basement or in a spare bedroom—or even in your garage, as this post mentions.

7 Things Only (Boy-Girl) Twins Will Understand

Monday, April 4, 2016

Fun fact about me: I’m a twin. I have a twin broski named Carl. I like to call him my “former wombmate.” It’s funny, because every time someone asks me what it feels like to be a twin, my response is something weird like, “I feel like it would be weirder to be born by yourself.” Ha, I simply don’t know what it’s like to not be a twin because being a twin is the norm for me. And that kind of got me thinking about what other things might seem normal to me even though they’re really only things that twins would understand. So. Without further are seven things that I think only (boy-girl) twins would understand.

Note: Since some, but not all, of these things apply to boy-girl twins exclusively, I put “boy-girl” in parentheses in the title of this post ;)

Some people actually think a boy and a girl can be identical.

The funniest question Carl and I got when people found out we were twins—and we got this frequently—was, “Are you guys identical or fraternal?” I used to always think people were joking when they asked this, but much of the time this question was asked in all seriousness; so I quickly taught myself not to laugh when this was asked. But really, guys? Know your biology ;)

You were mistaken for someone of the opposite gender on the phone growing up.

Ha, so this one is really specific. But there was this era growing up—before either of us hit puberty, of course—when either me or Carl would answer the phone and constantly get mistaken for each other. So if I answered the phone, one of my parents’ friends would respond by saying, “Carl, is that you?” Apparently we sounded very similar on the phone, which to us was funny because what girl wants to be mistaken for a boy on the phone, or vice versa??

People in high school thought you were dating your sibling.

Most people we knew in high school knew that Carl and I were twins, but there were always those select few who simply thought we got along super well. Carl and I ran track together, drove to and from school together, and sat together at lunch whenever we had the same lunch, so I suppose I can see why people jumped to this conclusion. Ew, though.

If you’re the girl twin, being taller than your twin brother for a second was awesome.

Girls tend to hit puberty before boys, so there was a brief period in middle school when I was actually taller than Carl. It was glorious.

A birthday is a shared experience.

A birthday party just for me? What? This one is probably obvious, and of course it applies to all sets of twins—not just boy-girl twins. But how could I not include the central part of being a twin? Maybe some twins grow up celebrating their birthdays separately, but for me and Carl, our birthday was definitely a shared experience. Double birthday parties like this, sharing birthday presents, fighting over what type of cake we would get or which restaurant we would go all happened. Not that I’m complaining, since sharing your birthday with someone can always make for a bigger party. It’s odd though because my brother and I live in different places now, and for the first time ever we’re starting to have solo birthday parties. We hardly know what to do with all of the singular attention.

You share more than just a birthday.

Again, this applies to all twin sets, but I couldn’t leave this central part of being a twin out, either. Being a twin is about more than simply sharing a birthday growing up. You share gifts, bedrooms, friends, etc. I like to think being a twin has made me a more compassionate person in this way (maybe?)

The older twin can always brag about being born first.

Being older wouldn’t matter, except for the fact that we’ve been asked who is the older twin numerous times. I happen to be the older twin in this duo. By one minute. I never let Carl forget this between 7:00 and 7:01 p.m. on our birthday.