6 Sweet Things to Come from Sweden

Monday, February 1, 2016

Fun fact about me: I had four different Swedish au pairs when I was little. Eating Swedish Fish while listening to Ace of Base was my every day. Apparently I even spoke some Swedish. So basically I was conditioned to be obsessed with Sweden (and really, the whole of Scandinavia) from a young age.

Alright, so I might be a little biased. But I think Sweden is pretty great. And I’m actually super jealous of people who have EU citizenship and could totally just get up and more there if they wanted to (open borders, say whaa??) I wanted to create a list along the lines of “the 10 best things to come from Sweden,” but 1) I feel like that’s too decisive, and 2) I didn’t want it to seem like I was defining. So. With that said, here are some of my favorite things that just-so-happen to be Swedish.

Swedish Fish

Well...duh Swedish Fish are Swedish haha. But no, I’m not talking about the red Swedish Fish that come in the yellow plastic bags at the grocery stores here in the U.S. (granted, those are great as well.) Those are actually an Americanized version of the fish candy you’ll find in Sweden. I’m talking about the pastel colored, fish-shaped wine gums called pastellfiskar—literally, “pale colored fish”—and you’ll find them in the bulk candy section at many-a-grocery store in Sweden. If you love Swedish Fish, you’ll love pastellfiskar even more. They have a slightly more delicate taste than the Swedish Fish we’re used to, and it’s basically impossible to get sick of them.


Pronounced in Swedish: ee-kay-UH. For decades now, IKEA has provided a solution to the predicament of having just moved into a new apartment and needing to furnish it all at once. It thrives on a business model where young adults and families alike will flock to its stores to fulfill all of their home furnishing needs in one fell swoop, despite the fact that these stores are located in less-than-convenient locations. If you’ve ever gone away to college, you can probably thank IKEA for at least one memory of a broken chair or furniture assembling pizza party.


Speaking of stores that help you save sweet munz, H&M (Hennes & Mauritz) is another worldwide phenomenon that actually originated in Sweden. It’s actually the world’s largest clothing retailer in terms of annual revenue—beating out the likes of Zara and Gap, Inc.—and it hosts over 200 retail stores in the U.S. alone. H&M operates on the “fast fashion” model and seeks to replicate high fashion with its apparel, and it has collaborated with more than a few big-name designers on its clothings lines, as well.

Hövding Bicycle Helmet

Do you remember this video from a few years back about an “invisible” bicycle helmet developed by two young Swedish female students? The helmet itself is pretty ingenious, as it essentially functions as an airbag for your head, maintaining the appearance of a thick neck scarf only until it detects an accident—at which point the helmet instantaneously inflates. The helmet has some other pretty nifty features as well, such as a black box for more serious accidents and easy charging through a computer using a USB cable.

Lykke Li

Guys...this girl is phenomenal. What an artist. Lykke Li is an indie pop singer from Sweden. There are very few albums where I truly can’t choose which track is my fave, but her 2014 album I Never Learn is one of them. Get out some sweet headphones right after reading this and listen to it all the way through.

Swedish Cars

Ha, so this one is kinda broad, but I think people often forget about the beauty of Swedish cars. I’m no car connoisseur, but I’ve always had a place in my heart for Volvos in particular. (I actually even drove around the Volvo headquarters near Göteborg once when I was in Sweden.) Meanwhile, the now-defunct Saab reminds me of Jerry Seinfeld’s car of choice in Seinfeld (rest in peace, Saab). And then there are cars like the new “underground” Koenigsegg One:1 supercar, which you can read more about here if you like.

10 Things I Learned after Photographing My First Wedding

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

It happened—I photographed a wedding! Officially. For the first time. I wore a legit photography vest and everything. It was for one of my best friends Cassie and her husband Brady (or as I have so frequently referred to them here on the blog, “Brassie.”) You can peruse shots from their engagement sesh here, and shots from the actual wedding day here, here, and here if you like. Anyhow, today I wanted to share with you ten of the most crucial things I learned from shooting my first wedding. Trust me; you need this list if you’re shooting your first wedding (or any big event) soon.

1. Have a complete, yet portable camera gear arsenal.

It’s important to plan out the camera gear you bring along with you in such a way that you have everything you could possibly need, yet you are able to manage the gear that you have on you very quickly. Fortunately, I planned this part out pretty well. Here is what I recommend that you carry with you throughout the day:
  • Photography vest (This is so you can carry your gear on you and look legit.)
  • Your camera body
  • Wide range zoom lens (Mine was this 18–140mm lens.)
  • Prime lens with a wide aperture (Mine was this 35mm lens.)
  • On-camera flash (Mine was this Nikon speedlight.)
  • Light diffuser (I suppose this is optional, but I kept it on my flash during the reception, and it made the lighting absolutely beautiful.)
  • Spare, charged camera battery (and the charger just in case)
  • Spare batteries for the flash
  • Multiple 16GB memory cards
  • Tripod (Confession: I didn’t use one, but I think it would have been helpful during the friends and family shoot. But if you are going to bring one, you need an assistant to carry it for you.)

2. Use an on-camera flash.

In case you hadn’t figured it out by now, lighting in the world of photography is everything. And while the venue will likely have some lighting gear like this installed to light the place, you’re going to need more light to capture sharp photos. I avoid the built-in flash on my camera at all costs, and I think you should too. An on-camera flash will prove essential as you photograph the reception, and it really gives the photos from the reception that party-like feel. Plus, chances are the reception is at night, so you really don’t have any other option. (Tip: Point the flash straight upwards, and set a diffuser on it.)

3. Bring three 16GB memory cards.

I know—this tip is so specific. But I think it’s a good one! You should plan on needing about 32GB of memory to capture the entire day, or maybe more if you’re an impulsive photo-taker. (This is assuming that you’re shooting in RAW, which you are, right?) I used one 16GB memory card for my shooting since it was the only reliable one I had, and I ended up having to delete some photos towards the end of the reception to make some room on the card. The reason I think it’s so important to have multiple memory cards is that one of them could all of a sudden go “corrupt” or “unreadable” on you. (Mine did for a second, by the way—ah!) What are you going to do then if you’re relying on just one giant memory card? Plus, when you run out of memory on one card, you can instantly switch to another. I think 16GB is a good memory card size that gives you both large memory capacity and a comfortable price point for having multiple cards.

4. Keep burst mode on—and use sparingly.

Really, I think it’s good to have burst mode on any time you’re shooting an event. Special moments are going to happen, and burst mode might just be the thing that helps you capture them. It also happens to come in handy when taking posed group shots, when various people might be blinking in some shots. Do note, however, that you shouldn’t become totally reliant on burst mode. That will only cause you to miss crucial details in your photo composition, and it will be a pain to go through and delete all of the excess photos later.

5. Create a list of shots for posed ‘family and friends’ photos.

Even with collaborating on a Pinterest board with Cassie starting weeks before the big day, somehow I still didn’t manage to see a list of all of the ‘family and friends’ shots she wanted until the day of the wedding, ha. As a result I was a little flustered when it came time to take photos of the family and close friends of the bride and groom! And really I think those shots are the most high pressure, because they involve a ton of people posing, a ton of directing, and a ton of being sure you’re getting all of the shots that the families want. So I think it’s really important to have your photo list here planned out beforehand. Here are the shots that I think you need to for sure take in terms of the couple’s family and friends.

Posed friends and family shots to take:
  • Entire group of family and close friends with bride and groom, smiling
  • Entire group of family and close friends with bride and groom, cheering
  • Groomsmen and bridesmaids with bride and groom, smiling
  • Groomsmen and bridesmaids with bride and groom, cheering
  • Groomsmen with groom, smiling
  • Groomsmen with groom, cheering
  • Bridesmaids with bride, smiling
  • Bridesmaids with bride, cheering
  • Bride and groom with groom’s parents
  • Bride and groom with groom’s family
  • Bride and groom with bride’s parents
  • Bride and groom with bride’s family
  • Groom with any siblings
  • Bride with any siblings
  • Any shots with individuals the bride and groom may want (e.g. the bride with each bridesmaid)

6. Get inspiration from Pinterest.

Okay, okay, so I’m all about originality. But I don’t think you should be above creating a Pinterest board with the types of shots you want to get, either. Pin certain bride-and-groom poses that you like, details you want to capture, can’t-miss moments, etc. Even if you attempt to copy a favorite photo precisely, chances are it’ll come out unique, anyway.

7. Don’t be afraid to shoot in auto.

I tend to favor manual mode because it gives me precisely the exposure and aperture I want in a photo, but if you’re in a crunch, don’t be above flipping into your camera’s auto mode and shooting with it. Chances are the exposure will still be pretty decent, and you won’t miss a key moment!

8. A wide-range zoom lens is your best friend.

Usually I favor my 35mm lens for photography, but this is one day where you’ll be using your zoom lens the majority of the time. It’s the only way to capture all of the action of the day, and the range of focal lengths will prove highly convenient. I used my 18–140mm lens for about 95% of the photography, switching to my 35mm prime lens only for detail shots where I wanted a wide aperture (e.g., the ring shot).

9. Keep your gear safe.

Unfortunately people with sticky fingers do show up at weddings, so you should make a plan for protecting your gear. I did this with a combination of wearing a photography vest (and hence the majority of my gear) and using the venue’s office as a secure storage space for my camera bag. Also...don’t set any of your photo gear next to an open flame, duh (a story you can read about here).

10. Bring business cards.

If you’re doing a good job shooting the wedding, people are going to ask about you. Keep plenty of business cards in your vest pocket to let people know who you are!

Thanks for stopping by, and if you happen to be shooting your very first wedding soon, best of luck and godspeed. If you’re interested in learning more things photography, you might be interested in reading this post I recently wrote about creating a compelling image.

Fruity Pebbles & Cocoa Pebbles Cake in a Jar

Monday, December 14, 2015

Guys, I'm so excited to show you this project because 1) it's delish and 2) it's so so stylin'. One thing I love doing for small gifts for people is baking cake in jars. It's easier than you think, and you automatically have a means for transporting/gifting the cake when you're finished. Tie off with a bow, a tag, and a spoon, and you're done!

Today I've created two special recipes for Post Foods, and they both involve the two best cereals for making desserts: Fruity Pebbles and Cocoa Pebbles. (Don't believe me? Try either of these on a donut, cupcake, or tart frozen yogurt.)

Fact: These are the two best cereals for making desserts with.

First, the recipe for Fruity Pebbles cake. And yes—it has Fruity Pebbles in it! Kinda like confetti cake. (We'll use the Fruity Pebbles as well for garnish later.)

Makes enough batter for 6 cake jars.

  • 1 2/3 cups cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup Fruity Pebbles

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a larger bowl, beat the butter at a high speed, and gradually beat in the sugar. Then, beat in the egg whites.
  4. Now you will gradually be adding the dry mixture and the milk to the butter-sugar-egg mixture. To do this, alternate mixing in some of the dry mixture, followed by some milk, followed by some dry mixture... You get the picture. Do that until you've incorporated the dry mixture and the milk completely. Just don't over-mix here.
  5. Finish by incorporating the vanilla and Fruity Pebbles.

Alright, now it's time for the Cocoa Pebbles cake...

Makes enough batter for 6–8 cake jars.

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup natural cocoa*
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup boiling water**
  • 1/2 cup Cocoa Pebbles
* Be sure not to substitute in dutch process cocoa here. Natural cocoa is acidic, and you need something acidic to react with the baking soda in this recipe. Dutch process cocoa has been neutralized.
** This will help bring out the flavor of the cocoa. I recommend boiling more than enough water first and then measuring; otherwise you could lose water to evaporation.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a larger bowl, beat the oil and sugar together at a gradually increasing high speed. Then, beat in the egg eggs.
  4. Gradually add the dry mixture to the oil-sugar-egg mixture. Do this on a slower speed so that you don't over-mix here.
  5. Finish by incorporating the vanilla, boiling water, and Cocoa Pebbles.


Here's the process for baking your prepared Fruity Pebbles and Cocoa Pebbles cake batter:
  1. For each batch of batter, fill 6 (or 6–8, in the case of the Cocoa Pebbles cake batter) 12-oz. mason jars somewhere between 1/3 and halfway with batter—nothing beyond that though because then you won't have room for frosting and garnish.
  2. Set your jars in a cake pan or baking dish—give them some breathing room here—and add some water to the bottom of the pan or dish. This creates a hot water bath that helps prevent the glass from breaking in the oven.
  3. Bake at 350°F for 35 to 45 minutes. Use a skewer to test for doneness. I would start checking at 35 minutes and go from there, because for me the Cocoa Pebbles cake baked faster than the Fruity Pebbles cake.
  4. Remove the jars from the oven and let them cool completely.
Two things you should know about baking with jars:
  • Don't try canning your cake by sealing the lid on top of the jar right when you take it out of the oven. Some may have success with this, but most generally agree that this isn't safe, bacteria-wise.
  • Use wide-mouth jars. A jar with a narrower mouth will make it harder to eat the cake.



To finish off the insides of your jars, simply pipe your favorite frosting on top of the cake with a star shaped tip, and then garnish with Fruity Pebbles or Cocoa Pebbles. I did a basic buttercream frosting for the Fruity Pebbles and then a basic chocolate frosting for the Cocoa Pebbles (the chocolate buttercream made with cocoa powder). After frosting, garnish with some sweet, sweet cereal.


Here's the extra fun part—you can decorate your jars however you like! During the holidays I like to make these and adorn them with a sprig of (faux) pine, a gift tag, some twine, and a wooden spoon for easy eating. So if you want to duplicate what I did, here's a quick supply list:
  • cardstock (for cutting into circles for the lids)
  • paper gift tags
  • black felt tip pen
  • jute or baker's twine (I use this baker's twine.)
  • wooden spoons (If you want a ton of them, this pack of spoons is a sweet deal.)
  • a branch of fake pine (or real pine sprigs if you're feeling outdoorsy)

So stylin', amirite?? While baking is always super fun, I think what makes it even more fun is when you're baking for someone else. So here's to baking cake in jars for your holiday gifting!


PS. This post was sponsored by Post Foods, but as always, all opinions are my own :)

#Brassie // The Wedding: Reception

Friday, December 4, 2015

And finally...the reception! (First #Brassie wedding post here, and second post here.)

Guys, the reception was crazy. At one point, I set my spare lens pouch on the reception table, and the drawstring somehow touched this dinky little tealight candle that was sitting next to it. And then the whole thing lit on fire. I had just had some camera gear stolen a couple months prior and wasn't about to lose something else (plus this was my favorite lens), so my first reaction was to put out the flame with my bare hand. Like an idiot. I spent the rest of the night when I wasn't photographing sitting at one of the tables really unnaturally holding a glass of cold water because it felt soothing.

The lens lived, though, and my hand is just about healed! I do have a permanent dent in my palm where one of my burns was though. Yikes, man.

Moral of the story: hell is actually made up of all tealight candles. Just kidding—don't be an idiot and set your camera gear next to an open flame.