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Friday, July 31, 2015

10 tips for better travel photos

it's the season of exotic vacations, simple day trips, and exploring.  when you are traveling, it is great to be able to capture special moments so that you have photos to look back on to remember your adventures.  you don't need a fancy camera or a degree in photography to document great memories through pictures.  wherever you are roaming this summer, here are a few tips and tricks for improving your travel photos . . .

1. learn the rule of thirds
composition is key, and the tried-and-true rule of thirds is so often used for a reason.  when you line up your shot, mentally break your image into thirds vertically and horizontally so that you have nine parts.  place the subject along a vertical or horizontal line and a point of intersection.  the human eye naturally falls to the point of intersection.  it will make your photos more interesting instead of having your subject exactly centered.

2. pay attention to the lighting
lighting can make or break a photo.  when shooting outdoors, many photographers try to avoid the harsh direct light of the midday sun and instead wait for "blue hour" (the 30 minutes before sunrise and after sunset) and "golden hour" (the hour after sunrise and before sunset) because it is when the lighting is best.  the soft and warm glow of the sun during these times of the day is great for gorgeous photos outdoors.  natural lighting is best because lamps and artificial lighting cast shadows and create varying light temperatures.  sure, a flash is necessary at times.  unfortunately, a flash often leaves things looking too bright and washed out.  if you need to use a flash, consider wrapping your flash in a coffee filter to soften it.

3. change your point of view and try different angles
bend down, stand on top of something, or lean over the side of something (without falling) to change your point of view and to capture photos on different levels.  play around and take photos from different angles to keep things interesting.

4. place an object in the foreground
consider placing an object in the foreground of your image to frame your photo and to give your image some depth.  it is a neat way to make your image almost look 3D instead of looking flat and two dimensional.

5. look for lead-in lines
let naturally occurring lines (a road, a bridge, a tunnel, etc.) draw your eye through the photo toward the key subject in order to keep your eye moving through the image.

6. catch movement and action
keep your photos from looking boring and create eye-catching images by looking for movement or action that you can capture.

7. create a sense of scale
it can be difficult to translate the scale of certain objects in photographs, so add a point of reference to help convey the scale of an object.

8. play with color
keep your eyes open for bright vibrant colors around you when you are shooting.  later, when editing your photos at home enhance the brightness, temperature, and/or saturation to make your colors really pop.

9. capture the details
remember to pay attention to the little details and nuances about the place you are visiting that make it unique.

10. don't forget about the food
one of the best parts of traveling is trying so many different types and styles of food.  don't forget to snap photos of your favorite meals.

. . . 

i'm certainly not a professional photographer, but these are a few tips i have picked up along the way.  it's so much fun to travel and to document special moments in life through photographs so that you can look back on your memories for years to come!

love, laurie

Thursday, July 30, 2015

roasted beet and carrot quinoa with kale and chickpeas (vegan + gluten free)

after visiting ryan's family for his grandmother's funeral this past weekend, we came home with a bag of gorgeous fresh beets from ryan's aunt and uncle's garden.  let's just take a moment and pause to think about how glorious it would be to have a garden to grow beets like that.  yum!

i put the beets to good use as soon as we got home.  i made crispy baked beet chips (which are way better than potato chips in my opinion) and i also made this incredible quinoa dish for dinner with roasted beets.

roasting beets in the oven with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper makes them so delicious.  yes, your hands will temporarily turn pink from peeling and dicing the beets, but it washes off eventually and it's worth it for the end result.

beets and carrots roast together in the oven until they are soft and tender, kale gets sauteed, and then everything gets tossed together with chickpeas and orange dressing.  it's a light and refreshing dish that can be served either as a side dish or as a main meal.  it is loaded with great vitamins and nutrients.  we ate this for dinner all week long.  it is good hot, at room temperature, or cold.  i just love dishes like this!

thanks for the wonderful beets, uncle ed and aunt sandy!

roasted beet and carrot quinoa with kale and chickpeas
prep time: 10-15 minutes
cooking time: 45-50 minutes
yields: 8 servings

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2-3 large beets
6 large carrots
1 1/2 cups dry quinoa
3 cups water
5-6 stalks of kale
1 (15.5 oz.) can chick peas, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon agave nectar or honey

preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.  wash, peel, and dice the beets and carrots.  (dice the beets into smaller pieces and the carrots into larger pieces so that they cook evenly).  line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and grease the foil with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  place the diced beets and carrots on the baking sheet, drizzle an additional tablespoon of olive oil over the vegetables, season with salt and pepper to taste, and toss to evenly coat.  roast for 25-30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.  once cooked, remove from the oven and set aside.

meanwhile, combine the quinoa and water in a pot and bring to a boil.  reduce to a simmer and cover to allow the quinoa to absorb the water (about 15 minutes).  once all of the water has been absorbed, remove from the heat, fluff with a fork, and set aside.

heat a large skillet with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  remove the stems from the kale and chop the kale leaves.  place the kale in the heated skillet and saute for 5 minutes.  season with salt and pepper to taste.  once cooked, remove from the heat and set aside.

to make the dressing, combine the olive oil, orange juice, vinegar, and agave/honey in a bowl and whisk well to combine.

to assemble, combine the roasted beets and carrots, the cooked quinoa, the sauteed kale, and the chickpeas in a large bowl.  pour the dressing over the mixture and toss to evenly coat everything.  serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.

love, laurie

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

blueberry pie milkshake

i have had this idea to make a blueberry pie milkshake for a few weeks now.  things like this pop into my head at random times, like when i'm on the elliptical at the gym.  if there's nothing good on tv at the gym, my mind starts wondering and i usually end up thinking about food, because let's face it, when am i not thinking about food.

i dreamed up this milkshake on the elliptical.  that right there is probably an oxymoron, or counterproductive, or something, i'm sure.

anyway, while mindlessly peddling away on the elliptical, i thought to myself: "what if i could make blueberry pie into liquid form?"  it was all down hill from there.

we had fresh blueberries in the refrigerator, an unopened pack of graham crackers in the kitchen cabinet, and vanilla bean ice cream in the freezer.  you see how my brain works?

blueberry pie ala mode in milkshake form . . . genius.

the blueberries are fresh and bright, the graham crackers give the taste of pie crust, and of course blueberry pie would not be complete without a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.  all of the flavors combine perfectly to make a heavenly milkshake that is equal parts delicious and sinful.

i couldn't stop there.  oh no.  i just happened to have heavy whipping cream in the refrigerator, so the only right thing to do was to add a dollop of fresh homemade whipped cream to the top of this masterpiece.  oh yes.

gosh, look at that gorgeous purple-blue color!  no food coloring here, my friends!

you could, of course, substitute any other fruit in place of the blueberries.  let's make all different flavors of delicious fruit pie ala mode milkshakes!

now, if you have some type of an aversion to milkshakes, or if you find that you just can't finish this whole milkshake (yeah right) let me let you in on a little secret: if you take this glorious mixture out of the blender and pour it into popsicle molds then freeze it, you will have one heck of a delicious popsicle on your hands.  just saying, i may have done that too.

hey, it's the summer . . . live a little!

blueberry pie milkshake
total time: 5 minutes
yields: 2 milkshakes

1 cup fresh blueberries
2 graham cracker sheets
1/2 cup vanilla bean ice cream
1/2 cup milk
4 ice cubes

combine the blueberries, graham crackers (broken into small pieces), ice cream, and milk in a blender.  blend until smooth.  add ice cubes and blend to reach desired thickness.  top with homemade whipped cream.

love, laurie

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

holy cow, that's a lot of ice cream!

one of our good friends from college was in town yesterday, so we were excited to be able to get together with her after work for a little ice cream date.  we went to one of our favorite ice cream spots from "the good old days" which has been recently renovated.  ryan ordered a single scoop (on the left) and i ordered a baby scoop (on the right).  our jaws hit the floor when the girl behind the counter handed our ice cream to us.  our friend who lives in new jersey exclaimed "that much ice cream would cost $15 in new jersey!"  she was probably right, it was only $5 for both of ours together.  we had to laugh and of course we had to take a picture to document it!  (you can see our friend's ice cream in the back corner which was just as big.)  needless to say, we couldn't finish all of our ice cream so we took the rest home and put it in the freezer to save it for another day.  holy cow, what crazy portion sizes!

love, laurie

Monday, July 27, 2015

chocolate pistachio granola bars (vegan + gluten free)

i absolutely love making homemade granola bars.  it's great to be able to control exactly which ingredients are in your granola bars, making for a healthy snacking situation.

recently i made a batch of no-bake chocolate pistachio granola bars.  they only have 6 ingredients in them!  there's no need for store-bought granola when it's this easy to make your own!

these granola bars make a great snack.  they are hearty and healthy.  they are loaded with lots of yummy things: oats, pistachios, cocoa powder, dates, peanut butter, and agave nectar.

you think you are eating dessert because they are chocolaty, but they are good for you!

chocolate pistachio granola bars (vegan + gluten free)
prep time: 5 minutes
chilling time: 15 minutes
yields: 8 large granola bars
adapted from minimalist baker

1 1/2 cups shelled pistachios, divided
2 cups medjool dates, pitted
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup natural peanut butter
1/4 cup agave nectar

place 1 1/4 cups of the pistachios to a food processor, and process until finely ground.  transfer to a separate bowl and set aside.  place the dates in the food processor and process until only small bits remain.  add the ground pistachios to the food processor along with the cocoa powder.  pulse to combine.  transfer the mixture to a large bowl.  add the oats and the remain 1/4 cup of pistachios (chopped).  stir to combine.

combine the peanut butter and agave nectar in a small skillet over medium heat.  stir until pourable.  pour over the granola mixture and thoroughly mix to incorporate all of the ingredients together.  once mixed, add the mixture to an 8-inch square baking pan lined with parchment paper.  press the mixture firmly into the baking pan.  place the granola bars in the refrigerator to chill before cutting.

love, laurie

Friday, July 24, 2015

"phantom of the opurrra"

here's your daily dose of cuteness . . .

ryan found this picture the other day and i thought it was so cute (especially since we love kitties and the phantom of the opera).

have a wonderful weekend!
love, laurie

Thursday, July 23, 2015

simple roasted potato salad

it's summer and that means that it's prime season for picnics and cookouts.  what's a picnic or a cookout without potato salad?  sure, traditional old-fashioned potato salad is a classic, but it's fun to switch things up from time to time.

we were looking for a side dish for dinner the other day and ryan suggested potato salad.  we had bought a bunch of beautiful red potatoes at the farmers market over the weekend and they were just perfect for this salad.

this potato salad is unique because the potatoes are roasted instead of boiled.  roasting the potatoes gives the salad such a wonderful rich flavor.  we opted to leave the potatoes in large chunks instead of mashing them, although you could certainly mash them if that's what you prefer.

i am not usually a fan of using any type of prepackaged seasoning or anything like that, however, i do make an exception for this potato salad.  the dressing for this salad is super simple.  just mix mayo with a packet of seasoning mix and voila!  we have made this potato salad with two different types of seasoning mix.  it's great with ranch or with vegetable (the vegetable is what's pictured here).  sometimes it's okay to make an exception and to take a shortcut i guess.

this potato salad is super simple to make and it comes together in no time.  it's perfect for a cookout, a picnic, or anytime!  we've made this recipe a few times, and it's now our favorite go-to potato salad recipe.

simple roasted potato salad
prep time: 5 minutes
cooking time: 25-30 minutes
yields: 6-8 servings
adapted from yammie's noshery

2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 lbs. red potatoes
3 garlic cloves
1 small white onion
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 packet of dry ranch or vegetable seasoning mix
1 teaspoon dried chives

preheat your oven to 425 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil.  lightly grease the foil with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  wash and dice the potatoes, mince the garlic, and chop the onion.  place the diced potatoes, minced garlic, and about 3/4 of the chopped onion on the baking sheet.  lightly drizzle olive oil over the potatoes and season with garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper.  roast for 25-30 minutes (tossing occasionally) until the potatoes are tender.  once cooked, remove from the oven and allow the potatoes to cool to room temperature.

combine the remaining chopped onion with the mayonnaise, dry seasoning mix, and chives, then stir well.  place the roasted potatoes in a large bowl and pour the dressing over the potatoes.  toss well to even coat all of the potatoes with the dressing.  refrigerate until ready to serve.  

love, laurie

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

answers to a few frequently asked questions . . .

from time-to-time i receive questions via email, blog post comments, social media, etc.  i have had a f.a.q. page on my blog for years, but i thought i would take the time to answer some other frequently asked questions . . .

how tall is ryan?
this one always makes me smile.  ryan is 6'1" and i am 5'2" so he is almost exactly a foot taller than me.  (he has some long legs!)

what is your natural hair color?
you're looking at it!  i've never dyed my hair.  it's sort of a dark blonde and it naturally turns lighter blonde in the summer when i'm out in the sun a lot.

do you and ryan really work at the same place?
yes!  we work for the same university, in the same department, and our offices are right down the hall from each other.  while many couples can't even fathom the idea of working together, we absolutely love it and it works wonderfully for us.  we make a really great team and we are thrilled for this season in our lives while we have the chance to do this.  (it also makes commuting to work so much easier!)

you often refer to leko as a kitten, how old is he?
ha!  although leko would no longer technically be considered a kitten by the vet, he is and will always be a kitten to me.  we adopted leko in january of 2012 and the shelter were we adopted him believes he was born in september of 2011.  so, this coming fall he will turn 4 years old.  (but he's still my baby!)

do you really eat all of the recipes you post on your blog?
yup!  all of the recipes i post are recipes that we have made (sometimes even several times before they make it to the blog in order to tweak them just right).  if something doesn't turn out good or if we don't like it then i don't share the recipe.

are you and ryan both vegetarians?
nope.  i am a vegetarian but ryan still eats meat occasionally (although he mainly eats vegetarian).

why don't you write in caps?
at the time when i started my blog i was in doctoral school.  i spent so much time writing "formally" for my classes and my dissertation.  i have always loved writing, and i wanted this blog to be a space where i could write for fun in order to take a break from all of the serious formal writing i was doing at the time.  so, i started writing all lowercase.  i liked the feel of it and it just stuck.

which program do you use to write on your photos?
picmonkey (the free version).

do you read all of the comments and emails that you receive?
every last one of them.  i receive email notifications when anyone leaves a comment on a post and i respond to all comments/emails unless someone is listed as a no-reply blogger.

who designed and built your blog?
i did.  my blog is hosted on the blogger platform, but i designed the layout myself.

. . .

what else do you want to know?
have a question that you want me to answer?  
leave a comment or email me directly at

love, laurie

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

carrot, apple, ginger, cucumber, and kale juice

we really love juicing fresh produce and we juice as often as we can, so we were heartbroken when our old trusty juicer (which we inherited from my mom) decided it had seen the end of its juicing days.

we scoured the depths of the internet searching for a new juicer, and after reading a million product reviews we finally settled on a breville juice fountain plus.  we've had it for a few weeks now and we completely love it!

we put some of our fresh produce from the farmers market to use over the weekend and made a great juice with carrots, apples, ginger, cucumbers, and kale.  it's full of nutrients and it tastes great!

carrot, apple, ginger, cucumber, and kale juice
prep time: 5 minutes
yields: approximately 5 cups

10 carrots
4 mcintosh apples
1 inch piece of fresh ginger root
4 cucumbers
6 kale stalks

wash the produce and peel a 1 inch piece of fresh ginger root.  run the produce through a juicer (most juicers work best if you start with the hardest fruit/veggie first and work your way down to the softest).  chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

love, laurie

ps: here's our all-time favorite juice recipe which we make often along with a few juicing tips too

Monday, July 20, 2015

snapshots from the weekend . . .

^our local farmers market opened for the season on friday.  even though we knew it would be busy, we just couldn't pass up going on opening day.  we got a ton of great produce, including sweet cherries, zucchini, onion, kale, cucumbers, tomatoes, and potatoes.  you can't bet fresh locally-grown produce!  when we brought it all home, leko was excited to smell it all and to inspect it.  of course, he always has to be right in the middle of everything!  we put that produce to good use over the weekend making a lot of great things with it.^

^the temperature cooled down on friday night after diner, so we loaded the bikes up on the back of the car and hit the bike trail.  this summer we haven't had a chance to bike as much as we normally do, so we were really itching to take a ride.  it was especially nice to be out enjoying the fresh air and the outdoors because we have been cooped up inside for the past two weeks since ryan was sick.  so glad he is feeling better!^

^on our way home from the bike trail on friday night we passed by a local ice cream shoppe and stopped for some soft-serve.  we love this place because their prices are so reasonable and they believe that sprinkles should always be free.  can't argue with that!^

^bright and early on saturday morning our neighborhood crime watch committee held a pancake breakfast fundraiser.  how fun!  it was a tasty way to support a good cause.  after breakfast, we checked out a few local yard sales before ryan had to head off to rehearsal and my mom and i went to help my aunt with her yard sale.^

^ryan's mom gave us a tiger lily plant at the beginning of the season, and we were happy to find two flowers blooming on it sunday morning.  tiger lilies are so pretty and i just love their bright orange color!^

in other news, we ran into wegman's to do our weekly grocery shopping on sunday morning and right there in the aisle in front of me was phil lapp!  phil and his wife laura are from lancaster, pa and they created neat which we absolutely love!  i thought it was him, but i wasn't completely sure (i mean, after all what would he be doing in my wegman's) so i stalked him around the health-food section for awhile before determining that it was actually him.  ryan encouraged me to go over to him, so we got to meet him and talk to him for a little bit about his product.  how cool!  wegman's carries neat products, and phil was spending the weekend touring around different wegman's stores and demoing the products for customers.  i felt like i met a celebrity and it just made my day.  (if you haven't checked out neat, be sure to check it out.  we absolutely love it!)

hope everyone had a great weekend!
love, laurie

Friday, July 17, 2015

around these parts . . .

the weather has been all over the place.  so hot and humid that you feel your face melting off one day, then the next day so cold and rainy you would swear it was autumn and not the middle of july.  mother nature is freaking out i think.

summer dance classes started this week.  it has only been one month since our dance recital, but good grief my body sure got out of shape in that short period of time!  hopefully summer classes will get me back on track.

poor ryan has been crazy sick for the past week.  he started with a sore throat (which i was convinced was strep, but according to the doctor it was not) which then morphed into a strange upper respiratory infection followed by a disgusting eye infection.  he was falling apart!  two trips to the doctor and four antibiotics later, luckily, he finally started to show signs of coming back to life yesterday and he started to seem like himself again.  who gets sick like that in the middle of the summer?

ryan got himself roped into stage managing a local opera and rehearsals for the show start this weekend.  luckily, it's a quick turn around since the performances are next weekend.

our local farmers market opens for the season today and we are super excited to go and load up on fresh local produce!  you just can't beat the prices at the farmers market and we love supporting local farms.

thank goodness it's friday, it sure has been a doozy of a week!

have a wonderful weekend!
love, laurie

Thursday, July 16, 2015

snapshots of life lately, according to my iphone pictures

. . . and ryan's iphone too.

follow along with us on instagram
love, laurie