Food & Photography Are Fun! #GrillingisHappiness #SoFabU

Bread

Photos can make or break a blog.

Sometimes I think mine is broken…

I’ve never been good at photography.  I don’t have a good eye for it, and I have no clue how to properly edit photos.

And, until I became a blogger, I didn’t really care.

My primary focus was on documenting special moments, not documenting them well.

Food Photography

If taking pictures of people and trees is difficult, taking pictures of food is darn near impossible for me.

You have a double whammy there:  styling the food well and photographing it well…

I think part of getting better at the whole process is just practicing.

I think another part is getting help from somebody who actually knows what they’re talking about and can convey it in an easy-to-understand manner.

Photography classes can get quite pricey, which is why I was so excited to get into the Social Fabric University:  Campaign Photography with Sears Grilling course!

The Course

I don’t know much about it at this point, but I do know that I’ve already learned a couple of things in the first week that have been extremely helpful.

I think my favorite part so far has been learning how to adjust levels {black, whites, and midtones} to make a picture “pop”!

I’ve also learned about “dodging” {lightening} and “burning” {darkening}.  Those are a bit more difficult for me, but I’m slowly picking up on using it effectively.

Image sharpening has thrown me for a loop, but you know, I’m gonna stick with it!

I didn’t have anything terribly exciting to eat today, so I took a picture of my yeast dough.  Check out the changes I made!

Yeah, yeah, I know it’s not a stellar photo and I’m sure a pro could edit it much better, but I’m happy with the results.  This is just after a week in the course!

What I’m Hoping to Learn

I hope to learn a bit more about the technical aspects of editing my photos, as well as how to take a better looking photo to begin with.

I hope that after this course the photographs on the blog will be much more appealing.  Not just for me, or for you, but for the brands I work with as well.

A nice picture of something I’m reviewing or featuring will help you, my readers, see it in all its glory and it will do the company justice in showcasing their product well.

Special Thanks to Sears Grilling

Sears Grilling is sponsoring this course, and without them, it wouldn’t be possible.  I am so grateful to have this opportunity and am glad they’ve made it possible!

True Confessions:  I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™ and Sears #CBias #GrillingIsHappiness. All photos and opinions are my own.

An Unbelievably Good Meal

cafe-dupont-1

I absolutely love a good meal.  It can right any wrong, it can make a celebratory experience all the more celebratory, it has healing powers I tell you!

Because of my absolute love of food, I’ve been disappointed in the selection here in AL.

When we were in Washington, we had lots of wonderful places to eat: Daniel’s Broiler, Elliott’s, The Westside Burrito Connection, Fritz European Fry House, Anthony’s, Red Rock Subs, and so many more.

Or, we could drive up to the ferry and eat at Chandler’s in Victoria, BC.

We were never, ever, ever at a loss for good food.

Birmingham, AL, Food

Then, we moved to the Birminham, AL, area.  And, through some trial and error, we’ve found a tiny handful {read: could count on one hand} of places that are decent.

We enjoy The Cheesecake Factory and it’s consistently good food {how is it that no matter where you eat it in the country, it’s always the same?!}, Sho’Nuff BBQ, and Village Tavern.

There are a couple other places that we enjoyed in our more immediate area but they’ve all gone out of business.

Apparently the locals aren’t fond of fresh ground burgers, exceptional fresh-cut fries, and delicious corn muffins…

What the locals are fond of is crap.  I’m just not going to beat around the bush here.

Nine times out of 10, if we get a recommendation from a local, the food is absolutely disgusting.

Really Bad Food

My first experience with this was our trip to Niki’s West.  That was some of the worst food I have ever eaten, I’m not even kidding.

The terrible meal was finished off by a terrible dessert:  lemon icebox pie that was lukewarm and tasted like rancid milk.

Yet, the place was packed and people raved about it.

Then, for our anniversary last year, we ate at Ocean.  This was, hands down, my worst dining experience ever.

Ever.

The staff was pretentious and rude, the food was lousy, and the atmosphere was stuffy and filled with the drunken laughter of what appeared to be washed-up financial advisers…

Sushi should never be lukewarm.  Scallops should not taste like cod liver oil.  I should not have to flag my waiter down for a drink after sitting at a table for at least ten minutes while he spends copious amounts of time at the tables around me.

I should not be treated as an unintelligent country bumpkin who just set foot in the “big city” and doesn’t know the difference between a filet and a ribeye.

I left there absolutely disgusted.

The Meal That Made It All Better

Well, my friends, I am happy to say that last night, Vince and I had a meal that was worth two or three years of waiting.

I remember wanting to eat at Cafe Dupont when we first moved here, but for some reason that didn’t happen.

I just kind of forgot about it after that.

I kept hearing glowing reviews of other restaurants, but there menus were too far out there.

To clarify, we eat some “weird” stuff: snails, for instance.  So if I can eat snails and be OK, then you know a menu has to be really weird for me to not want to eat there.

I hadn’t really heard too much about Cafe Dupont, but something about the way it looked {it’s in an 1870s storefront in the North End neighborhood in downtown Birmingham}, the fact that it supports the slow food movement, and the daily changing menu made me want to go.

I was hoping I wouldn’t be disappointed.

So, instead of heading to the usual dining suspects here, we decided to give the Cafe a try.

Photo Credit

Oh. My.  I have never wanted to hop up and dance a jig in a restaurant like I did last night.

I need a thesaurus to fully convey to you the unbelievable quality, flavor, atmosphere, and service this place had.

Cafe Dupont could seat maybe 50, so it’s nice and quaint.  Love.

We were 30 minutes early for our reservation.  They gave us a table right away.  Love.

The waiter was pleasant and attentive, but didn’t hover.  Love.

The waiter knew about their food: how it was prepared, where they got their ingredients, and could easily recommend dishes.  Double love.

The food was insanely good.

Their bread comes from Mix, another Chef Dupont owned property downtown, just a few blocks away.  It was heavenly.

The butter, oh the butter…  It was made on the premises and was a delicious compound butter made with shallots, lemon zest, parsley, garlic, and probably another thing or two.  Drool.

The seared Ahi tuna with the flavors of orange, soy sauce, and black sesame seeds was phenomenal.

The fried oysters and okra was delicious.

My grilled smoked steak was yummy.  My tomato and mushroom tart was scrumptious, and I hate tomatoes and mushrooms…

Vince’s beef short ribs.  Oh freaking man, those short ribs…  I could have eaten myself silly on those short ribs.  Probably some of the best meat I’ve ever eaten.

And then, my friends, it ended with the best dessert I’ve ever eaten.  I am not even kidding.

Strawberry cobbler.

I think I uttered “Oh my GOD!” after every bite.  It almost brings a tear to my eye thinking about how I don’t know when I’ll have that cobbler again.  It was so unbelievably good.

I cant’ even describe it to you, it was just so, so, so good.

I am now a Chef Dupont convert.  I can’t wait to go back to the Cafe, and to check out Mix {the bakery}.

If he wrote a cookbook, I’d buy it in a heartbeat.  If he did cooking classes, I’d so go.

His food is unlike anything I’ve ever eaten and I’m so grateful I had a chance to share that with Vince.

We had a great time, just the two of us, at our little table.

We talked, it was like old times.  I love Babydoll, but it had been a while since just the two of us had a chance to connect.

Perfect night.

 

One is Entirely Too Many

1 is 2 Many

There are many things we want lots of.  I want lots of chocolate, great memories with my family, and good things said about me.

Then, there are some things that even one is too many:  spiders, Brussels sprouts, and domestic abuse.

We know the one in four statistic: one in four women have been a victim of domestic violence at some point in their life.

What we don’t know so well are these other statistics:

1 is 2 Many

The White House recently released a new PSA for the 1 is 2 Many campaign.

Folks, one is too many.  Entirely too many.

I know we often focus on grown women who are affected by violence, but I think it is equally as important to focus on our daughters, and to do so before it’s too late.

I appreciate the campaign’s information for parents about talking to their teens.  We really need to do it before then, though.

Don’t wait till your daughter comes home one day with a black eye.  Don’t wait till she’s been forced to do something she didn’t want to.

Do it now.  It doesn’t matter if she’s only five, or eight, or ten.  You can still talk to her about violence in an age-appropriate manner.

Unfortunately, the world we live in is filled with mean people, and no amount of sheltering is going to change that fact.  Equip your daughters for life.

And, equip your sons.  Teach them that there are appropriate ways to express their anger.

Teach them that it’s never OK to hit anyone.  Teach them it’s never OK to yell and say hurtful things.

Teach them it’s not OK to control someone.

We can’t keep putting a band-aid on this problem; we need to address the root, and like most things, it starts in the home.

 

The Secret Weapon for Your First Time

New Help1

Yesterday I shared with you a bit about our very first day of homeschooling.

I promised you I’d tell you about a little secret something I’d wished I’d had…

After writing So, You Think You Wanna Homeschool?, I realized that the book was just one part of what I wanted to do.

I really wanted to connect with people, to help them.  To just be there for them.

To offer them any support I could, to hopefully help them avoid some of what I went through.

I’m excited to announce that Sam {of Sam’s Noggin} and I have come together to bring you So, You Think You Wanna Homeschool? – The Class!

A Class for ALL Homeschoolers!

While our immediate focus is on new homeschoolers, Sam and I both feel that any homeschooler can benefit from a support system and a fresh perspective.

Homeschooling is always changing and we as homeschoolers love bouncing ideas off of other homeschoolers!

So, what will the class cover?

  • How to find the legal requirements in your area and fulfill those
  • How to find and choose curricula and other resources that work with your values, style, and needs
  • Specific ways to organize your homeschooling materials
  • The secret to successful homeschool planning and goal-setting
  • Stellar record-keeping techniques
  • Where to find your people {how to build your support system}
  • The things nobody tells you to do during your first week of homeschooling

You’ll get a ton from the course:

  • Seven days of written lessons, each including a video, handout, or both
  • Interaction and feedback from Sam and Tiffany, as well as your fellow students, in a private Facebook group
  • Two live chats
  • Access to all content, the Facebook group, and Sam and Tiffany for one full year
  • discount code for Tiffany’s eBook, “So, You Think You Wanna Homeschool?”

We’ve limited the size of each class to keep things intimate, so be sure to register before it’s too late!

We really wanted to make this affordable, and the first course is ultra-affordable!

If you sign up for our first class, you will get everything listed above for just $20! And, you’ll get a free copy of my eBook!

Head to this page to get even more info to help you make your decision and to register today!

 

The First Time

079r

Do you remember your first time?

Do you remember what you were feeling?

Do you remember who was around?

I’ll never forget our first day of homeschooling.

It was a gorgeous Fall day in Oregon.  We had all the fun boxes of curriculum.  We were stoked.  We were ready.

We took pictures.

We had nifty new binders filled with fun stuff.

 We went outside for art.

We watched as she was carefree and happy.

Turns out, that was probably the best day of the entire year.

A cross-country move followed one month after these pictures were taken.

We lived in a hotel for three months while we waited to close on our house.

We had to move into our new house and wait for our stuff to come out of storage.

In addition to the “outside forces” at work, I had no idea what I was doing, really.

I had no real support system, other than my husband.  I had curriculum and that was about it.

I stumbled along, not quite sure what I should be doing.  What it should look like.

I wish I had a road map, some sort of guide.  Someone to help me navigate all the questions that would come up.

The big ones {This math isn’t working, what do I do?} and the little ones {What type of dinner should I plan when we have a field trip that puts us out all day?}.

Stop back by tomorrow to find out about a little secret something that I wish I’d had…