It’s Summer, Baby!

Weather

It’s summertime.

My favorite season.

Yeah, boy, it’s summertime…

And you know, while I enjoy hanging here with you guys, I also enjoy hanging with my family.  We had a rough {in a good way I guess, busy-wise} year, and I just want to hang out and prepare for our next school year.

I want to eat watermelon and pick blueberries {maybe, possibly; it’s really freaking hot outside} and read books and more.

To that end, I’ll be bringing you some of the best {according to you guys!} of Sweet Phenomena from the past {almost!!!!} two years.

I have a few reviews I need to catch up on and post, so they’ll be here too, but for the most part, I’m going to enjoy my summer with my family!

Peace out, yo.  I’ll see you on the flipside.

 

Just Keep Swimming…

Sometimes, that’s what I feel like my life is like; I need to just keep swimming.

Keep going.  Just keep going, otherwise, you’ll get rolled.

Know what, though?  That’s not too fun.  When you realize all you’ve done is work, and write, and clean, and on and on, you realize how little fun you’ve had.

I like to read.  I like to write stuff I want to write.  I like to clean stuff that I want to clean.  I like to watch TV.

Someone recently gently reminded me that I needed to stop doing so much.  I didn’t like that, because well, I fancy myself Super Mom.

I decided to take heed though.  Well, somewhat.

I’ve been reading books.

I’ve been planning our next homeschool year {SO fun, can’t wait to share some stuff}.

I started a photography course.

I attempted to complete a little project with Babydoll {we were making bones from plastic molds}.

I dusted my living room.  Don’t ask me how long it’s been since I did that.

I folded AND put away laundry.

I sat outside and read.

I’ve blogged stuff I wanted to say, not what I needed to say.

I think it’s so easy for us to get caught up in everything and feel like we have to keep swimming just to keep up.

I urge you to take a step back, breathe, and do what you want to do.

After all, if Mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy…

 

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.

 

It’s Inevitable…

U by Kotex Tween

If you have a young daughter, it’s inevitable: you will have the period talk at some point.

And if you’re like me, you don’t have a lot of experience to draw upon to help you handle this situation. For all her good points, my mother didn’t really “prep” us to start our periods when we were little…

So now, I have my own little girl. While I like to think that we have an open relationship and we can {and do} talk about anything, the thought of actually having this talk with her freaks me out.

I mean, face it, it’s awkward. There are way more fun things to talk about.

This is why I am ecstatic to be a Kotex mom!

Going to the Source

When you need help with something, and information, where do you go?  Straight to the source, that’s where.

Just because we’ve dealt with this most of our lives doesn’t mean we know how to talk to our daughters about it.

That’s where Kotex Tween’s site comes in super handy.  It has an amazing selection of resources to walk you through the entire process of talking to your daughter.

The best way to become comfortable is to prepare.

And Kotex hasn’t left the girls in the dark either.  They’ve put together a great site for them as well!

Pretty Pads

I totally heart the new line of products Kotex has put together for tweens and teens.  Remember having to carry around the big, massive, pastel pink wrapped pad?

No more baby!

Look at this stuff:

U by Kotex Tween

And if we’re being honest here, I’d so use pink tampons…

The Talk

Let’s all hope our daughters can say this about us…

I can’t wait to share all I learn throughout this process, and how I prepare myself for the talk.

Hopefully I can help some of you too!

True Confessions:  I wrote this review while participating in a Brand Ambassador Campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of U by Kotex Tween and received products to facilitate my post and a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.