28 February 2013

Thursday Update

Thursdays are my last day of school during the week and my last day off before I go back to work (I work Fridays, Sundays, and Mondays) so it's a good day to recap what's been going on and talk about what's in store for the weekend and the next school week. This week I'm going to talk about all of February since it's the first update! I'm going to try to post a short little update like this every Thursday just to keep you filled in regarding my day to day life :)

This past (few) week(s) in photos/instagram:

Celebrating 211 much more quietly than in past years... getting a hot drink at Skybar after work. 
I got really into hot toddies in these chilly winter months! Whiskey, honey, lemon juice, hot water, garnished with cinnamon sticks, lemon slices, and cloves.

Valentines day was nice and quiet since my boyfriend Colton and I were taking a trip the following weekend that was kind of a christmas/valentines gift hybrid. I went shopping on my break between classes and bought a couple cute dresses and that night we made a nice Italian dinner at home. We did get each other a few small gifts but nothing crazy.
Spearmint gum (my favy) leek and morel mushroom jack cheese (yesss), some potted flowers, and coconut water. Perfect Vday gifts for this girl.
 That weekend Colton and I went to see one of our FAVORITE comedians, Louis C.K! We drove up to phoenix for the show, stayed in a nice hotel in tempe, went to an only so-so restaurant for dinner, and went to the late show which they were filming for HBO! it was sooooo fun and I'd pay 45$ a ticket to see him again any day. 
Hotel mirror pic! Right before leaving for dinner.
A week ago last Wednesday it snowed in Tucson! I've live in Tucson since Fall of 2010 and I've never seen snow here, other than way up on Mt Lemmon. It was really awesome... big, fluffy flakes were falling all day and night long and the next morning there was a wee bit that actually stuck. Of course it was gone by noon. Still cool to see though!
And of course Clem had her birthday on Sunday but I showed you that pic.

Here's what else has been going on this week:

I turned in my first test for my Screen Artists class, and received my grade for my first Roman Literature test. 96%! Not bad considering I was almost certain I would sound very stupid next to all the Classics majors in the class... I've never taken a Rome-focused classics class and it's actually been about a year since I took a classics class at all. 

I've lost 16.6 lbs total since I started actively trying to lose weight on January 17th. Woo!

I finally made a tumblr but I have no idea how to use it so someone should inform me...

I got my first paycheck since upping my hours at work back to 3 shifts a week. That's what I started with a year and a half ago but after Linn died I went down to 2 shifts and then to one measly 7 hr shift a week. It felt soooo good to have a paycheck over 120$ again! I'm looking forward to hitting up Joanns for some nice fabric and filling out my Etsy store.

Here's what's coming up:

Tonight I'm driving Clem and myself up to Prescott. Tomorrow my Dad and I will be going up to Flagstaff for a little ski vacation. I haven't skied since I was about 7 or so and I remember a lot of falling so... should be interesting. but fun!

Next week is the last school week before spring break! yay!

I have a TON of my own recipes saved on my computer, all with serving sizes and calorie breakdowns. This week I'd like to remake a couple of them and take pictures so I can share them on this blog! Looking forward to another week of healthy eating. 

 That's all for now! Have a great week/month and see you again in a few days!

27 February 2013

20 in my 20th: Make Ina Garten's Mac n Cheese

Back in May of 2011, a few days after I turned 20, I had the idea to make a list of 20 things I wanted to do in my 20th year. I did a handful and blogged about them, and then I stopped blogging when life got crazy. I actually still did a few more before my 21st birthday last May though, about half in total. I even have pictures, I just never blogged about it. So, over the next few weeks I'm going to be posting a few 20 in my 20ths that never got their rightful post back when I did them.

#15. Make this mac and cheese

I wanted to make this mac and cheese ever since I saw the Barefoot Contessa episode where Ina Garten makes it. I only have three distinct memories of Ina Garten. An episode of BC where she put a tbsp of butter inside each hamburger patty,  the episode of 30 rock where Liz Lemon fantasizes about Ina inviting over for a bruschetta and a bottle of white wine, and the episode in which she made this macaroni and cheese.

Ina's recipes are always kind of over-the-top decadent, but where Paula Dean's zealous misuse of butter seems startling and unwarranted, Ina is so sweet and soft-spoken that all your calorie woes are easily forgotten.

Enter this mac and cheese.

It has a full pound each of pasta and cheese, a quart of whole milk, sherry, and yeah, a sh*tload of butter. But it also has mushrooms, so.. yeah.

I made this probably like a year ago and it was a. expensive (10 dollars for 3 oz of truffle butter, not to mention the 12 oz of gruyere....) b. time consuming (shopping for all the obscure ingredients, chopping a pound of mushrooms, etc) and c. one of the best thing's I've EVER cooked or tasted. I seriously remember the night I made it, sitting at home by myself with a plate of it in front of me and marveling at how out of this world amazing it was. It was quite a moment. I haven't made it since... mostly because it's hard for me to ever justify making mac and cheese (even though it's one of my favorite things to cook), let alone one that will set me back 60$. But IF the right time should arise again... say for a holiday, or if I could somehow get people to pay me for it... I would gladly do so.

This recipe is pretty much copied and pasted from foodnetwork.com, just with some of my pictures added. I made no variations to the recipe when I made it.

Also forgive the quality of these photos... they were taken in my old, old apartment complex (Lantana). I have since lived in two different homes, both of which have much better lighting. better pretty much everything actually.


2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Good olive oil
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms
3 tablespoons cream sherry
Kosher salt
1 pound pasta, such as cavatappi
3 ounces white truffle butter (recommended: D'Artagnan)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 quart whole milk, scalded
12 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (4 cups)
8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (2 1/2 to 3 cups)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley leaves
1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Remove caps from mushrooms and slice into 1/4-1/2 inch slices. (I sliced mine 1/2 inch but found that some of the bigger shiitake pieces were a little overwhelming and difficult to eat)

that's a lot of mushrooms..
 Heat the butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12-inch) saute pan, add the mushrooms, and cook over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes, until they are tender. Add the sherry and continue to saute for a few more minutes, until the sherry is absorbed. Set aside. (I did this in two batches. seriously, sooo many mushrooms)

doesn't look that appetizing... but just the mushrooms cooked in butter, olive oil, and sherry were so yummy
 Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a splash of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Add the pasta and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until al dente. Drain well.

Meanwhile, melt the truffle butter in a large (4-quart) saucepan and whisk in the flour.

Cook for 2 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly with a whisk. Slowly whisk in the hot milk and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the white sauce is thickened and creamy. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, 1 1/2 tablespoons salt, the pepper, and nutmeg.

Combine the pasta, sauce, and mushrooms in a large bowl and pour them into a 10 by 13 by 2-inch baking dish.
Place the garlic and parsley in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until they're minced. Add the bread crumbs and pulse to combine. Sprinkle the crumbs over the pasta and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the crumbs are golden brown. Serve hot. 

I have no idea why I didn't take a picture of it actually served. Hm. Anyways... This was crazy decadent, delicious, and hands down the best mac and cheese I've ever made or eaten. Glad I got the important things done in my 20th year ;)

25 February 2013

Making your own Light Tent for under 25$

When I was considering opening up an Etsy shop, one thing that I thought about was being able to take good, high quality photos of my products. It's so important to have clean, professional looking photos of products for advertising- especially when the customer is expected to purchase the product without ever getting to see it, touch it, or try it on in person! Dark, fuzzy camera-phone pics will just not grab the eye of any potential buyer.

I already have a very nice Nikon D40 DSLR which takes great photographs. However, without proper lighting and backdrop, the photos still wont look like "professional" quality. If you've ever wondered how photos of products with a smooth, bright white background like these pictures are taken...

...It's with a light tent! A light tent is typically a box large enough to hold small-medium sized objects for photographing. It is covered by fabric on the top and three sides, with one side left open. The back wall of the tent can be covered in fabric or paper, and curves smoothly into the floor to create a seamless backdrop with no edges or creases. The tent is the lit anywhere from one to all sides to get the lighting effect desired.

On amazon and photography shops, light tents can cost a pretty penny, sometimes up to a couple hundred dollars. This is not exactly a feasible option for someone starting a small online business! I decided, after a bit of research, to try my hand at making my own light tent for just a few dollars and about 45 minutes of construction time. Turns out it was really easy and the results were awesome!

The tutorial I used can be found here, but here's a basic rundown of the supplies and cost:

You will need
- a large, square-ish box. I got mine from work so that was free.
- 2 yards of white muslin fabric from Joann's or another fabric store. this was $1.25 a yard so only $2.50!
-2 large sheets of white bristol board, found near the yellow bristol drawing pads in the craft store- mine was a dollar a sheet. 2$.
-masking or packing tape, a ruler, a sharpie, exacto knife and/or scissors- assuming you already have these on hand, free.
- lighting fixture. I bought a clamp-on work light at home depot for $8.50. it's sturdy and works perfectly for what I need it for.
-light bulbs. I bought a pack of 4 100 watt "daylight" (provides bright white, rather than yellow light) bulbs for $8, also at home depot. 4 bulbs should last me years!

Total cost: 21$. Note that you can also purchase fewer bulbs, and if you already have an adjustable desk lamp (or any small lamp that can be moved around easily) you can omit the work light cost!

I'm really happy with how my light tent turned out. The quality is great! Here are a few example from when I was testing it out:

And here's the first product photo I took. It really helps the image appear clean and bright!
I'm really looking forward to continuing to use my light tent as I build up my shop. If you're interested in photographing products for a store or otherwise I encourage you to consider making your own light tent before you splurge on something you find online!

Have a lovely week!

Love, Em

24 February 2013

New Things, Old Things

I've decided, after nearly a one year hiatus, to try to start blogging again. It's been something I've wanted to do for a very, very long time, but due to life circumstances have not had enough time, motivation, or mental stamina. The past year and a half of my life has been very strenuous and difficult (I might go into it more in future posts but for now all I can say is it was very taxing), but now I finally feel I have reached a point where I am able to once again devote time and healthy, positive energy towards this blog.

Many things have changed over the past year, and I feel I've really grown as a person and learned many things about myself, both pleasant and unpleasant. The past few months, in particular, have been like emerging from a dark cave I hadn't realized I had been trapped in. I feel a fresh, invigorating new appreciation for life and an ability to once again see things clearly! It's been amazing.

Lots of exciting things are happening right now, too, which I feel are really propelling me towards a positive future. In order to reflect all the many things that have happened and are happening, I decided that a new blog design was crucial to my renewed desire to blog. My old blog design, which I lovingly designed and took many hours to perfect, was made when I was 19 and still (relatively) fresh faced and oblivious to the trials and tribulations of life. It was lovely, but also rather gaudy. I feel like this new, muted grey and floral look is a much more accurate representation of myself at this stage in my life.. and I think it's much easier on the eyes! I hope you agree.

While my interests and thus the content of this blog will for the most part stay the same (cooking, fashion, film and television, health and fitness), there will be some new things dominating my time and thus likely playing a part in this blog! For instance:

Over the past year, I have become very interested in sewing. I even have my own craft room at my current house! A couple weeks ago I opened up my own Etsy shop, which specializes in fabric housewares, accessories, apparel, and upcycled vintage clothing. There is a new link for my shop at the top right of my blog and I hope you will visit it as I begin to add more items! On this blog, you can expect to see some DIYs, patterns, and updates on my crafting and shop.

As always, I am very interested in nutrition, healthy eating, fitness, and weight loss. I gained a fair amount of weight over the past year as a result of depression and alcohol abuse and while I am very pleased to no longer have issues with either of these terrible ailments, the weight has stuck around as a bitter reminder. Through menial exercise and daily calorie counting I have already managed to lose 15 pounds in about a month and a half, but I still have quite a few pounds to go. Expect to see low-calorie, delicious recipes and perhaps my thoughts and experiences with various workout regimens that I experiment with as I whittle my way back down to my ideal size. For recipes that already exist on my site click here, and for my current weights workout routine which I supplement with various forms of cardio, click here.

I am going to be graduating with my BA in Film and Televison (formerly known as Media Arts) this December, meaning I am a quarter way through my senior year at the moment. As I near this exciting turning point in my academic career, you may see many things relating to my current school work and film studies on this blog.

And finally... this isn't much of a change and it won't really influence this blog, but my darling Clementine turned TWO today! What a big girl! Here she is the day after I got her, at 5 months:

On her 1st birthday, last year:

And now at 2 years old!:
Hm. Looks like she's gotten scruffier and her dresses have gotten fancier. Don't worry, I'm not one of those people that always has their dog dressed up. Just on her birthday!

Well, I hope to be able to write in here at least a couple days at week. I'm busy with school and work (at Brooklyn, still!), but I am very eager to get back on this train and continue doing and writing about the things I love.

Thank you for being here after all this time!

Love, Em