Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Back to School Portraits Made Easy
Photos Courtesy of LiLee Photography

So every year it's the same thing... beginning of the year portraits of the kids.  I love being able to compare them to previous years and I know in the future I will be so grateful I have them.  I have found that I personally hate the school photos that are offered twice a year.  While the companies hired do a good job with quality, they do not have the time to be able to really capture the kids and to be fair that is not what they are hired for.  Because of this, my kids either have no smile, a cheesy fake smile, or a weird expression on their face.  So when the form comes home I pass on it every single time.

The key to getting great portraits of your kids is to relax and have fun with it.  This lesson took me years to actually do but once I embraced it not only was it more enjoyable for everyone, the photos were better.  Here are 5 quick tips for your fall photos!

  1. Morning of the first day or not?  It all depends on you, your child, and your time.  I personally do them on a different day (usually the day before) so that I can take the time necessary to get the photos.  The morning of school is always super rushed for us so getting the kids to take time they don't want to, on a day full of distractions, just doesn't work.  On the other hand if your family does great on school mornings, just be sure to give yourself enough time so you don't have to rush!

  2. Have fun.  Go to a location that will be fun for the kids.  This year I took my kids to the park.  We knocked out the photos quickly because they wanted to be able to have time to play.  Not only did I get great portraits of my girls but also some awesome candids of them playing.  The best part is, my kids had fun and the memory is a positive one.  You can totally do the same thing in your yard if you are doing photos the morning of!

  3. Let your kids be themselves.  I used to pose my kids to fit exactly what I had in my head.  Don't do that!  Let them be them.  In between silly jokes and awkward faces is sheer brilliance that only your child can provide.  It can't be forced.  I let my girls do what they want and then when I see something that I think will photograph well I ask them to pause so I can capture it.  I promise you will get genuine personality if you do this.  Tip:  Try asking them questions or to make different faces (happy, sad, mad, ect) to get them moving!

  4. Relax.  When you are tense, so are your children.  Remember that this is supposed to be fun and stress-free.  If it isn't, then it's not worth it as the memory will be a negative one.

  5. Try some basic editing.  A simple crop and adjustment to the exposure can make a huge difference.  If you are lost in what to do you can always enlist the help of different workflows/presets.  Check out Sleeklens and my review of them here.
Whether your outsource the session or tackle it on your own, I encourage you to try and do some fall portraits of your kids this year apart from those you would normally order through the school and compare them.  Don't just compare the photo, but the overall experience that can come from taking the time to capture your kiddos!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Back To School Lunches for the Busy Mama

So rushing around in the mornings isn't how I love to start my day.  The last thing I want to do is slack on my girls lunches when they are heading off for a full day at school, or ask them to make a sandwich with me super fast before we have to leave.  It is important to me to try and give them a healthy well balanced meal that they will eat.  Most mornings go by incredibly fast so by prepping lunches ahead of time, it saves me some sanity.  Here are some quick tips and ideas to help you speed up your mornings without sacrificing nutrition or putting your kiddos to work!
  • Kid sizes aren't always the best.  Avoid pre-packaged, processed foods for your kids.  They are super expensive and loaded with preservative and sodium
  • Break rules.  Lunches don't have to be sandwiches and cookies.  Try making your kids lunch like you would a snack.  Think crackers or bagels!  (Go with whole grain ones when you can.)  You can add peanut butter, ham and cheese, Nutella... the choices are endless.
  • Kids love sweets.  Why not incorporate fruit into his lunch?  Slicing up fruit such as bananas, berries, or using raisins can easily be stacked onto the peanut butter crackers!  Fruit roll ups are always a hit in our home so I try and make sure to buy the ones that are real fruit leathers or roll-ups.  Fruit cups are also great just make sure they are packed in 100% fruit juice rather than syrup.
  • Smoothies!  You can hide spinach or kale so easily in fruit smoothies.  Make the night before and freeze in a thermos so that it is slushy for lunch the next day!
  • Raw veggies for the win!  I have gotten my girls to eat carrots, celery, tomatoes, cucumbers if I pair it with a dressing or dip.  Ranch works wonders!
  • Use what you got.  If you kid loved dinner last night, put it in a thermos and let him enjoy it for lunch!
One thing I love to do is to buy 5 containers that I can pre-pack when I know we are going to have a busy week.  These containers from Amazon are the perfect size to fit into a lunchbox!  I can prep them, stack them in the fridge and bam.. done for the next day, or few days, or week!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Back To School Recipes for a Stress-Free Morning
Recipes found on Whole Living

Okay let’s be honest, school is starting this week and the transition from summer schedule to school schedule is never an easy one.  This year I decided to do a trial run of a school morning since I am going from one daughter in elementary school to two and the thought of getting them both up, showered, dressed, fed, and out the door by 6:15 is terrifying.

This morning was a trial run and let me tell you… the struggle was real.  (See their faces?!)
We all know that picking out outfits the night before and packing up the backpacks will help the morning run smoother.  Another tip is to prep breakfast during the weekend before the week starts.  This will not only help speed up the morning but will also ensure that your kiddos are getting a healthy start for their day! 

Below are 4 of my favorite make ahead breakfasts.  The best part about them is that my girls help prep on Sundays!  This not only teaches them about responsibility and the importance of being on time during the week, but also doubles as a bonding activity!

Good Luck This Week Y'all! 
(And maybe send some prayers my way!)

Banana - Zucchini Muffins

            Nonstick cooking spray
            1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
            ½ cup ground flaxseed
            1 cup lightly packed light-brown sugar
            2 tsp baking soda
            1 tsp baking powder
            ½ tsp coarse salt
            1 tsp ground cinnamon
            1 ½ cups coarsely grated zucchini (from large zucchini)
            1/3 cup mashed ripe banana (from one large banana)
            ¾ cup whole milk
            1 large egg, lightly beaten
            1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat 12 standard muffin cups with cooking spray. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, flaxseed, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Add zucchini and banana and stir to combine. In a small bowl, whisk together milk, egg, and vanilla. Add milk mixture to flour mixture and stir until combined (do not over mix).
Divide batter among muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Let muffins cool completely in pan on a wire rack, about 30 minutes.

Grab and Go Breakfast Bars

            1 Tbsp walnut oil, plus more for pan
            1 ¼ cups spelt flakes
            ½ cup dried cherries
            ¼ cup ground flaxseeds
            ¼ cup coarsely chopped pecans
            2 Tbps coarsely chopped pistachios
            ¼ tsp salt
            ½ cup honey
            ¼ cup natural creamy peanut butter
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Brush an 8-by-8-inch baking dish with oil. Line bottom and two sides with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on each side. Brush paper with oil. In a bowl, combine spelt, cherries, flaxseeds, pecans, pistachios, and salt; set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine honey, peanut butter, oil, and vanilla. Cook over medium until melted. Add to dry ingredients and stir to combine. Transfer mixture to prepared pan; smooth top. Bake until golden and edges pull away from sides of pan, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool completely in pan. Using paper overhang, lift bars out of pan. On a cutting board, cut into 8 pieces using a serrated knife. Store in an airtight container, separating pieces with wax or parchment paper, for one week.

Bacon – Cheese Quiche

            All purpose flour, for rolling
            1 homemade or store-bought single-crust pie dough
            1 Tbsp unsalted butter
            2 cups medium diced yellow onion (large)
            Coarse salt and ground pepper
            6 large eggs
            ¾ heavy cream
            ¾ lb bacon, cooked and crumbled
            1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese (4 ounces)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly flour a rolling pin and work surface and roll out dough to a 12-inch round. Place in a 9-inch pie plate, fold overhang under, and crimp edge. Place a sheet of parchment paper over dough and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until edge is dry and light golden, about 20 minutes. Remove parchment and weights.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high. Add onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook until light golden, 8 to 10 minutes. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and cream. Add onion, bacon, and cheese and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Whisk to combine, pour into crust, and bake until center of quiche is just set, 40 to 45 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tip:  1. Feel free to add in veggies or different cheeses depending on your tastes!  2. You can make mini-quiche using muffin tins for individual portions that are easy to grab!

Banana – Yogurt Smoothie

            2 tsp flaxseeds
            1 medium banana (6 ounces)
            ½ cup low-fat plain yogurt
            1 to 2 tsp honey
            2/3 cup ice cubes
            Place flaxseed in blender and puree for 30 seconds or until ground
            Add remaining ingredients and blend until thick!
Tip:  I add in Kale to majority of our smoothies.  My girls love that it turns green and it sneaks in a necessary dose of nutrition without the argument!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Skinny Grapefruit G and T

All photos by Jenn

Is it just me or have grapefruit - flavored spirits completely taken over everything?  I've been seeing grapefruit flavored vodkas, rums and mixers all over the place and, let me tell you, I'm completely on board!  I LOOOOVE grapefruit and although it's not a summer seasonal fruit it's a delightfully refreshing addition to your summer cocktail.

This skinny cocktail has been my "go-to" all summer long!  I make it with gin but it is equally delicious with vodka.

Skinny Grapefruit G & T
makes 1 cocktail

1 shot (1.5 ounces) gin
2 shots (3 ounces) light grapefruit juice or freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
diet tonic water
fresh mint leaves
lime wedges

Place gin and grapefruit juice in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously.
Pour gin and grapefruit mix into glass with ice and top with diet tonic water.  Stir and top with fresh mint and a squeeze of lime.

Monday, August 8, 2016

I didn't have my mat while on vacation, so a towel is what I used while doing my practice on the balcony.

Namaste:  The Benefits of Yoga & Why You Should Try It

This year I have decided to try and change myself for the better.  My goals were to eat healthier, exercise more, be a better mother, be a better wife, and really get in touch with who I am as a person.  All around, i wanted to live my life the happiest way possible.

I have made a ton of changes this year that have helped me in this journey.  I poured myself into books that made me open my mind to different ways of thinking and dealing with everyday life.  [I will address the books in a different post!]  I also started to make a fitness schedule and stick to it.  The new schedule included yoga once a week.

We all know that yoga helps with flexibility, muscle strength, posture, increases blood flow, the lists goes on.  For me, I needed something in my life that was a calming moment I could take just for myself.

As a mom of two young girls married to a man who is away for work more than home (yay for deployments), I get overwhelmed.  Add those two things to the normal house checklist, taking care of our dogs, running a photography business... yeah sometimes I drop the ball when it comes to taking care of myself.  It happens to the best of us.  Motherhood is hard and comes in all forms.  No matter what your situation, you need time for you.

Why I found yoga to be a saving grace at least once a week

I always played sports growing up.  Working out while playing sports and having that team support made it easy to stay in amazing shape.  As an adult and as a mother, we no longer really have this.  I had to find ways to do things I loved, but do them on my own.  

I love to run.  It is my excuse to get outside.  Let's face it though, those who know me know I am a fair weather running.  I am not going out in the rain, snow, cold, ect.  It's not happening.  I had to find something as therapeutic that I could do indoors so yoga seemed like an amazing choice.  Plus as I get older, it is something I can continue to practice and enjoy.

I am no yogi [yet] but I love the practice.  Some of my favorite benefits that have helped me tremendously this year in my journey include:
  • Helps me focus
  • Promoted a healthier lifestyle
  • Relaxes me
  • Helps with balance
  • Helps me sleep better
  • Gives me inner strength
  • Gives me peace of mind
  • All around makes me a happier person

I used to practice yoga before I moved from Virginia to Myrtle Beach in my house and I am now super excited to have a yoga studio within walking distance to my new home.  I haven't tried the studio yet, but I did stop by Yoga In Common to check it out and I am crazy excited to begin classes with them this fall when both my girls are in school.  [If you are needing a yoga partner and want to join me when going to some classes let me know!  I would love to get a group together consistently!]

I urge you to give it a try.  You can join a local class, or YouTube it and do it in a quiet space in your home or on the beach.  I promise when you try it, you will see why it has quickly become something I find beneficial in all aspects of my life.

Take a moment, breathe and reflect.  You deserve it.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Neighborhood Spotlight:  Tupelo Honey Cafe

One of the main reasons I moved to The Market Common was because of the shopping and restaurants.  Being within walking distance to some amazing eateries has made it fun to try different places more often.  One place that never disappoints me is Tupelo Honey.

Tupelo Honey was first opened in downtown Asheville, NC in 2000 and was one of the first farm-to-table eateries in the city.  By 2015, Tupelo Honey has opened 12 locations over multiple states and has also published two cook books which can be purchased online or in their restaurant!

Each location is privately owned and operated.  The brand continues to stay actively involved in the communities they serve.  In Myrtle Beach, Tupelo Honey Cafe partners with the Low Country Food Bank!

From the moment you walk in, you will fall in love with the decor.  I have a love for interior design and the effort and imagination that goes into the design of a restaurant is not lost on me.  The aesthetics in which you find yourself dining enhances the experience that is Tupelo.

With that being said, the food and handcrafted cocktails are amazing.  The menu is innovative and hits you with a "new southern flavor" that will keep you coming back for more.  You will find influences in the well crafted dishes from South America, to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

Fun Bonus Fact:  This location has a private room for events.  The local Myrtle beach Tuesdays Together group 
co-lead, met there for one of our Rising Tide 
Society monthly meetings and it was perfect!

What are you waiting for?  Head over to Tupelo Honey Cafe in The Market Common, order a Carolina Peach Mai Tai, and enjoy your next night out!

Monday-Thursday: 11am-10pm
Friday: 11am-10pm
Saturday: 10am-10pm
Sunday: 10am-9pm

Brunch + Lunch: Open-4pm | Dinner: 4pm-Close | Happy Hour: Mon-Fri, 4-8pm

The Market Common
3042 Howard Ave
Myrtle Beach, SC 29577
Phone: 843-315-3780

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

My Favorite At-Home HIIT

Hello, August!  
And because it's August in South Carolina... I'm not interested in stepping a toe outdoors. 
So here's my favorite HIIT workout that I can do in the comfort of my living room. 

Being a new mom, it's so simple to put this to use when baby is napping - the whole circuit takes about 20 minutes... I'm dripping in sweat afterwards and I still have time for a shower before the little one wakes up!  Woop!

Try to do the circuit as fast as you can to keep your heart rate up.  Take breaks in between each set!

100 Jumping Jacks
5 Pushups
25 High Knees
7 Burpees
10 Crunches
7 Squats
5 Pushups
10 Crunches
5 Pushups
7 Squats
100 Jumping Jacks
5 Pushups
25 High Knees

Repeat 3 Times