April 30, 2012

A Sunday Evening

Let's all take a minute to escape reality. Press play, it helps to ease the Monday blues.

Forget about Monday, right now we're on a Sunday drive together - speeding down an old country road. Windows open, a warm Southern wind in our hair, The Rolling Stones booming from the car stereo.

This is precisely where Jake and I found ourselves yesterday. After a weekend of hard work, we stole a moment to drift off into Sunday bliss.

 In a state as beautiful as ours, gems like this are around every corner. I grabbed my camera and crouched on the side of the road, hoping to snap a few photos while there was still daylight.

 For a moment, I was lost there - in that field of yellow - taken aback by the beauty of those majestic animals. Horses will forever remind me of my hometown, just outside of Saratoga Springs, New York, where warm weather signaled the start of track season.

Eventually, I was snapped back into reality... Time to get home and finish some last minute chores before the weekend was over (waah!). 

I can't help but feel grateful on this Monday morning, that Sunday evenings exist.

April 26, 2012

The Things that Keep Us Up at Night

So much is weighing on my mind lately. I wake up in the middle of the night - fists and jaw tightly clenched. This is when I visualize my happy place. A moment in time when everything was in its right place.

I find myself in Hawaii at dusk on the beach with my brand new husband. Sunburns radiating heat, snarly salty hair from a day of swimming in the ocean. Stomachs full from gorging ourselves on shrimp tacos and shaved ice. We sit perched on a stone wall watching the sun set over surfers trying to catch a last wave before nightfall. 

So much uncertainty stretched out before us.

I go there in my mind from time to time. I imagine us returning someday. Wrinkled hands holding each others' in an old familiar way. Laughing to ourselves about all of the worrying that we did. 

How funny, we thought that we could control the things that kept us up at night.

April 24, 2012

An Explanation

You may have noticed that I've been a little scarce around this place. I'm not going to pile on the excuses, please just know that I have missed sharing myself here.

I've made a conscious effort to maintain this blog as a positive outlet, and not just one more task to add to the list. Some things have come up that may require my posting to be less frequent - but I promise to stop in whenever life permits.

Today, I will be playing nurse to Penelope. She is getting spayed this morning, poor girl. I have to be honest, my stomach is in knots just thinking about her.

If praying is your thing, please send one up for Miss Penny.

April 18, 2012

First Anniversary

Jake and I celebrated our first anniversary at a nearby winery. I packed a special picnic to enjoy together after wine tasting.

Sitting beneath a tree in the warm North Carolina sun, we talked about the highs and lows of our first year of marriage. Both of us agreed on the things that we want to work on changing together. We imagined where we would be in our lives for our fifth, tenth and fiftieth wedding anniversaries. 

If life ends up looking at all like we imagined, we are in for one incredible journey together.

April 17, 2012

Stepping Out

Photo by Rhonda Danner Photography

Today, Jake and I are celebrating our first wedding anniversary somewhere special. I plan to share all about it here soon.

In the meantime, head on over to The Scribble Pad by clicking here. I am excited to be guest posting over there today. In case you missed it, I am retelling my epic trip home from Europe for Shannon's travel series.

Thank you for all of your sweet words yesterday!

April 16, 2012

Open Letters on Marriage

Something that I've realized since entering the blogging world, sharing only the surface of our marriage does not do justice to either of us. In honor of our first wedding anniversary I'd like to share some thoughts on marriage. I've geared these thoughts toward both single and married readers.

Dear single readers,

Our wedding day was only one out of the past 366 days that we have spent as husband and wife (leap year). 1/366 - is a pretty small fraction. I say this because I have found that many of us put too much time into dreaming about the wedding, rather than preparing for the marriage.

Avoid the race to get married at all costs. I promise you this, if you rush into marriage, or end up living with someone that you aren't actually compatible with, you will feel far more alone than you ever could imagine as a single person. Some of the things that life threw at Jake and I during our first year of marriage would have left us in pieces if we didn't fully trust and unconditionally love one another.

On the outside looking in, it is easy to imagine that things are perfect for us married people. It isn't. But if you're lucky - it is rewarding.

Dear married readers,

Don't be so hard on yourself. You are not alone if you have cried yourself to sleep once or twice during your first year of marriage. It is normal if the sound of your spouse's chewing makes you want to jump out of a second story window. Do you ever feel guilt for not being the perfect partner? Me too.

Let's all try to avoid the comparison trap, kapeesh? I read a quote recently that resonated with me,

Photo By Rhonda Danner Quote by Stevin Futrick

Social media and blogs are often used as a place to share our highs. Pictures when we look our best, stories of our lavish vacations, Instagrams of the best meal we have eaten in months. While these snippets are fun to share, they do not make up the majority of our lives. The truth: I have dishes piled up in my sink and the floor of my closet is completely covered with dirty laundry.

Something valuable that I learned during our first year of marriage is to take the time to celebrate one another. As adults, it is rare that others will pat you on the back, even when you may really deserve it. Be the person who gives your spouse credit where it is due.

That being said, I have to give a shout out to my husband for everything he has done during our first year to make our marriage work...

Dear Jake,

You wash more than your fair share of dishes. When I get down on myself, you remind me of who I am. You acknowledge the fact that I am the best car dancer in the history of the world. You build me up even when I may not deserve it. I am so grateful for your endless supply of patience. We made it through the dreaded first year! Happy anniversary.

P.S. I am guest blogging today over at Great Expectations! Check it out by clicking here.

April 12, 2012

Avocado Pesto Fettuccine

I have been drooling on my keyboard at the multitude of avocado pasta recipes flooding the Internet lately. But, it wasn't until I saw this recipe on one of my favorite blogs, A Cozy Kitchen, that I rushed to make my own.

This dish combines everything that is wonderful about Pesto and Avocado. The sauce is light, yet creamy, with a bright summery finish. Best of all, it is easy to make!

1 package fettucccine
2 cups of fresh basil leaves
2 Tbsp. pine nuts
2 Lemons (zest and juice from both)
3 Cloves of garlic
1 Tsp sea salt
2 Tsp crushed red pepper flakes (I added this for some spice - but it is not necessary)
4 Tbsp olive oil
Fresh cracked pepper to taste
2 avocados (using ripe quality hass avocados makes a major difference)

 Instructions (serves 4):
1. Boil fettuccine in salted water. Cool until al dente. Reserve one cup of pasta water and strain.
2. In a food processor or blender combine basil, pine nuts, garlic, lemon zest and juice, seasoning (salt, pepper and red pepper flakes). Blend ingredients until well combined.
3. Slowly add olive oil while food processor is running.
4. Add avocado and blend until mixture is smooth. Now it is time to taste, season accordingly - I added extra lemon, salt and red pepper flakes. I also used the reserved pasta water to thin the sauce out a bit since it was too thick.
5. In a large bowl, toss fettuccine with sauce until well coated.


April 10, 2012

Be Calm In Your Heart

 Wise words to live by. I post them here for as much of a reminder to myself as for each of you. The photo is an Instagram that I captured of a break in a pretty crazy storm that we had here recently. 

Do you have a particular quote or song lyric that never fails to lift you up?

The author of the above quote is listed as unknown - if you know the original source, please let me know.

April 9, 2012

Images of Easter

Easter was lovely this year. Lots of time to relax with family accompanied by great food and ample amounts of laughter. After brunch at one of our favorite restaurants on the water, we hosted desert and cocktails at our house. I didn't take the time to snap a lot of photos, but below are a few from yesterday.

Penny found Addie's eggs before she did.

Addie hunting eggs at our house. She was cut off from the candy at a certain point.

An Instagram of Addie from brunch... She insisted on wearing hot pink rain boots.

A Lyke family favorite!

I made lemon cupcakes with lemon cream cheese frosting.

Pink champagne and pastel paper straws

Lillies from Jake in my favorite vase.

An Instagram of Addie and my dad, "Pop Pop" at the park in our neighborhood.

Did you do anything special this weekend? I'd love to hear about it!

April 8, 2012

Happy Easter

Penny wanted to wish each of you a happy Easter/ Passover/ Weekend/ Whatever it is that you may celebrate :)

Because I can't stop with just one photo of this pup, here are a few more...

We made an attempt to get her into Bunny ears. Fail.

Penny's Easter Best. She looks pleased, doesn't she?

We are heading out for brunch with family and hosting desert, cocktails and an Easter egg hunt at our house afterwards. What are your plans?

April 6, 2012

Decisions, Decisions

Recently, I have been contemplating a rather big life decision. Countless pro and con lists have been scrawled on the pages of my journal. Sometimes though, the right choice is not clearly written in black-and-white.

It would take a leap of faith on my part coupled with a lot of hard work and sacrifice. Something that I know all too well: the things that are really worthwhile don't always come easy.

* * *

I hope to share more with you about this in the future... But right now, it feels good to think out loud.

Do you have any decision making suggestions for me? I'd love to hear what works for you.

*The quote above is by Bill Cosby. Thanks, Bill :)

April 5, 2012

DSLR Photography: Understanding ISO

The next segment of DLSR photography that we will cover is ISO. If you missed them, you can learn more about exposure and aperture by clicking here and shutter speed by clicking here. I highly recommend reading those posts before continuing.

ISO stands for the International Organization for Standardization. ISO is the sensitivity of the camera's sensor to light. ISO numbers usually start at 100 and can go up to 12,800 or higher. My camera allows me to put my ISO as high as 6400. 

The lower the ISO number, the less sensitive to light the camera's sensor will be. The higher the ISO number, the more sensitive to light the sensor will be. If ISO is set to 100 there will need to be more available light, or the aperture and/or shutter speed will need to be manipulated to let more light in.

It is tempting to crank up the ISO when more light is needed. Avoid this pitfall at all costs. The higher the ISO is cranked, the more camera noise can show up on an image (think of a grainy, or less crisp and clear image). The amount of noise created by cranking the ISO depends on what camera is being used. With my camera, I start to notice noise once my ISO is set to 800 or higher.

I always look at the situation I am photographing first to determine which element of the exposure triangle is most important for me to focus on. For example, if background blur is the most important element that I want from a given image (I use this alot in food photography), I will set my aperture first. Next, I will move to setting shutter speed. I always try to use any combination possible between shutter speed and aperture to get a properly exposed image before I increase the ISO.

A different situation may call for my shutter speed to be the most important element. This would be any instance where I want to either show or stop movement. For example, if I am shooting photos of my dog (she is always moving - and fast!) I would need a fast shutter speed. In many situations where my shutter speed is very fast, even with the aperture open all the way up (to let more light in), I still do not have enough available light to achieve a properly exposed image. This makes boosting my ISO necessary. Increasing ISO is fine and often necessary, just try not to use it as a crutch. Boost ISO when all other options have been experimented with. 

(Note: Ultimately, the effective amount of noise in the final image is up to you. In some situations you may decide that you like the look of noise/ you may want a grainy photo to give a certain mood. If you are not enlarging images and are using them in a small format on your blog, noise may not be a big factor. Therefore, increasing your ISO would not cause a problem with the final output of your image.)

Below are the steps to change ISO on my camera, most Canon DSLRs have similar steps.

1.) The image Below is where ISO is shown on the home screen. It can also be found when looking through the viewfinder, on the bottom right.

2.) To change ISO hit the ISO button on the front of the camera (location below).

3.) This will prompt the ISO screen to pop up (or will make ISO the highlighted option through the viewfinder).

4.) Move the front dial (pictured below) to select which ISO number to use.

There are many ways to create a properly exposed image. Any single setting is usually interchangeable with another setting to create the same exposure. Basically, it is all about playing around with your camera, shooting a lot, and comparing images to decide what works best for you.

I hope that the exposure triangle posts have helped you to get started. I plan to continue photography tutorials here on the blog... 

Is there anything that you would like me to cover next?

April 3, 2012

Ellie's Creole Chicken Gumbo

My paternal grandmother, "Grandma Ellie", had such a loud personality. From her bedazzled clothes, to her boisterous and contagious laugh - it was impossible not to smile when she was in the room. 

Grandma Ellie's favorite possession was her Polaroid camera. Not a single family event would go by without her gathering all of us grand kids (read: forcing us kicking and screaming) together for a photo. I have to laugh, because I have followed in her footsteps in this regard. Yes, lovely family, I can see your eyes roll when I exclaim, "Picture time!".

Two recipes in particular come to mind when I think about Ellie - Spanish rice and chicken gumbo. These were staples for her. When I was older, I learned that her gumbo wasn't exactly home made (Campbell's had me fooled). For me this only adds to Ellie's quirky charm.

In Ellie's honor I'd like to share an easy (I'm talking 40 minutes from start to finish and it's all cooked in one pot!) and satisfying chicken gumbo recipe.

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 red bell pepper chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper chopped
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 5 celery stalks chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves chopped
  • 10 ounces corn (use canned or frozen to save time)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes and chilis (I used Rotel's spicy mix to add some heat)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons creole seasoning (I found this in the spice aisle of my grocery store, it includes paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper)
  • 10 ounces cut okra (to shave off time, use frozen or canned)
  • 8 ounces smoked andouille sausage halved and sliced (I used precooked, again to save time)
  • 1 rotisserie chicken (about 2 1/2 pounds), skin and bones removed, meat shredded (about 4 cups) (this is a BIG time saver)
  • 4 cups chicken broth.
  • White rice (I made 3 cups)
  1. In a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil on medium. Whisk in flour and cook until pale golden, 5 to 7 minutes (be sure to whisk continuously). Stir in bell peppers, celery, onion, garlic, creole seasoning and oregano. Cook until vegetables are crisp-tender 10 to 12 minutes (stir occasionally).
  2. Add 4 cups chicken broth to vegetables. Bring to a boil. Stir in shredded chicken, okra, corn and diced tomatoes and warm through (about 2 minutes). Salt and pepper to taste. For extra spice, add Tabasco sauce. To plate, ladle gumbo over white rice.

Serve with sweet tea and cornbread, y'all :)

Do you have a favorite family recipe? I'd love to hear about it!

*Recipe altered and adapted from marthastewart.com

April 2, 2012

Best of Instagram Week 7

Below is a peek inside of my week (hey, that rhymes) via Instagram.

1.) Addie enjoying an ice cream cone 2.) My birthday flowers from Jake 3.) Guster, my parent's crazy cat 4.) Addie playing dress up 5.) On my way to Addie's 3rd bday bash 6.) Addie's cake 7.) My Geee-tar 8.) Making lasagna for our neighbors (they had a baby!) 9.) Our newest next door neighbor, Chase!
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