Review: StudiOne’s Fit Camp {from home}

So remember when I told y’all about that 12 week remote fit camp that I signed up for in Feb? Here’s that original post: Fit Camp! {from home}. Well…I DID IT! I completely loved it, needed it, and desperately want it back in my life again. It was the first time in far too long that I felt like I got my strength back, and then some.

Continue reading Review: StudiOne’s Fit Camp {from home}

Review: LuLaRoe w/ Sarah Crook

Here’s my average morning: It’s 6 a.m. and one of my…..no wait…ahhh…now both of my babies are awake. I now have about 90 seconds to get myself together for the day before one of them starts crying.

While Sean gets ready for work I quickly brush my teeth, wash my face, throw my hair in a messy bun, and change into something. Daaahhh what do I wear? Has to be comfy enough for crawling on the floor + being crawled on by two 9½ month old twins, handling a double stroller + a yellow lab on a walk, and making a public appearance with the twins while running errands where at least 5 strangers will stop me for a conversation about twins. 😐

Especially for running errands, I usually look for an outfit that doesn’t scream: “Help me.” or “I haven’t showered in 2 days.” or “What day is it?” I’d at least like to give off an illusion of looking decent without having to put much effort in. Is that too much to ask?

Luckily, there’s always LuLaRoe in my closet. Actually, jk…it’s most likely in that gigantic pile of clean laundry that I haven’t folded in days. But regardless – it’s clean, adorable and comfy. It’s PERFECT!

I’m running out of time as Emily’s precious baby babble goes from cute to authoritative, so I grab my LuLaRoe leggings (chosen for me by the lovely LLR consultant, Sarah Crook) and matching LLR “Perfect T”.

It’s a new mama miracle. I suddenly feel ready for the day!

I was super excited to write this honest review because I look to my LLR clothes for just about everything. I’m stay at home mom of twins. I desperately need versatile clothes for any occasion. What has given me the most joy from these clothes has been how undeniably comfortable they are. It doesn’t hurt that I get to also support a friend’s business, and that I’m purchasing products that I know she personally admires. LLR has been a major breath of fresh air for ladies like me who want a trusted one-stop-shop for all things cute and comfy. And when you’ve given birth to a baby or two within the past year…trust me…you too want cute and comfy, and you want it immediately.

The consultant that I follow the most, and am reviewing in this post, is the fabulous Sarah Crook. She is an amazing consultant, y’all. Check her out.

Sarah Crook - LLR Review

https://www.facebook.com/groups/QueenCityLuLaRoewithSarah 

Her genuine enthusiasm and attention to detail in her role as a LLR consultant makes being her customer reassuring and totally exciting. The majority of her pieces are showcased through Facebook Live sales on her private group page where you can tune in, message her with questions, and choose from her constantly refreshed inventory. She’s quick to say “Hey!!” to you as you join the video so that you don’t feel silly tuning in live to watch someone you don’t know. She’s also good about re-caping the details on how each piece (shirts, dresses, leggings, etc.) will fit various sizes.

I love her LLR live sales because they often take place mid-week, they’re usually right after Sean and I have put the twins to sleep, and when I’m in the mood to shop I just pour a glass of wine and tune in with my feet up from a long day of babies being babies. It has truly become my new favorite way to shop. If I’m not feelin’ any outfits, no biggie! I just tune out whenever I want. But that rarely happens 😉 She also posts photos of adooooorable outfit pairings throughout the week and adds ideas on how she accessorizes each of them.

To give you a sample of some of my latest 4 LLR pieces that Sarah sent me, check out a little photo shoot of yours truly below. Be sure to look at each caption to see what style I’m wearing:

Perfect T + matching Leggings – Perfect for being crawled on & snuggled with.

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Perfect T + matching Leggings – On the move! Cute crawling twins not included.

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Amelia Dress – Super serious faces aside, this dress might just be my favorite:

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Amelia Dress – Just a different angle. Pockets! Wine and belt not included 😉

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Cassie Skirt – Oh hey, working world! When I start working again, I’m bringing THIS outfit with me. That cup of tea can come too.

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I love love looove them! Every single piece. Not pictured: lots of other LLR outfits that I own, but I can only wear so many outfits before a baby starts hollerin ;).

What’s your fav? I wear the Perfect T and leggings ALL.THE.TIME. But I’m kinda head over heals for the Amelia dress for a date night. And I adore that Cassie skirt for something fun mid-day this spring. Heheee!

When Sarah sent me my order, here’s how it came:

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Pretty darn adorable if you ask me! If you’re new to shopping LLR, you can rest easy knowing that she has a 14 day return policy for LLR credit. You can message her details on what you want differently and she’ll steer you in the right direction for other pieces to consider. She personalizes it which, in today’s automated world, is so refreshing.

To sum up: I’m a big fan 🙂

If you have questions, want to join her group, or want more deets, check our her page and connect with her here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/QueenCityLuLaRoewithSarah

Big hugs!

Katherine

One hundred!

It’s official, this is the 100th post on my blog! What a joy this little portal has been for me :).

I officially hit the “publish” button on my very first post (Welcome to Newlie!) here on the blog just over 4 years ago. I was so nervous even though I didn’t have any major expectations for it. I really just wanted my own little nook in the universe where I could write, format, add photos, and archive how genuinely good life is. I wanted something more than a Facebook page, an Instagram account, a few boards on Pinterest, or a place to “tweet.” I wanted a space to store up all the little and big moments in life without feeling like it was merely a memory if the details were to slip away.

As I’ve scrolled through the blog from time to time, it’s ultimately become a sweet little reminder to approach every rough day, culinary failure, painfully strenuous fitness goal, or terrible commute with the best possible perspective through wide, faithful eyes for the goodness that is always there.

Four years of 100 posts and I’m so glad that I never stopped writing. Those four years brought new adventures in food, life, traveling, writing, fitness, pregnancy, and so much more.  Below I’ll leave you with a few photos of the past 4 years in my posts. I hope that this blog has been a joy for some of you to follow along with too. I have to admit – your positive feedback in comments either on the blog or when I share links on Facebook have meant so much to me. Thank you all so much for reading along the way!

More adventures to come. Just you wait 🙂

 

 

Review: Stitch Fix

Stitch Fix has become quite the popular way to shop these days. If you’ve never heard of it…think Netflix (sans all the “instant watch” stuff) but for fashion. If you like a certain look, you get to focus your upcoming delivery on a specific look. Got a wedding coming up? Planning a girls night out soon? Need cute new work clothes? Well if you’re not a huge fan of shopping, LOVE getting packages in the mail, and like the thrill and mystery of “what’s gonna be in that delivery?!” then meet your new best friend: Stitch Fix.

Three of my best friends and I (shout out to my CUTLETS!!!) group text all the time, and one day Stitch Fix was brought up. A few of us signed up right away just to see what the fuss was all about. As soon as we each got our packages it was like the BEST way to shop with friends…but still be an introvert alone at home. PERFECT! Texted them my fashion show photos of each dress/outfit the delivery provided. They’d “yay” or “nay” the ones worth or not worth keeping. So fun, so easy…and any that I didn’t want to keep I’d just put in the return address bag and back to the little Stitch Fix factory it went! How easy.

Side note: I feel like I’m advertising. Totally not. Please know that I have no affiliation with Stitch Fix. This is purely my own little review, on my own little blog, with my own little thoughts + glass of wine talking 😉

It hasn’t always been a love-love relationship though. I’ve learned a few things over the past few months, and hope that they come in handy for you too:

  1. They send you nice things…so naturally…the prices reflects that. Booooooo. But the good thing is – the $20 you’re charged each shipment goes into the final items you keep. So, that kinda helps.
  2. You have 3-ish days to make a decision. Use those days wisely. I’ve been all “I think I could learn to like this. Yeah. Sure! I LOVE THIS!” then 24 hrs later I’m like “Kath. What are you doing. That’s expensive and you didn’t even love it right away.” I send it back and am happy as a clam that I didn’t waste precious money on something I wasn’t sure about.
  3. Get opinions from people who know you. I consult hubs – he knows how excited I am when the package arrives. Hehe. Consulting your girls over a text helps too to see what’s worth spending your $ on.
  4. FEEDBACK. Give. Feedback. Seriously. It helps! After a few packages I realized that sometimes they just need a few tries to read your notes and get to know your likes and dislikes better. Right before this package was received I got a nice little email from Stitch Fix asking if there’s anything I wanted to give a heads up to my stylist about. “…my stylist….HAH!…I’m so FANCY!” Well this time I actually did, and I LOVED this package. I spilled the beans about how much I’m in love with Fall, how I’d like a new blazer in my life + new skinny jeans to go w/ my cowboy boots + a few fun long sleeve t’s. Boy did she deliver! Check out her nice note that came with it:6O9C3508
  5. Update your profile. I hadn’t updated my profile since I started an account and I noticed that a few things were off, which probably was why some of my previous packages were too. I updated my pant size, my “love it, like it, hate it” section of different styles, and a few others. Pants were a little too big in a previous deliver, but this month? PERFECT! Just good ‘ol fashioned communication.

Now, without further adieu. Here’s what was in my delivery this month, paired w/ a few photos of me actually in them (thanks to my handsome hubs for the model-photography sesh)! What do y’all think!?!

Tadaaaaaa! So what do you think!? There’s one that I want to send back…but I’m not telling which one. The other 4 I really like. Sorry that I didn’t get a photo of just the skinny jeans. I’m wearing them in every photo (and right now actually!) and you can at least see them in the 1st two photos.

Let me know what your Stitch Fix experience has been like. Did my 5 tips help at all? Hope so. What do you think about this month’s delivery? Which ones would you keep? Can you guess the one I’m sending back? SO MANY QUESTIONS!

If you’re ready to start the Stitch Fix obsession too, here’s my referral code! https://www.stitchfix.com/referral/4997431 

Happy fashion fix’in, friends!

4 Ridiculously Good Reads

Here’s a little secret about me: I’m a slow reader. Mmmhmm. Your friend Kath, lover of reading and freelance writing, is a slow reader. I’m also easily distracted. So with those two things working against me I often default to reading short stories or “quick reads.” But the following four reads were game changers for me this summer. Each of them entertained just about everything I needed in a book:

Something suspenseful and brilliantly woven.

Something realistic and eye-opening.

Something historic and triumphant.

Something local and delicious.

1. THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

Edge…of…my…SEAT, y’all! Recently, when Sean and I were browsing an airport bookstore on our layover while heading back to Tulsa, I saw this book sitting front and center. I had heard lots of buzz about The Girl on the Train since quickly climbing the New York Times Best Sellers list. I don’t often read thrillers, but as this story takes place in England (and because I’m part-Brit) everything in me pleaded to buy it. After I bought it, Sean and I took our seats in the terminal, I began reading…and I don’t remember much of my surroundings from that point on because I was completely sucked into the story.

So the book follows the perspectives of three women who are all simultaneously conflicted, yet strangely connected, in different ways. You hear their narrations throughout the story which sheds insight and also adds juuuust the right amount of confusion, leaving you wanting to read more and more. Brilliantly written. Plenty of shocking moments. I often cringed at times….so…there’s my warning. It’s just the right amount of suspense, action, and pace of character development.

In only a few days I read the whole thing cover to cover. I wanted to read another book – immediately! It felt great to be a bookworm again; reading at a reasonable pace with the rest of the world and casually denying any mobile device or TV show to keep me entertained.

Highly recommended if you like a good suspense story…paired with a British backdrop. Lord help me if it becomes a movie – I’ll be the first one in the theatre to see it!

2. GIG

“Americans talk about their jobs.”

GigThis book exposes the stories of American jobs told very honestly in an interview setting. My degree was in Sociology, so this book is right down my alley. I adore learning about different perspectives, especially when each one highlights the variety of career paths that Americans can wander into. Some jobs are socially admired. Others…not so much. Either way, this book allows us to get the answers without asking the awkward questions; those answers are all right there for us to absorb.

It’s kind of like attending the coolest dinner or cocktail party you could imagine where all of the guests make up a crazy range of lifestyles and careers…and you get to learn all about what it means to them. Jobs like…

Software Engineer. Hat Saleswoman. Produce Stand Owner. Television Guest Coordinator. High School Math Teacher. Professional Hockey Player. Carnival Worker. Prison Guard. Political Fundraiser. Palm Reader. Crime Scene Cleaner. Anchorwoman. Advertising Executive. Campground Maintenance Worker. U.S. Congressman. Casting Director. Dog Trainer.

…and those are just a few of the jobs listed. Go buy it. Read the stories all at once or just sporadically when you’re in the mood.

You’re welcome 😉

3. THE BOYS IN THE BOAT

BITB“Nine Americans and their Epic Quest for Gold in the 1936 Berlin Olympics”

I have to admit – I’ve only just started this one, but it has made me miss rowing more than ever. I rowed competitively for 8 beautiful years, and so far every single page in this book has taken hold of that place in my heart that will forever belong to the sport of rowing.

So…that’s cool. It’s one thing to read a book that reminds you of a sport that changed your life forever. Awesome. But y’all…this book is so much more. Trust me. This incredible story, of an often misunderstood sport, is set against a time when the economic and political odds were against this crew in the height of The Great Depression. The story gracefully ping-pongs between the story of the men who heroically rose above all odds in their life, came together, and surged ahead in their quest for the Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Though I’m only mid-way through the book, I recommend it wholeheartedly. That time for the world…well, I’ll never be able to truly comprehend how hard life was. Reading this, however, brings me closer to a greater understanding and appreciation to the power of the human spirit when what’s truly “good” is triumphant.

4. EDIBLE TULSA

Edible TulsaMagazine on eating, drinking, and thinking locally in the greater Tulsa community

I was slowly strolling along the Cherry Street Farmers’ Market last weekend, trying to ignore the sun as it scorched the back of my neck. I slowly walked down the open path once or twice checking out who had the better spinach or who had the prettiest tomatoes, all while taking in the heavenly scents of fresh herbs and produce. Hmmmm I love farmers’ markets.

Suddenly my eyes caught a stand with stacks of the latest “edible Tulsa” issue for the Summer. Two smiling people stood behind it handing these issues out. “Well, that’s certainly a no-brainer.” I thought to myself. “Happy people handing out magazines with a picture of ice cream on the cover? DONE.

I picked up my pace and made a beeline for their stand, chatted them up for a bit, and learned that this is a relatively new series of issues for the greater Tulsa community. It’s a seasonal effort to highlight food, freshness, what our local chefs are up to, and simply share a taste of Tulsa. I love the idea. Working for The Culinary Institute of America just a short time ago opened up a whole new world to me; a crazy excitement for culinary standards, trends, innovations, and good ‘ol classics.

If you’re in the Tulsa area, I highly recommend picking up an issue. My favorite recipes & stories from this season? Heck yes, I’ll certainly share…

  • Apricot-Blackberry Margarita
  • Backstage at the Market
  • Paradise with a Porch
  • Fresh Peach Blackberry Ripple Ice Cream
  • …and many others 🙂

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So there we have it. Four of my personal favorites this Summer. Once I finish The Boys in the Boat, however, where to next? What should I read?! Now that you know what I love to read, how I’m occasionally a slow reader but a sucker for a heart-warming story, or suspense (hehe!) – what should I read next? Feel free to leave a comment on any of your recommendations, questions about the books I’ve shared, etc.

Happy reading 🙂

Vintage Finds @ The Flying Pig

Flying Pig Vintage Market May 30 31The Flying Pig Vintage Market has become one of my favorite places to visit on weekends. Ever need a little you-time? Like…every day? Mmmmhhmmm. Well, when I need a good dose of “Kath time” this sweet little house/business is at the top of my list of where to go here in my town, Owasso, Oklahoma. I’ll typically start off by getting a latte from The Misty Brew coffeehouse along 86th St. in Owasso as I make my way over to Main St. where The Flying Pig is. Latte in hand, I love to wander around each room in the house as well as the adorable wrap-around porch all while “oooo-ing” and “aaahh-ing” over the fun vintage and repurposed finds. When my sister-in-law, Mandy (hey girrrrl!), flew out here from Virginia to visit me and Sean for a weekend (and the Garth/Trisha concert too) she already had The Flying Pig on her “must-visit” list after seeing my photo of it on Instagram.

So twice a year The Flying Pig hosts an outdoor market and I was SO stoked to go today! The outdoor market pulls together tons of vendors who locally want to showcase their vintage and repurposed finds as well. Game on, Okies. I was ready to find some adorable new additions to my home. Wanna see!? DSC02970

After I purchased this beautiful piece below, I went out to buy 3 candles to fill the space. I love the simple contrast. It got me thinking though, this could also be an adorable stand to showcase my next ‘lil cupcake creation, or even a mini-cake?! Whaaaaat! Oooooh that’ll be so fun. Or…what about using this as a classy little envelope holder for outgoing mail or bills? Riiiight? Vintage finds can be so fun!DSC02969

Next up. This fancy-pantsy pitcher! Threw in some flowers (fake flowers…btw…not even sorry about it) to spruce it up a bit. Figured this would be an adorable bed-side table item, right? I love it.DSC02968

And finally, this vertical “Welcome” sign. Not vintage…more like a cute painted welcome sign, but I love it! Where should I put it…in my office at work? Outside our front door against the brick like this? Hmmm…. DSC02971

There we have it! More finds to come, but just felt like sharing a fun little place that I love here. Oklahoma friends – where should I go next? Being such a new Okie-import I rarely know where to go for fun finds like this and would love your suggestions.

Happy Saturday 🙂

TOP 5: Tips Once You’ve Been “Skunked”

In the past 2 months, Stella (our little angel of a yellow lab) has been sprayed by a skunk…twice. It’s an awful problem that I’ve learned is common for this area of Northeast Oklahoma. Stella The first skunk encounter happened in the middle of the night when we were sleeping. Stella has a doggie door (quite the ‘lil piece of heaven, by the way. Highly recommended if you have both a dog & fenced-in backyard!), so she occasionally lets herself out at odd hours of the night. So, when she returned inside that night something wasn’t right.

I remember it very well. Stella came barreling in through the doggie door, bolted over to her little bed by the foot of our’s, and tried to lay quietly as if nothing was wrong. “Everything’s fine!!! Nothing happened!!!” – she would’ve said…if she spoke English. I was first woken up after her explosive blast through the doggie door, then all of a sudden this aromatic horror flooded the house. You know that smell. It’s straight up nasty. Like a mixture of vinegar, burnt rubber, and sulfur. I sat up, sniffed, and thought to myself: “What the. What IIIIISSS that?!” Before I could even wake up Sean, he took one sniff and proclaimed while still half-asleep: “…..SKUNK!!”

From that point on we ran around the house like fools at 3am, not knowing what to do or how to go about the de-skunk odor process. It wasn’t just Stella we had to de-odor…it was our entire house. Y’all…like…even the TINIEST oil residue from the skunk spray can kling to your clothes, her fur, sheets, furniture, etc. smelling like this for ages. It was awful. We couldn’t figure out what Stella brushed up against even in the 1 short minute that she was in the house. We knew we had to act fast…but what were we to dooooo at 3am? 

Now that it’s happened twice in the past 2 months we’ve got our routine down like CHAMPS! Below is a list of 5 steps if this ever happens to you:

  1. Prepare for the worst.

    • Here are 2 products that you should have handy around the house, just in case. One’s a product that we thank the good Lord Jesus for creating…cause it’s truly a miracle product! The other is a home remedy that we read about online and worked wonders. Keep those home remedy ingredients handy if you don’t have access to the Nature’s Miracle product. Tomato juice is said to be more of a myth that really only helps mask a small portion of the scent, but nowhere near the amount that either of these two products can take care of:
  2. Quarantine that precious little one.

    • Your doggie, not the skunk. Or maybe it’s your child who was sprayed. Or … you? Whatever the damage – keep the poor pitiful being in quarantine while you prepare Step 4. If you waste anytime and your dog (in this case) brushes along your furniture/whatever…it will quickly keep to the fabric like it’s life depended on it. Sean and I had to throw away our comforter…but fun fact though – we didn’t like the old one anyway and I was secretly eyeing one from Pottery Barn…but was waiting for the right moment to bring it up. There’s always a silver lining to things, like this! We now have the pottery barn comforter. Win!!!!
  3. Get the cleaning scene ready. Now. Go Go Goooo!Sean-de-Skunk

    • Whether it’s your tub/shower/backyard – whatever venue you choose for the wash…get ready with your chosen cleaning product right away.
    • Suit up! See Sean…my hero…in this GLORIOUS picture from the 1st time Stella got skunked. From head to toe he was ready if she was trying to shake it off (sh-sh-sh-shake IT off!). And she did. Glad he was prepared. You should be to.
  4. Rinse. Soak. Rinse. Soap. Rinse.

    • Whatever de-skunk remedy you choose or have available, you’ll want to first rinse off the dog/human in lukewarm water, then really work in the product/home remedy into the fur/skin (especially if you know where the affected area is) and let it sit for 10-15 minutes.
    • Play some Enya, sing “Over the Rainbow,” maybe cry a little…that’s perfectly normal…but just be patient and let it soak.
    • Then, break out the shampoo and do one last cleanse. That should do it!
  5. Windows to the Walls.

    • Your dog will shake, and you will hate every minute of it, so it’s a good idea to make sure you’ve wiped down all possible traces of this horrific scent. If you don’t, the scent will most certainly linger longer than you want it to.
    • You may also have traces of the skunk odor in unforeseen places around your house. Try to remember where the skunk-infected dog/person walked inside…like…step by step. You’re going to want to wash that entire area down from “the windoooooows to the WALLS!” (-hehe). Your nausea and nostrils will thank you so much.

So, if it happens to you…good luck, and God speed 😉

Oscar Thoughts!

Okay, so I’m two-ish hours into watching the Oscars tonight….and…I’m…LOVING it! I’ve gotta be honest, I wanted Ellen to host again and wasn’t entirely thrilled that anyone other than her would be doing the job. THEN Neil Patrick Harris right from the start, had me hysterically laughing. Well done, sir. He’s killin’ in!

I’m a big fan of the movies. I always end up crying a little, sometimes more than a little, as the humbled and grateful winners stand up on that glitzy, enormous, intimidating stage and quickly attempt to thank all who flood their minds who helped them get to their success.

Many mock nights like these where wealthy individuals receive acclaim and honor for their achievements. I never understood such bitterness. We all have an unwavering love for movies because it attempts to fuse our world with others’ in the most heartfelt interpretation. Without all involved: the directors, the actors, the sound technicians, makeup artists, writers, videographers, costume designers, etc…our own perspective on life would undoubtedly be limited.

I also like that they each share a bit of competition as an artist, and it doesn’t hurt that this is also a fun annual excuse for us to see the latest fashion trends, pour a glass of wine, snuggle on the couch, attempt to make some zucchini chips (which didn’t work out too well for me tonight…) and enjoy the show.

With that, I’d love share my personal picks…even though the winners have been/are being announced. I’m not gonna list all the categories…but here are a few of my favorites:

BEST PICTURE:
It’s a tie…
American Sniper and The Grand Budapest Hotel

BEST ACTOR in a leading role:
Bradley Cooper, American Sniperoscars-2014-shorts

BEST ACTRESS in a leading role:
Reese Witherspoon, Wild

BEST ACTOR in a supporting role:
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

BEST ACTRESS in a supporting role:
Emma Stone, Birdman

COSTUME DESIGN:
The Grand Budapest Hotel

 

Enjoy the show, friends!

Review: Juniper

For our 2nd wedding anniversary, Sean and I decided to dine in (I made THIS: Bourbon Glazed Salmon) but a few days before we also celebrated with a nice dinner out on the town at Juniper in downtown Tulsa. Fantastic experience. I’d like to rave about our evening there for a jiffy. Even if you don’t live in Oklahoma, it hopefully provides a nice window into how on-point Tulsa’s culinary scene is.

Juniper

On my OpenTable online reservation I added a comment to share that it was our anniversary. I wasn’t sure if anyone would notice – sometimes restaurants appear too busy for that sort of thing.

Sean and I arrived around 8pm and were greeted at the front desk with a delightful “Happy Anniversary!” wished by Juniper’s owner, Chef Justin Thompson. Way to make us feel welcome, Chef – thank you so much! That set the mood for our evening beautifully. We ordered the pan fried sweetbreads for our appetizer; a dish that was a bit of a daring culinary adventure as neither of us ever tried sweetbreads before.

While we waited for our 1st course, Sean adorably decided to embarrass me by putting his napkin on top of his head. Very normal dining scene for us. He was successful in embarrassing me, by the way – I blushed and quickly looked around the room, nervously giggling as I saw diners looking our way.

“Mmhmmhmhm….sean……SEAN. Seriously. You’re adorable, but please take the napkin off your head. People are looking, and… I love you.” 🙂

SweetbreadsWe were really impressed with our appetizer (pictured on right). The sweetbreads were pan friend in a sage brown butter (helloooo…) and placed on top of a brilliantly seasoned butternut squash puree, accompanied by crispy kale and hazelnuts. It was a fabulous wintery dish that gave one last nod to autumn cuisine.

Our entree stopped us in conversation. Everything was perfect. The foodie nerd in me has grown to expect a high standard when its restaurant boasts such a thing. So…for me to not only say, “perfect” but also to italicize and bold it in this post is to deliver a heartfelt high five to Chef de Cuisine, Tim Slavin. Nicely done, Chef.

I had the scallops, perfectly seared and seasoned. I am a sucker for seared scallops paired with white beans. It reminds me of the first dish I ever tried at The Bocuse Restaurant on The Culinary Institute of America’s Hyde Park, NY campus when I first visited the campus. It’s absolutely one of my favorite combinations. I loved everything that accompanied this pairing at Juniper – the touch of truffle oil in the white beans, the elegantly ribboned carrots cooked in brown butter, and an added bit of interest from the fried sage leaves.

Sean had the short ribs which had been beautifully braised in Marshall IPA, then placed overtop a jalapeño pepperjack polenta and roasted vegetables. He took a bite, closed his eyes, and let out a sigh: “…hhhmmmmm.” That’s his version of a “bravo.” He offered a taste, and it just melted apart as slowly cooked short rips should, having been tended to over just the right time and temp.

Desert was an obvious choice.

“Can I interest you both in our Desert Menu toni….”

“YES!” – Sean and I both interrupted our server with a smile. We chose to split “Justin’s Favorite Chocolate Pie” which was as if chocolate’s “greatest hits” formed an album and this took the number one spot.  It’s a reunion of decadently delicate chocolate mousse, oreo crumb crust, chocolate ganache, and a nicely balanced whipped cream.

We talked and giggled forever. I love that about being married to + in love with your best friend. You can just talk about everything from politics to your future as a family, until suddenly you look up and you’re the last ones in the restaurant. Even the tipsy table of eight had already left. Thank you for making us feel welcome and un-rushed, dear Juniper staff. We appreciated that very much.

We will be back – you can guarantee it. I whole heartedly recommend this to anyone else interested in a fine-dining quality taste of Tulsa.

Happy dining!

A Blog Post About Blogging

This whole “blogging” thing – let’s chat about it.

I remember the first time I decided to start my blog. I thought about it for a while…posted something…then didn’t actually tell anyone that it existed for a long, long time. Then one night the perfectionist in me had a second glass of wine…a ‘lil liquid confidence…and then I did it. I finally made my blog “Facebook official” and invited anyone to follow along as I shared my little corner of the world.

I was terrified.

I still remember hovering over the “Post” button on my status to share the link. I’ll admit it – I was scared of what people would think. What exactly was I doing? Writing about how to make chicken soup? About the fact that Sean and I were engaged and we lived in a house with our dog…wooopdiedooo! Would anyone care? Was I being silly? Then, fully annoyed at my momentary lack of self confidence I decided to stop posing ridiculous questions to myself, took a sip of my wine, and hit “post.”

Newlie 1st Post

…then I hit refresh…

“Ohhhh! Someone liked it!” I said to myself. “Two..three..FOUR people like it!!” Then I switched tabs over to my WordPress statistics of blog-volume and how many views I got. “What’s up with the stats…OMG people are reading my post!?” I was excited (obviously), but still a little terrified. It was a classic reminder that I’m my own worst critic; the case for many of us, I imagine.

Blogging is such a fun, creative outlet. But what most readers/non-bloggers don’t know is that it can also be a little scary. You’re putting your own words out there for people to critique you. Not only can they judge you on that misspelled word or run-on sentence, but you welcome others to have an opinion about what you’re doing with your life.

Don’t let it get too heavy though, because, as many of you know, your biggest fears are often what propel you to greatness; to something you KNOW you can personally grow from with hard work, soulful dedication, and good ‘ol fashion patience. Everyone has something that humbles them; that challenges who they are and ultimately makes them stronger.

I’m curious…what’s yours? I’d love to hear about it. Is it that promotion for more money or a well recognized title that you aspire to reach in your career? Is it that presentation to 70+ people that you aim to perfect, and ultimately inspire your audience with? Is it that athletic goal of getting a P.R. on your next marathon? Or, maybe it’s the classic fear of breaking your habitual laziness and finally doing something about your ambitions to live a healthier life? We’ve all been there…heck…I’ll certainly raise my hand for some of those!

I can’t even begin to put into words how helpful writing has been for me to stay accountable, consistent with my goals, and aware of my weaknesses. It’s a recipe for success, really.

I’m no blogging expert yet, but I’m lucky enough to know now that I adore writing. I adore how it challenges and even surprises me. My friend Bridget (hey hey, fabulous lady!) recently asked me to write a post on my top 5 tips for new bloggers. Bridget – that meant the world to be asked! I can’t wait to follow along and be inspired through your words!

I hope these tips below help any of you who are interested in sharing your own voice, skills, and passions with the world through your writing. If you decide to create a blog, or already have one for me to follow, PLEASE let me know! I can’t wait to follow along your journey!

So…here’s what I’ve learned:

1. WordPress

When I worked at George Mason University’s Admissions Office, we decided to start a student + staff blog. A member of the IT admissions team recommended using WordPress and showed me the basics to get started. I have to admit, it was a little overwhelming at first. There are tons of options which is GREAT now, but was hard to comprehend at first. I chose to stick with WordPress when I wanted to creative my own personal blog because I liked how it’s not just a community for bloggers – it’s also a strong community for writers and the whole literary world.

I slowly began to learn about “widgets” and how I could stream my tweets and Instagram photos along the side of my blog. I discovered the widget where I could have a countdown to my next big adventure or holiday. I learned that I could also showcase a text box where I then created my “Yay for the Day” section. It’s completely up to you! I’m sure other blogs do most of those things too…but I’m partial to the way I can manipulate WordPress look the way I want it to look.

As you discover which blog site to use, make sure that it can adapt to the changes you see yourself making overtime. I’ve been able to change my web address from newlie.wordpress.com, to newlieliving.com. I’ve changed the blog’s design from time to time. I’ve even changed my header to represent this little Southwestern stage in my life. I’ve had the freedom to make it my own and I love that! Find a domain that best suits you, but be sure to shop around first to confirm that it’s not only right for you now, but also for years from now.

2. Edit…Edit…Edit

This is usually what happens when I write a post…

An idea for a post!
Type...type...type...type...add photos...type...
Walk away for a bit.
Edit what I wrote...
Write more....type...type...type...
Preview how it looks...
Edit what else I wrote...
Read it over again...
Edit a little more...
Tell myself I'm being a perfectionist...
Find a misspelled word...
Thank myself for being a perfectionist...
Assign a "featured image" to represent the post...
Add "tags" to get the post noticed in google searches...
Assign the post to a "category" (i.e. food/fit/travels/etc.)...
Breathe...hover over the "Publish" button...
Smile.
Hit it!

Notice something consistent? I edit often. I edit, walk away, edit, and edit again. This is not necessarily because I can be a perfectionist from time to time. Instead, it’s a lovely little education I give myself. I ask myself things like “does that make sense?” or “is that sentence redundant…and is it even necessary?” or “did I really evoke that feeling eloquently?” Sometimes I think I wrote a beautifully illustrated paragraph, and then I walk away for a few minutes to later return with fresh editing eyes. Then, many times I realize “……hah……yeah that sentence is terrible. I don’t even…uh…rewrite!” I learn SO much this way. So, allow yourself time for many edits.

3. Share

Don’t you DARE hold back. If you’ve got a good story, recipe, or trick for repurposing an old antique abacus then you better tell the world! True, someone may find it to be uninteresting. That’s perfectly fine – they don’t have to read it. You can’t expect everyone to wanna read that you make a mean marinara sauce, but someone (yourself, your mother, and me at the very least!) will applaud your work and be inspired by it. The right audience’s interest will grow if you just give it time and have faith.

If I could say this a million times, I would:

As long as you have something positive to share then you will never know how inspirational your words will be to readers until you shatter your self-doubt and just SHARE it. Tell the world about it. When those few people do tell you how your post inspired them, it will make your day/week/year 🙂 I mean it! You’ll never forget it.

For those who do “like” or comment on my posts – it means the world to me.

I stopped writing for way too long at one point. I think it had been like 6 months or something. I didn’t really think my writing was making any kind of impact, and I just assumed that no one would notice or care that I had stopped. Well…overtime a few friends did notice and asked when I would be writing again. You should’ve seen my face. It was shocked! “You mean you actually liked it? You read my blog?”

Seeeee? Just give it faith, give it time, and keep sharing.

4. Read

WordPress has two things that keep their bloggers’ literary inspiration fresh and fabulous:

  1. Reader” – a news-feed of sorts where all of the WordPress blogs that you choose to follow will stream onto one page. It’s a great way to see what new post is up!
  2. Freshly Pressed” – ladies and gentlemen…the day that my post gets “Freshly Pressed” is the day that drinks are on me. Kidding…I don’t have that kind of money…but it’s to that effect. It’s an HONOR to have your post Freshly Pressed. WordPress’ team hand picks their favorite posts each day and shares the best and brightest in a really awesome news-feed. It’ll also spike your stats of viewers and interest like crazy. As a new owner and freelance writer – that’d be pretty great to have that kind of interest in my little LLC!

So, between both of those little news-feeds you’ll have plenty of literary inspiration surrounding you…so READ! See what’s out there! Comment on others’ posts, follow their blogs, “like” their posts, and get inspired.

You never know – you may even make a new friend…

…’cause I totally did!!! It’s true. Shout out to the fabulous Coach Jessica Sprenkel!!! One day, before our big more out west, I decided to search for blogs on WordPress about Tulsa. So I literally just searched “Tulsa” in my Reader and came across her blog. After reading a post or two I learned that she was about to move to Tulsa only 2 months before me & Sean, so I commented, we kept in touch, and now we’re friends! She’s absolutely awesome, an inspiration for health and fitness, and you should follow her blog. If you ever need any recipe or workout advice, she’s your girl! Check it out: Coach Sprenkel.

5. Be Sensitive To Time

Patience.

Practice.

And more patience 🙂

Building a blog is like building a business that has NOT been snatched up by a member of The Shark Tank yet. You’re gonna have to give it some love, lots of attention, and precious time. It’s been 2 years since I finally made my blog public, and only a year and a half that I’ve really devoted attention to it. No…that’s not even true…I feel like it’s been a hobby of mine for a year and half and only just recently have I given it the true attention it deserves. It takes time.

Don’t get discouraged when you have like 3 followers on WordPress, and just 4 comments in like, 6 months. If you post consistently, you’ll be surprised by how your readership will grow and ultimately follow along. If you don’t post consistently (which has been my own fault in the past!) well then, they’ll pretty much stop hoping for a post to come along!

Try to blog once a month at first, then maybe move to twice a month. Are you not too bogged down with work/life? Great! Keep up the great writing by stepping it up to once a week or even twice a week.

Your writing skills, your readers, and your heart will thank you!

Happy blogging, friends!

Top 5: Travel Tips

Hello from my Okla”home”a! It’s great to be done traveling, but what a spectacular fall I’ve had.

It’s the end of fall travel season in the college admissions world. This annual work-season is one that I get excited for every year. Despite my recent move out here to OK, I was thrilled to still continue my recruitment outreach back East for the world’s best culinary college. Even though it required numerous nights in hotels, navigating D.C. traffic again, and often breathing in that glorious recirculated air on flights, it really jazzed up my presentation skills (…post coming soon on that, btw!) and fueled more confidence that I needed as a quiet little work-from-home lady. It was a great series of trips.

Prior to any travel season I go through the check list: schedule my recruitment visits, book my flights + hotels + rental cars, and pack my bags for the annual mixture of both familiarity and new adventures. Though I’ve done this a lot, I’m certainly no expert. I kind of enjoy that though. Where would the thrill of travel mastery be without learning from my own mistakes? As the holidays approach and new travel plans spike for so many of us, I’ve thrown together some suggestions that I hope will benefit you.

1) Pack Strategically

This dude knows wassup. He’s totally the ultimate travel expert. He’s even got that backwards walk down perfectly to remove his shoes in security. I’m not there yet. Not even close, actually. But I do continue to learn a lot on packing lightly, like him. You see, I’m an over-packer. Secret’s out!! I like to have 2 to 5 of everything “just in case.” Unfortunately, this causes me to go a little crazy while traveling. I’ve even embarrassed myself from time to time. I’m serious. Wanna hear the most recent “Kath moment” to illustrate this?

So I had a quick layover in Dallas earlier this month and had juuuust enough time to get to my next gate, sit down, and look at my friends’ pretty instagram pictures. Pretty fabulous little break, right? Right…until I decided to make this break even better by treating myself to a chocolate milkshake at the store right next to my gate. They were about to start boarding Southwest “A” group and I was in B.

“Ohhh, I can TOTALLY do this.”  I thought to myself.

So I wobbled over with my two over stuffed bags, got my delicious chocolate milkshake and tried to bust out a third arm to hold everything…didn’t happen…but ultimately made it out of the store and back to my gate with time to spare.

“Sweet!” I thought. “Okay…now I just have get out my boarding pa…AHHHH!!!!”

“Ohhhhhh nooooooo!!!! Ohhh dear!!! OOhhhhhhhh I’m SO sorry!” I belted.

Chocolate milkshake….everywhere. Chocolate milkshake over people’s shoes. Chocolate milkshake on people’s luggage. Chocolate milkshake all over the floor.

Good job, Kath! I was so embarrassed. One girl gave me the one napkin she had. One overly stressed mother didn’t even look me in the eye she was so mad. An older man walked right into the mushy puddle on the ground, completely oblivious to what had just happened. After five attempts at trying to alert him of where he was standing by saying “…SIR?” I gave up and started running around the gate looking for napkins like an idiot. Luckily the man behind me said what I had hoped someone would say “Meh…they’ll get over it. It happens.” 5 minutes later I carefully stepped onto the plane (without a chocolate milkshake), with sheepish rosy cheeks proclaiming my embarrassment, and tried not to look anyone in the eye. These poor people have to spend hours with me now in a confined space. Am I there yet?

You can avoid this.

There are a million reasons to pack both lightly and strategically. I recommend checking whatever necessary so that you’re left with one, small, easy to maneuver bag/rollable suitcase around the airport as your carry-on. Be strategic for that travel day and think about how you can ultimately be hands-free at times.

Also, keep this in mind when packing your checked bags. This may seem obvious. I’m sure many of you know all about how to pack strategically, but if any of you out there are like me, you need to be reminded of this. Pack first. Then walk away for a moment and return to review what you packed. This is where the editing process of packing needs to happen. Take out those unnecessary items that you KNOW you won’t need. And if you need to…repeat the editing process one or two more times.

2) Stay Charged

So I recently started adding this little life saver to my list of “MUST PACK” items: PermaCharger

While traveling for work I carry a work laptop, a personal cell, a work cell, and sometimes even an iPad mini; each with their own unique cord for charging. It’s such a luxury to have a job that provides this regional web-based support, but it can be a challenge to keep all of these little luxuries fully charged during my travels. I’ve found that most car chargers don’t charge at the lightening speed I want/need it to.  It’s imperative for my cell’s GPS to tell me where the heck I’m going, for me to answer incoming work calls and emails, etc. So, when it’s not charged I find myself telling friends/family to call me on my work cell if my personal’s about to die. Or telling colleagues from work to call me on my personal cell if that’s about to die.

PermaCharger has been a HUGE lifesaver during my travels, and pretty much solved all of the above problems. It has multiple adapters and USB ports allowing me to charge BOTH my work and personal cell phones at the same time with ease while waiting in line, sitting in an airport, working away at a coffee shop w/ no available outlet in sight, etc. It’s about the width of a Galaxy Samsung or the new iPhone 6, so I’ve actually charged them both while stacked on top of each other and let them sit in my purse while I’m out and about. Amazing. Knowing that they’re charging while standing in line…Love it!

It’s also incredibly helpful to “stay charged” to provide friends and family a little “I’m alive!” or “Let’s me up! I’m in town for like, 5 minutes!” text/call. Traveling for work can be all consuming. You’re constantly thinking of your next move while answering an incoming call…text…email. Unpacking, packing, searching for food, searching for a Starbucks (hello…I’m addicted), searching for a gas station, staying on top of scheduled work events, planning a fun night out with friends while you’re in town – it all soaks up your poor little cell phone’s battery like a sponge. It’s been a huge relief knowing that I can be on top of my game without running around like a crazy person looking for an outlet. You know you’ve all been there. I highly recommend investing in this – it’s awesome! Here’s what it comes with: PermaCharger & Adapters

With the holidays coming up, it’s also an awesome gift to consider for friends or family who travel a ton. They’ll probably love you forever for a gift like this.

You’re welcome! 😉

3) Time Sensitive

Trying to strategize your time while traveling can feel you’re at the starting line of the olympic games and all you see are hurdles down your narrow lane. People are depending on you to be on-point as the pressure increases. Your morning alarm goes off like the starting gun fired by a race official, annnnnd you’re off…flooded with an ambitious agenda to keep track of. Am I right? It can be a little daunting.

With this daily dose of duties (…hehe) challenging your life’s balance by the minute, it’s important to channel your inner secretary with a sense of urgency. Here are a few suggestions in remaining sensitive to time:

  • To Do Lists
    • Write ’em out the night before. Not the morning of when you have to shower, iron, grab breakfast and coffee…then a 2nd or 3rd cup of coffee, etc. I’ve tried writing lists the moment I wake up and I’m WAY too overwhelmed. Write it out the night before and I promise you’ll sleep more peacefully. It’s as if you’re redistributing your thoughts from your tired brain to a blank piece of paper, and look at that – your brain can rest a bit because those thoughts have gone to a better, more organized place.
    • Delegate each item on that list for when and where you want to get it done. If you’re a supervisor – can you delegate it to someone else? Done! Can you get this done via a quick text or email while sitting in your car in the parking lot before your next appointment? Yes? Sweeeet! Assign it to that 10 minute block of time. What about those calls to clients? Don’t leave it to your 2 hours in a coffee shop with the espresso machine screaming out steam in the background – no one likes to hear that. Best to assign those types of calls to a quiet space like when you’re unpacked in your hotel room and you’re sitting comfortably at the room’s desk. So much nicer!
  • Know Your Next Move
    • …then add 30 minutes. Not even kidding – traffic tends to play jokes on us all, thinking it’s quiet the little comedian. Well we’re not amused, are we? So why not tell that little jokester who’s boss by adding 30 minutes to an hour to every drive in between visits. It’s AMAZING how fast 1 hour goes when you’re on the move and have lots to do. This step is a life saver!
  • Be Present
    • When you’re in a meeting or giving a presentation…be present. You may have thoughts flooding your mind like: where to be next, did you confirm that appointment in 2 months, did you ever get that reply back that you needed. Block them out so that you can be as clear and precise as you want to be. Leaving an appointment after you’ve presented yourself beautifully is often the dose of confidence that you need to continue on to the next item on the agenda with peace.
    • When you’re catching up with an old friend or a family member…be present. This travel has given you the gift of seeing your favorite people after work hours, so be present for them. Remove your work agenda from your clouded thoughts and focus on your time together.

4) Stay Social

Traveling on you own for multiple weeks at a time can be lonely, so fill your time with outreach to your loves! Call home, email or message friends to let them know you’re thinking of them, or use your “newlie” planted location to catch up with friends if you’re in their neck of the woods.

Like my old college roomie, Charlene! We hadn’t seen each other in WAY too long and when she reached out to meet up we found the best night to meet halfway between us: Easton, MD. It was the perfect little town to catch up with her again. We had an amazing dinner then wandered over to one of those “paint your own pottery” places and painted away as we brought each other up to speed on our lives. I’m so grateful for that time. Another evening I got to spend time with another former roomie – this time an old housemate from the house I lived at in Arlington (yay, Kassie!). We caught up over beers and dinner at one of our favorite spots in Alexandria, “Murphy’s.”

Another night I got to see some of my dearest friends (Kaitlin, Chop, and Kendall) in downtown Annapolis. I brought them each something from Oklahoma (a handmade ear warmer/head wrap thing…no clue what I should call it…but they’re cute) and we all decided to wear them around town telling everyone we were apart of a knitting club. We were a total hit. I love those ladies! Laughing over drinks at “Level” and sushi at “Joss” was the perfect break from the monotony of visits and long drives.

On a Tuesday night…I even went to the Opera!!! Shout out to Jeanne, Jackie, Tai, and Allison! We saw La Boheme at The Kennedy Center, and it was AMAZING!!! I had to leave at the intermission (womp womp) because I had a 45 min+ drive that night and had to get up around 5am for my next event. But still, it was amazing.

Another week night I met up with my friend Stephanie for drinks at a wine bar in a Whole Foods….whaaaaaaat?! Whole Foods? Yes. That’s correct. Y’all HAVE TO GO if you like wine. There’s this incredible 2nd floor wine bar at the Whole Foods in Fair Lakes, VA where you can try out all these different wines via a tasting, or by the glass. And you KNOW Whole Foods has some delicious food, so they put together a great spread of food for you if you’re in the mood for more than just wine. Highly recommended.

One weekend we saw Sean’s side of the family (hi Mason fam!) and some great friends all in 48 hours! Sean flew to see me mid-travels in October. We stayed with my sister and brother in law (hey hey Mandy & Shane!) – saw family & friends thanks to their housewarming party, then drove up to Frederick, MD and saw his awesome college friends for dinner (hey hey Tony, Aly, Chris, & Shelley!). The weekend before I even got to see my precious parents in my old college town! They were just traveling through the Eastern Shore when I happened to be nearby and I will never forget that perfect evening with them.

You all get the point. Keeping your life filled with friends and family, even in the midst of a busy travel season will keep your spirits up. It’s much needed.

5) Breathe

This sounds silly, I know. But maybe you can relate: when I have too much on my mind (places to be, people to meet, events to manage, reports to submit, etc.) I forget to breathe sometimes when my mind is flooded with “to do’s.” Can anyone else relate to this? My breathing pattern gets all off kilter and I’m short of breath too often. I’ve noticed this happens when I’m stressed. I was a hot mess trying to manage my work load on top of planning a wedding and a long commute back in the fall of 2012 because I wasn’t breathing well enough and I was constantly dizzy. I notice this bad habit often surfaces during travel season.

Let’s discuss avoiding this, shall we?

There’s a reason that yoga and general exercise are so popular: you’re taught to fully concentrate on breathing in…breathing out…in…out. Hmmm. So much better! Your brain needs oxygen to keep you moving efficiently, so why practice this only when you’re “on” for exercise? Get in the habit of taking a minute before a presentation, a meeting, or especially sitting in your car as you’re trapped by traffic. Your heart, lungs, brain, and general well being will thank you!

If you’ve read the entire thing, thank you. I’m not even sorry for the long post because too many of us know what stress feels like. We know, for the most part, how to control it. We know these tips already, but do we need reminders of them? Yes. We do. I do! I love and adore this blog of mine because it’s a chance for me to remember how to live the way I want to live. To hold myself accountable by writing it all down. So, most of these tips are really for myself in addition to any of you who can benefit from them.

Hope it’s helpful.

Safe travels, friends!

TOP 5: Photography Tips

6O9C9689-EditI asked a handsome photographer to share five basic tips for those of us who have an interest in photography but are typically scared off by fancy-shmancy terms and enormous lenses.

Oh and by the way, this handsome photographer is my husband, Sean. Hehe 😉

Have you seen his photos?! They’re stunning! I’m so proud of him. Sean has an interest in the complex engineering of cameras, and he also has an authentic eye for artistic potential. I believe (as do many others) that Sean has reached the caliber of a professional photographer, but with the demands of his career in engineering he likes keeping it as a hobby.

Over the years he’s taught me about the difference in shutter speeds, focal lengths, etc. But because I haven’t devoted the time it takes to “get it” through practice and hands-on research, I often ask him to wind it back for me and re-teach me the basics. Which brings me here.

I know I’m not the only one who could benefit from reading a few basics tips. Am I right…ehh? There’s a reason you decided to read this. So, Sean’s here to give us all some pointers. Take it a wayyyyy, honey! 😉


 5 Photography Tips for Beginners

by Sean Mason

1) Learn to See Light

You don’t need a camera for this tip which is why it’s often overlooked by beginners. Most people take light for granted; never taking time to admire all the variations that light can take.

Light can be harsh, or soft. It can fall off quickly, or barely at all. It can come from one direction, or many. It can come from down low, up high, from the side or sometimes both. Even more overlooked is its shadow. Many new photographers do their best to eliminate shadow altogether. This is often a mistake, because shadow can actually add add depth to your photo.

One quick tip for good light outdoors. Move your subject to, what photographers call, “open shade.” A tree will block the direct light of the sun and your subject will be lit with soft light bouncing off everything around them.

Another easy way to get good light for portraits is to use a window. So long as the sun isn’t shining directly into it, the window will act like a studio soft box and give you beautiful, soft side lighting with quick fall off.

Bride - Photo Tip 1Groom - Photo Tip 1

2) Change Your Perspective

One of the great things about photography is its ability to take an every day item and give it new meaning. We spend most of our life looking at this world by standing from 5-feet-something off the ground. Naturally, this is also the same perspective we take most of our photos. If you are struggling with uninteresting photos, try finding a new perspective. “Get low” as they say…or find a ladder. Move back, and zoom in. Maybe get close and zoom out.

Look! Cute dog. If you only point down and snap…you’ll get this kind of photo:

Good vs Bad

OR…if you can get low and take a shot from a more personal angle, you’ll get this kind of photo:

6O9C8220

3) Composition Isn’t a Scary Word.

Google “Photo Composition,” and you will get a million results on The Rules of Composition. Most of which will go over the Rule of Thirds, Leading Lines, Golden Ratio, Depth, Framing, etc. – and then, at the very end it will tell you to break the rules. If you were feeling nervous before that this fun and creative hobby was just about to take a dark turn into a classroom, this fact alone should give you some comfort. There is no pop quiz in photography. You never have to know which rule you are following. Jimmy Hendrix didn’t know the rules behind music theory and he did just fine. But simply knowing that these rules exist is a good enough start.

The reason why this subject is so broad and studied is that as humans, we see patterns. It’s what we do. We crave them so much that we will invent them even when there aren’t any. Composition is an awesome subject that you will eventually learn to love, but first – baby steps. Because this is for beginners, I will give you two simple tips that will improve your photographs right away:

A. When taking a photo of a landscape, try moving the horizon from the center of the photo to the bottom or to the top. This will simplify your photo and draw attention to the foreground or to the sky, whichever is right for the scene.

Hawaii - Photo Tip 4

B. When taking a photo of person, try to keep their eyes above the middle of the photo.

_MG_9369-Edit-Edit

4) Snapping the Photo is Just the Start

Now this tip can be a little controversial in some photography circles, but I think I have history on my side. Once you have your photo, you need to develop it. Ask Ansel Adams how long he spent in the dark room working on a single image.

Post processing has gotten a bad rap lately with the YouTube videos showing the power of photoshop, and the effect of advertising on young women. Well, I’m not getting near that, but if you use this one simple concept to guide you while you process your photo, we will both be safe. Use “post processing” to bring out and highlight the essence of your subject. For example, that zit is not the essence of your subject. Go ahead and get rid of it.

Ever take a shot and feel like it just didn’t capture the feeling right? The camera is a lifeless tool. It doesn’t have the first idea of what it’s pointed at. It approaches every scene the same way. This is not how our eyes work, and as such it is our job to do the work our brains normally do when we use our eyes. I don’t have a quick tip for this one, but try and move away from the one-click filters and graduate to the sliders/manual adjustments. I recommend Adobe Lightroom. Don’t worry about Photoshop; Lightroom can do 99% of everything you might need to do and it’s much simpler.

5) Keep Your Money Until You Know Why You’re Spending it.

Photography can become very expensive, very quickly. You don’t need the latest most expensive camera to get started. Either you will fall in love with photography, or you will eventually give it up. Either way, the days of your first camera are numbered. I recommend starting out with a second hand camera model from a few years ago. You will get the best bang for your buck while you learn, and when you upgrade – you’ll do so with little invested and as an informed buyer. The first thing you have to decide is how important size and portability is to you. Mirrorless Cameras have a significant size advantage over the bulky DSLR, but that size advantage comes with a couple trade offs. DSLRs are often cheaper, handle better, track moving subjects better, and have more lenses and accessories to choose from.

Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fuji, and Olympus are all great brands. You can’t go wrong. I’m a Canon user and as such will point out a couple reasons to consider them for your starter kit:

A. They are the biggest, and offer the most extensive camera system you can buy into.

B. They make a lens that I recommend to all beginners, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8. This little guy is about the cheapest lens you can buy, and is sharp; great for low light, and can give you the background blur you see in professional photos. Pair this lens with a second hand Canon T3i and 18-55mm kit lens and you are on your way. I even have a sample image from a few years back.

IMG_6141

Canon T3i with Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 – Settings: 1/3200, ISO 100, f/2.0

If you are set on mirrorless, I’d go with Sony, Fuji or Olympus. Nikon and Canon are the kings of the DSLR world, but their mirrorless cameras are not as good as the smaller companies.

Remember: a good carpenter never blames his tools, and the most important feature of any camera is the person holding it.

Good luck!

Oklahoma’s like…

I adore Oklahoma. Sean and I had a lovely, but long, road trip out West from where we lived near Washington, D.C. Once we crossed the final state boarder into Oklahoma we were in awe of its beauty and instant serenity. We chose to live in Owasso, and have been here only just a few weeks now.

It already feels like home.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to best describe this unique state of the country…state of our lives…state of mind. It only feels right to describe it from the heart of it all – my senses. I hope this provides a brief perspective of what Oklahoma feels like to a newcomer:

It’s the  feeling…

…of a comfortable breeze brushing your newly Southwestern sunburnt skin every minute of the day.

…of a dry September heat. It’s a heat that packs a “Welcome to Oklahoma” punch to pale newcomers from out East.

…of holding Sean’s hand as we take in this much needed change in our lives.

It’s the sight…

…of white puffy clouds against a baby blue canvas; straight out of the opening of a Simpsons episode.

…of the sun bursting through the clouds while setting over a calm lake, uninterrupted by an endless breeze.

…of nodding heads, open doors, and smiling faces saying “Mornin!” and “Hey there!”

It’s the taste…

…of sweet, smoky, slowly roasted barbecue.

…of locally grown and soulfully seasoned vegetables.

…of a perfectly strengthened mocha latte from my new favorite coffee house.

It’s the sound…

…of patience. Anyone know that sound? It’s standing in line without hearing complaints. It’s listening whole heartedly to a stranger’s story without thinking of where you need to be or how time may be ticking away. It’s accidently spending too much time looking at my GPS after a traffic lighted turns from red to green…and no one beeps at me.

…of roosters crowin’, cows mooin’, and horses snufflin’ early in the mornin’.

…of…(go ahead and giggle)…the wind as it comes sweeping down the plains. Literally. The musical Oklahoma! doesn’t lie.

It’s the scent…

…of torched hickory wood smoking up a pork shoulder all…day…long.

…of grateful growth from the grass after a much needed rain.

…of nearby campfires surrounded by celebrations of a new season and reunited friendships.

 

What a beautiful land to live in. We’re mighty glad we came here.

So that’s what I’ve discovered so far. More updates to come 🙂

Big hugs,

Katherine

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TOP 5: Tips for Working Remotely

My friend Brenda recently asked me for my top 5 tips on working remotely/working from home. Well my goodness – if that’s not a perfect excuse for a blog post, I don’t know what is! Thanks, Brenda 🙂 Here they are:

1) Get OUT!

Stella

You have a lunch hour…so USE it! I take Stella along for a walk or run most days between 12:30-1:00. That gives me another half hour once I’m back to shower and grab a quick lunch from the kitchen. Easy peezy! We usually only do a mile or so, but it’s enough to get our muscles moving, hearts pumping, and spirits RISING! It’s also a good excuse to see people…you know…to have human interaction. Probably sounds a little weird to say that, but when you go for long stretches of no work-related travel and you’re home all the time – it’s awesome to have little doses of conversation here and there. I’ve met more neighbors working from home than my previous job where I had a long commute. Like Ms. Campbell – she is this precious older lady who lives down the road from us and keeps a BEAUTIFUL garden and front yard. When Stella and I are out, she loves to say hello and tell us about how her children are. I just love throwing little moments like that into my day.

2) Chore Temptations

That sounds like an oxymoron. Right? Who’s actually tempted to do chores?! Well, it actually kinda happens – you’ll be tempted to get things done while you’re home like laundry, dishes, errands, etc. You can totally do it all, just be sure to designate certain times of the day for that. I’ve gone grocery shopping at 7:30 a.m. plenty of times. High five to the Safeway in the Hillandale Shopping Center of Silver Spring! They’re open early. Noon – 1:00 p.m. is also a good opportunity to do laundry, vacuum (haha…not that I actually dooooo that during lunch, but just sayin’…it’s an option!), and any other chores that you’ve been needing to get done. Then there’s the whole lack of a commute thing! Between 5-6pm used to be when I would sit in traffic, trying not to cry. But now I get to start working on dinner, tidy up the house, or even hop on the local Metro by 5:30 to meet up with friends for a happy hour in the city if I want to! It’s AWESOME!

NSS Coffeehouse3) Coffee Shop Escapes

When it’s appropriate, spice up your week with a morning, afternoon, or even a full work day at a local coffee shop. It’s a great way to be among people again, and simply to get out of the house. Now, I’m on the phone constantly since I work remotely so it’s very important to treat myself to a coffee shop day/half day when most of my phone calls have been made or reserved for other days of the week when I’m home in my office…where it’s quiet. No espresso machine hissing and screaming in the background, no loud table-side neighbors to my left or right who will audibly overpower any attempt at a phone conversation, and no name calling from the Batista who has drink orders up at the counter:

“SUSAN!….SUSANNE?….SUUUUSAAAANNE!”

“Emeeeeiltalnooh?….Emil……Emaa….ummm…..MOCHA LATTE WITH EXTRA FOAM!?!?!!?”

…which is why it’s good to keep those visits numbered. But when you do decide it’s a good day to plug in your headphones, plan your work travel efforts, crank out emails, and go crazy with your fancy excel spreadsheets – then it is SUCH a treat to be among people in an environment like that again. My favorite place to go in the Washington, D.C. area is Northside Social, located in the Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington, VA. Without hesitation – it’s my favorite coffeehouse in the area. For breakfast you’ve gotta try their Cheddar Chive Scones alongside an Iced Mocha. Or if you’re a little hungrier – order their poached egg sandwich on a honey wheat flat-bread with lightly seasoned frisee, cheddar cheese, and thick, divinely smoked bacon. For lunch? No hesitation – their white bean pesto soup is my favorite. It’s served with a fresh slice of white bread – perfect for dipping in the soup. So yeah…it’s definitely good to get out once in a while :).

4) Connect with Coworkers

If you work remotely for a team of people – be sure to reach out to them. This is an effort that took me longer than I expected to get used to. In a normal office environment, I would simply hop in from one co-worker’s office to another and ask questions, verify things, or even let questions come to me as I waltzed in to snag some chocolate/candy up for grabs. It was great! But when you work remotely – you need to be a little more proactively social. I am a big advocate for asking questions ALL the time in the professional workplace. It’s a great way to make sure that your ideas and daily expectations are in line with what’s needed from the team. Taking away that daily interaction presents a few obstacles, but luckily that’s what IM, cell phones, video conferencing, and email are all for! Staying connected will help you to feel like you’re not on an island where your only co-worker is your dog ;).

5) Stay Organized

Keep a checklist every day. Along with that checklist, also be sure to keep track of what you accomplished each week. If you make the transition from working in an office to working from home…try to record your progress of each day. Then put them side by side and holy moly….you’ll be surprised by how much you can accomplish with no interruptions!

Working remotely has changed my life. It’s been an absolute blessing to focus heavily on my tasks at hand, have a quiet space to think creatively, and also have the professional tools to stay connected with one heck of an amazing team as well. I’m so grateful for the time that I’ve had working from home over the past year and a half!

Your turn! For those of you who work from home/remotely – feel free to share your suggestions as well! What’s worked well? Or, for those of you who are considering making this kind of professional transition, what questions do you have? Feel free to comment below!

Happy working.

Culinary Heaven: Thomas Keller Day

name tagThis week was straight up incredible. No other way to say it. I’ve just completed the first week of training for my new job with The Culinary Institute of America as their new “Capital Area Regional Admissions Counselor.” I’ll be fortunate enough to work from my home office where I live in Maryland/the greater D.C. area.

I’m currently halfway through my full immersion into learning who and what this great school is all about; what the food tastes like (tough life, I know), how and why the students’ schedules are arranged, what the classes look and feel like, how their rolling admissions process works, how to maneuver a new database, how to connect with many crucial offices (financial aid, marketing, etc.) that will help with each new student’s transition, and so much more. I’m very grateful for this time in order to better relay this perspective of campus to our future students and chefs.

As a result of my training, this week was packed with out-of-this-world cuisine on campus, daily tastings, demonstrations, observations, and many meetings. The staff, students, and remarkable Chef Instructors are all incredibly welcoming and friendly. I instantly felt at home. Even more so than I had anticipated. I can’t even begin to explain how lovely that feels, knowing that this was a pretty life changing decision to leave GMU for “the CIA.” It’s just so great to feel “home” already.

So, what was first?! Below is the first of the many highlights of what happened during my first week:

“Thomas Keller Day”

Like…as in THE Thomas Keller – voted the best and most influential Chef in America – world-renowned author and restaurateur – owner of Per Se (New York, NY) and The French Laundry (Napa Valley, CA) – just to name a few of his 47394032 accomplishments. So, what about him? He was there, at the CIA, on my first day. What a way to dive right into the world of all-things-culinary with a visit from Thomas Keller himself! The CIA rolled out the red carpet with an extraordinary day to celebrate his influence in the industry. Students were preciously sitting on the edge of their seats in their perfectly pressed chef whites while listening and taking notes from just about every word he had to say.

The afternoon portion of his visit was my personal favorite. Everyone on campus was told that he was going to perform a cooking demo. Pretty cool, right? So I walked in with two of my new co-workers (special shout out to Bob and Nicole!) and we were invited to sit in the front row…um, haha…YES that’s just fine with me! So there we were, waiting for the “cooking demo” to start. We were handed a Playbill, which then prompted a few perplexed faces. As the lights dimmed, Thomas Keller and his team from The French Laundry came on to stage, one by one…but something was different…this was no ordinary demo…they were suddenly re-enacting a classic night in their kitchen. This play-like format was an amazing surprise to the entire audience. I had chills! We literally had a chance to see what goes on behind the scenes in what has been noted as one of the BEST restaurants in the WORLD. Every few minutes the chefs (or “actors” in this case) would freeze as the lights dimmed, and a solo light then dramatically shined on select speakers who work with Chef Keller’s inspiration and production: the gardener in Napa Valley, the fisherman in Maine, the farmers all over the country, the bakers who produce some of the world’s finest chocolates and hearth-baked breads, and many others. It was so humbling to hear from each of their perspectives; what it takes to whole heartedly nurture the food that we prepare, appreciate (hopefully), and consume each day. I was nearly tearing up at times hearing the love and adoration for their career and collaboration that this great industry boasts. “Get it together, Katherine!” I thought to myself, “It’s your first day!”

If you’re as excited about this production as I was, then I suggest you read more about it here: http://www.ciachef.edu/thomas-keller-day-release/. Also, here’s a slide show of photos that the CIA took as well (Photo credit: CIA/Phil Mansfield) – look for me in one of those photos…I’m in there! Front row, side section:

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There’s a million other things that I want to write about from my inspiring first week, but I’ve realized that it’s worthy of other posts. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, happy Saturday 🙂