Wednesday, August 28, 2013

DIY Ranch Dressing Mix

It seems like every single week I go to the grocery store, sometimes multiple times. Something that usually ends up in my cart is one of those ranch dressing mix packets. We use those quite a bit around here to make our own dressing and dip. I like to keep ranch dip in the refrigerator to have on hand for veggies and lunches. Landon loves ranch, and to me, the packet mix just tastes better than premade dressings at the store. For a while I’ve seen things floating around Pinterest on how to make your own ranch dressing mix, but just haven’t gotten around to trying it. Today, when I stopped by the grocery store to pick up a few ingredients I needed for dinner, I went ahead and purchased the spices needed to make my own ranch. Its super easy, and I’m sure much healthier than the mixes, which can be loaded with salt and other ingredients I can’t even pronounce.

I found the recipe at Bake Your Day but doubled it to make extra to keep on hand. I’ll repost the doubled recipe here, or you can click the link to head over to the original.


Homemade Ranch Dressing Mix


4 Tbs dried parsley

4 tsp dried dill

2 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp onion powder

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp dried chives

1/2 tsp salt

Mix ingredients together, store in air tight container up to 2 months. Mix 1 tablespoon with 1/3 cup sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt) and 1/4 cup milk. Refrigerate. My doubled recipe is equal to about 4 packets of premade mix.



Monday, August 26, 2013

summer vacation 2013

This past week we ventured to the beautiful island of Siesta Key, Florida. Typically we go to to our NC beaches, but something struck a nerve in me this year and I decided to plan something out of the norm. Gorgeous white sand and crystal clear water were calling my name, and Siesta Key delivered. It was a perfect week full of sun and salt air. Each morning we slept in, drank coffee and ate breakfast as a family, and hit the beach for as long as we possibly could. We swam, watched the fish, and even saw a manatee cruise by. Let me tell you, I have always loved the ocean, but watching your world through the eyes of your child brings a whole new excitement to things. I hope I never forget the way Landon took it all in, the way he splashed in the waves and watched all the fish swim around him. Or the way a hole in the sand and a bucket of water pretty much made his day. This kid surprises me everyday, and this past week was no exception. Prepare for picture overload…


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Friday, August 16, 2013

happy friday!




Y’all. As we speak I am staring at mounds of laundry, and open suitcases just ready and waiting to be filled. Tonight we hit the road for our family vacation, and I cannot begin to explain how excited I am to get going. As a kid, we used to load the car the night before a big trip, so that in the morning all we had to do was wake up and crawl in the car. My dad was notorious for being so excited that we would pack the car and he would say “well, lets just go on and go!” And we would. It was not uncommon to leave at midnight and drive through the night to reach our destination just a few hours sooner. I’m pretty sure I have inherited that same trait, because I have already convinced John to leave tonight versus in the morning. Its like Christmas morning, except maybe better, because its sunny and warm.

Seven days of sand, sun, and fun on the beach with my favorite toddler and the hubs.

Are we there yet?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

a little photography talk.

I’m not sure I have ever done a post on photography here…it’s not something I consider myself an expert in by any means. But over the past 3 years it has become quite the obsession of mine, and I find myself just wanting to continue learning more and more.

Shortly after John and I got married, something struck in me that I wanted to learn photography. At that time my life pretty much revolved around work and sleep, work and sleep. I was a brand new nurse working night shift on an oncology floor, and desperately needed something in my life to call my own. Photography filled that void for me.  My dad does some incredible outdoor photography, so with his help and advice I purchased my first DSLR, my Nikon D90. Dad gave me my first lens, his hand-me-down nikor 24-120, and taught me the basics of manual mode. From there I spent hours upon hours teaching myself the rest and soaking up as much information as I could.

When Landon was born, my photography changed directions and I became obsessed with capturing those fleeting newborn moments, and getting the perfect shot. Looking back at Landon’s newborn shots make me cringe in a way, because my photography was so incredibly…beginner. But I was learning. Almost 20 months later, I have learned a TON, and am so thankful for this hobby turned obsession that I have developed. It has allowed me to hold on to some of those precious memories, baby milestones, and moments in time that I never want to forget.


Lately I’ve had several mom friends come to me and ask questions about how I learned photography, when I started, what camera I use, etc. So I thought maybe I could put together a list of tips and tricks, and things I’ve learned along the way for other moms who just want to get good pictures of their babies. I am not looking to become a professional, if someday down the road I had the privilege of taking pictures for friends and family then I would love it. But my main focus is just getting memories of my family, and continuing to learn for my own enjoyment.


For anyone out there who is just starting out, here is some of the best advice I can think of from one momtog to another.




Manual Mode. I don’t think its any secret that manual mode is best. Thanks to my dad, I never even touched auto mode. I started with the basics of aperture and shutter speed, and built my skill from there. I am incredibly thankful that I was never tempted by auto, I’m pretty sure my camera has never even hit that setting. As my dad says, why would you spend hundreds of dollars on a camera, and only use it as a point and shoot? Learning manual mode first is probably the absolute best thing I could have done for myself. Don’t get frustrated, it takes time to get comfortable with the settings. But eventually  it will become second nature to dial down the shutter speed, boost your ISO, or adjust your white balance in camera without much thought. Take the time to learn your camera, don’t expect incredible images from the get go. That’s part of the fun is seeing your improvement over time.


Rule of Thirds. Learn it, love it. It will change your images from just basic snapshots, to true photography.


Straighten Horizons. We are frequent beach goers, when I first ventured into photography I couldn’t wait to take some incredible pictures of our vacation. The first summer we went to the Outer Banks, I came home with pictures I was so proud of. They were my first big girl pictures. As I showed them to my dad and asked for critiques, the first thing he pointed out was my crooked horizons. This is a problem that is super easy to fix in editing software, and makes pictures look 100 times better and more professional. Now, its probably one of my biggest pet peeves in the world when someone takes this gorgeous image of their little one splashing in the water, and there’s this ugly, crooked horizon in the background. Learn how to straighten your horizons. I promise you won’t regret it.


Getting it right in the camera. I see people spend tons of money on actions and presets and spend hours of their time editing images. Honestly, I don’t have time for it. I have maybe 2-3 presets on my computer that I may or may not use. I like to get it right in the camera the first time. Other than minor fixes, cropping, color correction, etc, I don’t edit many pictures. Now granted, I am not in business and am not making a living doing this. But I also don’t want my images to look super processed, or fake. I want them to look like they were in real life. Getting my settings as close to perfect as possible makes my editing ten times faster and easier.


Relax. Shooting photos of my son isn’t the easiest. He is way more interested in playing and running around than helping mom get her perfect shot. And that’s okay. I’ve learned to relax, step back, and let him be in his element. If I get a great shot, then its been a successful day. But some days its just not going to happen the way I plan. I don’t worry too much about posing him or forcing the image I want, rather capture him as is. Looking back I want the memories of him, not memories that I “arranged.” I am much happier with my images when they aren’t forced and aren’t so thought out- just simple and in the moment. And lets be honest, Landon is ten times happier when he can just be a kid and play.


Getting on his level. Literally. Images are so much more interesting when they are taken from Landon’s point of view. I spend a lot of time crouched down as low as possible getting an image on his level, versus standing above him. My prime lens was HUGE in teaching me to move around, and change perspective.


Prime Lens. The first lens I purchased for myself was the super cheap, super great Nikon 50mm 1.8. I still use this sucker like crazy. Its an awesome lens that gives you gorgeous bokeh, but is in a price point that is great for non-professional momtogs like myself. A prime lens will do wonders for your images. Invest in one, you won’t regret it.


Favorite websites : and 

These two websites are a wealth of information!



So there you have it, some of my top tips for moms interested in photography, and a little about my journey. Any other questions? Shoot me an email , or just leave a comment.


Happy Sunday!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Dear Landon

Dear Landon, 

Seventeen years from now, I can only hope that we will be packing up your bags, buying your books, and preparing you for the greatest journey of your life…college. We’ll be moving you into your first dorm room, easing you into the excitement and fear that all comes with moving away from home, and leaving you to enjoy what will be an incredible four years. I hope that you love college as much as your daddy and I did. I hope that you learn, and grow, and make great friends, and make mistakes but learn from them. I hope you study (you better) and work hard, and experience the satisfaction of graduating from a great university. I hope you experience the excitement of a college football game and  the exhaustion from pulling an all night-er. I hope you meet a girl and fall in love, and if you’re lucky, meet the girl you will marry. I hope those four years will be incredible, and I cannot wait to watch you experience them, because they were truly amazing for your daddy and me. For one, its where we met each other, and had that not happened we would not have you in our lives.

I’m not in any rush to get you to college by any means. So please don’t grow up too quickly, sweet boy. But eventually that day will come. And lets be really really honest for a minute, Your daddy and I are secretly hoping we can fool you into believe that there is no other school in the country besides East Carolina. Are we awful for wanting you to love the Pirates as much as we do? We’re campaigning already, and you aren’t even potty trained. We’ll teach you the fight song, take you to as many games as we can, and pray that you fall in love with this place. And when you do? I’ll proudly display this photo at your graduation, cry like a big ol baby,  and say it all started when you were still in diapers.

landon ecu copy

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