Friday, August 15, 2014

Summer Reads | fiction

One of my favorite summer traditions is making multiple trips to the library. This year, my reading list has been growing very quickly and I've found some new favorites. I won't give a summary of the plots, because those are found easily enough, but I'll tell you why I like them so much.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.
I could write a whole post just on this book.
The Young Adult genre usually isn't what I like to read, but I heard really great things about this book and decided to give it a shot. I loved it. Like so much that I went out and bought my own copy (which I don't do unless a book makes an impression on me, as I frequent my public library). The writing is geared towards a younger audience, (14-18ish), but the story is still all there. You feel what the characters feel. Yes, it will make you cry.
Favorite quote: "My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations".

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Starting off, this book was a bit confusing, as you are thrown right into the action. However, this book is fan-tas-tic. The story is set in WWII and is from the perspective of two young women and their involvements in the war. It is exciting and heartbreaking and amazing all at the same time.

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
A fun, quick summer read. I didn't really care for the writing style, but the story line was what kept me interested - a spontaneous solo trip around Europe following the instructions from a series of letters from a late aunt.
Two favorite quotes: "Why Paris? Paris needs no reason. Paris is its own reason".
"She was standing in the airport of Copenhagen, staring at a doorway, trying to figure out if it was (a) a bathroom and (b) what kind of bathroom it was. The door merely said H. Was she an H? Was H 'hers'? It could just as easily be 'his'. Or 'Helicopter Room: Not a Bathroom at All' ".

Next on my to-read list:
>Rose Under Fire, the sequel to Code Name Verity. I just started it, but so far it's a good as the first.
>A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman. I've read a ton of fiction lately and decided it was time for a switch. This book's been recommended by a few fellow photographer-artsy-creative types so I'm excited to check it out.

What have you been reading lately? What's next on your must-read list?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Flatbread Margherita Pizza | Recipe and food photography

flatbread margherita pizza baking
One afternoon this week, I wanted to make a food that was simple and used vegetables from our garden. A week before, I had made matza for the first time and thought it would be great for a thin-crust pizza. Technically, this pizza is very close but not a true margherita pizza, which is usually topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and basil leaves. I added a few pepperoni slices, diced green pepper, and quartered cherry tomatoes to my version. 

pizza dough on counter with flour and tomatoes
Fresh ingredients make a huge difference. The first time I used good mozzarella and fresh basil was a game-changer. Of course it's hard to get hold of fresh basil in the winter, but anytime you have fresh herbs on hand is the time to use them.

fresh basil leaves
rolled out pizza dough
pizza dough in oven

I love this crust recipe. While my family prefers thick crust, I like the thin crust better, as it's not so much an overload of bread and has a better crust-to-toppings ratio. But that's just me. I used white flour, but you could use wheat if you prefer (you may find you need  to add bit more water when using wheat flour).

Flatbread Margherita Pizzas
Makes 4 personal-sized pizzas

2 1/4 cups flour
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup warm water

4 oz tomato sauce (I use roughly half of an 8 oz can between the 4 pizzas)
1/4 lb part-skim mozzarella cheese, cut into slices or strips
fresh basil (approx 6 leaves per pizza, but use more or less if you prefer)
12 cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
sliced pepperoni
1/2 cup diced green bell pepper


Preheat the oven to 400* Fahrenheit.
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, olive oil, and water until a stiff dough forms. If the dough is too dry, add more warm water a tablespoon at a time. The dough should be more on the dry side rather than wet and sticky.

On a floured surface, divide the dough into 4 equal parts. Roll out each ball of dough as thin as possible yet still thick enough to handle without tearing. Use a fork to prick holes throughout the dough. Place the uncooked crusts on a cookie sheet, 2 to a sheet.

Bake the crusts in the oven for 5 minutes, then remove and place the toppings on the pizzas.
 Spread the tomato sauce thinly and evenly distribute the basil leaves, pepperoni slices, green pepper, tomato quarters, and mozzarella.

Place the pizzas back into the oven and bake until the cheese melts, the basil leaves turn dark, and the crusts are slightly golden brown on the edges (approx 5 more minutes).

Serve immediately.

Monday, July 28, 2014

July Lovely Letters

I don't know about you, but I miss the days of when more people used to send snail mail. Esther of Adventures with Esther and Jacob set up a pen pal program called Lovely Letters, where bloggers get to meet other bloggers. At the start of the month she pairs up bloggers to create a package of little treats and letters. I signed up for the month of July and was paired with Tress of Tress Ritter Photography.

This month's theme was "Ocean Blue", and as you can see from the photo below, I went all out with one of my favorite colors.

What I Sent:
A seashell necklace I made, a set of sticky notes, a letter, a bottle of awesome-smelling shower gel, and a paint chip playlist of some current favorites. If you're curious of my picks, see the photo below. :)

What I Received:
Tress created an awesome package. I love the surprise of having no idea what to expect. She sent me a really really cool letter printed on some parchment-like paper; I felt like I was reading a letter from Downton Abbey or James Bond or something. ;) Along with the letter, she sent a copy of her favorite book, a set of old-fashioned envelopes with really neat stamps, a jar of seasoning (totally can't wait to try it!), and a couple of candies (which I also can't wait to try).

If you want to join in with the Lovely Letters swap, you can sign up here and read all the details.

Lovely Letters Snail Mail Exchange

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

July Rambles

Hello peeps!  I didn't plan to disappear for so long. So what's been going on around here you ask? I like lists and none of this really goes together, so let's do this in list form:

1) I took some photos of fireworks and meant to blog them, but I've had a few other sessions that I've been working to finish first.

2) Making a big dent in my 'To Read' list. I'm planning to put together a post of some favorites (and not so favorites) as of late.

3) Food photography! If you know me, you know I like taking pictures of food, and I've been practicing more and working on my styling, finding inspiration from cookbooks and blogs (namely Kristin Teig).

4) Getting back into some sewing + knitting. My list of projects is still a mile long but this dress is up next in a deep red knit.

5) Reminding myself how to use photoshop. Since I got Lightroom 5 for graduation last December, I haven't needed to open the old Elements. But there came a time when I needed to do some head-swapping and I couldn't pull it off in Lightroom (side note- I've been switching heads and blinking eyes since the dark ages of digital photography, with good old windows 98 paint program as my software of choice. How things have changed).

6) Reading by the pool. The weather has been deliciously mild, hovering in the mid 80s without the usual smothering humidity. Love it.

7) Counting down until August 23rd. If you know what I am talking about, you, too, are counting the days (and the shadows).

What's new with you this month?

Monday, July 7, 2014

Baby V and Family | Paducah KY family photographer

What a sweet family to photograph! Despite the heat and horrible humidity, we got some great photos. Little baby V is such a happy baby. He seemed a little unsure of the whole photo shoot thing, but by the end of the session he was a natural model, even with two outfit changes. :)

EMILY MARGARET. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.