Category Archives: Food Blogging

Gimme A Private Room At Camp Blogaway – PLEASSSEEE!

I received an email a few days ago about a contest to win a private room at Camp Blogaway (which incidentally is coming up very quickly!). Well, I let it sit for a few days trying to decide if I should do a post or not since I have been busy and pressed for time to get anything done (especially housework). If you are not familiar with Camp Blogaway, this is a camp for food bloggers in Southern California in mid-May to get to know each other and learn some really great blogging and photography tips from the professionals (at least I think that is what I will be doing at 7000 feet in the woods!) 😉

While trying to decide whether or not I should take time out of my crazy life to write this post, I was flooded with memories (what few I have and those I did not block out permanently) of my camper days! They were truly not the best of times, so I then was asking myself…why am I going camping in May????? Based on those less than pleasant memories, I decided that heck yeah, I better write this post! If I am going to be sleeping in the woods with strangers, I sure as heck want a private room (with a lock!)!

Now, if you know me personally, you know I am not a camping type of gal. My philosophy has always been “Why would you sleep in the woods when there is a perfectly good hotel right down the mountain?” I like a nice warm bed with soft linens, a hot shower and my blow dryer! So, you can imagine how I was feeling when I got my camper packet in the mail and discovered I have to bring my own bedding, towels and soap to Camp Blogaway! Yikes!

Now, that would not have been so bad if I could jump in the car and drive up or down the coast of CA, but I am flying across the country and I have to pay to haul this stuff in an extra suitcase. That’s $25 extra (thank you Delta Airlines!). Okay, I guess I can get over that, but then I started thinking…if I am bringing my linens, just what kind of mattresses are on these beds??? Do we even have mattresses???!!!

I have a number of middle-aged ailments (herniated disk, sciatica, hip replacement – are you feeling sorry for me yet??), so I am now dreading the sleeping arrangements and fearing for mobility issues after 2 evenings on a cot (presumably?). In addition to the imminent stiffness issue, Patti (our fearless camping leader), also said not to worry about bringing make-up or hair dryers. So, now will I not only feel bad, I will look bad too!

With this in mind, I will now BEG for that private room! 🙂

I know that I am a big girl now and can certainly hit a hotel if I totally can’t take the camping. However, eons ago, when I was just a little girl and shipped off to camp for a week, I remember being totally miserable. Since this was in the olden days, there were no cells phones to call home and ask what you possibly could have done to be shipped off like this. You were not able to call and plead with your parents to promptly be picked up and brought home!

My next memory of camping was a class trip in 5th grade to Gettysburg, PA. I don’t think the grub (camper speak for food) was too terrible. I remember we had to hike up a hill to get to the mess hall (that’s where campers eat). So, I guess either the food was okay or we were starved to death and ate it anyway. I also painfully remember the cabins had those gosh forsaken cots and it was chilly and musty. However,that was not the worst of it. It was nasty bathrooms that we had to share with members of the opposite sex (at age 10)!

Since we were in the woods, these bathrooms were not plush to begin with. In addition, since they were co-ed loos, they were less than, would you say, sanitary?! Of course, the big thing for boys of that age to do was to sneak up on the girls while in the bathroom either showering or doing other unmentionable things. Well, let me tell you, that just was not fun and the boys were really creepy, so that would be my memories of that little camper adventure.

My final (and thankfully) last attempt at this, was on the Skyline Drive while I was in college. I went up to a campsite with a friend from school with my little Fiat car (if you remember those, you might just be my age!;) ). The wind was whipping so strong that it blew out all the power in the lodge on the mountain (for 2 days, I might add). So, silly us, decided to just put that pup tent right up anyway and get to camping! Now if you know anything about camping (and we didn’t, I might add), you would know that teeny little tent wasn’t going to work so well with those fierce winds!

After setting up “camp” (yeah, right) and being the novice campers that we were, when we could not get a fire going outside the tent to cook our dinner (due to major winds and fires extinguishing immediately upon being lit), we decided to heat that food right up inside the tent! Now, you might guess what would happen in that case (no…I did not burn the tent down). Instead, we had the local residents coming to visit all night long! Yes, indeedy! We had to put all the canteens and backpacks, etc. all around the inside of the tent that night so we could hear if Smokey the Bear or Rocky Raccoon were stopping by for a snack. And then the tent would suck in and blow out all night long with the high winds. Can you imagine having so much fun??

To top it off, the next day as we were getting in the car to go for a drive around the park, the winds whipped up and blew my passenger side car door completely in the opposite direction of where it should go and put a crease right in the door! Nnuf said. The 2 day camping adventure was over in one day!

So, after reliving these not so pleasant camping memories, I decided that YES I do need, want and have to have a private room if I am going to step foot anywhere near a campsite!

Most importantly, we have been warned to be careful about stashing food in our cabins due to mice and other critters. I am really happy to get to know everyone at Camp Blogaway, but because I do not know any of you yet, I am just not sure if I can trust you other gals to leave your snacks at home or locked up in steel drums and I am not interested in my suitcases ending up like this! Click here!!

So, I beg of you to pretty please, please pick me! Pick me! (I know I used that earlier in my blog, but I just had to do it!) 🙂



Filed under Camp Blogaway, Food Blogging

Thank you for my first award!

I was very excited yesterday to receive this Sunshine Award from Denise at Quickies on the Dinner Table. Denise is fun and fresh and has a great sense of humor. Her dishes are quick and easy and look delicious! I have enjoyed getting to “meet” her through our blogs. Besides that, how can you miss with a name like Quickies on the Dinner Table? 😉 No wonder she got the Sunshine Award!

Now that I am a recipient of this award, the deal is that I have to pass it on to 12 other delightful bloggers that have caught my eye. I am going to give this to some newer bloggers, so that they can get some recognition. I know how hard it is to create a niche for yourself when you start blogging, so here’s to them! (I am a “newbie”, so I can speak from experience!).

1. I met Cecille of A Dose of Frosting at the Stir It 28 event in Atlanta. I was impressed by her generosity. She must have donated hundreds of cupcakes to the event! They were so good we even took a few home! 😉 She has a real passion for food and for blogging.

2. You’ve gotta love someone who cooks for the their pooches, especially when they are baking up a batch of Cheesy Chicken Rounds (I know my dog would love them!). With that said, I also would like to pass the award on to the Pet Foodie at Doggie Dessert Chef.

3. To the girls (Judy and Phyllis) at Baker Babes Bakery. They started baking when they were kids and haven’t stopped since then! They turned their love of baking into a business. So, you know where to get your goodies if you are in Cleveland, Ohio!

4. I love Julia’s Fat Girl Trapped in a Skinny Body blog. The pictures are beautiful and she mixes some healthy dishes in with decadent delights. Besides, don’t we all feel like the name of her blog most days???

5. Laurel at Orange and Salt is fun, creative and has already hosted a cooking class (I am impressed!). Her pictures are beautiful and hey, she had me at her Orangettes (candied orange peels dipped in dark chocolate…oh, my goodness!).

6. I have to give one award to someone in my hometown of Philly. So, the next one goes to Lisa of Cocktails and Small Bites. I love that she concentrates on tapas, appetizers and small plates. Some evenings, that is all many of us want for dinner!

7. Scott of Fight The Fat Foodie has an awesome blog with all your favorite recipes slimmed down in fat and calories. He proves that you do not have to give up on flavor when you give up some of the less healthy ingredients. Keep those great dishes coming!

8. Devaki of Weave a Thousand Flavors has a beautiful blog with delightful dishes and really detailed pictures and instructions on how to create them at home. I love that she makes foods from all over the world. Some days you want French food and other days you want Asian! She is my kind of gal!

9. I sooo wish I lived where Pam of Sticks Forks Fingers lives! Pam writes about her awesome life in the countryside in Eugene, Oregon where she can purchase everything fresh and local (even the wine she drinks!). Her pictures are lovely too.

10. Just for Licks is a fun new blog. Every recipe starts with a rhyme. Now, personally, I would run out of things to rhyme with, but you go Sue! I think it’s great! Blueberry Brie Risotto…who woulda thunk it??

11. Chef Dennis of More Than A Mount Full deserves an award just for getting up in the morning! This guy feeds 560 girls at a high school in Pennsylvania. The best part is that he has also started a culinary program at the school and is teaching the girls how to cook. Now we are talking…bringing back Home Ec to our schools! You go Chef Dennis! 🙂

Okay, so I named 11 bloggers. I like odd numbers! Just kidding!

12. Mae from Peas Love Carrots has such a fun blog. I especially liked her LAMBington cakes! You can always count on something wonderful and unusual when you visit her blog. I know she has just been through a difficult time, so here’s to sending some sunshine your way!

Now, to the award winners, you too need to pass this on to your favorite bloggers! Here are the Rules:

1. Put the logo on your blog or within your post.
2. Pass the award on to 12 bloggers!
3. Link the nominees within your post.
4. Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
5. Share the love and link to the person from whom you received this award.

There are so many incredible people out there blogging and I could name so many more of them. I hope you all continue to do what you do best which is cook, write, take your pictures and blog about it. We all enjoy reading your posts and getting to know you better!


Filed under Food Blogging, Sunshine Award

On the Road to Better Photos – What’s happened to my house???

I feel like I am at the Food Network studios!

I thought I would write a post on something a little different today. I was working on a few dishes when I got a bit sidetracked preparing for The Great American Baking Contest, which takes place this evening. My Oh My Ganache! cupcakes are a finalist, so I needed to pay attention to them. I decided I better bake a test batch of my cupcakes last evening since the weather is so rainy and nasty. It is still rainy and nasty, so a test run was a good thing. I did not want any surprises when baking for the event (like molten cupcakes), so what the heck, bake and eat more chocolate cupcakes! Just what we need! 😉

Anyway, since my cupcakes took priority, I decided to do a post about my new life living with camera equipment all over my house rather than a cooking post! I must say that I had no idea what I was getting into as far as food photography when I decided to start a food blog! I thought I would do what I love to do (which is cook), take a few pics, write about it and create a blog post. Well, I soon learned that a rather large part of food blogging has to do with the pretty pictures and not always to do with what’s cooking in your kitchen!

We all love to look at the beautiful photography, and in reality, many people may never cook or bake what most food bloggers are blogging about! The photos are what catch your eye first. Once I realized that, I knew that I needed to put more effort into the pictures of my food. You want someone to love the dish they found on your blog, maybe even prepare the recipe and then come back time and time again. Unfortunately, if your food is not appetizing in appearance, you may never have someone try that recipe or pop in to check out your blog again. It is all about first impressions.

Lucky, for me, my sweet and beyond patient husband (yes, I am sucking up!) owns a nice DSLR camera (Canon 40D) and knows how to use it. However, he shoots mostly landscapes and portrait work, so this food thing was a challenge, even for him! He had some camera and photography accessories (tripod, extra flashes, light meter, spyderlite), but we had to add reflectors and some smaller lights to use in small spaces and in the kitchen. Unfortunately, I started this blog in the Winter (when it couldn’t be any darker and impossible to photograph food)!) and, of course, I generally take pics during cooking and right before dinner. Our lighting situation was miserable, so we added some lights to brighten things up a bit! We now have several different types of light sources for different places where we might want to take pictures. (My hubby had the spyderlite for portrait work in the basement, now it’s in my kitchen!). Yikes! This stuff is taking over my house!

I started out using a Sony point and shoot, while my husband used the Canon. I am now learning how to operate the DSLR. It did not seem to matter what camera we used, before we added the lighting component, we still had awful pictures! There is no comparison in the photos, as shown below (before and after additional lighting).

This was so bad, I did not even do the post!

Isn't this more appealing than the dish above?

As we have quickly discovered (and as some food photo sites will let you know 😉 ) it is mostly about getting the white balance correct. It is amazing what the difference is when you get the white balance where it needs to be! For us, part of that was in correcting the lighting situation.

Not a contender!

This picture was on Tastespotting, Foodgawker and Foodbuzz Top 9!

As you will see in the photos, my home is overrun with studio like equipment now! It gets frustrating some days, but when you get a shot like this below, it is worth all the mess! I just have to keep reminding my husband of this! 😉

This was fun!

By the way, the photos of the lighting and camera set-ups were taken with a Sony point and shoot (and they were not too bad).

Kitchen under seige!

We use this gold reflector to add some warmer tones to pictures.

Preparing food with reflectors in my face!

The best lighting is obviously daylight when you can put your food by a window or go outside, but when you cook mostly in the evenings, it is necessary to have a little help. Maybe not this much, but at least our photos should be getting better going forward (if we can survive the invasion!).

Note – in response to a few comments (below), you can purchase the lights we have on the counter in the kitchen complete with photo bulbs for $130 and a complete set of reflectors (5 disc colors) for $35 on Amazon.


Filed under Food Blogging, Photography