Have you heard of Bon Mimi? It’s the newest online private sale company specializing in boutique and emerging children’s brands at DEEP discounts. I found out about them just before the new year through their Facebook fan page. I’m a super fan of small business, and went to college with one of the owners so I immediately “liked” their page and waited patiently for the site to launch.
You might say I was a little enthusiastic because I happened to be the very first purchase on the first day. Let’s pretend I’m not a skilled internet stalker and chalk it up to the fact that it was a rainy day and I had a time zone advantage. It was also Big Zoom’s birthday that day so I snatched up a sweet Lissoos cars t-shirt for him because the child is obsessed with cars. I was delighted when it arrived and wished I’d ordered more. As soon as he sees it in his drawer he yells carrrrssss! and requires me to let him wear it.
Check these guys out if you are in the market for another (and who isn’t really) internet sale site to buy from. I’m currently digging this, this, and this. If I never had to set foot in a mall again with my kids flailing about in the stroller, I’d be a happy happy girl. Sites like Amazon Mom and Bon Mimi have made shopping for baby gear so easy and enjoyable.
You must be a “member” to join, which basically just means signing up. I got 5 loyalty points for joining (which equaled $5) and you earn more points every time you purchase. Sign up here and start shopping!
*This is not a sponsored post. I happen to really like this site, and was super pleased with my first purchase. Just wanted to share the love!
I’m in a fantastic little neighborhood Bunco group. Now, before you roll your eyes and delete my blog from your RSS feed, know this; my Bunco girls are pretty rad. I’ve be “in” the group for about a year, and I’m still unsure how to actually play Bunco. Mostly we gab, sip wine, laugh about our kids, and devour delicious edibles until the clock strikes 10:00pm and we decide we’re all about to die from exhaustion.
Last night, after avoiding the tantalizing Cookie Batter Dip pins on Pinterest for nearly 4 months, I broke down and decided to give it a try. This was pretty good. Not knock your socks off amazing, but definitely addicting and delicious. If you’ve got a party or shower to attend this summer; this is a good option. It’s different and unique and will likely be inhaled if you’ve got a crowd of pregnant ladies, hyperactive kids, or slightly wine-buzzed friends to feed.
This dip took literally 10 minutes to make, and 10 minutes to chill. In fact, I’d planned to make this yesterday evening before I left for Bunco so that I
wouldn’t be tempted to eat it all before the party started could take advantage of the pretty evening light for pictures. Alas, an insane thunderstorm complete with hail rolled through just before I started so I had to take my photos under the kitchen window. I kind of like how moody they are!
In my opinion, Vanilla Extract should be an ingredient in every dessert.
The recipe calls for toffee bits, which I couldn’t find yesterday. I substituted white chocolate chips. Yummy. I may try this recipe for Monster Cookie Dough Batter Dip next time. Looks divine!
I served this with chocolate graham crackers. I think apple slices, pretzels, and animal crackers would also be good. Or, just stick a baby spoon in it and go to town. I may have done that for breakfast. Ahem, and lunch.
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Batter Dip
(very, very, very slightly adapted from here)
8 ounces cream cheese (use full fat; just do it)
1/2 cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 box chocolate graham crackers (or whatever vehicle you’d like to use for dipping)
Cream butter and cream cheese together with a stand or hand held mixer. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes or up to an hour. Serve with snacks and enjoy!
I’m a seriously lucky girl. I spent last week waking up each morning (with the sunrise) looking out 6, 10-foot windows at this. Sometimes the sky was a cloudy blue gray and the swells were 4 and 5 foamy hills deep. Other mornings the sun peeked through and the sea was calm and steady. Big Zoom and I would wait patiently as each member of the family padded up the steps in their own time.
We laughed and whispered and giggled and sang and hugged and snuggled and ran and rested the whole week away. It was wonderful.
During the day we’d chase waves and fly kites. We hit golf balls into the howling wind on the shore. We drove on the beach searching for wild horses and collected seashells. We shivered in the swimming pool and ate lunch together as a family.
The kid Zooms got to meet their 2nd cousins; a delightful pair of spunky twins. She was dolled up in the most fantastic accessories and he too quick to photograph!
We were officially at the beach for my cousins wedding. By night, we partied hard. Our family reunions/weddings closely resemble frat parties at times. I am the oldest of my grandparents 18 grandchildren (the youngest is a freshman in high school) and we’re a very social bunch. Throw in a couple of Panamanians (the groom was from Panama) and you’ve got yourself rocking party. Check out my Instagram feed for “those” pictures.
Big Zoom was spoiled completely rotten. He went on an ice cream with his aunts and uncle, had unlimited access to YouTube garbage truck videos and stayed up late every night to play. He had the time of his life. And, Little Zoom learned to crawl! Despite living so far away from our families, they always seem to be around for the big milestones.
I’m so lucky to have been able to check out of my everyday life here and check in with my family for a whole week. My batteries are recharged. My heart is bursting full and I’ve got enough fantastic memories to last until our next visit.
I love being an amateur hobbyist photographer. I have no deadlines, no clients to impress, no “look” to achieve, no rules to follow. I am able to enjoy this, purely as a hobby, and at this point in my life I am so enjoying my learning.
I spent this past week doing a lot of self-teaching specifically with regards to low light photography and black and white processing. I’ve been so inspired by this series, and particularly the interviews with Sarah Wilkerson and Melissa Gibson. I’ve never preferred black and white to color, but after seeeing some of these ladies stunning images, I’m starting to admire the beauty in a well done black and white. They are just so moody and emotional!
So on a particularly dreary day this week, I decided to put my new knowledge to test on Big Zoom’s second birthday present from my sister. He loves this Radio Flyer bicycle to death. It has yet to see real action on the streets because we haven’t gotten a helmet for him, but he spends plenty of time “riding” it around the living room/dining room/kitchen/family room. Thank goodness we have a house with an open floor plan.
We’ve had a few sniffles and a hacking cough over here this week so we’ve been laying pretty low. Thomas t-shirts and bike riding made the time pass quickly.
I’m quite pleased with how these, my low light + black and white images have turned out. And they fit perfectly with the Still Life theme on my Project 52 challenge.
Check out the rest of my friends here!
Make these. You won’t be sorry. Unless you’re on a diet. In that case, half the recipe, eat 2 or 3 (or 10) and give the rest to a friend. It’s worth cheating. They are that good.
Don’t mind the fact that the recipe says “Mrs. Fields” chocolate chip cookies. These taste absolutely nothing like those lifeless cookies they sell at every mall in America. I got this recipe from my dear mother; she’s been making these chocolate chip cookies for over 20 years. These cookies are substantial, filled with chocolate chips and chocolate bits, and are seriously addicting.
My mother’s cookies are an absolute hit with everyone who tries them. When I was in college, my mom would send a box of them down every few months. When my hall mates got word that a new shipment had arrived, they’d be banging down my door looking for snacks. And, I may or may not have received an invitation to dinner from a goofy young man after I shared one with him. Thanks Mom!
These are my go to treat for bake sales, sick friends, BBQ’s (cookouts), and parties. When I stepped off the plane in Ireland to meet Mr. Zoom for the first time, I had several Ziplock bags full of these stuffed in my carry on bag. Because that’s what American’s do; we come baring food.
And, I got a proposal 8 months later. I’m not discounting the fact that these cookies may have sealed the deal.
Yesterday, I whipped up 2 batches of these bad boys for a trip we’re taking to the beach this weekend. My cousin is getting married and a whole crowd of my extended family will be staying for a week to attend the wedding. To say we’re excited is an understatement. I’m 200 (plus or minus samples) cookies excited.
Though it took me all day, and I probably will come down with salmonella from “testing” the batter, I can’t wait to share them with everyone this weekend. There’s nothing better than catching up with family over a few chocolate chip cookies.
If you’ve been invited to a party this weekend, have yet to find the perfect mother’s day gift, or are looking for a date, try out a batch of these to share. At the very least, your tummy will certainly thank you.
Mrs. Field’s (Mama’s) Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 75-100 cookies
4 cups flour
5 cups oatmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups butter, softened
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups sugar
24 ounces chocolate chips
8 ounce chocolate bar (Hershey’s or Cadbury’s) shaved (pulse in food processor for a sec)
3 cups nuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine and sift together flour, oatmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter until softened. Add eggs one at a time, then vanilla and sugars. Mix well.
Slowly add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. If your stand mixer has a large enough bowl this can be done mechanically. Otherwise wash your hands, get out a big bowl, and mix by hand. Finally add chocolate and nuts. Batter will be very thick and heavy.
Drop heaping tablespoons onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 9-12 minutes. Check frequently and remove when very slightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.
*Cooks note: about 50% of people who try and make these LOVE them frozen; Mr. Zoom included. I usually pop half the finished cookies directly into the freezer (in Ziplock bags) when cooled. He eats them frozen!
You wanna know a secret?
I met Mr. Zoom on Myspace. So vintage. I’ll spare you the insanely cheesy details, and cut to the chase. We started “chatting” in April of 2006 after I spotted a profile picture of this cute Irish guy with an incredibly bizarre name holding a football (American). Confused about why he had that football in his hands and curious as to how his name was pronounced, I “messaged” him. He responded immediately. I must have had a good profile picture up that day.
3 months later I had quit my job, sold my belongings and enrolled in a master’s program in Dublin. I arrived in Ireland in September of that year eager to
meet that cute guy begin my studies and explore Europe for a while.
We hit it off immediately. Probably because he used to wear tight t-shirts.
Or because he was just so dang cute.
This was day 3. I’m not even kidding. I told you it was cheesy. 8 months after I arrived, he proposed in Paris. I said yes. Duh.
We were married a year later in the Bahamas.
And then honeymooned in Italy.
In December of 2009, we moved back to the States because Mr. Zoom got a job transfer. And, I desperately missed Target and peanut butter.
We landed in North Carolina and lived in a converted loft in the old Lucky Strike tobacco building. We used to be so hip. Six months later, this happened…
That’s only 2 of the 5 tests I took. I was unaware that false positives don’t really exist. I called Mr. Zoom at work that day and told him to come home immediately. We went to Cheesecake Factory that night for dinner to celebrate and I began my “pregnancy diet”. We were thrilled.
How could we not be? After Big Zoom was born, a lot of stuff happened. My little brother got married in San Francisco, we bought and moved into our first house, we visited Ireland for Christmas. It’s all a little fuzzy. Baby brain was in full force. Such full force that on Christmas Eve, in Ireland, we got some news. Big Zoom was going to be a big brother.
In August of 2011, the sweetest little boy in the world was born. So quiet, so easy, so happy. Little Zoom has been such a welcome blessing to our family.
And finally, after 4 years of paperwork and status changes and BIG FAT checks to the Department of Homeland Security, Mr. Zoom said the Pledge of Allegiance a few weeks ago and is now dual US/Irish citizen. He managed to memorize lots of vital facts about American history (which I, sadly, did not know), and swore his oath to serve and protect (though he says he’ll flee to Ireland before going to war).
Our 4th wedding anniversary is coming up in a few weeks and we often feel like we’ve been living in fast forward. Each year since we met, something major has happened. Engagment, marriage, moving countries, a baby and a house, another baby. You see, it’s been exhausting. This year, 2012, has been deemed the year of rest. No major life events to occur this year (we hope!). We’re settling in and finally slowing down and it’s feeling really nice.
The week before last, my Big Zoom turned two. To celebrate Mr. Zoom, Little Zoom and I all trekked to the local fire station to visit with the fireman. Then we headed out for burgers and shakes as a family. It was a really nice little birthday celebration.
Before we had the boys, Mr. Zoom and I lived in a funky old tobacco loft in downtown Durham, NC. We really liked the area and especially loved all the neat shops and local restaurants within walking distance of our home. I’d walked past Ox and Rabbit several times while living there, but never made it inside. Now that we live much further away, I really wish I’d checked it out sooner.
The vibe in this place was great. It’s part old time milkshake and soda bar, part kitschy gift shop. The sell everything from t-shirts to throw pillows, coasters to art work, paper supplies, sweet sweet baby and kid items, and so much more. I honestly fell in love with the place and wanted to set up a little desk in the back to blog and take in all the inspiration.
We ordered the boys Egg Cream’s after asking the owner what they consisted of. I knew I’d seen a special on Food Network a while back and was happy to try one out. They are old fashioned “milkshakes” originating in Brooklyn which consist of a flavored syrup, milk and soda water. Cool.
They could barely fit their noses over bar, but really enjoyed watching their drinks be made.
One of my favorite things about the place was the totally local vibe. While I’d seen some of their wares for sale in other such shops, the way they were displayed at Ox and Rabbit using reclaimed and refurnished furniture was really neat. If Mr. Zoom would let me, I’d fill our house with this kind of stuff. Low VOC paint be darned. I’ll take character any day.
I loved their selection of cards and single sheet wrapping papers. I’ve yet to find a shop in our area that sells the kind of packaging products I look for when gifting. I think I’ll have to make a trip back here to stock up.
We really enjoyed our morning trip to Ox and Rabbit. Summed up: it was part antique shop, part gift shop, and part ice cream parlor. We will most definitely be back for more!
So, remember how I told you that I was invited to attend a photographer’s retreat? Well, it was like a real life, for real, photographer’s retreat. With real photographer’s. Fancy cameras, lenses, flashes, SD cards, cables out the wazoo, shooting, uploading, importing, exporting, discussing. Phew. It was manic. It was WONDERFUL (despite the unplanned, ill prepared 5 mile run I decided I’d do in the middle of the (hot) afternoon on only 3 hours sleep which induced temporary heat stroke), seriously wonderful. I was so grateful to be able to attend and watch a couple of pro’s at their best. And, I made a leap, friends. I switched to RAW. Holla.
I also decided I’d go ahead and download the free 30 day trials of Lightroom 4 and RadLab. If I can somehow manage to acquire full licensed copies of those two beauties, my life will be complete. Otherwise it will be over in 28 days.
Ashley and Ryan were totally awesome. They are married and their wedding was shot by Molly of Molly Cook Photography. Molly is a total gem and super creative and artistic. If you are in the Greensboro area and are in need of wedding photography or children’s portraiture, check her out! She’s super fun, she is a pro Instagrammer, and she’s got good hair. My kind of girl.
So, since these two live at the beach and we were in need of models, they volunteered to be attacked by 3 crazy ladies with cameras on Saturday morning. I imagine having three cameras up in your stuff was a little intense, but they were great. Ashley totally rocked it, managing to give us each a little eye contact.
I’m probably saying something totally hilarious here like, ” hey guys? how do I focus?” Seriously.
These pictures were all shot in JPEG. I switched to JPEG + RAW for the afternoon session last weekend, and boy what a difference. My shots of a family of three boys on the beach were so much cleaner and better. And, editing those RAW images in Lightroom was much easier than trying to adjust on these JPEGs. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to share them with you, but I hope to show you some similar shots I take next weekend!
These are all still a little off. I’ll blame it on my first attempts at Lightroom and Rad Lab.
So, there you have it. My first attempt at pretending I’m a professional. Though I am not in business and don’t plan to be, I’m so grateful I was able to hang around with these girls last weekend. I learned so much from this morning session above. White balance issues and a bright sky and different skin tones made it tough for me to get a nice clean shot. I am still pretty slow in manual mode and often found the moment had passed by the time I got my settings and focus point right, but I’ll get there.
I have really fallen in love with photography and am so enjoying finding my way through it. Just having the opportunity to ask questions and try new things will no doubt help in my hobby. I’ll be at the beach again next weekend for my cousins wedding and am looking forward to continuing to practice on my family.
Last weekend, I was invited to “tag-a-long” at a photographers retreat in Holden Beach, NC. I have lots more to share about what a fun, but totally un-relaxing, weekend it was later this week. Who knew photographers worked so hard! Here’s a snapshot of our weekend in Instagram. Sometimes I think I should be a professional Instagrammer. Those filters NEVER let me down.
Please don’t mind my strange gray storyboard here. I’m trying something new people. It’s not really working.
That’s me below, playing professional. I managed to finagle my way onto two shoots and pretended really hard I knew what I was doing.
Stay tuned for an upcoming hilariously unprofessional take on my first professional shoot. We all have to start somewhere.
So, I’m not much of a bath and body product type of girl. I’m not really much of a makeup girl either. I’d like to be a little more of both, but have really NO IDEA whatsoever about makeup (beyond foundation and mascara) and my hair is just such a hot mess most of the time I doubt any product could really tame it.
I’m also not much of a crafter or DIY’er. Again, I’d like to be and my Pinterest boards are full of cute handmade treasures dying for a place in my home. I know my problem on this one though: too many steps and too much clean-up is too boring for me. I like a quick and easy craft that allows me the satisfaction of enjoying the finished product instantly. Cooking does that, which is why I like it. And, aren’t we supposed to be the generation of instant gratification? I guess they have me nailed.
This Sugar Scrub is perfection. Shopping for the ingredients was done at Whole Foods, one of my most favorite places on the planet. Hello, free samples! And, the scrub was super quick and super easy to make. Now, I’ll admit that I’ve never used a sugar scrub (or any scrub) before, so I can’t guarantee that it was this particular scrub that did it, but I am a complete convert.
At the risk of giving too much information, let’s just say, I used it EVERYWHERE. And it was AMAZING. Make this, seriously, make it.
(makes about 2 cups)
1 1/2 cups cane sugar
1/2 cup kosher or sea salt
1 cup coconut oil (from the grocery section)
10-20 drops essential oil (I used 13 lime and 7 peppermint)
Mix together sugar, salt, and coconut oil until smooth. Add in essential oil and stir to combine. Sniff along the way and add more or less oil as you desire!