How time flies……the first year.

It’s a month of some epic celebrations.
Pink Champagne cupcake from Sift | whiskandmuddler.com

So that calls for sparkles. And lots of glitter. You see, my little bloggie here turns one year old today. Whaaahooo! That was an incredibly fast year wasn’t it? And I have a semi-milestone birthday myself this weekend. Oh, and my jury duty was postponed till December- double whaaahooo! All 100% awesome-possum reasons to pop open a bottle of bubbly and toast away! (wow, with that line, it doesn’t take a Sheldon to figure out how old I am- geessh!)

As I was looking back through old posts to find my first one (June 12, 2014), it gave me the opportunity to peruse some of the earlier articles I had written. I’d imagine that all of you once-newbie-bloggers out there also experienced a cringe-worthy trip down memory lane when reflecting back on your blog’s first year. Especially when it comes to the styling of pages, quality of the photographs, the randomness of thought & organization of topics. Writing a blog, has for me, been a wonderful (and much needed) creative outlet, which is now fueling a new career on the creative side of the culinary & beverage world.  However, I’ll be the first to acknowledge that all my years in the retail & wine biz did absolutely– without question– directly contribute to where I am today.  I would not have the knowledge (or courage) to embark on this slightly terrifying incredibly exciting adventure without all my past accomplishments (and failures) to guide me along this crazy, wonderful path. And it of course goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway!) that YOU— all of my family, friends and readers—have given me so much encouragement, inspiration, post ideas, and the occasional spell-check (you know who you are & gracias!). And to all my Inspirations– everyday you teach me a new kitchen hack, share an interesting POV, or make me hungry. So to ALL of you, a ginormous thank you, thank you, thank you!!

In honor of my first blogiversary, thought I’d feature some of my most favorite posts, as well as answer some camera questions that I’ve received this past year. Enjoy reading (or re-reading) because I’m going to leave you now so that I can dive into these glitter-bombed bundles of sweetness right this minute!

 DSC_0409-1-1The BEST Peach Pie (posted June 21, 2014). This was one of the first posts where I shot all the photos. I had just purchased my fancy-schmancy DSLR camera about a week before-hand and was happily clicking away! I didn’t know diddly tu-tu about lighting back then (obvs), but I am proud of my novice composition. And seriously, it is one killer peach pie!

ifbc2014_125x125IFBC Countdown Is On (posted Aug 10, 2014). I was sooo excited to attend my first blogging conference. And the experience did not disappoint. My little pea-brain was on stimulus-overload by the time it was over. I left feeling inspired, energized, informed and ready to delve so much deeper into all aspects of writing, photography and brand promotion. I made great social/networking connections last year, all of whom I hope to see again this year.

Citrus SaltCitrus Salt | whiskandmuddler.com (posted Dec 1, 2014)- This was the first time I felt like I was getting the hang of composition and lighting (well, sort of). Needless to say, that journey continues today as I read, practice, watch others, practice and then….do more practice. But I am happy with how the majority of these shots turned out. Plus the recipe is dead simple and it honestly is something I use daily in my kitchen.

Aussie wine adventures | whiskandmuddler.comAussie Wine Adventures Part 1 & Part 2– (posted Feb 18 & March 4, 2015) Okay, goes without saying that a trip down to my favorite place on earth—eating, drinking and have a bloody good time with my friends– totally qualifies as memorable posts. I loved (to infinity!) every minute of it. Enough said.

Fresh Cherry SconesFresh Cherry Scones | whiskandmuddler.com– (posted May 17, 2015) this was a recent one where I had some fun with a macro extension lens to get some good close-ups. Was so happy to finally have something I baked that week turn out right. For some reason, it had all been massive fails. You can read all about it in the post.


FAQ

What kind of camera do you shoot with?
I use a DSLR -Nikon DS3200 with a Nikon DX 18-55mm lens. Sometimes for a real tight close-up, I’ll use an auto focus macro extension tube set.

I noticed you shoot with natural light. What’s your preferred time of day to take photographs?
It all depends on the time of year and the weather that day really. During the winter months when the light is lower, I only have a window from about 1pm- 4pm. I like to shoot in my kitchen where I get the most even light. Natural, soft light is the best for food photography. In the summer, I can start as early as 9am but by 2 or 3pm, the sun has shifted and then it becomes a struggle to get ‘the shot’. I sometimes use studio lights for bottle or product shots.

What software do you use for touch-ups and finishing?
I initially used PicMonkey because it was free and very user-friendly. But as of February, I only use Lightroom and Photoshop. I took a couple classes on both, but have really learned it by hands-on trial and error. I still have a TON of learning to go, and probably only use a fraction of what it can do. But I love the results with both products.

What color of food is your favorite to photograph?
I seem to be on a red & green kick at the moment. I love the deep, dark red colors of cherries and rhubarb…especially on a rustic or darker background. That’s probably why you see so many recipes featuring both of those ingredients. I also like anything green. Shooting the Super Greens Smoothie Discs post was so much fun. All the hues of green throughout were beautiful, plus the textures of lettuces, fruits and vegetables gave it some interest.
Battle Royale cupcake from Sift | whiskandmuddler.com


Notes: these are two cupcakes from my favorite! cupcakery, Sift Dessert Bar here in Sonoma County. The first one up top is Pink Champagne (raspberry cake with champagne frosting) and the bottom one is Battle Royale (almond cake with blueberry tequila filling, topped with acai berry cream cheese frosting)…..it’s the flavor they won Food Network’s ‘Cupcake Wars’ top honors with. It’s probably my most favorite….after the now discontinued (R.I.P.) Chocolate Peanut Butter Ripple. But EVERYTHING they bake is delicious,  so can’t really go wrong with any of them.

Yes, it appears that ‘favorite’ is the only descriptive word I know today….counted it five times already….probably missed one in there too. Forgive me!   ;>)

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Looking Forward

Looking Forward“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”  [Howard Thurman].

Last summer my yoga teacher read us this quote at the end of practice one day. It resonated so strongly with me. That very weekend I started this blog….
So long 2014 and hellloooo to a brand new year! Welcome 2015 and all the good things you have in store for us. As so many of us do, we reflect on the past year’s accomplishments (and yes, missed opportunities as well) through journals, photos, and such.  I’ve really been enjoying the year-end recaps that all my favorite bloggers have compiled,  so I wanted to give some serious thought to my aspirations and goals for this coming year and share them with you. For many, making a “resolution” for an entire year in advance seems overwhelming and somewhat of a herculean task. And for me personally, I do much better with setting one or two focused intentions with a target date of mid-year to check in on my progress and reassess. My birthday is June 14,  so I usually find that’s a good date to mark on the calendar. Here’s my short list. I’ll keep you posted on my progress throughout the year with blog posts and photos. Cheers to a fresh start and the enthusiasm of possibilities to come!

Keep learning
A passion was lit with the endeavor of starting my blog and sharing my creations with you all. I intend to stoke the flames of creativity with more hands-on learning through classes, reading, workshops, conferences, local exploration, meet-up groups and more. Over the past six months, I’ve only scratched the surface of how fun and rewarding this outlet can be. And I so appreciate all the comments I receive from you on the posts; it makes my day!

Find Inspiration
It truly is the key to beginning and maintaining a new habit, tradition or ritual. I’m often in awe as to how cleverly narrated and expertly photographed so many blogs are. Written from the heart with honesty, openness, wit and with such respect and enthusiasm for the on-line culinary community. There are too many sites to count which I browse regularly and get happily lost in. But here’s just a few new blogs I discovered towards the end of 2014; I can only wish mine grows up one day to be just like these !

Hint Of Vanilla– Megan Voigt is clearly a hugely talented baker. Her gorgeous pastries, breads, cakes, macarons, and alike jump off the page through her amazing photography. …makes you want to get out the flour and eggs that very instant. She tackles the fussy and intricate world of haute baking making it look so easy along the way. Her Honey Lavender Macarons are simply stunning!

The Candid Appetite– Jonathan Melendez is another inspiring young talent who’s love of food fills the screen with color, texture, and creativity with ingredients.  He studied photography and works in the food business— and it shows. His keen eye and clean & polished site is filled with mouth-watering pictures and recipes which are easy to follow. He often gives you step-by-step photos to accompany them…. which I love. Jonathan’s sense of humor and variety of dishes keeps me reading.

Katie At The Kitchen Door-  I have no idea how I stumbled across her site, but glad I did. Katie has a large readership which enjoys her beautifully photographed dishes and a large recipe list. Go there for inspiration on what to cook tonight. She shares tidbits about her personal life and also incorporates cookbook reviews into the site as well. There are lots of drink recipes too— like this Lemon Rosemary Gin Fizz.…um, yes please!

How Sweet It Is– Jessica Merchant has a huge following on her blog and now a brand new cookbook, called Seriously Delish.  It’s filled with a ton of…..well, you guessed it, delicious recipes and her own food shots. Jessica has a truly special way of connecting with her fans and readers through her writing. Her enthusiasm for all things food is seriously off the charts! She also publishes posts daily,  which seems like an impossible feat to achieve. That’s dedication. Jessica has given me inspiration to be more consistent with mine this year.

Food 52 & Provisions
I love this site for the new innovative recipes, articles and their Provisions retail shop features small, artisan producers of anything and everything imaginable for cooking or drinking. This is definitely a place for whimsy and wonder.

Shutterstock Blog / Posts by Taylor Mathis
I like to visit the Shutterstock site every few weeks to check out the latest in the world of commercial photography. Their blog site features handy tips & tricks, special features, trends and more. I especially like Taylor’s articles on how to work with food and the camera. He has dozens of techniques from working with color-inspired ingredients to best angles for shooting food to simple lighting tips. I’ve learned so much from his posts.sydney harbour and opera house-7[I took this from Taronga Zoo looking back to Sydney Harbour]

Future Posts
I’m very excited to be traveling back down to Australia in a couple of weeks— it’s been far too long since my last visit. I have some serious catching up to do with my friends there on good eats & drinks! I’ll be sharing my food and travel adventures with you in future posts in February & March. A few must-see’s for this trip are:

The Cookery Book– located just 10 minutes north of Sydney center, The Cookery Book is an exclusive wholesaler and retailer of culinary, health and beverage books for both home cooks and professionals in the culinary field. I can’t wait to see their selection and browse the shelves for some of my favorite Aussie authors.

Sydney Fish Market– In all the times I’ve stayed in Sydney, I’ve never been here. It was this post & this great picture from The Hungry Mum’s blog that finally convinced me. So I’m super excited to stroll the shops. It’s also home to the Sydney Seafood School, a top-notch culinary center and the country’s leading cooking school. There are a couple of classes that have caught my eye,  and schedule permitting, this may be a great way to put into practice item #1 from above.

Adelaide Hills, South Australia- This is one of my favorite wine regions in SA. Probably best known for Sauvignon Blanc, the region also boasts award-winning cool climate varietals such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sparkling. I always cherish a visit to this area and am really looking forward to coming across a few new wines and wineries. No worries, you’ll receive a full tasting report along with all the best places to dine in the Hills in special travel posts in February/March.

And of course,  no trip to this area would be complete without my requisite visit to Adelaide Central Market, one of my favorite places. It’s mecca for this here foodie.  Smelly Cheese Shop here I come!

above photo from Fotolia.com ©schankz