Sunday, February 3, 2013

Improving Our Photography Skills

I've been looking for awhile now for a website that teaches you how to be a better photographer, but not only has information, but has lessons for you to practice with. I finally found one, via pinterest of course, on It's Overflowing. She started these lessons a year ago, but I am going to start from the beginning, and improve my photography skills step by step! I'd love for others to start at the beginning with me as well! I will do my photography lesson posts on Sundays, a great way to start off the week! So I read the "Introduction" and now I will start with lesson two!

Here we go:
Lesson 2: Aperture
She tells us to think of aperture, or f-stop, as curtains on a window. I also think about it as a frame, blocking out light, the smaller you make the frame, the less light will come in. Think about it this way, the bigger the frame, the bigger your aperture/f-stop, the smaller the hole, the less light. In addition, the larger your aperture, the more in the background will be focused. The smaller the aperture the less in the background will be focused.
Make sense?
So for this lesson, we will pick a subject, and go through every single aperture setting on the camera and take a picture with each. Depending on what type of lighting you have, as you get to the larger f-stop numbers, your pictures may go black. This is what the other elements of the exposure triangle that she discusses are for. When my pictures went dark, I adjusted the shutter speed, making it a slower shutter speed (a lower number). We will learn more about shutter speed in the next lesson!

Here are the results of my assignment:

As you can see, This lower setting is brighter, and the green apple is blurry, the red is a little blurry, and the chair in the background is quite blurry, while the light red apple is in focus.                                                                  









As seen here, the picture isn't as bright, but the chair is more in focus, and the reflection of the chair is much more focused.

At this point, I started increasing the shutter speed. Because even though the assignment was to focus on aperture, the photos started to go black, and I wanted to finish capturing the subject on each aperture setting.









In the final picture, the chair and the chair reflection are much more in focus, as is everything else in the picture.

      I enjoyed this first lesson, and I am looking forward to next week's lesson on shutter speed!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Allergen-Free Rice Crispies!

I had been craving dessert, so I decided to make this simple, allergen-free treat! This one's a no-brainer, because... rice crispies are pretty much allergen-free to begin with, but here it is! All you do is take your favorite rice crispy treat recipe and use a soy-free margarine instead of butter!!

Allergen-Free Rice Crispy Treats

6 cups of Rice Crispy cereal ( i went for the cheap off-brand)
4 cups of marshmallows (mini marshmallows work best)
3 tbsp of soy-free margarine

Melt the butter in a pot on medium-low heat. Add the marshmallows and stir until mostly melted. Take the pot off the burner and add in rice crispies a few cups at a time. Mix well! Under-mixing will result in dry, not as good treats! Spray Pam in a 9X9 glass dish and press rice crispy mixture into the dish. Allow to cool in the fridge.

This is the soy-free margarine I use:

I got it at Walmart in the same section as the butter! Enjoy!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Food Allergies? Food Sensitivity? What's Going on?

     For the last few years, I've been having trouble eating. It's not that I didn't want to eat, or that I thought I was fat, or that I wanted to be skinnier. I would have a little something for breakfast and eat a full-sized lunch in the school cafeteria, but when it came to dinner time, I couldn't eat a normal meal. I was usually fine if I only had a little bit of food at dinner time. When I tried to eat a normal-sized meal, or went out to eat (where no meal is "normal-sized"), that's when the problem occurred. I would have intense stomach pains, stabbing at my gut, to the point that I could not sit up straight. All I could do was lay down and relax, and hope for the pain to subside. At first, it seemed, that my family just thought I was being dramatic. Some family members even laughed in my face and said that the only reason I complained about my stomach hurting was so that I didn't have to eat.
     After about a year of this, I finally went to the doctor. It was worsening, and I began to have other digestive issues. I was prescribed some medicine commonly known as Prevacid, just with a higher strength. It sort of worked... sorta didn't. I still had lots of issues.
     A few months ago, I was talking to a sort of councilor. He discussed with me the possibility that what I was going through was either bad "food-mixing", pairing the wrong foods together to work well in my system. He also discussed with me the fact that many people have stomach problems based on an internalization of feelings. Now this hit me right at home. In addition to giving me advice on my stomach problems, he gave me more advice on many other aspects of my life. He was a very kind person and his messages seemed genuine. So when I ate dinner that evening, I decided not to take my medicine, and I haven't taken it since. The problems did improve somewhat, but every time I went out to eat, and on days when we ate lots of different foods, such as Thanksgiving or cookouts, I would feel terrible. Even on Christmas, I had to lie down after dinner.
    All the while, my mom had been having issues as well. Hers were pretty different from my own, though. Her esophagus would push food back up the wrong way WHILE she was eating. She would wake up every night with indigestion. She had medicine as well, but it didn't work. It got to the point where she has to have surgery if this problem doesn't improve. That's where our supposed solution comes in. An Elimination Diet. My mom, being a Dietitian, talked to many people in her workplace. I believe she found out that around 2/3 of people who needed the surgery that she did, tried an elimination diet, and didn't need the surgery anymore.
     So, she got me on board to do it with her. On January First, the two of us eliminated the top 8 allergen foods from our diets: Dairy, Gluten, Soy, Peanuts, Tree nuts, Eggs, Fish, and Shellfish. I chose to also eliminate tomatoes from my diet, because as a child I was diagnosed with allergies to peanuts, nuts, tomatoes, and eggs. Now this may make me sound incredibly stupid, but I ate ALL of those things ALL the time anyways. I didn't care for the longest time. It didn't seem to have any effects, so, because of my love of food, cooking, and trying new and different things, I ate them anyways. That very thing could have been my sole problem. BUT, allergies change. My allergies as a four-year-old child could very well not be the same as my allergies as a seventeen-year-old.
     You may be wondering, as have all of the people I have shared my new diet plans with, what can you eat? My new diet consists mostly of fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats. Sometimes it can be bland, which really stinks when you are me, and have a passion for flavor.
     So for 6-8 weeks ( I have chosen to do 6, while my mom has chosen to do 8), I cannot eat any of the mentioned foods and ingredients. At the end of the 6 weeks, I choose one allergen per week and add it back into my diet. Then, I must examine how they make me feel. I am starting on week 4 (woo! halfway through!), and I have already chosen the first food I am going to add back in. DAIRY. It sucks not being able to eat cheese and butter and sour cream and yogurt and pretty much any sauce in the world! But I am hanging in here! It seems that I have lost a little weight, although that was not my intention at all, but what can you expect when you are eating so much healthier? And skipping out on so many extra carbs!
     So, as you are wondering what I can eat, I am going to provide for you three recipes that I would eat on a typical day.

Blueberry Oatmeal
     1 cup water
     1/2 cup oatmeal
     1 tablespoon of sugar
     1 tsp vanilla extract
     2 tablespoons Rice Dream milk
     a handful of blueberries
Follow the directions on the container to cook oatmeal in water. Stir in the remaining ingredients and enjoy!
The rice milk is completely allergen free! It works well as a milk substitute in recipes such as this one, to pour into cereal, ect. I like to drink it like I would milk, but my mom can't stand the taste!

Most fruit juices are allergen free! Although, most salad dressings are NOT. I made my own honey mustard dressing by mixing equal portions of honey and mustard. I like mine with more of a mustard flavor so I add extra mustard. If you like yours sweeter, add more honey! You can have very different tasting dressing depending on you proportions! Its kind of a trial and error thing. Beware of restaurant honey mustard. It is almost never allergen free! It almost always has some sort of dairy product mixed in to make it creamy! My salad has crunchy iceberg lettuce, mixed with baby spinach leaves for nutritional value (i don't like baby spinach alone). I chopped up celery, cucumbers broccoli, and mushrooms for the toppings, then added some shredded chicken pulled off a rotisserie chicken we ate for dinner the night before.
Bun-less Hamburger
For dinner I had a bun-less hamburger topped with lettuce and Vegan brand Mexican Style Cheese shreds. I cut it up and dipped it in mustard so that it wouldn't be dry. I drank a glass of water, and had an apple and some green beans for my sides. 

This Vegan brand cheese doesn't taste all that great on its own, it has a sort of off taste. But melted and mixed in with other flavors, such as mustard or another sauce, it tastes just like cheese, and it does melt and stretch like cheese. Unmelted it is a little powdery tasting, so watch out for that! 

This is my menu on a typical day! I swear by mustard, because it is the one condiment I can safely eat! Whether it is brown spicy mustard or yellow mustard, it should be allergen free! 

Stay tuned to hear more progress on my diet, and see what my final results are! I plan to post some good recipes that I have tried that are completely allergen free in the next week or so! 

Friday, January 18, 2013

An adventure to come.

      As a senior in high school, I'm getting to the point where I need to figure out what I'm going to do with my life. It's hard. I always knew what I was going to do when I was younger. Pretty much from the time I was five years old, until I turned 15, I just knew that I was going to be a Hollywood movie actress. I knew it wasn't a practical job. I knew it was hard to break into the acting business. I knew it was something that most people merely dreamed of. Yet somehow, I thought that reality didn't apply to me. I thought I would finish high school and go straight to Hollywood. I never planned on going to college.
     So now, as a 17 year old graduate-to-be, I'm clueless. Every time I get something in my head that I think I might like to be, I get another idea in my head that sounds equally awesome. Despite the fact that I don't know what I am going to do with this life of mine, I'm going to college. Four or more extra years of school is somewhat of a splash of cold water in the face. It's going to be hard, and a small part of me is dreading the torture that my new professors will force me to endure, the punishment being even more school if I don't work hard and make good grades. On the other hand, a larger part of me is excited. This is the next big adventure. There are so many exciting, unique people out there that I am going to meet when I start at this new school. I'm going to get specialized knowledge, I'm going to learn how to do many new and exciting things. And although its hard not knowing, I get to explore, and slowly discover who I am and what I am going to become. That! That is what is so exciting, in fact, it's probably one of the most exciting parts of a person's life. Everything is new, fresh, unexplored. It truly will be an adventure.