Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Where to Find Props for Food Photos

Hey guys, it's Christina. I'm one of the Maryland/Delaware Reps and blog over at Mom's Messy Miracles. Today I'm sharing with you some ideas on where to find props for your food photos.

I'm far from an expert, but I think my food photos have improved immaculately. Food Photography Progression

While a lot of food photography is actually using your camera correctly, you can really help your photos by finding some great props. It's kind of become a slight obsession of mine now to look for things I could use wherever we go.

Dollar Stores

At the dollar store, you can buy single plates, cups and bowls for $1. But... do you think about what else you can get there? Grab a roll of wrapping paper for a nice back drop. I have a couple of "wedding" design wrapping paper rolls that are just striped or small really light circles. Also, check in the dish aisle for shelf liners. You can get adhesive shelf liners in different designs that will allow you to make your "table" granite or various wood patterns. 

If you need something seasonal for a few added props in the background, you can grab them at the dollar store without breaking the bank. 

Yard Sales, Flea Markets or Consignment Shops

When you're at Yard Sales, Flea Markets or Consignment shops, keep an eye out for things that you can use.

 Yard Sales & Flea Markets for Props

You'll be able to find clear glasses, random plates, bowls and napkins for super cheap at these sales. If you go to a store, you'll usually have to buy a set, but not at a yard sale! I'll also group Goodwill into this because you can find some great pieces there that are sold individually.

Look for oddball white dishes (they're best for most of your food) in different shapes or with different designs. Antique plates can bring a completely different look to your food photos. I've really added to my collection while paying about .50 for each dish. 


When you figure out what it is that you want, search for it! If you add primitive or antique to whatever it is that you're looking for, you'll be overwhelmed with great possibilities. 

Finding a lot (meaning a large group of items) or a few items from the same seller is probably your best bet on ebay. 

Retail Stores

In a craft store, or even Walmart, you'll find so many great options. Try not to get too crazy though. Simple is best when it comes to your food photos. Anything you get shouldn't take away from your food, so keep that in mind while you're going crazy throwing things in the cart. 

I've been buying Fat Quarters (fabric pieces) instead of fabric napkins. I can pick them up for much cheaper than napkins and they're larger if I wanted to cover my whole "table" with it. 

Holiday Clearance

I've been really lucky lately finding super cheap clearance on holiday items. I'm still finding Valentine's Day items and Christmas items! I paid 10 cents for a pack of 10 paper straws last week and found a few more packs this week! I love being able to sneak a little color into a picture with just a straw. The pop sticks were 10 cents, too! 

Yes, some of the holiday clearance will only be useful for said holiday, but many times it'll be good for general use, too. Like those pink and red straws. They're Valentine's Day straws, but I'm pretty sure I can use pink and red any time I want.

Where do you find your props for food photos?

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

April Instragram Challenge!

Come join us for the April photo challenge on Instagram! March's challenge will wrap up with week 5 overlapping into April and that week's theme is: March Madness (March 29 - April 4), interpret it however you want!

The instagram challenge will be a monthly challenge on instagram with a different theme each week.  You can share one or more photos for each week's theme.  You can link up your photo for that theme any day that week.  To link up use the hashtag #nebloggersphoto and be sure to tag us (@nebloggersnetwork) in your challenge photos so we can see what everyone came up with!

Good to know (read through, as we've changed a few things from last month!):

  • We will post the themes on the blog and on our instagram the week before the new month so you can prepare! 
  • If a week overlaps months, that's ok, there will still be one theme which will run Sun - Sat and will be listed on the first month's challenge graphic.
  • For this challenge weeks will run Sunday to Saturday
Questions? Let us know in the comments below!  And, if you have any suggestions for future theme weeks just send us an email and we'll try to fit your idea in!
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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Blog of the Week: There's A Cook In My Kitchen

This week's blog of the week is There's A Cook in My Kitchen, written by Stacey!  Stacey is a true jack of all trades and blogs all about cooking and food!  Meet Stacey:

Tell us a little about you:
My name is Stacey Isaacs. I have had many careers. I’ve been a chef, a lawyer, and a writer/editor. And more recently, I received a Masters Degree in Oriental Medicine and a License in Acupuncture, so my latest passion is healing through acupuncture and Chinese herbs. Some people find this diversity interesting. Others just think I have the attention-span of a gnat.

I’ve found my passion and that is: Wellness. I love to cook delicious, chef-quality food that’s good for you and easy to prepare. I combine my passion for cooking with my knowledge for whole-body-wellness by using foods, exercise, meditation, qi gong, herbs and acupuncture to heal the body, mind and spirit. I’m happy to share anything I know and all that I am still learning with anyone who is interested.
Food is fun. Cooking has always de-stressed me. During my lawyer days, I would go into the kitchen in the middle of the night while I was practicing a summation and I would just cook. (I couldn’t eat because the nausea during a trial was ever-present.) After practicing law for about 15 years, I went to cooking school. This is where I learned that food is fun. It’s not rocket-science. Unlike my career in criminal law, no one’s life is on the line with food. I laugh at my mistakes and I relish in the happiness the good dishes give my friends and family.
Now, I take the great tasting foods I’ve learned to make, add in some healing herbs, create good energy, and it’s a great experience for mind and body. It’s fun. It tastes good. It’s satisfying. It’s healing.

What is your blog about?

I strongly believe you are what you eat and that most physical and emotional issues can be cured with the correct nutritional input. I look at the nutritional value of food through the eyes of both Eastern and Western medical schools of though. I provide recipes that are simple, healthy and delicious. 

Where do you live and what do you love about it?
I live on Long Island and in Manhattan. I love hiking on Long Island and I love that my dogs can run around. I also love the tranquility of my backyard. But, I'm a city girl at heart. I love the hustle and bustle of the city. I love all of the great healthy restaurants!
What is your favorite spot to visit in the Northeast?
I'm a New York City fan.    

What do you love most about blogging?
I love cooking. It's my de-stresser. And, to have a reason to do it on a daily basis that actually allows me to help people is a dream come true. 

What is your favorite form of social media?
I am not too good with social media (I guess I'm a bit of a dinosaur -- I'm a lot older than most bloggers). I'm learning it slowly out of necessity. I do like Facebook because I can keep up with all of my favorite food bloggers there.    

Thanks for sharing Stacey!  Be sure to visit her blog this week and follow her on social media!  Check out some of Stacey's posts below:
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Monday, March 23, 2015

WNY Cupcake Challenge 2015

Though I am SO proud to be a Buffalonian in the time of its cultural revival, I sometimes find it hard to take advantage of all the new events and locations that have recently won the hearts of residents and tourists alike. It's tough to get out and take it all in when you're Mom-ing three little dudes in Kindergarten and under, ya know?

Recently, though, I was able to escape with my mom & best friend for a couple hours to attend a REALLY fun event! It was close to home, conveniently timed, affordable - and SO YUMMY!

One of our most popular radio stations, Kiss 98.5, began hosting the Cupcake Challenge last year. Bakeries from all over Western New York set up tables vendor-style in a local event venue, and attendees get to sample a cupcake from each one before voting on categories like best overall, best looking, and most creative. All of the participating bakeries are local small businesses, and this event gives them a really awesome insight into what our community likes. I love the idea that we get to enjoy something that helps local businesses at the same time!

All of my favorite bakeries were there - Muscoreil's, Dessert Deli, Ohlson's...and one I've heard a lot about and have wanted to try - Firefly. Plus 12 more I didn't even know existed! I was really excited to....well, ya know, eat cupcakes...but also discover these awesome local places and see what they're all about.

The three of us staked out a table and, okay, kind of aggressively went about collecting our cupcakes. The competition for a spot in line was pretty fierce - the place was packed! When we had all 17 samples, we sat down to take some pictures and get down to some serious judging - we came to play!

How pretty is that little cupcake party??

My favorite taste-wise was the Peanut Butter & Jelly cupcake from Sassi Cakes (it was seriously accurate, and the peanut butter was to die for!), but there was also an incredible tiramisu frosting, and an crazy delish dark chocolate cake in the crowd, too.

My winners for the other categories:

The White Wedding cupcake from Ohlson's won my vote for best looking - photos did not do it justice. It's very simple, but the shades of white were gorgeous in person, and the edible glitter on it - I was craft nerding all over the place about it. So, there's a tip - if you ever need my vote for something, pour glitter on it. My most creative winner was Doughnuts & Coffee from Muscoreil's. It was basically a tiny doughnut - both in recipe and design - and the middle was filled with coffee cream. It reminded me of their chocolate-chocolate chip mouse filling we had in our wedding cake (that's probably my favorite cake component on this entire planet) with coffee added to it. So, uh, it was insanity. But it was also ridiculously adorable, so bonus points.

There was definitely a bit of sugar overload going on, so I basically just took a bite of each one and packed the rest up to bring home to the kids. My aspiring foodie kid was very appreciative of being able to do his own taste test! I hope to take him with me next year. OH yeah - we will be returning!

I love finding little fun gems like this to do close to home - I often forget how much there is to take advantage of in our area. We are so lucky! And, really, it just makes my heart happy to be from a place with such creativity and art running through it. I am definitely in the right place!

I hope to share more gems from our vast and creative community with you this summer!

Jenn is a mom of 3 boys living near Buffalo, NY, and blogs about her life and hobbies on her blog, Rych In Love.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Blog of the Week: Making Our Life Matter

Welcome to our blog of the week feature!  This weeks blog of the week is Making Our Life Matter by Jenn!  Jenn is a full time working mom of two who loves reading, blogging and Philly sports!  Meet Jenn:

Tell us a little about you:
I am a FT working Mom who is a lead bookseller for Children/Teen books. When I am not blogging, I am reading. I will be happily married for 18 years in May, and I have a 16 year old and 14 year old son. We are currently fur parents to an almost 13 year old Golden Retriever. I am a die-hard Philly sports fan, a baseball Mom, and everything in between.

What is your blog about?
Family. Food. Home. Travel. 4 simple words that have huge meaning.

Where do you live and what do you love about it?
I live in the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania. I love that it is a small town with big things. We now have the minor league teams for the Phillies and Flyers that are located 5 minutes away. 

What is your favorite spot to visit in the Northeast?
Definitely Wildwood NJ! We may live in the Lehigh Valley, but our heart resides in Wildwood! Be sure to check out all the great posts on my blog about Wildwood!

What do you love most about blogging?
Sharing the everyday to help people know that they are not alone in their struggles.

What is your favorite form of social media?
Um, I would have to say Pinterest. I can pretend to be a crafter, a chef, and so much more!   

Anything else you want us to know?
I am a co-host of the Motivation Monday Linky! Hop over to my blog at 6:30 PM EST on Sundays to link up!

Thanks Jenn!  Be sure to visit her blog this week and follow her on social media!  While you're at it, check out a few of her favorite posts:
Do you want to be one of our blogs of the week?  Click here to let us know!

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Geoffrey Z's Pesto Chicken

Hi everyone! I'm Kelly. I am one of the Massachusetts reps, and I write A Lovely Life, Indeed

I love Food Network shows. And I think that Geoffrey Zakarian is a hunk. He's handsome when he's rendering judgement on Chopped and he's even hotter when he's cooking on Food Network's latest offering, The Kitchen. 

He hit a home run recently when he prepared a Spring-inspired, pesto salmon. So easy and so intuitive, as far as flavor palates are concerned. I had to try it.

We had leftover chicken breasts in the freezer, so before buying fresh salmon, I opted to use what we had, and I thawed the frozen boneless breasts. 

Thank you, Geoffrey, for a fabulous, Spring-inspired dish that offers versatility with protein, allowing me to mix it up, depending on what we have on hand or what's on sale any given week. 

Geoffrey's Pesto Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 container of pesto
Dijon mustard
Melted butter
Salt and pepper to taste

  • Preheat your oven to 325.
  • Using a pastry brush, lightly brush melted butter onto your baking sheet. 
  • Season the pan with salt and pepper....I know, odd, but it works. Perfectly seasoned protein.
  • Place the chicken breasts on the seasoned baking sheet. Brush the chicken breasts with a light coat of melted butter. Season the tops with salt and pepper to taste.
  • In a small bowl, mix about 3-4 tablespoons of the pesto with about 2-3 tablespoons of Dijon mustard. You can eye-ball it. The pesto is the star. The mustard enhances it...truly.
  • Mix until well blended. Depending on your pesto love, or the size of the chicken breasts, you may need to mix up more. It's better to make more than make too much and waste it.
  • Spoon the pesto mixture onto the chicken. 
  • Bake the chicken 30-40 minutes, or until cooked through. It smells amazing and tastes even better. 
  • You'll have oil on the bottom of the pan. If you're a bread eater, I'm guessing it's a fabulous dipping oil. I'm not, so I can't vouch for it. But I don't leave the chicken sitting in the oil...too much. It's olive oil from the pesto, but still, I don't care for the extra oil.
Geoffrey served his pesto salmon with a cucumber salad. 

I served mine with spaghetti squash, sautéed with garlic and olive oil. 

What dishes do you look forward to each season? What's up for Spring? Inspire me. 


Thank you to Northeast Bloggers Network for letting me guest post. If you're looking for an upbeat blog about love, travel and the good life, visit me at A Lovely Life, IndeedHave a great weekend!

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Spring Cleaning Tips For Your Blog

Seriously, how excited are we all that spring is finally on the horizon? I feel like it's time to thaw out, emerge from hibernation (I wish I could sleep through winter) and get into spring cleaning mode. While you're getting ready to overhaul your wardrobe or turn the house upside down until it's spring-ready, don't forget about your blog. It's a new season and your website needs your attention too, so here are some spring cleaning tips for your blog.

The Sidebar

Is your sidebar a cluttered mess or are there outdated links hanging around there? Take some time to clean it up. Even if you're blogging for yourself, and not for money, a messy sidebar can be so distracting. You want people to focus on your posts not a slew of ads redirecting them to another site. Fix any broken links and also look into updated banners if you belong to any affiliate programs.

The Design

I really try to keep my site updated and user friendly. Sometimes a change in season can give us the kick in the butt we want to change up our blog's design. I'm not saying you need to spend a ton on a graphic designer or brand consultant, I mean little things like your profile picture or maybe even your blog header. You can use free photo sites like Pic Monkey to easily edit pictures or even make your own signage. If you are really feeling the need for a refresh, there are inexpensive templates you can purchase from Etsy for Blogger or WordPress. Just pop over there and take a look at what some of these designers have to offer. Don't forget we have awesome talent in our NE Bloggers group too that can help you with your blog design needs!

About Me Page

I'm sure you're all tired of hearing how important your About Me page is so I won't blab on about that. Why not spruce it up a bit? Add in some more photos (bright, clear ones are best), update any old information and add any new accomplishments you would love to tout. This is your place to promote yourself, so just go for it! 


How about adding some fresh new content to your blog? Is there a series you've been thinking about running or a link up you would love to start with a bloggy friend? Do it! Try it out and if it just doesn't resonate with you (or readers) dump it. You'll never know unless you try. Put yourself out there and reach out to other bloggers, 99% of the time they are so happy to collaborate (especially your fellow NE Bloggers!). Take some time to go through your editorial calendar (if you use one) and plan some great content for spring.

Do you plan on sprucing up your site for spring? Have you set new blogging goals?

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Monday, March 9, 2015

5 Benefits of using Airbnb

5 Benefits of Using Airbnb

Hi! Megan here from Soup of the Day Blog! I just got back from a long weekend trip to Florida and after three snowstorms in Baltimore this year, I was VERY ready for the warmth! When I started making plans for our Florida trip we checked out hotels and were blown away by the prices! We wanted to stay somewhere close to everything we would be doing and seeing, but we knew that we didn’t plan to spend much time in our room. We were going to be out and about and really just needed a place to sleep at night and $200 a night wasn't in our budget!

Steve, my boyfriend, liked the idea of Airbnb and wanted to check it out. After browsing the accommodations near Fort Lauderdale we settled on the most perfect little house. We had an entire home vs a single room, had a driveway to park our rental car, were within walking distance of restaurants and shops, and had a pool and hot tub to use. It wasn’t huge but had a kitchen, living room (with a murphy bed that pulled down), a bathroom and a laundry room to wash our wet towels and clothes. We were able to book 4 nights on Airbnb for less than HALF of what it would have cost to stay in a hotel in the same area.

Without a doubt we will be using AirBnB for our future trips and here are a few reasons why:
  1. Price- The price is right, that’s for sure! Entire homes cost roughly the same as a single hotel room (price varies based on location). As I mentioned above, we were able to book a house for less than half of what we would have paid for a hotel room in Fort Lauderdale or Miami.
  2. Customer Service- The person renting out their home wants you to have a good time. They don’t have the marketing or name recognition that most large hotel chains have. After staying in a rental you can write a review of the accommodations on AirBnB. Most places we considered staying in had high reviews from people just like us.
  3. Local Recommendations- The owner of the home is also willing to recommend places to eat and things to see/do while you’re on vacation.
  4. Flexibility- Most owners set a check-in time and a check-out time just like you would see at a hotel, however, they are more flexible. The owner was in contact with us regarding our flight in and out to make sure that the place was ready for us upon arrival.
  5. Comfort- I don’t mind staying in hotels, but sometimes I want to be in a place that feels like a home not a hotel room. We had a kitchen and were able to make breakfast before heading out each day. We also brought back leftovers and were able to heat them up when we didn’t feel like going out.
I was skeptical at first that staying in someone's home would be better than a hotel room, but I can say with confidence that it was great! You should look into Airbnb for your next trip! 

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Friday, March 6, 2015

5 Tips for Blogging Etiquette

Let's talk blogging etiquette.  While we like to say there are no "rules" to blogging, as each person's blog is unique to their life and voice, there are some unspoken guidelines all bloggers should take into consideration.  Most of these seem like common sense, but you'd be surprised how often we see these etiquette guidelines broken!

1. Don't steal photos.
Simple enough right?  Don't take photos from another bloggers blog, Facebook page or instagram and say they are your own!  You shouldn't take photos from Pinterest and edit them to look like they aren't from Pinterest.  It's just plain wrong to take another bloggers photos!

2. Don't steal content.
Often times you will see similar ideas for posts on different blogs.  This happens, especially with things like holiday post, recipes and craft ideas- hey there are only so many ideas out there, right?  But, to blatantly copy-paste from another blogger's post?  That is just a huge no-no!

3. Post your disclosures.
If you received product or monetary compensation, you must disclose this information in your post.  This is more than just etiquette, it is actually an FTC guideline.  Be sure to disclose that you received free product or compensation in exchange for your post and use the hashtag #ad when you post about said products on social media.  Remember, these are not blogger "perks," they are considered payment for your services as a writer.

4. Give credit when credit is due.
If you do use someone's photo, with permission of course, be sure to give credit to that person!  The same goes for content ideas- it's courteous to say you were inspired by so-and-so's post or recipe or even to link over to them if you are using one of their ideas in your post!

5. Act professional.
If you are making money as a blogger, you are a professional.  Even if you aren't making money you are building a brand around yourself!  How do you want others to see you and your brand?  Be proud of your work and demand to be treated as a professional by acting like it!

What are you tips for blogging etiquette?  We'd love to hear your thoughts!

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