Friday, May 30, 2014

What Does Success Mean To You?

Purchase this print from Ryan Scheffield on Etsy. 



Success. It's a pesky little word, isn't it? 

Since taking the leap towards self-employment just a few weeks ago, I've been pondering the concept of success quite a bit. The flexibility that comes with working for oneself if astounding, but the responsibility can be daunting. If you don't make it happen you're not going to get paid, and all those bills that show up at the end of the month will get harder and harder to stomach. 

Things are going well enough with the photography business right now that I was confident enough to leave the 9 to 5 life. I'm grateful for that, but definitely still terrified of an uncertain future.  So many questions are always rippling through my head as I go through my day. 

Will I fail?

What am I doing wrong?

What do I need to do to join the ranks of the accomplished folk?  

I begin thinking about the successful people I want to emulate - Amazing photographers and accomplished bloggers who seem to have this "success" thing down. And I ask myself, time and time again, how do I become like them?

Maya Angelou said that "Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it." I think those words are beautiful, inspiring and incredibly articulate....but as I sit here I feel like shouting "BUT WHAT ABOUT THE MONEY?! What about the GLORY? The FAME? The PRESTIGE?!?" 

I would be a liar who was faking humility (and we all know those are the worst kind of liars) if I said I truly wasn't interested in any of those things. I mean, If we're going to be completely honest with ourselves, as freelancers there are definitely certain "milestones" that we want to reach which we would equate to "success," right?  I, for one, would like to be booked out way in advance, to become an "authority" in my field, to fly all over the world for this and that, etc;, etc;, etc;,  

But even if I accomplish those things, then what? Will there be a moment when I wake up and think to myself "OH I DID IT! I'M A BIG SUCCESS!" and then proceed to purchase party hats and confetti and pizza to celebrate?  Probably not. My guess is even those I look up to the most are still working towards whatever they want in life.  They haven't "made it," because no one ever "makes it." Success is a constant journey of ups and downs and there is no destination. 

I guess what I'm trying to say here is that Maya Angelou is right. It's okay to want all of the glamorous things that go along with your idea of success, whether that's turning your business into a household name, becoming a household name yourself, or even just being able to afford a big fancy household of your own. If all of that was taken off the table, though, do you love who you are and what you're doing?

From now on I'll ask myself that question every day.

What does success mean to you? How would you define it in your own life? 


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Escape to the Mountains


Steven and I escaped to Jackson, Wyoming for Memorial Day weekend. It was less than a five hour drive from Salt Lake City and made for a great long weekend adventure.  While we do travel pretty often, trips for us are often hurried work trips that often have us coming home feeling more tired than we did when we left.

This trip, thank goodness, was not like that.


Oh hey whattup mountain goat. Take your time, we're good here.

We went on three different day hikes, drove around in search of wildlife and spent a day white-water rafting.



 Yep, that's snow. While I do think visiting Jackson Hole in the early season is great for avoiding crowds, a lot of our hikes involved....um, cold feet. It was warm outside but the snow in the mountains is slow to melt, apparently.



It sounds so cliche to say so nowadays, but "unplugging" every now and again REALLY IS good for the soul. After getting back from a particularly crazy hike (more on that later,)  Steven looked at me and said "That was so fun! I don't think I've had fun like that in a long time!" and this is coming from my video game obsessed husband who spends most every weekend glued to a computer screen.

I'm beginning to realize how much I still need to see of my own country. I always dream about flying all over the world, but our own backyard is pretty damn gorgeous, isn't it?

Happy travels!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

New York: Japanese Karaoke in Midtown




You'll have to excuse my lack of good photos for this post. I normally hate to post anything without good images to supplement, but this story I'm about to tell was one of those unique, bizarre, memorable experiences I really wanted to write about.

This past March I was in New York for work. That may sound a little glamorous, but I promise you it really wasn't. We were working long (hard) hours, sometimes up to sixteen hours a day. and by the time we were done it was too dark and too cold to go see anything.

One night some coworkers-turned-friends were out to dinner, and as we were wrapping up someone suggested we went out to Karaoke. In my head, "going out to Karaoke," means going to some dive bar with a karaoke machine and lots of bar-goers either laughing or side-eyeing you as you make a fool of yourself on stage. Though that's not typically my idea of a bumpin-good-time, I decided I should go along anyway, if only for the sake of actually DOING something on this trip to New York City besides work.

Anyway, what we discovered when arriving was not some local PBR-hovel with a microphone setup...it was a traditional Japanese karaoke house.  Each party that arrives is assigned their own private room, like the one you see in that photo above. There's a telephone on the wall in which you can call the front and have food and drinks brought to you. Mounted on one wall is a flat-screen TV that was playing clips of anime when we walked in.

At first....our whole group was kind of baffled. We didn't know what to do exactly and wondered if it would even be fun to sing without anybody else there to watch (and laugh) at us.  Thankfully and hilariously enough, it turned out to be a million times more fun than I ever would have predicted.

Because you're just alone with your friends, any social anxiety you would feel when getting up to sing in front of strangers completely evaporates. We were crazy. There was dancing, jumping, sing-screaming (there comes a point when your karaoke is just going to sound ridiculous no matter what, so why try?) and so much laughter that my abs were sore.



I wish I had more to show than this low-quality video (shot vertically on an iPhone, of course) from early on in the night. I REALLY wish we had video/photos from later....but I suppose we'll just have the memories.


WHERE TO GO: 

Karaoke Duet 35 (We were at this one.) 
53 W 35th St. 
2nd Floor 
New York, NY 10001

Karaoke Duet 48 
304 E 48th St
New YorkNY 10017

Karaoke Duet 53
900 8th Ave 
New York, NY 10019 


Friday, May 23, 2014

5 Hardy Houseplants You Might Not Kill



I am a plant killer. There is a warrant out for my arrest.  It doesn't matter if it's herb plants for my kitchen or house plants for around the house - anything green and growing will only eventually find death under my care. So I started to look into plants which would be easy to take care of for even a black-thumbed human like me. Maybe, just maybe, I'll manage to go without killing these ones. Probably not though. 


Five House Plants You Might Have Trouble Killing: 




1. Creeping Pilea 

This plant is also known as Creeping Charlie, and I love the way it hangs over pots and creates an overgrown look. It'll do fine in both low and bright light. 

 The tiny leaves are waxy and retain moisture well, so you only need to water it about once a week, or even less in lower light settings. My apartment doesn't have a lot of window light so I like the sound of this. 





2. Snake Plant

This plant apparently seems to thrive on neglect, and since neglect seems to be my middle name when it comes to plant care, I am already on board. 

 The Snake plant is a form of succulent and it is better to water it too little than too much. Over watering can actually cause the plant to rot, since succulents store water to use over time. 


You'll only need to water the thing once every two to three weeks depending on how hot it is and if it's in low or bright light settings - and it'll survive in either setting, booyah. 

Overall this seems like a super forgiving plant so I'll be purchasing one ASAP. 









3. Panda Plant

I think panda plants are so cute! Light gray/green in color and covered in light fuzz, this plant so far is winning as my favorite. 

Like the snake plant, you're going to want to avoid overwatering this beauty. Once every two weeks or so will be fine, even if it's sitting in full sun. 

I think this one would look really nice in my kitchen windowsill. 






4. Watermelon Peperomia 

I chose to include this plant because it has a different look than the others, and I think the reddish color is super unique and pretty. This one seems to require a bit more maintenance than the others, but maybe I'll work my way up to this one. 

This plant thrives in bright but indirect sunlight and only needs to be watered once every seven to nine days. 

Drainage is critical with this plant to prevent rot, so definitely make sure the pot has the proper holes in the bottom and that the plant is never sitting in water. 









5. ZZ Plants

The ZZ plant is one that I actually own, and the ONLY plant I own that I haven't killed yet, so I can speak for this one from personal experience. 

ZZ plants can tolerate hanging out in very low-light, so it'll be the perfect plant to brighten up that dark corner you weren't sure what to do with. They can also grow quite large, which could be either exciting or intimidating depending how you look at it. 

Only water it every two weeks or so, remembering that when in doubt this plant prefers to have its soil on the drier side. 







Are you a plant killer like me? What kinds of house plants have you managed to keep alive? I'm curious! 




Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Foodie Travel: Let's Talk about Buffalo Wings



It is not and never has been a secret that I am a lover of food.  While my true love lies with fresh, healthy (and local, if I’m lucky) dishes, sometimes a person has just gotta chow down on something truly out-of-this-world-bad-for-you in order to really enjoy life. 

Enter, the Buffalo Wing. 

Growing up as a New Yorker (I was born and raised on Long Island) I am very familiar with the lazy-week-night take out tradition of pizza and wings, but my move to the west coast as a teenager and my complete inability to handle spicy food probably stunted my culinary knowledge when it comes to this particular regional delicacy. Read: I am a little wuss.

But when planning my recent trip to Buffalo, NY, a stop at the Anchor Bar - the birthplace of the chicken wing - was high up on my list of priorities…because we all know it’s totally normal to prioritize chicken wings above Niagara Falls when planning a trip to Buffalo, right? No? 

How About a Little History? 

Despite the fact that nowadays you’ll find wings at just about every Superbowl party across the nation, the finger-staining, deep-fried delicacy is actually a pretty recent invention. 

Though there are plenty of different versions of the story floating around, the general consensus is that Buffalo Wings were created by Teressa Bellissimo on a Friday night in 1964 at the now famous Anchor Bar. 

Teresa covered the wings in her own secret sauce and served them along side some blue cheese and celery sticks, simply because that’s what she has available at the time.  Frank Belissimo – co-owner of the Anchor bar and husband to Teressa – was quoted in an article of the New Yorker in 1980, stating that Teressa had created the wings out of sheer necessity. Due to some mixup, the bar had accidentally received a shipment of wings instead of other chicken parts and they weren't sure what to do with them. In another version, the Anchor Bar website claims that they were actually made at their son Dominic’s request as a midnight snack of sorts.

Either way, the city of Buffalo doesn’t seem too concerned with the origins of its namesake dish; the western New York town has celebrated Chicken Wing Day every July 29th since 1977.  Now that’s a holiday I can get behind.  

Our Experience at the Anchor Bar.

Steven and I arrived at the Anchor Bar in the early afternoon for lunch.

The decor of is dark and outdated - some of the vinyl seats are ripped, the walls are wood-paneled, and hundreds of picture frames clutter the walls. I wouldn’t have it any other way, though, because the atmosphere is exactly as it should be: casual and unpretentious, welcoming to all that enter.

  This is hardly fine dining - your fingers turn orange and you'll go through about ten paper napkins that will all be crumbled and littering the table top by meal's end. It is exactly the kind of greasy goodness you'll want after a late night out with friends or on a weekend afternoon.


We decided to split a bucket of 20 wings between us, approximately 10 for each. Remember when I said I’m a total wuss when it comes to spicy food? I was brave and opted for the “medium” sauce, wanting to get the full spicy wing experience but not quite suicidal enough to go for the actual “spicy” option. 

Traditionally when prepared, wings should be broken in half to make more of a drumstick shape that is easier to eat, then deepfried immediately with no batter, flour, or seasoning. The fried wings are then rolled in a sauce and served hot with blue cheese and celery. 

Our wings came to our table fast and were everything I could have ever hoped for. They were just crunchy enough and just spicy enough (okay, for me maybe a bit too spicy, but it was so delicious I didn’t care.)  I didn’t think I’d be able to eat 10 wings by myself but you bet I inhaled every single one.

The subsequent heartburn was totally worth it. 


Thursday, May 15, 2014

The "F" Word




So here's the thing: I am a feminist.

Before we get into what I believe and why I believe it, I want to ask you a question. What comes to mind when you hear that word? On a basic level, what does the word feminist make you think of?

Feminism, in its simplest definition, is the belief and promotion that men and women should be given equal opportunities and rights.  That doesn't sound too bad to me.

Why, then, does the word carry such a negative connotation?  Why is it that mentioning an "F-word," or worse, claiming to be an "F-word," is enough to cause a person to be looked out with suspicion, distrust or even disgust?  To even identify with it is to identify with things like masculinity, hatred of men, stereotypical "angry" feminists you see comically portrayed in the media, or even (gasp!) lesbianism.  The word seems so extreme and radical that girls are scrambling to remove themselves from any association with it.

Which means issues remain unchallenged and no progress is made, which is the most disappointing part.  


I choose to look at feminism as it was originally intended to be: the idea that I, as a woman, should have the same rights that my brothers do. In the future, my daughters should be afforded the same opportunities as my sons.

I don't hate men. I definitely don't think myself above them.  I don't disregard everything that comes out of a male mouth.  I've been married to a man I love very much for three years and I respect him, listen to him, love him. We are very much equals and supportive of each other's goals.
So now, let's talk about what I believe:

1.  I believe I should have all the voting, educational, and legal rights that my male counterpart would be given.  We've come a long way with this in the 20th century, thank goodness, but it's still startling to see how recent these reforms are. Women couldn't vote in an election until 1920. Harvard Medical School didn't accept women until 1945....and the number of men and women enrolled in college wasn't equal until 1980.

2.  I believe that if I were to ever be hired for a job, I should be paid just as much as a man who is offered the same job, granted that our work and educational experience is the same. In 1963 women earned less that 59% of what men did....that is 59 cents for every dollar. The wage gap between men and women has narrowed, yes, but is still significant. In 2012 women only made 77 cents for every dollar made by men. 

3. I believe that if I were ever raped or sexually assaulted in any way, that I in no way should ever be made to believe that it is my fault.  Never. Ever, ever ever.

Does this sound crazy? Do I sound like I have hairy legs and should be out burning my bra on the front lawn?

No?



The reality of the situation is that sexism really does still exist, but those who speak against it are automatically pushed into the category of crazy, bossy, or militant.  

It's bizarre, and the more I think on it the more I come to realize how deep rooted these issues are. Even now, I'm hesitant to post this because in some weird way, I don't want to publicly categorize myself like that either.

But then I think on it even more, and I remember that I'm tired of feeling like wanting equality between genders is some massive ask, which immediately designates the asker as demanding and angry and overbearing.

That's just simply not how it should be.








Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Puerto Penasco, Mexico - Sonoran Sun Resort


A few months ago, we made a road trip down with some friends to Puerto Penasco, Mexico. It's only about an hour or two past the Arizona-Mexico Border so is really not too bad of a drive.

It was winter - snowing left and right up in Salt Lake City, so the escape down to warm, sunny Sonora Mexico was absolutely the answer.



We checked into our hotel - The Sonoran Sun resort, booked through Rocky Point Rentals - at about 8 PM or so.  Having no idea what to expect, we were excited to see how spacious and comfortable our room was. It had a full kitchen, two bathrooms, a living area (with an impressively sized television) and a huge balcony perfect for sitting out on to enjoy the sun.  This was our first time doing a vacation rental in Mexico and I couldn't have been more pleased!





Our rooms came equipped with a full kitchen, which we took full advantage of throughout the trip for our breakfasts and lunches.  We picked up groceries at the local market and sat out on the balcony to eat. Being stuck in a landlocked state for so long, I need to say that being so close to the ocean - to actually feel the salt air - is more than satisfying, it's magical. 




That pool! Complete with a swim-up bar and two hot tubs, this swimming pool was everything we could ask for on vacation. I do prefer ocean swimming to pool swimming, but the ocean was a bit cold and I'm a wimp.  




This was a vacation in its truest form. On most trips I take, I bounce from site to site, restaurant to restaurant, so quickly that there's no real time to slow down. This trip wasn't about that - it was about relaxation. We would sleep in late and move at our own pace.  The best part about the Sonoran Sun resort was how close it was to the beach...literally just steps to the ocean.  Growing up in California, I think I'd taken the feeling of wet sand on bare feet for granted, but I promise I'll never do that again. Even writing this now, I wish I could be right back there on that beach. 








Our stay at the Sonoran Sun Resort in Puerto Penasco, Mexico was compensated, but all of these opinions are 100% my own. I would wholeheartedly recommend staying there if you're planning a trip out to mexico, and I'd do it without hesitation.  We are planning another trip to Mexico and will definitely be going back!




Monday, May 12, 2014

Some Big Changes



When I moved to Utah a year ago, my goal was ultimately to work full time as a photographer and freelancer. I already knew that I didn't like working for anybody else, and I wanted to set my own hours and ultimately work for myself.

But moving is expensive, and introducing yourself to a totally new market - especially one as deeply saturated as Utah - takes time.  We needed to survive, so I got a full time job working for a beauty company in downtown Salt Lake City. And...it turns out I really loved that job.

It was demanding work. I did a lot of traveling for it, which was as exciting as it was exhausting. And working those 40-50 hours a week, it was easy to start feeling comfortable with what we had. I was making good money, we could afford everything we needed....but I had little motivation to pursue any of my hobbies, passions, or dreams when I got home each night.  I felt like a robot on repeat, victim to a routine, even if that routine could be rewarding sometimes.

So, finally....I worked up the courage to quit. I worked up the courage to admit to myself that I'm capable of more than what I was doing.

 Friday was my last day there, and while it was definitely bittersweet I finally feel free to do what I want to do, and turn that into a career.

I am terrified. I have no idea if my plans will work out. It's possible that I will fail, and that my husband and I will spend a few months being poor and uncomfortable until I get another job.

But I really don't want to fail, and in that fear there is motivation.

We are always our own worst critics...that is common knowledge. But right now I need to tell myself what I know to be true, even if self confidence gets in the way sometimes:

I am talented.

I am creative.

I can do this.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Butternut Squash and Balsamic Pizza



Every once in a while, I wake up with a killer craving for pizza. I'm not talking about some greasy slice from your run of the mill takeaway pizza joint, either. No, I'm talking about a bonafide craving for fragrant, homemade, straight-from-the-oven pizza so fresh and hot that you'll be thinking about the meal some weeks, months, or even years after the fact.  You may think I'm being melodramatic, but I had such an experience in Sienna, Italy and I think about that pizza to this day. What I'm about to share with you might not be a slice of pizza fresh from an Italian market, but I'd like to think it comes pretty dang close.



I love this meal because of how light it is. There is no meat and no tomato sauce - two ingredients I'd normally think essential for a good slice, but I think you'll find that they're not at all missed here.  The basil and balsamic compliment the sweetness of the butternut squash absolutely perfectly, and who can resist a well balanced combination of sweet and savory? 

Pizza, pre-oven. 
 I'd also like to add that while I have made this pizza entirely from scratch before, I have found a few shortcuts: Trader Joes sells butternut squash already cubed up and ready to go, which saves an enormous amount of time. They also make a very good organic pizza crust which you can find in the refrigerated section. If you feel like making your dough from scratch, consider trying my no-fuss pizza dough. 






BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND BALSAMIC PIZZA: 

Ingredients: 
1) Pizza dough of your choice. Make it from scratch or buy it pre-made, there is no judgement here!
2) 1/2 a butternut squash, cubed into small pieces. 
3) Cherry tomatoes, sliced. I used mini heirloom tomatoes because they are in season and it is glorious.
4) 1 large handful of fresh basil, julienned. 
6) Balsamic Vinegar, approximately 1/4 cup
7) 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
8) 1 Tbs olive oil
9) Parmesan cheese, to taste. 


Directions: 

1) Preheat your oven to 425F.

2) After your butternut squash is cut up into bite sized pieces, heat up a pan to medium high heat, and drizzle with a bit of extra virgin olive oil. Add butternut squash to the pan and toss lightly so the squash is coated in the oil. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar to the pan and allow the butternut squash to brown and slightly caramelize on all sides. Remove from heat and set aside. 

3) Top pizza dough with butternut squash, sliced tomatoes, julienned basil, shredded cheese, and another drizzle of balsamic vinegar to taste. Bake at 425F until the cheese is melted and the crust is slightly brown, approximately 10 minutes. 

4) Remove pizza from oven and top with more fresh basil and a liberal sprinkling of fresh parmesan cheese. Serve immediately, while it's still hot!



What do you guys think? What's your favorite pizza? 

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