Easy and Inexpensive DIY Light Box

Photographing product shots of the journals and various items I create is one of my least favorite parts of selling my work. It is often hard to chase the natural light around my house and the “ideal time of day” to shoot outside rarely coincides with my ideal time of day for shooting.

Add to that my desire for plain backgrounds and little to no shadows and reflections and I knew it was time to get a much needed light box into my studio. I found a  simple set-up online for $99 (including lights) and was preparing to buy one when I decided just to try making one with a few inexpensive materials.

My DIY light box ended up costing me just under $3.00 to make—not including any lighting. It may not be the prettiest thing but it works just fine.

Want to make one for yourself? Here is how I did it.

Materials
Cardboard Box (any size suitable for the objects you want to photograph)
White Muslin Fabric (this was $1.99/yd at my local fabric store, measure your openings with a little margin to determine how much you need)
White Bristol board or Poster board (to create a seamless background)
Packing Tape
Utility Knife
Ruler or Straight Edge
Marking Device (pencil, marker, etc)

Directions

  1. Cut the top flaps off of your cardboard box.
  2. Cut windows out of the front and two sides of the box. I left about a 2.5 inch border around the edges to help keep the box sturdy and to provide a bit of space for securing the fabric to the box.DIY Light Box
  3. Cut the muslin slightly larger than openings for the two side windows and the top of the box.
  4. Stretch the muslin tautly over one of the side windows and secure all four sides with tape. Repeat for the other side.
  5. Cut the white poster board to fit width-wise and slide into the top of the box sloping it to the front to create a seamless background. Trim the excess board off the top. I secured the top edge of the board to the box but this really isn’t necessary.
  6. Once your backdrop is in place you can put on the top of your light box. Stretch the last piece of muslin tautly over the top of the box and secure with tape.

DIY Light Box

That’s it! Now light it from the top and/or the sides for a nice diffused light. Don’t forget to use a daylight balanced bulb and to not mix lighting types for easier control over color casts.

Results? Below are a few shots taken with the camera on my phone (except the last shot which was taken with an SLR). Box is lit from the top with a single light. Not bad for a $3 light box, eh?

DIY Light Box Sample Shot
DIY Light Box Sample Shot
DIY Light Box Sample Shot
DIY Light Box Sample Shot

 

Garlic-Stuffed Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Medallions

Cooking on the grill is one of those things that always makes me happy. We grill all year round but seem to amp up the outdoor cooking when the temps rise here in Northwest Ohio. And since summer is in full-swing the bbq is seeing more action than the stove these days.

Chicken is a favorite on the grill and I like to mix up how we grill it by trying new things. I put together these Garlic-Stuffed Bacon-Wrapped Chicken medallions last week with a few items we almost always have on hand—bacon and garlic. They were a big hit with the family and could be changed-up in any number of ways.

bacon wrapped chicken

Bacon wrapped chicken medallions

bacon-wrapped garlic-stuffed chicken medallions

Garlic-Stuffed Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Medallions
Author: 
Recipe type: Main, Chicken, BBQ
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • 2-3 Medium Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • Sliced Bacon (about 6 slices per breast)
  • Fresh Garlic Cloves
  • Black Pepper
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat grill.
  2. Peel the cloves of garlic and crush slightly with the back of a knife.
  3. If necessary butterfly or pound the chicken breasts so each breast is relatively uniform in thickness.
  4. Lay 6 slices of bacon on your work surface with edges just touching or barely overlapping.
  5. Place one chicken breast perpendicular to and about about an inch from the bacon edge. Bacon slices should be about the same width as the breast so the chicken is completely covered with bacon.
  6. Put a line of garlic along the length and just off-center of the chicken breast.
  7. Dust with fresh ground pepper.
  8. Starting with the bacon edge that was left exposed, roll the bacon/chicken/garlic stack into a tight roll.
  9. Secure by running one toothpick through each slice of bacon starting near the bacon end and straight through to the other side.
  10. Repeat for remaining chicken breasts.
  11. Cook on the grill over medium-high heat—turning to get all sides—until the bacon and chicken are thoroughly cooked. Approximately 20 minutes.
  12. Let chicken rest for 5 minutes and then slice into medallions between each bacon slice. *Don't forget to remove the toothpicks!*
Notes
Cooking the whole breast at once and slicing into medallions after cooking keeps the chicken moist while allowing the bacon to get crispy. Try roasting the garlic first for a more subtle and nutty flavor.

 

Costco and Kindness

A little over a week ago I went to Costco for the first time in my life. It wasn’t something that I had really ever considered doing and I didn’t go there to get myself a shiny new membership card. Instead, I was meeting a woman there name Janet.

Janet is what you might call “good people”. I  met Janet once 6 months ago and I could tell then that she was one of those people. That was the last time I saw her until our meeting at Costco. Janet had heard about our recent hardships with me losing my job and the trouble I’ve had getting any unemployment assistance as of yet. She also has a birthday this month and to celebrate decided to do 55 Random Acts of Kindness over the last couple of months leading up to her birthday. One of those acts included taking me to Costco for a shopping trip.

When I found out Janet wanted to take me shopping my first instinct was to decline. Josh and I are very independent people and accepting aid from others is not common or easy for us. But that felt like pride and since the universe had put this out there for me I decided I would be foolish not to accept it. On the morning of our trip I felt awkward and wondered if I had made the right choice. I reminded myself of the reasons this was happening—random acts of kindness, good people, karma.

So I went.

Kind is too small of a word to express what she did for my family that day.

 RAOK

We are incredibly grateful for the gift she gave to us. Thank you doesn’t seem like enough. I cried a little on my drive home—car stuffed with food, toilet paper, and other things—overwhelmed by what this woman I hardly knew had just done. Josh choked up as we unloaded item after item from the boxes saying it was probably the most generous act he has experienced since a particularly difficult Christmas during his childhood that included presents for him and his siblings from the Salvation Army.

She asked for nothing in return except to pay it forward some day. Random acts of kindness in whatever form that looks like to us. That I can do. Maybe you could do one too. It doesn’t have to be grandiose—a simple smile can be enough to brighten someone’s day, trust me.

I hugged Janet before I drove away that morning and her parting words were “It will get better.” How can I not believe her?

Let Go

I suppose April 17th was bound to be one of those kind of days.

It was a Wednesday.

Wednesday meant I had a 9:00 class and 9:00 classes make for rushed mornings—with showers, breakfast, lunches, and school for the kiddo—and little time to do anything before class in an effort to get there with a few minutes to spare. So I was off to a difficult start.

When I opened my laptop to take attendance during my morning class it was was completely unresponsive. Just a black screen and a refusal to greet me with its warm comforting glow despite my efforts to revive it.

Shit. Shit. Shit.

Turns out I had a blown graphics processor and while I was able to retrieve my hard drive and get all of my holycrapIdidn’tbackthoseupyet files, my laptop was inoperable. Spectacular.

And because I now had no laptop, I missed an email regarding a meeting I needed to be at that afternoon.

A meeting that would make my broken laptop look like a broken fingernail.

I ended up in that meeting 2 hours after it was scheduled and it was there that I found out I was losing the job I had been at for nearly 13 years.

Fuck.

Needless to say my emotionally unstable self cried hard in that meeting. And after that meeting. And in front of my students at the class I had that evening.

It was ugly.

I was stunned. I had a feeling the meeting wasn’t going to be necessarily sunshine and unicorns but I was not expecting to lose my job and all that came with it like insurance for the kids, Josh, and myself.

I needed to process what just happened.

There was no way I could teach my class that night.

I’m so thankful that class was an upper-level course comprised of a small group of women that had me as an instructor multiple times in the past. When they saw me cry as I told them I would get them started in the lab but had to go due to a personal issue, they that didn’t look at me like I was some sort of freak. Instead they stood up one after another and hugged me.

That may have made it even harder.

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been finishing out the quarter knowing I would soon be unemployed from a job that was so much more than just a job. It was my career and the people within that institution had become family. I kept that my notice of unemployment to myself with the exception of a few family and friends. Sure, people knew—I was not the only one to find out that day they were getting laid off—and word travels fast but I chose not to publicly share my fate. I didn’t tell my students since finals week was just days away and I wanted them to keep their minds focused on the their present task at hand not my future.

May 3rd was my official last day.

I have no idea what is next.

I’m both exhilarated and terrified.

 

Ten

Ten Years of Marriage

The ham to my cheese.

Dear Josh,

Ten years ago today we exchanged vows and started our life together as husband and wife. I’m in awe that it has been a decade already. It hardly seems possible. And yet, here we are celebrating 10 years of marriage together.

Thank you for saying I do.

Our life has not been perfect—and some days it has been a real bitch—but having my best friend by my side through the bad as well as the good has made those rough times easier.

Thank you for laughing and crying with me.

So many of my favorite moments involve you.

 Our trip to Myrtle Beach in ’97 long before “intimate” was part of the vocabulary of “us”.

Our wedding. It was magical and amazing and personal and perfect. Right down to the very last song.

 Jamaica. Sunrises. Rum drinks. Beaches. So much food. Some day we will do it again.

Buying and fixing up our first home. It may not be our forever home but is our home of so many firsts. Moving will be bittersweet.

Becoming parents. The first time and the second. I cannot even put in to words how amazing this has been. Being a mom to our two boys is really my favorite thing in the world. Having you as their father? Perfection.

These are the big ones. The forever in my heart ones. But they are far from the only ones. The tiny everyday memories that make up our life together are just as important to me.

Making sushi together.

Waking up each morning with you, me, both the kids, and the cat in the same bed.

Trips to the zoo, the museum, the parks.

Sitting in the backyard with a cup of coffee on a chilly spring morning. Or with a beer on a warm summer night.

Road trips. Bike rides. Family walks.

No matter what we do together or where life takes us, you will always be the one I want to do it with.

Happy tenth anniversary, Josh. You mean the world to me.

Love,

Holly

Dark Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Cupcakes

dark chocolate chip cheesecake cupcakes

You guys,  these cupcakes are ridiculous. Just sitting here writing about them makes me want to run to the kitchen and whip up another batch. They may be one of the best treats I’ve ever made. And I’ve made a lot of treats.   For this recipe I used a dark chocolate fudge cake mix and cream cheese frosting but you could mix flavors up to your liking. The star of this show is the cheesecake center. Creamy. Speckled with dark chocolate chips. Divine.

How can you say no to this?

Dark Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Cupcakes

And the best part is that they look really fancy but they aren’t hard to make at all. I promise.

Enjoy!

4.0 from 1 reviews
Dark Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Cupcakes
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Cakes & Cupcakes
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 24
 
Moist dark chocolate cupcakes with creamy dark chocolate chip cheesecake centers.
Ingredients
  • Cake
  • 1 box Dark Chocolate cake mix
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup water
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil
  • Filling
  • 1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup dark chocolate chips
  • Frosting
  • 1 can cream cheese frosting
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Line cupcake pan with baking liners.
  3. In a large bowl blend together the cake mix, water, oil, and eggs for 2 minutes until well mixed.
  4. Note: If the box mix call for a different ratio of eggs, water, and oil adjust accordingly.
  5. Fill each baking cup with ½ way with batter.
  6. Filling
  7. In a medium bowl blend cream cheese, sugar, and egg on until smooth and creamy.
  8. Stir in chocolate chips.
  9. Drop a spoonful of filling into the center of each cupcake on top of the batter.
  10. Note: The filling will sink as the cupcake bakes. No need to push it into the batter.
  11. Bake for 18–20 minutes. Cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  12. Cool cupcakes completely and frost with cream cheese frosting.

 

 

Devil’s Food Cookies

It’s not uncommon to find a box or two of cake mix sitting on our pantry shelves any time of year. Cake mixes often go on sale for about a dollar each at the grocery store we shop at and in my opinion you don’t need a special occasion to eat cake.

But sometimes baking a cake—even with a mix—is more effort than I feel like making. So on a recent quest for something chocolate I decided to try something a little different with the box of Devil’s Food cake mix we had on the shelf. Cupcakes be damned. We’re making cookies.

Cookies.

Chewy, easy,  4-ingredient, chocolate cookies.

They didn’t last long.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Devil's Food Cookies
 
Makes approximately 2½ dozen cookies.
Ingredients
  • 1 box devil's food cake mix
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325°.
  2. Mix all ingredients together thoroughly to form a dough.
  3. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  4. Shape dough into one inch balls.
  5. Place on ungreased cookie sheets 1–2 inches apart.
  6. Bake for 10–12 minutes our until set.
  7. Cool briefly on cookie sheets and move to cooling racks.

 

Forget the Stroller, I’ll Wear My Baby Instead

I have fallen completely in love with babywearing. I’m even talking about babywearing at Curvy Girl Guide today.

Some might call it an addiction.

I cannot deny that logic.

I kind of—okay definitely—addicted to wearing my baby. So much so that I regret not discovering the wonders of babywearing when G-tot was a baby. Thankfully I discovered how much I love it while Huggy Baby is still small. Even better is that Huggy Baby loves to be worn.

doublehammock

Double Hammock in a Hoppediz Chicago woven wrap

What I love so much about babywearing is the sense of closeness and security I feel with having my baby so close to me. Chest-to-chest and close enough to kiss is perfect for sweet baby snuggles. High on my back in a double hammock and he can see the world from my point of view and still snuggle up against me. Plus, when you wear your baby you don’t have to worry about finagling a stroller through crowds and tight spots or up and down stairs. At the park a few weeks ago Huggy Baby and I would have been stuck on the shore instead of skipping stones and exploring the dried up spots of the Maumee River with Josh and G-tot had we not been babywearing.

park

Exploring the Metroparks

At the zoo

At the zoo

See, babywearing brings families together. Plus, the different carriers seem to come with sleepy dust. Huggy Baby is so comfy when he is worn that he falls asleep almost every single time. It’s magical.

sleepy

Sleepy Dust in woven wraps

It started with the Moby wrap which I wore sporadically for the first six months or so of Huggy Baby’s life. It was great but I knew I was barely scratching the surface of babywearing with it. Little did I know just how many options were out there when it comes to babywearing. Mei Tais. Woven wraps. Podageis. Wrap conversions. Ring Slings. Soft structured carriers.

happybaby

WAHM WC Mei Tai (left) & GMBB gauze wrap (right)

And then there are all the different types of carries you can do depending on the type/size/length of carrier you are using. Front cross carry. Poppins hip carry. Double hammock back carry. It goes on and on.

Like I said, I LOVE it.

I even belong to a handful of babywearing groups on Facebook (and on the internet in general) these days. These groups have been a valuable resource when it comes to learning about babywearing. Sure, it takes a minute or two to learn all the different acronyms for the carriers and carries I mentioned above. But no worries, the ladies in these groups are fabulous. So many of them are fiercely passionate about babywearing and are more than willing to share their knowledge with newbies and seasoned babywearers alike.

FRbiglittle

Front wrap cross carry (left) & Rucking the big guy (right) in Girasol's Fire Rainbow woven wrap

And although I’m far from a seasoned baby wearer, I even made a little YouTube video on how to do a FWCC for a colleague who babywearing curious thanks to the influx of photos I’ve posted on Facebook.

Do you have any experience babywearing? Do you have questions about babywearing? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments!

No Need to Be Koi, Roy

koi

There must be fifty filets to leave your lover…

Yes I know it’s coy. And 50 ways. It’s a pun folks. A very bad pun.

I just wanted to share the photo and figured I should write something.

Presents For My Boobs

Photo 1198

I feel like I owe my boobs an apology.

They have been work horses for years and I’ve provided them with very little support.

Literally.

When I was nursing my first son I knew nothing about good quality nursing bras. All I really knew was that my boobs were bigger and I needed something that would allow easy access for my sweet nursing baby. Regular bras were not going to cut it for very long. It is really awkward to try to get your breast out of a regular bra in an attempt to nurse your child. And not wearing a bra at all is definitely not an option for me. So weeks after G-tot was born—with breastfeeding firmly happening and working out well for the two of us—I went to buy nursing bras.

I was completely clueless. I had no idea what size I really needed. My budget was limited. I was a tired and probably a bit overwhelmed by the fact that I was a first time mom. Somehow I ended up with were two nursing bras that came in an ultra-generic size “large”.

They were the worst bras ever.

But I wore them for 17 long months.

My poor boobs.

When I had Huggy Baby I was determined to get better bras and burn the unsupportive rags I had with G-tot. Months went by and I still had nothing. At home I would wear my maternity tank tops just to avoid having to wear one of those bras already in my possession.

Then the marvelous folks at Leading Lady swooped in and saved my poor unsupported hard-working boobs with their fantastic bras. With their Find Your Fit assistant I was able to get a few nursing bras in my size with underwires, good shoulder straps and glorious support!

Not only are they supportive and in MY size—I mean seriously, what was I thinking buying a bra in a large?—they are pretty. The Black Lace-cup is totally sexy which is a huge bonus in a nursing bra. The square neck nursing bra cami would be perfect for summer. And I absolutely love the little printed pattern on the Baby Sees It bra.

I feel like these bras were kind of an “I’m Sorry/Thank You” gift to my boobs from me. They have been nothing but amazing when it comes to me having the opportunity to breastfeed my children. My boobs deserved better nursing bras .

And they finally have them.

Now I just need to grab some lighter fluid and burn those old bras.

*Disclosure: Leading Lady provided me with nursing bra samples. All opinions are mine.