Sunday, November 30, 2014

Photo Series: Photography Gift Guide

Even though I have hung up my professional camera strap, I still get asked often advice on camera purchases and equipment. With the holidays just around the corner, and with awesome Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales going on, I thought I would share some of my favorite cameras, accessories, and gifts. 

Hands down digital slr cameras are the number one asked about purchase. There are multiple options and a crazy amount of debate which is the absolute "best" one, and I could go on and on and on about the technical aspects of each to you, but for 90% of you that would be a boring post. So here are some quick favorites. 

Two great beginner dslr cameras are the Nikon D3300 and the Canon EOS 100D. Both are great starter cameras, are easy to use and are compact. You can slip these in your purse with ease, and they are lightweight enough that you won't break your back carrying them around all day. Both are economical and will produce outstanding photo quality for just about any project you have in mind. Plus, I am not going to lie, the fun Nikon red option just screams "I'm the perfect Christmas gift. I am already well coordinated."

If you are looking to have a pro quality camera body, and have a little (read: a lot) larger budget to play around with, the Nikon D810 and Canon 7D Mark II are what you will want to focus on. I am going to fully disclose now that I am a Canon girl at heart and the latest model in my stash is a Canon 5D Mark II. Technology has advanced since that purchase, and now there is a Mark III option, but the 7D is a little more budget friendly for the everyday advanced user. 

A lot of inquiries I get start off a little something like, "What camera can I get to give me photos with the blurry background?". Now to get photos with the "blurry" background you have to do a wide range of things with your camera to achieve that look, and that my friends is a different post for a different day. One step closer to accomplishing that desired goal is to make sure you have the proper equipment. Lenses play a huge roll into the equation, and here are some of my starting suggestions. My first suggestion is always the 50mm 1.8. It is a great lens and very economical. Once you get a little more advanced and want a little better quality glass there are other options, but this is a great starting point. Another favorite starting lens of mine is the 85mm 1.8. You won't go wrong with either being in your bag. 

Some people still like to use point and shoot cameras. They are small, lightweight, easy to use and can fit in most everyone's pockets. These also make great gifts for grandparents who might not quite be on board yet with the smart phone era (Hi grandma and grandpa!!), or for pre-teens who aren't quite allowed a cell phone just yet, but have shown an interest in taking photos. My favorite option for years in this category has been the Sony Cybershot. At under $100 this is a great choice.

A few years ago, my husband and I went on a snorkeling trip while on vacation. Last minute we threw a couple of disposable underwater cameras in our bags and blindly shot all the beauty that we saw. Needless to say, when we saw the printed pictures we were a little disappointed. Now there are some fabulous options for affordable waterproof cameras. We purchased the Lumix Tough, but the Olympus Tough has gotten great reviews and comes in the fun red as well!

One camera that I added to my list simply because I think it is just flat out fun is the Fujifilm Instax Mini 8. I love that there are still instant film cameras out available and this little model is comes in a variety of colors and would make any party fun. 

Another fun camera/video option is the ever popular Go-Pro HERO4. If your husband is anything like mine this is on his wish list. This fun little camera can attach just about anywhere and give you such a unique view on photography/videography. And who doesn't like the fact that you can have your very own drone to coordinate with it?

One of the most important suggestions I can give anyone, regardless of what camera they want to use, is to make sure you have a good back up for all of your photos. Photos take up a lot of space on your computer, and you never know when something might happen to it. Get in a good habit of backing up your photos either in off site storage or with an external hard drive. I like to use the WD My Passport HD because it is small and comes in both Mac and PC compatible versions. 

If you are giving a camera as a gift this holiday season don't forget the accessories. Most digital slr cameras come with a camera strap but a fun patterned one is way cuter than the standard black one the manufacturers include in the kit. 

Also, don't forget a camera bag! Most beginner cameras do fit into a purse or are easy to throw over your shoulder, but once you start accumulating lenses, filters, SD cards, and other equipment you will want to have some where to store and protect your investment. There are tons of practical options out there, but I instantly fell in love with this fun plaid option!

Now if you already have a well stocked photographer in your household and want some fun alternative photography related gift options, I have some awesome finds for you. 

For the coffee loving photographer, how fabulous fun is this lens coffee mug

I loved these fun stud earrings I found in an Etsy shop. They were also super inexpensive, and would make a great stocking stuffer. I had to resist ordering myself a pair!

These little camera themed USB drives are perfect! Not only are they adorable, but they are practical and will make any photographer smile.

Right now at Target there are a ton of fun vintage photography themed office accessories. I loved these little photo/memo holders!

Hopefully for some of you this post was a little helpful. I tried to link as much as I could for additional information, but please feel free to email me with any questions! Happy shopping everyone!
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Friday, November 28, 2014

Our Turkey Day

We hosted Thanksgiving this year for the first time in about 10 years. I was a little nervous about it at first (the turkey was intimidating me a bit), but then the hubs decided to smoke our turkey on his new Big Green Egg so after that task was off my plate, I got really excited about hosting and it turned out to be a wonderful day.

Earlier in the week I pulled out my china to set our table.  I can maybe count on one hand how many times we have used in in the past 11 years of marriage, so I was happy to see it out.

That turkey was a lot of work and even though I wasn't cooking on the oven, the prep involved felt like a 3 day thing.

It was totally worth it though because the result was amazing.  We watched about 10 different YouTube videos with directions on how to smoke a turkey on the Egg and one recipe caught our eye.  It involved brining the bird in an apple juice/apple cider vinegar mix, basting it with brown sugar and butter, and stuffing it with brown sugar and cinnamon stuffed apples.

The meat was juicy, tender, full of flavor and it literally was falling off the bone.  It was that good!  After stuffing ourselves with delicious food and working some of that off by playing a game of baseball outside, it was time for desserts!  I made my Memaw's pecan pie recipe and it took every ounce of will power not to cut into it before yesterday.  It's the one thing I look forward to having every Thanksgiving, just like I did when I was a little girl.  The girls helped me bake it and sharing that time with them made me think about all the wonderful memories of my grandparents.

After everyone left, my little helper and I were thankful when the kitchen was finally cleaned!

After 3 days of baking and prepping for yesterday's feast, it was nice to sit down in front of the fire and just be thankful for all I have.  Most of all I feel blessed with a loving husband and to be able to call these sweet ones mine.  I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

We're taking today off from blogging so that we can spend the day with our families, but we did want to pop in and say that we are thankful for each and every one of you that reads our blog and shares in this daily journey with us.  We hope you all have a wonderful day gathering with family and giving thanks.  
Happy Thanksgiving from the Magnolia Mamas!  

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Road Trip: Asheville, NC {Day 2 cont./Day 3}

We hope you have enjoyed following us through Asheville and the Biltmore Estate on our road trip so far! 

After we left the Biltmore, our group headed to the River Arts District for dinner at The Junction. We were so excited to catch up and hear how days events went. The men had golfed and the ladies had hit up the Biltmore Village for some excellent shopping. 

The Junction was a fun restaurant with a farm to table southern twist. It had an industrial themed atmosphere and our waitress was both knowledgeable and entertaining. 

Besties S & B ordered a few meat and cheese plates as appetizers for the table and it was yummy. It even contained their version of "ants on a log". 

The men were excited to see that their beer came with koozies they were able to take home with them. By the approximately 9,589 koozies we have in our cabinet, clearly The Junction knows the way to a man's heart. 

Dinner was super delicious, and came in large portions making me thankful for wearing "stretchy" jeans. Most of the table ordered the brisket, the fried chicken, or the meatloaf hamburger. 

While dinner was yummy, the desserts were what will forever be in our memories. Bestie S and I split a piece of carrot cake.

Our husbands and Bestie L, were adventurous and tried their signature dessert...the pork rind. 

Did you fall out just there? I kid you not...a pork rind. 

The group could not wrap their mind around it each time they described it, and a few were brave enough to try it. Then it came to our table looking like this and we about died of laughter at the looks of everyone's faces...

Being the self proclaimed pickiest eater in the group, I took one look at that and happily spooned in another bite of my delicious predictably yummy carrot cake. 

I didn't get a photo of Bestie L's, it was even larger and equally impressive. The husbands devoured theirs and said that it was very good with a great mix of salty and sweet. L concurred but in a much more delicate manner. 

I took their word for it. 

After we wrapped up dinner we decided to hop over to the Grove Park Inn for some after dinner drinks and to spend the rest of our evening checking out the famous hotel. 

We were so excited to see that the gingerbread houses were still on display. There so many, and so fun to look at. It was an impressive sight to see. The talent behind each one, and their attention to detail, was out of this world. 

This isn't a statue. No, that is the grand prize winner gingerbread house winner!

If you get a chance to visit the area during the holidays I would definitely stop by and check it out. 

After gazing at all the gingerbread contest entries we made our way to the Grove Park's basement to visit Elaine's, their on site dueling piano bar.

It was so entertaining. The pianists were excellent in both skill and comedic act. The range of songs was impressive and our group had a blast singing along with them. 

After a few hours (and several Moscow Mules & and yummy drink called Georgia On My Mind), we looked around and realized we were the last group standing. We outlasted several bachelorette parties and birthday parties. Told you...parents know what they are doing. ;) 

After closing the piano bar down, we headed back upstairs to take in the breathtaking Christmas decorations one last time and enjoy the warmth of the famous large stone fireplaces. 

The night couldn't have been more perfect!

On Sunday, everyone woke up and each had their own itinerary for getting back home. The hubs and I originally planned to stay most of the day and take in just a little more of Asheville and the Biltmore. Unfortunately, mother nature had a different plan. It monsoon rained from the moment we woke up. 

We lounged a little bit, had another yummy breakfast with Carrie Beth and her hubby, and then made our way to the Biltmore. At the gate entrance is a little store and we stopped in to grab the Cute's some souvenirs, and a few thank you gifts for our babysitters. 

It was an adorable little store that was decked out for the holidays, and even offered what looked like wine tastings just like they do inside the Biltmore. It would be the perfect stop if you just want a quick "taste" at the Biltmore and it's history if you don't have the time for the tour. 

After our last gift was wrapped, we hopped in the car to head back home. As sad as seeing such a fun time end, we know that we will definitely be back to Asheville soon and we are so thankful for such wonderful friends and the memories we made over the last few days. 

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