Thanksgiving is not a day, it’s a way of life

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Thanksgiving is fast approaching us and many people have started to plan the details: the guests, the menu, the sides, the desserts, the decorations for the table and so on.  It’s a day that, hopefully, brings families and friends together, is rooted in tradition, and is primarily focused on gathering folks around the table for a meal, all the while expressing our utmost thanks for all that we have.

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Photo by Our Food Stories

The Thanksgiving meal holds a special place in my heart because it brings people together at the table, which is a passion of mine and the inspiration behind August Table.

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Connecting with loved ones at the table is so important.  Thanksgiving can be many things and any way you do it is just perfect.

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Photo by Our Food Stories

I love the big and boisterous meals, which tend to happen when you bring my family together; as well as the meals shared with friends when we bring our families together and each contribute various traditional and nontraditional favorites for the meal, like we are doing this year; and the quieter ones too that buck the traditional fare altogether, like last Thanksgiving when Krister and I rented a little cottage on Cape Cod (since our four children were all off doing different things) and we ate oysters and fish and other yummy fresh things coupled with delicious cocktails made from Rye, spiced honey syrup, lime and ginger, and after took a very cold walk on the beach with our dog.

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While I love Thanksgiving I would challenge everyone of us to try to bring the goodness of giving thanks into our lives every day by practicing gratitude.  With gratitude people acknowledge the goodness in their lives.

Science says that people who regularly practice gratitude by taking time to notice and reflect upon the things they’re thankful for experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness.  You need this and so does the world.

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Photo by Our Food Stories

Happiness comes from a place of feeling good.  You can tell yourself short, good feeling stories multiple times throughout your day.  Reframe a negative thought to view it in a more positive context.  If you are not feeling joy, pause and focus on something small – maybe you like the way the clouds look, or the way the wind feels on your cheek, or the way a cup of coffee tastes, or the way the sunset is bursting with color.

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Focus on how they make you feel and then feel gratitude that you can experience them.  Then notice another and another.  Until suddenly you start feeling really good.  This helps you be your best self, every day and at the table with those you love.

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

Apple Extravaganza

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Apple season is upon us and regardless of whether or not you are venturing out to pick your own, visiting a local farm store or getting them from the corner market, there is no doubt you cannot ignore these vitamin-packed fall fruits.  Apples are everywhere this time of year, and they are at their best fresh from the orchard.  Apples are delicious on their own, cool and crisp, dressed up or down, in savory meals, slaws, smoothies and the myriad ways of turning them in to show-stopping desserts.

As I am wont to do, and with my passion of inspiring others to gather ’round the table with others, I share some lush photos and recipe links to inspire you with apples from the savory to sweet, healthy to decadent, and mouthwatering and exquisite, like the beautiful Very Berry Apple Pie recipe above from the Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen.

Crisps are super easy and delicious and this recipe will not disappoint.  This version is gluten-free and vegan so that you can serve it to any crowd and not worry about allergies.

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Photo by Mike Garten - Lauren Conrad's Brie and Apple Tart Recipe

Brie and Apples are a delicious savory pairing from the Brie and Apple Tart recipe above to simply slicing up some of your favorite apples, like Granny Smith, for your cheese board.

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Water is one of my other passions, ensuring we are all drinking enough, thinking about the quality of our water, and our impact on the planet and our oceans.  One way to dress up your water intake is to load it up with fruits and herbs.  I love the idea of apple and mint – with a paper straw of course.

I saw this recipe for Bourbon Apple Pie Ice Cream on the Good housekeeping’s list of tastiest apple treats to try for fall.  I was like holy smokes!  Boozy Ice Cream?  I love bourbon, I love ice cream and I love apples and apple pie.  I will definitely be giving this a try.  Click the link above to learn how along with ice cream making tips by Broma Bakery.

Buttery pastry with sweet baked apples?  Yes please, click the link above for Ina Garten’s delicious recipe.

I want to highlight the versatility of the apple and I love slaw… so a Mustardy Cabbage and Apple Slaw sounds delicious and can complement so many things.

Those are apples folks!  Can you believe how beautiful the apple rosettes look on this pie?  Preppy Kitchen says it takes time to make this one, natch, so save this recipe for special occasions or for a weekend when you have extra time on your hands to roll those lovely apples.

I’ll close with an easy no bake recipe.  The Caramel Apple Trifles are loaded with cinnamon and layers of apples, cinnamon whipped cream, caramel and granola.  You can whip these up in no time!

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

Soulful Soups…

Fall is fast upon us in New England with its cool and crisp air, leaves starting to show their new tawny hues, shorter days and chilly nights, farm stands packed with pumpkins and apples, warm sweaters, wool blankets and cozy fireside chats.  During this transition from summer to fall my thoughts always turn to pots of soup bubbling on the stovetop.  Soups are nurturing to the soul, warm you up on a cold day, and are packed with goodness.

I like to experiment with different flavors and textures in my soups and if you make a big pot of soup it can feed the family for days.   I love all kinds – big pots of chili, winter squash soups, beans and rice infused soups, asian inspired soups, and especially good old fashioned tomato soup with a grilled cheese on the side.  I’ve shared some of my favorites here with links to recipes and the makers.  Enjoy!

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Peruvian Chicken Cauli Rice Soup from The Clean Plate
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Pumpkin Soup by @kraut_kopf

 

Labor Day Weekend Picnic Inspiration

Labor Day weekend is this weekend and signals the end of the summer for me.  Over the long weekend we try to get outside as much as possible.  I always love a picnic from the lavish and elegant to the simple and rustic.  I thought I’d share a few photos I found on pinterest to spark your imaginations.  Have a great weekend and get outside if you can.

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

Banana Blueberry Muffins

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I love muffins!  I’ve been making them for years and am always adapting and tweaking my recipes – the variations are endless. They are super easy to make, you can pack them with fruit and feel great about serving them for breakfast or snacks at any time.  Lately, I start with a basic banana bread recipe and have adapted it to add even more fruit, or sometimes chocolate chips, depending on what I have on hand.  You can go even further and add a lemon icing – delish! I’ll share my basic banana blueberry muffin recipe here.  Enjoy!

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Sometimes I use paper mini loaf pans instead of muffin tins!

Banana Blueberry Muffin Recipe

  • Muffin/Cupcake paper liners
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 – ½ cups blueberries
  • 1-2 teaspoons granulated sugar, if desired
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line your muffin tin with paper liners
  2. Beat together the butter, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a standing mixer until well blended. Add the bananas and mix until combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in the mixer.
  4. Place 3-4 blueberries in the bottom of each paper liner. Add most of the rest of the blueberries to the batter, mixing with a wooden spoon. Divide the batter between the 12 muffin cups and place remaining blueberries on top.  Sprinkle with a spoonful of granulated sugar on top if desired.
  5. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes, watching closely towards the end. Make sure a toothpick comes out clean.
  6. Cool and serve.

For variations, add chocolate chips instead of blueberries or add a mix of fruit – raspberries, cherries, blackberries.

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Banana Blueberry Muffins with Blackberries

 

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

 

Anisa Sabet – The Truffle Farm

Black truffles have an earthy, slightly woody, intense flavor.  They are hard to find and usually require a dog or animal with a good sense of smell to sniff out the delicacies, which grow under a certain type of tree in the roots, then the truffle hunter must dig them up.  I love truffle oil and the hint of fresh truffles in savory foods.  Anisa Sabet shared photos from The Truffle Farm in Canaberra on her blog in her Shoot Diary and I will share some of them here.  They are lush and gorgeous.  Truly works of art.

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All photos by Anisa Sabet

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

Slow Roasted Tomato Ketchup

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It’s grilling season and when planning what to grill for your next gathering, it’s fun to also think about special condiments for your table.  In keeping with last week’s post about summer fresh tomatoes, I thought it would be fun to share Anisa Sabet’s Slow Roasted Tomato Ketchup recipe.

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Anisa Sabet is one of my favorite bloggers and instagram accounts to follow.  She is a photographer and stylist and her photos and settings are just gorgeous.  She also creates recipes, which are amazing.   I have made my own tomato jam in the past and nothing beats homemade ketchup, which can be used at your next cookout or as a special sauce paired with cheeses on bruschetta.

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Recipe for Slow Roasted Tomato Ketchup by Anisa Sabet.

Ingredients (makes 500ml):

  • 1kg ripe tomatoes (anything goes), halved
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • Sea salt & pepper
  • Handful fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 1 cup vermouth or white wine
  • Dash Worcestershire
  • To season: sea salt, pepper, bit more brown sugar

    Method:

1. Preheat oven to 160°C. Toss tomatoes in olive oil, with the sugar, tomato paste, garlic, sea salt, pepper & basil, then spread over prepared baking tray. Bake for approximately 90 minutes until slightly charred.

2. Pour roasted tomatoes into saucepan with wine / vermouth and cook until reduced (about an hour).  Add the Worcestershire, and more sea salt, pepper & brown sugar to taste. Pour into a sterilized jar.

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All photos by Anisa Sabet.

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

 

 

 

Ode to the tomato and easy recipe ideas

Photos above by @Tartinegourmande

If you’ve ever tasted a fresh picked, ripe tomato right off the vine, with it’s delicate scent and sweet juices, then you have tasted happiness.  During the summer, when local tomatoes are prolific, you can be creative as the tomato is very versatile and easy to use.   I’ll highlight a few favorite recipes…

Krister’s Aunt Liz reached out to me over the weekend, saying she enjoyed reading the post about Cantaloupes,  and wanted to share that one of her favorite sources for finding recipes is Southern Living.   Since it’s tomato season they had recently posted 47 Ways with Fresh Tomatoes.  Liz’s current favorite from the list is Tomato, Watermelon, and Feta Skewers with Mint and Lime.  I can’t wait to try it!

Also from Southern Living’s list of 47, these Open-faced Tomato Sandwiches with Creamy Cucumber Spread look simple and delicious!  According to the Southern Living Test Kitchen, cut your tomatoes with a serrated knife so that you do not damage the flesh when cutting the skin and lose the juices.

These remind me how easy it is to make variations on this for summer cocktail parties.  You will never go wrong with the super combo of fresh tomatoes and basil on toast, bruschetta or crackers.  Drizzle a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar on top with a sprinkling of sea salt and oh my.

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Photo by @brookelark

I have always loved making a tomato pie and this recipe on the Southern Living list looks gorgeous – Tomato, Cheddar and Bacon Pie.  You can always leave out the bacon if you wish.

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Photo by Hector Sanchez Tomato, Cheddar and Bacon Pie Recipe

One of my favorite recipes to make year round is Cherry Tomato Tartlets Tatin by @tartinegourmande and her cookbook La Tartine Gourmande.  You slow roast the cherry tomatoes before assembling the Tatin to bake.

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Cherry Tomato Tartin made for my love on Valentine’s Day!

With this recipe I often have leftover roasted cherry tomatoes and they are delicious on their own or added to other recipes.

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Slow Roasted Cherry Tomatoes by Plan Simple Meals

Thomas Jefferson was one of the first Virginians to grow and eat tomatoes.  Since tomatoes are in the nightshade family most Americans were afraid they were poisonous and did not eat them. Legend has it that Thomas Jefferson first ate them in front of a crowd near Lynchburg, VA at his retreat Poplar Forest and later in 1806 served them to guests at the President’s house which led to their popularity as an edible fruit in addition to a decorative planting.

“Home grown tomatoes, home grown tomatoes
What would life be like without homegrown tomatoes
Only two things that money can’t buy
That’s true love and home grown tomatoes.”

John Denver, ‘Home Grown Tomatoes’
(from a song written by Guy Clark)

 

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

Cantaloupe – How to pick the perfect one

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Summertime for me means warm, sunny days, flip flops, digging bare feet into the sand or walking across the freshly mowed lawn, picnics, ice cream and of course an abundance of fresh fruit and veggies.   One of my favorite summer fruits is fresh cantaloupe, but you need to know what to look for for ripeness or you’ll be disappointed as they do not ripen further once off the vine.

I have distinct memories growing up of time spent every summer with my grandparents at their place on the Chesapeake Bay.   They had a huge vegetable garden and always grew cantaloupes.  Many mornings when we were called to the breakfast table there would be cold slices of sweet cantaloupe sprinkled with salt waiting for us.

Last week when I was at the market I was holding a cantaloupe and smelling it, trying to pick the perfect one.  A woman approached me and asked how do you know which one will be good?  I figure perhaps there are others of you who also could use a few tips.

The best way to pick a cantaloupe is by smell. The fruit should have a sweet, slightly musky scent. If the smell is too strong, it will be be overripe.  A good cantaloupe feels heavy for its size, should feel firm but not hard, and should never feel mushy.  Next look at the color.  Cantaloupes have a rind that resemble raised netting and the ripe ones have a golden hue.  Finally the stem end should yield slightly when pressed with your thumb.

You can eat cantaloupe on it’s own or sprinkled with salt, put it in smoothies, salads and even grill it.  Here are a few ideas…

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

Gather – Flowers for your table

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Wildflowers collected from our fields in White Stone, VA

I firmly believe that when you gather friends and family at the table you should always have fresh flowers there too.  They elevate the experience and can be done simply and inexpensively from gathering wildflowers in various shapes and sizes to pulling together one flower, in one color, to make a statement.

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Wildflower arrangement by Jamie Campbell for Decoratop

You can pick one vase to fill for a center arrangement or find various jars, cups and vases in varying sizes to place organically around the table and house.

When I have a special event, dinner or meal and want that extra help I love collaborating with a florist in order to get more unique flowers than are readily available in the yard or at the local market.

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Photo by Will Hawkins / Flowers by The Wild Bunch

It’s also fun to add in fruit and vegetables as part of the table decor.

Think about what season you are in and pull from what is growing at that time.  Lilacs are my favorite flowers and I love to fill vases of them in the spring all over the house for their soft color and lush scent.

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Mason Jar Vase and Lilacs by Country Living 

If you have a large group, it’s fun to have flowers run down the entire table so that everyone gets to enjoy them like I did last summer for a large family gathering in the photo below.  I worked with Cindy at The Wild Bunch in Kilmarnock, VA.  She does amazing work.

If you do not have a garden or yard to pull from, visit your local market or grocery store.  When in Boston, I love what Trader Joe’s keeps in store year round and look for groupings of one type of flower to mix and match colors as opposed to the prearranged bouquets.  Another favorite – peonies…

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Peonies / Photo by Amber Lilyestrom

When creating your own arrangements, you must strip the stems of all leaves for the part that will be below the water line.  This slows up any bacteria growth and keeps the water clean longer.  I like the flowers to be cut shorter in the vase, so that the flowers are poised just above the top of the vase and often tie the vase or jar with twine or a ribbon.  Cut each flower individually to fit your vase in order to have various heights and place them loosely for the look you want.

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Flowers by The Wild Bunch

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

July 4th – what are you serving?

Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits.
   ~ Thomas Jefferson

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It’s that time of the year when we come together to watch fireworks and commemorate America’s independence. I thought it would be fun to share images and recipes that are inspiring me as I plan our festivities for next week, and hopefully give you some inspiration too.  So… let’s jump into picnic mode, fire up the grill and hoist up those Stars and Stripes in celebration of the 4th of July!

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Photo by Yossy Arefi

July 4th is the ultimate way to officially kick off the summer and bring together friends and family around your table, whatever form that may be – a picnic blanket or backyard BBQ, while adding in lots of fresh fruits and veggies as lush displays and recipe ingredients.

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Rose Sangria with Peaches and Raspberries by College Housewife

It’s always festive to have a special drink or cocktail in addition to your other drink offerings in the cooler.   We’ll be mixing up pitchers of this Rose Sangria with peaches and raspberries from the College Housewife blog.

Appetizers and The Table
For me the menu planning goes hand in hand with thinking about the way you want your table to look.  Think about the overall effect, including flowers, tablecloth, linen napkins, and decorations.  I love to have a broad display with a fruit, veggie or cheese board that makes your table look lush. Sorella Collection in LA makes the most amazing Graze Boards.  Mix and match veggies, fruits, herbs and dips for a big impact.

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Sorella Collection Graze Boards


Oysters

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Oysters at Merroir

Since we’ll be in White Stone, VA for our 4th of July celebration we will definitely be shucking oysters fresh from the Chesapeake Bay.  Every time we come home to White Stone we eat oysters at Merroir, one of our favorite spots right on the banks of the Rappahannock River.

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Krister at Merroir


What’s on the grill?

The Dog Days of Summer… you can have a variety of hot dogs from beef, chicken, sausage links to veggie dogs, and go crazy with your toppings with a topping station.

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Creative toppings for your dogs by the Sun Chronicle

Chicken is an easy option for the grill.  Marinate chicken breasts any number of ways and grill or go for barbecue, one of my favorites.

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Photo by Deb Lindsey for the Washington Post July 4th recipes

What is a 4th of July celebration without corn?  Here are four ways to grill those ears

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Photo by Scott Suchman for the Washington Post July 4th recipes

Something for everyone
In this day and age of wide spread allergies and varied food preferences, you’ll want to make sure you have something for everyone on your table.  For the vegetarian and vegan friendly entree in addition to the standard veggie hot dogs and burgers consider Barbecue Jackfruit Sandwiches  that I found on the Better Homes and Gardens site and if you are not familiar with the fruit they also give you the Jack Fruit Basics.

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Who’s your sidekick?

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Spring Potato Salad by Mississippi Vegan

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Firecracker Green Beans by Mississippi Vegan

Sweet Inspiration
I love fruit!  Fruit on it’s own as dessert, fruit in a pie, fruit in a crisp, fruit in a cobbler.

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Various berry pies by Martha Stewart

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Blueberry Cobbler by Mississippi Vegan

With all the fruit pies, crips and cobblers I like to serve ice cream, both dairy and non-dairy options.  I also think I’m going to try this gorgeous vegan strawberry ice cream pie.

So these are the things I’m thinking about.  What are you thinking about serving? Let us know.  Meanwhile, we’re getting things ready and just hung our new flags…

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here. 

 

Eat, Capture, Share

August Ardor is all about passion and sharing stories of passion with the hope of inspiring more people to follow their dreams and bliss – more happiness brings more joy into the world, natch.

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Recently I had the opportunity to chat with Kimberly Espinel, an award-winning food photographer and stylist, photography teacher, author of The Little Plantation blog, and creator of the EAT, CAPTURE, SHARE podcast.  Kimberly lives in cool and cosmopolitan London, creates stunning plant-based dishes and images that make your mouth water and your heart skip a beat, teaches workshops, works on her blog and podcast all while pursuing her bliss.

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She inspires me every single day.  It’s no wonder she was the Saveur Blog Awards Editor’s Choice for the 2018 Best Food Photography for last year. Kimberly has a very distinct lush style with her photography – one that she honed herself as a self-taught photographer.

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I asked Kimberly how she got started and what inspired her to take the first step towards following her passion in food photography.  Her journey was circuitous (as many journeys can be) with twists and turns and back roads traveled, with side journeys along the way, before she found where she wanted to go.  She worked as a social worker for 13 years or so and then had her son.  She realized that going back to the same job did not feel right anymore or fit in with the family life she wanted to create.

She asked herself is there a way I can work for myself and be more present in his life? What opportunities are there… what am I passionate about that would allow me that opportunity?  She decided to go back to school to be a nutritional therapist and at the same time moved from an omnivores diet to a plant-based diet.

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She started the food blog as a way to have recipes to share with clients when she was finished with school; however, when she started picking up the camera and shooting food and writing recipes, she filled a void in her heart and it brought her so much joy.

By the time she graduated from school she already had 40,000 followers on her Instagram account.  Yet when she started the blog, she had not heard of Instagram.  In one of her nutrition lectures another girl sat next to her and said “she’d just discovered this photo app and said it’s insane” …Kimberly was mesmerized.

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What’s important to note is that she was not a photographer before starting the blog.  She says she did not know how to work a camera or anything, but once she got the gist of it, she loved the feeling of creating something in her mind and making it come to life.  She said “I loved recipes, I loved to cook – the styling and the photography are my favorite part and now I love teaching others on the side.”

Many other bloggers go to recipe development but she went to photography.  I asked her what inspires her most when she shoots and how her style evolved.  She had always been interested in interior design and architecture, and as a teenager she would redesign her bedroom and kept a scrap book of fabric, looks and visuals that she liked.   At that time, she didn’t know her style yet, but through trial and error she noticed a pattern in the way she shaped and sees things.  She is really drawn to nature, the colors of nature, the colors of the seasons, the colors of vibrant plant-based food that she gravitates towards.

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Over the years she always leaned into her strengths – one of her strengths is bringing people together and creating a creativity community.  She listened to her followers and their needs, wants, and struggles and she realized a podcast would be a great way to bring the community together to further address their pain points and help them achieve their dreams.  The EAT, CAPTURE, SHARE podcast is for a wide audience of food bloggers, food lovers, and everyone in between – mainly people who love sharing their photography, their art and creativity.

Give it a listen and you can check out more of Kimberly’s images and posts on The Little Plantation blog.

All photos by Kimberly Espinel

 

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Carrie Allen created this site as a way for people to share stories about things they love.  She loves chasing quiet, authentic moments and sharing them with her family and friends.  Read more about her inspiration here.