RSS Feed

Weekly Lunch Wrap Up #10

We had so many lunches this week! Not only did I successfully remember to take pictures of everthing (ha!) but Kiddo1 also stayed late at school every day last week so he took both a lunch and a snack with him every day. That’s a lot of pictures to write about! So I give you this week’s extra super mega bonus lunch/snack wrap up. Of awesomeness.

Monday

 photo 2014-11-07 12.20.19_zpsagxifnjh.jpg

I keep trying to get Kiddo1 to like sweet potato fries. I’ve tried them in a variety of colors and level of crunch, but to no avail. These purple ones were too crunchy for his taste. So I will try again with less crunchy fries! I mean, who can say no to purple fries?! Also served was leftover BBQ pulled pork that I cooked in our Instant Pot pressure cooker. I’ve never had a pressure cooker before this electric Instant Pot one and I’ve got to say, it is amazing! This thing does rice, yogurt, sautes, slow cooks, everything! I highly recommend it if you’re in the market for any of those things. But back to the lunch… rounding out this well-rounded meal is some broccoli and applesauce for dessert (his favorite!).

Monday snack

 photo 2014-11-07 12.21.38_zpsosehl5td.jpg

Kiddo1 had an after-school event every day this week so he was stuck at school until 5 (and until 7 on Tuesday!). Thus he received a good-sized snack every day so he could power through! This one was just ham, cucumbers, and carrots. Simple but it did the trick!

Tuesday

 photo 2014-11-07 12.22.17_zpslwwoy6h6.jpg

Another meatless Monday dinner (we had quinoa-stuffed acorn squash) brings another lettuce wrap lunch on Tuesday! This one is filled with ham and cucumber (like it always is!), plus Kiddo1 had some of the leftover quinoa mix (there are onions, garlic, and a few other veggies I’m forgetting), more broccoli, carrot sticks, and an Enjoy Life chocolate chip cookie.

Tuesday snack

 photo 2014-11-07 12.23.58_zpsu90obgri.jpg

Kiddo1 had a super late day at school on Tuesday (he was there until 7!) but I knew he wouldn’t have a ton of opportunity to eat his snack since he’d be busy participating in the after-school program. So I gave him easy finger foods that he could nibble on whenever he got an opportunity: carrot sticks, ham “sticks,” and blue corn chips.

Wednesday

 photo 2014-11-07 12.24.54_zpsiqptqoaq.jpg

Taco day! Sometimes I have to sequester some taco meat and shells while we’re eating dinner so I’ll have something leftover for lunch – tacos go pretty fast in this house! Kiddo1 just loves the tacos. But dispite my efforts we ran out of taco shells anyway. Luckily we’ve been keeping a steady supply of these blue corn chips so I substituted with those. Of course I packed more broccoli, as I have been really pushing the broccoli lately! Plus another Enjoy Life cookie.

Wednesday snack

 photo 2014-11-07 12.25.43_zpstkukvvve.jpg

Lots of corn this week I guess! Oops. We should try to cut back (corn is not so great for the digestive system) but when almost all grains are off the table you take what you can get! Plus popcorn is such an easy snack. Also served with the last of the leftover taco meat (chicken tacos this week), plus some apple slices. Kiddo1 was very nervous about the apple slices getting brown, but I just squeezed a bit of lemon over them and he said they didn’t turn brown at all! And he didn’t even know about the lemon juice.

Thursday

 photo 2014-11-07 12.26.43_zpsrianamy5.jpg

Leftover pork today! Plus the full suite of vegetables that Kiddo1 will eat (well, we’re back and forth on the broccoli) – broccoli, carrots, and cucumber. More applesauce for dessert!

Thursday snack

 photo 2014-11-07 12.28.07_zps1efkh4vo.jpg

More apple slices! That didn’t get brown! But… they did get tossed around with the pumpkin seeds and raisins which made for a soggy mixed mess. Oops. I should have stuck to my Easy Lunch Boxes container for this one I guess! Poor Kiddo1 was a bit disappointed since he refused to eat the snack mix-up, but he bounced back when I gave him some fresh apple at home!

Friday

 photo 2014-11-07 12.15.15_zpswjlsxrry.jpg

Finally Friday! My brain was out of ideas and my fridge was out of leftovers, so Kiddo1 got a pretty cookie-cuter lunch on Friday: carrots, broccoli, cucumber, and I snuck in some celery too (celery made its way back home, unfortunately!) plus cubes of ham and a final Enjoy Life chocolate chip cookie for the week.

Friday snack

 photo 2014-11-07 12.14.28_zpsanityeig.jpg

Friday breakfasts for us are Bacon Fridays (I suggest everyone have a dedicated bacon day!) and I was feeling extra bacon-happy so I cooked a couple extra pieces and snuck them into Kiddo1′s snack. He was pretty excited to see more bacon in his day! I also gave him more pumpkin seeds to make up for the ones he didn’t get on Thursday, plus more of the blue corn chips he loves so much. Not a bad way to end the week!

 

Whew! That was a busy week of on-the-go foods!

Goal Update – New Phases

There have been so many things on my mind lately it has been hard to post! As soon as I settle on one topic I’m distracted by another.

I deal with distraction by making lists, so I’ve decided to update my Goal Phases page (tab at the top of this screen). I started the page to try to organize all the things I want to learn as part of my self-sustaining goal.

Now the list on the page is helping me to focus on just a few areas at a time. Lately I’ve been thinking about all the things I want to learn and I’ve gotten a little overwhelmed! But if I step back and recall that I’ve set a nine-year timeline, then I can break up my time into segments and feel a little more relaxed.

I’ve realized that this whole year I’ve spent most of my time learning about foods that the best for my family’s health and how to cook those foods. So that is my official focus for 2014… which I do realize is almost over. But I’ve learned so much about food this year so it’s okay that I’m just now applying the label. I’ve been focusing on this goal already without even realizing it!

So by the end of this year, just 6 or 7 weeks away, I hope to know enough about food that I can cook whatever we manage to bring home without too much stress. I’ve learned to cook a lot of things this year: I’ve learned the difference between cooking convensional beef vs grass-fed, I’ve learned how to cook a variety of winter squash (never had cooked a squash before this year!), I’ve learned how to chop an onion, how to properly hold a chef’s knife, substitutes for wheat flour and eggs, how to use a pressure cooker, how to cook in cast iron, how to lacto ferment vegetables, and way more than I ever thought I’d need to learn!

Cooking isn’t just proper use of ingredients and equipment. It’s also meal planning and shopping. So by the end of the year I’d like to have my planning and shopping systems in place well enough that I don’t have to think about them as much as I do now. Right now I spend about two hours planning meals and snacks for the week. I can’ keep spending that much time on it so I keep tweaking my planning system. I’m still using my meal planning template - that is actually working really well for me still. Coming up with ideas for what to eat is always the most difficult, so I’m working on a sort of “map” to give me fresh ideas each week. It has themed days, lists of healthy foods, and other things to trigger my brain and make planning fast. When it is more complete I promise to share it!

We spend a good amount of time on shopping for foods, too. We spend so much time partly because my planning isn’t 100% yet so every few days I realize we’re out of something and we have to go replenish supplies. I’m getting really close to only shopping once a week, but not quite there yet.

Part of planning better shopping is having a really good handle on what we actually use each week/month. So I’m working on tracking our consumption habits so I can better prepare for how much of something we’ll need to get. It’d be so much better to get say… granola only once a month and get it at a discount because we ordered five pounds.

So lots of cooking and food-related work still to do this year! But I feel like we’ve come a long way! We are WAY less reliant on standard consumer fare in order to get ourselves fed and that really is the goal here isn’t it! As long as we have ingredients and some tools, we can make ourselves a good dinner.

Once the year is over though, it’s not like I’ve totally mastered cooking. Like many life skills it requires lots of practice and a thirst for knowledge in order to keep skills sharp. So I’ll still be reading cookbooks and perusing the internet for cooking smarts in 2015 and beyond. But, I’ll try to make it less of an obsession.

In 2015 I’ll attempt to move on to a new obsession, which is to grow a lot more of the food we eat. We had a decent first year of gardening in 2014, but we need to step it up a lot in order to call ourselves self-sufficient.

For the future phases beyond next year, see the new page at the top of this screen. I will update it often!

Weekly Lunch Wrap Up #9

Welcome to another week of school lunches! This week was another short one – Kiddo1 had Friday off for Halloween (actually it was off for conferences, but he liked to say they had the holiday off) so only four lunches this week plus a couple snacks.

 

Monday

 photo 2014-10-27 09.25.38_zpsbnxsesww.jpg

On Monday, Kiddo1 had a lettuce wrap with the most beautiful piece of romaine that we got at the very last farmer’s market of the season. Well, the last one of the particular market that we like to go to. There are a couple other year-round markets around but they are further away and busy so we tend not to go to the regularly. Our usual market does host one “Thanksgiving Market” on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, so we anciously look forward to that every fall. I digree – back to the lunch! Kiddo1 likes his lettuce wraps stuffed with cucumber and this one also had leftover pork roast from Sunday night’s dinner. He also had carrot sticks, broccoli, and an Enjoy Life cookie.

Monday snack

 photo 2014-10-27 09.28.00_zpslqwipliw.jpg

On Mondays and Wednesdays, Kiddo1 is at school until 5 for his robotics program. The organizers offer snacks but they’re just bags of chips and candy so I have been trying to make sure I send a good snack with Kiddo1 so he isn’t longing for the snacks he shouldn’t have. (Let’s be honest, those aren’t good snacks for anyone!) So for snack on Monday, Kiddo1 has some strawberries, raisins, and another Enjoy Life cookie.

Tuesday

 photo 2014-10-30 13.40.36_zpswsj9kjcw.jpg

Every once in awhile I’ve got to give Kiddo1 a salad. They’re just so easy to put together and I can get him a few extra veggies too. He’s slowly started to get used to them (ie complaining less when he sees them). This salad is a bed of romaine and leaf lettuce with carrots, cucumber, and ham cubes and a side of vegan ranch. I also added more broccoli (he’s protesting the broccoli lately so I’m offering it more often… we’ll see how that goes). His favorite – applesauce – is for dessert.

Wednesday

 photo 2014-10-30 13.38.18_zpsuldmjulf.jpg

Taco-night-leftovers day! Kiddo1 insists on having Taco Tuesday so I Wednesday I insist he takes the leftovers for lunch. This week we had beef tacos (we have so much ground beef from the quarter cow we bought this summer!) and they have cucumber and red leaf lettuce on a corn tortilla. He also had more carrots and broccoli, plus applesauce, and a some blue corn and sesame chips.

Wednesday snack

 photo IMG_20141029_091450_zpsyx4t2aag.jpg

I packed these away very carefully in parchment paper, but here they are finishing up on the rack. Kiddo1 finally had that donut party in her after school class so I made him special allergy-free donuts so he wouldn’t feel left out. I’m still tweaking the recipe a bit but will post them soon!

Thursday

 photo 2014-10-30 13.39.03_zps8u9lkvtx.jpg

Kiddo1 kept saying, “it’s my Friday!” But to the rest of us it was still just Thursday! Still a fine enough day to have popcorn for lunch though. Plus the last of our roasted acorn squash seeds (had to clear out for all the pumpkin seeds coming in!). He also had leftover chicken – on Wednesday night I tried making Indian food for the fist time. It went pretty well I think! We had tumeric chicken, some curried potatoes and green beans sauted with mustard seeds. I will be making it again for sure! But in the meantime, Kiddo1 enjoyed a little leftover chicken with a carrot-and-cucumber kabob. Not a bad way to end the week!

Thanks for visiting our lunches this week!

Choosing a Bulb for DIY Soft Light

Last week I built this soft light and I posted a tutorial about it a couple days ago. I’ve loved playing around with my new light, but I have to admit something has been missing. I felt like a had built a solid light box, but the quality of light I was getting was not exciting.

Observe: a photo of bananas with my original LED light bulb and homemade reflector…

 photo 2014-10-24 14.24.59_zpscubnpeyw.jpg

In the soft light tutorial I followed from The Tip Toe Fairy, a 100w bulb is suggested so that’s what I bought. But I didn’t think at all about the degrees Kelvin of the light bulb, which control the color of light that the bulb provides.

This first light bulb, while bright enough and even Earth-friendly enough, it was 2500k on the light spectrum and that’s just too yellow. It didn’t look much different than having the kitchen lights on, except for having a more direct light source.

I tried a few different reflectors and extra lights, but it was a lot more work than I want to put into the average shot and it still wasn’t making the light any less warm.

The next light I got was totally over-compensating for the warm light mistake. I figured I’d go with a totally opposite light bulb – CFL this time (cause I couldn’t afford any more LEDs!) and 6500k. Let’s just say I didn’t do any research on proper degrees Kelvin for simulating daylight…

The next pictures I took turned out like this:

 photo 2014-10-24 14.23.45_zpsakj72rfd.jpg

Super blue! Like I said, the total opposite of the warm light – this one was too cool. It was hard to get a picture that didn’t have a brightness “haze,” like this one:

 photo 2014-10-28 11.44.36_zpsvb1r7ekf.jpg

It wasn’t the soft daylight I was going for. Plus the bulb I got took a minute to warm up and buzzed pretty loud.

Finally I got smart and did a little research. Daylight is 5500k, so I needed to tone down my degrees Kelvin a little bit more.

I got one last night bulb, here are the specs:

  • CFL (if I had only bought one bulb instead of three, I would have sprung for LED)
  • 100w equivilant (23w for a CFL)
  • 5000-5500k (I could only find a 5000k bulb but I think it’s fine)

Now my pictures are better. First the bananas, for comparison (although I’m not at all in love with this photo!).

 photo 2014-10-24 14.26.08_zpstttgynng.jpg

And a few of my favorite photos I’ve posted on Instagram:

 photo IMG_20141025_192456_zpsbwsm1pqe.jpg

 photo IMG_20141028_073902_zpsj8zaxzli.jpg

This one I took with actual daylight, so you can see how similar the quality of light is. Pretty close huh? The above two pictures were taken with just my soft light and reflector but this one was taken with just the curtains pulled back. It was lunch so I actually had some light coming through the kitchen. Breakfast and dinner are just about totally dark this time of year!

 photo IMG_20141025_170319_zpsurl7brmn.jpg

Not bad huh? It’s an improvement to me at least, so I’m happy. Next I’d like to dust off my Nikon D40 and learn to use it well instead of taking pictures with my phone all the time. The phone is just so easy and fast! I have a feeling that might involve a little more than just shopping for a bulb though. I hope to share my knowledge soon!

Weekly Lunch Wrap Up #8

After last week’s snafu of picture taking nonsense, I made the soft light that I can use to simulate daylight. Ever since then it’s been so much easier to get a clear picture! But all week I was experimenting to find just the right light bulb. So the light may change a bit from day to day, but I feel like we’re getting close to vastly improved daily lunch portraits!

Also I noticed we’ve been relying a lot on ham for our lunch protein even though we eat a variety of meats through the week. And I’m pretty sure ham isn’t considered “clean eating.” So this week I’m focusing on getting other meats in the lunch box. Plus I’m going to talk about where we get our meat from because I like to talk about it.

Monday

 photo 2014-10-20 14.57.18_zpsvw4djlig.jpg

On Monday. Kiddo1 had what’s becoming a Monday staple: a lettuce wrap stuffed with cucumbers and leftovers of whatever roast we had on Sunday for dinner. This week it was a pork loin roast we bought at our food buying club*. It is all the nice things: no soy, no GMO, no anti-biotics, etc. I really love this red leaf lettuce with its curly, colored edges. Kiddo1 needed a little coaxing before he came around to them though (“They’re funny-colored!”). He also had broccoli, carrots, some red grapes and, for dessert, half a Missionary Chocolates Peppermint Bark truffle (vegan).

Tuesday

 photo 2014-10-24 08.34.21_zpsqsog20w8.jpg

Today we have our standard veggies trifecta: carrots, cucumber, and broccoli, with a bit of vegan ranch dressing. There’s also cubed ham – it is uncured and all the nice things: no nitraits, casein, antibotics, pork is veggie-fed, etc. We get it at the grocery store, nothing special. Suddendly I’m realizing there’s no dessert! But there is quinoa… even though that totally doesn’t count for anything in Kiddo1′s opinion. But I put it in there anyway.

Wednesday

 photo 2014-10-24 08.35.51_zpstyq0fsjd.jpg

Kiddo1 requested that Tuesday nights we have “Taco Tuesday,” so now he also gets “Taco Wednesday” for lunch. He ate seven tacos for dinner the night before, and he still wasn’t sick of them! These are beef tacos. In late summer we split a quarter cow with friends. We got 16 pounds of ground beef, plus a bunch of steaks and a couple roasts. It’s good quality, local, grass-fed, “all the nice things” meat. I’m glad we like it because we have a lot of it! We’ve been cooking a couple pounds of beef every week for a couple months and we have a lot left to go! Beef isn’t super great for Kiddo1′s digestive system, though, so I try to limit beef to once a week (one dinner and one lunch… so I guess that’s twice a week). Also included in today’s lunch are leftover steamed veggies seasoned with ginger. Dessert was not forgotten! It’s an Enjoy Life cookie.

Wednesday snack

 photo 2014-10-20 14.58.48_zps5ycvq5mi.jpg

Okay here’s the deal. I know this sprinkle-and-sugar-covered donut looks unhealthy. And compared to the rest of the week it is. But it is free of all his allergens and there are two good reasons it was snack today. Kiddo1 is a member of a club at school and they had a fundraiser over the weekend at the local burger joint. Kiddo1 had a great time hanging out with his friends and helping raise funds for the program, but he had a horrible time being at the burger place. We used to go there before “the change” with our diet. Being there was all kinds of sadness for him as he mourned the foods he cannot have. So the first reason he deserved a treat is because he made it through his fund raising time without eating any of those foods and, while he was sad about it, he didn’t let his emotions get in the way of his commitment, or his fun with his friends. And the second reason he got a donut is that the kids in the club were supposed to get a donut party because they raised almost twice the funds they expected to during their time at the burger place. Turns out that donut party isn’t until next week, though, so Kiddo1 gets two weeks of donut snacks. There are worse things that could happen I suppose.

Thursday

 photo 2014-10-24 08.36.56_zpso32pjg6e.jpg

On Wednesday night we had a whole chicken – our favorite – so Kiddo1 got leftover pulled chicken on Thursday. I bought six chickens from a new food buying group. They do seasonal bulk buys and these chickens were part of the last of three chicken buys for the season. I just bought 40 pounds of squash from them too. 40 pounds isn’t as much squash as you’d think. But it should last us until spring (as long as I store it properly!). Anyway, Kiddo1 also had a kabob of carrots and cucumber with some vegan ranch, also roasted squash seeds and a leftover homemade chocolate chip muffin for dessert. I posted the muffin on my Instagram account (@9yearslater) plus a link to the recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie.

Friday

 photo 2014-10-24 08.37.35_zpsowqkpeis.jpg

Friday was kind of a struggle! Not only did I get a new light bulb and promptly hate it, but I fell back on ham for the second time this week! But it was still a good lunch so I won’t be too hard on myself. The lightbulb though… drove me nuts. I went from like a 2000k bulb to a 6500k one – it was just too cool of a light. I digress. Lunch was a salad on a bed of romaine and leaf lettuce with cucumber and cubes of ham. There was a side of broccoli (vegan ranch not pictured – he won’t take it without the ranch though!). Finally we had another chocolate chip muffin for dessert.

You’ll be happy to know I got a new lightbulb on Saturday that I love, so no more struggles with light. Other than keeping children and pets out of my light. Sigh. They’re so cute though.

* For more on our food buying club and our alternative grocery store choices, see this post.

DIY Photography Soft Light and Reflector

Lately I’ve been so uninspired by my pictures from the kitchen. I take a photo (almost) every day of Kiddo1′s lunch so I can post it in order to motivate me to make good lunches with a variety of foods. It’s hard to get a good shot in my kitchen because there isn’t a lot of natural light in there. And now heading into winter, there isn’t any natural light when I’m actually packing lunch so I need a little brightening up.

Thank goodness I found this tutorial for making a photography soft light from The Tip Toe Fairy. I highly recommend reading her tutorial first since that is what I used to make my own light. The only difference with me is that I’m super cheap, so I even made my own box for the light (The Tip Toe Fairy uses a lamp shade). Therefore, I wanted to share how I made the box and everything just in case you’re as thrifty as me.

DIY Photography Soft Lights

Here’s what you need:
Cardboard – enough for four 8-1/2″ x 11″ pieces plus one 6″ x 6″ piece
Piece of letter-sized paper for making a template
Glue
Aluminum foil
Duct tape
8-1/2″ clamp light, it looks like this and you should be able to find it at most hardware stores:
 photo 0001739834703_500X500_zps7905789e.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

Also a good quality light bulb (I got a LED bulb that’s equivalent to 100w, but it cost twice as much as the clamp light! It also has a warm light and I’d rather go for something a lot more cool next time.
And a scrap of clean white fabric that’s at least 13″ x 13″

Here’s what you do:
First, make a template from the letter-sized piece of paper (that’s a regular 8-1/2 x 11 piece) Use scrap paper cause this isn’t going to be part of the finished product.

Just take the piece of paper and fold it in half “hamburger style.” The grab the outside corner and fold it back at an angle like this:

 photo 2014-10-21 22.11.46_zpsessbagrg.jpg

Once the two sides are folded at the same angle, unfold the middle of the paper so it looks like the above picture. Now you have a template to make four identical sides for the light box.

I found a cardboard box in the garage that I could use to make the light box. I just traced the template on all four sides of the box and cut them out.

Then it was time to glue.

 photo 2014-10-21 22.13.40_zpsxdtnult2.jpg

I put one of the box sides on the counter and ran a line of glue near the edge, the stood another box piece on its side. I used a mason jar to support the box piece so I didn’t have to stand there with it.

I did this for two pair of sides:

 photo 2014-10-21 22.14.24_zps9vblvk16.jpg

Then ran off to play with the kids for awhile. The glue needs to dry so just leave it in a place where it won’t be disturbed. If you have children and pets, check every now and then to make sure no one has disrupted the creation. I left mine for about an hour.

Once the pairs were ready, it was time to combine them, like so:

 photo 2014-10-21 22.15.19_zpssezsjqns.jpg

More mason jars in action. The box will want to tip until the glue sets, so support the sides like this again and run off to play with kids. Or clean something if you want.

Once the glue was set I used duct tape to reinforce the connections, just in case. Just a little bit of duct tape like in the above photo.

Next it was time to make a piece of cardboard to seal up the back end of the box. I just tipped the light box over (once the glue was dry, of course) so the more narrow opening was down on a piece of cardboard. I traced around the light box so I had a nice square to cut out.

Then you need a hole in the center so the clamp light can go through. To make the whole, I just found the mid-point of the cardboard square, then guessed at the hole size. This is not exact science. Unless you don’t have any more spare cardboard. If you don’t, you might want to do a little measuring so you don’t waste your piece.

The end cap should look like this. I’ve also already added the lines of glue needed to secure the end cap to the light box.

 photo 2014-10-21 22.16.04_zpsvqg777td.jpg

See how my pictures are turning out blurry with the crappy light in my kitchen? Maddening. I made the hole in my piece a little big so I just used some masking tape to make it slightly smaller.

To know how big the hole should be, you’ve got to take apart your clamp light. The big aluminum shade screws off the light ballast. The black ballast (the part that holds the light bulb) is what needs to go through the hole. You don’t have to remove the clamp – that will be on the outside of the box anyway. There’s a picture coming up of the ballast secured in the box top, but for now we just want to make sure the ballast will fit in there.

Anyway, now stand the light box up on the end cap to set the glue, like this:

 photo 2014-10-21 22.16.49_zpsod8gsj2l.jpg

One last time… take off while the glue dries. Give it 30 minutes at least.

Once the glue is dry, do some more duct tape reinforcement between the box top and the sides. I add the tape on the inside and outside of the box.

Now the inside needs to be covered in aluminum foil so the light bounces around a bunch in the box. I used that same paper template from making the box sides to fold the aluminum foil before trying to secure it to the sides. It made it so much easier! Just lay the template down on the foil and fold:

 photo 6db10363-f74e-4d56-97cc-54bd03366a22_zps4f98a460.jpg

Now you can just slide the aluminum foil in the box without too much of a struggle. Once you’ve got a piece in place, pull it back a little and use some folded-over tape (homemade double-sided tape) to secure the aluminum foil down. You can also skip that and just tape the edges of the foil onto to inside of the lid. Also fold the foil over the outside edge and tape it down to the outsides of the light box. When you’re done it should look like this:

 photo 2014-10-21 22.19.13_zpsvnwtdqm1.jpg

Now you can put the black ballast from the clamp light into the hole and thread the aluminum shade (the one that came with the light) back on.

 photo 2014-10-21 22.20.26_zps6n7bjllb.jpg

Almost done! Put in the light bulb and plug in the clamp light to test that it works. If it does, we can move on to installing the shade (ie scrap of white fabric).

At this point you have a choice – you can secure the fabric with duct tape like I did or you can use Velcro like The Tip Toe Fairy did. I used duct tape because I don’t think I’ll ever change the light bulb in this baby (LED bulbs last for years). Plus this lamp isn’t anything pretty and I left lots of extra fabric so I could pull off the tape or even cut the fabric off if I really need to. There are pros and cons for both methods!

The fabric helps defuse the light so it isn’t as harsh and spreads over a broad area. Make sure the fabric you choose is clean and stain-free so you don’t have spots of shadow. Even the smallest stains can make noticeable shadows in your photos.. I used an old t-shirt. The front was stained, but not the back! So I cut out a sizeable piece - mine was 20″ x 20″ but you want at least 13″ square so there’s enough fabric to fold around the box opening and secure with duct tape (or with Velcro if you go that route).

 photo 2014-10-21 22.23.03_zpsef31sxtd.jpg

Now you can see how the ballast of the clamp light stick out of the box lid. It isn’t a pretty light but it does the job! Here it is in action:

 photo 2014-10-21 22.24.56_zpscyrqqwhh.jpg

I love the clamp because I can secure it to my kitchen cabinets and change the angle until it’s just right. The light is small enough I can stash it away or just turn the shade around so I don’t splash it while I’m cooking. Things can get crazy in the kitchen!

So that’s how you make a soft light. Do make sure to read The Tip Toe Fairy’s tutorial so you have the background on where I’m coming from for my tutorial. I think it will really help. Unless you like to just wing it, in which case, go for it.

But wait, there’s more! I quickly discovered that the light alone is not enough. I also need a reflector to bounce light around within my shot, otherwise one side of my subject is in dark shadow. A reflector is 1000 times easier than the light box. Here’s how to do it.

DIY Photography Reflector

Here’s what you need:
Cardboard
Aluminum Foil
Clear tape

Here’s what you do:
Well if you’re me the first thing you would have done is photograph the cardboard before wrapping it up in aluminum foil… but this reflector was so easy to make that it was over and done before I thought to get out my camera! Oops! All I have is are photos of the finished product…

 photo 20141022_143603_zpsmrnsep5r.jpg

Find another piece of scrap cardboard that’s in decent shape. It doesn’t have to be a specific size (mine isn’t even symmetrical!)  but ideally the cardboard already has a bend down the middle of it so it can stand up on its own. Tear off a couple sheets of aluminum foil that allow for about an inch of overlap around the sides of the cardboard.

Secure the overlapped edges of the sheets of aluminum foil to the back of the cardboard with any tape – it doesn’t have to be clear because the back won’t face your object. The clear tape is used to secure the sheets of aluminum foil to each other so it looks like one big sheet of aluminum foil.

Here it is standing up:

 photo 2014-10-22 14.43.12_zpswlhpl195.jpg

A reflector can also be something as simple as a white piece of paper. Whatever you can find that will bounce light back unto your subject.

Here are a few test shots!

This one is without the light or reflector, just the lights on in my kitchen. See the harsh shadows and how it seems a little blurry?

 photo 2014-10-22 14.44.11_zpswrw8xh72.jpg

Just kitchen lights on

Next I turned off the kitchen lights and turned on the soft light, but I didn’t use the reflector. It looks so much more in focus! The shadows are less harsh but they’re dark.

 photo 2014-10-22 14.44.54_zpsht8fpsj1.jpg

Just soft light on

And here’s the full set-up with kitchen lights off, soft light on and reflector in use. There’s very soft, light shadows and true color. I took all three of these photos with the exact same camera settings.

 photo 2014-10-22 14.46.15_zpsqp4wjmfn.jpg

Soft light + reflector

Now my pictures are much less frustrating to take because they don’t turn out blurry all the time! I can take one or two pictures instead of 10, trying to get just one that isn’t too blurry. This has cut down on my lunch prep time!

But wait… there’s still one more!

One of the first pictures I took with my new soft light was this:

 photo IMG_20141020_142325_zps11su0qnv.jpg

A loaf of the best gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, nut-free bread that I’ve made in the three months that I’ve been trying to make allergy-friendly bread. And I’ll be posting the recipe in just a few days! So go make your soft light and reflector and come back soon to learn more about bread!

Weekly Lunch Wrap Up #7

This week I almost didn’t post lunches. I don’t know what happened! I forgot to take a picture of Tuesday’s lunch and I think maybe another day’s photo got deleted? Or I forgot to take two days’ worth. I don’t remember which! But, I thought, I will still post them, mostly because I didn’t want to have a gap in weekly lunch posts! But also because it’s nice to see that people are human. And forgetting to take the picture is better than forgetting to make the lunch! I’m proud that we haven’t yet had to run a lunch over to school because we forgot it!

I wish that’s where the drama ended, but it doesn’t. When I actually remembered to take pictures, they were rushed and the lighting was super weird! It’s inspired me to step up my photography a bit, though, so not all hope is lost! I made a soft light so I can take better indoor pictures (there’s no daylight when I pack lunches). I think it turned out pretty good! I’ll post a tutorial of how you can make your own soft light later this week.

For now, lunches!

Monday

 photo 2014-10-17 09.21.23_zpst7ojxuig.jpg

Not a bad way to start the week – a little ham, a little leftover quinoa. Our carrots and broccoli came straight from the neighborhood Farmer’s Market, yum! We also packed some vegan ranch dressing (apparently he just can’t eat the broccoli without it) and organic applesauce for dessert.

Tuesday

 photo 2014-10-16 09.24.43_zps0mkovmx7.jpg

Leftover turkey stir fry, a “salad” of organic cucumbers, carrots, and broccoli with more vegan ranch. Organic red grapes for dessert.

Wednesday was going to be sweet – Kiddo1 had leftover tacos. Taco Tuesday is becoming a thing in our house, though, so you’ll see another leftover taco picture next week.

Thursday

 photo 2014-10-21 14.53.07_zpsjdagpixd.jpg

I’ve been able to sneak a salad into the lunches a few times now. I’m thinking it might be a regular occurrence, cause the plate comes home clean (and he says he eats it!). He does prefer the lighter lettuce though. This one is romaine and some leaf lettuce with ham and lemon cucumber. He also has the standard carrots and broccoli with some raisins for dessert.

Come back next week! It’s going to be awesome!

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 69 other followers