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Big March Post #3: A New Place for FOOD!

It’s the last day of March and the last of the three big announcement posts promised for this month! This one continues our theme of “new:” first a new bed, then a new baby, and now… a new blog!

The new blog is a place where I can post all about food, like how we continue to deal with our changed diet due to food sensitivities, new recipes that I’m perfecting, ingredients we’re watching out for, our meal plans, and our weekly lunch wrap-up posts will move there in early April. We’re of course focusing on eating happily without dairy, eggs, wheat, nuts… basically all of the top 8 most common allergens.

The new site is NourishingRainbows.com, and for more on the name and what the site is all about, follow that link! It’s been up for about a week now and there are several new recipes up and a big post dedicated to an awesome potential Easter dinner, complete with dessert.

Here are some examples of current and future posts…

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As for 9 Years Later, this blog isn’t shutting down. I still plan on posting about the 9-year goal to self-sustainability, although the posts may be quite sporadic. I’m doing a lot of gardening this year so watch for posts on that as the season heats up (haha, see what I did there?). Thanks for hanging in with 9YL and be sure to check out the new NourishingRainbows.com!!

Weekly Lunch Wrap Up #14

Lunch time! Here’s what Kiddo1 ate for (most of) last week…

Monday

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Leftover beef meatballs. We’re still working through the ground beef of a quarter cow we got this fall. We still have like 8 pounds of ground beef left!

Tuesday

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We cheated a bit in the previous night’s “Meatless Monday” and added a little sausage to our spaghetti squash. We had this last month on Mr. Handsome’s birthday and it was so good I thought it was worthy of a cheat. Kiddo1 will even eat squash this way… as long as the meat-to-squash ratio leans carnivore.

Wednesday

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Leftover chicken tacos and peas. I’m just happy I remembered to take the Wednesday picture this week!

Thursday

…because I forgot the Thursday picture! Two weeks in a row that I’ve forgotten one! I believe Kiddo1 had a lettuce wrap with pork and cucumber, but I can’t remember for sure. He ate, though, that’s for sure!

Friday

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A fun theme lunch with stick-shaped foods! And Kiddo1’s latest favorite – the tiny oranges. Mmmmm, small fruit.

If you’re reading this post I hope it is helping to inspire healthy lunches for you! Thanks for viewing!

Weekly Lunch Wrap Up #13

Time for another post of the week’s lunches! This one is from last week. Kiddo1 was out the week of Thanksgiving so no lunch post from that week. Actually, he was out the Wednesday before Thanksgiving through Tuesday after, so I really just combined the short pre- and post-Thanksgiving days into one week. I thought that detail might be boring though, so I was going to leave it out. But then I thought I might as well be truthful. So there you go.

Monday

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Cubed foods day! A little fun to offset a drerry Monday. Kiddo1 had cubes of ham, carrots, and cucumber, with two chocolate cubes (Missionary Chocolates are vegan), and -gasp- oval-shaped grapes.

Tuesday

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Keeping it simple today – a lettuce wrap stuffed with ham and cucumber, some carrots and grapes, a little more Missionary chocolate (a slice of dark chocolate and peppermint flavors), with some apple-blueberry granola too.

Wednesday

I haven’t forgotten a picture in awhile, but I did this week. It was a nice looking lunch, too, so I was pretty bummed about it! I was going to try to draw a picture of it but that actually would have just been me tracing an old photo of tacos for lunch and I just don’t feel like doing that. Kiddo1 had leftover beef tacos, a clementine and a cookie.

Thursday

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On Thursday, Kiddo1 had leftover pork tenderloin, carrots and romanesco, a clementine and a little over half of one of the leftover apple cider donuts that we had for breakfast that morning.

Friday

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Somehow by Friday morning we had ran out of meat and I was taken a little by surprise at that! Luckily we have bacon for breakfast on Friday, so Kiddo1 got a little less bacon in the morning (with a little more fruit to make up for it) and he got what I like to call a BLC salad – bacon, lettuce, and cucumber (I’d totally put tomato in there but he won’t go for it just yet). He also had carrots and applesauce for dessert.

 

Thanks for tuning in!

Weekly Lunch Wrap Up #12

More lunches! I’m still catching up from my blog break so I’m a little behind with my lunch posts! This one is from the week before Thanksgiving.

Monday

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I haven’t done many silly things with the lunches lately, so for Monday I cut everything into strips. If only I had an elongated fruit, I could have kept it up! Alas, we had grapes that day. And Enjoy Life cookies – the soft ones that Kiddo1 still likes.

Tuesday

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More ham on Tuesday – we didn’t generate a lot of leftovers this week I guess! I was already in Thanksgiving prep mode and I didn’t want anything cluttering up the fridge! So Kiddo1 had a salad with ham and cucumber, plus some strawberries and an Enjoy Life cookie.

Wednesday

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Leftover tacos! These are turkey tacos – our last taste of ground turkey before turkey leftovers take over the fridge next week. Kiddo1 always has his tacos with a little romaine and cucumber. Rounding out the lunch are some grapes and another Enjoy Life cookie.

Thursday

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He really wanted another taco! And I really wanted to get rid of the lingering leftovers – must have space for the turkey! Sure I still had three days to clean out the fridge… but you can never be too prepared. Anyway, Kiddo1 also had applesauce and a coffee cake-style muffin, with the standard carrots and cucumber veggie sides, of course.

Friday

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Not a lot of creativity with lunch this week! But we did manage to get Kiddo1 fed with healthy foods and he wasn’t complaining so I guess the week wasn’t so bad after all! We finished it up with almost an exact repeat of Tuesday’s lunch, except our sides are applesauce and carrots instead of fruit and a cookie. He happily ate it all!

Weekly Lunch Wrap Up #11

Lunch wrap up time! I’m catching up after a few weeks of blog break, so this post covers lunches over Veteran’s Day week.  Only four lunches since we had Tuesday off!

Monday

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Monday was Mr. Handsome’s birthday and we celebrated with cupcakes. They were pretty good – I posted the recipe on Instagram I think… I’ll see if I can find it and update this later. So Kiddo1 had one of his dad’s birthday cupcakes for lunch, plus pumpkin seeds we roasted on Halloween, a kabob of turkey meatballs, and chopped carrots and cucumbers.

Tuesday – No school Tuesday for Veteran’s Day

Wednesday

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Leftovers of Tuesday’s tacos were for lunch on Wednesday. We had beef tacos and cauliflower rice. Kiddo1 isn’t a fan of the cauliflower rice though, so he got broccoli instead. Totally a fair trade, I think. And for dessert there was applesauce.

Thursday

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What would we do without carrots and cucumber? They’re Kiddo1’s favorite veggies so he gets them often. They came with some leftover chicken, another of Kiddo1’s favorites. For dessert he had an Enjoy Life cookie.

Friday

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More carrots! And there’s cucumber in the lettuce wrap. There’s also some meat in there but I can’t at all remember what it was! Kiddo1 had another Enjoy Life cookie for dessert. It was one of the crispy ones and he says he doesn’t like them anymore. So that’s cool I guess! Also, as you can see from the paper in the pumpkin seeds I am still sending jokes with lunch, although lately they have been less frequent. I’ve ran out of jokes already!

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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…

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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:

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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:

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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!).

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

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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!

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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:
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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:

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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).

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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:

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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…

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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:

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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!