How to Take Christmas Photos- Bokeh Tutorial

I love Christmas lights- they’re so pretty! And I also love taking photos with Christmas lights in the background when it creates beautiful bokeh (the circles that form behind the subject).

Here are some tips of how to take photos with gorgeous bokeh using Christmas lights!

1. Use a small aperture- to get really nice bokeh, you need a lens with an aperture (or f stop) that can go down to 1.8 or 2. For these photos I was using my Canon 50mm 1.4 lens. The aperture of your lens is how big the opening is to let in light- so when you have a low aperture like 1.8, the opening is really large and lets in a lot of light, and your background gets blurry. Because your aperture is letting in a lot of light, your shutter speed will have to be higher to compensate.

bokeh web12. Put your subject several feet away from the lights. For these photos I used our Christmas tree and my dog was a good 8ish feet away from the tree. Varying the distance between your subject and the lights will give you different looks- the closer you are to the lights the smaller they will be. If you get really close, they will just look like lights, not circles. The farther away you are, the bigger the circles, but if you get too far away, all the circles will start blurring together.

bokeh web43. Put your camera close to the subject- My dog was far away from the tree, but I was close to him. That made the frame tighter and made for better bokeh.

bokeh web34. Adjust your ISO- My ISO was at 400 for these photos- that’s in the middle as far as ISO goes. ISO is how sensitive to light your camera is- if your ISO is low (100 or 200) your camera is not as sensitive to light meaning that your aperture and shutter speed have to be lower to let in enough light. Low ISO is good for when you’re shooting in bright light and gives you the highest quality photos. Middle ISO from 400-800 will make your camera more sensitive to light which is good for when you’re shooting in a well-let room inside. ISO in this range will allow your camera to take in more light and won’t take down the quality of your photos too much. High ISO (800+ depending on your camera) will allow you to shoot in low-light situations, but will also produce granier photos. I always try to shoot at as low an ISO as possible so my photos will be of better quality. Your ISO in these photos is going to depend on how dark your environment is- my living room has windows so it was letting in quite a bit of light.

bokeh web25. Have fun and don’t hesitate to ask me questions in the comment section! I know Christmas is over, but keep your lights up and experiment with some bokeh holiday photos :)

And for those of you who are curious, my settings for these photos were: ISO- 400, Shutter Speed- 1/100, Aperture- f/1.8

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Christmas Cookie Ideas

Are you guys baking for Christmas yet? I love baking cookies around Christmas-time. Cookies are fun to make and also easy to give away! This post is filled with some of my favorite cookie (and bar) recipes that you can enjoy this holiday season!

First Up- I’ve made three different bars this year that are all quite possibly the best things that I have ever made. I am so excited to make these tasty bars again!

Gooey Nutella Bars!

I brought these to a Fourth of July Party and everyone loved them! I loved them too- they were sooo gooey and delicious.

 Gooey Peanut Butter Reece’s Bars

Another Gooey Bar! Oh it’s so good. I absolutely love Recces!

 S’mores Bars

While I know I sound like a broken record, these bars were amazing!

I honestly cannot choose my favorite between these three bars- and blogging about them now is making me excited to go home and do some baking! I’m thinking I’m going to make at least one of these bars, some zucchini or pumpkin bread, and a new cookie recipe (I already have one in mind :).

Speaking of cookies…. :) Here are a few of my favorite cookie recipes:

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I absolutely loved these cookies! They’re big, soft, and fluffy, and I love the sweet and salty combination. Make them! :)

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I will confess that I will always choose chocolate over oatmeal raisin, but maybe not with these cookies! I made these for a teacher who really likes oatmeal raisin cookies, and I couldn’t believe how much I loved these! They’re so soft and have a great texture. Love them!

There are so many recipes I could post on this post, but I didn’t want to overwhelm you too much! Check out my Recipe Page to see all my bars, cookies, cupcakes, cakes, and other desserts!

Do you have any desserts that you have to make every year around Christmas time?

 

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Dorm Room Decorations

Hey everyone! Yeah remember that post where I was all like “I’m totally going to be posting more now!” and then didn’t? Yeah sorry about that…BUT I will be going home in a few weeks and will hopefully have time to blog some more :) Thank you all for your patience with me.

So for this post I will show you a really neat thing you can do to decorate your dorm room! I think it’s added a lot of flair to our otherwise sort of drab room.

Woah! Isn’t it cool?

So what I did was ask my mom and sister to go to Home Depot and pick out a bunch of paint samples in different colors. I then used tape to attach them to the wall. This project is great because it’s pretty much free (besides the cost of tape), it’s easy to do, and it looks super impressive. Right now I have Christmas lights all over the room and I love how the colored lights look against the paint samples.

Here’s idea number two- displaying photos.

I love this for displaying photos. All you do is buy some Jute string ($2-$4 at Home Depot), some clothes pins, and have your photos printed. I have two of these strands in my room and I love them! They’re easy to put up, cheap to make, and look super awesome. Since it’s Christmas season, I have added some green tinsel.

You can also see that I have a bunch of other things on my wall. I love my pink white board, black chalkboard, and little cork board. They’re great for notes, hanging cards, letters, and photos, and for Christmas countdowns!

Ahh Christmas countdowns…one is days until Christmas and one is days until Christmas break! Woohoo! You may also notice that I hung some pretty little snowflakes on the wall- $1 at the Dollar Tree. I love that store around Christmas time!

As you can tell, I am very excited about Christmas and got pretty into decorating my room. Here is a collage of my room decorations (I have actually added more since I took the photo ;). I actually just won a contest for best decorated dorm room!

I hope you got some fun ideas for decorating your room- whether it’s a dorm room or just in your house! Let me know if you have any questions or if you try any of these ideas!

 

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Fall Recipe Round-Up

Oh my goodness! I have not written in forever. I do have a pretty good excuse- I have started my freshmen year of college and things have been incredibly hectic. Really good, but busy at the same time. Because I don’t have access to a kitchen here at school, you probably won’t see many new recipes for a while (although you just wait for Thanksgiving and Christmas! :) However, I will try to post every once in a while…I have some ideas about posts that I’m really excited about! Some of these ideas include:

-Care Package ideas

-Dorm room (and home) craft projects and decorating ideas

-Restaurant reviews (I’m excited for this one!)

-General posts about my college experience

I will hopefully get to those posts soon (once mid-terms are over..gah!) but for now, I’ll leave you with a list of some of my favorite fall recipes. I can’t believe that it’s already October! Where has this year gone?

Pumpkin Recipes:

-Pumpkin recipes are some of my all-time favorites! Here are some great ideas now that you might start finding lots of pumpkin in the grocery store.

Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin Donut Holes -this is one of my favorites

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars

Pumpkin Deliciousness Cake

Dinner- Ok so some of you might not be ready for all the pumpkin recipes yet…so here are some wonderful, comforting dinner ideas for those of you who are already experiencing cold weather :)

Mini Corn Dog Muffins- easy and portable! I could see these being really handy if you’re at a sports game.

Southern Corn Bread – make this along with your favorite chili

Swedish Meatballs – So. Good.

Taco Pasta

Non-Pumpkin Desserts:

Heaven in a Cinnamon Roll – well really, this is breakfast ;)

Dreamy Apple Pie – go apple picking and then make this!

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies – Even though I’m a huge chocolate lover, these cookies are one of my favorites.

Do you guys have any great recipes you’re excited to make this fall?

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Petit Amuse | Product Review

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by the founder of Petit Amuse, a San Francisco based company that “helps food lovers discover delicious artisan treats made by small, specialty producers across the country, and even the globe.  For only $10/mo. customers can subscribe to receive a different box of 3-4 samples of specialty foods each month.”

So if you sign up for the low price of $10/month, you get a box of really neat food each month! I was sent a sample box of some of Petit Amuse’s products to review. I thought this was such a neat and fun idea and I’m excited to give my review today! I love getting fun packages, so imagine getting something like this every month.

Side note: the first thing I thought of when I heard of this company was this scene from Friends when Monica is serving little appetizers (petit amuse or amuse bouche, as she calls them) and Chandler says “this amuse bouche is amusing!” or something like that. ;)

The first thing I tried were these cookies. I didn’t think they were going to be that good (I like my cookies big, soft, and chewy). But they were both incredibly good! The one on the left is a spicy, chocolate cookie. I loved the deep chocolate flavor, and there really was a spicy aftertaste.  The one on the right is a rosemary cookie with sea salt. My mom and I both thought the taste was so familiar- it reminded me of an Indian dessert I have had before. Both of the cookies were big hits with me and my mom. I would definitely buy these off Petit Amuse’s website.

The next thing I tried was this Garukabar. It’s hand made with real Vermont honey and has peanuts and dried cranberries in it. My parents and I both really liked this bar. It was chewy, not hard and crunchy like a lot of granola bars, which we liked. I could see this being great as a quick breakfast or a hiking food.

Petit Amuse has quite a few interesting popcorn flavors that they send out. I didn’t think I would like it very much because I prefer my popcorn sweet instead of savory. But this was actually pretty good! If you’re into more savory flavors, I think you would love this popcorn.

Check out the experimental macro photo! I might post a tutorial of how to take macro photos like this without a macro lens.

And we’re back to normal! This last item I found really strange. I didn’t know what Wine Jelly was. My parents and I all tried it- it was not my thing at all, and my dad said he thought it tasted like bleach. But my mom really liked it! I think this is something you would put on crackers with cheese.

I liked almost all of the items I got in my Petit Amuse box, but the best part was trying out some new things I never would have gotten to taste if not for this great opportunity! For only $10/month, you can get unique, fun food items delivered to your door. This would actually make a really fun gift to someone for their birthday or Christmas! I’d love to know if you check out the company or order a sample box- I’m excited to check out more of their food items on their Marketplace!

*I was given a Petit Amuse sample box free of charge for this review, but my opinions are my own*

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