I'm Trying Gardening Again

Hello lovely,

There’s something about Spring that makes me feel like anything is possible. I mean, after I get over my allergies and adjust to the new weather and pollen, I feel like tackling new projects. There’s so many things to do. Between spring cleaning the house and my diet, working a full time job and gearing up for the Elevation Awards, I really needed to find a way to just mellow out. So I decided to give gardening another shot.

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Last year I planted a spinach plant, but the gardener mistook it for a weed and threw it out. I was so distraught because it survived for months! The only thing I ever planted that lasted a long time was a hibiscus tree. So when I went to North Carolina last month, I picked up two pairs of gloves, a shovel, trowel, and a few packs of seeds. I couldn’t wait to get started, but of course, a busy schedule and lack of soil prevented me from starting until last week. I think what really pushed me was receiving the tomato plants that you see above from my best friend’s dad who was saving them for me for weeks.

The sunflower and daisy plants came with their own pellet soil that expanded with water. It was really cool watching it grow. Unfortunately I lost the photos of the packages before I opened them, but they are sold at the Dollar Tree if you want to look for them. I never expected the sunflower to sprout so quickly and grow so tall in only one week. I have no idea when to transfer it and quite frankly I’m afraid that’s where it’ll die, so please keep the faith for me.

Once I picked up some gardening soil, I planted the parsley, basil and pumpkin seeds. The pumpkin seeds I took from a wedge of pumpkin in the fridge because I got really excited after planting the parsley and basil. I’ve never tried to grow any of these plants before so I’m nervous but really excited about how they’ll turn out. I’m even regrowing some lettuce and scallions in water in the kitchen. I check on them all day when I’m home, and I actually talk to them in the evening after work almost every day. My mum already told me “Watched pot never boils” so if I keep staring at the plants, it’s not going to make them grow any faster; but I just can’t help it.

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I’ll keep you all updated on how it’s going. Which hobbies are you taking up this month or this year? Share your favourite hobbies and gardening tips in the comment section below.




Slow Cooker Orange Chicken Breasts

Hello Lovely,

Lately I’ve been struggling to write my posts. It’s not that I have nothing to talk about or don’t have the time to work on it, I just really don’t know what to say. I have so many posts that I’ve been rescheduling just because I don’t know how to start it off. But I’m going to start by saying why I made this recipe.

I found this recipe months ago, and saved it on Pinterest. This past Sunday my friends had a birthday celebration dinner for everyone born in February. I found out after grocery shopping my friend had told everyone it was a brunch. So since I already had two trays of chicken breasts (only because I couldn’t find thighs, which I prefer to cook) I decided to go ahead with the recipe. Now the original recipe calls for baking. I don’t like to bake chicken breasts because they always dry out and the meat is already thick and tough. I prefer to use my slow cooker because it really softens the meat. I split the two trays with one pack in the slow cooker and the other in the oven, since they all couldn’t fit in the slow cooker. I estimated about 4 hours needed, but I really only needed about 2.5 and ended up accidentally overcooking it so it resembled pulled pork. But trust me, it was soft and tender.

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Everyone at the “brunch” enjoyed all of the food especially my secret weapon that I whipped up as a surprise (I’ll share that recipe later). I’ve been enjoying pieces of this chicken over a salad and today I’m having it again with some whole wheat pasta for lunch. So let’s get into this recipe shall we?

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Slow Cooker Orange Chicken Breasts

INGREDIENTS

  1. 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced

    1. 1/2 bunch cilantro, leaves and tender stems only

    2. 2 garlic cloves, chopped

    3. 1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest

    4. 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

    5. 1/4 cup fresh lime juice

    6. 1/4 cup fresh orange juice

    7. 1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce

    8. 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

    9. 1 tablespoon kosher salt

    10. 2 pounds skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs

PREPARATION

  1. Set aside 1/4 cup sliced scallions. Pulse cilantro, garlic, citrus zests, citrus juices, soy sauce, oil, salt, and remaining scallions in a food processor or blender until a coarse puree forms. Set aside 1/4 cup marinade; place remaining marinade in a large resealable plastic bag. Add chicken, seal bag, and turn to coat. Chill at least 2 hours, but for optimum flavour marinate overnight in the fridge.

  2. Set the slow cooker to high and put the chicken and marinade in. Cook for about 2.5-3 hours carefully turning the chicken every half hour. Serve chicken with reserved marinade and scallions.

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5 Tips For Your First Year in a Long Distance Relationship

5 Tips For Your First Year in a Long Distance Relationship

Being apart from your sweetheart can be lonely and frustrating. Whether it's for a few days, a week, a month, or a long distance relationship - any time is too long! I know how it feels to be separated from your spouse and I want to help all of our long distance couples stay strong, happy, and healthy. If you’re considering entering a long distance relationship, or find yourself in one, here are 5 tips for getting through the first year.

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LUKAS TURNS ONE YEAR OLD!

Hello Lovely,

It’s really fun when your friends have babies. You get to play with them and laugh at how they resemble their parents who you know so well. And the best part is the ability to give them back to their parents. I honestly thought Lukas and I might end up sharing a birthday, but on February 17, he came. I loved capturing his newborn photos so I had big dreams for his first birthday!

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My biggest frustration as a lifestyle blogger and photograher is when expectation is not reality and I always blame myself. When working with babies, something is always going to go wrong, but I roll with it and embrace the imperfections. I love shooting but the editing process is the worst for me. I nit-pick everything: How could I overlook that thing in the corner, how did that get in the shot, why did I cut off their heads? I know, I know, I overthink things, but that’s because I’m always trying to get better.

This shoot wasn’t about me so I’m done with my little confession. It was about capturing Lukas as he is, precious moments with his mom and a few candids at the party. Lukas partied until the last person went home! He’s growing so fast. Mommy and daddy better cherish these moments, because he is truly on the move!

Lifestyle birthday shoot for one year old includes footage of quality time with mommy before getting ready for his birthday party. To book your own lifestyle shoot check out this link below for details: http://www.lifebyolivia.net/blog/thinking-about-scheduling-a-lifestyle-session-for-your-munchkin

Cauliflower and Hummus Pita Pockets

Cauliflower and Hummus Pita Pockets

The crispy cauliflower gets cooked in the same amount of time it takes to make everything else you need which means the whole meal will take you just a little over half an hour. It’s mostly plant food and it’s delicious. You should eat it. Soft pita bread filled with creamy hummus, crunchy cabbage and crispy roasted cauliflower. All the good things. So give it a shot!

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Garlic Parmesan Baked Carrot Fries


Hello lovely,

We've survived January! How are those diets looking? You know everyone (including myself) starts off doing so well; meal prepping, buying vegetables and seasonings, even vowing to make things from scratch. But by mid-January, we fall off and start stopping to McDonald's a little too frequently. Then the processed pre-made foods find their way back into our freezers and soon we start making excuses for why it's acceptable. One morning I had no time or energy to cook both breakfast and lunch, so I resolved to have a veggie burger and fries for lunch. I’m not fond of the school cafeteria fries but that's how much I did not want to be bothered. Then I stopped and asked myself, “What am I doing? I'm down 9 lbs, do I really want to erase all my hard work?” I decided. The veggie burger can stay but instead of carb-ridden, starchy potato fries, I'll opt for something healthier: These Garlic Parmesan Baked Fries!

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When I say these took no time at all to make, I mean it. The hardest part was cutting up the carrots. I didn’t even have to peel them. After that it was just a matter of tossing it in some EVOO and some seasonings then baking it for a few minutes. These were crispy and the perfect addition to my bunless veggie burger! I wish I remembered to make the sauce, but there’s always next time, right? Trust me. You’ll want these fries again and again. A thumbs up to Tasty for the recipe!

Garlic Parmesan Baked Carrot Fries

Ingredients

for 2 servings

  • 2 carrots

  • 1 tablespoon oil

  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese(25 g)

  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder

  • 1 teaspoon pepper

  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped (10 g)

  • ½ teaspoon salt

DIPPING SAUCE

  • 2 tablespoons Greek yogurt

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • ½ teaspoon garlic salt

  • 1 teaspoon pepper

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F (200˚C).

  2. Slice the top and bottom off of carrots then slice them in half, slice each half into thirds lengthwise.

  3. In a large bowl, mix ingredients with carrot sticks.

  4. Spread on a baking sheet.

  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes (depending on how crispy you want them).

  6. Mix together ingredients for dipping sauce in a small bowl.

  7. Serve warm carrots with dipping sauce. Topped with Parmesan and parsley.

  8. Enjoy!

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How to Create a Travel Itinerary and Why It's Important

Hello Lovely,

There is something to be said for aimlessly roaming the streets of an energetic city popping into quaint cafes and talking to the locals, not knowing what you will find. When I went to Amsterdam, I only had two things on my list that I absolutely had to do: try the local “herbs” and go to the Red Light District. Sadly I never made it to the Red Light District. I planned the hotel with a shuttle to and from the airport and nothing else. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the adventures, street fries and stroopwaffles and I’m sure our drunk shennigans began to annoy one of the bartenders. We literally popped into random stores and restaurants and just wandered aimlessly. It was a miracle I remembered the way back. Ever since then, I try to have an itinerary.

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Here’s how I organise an itinerary:

Do Your Research

If you want to get the most out of your experience, you need to know what you want to do and what will make the ultimate travel venture for you. Are you fascinated by a town’s history, culture or food? Do you want your trip to just be about crazy adventures and a city’s vibrant nightlife? Answering these questions means that you need to do some research for the area you are visiting.

Prior to going to London, I looked up tours of all the must-see Landmarks and booked them (well most of them). Even though I had planned a lot, there were still a few hiccups along the way: immigration, currency, my bus pass…so while you always expect the unexpected, always have a backup plan as well.

Use Symbols and Addresses

What’s key to a successful itinerary is coding. I like to use company logos so that at a simple glance, I have an idea of where I wanted to go. Adding addresses makes it easier to remember where something is. Let’s say you want to go to a specific department store. By jotting down the location ahead of time, I was positive I was going to the right store when I plugged it into my GPS.

Download the map area in advance

If you’re travelling internationally, Google Maps has a handy feature that allows you to select a certain area on the map and download it to your phone. That way, whether you have data or not, you’ll have access to GPS. This helped me a lot when I lost my GPS. And if it’s a place you plan on visiting often, all you have to do is update the download periodically so that it doesn’t disappear.

DON’T TRAVEL WITHOUT THE ULTIMATE PACKING CHECKLIST!    CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD    YOUR FREE PACKING CHECKLIST AND NEVER LEAVE ANYTHING BEHIND AGAIN!

DON’T TRAVEL WITHOUT THE ULTIMATE PACKING CHECKLIST! CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE PACKING CHECKLIST AND NEVER LEAVE ANYTHING BEHIND AGAIN!

Keep your Itinerary Offline

I really feel like I mastered the itinerary with my Girl’s Trip to Miami last October. It’s so important to keep a version of your itinerary on your phone offline. Papers can get left behind or lost and internet is so unreliable. Save the document in the cloud, and keep it available offline as well as downloading a copy of it to your phone. You can’t be too careful.

Leave Room for Opportunity & Be Realistic

There are always times while exploring a city that something incredible sidetracks you, and if you are scheduled with events back to back you may have to miss out. Of course you’re going to want to see and do everything on your trip, but also be realistic.

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Don’t Forget the Extras

Add your flight numbers, hotel addresses, maps, etc. to your itinerary file for easy access. All my itineraries include this information, plus the currency exchange rate (so I know how much 1 US dollar is worth in the country). It is much easier to look at one file then have to scroll through dozens of emails or check different apps to find what I am looking for.

Thinking about scheduling a lifestyle session for your munchkin?

Hello Lovely,

Lifestyle family photography holds a special place in my heart. Maybe it’s my ability to see the real and not worry about setting up the perfect shot.  Maybe it’s because it’s the type of photography I want for my brand. When you look back at your parents albums, you know, the ones they kept of all of us when we were kids, what do you see? Aside from the embarrassing fashion that really serves as a testimony to history, what was happening in these photos? Did you see a photo of you snuggling your mom as a small child, your mom looking at you as you look at your children, but no one is ever there to document it? Did you care that your face was not perfectly lit and perfectly smooth? Do you see a photo of your dad, tickling you on the bed and remember that moment, as now your dad is older, and a Grandfather? That, is how you have to think about lifestyle photography. Real.

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What is a lifestyle photo shoot?

Good question! Lifestyle photographs capture the child in their everyday life (typically your own home). They are meant to be fun and really catch the child's personality. They are not a perfectly styled portrait. But I can still give you style advice on how to make sure you have a good shoot. I offer these sessions for maternity, newborn and children up to 12 years old, families, couples and weddings. I shoot in natural light so all photos will be done in the daytime. Artificial light may be used for dimly lit rooms.

What can you expect with:

NEWBORN: Lifestyle newborn sessions are the perfect way to capture your new baby in your home in a relaxed way. This is a great way to get images in your new nursery, with pets, etc.  During these sessions, we will capture your family in a way that you can look back on and remember how you really were.  Siblings do great in this situation as well, allowing us to capture authentic moments.  No posing (either of the baby or family) is done in-home, just gentle and relaxed direction, which allows for natural connection and interaction to occur. All nuclear family members are included.

CHILDREN: Lifestyle sessions are perfect to capture your child in their element. We plan the session totally around their interests. Think about jumping on the bed, sidewalk chalk, swimming, playing tea party with a sibling, or doing whatever your child does, right at home. Capture those moments that only you as parents get to see, in photos. Lifestyle shoots are timeless. You will look back at the photos and remember your children as they were. When you kids ask you when they are older, “Mom, what was I like as a child?”, you can show them.

FAMILY: These take place in your home and incorporate everything about your family, using your home as the background. I will capture your family, just as they are, doing activities you all love.  You count on me to capture all of those in-between moments that you always wished someone was there to capture. These sessions are planned ahead of time to ensure an amazing experience capturing your family in the “real”.

Is the session a set price?


Yep! All children's lifestyle sessions are $150.

How long will the shoot last?
1 hour.

How many images will I get?


You will get 30 images, presented in a digital format with in 10 business days. You'll have the rights to these files, but also understand that unless explicitly stated not to in contract, I will share the photos on my blog.

Will mom and dad be included in the photos?


I highly encourage mom and/or dad to take an active role in the shoot.

How many outfits should I have prepared for the shoot?


I suggest 2-3 play outfits for the child, so you get some varied shots. 

What if I have several children?


You can choose to focus on one child during your session or your whole family. It's a great way to capture sweet sibling moments. *The sibling photos will be lifestyle in nature, and not styled family portraits.

How and when do I pay for the session?


You pay when you book the date. I accept cash or PayPal.

Do you offer maternity sessions or family portraits?


Yes, I offer lifestyle sessions for maternity as well as children, ages 0-12.


What's the difference between a lifestyle session and styled portraits?


A lifestyle session is in the moment, simple, charming... enter Charming Child. A styled portrait we plan every detail ahead; clothing, location, styling, even a house call to measure for your future photos and choose colour palettes. 


GIVE ME A SHOUT!

Have an idea for your next photoshoot? Book an appointment with me below. All consultations are free.

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