IKEA is Coming to Indy: 7 Decor Finds That I Love

MEATBALLS.

Yes. No more loading up for that trip to Chicago or Cincinatti. Ladies and gentlemen of the Central Indiana area, IKEA is set for it's grand opening in Fishers on October 11th, 2017. I suggest you prepare yourselves accordingly. Expect all the hoopla for their Grand Opening, with folks lining up to get free goods and check out the new space as early as 48 hours in advance. So if your looking to be one of the lucky peeps that gets a free sofa, you may want to start lining up soon. 

I love me some IKEA because I know I can find amazing pieces without hurting my pockets. I am all about mixing high end pieces AND quality items at a forgiving price point. IKEA allows you to do so seamlessly, especially if you lean towards their mid-century stylings. And let's be real, a lot of these expensive home furnishing stores do not have the manufacturing quality to match their price tags. I'm not gonna call out any names, but guys - please remember that you don't have to break the bank to have a fly home. 

I rounded up some of my favorite IKEA finds, a few of which are in my home now! By the way - I'll be attending IKEA's Media Day, just prior to the Grand Opening. Keep an eye on my IG stories for some live action in October. 

7 Decor Finds that I Love

1. LILL Lace Curtain - 4.99

I'm a big fan of IKEAs textile department. I have these sheer curtains in white and I use them for everything! Photo props, Christmas tree skirt and of course, as actual curtains.

I love to stock up on serving bowls, because it seems like I never have enough when guests are over. The Blanda Series has gorgeous and practical bowls in bamboo and stainless steel.

The IVAR cabinets are one of my favs because you can DIY the heck out of these babies. With a little paint and creativity, you can create some amazing custom looks. Click for more DIY ideas. 

Seen here are three of these classics, side by side. These go well with just about any style. I love the natural finish. 

Almost like grandma's crystal set, but you can still afford brunch this weekend. Priorities. 

Ultra modern and stylish. The VEDBO chair is simply a great seating option. This one is not available online, so you will definitely have to be on the lookout in stores.  

I have an obsession with ornate mirrors! They make such great statement pieces. This one is bold, and will stand out in your space. Anchor it in an entry way or above a buffet table for some flair. 

Tell me in the comments, what's on your shopping list for the new IKEA store?! Let me know if there is anything I can help with. 

How to Slay in Dubai: Fashion, Food and Travel Tips

Hello Dubai!

Summer 2017 has been a whirlwind. I ended a busy season of work, home renovations and traveling with a trip to Dubai. If you've been following my Instagram, you've seen a peak into my experience via Stories (sorry Snapchat. It's not you, it's me). It was amazing to say the least. Read on for my take of this opulent city and a few tips that I learned during our stay, including how not to get scolded by the mall police.

Also, I took a lot of photos. Check out Part Two for the full gallery of our adventures.

Fashion

So let me say this first...if it is style that you seek, Dubai has it! The shopping experience is boundless. You could spend an entire day in the Dubai Mall. There is an incredibly interesting juxtaposition of modern style against a backdrop of traditional customs. This can pose some challenges though, especially for tourists navigating the dress code (READ: our first day of exploring resulted in a friendly tap on the shoulder from mall security to cover up a bit more). Yes. That happened. Even with our best efforts to dress modestly, we still missed the mark. Embarrassing, but look - I took the fall so that you don't have to. Don't be me. Here's what I recommend to keep it fabulous while meeting the women's dress code:

  1. Dubai is quite progressive in terms of dress and locals don't expect you to completely change your wardrobe. But, you must dress modestly while in public spaces - ie Malls, Mosques, the Market, etc.
  2. In Public - keep your neckline, shoulders and legs mostly covered. Plunging cleavage will get you hit with a strong side eye. If you plan to visit the mosques (which you should!), you will not be permitted with bare arms. For mosque style, I recommend a loose, floor length dress with sleeves. You will also receive a head-covering for your hair.   
  3. Nightclubs and Beaches - This is where you can relax your style a bit. Feel free to wear your body con dresses and short skirts to the clubs. Do dress to impress, because the locals will be bringing the heat. Most of the clubs are inside of hotels, where it is completely acceptable to show some skin. If you're taking a dip in the pool, two pieces are just fine. Skip the thong bikini, and be sure to have some nice coverups to get you from your hotel room through the lobby. 
  4. A Note on the Heat - If you head to Dubai in the summer, you're gonna look at the forecast and say to yourself, "Oh, I've been in 100 degree weather before. I can handle this". No. No you can't. This is a different type of heat. This is desert heat. This is like, Amazon jungle heat. Slap ya mama heat, if you will. Keep that in mind when you're packing. Think light, breathable materials. Billowy maxi dresses were my go to. 

at the Burj Khalifa observatory

hanging out poolside at the Sofitel Dubai The Palm

Food & Drink

Guys. The food. Oh man. I probably underestimated how good the food was going to be, but what I learned was that in Dubai's luxurious tradition - just about every restaurant boasts a five star menu with top chefs from around the globe. They are big on themes, and every detail is meticulously executed from presentation to taste. It's a foodies dream! Do you know how many pictures of food I took?! 

We feasted at Smoqoholics, an amazing hookah lounge and restaurant.

The experience at Cavalli Club - five star service, impecable food. The DJ gets started around midnight, and don't forget to check out the -18 C Ice Lounge downstairs!

The best part about the food scene is the deals you can find with just a quick Google search. Pro Tip: before you head out, do a search for "ladies night Dubai", "brunch specials Dubai", etc. Ladies can get a free happy hour at hundreds of lounges and clubs. Most of the hot spots have specials where the prices are cut in half. I could go back just to explore the nightlife, swanky lounges and rooftop bars. I also loved the fact that many of the menus had amazing mocktails for those of us who aren't indulging, but still like to sip on something cute. 

Travel Tips

What else? Dubai has so much to offer in terms of "things to do". We spent eight nights, and barely scratched the surface. Here are my top suggestions on things to add to your list:

  1. Explore the Old Souk. The market area was a lot of fun. This is where you can find traditional clothing, spices, souvenirs and BEAUTIFUL gold jewelry. Put your bartering hat on and prepare for some pretty aggressive sales tactics, lol.  
  2. Visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. As a designer and photographer, this part of the trip blew my mind and was really important for me. The architectural detail and just overall design is hard to truly capture with a photo. But of course I tried.
  3. Book a desert tour. There's plenty of them, and you can find decent deals on Groupon. We went on the Arabian Adventures, which is sponsored by Emirates and it was so much fun! Dune bashing, camel riding, belly dancing. All of that jazz. Do it. 
  4. Stay in the Palm. Might I recommend, Sofitel The Palm Resort. The Palm is a beach area, just outside of downtown. It's a little off the path, but I loved the quiet seclusion after a long day of adventure. The staff was amazing, and we could not want for more. It was a truly gorgeous property, and our Junior Suite was a gem. Confession: we may or may not have harassed the front desk team for copious refills of a secret lemon-mint juice, reserved for guests upon arrival. I made friends with the staff at Olivier's Cafe after visiting every day for my morning latte. Thanks Reza for our Turkish Coffee, it was quite the treat! 

 

Please note, all statements and opinions are my own and represent my true experience. I have not been sponsored by any of the brands or companies noted above. 

Dubai Adventures: Photo Gallery

Checkout the flicks from my girls trip to Dubai! For the full read on our travels, check out Part One, How to Slay in Dubai: Fashion, Food and Travel Tips

New Orleans. 2017.

Traveling back to New Orleans after being away for over 10 years was nostalgia overload. I wish I could have stayed longer and explored a little wider but alas, the lure of hand grenades on Bourbon Street plus the hustle and bustle of the Essence Festival made it a little tough to really get in touch with the environment and #justgoshoot. Nevertheless, I snuck away for a few minutes to capture some flicks at one of my favorite spots, The City Park. Home to the largest collection of Live Oaks, this park has a special place in my heart. 

Take a peak at a few of the sights and fun times we had!

I spent one year of my undergrad at Xavier University of Louisiana. I have such great memories, including living right across the street from the City Park and the New Orleans Museum of Art. It was nice to check things out again.

While wandering, I came upon a man playing his guitar under one of the larger oaks. The timing could not have been better. He seemed a little shy (or possibly even annoyed), so I didn't want to interrupt his beautiful singing for a portrait. I took photos from a distance in order to respect his space. 

I think this is the McDonogh Oak. I did not get a chance to verify the tree tags, but my Snapchat geofilter did let me know it was in the area lol. At any rate, McDonogh is over 800 years old. The oldest living live oak is said to be the Angel Oak, in Charleston, South Carolina. Some claim that it is over 1500 years old, but most suspect its an exaggeration. 

5 Indianapolis Food Photographers You Need to Know

Indianapolis' creative community is ever expanding, and that includes a strong line up of food photographers. From bloggers to commercial photographers, the talent here is supplying us with a lot of eye candy and I can't complain. 

What I love most about food photography is the variety of styles, lighting and composition that can convey a story about the food experience. What are you trying to communicate with the photo? Is it a mouth watering burger, dripping with cheese and garlic aioli - tailored to encourages viewers to high tail it to your restaurant? Or perhaps an image where the morning light dimly shines on a rolling pin, aside a rising sourdough - conveying the labor of love put into a fresh baguette. There is so much character and emotion that can be built into these images. Not to mention, the technical expertise required to bring them to life. 

I interviewed five photographers in the Indianapolis area that are blazing the trail and telling an amazing story with every image. Take note, and read on for an in depth look at their experiences and what drives them to craft some truly beautiful work. Fair warning, you may be hungry by the end of the story. 

 

Dave Pluimer

What made you interested in food photography?  Cooking for myself and my family is really important. And, the idea of eating with one's eyes first really hits home for me. 

Pots de creme from Rene's Bakery in Broad Ripple. Studio lighting.

Belgian waffles and blueberries. Studio lighting.

Tell us about your work and your favorite types of recipes to capture.  Cooking was a big thing for me growing up. Both of my parents cook and do it really well and made a point to teach me. I really enjoy baking - I enjoy the process. So, breads and cookies are amongst some of my favorites. Anymore, though, I am always thinking of taking a picture when either me or my wife is working at something in the kitchen. 

Recently, I have been fortunate to work with a couple of local businesses that specialize in baked goods - The Cake Bake Shop and A Taste of Amish. I love our local food scene in Indianapolis. I consider myself fortunate that I get to help show others how great our local businesses are and drive customers to them. 

I was a finalist in Photo District News' TASTE food photography competition last year. I was really excited about that, also. The work that is submitted there is so great and I felt lucky to be a part of it.

Concept image of the dynamics between eating healthy and draw of junk food. Studio lighting

Do you eat all of the food you shoot? Nearly always. But, when it comes to sweets, I will often simply buy things only to shoot them. It's funny how often I think of the things I buy as subjects first and food second these days.

 

Lauren McDuffie, of Harvest and Honey

Buttermilk Doughnuts with Lilac Sugar.

What made you interested in food photography? My interest grew from my love of both food writing and recipe development. I started my blog Harvest and Honey a few years ago as a way to grow my freelance writing career and focus a bit more on a subject about which I am truly passionate. Food has always been such an interest of mine and I started my blog as a way to explore it from a writer's perspective. But what I didn't expect was how much I would fall in love with the aesthetic side of the project. I quickly realized that people like to look at the food that they're reading about, and I felt like I needed to put more effort in my photography and styling to cater to that. I got my first DSLR and just really took to the whole process - both the actual styling of the food as well as the photography and editing. I've found that food photography can be many things, and for me, it is a way to support the narrative of my blog. So, it's not really about "food porn" so much as it is a way for me to create a feeling and to maybe make people feel what it might be like if we were cooking and sharing the meal together. That goal - of storytelling and creating a sense of memory and mood - is what keeps me constantly interested and inspired in food photography. 

Does your photography include professional projects? Personal blogging? Please elaborate. Yes. My photography is almost exclusively used for my blog, but that extends to posts and work I shoot for clients as well. And my book (Smoke, Roots, Mountain, Harvest - to be published). That's a huge photography step for me, and the biggest project I've tackled yet.

There is so much diversity in lighting and styling for food photogs these days. What is your style? What are you shooting with? My style is decidedly moody. And rustic. And I think kind of romantic. I genuinely love food and cooking, and I think I tend to romanticize my shoots as a way to convey that. They're not supposed to look like my actual kitchen - they're intentionally very styled to portray a feeling. I tend to gravitate toward darker, more brooding setups with low lighting and shadows, as I think darkness can highlight a subject just as well as bright light can, sometimes more. I also think the shadows play well into my vintage style and help to suggest the notion of a memory ... a time that once was, leaving a bit to the imagination. I focus more on lighting and composition than anything else - even more than making the actual food look good - because again, I think those are the most important elements in any photo. As for my styling go-tos, I love me some negative space and I tend to adhere to the rule of three (groups of things look better in threes or in odd numbers). Also, I think perfection is overrated and that there is real beauty in the imperfect ... it's just more interesting.  

I shoot with a Canon 6D and my favorite lenses are a 35mm 1.4, 50mm 1.2, and 100mm 2.8 macro.

Fresh Orange and Lavender Cake.

Amelia's Sourdough.

 

Pretty Brown Vegan

What made you interested in food photography? My passion for food photography truly stems out of my love for food itself. I’ve always loved to cook, and, naturally I’ve always loved to arrange my food on the plate in a way that makes you want to reach out and eat it. Once I started my Vegan Food Blog, Pretty Brown Vegan, I discovered that I was pretty good at photography as well and I’ve been steadily building my photography skills as well as my blog simultaneously.

I grew up around a family of good cooks, men and women; as a result, I’ve had a passion for cooking most of my life. About 2 years ago I began transitioning towards a vegan based diet and launched Pretty Brown Vegan soon after. My goal is to transform the traditional dishes we all know and love, and, show that you can enjoy them in a healthier way. I am currently enrolled in Culinary Arts School. I attend The International Culinary School at The Art Institutes.

Vegan Potatoes Au Gratin

Any cool projects you are dying to tell us about? I recently launched a vegan meal pop up service for the 2017 fast. I dropped a new vegan menu every week for 40 days and delivered the meals around Indy. It was amazing and I plan to launch another one soon! Stay tuned.

Can you tell us something about your favorite setup or maybe your go-to lens to get the perfect shot? I’m currently switching back and forth between my beginner camera, the Canon T3i, and my new baby, the Sony a5100. When shooting I typically opt for a basic cutting board or white surface as a background; this gives me the opportunity to focus on the beauty of the food itself and let it shine. Natural lighting is always my go-to lighting, and, its free! On gloomy days I use umbrella lights.

Vegan Beef Stew. 

Mini Vegan Chocolate Cheesecake.

Do you eat all of the food you shoot? If I could, I would! I have family that lives nearby and stalks my social media to find out when they should have their plates ready, lol.

Anything else you would like to share? You can download my Pretty Brown Vegan App in both the Apple and Google Play stores to stay up to date with all of my recipes. 

 

 

Duane Grant, of DFG Media

What made you start working in food photography? Traveling and exploring new places with my significant other was a really big part of it. I travel frequently on business, so the opportunity to try new food comes up a lot. I began capturing all of the memories of the deliciousness, and things took off from there.

Do you shoot primarily for yourself or for professional work? It's really a hobby that has turned into a profession. I've been taking photos casually for years, starting back when camera phones became popular. I had the flip video...one of those Cool Pix point and shoot cameras. I started taking things more seriously when I purchased my Cannon Mark IV. After losing that (editors note: gasp!), I appreciate it a lot more now. I have quite a few projects in the works these days that I am really excited about. 

What are you working on now? I've been working with a private chef in Indy - we've created videos chronicling his preparation of unique dishes. I've been having a lot of fun and eating good food in the process! I also do a lot of sports photography and videography, so I've got some things keeping me busy. 

Would you call yourself a foodie? Oh yes. It's a requirement in my contract that I get a plate of what I'm shooting. I'm dead serious. 

 

Heather Schrock

Tell us about your favorite recipes to create and shoot. I have always enjoyed cooking, but I haven't always challenged myself. In the past, I tended to stick with tried and true recipes and ingredients that felt safe. But often they aren't the foods that are intriguing in a photograph. So I decided to step out and begin cooking more so I could attempt to photograph the foods I thought were beautiful. I will admit, I enjoy baking more than cooking. Nothing is as fun as shooting a well-curated cake or stack of cookies. 

Does your photography include professional projects? Yes! Right now I shoot for a food magazine in Indianapolis and I also shoot stock photography on the side. I also occasionally shoot content for small food creatives. I don't blog at this time, but I have been toying with the idea of starting that up again as an outlet for my love of writing. 

Tell us about your photography style! My style can range from light and airy to rather dramatic and dark. It kind of depends on what my client is searching for. But overall, I would say my style very much emulates film. I love simplicity and I tend to work really hard up front to understand the food I'm capturing and have a vision so I'm getting it straight into the camera. I don't like having to tweak in post, so most of my blood, sweat and tears is in preparation prior to shooting. If I can do a one-click edit or tether and capture a shot straight through my film presets (mostly Porta 160, pushed two stops), with little to no post, I feel like I have done a good job. I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark II, and any simple 50mm lens, it doesn't have to be fancy. My favorite lens, however, is a Canon L series 1.2, 50mm. My favorite setup is a simple backdrop, clean underlay, a two-stop diffuser in a window with direct sunshine, and a black foam core board opposite the window to absorb some of that light. That setup seems to provide a lot of good texture, preserves midtones, and gives gentle shadows. Love it! (editors note: so do we!) 

Featured: The I Am More Project

Okay, so I've been sitting on a little secret and it is finally time to let you guys in on it. Earlier this spring, a group of fabulous and empowering women got together to document why we are "more"...More than what you ask? Well, we are often more than what we seem or what is obvious by perception. We are so much more as women.

With Eclectic Kurves leading the pack, we took a deep dive into the personal side for eight women of all backgrounds. Nine23 Photography did an impeccable job capturing us. Be sure to follow the I Am More social media pages to read our stories...starting with my very own. Check out the full article telling why I am more than my profession, here:

The I Am More Project

Let us know what you think! Are you more than what people define you as? Tell us how. Lookout for more stories from these remarkable women, coming soon. Laterz. 

Street Style with Eclectic Kurves

Spring is in the air, which means outdoor photography is in full swing AND I CANNOT DEAL. I am seriously loving some recent sessions, and any excuse to get outside and shoot. I got to have an awesome meet-up with one of my blogger baes, Sierra of EclecticKurves. We sat down for brunch at Petite Chou, then slayed the streets of Broad Ripple. Check out a few flicks from the shoot and find full outfit details over on Sierra's blog here.