December Book Club Selection!

December book clubI'm a little bit late announcing the December book club selection this month, guys. Sorry I made a few of you wait (and thanks for reminding me!). Truth is I really, really want to read Amy Poehler's new book, Yes Please. But then that kind of makes two comedian books in a row, and does that mean I'm not bringing enough variety to the book club? Will everyone be like, "Hey, I'm sick of laughing. Pick a different book, lady. This is a blog riot!" Or something like that.

But then, I kept hearing good things about this book. One person described it as "affirming." And if there is one adjective that you can use to get me interested in something, it's probably affirming. Or positive. Or if you mention Amy Poehler is involved, then I'm probably already in anyway. 

So, we're doing it! We're reading Yes Please. You should go get your copy. Buy it. Borrow it. Steal it from your roommate. Whatever. Let's do this. I'm ready to laugh and be affirmed by Amy Poehler. Yes, please! (See what I did there!!!!)

Don't forget we'll be discussing Not That Kind of Girl on November 30th. This book has turned out to have quite a bit of controversy around it this month. So, there's that. Anyway, I'm excited to connect with you, my fellow book-lovers. xo. Emma

Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

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New Courses: DSLR Basics and Photoshop for Bloggers

 Two new A Beautiful Mess e-courses available at shop.abeautifulmess.com!DSLR Basics E-Course! Sign up at shop.abeautifulmess.com Today we are SO excited to announce two new e-courses we have been working on for months for you guys! We are pleased to launch DSLR Basics and Photoshop for Bloggers. First let's talk about DSLR Basics. Watch our trailer—

In DSLR Basics you will learn the ins and outs of setting your camera like a pro as well as how to document your life creatively and beautifully! This course is taught by Elsie Larson, Emma Chapman, and Janae Hardy. You will learn all about aperture, shutter speed, ISO, metering, and so much more! The course also contains sessions to push you creatively, to find your own photography style, and to capture life all around you. This course is meant to take away any fear you may have about how to set a DSLR camera so you can focus on taking beautiful photos.

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It is recommended that students have a DSLR camera or that they are planning to purchase a camera soon. One of the first sessions will walk students through some basic gear and lenses so they can understand what to buy if they don't already own everything they want or need. This course is not meant for point and shoot, smart phones, or toy cameras, although many things you learn will apply to those cameras also. We believe great photos can be taken with all sorts of devices, but this course focuses on DSLR photography.
 
6What Will I Learn?
 
-Common photography terms with explanations
-Basic gear and explanations of common lenses
-When to use auto mode
-Achieving great focus
-Rules of composition (and when to break them!)
-Understanding shutter speed
-Understanding aperture and F-stops
-Understanding ISO
-Metering light and using histograms
-How to use white balance
-How to use reflectors like a pro
-Five techniques to add mystery and drama to your photos
-How to photograph with backlighting and lens flare
-How to develop your personal photography style
-How to photograph interiors & room tours
-How to photograph newborns and babies
-The basics of portrait photography
-Tips for great food photography & styling
-Five ways to get creative with self portraits
-How to photograph landscapes and nature
-How to take great photos while you travel
-How to photograph children
-How to photograph still life or product photography
 BONUS: How to set your camera cheat sheets (you can print these out or save them to your phone for easy reference!) 
 
What do I get with my purchase?
-immediate access through your account
-24 lessons and a bonus session
-5 videos to supplement the course materials
-3 camera setting cheat sheets that you can take anywhere!
 
44-PDF of the entire course
 
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-Access to a private Q&A board to ask the instructors questions and read the archives of other students’ questions
-a printable notebook to use during the course
 
Cost: $75. Click here to purchase!
 
Photoshop for Bloggers!Already feel completely comfortable with your camera but you're ready to take your photography to the next level with editing? Good. We've got you covered. In Photoshop for Bloggers, photographer Sarah Rhodes will cover just about everything you need to pump up your Photoshop game. You might be brand new, having never opened Photoshop before, or you've played around with it some and are ready to dig deeper. You'll learn all about each of your palettes and windows, adjustment layers, how to edit people, how to create your own actions, how to make dynamic collages easily, how to switch heads and change background colors, how to make animated GIF files, and much more. This course will focus on being technical, efficient, and creative! And most importantly, you will learn that Photoshop isn't as scary or overwhelming as you might think it is! 
 
Photoshop before and after Photoshop for Bloggers! It is recommended that students have Adobe Photoshop before starting the class (even if you've never opened it!). We recommend the monthly subscription of Photoshop and Bridge from Adobe's Creative Cloud, which is what the course will be taught from. The course lessons are applicable to Photoshop versions CS3 and newer. Users of Adobe Photoshop Elements might find some lessons within this course useful, but overall, we do not recommend this course for students with Elements as many lessons will not be applicable. If you don't have a copy of Photoshop, Adobe's Creative Cloud has a Photoshop + Lightroom package for $9.99 a month - it's an incredible deal! We really recommend the Creative Cloud package (we use it ourselves!). You can find more info or sign up for it here: https://creative.adobe.com/plans/photography.
 
Photoshop for bloggers!   Photoshop for bloggers!  Photoshop for BloggersWhat Will I Learn?
 
How to:
-Set up Photoshop, Bridge, and your Photoshop workspace
-Use the Camera Raw window
-Use adjustment layers for editing
-Use the history palette
-Use each selection tool
-Use each editing tool
-Edit people (my favorite methods)
-Use adjustment layers for faces and skin
-Edit photos without using actions
-Rotate and straighten your images
-Create a double exposure look
-Install and use fonts, brushes, and actions
-Add shapes and text to photos
-Insert images into text
-Use shortcuts and create your own for your fastest workflow
-Sharpen images two ways
-Use layer masks to change hair color and background colors
-Make your own actions
-Swap heads
-Create a holga-blurred photo
-Use liquify the right way
-Use grids for design and composition
-Create collages 3 ways
-Add handwriting to photos
-Make an animated GIF file 
-Troubleshoot in Photoshop
BONUS: How to batch edit your photos
 
Photoshop for Bloggers - e-course from shop.abeautifulmess.com!What do I get with my purchase?
 
-Immediate access through your account
-25 lessons and one bonus lesson
-An exclusive mini-pack of Photoshop actions
-20+ videos to walk you through various lessons
-An entire downloadable folder of images to follow along with each lesson
-PDF of the entire course
-Access to a private Q&A board to ask Sarah your Photoshop questions and read the archives of other students’ questions
-A printable notebook to use during the course
 
Cost: $75. Click here to purchase!
 
DSLR Basics and Photoshop E-Courses at shop.abeautifulmess.com Interested in both courses? You can buy both and receive a special rate (just $125 for everything!)
 
If you love the photography you see here on A Beautiful Mess, then you're going to love our new photography based e-courses. We can't wait to share all our secrets with you! Let us know if you have any questions about these courses in the comments. We're so excited to see all the amazing photos you all are going to take!!!! xo. Emma, Elsie, and the A Beautiful Mess Team.
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Sweet Potato Crème Brûlée

Sweet potato brulee Guys, I'm thinking about starting a crème brûlée blog. All crème brûlée, all the time. Would you read that?

Oh, you would but only for a week before you got too bored?

DREAM KILLERS!

Plus I already bought the domain. BruleeMe.com

JK. I don't own that. If only.

Sweet potato bruleeSweet potato brulee   In all seriousness, I do often fantasize about making a batch of crème brûlée, storing them all in my refrigerator, and pulling one out each night to brûlée just for me. I also have a dream to stay healthy. And these dreams conflict, so it's hard to say which will win.

Which brings me to my next project, a self-help book titled, "What to do When Your Dreams Conflict."

Spoiler: you choose the delicious dream. Duh.

Actually, no, I take it back. Stay healthy, guys. I want to blog for you until I'm a grandma and my crafting habits finally make sense.

Egg yolksSweet Potato Crème Brûlée, makes five large ramekins or 6-7 smaller ramekins*

6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
8 oz. cooked sweet potato (I used canned, drained from the can juices)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup fine (baker's) sugar
15 mini marshmallows for garnish

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until well combined. Add in the sweet potato and blend well. Strain through a fine mesh strainer. Then stir in the vanilla extract, cinnamon, and heavy cream. Pour into your ramekins, place in a baking dish with a lip, fill the dish with water (this is baking in a water bath), and bake at 325°F for 50-55 minutes. The centers should look set but with a slight jiggle. They should not appear to be entirely liquid.

*I have a number of different sized ramekins (or oven-safe bowls) I've collected over the years. The ones I used here are larger... what I would consider "sharing size," so they are deceptive in how many crème brûlées they will make. This recipe could easily produce 6-7 smaller, more standard size crème brûlées had I used a different sized ramekin. Also, if you do use a smaller ramekin here, keep in mind you may need to adjust your bake time. It may take 10-15 minutes LESS to bake if you use smaller vessels. If you feel unsure, just keep an eye on them during the last few minutes of baking to ensure you don't overcook them.

Sweet potato creme bruleeOnce your custards are baked, allow to cool before covering and refrigerating. You will want to refrigerate these at least a couple hours before serving. But you can easily make these a few days ahead of any event. I made mine two days before our Friendsgiving, and they were delicious the day we ate them, with hardly any work on my part that day to prepare them. I LOVE make ahead desserts. :)

How to bruleeJust before serving, top each custard with a thin layer of fine sugar (regular granulated sugar will work as well), and brûlée with a kitchen torch. Or you can do this under your oven's broiler, just keep a close eye on them so they don't burn.

Since these are sweet potato crème brûlées, I thought it would be fitting to top each with three mini marshmallows and toast those as well. This is completely optional as it's really more for the look of the dish than the taste.

Sweet potato brulee  Yay for unexpected, make-ahead desserts that still feel impressive. Plus this was SO delicious. I wish I hadn't been so full from the meal so I could have eaten the whole thing by myself. :) Enjoy! xo. Emma

Credits // Author: Emma Chapman, Photography: Sarah Rhodes and Emma Chapman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

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Jalapeño Popper Dip

Best jalapeno popper dip recipeThis dip is very much inspired by a dip served at a bar in my hometown. I don't know their particular recipe, but I imagine there are many different variations out there. I've made this on a few different occasions, and I'm happy to share my favorite version with you. And good news—it's REALLY easy to make.

We got to work with Kettle Brand chips on this. You'll see we'll be using their Jalapeño chips for the topping on this dip. Very fitting, no? True story: As soon as I saw an email come through that they wanted to work with us, I immediately told Trey he had to make it happen. Kettle chips are my go-to snack! (Salt and Ground Pepper chips, anyone?) 

Best jalapeno popper dip recipe  I served this as an appetizer before our Friendsgiving feast this year. I love having an appetizer option just in case the meal ends up taking a bit longer to prepare than I was planning. Although this year I was fifteen minutes early. Sigh. I never would have made it in the restaurant world. 

Our office wants to let you know that this was tied for favorite dish served at Friendsgiving this year. It's a good one! This would also be great to serve during a ball game (football or otherwise) or really any casual or semi-casual get together. It's a crowd-pleaser for sure.

Best jalapeno popper dipJalapeño Popper Dip, serves 8-10 as an appetizer.

(2) 8 oz. packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup mayo
1/2 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
1/3 cup canned jalapeno peppers, diced
1/4 cup green chilies
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup Kettle Brand Jalapeño potato chips, crushed

In a large bowl, stir together the first five ingredients listed. This doesn't have to be perfectly smooth, just mixed well so you'll get an even distribution of everything in every bite.

Even distribution. That's important.

Jalapeno popper dipSpoon the mix into a pie pan or an 8" x 8" square baking dish. Top with Parmesan cheese and the crushed potato chips. 

I actually made this two days before my event. So I left the potato chips off (sealed in a Ziploc bag) until just before baking. I covered my baking dish with plastic wrap and just tucked it in the refrigerator until I was ready for it.

Bake at 350°F for 30-35 minutes, until the edges begin to bubble a little.

Best jalapeno popper dip recipe Serve warm alongside some kind of delicious bread. I served mine with pretzel bites, which are just store bought pretzels I cut up and warmed. Easy peasy, and so delicious. Enjoy! xo. Emma

Credits// Author: Emma Chapman, Photography: Sarah Rhodes and Emma Chapman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

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How to Stay Motivated & Achieve Your Goals (Part 2: Rewards!)

6U8A2279We are already into part 2 of our series on how to get yourself motivated and complete all your awesome goals. Hopefully you are feeling much more driven to actually achieve your dreams after Emma shared the motivational trick of list-making that works for her, but if that wasn't a method that speaks to you, it's totally OK! We still have two more methods to share with you, and Sarah is going to guide you through her rewards-based method today. Maybe this will be the one for you! Tips for using rewards to motivate you to achieve goals (click through for more!)Hey guys, Sarah here! I read once that it takes 30 days of doing something consistently to develop a habit. Sometimes even attempting to develop small habits (like cleaning your house for 15 minutes a day, or going for a walk every day) feels like a major lifestyle change. If you're like me, then making a major lifestyle change can be pretty daunting and nearly impossible without a reward system in place! But hang on, it might not even be that easy. Rewards can cover so many things! You might be one of those blessed personality types that just completing your goal is the reward. Oh, bless you very much. Others of you might be motivated by a movie night, a new jacket, or a lovely cheese pizza just for you. But maybe you haven't found a reward system that works. 
I think the real key to setting a motivational plan is to not listen to what other people are putting in place as their rewards, and instead, to ask the person who knows you best (you!) what rewards would motivate you. Here's my basic thought process:

1. What would you like to receive as a gift?

I've tried so many reward systems on myself that I'd given up believing that rewards could work, and then I had a real "duh" moment. Laura and I were talking about gift giving and what gifts we like receiving. I thought pretty hard about it when I realized my favorite gifts are just gift cards! It sounds really dumb, but it's like someone is giving me the gift of guilt-free shopping. I love shopping, but I'm usually shopping for things for the home, or for our daughter (baby girl stuff is impossible to resist. Resistance is completely futile). So, it's a pretty special gift when I get to just shop for myself. 

Oh and here comes the "no doy" moment! What if my reward was just money to spend on myself? 

And then the motivation began flowing through my veins. I sat down and devised a three-month plan to reach my next health goal. I made mini goals along the way, so that with each completed mini goal, I'm accruing for myself a little more shopping money—but I'm not allowing myself to cash out until my three months are complete. Make sense? I've never been more motivated, and I've already completed two of my mini goals! So what would be your favorite (realistic!!) present you could receive right now? 

2. When will you get to collect your reward? 
 
Are you the type of person who would work longer and harder towards a big long term reward, or do you think you'd like a constant small reward for working hard weekly/daily? Nobody knows you better than yourself! You can try both—I would start with setting a long term goal/reward system, and if you find yourself slipping, you might try rewarding yourself each week to keep up the motivation. :) 

3. How much can you budget for your reward? 

Earlier I stressed the word realistic because, you know, we all would love a whole new wardrobe from Madewell or Anthropologie right? (Just me?) But finding that in our checking account is a whole other story. You might be able to budget $10-20 a week to put towards your big reward, but you might only be able to budget $1-5, or nothing at all! And that is totally fine, because the best things in life are free, correct? Here are a few ideas that I would consider rewards for myself that fall under several different budgets.

-Take a half day off work and go thrifting!
-Have an evening at home alone with Netflix or a good movie/book. (If you're on the introverted side, "time alone" can be a huge reward!)
-Make something you normally wouldn't make, such as cookie dough without eggs so you can just eat it. :) 
-Plan a day trip—find an interesting place in a 2-3 hour radius that you could drive to one weekend, explore, and then come home all in a day.
-Allow yourself 1 hour of guilt-free treats! Get a donut, order a large latte. No judgies.
-If you're a parent, time alone or time with your significant other would be a huge treat. Plan something super special as a reward! 
-Sometimes a new pair of shoes is a great reward.
-If you're on a larger budget (total budget would be accruing over $100-200), then plan how you're going to use that money to redecorate a room, or buy new bedding, or go craigslisting for a new accent chair. Something that's an investment in our living space always feels like such a reward for me.
-Just for once, skip the cheap coffee for your home brew and buy a bag of really great quality coffee. It's the reward that keeps on giving for like a week! 
-Buy a new book—one that you know will be positive and motivational. 
-Plan a movie night, invite friends over, and celebrate reaching your goal together! Or better yet —make it a dessert night and everyone has to bring pie. And please invite me to that one. :)
-Is there anything you've been wanting to do for a long time? For instance, I've always wanted to learn screen printing, so a good reward for me would be to take a screen printing class, or a pottery class, or an upholstery class, etc. You can always check your local community colleges for classes you can audit at night. 
-If a long term reward doesn't work as well to motivate you, try a weekly reward for meeting your goals each week! It could be something small like an ice cream during lunch breaks on Fridays, or going to a matinee and getting popcorn every Saturday, or going on a latte run before work one day a week. Clearly, I am driven by food and coffee—but you get the idea.
 
Tips for using rewards to motivate you to achieve goals (click through for more!)   Tips for using rewards to motivate you to achieve goals (click through for more!)   Guys, setting goals and making them happen is so much harder than it sounds, but I know you can do it! Have friends alongside you that are cheering you on! Even if it's just a goal to keep your house cleaner, or to pay your bills on time every month—it's all worth celebrating if you are making strides to make it happen. And have fun with it! :) xo. Sarah
 
Credits// Author: Sarah Rhodes, Photography: Sarah Rhodes and Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.
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