Meal Prepping For Real This Time

Alright, so here is me trying to meal prep. Every sunday I am going to try and evaluate how I ate the previous week.

For this week, I am pretty aware that these aren’t the most healthiest of meals, but the fact that I am even trying to do this instead of fast food everyday is good. I think baby steps are totally acceptable and help people like me stick to their goals.

I recently bought the Fit Girls Guides and really love the way they are laid out and their inspiration. In it, they also talk about giving yourself a break. A lot of the time people say oh no, I messed up so now I need to start over and since I messed up today, I might as well mess up for the rest of the day.

This is bad thinking and leads to unhappiness and no results.

Monday

Breakfast – Hard boiled eggs, coffee

Lunch – Salad 1: Tomatoes, chicken, chickpeas, cucumbers, ranch, water

Dinner – Frito Salad: Fritos, refried beans, cheese, sour cream, lettuce, salsa, water

Tuesday

Breakfast – Hard boiled eggs, coffee

Lunch – Salad 1, water

Dinner – Frito Salad, water

Wednesday

Breakfast – Hard boiled eggs, coffee

Lunch – Mashed potatoes, peas, chicken

Dinner – Spaghetti and meat sauce

Thursday

Breakfast – Hard boiled eggs, coffee

Lunch – Mashed potatoes, peas, chicken

Dinner – Spaghetti and meat sauce

Friday – Sunday

I’m in the field. Sad because ew, MREs but good because MREs and thus no need to meal prep?

Cost:

How I felt when working out:

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Food Photography: Restaurant Shoots

Becoming more and more interested in the world of food photography has introduced me to doing restaurant shoots. So far I have done two, and I have to say, the first time I felt absolutely professional as a photographer was when I did this second restaurant shoot in Tucson. Not that the shoot went perfectly (it really didn’t for many reasons) but it left me feeling like I was a professional and that I might be able to survive in the real world of photography.

Reasons it didn’t go so well: I didn’t realize that I had received an email from the restaurant owner rescheduling the shoot until I got there (always check your email before going out on location, things tend to change). The timing of the shoot was later in the day and I found myself losing light fast (usually I would opt for morning shoots, but sometimes you have to work with the client’s schedule). The audio recorder wouldn’t work for the interview (not a common problem for most photographers, but in this case I needed an interview and of course technology isn’t always reliable.)

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Reasons the shoot went well: The staff at the restaurant I was shooting for was amazing and very understanding. Not only did they let me shoot at the original time and provide me with 3 dishes and a beverage to shoot (above and beyond, folks!) but they made sure I was comfortable too, really helping to lessen my stress level. The restaurant owner was very understanding too, and was super supportive, knowing I was a student and not very experienced in these types of shoots. The dishes were amazing! They were colorful, beautiful and unique, everything a food photographer could hope for.

I’m very glad that everything worked out in the end, and it was fun to use some special equipment to do the shoot, but I would definitely check this shoot off as a learning experience over anything else. I’m proud of myself for handling things so well, taking the curve balls as they came and coming out with some great pictures (all hence why I felt professional even though things didn’t go 100%).

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Some basic tips I would give to any food photographers staring out are:

  • Don’t count on the restaurant having all the supplies you need. If you think you’re going to need props, utensils, placemats, etc, just take them. I did and left them in the car, so as not to seem overbearing in the shoot, and didn’t end up needing them, but I would have been glad to have any of it had the need arose. I would add that you want to make sure you have any photo equipment you might need. Reflectors, flashes, extra lenses, should all be ready to use and in your vehicle just in case.
  • Don’t be afraid to touch the food. I usually use a fork or some other type of utensil if I need to move parts of the food around, but if you need to get your fingers messy to get the food looking right for the shot, go for it. You don’t want to have to rely on PhotoShop later to fix the food.
  • If you are using natural lighting (I highly recommend natural!) make sure sunlight is diffused. This shoot took place on the patio of the restaurant, which is always my first choice if such an area is available. I mentioned before that it took place later in the day, so I was lucky to have some nice shade to work in. But if I had been faced with direct sunlight I would have used some sort of diffuser to avoid harsh lighting.
  • Realize that food is time-sensitive. In this shoot, I was working with some veggies and fruit, as well as lettuce in several of the dishes. Over time, all of this type of food will start to wilt. The avocados were especially time sensitive since it was a bit warm out. I ended up shopping out some of the brown spots that started to appear, but overall I knew I needed to shoot these dishes quickly to avoid capturing any discoloring or wilting.
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Health Journey : The Beginning

I think part of what makes getting healthy so difficult after living in an unhealthy manner for a while, is that as an adult, you are the person who can make you change your ways. You might have other reasons to be healthy, such as kids, family, people who need you, or things like your job or dreams require you to be healthy, but you are the only person who can force yourself to become the healthier version of yourself. No one will do that for you.

But something I have begun to learn is that having an accountability partner definitely helps with this.

I signed up for the Color Vibe run with a few of my friends, and one of the friends who agreed to do it asked me if I wanted to train with her since we’re both at a beginning level in a sense. I agreed, and it’s become less of just training together and more of planning out getting healthy together.

Though it’s still 100% on me to get my meals prepped, to eat right, to go and exercise, etc., it does make it easier to do so knowing that someone else is counting on me to go through the journey with her.

I’m obviously still having problems with a few things. Quitting soda and coffee has always seemed impossible to me, and having a really rough semester doesn’t help my attempt to quit. I’m also finding myself eating more cheese than I should and suffering the consequences of that. Exercise is something I tend to get into in phases, sometimes I’m really into it, but most of the time, I just want to sleep.

I’m also not sure how I want to measure my goals for getting healthy, which is so important for any journey. Without measurable goals, it can be so easy to be discouraged, and I want to avoid that if possible. Any suggestions?

Until I can figure that out, I guess my ultimate goal is just to feel great about my body. Lately I’ve been in a bit of a rut when looking to love my body, I’m not happy with what I see in the mirror and I’m definitely not happy with the way my body feels. Hopefully this journey will help me to connect better with my body and to appreciate it for what it can do.

Dallas, Texas

I like eating and I like using holidays as an excuse to eat a cornucopia of it.

For this long weekend I found myself in Dallas and instead of doing a lot of touristy sightseeing, I was actually just eating and drinking for 89 percent of my time.

According to one Uber driver, Dallas is the fastest growing city with the most restaurants per capita.

Coming from New York I really feel like he’s probably wrong but NYC has also taught me cabbies know things I never will so I won’t question it.

Dallas did remind me of New York though because it did have a slightly borough feel because each part of town had its own personality.

We stayed in Downtown at the Crowne Plaza on Elm St. which I guess is their NY Financial District because of all the government buildings and then businesses that cater to those who eat and work that life.  Some places of note we ate at were The Spaghetti Warehouse, Cindi’s NY Deli and  Gator’s Dallas.

The Spaghetti Warehouse is a chain but we went during happy hour and got two meals, four drinks, and dessert for under 50 bucks. What more can you ask for!?

Cindi’s NY Deli was a place where I got lox and latkes which was so filling. At Gator’s, we didn’t eat anything… Just had a giant cup of Gatorade and what seemed to be vodka? They had fun shots too like a lemon drop and a duck fart which tasted more like Bailey’s then ponds.

After visiting the museum that was made out of the book depository where Oswald shot JFK… We went to the Iron Cactus. Their queso dip was actually really weird but they made up for it in Tequila flights and awesome margaritas. This place was hip and looked over a cute courtyard.

Iron Cactus is also walking distance to Fluellen Cupcakes so for dessert we had a peanut butter cupcake, German chocolate cupcake, and cookies and cream. All of them were delicious and very Instagram worthy but for some reason I only got this picture:image

By far my favorite place to eat was PS 214 which was located in Uptown aka Dallas’ Manhattan? PS 214 was featured in Thrillist which is how I heard about it. Apparently, it is a chain that started in California but everything was designed to look like school supplies and they had food like Mac and cheese with potato chips and the most delicious burger in the world. The most noteworthy thing was their ‘almost bottomless mimosas’ which were two carafes of mimosas per person for 10 dollars.

I think I’m still recovering.

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That ketchup is actually siracha and ketchup :).

For Valentine’s Day we ended up going to a place called Zen Sushi. I let John pick so I was kinda nervous but they had a prix fixe menu for the occasion that ended up being a lot of fun. It was 179 for two people and included six courses and a bottle of wine! It honesty was a little weird but all very delicious.. They started with a thick curry soup followed by a deconstructed duck dumpling. I felt like Gordon Ramsey criticizing the third course which were oysters with flavored ice on it because it was supposed to be bite sized but it was too much so I just got a brain freeze. Everything was so creative though and thought out that I really enjoyed myself and it made me feel like Kim Kardashian on V Day which is a good thing.

No champagne on my butt don’t worry.

Everyday Better: Fitness

Other posts on this matter: Everyday Better and Everyday Better: Blogging

I would like to say I’m pretty in shape. When it comes to the Army, that’s part of my job. We get evaluated on our fitness through a simple test of push-ups in two minutes, sit-ups in two minutes, and then a two mile run. The amount of push-ups and sit-ups and the time you have to run your two mile in is based on your age and gender.

You can see what you would score here.

On the female scale for my age, I often ‘max it’ meaning I get the most points possible in each category giving me a 300. But, with changes in the Army with more opportunities for females and my job being combat arms, I expect this ‘female scale’ to go away. I have to score around a 340 on the female scale to come close to a 270 on the male scale. Whether that’s fair or not is a different debate, but it does show a different level of ‘combat readiness’.

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My soldiers holding up a tire for a timed competition.

For example, in artillery we have different types of ammo based on what effect you want. If you want a big bang, there’s a type for that, if you want light in the night, we also have one for that. These different rounds have different weights and some weigh more than 110 pounds.

My body weighs 120.

Needless to say, I need someone to help me lift those rounds. There are a lot of people, male or female, that can lift those rounds alone yet have a lower fitness score than me.

I’m not saying that the only reason to get in shape is for my job but I’m also not saying I’m a slacker. I recognize where I want to be fitness wise while acknowledging that I do have a decent amount of accomplishments too.

So, by the end of February I do want to start lifting weights because right now all I do it push-ups or variations of them. I also want to look in the mirror and see muscles on my back and arms and even my abs.

Summer is soon!

Again, with my schedule it is hard to figure out how to do this but I think if I do my mandatory physical fitness Monday – Friday with the Army, which is mostly just running, but also dedicate Monday morning to an hour run then Saturday and Sunday I can do weight training.

I’ve also always wondered about getting a personnel trainer so I might save and do that just because I don’t know how to do free weights while feeling safe at the same time. Plus, it’ll give me motivation to show up because I paid for the service!

Also, no more fast food! Okay, that’s not fair to me I can’t go cold turkey…. only once a week in February and none by March. This means I need to figure out meal prep a lot better. I did it recently for a week and by Wednesday I thought the food was bland and it was unappealing to me. I cooked chicken and pasta dishes and gave myself a salad to go with it.

Ugh.

The Food Photography Struggle

This past semester, I decided to take a food photography class for fun (it wasn’t required for my major). I ended up in a love/hate relationship with this class, while I found myself to be decent at food photography and I liked it enough, it really changed my outlook on the food industry in a… not so positive way.

I mentioned in my first post that food photography has changed the way I look at food advertisements, menus, anything that has a picture of food for consumer purposes has become tainted to me. I can’t pick up a package of food with a picture on it without judging the image. Reading menus isn’t simple anymore when my eyes are drawn to the images deciding whether or not I think they’re decent (though I don’t pretend to be an absolute expert on the subject.)

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Salad from Tourist Home restaurant in Flagstaff, AZ. Liz Marko Photography

You start to look at things like, is the lighting good? Is the image too busy? Can I see flaws in the food? How did the photographer set up the shot? How well was the food styled? Being a photographer, in general this side-effect isn’t just noticeable with food, I find myself critiquing pictures on Christmas cards, magazines, advertisements in the mall… but I think it’s been more noticeable with food because food photography can be so picky.

After going through the class, I’ve found myself wondering if I’d like to do more food photography along with the product photography I’ve been finding myself enjoying more lately. Food photography is something that is widespread, you can use it for a lot of different purposes. Books, blogs, magazines, restaurants, the list goes on for places that need photos of food.

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Chocolate Milk Splash. Liz Marko Photography 

Though I would love to start my own food blog, I sadly do not know near enough about food itself to do that… I just know how to make it look pretty. Perhaps somewhere in my job search I’ll manage to find somewhere looking for a food photographer. I think if I ever did food photography in a professional setting, the one thing I would really want to make sure I have is a food stylist. Food isn’t the easiest product to manipulate, it doesn’t always do what you want it too. While I have had no problem steaming veggies to make the color pop or getting messy for those splash pictures, sometimes it would be nice to have someone come in to give the food a makeover in advanced.