September 25, 2014

10 iPhone photo tips

So, Steve and I recently upgraded our phones, we were in DESPERATE need. The iPhones we got when we moved to Alaska (circa 4 years ago), just weren't cutting it any longer. I swear phone companies program the phones to self destruct when your contract is over, forcing you to shell out even more money. While he switched to the dark side and went with a Samsung Galaxy, I stayed loyal to Apple and stuck with the iPhone 5s. I know, I know, they just announced the 6, but trust me, our phones were that bad I couldn't wait any longer.

Smart phone cameras have come a long way. Even the difference between the ancient iPhone 4 and 5s blew me away. And while I much prefer to have my DSLR in hand, sometimes that's not always the option. Here are some tips to capture some great shots using your smart phone.

iPhone photo tips

1..  Take multiple shots. 
The great thing about digital is that it allows for mistakes. Taking multiple shots of the same object will help you make sure you get at least one good photo. The rest can be deleted later.

2..  Zoom in with your feet, not your fingers. 
Want to get a closer shot of an object? If possible, walk closer to the object instead of zooming in on the screen with your fingers. This will give you a much more clear photo.

3..  Try different angles. 
The majority of shots are taken from chest height because that's the most convenient way to take a photo. Find a more interesting angle, possibly from a lower, or higher, perspective.

CN Tower

4..  Hold the phone like you would a camera, with two hands. 
This will help to keep it nice and steady and avoid blurry shots.

5..  Rule of thirds.  
Long story short, the photo looks better when the subject isn't smack dab in the middle, but positioned off to the side. Luckily, iPhones have a setting for that.

chickadee High Park

6..  Keep the lens clean. 
Who knows where your hands have been and what they're putting on the camera. Keep a lens cloth nearby and give the lens, or entire phone, a wipe once in a while.

7..  Play around with exposure. 
The iPhone lets you specify where to optimize exposure by tapping that part of the screen when previewing your shot, which also sets the focus point. Play around with the exposure by tapping different parts of the screen to see what looks best for what you're trying to capture. You can also create silhouettes this way.

bonfire Lake Huron sunset

8..  Keep your photos simple. 
Don't over clutter the subject or background.  Noisy photos can be distracting and take away from the purpose of the shot.

9..  Don't be afraid to use editing apps. 
There are a load of apps out there that will help you spice up those photos. Add filters, lighten or darken, turn to black and white, create collages or add graphics.

10..  Get social. 
Be proud of the photos you've taken and show them off on social media!

Follow me on Instagram @toandfro21 for more of my iPhone photography.


September 24, 2014

Fall Comfort Food: Pork Chops & Pot Pie

Happy beginning of fall! Crisp air, scarves and sweaters, fall colours and comfort food, just a few of my favourite things about fall. I can't help it, the cooler weather and shorter days make me want to hole up in the kitchen and cook nothing but hearty meals.
Get cozy and warm this fall with these comforting classics...

pork chops with apples and onions recipe

Pork Chops with Apples & Onions
Serving size: 2
Prep time: 10 to 15 minutes
Cook time: 35 to 40 minutes

What you need:
2 bone-in pork chops
coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
1 tbsp olive oil 
2 tbsp butter
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
1 large green apple, cored and thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups chicken stock (white wine or beer can also be used)

What to do:
Generously season both sides of the pork chops with salt and pepper.

Heat a cast-iron skillet over high heat and then swirl with olive oil.

Sear each side of the pork chops until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer pork chops to a plate.

Swirl the butter into the skillet.  Add the apples and onions. 
Saute until the onions are slightly caramelized and the apples are slightly soft, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the stock or liquid of choice.  Return the chops to the skillet.

Allow the sauce to simmer, cooking the chops until tender, approximately 15 minutes.  

Turn the chops half way through and covering with apple mixture.

Allow the sauce to thicken slightly.

Serve with sides of your choice (we had roasted broccoli, cauliflower and potatoes).


I'm not the only one with a tasty fall recipe, today is a 2-for-1 post...

Where to find Christine:
Blog  |  Bloglovin  |  Twitter  |  Facebook

What is The So-Called Homemaker about?
The So-Called Homemaker is a blog about life at home and beyond!  While I may be a stay-at-home-mom, I’m also a licensed realtor, and have plenty of interests besides!  My blog is everything from parenting tips to recipes, book reviews to random facts!  Stop by and say hi!

What is your favourite fall recipe?

Savory Chicken Pot Pie

chicken pot pie recipe

What you need:
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, roasted and cubed
1 cup sliced carrots
3/4 cup frozen peas
3/4 cup corn kernels
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
2/3 cup milk
2 pie crusts

What to do:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a saucepan, combine carrots, peas, and corn.  Add enough water to cover the vegetables, then bring to a boil.  Boil for 15 minutes.  Drain vegetables and place into a large bowl.  Stir in roasted chicken.

In the same saucepan (save yourself some dishes!), melt the butter and then cook the onions until slightly softened.  Add the flour, salt, and pepper.  Allow to cook for about a minute.  Add milk and chicken broth slowly.  Simmer until thick.

Put one pie crust in the bottom of your pie tin.  Pour the chicken and vegetable mixture in.  Then pour the sauce (which should be smelling heavenly about now) over the vegetable mixture.  

Place top crust on, seal the edges, and cut away any excess dough.  Then cut a few slits in the top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until it looks like a chicken pot pie should.  Allow to cool before serving.

What is your favourite fall recipe?


September 16, 2014

The Story of Our Engagement

September 16, 2012.

It was a Sunday. I never usually worked on Sundays, but enjoyed the quiet. The weather was typical Alaska in the fall. Sometimes nice, sometimes not. It was a not kind of day. Windy and rainy. But mostly very windy.

The trees blew in the wind, bending to the point of almost breaking. One must have given in because midway through that quiet day, the power went. FYI, you become extremely unproductive at work when the power goes out. So, I called Steve and was easily convinced to come home. "We'll go for a walk", he said. I chuckled. A walk in Kincaid Park on a windy day didn't sound like the most genius idea, but what else did we have to do. So I went with it. 

When I got home, my rain gear was waiting for me, along with hot soup and coffee in our thermoses. "For after the walk," he said. I didn't question it. The walk was happening, despite the safety issues of walking through a park with tall trees on an extremely windy day.

And so we walked, along the path, climbing down a hill and through the tall grass, to a beach that we had been many times before, to the beach that had climbed high on our list of favorite places in the city of Anchorage. We sat down on a large washed up log and stared out into the vastness of Cook Inlet. Despite the rain pounding our faces, it was peaceful. It was private. It was just the two of us.

Totally entrenched in the beauty surrounding us, I felt a small tap on my shoulder. As I turned my head, I noticed Steve was no longer sitting beside me. He was instead, in front of me on one knee.

What he said I could never tell you. Not because I don't want to, but because I don't remember. You'll have to ask him because I'm pretty sure I blacked out.

To say I was surprised was an understatement. We had been together for 8 years. And while there were extreme amounts of pressure to get married, in all those 8 years, I never bothered him once about it. Which I've been told, by my now husband, is a really good thing.

And so, this is the story of our engagement. One that I haven't really shared before. 9 months and 13 days later, we became Mr and Mrs.

We went back to our beach on our most recent visit to Alaska to take these pictures. That beach will forever be our beach. It is where our new life together began, and some place that will always be on our must visit list when we're back in the great state.

Did you notice anything different around here? That's right, t.o. & fro got a much needed facelift courtesy of Jana Tolman Designs. If you're in need of a makeover, check this girl out - she was extremely helpful, quick to respond, listened to all of my crazy ideas and most importantly, delivered exactly what I was looking for!


September 12, 2014

Mama W's Homemade Salsa Recipe

One of my favourite things about fall farmer's markets is the tomatoes. Giant beef steak tomatoes. Yum, yum, yum. They're good in salads, pasta and even cut up on their own with a little s and p.

This past weekend was spent relaxing at my parents, with a quick stop at our local u-pick farm thrown in the mix. We picked onions, jalapaneos, green, red and yellow peppers and tomatoes, all with a plan... we were makin' Mama W's salsa.

homemade salsa recipe

Do you enjoy salsa? Here is a tried and tested recipe for a simple homemade canned salsa.

Mama W's Homemade Salsa Recipe

Makes: 12 - 16 oz jars of salsa

  • 30 medium tomatoes (peeled, chopped and drained of juice)
  • 10 medium cooking onions (chopped)
  • 10 jalapeño peppers (finely chopped)
  • 4 green peppers (seeded and chopped)
  • 1 yellow peppers (seeded and chopped)
  • 1 red peppers (seeded and chopped)
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 3 tbsp coarse salt
  • 3 tsp garlic salt
  • 3 tsp ground cumin
  • 3 tsp coriander
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • 1 13oz can tomato paste
  • 12 16 oz mason jars with lids

Notes: The number of jalapeños to use depends on how spicy you want the salsa. We ended up using 3 medium-large jalapeños, finely chopped with seeds, for a mild salsa.

  1. Combine all ingredients (except paste) in large stock pot. 
  2. Cook uncovered over medium heat, stirring frequently (approximately 1.5 hours)
  3. When salsa is nearing desired consistency, and not too watery, add the paste and stir to combine.
  4. Seal in hot, sterile mason jars.
  5. Store in a cool, dark place.
  6. Canned salsa will keep for up to a year, but trust me, it probably won't last that long.

For simple instructions on how to peel tomatoes, check this out. For instructions on how to sterilize and can, click here.

homemade salsa recipe
homemade salsa recipe
homemade salsa recipe

Oh, and this guy supervised the entire time. Mr Quality Control. 

For tips on shopping a Farmer's Market, check this out.

Do you like salsa? Would you try this recipe?

 photo TampF sig_zpsi50j9kbk.jpg


September 10, 2014

Batty's Bath: Skin Mapping

This month I'm welcoming Batty's Bath back to t.o. & fro! Batty's Bath is a botanical skin care and soap company based in southern Ontario and every single product is lovingly hand-crafted using planet-friendly, people-friendly and animal-friendly ingredients. 

I recently purchased my first order of Batty's Bath products and can already say I'm in love. But, in order to know which Batty's Bath products would suit my skin care needs, I first had to do my research. So, I dove into Batty's blog, which is full of extremely useful information for people with all skin types, including Q&A, customer product reviews and plenty of videos and helpful articles. The one article that I found especially intriguing was her skin mapping guide. I instantly wanted to know more. Do you always break out in the same places? If so, then this chart may be for you...

According to the skin mapping chart, the acne spots on your face can give you clues to underlying issues. The purpose of this chart is to give you another tool in your resource kit for tackling skin care problems, and tells you what internal systems may be playing a role in any skin issues that are visible on your face. 

Recently, my skin care problems have been focused around my mouth and chin, which according to Batty's chart, suggest it is related to the reproductive organs and/or a hormonal inbalance. Interesting, and probably spot on, for this late 20 year old woman.

Making the switch to an all natural skincare routine by choosing Batty's products is just the first step in my skin transformation.  Finding an internal balance and emotional well being/stress reduction play an equally important part and are both something that I will need to start working on. According to Batty, focusing our efforts evenly between these key areas will give us a leg-up on the problem skin. 

Interested in trying some of Batty's Bath skin care products? Sign up for the Batty's Bath newsletter to receive a free shipping code! Stay tuned for her North American free shipping day on December 1, 2014, just in time for Christmas :)

Find out more about skin mapping:
Video: Internal causes of skin care problems
Skin mapping chart

Other Batty's Bath posts:
Where to find her:
Website  |  Shop  |  Blog  |  Twitter  |  Instagram

Did you find Batty's chart helpful?

 photo marsignature_zpsfb974fa3.jpg

September 6, 2014

Cleaning Up

Last night a brutal storm whipped off Lake Huron. Rain like we've never seen, leaves flying everywhere and trees coming down...

When a storm hits the lake, it usually means beach treasure the next day. So, with bucket in hand, I had every intention this morning of collecting driftwood for my next craft project. Instead, less than half an hour later, I walked back to my parents with over 17 pounds of garbage in tow. From large pieces of plastic, to plastic bottles, beer cans, a boat oar, styrofoam and broken balloons. And I know that I just scratched the surface, with proof as I walked past a half buried tire and blanket that were not willing to leave.

This is my beach. The beach I have grown up on, where I spent many hours laying on the shore and playing in the water, and where I got married. It is the beach I intend for my children to hold as near to their hearts, and it sickens me to see it this way, littered with trash.

I know when garbage leaves your possession it becomes out of sight, out of mind. But please, allow these pictures to remind you that it doesn't just disappear. It ends up in our waterways, polluting our beautiful beaches and harming the wildlife that call them home.

Do your part! Take part in a shoreline cleanup. Don't live by the ocean or lake? Not a problem. Find your nearest body of water, from a small creek to a pond or river. Do your part to keep our natural world clean and happy.

Have you ever taken part in a shoreline cleanup? What did you find? How did it make you feel?

 photo marsignature_zpsfb974fa3.jpg

September 3, 2014

That thing called golf.

Golf is such a funny word. Did you know that the modern game originated in Scotland in the 15th century? And that one of the most common misconceptions is that the word 'golf' is an acronym for gentleman only ladies forbidden?

In my 28+ years on Earth, I have played over a handful of sports - soccer, hockey, basketball, softball, volleyball and curling, to name a few. But in those 28+ years, golf was never one I desired to try. You see, I'm rather competitive. But at the same time, when I'm not good at something, I give up. Aaannnddd I get bored easily. Golf just didn't seem like my game. Patient and competitive, yet easily bored, don't really go hand in hand.

"Keep calm and don't give up", were my husband's words of advice when he heard I was going golfing for the first time. Secretly, I think he was glad he wasn't there to witness my frustration. But at the same time, secretly I think he would have loved the chance to laugh at me. "Get 3 beers in you and it will be easier", were the wise words from my brother. Ya, that one wouldn't wouldn't be a problem.

While we were there to golf 18 holes, I clearly spent the majority of the time ogling over the scenery, taking pictures and chasing after the deer on the course. Priorites. 

And for the record, after my hour long lesson (because my sister didn't want me to embarrass her at her place of work), I lasted 13 holes. Not too shabby for this first timer.

Take a look...

What are your thoughts on golfing?

 photo marsignature_zpsfb974fa3.jpg
Blog Design Created by pipdig