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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

AMP: A Look back to 2014

Guys, 2014 was a big year for Alison McQuain Photography. Thank you all so so much for allowing me to document some beautiful moments in your lives! I have loved every minute! And met some lovely new people this year. Did you catch that? New people I have never met before hiring me! Thank you to my lovely friends who have recommended me. And even more fun(!)...documenting the lives of newborns and enjoying their first birthday parties too!

You might also notice that I have a new website up and running. It is a work in progress. Send me some feedback and let me know what you think. I haven't decided if the format is perfect.

Here are a few memories from AMP's 2014.

-Much Love, Alison

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Tasty Tuesday: The Champagne Toast

The lovely Erin Grimson took this photo at the Anthro Knoxville November
Birthday Party - Erin is part of the Anthro team and a wonderful photographer

I can't believe it! 2015 is right around the corner! Didn't you think we would all have robots and would drive hovercrafts in 2015?! Ha! We are very advanced if you look at our past but we aren't quite there yet. And I emphasize 'quite.'

What is a reality is how you will need to be toasting in the New Year tomorrow night. Are you in a pickle and in need of a festive drink? We have some perfect ideas for you! And don't worry, if you aren't a fan of champagne or don't drink you can still be festive. Just grab a bottle of your favorite sparkling water and follow along below. (Sidenote: I've recently discovered San Pellegrino is my fave.)

My first sparkling drink idea is birthed from my last Tasty Tuesday post. The Herbed Poinsettia I'll call it. Start with a festive glass, 1-2 teaspoons of the cranberry-rosemary syrup I taught you how to make a couple Tasty Tuesdays ago, and a bottle of bubbly.
Put the syrup in the glass and pour the bubbly over the top. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary for looks and for scent. You could also freeze some small cranberries and toss a few in a glass instead. This will help keep your glass chilled as well. 
Another idea is one that I got from Anthropologie's Knoxville November birthday bash. The lovely staff of our store made Lavender Infused Champagne for us and even shared the recipe!
Anthropologie Knoxville - Lavender Infused Champagne 
Bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Stir in 1 cup of sugar and add in a handful of fresh lavender. Remove from heat and allow to cool. 
Once cooled, serve 1-2 teaspoons per 6 oz of champagne (makes 20 servings) 
I would garnish with a small sprig of lavender if you so choose. Or get real swanky and lightly rim your champagne glass or coupe with some fancy pants sugar. Just for don't need sugar with this drink. But an herby chocolate might be good!

Oh! And consider a coupe glass this year! This fun shape is a refreshing alternative to the standard champagne flute. Get festive friends!


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! We will be taking off the rest of the week to relax and spend time with family during the holiday. I sat down the other night after scurrying around to finish wrapping and to pack up everything and just looked at my tree. I remember last year admiring the twinkle lights and the tree and realized I haven’t even done that this year…just sitting and watching the beauty of the season. However, I have been able to move quickly with it-my house has been full of old friends and new friends as well as family throughout this month and for that I am grateful. If someone who has been there sat and admired my twinkle lights, then all is well. We all know that is it so hard to live in the moment when you are trying to prepare food or get out the door, but enjoy the speed because it will be over in a blink. I encourage you in the midst of the bustle to look around the table, snuggle in and watch the movie, sip hot chocolate and admire the Christmas tree and just be there. Embrace the hope and light that this season holds and carry that into next year. 

-Laurie & Alison

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tasty Tuesday: Cookies For Santa

Santa comes tomorrow and I heard that he LOVES M&M cookies…so I’m here to help you and your kiddos create Santa’s favorite cookie. I also heard today that it takes him 34 milliseconds at each house. I’m not sure who calculated that, but he must need the sugar to keep going! That is a serious all-nighter. 

1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. baking soda
2 cups whole M&M’s (add peppermint M&M’s)

Preheat oven to 375. Beat sugars and butter in large bowl on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in vanilla and eggs; beat in flour, salt and baking soda on low speed. Stir in candies. Drop dough by teaspoon about 2 inches apart onto engrossed cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with a fork. Bake until edges are light brown, 8 to 11 minutes. Let stand 3-4 minutes before removing from cookie sheet.

Friday, December 19, 2014

TGIF: Thank Goodness I Found Christmas Nostalgia

The excitement is really starting to settle in since Christmas is less than a week away. It brings back memories of favorite childhood movies, old Coca Cola commercials with Santa (did you know that is why he wears red? Coca Cola branding!) and brightly colored C9 bulbs. What is your favorite Christmas nostalgia? We are taking it all in...the countdown has begun!

-Laurie & Alison

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Red Earth Exchange Tour

I wanted to share a few photos from the Red Earth event this past weekend. I am so thankful to my lovely friends and family who came to make the morning a great success! I also want to tell you what my favorite pieces are after I got to look at/wear things for an extended period of time. 

And! Thanks so much to the lovely ladies of Red Earth that joined us! All the best in your new adventures!!

So some of my favorite pieces are below. I bought the lite link and the bone bracelet (and love them!) and hope to own the Synth necklace below (bottom right). 

Really, you can’t go wrong with their products. They are very wearable and the products aren’t styled in a way that makes them look better than they really are. You are getting what you pay for. Be sure to sign up for their email list so you can get the latest Red Earth news right to your inbox!


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tasty Tuesday: Cranberry Orange Doughnuts

As you all know, I hosted a Red Earth event this past weekend...and with that came some yummy breakfast food.

Backstory: My mom bought me a Babycakes Cake Pop maker last year for Christmas. It has taken me almost a year to use it. It is probably good that it took me this long because it is so easy to use and so fun! I'm going to be making so many doughnut holes in the coming days!

So, because I own this little gem, I thought I should take a stab at cake doughnuts. So good! So Easy! So Fast! With the Babycakes Cake Pop maker anyway. I am in the market for a doughnut pan for a full-size version too. They are called cake doughnuts for a reason. Making them is not much different than making a cake. Lauren of Lauren's Latest came up with the doughnut recipe. And it is so good! The glaze I chose to create for this little morsel is cranberry rosemary.

There is something about rosemary in sweet dishes. I'm really into it in the winter months.

Cranberry Rosemary Glaze:

1 cup cranberries
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
2 small sprigs of rosemary
1 sprig of fresh, finely chopped rosemary
2-3 cups powdered sugar
Water (enough to make a paste-type glaze)

Place the first four ingredients in a small saucepan. Stir frequently while bringing to a boil. Reduce heat to med-low and cook 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool 20-30 minutes. Once cooled press the cranberry mixture through a wire mesh strainer into a bowl. You will have more than enough cranberry sauce for your glaze.

To make the glaze mix 2-3 tablespoons of the cranberry sauce, chopped rosemary, powdered sugar and water (just enough for a good consistency). Make the glaze as strong as you would like by adding more or less cranberry sauce.

I decided to drizzle my doughnut holes and not use as much glaze to limit some of my sugar intake. The doughnuts are quite flavorful and don't need much extra.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Gift Guides for Ladies & Gents

Men: watch | suspenders | map | pillow case | scarf | vest

We are loving organic lines and natural colors for ladies and gents this Christmas. The ladies' clutch is one of our favorites! The design is inspired by an ancient form of Arabic script from southern Iraq. Once used to decorate tiles in Islamic architecture, the pattern is now handwoven in silk for these bags. Worldly items are memorable, timeless and unique gifts for guys or girls. Pick something unique and fun this year to gift that your loved ones won't forget. 
-Laurie & Alison

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Big Box Buys

When Christmas time rolls around, the big box stores have it figured out. To them, Christmas started in October, so when December hits, they are pros at the gift game. It is great to find a cute gift at Target for anyone at a good price. They have really stepped up their home decor and clothing areas lately by bringing in brand name designers and with the Threshold collection. (This is not a sponsored post, I just love Target). Most Christmases, the guys on my list tend to get something from Best Buy. Ikea has great little useful items that look modern but won't break the bank. 
I said in an earlier gift guide post that I was committing to supporting local and small this year for Christmas...which is a little harder to do when you are looking at a big box store for the gift someone asked for. Really, does anyone tell you they would love a handmade leather wallet that supports African artisans? That would be awesome, but most people go for things like a Go Pro, which just supports Go Pro. I realize it is hard to 100% support artisans or small businesses for those on your list who want specific things. However, you can still support your local community by putting the money into your economy. Sales may not entirely matter overall to Ann Taylor whether I buy online or in one of the Nashville locations but if me walking in the store and buying a gift there helps to keep that Nashville location here, giving jobs to those who need it, then that is what I will do. 

-Laurie & Alison

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Red Earth Exchange Tour

This Saturday I am hosting a relaxed shopping event that I am really pumped about. We have told you about Red Earth before...but remember the gifts that give back guide we did? This online company is all about that. And because they are online there isn't a great way for people to physically see the lovely creations they create. The Exchange Tour is a way for people across the country to see their products from the comfort of a friend's home. I will be welcoming two lovely Red Earth representatives into our home this weekend that will bring Red Earth to me and a few of my Knoxville friends.

If you are in town this Saturday morning from 9:30-11:30am swing by my house for some breakfast and a warm drink.



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