Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Mt. LeConte



I don't typically wake up early on a Saturday morning and think to myself, "hmmm, a 6.4 mile hike climbing to over 6,000 feet above sea level sounds great! Let's go!" However, when you love your husband and are slightly interested in seeing what all the fuss is about with these East Tennesseans and Mt. LeConte, you just might.

As you can guess, Saturday I found myself trudging up a mountain with stairs cut into the rock and cables fixed into the mountainside for handrails and I am still feeling that hike today. The 5 mile hike to the summit is one to check off a bucket list if you have those sorts of things on your bucket list. I didn't. But, there is a huge sense of accomplishment once you reach the top and the views are incredible. Part of the excitement of Mt. LeConte, for most people, is being able to get a reservation to stay at the LeConte Lodge. Not many people will get to do that in their lifetime as there is a waiting list and the beds are limited. Luckily, we have friends in high places. (See what I did there?) And we were able to stay as a guest to our friend who works on LeConte. This past weekend the hubs and I were sort of temporary crew members. We did a little work to earn our keep and loved getting to know the staff that welcome guests daily. Because most people won't be able to stay as guests I thought I would share a few photos from our weekend to entice you or to show you if you have absolutely no desire to see for yourself.  

Dinning hall

If you are unable to stay the night but want to make the trek you are able to enjoy the view from the lodge picnic tables or porch. You can grab a hot cocoa or lemonade and even purchase a sack lunch when you make it up. Guests are able to enjoy a nice bed in a rustic cabin with a family style dinner and a flush-able toilet. A little running water too. Trust me, everything about this is more luxurious after you hike up. Once you make it up, there is a 1.4 mile hike to a lookout spot that provides even more amazing views than what you will find at the lodge.

Happy hiking!
-Alison


Ode to Ansel Adams who once said the Smoky Mountains were "devilish" to photograph. Go see some of his work and his photo of Mt. LeConte at the Knoxville Museum of Art. Only a few days left!


Almost there!!



This is the llama trail and their feed troughs. They come up about three times a week with supplies.

Sunset with our favorite staffer. Do I look tired? haha


Amazing.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tasty Tuesday: Making Martha's Macrons




Martha Stewart's March magazine cover boasted beautifully fresh pastel macarons, luring me in with the sweet delicate cookie. The magazine ended up in my cart and I realized that the older I get, the more I love Martha.  There is always a little extra care ("Mom, just use the food coloring...Martha probably made hers from crystallized unicorn hair. She's an overachiever.") required to bring yourself to Martha's craft level. When the rest of us cut corners to get it done, Martha goes the extra step. So when I read the easy to make macaron recipe, I decided to direct my mom to the recipe. She has been trying to perfect the macaron. I have not even attempted it, so I basically stood idly by pretending to move kitchen utensils around and look busy while she carefully mixed and followed the instructions. So, this week's Tasty Tuesday really goes to her perseverance in thoroughly mixing the macaron dough while talking to two different guests that came over. She, like Martha, was determined to make the macarons be the best. We did cut a little corner by using Nutella as the filling...but really, is using Nutella cutting a corner? In Martha's world, probably. In mine, heavens no. 
PS-We made the vanilla cookie with pink food coloring from the recipe. 
-Laurie

Martha Stewart's Macaron Recipe-May 2014 issue
2/3 cup almond flour (Martha made her own of course: food-process until fine, add 1 cup confectioner's sugar, process until combined)
2 large egg whites, room temp
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Vanilla
Food coloring 

-Sift dry ingredients in a sieve until about 2 Tbs are left.
-Whip egg whites & granulated sugar by hand to combine. Beat on medium speed (4 on Kitchen Aid) for 2 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high (6) for 2 minutes, then on high (8) 2 minutes longer. The beaten egg whites will have stiff, glossy peaks when you lift the whisk. Add flavoring (1 tsp vanilla or seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean; food coloring of choice)
-Fold in almond flour mixture all at once. Fold with a spatula from bottom up, pressing flat side firmly through the middle of the mixture. Repeat until batter flows, about 35-40 complete strokes.
-Put a pastry bag fitted with a round tip inside a glass. Transfer batter into bag, twist to secure top. 
-Form batter by piping a circle into a 3/4 inch round, swirling the tip off. Make all cookies as close to the same size as possible to match up. Tap sheets firmly against counter 2-3 times to release air bubbles. 
-Bake at 350, rotating halfway through, for 13 minutes until risen and set. Let cool. Pipe or spread in filling on flat sides of half of cookies, top with the remaining half. Refrigerate. Enjoy. Pretend you have it all together like Martha.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Will you join us? #100happypearls


As Laurie shared at the beginning of the month, we have been participating in the #100happydayschallenge and have started #100happypearls on instagram. We hope you will join along with us and share a little something that brings you happiness every day. This is no competition. This is an activity you can do for yourself to be reminded of each of our little blessings and moments that bring us joy. This has been a great challenge for me and I encourage you to participate! And find Paper Pearl on instagram; you can also find out a little more about our happy photos here if you visit our profile. 

-Alison


Friday, April 25, 2014

TGIF: Thank Goodness I Found Garden Goodness






Happy Friday, readers! How does your garden grow? We are inspired by all things garden this week! As always, check out our Pinterest page (link on right sidebar) and see some other TGIF loves and give us a follow!
-Laurie & Alison

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Color Files: Flamingo Pink



I used to really shy away from pink, especially as a blonde, for fear of looking to barbie-ish. Now I have found myself attracted to the bright hue. It's so refreshing after a cold winter where all I wanted to wear was navy, gray and black. Besides, Barbie is awesome.
-Laurie

Veranda Place Bee by Kate Spade | Hunter Rain Boots from Nordstrom | Party Skirts from Shopbymonika | bkr Bottle in Bambi | Flamingo Print from Etsy

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Recent Work: Alison McQuain Photography


Graduation is near and I had a fantastic time celebrating it with Melinda during her senior portrait session. She is such a beautiful and fun-loving young woman. I am so excited for her next big adventure! Congratulations Melinda!

Visit my website or facebook page to see more and learn about current specials I am offering! 







-Alison

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tasty Tuesday: 8 Must Have Spring Kitchen Tools



Spring and Summer cooking is THE best. For the most part the soup and stock pots disappear as fresh ingredients appear in your garden and grocery store. There are a few must have tools I am glad to have and a few I have discovered that I would love to have. I think you Tasty Tuesdayers should know about them.
  1. Paring knives are perfect for berries and small jobs like salad toppers. 
  2. Cherry pitters are a must in my kitchen. I LOVE fresh cherries.   
  3. Prepara herb savers look pretty amazing. I would totally try it-storing in a glass on the counter with a bit of water tends to work well too.  
  4. Popsicle molds take me back to my childhood and I need some in my life. And check this out! 
  5. Apple/Pear slicers are awesome to have. Try them on spring pears if you haven't already.  
  6. Veggie peelers are a must for spring carrots or cucumbers and even for things like shaving down tougher stalky veggies for quicker steaming. 
  7. Avocado savers are on my wish list after seeing this. I just put one in a Ziploc today knowing it will be brown when i eat the rest of it.  
  8. Veggie Steamers are the best. And I think this is about all you need. If you want to go bigger check this out too.  
You can find all of these items pinned on our Foodie board. Be sure to check out some other items I love that didn't make the post.

I hope this post helps make your Tasty Tuesday a little easier.

-Alison

Friday, April 18, 2014

TGIF: Thank God It's Friday, Really


Happy Good Friday, friends. Remember the darkness of this day so we can see the light in three. 
Photo by Alison McQuain

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Ink Blot Easter Eggs


As I sat staring at my freshly boiled stark white eggs this past Sunday, I couldn't think of what to do that would be different. I loved the look of half gold-half colored eggs, so I did half a dozen like that. You may have noticed them from Tasty Tuesday's angeled egg post. To create those, simply use baker's food coloring mixed with water and vinegar, let dry and spray paint. 

However, that left me with another 6 eggs to play with. I looked through my craft box and discovered an old bottle of india ink that I'm sure was bought in college, used once for a project and never again. Lucky for me, apparently I thought it would come in handy one day. Unsure of what the ink would do on an egg, I dropped a single droplet onto the egg and watched it run and spread. Beautiful. 

The stark contrast of black on white was refreshing because it wasn't a pastel little pretty one. It was daring and bold and I loved the look of it. I even rolled three of the eggs in the ink until they were solid black (sadly only one of those survived) and looked like leather. 

I simply had fun making these eggs and never intended on making a parallel to the reason that I celebrate Easter. Let me just get that clear. However, as I sit here and roll these eggs around, the stark blots on a once spotless white egg remind me of the sin stains Jesus was marked with when he was on the cross. Our sinful human nature marked the son of God's body in the form of blood, in the form of our sins past and present, just like this oozing black ink marks these eggs. Jesus' life was without sin-a spotless white egg. He chose to take those sins upon himself and die for every person on this planet. This would have been simply a sweet gesture of a martyr had he not risen from the dead three days later. Thus, the reason I celebrate Easter. Not because I'm told to, have been taught to or feel like I have to. 

I celebrate it because I put a lot of ink blots on that spotless egg. My sin on a perfect son of God. As a Christian, I still do and probably always will put ink blots on that beautiful white egg. If my life started out as that pure white egg, I am sure over time it would eventually look more like the solid black egg covered up with something flashy like that hot pink neon. You won't notice the blackness with the cover up, right? It's not because I'm a bad person, it's simply because I am a person. I'm not perfect. I sin. 

Thank God Easter happened because now I know that no matter how much ink I put on that egg, it is only a shell. Thank God that there is still egg underneath that blackened shell that can be peeled away to reveal a shiny soft white egg with a yolk that is untouched. Thank God when one day I die, I know I will be with a living God who will crack my shell and peel it away to make me shiny, spotless and new. Thank you for allowing me to be unashamed and admit to you the parallels of an egg to my sin and my Savior. 

This post could have easily been simply how to ink blot an egg and you can still do just that. I encourage you to think about it though. Let's just get a little deeper and a little more real today. A little deeper than a cute bunny with a puffy tail and some plastic colorful eggs. Let's celebrate something real. 

-Laurie

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Tips for Balancing Your Life



I posted Monday about allowing yourself to breathe and not believing that you have to constantly be busy to be successful. Balance is the key to just about everything and if you start to feel overwhelmed, something in your life is off-balance. I recently did a 7 day cleanse and realized that even with that, I lacked balance. Yes, it got my eating and workout habits back on track but I craved carbs because I couldn’t have them. Now I am aware that I need protein and veggies and carbs to keep me sane and healthy. Sometimes I also need a cookie. Balance keeps you going, keeps you upright. I’m also aware I need time alone, time with people I love and time to hunker down and work. Balance also keeps your life steady. 
I’m still learning and allowing myself to breathe and balance. 
Here are some tips I do well with that helps me achieve life balance: 

Find a devotional, inspiring thought book or start a journal.
I don’t want something else I have to commit to, like a daily journal but I do enjoy reading a daily devotional because I can look at it quickly on my phone or computer and it stays with me for the rest of the day. It puts a positive spin on your day if you do it in the morning.

Make a To-Do List.
It helps to have what you have to do written down. It is so satisfying to me to check something off that it makes me want to do it. However, don’t just run your to-do list down with tasks. Add in fun things like take a relaxing bath, call best friend, watch Game of Thrones.
 
Be your biggest fan.
Every time you check something off of your to-do list, get a workout in or love your outfit (hey sometimes it’s the little things!), give yourself a wink in the mirror and tell yourself you’re awesome and worth it. 

Be kind to yourself.
We all have bad days and when so many things go wrong and you just feel off, tell yourself it’s okay. Not every single day of your life has to go smoothly. Enjoy even the hard moments and don’t put yourself down. 

Reserve one night a week for you.
It’s hard to say no to a friend who wants to last-minute grab a bite to eat when you just want some relaxation. Tell her how something stressed you out and tell her you just need to decompress. Instead of blowing her off, pick another time to grab dinner at your favorite place. Turn off your phone, computer and maybe even TV at a certain hour and just be with yourself. Read a book, take a bubble bath or sit outside with some chamomile tea and just think and be. 

Work before play.
Get everything you need to get done done. Then you can relax or play. That way when you are actually “playing” you don’t have to think about the next thing to do. You’ll be glad you did and will start to follow that pattern within your life. 


-Laurie

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tasty Tuesday: Angeled Eggs


Deviled eggs are such a spring time food in my mind. I don't like calling them deviled eggs though because I'm silly like that. I love the taste and enjoy having them at my grandparents' on Easter Sunday. I have never made them before, so I texted my grandmother the other day to see what her recipe was. She is of course much cooler than me, so she was out and about and didn't give me the full recipe...as in, no measurements. She did this with dressing for Thanksgiving too, so I'm wondering if this is a test. Gangie, I'm onto you. So I kind of had to wing it which is actually just bad news for you because in winging it, I didn't write down the measurements I used either. Since angels are mysterious and surprising we are going to call these "angeled eggs" and you can decide how much of each ingredient to use! wink.
-Laurie

Hard boiled eggs: Allow eggs to boil five minutes, cool 15 minutes and then put in cold water for easy peeling!

1/2 lemon juiced
dill relish (wickles pickles was what I used)
salt
pepper
whole grain mustard
mayonnaise (I used a vegan mayo for lower calories)

After eggs are cool, slice length wise down the middle, scoop out yolk with a spoon carefully. Mash all yolks together and mix with remaining ingredients. Scoop about a teaspoon full into the egg and top with paprika. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Moment of Truth:


It's time to get real for a moment. Close your eyes and take three deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Smile. Breathe and allow your mind to have a moment of peace away from thoughts that run your world. Let's start the week off to positive start. 

Sometimes I think we need to step away from a round up of great kitchen items and how-tos and just be real for a second. If you noticed my absence on the blog last week, here’s why:

I’ve been going through a season of being hard on myself: feeling bad about gaining a few pounds, not working out enough, slipping up on my diet plan, feeling like no one likes me because of silly things I make up, pushing to be busy so that I feel successful (when I really am just ignoring the real problem) and not giving 100% to any one thing. 

As a result, I have worn myself out and spread myself too thin. I need to get down and dirty to make Fanciful Ink a success and really devote time to it more than I have (which has actually been a lot) but I also need to know when to chill out in the evenings. I have conditioned myself to think that if I’m not doing something, I am simply being lazy. Let me just say this: I think that being lazy is good for us sometimes. We need those moments to decompress and look at our lives.

Our world is so busy all the time. It seems like busy=success. That is certainly a huge lie we are telling ourselves. Busy is just making us look like we are important. Importance leads to comparison of others who are “busy” (read: successful) and we put ourselves down so much that our self worth is measured in how many things you can pack into one day.

I was trying to be a good Barre Amped teacher, run this blog with fresh content that was interesting and build up my business. I was never giving 100% to any one of those things. I started to dread Barre Amped, felt burdened coming up with a fabulous post and overwhelmed by business in general. 

At the beginning of March, I knew something had to go or had to be redefined. This past week I have allowed myself to cleanse-in many ways. After being a Tone It Up member for years now, I finally did the seven day slim down. I had been feeling some extra weight and generally just felt icky. Sticking to the plan was much harder than expected, especially from days 5-7 when I just wanted a piece of bread. This past week I also switched up my teaching schedule at Barre Amped. Now I start my weeks off with ladies who are inspiring in their strength and a joy to be around. That leaves the rest of my week free to tackle Fanciful Ink projects, spend time with my husband, do housework and in general have time to simply be. I took a little break from the blog as well hoping to find inspiration and come up with ideas to showcase on here. 

My results? Well, I slimmed down. I don’t know if others will notice but I do and my husband does and I feel better. What did I learn? Balance is key when it comes to diet and exercise. I do my best to eat clean and I hope to keep that up but I also think cheat meals are necessary. They keep you sane. Don’t beat yourself up over some cheese dip at the Mexican place or a piece of cake at a friend’s birthday. If you keep up a generally healthy lifestyle the rest of the time, those little treats are ones to savor. With my new class schedule at Barre Amped I felt refreshed and it started off my week with a very positive tone of strength and has helped me be more adamant about a workout schedule. I have started to wrap up some design projects, spent some time with my husband for longer than a couple of hours at night and in general have relaxed

The result from my week of cleansing was balance. Thank God. I needed it to find it. I think I will still be working on it but I need to enjoy my obligations and find delight in moments that are mundane or that I would normally dread. I challenged myself to do that this week and with our 100 happy days challenge as well, it’s working. It just takes commitment to find the best balance possible for your life. Let some things go, rearrange and allow yourself to breathe. When we are suffocated by all these different things that threaten to kill our joy, we die inside and become apathetic. 

I’ll have a post later this week on tips to balance your life. Thank you for reading, I know this was a long post and it didn’t involve anything pretty! 

Breathe, balance and find the beauty in all the moments of your day this week. 

-Laurie

Friday, April 11, 2014

Thank Goodness I Found: Festival Fashions


TGIF people! I am so excited to welcome this weekend! I am dreaming of my outdoor projects and being in the sun!

We are excited about the April Festivals ahead of us and are looking forward to bringing our airier clothes out of hiding. If you can't quite shake winter weather fashion out of your mind our TGIF post is here to help this week. Bring on the color and walk-able wear! I love that hats are in fashion lately...you can never over-protect yourself from the sun. Don't get so excited about seeing that sun that you forget to protect against it! The older you will be thankful. 

Get out and find yourself roaming through a festival this weekend! 

P.S. I know it looks like there is a random photo of tulips included...it is the Tulip Festival in Skagit, Washington. I must go! Be sure to find us on Pinterest if you want to find out more about the photos. 

-Alison & Laurie


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Recent Work: Alison McQuain Photography


I am so thankful to say that things have been a bit busy in my world. Sweet couples have welcomed sweet little ones and families have shared some time with me. My clients are the best.

Visit my website or facebook if you would like to see more.

-Alison

Miss Berkley Grace joined the Ragon family 



The Shelton Family awaited the arrival of their little one





And then came Mr. Ian Hugh




I kept up with the Joneses in Paducah







 

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