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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tasty Tuesday: Spring Pasta

I finally had a small to-do list this weekend and was able to enjoy preparing a meal with pasta as the star. I haven’t had pasta in a really long time and reserve it for a treat. I love pasta with just olive oil rather than a sauce so that you can really taste the flavor of your ingredients. We paired this with some merlot, ciabatta bread, olive oil for dipping with seasoning, olives and a balsamic salad. It was so good and exactly what I had been craving all day. This was also the first time I cooked artichokes. I always love them in pasta so I wanted to try it fresh rather than from a jar. I’m not sure I will always go to the trouble of doing that, but it was fun to experiment with. 

1 Artichoke
1 Chicken Breast
1 Lemon Wedge
1 Tbs olive oil & 1 Tbs herbs
Red Pepper, julienned
Sundried tomatoes
Olives, pitted
Mozarella, cut into tiny pieces and tossed with a few drops of balsamic
Parmesan shreds
Pasta, whatever you prefer

Start with your artichoke. Cut off the pointed in with a sharp knife. Snip off the tip of each “scale” on the artichoke. Cut in half, scoop out the fuzzy middle until the cavity is empty. Rub your lemon wedge on all the tips you cut off. Steam both halves of the artichoke for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, place red peppers in a bag with vegetable oil and a little bit of red wine and balsamic. Shake it up to mix in the liquid, then spread peppers out on a baking sheet and bake at 450 for about 45 minutes or until roasting spots appear. Season your chicken lightly with garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper and a little bit of olive oil. Put the chicken on the grill for about 10-15 minutes while your artichoke steams. Take artichoke out of steamer and brush the mix of 1 Tbs olive oil and herbs onto the steamed artichoke. Transfer to the grill when you flip your chicken to the other side. 
Boil your pasta of choice. I don’t have a clue what mine was since it was a tri-color pasta and the packaging was all in Italian! Drain pasta and mix together the rest of your ingredients-mozarella, olives, sundried tomatoes and red peppers. 
When you take your chicken and artichoke off the grill, chop them up and mix in with the rest of your ingredients. Add in your pasta and toss with olive oil and parmesan.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Tasty Tuesday: Berry Breakfast

Your breakfast just got more indulgent, thanks to Fraiche Nutrition's Almond Berry Breakfast Bar. I wanted something new for breakfast, so I tried this awesome blueberry, almond and oat bar recipe. I've never made anything like this before so it surprised me how well it didn't turn out too pretty but it doesn't really matter when it's incredibly tasty, right? 
2 ½ cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1 cup fresh or frozen cherries
1/3 cup sugar
5 tsp. corn starch
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 cup crushed up almonds
2 ½ cups old fashioned oats
½ cup flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
½ cup sliced almonds
½ cup honey
1/3 cup melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla

  1. Preheat oven to 325F and line a 9×13” baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the blueberries, cranberries, sugar, corn starch, lemon juice and lemon zest.
  3. In a separate large bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients until well combined. Set aside ¾ cup of this mixture in a separate bowl.
  4. Press the remaining oatmeal mixture firmly in the prepared baking pan (press this down as well as you can to make it compact).
  5. Spread the berry mixture evenly over the top of the prepared crust, and sprinkle the reserved crumb mixture evenly over the berries.
  6. Bake for approximately 45 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the berries have cooked down.
  7. Cool in the pan and cut into bars once completely cooled.

Friday, March 20, 2015

TGIF: Thank Goodness I Found Spring Curb Appeal!

Happy Spring! Not only is it a warmer, NEW's Friday! So of course, we are geared up to jump into spring with some pins to inspire some fresh curb appeal. I know my front stoop needs some sprucing up right now and with this collection of ideas from our Pinterest board I'm sure I can find some pinspiration for something beautiful!

-Alison & Laurie

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Magical Flowers

Last week my parents, husband and I went to Disney World. We got to all be kids again and get excited about seeing Mickey Mouse and being swept up in the magic that happens when you are there. I think it may even be way more fun to go as an adult because you see the detail and special touches that surrounds you. I grew up in the Disney Renaissance-Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Lion King, etc.-and I don't think those tales get old even when you are pushing 30. This was the first time my husband has been to Disney since he was a kid so it was almost all new to him. We had perfect weather and so much fun. Even though it is close to spring break time and the parks are starting to get crowded this time of year, I love going in March or April because it is the wonderful Epcot Flower and Garden Festival. I am always amazed at what these artists can do to bring a character you are so familiar with to life in the form of flowers and living elements. These photos are just a few of the ones that are there.


Elsa & Anna-I loved how Elsa's flowers were all "frozen" white while Anna's were the colors of her gown.

The Beast & Belle outside of Paris in the World Showcase

Snow White with the Seven Dwarfs behind her in Germany in the World Showcase

Baby Simba & Rafiki at the African Outpost

Tinkerbell graced the entrance of a butterfly garden...PS-I took a test to see who my Disney character was at Disney and apparently, I'm Tink!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Tasty Tuesday: Saint Patrick's Day and Corned Beef

What do you celebrate on Saint Patrick's Day? Or do you know why it is celebrated at all?

Well, I've got a few answers for you. Saint Patrick's Day (or the Feast of Saint Patrick) is celebrated every year on March 17th as the anniversary of Saint Patrick's death. Saint Patrick is a patron saint of Ireland. St. Patrick introduced many in Ireland to Christianity. I also found that the clover comes into play with this holiday as it was a plant found in Ireland that St. Patrick could use to explain the Holy Trinity in the story of Christ. And the color green has always been synonymous with Ireland. I've never been there but I hear it makes sense.

Why have we translated this holiday into pub crawls and celebrations? March 17th falls within the days of Lent and on March 17th all restrictions of diets and alcohol are lifted in celebration. So, of course a lot of us Westerners have taken that tradition to another level.

This year I am going to celebrate with a little corned beef and cabbage. I've found that this isn't a traditional Irish meal served on St. Patrick's Day but it is a dish that Irish-Americans created and ate often as it was an affordable meal. I've never made this before but I found an easy crock-pot cooking style that I thought must be pretty fool proof. I've also enlisted the help of Willie's Butcher Shop who has already "corned" my meat (aka brined in pickling spices of his choosing).  Mine is cooking today so hopefully I will find that I did everything correctly tonight!

Try this recipe and check this video out to see how easy it is.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Musical Monday: Big Ears 2015

Knoxville may not have a music scene known by the masses like Nashville does, however, when Big Ears happens (March 27-29, 2015) people flock to our little Scruffy City. And rightfully so. This eclectic festival has a lineup unmatched by other festivals. I'm not talking about hugely famous pop artists all under one roof...I'm talking about musical perspectives from all walks of life. If you are interested in expanding your horizons or hearing something you've never heard before Big Ears is just the place for you.

The hardest task in attending this festival will be planning your schedule. I've included the Big Ears 2014 video snapshot.

Here is a list of a few artist we plan to see this year:

The Bad Plus
Max Richter
Jamie XX
Kronos Quartet
Nels Cline
Rhiannon Giddens


Friday, March 13, 2015

Thank Goodness I Found: Blush in the House!

In looking forward to Friday this week I was also thinking about the warmer weather we have been having lately. One of my daffodils has already bloomed! I don't usually dream of bright colors and warm, sunny days but this gray winter has just about done everyone in. So, I was thinking about freshening up my home and what that would look like. Initially I was thinking bright, bold accents. Then, then something happened. For the first time in my life I started dreaming of blush in my home. Essentially pink! What has come over me?! Then I wondered how it would look from the eyes of a modern designer.

Guys, I am in love. Blush doesn't have to mean pepto-bismol . These ideas are so clean, fresh and lovely. I'm now reminding myself that I rent my home and I can't paint and repaint every other day.

Happy Friday!


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Alison McQuain Photography: For Every Season Sessions

I've got a new and really exciting session opportunity for clients! For Every Season is something that came from one quick session.

The Hewitt family recently invited me to take a few photos of them in the recent snow. Mary Catherine has been wanting to get some photos of a route that she and her little man walk regularly and the For Every Season Session was born. I will join their family four times this year in the same spot for a mini session. The Hewitts will be able to look back on 2015 and watch their growth during each season of the year.

I am incredibly excited about this adventure we are embarking on. The result is going to be so much fun!! We all know little ones grow quickly but after their For Every Season session is complete we will really see how much he has grown! Such a dream to live life with a family and document every day moments that aren't staged or forced. And side-note: the price of For Every Season is cheaper than any other package when you look at the cost for each session(!).

Thanks to the Hewitts for joining me on this journey! And if you are interested in this option shoot me a Facebook message (I'll travel!)! And visit my blog for more images from their session!


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Tasty Tuesday: Spring Forward Energy Boost

From our #100happypearls challenge last year
So, if you're anything like me you are loving the extra hour or so of sunlight at the end of the day but are having the hardest time getting out of bed in the morning and staying awake in the afternoon. Welcome to the early stages of Spring. As exciting as it is I dread the time-change week every year. Every year. I need sunlight to get me out of bed in the mornings. 

In thinking of all of this and of Tasty Tuesday I thought we would think a bit about energy boosting foods. Some things that might help us get through the adjustment week and on to the joys of Spring evenings. I did a little poking around on the world wide web and found the following tips. had some good thoughts. And these are all good diet habits in general of course. 

  • Iron: Try to pump your diet full of iron. Leafy greens, beans, lentils, broccoli, etc. 
  • Vitamin C: mentioned this would help your body absorb the iron. Think citrus fruit, that same broccoli and spinach from your iron intake, berries, tomatoes, etc.
  • Balanced diet: fruits & veggies, whole grains, lean protein, fatty plant-based foods (nuts, seeds, coconut oil, avocados, cocoa nibs), herbs & spices
  • Always eat breakfast: And apply the tips from balanced diet. Think about energy producing grains like this quinoa or protein-filled yogurt with fruit and nuts.
  •  Skip caffeine and sugar: Both of these pick you up and let you crash hard. And there isn't any nutrition from either. 
  • Whole foods: Laurie and I preach this regularly. The fewer processed foods the better. If you don't know any ingredient or couldn't make it at home it probably isn't great for you.  
  • Good Fats: Keep good fats like the "fatty plant-based foods" listed above as well as fatty fish like salmon or tuna. Tuna salad is a cheap and easy weekday lunch.
I hope this is helpful! Maybe you learned something new or were reminded to put that soda down. Either way I hope you get more energy and are able to get out of bed in the mornings quicker than I am. That only means hitting snooze two times instead of four. Baby steps. Baby steps.

Happy Spring Forward!


Monday, March 9, 2015

Recent work: AMP

This sweet girl turned one a little while back and I'm so glad I found myself in her house again. This sweet family has allowed me to document their life for just over a year now. It has been one of the most fun experiences. I'm so thankful for her parents welcoming me into their lives. Thanks to her winter birthday and frigid temperatures we had a make-shift studio set up in the living room. Her parent's humored my interesting set up.

After having spent a number of hours in their home I got to know, Newman, their sweet pup. Unfortunately, Newman went to doggie heaven recently and I am so glad we got some recent photos with this guy. Sending my love to Addison, her mommy and daddy as they miss their furry friend.

Happy first year of life Addison! We are all looking forward to watching you grow!


This is Addison humoring me for a second.

Friday, March 6, 2015

TGIF: Thank Goodness I Found Watercolor Flowers

Let's leave all this snow, ice and cold behind! It's time for some flowers to cheer us all up and looking forward to spring in a few weeks. I rounded up some watercolor florals to brighten up...goodbye winter, hello spring.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Golden Invitation

Gold is very on-trend now in many aspects of design-home decor, jewelry, hardware, and now weddings. I love the simple, elegant color that can be paired with so many other colors. I have had several brides choose ivory or white with gold and the look is flawless. Here are some of my past golden invitations.
Photography by Alison McQuain

My invitation

April & Matthew

Andrea & Bryce

Ali & Chase

Mary Lauren & Daniel

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Tasty Tuesday: The Just Ripe Breakfast

My name is Alison and I am addicted to the Just Ripe Dixie Biscuit. And thanks to a visit last Fall, Laurie is too. So you don't live in Knoxville? No worries. I am here to help you recreate this masterpiece. It won't be a perfect rendition but it will be close.

Just Ripe is the perfect spot in my opinion. When we are craving a good brunch/lunch on the weekend (or whenever really) we hit this place often. The Dixie Biscuit is a perfect combination of sweet, spicy and savory wrapped in on delectable biscuit.

This delectable biscuit is made complete with pimento cheese, bacon, and pepper jelly. I always have them add a bit of their egg frittata as well. We made our own version with a bagel this past weekend. Whatever the carb of choice, just add the other ingredients and you will be golden. Benton's bacon is an ingredient all East Tennesseers use.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Musical Monday: Natalie Prass

So many fun records are being released as of late. And I've got another one for ya. Natalie Prass released a new self-title album recently that is quite, quite good. I've listed to it almost non-stop over the last couple of weeks. 

Natalie has a ton of tour dates and is currently across the pond touring with Ryan Adams. She'll be back stateside on March 21 for a show with Son Lux in New Orleans and has so many other dates following. A couple being at the Ryman in Nashville (where she lived during my college days). 

Take a listen and find her at a venue near you!


March Calendar

Guess what...this month spring will be here! I am normally a fan of winter and all its coziness but after the ice storm in Nashville that seemed to linger and continue to threaten us with winter weather, I am ready for some colorful flowers and warmth. For now, as we transition from one season to another, use your calendar to count down those days! Photo by the one and only Alison McQuain herself, download your cal here!


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