The Jealous Crumpet

A sweet little blog


2 Comments

Photography Lessons with TBEX

This week my hometown of Huntsville, AL is hosting TBEX (Travel Bloggers Expo), a group of professional travel bloggers coming together to explore a new destination, listen to speakers and make connections. I was one of the lucky few that got to attend a Travelography Workshop with esteemed travel photographer Ajay Sood at the Huntsville Botanical Gardens. It was an amazing workshop and I won’t do the disservice of giving away all of Ajay’s secrets (take a workshop with him, you won’t regret it), but here are two assignments he gave us in the workshop.

Here’s the little birds! Aren’t they adorable!

The first one was to create a multi image photo essay that had a cohesive theme. I covered the gorgeous butterfly garden, which opened a couple of weeks ago.  I spent an hour in there and got to see mating turtles, mating butterflies, these flightless birds (they weren’t mating, but probably had just finished up), tons of flowers, a waterfall, happy people and more.

First assignment:   

The second one was to great a stand alone image. A birdy in a bottle tree.

This first day of the workshop was so good, I can’t wait to see what the rest of it holds.


Leave a comment

Full Japanese Breakfast!

IMG_1118Last year my husband and I took a trip to Japan and had a thrilling 3 weeks there. We visited Kyoto and stayed at a traditional ryokan, (inn). Staying in the ryokan was an amazing/overwhelming experience that included getting naked in public (a story for another day), a 12-course dinner, beautiful sites and a traditional Japanese breakfast. We ate numerous meals, but the ryokan was the most interesting. IMG_3165The hubs and I visited the Otagi Nenbutsu-ji temple, which is a buddhist temple with over 1,000 quirky and interesting statues. We LOVED it! The statues were placed in 1981, so they aren’t particularly ancient, but they are still wonderful.Untitled-1I was especially happy to find a statue holding a camera. A kindred spirit!IMG_0968After site seeing we had a lovely experience at the ryokan and the next morning we were given the choice of a ‘western’ or ‘japanese’ breakfast.  We laughed at the stupid westerners that couldn’t handle a Japanese breakfast and promptly opted for the most traditional breakfast possible! It seemed like a great idea until we sat down to the table and had NO idea what were were about to eat.    Untitled-4I love trying new things, but this was definitely out of my comfort zone. You know that experience you have when you got to a fancy restaurant and suddenly realize there is much more cutlery than you are know what to do with. Why are there 4 forks, what is this mini plate for, am I supposed to use the small spoon for dessert, soup… ? This was just a taste of what it was like to eat traditional japanese breakfast. There were so many plates and ornate boxes with little treasures inside. I didn’t what was garnishment or food.  At one point I managed to ask what to do with this cup of liquid only to discover it was just a cup of tea, which was the only thing I knew what to do with. It was beautiful and amazing, but we had no idea what were eating and what sauce went with what. IMG_1116_2A lot of it was delicious, but a lot of it we weren’t  sure about. This could have been because  we were pairing sauces with the wrong food. I did recognize rice, soy sauce, fish (pretty sure) and maybe.. tofu.  Untitled-2The service was impeccable. Though the employees didn’t speak English, and we struggled with awful Japanese, they still took care of our every need and made it a great experience for us.  Untitled-3The view was so beautiful it was surreal. Boats floated by and I kept feeling like I’d fallen into a movie. It was one of the highlights of our trip!IMG_1136We were awkward and confused, but I would do it again in a heartbeat.


2 Comments

Hideous Photos from a Professional Food Photographer

This past weekend I got the opportunity to go to the International Associate of Culinary Professional’s (IACP) annual conference in Louisville, Kentucky. (I drank SO much bourbon!). The conference is a great opportunity for people in all sectors of the culinary field to come together, learn some things, network, meet your culinary idols and of course, eat lots of amazing food. Oh yeah, and the bourbon. IMG_5695Of course, being at a conference with some of the world’s top food photographers/stylists/writers I wanted to be able to put a good foot forward and have some nice images of the conference, but this was not to be the case. I’m not really the most responsible of adults and last year I broke the camera on my phone. I’m not really sure how it happened, but I have a general idea. My husband couldn’t believe that such an expensive phone could break so easily, but when I went to pull my phone out of my purse and accidentally flung it 9 feet across the parking lot he pondered no more.

I did not want to lug my real camera to the conference and the selfie mode of my phone still works, so I just figured I could take lots of selfies to illustrate my experience.  This let to a whole slew of really shitty photographs. I’ve been following the other conference attendee’s beautiful imagery and I’ve got to say it is pretty humbling to present you with this ugly pics.  Enjoy!  4Yikes! That’s super rough. It is seriously hard to take a photo of food when you:

A. Can’t see the image on the screen

B. Can’t zoom in

C. And are shooting with a 1.2 mp camera that does terrible in low light and is clearly meant for portrait mode. 5These were the very best images. Yes, seriously. There are actually images much worse than this crap. 8These are not as bad, to be clear they are not good, but not as bad. You should have seen the confused looks while I was trying to take a photo with my phone facing the wrong way, while hanging over the top and putting fun shadows all over the place. IMG_5667People would ask why I did and when I said I was a food photographer the response was ‘Oh wow.. really?’

The conference itself was excellent. I saw a free friends, met a lot of new people and learned a lot. It was my first trip to Louisville and I throughly enjoyed it.  My husband and I are already making plans to revisit.  I especially want to visit Dinosaur World and the Patton Museum. They weren’t in Louisville city limits, but not far from it.  Also the KFC Museum, how can that be anything less than awesome.

The other awesome thing about the conference was the swag! I’m actually not a huge fan of swag, but there was some primo stuff a this thing. Such as packages of California figs and fig BBQ sauce.IMG_5721I also picked up a potato doll called a Spuddy Buddy! Hilarious! Also, sad that I have the fashion sense of a potato.

I picked it up from my friend’s children, but then I realized the Spud and I had the same shoes! I might keep him now. I mean we have the same shoes! IMG_5737I also got an Anolon frying pan, a yogurt carrier, a cute back of chips, a nice wine opener.. There were also lots of snacks.  My favorite were the kiwi berries, which are essentially mini hairless kiwis. 6I enjoyed the Hillshire small plates while watching Knocked Up at midnight.  I party hard. IMG_5841  I stayed at two different hotels over the 4 days there, and they were great, but my view was less than picturesque. IMG_5879It could be a postcard couldn’t it! Who needs a mountain view when you have a construction site or parking garage?IMG_5664They did make my towel into a swan, so that made up for the view.. a bit.

IMG_5735IMG_5704My husband didn’t get to come with me, so I spent much of the weekend sending him photos of the fun times I was having.  On Saturday I was looking so pulled together with my scarf, make-up and Starbucks so I sent him a photo of it.

When he saw the photo he said it didn’t look a thing like me. Jeez! Why do I even bother. Later that night I sent a ‘regular’ photo with Spuddy Buddies on my head.

On the last day of the conference I went to The Palace for an awards ceremony. Swank!Untitled-1 copyIt was really nice and I got to finally hang out with some friends I’d been missing for most of the conference. IMG_5804Then I packed up all my stuff, grabbed a banana for a road snack and too one last shitty photo of myself before heading back to Alabama. I hope you enjoyed the noisy, blurry, badly cropped awful images. IMG_5878


Leave a comment

Tom’s Commemorative Wall

1Though I lived in the Muscle Shoals area for a number of years, I did not visit Tom Hendrix’s Wichahpi Commemorative  Wall until last year. For those of your unfamiliar with the wall, it started with Alabama-native Tom Hendrix hearing stories about his great-great-grandmother Te-lah-nay, a native American living in Alabama in the 1800s. Te-lah-nay was part of the Yuchi tribe and in one of the worse atrocities committed in the United States, she and other native people were abducted from their homes and marched to Oklahoma along a route now known as the Trail of Tears. Many Native Americans died, but Te-lah-nay not only survived but walked all the way back home to Alabama, by herself! The journey took 5 years, but Te-lah-nay said she heard the Tennessee River singing for her to come home so she just kept on going. Tom was in such awe of her strength and her journey that he wanted to do something to commemorate her. So he build a wall. But that is a complete understatement, because he spent thirty years building the largest mortarless wall in the United States. The wall has over 8.5 million pounds of stone and is the largest monument build for a Native American woman. 3The wall is amazing and draws visitors from all over the world. Numerous Native American tribes have visited, priests from China have hung red ribbons in the trees, a Benedictine priest left carved statues, and visitor have left little trinkets throughout the area. It is a holy, sacred place, that celebrates humanity, strength, courage and unity.1y2b7184

But more than the wall, was the man behind it, Tom.  When you visit Tom would come out of his house, usher you to a folding chair, sit down in his green, plastic lawn chair and tell you the story of his great-great grandmother, the wall, himself, and anything else you wanted to know. He’s show you different parts of the wall, point out interesting memento’s left behind and answer every question. It was truly a spiritual experience and you left striving to be a better person. 6I visited the wall twice, once with my husband and once with my mother.2The second time was last April and Tom spent so much time with my mother and me. He went into his house and brought out beautiful pine needle baskets and the stone that his great-great-grandmother had carried with her. 1y2b7162He told us Native American stories from his childhood and discussed the herbs and teachers and language and so many more things. I had hoped to revisit Tom, but sadly he passed away last weekend.    5He is a great loss to the world, but I know that he touched many lives, including my own.  4Rest in Peace Mr. Hendrix and thank-you for creating something so beautiful. 7


6 Comments

Prohibition Tunnel and Pecans Galore

Untitled-1Several weeks ago, I read a newspaper article about a prohibition-era hidden tunnel underneath a pecan shop in Decatur, AL. I knew as soon as I read the article I knew I had to investigate. I trekked out the Tennessee Valley Pecan Co. and popped into the shop.5The shop itself it well worth the trip, even without the secret booze den. The pecan company sells a large variety of the most delicious pecans, coffee, and Piper & Leaf teas.  1Y2B2875The shop is adorable with many squirrel themed products. I also learned that there are numerous types of pecans.  Who knew?! 2I ordered a coffee and some dark chocolate pecans and asked to see the secret tunnel.  3Owner David Armistead was very obliging and explained to me how they found the tunnel, a bit of its history and what was down there. 7He showed me to the tunnel which they left exposed with a piece of plexiglass over the top.  Through the hole you can see the scary rickety ladder, whiskey crates, and remaining prohibition debris. 10David kindly invited me to come back on a different day to go down into the tunnel.  I’ll admit it was a pretty scary hole to go into.  I was glad I had been working out because if I was any wider I would not have fit in.  6It was super thrilling and a bit scary.  We found old beer bottles, whiskey boxes and even pecan shells.8It was also an adventure to get myself, camera, and tripod down this very steep ladder. 9

4


1 Comment

Strawberry Pickin’ at Brown’s Farm

Brown's Farm‘Tis the season to pick strawberries. Last week I went headed to New Market with my friend and her almost three-year old to have a berry picking adventure. We went to North Alabama icon Brown’s Farm and it lived up to my high expectations. 1Y2B3362It had a restroom, very important when traveling with a toddler. That was our first stop.  Our second stop was a cute, little cabin to buy jams, honey and to get our strawberry picking buckets.  1Buckets in hand and hats on head we headed to the fields and started eating… I mean gathering strawberries.  Some of us were a bit better at collecting strawberries than others, but there was a particular member of our picking party that ate far more than he put in the bucket.4Please note the very emptiness of his bucket!  5Eventually he realized that strawberry picking was very similar to Easter Egg hunting and got onboard.  1Y2B3319The fields were nice, accessible and the attendant pointed us the best section to pick berries.1Y2B3355After buying store-bought berries I sometimes I forget how strawberries are supposed to taste: sweet and juicy with a hint of tartness at the very end. In other words perfection.  2We picked for about an hour and had three very full buckets of nature’s candy, but as it approach noon it got hot and we started to wither.  1Y2B3372We didn’t bring lunch with us, but the farm had a lovely covered picnic area.7I fully planned to come up with a recipe for the strawberries but we ate them all before I had a chance.  Sometimes it’s just best to eat them as is.6


2 Comments

Eating In London:Westminster Arms

Untitled-1

Mary Poppins has been digitally added to this photograph in order to create a more accurate view of the London skyline.

Over the Christmas holidays my husband, my sister-in-law and I jetted away for a whirlwind, two day trip to London. We were going to spend several days in the city, but (London Fun Fact) the trains shut down on Christmas Eve Eve (Dec. 23rd) so we shortened the trip.

Since we only had two days we hit the highlights and stuck to the most stereotypically touristy parts of London: Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, fish and chips, tea, etc., but it was still immensely fun.

Now let’s be honest, Great Britain isn’t exactly known for their culinary prowess. True they have tea, scones, and fish and chips, all of which are lovely, but they also have a mysterious, slightly scary, tar-like substance called Marmite, which I’ve gathered you eat on toast (Is it like jam or closer to peanut butter?) and Stargazy Pie, which maybe delicious, but honestly just looks terrifying. (Are you supposed to eat the fish heads?) My point being, I had very mixed expectations when it came to English cuisine.

Baked_stargazy_pie

By Krista – Baked Stargazy Pie Uploaded by Diadoco, CC by 2.0

I am happy to report that most of the dishes were wonderfully delicious and I would eat them again.  That being said, I played it pretty safe and avoided the fish head pies and jellied eels (look it up).

2

A view of what my husband was convinced was London Bridge, but was in fact not London Bridge. It was London Bridge adjacent.

In the morning went sightseeing, shot the obligatory photo at Big Ben, toured Westminster Abbey with an audio recording by Jeremy Irons (fancy), complained about the pesky tourists (Wow, Americans are SO loud! Sorry rest of the world), and in general enjoyed this wonderful, exciting city.

When we finally decided to stop for lunch we had no plan, so we picked the first interesting place we across: Westminster Arms. Apparently we picked well because in addition to being frequented by politicians and journalists, it has also been visited by Desmond Tutu, Angelina Jolie and Bill Clinton. All of this I learned after I got back to the States.Untitled-1We walked downstairs to the crowded restaurant portion of the pub and I fully expected to be turned away or a long wait.

“Are you here to eat?” asked a man brusquely.  He definitely seemed like the owner, so from henceforth I will refer to him as such.

“Yes” I answered.  I reined in my Americanness and said it with polite, deference rather than the exuberant, enthusiasm I’m used to in the States. Polite, deference would never fly at T.G.I.Fridays. They waitstaff would harass you until you faked absolute bliss to be eating artichoke dip. Being an American can be exhausting, who wants to be that upbeat and energetic all the time.

The owner walked up to a table filled with pint sipping patrons and said to the people “These people are eating, you need to leave.”

My husband and I were shocked, but the people seemed to take it in stride, got up and headed upstairs so we could take their table.  I guess it is tavern protocol.

I ordered the most tourist dish possible, fish and chips, which was more for the mashed peas than the fish and chips. I’ve tasted canned Mushy, which I wasn’t a fan off, but it made me want to try the real stuff. As I suspected, real mushy peas are delicious! Of course the fish and chips were also wonderful. 9My husband went for the second most touristy dish, bangers and mash, which was also quite good. I’d like to visit again and try something less obvious, but overall everything was well-cooked and plated.   Untitled-1a The tavern itself was nice with booths, tables and a bar at the front. Everything was covered in wood and complimented with appropriate art and decor.

The ladies’ toilets were also an adventure.  There was a sink with two facets: one for hot water and one for cold water, but none for comfortable temperature water.  I’ve been told this is fairly common in Great Britain, but this was the only sink I encountered like this, granted I was only there for 2 days.IMG_2737The restroom also had charming wall art to keep you entertained during your visit. IMG_2736I’m not sure what ‘cor scrummy’ means but I take it to mean something good.  ‘Sexy’ maybe, ‘tasty’, it’s possible.  If anyone knows please feel free to educate me.