Friday, May 28, 2010

Photography 101

In our May Issue, one of our wonderful photographers wrote a great article on how to make your photography better. Here is an excerpt from her article.

With summer vacation just around the corner, you’ll certainly want to capture those moments on film. Here, Tennessee photographer Sarah Dobbins shares her expert tips on how to get to know your camera and snap the best shot.
Text Sarah Dobbins | PHOTOGRAPHY Sarah Dobbins

Over the past decade, digital photography has slowly begun to eclipse film photography as the medium of choice for beginner and professional photographers alike. One benefit of digital photography to the beginner is the ability to practice, practice, practice—and not pay a fortune for film and developing. Another advantage is the instant-gratification peek at the shot you just took, and the chance to experiment with settings and techniques and see the results right away. Here are some quick tips to get the most out of your digital SLR (single-lens reflex) camera:

Learn the basics. Get a good grasp on the three big settings you can control to change the look of your picture: ISO, shutter speed and aperture.
ISO: Similar to film speed, ISO reflects how sensitive your camera sensor is to light. Just like with film, a lower number is for brighter light. A higher number is for more dim light.
Shutter speed: This number is the length of time your shutter is open to capture your subject. A fast shutter speed will freeze motion; a slow shutter speed will cause any moving object to be blurred.
Aperture: How wide your lens opens affects the amount of light that enters your camera, and also can make your background blurred or sharp. A low number (wide aperture) gives you a lot of blur; a high number (narrow aperture) will cause more things to be in focus.
There are many resources to learn more about ISO, shutter speed and aperture, and how these settings interact with and affect each other; oftentimes your camera’s manual is a great place to start! Even so, one of the best ways to learn how these factors affect your photos is to get some hands-on experimentation. Practice in a controlled setting—in a bright, evenly lit room, for example—and see how changing these settings affects your final photo.

TIP: ISO 100, f/3.5, 1/320s Widening your aperture gives you a blurred background—and a creative kick to the standard portrait!

For more tips and amazing photography from Sarah pick up our May issue, out now!

Friday, May 21, 2010

What We're Reading

The Aqua Net Diaries:
Big Hair, Big Dreams, Small Town
By: Jennifer Niven
Simon and Schuster

What were you like in high school? Did you have dreams of becoming famous? Were you boy crazy? Did you have big 1980s hair? If you were Jennifer McJunkin (author Jennifer Niven’s real last name) the answer to these questions is “Yes, yes and definitely yes!” Jennifer recounts her hilarious and crazy life as a teenager in Richmond, Indiana, where she attended high school, in her memoir The Aqua Net Diaries.

In the book, Jennifer introduces readers to her best friend Joey, the “king and queen” of her high school class and her many crushes and boyfriends. Through her real high school notes to and from friends, discussions she recorded (Jennifer kept everything from high school to help her someday biographer, since she was sure she would be famous) and with pictures and stories she wrote, the author recounts the life of a teenager who wants to get out of her too-small town, but also wants nothing more than to feel she fits in.

No matter where you went to high school, there is some element in this memoir to which you can relate. Whether it is the memory of the big hair, the feeling that you didn’t belong or just the crazy antics of high school, Jennifer’s memories will take you back to your own experience, and make you realize, as Jennifer says, “...high school is really much the same everywhere.”

For an interview with author Jennifer Niven, pick up a copy of our May issue, out now!

Spa Party!

Mother's Day may have passed, but it is always a good time to throw a spa party! Stephanie, our entertaining expert, threw the perfect spa party for our May issue. Here is some of her article.

A mother/daughter spa party is a great way for women to celebrate Mother’s Day or any day, in fact. Why not invite several generations of your family and spend a day getting pampered and enjoying each other’s company? It can be as easy as a phone call to your local spa for reservations or as budget-friendly as setting one up in your home. Whichever route you decide to go, enjoy the relaxing time with family and friends! All of us need some time in our lives to slow down and be pampered.
If you decide to host the party at your home, try hiring professionals to perform the spa services. Good sources to contact are a local beauty school, an aesthetician school or your favorite spa or nail salon to see if they’ll come do a private home party. Oftentimes, if the party happens outside of peak business times, you’ll be able to book a team of professionals to come to your house. If hiring professionals isn’t in your budget, don’t hesitate to give each other manicures, pedicures and facials with the great mask recipes that follow.

Broccoli Cheddar Quiche
Pimento Cheese in Mini Tartlet Shells
Pasta Salad
Fruit Skewers in Watermelon “Boat”
Crudite Shooters
Chocolate Covered Strawberries with White Chocolate Drizzle
Custom Smoothie Bar

Setting the Scene
Transform a living room or family room into the main spa area. Make sure to set the tone with soft lighting, lots of candles, relaxing music and plenty of comfortable chairs and fun magazines to read. Take inspiration from the spas or salons you’ve visited and try to recreate them in your house. If it means moving large, comfy chairs from other rooms of the house, do it! If you have oversized floor pillows, set them out for your guests to lounge around. You want everyone to be relaxed at this spa party.
For treatments, set up an area for each guest with small tables or wooden television trays. Make sure to include the following: a mirror, head band and rubber band, nail files and clippers, nail polish remover, tissues and cotton balls. Supply a warm washcloth at each station for guests to remove their makeup prior to the facials as well as small bowls of warm water for cuticle soaks for the manicure. If you have individual foot basins, use those as well for the pedicures. You can purchase deep bowls that can serve as foot basins at discount stores and dollar stores. Remember, this party doesn’t have to be expensive. It’s all about getting the girls together for a fun, relaxing day!
If you don’t have individual tables, you can always set up stations around a large table. The key thing is to make sure that each guest feels special and pampered. Try to include as many spa-like service items as you can, like glass apothecary jars filled with cotton balls, bath salts and nail polishes.
If you have masseuses coming to your home, set up separate rooms in the house for massages. Play soft music, dim the lights and don’t forget to incorporate candles to create that spa-like environment.
In another room you’ll want to set up the food and beverage table. For a spa party, serve one or two warm items along with plenty of fresh fruit and veggies. As for beverages, provide pitchers of water with assorted fruit slices in them. Besides limes and lemons, grapefruit slices are a perfect addition to water. The pink color of the grapefruit, along with a yummy hint of citrus, is a great combination for a spa party.
And men, if you’re trying to think of an extraordinary gift for your wife or mother, buy her a monogrammed terry cloth robe and as she opens it, tell her that you are treating her to a spa party. (You’ll score major brownie points by doing this!)

For do-it-yourself facials, mix up these refreshing masks:

Balancing Facial Mask

1 small avocado, mashed (about 2/3 c.)
1/2 small cucumber, finely grated (about 1/3 c.)
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
3 Tbsp. green clay powder (sold at natural foods stores)

1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, using a fork to blend. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
2. Apply a thick layer of the mixture to clean, dry skin on your face and neck, avoiding the eye and lip areas. Keep fairly still for 10 to 15 minutes, allowing the mask to dry in place. Wipe skin clean with a damp cloth; splash with cool water and pat dry.

Recipe from

Sensitive Skin Cucumber Mask

1 Tbsp. brewer’s yeast
1 Tbsp. finely ground oatmeal
1 cucumber
2 Tbsp. plain yogurt or sour cream
1 tsp. honey

1. Mix yeast and oats in a small bowl and set aside.
2. Peel the cucumber, place it in a small food processor and process until only liquid remains. Add the yogurt and honey and process further to blend. Add the brewer’s yeast and oats to the cucumber/honey mixture and process to mix fully.
3. Chill mask in your refrigerator before use to make it especially soothing.
4. To use, apply to clean face and neck and leave on for 15 minutes to a half hour. Rinse well and follow with toner and moisturizer.

Recipe from

For more on the Spa Party and the rest of At Home TN, check out our May issue, out now!

Friday, May 7, 2010

We're Obsessed!

It is Friday, and we are all pumped up for the weekend here at AHT! We've all made our plans, so what else is left to do? Choose our outfits, of course! And we are OBSESSED with this outfit (featured in our May issue, on stands now!)

We love this yellow fluttery top (Available at Posh in Nashville) with these straight leg white jeans (available at Ann Taylor). It will look great paired with some metallic flats or pump! Pair it with a cute clutch and you will be ready for anything!!!

We are ready for the weekend... are you??

Monday, May 3, 2010

My Favorite Things Party

By: Stephanie Alexander

In the spirit of Oprah’s “favorite things” (and seriously, who doesn’t love a good insider tip from the woman who has everything?), host a “My Favorite Things” night with your girlfriends. The rules for the evening are easy. You simply bring your favorite thing, whether it’s a beauty product, a kitchen gadget, a book or a combination of smaller items. But there’s a catch— you can’t spend more than $10. I recently hosted this party at my friend Lori’s house in Brentwood and when our husbands found out the money limit, they all wanted to see if we could really pull this off!
I imposed the money limit because it forces people to get creative! I have a group of girlfriends who get together at Christmas, and we all exchange gifts, but they have to be less than $10. You would not believe what amazing presents we receive each year, and what lengths some women will go to in order to stay under $10. I have one friend who buys the day after Christmas for the following year, just to stay under the limit. I thought it would be fun to do a similar gift exchange during our monthly girl’s night.
As guests sent in their RSVPs, I asked them to bring an appetizer or dessert. Once again, it had to be a favorite! The night of the party, each girl showed up with her gift bag in tow (all items had to be wrapped). While we waited for everyone to arrive, we nibbled on some yummy appetizers and desserts.
Asking everyone to bring her favorite food item turned out to be a huge hit of the evening. Our appetizer table was filled with sushi, homemade stuffed mushrooms, shrimp cocktail, mango chutney cheese ball (recipe follows), brie with raspberry jam, and crudités with dip, just to name a few. We even had Chick-Fil-A nuggets (We all know adults love them as much as kids!)
The conversation around the food and who brought each item definitely started the evening on a great note! Not to mention, after we stuffed ourselves full of delicious savory appetizers, we had a whole buffet of desserts to conquer. The girls really outdid themselves in this category. We sampled cream cheese and Oreo balls dipped in white and dark chocolate, gingersnaps with a pumpkin spice dipping cream, mint chocolate chip mini cookies, and mini-turtle cookies (recipe follows).
After everyone got their fill of delicious favorite foods, we moved into the family room for the excitement to begin. I wanted to make the evening very casual, and I wanted to make sure we all left knowing a little something about each other. As part of the decorations, I created a “Favorite Things” tree that would determine the order each girl went in (do-it-yourself instructions follow). On this tree, I hung individual cards from pink and silver ribbon. On the back of each card was a number and a question. We had 27 guests, so each card was numbered 1-27. In addition, each card asked a different question ranging from “What is your favorite date night spot?” and “Where is your favorite place to vacation?,” to “What was your favorite TV show in the 80s?” Once we knew everyone’s order, each guest started by reading her question, answering and making her choice from the bevy of gifts. Once the gift was opened, the woman who brought it explained why it was her favorite thing.
Another catch to the evening was that each gift could be exchanged a total of three times. (We use this rule— “You Pick It, You Steal It, You Keep It,”—for our annual ornament swap.) This rule makes the game a little more entertaining because the gift can exchange several hands before it is considered “dead.” As the night went on, I kept a running list of the items each guest brought and emailed the list to each participant after the evening. It was a great way to help everyone remember what we all brought. Since we shared what we love, I made individual pink heart cookies in glassine bags to give to each guest as she left.

Need gift ideas? These great products are $10 or less!

•Gouguenheim Malbec 2007 Argentinian wine
•Covergirl Outlast lipstick in “Forever Fawn”
•Aveda Rosemary Mint Shampoo
•Pampered Chef ice cream scoop
•Walgreens’ Alpha-Hydroxy face cream
•Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla
•OPI nail polish in “Suzi Loves Sydney”
•Vaseline Intensive Rescue Clinical Therapy Body Lotion
•Trapp candle, mango-scented

For instructions on how to make this banner, other DIY projects and recipes, check out our online April magazine!