The Inspired Plate Challenge | November | The Holiday Table

Welcome to The Inspired Plate monthly challenge!

This month's Inspired Plate Challenge takes you into our personal spaces to see our Holiday Tables. Another busy month for all of us gals.. as you can see, our November post rolled a few days into December as we are all trying to gather ourselves back together after a very eventful Thanksgiving day of feasting and family gathering. I hope you all had wonderful visits with family and friends.. and I hope you had a chance to stop and take a few minutes to be thankful.. even the small things in my life that seem to have subtle value, if placed in the right perspective and light can make the dull and mundane liven up and bring life and worth to my everyday.  

My holiday table here is dressed simply with dishes of dessert, nuts and fruit.. and a delicious  coffee with a special frothed eggnog. Yum! 

Mini Pecan Tarts with a Shortbread Crust, Raspberry Thumbprint and Pirouette Cookies.
Fuyu Persimmon's 

Persimmons in season.. PERFECTLY DIVINE! I was introduced to Fuyu Persimmons last year. I had grown up with the Hachiya persimmon.. which I ate sparingly, but now I'm addicted to the crispness of the fuyu which can be cooked into a glaze for a pork or baked liked apples alongside a roast.

Black and Whites

The shear blue fabric draped across the table made a delicate center piece dressed with glittery aqua, silver and blue balls and little votives decorated with festive holiday stars and battery operated candles. I added silver sprayed eucalyptus branches for added festoon frillery.

The China is called "Liberty" by Lenox. Our wedding set that I love using and photographing whenever I get a chance!
Little snow painted pine cones tousled throughout the table decor adds a seasonal touch. I love the fanciful with the whimsy of nature. When you have kids.. it's inevitable that they will want to add some of their own touches too. 

White Asparagus and Broccoli Custard Tart

This is a wonderful and light version of a quiche without the cheese. It's very airy and tender.. both the custard and the pastry shell. I considered adding some Fontina cheese but resisted the urge. :) I was still well pleased with the outcome of this custard, but will try the addition of Fontina next time for a more dense custard. I substituted the herb with fresh rosemary which tasted wonderful with the broccoli and asparagus. This is well suited for an afternoon brunch or tea with a nice salad!
Buon Appetito.. Laurie

Adapted from the Asparagus Custard Tart Recipe found in;
“Best of Gourmet 2006” Cookbook

For Pastry
This is my go to "Italian Pasta Frolla Dough" recipe which can be found in almost any Italian cookbook or Nonna's kitchen collection. 

Ingredients1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 freshly grated lemons, zest of or 1 oranges
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 teaspoon vanilla

1.In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and zest.
2.Cut in the butter, until it resembles coarse meal.
3.Add the egg and the vanilla and toss the mixture until incorporated.
4. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 4 portions. With heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat. 
5. Gather dough into a ball, then flatten into a 5-inch disk. Chill dough, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 30 minutes.

For Filling
1 head broccoli separated into florets, cleaned 
1 lb medium white asparagus, trimmed

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 1/3 cups heavy cream

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh Rosemary
2 teaspoons water
*Special equipment: parchment paper; a 9 1/4-inch flan ring* (see cooks' note, below)

Make filling while pastry chills
Wash broccoli florets in cold water. Pat dry. Cook asparagus in a wide 4- to 5-quart pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, until just tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer asparagus with tongs to a bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking, then drain and pat dry. Cut off and reserve tips (leave more stalk if asparagus is thin), then thinly slice stalks crosswise.

Heat butter in a 10- to 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately low heat until foam subsides, then saute broccoli with 1/4 teaspoon salt, 2-3 minutes. Stir in sliced asparagus and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and remove from heat.

Finish filling and assemble and bake tart
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and put flan ring in center of baking sheet. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin into an 11-inch round, then fit dough inside flan ring, pressing dough against bottom edge and side of ring. Run rolling pin over top edge of ring to cut off excess dough.
Whisk together cream, 2 eggs, rosemary, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Lightly beat remaining egg with water in a small bowl and brush tart shell all over with some egg wash. Spoon asparagus and broccoli mixture into shell, spreading evenly, then pour cream mixture over vegetables.

Bake tart until filling is just beginning to set but still loose on top, 20 to 25 minutes. If you have any extra broccoli tips, scatter over top, pressing lightly if necessary to help them settle into filling, then continue to bake until custard is golden and just set but still slightly wobbly in center, about 30 minutes more (custard will continue to set as it cools).

Cool tart on baking sheet on a rack until warm, about 30 minutes. Loosen edge with a small sharp knife, then lift off flan ring. Serve warm or at room temperature, cut into wedges.

Cooks' notes:
Pastry dough can be chilled up to 1 day. Let stand at room temperature until slightly softened before rolling out.
• If you don't have a flan ring, you can use a 9- to 9 1/4-inch tart pan with a removable bottom instead. Put a baking sheet in oven while preheating, then bake tart on sheet.
• Tart can be baked 2 hours ahead and cooled completely, then kept, loosely covered with plastic wrap, at room temperature. If desired, reheat in a preheated 350°F oven until warm, 15 to 20 minutes.

Masala Chai Tea

Today was the first morning I woke up feeling the nip in the air and the urge to make soups, chili and Chai Tea! I know..  your all probably thinking chai tea is one of those amazing teas that should be made all year long! Well, "you're right".. but for some reason it's the smell of spice in the air, stores perfumed with brooms of cinnamon, candles infused with pumpkin and      ginger bread cookies lined up on the bakers shelves that call my senses to those fragrant aromas . They smell oh_so_spicy.. and so does chai tea! :)

We have this wonderful little spice shop in Temecula called 
"The Old Town Spice Merchant". It's a gorgeous shop and so festive this time of year. 
I have never been disappointed nor have I left empty handed when I go there to make a         purchase or to just browse. You really can't leave this adorable spice boutique without a 
bag  of goodies!

This particular visit I did just intend to browse around with another foodie friend of mine, Celine from Celine's Cuisine. We had just stopped in after a wonderful little breakfast at Cafe Daniel in Old Town Temecula. A splendid little cafe specializing in fresh French baked goods and crepes. The most tender and sweetly filled crepes in the Southern California region! 

My attention caught on some beautiful cardamom pods. I immediately knew that chai tea was on the Fall menu at the Vengo Homestead. I didn't have a recipe with me, but chai spices must be on everyones list who enter this little shop, for a recipe sat neatly at the check out register. I gathered up my spices and when I arrived home opened up my baggies and inhaled the glorious perfume of exotic fragrances. I was in heaven and SO excited at the notion of Masala Chai!

You will LOVE making your own chai! I suggest even if you don't intend to make it soon, just having the spices on hand is a good idea! I use most of them often.. well, except for the cardamom, that I save for my Masala Chai!
Buon Appetito!

Masala Chai Ingredients

9 whole cloves

4 cardamom pods

4 star anise 
1 cup water

2 cups milk

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

5 pepper berries
2 rounded tablespoons raw sugar

2 heaping tablespoons Cinnamon Orange Black Tea (or black tea of your choice)

Masala Chai Directions
In a mortar (or a mini prep grinder), crush the cloves, cardamom pods, star anise and  blackpepper berries. 

Transfer the crushed spices to a small saucepan, add the water and ginger and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and let simmer for 8 minutes.

This gorgeous loose tea is a black tea with crushed cinnamon stick and dried orange peel.

      After spices have simmered for around 8 minutes, add the milk, loose tea and sugar.

At a low temperature, let the Masala chai simmer for 5-7 more minutes.

      When it starts to get frothy turn off the heat and and let it sit for 5 minutes. Strain 2 times
      through a sieve into a teapot.

As you can see from my messy stove top, I double refined this chai tea through two strainers. It wouldn't even be a bad idea to run it through a cheese cloth if you have that on hand. Enjoy your chai tea.. definitely with someone who's company you enjoy! It's so fun to make this from scratch, and so worth the taste !

The Inspired Plate Challenge | October | Food Photography on a Black Background

Welcome to this months edition of The Inspired Plate, our "Food Photography & Styling Challenge". This month we focused on shooting food images on a black background. I had a vision folks.. and I set out to replicate the picture in my mind. It wasn't easy.. I had to search high and low for my props and backdrop. But come Saturday.. as in 2 days before I was to publish, I finally found the piece of the puzzle that made it ALL fit! It was a piece of black slate. 

My husband my hero came to the rescue! He puts up with my prop hunting and I have to say even supports it with enthusiasm. Saturday, our first full fledged Fall day with cooler temps and drizzle in the air, he, our youngest daughter "E" and I headed out for a rock hunt at Southwest Boulder and Stone in Rainbow, Ca. Fun? It was a blast!! I was like a girl in a candy store with colors, shapes and sizes all at my finger tips. I found exactly what I was looking for! :) Insert glee and all smiles here! 

I set out this month (of October) to shoot everything food related on black! I was hoping the adage of "practice makes perfect" would apply here. I had some successes.. and definitely some failures.  While I don't generally like posting photographs that in my opinion fail, I did publish the images of my Orange Scented Olive Oil Cake because that was all I had before that deliciously amazing moist cake was gobbled up by my family! I know this blog post is about TIP's photo challenge, but really.. you HAVE to try that cake! :) 

Speaking of other recipes and food delights that you must try.. "OH_MY".. figs and honey my friends!! I can tell you that this combination with a soft ripened cheese like Brie is an amazing epicurean delight! 

Just like you see above, I placed the honey and figs on top of a round of brie on a baking tray and roasted in a 400 degree oven for around 8 minutes. You want to keep an eye on it, and make sure your oven is hot before you put it in. The cheese is a soft ripened cheese and melts beautifully, but it will make a bit of a mess if you let it heat up too long. I also sliced up some italian bread and toasted in the oven. The hot cheese, figs and honey on toast.. oh yummmm!

Thank you for visiting today! I'd love to hear what you think so leave me a note, and please make your way around The Inspired Plate blog circle to see how the other gals interpreted Food Photography on a Black Background!

Up next is my dear friend Jen Olson | San Luis Obispo, Ca Food Photographer. She is an amazing photographer and I know she'll have something Bon App├ętit worthy for you! I can't wait to head over there myself! :) Buon Appetito!! Laurie

The Inspired Plate's Weekly Challenge | Props

Hey Friends!! I'm excited to announce that The Inspired Plate on Facebook is having a weekly
food photography challenge. It's all about Fun and Participation, no matter what your photography level is! I want to invite you all to come "Like" our page and join in the fun. :)  This weeks challenge reads like this; :)

Welcome to “Inspire Me Weekly”!

This will be a once a week challenge that will run Monday through Friday. 
Each week there will be a new food photography related theme. Please upload your submission to our page with the title “Inspire Me Weekly”. You can take a new image or share with us images from “your” own photo files. 

The Inspired Plate team is looking forward to having everyone participate and have fun with "Inspire Me Weekly"!

Monday October 1st  20012 ~ “Props” 

Hope to see you there! 
Laurie xo

Bavarian Style Soft Pretzels

I'm always trying to figure out how to post a fabulous recipe without taking an hour to write it all out. Unfortunately.. I have a  r-e-a-l-l-y  hard time just putting up the ingredient list and directions without a short recap.

And then there's the recipe reviews.. of about 3 to be exact for this weeks Bavarian Soft Pretzel's.   Yes.. I wasn't satisfied with the 1st, 2nd, or even 3d! So my recipe is a culmination of what I liked from all three and an "ixnay" (nix, nada, zip) of what just didn't work for me.

First pretzel batch. Great risen dough and egg washed shiny!
The 1st. pretzel batch was definitely bready and rose beautifully! With a little.. ok, a lot.. too much egg in the egg wash, and the sugar was your everyday plain white table sugar. Sweet.. but no POW! My family LOVED them straight out of the oven, but by the second day they didn't have the same texture from straight out of the oven. hmmm, kinda eggy!

The 2nd. batch was SO interesting! It was straight from a German Octoberfest web site that I thought would be fool safe. The first indication that this was going to be intriguing is that it called for NO rise time. NONE!! Not even a rest. Another "hmmm". But hay, no rest or rise time means my family can expect pretzels sooner and I can get on to the rest of the activities during my busy day.  Also had no fat.. just yeast, water, flour, salt and brown sugar. I loved the flavor of the brown sugar. Come to find out, it was supposed to replicate the barley malt syrup flavoring that many original recipe's call for. This recipe also called for a lye water bath. One day, when I get up the nerve, I will order lye and give my german pretzels a proper water bath. But loe, this was not going to be the week. As I did more reading on the lye solution, I came to understand that it gives the pretzels their dark color characteristic with a more crunchy exterior and soft interior. I like the soft_soft.. so the baking soda solution suited me fine. This pretzel came out of the oven "tasting" very similar to the pretzels I remember on Hoffman St. in Philadelphia when I was a young girl. But the similarities stopped there. It quickly became hard and chewy and the least favorite among my kids.

The 3d batch of pretzels was so much closer to what I wanted from a true Bavarian Soft Pretzel.
It called for a dough rest and rise. The soda solution was weaker only 2 Tbsp. compared to the stronger solutions in the other recipes. White sugar instead of brown, a fat added by way of margarine (which you will NEVER catch me using), and it called for NO egg wash. Yay!! It clarified in the recipe that the lye or soda water bath was also the glazing step. Most of the german recipes omitted any egg wash in the recipes. So, I also omitted it.
Umm, I'm not sure the pretzels had that shiny glazing that I liked with the first one, but I was thrilled with the taste.. other than the malt or molasses flavor I would have preferred with the brown sugar.

My conclusion, this recipe I have adapted from what I thought to be the best of ingredients and prep styles to get just the right chewiness and texture for an original soft pretzel.
I hope you enjoy this recipe..  and If you do make it.. PLEASE come back to tell me how you fared!!

For leftovers.. which I hope you don't have, they say you can store them in a plastic bag and re-heat for 15-20 seconds. I prefer the no-leftover rule, because pretzels always taste the best right out of the oven.. dipped in mustard or your favorite cheese sauce!

xo Laurie m. Vengoechea

Bavarian Soft Pretzel’s
yield one dozen pretzels
By Laurie M. Vengoechea

1 cup warm water between 105° and 110°F 
2 ½ tsp. active dry bread yeast or 1 packet
2 Tbsp. melted butter brought to room temperature
2 3/4 cups bread flour
½  tsp. Sea or Kosher salt
1 Tbsp. barley malt syrup (if possible) or 1 Tbsp. Brown sugar

5 Tbsp. baking soda 
7-8 cups water

Coarse Grey Sea Salt
*I use Sel Gris De Gue’rande that I buy at my local spice merchant

In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 cup warm water and packet of yeast.
Let stand for a few minutes till it foams up. Add 1 ½ cups of flour, 2 tbsp butter, ½ tsp salt and 1 tbsp barley syrup or brown sugar.  Mix well for around 3 minutes.

Slowly mix in the remaining 1 1/4  cups of flour, knead dough until all of the flour is mixed in and dough loses its stickiness.

Set aside in bowl and let it rise until dough doubles in size.

Divide dough into twelve equal pieces. Using the palms of your hands, roll each piece into about 12”-18” length coils. The original Bavarian pretzel has thinner ends and a thicker middle. Twist and loop the lengths into pretzel shapes and place on greased or parchment lined baking sheets. Put a horizontal slit on the bottom thickest part of the pretzel. Allow pretzels to rise again for 20 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 425°
Have a pot of boiling water with baking soda for the alkaline solution ready. With a plastic spatula, carefully place 1 pretzel at a time into the boiling baking soda solution for 15-20 seconds. It will float around the top of pot. This solution adds a glaze to the pretzels as well as gives them there soft texture. Take out and drain on wire rack and then transfer to pre-pared baking sheets.
Sprinkle with course sea salt or pretzel salt.

Bake in pre-heated oven for approximately 18 to 20 minutes. Enjoy hot with mustard or cheese! 

Espresso Meringue Cookie Kisses

My love affair with meringue continues with these adorable AND delicious Espresso Meringue Cookie Kisses. Meringue cookies are so easy to make and satisfy a sugar craving without all the fat. Definitely make these little dainties.. they also make a delightful addition to a table display at an afternoon tea. To see more of my delicious meringue cookies, click here to see my Chocolate Meringue Cookies, and here to see my Rainbow Meringue Cookies
Ciao! xo Laurie

1 cup castor sugar
¼ cup water
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
2 Tablespoons instant espresso granules
3 egg whites

To make the meringues, combine the sugar, cream of tartar, espresso powder and water in a small saucepan. Stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves and the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook 3 more minutes.
While this is cooking add the egg whites to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk to soft peaks. Once the soft peak stage is reached, keep the mixer running while adding the hot liquid in a slow stream. Mix until thick and glossy.
Preheat oven to 275°
With a star tip and pastry bag, pipe meringues 1/2 inch a part on a cookie sheet with a non-stick pad, like silpat.  Bake in pre-heated oven for 30-40 minutes till dry to the touch.
(Adapted from Donna Hay Magazine)

Julia Child's Salade Nicoise


A recipe favorite from Julia Child's book,  "The Way To Cook".

Here are a few photo's of my salad preparations.. I kept pretty close to the original recipe, except for the anchovies. While "I" love anchovy's.. my youngest child freaked a little at the notion of scaly little fishes across her salad. Other than that.. it's pure Julia!! Definitely make this salad.. it has a few components that you can make ahead of time so that the recipe doesn't seem so daunting for a cooking newbie. 

Buon Appetito.. or as Julia would say, "Bon Appetit!"

Julia Child’s Salad Nicoise
Excerpted from The Way to Cook by Julia Child. Copyright © 1989 by Julia Child. 
1 head of Boston Lettuce, large, washed and dried (I used Butter lettuce)
1 cup fresh green beans, trimmed, blanched
3 or 4 fine rip red tomatoes,quartered and seasoned before serving (I used cherry tomatoes)
8 to 10 ounces oil-packed tuna, drained and flaked
2 cups French potato salad (recipe follows)
4 hard-boiled eggs, halved lengthwise
2-3 flat anchovy filets packed in oil
1/2 cup black Nicoise-type olives
3 or 4 Tbs. capers
Olive oil for drizzling
Salt and pepper, to taste

French Potato Salad
5-6 white potatoes, cooked to fork tender
1-2 Tb olive oil
1 Tb white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
Flat leaf parsley, chopped

Shortly before serving, line a large, wide salad bowl or a roomy platter with lettuce leaves, drizzle a little olive oil on them, and dust with a sprinkling of salt.
Toss the green beans in a mixing bowl with a little olive oil and salt.
Drizzle a spoonful or two of the dressing over the tomatoes.
Season the tuna lightly with a spoonful or two of dressing.
Place the potatoes in the center of the bowl or platter; mound the beans, the tomatoes and tuna.
Ring the salad with the eggs and anchovy.
Spoon a little more vinaigrette over all; scatter on olives, capers, and parsley. Serve as soon as possible.

French Potato Salad:
Boil potatoes to fork tender.
Allow to cool for a few minutes and slice potatoes. Dress with drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper, 
1 Tb white wine vinegar and chopped parsley.

"The Inspired Plate" Food Photography and Styling Challenge | June 2012 | Fish Raw and Cooked

Welcome to June's edition of The Inspired Plate! 

I loved this month's challenge.. it forced my hand at not just styling a fish photo, but it was the first time I purchased a whole trout to cook without the help of my mom.. and fisherman dad. The hunt for a whole fish came easier than I expected. My first stop was at one of our favorite restaurants, Fish House Vera Cruz in Temecula. They have a fresh fish counter that is stocked daily with fish fare from the Pacific Coast. Our visit that particular evening had my mind set on purchasing oysters to make, style and photograph our favorite appetizer, Oysters Rockafeller. Such a beautiful dish with it's parmesan cream and spinach topped oyster meat in a pearlescent shell. It's a full burst of flavor.. an ambrosia fit for Kings. 

My decision making for TIP challenges though would drive anyone a bit crazy.. It wasn't until last week's challenge count down that I was at a grocery store on the opposite side of town that shocked me with their fresh fish counter and beautiful whole trout for only $4.95 a lb. Originally when I set up these challenges, my mind set was on whole fish. I have seen them captured in food photo's among the best culinary magazines and I knew that was what I wanted to attempt. It took nearly 1 second to order those babies all ready and gutted from the fish monger. I was a happy gal.

The recipe.. well that was another decision I put off till the last minute. I actually shot my raw image before I knew what I was cooking. That doesn't always play well when you have "before and after" images. I used ingredients in my refrigerator for the raw photo's.. and then I realized that my recipe had to utilize those same ingredients. My hunt for baked whole trout proved successful among some of the great recipes at the Food Network web site. It fit perfectly and adjusted well to the ingredients on hand. I did change a few details.. I made lemon shallot oil instead of butter, and used basil instead of thyme. The rest of the recipe was kept as Yolanda Banks had written. I hope you enjoy this post.

Please be sure to visit the rest of "The Inspired Plate" gals.. they work so hard and really apply themselves to learn and perfect the art of food styling and photography. It is such a joy working with them and seeing their monthly challenge interpretations. 

To see what The Inspired Plate Challenges have previously posted, click on the link HERE

Next up in our blog circle is my dear friend Kim Kelly at Liv Life | San Diego, CA | Food and Travel Writer. I LOVE this gal.. she is a talented writer as well as recipe creator, a busy mom and wife, and developer of ducktape wonder costumes for her daughter's dance team. She always amazes me with how much she can get done in the limited hours of her day. Love you Kim!!

Magic Muffins

Magic Muffins.. I'v been seeing this recipe on my Malt-O-Meal boxes for years.. literally since I was a young girl. Never even thought twice about baking them. My mom always had this creamy whole wheat grain in a bowl for us with butter, milk and a sprinkling of sugar.. or as I liked it with a dollop of jam on top. 

Now that school is out, and my kids have time for healthier prepared breakfasts I offered up a bowl of malt-o- meal for my younger girls. My brite daughter decided instead of in a bowl she wanted her 
malt-o-meal in a muffin cup. I am so glad she brought this recipe to my attention! I prepared it just as written on the package with the exception of a dollop of jam stirred into the batter before baking. 

The results where so yummy.. and I was SO surprised! My kids loved them, and even the day after warmed up with a spreading of butter on top they were still delicious. You've got to try these!! 

I wasn't quite sure why the title "magic", except for how many disappeared so quickly! 


  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup Original Flavored Malt-O-Meal® hot wheat cereal®, dry
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)


  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°F
  2. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients
  3. stir together until ingredients are just moistened.
  4. Spoon into a greased or paper-lined 12-cup muffin pan, filling cups ¾ full.
  5. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Muffin Variations:

  1. Add and incorporate one 8.5-ounce can cream style corn to Magic Muffins recipe for Magic Corn Bread mix.
  2. Pour muffin mixture into a greased 13x9-inch pan and bake for 19 to 20 minutes, or until edges are lightly golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  3. For Banana Magic Muffins add ¾ cup mashed bananas to basic ingredients and follow the basic muffin baking instructions.

Ciao my friends!! 

Food Photography and Styling Challenge | April | Pasta

Welcome to "The Inspired Plate". We are a collective gathering of 14 food enthusiast photographers. Each month we post final photographic images of a styled dish that we have been working on throughout the month. Some of us.. like me, procrastinate the actual styling and photography and shoot at the last minute.. on the last day.. before posting! Come on gals.. I know I'm not the only one! :) Instead during our month, we spend much of our time sharing and gleaning from each other's styles, like that of the talented and oh so current artist Jenn, from Localette or the crisp and beautiful food photo's from Stacey at Stacey Siegal Photography, really.. please pass what's on that plate.. it's GORGEOUS Girl!! We are learning the business aspect of photography from amazing artists and professionals like Jennifer Grant and marketing strategies from Tiffany Dahle. The use of Photographic light.. and shooting with love from Allison Jacobs. And using the gift of word's from the very VERY talented freelance food writer, Kim Kelly from Liv Life  food blog. But for me, finding the key to living a balanced life as a mom_photographer with a mom_full_time_schedule is something I'm learning from the amazing Carey Pace who writes about it with such humor and inspiration on her blog.  She "IS" a Story Teller.. and I Love her! :) All these gals bring sooo much to the table! I appreciate them all - and look forward each month to the challenges that come our way. Believe me.. many of them have nothing to do with photography, but they're still there, with open arms and a hug to share. I didn't mention them all by name.. but I glean from them all, the stories that come through them, the heart in their "day in and day out" lives. A mom with 5 kids.. and on crutches, a wife mending to her husband barely out of the hospital, a husband wife team ready to build their dream home, a gal sharing her gorgeous floral photographs in a gallery opening, or the vacationing gals who still find time to spend with their families and hold down a business. They are all amazing!!!! So.. to you my readers, who are regular visitors.. and to you who just happened by, be sure you visit  all the gals in " The Inspired Plate" blog circle. Next up is me dear friend Tiffany Dahle from Develop.   Be sure you leave her some love.  And check out this girls Pinterest page.. You'll know why I mentioned her under marketing!! Have a wonderful month.. till we meet again for our Food Photography and Styling Challenge!