...because home doesn't happen overnight.

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What are your guilty pleasures? I have a few.

*Slipping into freshly laundered bed linens.

*Buying any and all shelter-related glossies and / or books.

*Staying up way too late reading said glossies and / or books.

*Letting the boys play Minecraft for the 30 minutes of peace and quiet.

*Making spontaneous trips to Trader Joe’s.

*Taking advantage of Ikea’s kids-eat-free Tuesdays to “just look.”

*Driving alone.

*Eating alone in my car.

*Eating anything slathered in cookie butter.

*Eating anything covered in dark chocolate and considering it healthy. Because, antioxidants!

*Binge-watching “Breaking Bad” via my sister’s Netflix account.

*Searching “Danish” and “midcentury” on eBay.

*Allowing Mabrey to skip her nap in anticipation of an extra early bedtime.

*Locking the bathroom door.

*Subscribing to Amazon Prime.

*Pretend-searching for houses on realtor.

*Pretend-searching for vacation rentals on airbnb.

*Hiding Mabrey’s favorite book for a week because I can’t bear to read it one. more. time.

*Getting dressed, curling my hair, putting on makeup then staying home and thinking I clean up nice.

*Blasting pop music in the car and singing along at the top of my lungs while my kids look on in horror.

*Making a weekly batch of chocolate oatmeal no-bakes “for the kids.”

*Texting Steve to pick up takeout on his way home from work.

*Daydreaming about all the things I will do when I’m an empty nester.

*Rationalizing this: cleaning house = exercising.

*Sneaking a drink of water during my least favorite parts of Tracy Anderson DVDs.

*Stalking vintage rugs on etsy.

*Stalking houses in real life.

*Showing up to my tennis drill early for the extra 15 minutes of childcare.

*Swearing by fancy pens because they make my horrible handwriting look better. (In reality, my handwriting is a lost cause.)

*Keeping fresh flowers in the main bathroom and on my nightstand.

(I could go on and on…)

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Sometimes those fresh flowers come all the way from a mineral rich volcano in Ecuador BECAUSE I’M WORTH IT. Ha! In all seriousness, The Bouqs is a new and easy flower delivery service that delivers fresh bouquets directly to your door from the farm. The farm practices sustainable, responsible farming as certified by The Rainforest Alliance. Flowers are cut the day before they’re shipped so they arrive fresh and last longer. (The bouquets are so fresh that it sometimes takes a few days for the flowers to fully open.) Prices are competitive because there are no middle men and no tacky add-ons like stuffed animals and candy. All you get is a lush bouquet wrapped in simple kraft paper.

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Order a bouquet for yourself or send one to someone special. I divvied up a larger bouquet into three smaller ones: one for the main bathroom and two for Mabrey’s caregivers at tennis. I am so grateful for their help. (And those extra 15 minutes of me time!)

Are fresh flowers one of your guilty pleasures, too? The Bouqs is offering up a six-month delivery service to one lucky reader. See entry details below.

PRIZE: one six-month flower delivery service, courtesy of The Bouqs.

RULES: You must be at least 18 years old and have a shipping address (no P.O. boxes please) within the U.S. One entry per email address.

TO ENTER: Visit The Bouqs here, register for an account and browse the selection. Then leave a comment on this post sharing your favorite bouquet.

DEADLINE: Enter before 9:00 p.m. EST on Monday, April 6th, 2015. One random winner will be announced Tuesday, April 7th.

WHILE YOU’RE AT IT: I’d love to hear your guilty pleasures! No judgments ;)

*This post sponsored in part by The Bouqs. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog! Please use the discount code MARCHBLOOM to score 15% off your order.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

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So something funny happened. I used to strongly dislike cooking, but now I don’t. I still wouldn’t call it my passion (there are no plans for Food*Tweaking, ha!) but sometimes I actually find myself enjoying it.

What happened? I’m not exactly sure, but it didn’t happen overnight. I think a few things came in to play. I have more time to cook now that I stay at / work from home. My kids have become little foodies, critiquing my skills and offering to help out with meal prep. When I went dairy free, out of desperation I tried new recipes and ingredients and it exposed me to a whole new world of cooking. FYI – We aren’t completely dairy free anymore, but I haven’t bought cow’s milk in years. Now, Steve eats a mostly paleo diet and I try to accommodate him when I can.

I’ve also been using Blue Apron regularly for almost a year after our friends recommended the service. It’s helped me get out of the dinner rut of spaghetti and tacos – both of which I love but they aren’t very adventurous. I’m giddy every time the refrigerated box of fresh ingredients shows up at my doorstep. Especially when it’s the FIFTH snow day in a row and we’re low on food and I have no desire to brave the cold for groceries. I really like the new family plan which feeds our family of two adults + three children and then some. The new family meals are meant to be served family-style and are more affordable.

I’m so grateful for recipes shared online that I started sprinkling my favorite quick & easy go-tos in with other home-related content on the blog. Obviously, that forced me to take photos of food. All of a sudden cooking became yet another fun, creative outlet when viewed through my camera lens. *BONUS* – I get to eat the subject matter!

I’m definitely not a food styling expert by any means but I thought it might be fun to share a few of my food photography secrets. Kind of a behind-the-scenes look at recipe posts.

*I always photograph food in natural light. (But not always in black socks. No judgments! It was, like, -20°F!!) After some trial and error, I discovered that the best spot to shoot food in my house is on the floor just inside the french doors in our mudroom / dining room. The doors are north-facing and the bright, indirect light is perfect. Placing the food on some sort of backdrop on the floor makes it easy for me to get overhead shots. I’m not naming names because it isn’t my secret to tell but I know one highly regarded food blogger who styles and shoots food in her garage with the door partially raised because that’s where the best light is in her house. Whatever works! I also consider the mood of the dish when contemplating lighting. In general, for brighter, lighter foods I’ll shoot in the late morning on sunny days. For richer, more comforting foods, I’ll shoot on cloudy days or in the early evening.

*I always consider composition. It’s almost like decorating a room but on a much smaller scale. Sorta like creating a mood board but with food. A food board? Instead of lining up all the ingredients, I’ll arrange them organically. I try to balance colors and textures within the frame. My goal is for it to look pretty but imperfect and real. I’ll cut lemon slices, peel garlic, “spill” a little salt or crumble cheese. A little mess is okay! I add practical props. Measuring spoons and small bowls work well. I’m itching to add more props to my bag o’ tricks because my current inventory is lacking.

*I leave out raw meat and raw fish if possible. The same with labels unless they’re particularly helpful. They just don’t look all that appealing to me.

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*I include one or two significant, in-progress shots. Again, I’m no chef and the recipes I share aren’t crazy complex so images of every step usually aren’t necessary. My kids really enjoy prepping so I’ll usually snap a few shots of them. (When we prepare a Blue Apron meal, Everett’s job is to read the instructions to me step-by-step. It knocks out his reading homework for the day. Win-win.) Needless to say, it’s difficult to supervise the kids, photograph and cook at the same time!

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*I shoot several different angles of the finished product. That’s mostly for fun. I never know which angles are going to make the cut until I edit the photos. If the kids are cooperating, I’ll set the table quickly. If not, it might be just a few close-ups. If the dish is especially decadent, I like to include a half-eaten or empty plate, too. It’s a good “the end” image.

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The recipe shown here is one of the new family meals offered by Blue Apron. It’s the chicken scallopini with roasted broccoli & whole wheat farfelle. Paleo Steve ate only the chicken (I left one breast free of flour) and broccoli. The kids and I loved it all! The roasted poblano chilaquiles with sunny side-up eggs and avocado sound pretty amazing, and the filipino-style beef picadillo with chayote squash & jasmine rice is a family favorite that I keep on standby.

If you have been wanting to try Blue Apron, now’s your chance. The first 100 readers will get two meals free-of-charge when they place their first order! Just click here. And, as always, shipping is free.

Do you have any tips for food styling or photography? Any great food stylists I should check out for inspiration? Were you surprised by the food on the floor in the mudroom? My black socks? Ha!

*This post sponsored in part by Blue Apron. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog.

P.S. – The evolution of my photography.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

*THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.*

Congrats to Kathy (in Canada!) who would choose a custom, round rug to place under her small laptop table.

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Today’s giveaway is from Felt Ball Rug, a company that specializes in artisanal felt ball rugs and fair trade production. Surely you’ve seen these rugs making the rounds on the internet. Yes? I love their nubby texture, and they can be quite colorful, too. They’re ideal for nurseries, playrooms and small family rooms. And I’ve heard they’re just as (if not more) popular with four-legged family members.

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So the concept of felt ball rugs is nothing new, but what strikes me about this particular company is the way they are empowering women through their fair trade practices. These beautiful rugs are handcrafted by women in Nepal. The country has one of the poorest economies in the world. The literacy rate for women is ~45% in comparison to ~72% for men. The company trains and employs local women, giving them the opportunity to work from home while caring for their families. Some of the women create the individual felt balls while others construct the actual rugs. The company pays their employees roughly 2-3 times the average pay for the area. As a result, the women are able to live comfortably and send their children to school. You can witness the company’s social impact in this heart-warming video.

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Felt Ball Rugs is dedicated to maintaining fair trade practices while offering a high quality product. All rugs are made from 100% New Zealand wool. Shipping and returns are free and offered worldwide. You can choose from round or rectangle rugs, neutral or multi-color. You can even design your own custom rug.

Do you need a felt ball rug in your life? Find giveaway details below.

PRIZE: One winner will select a round (2’11” – $215 retail value) or rectangle (2’7.5” x 3’3.4” – $278 retail value) rug of their choice from Felt Ball Rug’s collections OR of their own design. Yes, the winner may choose a custom design! (These smaller rugs are perfect for baby’s tummy time, lazing pets and / or meditation.)

RULES: You must be at least 18 years old and have a shipping address (no P.O. boxes please). This giveaway is open worldwide! One entry per email address.

TO ENTER: Follow Felt Ball Rugs on instagram here then leave a comment on this post sharing which rug you would choose if you won and how you would use it.

DEADLINE: Enter before 9:00 p.m. EST on Thursday, February 26th. One random winner will be announced Friday, February 27th.

Good luck!

images: Felt Ball Rugs