Well, well, well look who it is. The Fullerton’s. WE’RE BACK! Sorry for the long hiatus. I feel like we haven’t really had a whole lot of anything going on and everything going on…if that makes any sense.
Might as well start off with a Bash update!
We have finally received his official ASD(Autism Spectrum Disorder) diagnosis. We knew this was coming and as parents we had our teary meltdowns about it months ago. Thinking about what he might possibly be missing out on and the overwhelming feeling of wanting to help and not knowing how. We have an amazing circle of people around us that have been wonderful in their support. Bash started pre-preschool back in February and he has been loving it. He gets to continue class though the summer. Our lovely Speech Therapist Mrs. Nicole is moving out of state to be closer to family. I’m very sad about this because she has been with us for a very long time. She has always been a very understanding ear but we are also very happy for this new chapter for her and her family. (Don’t think we won’t take you up on your offer of a BEACH vacation!!) Bash will be starting Speech sessions at school. It will be interesting to see how he handles the transition.
Registering for Preschool is a whole other animal we are tackling right now too. Getting him registered through our local school district and deciding if we keep him at his current school which is private and utilize a Autism Scholarship program or go to Public School with an almost identical program. Decisions, decisions, decisions!
My Sister in Law is on an epic road trip this summer with her 3 kids across the country and we’ll be meeting up with them in the Finger Lakes area of New York and be making our way up to Acadia National Park. We are so excited EXCEPT Bash has never camped. We finally got a dry weekend here in Central Ohio and camped in the backyard overnight…..it went…..okay. IF what i thought was a cold but was actually double ear infections wasn’t so bad right the experience would have been a lot calmer. We got some decent sleep, many cups of coffee for the adults the next day. Bash’s next days were all thrown off track. He’s back to his normal scheduled routine now. So fingers crossed we don’t end up hating camping after the trip!
Grant and I haven’t really had a lot going on aside from work and taking care of Bash. I was able to do a lot of stand up paddleboarding so far this year at a lake near school and at a local small lake and creek. Grant bought an electric smoker and so far he’s had nothing but success with it. Hes smoked some chicken and ribs. Pulled pork was made this past Memorial Day weekend where we had some friends and neighbors come over for a little backyard party.
Grant was able to slip away for a long weekend early in May and go to a wedding of a good friend back in Arizona. Bash and I wanted to go, but it was smack in between his ASD evaluation appointments and we didn’t want him to suffer from the travel jet lag.
And……that’s really it for now. Like I said a lot and a whole lot of nothing and a lot of everything!
In the last post I made, I went over all of the native micro4/3 lenses that we have, which I feel do an excellent job of covering most of the focal range, although there really isn’t much there to cover anything wide angle, just the Rokinon 12mm and the kit lens. Since then, I decided to pull the trigger on something I’d been considering for awhile: a Metabones Speedbooster focal reducer, and now I can experiment with adapted lenses! The main lens that I had in mind to use with the focal reducer is the reasonably priced and very well regarded Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 made for APS-C sensors.
The main item I had to consider was to go with the regular speedbooster which provides a 0.71x magnification which is what would generally be recommended for APS-C lenses, or the more extreme 0.64x ‘XL’ option, which is intended only for condensing the image circle of a full frame lens down to micro 4/3 dimensions. If life were black and white it’d be a pretty straightforward decision, but the difference between the 0.64 and 0.71 is 1/3 of a stop of aperture, which would go a long ways to adding versatility to my camera: letting me keep a compact kit when I want, especially for the telephoto stuff, but giving me closer to full frame results when I’m willing to use the bigger/heavier lenses (bringing me up to 2/3 of a stop slower, instead of the 2 stop disadvantage without the focal reducer).
The primary concern for using the XL with a lens that is too small for it would be some severe vignetting. It was easy to look around and find a ton of people using the combination of the speedbooster XL and the 18-35, as it is extremely popular, and adapts to a 11.5-22.4mm f1.1 zoom, but almost everything I could find about it was specifically talking about video, and cropped down to a 16:9 aspect ratio, and the best I could find about stills was along the lines of “it vignettes at the wide end, but goes away pretty quick as you zoom in”. So after finding a good deal on a used lens, I wanted to do a bit of testing with it, and share the results of the lens at different zoom/aperture/focus positions. All the pictures are RAWs straight out of the camera, with no adjustments or corrections.
First up, at the wide end, and minimum focus distance:
There’s some very strong vignetting in the corners, for whatever reason, the bottom right is the most severe. I’ll show full stops increments from f1.4 to f8, and then the smallest aperture f10
Next up, still all the way zoomed out, but focusing farther away (focused on the snowman):
So how about some other focal lengths? Zoomed in to an indicated 20mm (actually ~13mm/26mm in full frame terms:
And just for funsies, a quick check back at the minimum focusing distance:
So for focusing up relatively close, I feel like the lens is completely usable wide open and zoomed out, or stopped down a bit if I want to get rid of most of the vignetting. For more landscape-oriented uses, a 3:2 crop gives perhaps a more familiar aspect ratio, and takes care of most of the vignetting, as seen below. For astrophotography, which I expect this lens will excel at, I imagine it would be more or less case by case, whether composition would work alright with the vignetting, or to go to a 3:2 crop.
First, a couple images I took of the cat indoors when I first got the lens:
I’m extremely impressed with what this lens does, in addition to being a nice wide zoom range at ridiculously fast aperture, its also extremely sharp wide open, and while a wide angle lens isn’t what you’re going to grab to get some blurry backgrounds, I find the door to be pleasingly soft and just out of focus enough for Penny to really pop out of the image. Next are some crops of a couple of the images from above.
Lastly, another image I grabbed of the snowman before heading inside:
I opted for the Canon EF version of the speedbooster and lens, so autofocus does work with the combination, and it actually works just fine on the G9. It’s not as fast as the Panasonic lenses that I have, but it is by no means slow, and seems to be just as accurate as any of the other lenses I have. This is also a lens with nice manual focus controls (one of the nicer autofocus lenses to manual focus, that I’ve experienced, if that makes sense), it has an AF/MF switch on the barrel (although I use the lever on my camera body instead) along with a dedicated indication of the focus range, and the focus ring is well sized and turns with a nice weight, and you can feel when you reach the ends of the focus range.
Overall I’d simply put that I am very happy with the purchase of the speedbooster and the lens. It is an extremely sharp lens, and the vignetting can be significant and severe, but I think the 0.64x speedbooster is absolutely the way to go, the extra speed and wider field of view is worth the tradeoff of some manageable or croppable vignetting.
For this week, I wanted to spend a bit of time looking back over the last couple years, and put together a collection of my favorite pictures we’ve taken. I deal enough with data analysis, numbers, and graphs at work, so I don’t find myself overly interested in taking that sort of approach here. Instead, I’d prefer to share some of my experiences and thoughts on each lens, along with some of my favorite images that we’ve taken with each.
The first thing that stood out, is that early on, when we were using auto mode, and letting the camera decide on all of the settings, is that the camera often did a pretty poor job of choosing settings… Pictures at f/9-f/11, with very fast shutter speeds, which needed the camera to be bumped up to ISO 2500-5000 for an alarmingly high number of photos… It was a transitional period getting used to the rest of the camera and pick up on some of the basics, and it wasn’t all bad, sometimes it happened to choose quite well! It was nice to go back through and see a much smaller Bashi, and how much better at some of this stuff we’ve gotten. I do need to apologize in advance though, there’s going to be a lot of Penny… Click on the pictures in the galleries to see them larger.
Olympus 14-42 f3.5-5.6 EZ
The kit lens is what lived on the camera almost all the time for quite awhile, but has been on there very rarely since we acquired a few more lenses. The lens is super compact, which is the biggest things it’s got going for it, but it actually can take some excellent and rather sharp images too, as long as you have enough light to make up for the slow aperture. I can’t say I like the electronic zoom, and its often a bit slow to autofocus, but this is a reasonable price to pay for the compactness of the lens. It really is a nice match for the small Olympus camera, and is great for keeping things light and simple (it deserves more use than I give it).
Olympus 40-150mm f4-5.6
The second lens we got initially with the camera, it might not be an amazing lens, but it *is* cheap, and covers a nice telephoto range. It is small and compact, and actually can be fairly sharp. It hasn’t really ever been used all that much, and that probably isn’t going to change, but we have gotten a few nice pictures with it.
Rokinon 12mm f2
One of the two lenses we picked up in ‘wave 2’, a fast wide angle lens that came used, and cheap. It’s all manual, but focusing is very easy at this focal length. This lens really hasn’t seen much use either, as I’ve so far found myself far more interested in telephoto lenses to wide angle ones, but it is nice to have on hand just in case.
Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4
The other half of our second wave of lenses, also picked up used, from a wonderful local used photography store we have in Columbus. I went in hoping to find the Panasonic 25mm f1.7 because its cheaper and a bit more compact and came well reviewed. I got all the way out to the car after buying just the Rokinon before I talked myself into just spending a bit more money and going for it, so I went back in and picked up the fast prime lens. As soon as we got home and put this lens on the camera, I knew I made the right choice.
This. Lens. Is. Awesome.
We were fortunate to have a weird foggy morning right after we picked up the lens, and these were some of the first pictures I took with the camera. The difference between the maximum f3.5 of the kit lens to the f1.4 of this lens absolutely blew me away, and it focus very quickly also. Most of all, I love how crisp and in-focus Bash is, while Kristen and Luka are nicely blurred (this is still very high on my favorites list, and that was an excellent morning for backyard photography).
We had taken some nice pictures with the kit lens, but the experience I have had using this lens, the colors, the ability to make the subject pop out of the background, and the sharpness, it really made me feel like what I was using was some pretty high end camera gear, and that I was actually taking some nice photos, beyond just something to share with family.
One of the big strengths of the micro 4/3 cameras, is the number of lens options you have at most focal lengths (except for long telephoto primes, but we won’t get into that), due to having both Olympus and Panasonic having put out full lens lineups that are fully compatible with each other (except for making lens + camera stabilization team up and work in tandem). Just for the 25mm focal length, assuming you want autofocus, you can choose from the Olympus f1.2 or f1.8, or the Panasonic f1.4 or f1.7. I’ve read wonderful things about the Olympus f1.2 lenses, but I’ve been quite happy with the Panasonic f1.4, which is substantially smaller (and cheaper).
Panasonic 35-100mm f2.8
This is Panasonic’s equivalent of a typical 70-200mm f2.8 full frame zoom lens. I may have said some excellent things about the 25mm lens above, but this lens is the best one we own, and it’s really not much of a contest. Unless I am going to be strictly indoors or in very low light, and I only want to take one lens, I wouldn’t think twice before putting this lens on the camera. The f2.8 aperture at both ends of the zoom (a very versatile and useful focal range) is wonderful for keeping the ISO down. This lens is light and compact (for what it is), it’s zoom mechanism is all internal so it doesn’t get any longer even when you’re all the way zoomed in, plus it is weather sealed and has built in image stabilization (which we kept turned off with the Olympus to let the camera do the work, but with the Panasonic G9, they work together). I honestly don’t see any downsides to this lens, other than that f2.8 on a crop sensor isn’t going to give you all that narrow a depth of field, so if you want a ton of super blurry backgrounds, you’ll want a faster prime in this range (coming up), or maybe you would be happier with a larger sensor camera.
Panasonic 100-400mm f4-6.3
This lens is big, it was expensive, and it’s a bit silly, but it also is what makes the micro4/3 camera 100% worth it for me. It covers the 200-800mm full frame focal range in something that I only think is big or expensive because I’m not actually dealing with full frame lenses. Its nowhere near the aperture of the 35-100, so you need to have a fair bit of light, and while its very sharp at 100mm, I can definitely tell it suffers a bit and is softer zoomed all the way in to 400mm. I can’t zoom in with lightroom and clearly see each strand of fur on Luka or Penny like I can with the 25 or 35-100, but its still pretty good (occasionally very good),
and considering that I’m shooting with an 800mm equivalent focal length lens, and its no big deal to carry around, I’m completely ok with that.
Voigtlander 42.5mm f0.95
Last but not least, or most recent lens is an all manual, exceptionally fast 85mm equivalent lens. This focal length is of course already covered by the excellent 35-100, but I did want a faster prime in the 85mm-ish focal range. The 3 lenses I considered were the Panasonic 42.5mm f1.2 Nocticron (which has a fun name and a cult following), the Olympus 45mm f1.2, or the Voigtlander. The Panasonic has been around longer and is regarded as one of the best lenses available, and the Olympus PRO lenses are by all accounts phenomenal pieces of glass, but there were a few reasons I opted for the Voigtlander…
It was cheaper, especially second hand how I picked it up
It has a faster aperture, this is a focal range I already have covered with the 35-100, so might as well go for the fastest one available
Minimum focus distance. The Voigtlander has a much closer minimum focusing distance than the other options, making it excellent for close-up photography (and keeping me from thinking I need a macro lens)
Manual focus. This feels out of place, but I did want to experiment more with manual focus, and I generally assume that a lens designed to be focused manually will tend to have better control and feel than an autofocus lens
Despite being a redundant focal length, the Voigtlander seemed to offer me the most upsides for me, and do the most to make up for some of the inherent shortcomings of the small sensor with the fast aperture with the narrower depth of field and letting me keep to a lower ISO in low light. It’s easy to just head out with the 35-100 and know that I’ll be well equipped for most things I might want to take a picture of, but sometimes that feels a little bit too easy. Occasionally it is nice to just toss the manual lens on and be forced to slow down a little, and work a bit more to get the shot. Some of them get away because I can’t keep up with the focus, but I find I enjoy the ones that I nail a bit more, either because of some character of the lens, or the shallower depth of field, or because I feel like I was more involved in taking the picture (while the 35-100mm is absolutely our best lens, this one might be my favorite).
As I sit here in our solarium trying to catch some winter sunshine at the close of January, I’m reflecting on our New Year’s resolutions and how 2019 has treated us so far. There have definitely been ups and down. I have had to cancel two adventures due to tickets being sold out and finances. I have really picked up my purging of the house. I started Grant out on what I thought would be a super easy 1-2 hour Saturday project, replacing the bath taps and shower head in our master bathroom. It inevitably turned into a full day, phone a friend project (Thanks Ian!). I now have a snazzy new hole in my drywall and Grant is the dubious owner of a blow torch. But damn do the new fixtures look good. #adulting
Bash had an in-home evaluation to see if he qualified for some early intervention services through our county. He qualified, like we thought he would. The program is only until age 3, and since he is barely 2.5 years old we decided against the once a month at home meetings and decided to get him into an early preschool program that will put him with other children his age with learning difficulties as well as his neurotypical peers. They have speech and occupational therapists that do weekly individual sessions with the kids as well as help with in-class activities. We were really pleased with what we saw and heard when we toured the facility. But, by far his favorite thing is the discovery of our local trampoline park. It is the best!
As far as his verbal communication is going, we have days where he won’t talk to us or we aren’t understanding what he is trying to tell us, but he has recently started to repeat words that we say. In true toddler fashion, mom and dad are probably the only ones who understand him. (Except our friend Cheryl, who was kind enough to share her rice with him when he asked her for more!)
Grant ended up having to fly to LA overnight in the middle of last week for work. It’s been a while since it was him leaving for a trip. Typically, Bash and I are travelling back to Arizona for an extended period of time. We end up getting our snowbirding all backwards and travel to Arizona in the summer instead of winter, but we are able to spend time up in northern Arizona at my mom’s mountain cabin or in the high desert at Grant’s parents’ house, while still very warm…it is certainly not Phoenix! Anyway, it was strange but we were very glad to have him home again! [Editor’s note: the next day, wasn’t a long trip.]
I feel like we have accomplished a lot this month, but it’s not all tangible….or photograph-able. Like, how I mentally feel more prepared for this year. Or how i have recently had a great feeling of calm and accomplishment with how well Bash is doing. How I feel that even in a short month Grant and I have made a more concentrated effort at being partners in our relationship. I feel like we have been able to really check some of our resolutions for this year not..off the list because most of these are ongoing goals.
I have also ramped up my purging the house of things to donate or sell. I haven’t gone full Marie Kondo but I have been heard around the house asking “Does this bring me joy?”. Its such a stress reliever to get rid of what is causing the stress, which if you haven’t guessed, is piles and piles of stuff. I had never really realized how much anxiety I have carried around because of clutter. Its a slow process, somehow we have collected so much stuff. So finally understanding what is materially important to us and what isn’t is so nice and it frees up so much time. But, we have had a couple of polar vortex events here where the outside temps are getting in the single and negative digits, so CAVE MOM has taken over. Not having to go anywhere, cartoons and indoor playing. Snacks…so.many.snacks. I even pulled out some toys for Bash that we have had stashed away for a while.
Warmer days such as this really have me looking forward to Spring. I’m hoping to be able to get my paddle board out more than once this year and discover some new places to play. Get some camping in, even if its in our backyard. I think, in the end, we are really looking forward to what February will bring us.
A couple years ago, when I asked Kristen if there was anything specific that she wanted, brand or feature-wise, in her ‘fancy camera’, her response was along the lines of “no, get whatever you think is best, you always manage to find great things when it comes to technology”.(Editor’s Note: Its true, because I can be very impatient and Grant is a research wizard.) My first consideration, which I treated as a ‘baseline’, was a Canon Rebel kit that would inevitably be available at Costco. It hits the high points of being reasonably priced, looking the part of a proper DSLR, and, presumably, backing up the performance as its a Canon, and everyone knows Canon. It’s an option, and, probably not a terrible one, I’m sure there are thousands of people with that exact setup and it probably works just fine for them. However, as a bit of a technophile, and someone who doesn’t like throwing money at something without some research and making sure I know what I’m getting into, I couldn’t just stop at that.
I personally like to do a bit of reading up on a subject and collect opinions from a few different sources, preferably none of which who have any stake or interest in me purchasing anything today, tomorrow, or ever; I like to read some information and thoughts/opinions from one source, mull over it in my head, and find another source and see what common themes I find. This is not to say that I don’t like a good brick and mortar store, there are actually a couple different excellent photography stores in Columbus that I really like, but I don’t want to go into somewhere without a pretty good idea of what I’m interested in (at least in terms of features, of not a specific product).
My search began with looking for what some of the best, and best value cameras of the time were. As it turns out, cameras are expensive, so the focus quickly turned to the value end of that searching. One topic that came up was what the best type of camera was, I went in assuming that we wanted a DSLR, but then I read about a ‘mirrorless’ camera, which seemed at the time to not necessarily be “better” than a DSLR, but maybe co-equal with some advantages and disadvantages such as generally being more compact but generally having worse battery life and many electronic viewfinders being worse than their optical equivalents, but importantly using the same sensor, so image quality would be equivalent. Somewhere along the way, I also ran into the quote that “the best camera, is the one you have with you”, which really spoke to me, remembering the giant DSLRs I’d seen hanging around the necks of tourists and enthusiasts. With that in mind, the search for a good mirrorless camera was underway. The one that really jumped out at me was the Olympus OMD E-M10 mark ii, it seemed like Olympus had a different approach than some of the other brands. Instead of offering an entry level camera stripped of most of its features to get you into the door, waiting for you to be ready to upgrade, it seemed like Olympus (focusing on their OMD line, as it looked more the proper SLR or single lens reflex style and having a pretty good EVF or electronic view finder) basically offered 3 cameras, and included some nice features even in the cheapest of them, like in-camera image stabilization, then added weather sealing to the same sensor for the mid camera, and kept a superior higher-resolution sensor for the flagship camera. Instead of an entry level/intermediate/flagship arrangement, it seemed like Olympus just cut out the entry level part, and made the intermediate camera affordable. Other benefits were that Olympus seemed to be well respected for their JPEG engine for those unsure of or afraid of ‘RAW’ files (or just not wanting to have to deal with them), also because of using whatever the micro 4/3 lens mount is (more on this later), it’s a more compact option than most other cameras. On top of all of that, having some solid vintage styling was not a strong deciding factor, but a nice bonus nonetheless, and one got ordered promptly, even springing for the more expensive pancake version of the kit lens to double down on the compact theme, plus the available and cheap (great value!) telephoto zoom lens to have another option.
I was then able to inform Kristen that her “surprise” birthday present had been ordered, and that she could even receive it a few months early if she wanted. Kristen says she likes surprises, but what she likes even more than surprises is instant gratification, so she was quite eager to know just what I had decided on and gotten. Cleverly, the only hint I gave her was that the brand contained an ‘O’ in the name. On a side-note, its surprising how many camera brands have an ‘O’ in their name…. Olympus, Panasonic, Sony, Canon, Nikon, Kodak… Basically it eliminated Fuji and Pentax (although technically they are Ricoh, so an argument could be made there, but, I didn’t know that at the time), in addition to other brands far too expensive and that I didn’t actually know anything about such as Leica and Hasselblad… Somehow Kristen didn’t find this revelation as amusing as I did, but she got over it a few days later when the camera arrived. (Editor’s Note: I think he gets secret enjoyment out of tormenting me with surprises I don’t get to have right away.)
After having and using our camera for awhile, in addition to continued research, reflection, and talking to other folks, I’ve come to the opinion that it is exceptionally difficult to be sufficiently educated when making a decision on what camera to purchase. Cameras are complicated and there are a lot of variables that should be considered, I didn’t even touch on (or, honestly, consider) sensor size, or the implications of it above (turns out that’s where the micro 4/3 part comes in, as it’s a physically smaller sensor, which allows for more compact lenses with the tradeoffs of worse performance in low light, and making it harder to get highly blurred backgrounds in your images). There’s also the question of what you actually want to take pictures of, and the availability/cost of lenses that will work with your camera, and what your options are if/when you want to get more serious and upgrade. To be completely honest, if I *actually* understood all of the things I was reading about, I would have 100% gone with a full frame Sony mirrorless (A7 or A7 ii) for all of the technical superiorities it offers. While I still wouldn’t mind one as a second system for some situations (or more preferably, blow even more money on an even less-needed Fuji medium format mirrorless which somehow is a larger sensor than full frame, because sensor naming has a weird history), this would have absolutely been a mistake, and I am extremely happy with the setup I ignorantly stumbled into.
The point I want to make here isn’t that micro 4/3 is the best camera system, as it isn’t, at least not for everyone. Every system will have strengths and weaknesses, and unless you are already rather familiar with cameras and photography, you likely don’t understand what these are, and how important each is for you. If you do already know what these things mean, and what will be the best fit for you, you are probably already “invested” in a brand or mount, which makes it more difficult to change if what you have isn’t necessarily the best fit for you (I already have some Canon lenses…).
As to the equipment we have (all focal lengths will be listed in full frame equivalent numbers for field of view), after the initial purchase, our next acquisition was a Rokinon manual wide angle lens (24mm) and a Panasonic-Leica ‘nifty-50’ with a fast f1.4 aperture. Later, we got a good price on a Panasonic 70-200 f2.8 zoom lens which is fantastic. After this, I found myself wanting a silly and unnecessary lens, and eventually picked up a super telephoto zoom to cover the 200-800mm range. The last lens that we have acquired is a hefty and all manual Voigtlander 85mm equivalent length lens with a super fast f0.95 aperture which goes a decent way towards addressing the low light and background blur weaknesses of the smaller sensor, as well as being a pleasant to use manual focus lens. We also recently picked up a second body, a Panasonic G9 as a bit larger and more capable option. These lenses were all reasonably priced for what they are (and most purchased second-hand), but the thing I like most about our setup is how compact and flexible it is; it’s no problem to walk around on a hike with an 800mm focal length lens, or load everything into a backpack and have an option on hand, regardless of what we find to take a picture of.
Regardless of what camera I chose, the bottleneck to creating good images would have remained the same: me. The best advice I could give to anyone looking at getting their first camera, would be to start by taking a long time to honestly consider what they actually want to take pictures of, and then work backwards from there, maybe you wind up deciding a pro level Canon or Nikon DSLR or mirrorless is what you will want to grow into, maybe an Olympus/Panasonic micro 4/3 camera would be a nice fit, or maybe a bridge camera or point and shoot would check off all the items on your ‘want’ list, at a lot less cost and/or size. Talk to someone, whether its a friend/coworker with some camera gear, or go to a local camera store when its not busy and try to find a friendly and knowledgeable worker to talk to, but don’t get all of your information from one source, and don’t assume what is best for someone else will be best for you. Finally, whatever you get, use it.
I am very aware that we are only two posts into our blog and I’m already….I wouldn’t say stuck in a rut, or have writer’s block, but its a solid fact that I feel like I’ve run out of things to write about. This is one of my biggest fears, because that means we’ve forgotten our 2019 resolutions and have become complacent.
I’ve had to sit back and really think about what we do in our life that people (mostly family and friends right now, Hi Mom!) would find interesting or engaging. What will bring more people to this page…..do I even want more people to this page? (Of course we do, we appreciate you.) And thus, I spiral down the rabbit hole of social media fears. All the foodie blogs I follow make it look so easy. I know a lot of these people are blogging veterans that have been writing and taking pictures for a while or have a professional background in writing or photography.
It was then decided the next post Grant and I write will have to be something we (in our opinion) do very well. These photos might turn out OK but I know the food will be tasty. Trust me. Cause that is one thing Grant and I can do pretty darn well, and that is cook….and eat.
A BIG THANK YOU to our friends, Cheryl and Tony, who have so graciously let us use their beautifully redone kitchen, and for taking several of these photos. (And babysitting, and just being awesome.)
This adaptation came about from a similar recipe that is floating around the Weight Watchers (or WW ) social media circles for a while. Now, the original is really good, but I thought I could add a few of my own touches to make it even better.
I don’t know about you, but when I think steakhouses, I think mushrooms and onions sautéedin butter and herbs smothering a big juicy steak. Yum! But, as it is the New Year and I have been following WW for about a year now, I will be using zero WW point chicken breasts, and unfortunately, no butter. I have achieved a 20 lb. weight loss since starting WW last December. While I could have done better, I’m very proud of maintaining that loss. I have several adventures in the works for Spring/Summer 2019 that will require me to be in better physical shape, so I am hoping not just to lose more, but build muscle as well. Half the work of being healthy is in the kitchen. Thus, the Smothered Steakhouse Chicken was born.
So without further ado, here is our recipe.
Smothered Steakhouse Chicken:
1 medium onion, sliced thin
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1-2 cups sliced mushrooms (depending on how much you like ’em), we used cremini but feel free to use whatever you like
8oz beef broth (we used 1 tsp Better than Bouillon mixed in 8 oz of hot water)
1 tbsp flour for thickener
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and pounded for even thickness( I imagine chicken thighs would be amazing here, you will just need to adjust WW points accordingly)
Salt, pepper, Italian seasoning and Trader Joe’s Umami Seasoning (can omit)
½ cup part skim shredded mozzarella cheese
Flat leaf parsley for garnish
Preheat oven to 400F degrees
Spray canola oil cooking spray in skillet and let it warm up on medium low heat, add onion, garlic and mushrooms and roughly 3 tbsp beef broth, stir, cover with lid for a few minutes to steam, stirring frequently. Saute until onions are translucent and tender. Season with salt and pepper.
Once cooked, transfer onion, garlic and mushroom mixture to a bowl and set aside.
Clean skillet and heat to medium. Spray lightly again with cooking spray.
Season both sides of the chicken with salt, pepper, Italian and Umami seasonings.
Add chicken to the pan and cook until they have and nice golden color on both sides and transfer to a plate (will go in oven, does not need to be cooked through). Transfer to a plate.
Sprinkle 1 tbsp flour over the onion and mushroom mixture and then return to the pan. Add remaining beef broth and stir until thickened. (You are essentially making an onion and mushroom gravy).
Spray cooking spray into a 9 x 13 oven safe pan and place half of the onion and mushroom mixture down, add the chicken in an even layer and smother with the rest of the mixture. Top chicken with an even layer of mozzarella cheese.
Bake for 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. (165F degrees).
I turned the broiler on high and let the cheese crisp for roughly 5 minutes, always keep checking so it doesn’t burn. And voila, done!
I would recommend serving this with a nice side salad or a steamed vegetable such as green beans or asparagus. Maybe even roasted brussels sprouts.
WW Freestyle Points : 2
If you decided to make this, snap a photo and tag us on our Instagram at @fullertography
I’m rather late to the whole photography thing. Growing up, my parents always had a camera somewhere, I imagine, or at least every once in awhile there was a roll of film going to the store to get developed. Also there are pictures of me as a kid, so that’s pretty strong supporting evidence. The camera itself was nothing noteworthy, just an “I take pictures” thing. I would also periodically find myself on a school field trip with a disposable camera and felt obligated to use it. I never had much interest in them as I was more focused on actually being wherever I was, and the charge-up flash was probably the coolest part. Sometimes those cameras got taken to get developed, sometimes they didn’t. There probably wasn’t anything worth taking a second look at either way.
I also remember a road trip with a couple good friends right out of high school from Arizona up to Seattle and back in my luxurious 80’s Buick Riviera. We ended up driving through Zion National Park, and at this point I think I had an early 2000’s point and shoot camera that my parents insisted I take some pictures with. I distinctly recall driving by some gorgeous scenery and taking pictures of the other people taking pictures. Exclusively.
The idea that I was more interested in living in the moment rather than capturing it for later in a photo carried on into and through college. I had my point and shoot, but it was awful, and took awful photos (as far as I was concerned, it couldn’t possibly have been my fault) and it rarely made its way out of a drawer. I had a very good time in college, met a lot of great people and went to my share of exciting places and events. I remember a lot of them, but much of it is bits and pieces here and there.
Soon after college is when I got my first smartphone, an iPhone 3G. It had a camera built in, and worked better than any other camera I’d used, plus I was already carrying it in my pocket, so I didn’t need to plan in advance to have a camera. I still didn’t much care for photography; sure I had my phone, and it did a good enough job capturing a silly license plate or a noteworthy car in a parking lot, or the bitchinest mullet at the Pima county fair.
I didn’t know anything about exposure, dynamic range, aperture, ISO (at least as it pertains to photography, I’d dealt with ISO testing at work), and I definitely didn’t care about white balance. Digital cameras were just vestiges of the time before smartphones and for people who weren’t tech-savvy enough to live in the modern world, with DSLRs being for the most pretentious and snootiest of the bunch.
I’d been steadily starting to take more pictures after my girlfriend (now wife) and I got a puppy (still a puppy 7 years later), but smartphone camera tech outpaced my needs well enough that I never had any interest in a camera that was only a camera, when I was already carrying around a text messaging and internet machine that was also a camera on the side (and occasionally, annoyingly, made a phone call).
I’m not entirely sure if it was having a child, finding the first gray hair in my beard, realizing that I don’t actually remember all that much about a lot of the places I’ve been or people I was with, or the gradual maturation that comes with having a steady job and no longer packing up all of my possessions and moving every 3 months that lets one better appreciate the view afforded by a nice sunrise on the drive in to work (even if it’s merely pretty, and not epic), the way a country road darts through a full canopy of trees, or a mischievous smile from your wife, which is far from a new or rare thing, but reminds you of the picture she has of herself shortly after high school with some friends on a trip to Germany in a biergarten while still well underage by US standards.
At any rate, when Kristen told me a couple years ago that what she really wanted was a “fancy camera”, it no longer struck me as such a silly notion and waste of money.
Since we got the camera, there have been some ups and downs, times when the camera would snap dozens of pictures, and then sit dormant in its bag for days or weeks. More recently, its been in use almost every day, and we get better with (almost) every picture we take, just like our son gets bigger and taller just about every day, whether we can notice the difference from yesterday to today or not.
Personally, I’ve come to some realizations. A phone can take some wonderful pictures, but definitely struggles with motion and low light, and life with a toddler frequently involves giggling and sprinting across the living room. It doesn’t take much to just take a step or two back periodically and snap some photos while you’re out living your best life. Sometimes it’s nicer to look at pictures of your cat looking majestic, than deal with your cat being her normal self.
A handful of pictures of a grandson or great grandson can mean the world to grandparents living thousands of miles away. Perhaps most importantly, I may be the one living my life, but it’s not all about me.