The house fire that wasn’t

This past weekend we had a really minor fire on the exterior of our house. A tree limb hit power lines attached to our house which caused arcing which caused some of the siding the catch on fire. I actually can’t talk a lot about a lot of the specifics today or share photos of the damage because of insurance and codes. But just know that it was a minor thing that could have so easily been a super major thing.

If so many things had just been slightly different then our house could have burned to the ground. With Oreo inside. Or with us asleep. Or while we were out of town with our regular house/dog sitter asleep inside. Every time the realization of one of those things hit me on Saturday I found myself overwhelmed with thankfulness for how it happened. If it hadn’t been for the friend of ours who was there with Christopher when it happened and the fire extinguisher we keep in the kitchen, we very easily might have lost half of our house this past weekend. I really wish I could fill in more gaps to that part of the story, but just suffice it to say that it felt a little bit like a guardian angel looking out for us. If this had to happen, it couldn’t have happened at a better time.

fire truck

The fire department was called while Christopher and our friend handled the fire and got Oreo out of the house. By the time they arrived the fire had already been put out, but they still had to check for smoldering and thermal heat throughout the house. I had been at a newborn photoshoot that morning so I got a call from Christopher around this time filling me in. I came home to the fire truck in front of our house. Everyone was super kind to us and helpful. The city came out to turn off the power to our house (so we wouldn’t be electrocuted walking through our backyard) until we could get an electrician to come out and fix the power lines. So we were without power for Saturday and most of Sunday. Did I mention that this weekend is when the weather dropped from the 60s here in Memphis to the 20s? I’ll come back to that later.

Before I even arrived home I started getting calls from our neighbors asking if I knew there was a fire truck outside our house and if we were all okay. I explained to them what happened and they each told us to call if we needed anything. A hot shower, a place to hang out with electricity, a place to stay for a few days while we wait on repairs. We felt so loved by these precious friends. Later that day I posted something about all of this to social media. Because that’s what people in our generation do. ;) Anyway, if we felt loved before, we felt overwhelmed with love after I did that. The calls and texts began pouring in at that point. We lost count of how many people offered us a place to stay (even saying that Oreo was welcome as well). You guys… it was just too much. The wrap around we felt. So much love. So much concern. I don’t know how people make it without community.

We ended up deciding to stay home on Saturday night even without electricity much to the chagrin of several of our friends who kept reminding us that it was 20 degrees and that there was no need to be a hero about it. ;) We weren’t opposed to taking help, but with Oreo it’s just easier to stay home if we could tough it out through the night. Plus we were hopeful to not be without power for long (which we weren’t!). Christopher, Oreo and I piled in our bed with flannel sheets and under all the blankets in our house. We were SO toasty all night long. It was definitely brisk getting out of our cozy bed the next morning, but it was very manageable. It was in the 20s outside, but we’re pretty sure it didn’t drop below 50 inside (our thermostat said it was in the 50s when our power came back). Not something sustainable for a long time, but for 2 days (and only one night), it was fine.

heat is back(heat is coming out of that vent again!)

Yesterday, just before dark, we got our power back. All the lights that had been on when the power went off all popped on while I was standing in the kitchen. One minute I was clearing out spoiled food from our freezer and the next I was bouncing in glee when I heard the power come on and all our Christmas lights came on around me. It was such a happy moment.

The past couple of days Christopher and I haven’t been able to stop talking about how grateful we are. How wonderful it was to be surrounded by love and concern from neighbors, friends, and family. How grateful we are that it wasn’t worse and that we already have power back. How thankful we are to know that if it had been worse that we have such an incredible community that would have taken care of us. Our hearts are overflowing which feels kind of perfect for this Thanksgiving week. :)

Have you ever had a fire at your home?

Have you gone without power during extreme weather?

Love Rach

Pioneer Woman’s Chili

We’ve been eating a lot of chili around here lately. It’s easy to make a big pot full of it and then eat on it all week. And when I’m in the midst of busy season with photography – cooking one time and eating all week is a winner. We have our favorite chili recipe which I’ve shared with you guys before, but to change it up a bit we also tried the Pioneer Woman’s chili recipe. Because she is awesome and her recipes are the bomb dot com.

pioneer woman chili

Pioneer Woman’s Chili


2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp ground oregano
1 tbsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp chili powder
2 lbs ground beef
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup masa (corn flour)
1 (15 oz) can pinto beans
1 (15 oz) can red kidney beans
1 (13 oz) can Rotel
1 jalapeño, seeded and finely diced (optional)


1. Place the ground beef in a large pot and throw in the garlic. Cook the beef until brown. Drain excess fat. Pour in the tomato sauce. Followed by the spices and the salt. Stir together well, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Let simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. If the mixture becomes overly dry, add in 1/2 cup water at a time as needed.

2. After an hour, place the masa in a small bowl.  Add 1/2 cup water and stir together with a fork. Dump the masa mixture into the chili. Stir together well. Taste, adjust the seasonings, and add more masa paste and/or water to get the chili to your preferred consistency, or to add more corn flavor.

3. Add the beans and tomatoes (and jalapeño if desired).  Simmer for 10 minutes. Serve with cheese and fritos if desired.

The chili was delicious as per normal for the Pioneer Woman. Buuuut (yes there is a but), in our opinions: it’s not as good as our normal chili recipe. I know, I know, I speak blasphemy and such. But trust me, as good as her recipe is (and it IS!), we still like ours better. Which feels strange to say because normally the PW’s recipes are the best. I mean, let’s all take a moment to remember the ribeye steaks with whiskey cream sauce. Ah-mazing. This chili, however, is just “good”. Not super amazing or the best ever. And that’s okay. And also entirely possibly a preference thing. But it definitely was still good to try a different recipe!

Do you have a recipe of your own that you like better than the one most people swear by?

Love Rach

The Best Mexican Food in Memphis {Las Delicias}

When people ask about the best steak or burger or BBQ in Memphis, I usually mention 2 or 3 favorites. But when it comes to the best Mexican food in Memphis, there is no question. Hands down it is Las Delicias.

las delicias

I mentioned this last week when I blogged about going to eat there with Christina and Robby. And I was kind of amazed that I’ve never blogged about this place before. Up until August I ate here every single week for two years with my teen girls. I have a lot of good memories from Wednesday nights at Las Delicias with my girls. :) Well, now my girls are all graduated and in college so these days I eat here for lunch dates with Christopher or a friend.

las delicias chips

One thing you should know about Las Delicias… they have incredible chips. They are crispy and light without being greasy. And they are durable enough to handle queso, salsa, and guacamole without breaking (these are important things, you know. ;) ).

las delicias salsa

The salsa is my favorite ever. Seriously. I don’t know what their secret is, but it’s magic.

las delicias guacamole

And their guacamole… well, it’s just like a little taste of heaven here on Earth. No mushy stuff here thankyouverymuch. Big chunks of avocado and lots of goodness and BOOM. Deliciousness. I know you think I’m exaggerating, but I’m really not. It’s incredible.

las delicias chicken burrito

With starters like those, the rest of the food could be sub par and I’d still say it was my favorite Mexican spot. But the rest of the food does not disappoint. My favorite thing to order is the chicken burrito (I usually get it without cheese which is why there’s no melted cheesy goodness in the photo above). It’s still SO good without the cheese and my tummy thanks me. ;)

las delicias steak quesadilla

Christopher rotates between the steak quesadilla which is stuffed FULL and grilled perfectly (above) and the tacos. Their tacos come bursting with flavor and topped with fresh cilantro. So many flavors. So much goodness! Probably the most popular thing that my teen girls would always get would be the “cheesy chicken rice” which is literally a bed of rice topped with seasoned chicken and drenched in queso.

And if all of this weren’t enough… this place is cheap. My massive burrito that I get… it’s $4.50. I mean, really… that’s just ridiculous. In an awesome way.

Las Delicias Mexican Bar and Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Park Location

Las Delicias Mexican Bar & Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Quince Location

Las Delicas has three locations in the city and I’ve been to two of them frequently and the food is excellent at both locations. The Quince location is newer, a little more updated, and tends to have better service. But the Park location has lots of character and is more central in the city. If I had to choose a location I’d pick the Quince location simply because it’s bigger and there’s almost never a wait for a table. Not to mention that the Quince location has a great little patio space and live music on a lot of evenings. :)

Do you have a favorite Mexican or Tex-Mex spot where you live?

Love Rach

Camera Advice

Hi friends! A couple of people asked what camera I use/recommend after Monday’s post which made me realize that as often as I get asked that question in person, I’ve never blogged about it. I get this question (or at least questions about cameras and lenses) nearly as often as the question of where to get good prints. So today I want to fill you in on the advice I usually give when I’m asked about a good camera for photography as a hobby or for someone wanting better pictures of their day-to-day life.

camera advice from a photographer

As a Disclaimer:

My first DSLR was considered a “mid-range” one so I can’t speak a lot about the beginner cameras. And I’ve used Nikon exclusively so I can’t speak to Canon. But I can share what I know and fill you guys in on what I normally recommend when people ask. :)

A Bit of History:

I started with the Nikon D5100 and then upgraded to the Nikon D7000 after two years because I needed a faster shutter speed and to be able to change settings more easily while out in the field taking photos. After another year I upgraded again to the Nikon D750 because I needed a full frame camera for my photography business. And truth be told, I have loved all three of these cameras.

I Recommend: 

Each of the cameras I’ve used can take incredible photos with the right lens (more on that below) including the D5100 even though it’s the “cheap” one. All of our photos from Italy were taken with that camera and I started my photography business with that camera. And if photography is just a hobby for you – that line of cameras is what I would recommend. Currently the Nikon D5300 and D5500 are the versions that are out, but they are in that same 5000 series. And if you want to save lots of pennies, feel free to purchase the D5100 online. Since there are newer versions out now, it has dropped in price.

Even if you’d like photography to be more than a hobby to you, then I’d still recommend the Nikon 5000 series as a great place to start. But if you already know a bit about DSLRs and how they work then the D7000 series is an awesome go-to. The current version is the Nikon D7200, but you can still purchase the 7000 online (thank you, Amazon). So many of the settings are available on the camera body without having to go to the menu to change settings. This makes it so much faster to adjust settings while out in the field. And if you are looking at full frame pro level cameras then this whole blog post is probably a bit simplified for you, but I can’t say enough good things about the Nikon D750. It’s my baby. And I love it. <3

photographer rach

Some Things  You Need to Know:

You need to know about Ken Rockwell if you have questions about cameras and lenses other than what I’m talking about here. His website isn’t the prettiest thing, but it has the most helpful information. He reviews and compares products constantly. If I have a question about cameras or lenses, I often go to his site.

You need to know that if you leave your DSLR in “auto” all of the time, you aren’t going to get the gorgeous photos your camera is capable of taking. If you are going to invest in a DSLR camera, I can’t recommend enough that you actually learn how to use it. I have learned 10% of what I know about DSLRs from the user manual, 10% from other photographer friends, and the other 80% from using it in the field and then Googling answers to my questions. There is so much information out there and I’m happy to help you find it – if you have questions, please feel free to ask.

You need to know how awesome prime lenses are for the popular bokeh effect (you know, when your subject is in perfect focus and everything else is blurred). So my advice when you buy a DSLR camera is to not bother with the kit lens that comes with it. Order the body only and save your pennies to buy a prime lens instead. I started my photography business with the Nikon D5100 and a 50mm 1.8/f prime lens. Today I shoot with a Nikon D750 and change between a 35mm 1.8/f lens and a 85mm 1.8/f lens. I sold my 50mm because I rarely used it once I had the other two. However, the 85mm isn’t cheap so if you are doing the whole photography thing as a hobby, I highly recommend starting with either the 35mm or the 50mm 1.8/f prime lens (and if you need help decided between those two lenses, talk with me! I’m happy to help you decide).

You need to know that prime lenses do not zoom. This means that you literally have to move your body closer or further away from the subject you are photographing in order to get the shot you’d like. It’s weird at first, but once you get used to it, it’s second nature. And the gorgeous photos more than make up for the inconvenience.

You need to know that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are great times to buy cameras and lenses. I have bought and sold lenses on Craigslist, but the majority of my camera shopping happens online (and I have bought both new and used cameras). Amazon and Adorama are the two I shop the most because they offer the best deals and best return policies. However, make sure that the products you buy are not Gray market because they won’t be covered by Nikon if you have issues with them. Look for Product of USA in the description or on the box. It’s clear on Adorama’s site, but Amazon can be a little trickier.

And finally, you need to know that cellphone cameras are getting better and better every year. Currently my Samsung Galaxy 5 cellphone takes better photos than the first point-and-shoot digital camera I got in 2005. If you have a great camera on your cellphone, don’t feel like you have to get a physical camera just to take photos. Cellphone cameras amaze me with what they can do and I’m sure they will only get better. Even as a professional photographer, there are lots of days that I leave my DSLR behind and use my cellphone because it’s easier, more accessible, fits in my pocket, and still takes great photos. Just something to consider before you invest in a DSLR.

photographer rach3

I know that was a lot of information and yet not very in depth at the same time. I tried to give a basic overview as much as I could. If you have further questions, please feel free to ask! I’m happy to help out!

How do you normally take photos? On your Phone, Point & Shoot, DSLR? 

Love Rach

So many wonderful things in one quick post!

So very much happened this weekend! It would take me a week to blog about it all so instead we’re going to hit the highlights. Ready and go!

christina and robby

Christopher and I got to spend Thursday evening with Christina from Christina Does It All and her husband, Robby. We ate some delicious Mexican food at our favorite spot (I just realized I’ve never blogged this place #bloggerfail… that post will be coming soon!). The evening also included a trip to a grocery store, a donut shop, and big hugs in a random parking lot. It was a good kind of night. Christina is exactly as she appears on her blog. Vivacious, funny, and friendly. I love when I meet a blogger and it feels more like hanging out with a friend than meeting a new person. She and I have been following each other’s blogs for over 3 years now so it was so great to finally get to meet her in person!

rach and heather

Friday and Saturday of this weekend I was in full wedding mode. Remember that one time I was a wedding coordinator way forever ago? Yeah, that happened again. It can be exhausting work, but there is nothing quite like the magic of watching it all come together so beautifully. I wore a pedometer on the wedding day to see how far I walked… it was 7 miles… in heels… yeah, the blisters are pretty intense. But it was all worth it to get to take the stress off the bride and allow her to enjoy her day. Next time I just need better shoes, ha!

rach photographer

Sunday afternoon was packed full with three back-to-back photo sessions. But that is nothing compared to the seven coming at me this weekend. I currently have 21 sessions booked for this month (not counting the 4-5 people who I will try to squeeze in when they call last minute for Christmas card photos like last year, ha!). Which is awesome. Because yay people like my work! But it definitely keeps me super busy. Thankfully I love what I do so while yes, it is busy, it’s an awesome sort of busy. :)

Have you ever worn the wrong shoes for a day when you’d be walking a lot?

Been to any weddings or met any other bloggers lately? 

If you are having professional photos taken this fall, have you scheduled your session yet?

Love Rach

Because today I’m craving potatoes

I love potatoes. And chili. And cheese. Put those three together and you have my favorite thing to order from McAlister’s Deli. Have you ever had their Spud Ole? It’s all kinds of awesome. So sometimes I make it at home. :D

spud ole

This is more a meal idea than a recipe, but I still wanted to share because I love it so much. Bake a potato and then top it with chili, cheddar, jalapenos, and sour cream. Deeeeelightful! Typically we make our famous chili one night and then use the leftovers to make these chili potatoes later in the week. Two wonderful meals from the same batch of chili!

spud ole2

And another shot to show off all the toppings even better. :)

What’s your favorite thing to top with chili? So many options! Pasta, rice, potatoes! Oh delicious carbs! :)

Love Rach

My favorite planner!

It’s the first week of November so you know what that means!

If you guessed that I decorated for Christmas then that’s a solid guess knowing me, but so far it’s back in the 70s here so I’m waiting on that. But I’m thinking soon! Anyway, the first week of November means that Sugar Paper finally released their planners for 2016!

{I feel like I’m saying this a lot lately, but this is not a sponsored post. I just really like sharing stuff with you guys that I love! However, if Sugar Paper wants to send me adorable freebies, I’ll totally take them. ;) }

If you use planners and shop at Target then you’ve probably actually seen the ones that Sugar Paper designs because they tend to feature them on the end caps. They are the super cute ones. ;) Anyway, Christopher and I juggle so many different things that there is no way we’d manage to remember everything without some sort of organization. And for some reason I am like an 80-year-old woman stuck in my ways about needing to write everything down. ;)

So any planner that I purchase for the year needs to meet a couple of criteria:

sugar paper monthly spread


(1) There needs to be a very clear month calendar at the beginning of each month. I’ve noticed a lot of planners don’t have this. Probably because normal people don’t like having to write things down twice (both on the month and on the week). But I love it. I like to be able to see my whole month at a time to be able to take note of how much we’re traveling, how much house work we’re getting done, which friends we haven’t seen in a while, etc etc.

sugar paper weekly spread{source}

(2) There also needs to be a two page spread that covers each week. With lots of space to write and no pre-printed times on the side of the page or days broken into morning/afternoon/night. Sometimes I need to use three lines to describe something that is happening at 3pm, but then I also need to put something in the 5pm slot and then my hourly planner is messed up. Or I have a ton going on all morning, but nothing happening in the afternoon so my “morning” box fills up and overflows into the afternoon one. And Sugar Paper meets all my nit picking.

gold dot planner


(3) It is a huge perk if I can find one I love that is affordable. Sugar Paper’s monthly and weekly designs actually look a lot like Erin Condren’s LifePlanner (the horizontal version). I’d say it’s the “cheap version” because Sugar Paper’s planners are so inexpensive (currently between $7.99 and $12.99 at Target depending on which one you purchase), but nothing about the Sugar Paper planners look cheap. The paper is good quality, they are super durable (I have well tested this theory out, ha!), and they are crazy adorable.

sugar paper planner

(4) Continuing off the last point… it needs to be cute. If I’m going to be using it every single day multiple times a day for a year then I need to love the way it looks. The Sugar Paper planner I’ve been using for 2015 is blue & white striped with gold accents and I have loved it! For 2016 I’m trying to decide between a black & white striped OR gold dot planner. True story, when I went to Target on Monday I couldn’t decide between them so I bought both thinking I’d make a decision once I got home and return the other. But here I am two days later and I’m still unsure which one I want to keep, ha!

sugar paper planner2The two I’m trying to decide between hanging out on my coffee table. I love both designs so mostly I’m trying to decide which size I want. Opinions?

I shared a picture of my 2015 Sugar Paper planner on Instagram back in January and since then I’ve had interest in more details about what planner I use. I’ll be honest, I didn’t think I could write a whole blog post about my favorite planner, but apparently I had more to say about it than I thought, ha! So thanks for sticking with me through this! And if you like paper planners and aren’t super loyal to a specific brand – check out the Sugar Paper ones! I love them! :)

Do you use a pen & paper planner? If so, do you have a favorite brand?

Love Rach