Rushing water from River Cave in Cave River Valley Nature Preserve on a foggy, rainy day.

After many semi-local photo adventures, I thought I would update everyone on some of my travels and projects that I have done in my spare time. I really love to get out and see the areas around me, and have made it a priority to experience and photograph them. It’s only fitting that I start with January, since it’s the last time I updated.

A barn in Greene County.

A barn in Greene County.

A home from the Civil War era.

A home from the Civil War era.






During this time, the snow started to melt and Travis took me on a tour of the back roads of Greene County, Indiana. I saw the Tulip Trestle (commonly known as “the viaduct”) and the Yoho General Store for the first time. This area feels like a well-preserved time capsule of America’s past, which you can envision from the photos.

Tulip Trestle.

Tulip Trestle.

Yoho General Store in Solsberry, IN.

Newly renovated Yoho General Store in Solsberry, IN.

The Punch Bowl at Turkey Run State Park on Trail 3.

The Punch Bowl at Turkey Run State Park on Trail 3.

Speaking of the past, when I was little, my family camped at Turkey Run State Park. A few years ago, we went back to canoe down Sugar Creek for the day and hiked during the evening. I hadn’t been there since then, until this year. I’ve been there three times this year already: a day trip in March, a weekend camping trip in May and another day trip in June! The day I went in March was very cold and the ground and trails were still icy. The rock slabs near the Punch Bowl were covered with ice and I was scared to straddle the slabs in my new hiking boots because if I had slipped, my feet would go into the rushing stream underneath me. The rocks were cold and I didn’t have gloves, but with some help from Travis I was able to cross this tough part of the trail.

The ladders at Turkey Run State Park.

The ladders at Turkey Run State Park.

Then in May, a few friends and I camped for a weekend. I’m fairly certain that the first night almost hit the point of freezing but it had warmed up after that night. I even canoed down the creek that Saturday in a tank top since it was so warm. But every day we would hike tough trails all day and relax by the campfire in the evening—standard camping activities. We turned into gourmet camp chefs by cooking bacon-and-cheese covered bacon cheeseburgers, as in bacon and cheese was also infused in the burger. We did a LOT of hiking so it was worth it. We also cooked hotdogs and placed them in our grilled cheese press that we then toasted over the fire. The consensus was that cheddar beat American cheese.

Highway Bridge over Sugar Creek.

Highway Bridge over Sugar Creek.

But anyways, Sunday rolled along and we were about to do our last hike. We parked at the park’s inn and I started to pull out my camera from my camera bag. I knew the bag was slightly unzipped, but I thought the camera would be fine. Well, I had swung my bag a little too fast and my camera fell out. It hit the ground which broke the polarizer and LENS, a new Canon 18-135mm lens I had just bought before the trip! I was devastated, frustrated and just mad at myself. My friends sympathized with me and felt awful. The polarizer cracked all the way across, and the glass piece of the lens popped out of the lens barrel. I couldn’t bear to look at my lens for a while after that, it brought back painful memories.

The grounds of West Baden.

The grounds of West Baden.

Inside West Baden.

Inside West Baden.

So I was stuck with my Canon 7D camera and my 40mm pancake lens, not sure yet of what to do with the broken lens. The opportunity came up to travel to French Lick and West Baden with my mom and her boyfriend, Steve. I hadn’t been to that area before, so I was curious and wanted to see it, even though I only had the 40mm lens. For photos that I wanted to take with a wider lens, I used my iPhone 5, since it’s fairly nice and I still wanted to capture photos. The scale of the buildings of French Lick and West Baden are so grand that I HAD to use my iPhone, but even then it does not show how massive the dome of West Baden actually is.

French Lick.

French Lick.

After hitting up the hotels and the casino (It was my first time gambling in a casino. I lost money on slots.), we went to the German Café for a hearty lunch where we had platters of sausages and potatoes. My mom’s side is probably completely German and we have some family recipes but we don’t make the food often, so coming to this restaurant gave us a heavy dose of authentic German traditions and culture. The owners of the restaurant came from Germany and brought over as many German decorations as they could send, decorations of which they found at yard sales in their home country.

Old quarry off the back roads of south-central Indiana.

Old quarry off the back roads of south-central Indiana.

During my time in the towns of Paoli and French Lick, I learned a lot of cultural history of the area, the springs and the hotels. I thought the terrain of the area would be flat, boring and all farm fields. I was wrong. It was super hilly, lush, green and it was a pleasant surprise. Later that day, we went to Cave River Valley Nature Preserve to see River Cave which is part of the Blue Springs cave system. After a long hike down a steep gravel trail, I came upon a grassy meadow. In this area there are old abandoned cabins, washrooms and shelters where boy scouts have camped. The rushing stream runs through the middle of this meadow. I followed the stream to its source, which is the entrance to the cave atop the waterfall. It’s still closed due to the white-nosed bat syndrome. For decades the area was privately owned but now Spring Mill State Park owns it and seems to be preparing it for more public use in the future. I knew that eventually I would come back here to properly shoot it.

The moon rises over Lake Lemon.

The moon rises over Lake Lemon.

A couple of days later and after a lot of online research and time spent trying to finagle the glass piece and the barrel of my lens, I shared my troubles and research with Travis. We bought some tiny screwdrivers then hunkered down and got to work. He finally fixed it, and I was over joyed! The night he fixed it was the night we had made plans to photograph the Camelopardalid meteor shower. Once he put the lens back together, we were on our way to Lake Lemon to shoot the stars, and hopefully some meteors. This wasn’t the first meteor shower we have gone out to shoot; we saw Perseid meteors in Tennessee last summer as well as at the fire tower at the Charles C. Deam Wilderness Area. So we sat and watched for meteors at Lake Lemon, but we didn’t think it was as much of a shower—or storm—as news sources said it would be. This night I wasn’t lucky enough to capture any meteors, but I finally got a shot of the Milky Way, which was just as exciting to me!

Milky Way.

Milky Way.

With my new lens back in working condition, I was antsy to shoot landscapes on landscapes. I took photographs of my friend’s family’s property when he hosted a Mario Kart party. (It’s an awesome game but I wasn’t that good, even with my Mario Kart 64 skills. I need more practice!) His uncle has a vacation home in Owen County on a small farm in the country which offers a beautiful view of the landscape.

Owen County countryside.

Owen County countryside.

Then I took my camera on a trip to Yellowwood State Forest (NOT Yellowstone). Like most of the places in this post, I’ve not been there before! It was a nice, warm day and I got some great shots of Yellowwood Lake.

Yellowwood Lake.

Yellowwood Lake.

Looking back at Yellowwood Lake.

Looking back at Yellowwood Lake.

Next came another trip to Turkey Run, and it felt like it was coincidentally on the hottest, most humid day of the year thus far. Luckily, some of the trails went into cooler canyons and provided some great, foggy photos. I’ve trekked a lot of trails here, and a couple of trails twice at this point, but after this trip I’ve almost completed every hike in the park! It feels like a great accomplishment, I think I have only one trail left…

Turkey Run State Park

Turkey Run State Park.

On July 2nd, Travis chose to hike the Peninsula Trail at Deam to Lake Monroe for his birthday. This was a trail I had been vying to go on for a couple of years, and at this rate with all of these other trails under my hiking boots, I knew I could handle it and was excited to hike it. It is 4.8 miles one way, so 9.6 miles altogether, which we had to do on a hot day! Because we are trail troopers, we made it to the lake (and back!). I had always imagined that the end of the trail would land on a pretty part of the lake looking west, and it does! It’s a rocky shoreline but fun to step on barefoot since the rocks are small and smooth.

Lake Monroe shoreline on the Peninsula Trail.

Lake Monroe shoreline on the Peninsula Trail.

There are camp sites dotted here and there, and someone before us had made couches out of giant rock slabs! It was realistic-looking as well as comfortable! We went on a day when the clouds were perfect, white and puffy like cotton. We both got great shots of the area including a timelapse for Travis to add to his personal timelapse project. I wanted to stay longer, but we knew we had to try to get back to the truck before sundown. We finished the night off with a Longhorn Steakhouse dinner (Travis’ favorite, and fortunately his birthday meal!) and it was so amazing and I was so hungry; rolls, salad, broccoli, buttery mashed potatoes and an 8oz. filet all eaten up by me! This day seriously couldn’t have gotten any better!

Looking west off of the Lake Monroe shoreline at the end of the Peninsula Trail.

Looking west off of the Lake Monroe shoreline at the end of the Peninsula Trail.

The next day we went to Solsberry to watch and photograph the fireworks. I think there’s only one stop sign in Solsberry, but these two streets that intersect were PACKED with people and cars! It’s such a tight area but it seemed like everyone in the county and surrounding counties came out to see the show. The normally quiet Yoho General Store was the epicenter of activity. It pulsed with country music over loudspeakers, and people crammed the building and surrounding area as they buzzed about and picked up food from nearby stalls and food trucks. We found a spot parallel to the store and sat on top of a hillside to best see and photograph the fireworks. The wind conditions were just right for the smoke to clear the area as the fireworks shot off, and the night wasn’t hazy or cloudy so our visibility was clear and our photos were awesome.

Palm Tree.

Palm Tree.

Firework Bursts

Firework Bursts.

My childhood home.

My childhood home.

After that weekend, I had taken a long break from photo adventures partly due to the fact I had to prepare myself to move out of my apartment and back to my mom’s house, and then she sold our family home to downsize, so thus I moved again and helped her with that. In June, she had fallen and broke her wrist and during the time of the move she wasn’t able to lift more than 20 pounds. Once we started settling in, I went out to the lake to shoot the Perseids meteor shower and took my friend Isaiah with me. Again, we saw some meteors but I hadn’t captured any on camera. The moon was just barely full since we had a super moon the night before and I think this created too much light for my camera. Although I couldn’t shoot any meteors, we took the opportunity to create some portraits of one another. I even came up with an idea for a later photo project on the ridge next to where we were. So hopefully that is soon to come.



Isaiah Ashba.

Isaiah Ashba.

Last but not least, I felt like I needed a great location to capture, a photo I wanted to submit to the Kelley School of Business photo contest. The contest was open to students, faculty and staff of the school (of which I qualify as a staff member) and there were 4 categories: Travel, Landscape, Kelley/IU Life, and Miscellaneous. The contest allows you to enter one photo for 3 categories only. I had thought about what photos of mine that I should enter, but I really wanted something new and different from what I had. I decided to go back to the Cave River Valley area and shoot the cave and stream again, since I knew I wanted to shoot that location again anyways. The day I chose to go was very humid and it rained as I drove down to Mitchell, IN. I had Google Maps on my phone but I didn’t have the address to the cave, I just used my recollection of how we got there the first time and didn’t have any problems driving to it. I hiked back down the gravel path with my zip-up hoodie covering me and my camera bag, and I held onto my tripod in one hand and umbrella in the other. I made it to the stream and took some long exposure shots of it (with a new polarizer since I cracked my previous one) all while staying under my umbrella. I was very patient with moving from one angle and location to the next, since I had a lot to juggle and risked my camera getting wet by either the rain or the stream just by being there. The humidity poured out of the cave and rose above the lower stream and created mystical photos which worked to my benefit and added to the scene. The moss on the rocks and logs seemed to glow green and overall the images turned out beautifully! I chose the featured image of the blog post (it’s also the last photo in this post) as an entry to the contest.

Looking downstream from River Cave.

Looking downstream from River Cave.

Looking back on all of these adventures keeps me empowered; I get to see where all I’ve been and how I’ve grown and developed through the journey. I’m lucky that I get to photograph it all, share it and keep the memories in my mind and my digital scrapbook. So far, the year has brought many fun opportunities to explore and I hope that they keep coming! Thank you for reading such a long post, and keeping up with me on this trail of sorts!

Rushing water from River Cave in Cave River Valley Nature Preserve on a foggy, rainy day.

Rushing water from River Cave in Cave River Valley Nature Preserve on a foggy, rainy day.

Happy New Year!

Canon 7D with 40mm f2.8 lens

Now that it is 2014, I’m proud to present to you:
A new website!
A new camera!
A new blog template!

How exciting my tech life is these days.

New Website
I created a new website, HaleyMBrown.com, to showcase my photo and video work and provide an official way of contacting me, since now I have a new business email address (haley@haleymbrown.com) through the website. The website has been live since summer, but I haven’t made it known through this blog yet, so I thought now is a great time to share. It’s very visual, very media and I like it. Teal, turquoise and red are my favorite colors and I used an image that incorporated those colors from the background of a teleprompter that I had photographed on a prior shoot. I thought this photo represents what I do professionally very well: photography, video, teleprompting, production, all of that and then some.

New Camera
I have craved a new camera for quite some time now, especially since I’m a videographer and editor at my job. Since I work on high quality equipment at my job, I thought I should also invest and incorporate comparable gear into my freelance/hobby life as well, which will benefit me in the long run anyways. I felt like I pushed my older camera’s functions to many extremes, and it was starting to limit what I wanted to do such as more low-light and night photography, as well as time-lapses and VIDEO! Right before 2013 ended, Lorne, who I work with for Perfect Cut Productions, offered me a great deal on his Canon 7D + 40mm f2.8 pancake lens + accessories and I felt like the deal was too good to pass up, even though it was all of a sudden and right after Christmas. It was time to upgrade my equipment. And fun fact, I’ve actually used this camera many times on set with his crew so I knew it was in good hands prior to me buying it which tends to be a fear when buying (gently) used gear. So the deal worked, and now I’m able to offer photo and video services at an even higher quality than before! Plus, it’s a new toy for me and I’m eager to work on new projects, of course.

New Blog Template
Lastly, to round out my media upgrades, I unveil the new blog template that I just recently changed. To me, this layout feels fresh and bright and coordinates well with my website. Some of the previous blog posts may not be formatted well with the new layout, since I designed the original posts to work well with the former layout, but I’m doing my best to update those. I get to figure out how best to display my images within posts and what works well with my new layout. If you find any bugs with my blog or my website feel free to email me or drop a reply on here; I’m pretty quick about finding the solution.

More Projects
My tech life is always a work in progress, which reflects how much media shifts and evolves over time, but it’s something you can always use to improve your skills, challenge yourself and achieve creative results, which keeps media exciting! My New Year’s Resolution? To take more photos and video!

I know that later this month, I will help out on set of a featurette produced by Tugboat Pictures, and I also have a couple of photo sessions in mind for portraits/headshots. So I look forward to shooting more and in turn posting about my experiences and projects, accompanied with photos from my new camera!

Thanks for keeping up to date with my work.


Peter faces the smoke monsters in Gobinon.

In November, my co-worker and friend Byron Wolter asked me to help out on set of his independent feature film, Gobinon. I knew that the film had been a production-in-progress for over a year. Byron even joked to me about how he has used up almost every resource in town to complete the project. Byron wrote, directed and starred in Gobinon and I know he is treating the film like his child. He is caring and tending to it over a long time while undergoing the hardships and pressures of producing an independent film. Seeing that his film is really important to him, I wanted to help his production come to a close by assisting with camera, lighting and general production labor.

Just a few more action scenes needed shot for Byron’s film. These scenes alluded to the mysterious sci-fi movie that Byron had described to me before, shots where his character, Peter, has dream-like episodes where he portrays a janitor chased by smoke monsters.

A shot of Byron Wolter as Peter on the roof during the first night.  Instagram: @brown300

A shot of Byron Wolter as Peter on the roof during the first night. Instagram: @brown300

On the first night of shooting the last shots for the film, the smoke monsters chased Peter across rooftops. The temperature at night dropped really low and we had to shoot the rooftop scenes in harsh, biting winds. The crew persevered and kept working through the cold as we got the needed shots. Byron had wide jumps to clear from structure to structure on the roof. We got to incorporate the given architectural elements into the scene, such as Byron running through these big, pyramid-shaped skylights jutting upwards from the roof, which added unique visual interest and light. He also had to run and abruptly stop at roof edges and peer over them while staying balanced and cautious, which is unnerving at four to five stories high off of the ground.

Matthew Levandoski, Director of Photography.

Matthew Levandoski, Director of Photography.

Thomas Greenwood as a smoke monster.

Thomas Tiggleman as a smoke monster.

On the second evening and after a few takes of a continuous shot of Byron running through the town square, we condensed to shooting in a tight alleyway. We knocked out shot after shot with ease, as it was a closely shot, stare-down moment between Byron and smoke monsters. I had more time to shoot production stills while we kept filming, as set up time for each shot was minimal. Later that night, we wrapped the film. Byron had felt very bittersweet about this, since it was a film he was shooting for over a year but it was finally coming to a close—the beginning of the end of the Gobinon journey.

Recently, I was able to see a rough cut of the film, and I discovered it was layered with more mystery and ambiguity than I had imagined, and was way different from what I had thought. From what I interpreted from this edit—and without spoiling in detail—the dream sequences that Peter experienced shaped his graphic novel as well as complemented the life’s work of his significant other, Rachel, but Peter doesn’t piece this together until the end. Yes, that’s right, it’s also a love story of these two characters, a love story paralleled with the subject of Rachel’s work: the evolution of the species of fish called the Gobinon.

It’s almost no wonder that the quote, “You may change direction, but your heart keeps its bearing,” is central to this film through its story and in its characters and writer.

Now with the production wrapped, Byron can focus on editing and completing the film. He anticipates the night of the big premiere in town, knowing it will feel bittersweet to see the filmmaking process end for this story but remaining hopeful about the future of Gobinon and the film festivals he plans to enter with it. For him to finish the film and submit it to festivals is a huge accomplishment, and I wish him the best of luck saving the world with Gobinon.

Gobinon Official Trailer from ByronWolter on Vimeo.

Do the Dew. Do the Dream.

Courtesy of Travis Mintier, Photographer.

Have you ever wanted to ride a BMX bike down a slip and slide, hit a ramp, launch into the air, do a flip, and land in a 12 ft. deep pool? Did you not realize you wanted to do that until just now? On September 27, I got to film that stunt alongside Devin “Super Tramp” Graham and Parker Walbeck at Ohio Dreams Action Sports Camp for Mountain Dew.

For over a year, I have followed Devin Super Tramp on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram because I’m always impressed with the videos he pumps out every week on YouTube. From ziplining/highlining/rope swinging from canyons, to videogame reenactments, to human catapults in the mountains, to snowball fights, to flyboarding, to luging through city water systems, to playing with puppies, the Super Tramp videos are creative, fun, captivating and blood-pumping. They feel very personal yet also like they’re just beyond the audience’s reach.

The videos were shot in Tahiti, Hawaii, Utah, Los Angeles, Africa, Maldives, etc. and viewers dream of being on these shoots. They enjoy the virtual experience through YouTube just as much as the people shown in the videos. If you’re lucky, Devin and his crew may travel to a location near you, blast it on social media for all to come, and you’ll be able to take part in his adventurous world of YouTube videos that you’ve dreamed about.

Courtesy of Travis Mintier, Photographer.

Courtesy of Travis Mintier, Photographer.

I was fortunate enough to get this chance, except I wanted to help create this experience behind a camera and be on his set, which is more of my dream than actually doing the stunts in front of the camera. That dream became a reality for me, but I didn’t know my dream would end up being in Ohio.

With only knowing the day before that I would help him shoot, I had gotten in an hour of sleep and was on my five-hour road trip to Butler, Ohio at 4:00 a.m. I don’t remember the last time I was on the road that early, but I would guess to catch a flight. I had never been to Ohio, so I was eager to see that Butler was in a hilly section of Ohio, much like Bloomington is in Indiana.

My boyfriend, Travis, took it upon himself to drive me to and from the shoot, so I could get more sleep and be a bit more rested for a day’s worth of shooting. (The fact that he’s a big Super Tramp supporter probably influenced his decision as well.) The sun rose as we passed through Columbus. By the time we got to Butler, it was a clear, bright day but a bit chilly. Nestled into the hills and gleaming from the sun, the white launch ramp could be seen from the road. It sat behind the still, blue swimming pool that would soon be disrupted from thrill-seeking slippers, sliders and divers.

Courtesy of Travis Mintier, Photographer.

Courtesy of Travis Mintier, Photographer.

When I arrived, I got to meet Devin, Parker, Creighton and the rest of the Super Tramp and Ohio Dreams crews. The idea for this video actually came from a fan, when Devin publicized his Mountain Dew Road Trip tour information and location callout contest; a road trip for the fans, by the fans, if you will. I scouted the pool and slip and slide areas, equipped up, and filmed the entire day under the sun on this last Friday in September.

A bunch of people came from all over the Ohio area to bellyflop in bikinis and cannonball in costumes. It was pretty thrilling to be a part of this experience and film this adventure, both of which I am grateful for.

I had a lot of fun meeting people, making connections and of course shooting some visuals especially since it’s for a high-caliber YouTuber such as Devin, whom I admire greatly for not only filming but directing and producing these shoots as well, and of course for his business and marketing skills. And Parker, for his equally awesome camera work and his crazy-cool and hardworking editing. Not to mention Creighton, for his super friendliness and spirit, as well as his cable and rope work (even if sometimes it’s not feasible to rig up in time due to whatever reason). I’m so glad something this fun to shoot came to the Midwest and I can’t thank you guys enough for having me help film it and I’m glad you used my shots! The video turned out amazing, and I’m always free to lend a hand, a camera, a battery, a slider, a lens cloth, a towel to dry off equipment with, etc., etc… Hopefully I’ll see you all again in the near future! An Indiana girl can only dream, again.

#DEWroadtrip #OhioDreams #IndianaDreams? #MakeDreamsHappen #wordpressdoesnothavehashtags

A busy year.

I admit I haven’t been updating this as regularly as I need to, but that is because I have kept busy working on lots of projects. However, I do want to post an update of what has happened during this busy time.

For the past year, I have worked for the Kelley School of Business as a Multimedia Specialist where I am currently deep into the world of video, which I hadn’t been before. I shoot photos and videos of panel discussions, case competitions, guest lectures, marketing projects and school events.

Most of our videos are created for the Global Leaders Network, which is an academic resource for Kelley faculty, students, alumni and guests. Some videos are uploaded to the school’s YouTube accounts, which I help manage, and here are a few examples of videos that I have edited:

I have also blogged for BtownMenus.com, a Bloomington delivery service, and reported on area restaurant’s deals on food.

I have worked with BloomingtonOnline.net and had the opportunity to photograph the 2012 Homeward Bound Walk for Homelessness as well as the Monroe County Fair.

Then there is the greatest melodic death metal band, Starkill. I say the greatest because they’re the only band I listen to in that genre. I photographed on set of a couple of their videos produced by Perfect Cut Productions this past winter. It was a bitterly cold, long weekend in January but shooting these guys with the PCP crew was worth it.

Earlier this spring, I photographed a musical produced by the Edgewood High School’s theater department.

Finally, I must showcase the portraits that I have taken of my friends that they requested of me for professional or personal use.

I’ve certainly learned a lot in each experience and hope to see more challenges and opportunities, as long as it encourages growth. Here’s to another year of more fun places and people to document.

Taste of Bloomington 2012

In honor of August 24 being the first “Flavors of 4th Street” international food festival that I will be blogging about, I am posting some salivating photos from this year’s “Taste of Bloomington,” as a teaser.

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Holding on to Dust

In May, I photographed on the set of an artistic video directed by my friend, Dylan Cashbaugh. The video was co-produced and choreographed by Melissa Strain and it features her dancing to “The Lonely,” a song by Christina Perri.

Melissa Strain and Dylan Cashbaugh

The view from the pond on the building’s west side.

The Woolery Mill is closed now but it is used as a space for special events such as portraits, weddings, Bloomington’s Craft Beer Festival and films like “Breaking Away” and “Holding on to Dust.” Inside of the mill, the rooms are decorated here and there with graffiti, old clothing, broken glass, rusty equipment and other traces of human presence. From the outside it looks like a dark, abandoned warehouse; the structure is almost skeletal yet still sturdy and massive. However the open south entrance and the west window line allow the sunlight to pour into the space making it feel bright and warm in its charm, and we filmed on a hot, sweaty day.

Holding on to “Dusk”

Because we were shooting the video in a day, we raced with the sun for the shots planned for natural light. While the first half was fun, what was really exciting for me was that we were shooting well into the night and I was able to experiment with long exposures of the old mill and of Melissa dancing, both producing pretty cool effects. I just love shooting abandoned places, especially at night.

More photos on my Flickr account.

“I’m a ghost of a girl that I want to be most”


“I’d rather fillet a roma tomato than dice a red onion.”

Avocado skins make for perfect portions.

It is 11:08 p.m. and I am finally at my computer, ready to blog about my experience of making a double-batch of guacamole. I aimed to perfectly craft guacamole in taste and appearance, to the best of my abilities.

My abilities took four hours.

I researched which guacamole I wanted to test out, and I decided on Alton Brown’s (no relation that I know of) recipe on foodnetwork.com. It’s Alton Brown, so the recipe’s perfect to near-perfect already, right? Scientifically and culturally proven to be perfect, usually! Or that’s how I perceive it on his TV show. Anyways, I had a whole spread planned out in my head of what I wanted to make for dinner and I went to the store to buy all the ingredients. I completed one “dish,” and it wasn’t even my proposed entrée.

If Alton Brown says to seed a Roma tomato, you do it.

My love for cilantro and garlic portrayed simply. This took time and distracted me, too. Creative Design by Haley Brown.

I’m not a chef; I cook for fun, and I don’t do it often enough. I believe that what I make shouldn’t be visually boring or flavorless. But I know sometimes that’s just its nature. I find myself looking at food photos online or in print and I just love coming across good photos/recipes. My bookmarks are piling up, and if I’m going to cook it, I need to share it. I love food, I love photos and I love food photos, so I might as well combine everything using the cooking/writing/photography skills that I have developed from my family, friends or on my own and by means of my college education. Alas, here’s my personal niche in food blogging/plogging (photo blogging). And if I’m not cooking it, I’m going out to restaurants to order it. (I’m already developing my food album on Flickr and Pinterest.)

I grew up not liking guacamole, avocados or onions, but somehow over the years I developed a better taste for guacamole. Still working on the onions but I really can’t stand them (unless they’re “masked” which is hard to do, but definitely not plain onions).

I think my appreciation for good guacamole happened during my Spring Break vacation in 2009. My mom, sister and I went to California to visit my aunt and we traveled along the coast from Oakland to Santa Barbara. It was at Post Ranch Inn where we took an evening to relax after hanging out on Pfeiffer Beach. We sat on the deck of Sierra Mar, Post Ranch Inn’s restaurant, atop the cliffs and looked down and across the Pacific Ocean during the sunset all while enjoying tortilla chips and a trio of salsa, black beans and guacamole. It was one of the most tranquil spots I’ve been in. The dinner we ate much later was probably the most exquisite meal ever, but I can’t even attempt to recreate that moment and that meal, and I am still overwhelmed by it and grateful for indulging in it thanks to my mom and aunt.

Later that week we headed to Santa Barbara. For lunch one day, we ate at Sandbar Mexican Restaurant and Tequila Bar and again ordered guacamole to go with our chips and salsa. I don’t eat guacamole a lot, or hardly ever, but I think I got a major craving recently because not only did I miss that whole trip and those memories, but let’s face it, a hint at a vacation every so often is nice if it has been awhile and you’re not preparing for one for the future.

Four hours of peeling, scooping, chopping, dicing, filleting, mixing, mashing and preparing guacamole and photographing it in between and after. Unfortunately I don’t have any cool gadgets to help out the process, such as the ones my grandpa used to collect, but I may need to invest. It took my Chicago Cutlery Santoku knife to halve the avocados, my C.C. paring knife to extract the fruit from its skin and a spoon to scoop it out. I managed to keep the skins intact to create serving boats for the guacamole and I added a finishing touch of minced cilantro on top.

Guac boats.

When I cook, I try being thoughtful, methodical and cautious. Baking is a slightly different story consisting of not-exact measurements and it usually doesn’t turn out as well as my cooking results do. At least guacamole is filling. (Avocado superfood!) My double-batch bowl of guac topped with lime juice, plastic wrap and a lid will hopefully hold over for a while in the fridge.

Tomorrow’s a new day and a new dish, and I’m thinking burritos.

If your chips don’t come in a bag like this, you’re doing it wrong. (The only tortilla chips from my local grocery store that I can approve.)

Side note: Not sure why I gravitate towards Mexican or Tex-Mex foods for cooking/blogging (Cheesy Gordita Crunch rendition was posted earlier). I even have a Spanish night planned. Italian will come later; I have a great pasta sauce recipe that I haven’t made in years. Plus I need to steal some family recipes and share what the Brown/Freeman/Stegman/Huffman/Carlson clans can whip up, but our tradition with sharing recipes is to leave out an ingredient so the dish is never the same/authentic. (Puzzler!)

Gail Hale’s Art Studio


Gail Hale’s Art Studio, a set on Flickr.

For Homes & Lifestyles magazine, I interviewed Bloomington visual artist Gail Hale and explored her studio for a story on re-purposing clothing and trash items for the Center for Sustainable Living’s Trashion Refashion Show. The issue’s out now!

Homes & Lifestyles

Semi-Homemade Cheesy Gordita Crunch

Homemade Cheesy Gordita Crunch

Update: I started a new “Food Photography” album on Flickr.

It was a limited-time product, but now it is a mainstay on the menu. Taco Bell describes it as a “warm, pillowy flatbread covered in a melted three-cheese blend, wrapped around a crunchy taco and topped with a zesty Pepper Jack sauce.” One of my favorite items to order off the Taco Bell menu is the cheesy gordita crunch. As a recent college graduate, yes, Taco Bell is still a guilty pleasure.

I still live right off campus from Indiana University, and this week is Spring Break but I’m not on vacation. How about serving up cheesy gordita crunches and throwing together a fiesta?! Sand not included.

I was shopping in WalMart recently and came across some shelf products made by Taco Bell. I had no idea that they offered packaged salsas and sauces, so I purchased the Spicy Ranchero Sauce hoping that it’d be a good substitute as a cheesy gordita crunch sauce.

Spicy Ranchero Sauce, Ortega taco shells, cheese, and On The Border hot salsa. Not pictured: taco seasoning, ground chuck, water, lettuce, and Taco Bell Mild Sauce

You could definitely make your own sauces, salsas and tortillas and get really creative with it, but my idea came about quickly and I went for the faster, packaged selections instead. It’s actually a simple taco recipe, just with craftily constructed shells. I put the Spicy Ranchero Sauce on the side, and turns out I didn’t really like it anyways. Maybe just melting pepper jack cheese would have been more suitable. I can try that next time.

Start with:

1 box of Ortega Grande Taco Shells, Hard and Soft Tacos. It comes with 8 hard shell tacos and 8 soft tacos and is perfect for “cheesy gordita crunch”-making.

1 lb. ground chuck. This is enough to make six, depending how much fills the shells.

1 cup water.

1 pkg. taco seasoning mix.  I had Kroger’s on hand.

Lettuce. I had bags of romaine salad on hand that I sliced up.

Taco sauce. Of course, I used mild sauce packets from Taco Bell.

1 package of blended Mexican cheeses. The Great Value brand I bought at WalMart had Monterey Jack, Cheddar, Queso and Asadero cheeses.

Salsa. I typically have four different salsas in my fridge because I’m picky, but now my favorite is On The Border Hot Salsa.

Shells on top of cheese-covered tortillas. Photo credit: Isaiah Ashba

Ortega directions I followed but improved on:

Taco-seasoned ground chuck. Photo credit: Isaiah Ashba

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove hard shells from container and arrange on baking sheet.
  2. While waiting for the oven to preheat, brown the beef in a pan on the stove and drain the fat. Stir in 1 cup water and packet of seasoning mix, then heat until thickened while stirring mixture often.
  3. Place baking sheet with hard shells in the oven and bake for 3-4 minutes.
  4. Using a hot pad, remove sheet from oven, then take out soft tortillas from container. Shells will be hot, but gently move them to the side of pan or on another clean surface. Place soft tortillas on the baking sheet and sprinkle cheese on tortillas, covering the surface but still leaving space around the edges for cheese to melt. Place shells directly on the tortillas. Make an even amount of shells and tortillas. Bake for roughly 20 seconds, depending on oven. The cheese needs to be softened and melted but not completely.
  5. Remove baking sheet. Quickly but gently fold tortillas around shells and press together firmly around sides and bottom. Be careful because shells are fragile.
  6.  Fill newly made gordita crunch shells with beef, taco sauce, salsa, lettuce, cheese and enjoy!

Isaiah takes a bite.