1st Lake Blog

Smile! Three Easy Home Photography Styling Tips

Did our Instagram blog post spark your desire for a picture-perfect home? Spring is a great time of year to freshen up your space through cleaning and redecorating, and you’ll probably want to photograph the results to share on social media (tag us on Facebook and Twitter!). We came across a great article on how to make your home more photogenic and wanted to share these easy home photography styling tips with you.

nightstand decor

This nightstand vignette uses books and pops of color to look great on camera. Of course, we love the dog, too! (Photo courtesy Pinterest)

Add fresh flowers.

Fresh flowers – especially during spring, when they’re particularly abundant – are a great detail in a photograph of a room. While full bouquets and arrangements are gorgeous, they aren’t necessary. A simple bloom in a glass jar makes a photo of your nightstand, for example, fresh and visually interesting. Fresh fruit has a similar impact in a kitchen shot – citrus fruits like lemons and limes offer vibrant color while pineapples show off an interesting, architectural shape.

Use a flash of red.

It’s a good thing marsala is the Pantone Color of the Year, because a bit of red instantly attracts the eye and brightens up a photo. Red is psychologically one of the most eye-catching colors – even if it isn’t your favorite color, use it sparingly to add major pop to a photo.

Take advantage of books and magazines.

Stacking books and magazines can add height and depth to photographs. We recommend stacking your books neatly on a coffee table then placing a jar of flowers (red ones!) to incorporate several elements of photography styling into one beautiful shot.



Make Spring Soup with This Easy Gazpacho Recipe

Since March is National Frozen Food Month and we recently wrote about how to freeze soups and stews, we wanted to share one of our favorite spring recipes perfect for freezing! This five-ingredient easy gazpacho recipe from the James Beard Foundation is cool and refreshing with the delicate flavors of spring peas. We like serving it with a dollop of Greek yogurt or crème fraiche, a drizzle of high-quality olive oil, and a couple grinds of fresh black pepper for an elegant and tasty effect.

The best part? You won’t have to sit over a hot stove after you’ve frozen the soup. Simply let it thaw to your desired consistency – it’s supposed to be served chilled, after all.

pea soup

This five-ingredient pea gazpacho provides a light, refreshing taste of spring. (Photo courtesy

Sweet Pea Gazpacho


  • 2 pounds sugar snap peas, shucked, with both peas and shell reserved
  • 1 fennel bulb, sliced
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Combine the pea shells, fennel, onion, and garlic in a large pot. Cover with cold water, bring to a boil, and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain liquid into a clean pot and discard the solids.

Bring the strained liquid to a simmer. Add the peas, and simmer until they are just cooked through and bright green (about 3 to 5 minutes). Strain the peas, reserving the liquid.

Puree the peas in a blender, adding reserved liquid as needed to achieve the desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then transfer to an ice bath to cool. Serve chilled.

Avoid Kitchen Mishaps with these Cooking Hacks

Cooking mistakes are bound to happen, but knowledge is power! Take a look at five methods for correcting common cooking mistakes (or avoiding them in the first place).

chocolate chip cookies

Properly softened butter is the key to fluffy, chewy, crispy-on-the-outside cookies that retain their shape. (Photo courtesy Livestrong)

Five Cooking Hacks

Banana Bread Blunder

The Problem: You get a craving for banana bread, but the bananas aren’t ripe yet.

The Fix: Use your oven! Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, place the bananas (peels on) on a baking sheet, and bake for about 5 minutes. Check out the full video here.

Unsavory Soup

The Problem: Your soup is bland.

The Fix: Season by “layer.” That means for chicken rice soup, for example, you’ll want to season the onions and carrots; season the rice as it’s cooking; season the chicken; and so on. Remember to taste as you go along to prevent over (or under) seasoning.

Recipe Rescue

The Problem: You thought you had all the ingredients or tools for a recipe, but you don’t.

The Fix: Always, always read the recipe all the way through in advance. You’ll get an idea of what you’ll need and can develop a game plan for perfect execution every time.

Cookie Crumbles

The Problem: Your cookies spread too thin when they bake, making them crunchy.

The Fix: Could be the butter! Butter that’s overly soft (like the kind you nuke in the microwave to soften in a hurry) creates a runny consistency that’s more like batter than dough – and shapeless, thin cookies. Instead, try not to rush the process. Let butter sit at room temperature for about 45 minutes to ensure the right consistency.

Going Green

The Problem: Your guacamole turns brown.

The Fix: Employ a two-part system to prevent your guacamole from oxidizing (aka turning brown). First, toss avocado in lemon or lime juice before you mash. Reserve the juice, then add it back in to taste. Citrus contains ascorbic acid, which delays oxidation. Second, place your guac in an air-tight container and dribble water on top to cover the guac. When you’re ready to eat, drain the water off and serve!

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Easy Feng Shui Tips for Your Home

Every room in your house has the potential to emanate peace and tranquility. How? Through the use of feng shui.

Feng shui is based on the idea that our homes are a reflection of what’s going on inside of us. By aligning the outside space with our inner feelings, you create a harmonious home.

This ancient Chinese method may seem a little bizarre on the surface, but feng shui principles are easy to follow and don’t (usually) cost a dime! We’ve culled a few simple ways to incorporate feng shui into your home.

round coffee table

A round coffee table facilitates ease of movement according to feng shui principles. (Photo courtesy Pinterest)

Easy Feng Shui Tips

Keep Toilet Lids Down

This is a good practice from a hygienic perspective, of course, but there’s also a feng shui explanation. Feng shui posits that the toilet is a drain – leave the seat up, and you allow good energy to literally drain out of your home.

Arrange Your Desk to Face the Door

In the feng shui method, having your back to a door puts you in a compromising position. Try arranging your desk so that it faces toward the door – you’ll feel an instant sense of control and empowerment that could show through in your work!

Place Your Couch Against a Wall

This is usually a natural spot for arranging couches, but it also has a feng shui purpose: a wall brings a sense of steadiness and security that can help you relax. If there isn’t a wall available, you can place a sturdy console table behind your couch instead.

Try a Round Coffee Table

Square and rectangular coffee tables have harsh lines that point directly at people when seated. A circular coffee table creates a harmonious flow that lets energy (and people) move around more easily.

Surround Yourself with the Items You Love

We devoted a blog post to this feng shui trick. Choosing items that bring you joy helps eliminate clutter and also amplifies positive energy. Move a favorite item to a prominent spot so you see it every time you walk in the room!

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall…

In feng shui, mirrors bring good fortune and double the abundance of positive energy. Use them!

Use Shapes to Create Energy Flow

According to Feng Shui, shapes are an important factor in the flow of energy in a room. Triangles, for example, are largely unwelcome as they convey a sense of hostility. Round or square furniture is a better choice, though Feng Shui encourages mixing shapes to avoid an overabundance of a single energy.

Fountains & Fish

If you’re a fan of the life aquatic, Feng Shui may be your ideal decorating method. Feng Shui literally means wind and water, so these natural forces play an important role in the practice. Ch’i, the life force, is said to be attracted to water so a well-placed fountain or fish tank is sure to attract positive energy.

A small water fountain or water wall will also attract good ch’i. Small fountains are available in many styles from retailers like and Pottery Barn. Prices, of course, vary, but you can find a nice fountain for your home for between $50 and $150.

America’s favorite starter pet, the fish, and its likeness are associated with success in Feng Shui. Stagnant water, though, is associated with a messy life so keep your fish happy and their water clean. If you’re not up for buying a fountain or new pet, mirrors are said to serve a similar function in Feng Shui.

The Practice of Placement

The best known aspect of Feng Shui is likely the practice of arranging furniture to achieve a harmonious energy in the home. For example, for all rooms in the home, artwork should be hung at eye level, though art should be hung above large pieces of furniture such as a sofa. Beds should not lie under exposed beams or near windows, as this blocks energy flow. The foot of the bed should also be kept clear.

As there are many rules in Feng Shui regarding placement of objects, you may want to research the finer points of the practice as they apply to your specific space, but achieving a more harmonious home is worth the effort.

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Related posts: What is Eclectic Home Decor? We Explore This Design StyleDIY Home Decor IdeasHome Decor for Small Apartments


How to Freeze Soups and Stews the Right Way

Did you know March is National Frozen Food month? The freezer is an incredible tool for preserving foods, but knowing the right way to freeze foods is key. A frozen pizza from the grocery store is easy – just pop it in the freezer and move on – but certain foods take more preparation. That’s why we’re showing you how to freeze soups and stews the right way. To defrost, simply heat and stir, and you’ve got a homemade meal in no time.

chicken rice soup

Learn how to freeze soups and stews the right way for a quick weeknight dinner. (Photo courtesy

How to Freeze Soups and Stews

  1. Cool it! Freezers cannot cool hot soups and stews fast enough to be food safe. You’ll need to speed up the process. You can let the soup come to room temperature naturally before packaging it for the freezer, or you can place the pot of hot soup in a bath of ice water, stirring frequently to help release extra heat.
  2. Zip it! Use zip-top plastic freezer bags to store the soup. We recommend gallon- or quart-size bags. Label and date them first using a permanent marker, then fit the bags over a bowl (similar to how you fold the edges of a garbage bag over a trash can). Pour or ladle the soup into the bag, and be sure to remove any excess air before sealing.
  3. Freeze it! Lay the bags flat in the freezer one on top of the other. They’ll last about a month in the freezer.
  4. Eat it! If possible, move your soup from the freezer to the fridge and let it thaw slowly throughout the day. Then, when you’re ready to eat, heat up the soup normally over low to medium heat.