Archive for Personal

Welcome to the Home Sweet Home blog circle, where a group of talented photographers around the world share why their hometown/state is the most fantastic place to visit! Should you find yourself in Texas, feel free to follow along with this series to find some of the most amazing hidden gems in the Lone Star State. After reading this post, be sure to follow the blog circle around the world to Anna Francken’s blog in Utrecht, The Netherlands. Her photography is always stunning and full of delightful European details!

This month’s Home Sweet Home post is a little personal as I introduce the newest member of the Wollschlager family. Meet Maximus Aurelius, or Max for short. Max loves shoes, balls, playing tug of war, and will do almost anything for a treat. He is the reason my social media and blogging has been obsolete as of late. D and I found him while perusing our local shelter here in Abilene on our June wedding anniversary. I told D that we would not make it out of the shelter without bringing home a dog. I know myself and I just can’t say no! Max was the cutest fluffiest dog there and I still can’t get over how much he and Marlie {my childhood dog} look alike. Everything from their mannerisms to the way they sit and play. We actually had the chance to introduce the two dogs on Father’s Day weekend. Needless to say Max is the punk teenager and Marlie is the seasoned veteran.

It’s been serious work having a dog around the house. Max still has plenty of puppy in him so while he may be potty trained, we’re currently working on no jumping and no biting. I know this is weird to say, but I feel like a first time mom. It’s the only time I’ve ever been fully responsible for someone other than myself all day every day with no break. Sure I watched my brother as a kid and even spent a fair amount of time with Marlie… but when push came to shove, Mom and Dad always stepped in and took the bulk of the responsibility. I worry about Max all the time although it’s getting less and less the longer he’s with us. I feel like a mom with tourettes when I’m talking to people on the phone… they’ll hear “Oh hi, Shelby! Soooo good to hear from you! DON’T TOUCH THE SHOES!!!!!!! How have you been? I SAID NO SHOES!….” Thankfully most of my friends either have small children or dogs themselves and are incredibly understanding.

Here are some Abilene dog tips… We highly recommend Dr. Bloodgood as a veterinarian. His office the Mobile Veterinary Clinic is on 3401 S Treadway Blvd Abilene, TX 79602. Their office number is 3256984900. He and his staff are absolutely amazing with the animals. I couldn’t believe how gentle and kind they are! They know that these pets are “our babies” and the uphold the promise to take the best possible care of them at all times. If you like the dog park scene, there is a dog park near the Abilene zoo called “Camp Barkeley”. They have an area for large dogs {30lbs and over} and a smaller one for small dogs {30lbs and under}. It’s great for getting your dog socialized and used to being around other pets!

Mostly it has been a joyous adventure to have Max be a part of our family. With a little training, patience, and lots of love things will continue to get easier. Huge shout-out to the husband for all of his hard work and for putting up with my current bouts of dog mom insanity.

Be sure to hop on over to Anna’s blog next to see her view of her home in Utrecht, The Netherlands. Add a comment or hit the like button to show some love!

Until July’s insight into the goings on in the great state of Texas, I am wishing ya’ll a beautiful month!

Did you know that you can have posts from Kirsten Ashley Photography’s Blog sent directly to your email? Be sure to sign up here! Emails not your thing? Then check out Kirsten Ashley Photography’s Blog on Bloglovin! Here you can follow along just like on the old Google Reader and never miss a post!







April 16, 2015

For those of you who are unaware, there is a TON of mail that flows through the KAPD studio on a regular basis. Something about opening up my mailbox to find letters inside just for me {that aren’t bills} makes me jump up and down with girlish glee! I came across Kat Sloma’s Liberate Your Art Postcard Swap in 2013 and thought “What a scathingly brilliant idea!”. The premise for the swap is to get your art out into the world, making connections as you go along. All too often folks are too busy to get their art printed {aka yours truly for 2013 & 2014} and this swap provides you with the incentive to set your art free {whether it’s painting, collaging, photography etc} all over the world! While I discovered the swap several years ago, this was my first year to participate and it was truly a fascinating experience!

As I am a travel photographer, and those images tend to get printed last, I chose my favorite five images from my world adventures to put on postcards. You can see these images below. On the back I wrote a simple message and the quote

Never forget the beauty of your imagination! Seriously… Shine on.

I had my cards printed from and I cannot praise them enough for their glorious products! Their luxe papers are so luxurious they make a girl swoon!

Kirsten Ashley Photography & Design | Liberate Your Art | Post Card Swap

The process for the swap was so easy thanks to Kat’s super clear instructions. You sent in five post cards with separate return address labels and stamps, and in return you received five post cards {plus one from Kat herself!} from artists all over the globe! I was super psyched when the cards started coming in! Kat sends them in batches so they don’t all arrive at once, with her post card being the last one delivered. It was so much fun to see what kind of art I would receive and where it would come from! Most of the participants gave their email address or another form of contact info so you could touch base once their cards arrived.

Here are the cards I received this year! I really was super excited about every one. It’s amazing to see art through another persons eye. I will definitely be participating in this event next year! Artist listed from left to right, top to bottom: 1) A Cow in a Field at Sunset – Diane McWhirter – Canberra Austrailia 2) Mediterranean Sea, Corsica, France – Cindy ChiltonPhoneix, Arizona 3) Quiet Noise of Mother Nature – Vicki hula-laNew York 4) Untitled – Kristen Playford – Portland, Oregon 5) Imminent Downfall – Kat SlomaPortland, Oregon 6) Lavender – Terry Owenby – Portland, Oregon

Kirsten Ashley Photography & Design | Liberate Your Art | Post Card Swap

A huge thanks to Kat for all of her hard work and dedication in making this event a reality. She puts so many hours of pure elbow grease into making sure all of the post cards get swapped accordingly. She’s like my own personal mail fairy… that makes it rain postcards.

I am so looking forward to next year’s swap! Be on the lookout around January 2016!


March 05, 2015

After reading this post be sure to follow the blog circle around the world by reading Anna Franken’s latest post as she explores her “Home Sweet Home” Utrecht, The Netherlands. Anna is an incredibly talented photographer who writes in both English and Dutch! Our friendship was cemented over a mutual love for sealing wax. calligraphy, and of course European coffee!

Welcome to the middle of nowhere… here the flat land stretches as far as your eye can see, and the skies are vast and endless. You can see the desert creeping in via the various cacti that dot the landscape every twelve feet. The dirt is red tinged, tumbleweeds are definitely abound, and Texas pride is visually apparent around every corner. Welcome ya’ll, to Abilene Texas….

I grew up in big city Dallas, but went to college in Lubbock {Wreck ‘Em Tech!} which is about three hours west from Abilene. So while this land may be familiar, I haven’t been back in over six years, and Abilene is quite different from my university town. I managed to get out and explore a little recently as the ice finally melted and the sun made a surprisingly brief appearance in the afternoon. I haven’t had much time for new home “adventuring” due to my latest bespoke invitation suite deadline… but I was thrilled to finally get out of the house! We’ve had so much ice lately the cabin fever was killing me!

There is a strange beauty in this land… it has a quiet stillness like a deserted ghost town. I was puzzled to find all of the land fenced in… no more vast open fields of Germany. This strikes me as very odd, because what is anyone going to do? Steal the land?? “Private Property” signs be damned… I will find an available scenic location yet!

Kirsten Ashley Photography & Design | Abilene, Texas | Home Sweet HomeKirsten Ashley Photography & Design | Abilene, Texas | Home Sweet HomeKirsten Ashley Photography & Design | Abilene, Texas | Home Sweet Home

We are on the cusp of spring here, but even still the color pallet is made up of muted dusty tones as if the real hues themselves had been sandblasted. The only thing outrageously vibrant is the sky. Ohhhhhhhh how I have missed Texas skies. I look forward to hopefully capturing some epic landscapes in the coming months to share with you here.

Kirsten Ashley Photography & Design | Abilene, Texas | Home Sweet HomeKirsten Ashley Photography & Design | Abilene, Texas | Home Sweet HomeKirsten Ashley Photography & Design | Abilene, Texas | Home Sweet Home

The people are ever so nice here though! I was stopped no less than three times by women as I walked along the roadside, all of them asking ask if I was having car trouble. They all chuckled as they saw my camera and realized I was out taking photographs, but I thanked them profusely anyway, because what if I had been in real trouble?

As a treat, I was buzzed by a B1 bomber flying around the city… I’m not a plane girl, but these beasts are truly beautiful as they soar arcs across the sky. The noise is practically deafening!

Kirsten Ashley Photography & Design | Abilene, Texas | Home Sweet Home

There are these creepy awesome abandoned parts to the town with buildings pictured like the one below. I just feel like there are so many untold stories in this image. Who did this house belong to? What happened here? Was there a family? If only the walls could talk….

Kirsten Ashley Photography & Design | Abilene, Texas | Home Sweet HomeKirsten Ashley Photography & Design | Abilene, Texas | Home Sweet HomeKirsten Ashley Photography & Design | Abilene, Texas | Home Sweet HomeKirsten Ashley Photography & Design | Abilene, Texas | Home Sweet HomeKirsten Ashley Photography & Design | Abilene, Texas | Home Sweet Home

Abilene’s climate is super dry… always in need of rain. D and I consume crazy amounts of water everyday. On the upside, it is wonderful for us girls who have naturally curly frizzy hair, as you’ll never see the frizz EVER. You can straighten your hair and it will stay straight, even as you go out in bad weather!

I am also wonderstruck by the amount of mistletoe you see everywhere during the cold months. D thought they were birds nests and I had to explain. It makes me want to grab a shot gun and shoot it off, Texas style!

Kirsten Ashley Photography & Design | Abilene, Texas | Home Sweet HomeKirsten Ashley Photography & Design | Abilene, Texas | Home Sweet Home

As the sun goes down I can see the windmills in the distance turning in time with the wind. I used to drive past many of these modern energy efficient power houses on my way to university many years ago. Now, however, they also remind me of driving along the rolling hill crests of Germany.

Until next months exploration, I wish you all a fantastic March!

Don’t forget to follow the blog circle around and visit Anna’s blog, to hear stories from her home in the Netherlands! It is surely worth the read and super fun as she writes in Dutch and in English!

Did you know that you can have posts from Kirsten Ashley Photography’s Blog sent directly to your email? Be sure to sign up here! Emails not your thing? Then check out Kirsten Ashley Photography’s Blog on Bloglovin! Here you can follow along just like on the old Google Reader and never miss a post!








February 01, 2015

Welcome to the new blog circle theme for 2015! Two years ago I met a fantastically talented group of photographer ladies in Amsterdam during the Clickin’ Mom’s Clickin’ Walk for 2013. I adored all of them so much and due to today’s awesome technology we were able to keep in touch after the meet up. These women decided to create a blog circle and I excitedly accepted the invitation to be a part of something so globally awesome! Each month we will be contributing one blog post in accordance with the theme, and you as the reader can travel around the world to see what the theme looks like in the eyes of so many different cultures. Last year’s theme was “Happiness Through My Eyes”, which was a ton of fun to write each month, sharing what made me hyperventilate in excitement. This year the theme is “Home Sweet Home”. I found this extremely applicable as I have just moved from Landstuhl, Germany back to Texas, my home state. Get ready to follow KAPD’s journey while getting re-antiquated with being home and the hilarious and beautiful stories of moving somewhere new.

Once you have finished reading this post, feel free to follow the circle around the world by reading what home is in the eyes of my dear friend Jessica Aiduk on her blog “There and Back Again” who lives in Otterberg, Germany. She is a powerful crunchy mom, who continues to inspire me in every aspect of my life, including photography! Our friendship formed over a love for coffee, delicious pretty food, alcohol, & being high functioning type-A personalities. So go on! Visit her blog and show her some like & comment love!



This was the last photo I took of our home in Landstuhl Gemany. I LOVED this apartment. We had 4 bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths, and more space than I could ever dream of. We had a gorgeous view of the German forests living on the ninth floor and it was only a short walk in to town to get whatever I needed. Blissful sigh….

It was super hard to say goodbye to a place we loved so much. I think though, when life throws you out of your comfort zone, you become a better version of yourself… a stronger, more balanced, well rounded person.

You also start to figure out how misplaced your priorities are…. and how much “stuff” you have accumulated while staying in one spot. and ohmigosh did we manage to acquire alot of crap. D and I figured this out when we were house hunting in our new town of residence, Abilene, Texas. We realized we were used to having four bedrooms…. that’s two guest rooms plus an office! By the grace of God, we managed to be eligible for a 3 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath, two story on Dyess Airforce Base. We took a leap of faith and chose to accept. Having sworn I would never live on base, this came as quite a shock to me…. but the proximity to the gym was a huge selling point. As was the two car garage, AND I’d have an office!

After being homeless and bouncing back and forth between families over the holidays for a month, we FINALLY had a place to call our own! I was overjoyed, relieved, tired, & thankful. No matter how you slice it, moving is hard. It’s stressful and draining and ugly. But there is something so beautiful and rejuvenating about coming out on the other side. We had made it back to Texas, and everything was actually going to be okay.

Being back in Texas the USA has been surreal. It’s been two and a half years since Dana and I were back stateside. Everything is faster and flashier… the cars are HUGE… and the commercialism is enough to make your head spin. D and I had constant headaches for the first two weeks of being back. You also feel like your hearing is super sonic, because you realize you are listening in to everyone’s conversations because they speak English. Going to a restaurant was insane because I couldn’t tune it out… I was out of practice. Welcome home!

Kirsten Ashley Photography & Design | Abilene, Texas

I have been experiencing a profound longing for things I had known in Germany, but the most hilarious part is the quirky things that you get used to when living in foreign country that are just plain different back in the USA. So, as comic relief to all the hardship, here is my list of things I noticed and had to re-adjust to upon returning home.

  • The light switches are higher in the states. I am used to reaching around walls to flip a light switch and imagine my surprise when I have to hunt for it for a solid minute only to realize it’s much higher than I’m used to. It’s enough to make you think you’re losing your mind.
  • The keys are inserted flat side down. In most places in Germany the flat side is up. Welcome to opposite world.
  • Exit doors swing out again. Traditional egress code did not exist in Germany. In fact, most doors swung in! I got so used to this that I am now the idiot that pulls instead of pushing.
  • OMIGOD. THE SUN!!!!! I am blinded on a daily basis by the brightness of Texas. It’s been WAY too long since I have had this much Vitamin D on a regular basis! AND… it’s JANUARY!
  • Did the cars get bigger? Seriously. I feel like I’m driving on the highway with a fleet of massive whales.
  • Speaking of highways, five lanes across?? On one side?!? WHOA. I forgot how big highways are here. and how high they go in a maze of concrete interlaced ribbons.
  • Slow speed limits. Holy take your lead foot off the accelerator Batman…. We’re not in Deutschland anymore….
  • Texas is FLAT. omg. I don’t remember it being this flat. EVER. It’s like I’m seeing it for the first time. Where are the mountains? Where are the trees? Where is all the GREEN???  You’d think I had never been to this state, more less lived here for most of my life.
  • All people do in America is buy things. I realized this while touring the metroplex when my husband leans over and asks me “Is there anything to do in Texas besides go shopping?!!?!?” Ha.
  • So. Much. Space. Everything is so spread out here! I had forgotten…. it’s no wonder everything is bigger in Texas.
  • Options. Too many options. From the grocery stores, to the restaurants… you are constantly overwhelmed with choice to customize and get exactly what you want. Or it’s an indecisive person’s hell with more options than they know what to do with.
  • Everything is just SO easy. What? You mean I can go to a store and get exactly what I need to finish a project? I can seriously check the five Target’s in the area if one has something out of stock? OMG the convenience! It’s going to make me lazy….
  • Faster mail. All hail the closeness of the USPS! I can order something online and it’s delivered to my door in three days. Max. *blank stare of shock and amazement*
  • Dear sweet Mexican food, how I have missed you. Enough said.
  • The stars at night are big and bright…. I have dearly missed Texas. In every way. It’s good to be home!

Our belongings arrived this week and I have never been more thankful to have a chair to sit in. We had been in the house for a week without furniture, which was completely do-able, but rough. A leaky air mattress, no chairs, no internet, 10 gig of phone data, and seven days later we were super grateful to see our belongings being unloaded. Now we have the crazy mess below to contend with, seemingly a million boxes to unpack, and a serious round of purging to go through. On the plus side D and I have been finding things that we thought were lost in the move to Germany! W00t!

Kirsten Ashley Photography & Design | Abilene, TexasKirsten Ashley Photography & Design | Abilene, Texas

The good news is that Germany will forever be with us no matter where we go. I may be home, but I’m definitely not the same girl I was when I left three years ago. A little older, a little wiser, and that much more experienced. I am amazed at how life molds you through experience and those you interact with. I greatly look forward to what this year brings for D and I. KAPD is officially registered in Abilene, Texas and will re-open soon! Thank you Lord, for this beautiful life!

Kirsten Ashley Photography & Design | Abilene, Texas

Don’t forget to follow the circle to Otterberg, Germany and hear all about “Home” through the eyes of Jessica Aiduk on her blog “There and Back Again”.

Wishing everyone a beautiful end of the month!

Did you know that you can have posts from Kirsten Ashley Photography’s Blog sent directly to your email? Be sure to sign up here! Emails not your thing? Then check out Kirsten Ashley Photography’s Blog on Bloglovin! Here you can follow along just like on the old Google Reader and never miss a post!








October 13, 2014


I wanted to thank EVERYONE for their kind birthday wishes yesterday! I’ve decided that being at the end of my 20’s is comforting. Like a worn in sofa you loved through college, knowing that new things are in store, but for now, you’re content to keep what you know and love. It has been such a relaxing weekend around here…. which compliments the overcast weather SO well. I think my favorite part of yesterday was the 90’s playlist lip-sync-off/dance-off between my husband and I that happened in the kitchen while making birthday cupcakes {Italian Cream Cake!! My FAV}. Who knew you could get out of breath lip-syncing to “One Week” by the Barenaked Ladies? D spoiled me so much yesterday, surprising me with the most lovely bouquet of flowers and a present of the sparkly jewelry kind! Can you say husband of the year???

Due to D getting a three day this weekend, plus the birthday festivities, the regular MIAM will return next week! I also want to give a shout out happy birthday to my birthday twins: Evan Flatley, Ted Tudor {84!! Woot!}, Jerome Leach, Calvin Clark and happy anniversary to Adam and Amanda Cramm! 

Kirsten Ashley Photography & Design | 29th BirthdayKirsten Ashley Photography & Design | 29th Birthday

Happy Monday Ya’ll!!! It’s my hope that Monday In A Moment brightens the beginning of your week so you can power through to the end!

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Then end of April is upon us, which means we’re already 1/3 of the way through 2014! My favorite months are all lined up in a row, the good seasons eagerly anticipating their turn to shine. April has been busy, but I still wanted to give you something to sink your teeth into for my happiness this month. If you’ve never been a part of a coffee tasting, you’re about to… get ready, get pumped, and love some coffee. To continue forward in the Happiness Through My Eyes blog circle, please join Anna Francken owner of Anna Francken Photography in the Netherlands as she delves into the joys of her heart for April. Anna and I met in Amsterdam in Sept of 2013 and I was delighted to find we had so much in common! We share a love for sealing wax and wax seals, old school dip and fountain pens, pretty mail, delicious food, wine and of course, coffee. Be sure to check out her post for this month! Her photography always makes my heart happy… AND she writes in Dutch & English, ’cause that’s how she rolls!


Once upon a time, long long ago, I was a Starbucks barista. Yes indeed. I was the shiny happy face that greeted you while you placed your order or chatted it up with you asking about your life as I handmade your custom Starbucks beverage. Aside from all of the caffeine deficient crazy folks that would stumble into our store, I really did enjoy this job. I had awesome co-workers, a fantastic boss, received a free pound of coffee every week, and free drinks while on shift {practically every day}. Don’t be fooled though, the job was hard work. I remember when I first started and my boss told me that it would take me about three months to have all of the drinks memorized and the step by step process of hand crafting a drink perfected. I thought she was nuts. I was the elitist overly smart kid with a masters degree… how hard could it be? I have never felt so foolish in my life. It was the hardest I have ever worked to be good at something. My inability to multi-task bit me in the ass every single day. However, when I finally managed to learn the system, I became pretty good at it and grew comfortable enough to build relationships with the regular customers in our store.

Kirsten Ashley Photography | Happiness Through My Eyes | April 2014  | A Proper Coffee Tasting

As a part of your training, you are taught how to properly conduct a coffee tasting. You can probably guess how ridiculously excited I was. Like a kid being taught to make sugar cookies for the first time. Starbucks, ever the corporate system, gives all of their employees a coffee passport. This book literally looks like a passport but contains all of the corporate information on each coffee blend as well as your own notes once you have completed a tasting of each blend. Guys, you know me… I’m an eager beaver over-achiever. I lit up like a slot machine on a jackpot pull. “You mean I get a handy dandy notebook to tell me all about the different kinds of coffee AND I get to write in it too?” Jaw dropping excitement. They even give you a sticker {GOLD STAR!!!} for each coffee you taste so you can “check it off” in your passport. If you make it all the way through and taste all of the blends, you are then promoted to a “Coffee Master”. Sadly, I never made it… our store was always too busy.

To conduct a tasting there are equipment essentials. You will need :: a french coffee press or italian moka pot, coffee grinder, whole bean coffee, water, and paring treats to bring out the flavors in you coffee. If you don’t own a french press, some of my favorite brands are Bodum, La Cafetiere, & Le Creuset or this pretty red press. I would go ahead and spend the money to purchase a nice one. The one you see pictured in these photos is a thermal press, which is really nice if you brew a full pot, and want to keep it warm and refill your cup. A french press is traditionally used to conduct a coffee tasting, but living in Europe has also made me a fan of the Italian moka pot. This three piece coffee maker produces a stronger espresso-like cup of joe that is extremely flavorful and packs a caffeine punch. Which method is better? It really depends on your personal preferences. The French Press will give you a rich cup of coffee that is a far cry above what comes out of a percolator, while the Italian moka pot gives you a traditional European style cup of coffee that has a similar consistency to espresso. If you are a true coffee lover, you will be delighted with either coffee brewing appliance.

There are several key components to a coffee tasting which include properly brewing coffee in a press, tasting characteristics, and the tasting process.  Lets start with grinding the whole beans. If you don’t want to bother with grinding your own, most coffee shops will happily grind your beans for you at the correct coarseness. The pro’s of having your own coffee grinder, is that the grounds are fresh and can make all the difference in taste. The image above shows the difference in grinds. The french press grind is more coarse than what you would put into a coffee percolator. I tend to grind mine a little finer because I really enjoy strong coffee. But be aware that the finer your grinds, the more coffee sludge will magically appear at the bottom of your cup of joe, kind of like tea leaves. I don’t mind the sludge, but it really bothers some folks. Most french presses are eight cup presses and will require a quarter pound of coffee grinds if you are measuring using a scale. Your press should also come with a coffee scoop that measures slightly bigger than a tablespoon. For my everyday coffee, I use six scoops for a full press, even though the instructions say to use eight. This may or may not be because my husband and I have different definitions of what “strong coffee” means. Your press will also come with instructions that tell you how many scoops you need to make a proper pressed cup, so have no fear!

To brew coffee in your press, measure the appropriate amount of grounds into the bottom of your press. Boil water on the stove using a kettle or saucepan {don’t laugh, I did this before we owned a tea kettle when we were first married}. When the water is boiling or your kettle is screeching at you, pour enough boiling water to fill your press leaving about 1/2″ to 3/4″ space at the top for the lid recession. DO NOT press the coffee. Let it sit unpressed for FOUR MINUTES. I know it’s painful to wait, but I promise you it’s worth it. When your timer dings {because you set a timer for FOUR MINUTES right?}, gently push the plunger down to press the coffee. Be careful not to press too fast or coffee can spurt out of the spout and burn you. It’s not fun and makes a huge mess. Also hold the whole contraption steady. I have a friend who smashed her press to smithereens… completely by accident. {facepalm.} Note that the longer you let the coffee sit in the press the stronger the brew will be. 

Now on to the characteristics of a coffee tasting. There are four “tasting terms” that are important to note while tasting your coffee blends. This is very similar to wine or liquor tastings, so if you’re familiar with either of those techniques, you’ll feel right at home! The four terms are: Aroma, Acidity, Body, and Flavor.

  1. The Aroma is all about how the coffee smells. The scent of the blend is directly related to the flavor of the coffee you are tasting. It is important to smell your coffee first because it is a well known fact that what we smell directly influences what we taste. Example terms of descriptive aromas are:  earthy, spicy, & floral.
  2. The Acidity of your coffee in a tasting doesn’t refer to how it would rate on a litmus test, it is referring to how it reacts to your palette. As you taste the coffee you will taste the acidity on different parts of your tongue, the front back and sides. Highly acidic coffees are often described as “bright, tangy with a crisp clean finish”. This is similar to how citrus tastes in your mouth. Low acidity coffees are smoother and more mellow. The taste tends to linger longer in your mouth.
  3. The Body of the coffee means the weight of it. Does it feel light or heavy in your mouth? Starbucks had us compare it to the different between non-fat milk, whole milk, & heavy cream. Full bodied coffees will linger and coat your tongue where lighter bodied blends will have flavors that dissipate quickly with a light finish.
  4. The Flavor of the coffee refers to how the coffee tastes. It is helpful to pick out the bolder flavors first and work your way through the blends complexities. Different people taste different things first, which is why it’s really fun to do this with a group. Some example flavores are cocoa, cherries, hazelnut, citrus, or vanilla. Paring blends with different foods can really enhance the flavors in the coffee, causing you to taste them immediately. See below for different food pairing options.

There are five steps to tasting your coffee: Smell, Slurp, Location, Bite & Slurp, and Write. Below you will find each step explained in full detail.

  1. Take a Big Whiff :: Just like in the explanation of the aroma above, smelling your coffee is the first step to tasting your coffee because your sense of smell is directly related to what you taste. Cup your hand around your mug, stick your nose in and take a big whiff. What do you smell? What kind of flavors pop up? Notice anything in particular? Discuss the aroma.
  2. Slurpity-Slurp :: I know your mother taught you to never slurp… but Momma ain’t here. Acutally, slurping your coffee is the best way to taste it because it allows the liquid to properly coat your tongue to ensure you get all of the flavors. So go on, slurp it up!!
  3. Location, Location, Location :: As you are slurping, note where the flavors are hitting your mouth. Is it the front, or back? Does it coat your mouth? Do the flavors die away quickly? Take mental notes
  4. Take a Bite & Slurp Again :: Now it’s time to pair food with your coffee. Take a small bite of your food pairing and spread the flavors out in your mouth. Now take a small slurp of coffee again. Note how certain flavors are greatly intensified. What are those flavors? Do different foods bring out different flavors? Which flavor is the most powerful?
  5. Write it Down Y’all :: Be sure to write down all of the information gleaned above about each coffee you taste. Much like tasting wine, it can be fun to keep a notebook of different coffees you have tasted from different regions. This way you can always look back and compare. Not to mention keep track of which coffees were your favorite and which ones you didn’t like at all.

Above you see some of the foods I enjoy pairing with coffee tastings. Good staples are good quality chocolate {milk & dark}, lemon cake, berries, nuts, cinnamon, & vanilla, & caramel. I also wanted to let you know which foods pair best with the coffees pictures in this post.

  • For Ethiopia Blend :: Pairs best with lemon and herbs. Citrus-y savory foods like lemon bars or lemon rosemary sables would be a great pick!
  • For Gold Coast Blend :: Pairs best with maple, chocolate and caramel. This blend goes AWESOME with breakfast and the lotus cookies paired above. It also happens to be my favorite blend from Starbucks!
  • For Komodo Dragon Blend :: Pairs best with herbs, cinnamon, & oatmeal. This coffee is extremely earthy so it pairs well with earthy natural foods.
  • For Tribute Blend :: Pairs best with chocolate, berries, and vanilla. Taste the flavors zing when paired with cherries or cranberries!

So there you have it. You are now educated on how to conduct a proper coffee tasting!!! W00t!!  This can be a really fun party to plan as an excuse to get your girlfriends together. Most of the time, people have done this with wine or liquor, but never with coffee. I am always amazed at what I find that I don’t enjoy. It’s never what I would have expected! I hope that you will go forth and taste your heart out. Coffee lovers of the world unite! I also want to shout-out a HUGE thank you to my father for sending SIX POUNDS of Starbucks coffee all the way to Germany. His kindness and love inspired this months happiness, for what could be better than opening a 14″ x 14″ box full of caffeine??? Thanks Dad! I love you!

I hope you’ve enjoyed my happiness for the month of April! Don’t forget to continue around the world to the next blog in the circle written by the lovely Anna Francken HERE! Be sure to leave a comment and show her some love!

Until next month y’all! May you find a small bit of happiness in every day.

Did you know that you can have posts from Kirsten Ashley Photography’s Blog sent directly to your email? Be sure to sign up here! Emails not your thing? Then check out Kirsten Ashley Photography’s Blog on Bloglovin! Here you can follow along just like on the old Google Reader and never miss a post!







February 17, 2014


Today is a holiday for D so we’re spending the day together! This means your regularly scheduled Monday in a Moment will be back next week chalk full of shoes, recipes, and goings on! For those of you who also have the day off… woo hoo!!!!! Go spend it with family and loved ones. Life’s too short and will pass you by before you can blink. If you don’t have today off and it’s just a regular ‘ole Monday for you, then chin up and go do something awesome. I leave you with a quote by Wes Solem, a high school friend of mine. He put this on Facebook and I just had to share… mostly because it made me grin and laugh. “Take a look around and high-five the nearest stranger. If they look at you weird, thats ok. If they give you shit, spit on their shoe and high-five the stranger nearest them. Rinse and repeat until the hippie wears off.”

I hope everyone had a lovely Valentines Day weekend! I received lovely roses from D along with some other goodies. What is it about fresh flowers that makes a girl so giddy?

Happy Monday Ya’ll!!!

Don’t forget to come back next week to your regularly scheduled MIAM program! It’s my hope that MIAM brightens the beginning of your week so you can power through to the end!

 Hit the subscribe button to the left to receive the Kirsten Ashley Photography Blog in your email whenever it’s posted! Like this post? Hit the like button or leave a comment to show some love! OR you can constantly follow Kirsten Ashley Photography’s blog with Bloglovin.


January 31, 2014

I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I am about this post. Upon hearing about the idea of becoming a part of a blog circle I was immediately intrigued… and what better than to be among an incredibly talented group of women! The theme “Happiness Through My Eyes” formed by Ana is genius as it leaves room for so much creativity and interpretation. So without further ado, I give you my contribution for January. To go to the next blog in the circle by talented Louise Freeland from London, England, click HERE {the link has been updated!}.


Happiness for me, culminates in one specific category: sugar. Long ago I was graced with the nickname “The Sugar Queen” because of my ever-lasting love affair with sweet treats. My husband often goads me and asks me how someone can consume so much sugar on a daily basis. I simply turn to him and laugh as if the question doesn’t even merit an answer. And living on the France/Germany boarder for 2 years has brought one of my old favorites to levels of near obsession: Macarons! I’ve always had a soft spot for these delicate Parisian sandwich cookies, and being so close to the real thing has driven me to become passionate about their creation as well. I’ve made them for parties, for fun, and especially to enjoy a large batch in the comfort of my own home without spending 50€ for 24 macarons {Geez Ladurée… I love you and you’re worth it… but I cannot afford you even on a weekly basis}.

Over Christmas I set out to make cinnamon macarons for my traditional December Christmas cookie swap. I hadn’t made them in about eight months, but I figured it was like riding a bike.  Then…I couldn’t find my foolproof recipe.  And…it was raining {worst possible weather for trying to make these cookies!}.  And then…they cracked in the oven, leaving me without a single macaron that was pretty, pink and perfect.   I was horrified, disappointed, frustrated and exasperated and “insert inappropriate expletive here!!!”  *sigh* I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what went wrong, so I simply chalked it up to “a bad day to make macarons” and tried to move on let that be my excuse.

One sleepless night shortly thereafter, while my husband lay sound asleep and snoring by my side, I was overwhelmed with curiosity to figure out what had happened to my christmas macaron batch. Really and truly, I just couldn’t let it go that the whole ordeal had been a disaster… and I wanted vindication! So I set out to look up a foolproof recipe. At 3am, deep in a narcoleptic stupor, I stumbled across a blog called “The Brave Tart” written by Stella Parks. The name of the blog had me hooked… the brave tart… I wanted to be a brave tart! Her fantastically comical in your face writing style made me giggle with delight. Her dishes simply screamed “Bake Me! Now!” She was named “one of America’s Best New Pastry Chef’s in February 2012 by Food & Wine Magazine.” She has also made macarons three times a day since 2011. Who better to trust than someone who does it repeatedly EVERY DAY? Surely she knows here stuff. At this point I was game to trust this creative soul in love with chocolate who had spent a considerable amount of time and dedication to to de-mystify the macaron process for over-eager-beavers like me.

I want to give Stella all of the credit for this post. Without her Recipe, Macaron Mythbusters, Macaron Ten Commandments, and All About Hollows, I’d be lost. Hell, so would we all. So please, for the love of macarons, go read “The Brave Tart” Blog links posted above. I do mean READ them.  They are a wealth of macaron information {and a joy to read}.

I have found in my macaron journey that reading and researching have been the most helpful way to learn. It’s a common myth that macarons are impossible to make. That’s why I loved Stella. She has done everything to make the process as streamlined and foolproof as possible. She’s also tried the recipe a million ways… when it’s raining… in the humidity of a basement… when she’s listening to Huey Lewis and the News… everything! What she figured out and what I am slowly learning is that there is a method to the madness.

That’s why I love her Macaron 10 Commandments. Because these are the rules you MUST actually follow if you want your macarons to be consistent. After making two batches of  Stella’s recipe {one blue and one yellow} I sat down with pen and paper to write notes about specific things I think it’s important to pay attention to. These things are specific to MY house and MY oven… but it’s good to know where you can go wrong.

  • Sift Twice! :: It does make a difference! Don’t get lazy on me and only sift the almond flour/sugar combo once. Also, pay attention to the large chunks that won’t go through the sieve…. According to Stella, those can tear straight through your glorious macronage and crack your macarons. When I measure out my almond flour initally, I actually pre-sift exactly 4 oz of almond flour that goes through the sieve. Because I use a scale to measure, the weight is always precisely calculated and I don’t end up with large chunks of almond that don’t fit through the sieve.
  • 10 Minute Beating :: When I read Stella’s method of beating the egg whites I was in shock. Beat them for 10 minutes? Seriously?!?!? Yep. Seriously. This girl knows what she’s doing. Just trust and follow her timed instructions. You will end up with the most beautiful dry meringue.
  • Macronage :: This step can make or break your macarons. I know, I’ve done it. I don’t say that to scare you… I say it to caution you. This term describes folding the meringue and the sugar/almond flour mixture together.  The first batch {blue macarons} I folded 25 strokes + 15 strokes + several {like 8-10} more because I felt it wasn’t incorporated enough. These macarons came out with little or no “feet”* because I had deflated the meringue too much. The second batch {yellow macarons} I folded 25 strokes + 15 strokes + 1 or 2 more. I concentrated on oversmearing when I folded the batter so that by the end of 40 strokes my macaron batter was in a molten lava like state. I want to note that it looked thicker than I thought it should… but I really liked the way this batter piped and the second batch had really good “feet”.  {*Feet: the term used for the frilly bottom of a macaron}
  • Scrape It Down! :: I remembered reading about this in the Macaron 10 Commandments… and it’s seriously true. Scrape the bowl down as often as possible so that everything mixes evenly. If you have a rogue unmixed ribbon of meringue it can cause all of your macarons to crack. In the first batch {blue macarons} I had several macarons crack in a row. Needless to say, the yellow macarons turned out much better.
  • Whack That Sheet :: This part isn’t a joke either. Make SURE you whack your baking sheet against a table-like surface to get the air bubbles out of your piped macarons. I even go back through with a straight pin and make sure all of the bubbles at the surface that haven’t broken are popped. This can also make your macarons crack as the air rises to the surface during baking.
  • No Drying Time?!?!? :: Yep. You read right. This is why Stella is my hero. The step of drying your macarons for 30 minutes to an hour always cheesed me off. I don’t have enough patience to  allow the glossy caps to mattify. With Stella’s recipe you can pipe your macarons and then pop those suckers right into the oven! They still yield glorious feet! I was in awe. **Note: Stella mentions in Macaron Mythbusters that “if your macarons are slightly overmixed, about 15 minutes of drying will give them a better foot.” So in my first batch because I had overmixed the batter I should have let it sit for 15 minutes and the macarons would have yielded a better “foot.”
  • °F vs °C :: I don’t know about you but when I have to convert °F to °C my brain glitches. I immediately cringe because I worry that my oven temp, which I set by hand not digitally, is going to be off. Since 300°F = 148.889°C I have reason to be cautious. Stella suggests buying an oven thermometer to make sure your oven is actually set at 300°F. I’m tempted to do so… but for the time being I use trial and error and a knife to dig a groove into my dial at the exact perfect temp {don’t you dare judge!}.
  • Where’s Your Rack? :: I complete agree with Stella that knowing your oven is a very important commandment {See Macaron 10 Commandments}. In my first batch {blue ones!} I tested the oven rack in three different places to try to find the perfect location. My oven has four oven rack slots. The first go round I had the cookie sheet in the second to bottom rack: the back row of Macarons cracked beyond repair. Next, I placed the baking sheet on the very bottom row: ALL of the macarons cracked. Out of sheer desperation, I moved to the shelf second from the top: it worked like a charm. All but one of my macarons were perfect!  So pay attention to where you oven fan blows and your rack location. It sure makes a difference!
  • Cool ’em Upside-down :: I read Stella’s “All About Hollows” blog post discussing the in’s and out’s of why macarons turn out hollow. She recommends several options, one of which was cooling them upside-down. The science is similar to the way you cool an angelfood or chiffon cake upside-down on top of a wine bottle. The sheer weight of the macaron tops will cause the insides to fall giving you a hollow macaron. If you dry them upsidedown however, the inside cools but doesn’t deflate. Genius huh? Let me tell you… it works like a charm! So when you take your macarons out of the oven, simply flip the parchment paper over {your macarons shouldn’t release from the parchment until they’ve cooled} and cool them upside-down.
  • Just Wait :: Apparently macarons are supposed to “cure” for 24 hours in an airtight container before they are “ready.” I thought this was ridiculous {I know, I lack serious patience} until I tried it simply by accident. I couldn’t eat all of the macarons I made in one day so I stored them for the next day… I was amazed at how much better they taste on day 2, 3, 4…. etc. So my solution is this: the day you bake your macarons, eat some! They’ll still be delicious…. but know that the next day you’re in for a real treat because they’ll taste even better!

Here is Stella’s recipe from “The Brave Tart”. I want to make it clear that this is her EXACT recipe. I take no credit for the recipe itself. I did photograph my experience as I walked through her recipe to help you understand that it is possible for an average non-pastry chef  to make beautiful macarons with her recipe! Any additional comments from me are highlighted in blue.

 French Macarons – by Stella Parks aka “The Brave Tart” {with photographs by Kirsten Ashley Photography}

4 ounces (115g) blanched almonds or almond flour, or whatever nut you like
8 ounces (230g) powdered sugar*
5 ounces egg whites (144g), temperature and age not important!
2 1/2 ounce (72g) sugar
the scrapings of 1 vanilla bean or 2 tsp vanilla extract {I omitted the flavoring so the filling flavor would shine!}
1/2 tsp (2g) kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 300° and have ready a large (18”) pastry bag, fitted with a plain tip. If you haven’t wrangled a pastry bag into submission before (or if you have and found it frustrating), these 12 tips for using a pastry bag will make the process mess and stress free; take the time to read them before you get started and you’ll do great!

You’ll also need two parchment lined sheet pans ready too.

I am hopelessly impatient and given to rushing, even when I know better. So to prevent my macarons from growing ever larger as I pipe, I use a 1 1/2” cookie cutter to trace out guide-circles (about an inch apart) and then I flip the parchment paper over, ink side down. {This is a great idea, but even this perfectionist skipped this step}

If you use almond flour, you lucky dog, simply sift it with the powdered sugar and set aside. If a significant portion won’t go through your sifter, however, you’ll need to grind them up until they do.

{I used Red Mill pre-ground almond flour. So I’m a lucky dog. However, I was able to find whole almonds at the commissary if you want to try your hand at making your own almond flour.}

In that case, or if you’re using whole nuts, bust out your food processor. Process the almonds and powdered sugar for about a minute. Take out the mixture and sift it, reserving whatever bits don’t pass through the sieve. Add these bits back to the food processor and run the machine for another minute. Sift again. You should have about 2 Tbsp of slightly chunkier almond bits, but hakuna matata. Just add those into the dry mix.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the egg whites, sugar, vanilla bean (not the extract), and salt and turn the mixer to medium (4 on a Kitchen Aid). Whip for 3 minutes. They will not seem especially foamy at that point.

Increase the speed to medium-high (7 on a Kitchen Aid) and whip another 3 minutes, then crank the speed to 8 for go another 3 minutes.

At that point, turn the mixer off and add in any extracts/flavor/color and whip for a final minute on the highest speed, just to show it who’s boss (and to evenly distribute the color/flavor). I highly recommend not adding any flavor or color if it’s your first time, or if you’re wanting to learn about macarons. Additives make learning trickier. If you’re not here to learn, just to eat, then carry on!

At the end of this minute, you should have a very stiff, dry meringue. When you remove the whisk attachment, there will be a big clump of meringue in the center, just knock the whisk against the bowl to free it. If the meringue has not become stiff enough to clump inside the whisk, continue beating for another minute, or until it does so.

{Top left: egg white / sugar mixture at 3 minutes beating at speed 4. Top right: egg white / sugar mixture at the end of the next 3 minutes beating at speed 6. Bottom left: egg white / sugar mixture at the end of the next 3 minutes beating at speed 8. Bottom right: egg white / sugar mixture at the end of the final minute beating at speed 10. The large ball in the center is what came out of my beater.}

Now dump in the dry ingredients all at once and fold them in with a rubber spatula. Use both a folding motion (to incorporate the dry ingredients) and a rubbing/smearing motion, to deflate the meringue against the side of the bowl.

First timers: the dry ingredients/meringue will look hopelessly incompatible at first. After about 25 turns (or folds or however you want to call “a single stroke of mixing”) the mixture will still have a quite lumpy and stiff texture. Another 15 strokes will see you to “just about right.” Keep in mind that macaronage is about deflating the whites, so don’t feel like you have to treat them oh-so-carefully. You want to knock the air out of them.

Undermixed macaron batter: quite stiff. If you spoon some out and drop it back into the mix, it will just sit there and never incorporate. Do this test before bagging your batter and save yourself the trouble of baking of undermixed macarons!

Overmixed macaron batter: has a runny, pancake batter-like texture. It will ooze continuously, making it impossible to pipe into pretty circles. Um, try not to reach that point.

You can evaluate your batter one stroke at a time, no rush.

Essentially, the macaron batter needs enough thickness that it will mound up on itself, but enough fluidity that after 20 seconds, it will melt back down. I’ve heard people describe this consistency as lava-like, or molten, and that’s pretty apt.

Transfer about half the batter to a piping bag. (When your bag is too full, the pressure causes the batter to rush out in a way that’s difficult to control, making for sloppy macarons.)

Pipe the batter into the pre-traced circles on the baking sheet. Stop piping just shy of the borders of the circle, as the batter will continue to spread just a bit.

After piping your macarons, take hold of the sheet pan and hit it hard against your counter. Rotate the pan ninety degrees and rap two more times. This will dislodge any large air bubbles that might cause your macarons to crack

{Photograph taken after 1st batch is piped and smacked so air bubbles are dislodged}

Bake for about 18 minutes, or until you can cleanly peel the parchment paper away from a macaron. If, when you try to pick up a macaron, the top comes off in your hand, it’s not done.

Once the macarons have baked, cool thoroughly on the pans, before peeling the cooled macarons from the parchment. Use a metal spatula if necessary.

{Second batch of macaron caps cooled!  I was amazed at how easily these released from the parchment paper. You can tell by the undersides that they are not hollow!}

Fill a pastry bag fitted with the buttercream {you can use buttercream, jam, lemon curd, etc! – kw} of your choice and pipe a quarter sized mound of buttercream into half of the shells, then sandwich them with their naked halves.

Macarons, against all pastry traditions, actually get better with age. The shells soften and become more chewy, mingling with the flavor of the buttercream too. So, while of course you can eat them right away, don’t hesitate to store them refrigerated for up to a week. If at all possible, set them out at room temperature for a few hours before consuming, because cold buttercream is kinda gross.

*Cornstarch-laced powdered sugar isn’t a problem for macaron making, but it is a problem for Passover. You can buy cornstarch free powdered sugar here.


Once the shells were finished, I filled the blue macarons with a blueberry white chocolate ganache and the yellow ones with a deliciously tart lemon curd. After I made both batches of macarons, the food photographer inside of me begged for a foodie photo shoot. I wish you all the best of luck in making these macarons! Remember, the more times you make them, the more you’ll understand the ingredients and your oven. Keep at it and never give up!

Thanks for joining me through this macaron adventure. If you are interested in a personal lesson in making these delightful treats, please email me at and I’d be happy to set up a cooking day!

To continue to the next link in the “Happiness Through My Eyes” blog circle, head on over to Louise Freeland Photography as she writes about happiness through her eyes in London, England click -> HERE!

Wishing everyone a most marvelous Friday!!

**Watercolor Macaron credit to Lucileskitchen.





It was seriously a great year. In fact I’m kind of in awe of everything 2013 managed to pack in. Living an Air Force life, the years seem to alternate…. this year we didn’t have to move…. and although D deployed, it was a short one. I have also struggled to find a word to describe my inward need to see different places in the world. Your first suggestion is “Wanderlust” right? Well, that’s not quite it as I have extremely strong ties to home. The Websters definition of wanderlust is : strong longing for or impulse toward wandering. I don’t have an impulse to wander. I have an impulse to see and do and be…. in as many parts of the world as possible all the while coming back with an overwhelming joy to be home. I’m the quintessential definition of a travel-lusting yo-yo. Zinging to a destination and always being pulled back where I belong. But I digress…. I visited more places this year than I could have ever hoped for.. and I am sincerely grateful. I thought I’d put together some of my favorite shots from the year combined. Enjoy!

As 2014 begins, it’s incredible to have this collage to look back on. It inspires me to “adventure-on” this year… That whole never leaving home without your camera thing? Totally worth it. Thanks for walking though this glimpse with me and I hope to be able to shoot just as many interesting things for this year!




November 12, 2013


This week I’m taking a break from the traditional MIAM to honor D’s and my two year anniversary. Yep, that’s right…. we were married on 11.11.11. I really can’t believe how fast time has gone by. We have certainly chosen a different path than most…. but I have loved every minute of it. I am fascinated that I still find out new things about him every day. Like that he speaks better French than me, he prefers chocolate without nuts {always dark over milk}, and he had British school teachers as a child. Having only lived with him in a foreign country, I realized we’ve never had the conversation about which stateside pizza delivery he likes best. Would we order Papa Johns? Pizza Hut?? Domino’s?? I had no idea… we’ve never had the opportunity. Crazy, huh?

I could go mushy gushy about how marriage is a gift and how in love we are, which is true, but seems a little overdone. Marriage isn’t easy… also cliche, I know… but it’s a lot of hard work. D and I are still learning and we are challenged to communicate better with each other every day. While two years doesn’t make me an expert by any means…  I did want to share a couple of things I’ve learned in the past two years. Take them for what they’re worth.

1. If your fighting and he’s looking at you like your nuts…. and it’s anywhere near dinnertime, you’re probably “hangry” {so hungry you’re angry. Thanks B!}. Stop arguing, eat something, and start again. 9 times out of 10 the conversation goes differently with a full tummy. 

2. Always try to greet him when he comes home from work. If you can’t ask him to let you get to a stopping point, and then get up and hug and kiss the heck out of him. It puts you both in a good mood.

3. When arguing always hold hands. It’s harder to stay mad at someone if your touching them.

4. In the end, it really isn’t important to be “right”. It’s more important to be on the same page.

5. Sometimes he just needs to love on you. Put the dishes {or whatever else you’re working on} down and let him. 

6. You can never have enough patience. EVER.

7. Always remember that he is your biggest ally. Cut him off and you’re losing the one person who will have your back no matter what. 

8. Genuine appreciation goes a long way.

9. If you can learn forgiveness, you’ve defeated one of the giants.

10. Once upon a time, you chose him to spend the rest of your life with. Choose him again and again every single day. It will show.

In honor of our upcoming anniversary, we had a photo shoot with Jesse’s Girl Photography. It was so fun letting someone else do all the work behind the camera when my biggest challenge was to make sure my hair curled properly. It was also stellar to spend the evening with my best friend here in Germany. My heart and soul is vintage, so that was our theme and D looked smashing in his suit, tie, & fedora. Huge thanks to Jaimie Thompson for letting me borrow her gorgeous WHBM dress. A ridiculous thank you goes out to Jess for the photos. We LOVE them.

Thanks for coming back this week! It’s my hope that MIAM brightens the beginning of your week so you can power through to the end!

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