Dinner for two - Charleston food photographer Nicole Mendicino

Date night.  I am having trouble digesting the date night concept. What is date night? Is it shared meal, dress up, putting your best foot forward to please one another for one night only? Why can’t relationships be as simple as doing life together, walking side by side with each other? Maybe always being your best self all the time instead of once a week during date night.

Call me crazy, but I kind of hate the idea of “date night”. The pressure to come up with something adventurous, find a baby sitter, go out, to then end up at a restaurant that is so loud you can’t here yourself think, which leads to pressure of coming up with something interesting to chat about. In the end you sit across from your partner on this forced evening both thinking “we should have stayed home, made dinner and watched Zombies attacking each other on the T.V. I just think the idea of one night a week to make sure to connect with your partner seems odd. Why not be connecting all the time? It doesn’t mean you have to spend every waking hour with one another. But there has to be more than date night to a relationship.

Relationships feel as though they are based off fairytales and sometimes I think that this whole date night thing is right along side it. Do you know what I am talking about?

The prince, the night in shinning armor, saving the girl, the damsel in distress. The prince rescues the princess, his one true love. Disney did a great number on me with those stories. Now it seems all of us women and men have certain expectations on how the other should be, should look should act like. Then what? I mean after prince charming rescues you, because as women we sure can’t rescue ourselves. (“Right”)  Now what? What do you do after the prince rescues you? Fairytale Wedding, Fairytale love, so on and so on. Then you have a wonderful few months. All of a sudden the birds stop chirping. The music fades. Shit gets real. The prince doesn’t seem like a prince anymore, the damsel doesn’t need rescuing, so now what are you supposed to do?

Have kids? Go on date night to spice it up?

Lets take a few steps back now from all the pink lace and tool. Lets take a break from Date night. Lets start at the beginning. It’s a very good place to start. (Cue Julie Andrews from the sound of music.)

What attracted you to that person in the first place? How did you act when you first met them? Did you poop in front of each other? I’ll bet you didn’t. You were the best version of yourself! Everyday. You wanted the other person to like you. You thought his jokes were funny and laughed. Like REALLY Laughed. He didn’t open the doors for you or maybe he did either way you didn’t mind. Date night wasn’t a thing, hang outs, road trips just fun being together, enjoying each other. That is where the love is. So what gives? Lets say you go back to that and do those things all the time. How would that change things? Maybe give being your best self a chance, EVERYDAY. What does that look like? No excuses here, the kids aren’t getting in the way, the job isn’t. It’s a choice.

Relationships are actually quite simple but yet we complicate them by putting pressure on the other person to get what we want. That’s messed up. Or forcing things like date night so I can feel like my partner is pursuing me like Prince Charming pursuing his damsel. Say WHAT?

I have a crazy Idea. Do life together. Be partners to each other. Find what it is you liked about each other in the first place. BEE YOURSELF! I’m no expert here. I am a little awkward, maybe a lot awkward at times. I’m not an expert on love. But what I do know is He is No prince Charming, I am no Cinderella and we don’t need date night. Normal boring life is much more exciting, I’d take dinner for two at home watching Zombies attack anytime over a forced anything.


Black Rice With Garlic and Cilantro 

What you will need: 

Wild Black Rice - You can find this at your local grocery store. Cilantro, Garlic about 1 clove. Salt. 

Follow directions on package for rice, use a rice cooker or stove top to make . It will take the longest so make sure to throw the rice in the pot first before prepping the other food. Also add salt to the rice while it cooks. About a 1/2 teaspoon is enough. 

Alaskan Salmon with Garlic, Lemon, Olive Oil and shallots.  

What you need:

- 2 Wild Alaskan Salmons Fillets, 1 lemons, 1 bunch of garlic (4 cloves or 5 depending on how much you like garlic), High quality Olive Oil, 1 Shallot, salt and pepper. 

-To Make :

Preheat oven or toaster oven to 400 degrees 

Prep a baking pan with Olive oil or Non stick cooking spray. Clean the Salmon Filets, smash garlic (keep shells on) with a knife, slice lemon, and shallots. Place the Salmon on the baking sheet, place smashed garlic, lemon, olive oil, pinch of salt and pepper on top of the Salomon Filets. 

Then bake for 10 min. You will know when the fish is done by placing a fork over the top, if the salmon piece are sliding off, the color has gone from bright pink to pale its done. Also Fish cooks very fast and will keep cooking once you take it out of the oven. Over done the fish will be gummy or tough when you are eating it. 

Radish Spinach Salad with Goddess Dressing  

What you will need :

-3 0r 4 Radishes, Fresh Spinach , Lemon, Cilantro, Garlic, Olive oil , Lemon, Lime, Bragg Liquid Aminos, Vegenaise or Mayo works great. Salt and pepper. Ground Ginger or Fresh. A bowl, whisk, knife. mortar and pestle. 

For the Dressing: Roughly chop the Garlic, Cilantro, place in the mortar and pestle add a pinch of salt, and ground ginger to the mix and grind up until combined into a paste. Set aside. 

Cut the lemon and lime in half. Set aside. 

In a bowl Mix together about a tablespoon of Olive oil, tablespoon Vegenaise, teaspoon liquid Aminos, Squeeze in the cut lemon. (use the whole thing, then add in about Half of the lime) Add in the cilantro, garlic mix. With a whisk throughly mix all together. Add salt and pepper to taste. As well as more olive oil, lemon juice if too acidic. 

Slice the Radishes and Place in a bowl with the spinach. 

Add Dressing and toss together. 

That is simple meal Dinner for two. Enjoy. 



Mom Fail // Nicole Lee - Photographer

How did your weekend go?

Lots of Drama around here, three bloody noses, numbers of meltdowns, with the exception of some beach time. This is how everyone else’s weekend went right?  

This weekend was Dramatic. I mean Really Dramatic. First our oldest Jacob (5yr) was playing teenage ninja turtles in the backyard then proceeded to hit our middle child Asher (4yr) in the face with a large stick, which made him bleed heavily in the face. Then we had another blood in the face incident, which I will get to later.

So Asher comes screaming and crying into the house, blood all over his face. I have two options; succeed by the good mother. Or massively fail and drop the ball. The way I see it is: A. I am supposed to stay cool calm and collected. B. Lets face it I am horribly terrified when it comes to seeing blood, ANY type of blood. When my sister used to get vaccines I would cry in pain for her while she took it like a man. Why I always had the weird obligation to feel other people’s pain is beyond me. Maybe it’s anxiety? Maybe I am crazy? Both are equally relevant. Mom Fail #1.

So our middle child comes into the house screaming bloody murder. Here I am. This is my moment to be soft mom, not cold-hearted mom. So I take him and tell him it’s going to be okay although I want to throw up but try to hold back the vomit because I am being STRONG MOM.

He survives, the blood stops. I clean the wand with tea tree oil. I get it in his eye. The screaming continues. Mom Fail #2.

Finally the ordeal is over. We proceed with having a fantastic day at the beach, followed by long naps when we get home. (Fist pumps and high fives here)

It is Sunday. Ryan and I are talking together in the living room. The kids are playing in the kitchen. I hear a large thud followed by crying, followed by me rushing into the other room. There is Stella with blood down her face. Here is another moment where it would be good to be soft, I grab her, which then proceed to think, “its time to ruin your shirt and hold her tight”. (Are these normal thoughts?)

So I ruin the shirt and again stop the bleeding. She fell off the chair and hit her face.

That’s a lot of blood for someone who doesn’t like to see it.

Finally the kids are settled in bed its about 10:30pm Ryan and I are watching cooking shows on Netflix. (Chef’s Table, check it out)  All of the sudden we hear a huge thump followed by screaming. We jump up, Ryan first then me. Stella walks out of her room with the biggest bloody nose I have ever seen. I grab her, try my best to comfort her and then proceed to check her out, make sure its not broken, or cut or whatever. As I am investigating I find a huge piece of what looks like “Bone” coming out of her noise. I grab it. I am feeling squeamish again, maybe even a little queasy, why? Stella is the one in Pain, not me. Why am I feeling as though I may vomit? (Maybe I should get this checked out.) I tell Ryan lets look up what to do I think we should take her to the ER. Which we never do! We are the parents who wait it out. But the blood, I mean this looks serious!

We get her cleaned up, the bleeding stopped. Put the “bone “ into a class jar. Get her into the Car and Ryan takes her to Urgent Care. I am shaking, I run into the bathroom, and vomit. TMI? (I know I went there.) I clean myself up.  Mom fail #3.

I call Ryan and ask him how it’s going. He said its going well they just finished. Wow that was fast! The doctor said it was a piece of Rice, What? Yes, actually 2 pieces of rice dried and stuck together.

You are kidding me? We both start laughing. This is hilarious and ridiculous all in itself. Our 3 year old chose to stick to large pieces of rice up her nose which the impact of the fall caused her to bleed horribly and it wasn’t a piece of bone in fact it was RICE.

The doctor also informed my husband that there is actually no way she could have broke her nose because children aren’t developed fully yet. Well doc good to know. That’s why we pay you the big bucks. I ‘m too dumb to tell if its bone or rice up my child’s nose, and you need to inform me otherwise. Mom fail #4

Dramatic? Yes, necessary? No. 

I guess we all have moments where life gets messy. Mine seem to happen on a weekend basis. Maybe the kids would be better off at school full time it seems like they are doing better in the care of their Teachers!

Cheers Friends


not so perfect gluten free / dairy free chocolate chip cookie recipe

 Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset

Today I had a plan for having an amazing blog post about how I succeeded in making some really awesome gluten and butter free cookies. (I was saying Dairy free butter guess eggs are dairy.) The problem is I lost my CF card reader, which means all the rad images are on my CF Card and not on my computer. The plan failed ha. But instead of just blowing off the blog post I really wanted to push through my frustration and perfectionism, still giving you the recipe.

Lately life has been a bit of a roller coaster, making grown up choices and juggling working on my photography business and 3 kids, and food allergies. 

What’s been the hardest at times are not my food allergies or even the children. Its finding out I have thyroid problem and is acting up not doing its job. Leaving me depleted and difficult at times. Lets just say its a vicious , vicious cycle. If you stress then your body reacts. Then your tired and so on. 

Instead of going to the dark side, letting fear and anxiety control my every waking breath. I have been choosing something else. New tools if you must. I realized that instead of let something like the fact that I couldn’t find my CF card reader really get the best of me I take a few steps back and think how can I make this work. How can I push through and problem solve.

There used to be a time in my life where I trained myself to cope a certain way, and well I have been through a lot of life situations where that may have been necessary but now what I am realizing more than ever is I don’t need to cope anymore. I don’t need to put on a shield of armor ever day and go out to battle.

I honestly never thought that day would every come.  Its not as easy as saying ‘I had a come to Jesus Moment” Or The Lord Saved me”.  Over the past few years I have been dealing with “My crap” My past, my baggage whatever you want to call it. Facing it head on, teaching myself through therapy new tools. (Yes I said Therapy.)  Which has been the best thing since the invention of Pizza. I mean Its beyond freeing and wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t done it. Or still doing it from time to time.

Learning to let things go, being my best self through love and kindness. Digest that for ten seconds. It sounds easy but I don’t think I actually knew what the definition of actual kindness was.  Do you? 

So here we are back at the start. I was certainly excited to say the least about these cookies. They are chocolaty, gluten free goodness that every once in awhile it’s good to spurge and have one.

Give them a try, if you have any gluten free tips leave a comment I am still new at all this Gluten free baking!

(These images were with my iPhone and made some minor adjustments in Photoshop)

For the Recipe:

What you will need:

Pre- Heat the oven to 375 degrees

(a toaster oven works great too! )

2 large mixing bowls

Either an electric mixer, or hand mixer ( ex. Spatula works great)

A pan lined with Parchment paper, or a mat


A Knife to Chop the bar of chocolate


1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp gluten free / corn free baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon (or more or less to your liking )

2 cups gluten free organic rolled oats

3 cups Gluten Free Flour (I use bob’s gluten free 1/1 mix )

1 package vegan Chocolate chips

1 bar 65% cocoa organic chocolate (dairy free)

2 eggs (room temp)

1 cup Earth balance soy free vegan butter  (room temp)

1 cup raw honey (semi melted, melt in microwave if needed)

1 tbsp organic molasses

1 tsp Madagascar Vanilla


In one bowl Mix all of flour and baking powder and soda together and set aside.

Then in a separate bowl cream together the butter eggs, honey, molasses, vanilla , until smooth and creamy.  When it looks smooth and creamy add in your flour mixer at low speed.

Cut up the chocolate bar into chunks big small however you choose.

When the flour is no longer visible you should have a dough, this is when you add in the 2 cups of Gluten Free Oats, Make sure to mix it in by hand and take off the kitchen aid stand if using one.

Then add the chocolate chips. I usually taste it by now, see if It needs more of something.

Place a about a tablespoon amount onto a lined baking sheet and bake for 10-15 min, I flatten them down right when they come out of the oven. This way they aren’t just round puff balls.

Remove and let cool on a stand for about 10 min.

Also If you don’t want to make the entire batch I freeze the dough in the freezer or bake all the cookies and freeze those!

Enjoy! Happy Baking Friends.


Saturday Morning Breakfast - Rituals and Family time

Mornings are becoming my favorite part of the day, especially Saturday Mornings. This wasn’t always the case because we had little one’s waking up multiple times in the night to nurse, or they needed something because you know they were babies. By the time the morning would roll around I defiantly resembled something looking close to a Zombie.

Now fast forward. The kids are older and sleep amazingly which means as parents we are sleeping and the only time I resemble a Zombie is when I have an allergic reaction to food.

Each morning we have our family rituals, get up, get any chores out of the way, make breakfast and lunches sit together as a family and ask each other about our dreams from the night before, talk about how exciting the day ahead will be and seeing friends or teachers. These small moments are my favorite and it’s interesting that it naturally happens around the table. These are the moments to hold onto and treasure. During the week we make it a point to gather each morning together take time and, do these rituals, then we head off to school and start work.

Saturdays are my favorite because when we do this we get to linger a bit; we maybe make something like gluten free waffles, (still in the midst of testing new recipes from scratch) Or Make Van’s frozen waffles. These are defiantly our favorite store bought brand. The point isn’t just about some elaborate menu, but cherishing the time we have together. It goes quick and going even quicker. I thought I would share a glimpse into our morning breakfast time as a family, the time we cherish and love and all look forward to partake in.

What are the rituals that you love and do each day? Whether that is alone, with your family or anything else that tickles your fancy?

Cheers Friends, 


Stella Mae - Portraits Nicole Lee photographer - Charleston SC

Today I thought I would share some personal images of my Stella Mae. Without a doubt I am glad a started this project over a year ago, I know one day I will look back and be thankful I took portraits of my children. 

Would love to hear thoughts and share some love if you'd like. 

Happy Friday Everyone! 


Chocolate- Brownie- Cookies- Gluten Free-

About 8 months ago I got really sick. Ever since I have been on a journey to get back to my normal self.

It all started with some flowers. I was really into buying flowers for my house and this particular week lavender was in season so I thought oh, lets buy something different. When I got home, I put them in a mason jar and placed them on my living room coffee table.

A few mornings later, I entered the living room and started coughing and could barely breath, kind of like a massive asthma attack, (which I don’t have) I thought this was super strange so I then looked around the room, finally discovered that my lavender was covered in MOLD! What? !  I kind of panicked because I am actually allergic. (Not just a little, A LOT.)  I quickly got rid of the lavender.

A few weeks passed and I become super ill.

First I thought it was the flu, then allergies. But as the weeks went on I got worse. I was the only one in our house that was ill as well, so at times I felt a little crazy. I thought back to the flowers and thought what If it was the mold? Maybe I inhaled some of the spores? My husband and I did some research on symptoms of toxic mold exposure, to name a few: mental confusion, sinus infections, flu like symptoms, lung infections, blurred vision, migraines, headaches, hair loss and in extreme cases death, (which were found in people exposed for years.) I ended up with most of the symptoms because I am allergic to mold. The rest of my family just had minimal to none. Which is also common.  First thought was maybe it was just the lavender, that’s why I was just sick. Second was its not worth the risk of our whole family,

Lets just test the house for mold to be safe.

Sure enough it came up positive. We looked around the house, we opened the vents and there was mold everywhere! What? Our whole family was breathing in this? Everyday!

After finding it we literally packed up our things and fled like Zombies were attacking, No joke.

There were the five of us crammed in a hotel. Within days of leaving we started to feel better. Who knew?

We inquired with an environmental allergist here in Charleston. (I seriously owe him my life.) During the evaluation they ask you questions about your symptoms, and after listing most of them he told me: without testing you it sounds like you have been exposed to toxic mold, and you may feel alone, or crazy but you are not. We see a majority of people with toxic mold exposure. You are not alone and we have a plan for you to get better. I can promise you that.

I was beyond relieved that there was an answer to the last few months of madness.

The short version is he got me on a plan for detoxing and recovery. He gave us things for the kids too but he said to keep an eye on them if they are better after leaving the house then they should keep healing quickly and be okay. My predicament was slightly different, he said because of my health history this mold exposure was like the straw that broke the camels back. Your body stopped fighting and healing itself. The amazing thing was it was an answer. Along with a road to travel down to actually get better.

Part of the plan is I have to be on a “special” (not the good kind) diet because of the mold and candida (yeast) that I am allergic to. They basically feed off each other, and my body went on a feeding frenzy. The purpose of the diet was to starve the Candida/ fungus overgrowth, which then leads to die off and creates normal levels in your body. The best way to describe the diet is it’s a low sugar version of Paleo. No grains, no dairy, no vinegars, no beans, no foods containing any time of fungus. These foods actually feed the Candida and make it grow, so if you eliminate them then the candida dies off. (This alone wont “cure” the candida, like I said this was just one part of the treatment plan.) 

Basically my culinary palate has been starving for months. All I want is to eat a piece of bread, with cured meat and cheese on it, or better a big fat piece of melting pizza!

Looking back to a few months ago I have made leaps and bounds, I no longer feel like a sick person trying to get well.  My family is well and safe and things are starting to feel less like we were running from Zombies, to feeling like “well now we know how to survive when Zombies attack”.

Over the past few months I have come up with some creative ways to make my really boring food exciting.  I love bon appetite’ mag and stumbled upon an awesome Gluten Free Chocolate cookie recipe. The main ingredients are coca powder and gluten free powdered sugar (Which you can substitute or add less if you desire to do so). The cookies are so simple to make your 6 year old child could do it!

So stop listening to me ramble about my life and get up and make some awesome mouth watering cookies. You will not regret it!

Thanks for stopping by, look forward to hearing from you friends!

Recipe below 



Recipe :




  • 3 cups gluten-free powdered sugar
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons cacao nibs



  • Place racks in lower and upper thirds of oven; preheat to 350°. Whisk powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a large bowl, then whisk in egg whites and egg; fold in chocolate and cacao nibs. Spoon batter by the tablespoonful onto 2 parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 2” apart.

  • Bake, rotating sheets once, until cookies are puffed, cracked, and set just around the edges, 14–16 minutes.

  • Transfer baking sheets to wire racks and let cookies cool on pan (they’ll firm up).


More information on health and recipes check these guys out! 

Bon Appetit Magazine Recipe :  http://www.bonappetit.com/

Center for occupational and environmental medicine : http://www.coem.com/