6 ways to make your life more ‘grammable

6 ways to make your life more ‘grammable 150 150 fortheindoorsy

It’s summer!!! AKA the #1 time to do things outside. Long gone are the days of being curled under a blanket watching cheesy holiday movies on Netflix. Those days have been replaced with me scrolling through Instagram thinking about all the cute summer things I should be doing and reflecting on how I should have been working out all winter instead of watching cheesy holiday movies on Netflix.

Ah, summer. But while one of those goals is long gone, the other is still within reach. All those cute summer things that make you want to go out and live ‘gram your life are actually pretty attainable.

styling a party on a budget // how to have a perfectly 'grammable event

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m addicted to the scroll as much as the next person, but I don’t think lying in bed doing it makes me feel good. Passively engaging with other people’s lives makes me crave real engagement in my own life. And as I’m scrolling through the photos of social influencers laughing with their best friends while eating funnel cake and standing in front of a ferris wheel at a parking lot carnival, I can’t help but have this feeling that I’m missing out.

And as quickly as that FOMO enters my mind, I realize I freakin’ hate parking lot carnivals. They are shady as hell (the sound of a creaking ferris wheel is what my nightmares are made of) and on what planet would I ever willingly buy a $12 funnel cake that makes me feel sick afterward? So no, I actually don’t want to spend $30 going to a sketchy AF carnival to hold a funnel cake as a prop, fake laugh for 30 minutes, and snap a few staged pictures while the dude selling hot dogs laughs at me from inside his food trailer.


styling a party on a budget // how to have a perfectly 'grammable event

But why does the picture still get me? Because the picture makes the experience look fun — it makes me nostalgic for an event I didn’t go to and elicits happiness even though I know the experience would actually be slightly miserable.

And I know I’m not alone with this. Ultimately, what we need to set us straight on Instagram, is to have the emotions that the photo evoke match the emotions from the actual event.

styling a party on a budget // how to have a perfectly 'grammable event

When we look at influencers’ posts and we weren’t there for the event, we infer that the photo is reflective of the event itself (logical). So when we see a picture of people having fun, we assume the event was fun (makes sense). But what we know and have to keep reminding ourselves of, is that this assumption isn’t always true — but it’s hard to convince ourselves of something other than what we see.

So instead of doing not-fun things that look fun (ferris wheels are boring and we all know it), I think it makes more sense to keep doing the fun things that aren’t naturally picture-perfect. As a photographer, I am drawn to visuals. And as a millennial who wants to hang on to experiences, I want photos as evidence and reminders of these experiences (if you don’t have a photo with a caption #takemeback what are you doing with your life?). So, to get the things that are truly fun to actually look fun, we just need to make them a little more photogenic.

styling your food effortlessly // how to have a perfectly 'grammable event

And you know what’s actually fun? Hanging out with my friends in my backyard while getting drunk off rosé and talking about podcasts, side hustles, arch nemeses at work, and the latest documentaries we saw on Netflix. But there are no neon lights or carnival sounds here, no cotton candy or funnel cakes, and no perfectly-styled outfits.

So to hang on to these experiences through photos and make the photo look as fun as the event actually was, I get creative and pull some blankets together, collect a few rugs, grab some existing household items, and style the space. And as we can all agree, all good things center around food, so with that I have a perfectly ‘grammable event that kicks the ass of any carnival in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

styling your food effortlessly // how to have a perfectly 'grammable event

Here are some seriously easy tips for making your next hangout totally ‘grammable:

  1. Add color and texture with textiles.

    Textiles are just a fancy word for blankets and fabrics. Layer them as tablecloths, grab some cute napkins, or even grab a curtain or sheet set to add fun patterns and visual interest to your event photos.

  2. Plate your food.

    Even if you are eating $5 delivery pizza, you’d be amazed how much of a difference that plating can make. My go-to styling tool is a wooden cutting board. Grab some pieces, sprinkle some crumbs, and stack ‘em up and you’re all set for a styled shoot.

    styling your food effortlessly // how to have a perfectly 'grammable event

  3. Parsley on everything.

    I would say it’s just me but I know it’s not. The reality is this: everything looks better with some plants. Whether it’s your house, your picture, or your food. Throw some sort of fresh herb or parsley because it’s cheap AF and you have food that looks real fancy.

  4. Photograph movement and real emotion.

    As a photographer, I hate posed photos. I like the real, candid moments that help you preserve the memories of the night you had. Sometimes that means the lighting is wrong or that the person you’re taking a picture of is blurry, but as long as you have the emotion, you’ll love the photo. Aim to get pictures of people laughing, moving, dancing, whatever. Because that’s what makes life fun and those are the things you want to remember.

    taking the best photos of your guests // how to have a perfectly 'grammable event

  5. Natural light or bust.

    Nothing ruins your photos like artificial light. Even if you think the photo is dark (iPhone, I’m looking at you), keep it that way and brighten it up afterward. The yellow from artificial light, especially when mixed with sunlight can be super tricky. And if you want a pro-tip, I generally avoid harsh direct sunlight when I can, meaning I try to shoot in a shaded area where shadows aren’t casting down in weird ways on people’s faces.

  6. Don’t obsess over the photos.

    Photos should be reflective of the experience, but they shouldn’t be the experience itself. And yes, there is a difference!

styling a party on a budget // how to have a perfectly 'grammable event

Whatever you do, have fun with it. Because summer nights are those nights that I live for, and even if my pictures aren’t 100% perfect, the feelings behind them are authentic and true. And at the end of the day, I would much rather have these experiences with friends than scroll through the ‘gram with a severe case of FOMO. Let’s channel that FOMO and have it drive us to action — call the friend you haven’t seen in awhile, invite your neighbor over for a glass of wine, or take your bike out and head to the closest park. And if you need more convincing to step out of your comfort zone, do it for the ‘gram.


Conquering the Dinner Party: how to pull it off without stressing yourself out

Conquering the Dinner Party

Conquering the Dinner Party 3415 2561 fortheindoorsy

Conquering the Dinner Party: how to pull it off without stressing yourself out

I’ve learned that I very much view “hosting” as a skill. I was definitely not born knowing how to throw a killer dinner party, and I’m sure there’s a ton I could improve on, but let me tell you what — I freakin’ love it.

I was talking to my friend Emily about it one day and she mentioned she enjoys it because she loves to be the one providing the stellar experience to people; her thrill comes from watching people have fun. Isn’t that sweet.

But not me.

No, I like the feeling of conquering the dinner party prep. That’s right folks, I view hosting a dinner party like a battle. Sure, I may have signed up to cook eight things but be prepared for me to only bring two because it was an all out battlefield in the kitchen. And when you come over and I say “Oh my gosh, I totally forgot to make the creme brulee — I am SO sorry!” you can be absolutely certain that I, in fact, did not forget and I did in fact, run out of time (because who the hell knew macarons were so demanding amirite?)

But an hour later when the crew is either sprawled on the living room floor or slouched in the mismatched chairs at the dinner table and our conversation revolves around how uncomfortably full we all are, my internal reaction is that of a Miss America pageant contestant batting away her tears as she is crowned. Because despite the burnt food remnants etched into my stove, the flour that is now wedged in the cracks of my iPhone screen, and the mounds of dishes piled in the sink that I secretly am hoping someone else will wash, I somehow pulled it off. And beyond that, I think two of these people were actually a little impressed.

This was the case with Easter. Each time I have people over I think I do just a little bit better than the last. I still can’t hold a candle to Zach’s mom, who taught me everything I know, but it’s always fun enough to do again.

Conquering the Dinner Party: how to pull it off without stressing yourself out

These are the tips I’ve learned (so far) that help me conquer the dinner party:

1. Plan ahead (kind of).

The key to planning ahead is to plan ahead as much as is necessary so that you don’t stress yourself out because you don’t think you have a plan. However, if you’re ever stressed because it might not be perfect or the food might come out too late, let me just go ahead and tell you that I am not on your level. The only objectives I ever have are to make food that is a) good b) gram-worthy (yeah, yeah, I’m a millennial) and c) feeds the crowd. Timing, the mixing of flavors, wine pairings, etc. is beyond my pay grade and really just an added bonus.

So to plan ahead, my absolute must is to draft the menu and grocery shop at least one day before. Also, if it’s a dish with a weird ingredient, it probably won’t make the cut because I never plan far enough ahead to secure said ingredient. Basically, if Amazon Prime doesn’t have it, it ain’t happenin’.

If you’re wanting to decorate and go all out, don’t even think about trying to do that on the same day that you’re cooking because let me just tell you: it will not happen. Same goes for cleaning your apartment. The only fight an old roommate and I ever got in was when we were scrambling to clean before our President’s Day Party (talk about a celebratory day in history, I know) when she rushed to put the vaccuum cleaner in the closet and finish tidying up as I was plating the food. We exchanged words, with those words being “ALEX!!!! WHY WOULD YOU EVER PUT A TWENTY-DOLLAR VACCUM CLEANER ON A THREE-HUNDRED DOLLAR PAIR OF SHOES?!?!?”

Don’t let this be you.

2. Overcommit and under-deliver.

As mentioned, I get real ambitious when it comes to cooking for a crowd. I treat it like Iron Chef where I have 5 hours to make 6 dishes. The only problem is that I generally have no sous chef and I, myself, am not an iron chef. Thus, 1-2 things that I wrote on my notepad don’t ever come into existence. Because I know this about myself, I rank the things that absolutely have to get done. So when it comes to that second dessert I just really want to make, if it’s that important, I need to either make it a day early or accept that it just might not happen. And generally, I find that I don’t actually want it as bad as I thought because 100% of the time, I never make food ahead of time.

3. Map out your food placement.

On my very first Christmas dinner, the biggest faux-pas was realizing I don’t live in a mansion and my oven is actually not big enough to fit a roasting pan full of pork and a casserole dish. I was stressed and all of that could have been prevented if I would have coordinated a teensy bit more. Nothing sucks more than having an amazing dinner and then realizing you have to subdivide the meal onto paper plates to fit on your table, which effectively ruins any and all photo evidence you have to prove you are adulting and can make meals other than Lean Cuisine.

This is why I suggest figuring out what food fits onto which plates and then figuring out which plates fit onto the bar or table. I actually only did this for the first time this past weekend (see: post-it notes below), but it was a game-changer. With multiple cooks in the kitchen, it was so much easier to tell people exactly which dishes to use instead of having them guess and still not having everything fit on the table.

4. If you’re gettin’ real fancy, make a timeline.

The biggest obstacle I always encounter: cooking multiple dishes at the same time. Balancing chopping with reading a recipe with making a sauce generally results in at least one stovetop boil-over. The very first Christmas dinner party I hosted was a complete nightmare because I could not get the timing right. For the second Christmas dinner, I came prepared:

In a notebook, I wrote down all the dishes that required the highly-coveted oven. Alongside each dish, I wrote down how long they needed to cook and the corresponding temperature. Once I had all that, I figured out what could be cooked at the same time. If there was a dish that was cooked at 425º and another cooked at 450º, you can bet I threw those bad boys in at the same time and just cooked one of the dishes longer.

As for cooking order, anything that needed to be cooked but would have to be reheated went in first, followed by food that could retain heat the longest (a gratin or a casserole for example), with the main dish (typically a meat) getting cooked last. As soon as the meat came out of the oven, I’d cover it with foil and let it rest for 15ish minutes while I reheated the food that needed it.

All of this coordination and my horribly sketched notes were a massive lifesaver and Christmas II went significantly better than the first. Apparently the Martha Stewarts of the world never have to do this because they’ve gotten so good at it over time, but I have about 0 Martha in my blood.

5. Don’t even try to get fancy with appetizers.

Grab some cheese and salami from Costco (seriously so much cheaper than the grocery store it is honestly insane), a loaf of french bread, some hummus & veggies, and call it good. Maybe it’s just me, but the space in my stomach is valuable real estate and there is 0% chance of me wanting to fill it with a mediocre eggplant dip or store-bought guacamole when there is a pile of cheese and bread sitting in front of me.

6. Ask people to bring things.

I love pretending I’m an independent woman who can do it all, some unique combination of Wonder Woman and Beyonce. But when it comes to the dinner party, that thinking is out because it is impossible and 100% not fun to cook all the things. Ask your friends to bring wine, a dip, a side, more wine — whatever you want, but this will save your wallet and your sanity.

Conquering the Dinner Party: how to pull it off without stressing yourself out

Now before everyone goes off thinking I’m missing the whole point, let’s clarify the most important thing: a great dinner party really just equates to using food as an excuse to get the people you like the most together in one room. I strongly believe food is the one common thread across cultures that brings people together and that shouldn’t be lost. If you totally bomb the dinner and end up ordering Domino’s, don’t beat yourself up. Just grab the wine your friend brought, brush it off, and remember we’ve all been there.

But if you’re anything like me and you’re able to pull off just some of the things you set out to do, you’ll feel like you truly conquered the dinner party.