Most bloggers and content creators can agree on one thing: We invest a lot of our own money into our ventures. Cameras, lenses, backgrounds, props, ingredients, travel, you name it. I have yet to develop a good recipe for making free money, but if I ever get my proportions rights, I’ll share my secret, promise. *wink*

When it comes to surfaces and backgrounds, I have had my eye on Replica Surfaces for quite a while. In my current living situation, I have limited space in which natural light works – damn NYC scaffolding and ground floor living, ya KNOW? – and I have a few surfaces that I use in my tiny bedroom corner. Namely, I use a gorgeous wooden cheese board I was gifted many moons ago, but this 10″ x 12″ beauty only allows me so much space. It is also worth mentioning it’s gained a few stains in the past few years, despite careful cleaning.

I needed something larger, durable, but it couldn’t take up too much space, either.

Replica Surfaces has heeded that call, and it was an investment I wanted to make.

Truth: When I posted on my Instagram Stories in September that I had just purchased the Butcher’s Block surface, the DMs flooded in, and they were extremely polarizing. Either people had a bad experience with their respective surfaces, or they swear Replica makes the best surfaces they’ve ever purchased. I decided to reserve judgement until I got it.

Y’all, my final opinion is a wholly positive one, I am happy to say. I am also honest with my followers.

I’ll waste no time and run down a small list of my personal pros and cons:

Replica Surfaces Pros:

  • The surface came sealed up and wrapped in more bubble wrap than I knew what to do with! In other words, Replica Surfaces ships their products well-protected. My surface came in perfect condition upon arrival.
  • It is extremely thin yet sturdy, with a slight bit of malleability to it. It makes storage a dream! I am able to slip it under my bed, easy peasy! In a smaller space – hello, NYC apartment! – I appreciate it that it can disappear from my line of sight when it’s not in use.
  • I appreciate its size! Measuring at 23″ x 23″ (or just shy of 2′ x 2′), I have much more surface to work with than I previously have.
  • For my particular surface, I was impressed at its hyperrealism. For the layman? It looks like actual wood in my photos. I’m impressed with the lines, the wood grain, and slight color variations throughout the surface, just like real wood.
  • This is a breeze to clean up! I’ve photographed a few hard ciders on this surface, and it’s takes no time to mop up any drips or spills afterwards. I have a few spills I’ve had to take care of on my actual wooden shooting surfaces, and a few light water stains still remain, which is a bummer.

Replica Surfaces Cons:

  • As I speak about investments, this particular surface’s base price was $77. It wasn’t so much a con for me – I could afford it and I wanted it, so I bought it! – but I know this cost will be prohibitive for some. I have seen competitive brands at lower prices; some brands which print a complimentary surface on both sides of the board, which piques my interest, a 2-for-1, if you will. Maybe Replica Surfaces will move in that direction in the future!
  • It states in the literature that came with my surface that it is technically not a food safe surface; since I’ll often lay food (e.g. pastries, cookies, cheeses, et al) on cleaned surfaces *and* eat what I shoot afterwards, this was kind of a bummer. I doubt I’ll become instantly stricken if I ever ate something that was atop my surface for a few minutes, but I’m also the “better safe than sorry” type. 😂

At the end of the day, I am happy with my purchase! I will consider Replica Surfaces for future purchases, and am incredibly thankful for my large “wooden” surface. I hope that my review may help you in making your future decision-making process when it comes to surfaces for your content photography.

Note: This review was based on a personal purchase from Replica Surfaces. I was not paid or compensated in any way. As always, opinions are my own.

The clamour for a revival of my Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi recipe came about after I put a throwback photo of it on my Instagram a few weeks back. Who am I to disappoint my fans?

File this Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi recipe under “Canned Pumpkin Recipes”, “Recipes with Canned Pumpkin”, or “Delicious Recipes To Make This Fall” . (SEO, do your magic. Ha!)

Originally posted on this site on October 23rd, 2017, this gal is almost three and wanted to come out to play again.

I first tested and made this at my parents’ house in Connecticut that October, as their quiet and roommate-less home makes recipe development much more pleasant and, frankly, easy. Plus, my parents are always willing participants to be taste testers. If that doesn’t exemplify “win-win”, I’m not sure what does. I find gnocchi fun to make because it’s very hands on and I find playing with the dough to be satisfying. (Is there a tactile category for ASMR? Asking for a friend…) This version creates a more freestyle dumpling as compared to a traditional rolled and grooved potato-based gnocchi. Regardless, it is absolutely delicious, especially when tossed lightly with some melted butter and sage. (Keep it simple, here.)

I present to you my original 2017 photos, which, in my option, still past muster when compared to my current 2020 photography standards. 😂

Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi
Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi
Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi
Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi
Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi
Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi

Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi
(Adapted from Chowhound’s recipe for Pumpkin Gnocchi with Crème Fraîche–Sage Sauce)


  • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin purée (Reminder: do not use canned pumpkin pix mix!)
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground sage
  • 1 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Optional, Yet Suggested – Simple Sage Butter Sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons melted butter (I opt for salted, but feel free to use unsalted)
  • 2 fresh sage leaves, minced

Before We Get Started…

  • As you can see, this recipe originated from the linked Chowhound recipe, which I used as a basis for this gnocchi. Honestly, I have not given their Crème Fraîche–Sage Sauce a try, but I don’t doubt it’d be fantastic! I was opting to focus more on the gnocchi while making this recipe originally, not its toppings.


1.) Place parchment paper onto a large rimmed baking sheet and flour lightly. Set aside.

1.) Combine ricotta, pumpkin, egg yolks, salt, brown sugar, nutmeg, and ground sage; stir until smooth. Slowly add the flour – 1/4 cup at a time – and mix until the dough is combined; it should be a bit tacky and soft, and do not mix it beyond that point.

2.) Place flour on a cleaned work surface (countertop, cutting board, butcher’s block, et al). Taking a rough handful of dough, carefully roll it on the floured surface into an even rope, roughly 3/4″ in diameter. Cut the rope into 3/4″ – 1″ pieces. Place the gnocchi on the prepared baking sheet lined with floured parchment paper. Repeat with remaining dough until all gnocchi has been made.

4.) Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper (do not flour!) and set aside.

5.) Once water has come to a boil, carefully add gnocchi to the boiling water in batches, cooking at 3 – 4 minutes per batch. Gnocchi will float to surface of the water when finished. Remove with a slotted spoon, gently shake off any excess water, and transfer to the second prepared baking sheet. Repeat until all gnocchi is cooked.

6.) Serve immediately with preferred sauces or toppings, or allow gnocchi to cool before freezing.

6a.) I suggested tossing gnocchi in a butter sage sauce, perfect for a 2 cups of gnocchi: Melt butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat until melted, then adding in minced fresh sage. Turn heat down to medium-low and allow sage to cook for 3 minutes. Add gnocchi, toss in butter sage sauce, and allow to cook for another 2 -3 minutes. Serve immediately.

6b.) To freeze gnocchi, place sheet pan with cooled gnocchi into freezer for three hours; remove from parchment and place into resealable freezer bags for up to six weeks. Frozen gnocchi can be cooked again at a later time by cooking as noted in Step 5.

I’m all about some funky cider collabs, and Graft always nails them.

I’ve long been a lover of sour ciders, which comes as no surprise to me as I am a lover of any sour food or drink. I have strong memories of me sucking on lemon slices and drinking lemon juice concentrate out of those lemon-shaped bottles as a child, and my mom can back me up on that. In the late 90s, when you’d compete against your middle school friends to see who could suck on a Warhead the longest without making a face, I’d roll my eyes as everyone around me would fail and not a single muscle in my face would flinch.


Shared Universe | Red Spacecar by Graft Cider x Stillwater Artisanal

If you’ve ever had Graft Cider before, you know about their various series, such as Book of Nomad (exploratory fruited ciders), Cloud City (ciders with lactose), and Shared Universe (cider collaborations). Everything they create is truly one of a kind; sometimes, you have to savor that single can you have, for it may be the only time you ever get it. And whether you are a collector or cans or an appreciator of excellent design, their cans will not leave you disappointed. I’ll occasionally peruse through their former Cloud City creations and yearn for one I’ll likely never have, but can only dream about.

(Too dramatic?)

Recently, I was brought home a collection of ciders after a long work week – because working in Infection Control during a pandemic = work work work work work! – and I had to try the Shared Universe | Red Spacecar first. A collab with Stillwater Artisanal, this is an oak-aged red wine cider hybrid made with NY Apples, Cab Franc grape skins, Pacific Gem hops, & wild yeast. (Per Untappd.) Most cider / wine hybrids work, though some are better than others. I wanted to specifically review this one because it really knocked it out of the park. The grape and apple intermingled well, one not completely overthrowing the other, as I’ve had some hybrids that leaning heavier on the wine flavors. That being said, there was an omnipresent warm oakyness from the barrels that was quite pleasant and occasionally reminded me, “This isn’t just a regular cider.” Its effervescence says “Cider!” and stunning fuchsia hue reminds me, “There are those Cab Franc grape skins in the mix!”

To the best of my knowledge, this was only released in August, so if you see it, GRAB IT while you still can! You don’t want to one day lament, “Well, what could have been…”

InCider Info – tl;dr:

Scones always satisfy the “I need something buttery and cakey…NOW!” feeling I’ll occasionally get. Actually baking a cake is just too much effort. (Let’s be honest, here.) Scones, however? They comes together for me quite easily, especially since I have a base recipe that I’ve been using for years now. I always tweak it a little bit, and over the years, I’ve been more about a moister scone over a truer and traditional drier scone.

I’ve always been an apple lover, as well; give me an apple pie for my birthday over a cake, please! (It must be because I’m an October Baby!) Macintosh will always be my favorite, that quintessential shiny red slightly tart juicy beauty. There are many debates about which apples work best for baking, and Macs can either be used by themselves or in combination with other apples, such as Pink Ladies or Honeycrisps. Some argue that Macs on their own can add moisture to a baked good, sometimes too much moisture. I’m still Team Macs, regardless! It’s my go-to for baking AND eating, and I certainly use them in my scones.

Apple Ginger Scones

I’ve made scones with ginger before, and I do love to use crystalized ginger, namely in an Orange Ginger Scone recipe that used to be on v1 of this website. However, I love to infuse the whipping cream I use in this recipe with freshly-grated ginger; it infuses the scones with a subtle – yet – omnipresent warmth. When using the crystalized ginger, you’ll get some spicy bites of ginger, but it’s not incorporated into the scone as a whole. Both methods work, but for this particular recipe, I’d rather infuse the ginger flavor throughout.

These scones are a wonderful autumn treat, for breakfast or dessert! Or, if you’re living that #workfromhome life like I am, I might eat four for lunch. I would never judge!

Apple Ginger Scones

P.S.: Goodness help me, but some scones are just too beige and not-exactly photographable. All that matters is that they taste uh-MAAAAZ-ing. Ha!

Apple Ginger Scones

(Makes 8 scones)


  • 1 large Macintosh apple, peeled and cored
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar (I’ve used both white sugar and coconut sugar successfully)
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 6 tablespoons chilled butter, shredded on box grater or cubed (see Before We Get Started…)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly-grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

Before We Get Started…

  • A trick I learned from my father for incorporating butter into a pastry dough is to chill or freeze your stick of butter ahead of time, then use a box grater to grate it into the flour. It makes cutting in the butter substantially easier! Grate it like you would cheese, it’s that simple.
  • Feel free to switch up and use your favorite apple here, I’m just sold on Macs!


1.) After peeling and coring apple, divide into four even sections. Dice up three of the sections for the scone dough and set aside; thinly slice the remaining section into eight slices to place on top of the scones and set aside.

2.) Preheat oven to 400°F; line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

3.) In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and butter. Use a pastry cutter or a fork to insure that the butter is mixed into the flour; it should take on a sandy consistency. Stir in apples and mix.

4.) In a small bowl, add grated ginger and cinnamon into heavy cream and mix thoroughly. Stir into dry ingredients and combined until moistened. Inside of the bowl, use your hands to knead the dough until thoroughly combined and it holds it shape; this should take approximately one minute.

5.) Turn dough onto parchment paper-lined baking sheet and form into the shape of a circle with your hands, roughly 8″ in diameter and 1″ thick. Cut circle into eight even-sized wedges. Spread wedges apart on baking sheet. Gently press an apple slice on top of each scone. Sprinkle with additional sugar for texture, if desired.

6.) Place scones in oven and bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until lightly browned; for a moister scone, stick to closer to 20 – 22 minutes.

7.) Remove from oven and move to a cooling rack for 30 minutes. Scones will store at room temperature in an air-right container for up to 2 days.