Thursday, July 20, 2017

How Are YOU? Seriously...

How are YOU? Seriously...

Do you ever scroll through social media and see nothing but smiling faces, organized playrooms, pristine kitchens, extravagant vacations while you sit in your messy house, pink painted child - because she got into the nail polish - and feel more stressed and overwhelmed rather than blissfully perfect and happy like everybody else seems to be?

Can I just say, that's the kind of morning I've had? 
But that doesn't go into a picture perfect Instagram post very well, does it?

I read Chapter 2 of 'Grace not Perfection' this morning - I was suppose to read it yesterday, but I think it was really perfect and almost meant to be that I read it THIS morning. I got up early to get a head start on my book study and workout. I loved what I was reading by Emily. She said she has a friend that will ask her how she TRULY is - not the bullpoop answer of "I'm fine!" like I normally give acquaintances. But her friend asks her how she is...seriously. And she asked us to do the same. How we are, truly and seriously. 


This morning, my answer was different, but similar to what it is now. This morning my answer was that I feel overwhelmed. I feel like I have taken on a lot of projects - that I've done to myself and honestly really enjoy, but I feel the time ticking down. I wrote that I feel anxious and excited for school to start, but am worried that I've lost my teacher touch and will struggle being the primary teacher again, as much as I want to be. 

But then Harper woke up. Smile on her face, excited and joyful to see me. We got up, started to change her "poo?" (Harper's words) diaper when she grabbed the open diaper and pulled it straight towards her face. In an effort to prevent the ultimate poop tragedy of 2017, I grabbed the diaper with my hand and ended up being the one covered in, you guessed it. Good morning to me. Ha. 

After some deep breaths, morning workout, breakfast with my girl, we got ready to head to my sisters house. Harper lagged behind in the bathroom, but I assumed she was coming and I went to out to put my shoes on. Only to realize that she didn't follow me. And that it was eerily quiet - the kind of quiet only a mom is terrified of. And as I turned the corner, I see hot pink painted feet and hands. Nail polish bottle in the right, hot pink painted brush in the left. And behind her, hot pink drips of nail polish on the carpet, bathroom floor, and all over her precious little dress. Not to mention all over me as she grabbed me - my clothes, skin, and newly painted fingernails - which were white, now with blobs of pink. 

So. If I could reanswer truthfully how I'm feeling - overwhelmed, anxious, excited are all still there. But now stressed, upset, angry - at myself more than anything - and feeling like a crappy mom. But normally, if someone asked me how I was feeling, or if I were to post on social media - it wouldn't be that answer. It would be an "I'm great." answer. But not one with much truth. 


So as I type this out rocking her to sleep, I think back to the book. I remember to find grace in myself - these things happen, this is temporary, it's okay to slow down today and regroup. It's okay to find joy in other things - like how Harper helped me start the dishwasher today and was the proudest girl in the world, pink feet and fingers included. How cute and happy she was to sit inside the dog crate, holding up my Fitbit, and saying "CHEEEEESE" cause she thought it was a camera. 
I find joy in her joy today.


So, yes I have a mess to clean. 
I have a list of things to do.
 I'm slowing down, taking deep breaths and finding joy today. 
That's how I'm TRULY doing.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Strawberry Fields Forever + Ever


Forever and ever.
I've decided strawberry picking is a new forever thing.
I fell in love with the fields, with Harper's little stained hands, and of course, an extra large supply of fresh picked berries. Holy yum.


I wasn't quite blogging yet when we picked strawberries back in May, but now that I am, I couldn't help but share these sweet little pictures because they make my mama heart so, so happy.

Harper loved it - and she was a complete pro at it.
She had good practice collecting Easter eggs in April, so when it came to strawberries, she knew just what to do. She carried her little bucket, and had her eyes peeled out for all things red. And sometimes got a little too enthusiastic and squeezed the strawberries too hard.
It was the sweetest - strawberries and all.














Washington Farms also has blueberries and blackberries during the summer - which we totally planned to do, but really ran out of time. But we'll definitely be back for pumpkins in the fall!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Behind the Lens | What Equipment I Use & How I Edit

If there's not a picture of it, did it ever even really happen?

Yep, that's my motto
And I can say with 100% certainty that it drives my husband completely nuts.
 The snapping, the clicking, the "hold on, let me take a picture" - it's the common theme of our life. But I really do love taking pictures, and he knows that. He's totally supportive, but will express his frustrations every now and then. I can't blame the guy.

For me, pictures mean more. 
They're a snapshot of a moment that you'll never get back. I have so much fun with it, and brings so much joy. Documenting, reminiscing, sharing experiences with others - it's magical. It's a passion of mine, and #sorrynotsorry to my family - but it ain't stoppin' now.

I don't claim to be an expert at taking pictures. I went to school to be a teacher, not a photographer. I have no training, I'm certainly not the best there is. I practice on my own, and I've taken pictures at a few weddings as a second shooter with my friend Ashley. But I am definitely no expert. I try to learn and I try to be creative with it every now and then. Recently though, I have been getting a lot of questions about what camera I use and what editing apps I use with my pictures. So, I wanted to share and also give some tips that help me when taking pictures too. And maybe, you can start driving your husband and family nuts just like me. Ha. :)


I most certainly believe that some people just "have an eye" for taking creative shots and beautiful pictures. It comes naturally for some people, where others really have to work for it. And sometimes, just having good equipment helps too. Personally, I feel like I'm somewhere in the middle. Sometimes it comes naturally to me, and then sometimes, I feel lost and pictures aren't as pretty or creative. But there are ways to pretty-fy (not a word...) pictures whether you have the eye, don't have the eye, or sometimes have an eye like me. First of all, fancy equipment sure helps. Believe me, I'd love nothing more than to upgrade my DSLR camera to something even better. But for now, it's not the best idea financially, and I know I have a lot to learn about my camera that would improve my picture quality also. Currently, I have a Canon Rebel T3i - and I use the standard lens most of the time. I am really hoping to get a 50mm for Christmas. *wink wink. But honestly, the pictures that I post on social media aren't even taken with my fancy camera. Gasp. Yep, it's true. Most of the pictures that I post on social media are taken with - you ready? My PHONE. Gasp again. For a gal who loves a good picture, this phone of mine has some serious magical powers. The phone I have is a iPhone 7 Plus - the giant phone that looks like you're holding a small computer up to your head. With the iPhone 7 Plus, you have ability to change the setting on your phone to "PORTRAIT" that helps give your pictures depth effect - the KEY to turning a regular photo into something that looks more professional. Depth effect blurs the background of your pictures, making the subject of your photo really pop and stand out. It helps make your pictures look much more clean and a hint professional - even when you don't even own a DSLR camera or have any picture taking experience. Check out the picture below - the first one is without depth effect, and the second one is with depth effect.

Obviously, taking pictures with your phone doesn't give you the BEST quality. But personally, I don't carry my Canon around with me majority of the time. But I sure as heck have my phone. So it's super convenient and nice to have the ability to take a pretty decent picture in a flash. Y'all like my photography pun there? :) So, what apps do I use to edit my pictures? I pretty much use only one. And I didn't even really care about what my pictures on social media looked like before I started coaching and trying to attract business. Most of my pictures were dark, not very creative, boring, and all the same. You can totally see how not so pretty and dull my pictures used to be before I started editing a smidge.


But even since I quit coaching, I still love how my pictures look and I just continue to use the app and be more creative and thoughtful with what I post on social media - especially with having a blog - I still want to attract new followers, so the prettier the better. The app I use is A Color Story.
There are filters, effects, and tools you can use to edit your pictures, but really I only typically do one thing - the key to editing for me is BRIGHTNESS. Most people are drawn to Instagram accounts or pictures that are pretty and bright, not dark and dull. You can totally edit the brightness in Instagram, but never enough. Instagram only lets you edit the brightness once, but Color Story allows you to go back in as much as you'd like to adjust the brightness to really make your pictures pop and stand out. Check out an example of how much more AH-MAZING a picture can look if it's brightened up.

Here is the original photo using Portrait mode on my phone on the left, and then the same photo on the right brightened up. The only thing I did to edit the photo was increase brightness in the Color Story app. I wouldn't have been able to brighten it this much using only Instagram.

Sometimes, I'll edit the warmth, contrast, sharpness - but never a whole lot.
I think whats helped me the most was figuring out what kinds of pictures I'm drawn to personally - bright and clean pictures - and then recreating my own photos to reflect that. Now, I'm no expert like I said - sometimes the picture is just too darn cute not to share and it's not the best, most creative, interesting picture around. And that's totally fine. But having a good phone, and an app to really brighten my pictures has helped so much with creating pictures that I LOVE.


Hopefully this helps a little for all those who have been asking!
I'd love to share some more tips and tricks I've learned with creating pictures that are creative, clean, interesting, pretty, and bright if y'all are interested too - y'all just let me know! Happy Friday y'all!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The BEST Ooey-Gooey Chocolate Chip-y Cookies EVER


I wish I had a really cute name for these cookies, but really all that comes to mind is "BEST" and "EVER." 


I have this thing with chocolate chip cookies.
They taste good. They're chocolate-y. They remind me of being a kid.
They're just kinda homey too, ya know?
Comfort food for sure.
And really, it's just plain impossible to be sad when you're eating a cookie.
They're little round treats of happiness.


When I think about good chocolate chip cookies, I think of these things:

Bigger the better
Soft and chewy
Ooey and gooey
Extra chocolate chip-y


I've had a few chocolate chip cookies in my day, but my most favorite ones are those that have those four things listed above. I'm not a fan of crunchy or thin or lacking in the chip department. If I'm going go all out and eat a cookie or three, they better be well worth it. Y'all know what I mean?

These cookies that I'm sharing came from a combination of my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipes. I definitely tailored them to my liking, but I'm pretty sure if you like REALLY BIG, pillow-y soft, and extra chocolate-y chip cookies, you'll probably like these too. The vanilla pudding mix adds that extra decadence. And having the combination of the regular chocolate chips with the mini's - there's a guaranteed chocolate explosion in your mouth with every bite.

They'll probably end up being what causes you to gain two extra pounds, because once you have one, there's no turning back. But I promise, they're SO very worth the extra cardio at the gym the next day. And every time I've served these ooey-gooey chocolate-y babies at a gathering, I've been a pretty popular gal. You'll love them, and everybody will love you for bringing them. Guaranteed. 



THE BEST OOEY-GOOEY CHOCOLATE CHIP-Y COOKIES EVER

Ingredients: 
  • 1/2 C unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 1/2 C light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 TSP vanilla extract
  • 1/2 TSP salt
  • 1 1/4 C all-purpose flower
  • 1 package of instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 1/2 TSP baking soda
  • 1 C semi-sweet chocolate chips + extra for tops
  • 1/2 C mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
Directions:

1. In a bowl - stand mixer's work great, but electric mixers are perfect too - combine the butter, sugars, egg an vanilla. Beat ingredients on medium-high until creamed and combined. About four minutes, scraping sides periodically.

2. Add the flour and dry pudding mix into the sugar mixture. Add salt and baking soda also. Beat on low speed until just combined. About one minute.

3. Add both the regular and mini chocolate chips. Stir in by hand until just combined - do not over mix.

4. Use a 1/4 cup measure to form cookie dough mounds. With your hands, roll each mound and then press them slightly to flatten. Cookies should be about 3/4 to 1 inch thick and fit about the size of your palm.

5. Place cookie mounds onto a large tray. Grab a few extra chocolate chips and place on top of flattened cookie dough mounds, pressing them in slightly. Cover tray with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two-three hours.

6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray. Depending upon how big your cookies are, place 4-6 cookies per sheet - at least two inches apart. Bake cookies 12-13 minutes. If cookies are smaller, reduce time. Edges of cookies should look set, but cookies will look a little gooey still in the middle, maybe even pale. DO NOT OVER-BAKE COOKIES!! 

7. Once cookies are taken out of the oven, KEEP them on the baking sheet for at least ten minutes. They will firm up as they cool, and even cook a little bit more on the hot sheet. 

8. Eat cookies, maybe two or three... No judgment here. Share if you're feeling really nice. Cookies can be stored in Tupperware for about a week. Reheat in microwave for about ten seconds if you want that right out of the oven ooey-gooey-ness!