Archives for August 2013

What I’m Into – August 2013

It’s time to share all the fun things from the month that I’ve been obsessing over.

 

Monogram App

monogram

So we’re here—I’m getting app recommendations from my kids’ friends.  I saw Emma’s friend use the Monogram App to create background and lock screen images for her iPhone and fell in love.  The combinations are endless. I’m very sure there’s something better I could have spent $1.99 on but I did it anyway.

 

South Hill Designs Locket

south_hill_designs_locket

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure these lockets would really be my thing.  But listen, after I picked out all these charms, I was, well, charmed.  In my locket I have a coffee cup, a sparrow (his eye is on the sparrow), a typewriter, a camera and a little girl with my girls’ mutual birthstone.  I’m sure my rep (and friend) JoAnn would love to hook you up with a locket of your own.

 

FlightTrack App

flighttrack

 

It’s not new to me, but earlier in the month when I was flying, I was into my FlightTrack app.  You can check times of the flights, status, and even maps to watch the flight path as it travels.  While you can totally travel without it, I liked being able to check my connecting flight as we taxied in from the first.  (That doesn’t sound pretentious at all).

 

Man Woman Wild

Man,_Woman,_Wild

Man Woman Wild is our latest Netflix find.  An ex-Green Beret and his British wife get stranded in different locations each week and have to survive for three days on their own.  It’s totally staged but still fascinating.

Good Natured Potato Chips

HERRS_GoodNatured-Chips

These are really fantastic potato chips.  They’re not thin and greasy but thick, crunchy and tasty.  The kids don’t care for them and that just means MORE FOR ME.  The Cheddar Cheese flavor is my favorite.

 

HootSuite

hootsuite

 

I’m a self-professed social media addict and I just now started to use HootSuite this month.  Honestly.  I’m a little embarrassed to admit it.

I’m able to pull in my Twitter and Facebook accounts and monitor them all from one screen.  More importantly, I can post to all of them—and schedule the posts—all from one location.

 

Sandals

 

aerosoles

 

So, 34 is the age I bought my first pair of shoes for the sole purpose of comfort <—see what I did there.  And it turns out all those ladies were the smart ones.  These sandals are SO comfy. If you’ve been paying attention in my WIWW posts, you’ll see I wear them ALL THE TIME.  I can wear them all day and no pain whatsoever.  And wow, Aerosoles has all kinds of cute shoes.  I think I’ll just take my cardigans and Aerosoles and retire now, thankyouverymuch.

 

Tangle Teezer

tangleteezer

Now, for one of my favorite finds. This is a brush called the Tangle Teezer. Lexi used one at a sleepover and just raved over it. The family had gotten it on a trip to England.  We were in luck, though.  The same family made a trip back there this summer and bought one for us to save us shipping.  It is fantastic.  Lexi has such a sensitive scalp but this Tangle Teezer somehow makes it easier to brush.  Score!  You can get it online here.

 

 

Alrighty, those are some highlights from the month.  What has captured your attention lately?

 

This post is linked up with LeighKramer.com

Thrifty Updates Around the House

Alright, we’ve made a few tiny changes around the house the past few weeks and they are making me so happy.  If we were in a room right now, you’d see me clapping my hands in glee.  I just clapped a little in between typing this just for feeling.

The great part is all of these are thrifty changes.

 

First, in our foyer, we picked up a key wall ornament at an antique shop in Summerville, SC last weekend (near Charleston).  They had it marked for $14 but a part of it was starting to come apart so I got Scott to ask for a better deal and we got it for $12. 

We hung it by the front door and while it seems kind of random in the picture, it’s like a hidden little treasure you see right as you walk out the door and it’s fun.

 

IMG_9817

Next, in our guest bathroom, I made two small changes. First, I bought a hanging soap dish at a shop in Summerville.  They have the CUTEST little downtown shopping area.  I actually don’t think the dispenser is antique, it’s just made to look like it.  I don’t care though, it’s the cutest little thing and it makes me happy to see it. However, it’s probably the least thrifty items of the bunch at $10.

 

IMG_9820 

 

Also in there, I bought a shelf for 25 cents at a yard sale.  Previously, just the picture was above the toilet.  I lowered the picture and added the shelf with some items I had on the bathroom counter and in the living room. Often shelves are hung below a picture but I think it works like this.  It’s sort of like crown molding for the picture. 

 

IMG_9825

 

In our bedroom, I added the wall art on the side wall of our fireplace.  These pieces were hanging in our living room/kitchen where we tore the wall down and made a bar. The black balances out the darker furniture on the right side of the room and it really gives the room another layer that I love.  Still not done in there but I liked this step, especially since it was free!

 

IMG_9828

 

In the toilet room of our master bathroom, I added this wall art that my friend passed on to me at a yard sale for free.  I’ve had them for a year and we just now got around to hanging them.

IMG_9832

 

So, all of those changes for just $22.25!  Not bad!

 

And while we’re at it, we finished the stairs on the treehouse in Lexi’s room.  It really finishes it off and we’re loving it!

 IMG_9833

 

Challenge: find something in your house you can reuse in another room!

WFMW: Where Do I Store My Measuring Cups?

measuring_cups

Today’s tip is one of those things where it feels absolutely absurd to share but it’s such a small thing that has made such a big difference that I can’t not tell you.

OK.  Are you ready?

Store your measuring cups in a cupboard and not a drawer.

Here’s the deal.

For years—YEARS–I stored my measuring cups in a drawer.  The drawer we have now is one of those double tall drawers that we throw all of our kitchen gadgets into.  Every single time I needed a measuring cup—sometimes 2-3 times a recipe—I had to dig through the drawer to find the right cup.  Sure, I tried to stack them neatly but when we’d go to dig for other gadgets, they’d come undone and all get lost again.  No wonder I didn’t like cooking!

On a whim a few months ago when I got so frustrated, I got them all out, stacked them and set them in the cupboard next to the stove.  Some small part of me flinched at not having the measuring cups with the rest of the kitchen gadgets but let me tell you, it has COMPLETELY CHANGED my cooking life!

They’re already stacked in order so I don’t have a lot of guess work where the 1/4 cup one is.  I don’t have to bend down to look in a drawer. In fact, I rarely go in that drawer anymore. I don’t have to wrestle anything else to get it out of the cupboard. It’s the best thing ever!

So see?  The smallest change ever but it’s truly revolutionized my cooking experience.

Works for me!

Before and After Photos—of Photos

I love looking at before and after photos. Design blogs are full of them.  I actually follow one blog Better After that is an aggregate of everyone else’s before and after photos of room designs.  You can lose some major time browsing that site!

I don’t do a ton of redesign around here of anything except one thing–photos.

I try to add in at least one photo with each post and as the years have gone by, I’ve slowly learned some techniques.  While I’m not nearly a pro I do find the before and after photos fascinating.

While taking ShootFlyShoot’s Photography 101 class seemed to be the key to understanding how to shoot in manual mode, Photography 102 seemed to really be the key to understanding editing.  (Don’t worry, this isn’t a sponsored post, although it does include affiliate links). 

While I could never do that class justice, I will say learning to shoot in raw and then edit it in Photoshop has made the biggest difference.

I thought I’d show you some before and after photos—of photos—so you could see what a difference editing makes. I also want you to see some “behind the scenes” of some of the pictures around here.

So, for example, here is a before and after of one of my WIWW photos.

IMG_9621

IMG_9621-001

Since taking 102, I’ve started taking most of my WIWW posts on a tripod with a timer on manual mode and with RAW output.  You can see, I usually get a wide shot so I don’t miss myself.

After I crop it, I usually have to adjust three settings.  I ensure the exposure looks right.  Then, I make sure the white balance is correct.  And finally, kick up the black to make sure the shadows look good.  I still don’t have an eagle eye for all this yet but just learning what I even need to look for has been invaluable.

Here’s one more where I think the before is nice, but the after really pops.

IMG_7198

IMG_71981

Here’s the same thing I did to a photo of Emma recently:

IMG_9577

IMG_95771 

I love how her skin looks creamy white and her freckles and hair pop out.  It almost looks like someone cleaned the photo.

Here’s one of a watermelon we did for the girls’ end of school party:

IMG_8073

IMG_8073

 

You can see the color just pops.  I feel like I could reach through and pick up one of those Swedish fish!

 

Here’s another of me and the girls at the river:

IMG_7671

 

IMG_76711

It almost doesn’t look like it’s the same day!  I was able to crop out the boat where Scott was sitting and really concentrate on the people.  The trees and bushes in the background look so much brighter and healthier!

I’m also able to adjust the color to take out the awful yellowing I get in my house from the lighting:

IMG_9240

IMG_92401 

In this one, the difference is subtle. The white board looks whiter and the wall color looks true to it’s actual color.

And finally, here’s a really funny one where cropping made all the difference:

IMG_6114

 

IMG_6114-001

Hm, can you imagine that Scott’s the photographer?!?  And no, I had no idea Tucker was doing that!  I think you can see a little bit of confused look on my face about why Scott was laughing!

 

Well, I hope you see the real point—the photos really go through a transformation from straight out of the camera.

 

And really, there are so many more bloggers and photographers that are sooo much better than I am at editing.  Maybe one day I’ll learn to make some real “enhancements” if yaknowwhatImean.

I hope as you read your favorite blogs you keep that in mind. Things aren’t always picture perfect as they might be presented. 

But, I know as a blogger, I want you to enjoy the time you take to read and part of that is it being aesthetically pleasing.  Just as I try to fix my grammar mistakes, I try to fix my photography mistakes as well.

 

Also, I hope you’re inspired to take both Photography 101 and 102.  It’s all online, all recorded and all accessible for the rest of your life.  And I’m telling you—easy as pie to understand.

I really regret all the years I spent on automatic with a flash when the kids were little.  I had my nice DSLR and didn’t use even a fraction of its power!

ShootFlyShoot also just launched a new class called Room Makeover where Layla teaches you how to do those virtual room designs in Photoshop.  I’m so excited to take it soon! Again, not sponsored here—I’m just really excited about it! 

Let me know if you’ve taken them, or any others and what you thought!  Do you have another resource to improve your photography skills?  Share them in the comments!

On Community

charleston

The last few weeks, months even, have held a lot of talk about community.  It’s certainly a buzz word around Christian circles.  More specifically, a lot is being talked about community around the table.  Shauna Niequiest certainly opened the door wide with her book Bread & Wine.  Anyone who has read can tell you it strikes a cord in you.  You know there is community when people sit around a table eat together.

During our small group this week, we talked about the difference between the American church and the church at large.  We are lucky enough to have a missionary in our group who is able to compare and contrast the church at large and insists that the American church culture is a very small subculture of the Christian church. 

He described how community is much different in other parts of the world.  Members stay and talk with each other after services.  It’s not a race for home or the buffet.  Visitors are often invited to meals at homes.  Meals are shared throughout the week.  His wife told us at one time, at least one meal was shared per day with another family.

When they asked if we often ate with our friends, or even acquaintances, I had to say no.  Sure, we have people over sometimes but it’s certainly not regular and it’s always planned in advance.  We’re all so busy.  There’s no concept of meeting someone new at church and saying, “Come to my house for dinner today.” And that’s sad to me because it sounds just like something Jesus would do.

Two of our friends that moved this year to Charleston invited us down this past weekend.  When we arrived, they had a meal waiting for us. They joyfully dragged us around Saturday to antique shops and the farmer’s market and art galleries and peanut shops and the beach and back to their house for another meal.  We woke up Sunday and enjoyed a wonderful breakfast before we left.

IMG_9774

My heart left full, thinking about this idea of community and sharing the table.  I was challenged to stay later and invite in and buy extra. I’m already a believer but when someone sacrifices and shares their table there is something that rings true in my spirit.

 IMG_9743

Jesus talks about his kingdom being like a marriage feast.  He offers an invitation.  Some will make excuses and not come but others will accept.  And so I realize that when friends invite us in and offer a meal, it is nothing less than them being Jesus to us. 

 

IMG_9759

 

When we say yes and indeed sacrifice our own time, money and efforts to sit and commune, we are a picture of the sinner saying yes to Jesus again.  Certainly I don’t mean this literally but just like a baptism moves me to tears every time, this sitting down to a meal with friends nearly breaks me as well. It moves me because it reminds me of Jesus.

Yesterday after church I didn’t run for the car.  I introduced myself to the couple in front of us and invited them to our small group.  It just happened that they lived a few miles from us.  I introduced myself to our new pastors.  I stayed and made small talk with a new friend.  My heart was again full when I left.

May I challenge us all to buy into the hype and intentionally chase this community?  Because this thing called community—it is nothing less than an invitation from Jesus to know him more.  For others to know him through you.