February 29, 2012

Lightscoop & Shoot in Manual Tips

First things first. I am NO expert on photography. I have soooo much to learn, but have tried to pick up tips and tricks along the way since I got my DSLR. I also attended a "momtographer" workshop one Saturday morning and it really helped me understand my camera better. Best $50 bucks I've spent in awhile. If you can find one in your area, I highly recommend it.

Needless to say, I am starting to get how all the settings on the camera interact, and for the most part know how to adjust them to fix things when I'm shooting in manual. That being said, the one area I always struggle with is lighting, and the need for a flash - particularly on indoor photography and at night. I don't like to use the pop-up flash if possible, as it seems to really wash things out a lot of the time. About a year ago I heard about the Lightscoop and decided to buy it. It is basically a piece you attach to the top of your camera, and it makes the flash bounce up instead of directly hitting the subject. For only $30, I definitely think it's a good investment and really softens up the flash. For optimal results, it says to use in a room that has ceilings that are 10-12 feet high. Our last house had higher ceilings and it really didn't work well. The house we're in now is perfect for it though and I think it makes all the difference in pictures because we have horrible natural light in most of this house.  
Here are a few examples. All of these pictures are straight out of the camera. Again, this is not the best piece of equipment and isn't fool-proof, but I definitely use it the majority of the time when shooting inside my house. For my purposes, it doesn't make sense to invest in a more-expensive external flash, so this is a good solution. If you're interested, you can read more reviews or purchase it on Amazon here.

The other thing I wanted to mention is a site I recently heard about called Shoot in Manual Tips. Basically you can sign up for free to receive emails with tips and step-by-step lessons that will be emailed out every few weeks. The goal is to help you take your camera off auto. You can sign up here. I haven't got to read it yet, but I got the first lesson via email yesterday. I'm excited to check it out!
I hope this information is helpful to some of you. I can't emphasize enough that I really don't know much about photography, so I hope that those of you who do aren't laughing your heads off at me. :) BUT if you do have any kind of photography links or tips to share, I'd love for you to do so in the comments! 
Manny is sick today so we'll be skipping gymnastics and cuddling on the couch instead...much more my speed anyway. :)

February 28, 2012

DIY Burlap Subway Art

After I posted my Burlap Banner Tutorial, I had some people ask to see the subway art on my mantle. When I took down our Christmas decorations, I knew the mantle needed something more. We moved into this house in September, and I never really did much with the mantle - just threw some random things I already had up there. I've been wanting to make some subway art for awhile, so decided the time was now. The problem is, I'm a horrible free-hand painter, and I wanted something that wasn't overly complicated to do. So after searching around the internet, I combined a few different techniques I saw to come up with this. These aren't the best pictures ever, but I was too lazy to break out the real camera. :)

Here is what you need:
--canvas or board (size of your choice - I used 22x28)
--burlap (amount varies depending on size of your piece - a yard should be more than enough)
--your subway art design (more on this below)
--paint & paintbrush, or paint pen (I used a paint pen)

1. To begin, decide what size of canvas or board you will use. I purchased my canvas at Michael's for half price. 
2. Design your subway art. I designed mine in Photoshop using the fonts Jellyka Delicious Cake, American Typewriter, and BlairMdITC TT. If you click on the names of those, it will take you to free downloads of those fonts, except for American Typewriter. That is a basic font that comes on Macs, but I don't believe it's available for a free download. There are lots of free typewriter fonts to choose from here though. If you don't have Photoshop, you could design it in Microsoft PowerPoint or Publisher. Or you could design it using an online site like Picnik - which is closing soon (so sad!!) - but I've heard there are some other good sites out there that would allow you to do the same thing. If you are using Photoshop, here is a tutorial that might be helpful.
3. Once you have your design completed, you can either print it off at home or have it printed as a poster somewhere, depending on what size of canvas you're using. Since my canvas was so large, I decided to just go ahead and spend $8 to have it printed as a poster at SAM'S Club. 
4. Tape your print to the back of the burlap. This is just to hold it in place while you're painting, so it doesn't have to be perfect.
5. Flip the burlap over, and place it on a solid surface so you can paint it. As you can see, the print shows through great, which makes it easy to trace everything.
6. Use a paintbrush or paint pen to trace the design. I used a paint pen for this, and it worked fine. It does take a little time, but it's very easy to do. I also like this technique because it doesn't have to be perfect.

7. When you're done tracing everything, allow the paint to dry on the burlap. When it dried, I just used a regular stapler to stretch the burlap around the canvas. I'm not good at stuff like this, so Patrick helped me staple it on. With someone helping, it's pretty fast and easy to do.

So that's it! I know this tutorial probably makes it sound complicated, but I will say that based on all of the tutorials I've read - making subway art isn't necessarily a fast and easy thing. I saw this technique on Jessica's blog - which is the same one I used on the burlap banner - and I really think it's a great option. Hopefully it's helpful to some of you too!

OH!! And for the crazies out there, our current address is not listed on here, sorry. I used a combination of memorable addresses for us, and mixed them up a little depending on how it laid out best. These are the addresses of 2 places we've lived, the place we got engaged, and the place we got married. In case you were wondering. :)

Happy Tuesday! :)

February 27, 2012

Project 366: Week 8

February 22, 2012

Rocking the Fedora & Gymnastics Fun

A couple of weeks ago, I saw this seersucker fedora at Children's Place and fell in love with it. I knew in reality, I'd be lucky to get Manny to keep it on for at least 2 seconds while I snapped a picture. And, I was right. He'd have NOTHING to do with it. But then one day last week, I was wearing a hat and he ran into his room, and came back out with the fedora on. And ever since, he wants to wear it all the time. I took these pictures before he left for school yesterday morning. I love the picture of his surprised face - such a ham!
He always wants to wear it in the car. We were in Children's Place again the other day, and he picked this fedora out too.
Nevermind the fact that half of the time he wears it wrong. I think he kind of looks like Gilligan in these pictures.
This was before we left for church Sunday monring. And yes, he wore his hat the whole time at church. He may or may not have loved the attention.
When I picked him up from school yesterday, he immediately put his hat and sunglasses on. He definitely appreciates his accessories.
My best friend has recently moved back to Oklahoma, which I'm BEYOND excited about!! She and her daughter came over yesterday to hang out and play. After the kiddos took a bath together (and you can imagine what Manny did in the bath - shame on him!) they were watching animal songs on the iPad. Naturally Manny had to put on his fedora. Don't you wear a fedora with your pj's? He is such a mess, and the only thing better than watching your kid throw a fit, is watching him throw a fit while wearing a fedora. Never a dull moment here!
Today we started gymnastics! Do not ask what possessed me to start a mommy & me gymnastics class at nearly 30 weeks pregnant. (I've already been asked that a dozen times today.) But really, it came down to the fact that I thought it'd be something fun for us to get out and do. It's a pay as you go place and very reasonably priced, so it will work well for us since you don't have to enroll for a whole semester at a time or anything. It was a lot of fun, but it absolutely wore me out chasing him around. He loved it.
He was so excited that I couldn't stop laughing at him. He kept cheesing at all the kids. He would just stand there and stare at them like this while smiling the whole time. I felt like he should be saying "I like to smile, smiling's my favorite!" a la Buddy the Elf. 

Happy Wednesday! :)

February 21, 2012

Baking FAIL

My mom and I recently decided to try a few new things for my niece's 16th birthday party. Some were a success, others were not. Today - I bring you our failures.
If you're on Pinterest, there's a good chance you've seen these cookie bowls. The caption simply claims that if you turn a muffin pan upside down, you too can have beautiful cookie bowls of your own! Well guess what - that is FALSE. This is a prime example of why you should NEVER trust the captions on Pinterest, but instead click through to the actual site. Because in this case, the link would take you to the Wilton site which explains you need a special pan to do this - an Ice Cream Cookie Bowl Pan. Who knows if it'd actually make a difference, but this would have been good information to have out front. But that's what happens when you don't thoroughly read directions! One day I will learn. One day.
I enlisted my mom to make these simple treats. She texted me this picture and I couldn't stop laughing at the sight of it. Those didn't quite turn out like the picture. Granted, you probably would have better luck with a non-stick pan...but still. The way those spread out is crazy. Sorry I led you astray mom. But thanks for the laugh. :)

Moving right along. Katie posted about these cool Williams Sonoma Message-in-a-Cookie Cutters where you can stamp cookies with the message of your choice. Wouldn't it be cool to personalize your cookies for events - in a simple way? I thought so too, so I picked up a set.
The first couple of batches were a little rough. Not only did the message disappear completely, but no matter how long (or short) I baked them, the edges were burning like right away.
Then I decided to enlist Patrick's help so I didn't lose my mind. He's actually quite resourceful in the kitchen. After changing up a few things, we managed to not burn them. However - the stamping was still completely disappearing when we took them out of the oven, so we stamped them again while they were still hot and that's how we were able to get it to show up. It only worked on 2 out of the 6 cookies though, so it's not a foolproof method. Also? The cookies were about as soft as a hockey puck. Not exactly something I'd want to try to sink my teeth into.
So there you have it friends. Have you ever made either of these - successfully?? Any tips or tricks, or should I permanently mark these off my list of things to make?

February 20, 2012

Project 366: Week 7

February 17, 2012

Friday Fragments

--Manny is not exactly the poster-child for patience, especially when it comes time to eat (which I can totally relate). I took these pictures of him the other night while we were waiting for his spaghetti to cool down. He didn't seem to understand or care that it was hot, and thought we were so mean for holding out on him. He had eyes only for the spaghetti, and you can guess which picture I took right when Patrick started to bring him his bowl. This kid does not lack in the dramatics department. :)

--Thank you so much for the sweet comments on the name for our baby girl! In case you missed it, you can read more here. Now I just need to get started cleaning out what will be her room...SO overwhelmed by the thought as that closet currently serves as a place for all of my craft stuff, as well as just random things. Finding a new home for all of that will certainly be a challenge!

 --Speaking of Maeva's closet, we have been so blessed with some awesome hand-me-downs from sweet friends! Ashley and Lindsey have both sent me some PRECIOUS things that I absolutely cannot wait to see her in. Thanks so much friends!! All the girly stuff makes me so excited. :)

--Last week I mentioned I ordered a memory box from Paper Coterie using the $30 off coupon code from How Does She? The memory box came the other day and I love it! I guess I didn't pay attention to the measurements when I ordered it because it's a lot taller than I expected! This is a horrible picture, but here it is next to my life planner just to give you a size reference. Anyway, the $30 off coupon code is good through today (2/17/12), so I would take advantage of it if you haven't yet. Details can be found here.

--I'll leave you with a picture of the awesome Valentine Manny made for us at MDO. Doesn't that picture crack you up?! Sometimes he cheeses so hard it looks like he's crying or in pain. Gotta love my boy and all his silly expressions.

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend! :)

February 16, 2012

Baby Sister Has a Name!

I am so excited to share that we have finally decided on a name for sweet baby sister! We've had it narrowed down to 3 for awhile now, and finally decided to go with one of the very first names that we discussed.
We knew we wanted her name to have a special meaning behind it, but also wanted it to start with M. So in honor of my mom, we decided to name her after my grandmother Mavis. We felt Mavis was a little too different, even for us. :) My sister Becky suggested Maeva as a variation of it, and we love it! Maeva means pleasant. It is pronounced like Ava but with M on the front.

For the middle name, we chose Beth, meaning God's promise. My niece Gabi has the middle name of Beth, and she had joked with us that we should name her that. Well, we loved the way it sounded with Maeva, and after hearing the meaning of it, decided it would be the perfect fit, as well as having her named after a sweet girl. :)
As soon as I shared the name with my friend Ashley, she fixed me up with the cutest sibling set that I've been wanting! Thanks so much friend...seeing her name like this really makes me excited and everything feel so official. Ha! :)

I'm off to take my glucose test again. Hopefully all goes smoothly this time. Happy Thursday friends! :)

February 15, 2012

Project 366: Week 6

February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine'2011/02/valentines-day-2011.html">last year. I bought this Dr. Love shirt from Baby Gap on clearance for $2 when I was pregnant with him, knowing he'd wear it someday. Can't believe it already fits! I wanted a picture of him to send out to the family for Valentine's Day, so the other morning I decided to take one before he left for MDO. The sunglasses seemed to be the perfect addition, and the sucker...well, that's what we call "the-secret-to-get-him-to-stand-still-for-longer-than-2-seconds-so-I-can-take-a-picture" trick. Luckily for me I'm a hoarder, so when he didn't want to participate in a photo shoot I ran to my stash and pulled out this sucker that was left from a party we went to last year, and that did the trick!
I loved the way the picture turned out, so decided to use it as his class Valentine too. I picked up a package of party favor sunglasses at Hobby Lobby, put the sunglasses in a little baggie from Dollar Tree, and tied his card to it.
My mom always had a little treat for us on Valentine's Day, so I've continued that tradition with Manny. Against my better judgment, I picked up some of the musical instruments at the Target Dollar Spot as I knew he'd love them. And he does - they're a smashing success for sure! He hasn't stopped playing "music" since he got up. :) I also bought the little mailbox at the Dollar Spot, and glued it to a candlestick from Dollar Tree. I first saw this idea last year on Emily's blog, and was so excited when Target put the mailboxes out again this year since they were gone by the time I went to look last year.
He was so excited about all the toys that he wasn't sure where to start. I think the xylophone is his favorite though...he even insisted on taking it with him in the car on our way to MDO.
My sweet mom & dad also sent him a Valentine's treat - he was very excited about that too! Thanks mom & dad...you guys are so thoughtful. :)

Happy Valentine's Day friends!

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February 13, 2012

Our Love Story

I've seen several of my blog friends post their "Love Story" as part of the From Mrs. to Mama What's Your Love Story Link-Up. Of course I'm way late to the game, but I thought it'd be fun to share our love story so it's "officially documented" somewhere. (Sidenote: does anyone else have grand visions of your children and grandchildren eagerly gathering around to read your blog book in the years to come? No? Um, me neither.) I know I've shared some of this before, and I'm also skipping some of the questions in the interest of keeping this post from being a novel. We all know brevity is not my strong suit.

1. How long have you and your significant other been together?
Patrick and I "officially" met on June 5, 2005, and began dating within a week. We were married April 8, 2006, so we're coming up on our 6 year wedding anniversary. That's really the only one we keep track of.
2. How did you meet? 
We actually "knew" each other as kids. Patrick's aunt lived in the town where I grew up and we went to the same church. Patrick's family would come in to visit her, and so I knew of him from that. He's 5 years older than me though, so we never really hung out much as kids. Fast forward several years later, and my mom and his Aunt Treva decided to set us up. He was living in Chicago at the time, and I was working a job in Tulsa where I traveled quite a bit. However, thanks to mom & Treva's persistence, the stars aligned and we were both in my hometown the same weekend, and we met one Sunday morning at church. If you'2010/04/show-us-your-life-how-you-met-your.html">here.
3. If you are married, where did you get married at? Big or small wedding? 
We got married at The Dresser Mansion in Tulsa, OK. We had approximately 200 guests and it was the perfect day! We took a risk and scheduled an outdoor ceremony in early April. Thankfully the weather cooperated. If you're interested, a few years ago I posted more about our wedding as part of the Kelly'2009/07/show-us-your-life-wedding-party-flowers.html">The Wedding Party & Flowers, Our Reception & Honeymoon, and My Dress.
 4. Do you have any nick-names that you call one another? Do share!
Patrick has called me Princess since we first stated dating, simply because Sarah means "Princess". :) He also calls me Radio. I mostly call him Babe, or Jeffy, or the newest one is 6. (All of these have pretty funny stories as to the origination but they're too long to share.)
5. Name 3 things you love most about your honey.
His patience, his thoughtfulness, and his humble spirit. He is such a good man - the Lord knew it'd take someone special to put up with me. :)

6. Tell us how he proposed? 
Patrick had just started residency in Waco (I was still living in Tulsa) and things were pretty crazy. Since we had a long distance relationship, we often sent each other care packages, and I always joked that the FedEx man was quickly becoming my new favorite guy. A couple days prior to our engagement, he had told me he sent me a package so to be watching for the FedEx guy. Patrick was on his ER rotation, which meant he was working some long shifts. We talked on the phone one Friday morning, and he had told me he was getting ready to go in for his shift, so that he'd just talk to me the next day. Fast forward to that Friday night, where I was hanging out with my roommate eating Taco Bueno and watching Friends reruns. It was probably around 10 pm, and her phone rings and she takes off to her bedroom to take the call. In hindsight, I should've known then that something was up. She never came back out, and a few minutes later there's a knock at our door. I contemplated not answering since I was in my pj's and probably had hot sauce smeared all over me from the crunchy potato burrito I'd just inhaled, but I decided to answer anyway. Imagine my surprise when I found Patrick standing (actually kneeling) at the door when I opened it!! He had flowers, and the nurses he worked with had made him an official looking FedEx name badge that he was wearing. :) He said all sorts of sweet things, and I just stood there in shock, still not processing how he was here when he was supposed to be in Waco working. When he was done talking he handed me a clipboard that had what looked like a FedEx delivery confirmation on it, and said "Will you marry me?" The whole thing was so cute and unexpected, and just blew me away. I will never forget that night. :)
7. Tell us what you plan on doing on this Valentine's Day. 
We were going to just go out to dinner tomorrow night, but our baby-sitter fell through. We have another one lined up for this weekend, so we plan to just do a date night then...probably dinner and possibly a movie.

8. Are you asking for anything this Valentine's day?
No, we don't really get into Valentine's gifts. We usually exchange cards but that's it.
9. Give us one piece of advice of keeping a relationship strong and full of love. 
Marriage is work. If you expect to just go through the motions and keep your marriage fulfilled, it won't happen. Invest in each other and your marriage, whether it be through thoughtful actions, little gifts, doing a couple's devotional together, or attending a marriage seminar. Remember neither of you are perfect, and it takes compromise. 
10.  Show us a picture of what love means to you.
I can't help but choose this picture of Patrick & Manny. Seeing them together does something to my heart that is simply amazing. I love these two guys more than I ever knew was possible! I can't ever thank the Lord enough for the blessings He's given me. :) 

February 10, 2012

Bunco Fun!

Well I survived Bunco last night! We had so much fun but wow I'm exhausted. Remind me not to try to clean my house from top to bottom and throw a party all in one day. While 28 weeks pregnant. And keeping up with a wild toddler. I feel like I'm recovering from boot camp today. I actually felt pretty good yesterday. In fact, I didn't realize how tired I was until I sat down, and then it hit me hardcore. I kept hoping I'd lose just so I wouldn't have to get up and move tables. And I was pretty much successful at that. Ha!

Anyway, I took pictures of the setup, but of course didn't manage to get any once everyone got there...things just got crazy.
When I mentioned that I wanted to keep things simple, I basically meant I wasn't going to be doing a lot of fancy cooking. I'd pinned all sorts of fun treats, but the reality of me making them, and making them successfully?? Um...not gonna happen. So I went with things I knew would be simple, quick, and I couldn't screw up. We had Chick-fil-a nuggets, White Rotel Dip from BooMama's blog, Alabama Fire Crackers, Funfetti cupcakes, kettle corn with peanut M&M's, and chocolate covered pretzel rods. If I'm throwing a party, you can almost guarantee those will be served. They are easy to make and add a fun decorative touch. I just melt the chocolate in a mug in the microwave, then dip the pretzel rod in the mug, shake a few sprinkles on it, and lay on wax paper to dry. (And if the chocolate is too thick, add just a bit of vegetable oil to thin it out and make it easier to dip. Look at me giving "cooking" tips - who am I becoming?!)

I forgot to take a picture of the drink area, but we had sweet tea, strawberry lemon water, and strawberry limeade daiquiris.
I picked up these cute Valentine's cupcake wrappers and toppers for a couple bucks at Wal-Mart. I have noticed more places (like Michael's and Target) selling cupcake wrappers with toppers, and the price is so reasonable!

Since I had a few items that weren't obvious as to what they were, I decided to make some food labels. If you'd like to download the (blank) chevron food labels I made, you can do so here. And I would hope this would go without saying - but please don't sell this file or claim it as your own. I love sharing free downloads, as I appreciate those who share them also. So please don't take advantage of mine (or other's) willingness to share things for free. Thank you! :)
For the prizes, I picked up some stuff from the dollar spot at Michael's (which was actually $1.50 - sneaky sneaky Michael's!) and also added a $5 Target gift card.
For favors, I made heart shaped rice krispy treats on a stick, and drizzled some red chocolate on them. I didn't get a picture of them by themselves, but here they are on a cute tray I got at Hobby Lobby last week when they put their spring stuff out.

It was a great time but I'm glad to have it over with too. I love throwing parties but it's always nice when they're done. Happy weekend friends! :) 

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February 9, 2012

Thursday Tidbits

--I was SO excited to see that How Does She? has partnered with Paper Coterie to offer a FREE $30 credit! They have so many amazing products (planners, books, memory boxes, etc.) that it was hard to choose how to use it. I ended up ordering a Memory Keeper box for Manny's keepsake stuff. These are so cute and I've heard they're great quality. It still ended up costing around $20 with shipping, but for a high quality custom memory box I think it's an excellent deal. Go to their site to grab the $30 off coupon code. I believe it expires February 17th.

--Have you heard of StickyGrams? It's a fun way to turn your Instagram photos into magnets. If you're not using Instagram for your iphone pictures, you're missing out. It's a free app and they have so many fun filters. I ordered some StickyGrams and love the way they turned out! After I ordered, they sent me a coupon code to share with friends. So if you decide to order them, you can use promo code sarahjanell123 for $2 off through February 18th. 
--I am hosting Bunco tonight, so have been busy getting stuff ready for that. I'm trying to keep things simple and so far so good. I can't wait to eat all these sweets tonight!
--Speaking of sweets, I had my glucose test on Tuesday. Unfortunately due to a mix-up in the lab, they didn't draw my blood in time so it looks like I'll get to drink that yummy drink again soon.

Okay got to go finish up Bunco prep. Happy Thursday! :)
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