April 2013 Instagram

I hate to say it, but I am pretty happy April is almost over. I've loved seeing the beautiful flowers blooming and enjoying the nice weather, but the month has been very long indeed. Luckily, I have a few pretty instagrams to show for it!

Rain, Rain Go Away

Apparently, the area I live in is looking to have cloudy weather and rain for the next week. :( Yuck.

The dreary weather may have kept Justin and I inside over the weekend, but it did not keep us from staying busy.

From making curtains to doing laundry, we finally feel like we are coming to the end of our preparations. Next weekend we intend on bringing the bed down and all that is involved, including washing sheets and blankets for the spare bedroom before making the bed. Yuck. (I may hate laundry next week.)

Then on top of our preparations, despite recent bug spraying and having our bug guy come and spray, we still spotted a roach hanging out in our cabinetry with the plates and cups. Yuck. Bugs in the kitchen = my worst nightmare. Justin used what little left over spray we had in the cabinetry after emptying it, but now I'm afraid to put our freshly washed cups and plates up, because I don't want a disgusting cockroach potentially walking on my dinnerware without my knowing. (I know I have issues; I fear what may or may not happen.) We also put roach traps out. I can't really complain though, since we haven't really had bug problems in nearly a year. With spring and rain, it was inevitable. The best we can do is make our house as inhospitable to bugs as possible and hope for the best.

Justin's sister came by for a visit last night after a job interview eventually leading to her becoming our very first house guest. Obviously, we did not have a bed, but it was nice to offer her about a bazillion blankets and pillows to set up on the floor. (With Justin getting up super early, we decided the couch was not the best place for her to sleep.) We shared some delicious chocolate covered Ikea marshmallows with her, and we stayed up entirely too late enjoying her company. This morning, even though Justin was gone, she and I got to go to a late morning breakfast/brunch before she left giving us time to talk and roam through the city.

Unfortunately, that meant very little time for blogging this morning, but do keep your eyes peeled later this week for my Michael Bublé To Be Loved cd review. (I can't wait to review it!) Hope your day is looking a bit less dreary than mine! Happy Monday!

The Phenomenon of Nothing To Do

So earlier this week I randomly got a day without work. I was going absolutely crazy trying to figure out what to do. Then, all of a sudden, I got way too much to do. I'm working on two separate projects for my graphic design position, thinking about a new job I was just offered yesterday, along with babysitting/nannying pretty late for the next few days, and (excitingly) reviewing the newest Michael Bublé cd To Be Loved for One2One Network! Obviously, I can't share my review until I listen to the cd, but definitely be on the look out for it!

Justin and I are in the final throes of getting ready for our company in two weeks. Justin is furiously sewing on curtains for the living and dining rooms while I am still doing the crazy spring cleaning and decluttering that is necessary for a successful house visit. It's pretty impressive, but it would seem that the more furniture we obtain the less cluttered our house gets. It becomes clear that we have room to store x, y, and z, but we will need to either recycle, trash, or sell a, b, and c. To further complicate matters, with little money due to furniture purchases this month, we are getting to be creative with food. (I'm actually quite happy about this little mishap. I don't know how to cook, but I definitely think we could be more creative with using the ingredients we do have rather than constantly buying more.)

Unfortunately, today my computer has decided to be really slow, so I am afraid this is about all of the update you are going to receive from me until I figure out what is going on. Constantly waiting on the color wheel to stop spinning as I type is just not my idea of fun.

I hope you all have an amazingly cool, super fantastic Friday, and I look forward to sharing my weekend update come Monday morning and my Michael Bublé To Be Loved review one day next week!

Anthropologie +

As I mentioned yesterday, I spent a bit of time wandering through Anthropologie over the weekend exploring the sales rack. I also tried on a few things.

One of the few things I tried on and bought was the Lodi Cardigan.

I thought it might go well over a dress or two. I won't mention which ones because when I brought it home and paired it up, I quickly realized that I was mistaken. The Lodi Cardigan is thick, warm, and too long for short girls to pair with dresses. It does however look cute paired with jeans and a long top, as shown above. Apparently, though I did not notice, the cardigan does not have buttons! Surprise, surprise! Like a lot of reviews on Anthropologie's website have mentioned, the weight of the cardigan keeps it exactly where you want it, which is nice. The sleeves are a bit long on me, even in an extra small, but I don't think it hurts the look at all to fold them up. Finally, there is the color. While I am not a huge yellow fan, I do love this mustard yellow color. There are brown tints all throughout giving it the sort of vintage yellow-from-the-70's-look. If you know me at all, you know I adore vintage. I definitely recommend this sweater for cold weather. Plus, it's on sale right now! (I'm not sure I would buy it at full price.)

Then there was the Rose Bramble Sundress.

This dress, made by Girls from Savoy, was nice and lightweight; it is a good summer dress. Unlike other Girls from Savoy dresses, the straps on this dress are thick. . . and you cannot remove them. Also, the dress is a bit see through. It's not like everyone could see everything, but a slip would definitely improve the dress. I especially noticed this in the stomach area. The green on the dress is just as pictured, like a light lime color with the prettiest pink, yellow, and white flowers all throughout. I think this would be a lovely summer party or guest at a wedding dress. I did not come home with this dress, because of the way it fit me through the stomach area and the super-thin material. Perhaps at sale time, I may reconsider.

The last dress I tried on was the Ivete Patchwork Dress.

At first Justin hated this dress. . . a lot. He wouldn't let me try it on. After showing him what it would look like paired with a belt or two, he finally agreed. While I did receive a compliment in the fitting room over the dress, I ended up leaving the store without it. (I have a hard time buying things at Anthropologie that aren't on sale anyway.) I do believe this dress would look super cute with the right accessories (belt, cardigan), but I did not have any with me while shopping at Anthro nor did they have any I felt would be just right. The one thing Justin and I agreed on most about this dress was the beautiful almost off-the-shoulder neckline. I am obsessed with clothing that is just off the shoulder. Seeing as that style is so difficult to find, I'm hoping this dress will be just the beginning of dresses Anthro has to offer in that particular style. We shall see though.

Before leaving Anthropologie, I convinced Justin to let me buy a gorgeous tea cup and saucer set.

I have been eyeing it for a while, and I just couldn't resist since it was on sale. If you are interested in the Watercolor Petals Cup and Saucer set, you should also be aware of the gorgeous dinnerware to match:

Justin and I only bought the tea cups and saucers since I am not a huge fan of the color green on the plates. I like having fun and colorful cups and saucers, but the price of the plates was just a bit too much for me. Unfortunately, if you are interested in any of the Watercolor Petals dinnerware, you will either have to call Anthropologie and hope they can find you some or you might need to just head out to your local Anthro store to see if they have any more in stock.

Other news that might be beneficial to you all:

Gilt is having a sale on wedding attire and accessories for the bride, groom, bridal party, and guests. They also are offering honeymoon attire and registry items. Go check the sale out especially if you are a BHLDN fan! :) Plus, don't miss their separate sale on Free People items!

Macy's is also having a sale on most items in their stores. You get 25% off using this coupon code SLICKDEALSFF. While some exclusions do apply, I have yet to find any.

I hope you all are having a fantastic Tuesday!

Shop Until You Drop, Vacation Plans, and Weekend Recap

I can think of a half dozen reasons why you should be glad you aren't my husband; most of them are because of how busy I kept him this past weekend. Luckily, the amount of busy-ness experienced by Justin and I meant we got a LOT done.

Last weekend my friend, Thuong, asked Justin and I if we wanted to go to the beach next weekend. She currently works for a hotel and is able to get a great discount, so we jumped at the opportunity. However, with only three weekends left before our guests arrival, we knew that if we went on vacation next weekend, we would need to get almost everything done this weekend.

Justin started the weekend off by building our Ikea Hemnes dresser while I spent the night babysitting. (I think I had more fun!)

Then, on Saturday, we had to re-activate our debit cards for my checking account which took an unspeakable amount of time. (We got free swag though?!) There was a lot of shopping and returning items to stores. (I'm not the biggest fan of keeping nearly $300 worth of merchandise I do not intend on using.) I especially enjoyed the food from Saturday which included a pastry from a German bakery and a delicious fresh salad from a local restaurant I've been wanting to visit for a while, Graft.

As we shopped around on Saturday, I spent a great deal of time looking for a cute summer swimsuit. If there is one thing in this world that I absolutely despise it is swimsuit shopping. We looked all day in every store we went into, but I just wasn't seeing anything I was even interested in. When Justin and I ended the night in Von Maur with 10 minutes until closing time, Justin pointed out a Betsey Johnson swimsuit on a mannequin that I instantly fell in love with.

In case you are interested, they also have the swimsuit in turquoise and yellow as well as a tie-side bottom, a bandeau top and a cover up. The Atlanta Von Maur did not have any of those options, but it is good to know if you are currently swimsuit shopping and you like this style.

I was especially in love with the little details on this swimsuit. The little bows with the buttons. . . and I am always obsessed with lace! Ruffles are pretty awesome and girly as well! :) I <3 Betsey Johnson.

Betsey Johnson clothing is generally pretty expensive and not too great for budgeting, but with this designer in particular though, I am typically impressed with the way the clothing is made and I rarely feel that it will eventually go out of style. Plus, since I hate swimsuit shopping, it's nice to find a swimsuit that I actually like. This may be a first in my entire life. Unfortunately, it is also the most I have ever spent on a swimsuit. :-/

There was also a visit to Anthropologie in which I tried on a few of their newer clothes. Reviews for that trip will come later this week. :)

On Sunday Justin and I stayed home, a nice change from Saturday. There was a lot of cleaning happening. We managed to fill up a recycle bin and one trash bag. It's always surprising how much more we can find to get rid of! Although with it being so difficult to get Justin to go through things, I suppose it really shouldn't be that surprising.

Anyway, with all we got done, we are expecting to finish the majority of our household chores prior to the arrival of our guests.

Did anyone else have a successful/busy weekend?


As an aside, if you are looking to buy the Rag and Bone Kensington skinny jeans, now may be the time. Saks Fifth Avenue has them available for $140 (orig. $187) after their 25% Friends & Family discount (FRNFAM2) through the 28th!! :)

Life Update

Yesterday and Tuesday I shared a financial update, so today I am going to share a life update.

First of all, I would like to encourage all of my female readers to start taking some sort of calcium vitamin. I actually just started this past week after a trip to Costco in which we picked up something ridiculous like 200 vitamins. (Justin is taking them too.) My grandmother recently fell and broke her hip which seemed like a good reason for me to start being more concerned about my own health. Osteoporoses can find anyone at any time, and I can say with almost absolute certainty that I do not get nearly the calcium my bones deserve. Luckily for me (and my inability to swallow "horse" pills) VitaFusion offers a gummy calcium vitamin making it easy to take. Unfortunately, gummy vitamins don't exactly taste like candy, but sometimes you just take what you can get. :)

In other news, Justin and I are both tracking our weight (and food) using a program called MyFitnessPal. Justin has already lost 10 pounds! I saw a sign yesterday that read "Never trust a skinny cook"; I think I may have to buy it. ;) We are both trying to find ways to eat healthier. I'm loving that Justin knows how to cook, because I feel like I am eating more fruits and vegetables and less over processed food including fewer preservatives. Our garden has already produced a number of tomatoes, and I am impatiently waiting for the other fruits to start growing.

Considering Justin and I have a lot of traveling coming up, I decided to check into Travel Hacking Cartel. All of the reviews I read were amazing; people really seemed to love the product. Unfortunately, I think I may be canceling before the free trial ends. I know there are ways to travel cheaply, but signing up for tons of credit cards when you have credit card debt seems like a bad plan. For one, I don't think Justin's credit is good enough (and I don't have credit). Secondly, if Justin's credit isn't good enough, signing up for credit cards will only make it worse! :( So now I am researching all that I can in the hopes of finding ways to reduce the cost of traveling.

Last but not least, Justin and I will be attacking our spare bedroom in full force this weekend. He already has plans to build our Ikea dresser tonight. Along with building the dresser, we are also planning on sifting through more of our junk, working on curtains for the spare bedroom, and who knows what else? Once we get started going through stuff, I never know exactly what will happen.

Are you making any life improvements this spring? Or what I would really love to hear: do you have any cheap travel tips that don't require credit card sign ups?

Hope you all have a fantastic and successful weekend!

Financially Stoked

I know, I know, I already made a finances post earlier this week, but you know what? I didn't realize our finances would take a turn for the better.

I guess I should have expected it. When Justin told me that the tax money had come in, he only had $130 in his checking account. We both knew $100 was already being used to pay a bill. (One bill. Crazy, right?) With only $30 available in his checking account, he asked if we could leave the money we received for taxes in his checking account too until he received his next pay check. . . approximately one week later. My first inclination was that we may need the money. Getting through a week on $30 is. . . difficult to say the least. However, Justin and I had a financial plan when we started the month, and by gosh I was going to stick to it. I told Justin that clearly the money needed to go exactly where we had said it was going to go, because otherwise we would spend it.

To say that we didn't spend any of it is a lie. Once my debit card was cancelled, we had very little financial wiggle room. It made us more conscious about where our money was going, but we still had things that had to get done.

The good news is that because of our decision to move the tax money straight to our credit card in an effort to pay it off, we currently (as of this moment) have more in checking and savings accounts then we owe in credit cards! I must admit I'm pretty stoked. Obviously I'm not stoked enough to go spend it all though! Heck, I'm not even stoked enough to pay off the remaining credit card debt and have nothing left over in our accounts. If I did that, I'm pretty sure my car would break down, one of us would get really sick, and the world would basically crumble beneath our feet as we got more and more into debt with no way of getting out ever. (I am a very optimistic person. Can't you tell?)

To top it off, I've been concerned for months and months that I wouldn't have a consistently paying summer job. Well, today I got an offer for exactly that -- a consistently paying summer job!

So today I find myself on a financial high and happy to share that news with my readers.

Hope you all are also having a good day! One more day until Friday! :)

Finances. . . Schminances!

What a month!

It's only halfway through, and I feel like finances are overwhelming my life!

Beyond spending a ton on furniture, last night, on a whim, I cancelled my debit cards. When I went to check my balance, I saw a pending atm transaction that was almost the entire amount in my checking account. Considering I hadn't withdrawn anything recently, I became a bit concerned. With the bank being closed, my only option was to call and cancel my cards. . . Then, guess what? The pending atm transaction was some sort of screw up at my bank. I had just cancelled my cards for no reason. Now I have to wait a month to have access to my accounts again! :( Oh well. I guess that means I get to save my money rather than spend it for the next month. This is certainly not a bad problem to have.

Luckily, Justin and I have had a lot of income coming in on his side of the financial fence. We received enough back in income tax to almost completely pay off a credit card. YAY!! By next month, if everything goes as planned, we will only have one credit card balance. Then, on top of that, Justin gets paid tomorrow. Granted all of that money is already spoken for. Apparently we need gas, food, and to pay rent. It's unfortunate; I'd rather keep all of the money to myself. :)

Oh well. Other than the above, finances are going as expected this month.

Speaking of income taxes, did anyone take advantage of the many freebies yesterday?

Life With Furniture

When Justin and I got up on Saturday morning, we headed off to Dalton, GA to pick up the Karastan carpet we had bought and bound into a beautifully soft, turquoise rug. It was a gorgeous day with temperatures in the 70s, and as we drove further and further north, Justin got the great idea to just go on to Chattanooga, TN. What the heck? Why not?

That's what we did. And actually, that's what I thought today's post was going to be about. I was going to tell you about all of the great things we did in Chattanooga.

Luckily, or unluckily, we found ourselves roaming through a few thrift and antique stores emerging with nothing to show for it. We considered visiting an arts festival, but we decided the cost outweighed our interest. Plus, we knew a large furniture purchase loomed ahead. Eek!

So, hesitantly, we turned back toward GA and returned to Dalton just in time to pick up our beautiful new rug and head home.

On the way home, I was quite excited to pick up an 8x12 version of this:

image by Darwin Young; cropped & edited by me

I had actually ordered it via Costco's website on my phone while we were driving up to TN. I'm quite happy with the image since it was initially a pretty dark muted picture before I took the time to edit it. I wish I could get it printed larger than 8x12, but considering I began with a jpg, I'm afraid this may be the largest size I can get.

This leads us to Sunday... a very rainy, oh-shoot-we-have-guests-coming-over-and-we're-washing-the-sheets-and-moving-furniture-into-the-house Sunday! Yes, we moved furniture into the house on Sunday, because... we went out Sunday morning and bought furniture!

We may be $1000 or more broker this month than we were last month, but we now officially have a a dining room console (as opposed to a dining room server or china cabinet) and an Ikea dresser for the spare bedroom. (Ok, so maybe we only have the parts for the dresser. The spare bedroom is a mess right now, and we bought the dresser at 7PM on Sunday night which is a bit too late to ask someone to build it for you.) We also have a really pretty stand-alone mirror for our master bedroom. (It needs to be painted to match the room, but, right now, who's looking?!)

Because of all of the furniture purchases yesterday and the heavy lifting involved, Justin was in a pretty bad mood. Luckily, before going to bed, he cheered up quite nicely and commented to me that, with all of the new furniture in the house, he finally feels like he's at home. He said he had never prioritized buying furniture before, but he is glad we did.

We have already noticed a huge difference in the kitchen. We've been able to store a complete set of China, our nice steak knives (given to us for our anniversary from Justin's parents), our "nice" Oneida silverware, and even serving platters given to us for our wedding in our new dining room console. (I guess I should explain that it was originally sold as a living room console for the tv and such, but we thought it would make a great dining room piece.) The amount of space this adds to our usable kitchen area is astounding! It makes me all the more excited to put together our spare bedroom dresser with new hideaways for craft and sewing supplies as well as spare sheets, blankets, and towels for when we have guests. We are (or at least I am) so looking forward to having a guest-friendly house!

This is the point where I tell you that new furniture, when you don't have any furniture, is amazing. Now Justin and I must get back to saving, saving, saving... :)

The Importance of Hiring a Professional Photographer

This morning I stumbled across a blog post from Artifact Uprising that encouraged me to talk with you all about hiring a professional photographer for important life events.

A lot of the time we are given conflicting messages. Spend time with your kids, but capture every moment of their life with the camera.

Do these people understand what they are asking you to do?

I spent a lot of time in a college art history class discussing with other students about how taking pictures alienates you from an event.

My life is a prime example. I am a quiet, shy person. I hate going to events where I don't know people. Sometimes I hate going to events where I do know people. I hate being expected to talk when I feel like I have nothing to say and nothing to add to the conversation. So what do I do? It really depends on the situation. I love to just ignore the world and play on my cell phone. I'm comfortable with my phone -- with facebook, twitter, and instagram. I don't have to pretend to be outgoing or pretend like I have something to say.

But then there are other situations when using a phone is not acceptable. At murder mystery parties or weddings, I simply pull out my camera. With my huge lens, the camera, itself, is impressive enough to spark conversations. Beyond that, no one expects me to speak. I can hide behind my lens and just snap, snap, snap. . .until it is time to go. Afterwards, everyone gets on facebook, looks at the images, and applauds me for a job well done. They feel like I was part of the event.

I hate to tell them this, but no, I was not part of the event. I don't mind not taking part in the event, because I enjoy taking pictures. I enjoy not having to worry about interacting. I sit there and stare at a bouquet, manipulating it and moving it, playing with my depth of field and iso until I can get a shot that is just perfect. Perhaps I was interacting with the bouquet, but I was not interacting with the people at the event. . .or at least not to the full degree that I am capable of.

When you plan your wedding or other life event, I want you to think about what I have said. Yes, there is a time and a place to capture moments on film (or digitally). The biggest question you have to ask yourself is: how involved do I want to be in that moment? Do you want to be talking with your family and friends or do you want to be focusing on getting that perfect shot? What about when you ask others to take pictures for you? Do you want them to get the perfect shot? If they are focused on getting the perfect shot, they aren't going to be spending time with family and friends. You are excluding them, whether or not you intend to.

This is why I advocate hiring a professional photographer for life events. It isn't fair when family and friends ask you to take pictures at events for free (or really charge, either). Because the photographer is behind his/her camera, they are going to miss something vital. It could be anything, something, or nothing that the photographer misses. The point is: do you really want that someone to miss that moment because of you? If Aunt Jean dies tomorrow, how will you feel knowing that the last chance to interact with her was at that party when you were out taking pictures?

Spend time with those you love. Hire a professional. Don't ask friends and family to do something you aren't willing to do yourself.

BuyTrends Part 3

My dealings with this company never seem to end!

After three months of waiting, one piece out of four that were ordered from BuyTrends finally arrived at my doorstep. (Technically it arrived at the post office, and Justin went to pick it up.)

I knew I was in for a surprise, but I was certainly hoping for a good surprise.

If you want to hear positive things just bypass this entire post.

The truth:

You pay for what you get. . .or less than what you expected.  First of all, take a look at the button. Now, look at the other side of the cardigan. What do you not see? What is missing? . . . How about a button hole? Yes, if you intend on ever buttoning this cardigan, you will either need to have it altered or. . . wear it in your dreams.  Otherwise, that button hole is just not going to appear.

Then, the so-called "cardigan" isn't really a cardigan. No! The shirt and cardigan are a single piece. Why?! I knew this top was made cheaply and I figured it might come like this, but still I ask why?!

The top fits absolutely terribly. It is too big in the chest and too tight (for my tastes) in the stomach. It is not flattering at all! On top of that, the sleeves are too small! I'm not a long armed person, so this really surprised me. 

Overall, the fabric is decent. It's soft enough. No complaints there. Thin of course, but that's what you expect from cheaper fabric.

The packaging the shirt came in wasn't incredibly professional at all, but, rather, it looked like someone on ebay was sending it to you. I thought I ordered from a company not an individual!

I will give BuyTrends kudos for trying. The colors are right, the general style is right, and they did eventually send me one of the products I ordered. Will I ever order from them again? It's not looking too good. I much prefer ordering from JShoppers where I know I will receive something that looks exactly like the image within a week of ordering. It costs more, but I am guaranteed to like what I am getting.

Since I know some of you ordered some things from BuyTrends after my original post here, I'd love to hear how things are working out for you. Did you eventually get your order? Did you get a refund from your credit card/paypal? Are you happy?

Posing Tips

Before I got married, I fully intended on researching posing tips. I wanted to make it as easy as possible for all of my vendors to look as awesome as they could. I wanted to pick beautiful locations, use gorgeous accessories, and pick the right dress for my figure.

Well, the dress wasn't actually designed the way I asked for it to be... (Something I didn't notice until the day of.) All of the extras were not necessarily where I wanted them to be... And my flowers were falling apart... I don't really think any amount of research could have saved the pictures. I skipped breakfast, because I couldn't find time to eat the fruit and pastries my sweet husband (then fiancé) brought to the wedding site, and I was so concerned about not moving too much while holding the bouquet and holding the bouquet in such a way to "fix" the part of my dress that made me most unhappy that... I'm pretty sure, if you saw me just after the wedding, I was totally losing blood sugar and brain focus. No amount of modeling knowledge can fix that. Once you check out, your images are doomed.

Enough about me. Let's talk about you, and the things you (a bride) need to know about posing for your wedding day.

First and foremost: Screw before-wedding pictures sessions. If you went to bed late the night before (which you probably did), make certain you eat something for breakfast. Tell your family or wedding coordinator prior to the day of to make sure you eat something. My bridesmaids were off doing who knows what while I was getting photographed, so I didn't have a chance to wander off to get breakfast. I also didn't have anyone really around to get it for me. I wish I had excused myself, which is definitely what I encourage you to do. It will take all of 5 minutes. I promise. A piece of toast, an apple... I don't really care what you eat or how much. Just eat something. Promise me. Ok? Ok. :)

Second thing: Try on your dress a few dozen times before the wedding. Don't wait for alterations days. If your mother isn't a fashionista, take a friend. Take someone that knows something about sewing. Take someone you are comfortable confiding it. When you are trying on the dress, whether alone or with someone, be honest with yourself about how you feel and how it makes you feel. If I had been honest with myself, I would have known a few days after picking up my dress that it wasn't exactly styled the way it was when I initially tried it on. I could have had the situation fixed. Or at the very least complained to management. Unfortunately, 3 months later is just a little bit too late to complain. The day after you get married, you cannot "fix" the situation. If Justin had been with me at the alterations, I can guarantee you my dress would have been perfect. He knows enough about sewing and my style (and my personality) to determine when I am content and when I am not. So, although I'm being a bit long winded, try on the dress/suit/whatever a million times until you are completely satisfied with the way you look. It will give you confidence and make you feel beautiful which will reflect in your photos.

What I said about the dress goes for the hair and make up as well. Have one trial... or twenty. Get it right. You deserve it.

Now for the actual posing techniques:

1. Smile with your eyes. Be happy; be excited! Maybe you could care less about spending one more day with your significant other, but what about all of your friends and family?! They came to see you! Doesn't that make you feel special? They didn't go to someone else's party, they didn't go grocery shopping, they didn't even stay home to clean house! Maybe they just came for the food. Who cares? They like you, and they came to spend time with you. So even if you are having the most serious conversation of your lifetime, your eyes should be happy. They should glisten. :)

2. Turn 45 degrees to the camera to lessen the wideness of your appearance. You may naturally be a stick... or maybe your not. It doesn't matter. If you look straight on to the camera, the likeliness of you looking wide is... likely.

3. When your man is sitting and you are standing behind him for a picture, drap your body. Don't lay on top of him like a sack of potatoes, but gently rest behind him. I'd like to say it's ok to stick your butt out, but this really depends on the photographer and the likeliness of them to capture that part of you. I guess if they do, just send me the picture and I'll crop it for you. :) If you have draped over your man correctly, a cropped image will still look great.

4. Maintain ballet hands. Use the claw (or c) shape when placing your hand up near your face. Whatever you do, DO NOT rest your hand against your face. Support your face with your neck and your hand with your wrist. If you support your face with your hand, you will flatten your face making it look distorted and your picture will look awful. Don't do it.

5. Same with your arms. Keep your arms slightly away from your body at all times. When you hold your arms super close to your body, the skin flattens and you will look like you have a fat arm. Bad idea.

6. Allow your man to wrap his arms around your arms when he comes in for that behind you hug. I know it is natural to want to place your arms above his, but don't do it! By keeping your arms under his, he looks strong and protective and makes you look smaller. I think that's a win-win situation. What man doesn't want to look stronger? What woman doesn't want to look skinnier?

7. Use the foot that is furthest from the photographer. Placing weight on that foot will help you to look skinnier.

8. Another trick is to stick your chin out and up towards the photographer so that your face is closest to the camera lens. It draws attention to your face in the image and elongates your neck making you look... what else? ... skinnier. :)

9. Finally, use your shoulders. Line up your chin to your shoulder when your photographer is getting a side shot of you. It forms a nice line in the image and makes the image look good. (I'm sure it makes you look good too!)

So there you go!

I have limited time today otherwise I would include sample images. If you get confused, just leave me a comment below and I'll answer you as quickly as possible. Another great source is watching Sue Bryce on Creative Live. She has great suggestions!

Happy Wednesday!

Weekend Recap + Gardening

Don't you just love the spring?! The lovely weather, the beautiful flowers...

Justin and I had a pretty awesome weekend. We spent a great deal of time in Dalton, the carpet capital of Georgia (or so they say) picking out the carpet we will make into a rug. Then, on the way home, we stopped in Marietta and walked around the square shopping in antique and thrift stores. It's definitely one of my favorite places to roam.

The following day, before starting work on our garden, we went to one of my favorite places for breakfast and ate the most delicious peach pancakes with homemade whipped cream. Yum!

Our garden came together pretty quickly. We focused on planting just a few vegetables (fruits?) that we frequently consume, specifically tomatoes, okra, zucchini, squash, and basil. I can't actually say I helped much with the planting, but I did have a lot of fun taking pictures at the local Home Depot in the garden section. (Poor Justin had to garden shop alone as I was a bit distracted.) Plants were on sale for $2 a pot, so we quickly filled our buggy with approximately 3 of each type we wanted. (Apparently it's best to plant in 3s?) 

Of course, we also bought a few other things while we were there including mats for the front and back doors. It gets pretty tiresome sweeping and vacuuming up all of the dirt, grass, etc... that gets brought in on our shoes. Hopefully the mats will prevent that from being such a problem in the future.

By the end of the weekend, our garden was completed and we were quite happy although somewhat tired. We are now impatiently waiting for the vegetables to grow, so that we can start saving money at the grocery store and enjoying delicious homegrown vegetables. I'm not sure there is anything better. :)

Zazzle Poster

image courtesy of Zazzle

Thanks to Klout and Zazzle, Justin and I received a canvas poster in the mail Friday afternoon featuring Van Gogh's Almond Tree. I constantly see beautiful blue paintings in stores with gorgeous white flowers, and I always tell Justin that I want that for our house. Zazzle and Klout totally made it possible by giving me a free canvas poster featuring just that!

personal iphone image of product

While I have to admit I was looking for an actual stretched canvas to arrive on our doorstep rather than an image printed on canvas, Justin and I were able to fix it up over the weekend when we purchased a frame from Ikea. I'm not sure if we are going to hang the image in our bedroom or in the main room, but either way it looks fantastic! We are extremely happy with this purchase.

In case you are wondering, the image is very detailed allowing you to actually see the brush strokes from the painting. I've never actually seen Van Gogh's original piece, but I imagine the detail in the copy is probably not too far from the truth. The biggest difference is probably the texture. Obviously real paint has a different texture than a photograph. Nevertheless, the canvas does provide a bit of texture which Justin and I showcase by not using glass (or plastic) over the image in the frame.

The only negative I found was that I had waited until the last day to use my coupon for the print, and Zazzle is closed on weekends. :( When I couldn't get my coupon to work, I tried calling, but no one answered. I was afraid I wasn't going to be able to purchase using the coupon. Luckily, I figured it out. I do think if you email them saying that you had a problem using their coupon, they will respond the next working day to try and right things with you.

If you are looking to buy a poster print from Zazzle, I definitely recommend them. We received our print within a week of ordering in a cylinder encasement. They offer a guarantee: if you are not 100% satisfied with your purchase, you can return it and get your money back. Zazzle also sells invitations, thank you cards, phone covers, key chains, etc, etc... They sell so many things by so many different artists it's hard for me to keep track of them all! If you need something original though, the artists are quick to respond and help you out. I encourage you to check google for coupons prior to ordering. Zazzle always seems to be running a promotion.

Justin is so happy with this purchase, he has already asked me to look for another poster print of an art piece on Zazzle. While I'm not too certain how I feel having multiple reproduced pieces of art in our home (rather than original pieces by local artists), if I did order another reproduced piece, I would definitely consider ordering from Zazzle! :)

Making the Rounds...

As I was making the rounds on google (and twitter and facebook), I stumbled across this awesome site for purchasing wedding (and home) accessories: Luna Bazaar. They have awesome accessories, including vases that I am in love with! The best part? The prices!

This vase, for example, is only $2.95!

I  absolutely adore vases and glassware, especially in mass quantities. Don't tell Justin, but I want one of each. ;)

They also have a variety of paper lanterns, candle holders, napkin rings, perfume bottles, etc, etc... It would be the perfect one-stop shop for wedding or event decorating or a great place to buy things to decorate your home on the cheap. To make your shopping experience even better, they also let you shop by color! What better way to find exactly what you are looking for! :)


In other news, Justin and I are gearing up for the summer as well as continuing in our spring cleaning and organizing.

Last night we bought 6 tomato plants from Costco. We thought we were only buying 2. Oops! It's a good thing I like tomatoes! (But do I like them that much?!)

Justin also worked on cleaning out from under the stove, while I got creative with our sewing supplies. (Apparently spools of thread belong next to the cookbooks. Don't ask why. They just do.)

Over the weekend, Justin and I are planning on spending some time at a carpet outlet store. (I'm planning on spending some time in the Pottery Barn outlet store as well!) We're still looking to buy enough carpet for a rug. We may buy the Ikea dresser this weekend. We'll see how much time we have.

Hope you all have a fantastic weekend! :)

The Importance of Budgeting & Iphone Money Making Apps

I never took the chance to talk to you about our financial status at the end of last month, because it was... bad. I know I told you it would be earlier in the month, so I felt very little need to reiterate this fact.

Unfortunately, I'm not really looking for our finances to improve this month since we are still preparing for guests in May. Instead of talking about the negative though, let me talk a bit about how our finances have improved in the last 3 months since I began keeping track. According to Mint, Justin and I have been putting away approximately $1500 a month (whether in savings or paying down credit cards/student loans) in the past 3 months in comparison to -$20 in the 7 months prior. Naturally that means that Justin and I were spending $1,480 more than necessary during those 7 months. Think about it. That is a lot! That is $17,760 per year! Or $177,600 over the course of 10 years! If that doesn't show the importance of budgeting, I'm not really sure what does.

However, this large amount that we are saving per month could be more, assuming we got our mini budgets under control. (Last month we spent $300 more on food than our budget allows. Was it because of Easter? Do we just like cooking that much? We need to understand why our money goes where it goes.)

In the mean time, I've been using apps on my iphone to make money. I'm only going to recommend two today, but there are definitely more out there. It seems that the more money you can make, even if it is in the most random ways possible, the more money you can save.

1. Viggle -- Viggle is absolutely awesome, easy to use, and easy to make money. Ok, well maybe you won't make tons of money using it, but it is so easy to use that it doesn't much matter. Basically, when you watch a tv show, you open viggle and allow it to listen to what you are watching. Once it syncs with the tv channel and figures out what tv show you are watching, you can switch apps and check facebook, twitter, the internet, or just sit back, relax and watch your show. (It also works on tv shows found on the internet.) As you watch tv shows, you earn points. When you earn a certain amount of points, you can cash out for gift cards or rewards!

Isn't that awesome?!?! You get paid for watching tv! Don't try to watch more than one show at once though. Viggle will only give you points for the shows you do watch. If you watch less than the shows' worth of time, you won't get full credit if you try to match viggle up with another tv show.

2. EasyShift -- I actually did my first Easy Shift assignment last night. :) When you log in to the app, they have options to choose which "shifts" you want to do. Depending on the area you live in, you may have a lot of options or you may only have a few. Typically a shift involves going to a store, taking pictures of whatever they ask you to photograph, and answering a few questions. Once you are done and your assignment has been approved, you get money put straight into your paypal account! Just like that you have "free" money! It's even better if you are going to be at that particular store shopping anyway!

Anyway, I was excited to discover these phone apps and to think positively about the improvement of our budget. Thank you all for keeping me in check!

Cooking Up A Storm

As I'm sure you have deduced by now, Justin and I love to cook. Okay, let me rephrase that: Justin loves to cook, and I love to challenge him by picking out new recipes and taste-testing. (I am a very picky taste-tester, and I don't keep my opinions to myself.)

Over Easter weekend, we decided to check out a restaurant supply store that we hadn't been to since before our wedding. We quit going when we discovered it was not open to the public. Since then, however, one of Justin's friends got a business license and gave Justin a card to go to the restaurant supply store whenever we want. YAY!

We had soooo much fun in there! Granted, I'm not a chef, but I definitely like shopping. I like looking at the different items available and seeing how much money we can save in comparison to typical grocery store or kitchen supply store. We had forgotten that there was a refrigerated section containing large amounts of meat, cheese, fruits, and vegetables. In fact after discovering this section and talking with our parents, we have decided that for the 4th of July we will probably plan a rib dinner and get our meat from there, splitting the cost and enjoying the meal as a family. (I'm so lucky that mine and Justin's parents not only get along, but they also enjoy spending time together! It makes me happy.)

After spending an hour in the restaurant supply store and emerging with what I considered to be $80 worth of grocery store food for approximately $25, Justin and I also went exploring a few furniture stores in the area before returning home and beginning the process of Easter cooking. (Although I should mention that it took quite a few Asian grocery stores to find Agar-Agar for one of the desserts we made.)

When we returned home with candy, strawberries, limes, etc, etc... Justin got to work cooking. He began with a French sponge cake that had strawberry mousse on top. After attempting to make the recipe using the wrong cooking supplies and having strawberry mousse go everywhere, we set out to find (and obtain) a pan with a push out bottom. Luckily, the second time, with the right cooking supplies, it worked like a charm! (We later topped our strawberry mousse cake with freshly made whipped cream and strawberries.)

Next we moved on to meringues -- wonderful, delicious tiffany blue meringues. I had Justin only make a cookie sheet worth of meringues because I was certain other desserts would be eaten first. I was wrong. Apparently everyone likes meringues!

With so many strawberries left over and having bought so many limes, Justin decided it might be fun to make a sorbet. It was very interesting and gave us one new flavor to eat after Easter dinner. It was extremely tart with more of a lime flavor than strawberry, but everyone seemed to like it. Next time he makes it, I will probably see if he can add a bit more sugar. I love tart, sour things, but it made the sorbet hard to eat.

Finally Justin ended the night with the creation of 4 loaves of bread. Yum! There is nothing quite like going to sleep in a house with the smell of freshly baked bread wafting through the air. (It definitely makes you excited to wake up in the morning!)

So, in essence, that was our Easter bake-a-thon. We also brought some field greens, tomato, and cheese for a salad, and Justin made a homemade vinaigrette (as he always does).

Easter was delightful and we were shocked at how much was eaten. I think approximately half of the total food was gone by the end of the day including both actual food as well as desserts. Obviously the most important part of the day, however, was the celebration of the rise of Christ, and spending time with our beloved family.

Blurb BookSmart Review

Dear friends,

Welcome back!

I hope you had as wonderful a weekend as I did.

When I left you on Friday, I was putting together a pinterest cookbook with Blurb BookSmart. Over the weekend, I managed to finish (minus the front and back covers)! Granted I was using others' images and recipes, so it wasn't an entirely difficult project to complete. But, on the upside, Justin has agreed to work with me in testing the recipes and creating something pretty enough to photograph. Obviously, we both agree that changes and alterations will be necessary on the majority of the recipes. (They are all currently cupcake and cake recipes. What?! You have to start somewhere!) I told Justin that, ideally, we would be able to simplify the recipes so that they wouldn't break the bank to make. I'm also hoping we can transform the recipes so they are delicious and easy to make (i.e. so that even I could make them!). I can't say whether or not this will actually happen, but we had fun discussing it over a variety of Mexican dips on Good Friday.

However, let me share a real quick review of Blurb Booksmart.

Blurb Booksmart was pretty easy to use. After downloading and installing, you can pick your templates and number of pages. They started me off with the cover and title pages. When I told the program I wanted to make a cookbook, they had templates specific to recipes which made it super easy to start inputting my recipes. I loved that text copied from my web browser automatically converted to the same size and font as the other texts used in the book. I did not like that occasionally extra spaces were added. :( I was also not a huge fan of the formatting. Because I was using two columns of text per page, I was a little irritated with text wrapping. In my opinion, text from the first column should be wrapped to the second column... not the first column of the next page!! Then when you try to fix it, occasionally awkward spacing occurs. If you are lucky, you just miss out on using one line at the bottom of the column on the page you are working on; if you are unlucky, it creates an empty line where one isn't needed. I won't lie; that was incredibly frustrating! Then, if you decide to print via PDF, Blurb Booksmart puts text going across your pages saying that you can only print with Blurb (i.e. don't take it to a professional printer or anyone not associated with Blurb). In general, I wouldn't have a problem with this, but, if all of the text and images are your own, it seems awkward, cruel, and unfair to make you print with their program. Why can't they offer Blurb Booksmart as a free tool to help their client database? Seriously, if Blurb offers the best printing service, then why would anyone choose to go elsewhere?

As for me, considering printing my not-yet-complete still-needs-altering book with Blurb for $90+ is not exactly something I can get behind, I will probably, temporarily just print with my at home printer. When I have taken images that are my own and changed up recipes to what works for Justin and I, I will probably rebuild the photobook via InDesign and choose the best printing company for my money and what exactly I'm wanting from my book. (This project was just for fun, and I was hoping to get the recipes printed cheaply and quickly. I didn't realize it was going to be such an expensive and time consuming process!)

I was going to provide a recap of my weekend, but I feel this post is long enough. Leave me a comment and let me know if my review of Blurb Booksmart helped! :)