Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday Recap (and Tiny Prints 30% off)

Holler if you love Black Friday!

It's 3:00am and I just got home from my annual Black Friday shopping trip with my dad and sister.  It's a tradition I couldn't really explain even when I wasn't tired, so I'm not going to try now when I'm completely delirious…  ok maybe I will try.  Sporting goods, electronics, clothing, socks, cosmetics, gifts for others… nothing we couldn't purchase any other day (or later in the day on Black Friday)… but it's not really about the purchasing or the deals.  It's about the time we spend together, on a mission, doing it together.  Can you tell I'm delirious?   It started one year when Dad wanted to buy something in particular, a doorbuster, and I said I'd go with him to stand in line.  This guy loves good deals more than he hates shopping.  I was in high school.   We had so much fun doing this together, talking in line, drinking our hot chocolate from thermoses.  It became an annual thing.  This was the day and age where the rebates were paper copies that you had to fill out and mail in (which was also a bonding experience later on in the day).   I can't remember how old she was when Leslie starting joining us, but I do remember becoming a trio made for even more efficient trips to high-traffic destinations.  One could stand in line while two shopped, and we could take shifts.  We then broadened our hit list from just one or two spots, to like five or six.  It's just kind of grown from there.  This year was the first year that we went shopping at night before going to bed, instead of setting an alarm and going at like 3am (now).  So many stores opened either late on Thanksgiving night, or at midnight this year.  I actually liked this better.  Although not sure the Thanksgiving Food Coma did anything to help our shopping work ethic. 

Say what you will about people who shop at odd hours of the night, but know this: I don't think we miss out on the Thanksgiving spirit, or spending quality time with one another… we just do it a different way.


I'll be going to bed in a few minutes hoping and praying that Penelope is a dear and sleeps in a little bit, but wanted to make sure I posted this….  the real Black Friday fun:

For all of you ordering your Tiny Prints stuff today, here's the scoop:

30% off your entire purchase, 50% off special trim options on cards, and free shipping.

Write these down:  promo code BF13 (today only) and free shipping code FS13 (limited time).

Click here to shop.

Tiny Prints Black Friday Sale

Also available here you can cash in on 5 free stationary samples with code 5HOLIDAYSAMPLES -- I haven't really checked out their stationary but I'm sure it's classy.

OK now seriously I'm going to bed.

Nighty night….

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Tiny Prints Thanksgiving Sale

Yeah yeah yeah… people who shop on Thanksgiving are….

But if you're one of those people, and photo iPhone cases are on your shopping list this year, this is the day to get 'em.

Write this down: code IPHONE50 and free shipping code FS13

Tiny Prints iPhone Cases

Happy Thanksgiving!  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving

And all through the neighborhood, Christmas lights were already up.  There's a chill in the air that says it's FINALLY not going to be hot anymore, we can start wearing our warm winter scarfs instead of our summer fashion scarfs.   

My cranberry relish is in the refrigerator, ready for tomorrow.  (recipe)

I epically failed at the whole blogging every day in November thing.  I had to draw a line in the sand between staying up staring at a computer screen until 4:00am and staring at a computer screen until 4:30am last Friday night.  I had hit a wall so I gave myself a free pass (and a few extra days off from writing).

This is what we've been up to this week…

-Dan unearthed some home-videos from his childhood, one in particular of his siblings proudly presenting the Nativity story… hilarity and beauty and nostalgia enjoyed all in one.  This was the first time I'd seen video footage of little Daniel in all his pre-pubescent Danielness.  I marveled at the uncanny sameness I found in this midst of this grainy footage, to the man that I share a closet with.

-We had pre-Thanksgiving with my in-laws, wherein EVERY ONE of the Phoenix branches of Dan's family tree was able to give thanks and break bread together, without having to leave to be somewhere else halfway through the gathering.   We ate delicious feast and sang Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow (which I still haven't learned all the words to even though they sing it in full-theatrical rendition every holiday gathering).   It was glorious and I hope my sister-in-law plans to host this every year.  Turkey twice in one week, yes please.

I missed out on pie this day to go shoot my 16th official photo shoot of this Christmas Card season, and what marked three weeks with the new camera.  "Slammed" would be an understatement.

Slammed with excitement.  My body aches and my eyes burn and my mind spins, constantly -- all the time, but in a way that makes me rejoice and be glad for this new phase of my life.  I never knew I always wanted to photograph people for a living until I reinvented myself and started doing it.  Insert encouraging cliche about dreaming and achieving here.

-I had a dream that I named my photography business "Jolly Griffin Photography" and it was a smashing success. Get it? Jolly sounds like Julie? but it has a jovial ring to it?  When I woke up and shared, Dan just looked at me and said: "No."   Still reluctant to name it anything (or even call it a business, and myself a professional), I have been secretly dreaming up business names.  I don't think Jolly is the one, but it was a funny dream nonetheless.

-We celebrated Daniel's 33rd birthday.  I researched buying him a new XBox but it was the thought that counted.   I baked cookies (that's what he wanted) and we met up with family and friends at our neighborhood restaurant.  Dan felt loved, life was good.

-Penny said "Leslie" (my sister) for the first time on the very night her very aunt came home from college.  I patted myself on the back for capturing it on video.  It's on my Instagram feed if you missed it.  It might be the cutest video of all time.

-Although my pre-occupation with the photos that need editing and wanting to get home to view the gallery of our family photos that our photographer had just sent me and I couldn't open with my phone (more on that later… ah the self-loathing and meltdown that ensued when I saw myself in the pictures), Dan and I went to a movie.  Yes. A date.  Dinner and a movie, with no toddler.   We couldn't remember the last time we saw a movie just the two of us.  It was nice.  And my eyes will hopefully forgive me tomorrow for staring at a screen for two hours that wasn't productive to my new profession.

Tomorrow we will gather with my side of the family just like old times.  Thanksgiving is my FAVORITE gathering day.   I'm so excited.

Thanks for joining me in my ramble.  Many blessings to you all.

Tune in tomorrow and Friday for Tiny Prints special deal codes.  It's the time of year to put your family photos on cool things and use them as gifts…  tomorrow all-day you can get 50% off of iPhone cases, and Friday it's 30% off site wide + free shipping.  For reals.  If you're not ready to order your stuff, don't worry, there are going to be deals next week too.  

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Five Things I Couldn't Live Without: 14-16 Months

1. Clevamama Splash Wrap Bath Towel
Penny has outgrown most of her "baby"towels, and regular bath towels are just a pain for managing slippery toddlers.  This towel is capital G--Genius.  You clip it around your neck and tie it around your waste (like an apron) so when you pick up little Johnny out of the bath, you just hold him and wrap the bottom.  We got two as a registry gift, from Amazon.  And here's the Clevamama website.

2. OXO Tot Snack Disk.
Great design.  Stuff doesn't spill (as easily) so toddler can carry it around independently.  It's also sleek to slip into your purse or diaper bag, unlike some bulkier snack containers.  We got ours as a gift, but you can find them anywhere baby stuff is sold.  Product on OXO website.

3. UPPAbaby Vista Stroller
Never say never, but let me start by saying I could NEVER spend $700+ on a stroller.  We got ours used on Craigslist for a quarter of that.  BUT whether you are comfortable paying top dollar for a new one, or can find a deal like we did… this stroller will change your life.  The deal-makers for me: the huge storage compartment underneath, the adjustable height handle bar (for tall parents!), the way the seat reclines, and the comfort of the pushing.

4. Lavender and other Essential Oils (doTERRA)
I've mentioned it before and I'll say it again: I've become a believer in essential oil use on kids.  We think doTERRA oils are the best, but you can get cheaper (and less pure; careful, you get what you pay for) oils at health stores.  Daily, I use Lavender on Penny before her nap -- she lovesssss it and it konks her out.  I use Frankincense on owies and Melaleuca mixed with jojoba oil on dry skin.  I've also cooked with the Lemon stuff, and we swear by a blend called "OnGuard" to keep everyone healthy.   There are so many oils for so many things.  If you are looking to get started in essential oils, I highly recommend the doTERRA Family Physician Kit or the Beginner's Trio Pack (Lavender, Peppermint and Lemon).  You can order them here.  I don't sell it, but I've got friends and family members who do and can educate you a lot more than I.  Let me know if you want me to put you in touch.

5.  These Spasilk brand and These Leveret brand onesies.  
We like simplicity and comfort clothing in our house, especially for play and nap time.  I also prefer for Penny to wear shirts I didn't spend a ton of money on, because they get dir-tay at meal time and park time.  Gotta love online shopping.   Having these in stock lets me save her "cute" outfits for occasions that warrant them.  Also great for layering and undershirts since it's getting cooler.  I love the Spasilk long-sleeve onesies because they are incredibly soft and well-made.  I love the Leveret onesies because they come in colors other than white, and even though they aren't as sturdy, I paid $11 for a 5-pack, so if we wear them out and throw them away after she outgrows them, I will still feel like I got my money's worth.

P.S. I think I mentioned this item in Five Things about six months ago, we are still using this hat by iplay pretty much every day.  It's a real winner.

There's more where this came from... Five Things I Couldn't Live Without:

Nobody paid me or gave me anything for free... I wrote about this stuff on my own volition because I couldn't live without it!

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Family Session: The Jones Kids

After battling with Facebook for too darn long trying to upload these photos for their mom to see (gah! technology!) and to continue to build my virtual portfolio, whatever that means -- I remembered… oh yeah… I have a blog.  I can share the photos here instead.

This has also saved me from failing at my #NaBloPoMo commitment (blogging every weekday in November) because I didn't have anything else ready today.  Now at 11:56pm I am getting in just under the garage door of Tuesday.  Phew… really dodged a bullet there.

I love these kids.  When I met them, they were ages three, five and eight (ish).  Their dad, Dan's cousin, actually introduced us (story), so technically we owe their family for our entire relationship.  Thanks Shane, I hope you like these photos I took of your kids!  XOXOXOXO

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Successful Family Photos: 5 Tips for Parents

So...I've been a professional photographer for about five minutes.  

Kidding, it's been like two weeks.  

No but really, in these couple of weeks, I have been hitting it hard, doing photo sessions about every other day, photographing families with children all under the age of ten (mostly toddlers).  I still have a lot to learn on the photography side, but as a parent and on the coordination side of things, I have observed some best-practices (and some not-so-best practices) in family photo shoot planning.  I hope these tips are helpful for those of you who are coming up on your Fall family photo shoots! 

Five Tips for a Successful Family Photo Session

1. Pick out clothes way in advance.
This is a no-brainer, you would think, especially with all the clothing coordination guides you can find on Pinterest these days... but you would be surprised how many people procrastinate this.  I myself have FAILED at this BOTH times we have done family photo shoots since my daughter was born.  Literally, our ever-patient photographer once actually helped me decide what I was going to wear, I had like five outfits laid out on the bed when she got to our house.  She was so calm and easy-going about it, but I know we lost precious natural-light and we were wasting her time.  Sorry, Jane.  This year I already have our outfits all picked out... just need to make Penny's hair-bow. (P.S. Jane's my fav, you should check her out.).  Knowing ahead of time, and what's more telling your photographer, the colors and style of your attire, will help him/her suggest the best location.  Laying out your outfits the night before relieves stress for you on photo shoot day.

I love the way the browns and reds and creams all come together in this setting with her outfit.

2. Bring props, bribes, and baby wipes.
Best prop I've seen so far?  Lollipops.  Used as a bribe AND totally adorable in the photos.  Bring extra because the first few are bound to end up on the ground.  Other ideas: a ball for your little guy to chase or kick around.  A favorite stuffed animal that matches the style of your shoot in case it ends up in a few shots.  A tambourine to get their attention if their eyes start to wander.

For older kids, plan to do something fun as a family after your photo shoot so they are excited to be dressed up, and can be reminded of what's coming next if the shoot starts to feel boring for them.

And as for the baby wipes... we can edit out boogers and crumbs and dirt... sort of... but man oh man it's a lot of work.  Better to clean little's face before photog starts clicking.  Please and thank you.

how adorable is Lill with her lollipop?
You can't tell, but Brooklyn is staring at her favorite stuffed animal that is "dancing" above my camera lens.

3. Get there early. 
This lets your child(ren) get familiar with the area to fend off any anxiety (for the shy kids) or use up some energy before photographer starts shooting (for the rambunctious kids).

Nico loved running around, but it took him a few minutes to warm up to me at the beginning.
We got there nice and early, which gave him plenty of time for both.
I know.  This face.

4. Act Natural.
Be yourselves and relax.  Some of my favorite photos are "candids" of parents interacting with their kids.  These are the moments, the special sauce of life, which are so wonderful to preserve in a photograph!  Let your photog do his/her thing, and you just have fun with your family.

5. Keep Smiling.
Number one.  When you're there, grownups, you just keep on smiling.  It's natural to be preoccupied with your little one -- did her hairbow fall off? (guilty), is she smiling? does she have boogers? is she doing a nice face or a silly face? etc. -- so sometimes us grownups forget oh yeah I'm in the photo too.  I considered posting some outtakes of the many images I've captured wherein the little one looks flawless and it's the the adults who look a wreck, but I love my clients so I'm sparing them :)  I leave you with this: your photographer WILL get the shot of your kid(s) looking at the camera... we promise... that's our job... your job is to make sure you look good in that shot too. 

It took about forty shots in this staging to get this one photo where little Ryan (far left) was smiling and looking at me, but look how great the grownups did at making sure everyone was smiling when he did!

and one more just because she is so precious.

A few other things worth mentioning:

-Make sure you click with your photographer. Pun intended.  Did he/she come recommended by someone who has kids?  Not all great photographers are great with children.  Is he/she going to be patient if you have to breastfeed / change a diaper / console a meltdown?  Will your kids feel comfortable posing for him/her?

-Have your older kids practice their smiles for days before the shoot.  I photographed one little girl (about age six) whose mom told her ok now do your "laughing smile" and she immediately busted into this perfect vibrant smile like a little model.

-Make sure everyone is healthy.  Kids who don't feel well aren't "themselves" in photographs.  You make the call, but your photographer will understand if you need to cancel or reschedule.

Happy posing!

P.S.... Psssst! Speaking of family photos, did you notice that Tiny Prints extended their 25% off site wide discount and free shipping? This is the same great offer I posted last week that was supposed to be for one day only.  They keep extending it, but it's bound to end some time.  Click here to shop before the offer expires!  Use code SW1119 for the discount, and use code FS13 for FREE SHIPPING -- limited time only.   You're welcome.

Thanks for voting!
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Friday, November 15, 2013


Turning over a new leaf in the ol' wardrobe and getting rid of all my formal business attire items at a garage sale we are having next week.  I'll be trying my best not to "look like I've give up on life" with frumpy sweats and mismatched rags... at least not every day... but this staying home thing does make it pretty easy to lose track of your style and fashion.  You can probably find me in my momiform of yoga-pants and t-shirts most days; and on the "nice" days, in a consistent rotation of the two pairs of jeans that I own (that fit me) and about five or six shirts that I just gravitate to because they're comfortable and I feel good in them.

Learning some new software that is much more current than my ever-familiar (and still wonderful) Photoshop CS4 that I've been getting by with on my laptop for a few years now.  I LOVE some of the new-to-me features of Lightroom 5, especially when it comes to viewing and selecting photos from a shoot, but as a Photoshop girl by training, I'm struggling with some of the new ways of doing things in Lightroom.  Sometimes I feel like I'm cheating, and sometimes I feel like it's just not as good as PS.  I will probably go back and forth for a while.  I guess change is always a transition.

Yearning for more hours in the day.   You know when you are doing something that you're really busy with and really excited about, how the day just gets away from you?  That's how I feel about just about everything in my life right now.  Hanging out with Penny all day -- most wonderful thing in the world.  Crazy busy with photo shoots and turning around photos for clients who are anxious to get their Christmas cards done -- so exhilerating.  Devouring photography knowledge and new software (see above) -- can't get enough of it.   Cooking a little.  Keeping up with laundry.  The usual mom stuff.  There just aren't enough hours in the day.  I lack sleep but not enthusiasm.

Burning dinner. probably.

Gearing up for working at club volleyball tryouts tomorrow. I can't believe it's already that time of year where hundreds (thousands) of girls ages 10-14 will be pulling up their kneepads and tying back their hair and stepping onto the court for three hours that will determine their destiny for one whole entire formative club season.  For those of us outside of it, it seems trite, but for each of these girls this day is the biggest deal of their life right now.  As fir the coaching/admin side of tryouts... phoof it's a lot of work.  If your daughter is tryout out tomorrow, please be nice to the staff.   :)

Procrastinating clearing my iPhone storage so I can take photos and videos again.  It always fills up so quickly it seems!

Thankful for the sale of our Prius.  When we decided just over a month ago that I would be quitting my day job, we also decided it was time to sell the high-gas-mileage small-AFV that I so loved for my carpool-lane commute to the office.  It's been for sale for about a month and this week we learned that it had sold!  Hazaah!!  Cash that check and one more step in the we're debt freeeeeeee!! direction.  As I mentioned before, Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University class really changed our lives.

Laughing about No-Shave November (or Movember).  I love seeing guys who don't normally have facial hair stepping out of their comfort zone and growing silly (or serious) mustaches and beards.  My hubby has a wonderfully scruffy handsome beard going right now.  I'm so into it.

image source

Inspiration for 'Currently' posts comes from Danielle over at Sometimes Sweet and Megan on tumblr. Hooray for the blogging community!

Link it up in the comments below if you've got a Currently Post to share today!

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Lemons with Gramps

That's my dad, taking a break from serious yardwork to let Penny "help" trim a lemon tree.  (Shhhh it's actually an orange tree and these fruits are just really ripe, but he insisted they were lemons).

And in case you couldn't tell, it was 80 degrees here today.  #notcomplaining

I had my first hair appointment since June (yep almost five months!) so I was feeling pur-itty darn good.   You can imagine the bliss of going by myself for a long hair appointment, getting a little pampered and not having to go back to the office after, and then returning to my parents' house to find my child and my mom playing with play-dough at the Fisher Price kiddie table that I grew up with (kicking myself I didn't bust out the camera then too, they were so cute sitting across from each other), then later going outside to this. 

Grandparents are the best.

In case you didn't already think my dad was awesome, read this and this.

Also, hopefully it's evident that I'm getting a little better acquainted with the new camera.  I have so many things I want to really, like really, learn about... up next: reading my histogram and manually adjusting the white balance of photos on the camera (or using auto white balance) instead of in post-production.  But I'm taking baby steps.  You can follow my photography journey on my Facebook page if you like (pun intended.)

Happy Almost-Friday!

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Today - Best Deal Ever on Tiny Prints

If you're here you probably already know that you want to order gifts and holiday cards from Tiny Prints, and you probably already know that there's a great deal going on today right here on this blog, so I'll get right to it...

The deal is today only, and ONLY through select affiliate bloggers (like me!)

25% off your entire purchase, site wide.
PLUS free shipping.

It doesn't get better than this, folks.

holiday cards
iPhone / iPad cases
photo books
thank you notes
address labels
party favors and gift tags

1. Write this down:  
promo code HOLIDAY25FS
2. Click this link to shop.

(Wednesday 12:00midnight until 11:59pm Pacific Time)


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Can't Sit Still and a Shared Post

Love this post by my friend and event planner (and fellow chocolate lover), Jordan McBride. 

Exerpt: "I need to relinquish control sometimes. I need to stop comparing my life (especially my business) to people whose lives and businesses are moving at a different pace than mine, and start appreciating the journey. I need to take better care of my body and my mind. I need to spend more time showing my sweet little family how much I love them. I need to be less perfect and more present, before my head explodes."

On the Mrs. Griffin Front

Not working for my job job any more, without a corporation to answer to and a PTO schedule to keep, I find myself in a quintessential grey area of how to spend my time each day, which I would imagine any Type A former-professional in my situation would find themselves in.

When to say yes and how to say no, when to back out and when to suck it up.  And all the temptations in between.

So like any Type A former-professional, I've filled up my schedule.  Sitting still isn't my style.  Even now as I type this, my left leg eagerly bounces in a way that would drive an office-mate batty, if I had an office-mate.

In the early stages of launching a photography pseudo-business, gearing up for club volleyball season, and trying to blog every weekday in November (what was I thinking?), whilst adventuring into stay-at-home mom-hood....  I find myself overwhelmed in many moments throughout the day, preoccupied with the perfectionistic to-do list in my head.  Then my thoughts turn to remorse or anxiety:

Is this what I'm supposed to be doing?  Am I being present with my family?  My child?  My responsibilities to them? Are we going to be ok financially? Are my priorities in check? Am I even good at this? Am I taking care of myself? Spiritually? Mentally? Physically? Relationally?  

On days I'm the most wrapped up in self-doubt, I turn to the ones who love me the most for reassurance, encouragement, or constructive criticism.  Or I ask Penny for a hug.

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Thankful: Freedom

My little girl waves bye-bye to us when we lay her down in the crib for naps and bedtime.  Night, night mom and dad, I'm going to go to sleep by myself now, you can leave my room.  Independence.

She decides exactly what she wants to eat from her plate and in what order, every bite of the way.  She even walks into the pantry and points at what she would like for a snack, and she usually gets it.  Opportunity.

She's ventured up all the steps and across all the bridges, all the way up to the very top of the playground equipment, to then go down the biggest spiral slide at the park.  Freedom.

She doesn't know it, but all over the world there are places that children live where they do not have these things.

Today at the park as I take a breath of sweet fresh Arizona air, surrounded by my beautiful neighborhood and the sound of children playing because they don't have school today, I remember and say a prayer for our American Veterans and Active Duty Military who have all in some way sacrificed -- their time, their comfort, their sleep, their appetites, their desires, the precious moments with their children, their holidays, their lives -- to preserve our freedom.

Thank you Veterans, Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, Marines and Coast Guard for your service and for your sacrifice day in and day out.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Ordinary Day

Bath before nap means we played hard at the park.  The prompt for today asks what I've learned so far blogging every day in November.  I've learned that some days I would rather do other things than write.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Grilled Cheese

I didn't want to do it... but today's daily blog post is going to have to be ripped off from my Instagram account, we'll put it in the Julie Learns to Cook category and the Julie's band has a gig tonight and she needs to practice so she can't write much category.

We bought this awesome local bread last night at the Agritopia Farmers Market and the seller said she highly recommends it for grilled cheese sandwiches.  So, I attempted to make grilled cheese sandwiches for Penny and myself for lunch today.  Not as epic of a fail as the time I forgot to make sure the crock pot was on, but a fail indeed.

We ate it and didn't die, but the next time I attempt to make something I've never made before, no matter how simple it may seem, I'm going to get over myself and look it up on the internet first.

I'm sorry if you already follow me on Instagram and feel cheated.  More tomorrow... and I have a children's book giveaway coming up!  Happy Almost-Friday!

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

3 Photography Resources

This might seem like a small feat for the pros out there (look at this amateur patting herself on the back for mediocrity), but yesterday afternoon, I completed my very first photo shoot where I shot in Manual the WHOLE TIME.   I was so nervous about how the images would come out, so you can understand why I did a jiggy happy dance when I got home and uploaded the photos to find that some of them actually came out pretty good!

A few shots from my first all-Manual photo shoot.  A hurdle and a milestone indeed.
As I commonly refer to myself, I'm a "fake it 'til I make it" amateur photographer, learning as I go, taking pictures every day.  Since I started posting more and more photographs (and I created a Facebook page), I've had a few people ask me what type of camera I use, or where did I learn to do such-and-such... so today I wanted to share with you three of the resources that are helping me in this journey.  Sure, it helps to have good equipment (which can cost thousands of dollars if you want to get crazy) but the tips and things you will find in these resources are helpful for the everyday photo taker, whether you are using a camera phone, a "nice camera", or a pro-grade machine... and anything in between.

My Top Three Photography Resources (for now)...

1. Tony Northrup's book: How to Create Stunning Digital Photography.  We'll call this photography for dummies and people who think they aren't dummies but they actually are.  Dan actually bought it for me on Amazon and didn't tell me, and when he proudly presented it to me one night, Honey, I want you to know that I love you and I support what you're doing. Here I got you this book...  at first I was like meh, I'm not going to read a book.  Books are dumb.  I'm just going to look things up online and try it all myself...  THEN I opened it up and two hours later Dan was asleep and I was still up, reading.  I'm not ashamed.  I'm reading it.  And it's very helpful.  And it's nice to not be staring at a computer screen for some of my I'm-a-photographer-now time.

2. Click it up a notch photography website by Courtney Slazinik with a handful of other female photographer contributors.  This site has an overwhelming amount of information and resources for anyone who simply wants to take better photos.  It's my fav.

3. For those of you who might be a little bit more serious.... I found this girl because my friend Jordan the wedding planner kept tagging her on Instagram. Then I started following her on Instagram and she posted a promo for this glorious series on her blog on Workflow for Photographers.  While I have no plans to ever ever ever enter the ultra-competitive, ultra-time-consuming, ultra-scary wedding photography business, her insights on time management, culling (I had to look it up too), and editing are so helpful for a beginner like me... who, like so many others, is feeling like she is "dying a slow death behind her computer screen" in postprocessing.  It's a series she started almost a year ago I think, and I'm playing catch up to read every single post.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to practice.  Without exception, every professional photographer I've talked to who has been mentoring me without even knowing it (muahaha I'm a question-asking brain ninja) has told me you have to make yourself shoot in Manual mode and you have to shoot every day.  This is good advice.  And the photographers I look up to most have been shooting for years.  

The one piece of advice you'll get from me in my limited wisdom is:  Pay attention to photographs that you like and ask yourself why you like them.  I'm not suggesting you try to recreate someone else's art... that's lame... but noticing the way a photo is framed or focused or lit might make you change the way you take your own photos.

Oh... and read your camera's manual.  That's a good place to start.

Happy clicking!

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

My Space

I'm blogging every day in November (taking some weekends off) as an exercise in writing faster and more efficiently, and also to make me take more photographs and learn how to use my new camera.

Some days, like this one, I'll be writing from the BlogHer NaBloPoMo prompts.  I hope you will continue to check in!

Please feel free to link up your own posts in the comments if you like!

Tell us about your writing space, where do you write your blog posts?

I considered uploading a video of a pitch black bedroom, an alarm clock that says 1:24am, and the sounds of my dogs breathing deeply and my husband lightly snoring.   I tried taking a selfie in the middle of the night last night, for this post, but the cheap camera flash on my tired bare face with overly-applied Lansinoh lips and a double chin was too much reality for my little corner of the internet.

I write wherever and whenever I think about what I'm wanting to write about.  I compose most of my posts on my iPhone, and edit them later on the computer.   I wish I could tell you that I had a writing sanctuary -- somewhere tidy and without distraction -- that I could escape to and write.  But keeping a sanctuary isn't really who I am.   My writing is as scattered as my office.  My thoughts are as scattered as my days of the week.

Quite often I have a thought when I'm driving or walking and I will use voice dictation to record it in an iPhone note for later consideration.  Even more often I blog in the middle of the night when I can't fall asleep.  Are the thoughts racing in my head, and my inability to sleep, symptoms of motherhood? or symptoms of blogging?  I may never know.

Today my writing space was the petting zoo.

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Monday, November 4, 2013

Thankful: [Big] Family

Dan and I both come from big extended families.

So big that we couldn't fit everyone into four photos at our wedding.  So big that we have to have two "Thanksgivings" and three "Christmases"+ and the emails and phone calls reserving dates and starting to plan these multiple events started in September.  This makes for a lot of different outfits (can't be wearing the same thing in all the photos), and a lot of driving around, a lot of coordination, sometimes allergy medicine, and years worth of protocol about gift-giving that one could only understand if they've been a part of the whole thing for a while.

You can see why my goal in life is to never host Thanksgiving... also the fact that I don't want to touch a whole dead turkey... and I just might get away with it because there are plenty of people to volunteer ahead of me.  I'll stick with making cranberries (recipe).  I digress.

We are so intensely lucky that for the most part, both our families' hubs are right here in the Phoenix area.  Dan and I have a sort-of good system in place, alternating "big" celebrations between his big family and mine, year-by-year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, with options for wiggle room to include more-intimate gatherings with our immediate families.  This has been totally doable, for the most part, so far.  I know having older and more children may change things.

We've always said we will stick to the plan as much as possible but that ultimately we are going to do what works best for the Team Griffin family unit, any given holiday.  Some years this might mean missing out on something one of us has participated in every year our whole life.  I think back to my first Thanksgiving away from my parents and sister, and how hard that was for me.  It was the first year we were married and Dan's family still lived in California so we went out there to spend it with them.  This was the year I learned that not everybody makes yams the same way my mom does (I thought there was only one recipe for yams), and not everybody includes a chocolate option among the apple and pumpkin pies.  [I got over it.]

That was also the week we made a baby and didn't know it (what, you could have done the math).  Now that baby is a toddler and the complications present themselves in new ways like nap times and houses that aren't quite toddler-proof and carseat temper tantrums.  And so it goes, the glory of spending holidays with the people you love.  But glorious it is, all these complications are a blessing.

I repeat: All these complications are a blessing.

This month when everyone is being extra-exclamatory about their gratitude, I want my first published proclamation of my own November Thankfulness to be about my big awesome family.  And when I say my family I mean my husband's side too, because the day these photos were taken, all those folks on his side became my family too.  I love all of you and I wouldn't trade being a part of a doubly huge family for anything.

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