Monday, June 24, 2013

Photo Tent Review for The LA Shop

I guess I've officially achieved my first blogger perk, The LA Shop contacted me about reviewing a photo tent for them based on my interest in photography (and via this blog in specific!). I could get used to getting free things in the mail!

The photo tent didn't come with instructions so at first I was worried that I wouldn't figure out how to set it up, but the website actually does a good job of showing everything in image form. I love that everything folds up and stores in one bag, which is about the size of an artist's portfolio bag.

The kit comes with multiple backdrops that attach via velcro. I only played around with the white and black, and since the carpet in my office is striped I had to layer the black beneath the white so that the rug wouldn't show through, but the back is much more opaque.

I use a DSLR and the tripod that comes with the kit seemed too light for a professional dslr, so I decided to play with the really fun iphone tripod instead. It fits an iphone 4, but for this photo I'm using my friend's iphone 5, which is too thin but we made it work. The tripod definitely helps with motion blur from holding the phone yourself, and I thought it was the most fun part.

For anyone selling items on ebay or etsy this photo tent seems to be a really great way to get a clean background and more even lighting, even if you only have a point and shoot or iphone to use.

The lights do get really hot, so you should probably go ahead and set up the angle you want them before turning them on, and you should let them cool before storing.

Thank you to The LA Shop for the photo tent! I've enjoyed having something to play with!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Growing up to become a Do-Gooder

 I had lunch with a former client earlier this week and we lamented about being really tired of small talk. I so much prefer one on one conversations but I love the kind of quick friendship that events like WPPI and Summer Camp encourage, ones where you jump from a compliment on an item of clothing to do you believe in soulmates. But instead of baring my soul to the world on my photography page, I keep it somewhat small-talk-y (I'm laughing to myself that I've never thought about small talk versus big talk, as in you talk a big game. Maybe I should talk a big game instead). But, you don't offer to be best friends to every girl at summer camp, either. Sometimes it's the one with a September birthday and blonde hair and blue eyes just like you (as in, my best friend, Stacy, who I met in first grade, and because of our extreme height differences and head shapes we still refer to each other as oppositely mutated twins), and sometimes it's just the person that you take the chance on because after camp you'll never have to see them again. For Stacy and I, who did spend several years at summer camp, it was everyone but Purple Shirt Girl, who was Not Very Nice.

Anywho, it's odd to be 26 and realizing that you are just beginning to know anything about yourself. So much of who I am seems to just be a reaction to everything and everyone I've come in contact with up to this point. I am just now starting to ask what I want, what things make me happy, what my priorities are. No one else has to/gets to live this life, it's just me. And I can share it with people, but I'm the only one I can change, I'm the one in control of what I accomplish in a day.

I bounce back and forth between loving life so much I can hardly stand it and being so negative about what's out there want to shut everything off and sleep in the fetal position. I'm becoming very aware of the direct relation this has to wanting to feel like I'm good enough. Today I edited an engagement session that I'm ridiculously obsessed with and felt like a pretty great photographer. Then I put a shameless request on my personal Facebook page for likes on my photography page, because I am so close to 2000 that it was just aggravating to see the number teetering there, and in just a few hours I had ten more likes, and even though it takes some 20 or so internet nods of approval to equal one real life "I like your dress/hair/shoes" even, it was pretty amazing how much it affected my mood.

If you knew that it would dramatically change a person's day for the better wouldn't you make more of an effort to compliment people, ask them how their day is going, tip an extra dollar even if it's only on a cup of coffee? I'm telling you, those small things make a world of difference. No, we shouldn't base our self worth on the opinions of anyone else, but I also believe in contributing to a restoration of faith in humans. A thousand little lovely acts probably equals one great big seemingly impossible task, but we rarely think of things that way. If you did one small kindness a day it would take less than 3 years to have accomplished contributing1000 good things to the world. So like some Facebook pages, comment on blogposts (we bloggers have an addiction to comments) tip when you can, never stop yourself from telling the cashier you like her nail polish, send handwritten notes just because, use your turn signal, and speak kindly about someone behind their backs any time you get the chance. I would like to dedicate this post to the Kid President crew, because I have so much more hope for the world in remembering what it was like to be a kid and want to Save the Wetlands, and I'm so happy as an adult to realize that I don't need to save the world in one fell swoop, but rather to bit by bit be a part of the solution.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Quotes on Envy and Contentment

Since I'm sworn to a 365 day hand lettering project, (today is 93!), I've been spending a fair amount of time browsing for quotes. I don't decide tomorrow's quote today and they are not always a reflection of what is happening on any given day but for whatever reason I am drawn to one over another, even if it is one that has been on my growing list of quotes or words that I like for a very long time.

Yesterday, as I was struggling with not feeling content, I looked at several quotes about photography (lots about how it's invasive and steal's people's souls and privacy and whatnot, not planning on lettering any of those), and then decided to look for quotes about envy. I had no intention of doing anything with them, lest I admit owning any envy myself, I would much rather give it away to unsuspecting strangers than be caught in possession of a smidge of jealousy and insecurity.

What interested me was that instead of feeding the fiery flame the way that telling of a perceived injustice to a confidant ensures solidarity in continuing and strengthening the reality of the negative thing, reading quotes about envy and then contentment made me feel more empowered to look at things in a more positive light. To think about what I really want and go after only the things that matter.

And so, since it would take me quite a while and several whims to letter all of these for you I will at least post the quotes that I stumbled upon yesterday in hopes that they will encourage someone else. Some of them are admittedly more feel-good and some more intellectual, and some amused me (the Ben Franklin quote especially).

Also, if you notice that a quote is credited to the wrong person
please let me know!

“Nothing brings on jealousy like laughter.”
― Fran├žoise Sagan, That Mad Ache: A Novel / Translator, Trader: An Essay

“So full of artless jealousy is guilt,
It spills itself in fearing to be spilt.”
― William Shakespeare, Hamlet

“Our envy always lasts longer than the happiness of those we envy.”
― Fran├žois de La Rochefoucauld


"Four be the things I am wiser to know:
Idleness, sorrow, a friend, and a foe.
Four be the things I'd been better without:
Love, curiosity, freckles, and doubt.
Three be the things I shall never attain:
Envy, content, and sufficient champagne.
Three be the things I shall have till I die:
Laughter and hope and a sock in the eye.”
― Dorothy Parker, The Complete Poems of Dorothy Parker

“If the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, you can bet the water bill is higher.”
― Debbie Macomber, Mrs. Miracle

“To find out a girl's faults, praise her to her girlfriends.”
― Benjamin Franklin

“Nothing is as obnoxious as other people's luck.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald

“There is no disappointment so someone no better than you achieving more.”
― Joseph Heller

“Greed, envy, sloth, pride and gluttony: these are not vices anymore. No, these are marketing tools. Lust is our way of life. Envy is just a nudge towards another sale. Even in our relationships we consume each other, each of us looking for what we can get out of the other. Our appetites are often satisfied at the expense of those around us. In a dog-eat-dog world we lose part of our humanity.”
― Jon Foreman

“It is in the character of very few men to honor without envy a friend who has prospered.”
― Aeschylus

“You can feel anything. All is free for you to feel. But I guarantee you that if you allow yourself to feel envy and then to swim in it, that envy will destroy you and the people around you. Envy is unlike anger. Envy is not a right wing nor a left wing, it is not on either end of the balancing beam. Nobody needs it and I can assure you that once you give yourself to it, you will be eaten up. Envy can even eat up nations, casting them up against each other and pull a whole nation down into an internal collapse.”
― C. JoyBell C.

“Envy is the art of counting the other fellow's blessings instead of your own.”
― Harold G. Coffin

“I wish to live without hate, whim, jealousy, envy, and fear. I wish to be simple, honest, frank, natural . . to face any obstacle and meet every difficulty unabashed and unafraid.”
― Elbert Hubbard

“I am Envy, begotten of a chimney-sweeper and an oyster-wife. I cannot read, and therefore wish all books were burnt; I am lean with seeing others eat - O that there would come a famine through all the world, that all might die, and I live alone; then thou should'st see how fat I would be! But must thou sit and I stand? Come down, with a vengeance!”
― Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus

"Have no fear of perfection. You'll never reach it."
Salvador Dali

“There is neither happiness nor unhappiness in this world. There is only the comparison of one state with another.”
― Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo

“Take all the time & energy you waste on envy, and use it to try to improve yourself. You will find you are better off and happier than you ever imagined.”
― Gary Rudz

“Envy won't make you a better poet.”
― Katerina Stoykova Klemer

“How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbour says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy.”
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

“Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough”
― Oprah Winfrey

“For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain.”
― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“It isn't what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.”
― Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People

“The greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.”
― Martha Washington

“I have learned that to be with those I like is enough”
― Walt Whitman

“We are not rich by what we possess but by what we can do without.”
― Immanuel Kant

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, look to tomorrow, rest this afternoon.”
― Charles M. Schulz, Charlie Brown's Little Book of Wisdom

“I have learned to seek my happiness by limiting my desires, rather than in attempting to satisfy them.”
― John Stuart Mill

“He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature.”
― Socrates

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need."
(Si hortum in bibliotheca habes, deerit nihil.)”
― Marcus Tullius Cicero, Letters to His Friends, Vol 2: Books 7-12

“I think the secret to a happy life is a selective memory. Remember what you are most grateful for and quickly forget what your not.”
― Richard Paul Evans, Grace

“The world is always greater than your desires; plenty is never enough.”
― Aleksandar Hemon, The Lazarus Project

“You’re all so obsessed with other worlds, you’re so convinced that this one is crap and everywhere else is great, but you’ve never bothered to figure out what’s going on here!”
― Lev Grossman, The Magician King

“Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure. Confidence is the greatest friend.”
― Lao Tzu

“A contented mind is the greatest blessing a man can enjoy in this world.”
― Joseph Addison

“Thoughts will lead you in circles. Silence will bring you back to your centre.”
― Rasheed Ogunlaru

“People will ask you the question 'how is life treating you?' But my question is 'how are you treating life?' On that your happiness rests”
― Rasheed Ogunlaru

“The secret of contentment is never to allow yourself to want anything which reason tells you you haven't a chance of getting.”
― P.D. James

“If God gave you contentment then you would never pursue your life purpose. It is your restlessness that pushes you to take action, change your life and seek more of what you could possibly be.”
― Shannon L. Alder

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Green Eyed Monster and Contentment

 (Today's lettering for my 365 day hand lettering project, 2013 year of lettering, and motivation to figure out what it is that we are after)

Jealously is a really ugly thing that we don't like to admit to, that makes our insecurities exposed to the sunlight, I can almost hear a hiss even thinking about it. We whisper the confession to our closest confidants, the people we feel safe exposing our flaws to. We are most envious of the ones who appear to be without envy.

I hate to admit any fault or flaw, which is also in itself a major flaw, but I realize that I'm not the only silent sufferer. I also realize that some of the things that I have disregarded as accomplishments because they don't stack up to what someone else seems to have achieved are things that I would have been thrilled about and probably envious of a few years ago when I was just getting started in the real world (I'd like the fake world again, please, circa 1993).

I might be wrong in thinking that exposing my flaws means I can diminish or banish them, but it's no use for other people to squirm in self defeat when there are those of us also squirming that have the power to tell you that you are looking at it all wrong.

I also could go 90 directions at once right now so apologies for bouncing around like I'm apt to.

I'm obsessed with ideas. If you ever make the mistake of telling me you are thinking of starting a business or that you are having trouble coming up with a plan of some sort, I am likely to engage you in a brainstorming session full of possible venture names or a million things you should try even if I know nothing about your industry. I am full of big ideas and I seem like a schemer, in the most jolly sense, to my best of friends.

These ideas often lead to wanting to experience and wanting to have already experienced all of the possibilities out there. I am discouraged that I can't read all of the books in the world, so I waste time thinking about how I don't want to waste time on a book that isn't worth it since I can't read them all. I want to photograph every wedding, I want to be at five at once, I want to experience them all. I want every opportunity. I WANT. So much that instead of inspiring me, the quote "If we did all the things we were capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves" makes me feel hopeless. I am not doing all of those things.

The interesting thing for me about reading and pursuing The Happiness Project is that I'm learning to re-evaluate what I am working towards. I've said it before I know, but the thing that I've realized that I want the most is to be happy. And when I ruminate on an ideal life it's full of things like time with my husband, time doing a craft with my hands (lettering, now), photographing personal projects, the occasional book reading outside, and it's absolutely full of lush green trees. The other day I thought about how much I literally want to hug some trees I love them so much. I am a wannabe tree hugger. Absurd.

If you want to skip all the above, this is the paragraph to skip to. THE ONLY THING THAT GETS ME OUT OF MY SLUMP when I compare my life to others that seem to be living out dreams that I think I have, is to think about my ideal life. Does it include the covers of magazines? For a second, yes, it very much does, but then I realize that you have to keep that up to keep the high. Just like buying clothes, for me at least, the high dies quickly most of the time, and then I buy more striped shirts to get the feeling again. It's much like a religious high. Do I want to be published on my favorite blogs? Why yes, yes I do, but I don't want that as much as some other things, like having friends and spending time with them, or spending some time actually sitting outside to admire the trees I love so much.

One of my biggest revelations at the Making Things Happen intensive last year was that the thing I thought I wanted most (my main goal in business at least), was making money, but that the thought behind that was that money would allow me to spend more quality time with my husband, as if time spent in better clothes or at nicer restaurants was any better than a higher quantity of time at home or just being together. I realized the goal was really to work really but for less total time per week, to make the projects I take on worth the time and energy I'd be putting into them (making them things I like or that fire me up), and to LIVE more.

Workaholics are distracting themselves from a feeling of failure. I am deathly afraid of wasting time and work never seems like a waste of time. It seems admirable. If I am working I can put off my wish of reading more, running more, creating more art. I can even distract myself from a desire to do things that spend money by spending time "making more money". And other such nonsense.

Back to comparison and envy, though, I see the things that other people do and I get excitable, wishing that I was a part of everything, growing envious that I'm not, kicking myself for having no time to do those things anyway since I'm too busy working always. I never wanted to get on the computer when I was little unless my sister was on. These are the parts of childhood I wish I'd left there. I want to create my own dreams, not live someone else's. To make this little life cozy and comfortable and full of little evergreen shrubs and hand lettered everything.

I meant to share a lot of quotes about envy and I suppose I will, but this post appears far too long as it is, so I will save them for the next post, which hopefully will not take four months and some negative feelings to come out.

I do hope that you take away that other people's dreams don't diminish your own. If you live a content life, you have achieved what we all really wish for. Happiness is the ultimate in enviable traits.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Deep Cleaning Gas Stove Burners

One of my resolutions for January is to deep clean one thing a day. After seeing a pin on pinterest suggesting that gas stove burners can in fact be cleaned (I'd previously put in a fair amount of effort with no results), I was most excited to try this one out.

The process is very simple, you simply take off the grates and burner cover, place them in a plastic trash bag, pour in half a cup of ammonia (be mindful of the fumes), and tie it up. The fumes work on the burnt spots, loosening them. I left them in the bag for a few hours, one "recipe" I read said 30 minutes, so I scrubbed a bit after 30 minutes (with gloves on) and decided that a few hours would probably be even better (another blogger had left hers in for 4 hours). There are still a few stubborn spots but they are hardly noticeable and might actually just be worn places, so I'm really thrilled with the results. Here are my before and afters photos!


Monday, December 31, 2012

2013 and My Happiness Project

When I read The Happiness Project several months ago, the task of actually taking on a Happiness Project for myself seemed overwhelming and thus unappealing. I was satisfied to take the bits of advice and here and there apply them to my life, with minimal guilt and potential for disappointing myself. Since I loathe New Year's Resolutions, starting my happiness project at the beginning of a new year seems even sillier. But, as a wedding photographer whose least busy months are January and February, this season really is the best time to undertake something like this, and life is too short not to start right here, now.

I'm currently reading Happier at Home, the follow-up to The Happiness Project, and I've really enjoyed keeping the constant motivation by reading bits here and there a few times a week (like yesterday when I was on the stationary bike at the gym, a task made much easier when I have a book to distract me); when I finished the first book I felt less motivated on a daily basis and while I should keep up with blogs on happiness when I'm not reading my delightful self help books, I've yet to subscribe via e-book and otherwise the wild jungle of the internet would distract me from ever getting around to reading the posts.

But, on to the actual project! Gretchen Rubin picks a different aspect of happiness for each month of her one year happiness project, and I've decided to do the same, though my months differ from hers a bit. If you are interested in taking on The Happiness Project as well, her website includes some downloadable resolution charts and other goodies even if you haven't read the book.

So that I can MAKE THINGS HAPPEN and get this posted before the start of the new year and thus my project, here's a look at some of my plans for the year ahead. I know that for this to be successful these goals will be reminders of what I need to focus on each month rather than a list of things I must do or else shame will befall me. I'm really excited to give myself that flexibility, too. Subject to change, here goes nothin'.


-Shelf by shelf
-Tackle a nagging task
-Follow the "one minute rule"
-Tidy up before I leave the office
-Set the timer for 15 minutes a day to clean
-Deep clean one thing a day

-Restart The Challenge
-Review Making Brands Happen Webinar workbooks
-Tackle a nagging task

-get organized in Quickbooks
-organize receipts
-evaluate spending habits
-spend no money this month
-make some extra money
-eat at home
-pay extra towards
-plan savings for France

-create list of shortcuts that would make life easier
-tackle the inbox
-create routines
-Organize totebag
-fully stock purse
-fully stock medicine cabinet

-work out
-drink water
-plan healthy meals
-no junkfood
-push myself
-get 8 hours of sleep

-Personal projects
-Read a book
-Creativity book and journal
-Free write or doodle
-Collect inspiration

-no nagging
-leave things unsaid
-proofs of love
-be light-hearted
-be appreciative

-watch French movies or tv
-Listen to French cds
-French flashcards
-French restaurants
-Find conversation partner
-read a book about France

-make revelations about myself
-define ideal life
-set bigger goals
-find a hero/idol
-try meditation

-tending list
-have lunch with friends
-send notes to people
-check up on friends
-update address book
-acknowledge birthdays
-be accountable

-wear happiness bracelet
-compliment someone
-say nothing negative
-no gossip
-flip negative situations
-reflect on Happiness and thankfulness

-share encouraging words
-donate time and money
-for photographer's blogposts
-happiness project blogging
-give away the happiness project and/or another helpful book
-compile resources from my happiness project

1. There is only love  (act with blind love)
2. Ask why. (what outcome am I seeking, why am I feeling an emotion, will this task/distraction increase my happiness or further my goals?)
3. DO IT NOW : Follow the 1 minute rule/only touch things once/make decisions
4. Slow down : be present in this moment, be intentional, be attentive and take interest
5. DO WHAT MATTERS AND BE DONE WITH ALL THE REST. Stop the glorification of busy
6. Revere daylight (for energy; to get things done before dark; Early to bed, early to rise; don't waste light, go take pictures now)
7. Get rid of anything that doesn’t bring you joy. (including social media feeds, clutter, ill-fitting clothes, people that suck your energy)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

2012 will be a hard act to follow

 I went to the Christmas party for my creative women's group last night and one of the girls asked me what I had planned for 2013. She'd really loved my declarations that 2012 was my year and all of the posts I'd written about the positive changes I'd been making and wanted to know what I could have up my sleeve for next year. It meant a lot to me that my attempts at happiness could positively influence someone else (even in the slightest).

Sometimes I'm not even sure why I feel the need to publicly blog, I realize I'm no Oprah or Marie Forleo, that my readership is small and based on the links I post on the rare occasion that I do blog. But I really do feel passionately about resolving to change, and publicly proclaiming it so as to have a hint of accountability, even to the anonymous folks that will never comment or otherwise make themselves known. Even a handful of people knowing I've said I would do something is powerful. I'm so not about guilt anymore, and my personality is known to act with spite at guilt even when it's self-imposed. I am all about small, reasonable steps, picking yourself up when you fall off the horse, making the most out of the days that you do feel like a super human and not beating yourself up over the rainy days you choose to huddle up under the covers.

So, what is my plan for 2013? At first I wanted to just muddle about in my same vague goals, since I have a few things in store for my business in the new year that I still haven't prioritized, and I have a new website for my business in the works that will require my attention in the first part of the year. It seemed like I shouldn't resolve to do anything, I am fighting the "you can't get disappointed if you don't get your hopes up" part of myself too, the part that says if I resolve to keep no resolutions I will actually win. CAN YOU HEAR ALL THAT WASTED POTENTIAL? I can. It's terrible.

So, all of this 2012 is my year stuff started back in March I believe, and since then I've read a few good books on happiness and business and Coco Chanel, attended an intensive on making things happen, photographed a whole lot of people in love, made some internal changes to the way I view my business, attended some webinars with Making Brands Happen, I danced like crazy in Vegas, I went to a workshop of some of my photo heroes, I helped start a supportive group for other creative business owners, I witnessed some of my best friends get married, was crazy inspired by the dedication of my sister to her weight loss goals, I said yes to more good things and no to some things that weren't getting me anywhere. I started washing my hair half as often (ha), finally took a hand-lettering class and found a new passion in it, I cried at nearly every wedding I attended, joined a gym, got a lot closer to a few friends, spent less time in the office, found some sources of inspiration rather than comparison and self-loathing, mentored an awesome college student who was a lifesaver on many occasions, and maybe learned how to cook easier to peel boiled eggs for deviled eggs.

It feels so amazing to make that list. Without looking at my abandoned 101 in 1001 list full of things I thought I ought to do, I accomplished more than I ever could following some guide. One of my favorite rules from the Happiness Project is "Be Gretchen". Which is funny if the only Gretchen you know is your best friend's plot hound, but relevant if you know that Gretchen Rubin wrote the book. You don't need to follow other people's dreams. You don't have to want fame or fortune or to work a 9 to 5 and save up for vacations. I'm not knocking those dreams, all my friends know I want to be famous. What I'm saying is nevermind the looks and crinkled noses when you say you are a wedding photographer, that you work for yourself, that you are going to rent forever instead of buying a house, that you don't cook. We only understand (or think we understand) the things we do, the things we want (or think we should want). So we turn our noses up at anything outside of that. If you pursue your dreams you give credit to the dreams that other people are keeping quiet, afraid to share with the critical world.

You don't have to do yoga if you don't want to, you don't have to read classic literature or the bestseller's list, declare a major to please your parents, buy a car to reflect your paycheck, listen to indie music. It's okay to be honest with yourself. It's okay to choose hand-lettering over knitting and time to yourself over taking extra jobs that eat your soul.

I've got some plans for 2013 that I'm pretty excited about, and in the past week I've become convinced to actually take on my own Happiness Project (please please please do email or comment if you are planning one too, I'd love to support you/follow you/ bounce ideas off you!), as well as a fun hand lettering adventure. It's a bit overwhelming to think about all of the different aspects of my life I'll be thoughtfully trying to improve, but I'm really excited that 2013 doesn't have to hide in the shadow of 2012, and instead, 2012 was just the start of something unstoppable.

Thank you to everyone who has said a kind word, encouraged me, liked a photo on my facebook page, sent me an email, had coffee with me, who has not laughed when I get the crazy glint in my eye that means I've got some crazy idea. Thank you to the people who let me "Be Kelly" and love me more for it.
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