School Daze

Well, there's really no point of this post but to finally do the obligatory back-to-school recap that I delayed until every last one of them started  

Here's the breakdown:

Bennett and Blakely are in a two-day/week Mother's Day Out program in Austin.
Riley is in public elementary school.
Tyler Bree is attending a homeschooling academy 2 days/week and then at home for the rest.

Between three different schools, multiple extra-curricular activities, and managing the schedules of six people...this year is gonna be a doozy for both my planner and gas consumption, as well as my sanity.

Of all the back-to-school excitement that's ensued the past several outfits, backpacks, school supplies, etc...the ONE thing that my kids have gone crazy over are new water bottles of all things!  Right now Costco has three Contigo kids bottles for around $13, which if you've seen any at Target, that's basically a 3 for 1!  Now I've just got to figure out how to make it "fair" sharing 3 bottles with 4 kids.

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HOT Labor Day Sales 2014

Today starts some of the best deals I've seen in a long time...since the July 4th sales to be exact.  Not only is this the perfect weekend to get yourself some Fall essentials, but also to fill any gaps in your children's are a big one for our family.

For myself this fall/winter, I'd love some new tan booties (I've worn the heck out of mine), some classic nude flats, a feminine dress (or two) to wear to NYC next month, and a cool graphic tee to layer and wear any ol' day of the week.
What about you?
Kendra Scott:  Free Shipping and 15% OFF everything using code 2014LDW

Nordstrom:  Up to 40% OFF until September 7

Banana Republic:  40% OFF your purchase using code BRLABOR

Gap:  Up to 40% OFF everything (ends 9/1)

ASOS:  Up to 75% OFF sale + EXTRA 10% off, using code HAVE10

Old Navy:  Up to 50% OFF everything through the weekend

J.Crew:  25% OFF Sale items using code ALMOSTFALL

Children's Place:  40% OFF online using code PLACE2 and Free Shipping, and 40% OFF everything in stores

Happy Shopping!!!!

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Behind the Scenes: After-School Tips TV Segment

Yesterday I had the fun opportunity of appearing on our Austin NBC affiliate's midday news to share some after-school homework tips and DIYs.  You can find the actual links to the ideas over on Austin Moms Blog.  I especially love the survey to get your kids talking about their day.  Here's the full segment:

Wearing a Langford Market jacket, Kendra Scott necklace, Stella & Dot earrings, and Chloe & Isabel cuff

A few little behind the scene secrets I thought I'd share with you...mainly because well, before I'd done TV segments...I had NO idea.  And I find it pretty interesting myself.

-During the teaser, the stage manager told me to hit him with my bottle.  Like fake beat him up...I guess to give me something to do besides standing there staring at the camera like a goof.  My mind instantly recalled those awkward teasers they show on Good Morning America with the guest looking like they have no idea what to I said, Sure I will!  I don't have a clip of the teaser, but I did in fact swing the bottle at both his head and midsection in a mock-attack.  Then of course I laughed and did an awkward wave at the camera.  I guess the awkwardness is inevitable no matter what silly stunt one pulls.

-I've only done live segments prior to yesterday, but this was a tape-to-live method where we taped the segment and then it aired shortly afterwards.  Oddly, I found this unnerving.  With live TV you don't have time to be nervous because it's over and done with so quickly.  With a pre-taping, I kept worrying about stumbling over my words.  If you look closely on the video, my skin got flushed and splotchy.  Embarrassing.

-The stage manager that I "beat up" also told me to get up on the anchor desk so he could take a picture of me.  Don't have to tell me twice...

"In other news this morning, blogger Kristen Jansen allegedly assulted a television stage manager for no apparent reason...using her glitter relaxation bottle as the weapon.  Stay tuned for more on the developing story.  Back to you, Tom."

You can see a couple of other segments I've done with Austin Moms Blog HERE and HERE.  (I can't believe my hair in that first one....waaaah!)

Happy Hump Day Friends!!!!

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Not A Back-To-School Post

While today is the first day of school for most kids (including my Riley), I'll save all the back-to-school stuff to post once ALL my kids are back...which is next week.  Also, I'll be sharing all about the hybrid homeschooling we chose for Tyler Bree this year.

But for today, I just wanted to give a shout out to my readers, friends, and anyone else who might come across this space of mine.  I've said it before and I'll say it again...I truly appreciate all of you!  I had the pleasure of meeting one of my readers from Indiana (just moved down here to Texas) last night and it left the biggest smile on my face to be able to connect in real life that way.
So thank all of you!  Hugs to you from me!

^^^ this kid wouldn't smile for a picture to save his life...I can't figure out where he got the duck-face from.  *insert eye-roll here ^^^

Outfit details:

blouse: CAbi
skirt (option HERE for under $20) and heels:  Target
bag:  Madewell (exact)
earrings:  Kendra Scott Skylar
glasses:  Bonlook Honeybadgers
cute kid:  my own creation

Shop my look:

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Pinning Fever

Raise your hand if you spend any amount of time on Pinterest...


With moving into our new home, Pinterest has really become my go-to for decor inspiration, styling ideas, and how-to tutorials (like this one we did recently).  I'm also super excited seeing all the fall style trends popping up lately....HELLO plaid and bold colors!

With all there is out there, I still love seeing new and fresh ideas on Pinterest...or really unique pinners (like this gal) and boards I haven't yet come across.  Right now is the perfect time to get pinning your plans, inspiration, and ideas for the upcoming holiday season...I know it seems far, but really, it will be here before we know it!

If you're on Pinterest, you can head on over to my Pinterest board and follow along!  (I'd love to discover your boards as well, so leave your Pinterest user name in the comments for me to find you!)

I hope you have fabulous weekend friends!  Take some time to enjoy your family and time to enjoy yourself.  For us, this is the last weekend of summer...I'm sure hoping to make the most of it!  TTFN!

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5 Tips For Photographing Kids

Blake and white photos are just the best, aren't they?  I know a lot of people prefer color (I always ask my clients and they generally tell me so anyway), but the timelessness, emotion, and classic look of a black and white image just does it for me.

Several weeks ago, I partnered with Austin Moms Blog for some summer mini-sessions offered to AMB readers...nine to be exact.  I loved how they turned out, but wouldn't you know, the black and white were my faves of all the kids...even in a setting where the vivid colors of the watermelon were one of the main components of the shoot.

Here's a few of my favorites:

Photographing children is both super rewarding AND challenging...and maybe a bit more on the challenging side at times.  Having the experience of both photographing my four children over the years, as well as shooting numerous children/family clients, there are some key pointers I use every single time that help the whole shoot run smoothly and produce the best images possible.


1.  Eyes are key.  Make sure at least one of your focus points is always on the eye closest to you.  Children's expressions come from their eyes...capture that and you're already ahead of the game!

2.  Safety first.  I have a horror story of trying the get the "perfect shot" of Tyler Bree when she was about three years old.  She fell backwards off a 4 foot drop into thorns and brush...I know, so bad...but I sure learned that hard lesson.  No matter if the shot is amazing, do not EVER place the child in harms way.  Not even a tiny bit.  Never.

3.  Connecting with them builds trust and genuinity.  I had a shoot the other day where one of the kids was NOT having it.  His mother was frustrated, he was moody, and the whole thing went south really quickly.  I gave him a little break and then said, "Hey, why don't you and me just walk over this direction for a bit and see what we can find."  Making him comfortable with me without a camera in his face allowed him to relax and let his guard down...and subsequently produced some of the best shots of the entire session.  Take the time to build trust, even if it's just a little wink to let them know you "get it".

4.  Be patient.  This tip applies more so with little ones...babies and toddlers.  It can seem as if you'll never get "the shot" as they're fussing, moving, drooling, basically doing everything that's NOT preferred in a picture, but hang in there and wait. Keep your finger on the back focus button and just be a silent observer.  Remember, patience is a virtue.  (Not one that I'm very adept to, but you know...)

5.  Candid is sometimes (actually quite often) better than posed.  This tip goes right along with the above.  Children rarely enjoy posing (for very long, at least), so being able to recognize when those precious candid shots may present themselves is golden.  This is magnified where siblings are and relationships are the perfect backdrop for candid facial expressions, positions, and general hilarity.  A great candid shot edited in black and white???...Stick a fork in me, I'm done.


I hope these tips come in handy whether you're photographing your own children or with photography clients.  It's always a learning experience for me, so I'd love to hear some of your tips as well for photographing kids!

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DIY Industrial Rustic Shelves

You know, there's nothing like planning a party at your house to get your butt in gear with cleaning, decorating, etc.  In our situation, that party was last Thursday and we were down to the wire making these industrial-rustic shelves for the study and the two barn doors (all reclaimed wood) for our living room...see below BIG REVEAL video for the doors.  And when I say we, I really mean Blake.  He's been such a rockstar the past week...not that he isn't usually...just more on a Justin Timberlake level rather than an N*Sync level.  (Is that even a good analogy???  Probably not, but you get the picture.)

Our plan is to have two sets of these shelves on either side of our east-facing study window, but we started for now with just one.  I've outlined all the steps and the exact parts (how many and what size) you'll need to make your very own.  They're not too difficult to build, but it sure is helpful to know all the working parts ahead of time rather than trying to figure it out as you're standing in the aisle at Lowes with four children who are loudly voicing that they're so over this DIY thing.

Okay, starting'll need to buy the following pipes.  You can find all these at your local hardward store, such as Lowes or Home Depot.  To be clear, this list is for ONE set of shelves only, so double if you're building two.

8 - 3/4" diameter, 12" long galvanized or black iron pipe
(We went with the galvanized because we weren't sure of what finish we wanted, but then decided to spraypaint them black, black iron piping is cheaper by the way.)

4 - 3/4" diameter, 18" long pipes

2 - 3/4" diameter, 6" long pipes

8 - 3/4" Foot Plates

4 - 3/4" diameter Tee Fittings

2 - 3/4" 90° Elbows

2 - 3/4" Couping Fittings

Then for the three levels of shelves, you need to get the following wood:

1 - 2x12x10 wood board

Cut this board into three 3 foot long pieces.

We used the same stain (below) we used for our fence to stain the boards...I really liked how they turned out, but obviously you can do any kind of stain here.  Or paint would give a whole different feel to the shelves as well.

Once you get all your piping assembled and the wood cut and stained, it's GO TIME.

You'll need to have 32 of these wall anchors (below) that hold 77 lbs a piece, so you don't necessarily have to get them in a stud.  But depending on how heavy of stuff you plan to put on the shelves, you may want to get the kind that hold even heavier weight...although 77 lbs for each of these is even overkill in my opinion.

Using the picture below as a guide, assemble the piping.  Once assembled, hold it up to the wall in whatever positioning you'll want it, and have some one pencil in the holes for the wall anchors.  Screw all of them in (we used a drill to first make the hole) and make sure everything is tight.

Then all that's left is placing the boards on top and you're good to go!

Also, I wanted to post our barn door big reveal as promised, so here's a little video of our finished (for now) living room.  (Next project is ripping up that carpet!)

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