Wednesday, June 29, 2011

life these days...

Here's a little blog post about nothing in particular,
besides what we've been up to these past few days.

the pictures look different because
1. We're making the switch from PC to mac;
2. I'm a ninny.
Your patience is appreciated.

Charlie is starting to do the cutest things.
The other day, he insisted on putting on one "doot" [boot]
and walking around in it.

He even gave me a little GQ pose,
thanks to a bit of post-nap bleariness.

And here's us on Father's Day, and my birthday.
Nothing like a big can of propane to ring in the summer.
I also got a haircut today -- a birthday present from my sweet brother.
It was badly needed. I think my last haircut was... um... December, maybe?
The poor fellow who cut my hair literally took one look at it
and hacked it off in one giant snip.
It was glorious.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

why i do what i do {even if there isn't much "doing" involved}

This is eternal life,
that they know you, the only true God,
and Jesus Christ
whom you have sent.
{John 17:3}

Some days, I don't get much done.
I water the plants, and they overflow all over the floor.
I sit down to get some work done,
and a wail erupts from the bedroom
where my toddler should be peacefully sleeping.
We go into the grocery store,
and then leave empty-handed,
because my one-year-old threw a fit in the dairy aisle.

I sigh,
make another pot of coffee,
and carry on.

I was talking to one of my sweet cousins at a bridal shower this past weekend,
and we agreed that, some days,
this whole deal wouldn't be worth it
if it weren't for God.

Some days, I do "this" because it's
{morning jogs, playing at the park, chatting with good friends over coffee}
{baby kisses, giggles, hugs}
{I now know more about God than I ever did before Charlie came along}

But whether it's a good day,
or a bad day
{overflowing plants
fruitless grocery store trips
unfinished work}
the only reason I do this
that really matters
is that it's all about
knowing God
and loving others

{including my one-year-old, who woke up the other day looking like this}
{and when you get that kind of look,
you know it's gonna be
quite the day}


Friday, June 24, 2011

summer reading

A few days before we go on vacation, I'm always at the library, grabbing books off the shelves like a madwoman. I bring 15+ books along for a week of vacation -- sounds crazy, but here's my logic: on vacation, why waste your time reading something you don't love? So, if I don't love a book, I throw it back into the bag and grab another. Because I bring so many books along, sometimes I skim through, just to get the author's gist. Other times, I read a book slowly, because it's too good to be done with too soon. {Toni Morrison's fiction, for example, does that to me.}

All that to say, here's part of the stack of books that I brought along with me on vacation in May:
And here's my {unsolicited} opinion on what I thought of them:

I picked this up in a moment of desperation, hoping for a bit of inspiration at the end of a stay-at-home-momma's-gonna-blow kind of day. And I got it... sort of. I liked Darla's attitude -- she was all about rockin' it out, being the best mom and wife ever, and believing in the importance of a stay-at-home mom. However... in her chapter on health foods, she got a little ditzy when she started talking about the importance of eating whole foods. {I'm paraphrasing here: "People always talk about how healthy oatmeal is, but think about it: have you ever seen an oat tree?" Wow. W-o-w.} Also, her whole mantra revolved around wearing sexy jeans, having a happy family life, living the American dream, white picket fence and all.
I left the book asking, "Ok Darla -- your life is awesome. I love your passion, your desire for family, and your chapter on cleaning. [I. hate. cleaning. Thanks for helping me out.] But at the end of the day, what's it all about?" Because, if you ask Darla, it's about taking care of your family -- and looking good while you're doing it {TIGHT JEANS! HOT SHIRTS! UP-TO-DATE HIGHLIGHTS!!!!!!}. Unfortunately, she's not going to have much to say to the single mom who's forced to work, or the mom struggling to lose weight after baby #3, or the mom whose house just went into foreclosure, or the wanna-be mom dealing with miscarriage after miscarriage, or... you get what I mean. And if you've been around here long enough, you'll know what I'd say she's missing: a little G-o-d.
Trust me: I'm not against looking good, or loving your family, or knowing how to cook -- I just know they're not the end-alls that Darla makes them out to be.

Do you know who The Pioneer Woman is?! She's a self-made blogging rockstar who cooks awesome food and takes fantastic pictures. This is her love story -- an autobiography on how she met her husband. And I LOVED it. LOVED IT!! AHHHH! It was SO GOOD! It got a little steamy at times -- conservatives like me, be warned -- but lalalalalalaLAAAA, it was amazing. The perfect thing to read on the beach. Go get it, and read it -- you'll want to move to a ranch after honeymooning in Australia, guaranteed.

Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: Moving from Affluence to Generosity by Ronald Sider
To be honest, I tend to avoid books like this, because they usually make me feel a sort of false guilt about being born in America. But I'm so very glad I read it: My eyes were opened to God's heart for the poor, and ways that I can join Him in caring for them. I appreciated that Sider didn't seem to generalize, or lump Christians into an "uncaring-fat-rich" category -- instead, he outlined the problem, and showed ways that I, personally, can do something to make a difference. Poverty is only one of the many crises facing Christians today -- but God used this book to challenge me. What am I going to do about it?

I guess I had a bit of a social justice theme going on, eh? This book was also amazing, eye-opening, and convicting to the core. It got me thinking about the clothes I buy, the food I eat, and the products I consume. Modern day slavery is huge -- way bigger than I can even comprehend -- but now that I'm responsible for what I know, I'm asking myself {again}, What am I going to do about it?

You know when you're in a slump about something you're going through... and then you go hang out with a few friends... and they're going through exactly the same thing... and you swap stories, and laugh about them, and leave feeling a million times better about life? That was this book for me -- except, well, in book form. It wasn't sophisticated, or very deep or intellectual. But it was real, and it was good for my soul. Reading excerpts and anecdotes from the lives of moms across the continent blessed me tremendously, and reminded me {for the umpteenth time} that yes, it's worth it.

To my own shame, I never learned much about the history of Afghanistan, or the people who lived there. This book changed that for me. Who knew that communism, of all things, brought {temporary} liberation for Afghan women in many ways? I learned that, and many other things, from this beautiful work of fiction. It wasn't an easy read, but it was important. I didn't love it, but I needed it. It made me feel deeper -- one of the incredible qualities of good fiction. I'd recommend this one, for sure.

I also read The Hunger Games, but meh, I wasn't impressed.

So now, help me out: Any good reads you'd recommend? I'm always looking for good fiction especially... I'll take any suggestions you've got!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

b&w love

When it comes to editing photos, I'm definitely not an expert. My editing knowledge comes from a combination of (1) a basic knowledge of photoshop, (2) tutorials, tips, and tricks that I've learned from other photographers, and (3) what I think looks good, based on my personal style preferences. It's a tricky business, this photo editing stuff, mostly because I don't really want my pictures to look very "edited" at all. (Over-editing was a mistake I used to make, and sometimes still do -- yikes.) I learn as I go, and tweak things along the way.

All that to say, I wanted to show you a few behind the scenes edits that I did recently to Matt and Liz's wedding -- and in the case of these photos, I want to show you the power of black and white to capture a moment. Let me preface all of this by saying {again} that I don't consider myself an expert in any way -- I'm just showing you what works for me :)

Also, nearly every picture that I'm highlighting below was taken by my second shooter at Matt and Liz's wedding -- my sister, Anna. {She takes rockin' pictures, doncha think?!} Since a second shooter often captures the more "photojournalistic" moments of a wedding day, I think they often lend themselves well to black and white conversion. Ok, here we go:

First up: a picture of Liz and her dad, walking down the aisle. Here's the straight-out-of-camera {SOOC} shot...

...and here's the B&W conversion. I chose B&W for this because your eyes are now first drawn to the facial expressions of Liz and her dad {which are priceless, don't you think?}, rather than to the peach-colored wall in the background. No offense, peach colored wall...

Next up: a sweet expression on the maid-of-honor's face during the ceremony. Here's the SOOC shot.

...and here's the B&W conversion.

This next one is my shot -- I took two versions of it, and did one in color and one in B&W. Here's the one I chose for the B&W conversion, SOOC:

...and here's the B&W. I like how all of the sudden, Liz's dress is like BAM! the first thing that catches your eye.

And lastly, here's a shot Anna took at the reception, right after the father-daughter dance. {Side note: at the reception, there were these beautiful pink spotlights illuminating the walls. They made for some awesome pictures, and some awfully-color-balanced shots. B&W conversion helped a bit to beat the system!}

...and B&W:

Many times, I've converted a shot to B&W, only to convert it right back to color -- if a photo is too "busy," with too many patterns or distracting elements, B&W will lend more confusion than clarity to a shot. But, when it's used correctly, B&W can be pretty rockin' awesome ;)

P.S. One technique I learned from this incredible photographer duo is that, once you convert your photo to B&W, adding a small touch of sepia tone to the photo makes it a softer, gentler B&W. And, you know, we're all about soft and gentle B&W's around here...


Sunday, June 19, 2011

dad's day

There are a million reasons
my husband
is the best dad
{says the card that we bought him}

But reason #1 is the most important:



Happy Father's Day
to Marty,
to my own amazing daddy,
to my wonderful father-in-law,
and to all the other

Thursday, June 16, 2011

family photo

Here's a picture that Anna took of us, right before Matt and Liz's wedding:

Yay for family pictures where 2/3 of the participants are smiling at the camera!


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Matt and Liz : Married!

Less than two weeks ago, my brother-in-law Matt got married to the greatest girl in the world, Liz! It's a huge privilege to take wedding photos in the first place, but it's even more special when I'm shooting a family member's wedding: you're awwwing and ooooing and baaawling behind the camera as the wedding day unfolds right before your eyes. There's nothing like seeing your brother marry the girl of his dreams :)

Matt and Liz got married in Peoria, Illinois; their reception was at the Gateway Building, right downtown on the river. A photographer's dream, basically... Anna {my sister} was my second shooter, and I know I can speak for her when I say that we loved every single minute of this wedding day! {And trust me, that's really saying something, since we shot pictures for about sixteen hours, haha!}

***To see a slideshow of the wedding day, click here!***

Ok now, want to see the pictures already? Here are some of my favorites :)

Before the ceremony, a first look:

I love this one -- when Liz's dad saw her for the first time:

And then, it's go-time :)

Mr. and Mrs.!

{Also, I should probably mention that their limo was a stretch Escalade -- a 20-seater, complete with a 460-channel satellite T.V. dish, Playstation3, something like 6 flatscreen TV's, a lazer light show, a fog machine, shag carpeting... haha! It was totally amazing!}

Beautiful bride, handsome groom!

If I had to pick a shot for a canvas to hang above their couch, this would definitely be it ;)

Introducing... their awesome wedding party!

Anna stuck with the guys during the morning, so all of the shots below are hers... as I was going through the shots for the first edit, I kept coming across these ridiculous poses. These aren't even all of them, but here's a taste :D

Reception details {note the U of I table!}:

First Dance dip!

Do these two look familiar? :)

And finally..
for their getaway, they walked to their hotel. Perfect? Yes. And, I couldn't resist...

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Remember this picture that I posted, about a month ago?

It was taken at the beginning of April. We had just put down grass seed, after roto-tilling, weed-pulling, dirt-digging, seed-sowing, and peat-mossing our entire backyard. It was a lot of work...

Ugh. I hate mud.

{Quick recap: when we bought our house, the backyard -- along with pretty much everything else -- was in terrible disarray. At one point, it had been a lovely, landscaped garden, but weeds and horrible perennials with humongous bulbs took over. It was, quite seriously, the closest thing you'll ever get to a jungle in the Midwest.}

But now...

after weeks of watching the mud intently, while doubting everything from our grass seed's sprouting capabilities to the integrity of the kind fellow who sold us the grass seed...

We've got grass!

If I've learned anything through this process, it's that I'd make an absolutely terrible farmer. You should have seen me, squinting at the dirt, saying to Marty, "Yeah... it's been three days. No grass. They totally sold us a dud bag of grass seed."

Silly me.

I love grass.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011


I'm editing Matt and Liz's wedding this week,
and I just came across this beauty:

That, dear readers, is why it always, always pays to have a second shooter.

{and, this past weekend,
my second shooter just so happened to be my sister.
beautiful shot, Anna!!}

More pictures coming soon!