Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day, 2011

(For those of you who also follow my professional blog, you can stop rubbing your eyes and checking your address bar..this is posted twice. :) I just had to share these photos!)

I meant to post this earlier today, but the sun was shining, it was a perfect 85 degrees outside, and I was thrilled to be outside with my family to celebrate this Memorial Day.

It still was important to me though, to write this post, and to post it today, even though there are only a mere 2.5 hours left to it. On Saturday, I was in Boston, shooting Laura and Preston's engagement photos. I used to live in Boston, and haven't been downtown in awhile, so I thought I'd go a bit early, feeling lucky for the opportunity to be in the city with my camera.

I stepped out of the parking garage on the Common, and was just about to cross the street into the Public Garden when I looked behind me and gasped, (actually it was more of an "ooooooooooooooh!" Just ask my husband who was on the phone with me at the time. I think I might have actually hung up on him, I was so excited). On the hill of the common were thousands, and I mean thousands of American flags. I simply could not resist.

It was amazing. I learned that they were placed in memory of fallen Massachusetts service members. There were so many, I couldn't stop taking pictures.

I was so amazed by the whole thing that I spent most of my free time just looking at it. It was simply breathtaking. The last shot I took was of this yellow rose, attached to one of the flags towards the front. I wondered who placed it there, and who it was in memory of.

I hope you all enjoyed your Memorial Day. I also hope you took a minute or more to stop, remember, and thank those who have given their lives for our freedom, and also to the service members and their families who are currently serving our country.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Please Help - Sales to Benefit Tornado Victims

Maybe I'm just getting older and more aware, or maybe my eyes have opened up a bit more since having my daughter eight months ago, but for whatever reason, the recent devastation caused by multiple tornadoes across the country is simply eating me up. I can't go down and sift through the rubble, and help families piece their lives back together, but I can do my part to donate funds to help those who are in so much need.

Starting today, and through Monday, May 30, I will be donating 100% of the profits from any of my scenic prints to the American Red Cross in the name of tornado relief. It doesn't matter the size of the print, framed, matted, or just plain, I will not make a penny off of these sales.

Here is just a sampling of some of the prints you can purchase through my Etsy shop:

You can also pick from any of the pictures on my website. Just email me at to place your order for any print not listed in my Etsy shop.

All of these photos are printed in a professional lab and framing and matting are available.

I'm very hopeful that together we can send along a helpful donation to the American Red Cross. Please pass this along to your friends and family, and keep the victims of these horrible storms in your thoughts and/or prayers over these next few weeks.

Monday, May 23, 2011

I Love Etsy: Treasury

If you have never heard of Etsy, pardon me being so frank, but you, my dear, are living under a rock. Not only is it just about the coolest place on the web to buy anything handmade or vintage, but it is the most addictive shopping site I've ever been to. I caution you - visiting Etsy with a full paypal account can be quite dangerous.

I have friends and family who sell on Etsy, myself included. (Visit KOBrienPhotography and KTPaperCrafts!) As part of my "I Love Etsy" section of this blog, I'll take time to highlight their shops, and others that I find and love on the site.

Today's post, however, is about featuring my latest Etsy treasuries. What is a treasury? Etsy users have a really cool opportunity to browse through the thousands of items on the site and put together a collection for others to see. Some are themed and some are random. Many of them end up on the front page of Etsy, which is I think, every seller's dream, and quite the accomplishment in the Etsy world.

I'd like to share with you the treasuries I make, for a few reasons.

First, it takes some time to build a treasury. Finding the perfect combination of items takes thought and patience, and when you put that much time into something, you want to share it!

Second, treasuries are an awesome way to promote other Etsy sellers, and let's be honest, to succeed in the world of handmade, you need to have a lot of support.

Third, I love putting colors and themes together. I think maybe it's part of having a photographer's eye, but this lets me be so creative, and I love seeing what the final product ends up being. (Insert dorky confession - I love to go back and stare at my treasuries and oooh and ahh at how pretty they are to me haha).

And fourth, it's a fun way to bring fun shopping ideas to YOU! Just click on the treasury and you have an instant peek at some really great shops and really great items.

This week I have two treasuries. The first is titled "Marry Me" and was created as a challenge for the Etsy Nonteam Treasury Challenge. We had to create a treasury around a pair of beautiful earrings by Etsy seller karinagrace and of course I couldn't resist the obvious wedding correlation.

The second was one I just felt like creating last night while on the computer. It is of course, inspired by our recent weather pattern :) It's titled "The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow...Right?"

Take a peek, let me know what you think....and if you're feeling spunky..create your own! Be sure to share the link below, I love seeing what others come up with.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Mom to Be? Some Non-Advice, Advice For You

Anyone who is pregnant or has been pregnant recently understands when I say that the words of advice during pregnancy can be helpful, but mostly are repetitive, annoying, and even sometimes disrespectful. Sentiments like "sleep now while you can!", "you think you're tired now?", and "rest while you can!" would seriously make my skin crawl throughout my pregnancy. (Obviously people discussing my sleep was a sore point for me).

I was thinking this morning about the things I would love to tell new moms and moms-to-be. But my mind quickly rushed back to those never-ending, unsolicited words of advice, and I thought maybe I should keep my own trap shut. But then, I thought, maybe, instead of saying "you should do this," I'd say "here's what I'm glad I did," and "here's what I wish I'd done differently." Everyone has a system that works for them. My system may not work for you, but I thought I'd share what did work for me, and hopefully some of it will help you to build your own experience in a way that works for you.

So, here we go.

I'm so glad I...

1.  Didn't buy a travel system. I read so many reviews about how bulky and heavy they were, and in my opinion they just looked like a pain in the butt. My solution was to register for two strollers. The first was these awesome snap-and-go strollers that fit my carseat right into it. It's super lightweight, and is easy to open and close. It was perfect for the mall and other shopping trips.

The second was a jogging stroller, for walks around the neighborhood, at the park, and on rougher terrain. It's heavier, so not as good for shopping trips, but also allows for the carseat to snap into it, and now Molly can ride in it like a big girl.

It may seem like overkill, but it cost less than the travel system, and I didn't have to deal with the bulk which was great, especially after having a c-section.

2. Used Craiglist and Freecycle! Baby stuff is so expensive, and while I really wanted Molly to only have sparkling new items, it just wasn't realistic. The swing we registered for was $170. I found one in awesome condition, only used for 4 months on Craigslist for $40. With a good cleaning, it was ready to go.

3. Speaking of swings....I'm SO happy we got a swing. When we didn't receive one at the shower, I asked my girlfriends if it was really necessary, and the answer was a unanimous "YES!" And it really was. From the start, the swing was a great place to set Molly down, and it ended up being her napping spot and where she went to sleep at night before putting her to bed. For us, the swing was so necessary that I insisted on having one when we traveled to our parents' houses for Christmas as well.

4. Transitioned Molly into her crib early. This is 110% a "do what feels right to you" thing. We moved her into her crib at 3 weeks. She was a heck of a noisy sleeper. The pack and play was wonderful, but we needed to get our sleep too, so at 3 weeks we made the transition. I truly feel that the transition went as smoothly as it did because we did it early. She wasn't old enough to know any different, and I think we all started sleeping better. But again, this is an incredibly personal decision.

5. Asked family and friends to wait a few days before staying overnight with us when we came home from the hospital. We had lots of visitors at the hospital, and I knew we'd have guests in and out when we got home. We asked for a few days without overnight guests, so we could get our feet on the ground as our new little family. And, let's be honest, your body goes through a lot of, mostly disgusting, changes after childbirth and as a private person, I was happy to not have to worry about living behind a lot of closed doors those first few days.

I wish I had...

1. Had professional pictures taken. Yes, a nice photographer will come to your hospital room and take pictures for you and then offer to give you a DVD of said pictures for a whopping $125 dollars (for 25-ish pictures). As much as we loved the pictures we were not about to spend that much money for 25 pictures of us set up on a hospital bed, and being a photographer, I figured I could just take some pictures myself. But, I had a C-section. I was up all night with feedings. I was trying to balance my new life. I was just plain tired. I think I finally took pictures around 4 or 5 weeks, just as Molly's baby acne kicked into high gear. And I don't have any of the two of us. I very much regret not having someone who is familiar with newborn photography come to our home and take some pictures of those incredibly new and precious first few weeks.

2. Registered for or cared more about the things Molly would need as she got older. You get SO many newborn clothes, towels, washcloths, and blankets. But you don't realize really how quickly you'll be needing the sippy cups, spoons, light up toys, and the all-mighty exersaucer. Having a baby that plays may seem like light years away but believe me, it literally happens in the blink of an eye.

3. Prepped more freezer meals. We had INCREDIBLY generous friends and family. We had more food than we could have dreamed of for a good 4 weeks. It was awesome. But then it ran out. And I know that eventually it had to run out, but had I just taken one Sunday afternoon and prepared a few meals myself, we would have been set for a few more days, and as any new mom knows, extra time in those first few weeks (ok, extra time at anytime) is a heck of a blessing.

4. Started pumping earlier. When you take three months off of work for maternity leave it seems like such a long time. You figure you have plenty of time to build a nice stash of frozen breastmilk before returning to work. But the weeks literally fly by, and before you know it, you're packing up the first daycare bag, and if you haven't planned well, you only have enough milk ready to go for a day or two. I think I started pumping around 8 or 9 weeks. While I don't think I would have given her a bottle any earlier than that, I didn't realize that it really takes a few weeks to get into the habit of pumping, and for your supply to build. Had I started pumping 2-3 weeks earlier, I think I would have had a bit less stress about my supply after I returned to work.

5. Brought the right clothes to the hospital (for Molly, not me). I'm laughing, but I'm also serious! Molly was born in September. I packed her pants, and a t-shirt. No onesie, no long sleeves, no socks, no hat, no blanket. Wow, I felt dumb. Of course it was like 50 degrees that day too..a chilly fall day. I have to laugh because it is a classic first-time mom error, but next time, my newborn will have warm tootsies on the ride home. :)

So, take it or leave it, these are my thoughts. Of course, I have about 1000 more, but I'll spare your eyes. I know I said I wouldn't give advice, but I do have one piece - go with your gut and enjoy every second. Everyone tells you what you need to do, and in the end, you know your baby better than anyone else on the planet. Mommy/Daddy instinct is usually right on, so do what works for you. And have fun doing it, because, for me anyway, this is the single best thing I've ever done.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How to Make Baby Food - Apples

I've been nervous to give Molly apples because my husband has an oral allergy to them. However, I was surprised when the doctor said that because of this, it is extra important for her to try them now. It turns out the longer we wait to introduce them to her, the greater her chance of developing the same allergy.

Making apples into baby food was honestly quite a pain in the butt. I think this is almost 100% due to user error however. I attempted to do this in a very short window of time after work. My light was limited, my kiddo got hungry, and I learned very quickly to always peel the apples BEFORE you chop them. This added about 15 minutes to my overall cooking time.

One thing to know is that apples are considered one of the "dirty dozen" foods for babies. (See the full list here). This means that apples are one of the fruits most likely to be contaminated by pesticides, so if you are able, buying organic is a smart choice.

So, to make apples into baby food, start with as many apples as you choose.

Core your apples. (Again, peeling BEFORE doing this step would be wise), and chop into chunks.

Place the apples in a large pot, and just cover with water. Bring to a boil, and steam until tender.

The next step is subjective, depending on how thin you want the final product. Molly is working her way into thicker purees, so I mashed the apples, but you can also puree them.

You can also add spices to give them a bit more flavor. I did not do this this time around, but will next time to help as I thought they were just a bit bland.

Have any other apple tips? Feel free to share them below!