Thursday, June 25, 2009

Grayson's Photos

I'm starting to make my way through some of last weekend's photos. It's strange to have a real work-load for once!

Check out a few more on my photography blog!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Laundry Detergent Update

My friend Shannon responded to my post about laundry detergent. She checked a book she had at home and this is what it said about making your own detergent:

Here's what the book said...basically the author (Karen Logan) said she searched the world over to find a laundry detergent that worked as well as her favorite and she couldn't find one; however, she did come up with a recipe to reduce the amount of detergent she uses:

Ingredients: Your favorite laundry detergent and perhaps some baking soda and borax to boost. (You'll find the borax in the laundry section of your store, usually in a green box).

What Else You'll Need: You'll want to keep a 1/2 cup scooper handy for measuring the baking soda or borax.

How to Use: Use only half as much of your favorite laundry detergent as you regularly use. (Please us a nonphosphate detergent - check the box or use a liquid which are all phosphate free).

She uses the borax when her clothes are extra dirty or dingy. She says it also works great with hard water. She uses the baking soda when she wants to deodorize and soften the clothes.

She also says that the 1/2 cup is good for a full load and that you'll want to use 1/4 cup with a medium load.

Good to know! I'm definitely going to try this out.


Just a little Takin Care of Business post... Things have been going really great the last couple of weeks.

-I ended up doing five shoots in June. So far, I have four shoots booked for July.

-I've had four emails from brides asking about weddings for Fall 09 and 2010.

-I was contacted by a wedding cake baker who offered to do some networking/referral exchanges. She also offered to help me out with cracking into the business, which bridal shows are the best, etc.

-I'm going to have my first ad running this summer for senior portraits in a program for Ralston High.

-I'm still soliciting for faux brides if anyone is interested!

I'm really behind on editing photos right now. I have three shoots from last week, as well as some edits to my senior pictures and a wedding shower that I never finished going through. If feels good to have *work* to do though. I'm honestly not complaining about it!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Sweet Smell of Validation

Every year AIGA holds these student/pro meet and greets that were aptly titled, "Meet the Pros." (AIGA stands for something like: American Institute of Graphic Designers. I'm too lazy to look it up.) I went to these things every year in college. Aside from being informative and a great way to waste a day, they were completely and utterly terrifying.

The most horrible part of Meet the Pros was portfolio critiques. The critique in and of itself really isn't that bad. Problem is that a student would either end up getting critiqued by a very friendly and gentle professional who is honestly trying to help, or by a ego driven prick with a faux-hawk.

The second year I went, I got the later.

I showed this guy an annual report for Starbucks that I did in class. Said annual report won me a Student Addy that year so I assumed that it was pretty good and felt confident showing it. Apparently Faux-Hawk didn't agree. He ripped me apart for it. I thought it was seriously clever! The theme of the report was, "Spilling the Beans!" Come on! That's good!

But no. His main complaint was that the cover was a burlap bag background with a large Starbucks logo on it that looked like it was stamped onto the burlap. Faux-Hawk had a major ragfest about how I bastardized the logo and there's no way I would ever get away with that in the real world. I was compromising the brand identity blah blah blah.

It is at this point that I would like everyone to turn to page 131 of Real Simple's July 2009 issue.

What we have here is an ad for Starbucks featuring a burlap background. On one of the cups is a teensy logo that looks like it was stamped onto the burlap.

Enough said.

One Thing At a Time: Laundry Detergent

I don't particularly like floral scented things and I really hate any kind of cleaning product that smells like food. Dish soap that smells like apples? Detergent that smells like oranges? Dog shampoo that smells like watermelon? That last one is the weirdest. Why would I want my dog to smell like fruit?

I was using Cheer Free and Gentle, but I took running out of laundry detergent as an opportunity to switch to a green cleaner. Target had Seventh Generation Laundry Cleaner on sale, so I went with it.

I think I ended up going with the lavender and eucalyptus scented one. It smells like a hippie. I really don't know how else to describe it. It's natural and earthy and... like a hippie.

I did the first load and when I opened the machine and caught a whiff of the laundry, I wasn't sure if "wet hippie" was something I wanted to be smelling. It smelled a little funky. I threw the towels in the dryer, tossed my jeans on the drying rack and prayed for the best. I'll tell you, opening the dryer was a much better smell. It just smelled like warm, clean clothes. It didn't smell like plants, it didn't smell like food. It just smelled clean. The clothes that air dried smelled fine too. They don't smell as fresh, but they don't smell bad, and what else can you really ask for?

Laundry detergent is kind of a mystery to me. After reading some labels and product reviews, it turns out that a lot of detergents are petroleum-based and have some form of plastic in them. Call me crazy, but that seems a little bizarre. The more I read about this stuff, the more alarmed I am at the amount of crap we willingly allow into our homes.

On a little side note... Is it possible to make your own laundry cleaner? Is there some magic combination of baking soda and borax or something that will get the job done even safer and cheaper than a $12 bottle of Seventh Generation?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Last night for dinner I wanted something a little different so I made a buffalo chicken pizza.Honestly, aside from the crust, there isn't anything "pizza" about it. It's just a bunch of stuff that sort of resembles a pizza...

I usually go the Boboli route when making homemade pizza but I wanted a really thin, crispy crust for this one. I grabbed a couple of the pizza mix packets instead. Good thing I grabbed two because I completely screwed up the first one. The one and only direction on the package was, "Add 1/2 cup of hot water."

I failed. Completely.

I added 1 1/2 cups. I couldn't figure out why it wasn't getting doughy. It was just a bowl of liquid that smelled like bread.

The second one went as planned, but that stuff is a bitch to spread out onto a pizza pan. You are a saint if you have the patience to roll one of those things out at home. It stuck to everything except the pan because I used cooking spray on it. I evidentially should have sprayed my hands and arms up to my elbows because I was covered in the stuff by the time I was done.

Luckily enough stayed on the pan to constitute a pizza crust.

I topped it with Frank's buffalo sauce, sauteed onions, parsley, garlic, celery, chicken, basil and bleu cheese crumbles. Everything you need to go with buffalo sauce - except carrots. I thought that might be weird, and coming from someone who loves pickles on pizza, it probably is. Unless it was a Thai pizza, then it would be necessary.

Mmmm. Thai pizza!

I also made some bleu cheese dressing to smear over the top of it when it was done.

I'm not a fan of bottled dressings so I'm happy to have finally figured out how to make it from scratch. For this I mixed about a cup of sour cream, maybe two tablespoons of mayo, and a couple splashes of milk. (I think you can use skim, low-fat, regular and it doesn't really matter.) I whisked that together until creamy and then added dill, onion powder, garlic, a heap of fresh chopped parsley, ground pepper and bleu cheese crumbles. It was pretty amazing.


Grant's Five Month Pics

Every month it gets harder and harder to take his pictures because I'm too preoccupied with playing with him to really concentrate. The kid is an absolute doll.

More pictures on my photography blog!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

One Thing At a Time: Yogurt

Since I'm gradually replacing the things in my house and the food in my fridge with safer, healthier alternatives, I thought I'd highlight which transitions were successful and which ones weren't.

Success: Rachel's Yogurt

I have an issue with yogurt. I absolutely love the stuff, but yogurt with fruit chunks in it makes me gag. Literally. I think it's the funky texture. You've got this nice creamy yogurt with chunks in it. It freaks me out... It kind of limits my yogurt options past vanilla and plain.

Imagine my delight when I took a chance and tried one of these, only to find absolutely no fruit chunks in the fruity yogurt! Finally! Someone else gets that it's gross! I can't vouch for all the flavors, but the Orange Strawberry Mango and Blueberry Pomegranate were both chunkless. And aside from not being chunky, it's also delicious and all natural! Acording to the website:

Always natural, Rachel’s products are free of artificial flavors, preservatives or sweeteners including no high fructose corn syrup and are made using milk from cows not given artificial growth hormones (rbST-free).


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Proving That I'm a Grown Up Business Woman

I've been thinking lately about my need for a legitimate home office, a place where I can consult with clients and not be horribly embarrassed by the pile of shoes under the desk and the stack of junk mail covering the keyboard. Right now the nearest Starbucks is serving as my meet and greet place.

My office certainly isn't in bad shape, it's just not a place that says, "Professional and Capable Person Who Deserves your Business." I need to ditch the clutter, get a cafe' sized table and chairs, and print off some high-impact examples of my work. I recently got a membership through a canvas and photo printer and I get one free canvas and 40% of sample canvases for being a professional member. It would be really awesome to be able hang some examples up and show off what my work looks like in print. I also need to get together some subject-specific albums: babies, teens, weddings.

Right now I don't have a huge need for this, but eventually I'm hoping that I do. Wedding consultation is really the big reason I want to be able to have a nice home office. Brides and weddings is like "big time" for me. I adore wedding photography. I want this so badly. I need this. I've never been this ambitious about anything before and I think the progress I've already made has been great. My goal is to be self-employed by 28 so I'm moving right along...

I've also been reading more and more about business management and researching networking opportunities for creative fields and small businesses in Omaha. My friends and family have been of more help to me than I could have ever asked for, but it's also nice to have other people out there throwing my name around. I know that I'm not a top-notch, world-changing photographer, but I think I have what it takes to be a startup professional in this industry. With time, knowledge and help I think I can really do this.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Moses Prey

Friday night my husband's band, Moses Prey, had a show at Barley Street Tavern in Benson. I'd never been there before but the bar was pretty cool. My one complaint though: the Boulevard wasn't cold enough.

Organics and Green Cleaners

Buying organic food is something that Matt and I go back and forth on. Obviously, we would love to only shop at Whole Foods. There's no denying the quality of produce and meat available there, but our budget doesn't always allow it. Aside from the price of it there's also the limitation of giving up those certain delicious items that wouldn't exist without some mad food science. I'll be damned if I don't love me some Velveeta and Diet Coke.

CNN had a pretty informative article this morning about buying organic: How to buy the best organic foods. We've already started doing one of their tips which is gradually replacing items in your kitchen with their organic counterparts. First up in our house was eggs. The difference in price is pretty freaking big. ($2.40 vs $1.00) but I swear they taste better. There's more of an egg flavor to them. It makes sense though... A lot of the flavor in our meat and animal byproducts is lost because of the way they're breed and housed. Free-range chickens move around a lot more than caged chickens so the muscles have a stronger flavor to them. It's kind of like white meat verses dark meat. Dark meat comes from the muscles the chickens use (legs and thighs) and white meat comes from the muscles they don't (breasts and wings).

I also think it would be nice to rid my household of chemical cleaners. I'm slowly but surely replacing things like laundry detergents and cleaners with safer alternatives. Seventh Generation has some great products and even coupons on their site. Real Simple also had an incredibly thorough article a few issues back about items you may already have around the house that double as safe grime busters. I also think it's a smart thing to do now since we often have our little nieces and nephews over and might one day have kids of our own running around. Kids touch everything, investigate everything, put their mouths on everything... I'd feel much better knowing that my house is free of any unnecessary chemicals.

What does everyone else think of buying organic and natural? Is it important or just a bunch of hippie BS?

Also check out:

Dirty Dozen: Top 12 Fruits and Vegetables to Buy Organic
18 Easy Convenience-Food Upgrades

Monday, June 15, 2009

Out of the Closet

I took the doors off the closet to refinish them and I had two very alarming thoughts.

1. That is one messy closet. It's going to be a few days before the door get put back on so maybe now is a good time to clean it out.

(That tis but a fraction of the shoes I own.)

2. Wow, that is one little (but now very unmessy) closet. Who in their right minds would make a master bedroom's closet that freaking small? Oh wait, people in the 1960s, that's who. Because forty years ago Americans weren't the giant clothes whores they all are now. At one time that was adequate wardrobe space for two adults.

As a result of refinishing my closet doors, I ended up purging three or four big bags of clothes I decided I no longer need. Lucky for me and my tiny closet, one of the side effects of being a broke homeowner on the verge of late-twenties is that I've aged past the point of wearing half the crap I bought when I was 20 and I'm too poor to go out and buy new stuff. Look at all that spare closet spare!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Tips: Removing Paint From Windows

I spent yesterday afternoon helping my dad fix our basement door. We (or he rather) got the threshold down and changed the lock and bolt set on the door. That only took a measly four hours! Today he's coming back to help install the new storm door.

Also included in the running list of "Why The Hell Would Anyone Do That?" house repairs is scraping the paint off the door's windows. The old owners painted the doors, the door knobs, the stripped screws, the keys to the door... Why? Seriously, why do people paint over windows? I know the obvious answer is "So people can't see inside," but that's not the answer I'm looking for. The answer is, "Because they're lazy." Only lazy people paint over windows.

Curtains or contact paper folks. It's as simple as that.

Obviously, the painted windows have to go. There are three small windows and I've got the paint scraped off one of them so far. It took me maybe 20-30 minutes. It was pretty easy. Obviously, it will scrape off with a razor blade, but the real trick is to spray it with Windex as you scrape. It will soften the latex a little bit and make it peel easier.

Gotta get back to those windows! Up next is scraping the paint off the garage windows... Fun!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

If There Were 50 Hours in Every Day...

...I would:

Master fondant
And gum paste (whatever it is)
Learn to sew men's wear
Paint the closets
Write a cooking blog
Take up screen-printing
Tile the laundry room
Make Blurb books for my family
Learn to make bread, pizza dough and biscuits
Reread all my favorite books
Discover new favorite books
Make mixes of all my favorite 60s bands
Upkeep my Etsy shop
Tailor all my vintage clothes

What would you do?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Laundry/Bath Re-no Inspiration

It's been raining non-stop in Omaha for the last week or so. I think in one night alone we got something like four inches. That's fantastic and all, but eventually the ground stops absorbing the rain and it ends up elsewhere. Like in our basements.

Our retaining wall started losing mud last weekend. Well, the end of the retaining wall slopes towards the house - more specifically the basement door - so the mud followed. Unfortunately, the door doesn't have a threshold under it (no particular reason why) and all the mud ended up in our basement. This weekend my dad is coming over and we're installing a threshold, adjusting the door so it doesn't stick anymore, and replacing the lock and deadbolt.

This has me all amped up to start doing work on the house. You know, all the stuff we said we were going to fix when we moved in and then never started on. I'm assuming everyone has one of these lists... I hope. Make me feel better and say that you do.

One of the big things we want to correct is the fact that the house only has one bathroom. All the plumbing is in the laundry room for the second bathroom, but there aren't any fixtures. Actually that's not true. There's a toilet in the laundry room which I have used exactly once since living in the house. It's the most horrifying looking toilet in the world. It's clean, I know because I've cleaned it... but it doesn't look clean. It's dingy and green and freaky.

At first we wanted to put up a wall to separate the bathroom from the laundry room, but I think that's going to make the bathroom too small. It might also block access to the heater and water-heater. Instead now I think we're going to go with something like this:

This is pretty much the layout of our room. We have white machines and large white storage cabinets in the laundry room so this is almost exactly what I want our room to look like. I found some affordable and stylish fixtures at (where else) IKEA that would work great since there isn't a ton of space between the washing machine and the wall.

They also have some cool red room dividers that I'd like to get to hide the heater units from view.

Assuming that the plumbing in the room is good and doesn't need major work, I'm thinking that we might be able to fix up the whole room for less than $700. Not too bad! My only concern is that it won't be considered an actual bath when we eventually sell the house. We're counting on this to help add some value since we currently only have one bathroom. I read that adding a second bath to a one bath home can add as much as 20% to the value of the house. I don't expect that much, but I'd like to see something for our efforts. Does anyone know about the technicalities of what is considered a bathroom?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Fake Wedding Portraits!

So what exactly are you supposed to do when you want to start photographing weddings but have no portfolio work available to ensure brides that you won't eff up their wedding?

You get some recently married friends to put their wedding clothes back on and you take them out to a park on a Monday night. Instant fake wedding portraits! See more at my photography blog.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Girl's Night Skinny Dip

I went to a "girl's night" slumber party at my gay boyfriend & his husband's house on Saturday. Matt asked me what we do on these girl's nights. I told him, "Stereotypical stuff. Drink margaritas, eat a ton of garbage that we shouldn't eat, talk smack (kidding), watch chick flicks, etc."

And we did. They made margarita's with sherbet (YUMM!) and some crazy good stuffed jalapenos. We sat outside and talked for four hours. Then, we watched First Wives Club, possibly the best grown-up chick movie ever. I love it so much that I forgive Diane Keaton for her inability to be anyone besides Annie Hall in it.

My contribution to girl's night was a bean dip that I made up, sort of a four layer bean dip. The boys are dieting in preparation for a trip to Miami so I tried to bring something half-way slimming to the fatty-fat-fat buffet table. Ignore the fact that is was eaten on chips...

Four Layer Skinny Dip
*no picture exists because it was devoured like crack*

1 can of fat free refried beans (I think I used Ortega)
1 to 1 1/2 cups of low fat or fat free sour cream
1 packet of taco seasoning
1 cup pico de gallo (1 large tomato, 1/4 white onion, fresh cilantro, lime, jalapeno, salt)
1 avocado

Spread the can of refried beans into the bottom of a dish. (I used an 8x8 dish.) Mix the sour cream and 1/2 of the pack of taco seasoning together, spread over the beans. Next spread the pico de gallo over the sour cream - be sure to leave out about 2 tbsp. Mash up the avocado with the leftover pico de gallo to make guacamole. Drop the glob of guacamole in the middle of the dish and you're done! (Instead of regular chips, you could serve it with baked tortilla chip or pita bread.)

Then, I negated my efforts by making dark chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter filling.

It was so very worth it though. I planned on doing a three mile run on Sunday so I made sure to eat one for every mile.

My First Circus

As the title might imply, I went to my very first circus this weekend. Is that kind of pathetic? My parents never took my sister and me as kids. Then by the time I got old enough to realize how creepy they really were I lost interest in ever going. A family friend bought us tickets though, so I kind of had to go.

Was the circus creepy? Yes, yes it was. The acrobatics were like watching a low-rent, heartless Cirque De Soleil show.

Some of the performers weren't very good, and they were all a little dead behind the eyes. Can I blame them though? They work in a traveling circus. That's got to be one of the strangest professions in the world. I also really, really hated watching the tigers. I feel so bad for those poor animals. They spend their lives stuck in cages, (alternating between the back of a truck and an arena) being yelled at by some Russian dude. I'm pretty sure that isn't exactly what nature had planned for them.

I also felt bad for the elephants, but I enjoyed watching them. Mostly because they loved taking dumps while they should be acting majestically.

You know who else loved watching the elephants poop? Harry.

It was great seeing my niece and nephew have so much fun (and sugar). Glad I'm not the one who had to take them home... Before the show Harry kept saying he wanted to go to the "kirkus" to see the "elements." He saw those elements alright...

And then here's this last picture because I thought it was cool. I was looking at it and it reminded me of an old school photo of the circus, so I photoshopped it til its last breathe.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Prepare To Be Jealous

Go ahead and prep yourself for the most awesome thing ever.

My new vintage luggage set:

I bid on this at our monthly junk sale at work. Initially I lost the bid, which was shocking. My exact reaction was, "Who the hell would have outbid me on that ugly luggage?" But when I went to pick up a chair that I won (it spent a previous life in a doctor's office and is rad) the guy informed me that I could have it if I still wanted it.

Yes. Please.

Apparently the winning bidder thought she was bidding on something else. Or she bid on the luggage for someone else and they were completely horrified at their friend's evident lack of taste and declined to take it home... Something like that. All I know is that it belongs to me now.

The large case was still in the original box. I don't know if it's been used more than a couple times. All three pieces are in great condition. I almost don't want to use them, they're just too perfect.

Oh and P.S. I took those pictures in my freaky lit dining room at night and they turned out fantastic due to my newfangled ability at actually photograph things crisply without sticking them directly in sunlight.

Understanding Exposure

Throughout the course of this photography quest I've been on for the last six months, I've struggled a lot with trying to figure out how to shoot in full manual mode. Or at least what is considered full manual mode on a DSLR. I'm fairly certain that I would earn a big FAIL if I tried shooting with a film SLR.

Depending on who you talk to, some photographers say that shooting in M really isn't that big of a deal and others say it's the only way to go. Regardless of who's right, I still couldn't completely understand it. As a major anal retentive learner, I had to figure it out whether or not I would ever use it. I understood the concept of it - needing to set the ISO, shutter speed and aperture to all create perfection together - but I was hopeless at actually making it happen. I've been shooting in A and P for the last four months, ignoring the M.

But then, the clouds parted, I heard the angels sing, and the hand of God blessed me with the knowledge I was missing. AKA, I finally read this book: Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with a Film or Digital Camera (Updated Edition).

I read it and I couldn't believe how utterly freaking easy it was to figure out! For the love!!! Everyone who wants to learn how to use a DSLR should read this book. It goes on to explain a lot more than just manual shooting too. So far it's the most valuable resource I've found for demystifying the magic of digital photography.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Work Work Work - Bring It!

Yesterday I posted a shameless self-promotion everywhere. I put it on my blog and Facebook. Jen also put it on her Facebook and Cat put it on TheNest. Out of that I got five inquiries about weddings, a one-year child shoot, a possible family shoot, someone asking for pictures of his new recording studio, and a job designing a logo.


I'm still offering to do weddings this summer for el cheapo if anybody knows anybody.

I finished editing Sarah's senior pics last night. I need to print off some copy to include with her disk. Price sheets, package lists in case she needs anything else, release forms, etc. Then, done and done. Job complete. I'm really hoping to get a few references out of it. I had a lot of fun doing senior pictures. If memory serves me correctly, teenagers are solely concerned with looking cool so if I tell them that a picture is going to look "cool" they'll go with it and not question me. Plus kids aren't jaded to the Old Market scene and they think it's hip to go take pictures down there. I want to find a really carefree, artsy type teen who will be down with like standing in an alley and getting all moody and edgy. Parent's wishes be damned, that kid will look cool.