June 12, 2015

Beat Summer Boredom with the #PerfectPlaydate from Avery & Austin!

It is officially summer here in Florida! We're just a few days in and I've already heard the dreaded, "I'm bored." Personally, I don't think there is anything wrong with boredom. I believe it can be good for a child.

However, too much of anything is not good. We're aiming for a balance of structured activities and free time for summer this year.

My child is keen to line up playdates with her friends, especially now that school is out and she's not seeing them regularly.

So when I was offered the opportunity to check out Avery and Austin, I jumped at it. It's a monthly subscription service that sends out a box each month will all the materials for a fun play date. There are two of everything, including a snack, and a special treat for mom.

We were really excited when our box arrived.


Everything looked awesome. The theme was Rock Your Garden. There were materials for two children to participate in two crafts: painting garden rocks and planting carrot seeds. There were even snacks. A favorite - Go Go SqueeZ packs.

I will admit I panicked a little at first when I saw the packages. My daughter is allergic to strawberries and some varieties of Go Go SqueeZ include them. I was relieved to discover we had received the apple-mango flavor. Which she loved. (But I would recommend the company take food allergies into consideration when selecting snacks if it hasn't already.)

For me? There was a LuBoo lip balm and a Handmade La Conner Rejuvinate mud mask. The kids would get to play with mud, and I could slather some on my face. The good kind. What's not to love about that?

And then life happened. My husband and I had to deal with aging parent issues that took most of our time. Then we spent pretty much the entire spring with at least one person in this household being sick. Stomach bug, cold with ear and sinus infections, another stomach bug...

The box sat on the dining room table for far too long.

We never got to try it out with friends. My daughter was too impatient. After having to cancel three scheduled play dates when we had planned to do the crafts, she finally wore me down and I let her paint the rocks by herself.


Well that's not true; I painted some as well. It was a mother-daughter play date, if you will. After painting a tiger rock (her favorite animal), she built a house for it and multiple accessories. It is currently living better than any of our very pampered real pets.


And she loved planting the seeds. Feeling badly about not including friends, she gave them away for them to transfer to their home gardens. True, she's not a carrot fan. But she did feel badly that she didn't get to share the box with her buddies.

The Avery and Austin #PerfectPlaydate boxes are designed for kids 4-10 and are just $29 a month. When you subscribe to the company's email list, you'll receive $10 off!

The June box looks awesome! Give Avery and Austin a try this summer. Your child(ren), and your sanity, will thank you!

Disclosure: I received a copy of the box in exchange for this review. However, all opinions expressed are my own. See full disclosure statement here.

May 4, 2015

And then I was a published.... photographer! #YourShotBook

Tomorrow is a pretty big day for me. It is the day I officially become a published photographer. The new National Geographic book Getting Your Shot: Stunning Photos, How-to Tips, and Endless Inspiration From the Pros releases and includes an image from yours truly.

That's right. I am being published by National-FREAKING-Geographic! Who would have thought?

I received an advanced copy a few weeks ago, and I have to say it is gorgeous!


The book is full of incredible images. Each comes with a story or tips from National Geographic photographers about how to get your own great shots. There is a lot of really fabulous information - and inspiration - in this book. For every level of photographer.

I would want a copy even if I wasn't published in it. Some of the information is very basic - the book lays out the different types of cameras available, explains what lenses and gear to use and when, and looks at the fundamentals of photography.

But it also goes in depth about the art of photography. And celebrates this unique and powerful form of expression in a beautiful way. The images included come from photographers across the globe, all of whom are part of the amazing Your Shot Community.

When hubby flipped through the book to find my image, he excitedly exclaimed, "Whoa! You got full page treatment!!!"


Why, yes. Yes I did. That came as a surprise, because the image was shot using my iPhone. It in no way compares to the quality of the photographs I capture with my DSLR. I figured it would need to be small in print.

There was some pre-press magic involved, and the result is truly stunning. The magical bond my daughter and father shared has been immortalized. And my passion for photography continues to grow stronger each day. This book something I am so proud and honored to be part of.

Oh, and I have to say, The String Bean thinks it is the Coolest. Thing. Ever. that she appears in a National Geographic book. She loves National Geographic. My six year old would rather watch a NatGeo documentary on animals than just about anything else. Her room is full of National Geographic kids books, and she receives the kids' magazine in the mail. Her day was made when she saw this.

You can grab your copy from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or directly from National Geographic. There is also a really cool giveaway going on. You could win a five day photo workshop and more! Enter here!


May 1, 2015

Adventures In Editing: Getting Creative

The other day I decided to get a little more creative than I normally do with my images. I had a photo I had taken of my daughter in our back yard using my new 50mm 1.4 lens. I normally make only minor edits in Lightroom, and had made edits to an almost identical shot already...


I liked it, but felt like playing around with some more dramatic looks. So for the very next frame, I took a different approach. Here's a before and after look:

Click to enlarge image

The first thing I did with this image was crop in closer, although the before/after view does not reflect that. The image was originally framed more like the photo at the top of this post. I wanted to come in closer.

Then I played around with a new set of presets I had purchased from Photographic Elements titled, "Spring Collection." I settled on a preset called, "Moss Green." From there, I applied some sharpening around the eyes and a slight vignette.

I increased the saturation and vibrance. Then I began to play around with adjusting color hues. I increased magenta and red and decreased blue. The latter is the most obvious when you compare the two side-by-side above. Just look at her shirt.

The last thing I did was apply a skin smoothing brush to her face and healing brush to her lips, which are always chapped. (I try to remember to apply some Chapstick when I know I will be taking her picture, but this little backyard session was spontaneous.)

This is the most I have ever changed the Straight Out Of Camera (SOOC) look of an image I've shot. I normally prefer a more natural feel. But I love the dramatic look of this image. It's one of my favorites I have taken of my daughter to date.





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