I’ve hardly changed anything in Jack’s nursery since he was born last summer. I’ve tweaked my organizational strategy a few times and added a soft fabric cover to the changing pad, but overall the room that I put together while pregnant has worked really well for us. Lately, though, I’ve brought in a few sweet and sentimental touches from friends and family that make it just that much more awesome.¬†First up: these two items that my friend Cassie gave me a looooong time ago. Like when Jack was a newborn, I think. I just never got around to hanging them up! The J is a vintage find and the drawing was done by a kid with autism that Cassie knows (he is into animals and art and enjoys creating stuff like this for people). The letter J was originally black, but I painted it using some random paint from my stash.

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I was not really digging the black frame I got at the Dollar General, so I painted it gray (again, just using paint I already had) before hanging it alongside the other items already clustered together on that wall. I used command strips to mount the J. I really love the way it looks!

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Moving on, this adorable wooden airplane is from my friend Jane and her son Ollie. Jane lives in my neighborhood and is new to town (her husband is working on his PhD at LSU). They are going home to Portland for the summer, so she dropped this off as an early birthday gift to Jack before leaving town! So sweet!

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It fits right in with the vintage wooden toys I got at an estate sale, and the third new addition that I wanted to show y’all–the children’s rocker from Nick’s mom. I think she said it was hers when she was a child. Now that Jack is crawling, he makes a beeline for this spot whenever we’re in his room. He loves playing with the wooden toys and gets a kick out of pushing the chair to make it rock. Someday he’ll be old enough to sit in it and maybe then I can pop a basket of books nearby.

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It’s so sweet to have these little meaningful touches in the room, especially since none of them are so precious or fragile that Jack can’t enjoy them. It still totally feels like a little boy’s room. I can’t wait to see how the space continues to evolve as he gets older and puts his own mark on things.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! We’ve got a pretty low key few days planned, which will be soooo nice as we gear up for a busy summer. Hopefully the sun stays out so we can enjoy some time outdoors!

I am not a fancy photographer. I used a basic point-and-shoot camera for a long time, and even now that I have a DSLR I shoot in auto mode 99.99% of the time. If I’m away from home I use my iPhone–no way am I gonna be lugging around a bulky camera and worrying about it getting broken the whole time. I snap a few photos and move on with my life. But I do like to think that thanks to this blog my photography skills have improved measurably, and I’m pretty confident these days that I can take a decent picture of my kid or my house. I thought it’d be fun to share some really accessible and easy-to-implement tips with y’all. You CAN take great pictures even without a fancy camera or Photoshop.

The biggest, number one, most important thing I can say is to never, ever, ever, EVER, use flash. Leave it to the professionals and their fancy bounce cards and diffusers. Even with my DSLR flash goes very wrong, very fast. Below is a photo that I took this morning in one of the darkest corners of my house on an overcast day. The left is with flash, the right is without.

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That one on the left is BLEH, am I right? I have yet to meet a camera that didn’t have an option to turn off the flash while still shooting in auto mode. It’s usually a little lightning bolt with a line through it. On the iPhone it’s in the upper-left corner of the camera screen.

Now if you’re thinking that your photos will be too dark without flash, you might be right. Welcome to the wonderful world of photo editing. I use the basic program that came with my computer. On the left is the photo straight out of the camera and on the right I’ve tweaked it a bit.

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Check out the difference between the photo lit with flash, and the photo brightened on the computer. There is so much more depth and just overall not-suckiness to the one on the right.

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As for what I did, here’s a screenshot. I used the “fine tune” feature to up the brightness, increase the contrast and shadows just a smidge, and lower the highlights. I just play around until it looks good but most photos get a similar treatment. I also often increase the saturation by clicking on “adjust color”, but not for this photo.

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Now that we’ve got that under control, the next big frontier is embracing the crop. This is a photo that I took of Cassie and her mom at the baby shower I hosted last weekend. In addition to brightening it a smidge, I cropped it to get rid of all that wasted space around the perimeter and focus on the people. It’s an easy step that can really make a photo more frame-worthy.

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Here are some more photos that I cropped from our visit to my sister’s baby goat. It’s a subtle change that can really make a difference. (btw these were both taken with an iPhone!)

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And now for the final whammy–skipping flash, playing around with editing, and cropping to take a photo from “eh,” to “impressive!”

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Big difference, right? And it takes maybe 1-2 minutes per photo (and of course turning the flash off takes no time at all). So, in summary:

  • abolish the use of flash
  • say yes to editing
  • cropping is your friend

I hope you find these tricks as easy and helpful as I do! Like I said, I’m certainly no expert and I’m actually really lazy so if I can do it you can do it. Even a cell phone camera can churn out frame-worthy pics if you’ve got a few tricks up your sleeve!

I’ve been halfheartedly keeping my eye out for a globe to put in the playroom slash office. I thought it would look really good right there by the TV, but my hopes weren’t high that I would find one that looked nice and wasn’t vastly overpriced. Imagine my joy when my friend Brandi sent me a picture of one she was looking at in MY favorite thrift store. And it was only $8! I sent her money via Paypal right then and there to buy it for me. I love the brassy base and perfect colors.

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Do you remember this post about putting a plant near the TV to hide the wires? Yeah, this is what happened to it. I blame Pistachio and my lax watering habits.

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I picked up a new plant for $10 and I’m going to try hard not to kill it because I really like this one. I sprayed it with some of that stuff that deters cats and had a friend who is good at gardening advise me on watering. So far so good!

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Can you believe how far this space has come since we got the expedit cube console last fall? You should’ve seen it before then! It was really junky. I actually really like it now.

As Jack gets older I can rearrange the contents of the chalkboard boxes to be toys, books, musical instruments, and costumes, and even rotate out the toys as needed to keep things interesting. I’m planning to eventually refinish the small pedestal table to the right and let him use it as a play table. I’m really excited about having a space that is both functional and stimulating for him to play in and easy on the eyes. I’m really interested in the Waldorf school of thought that children’s spaces and toys should be beautiful to behold, because kids can appreciate beauty too. The globe is a perfect example–when he gets older he can learn about geography in a tactile way by touching and spinning the globe, and in the meantime it’s a really pretty addition to the room. Everyone’s happy!

I’ve got a history of collecting close girlfriends. I guess I just get along really well with other women. I’ve been the maid/matron of honor in four weddings in as many years, and as a result I’ve hosted my fair share of showers. This weekend I hosted my first ever baby shower, and I dare say it was my best yet.

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Every other shower I’ve ever hosted has been just me and maybe 1-2 other people, but having four hostesses for this shower really made such a difference! I wasn’t nearly as stressed as I normally am and we were able to do more (many hands make the work light and all that). From left to right: Jen, Tarah, Cassie (the guest of honor), me, and Amanda.

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Over the years I’ve slowly developed a standard shower menu: cucumber sandwiches, strawberry cake from Ambrosia Bakery, chicken salad served on croissants (this time we got them from Calvin’s Market but my mom swears by Sam’s chicken salad), hummus with pita wedges and vegetable spears, and my signature tea punch. We also served caramel apple bites, spinach pastry puffs, and this pasta salad that’s definitely getting added to my menu in the future (Jen made it and it was crazy delicious)!

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Tarah brought over vintage dishes that belonged to her grandparents to mix in with more modern pieces. It was a really sweet touch, especially since Tarah and Cassie met working together in a vintage boutique years ago.

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Amanda got the flowers at Whole Foods and arranged them herself in mason jars that she already had. We got lots of compliments on them, and after the shower we sent them home with Cassie, her mom, and each other. I kept a really pretty bouquet of pink roses to give to my mom for Mother’s Day.

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We set up a drinks station in the kitchen pass-through with punch and cucumber infused water. I had this punch at a shower years ago and I emailed the hostess afterwards to get the recipe. At the time I didn’t even like tea, but this stuff is delicious! Even Nick likes it. I’ll share the recipe at the end of this post.

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None of us are into cheesy shower games, but this one was so darkly funny that we couldn’t resist. I got a bag of plastic king cake babies from a local party supply store (I think there were about 30 in the $2 bag) and froze them in ice cubes. We distributed the cubes to everyone’s drinks and the first person whose melted was to shout,”My water broke!” Cassie’s nephew won, haha. He said he was going to give the tulips he received as a prize to his mom for Mother’s Day.

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We set up the gifts in a corner of the living room (so glad I finally finished reupholstering that chair!). Do you see those cute little lollipop flower looking things? Tarah made them from washcloths and baby spoons! She says she saw it on Pinterest. I love it when decorations can be repurposed as a practical gift for the guest of honor.

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Yes, there are cats on that onesie. Hilarious, especially if you know how Cassie is about her cats.

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How beautiful is this handmade afghan? I want one for myself!

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And just as a note, I was worried about having enough seating for everybody but it worked out just fine. A couple of ladies squeezed onto the bench in our entryway, folks dragged chairs in from the dining room, and here you can see three girls seated comfortably on the chaise lounge. I’m soooo glad I got that secondhand Ikea chaise instead of a loveseat. It’s definitely much more practical. You can also see Amanda and her mom perched on ottomans in this photo. I was totally worried for no reason.

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Overall, it was a great party and such a wonderful way to honor my dear friend. All of the guests were so sweet. It truly was a joy. I’m feeling much more confident now about hosting Jack’s birthday party next month, even though I won’t have my team of hostesses!

Here’s that recipe I promised:

7 Family Size Luzianne tea bags
4 cups cold water
2 cups sugar
1/2 of a large can of pineapple juice (or 4 small cans pineapple juice)
1 medium sized can concentrated frozen lemonade
2 bottles ginger ale
Fresh mint leaves
Fresh fruit

The night before:
Fill a mini bunt pan (or any other container well-suited to the purpose, such as concentric tupperware bowls with a weight in the middle) with fresh fruit and mint leaves. I like to use chopped strawberries and pineapple. Fill with gingerale and freeze overnight.

A few hours before the party:
Place the 4 cups cold water in a pot and add tea bags and some mint leaves
Bring to a boil and remove from heat, let steep.
While it’s still warm, remove the tea and mint leaves and add the sugar, stirring until it’s dissolved.

Just before guests arrive:
Pour tea into punch bowl and fruit juices and remaining gingerale.
Taste and add additional water if too sweet.
Garnish with ice ring.