Lovely News. :)

I've not been very punctual at announcing this on my blog, but I have fabulous and almost-too-perfect-to-be-true news to share.....

Our sweet Baby #4 is another ***Girl***!!!

That brings our little gaggle to two boys in a row and then two girls. That's something out of a daydream right there! I wrote on Facebook when I made the announcement, "My six-year-old self couldn't have planned it any better!"

It kinda goes without saying, but we are beyond excited. :)

I decided to come up with a fun way to break the news to our kids. I've never made a big deal out of "revealing" the gender to our family and since this is possibly our last baby, I wanted to do something special!

I loved the idea of releasing balloons out of a box! Of course I found dozens of adorable and inspiring images on Pinterest, and I even started thinking about hiring one of my talented photographer friends to come photograph the event. But in the end, I decided to keep it a little family occasion.

And, ok, I also wanted credit for the cuteness of the photos. :)

Right after my ultrasound appointment, my husband and I headed over to a party store with a big ol' box I had bought from the UPS store. (It was kinda spendy buying a large box there, but I really wanted a purdy, brand new one with no markings. Plus, now I'm planning on repurposing it for something fun for Christmas!) We filled it with about 15 large pink helium balloons...a dozen were loose (no strings) so they could float right up and out of the box, and we had 3 tied to a balloon weight so each of our kiddos could keep one. 'Cause they are kind of balloon obsessed. I knew if they watched a bunch of beautiful balloons appear and then every single one immediately disappear into the sky, escaping their grasp, there would probably be more weeping and wailing than whoops of excitement!

We picked up our oldest from school and my two youngest from my friend who was babysitting and headed over to a cute spot in a nearby park. I was so excited and my 6-year-old, at least, was too, but....

My idea didn't really go as planned.

I had dreamed of capturing images of my children simply tugging on a ribbon, with no idea of what was in the box, and the balloons exploding out suddenly. I imagined watching the delight on their little faces as the balloons soared upward and upward, dazzlingly, into the clear blue sky. But....

We (ok, I...) took kinda long getting the whole thing set up. I only took a couple minutes! But you know young kids and their attention spans...they were getting antsy.

Then my boys had a hard time getting the box completely open and the surprise factor kind of disappeared...they saw the balloons long before they were able to pop out.

When they *did* pop out, my daughter chose that very moment to get upset and come jump into my lap crying. I had been snapping photos, but I kinda missed the money shot. And instead of bursting out of the box in a big ol' bunch, they kinda just drifted out anticlimactically, one or two at a time.

The balloons then ended up making it only a few feet before drifting right up into the branches of a nearby tree. I thought we were far enough away from it to avoid that.....nnnnnope!

*Then* my kids promptly began fighting over the other 3 balloons (there's one for *each* of you, people!), and spent several minutes running around chasing each other and crying.


Le sigh.

You can't have it all, right?

It didn't turn out perfectly, but the longer I'm a mom the more I come to accept that these kinds of things never do, or rarely will. I may not have gotten all the pinterest-perfect photos I was hoping for, but it's a memory that will always make me smile!

And so does the thought of having another sweet little girlie darling. :)

P.S. The girls will be nearly exactly 2 years apart...Kara's birthday is February 27th and BabyGirl is due March 3rd. My husband is betting they'll end up sharing a birthday. In which case I can throw them a big ol' double birthday bash and go doubly-crazy on the party planning each year...right, honey?

;)  ;)  ;)


My Oh My, The Time Flew By...

(First can I say...Happy Beautiful Autumn! My absolute favorite time of year...I will look forward to it all year, every year, forever. I am loving these brisk days.)

Well, Goodness me.

It's been very nearly 4 months since I tended to my little corner of the web here! Hmm.

I've thought about sitting down and trying to write many a time, but you know...insert normal excuses here. Summer was full and busy and quite...eventful. :)

I do have one not-so-common, pretty legit excuse for disappearing, at least for a little while.

In fact, I gots some

Big News.

News that surprised even me in mid-July, and had me feeling not so hot for awhile.

(*Hint Hint* *Wink Wink* *Nudge Nudge*)

I'm sure y'all can probably guess what I'm getting at...soon I will be calling myself

A mother of 4!!!

That's right...another sweet little squishy baby will be mine to hold again in late February or early March, right after my daughter's 2nd birthday.

(Wait, time out, WHAT? She will actually, eventually TURN TWO? I don't believe it, I won't...)

Ya know, I had this thing when I was in first grade...the same age my oldest child is now...I *loved* the number 6. I was 6 years old, I had lost 6 teeth, I had 6 people in my family, and there were a whole bunch of other cute and random reasons that led me to decide that 6 was most *definitely* my favorite number.

And that I wanted a family of 6 someday too. :)

And I kinda love how that little 6-year-old plan of mine is coming true. It truly is a little crazy how you can have such a clear memory straight out of childhood (seriously, I remember exactly what my elementary school hallway looked like, and I remember standing outside the bathroom once, telling someone about my love of "6"...), and now time has blitzed forward and I'm 30. Mom of 3, expecting a 4th.

Does this mean I'm supposed to be grown-up?


So, the early-prego-yuckiness hit me hard for awhile (not too hard, but worse than my previous experiences), and staying up late was out of the question. Nothing defeats my inherent night-owlness like early pregnancy. I start to doze at 8 pm, and grrrr, that drives me crazy! So there went blogging.

But I'm happy to say that I've officially reached the glorious 2nd trimester where the nasties disappear, and that fabulous nesting energy kicks in. I LOVES it. Wish I could bottle it up and hoard it away in the cupboards for after the baby arrives. :)


Of course, as always, and even more than ever, my mind is revolving around the all-encompassing topic of my life....

that of motherhood.

It's hard, ya know?

Rewarding, yes.

A blessing, indeed.

But hard.

Some days, for maybe like 2 seconds, you feel like you might, just might, deserve the title of "Supermom." But that's not what the everyday is like. The vast majority of the everydays involve scrambling, rushing, dashing through the routines...the getting to school or the appointments on time, the running errands and buying food and making meals and so on and so on. Or, on the flip side, some everydays are slow, dragging everydays, where you feel locked in the house. A house filled with dual choruses of crying toddlers and complaining grade-schoolers and meals you prepared that barely get touched and toys that always spread themselves *everywhere* and it seems like the children's bedtime will never, ever come.

And then, even after all your work, all your scraping-together-your-patience, your enduring through the endless requests and demands and problems, you don't usually allow yourself to sit back and feel satisfied with your hard work (because it is most definitely HARD WORK)...

...Instead, too often, you sit and feel guilty about your shortcomings as a mother. You beat yourself up for not being better: more patient, more creative, more skinny, more attentive, more fun, more more MORE...

...and you allow that tidal wave-type feeling of "I'm a failure" to wash over you, pulling you down, down, down.

And it's so not right, ya know?

Happens to me all the time. Happens to all of us at some point, I'm convinced...even that mom who I watch who I'm convinced is the epitome of Supermom. She LOOKS endlessly patient and IS incredibly creative and IS gorgeous and skinny and works out all the time and she's fun and a fantastic cook and housekeeper and interior decorator and everything else....

I'm convinced even she cries behind closed doors sometimes.

And you know what? I find more and more that hearing about the experiences of other mothers and their similar struggles is an infinite source of inspiration and support to me. Not in a "misery loves company" kind of way, but in a "I'm really not alone in this" kinda of way. It helps me to decide that I should really just stop (STOP!) this whole beating myself up thing, and instead free myself a little by realizing and accepting the truth...

Motherhood is hard, period. It's dang hard work. For everyone. Everyone is learning and struggling and sure, sometimes triumphing. But it is never perfect and never, ever, ever will be. And that is, most indeed, OKAY. 

What matters is not that we be perfect, but that we find the consistent courage to pick ourselves up again each day and

Try, Try Again.

So many mothers out there...in my neighborhood, in my family, in the wide, grand blogosphere... keep me tryin' and keep me goin', because they keep on tryin' and keep on goin'. ;) They remind me to appreciate the sweetness of motherhood amidst the mess of it...to hold onto the tender moments buried in between the difficult ones, to treasure the little things that are so common and so everyday now, but someday will live only as memories, and will pull at my heartstrings in an aching kind of way.

I want to learn to better appreciate these "normal" days. They are treasures.


On that note, I want to share my recent discovery that inspired many of these thoughts: 

"Finding Joy," a blog by Rachel Martin. 

She's a mom of 7 (boom!) who writes about motherhood with a kind wisdom. She tells it like it is, but with humor and lightness and grace and hope for all of us moms out there fighting the good fight. I came across a link to this post of hers on Facebook one day, and can I tell you...it felt providential. It was so absolutely needed, and at that exact time. Just hours before I'd had a breakdown, crying and telling my husband about my feelings of "I'm a failure." Her words were exactly what I needed, and reading them buoyed me up. Each new post from her gives me a renewed sense of courage and purpose, and a desire to find joy in the little things, the everyday, despite everything that is hard. It's writing like hers that makes me grateful for this wide landscape of the internet, and the way that it enables people, and particularly women, to connect and communicate about and cope with all that they go through.

Just today (again, Providence!) she wrote a post compiling her Top Ten Posts on Motherhood.

(One of my very favorites of the ten: The Pinterest Perfect Real Mom. It's a great reminder that our lives as mothers don't have to be picture-perfect and pinterest-worthy for us to consider ourselves a success.)

If you need a little boost, a little encouragement...and who doesn't?....Go and read one or two of Rachel's posts. I guarantee there's something there just for you. :)

Rachel's blog is full of so many beautiful photographs of her family and their life and home. I love the little details that are captured in so many of these images....they are those moments in family life that we too often consider to be "common," when really, they are some of the most special memories a mother and her family will make. In perusing her blog, I was often thinking how amazing it was that Rachel had the time and ability to not only raise those 7 babies, but also to have such an amazing collection of writing *and* document her life so thoroughly and beautifully in photographs. I've recently discovered that many of them are taken by her oldest daughter, Hannah. The fact that Rachel showcases the gorgeous talents of one of her children as such an important part of her blog makes me love it all the more.

(Photo via Finding Joy)

Hannah wrote this post for her mom back in August while her mom was traveling, accompanied by some sweet photos, like the one above. Hannah's love for her siblings and her family is evident and heartwarming. I was also thrilled to discover that she even has a fantastic blog of her own, full of her photography and writing. She is a self-described "old soul," and it shows. She's obviously one amazing teenager.

I'm grateful to Rachel for her insights into motherhood and finding joy...it's clear as day that she's doing something very, very right. :)


My 1st Prom-inent Picture Project. (Pun So Totally Intended.)

(Can I just say, before I begin... me = total slacker! No blog posts for a month! Insert standard apology and promise to be better in the future here. ;) M-kay, moving on...)

So I have this idea that I may want to go into business as a photographer someday.....maybe. Possibly. I'll be honest, the idea both scares me and thrills me at the same time! To take into one's hands the responsibility of documenting someone's life is a big deal. I know how much the pictures I pay for mean to me! The concept of being on the other side of the photographer-client relationship is pretty intimidating to me.

But, whether I ever work my way up to shooting as a professional or not, I love photography and I'm always looking for fun projects and opportunities to improve my skills. So...you can imagine how excited I was a month ago when my little brother Jared asked me to photograph him and his large group of friends before their prom! How much more fun does it get than photographing 8 good-lookin', decked-out prom couples?! I was completely stoked...with a dash of terrified, I can't deny it!

But I had SO much fun!

I was crazy nervous as the photoshoot approached, but I think it went fantastic! The girls and guys were so great and I think they had fun too. Even though I'm a complete amateur, I tried to act professional and confident and...ya know...like I really knew what I was doing. ;) I may be a total novice, but I strongly believe in the saying "Fake it 'til you make it." And after all, every crazy-amazing professional photographer I admire was a beginner at some point, right?

Needless to say, I loved it!!!

The ladies all looked absolutely beautiful!
(and wow, prom dresses are *so* much cuter than when I was in high school!)

And the gents were so dapper in their tuxes and suits!
(Pose -- Totally their idea. Totally cute!)

My handsome little bro Jared and his lovely date Ayrika.

So yeah. It was awesome. :) I think I may really have the bug for doing photoshoots now, and I don't know that I'll ever get rid of it. Which would be ok with me. :)

It also made me really nostalgic for high school. How am I almost 30?

When Jared and I were trying to decide on a good location, our dad suggested the beautiful new walking path on the South campus of my (awesome) alma mater, Brigham Young University. This path existed when I was a student there 10 years ago, but back then it was old, overgrown, and not all that pretty. But over the last few years the area was completely redesigned and relandscaped, and it was completed in the spring of 2011. I had never yet seen the path myself since it was finished, so I decided to head over the evening before the photoshoot and scout it out a bit with my 5-year-old son Thomas.

Now it is absolutely gorgeous! I was so impressed and amazed at the improvements. There's a beautiful new stone walkway with a lovely little stream flowing alongside the whole length of it, and waterfalls! LOTS of waterfalls!

All the original, mature trees frame the path perfectly, isolating it from the busy campus above and street below. As my little guy and I walked from one end to the other, I was having a really hard time deciding where to stage the photos the next day!

I found a hundred lovely spots that would work great for photos of each prom couple, but the major concern I had was where to take a large group shot along a narrow path. When I discovered this circular alcove set off the walkway I couldn't help but think it was totally designed with photographers in mind...it was *perfect* for a large group! The tiered stone landscaping made a gorgeous backdrop!

Gorgeous, loved it, can't wait to go back! 
(But being there makes me miss college like crazy!)

I shoot with a Nikon D90 DSLR. I've owned it for almost 2 years now and I am still very much in the process of learning how to take full advantage of its capabilities. In fact, before this photoshoot, I had never worked in manual modes. Ever. I've always been afraid to get out of automatic, especially when it comes to special occasions and important photos. But I decided to do a little bit of reading and studying up on manual modes, and after experimenting a bit, I'm so bummed that I didn't start 2 years ago!

No editing was done to these two shots...they are exactly as they came off my camera. No flash was used for either shot. The pic on the left was taken in automatic. The pic on the right was taken in Aperture priority, with the ISO and white balance adjusted. The lighting looks SO much better! I know the image is still not perfect, and I still have a lot (a LOT) to learn about both the technical and artistic aspects of photography, but I am so amazed at the improvement just a little bit of knowledge and a few adjustments can make! I will never be hesitant to work in manual modes again!

As I was "studying up" for the photo shoot I got a lot of awesome tips from my friend and neighbor Niki Martins, who is a fabulously talented photographer. She does a series of posts on her website called Tips for Tuesday. Each of her posts focuses on a specific, basic element of photography and breaks it down so it's not so intimidating for a novice like myself! I think picking the brain of a photographer is a great resource for learning...every one of them had to start somewhere too, and they have so much insight to give about what they wish they would have known or done when they were beginners!

Another great resource of learning for any level of photographer is Digital Photography School. This is an excellent free site with *tons* of useful, well-written articles and posts written by photographers on just about every photography-related topic you can think of! Natalie Norton, one of my favorite photographers of all time, writes posts for them often. She has a particular knack for teaching through writing, and particularly for diffusing my anxiety!

So...if you've got a DSLR in your hot little hands and you feel overwhelmed about learning how to use it...like I have been...don't be! It feels intimidating when there is so much to learn about photography, but I've realized more and more that it's ok and *ding ding ding* normal to acquire the knowledge in little bits and pieces....no photographer ever learned it all at once. Small steps and little improvements over time will eventually add up to an arsenal of knowledge!

Me like taking pictures. ;) I'm excited for all that's in store as I (hopefully) continue to improve both my skills with the gear and my understanding of the art.

(Thanks for the opportunity bro!)


Tip Junkie: Awesome (Free) Printables Aplenty!

Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week at my son's elementary school. He's a kindergardener, and my oldest, so I'm new to all this stuff. I wanted to come up with a cute gift for his teacher, so naturally I turned to Pinterest. Of course. Right?


I'm still working on my creative talents (I'm afraid of modge-podge, y'all!) and I gotta admit...I was overwhelmed after looking at all the crazy crafty teacher gifts people make! I had left myself with only one day to come up with something, and I wasn't really looking to go all-out. I needed something that required minimal effort, little-to-nothing to buy, and not a lot of time. But something cute, of course!

I love subway art, so I decided just to look for a free printable. There are always free printables floating around on the internet, and you can definitely find many through Pinterest, but I hit the jackpot when I discovered

Tip Junkie!

I don't know how I haven't run across this site before!

Tip Junkie has a wealth of info on *everything*.....15,000 tutorials on crafts/DIY, home decor, food, gifts, parties, and there are *tons* of free printables!

Lots of free, cute anything = YAY! Don't you agree?

And the site has a very attractive, organized setup with an easy search to find whatever you're looking for...a big deal for this beginner. I just clicked on the "Printables" tab at the top of the page, then typed "Teacher" in the search field at top right. There were SO many cute ideas and printables to go with them!

I chose this one...

(pic via me) ;)

...ran and bought a $3 frame at Walmart (and some candy too), threw 'em in a gift bag, topped with this cute printable card...

(pic via Tip Junkie)

...and ba-BAM! It made me feel like I tried pretty hard.

But I so didn't. ;)

Check out Tip Junkie, it's fantastic! It miiiiight even rival Pinterest as my go-to website in the future!


Proof Positive: Why Pinterest Ain't Just For The Girls.

So I have news.

Little news really. Perhaps silly news. But news that nonetheless makes me excited, a little bit mischievously giddy, and still has me surprised.






Now let me explain something to ya'll...

My husband is a rather rugged guy. A manly man. He was raised in Wyoming on a diet of hunting, fishing, hiking and dirt-biking. He can gut a deer. (Ew.) He works in construction and drives a big ol' truck. His free time is generally split between working out and either riding a motorcycle or making plans involving riding a motorcycle. He's allergic to shopping. He wouldn't be caught dead wearing pink.

He's kind of a hunter/gatherer type, sort of a modern-day caveman.

(That was meant as a compliment, honey.) ;)

(Me and the man.)

And, until now, he has absolutely refused to join any kind of social networking site or online community, including Facebook.

So you might think...especially if you are a male and reading this post..."What on Earth is the guy thinking? Isn't Pinterest the online mecca of anything and everything girly?"

I can see where that idea comes from. Pinterest has quickly been stereotyped as a "chick thing." Women love Pinterest, and we dominate it, there's no denying it. From it's inception, the concept of "pinning" was snatched up eagerly by women everywhere. And of course, women pin what women like: Clothing, jewelry, shoes, crafts, recipes, home decor, and so on. Indeed, Pinterest attracts ladies in vast quantities.

But take a look at your wife's Pinterest account. Sure, the page you see is chock-full of pictures of casseroles, clothing and curtains. But take note that behind all that is a plain ol' gray/beige background. A blank canvas. There's no graphics, no cutesy embellishments, nothing blatantly feminine at all. That's because, despite the stereotype, it's not specified for women! 

All Pinterest is, is a tool for digital organization. It gives you the ability to list and link to your interests and favorite things online, and your lists are displayed *VISUALLY*.

That's it.

You know that tab at the top of your screen?


That annoying list you keep adding to, but never, ever, EVER look at again?

After Pinterest you'll never use Bookmarks again. With Pinterest, you end up with a visual collection of your favorite things from around the web...a group of photographs and images that you choose and "pin" yourself. Each image you pin links back to the exact webpage from whence the image originated. As you pin, you place your pins into your own chosen categories, or "boards." You end up with a visual catalogue of the things you love, and the links to find them again. It's a gallery, a collection designed entirely by you. It's as good as your own personalized digital magazine.

It's awesome!

Pinning is not "just for chicks." Pinning is for anyone, interested in anything.

It's for sports fanatics, political buffs, or fly fishermen.

For techies, entrepreneurs and Nascar fans.

For travelers, foodies and motorcycle enthusiasts (that would be my husband).

It's for absolutely any human being whatsoever. It's ridiculous to avoid it just because women appreciated it's awesomeness first!

So, I have a dare for you gentlemen out there:

Try Pinterest for a few hours. Search around for the things you like, check out the pinboards of other people with similar interests, create a few boards of your own, and then tell me...

I dare you to tell me.....

That you don't like it the teeniest little bit!


I'm sure you're probably thinking I convinced my husband to join Pinterest. Perhaps I persuaded, manipulated or wheedled him into it. Perhaps for the sake of this very post!

Well I'm happy to tell you...


I most certainly did not convince my husband to join Pinterest.

My brother did.

And they both love it!


One more tip for you gentlemen: If your wife or girlfriend is on Pinterest, using it yourself could win you


Do you always feel clueless about what to get her for her birthday, your anniversary, Valentine's Day, or, shall we say, Mother's Day? (It's this Sunday pal!) Sneak around her Pinterest boards. I can pretty much *guarantee* you'll find major gift inspiration hidden therein! If she's like me or many of the girls I know, she likely already has a Pinterest board titled something like "My Wishlist." Buy her those shoes she pinned, or that necklace, or heck, cook her one of the meals from the 2,000 recipes she has pinned! I promise she'll be impressed!

But, enough of my cajoling. Guys...give Pinterest a shot. Seriously. It's fun, even if you own a Y chromosome.


P.S. Ladies: if you don't have a pinboard titled "My Wishlist," go make one NOW!

P.P.S. Husband: Hint Hint Hint Hint Hint Hint Hint....


Ocean Inspirations

I know I've been missing in action for awhile again...but!... I have a really good reason, promise!

I went to Hawaii for 10 days.


We spent spring break on the beautiful Big Island with my husband's parents, his siblings and their families. We all stayed in a big, beautiful house near Kona, on the West coast of the island. This was the view right out of the backyard:

(Ocean + Sunset = Inevitable Beauty.)

Pretty amazing, no?

The home was so open, with huge sliding glass doors everywhere and exterior hallways. Even just sitting in the living room, you could enjoy the feel of the balmy ocean breeze all day long!

Sorry, I don't mean to brag. ;)

I did have access to the internet while we were there, but you can probably guess why I wasn't around the world-wide-web much!

(Cute kids, cute hubby.)

We returned home a week ago and I really miss the sound of the ocean lulling me to sleep every night, and days full of excursions that wore my kids clean out! But I can say, I was truly happy to come home again. A long vacation with 3 children under the age of 6 was definitely a bit of work, as you can imagine!

(Even Hawaii can't save me from doing laundry!)

Inspired by my days on the ocean, I had a few fabulous finds I wanted to share with you!

I love swimming, the beach and the ocean, but I have to confess...my aversion to wearing a swimsuit often gets in the way of me loving those things as much as I could. Shopping for swimsuits stresses me out to the max. I tend to avoid it at all costs. However....I think I may have found a swimsuit company that has nearly cured my hatred of swimsuits!
Hapari has so many cute styles and options to choose from, and they are flattering! I absolutely love them! I bought two swimsuits from them last summer, when I was 6 months post-partum with my daughter. I was terrified to wear a swimsuit, but I was surprised how much I liked the way they looked on me, and even better, how supportive they were!

Love their cute Bandeau Tankinis, new this year!

I particularly love that they carry plus sizes, and they have a good selection of swim skirts and shorts. They have a lot of great styles if you are one of those ladies that likes to cover up a little bit more in swimwear, like me.

I was actually happy to wear my suits again in Hawaii! I didn't feel stressed at all wearing them at the beach, and I even wished I had bought a new one for our trip, just for fun! They also sell swim cover-ups, junior swimsuits, men's swimwear, and Shores, their own line of those fabulous half-tees that are so perfect for layering!

Hapari suits are not what you would call cheap, but I think they have very reasonable prices for how well-made they are. Tankini tops are pretty much all $49, and bottoms average about $30. $80 for a suit might sound expensive, but I've found most swimsuits really aren't very much cheaper. And for me, the cost is worth it to have a quality-made suit that makes me feel comfortable and confident!

So go check 'em out! They have a ton of awesome reviews, and they ship quick! If you are local to the Utah County area, they also have a small shop in American Fork. Hope you find something you love!

Something else I love?

Pretty nail polish!

Finding time to paint my nails is a luxury these days, but before we went to Hawaii I wanted to paint my toes a fun, ocean-inspired color. I hit the jackpot when I found "Radiant" by Revlon. It's full of pretty blue, green and silver glitter and reminds me of mermaids! I meant to get a cute picture of my sparkly toes in the Hawaiian sand, but it didn't happen. So here's a cute shot of the polish courtesy of the ever-helpful Google!

Speaking of mermaids...

I did pop online a time or two while I was in Hawaii, and I think I literally *gasped* when I caught my first glimpse of the amazing new Mermaid Party designed by my favorite party expert, Kim at The TomKat Studio!

Kim's daughter Kate turned 5, and Kim created an absolutely gorgeous, Ariel-inspired soiree for her and her closest friends. The party had so many amazing details! I can't help but adore it even more for the abundant use of my favorite color, Aqua. ;)

That little girlie is so lucky to have such an awesomely creative mommy! I may just have to throw this party for Kara someday! Kim makes it super easy to use her creative genius as inspiration for your own parties...she gives specific information on what she used for each element of the party and where she purchased just about every single product. You can find the whole Mermaid printable collection Kim designed, along with many of the exact products she used, at her very own, fabulous and brand-new shop!

Can't wait to see the party Kim comes up with for her little girl next year!

I miss Hawaii, but here in Utah it is beautiful right now...I love seeing the trees blossoming, the green reemerging, and the longer hours of sunshine. I am so excited that spring has truly arrived! On the warmest days (like this week...in the 80's, wow!), I even taste a little touch of summertime that gets me all giddy inside. 

And the view off my own back porch isn't too shabby...

(Lake + Mountains + Sunrise = Ain't Bad Either.)


Hope your spring breaks were wonderful!


Almost Ridiculously Amazing: Etsy!

(More than 2 weeks without a blog post...yee-IKES! Sorry for slacking! Life is always busy busy busy, as I'm sure ya'll can relate!)

This post has been a long time coming! I've been wanting to write about my new love affair...

(Love these adorable vintage tulle corsage shoe clips! You can find 'em at the Etsy shop here!)

If you have not yet become acquainted with the vast awesomeness that is Etsy...

You NEED to.

And I don't just mean introduced!

Most anyone who likes pretty things and has the internet has heard of Etsy....

...has probably at least given a passing glance to Etsy...

But I guarantee if you really sit down with Etsy for awhile, search it out, get to know all that it has to offer...

You. Will. Be. Amazed.

If by chance you're not that familiar with it, this is the best way to describe it:

It is the largest craft fair in the *world* -- online. It consists of hundreds...or probably more like thousands...of individual sellers and shops, selling any kind of product hands can make: blankets, quilts, clothes, dresses, costumes, jewelry, bath & beauty products, home decor, party decor, craft supplies, photography, art, even shippable edible items. It's also a wonderful resource for buying and selling vintage items.

Etsy is a place where people with creative talents can truly shine, and share their art with those who will truly admire and appreciate it!

One thing I love so much about Etsy is how it empowers people...most of them women...to use their talents, to do what they love, and support themselves doing it. It connects those who are artists in the handmade community with those who are searching for handmade products that they can't find locally or they can't create themselves. This amazing online marketplace has created opportunities for people with artistic and creative abilities to overcome the concept of "starving artist" and become successful entrepreneurs!

I also think Etsy has helped promote a resurgence in the popularity of domestic skills. Generations ago some of those skills...like sewing...were common across the board. Now sewing skills have become a prized commodity, especially as some say it's become a "dying art." Well, I think Etsy is proof positive that it's not a dying art anymore! People have started to appreciate more and more the value of buying beautiful, quality handmade items directly from the creators.

Etsy gets me excited...can you tell? =)

And for good reason! It provides a way to search what is essentially on online database of artisans from all over the world! If I want something hand-made...pretty much anything at all...chances are I can find someone who's either already selling it, or someone who could be commissioned to make it. The possibilities are endless!!!

For example...I really wanted Kara to have a beautiful handmade party dress for her birthday. But, I don't sew. At all. I do know several people who can sew, but only do so on occasion, and I waited way too long to ask someone to make me a dress. So, I took to Etsy!

It wasn't long before I came across the shop Vintage Pearl. This gorgeous boutique is absolute eye candy, filled with oodles of incredibly lovely and unique vintage-inspired clothing, jewelry and hair accessories. Shop owner Angela (a wife and mother to 3 beautiful girls) impressed me immediately with not only her obvious talent as a seamstress and a designer, but her talents as a photographer as well. And did I mention? She's completely gorgeous and models many of her creations herself.

Yep, that's her!

As part of her shop description she wrote:

"Years of desiring unique vintage clothing for my girls and photography clients inspired me to create my own! To be both photographer and designer allows me complete creative control. This keeps inspiration from each idea's beginning to the photographing and listing of my item, as well as the love of creating a unique piece for my customers, complete when I ship my art off to it's new home! It is a joy from start to finish for me."

To me, that perfectly sums up the fabulous concept of Etsy! It's a place where artists can truly find fulfillment doing what they love and make beautiful creations that other people can not only enjoy, but be inspired by as well! I can tell you right now....using Etsy has me more and more excited to learn to sew! Because every single one of those crazy-talented seamstresses was a beginner once too, right?

Sorry...I keep schmoozing. =) Back to my dress search...

As I looked through Angela's creations, I fell in absolute love with this aqua and rose floral fabric in one of her dresses that she stated was "rare and out of print."

However, the style of dress I loved the most was her knot dress with apron (also in gorgeous vintage-inspired fabrics).

I sent Angela a message through Etsy asking her if she could create a custom dress for me, made with the beautiful aqua floral fabrics but in the style of a knot dress with apron instead of a sundress. She was so accomodating and created an absolutely perfect dress for me! And not only that...I let her know that I was kind of late getting around to ordering a dress and asked if I could make a rush order. From the date of that first conversation to the day the dress arrived on my doorstep was a grand total of about 7 days!

Kara looked so beautiful in her special dress....like a darling little milkmaid. Perfect for her shabby chic 1st birthday party!

One more thing that enamors me about Etsy is that I love the idea of purchasing things that can become heirlooms and keepsakes. I wanted Kara's party dress to be something special, and even though I couldn't make it myself, I took a small part in it's creation. I imagined what I wanted, then I looked and looked until I found someone who could help me make my little vision a reality. And not only was it perfect for her first birthday, it will be something I will cherish for a lifetime! And if I'm lucky, maybe I'll get to see it on my little granddaughter someday. =)

I also ordered some beautiful fabric bunting banners for Kara's party, through the Etsy shop Blue Sky Bunting. The shop owner Judith was actually located in England, but I was so in love with these beautiful and hard-to-find specialty fabrics ("Tilda" fabrics by Tone Finnanger, a European designer) that I paid to have these banners shipped "across the pond." Judith was an absolute pleasure to work with! I must admit, I've never been to England, but I'm a sucker for romantic British literature, and I love England for all of it's beauty and history. It gives me a little bit of glee knowing these banners have a touch of British charm! I can't wait to be able to reuse them for tea parties and fun phootshoots!

I adored the "mini" bunting that I used on my mantle...so tiny and sweet!
It will have a permanent home in my daughter's bedroom!

If you love the bunting banner trend, another one of my favorite Etsy shops is Starlit Nest. Shop owner Alison makes not only amazing banners, but gorgeous coordinating quilts and doll quilts! I plan to purchase some of her items for some fun photoshoot ideas I have...probably the only reason I haven't ordered yet is because I have no idea how to decide between her hundreds of gorgeous designs!

I also discovered a little secret about Etsy that I have to share with you:

If you need someone to design a logo, a blog template, an invitation or most any kind of printable product, Etsy is a fantastic place to look for graphic design services! Many designers have premade options but will customize designs for you as well.

I wanted to have a beautiful invitation made for Kara's birthday, and I lucked out when I found Clarissa of Poofy Prints! I loved her style and contacted her asking if she could design a custom invitation for me. Even though she was technically taking a break from her work at the time, she was incredibly kind and agreed to create one for me. I ended up having her design adorable matching cupcake toppers and favor tags as well. And she was able to rush all the designs for me!

See how amazing all these artists are? I could go on and on! My first experiences with Etsy were 200% positive and every shop owner was wonderful to work with! I gotta say...the more I interact with people in the crafting/handmade community, the more I come to see that they are so incredibly *nice*! It's all the more fun buying pretty things when the people you're buying them from are genuinely friendly and kind!

So if you haven't ever used Etsy...go check it out! If you've looked into it just a tiny bit, go search around a bit more...you'll be surprised at the vast offerings and just how specific you can make your searches! And if you already know and love Etsy, well...I'm happy to join your club. ;)

Here's a few more shops I'm in love with:

Little Town Boutique - Etsy is *the* place to look if you're looking for pretty hair accessories for girls and ladies! There are *gazillions*! I first heard of Little Town Boutique through the fabulous photographer Skye Johansen. She's been photographing my kids for 3 years now and she has the most gorgeous (and ginormous!) collection of headbands and flowers, many from Little Town! That's my little newborn baby girl modeling one of their pretty creations.

The Wheatfield - This shop is brimming with cute, colorful, whimsical and inspirational art prints! I love this "What a Wonderful World" print. But really, I could buy every single thing in this shop!

Yvette Inufio Photography - Oh my. Yvette creates the most delicious and dreamy vintage-inspired photographs! She states that all the indoor photographs are taken inside her own home...I wanna go live with her! I love this print, titled "There's a party in my room and my only guest is the light."
Kandid Designs - Katie offers professional logo and marketing designs, and I love her style! All her logos are so classy with just the right touch of whimsy. Most of her logos are premade, but you can have her tweek them or customize them to look just how you want! Someday...someday, I hope to be a photographer, and looking through this shop makes me want to pick out a name and get a logo right now, just for the fun of it! (Am I the only weirdo who loves a good logo?)

Like I said...I could go on and on! Don't let me take any more of your time...get Etsy-in'! ;)

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