Monday, February 7, 2011

33 February Challenge: Project Photography {camera}

I worked on purging pictures this weekend, but more importantly, when I placed new pictures on our computer, I actually went through and deleted them and got them in their correct folders {right away!}  It felt so good to do the right thing with them and know that I finally had some sort of good system that was easy to manage!  YIPPEE!  Now, I just need to keep scheduling time and plucking away at the backlog....  Hopefully the rest of you working on the project are finding some good benefits and making some progress!  Thank you to you all for leaving so many helpful tips and comments!

Today I am finally going to post about something SO long overdue.  Like barely a day goes by where I don't get the following question:

"Can you tell me what kind of camera you use?"

Seriously, what took me so long to write up this post?

I actually used to use a Canon Powershot SX130 IS.  Loved that camera!  Many of the photos towards the beginning of the blog were with that camera.  All the way up through sometime in June 2010 when something awful happened...

I was holding my camera outside in our backyard when my two dogs got a little excited and were playing around right by my feet while I was trying to shoot a photo.  I tripped on the dogs, and the camera went flying.... and landed face down into the ground.  Gonzo.  Done.  Farewell.  It was full of mud, dirt and grass... it wouldn't turn on.  The lens was grinding.  I had tears.  Lots and lots of tears.

I knew I had wanted a DSLR for awhile, but we were waiting a year or two to take the plunge since they are much more expensive, and my previous camera could take a pretty good picture!  But now we were faced with a choice.  Invest another $250 or $300 into a replacement digital, or upgrade.  Knowing my long term goals and my passion for taking pictures... a DSLR is what made the most sense.

As much as I cried over the loss of my old camera, for me personally, it was a blessing in disguise.  My life would never be the same again....

I was really getting into blogs around that time, and I noticed I was really drawn to those with good photography.  I would look at their photos and long to be able to create similar versions.  So now that it was time to be in the DSLR market, I stalked my favorite blogs and found out the camera that they were using.  And it was oddly consistent that most were using the same one.  The Canon Rebel XSi.

I was already almost sold, because the best part of finding one via blog writers, is that they are basically reviewers and testimonials of the camera each and every day they post pictures from that camera.  I can see for myself the quality of images that can be created from the camera.

I was actually a little surprised and really glad that's how I determined my camera, because I automatically assumed a Nikon was the way to go.  I had only been looking at Nikon's til that point, but before making my purchase, I did a lot of research and side by side comparisons and ended up realizing that the Canon was actually the best fit for me.  I say, "for me" because we are all different looking for different things in our photography, and I am sure that Nikon was first in my brain for a reason...

Of course I stalked the UPS man and sat at my window until my new appendage arrived.  And once it didn't, it took .3 seconds to rip open the box and start shooting.

Here is a copy of the very first picture I took with my camera...

This was straight out of the camera, no editing, no messing with settings....  Sure colors could be enhanced and he is a little washed out, but the point of the story is that as nervous as I was about all the learning that was about to come with a DSLR, it was very good to me right away, straight out of the box.  I was able to take DECENT pictures and take my time learning how to take GOOD pictures and hopefully someday they will be GREAT pictures...

One of the first things I learned is that it's not always just about the camera body, as it is also about the lens you attach to it.  Mine came with a standard 18-55mm "kit" lens, meaning the lens was bundled with my camera when I purchased it.

This lens has actually been very good to me.  It is probably what 95% of my blog photos have been taken with.  A great starter lens for someone who knew nothing about DSLR cameras {and really still doesn't}.  Here are a couple of my favorite shots from this lens:

However, I wanted something that would be even better for portraits since I am SO in love with my boys and taking their pictures {you almost have to feel sorry for them!}...

A very consistent recommendation from others with the same camera {friends, blog writers, etc...}, was the Canon 50mm 1.8.  Little did I know that not only was it great for portraits, it offers great bokeh {blurry background}, so I use it for all sorts of things!  And the lens itself was around $100, so it was a fun investment.  The only thing hard to get used to is that it's a fixed lens.  Here are my some favs:

And last but not least.  My most recent indulgence.   I really wanted to upgrade my 18-55mm.  So I chatted with a friend who is an INCREDIBLE photographer {you know who you are}, and she mentioned she uses the Tamron 28-75 mm.  I have seen her work, so I already knew what the lens was capable of, but it was also more than I had ever spent on a lens.  So I invested $8 in a monthly subscription to clickinmoms, in which you can dabble in oodles of forums with loads of photography professionals.  I started up a thread asking about lenses.  What I had, what I was contemplating {between the Tamron, another and asking if there were some I hadn't considered}.  It was clear from the response, that the Tamron was going to be the winner, as one photographer said, "Once you receive that Tamron, you will want to toss your 18-55mm to the curb".  Alrighty then, that's what I needed to hear...

I actually just got the lens on Friday, so I can't speak to it much, but so far I am liking it.  I just need to play around with it to really see what it can do, and there just wasn't enough time for that this weekend... {enter frown here}...

I did make sure to snap a couple of on Saturday morning with it... here is what I ended up with...

I noticed it offers a lot more blurring of the background than my 18-55mm, which is exactly what I was going for...

I also wanted to mention quick that I always snag a lens hood or two, for my lenses....

I use hoods for two reasons.... 1: They stop stray light from getting in which reduces/eliminates flare and 2: They help protect my lens.

So there you have it!  That's my camera in a nutshell of a post! 

Many of you have asked about good cameras to invest in {DSLR and not}.  My advice is to just do your research, ask friends and family and ask to see the photos that their cameras produce.  I used Google a lot.  And again, the advice of other photographers and bloggers.  What cameras and lenses are you loving at the moment?

Wanna see more pics, you can always check out my photography blog here.

Friday, February 4, 2011

44 Buzzzzzing Like a Busy Bee!

Life can be so crazy sometimes!  You absolutely never know where it will take you, or how amazing it can become.  One day I am working too many hours at an Insurance company, the next I put in my notice to stay home with my babies. That is a blessing in itself, however, while home, I had an epiphany that I was slightly insanely OBSESSED with organizing.  Like crazy obsessed.  And it scares to me to think sometimes that if I would have stayed with my original career as a manager at a large company, I may never have realized or been given a chance to follow my real dreams.

Of course organizing and beautifying has always been a part of me.  Growing up, I would switch my bedroom around every other week trying out new ideas and I was always tapped into at the office to help with building spreadsheets.  And when peeps would pop by our house, I would get questioned for tips regarding organizing and decorating.  So this here blog was formed.  It was my fun way to share little things I was doing that were making my home more functional, simplified and beautified.  It was also to be my outlet to share my story along the way, in my desire to someday do this for a living.  I have never kept that a secret, I just also haven't been ready to fully take the plunge.  But anywho, I NEVER would I have thought that this blog would grow and expand to what it is today.  And seriously friends, I am SO incredibly grateful that it has.

I want to start out by saying THANK YOU!  For your daily emails with encouraging love and support.  It's always scary to follow your dreams, especially when you feel that your friends and family may not understand it to it's fullest potential {why would I leave a very successful career, to blog, open an Etsy shop and organize homes?}.  I say WHY NOT?  Why not be happy?  Why not do what you love?  Even though I know in my heart the "whys" to go for it, there are moments of feeling discouraged and nervous and unsure.  But you all give me that extra push every day, to keep going forward and not look back.  You give me a daily gift by leaving sweet comments, asking for ideas or advice and sending me lovely notes "just because".  Your gifts of encouragement are priceless to me.  You are my daily drive.  I will never be able to Thank YOU enough!

It's also because of you, that things have really taken off.  You see, I have always been a reader of Money Saving Mom, but somehow I missed the chance to guest post.  And had it not been for one of my blog readers, Heidi, I may never had known about the opportunity.  But because she took a second out of her busy day to send me the link and some encouragement to write up a Time Management post, I was published on their blog!!!

That post brought in a lot of traffic to this blog.  A lot of new love that I never would have found, or would have found me, had it not been for that post.

Since that post, I have been in my own personal haven.  I have realized that I AM NOT TURNING BACK!  I absolutely ADORE what I do!  I want to keep going!

What's different now you wonder?  Well, my support increased tremendously to a daily blushing amount.  This month alone, my Etsy shop boomed, my inbox flooded and I received my first three Style Tile orders!!

Yep, for the first time ever, my kitchen table looked a little like this:

I call this my "Dream Come True" picture.  My happy place. 

So, because when I started this blog, I vowed to keep you updated on my venture.  That is what I am doing today.

As I mentioned, I received my first three Style Tile orders in the month of January.  What is a Style Tile you ask?  Well, they started off as a way for me to throw together some inspiration for a space.  I did one for my bff when she asked me to help her with her bedroom update.

You can see how that turned out here.

Then, a reader wrote to me and asked for my design advice!  Yep, me.  I was so excited, I whipped up a style tile for her, as the easiest way for me to explain to her my vision.

She adored it and was excited to start taking the inspiration and ideas from the board, to implement them in her own space.  That's when I thought I would spread the word and give one away on the blog, here is what I came up with for the winner:

The style tiles had been for sale in my IHeart Services tab for awhile, however, nothing really happened with them until January, when I received a kind note from my reader, Gina.

Gina was in the middle of a large scale reno in her farm house, and wanted my help pulling together her kitchen and living room, using a mix of items she already had and adding in some new.  WOW!  I couldn't wait to get started working with her.

Because Gina was basically working from a blank slate, there weren't any "Before" photos, we just had to grab inspiration from current furniture pieces.  Gina sent me a description of the space layout along with her ideas and dilemmas and cabinets/fixtures that had already been decided upon.  I came up with a color plan and she found the perfect curtains.  We worked together until we got everything exactly as she wanted it, and here was the outcome of the project:

Along with her Style Tiles, Gina received a detailed source list and walk through of the space.  Here is what Gina had to say when we wrapped up the project:

"I love it! I love it! I love it!  {As do a bunch of my friends so hopefully you’ll be getting more business}  I’ll definitely send you pictures when it’s done!  The kitchen’s coming together now as we are putting down the tile floor right now and I’ll paint this week and have cabinets in by the weekend!   I’m VERY excited!

Thanks so much!  I’ll have more work for you when it comes to do the bathroom and living room on the main floor!"

My heart melted into a big happy gooey puddle.  I seriously wondered how I got so lucky.  And before I knew it, another order popped in!  I was on cloud nine and I refused to come back to earth!

Danielle contacted me to give her room some added storage, color and texture.  Here is a picture of her space:

She mentioned she liked greens and blues {my personal fav color combo!} and that she was going to tackle painting her mantle white, so here is what I had come up with for Danielle: 

A style tile is a great way of placing room decor and storage pieces together to snag a feel of how they would look in a given space.  They offer inspiration and guidance for making choices in your updates.  If you are interested in a Style Tile, you can purchase them here!

Oh, but that's not all I have been up to!  I am telling you, January was a fantastically fun, whirlwind month!

I received the following email from a Leanna:

"I run a small personal training business and part of my service offering is Weight Loss Coaching, called Breakthrough Weightloss.

I need a few things.  My program begins this Saturday and I understand if the time line is too tight, but here is what I need and a quote on these.

Meal Planning Organization tools.  I want them big, with magnets to post on the fridge and enough for 31 days in a month.

I need my logo, and colors and need somehow to include all these elements.

1.  Grocery list

2.  Daily menu
4.  Monthly overview?
5.  Exercise accountability?  somewhere
6.  Maybe somewhere to write their "skillset" small step, and their "mindset" small step for the week as well.

I am a life coach, and lots of your home organization resources could really support my clients to take control of their lives and see the results they want. 

Let me know!

Looking forward to your response.  I love your site!"

I can't tell you how quick I jumped on this incredible opportunity.  Again, we worked together until we got things just right, integrating all of her elements and colors into the designs, and here is what I ended up with:

When all was said and done, here is what Leanna had to say about the process and outcome:

"I am a small business owner who runs a personal training and lifestyle coaching company.  I was surfing the net looking for organizational resources one evening and came across IHeart Organizing! 

What a gem!  What I found was this super sweat, authentic and very practical website.  What I loved about it was it kept my attention with the great pictures and graphics. 

In one of my coaching programs “Breakthrough Weight Loss”, I support women to organize and plan their nutrition for themselves and their families.  This is the KEY foundation to success.  What I needed was some additional tools to support their organization and most important INTEGRATION of new skills and behaviors, and that’s exactly what Jen’s meal planning calendar did.

Jen’s prices are incredible, and I emailed her just to see if she could get something done not expecting it to be done in three days, the kick off of my next program.

She had it to me 2 days in advance which allowed to print, laminate and deliver an added bonus to my participants to ensure their success!

Thanks IHeart Organizing!!  I would recommend Jen and IHeart Organizing to any other small business, friend of family member.  Excellent prices, unbelievable service and time turnaround!

Hire her you won’t be disappointed!"
Leanna Martens {}

Totally cool right?  But the fun didn't stop there either!  

One item I had been getting some requests on, were children's chore charts.  I myself, absolutely NEEDED to get something like this put together for our own munchkins, and Angie gave me that last little push I needed to get it done!

Angie wrote, asking if I could help her get some chore charts created for her two angels.  She gave me the details like their ages, gender and responsibilities, also mentioning that she wanted some blank spots to add in additial items if necessary.  Here is what I came up with for Angie and her little ones:

Angie already has them printed and hanging above their backpacks hooks!!  

If you are interested in one for your little sweet pea, you can find them both in my Services tab and in my Etsy shop.  Spreadsheets are completely customizable, including a variety font choices and colors:

Aside from all of the special orders I mentioned above, the Cleaning Checklists, Meal Planning Calendars and Shopping lists have been flying off the shelves Etsy rack.  If they are ever out of stock, just shoot me a quick note and I will relist {which many have done, so THANK YOU!}

If you ever are looking for a type of spreadsheet or template that you don't see listed, make sure to email me at, and inquire.  Most likely I will be able to work with you to get something created special for your needs, and will send you an estimate on time/cost. 

At the end of the day, none of this would be happening without you!  You are making my dreams come true!  How do you thank someone for that?  It's the ultimate gift.  It's like winning the life lottery.  I will virtually hug you til the end of time....

So now I must ask, other suggestions on expanding my Etsy shop?  What would you like to see added?  Are there other tools that could be created to help streamline and simplify your day or your life?  I would heart to know what you think!

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