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Hope in the Valley

We are more than a month into 2017 and I can’t help but reflect on God’s provision over the last year. He provides every year – all the time, but looking back at the last year I have no idea how we would have made it without his guiding hand. Everyone says don’t talk about finances. It’s an uncomfortable subject, but we have to be uncomfortable, we have to show our humanity, and we have to admit our struggles in order to give God the glory. It’s not comfortable sharing something that makes us vulnerable, but when we do that’s when He can move. So I share this to give you encouragement and hope as well as a reminder to trust God in not only times of hardship, but at all times. He will provide uniquely for your situation.


Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air: They do not sow or reap or gather into barns — and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Matthew 6: 25-26


For the longest time, I was being stubborn and stuck in a selfish mindset that I wanted to be “comfortable”. The idea of working for someone else and not loving what I’m doing has always given me anxiety. I continuously called myself the exception and ignored the rule everyone else followed. My career plan didn’t turn out as planned. The curriculum for my degree was not what it needed to be in order for me to be successful and I lost direction. I was about to get married with no income, no career, and no concrete solution. It makes you feel like you’re less than adequate in today’s society. But blogging has been my passion, my solution, and my struggle. As I’m learning and as I’m growing, I’ve also been fighting through mental and emotional blocks. You know, the usual … depression, anxiety, lack of motivation, etc. It makes it hard to do anything. It makes it hard to blog and run a business on your own time.

Two months before we got married, Jonathan lost his job. He too didn’t know what direction he wanted to go in so he decided to focus on his business. Before long, he had racked up a good amount of debt and decided owning a business wasn’t for him … and then we got married. Two people unemployed and starting a life together. Tell me how that works. We struggled to pay the bills and ended up in even more debt. Jonathan started watching a lot of COPS and decided for the mean time he would take a minimum wage security job. And then, I found out I was pregnant. Amplify all of the depression, anxiety, and lack of motivation I already had on top of little to no energy and an emotional/hormonal pregnant woman and you’ve got a serious mess of a human. In my mind, we were not ready for a baby. We could barely take care of ourselves. How were we going to afford this? We had no healthcare let alone all the necessities and expenses a baby requires. I knew we would make it work – we had to, but I didn’t know how.

The security job wasn’t working out for Jonathan so we came to a crossroad. He decided to finally take up the calling he felt God had placed on his life years ago to be a police officer, but he would need to go to school and get a degree before he could go to police academy. It turned into a two year plan. Jonathan had always promised me that I didn’t have to work if I didn’t want to; he would provide. My one desire more than anything was to not have to work when I was pregnant and when I had a newborn. I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. I didn’t mind working from home, but I wanted to control my schedule so I can be there and available for my children. That wasn’t going to happen which made me feel even worst. We made the decision to send Jonathan back to school so he could follow his calling and I agreed to work in the meantime except I was still struggling with everything going on emotionally and mentally and couldn’t find a job that would pay enough to relieve the weight of our bills without the credentials or experience to back up my abilities.  I found myself in that dreaded catch 22. I finally got a temporary and part-time job as an admin at a university while the full-time admin was on sick leave. It helped us scoot by. By the time I left, I was in my third trimester. I didn’t work for those last two months before delivering. I had too much anxiety about finding a job just to leave it again. I would have been miserable if I had worked during that time and big props to those ladies who push through it and work up to their due date. Thankfully, we were able to work out a situation that allowed me to stay home.

We’ve hit 2017. We’ve got our baby with both of us happy and healthy. We have no medical expenses. We’ve never had to purchase or spend any money out of pocket for any baby-related items. We’ve never had our electricity or water shut off, although it’s come close. We don’t have rent or a house payment. Jonathan is currently in his last term and will start academy in the fall. How did we do it? I don’t know. We wouldn’t have without God’s provision. Financial aid covered all of his school and left us with enough to just barely live off of, we qualified for aid that covered our food for the month and the baby’s formula, healthcare that covered all of our medical expenses, our house was given to us as a wedding gift, we used the money from our wedding to renovate a room for the nursery  (which was not suitable or safe for a baby prior), and our baby shower literally showered us with everything we needed. We are surrounded by family who is so supportive. They are always there lending a helping hand when we needed help painting, emotional support, or needed someone to watch Landon while I started working full-time as of the new year. I was blessed to get the same position at the university I was in before after the other admin retired. We are making it and it took a while to get back onto our feet and we aren’t back to running yet, but we are getting there.

Jonathan was driving me to work the other day and we looked out the window and saw a man waiting for the bus. That’s not me. We may be down to one car at the moment, but even so that’s not me. I have a way to work, I have family who is willing to pick me up and take me home from work if I need it. Even with the hardships we’ve been going through, I am so so blessed. God’s hand has been in our situation from the beginning. He’s guided us, He’s provided for us, He’s blessed us. To Him be the glory.

 

 

Good Morning, 2017

As I sit here on my couch, I’m writing my annual new year’s post and I have no idea what direction I’m going to take it in this year. Of course, it will have my annual Year In Review Picture Show, but you’re also reading the birth of a thought – a thought that I need to hear myself and one that’s manifested as a result of other voices I’ve heard over the last few months. I’ve been reflecting on the past year, my life, how I want 2017 to go and what I want my life to look like a year from now. Isn’t that what we all do? Sit and reflect? Say this new year will be a better one because the past year wasn’t that great? We come up with resolutions to make our life better and then fall off the bandwagon a month or two or three down the road. Our year ends up looking like every other year … or maybe that’s just me.

How can we make this year different? And better than 2016?

Initiate the Boomerang Effect

When you look at people as a whole, we all just want to be happy and our happiness is derived from feeling loved, accepted, appreciated, healthy and successful. The best thing I’ve learned in my first year of marriage is to make the other person’s happiness become your own. And it’s hard because I’m a really selfish person and struggle with it, but when you put yourself out there for others before yourself, it ends up coming back to you. Kindness travels. Focus on becoming someone who is loving and kind to others. Focus on becoming someone who puts the needs of others before your own. It takes one person to start a chain reaction, but imagine how many more people could be reached if everyone made a change within themselves for the benefit of everyone. It would change the world.

You can’t force other people to love you, accept you, or appreciate you. Life doesn’t work that way. But if you do things for others that will make someone want to appreciate you and if you love and are accepting of others than people will want to return that not just to you, but to others as well. It becomes something like a boomerang; once you throw it out into the world it will eventually return to you – if not reaching other people before it does.

Start a Bucket List

Create a list of what you want to accomplish and do this year or even what you want to do over the course of your life. You can make a simple list or if you’re a visual person create a vision board.

I got to cross off three things on my bucket list/vision board in 2016. It was such a great feeling! Not because I necessarily accomplished something great, but because I’ve been able to say I’ve experienced something new that I wanted to experience. I did it in my lifetime and I can tell you about it. I can show you pictures from my wedding, tell you about my time in Ireland, or my experience being pregnant and giving birth to our first child. That’s so rewarding! What’s even more rewarding is saying you set a goal, worked hard to achieve it, and you did!

Get an idea of what you want so you can start setting goals to reach the really big ones.

Set Goals

You can’t get anywhere or do anything without goals. You HAVE to have them. You have to have them in order to be successful with anything. Even being healthy or financially stable requires goals. Our life is structured around it. It’s not just about becoming a millionaire or losing 100 lbs.  It’s paying the mortgage and healing from a cold. A goal is composed of an action and a time frame you need to complete the action in to achieve a certain result. For example: you have to do x, y, and z at work (the action) within 40 hours during a 5 day period (the time frame) in order to make x amount of money (the result). If you do that (the action) for 50 years (the time frame) then you get to retire (the result). It’s a formula. You can fill it in with whatever you want. Each result that you want gets broken down into smaller and smaller goals so it’s easier to achieve by focusing on something small one step at a time. The key is to figure out what you want out of life, get a game plan, take it one day at a time, stay positive and just do it.

You can’t rely on others for your happiness. You can’t hope for change and expect other people to make it. You have to do the dirty work. You have to become the best version of yourself. You have to be the one making a difference. It starts with you.

Final words of wisdom for the new year: You can’t control things that are out of your control. Make the best of your circumstances.

I love and appreciate you for finding your way here and reading this. I hope you have the best year yet in 2017. Reflect in the comments below and share with me your favorite memory from 2016, something you checked off of your bucket list in 2016/setting to check off in 2017, or a goal you’ve accomplished in 2016/set for 2017. Can’t wait to read your responses!

Holiday Gift Guide 2016

holiday2016giftguide

I’ve been hopping around the internet and along my travels have seen some pretty nifty and drool worthy products that would be great gift ideas – at least I would love to receive them! (In fact, some of them I have!) So if you’re stumped, hopefully these will inspire you for someone you’re shopping for or even to put on your own Christmas list.

Benefit Cosmetics Sassy Lassie

“Chick Picks” Beauty Bestsellers Kit

Benefit Cosmetics Sassy Lassie "Chick Picks" Beauty Bestsellers Kit
An all around great beauty gift for the makeup lover or the makeup dabbler. Some of Benefit’s greatest products all in one. All of these are great products for a simple, finished look or the base for a more glamorous ensemble.

Succulent Wall Art

8x10 Matted Print, Botanical Decor, Sage Green Floral Wall Art, 'Succulent Heart'
A beautiful print of your favorite cactus friend: the good ol’ succulent and a contemporary, in-style statement piece for any room that is certainly going to draw eyes and make people swoon.

HP Sprocket Printer

Image result for hp sprocket
This nifty little gadget fits in the palm of your hand and slips into a bag safe and out of sight for those special nights you know will be capturing memories and want to share them instantly. It doesn’t even need ink to print your Polaroids – and you can even turn your photos into stickers (what?!)!

 

Blue Morpho Butterfly Wing Necklace

Real Blue Butterfly Pendant, Blue Morpho, Real Butterfly, Nature Necklace, Blue Butterfly
Become one with the beauty of nature and show off the brilliance of one of the most “eye catching” butterflies in the world around your neck. (It’s a blue morpho – do you see what I did there?) 😉 *Butterfly wings are from farmed butterflies – not wild caught

 

Bonsai Tree Kit

Image result for Best Seller Plant Theatre Bonsai Trio Kit, 3 Distinctive Bonsai Trees to Grow
Grow your own bonsai tree with this kit. You can have a zen oriental garden experience growing before your very eyes. WARNING: Must have a green thumb.

Camera Lens Coffee Thermos

Image result for 350ml Caniam Camera Lens Travel Mug Lens Cup Tea Mug Black
For the photo lover, the coffee lover and especially the one who loves them both! I’m in love with my travel mug and take it with me everywhere. I’ve gotten so many compliments on it – even my husband steals it from me! Also, easy conversation starter if you run a photog business. 😉

Truth Serum Decanter

Image result for truth serum decanter
Pick your poison and fill the decanter with it. Play a game of truth or dare and if someone picks truth, make them drink. A pretty and unique piece for your bar and a fun edition to a classic party game.

Happiness Journal

Focus on what makes you happy and write lists down so that you never forget. This is great to help you focus on the good instead of the bad and serves as a reminder of something to go to when you’re feeling down. For the one who loves to journal and the one who loves to make lists.

 

Himalayan Salt Crystal Lamp

Image result for WBM Himalayan Glow Hand Carved Natural Crystal Himalayan Salt Lamp with Genuine Neem Wood Base, Bulb and Dimmer Control, 8-to-9-Inch, 8-to-11-Pounds
Not only is it just a gorgeous piece for the home, but the added health benefits are a huge selling factor. I have two of these and I want one in every room of the house.

 

Planetarium Light Projector

Image result for Parrot Uncle 270 Degree Rotating Laser Twilight Stars Hologram Projector - Constellation, Nebula and Galaxy Projection
After hunting for a while, this was the only planetarium light projector I could find that looked beautifully realistic and was more than just for a kid’s bedroom. Although, great for kids this is something that would be cool even for adults. I’m also loving the aurora and ocean light projectors as well.

Hope you enjoyed this unique list of gift ideas for Christmas. Have you purchased any of these? What did you fall in love with from this list? If you love makeup, I will be posting my makeup wishlist next week so stay tuned for that!

loveamanda

My Pregnancy Experience

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First Trimester

After mother nature decided not to visit me one month, I started noticing some small changes with my body. These changes made me feel like I wasn’t myself and I knew there was definitely something going on. Occasional cramping out of the blue that didn’t last very long, the girls became tender, I wanted to take naps more frequently, and all of a sudden I was visited by dreaded sciatic back pain that left me in tears a few times.

A couple positive pregnancy tests and appointments later, it was confirmed that there was a little bun in the oven. I was unsettled by the smell of meats and gravitated toward fruits and vegetables, but never had any morning sickness. I didn’t specifically notice an increased need to visit the loo at this point, but I started to become even more emotional than usual. So far so good. Normal pregnancy symptoms, but nothing that made me miserable. At this point, it was mostly getting used to the idea that I was going to be a mom.

Second Trimester

My first ultrasound came at the beginning of my second trimester right before we headed off to Ireland for a week and a half. Baby liked to curl up in a ball and play with its feet. Baby was also finicky and didn’t like to pose for pictures making it a bit difficult for the tech to see everything she needed to. It was on our trip that we found out the results of the Harmony test I had. Baby is a boy and perfectly healthy – no genetic issues. His name was going to be Landon Scott. It was on our trip to Ireland that I decided after seeing all of the sheep that we were going to incorporate them into Landon’s nursery theme. On the flight home, I felt him move for the first time. It was a very memorable trip.

itsaboy

They say second trimester is the easiest and I would agree with that for sure. I was still tired a lot, but felt like I had a decent balance of being productive. I also had heart burn peek during this time. My sciatic back pain faded away with some chiropractic adjustments and I was back to eating meat. I felt pretty good for being pregnant. I still hadn’t popped at this point. In fact, often times people were surprised when I told them I was pregnant because they couldn’t tell.

landon2

Third Trimester

My third trimester was by far the most challenging and difficult. I was swollen all over to the point where I couldn’t even wear my wedding ring on my finger anymore because it was too tight. I dealt with pelvic girdle pain making it incredibly painful to turn over in the middle of the night (in addition to it already being challenging with a baby belly that had finally popped) or get out of bed to accommodate my multiple nightly trips to the bathroom. I also developed pregnancy carpal tunnel at night so my hands would become numb and painful to move. (If you experience this, try to get wrist braces as soon as you can – life saver!) My energy was shot and I would cry for no reason. I didn’t have any weird cravings, but found myself binging far too often on Cookies n’ Cream ice-cream and pickles (separately), we went through toilet paper faster than a household of two should, and a good percentage of the time all I wanted to do was sleep. By the end, I couldn’t fit into my shoes let alone bend down to put them on, my tummy was protruding and round, and waddling around like a penguin is definitely a real struggle, my friends. I am extremely skeptical of any woman who says she loved being pregnant, but maybe that’s just me.

All in all though, the baby was happy and healthy. I was happy and healthy. All my tests came back with perfect results and my pregnancy was completely routine and normal. Throughout my entire pregnancy, I would say I had a good one. I wasn’t bed ridden and I didn’t have any complications with me or him. That’s the best kind of pregnancy and yes, it’s been a pregnancy so I’ve dealt with my body going through changes and creating a space for a baby human to grow and live in for 9 months. Those changes have been at times uncomfortable and painful, but it comes along with carrying a baby and being a mom. We spent this trimester renovating the baby’s room and other areas of our home for him. We put together the nursery, had our baby shower, and shopped for fun last minute items. The days disappeared and his arrival could be at any time.

Labor & Delivery

I was 37 weeks and already dilated to 3 1/2 cm and he was positioned head down and low. My midwife said she would be surprised if I made it to my due date. The next day I felt my body doing some weird things that made me wonder if I wasn’t heading into early labor. We took a trip to triage, but nothing came out of it and we were sent back home. Thirty-nine weeks rolled by and I had a membrane sweep, bounced on an exercise ball, walked, ate 3 pineapples and drank 42 oz of pineapple juice, went the whole nine yards with natural induction methods … and nothing happened. The night of my sweep, I had contractions regularly for three hours before I went to bed waiting for them to pick up intensity and get closer together, but instead they faded away. This happened the following week as well when I got a second sweep. At 40 weeks, I was dilated to 5 cm, almost completely effaced, and baby was in a 1 position, but not even Clary Sage oil could help me pick up any regular contractions. I could feel my body preparing for labor, but never got the consistent and regular contractions to carry me through.

calendarflatlay

I was induced at 41 weeks on October 25th. We arrived at 9 in the morning and they hooked me up to pitocin. By 1pm it was upped to 7mL and I was finally starting to get stronger contractions. I was dilated to a 6 so I could officially be considered in active labor and they moved me over to the room I would deliver in. I decided not to commit to a decision on pain medication until I was able to experience how my body was handling the circumstances. I figured I would do some sort of pain medication, but wasn’t sure if I would go straight to the epidural. When I was 1cm away from it being too late to get Stadol in my IV for pain and knowing that the contractions were going to get worst, I decided to go for it because I wanted to have the most comfortable experience possible and didn’t want to deprive myself of that. My body was already stressed out and I had no idea how much worst it was going to get. Unfortunately, Stadol ended up conflicting with my allergy to codeine and it wasn’t an option so the only thing left was the epidural. I went for it.

labordelivery

They had to insert an internal monitor to see how strong my contractions actually were since they weren’t translating well onto the monitor and then they broke my water and kicked up the pitocin to 9mL. This resulted in me shivering uncontrollably. When my contractions finally started to become more regular and increase in pain, they took me off the pitocin completely. I have no idea how much the epidural was actually helping. I have a pretty high pain tolerance and I can tell you that I wasn’t one of the women who watched the contractions rise on the monitor and not feel it. If it weren’t for my legs still feeling some sort of numbness, I’m inclined to think the epidural was wearing off. I found out why labor is called that. They inserted another internal monitor for a better reading of the baby’s heart rate. I was not as dilated as I should have been at this point so my midwife had me move around from position to position on the hospital bed to get baby better aligned. This is not an easy task when you have an IV in, an epidural, two internal monitors, numb legs, and painful contractions on a hospital bed that doesn’t seem very wide. By 7:00pm, I was beginning to experience contractions at their worst. The only thing that gave me relief was a cool, wet face cloth. For some reason the texture took my mind off the contractions and the cold water took the edge off. An hour later, I was still moving into different positions trying to work baby into the right one. The contractions were not cooperating with my body. My midwife wasn’t ready to throw in the towel and call for a c-section, but I was starting to stall.

labordelivery

She put me back on pitocin at 1mL to get me jump started again and then took me off. Half of my cervix was dilated to an 8 and the other half was dilated to a 10 so baby couldn’t get his head through. It left me with the need to push, but not the ability because if I had it would have damaged my cervix. So we played a game of rocking the car out of the ditch. I pushed while she held me at a 10 and as soon as the head was holding me at a 10 instead, we were good to go. My contractions were coming too close together and not allowing me to rest. This didn’t give me enough energy to push hard enough. I had to calm myself down and relax my mind and body so it wouldn’t tense up and cause a contraction which (surprise!) you do through breathing techniques. And I didn’t think I would need to use any of them. Ha! It’s all a learning experience. The little guy was so broad that I had to push for his head, shoulders, stomach, and hips, but he was finally born at 9:17pm, weighed 8.06lb, and was 20″ long. I was in labor for a total of roughly 8 hours and pushed for about 15 minutes which isn’t bad. It didn’t go as perfectly smooth or “painless” as I had envisioned, but I think that’s because I didn’t know exactly what to expect. In the end, I am grateful for a beautiful, healthy baby, a relatively short labor, and avoided a c-section which I’m convinced is all thanks to my midwife who knew exactly what to do to get me to progress and never gave up on me.

mom-and-landon

The relief you feel to have that baby in your arms and the difference your body feels in a split second after delivering is priceless.

Welcome to the world, Landon Scott. You are our greatest adventure yet.

You can see more of his newborn pictures here.

landonbirthannouncement

loveamanda

Spiritual Journaling: S.O.A.P. Method

soapjournal

I’ve always been a fan of journaling. Spiritual journaling is something I’m starting to get into more in order to have a richer understanding of the Bible and document what I’m learning better. This is also a great practice to implement into your Self Care Plan. One spiritual journaling method that I’ve come across recently is called the S.O.A.P method. When Jonathan and I planned on getting married, we started going to a Bible study at his church and it was there they taught us this method that I was surprised to find I had never heard of or learned before.


How It Works:

‘S’ = Scripture

Pick a passage to read out of and once you’re finished, write the scripture down and/or the reference you’re choosing to focus on. Pick one that stood out to you.

‘O’ = Observation

Share what you observed from the text. In your own words, what is it communicating to the reader?

‘A’  = Application

Share how someone in general or specifically yourself could take what is observed in this verse and apply to your life.

‘P’ = Prayer

Document a prayer referencing the application of this text to your life.


I have a Praise journal that lists a topic and verses supporting that topic to journal a praise about. This one focuses on God being our Provider. The text is Psalm 145.

For Example:

Scripture

Psalm 145:15-19

The eyes of all look to you,
    and you give them their food at the proper time.
16 You open your hand
    and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways
    and faithful in all he does.
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
    to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
    he hears their cry and saves them.

Observation

The Lord provides for every living creature on the earth. He not only takes care of our needs as well, but longs to satisfy our desires so long as we trust that He wants to and will.

Application

I need to make more of a conscious effort to trust Him enough to ask for not only my needs, but also the desires of my heart. Additionally, thanking Him for not only when He answers my prayers and meets my needs and desires, but for His goodness and blessings in the day to day things that I haven’t even thought to ask for.

Prayer

Lord, you are so good, so loving, so giving. You are waiting and ready to hear our cries and provide for us. I want to cry out to you and have you hear the depths of my heart. You see my longings and short comings. You know when I’m short on bills or when I’m overwhelmed with uncertainty when an emergency arises and taps into our funds. You know when my spirit is burdened and broken by unkind words and emotional baggage. You know when I really want to treat myself or when I long for the support of a friend. You know, Father. Remind me of your love and desire to provide for me. Remind me to come to you first when I feel discontent so I can find peace in the storm. Thank you, Lord.

 

I hope you had a wonderful time with family and a very blessed Thanksgiving. My love to you as you journey on with your day. I pray you find peace as well.

loveamanda

Making A Self Care Plan


It’s been four weeks since I had my son and life has been a lot different than what I expected. First off, I have to say I’ve been incredibly blessed with a very good baby who is content and cries minimally compared to what I was expecting and a husband who will take baby shifts and helps out as much as he can with our son. Additionally though, I’ve found that taking care of myself is extremely important in not just warding off postpartum depression, but feeling down in general. Making a habit of implementing these things into my routine make me feel happier and better not only internally, but externally as well. This list may not be for everyone, but it’s a great starting place and one you can always adapt to fit your preferences.

Meditation

For me, this means finding myself in a peaceful environment so I can pray and focus on the betterment of myself. Sometimes this includes singing praise and worship and other times it focuses on reading the Bible. A lot of times I will journal.

Gratitude Journal

With Thanksgiving this week, this is such a great idea to implement. I’ve heard it said that when we focus on what we are thankful for in our lives it doesn’t leave any room to be disappointed or sad due to dwelling on what we don’t have in our lives. I often include this as part of my meditation, but I will make a point to write something down everyday that I am thankful for and reflect on that blessing and why I am grateful for it.

Self Reflection

Sometimes there are obvious things in my life that make me feel down and out. And sometimes if I self reflect, I see it sticking out at me like a sore thumb and I know exactly what I need to do in order to change it. If I’m feel emotionally down, maybe I’ve wronged someone and I need to apologize or I haven’t dealt with myself about how I feel in regards to a certain issue. If I’m feeling down physically, maybe I’m just not eating as healthy as I should be or I’m not staying hydrated enough.

Get Ready for the Day

Even if you have plans to chill at home all day, get out of those pjs! (ESPECIALLY if you work from home!) Unless this is your first day off in an entire year and you want to relax in your comfy jammies and that’s the only thing in the world that will make you incandescently happy (I know, I know … all I want is my onesie and my bed too) put on some street clothes. Don’t worry, you can still be comfy – just make sure you’re dressed appropriately to greet the pizza guy at your door. And of course it isn’t required, but it feels good to feel put together so if you want to have some fun why not do your makeup and hair even if it’s for no one but yourself? You deserve it more than anyone, right? For me, I just feel like my day is wasted when I sleep in super late, I’m not dressed for the day, when I’ve skipped my skin care routine, and haven’t done anything to get myself ready.

Pamper Yourself

Going above and beyond just getting ready, my favorite pick me up is taking the time to really invest in myself by using a special facial mask, drawing a hot, bubble bath, giving myself a manicure, or some other type of pamper routine. It makes me feel rejuvenated and refreshed. I feel good because I’ve taken the time to take extra care of myself, but I also feel good because I’ve done something good for my body and it shows.

Do What You Love

Whether you’re a mom or not, I’m finding it’s incredibly important to not let motherhood be the only thing that defines me. No one thing in life should define you. I have interests, hobbies, and passions. I have other responsibilities and commitments and although my son comes first, my life is much bigger than just him. Remembering that so I can do something I enjoy for a little bit has made me feel much more content in my circumstances. Whether it’s sneaking in some scrapbooking, photography, or blogging while he’s napping or while my husband is spending time with him gives me a sense of wholeness.

Declutter

I would have never said this while I was pregnant, but cleaning has been something I’ve found to be therapeutic in a way. A messy house is visual noise and I find myself distracted, uncomfortable, and unproductive when it’s not clean. Now that I have my energy back, I’ve been able devote more time to it and it’s given me a sense of relief to be in a tidier space.

These have been the biggest help to me and what I gravitate toward to feel better when I’m feeling blue or need a pick-me-up. Other things I do include exercising and purging my emotions in a journal both of which I know are other popular ways of feeling better for a lot of people. What does your self care plan look like? What do you do to feel better?

loveamanda

 

Favorite Camera Gear

cameragear

Over the last eight years, I’ve been slowly growing my collection of camera equipment to suit the direction I want to go in with my photography. Here is a list of camera gear that I have come to know and love.

CAMERA

1. NIKON D5100

For the last few years, I’ve been shooting with a Nikon D5100 and I love it! Aside from just being an all around great camera, it also has the ability to record video – one of my favorite features. I also love the fact that it has a flip out screen making not only filming, but also certain shooting situations a lot easier to get the perfect shot with.

2. 18-55MM LENS

This is the basic kit lens, but I can’t tell you how many times I have reached for this as a go-to. It’s one of my main lenses that I will use based on its wider angle and closeness in relation to what the human eye sees.

3. 55-200MM LENS

This is my other main lens and it’s a great zoom lens! It’s a bit challenging to use as a main lens because you can’t shoot a subject as easily that is close to you, but for subject that are further away this takes amazing photos with beautiful depth of field. I’ve even shot some great macro images with it from distancing myself from a closer subject.

LIGHTING

4. DIVA RING LIGHT 

This is such an amazing light! It has the perfect scale of brightness and I love that it has a mount for the camera to sit on in the center for the proper angle during shooting. Also gives that on point halo reflected in the irises.

5. STUDIO LIGHT KIT

This is a really inexpensive option to start playing around with studio lighting and getting the hang of it on your own. Great option for beginners or for those who need a lower budget option. Definitely not the highest of quality, but worth it for the price.

6. REFLECTOR

This reflector is great just to add a little extra bounce light onto your subject. What’s cool about it is that it has 5 reflectors in 1. Each one does something different whether it’s reflecting a warm golden hue or even deflect to block out light.

AUDIO

7. SNOWBALL MIC

This is great for up close recording. I use it for all the voice recording in my videos. I’m still on the hunt for an affordable shotgun mic that I genuinely like as I haven’t been impressed enough with any of my purchases yet to recommend one.

ACCESSORIES

8. CAMERA BAG

I ordered my Kelly Moore camera bag a few years ago and since then it looks like my version is no longer available, but this is the closest version to it. The versatility of this bag is awesome! It’s so nice to be able to carry your camera in safety, but also have it disguised to look stylistic like a purse. Since ordering the bag, I have gravitated to more condensed purses and bags so if I were to order another one I would try to get one that suited that preference more, but again that’s just me. You can see my version here.

9. CAMERA STRAP

Just for some fun I decided to dress up my camera strap. I really loved the tapestry design of this one. Boho vibes and the film canister holders added a vintage flair.

loveamanda

Must Take Newborn Photos

musttakenewbornphotos

I’ve never had the opportunity to shoot newborn photography before so I’ve been very excited to play around with taking some newborn photos of the little man once he got here. I had some ideas floating around in my head of photos I would like to try with him. If your budget is tight, you want to spend some time having fun with your little one, or just practice your newborn photography skills here are some ideas you should try.

Tips for success before you begin…

  • Firstly, unless you have studio lighting and know how to use it, shoot with natural light. Get baby in front of a big window or outdoors.
  • From experimenting during the shoot I have learned that knowing your baby’s habits is important. For example, if you want sleep pictures, wait until baby is in the middle of a rem cycle where he won’t be woken up with positioning and don’t try to start photographing right before the time he normally wakes up crying to feed.
  • Use a Boppy pillow for propping and support. You can cover Boppy pillow in different blankets for color and texture variation.
  • If you’re trying naked shots with a boy, make sure you also have something to cover his goods so props and blankets are less likely to get showered on. Same diaper changing principle applies!
  • Don’t get frustrated! Stay calm and positive and your baby is more likely to feed off those good vibes.

Showcase the Birthday or the Due Date

calendarflatlay

I waited to take this shot until after he was born so that I would know his actual birthday and could mark it down on the calendar instead of his due date, but this would be a great idea for a pregnancy reveal as well.

Props:

  • a flat calendar of the birth month. I found one online that I printed off and marked the date on with a heart.
  • a pair of shoes your little one will wear or other accessory
  • an ultrasound photo

Choose a nice background to create a flat layout of your props and arrange them in a way that is aesthetically pleasing. Take an aerial shot.

Little Details Collage

littledetails

As simple as this one is, be creative in thinking about angles and composition of the shots. All you need is your little one and you can start taking photos of all the things you love about your baby: hair, eyes, nose, ears, lips, fingers, toes, belly button. Take 6-9 shots and create a collage in your photo editing program.

Remembering the Birth Stats

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Swaddle the baby in an aesthetically pleasing blanket or swaddler that will go with the color theme you want to create for this image. This photograph will represent all of your baby’s birth stats.

Props:

  • blanket for background and baby to lay on
  • measuring stick to lay next to baby to showcase length
  • weight or scale to show birth weight
  • clock to set for time of birth
  • calendar to mark the birthday
  • blocks or other representation for baby’s name
  • elements of the season baby was born in

Create a flat lay of everything on top of the blanket. It would be a good idea to cushion baby with more layers underneath blanket choice if not already cushioned by carpet. Lay baby down first with measuring stick next to him/her and then play around with positioning of the other elements, making sure they all correctly indicate the birth stat.

Play Up the Season

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Pick an element and colors of the season baby was born in to use for a simple and sweet photograph.

Props:

  • For fall, use a pumpkin, leaves, or an apple.
  • For winter, use Christmas lights, knit hat and gloves, pine cones or snowflakes.
  • For summer, use a flower wreath or crown around baby’s head or body, a bed of flowers, or sea shells.
  • For spring, a flowering branch, umbrella, or basket.

Document Growth

growth

Every month take a photo of baby in the same spot with maybe a teddy bear or a chalkboard background to see how much your baby grows each month.

Props:

  • represent the baby’s age in month with a sign, shirt, or other prop
  • use a stuffed animal for something static to compare baby’s growth to

Something Personal

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Choose a theme that is personal to you and use props to embrace that theme. Could be anything … a special stuffed animal, book, sport, hobby, or style that you like.

Props:

  • Anything that goes with your theme
  • Matching clothes too?

Just Baby
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Forget the props – or use very minimal ones and just start snapping shots of your baby to remember him in all of his newborn cuteness. Using a Boppy pillow or a basket and an ensemble of different colored and textured blankets play around with your baby in different positions, clothing etc. Try a couple naked shots. Add an accessory. Have fun!

PS: I feel like it should go without saying, but just to add a disclaimer … make sure you are being gentle and careful moving baby around in positions. Certain newborn photographs you see online by professional photographers are not one shot photos and are multiple images composited together. For example, newborns are not able to support themselves with their heads propped on their hands nor would they last very long in that position even if they could do it. As it is, for the above image I composited two photographs together because Landon couldn’t keep his legs together on his own to keep himself covered.

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justbaby4

loveamanda

Relaxing Pillow Mist for Inducing Sleep

pillowmist

Try out this super quick, easy, and fun DIY to help you fall fast asleep. Mix up the ingredients and spray a mist of it onto your pillow before you go to bed at night and the aromatherapy will ease your anxieties and coax you into rem before you know it.

What You’ll Need:

  • Small cosmetic spray bottle (plastic will work, but if you can find a dark glass one that would be best)
  • Distilled water
  • Lavender essential oil – when I was young and I had trouble getting to sleep my mother would dab a couple drops at the top of my pillow and I would be out like a light. It’s been scientifically proven to induce sleep and the relaxing and calming smell will have you drifting into dream land in no time.
  • Orange essential oil – citrus oils are uplifting so if you suffer from anxiety or depression this oil should help and prevent you from tossing and turning as much in your sleep.
  • Ylang Ylang essential oil – perfect for relaxation, calming, and emotional balance to give you a peaceful slumber.
  • Sticker letters and Washi tape for embellishment *optional

pillowmistingred

Directions:

  1. Pour distilled water into the spray bottle nearly to the top.
  2. Add 15 drops of lavender, 10 drops of orange, and 5 drops of Ylang Ylang *add more or less depending on the size of your bottle and how potent you want the smell to be.
  3. Add sticker letters on your bottle for a label
  4. Spray on the top of your pillow and store in a cool, dark space especially if not in a darkened spray bottle.

Extra fun note:

If you are pregnant and you are past your due date, you can swap out the orange essential oil for clary sage essential oil to help induce labor. Clary Sage can promote relaxation to the muscles and also stimulate uterine contractions. You can use the mist for aromatherapy to spray on your pillow as well as on your stomach. It is also extremely potent so depending on the size of your bottle I’d stick to no more than 5-10 drops. **Clary Sage is an oil that should not be used at any point prior to your due date while pregnant as it can cause preterm labor and even miscarriage. It is also recommended that you do a patch test on your skin before spraying on your stomach to make sure you don’t have any negative reactions. Also, lavender and ylang ylang can aid clary sage in inducing labor so it’s best to swap out the orange as orange is also a citrus oil and should not be exposed to sunlight if applied to your skin because it can cause photo sensitivity.

loveamanda

“I ♥ Fall” Tag

falltag

What is your favorite fall lip product?

My favorite color to accessorize with in the fall for cosmetics is always a dark berry. My go to favorite lip product is the NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream in Copenhagen.

What is your favorite fall nail polish?

Jumping on the same color band wagon is my love for the Sally Hansen MiracleGel in V-amplified. Originally, it was the Mary Kay Berry Stylish nail lacquer which has been my favorite since it came out as a seasonal item last fall making it sadly no longer available. I would not have anticipated it to be one of my favorites, but the deep tone is super pretty and V-amplified is almost identical in color with a little more red and is a gel (bonus!).

What is your favorite fall Starbucks drink?

If I go to Starbucks, which isn’t very often, and it’s fall then I will indulge in a Pumpkin Spice Latte like the majority of modern day society. However, my favorite fall drink in general is my mom’s recipe for Hot Apple Cider Wasail. And if you wanted to try it, I snagged the recipe for you!

HOW TO: Hot Apple Cider Wassail
>In the base of a twelve-cup percolator put
1 part cranapple juice
5 parts apple cider (unpasteurized)
>In the percolator basket put
6-8 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 tbsp. honey
1/4 chopped lemon, including rind
>brew as you would coffee
*you can combine all ingredients in a stovetop pan or crockpot as well
>serve with lemon slice or cinnamon stick

What is your favorite fall candle?

I love the warm, rich scents of maple and hazelnut, but my favorite candle over all is Leaves from Bath and Body Works which reminds me of the smell of the cinnamon apple cider that I mentioned.

What is your favorite fall accessory?

It makes me so happy to be able to wear sweaters and jackets. My jean jacket is my go to and getting back into my boots is also a plus.

Would you rather go to a haunted house, haunted hay ride, or haunted corn maze?

Not much for haunted things, but I’d rather go to a haunted house from the selection and a corn maze in general because it brings back good memories.

What is your favorite fall movie?

It’s a tie between my childhood favorite and my adult favorite. Both of which are a must-watch during the holiday season. My childhood favorite would be the classic Hocus Pocus because it’s simply fabulous. My adult favorite is Beetlejuice because it’s probably one of the best Burton spooktaculars to date and you can’t beat Michael Keaton and Winona Ryder.

What is your favorite fall candy?

As a child, it was banana Laffy Taffy. I was one of the weird ones. Although, you know it was a good day if you got an actual brand chocolate bar – even the minis were gold. As an adult, I’m all about those Milk Duds though.

What are you dressing up as for Halloween?

Dressing up is my favorite, but I haven’t been able to commit to a fancy costume this year with a newborn so I will either join him and my husband in their Monsters Inc. costumes as Boo or try to throw something together that I already have a costume for.

What is your favorite thing about fall?

There are so many things I love about fall. I love the leaves changing, the crisp air, and getting to wear layers. I love the color staples and styles in the fashion, pumpkin carving, and corn maze maneuvering. I love that fall leads into some of the most memorable holidays, but my absolute favorite thing is the memories it brings with family. I met my husband in the fall at an orchard and gave birth to my son in October.

If you’re reading this, I tag you to do the “I ♥ Fall” Tag and share it with me so I can learn what you love about fall.

loveamanda