Category / Endeavors

5 Little Things I’m Doing to Improve My (and My Family’s) Health

Between the start of the year (resolution/goals mindset) and the coming of Spring (well, someday! we are due more SNOW this week!), I’ve been more health/goal minded and craving some changes and healthier habits in my (and my family’s) day-to-day routines. I’ve found I have more success implementing smaller changes, a couple at a time, than trying to overhaul, getting overwhelmed (or distracted) and undoing any good I’ve done, altogether.

I’m no expert, and I don’t sell or represent any brands mentioned, but I’m feeling really good about these five little things I’m making the rule instead of the exception in my everyday:

1. packing my lunches
I’ve been trying to be more intentional about including more fruits and veggies and proteins, and not buying my lunches out (which adds up quickly) on workdays. It truly is easier to dedicate a half hour or so on Sunday nights to portion out some lunches for the next three days. I find it easiest to just eat the same thing, times three, and change it up from week to week rather than daily. I quickly realized I was burning through ziploc bags, so I ordered myself one of the Lunchbots tins (mine is the “trio large”) and I LOVE how easy it is to pack, rinse, and re-use from one day to the next. (Also — if you follow the Lunchbots instagram account, it’s full of fresh snack/meal ideas for packing adult and kid lunches, alike!)

2. switching to natural deodorant
Over Christmas, a friend mentioned loving this brand of natural deodorant and I made a mental note. Then, after another friend’s mother was diagnosed with cancer, she mentioned making the switch to a natural deodorant, and I was inspired to do the same. Ursa Major happened to be the first brand I tried and I’ve been VERY pleased. I haven’t had much in the way of “detox symptoms” that some people talk about, but I think it’s also probably easier to make the switch now before the heat season comes. I also just think this particular brand is THAT good and worth the money. I’m kind of  obsessed with it and love the smell and tingly sensation. It feels so fresh and I love knowing everything in it is SAFE. (Also — if your skin is sensitive to baking soda — common in natural deodorants — they also make a “no B.S.” version here.)

3. throwing out our vegetable oil (and peanut oil and canola oil)
A friend of mine is a nutritionist and I’ve been stalking – er, following – all her delicious recipes and posts here. When she mentioned getting vegetable oils out of your life, I was intrigued and googled a bit further. This article is a great read on why to make the switch, if you need further convincing! And this change was SO easy to do. I simply tossed what we had, bought an olive oil spray in place of Pam for nonstick uses, and the mega jar of Coconut Oil home from Costco for anything else that would normally call for oil. I find myself checking labels a bit more for instances of these oils, but I’m not overly crazy about it. Again, it’s about small steps and implementing changes at reasonable rates.

4. experimenting with natural household products 
I’ve admittedly found it a bit “hippie” in the past, but after so many new options on the market and constant new research to support them, I’ve taken a new interest in the products I bring into my home. I recently played around on the Think Dirty app to score some items we’re already using. Some passed with flying colors…and others failed miserably. So I feel like I have a good list of places to start using up and replacing sooner than later. I’ve always been rather intentional about choosing natural products when it comes to Crew, but even in that arena, as we’ve moved away from the “baby phase” it gets easier to slip up. I’ve recently purchased this body wash for his bathtime and love it (we did the lavender scent, but they’re all delicious). We also switched to Trader Joes all natural laundry detergent (loooove the smell). Easy swaps, little changes.

I’ve also been playing more and more with essential oils (I’m not loyal to any one brand, but do your research to make sure you are buying 100% pure, therapeutic grade and no filler stuff). I ditched dryer sheets long ago and now add a few oil drops to my wool dryer balls and incorporating them into rollerballs (I’m using these) and a couple DIY cleaners, linen sprays, and more (in these bottles). I’m still learning and experimenting, but I’m particularly interested in using them for allergy relief as that season approaches.

5. drinking apple cider vinegar 
This is not a new one for me, but I fall out of the habit and am being intentional about reincorporating it. I’ve been trying to cut back on alcohol, so instead of taking a glass of wine to my nightly Netflix wind-down, I pour a big glass of ice water and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. A run-down of the many benefits of incorporating this (easy peasy) habit into water you are already drinking can be found here.

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My Photography Gear

recommended camera gear | www.lifeinyellow.com

I’ve done a LOT of purchasing, experimenting, selling, and swapping my gear out since I really started to get serious about photography a few years ago. A huge piece of getting the right gear is figuring how and what you like to shoot. For me, I photograph families, my own included, and a few interior stills here and there. (I’m also a Canon girl from the start, so I’m sorry, I can’t answer many questions about Nikon or other brands!)

Here’s the rundown of my camera gear:

Canon 6D // My very first “real” camera was a Canon Rebel with kit lens (my model is no longer available, but the equivalent is here) and it’s a wonderful camera with which to begin. If you’re just starting out, this dSLR is plenty powerful as you learn the ins and outs of shooting in manual mode. The 6D, my current body, is a full-frame camera (as opposed to the Rebel which has a cropped sensor), which means the sensor is larger and able to “gather” more information from an image. For example, it performs better in lower light (wonderful for me, as I love to shoot without flash when possible). In my mind, the “ultimate” that I’ve never quite been able to justify is the MarkIV, whose most noticeable difference is the ability to shoot images onto two SD cards simultaneously. For photographers who shoot “unrepeatable” events (births, weddings, things you can’t recreate later), this dual-slot feature is a must-have, in the awful instance an SD card malfunctions, the images are backed up on a second card. There are of course other bells, whistles, and improvements in performance, but I’ve found for what I shoot, the 6D is the perfect “mother size” bowl of porridge.

85mm lens // I began with various zoom lenses and quickly learned I’m a prime lens girl. Prime lenses have a fixed focal length, meaning you can’t zoom in and out — you use your feet to get closer or farther away from your subject.  It’s a personal preference and prime doesn’t always fit every need, but they are tack sharp lenses and let in more light (always the ultimate goal!). I LOVE my 85mm for portraits — it creates beautiful background blur and a comfortable shooting distance (not TOO in baby’s face, but not so far away I’m yelling directions at people).

(Honorable mention: the uber-popular “nifty fifty” (50mm) is a FANTASTIC, budget-friendly prime lens with which to start. It’s also nice and compact, ideal for travel. Newborn cutie, above, was shot with this lens!)

28mm lens // This is the best lens for capturing a wide scene (like this family and the cityscape) and it’s ideal for when I need to shoot a group of people in tight spaces. I also think it’s fun for the whimsy of slightly distorted close-ups of children (not as flattering on adults, FYI!). This lens is also great for interior shots, although some prefer to go even wider, I don’t personally care for the shots of interiors that are SO distorted they feel fake and every wall is curved like a fun house. Must-have lens in my book.

200mm lens // I use this the least, but I’m still so glad to have it when I do. I envision using it even more now that Crew is getting into sports and activities where I can’t be quite so close but still want to capture detail. (In the shot above, Page was at the bottom of a pretty big hill, several yards away.) It captures beautiful, crisp detail, and in part because of the length, creates gorgeous background blur. My first telephoto (long) lens was HEAVY and HUGE. I like that I can be more discreet in a crowd, but still photograph from a reasonable distance, with this one.

430 speedlite // Gorgeous light just isn’t always available. I rarely use flash, but this one has been working for me from the beginning. It’s nice to have just in case a room is less well lit than I hoped when I show up to an in-home session, and the ability to bounce the light in other directions (aka NOT right at your subject — hello, deer in headlights!) allows for more flattering final images. (Budget note: If you don’t think you will use flash all that much, I’ve heard from several photogs that they have been very pleased with cheaper, off-brand alternatives like this one.)

Gary Fong diffuser // I’ve had this on my list for a while and after seeing a photographer bust his out recently at an event I attended, I asked for it for Christmas. I had to know if it was all it was cracked up to be as a complement to my speedlite — and it totally is, as I used it on the above interior shot on a VERY gloomy day. To me — it’s a nonnegotiable now, and I love that the images don’t scream “I used my flash in this one!!”. If you’re going to buy a flash, don’t buy it without this counterpart.

wireless remote // A must if you want to get IN some pictures! You can set the timer all you want, but sometimes it’s nice to just know exactly when that camera is clicking. You can easily hold this discreetly in your hand while cuddling up to your favorites and snap away. (Tip: posing yourself without showing the remote takes a little practice — but it’s small, and in the above shot, it’s hidden in my left hand.)

Other Notes:

Camera bag — I don’t have one! I’m that risk-taker who throws a spare lens into the pocket of my vest and goes — for now. (I HAVE tried and discarded a couple options so far. If you have suggestions, please send them my way!)

Editing — I shoot in RAW and edit in Photoshop ACR (although Lightroom is another great option).

Online storage / Business website — For my rather simple needs (ClickSmith is a small part-time gig for me), Zenfolio has been my vendor of choice.

Photography Classes — Online, I loved the 101 and 102 courses at Shoot FLY Shoot when I was first getting started. If you’re in the Des Moines area, I HIGHLY recommend ALL of the classes at Christian Photo in Urbandale.

ETA: Crew does not yet have his own camera (the one pictured came in a happy meal!) — but I’m looking seriously at this one to get him started!

*Post contains affiliate links.

happy Oscar day!

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This year, I don’t have the excuse that I have a new house OR a new baby…but still just couldn’t get it together to throw an Oscar bash. Next year. 🙂 Too many projects and other priorities, including this handsome little date of mine. May your popcorn be buttery and your kids’ bedtimes early…counting down to the Red Carpet!

Happy Oscars Day!

one little word for 2016.

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For the past two years, I’ve passed on the concept of a resolutions list and simplified things with one little word. (You can read about the One Little Word concept here.) Like everyone else, yes, I’m planning to get back into regular workouts, eat better, continue to improve work/life balance, and visit somewhere new in 2016. But rather than sweat the checklist, it is so much more gratifying to me to let a single idea guide my year rather than get hung up on what exactly I did or did not accomplish.

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After a crazy-busy year of adventure in 2014, followed by last year’s settling in and nurturing a new little family life, I’m ready for a year to not take it all so seriously. Hello, I sleep through the night again after many, many, long months of not. My hubby and I can finally talk about the possibility of a “just us” trip sooner than later. This awesome tiny roommate of ours is SO. MUCH. FUN. and on a daily basis, I just want to gobble him up with kisses and tickles. I’ve made some new friends and am ready to spend more time reconnecting with old ones. I need more one-on-one time with my mom this year – it’s like soul food to get a good long conversation with her and it happened too rarely in the Year of the Newborn.

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I have a year of balancing motherhood, day job, side job, and life in general under my belt, and I’m continuing to prioritize. I’ve let some things go in favor of others that are more important. I’m not going to do it all, and I’m getting better at declining an opportunity here and there. I’m trying to get tuned in to what I care about most so I can spend my energy whole-heartedly and in the right places.

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I’m planning on lots and LOTS of laughter in 2016. Happy tears. Dancing and singing. Silliness. Waking up rested. Slowing down for extra hugs and kisses. Coffee and conversation. Cocktails and conversation. More laughter. Sore face muscles from so much smiling. Maybe even staying up past 10. And when the inevitable tough stuff comes along, finding a way to laugh, yell, “plot twist!” and make the best of it. So much happens in a year, and it’s all really good, joyful stuff.

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Here’s to 2016…

Bliss.

Bring it on.

one little word for 2015.

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This time last year, I ditched the idea of a traditional resolutions list in favor of a single word on which to focus. Page got in on the selection for the first time and we landed on adventure as our guiding mantra for 2014. As the twists and turns of the year unfolded, we focused on rolling with them all, looking for even more of them, and relishing in the way our life together was evolving because of it all.

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Maternity Photos | Key West, Florida

We could not have known how true the concept of “adventure” would ring for us throughout the last twelve months — we had not yet decided to even look at the possibility of moving, and certainly not to build. We had begun to discuss the idea of starting a family, but neither of us dreamed that journey would begin as early as last spring. If you had told me when the ball dropped last year that in several short weeks, I’d be living in a one-bedroom apartment battling morning sickness, I would NOT have believed you. 🙂

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18 weeks & staking foundation | August

And yet I wouldn’t change a moment of the last year — it was one large, blessed adventure from start to (almost) finish, as the fruits of our two biggest adventures remain to arrive in the coming first few weeks of the new year.

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36 weeks and ready for siding | December

As I look back on 2014, there were other adventures that took place that, while somewhat paling in comparison to our two “biggies”, also helped us to grow and change. We took awesome trips, both together and separately with friends, and tried on new roles and responsibilities in our career paths, tried a new dish or two, and with our eyes a bit more open to them this year, discovered just how many adventures we get to partake in together.

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Page and friends skiing in Steamboat | February

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Girls’ weekend in New York City with my bestie | April

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Web designer… turned hand model for a client’s billboard shoot | June

The year of “adventure” certainly went full-throttle, and it took us in directions we couldn’t have imagined, but through so many experiences we wouldn’t trade for anything. It has been a huge leap for both of us in learning to let go a little, realizing we can’t control it all and that not everything happens on our time table. And that is all part of the bliss. 

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The BEST moment…when we learned we were having a SON | July

With that in mind, I think about what I want for myself and my little growing family, as I pick my word for 2015. While I’d sign up for it all again, I’m okay that 2015 is less about “go go go” adventure-seeking, and more about relishing in the ones that are happening now, finding our new normal as a family of three, nourishing our life in our new home, and truly “tending to my garden” so to speak, before striking out in search of the next to-do.

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My one little word for 2015 is nurture. 

Holding many different meanings for me this year, first and foremost is to step into this new role as someone’s mother, and continuing to improve upon being the best wife I can be to my husband. I am anxious to focus on nurturing my body, post-partum. Healing, rebuilding, and nourishing physically will in turn help me mentally, so I can feel more like myself again, and in turn have the energy to nurture others. It’s all a cycle.

I look forward to creating our home, the space in which we nurture our life as a family of three, both in the physical compiling of our finished home, and in creating memories together within its walls.

As always, I’m curious to see what our professional lives have in store for us this year. I am eager to try some new things in the spirit of nurturing my brain and challenging myself with new ideas and how to bring them to life.

In all, the goal is to relish, reflect, and take the best care possible of these blessings that have come our way.

Cheers to you all reading, I wish you a nurturing new year in 2015!

“Be one who nurtures and builds…”
{Marvin J. Ashton}

home from key west.

 

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We were blessed to take a very relaxing four nights in the Florida Keys and get away from it all — day jobs, second jobs, homebuilding, and apartment living. We love to be busy, and we truly enjoy working, but once we nearly forced ourselves to schedule a little time away, we realized just how much we needed it. Lots of sun (and humidity!), lots of laughs, lots of food (I may have eaten my weight in gelato!), and lots of quiet, smiley moments, as we focused on what’s to come as we start the third trimester in the coming days. _MG_0782-Edit

On the eve of our seventh wedding anniversary, we shot some maternity pictures. Little One stole the show of course and I’m beyond thrilled we have these rare, slowed-down, moments captured in photographs, as a way to remember this special time in our lives that is fleeting for sure. (Little One officially has his name by the way…it’s incorporated into a picture we took at this session that I’m dying to share later after he’s made his arrival.)

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Big thank you hugs to the awesome Harmons duo for a photography session around the island that felt more like a double date with friends we’d known for years. I will treasure these photos for years to come.

I’m looking forward to writing another post more specifically about the trip and the sights we saw and places we ate and stayed that we’d definitely recommend. But for tonight, I’m just reliving this perfect past Sunday night with my main guy, and my little guy on the way.

maternity picture planning.

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Navy polo: Banana Republic | Coral pants: Southern Tide | Navy maternity maxi: Old Navy
Necklace: Unknown | Hair flowers: Claire’s | Polish: Beauty.com

While taking our anniversary trip-turned-babymoon in September later this fall, we decided to capitalize on the location and take maternity photos while in the sun and sand. I am so excited to be working with Matt + Michelle for an evening shoot along the beach! I spied a beach portrait recently where the guy had on some sweet coral chinos…and the look above just spanned from there.

At the encouragement of the photogs, we are planning a second outfit as well – still nailing down the details, but we’re going for a dressier “post-date-night-walk-along-the-beach” kind of vibe…and I’m planning to carry the Loubs in hand for a couple red-sole shots. 😉

Can’t wait to take these pics in anticipation of Baby S’ arrival!

past the halfway point!

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It’s crazy to think as we approach the 22 week mark, we’ve passed the halfway point until this little person arrives. I can’t believe it’s September already — the summer truly flew by!

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So here we are — approaching fall, excitedly watching our house progress come together, and thinking ahead to the coming four months before this little guy arrives. We are fresh off a mini trip to Columbia (where Page stood up as best man in the wedding of a lifelong friend) and then to Chicago (where Mama and Baby both stocked up on new threads) and we picked up some house stuff for upcoming projects. We are looking forward to a couple of baby classes in the coming weeks and then a trip to Key West for some much-needed R&R from day jobs, side jobs, house stuff, and our tiny apartment. 🙂

IKEA madness

Until then, we are still sorting through the IKEA finds from last week…and dreaming of our house!

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At today’s visit, my doctor said if she had to guess, she thought I would definitely deliver the second week of January – the 14th or 15th if she had to wager. I’m okay with that if it means we’re in our house!

And finally, the monthly stats:

How far along: 22 weeks this Friday (Baby’s the size of a papaya!)

Gender: BOY

Weight gain:   First weight gain at this appointment — +4 pounds, on track to gain 20-23 overall; first belly measurement taken — right on track at 22cm

Maternity clothes: Bought some maternity clothes for my fall stash, but not all of it fits yet; still lots of summer dresses and some maternity leggings and tees

Stretch marks: No – lotioning up daily!

Belly button in or out: in

Sleep: lots of mid-night bathroom breaks, waking up way too early!

Best moment:  first kicks at 18 weeks, Page reading to Baby

Worst moment: boo for rain delaying the house progress this past week — fortunately, things look sunny in the coming days to start FRAMING!

Miss anything: red wine – always!

Movement: FINALLY – one day shy of 19 weeks, I felt some unmistakable “punches” (not so much flutters ha!) way low in my abdomen, and now they’re very consistent — strong babe and based on the timing, he’s a late-nighter!

Cravings: peanut butter sandwiches and ALL THE MILK I can get my hands on

Queasy or sick:  feeling great – only complaint would be heartburn, brought on by just about anything at this point

Looking forward to: our “babymoon” — (originally planned as our seventh anniversary trip, until we found out we were expecting) the end of September

And in related news, Page’s stats, who started a workout program, motivated by our pending arrival 🙂 After my BP was recorded (112/66, pretty typical for me), he asked the nurse to take his at his “starting point”. He’s always high, but wanted me to blog for the record that he started at 150/90. Here’s to his BP numbers dropping as my weight number goes up ha!