Archive for the ‘She (Actually) Suggests’ Category

photo tip Friday: the most important thing you need to know about photography

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Recently I asked the question of ‘what is it that I do best’ to a group of trusted, sage advisers and they all shouted back at me PHOTOS! THE PHOTOS! MORE PHOTOS! (Who can’t read that without thinking ‘SHOUTY CAPITALS’? Just me?)

[Obligatory disclaimer: while I really don't claim to know anything about photography I am finally accepting that people seem to like my pictures. So perhaps I can offer a few tips to you folks out there wanting to improve your stuff.]

So here is my very first, brand new blog feature and I hereby swear to produce easy to digest, bite sized photography tips on a regular basis that will allow you to get an inside look at how I approach photography as well as tricks and technical knowledge I’ve picked up from other people who actually know what they are doing.

Sound good?

My very first tip is also the MOST IMPORTANT. Can you guess what it is?

Is it how to properly expose a shot? Is it the rule of thirds? Is it knowing what to do in post processing to make your shot shine?


It’s none of those things. It’s figuring out (for yourself) the answer to why you bust out that camera (or phone) in the first place.

For most of us, especially the mamas, the answer is ‘to capture the moment.’

To have something tangible which enables us to weave a narrative around that photo of who, what, when, where and why it matters. To have and to hold dear that split second freeze frame moment in time.

From a practical application it means that when you look at your photo…

and start to play ’spot the problems’:

  • the lighting is weird
  • there’s a big shadow on the mama’s face
  • the only thing that seems to be in focus is the kiddo’s hair
  • you can’t actually see either of their (beautiful) faces
  • both of their heads are cut off

You resist the temptation to bin it for all of the things that are ‘technically’ wrong with it and instead remind yourself that the important thing here is the MOMENT. The moment (that mother and daughter are sharing that I was lucky enough to capture.)

Instead get creative about how to minimize attention to the problem spots: lighting & focus. In the case of this shot I did it with just one click which converted the photo to black and white. Behold…

Problems minimized.

Moment preserved.

Mischief managed.

(Okay maybe not that last one)

Happy shooting! And see you next Friday.

Postcards from the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Android husband in his infinite wisdom tried to advise me that perhaps now (RIGHT NOW!), in the middle of a move from our home in Reno, NV to a cardbox box in near San Francisco, is perhaps not the ideal time for me to pen the great American recap of the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop.

But you don’t understand! I whined reasoned, if I don’t write it all down now (RIGHT NOW!) then it’s as if I didn’t even go.

Maybe I only imagined the brutally early flight, hallucinated wandering through the mean streets of Dayton,OH and fantasized about being licking distance from Alan Zwiebel, Connie Schultz and Marinka NoLastNameNeeded.

If I don’t write it down it’s as if the magic didn’t even happen.

This realization, that I make sense of my world by answering “what’s happening?“, “what’s on your mind” or “edit new post” is possibly my biggest takeway from the conference.

As Kyran Pittman instilled in us at her session-Finding the authority to write, I am a real writer because I write.

That bold declaration will still take some getting used to.

Because for the last few months my writing here (on my blog) has been sporadic, at best. There were many forces at work preventing me from writing…

I have a two year old.

We’re moving.

My dog might have cancer.

I’m afraid that no one is listening.

I’m afraid that everyone is listening.

I’m afraid that my stories do not belong to me alone.

And the loudest (and nastiest) force: self doubt.

Who do you think you are?

Why do you even bother?

This writer’s workshop was either going to confirm all of my biggest fears or quiet my (inner) critics and give me the courage and the inspiration to put pen to paper (or lifted Logitech keyboard to Ipad.)

I am so happy to say that it was the latter.

Courage and inspiration came in many flavors.

Chocolatey for instance,

and sweet and salty for the the laughter and tears elicited by every single one of the phenomenal speakers,

without a hint of bitter aftertaste as everyone proudly shared their accomplishments with one another and were lovingly received and cheered on,

and of course peanut buttery for self acceptance,

I stole these peanut butter packets ‘for just in case’ and I’ll be damned if I didn’t lick the peanut butter right outta them when I got hungry. But it was either accept myself as the hungry, less than sophisticated, cheap-skate immigrant that I am, or starve.

I think I made the right decision.

Insight came too from the sessions I attended.

Kyran Pittman, author, speaker and beautiful person inside and out, spoke of being a ‘writing being’ as opposed to ‘being a writer.’ The former is process oriented, rooted in the present moment, with validation coming from the inside and existing independent of gatekeepers. While the latter is outcome oriented and driven by past and future (successes) She explained that true masters move between the two and encouraged us to honor our raw ambition, to reach high but to reach with correct posture so you don’t break yourself in two. Kyran reminded me that writing is a service vocation and that you must show up and delight the audience, even if it’s an audience of one. (Hi Mom!) Kyran was also at the right place at the right time to give me a much needed hug when I completely lost it after hearing my daughter tell me she missed me. Did I mention it was my first time leaving her? Yeah I was a bawling mess in that moment and Kyran was so sweet to me.

Nancy Berk, the hilarious stand up psychologist, in her workshop the Power of Erma summed up Erma’s lessons beautifully: do what you love, do it your way, let excuses be your material (I can’t write because my laundry is piling up, etc), chaos and imperfection are hilarious and acceptable and when making fun of people target yourself first. She spoke of the power of social media,Twitter in particular,for helping you create your support system and find opportunities,emphasizing that you need to speak up for yourself because you get an “F” for shyness in this business.

Tracy Beckerman, the hysterical and successful syndicated columnist, gave us a formula for writing the Six Million Dollar Humor Column. She delighted us with truisms like the K sound is funny as are those thingamajigs known as nonsense words.

Anna Lefler the statuesque, gorgeous genius behind “the Chicktionary” gave me so much to think about in her session Brand to Book- Creating an Online Voice that Opens Doors that it might necessiate it’s own blogpost! She distilled the very essence of humor as Nerve. Vulnerability. Humanity. (I told you she’s a genius)

And last but not least, Karen Walrond, the incandescent blogger, photographer and public speaker who embodies everything that I strive to be, exceeded all of my expectations. I was a bumbling starstruck moron around her and she was nothing but kind and patient in return. She led her lucky audience in Creative Exercises to Inspire Writing, challenging us to journal every day to capture the ephemera of your life, give mind mapping a try as a way to gather your thoughts the way they actually happen, create a life list or a life menu of awesome things to experience while you’re still here and prompted the photographers we all can be to photo journal and take purposeful photo walks to awaken the creative spirit as both writing and photography are about seeing. She also gave us an impromptu photography lesson, but I don’t want to go on as you may die of jealousy.

I could spend another several hundred words on the other workshop attendees who were amazing, my roomate in particular, but as I have already exceeded the acceptable blog post length by 479 words I will gush about them all another time.

Bottom line: if you are a writer (and if you are asking yourself that question right now just know that the answer is a resounding HELL YES YOU ARE) this workshop is where you need to be in 2014. I hope I’m lucky enough to go again.

hunger games, the costumes (and giveaway)

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

I am sorry to bombard you non-Hunger Games fans with all of my Hunger Games obsessed posts.

And by that I mean I’m sorry for you if you haven’t yet joined the Hunger Games bandwagon.

Read it.

You’ll like it.

I promise.

So this is my third post (read the party plan here and menu here) on my awesome sauce Hunger Games party with friend and fellow blogger, Brittany.

I think my favorite part of the party was dressing up as Effie, because let’s face it grown-ups just don’t get the opportunity dress up often enough.

And under threat of death other people dressed up too! I promised the best costume a prize but since I couldn’t very well play Effie and Gamemaker simultaneously I need you my fabulous blog readers to vote your little hearts out and help me pick a winner.

The winner for best costume will receive a gift certificate to Barnes and Noble. And for helping with this difficult task one of you will receive a $50 gift certificate to Amazon to continue your reading endeavors.

To win please vote for your favorite costume in a comment below (or using the survey). For additional entries subscribe to my RSS, follow me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter, tweet this giveaway (leave a comment for each). The giveaway will remain open until Wednesday 3/28/12 11:59PM PST

We have in no particular order: Katniss the girl on fire, citizen of district 2, Glimmer, citizen of district 4, Octavia, citizen of district 12, Katniss on reaping day (please note the forlorn expression), and citizen of the capitol.

hunger games, the party

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

Are you ready to indulge your inner thirteen year old? Because in just nine days, fourteen hours and twenty six minutes the Hunger Games movie will be heating up theaters everywhere.

My good friend Brittany and I are HUGE fans. I’ve read the book four times and she insists on wearing the official mockingjay pin until the movie premiers (or possiby forever.)

Yeah, we’re nerds.

We also happen to share a birthday at the end of this month. So what better way to mourn how far we are from our teen years celebrate our birthdays than by throwing a mega Hunger Games inspired birthday party? Cause we all know I like to throw a party!


I combed through the book looking for menu, decor and activity ideas and together Brittany and I created an awesome Pinspiration board to kick start our party plans.

Then we invited equally obsessed Hunger Games people over for a morning of food, fun and fanaticism.

The party plan:

  • We requested that folks dress to represent their assigned district or a character from the book. (Costumes post is coming soon!)
  • Planned a menu inspired by the food in the book. (Menu post coming soon!)
  • Brainstormed fun activities. (Trivia post coming soon!)
  • And came up with some great decor and prizes!

Today I’ll take you through the decor and other little details. Starting with this awesome bow and arrow set used as our centerpiece:

(Brittany purchased the budget friendly bow & arrow here)

I set the table with a bright orange tablecloth and put braided (red, black and yellow) crepe paper across the center to evoke Katniss’ braid.

Next to the bow and arrow I set a barrel of apples like the ones Katniss used to detonate the Career’s bombs.

Buzzing all around those apples are the tracker jackers Katniss released on the Careers…

Upon arrival each of our tributes/guests received a district token, like the tokens tributes wear in the arena…

(Brittany purchased these bottle cap necklaces here)

The crafty Brittany made these wine charms with jewels to evoke Katniss’ interview dress

and added a district logo as well…

Finally I tacked up movie posters on my front door, enlisted a tribute to blow up some balloons and hung tri-colored streamers. (I had to watch a tutorial on how to hang streamers, I wish I was kidding.)

A fun (totally last minute and therefore super easy) idea I had was to warp bath bombs in crepe paper to resemble fire balls. I used these to reward the winners of the trivia challenge.

The activities and trivia post is coming soon, as well as a detailed look at the fabulous food.

I know you’re dying for a sneak peek so I’ll leave you with this…

PS since the demise of Picnik is soon upon us I used the new FREE service PicMonkey to add text to these photos. So far I LOVE PicMonkey, it’s easy to use, completely intuitive and very similar to my beloved Picnik

PPS if you have any questions comment below!

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