Tuesday, June 7, 2016

I have a new niece!

While I don't write often anymore - I still try to mark the major celebratory moments in life here - and someday maybe I'll find time to return here regularly...but for now - a wonderful celebration to share....the wedding of my nephew Taylor to his beautiful bride, Jessica.

Please meet the newest member of the family - my niece, Jessica.

Jessica married my nephew Taylor this past Saturday in a beautiful ceremony (that dodged some seriously bad weather in Wayne County) at Jess's family's farm. We, of course, got a wonderful "cousin" picture (or as I like to think of them - "my kids").  This is the first time we've ever gotten everyone in a single picture on the same day!

I had the privilege of helping photograph their wedding (and their engagement) so while I don't have a complete set of wedding photos (for example, I didn't take shots of the bridal party getting ready or on their own), I have a solid 1008 shots that I'm currently going through.

Here are a couple of my favorite shots from their engagement shoot too...

I'll keep most of the wedding photos for the happy couple to see first, but I already put a few out on Facebook and want to share a couple of others that are about the special memories of that day.

These two kids decided they were having their wedding outdoors - at Jess's family's farm.  There is a beautiful barn on the property and loads of beautiful green space so it was a perfect setting for an outdoor wedding...except that this day in June in Indiana chose to be pretty rainy (and later in the evening, downright dangerous as a tornado hit just a little ways from here...no worries, everyone was safe).  As mom, dad, and I pulled in about 45 minutes before the ceremony with a light rain falling, dad summarized their determination to be married outside..."If it's not raining any harder than this they will get married outside."  In fact, the rain let up almost perfectly timed with the ceremony.  Everyone started with their umbrellas up, but by the end of the ceremony most of the umbrellas had come down. As you can see below - Lauren didn't care if she got wet as long as Uncle and Kylee were entertaining her.

And I will obviously interrupt this wedding post for another pic of Lauren...no place better to aim your camera to check settings than this beautiful face!  Her nana had to stay home with her brother, Lucas, who was running a fever so Lauren made the best of it and enjoyed having so many people who love and adore her all to herself.

Back to Taylor and Jessica...the kids and their families made most of the decorations.  This shot gives a nice overview to the casual theme (which, by the way, I personally love - if I ever do get married - these two may get the privilege of helping design my wedding).

This guy...my dad and Taylor's - and now Jessica's - Grandpa...performed their wedding ceremony. Yes, we did the whole "register over the Internet to be a pastor thing" and I'm so happy we did.  What a beautiful memory.  He came up with a cool idea to have the best man flip a coin to figure out who said their vows first...on his own...without Pinterest!

As we waited for the rain to stop so we could begin the ceremony I looked across the tent and noticed Taylor just hanging out (sitting on a cooler) below the window - the window right next to where I'd been shooting pics of Jessica just a few minutes before - but on the other side of the wall - her looking out - probably worrying about whether or not the rain would stop long enough to get their much wanted ceremony outdoors.  What I loved about the picture below (as from a photography standpoint, it's not that great of a photo) was that Taylor was holding the box with their rings in it. I watched him play with the box in his hands...turning it, opening it... While I'm sure it was partly because he wanted to make sure they stayed safe and they had them for the wedding - and partly because all the anxiety and nerves associated with a wedding were coming to a head, I also watched him absently playing with the box, checking on the rings, all the while all the people who love and care about he and Jessica milled about right around him and his beautiful bride waited on the other side of the wall.  In those moments - Taylor seemed oblivious to it all - just waiting to become a husband.

I walked up to Taylor and interrupted is reverie.  Taylor asked me as I worked to try to set up a shot of Jess standing just above him in the window (a shot that just wouldn't work because of glare) - why she got to see him but he didn't get to see her.  I remember hearing this love in his voice at that moment - just this desire to be with his girl.  These two have such a sweet friendship and love for one another - in that moment - in the sound of his voice - I heard years of emotion and joy.

So, so many more shots that I will share eventually either on Facebook or Flickr or both, but for now, I'll add in one more shot that is, thus far, my favorite non bride and groom shot.  After this, I'm not posting any more wedding shots until the kids see them (okay - that's probably not true because I see new ones I love about every 5 minutes while I'm working on them and it's hard to wait to post them).

Their flower girl was adorable and full of energy - and this shot of her absconding with Jess's bouquet just made me giggle.  I added a little extra processing to make her sequins and her boots stand out.  Doesn't she just look like she's running away to get married herself?

So, congratulations Taylor and Jess.  I can hardly wait to go through your pictures with you!  Here is to the brightest and most love filled future imaginable!

Photographer note: about 1/3 of the way through processing the shots, I decided that most of the shots were getting about the same effects applied to them (and I'd been using a Preset in Lightroom and then adjusting, so here is a free Lightroom Preset, appropriately named, A Wedding for Taylor and Jessica, that incorporates all the settings I used for about the last 2/3 of the photos. It's what I used to process the picture that opened this post.  I'd love to know if you find it useful.)

Sunday, January 3, 2016


Kitchen Planning
Hi there.  I'm Kara - the woman who lives in this blog.  I've been gone way too much in the last year and I feel a huge need to blog again.  My commitment to myself is to tell my story - as authentically as I can - as a memory keeping activity - but also hopefully to inspire others.

I even have a giveaway planned for later this month so check back!

Today's post is all about the thing that is consuming most of my life right now - my upcoming move.  I've moved about six times in my life - the majority of which were tied to college - so I'm not a huge moving expert.  That said, I am pretty organized and I'm trying to kid myself into thinking I've got this move pretty well under control.  So, I'm going to share a few tips that have worked for me.

1. Ask for help!

I am so lucky to have an incredible support system - from my best friend, to my family, to a great church family, to work friends - I've got a great #squad.  To say that I couldn't have gotten packed and as ready as I am without my best friend Gayle would be an absolute understatement.  She's been a huge help every weekend since I sold my house - and just an emotional support all along (I may or may not have broken down in tears randomly a few hundred times during this process).  My family has been amazing.  Everyone knows how awful moving is and most people will help out in some way if asked - so ask for help.

2. Put a day between when you take possession and when you move.

My current house was "move in ready".  I moved in a few hours after I took possession.  That was a HUGE mistake.  I didn't get to do a really thorough cleaning of the house.  My new house is what I am classifying as a "move in ready fixer upper".  It must be cleaned.  I've scheduled my closing on a Friday and moving on a Saturday.  On that Friday, I've got cleaning and some light repairs being done along with installation of cable and security systems and delivery of a couple of new appliances.

3. Measure your new place and "test" your furniture.

This worked extremely well for me before I moved into my current house - so I decided to do it again.  Gayle and I went into my new house and took measurements of each room.  Then, we measured my existing furniture.  I made a graph paper diagram of the new house and little cut outs of the furniture.  Then I could move around the furniture 100's of times by literally only lifting a finger.
Make a paper plan of your new house and cut out little pieces of your furniture to move around.

Since I am moving into a smaller place I knew some things wouldn't fit in my new house.  This helped me realize just how much of my current furniture won't fit in my new place. I'm still probably moving one or two pieces that ultimately won't make the final cut - but making a paper space plann allowed me to a) tell the people helping with move day exactly where the furniture should go in the new place and b) give away/sell a LOT of pieces before I actually move.

I also know that for me to feel "settled" when I wake up in my new place on the first morning my kitchen needs to be set up - so I've asked my nieces to set up my kitchen for me on moving day.  For that, I made the plan pictured in the photo that opened this post. It's a simple line sketch that shows all the cabinets and drawers in my new kitchen and what goes in them.

4. Purge rigorously

For the last year or so, I've worked very hard to keep my home in order.  The items on this list from Gretchen Rubin are a lot of the tips I've used.  I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing just as I put my house on the market to sell.  I am a classic overbuyer and I doubt I'm cured, but I have gotten rid of A LOT using the "does it spark joy" mantra.  I'm guessing I will get rid of even more on the other end of the move.

5. Figure out how to get rid of all the things you purged

I feel like I've gotten rid of a lot. That said, very little has gone in the trash.  I did three things with this move that have been really effective for me.

  • Set up a "give away" group.  
I created a Facebook event for my move and added my family and closest friends to it - people I asked to help me with the move.  I set it up long before I had moving day set in stone.  As I purged, I posted photos of items in the event.  Anyone who wanted something just posted a note and then we arranged transfer.
For one item - my piano - I went wider to Facebook proper.  The piano was literally snatched up in 5 minutes!  Two pictures and a post and I got rid of a piano! 

  • Try a local consignment store.
 I am very lucky to have a fabulous consignment store just a few miles from my house.  I've used them for a few items that I thought I could get a little money from.  Helping a local small business and getting a little cash in my pocket is a great thing.  There are consignment stores for both household goods and clothing. I've had better luck with the household goods but I've also consigned a few clothes.

  •  Identify local charities and donation centers.
A lot of what I'm getting rid of has just gone to donation.  In the end, it's faster than any other method of getting rid of things.  I've spread the donations I've made around between:

  • Goodwill - clothing and housewares
  • Teacher's Treasure (a local teacher shopping depot) - art, craft, and office supplies
  • Habitat ReStore - larger furniture (they pick up!!!)
  • The Library - books and DVDs 
While I haven't used it, other groups like Freecycle allow you to post items you're giving away and others can speak up for them and come and get them for free.  There is also always CraigsList for selling items. 

My final tip is to commemorate both the process and the day.  From putting the house on the market to moving day will be about three months.  There have been huge ups and downs in that whole process.  I've commemorated that process in my journal as well as using my Facebook group and finally through a hashtag - #karaisonthemove - on socialmedia.  I've invited my family and friends helping with moving day to use the hashtag too.

I can't wait to share all the upgrades and updates that are going to happen in my new home here on the blog.  I hope you'll enjoy the journey with me.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

It Is Well With My Soul

I've missed writing here. I desperately want to write.

I had a plan for what I was going to write first. This wasn't it.  Yet this feels right.

So much has changed since I was regularly writing last.  Much of it wonderful...a little of it bad.

"The Fort" is now a regular part of my life - although one that will likely take a bit of a hiatus when the weather turns cold.  As I was walking tonight...thinking...clearing my head of all the stuff that gets shoved in there during the day and making room for all of the creativity, I kept coming back to the words from the hymn - It Is Well With My Soul.  In all honesty, while I was walking, that was all I could remember.  I had to look up the lyrics when I got home.

The title though has come to be how I've been thinking of my word for this year - Authentic.  To be authentic is to do things that are well with my soul.  It doesn't need a "faith" context when I think of it that way - it's a statement that for me seems easy to agree with - regardless of religion.  I happen to be fine with it in a Christian context.  If I'm acting in a way that is authentic I'm acting in a way that my soul can live with - it is well with my soul.

And, so I plan to return to this space.  Because this is a space where I am me and I can be well with my soul.  You won't find only posts of pictures - and weird ideas as tonight's may seem to you...I even have a little blog calendar and everything.  We'll see how it goes.  But, it's good to be back here - and I certainly hope it lasts.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

On beginning

I'm starting a new project - it's call #The100DaysProject.  You can read more about it here.

My friend Beth turned me onto it. Thanks Beth!

As soon as I saw it, I knew I wanted my project to involve quotes.  I pretty quickly settled on using a title I used for a Postcard Swap a while back - #100DaysOfWordsOfInspiration.  You can check it out in my Instagram Feed.

All that was settled in my mind about three weeks ago.  As I thought about how to begin I started to look up quotes.  I can lose myself for hours reading quotes, cruising quote boards on Pinterest, and reading a good book looking for little nuggets of wisdom.  I quickly realized that where I would need inspiration in the messy middle of this project was on the art and display of the quote - not on finding the quotes.  So, I actually started writing down a list of all the different creative ways that I could showcase a quote.  That's the part I'll struggle with later on - when the newness wears off and the project loses its excitement for me.  Any effort of 100 days - any effort at all that's more than a simple little task can turn tedious quickly.

Starting with the hard part is a tactic I'm using a lot lately - get the most important things - the hardest things - the things I'm dreading the most done first.  I write that now, realizing today that's not even remotely what happened.  I ended up working on something I personally find quite easy today - not on the thing I planned to do which is the hard stuff.

As the quote says..."Keeping together is progress..."  I am a continuous work in progress.

Do you have a quote you'd like me to showcase during this project?  If so - leave it in the comments.  Feel free to leave more than one.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter Weekend


I had a wonderful, albeit busy, Easter weekend - although busy (maybe even crazy) pretty accurately describes the last month.  I've been missing in action from the blog far too much and have such an intense need to write at the present time - hopefully this is the first in a string of posts, but I make no promises.

I arrived at mom and dad's house on Friday evening with a lot on my mind - but the thing that mattered most right off the bat was seeing this sweet girl.  The entire saga with her foot has been a seven month long journey that I hope for both of our sakes is coming to a close now - and that entire journey really needs its own post.  The short version is she's doing really well right now and might even get her stitches out tomorrow!  My parents have had her for two weeks (while I've been traveling) and my dad has done multiple vet trips for me to our vet in Richmond - thank you so much dad!

I sent dad a text on Friday afternoon that I'd want to get in a walk that evening if it wasn't raining - about 2 miles - and he should come with me or just suggest a route.  We had dinner with mom as soon as I arrived on Friday and then headed out with Sammy, dad's dog, for that walk - which ended up being about 2.5 miles.  Mom and dad's place is technically in the city, but within that 2.5 mile walk we were standing at the edge of a field enjoying a pretty glorious sunset.

Saturday was for errands.  Mom and I hit the grocery and then met up with Dad for lunch at Frisch's - for the express purpose of picking up a Red's baseball schedule - bring on opening day!  We all ran a few more errands and then dad and I got in another walk.  I made dinner and Susie stopped in for a visit.  Over the course of the afternoon I think there was a nap and then there was some prep for Easter lunch - dad grilled meat, while Susie, mom and I prepped some other stuff.  I can honestly say of all the family dinners we've done this one was, from my perspective, about the simplest I've done in a while which was good considering how busy these last few weeks have been.  Family is always there to fill in all the needed pieces!

Mom, Dad, and I started off this morning at their church.  The choir sounded wonderful and the bells were nice.  It's also always nice seeing my former church family - but I desperately missed my church in Indy.

After church, it was time for family time.  We had 19 people in for lunch - a pretty normal-sized family dinner for us - that often also includes friends and families of in-laws as today's lunch did. Without a doubt, the star of the show was Lucas, although Miss Lauren was a close second.  Lots of favorite memories from today...so I'm just going to capture a few...


Mom asked to hold Lauren almost as soon as Amanda and Steve came in.  As soon as Amanda put Lauren in her hands, there were at least five different cameras shooting pictures - we're all making a huge effort to get pics of mom and the kids together now.

Even with 18 people there we were missing quite a few folks including Lucas's cousin "auntie" Ashley - so we shot a quick video for her.  His ad lib in the last second - priceless!  Grabbed a few other videos and lots of pictures to share with family who couldn't be there today which helped connect us all together.


Lucas LOVED picking up Easter eggs - and even got pretty good at taking them and their contents (after opening them and dumping their contents into the grass) - back to Aunt Susie and placing them in the basket - which she was holding for him.  He told us what color each one was, and opened each and told us what was in them.  They included, in Lucas speak, monies (quarters and dollar bills), me-mes (M&Ms), gummies (self explanatory), and McQueen socks (Lightning McQueen socks).


And the entire family had fun watching him. Everyone got in on calling out colors, reminding him to pick up the contents of the egg and put it in his basket, and even helping him hold all his loot when he didn't want to return it to his basket.  Good thing he's only 2 or he might realize he didn't quite get all the M&Ms or gummies back as some of those got eaten as refreshments while we watched him.


Instagram Photo April 05, 2015 at 02:48PM

His Nana got him some McQueen bubbles so Great Aunt Susie blew bubbles for him while he and great grandpa ("Grandpa Frank" in Lucas speak) chased them around the yard.  Other people got in on the chasing too - but they were the main players. [Note: That second photo - the one with Lucas looking up at the bubbles - my fave - and I shot it with my cell phone no less!)


You could tell it was a long, cold winter inside as this little man wanted NOTHING to do with going inside- and it was hard to blame him on such a gorgeous day.  We talked him into getting a drink under promise that I'd take him back outside.  We both got drinks and then headed back out.  Great Grandpa joined us shortly.  We took a brief break to go inside to find out where the yellow ball was (the photo that led off this post) but then back out and were probably out for about an hour in total.  I need to talk for a minute on the incredible increase in his vocabulary.  It's been six weeks since I saw him (entirely too long) and about a week since he and I video chatted (thank you Nana!).  I could tell in the video chat that both his vocabulary and his pronunciation had improved - today really showcased that.  I had no trouble understanding at least 80% and likely 90% of what he said - a number I'd say was around 60% just six weeks ago.  His naming of objects and his descriptions of both objects and events are much more detailed.  He's also naming people more specifically and more directly than ever before - I'm now solidly Aunt Nicki and Grandpa Frank is clear and perfectly understandable. He's also mimicking EVERYTHING...so we all have to now be very careful what we say.

Donna and Amanda also thought to set up a four generations shot which I was glad someone thought to do - thanks for sharing your pic Donna!  Note to everyone in the family who reads this...we're due for another full family photo at our next gathering so come prepared!


I was personally a little disappointed in the pictures I got today.  I need to continue to work on shooting action shots - lots of blur, weird eye and hand positions, bad shadows, etc.  I need to just shoot more regularly (note to self).  The shot above though was another favorite - thanks to Steve for tossing Lucas up in the air several more times so I could get the shot as I didn't have the camera on the first time he did it!  But, with such a fun little boy and sweet beautiful little girl to serve as the stars of our show - there are still plenty of wonderful pictures - and even more amazing memories to go around.

Happy Easter to everyone!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Miss Lauren Olivia

I am three weeks late in getting this post up.  How in the world is this beautiful little angel already three weeks old?  Please meet my beautiful and amazing great niece - Lauren Olivia Stout.  She was born February 16 and she is absolutely perfect.

On Saturday I went over and spent a couple of hours with Lauren and her mommy (Daddy and Lucas were out having some fun times together).  This is my third visit with Miss Lauren - and every one has been precious.  I sat and held her while she slept and Amanda and I visited.  She fussed a little bit a couple of times but not too much.  She just barely fits into the afghan I made her as she's really starting to grow now.  She did open her eyes for a few minutes at the end of the visit - I can already tell she's taking all of her world in and trying to figure it out.

Lucas is doing great as a big brother.  I can't wait to see him in a few months when she's alert and looking around and learning how to laugh - he's going to love making her laugh because he loves making all of us laugh.

And watching Amanda and Steve be new parents again is another joy.  Those two just make my heart so happy.

Miss Lauren - you are so loved and I'm so glad you're in our lives.  

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Merry Christmas!


I'm sitting here at the computer today working through a software upgrade for work.  If you've never done a major software upgrade it's a lot of sitting and waiting and then spending five minutes testing something until you find the next thing that didn't work like it was supposed to and you then wait until that's fixed and start the cycle all over again.  Boring drudgery is what we call that.  Luckily, I'm not the poor person who has to fix all the stuff that's not quite working as anticipated so I'm getting to clean my desk, now I'm working on cleaning up my office area and I got my Christmas pictures processed! So, I'm sharing them with all of you.


Let's start with the story of these first two pictures - which won't be nearly as funny as it was to me in real life.  Dinner was over so we all headed to the living room for Lucas to unwrap his gifts and everyone else to get their gift cards (we're not much of a present family unless you are under about the age of six.)  He opened his gifts - which I'll show you in a second and then his Nana and I wanted to get a picture of him in front of the tree.  We told him to stand by the tree and he backed his little tush right up and just posed bigger than life...big cheesy cheese and all.  The first photo was from the first time he did it - at which point I laughed so hard because this boy is just so cute - that I wasn't sure when I looked at the picture if I actually got a good shot so we had him do it again - which he did.  I tried not to shake too hard while I laughed and snapped and ended up getting a good shot from each round!  I love that he enjoys making us laugh.


This is the other photo I'm most excited about - I've been trying to get a good picture of Lucas with his Great Grandma for - well nearly two years now.  Mom doesn't love having her picture taken and since Great Grandma is typically sitting still and Lucas is usually moving, getting the two in the same frame can be a challenge.  But, luckily, I went in the living room and grabbed a spot in the corner right after dinner.  As everyone came in mom took Lucas's hand to walk over to the Christmas tree and show him the Snoopy motorcycle toy that was in the tree for him.  I clicked off about 10 frames and got three good shots.  I'll keep trying for some great ones but happy to have at least a few with them in the same frame!


Lucas got snatched up by Auntie Ashley and snuggled for about 10 seconds before he was back off and running again.  Love the big smiles on all their faces. Ash and Matt got him a set of bib overalls which I can't wait to see him in.  

Lucas did great opening everything - from gift bags to presents.  I got him the toys to go with his train mat.  Great Grandma and Great Grandpa hit the kid pleasing jackpot though because they got him a tractor which definitely got the most love and attention.




Lucas has definitely mastered present unwrapping.  He had no hesitation with it at all.  He even helped me open my gift - a Lynn and Friends CD featuring Mrs. J! (Thanks for grabbing the shot Donna!)

As all the present unwrapping was winding up and everyone else went back to the kitchen to clean up dinner, Lucas and I grabbed a few more minutes to get some shots of him just being a silly almost two year old.  



Our whole Christmas Day was a wonderful day of family and friends so even though I didn't catch pictures of more than these few minutes, the whole day was joyful and a great opportunity to just relax and spend time together. I certainly hope you also had a Merry Christmas!
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