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4 Practical Ways for Finding Joy

Image source: pexels.com

Image source: pexels.com

Finding joy is like finding buried treasure. It will take work, and you’ll go on quite a journey getting there, but you need to know where you can find it before you can set off. Thankfully, there are many maps to finding joy, and if you’re willing to put in a bit of work getting there, you’ll realize that it’s not that hard to find. Happiness and joy are different, in that happiness is fleeting and often brought about by things that happen around you, while joy is consistent, and comes from inside. In other words, other things can make us happy, but we can make ourselves joyful. Here are some practical ways for finding joy!

Treat everyday like thanksgiving - No, I don’t mean what you think I mean. I’m not talking about the food (although I can definitely whip up some joy with a bit of chocolate), what I’m talking about is giving thanks. When you make a habit out of being thankful for the things in your life, you’re automatically shifting your mind into a positive mindset, and slowly changing the way that you think about things. Do this for long enough, and you won’t be able to recognize yourself from before, because you’ll be so much more joyful.

Image source: pexels.com

Image source: pexels.com

Challenge yourself with something and commit to it - Here’s where that hard work comes in. The feeling of accomplishment is made up of joyful feelings, and is a very practical way to cultivate joy. Think of that project that you’ve been wanting to do for a long time - maybe you’ve been wanting to learn another language, write more short stories, beat the record on track team - and commit yourself to doing it. You’ll have to be more organized, and set reachable goals, but in the end, the effort will be so worth it, and the journey to accomplishing what you set out to will give you a big dose of joy.

Do something you love - This one only is hard when it comes time to stop. Think about the things that give you joy - whether it’s going out with friends, shopping, exercise, painting, etc. - and do that thing. It’s a surefire way to get a good grasp of joy, but you have to be make sure that the thing you love to do doesn’t become a crutch. You’ve probably heard the adage, “Too much of a good thing.” If you do something you love in excess, then that thing won’t give you much joy anymore. Do what you love in moderation, and you’ll be one joyful person!

Image source: pixabay.com

Image source: pixabay.com

Make time for laughter - Anyone’s who laughed knows that it makes them feel better. There’s no wonder that some of the most joyful people you know love to laugh! Think about the last time you genuinely laughed: how did you feel? As you grow older, you’ll have less opportunity to laugh, so while you’re young you should make it a habit. Maybe you have a group of friends that always make you laugh, or you love to watch comedies - you know what makes you laugh. Make time for these things, and you’ll find a whole lot of joy.

Finding joy isn’t as hard as it first seems, no matter where you’re coming from. The hardest part is putting one foot in front of the other, and making the effort to build up that joy. Give yourself time, and you’re sure to find that joy and hold onto it for years to come. If you’re a senior, then you have a unique opportunity to build that joy through a senior session with me. Contact me here to book your session!

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Snow Queen Stylized Shoot

Before there was Elsa and all her Frozen glory, there was the snow queen from Hans Christian Anderson’s book. Snow has long been an inspiration for many photographers and designers, and for good reason. Snow and ice are incredible, magical, and beautiful. There is a sense of mystery to the cold temperatures, and it inspired this styled session with the beautiful Abby and Kaitlynn. Kaitlynn is our usual hair and makeup artist, so she did her own styling, and the lovely Sylvie did Abby’s makeup this time. Both girls were eager to put their own twist on the idea of a modern day snow queen, and I loved having the creative freedom to make this shoot happen!

The first look was very “Elsa”, with a beautiful white outfit and shimmering makeup. We did a side fishtail braid, and added a bit of floral branches to create a true crown. The second look was warmer and had more of a holiday feel, with a crimson floral berry crown, and hints of blue in her shimmering makeup look. As you know if you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, I really find inspiration in coming up with new and creative styling in my sessions, and this one was no exception. If you are a senior who wants really unique senior photos and has a special idea, I’d love to help you figure out how to make it happen…no idea is too crazy or too adventurous to try, and who wouldn’t want to have the most unique photos amongst their friends?

Contact me today!

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Tips for Traveling on a Budget

We have all been there: drooling over the Instagram of that one friend, the one who always seems to be jet-setting off to a new destination. We have all dreamed of traveling to see new places, and I always love a good vacation! But, sometimes our budgets have other plans, and it can be especially hard to plan for travel when you’re in high school or you are a parent paying for a high schooler as they graduate. I wanted to put together some of my best tips for traveling on a budget today! You can start dreaming of your next trip, even if it’s just an overnight jaunt to a nearby city. Travel is good for the body, and the soul!

Source: Pexels

Source: Pexels

-Plan with safety and convenience in mind: Never go on a trip without telling someone, and if you’re in high school, be sure to tell a trusted adult when you’ll be leaving and returning. Have your car checked out before you go on a long road trip, so you don’t risk blowing a tire or having your car break down (thus costing tons of money) while you are away from family and friends. Make sure you can charge your phone somehow, and bring along emergency cash, food, and water anytime you are driving a long distance, especially in the colder months or extreme heat. 

-Make a budget: Decide what you will be able to pay, and if you’re traveling with friends, make sure you are upfront about what you and they will be paying for. It’s never fun to have a surprise that you weren’t planning for, or having to foot the bill for something you didn’t know you were responsible for. You can even use an app like Paypal or Venmo to create a money pool and budget accordingly. Be considerate of others if you are planning a group trip, and come up with ways to make it affordable for everyone, even if it means skipping a fancy dinner and packing your own food. Remember it’s about relationships, not the money spent. Make a budget and stick to it, so you’re not left with credit card debt as your souvenir!

-Don’t book your travel on a sketchy site: One of the best ways to lose your hard earned money is to book with a scam website. Don’t fall for emails that say you will win a free cruise or trip, unless you trust the sender. Be sure to double check any bookings you have made, and try to go through a well regarded travel site like Expedia or Kayak, to minimize the risk of putting your credit card and information out there for hackers. If possible, book using a credit card with fraud protection versus a debit card that can drain your accounts. You can also use the airline tools that show you the cheapest fares, in order to select any flights that will save you money. 


-Organize meals and snacks ahead of time: one of the biggest areas that will cost when you travel is food. You can minimize the amount of money you’ll have to spend on dining out by taking advantage of things like a continental breakfast at a hotel, or packing easy to eat items like instant oatmeal, granola bars, or beef jerky in order to skip at least one meal a day in a restaurant. Even something like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches may not be glamorous but they will save you quite a bit. When you do eat out, check Yelp for affordable places to eat, and order water to drink (even the few dollars adds up). If you’re going to be dining at places you know ahead of time, like chain restaurants, consider buying gift cards before you go at your local grocery store. You’ll earn gas points when you purchase them at most grocery chains, and it’s money you’d already be spending, so it’s a great way to save on gas.

-Look for cheap travel ideas: If you keep an open mind, you can travel on a shoestring, even if it’s just camping. Camping can be a great way to get out of town without paying for a spendy hotel. Travel is so good to clear your head and get a change of pace, and camping can do just that, even if it’s a short drive away. Gather up some friends, and get into the great outdoors for a trip that won’t break the bank

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Strategies for Overcoming Challenges

As a small business owner and also someone who works with high school seniors, I know that challenges are a part of life. As a photographer, I run into challenges whether it’s location changes, lengthy editing sessions, or trying to juggle being a mother and wife along with a professional…they pop up from time to time, even though I adore my job. I’ve discovered some great strategies to dealing with problems in a constructive way, and I wanted to share them with you. Especially as we head into a new year, it’s great to have some tools in your arsenal to deal with any challenges that may arise. 

Source: Pexels

Source: Pexels

-Keep perspective: Decide if a problem is worth getting upset over. Often, I realize that something that seems huge at the time may actually not be that big of a deal. One good way to figure this out is to sleep on a big decision or problem, in order to calm down and figure out what is needed to solve it. Trying to solve something stressful when you are hungry, tired, or grumpy is never a good idea, and can cause your perspective to be super skewed and out of bounds!

-Try some calming techniques before you tackle a problem: Deep breathing, essential oils, and positive mantras are just some of the ways you can calm yourself down before dealing with a difficult person or situation. Take a few deep breaths with an essential oil like Stress Away, in order to help increase your calmness. Also remember to schedule a hard meeting or phone call in a time in your day when you can focus and be well rested!

-Remember that facts and emotions are sometimes different: I know when I am facing an obstacle, sometimes my emotions get the best of me and I forget the facts of the situation. Facts like what actually occurred, or what needs to happen next. Some good questions to ask yourself are, “What is making me upset in this situation”, “What do I need this person or business to do about it”, and “What needs to occur next”. Sometimes, you may realize your frustration is directed at the wrong person or place, and that perhaps they cannot do anything to fix it. If you are struggling to know what to do, try writing out a list of the main points to keep yourself focused. 

-Bring in a third party if you are stuck: If you’re a teen struggling with a teacher or friends, bringing in another objective adult like a parent or family friend can help bring some help to a situation that you may need a fresh opinion on. It can also help to ask advice from someone who is not affiliated with any of the “sides” of the issue or situation, because they often can come up with solutions you may not have thought of. If you are a teen dealing with a company or organization, it can be helpful to bring in your spouse or parent to assist you if you feel you are not being taken seriously. 

-Resolve to move on if things cannot be resolved: Sometimes a relationship or problem simply cannot be solved in a way where both parties feel satisfied. I have found it’s good to let it go and move on, without letting it fester or become a bitter sticking point for me. If I have done everything in my power to be reasonable and try to solve the problem, sometimes it is necessary to let it go, if at all possible, so I can maintain positivity and happiness in my own life!



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Books to Read During Christmas Break

If you have access to a cozy fire and a good blanket, then you have the perfect environment to get some reading done this holiday season! Often, we get days off work or school, and have some downtime. So, what better time is there to start a new book? I know it’s hard to settle down in the hustle and bustle of the holidays with the shopping, wrapping, and cooking, but after the 25th, you may have a few free days to really REST! Here are some of our top picks of books to devour before the end of 2018:

Source: Pexels

Source: Pexels

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: This book is a great, quiet thriller. It’s the story of secrets and how they can upend a whole community. It will keep you turning the pages until the very end. If you like her beautiful writing style, you’ll also like her book “Everything I Never Told You” about a death in the family and the mystery surrounding it.

Girl, Wash Your Face: Rachel Hollis has inspired tons of women and girls to get through hard circumstances, and keep their heads held high. This is an inspiring book filled with motivational thoughts and ideas to get you out of a rut. It also makes the perfect gift for your girlfriends or your mom. Rachel also is awesome on social media and her podcast, so be sure to check those out as well.

Every Breath by Nicholas Sparks: If you want a quintessential chick-lit book, this one will fit the bill. It’s a romantic story of a surgeon who falls in love, and the family commitments that drive them apart. It’s a page turner and a tear jerker, and the perfect book to settle into a bubble bath or a road trip with. It’s a larger book, so it’ll also be perfect for those readers who like to truly savor a story.

Turtles All the Way Down: John Green is one of my favorite authors, because of the way he weaves a story together. This is no exception. It is a powerful story about mental illness and the way it touches people’s lives, but it’s also lighthearted and enjoyable, and even funny. You won’t be able to put it down, and you’ll want to share it with everyone you know.

Ghost Soldiers: An atypical biography about a true story during World War II. It’s the riveting account of a true life rescue, and the men who defied the odds. It reads well, and isn’t boring in the least. We bet you will plow right through it, and then loan it to your friends. It has some violent content due to the war subject matter, but it’s a worthwhile and meaningful read.



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Making (and keeping) Your New Years Resolutions

We have all made New Years resolutions that we failed to keep. Whether we followed through for one day or one month, we have all felt that pang of regret that we didn’t continue to do what we had committed to. Often, we decide to eat healthier, work out, be better with our money, or get better grades. Perhaps you want a promotion at your job, or to give back to your community in some way. But we have all realized life can crowd in quickly, and derail even the best laid plans. Here are our tips for making and keeping your resolutions for the brand new year:

Source: Pexels

Source: Pexels

-Be specific: Saying “I will eat healthier" is a really broad resolution. Instead, think of ways you can be more specific, such as “I will stop eating fast food after school”. You could also swap in healthier options like walking instead of taking the elevator, or walking twice a week. Being specific helps your brain recognize what task needs to be done. Other specific things are: I will purge my closet, I will recycle my cans, I will use a planner to stay organized. These are easy ways to begin implementing healthy changes in your life, without making broad, unrealistic statements that are too vague.

-Be realistic: If you know you cannot commit to working out one hour a day, or volunteering 20 hours a week, it is not realistic to say that’s what you will do. You will just set yourself up for failure, before you’ve even started. Instead set a lower, more realistic goal, such as “I will work out 3 days a week” and then make a chart to show your progress. A visual aid helps keep you on track, and makes it easier to see how much you’ve really done.

-Be accountable: A friend who has a similar goal can help keep you on track to meet your goal. Ask a friend to walk twice a week with you, or download a fitness app that you can both use to view progress. If your goal is to save money or get better grades, make an agreement with your friend to help you stay the course. For example, if drive-through coffee or eating out is draining your savings, ask your friend to help by planning to pack a lunch with you a few days a week, or learning to make your own espresso or tea that you can put into travel mugs. A buddy makes it easier to stick to a plan.

-Make fewer goals: If you make too many goals, you will burn yourself out too quickly. Consider making 2-3 realistic goals that you feel confident that you can reach. Of course, they shoudln’t be too easy, and should be somewhat challenging, but shouldn’t be impossible. If you’ve never run in your life, three marathons might be absolutely impossible for your body to achieve, but a 5k is going to be challenging yet achievable. If you don’t know what an achievable goal would look like, ask an adult or a parent to help you brainstorm. '

By setting and keeping your goals, you will feel accomplished and will be on your way to a more disciplined and fulfilling life! Happy New Year!

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Jaycee's Senior Session

Self-care is a bit of a buzzword these days. It seems everywhere we turn, we hear about how we need to put ourselves first, and to preserve our feelings and hearts. This is one lesson that Jaycee, this beautiful senior, has learned in the last few years: the put herself first. “I have really learned that I cannot hold on to the things that have hurt me in the past. It is something to live by; to move on and find something better. ‘Forget what hurt you, but never forget what it taught you’ is my favorite quote”. I love her strength and kindness, and really enjoyed getting together to capture her senior year. Jaycee will graduate from Lake Travis High School in 2019, and she also enjoys her part-time job at Hill Country Indoor. She enjoys working with children, and also has run track in the past. When it comes to people who are influential in her life, Jaycee cites her aunt and her mom, who are both strong women who have fought for what they want in life! 

When I planned out her session, I chose the Spicewood area near Austin, and a local vineyard, Stone House Vineyard. The vineyard is seriously so elegant and stunning, and pairs the best architecture with beautiful landscaping; it is the perfect spot for an unique senior shoot. Jaycee says her personal style would best be described as “casual, cute and fun”, and that her everyday style usually includes sneakers, t-shirt, and shorts. She looks up to celebrities with a cool-casual style like Selena Gomez, and really loves shopping at Buckle. As far as her future, college is definitely in her sights, and she plans to pursue nursing, with minors in sociology and psychology. Jaycee is passionate about finding justice for rape and assault victims, and helping end human trafficking in the United States. Eventually, she plans to become a counselor or a therapist. I know her huge heart and passion about her goals in life will take her very far! Congratulations, sweet girl!

Contact me today to schedule your senior shoot!

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Your Must Have Pieces for the Holidays!

We have all been there: standing in front of the closet, scrambling to get to a family event or special holiday dinner, with no idea what to wear. There are seemingly endless events during the holiday season, and it can feel overwhelming to decide on a versatile wardrobe that will carry you through the busiest social months of the year…especially if you’re on a budget. We have put together a list of the best staples for the next few months, and where to find them:

Source: Pexels

Source: Pexels

-A pretty blouse: A great blouse can take you from dinner to christmas shopping, and everywhere in between. Look for a flattering cut, interesting print or color, but nothing too outstanding so you can wear it over and over. Pair it with dark skinny jeans, black ponte leggings, or tucked into a figure flattering skirt. This Free People blouse is under $40 and is beautiful in royal blue. If you want something more traditional, try this Organza tie neck blouse in black; it’s also under $25, so you really get a good value for your dollar!

-Shimmering skirt: This shimmering midi skirt is the stuff holiday dreams are made of. It is $35 on Forever 21, and can be paired with just about any plain tee shirt or blouse in your closet to create a perfect festive look! We like it best with a plain black tee shirt and sparkly earrings, but you could also go with a fashion forward look like a chambray shirt tucked in, or a textured crop top for something more modern.

-A Wear-Anywhere Dress: A solid color dress with an interesting detail (like these trumpet sleeves) is a great piece to have to wear to family dinners, holiday gift exchanges, or even a school party. Aim for something simple, classic, and well-fitted. A more conservative neckline and just above the knee hemline will also make it versatile for more formal events like church or religious events where you need something more streamlined. We also love this beautiful velvet, wrap dress, which is available in plus sizes as well.

-The accessory: Whether you choose dangling, shimmery earrings, or a pretty sparkly clutch, your accessory can really make a difference. It can also be the piece that makes your outfit celebratory instead of every-day. You can even wear a plain and simple jeans and tee outfit with a great accessory, and it will elevate it to party-worthy greatness. These earrings are a great example, paired with black heels and neutral basics, you will look great and stick to your budget. You could also go for a gorgeous clutch like this one for under $15 at Old Navy. If you only buy one item this season, make it a great accessory!

Remember that what matters is your time with loved ones this season. It is fun to dress up, but you don’t need to break the bank to impress the people in your life! You can dress adorably and still stick to your budget this year!

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Ways to Cultivate Gratitude

It’s that time of year again! For some, it’s a time of year to focus on what they might get, but the true spirit of the season is in focusing on what you can give. The key to a heart set on generosity is in having a heart well acquainted with thankfulness. Being thankful, even in just a simple “thank you” in response to a kindness shown towards you, is intimately connected with positivity. While the Thanksgiving holiday is a great reminder of what we should be focusing on, the truth is that we should be just as grateful every day of the year. But how do you do that? Well, here are a few tips!

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-Start small: When things hit hard, they jostle your perspective. You could start the day happy and joyful, but then the harsh realities of life become a bit too hard to handle, and your mood sinks. Gratefulness is the ballast that will keep you afloat in a storm, and you’re building a foundation for yourself every day. But strong foundations aren’t built in a day, it’s a process that takes time - and it all starts with a simple thank you. Starting small and reaching out in kindness and gratitude towards others, even when you desperately don’t want to, will be your anchor in the storm. Start small, and you’ll reap the rewards later!

-Stay present: If you’re anything like the rest of us, you’ve gone through a time where the future just wasn’t too bright. Everyone goes through times where their minds are on anything but the present, but there’s a certain joy that only comes from being truly thankful for where you’re at. If you can live in the moment and experience what is going on as it happens, you will discover many joys once overlooked. Cultivating a habit of living in the present, and being thankful for it, will give you a positive outlook both towards the future and the past.

-Never compare: In this season, it’s so easy to compare yourself to others, especially in the things that other people can afford. The Christmas season is coming, and for those who celebrate, you’ll see them walking around with big presents to give. Or if you celebrate Thanksgiving, you might feel the sting of jealousy as you compare your cooking to someone else’s. But true gratitude comes from finding joy in the ways others have been blessed, and giving thanks for what they’ve been given. That way you’re reorienting a heart set on comparing (and envying) to instead find joy in others.

Those are just a few ways you can find gratitude every day, and there are many more ways to do it! What are some ways that you’re cultivating gratitude each day?

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Halloween Themed Session

As spirits roam the neighborhoods at night,
Let loose upon the Earth till it be light…
~Nicholas Gordon

Something you need to know about me is that I absolutely love dreaming up themed sessions. I feel like it’s a bit of a creative high for me, and it always makes me feel super inspired when I can come up with something new. I’ve always loved Halloween, and the subtly creepy themes that were just waiting for me to come up with something cool! I love basically everything about the holiday, but especially the theatrics, the dressing-up, and the the little bit of campy, over the top drama!

One of these girls, Abby, is part of my senior team, and we brought in her friend Sarah for this themed shoot. Sarah was kind enough to be our super-scary vampire! I loved that they were both willing to go to great lengths to make this happen, even as far as wearing creepy colored contacts! I didn’t want sweet halloween photos; I wanted a little bit of scariness, and these ladies brought it! The makeup was a huge part of the overall look, and I love the all-out creepy result that we ended up with. We added some really dramatic outfits to round out the looks, and it came out even better than I imagined when I first started putting ideas to paper.

Thank you Sarah and Abby for helping my vision come to life. I couldn’t do what I do without my fellow dreamers and creatives, including the senior clients I work with!

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