May 24, 2017

Does anyone else start planning their kids’ birthday parties a year + in advance? No?

Well for some reason, I just LOVE all things birthday parties. I can’t really explain it all but I just do.  I started planning Merritt’s first birthday party when I was pregnant – which is completely absurd, I know, but I couldn’t help it… I got an idea in my head and then Pinterest happened.

Over the last year I have been slowly gathering ideas and collecting various watermelon paraphernalia – which is the biggest benefit to planning way in advance, you don’t have to purchase it all at once!

There are so many great watermelon parties out there, here are the pictures from ours!

We served watermelon (duh), cupcakes with mini chocolate chip “seeds”, and decorated cookies by our girl, Carrie!

On the other side of the table we had chips and hot sauce and then I made the most amazing watermelon salsa that I HIGHLY recommend you make as a light summery dish on a hot day! The in the middle of the table was, of course, the cake.

I’ve had the idea for this cake in my head from the moment I decided to do a watermelon party and it turned out exactly as I had planned, even though I was making it in between getting my kids in and out of the hall closet due to tornadoes!

If your’ve been around here, you know our love for freshly picked moccs. Well these little watermelon moccs came out a year or so before she was born and I thought they were so cute but not really something a little boy should wear. Lucky for me, they re-released them last summer and I couldn’t resist buying them and hoping my estimate on sizing would work out. Thankfully the size was perfect and they were a precious added touch. They re-released them again this spring if you need some for yourself!

We are so thankful for our sweet girl and we can’t believe she’s already ONE!

Party sources:

Balloons: Hobby Lobby and a local party shop
Agate balloons: Amazon
Foil watermelon balloon: Amazon
Balloon tape: Amazon
Tassels on watermelon balloon: Target
Watermelon bowls: Hobby Lobby
Watermelon plates: Michaels
Striped table runner: Michaels
Happy Birthday Banner: Target (old)

Tips on making your own balloon arch – I used the balloon tape listed above, hung it with fishing line from the ceiling and then used a low temperature glue gun to fill in extra spaces in the arch and make it more “full.”

I used a hand pump and blew them all up myself over a couple of days. I started on Wednesday and the party was Saturday. The balloons stayed pretty inflated until I popped them all the following Tuesday, so getting an early start if you are doing it alone should be ok!

Monthly Floral Photo

May 12, 2017

So many people I have talked to have mentioned how much they have loved Merritt’s monthly floral photos on Instagram (search #themonthlymerritt) so I thought I’d let you in on a little secret of how I did them, in case anyone else wants to attempt them!

I’ll do this question and answer style of some of the most common questions I get.

What do you use for the background? Prepare to be underwhelmed…. I have a large piece of white foam board purchased for around $1.50 from hobby lobby (with a coupon). It’s really that simple. I can prop it vertical behind her, or lay her on it like I did for these photos.

How do you get your photos so white?

So this is sort of a combination of things. I am by no means a professional, nor do I know everything there is to know about photography, BUT thru trial and error and reading online, I have found what works for me.

  • First, you need light…natural light. I never, I repeat, NEVER shoot photos like this with interior lights on, the color is not good. I open windows and find the brightest areas of indirect light I can. Some of these photos were taken in her room on the floor and some taken in the living room, just inside the patio doors, depending on the time of day.
  • I’m shooting with my DSLR in RAW instead of JPEG which allows me to make further adjustments on the computer
  • I’m using manual mode on the camera – all I can say is there are so many websites with great info about learning what everything is on your DSLR. Challenge yourself and go beyond that green automatic setting!
  • I take SO. MANY. PICTURES. So for one of these photos, I may have taken anywhere from 25-80 photos in one sitting. Just keep clicking away and then you have options to choose from when you get them to the computer! This is one of the many reasons why digital photography is so awesome.
  • Photo editing software. I use photoshop and it’s a program I am very familiar with. There are others, but I am slightly partial to photoshop because I know it so well. When you shoot in RAW you have to edit the photos before they can be saved as JPEGs.

How do you get such good pictures of her?

I literally take so many photos and I take them in rapid succession so I get all kinds of faces. Just keep taking pictures and making goofy faces behind the camera with silly noises.

How did you do the flowers?

So back when she was 1 month old and I had this idea, I ran to the grocery store and bought up all the flowers I liked. I brought them home and realized it takes so many flowers to make these numbers look the way I wanted them to. Instead of just making 1 number a month and having to buy all new flowers every month (talk about $$$$), I took time and I made every single number, photographed it, and then cleaned it up/edited it in photoshop to be saved and used later. *side note: I did 2 versions of the number 1 for month 11 so it wouldn’t be a copy paste and be completely obvious.

Because I was using the same background, I figured I could just put her in using photoshop.

How did you put her photo in and blend it so well?

So, I got better at this as the months progressed, but in a nutshell, I would arrange her with the flowers on the image, then I would add a blank layer and use the gradient tool to blend the shadowed areas and make the colors/temperatures of each photo match. I would then have to go in with the eraser tool and delete the gradient from her and the flowers.

All in all, I don’t think it’s something just anyone can do because not everyone has the right setup or knowledge of photo editing software, but maybe this helped you think outside the box!

Did I miss anything? If you have questions, let me know, I’d be happy to answer them!


May 3, 2017

It’s been a rough-go for this sweet little baby.

It’s super easy to see the photos I post, the light sense of humor and sarcasm added along for fun, and think all is well and smooth sailing. For the record, there’s a solid chance I am NOT having a smooth-sailing day, but I try to find the good, the happy, the funny…. and embrace it. Laugh about it. Go with it.

It’s who I am.

But reality over here is, this sweet babe has had a rough-go. Start with 3ish months of stomach bug issues with a side of unreal reflux problems, add a couple months of ear infections that never went away, every antibiotic known to mankind, doctors appointments with 3 kids, shots, tests, ear tubes, and still no real relief.. and she’s tired. Well, if I’m being honest, I’m tired too because sick babies don’t sleep… and juggling everything, doctors appointments, sick kids, 4 & 3-year old attitudes, grad school, teaching…trying to do all of it well – sometimes single-handedly while Brandon is away drilling and I. am. so. tired. (if anyone would like to send me that Hello Apparel shirt in a medium and it’s compliment in 12-18months, it’s definitely fitting – ha! totally a joke…kinda ;)) I’m literally running on Dr. Pepper and dry shampoo. 

But we are surviving and doing EVERYTHING we can to get her well by her first birthday NEXT WEEK (I can’t even talk about that yet). We are hopeful, we are thankful, we are blessed, and we are tired.

So to all my other mamas out there who are up all night every night, juggling work and kids, worn out staying home with littles, soaking up every. single. stressful/happy/nearly-impossible moment raising littles and trying to do it with grace and peace and love and compassion because GOSH-DARNIT-I-CANNOT-MESS-THIS-UP, you’re not alone.

Solidarity together, my friends.

Take a deep breath, a sip of your caffeine of choice, and let’s do this together.

(insert that three-finger sign from the Hunger Games)

Peace and Love.

Party till the cops come!

February 20, 2017

My sweet Beckham turned 3 this weekend and we celebrated BIG! He has been asking for a “police car birthday” for months now so I had to oblige. I love me a good themed party, it’s like one happy creative outlet for me that I really look forward to. We are so thankful to have friends in “high places” here in Abilene (aka friends who are police officers who are willing to take their time off to be a celebrity for a bunch of 3 year olds and literally make their day).

I tried my hand at a petal cake and I’m really happy with how it turned out and the middle layer was blue. And what would a police birthday be without donuts?

Cookies by Carrie (@cookiemomstercarrie on Instagram)

Months ago I made a free printable to cut out and decorate. We pass them out to law enforcement when we see them out in public to say Thank you.

I hope this is the ONLY time you get pulled over.

shirt from Etsy.

I’m so thankful for this precious little boy.