right now | summer e-courses

Am I the last person to jump on the e-course bandwagon? This summer, as I've taken a step back from custom design work, I've been focusing on learning new things in addition to blogging. The easiest way for me to do this has been e-courses. With so many to choose from out there (and so many really awesome platforms), I've been experimenting. Here's what I've taken recently and what I'm working on right now...

Styling | Shooting | Sharing by Ann-Marie Espinoza / $16.00 / I can't write enough about this one! The format was so simple. I got through the material in an afternoon and an evening, and I was immediately able to put it to work. This little course has changed the way I style photos for the blog and it's put a few Photoshop tools in my hip pocket that have become everyday go-tos.

Blog Life by A Beautiful Mess / $50.00 / So. Much. Material. I purchased this course, which is self-paced, a few months ago and I'm still working through the lessons. They don't all apply (I'm not looking to monetize this blog and there's some good info on that), but there is just a ton of other relevant information. I'd say it was worth the price tag for me. I liked their thoughts on identity, writing, managing an editorial calendar and practical tips on photography and the various pages on your blog. After taking some e-courses, I'd say I prefer more video. This one's really heavy on writing.

Life Scripted by Kal Barteski / $40.00 / This class is available via Studio Calico. I'd never had any experience with brush script, but I'd seen Kal's work all over the place and I was curious. This really got me going on a creative binge this summer. It exposed me to new materials and I learned a lot right off the bat. Loved the video instruction from Kal!

Stationery Business 101 by Eva Jorgensen / $95.00 / This one has a hefty price tag, but I was able to purchase it at 50% off, which definitely made it worth it. I'm working through it now, and I'll say that I think the course material is worth the price. It's taught by the founder of Sycamore Street Press, a stationery business I've watched grow over the years, and there are a bunch of in-depth video interviews with people I adore in the industry. The platform is Atly, which has a ton of awesome course offerings. Worth checking out, for sure.

In general, I've found that I love self-paced classes, I prefer courses that have a mix of video, text and photos (over strictly photos and text) and I really appreciate having lifetime access to material. What about you? Have you taken any e-courses recently? I'd love to hear your recommendations!

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more with less | books, memories and meaning

There's nothing quite like signing the lease for your new house to get you motivated to get rid of everything you own. Yikes. The prospect of a cross-country move and the packers coming to box up our belongings in less than two months has me seriously inspired to declutter. We not hoarders, but we have far more than we'll ever need or use. And gearing up for a big move is as good a time as any to start clearing the decks. 
The hardest things for us to part with are items that have sentimental value. For Nick and me, books fall into that prickly category. We pared down our immense collection last time we moved, giving away seven boxes of books to a local charity. I couldn't believe it, but to be honest, I don't miss one of those titles. I couldn't even tell you what filled those boxes. And what we gained in return was space. So much space - in our garage, on our shelves, in my head. So I decided it was time to scan the bookcases once more for more things to unload. 
In some ways, it's not really necessary for me to clear out the bookcases. We don't really buy paper copies of books anymore, as we both read almost exclusively on our Kindles, and we don't have stray books stashed all over the house. But the other day I was looking at this book online and I thought "I'd love to have a hard copy of that... but where would I put it?" It's time to make room for our new life. Nick and I have been together for over ten years, had two kids, started a business and a blog, endured four deployments and as many moves. It's time to create space for new memories and interests. 
Right now, our bookshelves look like a time capsule of memories: our college years, my time teaching, the beginning of our marriage. I can scan the titles on the shelves and see reminders of people I've loved: my Dad, my favorite college history professor, my students, old friends. There are also the books that remind me of things that didn't transpire, in particular law school. I think I always had in the back of my mind that I'd go, even studying for and taking the LSAT years ago, but my life took a completely different trajectory, and law school isn't something on my radar at this time.
I want our two bookcases, which live in the room where we spend most of our time together, to reflect who we are today, not who we thought we might become or who we were ten years ago. Believe me, I'm not yet ready to clear the decks completely. I don't think I ever will be. I'll hang onto those things that I can't bear to unload, the books that have my handwriting all over the pages, the ones that have my father's loving inscription inside the cover, the titles that evoke sweet and enduring memories. But there are some that can go and perhaps bless someone else, for which the memory serves as memento enough. It's not easy parting with the things in my life that carry such sentiment, and that's okay; but it's also okay to let go sometimes and make room for all things new.

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design matters | using an editorial calendar, pt. 2

Last week, I blogged about using a monthly editorial calendar, and today I'm sharing how I break that down a bit further and plan my week. I also have a free printable for you today, so read on!

Once I've sketched out my monthly editorial calendar, I use a sheet for each five-day week which details what I need to do for each post. I created this printable for myself a couple months ago because I found that random jottings in a notebook just weren't cutting it. This way, I can write down notes and reminders and tick off what I've completed for each post. This sheet lives at the front of my notebook, so I can easily track my progress and keep track of ideas related to the blog in one place.

Each post gets a date, title and category(ies) for the blog. In the "notes" section, I jot down ideas for the posts, reminders for things I want to photograph or even action steps to take if it's a more involved project. The little checklist on the right allows me to check off the following for each post: photos taken, photos edited, post written, post published. Who doesn't love checking things off a list? I usually hit "publish" the night before, after the post has been written and proofread and scheduled for 6:00 the next morning (pacific standard time). 

Click here to download it for yourself for free!

I've found that my notebook is where I daydream - I jot down big ideas for features or projects or designs. All of that is fine and great, but the stuff that actually shows up on the blog is far more concrete. This weekly calendar helps me keep track of that stuff: the nitty gritty, actual material that shows up on this blog everyday. In case you'd like to use it for yourself, it's available HERE

If you're a blogger, how do you keep track of notes and checklists for your posts?

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simple gift wrap

It was my friend Shannon's birthday this week and I wanted to get her a little something to celebrate. I have a few go-to gift wrap supplies I used to wrap this little treasure:

My mom is the best gift-wrapper I know. She folds edges under, uses double-sided tape, curls ribbon like nobody's business and generally takes packaging really seriously. It might seem silly, but whenever I get a gift from her, I feel really loved by her and appreciative for her because it's always so lovingly packaged.

I'm definitely not quite as conscientious, but I took just a few minutes to try to thoughtfully wrap this gift. And it was actually fun (not least of all because all of my wrapping stuff is in one, easily-accessible spot). Any guesses as to what I got for her? The answer's in this photo!

What about you? Do you notice pretty packaging or gift wrap? Is it something you take the time to do thoughtfully?

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unfinished projects

Several months ago, I bought the fabric and supplies to do some DIY roman shades for two really random-sized windows in Ben's room. Well, ever since he moved in back in February, I've had two pieces of white blackout fabric nailed to the wall above each window. It's a little sad, but his room is so darn bright in the afternoon (during nap), that it's necessary. Well, I had grand plans to sew and install some beautiful roman shades, but I never did it. And now we're moving in two months. I get so bummed out by unfinished projects. They loom over my head and tend to make me feel guilty and annoyed by existing in their unfinished state. But I heard something a few weeks ago which stuck with me.

In an interview with Marie Forleo, Arianna Huffington was talking about her new book, Thrive. She said something I thought was super-insightful (I'm paraphrasing here): you can complete a project by dropping it. Example: That December Daily album I wanted to do last year but was too pregnant and exhausted to even start? Forget it. Drop it. By allowing myself to take this project off The (Never-ending) List, I give myself the head-space for the things I'm actually interested in and passionate about. This certainly doesn't apply to every unfinished project. Owen's baby book is in-progress, and it's obviously staying on The List until it's complete. But the roman shades in Ben's room? Over the weekend, I put away my sewing machine and decided to revisit the fabric when we move into our new house in October. Maybe he'll need basic curtain panels, or maybe I'll decide to tackle the roman shades when it's the dead of New England winter and my then-nine-month-old baby is taking a couple of good naps everyday. 

For now, I'm calling them complete... by taking them off of my to-do list.

What about you? Are you a stickler for starting what you finish? Or do you have any unfinished projects you're willing to let go? 

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design crush | amanda jane jones

I had a happy surprise earlier this week when I was browsing my own pins on Pinterest. For some reason, I got caught up on THIS image of a postcard. Its simplicity struck me, and I noticed it had a Kinfolk logo on it. Curious, I clicked through to find the original source and I came upon the portfolio of Amanda Jane Jones.

Hello, gorgeous.

As I scrolled through Amanda's projects, I realized she is one of the co-founders of Kinfolk magazine, one of my favorite periodicals these days. She was also a designer at Two Paper Dolls, one of my all-time-fave boutique design studios from way-back-when. When I was designing wedding stationery suites several years ago (pre-Pinterest), Two Paper Dolls served as a massive source of inspiration. And - bonus surprise! - Amanda also designed this little card that I pinned over a year ago and still absolutely adore.

I loved the little reminder that inspiration can strike anytime, that style is something that has staying power, and that the world is smaller than we think. If you're looking for someone new to follow on Instagram, I promise Amanda's feed won't disappoint! You can find all of Amanda's details on her website. Have you recently stumbled upon any new design crushes? I'd love to hear who's inspiring you these days!

Pictured: my copy of Kinfolk volume nine

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favorites | desktop edition

I love photographing posts for the blog, and I've really enjoyed playing around with props and styling photos for posts, whether they're for a specific project or a more general topic. I've gotten questions about where I've found certain props, so I thought I'd share my favorite desktop items, which also includes my favorite props for photo styling. Enjoy!

| 1 | gold clips / I actually went in search of these and I love them even more in person. I use them practically, to hold pages together that I don't want to staple, as well as for a prop when styling photos.

| 2 | Simplified Planner / I've written about using this HERE, and it lives on my kitchen counter, desk and in my bag. I use it daily and think it's both practical and lovely.

| 3 | washi tape / A couple of years ago, washi tape felt like such a specialty item. Today, you can find it everywhere. I use it to add a little color and pattern to everything from project life spreads to blog photos.

| 4 | string / I use string for packaging products as well as for a photo prop, like THIS. Both of these spools were stocking stuffers, so I don't know exactly where they were purchased, but I love the kitchen string versions from Knot and Bow.

| 5 | gold scissors / Who knew what a phenomenon these would become? I spotted them at Target awhile ago and bought them on a whim. My husband thought it was hysterical, but when I explained I'd use them for the blog, he relented. Sure enough, they've become a huge trend in photo styling. Maybe they're a little played out, but I just love them too much to let go. Plus, they're fun to use in real life!

| 6 | Poppin desktop accessories / I have the weighted tape dispenser in white and the stapler in pink, but these guys make sleek desktop accessories in a range of colors. I'm eyeing a ruler and maybe a new pair of scissors in aqua or yellow.

| 7 | gold-edged cards / I found these from Russell + Hazel (love their stuff) and use them to jot down little quotes or notes, like THIS. They're thick and pretty and the size of a business card.

| 8 | notebooks / I've always been a writer, a jotter, a journaler, so I usually have a variety of notebooks in action. Anything you see photographed on the blog is something I actually use (i.e. they're not just props!). The two pictured here are my journal, which I found HERE, and a Moleskine notebook I bought as a set of two at Target.

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