another navy move

This is our fourth move in nine years of marriage and it's the toughest so far. The others have each had their challenges: leaving jobs, leaving friends, and so on. But this time, we're leaving the place we've called home for the last three-and-a-half years, the longest we've lived anywhere since college. We've put down some roots on this military base in the middle of California's central valley, which looks more like a desert these days. It's blazing hot, infested with ants, covered in dust and in the middle of nowhere. But somehow, it's become home, and I'm heartbroken to leave.

In June 2011, I finally got the keys to our house. It was a long wait for base housing, but we decided to go for it because we knew Nick would be deployed, and living on base would mean I'd be safe, secure and surrounded by people in the same position. It was the right decision for us. Three years, two deployments and two kids later, and I feel like we just moved in. These years haven't been easy, but they've been great. The most significant thing we've done is form friendships with some of the best people I've ever known. They are what I'll miss the most.

When my Dad found out I was engaged to Nick, he told me that in the Navy we might not live in the best places, but we'd always be surrounded by the best people. He was right. So now we're headed to a beautiful place, but we're leaving behind our dearest friends. I'll be crying as we leave town, as I've done with each move, but this one feels more significant somehow. When we pulled into Lemoore, we were a family of two, and we'll leave as a family of four. When we arrived, we were moving closer to family, and now we'll be three-thousand miles from home. My heart is heavy, but hopeful. After all, it's just another Navy move.

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I grew up in southern California surrounded by my mom's extended family. I enjoyed weekend asados at my grandparents' house and summer sleepovers with cousins. We spent every holiday together and had massive cheering sections at graduations, swim meets and softball games. I'll admit that while I loved it, I also took it for granted. These days, my mom and her sisters still live in L.A., but the cousins all scattered for college, and none of us ever moved home. Most of us are married, which means Christmases split between families and really infrequent family gatherings. This year, my mom took it upon herself to organize our first family reunion, so we spent last week up in Big Bear. The first weekend, there were 26 of us on the property: my grandma (Baba, in Ukrainian), uncles, cousins, aunts, and my younger sister (who took over documenting the week - thank goodness) and her husband and kids. We traveled from all over the west coast, from Newport up to Seattle, and it wound up being an amazing week.

I'd sort of forgotten how much our family loves playing games. Outside, it was German horseshoes (the set my Dad built), cornhole and daytime rounds of Ticket to Ride. In the evenings, we gathered around the table for all-hands Farkle and Wavelength. Smaller groups played Euker and Spades and a bunch of us passed around crossword puzzles.

I got to meet my cousin's daughter for the first time and spend a bunch of quality time with my nephews. The "big" boys had a blast together. Who knew a gravel driveway could provide so many hours of entertainment?

The "kids" ranged in age from three months to fifteen years, but the little boys definitely dominated the post-bath, pre-bedtime antics.

For us, the timing for this week with the fam couldn't have been better. Our packers arrive a week from today. We're headed to the other side of the country and we're not sure when or if we'll be back in California any time soon. It was a great week and a reminder that we're very blessed to have such a warm, wonderful family.

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video | documenting a milestone

Last week, my sister called and told me she had signed up to take Xanthe Berkeley's class on creating a particular style of home video, which she calls "time capsules." My sister first read about the e-course on Lily + Twig, when Carly posted a video she created documenting her morning routine. I saw the video and immediately wanted to try something similar. So picked a very specific thing to document (what Owen's eating these days), shot some video over an afternoon and evening and put this together that night. It didn't take long at all. The most tedious part was choosing the music and matching up clips to the beat of the music, which is total not necessary, but something I enjoy doing (and watching). 

I shot everything with my DSLR and used manual focus for most of it, which is completely new to me. Nick doesn't like the blurry sections, but I don't mind them. I mainly wanted to experiment with shooting video with the "big camera" and I wanted to try documenting in a way other than through photos. 

Do you use video to document your life?

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office space daydreams

I'm feeling so inspired these days about the little space in our new house that will be my office. These days, since my desk lives in the middle of our great room, it's not easy to find time to concentrate. Between the toys in front of me and dinner behind me, it takes a little effort every afternoon and evening to make it work. 

So now I'm daydreaming about my new office, thumbing through catalogues (like Serena + Lily early fall - hello, gorgeous!), scouring Minted for artwork, considering some wallpaper to back bookcases, and on and on. My new space has windows on two sides, wood floors, a vintage chandelier and plenty of room for my creative endeavors. It's small, but mighty. The best part: I can keep it as tidy as I like because I won't have to share it with anyone else. 

Do you have a space of your own or do you also work in the middle of your home's hustle and bustle?

You can download the "tidy desk tidy mind" print for free from A Fabulous Fete

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design matters | photographing ephemera

A couple years ago, I bought large document boxes to hold the ephemera that collects on our kitchen counter, dining room table and nightstands: baseball and movie ticket stubs, birthday cards, thank you notes, etc. Sometimes I slip them into a project life page or insert, and sometimes there isn't enough room to include them. When that's the case, and I really want to include something, I photograph it. Today, I'm sharing one of the ways I photograph everyday ephemera.

I use our kitchen table as my backdrop and slide it about three feet, so it's right next to a set of french doors in our breakfast room. I painted it a very pale grey a few years ago and added a polyurethane coat to the top so it cleans up easily and works well as an eating, work and photo surface. If you don't have something like this, you could use any simple backdrop. I like something light (like a piece of white butcher paper or foam core board), but a wooden table or floor works well too. Natural light is key. I never (ever!) use a flash, so I can't photograph stuff at night. But this usually isn't too much of a problem. I'm hoping to upgrade my lens at some point, so I can reduce vignetting (see the darker corners above?) but for now this works just fine.

When I take one of these photos, I make sure to do a couple of things each time. First, I try to take the shot from directly above the item, without creating an angle. You do this by making sure your lens is perpendicular to the object (see above). This is just a personal preference. Certainly, angled shots can look really cool. I just happen to prefer the look of something like this from directly overhead. Second, I leave lots of room around the edges so I can play around with cropping. Here's an example (from this post!). I took the first image in this post using my table as a backdrop and a stool to prop me up over the items. I knew I wanted some white space to include a title, so I shot a pile of ephemera, leaving lots of room above it and plenty of room around the edges to crop out any vignetting.

When you leave room for cropping, you can play around with lots of ways to include your item in a photo album or project life pocket. I cropped the original image of my race bib in four different ways. They're all in a 4x6 inch ratio, so I could include any one of them in a project life layout.

I'm anticipating the onslaught of preschool art projects which will be walking through my door in the years to come, and while I'm not exactly sure what I'll do with everything, I'm sure some of them will be photographed just like this. How do you document ephemera? Do you keep the physical items? Photograph them? Include them in scrapbooks? 

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little lovelies

I received such a fun, very early, birthday gift from my friend Courtney the other day: a little box of lovelies from Betsy White stationery. I've been admiring the new line from Betsy White since they debuted it at the National Stationery Show earlier this year. And now I'm admiring it in person: a mini notebook, a little jotter and a set of dotted pencils. Hooray for creative gifts, pretty paper products and friends who know exactly what will make your day!

Do you have your eye on any stationery or paper lovelies?
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documenting baby no. 2

In putting together Owen's project life baby album, I've noticed a glaring disparity between the number of photos I took of Ben and Owen at this age. There's certainly an explanation for why I have exponentially more pictures of baby number one. Where I had nothing else to do but stare at baby Benjamin and fill my iPhone with thousands of shots of him smiling, sleeping, crying, rolling over, and staring at me, Owen often hangs out in a bouncy seat or on a blanket, perfectly content to observe the world around him (without a camera or phone in his face) while I do dishes, work, check email and help his brother get dressed, go potty, or set up a train track. It's really, really different. But this weekend, I finally got my act together and roasted and pureed some sweet potatoes (kid has been hungry), and Nick and I sat down during Ben's nap and fed Owen for the first time. I charged the DSLR and snapped away, playing with the manual setting, taking videos, messing around with the focus, and just enjoying the moment. We had so much fun with our little photo shoot, and I absolutely love the pictures and videos I have from his first experience with real food. I attempted some rice cereal a couple weeks ago, which did not go over well, but the sweet potatoes were a big hit. 

I even have the pictures to prove it. 

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