less effort and more love into party planning

 
simple and thoughtful party decor. lovely matters by Heather Walker

My daughter had a very belated birthday celebration because she wanted to wait for our backyard renovations to be done.  I know it's so hard to keep a guest list short, but with parties, less is more.  In most situations.  I also love a big bash with lots of mingling but, in my experience, the host tends to not enjoy themselves as much.  The benefit of an intimate party is you have room to add special touches and sit around the same table sharing the same conversation.  I adore this special touch my daughter added to the table decor.  She wrote each of her friends a personal note telling them what she loved about them and how blessed she was to have them in her life.  I took pictures of each note and sent to her guests.  I watched as each sweet friend found their seat and gushed over the words Addi Mae left them.  My husband and I made them a homemade meal and we served them as they simply chatted about their lives.

Intentionally blurred table for my daughter to keep her personal notes to her friends personal.  But you get the idea.

Intentionally blurred table for my daughter to keep her personal notes to her friends personal.  But you get the idea.

This party was planned with one trip to target and a quick amazon order. 

Party animal napkins are from dollar section at target.

This paper table runner is something I always have on hand for multiple purposes.  

The cake pops are from Mon Aimee Cake Pops  and the best I've ever had.

These sharpies take writing to a whole new level.  And who doesn't want gold cutlery every once in a while.

The only other decor item I purchased were these that gave the pool house just enough of a party vibe.

Have you seen the saran wrap game played at parties?  It was a hit!  Target dollar section for the win again.  

pool house.  Lovely Matters by Heather Walker

how to experience Fall without living in it

a lovely lifestyle blog

Fall awakens me!  Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago the season of fall is in my DNA.  I realize that if you didn't grow up with something, you wouldn't have a reason to miss it.  I however, need to experience fall from all 5 senses in order to feel in touch with another year ending.  It was the thing I missed most after moving to the south.  I have visited Massachusetts, Washington DC, Tennessee, Kansas, Wisconsin, Michigan, Oregon, New York, and Minnesota in the fall.  Last year we went back to sweet home Chicago, and this year we took the family to the Pacific Northwest, where my hubby grew up.  My soul is filled up!  We saw, felt, smelled, tasted, and heard fall in all its beauty.  Seattle is my favorite partially because we are such water people.  And the mountains!  And the real pumpkin patches and apple orchards. Most likely if you ate an apple today it came from WA. It's as authentic as it gets.  Over 70% of the country's apples come from here.  And fall of course makes us think of hot drinks and Seattle is the mecca for adorable coffee houses.  All this equals lots of snuggling and closeness with the ones you love wearing your favorite sweater.  

traveling to find fall

Fall trips remind me every year how important it is to go back to your past senses and connect them to your present life.  Just because I don't live in a state that has the traditional fall in my eyes (I realize it's all relative), its not going to stop me from making this part of my children's DNA.  They will just have the travel and exploration part added to their fall experience.  

This trip also reminded me that if we don't like something about our lives, we need to fix it.  I'm not willing to move because I love this place we call home, but traveling is a very very happy medium of fixing the lack of fall we have in Texas.  If it wasn't for my yearning for fall, we wouldn't have been inspired to go out and find all the fall beauty and adventure this country offers.  So if you don't have this beautiful season, consider traveling to it.

After every vacation I make a simple video of little moments to help us retain our memories.  I wrote about tips on documenting with video here.  

And now that I'm home I need to make a grocery run to make one of my favorite fall meals that you can find here.

And I'm looking forward to catching up with the episodes of This is Us with hubby.  In an earlier post I was talking about all the dark television that's out there and this show is something that gives a sense of hope.  It's simple and enlightening.  Found this gem for those of you who want to relive this episode, or for those of you interested in starting a new series about life - relatable raw pure sweet life. 

I hope you find lovely in your week.

traveling to fall
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packing for vacation simplified

5 simple tips on packing simple2

Packing for a vacation really can be quite easy if you keep it simple.  Here's 5 tips on how I pack for 5 (Luckily my husband packs himself). :)  

1.  Do laundry first because naturally everyones favorites are in the laundry.  And who wants to come home to laundry?  Favorites are key on vacation.  I dump all the clean laundry where I have lots of room for sorting.  I then making 1 pile for each of us, putting together outfits as I sort through the clothes.  The rest gets thrown back in laundry basket for the kids to put away.  And then I pull the rest of what I need from our closets.  I had to do the laundry anyway so this really doesn't make the task of packing feel like much of a chore.  

2.  Focus mainly on neutral colors so it's easy to mix and match, and add in a few colors of the season.  Naturally you'll be documenting your vacation so you may want to think about a couple key colors to focus on.  Not matching, just coordinating so that one person isn't in a pastel while everyone else is dressed in fall hues.  

3. Think capsule wardrobe.  I have only used tips from this approach to help me get rid of items, but on vacation I pretend I'm living the capsule wardrobe dream.  Just one thing I love about vacations, we realize how little we really need.  I love the idea that "sometimes to figure out what matters you have to get rid of everything that doesn’t."

4.  Fold and roll.  There's no way we could fit everything without using these!  I have one labeled for each day of the week and its such a helpful tool for the kids to be independent when getting ready in the morning.  All they have to do is find the labeled day.  This organization was very helpful for our disney trips when you quickly want to get up and out and you already have an outfit in mind for each day's itinerary. 

5.  Accessorizing increases your outfit options.  A baseball cap with a shirt and jeans is a completely different outfit than wearing a scarf with the same shirt and jeans. Same with my little ones.  I tossed a burt orange belt and vest into my oldest sons bag last minute as a way to change up the same clothes.

Happy Travels!

5 simple tips on packing simple

taking pause

on our chalk board this week

on our chalk board this week

I feel the only appropriate thing to do today is to take pause here.  Reading the news of what happened in Las Vegas feels paralyzing. Most of me wants to be distracted from this today, but I also want the truth.  Thinking about the words I use to tell my children of the news makes me... well... how did we get to this point where this is even something we are talking about??

Today I will take the time to pause and then tomorrow I will look for the good in the world.  It's there.  It's hard to see during times like these, I know.  There is much more love than hate.  We need to put the focus on love... and gun control.  I appreciate what Jimmy Kimmel has to say here regarding our public safety.

I strongly feel, for a long time now, that we need to take a step back and look at what we are feeding our minds.  We are the movies we watch, the books we read, the people and conversations we hang out with.  The good news is, we are in control of the content we feed our minds and our children's minds.  I've witnessed the truth behind "we become like the five people we spend the most of our time with" and I also know dark media creates a dark world.  What we see is what we think, and therefor what we and our children will become.

Love always wins.

Finding balance when decorating for Halloween

Halloween/Thanksgiving/fall might be the easiest time of year to decorate.  It can be as simple as purchasing pumpkins at the grocery store and swapping out some throw pillows.  I can justify purchasing a lot of pumpkins for decor because these will be on display until I put out Christmas. A whole two months away!  A white mum would probably look better than this fern, but keep in mind this is Texas Y'all.

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Let me just say that when it comes to Halloween, I don't do scary!  Darth Vader is about as scary as I'd prefer.  Especially inside the home.  I think I was pulled through too many haunted houses by my older siblings when little.  Last year my kids asked for more decorations as a nice way of saying "we don't look festive enough".  So I tried to step up my "simple decorating" since this was something they got excited about.  These paper silhouettes bats and mice are my favorite because they make a big statement without the clutter.  My kids were seriously impressed when they came home from school to find these and asked if I cut them out.  Ha!  Not for this price I didn't.  I also have some hanging bats and giant spiders I'll put on the front porch as we get closer to Halloween but you won't find anything much scarier than that.     

simple decorating for halloween
simple and easy halloween decor bats

Keeping my home neutral in color helps me change my color decor to go with the season.  I swapped out my pink accessories for orange and now my pink won't come back until Valentines day. Decorating tip: Navy or most darker blues go great with any season/holiday. 

simple and elegant decorating for Halloween

Added bonus when decorating becomes practical and pretty.  This is our dinning room table below.  I always keep cloth napkins here with something pretty beside them.  And the paper napkins go under the cloth ;).

practical and pretty decorating
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Lovely things

Here's the lovely things we enjoyed this week that I think could benefit others.

I love purchasing my children a new shirt to wear on their Birthday to feel special.  In the past I've found shirts through etsy.  But sometimes there's not time to wait for a delivery or I'm just in the mood for a simple DYI.  I used iron on letters that I found here.  My little one found a simple t-shirt and this took me less than 5 minutes with the help of my excited little boy.

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The back of our house has been under construction for some time and somehow this has made it feel like the entire house is in disorder.  Because of this, hosting a Birthday party was something I decided to skip this year for my littlest.  My older children helped with a little last minute planning and we rallied up over 20 neighborhood kids and shared ice cream sandwiches.  This is the 3rd or 4th time we've done this and one of my favorite things about this is no one has time to think about getting a gift.  The gift is simply about gathering around a table to celebrate life and friendship... and my children walk away feeling loved by the people who surround us.  

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Have you ever heard about the four burners theory?  I think during the early years of Motherhood two burners sometimes had to be switched to off.  This article is a good reminder that we can't do it all and we actually have more control than we realize in what we want to give our priorities to.  If you are in the beginning stages of motherhood, remember this is a season, and all seasons need a little adjusting on where our priorities stand.  If it's your friend burner that you've turned off just send them a little message saying you are thinking about them and remember the true friends will still be there once you are ready to turn that burner back on.  

You'll here a lot about podcast from me.  I'll start with my favorite kids podcast.  I'm always looking for something that can please all my kids ages (4-11).  The Brains On podcast does exactly that.  So awesome for a road trip.  If you need to change the mood in your home you can tune into the one about animal farts

Birthday traditions matter

Traditions are important for so many reasons but one reason I love a tradition is because it reminds me to pause and document things the way they are in this moment.  

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This simple tradition of taking a picture on each birthday eve only takes one minute but it's not so much the photograph I love but the time I end up spending staring at them sleep reflecting on the time we've had together and dreaming of their future.  If it wasn't for the tradition reminding me to take the picture I may forget to stare.  And when he's at college I'll just pull out photos to stare at so I don't need to be a creepy Mom sneaking in his dorm room. ;)

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So many favorite Birthday traditions, but one of my very favorites is recording laughter.  Of all the things I have on video, this sound has always been my favorite to come back to.  In the video below is what my 4 year old's laughter sounds like on his 4th Birthday.

evolving

We are all constantly growing and evolving to become the best versions of ourselves.  It's time for my blog to evolve.   Time to share all the things in life that matter.  I'm still a lifestyle photographer (but only for my own people), and will continue to work on commercial projects.  Photography will still be included here, but I no longer want to leave out the other parts of life. Interests that I know I share with many of you.  Because I do not plan to stick to one topic it will be a place that encourages people to try new things.  I look forward to talking about home improvement and decor; sharing topics of smoothie ingredients, my favorite workout leggings; and definitely keeping with the theme of simple and slow living.  A take it or leave it "moderated" form of simple and slow living.  You'll hear a lot more about this and realize how easily attainable this is considering it's mostly in the mind... like much of life.

I hope we can connect here... but if not here, over coffee would be my preferred method.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Finally found a simple solution to follow my favorite blogs.  Can't believe I didn't know this app existed until recently.  Now I don't need to individually go to my favorite blogs, they are simply listed in order as they are posted.

Find me here

How to document life with video - 10 tips

Ahhh, video.  It's one of my favorite subjects.  It's deep in my soul.  My Grandfather taught my Mother to be passionate about not only taking video, but doing things with the videos; like making movies and centering family gatherings around watching home videos.  Several years ago I made it a priority to put together short movies of the adventures we take.  It has helped each of us retain our memories in an even more powerful way than a photograph can.  I keep them stored for easy viewing on Vimeo (some private and some public videos - nice to have the choice).  Our children are often found on the Vimeo app reliving our moments in time.  I shared a quick minute of our last adventure via Instagram and it inspired me to give my video tips here to hopefully encourage others to document life with video.  

Before you view this video I have a disclaimer: this video is intended for documentation purpose only - it was simply made with my iphone and imovie on the way home from our trip and little creative thought went into it.  If I waited until we were home and had the time to use my desktop I would have put more care into the sound transitions and overall editing and music etc, but this was purely for retaining memories.  If I didn't do on our way home I believe life would have got in the way and I would have put the video documenting aside.  

Never the less, here's my favorite tips:

1. keep it short.  Once you have collected your video open up the video app you'd like to use and start adding your favorite clips to the app.  Then start deleting any part of the video that doesn't move you or is in abundance.  I'm not saying to permanently delete any video, keep those separately in your storage of course but for movie viewing sake eliminate where you can. If you want to keep your video entertaining you'll need to keep the scenes moving.  Our brains quickly absorb what's in front of us and we love staying entertained with lots of visuals.  Many of the clips in my video below are only 1 second long.  Seriously, count it, one-one-thousand.  It's plenty of time to give the feelings and show details of your story.  Think of your video as a highlight reel!

2. Include details.  The details help tell your story.  For example, I like to use feet walking, what the sky looked like that day, my girl's long hair blowing in the wind.  These fill the pages and can add some creativity making it more interesting to watch.  On the way home from our last ski trip I realized I was short on telling our story with the video I had so I included photos to make up for the lack of detail here: https://vimeo.com/160887833

3. Let the natural moments happen.  I know, I know - this can be hard for a photographer to not alter the subjects to better lighting or create a better story.  It's important to me to keep an authentic life and document as a storyteller.  Because I simply don't always have a camera in hand I have been know to ask my children "do that again" when I see something that I wish I could have caught on video.  It authentically did happen at least and they always happily do it again. Children do, however get frustrated when their play is interrupted to pose for an image... and of course the moment then has much less life in it than it would have if I didn't interrupt their time.  I like to save the posed moments for portraits.  If you watch the video below you'll see a beach scene that I took a portrait of my 4 children together and hubby was filming... I told you this can be hard for a photographer, but this time it was for a photo, not video. ;)

4. music.  This can set or change the mood so choose wisely.  I enjoy instrumental the most because words can be hard to fit with the mood of your video.  It's been said that films are 50% visual and 50% sound - sounds about right in my mind.

5. Increase the video speed or decrease it.  This can add such an interesting aspect to you video. I love the feel of speeding things up (mostly by just one step) and the nostalgic feel similar to the old movie projectors.  Another way to add interest is to slow it down when someone's showing expression or things are moving fast.  In my past movies I've used slow motion for someone riding a bike past me or a child swimming under water.  

6. Use imovie.  I've used the phone app and the full desktop version of imovie.  Both are great, but the app is very user friendly giving you all the simple tools you'd need to put a movie together.  Most of my videos are done via phone app because I often make the movies on the way home from our trips and I like to keep things simple where possible.  The full version of course has more options and the main option I miss on my phone app is being able to adjust the exposure and color.  

7. Keep it simple with the iphone.  Most of my videos (including all videos on the movie below) I have captured with my iphone.  Oh how I wish I had my DSLR camera on me to capture all our moments with some additional depth of field and focus; but the connivence and user friendly iphone wins this battle most of the time.  Unless I'm at home, I prefer the simplicity of the iphone.  This also has to do with my children's ages; my baby still lets me cary him around and I'm savoring this over carrying my DSLR.  

8. Let in some life sounds.  In the video below you'll notice the sounds come in a couple times so we can hear my baby's giggling and the sounds of the ocean and us singing to my brother.  A few special sounds to bring us back to those sounds of life.

9. Use repetition.  We naturally appreciate pattern and repetition.  I try find a fun way to add this to my video; below it was the repeated time lapse of the road traveled.

10. Zoom in and zoom out.  Remember to capture the entire picture.  The landscape around you and the other people in the room.  Also zoom in on those precious faces and the details of cookies being made... those are the little moments that make up the big story of our lives.