Toast Talk

March 17, 2015

I've taken nearly a two week break from the blog (insert monkey covering mouth with hands emoji). I feel overwhelmingly guilty that I put creating content on the back burner (or set that burner to "off"?) but I'm beyond thankful that I could turn that part of my brain off for the past few weeks because things have been more than slightly overwhelming. I mentioned in my last Toast Talk that my creative sabbatical was happening and that I might be stepping away from the blog so that I could focus on learning from my friend-turned-photogrpahy-mentor Leslee. And guess what? I actually took the time off! Leslee was with me from March 5th through the 11th and in that time we drove from Dallas to Austin, Austin to Houston, Houston to Bellville, and finally Bellville to Dallas. The driving and shooting/learning sessions were enough to wipe me out but to challenge myself even more I decided it would be a great idea to get a horrible cold. Nothing like snotting on my keyboard and having watery eyes while looking through a viewfinder to feel like a rockstar. Being sick and driving all over Texas aside, I had the. best. time with Leslee and learned so much from her. She flew back to Nashville last Wednesday afternoon and then I left Dallas to head back to Houston on Thursday to prepare for Sally's Bachelorette Weekend in the country.

 

I loathe when people say, “I’m so busy.” Everyone is busy! But guys, I have been slammed. I got back from Houston yesterday and I leave tomorrow for Charleston. I’m not complaining – or humble bragging – I’m just trying to explain for why I’ve been so MIA. Y’all should know by now that I hate disappointing…but maybe it will make you feel better to know that I’m sitting in a messy apartment, with a face that’s breaking out from stress, and a long list of posts I need create.

Blah, blah, let’s get back to talking about what I did on my creative sabbatical! Before Leslee arrived I filled out a little Q+A about goals, current struggles, specific areas I need to work on, etc. The two of us sat down and made a list of technical things to go over (lenses, camera settings, using light, etc.) and subject matter I would be shooting (styled shots for beauty, interiors, people and lifestyle, etc.). From there we mapped out what days we would travel and what we would cover each day. I’m such a visual learner and Leslee is the same way – so she made for a great instructor. It also helped that this wasn’t her first rodeo…she has held many a photography workshop and has mentored second shooters for years.

I don’t think I would have gotten so much out of our time together had I not already had handle on using my camera. I’ve been shooting manual for years so we were able to skip into specific settings that I could quickly understand how to use. Some of what we did was direct instructions – Leslee showing me how to light something, or directing me on setting up a shot – but most of it was me shadowing her. Getting an understanding of how she takes in a room, an object, a setting and being able to capture it in a way that’s elevated and compelling was hugely helpful for me to see. In Austin we walked around South Congress with our cameras and took shots of the same things/places. Later we were able to compare and contrast each of our photos…a lot of the images we took were similar but I was able to see the differences in how she composed a shot vs. how I did and that really helped me improve.  In Houston we focused on styling and shooting interior spaces and this was one of my favorite parts. Leslee is a natural at capturing the beauty of people and seeing how she takes a similar but much more technical approach to a room made a lot of sense. In Dallas we practiced styling various objects in different parts of my apartment (so great for me to see how to work with what I have) and spent a good amount of time going over editing techniques in Lightroom and Photoshop.

It was a whirlwind and a lot to go over in such a short amount of time, but I feel so awesome about what I took away from the experience. Even more than that, I loved getting to connect with Leslee. She’s such a smart, passionate, creative person and holds herself to seriously high standards no matter what she is working on or what she is photographing. To say that she is wickedly talented is an understatement. She is also such a good time to be around and ridiculously funny. I’m really lucky that she took the time away from her life to a week with little old me. This creative sabbatical project was so much more than I ever imagined it could be. Letting myself take the time to focus on improving and being creative was exactly what I needed to feel more passion for what I create on this blog. I still have a lot on my plate until Sally’s wedding in April (maid of honor duties are no joke) so please bear with me as I try to balance work with life, but I’m really excited of what I have in the pipeline and projects ahead!

P.S. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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Toast Talk

March 3, 2015

It may have gone unnoticed to many of you, but I've been playing blog hooky. Big time. Last week Sally and I got back from our frigid Florida beach trip and then I left 24 hours later to go to Santa Monica. Three days in Cali and then I was back in Dallas for a few hours before driving to Houston to spend a long weekend in the country. Sally sweetly took over for me at the beginning of the week and despite my best intentions to keep up with posts, I decided to just say, "Meh." and let things slide. My lack of gung-ho is a combo of feeling scattered (three suitcases in a week can do that do a girl), feeling tired (I've determined that low iron must be the culprit of this), and feeling like I'd rather focus my love and energy on Blue, my friends, helping Sal with wedding stuffs (especially the Bachelorette Weekend next week!), and finishing my needlepoint project. The best way I know how to fix a slump in my productivity is to take a break and do something creative. So...the timing could not be better for my "creative sabbatical" to kick off this week!

 

The last time I caught y’all up to speed on my 2015 resolutions was last month (here). This week the most exciting “to-do” on my list is happening. Leslee Mitchell is coming to visit me starting on Thursday and we’ll be spending five days of one-on-one shooting and learning together. We are going to be visiting some of my favorite cities in Texas and both of us are maybe a little too excited about all the time we’re going to be spending together. I’m not sure if I’ll be saying “Meh” again and stepping out on posts while we are doing our creative thing, but if I do it just means that I’m hitting “pause” so that the content I put after the sabbatical is better than ever before.

Like I mentioned earlier, I don’t think that timing for this project could have come at a better time. There are so many ideas I have in the pipeline for the blog that I’ve held off on doing because I think it’s critical to feel more confident in my photography skills. This is also a time in my life when I have never felt more inspired – particularly by creative, badass women – to elevate the work that I do. I’ve been feeling so much love and encouragement and it really makes me want to challenge myself (in a good way) to stretch myself in different directions. I don’t know…that sounds really cryptic but I think it will make more sense as I reveal plans in the coming months (muahahhaha).

Leslee was shooting the interiors of a house last week and she started texting me words of wisdom that the home owner had been telling her. The words were awesome but I loved that Leslee followed them up with saying, “The people this job has put in my life is the part of this job I never expected, always needed.” She so perfectly put into words the exact vibe I’ve been feeling recently. I like what I get to do but I love the people who have come into my life because of it. Those friendships are what inspire me and impact what I do the most. Girl power.

And as if I wasn’t already feeling a silly amount of girly love for the smart women in my life, VOGUE had to go an put Taylor Swift and Karlie Kloss on this month’s cover. I mean…the photos are gorgeous and they basically look like twins but I got such a mushy heart after reading the article about their friendship, and all Taylor’s friendships. Girl is a great advocate for women lifting one another up and I’d happily give up every single Housewives show if we could exchange them for a reality show that followed T and her crew around.

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Toast Talk

February 23, 2015

Surpriseee - you have a guest author for this week's Toast Talk. During our trip to Florida last week and the extensive wedding discussions that ensued (after all, it was a trip tip tie up final details for my wedding in April) I had mentioned to Molly that I had wanted to write a Toast Talk on a topic that kept coming up in conversation: wedding guest lists. Dun dun dun...

 

The List. Once I got engaged and the ball started rolling on the planning, I kind of thought that a similar situation would play out in my family like that scene in Father of the Bride when the Banks family is deliberating the guest list. George Banks: “Two hundred and fifty dollars a head means that for the four of us to attend this wedding in our own home will cost one thousand dollars. Therefore, we are not getting up from this table until we cut this list down to the bare minimum….All right, let’s start eliminating.” We all know how this ends…they have a massive wedding, Danish relatives and all.

Because my fiancé are planning a “destination” wedding (it’s in Florida and every guest and family member has to travel), we have been conscientious of the guests being invited from day one. Our main goal was definitely to not get out of control in the amount of people that were invited, but at the same time neither of us wanted to sweat over a firm number…we wanted to feel like we could add people to the list if we wanted include them. We never really set a “hard” number to stop at, but did have an ideal range of people that we are hoping to have. Choosing people wasn’t stressful – it was actually pretty fun for us. Managing the budget, making choices for vendors, food, flowers and all that jazz was what made my blood pressure go up…making a list of people we love and wanted to help us celebrate and commemorate our new chapter together was easy.

With my family being so large (they account for about 100+ of the guests invited), it was almost inevitable that we would go over our initial numbers. Even so, initial numbers have always included giving “and guest” to anyone who is single or dating or whatever to allow them the choice to bring someone special to the wedding. I feel pretty strongly about this as I feel most people don’t want to go to a wedding alone, let along travel alone, and who I am to judge whether or not their current relationship is legitimate enough to allow for a plus one? On the flip side, I can understand why some couples can’t give this option…venues have limits, budgets can’t stretch, etc. I’m really fortunate that my fiancé, parents, and future in-laws all have the same “the more the merrier” attitude.

For me and my guy, what will make the wedding an ultimate success is that it is a fun, special, and memorable celebration with our family and friends. But we know that it’s a lot to ask people to travel, take time away, spend money, etc. The reason for everyone getting together might be about the two of us but we’re trying to do whatever it takes to make the weekend enjoyable and worth it to all who come. If that means friends bring dates, and the guest tally goes up then I am all for it.

I also feel like at the end of the day, more effort goes into excluding someone from a guest list than including them…I can’t imagine making a day that is supposed to be such a happy and special occasion about excluding people. I know that often times people won’t extend invites to friends that they may assume won’t come for various reasons, but why not let them be the judge of that? We might think so-and-so can’t/won’t come because we don’t see them all the time and they don’t live where we do but I believe that it’s usually those guests that make the biggest effort in coming – it’s a reason for them to see YOU and everyone else.

Molly and I are at the age where lots of people are engaged or have recently been married and I have noticed throughout the process that this can be a pretty polarizing topic and one that can really upset people. I am so curious to hear people’s opinions on this…how to you determine who gets an invite or not? Are the “plus one” guests extravagant or polite and proper? And do you feel more guilt or justification when you decide that that one friend from college can’t come? Like I said earlier, it’s a dun dun dun kinda topic!

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Toast Talk

February 16, 2015

Sally has the week off teaching so she flew into Dallas Friday night and we started the 12 hour drive to Florida on Saturday, stopping halfway in Jackson, MS and arriving yesterday afternoon. Since her wedding is on 30A (our favorite Florida spot) in mid-April we've come to tie up all the loose wedding ends and spend some time in the sunshine and sand. It's times likes these that I'm so grateful I have the flexibility to pack up myself and Blue Moonbeam and pick up and go. I feel like this getaway came at a particularly good time when both Sal and I were feeling like we needed to hit pause and get out of town.

 

Our mom and friend Leslee will be joining us in the middle of the week and we can’t wait to see them…but I won’t lie, I love when it’s just me and Sally. My most favorite trip ever is still the one we took to San Francisco in February 2012. We explored the city, had amazing meals, and walked our feet off. There was just this crazy since of calm I felt with it being just us – sometimes I feel like we are twins because of the deep unspoken understandings we have of one another. It’s hard to explain but if I had to put it into words I would describe it as this comfortable and fully accepting happiness. We are both totally ourselves…whether that means talking in weird voices, knowing that getting ice cream at 10am is the only way to wakeup, or being able to to sip coffee next to each other and people watch in silence for hours.

There are some big “to-do’s” we will be crossing off our list in the coming days but we also have plans to be outside and on the beach as much as possible – even if the weather isn’t as warm as we were hoping.

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Toast Talk

February 9, 2015

I had two friends (Albertina and Bradley) ask me a month ago if I had read the "To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This" article in The New York Times. Well, I hadn't read it - because I'm ashamed to say that unless it's written up on The Skimm or talked about on The Today Show, I am clueless. I told my buddies that I would read it but it took me a month to get around to it. Whenever married people tell me I should read an article that's intended for singles it makes me sort of...anxious. I can't explain it. But my friends love me and I know they just thought it was interesting so when I finally did read it a few days ago I had a much more open mind than I would have last month. The piece, for those of you who haven't gotten the scoop yet, is about a woman testing questions developed over 20 years ago by psychologist Arthur Aron to see if answering them with a partner could result in falling in love. After reading the Fall in Love piece I obviously followed with the "36 Questions" mentioned in the article. And then I ran the questions with someone. And now I have some major thoughts.

 

The questions are great – and just like the introduction explains, they are arranged into three sets of 12 so that each subsequent set has questions that go deeper and are more emotional. Some of the questions aren’t just about yourself but have you say things about the partner you’re doing the questions with. To quote the article: “The idea is that mutual vulnerability fosters closeness. To quote the study’s authors, ‘One key pattern associated with the development of a close relationship among peers is sustained, escalating, reciprocal, personal self-disclosure.’ Allowing oneself to be vulnerable with another person can be exceedingly difficult, so this exercise forces the issue.”

So yes, you do the questions and intimacy is execrated because you are getting to know either a stranger or partner on a closer level that may have taken days, weeks, or months of interacting to get to. But after going through the experience of answering and listening to the answers myself, I don’t think just doing the exercise is what makes you fall in love with someone. You can learn things, sympathize or empathize, and gain understanding of what’s important to someone or what events/people have influenced them. But the more I thought about it, I kept thinking that love wouldn’t come once the 36 Questions end. It might come when some of the answers to those questions are dissected further (for example, #23: “How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?”).

Hearing what your partner has to say in answer to 36 questions might make you interested to learn more about them and spark a relationship. But I sort of think that love is when your partner can answer all the questions for you because they know you so well and have such a deep understanding of your life and who you are.

I don’t talk about relationships very much on this blog. Not since I had my heart seriously broken have I shared anything about the romances (and sometimes lack there of) in my life. It’s not because I don’t have the itch to share sometimes – dating can be awesome and hilarious – but it’s because as much as I am an open book, finding love is such a private thing. It breeds curiosity and questions. And even if a guy might want to date me he isn’t automatically signing up to have me share that experience on this blog. Sometimes things go well and sometimes they don’t…but heartbreak and breakups can be awkward and hard enough to experience by myself without having to document them here. I almost didn’t write about trying the 36 Questions because it felt so personal but I know there has been so much buzz about the two articles that I thought I’d give a small view into my thoughts.

My partner and I probably could have expanded on our answers and asked each other follow-up questions when we ran through the set but I think we both knew that it could easily turn into a five hour conversation and neither of us were up for that much (some advice: don’t do these questions late at night or on a comfy couch). Is that telling that we tried to keep it short? I don’t know. But I’m glad we tried it…because even if your intention isn’t to fall in love with someone, it’s still a great way to get to know a person very well in a short amount of time.

Anyone played this love game? You know I want to know if you have…

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