Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Easter Decor on a budget & a First peak at our new home!

Oh my gosh it's been awhile!

Moving as a family of 5 is NO joke.

I wanted to come on & share with you my Easter mantle & kitchen nook area/table scape, all decorated for this special holiday.  The rest of my home tour will be on the blog very soon.

As most of you know, I love to decorate but I do it all on a budget.  I don't need to spend a lot of money to be happy!  Some of what I decorated with is new & some is not, I'll list it out below. :)


Our new house has grey details, grey wood floors & a grey kitchen. It's gorgeous & we're loving it!
I found the window at a garage sale!  The wreath I made out of supplies from Hobby Lobby.  The "He is Risen" pennant I bought at Walmart.  The Easter egg bouquet & little bird are from Target.  The horse head is from Home Goods.  The candle sticks & faux orchids/pots are from Ikea.  The adorable felt ball garland is from one of my fave Etsy shops Glitter Party Co!

The second area I decorated for Easter is the "kitchen nook" area.  I asked my hubby to put in open shelving for me to decorate.  I painted the shelves white & love how it turned out!  



Shelfie!  The fake flowers are all Ikea, eggs are Target, white dishes have been randomly bought over the years from various places, & my adorable letter board is by Hello LetterBoards!



This chalkboard is the same one Michael hand made me for Jace's Winter Onederland First Birthday Party.  I knew the minute we found our new house that I was going to put this chalkboard in this very spot. :)  The white cherry blossom wreath is from Target.




These little bunny napkin holders & the eggs in the vase are from ALSO from Target (of course).


I know this was short & to the point so if you have any questions free to message me here or on my Instagram page!









Wednesday, February 7, 2018

How I get great photos of my kids + edit my photos!

Hi friends!

I've received a lot of questions about how I edit my photos & get my kids to cooperate when I take them.  Since I've been doing this for years & have learned a lot of tricks along the way, I thought I'd share some secrets.  I am by NO MEANS a trained photographer, so if you want a professional course, this is not it.  I have a fancy camera that I have no clue how to use on manual mode (that will be for another day when I have a hours of free time - which is never). I do however have a few tricks under my sleeve that help achieve professional "looking" photos using only your smartphone, & that's what I'm going to share with you today.

Tip #1:  LIGHTING IS EVERYTHING.

Obviously the outdoors are always optimal for a photo with great lighting.  If you're going to take photos in the middle of a sunny day, only shoot in the shade.  If you're wanting perfect lighting though, take your pics during golden hour right before/during sunset.  Cloudy/overcast days are GREAT for taking pics outside as well.

This photo was in the middle of broad daylight, but there was shade in front of the fence.  With a little bit of editing afterwards, I was pleased with the results!  Also, the kids weren't squinting with sun in their eyes. ;)

That being said, you don't have to be outdoors to get great lighting. In fact, some of my favorite photos have been taken of my kids indoors!  I have sort of memorized the areas of the house that have the best lighting depending on certain times of the day.  For example, Jace's nursery is facing the East, so his room is brightest in the morning.  My bedroom is facing West, so it's bright in there in the afternoon.  When you open up your blinds/curtains & place your kids facing towards the light, you'll be amazed at the lighting you can get!  *PS: Turn OFF your flash.  Just do it.  It's worthless.*

Here's an example of an indoor picture in front of the window with plenty of natural light!


Tip #2:  SIMPLE BACKGROUNDS.

This tip alone can take any normal pic of your kids (like the type that flood your Facebook feed) to the type photo that catches someone's eye & makes them stop.  Eliminating clutter, random people, etc from the background of your photos draws focus onto your subject (AKA: your kiddo/s).  This doesn't mean the background has to be one solid color (although walls are a great backdrop too).  Just look for open spaces, light colors, pretty views, or simple settings.

One of my favorite things to do is lay my babies/kids on a white blanket.  I know I won't be able to do this for much longer, so if you have little ones - capture some of these before it's too late! Throw in a fun prop or sign to make it even more adorable.  You won't regret it later when they're older & too cool for school.

Also, in this tip I want to mention the rule of thirds.  You may have heard of this before.  Imagine drawing to lines down a photo vertically, & then across horizontally.  In the photography world, the 4 points where these lines meet are the best spots for placing your subject.  If you don't have time to think about that, just put your kids to the side of the pic a little bit & take the pic.  OR, crop the photo later making it look like you used rule of thirds to begin with. ;)

This pic is a good example of rule of thirds.  I used self timer on my camera for this as well!


Tip #3:  GET FUN ANGLES/BE SILLY.

If you follow me on Instagram, it's no secret I love the shots from up above.  I sleep stalk Jace all the time to capture these gems.  I've also achieved some super cool shots of the kids at this angle while they're awake, & that's where being silly comes in.  Sometimes our kids get sick of saying "cheese" for photos, & I think every single photo of them smiling the same way gets boring anyway.  Have some fun, & make silly faces for your kids.

When I took this photo, I had to do the most ridiculous voices they've ever heard & it made them all crack up.  It was worth it to get this shot.  This is now framed on my living room wall.  But be quick... once you get them in the spot you want, make sure that camera is ready, they won't hold still for long.


Tip #4:  VIDEO SCREEN SHOTS.

Kids won't hold still? That's fine, take a video of them & then screen shot it.  Once you've gotten a video in an area with good lighting, go to the bottom of the screen when viewing that video.  You can scroll through the clips of your video at the bottom of the screen & screen shot what you like.  THEN, edit the photo.  (Which I explain in my next tip)!  This is also great when you need to get you and your husband in the photo too!



Tip #5:  EDIT YOUR PHOTOS.

There are a LOT of great photo editing apps, like VSCO, Snapseed, Color Story, etc.  My favorite for making my photos light & bright though is Adobe Lightroom.  It's free.  Here are the main steps I take when editing in LR:



1.  Go to light settings.  I turn up the Exposure, the whites, & sometimes the highlights (depending on the lighting from photo to photo - my editing can vary & be in different amounts.  I just eyeball it).  Sometimes I will turn down the blacks if there are any black colors I want to pop after turning the light up.




2.  Go to color settings.  Go to Mix, & turn down orange saturation to eliminate any orange tones (orange hues make a photo look unprofessional & like a cheesy filter was used IMO).  If you're in the photo with your kids, turn down the luminance a bit to give yourself a tan. Then turn down the yellow saturation.  Also, to make any colors in your photo pop, turn the saturation up on any of those colors.


3.  Go to detail.  Turn up the sharpening a bit to make the picture more clear after all of the light/color filtering.  Then, turn up the noise reduction to smooth out the photo. After I export my photo out of LR, I crop it in my phone however I want it.  I prefer iPhone cropping tool.


Here's an example before & after using the editing steps listed above:



I have a feeling I will come back & edit this blog post from time to time to add in any tips I forgot, or learn as time goes on.  Just remember to have fun with it... the best pics of your kids will be of them having fun, not being forced into a photo.  (I am totally guilty of making my kids pose for photos from time to time, but doing that too much makes them despise getting their pictures taken)! Also, GET IN the photos with your kids sometimes!  They will want to look back in the future & see mommy with them too.  Have your hubby take them, or set up self timer to have you and/or your hubby in them as well.  Keep your eyes open for good photo opps.  I sneak up on my kids all the time when they're together being super cute & not fighting for once. ;)  Or, if I see a beautiful back drop, I'll get my camera ready & then ask the kids to turn & smile just for a moment.  These turn out to be some of my favorites.

If you have any questions about these photo tips, the editing process, or anything I forgot to mention, PLEASE let me know! You can email me at: sincerelystevieblog@gmail.com or message me on my blog Instagram page!

Thanks for reading & I hope you find some inspiration from this post. :)




Saturday, February 3, 2018

Jace upgraded to the Dockatot Grand!

YAY it's the weekend!

When we were in Oregon last month staying with our good friends, my husband saw the DockATot Grand in their kid's rooms.  Since Jace outgrew his smaller Dockatot, my husband insisted that we get the big one.  So we did!  We chose the Carrara Marble Print from their new Fairytale Collection:


In case you were wondering what the DockATot even is, it's a Swedish multi-funtional lounger, co-sleeper & playtime lounger.  It's tested for breathability, all natural made with 100% cotton, handmade in Europe, Ideal micro-climate for babies & toddlers, & seriously stylish & fun!  It was one of - if not THE most favorite baby item I was most excited about when pregnant with baby Jace.

My good friend Lauren, owner of Sleep and the City (baby & toddler sleep consulting) highly recommends the DockATot to her clients.  She is actually the friend we were staying with in Oregon who had the Grands in her kid's beds. ;)  If you click the link to her blog on her website & search "DockATot" you'll find multiple reasons she recommends this to her clients.

We used Jace's first DockATot (The Deluxe in Dream Weaver) as a co-sleeper when he was still sleeping next to us, & as a cozy play time lounger.  The Deluxe is for 0-8 months old & a must have if you're an expecting mama!


Look how TINY he was!!!! *Insert crying emoji here*




The Grand is for age 9-36 months, but all 3 of my boys can squeeze into it it's so huge! ;)




This is right after we un-packaged his Grand for the first time.  He sat there like a happy little camper for the longest time.  I love that chubby face.


.... and then Poppy kicked him out.  (If you can't see her, she's the tiny dark brown thing sitting in the DockATot).

The DockATot Grand is perfect for toddler bed transitions as well.  We aren't quite to that point with Jace yet, but I will definitely use it for that purpose when that day comes!  

The website for DockATot is: https://dockatot.com/.  Hop on over to see all of the different prints & colors they have to choose from.  They have covers you can purchase as well to change it up.

Alright!  Time to get going with our Saturday.  If you have any questions about the DockATot, feel free to send me an email: sincerelystevieblog@gmail.com, & I'll do my best to answer those for you!

Don't forget to follow me on Instagram where I post more frequently.

Have a great weekend!

*I received product compliments of the brand, however all of these opinions are my own.*




Sunday, January 28, 2018

Jackson Five Announcement

It's been a Sunday doing baths, homework, & I have a client coming... but I had to hop on real quick & share some news!  No... I'm not pregnant again. I can't have another baby, we'd be "The Jackson Six" & that just doesn't sound right. ;)

WE GOT A PUPPY!!!  Meet Princess Poppy Felicia Jackson:

(I had to.)


Yes, we already have 3 kids & 2 chihuahuas.  Yes, we will have even more responsibility on our hands than we already do.  Yes, I am busy enough.  Let me explain why we made this decision & felt it was right for our family:

Almost 5 years ago, we lost Coco Chanel, our tiny black chihuahua.  Our dogs were "The 3 Amigos".  My husband was the most attached to Coco, & loved her SOOOO much.  When we lost her, it was devastating.  My husband took it the hardest.

Coco is the black one with the bat ears in the middle.

Michael has been asking since the day she died when he can get another Coco... but Coco could never be replicated.  She was special.  There will never ever be another Coco Noodle!

Around Christmas time I finally gave in & began searching for a new Chihuahua puppy for Michael. I have wanted the kids to experience raising a puppy because our 2 older dogs (Gigi & Dolce) came first & don't have a bond with the kids.  They felt like they were replaced by the kids & have always held a grudge.  I know that a puppy raised with the kids would be so special & something Michael & I both had in childhood that we want for them as well.

I didn't find a puppy in time for Christmas, so we saved it for Michael's birthday gift.  (His birthday is 2/4).  After a lot of searching, Michael fell in love with a puppy he saw for adoption & picked her up the same day.  Needless to say, we are all in love!




She's amazingly precious.  I've been posting a lot of pics & videos of her in my Instagram stories.  I hope you all had a great weekend!





Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A Tribute to my best friend, Hillary Marie Vodden. 8/19/83-12/23/17.

On Saturday December 23rd, 2017, my best friend was shot & killed by her boyfriend.  She left behind her twin daughters Shaylee & Ciara, who turned 9 the next day on Christmas Eve.



Hillary Marie Vodden was 34 years old.  She was the funniest person I've ever known.  Literally could make me laugh until I couldn't breathe.  I met her on the playground in fourth grade.  From that point on we were inseparable, & she was over at our house so much growing up that my mom considered her a daughter of her own.

(That's Hillary making one of her famous funny faces on the far left... lol!)

(This was when we were in 6th grade I believe... on one of our many beach trips).

We went on beach trips together, celebrated many birthdays, took a billion photos, made ridiculous inside jokes, & even had (many) alter-ego nicknames for each other that most people just wouldn't understand.  We could be complete weirdos together & that was what we did best.  When you can be yourself around someone 100% without being judged, that's when you know it's your soul sister.

(We were 20 here, at a party).

Freshman year of high school after my parents divorced, I had to move school districts.  Hillary also moved to a different school district, & throughout high school years we didn't keep as close in touch.  It was after high school that we found each other again & it was like no time had passed.  We spent every waking moment together & pretty much lived together for awhile.

(This was last day of eighth grade with our crew... my eyes were all swollen from crying because I was getting separated from my friends.  We had a limo pick us up & had a celebration afterwards).

(This was not long after high school when we were 20 or so at the beach with Mariah & our boyfriends).

We went on a road trip to Havasu & Vegas with our other BFF Mariah, we went to way too many parties, laughed together, cried together, did everything together.  Every memory I have in Oregon before moving to California, Hillary was by my side.



Hillary was the friend that came to pick me up from work when I was sick & took me to the doctor.  She was the friend that made me meals & fed me when I was really stressed out & didn't eat enough.  She was the friend that knew the depths of who I am as a person, my past, my present, my struggles & my strengths... I knew hers too.  I NEVER EVER got sick of being around her. That wasn't possible.  She was the friend I could sit in silence with for hours & we didn't care if there was no conversation... we were just happy to be near each other.


(Speed boat lips).

The night before I moved to California with Michael, she came to my apartment to say goodbye.  We both acted tough & held back tears.  When she left I fell to the ground & sobbed, I didn't want to leave my wing woman.


Every visit back to Oregon I was with Hillary the entire time.  When I got married she flew down & was my Maid of Honor (of course).  I was the Bridezilla & she was the patient friend who was so not into the whole wedding thing but she went along with it with a smile on her face like the amazing friend she was. She was an AMAZING Maid of Honor & loved that I was marrying Michael. :)



Then she met Cory & they made beautiful twin girls together.  Hillary told me once that when she was pregnant with those girls, it was the happiest time in her life.  I was so happy for her, I came up for her baby shower & then again not long after the girls were born to meet them.  They are beautiful & amazing just like their mama.


When I got pregnant she flew down for my shower with our other close friends.  I will never forget when Cole was 5 months old, Hillary flew down to visit us.  This was when I was struggling with insomnia, & Hillary helped take care of baby Cole for me so I could rest. I felt awful that I was such a mess when she was visiting.  She was so understanding, & patient.  She loved with all of her heart.


Over the years as life got busier, we would sometimes go months without talking... but when we would talk it was never any different than when we were together every day.  We had a mutual agreement we mentioned often that our friendship would ALWAYS remain the same no matter how long we went without talking.  We never held it against each other & I'm so grateful for that.  Every time we flew in to visit each other, it was like we were kids again with our stupid voices & funny faces.  She was so, so, SO funny.

(LOL I hope she's laughing from heaven at this one).

(This was not long after I had Brody, I flew up to stay with Hillary & we helped throw our bestie Chelsea's baby shower).

The last time I saw Hillary was June 2016 when I was pregnant with Jace & came to Oregon alone with Cole & Brody for my dad's 60th birthday party.  She came to his birthday picnic at the lake with the girls & I didn't spend nearly enough time with her.  I'm kicking myself for that now, but I know she understands.


Last time I spoke to Hillary was September 27, 2017.  She called to tell me how happy she was with her new boyfriend & that she was moving in with him.  The last time we sent texts to each other was December 12th when I got her new address to send a Christmas card.  The text before that was 12/9... we were joking about something & the conversation ended with her saying "Love you always" & I said "ditto!"  Her text was unusually sappy for her.... we usually end our conversations silly & light hearted.  Looking back I wonder if she knew she needed to say that to me.


On December 23rd, her bags were packed & she was ready to leave her boyfriend, Robert Lopez.  He shot her so she couldn't leave him.  His father was in the house & went to the police station to tell them his son just shot her.  Robert got in Hillary's car, crashed it, & then shot himself in the head.

I found out the following morning walking into church for Christmas Eve service.  Hillary's mom called me.  I knew the minute I answered that something happened to my Hillary.  From that moment, life was forever changed.

Here is one of the news articles that I did a Skype interview for.

We returned from the funeral in Oregon yesterday.  It was the hardest thing I've ever done, saying goodbye to her at the grave site before she was buried.  I know the pain her mom, brother, & daughters are feeling is even worse than mine.



Hillary's BFF's (minus Halley who couldn't make it)... we pulled ourselves together for a pic at the request of Hillary's mama Shelley while we viewed Hillary's grave sight location.

Family & close friends pic.

While I was in Portland, Mariah & I went & got memorial tattoos for Hillary.  Hillary had many tattoos so I know this made her proud. :)



Her daughters are strong like their mama, & laugh even in the darkest times.  They have their dad, their grandparents, uncle, & many friends supporting them.  We set up a Go Fund me account to support their future as well, if you'd like to donate even a small amount... it would help so much:  Shaylee & Ciara's Go Fund Me.

There are a few things I've learned from this devastating experience that I'd like to share:
1.  Domestic violence is a REAL issue, happening to so many women every day.  They are afraid to share with their loved ones, afraid to escape.  If you or anyone you know is in a potentially dangerous relationship, do not take it lightly.  ANY kind of threat could mean your life is in danger.  I don't think Hillary believed this evil man could really kill her.  EVIL can disguise itself, & fool you.  Please, please, please take this issue seriously.  Let your friends know you are there for them, & make sure they know they can confide in you.
2.  Don't let a day pass without letting your friends & family know how much they mean to you.  Don't go to sleep angry at anyone.  Always make sure you are at peace with the people in your life.  I'm so grateful that the last time Hillary & I spoke we said "I love you always & forever".
3.  This whole grieving process has opened my eyes to what is really important in life.  I have no desire for anything less than meaningful & REAL relationships.  I want every thing I say & do on this Earth to be done with love, & I want my words & actions to reflect God's love 100%.  Life is too short to worry about the petty things or sweat the small stuff.


One thing we all know is Hillary had God in her heart.  She is in heaven with our heavenly father, her earthly father, her brother Brandon, & her step brother.  She's pain free, she doesn't have to feel this sadness or grief that we are feeling, & she doesn't have to feel anxious, scared, or alone.  She is free, & she has wings to fly for eternity.



Wait for me Hill, I'll see you on the other side.