Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Veils En Pointe- A Styled Bridal Shoot

A little something different for you today! Many of you know about my journey with ballet. It's a total labor of love rather than a natural ability.
My mom started taking me to see the Nutcracker as a very small child (early elementary) and we have gone annually ever since. As I got older, she took me to see other performances as well- Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella... anything Russian that came to our state, we saw. I danced a bit as a child, and a lot as an adult but have *always* been exceptionally drawn to the art. Many dancers see ballet as an avenue to other forms of dance, or at best a foundation. But for me, ballet is the epitome of dance.
So, I was honored when Nicole of N. KRISTINE PHOTOGRAPHY asked me to participate in a styled bridal shoot that was themed around the grace and beauty of ballet.

The shoot was originally featured by ARTFULLY WED but, I'll be showing you my favorite pictures from the shoot, many of which haven't been featured yet, and giving a little behind the scenes info about the experience.



We shot back in March of 2017 on a cold day in Michigan. The venue was gorgeous with distressed walls and muted colors that played perfectly into the palette. If you were to go and rent this space, it would obviously be heated, but the floor we were on was unheated that day and so cold! The (beautiful) wooden floors were also uneven- there was even a warning sign posted, which was an interesting turn of events for a dancer. Between the numb feet and uneven floors, combined with the weight of the dresses and bouquets, this was challenging. I shouldn't have been, but I was surprised at how much more difficult it was to balance en pointe and hold poses in this situation. That was the difficult part for me- just realizing in the moment that this would be 20 times harder than anything I've done on stage or in a studio and having no way to go back in time to prepare. But that's kind of ballet in general- you can never go back and redo a performance.



























Ballet is a struggle toward unachievable perfection. My first (adult) instructor and very dear friend told me that with all art- you cannot look back, but only forward, after it is created. While perfection in ballet is an unattainable goal- the crew we worked with absolutely hit the nail on the head. I'm so excited to share their work with you.
The above two photos were taken at the last minute on a different floor. The dress was actually too big for me, so we originally planned not to use it, but it was the only one short enough to showcase ballet or movement. When we were nearly out of time, with just a few minutes left to shoot, we threw it on and snapped a few photos. They ended up being my favorites.


All of the dresses from ALI NICOLE BRIDAL and DETROIT BRIDAL HOUSE took our breath away. Loads of lace, separates, miles of tulle... they are beautiful and timeless choices. The owners of each shop were wonderfully helpful with great suggestions and personalities that would set any bride at ease. I didn't get the chance to visit Detroit Bridal House in person, but I did spend some time at Ali Nicole Bridal and LOVED her boutique! I would definitely plan a return visit to pick up cute accessories and clothing.

The veils, from KATHRYN ANN BRIDAL, made me regret my own wedding day! Ladies, if your day is still ahead of you... please order something from Kathryn. Her work is handmade, custom and the passion she has for marriage is reflected in each veil she creates. They will truly be your crowing glory! I've already told Kathryn that if we ever have a vow renewal, I'm coming to her!

She even has a blush veil, pictured above, which made my heart soar.

























On set, we had two models, myself (for ballet inspired shots) and an actual model, Tara (for the rest). It was a joy to work with Tara (instagram as @tarafromearth) who is wildly talented. She's an obvious beauty, but also so much fun and easy to be around. I can only imagine how useful her natural intuition in modeling is to those who are photographing her. Tara is so lovable!
It could have been slightly awkward to shoot these photographs, having never met each other before- but it was not! Tara is hilarious, and right after the above right photo she whispered to me, "Sorry about my breath, I just ate an onion bagel." ... it was so unexpected and fantastic that I instantly burst into ugly laughter. The resulting picture was very authentic, but I refuse to share it with you :) When I say ugly laughter- I mean... mega ugly laughter. P.S.- her breath was fine!


Let's take a moment to appreciate these arrangements. Anemones, ranunculus, shades of blue and blush. Swoon-worthy. BLOOM is renowned in the wedding business having won countless awards and also having been featured in many publications. Samantha, who is their lead designer and studio manager is *very* good at her job. She's detailed, precise and ahead of the trend.
I really loved the idea of a bouquet meant to be held upside down, which you can see in most of the more ballet inspired pictures. Samantha had to teach me how to hold it, which was slightly embarrassing.


These invitations from THE INK-STAINED MINSTREL are so well done and perfectly curated. This was one of the only vendors I sadly didn't get to meet, but would love to comment on the beauty of her work!


PRIMP did our hair and makeup for the shoot. I was impressed by their level of knowledge and attention to detail. Kathryn gave each team member photographs of her vision and direction, they took that info and ran with it. They required perfection from themselves, while still having an environment full of fun and laughter- a place any bride would want to prepare for her big day! They're also in The Knot hall of fame, which is a pretty fancy feather to have in one's cap!
You can see the (real) floral comb created by BLOOM in these photos as well. I was pretty excited when Samantha told me I could keep it! I dried the entire comb and am saving it for just the occasion.

And of course, I can't say enough good things about Nicole, from N. Kristine Photography. Nicole is truly a gift to this world. Her vision, thoughtfulness and talent come through in every shoot she spearheads. She is a dear friend and I'm very familiar with her work. Her use of light creates such an ethereal quality in her photographs. She makes everyone around her feel comfortable, which is such an important part of photography! And of course, her final product is of the highest caliber.

This was an eventful day that will go down in history for me as another notch in a dream achieved. I continue to train in the art of ballet, and aspire to get better every day in order to teach those behind me to the best of my ability. I would love to try something like this again!
Be sure to check out the vendors for more inspo!
Vendor list
Photography: N. Kristine Photography
Veils: Kathryn Ann Bridal 
Floral: BLOOM
Hair/Makeup: Primp 
Dresses: Detroit Bridal House and Ali Nicole Bridal
Models: (Instagram), @Tarafromearth, @Aunak
Invitations: The Ink-Stained Minstrel
Venue: Ford Piquette Avenue Plant

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Vintage Coach Leather Bag Restoration

*DISCLAIMER* This is simply a documentation of how I cleaned this bag. Please understand that all leather and stains are different and not every technique will work, and could even ruin your leather. Proceed at your own risk, and be sure to test everything in a inconspicuous place first!*                                      

I've written BEFORE about buying bags second hand, and how I prefer to own just a few bags instead of several. I tend to need a rather large bag for work, and the one I had PURCHASED from Goodwill years ago just isn't cutting it any longer.
Scouring eBay for several months led to the purchase of this (now) beautiful Coach leather backpack. Made in the 80's, this baby has been running around for about 30 years! However, when my bag arrived from the seller, it was definitely a case of "expectation vs. reality". There were pen marks in several places, random black marks and worst of all- black nail polish down the side of the bag.

To be fair, the seller had shown a picture of the black nail polish- but not one which showed the damage to its full extent. And somehow, perhaps because of lighting, the rest of the deep scratches, puncture marks and stains didn't come through. I had a hard time getting pictures that showed the black markings as well, and they were easier to see on my phone than they are the computer display.
I contacted the seller and told her I was disappointed, and she did credit me back some money immediately. So then I got to work on trying to restore this bag to the incredible condition it seemed to be in based off of the photos.
 Starting with he nail polish, I used some standard nail polish remover and a q-tip, which worked really well to remove it. However- it also removed the color of the the bag, which you can see in the last photo.

After removing the nail polish with the remover, I used a wet white washcloth to make sure all of the nail polish remover was out of the bag. It was important to use a white washcloth so that there wasn't any ink transfer. Afterward, I covered the water stain in my trusty cornstarch and left it overnight.
Here it is the next morning. There's a bit of nail polish left, but considering how much color was also taken from the bag, I was afraid to go after it again. 
After that, I also used a white washcloth and water to mop out the other pictured black stains as well, covering them with cornstarch afterward. I had many random pen marks, but none of the remedies I normally use worked on those with this bag, and instead just left more discoloring from lifting off the leather dye.

I decided at that point to cut my losses and coat the bag in Frye Weatherproof Spray. I rely on that, as well as the cream, to keep my Frye (and other) leather boots in great condition. After spraying it on (as seen above), I buffed it in with a white washcloth and allowed it to soak in. As you can see- I started with the back of the bag to make sure it wouldn't stain or change the color of my leather.
That stuff worked wonders! It helped to redistribute the dye in areas that lost color during stain removal and left the bag looking so much better!
This is the area that was covered in black nail polish. It looks so much better! I can still see a bit of lightening at the very top, but I think a few more buffs with the Frye Cream will wipe those out.
eBay is always a gamble. It's obviously not uncommon for an item to arrive in an unexpected condition, but thankfully this time I could remedy it. Hopefully, with proper care, this bag will have another 30 years left in her!
All the best, and as always, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

This or That: Warby Parker / Eye Buy Direct

I'm starting a new review process called "This or That" where two similar companies or products will be pitted against each other to decipher their pros and cons! Doesn't that sound fun? I spend the money so that you don't have to!
First up is eye wear.  I've been wearing glasses for 20 years. Gah. They've always come from box stores and they've always been expensive- even with "BOGO" deals that always seem to have a catch.
Recently, the online trend has been catching on and four-eyed consumers like myself have been purchasing their frames from web dealers.
I decided to give two big online retailers a go, WARBY PARKER and EYEBUYDIRECT.




First up? Warby Parker.
Warby Parker has an extremely easy to navigate website and allows you to choose up to 5 frames from select options to try on at home. I immediately took advantage of that fact and had 3 pairs of glasses and 2 sunglasses shipped. For free.
They arrived quickly and well packaged (I'm a marketers dream) with clear instructions and suggestions. I tried on all 5 pairs and snapped pictures, then tweeted my two final contestants to Warby Parker's team for their super professional opinion.
THEN, tragedy struck, I discovered that my script was outdated. My doctor wrote the script for one year instead of two, even though he had no reason to do so which is borderline illegal in Michigan. But whatever.
Jerk.
So I scheduled an appointment with a different optician for an updated script and in that time decided I didn't really love any of the frames they sent.
So I ordered 5 more.
For free.
I had a clear winner in the second batch and placed my order online. This is the part that gets tricky.
They take your PD (Pupillary Distance) for you using a photograph. I think that's a huge mistake. For most people it isn't an issue, but the glasses they shipped gave me serious headaches and nausea.
I emailed the kind customer service team who put me in contact with one of their on site opticians. She helped me troubleshoot the issues and sent a second pair after having me shoot another selfie while wearing the glasses.
These were not better. My PD is monocular - which means I have two different numbers because my eyes aren't symmetrical. The ones measured using my photograph are binocular, which means they're equal distances. They were also 3 MM further apart than they should have been,  so one eye was off by 2 mm and the other was off by 1. It doesn't sound like a big deal, but the headaches were out of control. I couldn't wear them for more than a few minutes without getting sick.
I again emailed the team and they vowed to this time use the number provided by my doctor instead of the measurement from a selfie, and the result was much better. I love my new glasses.

PROS:
One for One: for every pair you buy, they ship a pair to someone in need.
Cost: My frames were $100 out the door, including shipping
Customer Service: To their credit, they stayed with me until those glasses were solid- they made THREE pairs!
Style: Their design team is on point with new frames coming all the time.
Try On Program: Come on! You can try before you buy FOR FREE!
Packaging: They arrive beautifully packaged with a case and a sleeve which doubles as a cleaning cloth. However,  my glasses are too long for the case (you can see this in the above photo).

CONS:
PD: Measuring this using a selfie seems like a terrible idea. They should encourage people to use the PD measured by their optician when getting an eye exam.
Script: You need to show an actual copy of your current script, which isn't required by all companies.
Time: There was a huge expanse of time between when I purchased my first pair of glasses and received the final approved pair. June 29th- August 15th.
Returns: You absolutely cannot get in contact with them to make a return.


EyeBuyDirect:
My experience with this company was short and sweet. Their frames start at $6, but that isn't including shipping or a prescription lens. Keep in mind when ordering that adding a script will up your cost $20. I also saw zero frames for $6 while casually browsing.
Their site isn't quite as clean or easy to navigate as Warby Parker, but it is FULL OF FRAMES! They have a HUGE selection and you can upload a selfie and try the glasses on virtually. I did that with the pair of glasses I ended up buying and while it was helpful it wasn't extremely accurate. The glasses looked different on me in real life, they were larger on my face, which was a good thing.
EyeBuyDirect allows you to just enter your entire script (including PD!) so you don't have to use an updated prescription. I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing, but it would have been helpful for me.
UPDATE: I ended up ordering a second pair of sunglasses from EBD. They didn't work at all and I could not get in touch with a live human to return them. I sent several e-mails and called multiple times. Once I was able to get a live human and she promised to send me a return label but never did. That was over 6 months ago and I've never been able to return my glasses. It's definitely something to keep in mind.
Also, they offer rewards programs for referrals and send out tons of coupons. I paid $37 total for my new sunglasses and they were perfect from the moment they arrived.
Lastly, they have a premium line which is more expensive- these are identical to the Baker frame that I purchased from Warby Parker, they even come in tortoise! With the added charge for a prescription and case, they would be about the same price though.

PROS:
PD/Script: You can enter the PD from your doctor, script doesn't have to be brand new.
Price: The prices are just so cheap, even the "premium line" is affordable.
Time: They were at my door in about 8 days after ordering.
Selection: MASSIVE
Coupons: They're always offering sales, money off for referrals and incentives to buy if you wait it out.

CONS:
Quality: I like them, but they don't seem sturdy enough to last as long as my expensive prescription sunglasses. These are backups.
Website: It could be a *little* cleaner.
Packaging: I don't find their packaging to be very appealing. They come in a sliding box which cannot be used as a case and have a fabric sleeve. A case is a $4 extra charge that I'm wishing I had paid!

In summary, both companies are good. I lean a little more toward EyeBuyDirect if you plan to have several pairs or often lose/break yours. Otherwise, Warby Parker's frames are a bit more sturdy. Using my link to their site allows you to save $10 on your first purchase :)

Have you used a different online retailer? I'd love to hear your experience below!

*I have not been solicited for my opinion or received anything for writing this piece. All opinions are my own. The provided link for EYEBUYDIRECT is unique to me and does provide a referral kickback if used, the same as it would for any other customer who is part of the referral program.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

DIY Easy Sweet Pea Wreath

What's beautiful, easy, plentiful and dries like a dream? A sweet pea wreath!
I recently discovered some sweet peas growing through the fence into our yard from our neighbor's home. And I loved them.
My friend, Carol, told me that she had made wreaths from them in the past and they were easy, required no tools and dried really well. When we got to our cottage "up north" this year and discovered a bountiful supply of sweet peas, I decided to give her suggestion a go and make my own wreath. It was extremely easy and my first attempt was a success!
I've tried to recreate the process for you in this tutorial, but we are running very low on sweet peas on my side of the fence... anndddd.... I'm not going to ask my neighbor if I can raid her stash! But it's so easy that this should suffice. If you need more clarity, just ask!

Start by collecting lengths of sweet peas on the vine. I suggest leaving at least 18 inches of length, if not more. I could only get about 3 lengths of 18" this time, but for the previous wreath I used 8-9. The more, the better.
If you have an extremely long length, wrap it in a circle (your desired size) and wind the ends around each other. For smaller lengths, start with two pieces. Holding on in your hand, wrap the second piece around the first- with about 8 inches of each length intertwined.
Hopefully you an see int his picture how the two pieces are intertwined.
Here are my two pieces woven together. Add the third length, starting opposite of where you started with the previous two and wrap it around them. Continue doing this until you have your desired thickness. Don't be worried about the snapping sound! Sweet Peas are very resilient. If you like a messy look, allow the outer vines and branches to hang free. Otherwise, wrap them around the base as well.

Wrap, twist and tuck til you achieve your desired look.
TIPS:
This is a super easy version and results in the pictures I've shown you. For a more polished look, you can start with a metal wreath as a base, or you can create a circular base from floral wire. You can always secure the loops with floral wire as well, but mine held together just fine without it.
I made this wreath the day we left, threw it in the trunk with our luggage and headed home. It was a super long drive and the wreath endured a lot of shifting, squeezing and smashing. However- it made it home just fine!
You can leave the wreath as is and it will naturally dry on its own into a much more compact version. This is another reason to start really lush and thick.
Here she is all dried! The dark pink flowers dried into a deep purple and the lighter pink became white. The colors will remain for about a year and then fade.
I absolutely love the way they look, and you can find sweet peas on just about any roadside (in our area anyway!). They grow easily if you'd like to start your own garden! I can't wait to add more to ours.
If you create any of your own wreaths, I'd love to see them!
All the best, and as always, thanks for reading!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

DIY Fresh Peppermint Tea

Last year I planted mint and sweet basil in our outdoor garden. Generally I keep herbs indoors on a window ledge, but it seemed like fun to try those two outside.
Alas, the basil did not survive- but my mint is back this year and has FLOURISHED, nearly quadrupling in size.
A friend of mine was staying with us from Germany and suggested that we use this abundance of peppermint leaves for tea, since peppermint tea happens to be my favorite.
She said her parents had a rather large harvest one year, so they snipped the leaves off the plant and allowed them to dry in the sun. Afterwards they bottled them up and used them with an infuser to make tea for a solid year.
This seemed like a perfectly brilliant idea, and something to do toward the fall when they're likely to die off, but I wanted some fresh tea now!
I saw that you can use fresh leaves for mint tea and decided to give it a try.
It's obviously extraordinarily easy, so this will be a super short post.
Snip 5-6 leaves from the plant and give them a nice washing.
Throw them in the bottom of a mug, add boiling water and allow the leaves to steep for a few minutes. If you're feeling so inclined, you can tear them up first or use an infuser or a French Press. This worked well and was super easy. 
Enjoy!
Peppermint tea lattes are my FAVORITE in the fall, so I can't wait to try this then (with fresh or dried leaves) as well. I use almond milk, boil it and throw in the tea, but for dairy drinkers, it's probably even more delectable with real milk! 
I grew the peppermint mostly for using to freshen our home naturally, but if you have any great uses for fresh mint, I'd love to hear them!
All the best, and as always, thanks for reading!
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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

DIY Fairy Garden Inspo

My mom is a creative genius.                                                    She comes up with the most incredible ideas for children, and I've said a million times that she made our childhood magical. So this weekend when she showed up at my house with these beautiful, handcrafted fairy garden pieces it wasn't much of a surprise at all.                                                               I asked for her permission to share them with you, as well as a little explanation of how she did it. Originally she was going to recreate another piece with me for a proper tutorial, but with all the birthday celebrating we just didn't get around to it.                                                                                           For each piece, she used foraged wood- lots of branches and then large straight pieces as well. She connected them with hot glue, but I would suggest using wood glue or something really strong like E6000 for longevity.                                      The pieces were all sawed with a hand held miter saw similar to THIS one.  Please remember to follow all safety guidelines when working with saws and strong adhesives. 
Her fairy fountain includes seashells attached to a branch. The branch was glued to a "base" made from a piece of branch that she sawed a section from. Moss attached with glue as well.
A swingset and table with "chairs".

Fairy dresses were made from the petals of silk flowers. She used floral wire to create hangers for them.
This slide incorporates a piece of curved bark she found, and I think that it would be the hardest to find and recreate. She also has ladder steps going up the slide as well.
Her wheelbarrow is my favorite of the pieces, and the most complex. I included pictures from a couple angles. She drilled a twig sized hole through the center of the "wheel", everything else is still the miter saw and hot glue- but again, I would recommend something other than hot glue.
This table has an acorn bowl, and is a bit different from the other which utilized a cross-section of branch for the table top. This is a section of bark instead. 
Cross section of branch attached to a thicker and shorter piece create the table. The stools  are cross sections of that same branch which was used for the table base. 
And here is her swing set again, which would be the easiest to recreate.
Since she left, she has already made several more things! There's also a candle dipping station, seesaw, park bench and more! The fairies at her house are going to have quite the party.
My nieces (5 and 7) think this is absolutely brilliant and cannot keep themselves away from their grandma's fairy playground. So, I guess my mom's magic has extended to another generation! I hope there's some inside of me for our little ones someday as well.
All the best, and as always, thanks for reading!