Benson's birthday party | A mustache bash!

   If you have been following the blog then you already know that my "baby" turned one this past weekend (check out last weeks post to see his cake smash)! You would also know that his first birthday party had to be rescheduled for the following weekend because he came down with the stomach bug; what a rotten way to spend your first birthday! Despite the fact that I am still in denial and refuse to believe my baby is growing up so fast, we still celebrated with a birthday bash! 

    I had to come up with the perfect theme to fit his personality. What's the perfect theme for such a dapper little boy who has turned into a little man?  

"A Mustache Bash!

     Unfortunately, many of his baby friends were not able to attend due to the unexpected change in date. That's okay, there were still plenty of people there to smother those fat cheeks with birthday kisses! 

     Now for the details! First, this adorable birthday invitation. This was purchased from  Design Bug Studio on Etsy. This 'chalkboard little man mustache invitation' was just what I was looking for to set the theme for invited guests. 

                                        I blurred the address for obvious reasons ;)

                                        I blurred the address for obvious reasons ;)

    Next,  just look at this birthday outfit! How perfect is this?!? This outfit was bought from Kotton Cactus on Etsy. This outfit (size 18 months because he's a husky little thing) comes with a detachable bow-tie. See what is on the bow-tie? Little mustaches of course! 

   Of course we had to have a birthday cake. I decided to keep the cake simple. I went with my go-to vanilla cake topped with a creamy vanilla buttercream frosting . I kept the cake 'naked' to avoid taking away from this adorable cake topper. This "little man" cake topper was found at Mod Party  at, you guessed it, Etsy! I may have a slight obsession with Etsy, but can you blame me??

The favors: I decided to stick to what I know and bake cupcakes. Each guest received a homemade vanilla cupcake with almond buttercream and topped with a little mustache. I placed a cupcake (individually wrapped in personal cupcake boxes) in a party bag and filled it with color coordinating candy and a mustache pencil just for fun. Then I put a mustache sticker on the front...oh so cute!

     Even though the planning and preparing leading up to the party make me unbearably stressed out, I just love planning their parties and seeing it all come together to watch their happy faces. It is so worth it in the end!

    It always feels so good to be surrounded by friends and family and even better for such a happy occasion! We had family travel from out of state as well as friends who we haven't seen in over five years come to celebrate this little mans first birthday!

                                                   What a happy day filled with love!!

Just a few cell phone pictures taken during the party: A garland displaying all of his "monthly" pictures, Benson being the silly little boy he is, and home made shortbread cookies...shaped like little mustaches!

Just a few cell phone pictures taken during the party: A garland displaying all of his "monthly" pictures, Benson being the silly little boy he is, and home made shortbread cookies...shaped like little mustaches!

   

 

 

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Pricing | The secrets behind a photographers pricing guide

      

     In today's world, almost everyone has a digital camera. You can download an image and have it printed and ready to be picked up in under an hour for less than a dollar. So why pay someone $150 for an hour long portrait session? "Do you offer discounts?" I hear it all the time.

    I mean, how much does it really cost someone to take your picture for an hour right? Wrong. 

       Let me start by telling you a story...

  As a photographer I am part of several private Facebook groups made of up thousands of photographers and other creatives from all over the world. These groups allow us to to seek advice, ask for/give constructive criticism, or offer support and guidance among one another. These posts and conversations take up about fifty percent of my news feed daily. The other day a photographer posted three images from a portrait session she had recently done. All three were the exact same image only edited slightly differently. She asked for our advice on which of the three edits we preferred. 

     For the next couple of hours every detail of these pictures were picked apart and discussed by members of the group. There were comments from the overall temperature of the image all the way down to the amount of "pink" in the clients cheeks. Which one was too dark? Which was too yellow? What about the matte finish?  The photographer continued to tweak the image throughout the conversation posting newer versions for more feedback. This continued until the photographer produced a final image that everyone agreed was perfect. Yay

    That was several hours of discussion and editing over ONE shot!

    We analyze every single picture we provide to our clients. We want to ensure that our work not only matches our brand but exceeds the clients expectations. We want each photo shoot to be better than the last. We stress over every detail resulting in hours of preparation and editing for a "one hour photo session." That doesn't include the time spent with our clients (both the correspondence leading up to the shoot as well as the shoot itself), the time planning for the session (preparing our SD cards, etc), time loading and downloading images, and the drive time to and from the photo session. A one hour photo session can quickly become at least five hours of work. Can you imagine the time involved for an eight hour wedding?!

    In addition, there is the expense of our equipment to consider. Most DSLR cameras start around $1,000 and can range up to $5,000 or higher. Each lens can cost anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Then you have lighting equipment, computer equipment, editing software, memory cards, back-ups, etc. Not to mention the money put towards workshops and conferences to help us learn and grow with the industry. 

    Lastly, the expertise involved with actually taking the pictures. It can take years for a photographer to begin making money from the time they buy their first camera because of all of the practicing involved with learning how to properly use your camera. Shooting in manual allows us to control the lighting, the color tone, the focus, etc. We use different lenses for different shoots to create particular styles. You know the pictures with the blurry background laced with out of focus pieces of light? That is all done in camera by the photographer during the photo shoot. We all start in the same place and the more we learn and grow as a professional we are able to adjust our prices to reflect what we have to offer our client.

      We put so much of ourselves into our work that we are emotionally attached to every image we produce. Our fee does not only pay for the hour we spend at the photo session. It pays for years and years of growth, development, time, equipment, knowledge, experience. But most of all... passion.

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Mom-Nurse

   I have been a Registered Nurse for over seven years. The funny thing about being a nurse is that people assume you know everything. You get calls constantly from family members or friends asking about this rash or that medication. My response ninety percent of the time is "I don't know." Is that a hundred percent true? Sometimes. There are a couple reasons to my "I don't know" response:

  • Unless I have worked in that specific field, or I have Eidetic memory and I can whip out advanced med-surg's lecture on autonomic dysreflexia at a moments notice , then chances are that I probably don't know.
  • Sometimes I really do know but unless I am physically at work in that environment I don't think that way. I leave work at work. So unless I am actively watching someones condition deteriorate in front of me, I am generally not flipping through my mental rolodex of disease process' and body functions. So put me at work in a critical situation and I may know, but at home in my sweatpants and "FRIYAY" shirt...I don't know much.

    Also, nurses make the worst nurses at home. When your husband calls you (obviously upset) and frantically tells you that he "is bleeding and needs to go to the ER!!!" and your response is "Bleeding from where? But did you die? You're fine, you're not going anywhere." Unless you're bleeding from your eyeballs (and even then I may be skeptic) you are not going to the Emergency Room.

    This really became a problem when I became a mom. I am not a labor and delivery nurse, so aside from a twelve week gig during my OB course (SEVEN years ago), I know ZERO about delivering babies. I'm sorry? You're going to put what there?!" I've learned more about pregnancies and births by delivering two babies, not by being a nurse.

    You know the first time moms that rush their babies to the doctor every time they sneeze or cough or for that random little rash on their belly? How obnoxious right? Except I am one of them. What's worse is I am a nurse and I still freak out when they get a fever. I've worked in the Emergency Room, I've seen much worse than a three month old baby with a 101.0 fever. How do we treat it? Give them Tylenol and send them on their way. I know this. But when it comes to my kids, I do NOT know this. Suddenly I am calling my husband frantic "His temperature is now 102! Maybe we should take him to the doctor! But look at her rash! The doctor needs to see that too!" Now my husband has to keep me in check and say "Listen to yourself. If you were at work how would you treat it?" I have learned to take a step back and put on my nurse hat and reassess the situation, sometimes.

    Recently my two year old daughter had the stomach bug. UGH! Isn't that just the worst? 24 hours of pure hell. Except she had it for SIX days! I gave it four days, I watched her spend four full days on the toilet with explosive diarrhea, vomiting, not eating at all while I forced her to drink fluids. I kept repeating to myself "Do NOT call the doctor. Do NOT call the doctor. Do NOT call the doctor." By day four she was so lethargic she would barely get off of the couch, I broke down and called the doctor. She spent the evening getting IV fluids to help re-hydrate. After the SIXTH day she was finally starting to return to normal.

   The bad thing is it is somewhat frowned upon when medical professionals bring their children in for anything less than a brain bleed. It is assumed that we are supposed to know better and that we should be able to treat them at home. Yes, as nurses we have more knowledge of the medical field and disease process' than the general public but the more important thing is that we are moms and that comes first. I will never forget when a co-worker of mine reminded me (after my daughter had a bad virus about a year ago) that we are moms too and sometimes there is too much pressure placed on "mom-nurses" to be a nurse first then a mom second. We are allowed to be moms just like everyone else. So if I want to freak out over a 102.5 fever instead of using common sense, then that's just what I will do!

 

 

 

 

 

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A cake smash for a very special little man

   Yesterday my "big man" (Benson) turned one. I don't know how because I am pretty sure he was just born. It's a weird combination of feeling like you just had him and also feeling like he has been with you forever. I don't even remember what it was like before he joined our family and at the same time I feel like I just brought him home from the hospital last month. Either way, my newborn, my little baby, my big man...he turned one! Here come the water works...why does time go by so fast!?

  BUT turning ONE means...a cake smash!

    I made a very simple vanilla cake, topped with a vanilla buttercream (it's soft and yummy-perfect to make a mess!). The icing was teal with a simple silver/grey accent around the bottom. At first I wanted to avoid the cliche 'blue is for boys' but I also wanted a bright vibrant color that would pop. I felt teal was the perfect spring color for a big personality!

    The shoot was done around 3pm which made it difficult to avoid being in the direct sunlight (which would result in some very harsh shadows). For that reason I opted to have to shoot on our front porch in the shade. It wasn't my first choice considering you can see part of our house in the background, but I shot with my aperture wide open to help keep all of the unwanted background out of focus. All of these were shot with my go to 50mm 1.4 lens, however; I think using an 85mm would have been a very nice choice as well.

   Can we just pause for a moment and take a look at that belly and those cheeks! Not that I am biased or anything but oh, the cuteness!!!

     Unfortunately, Benson came down with the stomach bug so we had to post-pone his birthday party but we were lucky enough to finish his cake smash before he got sick! As long as he gets better by this weekend then look for his "mustache and bow-tie" themed birthday party on the blog next week!

  

  

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Community over Competition | A Thank you letter to my colleagues

    I feel it is safe to say that just about every industry has a level of competition associated with it. To work in any level of customer service we all feel pressured to have the fastest service, the lowest prices, the best care, on and on. This is also true in photography. There are so many photographers in the industry that sometimes we can feel threatened by one another. Having said that, there is HUGE population of photographers that believe in "Community over Competition."

    This is the belief that we all have something special and different to offer our clients. We believe that we can get further by helping each other and learning from each other. The photography industry is now filled with mentors and more importantly, friends. It is such a positive group of people and it is so encouraging to be a part of.

    I have been lucky enough during my short experience in the industry to work along side some amazing photographers. Even better? I have developed some of my best friendships out of these relationships. I would not be where I am today if I did not have these people to teach me, mentor me, encourage me and support me.

    Having said this I really want to thank these people. Their words of encouragement when I was feeling defeated, lending me that particular lens when I needed it, or offering technical advice minutes before a big shoot meant more to me than they will know.

    I watch online as groups of creatives and photographers come together in meetings or for conferences to support each other and give each other advice. How lucky am I to be a part of such a beautiful industry? So for those of you who I have had the pleasure to work along side and grow from, I just want to thank you.

Thank you for teaching me what "Community over Competition" is really about and for showing me the sunshine!!

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

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BIG changes happening to STP!

It's here! It's finally time to spill the beans!

    When I first began my photography journey I wanted to take pictures of everything! I love photography so much it didn't matter what I was taking pictures of as long as I was taking a picture. I worked with food, took head shots for aspiring business owners, played with the sweetest babies, children of course (my poor children...), families, landscapes, and even dabbled in weddings. Working with so many different subjects allowed me the opportunity to learn constantly. I've read hundreds of blogs, dozens of books, and worked with some amazing photographers along the way. I truly appreciate each experience I've had behind the camera as it has shaped me into the photographer I am today.

Photo credit: Amanda Hedgepeth Photography

Photo credit: Amanda Hedgepeth Photography

     The photographer that I am today... that leads me to my BIG announcement! Having all of these opportunities and working with so many different people and subjects have helped me figure out what kind of photographer I want to be! So here it is..................

     The Sarah Thrift Photography brand is changing!!

    After A LOT of consideration and deep soul searching I want to change my brand to reflect my passion. I will be focusing on small business photography with an emphasis in the restaurant business. 

    Why? As a small business owner I know how much time and energy we put into our products. Whether it is a signature dish made by a chef, a beautiful bouquet assembled by a florist, or a lovely bottle of wine produced at a winery, the owner and creator put their everything into that product and growing their business. So why not give their creations the attention it deserves? That is what I want to do. I want to help small business owners show their work the way it deserves to be. I want to help these business owners and provide them with high quality detailed images they can use to promote their products.

      Why an emphasis on the restaurant industry? It's no secret that I love (OK, I may be slightly obsessed with) food. So why not combine my two biggest loves?  I grew up in the restaurant industry which has given me a true understanding for the work flow and the behind the scenes moments created in a restaurant.

Pictured: Grilled Lamb Lollipops; drizzled with a berry balsamic reduction served with feta cheese and rosemary potato latkes.

Pictured: Grilled Lamb Lollipops; drizzled with a berry balsamic reduction served with feta cheese and rosemary potato latkes.

    I will be offering packages for business' that include food shots of their best selling dishes, head shots of the owners and primary staff, as well as images capturing the decor and ambience of the business.

Pictured: fresh spinach and arugula drizzled with an orange peanut vinaigrette topped with fresh buffalo mozzarella, strawberries, pecans, crispy bacon and tempura onions

Pictured: fresh spinach and arugula drizzled with an orange peanut vinaigrette topped with fresh buffalo mozzarella, strawberries, pecans, crispy bacon and tempura onions

   I am SO excited to finally be able to announce this to all of you! It has taken me over a year in the business of learning and soul searching to finally be able to find the best fit for me, and I am SO happy!

  Will I continue to do portrait photography? OF COURSE! The first thing I mentioned in this post was that I love ALL things photography and I look forward to any chance to get behind the camera. BUT I will no longer be advertising portrait photography. My primary focus will be on business photography.

   I cannot thank you all enough for the experiences, the advice, and the support!

Pictured above: The Fat Finch Cafe; Tappahannock, Va

Pictured above: The Fat Finch Cafe; Tappahannock, Va

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What you don't know about me | Living with an invisible illness

   I have never written a post that is so unbelievably personal. Having said that, I feel it is finally time to break the silence and spread awareness...

       I have Common Variable Immunodeficiency (CVID).

    What is CVID? CVID is a genetic gene mutation which is a type of Primary Immunodeficiency (PI) that is defined as an immune system dysfunction. The cause is not known.  CVID is characterized by a low level of specific antibodies (immunoglobulins) in the fluid portion of the blood. This results in a decreased ability to fight off invading microorganisms, toxins, or other foreign substances. As antibody production is impaired, vaccines are NOT effective. Such vaccines are, MMR, PNEUMONIA, FLU, CHICKEN POX...etc Recurrent bacterial infections particularly the upper and lower respiratory tracts are common. These recurring infections can lead to lung disease and life threatening complications. CVID causes gastrointestinal complications. Abdominal pain, inflammation are prevalent. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss are just a few issues. Gastro problems also affect the ability to absorb nutrients and vitamins my body needs. CVID causes abnormal accumulations of lymphocytes in lymphoid tissue such as lymph nodes. In addition, people with CVID are more prone to developing certain types of cancers such as, lymphoma and stomach cancer. The risk of gastric carcinoma is 50 times greater in patients with CVID. CVID causes granular inflammatory nodules within tissue of the skin, lungs, spleen, and liver. CVID causes severe fatigue, migraines, joint pain, muscle pain, and much, MUCH more. CVID causes your organs to shut down and stop working.

           There is NO CURE for CVID.  

      I have to have life long immunoglobulin therapy which is administered intravenously, with antibodies obtained from the fluid portion of about 10,000 blood donors every month to live. These infusions cause many side effects and are VERY expensive (over $10,000 per month). 

      Since an infant I was constantly sick. At age 9 I was admitted to the hospital with Pneumonia and the doctors told my parents I had a 50-50 chance of surviving the admission. This is when I was finally diagnosed with CVID. Since then I have been admitted to the hospital countless times, sometimes for months at a time. I've lost my hair, all of my skin has fallen off, I've been in septic shock (multiple times), and literally close to dying (more than once).

    I spent the first half of my Junior year in high school in the hospital (I was completely unrecognizable as a result of the side effects) and the second half of my Junior year wearing a wig to school as I had lost all of my hair. I would slip to the bathroom in between classes to apply a special cream to my raw and burned skin, hoping to tolerate the pain long enough to make it until class was over.

    I have had IVIG treatments as often as weekly for up to 3 hours per infusion. I would estimate that I have roughly been stuck over 3,500 times with needles and IV catheters during my life. I have undergone ultraviolet light therapy, dozens of biopsies, central lines, and even chemotherapy. My body is covered in scars and often I have to cover "flare-ups" with concealer or long pants. I have been admitted to some of the top hospitals in the Nation and sometimes I talk to my doctor more than some members of my family.  

    I have only ever gone without my infusion twice in my life. Both times were for a span of several months due to insurance changes (once while I was pregnant!) ...and both times I ended up in the hospital, too weak to even take a shower. 

   In spite of this, I have been lucky enough to live a "normal life." I have carried and delivered two healthy and beautiful babies. I work full-time as a nurse and I continue to nurture my growing business. On the outside, you would never know. 

     I'm guessing that 99.99% of the people reading this post right now never knew this about me. There are several reasons for this: 

  • It's an invisible disease. One of the diseases that people may have and have to go through life day and in and day out and no one ever knows. 
  • I don't exactly go around screaming it from the roof tops. I am not exactly one who likes being the focus of attention, so it never seemed like something to share with the general public. 
  • There is almost NO awareness for CVID.

   So this brings me to my reason for this blog post...help me spread the word. You know the pink ribbon is for breast cancer but did you know what the zebra ribbon is for?

   Did you know that April is national CVID awareness month? Help me spread the word and bring awareness! If you happen to see me out and about do not hesitate to stop me and ask me for a pretty Zebra ribbon. I will have them on me and I am happy to give them away! Don't live in the area? Send me your address and I am happy to mail some your way!

               Let's shower April with Zebra stripes! 

***Also, Don't forget to donate blood if you are able to! (IVIG, also called gamma globulin or antibodies, is a highly purified blood product preparation that is derived from large pools of plasma donors. Plasma from approximately 1,000 to 10,000 persons is present in each unit.) Your blood is literally our lifeline!

http://primaryimmune.org/

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Eating healthy | Why I don't count calories

    Gluten-free, diary-free, vegetarian, low calorie, sugar-free, non fat, vegan. The list goes on and on. Now, I am NOT saying that there are not medical or personal reasons that people may follow some of these diets. I am very fortunate that I do not have to cook/eat for any food allergies or diet restrictions. Having said that there are a lot of people that chose to count calories or avoid fat to maintain or lose weight. I believe in FOOD.

    I believe in REAL food. The way the food looks when it's picked by the farmer straight from the ground. The food that are not GMOs or have pesticides. The meat that is grass-fed, eating what it was meant to. The chickens that weren't injected with antibiotics and allowed to range free in the sunshine. I eat what I want, but I truly try to eat as fresh and as natural as possible.

   Does this make me obnoxious? In this day and age it really does...and I know that. Our world has become all about convenience and packaging and everyone is always on a "diet." It is truly hard to eat clean nowadays. Those that do, stick out like a sore thumb. We try our hardest to raise our children with the same eating habits. We got a lot of 'eye rolls' and 'scoffs' for a long time which bothered us at first. We stuck with it and it either doesn't bother us as much or we just got used to it!

   The general rule in our house is "If you can't read one of the ingredients on the back of the package, then we don't eat it." Is that always the case? Of course not! We're human too and like I said earlier, it's nearly impossible. BUT, we really do try! Flavors should come from herbs and spices...not Ranch seasoning packets and bottled Italian dressing.

   It drives my CRAZY when I pass a product in the store that says "Only 100 calories. Now sugar-free." So...what is in it instead of sugar? Have you read the ingredients on the box? The packaging is marketing to appear as though its healthy, when really...it might only be 100 calories but 100 calories of what?

    Please in no way think I am putting down people who may eat this way. I AM NOT! We are all moms just trying to get through the day and I GET IT! I have shoved a bowl of Cheerios in my daughters face just to entertain her long enough so I could go to the bathroom. Moms work during the days, moms are busy and not only can it be super expensive to eat this way but it is HARD.

   Like I said, I don't count calories. Am I a size 6? Absolutely NOT! Could I lose a few pounds? Probably. I am the person who orders an appetizer, an entree AND ALWAYS dessert when we go out to eat. I spend my Friday nights getting down with a pile of chicken wings and an IPA beer (or three!). Do my kids eat birthday cake and ice cream at birthday parties? Of course! We are all human and it's all about balance.

   So here are a few tips from one mom to another to help if you wish to make some small changes in your kitchen:

  • Avoid the middle of the grocery store! The best foods are in the outside sections of the store...produce, meat, dairy. Try to avoid the processed foods like cookies, crackers and cereal when possible.
  • Include your kids in the kitchen. The more involved they feel the more they take ownership of the food that was made and actually want to eat it!
  • Snacks for toddlers...what a nightmare! I know that toddlers are the pickiest eaters of them all! We eat a lot of fresh fruit, cheese, hummus, greek yogurt and cottage cheese for snacks. The younger they are when you introduce them to it the easier it is because they are used to it.
  • Do you work Monday through Friday? I've been there and it is so hard to prepare a nutritious meal for your family after working all day and not getting home until 6pm at night. Try to plan ahead. On Sundays I would make salad dressings/vinaigrettes for the week, roast a chicken to use for lunches during the week, etc. I will prep for dinner after cleaning up from dinner the night before...chopping and dicing vegetables so they are ready to go for the next day. It can be a pain at first but once you get into the routine it's easy breezy!
  • If kids see you making healthy eating choices they are most likely to follow your example.
  • If there is an option, try to buy non-GMO (I could write another 10 page post about GMO's but I'll spare you!)
  • Organic is great, but it doesn't always have to be organic. Fruits and vegetables with a thick skin (like bananas, avocados and oranges) do not need to be organic. Their thick skin helps toprotect the produce from the pesticides.
  • Water always...not juice or soda!

Tonight was pizza night! What kid doesn't like pizza? I made the pizza dough using whole wheat flour. Then I chopped up an assortment of veggies and let Avery (my 2 year old) assemble her own pizza. This is fun for everyone, nutritious, and includes my daughter in the kitchen. You can prepare the dough and the veggies ahead of time...making this a dinner you could have on the table in less than 30 minutes!

   Again, I don't write this post to be one of those obnoxious "organic moms" that we all know and hate. I only write to help spread awareness and show that it IS possible while working full-time and with kids with a little bit of planning

   Happy eating!

NOTE: One of my favorite documentaries that I highly recommend if you have the chance or want to make a few changes in your kitchen is "In defense of food."

 

  

 

  

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My Journey to taking back my identity | Learning to say yes AND no

    To be honest I don't remember what I did before I had kids. I know I cooked... a lot. I know I had a lot more friends and my Friday nights were much more eventful. My nails were usually done, and my house was usually fairly clean. Then came the kids. Becoming a mother is BY FAR THE BEST THING that has EVER happened to me. I never knew such tiny little people could fill my heart with so much love and joy. Just thinking of my kids makes my heart feel like it is going to burst wide open!. Are my nails done? HA! Is my house clean? HA-HA! I have lost friends along the way and a good Friday night means I am in bed by 10pm! Nothing makes me happier and I wouldn't have it any other way.

    BUT, I feel like something happens to a lot of women after they have kids. We lose ourselves. I don't necessarily mean this in a bad way. Our kids always have and always will be our priorities and that's what we WANT and how it should be!  However, we become so occupied with nap schedules and never ending laundry and lunch preparations for the week that we lose a tiny bit of who WE are as a person. I was and still am one of those moms. What I said before hasn't changed. My kids will always be my heart, my priority and world...however I am just slowly learning that it is also just as important to take back a little of my identity along the way. I AM a mom, but being a mom doesn't define who I am as a person.

    What do I like to do? What makes me, well ME? I like to cook, I like to bake, I love photography, I like to dance, I have a small group of BEST friends that I love, I like to shop...the list goes on and on. After having kids all of these things faded away and became things of the past. The truth is, these are things that make me happy. These are things that make me who I am as an individual. Do I have time to cook and bake cupcakes? Excuse my french, but HELL NO! I end up baking during nap time or late at night after the kids go to bed in between loads of laundry. Do I have the luxury of editing pictures from a photo shoot one afternoon over a cup of hot coffee? NOPE! Again, I have learned to be creative and fit my business schedule into my personal schedule. Between working full-time as a nurse (at night) and being a mom... it is absolutely CRAZY that I would even entertain the idea of adding a cupcake and a photography business to the mix. The difference here is that I LOVE IT. My kitchen and my camera define who I am; they are what make me...ME.

    There have been plenty of times that I questioned my ability to juggle all of these different aspects of my life. Maybe I should wait until the kids start school to focus on my business? But the reality is that is not fair to me...as well as all the other moms who push their hobbies and passions aside to raise kids. It isn't easy. Actually, it's SO hard. BUT I am so much happier because of it. I learned to say NO to the things I don't want to do as much to be able to say YES to the things that I do.  Yes, I may lose an extra hour or two of sleep so I can stay up late to write this blog post or edit that photo shoot or frost those cupcakes...but when I see the finished product I am SO happy. AND I get to do all of these things while still being the best mom I can be to my favorite two little humans!

   What makes you happy? I am not saying go out and start up a part time business but I am saying... maybe that extra hour of sleep isn't such a big deal when you can finally paint that picture you've been thinking about, or try out that new recipe you saw on TV. Maybe enroll in that dance class you've seen advertised. Think about saying YES to the things that make you...YOU!  :)

 

 

Just a few of my favorite things that make me the happiest... :)

Thumbnail picture/maternity photo/friends photo credit: Picture This by Dawn.

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Benson: My baby who is not a baby.

     I'll be completely honest; when I first found out I was having a boy I was a little (ok, a lot) apprehensive. I always wanted a little boy but I grew up with a sister and then after finding out my first born was a girl I just figured the girl life was for me. I embraced all things princess, pink and Minnie Mouse. Then I found out I was having a boy...excuse me? What do boys like or do? I remember how awkward it felt decorating his room with little stuffed dinosaurs and placing a baseball on his bookshelf. This was definitely NOT pink. 

    Then on April 17th 2015 I met the sweetest little boy that completely stole my heart. Not just my heart, but his daddy's heart and most of all his big sister's heart. This picture is one of my absolute favorites to date. I was lucky enough to have a photographer photograph the birth (photo credit: Picture This by Dawn). This picture was taken just seconds after he was born and was placed on my chest. This was the second we fell in love. See him holding his mamma's face? My heart melts every time I look at this picture!

 Ever heard the expression daddy's girl and mamma's boy? Well it's SO TRUE! My daughter has my husband wrapped around her cute little finger and this boy sure loves his mamma. For the last 11 months I have loved being a boy mom. Don't get me wrong, I still love all things princess too, but this boy is wide open and it has been such a joy! "B," "Bubba," "Potato" and "Bae" are just a few of the many names he answers to. He has grown the biggest set of cheeks  and he has a smile that will fill a room! 

    It truly feels like just yesterday that we were bringing him home from the hospital and introducing him to his big sister and loving the new dynamics of a family of four. People joke with me all of the time and say "You still think he's a baby!" The truth is that I do; I still look at him as my "new infant." I still think he is my little baby who still needs everything he eats to be pureed and needs to be rocked to sleep every night...but the truth is, his he is wearing 18-month-old clothes and eats like a boss.  I feel like I literally just blinked and now I am faced with the reality that my "baby" is eleven months old today and I have to start planning his first birthday! 

  In one month my "baby" will be a year old. So I am going to spend the next month "babying him" until I can't possibly baby him any more! I will rock him to sleep and hold him for as long as I can. Only when he is a year old will I accept the fact that my baby is no longer my baby. 

...but the truth is, no matter how old he is; he will always be my little baby. 

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Vanilla-Almond cupcakes

   I have been busy busy busy in the kitchen baking cupcakes lately! Every week on my Facebook group "Reesie B's Confections" I post a new "flavor of the week." This past week I decided to mix it up and have a contest; the winner got to choose the flavor of the week! I also promised to share the FULL recipe here on the blog! This weeks flavor is...a vanilla cake topped with an almond buttercream! YUMMERS! So as promised, here is the recipe step by step.

Below is a list of ingredients you will need:

Cupcakes:1 1/4 cup flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 large eggs, 1 egg yolk, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 1/2 tsp vanilla, 1/2 cup canola oil, 1/2 cup buttermilk, 2 large spoonfuls sour cream

Buttercream: 1 cup butter (2 sticks), 3 cups confectioners sugar, 2 tbs almond extract, 2 tbsp. whole milk or heavy cream. Sliced almonds for garnish.

I absolutely LOVE this vanilla cake recipe; this is my "go to" recipe I use for all of my vanilla cakes!

First: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Begin by mixing your ingredients. Be sure to mix the dry ingredients separately from the wet. In one bowl you will mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In the second bowl you will mix the sugar, eggs, vanilla, oil, and sour cream. *Do not add the milk yet!* I use my Kitchen Aid mixer to mix the wet ingredients first.

***TIP: If you prefer a more dense/moist cake add an extra 1-2 egg yolks. If you prefer a lighter/fluffy cupcake only use 2 eggs and skip the extra egg yolk. I find that using the two whole eggs and adding one extra egg yolk gives it the perfect balance of being extra moist but not too dense.

***Also...The sour cream is optional. I use it to make sure the cake is extra moist. If you want a lighter/dryer cake then use less sour cream or skip it all together!

Second: Now you can begin mixing all of the ingredients. I mix the wet ingredients first with the mixer. Then add a little of the dry ingredients. Let that start to come together then add a little of the milk. Continue to alternate between the dry mix and the milk until everything has incorporated to make the batter.

(I agree, it is a pain in the you-know-what to have to mix all of the ingredients separately before mixing together. I promise, it is important and a step you don't want to miss! If you add all the ingredients together at once you can end up with cupcakes that have little clumps of baking powder or flour, etc. because the ingredients weren't fully incorporated. This is no bueno for yummy cupcakes!)

Next: Portion the batter into your cupcake tin so each liner is 3/4 full.

One day a friend of mine was over while I was baking. She watched me as I attempted to fill each cupcake liner up efficiently. I tried spoons, ladles, measuring cups...it didn't matter, they all made a mess. About a week later a package arrived on my doorstep. It was a batter spoon! It looks just like an ice cream scoop and I promise it is worth the investment! I can now fill the cupcake pans with hardly any mess and in half the time! What an awesome friend!

Next: Your oven should already be preheated to 350 degrees. Place the cupcakes in the oven and decrease the temperature to 325 degrees. Bake for about 20-25 minutes. I prefer to take mine out closer to 20 minutes to prevent them from over cooking (overdone cupcakes equals dry cupcakes...yuk!) I use a toothpick to test the center to make sure they are done. They will continue to cook in the pan even after you take them out of the oven so I remove them from the pan immediately and let them cool down on the counter.

I bake mine about 1-2 days before I actually need them. I store them in an airtight container; this also ensures a moist cupcake.

Next is the frosting! I typically do not frost on the same day as I bake. If you need to, then make sure the cakes are completely cooled off before topping them with frosting. Otherwise, the heat from the cupcake with melt the frosting and you just have a hot mess!

I make my frosting using my mixer with the paddle. Start with room temperature butter and mix until soft. Slowly add the powdered sugar a little bit at a time while the mixer is running. You will want to start at a slower speed; otherwise you will end up with powdered sugar all over your kitchen (learned that the hard way!). Then add the almond extract and a touch of milk (about 1-2 tbps). The milk just helps to make the frosting smoother and easier to decorate with. I also like adding heavy cream instead of milk. Once all of the ingredients have been incorporated then you can turn the speed up a touch and mix until you have a bowl of fluffy perfection!

Now I is time for the fun part! Decorate your cupcakes however you like! I prefer to using a piping bag because I think it is easier and it makes them oh-so-pretty!

To garnish: I placed some thin almond slices onto a baking sheet and baked at 250 degrees until the slices were toasted (about 10-15 mins). (Toasting the almonds adds another depth of flavor.) Then I just sprinkled the almonds on top. Of course this step is completely optional!

     This last step is the most important! It is imperative that you send your final product through a rigorous quality control process to ensure it has met expectations. It is a challenging and demanding job that carries a heavy responsibility, but luckily for me, I have staff on site that are up for the challenge!

Ta-da! Vanilla cupcakes, topped with an almond buttercream and garnished with toasted almonds!

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The Struggles: A Working Mom Following her Dreams.

If I had a dollar for every time I get asked... "How do you do it?" The truth is I don't know. About 90% of the time I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!

      My most important job, being a mom, always comes first. I am a mom to the two cutest little rug rats I have ever known. They fill my life with so much love I can't hardly stand it. I would be lying if I didn't say how unbelievably challenging it is. Having two babies (two and under) means both of them are still 100% dependent on me for everything. On the days I am lucky enough to be home with them, my days are spent cleaning up code brown explosions, spot treating spit up stains (or peanut butter stains depending on which kid it is), potty training (every thirty minutes!), managing completely irrational tantrums, playing peek-a-boo (for the hundredth time) and singing along to "the hot dog song" (Mickey Mouse Clubhouse anyone?). All of this is (though exhausting) completely and totally worth it...especially when it comes complete with a snotty nosed Eskimo kiss!

     In between kissing boo boos and trying to figure out why there are banana peels in the shower (what??) I spend my day, pureeing baby food, washing dishes that never end and attempting to make some sort of progress with the continuous flow of laundry.

     Lets throw in a full-time nursing gig as well. Not just any nursing gig but a night shift one! After spending the day chasing the kids around in what feels like a long distance marathon I put on my Danskos, attempt to run a brush through my hair and head out the door. I work in the hospital doing what seems like the exact same thing (code brown explosions, etc.) until 7:30 in the morning. Sleep when they sleep? Ha! That's my time to edit pictures!

    Yup, and then there's my photography business. My love. Nap time and bed time gives me the time to return emails, blog, update my website, edit pictures and work on my business. I could edit for hours and I love it! I lose complete track of time. I am often snapped back to reality by the sound of my youngest crying on the baby monitor. Time to close shop until bed time.

    And then there are the cupcakes. I am not sure how these cupcakes got started but they did. It started out with an order for a dozen, then two orders for a dozen...next thing I know I'm taking orders for large parties and weddings...what?!?! Now between working night shift, doing laundry, photo sessions and changing diapers...I bake cupcakes. I don't know when I make these cupcakes but somehow I do. I am almost always covered in frosting and my once 'organic-non-GMO-preservative-free' daughter has since added buttercream frosting to her diet as a primary food group.

   Oh yeah, and there is a husband in the mix too!

    As I write this I am working on 37 hours straight without any sleep. I don't recommend it in case you're wondering. That's the hard part about juggling a million different things at one time. Anything could go wrong and you need to make sacrifices to make it work (In my case I unexpectedly had to go to work at the last minute and came home to a child with a fever). I am not sure that I would call this "work-life balance." It's more like "how many cups of coffee can you drink in a 24 hour period to survive. " Why do you do it you ask? It's worth it to push for your dreams. I know that at hour 40 I will finally be able to lay down and get some sleep. After all, I will need it. I have a busy week ahead of cupcake orders to fill, a newborn session, a wedding and most of all, two set of the sweetest cheeks in the world waiting to be kissed on...and I couldn't be happier.

 

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Cooking; it's in my blood.

      We all love food right?  I, however, feel that I fall under a different category. I do not love food...I am completely and totally obsessed with food. 

       'Why the obsession?' you might ask. I promise it isn't completely random. I was born to two chefs, so to put it bluntly, it was inevitable. Growing up I was never the kid that was told  "two more bites then you're all done." Not a problem here. I would clear my plate and get seconds.

     My sister and I grew up in the restaurant. All we ever knew was the restaurant business. As soon as we were old enough, we went to work. At that time I had no desire to cook, just to eat. I enjoyed losing myself in the perfectly cooked blackened ribeye and watching others enjoy their food just as much. I remember going out to restaurants with our parents and listening as they critiqued everything from how full the ketchup bottles were to how the server first introduced herself-something I still catch myself doing today. 

    When I was 24, my mother passed away. I don't think it's necessary to write about that level of heartache, as I am sure you can imagine. I associated food with my mother. We had a home cooked meal every night. I watched her prep food every day in the restaurant. I watched as she intensely examined each and every plate that came out of the kitchen, so quickly and efficiently, to ensure each one was perfect. I watched as she demanded more parsley be showered over the dishes that, in her eyes, didn't quite have enough. 

    During the healing process following her death I seemed to gravitate towards cooking. Was it because it reminded me of her? Was it because it was comforting? Maybe it was just a coincidence. I don't know. The problem? I was a little late. I did not have her recipes and have grown to regret not cooking with her when I had the chance. As a result, I have had to teach myself. I would mimic techniques I had witnessed and go with my gut and hope for the best. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but for me, that's the fun in cooking. I don't like recipes, they are boring and restricting. Luckily for me, cooking is in my blood. 

     This is why including my children with me in the kitchen is so important to me. Not only for the bonding time, but I hope it provides memories that will last long after I am gone. And hey, my two year old doesn't mind. This means she is the head of my quality control department and the official cupcake tester every week. I do my best to encourage them to eat what we are eating every night in hopes that their palate will one day provide them with the same love of food. Though my children never had the chance to meet my mother, we are all in a way together when we are in the kitchen. For that, I am grateful. Bon Appetite!

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Photography in the RAW

Today's post is for photographers; professionals and hobbyist alike!

     Photographers; what's the first thing we did when we got our cameras? Learn our camera! That's what I did. I spent six months just learning how to shoot in manual! I took classes, I studied under other photographers and I asked questions whenever I could. I spent most nights falling asleep as I was reading hundreds of blogs and websites explaining manual. Once I understood it, then I spent the next six months practicing it. I would take the same photo ten times, adjusting the settings slightly with each image. I took pictures of anyone and anything I could get my hands on. Finally I understood it. After a year of submerging myself in all things photography I felt like my camera was a part of me. I could adjust my settings at a moment's notice to accommodate for my surroundings. Then I was comfortable announcing myself as a photographer and charging for my services. 

    BUT one thing has been bothering me for a long time. It is something that I am embarrassed to even admit. I shot only in JPEG and I was terrified of shooting RAW.  I have been researching the pros and cons of RAW vs. JPEG for a while. I understood it definitely had its benefits but I was terrified to try it. I finally decided to face my fears and just go for it! What a difference! I am SO glad I made the change! 

   For those that may not know, RAW is essentially the negative of an image. A RAW image captures all of the data with an image while JPEG condenses a lot of the data therefore it gets lost. Another big difference is you can simply upload or open your JPEG images into your software to edit them. RAW images are required to go through a processing stage first. Often the RAW images may look dull or even sub-par to the equivalent JPEG images at first; however, the processing period allows you to pull out any lost data creating a much more vivid and detailed finished product. I made a few examples just to stress the difference. This image was shot with a small aperture outside. These images were taken only seconds apart with the exact same settings. 

The one on the left is JPEG and the one on the right is RAW. Both of these images were edited the exact same in Photoshop. The details and the color on the right were a result of processing. 

    Here is another example. This was taken outside using a large aperture. Again, both pictures were taken seconds apart using the exact same settings. The difference is remarkable. 

These pictures were both edited the exact same in Photoshop but I was able to pull out such detail during processing. The results are pretty hard to argue with. 

One of the biggest benefits of shooting RAW is that it allows the photographer more of an opportunity to 'save' a picture that may have otherwise been un-savable. Here is an overexposed picture of lemons to show how easy it is to fix. 

   The first image is SOOC (straight out of camera). As you can see it is extremely washed out and pretty much unusable. The second image is a result of me uploading the image straight to Photoshop (skipping the processing step). I attempted to edit the picture as I normally would to "save" it. It is much better but still much underexposed. The third image is a result of processing it prior to Photoshop, What a difference! It is almost the perfect exposure, not to mention much more vivid and detailed. 

   Long story short, I am team RAW all the way! While JPEG definitely has it's time and place, I highly recommend RAW whenever possible. I cannot believe it has taken me this long to finally take the plunge, but I am so glad I did! 

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Cooking with Kay

    How exciting for me that today's post is the perfect combination of PHOTOGRAPHY and FOOD!

    Do y'all know Kay Campbell? Well if you don't, you should. She is the Paula Dean of Tappahannock, Virginia. Kay is the chef and owner of The Fat Finch Cafe, a quaint restaurant nestled in the heart of Tappahannock. The Fat Finch Cafe is known for their fun atmosphere, local cuisine and most of all...Kay's hearty cooking. 

   This past Sunday she hosted her very first cooking class and I was honored to photograph it for her!  Kay prepared a meal in front of seven guests, allowing them to watch her technique as she shared the message that 'good food can be easy!' The laid back atmosphere allowed the guest to ask questions with ease creating an open forum for discussion. The meal started with a Crispy Grilled Herbed Naan, followed by Spanakopita, and finished with a Seafood Chowder. 

    Naan is a flat bread that is typically found in the cuisines of West, Central and South Asia. It is used as a starter or even to scoop other foods. It could even be used as pizza crust! We watched as Kay mixed the dough, shaped the dough into balls then kneaded them out to get their shape. She finished them off in the pan and served them with a Tzatziki sauce. Easy peezy and delicious!

    Next course was the Spanakopita. Spanakopita is a fancy word for a Greek spinach pie. Kay demonstrated how easy Filo dough can be to work with. She layered the pan with endless sheets of Filo dough; butter was then poured over. Oh the butter, there was lots and lots of perfect butter. She made a filling with spinach, feta cheese and onion. In the end? We received a plate of yummy buttery crispy dough filled with gooey perfection! 

    Last but not least? Seafood Chowder. Kay demonstrated that it's not impossible to cook a good soup in an hour. I'm sorry, but good soup in an hour? I'm going to need proof! She was right; I was handed a hot bowl of perfect seafood chowder. I think the added touch of sherry just sent this soup over the top. The perfect way to end a meal on a cold winter day. 

   Don't forget the door prizes! After the meal the winners of the door prizes were announced. One of the prizes? A handmade wooden cutting board and it was b-e-a-utiful! I was in love! The cutting board was made and donated from Pete and Kathy Goulman. (www.cabinetworks.org)

    Oh, and I should mention: after the meal we gave away chocolate cupcakes made by yours truly!  Follow The Fat Finch Cafe on Facebook to stay tuned for dates and announcements for Kay's upcoming cooking classes. Whether you're a seasoned professional in the kitchen or a take-out guru, I promise you won't be dissapointed! It's the perfect way to spend a girls evening out, a new spin on date night, or even just to pass a cold winter day.  I love me some Miss Kay and after one of these classes y'all will too! 

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Welcome

      Thank you for taking the time to stop by and ready my very FIRST blog post!

      I have never been into blogging as it never really peaked my interest. Having said that, after finally building my website I figure 'When in Rome', why not a blog too? So here it is, the Sarah Thrift Photography Blog!

      Since this is my first post I figure I would tell you a little more about me. I am a photographer based out of Tappahannock, Virginia (though I will always be considered a "come here!"). I live in a modest house with my husband and my two children. My children are my EVERYTHING. My daughter just turned two in December and my son will be nine months old tomorrow! So needless to say, things are a tad bit cookoo for cocopuffs at our house. 

      On top of that, I work night shift as a Registered Nurse. I have been a nurse for seven years working in a variety of settings including the Emergency Room, Orthopedics and Home Health. I now cover Emergency and Inpatient settings for two hospitals in Richmond. 

     My favorite hobby is food. Is that a hobby? Well, it is mine! I spend most of my days off in my kitchen. I am either baking cupcakes with my daughter, preparing elaborate meals (when I have the time!) for my family, pureeing homemade baby food, going out to eat with my husband or googling food for inspiration. I love everything to do with food. 

      I have spent the past year really focusing on understanding photography. The first step was to learn how to properly use my camera. I took classes to understanding how to shoot in manual. I spent almost a YEAR getting to know my camera and fully understand the science behind an image. I have developed such a deep love for this art and I am so happy to finally have the chance to share it with you! My goal is to one day turn Sarah Thrift Photography into my full-time business. I am so grateful for the love and support from my family and from my clients as they encourage me to fulfill my dream!

 

 

 

 

 

      

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