by Melanie

How I’m making this year the best one yet!

January 4, 2016 in Coffee Table by Melanie

It’s Monday morning, and after weeks of not normal, being out of our routine, and having minimal responsibilities, we’re back to real life. The kids are all at school, the house is still, Christmas music is wafting in from the other room {and I’m not sorry}, and I have time to think – think about this new year and all of its possibility. How exciting!

Fresh starts – new beginnings – are my favorite! I even love Monday mornings because it’s like a fresh start every single week! {And let’s be real here – parents don’t really get a weekend break. Amiright?} But a brand new year is the best. So many goals and ideas of what this year can become if only I make it so.

Are you ready 2016? We’re going to be amazing!

2016

See how I tossed a little Christmas in there? I’m just not quite ready to let it go. As I sit here in my post-Christmas break reverie, I am mostly thinking about three ways I’m going to make this new year the best one yet.

• one •
FOCUS

My focus for 2016, my one word, is PRIORITY.

priority-defined
I have a habit of trying to do too much and not doing any of it as well as I would like because I’m stretching myself too thin. {That’s the only time you’ll hear me say I’m too thin.} Too often my time isn’t spent on the things I claim as priorities. But if they were really my priorities, wouldn’t that be where I actually dedicate the most of my time and energy? This year I will focus on spending the most time on the things that matter most.

spend-time

• two •
GOALS MY WAY

I’m a huge fan of setting goals and make resolutions. I do it a little differently than most people. I tend to make my own rules. My rules are what most experts would tell you NOT to do. But I whole heartedly believe in finding your own way, doing what works for you. I won’t let the experts decide what I should do. I will be my own expert on what works for me.
keep-resolutions

• three •
IN MY FACE

resolutions-pinWhile I was searching through old posts for my version of making resolutions, I found my resolutions from 2015. I love them. They are exactly what I needed to focus on last year. They made me smile, but reading through that list of perfect goals for my year also made me a little sad. Because how many of them did I actually do? Not one. And do you know why? Because I never looked at them again after January!

I need a lot of reminders in my day-to-day life, and for big, year-long goals I need even more. So this year I will keep my focus and my goals in plain sight, in my face, so I am constantly reminded of these ways I want to improve my life and keep myself on track.

What are you looking forward to in 2016? Here’s to a fabulous year!

by Melanie

How I am finally learning to use my fancy camera

May 5, 2014 in Coffee Table by Melanie

fancy-camera


I took a photography class in a summer rec program when I was about 10 years old. I loved learning to use the old cameras, developing the film, and the red glow of the dark room. I was totally hooked. And then this creepy kid in my class told me he could see through my shirt, and I didn’t want to go back. I hadn’t developed my thick skin yet at that age, and staying far away from creepy kids was high on my list of priorities.

That sad introduction to photography was the only formal instruction I ever had, but that didn’t stop me from thinking I could take amazing pictures. I admit, I was one of those misguided souls who thought the camera made the photo, so all I needed was a fancy camera to take fancy pictures. I had all these cute little kiddos and wanted to have awesome pictures of them throughout their lives.

Mr. 4018 and I weren’t exactly rich, but we saved up our nickels and dimes (and gifts from our parents) until we could finally afford a DSLR. I was so totally in love! When the girls got home from school that day, I had them start jumping in the air so I could take fun shots of them flying, messy room and all.

jumping

Why was that our first photo session? I have no idea. But we thought we were so cool. Every once in awhile I would accidentally take a picture I really loved.

breeglasses

But mostly it was like having a really expensive point & shoot camera. I didn’t know what I was doing, and it was always on auto. That’s when I learned the fancy camera doesn’t auto-matically create fancy pictures – the photographer does! And I was not a fancy photographer.

I kept reading that I needed to take more photos to improve my photography, but I quickly learned that just shooting more didn’t equate to improving unless you really worked on it. You actually have to figure out some things to change before your photography improves!

It took me way too many years to learn these lessons, and I finally decided it was time to really learn how to use my fancy camera. I’m still using the same DSLR we saved up for and bought all those years ago. (I decided I have to learn how to use it before I’m allowed to upgrade.) I bought myself a new 50 mm prime lens that came highly recommended but didn’t break the bank. And I begged my blogging/photographer idol, Kristen Duke, to save me from my auto woes.

Kristen Duke to the rescue! I had heard all about ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. I knew those were the keys. I pinned all sorts of charts and tips to my Photography Pinterest board, but I never really understood what to do with them.

Kristen took pity on me and generously sent me her Say NO to Auto e-book for beginners. She has it organized as 4×6 photos so it’s easy to print and carry around with you, and I ran straight to Costco to print it out so I could do just that.

And you guys… I finally get it!

Kristen makes it so simple and easy to understand. I started looking at the photos I was taking and actually having an idea of what I needed to tweak to make them better. I went from always shooting in auto, to {almost} always shooting in manual and getting good results!

I was able to get really cute photos of my daughter on stage in her school play in a dark auditorium with no flash (and no tripod).

elephant

I was able to preserve this beautiful Spring scene in my front yard

tulips

and capture the Easter fun with my cuties.

chuckegg

joyegg

And this sweet girl who NEVER lets me take her picture, sat and told me story after story while I shot away.

bree

Her older sister is not camera shy, but she is ALWAYS making a crazy face or awkward pose in every single photo – except this one.

beth

I am even more hooked on my fancy camera now! I still have plenty of practicing to do and more to learn, but I now I have a grasp of the basics and actually have an idea of what to fix and how to make my photos better! I can’t even tell you how exciting that is for me.

I can’t wait to get started on Kristen’s next e-book, Get Focused, to take my photos up another notch, and I’m excited to see how my photography improves even more! These books are worth every penny!

If you have your fancy camera but you’re still on auto like I was for so long, do yourself a favor and let Kristen Duke save you from your auto woes. She makes it so easy to use and simple for any level photographer to understand. She even has a video workshop where she walks you through the whole book and explains every step in more detail. It’s like having your own personal tutor.

I still have so far to go, but thanks to Kristen Duke and her Say NO to Auto book, I finally know how to get there!

Do you need to learn how to use your fancy camera, too?

by Melanie

40 Favorite Free Fonts

February 18, 2014 in Coffee Table by Melanie

40-things

This month’s installment of 40 Things is all about my obsession with fonts. I have wayyy too many, but I keep hoarding them like water in the desert.

It’s about time I learn to share, so here are 40 of my favorite free fonts.

40 Favorite Free Fonts from Forty Eighteen



1. Xiorama   2. Upper East Side 3. Return to Sender   4. Marker Felt   5. Ostrich Sans Rounded   6. In-House Edition   7. Pineapple Delight   8. Pupcat   9. Superstar   10. Pacifico   11. Sunshine Poppy   12. Love Ya Like a Sister   13. Making Lettering Tall   14. Little Days   15. AC Big Serif   16. Handwriting Draft   17. Blake   18. November Sky   19. Alex Brush   20. EcuyerDAX   21. Fontdinerdotcom (and sparkly)   22. Janda Safe and Sound   23. KG A Little Swag   24. KG All Things New   25. KG Be Still and Know   26. KG Hard Candy Stripes   27. KG Lego House   28. KG Strawberry Limeade   29. Bobby Corwin   30. Marbre   31. Little Bird   32. KG Melonheadz   33. Giraffe   34. Entia   35. Dolce Vita   36. Champagne & Limousines   37. Fearing Madness   38. Cursif   39. CF Font Shading   40. Drop Your Anchor

I probably don’t need anymore, but that never stops me. What are your favorite fonts?

by Melanie

How to Set Resolutions You Can Keep – It’s Not Too Late!

January 23, 2014 in Coffee Table by Melanie

keep-resolutions

I’m a planner. I love to make lists and set goals. I do it all year long, and I look forward to making my resolutions every January. One year I set 83 New Year’s Resolutions. And do you know what is even crazier? I was successful!

Not perfect. But successful.

It’s still January, so it’s not too late to jump on the bandwagon and set some resolutions. Which is a good thing, because I haven’t actually set any yet…

So to help us all catch up before January is over, I want to share my 3 most important tips for success with your New Year’s Resolutions.

monkey ears1. Don’t listen to the “experts.”

Let me set the record straight once and for all: I am not an expert. You might call me a fanatic, but I just love to make goals. So what’s my secret to success? I do what works for me!

Earlier this month I read an article by an *expert* on successful resolutions, and I disagreed with the entire article. So am I going to change my ways because the experts say I should? No way! I have never believed in the idea that there is one right way to do things. I firmly believe there are a million right ways to do something, and it is up to YOU to find your own way.

So if I don’t think you should change what you do because of what an expert says, what is so different about me shelling out all of this advice? I want to show you my way to do it because every time you gather a new idea, it brings you one step closer to finding your own right way.

Find your own right way – no matter what the experts say – and do it.

switch2. There is no magic switch.

I want to share a little secret with you that took me years to learn. When the ball drops on New Years’ Eve, it doesn’t flip a magic switch that makes us suddenly perfect at things we have never been able to do before.

We start out the year totally jazzed and set resolutions that look something like this: “This year I am going to run 10 miles every morning.” or “This year I will take an amazing-award-winning-photo every single day without fail.”

We do great for a few days, but then January 5th rolls around and we just can’t drag ourselves out of bed for that morning run. Or we realize as we’re drifting off to sleep that night that we’re not even sure where the camera is.

Seriously, there is no magic switch.

Instead of expecting perfection to magically happen because the last number on the calendar changed, make your resolution a goal of where you will be by the *end* of the year. Let yourself work up to perfection instead of abandoning the whole idea when you expect too much too soon and end up falling short.

success3. Redefine success.

In that same “expert” article this month, I read that in order to set yourself up for success, you MUST set a specific, measurable goal. So “improve my health” would be a poor goal, while “work out 3 times a week for 45 minutes each session” would be a fabulous goal.

Pure crap.

Seriously.

I know exactly which one of these goals sets me for complete failure.

Here is the key to my success: Set yourself up to succeed. I make up what my own success looks like! In other words, I set my resolutions in a way that is practically impossible to fail.

Of those two example resolutions, I would go with “improve my health.” ANY improvement in my health makes me successful! Whether I improve my diet, lose a dress size, start sleeping better, exercise more, or just feel better, I win!

calvin resolutions

The reason I make resolutions each year is to improve myself. Slowly I’m becoming a better person. Some years it seems a lot slower than others, but any little bit gets me toward my ultimate goal of awesomeness.

Are you ready to make some resolutions you can keep? Here are a few of mine this year:

♦ read to my kids more
♦ get ahead of deadlines so I don’t feel like I’m doing everything at the last minute
♦ listen to the *little things* now so they’ll want to tell me the *big things* later
♦ have more dancing days and sing loudly and often
♦ get up and move! exercise doesn’t have to be torture, right?

I’m pretty sure these break every rule the experts advise, but I am going to keep doing things my own way. If you are setting resolutions this year (and it’s not too late), do you know what *your own way* looks like yet?

Have you ever been successful with your resolutions? If you have, what is your secret???

resolutions


by Melanie

You’re Safe With Me

January 14, 2014 in Coffee Table by Melanie

Does it make me anti-social if I don’t want to chat with the dentist while he’s working on my daughter’s teeth? He was asking me about my family’s summer plans (it’s JANUARY) and talking about our last visit when Bree was having her first ever cavity filled. She had a few tears trickle out from the corner of her eye because she was listening to music on her phone and heard a song that made her think about how much she didn’t want to be there. He kept laughing about it and rephrasing the “joke” so I would get it and start laughing with him.

I’m sorry, but I don’t want to laugh at my kid with you, Dr. Dentist. I’m sure he was just being social, but I found myself trying to come up with the least rude way to tell him to stop it! Maybe I’m not as nice as I think…

Although, come to think of it. This isn’t the only time I’ve had this issue where someone is laughing at my kids (in front of them!) and expecting me to join in. I know one person who does this EVERY time I see her… and when I don’t join in, she keeps trying harder and harder (makes fun of them even more) to get me to laugh along. It drives me insane.

Now don’t get me wrong. I think learning to laugh at yourself is an important life skill. But here’s the thing: laughing at yourself – or even with someone else about you – is one thing. Being mocked and humiliated is something else entirely. And when the mocking and humiliating is done by someone in your family, that’s even worse.

I passionately believe that my kids should be able to feel safe at home. And they should feel safe with me no matter where we are or who we are with. Why would they ever tell me what’s going on in their lives if they know it is going to become a punchline for the sake of a cheap laugh? How are they going to trust me with the big issues in their lives if I take any opportunity to make a joke of the small things?

chuckI have to admit, I do post the fun things my kindergartener says on Facebook. I have a regular feature on my family blog called “Words with Chuck” that is simply full of quotable moments from her life. She is hilarious – and she knows it.

But I don’t post her failures as punchlines. I don’t post her struggles as juicy stories. And I certainly don’t post her mistakes as invitations for mocking.

She’s just naturally hilarious. The other day I was making dinner, and she was hanging out with me in the kitchen when she dropped what she was doing and walked to the back door. She threw open the door, blew kisses at the sky, and closed the door again. Then she turned to me and said, “Mom, I’m blowing kisses to Santa and Jesus!” Looks like she’s got all her bases covered.

So here’s my question for you: do you think there’s a difference between sharing a cute story and making fun of your kids? Does it bother you when people laugh at your kids – or is that just the mama bear in me? What do you do in that situation? What would you have said to Dr. Dentist if you were me?

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