Archive | March, 2011

Guest post: Tara from Flare Productions

31 Mar

Hey everyone! I am excited to share the first ever Lincoln Park on a Lark guest post with you today. About a week ago, I realized that I may have, er, overextended myself in the coming weeks. Not only is it the first week of new classes at school, but I have quite a few free shoots – probably the last of them – scheduled right in a row, plus I have some really fun things scheduled with some friends of mine that I’ll share later. The guest posts will be interspersed throughout my own, just so posting doesn’t become non-existant over the next few weeks. I have some wonderful ladies lined up to write for you, and if you’re interested in being a guest poster let me know!

Today’s post comes from Tara Jones, a lovely portrait and lifestyle photographer you can find at her Flare Productions blog. If you like this post and you’re interested in reading more, definitely check out her always helpful posts over there. Thanks, Tara, for putting so much time into such a wonderful post! I loved reading it, and it fits right in with my photography philosophy.

You  Just  Do  You,  Umma  Do  Me

Confession:  I  love  a  good  rap  song.  I  can’t  help  myself.  I  love  the  classic  songs  by  Run   DMC  and  Biggie  all  the  way  to  the  new  stuff  by  Jaden  Smith  and  Lil  Bow  Wow.  There!   I  said  it!  I’m  an  Anthropologie  shopping,  Volvo  driving,  Pinkberry  eating,  cardigan   wearing  whitest  of  white  girls  who  adores  rap  music.  The  reason  for  my  confession?   Whenever  I  think  about  the  photo  industry  all  I  hear  are  the  lyrics  to  Umma  Do  Me   by  Rocko  and  I  find  myself  wishing  that  everyone  else  could  hear  those  lyrics,  too.

A  few  times  a  month  I  meet  new  photographers  who  will  ask  for  my  opinion  of  their   work  and  more  often  than  not  I  find  the  work  they’ve  created  isn’t  really  theirs;  it’s  a   recreation  of  work  that  inspired  them.  While  having  someone  to  look  up  to  in  the   industry  is  priceless,  so  is  their  work.  And  as  I  search  for  the  right  words  of   encouragement  to  send  back,  those  lyrics  always  pass  in  front  of  my  mind:  “You  just   do  you,  Umma  do  me.”

When  I  was  just  getting  started  as  a  photographer  I  found  myself  falling  into  similar   ruts  over  and  over  again,  which  would  result  in  frustration  and  feeling  stuck  as  an   artist.  When  you  become  serious  about  photography,  creating  amazing  photos  is  all   you  can  think  about.  Pretty  soon  you’re  eating,  sleeping  and  breathing  all  things   photo-­‐related.  So,  it’s  not  any  wonder  that  your  work  can  begin  to  morph  into  a   mini-­‐me  version  of  a  well-­‐known  photographer  that  you  look  up  to!  However,  that   person  became  well  known,  because  they  created  from  their  own  heart,  from  their   true  self.    It’s  as  if  their  work  says,  “Wanna  see  how  it’s  done?  Then  watch  me  do   me!”

The  answer  to  this  problem?  It’s  simple.  (Can  I  get  a  holla?)  Here  are  my  three  easy   steps  to  finding  your  voice  in  this  industry:

1. Shoot  what  you  love.     It’s  as  simple  as  that.  When  you’re  shooting  something  you’re  truly  interested   in  (not  what  you  think  everyone  else  is  interested  in)  you’ll  be  well  on  your   way  to  finding  your  own  voice.  And  even  though  it  may  seem  that  there  are   as  many  photographers  out  there  as  there  are  Starbucks,  the  world  still   needs  to  hear  from  you!

2. Be  your  own  teacher.     I  highly  recommend  giving  yourself  a  personal  project  every  month  to  keep   you  on  the  right  track.  If  you’re  not  shooting  anything  for  yourself  you’re  on   the  fast  track  to  burn  out  and  forgetting  why  you  love  being  a  photographer.   So,  get  out  there  and  gitchasome!

3. Get  outside  the  box.     While  the  clothes  may  make  the  man,  the  camera  does  NOT  make  the   photographer.  Waaay  too  often  I  hear  new  photographers  say  that  if  they  just had  the  Mark  II  or  the  D3S  they  could  really  make  work  that’s  screamin’.  But   don’t  be  fooled!  Expensive  gear  does  not  equal  quality  creativity.

Let  this  be  the  beginning  of  your  portfolio  and  the  work  you  want  to  attract  will   come  knocking  on  your  door.  Now,  I  can’t  promise  that  you’ll  be  become  the  next   Ansel  Adams,  but  I  can  promise  you  that  if  you  begin  to  create  with  your  own  vision   your  work  will  be  so  fly  like  a  G6.

 

Blueberry bliss.

30 Mar

In the spring, I go absolutely nuts over smoothies. I think it’s the fruit cravings (as in, I could eat nothing but fruit in the spring and be happy, albeit not healthy) and the slightly sinful texture.

Recently we’ve been making these:

I think they’re heavenly, but you should probably try them for yourself. I (very, very loosely) started with the intention of making a Green Monster smoothie but obviously the blueberries had other ideas. All of my ingredient amounts are eyeballed, but this is the basic recipe I start with, and then I taste it to make sure it’s up to previous blueberry bliss standards.

Blueberry Bliss Smoothie

1 frozen banana, pre-cut
1 1/2 cups frozen strawberries
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup frozen spinach
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk

It’s absolutely imperative that all your  fruit is frozen, otherwise you won’t get the awesome ice cream-like texture.

The rent is too damn high! Plus Mean Stinks.

29 Mar

Well, it will be. Maybe. Do you know what I’m talking about? That cracks me up every time.

It’s no secret that I love our apartment. It’s 650 square feet of gorgeous 1920’s design and quirky architecture. I love the hardwood floors and molding. And I love our living room and dining room, where there’s lots of light. Let’s not talk about the 11×11 bedroom with one window that has a view of a brick wall about a foot away.

Let me give you a little tour:

This is our lovely living room. I adore the arched doorways and the windows. In the spring the trees out in the courtyard bloom with gorgeous white buds. I have no idea what kind of trees they are, but they kind of look like my own little cherry blossoms. I know next to nothing about trees, obviously, but they’re pretty.

 

And this is our cute nook of a dining room. I really wish it was about five to ten square feet larger so that I could comfortably fit a desk up against the window. Eventually I’d really like to get a desktop computer, but as of right now I have no place to put it. Either way, it’s a gorgeous place to sit down to dinner together and I love our cute little table.

And our living room (and miss Sunday) from the other side. If you look closely at the chair on the left side, you can see Zoey’s heated bed. She never leaves that thing.

Right now, we pay $1275 per month, which is a pretty good rate for what we have. We live in a great neighborhood with lots of shops and nightlife, about two blocks from the lake and Lincoln Park, and we’re only a little over a mile from my campus, so it’s an easy walk. Plus, laundry is free. FREE! No more stupid dryers not finishing on the first $1.90 cycle, and having to decide if I want damp clothes or to pay up. Sunday would like me to add that we’re a short walk away from Wigglyville, her favorite pet store ever.

The scary thing? I’ve been priced out of every apartment I’ve had in Chicago thus far. Back then it didn’t really matter, because my first apartment was absolute chaos for what ended up being a four-person living arrangement (two words: one bathroom) and the second apartment was a two-bedroom we shared with roommates, so it was much too big when we decided to live just the two of us.

We’ve been checking on Craigslist lately to see what things are going for in our area, and it’s not a pretty sight. I’m not sure if the rental market is just doing extraordinarily well because no one can afford to buy right now, or if we just rented a little bit out of our means and should have accounted for this, but I’m terrified that when our awesome landlord asks if we want to renew our lease, there’s going to be a hefty rent raise to go along with it. The problem is it’s really tough to find a decent, dog-friendly building around here, especially because we’re kind of picky people. We looked at about 15 apartments before finding this one, and we’re happy here.

For fellow renters, has this ever happened to you? Do you have any tips for negotiating renewals, or are we just stuck moving if it goes up too much?

On a happier note, my friend Jenna posted about Secret’s Mean Stinks campaign yesterday. (Yep, that’s me!) I love the idea, and wanted to turn around and pass along the love. One person in particular came to mind to highlight:

Steph from Forget Me (Not) is one of my absolute favorite bloggers. She’s sweet and funny, and I’m always excited to see that she’s posted. Her entries are always honest and heartfelt and I know from working with her on Operation Layla that she’s truly a generous person. I also covet her gorgeous red hair!

I love the message of Mean Stinks because I think it really highlights what can be so amazing about social media in spite of the nasty downsides like cyber bullying. I’ve come to “know” so many lovely girls on here, and I wish I could highlight all of you! Thanks for being so amazing.

 

Brain dump.

27 Mar

Some random musings for your Sunday:

1) I adore Pinterest. I could browse it making little inspiration lists for hours, and it’s actually productive as well, because I can make inspiration boards for upcoming shoots and not have to clutter my desktop with folders like I did for the last one. It’s nice to see everything laid out in a clean format without taking up space on your computer! My favorite way to start mornings now is a cup of coffee and some Pinterest.

It’s great for design, too. I stumbled across this gem from cocokelley.blogspot.com:

 

2) I am so excited for our wedding, but if I could have two (ha) I would want our other wedding to be an elopement to some really romantic location with just us and a photographer. Maybe Paris or Peru. Or Italy. And I would wear this dress from Sarah Seven.  Not because it’s called the Elope Dress, just because I love it. And it’s like a short version of my actual dress, which is kind of funny.

 

3) It’s 32 degrees in Chicago right now. I know that we usually have some cold days in March, but it’s almost April and the weather needs to get with it already. This is getting ridiculous!

What’s on your mind this Sunday?

Wanderlust.

23 Mar

I adore traveling. When I get to choose where to go and what to experience, I could go explore new cities each month. I’ve always felt this way, but recently I’ve been feeling especially cooped up. As much as I love Chicago, it’s been my home for almost as long as anywhere has. There’s a lovely familiarity that comes with knowing your city so well, and the wonderful thing about Chicago is that there are always new nooks and crannies, neighborhoods and places, to explore. But I’m a little bit of an adventure junkie, and I miss the way that I took in the city the first few months I lived here. I was hyper aware of every little thing that seemed amazing – the architecture, the sidewalk cafes, the hustle of the people.

So we’ve been scrimping lately to try to find time for a weekend away. It’s been tough deciding on a location, because we’re kind of picky people. I wish we could go somewhere tropical, but those places aren’t really in our price range right now, and we want something a bit more adventurous than a resort.

Our top choice was actually New York City. Neither of us has ever been, which seems horribly wrong somehow.

But, um, have you seen the hotel prices in NYC? We could probably swing it, if we didn’t, you know, eat that weekend.

We also considered Key West (we’ve been, and love it) and Miami but we’ve explored both and kind of want someplace newer to us, that we can see with new eyes. We’ve talked about New Orleans, Boston, Seattle, and Portland. So far, though, the top of our list is Washington D.C. It’s kind of a funny choice, because we’ve both been there (together-ish, on a school trip about eight years ago) but neither of us feel like that counted since we were shipped around from monument to monument while watching a ridiculously obvious Christian rip-off of Remember the Titans.

We’re not sure when we’ll be able to go, but we’re hoping to wrangle a good deal on a hotel (my current favorite is the Normandy just outside of the Dupont Circle area) – in the meantime, anyone have any must-hit spots in D.C. (non-touristy) I’d love to hear them!

(All photos courtesy of Jetsetter.)

Big Star.

22 Mar

big star.

 

Chicago friends, I have a confession to make: my favorite bars seem to be hipster bars. I don’t know how it happened, nor do I know what will break my hipster bar streak, but it started with Handlebar and the Violet Hour (which isn’t so hipster, but it’s in Wicker Park so it counts) and now it’s come full circle with Big Star. I first realized it was a problem when we took my parents to brunch at Handlebar and my dad tried to flag down a random, plaid-shirt wearing hipster, thinking she was a waitress. And then, Thursday night, I went to Big Star for the first time.

And yeah, the bouncer was a jerk to me, plaid blazer and all. I know I look like I’m twelve, thanks, but I’m not. You are, however, so original for pointing that out. And sure, the girls in the bathroom did look like they had stepped out of page twenty four in last the Urban Outfitters catalog, right down to the kicky little cowboy boots.

But the Big Star margaritas.

And the guacamole. Oh my god.

The thing about Big Star is it was downright energizing. Maybe it was the music, maybe it was the margaritas, or maybe it was the fact that it was St. Patrick’s Day and I didn’t see a single person wearing green. But Big Star is the type of place that makes me want to take up salsa dancing and start honoring Thursday Margarita Day.

Disclaimer: I still love plaid shirts, and yes, I wear them too. They didn’t do anything wrong, nor should they be a casualty of this trend.  Also, I don’t have photos of said night of margaritas because I really didn’t think carrying around a couple thousand dollars’ worth of camera gear was worth an artsy margarita shot and a few off-kilter candids. Maybe next time. I did, however, save the postcard that came with our receipt just because I hate photo-less posts.

I shoot people.

20 Mar

All kidding aside, I had a lovely boudoir shoot on Thursday. It was so much fun and I absolutely loved meeting Christine, who is gorgeous and made for some beautiful photos. I absolutely loved the experience, and I’m glad that she is letting me share some of them with you all! You can see some of my favorites on my little photo blog.

 

Summer CSA.

14 Mar

A really common theme I’ve noticed in the healthy eating debate is money. Why spend so much on local organic produce when you can buy a whole meal at McDonald’s for a few dollars? This is a serious concern for families who live paycheck to paycheck and need to think of what will be more nutrient dense for their children. But to a certain extent, I think it also has to do with the work involved in eating healthy. It’s tough to make things for scratch in a world where we’re used to frozen pizzas and takeout.

We made our transition from Morningstar-style processed foods to homemade meals over the course of a few years. And I’ll cop to having a Luna bar for breakfast sometimes because, hey, if it’s that or nothing, I’m taking the damn bar. But for the most part it’s been fairly easy making meals on days when we have a little more energy (we split the cooking, too) and then freezing leftovers for the days when we just want to crash.

But the Whole Foods addiction – oh man, is it hard to kick. Actually, I won’t be kicking it anytime soon. Because Trader Joe’s doesn’t stock any non-soy vegan cheese (what is life without Daiya?) and a girl needs her vegan sushi and some really good freshly baked sourdough bread sometimes.

For the most part, we buy conventional produce at Whole Foods. The exception to this is when the price difference is small, or the organic produce looks much better and we can swing it that week. But I don’t really trust their labels – I know for a fact that they’ve misrepresented the origin of produce at my local Whole Foods, and I feel like “organic” is such a buzzword right now that it’s being slapped on everything. And then marked up. And marked up again, for good measure.

Over the winter, I asked my friend Jenna about her experience with a local co-op. She generously offered to let me try one of her shares, since she was going to visit family over the holidays. I wish I had taken a photo of the box because it was amazing, especially for a winter share – squash, spinach, garlic, pie pumpkins, tomatillos, spaghetti squash, thyme, onions, potatoes and a HUGE bag of black beans. It was like a vegan’s dream come true. They even send you e-mails with photos of the crops and recipe ideas for that weeks’ share:

(Harvest Moon Organics)

 

We knew right away that we wanted to sign up for the summer program. Produce is the main source of our spending at the grocery store, and being caught up in the cycle of only affording the week-to-week costs of grocery store produce feels like being in a relationship with the bad friend you just can’t shake.

Harvest Moon is a little over $500 for the June through October summer program. It’s a steal, but it’s upfront and tough to do on a paycheck to paycheck lifestyle. I e-mailed them to see if we could work anything out, and found out that they have a two-week payment plan for anyone who asks. We sent them three checks, each dated two weeks apart, and they deposit them accordingly. It doesn’t sound like much, but it made a huge difference for us since we get paid bi-weekly.

As a general PSA, Farmer’s Markets are also great resources for local and organic produce, without the hassle of pre-paying. But they didn’t work well for us because we have very untraditional schedules and never seem to make it while they’re open, despite the best of intentions.

Nutrition is so important to me, and I hope that our society will eventually turn away from the cheap and fast mentality of McDonald’s and Lean Cuisine, and put the focus back on real foods, from the source. What are your thoughts on the health debate?

Operation Layla Bake Sale

11 Mar

Hi all,

it has been a whirlwind few days with Operation Layla! You have all done so much to help, it’s overwhelming to think about. We are close enough to our goal that I can tell you we will be getting Layla this surgery. The thought that a group of friends can make this much of a difference, this quickly blows my mind.

I wrote a post on our brand new site (thanks, Lauren!) about just how amazing this has all been. I highly encourage you to check out the site and leave some love for Layla (and let her say thank you right back – I know she is so blown away by your generosity!) and if you come back on Monday, you can check out the baked goods that we’re offering. All proceeds will go to Layla until we meet our goal, at which point we’ll be helping out the tsunami victims in Japan.

I’m contributing vegan chocolate chip cookies! I made a batch this morning to take photos, and all but two are gone already. I take that to mean they’re pretty darn good.

Vegan cookies for Operation Layla

Operation Layla

10 Mar

You may have noticed the donate button that’s over on my sidebar now, or seen me using the #operationlayla tag on Twitter. What is Operation Layla? Simply put, it’s a joint effort between an amazing group of friends to help one of our own when she needs it. Here is Layla’s story, which you can also see on Jars of Love.

This is Layla and her husband Josh:

One month after her 30th birthday, Layla was diagnosed with early stage cervical cancer (1A Adenocarcinoma). She was extraordinarily lucky that it was caught early, and was able to have a simple surgery to remove the cancerous cells. Three years later, Layla had been in horrible pain that affected nearly every aspect of her life. Temporarily uninsured due to a job change, she paid out of pocket last October to go to the doctor and make sure that the cancer had not returned. Thankfully, it had not.

However, her doctor believes that she has pelvic adhesions and Endometriosis due to the previous surgery, but it can not be diagnosed until an additional surgery (laparoscopy) is performed. The doctor also found out that Layla has cervical stenosis, which basically means her cervix has completely shut due to the scar tissue from the previous surgery. These issues make her miserable most of the time, making simple things like going to the bathroom and menstruation horribly painful, and sexual intercourse impossible. He stated that if she did want to have children one day, even sperm could not pass through her cervix, and she would have to have intrauterine insemination. The doctor wanted to schedule surgery as soon as the insurance at her new job went into effect. Her company fired her the day her insurance became valid, ten days before Christmas, plainly stating that it was because of her health issues.

Fortunately, she was able to get on her husband’s insurance, which went into effect on February 1st. As soon as she could, Layla scheduled surgery for March 22nd. Then her insurance company dropped a bomb: because she had gone to the doctor (even as a self pay patient) within a three month period prior to her enrollment date, they were considering her health issues to be a pre-existing condition, and would not insure any doctor visits, medication, or surgery for them for 388 days.

388 days is a long time to wait when you are in near constant pain and can’t work. The sooner Layla can have this surgery, the sooner she can return to work (hopefully with a nicer company!) and start living her life again. Her doctor has been nice enough to work out a deal with her, decreasing the amount of her surgery to $4,000, the cost of the anesthesia to $500, with additional fees for biopsies of removed tissue to be determined, if Layla can pay as a cash patient.

The problem is, Layla is unemployed due to this, has used her savings to pay for living expenses and medical bills, and has been denied loans for the surgery because of her unemployment status. She does not have a close family, so she can’t ask them for help. Surgery is scheduled for March 22nd, and Layla and her husband are still trying to secure a loan through several banks.

So how can you help?

Anything you can contribute will make a difference, whether it’s listing some old clothes on Ebay and sending the winnings, baking for the online bake sale we have in the works, spreading the word on your own blog, getting others involved, or clicking the donate button. If you want to be involved, leave me a comment letting me know and I’ll fill you in on the details!

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