Wednesday, September 3, 2014

B&E (Bored & Exploring)

 Next door to the loft I grew up in stood a magnificent castle. Technically it wasn't a castle, but that's what we called it. "The Castle" was a huge (by my standards) stone, Gothic Revival home. It had an enormous (by my standards) yard filled with overgrown gardens and gigantic oak trees. Facing the water and surrounded by stone walls and tall hedges it was truly a sight to behold. But the best part about The Castle? It was abandoned.

The loft we lived in was surrounded by pavement, parking lots, and ship building companies. The air was heavy with fiberglass dust, but with a quick hop over the fence I had a quiet, magical wonderland all to myself. It was my very own secret garden. I spent my days exploring the grounds, careful not to be seen by neighbors or passersby. The biggest oak tree was in the back yard, a secluded spot and it was great for climbing. When I was 11 climbed up with a particularly exciting bit of contraband. A single cigarette - stolen from my dad's pack of Marlboro Reds. I climbed to the highest spot, held tight with my legs and struck the match. I smoked the whole thing, coughing and dizzy, and eventually (weakly and slowly) made my way back down to earth. It was my last tree cigarette.

The Castle yard was all mine until a few years later when I noticed some action around the house. Construction! They must be fixing it up! The workers being there during the day put a real damper on my usual hang out spot, but I took advantage of the opportunity to do some major spying. It was around this time, seeing people going in and out, that I became obsessed with getting into the house. Getting in had always been something I dreamed of, but I had already tried all the doors and I wasn't about to start breaking windows, so I had been content with just staying in the yard. Then one day after the workers had gone I noticed that the back door had been left slightly ajar. My heart leapt up to my throat, could it be true?? I looked around, the coast was clear, and I walked over to the door. Before I could change my mind I pushed it open and quickly slipped inside. My heart was beating loudly in my ears, the sun was setting. Long shadows and warm light filled the house. I had built up so many ghost stories about the place that the only thing matching my excitement was terror. I explored the first floor, but was too scared to go upstairs alone. Even now, thinking back, it's hard to remember what's real and what's made up. Over the years I've had so many dreams/nightmares about it, it was so darkly magical. I made my way through the first floor to the front room, overlooking the water. In the center of the hardwood floor was a huge pentagram in spraypaint and the remnants of a fire. There were marble benches and crystal chandeliers pushed into a pile along one wall. There was a grand staircase as well as what was probably a servant's staircase in the back of the house. I was astounded that a house could have two staircases.

The super skinny tower windows were my favorite vantage point. (photo via East Bay Chamber of Commerce)

Over that summer that back door was often left open and I frequently made it my spooky hideout. At night I brought friends and we sat in the shadows careful not to been seen through the huge floor to ceiling windows in the front room, jumping at the sound of branches hitting the roof or the wind blowing through broken upstairs windows. Each time I went in I left with my pockets filled with treasure; random found objects, crystals from the chandeliers, bits of old tiles from the room with the trefoil window upstairs. We unscrewed the tiny brass arms of the chandelier and fashioned them into tiny pipes, packed tight with hash and smoked, sitting crosslegged on the pentagram and listened for ghosts. Hot summer nights, B&E, daring each other to walk up the grand staircase alone.

The Castle, side view, trefoil window upstairs. This photo (and more including the finished front room - sans pentagram)

Monday, August 4, 2014

{{ Brain Drops Keep Fallin' From My Head }} or, why is my cerebrospinal fluid dripping out of my nose?

I'll start this by saying that I'm making a lot of jokes about this because in reality it's scaring the shit out of me and it's so fucking bizarre that the easiest way to deal so far has been by nervously laughing and making jokes about it. I wanted to write about this because when you google it there's a LOT of scary info that you have to wade through before you find any personal experiences with it. I guess I just want to add mine to the mix, even though I don't have an official diagnosis yet. In early July I started noticing that when I lean forward or turn my head upside down my nose would start dripping like crazy. The first day it happened I thought 'oh great, I'm getting sick' even though I felt completely fine. I waited for cold symptoms to show up but they never did, yet the drippy nose kept up. After about 2 weeks of it happening at least once a day I saw my doctor. (This was after googling it and coming up with some pretty horrific results about cerebrospinal fluid leaks -- literally brain fluid dripping out of your nose). Luckily I was able to show my doctor exactly what was happening and she agreed that while the likelihood of it being a CSF leak was low, there was really no other explanation for why this is happening. Around this time I also started paying attention to exactly how often it was happening (1-2 times a day) and whether it was coming from both sides or just one (just the left side).

My doctor got me a stat referral to an ENT who I saw the following day. The ENT examined the fluid which I easily produced by leaning forward. Odorless, colorless, just like water. (Just like spinal fluid). She looked up into my sinuses with a long scope and said they were wide open and beautiful looking, confirming my assumption that if this were some sort of allergy situation there would be evidence of irritation in my sinuses. The fact that I have no other cold/allergy symptoms is what is concerning, but the good news is that I don't have the debilitating headaches usually associated with CSF leaks. Or is it that I'm just catching it early and I went to knowledgeable doctors? I read that most CSF leaks take over a year to diagnose. Or maybe I just have a small leak? Is a small leak ok to live with? How much brain juice can I spare? I don't really have answers to these questions yet, but hopefully this will all become clear soon. My ENT set me up with a CT scan later this week, and in the meantime I'm collecting the fluid in a little jar that I keep next to a dead hummingbird in my freezer (just in case anyone want to play "who has the most bizarre shit in their freezer" I will win for sure.) They can test the fluid to see if it is in fact spinal fluid, but they need a pretty good amount -- so a few times a day I'm drip-drip-dripping into the jar.

The not-knowing is driving me kind of crazy, but I've been trying not to dwell. Trying not to google this any more, trying not to jump to conclusions. Trying to put phrases like "brain surgery" out of my head. Trying to enjoy this beautiful summer and make the most of it.

Because really - THIS COULD BE NOTHING! - Like I said, the not-knowing is making me crazy.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Vacation, all I ever wanted...

This is my favorite photo from our recent family vacation. I was going to post it without much comment, but it occurred to me that this is exactly what's wrong with social media. The little, perfect snippets of time with just the right filter applied that paint a picture that is not accurately representative of real life. So paired with this dreamy image I will provide this backstory.

"I think as long as we can laugh about these insane times we'll be all right." ~ Tom

Our history with bad luck vacations started off with a bang with our Honeymoon From Hell. Since then we've had a series of disasters. Well, I take that back, we have always been very good at making the best of it. It's practically the Toupin family motto. Toupins: We Make The Best Of It.

There was the camping vacation that was ruined as we narrowly escaped a band of severe weather en route to our Plan B- a hotel. Then there was the tiny-cabin vacation - which also included pouring rain and made our tiny-cabin feel more like a humid and damp cave. Then there was the other camping vacation when it (surprise!) rained again. Oh and then there was the indoor water park hotel where it didn't really matter that it was pouring rain because we were indoors. But don't think that was too much of a relief since it did fall right on the heels of a major family issue. So our vacations have never been relaxing. At all. Which is the precise reason you take a vacation.

But this recent one? This one takes the cake. It's been a rough year (hence the lack of regular whimsical fuckery posts which was the intention of this blog). Seeing as though things have been so tough we decided we needed, you got it, a nice RELAXING vacation. Hey, let's get crazy and do FOUR NIGHTS/FIVE DAYS. Let's do it right. Fuck yeah. So I booked a sweet looking little lake house in New Hampshire that was pet friendly, just in case we wanted to take the dog. (And now here's a bit of foreshadowing.... PRO TIP: "Pet Friendly" on Airbnb means "smells like cat piss.")

Sunday - the day before vacation
News from mom about dad: Dad's recovery from his triple bypass surgery a few months ago is not going well and he's having a lot of pain in his sternum (y'know the place where they have to saw through to open your ribcage to get at all those pesky clogged arteries in your heart?) He had x-rays done and they are awaiting results to see what's wrong.

Monday morning
While packing the final few items into my car I get a call from a number I don't recognize. I consider ignoring it ("I'm on VACATION, yo!"), but then pick up. Turns out that the mammogram I had the previous week doesn't look so hot. (Spoiler alert: I DON'T HAVE BREAST CANCER!) Areas of "dense tissue" in my right breast are worrisome and they'll need to get more images and possibly an ultrasound. I make an appointment for the following Monday and in the meantime they're going to compare my recent mammo images to a previous one to see if maybe the dense tissue has always been there (in which case I wouldn't need to have more images done). Google results for "dense tissue" seem to produce equal parts reassurance and worry. Determined not to worry until I have something to worry about. Vacation, HO!

Monday afternoon
Arriving in NH we receive news that my dad's x-ray results are worse than expected. It appears that some of the wires holding his sternum together have broken, he'll have to go back up to Mass General for a CT scan and to meet with the surgeon.

When I found out that there was no internet and spotty cell service at the lake house I was happy to be away from that, but now, faced with waiting for news/updates it was unbearable to be so disconnected. I had to drive 10 minutes down the road just to see if I had a message from my mom or my radiologist yet. Finally I get a message from the radiologist that the dense tissue areas are new and that I do need more images. Panicky and over-stressed we decide to go home, I reschedule my appointment for Wednesday (the day that my dad will be going back up to Mass General). This way we can also get our dog (which my mom had been taking care of, but won't be able to Wednesday while she's with my dad at the hospital.) Oh, and also happening at this time? Pouring rain. Pouring rain that's supposed to last until Wednesday night. Fuck it, let's go home. The weather is so bad on the way home and halfway there we get that terrifying alert from the NWS on our phones. TORNADO WARNING - TAKE COVER NOW We just keep driving.

Tuesday night
We arrive home. Exhausted. We collapse.

Wednesday afternoon
I have more mammo images taken (inconclusive) and on to an ultrasound where they quickly rule out any danger. I'm free and clear. Elated, I head home, we repack for NH and get back on the road, this time with the dog. We drive again through the pouring rain. On the way we receive a call from my mom about the results of the CT scan. It turns out that ALL EIGHT of the wires that were holding my dad's sternum together have broken, explaining the tremendous pain he's been feeling. This is without doubt caused by the fact that at the same time that he was supposed to be recovering from this surgery my parents lost their house and had to move/clean out generations worth of junk out and into a tiny apartment. He was not supposed to really be doing anything at this time, but instead he was doing the work of many people. We helped as much as we could, but it was too big of a job for the small team we had. At this point it's too late for his sternum to fuse back together as it's supposed to during the healing. Talks of metal plates and plastic surgery to reposition his pectoral muscles. Another major medical procedure.

Wednesday night
Vacation take 2. Back to the lake house. Exhausted. We collapse.

We have a lovely day (!!!) JUST starting to ease into vacation, really beginning (despite the stress) to relax a little, decide that since we have one day left let's really make it awesome!!

Thursday night
Receive call from mom saying she broke our washing machine.
Then we drink too much tequila.
Exhausted. Stress sleep/nightmares. Finn falls out of bed.

Friday morning
we head home.

I don't know what the moral of this story is, but despite the chaos, stress, terror and worry coming home to hear the news of what's going on in the world helps to put things in perspective. We had a week that was supposed to be relaxing turn into a nerve-freying mess. But I don't have cancer. My dad, despite needing another major surgery, had a heart that's functioning great, Tom rigged the washing machine (I'm sure that's no surprise to anyone that knows him) and above all Finn had a BLAST on vacation.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

I see you

I'm so happy it's spring.

This winter has been rough. In all honesty though the last few winters have pushed me about to my limit, and not for weather woes, but rather entirely too many hospital visits, too many brushes with death for people I love dearly. Too much suffering. With news coming today that my dad's two week long hospital stay (which culminated in a triple bypass this past Monday) is coming to an end Saturday with his release makes me feel like the worst is truly behind us. This spring, more than any other, has brought with it the feeling of renewal for me. For the first time in a long time it actually feels like a fresh start.

Part of what has helped me to get through these past few horrific months (besides my unbelievably supportive family and friends) has been completely throwing myself into my new work. Despite the extreme stress I've been under I've just been making, making, making. It's been so therapeutic for me. I'm inspired by the promise of warm weather around the corner, of flowers and I even joined Pinterest (gasp!) after all these years to make a design color inspiration board. I also did something else that I've been meaning to do forever, color samples. These little gems will be so helpful in choosing colors for my new pieces, I don't know why it took me so long to get these done.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

TV Casualty

I haven't written in a while, mainly because things have been crazy. And when things get crazy a lot falls by the wayside, blogging (already a back-burner type thing for me) is the first to go. Another thing that I completely give up on is the tight restraint I want to have over my son's screen time. Screen time is something that's always vexed me. I have a smart, caring, good kid. What's the harm with a little TV? I grew up watching TV, maybe even more than the average kid, but I was also spending tons of time playing outside, drawing, riding my bike, entertaining myself in my room, etc. I turned out fine and I had a great childhood! In fact, the TV memories from my childhood, if anything ENHANCED it!

So why do I beat myself up about screen time? I guess the reason may be as simple as that as parents we can ALWAYS find something to beat ourselves up about. Part of being a good parent is questioning whether or not you're doing the right thing, right? I know plenty of kids that get ZERO screen time, but I knew I could never go that route. #1 because I honestly don't think TV is that bad and #2? Well, let's just be honest, I'm lazy and I need a friggin' break sometimes. The problem lies in the times that I'm overly stressed and mentally exhausted and I turn my parenting responsibilities over to Sponge Bob or Team Umizoomi.

Another component to this is Finn has never really been the kind of kid to play by himself, and as an only child that's an important skill. As much as I love playing pirates and marble track there comes a time when I need to get some shit done around the house. Oh, Hello, Pup Control! I was caught in a trap of 'play with the kid' or 'let the kid watch TV'. This concerned me because I didn't want to raise a kid that always needed to be entertained. I didn't know what to do so I relied on the TV to keep him occupied while I worked, or did laundry or made dinner. It was too much TV. This became clear to me when he began singing jingles from commercials "like a good neighbor statefarm is there!"

After a particularly stressful period of family illness, school vacation and snowstorms TV was at an all time high. School was to begin again on Monday, back to a normal schedule. The perfect time to make a change. Expecting a major backlash I told him that starting Monday he could pick ONE show to watch in the morning. "But what will I doooooooooo?" I told him he'd have to figure something out. And you know what? HE DID. Without complaining (too much) he's been looking at more books, drawing more, playing up in his room (alone), playing outside with the dog, and crazily enough: asking for chores to do around the house. All the while that I'm getting all the shit I need to get done done, which in turn also leaves me more energized for a round of Playmobil pirates vs. schoolchildren.

I hope we can stick to this, as I really can't believe how well it's working. Maybe next time I feel like TV is the only option I should just give my kid a little more credit and let him figure out something to do.
Dry Bones Bowser shoots tape, drinks lava and gets his power from the sun.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Super cute birthday goodie bags for under 5 bucks per kid!

I always agonize over goodie bags, wanting them to be cute & fun, but not wanting to break the bank or fill them with junky plastic toys and/or gross candy. Not to say I'm above that, I've definitely hosted birthday parties where I've essentially thrown my hands up and sent the kids home with a bag of junk that I'm sure was tossed into the trash at the first possible opportunity. I vowed that this year would be different. I started scouring the internet for ideas. I came across an article from iVillage that had a few good ideas including this one...

I loved these little travel sketchbooks from Under the Sycamore
There is a full tutorial on her blog, but although a brilliant idea, it seemed a little labor intensive to me (for this project at least) so I simplified it a bit with modifications to avoid using any glue or sewing! Here's what I came up with!

The finished product; an assembled bag and it's contents. Sketch pad with 4 attached markers, pencil and puzzle eraser, mini alphabet stamp and stamp pad. Cute, right? And all for under $5!
I also didn't have a lot of time (I have a LOT to get done in those precious 3 hours that my kid is in half day kindergarten!), so it was really helpful to be able to get all the stuff at 2 stores: Staples & Michaels. Here's what I got with the price breakdown...

From Staples: scratch pads, erasers (on clearance!), pencils. From Michaels: markers, bags, mini stamp sets, stamp pads, cardstock

 Additional tools needed for this project: scissors, stapler, rotary trimmer (you could just use an x-acto and straight edge), a bone folder is helpful, but not necessary.

First I cut the cardstock into strips the same size as the scratch pads. They ended up being like a quarter inch too short, but I wasn't too worried about that, just put that in the back.

I folded the cardstock so that it would fit from the front of the pad, up over the top and down the back so that it serves as a front and back cover. Next I cut and stapled strips of elastic (I forgot to add this into the inventory picture above because I just had this on hand already left over from a Halloween costume). I cut the strips to be about 2 inches longer than the width of the pads to allow room for the loops and interior fold-over. I just eyeballed this part starting with one staple in the very center (staple through the elastic, cardstock and the cardboard backing of the pad. For the next loop hold a little bump up with your finger and pace another staple halfway between the middle one and the edge. For the last loop just hold up a little bump again and fold the elastic inside and staple it all together right along the edge. Then just do the same thing on the other side. That was the most labor intensive part, and really it went very quickly once I got in a rhythm.

And here's the finished product! I just used scraps of the cardstock for the name tags and punched holes in the bags and tied them with baker's twine. I didn't include the baker's twine in the price breakdown because I have a giant spool of it for things like this and really you could just use any string or ribbon that you have on hand.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

camper life

LADIES! It's camp season!!!

Over the past few years I've attended several lady camps. I'm a two time Ladies Rock camper (2011 & 2012) as well as a two time Oakley Progression Sessions (OPS) camper (2012 & 2013). Years a ago I would have never though that such a thing existed, and when I was younger (when I could have benefited even more) they definitely didn't. These two camps were vastly different, but shared many of the same core principles and I came away from each with a fancy new skill set, a huge sense of accomplishment and major confidence boost that has extended beyond the particular skill I learned at camp and into my regular life. In 2012 I did both camps in ONE MONTH! At first I thought it was kind of indulgent to sign up for two ladies camps in one month, but then I decided that was the wrong way to think about it. It's not like they were two spa getaways, they were mentally and physically challenging weekends doing something very important that all of us should try to do more often -- pushing your limits and getting out of your comfort zone. I could very well carry on with my life staying in situations that are comfortable or I can try to grow as a person. I've learned so much about myself through these two camps and, especially for someone like me who is not exactly the most self confident person, the things I've learned are truly invaluable.

me and my bandmates The Buzzards, Ladies Rock Camp 2012

2012 was my second time doing Ladies Rock (the first time I learned drums and that time I learned keyboards) and my first time at OPS. Both camps seem to have a mix of first timers and old timers, I'd say about half of the women at OPS had taken it in previous years. I think Ladies Rock was about 28 women, while OPS was a whopping 82; with ages ranging from 13 to 67!! Watching the older women was super inspiring, and honestly the prospect of potentially having another THIRTY years of snowboarding ahead of me thrills me. Both camps followed a similar schedule with a morning activity (we started both mornings with yoga at OPS (taught by a yoga instructor/snowboarder) and kickboxing at LR. In both camps it's amazing how quickly you start picking up skills that would have seemed impossible before. I can't say enough positive things about the women teaching/running both of these camps. Everyone was so enthusiastic and ultra positive. It also struck me how women whose skill level is about a billion times greater than the baby step you're taking will cheer on said baby step as if you did an Olympic level trick. I always say that my one of my favorite things about LR was in the video from that year. There is a shot of Chrissy Wolpert's face as she's watching the final performance and the emotion and excitement visible there is just incredible. I got the same feeling from Gretchen Bleiler (an Olympic athlete, who if you're not familiar with check this out: whose face was so lit up and could not high-five me fast enough after I landed my first 50/50 off the small box, something she probably mastered at age 11. Seeing these accomplished women SO pumped for our tiny victories says volumes about them as teachers. I'm so grateful for all of them. Here's a rad video that my friend June put together that really captures the magic of camp.

from the Oakley Women instagram, me in my crazy yellow 70s suit on the box.

We started OPS working on simple drills, ollies, riding switch and progressed to learning simple tricks on the jumps and boxes in the park. This was all unfathomable to me previous to this. I would have NEVER tried anything in the park, it scared the hell out of me. By day two I was doing boardslides on the big box and landing them! A huge help in all of this was the fact that Gretchen offered to readjust my stance (which I promptly took her up on at lunch on the second day). She took tons of time with me, measured everything out and gave me a whole new stance and that alone improved my ride so much. I think I just kind of winged it when I first started riding and never changed my stance since. The second year I did this camp was similar except I pushed myself even farther. I'm not sure there's any greater feeling than totally conquering a fear. I was SO afraid to try the jumps that I didn't even consider it a skill I wanted to work on that weekend, but once we arrived at our cozy private park with the support of all my fellow lady campers I was like, "what the fuck! Let's DO THIS!" With everyone cheering and yelling "GET IT GIRL!" it's impossible to feel unsure of yourself. This year camp is the last weekend in March, I'm already signed up and I CAN'T WAIT!

learning how to ollie!

I had never even tried a jump before this weekend!

The other amazing thing about OPS are the swag bags. Holy moly, the SWAG! Oakley does not disappoint with a duffel bag full of goggles, sunglasses, hats, sports bra, snacks, bath and body products, yoga mat, etc. It's like Christmas. 

Similar to OPS, we started LR learning very simple things about how a piano is structured and moved on to learning chords and how to actually play things that sound nice! Nicole Lagace went above and beyond as a teacher, making us a keyboard instruction book and even a mixed CD full of songs with good keyboard parts for inspiration. It's hard to believe that in just 3 days women who didn't even know each other can work together as a band, write a song a preform it live by the end of the third day. Ladies Rock Camp this year is from February 28-March 2nd, if you ever had even the slightest desire to do this I cannot say it loud enough: DO IT!!

I could say so much more about both of these camps, they both truly changed me and I would do them both (and probably will!) again in a heartbeat. I will say that if you've ever considered something like this, but have been too nervous/not wanted to make the time/etc all I can say is DO IT! Life is too short, and you will NOT regret it.

Monday, January 6, 2014


We had a weird warm up today, the 7 foot snowman we built yesterday was relegated to a pile of snow a little bigger than a bowling ball this morning. As a result it's muddy. REAL muddy. After school I was in the house, trying to get ahead of the daily clean up/organizing that gets so out of control so fast when, through the window, I saw Finn, boots deep in mud, crouched down, hat discarded in a sloppy puddle and really looking like this was the beginning of something really catastrophically filthy. Without thinking I rapped my fist on the window, hard, ready to give him my most disapproving look. He didn't hear me. I went to the next window, did it again, but again he didn't hear me. Or, let's face it, he was probably ignoring me. 

Then I stopped to think. I saw his smiling face. A vivid childhood fantasy came rushing back to me. As a kid I thought it would be the greatest thing ever to jump into a neck deep pile of mud. I thought about it a LOT. It was like #1 on my list of best-things-that-could-possibly-happen-in-a-fantasy-world. I think it may have originated in my favorite baby book A Hole Is To Dig

I stopped trying to get his attention at the window and waited for him to come in. He opened the door and saw me see his hands, boots, jacket and pants all covered in mud. He looked ready for my scolding. Instead I said, "You call that dirty? I want you to get back out there and not come back in until you're REALLY covered." He looked at me astonished and then started to push past me into the house, too confused I think to even answer. "No, I'm serious." I continued, "I dare you to go out there in your undies and belly flop right in that mud." His eyes grew wide. He searched my face for signs of mental breakdown. "REALLY?" he said.



Of course, afterwards being covered in cold mud did not seem like much fun and he got real angry and upset and said that that was the worst idea I ever had. I told him I was making dreams come true. Still scowling he let me clean him up in a warm tub and then I told him to quit whining and go play some video games. That kid doesn't know how good he has it.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Light Class - week one

So remember that light class I'm taking? The first week was about gathering some supplies (clamp lights, proper bulbs, etc.) and paying attention to the lighting in the photographs you see. Since I'm mostly looking on Etsy I'll post some of my favorite ones I've found there, but first let's have a laugh, shall we? Here's one of the first things I sold on Etsy back in '06

Oof. Granted, not many people had stellar photography skills (unless they were photographers) on Etsy back then, but this is rough. I don't think any part of that photo is even in focus. Over the years I got a little better, but it was always something I knew I was going to have to work harder on. Just to show I'm not a total lost cause here is another photo from recent years.

heatherjeany Sampler Pack

Since my new endeavor will be a wearable type thing I've been looking for similar things with nice lighting to use as inspiration...

Infinity Scarf by
I love how this lighting is really diffused and the scarf really pops. This is also the type of framing I was envisioning for my new pieces so that was helpful to see someone doing it like this.

 long sleeve cowl top by Treehouse28
Besides being one of my favorite clothing shops on Etsy, she's got great photos.

I'm gonna stop here and just express my surprise at how many people use mannequins in their photos, I find this so off putting! Ugh. I don't mind those dress forms, but using a mannequin just seems weird to me. I guess not everyone is lucky enough to have beautiful willing model friends (AMIRITELADIES?!?!)

Ok. Back on track.

head scarf by EcoShag
This photo is a little darker than I was hoping mine would be, but it's got a really nice natural looking light source and I think it really works well for this product.

coat by LfredsSewingShop
I don't plan on doing any photos outside, but if they did I would want them to look like this. The yellow of the leaves with the buttons and coat details? The sun in her hair? So pretty. This also looks like it was done by a real photographer since it's watermarked. Nice work Sarah Jean!

So that's it for now, in the next few days I'll post the results of my first lighting experiments. It was definitely interesting looking at Etsy and just critiquing the photos instead of just browsing products. It was such a simple exercise, but so eye opening!