Ladies! Thank you for the overwhelming response to the first Girls’ Night In Q & A session. To keep the conversation going and more inclusive, I responded to each comment directly in the post. I love that we can all open up and be honest about different issues we face as women, wives, moms, friends, daughters and more. Hopefully this series helps you to get to know me a bit more and visa versa. So welcome to Girls’ Night In! Come as you are, grab a hot cocoa or cocktail and let’s get real.
Nicole: I’m so excited about the Q & A posts. I would love to know who takes your photos. Do you take most of them or do you hire a photographer? What kind of camera do you have and do you like it? Any tips on taking better photos or editing are much appreciated.
Courtney: So the answer to this has evolved over time. For fashion posts, I have definitely used professional photographers in the past. There is nothing better than having someone else shoot, edit and send you photos. It sure cuts down the time it takes to edit. Plus they are professionals and know what they are doing! Having said that, currently my husband takes 99% of my outfit photos. And for a few reasons. First and foremost, I feel the most comfortable in front of a camera when Ryan is behind it. I am more relaxed and like the result of that.
Another reason we shoot together is because I am not as organized as you think I am! LOL. When you shoot with a professional, it’s normal to take 3-4 outfits and change in the car. It’s pretty over the top hilarious and I ALWAYS forget something I need. Might be a necklace, a handbag or a pair of shoes. Plus there is the fact that I sweat my buns off trying to change quickly in the back of a car with black interiors. I hate to keep anyone waiting so I race through the process and always regret that. Makes me tired thinking about it.
It’s soooooo much easier having my husband snap the photos. We do one outfit and he gets the shots in 10-15 minutes. Many times we are out on a date night. He is such a good sport and he has photography skills so it’s really quick. We take a few photos and then enjoy the night. Or we just go somewhere in the neighborhood and snap away. I know my neighbors think I am nuts but what can you do?!
What do I shoot with?
I have the Cannon 70D and love it. We used to have the Cannon Rebel and upgraded a couple of years ago. I shoot with the 50 mm lens 90% of the time. It’s a very inexpensive lens that gives you a lot of bang for your buck. The only time I switch is if I need a wide-angle to capture a small room. I love my 50 mm and it allows me to capture really crisp, pretty shots with a fuzzy background. I love that look at that lens allows you to do that easily. I shoot in manual mode ( so does my husband). If you have a DSLR camera I highly recommend getting out of the automatic mode and allowing your camera to really perform.
When it comes to interiors, I do all of my own shots. I think like any blogger who has been doing this for years, we are for the most part self-taught and have come a long way. Have you all read the book, Blink? It refers to the idea that anyone who is extremely good at something has put in a bazillion hours (not a technical term, I know). So I still need to clock thousands of hours to hone this skill but I have learned some things over the years. I could do an entire post on this but I will try to offer a few bullet point tips to remember when shooting inside. *Although these are good tips for bloggers, I realize most of you are not. These are still good tips if you are trying to capture shots of your children in the house. Same rules apply!
- Shoot only when you have the most natural light. I know when each room gets flooded and I only shoot at that time of the day. Otherwise I end up regretting it and having to take the photos twice.
- Turn off all of your lights.
- Open every window and door that can offer light to your space. Even if it is in another room.
- Use a tripod. I always use a tripod when shooting my home or tablescapes. It allows you to drop you f-stop and to create clear and crisp images.
- Shoot things at eye level and straight on. If you look at the image above, it isn’t shot from an angle but straight on and as if you are in the room yourself.
- Take way more photos than you need. On average, I probably snap 50 shots and end up using 7-8 in a blog post. I look through them on the camera and edit shots I know I don’t like. Than I view the rest on my laptop and choose my favorites.
Nina: I would love to read more about your everyday life for example how you plan your days, how you get things done in and around the house, exercising and I’m very interested in reading about your eating habits. What are you eating in a week? And do the kids eat everything as well? I’m also interested in how the whole30 inspired eating is going.
Love your blog by the way!
Courtney: First of all, thank you, Nina! Ok, let me preface this by saying I need to do a “Day in the Life” post soon because I received so many requests for that. But the next few questions covered much of the same ground so I wanted to touch on all of this. First and foremost, I am no different from you. Some days I rock life and get a ton done and some days I sit on the sofa and spin my wheels and feel overwhelmed and terrible about accomplishing nothing. It’s just life.
WHAT’S FOR DINNER
Let’s talk about meal planning. When I take the time to meal plan, life is so much more awesome. Not kidding. I LOATHE grocery shopping and running to the store at 5:00 PM gives me hives (I know as I just had to do it last night). It’s the last place I want to be during that witching hour. When I sit down and plan out our meals, it honestly takes so much pressure off. I am trying a new recipe every Monday night ( only because I have a quiet kitchen on Mondays and I am trying to expand my horizons). I have never cooked anything different for my children. My daughter is a dream when it comes to eating and tries anything and everything. Both children have huge appetites and always have. I think that helps as I feel like my efforts are appreciated.
NO SHORT ORDER COOK
Now, having said that, I know what my son will and will not eat and I don’t throw shrimp his way. If I do shrimp tacos, I will have chicken tacos for him. He just despises shrimp and I can appreciate that. If I know I am making something questionable, I will definitely make a salad and side dish that everyone loves. I don’t want anyone going hungry and mama isn’t a short-order cook. Some nights are a big success and others not so much. That’s ok. I stick to some stand by recipes during the week. On a whole, dinner always consists of a protein (fish, chicken or meat) plus a vegetable and a salad. We also eat a ton of Mexican inspired food because everyone over here loves it. I stick to simple and clean versus gourmet.
My Exercise Routine
Like most people, I fall in and out of good habits but for the most part I have stayed pretty disciplined with workouts lately. I have loved kick boxing for over 14 years. I have a boxing bag in the garage and I workout on it 2-3 times a week. It’s an intense cardio workout and then I incorporate a lot of core exercises. That workout is only 20 minutes but it packs a big punch (pun intended). Recently I tried Barre3 and it’s awesome. It’s safe to say I have a love/hate relationship with it because it pushes me to my limits but I really love how much it is strengthening me. And I like that I just have to show up. The instructor takes care of the rest. I do that two mornings a week. Other than it, I just like to stay moving with the kids and my husband and I like to hike together. When I am working out regularly, I also am more likely to eat clean. When I ditch the workouts, I tend to eat junk food. Just how I roll.
Rachel: This is what I was going to write. Would love to hear hour by hour how your day goes on typical day. Seems like you are able to fit in so much. Also your eating habits as well. I find myself with never-ending list of to do’s with not much getting crossed off. I was so inspired with how you got settled so fast. We moved into a new place before you and still have many unfinished rooms. Do you hire out for certain things, like house cleaning, laundry, food service? Just want to become more efficient with my very little spare time I have with a full-time job and a 6 and 9-year-old. Rachel
Courtney: Rachel, we still have unfinished rooms, too!! In fact, our master bedroom has not been touched. We have a bed and nightstands from our previous room and that is it. I can’t even wrap my head around a design for that room. Truly. Not a clue. Not one. And I’m ok with that. All of our bedrooms are far from finished. We haven’t finished our main family room either. So please know that while a few rooms are pulled together many are not. It takes time and I don’t want to rush the process.
We did pull our guest room together rather quickly simply because we had guests coming. It also helped that I worked with World Market on the accessories. That meant I had a deadline and nothing like a deadline to make you finish something in record time! That’s something else about me. I work great under pressure. My best papers in college were written under the wire. I have no deadline for the rest of the house so it will take me years. It really will.
I loved this! Came across it on Instagram. We can all relate.
ASK FOR HELP
As far as getting everything done and hiring out. . . the only thing I have recently done is hire someone to help me clean our home. It’s the best investment I’ve made in a long time. I spent the first year in this new home cleaning, parenting, cleaning, blogging, cleaning, cooking, cleaning. On repeat. I started to get really cranky because I couldn’t keep the home clean enough and it was never-ending. Blogging is extremely time-consuming and I am full-time mom the moment the kids walk through the door. Needless to say, I was failing and dealing with the guilt of not being able to do it all. My husband was the one who encouraged me to ask for help. Hiring someone to come every Monday was the best gift I could give myself. I know you’re thinking, “What?! Every week! That’s a bit much!” Before you jump to conclusions, here is why. She only comes for one hour to clean the bathrooms and the kitchen. Any time remaining, she dusts the shutters for me. It was hardest on her the first few weeks because she felt like she wasn’t cleaning the whole house and that felt odd. But I knew that it would be most helpful to me if the big-ticket items were done. Also more cost-effective to just have someone here for an hour. I use that time to get caught up on blog emails or meal planning for the week. I figured that if I had someone come and do the entire house one or twice a month I would still be cleaning non-stop. But having the bathrooms and kitchen cleaned each week is such a load of off my plate.
Don’t get me wrong, I still clean the kitchen daily, but I am not scrubbing the stove top or cleaning the appliances. That is off my plate thanks to Gloria. So maybe think about what is really costing you time. Can you delegate? If it’s meal prep and shopping than maybe a food service makes more sense. I am all about shifting the load if it means being able to spend more quality time with my family and less stress.
GET THE KIDS INVOLVED
The kids also have a list of weekly chores and I am constantly picking up. Your kids sound like they are great ages to actually be of real help. When I find myself getting frustrated, I think, “Can I have one of the children take this on?” Little things like my daughter setting the table and getting our waters each night and my son clearing and straightening up the table really help. Sounds so simple, but it helps build team work and I don’t feel like I am doing everything. I will say that the kitchen island is my hot spot. My hubby and I just chatted about this. My room and closet can be a complete disaster, but as long as the kitchen island is spotless and the family room is picked up, I feel like all is right with the world.
I’ll do a day in the life post soon, but hope this helps a bit!
BLOG POST IDEAS
kmcintyre27: I left a question on your blog but thought of another one . . how do you get your ideas for blog posts? Do you keep a list for the future each time you think of something? I love all your posts and would love to know you are able to always think of such creative ideas! Any ideas that don’t end up making the blog? Thanks!
Courtney: I love this question. I don’t think I am like most bloggers when it comes to this. For better or for worse. I can remember going to conference after conference hearing about having an editorial calendar with perfectly planned out ideas for the next two months. That is so not me. Not even close. While I do jot down ideas as they come to me, what has always dictated ideas for my blog is real life. If I am having friends over and trying to make things pretty, I will share that. If I am working on a DIY because one of our rooms needs that, I will share that. The exceptions are when I sit down and brainstorm ideas for my Five Ways posts or series like this one. They take a great deal of time and effort to plan. When I work with brands, those posts are definitely on the calendar. And yes, many ideas don’t make the blog which is why I learned a long time ago not to map out two months of post. I feel like I can be my most authentic self if my blog mirrors what we are dong in our everyday lives. And when you don’t see a post it’s because parenting and life have gotten crazy and I am too tired. Keeping it real, my friends.
Whew. If you made it to the end, I am impressed! Please keep your questions coming. Feel free to leave them below. And responses to comments will be made directly in each post. I hope you all have a fantastic day. Thanks for hanging out with me.
Get caught up on our Girls’ Night In gab sessions by clicking below: