The M Giveaway Winner!

Congrats Halle! You’ve won a spot in the M! I know that you’ll learn SO much in Kara’s class and I can’t wait to see the photos after you push those settings into manual. Thank you to all who entered, I LOVED reading your comments. Just because you didn’t win a free spot doesn’t mean you still can’t take the class! Head on over to register for only $45. It’s a course that you can take at your own pace and will completely change the way you feel about that DSLR.

Houston

CITY GUIDE: Houston

Today’s city guide is brought to you by Nicole of Boston! Enjoy!

Houston may be sprawling, but it’s packed with a little bit of everything. It’s full of culture: outdoor theaters, lots of art (both folk and fine), an incredible variety of food, and some of the best vintage shops around. Houston is quite the city! Here’s the short list of what you should do if you ever have a day in Houston.

Let’s start with some food options because you can’t shop on an empty stomach. If you’re heading out in the morning you have to swing by Christy’s Donuts (photo grabbed from Google maps) or the Breakfast Klub. Be prepared for lines at both; they move quickly. Christy’s has the best donuts and kolaches in town. Don’t know what a kolache is? You can thank the Czech settlers of Texas after you taste these delicious buns filled with goodies (like cheese and jalepeno sausage). For a completely different breakfast experience settle in at the Breakfast Klub for waffles and wings, or catfish and grits.

After a hearty breakfast you’ll have more than enough energy to hit up some antique shops. Your first stop should be Adkin’s Architectural Antiques and Treasures for salvaged home goods and antiques. Make sure to walk up all the stairs to the attic, it feels like a hidden gold mine. Metro Retro is full of mid-century finds, but if you have to choose one location, go to the warehouse instead of the showroom. For Anthropologie furnishings of the non-mass produced variety go to Installations Antiques. Jur is the man, ask him to make you something (seriously)! Give Saddle (one of the shop cats) a pet for me too. If these three options aren’t enough, browse the stores on Westheimer between Shepherd and Montrose. There is also no shortage of second-hand clothing shops in that area.

You’ll probably be a little famished at this point, so it’s time for some lunch. Chinese, BBQ, Cuban, or Shire-Eats? Houston does all of these well. Have your order ready at Doozo’s (half order of chicken dumplings, mild sauce) and go early to Thelma’s BBQ (chopped BBQ sandwich, eat with a fork). If you don’t, you might not get any. If you’d prefer a more relaxed dining experience, grab some fish tacos from El Ray, or get a table and a Mithril Mix Smoothie at The Hobbit Cafe (photo grabbed from Google maps).

After lunch, it’s time for some folk art (naturally)! Built between 1956 and 1980 by Jeff McKissack, the Orange Show is collection of objects inspired by a love of oranges. Preserved after his death, this quirky monument is like no other. If you prefer your art fine, a trip to the Menil Collection and the Cy Twombly is what you are looking for. Walk over to the Houston Center for Photography too, it’s right next door. After you’ve had your fill of the arts, sneak in to Katz’s Deli to use their photo booth. It’s one of the last authentic film booths left in Houston. Make Kuhl-Linscomb (photo from their website) your last stop before dinner. You could spend days in there, so it’s best to give yourself a time limit. It consists of five buildings and is the largest privately owned design and lifestyle store in Houston. It’s perfectly curated, and there is something for everyone.

If you could possibly eat anything after lunch, there are even more choices for dinner. For the best deep dish outside of Chicago, order the chicken alfredo on wheat at Star Pizza. Paulie’s has great casual Italian food, and delicious cucumber water. For an even more casual dining experience, wear your lederhosen to Rudi Lechners (photo taken from their website) for Polka night, wiener schnitzel, and German beer. If you are wanting to rock your more formal lederhosen (pants perhaps), eat at Shade (photo grabbed from Google maps). It’s in the heart of the Heights, one of the coolest neighborhoods in Houston.

After dinner, look through the racks at Mortar for some killer men’s clothing, lust after some beautiful jewelry at High Gloss, browse through the thought-out selection of records at Sound Exchange, pet some bunnies at Wabash Feed, and flip through the hand-selected collection of books/vinyl toys at Domy (photo found on Flickr). You’ll have a hard time leaving any of these places empty handed.

If you don’t think you can stomach any more food, I’ve done something right here. On the other hand you really should have a few dozen Mexican pastries at El Bolillio, or a smoothie with tapioca at the Teahouse to end your night on the perfect note (or maybe a stomach ache, depending on the days combination).

I would like to extend a HUGE thanks to Nicole for such an awesome, awesome city guide. This (combined with the Austin city guide a few weeks back) makes me want to go to Texas as soon as possible. Be sure to hop over to Nicole’s blog Design Curiosities (which is one of my daily reads) and follow her on Twitter! *All photos are Nicole’s unless noted otherwise!

Featured image by telwink.

Here We Go: Time Saving Techniques

Today we’re talking about your time (probably something that you value) and how you can fit blogging into your busy schedule. It’s tough. I currently work 60-70 hours a week (juggling my day job and all my freelance work) but I still prioritize blogging. I’m motivated by all your lovely comments, the other incredible bloggers that I’ve met as a blogger myself, and it really is enjoyable. It’s something that I love to do and never feel pressured or tied down by deadlines. I’m going to share a few things that I do that make it a bit easier to fit into my schedule (and PLEASE share your own tips and advice below because there are some weeks where I’m like, “AHHHH.”)

Plan out your posts in a calendar:

Get a calendar. It doesn’t matter what kind. I know bloggers that use an editorial calendar plug-in through WordPress, some have a physical calendar journal, some use iCal. I use my Google Calendar because:

  • I can delete or alter ideas instantly.
  • I can access this calendar anywhere. On someone else’s computer, on my iPhone, etc.
  • I can still use my iCal for my personal life (Adam and I sync ours together) without all of my blog posts clogging up my days
  • I already have too many notebooks and journals with random notes jotted everywhere. It’s clean, easy, and in one place.
  • I can see the variety of my future posts in one glance. No flipping pages or weekly breakdown. I want to see the big picture.

I included a screenshot above with my calendar from March. As you can see, towards the end of March I had two posts per day because of sponsor spotlights. When you’re working with other people (collaborating, allowing people to guest post, or featuring sponsors) it’s really important to stay organized. Be courteous of others’ time and so when I know that I’m going to start featuring sponsors on the 19th, I know that I should probably send them an email asking for content around the 12th (at the latest). Even if I’m not physically writing up the posts and scheduling them all out a month in advance (because I totally don’t do that), I feel better looking at my Google Calendar before the week starts and knowing what I have on my plate.

Schedule your posts ahead of time:

Technology makes it so easy. I can write all of my blog posts on a Sunday night and have them auto post throughout the week! When I first started blogging in college, I remember people asking how I wrote up my post and found time to publish it while in class. I assured them that I wasn’t blogging during class (but I probably was doodling). I tend to only schedule posts a week in advance (and nothing further). Since I’m trying to write and post relevant content, I like to take it a week at a time and not get ahead of myself. If I can’t remember what I’ve physically written and scheduled within WordPress, then I turn to WordPress Editorial Calendar (screenshot below). Unlike my Google Calendar, it’s only showing things scheduled in WordPress.

Document your ideas:

I get ideas for blog posts at the most random times. Sometimes it’s while I’m sifting through my Google Reader, sometimes it’s on Twitter because everyone that I follow is amazing, and sometimes it’s when I’m reading a magazine. I don’t stress about trying to get all my ideas jotted down into one perfect list. I “star” things in Google Reader, I’ll favorite the tweet that sparked the idea, I’ll scribble in my Moleskine but I don’t stress. It’s not worth stressing. If I can guess, you’re probably not making a year’s salary by blogging (I’m definitely not) so let it happen organically.

Once a new month rolls around, I’ll go through everything that I’ve bookmarked and I’ll start really thinking about concepts. Usually half of the stuff doesn’t end up here on my blog at all but processing it is just as useful. Once I get an idea that really sticks…I write. Step away from the computer when you’re creating content. I don’t sit at my computer and design the perfect logo. It starts offline. These concepts might feel like they’re taking up more time but it will lead to less frustration (or writing and re-writing posts several times).

Organize your files and folders:

It probably seems irrelevant but I guarantee you…it’s KEY! If you’re like me, you’re working with a lot of images, content, text, and files. Between the different series that I host here on Show + Tell, sponsors, and collaborations…I’ve acquired quite the file collection. It’s easiest for me if I have folders organized and if I keep the files (even if I feel like I’m done with them). After my blog got hacked last month, I had to re-upload a few days’ worth of content because the image links had been broken. I was so glad I didn’t just trash them. Even my media folder wasn’t displaying them correctly. Here’s a screenshot of how I keep my folders:

Like all my colorful watercolor backgrounds? It makes screenshots look less like ugly screenshots. Needless to say, organization is crucial if you don’t want to feel like you’re swimming in the abyss that can be blogging. I hope those tips helped because they really help me keep this place enjoyable.

If you have ANY other tips, pieces of advice, or methods please comment below! These Here We Go posts are meant to be a great resource and the comments section is an important part.

Dreaming of a Mango Farm

Last week I was feeling nostalgic and a bit sad. My lolo and lola (Filipino grandpa and grandma) have both passed away and I think that as time passes…I start to realize how young they really were. While grieving, I don’t think that I ever fully processed how the change would affect my life or that they would never meet my own children. My lola passed away a little over two years ago and she was only 74. I remember when I was twelve or thirteen she told me that our family’s farm in the Philippines was holding a logo contest and encouraged me to enter. I don’t really remember if I submitted anything but she later decided it wouldn’t be fair since I was family. So last week I decided to Google it. Sure enough, I found Rosa Farms. I figured I wouldn’t find anything interesting but as soon as I clicked over to the About page and I couldn’t help but smile. My great-grandparents! How beautiful were they? It was like a little scrapbook that I never knew about. Photos of their home, their farm, and what it is today. I felt a sense of pride seeing my maiden name, Jocson, and at that moment I wished I could have called my lola to hear more stories. I did, however, text my dad a screenshot and said, “Hey look! That’s your name!”

For some reason, this whole discovery really stuck with me. I was telling Adam that weekend that I tend to embrace independence…moving to Ohio and getting married young, working for myself, and not really digging into where I came from. I’m sort of rambling now but I do think it’s important that we stop and remember that our great grandparents, grandparents, and parents worked really hard to help us get to where we are. I need to take advantage of all the time I do have with my own parents, family and friends. I need to ask questions and listen to stories. It’s enriching.

Here are two photos that I have of my lolo and lola (I even make a cameo in the left photo). Such beautiful people. I want to take a trip to the Philippines with Adam sometime in the near future.

Where do you come from? How do you stay rooted in your heritage? How do you stay connected with family despite distance?

Reminder: April Photo Challenge

Just a little reminder that you can be shooting for week 1 of my April photo challenge! Your first photo is due by Sunday, April 8th at 8pm EST. The submission button is now up on my sidebar and I’m always here if you have any questions! I’m excited to see the results of the first week!

Win Your Spot in a Photography E-Course

I’m so, so, so excited to announce that Kara is giving away a spot in her photography e-course, the M, here on Show + Tell! I love Kara’s work and creativity so much that I asked her to judge my April photo challenge. If you’re someone that wants to really learn how to use their DSLR, I would highly recommend entering into this giveaway (or just paying to take this 2 week e-course) so that you can use the camera and all its potential. Using my cameras correctly really transformed my life. Whether you’re using it to document your life, change the look of your blog, or want to do this professionally someday…it’s for you! Hear what Kara has to say about it:

I’ve heard from too many people how they’re scared to slide their camera’s setting from Auto or Shutter/Aperture Priority over to the the big M. I was too! My settings didn’t move out of Auto until a year after I got a DSLR. But, one day I decided to learn Manual and I haven’t switched it back since!

If you’re a blogger who wants to bring your blog to the next level with its own unique photographs or an Etsy shop owner tired of low quality photography representing your amazing product, The M will be a fantastic resource for you! Or if you just want to take better photos of your family, self, and life!

This class is for anyone who wants to learn the technical aspects of digital photography in an easy to understand and unintimidating setting. The class starts at the very basics– camera and lens recommendations, exposure, composition, lighting, and Photoshop corrections. It ends with basic tips from everything from landscape to portrait photography and includes free Photoshop actions, film photography tips, challenges, critiques, and inspiration. Most of the focus is on portraiture, but other subject matter is covered.

The class material covers two week’s of thorough, daily lessons, tips, and ideas.

In order to enter this giveaway, you must comment below and tell me why you want it! Why do you want to become better? Why do you love taking photographs? What confuses you? A random winner will be chosen and announced Friday. You have until Thursday at 11:59pm EST to enter.

This class is normally $45.00 and is a self-paced e-course that can be purchased and accessed at any time. You don’t need to start the class tomorrow (it’s just available starting tomorrow). You’ll be able to log into a private blog where the e-classes will take place! It’s amazing! Find out more info by visiting Kara’s post about the M or bypass this giveaway and purchase your spot instantly! Good luck!

Desh Has A Twin!

So I “met” Erinn of Bare Intimates last year through Twitter and we instantly became e-pals. I feel like we have a lot in common but it still SHOCKED me when I finally saw a photo of her adorable dog, Toby, about 3 months ago. I remember thinking, “OMG! TOBY LOOKS JUST LIKE DESH!” I’m pretty sure I commented on her Instagram photo. Oh wait…I’m a stalker and actually found the photo with the comments:

I am ridiculous. Anyways, since then Erinn and I always refer to Desh & Toby as twins or BFFs. Naturally. I secretly dream of the day when we can actually meet and the pups can finally see each other after being separated at birth (again, I am ridiculous). While Desh is a cockapoo (bred from two cockapoos), Toby is a top secret combination. He’s considered a daisy dog and the breeder doesn’t share exactly what that means! Kind of fun, huh? Desh and Toby weigh about the same. Toby is 17.5 pounds and Desh is 19 pounds. They both are small for their breed. I loved finding out what else they have in common. It seems that they both can sleep in until after noon (I love that Desh doesn’t wake me up early), their favorite toys are both squirrels, and they both have middle names! Toby’s full name is Toby Baloney Brown (formal name is Tobias). Desh’s full name is Desh James Lehman (formal name Deshua). By the way, this is the most hilarious paragraph I’ve ever written. I’m cracking up.

The rest of this post will pretty much be photos so you can see how awesome this comparison really is. Enjoy!

And last but not least…the best comparison photos ever. The best part about the photos below is that they were taken over the past few years and not planned. The ones of Desh are from 2009 and 2010!

And that, my friends, is the best effing blog post I’ve ever written. Happy weekend!

Follow Me Into The Night

Okay, maybe not into the night…but maybe on Bloglovin! In order to “claim” my blog, I have to create a post with this link: Follow my blog with Bloglovin. So if you’re on there, follow me and I’ll follow back (is that how that works?) I’m new to Bloglovin but I did write a post about why I thought Google Reader was better about a year ago. If you would rather follow my blog on Google Reader, click here.

Milwaukee1

CITY GUIDE: Milwaukee

Today’s CITY GUIDE is brought to you by Amy Sahl of Milwaukee! Enjoy!

Two years ago, I moved from Minnesota to be closer to a boy, and while that didn’t work, I quickly found a new love: Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Milwaukee has a deeply rooted history, but it’s much more than a blue-collar city that drinks a lot of beer and loves cheese (although our micro breweries are some of the best in the country and cheese, well, it’s delicious). Over the past decade, Milwaukee has taken great developmental strides to recreate “a great city on a great lake.”

Here are some of my favorite faces, places, and spaces:

Start out your day at Downtown Books – Bought and Sold, one of the best, used bookstores I’ve ever visited. The supply and variety are endless and $20 will easily get you three or four of your favorites. After grabbing a book or two, I usually head to one of the many unique coffee shops in the area: Alterra at the Lake, Rochambo (my favorite- no lie, the coffee is always perfect temperature and you’ll definitely want to try the Milky Way), or Hi Fi. If you prefer brunch to coffee, stop by Café Centraal and get some of their house-made sugar donuts- so yummy.

Milwaukee-ans tend to hibernate in the winter, but come summer and the city literally erupts with things to do. There is a festival celebrating cultural heritages every weekend, outdoor music and movies nearly every evening, and plenty of other opportunities to get out and about (not to mention, many of the events are complimentary): rent bikes along the lakefront, or join a volleyball game at Bradford Beach, explore the unique architecture downtown or visit the Bronze Fonze on the River Walk.

From clothing to paper goods, the Third Ward neighborhood is the best for unique, boutique shopping. I never have a problem spending a good chunk of change at: Broadway Paper (check out their collection of post cards), Five Hearts, and the Home Market.

End your day eating dinner at Hinterland or grabbing a drink at the Garage (don’t be surprised by the canopy of tree branches). You also can’t visit Milwaukee and not catch a flick at the Oriental Theater or grabbing some frozen custard (yes, it’s so much better than ice cream). The Oriental Theater plays both indie and mainstream shows, but has kept intact it’s 1920’s ambiance with red carpets and piano man whom plays before the show. For frozen custard, try Gilles or Kopps.

Huge thanks to Amy Sahl for writing this lovely city guide for her city Milwaukee! Be sure to read her blog and follow her on Twitter! And contact me if you want to share a guide for YOUR city!

Featured image by tracktwentynine.

Here We Go: Blogging on a Budget Pt. 1

I often get emails from beginner bloggers and their desire to have an awesome blog always seems to be hindered by the upfront cost. I wanted to dedicate a post (and hopefully more in the future) to free or cheaper blogging resources because they ARE out there! Whether you’re looking for themes, software, fonts, or tutorials…I’ve hopefully compiled a pretty great collection of resources. Below you’ll find them broken down by category and I’m hoping that the comments section can become another great place for suggestions or tips!

Free, Beautiful WordPress Themes:

  • Pure II: Navigation on left, categories displayed on top, single post layout
  • Bueno: Very feminine, top navigation, right sidebar
  • Dessign Free Themes: Very modern & focused on clean portfolios
  • Melville: No widgets, no sidebars, focused on writing
  • BonPress: Left sidebar with dropdown menus, great footer
  • Big Square (pictured above): Very clean, photo focused, no sidebar
  • Minimal Xpert: Small slider, previews blog posts, right sidebar
  • Expositio: An awesome theme to display work, horizontal scrolling
Please note: I personally (as a designer) haven’t worked with any of these themes. I was so glad that Angie pointed out this article about why you should never search for free WordPress themes in Google or anywhere else. Malicious code or malware can be hidden in code and footers. If you see any of that in the themes mentioned above…let me know! I often use Theme Forest and can get themes for as cheap as $17! Sometimes paying for better quality is worth it.

Editing Software:

1. Gimp is a free and open source software raster graphics editor. I was glad that I was able to connect with Fiona because she uses Gimps. Here she shares the pros and cons:

What I love most about Gimp is that it’s free and desktop based – I’m a complete amateur, but I don’t want that to be fully reflected in my blog, so having access to free software is essential. Technically, I like that I can manipulate/enhance images without losing quality and I’ve got access to my entire font library. I can optimise the image size for use on my blog and create diptychs nice and simply. Finally, it’s similar enough to Photoshop that you can read tips from a designer and adapt them yourself.

On the downside, the combination of being a rookie and the relative lack of blog posts on using the software can mean you feel like you’re on your own! I’m still not the biggest fan of most of the brushes it contains, and, I’ve not yet managed to bring in shapes effectively (I move to my tablet software for that). -Fiona of The Corner of the Internet I Call Home

2. Pixlr is a free online photo editor. Edit, adjust and filter your images. My husband, Adam, uses Pixlr even though I use Photoshop exclusively. Here’s what he has to say about it:

Pixlr makes simple photo-editing a breeze. I really enjoy how easy it is to do some basic cropping, retouching or “photoshop-esque” actions. Also, the more savvy user will be able to utilize layers and brushes to pull off some more sophisticated work. My #1 favorite feature of Pixlr is the price tag … $0.00. Free. A more seasoned designer is going to get frustrated as Pixlr lacks the customization and depth of functionality that one would find in Photoshop. - Adam Lehman

3. Pixelmator is the next step up. For a small price, this software can be downloaded to your Mac (sorry PC folks) from the app store or their website. It’s beautifully designed and easy-to-use. My friend Jess uses Pixlemator. Read her thoughts:

I use Pixelmator personally and Adobe Photoshop professionally, and I have to say that by far Pixelmator is a better option.

I love that Pixelmator is lighter and faster than Photoshop. It has all the same basic functions as Photoshop, it works seamlessly with Mac OS, it’s simple to use, and its magic wand recognition is superior. With such a huge price differential ($29.99 versus $699!), the casual blogger has an incredibly powerful yet less bloated editing program.

I do think that Pixelmator has some limitations. There’s the obvious limitation of requiring Mac OS to use this program. Anyone who is a designer by trade will find it not as versatile, and things like brushes, filters, and tutorials can’t be as easily applied or replicated in Pixelmator. My biggest complaint is line spacing for text isn’t a built-in feature, so I have to manually tinker with the text. – Jess of Curating Style

We’ll cover Photoshop and Photoshop Elements next time. If you use software to create graphics for your blog that isn’t listed here, let me know! I’d love to feature more next time.

Free Fonts:

Using a variety of fonts in my blog posts really creates visual variety. There is a world outside of Curlz (ugh) or Times New Roman! I do feel that the general public needs more exposure to fonts other than the ones that come pre-loaded on their PC. I’ve created a list of some of my favorite resources for free fonts. I’m not saying that they’re all amazing but that’s why experimenting is fun! Here are some tutorials on loading new fonts to your Mac or PC. I try to buy a few fonts per month and donate when I am able.

  1. The League of Moveable Type
  2. My Fonts
  3. Font Fabric
  4. Lost Type Co-Op
  5. Web Design Ledger
  6. Miss Design
  7. Free* Typography
  8. Behance Network

For now, this concludes this Blogging on a Budget post. Sometime mid-April I’ll be continuing this specific topic by sharing some blog graphics that you might find helpful, .PSD files for those that use Photoshop, why you might want to just buy Photoshop Elements (vs Photoshop) and some tutorials. If there are any other topics or resources that you’d like to see covered in this series, please let me know!