A Look Back at 2012

The Boyfriend recently asked me how I would rank 2012 - good, bad, or okay.  At the time, I just said "okay" but now, reflecting back on the year in full, I realize it was actually a pretty fun year.  There were lots of challenges and a pretty steep learning curve with the business but despite all the stress and anxiety, this was one of my happiest years.

I turned 30 and went full time with the photography business.

Went to Texas to visit friends and family, and the rodeo of course.  And just before our trip, my little kitty Samson went to pet heaven.

Photographed lots of couples in love, learned to cherish the little things, took an awesome trip to NYC (part 1 and part 2), and went snowshoeing in Tahoe.

Met -and exceeded- my goal of booking at least 10 weddings for 2012!!!

I finally shared the story of how The Boyfriend and I first met (I'm working on getting him to share his version soon!) and we barbequed for Memorial Day.

We went to a Giants game to celebrate The Boyfriend's birthday (it's a tradition now) and I experimented with ways to make the most out of our weekly CSA deliveries.  Oh, and I took these pretty wedding pictures!

After celebrating the 4th of July with family, we headed off for a week in San Diego.  We visited the zoo, lots of beaches and sightseeing, and I shot a few photos on film.  At the end of the month, The Boyfriend ran the SF Marathon and our niece Giulia finally arrived!

August was an emotional roller coaster.  We lost a loved one (R.I.P Uncle John) and celebrated another wedding just a couple weeks later.  Photographing a maternity session and a few weddings that month helped keep things positive and optimistic.

The Boyfriend and I celebrated our 4th anniversary!  We kept it low key with a nice dinner and a lovely day at the zoo.  And football season started, which is a big deal in our household. :)

I discovered the most perfect chocolate chip cookie trick, wound down my first wedding season, celebrated the SF Giants second World Series win in three years, and handed out candy to just a few trick-or-treaters.

We started the month with a trip to DC to photograph my dear friend's wedding, then explored our nation's capital on Election Day.  After celebrating Thanksgiving with the family, we got into the holiday spirit by decorating for Christmas (our first Christmas living together!).

Finished editing my photo sessions for the year, caught up on my reading, and celebrated yet another wonderful Christmas with people I love.

Overall, 2012 turned out to be a pretty awesome year.  Coming up in 2013 we have another trip home to Texas, quite a few weddings (including some in LA, Santa Monica, and Yosemite!!), and who knows what else!  Can't wait to see what the year has to offer.

Happy New Year!!!



Holiday Greetings

If you're reading this, I guess that means the Mayans were wrong.  Even still, this is most likely going to be my last post of 2012, folks.  Now don't go crying in your eggnog just yet!  I'll still be Instagramming like a mad woman.  But I also want to take some time to savor the last few days of the year with friends and family, know what I mean Jelly Beans?  I'm working on new goals for 2013 and have lots in store for the business, so I have a feeling things will go back to full-on crazy mode by January 2nd.  All the more reason to relax and recharge next week, don't ya think?

I hope you all have a wonderful and safe New Year's.  For those of you celebrating Christmas this Tuesday, may this year's be the merriest and brightest of all.  And for those who celebrated Hannukah earlier this month, I hope those eight holy nights were full of love and light.

I also wanted to thank each and every one of you for all your support, comments, feedback, encouragement, and general all-around awesomeness and love over the last few years.  When I started this blog (almost 3 years ago!) I never imagined the community I would find in the blogging world.  Even though I've never met many of you in person, I still consider us to be friends and I value our daily interactions.  I truly appreciate that you take time out of your crazy-hectic lives to read posts, comment, interact on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram, and tolerate all the wild Molly goodness around here.  It makes me feel all warm & fuzzy inside. :)

I have lots planned to make this blog even better for us (me & you, Readers, we're a team!) in the coming year and I hope you'll all enjoy some of the new (and more consistent) content.  Until then, I leave you with a little holiday message from Molly the Elf.

Merry Christmas!!!



Ornament Swap

Happy Friday lovelies!  I'm fighting off a horrible cold/flu thing right now and really hope it goes away before Christmas.  Actually, I hope it goes away before tomorrow because I have holiday partying to do!  A good friend of mine is hosting a cookie party tomorrow night and if there's one thing I like more than holiday parties, it's cookie parties.  I'm overloading on Emergen-C, green tea, hot toddies, and Nyquil so hopefully this stupid cold will be gone in time for me to chow down on some Christmas cookies!

I wanted to pop in and share a quick photo with you of the ornament I received in this year's blogger ornament swap hosted by Ashley, Meg, and Alisha.  My swap partner was Kristin of w/Milk & Sugar and she found the perfect ornament for me!  We have a bit of a rustic glam theme going on with our decorations this year and this little birdhouse is a lovely blend of the two styles.  Plus, it looks so pretty when the glittered top catches the golden Christmas lights.  This little guy will be a Christmas tree regular for years to come.

If you'd like to see the sweet vintage rocking horse ornament I picked out for Kristin, check out her post here!

How are you kicking off the holiday weekend?



Christmas Memories

Not gonna lie, I'm kinda over the gift guides and wish lists.  If you posted one today, please don't take that personally.  I don't mean it in a bah humbug way.  I just want to read more holiday posts about things other than buying stuff.  Partly because it makes me feel guilty for not finishing my shopping yet (oops) but mainly because I like when bloggers open up a little bit and give their readers more of a glimpse into who they are.  Even if 'who they are' is the grown-up version of a crazy-haired kid who ran around with no pants and too many electronics.

(Can we please talk about how we used to have two TVs stacked on top of each other?  What's that about??)

 And even if that grown-up still runs around with crazy hair, no pants, and too many electronics.  Wait, what?  Who said no pants?  I don't know what you're talking about...

Popples from Santa

I may be dating myself here but one year for Christmas I desperately wanted Santa to bring me a popple.  And that's 'desperately' in the 5-year old sense of the word which, if you've ever spent any time with a child, can be pretty freaking desperate.  One of my most vivid memories of Christmas was when I got a popple.  I woke up in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve because I needed to make a little tinkle.  As I was about to get out of bed, I heard some noise out in the next room.  The room where our Christmas tree was.  Obviously I thought it was Santa so I froze.  Part of me was tempted to sneak out and get a peak at the Big Guy but I was convinced that, if he caught me, I would instantly be added to the naughty list and I'd never get a popple.

I couldn't risk it so I forced myself to stay in bed until all was silent.  When I was certain that not a creature was stirring not even a mouse, I tiptoed out of bed and made a bee line for the bathroom.  A kid can only hold it for so long.  But on my way back to bed... I saw it.  There underneath our sweet little tree sat a white popple with bright yellow hair and a blue tummy.  I was so freaking excited I almost screamed.  Instead, I just stood there staring at it.  After a while, I chilled the eff out and went back to bed, comforted by the thought that I finally -finally- had a popple.

What else is in the box?

This memory is more of a bits-and-pieces memory, not quite as vivid as the popple but still pretty clear.  Plus, my mom has retold the story about 5 bajillion times so that helps jog the ol' brain a bit.  One year for Christmas, a sweet little box had my name on it.  That sweet little box had a sweet little pair of earrings inside.  After opening the box and announcing its contents, my mom asked if anything else was in the box.  Excitedly, I yanked out the padding and shouted, "COTTON!!!"  I was more excited about the cotton padding than I was about the earrings.  Such a confused little child.

Christmas Records

I love just about everything about Christmas but if there's one thing I'm picky about, it's my Christmas music.  I really love the old school classic Christmas music.  Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, with a little Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley thrown in for good measure.  That kind of Christmas music warms my little heart.  There are quite a few modern Christmas songs I like (A Very She & Him Christmas, anyone?) but I'm not really into the pop-y Christmas stuff.  I'll take Ella over Mariah any day.

Last week, while listening to Christmas music and editing, I finally realized the reason for this musical preference.  That type of music brings back warm fuzzy memories of being at my great-great-aunt's house.  (Yes, that's two greats - she was my great-grandmother's sister!)  She had this little beige/grey-colored portable record player and whenever we'd go visit during the holidays, she'd bring it out into the kitchen and play her old Christmas records - Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, all the old guys I like to listen to now.  Funny how little things like that stay with you even into adulthood.

The littlest things make the best memories.

And with that, I have one of my fave little holiday videos to brighten up your day.  PS - I think these guys were dippin' into the eggnog backstage...

What's one of your favorite Christmas memories?




No, I'm not talking about the feeling you *allegedly* get after a great work out.  And I'm not talking about that feeling you get after a fun little romp in the hay. (Rawr).  I'm talking about the camera app for your iPhone!

Now, before we proceed, there's something you should know about me.  I'm a little enamored with camera apps.  It's true, I confess.  I love playing and experimenting with them, constantly in search of the perfect cool, old school film look for my camera photos.  So far, the only one I've really loved is VSCO Cam.  I mean one of the big reasons I wanted an iPhone was so I could download VSCO Cam, that's how much I love this app.  For me, it's the closest one I've seen that replicates the look of real film.  And I love that you can make adjustments to saturation, exposure, temperature, grain, etc if you want to or you can just apply a pretty filter and be done with it.  The simplicity and ease of use is awesome.

But as much as I love VSCO Cam (and believe me, I do), I still wanted something more.  I wanted to have the option of a 'clean' film-y edit or a film-y edit with a little zhuzh.  A little pizzazz.  A little bit of bam.

Enter Afterglow.  Afterglow allows you to do straightforward, clean adjustments if you want (kinda like a mini photoshop on your phone) or you can add any one of numerous filters and try out various looks.  And you can adjust the amount of each filter by moving the slider left to right - pump it all the way up to 100 on the right or slide the bar left for a more subtle effect (maybe VSCO Cam will consider adding something like this soon...)  And in addition to the various filters, you can also add light leak effects and textures.

Another feature I'm loving are the different frames you can use.  I've been a bit partial to the circle lately but I'm just waiting for the perfect photo for the triangle frame.

And one more edited with Afterglow:

VSCO Cam is still my go-to but every now and then I like to play in Afterglow.  Sadly, I think Afterglow is only available for iPhone users (sorry droids!).  For those of you who get the chance, I hope you do try it out.  I think you'll have a lot of fun experimenting and giving new life to your photos.  And, no, this was not a sponsored post.  I just wanted to share something cool with you rad folks.



On My Mind This Monday

Honestly, my mind is quite numb right now.  After being inundated with stories of loss and grief all weekend long, how could it not be numb?

All those children, the teachers, the administrators.  Gone in an instant.  Ripped away from their lives, their families.  Leaving a vacuum in the hearts of loved ones.

Why?  How?  It doesn't get any more senseless than this.

And, yet, so much courage.  Teachers reading stories to comfort their students.  Reminding them how loved and special they are.  Hiding the children in cabinets to protect them, all the while risking -and losing- their own lives in the process.  Bravely leading the survivors away from carnage inside the school to safety outside.

Still, just three days after such a horrific tragedy, I'm already discouraged.  We can do more to protect our children.  Their lives and safety should be a priority.

But the day after the attack, people flocked to gun shows.  One in California had a much higher turnout than expected.  We regulate toys.  We regulate cars.  But just mention more gun regulations and people lose all sense of reason.

I get it, I really do.  I grew up in Texas, after all.  I was in ROTC in high school.  I was on the rifle team and qualified as an expert marksman when I was just 14.  Nine times out of ten, I hit that target dead center.  Don't mess with Texas.

Guns are an inherent part of American culture in a way that is unlike any other nation.   But there comes a point when things have gone too far.

"Guns don't kill people.  People kill people."  Perhaps.  But guns sure do make it a hell of a lot easier.  If that man had walked into that school with a knife, he would not have killed 26 people in under 3 minutes.

"If the teachers had guns to protect themselves, they could've prevented this."  Perhaps.  But we already have more guns in the US than most other countries.  We have looser gun regulations and lighter restrictions on obtaining guns than the majority of other nations.  And we have a higher rate of gun homicides and suicides than any other civilized nation.  So the answer is more guns?  Really?

"It's the culture of violence.  The video games, the movies, the toys..."  Yes, that is absolutely a part of it.  But those video games, movies, toys, etc. don't stop at US borders.  And yet, we have more gun-related deaths here in the good ol' US of A than any European nation.  More than Japan - a country with video games arguably more violent than those in the US.

The answer needs to be comprehensive.  The answer needs to address the culture of violence.  It needs to address mental health care and the stigma attached to those who seek help.  But the answer also needs to include more gun control.  It must, if we want it to be effective.  You cannot convince me otherwise.

This does not mean all guns should be banned.  This does not mean hunting should be outlawed or the Second Amendment should be repealed.  But maybe, just maybe, assault weapons don't belong on the street.  Maybe, just maybe, multiple-round ammunition should be relegated to just military and law enforcement use.  Maybe, just maybe, mental health exams or stricter licensing requirements should be in place for anyone seeking to purchase a gun.  It's common sense, people.

And, yes, there will still be a black market.  There will still be guns available illegally.  But that doesn't mean we have to make it easy for people to get them legally, especially people who may be mentally unstable.

Instead, we should make it easy for parents to believe their children are safe in school.  We should make it easy for children to believe that they will not be massacred while reading their library books in class.  We should make it easy for teachers to show up every day and do their already difficult and under-valued jobs without worrying about hiding their students in cabinets or shielding their fragile bodies from 100 rounds of bullets.

Maybe, just maybe, our society needs to reevaluate its priorities.



Friday's Fancies | Serious Sparkle

I don't know if it's the weather or all the twinkling Christmas lights but I've been especially drawn to sparkly things lately.  So this week's Friday's Fancies theme was calling my name.  Apparently I'm also drawn to clutches with triangles on them.  I blame it on all the Christmas trees.

This outfit would be perfect for anyone's NYE plans.  The cozy velvet leggings and loose flowy top with platform booties and leather rockstar earrings make it the perfect blend of comfy and sexy.  And who doesn't want to be comfy and sexy on New Year's Eve?  Hell, who doesn't want to be comfy and sexy all the time?  Velvet leggings and gold sequin tops might just make it happen for you.

Do you have plans for NYE yet?  We definitely do not so I'd love to hear your ideas!

Happy Weekend!!!



Molly the Elf, Take 2

We attempted holiday cards with Molly again this year.  She was skeptical of the whole thing right from the start.

Isn't she a cute little fatty, though?



Family Photography | An Afternoon at the Park

The bubbles floated and drifted till they landed on the soft blades of grass - blades so soft they decided to stay and play.  They gathered around him, each reflecting a little pop of light to catch his eye.  All vying for his attention.  His sweet little finger stretched out ever-so-gently to tickle each one till it burst with laughter.  After the bubbles, it was time for mom and dad.  They loved him and cuddled him and showed him how to fly till the wind picked up and the fogged rolled in.  Time to head home to get cozy and warm.

Bubbles and smiles, sunshine and windblown hair.  What more do you need on a Monday morning?  Oh, and some cute baby denim just for good measure.




Friday's Fancies | Mad About Plaid

At first, I resisted the plaid fad.  I don't know how things are where you live, but plaid has become the uniform of San Francisco city dwellers under the age of 40 these days.  Not one to jump on bandwagons and such, I refrained from the trend.

But then City Target opened.  And in that City Target they sold the prettiest navy and hot pink plaid shirt I ever did see.  And it was on sale!  Hot pink and navy is a color combo I find very hard to resist so I caved.  I bought a plaid shirt.  And now ... I want more!  More plaid please!

Obvi I'm a plaid convert now.  I love plaid so much, you might even say I'm plaid-dicted.  And this perfect plaid-centric outfit makes want to cozy up in a mountainside cabin with a crackling fire and a good book.  And maybe a cup or two of hot cocoa...

1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5

And for those who missed it on Instagram, here's a little bit of Molly cuteness to start your weekend off right.  She likes cuddling on the couch with papa.

Happy weekend!!!


Good Reads | Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

I bought Mindy Kaling's book on a whim when we were flying back from DC.  I walked into the bookstore looking for a Snickers and walked out with this lively little read.  Basically, I loved this book and I think you all need to read it right now.  Seriously.

"But, Stephanie," you say.  "I don't have time for another book."

Well, I started the book when we boarded in DC and finished it somewhere over Colorado.  That's right.  It took longer for me to fly across the country than to read this book.  It's a very minor investment of your time and it's totally worth it.  And by the end of it, you'll want Mindy to be your bff.  In fact - Mindy, if by some strange twist of fate you find yourself staying up late into the night reading random little blogs and you happen to stumble upon this post, let's grab some pizza and be besties.  Please?

Mindy's book is a memoir/essay collection a la Tina Fey's Bossypants.  Her life is basically the plot of a TV sitcom so it's no wonder she found such success as a writer for The Office.  But besides all the Hollywood talk, Mindy also offers up her thoughts on body image, what it means to be a be best friend, stereotypes of women in chick flicks, and many other sweet, funny, endearing, witty observations about life.  For example:

My version of an Irish exit has an air of deception to it, because it includes me asking loudly, "Where's the bathroom?" and making theatrical looking-around gestures like a lost foreign tourist.  But then, instead of finding the bathroom, I sneakily grab my coat and leave.  Other times I say, "Oh, I think I left my lights on in my car!" or "Oh my gosh, I think I left my car unlocked."  Cars make great pretexts for Irish exits.  People never doubt weird issues you have with your car because it's extremely boring to listen to.

You see what I mean?  Funny, witty, endearing.  She's so totes adorbs I want to read the book again.

And for those of you still shopping for gifts, this would be perfect for your sister, friend, co-worker, or pretty much any other female in your life.  I mean, I wouldn't be bummed if this appeared in my Christmas stocking.  Just sayin'...



Neiman Marcus + Target

I first discovered this beautiful pairing via Erin.  Side note - if you don't already know Erin, you should probably head over to her blog as soon as you're finished with this post (but read this post first!).  Unless you have something against adorable puppy photos, in which case it might not be your cup of tea since you're probably not human because, let's be honest, what human doesn't like adorable puppy photos?  Upon discovering this Tar-zhay treasure, I headed on over to check it out.  First of all, this NM/T thing makes me wish I had a daughter so I could dress her in pretty frocks like this:

L to R:  1  |  2  |  3  |  4

It also makes me wish I were throwing a cocktail party on the daily so I could make use of lovelies like this:

L to R:  1  |  2  |  3  |  4

Or maybe just revamp my accessories by adding a few of these:

L to R:  1  |  2  |  3  |  4

Needless to say, this combo of Neiman Marcus chic with Target price has me really excited to do some Christmas shopping this year.  What about you?  Anything in this collection catch your eye?



Lately in November

November was a whirlwind of a month for me.  We kicked it off with a trip to Maryland/DC and by the time we were home, the month was 1/3 over!  All of a sudden it was Thanksgiving, then Christmas tree time.  I wish I could hit a Pause button and slow things down a bit.  It's funny, when I was little, I thought I would never grow up.  Not because I had a Peter Pan complex, but because time just moved sooooooooo slowly.  Now, time moves too quickly for my tastes.  There's always so much going on, so many things to do, errands to run, people to see.  Reflecting back on photos from the past month is the only way to really slow things down and savor the moments gone by.

Sunset on the plane  |  Funny sightings around the neighborhood  |  Washington Monument  |  Molly learned a new trick ... kisses

Maryland sunset  |  Holiday decorating  |  Arlington  |  Hot cocoa and photo editing

Hot pink Thanksgiving  |  80s birthday partying  |  Cuddles with Molly  |  Cranberry "pake" (pie + cake = pake)

You can find me on Instagram here - bigmariolife



On My Mind This Monday

My sister-in-love had an '80s themed birthday party over the weekend.

Another wonderful opportunity to rock a side pony and my Rainbow Brite t-shirt.

On the way there, we started discussing the fashion of recent decades.

The '80s had big hair, lots of bright colors, leg warmers, fishnet fingerless gloves (Madonna, anyone?).

The '90s had pleated pants, high-waisted "mom" jeans, flannel shirts, mauve lipstick, plaid mini-skirts with knee-high socks (Clueless, anyone?).

But what do the '00s have?  From a fashion sense, it was kind of a boring decade.

Current style for the '10s is easy to identify: skinny jeans, peplum, colored denim, maxi dresses/skirts, ankle booties.

But the only thing I really remember wearing 10 years ago (which was college for me... so old) is ... well... nothing noteworthy.

Maybe that's because I was totally oblivious to fashion.  Or maybe it's because dementia has set in early.

What the H-E-double-hockey-sticks did fashionable people wear in the early 2000s??  The world may never know.  Especially since it was before blogging really took off.



Photography | A Frolic on Moss Beach

Race day.  The shoes are laced, the body is carbed up and hydrated, and the heart is pumping with adrenaline.  Or is it love?

Ben & Felice - two total strangers - laid eyes on each other while waiting at the starting line on race day.  They chatted briefly and really hit it off.  During the race they kept pace with each other, these two total strangers, encouraging one another and keeping each other company.

That is, until Felice saw two women in her division that were "catchable."  She took off, leaving Ben behind, to catch those women and take the lead.  When he arrived at the finish line not too long after her, she was there waiting for him.  She may have caught up with those two women (and beat them), but she also caught Ben's heart.

These two lovebirds have the kind of relationship movies are made of.  They feed off each other in a way that's so rare and so beautiful to witness.  Felice's high energy brings out Ben's playful spirit - running in the surf, climbing old trees, and hiking up sea cliffs - while Ben's peaceful, loving nature calms and anchors her.  They are a perfect complement to each other.

The awesomeness doesn't stop at their Moss Beach engagement session.  Oh, no no no, my friend.  Ben & Felice have a wonderful love fest planned for their wedding that involves a steam engine train and the Santa Cruz mountains.  Needless to say, I can't wait!


The setting sun, the moon, the gentle waves, ... oh my.


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