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February 17, 2014

Photography Tips, Part I

As a blogger, being good with a camera is something that will get you very far.  When coming across a new blog most everyone's eyes are always drawn to the pictures on the page.  Luckily, I have been toting around a camera long before I started this blog, and I have definitely collected some tricks for shooting a good photo or two.

I have decided to start a new series here on We the Sea where I will share some helpful hints about photography.  These tips come from lots of places, but mostly classes I have taken and articles I have read.  I'm hoping these posts will be helpful to you guys, whether you have a 'fancy' camera or not. At the very least you'll be able to give your Instagram a creative face lift :)

In the first part of this series I am going to show you guys a great tip for composing visually appealing images. This tip is called The Rule of Thirds.  Basically, when you are looking through the viewfinder of your camera, imagine a grid over your picture like this:

As you can see, this grid separates the photo into thirds vertically and horizontally. Supposedly the human eye naturally goes to the four intersections of the lines instead of the middle of the photo. The idea of the Rule of Thirds is to center the focal points in your pictures where they cross.

The lines themselves also provide useful places to align elements in your photos.  As you can see, the dog's paw and facial features hit three out of the four focal points, and the line of the floor is close to the line of the grid.

Essentially in following this rule your picture will become more balanced then if you were to, say, put the focal point right in the middle of the frame.

Now, obviously some rules are meant to be broken. I have taken a few pictures I really like that don't necessary follow the focal point rule. For example, in this shot the girl is right in the center. It isn't following the Rule of Thirds in that sense, but the columns, the stairs, and the roof do fit closely with the lines of the grid.

Hopefully this helped you guys! This is one of the few rules that I think about almost every time I take a picture. It is a very basic concept that, when embraced, can set your pictures apart from the many others out there.  Happy shooting! (haha)

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February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day

Happy Valentines Day everyone! In the spirit of the holiday, here are some beautiful valentines that you can send to all your loved ones:

Oh, Grumpy Cat, you know exactly what to say. All joking aside, I hope you all have a wonderful day!! :)

xoxo Melissa and Grumpy Cat

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February 13, 2014

My Favorite Books

Every since I was able to read I have loved it.  I can remember going to the library almost every weekend when I was younger and pouring over the books on the shelves.  I would walk slowly through the aisles with my head tilted to the side, reading every single title and searching thoroughly for every book that sounded intriguing to me.  My curious young mind was completely enchanted by the words printed on the carefully bound pages in these books.

Growing up books were always my escape.  Anytime I needed something to do, had a bad day, or just wanted to relax, I would pick up a book from the stash piled haphazardly on my bookshelf and just start reading. Getting lost in the mysterious characters and faraway places hidden in the folds of a novel was my favorite thing to do.

As most readers do, I have a few favorite authors that I have been loyal to through the years.  Ever since I picked up their first books I have been enchanted, and almost every book they've written since then I have read.
The first author is John Green. Ever single book of his that I have read has been AMAZING. Some of his most popular books have been Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars.  I have read all of his books but the latter, which as most of you know has been made into a movie and will be coming out soon (If you have a copy give it to me now).  

All of his books are unique in their own ways.  An Abundance of Katherines is a book about a teenage boy who has dated 19 Katherines and been dumped by all of them.  Will Grayson, Will Grayson is about two boys with the same name (but utterly opposite lives) that cross paths one night.  Looking For Alaska is about a boy who is shipped off to boarding school and meets a very interesting girl who changes his life.

The second author is Sarah Jio. I just recently discovered her about a year ago when my mom picked up one of her books and passed it on to me. As soon as I read the first few pages of the book, Blackberry Winter, I was hooked.  All of her books usually follow two different time periods, the present and sometime in the past, and the two always end up intertwining in the end.  I have read every one of her books, and they are all incredible. There is mystery, romance, and drama in all of them and they are all unique tales spun by this fantastic author.

And lastly, as a childhood "throwback" of sorts, J.K. Rowling. Obviously most of you have heard of the Harry Potter series, of which I am thoroughly captivated.  I know some people don't agree with the magical aspect of this book, but the underlying themes in ever part of the series are what I really love.  Each book tells a tale of courage, strength, love, and friendship. They inspire you to believe in yourself to the end, stand up for your loved ones, and fight for what is right in this world.  The fact that it takes place in a world of fantasy just adds to the excitement :)

Recently I discovered this quote by author Anne Lamott, which sums up my thoughts on the written word well,

"What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares a paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you.  Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave.  They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die."

So, now that you can't use the excuse of "I don't know any good books!" anymore, go read one. Whether you pick up one of the books I recommended or find one lying in the gutter, just read.  Trust me, you'll like it.

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February 8, 2014

DIY: Framed Calendar

I like planning things.  It was just how I was raised. I have learned to be a little more spontaneous over the years, but I still inwardly cringe every time I ask the question "What time should we plan on?" and I hear the response "Oh, whenever. We'll figure it out". Its not that I don't greatly admire those who are so readily carefree and don't need to plan, I just do not fit into that category.  Anyone feel my pain?

If you do, I have a perfect DIY project for you that will aid in your planning prowess. This cool thing is essentially a dry erase calendar made from paint chips and a cute frame.  I have seen quite a few of these on Pinterest, but I figured I would recreate it for you guys :) Also, I just really wanted one for myself....anyhoo, here are the supplies needed:

-35 paint chips of varying colors
(I chose a different color set for each set of days and created a gradient from light to dark for each. You can get these at Home Depot)
-14x8 inch frame
(You can choose a different size but the measurements will be different. Michael's coupon app to the rescue!)
-glue stick
-poster board
-dry erase markers

First off you are going to want to cut your poster board to fit your frame.

After this, you will start cutting your paint chips.  If you have a paper cutter around that would be super handy, but you can use scissors too.  For the day markers you will cut 2 by 2.25 inch squares, 5 for each day of the week (35 total).  Along with this you will need to cut 7 smaller rectangles, 1 by 2.25 inches each.  These will be used as labels for the days of the week.

Once you are done cutting all of these, you will start gluing them to the poster board.  This part was kind of tricky for me because there were a lot of measurements involved. Basically I worked from the top to the bottom.  Make sure you start measuring from the pre-cut side of the poster board (not the side you cut by hand) because this will ensure straight measurements.

I glued the small labels on first.  You may want to lay out a few rows first before gluing so you can measure the distances in between each of them.  Keep in mind that about 1/4 of an inch of the poster board will be covered by the edges of the frame when you put it in. Look below to see the dimensions I used for mine. Once you have figured out the spacing, just start gluing!

Once all of the paint chips are glued on and dry, insert the calendar into the frame and you are done. You are now free to write down all of your monthly to-do's! All you need is a paper towel to wipe it off.

Thats all, folks.  Happy planning! 

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February 5, 2014

Style on a Budget

I willingly place myself into the stereotype of 'broke college student'.  I have savings of course, and my parents help me out with groceries and such, but in my mind I have no money.  

While it may sound like I am being dramatic and frugal, I think it is a beneficial mindset to have because it keeps me from throwing my savings out the window. I am not actually broke, but pretending to be so has helped me a lot.

This mindset is especially helpful in the fashion department. I have always loved clothes, especially nice ones, but I obviously can't afford expensive threads at the moment. I actually never have, so over the years I have come up with ways to beat the system.

So, here are three rules of mine for shopping on a budget.  This is how I have utilized what money I have to grow my wardrobe into the fun mish-mash of clothing I have today.

  1. Go to thrift stores!
    • I have found that you won't usually find super nice items, but there are a few things you will be able to pick up here that would be more expensive elsewhere. I love big sweaters and flannels, and thrift stores are absolutely LOADED with these kinds of things....just make sure you throw your items in the wash before you wear them :) 
    • If you are lucky you will be able to find a super unique item or two. When you find something like this snag it because this opportunity doesn't come too often.
    • Bring a friend along! They can tell you what looks good and doesn't, and they can also provide some common sense. I have donated a lot of thrifted items without even wearing them because I got caught up in the idea of cheap clothes without considering if I'd actually use them. Having a second opinion come along will hopefully keep you from doing this too
  2. Splurge on items that you will wear religiously 
    • There a select few items in my closet that I spent a decent sum of money on that turned out to be a great investment.  I wear boots nonstop, so every year I splurge on a new pair because I am sure I will use them.  If you know you will get your money's worth out of it then it probably is worth it! 
    • Splurge on jeans or timeless pieces like a really good jacket, because these things will get a LOT of wear
    • Always check out places like Marshalls or Nordstrom's Half Yearly Sale for these kinds of items (hey, if everything is going to be on sale, why not?).  Look for Marshalls stores in nicer areas because they cater to the demographic and will carry a nicer selection of items. 
  3. Scour the sales racks for temporary pieces
    • Obviously we all would like a wardrobe that consists of more than just big sweaters and jeans.  I have found that sale racks at places like Urban Outfitters and local boutiques are great places to find cute, stylish pieces that may not last you forever.  
    • Stores like Forever 21, H&M, and Target (secretly my favorite place to shop) are also good places to look, and usually you won't need to look at the sale racks since everything is reasonably priced
    • Good things that fit this category are cute blouses and dresses that may not last you as long as pieces like boots or a good jacket would

A few more tips:

  • Think about how many ways you can wear the item you are considering buying.  If you can't   come up with more than 1 or 2 pieces you can style the item with then you may not want to buy it. 
  • Fill in the gaps of your wardrobe with versatile shirts, like neutral tees with subtle details that make them more unique than a simple shirt. These kinds of shirts are great for everyday, and you can layer them under your big sweaters or with cute scarves to add a little extra to your outfit. I have found that I wear simple shirts a LOT more than I wear the more unique items I have 

These are the tips I have cultivated over the years for shopping sale racks and thrift stores, so hopefully next time you guys go out shopping you will remember these and save some money while you're at it. Good luck guys!

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 photo credit: Βethan via photopin cc