SLIDER





How I Quit My Job to be a Full-time Photographer

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

I know its been a minute since I've updated last. My health seemed to be taking a turn for the worst and I took the last month to meditate and focus on that as to which I have a few updates. I quit my day job as a administrative assistant/health educator, and decided to pursue photography full time. The even more exciting part to that is that my new business partner just so happens to be my husband. We both thought it'd be great to not only do life together but work as well, with me being the lead photographer and advertiser of our company and him handling all second shooter jobs and the data logistics. We officially launched on April 10th. You can follow our new photography site here: www.thehoustonsphoto.com & stay updated with us via instagram at www.instagram.com/thehoustonsphoto.


In light of this new business venture, I thought I'd share 10 tips I followed that helped me quit my day job to pursue my passion full time. Please keep in mind that not everything in this post may be what’s right for you. One of the biggest lessons I continually have to face in being self-employed is figuring out what works for me and what I want versus what works for other successful self-employed artists whom I look to for inspiration. I don’t doubt that I have a wicked ton in common with y’all, but we may not value the same things, or live the same lifestyle. For example, Steven and I don't have a “Going Dutch” relationship, especially since being married for the last 5 months. Whatever the other person makes money wise belongs to both of us. This works for us. Whether or not you share in the same kinds of ideals is going to determine whether or not this ridiculously long post will be of any help to you.



1: Support Groups

— I’m going to go ahead and admit something here… I’m a pessimist. When I set out to quit my job I continually treated it as “an experiment.” I said to myself, I’m going to shoot for the stars, but I don’t want to fool myself on how long or hard it will be to get there. And then I made a “That’s what she said” joke because, let’s get real, I’m also a Michael Scott fan.

Steven, on the other hand, really is my biggest cheerleader. He tells me all the time that I’m never going to go back to a day job. He doesn’t say, “I don’t think…” or “You probably won’t…” He just says “You won’t.” This provides a huge and necessary balance for me, one that I realize I’m lucky to have. Whether or not I had the confidence and drive to go it alone, I TRULY BELIEVE THAT A GREAT DEAL OF MY SUCCESS IS OWED TO THOSE WHO HAVE SUPPORTED AND ENCOURAGED ME ALONG THE WAY.

But a good support system doesn’t always have to come from your spouse/partner or close family/friends. The people in my life totally rock, but sadly, not everyone is blessed with people who encourage them to follow their dreams. I recently joined up with a very small (but growing) community of photographers on Flickr. It’s our place to share thoughts, questions and get to know each other in a “snark-free zone.” Anyone can join, but it’s invite-only for discretion’s sake. We’ve just slapped together our first print exchange, and I can’t wait to see what other collaborations are on the horizon.

So there you have it: support groups. They’re not just for alcoholics! Find out who your biggest cheerleader is and listen to every word they say! And on the flip side of that, if there’s a Negative Nancy or two in your life, cut them out immediately. They’re doing you no good. Haters gonna hate; the rest of us are more than eager to cheer you on!

2: Be Money Smart

With the exception of a brief stint in junior college (Helloooo, my first financial aid check!) I have always applied this to my life, but it’s even more imperative now that I’m self-employed. Being frivolous with money just isn’t an option anymore. That’s not to say I don’t have fun, or go out to eat, or indulge in a $9 cocktail now-and-then, but I absolutely do not live beyond my means, I do not own any credit cards and I have never lived paycheck-to-paycheck. I’VE ALWAYS SAID THAT JUST BECAUSE YOU HAVE DISPOSABLE INCOME DOES NOT MEAN THAT IT MUST BE DISPOSED. Tuck it away and SAVE! You’re gonna need it.

If you’re bad with money, consider tracking your income and expenses. There are many programs and services to help you do this. I’m an uber geek and do it manually with Excel spreadsheets. I MAKE SURE TO INCLUDE A GENEROUS ESTIMATE OF WHAT I WILL BE PAYING IN TAXES so that I don’t fool myself into thinking I have more money than I really do. Accounting for taxes is one of the many pitfalls of being self-employed. To this day I still have friends who think I’m a millionaire because wedding photography is so expensive, but the sad truth is after it’s all said and done, the money we freelancers take home from a job is much less than you might think.

3: Number Crunch

This might seem like a no-brainer, but I spent a lot of time figuring out exactly what I need to survive. I gave myself leeway so I can still have fun, but tried to minimize unnecessary expenses. For months before I even put in my notice, I would make weekly lists of my expenses that were 100% necessary and decided I needed roughly $600/mo to live a tight but comfortable life. I made sure I had saved up at least enough money to cover my bases for 6 months, in case this “experiment” didn’t work out.

Obviously for a lot of people this is easier said than done, especially depending on what kind of city you live in. I come from a town where it’s nigh on impossible to get around without a car (I have more than one friend back home who has been egged or similarly harassed while on their bike!), and summers are so grueling they’re spent indoors watching TV and blasting the AC.

We are also on a mission to re-locate out of California hopefully within the next year which means cutting a lot out of our budget. For example, we don't pay for internet and we utilize one car primarily to save on maintenance fees and gas fees. We walk to all of our local grocery stores when necessary and even walk to the nearby mall when we have occasional movie dates. Thankfully at the moment we live less than 3 miles away from my husbands place of work so He can take the train there and back. Those are a few biggies right there that save us at least $200 a month. At least.

4: Cut Back

Instead of just outright quitting my job, I started reducing the amount of hours I was working so that I could hit the ground running once I was ready to put all my chips on the table. I went from full-time to part-time to the point where most of my coworkers weren't even sure if I still worked there anymore. I filled in the gaps with freelance jobs and waited until the energy spent on my day job was not worth the amount of money I was making.

It was hard to kiss that cushion goodbye. After all, aside from food and utilities, up until that point all the money I made from photography went straight into the bank. But I was positive that my time could be better spent, and it was because I had been consistently SAVING money that I felt safe enough to quit.



5: Network

As you might’ve already guessed, building friendships and networking will put you on the fast track to success. It is entirely possible to go it alone, but I wouldn’t suggest it. Paid advertising can only get you so far, but most people aren't going to overlook a beaming recommendation from a close friend or colleague.

Again, networking may seem like an obvious one, but I’m going to linger on it for a moment longer. I can't stress the importance enough of having like-minded friends who lead a creative life. Whether we just talk shop, or get more personal, it’s invaluable having friends who know where I’m coming from and understand the daily struggles of being an artist. We can swap stories, know-how and help each other out in a time of need. Need to borrow a flash? Need a second-shooter? Want to test-drive a lens before you buy it? I’m there for them, and vice versa. Extra points for those who live in the same city as me, because I gain a shooting buddy to boot!

One thing that truly humbled me was when my husband and I were getting married. Long story short I had a spat with the photographer who took our engagement photos and ended up not needing her for our big day. Fast forward to a couple months after being married, I reached out to her and apologized but also offered services to her as a second shooter. Thanks to her forgiving heart, she pulled me onto her team, and uses me tons for events and weddings.

You know how that old saying goes… Do unto others as you would have them do unto you? Well, I personally get over-the-moon with warm fuzzies anytime a referral lands in my inbox from a fellow talented colleague. There’s nothing I love more than getting the chance to bestow said warm fuzzies on another pal, too. So share the wealth — of warm fuzzies, that is.

6: Do stuff for free

Or don’t. I know there’s a lot of debate about this particular topic when it comes to emerging photography businesses, and this sort of doubles up with the Networking point, but I honestly believe that money isn’t everything and that sometimes, the most important thing you have to gain from working with someone isn’t how much they’re paying you.

Part of what being a photographer means to me, personally, is being a service to the people around me. I mean, let’s face it! I love taking pictures. Of course, paid sessions come first, after all, I have a business to maintain, but if someone throws an idea out at me and it sounds like fun? Chances are, I’ll say yes. After all, it's very likely that this person or someone they know might want to book a session in the future and if I never make that connection, i'll never get that referral.

Self-employment rides a lot on one’s ability to look far into the future. So break out your crystal ball and ask yourself, “Is this going to benefit me in the future? Could the exposure and networking I receive from this be equal to the money I might've spent on advertising?" Sometimes I like to throw in a “DOES THIS SOUND LIKE A BOATLOAD OF FUN?!” in for good measure. I like fun.

However! THIS IS NOT AN INVITATION TO LET PEOPLE TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOU. There will always be people who will try to low-ball your livelihood, and that isn’t okay. As employee and owner of your business, it’s up to you to decide what’s worth it and what isn’t, and to be a good judge of character. YOU MAY NOT BOOK THAT PARTICULAR SESSION IF YOU REFUSE TO LOWER YOUR PRICE, BUT YOUR BUSINESS ISN’T GOING TO SURVIVE IN THE LONG RUN IF YOU ALWAYS BUCKLE TO FOLKS WHO DON’T VALUE WHAT YOU’RE WORTH, EITHER. Remember, it’s all about finding your ideal client. “Kim Smith-Miller was really easy to haggle with!” isn’t really the kind of reputation — or client — I’m after.

If you’re unsure, stick to doing favors for charities, local nonprofits or businesses/people that you personally would like to support.

7: Get your Business License 

This will require some homework on your state’s requirements (that’s where Steven enters the picture. I always like to joke that I’m going to buy him a plastic visor and oversized calculator), but AS SOON AS YOU BECOME LEGIT, YOU’LL BE ABLE TO WRITE-OFF EVERYTHING YOU BUY THAT BENEFITS YOUR BUSINESS. That includes new gear, advertising and travel fees, film (!) and so forth.

Once all the nitty gritty details were taken care of I set up business Paypal and checking accounts. This way, when it comes time to do taxes, it’s much easier to track where my money went and there aren’t any mix-ups with my personal debit card.

Depending on your state / living situation, you may even be able to write off a portion of your rent, too.

8: Use what you got




I drool as much as the next person over new gear, but I shot my very first wedding with Canon 1000D and a 50mm F/1.8 LENS and some of my favorite moments were captured that day. I continued to use that combo for another year, until I upgraded to a Canon 6D, and then I finally got legit at the beginning of 2017 and used that as an excuse to buy few more lenses.

I still don’t own a high-power zoom lens, but at this point I’ve become so accustomed to using what I’ve got that I don’t feel deprived or like I “need” them in order to accomplish a job. Would I love to own a 85mm f/1.2? Absolutely. But all in due time, and until then, I’m doing just fine.

The same goes for studio/office spaces. I would love to have a place where I could get out of the house, meet clients, or just edit photos somewhere that isn’t my couch. But it is such an unnecessary expense that would put me into such a tight spot and serve no more of a purpose than ooh-ing and ahh-ing my potential clients with what I have instead of what I do.

And, if you know me, you know that I’m not all that big on pretense. There’s nothing wrong with meeting clients at coffee shops, or editing photos from your couch. Just be sure to go for a walk every now and then. ;) Again, if a client doesn’t want to hire me based largely off the fact that I’m not covered in bling from head to toe, we probably weren’t a good fit to begin with.

9: Expand and Diversify

Expanding your services is a great way to keep business steady until you’re rich and famous enough to only do what you want. That’s not to say I take on clients or jobs that aren’t a good fit for me, but I try to think of what other areas of photography my skills or interests might work well in. Last year I took on a few food-and-drink gigs, and this summer I ended a 10-month run as a contributing photographer to FOODILY, all of which were pretty much born out of my obsession with taking photos of what I eat.

And then there’s your income which, in my humble opinion, if you’re self-employed it shouldn’t all be riding on one horse. The great thing about photography is that there are many different income generating avenues you can wander to maintain your business while building your brand.


10: Tools VS. Beacons

When I set out to become a full-time photographer, I didn’t have any dreams of becoming rich and famous. My love for this art runs deep, and I was tired of having to work a job I didn’t like in order to support myself and my passion. My time and money were spread thin. Now, my business serves to support me in my exploration of photography, and that’s all I ever really wanted in the first place. Having lavish amounts of money doesn't mean anything to me if I'm too focused on making bank instead of making photographs and being creative.

In short, I viewed money as a tool, not a beacon. I need money to pay my rent, eat and for my personal indulgence and education in photography. I don’t need money to be happy. As a result of this thinking, I’ve already accomplished my goal. Had I gone the other way, I don’t think there would be an end to the madness.

This is an area where you and I may not agree, and that’s okay. If your aim is to make pantloads of money, that’s great! Rock on. But I probably don’t have any helpful advice to give you. And if you made it all the way to the end here, only to realize that you were taking business advice from a stinkin’ hippy… Well, I’m sorry. :)

Once again, I want to wish each and every one of you a happy new year. I'm so incredibly thankful for everyone who has put their faith in me, my business and my art.


-K

Houseplant Journal - Spring gardening ideas for kids

Saturday, March 10, 2018

“And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles.” --Frances Hodgson Burnett


Have you ever read "The Secret Garden"? It is a delightful children's book about three children who discover and restore a neglected garden.

Although the children understand most of the science behind tending the flowers, they still believe that the garden is full of magic and wonder. This is how most children, even in today's technological world, perceive nature and all of it's miracles.

The winter frost is melting away and it's time to get back into gardening. If you have young children, gardening can be a fun activity you can enjoy together as a family. Gardening projects can teach kids about nature, encourage bonding time with parents and allow children to get a little dirty. Try these spring gardening ideas for young kids.


What you'll need:

  • 4-5 cups potting soil
  • Water
  • Spoon
  • 9-pocket plastic trading card sleeve
  • Pencil
  • Bean seeds
  • Hole punch
  • String
  • Turkey baster

Directions:
Moisten potting soil and spoon it into each pocket of the trading card sleeve until each pocket is two-thirds full.

In each pocket, create a hole in the soil with the pencil and drop three seeds in the hole. Cover the seeds with soil. Repeat in all nine pockets.

Punch a hole in the top center of the trading card sleeve and hang it in your window using string or yarn. As an alternative, you can buy small suction cups at your local big box store and affix the sleeve directly to the window. This will allow the seeds to get great direct sunlight.

Using a turkey baster, kids can water the seeds daily (or according to the package directions) to keep the soil moist. Within 1-2 weeks, the seeds should sprout.


Try your hand at tomatoes.

Tomatoes are the perfect choice for spring gardening with young children. They are sturdy and not too particular about the quality of soil. Even if you don't have a big yard, you can grow tomatoes in a window box. Grow the tomato plants from seeds in small pots indoors and then transfer them outside once they've sprouted, or you can skip the seeds altogether. Just buy young tomato plants that are already sprouted and then plant them outdoors right away. Whatever you do, you need to wait until the weather in your area is warm enough that there's no frost at night before transplanting them outside.

Transplanting outdoors

Choose a sunny location and dig a hole in the ground (or in a planter or large pot) that is deep enough for all the roots and about 12 inches wide. Help your child carefully take the plant from its original container and transfer it into the hole. Pack soil in the hole and around the plant. Check the moisture level every day and water the plants as necessary. If you have any questions about how much water or sunlight your tomato plants need, visit your local gardening center and ask the staff -- another fun activity for kids.

Supporting tomato plants

You don't want the plants to get too heavy and fall over. Therefore, when they reach about 10 inches high, you need to provide them with a little support. Stick a wooden stake into the soil right next to the plant and tie it with a string, or buy wire tomato cages at Home Depot or the gardening center to provide the support your tomato plants need.

Picking tomatoes
Your kids will love checking the plants every day to see them turning from green to red. When the tomatoes are red and ripe, your children can gently twist them to pick them from the plant. From seeds to harvest, talk to you kids about the growth process and all it takes to nurture the tomato plants and help them thrive. Gardening is a fun experience for young kids and the whole family.

Spring into gardening crafts
If the cold weather is still hanging around in your area, get your kids into the spring gardening spirit with some fun gardening crafts. Teach them how to make soda bottle garden shovels or how to create paper flowers for a colorful tissue paper garden. The spring weather will be here before you know it, and you'll be enjoying gardening for many months to come.


Helping kids grow plants is easy too. They aren't nearly as fussy as adults. All they need are beds or plots of their own, some tools, some plants or seeds, and an adult who is willing and able to make the experience educational AND fun!

Growing flowers and plants, (either from seeds, bedding plants, cuttings or bulbs), provides an endless opportunity to learn about science and nature.

Kids can learn:


  • The names of common plants
  • Which plants are edible
  • Why some plants prefer sun
  • How plants use sun and soil to grow
  • How insects interact with plants
  • The process of germination
  • How to grow plants from cuttings and bulbs
  • How plants provide oxygen
  • How plants prevent soil erosion
  • Basic soil chemistry
  • How food is grown and preserved
  • Be sure to study up on your high school biology. You may hear tons of "why" questions!


Although gardening is a great science project, it is very important that you don't kill the magic of nature by being too factual. Young children especially need to find the wonder in how the earth works.

Encourage them to create stories around what they see, (and think they see.) This stimulates imagination. The more enthusiastic you are about what they tell you and show you, the more eager they will be to share.

Consider it a trade. You are involving them in your gardening project, and they are involving you in their own world.

Since children are a lot shorter than their adult counterparts, large flower beds can present a problem. Kids may have to step into the beds to reach some plants or weeds, which can endanger tender, young plants near the front. If containers are too tall, children may not be able to see the plants.

If your children are interested in growing plants, take the time to build or buy smaller containers that are easier to manage. If you don't have space to build new flower-beds, get creative and re-purpose other items for container gardens. Things that make good beds can include:


  • Small wading pools
  • Sandboxes
  • Buckets
  • Painted tires
  • Unused pots, pans or bowls.
  • You can also use store-bought flower pots. I recommend plastic for younger children over ceramic or clay.


If you are building flower beds specifically for children, let them help with the design. This helps to involve them even further. They may even want to outline their vegetable garden with timbers, bricks or stones. Small segments of pre-existing beds can be divided off as well.

Since gardening is the same as imaginative play for kids, they will enjoy having child-sized tools to make the adventure more realistic.

Not only will this prevent accidents from a child trying to wield an adult-sized hoe, there will also be less time spent searching for your misplaced tools.


Many stores carry a variety of gardening tools for kids. These can be plastic or metal. Some are exact miniatures of the tools mom and dad use.

Starting Seeds Indoors

Depending on your zone, you may want to start your seeds indoors. This gives the plants time to get stronger before they face a surprise cold-snap or a strong wind. It also provides an opportunity for kids to bring the outdoors inside while they wait for play weather.

Although you can wait and buy bedding plants for your garden, part of the magic for children is to watch the seeds germinate. It is also a valuable learning experience.

Seeds can be started in any container.




Here are some flowers that are fast to sprout and easy to care for:

Zinnias--By far, my top preference. They come in a wide range of colors, such as pink, orange, white, red and yellow. The seeds can be mixed up to create a rainbow of color. Caring for them is easy too. They will grow in sun or shade. If you keep the dying flowers cut back, they will continue to bloom late into the fall.


Marigolds--Another easy flower for kids. They come in rich bright colors, and a few plants can produce hundreds of blooms. Teach kids how to save the dried flowers so that they can plant their "own" seeds next year.


Daisies--There are many varieties of daisies. Some will only bloom the second year. Stagger these with faster growing flowers so that they can surprise your children next year.


Sunflowers--they take about 120 days to reach full maturation. (when they produce seeds), but children can be fascinated with them long before they make food. Some of these giants can grow several feet tall, which will make your kids feel super-proud of their green-thumbs!


Bachelors Buttons--Even little boys will like these bright blue blooms. Bachelor's buttons are very easy for children to care for, as they will grow nearly anywhere. Stagger planting so that flowers continue to bloom throughout the season.


Snapdragons--This plant can afford hours of imaginative play once it has bloomed. When squeezed a certain way, the flowers will open and snap closed, just like a tiny dragon mouth!

Allow a potato to sprout in a darkened area of your home. Then take the potato outside and plant.

Kids can be amazed by how the pale green stems turn dark green and leaves form. This is a great way to explain photosynthesis.



Plants That Can Be Easily Rooted

Another fun way to experience growing a plant is to propagate a cutting. This can be done in either water or soil.

Propagating in water can make the roots more fragile, but it allows kids to watch the roots form, something they won't see if planted in soil. Here are some plants that are easy to root from cuttings:

Rosemary--Can be rooted either in water or sandy soil. We prefer to strip the bottoms of the cuttings of leaves then place in a glass of water. They root within a couple of weeks if placed in a sunny windowsill.

Lavender--Clip a stem, remove several rows of leaves from the bottom, and place in a glass of water.

Basil--Roots easily on the kitchen counter. And you can steal leaves for cooking while it is making roots.

Privet Hedge--These cuttings can be either rooted in water or simply stuck in the ground and watered. Privets can be made into a living play fort by planting them in a semi-circle. In 2-4 years they will be tall enough to provide your children a secret place to play. For added effect, plant snapdragons and daisies in the circle for their very own "secret garden".

Mint--Any member of the mint family can be rooted in water. They can later be transplanted to a play area to make a fragrant ground-cover.
When the cuttings have produced sufficient roots, they can be transplanted to a pot or to a flower bed. Since the roots will be tender, make sure the hole is large enough to accommodate them comfortably. Don't force them into the ground.

It helps to have plenty of soil loosened up around the roots too, so they can easily spread. Water-rooted plants may take awhile to start growing once transplanted, but so far I have had good luck with this method. More plants that root easily from cuttings include:



All of these factors will make gardening with your children a memorable event. Just relax and let your flowers and your imagination go wild.

Be satisfied with a cottage or 'witches' garden this year, rather than a formal garden. In doing so, you and your children will both learn how to truly be in tune with the earth. As Burnett states in "The Secret Garden";

"If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden."

-K

Self care: It's not selfish, it's not stupid.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

With it being Women's History month, but more importantly, National Women's Day, I thought it'd be best to talk about what many women dance around: Self Care.

There’s an analogy about self-care that I’ve seen more times than I can count, but it’s widespread for a reason. It compares the process to oxygen masks in airplanes; you’re supposed to secure your own mask before you assist others. The logic here is that if you can’t breathe, you can’t very well help anyone else. Practicing self-care is much the same. You have to take care of your own mental and physical health before you can truly devote yourself to your family and friends.

But what is self-care, exactly? Generally speaking, self-care is engaging in activities and behaviors that have a positive effect on your mental and physical health. There is no one thing, or even a list of things, that encompasses self-care. It’s different for each person. However, the end goal is always the same: to reduce stress, preserve relationships, maintain a beneficial work and life balance, and nurture your mental and physical well-being.

Self-care involves a lot of introspection. It requires identifying your needs and taking the necessary steps to meet them. Finally, there’s a bit of a “reverse golden rule” aspect to the practice, treat yourself as compassionately as you treat others. While all of this may seem obvious, many of us (myself included) often put the needs of others first, setting our own aside, and damaging our mental health in the interim.

Why self-care is so important? For some people, it’s almost second nature to yield to the wishes and demands of family members, friends, and employers before even considering their own. Women in particular are molded by society to be nurturers, mothers and caretakers. In fact, 91% of American nurses and 66% of caregivers responsible for the health needs of elderly loved ones are women. Unfortunately, failing to care for your own emotional and physical needs before attempting to resolve those of others can really take a toll on your emotional and physical well-being (my stomach ulcer can attest to this).


Self-care is necessary for a number of reasons.

It increases your sense of self-love, allowing you to appreciate and accept yourself for who you are.
It promotes feelings of calm and relaxation, serving as a way to refocus and come back to your daily life refreshed and ready to take on anything. It improves both physical and mental health by reducing the effects of prolonged stress on your mind and body. Ultimately, meeting your own needs makes you a more valuable partner, parent, friend, employee or caregiver. When you’re healthy and well-rested, you’re better equipped to support others.

Is there a right way to engage in self-care? There’s definitely a perception out there that there’s a correct way to go about self-care. Like so many things in modern life, a lot of these misconceptions stem from social media — wherein self-care is painted to look almost like a type of consumerism. The truth is that self-care can take on a number of different forms, and the only “right way” to do it is the way that works best for you.

There are handfuls of self-care subcategories, including physical self-care, emotional self-care and spiritual self-care, you may find you prefer to focus on one in particular or spread your energy among them equally.

Here are just a few examples of actions that fall into these subcategories:

Physical self-care: Eating well, exercising regularly, prioritizing sleep and taking care of your health.
Emotional self-care: Managing anxiety, anger, sadness, and other emotions. Setting boundaries with people who are not positive or supportive. Spending time alone to rest and recharge. Maintaining a bullet journal.

Spiritual self-care: Volunteering, connecting with nature, yoga, meditation, mindfulness, etc.
The most important thing about self-care is to not force it, if you turn it into a chore, it loses all value. Self-care should be relaxing, enjoyable, and sometimes downright fun. Do what makes you happy, and if you find an activity just doesn’t work for you, try something else!

In my own experience with self-care, it wasn't until recently that self-care was truly on my radar. I knew how to get my nails done, or take an occasional nap here and there, but I always had the anxiety that too much time for myself meant I wasn't intentional with others or that I did not care. I felt guilty enough dealing with illnesses back to back, and having to isolate myself from others to keep them from getting sick, so who cared about the mental healing once the sickness was gone?

It wasn’t until I had a full-fledged mental breakdown that I decided it was time to start focusing on putting my needs first. For the last month, this has been my consistent self-care routine, and it has a number of moving parts, including:

  • A daily gratitude journal, which has been scientifically proven to have both physical and emotional benefits.
  • Getting at 8 hours of sleep every night (that’s my particular magic number, which i'm still working on achieving as of late.)
  • Spending some time with my dog.
  • Crafting the progression of my photography 
  • Indulging in my essential oils love; buying, collecting, applying, and writing about it.
  • Regularly seeing my therapist.


Since October, one main key to keep my self care routine train going is the  utlization of essential oils. It is so important as women to not be embarassed of the fact that our hormones just naturally get out of wack, and it's seriously necessary to find a balance for them.

As someone who have a strong chemical imbalance due to a mental and immune disease condition, it took me a long time to accept that I may have to work a little harder to achieve some hormonal peace. Essential oils made that easier for me and I decided to share it with you lovely ladies on today especially because when your hormones aren't working, you aren't either. 



Here is how you can use essential oils for healthy female hormonal balance:

I am currently in the process of becoming a licensed nutritional consultant in regards to natural remedy advisement, aka essential oils with a focus on women’s health, and that means I spend a lot of time focusing on healthy hormone balance with "clients" I get to practice with now. Most of the women with whom I work and including myself, experience the following:


  • overweight, find that they’re gaining weight, or can’t lose weight
  • struggle with anxiety and/or depression
  • have irregular digestion
  • have irregular periods
  • experience fertility challenges
  • menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, and insomnia

The female endocrine system (hormonal system) is very sensitive to stress. That could be dietary stress (eating the wrong foods for your body, or too many processed foods), emotional stress, too much work and not enough sleep, environmental toxins, or pain and inflammation.

Under chronic stress, your cortisol levels rise, causing drops in estrogen and progesterone, your 2 main sex hormones. This can cause menstrual irregularities, weight gain, estrogen dominance, and infertility.

Symptoms that indicate your hormones are haywire include the following:


  • irritability, anxiousness
  • PMS
  • menopausal symptoms that interfere with day to day life
  • heavy periods, irregular cycles
  • inability to lose weight
  • breast tenderness
  • hair loss
  • fatigue, insomnia
  • hypothyroidism
  • lack of sex drive
  • increase in belly fat


Did you know essential oils can also help maintain healthy hormones in the body?

Essential oils are the concentrated liquids and essences from plants, containing volatile aroma compounds. They can be inhaled, diffused, applied to the skin, or taken internally to re-balance your system. Because they are so concentrated, only a drop or 2 is needed for an effect. The oils do not contain hormones but have properties that stimulate hormone production and balance.

NOTE: I only use and recommend Young Living essential oils. Find them here.

The following oils have been shown to exhibit therapeutic effects similar to that of phytoestrogens, meaning they balance estrogen levels:


  • Clary Sage: Stimulates the pituitary gland, which regulates ovulatory and sex hormone function. Clary sage is also a uterine tonic pairs well with geranium. Great for cramp relief & PMS.
  • Fennel: used to balance cycles. Also a wonderful digestive aid.
  • Basil: recommended for delayed menstruation or scanty periods.
  • Cypress: useful for circulation, can relieve stagnation associated with heavy bleeding or mid-cycle bleeding
  • Geranium: has an overall balancing effect on female hormones
These oils would be useful for those with low estrogen levels or dropping estrogen levels, as is the case in peri-menopause or menopause. Stress can cause low estrogen in menstruating women, but I recommend hormone testing so you’ll know your estrogen and progesterone levels.

There are certain Young Living blends that support hormone balance (use these topically):

  • Sclar Essence combines phytoestrogenic oils like clary sage, peppermint, fennel, and sage. Useful for menopause, hysterectomy.
  • EndoFlex supports overall endocrine function. I’ve recommended it for thyroid and adrenal support, both of which positively influence female hormone support.
  • Dragon Time is a favorite! This blend relieves PMS, cramping, and irregular periods. Contains clary sage, fennel, lavender, jasmine, yarrow, and marjoram.
  • Lady Sclareol has a divine fragrance and can improve mood and positively influence low estrogen. Great for menopause. It’s a blend of rosewood, vetiver, geranium, ylang ylang, jasmine, and more.
  • Progressence Plus boosts progesterone. I love this one to balance the effects of estrogen dominance and promote regular cycles with fewer PMS symptoms.

You can use all these oils topically with a carrier oil (like coconut oil or avocado oil), and in some cases, take them as a supplement. You can also mix up your own blends for use depending on your unique physiology.

For menopause:  try clary sage, Dragon Time, SclarEssence, Lady Sclareol topically.
For cramps: try Dragon Time,  valerian, ginger (few drops internally), clary sage, lavender
For PMS: try Dragon Time, EndoFlex, fennel, clary sage

You can even make your own blends:

Irregular Periods: Use topically daily.

  • 10 drops chamomile combined with 10 drops fennel Endoflex

Menstrual Cramps: Apply topically daily.

  • 10 drops Dragon Time combined with 5 drops of both EndoFlex and Progressence Plus

Heavy Bleeding: diffuse or apply topically.

  • 10 drops geranium, 5 drops helichrysum, 5 drops cistus combined
If you're new to self-care, you may at first confuse it with being selfish. This is absolutely not the case. Self care is essential to your health, don't let anyone tell you any different.

Which brings me to an exciting give away I'm doing via my instagram!

I will be giving one lovely lady a FREE bottle of Young Living's Progessence Plus Essential Oil. I have used this for the last 3 months to help with the absolute walking piece of fecal matter these cramps feel like, and it WORKS!

Head over to my instagram to get the details on this giveaway here
Entrees close tomorrow so good luck!



As Autumn Spencer said:


It’s not selfish. It’s not stupid. It’s not unnecessarily indulgent. It’s not a waste of your time.


Happy Women's day my fellow beauties!

-K

Kill Two Low Carb Recipes with 1 Hour!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

I have a secret for you.

I really, really, really, like low carb recipes…I'm just too damn lazy to get around to it as much as I should.

However discovering that I have a stomach ulcer this week, I have no choice but to throw that word "intentional" that I love so much, and apply it's meaning to the way I eat... all. the. time.

Okay, maybe not the juicy secret you were hoping for but as a lover of all things dough and chocolate infused, I think it is a big deal to admit to this. I even thought it would get my gastro specialist to lay off the "you need to lose 25 lbs by August" lecture, but no gamble. Thanks to my lovely immune disease and my wandering eye for sugar, my stomach, along with my taste buds are on probation and officially enrolled in healthy measures bootcamp. If i'm honest, I'm excited. I have been sick consistently since being diagnosed with Crohns for 2 years now and it's time to cut down on the Er visits so 25lb less me shall be brought to the light.

Let the journey begin..

Now I do believe that weight loss is the result of the amount of calories you eat compared to the amount you burn regardless of the food you eat. I am living proof of that. I gained 60 lbs when I was about 19, 20 years old, and lost 70 pounds by watching my calories not carbs. Anyway, in my experience, there is truth to the way certain foods make me feel. When I eat foods that are lower in carbs and higher in fiber and protein I feel great. I don’t get bloated and have lots of energy. On the flip side, when I eat high carb food like my beloved pasta I do feel heavy and bloated. Booo! Why can’t pasta make me feel skinny?!

Anyway, I am a firm believer in “everything in moderation” so I would NEVER give up pasta or pizza. NO WAY! But I am aware of the way these foods make me feel so I try to limit them, plus being lactose intolerant kind of forces my hand in that decision. I  also try to have delicious low carb recipes in my arsenal. Like these new low carb cucumber sandwiches!


I have to mention that I saw a simliar recipe on Tamera Mowry's blog which is responsible for inspiring this one! You can check out Tamera's way of using cucumbers instead of bread for sandwiches here.

They are amazing, and  I love this new way of enjoying my sandwiches.

Losing the bread with sandwiches is one way I cut calories and carbs. Unless it is delicious artisan bread I just feel like bread gets in the way. I prefer to eat “no bread” roll ups like my greek roll-up, mint & avocado, and/or "turkey" and cheddar roll-ups. I feel I get the flavor without all the extra empty carb calories.

If I need a non-bread vessel for my sandwiches I typically turned to lettuce wraps. Now I have another no bread option using cucumber.

These cucumber sandwiches can be made two different ways. First, you can cut the cucumber into chunks and removed the seeds. This give you a well of sorts to put in the sandwich filling. Or you can just slice them. There are no hard and fast rules to these. Slice anyway you want. Also, I chose to remove the skin. You can leave it on if you wish.



My second recipe however, is what I used to stuff the cucumber slices and make them "meaty." Instead of meat of other whole veggies, I baked a spaghetti squash!



Here's how I prepared the squash:

What You'll Need:


  • 1 medium spaghetti squash (about 2 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • Fresh herbs, optional


Directions:

Cut the squash from stem to end, but don’t try to cut through the stem (it’s too tough). When you’ve cut through the squash, just pull each half apart. The force will pull one half away from the stem.

Here’s a trick we learned recently that helps make cutting the squash a little easier. Pierce the squash in a few places and score it where you eventually want to cut. Pop it into the microwave for 3 to 4 minutes. This short time in the microwave softens the outer shell, making it a little easier to cut. I wouldn't recommend microwaving a whole squash longer than that, though — steam will build up inside the squash and it could lead to a pretty dangerous situation.



Once you’ve cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds. Now it's time to bake the squash. Simply rub with some olive oil and then season with salt and pepper (or use your favorite spice blend). I used basil myself.

Next, place the squash cut-side-down onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet and then bake until soft. I used a 375 degree F oven, but adding or reducing by 25 degrees should not make much of a difference. Let it bake for about 40 to 50 minutes, but keep in mind that the bake time will vary depending on how small or large your squash is.

If you’ve got some in the fridge, you can sneak a few sprigs of fresh herbs under each squash half — rosemary, thyme, sage, and mint are all excellent.

Once the squash is done and cooled off, and forked from the skin I then added in 1 avacodao, 1 tomato (diced), cheese (shredded and vegan), and some yummy tomato basil sauce from Trader Joes. I also sprinkled the mix with some chopped up mint, mixed it all together and stuffed it in between my cucumber slices.

-K

What is an Essential Oil Diffuser?

Monday, March 5, 2018

So I noticed that I have done a LOT of talk about essential oils and how to use them, but I haven't truly given thorough information on how to exert them into the air. Many people mistake diffusers for "oil burners" or simply have no idea what a "diffuser" is. So I'm here to straighten that all out!
Essential oil diffusers are very popular with aromatherapy and essential oil users. They are an effective way to experience the health and wellness benefits of essential oils. Diffusers are a way to get oils into the air so aromatherapy benefits can be enjoyed. Diffusers get essential oils into the air by breaking the oils down into micro molecules and then disperses them into the air. These micro molecules are then inhaled, going into the respiratory system and ultimately get into the bloodstream. Many positive effects are received for the body, mind and mood throughout this process.

While there are many ways to "diffuse" essential oils into the air, the main type of diffuser many people enjoy today are ultrasonic diffusers. For the most part, they are cheap, easy to use and also humidify the air. Humidification adds moisture to the air, a great way  to eliminate dryness. Can help with dry chapped skin, chapped lips and dry sinuses. Since I'm sending you some samples, I strongly recommend getting a diffuser off of Amazon. I use these along with my Young Living one, and it works just as well.
But wait, What Are "Ultrasonic" Diffusers?

Glad you asked ;) Ultrasonic diffusers use ultrasonic waves and water to diffuse oils. This creates a fine mist of oil and water released into the air. The benefits  can then be enjoyed by everyone in the vicinity of the diffuser. Click here to view our blog post on essential oil diffuser benefits.
Here is one of my favorite ultrasonic diffuser (besides Young Living's of course), that is reasonably priced on Amazon and works great, especially if you are trying oily samples and/or you've ordered a kit from Young Living already and want a second diffuser that doesn't cost an arm and a leg to purchase. The link to this diffuser is underneath this photo labeled *buy me here*.



Basic Instructions For Using an Ultrasonic Diffuser:
Use clean tap water that is room temperature to fill the water tank of the diffuser. (I prefer to use distilled water myself). Most will have a fill line or a measuring cup, refer to your diffuser manual for recommended water amount your diffuser requires. *Do not overfill or your diffuser may not run properly.
Next, add 5-10 drops of essential oils to water. Close the diffuser and turn on. You can use any essential oil or oil blend, it really just depends on what effects you are looking for.

-K

March Special: Get Your Young Living Starter Kit + a free $20 gift card + Education pack!

Thursday, March 1, 2018




Hey friends! So many of you know how much I absolutely LOVE Young Living! So much so that I decided to run my own oily promo this month!

March Special: Now through March 31st, you can get an extra $20 Amazon Gift Card when you purchase any Young Living Premium Starter Kit. That’s in addition to all other freebies offered below! 

Almost 5 months ago, I was tired of using every remedy possible to help assist my weak immune system and cure my Crohn's flares just to be disappointed. So I took the leap with essential oils and ordered a Young Living Premium Starter Kit to give essential oils a try.

For any newbies to my blog, welcome! I'm Karla, a newlywed wife, dog mama, and a lover of essential oils!


I  didn’t used to think what I put into my body made much of a difference. Because on the outside, everything seemed pretty good!

It wasn’t until I took at deeper look at all the synthetics and chemicals we put into our bodies on a daily basis that I started to change my habits–for myself and for those I loved and cared about very much.

My Husband and I now use the oils for EVERYTHING you could think of, in and outside of the home!

I use oils to calm the kids at work, promote healthy sleep for my hubby and I, boost my energy, balance emotions, relaxation for my dog on the way to the groomer or vet, and others just to make my office at work and the house smell way better than anything you’ll find elsewhere.

Instead of spending a ton of money on scented candles (full of toxins that are released into the air when you burn them) I use my oils throughout my home.

After years of being an active business, and within my months of sharing and learning, I know Young Living can make a difference in your life. I know this because I see Young Living oils change the lives of countless families each and everyday.

Right now, I am running a special to help you bring oils into your home too! 


*This offer is good for US citizens only


Ready to Get Started with Essential Oils?

When you purchase a Young Living Premium Starter Kit through my referral number (#13003429), I will personally send you a special welcome package that includes:


  • 400+ page educational resource guide on essential oils so you know how to use your oils.
  • Access to a private Facebook community where you can learn, ask questions and hear from hundreds of other essential oil users just like you.
  • BONUS – $20 AMAZON GIFT CARD sent straight to your email.



**This is an exclusive offer only available to Wholesale Members who join through me (Karla)**

Let’s take a deeper look into the Premium Starter Kit

The Premium starter kit–combined with my bonuses–make it the best deal you’ll find for starting up with essential oils!

There are 11 FULL-SIZE 5 ML bottles of Essential Oils included and you get the Diffuser, which alone costs $100!



As of March 1st the premium start kits have been updated, and my opinion, upgraded! 

The popular and amazing Desert mist diffuser is now able to be purchased within a starter kit!
All starter kits, (with the exception of the type of diffuser you choose) come with the following:

Premium Essential Oils Collection:

  • Lavender 5-ml
  • Peppermint Vitality™ 5-ml
  • Lemon Vitality™ 5-ml
  • Copaiba Vitality™ 5-ml
  • Frankincense 5-ml
  • Thieves® Vitality™ 5-ml
  • Citrus Fresh™ 5-ml
  • Raven™ 5-ml
  • DiGize™ Vitality™ 5-ml
  • PanAway® 5-ml
  • Stress Away™ 5-ml
  • AromaGlide™ Roller Fitment
  • Thieves Household Cleaner 1-oz. sample
  • 10 Love It? Share It! Sample Business Cards
  • 10 Love It? Share It! Sample Oil Bottles
  • 2 NingXia Red® 2-oz. samples
  • Product Guide and Product Price List
  • Essential Oils Magazine
  • Essential Edge News
  • Member Resources





Plus, I am sending you all these AWESOME EXTRAS:
  • The Essential Oil Starter Guide – a gorgeous 20+ page booklet that covers uses for each of the essential oils in the starter set.
  • Access to The Oil Nation Facebook Group — an amazing group where you can ask essential oil questions and learn from 900+ members.
  • An Essential Oils eCourse — Get essential oil education sent straight to your inbox. Get all the basics you need to know in less than a week!
  • Educational Resource Package — a 400+ page educational resource guide to help you learn how to use essential oils safely and effectively with your family.
  • BONUS  – $20 AMAZON GIFT CARD sent straight to your email. No code needed. 
What's up with all the awesome extras?

I truly believe an essential oil kit can benefit you and your family, and I want to give you everything you need to achieve success with essential oils. 

I don’t believe in a “one and done” mentality. I’m going to walk this journey with you, each and every step of the way, until you feel comfortable with your oils.

(picture)

How to sign up for a premium starter kit:

If you are ready to buy a starter kit, then be sure to sign up as a wholesale member (with one of the premium starter kits) through the instructions below before this deal ends!

1.  Head over to the Young Living page here  and fill out your information.

*Signing up as a wholesale member  does not mean you have to ever sell anything. It simply gives you that option if you so choose and the ability to make Young Living Oil purchases at wholesale prices*

2.  Be sure the “Wholesale Member” option is checked so that you don’t end up paying retail prices

3. Be sure the “sponsor ID” and “enroller id” says 13003429 (so that I can send you your extras!)

4. Fill in your member info.

Enter the name, address and billing info you would like under your account. Make sure your address is correct so all the oil goodness arrives at the right place 🙂

5. Select which premium starter kit you want to get.

The freebies I send come with ANY premium starter kit of your choice.

Now you get to pick which diffuser you want to come with the kit!  And the Desert Mist is BACK! My recommendation is ANY of the kids truly. The Premium Starter Kit with Dewdrop Diffuser or Desert Mist are both great, and I actually have the Aria Dome diffuser that works perfectly!

6. Go through the checkout process.

7.  Send me a super quick email. 

After you sign up, send an email to karlaxlorraine@gmail.com letting me know that you signed up through this promotion **KARLALORRAINE**.

IMPORTANT:  This promotion is only available when you sign up with the sponsor ID and enroller ID as #13003429!  Also, if you recommend this promotion to a friend (or group of friends) and they sign up too through this promotion then please let me know so that you can get credit for referring them.



{Scroll down for several frequently asked questions!}

FAQ:

Does signing up make me a “distributor”?
Nope! You are not required to sell anything at all to anyone. When you become a wholesale member, you get a special link that you can share with friends and get credit from their purchases, but there are no minimum sales amounts at all.

In fact, 90% of the wholesale members in Young Living don’t do the business side at all. They are buying from Young Living because of the quality alone.



Am I required to make a minimum purchase each month?

There are absolutely NO minimum monthly purchase requirements. To remain a wholesale member, you have to make $50 worth of purchases per year to keep your membership.

But if there’s a year that you don’t make a $50 purchase, you can reinstate your wholesale membership discount by just placing a $50 order.

If you do find yourself making regular purchases each month, then Young Living has a rewards program (called Essential Rewards) where you can make a nice percentage back in product credit each month on all of your purchases.

So that’s a neat program to join if you find that you *want* to purchase regularly (but it’s not a requirement for being a wholesale member).

Why should I buy from Young Living instead of other essential oils companies?

It does seem like a new essential oils company pops up every day, doesn’t it?

I can’t speak to the quality of other companies, but I can say that Young Living was the only company in my research of essential oil companies that could answer all of my questions about purity in a way that was satisfactory to me.

Young Living was the only company that has their own farms (in the regions where the plants should be grown), could absolutely guarantee that no pesticides or herbicides were used in the growing of any of their oils (they do all of the weeding by hand), has their own testing equipment (they do both in-house and 3rd party testing, and use many different testing methods not just GC/MS which only tests for certain chemicals, not whether those chemicals are synthetic or not), and only uses the first distillation of oils instead of adding chemicals to get more out of the plant.

Young Living also was the only company that was directly in charge of essential oil farming operations. Every other company I researched goes through some kind of an “oil broker” to buy their oils.

They have to trust that the oil broker is telling the truth, who has to trust that the essential oil distilleries are telling the truth, who have to trust that the farmers are telling the truth about what they say they are doing.

With Young Living, you just have to trust one company instead of several.

I feel like it’s a trust step either way (anyone could be lying) but I felt the most comfortable trusting Young Living since they are a full-disclosure company.

ANYONE can visit the farms, participate in the harvesting and distillation, view the Young Living labs, and see the entire process. That’s not an option with any other company.





So what are you waiting for?

Once you have empowered yourself to think outside of the box & take charge of your wellness, it’s addictive. For me, it meant easy access to wellness solutions for my entire family.

I am finally FREE to nurture my family’s wellness and make informed self-care decisions.

I can’t wait for you to get your hands on these oils and give them a try. I have a hunch you’ll never be the same after you open that first bottle!

Click the "I'm Ready!" link below to get started on your essential oil journey today with a no-strings-attached wholesale membership. I can’t wait to help you get started using and loving these oils!


SPECIAL: Now through March 31st you can get an extra $20 Amazon Gift Card when you purchase any Young Living Premium Starter Kit.


-K


Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please confirm any information obtained from or through this web site with other sources, and review all information regarding any medical condition or treatment with your physician. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on this website.


© Karla Lorraine