Category: Photography

a month of daily walks

Last month, I made a resolution to go for a walk every day in May. It was such a good decision! I loved it even more than I thought I would, mostly because I decided to walk in a different place every day. I wasn’t sure I would be able to find 31 places to walk, but somehow I did. It was a great excuse to explore trails, parks, and neighborhoods I had never been to. I discovered lots of places that I’m looking forward to enjoying again.

On each of my walks, I took a picture with my iPhone and posted it to Instagram with the hashtag #dailywalk. Looking for something to photograph each day focused my attention on the beautiful world God has created, and I saw things I may not have noticed otherwise. If you follow me on Instagram, you have already seen these photos, but if the rest of you want to see the full-size images, you can find them all here.

a month of daily walks

It’s so hard to choose my favorites, but the photos from May 5, 8, 17, and 23 are some of the ones I love. (Days 2 and 30 are my least favorites.)

A few interesting facts:

  • Ethan rode along (or was carried) for all but three of these.
  • My phone jumped out of the stroller onto the sidewalk on May 7. It still works just fine, but the back is very cracked. So sad!
  • On May 24, I walked eight laps in our driveway because it was raining.
  • I saw a couple buffalo on May 29.
  • One photo was taken in Maryland.
  • No photos were taken at IKEA, although I was prepared to count a shopping trip as a walk on a rainy day if I needed to.

In 2013, the one little word I’m focusing on is best. The decision to go for daily walks in May was one of the best things I’ve done all year!

daily walks in May

daily walk - May 1, 2013

Isn’t spring the most glorious season?!

Cool mornings lead to warm afternoons. Flowers and trees burst with new growth. Birds build nests in the craziest places. Grass turns from brown to green. The smell of someone else’s grilled dinner wafts through the neighborhood. A lovely breeze blows through our open windows. Sunshine lifts my spirits. In the spring, I feel renewed, alive, free.

Now that I’m a “stay-at-home” mom, I have the flexibility to get outside and enjoy this beautiful weather every day — and that’s what I plan to do! I’m resolving to go for a walk every day during the month of May, and I’ll post a picture from each day’s walk on Instagram with the hashtag #dailywalk.

Ethan fell asleep during our walk this morning, and when he woke up, we were at the library. He has a pretty good life.

Are you doing anything special to celebrate and enjoy spring? Or have you set a new goal for yourself this month? If so, tell me what you’re up to. I’d love to cheer you on!

a 100-page book of vacation photos

vacation photos // Blurb book

Between my digital SLR, my iPhone, and my little point-and-shoot camera, I returned home from our family vacation to Chincoteague in July with 698 photos. I downloaded them to my laptop, backed them up to an external drive… and then ignored them for a couple months.

In September, I dedicated time to finally doing some things that I kept saying I would do “someday.” So I finally posted an album of vacation photos on Facebook, even though it had been a couple months since I vacuumed the sand out of the mini-van. And I finally removed the packaging from a gallery frame my mother-in-law gave us a couple years ago (!!!), printed seven of our vacation photos at CVS, and displayed them on the wall in our hallway.

Then, in late September, Elise Blaha wrote about a book of photos she got printed at Blurb — and she included a discount code for her readers to get $19.95 off a Blurb book within the next three days. I’ve been making an effort to get more of our photos out of my computer and into formats that my family can actually see and enjoy, and I couldn’t resist the generous discount on a Blurb book.

vacation photos // Blurb book

So I created a 100-page softcover book with 123 of my favorite vacation photos… and I love it. It’s so fun to be able to easily look through our vacation photos and remember all of the good times we had that week.

vacation photos // Blurb book

The book is seven inches square, and I chose to use only square photos that all bleed off the page.

vacation photos // Blurb book

On a few pages, I created a grid of four photos. When we started our vacation, I told Tim that I wanted to be sure to have some photos of myself. So I occasionally handed him the camera — and when I got a hole-in-one on the miniature golf course, I got a little excited… and totally forgot that Tim had the camera at that moment. But it was important for me to include some pictures of myself in the book, so the mini-golf pictures made the cut.

vacation photos // Blurb book

Thanks to the generous discount code, this nice thick book of vacation photos only cost about $16 — and half of that was for shipping. A hardcover book would be more durable, of course, but it also would have cost more.

vacation photos // Blurb book

I love my little 100-page book, and I won’t be surprised if I make a book of vacation photos every year. I can already imagine a whole series of books lined up on the shelf.

What do you do with photos from your vacations? Do you print some for framing? Make them into a book? Or just leave them on the computer like I usually do…?

the summer of more Instagramming

I set one main goal for the summer: Instagram more. And I did. Over the past three months, I shared 80 photos, which is a lot better than the 58 I had posted previously since joining Instagram around Christmas. You can see all of my summer photos here, but these are a few of my favorites.

Instagram // Chincoteague, VA and crabbing

Instagram // sunset and sparklers

Instagram // Philadelphia Phillies and Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs

capturing the final week of summer

Standing at the end of the driveway waiting for the school bus is a clear sign that summer has come and gone. The kids were ridiculously eager to go back to school today, and not even the rain could dampen their spirits. As I stood waiting for the bus to bring them home this afternoon, I entertained myself by texting Tim and scrolling through my recent Instagram photos. If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you already know that the last week of summer looked something like this.

black and white striped shirt

I bought a new striped tank top at LOFT, which is only notable because I haven’t worn stripes in probably a decade. Maybe not even since college. I was way overdue for such a classic addition to my wardrobe.

puppy chow

I mixed up a batch of puppy chow one evening in a valiant attempt at planning ahead. I stashed it in the freezer for the next couple weeks, but not before some of it disappeared…

mending sequins

We had a family photo taken for our church directory, and of course I picked out a shirt for Magen that needed to be mended. Relocating sequins to replace missing sequins was perhaps my least favorite mending job ever, but it’s hard to be unhappy for long when you’re working with sequins.

mini cupcakes with nonpareils

It was party central at our house this weekend with three birthdays in three days. I made these mini cupcakes with rainbow nonpareils to celebrate my favorite 40-year-old.

Stripes + chocolate + sequins + sprinkles = a pretty happy way to wrap up the summer.

a lovely outdoor summer wedding

Our family enjoyed the most lovely outdoor wedding last weekend at a farm in the hills of New Jersey.

wedding on a farm in New Jersey

When we arrived, we were greeted by a clothesline full of handmade tote bags with treats for each family — trail mix, homemade fruit leather (strawberry rhubarb and apricot lavender!), kazoos for the ceremony recessional, and sparklers for the part of the festivities we missed because we have children who needed to get home to bed.

handmade wedding tote bags

Each tote bag was stamped with a chicken and was strung up with a tag that featured the same motif and the names of the guests. I was especially eager to see the tote bags, because I made the tags… but when I gave them to the bride, they didn’t have any farm animals on them yet!

chicken gift tag

For the wedding ceremony, we sat on hay bales that were covered with white cloths. It was a warm summer afternoon, so there were baskets of woven fans available for all the guests.

hay bale seating for an outdoor wedding

The aisle was lined with simple wildflower bouquets in blue mason jars tied to sticks with twine.

wedding wildflower bouquet in a mason jar

Between the ceremony and the reception, we made sure to visit the do-it-yourself photobooth. The white curtains and the woods made a lovely backdrop.

DIY wedding photobooth

We used the camera provided, but also took some shots with my camera. Not pictured: our kids + my expanding baby bump.

DIY wedding photobooth picture

Most people don’t take pictures of the bathroom facilities at a wedding, but the setup was just too unusual not to share! As you may have noticed, the bride and groom planned a very green wedding… right down to the toilets. This sign greeted you at the edge of the meadow near the entrance to the woods.

outdoor wedding restroom sign

At the end of a short dirt path, guests could use one of two toilets. They were carefully angled away from guests and each other, because the fourth side of the toilet stall was completely open. It looks pretty primitive, but there was actually a regular toilet seat built in to the structure on top of some kind of container with wood shavings. It was much better than a port-a-potty (no smell! no icky door handle to touch! no claustrophobia!), but it was especially important to remember to flip that sign from vacant to occupied before entering.

outdoor restroom facilities

In spite of the rain that fell during the reception (good thing we were under a tent!), it was a lovely day celebrating a lovely couple. Congrats, Ben and Ashley!

stitched photo note cards

Call me old fashioned, but I still believe in the value of a handwritten thank you note, whether it’s for a gift or a kind deed. Friends who celebrate your 9th birthday in the backyard and grandparents who send gifts from a distance all deserve to be thanked for their generosity.

During Magen’s birthday party, we snapped a photo of her with each of her friends just before she opened their gift. Then I printed out the photos, trimmed them, and stitched each one to a piece of cardstock printed with a simple “thank you.” Inside Magen wrote a sweet little note of appreciation.

Family members who live at a distance received cards with our family photo, but the cards with colorful pictures from her party are my favorites. By the way, I made that great big number 9 Magen is holding in the same way I made the giant number 8 last year. It’s just foam core and acrylic paint. So fun!

my Bamboo tablet

I’m not sure what I’m most excited about: my new graphics tablet, the fact that I bought it for 75% off the list price, or the glorious reality that I have a day off work today to play with it. Happy Fourth, friends!

Saturday snapshots

The room where I captured these Saturday snapshots has a variety of functions. We usually call it the office, but I prefer to think of it as my studio, since it houses not only a desk, but also the piano, my sewing machine, and most of my creative supplies. Whatever you call it, here are a few snapshots from the time I spent there today.

// a notebook I picked up yesterday for pocket change after a 40% discount plus Staples Rewards — my first Martha Stewart Home Office with Avery purchase // lovely gray pen from LePen

Martha Stewart Home Office With Avery - blue notebook

// apparently my chalkboard is where I give myself pep talks

// I agreed to sew twenty prayer pockets for next week’s Summer Bible School at our church.

// my washi tape stash

washi tape

// I don’t really even know what prayer pockets are, but my twenty are complete.

// a creamy cantaloupe smoothie was my afternoon treat

Instagramming summer

I’m thoroughly enjoying my summer goal of posting more photos on Instagram. Here are a few summer memories I’ve captured and shared recently.

top row: when I was a kid, my grandma often served ice cream and strawberries for dessert in this dish // Splash & Bash at the local pool // UNO!
bottom row: heart-shaped cornbread isn’t just for Valentine’s Day // what I’m reading now // it was 90 degrees at the ballpark

summer goal: Instagram more

For the summer of twenty-twelve, I’m setting just one goal. And it’s a fun one.

I got off to a slow start when I joined Instagram (a photo sharing app for the iPhone and now Android too) a few days before Christmas last year. During the first five months, I posted just 58 photos. Then I decided to kick it up a notch, and over the past week and a half, I’ve shared 19 photos. Maybe it’s just a phase, or maybe I’ve finally hit my Instagram stride. Either way, I’m having fun.

Are you on Instagram? I’m @rachelswartley. Come say hello!

. . . . . . .

top row: a tiny succulent I potted on Friday evening // new washi tape // a free sweet treat
bottom row: school birthday treat for the girl with a summer birthday // our lilies bloomed on Saturday

what’s blooming in March

My favorite season is bursting forth all around us, so I grabbed my camera and headed out into the late afternoon light to see what I could capture. These are a few of the lovely things I found in our yard.

Hey – who planted this in my flowerbed?!

Happy spring!

a tale of two galas

Homemade pizza isn’t the only thing going on around here. I recently enjoyed two galas, and both were lovely in their own way.

Saturday’s gala:

Monday’s gala:

The food at the evening internationále was great (lobster mac and cheese, anyone?), but I couldn’t get over that Eiffel Tower. Was it classy or cheesy? Both? I couldn’t quite decide. But the best part? One of the two galas was free (for me), and the other one cost mere pocket change.

Both of these photos were taken with my iPhone. Are you on Instagram? If so, you’re welcome to follow along as I share pictures on the go (username: rachelswartley).

twenty twelve

On Sunday afternoon we kicked off the new year with a fun outdoor photoshoot with these sparkly numbers I made. Each number is about 9 inches tall. I cut them out of foam core, painted them gold, and then painted them with gold glitter paint. Gold and sparkles usually aren’t my thing, but New Year’s seems like a great time for a little extra glitz and glam.

I snapped this picture with my iPhone and originally posted it on Instagram, a photo sharing application for the iPhone that I started using a couple weeks ago. It gives you the option of applying a neat filter to a photo before sharing it with your followers. If you have an iPhone, you can join in the fun on Instagram too. Otherwise, feel free to follow me using Statigram.

Are you on Instagram? If so, I’d love to hear what you think of it.

Happy 2012!

our sELFish photographer

Now that I have a digital SLR camera, Zippy apparently thinks my trusty old point-and-shoot camera belongs to him! What a sELFish little photographer.

daily summer photos: September 18-22

Today is the first day of fall, so my daily summer photo project has come to an end. Here are the final five photos.

Remember the trouble I had with my check engine light? I traded in my fifteen-year-old Subaru and now I drive this beauty.

When you’re five, you’re small enough to fit into the storage compartment in the floor of the van.

“Taste every flavor of IZZE” was one of my favorite summer goals.

A beautiful little bouquet of brightly-colored fresh flowers was waiting for me on my desk at work one morning.

Goodbye, summer.

daily summer photos: September 11-17

By mid-September, it was hard to stay motivated to take daily summer photos, since the kids were back in school, Labor Day was over, and the air was turning crisp. But I persisted, so here are seven more photos.

I didn’t do as much sewing over the summer as I would have liked, but this is a skirt I sewed for Magen.

When fresh, homemade bread with homemade strawberry jam are on the menu, I need an after-school snack too.

Beautiful, beautiful morning.

I cannot explain why I keep a small bucket of clothespins in the laundry room when we have no clothesline…

This is a picture of my check engine light NOT on. It’s always on, but the mechanic had to clear it that day for the annual inspection. And then I had to drive the car a lot to see whether the light came back on, which would indicate that it needed to have some expensive work done in order to pass inspection.

And… there’s the check engine light.

I realize that they’re professionals, but it’s still amazing to me that the cyclists in the peloton don’t crash into each other.

daily summer photos: September 4-10

During our Labor Day weekend travels, I was pleasantly surprised to find IZZE for sale at a gas station… although I opted for regular grapefruit juice instead.

We spent Labor Day weekend in several beautiful locations, but you wouldn’t know it from the pictures I took.

Lucky kid!

Interlocking chili. Haha.

Shh! Nobody tell my little kitchen helpers that the cream of tartar is older than they are…

I was so happy to need sunglasses again after not wearing them for more than a week!

I don’t usually take pictures of cilantro, but I don’t usually make 105 pints of salsa. Fun times with fun women.

daily photos: August 28 – September 3

Contrary to how it may appear, I didn’t stop taking my daily summer photos on August 27… I just stopped posting them on a regular basis. So without further ado, here’s the beginning of the backlog.

Hurricane Irene came to visit, but she didn’t knock politely. She just came on in. (But compared to the significant flooding damage elsewhere, our water problems are minor.)

First day of school!

These enormous mushrooms along our driveway made me feel like I was living in some kind of magical fairyland. The taller one was eight inches high.

Fresh fruit is one of the best things about summer.

I love that the center of each tiny blossom on our butterfly bush is bright orange.

The Weepies! The name sounds melancholy, but their music is pretty sweet and happy.

Sometimes a waffle is just a delicious vehicle for other foods I love.

daily photos: August 21-27

Thank goodness I’ve been taking daily photos throughout the summer. Otherwise, my blog might have become a ghost town!

If you’ve seen The Help, you’ll recognize the woman on the big screen. The movie was very good, but I thought the book was much better.

I heart snail mail!

This is where I was sitting last Tuesday when the ground starting shaking beneath me. An earthquake in PA?!

Happy Birthday to me from the Phillies (and my wonderful husband)!

IZZE in a can! It’s kind of strange to drink an all-natural soda from a skinny can that looks like an energy drink, especially when IZZE is usually sold in bottles. But one of my summer goals is to taste every flavor of IZZE, so when I found this sparkling apple on sale at Target, I had to try it.

This didn’t look beautiful or photo worthy, but it tasted amazing. And I deserved it.

Happy birthday to my five-year-old lover of transportation in its many forms. (We squeezed in a party just before Hurricane Irene arrived…)

daily photos: August 14-20

My blog isn’t just a photoblog, but photos seem to be about the only thing I’m finding time to post this summer. Here’s another weekly lineup of photos I’ve taken each day during the past week.

Hooray for my new computer! I bought my new laptop for exactly the same amount — to the penny! — as I spent for my previous laptop which died.

I forgot to take my reusable water bottle to work on Monday, so I found this cute little glass jar in the cupboard and used it instead.

So much eye candy, so little time!

I’d love to know why there’s a jar in the supply closet at work with 15 X-Acto knives in it.

I’m a big phan of the Phillie Phanatic. (He’s the mascot for the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team, for those of you who don’t recognize the furry green guy.)


Last week I mentioned that I enjoyed seeing so many birds while on vacation in Chincoteague that I don’t get to see at home. Yesterday I was very surprised and excited to see a heron standing near a tiny pond right near our house. It was there again today. Love it!

daily photos: August 7-13

I love this lineup of photos from last week, but it was hard to pick just one image from each day of our family vacation in Chincoteague. So many fun photos didn’t make the cut — pictures of fishing, eating ice cream, riding the ferris wheel, biking, wild ponies on Assateague, playing miniature golf, and more. It was a great week full of lots of fun.

On Sunday, Hayden signed a contract as a professional boogie-boarder. (Well, not really, but he looked like one!)

I loved seeing so many birds that we don’t get to see in the woods of Pennsylvania.

We climbed the Assateague Lighthouse and enjoyed the view from the top.

Most of us build sand castles, but some people build sand empires. (There’s an entire outer wall surrounding it that isn’t even in the picture.)

We went crabbing, but threw them all back.

Sunset over Tom’s Cove.

Bye, Chincoteague.


daily photos: July 31 – August 6

Most of us park in the parking lot at church, but some people park in the grass.

Uh-oh. Only three? That doesn’t seem good.

It’s nice to know that if necessary, this MedEvac helicopter can get me to Philly in 12 minutes.

I’ve started to suspect that Just Bunches is discontinuing their honey roasted granola that some people in my family love, so I may or may not have bought ten boxes of it…

This is my new little artistic embellishment that I like to think of as woven ink.

When we peeked into the beverage tent before the Death Cab for Cutie concert, I was surprised to see beautiful paper lanterns!

We needed totes for our beach umbrellas, so… I made some.


daily photos: July 24-30

Two and a half weeks ago, I sat down at my computer to post these photos… and couldn’t get my computer to boot up. One fried motherboard later, I’m back with a new laptop and a backlog of photos.

Here’s one of the friendship bracelets I made for the friendship bracelet swap.

It finally rained!

The next day, it was sunny, so the kids and I went to Rita’s. Magen got mint chocolate chip and shared it with me.

This past winter, we were awakened early one snowy morning by the sound of a tree falling in our woods. I feel less nervous during storms now that we had a few other dead trees cut down.

Nothing says summer like a red gingham tablecloth.

Lame photo, but I was eating pita and hummus for lunch one day, and when I cut myself another pita wedge, the remaining pita looked like Pacman.

Poor lonely cow, waiting for someone to play a LOT of Skee-ball…


daily photos: July 17-23

I think this week’s lineup of daily photos is my favorite yet.

Last Sunday Tim and I went to the beach for a little anniversary getaway.

I love all of the soft colors of nature at the beach, but I also love all of the bright colors that people bring with them. This was my view from my chair on Monday…

After keeping it in the freezer for the past year, we thawed out the top tier of our wedding cake — and it was delicious!

Each week so far, I have taken a photo of white flowers. This is Queen Anne’s Lace I found by the roadside… plus an ant.

It was hot on Thursday.

I liked the geometry of the interior of this gazebo roof.

When I tossed the August issue of Real Simple onto the bed last night, I knew what I wanted to photograph after a night of sleep. Comfy bed + a good thick magazine = such a lovely combination.

daily photos: July 10-16

Thank goodness for flowers. When life is full and I haven’t taken any time to think creatively about a subject for my daily photo, flowers are a quick and easy fall-back option.

Among all the orange daylilies at the edge of our driveway, I found one red one.


Just a weed, or an object of beauty?

Remember the U2 concert in Philadelphia we planned to go to a few days before our wedding last summer? The one that was postponed due to Bono’s back surgery? The one that Tim bought tickets for in October 2009, soon after we started dating? A few days before our first anniversary, it finally happened!

I recently tried a new recipe for something called Cowboy Cookies, but they seemed like regular ol’ oatmeal chocolate chip cookies to me.

bike ride + picnic + playing at the lakeshore + splashing in the pool = a lovely Saturday at the park

daily photos: July 3-9

I’m back with the third installment of my daily summer photos!

These hydrangeas were much darker purple in real life than in this photo. Either way, they’re gorgeous — and I’m so lucky that my mother-in-law is starting a plant for ME.

Happy Fourth!

It just so happens that this is the third week in a row that I’ve posted a picture of white flowers…

Uh-oh. I only took one photo on Wednesday, and this is it. I snapped this picture with my iPhone when I was waiting to return a few items at Michael’s. I just thought it was interesting that they actually called these trinkets “impulse items” — which is exactly what they are.

A friend gave us these picture frames at a wedding shower more than a year ago. I finally got some pictures printed and hung them up!

When I looked out the window first thing Friday morning, I was surprised to see mushrooms growing in our back yard.

On Saturday night, I learned that the best way to hail a cab in Philadelphia is to stand on the curb and snap a picture of City Hall.


daily photos: June 26-July 2

Last Sunday, I worked on a brightly-colored sewing project. I’ll write more about it sometime this week, but for now, here’s a little sneak preview.

Roadside wildflowers deserve more attention than we typically give them.

Mmm… carbs.

I love that little smirk on Hayden’s face.

Red Sox 5, Phillies 2. Oh well.

Magen is 8!

For Magen’s slumber party, I set up the breakfast table to look like a bed. It was pretty cute, but I can’t take any credit for the idea.

daily photos: June 21-25

One of my summer goals is to take a photo every day, so here are the photos I took during the summer days of this past week.

You’ve actually already seen this first one — it’s from our First Day of Summer Party on Tuesday evening.

During our ice cream party, one of our guests came over to me and quietly mentioned that he found some kind of “weird needles” in the bathroom, and that I might want to check it out. This was a pretty wholesome family party, but I thought maybe someone was diabetic and dropped a syringe in the bathroom or something, so I figured it would be easily taken care of.

When I walked into the bathroom to retrieve the “weird needles,” I found eight T-pins lying on the floor in front of the toilet. I don’t think we own any such pins, and none of the other moms I talked to thought they belonged to anyone in their families. I still don’t know where they came from or why they were on the bathroom floor, but here’s a picture I took of our little mystery when I was cleaning up on the day after the party.

I’m not typically a big fan of geraniums, but I make an exception for these Martha Washington Royalty geraniums I have in pots on our back patio.

Friday morning breakfast on the picnic table? Yes, please.

And here is the first stack of children’s books that I’m going to read this summer. All of these are on Magen’s recommended reading list that was sent home from school at the end of the year, which is actually the same as this list that I found online a few weeks ago. These are the easiest books on the list, so I’ll plow through these quickly before carving out more time for books like Charlotte’s Web, Little House in the Big Woods, and The Secret Garden.

down by the creek bank

I’m borrowing a friend’s digital SLR camera for a couple days to help me figure out what kind I want to buy. So late this afternoon I headed to a local park to take some photos with a Canon Rebel T1i with an EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens. (Don’t ask me what that means.)

It’s not the most picturesque spot on earth, and I’m very much an amateur photographer, but I had a lot of fun trying to capture what I could.

We took the kids to this park a few weeks ago for the annual youth fishing derby, and it seems that we weren’t the only ones who had a run-in with a tree branch.

The sunlight was beautiful.

So were some of the weeds!

When I saw these leaves…

… I looked more closely and found the mulberries! Too bad they weren’t ripe yet.

I was pretty far away from this dragonfly; I could have never captured this with my little point-and-shoot camera.

My photography has plenty of room for improvement, and I have lots to learn — for example, how to avoid all of that glare on the back of the dragonfly.

Photographing a spider web is extra tricky when it’s windy. And fortunately, the spider wasn’t home.

I need to return the camera tomorrow, but now that I borrowed a digital SLR, I’m more eager than ever to own one!