16 Free Printables For Your Home or Office

One of my goals is to make decorating your home easier. Maybe that means helping make it more affordable or maybe it means giving you ideas based on our DIYs that you didn’t think of before. It can mean a lot of things, but today it means I’ve been working on a little freebie for you and I’m kind of excited about it. Starting now, when you sign up on my email list, you get these 16 super adorable signs (in a digital format) that you can print at home or send off to your favorite printing lab. Who doesn’t love affordable (or in this case, FREE) home decor? Be sure to share your end product with me on Instagram by tagging @monicabrownblog or using the hashtag #monicabrownblog.

21 Farmhouse Finds at Big Lots

Post contains affiliate links.

I’m pretty sure the last time I was in a Big Lots was approximately 9 ish years ago when we lived about a quarter of a mile from one in San Antonio. The last few days I’ve been seeing them pop up in my Instagram and Facebook feeds with sponsored ads and I’ve got to say, I’m seeing some cute things that I would have never expected from a Big Lots. I’m shocked really and just looked up where my nearest Big Lots is because I think a visit is in order this week.

I’m also the queen of a good deal. I almost never buy anything that isn’t discounted or at least that I know isn’t a good value for the money. There are days that I wish I wasn’t that person, but I am which means I spend a lot of time making sure I’ve found the best deal possible on just about everything. The dog chewed up my son’s shoes the other day and I still haven’t found him a new pair, because I just feel like I could do better than any deals I’ve found online or in store so far. It’s a problem I think.

So yeah, if you’re looking for that Farmhouse look in your home, but on a budget, I may have just found a solution for you with these items from Big Lots. There’s more than this online too, but here are just a few of my favorites with that Fixer Upper vibe.

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Standing House Shelf with Woven Back

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Gold Metal Tabletop Clock

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Gold Metal & Glass 3-Section Test Tube Bud Vase

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Metal House Tealight Candle Holder

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You Are My Home Wood Panel Framed Plaque

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Gray Odessa Throw Pillow (17X17)

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Ether Miranda Diamond Lumbar Pillow (13X18)

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Adelyn Ether Throw Pillow (17X17)

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Bria Gray Stripe Throw Pillow (13X18)

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Small Grid Wire & Wooden Basket with Canvas Liner

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Round Hanging Wall Mirror with Rope (19”)

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“Home Is” Home Icon Framed Wall Plaque

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“Let’s Stay Home” Rustic Plaque

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Hanging Circle Shelf

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Smoky Finish Embossed Glass Bottle with Beads

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Living Colors Woodchip Tabletop Basket

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Cream Ribbed Ceramic Vase

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“Love” Metal & Wood Tabletop Decor

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Crinkle 3-Piece Quilt Set

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Plaid Microfiber 4-Piece Sheet Set

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Silver Galvenized Lantern

So are you as impressed as I am? Seriously, I’ve never seen anything this cute in Big Lots, but I’m happy to see them stepping up their game and providing attractive Farmhouse decor at affordable prices.

-Monica

A Dreary Weekend at Lake Bastrop South Shore Park

So first things first, I’m just letting you know that if you’re showing up at Lake Bastrop South Shore Park after 4pm on a Friday with your camper, you need to call ahead and let them know. I’m not always the best at reading the fine print, but fortunately we knew our site number and the park host made sure we were good to go. In my defense, I originally planned on showing up at check in time, but life happens and it didn’t happen.

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Where’d we go camping?

Lake Bastrop South Shore Park (an LCRA Park)

Lake Bastrop South Shore Park is one of a collection of parks located along the Colorado River in Texas operated by the LCRA (Lower Colorado River Authority). We paid $22/night to stay in a water/electric RV site and then paid an entry of $5/day for just the adults. The park does have a dump station and I believe they also have just a few full hook up sites. If you don’t have an RV, cabins are also available for rent and of course you can bring your tent.

Site Number?

Site number 4. We made our reservations kind of late and I wasn’t actually excited about this site at the time of reservation. Turns out it’s (in my opinion) one of the best campsites in the park. It’s super spacious with a sufficient enough pad for our monster of a camper and it has a little trail right down to the water. You can actually see the water from the campsite when you’re looking down the trail. This site would be perfect for anyone planning to bring kayaks along as there is plenty of room and an area perfect for launching kayaks just at the end of the trail.

What did we do there?

So we have a running joke already in our household about my ability to choose camping weekends. This was only our 4th trip, but each trip has come with some kind of weather. The first one was cold and a little rainy, the second one was cold and super duper windy, the third was actually mostly okay, but it was a little cold in comparison to the weekends on either side of it, and this one came with the promise of legit storms, flash flooding, and potential for 2 inch hail. Yep, I sure know how to pick them. That being said we didn’t really get to take too much advantage of our time at the park this go around. I think we watched every movie in the camper at least once.

We spent some time down by the water near our campsite watching fish swim around, listening for and finding frogs, and just playing. We also explored the other community areas of the park which included fishing docks, a playground, boat rentals, and mini golf. Of course with the weather we didn’t get to do all of those things, but we were impressed with the amount of activities available. Hiking of course is also on the list of things you could do. You could even hike all the way to the North Shore of the park to the LCRA park there.

Campsite 4. This was our first night and the best weather and light of the entire trip.

Campsite 4. This was our first night and the best weather and light of the entire trip.

Pre bedtime exploration on night 1. This is the area just at the end of the trail from the campsite that would be great for launching a kayak or canoe.

Pre bedtime exploration on night 1. This is the area just at the end of the trail from the campsite that would be great for launching a kayak or canoe.

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Messy eater didn’t get cleaned up before setting off to explore.

Messy eater didn’t get cleaned up before setting off to explore.

Do you see the frog? This little guys were hanging out all over near the water. It was so fun to spot them.

Do you see the frog? This little guys were hanging out all over near the water. It was so fun to spot them.

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Looking for fish swimming around. There was actually a bass just off the shore. Would have been a great fishing spot.

Looking for fish swimming around. There was actually a bass just off the shore. Would have been a great fishing spot.

Next time bubba.

Next time bubba.

My heart.

My heart.

Fishing pier at the RV loop.

Fishing pier at the RV loop.

Part of the park playground.

Part of the park playground.

Swimming area. It was a little cold for swimming though.

Swimming area. It was a little cold for swimming though.

Love this quiet moment.

Love this quiet moment.

More from the swimming area at the main community area where the playground, mini golf, and boat rentals are located just off a large parking lot.

More from the swimming area at the main community area where the playground, mini golf, and boat rentals are located just off a large parking lot.

After this last photo we headed back to our campsite for lunch and Corbin’s nap. By the end of Corbin’s nap, the weather was starting to approach and any plans we had were out the window. We stayed inside the rest of the time and watched movies and waited on storms to pass.

Leaving the next morning was quite eventful. Check out is noon and all we saw on the radar was one storm after another. We packed up the inside of the camper and waited for a break and weather and then hooked up as fast was we could and hit up the dump station in the rain with thunder off in the distance not all that far away.

Ponchos are a definite must have to have on hand in your camper. If you don’t have them, go to the dollar store or jump on Amazon and order some now.

-Moninca


Other Products seen in this blog post

Disclaimer: These are affiliate links.

As Seen in Issue No. 10 of The Magnolia Journal

I’m a Johanna Gaines fan. For some that’s cool and for others I imagine they’re over it, but I could literally watch Fixer Upper all day. I don’t reall buy magazines, but I finally broke down the other day and bought my first issue of The Magnolia Journal and I kind of love it. It’s not over ran with ads and I love that not every single item in the magazine is from Magnolia Market or the Hearth and Hand section at Target. I was a little surprised really and from my surprise came this post. I’ve compiled some of the things from the magazine that can be purchased elsewhere and put them all here. It’s a little doormat heavy because I guess that’s a thing at the onset of spring when we’re all trying to freshen up our outdoor spaces. It makes me want a few more exterior doors. And I really think I’d like to have The Kaufman Merchantile Guide. It looks like one of those things you could get lost in for a little bit.

Disclaimer: Post contains a couple affiliate links.


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If you’ve ever thought about checking out the magazine and haven’t, I’d recommend picking one up. This issue had articles about authenticity and monthly journal prompts in addition to just being eye candy. I love the positive vibe and plan on subscribing.

-Monica

Building a Tract Home: What I Would and Wouldn't Do Again

Okay so the truth is I wouldn’t build another tract home (or cookie cutter home) again. That’s just me being real about the whole deal. Very little about the process was enjoyable and the stress didn’t end once our house was done. But I also understand that sometimes this is your only or your best option. That’s the boat we were in when we built our house. I could go on and on about our situation, but it’s not important and I can ramble with the best of them so let’s just skip over that and move on to what you came here for.

Disclaimer: This is all based on the experience we had with our builder. Upgrades, options, and standard inclusions vary depending on builder and I can only speak of our experience and hope it helps.

What I would do

  • Add can lights wherever possible. We did can lights in our bedroom because I didn’t want a light kit on the fan and we added them in our living room for the same reason. It just cleaned everything up and I’d defintley do it again.

  • Upgrade to taller doors. I never thought of this, but the model home had it done and it’s amazing how taller doors throughout your home can make it feel bigger and just overall give it a more open and grand appearance and for not a lot more money.

  • Add electrical outlets outside. We added one at the front corner of our house for Christmas lights and blow ups. Thank goodness for that plug. We also added one to the porch ceiling and it’s perfect for our string lights.

  • Add a gas stub out to your back porch (if you have gas in your home). Nobody wants to change out propane tanks for the grill. Now we don’t have to. We also added an electrical outlet and water to the back porch because we’re building an outdoor kitchen. Paying the builder to put in an outdoor kitchen was hefty so we decided we’d just have them add these things and then we’d do it ourselves.

  • Add the third car garage and extend the length. Okay so this may not be as big of a deal for everyone as it was for us, but we don’t regret it and our garage is the envy of our neighbors. The garages in these track homes are so short and we’re the only one who can actually get a mid size SUV in their garage. We also added the third car garage so my handy husband could have a dedicated workshop area.

  • Pay extra for white ceilings. Or better yet, just paint the whole house white. The builder paint is so terrible and we ended up repainting the entire thing anyway and I was glad the ceilings were already white. We actually argued about this one so don’t tell Tyler I actually agree with him now.

  • Get another Blanco sink. Y’all I love these things. It’s a granite composite sink that is not only beautiful, but also so easy to clean and maintain.

  • Upgrade the baseboards and cabinets. We didn’t do this and I wish we would have. We were pinching pennies and to go with what was included and I really wish we had shaker cabinets and the big squared off baseboard.

  • Upgrade shower and bath fixtures. I mean the ones that aren’t going to be easy to switch out yourself. We would literally have to bust out walls to change some things out and I regret not getting what I wanted from the builder.

  • Add irrigation. Our builder charged extra to put it in the back, but it was something we wanted and the upgrade amount seemed totally worth it.

What I Wouldn’t Do

  • Upgrade light fixtures. This is something else they builder tried to charge us a small forture for and what they had to offer wasn’t even in style (hadn’t been for years) and the quality wasn’t great. Let them put the basic light fixtures in and then come in and change them out afterwards.

  • Upgrade areas that can be carpeted. There are two reasons for this. One is that they charge you too much for just okay material. You can get something nicer for way cheaper from a reputable flooring company than you’ll get it from the builder. Carpet is easy to rip up. The other reason is the sub contractors the builder hires are not great. If they mess something up (and they will) it’s not an easy fix. If it’s an area that has to be tiled, go ahead and have the builder do the tile and get one you actually want.

I hope this helped in some way or at least got you thinking about what makes sense for your family in your new home build. Really decide what’s important and what you don’t want to have to deal with later. Ask yourself when you’re in design if these are the things you really actually want and bring you joy or if it even matters to you. We make some really great decisions and ones I regret. Good luck and feel free to share your woulds and would nots in the comments.

-Monica

Header Photo by David McBee from Pexels

Slique In 60 Challenge

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You know that meme you see sometimes that says I wish I was as skinny as I was back when I just thought I was fat? I went ahead and put one together over there. That’s my new goal weight loss/get healthy goal. I posting about it now as a may of hopefully making myself more accountable.

But for real, I’m about 20 pounds heavier than I was before having kids and I feel uncomfortable in most of my clothes even if they fit and I just don’t really want to go into summer that way. I’ve been doing yoga for over a year and I’ve seen an improvement in my muscle tone, but the bottom line is there is still fat on top of it that I just don’t appreciate. I’ve got what seems like a permanently stress fractured left foot and I guess if I want to lose fat, I’m going to need to do it in the kitchen.

So the Slique in 60 Challenge is obviously a 60 day challenge using the Slique line of products from Young Living. I went with the Slique Complete Collection for a couple reasons. One is I’d really like to do this right and I figure if I’m using all fo the products from the Complete bundle then I don’t really have time to eat junk. The other reason is it totally made sense with my Essential Rewards order. I received over $150 worth of free items I’ll actually use and would have bought at some point and banked about 60 points to use later in a quick order. So basically I got about half of what I spent back in free product or credit for later. Had I purchased a lesser collection, I would have gotten one thing that I could have bought myself for less than $10 and less credit so it just seemed to make the most sense when I did the math.

Honestly I jumped into this with not a ton of information. I figured it wasn’t going to hurt and basically all I had to lose was weight and inches. I plan on coming back here at the end of the 60 days to share how it’s all gone and give more information, but still plan to share this journey as it happens through my Homegirl Blog Instagram Page (@monicabrownblog). I’m guessing mostly in the stories. Feel free to follow along and I’ll see you back here in 60.

Anything that says Slique is what I paid for. Everything else was free. FREE STUFF: Theives Foaming Hand Soap, Thieves Cleaner, Thieves Dish Soap, Thieves Fruit and Veggie Soak, Microfiber Towels, Orange Vitality, Tea Tree (because it was my 9th ER order), Thieves Oil, Kunzea.

Anything that says Slique is what I paid for. Everything else was free. FREE STUFF: Theives Foaming Hand Soap, Thieves Cleaner, Thieves Dish Soap, Thieves Fruit and Veggie Soak, Microfiber Towels, Orange Vitality, Tea Tree (because it was my 9th ER order), Thieves Oil, Kunzea.

5 Wall Signs For The Laundry Room

Our laundry room is a mess. We plan to put cabinets in there soonish to help with all of that, but we’re moving through projects at a snail’s pace lately and so it sits neglected and completely disorganized. I accidentally came across the long print from this group of wall signs last week and was like “oh that would be perfect in that one spot when it’s all done”, but then sometimes I feel silly for wanting to decorate the laundry room at all. Let’s face it, anything to make being in there even slightly more enjoyable is a win. I’m not laundry’s biggest fan. I’m more of a #4 from the group of wall signs below (which I’m probably also buying). So if you also have a boring laundry room in need of a facelift, check out these adorable laundry room wall signs below.

Full Disclosure: Post contains affiliate links.

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  1. The Laundry Guide from Kirklands. Once we have our cabinets done, I should have the perfect spot for this one. It’s like it was made for our space.

  2. 24/7 Laundry from Hobby Lobby

  3. Wash and Dry from World Market

  4. Alexa, Do the Laundry from Amazon. This one is just the print with no frame but super affordable so it’s easy to add one to fit whatever your style is.

  5. Laundry Co. from Kirklands

So yeah, go forth, spruce it up, and make doing laundry at least a little more pretty since it ain’t ever going to be fun.

-Monica

Spring Break at Inks Lake State Park

You know what Saida and I fought about just before heading out with the camper? She didn’t want to go and and kept telling me we should just stay home. Homegirl junior. Not that she cares, but I had to pull the “well mommy and daddy don’t spend too much money a month on this camper to not go anywhere so do you think we should go camping or do you want to sell the camper?”

Obviously we went camping. I won’t say she didn’t cry about it for an hour and half on the way there though because she totally did.

Where’d we go?

Inks Lake State Park (and Longhorn Cavern State Park for a couple hours)

Site number?

West Loop, Site 43. I’d highly recommend this site especially if you like being right on the water and you like having the park store nearby with boat rentals and such. It is very close to the park store though and when they did fishing with a park ranger, there was a lot of foot traffic on the trail between 42 and 43. We didn’t mind, but if you do, consider a different site. And also fair warning, someone did mention to me on the Texas RV Camping Facebook page that they had seen a rattlesnake and some water moccasins in this particular area. We kept and eye out, but never saw anything.

What we did while we were there

Camped, hiked, paddle boated, made memories with family, made s’mores and hamburgers, watched movies in the camper (we’re real people), fished, hit up the park store for ice cream, made a quick trip to Longhorn Cavern State Park to take a cave tour.

Other Things you can do there

They have at least 2 playgrounds, a Kona Ice truck, kayaks, canoes, more hiking trails, swimming in the lake & events depending on the day. Also I had my eye on a winery up Park Road 4 called Perissos Vinyard and Winery, but we didn’t actually go there.


Around the campsite

Campsite 43. You can see the canoes from the park store behind the camper.

Campsite 43. You can see the canoes from the park store behind the camper.

Golden hour behind our campsite looking towards the park store.

Golden hour behind our campsite looking towards the park store.

From our campsite (43) looking out over the cove.

From our campsite (43) looking out over the cove.

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Hiking

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My kids aren’t exactly experienced hikers so when picking out a hike, we went for something that appeared manageable. We chose Lower and Upper Fisherman’s Trail and essentially made a loop. We ended up on the dark green trail for a few minutes so we walked a little further than originally anticipated, but overall this was a great trail for them. They got to climb a little, see the lake, and it wasn’t too long or challenging for them (ages 3 and 5). Corbin fell a few times, but that’s mainly because he’s a little more clumsy than your average 3 year old.

Upper Fisherman’s Trail

Upper Fisherman’s Trail

Lower Fisherman’s Trail and they were only climbing because the wanted to. This is actually just above the trail.

Lower Fisherman’s Trail and they were only climbing because the wanted to. This is actually just above the trail.


Paddle Boats

Anyone curious what happens when I ask my kids to stand next to each other for a picture? THIS! This is what happens. This is why I don’t ask them to do it. Also the only reason I have this sad image is because we were about to buy ice cream and they weren’t taking a chance of not getting it. Also this was after getting off the paddle boats which ended up being a disaster because everyone was tired and both kids (who couldn’t even really reach the peddles) wanted to be able to peddle at the same time. We didn’t even use our full hour and then when I asked Saida what her favorite part of camping was after we’d been home a few days, she said the paddle boats. Blew my mind. I’m like you mean that thing we did where everyone whined the whole time. They really did have a great camping trip overall though.

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Longhorn Cavern State Park

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Longhorn Cavern State Park really wasn’t on our list of things to do on this trip, but when we realized it was literally down the street from Inks Lake State Park, we decided why not. To be honest I really wasn’t sure what we were getting into. I thought we could explore a cave on our own for like 20 minute and then go hit some trails (because from what I can tell they have some super easy and kid friendly trails), but turns out this cavern is much more expansive than I originally thought and it’s only accessible by a 90 minute guided tour. Obviously we took the tour and decided against any hiking trails since we were well into nap time by the time we finished. The kids absolutely loved it. Corbin was a litte over it about an hour in (because it was nap time) but overall he did really well (thank goodness).


We’re only three camping trips in, but so far we’ve really enjoyed each one. I think the kids are anxious to come back here again sometime soon. My final thought is that it’s a fantastic park for families and next time we look forward to bringing bikes for the kids as well. Maybe I’ll even hit up that winery and report back.

-Monica

Weekend Wrap Up: Lots of Sanding and A Little Bit of Crawfish

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This weekend was a weekend of I’m not really sure where the time went or what all got done. I guess technically we did lose an hour, but even still…

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I’d hoped to finish up some projects this weekend that just weren’t moving along as expected. Lots of lots of sanding went down and I think the sanding part might finally be done. And let’s be real, kids need things so it’s not like these things ever get my full attention for too long. Here’s a visual of what we’re working on. I’m sanding and staining multiple projects at a time because they’ll all get stained the same color and it seems like the easiest way to control having them all look the same. Sometimes I just eyeball the stain mixture and don’t actually measure so… yeah. The picture ledge will get painted the same white as the shiplap, but the rest of these are getting stained.

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I feel like the frames for the mirrors are going to take our bathrooms to a whole new level and I’m really excited about it. Our master bathroom especially is in major need of a transformation and paint and framing the mirrors seem like the biggest bang for our buck. We’ve also got some inexpensive light fixtures from Lowe’s that will be mounted into the header portion of the frame. The top of the frame is a 1x10 and the rest of the frame is going to be made out of 1x4s.

I painted a couple of accent walls black (one in our bathroom and one in the office). I don’t regret it, but admittedly I do regret the sheen. Before we can finish and install the floating shelves, I have to head back to Home Depot for more paint. I went with an eggshell by mistake thinking that was what we used for our outdoor kitchen, but the outdoor kitchen is a satin. I think I may purchase a matte this go around. I did try to sand down the sheen because I saw something on the internet that said I could, but our texture is too heavy for this idea to work so back to painting I go.

Saturday evening we attended a random crawfish boil at our home builder’s house. Two years later he and Tyler still keep in touch even though we were a tough customer. The picture below is all the kids (except Corbin) and their big hearts letting the last two crawfish go. Saida is there on the left cautiously watching the release go down. She was curious, but not interested in getting anywhere near those pinchers.

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We're Making Our Own Electricity

We had some solicitors show up to our door not that long ago and for some reason unbeknownst to me we decided to answer it. Maybe it was because between the dog, the kids, and the two cars in the driveway, we were obviously home. I don’t know, but we answered it. Those solicitors were trying to sell us some solar panels and for some crazy reason my husband said, “Okay, we’ll make an appointment.” I thought he was nuts. What do we need solar panels for? Do you even want these solar panels? We had literally never considered it ever in our adult lives, but some dude from Momentum Solar was going to show up at our house the next day and talk to us about it anyway.

Fastforward a little bit and we now have solar panels (they’re not on yet, but we should get switched over any day). I’m still not really sure what to think about all of that, but we couldn’t think of a single reason not to do it after meeting with the guy. Plus supposedly he’s going to hook us up with some free Lobster at his sister’s restaurant, Garbos. You may have seen the food trailer she sold on Diner, Drive-In’s and Dives just weeks after she sold it.

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Let’s get a little more real with how all this went down.

The solicitors told us it was “free”. Of course I knew this wasn’t going to be free because nothing is, but before this dude showed up to my house I wanted to get a better idea of how all this worked and there really wasn’t a lot of information out there. What those solicitors meant is there isn’t any up front cost associated with the installation and purchase of the solar panels. That’s all good and great, but we would still have to pay for them for the next 20 years. After that we’re making free electricity.

So in order for this to be worth it for us it need to do two things. It needed to add value to our home and it needed to not cost us more than our current average electric bill (we added a year of electric bills together and averaged it out per month and basically it’s the same as our monthly payment for the panels and the ones that are being installed are virtually maintenance free with a 25 year bumper to bumper warranty). It’s going to do both of those things. As electricty prices increase, our monthly loan payment stays the same so each year we look better and better. When we move, we’ll transfer the loan to the next homeowner who should be cool with it because the monthly payment will be less than what they would be paying to the electric company each month and the longer the stay, the more value it’ll add to the home when they resale. Everybody wins really.

The only reason the numbers worked out is because the federal government is giving a tax credit for people who qualify. We qualified. We’ll get money back at tax time that we’ll then turn around and pay back to the lender with our personal loan. If we choose to keep the money rather than put it back into the loan, our monthly payment on the loan would go up. Obviously we plan to pay it back into the loan. Without this piece it wouldn’t make sense for us as we don’t plan to stay in our home long enough for it to make sense with a higher payment.

It’s definitely worth talking to a solar company if it’s something you think you might be interested in. Some electric companies are also giving rebates for people who install solar panels on their home. Our electric provider is not unfortunately, but it still made sense. If you need a guy, I’ve got a guy and he may even hook you up with lobster dinner. Feel free to message me for more info including contact info for Momentum Solar.

Disclaimer: I was in no way compensated to write a blog post about Momentum Solar and our experience. I simply wanted to share and educate anyone considering solar as a option based on our experience. The install is done and we should get switched over to our panels any day now.

Parabo Press For The Win + Free Square Prints + $10 Off

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I don’t have quite as much control over things when it comes to Saida anymore. She has her own style, her own likes, wants to decorate her room according to her own taste, and all that good business. I’m hanging on to as much control as I can, but I’m also kind of a believer in letting her explore and letting her take charge of some of those things within reason.

Putting up these super cute (AND FREE because we got the smaller ones which are always free) square prints from Parabo Press is a fun way for me to let her make her own decisions while winning the battle over her room decor. She got to pick each photo she wanted to display. Nevermind that we’re still wearing Christmas pajamas with unbrushed hair (and it’s the afternoon). Scroll down for a coupon code at the bottom of this post for $10 off your first order from Parabo Press. Or if you’d rather, just order the free prints and just pay shipping. Such a fun way to have your kids interact with photographs.

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Code for $10 off your first order from Parabo Press: MNEHAE

My Current Top 10 Home Decor Items on Amazon

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Did you know I have an Amazon Storefront full of my favorite things? It’s true. I’m kind of Amazon Prime obsessed so I sometimes find it therapeutic to shop and add things to my lists (especially when I love something but I’m not ready to buy it or I don’t really need it, but it’s great). It’s funny because most probably don’t think of Amazon when it comes to home decor that actually doesn’t suck, but turns out they have so much amazing stuff. You could literally dress your whole house up with stuff, cute stuff, just from Amazon. Really it’s dangerous.

So anyway, because it doesn’t do anyone any good to keep it to myself….

My Top 10 Favorite Home Decor Items on Amazon Currently in no particular order… (yes I have a black and white obsession)

Also just so we all know, these are just 10 that I was feeling inspired by today. Obviously there is just a ton of awesomeness out there.

  1. I’ve never been to Hawaii, but I dream of going some day. It’s definitely on my list even though I know it’s something that’s now happening anytime soon. In the meantime I’d like to dream about it with this cute Aloha framed print. We’re getting ready to build a ledge shelf in the hallway across from my office and I can see this there on that shelf with other things.

2. I’ve been looking for a rug for my kitchen. I haven’t found the exact perfect thing, but this rug has me wishing I had a spot for it.

3. Lately after checking out the Nesting with Grace blog and Instagram account, I’ve been wanting to add some of these cute wall sconces to my home and of course with my matte black obsession I’ve been eyeing this one in particular. Maybe I’ll actually add a couple to my cart one day soon.

4. Is it weird that I want my laundry to be in something visually pleasing? This is where I’m going with things lately. I’m craving cute for all the boring stuff around my home. This basket has me wondering if laudry might be more fun, if it were pretty. I also kind of have a basket problem.

5. Um the price on these…. pillows and pillow covers can be expensive and these are super affordable and really just super trendy and cute. Loving these covers for sure.

6. And the basket problem continues. I’d like this one in particular for my daughter’s room. There’s just something about paint dipped baskets that I just love. How cute would this be with a spider plant?

7. And we’re not lamp people. We never have been really but for some reason I’m drawn to them. If I was going to buy one, I feel like this would be it.

8. Hello fun and cute tissue box cover. This is plastic and pretty light weight from what I can tell, but it reminds me of some of the cute house figurines I’ve seen as part of the Hearth and Hand (Magnolia) line at Target and the price is right.

9. I secretly want to have my husband run electrical in the breakfast room so we can hang this light fixture. Ooops. Secret is out. I haven’t actually worked up the nerve to ask him to do this yet, but maybe I will soon-ish.

10. I have a giant basket (surprise, surprise) full of blankets. Most of them were given to me and while I’m grateful, none of them really go with anything we have going on right now in our home. I have an urge to give them all away and start fresh.

-monica

Galveston Island Camping Trip: More of My Happy

If you’ve known me for more than 5 minutes, you probably know that the beach/bay is the place my soul craves. Our latest camping trip to Galveston Island State Park was gloomy, windy, and cold. I didn’t care. It rained all weekend at home so gloomy, windy, and cold with a bay view seemed just fine to me. The sun came out on our last morning just as it was about time to start packing up. We decided to spend just 30 more minutes exploring before we had to leave and the dunes on the beach side of the island is where we ended up. They called it their mountain. They were in thier own kind of heaven and I can’t even explain to you how overwhelmingly happy and at peace I was in this moment. It’s the kind of happy and peaceful you forget exists until it sneaks up on you. There isn’t a worry or a care in the world because in that moment nothing else matters except being present and completely soaking it in and storing it in a place to keep you content until that feeling sneaks up on you again.

Beachside at Galveston Island State Park

Beachside at Galveston Island State Park

Leaving was the hardest thing. Nobody wanted to go.

More of my favorites from our trip below.

Galveston Island State Park Hiking Trail

Galveston Island State Park Hiking Trail

Lensbaby detail in the camper

Lensbaby detail in the camper

Saki Monkeys inside the Rainforest Pyramid at Moody Gardens

Saki Monkeys inside the Rainforest Pyramid at Moody Gardens

Outside Moody Gardens Rainforest Pryramid

Outside Moody Gardens Rainforest Pryramid

Inside Moody Gardens Rainforest Pyramid

Inside Moody Gardens Rainforest Pyramid

Walkways over the intercoastal at Galveston Island State Park

Walkways over the intercoastal at Galveston Island State Park

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Hiking at Galveston Island State Park

Hiking at Galveston Island State Park

Camper window light with a lensbaby

Camper window light with a lensbaby

We stayed with our RV at Galveston Island State Park on the bayside in site 55. I feel like sites 58-64 would be ideal in terms of a killer view of the bay. That’s my goal for next time. I think I acutally prefer the bayside to the beachside. The bay has a sense of calm that is totally my jam so I think I’d do that again.

We try to keep things simple. This was a quick trip so Moody Gardens Rainforest Pyramid is the only attraction we spent money on. We did things like drive by port on Saturday while two ships were in and the kids thought that was cool. We didn’t take the ferry this time, but kids also love that and it’s free. Just do it when it’s not crowded. In the past we’ve done the offshore oil rig museum which is pretty cool and affordable and just right there by the cruise ships, just with the wind we skipped it this time. I think Corbin would love it though so I want to take him to do that someday. What I really wanted to do was the oil rig museum at 4pm when the ships left so we could wave to the cruisers on deck as it passed by. That would have been cool, but our go with the flow attitude meant we weren’t around for that. Exploring the park and connecting with nature was priority for me even though we made time for fun in town too.

The Picture That Sums up Why we Bought a Camper / Our Trip to McKinney Falls State Park

I promised myself I’d start blogging about our camping trips once we actually started taking them. I wasn’t sure what these blog posts would be exactly. I’m pretty sure I was thinking at some point I would become some sort of camping expert and people would flock to my blog to hear about our trips and what cool things I did/cooked that they too need to be doing, but I’m not sure this is where that is going. Big dreams, huh? I feel inspired for like 5 minutes and then it’s gone so…. Also, like, I’m never going to be that person. EVER. I don’t have my shit nearly enough together for that.

This morning I edited a picture from our trip that basically sums up our reason for buying a camper and trying to take a camping trip every month. Do you want to see it? Not that your answer matters because I’m going to show it to you whether you want to or not.

Here it is…

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You: But Monica, that’s just a blurry photo of your child swinging on her hammock. How could that possibly sum up your reasons for buying a camper?

Me: Um no, it’s not. That photo right there is a feeling.

But for real, the out of focus element of this image is giving me this out of body experience where time has slowed significantly and I’m just exactly where I’m supposed to be. It’s that thing I was reaching for when we bought our camper. It’s that thing I’ve wasted the past 6 months or so of my life anxiously awaiting. It’s that thing we’ve been missing in this life that doesn’t ever seem to slow down. It just goes faster and faster and faster and we were afraid that before we knew it we’d wake up and our kids would be grown and we would have let the opportunity for these kinds of experiences pass us up.

It’s easy to skip these things over. It’s easy to say, “Well, life is just to damn busy to stop right now.” We live in a world where we have to intentionally schedule time to slow down and so that’s what we’re doing.

Me: You wanna see more of my favorites from this trip to McKinney Falls State Park?

You: Yes, Monica. I can’t think of anything I’d love more.

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Where we stayed: McKinney Falls State Park in Austin, Texas

Campsite: 18, (1 of 12 50 amp sites with water and electric). Very large pull through campsite with one site very close by (worked out fine because they never came out of their camper) and next to the bathrooms which turned out to not be a big deal at all. In fact when Corbin pooped in his pull up we were just thankful there was a dumpster nearby.

Newborn Registries: Give or Get the Gift of Newborn Photography

AUSTIN AND CENTRAL TEXAS LIFESTYLE NEWBORN PHOTOGRAPHER MONICA BROWN

There are two reasons I don’t get hired for newborn sessions. One is that I don’t do posed photography. I’m always happy to make photographer suggestions if this is a thing you’re looking for, but the truth is it’s not my art and I don’t feel inspired to create posed photos. The second reason is because I’m expensive. And yes, I understand it feels this way (maybe a conversation for another day? because nobody wants those details in this post).

So because I can’t really do anything or don’t want to do anything about reason number one, my solution to reason number two is registries for your newborn photo session.

So what does it look like to do a registry with me? Baisically we’re going to start like any other session. I’m going to send you the questionnaire and welcome guide and you’re going to make sure what I do is what you are looking for. Once you’ve decided that my style is what you want, we’ll find you a date on the calendar according to your due date and I’ll create your registry based on the things you expressed interest in as part of the questionnaire. You’ll have a unique web link with a place for friends and family to contribute to your session and any products you’d like to have gifted. Before you know it, your session is completely taken care of (or if there is a remaining balance, you’ll just take care of it on session day). It’s the simplest thing and such an amazing gift (especially for these second and on babies when you alread have all the other things).

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A GIFT FROM ME FOR CREATING YOUR REGISTRY

The first 5 expecting mommas to sign up for a registry will receive a 5x5 Print Pack (24 prints) as a gift from me. These are perfect for casually displaying around your home (or gifting to grandmas and aunts and things) and are printed on 110 lb recycled matte paper with a 0.2" white border.

More Than Just Joyful Moments

Grief and heartache are beautiful in their own way. They come with emotions so overwhelming that shape us in ways we never expected; ways only grief and heartache can. Without love these things don’t exist. It’s part of our story and for each struggle we survive, we rise stronger and more beautiful than the person we were before.

The story of Amos is a roller coaster of heartache and uncertainty. I’m not a religious girl, but it’s one of God’s will and this sweet unborn baby never having to live outside of the womb in pain or struggle. But they knew him, they felt him, and they loved/love him and even though he’ll only be with them for just a short while longer, his story will stay with them always.

My friends, this is why I make photographs. It’s how we love and rise that makes our stories so beautiful. I’m giving you permission to document more than just joyful moments because those moments are really a very small part of what makes us who we are.

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A Letter to My Friends Who Use a Different Photographer

Y’all,

It’s okay!!!!

If you don’t read any further, just know that it really is fine and I’m not offended or upset. I don’t expect everyone to identify with what I’m doing or feel my style is the best way to represent their family.

So here’s a little secret about photographers… or at least me. We don’t want to be the right photographer for every single person out there, unless of course every single person is passionate about the exact same thing we are and completely shares our vision. I do something specific. I’ve spent years trying to figure out who I am as a person/photographer (still working on it), shoot in a way that reflects that, and cater specifically to those who are in the market for that exact thing. No matter what our style of photography is, we photographers recognize that we are made for a specific client or set of clients and those people aren’t always the friends we already have. They can be and it’s totally awesome when they are, but it’s also okay if they’re not. There’s a really good chance we’ll still be your friend anyway.

Okay, now consider this permission to go forth and work with whatever photographer you feel you and your family most identifies with and will represent you most accurately or in the way you’d like to be represented.

I’m still your friend,

Monica

P.S. To the friend who prompted this letter, thank you! I still think you’re cool and I probably needed to write this anyway.

The Weaver Family

So it’s that time of year where we spend a little time looking back and being thankful for what this year has done for us and start looking forward in anticipation of what this next year will bring. My word for 2018 (instead of a new years resolution) was Rise. I wanted it to be a constant reminder for me to take each tough situation and make the best of it; to come out of it a better person than I went in. Now that we’re approaching the end of the year I think my biggest “tough situation” was just honing in on who I really am as a photographer and letting go of the parts of photography that I’m not and just owning it.

It’s been an interesting lesson and one that had me really thinking about whether or not photographing people is really the right thing for me. If you look back through my year in photographs you can actually see that struggle happening photographically. But I do want to photograph people. I just want to do it with my vision, which is the whole point of art, right?

This means I’ve lost some clients in 2018. That’s okay. I still love those awesome families and am grateful for every second I got to spend photographing them. It also means I’ve started working with some amazing new families that share my vision for their session.

The Weavers are one of those amazing new to me families.

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Focus on What Matters: Featuring The McKenzie Family

Austin and Central Texas Lifestyle Family Photographer

The McKenzie Family was the first family who was totally on board with using the online styling tool provided with their session and their session just so happens to be one of my favorite sessions of the year.

So why do I offer this service if my focus in a session is not clothing and what people look like, but rather what it feels like? There’s a couple reasons actually.

  1. You feel good when you know you look good which translates into confidence in your photos or whatever it is you’re doing in life right then.

  2. Clothing can sometimes be distracting and take away from a moment or feeling in an image. What I mean is you might have this beautiful moment, but little Johnny is wearing a neon shirt and when you look at the photo you see the neon shirt before you see the moment.

So basically using the online styling tool allows us the confidence to focus on what matters in a lifestyle photo session, the moments, and obvioulsy adds that extra touch of beauty in an image. While moments are my primary focus, I’m always thinking about the aesthetic of your images as well and my goal is to take your moments and enhance them the best way I know how. The easiest way to do this is with beautiful light, camera ready clothing, and super gentle posing that allows for your moments to happen naturally.

Any my goodness did it come naturally to this sweet family. I feel so much each time I see the McKenzie Family’s photos. I can’t wait to see them again this Spring for their in home session to celebrate their sweet girl’s first birthday.

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A Photographer's Photographer: Featuring the Scott Family

Austin and Central Texas Lifestyle Family Photographer

I’m going to let out a little secret about me. I want you to hire me because you love what I do and it makes you feel something. If you literally just need one photo for your Christmas card, I want you to hire someone else. There, I said it.

I realize that might sound crazy, especially to my husband who wants me to accept every potential client because he thinks in terms of money and because I could just shoot one or two quick family images and not put as much effort into each session, but I’m not that way. I never have been. Money is not my motivator (much to Tyler’s dismay).

My ideal family is one who’s main focus in a session is to capture something real. Something that makes them feel and fall in love with their imperfect, but amazing and beautiful life together. A family that knows that these small moments are actually really big ones and that when they look back on them 10 years from now, every emotion will come flooding back and they’ll remember that time of life that seemed so hard as something of pure beauty and so worth the struggle.

Do you know that feeling I’m talking about? It reminds me of my first couple years of marriage. There was absolutely nothing glamorous about it, but looking back now the simplicity of that time is something I will always treasure.

I’m going to get a little passionate for a minute.

I think a lot of photographers/creatives feel in this same sort of way. I think that’s what makes us artists. It’s not that we just have a nice camera and decent enough eye for composition and decide we could make a few bucks. I mean, maybe a lot of us start off there, but some of us get to the point where we want this thing we’re doing for a living to feed our own soul instead of kill it and we really, really want the people we work with to feel just as deeply about what we make for them. We want our work in the hands of someone who will feel with their whole heart each time they see the love they have for each other captured in an image taken by us. That’s what I want for my work and those are the families I want to work with.

So yes I’ve put a price tag on my work, but part of the point of that price tag is to weed through the families who don’t want what I want from a session. The point of that price tag is to find my families; the ones who truly value the unique story of their own lives.

I think this is how I became a photographer’s photographer.

Now in the spirit of community of competition I present you with the beautiful Scott Family Photos. Michaela is also a photographer in the Southwest Austin area (Michaela Scott Photography). Her family is beautiful and so full of love for each other and I consider myself extremely lucky and honored to have had the opportunity to photograph them. The funny thing is Michaela just wanted one photo, but not for her Christmas card. Our session was worth it to her, if she got just one photo of her family that accurately depicted the love she and her family feel for each other. Good news though, this is only a slice of what she got. Both of our hearts are full.

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