Dreams for all seasons.

Beautiful one day, perfect the next.

A whole world on a single island.

5 Reasons Why Travel is Good for Your Family

Family Adventures

Best of family travel

What is travel? And what is a traveler? What Does Travel Mean To You?

in Practical Tips
Created: 10 May 2016

Today one of my good friends and amazing photographer, Leslie Rhodes, is sharing some of her best tips for getting sweet photos of your littles.  Leslie is a film photographer and polaroid addict based out of Maryland.  Her work has been featured on USA Today, Optiko Zine and Kindred Magazine.  And as you are about to read, one smart mama:)

She Says:

Thanks Melissa for having me over today. I’m really happy to be here.  So let’s get started.  You already know how important it is to take pictures of your kids, Right? RIGHT!   But let me say that it’s the greatest gifts you can give your kids, your future grand kids, and the rest of your family.

Pictures are timeless and more importantly priceless. 

I love going to my mom’s house and sitting on the floor going through thousands of pictures.  It never gets old looking at them.

I wanted to share some tips with you that I’ve learned about photography:

-Don’t stage your kids.

Have your camera available so when you see a moment you can capture it in its raw beauty.  Kids have a hard time staying still so try to capture them as they are.  You’ll be happier with the results.

-Use natural light and get to know it.

Its your best friend.  Study the light in your house if you take indoor pictures.  Or make sure you use shade when you are outside to avoid harsh lighting.

- I can’t emphasize enough that it doesn’t matter what camera you have.

You don’t have to have a professional camera to take breathtaking photos of your kids. Don’t spend thousands of dollars. Take Melissa’s class and read your camera manual.  Simple and easy.  My favorite photos of my kids recently are all taken on polaroid camera! A very old polaroid which cost me a quarter of what a digital camera is worth.


-Practice. Practice. Practice. 

My Ultimate secret on how I learned to use my camera… When I first started getting back into photography I would practice taking pictures of a hard boiled egg. NO LIE.  It helped me learn lighting, shadows and how to position myself when taking a picture.  Try it.

-Please, print your pictures.

Don’t let them sit on your computer or your memory card.  Display them, give them as gifts, or make an album for your kids.

See I told you she was one smart mama:)

Thanks Les – your pictures are amazing!!!

in Practical Tips
Created: 10 May 2016
Robert and I are crazy busy (or maybe just plain crazy) getting ready to leave on our first road trip.  We are headed to Knoxville, TN for my little brother’s wedding!  While I am busy with planning, prep, and little Charlotte, I’ve asked Victoria Montemayor to guest post today.  Victoria took the Snap Academy Workshop last month and recently sent me a note explaining how, when she had her phone and camera stolen, she didn’t lose any pictures.  Not only because I had explained how to backup pictures in my class but because she has the process automated.  Today she is explaining her process for automatic backup (hallelujah for one less thing on your mind!)  Enjoy!

Mamacitas! Howdy from central Texas.

When Melissa asked me if I had any blog post topics for y’all, I immediately thought of sharing Dropbox – the bliss bubbling tool I use on a weekly basis or organize photos across my digital camera, smart phone, and desktop.

The idea behind Dropbox is simple: It’s is an online storage service that you can access from anywhere with an internet connection or mobile phone service.

Essentially, it is more hard drive space on a server and hard drive that isn’t yours. If you’ve heard of “the cloud”, that’s what those geeky people are referring to (love those guys!).

I use Dropbox for both building my business & for personal pleasure (read: instagramming photos) and today I am sharing how it works with YOU to help you simplify your life & save those meaningful photos you’ve been learning to take.

How Does Dropbox Work?

A graphic depicting a mobile phone hugging a Dropbox

What happens: You download Dropbox to your computer and it adds a folder on your desktop.


This folder acts completely like a regular folder and you add files and photos to it, except when you jump on your friend’s computer or get on your smartphone or tablet.

When you log in to Dropbox from any alternate location, you can still access all your stuff!

Dropbox automatically syncs anything you add to its folders to all your devices and to the company server – yo


u can access your docs, files, and pics from anywhere you have an internet connection.

It’s kinda like logging into your personal email account – you can get to it from anywhere!

Dropbox’s Mission: to solve life’s hidden problems & re-imagine the things we do every day. Oh, I am so down with problem solving…

Here we go!

My Top 3 Re-Imagined ways I use Dropbox to simplify and add joy to life:

1. Auto-save your phone pics & never lose them again

Download the Dropbox app and automatically set up your phone to save all your camera-phone pics to a folder in Dropbox, and you’ll never have to worry about only having photos on one device or losing pics when your two-year-old discovers how fun cell phone throwing is. 

Having Dropbox installed was SO important for me when I recently had my purse stolen, along with my Nexus 7 and smart phone . Ugh. At least those creeps didn’t get my random camera pics, too!

Set it up now and fuggetaboutit. You can restrict uploads to only happen when you’re wifi connected, so it won’t eat up your data plan.

2. Be a better #Instagrammer

If you’ve ever perused Instagram and fiddled with your grainy phone pics, you’ve likely come across amazing baby photos like these that are too good to be true! 

How do these ladies get such high quality pics off their phone?

They didn’t.

Add your crystal clear digital camera pics to your Dropbox folder on your desktop each time you batch download from the camera, then upload them to Instagram via your phone’s Dropbox folder!

Share your favorite pics, not just the ones you capture with your phone.

Instant #insta notoriety + tons of double-taps will make all your friends #jelly.

3. Share Naked Baby Pics with Aunt Sally

Dropbox allows you to share folders with anyone you designate – no matter where in the world they are.

Right now you’re emailing pics back and forth, trying to mess with Facebook photo album permissions, and then printing and mailing photos to your Aunt Sally – who you are so grateful is on email but still thinks Facebook is nonsense.

Most of the time stealing photos from friends’ social media sucks because of the grainy look, but your email won’t send more than one hi res photo at a time. Not. Enough. Space. What?!

Create a folder on Dropbox and share your high quality pics with select friends and family, so only y’all see the sweet nursing photo with Momma and day-old Charlotte (and then they can print on their own dime!).

Dropbox will even give you a little notice when folders are updated by your long-distance fam, so you’ll feel more connected to them, too. Perfect!

What should you do now? 

Download the program on your computer and mobile devices and set them up, then tell me – what are your favorite apps?

I use Dropbox mainly for photos. Do you re-purpose your apps? I wanna hear what you use!

My specialty is in helping lady solo-preneurs get organized, focused, and on track, and I’m a natural Type-A woman. I love sharing my tips for living life and getting things done in your biz, so if you wanna learn more tips head on over to VictoriaMontemayor.com and sign up for my newsletter!

in Practical Tips
Created: 10 May 2016

3 tips for fast and awesome blog posts

After a year of planning, plotting, dreaming and sometimes believing it would never come true…

we are finally on the road!!! 

Right now we are in East Tennessee and will be on our way to Kentucky soon.

For a trip like this I wanted to remember all the important details, the people we met, the place, the stories, but, as much as I like the idea of journaling, I’m just not very good at keeping up with it.  Scrapbooking?  Yes, I love that and I have a lot of fun doing it, but, that is one time consuming hobby that requires a LOT of room for both working and storage.  It also get pretty expensive with that the cute supplies that I get attached to in the store.  So my solution for remembering and sharing is a personal blog.

Some people think that blogging takes so much time but I’m going to share three simple tips to help you get a post up super fast.  Why do I think you should start a personal blog?

1.  A great place to keep record of your story and share with your family and friends.

2.  It’s free

3.  It’s much faster than scrapbooking and more visually interesting than a journal

Tip number one: Post as soon as you can.

If you are anything like me, the longer you wait to get to something the less excited you become about said thing.  If I am right in the middle of something I can’t wait to share with my family and friends, but If I wait two weeks to get the pictures off my camera then I am a lot less likely to share.  My goal is to post on the day I take pictures.  How do I make time to blog so quickly?

Tip Two: Don’t be afraid of the writing

After I graduated college with a minor in English that happened almost by accident I decided I didn’t really like writing all that much…so I let my pictures do the talking.  I write just enough to fill in the blanks- and this post has more writing than usual.  If you love to write then have at it and enjoy, but, don’t feel like a blog post has to be accompanied by a 500 word essay.  Upload the pictures add some captions or a brief description and then post.  I love looking over the posts that I share with my family and believe me the picture to word ration is about 10:1.  And we all like it that way:)  A post takes at the most 15 minutes and usually more like 5.

My third awesome tip:  Think about your story

While I’m in the middle of a situation that I know I want to share with my family I think about what I want to say and I take pictures that go along with how I would tell the story.  For example in the post below I share about how we were nervous (snap a picture of Robert’s hands gripping the steering wheel) then I tell them about how we ate in Wal-mart’s parking lot (get a picture of Rob finishing off his sandwich) friendly neighbors?  yup get a picture of that too.

Blog posts do not have to be stressful, labor intensive, or something you “have to do”  they can be fun and a really great way to record your story and share with friends and family.  As a plus your blog can be public or private.


So go ahead and read below about our first road trip and then leave a note letting me know if you like to blog or what keeps you from it.

in Practical Tips
Created: 10 May 2016

You remember to empty your card, charge your batteries and you actually have your camera with you!  It’s a big day:)

But, when you want to snap those special pictures, for the life of you, you can’t get your kids to look at the camera!  By the time you put your camera away you are frustrated and your child is starting to hate your camera.  I’ve been there and here is what I’ve learned…

You can get an amazing picture, that really captures who your child is, without them actually looking at you! 

Your little one isn’t always going to be in the mood, so after trying for a minute, if they don’t want to look then try sitting back and taking pictures with out the cajoling and frustration.

I promise you, you will love the pictures just as much if not more!

You can also sign up here to watch session three from the Snap Academy Workshop that gives great ideas on how to get them to look at you without a cheesy grin like this… (still blaming my mother for this girl seeing a camera and automatically saying cheese :p )

Do you have a favorite picture where the subject isn’t looking at the camera?  If so share it on the Facebook page here.


in Practical Tips
Created: 10 May 2016

We are wrapping up our month long test run and things are going really well so far.  Only a few things went wrong and we arn’t focusing on the fact that we don’t have air and water this week.  It just adds to the sense of adventure:)

This week as we head back to Maryland, Connie Holden, a Snap Academy graduate, is sharing how she solved a messy backyard problem with a lesson she learned.

  It’s late summer and I have four little boys.

And my backyard is trashed…

It is literally littered with water guns, baseballs, a wadded up slip n slide and pieces of some unsuspecting plastic sandbox toy (or two?) that got caught up in the lawnmower.

Not exactly an awesome backdrop to capturing the last days of summer play with my camera.

Yes, we could actually get out trash bags and clean-up the remnants of our summer fun, but this particular morning was the last Saturday before school started. Spontaneity ruled, and this mom decided to let it go and enjoy the moment.

Enter my favorite Snap Academy lesson:

finding (or creating!) white space.

I have noticed that my favorite pictures of my kids are the ones with very simple backgrounds. Just empty space that doesn’t distract from their sweet faces.

On this particular Saturday, my husband and 7-year-old were jumping on the trampoline. The edge of the trampoline and fence behind it created harsh horizontal lines that were distracting. So, to capture the scene on camera, I changed my perspective and found that white space in the sky.

Here’s another time when I changed my perspective (to look down, instead of up) and capture my 3 year old with a neutral background, capitalizing on a few square feet of clutter-free deck.

My Snap Academy “aha!” lesson? Find that white space!

I now see white space wherever we are, and move myself around to use it as a backdrop for my photos whenever possible. 


  Connie Holen is a wife, mom, and Air National Guard Pilot. When she’s not chasing after her four boys or piloting a refueling plane, you can find her designing and sewing bags for her business, FlyGirl. Her newest collection of handcrafted leather bags hits the shelves of her etsy shop in November 2013. Find out how a FlyGirl bag can pull-together your look at www.flygirlbags.com

in Practical Tips
Created: 10 May 2016

My family and I finally got everything together and took  our maiden voyage!!!  Tiny house living suits us and Rob, the girls and I enjoying almost every moment (the driving part still scares us a little:)  We’re just finished up a test run which included Virginia, Tennessee, a wedding and Kentucky – and every picture I took is very important to me – especially my brother’s wedding.

So you can imagine how my stomach sunk when I went to put in my memory card to download some of those pictures and an error message popped up saying, “CARD ERROR – please format card” Yikes!!!

Now understand this –

when you format a card you erase all the data. 

That means if you haven’t emptied your card in a day, week, or month you will lose all those moments you wanted to remember.  Thankfully, I only had about 12 pictures on my card and was able to recover them.  The reason I had so few pictures, unlike my mother who has 649 on her card at all times (true story!), is because I have a plan that saves me from losing a boat load of pictures.

Here is my routine :

1.  Every three to four days (or the end of a day if I have pictures that are very special and irreplaceable) I download all pictures from my memory cards and sort them into year/month files.

2.  Then I format each card following the steps below

- Open your computer file and right click on your memory card

- click format and then start 

This will erase all the date on the card and ensure that every time you are re-inserting your card you are starting fresh and all your special images are downloaded.

Take a few minutes every few days and make this part of your routine as well – believe me you won’t regret it!

in Practical Tips
Created: 10 May 2016

Just a few days ago a mama was talking to me about how fast Christmas is coming and how she is dreading taking another Christmas picture for their cards. She suggested that I offer a class and I thought it was a great idea! So I’m super excited to announce…

Christmas Card Pictures

How to create a picture you are excited to share

The class will go live on November 1st and only be available for one week!  If you are already signed up on the mailing list then you’ll get an email with all details and if you haven’t sign up yet you can do it right over there on the side bar!  Also, one lucky person who shares about the class via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or email will receive a custom card design from yours truly valued at $55.00!  Just leave a comment below letting me know.  Fun times:)