Miss Amelia’s First Year in Photos

Amelia's First Year in Photos, Sam Allen Creates

I’ve never had the chance to document the “every 3 months” photos before… getting the opportunity to capture little Mia from behind my camera is just pure joy. While editing all her birthday photos, posted yesterday, I just kept getting so  emotional—and so thankful! Not only do we have every 3 month moments, we had so many more in between. I am so blessed to get to do what I do. To watch these little ones grow from behind my camera… seeing their little sleepy smiles grow to goofy toothy grins. Oh I just love them all.

Miss Mia, I can not even describe how much love I have for you. From being there on the day you were born, meeting you just minutes after you came into this world… to just a couple weeks ago when you walked right into my arms with that giant dimple toothy grin. Oh my heart wants to burst.

How much can my heart grow with love for you. From the day you were born, I’ve loved every moment I have ever gotten to spend with you.

xoxo Auntie Sam, aka your personal paparazzi photographer

Sam and Amelia at Disneyland May 2014

To see Amelia’s life through my lens:

Missing the Best of Friends and the Littlest of Friends

I just got back last night from a week long trip to upstate New York.

Whenever I tell people I’m going to New York they get really excited and recommend places in Manhattan to visit… but “my” New York isn’t in the city… you see a little piece of my heart moved back to upstate New York almost 6 years ago.

Looking back though, when I met my friend Joyce, almost 10 years ago, I had no idea what kind of monumental friendship, a best of friendship, we were about to embark on. Joyce is someone who matched me in uninhibited enthusiasm for the smallest things in life. Someone who understood me far better than most. And knowing she called New York her home, I pushed her away trying to break the friendship before it could really form. But God had other plans. While Joyce was back home in New York going to college, we grew ever closer by weekly phone calls and when she finally came back to California, our best of friends-ship truly began. But you see, Joyce is easy to get along with and she truly is adored by all who meet her. Her joyful attitude is just that contagious.

Flash forward a few years, a few moves, a few weddings… to the here and now… to where just 3 weeks ago she blessed us all further more by giving birth to little Emily Ann.

I had the pleasure to go up to this farm laden country side, where we spent this past week cuddling with the new babe on the couch and driving around town eating more ice cream I’ve had all year put together!

I had the best intentions to get a lot of creative brainstorming done while I was there, I even bought a brand new sketchbook for the trip and everything! And I had all these dreamy magical newborn photo ideas in my head… but instead it was nice to just *be.* I never once used my sketchbook, some days I didn’t even take a single photo! We just talked, and talked, and talked and just really cherished each moment with little Emily.

All that to say, I’m still a little heartbroken to be home, still a little jet-lagged—oh these darn headaches of mine—and still a little behind in life right now so even though I had big plans to post a ton of photos from my trip this week, I am just going to end this little introduction and follow up with more photos from my trip later on.

But of course, I have to post some sort of photo so let’s end with the last group photo from the trip… me and my bestie with her new little love.

sam joyce emily new york 2014

Starting an Etsy Shop: Some Humble Words of Advice

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I am not an Etsy expert, but I wanted to share a few thoughts that I have come to realize over this past year. And I am sure if you went in to creating a shop after doing some market research, a lot of this would be already known to you. But I just jumped into running my shop, feet first with a blindfold on… just wanting to see what would happen.

Since I’m just coming out of a booming few weeks for my little shop… i.e. doubled my total sales in less than 2 months (!!!)… I’ve been reflecting back on times of struggle and lack of movement in the shop. Just a few weeks ago, I was feeling bummed that my sales were down and then boom, now I’m struggling to keep up! It’s only just now calming down and going back to normal. I’ve definitely noticed that there seem to be cycles in the Etsy world, especially when a lot of your clients are brides. But I hope the following random bits of wisdom can help in any Etsy business, whether wedding related or not.

Custom Requests

When you’re first starting out, just say yes. Yes to custom requests that is. They may be a little more work for you in the beginning but I can vividly remember a few custom requests that came in that drastically changed my business. The first one was last November when a woman wrote me saying that she liked my address stamps but just wanted their first names written out with a typed out last name. So basically an address stamp with no address. Well that sounds easy, I can do that no problem I told her. Without realizing it, by saying yes to her and then posting this new product in my shop, I’ve now sold over 25 of them. But I had no idea that was even a need to fill, until I was asked to fill it.

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What Do You Want?

List things that you wish were out there. Here’s another product that I had no idea was already out there. I wanted to hand write my own wedding vows so I thought, hey, maybe other people do too! 33 sales later, with three options to choose from, I can say that my shop is definitely leaning in this direction over the sale of shower invitations that I had first listed, and started out my shop with.

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Variety of Products

List a variety of items… It took me a month to get my first sale  and that was for a invitation printable. But it took my listing the original address rubber stamp for me to get more frequent orders. After being open for over 6 months, I had just barely reached 50 sales. Of course, that was still a major accomplishment for me! And then sales really started to pick up even more after listing the handwritten wedding vows printables. Now, a little over a year later, I have over 70 items with an average of 50 sold items a month! And a variety of all is bought on a daily basis, there is no “one shining star” but a few in each category… to me, this just says that if I stuck with just printables, or just stamps, I would not have the same quantity sold (However, the downfall of that is less time to perfect the existing items).

What if you only have one item to sell? Can you make more of a variety, or add items that are somewhat related? For example, I started with address stamps and then moved into “thank you” stamps, then just plain name stamps, because that’s what people were writing and asking me for. It just kept growing, all stemmed from just that one item.

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Watch Your Competitors’ Products and Images

I also click through when someone “favorites” one of my items and see what else they are “favoriting.” Doing that, allowed me to see what else people are shopping for and who my direct competition is. This led me from just selling a stock Thank You! stamp and adding personalization options… all because I saw that the people liking my stamps also liked a personalized stamp which I wasn’t offering at the time.

And then while looking at your competitors shops, notice how they feature their images. For some time, I primarily just showed a photo of the stamp itself. While the stamps are beautiful, wood engraved with the design, I began to notice that for the most part, all other shops just showed the stamp design/impression… not the stamp itself. That led me to start taking a bit more time styling images with envelopes and tags, showing the variety of uses for the stamps. Then using that photo as the main image, but the thumbnail shows a slightly cropped in view of just the design. Best of both worlds, right?

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When It’s Slow… Don’t Panic

Chances are, your shop will have a boom, then slow down, then increase in sales again… over and over again… when it’s slow, don’t panic. Take a deep breath and use that time to better your shop. Add photos of projects and finished pieces to the listings, and improve your listing descriptions. Go back and check those other favorited listsings I mentioned before, see how they’ve worded things and see what else they have for sale. Brainstorm new products you can offer. Or just enjoy a break, kick back and relax!

Wow… guess I’ve learned a lot, didn’t realize I would have so much to say in this post!

Again, I am not an Etsy expert by any means… my measly 300+ sales are nothing in comparison to other shops, but each sale I am definitely proud of as there is a ton of shops like mine out there to choose from! Most of these are just good practice, and may not lead to a growth in sale, so take my words with a grain of salt, and know what works for me may not work for you. But by trial and error, keep what works, and move on from what doesn’t!

I’d love to connect with you! Do you own an Etsy shop or thinking about opening one? Leave a comment below!

My Etsy Shop: Your New Friend Sam | Marks One Year of Business

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A month ago, my little shop officially had its one year birthday! And while I was in the midst of pressing deadlines, I barely was able to acknowledge this little monument.

So here I am, a whole month late, saying Happy Birthday, my little shop.

While I may not have got out the cake and candles, my shop seemed to put on its big girl pants and really grow in February. On January 30th, I texted my mama that I had made my 100th sale. On March 1, I made my 150th. So even though I wasn’t celebrating its birthday, my shop sure was celebrating—and keeping me mighty busy at that!

I still can’t believe how this year has gone. I still can’t believe this road we are on now. What started as a shop for my random shower invitations has now morphed into a custom rubber stamp shop that also specializes in custom lettering for brides and businesses.

Whether this comes and goes as a temporary season, or this could turn into something full time in a few years—I’m excitedly standing by, and holding on for dear life!

And to close, here’s just a few photos of some of the latest designs, since the last update, from my little shop.

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Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

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We arrived at the hospital at 8 p.m. By 10:30, we were able to give little Parker a kiss on the cheek and praise God for his little life.

Granted his mama had been there since 6 a.m. 🙂

Either way, litte Parker’s arrival got me thinking about life. And how intricate God has made each and every one of us.

And how “the big bang theory” doesn’t fly with me when you see a half hour old baby, see him cooing right up against his mommy. Knowing that man and wife created this life by God’s grace.

That doesn’t just “happen.” That doesn’t just evolve. Because really, our bodies fall apart over time. They don’t evolve throughout our lifespan and get better, they slowly decay. So no, I do not believe that life came from a spark or whatever the latest evidence and research has proven.

I believe whole-heartedly that there is a God who created me, created you, and created this world for our temporary enjoyment.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

I whole-heartedly believe that life starts at conception, and that God knows that life even before conception.

Looking at baby Parker, my heart grew with love for him and I just can’t help but praise God for this wonder and miracle of life that He allows us to experience each and everyday.

My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.

Psalm 139

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Brittany’s Fairy Weekend in the Sequoias at Camp Nelson

What a whirlwind of a weekend! Just last night we got back from Camp Nelson in the Sequoia National Forest. We were celebrating our dear friend Brittany’s upcoming nuptials with our dear mommies. Every fall, our moms go up to Camp Nelson for an official Girls Weekend. No kids, just the moms. But to celebrate the bride, our moms treated us to a first class weekend away. They pampered us in every way and cooked the most amazing food! Brittany was given special gifts, like the world’s most amazing fairy garden terrarium filled with miniature memories from all of us. And of course, the fairy that lives at the cabin continuously left us gifts, waiting on the doorstep of her little tree cottage—gifts like bridesmaids pins, fairy tattoos, and bubbles. Seriously this weekend was amazing. Our moms are just so amazing and it was just the start of celebrating my very special friend Brittany! These next three months are just going to be so much fun!

Here are just a handful of photos along with an extra special montage video of Brittany’s Fairy Weekend!

Bridesmaids!

Claire and Torrie at Dome Rock.

Our amazing mothers.

The Fairy House

Maid of Honor, Mother of the Bride, Bride to Be!

Brittany’s very special Fairy Garden / terrarium

Remember Eli’s birthday video, this was also created with iMovie. And was pretty much complete before leaving the mountains, I love my iPhone!

From the Bottom of Our Hearts

A sincere thank you will not cover our gratitude from all the birthday wishes from all our friends and family!

From the phone calls to the texts, from Facebook to the cards… we thank you.

And the gifts, so many truly thoughtful presents, I thank you.

And to those you took my 25 Wishes post seriously, thank you! I didn’t put that out there to be serious, but it was so sweet to actually mark so many of those items off the list.

And to all those who came to our birthday hotluck, thank you. Being surrounded by a range of friends and family… both his and hers and ours. Thank you.

Thank you so much. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

I Choose Dumplings

For over a month, I pestered my husband. Well I know I pester him a lot more than that. But for the past month, I specifically pestered him to make me a homemade seafood dinner on my birthday. He flat out refused. To me, him making me seafood—a food group he downright despises—would mean he loves me. He cares for me. His sacrifice of cooking such a food, would mean he unselfishly loves me and would do anything for me.

Andy has known since the beginning of our relationship that the way to my heart is through food. I just love food. All food. It’s disgusting really. But he learned and memorized—before we had even become official—exactly how I order at every fast food place. A task that only my mother could do. When he first recited to me how I would get a burrito with no tomato, extra sauce, and xyz at Taco Bell and then go on to tell me how I order a burger at In-n-Out and then what I would get at McDonalds, I knew two things: 1, I eat out way to much; and 2, I wanted to spend the rest of my life with someone who took notice of these little details of my life.

Back to today, I was deeply offended that he would not make me seafood. Didn’t he love me, I asked myself. Then, last week, on a night that I thought I was coming down with the flu and had come home early from work and everything… he called to say he was making homemade chicken and dumpling soup. Because I was sick. Because I needed him to take care of me. Because he loves me. And even after all my ranting about some dumb birthday dinner, and after he worked late at a photo shoot, and after running to the store and getting home after 7, he made me dinner.

No, I do not need a seafood dinner on my birthday. But I do need a husband who will stick by me even when I make selfish demands. I need a husband who will take care of me in sickness and in health. I need Andy.

So whatever he chooses to make for my birthday dinner… I choose dumplings.

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28 Years

Today’s my parent’s 28th wedding anniversary.

That’s 7 times longer than Andy and I have been married.

In just these past two years alone, my parents love for one another has manifested itself in so many ways. With all my dad’s “episodes,” you can see that they have a new-found appreciation for their relationship. There’s a dependence upon one another that, from what I’ve learned so far, seems necessary in a marriage. They understand they can’t get through life without the other. You can see this in the way they look at each other and in the way they touch one another.

My mom has taught me so much on how to be a godly wife. She has taught this to me not only in how she cares for my dad, but in how she cares for my sister and me. She gives without ceasing and inspires me to do the same. She is the most unselfish person I have ever met. With each passing day and with each passing doctor’s visit this past year my mom just said “keep praying.” She was determined.

My dad has taught me about unconditional love and forgiveness. While we have not always had the best relationship, you would never know it when you see us together. Or actually, maybe you can, because as my mom says, I love him more than her. I think I am just making up for the “lost years.”

The following photo is from our wedding (taken by Photography by Carolyn), it’s the photo that comes up on my phone when my mom calls… I just love the look on my mom’s face as she dances with my dad. That’s true love.

Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad.

I love you both so very much!

Rachel’s Senior Prom & Graduation

When I first met Rachel, roughly 5 years ago, she was a snobby little girl at the dance studio I worked at. Over the years, I have become quite close to Rachel, her sister, and her very wonderful mom. They are the type of friends everyone needs in life, a friend to lean on, to laugh with, to cry with. When I left the dance studio 18 months ago, one of my biggest fears was losing contact with them. Why did I ever worry? I have seen them about once a month to catch up or to go to Disneyland. And since I got my new camera, Rachel has been my always willing model. Here are a few of my favorites from her senior activities: prom and graduation. Enjoy!

My dear sweet Rachel,

I am just so proud of all that you accomplished this past year. It was truly an honor to be invited to be at your graduation, to witness your valedictorian speech, and to see the hope for the future in your eyes. Thank you for asking me to take your photos for both graduation and your senior prom. This past year and a half getting to know you all the more is something I have truly cherished. Your spirit for life is contagious! Thanks for making me laugh, putting a smile on my face and being my Disneyland adventure buddy. Thanks for being a person one can truly count on in life, without fail. You reflect our Lord and Savior with your never ending kindness and selflessness. You challenge me to be a better person.

As iron sharpens iron,
so a friend sharpens a friend.

Proverbs 27:17

As you begin your college education, know that I am always, without fail, there for you.

With all my love,

Sam

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,
so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,
filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Philippians 1:9-11