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2.27.2015

INTO THE WOODS

Happy Friday, brave hearts! Yesterday I woke up, peeked out the window, and saw my world covered in six inches of fluffy snow. We really only get one good snow a year, and it's kind of exciting when we get anything beyond a dusting. I hopped out of bed, threw on my snow clothes real quick, and headed out into the woods with my trusty camera to capture the magic.

Snow is such a beautiful thing to me. It falls, the world stills, and everything is covered in a blanket of white, masking the the imperfections of the world. Snow feels clean. It feels refreshing, and it feels healing. It is always a reminder to me of how Jesus has washed me white as snow, and that is the way he sees me. I see my sin, my imperfections, and my failures, but in the eyes of my savior, I am as white and clean as that fluffy, freshly fallen snow. :)

We spent our morning sledding, laughing, making snow angels, and building a snowman while waiting for snow and ice on the roads to melt. Fun was had, friends. I hope I never grow up so much where I quit enjoying the small things in life like playing in the snow. Kid at heart for life. Who's with me?
















Do you get snow where you live? Love it or hate it? What's your favorite snow related activity? Happy weekend! XOXO.

2.26.2015

10 THINGS TO DO IN HARRY POTTER WORLD

Going to Harry Potter World this past December was a dream come true. I finished reading the books about a week before our Christmas vacation, so all the characters and my favorite moments were still fresh on my mind. I was all wide eyed with wonder when we stepped into Diagon Alley for the first time. I truly felt like I had been transported to a different world and half-expected Harry, Ron, and Hermione to run down the alley and give me a big hug (because we are besties, obvi.) One thing you should know: if you are wanting to visit both Diagon Alley and Hogwarts, you will need a park-to-park ticket. Diagon Alley is in the Universal Studios side and Hogwarts/Hogsmeade is in Islands of Adventure. Now on to my favorite restaurants, sites, and rides in Harry Potter World!





1 | ESCAPE FROM GRINGOTTS
The Gringotts ride is AMAZING and so much fun! You bump into your favorite and sometimes not-so-favorite characters along the way, find a dragon, try not to die, and escape from Gringotts! At one point during the ride while "curses" were being cast at us, I looked at Bruce and yelled "I don't like it!" like a small child. I then immediately died laughing at myself. :) This was by far my favorite ride in Harry Potter World! FOUND IN: Diagon Alley





2 | DRINK BUTTER BEER
Guys, butter beer is one of the most delicious things I've ever tasted. I recommend the frozen version and sharing with friends. The four of us would buy one at a time and share it! That way it wasn't too much richness all at once. We ended up getting four or five through the entire day and loved every sip. I really want to try a homemade version, so if any of you have tried and true butter beer recipes, send 'em my way! Some might ask me "You still love butter beer after all those drinks?" My response is forever "Always." FOUND IN: Diagon Alley & Hogsmeade



3 | VISIT OLIVANDER'S WAND SHOP
Walk through Olivander's with a group of other young wizards and watch as a wand chooses the wizard. One of your group will walk away with a free wand from Olivander's! FOUND IN: Diagon Alley (shorter wait time) & Hogsmeade



4 | WEASLEY WIZARD WHEEZES
Drop by and pick up some of Fred's & George's magical jokes, tricks, and toys. I love those prankster twins and their fun shop. Side note: which twin do you think it is in the window? I vote Fred. FOUND IN: Diagon Alley




5 | FIRE BREATHING DRAGON
Every few minutes, the magnificent dragon perched on top of Gringotts Bank breathes fire into the alley. The dragon caught me by surprise the first couple of times, and I may or may not have screamed a little. ;) The fire is definitely more impressive at night, so make sure you stick around for that! FOUND IN: Diagon Alley



6 | RIDE THE HOGWARTS EXPRESS
If you purchased a park-to-park ticket, you can visit King's Cross Station, walk through Platform 9 3/4, and jump aboard the Hogwarts Express to travel from Diagon Alley to Hogsmeade and vice versa. You and five other people can ride in your own train car and watch out the window as you leave London, ride through the English countryside, and arrive at Hogwarts! It's magical. FOUND IN: King's Cross Station




7 | HOGWARTS RIDE
This is a simulated ride that I can't tell you a whole lot about since my eyes were closed the whole time and I was trying not to throw up. ;) I had a really fantastic case of vertigo that day. Ha! The line for this ride is fun, though! You walk through the greenhouse and various parts of Hogwarts Castle before boarding the ride. Even if you don't go on the ride, it's worth going through the line with your friends! FOUND IN: Hogsmeade/Hogwarts

8 | DRAGON CHALLENGE
This is the one big roller coaster in Harry Potter world complete with thrilling speeds and lots of loops. I had my eyes closed throughout this entire ride as well. Vertigo is not my friend. ;) FOUND IN: Hogsmeade/Hogwarts



9 | BUY CANDY AT HONEYDUKE'S
Basically we ate our weight in candy from Honeyduke's. I was literally a kid in a candy shop. Sour strips, peach rings, chocolate frogs galore. Someone had to cut me off! FOUND IN: Hogsmeade




10 | EAT FISH AND CHIPS
You can't go to England without enjoying a healthy amount of fish and chips! Stop by Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade or The Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley for some delicious British eats!


We created a lot of inside jokes during our Christmas vacation and tried to keep track of some of our favorite quotes from each of us throughout every day. The #1 quote from Harry Potter World came from Bruce man: "Guys, if I go to the bathroom and never come back, just know that I am at the Ministry of Magic and will never be sad again." :)

Let your inner nerd out and let's talk Harry Potter! Are you a fan? Have you read the books and watched the movies? Who is your favorite character? Have you ever been to Harry Potter World? What would you add to my list?

2.25.2015

HOLDERS NOT FOLDERS | FILTERS

If you were here last week, you'll know that Beth of Oak + Oats and I are bringing back our Holders Not Folders challenges! So many of you participated in our Summer 2014 series, and we had a blast cultivating a creative Instagram community with you all.

During this next series, we are taking six weeks to teach you something new (or remind you of something you already know) to use in your phone photography. Each week we will announce the new challenge, share a quick tutorial and/or tips, and encourage you to practice that skill in your Instagrams! Make sure you hashtag #holdersnotfolders and interact with the others participating!

Sound good? We want to encourage you to create fun and inspiring photos with your phone and curate a beautiful Instagram that reflects YOU! Join the challenge and get creative.


FILTERS
Today we are talking about filters. Those beautifully created presets just waiting to be placed with your photos. You've probably experienced those times when your original photos don't always portray the quality and style you want them to. So you head to your favorite photo editing software to up the exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, tones, etc. until you get your photo just right.

I'd love to share three things I like to use/keep in mind when editing my photos for Instagram - apps, consistency/style, less is more.

APPS
There are so many photo editing apps out there, and I know it can sometimes be overwhelming when trying to decide which ones to use. There are two I highly recommend: VSCO and Afterlight. I used Afterlight until I discovered VSCO, and it is a great app with wonderful editing capabilities and various filters options. However, I personally prefer VSCO's simplified setup and beautiful filters. I wrote a post a while back about VSCO being my favorite photo editing app, and I still stand by that! It is extremely user friendly, well designed, and has everything you could want out of a photo editing app.



CONSISTENCY/STYLE
One of the things I've struggled with in the past is finding consistency in my Instagram style. Do I want my photos bright and bold,  or more muted, or black and white, etc? Personally, I think that your editing style is something important to consider when looking at your Instagram feed. Your style helps to set you and your brand apart from the rest of the crowd. I edit every single one of my photos the same way, using the same filter, in order to create a kind of consistent feel for all of the photos in my feed. This helps to set a "mood" for your Instagram. I've found that I prefer my photos to be brighter and bolder. This means I tend to bump up the exposure, contrast, and saturation, and throw on my favorite filter at a low intensity (usually HB 1 or 2 in VSCO).

I have included some before and afters of Instagrams which best represent the bright and bold look that I am going for in my feed.




LESS IS MORE
Clean and simple is my go-to style in most every part of my life, and that includes my Instagrams. :) In order to obtain that look, I use natural lighting as much as possible. Good lighting will drastically improve the quality of your photos, requiring less editing to give your photos the pizzazz you want. Because of that, I almost never use filters at their highest intensity because that can tend to over-edit your photo. Sometimes the use of too many filters can make the photo lose a lot of the qualities that were great about the original. Like they say, you CAN have too much of a good thing. My rule of thumb when it comes to filters is to use it but don't abuse it, and remember that sometimes less is more! :)

HOMEWORK: Now it's your turn! While you're instagramming this week, play around with filters and your editing style. Figure out what you like and what you don't like. Try to find an editing style that gives consistency to your Instagram photos. Download some different apps and figure out which is your favorite to use! Share with us any photos you are proud of by using the hashtag #holdersnotfolders, and please leave some love on other grams you see in the feed! 

Be sure to follow @megmcilvaine and @oakandoats on Instagram. To see the rest of this challenge (along with our previous series) click here.

2.24.2015

TRISTYLE & CO. | YOUR STYLE

Hey hey, TriStylers! Each month Beth of Oak + Oats, Samantha of Elah Tree, and me (Meg of Rivers and Roads) join together to share three ways to style the same clothing item and you are all invited to participate! Our goal is to encourage, awaken, and celebrate the inherent beauty in each one of us as we live in community.

This month's style challenge was such a fun one for me, and seemingly for many of you as well! This winter weather has been perfect for breaking out all of those comfy cozy scarves and coming up with creative ways of wearing them. You guys wrapped them, tied them, wore them on your head...good job! ;) These are some of my favorites!



Did you style a scarf this month? What's your favorite way to wear them? We'd still love to see! Post your photos using the hashtag #TriStyleCo so we can see your cozy look.

2.23.2015

WEEKEND UPDATE



RECAPS
1 | 50mm. I did it guys. I finally bought a new lens for my camera after using my kits lens for over four years! I played around with the new lens just a smidge over the weekend and can't wait to practice using it some more!

2 | Southern winters. We had a crazy weather week. Rain, sleet, snow, ice. You name it. I think I'm ready for summer now. ;)

3 | Texas time. I was in Texas over the weekend, and had forgotten how much I loved the sunsets there. I lived in San Antonio for a summer while I was interning at an architecture firm and always loved watching the sunset on my way home from work. So gorgeous!

4 | Sisters, sisters. I was in Texas for a sweet friend's wedding, and I got to be in it WITH my best friend!! How fun is that? We had so much fun getting ready together, being in a wedding together, and celebrating the adorable bride and groom. It was a weekend full of family, friends, and fun. :)

FAVORITE FINDS
-- Lady Gaga does Sound of Music (it is good!!)
-- The best sensitive skin care
-- Everyday makeup tutorial
-- Wheat cinnamon rolls. What!
-- We all need an Edna in our lives.
-- I want to check out these trails the next time I'm in San Diego!

YOU MAY HAVE MISSED
5 Things You Don't Know About Me
Holders Not Folders | Cropping and Framing
Texas Bound





FIND ASHLEY HERE: BLOG | INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF LAST WEEK?

2.19.2015

TEXAS BOUND



Today I am Texas bound for the wedding of my sweet sister and friend. Some of my besties are in the wedding party, and I am friends with lots of the family. Weddings like this are my favorite! It's a great big family reunion full of people I know and love coming together to celebrate two precious ones as they begin the adventure called marriage. :) Let the festivities commence!

I'm signing off for the rest of the week, but you can follow along with my Texan adventures on Instagram! XOXO.

2.18.2015

HOLDERS NOT FOLDERS | CROPPING & FRAMING

Beth of Oak + Oats and I are excited to announce that we are bringing back our Holders Not Folders challenges! We had our first challenge the summer of 2014 and when it ended so many of you cried for round two! Well, here it is!

It is going to look a little different this time than our first one. For this quick, six week series, we want to focus on teaching you something new (or reminding you of something you already know) to integrate into your phone photography. Each week we will announce the new challenge, share a quick tutorial and/ or tips, and then encourage you to practice that skill in your instagrams! Make sure you hashtag #holdersnotfolders and interact with the others participating! 

Are you in? We want to encourage you that you can create fun and inspiring photos with your phone and have a beautiful instagram that reflects YOU! Join the challenge and get creative.


CROPPING & FRAMING
Written by Elizabeth of Oak & Oats

Today we are starting with Cropping & Framing. For anyone who has posted at least once on Instagram, you discovered that you needed to fit your rectangular photo into a square. Yes, there are ways around that if you use white boarders and such, but let's stick with the squares for now!

Taking a photo for Instagram is different than taking a photo on a camera. If you are a professional photographer or even a disposable camera user, you know that your goal is to fit your desired picture into the frame. Yes, sometimes dad's head gets chopped off or you end up needing to crop out photo bombers in the back, but for the most part, we do all our framing before we take the picture. Instagram is a different story (ish.)

Today I want to share with you the three things that I keep in mind when taking photos for my Instagram - dead space, rule of thirds, and symmetry.

DEAD SPACE
You need to PLAN on cropping. You need to imagine a square space when you are using a phone camera that shoots in rectangles. This is not always the easiest thing to do - especially when other people are taking your photo for you (cute shoes gone to keep my husband's head & again, chaco shot lost because megs is just so tall ;) ) Step back so that you can see more than you need - this creates dead space. Don't worry about how messy you photo looks at first, once it is popped into instagram, the look is much more polished.


RULE OF THIRDS
When you are taking photos for your instagram, think about your subject. Where do you want the eye to be drawn? Remember, the instagram photo is a square - so you need to square off your photo and then draw imaginary lines on your photo. Draw three horizontal and three vertical - like a tic-tac-toe board! I know this sounds like so much work, but you will be doing it without thinking in no time.

I am not a professional photographer, but I do know that the rule of thirds is when you tic-tac-toe your board, your subject should be along one line or at the intersection of two lines. It creates a more appealing photo. I picked some examples from my instagram: The hot coco and the sweet baby's face both hit the middle of two lines intersecting and Cinderella's Castle and my friend Laura both fall onto a vertical line.


SYMMETRY
While thinking of how to frame and crop your photo, you do not always need to put your subject on the side. Some things are so symmetrical that a center photo is best! This sounds almost opposite of the rule of thirds, but not really - just a different way of seeing things. We are drawn to things that are symmetrical, so if you look head on at your subject and all the sides seem to point toward the center, try to post it that way!

I have included some of my instagrams that fall into the symmetrical feel - all of these have horizontal and vertical lies pointing inward. That is why I chose to center the subject.


HOMEWORK: It is your turn now! As you go into this week taking photos for your instagram, think about dead space, the rule of thirds, and symmetry. See if you notice a difference in the quality of your instagrams when you think ahead! Look at some of your favorite instagrams or instagramers - do they do some of these things? Share with us any photo you are proud of by using #holdersnotfolder and share some love on the other grams you see in the feed! 

Make sure to follow @oakandoats & @megmcilvaine on Instagram. To see the rest of this challenge and our others, click here. 

2.17.2015

FIVE THINGS YOU DON'T KNOW ABOUT ME | VOL. 4



1 | People say awkward things to me at weddings.
Since I'm going to be in a wedding this weekend, memories of past weddings have been flooding in, and that includes all of the awkward things people have said to me at those events. One of my favorites was from a wedding a couple of years ago. Someone forced me out onto the dance floor, bailed on me and left me with a guy I'd never met. Said fellow proceeds to make small talk by revealing he had Googled me and that he likes kids. Now, I can't control my facial expressions, so I'm sure that one was a real gem. I was saved soon after that moment as everyone circled up for a dance off, and I quietly slipped away. Thank goodness for dance offs, amiright?

2 | There once was a Marco Polo accident.
I was at a friend's 8th birthday (pool party style), and what else do you play at a pool party than Marco Polo (or Sharks and Minnows...anyone else play that?) Well, there we were having a wonderful time playing Marco Polo when my friend's older brother charges straight at me in the pool doing butterfly with his eyes closed and rams straight into my face. I was fine aside from having a few teeth chipped and few others knocked loose. ;)

3 | I've had the same hairdresser for twelve years.
While I was growing up, my mom would cut mine and my brother's hair all the time. Occasionally my grandmother would take me to her hairdresser as a fun treat, but other than that it was up to my mom to cut my hair. That is...until that fateful day at 14 years of age when my mom had a few "oops" moments cutting my hair. It kept getting shorter and shorter and shorter as she tried to "fix" the problem. I can't even tell you how much I cried over that hair cut. It ended up being about chin length. My mom felt so bad she took me to my current hairdresser so she could resolve the monstrosity that was my hair. Eleven years later and my hairdresser still brings up that story and dies laughing over it every time I see her for a hair cut.

4 | My thumbs aren't like yours.
I don't remember the exact day I realized my thumbs were different from the rest of my family's...or the world's for that matter. They were short and stubby and looked like they belonged on a gecko. In case you were wondering, they never grew out of that look. Sigh.

5 | I love nicknames.
Megs is one of my favorite nicknames that people have used for me over the years, but it's become the go-to since I graduated from college. My coworkers, my family, and my friends call me that and I love it! Also, if you know me, you know that I will always find a fun nickname for you or will simply use a shortened version of your name all the time. I'm sorry if you don't like it...it's meant to be endearing. ;)

WHAT IS ONE THING I DON'T KNOW ABOUT YOU?
SEE OTHER "5 THINGS" HERE.

2.16.2015

WEEKEND UPDATE



RECAPS
1 | Sick days. My body finally gave out on me after being on the verge of getting sick for a while. So I stayed home from work one day for some much needed rest.

2 | The post. I'm trying to get back on my snail mail game, so I started by sending a homemade New York card to one of my besties who just moved up there! P.S. I'm going to visit her in 25 days. NBD.

3 | Valentine's weekend. Two of my best friends from college came in town and stayed with me for the weekend. It was great to catch up, spend time around Chattanooga on the windiest day of the year (tangled hair for dayssssss), and have some good heart talks.

4 | Ice cream delivery! Oh my goodness, I had the best surprise of my life on Friday. Some dear friends decided to send me a sweet Galentine's gift in the form of ice cream...delivered to my work! I was so surprised and felt so loved that I burst into tears right there on the spot. HA!

FAVORITE FINDS
-- I am loving this Tangled print.
-- Someone just went to the happiest place on earth!
-- Severus Snape's story in chronological order.
-- Win a copy of Happy Handmade Home!
-- Staying happy in singleness.
-- Ingredients for joy and meaning.
-- I found the sweatshirt of my life.

YOU MAY HAVE MISSED
Galentine's Day
A Bedroom Makeover
10 Things To Do In Hollywood Studios
Happy Handmade Home
10 Printable Valentines

WHAT WAS THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR WEEKEND? 

2.13.2015

10 PRINTABLE VALENTINES

Tomorrow is Valentine's day, and I know some of you are still scrambling to find the perfect Valentine's card and gift (if that's your jam.) I scoured the internet to find some of my favorite Valentine's printables for those of you planning last minute! You're welcome. ;) I apologize in advance for going with multiple fandoms more than once. My nerdy heart couldn't pick just one. Every nerdy card I saw I was all like "Yoda one that I want", ya know? I am currently laughing out loud at myself...just thought you should know. Oh, the cleverness of me. ;)

CALL THE COPS

Haha! I feel like this would be the perfect card for a Facebook stalker. Don't even try to deny it. We all know you stalk their page like once every five minutes...and if they knew, they'd probs call the cops. ;)

OLAF


You can't say no to Olaf! Not when he says things like "your heart is worth melting for!" #myhero

ANN & LESLIE


These two are the best of friends, and Leslie always knows what to say...even if it comes across a little odd. You know you need Valentine's for your girlfriends too, and this is one of many you could send. My best friend would totes send this to me, and she would giggle at herself knowing I'd think it was hilarious. :)

HAN & LEAH
There's nothing quite like the love story of Han Solo and Princess Leah. Han, he was a man of many words, wasn't he? ;) Keep it short and sweet with this card.

HARRY POTTER

Oh Ron. You're the one for me.

REDBOX VALENTINE

Probably the most honest Valentine's card you'll give this year. ;)

ADVENTURE TIME

There's nothing quite like Disney love or the relationship between Carl and Ellie. Their life together certainly was a beautiful adventure!

HUNGER GAMES

There Katniss goes again with those puns. This is the perfect card for the District 12 lover in your life.

VALENTINE'S MAD LIB

Sometimes you need fun options. Print off these mad libs complete with ready to use phrases and go to town! Be silly.

R2D2

Be still my nerdy heart.

WHICH ONE IS YOUR FAVORITE? I REALLY CAN'T CHOOSE. I WANT TO PRINT THEM ALL! 
ARE YOU A NERDY CARD LOVER LIKE ME? :)

HAPPY VALENTINE'S WEEKEND, BRAVE HEARTS!