September 18, 2014

Get Away to The Prairie

A few weeks ago Matthew and I got the incredible news that he had been offered a great job as an attorney here in Austin, and those of you following for a while now may appreciate the long and winding road that took us here… it feels SO good to finally reach this elusive "place" we've been waiting to be. PHEW. Maybe now life will take on some semblance of normal.

Before he officially started the job, we took off on a little getaway to Round Top and The Prairie by Rachel Ashwell, which is a piece of heaven on Earth, if you ask me. It was really generous of Matthew to take me here, seeing as how it's not exactly the most masculine place ever. ;) I just have to share a few photos of this gorgeous spot… if you ever have the opportunity to stay here, DO IT! So dreamy. I can't wait to go again.

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August 22, 2014

The Hundred Event

Welp, I like to arrive fashionably late to most parties (don't want to seem over-eager, you know), but my timing here is bordering on ridiculous, so.... I figured I better talk about the Hundred Event before it's a good HUNDRED days later!

Photo above by Awake Photography

Two weeks ago, my friend Brittany (of Birch & Brass Vintage Rentals here in Austin) and I packed our little bags and headed up to the Dallas Warwick Melrose for a weekend at The Hundred Event. She supplied the vintage china, glassware, and manned the floral arrangements all for the Sunday Brunch, and I offered up my humble knowledge of photography for two 101 classes on Saturday, as well as helped photograph the Sunday Brunch and headshots alongside Shalyn.

The weekend was a whirlwind and I hardly know how to tackle my thoughts on it all. I am introverted and extroverted in equal measure, in that I love being around people while in the moment, but I find it all very draining and need plenty of alone time to recharge afterwards.  The weekend consisted of meeting some of my long-time favorite bloggers and friends (looking at you, Bridget, Megan, and Dayna!), meeting lots of fabulous new-to-me faces,  public speaking and the natural anxiety that begets, and plenty of general socialization and high-strungness that are always a bi-product of these types of conferences. Like last year at Texas Style Council, I found myself outrageously bad-tempered for a good three days after I got home - the low that often comes immediately after the high.

But one thing I can certainly say I took away from this weekend (besides a super shitty mood) was a reminder of why I'm still so fond of this platform we call Blogging, and how GOOD it has been to me in my life. While I've become all-consumed by my photography business lately, my first love is still writing and social media, and the Hundred Event weekend was a needed reminder of that.

At this point, rather than re-cap everything in great detail, I think I'll just leave a few photos from the weekend and link you all to some of the truly incredible brands that sponsored the event. Seriously, I'm so impressed by these guys! And to Grace, Lauren, Megan, and Bridget - thanks for putting together such a fun weekend for all of us to enjoy. You did a fabulous job, especially considering that this was your first time putting on a conference, and I know all of us are hoping it will be a yearly thing! :)

^^Brunch at the beautiful Aldredge House^^

^^cakes by Cake Walk^^

^^Vintage Rentals by Birch & Brass^^

photo above by Shalyn

Brands to browse: Joules // Minnetonka // Love Ophelia (softest and best robes ever!!) // Twine Interiors // Lily Jade // Bungalow Magazine // Peacock Alley // 
and awesome donations from:

July 11, 2014

Things I don't miss (about blogging)

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Dress here from Target

I have become what I hate. That blogger that always blogs about how much they don't blog. UGH. But really, it's been a couple months since a style post or a post with any photos that definitively prove I'm alive and my blog hasn't been taken over by robots, so I thought I'd make that happen. 

Since I've cut back on blogging dramatically, a few things have happened, the most notable being that I am actually much happier and more at peace with my life. I never had any major complaints about blogging, and I don't regret the years that I was really committed to pumping out multiple posts per week, but now, it simply doesn't quite fit into my life the same way it used to. Maybe someday it will again. But for now, here's a few things I've come to realize that, well, I DON'T miss...

1. Constantly feeling like I need new clothes for "outfit posts." I mean, seriously. How do you fashion bloggers do it? I know you get a lot of free clothes, so I guess that's mainly it. But I always felt like every time I got a free shirt, I needed to go out and buy a new skirt or pair of pants to match it, or a new pair of shoes to match that free dress. Bottom line, I suck at fashion blogging, and didn't really enjoy it, and can't tell you how refreshing it is to wake up every day and put on a shitty outfit and just not give a shit.

2. Along those same lines, begging people in my life to take "outfit" photos of me, which often didn't end well. It's no secret, I'm mainly referring to my husband here. The man hates everything to do with pictures. Both being in them and taking them. Ironic, since he's married to a professional portrait photographer. So it was this constant ridiculous struggle: 
Me: "Babe, I need outfit pics tonight."
Matthew: "Noooooooooo NOT AGAAAAINN!!!"
Me: "You're so unsupportive of my blog! Why are you such a jerk! Other blogger husbands love taking pictures of their wives!" 
(? - unsupported claim, needs further research)
*Fight breaks out*
Yup, don't miss that.

3. Comparing lives. I've really never gone down that path too far (thankfully), though I know some people really struggle with it. But it's easy. It's easy to read a blog and see that peephole view at someone's curated reality, and be like, "well CRAP! My _____ (life, blog, wardrobe, home, design skills, husband, bank account, timeline-for-starting-a-family) SUCKS compared to hers!" I've experienced it a couple times, and it's a slippery slope.  Lately, I've truly enjoyed simply living in MY life for a while. Appreciating it, working on it, truly being in it.

4. Trolls. Critics. Assholes. You all know the ones I mean. I'm not all that sensitive - in fact, compared to some people, I have the skin of an alligator. I wish everyone would like me, but I know that's not possible, so when I hear about someone who doesn't, it stings for a second, but then reason weighs out and I'm like, "....mehhh." But still. I've truly enjoyed living my offline life and not wondering what misguided conclusions bitchy strangers on the Internet are drawing about me. 

5. Pretending like I have something to say when I don't. I can't tell you how many times I cranked out a post that had no heart behind it, just to meet a quota and appease my sponsors at the time. I know a lot of my readers saw through that. And I'm happy those days are behind me. Although now, I seem to have the opposite problem. I have plenty of things I'd love to write about, but I'm mostly just too lazy to do it (or too busy, really. J. Noel Photography keeps me on my toes these days).

Having said all that, there are probably equally as many things that I miss about blogging. I will always have a soft place in my heart for this medium and all the good it has brought into my life. I haven't given up on it (obviously!), but our relationship has changed. Lately I've seen blogging as a whole from a bird's eye view versus the view from in-the-thick-of-things, and it's helped me to reevaluate and move priorities around. I'm lucky to be able to do that now, since this blog is no longer my primary source of income. 

Anywhoo. Happy Friday, my friends. Thanks for reading today. I appreciate you, and hope you have an excellent weekend!

July 8, 2014

Smoothie Obsession

Smoothies!  Can we talk about them for a minute?

I have this weird and possibly annoying personality trait that requires that I share, nay, SHOUT FROM THE ROOFTOPS, when I discover something eye-opening or life-changing or otherwise wonderful. So naturally, I feel the need to share my smoothie obsession with you in hopes that you might experience this eye-opening, life-changing wonderfulness too.

I am one of those many people out there in the world who has a hard time eating enough fruits and vegetables because, well, I just tend to prefer the salty crunchy snacks and things like bread and cereal and, you know, stuff that does basically nothing for your health except keep you alive and slogging through every day, never feeling your best and certainly never feeding your body the best. Sound familiar?

A couple months ago I decided to start replacing breakfast with a nutrient packed smoothie, mainly because I wanted to lose the 3-4 pounds I had gained and I thought this would be a great way to start each day on the right track.

Now fast forward two months, and I am STILL having my daily morning smoothie, and I can honestly say they've kinda changed my life a little (a wee bit dramatic, but true!). Just this simple act of starting my day on the right foot helps set the tone for the rest of the day, and of course the nutrient-dense salad-in-a-glass itself gives me this punch of energy and overall motivation to continue clean, fresh eating throughout the rest of the day. I lost those few pounds, saw great improvements in my skin and moods, and generally feel much lighter and like my body is working at top capacity instead of always plugging away on its lowest setting.

The wonderful thing about smoothies is that they incorporate the finest, freshest ingredients, and there is literally no end to the variety you can enjoy each day.  All of my smoothies are "green" in that they include a nice handful of some type of leafy greens, but they are sweet and easy to enjoy because they also incorporate delicious fruits and natural sweeteners like honey or agave nectar. Depending which fruits you throw in on a given day, your smoothie may be more of a sludge color then a pretty green like in the first above photo, but sludge-color or no sludge-color, it will still be delicious and nutritious and you'll be doing your body a huge favor.

While smoothies are definitely filling, you'll be hungry again a couple hours after breakfast, so have some healthy snacks planned to get you through to lunch. My current favorite mid-morning snacks are:
+ Whole grain toast with smashed avocado and sea salt
+ A handful of dried figs
+ A handful of raw nuts like almonds or walnuts, with a little fresh or dried fruit
+ A healthy muffin
+ A small bowl of muesli or granola with milk or yogurt
+ A small bowl of healthy cereal

As for smoothie recipes themselves, there are literally endless ones you can find on Pinterest and other sites (here's a whole slew of them!), but I find that this is a pretty fool-proof group of measurements you can use to make one single smoothie that fills a mason jar:

1 cup of coconut water or milk-of-your-choice. I rotate between unsweetened vanilla almond milk or rice milk and coconut water
1 cup of fresh or frozen fruit
1/2 frozen banana or 1/2 small avocado
1/4 cup yogurt (I prefer vanilla Greek yogurt for protein content)
Sweetener to taste: Honey, agave nectar, stevia, chopped dates (I put about 2 tsp of honey in each of my smoothies)
1 to 2 Add-ons: 
Bee pollen (1 tsp)
Chia Seeds (1 TBS)
Hemp seeds (1.5 TBS)
Ground Flax: (2 TBS)
Ground Cacao or Cacao Nibs (1 TBS)
nut butter
..or any number of other super foods and power-packed ingredients you can learn about online and purchase at health food stores or more health-conscious grocery stores!

Here's a great graphic I found on HERE that basically illustrates what I just wrote above:

It's important to remember that you really can't mess up a smoothie, so don't be intimidated. Some will be thicker than others, some will be thinner than others, so just adjust accordingly if needed (add ice, frozen fruit, or yogurt to thicken, or add water/milk to thin). I think it's more enjoyable to drink them with a straw, so have some on hand!

Here's my current favorite smoothie recipe, since peaches are so delicious and in-season right now!

Peach & Greens Smoothie
3/4 cup coconut water
1/2 cup ice
1 whole, very ripe peach cut into chunks (de-pitted, of course). I prefer it un-frozen because it's more flavorful
1/2 frozen banana
1 packed cup or handful of spinach (or Kale or Collards)
2 tsp honey
1 TBS chia seeds
1 tsp bee pollen

Blend in a blender and enjoy :)

You'll never waste fruit again - just freeze anything you have that's about to be over-ripe, and use it in your next smoothie!

DO IT! :)

June 23, 2014

Photoshop tutorial for portrait photography

Rob & Lauren over at Photography Concentrate have done it again. Those two are seriously the photography tutorial ninjas, and they have finally provided an incredible Photoshop tutorial. (Where was this two years ago when I first started learning Photoshop?!!).

You've heard me talk about Extremely Essential Camera Skills, Super Photo Editing Skills, and Incredibly Important Composition Skills. The first two were a huge part of my education before I started up my business, and I thank goodness for those and the way they helped me learn my camera and Lightroom so quickly and so easily. LIFE (and money) SAVER.

I went through their newest tutorial, Really Easy Retouching with Adobe Photoshop, and even though I've been using Photoshop retouching techniques for two years now, I still learned so much I didn't know before. For example, HEAD SWAPPING. When you're photographing families with young children, it is damn near impossible to get everyone looking at the camera at the same time. One of the videos in this tutorial explains how to seamlessly bring a head over from one photo to another, to complete that happy, smiling picture where all family members at least APPEAR to have been fully cooperating. ;) No more throwing out otherwise perfectly good shots because I don't know how to head swap!

Other techniques addressed in the tutorial are as follows:
+ Photoshop skin retouching such as brightening undereye circles and smoothing skin/removing blemishes & shine
+ Brightening eyes and whitening teeth
+ Removing distracting elements in your background
+ Slim down chins, arms, waistlines, etc
+ Composite images (head swaps!)
+ Photoshop shortcuts and other tips on layers, masks, and panels

This tutorial is worth every penny and absolutely perfect for the new portrait photographer looking to save time and money on their photography education. Check out all Photography Concentrate tutorials here, and go here for more info on Really Easy Retouching.  It is currently 30% off through June 30th only (this coming Monday), which makes IT UNDER TWENTY DOLLARS! That is insane, you guys.


PS - Did you know you can download a free 30 day trial of the latest version of Photoshop HERE? (top right, blue button!)

You can also download a free 30 day trial of Lightroom HERE (again, top right, blue button!) My favorite editing software is Lightroom, and I use it for about 90% of my editing, however, Photoshop IS necessary for certain types of retouching, unfortunately!
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