Defining Personal Success

Wow. A lot has changed since I last blogged way back in February. Three months ago, I left my job and took the plunge to become a full-time photographer. Ever since then, I have been so. happy. Like dancing-around-in-my-barefeet-while-humming-to-Macklemore-and-Ryan-Lewis happy. I feel so grateful for my steadily growing career, my amazingly supportive husband, our always-a-work-in-progress home, and our family of four-legged critters. Life is good.

Now that I’m self-employed, I’ve been making sure that my days are full and structured. I’m blogging on a regular basis. I’m going on shoots every week. I’ve been drawing and painting more. I go to the gym at least three times a week. I’m eating healthy. I’m networking with peers and professionals I respect. I’m strengthening my approach to branding, marketing, and my overall value proposition as a photographer. I’m making authentic connections with clients. I’m focusing more on how I define personal success.

Before, “success” meant a lot of things to me. Having loads of Canon equipment. Being spotlighted on the most popular wedding blogs. Getting tons of “likes” on Facebook. Filling our home with furnishings from places like West Elm. Having clear skin and a smaller pant size.

Now that I’ve had time to think about my goals, I realized that I was reaching for someone else’s definition of success. I sat down and thought about what is important to me at the end of the day. Love, strength, family, and health are what made the list. Ok, so maybe I’d still like some West Elm furniture. As far as professional success goes, I am focused on running a sustainable business by working with people who appreciate and like what I do and understand the value that I offer.

I can’t thank my husband enough for his support and encouragement, which allows me to have a life I love.

So how do you define success and what impact does it have on your personal life?

{Book Reviews} January Reading Roundup

Now that I’m commuting nearly an hour to and from work, I’ve been reading more than ever. I figured I’d start sharing book reviews on my blog every month, recapping the previous month’s reads. I’m getting a late start this month, but here are the books and graphic novels that kept me company on the train in January:

1. The Walking Dead: Compendium One
Lugging around the 5+ lbs of the Walking Dead: Compendium One while commuting was well worth the temporary weightlifting. The first eight volumes span 1,088 pages written by Robert Kirkman, covering the terror of zombies, but more importantly, the brutality of its characters, which was a lot harder to stomach. The stark black and white illustrations by Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn, and Tony Moore beautifully highlight the post-apocalyptic horror of a zombie outbreak in some of the most memorable panels I’ve ever seen. Being able to tell a compelling story with short and concise dialogue through carefully organized panels is a sign of a skilled team. While the TV show has a flowing storyline with easy-to-follow scenes, the graphic novel tends to jump from perspectives much quicker (which I prefer). Despite being rendered in black and white and not having the opportunity to take advantage of the shock and awe of full-color drama, the book’s storytelling is far more dark and addictive than the AMC series. That being said, I do love me some Daryl. 5/5 ★★★★★

Walking Dead: Compendium Two
2. The Walking Dead: Compendium Two
Although the second batch of volumes of The Walking Dead were less action-packed than the first, the sequel ends up being more story-driven. There were still times during my commute when my jaw dropped and I burst with expletives while on the quiet ride car. In this set of issues, Charlie Adlard takes over for Tony Moore as the series’ primary artist, and under his pen, Rick is a much grittier character — with a scraggly beard, grunge, and crazy eyes. Moore’s drawing style was much more cartoony, with smoother, less realistic depictions of the characters. Adlard relies on heavy black shadows and fine, unvaried linework, making his work instantly dramatic. As a result of Adlard’s artwork and maybe Kirkman’s lack of characterization, I sometimes had trouble distinguishing certain zombie-fodder in Rick’s expanding group. At times, the characters would blur together and I’d have to flip back a few pages to figure out the difference between Hershel’s daughters. Regardless, I love the full and double-page splashes and ended up reading this compendium even quicker than the first. 5/5 ★★★★★

3. World War Z
More like World War ZZZZ. Maybe it’s not fair that I read this right after finishing The Walking Dead graphic novels, but I just can’t jump on this bandwagon. It took a lot of aggravation and sighing for me to even finish the book. I would skim pages, sigh, try to reread them, and play with emojis on my phone to distract myself. I was really hoping to have some suspenseful reading for the train, but I found the way this book was written to be tedious and felt the format handicapped it in a lot of ways. There was no protagonist, no continuity, no story arc, no climax. The book is about the global zombie apocalypse as told by the survivors, with each one speaking to the interviewer. However the personality that comes through the strongest is the writer, Max Brooks’, whose tone is smug and whose characters had the same voice overall — whether male, female, soldier, civilian, or politician. 1/5 ★☆☆☆☆

4. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
After reading about zombies for weeks, this was a light, easy break. Mindy Kaling does a good job throughout most of her essays, but as the end of the book nears, it feels rushed and a bit obvious that she is trying to satisfy a respectable book length. If you’re looking for powerful insight on comedy writing, you should probably remind yourself that the cover is overwhelmingly pink and what you’ll end up with instead is a conversational memoir being chronicled in the voice of a friend. More of a blog-in-a-book than a poor man’s Bossypants, the book delves into Kaling’s hard-working, sweet personality. From her babysitting experiences to explaining karaoke etiquette, The Office writer covers a lot of ground by rambling all over the place. Perhaps most memorable for me is Kaling’s adamant crush on Amy Poehler, who I love even more now after reading this book. Now, if only Kristen Wiig would get a book deal. 3/5 ★★★☆☆

5. Year One
Upon moving to Philadelphia, Ramsey Beyer challenged herself to draw one page of comics every week for her entire first year in the city. She ended up drawing 2-3 pages a week, resulting in a self-published book about a twenty-something in a new place. As an autobiographical account, Beyer depicts everyday life — renovating her apartment, traveling on the weekends, going to punk shows, and working as a nanny — but the narrative revolves primarily around her love life and open relationship. A lot of the scenes are focused on getting the comics finished, which I could understand, but it doesn’t make for the most intriguing subject matter. I didn’t really relate to most of her weekly experiences (apart from dog spooning), but her variety of page compositions and simple drawing style kept me turning the page. While this isn’t the most amazing story, I think the amount of work Beyer produced in a single year is incredible and shows a great deal of devotion that inspired me to put pen to paper. 3/5 ★★★☆☆

6. Chicken With Plums
In her follow-up to Persepolis and Embroideries, Marjane Satrapi tells the quiet, heartwrenching story of her great-uncle — Nasser Ali Khan — a famous Iranian musician whose instrument is destroyed by his wife. After falling into a depression and deciding that he has nothing else to live for, he waits for death. Satrapi presents each day of his final week with melancholic flashbacks and flash-forwards from several perspectives. In a trip through Khan’s memories and dreams, readers gain more insight into the grand scheme of life and death, with humor inserted throughout to balance the heavy sadness of its protagonist. Only occasionally does Satrapi break out of her strict frame-to-frame design, but when she does, it’s deeply moving. In the end, it’s hard to sympathize with Satrapi’s uncle, a shallow man who shuts everyone out of his life, but the last bittersweet pages of the book make everything fall into place. 4/5 ★★★★☆

7. It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken
In his mock-autobiographical graphic novel, Seth (the pen name of Gregory Gallant), depicts an obsessive search for a fictional Canadian cartoonist named Kalo. The book was published in collected form by Drawn and Quarterly, originally serialized in single issues as Palookaville. The nostalgic style and simplicity of the hazy, blue-and-grey color palette mirrors Seth’s longing for a simpler time, paying homage to the “good-old days” of the Schultz era. The column strips are reminiscent of old black and white films, with a retro feel that deepens the narrative. It’s pretty incredible that it’s the artist’s first published graphic novel, however his unabashed “navel gazing” and overall angst can lead to some dull passages. Overall, the intrigue built around the search for Kalo builds up to moments of greatness surrounding a mostly uninteresting character. 3/5 ★★★☆☆

13 Goals for 2013

A preview sketch of comics to come.

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions. They’re the reason my Body Works Plus Abs class was filled with two dozen more wide-eyed, sports-bra wearing women than usual tonight. Despite having to illegally park in L.A. Fitness’ full lot in order to burn 440 calories, I still couldn’t shake the urge to create a list of to-do’s for the year ahead.

Plus, that darn husband of mine motivated me to share a few goals, so here goes:


•  Launch the redesign and rebranding of my photography business in the next few months (thanks to the hubs’ help).
•  Book more weddings for 2013 and starting filling up the 2014 season.
•  Try to blog weekly here or here.
•  Draw one page of comics every week for the entire year and share them on my new comics Tumblr.
•  Research [self]publishing my comics into a book, with possible funding through a Kickstarter project at the end of the year.
•  Start a graphic novel/underground comic meetup in Philadelphia to swap books and geek the eff out.
•  Expand’s freelance team and daily content, while further developing our content strategy and strengthening relationships in the community.


•  Go to the gym at least two times a week.
•  Finally prime and paint the 2nd floor of our house.
•  Go on a proper American road trip with the hubs.
•  Be a better wife (i.e.: make dinner once in a while, try to not take up the entire bed while sleeping, watch disturbing Cronenberg movies every now and again if it’ll make him happy).
•  Be the best pet mom ever (i.e.: pay attention to the bunnies and chinchilla more, give our dogs the endless attention they seem to require, and try to brush the dogs’ teeth every damn day).
•  Be a better daughter (i.e.: call my parents more so my dad doesn’t have a conniption every time I see him, respond to my mom’s novel-sized emails faster, and document my admiration for their neurotic habits in my comics).
•  Be a better friend. Yeah, I want to do all of this stuff, but it doesn’t mean not meeting up with friends for coffee (or in my case, hot chocolate) to discuss what books we’re reading or to how old we feel when #PrettyLittleLiars is trending on Twitter.

I’m exhausted just writing this list, so I’ll stop there, especially since I’m still six episodes behind this season of Downton Abbey and need to know what the hell happens next. Anyway, thanks for reading this and holding me to it!

2012 in 12 Photos

In the spirit of being nostalgic on the first day of a new year, I wanted to take a step back and look at 12 photos that sum up 2012 for me. Many bloggers are already sharing their goals for the year ahead, but I’m a bit behind around these parts. As always, expect a great deal of dog photos.

JANUARY: Although I’m the first to admit that our guest bedroom is pretty hideous (stupid impulsive HomeGoods purchases), we painted the room and got a guest bed like grown-ups. Baby steps.

FEBRUARY: We fostered Donald Sutherland, who we affectionally referred to as “wart” since he was full of them. I still miss the little emo bugger.

MARCH: Wedding crafting went into high gear as Pete encouraged my need to attack Pinterest-inspired projects head on. They usually didn’t come out very well, but at least we were occupied during the cold months.

APRIL: My parents and grandma visited for Easter. My brother and sister-in-law hid in our sunroom while I distracted my parents with an egg hunt outside. My parents’ blubbery, surprised reactions when they opened the sunroom door to find my brother and his wife were pretty priceless.

MAY: I volunteered more than ever this year and enjoyed every second of it. The shot above was taken as part of the Schuylkill Banks’ annual “Art in the Open” event.

JUNE: I was lucky enough to capture a lot of beautiful weddings this year, making friends along the way. It looks like 2013 will be my busiest year yet, and I’m lucky to have my husband by my side as second shooter.

JULY: We said goodbye to our social lives this summer and said hello to endless yardwork to get ready for our backyard wedding. This included removing old fencing in preparation for a new fence install. Thank god for Twisted Tea.

AUGUST: Most of this month was spent pulling together last-minute wedding projects. Having our family over to help us make our backyard wedding a reality up until the wee hours of August 31st (the day before) meant a lot to us. Thanks to Morrissey Photo, we can relive the good times for many more years.

SEPTEMBER: After getting hitched, we went on our first overseas trip together to Italy. Hiking the six hour trek through the five towns of Cinque Terre was the highlight of our honeymoon, despite tonsillitis making the journey a bit difficult.

OCTOBER: We jumped back into fostering after returning from our honeymoon, which brought Dexter into our lives. He was rescued from a kill-shelter in Baltimore, where he would’ve been euthanized if a kind man hadn’t taken him to a local dachshund rescue. We fell hard for the little guy, who quickly became our first (and last) foster fail.

NOVEMBER: It’d be hard not to include Edgar (“the bean”) on this list. He’s our last foster dog, since we quickly discovered two dogs is our limit. He came into our home weighing 22 lbs, but is down to a much happier and healthier 16 lbs.

DECEMBER: Generocity’s office moved into Center City, where I can sneak peeks of the Dilworth Plaza construction from my desk. The hour-long commute by train has given me much-needed time to unwind and catch up on reading. Spending the past month in close proximity to my co-workers has been awesome, and I’m excited for what 2013 will bring for our team.

Thanks for reading, here’s hoping 2013 will be even more fantastic.

On Comics, Slacking, and Stink Bugs

This blog has been filled to the brim with photos of wedding plans, home renovations, and foster dogs for the past year, but I’ve been neglecting one of my main interests — illustration.

With a full-time job that keeps me happily busy and a wedding photography business on the side, I’ve been struggling with the focus of this blog. Despite a closet full of art supplies, I haven’t drawn anything substantial in over a year, so I’m going to try to ease back into a routine and start sketching again. Baby steps.

Since my job made the move to Center City, I’ve been enjoying running into some fascinating characters to and from the train station. There was the woman who pulled me aside a few steps away from my building’s front door to tell me to “stay sexy, scrumptious, and healthy” while blowing bubbles in my face. I liked her. There was the man leaning against the food cart who yelled, “Look at you in your tight tights, look at you jiggle.” I’m not sure how one can see any jiggling under a million layers and a winter coat, but I’ll assume he had some sort of x-ray glasses that I wasn’t privy to.

Then there’s the 45-minute train ride. I fancy myself a QuietRide kind of girl, but I’m constantly amazed by how many people don’t obey the no-fuss conductor who yells “THIS IS THE QUIETRIDE CAR. IF YOU’RE NOT GOING TO BE QUIET (long pause), DON’T RIDE THE QUIET RIDE CAR,” repeatedly. My evening conductor always has a tie that lights up in some fashion, whether it’s snowmen or star-spangled banners. I like him too.

Despite valiant efforts in train obedience, I have managed to make a fool of myself on a daily basis. Last week I was deeply reading my book when a stink bug scuttered across the page. I literally jumped out of my seat and shrieked, while almost smacking the poor woman next to me in the face with The Girl With Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest. On the QuietRide car. I felt like a QuietRide failure. There was a lot of staring. I convinced myself that it was something that would have happened to Liz Lemon and got on with my day.

My point is, life is much more entertaining now that I’m traveling to and fro and exchanging conversations (or embarrassed QuietRide glances) with actual human beings. Gone are the days of working from my couch in my pajamas and playing Dawson’s Creek in the background for company.

Not to get all resolution-y on y’all, but a change is going to come…especially now that I’m out of new Boardwalk Empire episodes to watch with the hubs in the evenings. I’m going to start writing down any out-of-the-blue anecdotes that happen in my day-to-day, to turn them into sketches for a weekly web comic (it’s been a while). While I collect ideas and sketches, I’m going to save up for this bad boy. Once 2013 hits, I’d like to produce one comic a week with my Wacom tablet. I can’t promise they’ll be any good, but at least I’ll be trying.

Dexter: Our First Foster Fail

I can’t help it. I’ve become the person whose Instagram gallery is filled to the brim with puppy photos. We have fostered two dogs since we came back from our honeymoon. The first was a 10-week-old shepherd mix named Gina who found a home within 24 hours.

We haven’t been thrilled with our experiences fostering at several local shelters, so we decided to go breed specific and apply to the Dachshund Rescue of Bucks County. We are really happy with their organization and how much they value their fosters. We went through foster training, and a week later, we were introduced to our first foster.

Meet the newest addition to the family.


That’s right, we’re totally keeping him. My blog header is in need of a redesign since we’ve gained a dog and lost a rabbit since it was created.

And now for the little guy’s back story. He was rescued from a kill-shelter in Baltimore, Maryland, where a kind man picked him up and hauled him a few hours to the Dachshund Rescue in Pennsylvania. The guy who saved him named him Dexter, so we’re probably going to keep the name out of respect for his awesomeness (plus I love me some Dexter Morgan). When the man asked the shelter what was going to happen to Dexter, the shelter informed him that the 10-month-old dachshund would have to be euthanized because there simply wasn’t enough room. This is all too common.

We couldn’t be happier to make room in our home for him — he’s still a bit malnourished, but we’ve switched him to a healthy diet and consistent schedule. He curls up under the covers in bed with us every night and seems to have hit it off with Betty White (although she’s not one for cuddling).

We’ll continue to foster dachshunds through the rescue, but our permanent zoo is at maximum capacity. I look forward to finding more of these snugglers happy homes and I’ll be sure to update my blog along the way.

Remember that time we got married?

Our monthiversary has come and gone, I’ve scratched several items off my “30 before 30 list” (including vacationing in Italy), and yet, I’ve still remained a slacker in the realm of blogging.

I know I blogged a lot about wedding planning leading up to September 1st, but I never thought it would turn out so lovely. Despite Pete waking up with strep throat and me getting over a sinus infection, it couldn’t have been a more perfect day for us and our relationship. Our family pulled together to help us transform our backyard, captured beautifully by our photographers — Morrissey Photo.

I look forward to sharing more photos and reviewing our vendors in the upcoming weeks, but for now, I’ll just share some of my favorite moments.

Before & After: All Fenced In

Last time I blogged, I rambled about the mundane tasks that go along with homeownership, but our list of to-do’s didn’t stop there. We had been ignoring our weed-filled brick path for months, so we finally set aside a Saturday to deal with it.

This meant lifting all of the bricks, putting down weed killer, chiseling bricks that didn’t fit the edges, and filling the gaps with sand.

When Pete took charge chiseling, I weeded, trimmed the bushes, and spray painted the lattice he built for the front of our house.

Then after that, around 6 p.m., we realized we had one last fence to remove in preparation for our new fence install. This bad boy:

About 5 hours later, this happened (doesn’t he look thrilled?):

Except it was still dark out, so we had to take an “after” shot of the concrete post in the morning. Our neighbors, who were having a birthday party in their backyard at the time, cheered us on as we finally pulled the fence post out in a state of exhausted hysteria. We thought that was the worst of it, since the other two posts we dug up weren’t so bad, but there was another post just like this one. So that’s what we ended up doing with our weeknights.

I think it was all worth it, since now we can take Betty White outside with the utmost laziness. Plus it just looks prettier.

Here are a ton of “after” shots of the yard with the fence. Harold, our lawn gnome, quickly got used to his new digs.

I felt the need to document Betty White’s first fenced-in bathroom break, but left out the photos of her going #2 (you’re welcome).

We’re pretty smitten with how good our backyard smells right now with all of the fresh cedar. It’s kind of crazy that we’ll be getting hitched back there in a little over a month.

Homeownershit: Before & After

Part of being a homeowner means when your friends ask what you did last weekend, you begin to cringe at how ordinary your life sounds when you say it out loud. “I spent the entire weekend sweating outside while trying to improve our home instead of going to the shore.” Despite how that might be interpreted by peers, I am surprised at how much fun I have working with Pete on our home in less than ideal conditions (100+ degree weather).

One of the tasks on our to-do list was getting an affordable rain barrel (thank you, Craigslist) and putting our wasted water to work. This project isn’t quite over since the barrel still needs another coat of spray paint, but at least it’s functional. I need to take a break from spray painting for a while though, or at least until forest green nose hairs come into fashion.

Every time I take Betty White outside, I am reminded that our bilco doors are a rusty, hot mess. It has been driving. me. crazy. since we moved in a year ago. It was a simple fix, but one I just never seemed to get around to — spraying the doors with metal primer and then painting the doors with exterior Rust-Oleum.

Our shed. Dear god, our shed. This might be the ugliest eyesore on the planet, but we are stuck with it until we can afford a new one. Between the peeling door and cracked paint on the window frames, the opportunities for lead poisoning were boundless. Not to mention the green gunk that is still begging to be pressure washed.

There’s really no way to fix this thing without renting a bulldozer, but we made an attempt. Pete secured the door with a new latch and we sanded and painted the door and window frames. If you’re curious, our grass is recovering from weed killer, thus the sad brown spots.

We’re getting a fence installed in a few weeks, but we wanted to keep these trees for added privacy:

The contractor asked that we trim the trees back for up to six feet so they wouldn’t be putting any weight on the fence. Most of those branches were low-hanging and half-dead, so it was an excuse to get some more yardwork out of the way. Probably not the best activity to perform in sweltering weather, but we entertained ourselves by putting lawn bags over our heads and chasing each other with branch lassos. Pretty sure our neighbors think we’re cray cray now, if they didn’t already.

Are any of you working on DIY projects or home repairs that are consuming your free time and making you feel like a total grown-up?

{DIY} Homebrew Attempt #3

wedding wheat

Our third homebrew (thus the “003”), a Kobayashi Wheat with Sorachi Ace, has been labeled and sealed as one of our wedding favors.

wedding wheat

Pete designed the labels, which we printed on Kraft sheets from Paper Source (cue angels singing — that place is amazing).

wedding wheat

We decided to incorporate one of our wedding colors by dripping yellow wax down the bottles, Maker’s Mark-style.

wedding wheat

With a makeshift double-boiler (an aluminum can inside of a pot), we melted batches of wax beads.

wedding wheat

Emma Stone stared at us from the newspaper as we took turns dipping the bottles in the wax (c’mon girl, no one believes you wear Colorburst).

wedding wheat

We cracked open our first one last night and it tasted like beer to me (in that I didn’t like it), so I deem it a success. We’ll probably keep a few extras for upcoming anniversaries…hopefully by then we’ll have a few more homebrews under our belts.