Stitching My Places We've Been Map

Places We've Been mapHi, friends! This week I am taking a break from Scrapbook Sundays due to holiday craziness, but I still wanted to drop in and share a crafty project I've been working on. Many of you asked to see an example of how you would stitch on the Places We've Been map, so I started stitching my map this past week, and it's become so fun and addictive. It's the perfect relaxing activity to do when I'm listening to my new favorite podcast, Startup. God knows we all need a little relaxation this season, right?! 

I've been collecting personal pieces of art and tidbits for a family memories gallery wall in our home. It will have things like the keys to our first houses, paintings people have made of our dogs, and personal stuff like that. This map is perfect for our wall!

I am filling in all the states where we've been together (and, no, I am nowhere near done yet!). It's kind of exciting to realize many states where we haven't been as well (like Alaska! Maine! Wyoming! Utah! We're coming for you soon....) I think this map will become a pretty special keepsake and maybe we can even expand it worldwide someday? 

Places We've Been map   I decided to do crazy, messy stitches and make each one a little bit different. I don't have a plan, I am just filling them in with various patterns and lines, some more dense than others. 

Places We've Been map Well, that's my project for the week!  I will definitely share our art wall with you when I get it completed. I am doing it in our biggest hallway (upstairs) so it has room to expand. 

You can get this Places We've Been map in this month's Happy Mail kit. Last month sold out pretty quickly, so don't wait too long if you're planning to sign up! xo. Elsie 

A Tale of Three Dogs (Our 2014 Holiday Card)

Posing with three dogs isn't easyThis is Trey's and my second year sending out holiday cards together. I feel a little foolish calling it a "tradition" when we've only done it twice. So, let's just say that I hope to make it a tradition in our family for years and years to come. 

Also, we have a hard time coming up with serious card ideas. I don't know if we'll attempt to do something funny every year, but we both like the idea of at least trying to make our friends and family smile (maybe even laugh out loud!) when they get our card in the mail. 

Holiday card 2013Last year we did this Neverending Story card because (1) love that movie, and (2) it was hilariously corny. Into it. I'd guess somewhere around 60% of people "got it", 10% probably couldn't even figure out who sent them, and 30% just didn't know that Artax gave into the sadness. So we should probably pick something more recognizable if we do another one based on a movie again. Or maybe not—it's our card after all. :) 

This year I wanted one with all three dogs. I didn't really have a specific idea, but it was our chance to get photos of the five of us, even if they were going to be ridiculous. So, we decided to try and get coordinating outfits and do some poses we found while googling "awkward family photos." Should be simple enough, right?

Trey George and Emma Chapman      Trey George and Emma Chapman       Trey George and Emma Chapman  Trey George and Emma Chapman    We had about five or six pretty awesome poses we wanted to try out. We started on this city stoop. We very quickly learned trying to strike a simple, funny pose we found on the Internet with three dogs was, well, not simple. Then Steve and Mrs. Bananas (the dingo and the beagle) saw another dog and it was over. They just felt that barking at that dog across the street was way more fun than posing for photos. So... we moved.

Trey George and Emma ChapmanTrey George and Emma Chapman Emma Chapman and Trey George       Emma Chapman and Trey George         Next we tried taking some up on a foot bridge nearby. No other dogs up there to distract them. Should be easy. We tried to talk them into sitting and looking toward our photographer, but as soon as one would get it, another one would get bored and start trying to walk off. But we were determined....

Emma Chapman and Trey GeorgeMaybe if we just try holding one of them for a minute.

Emma Chapman and Trey George Yep. Nailed it. OK, well, let's try some where we get down on their level. Maybe that will help them feel more in the mood to pose for a photo.

Emma Chapman and Trey George  Emma Chapman and Trey George    Here we go. A classic kissy one. And all three dogs are sort of looking at the camera. Wait, where's the beagle at? Hmm.

Emma Chapman and Trey George     Please take a moment to see the expression on our pug's (Love Love's) face in this one? Jabba the Hutt.

Holiday card 2014In the end, we really only got to try one of the poses we had planned. Luckily it worked for our "awkward family" holiday card this year. :) Who would've guess the old disembodied floating ghost head was the easiest idea to pull off? And let's all appreciate Trey's smile for just a minute. 

All kidding aside, I actually LOVE all these photos. I think they capture the sometimes chaotic nature of having three dogs, and I love that. I am printing all of these for our photo albums, and I hope when friends receive our cards in the mail this year, that it makes them smile. So, although this photo might kind of look like a hot mess to an outsider, I could not love them more. This is the state of our family in December 2014, and I'm so happy we have photos capturing this stage of our lives together. Big thanks to Janae Hardy for being up to snap these photos and the hilarious Photoshop job! And thanks for letting me share a little behind the scenes from our family holiday card this year. :) xo. Emma + Trey

Credits // Author: Emma Chapman, Photography: Janae Hardy. Emma's wearing: boots c/o Seychelles, tights/Target, skirt/H&M, sweater/my mother's high school cheerleading sweater. Trey's wearing: shirt + cardigan/Topman, jeans/UNIQLO, shoes/H&M. Dog sweaters from PetSmart and Target. 

Photography Gear: What We Use, Love, and Recommend!

ABM Photography Gear Favorites (click through for links)Today I'm here to talk about photography gear. We haven't written a post like this in two years, and a few things have changed in that time (although not as much as you would think—we're still using a LOT of the same equipment). We enjoy having a simple photography gear set up, and we use most of what we own every single day! 

Our goals are simple! We aim to capture clean, clear, bright images for ABM. In this post you'll see all the tools we use to take our photographs. 

A Beautiful Mess photographyIn the interest of organization, I'm going to break these items down into three categories—cameras, lenses, and useful accessories. 


Through the years we've used the full range of Canon cameras, and I can honestly say that they are all great. When shopping for your first camera (or an upgrade even), I recommend choosing whichever is the best model you can afford at the time, then investing in lenses as you go. DSLRs are not lifetime purchases. We upgrade every 3-5 years (depending on how much our cameras get used). So don't stress out too much about which model you buy. Any of these cameras are light years better than what people had access to in the past, so count yourself very lucky! 

I have used all of these cameras personally and seen my blogger friends use them to take incredible photos! 

1. Canon EOS 5D Mark III Two years ago we upgraded to our first full frame camera, the 5d Mark III. It's significantly more expensive at around 3k for the camera body. I'll be honest, that price was what kept us from upgrading in the past. I just didn't think that a full frame camera could be three times better than what we were already using, and I assumed that the upgrades were more useful for different types of photographers, but might not be necessary for our purposes, which were mainly blog photos. After we upgraded, I became a true convert, and now this model is what most of us use at ABM. The thing that really converted me was the difference that a full frame camera made for interior photos. In the past I had to use a wide angle lens to photograph rooms, which created a warped perspective. The full frame makes it much easier to fit most rooms into my frame with just a 35mm lens. That sold me, since we photograph rooms often. It's also especially good in low light situations and can handle a higher ISO very well. 

2. Canon EOS 70D This is the category that we've owned the most of. My first camera was a 20d, then I upgraded a few years later to a 40d and then a 60d (that's what we currently have). The newest model is a 70d. I highly recommend this camera for bloggers. It's what we used to write our first book with as well! This model is around 1k for the body. It's a great camera! 

3. Canon Rebel A Rebel is the lowest priced SLR you can get (with models starting in the 300s). It is a little bit smaller and lighter than some of the other bodies. It can take amazing photos and makes a great first camera. If you are new to photography, or on a tight budget, we recommend the Rebel as your first camera. 

Again, all these models are awesome! We have owned and loved them all. We recommend choosing whichever is most comfortable for your budget. Remember that you'll probably end up upgrading in a few years, so it's not that big of a deal! 


Lenses are super important and can completely change your camera's abilities to capture light, close ups, and far away shots. Lenses are a big factor in what makes quality photographs! There are infinite choices, but we like to keep things pretty simple around here. Here are the lenses that we use and love! 

4. Canon 35mm f/2 This is our everyday lens. I rarely take it off my camera because it's useful for so many different situations. When traveling, this is the only lens I take with me. So it goes without saying, but this is the lens I would recommend buying first if you only want to invest in one lens. We use this for most DIY photos, food photos, and room tour photos. We use two 35mm lenses at ABM, and this is the one with a friendlier price. :) 

Food photography

5. Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L This lens is incredible for taking portraits. It's nice and crisp, and the quality is unbeatable.

Sister style6. There are two great choices when it comes to a 50mm lens—

50mm f/1.8  This lens is what we call the Nifty Fifty! It's crazy how good this lens is for how affordable it is.

50mm f/1.4 Another 50mm lens that's a little bit more, but the quality is incredible! This is the 50mm lens that we all use around the studio for pretty much everything.

Useful Accessories

7. Wacom Intuos Pen and Touch Small Tablet If handwriting or hand-drawing is your look, then we highly recommend getting a Wacom tablet! There are a bunch of great ones out there for less than $100, such as this one that we use.

8.  Reflector Set We definitely recommend having a reflector around, especially if you're shooting a lot of portraits or working in harsh light or shadows. This 5-in-1 reflector is just one of many different kinds, and they allow you to really up your photo game for around $20.

9. Canon RC-6 Wireless Remote Controller All SLR cameras come with a self-timer function, but this remote makes it even quicker and easier to capture tons of "selfies" without running back and forth to trigger the self-timer. We use ours often. 

10. Tripod Sarah recommended this tripod and has used for it for 10+ years! It's an incredible quality, and it has a middle-of-the-road price point that is well worth it for the durability. 

11. Photoshop and Lightroom Actions We use actions every day to speed up our editing process and produce consistent images. We highly recommend finding a set of actions you love to invest in! 

Actions by A Beautiful Mess

12. If you're interested in learning to use your DSLR or Photoshop program, I suggest looking into the e-courses we have available! 

DSLR BasicsDSLR Basics / Photoshop for Bloggers / Discounted rate for both courses

I hope this has been helpful! I am here to answer any questions you may have in the comments. Investing in photography gear can be intimidating, but they're some of the best purchases I have ever made. We're here to help! xx- Elsie 

150 New Additions to the #ABeautifulMess App!

Made with A beautiful Mess AppWe're super excited to share that today there is a new update available in the iTunes store with lots of fun additions for the A Beautiful Mess app. We've observed what users are really using the app on a daily basis and added some awesome new packs that will make sharing photos of the most special parts of life even easier! We had a lot of fun working on this update, and we are so happy it's finally time to share it with you! 

Here's what the update includes: 

9 new packs and 150 new items added to the app! We're adding a little texture to the new options available in the A Beautiful Mess App. 

• The Painted pack has 10 FREE new phrases that have a hand-painted texture

Oh you• There are also 4 new packs to help you chronicle the most exciting moments in your life:

Made with A beautiful Mess App  - Wedding Pack ($0.99)

Made with A beautiful Mess App      - Pregnancy Pack ($0.99)

Made with A beautiful Mess App       - First Year Pack ($0.99)

Made with A beautiful Mess App     - Travel Pack ($0.99)

• Four new backgrounds were added to the Essentials Pack (FREE)
• There are also 2 new backgrounds packs available:

Made with A beautiful Mess App Sunny Day Pack ($0.99)

Made with A beautiful Mess App   Breezy Day Pack ($0.99)

• Two speech bubble doodles with the hand-painted texture were added to the Essentials pack (FREE)
• There's a whole new FREE pack of Emoji Stamps, which offer a stamped texture take on all your favorite emojis!

Made with A beautiful Mess App    Free emojis in A Beautiful Mess AppSo fun! 

• Two new simple square borders have been added to the essentials pack (FREE)!

New free border in A Beautiful Mess appAndroid status update: 

Android users have probably noticed there hasn't been an update since the end of last year. You might assume that it's because it wasn't a profitable endeavor for us, so we chose not to update. However this isn't true at all. We had plans to continue to make investments in it (updates) to give it the best chance we could in the ever-changing app marketplace. 

We are unable to update the Android app for a reason that is beyond our control. The short version of the story is this: Google issues a unique file (keystore file) that it cannot replicate to app developers when creating new apps. Think of it like the key to get into/update your app. Our former Android developers lost this file when a hard drive failed because they did not back it up. 

As a result, we are locked out of updating our Android app permanently. Our only option would be to delete the existing app from Google Play and upload a new one, and that would mean all existing users would have to re-purchase the app and all their in-app purchases because there is no way to give all the current users a new free app. We've spent hours and hours going back and forth with Android developer support, but they just reiterated that was all we could do. So since we don't want to take anything away from our current Android users, we have chosen to leave the app as is and not delete it. It's the best we can do with a less-than-ideal set of options. 

So that's where we are today. We are devastated that this happened to our app! Sorry for the long story, but we wanted to be transparent on why we cannot update the Android App now or in the future. We care very much about our Android users and are sad that the potential of our Android app was cut short. We're filing that one under crazy biz stories for our memoir because what else can you do? 

Pregnancy pack in A Beautiful Mess AppThank you so much for your support! We are so incredibly thankful for those of you who use and love the A Beautiful Mess app! We hope these new features are very useful to you! xx- Elsie, Trey, and the ABM Team

P.S. For those of you who've already updated and might've had a little trouble getting purchases to go through, give it another shot. Apple was still processing the new packs when the update launched, but it should be all good now! If you have any questions, you can email us at support AT abeautifulmess DOT com.

Credits: All photos edited with A Beautiful Mess App. Photos by @AshleeGadd @SmileandWave @BuenoBrandi @LaTonyaYvette

Try This: Illustrated Tree Slices

Turn the pages of a well loved book into art for your walls!Decorating a nursery can be a lot of fun, especially where DIY projects are concerned! I must admit, while I am rather crafty and handy with power tools, I certainly am not talented in the area of illustration. Which is kind of a bummer, because illustrations make for great nursery decor, and I just so happen to be decorating a nursery right now. But it's okay! There are plenty of beautiful and inexpensive illustrations right at our fingertips. Just look inside some of your favorite children's books!

Dahlov Ipcar is one of my favorite children's book illustrators, and while looking at her books is quite the treat for the eyes, I decided to take things to the next level and turn her illustrations into art for the nursery. I ordered an extra copy of the beautiful book I Like Animals for the sake of turning the pages into art, but boy was it ever hard to cut into! If you're against using books for art, you might want to find a damaged old book you could use for this project on Etsy or at a local thrift or antique shop.

Turn the pages of a well loved book into art for your walls!Supplies:
-illustrated book (I used I Like Animals and The Cat at Night.)
-tree slice (I found mine at Michaels.)
-spray adhesive (I recommend Scotch Super 77 for a lasting hold.)

Turn the pages of a well loved book into art for your walls!Step One: Create a template for your tree slice. I made mine by photocopying the tree slice and cutting out the inside area of the copy. If you don't have a copier, you can trace the outline of your tree slice and cut away a little margin around it.

Step Two: Remove the page you want to use from the book (I used an X-Acto for this). Then, using a window or a light table, hold your template over the backlit illustration so you can see what portion of the illustration will make it onto your tree slice. This can be tricky if both sides of the page are illustrated, but even so, I've found using the light is very helpful in composing the scene that will decorate your tree slice. When you get it positioned how you like it, trace around the template.

Turn the pages of a well loved book into art for your walls!Step Three: Cut out the illustration, making sure the pencil lines are on the scrap edge of the paper.

Step Four: Spray the back of the illustration with an even coat of spray adhesive.

Turn the pages of a well loved book into art for your walls!Step Five: Hold the sticky side of the illustration slightly away from the tree slice while you make sure the illustration is properly positioned. When you have it positioned just so, place the sticky side all the way onto the tree slice and use the back side of your hand to smooth the illustration, adhering it to the tree slice.

Turn the pages of a well loved book into art for your walls!Use picture hangers or adhesive strips to hang your tree slices on the wall. I placed mine in our kiddo's nursery, but these little guys would be perfectly acceptable in other rooms of the house too! -Mandi

Credits // Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson. Photos edited with Stella from the Signature Collection.


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