New Camera | Beginner Advice Please!

Over Black Friday I purchase a new camera! Not only did I want to purchase a camera for better photos on my blog, but I also wanted one to bring on my future travels and use for my New Years Resolution (stay tuned)! I used a camera in college while taking some of my visual communications classes, but I never took a full-on photo class so my skills with a camera are definitively not the best.

I purchased a Canon PowerShot SX530 HS digital camera on BestBuy.com for under $200 the morning of Thanksgiving because I couldn’t wait until Black Friday. It has a large display screen and 50 times HD optical zoom lens. Plus, my purchase came with a free case and an 8 GB SD card! I originally wanted to get a DSLR but it’s undeniably a huge investment and I just wasn’t ready to spend that much money. I did however want to get a higher quality camera than a basic point-and-shoot that I’ve had in the past. All in all, I’m so happy with my purchase and I love playing around with taking pictures of my makeup products and random things around my house. I’m waiting for a good snow to happen so I can take photos and play around with white balance.

I’m also getting my hands into editing the photos which is a whole new world. I don’t have the best setup for taking photos in my room so a lot of my editing has been brightening/dulling the light and working with the shadows. I’m not an expert by any means in editing, but that will come with time. Currently I’m playing around with taking pictures against my vanity desk background, which is brown, and the white background of a poster board. Personally, I think the brown background has more character and looks more unique, but since daylight is currently minimal in Minnesota I’m usually forced to use the poster board for my backgrounds.

If you have any suggestions for photography beginners, leave them in the comments. I’m hoping to get a tripod in the next few weeks and may also look into the light box if I’m still unhappy with the lighting in my photos.

Thanks for reading!

Travel Makeup Bag & Essentials

I’m going out of town this weekend in Duluth for Grandma’s Marathon. I’m not running in any of the events, but my good friends are and I’m tagging along for the ride. This is the first trip of the summer out of three planned so far, and I’ve been preparing for what I want to bring with for a bit. I’m testing out some products that are air travel friendly for the trip to San Francisco in just a few weeks. So excited!

Makeup

I definitely tend to over pack everything when I travel. I usually justify it by saying I’d rather have options than leave something behind that I needed. I usually do the same with makeup, always packing extra item in case I want to do a smokey eye or glamorous look, but I never do. I think I’ve finally found the palette that’s going to solve this problem! I saw the Tarte Showstopper Palette, which is limited edition so go get it. You need it. I saw this palette on Lipgloss Leslie’s channel and I needed it. I went out a week later to purchase it and I’ve been loving it since. It has a large mirror, full size Tarte Amazonian Clay 12 Hour Blush in Fame, a generous amount of Park Avenue Princess bronzer and the same size Champagne Shimmer, and six eye shadows. There is no matte cream/highlight or black, which is a downside here, but I don’t mind bringing a highlight color in addition to this palette or using the very, very dark brown shadow in the Tarte palette in place of black. Love this, I really do, and it’s only $38. That’s a steal! I justified the purshase by telling Jake that it’s meant to downsize my packing when we travel this summer. He’s holding me to this, I’m sure.

Here’s the rest of the makeup products I’m bringing:

Hair

While I’m not flying this weekend, I am bringing mostly air travel friendly liquid products since I’m flying to San Francisco in about three weeks to test them out before our trip. I am cheating by bringing a full size conditioner, but that’s because my hair relies on conditioner to function each day.

Skin

I don’t get too picky with my skin products when I travel. I am on the search for an air travel sunscreen, but Target has quite the selection so I’m hoping to find something there. Most of these products are in my usual rotation every day.

I feel like I’ve done a good job at packing for this trip, and I’d like to attribute most of it to my new Tarte palette, but who knows! Maybe I’m just getting better at packing. I’m super excited to be visiting Duluth again; I probably haven’t been then since I was 14 years old. I’m hoping the weather holds out to at least get a few good pictures of Lake Superior and with Jake! Will be reporting back.

Summer Plans

Plans for summer are finally starting to come together. Jake and I have been talking about summer plans since March, and for a while we weren’t sure everything we were planning was going to happen, but finally we have made plans and taken time off work for our adventures.

The first part of summer was a move at work. My work’s office made a big move a few weeks ago and I’m loving it. My commute has gone down 50 percent since we moved and I have a ton more time in the mornings and in the evenings to get to the gym, get to the grocery store, and all that jazz. My office is now super close to Jake’s workplace and we can have breakfast dates on the mornings he’s done with work and before I go into work. Love breakfast dates! Not to mention, I don’t have to fill up my car nearly as much as I used to. Perfect timing since the gas prices are rising for summer.

Next month we’re taking a short road trip up to Duluth for Grandma’s Marathon along with our friends. Funny though, we’re not running in the marathon. Only two of five of us going are participating in the marathon. I’m not sure I could ever run a marathon anyway, it’s just not my thing. I definitely run when it’s convenient more me, but I don’t love it. Any who, I haven’t been to Duluth in ten years, or more, so I’m pumped to spend a weekend in the beautiful city with a bunch of people I love. I’d love to spend time around the lake to just enjoy the view and take some awesome pictures. Not to mention, hit up some bars!

So we weren’t sure if this trip was going to happen, but Jake got the time off from work and we are officially planning a trip to San Francisco.  AHHH! I can’t believe it. I’m super excited. My dad and brother just went this past February and my dad can’t stop talking about it. Jake has been planning the majority of this trip and he’s doing pretty good on the events. Alcatraz, salsa dancing, hiking, and the beach! We booked the flights as soon as we could, but we’re still working on lodging and car rental. Traveling to California is very expensive, but we’ll probably get a time share. The car rental is what will be killer on the wallet out of all of this. I’m still on the search for alternatives ways of getting around while we’re visiting.

Then there’s of course, the big move! I’m moving out of my not-so-glamorous-anymore apartment into Jake’s house within the next two months. I’ve lived in my own apartment for almost two years now, and I really enjoy living alone and I think everyone should at some point. My liking for my apartment, however, has just gone down. I don’t love it anymore; nothing wrong with that. So to be clear, whether or not I was moving in with Jake, I would be moving out of my apartment. I’ve started packing up the things I don’t need or use on the daily, like my books, CDs (what are those!), and my winter clothes. I also need to go through most of my belongings and just through crap away. I alone have four sets of dishes, and Jake probably has another two. My old jewelry is just looking tacky and collecting dust on my dresser, and a lot my clothes just do not get the attention they should. Lots of donations will be happening.

Summer is bittersweet for me. I don’t love the heat, I never purposely go out tanning, and I can’t stand humidity. There’s something special about summer though that I love to just think about. Summer love. Summer plans. Summer music. I know everyone has their own summer soundtrack. That album that defines what they’re feeling and what they achieved during their summer. I hope everyone enjoys their unofficial beginning of summer this Memorial Day and is well on their way to make amazing summer plans.

Our Iceland Trip!

I’ve been home for one week now and I just want to go back. Vacation was way too short and vacation from work was definitely way too short.  After a couple of flights we made it our destination at the Keflavik International Airport which is the main way travelers visit Iceland.  The airport is about 45 minutes from Reykjavik which was where our hotel was.  Our trip home had a little bit more drama, but we survived and made it in one piece.

Jake and I flew Air Canada to our connection in Toronto for a flight via Icelandair.  Icelandair was amazing, the  flight attendants were very friendly, the plane had a blanket and pillow with an Icelandic lullaby on it.  Our experience with Air Canada was sub par, however.  When we checked in at Minneapolis St. Paul International airport, the airport employee informed us that we were going to have to claim our checked luggage, move it ourselves to be connected to a new terminal, and then move terminals ourselves.  Upon landing in Toronto after a delayed flight our baggage never showed up.  After arguing with the Air Canada attendants and Canada’s security we found out Air Canada had moved our luggage and didn’t inform us of it.  Our luggage barely made it onto the Icelandair flight thanks to Air Canada’s miss-communication.  Then coming home we almost missed our flight because we had to move our luggage ourselves and Air Canada did not have nearly enough employees working to make it worth the time we had.  Then our luggage was lost for two days.  Aside from the drama with the airliner, our trip was amazing!

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We stayed at the Reykjavik Light Hotel about 15 minutes from downtown Reykjavik, by bus.  Once we arrived, we napped for a few hours before walking around through the neighborhood and grabbing a late lunch.  The weather was a balmy 38 degrees almost everyday when we there and there was rain and snow everyday, but honestly the weather didn’t bother me.  Jake and I picked a good week to leave Minnesota as it was 10 degree below zero almost the entire week we were gone.  Funny story, our first day in the hotel we saw Minnesota on a the only English speaking TV station we received and former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura was being interviewed from Minneapolis.
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Our Northern Lights tour was cancelled Tuesday (and Wednesday) night due to inclement weather, so we relaxed in our hotel room the first night. Wednesday was our trip to the Blue Lagoon and it was easily the highlight of our trip.  When we arrived around 11 a.m. there was some light, but it had just started raining.  We were given writstbands which are for your locker and any charges at the cafe during your visit.  The Blue Lagoon is salt water so it dries out your hair quite a bit so it is recommended that your condition your hair before and after entering the pool.  Again, it was about 38 degrees that day and the water was around 100 degrees causing steam to rise from the pool and spray in the patrons faces.  I had purchased a waterproof camera case hoping to get some pictures of us in the water, but it was so windy that it wasn’t worth the hassle.  I used some of the clay provided around the perimeter of the pool on my face and upper body then purchased hot chocolate before the sun came out for the last 15 minutes we spent in the water.  I was hoping to take a tour of the location, but the time we wanted was booked full.  If you want to take the tour, I would suggest emailing the Blue Lagoon to book your tour in advanced or ask right away when you enter the building.  But because all the Icelanders were so nice, one of the Blue Lagoon’s employees let us walk up to the viewing area so that we could take some photos before leaving a little after 1 p.m.  The photos of the water turned out so much better in print than on a screen.

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The next day we went to the Saga Museum in downtown Reykjavik down by the bay.  The museum has guided tours of Iceland’s history with wax sculptures of the figures of the country’s history, including some Vikings.  After we went through the guided tour, the museum has Vikings clothing and replica weapons and accessories that you can dress up in.  We spent some more time down by the bay walking around to find the parliament building.  During the hunt we found Reykjavik’s city hall and cathedral.  The parliament building was not open to the public, but Jake was happy that we got to see it.  We ate lunch at a cute café across from the parliament building, Café Paris.  The food in Iceland was mostly the same that you could get in America except there seemed to be no chain restaurants or stores.  A few dishes at all the restaurants we ate at had a few dishes that had Icelandic spins on them and all the food was more flavorful and fresh than what you would get in most American restaurants.  I was reading about Iceland’s agriculture industry before we left for the trip and most of their food is grown and raised within their country.  The prices were a bit higher than in America, but it was worth it for the quality of food we were eating.

That night we went on our Northern Lights tour which was guided and included about 700 tourists.  If I had to do it again, I would look for a smaller company offering the tour because the amount of people using cameras and capturing the moment was overwhelming.  Unfortunately, we didn’t see the Northern Lights because of the cloudy weather, but the company offered us a two year voucher to go on the tour again if we visit Iceland again.  I’m not sure if we’ll travel there again within two years, but at least we have the vouchers if some friends visit the country.  Despite not seeing the Northern Lights, I enjoyed our tour guide and learned more about Iceland’s culture.  In Iceland, no one changes their last names upon marriage and children are allowed to chose whether they want to take their mother’s or father’s last name as they grow up.  I think this is amazing and the way it should be everywhere, but that’s another post for another day.  We drove by the only prison in Iceland and the Skyr production building, the manufacturer of Iceland’s famous yogurt.  Skyr is compared to Greek yogurt, but I would say it has more of a consistency of normal American style yogurt though a bit more firm.  I quite enjoyed it and it has a lot of protein in it, which is always a plus in my book.  Finally, our tour guide sang us an Icelandic lullaby on journey back to our hotel.

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I loved visiting Iceland.  The people were beyond nice and helpful.  I would definitely suggest visiting if you’re into outdoor activities and outdoor site-seeing during your travels.  I do wish we could have stayed longer, maybe a full five days.  The flight from Toronto was about five and half to six hours and the weather was reasonably even though it’s the middle of winter.  I would invest in a good weatherproof coat, gloves, and bring an umbrella, even though I didn’t see anyone using one, it’s still a good back-up.  Wear a good pair of shoes or boots if you visit in winter months.  Getting around by public transportation was easy and everyone spoke English on some level so communicating wasn’t a problem.  If anyone has ever visited Iceland or is interested, leave comments below and I’ll get back to you.

November

It’s so weird, that right after Halloween everything seems to change.  All the leaves are off the trees, daylight savings times end which means evening activities become less occurring, and the weather gets cooler and cooler.  I’m not going to lie, I’m sad that October is over because now the real cold weather moves in.  Long gone are the beautiful fall days with the many colors of fall.  All the trees are bare and there was frozen water among some trees.  A jacket, at least, is required every time I leave my apartment, along with mittens and a beanie.  Boots have become my main shoe of choice and Jake and I are in full mode bulking season at the gym.

Halloween happened to fall on a Friday this year, which turned out to be quite nice for me.  I work Monday through Friday, so getting to celebrate Halloween to the fullest made me very happy.  This year I went as Little Red Riding Hood and Jake was the Big Bad Wolf.  My job had a small Halloween party, making me incredibly lucky since I can wear my costume to work.  Not many people get that privilege so I consider myself very lucky on Halloween.  It is my favorite holiday!  Today, November 1, feels so much different already.  It was quiet in my apartment building and everyone seemed relaxed.  I say around in my yoga pants all day, bare faced, loving the feeling of a weekend off.  I cleaned my entire apartment and made Crock Pot breakfast potatoes for the week.

The weather is already looking to be more dreary and cold.  It hardly rained a drop in October, something that made this fall amazing, and this week it’s looking to rain (even snow!) three out of the seven days.  Minnesota is winter from about mid November to March, making November bitter-sweet for me.  I don’t hate winter.  I actually quite dislike summer, but Minnesota winters can be too much.  I want a simple winter where you get two or three heavy snow falls throughout the entire season, not one a month.  I’m definitely that person watching national news during the winter months laughing at the east coasts inability to handle a few inches of snow.  Short days don’t help the cause much.  Going to work and leaving work in the dark is terrible.  I get the concept of daylight savings time, but really it’s terrible in states where winter is six months long.

But have no fear, there are many things to look forward to in the next few months.  November is my birthday month, turning 25 might I add.  I’m excited for my birthday month because of all the shopping perks I get this month.  Turning 25 is a bit jarring, however, because you are no longer in your early twenties, but your mid-twenties.  November is also host to Thanksgiving, which I would guess is many Americans favorite holiday. I was actual born on Thanksgiving, so the holiday holds special meaning to me.  The Christmas season draws closer which means decorating and presents.  I work in commerce and retail so the holiday season is stressful, but that doesn’t mean I can’t love the rush of all of it.  I’ve already started my list of gifts for my family and Jake!  In January, Jake and I have a trip booked to Iceland together.  It’s our first real trip together and I couldn’t be more excited!