ARFotography. » Lifestyle. Detail. Design.

Happy Friday & happy June! What’s better than a restful full night of sleep? I’d say absolutely nothing. I have spent years chasing a good night’s sleep. I don’t think I had had a restful full night of sleep since before Max was born over 17 years ago. Three pregnancies, three babies, an aging dog,  2 puppies, tweens, teens – the list goes on and on….. Let’s face it, moms don’t get a lot of sleep. Between all of the things that actually wake us up in the night and the hamster wheel in our head full of all the things we need to accomplish, sleep is just not easy to come by. Am I right?

I have heard people talking about the benefits of essential oils for years. It was one of those things that I was slightly intrigued by, but honestly it was something that I wasn’t willing to embrace. I thought of it as just another thing on my long list of to do’s. I also wasn’t sure that I was crunchy enough to embrace them. I saw people using them and loving them and I always thought, “cool for you but I just don’t have time for all that nonsense.” My kids are too old to be licking surfaces that I clean with windex, the thought of making my own soft scrub to clean toilets made me shudder. So I went about my business and let all of those oil loving people do their thing while I did mine.

Fast forward to about a month ago….I had been following some bloggers who LOVE essential oils and to be honest, I wasn’t really paying attention. I glossed over their love for oils and went right to their fashion, beauty and decor content. Then BAM….I spotted this diffuser in one of their feeds. It was so beautiful and I thought that it would look soooooo pretty in my house. Literally. That’s a little insight into my brain for you. Pretty diffuser. Must have oils. I mean look at her….

So there began my journey. I got myself a Young Living starter kit. I knew that Young Living was the way to go. I had paid just enough attention to my friends and bloggers to know that there are very few brands that deliver 100% pure toxin and filler free oils and Young Living is the best of the best. Plus they are the ones with the gorgeous diffuser. The starter kits come with a diffuser. Obviously I upgraded my kit for a few more dollars to include this beauty and it comes with a great collection of oils to get you started as well as the household cleaner – which I reluctantly put into gorgeous blue glass spray bottles to use on my hideous wood island and now can’t live without!

Back to the whole sleep thing…So I buy the kit for the diffuser and then realize that I have no clue what to do with it. Enter Pinterest. I hit Pinterest hard and realized that the easiest way to start was to figure out what do diffuse in my bedroom for sleep. I experimented with a bunch of different combos, but my go to for the perfect night’s sleep is a mix of Lavender and Stress Away. Both oils come in the starter kit and when blended together they produce the most dreamy essence of lavender and vanilla. I fill my diffuser with water and then drop in about 8 drops of lavender and 4 drops of Stress Away and diffuse in my bedroom as I am unwinding and getting ready for bed. I feel like it as become like a child’s security blanket for me. It is so relaxing and honestly, it puts me right out and into a sound sleep. If I wake up in the middle of the night – which hasn’t happened in a while, the diffuser has a remote control and I just pop it back on! It’s magic. I wake up well rested and ready for the day.

The starter kits are the way to go. If you are interested in snagging one HERE’S THE LINK. I strongly suggest you sign up as a member to get 24% off all of your future orders. I have quickly added to my starter kit with a bunch of oils that I have researched including Ollie’s favorite combo in the photo above which is beyond dreamy for an uplifting summery vibe (lime, orange, grapefruit & tangerine) as well as a few others that I have turned into the most fabulous smelling and all natural bug spray (citronella, tea tree, lemongrass, eucalyptus radiata).

I got my spray bottles for the household cleaner that also comes in the premium starter kit which can be found in my AMAZON STORE. I have also included some smaller roller bottles as well as some small spray bottles that I have used for my bug spray and linen spray!

I will continue to share my favorite recipes on both my INSTAGRAM and the blog! If you have any questions about recipes I use or how to get started, please reach out to me! I’m telling you, sleeping soundly after all these years is life changing.

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In celebration of my 45th birthday, I have decided to share with you 45 things that I have learned in my 40’s.

  1. Life is short. Eat the doughnut, take the trip, buy the bag. Waiting for the right time or depriving  yourself while you wait for the right time to do something is nonsense. If it feels right, do it!
  2. You get what you ask for, not what you deserve. If you arrive at a hotel and you really are hoping for an upgrade, sitting back and waiting for the front desk clerk to read your mind is not the best strategy. If you don’t ask for things, you probably won’t get it. Just be polite.
  3. Take naps. Pushing through the day like a super hero is totally under rated. Take an hour for yourself. Carve out the time. You’re worth it.
  4. Parenting is a never ending game of second guessing yourself. I always thought that once my kids could bathe and feed themselves that I’d be in the clear. Wow was I wrong. It’s a challenge at every age and phase.
  5. Don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides. We all portray an image of some level of perfection. We are all human. None of us are perfect. We are all fighting the same battles. Just because someone looks graceful, it doesn’t mean that they are skating through life.
  6. I’m not that important. No one is looking at me. We are all totally self absorbed. I’m so worried about how I look following along in a Zumba class that I have zero energy or capacity to look at what you are doing. Dance like no one is watching. They aren’t. They are too busy watching their own reflection.
  7. There’s nothing like sleeping on clean sheets. I once heard Oprah say that she washed her sheets 2-3 times a week. I was FLOORED. Guess who’s a twice a week sheet washer now? Yup. This girl.
  8. Invest in experiences, not things. The greatest gift we can give ourselves is time with the people we love. It all goes back to #1. Take the trip. Go to the concert. Buy tickets to the game. Go with people you love.
  9. There is no such thing as luck. I used to look at women and wonder how they got so lucky. How did this job just land in their lap? How are their kids so cool? None of it is luck. You create the environment you live in. Luck is just hard work and vigilance in disguise.
  10. Folded laundry is over rated. After 16 years of trying to fold and put away my kids’ laundry, I have created a system of clean laundry bins. I wash it and chuck the clean laundry in the appropriate bins. The kids pick out their clean clothes. Freedom!
  11. I am only responsible for myself and my own kids. While your kids are at my house, they are also my responsibility. I need to make sure they are safe. How you parent your kids is none of my business. We are all doing our best!
  12. You never know how you will handle a situation as a parent until you are faced with it. I always laugh when I hear parents say, “If my kid ever did x, I would do y.” It’s so much easier to not worry about how we will handle things until we get there. What seems like the right reaction to a kid coming home after a night of drinking when your oldest is 10, is 100% not going to be how actually handle the situation. So when your friends’ kids are crossing those bridges and your kids aren’t there yet, it’s best to reserve judgement. Trust me.
  13. Teaching kids to drive is one of the most terrifying and freeing things all wrapped up in one big package. There is always one parent who is better suited to teach a particular child – and that parent can vary from child to child – even within your own family.
  14. Don’t obsess over things that you can’t control. That list gets longer and longer as our kids get older. It’s so freeing just to let it go. It will all work out the way it is supposed to.
  15. Parenting is not a one size fits all situation. I am constantly tweaking how I handle situations. It’s a very fluid relationship that is always evolving and totally varies from child to child.
  16. When your teen decides that they want to talk, drop everything and listen. These moments can be few and far in-between. Don’t miss them because you are too busy. Whatever you are doing can wait.
  17. The car is the best place to talk to your teens. It’s also a great place to listen to them talk among themselves. I get my best intel in the car.
  18. Kindness is everything. If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all. That goes for Facebook, Instagram, face to face or behind someone’s back. If you have a negative thought, keep it to yourself. Kindness is beautiful and there is nothing better than the look on a stranger’s face when you compliment them out of the blue. Try it.
  19. Keep your expectations low, but your hopes high. Imposing your own expectations upon others is a sure way to get let down. If you expect someone to behave in a certain way and they don’t, you are bound to be disappointed. For example….your birthday is coming up. You really really want a nice meaningful gift from your spouse and kids. If you expect this, and they don’t deliver, you will be beside yourself. If you think, wouldn’t it be nice if they got me x, but expect that they would really only get you a card, you will be ok with either outcome, because you have not imposed your own expectations upon them. Try it. It’s life changing.
  20. You are never too old to reinvent yourself. You miss 100% of the chances you don’t take. If you want to switch gears and try a different path, you never know if it’s a possibility if you don’t try.
  21. Ask for help. It’s one of the hardest things for moms to do, but asking for help is a sign of strength. Life is hectic and hard. No shame in the asking for help game. Can be for something as small as asking a friend to pick up your kid at school when you can’t be 10 places at once. Ask for help and then don’t feel guilty about it. That’s the trick.
  22. It’s ok to purge friends who no longer serve you. People evolve and change. People come in and out of our lives. It’s ok.
  23. Practice restraint of tongue and pen. Don’t react to every situation you come across. Most of the time it’s best not to react in the moment. Just sit on it. Most of the time I forget about it. I don’t even remember what got me all hot and bothered in the first place. Firing off a text or an email to every person that pisses me off is totally the wrong thing to do.
  24. The best way to rise is by lifting others. Find your tribe and support one another.
  25. There is no better Diet Coke than that from a drive through. This took me moving to understand the lure of the drive through fountain soda. It’s a real thing and one of the small pleasures in life.
  26. You do not owe anyone an explanation for anything. Do what works for you and your family. You do not need to explain your choices to anyone.
  27. If you make a mistake, acknowledge it, apologize, and move on. Admitting our faults is hard, but living with them is even harder. If your side of the street is clean, you can go through life with a lightness that is second to none.
  28. Sometimes we have to do things that we don’t want to do. Don’t deliberate. You know what the right thing to do is. Just do it. It’s like ripping off a bandaid. If you do the right thing, even when you don’t want to, it’s far more painless than doing what you want and then paying the price later.
  29. There is nothing more beautiful than happiness. What’s the point of being thin and miserable? It’s never a good look.
  30. Letting others in is the greatest gift. When we show our vulnerabilities, speak our truth and let people really get to know us (the good, the bad & the ugly), that’s where the magic happens.
  31. You never know who you might help by speaking your truth. We all believe that we are so unique, but really we are more similar than we are different.
  32. There is no such thing as the perfect parent. None of us know what we are doing and we are all doing our best.
  33. Don’t take a month off from working out – that month will most likely turn into 5 years and getting back in shape is 100x more miserable at 44 than it was at 34. If it ever sounds like a good idea, call me. I’ll talk you out of it.
  34. There are several things that you should never pay someone else to do. Changing out a light fixture is one of those things. YouTube it. It’s so easy that you will be furious with all the time and money spent on an electrician.
  35. Never leave the house without sunblock. Ever. Even on the rainiest of days.
  36. Invest in your skin. Find products that work and use them. Nothing better than glowing skin.
  37. Feeling down? Get a spray tan. It’s cheaper than therapy and it will turn that mood right around. It’s magic.
  38. Learn how to apply makeup. It’s fun. There are so many resources out there. It’s easy to learn. Just a swipe of mascara, a pinch of blush and a little gloss goes a long way. You will feel taller and more accomplished.
  39. If you see someone in need, offer them help. It can be the smallest gesture like holding the door open for a mom with her hands full of babies and toddlers to helping a friend or acquaintance who is having a hard time. You always get more than you give.
  40. If there is something you are interested in and have never learned, take a class. Dancing, ballet, tennis, painting, pottery, history, photography. There are so many great resources out there. You are never too old for a new hobby!
  41. Do things with your kids. You may not like fishing, but if they love it, go with them! There is nothing better than being with someone when they are doing something they love.
  42. Jump off the bridge. Just do it. You aren’t too old. If you can flip off it, even better. Your kids will never forget the day you jumped the bridge with them!
  43. Travel is the greatest gift you can give yourself and your family. Make time to explore. Try all the food. Eat where the locals eat.
  44. Eat late night snacks with your teens. If you hear them in the kitchen after 10pm, go down. Hang out with them. There’s something about hanging out in a dark kitchen on a school night over ice-cream that makes my heart happy. Try it.
  45. Age is only a number. You are never too old to do any of the things I have listed above. Especially the bridge jumping!
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Happy Cinco de Mayo! This week, in celebration of this fun Mexican holiday, I am sharing with you 2 of my favorite go to recipes ~ Salsa Verde & Shrimp Tacos! These recipes are in solid rotation around here & we are sure that you will love them, too!

Salsa Verde Shopping List:

8 Tomatillos

1 Medium White Onion

7 Cloves of Garlic

1/2 Bunch Cilantro

1 Green Heirloom Tomato (I often can’t find green and just use a regular red one)

1 Jalapeno (optional)

1 Avocado

Juice of 2 Limes

Salsa Verde Recipe:

  1. Peel tomatillos and blanch in boiling water for 90 seconds, remove and place in an ice bath.
  2. Peel and quarter onion
  3. Wash cilantro and remove thicker stems
  4. Quarter the tomato
  5. Quarter tomatillos
  6. Peel avocado and remove pit
  7. Place all of the above items in a good blender (Vitamin, Blendtec) or food processor
  8. Juice the limes into the blender
  9. Add 1tsp of kosher salt
  10. Add seeded Jalapeño (optional)
  11. Blend until smooth

Viola! This fresh salsa is delicious with tortilla chips, served over grilled chicken or fish and as a garnish to any type of taco!

Shrimp Taco Shopping List:

2lb bag of frozen raw devained shrimp (some have tails on, some have tails off – depends on where you buy them – you eventually want the tails off – so whatever you find is fine)

1 bag slaw (I love Taylor Farms Asian Chopped Salad Kit from Costco, but you can make your own, or get some pre-made, cabbage based chopped salad – they have them at whole foods as well as Trader Joes)

1 package Corn Tortillas

1/2 cup Sour Cream

1  can San Marco Chipotle Salsa

4 cloves garlic

1 tsp Chili powder

1/2 tsp Cumin

1 tsp Garlic powder

3/4 cup Olive Oil

1 Avocado peeled and cubed

Chopped Scallions for garnish

Cilantro for garnish

2 Limes sliced for garnish

Shrimp Taco Recipe:

  1. Defrost the shrimp using a colander in the sink. Run some room temp water over them until they are defrosted.
  2. Pat dry with paper towel.
  3. Mince or crush the garlic and add to a mixing bowl along with the chili powder, cumin & garlic powder.
  4. Add olive oil and whisk together.
  5. Add shrimp to the olive oil marinade, cover and let sit for 20 min or more in the fridge.
  6. While shrimp are marinating, add 1/2 cup sour cream to a bowl & add some chipotle salsa to taste. Will make a light pink sauce for the tacos. I usually use about 1 Tbs, but start slow. The salsa is smoky and spicy!
  7. Heat the corn tortillas – you can throw them in foil and toss in the oven or you can heat them in a frying pan – to be honest some nights I’m too lazy for this step and I skip it all together.
  8. Heat a large skillet on high.
  9. Add the shrimp and all the marinade to the skillet and sauté until the shrimp are pink and cooked through (a couple of minutes – time varies based on skillet size and amount of shrimp)
  10. Assemble your tacos by adding a few cooked shrimp, topping with slaw, cilantro, scallions, lime, avocado & a drizzle of chipotle sour cream sauce!

Shrimp tacos are in regular rotation over here. Some nights we skip the tortillas and just have them in a bowl over rice. Max likes his shrimp alone in a bowl. Naked. I also had high hopes of serving up a delicious virgin margarita recipe, but the truth is that I’m really just a water drinker. Maybe a seltzer with a lime! So I fell short in the drink category this holiday, but who needs the sugar and carbs anyway?

 

 

 

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Guess what? This month I will be celebrating a whole 45 trips around the sun, and I have decided to celebrate by giving away a $100 gift card to Nordstrom to one of my awesome supportive followers. You guys have supported me cheering me on and encouraging me along the way even when my own kids had no faith in my game.

If you are new around here, I’ll give you a little back story….I started this whole journey back in 2011. I had been traveling with my husband and while he worked all day, I explored with my camera. I loved street photography and decided that it was time to invest in a real camera. I had been posting my images to Facebook and people loved them. In early 2012 I was approached by a friend from high school. She had seen my work and wanted me to help with a project that she was working on. She was a real estate broker down on Cape Cod and she had just landed a huge listing. She asked me to photograph the house to make a coffee table book for prospective buyers. I hadn’t really considered actually getting paid for my photography. I was busy with my 3 boys and teaching spin classes. It was also very early in my sobriety – which ended up being a Godsend. I didn’t know it at the time, but the timing was everything. It was perfect. After discussing with my husband, hashing out all of my fears and insecurities, he encouraged me to take the job and then assess from there. Well, if you know me at all, you know that I don’t do anything half assed. I needed to name my business, buy a domain and build a website (all of which I did that night – not joking one bit).  I was up and running immediately. I shot that project on the cape.  I took portraits, family photos, pets, head shots, senior portraits, and interior design images sharing them on Instagram, Facebook, and my blog along the way.

I joined Instagram back in April of 2011 and I have left up all of my posts. I think it’s so fun to see how I have evolved as a person as well as a photographer. God love all of those early filters! Below is one of the first photos that I shared. It was taken in Istanbul on my birthday in 2011. Fast forward 7 years and here we are! 

It wasn’t until September of 2017 that I really decided to transition some of my effort into my blog and my Instagram account. I had been watching all of these other bloggers make a living off of Instagram and I decided that there was absolutely zero reason that I couldn’t make it as an influencer. I had just over 1K followers at the time. Mostly people I knew or friends of friends. I announced my plan to my family over dinner and let’s just say that they were less than impressed. Husband doesn’t have Instagram and he’s not on social media. I’m pretty sure that everything I said went in one ear and out the other. My boys were 11, 15 & 16. They all gave me a massive eye roll and told me that I’d never make it. If that didn’t light a fire under my ass, nothing would! I stayed up night after night reading all that I could on Instagram, the algorithm, how to organically grow, and how to develop relationships with brands. I used the story feature consistently – which my kids HATED, but it was working. I showed you guys my mortifyingly messy laundry room (which you all loved) and how my dogs loved to sit on our kitchen table. I shared all the little snippets of my life and you guys watched. You know who else watched?? All of my kids’ friends. ALL OF THEM. At first I thought they were watching to mock me. I was sure of it. In fact, I was convinced that the only reason any of you would watch my stories was to make fun of me behind my back. But the days turned into weeks which turned into months, and guess what?? You guys STILL WATCH! I have landed some fun sponsorships and brand deals, my following has more than quadrupled since September and I’m almost half way to my goal of 10K followers and the swipe up feature!

So as a BIG THANK YOU for following along, sharing my posts with your friends and encouraging me along the way, I have a little contest for the month of May. To qualify to win the $100 gift card, you must do the following:

  1. Like & comment on each and every one of my posts for the month of May.
  2. You must comment within 24 hours of each post for your comments to qualify.
  3. Each one of your comments must be 4 or more words.
  4. Must be following me to win!

At the end of the day on Thursday, May 31, I will draw the winner from a pool of followers who have qualified! A couple of pointers to give you an upper hand….turn on the post notifications for my account by clicking on the 3 dots on the top right of your screen while viewing my account page. Then click “Turn on Post Notifications” that way you won’ t miss my posts! You won’t be scrambling to get your comments in on time!

Lastly, here’s a clear example of a 4 word comment (good) vs an emoji comment or comment less than 4 words (no bueno).

Thank you guys from the bottom of my heart. I love this space that we have created together! I can’t wait to give one of you a little shopping spree!

xo amy

 

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Let’s talk skin and skincare. As the years tick by, people are often commenting on my skin. Yes. I take care of my skin. You guys here me talking about skin care ALL THE TIME. I will tell you that prior to 30, I didn’t give my skin a second thought. I’m pretty sure I didn’t wash it much, I didn’t have any products aside from what I bought here and there at the grocery store. I spent all of my childhood, teens and into the college years in the sun. I grew up on the beach and I was a swim instructor and lifeguard for years. I LOVED the sun. By the end of any given summer, I was so tan that people could barely recognize me. Think tan mom. I shudder just thinking about it. On my 30th birthday I woke up and decided that it was time to take care of my skin. What that meant was not so clear but I got the occasional facial and even invested in a line of fancy skincare. As my 30’s ticked on I was vigilant about sunblock, I never slept in makeup, and I was aware of the suns aging effects on my face.

Fast forward to my late 30’s… I started my photography business and I was lucky to work with some of the best in the skincare biz. I was doing a lot of work with the girls over at TRYST. I watched and learned from them. I jumped into the world of chemical peels, oxidizing facials and amazing products that helped me to reverse the damage I had done for the better part of almost 40 years in the sun. It was at Tryst that I met KATHRYN RUSSO, a nurse practitioner specializing in cosmetic dermatology. Kathryn has a practice in Framingham but makes the trip to TRYST on the South Shore once a month to service clients down in that area. Kathryn is in a league of her own when it comes to skincare and aesthetics. Her understanding of facial structure and dermatology is amazing. She understands how the skin ages, and has an amazing arsenal of treatments to handle any issue.

A few weeks ago, I went to Kathryn for what is known as a Vampire Facial, known more formally as PRP Therapy. I documented the whole thing on my Instagram stories and I have edited them all together into a YouTube video below. The vampire facial takes your own blood, spins it in a centrifuge to separate out the platelet rich plasma which is then used on your face to regenerate collagen and cell growth. The science behind it is incredible and the whole experience was SO COOL.

The treatment took just under an hour. They drew my blood and while it was spinning she numbed my face with a numbing cream. From there she did a Microderm treatment to prep the skin and once the platelet rich plasma was ready, she treated me with a derma pen which makes tiny little pricks in the skin which she then applies the platelet rich plasma on top. Basically creating small incisions which the body then heals with the help of its own plasma which increases collagen production and fresh skin cells.

Did it hurt? Nope. Not at all. My skin was numb, but as you can see in the video, we decided to do my neck which was not numb. I could hold a conversation during the treatment on my neck. It felt like a rubber band snapping on my skin. Uncomfortable? A little. But not painful. Did it smell like blood? Nope. The plasma didn’t really smell like much of anything at all.

The vampire facial is beneficial for so many different conditions including acne, rosacea, and aging. The results are amazing and there is very little down time. My skin was red that evening, and the next day, it was hardly noticeable.

While my skin was in great condition prior to the treatment, my results have been amazing. Almost everyone I came into contact with in the weeks after the treatment asked me what I had done to my skin and told me that it was glowing. The image above was taking about 3.5 weeks after the treatment and the skin is completely unedited. I will be 45 in a couple of weeks, and I am quite proud of the strides I have made with my skin over the past 15 years to reverse all of the sun damage from the first 30 years of my life.

KATHRYN RUSSO offers a wide variety of skin treatments from Botox and fillers to laser treatments. She is offering $50 off your first treatment to all first time clients I refer. If you are concerned about the effects of aging and would like to give yourself the gift of self confidence and glowing skin, KATHRYN is your woman.

Below is the video of the process. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to either of us! Kathryn can be found on INSTAGRAM @russo.aesthetics

 

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