Sunday, November 28, 2010

Tis the season!

With Thanksgiving in the rear view mirror, I suppose it's time for me to put away my pumpkins, pilgrims & gourds & pull out my Christmas decorations! Tis the season for twinkle lights, Advent calendars, Christmas cookies, ornaments & Christmas cards!

I love receiving Christmas cards in the mail from friends & family, & by mid-fall, I've usually picked out our Christmas card/photo (we're using this one)! All over the blogosphere, I've been reading about Shutterfly's blogger holiday card giveaway. Blog about Shutterfly (what's not to love about their amazing Christmas card designs?!) & get 50 free cards! What a deal! We've used Shutterfly in the past for our Christmas cards & have always loved the finished product!

I'd already ordered my photos when I read about this awesome promotion, so I said "shucks!" & vowed to pay attention next year. Until... I thought about my big sister. I'd already offered to take their family Christmas card photo while we were home for Thanksgiving, so I thought I'd see if she'd like to take advantage of the 50 free cards. I'm all about sharing the love. Katie was in, so all we needed to do was to capture some sweet photos of their fam (no small feat with a 14 month old) & pick out a Shutterfly design. Here are the finalists...

Option #1
This was my absolute favorite photo of the entire shoot. Hannah just started walking on her own while we were home (I think she was waiting for Aunt Suz & Uncle Matt to arrive to make her big move!). She went from taking a few steps to completely tottling around independently & she was oh-so-proud of herself.
With her sweet & a little bit naughty expression, I think this Shutterfly design would be perfect!
Option #2
I absolutely melt when I see Hannah's sweet smile in this photo. She is so loved.
I think that this photo would look great with this simple Shutterfly design.
Option #3
This is the best family photo (at least of everyone's faces) that we captured. It's tough getting a 14 month old to smile & look at the camera at the same time. Uncle Matt & the abundance of Florida oranges (true to form for our family, Hannah loves a ball & the oranges in the backyard passed muster as balls) helped capture Hannah's attention!
For this photo, I love this Shutterfly design. It's so important to remember the real reason for the season & I love when a Christmas card reflects that.
I'll leave the ultimate choice up to Katie since these are her cards! I'll also share some more cute photos from our little shoot & week in Florida later on the blog.

Psst... Have your own blog? Bloggers get 50 free holiday cards from Shutterfly. Learn more here!

Thanks, Shutterfly!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I'd planned to write an extensive list of all of the things that I am thankful for this year here on Simply Suz, but what I am most thankful for at the moment is the chance to spend time with my family this week. I'll spare you the list, as I'd rather be counting my blessings with my family than spending time recounting them here on the blog.

I am so blessed to have a wonderful, supportive, loving, faithful family & to have married into a pretty amazing family, as well. This Thanksgiving, I am also especially thankful that I grew up having a relationship with all four of my grandparents, & I am praying hard that the Lord stands beside my Grandpa K as he recovers from the stroke he suffered on Sunday & as he faces the seriousness & difficulty of cancer. I hope that as he spends his Thanksgiving in a hospital room, he is reminded how loved, cherised & lifted up in prayer he is... Love you, Gramps.

Monday, November 22, 2010


This is my beloved Gramps, with my super-sweet niece Hannah....
Gramps is very sick & needs some prayers right now,
so if you're reading this, please lift him up to the Lord. 
Thanks, blog friends. Love, Suz

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

PhotoBOOK of the Week!

Sorry for the lack of blogging over here on Simply Suz. I've been busy creating a photo book (using Blurb's Booksmart, my fave) of our summer vacation to Alaska. About 2 weeks ago, I received an email from Blurb offering 20% off my next book.* Here's the catch, I had less than a month to finish it. I'm a frugal lady & will do almost anything to take advantage of a sale. I've also found that I need motivation to start & finish a Blurb book & a sale is just the ticket to kick me into high gear.

This was my 6th Blurb book (have I mentioned I'm a very happy customer? I've written about blurb once, twice, three times already!) & probably took the most time & effort. I've become more comfortable using their software, which meant that I created custom layouts for almost every page. For the control freak like me, that's a huge selling point. If you don't like Blurb's preset layouts, or want to tweak the size of a photo or text box, you can edit the layouts.

Once I painstakingly went through hundreds of photos & picked out my favorites, tweaked or created new layouts, & wrote a little travelogue, I finally gave my book a good once-over... Overall, I was pleased. Thankfully, my little blog series gave me a head start. A lot of my favorite photos were already picked out & I'd already written about our whirlwind vacation in detail right here on the blog. (I'd already done the hard part).

When I previewed the book, I did notice that some of the photos looked a little fuzzy, which puzzled me. We'd just bought a fancy-schmancy new camera & the photos were super big with amazing resolution (in fact, I plan on blowing up this one in canvas & putting on our mantel). After searching Blurb FAQs & finally emailing customer support, I discovered that my photos were just too-dang-big. Jamming all of those megapixels into teeny image boxes distorted the photo. And here I thought low-resolution would be my only problem! I had to go through each & every photo in the book (319 to be exact), determine the "optimal resolution" in Blurb, open in Picasa, export a lower-resolution copy of the original photo, import that copy into Blurb & replace the original file. It. took. forever.

In the end, I'm glad I took the extra time. I would have been super bummed had the book come in the mail & all of the photos were fuzzy! I thought y'all might want to take a looksie (note that the blurry photos exist in this little preview, the photos you see are a lower resolution "placeholder" if you will, of the actual files). If you read my Alaska series, a lot of the photos will look familiar, but feel free to flip through if you're at all curious! Consider putting together a Blurb book of your own. You won't be disappointed!

*Psst....Want to make your own book & get a 20% discount? Finish & upload your book by November 26th & enter "PROMO" at checkout.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

PhotoSHOOT of the Week: Mel Headshots

Mel Photo Shoot Faves
My beautiful friend, Melanie, needed headshots taken to use when she auditions for plays & she asked me if I'd be willing to take them for her. Yes, CPA-Suz has dramatic, creative friends who live in an entirely different world than her. Of course I said "yes." One, because I love taking pictures. Two, because I love Mel.

Mel was so patient with me while I fiddled around with my camera, dragged her all around the grounds of Rashkis Elementary (Matt & I run on a path by the school & I am in love with the bamboo on the trails), & asked her to be look pensive. What can I say? I'm new to this, & haven't really mastered taking care of my job behind the camera & instructing the subject what to do (Not that Mel needed much if any coaching. She is the pro. I am the amateur). Plus, I usually photograph flowers & trees & mountains. They don't need both of their eyes to be in focus.

Mel has gorgeous green eyes, which really worked well with the bamboo/pinetree backdrops. All of the photos on this page are "SOOC" (straight out of the camera), with the exception of the B&W, which I made monotone in desktop Picasa (the color file was a little too warm for my liking). Of course, Photoshop would be helpful to do a little touch up, but sadly, Matt's computer which actually has Photoshop is dead as a doornail. Luckily, Mel's a natural beauty & doesn't need any editing!

Here's my favorite, which actually happened to be one of the first photos I took! Mel's favorite was the bottom row, second from the left in the collage above. Which one do you like best? You should be able to click to enlarge...
Favorite Mel Headshot
Psst... I decided to use my free flickr account for now for photos. I'm still contemplating which "pay for storage" site I want to use to house my photos. Hopefully I don't run out of free flickr space before I make up my mind!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tuesday Musings: A List About Blogging

  1. Do you like the new header? I'm excited about it! Hopefully, I'll do a better job at rotating that with the seasons. Given that it's been autumn for, what...2 months?... I wouldn't hold your breath on a winter header anytime soon!
  2. I love blogging. Although I'm very very Type A, I do have a creative side (I do! I do!) & blogging has been a great opportunity for me to get those creative juices going & write outside of work. Simply Suz has challenged me to work on my photo skills & has given me a forum to share some of our adventures. Even though I'm not consistent in my blogging, this isn't going to disappear anytime soon.
  3. I've dropped the ball on Life for Less. Part of my impetus in starting this blog was sharing some of some personal finance tips for 20-somethings, but Simply Suz has become more of a photo blog! Sorry! Since it's benefits enrollment season, I've started a post on high deductible health insurance, however, I keep getting sidetracked & I haven't had a chance to spend any brain power on that one. It's coming one of these days...
  4. I have officially run out of space for my photos so I'm investigating other options (probably going to bite the bullet & buy a Flickr "Pro" account) so I can keep sharing my favorite hobby with you. Plus I just had my first real "gig" taking photos for a sweet friend of mine. More details on that later this week. That is if I can make a decision on where to house my photos in cyberland so that I can share them with you!
  5. Lastly, has anyone else noticed the Christmas commercials vamping up? This would usually annoy me, but I'm trying not to be in denial & I've already started my Christmas cards & shopping (what?!?), plus I'm trying to finish a book chronicling our Alaska trip this week, which takes precedence over blogging.
  6. Did you care about any of that? Probably not. If you made it to #6, thanks for reading :)

More (Very Special) Birthdays!

It is birthday season around here! 

Today, Momma McA & Margot Z. (Grandpa Bud's lovely wife) celebrate their birthdays. These two ladies are extremely special to us & we wish we could celebrate with them today! I could not have asked for a better mother-in-law & grandmother-in-law.

Heidi (who I affectionately call "Mom") is one of the sweetest, funniest, quirkiest, most loving moms. Maybe it's because I lived by myself with her & Dad Mac last year when Matt moved to NC, but calling her "Mom" doesn't seem foreign at all. She gave me a hug when I left for work each morning, we've traveled together, made dinners together, enjoyed one too many cups of coffee (& wine) together, cried to/for one another, gone for evening walks with nonstop chitchat & made lots of sweet memories in my short stint (so far) as a McAndrew. In short, she's a keeper & I'm so thankful for her! Margot is an absolute sweetheart. Kindhearted, adventuresome, patient & unassuming, she is a wonderful partner-in-crime for Grandpa Bud! I miss these ladies like crazy...

I have officially maxxed out my photo usage on Picasa, which explains the lack of blogging in the last week, so please bear with me while I figure out how to get new photos on the blog! Luckily, I had all of our photos from our trip to California last Thanksgiving in a web album, so I could pull these funny/favorites of Mom & me in Monterrey. Unfortunately, until I have some time to iron out my technical (a.k.a. photo) difficulties here on Simply Suz, I can't upload a photo of Margot :( but I hope she knows how special & celebrated she is!
Happy Birthday, Mom & Margot! Love, Suz (& Matt, too!)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

birthday boy!

Yesterday we had birthday girls & today we have a birthday boy! Tommy! 

Happy birthday to my brother (in-law...but we usually drop that part), who turns 24 today!

Tommy had a pretty exciting year (playing in a BCS bowl game, studying abroad in South Africa, graduating from Stanford, landing a sweet job, & proposing to his best friend), but I have a feeling this coming year will top it.

I am so thankful that the McAs have embraced me as a true member of their family, & Tom's no exception. As evidenced by these photos, he learned how to make me feel welcome early on. He's a great guy, better brother & I'm sure he'll make an excellent husband to Caroline...

Happy birthday, Tommy!

Your big sister, Suz
& Matt, too!

Monday, November 1, 2010

birthday girls!

Happy Birthday to my college roomies, bridesmaids, & most importantly dear friends, Jenny & Courtney!
These ladies are both turning a quarter of a century old (j turns 25 tomorrow & cbiz on wednesday!)! Their bdays are separated by a mere 24 hours, & they truly are kindred spirits. Must explain why I love them both so much....
Ladies, I love you & miss you more than you know.  I hope you feel celebrated today.
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