Cowboy Studio Lighting

In a creative rush just weeks before Grayer was born, I decided I would like to have newborn portraits. I also decided I was going to take them myself. So I pulled out my camera and did some boring-schmoring manual reading. I read my Sony Cyber-Shot manual from front to back. (I am going to totally recommend you all do this. Not only is the dauntingly thick manual about 1/3 of the length you think it is because it’s written in at least three languages, but you will learn globs of neat stuff you never imagined that little device could do.) I wanted to fully understand the symbols and settings so I could trouble shoot if my photos weren’t coming out as planned.

I also needed to find some good umbrella lighting. The mornings can be fairly gray in New Orleans this time of year and I wanted to be prepared for anything. I did some reading on lights and found an array of beautiful photos on Pinterest that served as inspirational fuel for the project. Check out my picks on Pinterest – I devoted a board to newbie photos that will make you smile and say “awww.” These babies are melt-your-heart adorabs.

Anticipation ensued. This project was going to be fun!

One of the keys to nice photographs is good lighting. So I thought I would share a link to the super thrifty, good quality umbrella lights from Cowboy Studio I found good reviews on. I ordered these bad boys a few days before I went into labor and had them just in time to take some shots for keepsake books. They really did just the trick I think. Here’s a look at what you will get in the kit. (I didn’t have the lights for the photo below, obviously…)

Lights and Tripods

When the baby finally arrived (seven days past due) the hubs and I were so wiped that taking photos was the last project we wanted to get into. But with Kevin’s encouragement and support, we made it happen when Baby Grayer was just five days old.

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The Start of Something New

It is a joy to be back and I am so glad you are here. The last year has been a whirlwind — from relocating to New Orleans and experiencing an all natural home birth to redefining who I am and what I want to share with you. In between there have been a few Saints football games, a steak or two, a fun day at the zoo, warm meals at beautiful places with friends, my first Mardi Gras, and visits from loved ones that have meant the world.

There is a new addition to the McLean family and he is already 11 weeks old. I can not believe how quickly this sweet boy is changing and developing. Baby Grayer and I recently had an outing at the Crescent City Farmers Market. This was our first time to market in New Orleans and it was definitely not our last. The beauty that surrounded us filled me with an urge to replenish and renew; get back to the things I love that have been put on the back-burner.

A few special treats for the belly and home follow — wild fresh cut flowers to dress up the table, in-season produce to satisfy the palate, homemade candies to dream about and more. This is just the beginning of something fresh and interesting I hope to bring to you.

crescent city flowers

Flowers from White Oaks Farm in Metairie LA

crescent city farmers market

Baby Grayer at the White Oaks flower stand

pink fuzzy flowers

bunch of colorful flowers

wild flowers

cartons of fruit

Hundreds of Peaches

shrimp on ice

Raw Shrimp

lollipops of all shapes

Baby Grayer and the sweets

scallion cucumber and green peppers

Lots of Green

veggie and seasoning

Yellow Squash and Thai Basil

farm tomatoes


spicy veggie


life is a peach


colorful floral display

Wild Flower Bunch

I aspire to bring you a new perspective in refreshing, fun feel-positive topics. If there is something you would like to see more about, please drop a comment or send an email to So nice to see you again!

New Orleans, Louisiana

If we are alike, you probably enjoy traveling to and exploring new places. Here’s a photo from my recent journey to New Orleans, Louisiana (or, NOLA.) There are so many hidden elements I’m still discovering within this particular shot. Also, there was so much to see and do in NOLA that I couldn’t possibly cover it in one blog post – more soon!

magazine street new orleans

Fusion Therapy Salt Room Experience

Looking for date-night ideas? Tired of the mall?

Until invited to experience one, I had never even heard of a “salt room.” An after-work invitation to visit a new business in town with 10 close colleagues seemed mysterious, intriguing and I was instantly curious.

I had been stuck on the couch for a few days leading up to the scheduled gathering, dealing with an offensive head cold and ear/throat infection. After reneging on the invitation, I was convinced by the host to attend last minute.

With my last ounce of oomph, I pulled it together, dawdled getting dressed, and negotiated my way to Fusion Therapy. It is set back in an aging, shadowy office plaza, appropriately called Pine Park Centre. One step inside the building, however, and there was a shift in the atmosphere.

Waiting Area at Sarasota Salt Room

Welcome to the purely elegant and fresh, airy lobby at Fusion Therapy. I was instantly transported to a page in a favorite home design magazine! Greeted by an enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff, I began to feel better already. Husband and wife team Terry and Gena Schibler are the brains behind this business, and, let me tell you, at this point I had tons of questions (some arguably more urgent than others).

  • Am I going to get everyone sick?
  • Do you wear shoes?
  • What does this salt room look like?
  • What do you do in there?

To my wonderment, natural dead sea salt actually creates a sterilized, negative ion environment, three times cleaner than a sterile surgery area in a hospital. Guess I wouldn’t be spreading any germs. It is also known to help in the healing of those suffering from ear, nose and throat illnesses, asthma, bronchitis, cold, flu and more. That’s not all. It is known to assist children, yes you read me right, with skin and respiratory conditions. How do you like them apples?

Skin Care Specialist at Fusion Therapy

Shoes off, I was invited to find a restful seat amid the dead sea salt, which was light in color, encasing the entire room (walls included) and felt, under my feet, like stepping onto a pebbly beach. (There are slippers to wear over shoes for those feeling less adventurous.) The room was closed off, the speakers streamed Fun, Fun, Fun by The Beach Boys and the Halotherapy treatment began. Few of us knew what to expect at that moment. I think we were all waiting for the room to explode or the walls to start moving or something else bizarre to happen.

There were lots of nervous giggles and wide eyes, although the single male in the group was one of the most laid back there.

Sarasota's Premier Salt Room

We were all pleasantly surprised when, from a tube in the wall, a steady mist of aerosolized salt, or, micronized medical grade salt flowed. Once I felt a sense of comfort, I stretched my legs out on my NASA-inspired, no-gravity reclining chair, and deliberately focused on my breathing. Anuloma Viloma (or Alternate Nostril Breathing) as modeled by Gena, was encouraged as a way to restore imbalances in the brain and calm emotions. So I began in through the right, out through the left and vice versa.

A primary colored beach ball made its way around the room and some of us even wore sunglasses. I smiled, wondering whether Terry and Gena have clients that go in clad in bikinis and swim trunks. Maybe even a Speedo?

It was quiet, other than the music and light laughter weaving through conversation, and when I closed my eyes, the muffled sounds reminded me of standing in a field of paper white falling snow. I imagined this was what heaven could feel like; light buzzing and humming, blissful alignment with the universe. The sweet, deep edge you balance over before falling asleep.

Upon completion of the 45-minute Dry Saline Therapy session, I experienced a considerable lift in mood, a slight improvement in energy and a gentle cleansing of my nasal passages (which was just what the doctor ordered). Bring on the tissues; let’s kick this sick!

Salt Room Experience

Post treatment, we were all thirsty, so decided to hit up a local spot for some fluid replenishment. There were mixed reviews about instant results among the group, but the overall consensus was that we would go back in a heartbeat. We all appreciated the opportunity to decompress and alleviate the stressors of the week in such a unique and fabulous place.

Inspired by European salt caves, the Suncoast’s premiere dead sea salt treatment center will certainly satisfy your curiosity in new and innovative health and wellness practices. For details on therapeutic and restorative sessions in the salt rooms, visit Fusion Therapy’s website.

If you’re interested in reading more, check out these commonly asked questions – the answers might surprise you. Fusion also offers a number of additional services including massage, infrared therapy, and skincare. Ahem…can I sign up now?!

Full Spectrum Infrared Therapy Sauna

This is the infrared therapy station.

Fusion Therapy Skin Care

Here’s a peek at the skin care treatment room, where Gena does a lot of her work.

Mindful Minerals

Had to share the mini shopping cart with you…

Get Babied

Have you ever been to a salt room? Is it something you might like to try?!

2012 In Review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for Here’s an excerpt:

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. was viewed about 1,500 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people. How cool is that?

What’s more is that if 1/4 of those viewers were subscribers, we’d nearly hit a community of 1,000! Thank you for all your support in 2012.

Cheers to a bright and healthy New Year. And, Happy Birthday, Mom M!

Click here to see the complete 2012 report.

Fashion Inspired by Nature: Selby Gardens

Nature was my fashion muse as I explored the exotic wonders at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

The utter femininity of these fuchsia and yellow flowers combined with the delicate strength found in each petal is the perfect inspiration for a scarf or wrap.


The umbra shading of the colors combined with the snake-skin print bring girlishness and edginess together!

Green Plant from Selby in Sarasota

This box plant’s reticulated leaf pattern and delicate structure brings to mind a certain clutch…

Intrecciato satin knot

Simple and elegant. The tailored shape, emerald green color and classic style pack a powerful punch.

Polka Dot Plant

Polka dots found in nature are as adorably surprising and fanciful as those found in fashion.

Black and White Polka Dot Dress

This Silk Dress by Oscar de la Renta from Saks Fifth Avenue has a sweet jewel neckline, cap sleeves and bodice pleats–ideal for a day at the office or a walk around town.

Selby Botanical Gardens

This plant is extraordinary – in shape, vibrance and individuality. The same goes for these fabulous Alexis Bittar hoops, which are an exclusive for Nordstrom.

Nordstrom Exclusive with Alexis Bittar

Don’t these shell-like beauties make you feel like you’re at a resort bathing in a cerulean sea?

White Flowers

Fashion Inspired by Nature

Experience the exotic look of tropical flowers, grass and sand.

Floral Print Sleeveless Blouse and A Line Skirt

You will find unending inspiration for resort-wear in Oscar’s latest collection, which is reminiscent of the 60’s.

Old Tree at Selby

This tree is over 500 years old and stands stalwartly at the heart of Selby.

The serpentine straps of this heeled sandal are evocative of the twisted, winding roots of the ancient tree. P.S. Each photo takes you to someplace special online. Feel free to click for a little added fun!

What is your fashion muse?

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Keeping In Touch With Your Inner Child

Being grown-up certainly has its perks, but I so appreciate those moments when childhood winks back at me. There are lots of fun ways to stay in touch with the whimsy and imagination we used to access so easily. Some of the things that keep me playful:

crayola crayons

Doodling with some old favorites.

felt puppy

A soft, lime green puppy lying atop a sea of pink and white stripes.

comfort food

Mac and cheese (although now, as a grown-up, it’s Annie’s with salt and pepper.)

Cupcakes, and did I mention cupcakes, and, oh! cupcakes! This book by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson has some playful ideas.

cupcake recipes

Arts and crafts.

handmade tags

Handmade gift tags (there’s nothing quite as extraordinary as the feeling of giving a gift.)

gummy bears

Gummy bears. (Don’t forget to brush your teeth before bed!)

Oh, and bendy straws.

Someone close who watched me grow up shared a few more… “Barrettes, baby dolls, laughter, frosting licked from beaters, surprises, sidewalk chalk, bouncy balls, dress-up!” So true!

How do you keep in touch with your inner child?

Yoga For Beginners

Cate at Rosemary Court Yoga Studio

I am a perfectionist. For those of you who don’t know me, I really like things to be in order— the house, the food, the car, the clothes, or the workout. I am not saying I’m perfect, because for those of you that do know me, we all know it isn’t so!

I am simply saying that sometimes the desire for things to be perfect can get in the way.

For years, and let me emphasize years – through college at a great place, Saint Rose, where I met some of my best friends; through meeting the love of my life and relocating from a small town to another small town (this time in the mountains); through learning how to run (which was not easy, but that’s a story for another day) and donating blood for the first time, I avoided yoga like the plague.

The perfectionist had overtaken all systems. I couldn’t try yoga, although I knew it would be perfect for me, because of the excuses that were in the way: I wasn’t in shape. I felt nervous about being in a class where people would be looking at me and judging my clumsiness. I was not in a comfortable place with my mind and body. I felt unattractive and disconnected.

I used to be a dancer in another life, but that discipline and means of expression still held great appeal, like a life force replete with what I was supposed to be doing.

I bit the bullet. It had been long enough. I was sick of making excuses. It was time. It was finally time to discover what yoga was all about.

Enter Rosemary Court. It popped up on a Google search and it was close by. When I pulled in for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised. Here I was, downtown. Nearby: a school, a few furniture stores and abandoned buildings, yet this little courtyard made me feel like I was in another world. A blink and I was back at Saint Rose in the sunny, tulip-filled spring, where I met my girlfriends. Another look and I was in the Berkshires on a dandelion-seed-floating afternoon on the blanketed grass with Kevin. Then I was back in Florida, with all the things that had kept me from trying yoga…and all the things that had brought me to the courtyard that day.

What I found, over just a few months, was that everything that had been keeping me from trying yoga was the polar opposite of what it was all about. Yoga is healing. It is all about what your body needs, what your mind needs and what your spirit needs. Yoga is welcoming. You don’t need to be in shape to practice. Yoga is non-judgmental; other practitioners are mostly self-aware. In fact, focused stretching and meditating are great ways to reach a low-stress state of mind and focus on what’s important to you in that present moment. It’s beautiful, really – reconnecting to your inner self with purpose.

Now I am a die-hard yoga lover. I would go every day if I could. What can I say? I am not letting myself get in the way anymore.

Give The Dog a Bone, and Other Songs

My first year at Voorheesville Elementary School (VES) was also Dr. Morgan’s first year teaching. She was the sunny, enthusiastic, rosy-cheeked “Miss Morgan” at that time; studying for her doctorate while touching the lives of each and every one of her students with her gift of music.

My young cousins Madeline and Bryce are lucky enough to have the magical Dr. Morgan as their music teacher as students at VES.

I flew home earlier this year for a wedding and to visit my family and friends. I also thought it would be fun to drop into Dr. Morgan’s classroom on the day Maddie and Bryce both had music class. When I walked into the front door of VES, I was hit with the familiar scent of warm pizza and basketball…just how I remembered it. I hurried down the hall to Dr. Morgan’s classroom and was greeted with a scream of excitement and a big hug (and I think there was some clapping). Her disposition just as bright and cheerful as I remember, we smiled and laughed at the reunion. She had her class sit on the mat while we caught up for 60 seconds and then I was invited to stay for class! (YEEESSSSS!!!)

Well, I got to listen, of course, but I was invited to participate, too. Dr. Morgan handed me the mallet to the glockenspiel and I was in elementary school again, singing and tapping along to the notes, “Give The Dog a Bone” (G-F-B-A-D.)

Madeline and Bryce are both talented young musicians, if I do say so myself.  Maddie is pretty impressive with a Boomwhacker! and Bryce takes his music very seriously – never missing a beat. Thanks for having me as a guest in your classroom. It was such a fun day.

If I was on Jeopardy and there was a clue about the states, I would win, no doubt, due to the repeated hearty belting (and resulting memorization) of “Fifty-Nifty United States” that my fellow sixth-graders and I would beg to sing in class.