Thursday, May 1, 2014


hey all. just a little update that i've been meaning to post here. 

so when i'm not working on my little photography business, i'm giving my attention to my husband and daughter. and i like it that way. trying to keep up on this blog is ultimately taking the back seat so i can focus on other priorities. 

but i just wanted to let you know that i am blogging and actually writing thoughts (along with the images) on my photo blog. and then, of course, there's always instagram- which is probably the closest thing to this personal blog here. 

if you care to follow along, i'm much much more active and consistent in my posting in both those spaces. just fyi :) 

i'm definitely not saying that i'm shutting down this blog- just that there are other social media outlets that get more of my attention as of late. 

instagram: @samanthakellyphoto

Monday, April 7, 2014

mommy sessions!

Announcing an awesome deal on mommy sessions! 

Every mama deserves beautiful photos of her and her babies together and with Mother's Day just around the corner, I say let's make it happen! You deserve this. 

Email me at to reserve your session.

Spots are very limited and I promise you won't find a session like this in film for a better price. Promise! 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

the good stuff

i've been going back and forth on what to write here for a few days now.

i could blog about how i've felt impatient with hero lately and surprisingly down on myself and my abilities as a mother and wife. we all have those days, right?

but i've decided that there is SO much more good that outweighs any current frustrations and challenges and that i think i'd rather document the happy today rather than delve into the other stuff. besides, it's the little happy things that get so taken for granted and easily forgotten- they deserve some real air time.


i bought hero a little trike off of KSL earlier this week. ever since the weather became a heavenly spring, we've been seeing lots and lots of kids riding their bikes up and down the street. hero loves to watch them while enthusiastically pointing and informing us of the "bikes!" outside. so i got her a bike of her own and we took it out this morning for a spin. it has a detachable push handle on the back so i don't have to lean over to help her ride it. she just sits, thinks she riding "a bike!," and i push her along just like she's in a stroller. we rode up to a neighbor's house after breakfast to watch frozen. hero giggled and "wooooah-ed!" the whole way. loved it. i can't believe she's big enough to know about and "ride" a bike. such a kid.

within the last week or so, hero decided to finally kick her morning nap and do just one nap a day. that transition plus the fact that she's also been teething is making going down for even just one nap pretty rough for her. but this afternoon, as i wrapped her in her "mimi" (blanket), and was singing her songs, she just couldn't stop giggling. total girly giggle fit. i'd start singing softly, and she'd immediately burst into the biggest, cheesiest smile that makes her look so much like i did when i was her age. and then she'd just laugh and laugh. she'd eventually stop, i'd start singing again, but she just couldn't hold in those silly giggles. i love catching glimpses of her little girly-ness like that.

a few nights ago, i was putting her to bed and rocking her slowly in her chair. i started talking to her about her baby sister (a topic that she's been a little ambivalent about). suddenly, she pulled back from me a bit, looked into my face and said, "hug?". she then laid down right on top of my belly, both arms stretched all the way around as far as they could go, and her cheek pressed closely against my shirt. as if that couldn't get any sweeter, she then started giving my tummy kisses intermittently with more hugs. i hope that along with the sure-to-come bickering, tears, and struggles to share that there will be lots and lots of hugs, kisses, and dress-ups shared between these two baby girls of mine.

chas and i have been busy thinking and thinking of what we want to do this spring to spruce up our front and backyard areas. it's fun to actually have the space and ownership to make these kinds of decisions but it's also a lot of responsibility and potentially expensive. still, the adventure of home ownership marches on and we're loving it!

Friday, March 7, 2014

it's a girl!

at our 20 week ultrasound on monday, i come out from another bathroom break (because, you know, pregnancy) and see this. just taking the ultrasound bed for a little spin and checking out pictures of her baby SISTER!

to be honest, i TOTALLY was convinced it was a boy. might have even been hoping just a little bit for a boy. but now that i know we're going to have another little girlie, i couldn't be more excited for sisters close in age! there are so, so many fun things about girls!

we loved getting to see the 3D photos of the baby's face. it was crazy how much she looks JUST like hero did at 20 weeks. same button nose and chubby cheeks. sweetest.

i can't believe i'm already halfway through this pregnancy. it's all going by so fast this time around!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

making your house a HOME...on a budget!

owning a house and getting to finally make it a home- just how i like it- has been more fun than i imagined! to be honest, though, it didn't necessarily feel that way at the start.

as soon as we purchased the house (ok, ok- WAY before that), i started looking through my pinterest boards again and again- making huge plans and decisions about how i wanted to decorate our new space. it was going to be amazing- i was sure of it- and i was finally going to be able to actually recreate some of my most favorite pinterest images!

...cue reality check.


oh yeah- decorating costs money and it can really add up fast if you're not careful. after all the gazillion unforeseen costs that come with home ownership (inspection, insurance, window coverings, making our garage door automatic, hard water removal from exterior windows, etc, etc, etc), there was little money left in our budget for all my wonderful decorating plans.

but anyone can make a house look amazing with unlimited cash. i decided to let the fun be in the thrill of the hunt for the best bang for my buck when it came to decorating. we've been in our new home for five months now and love the way the interior is coming together so i thought i'd share a few things i've learned throughout this process.


i've got nothing against the boob ceiling lamp that we all know and love but sometimes switching it out for another option can really make a huge difference in a room.

example: our dining area.

the biggest downside to our home is that we only have a small eat-in kitchen. no formal dining room. to help make this area feel special and a little more separated from the rest of the kitchen, we swapped out the boob lamp for this hanging fixture from ikea.

grand total: $40

we also updated our two outdoor lighting fixtures on the front of the house which also made for a nice change at only $40 each. eventually, i have plans to continue on my boob lamp upgrade mission and put in some more appealing and fun lighting options in the living room, hero's room, and our bedroom.


when we bought the house, the whole thing had been dipped in beige- every wall and ceiling. thankfully, it was a nice, light shade of beige so we didn't have to get rid of all of it but it was still rather boring. i knew that i wanted to have white walls. i love how they make a room feel so fresh, clean, and bright. in a perfect world, i would have painted the whole house in white and two or three other soft and pretty coordinating colors. but our budget had other plans. so i just picked a few areas to paint- the living room, three upstairs bedrooms, and hallway. chas had the genius idea to paint the hallway the pretty blue/gray color. he's a keeper.

it's amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do to a space.


love a look but can't afford the price tag? be patient and keep your eyes open for a more budget-friendly alternative.

example: i wanted to buy these mirrors from pottery barn for our entry way but couldn't justify the $200. so i just let that space sit bare for a while until the perfect solution came along- and eventually it did!

while at target yesterday, i came across these square mirrors for only $5 a pop! i also found this little foot stool/bench for $40. i love how the mirrors and bench look together and love knowing that i got it all for a fraction of the price of those pottery barn mirrors!

grand total: $55


for the first almost 4 years of our marriage, we had the same bedding. it was fine but after so long, we were dead tired of it and needed a change. we got rid of our quilt and purchase a white duvet cover, new white sheets, bed skirt, throw pillows, accent blanket, and lamps.

my mom and i made a day of shopping all our favorite bargain stores and, of course, target, and were able to create a whole new bedroom!

grand total: $170


chas and i painted this same mural in our apartment's unfinished basement (tutorial here) when i was pregnant with hero. i thought it would be fun to recreate the same mural in her room. i love this mural because it's relatively easy. you for sure don't have to be an artist or anything to do it- as long as you can wield a paint roller and painter's tape, you'll be good to go.

for just the cost of a few basic paint supplies and a little DIY labor, hero's room is unique and special.


i don't hunt at thrift stores often but have definitely found some treasures thrifting and/or searching the classifieds online ( here in utah).

although both this little end table and chair will eventually be upgraded. but for now they look pretty great in our living room.

speaking of the living room, i also think it's good to save up and invest in some nice, staple pieces. chas and i purchased this sectional (on sale) when we bought the home. it was definitely a big investment for us but we knew that it would be a great couch for the space and something that could last a long, long while. up until now, the couch we had was actually an outdoor couch. cute but not amazing. we waited 4 years to buy this sectional and it was for sure worth the wait!


while putting together hero's basement playroom (again, on a tight budget), i knew i wanted a really big print framed and hung on the wall. unfortunately, big prints cost big money. so, i got creative and asked my amazing graphic designer friend, stephanie, to design this simple image for me. then i got it printed it costco and purchased the frame from ikea. done and done.

grand total: $40

the slide in the playroom is second-hand and i got those "p-l-a-y" letters from hobby lobby (on sale) and painted them white. this whole room ended up coming together for only $230 total. (a little more than my budget of $200 but i just couldn't say no to that pink striped ikea rug!).

this little library set-up just makes me happy. (wall shelves from ikea)


when we first moved in, i started having this weird anxiety because i suddenly felt like i had to decorate and perfectly furnish every single corner of this new house RIGHT THAT SECOND. wrong. my mom, as she always does, talked some sense into me.

trying to do everything all at once is like a kid stuffing allll the marshmallows in his mouth at once. it sucks all the fun out of the process. instead, i'm trying to just be patient and calming eat the marshmallows one at a time and enjoy the fun of the process and hunt for great finds.

there's still lots and lots to do but it's nice being able to both enjoy the areas of the house that are more put together AND having future projects to work on (our basement office, new baby's room, laundry room, basement bathroom, and guest bedroom).

Monday, March 3, 2014

a few things worth remembering

i love quiet sunday evenings with my family. we haven't been driving out to utah county as much on sundays to have dinner with either of our families lately. i miss them but am also relishing the hours of just sam-chas-and-hero time we've been having- especially since saturdays can be so busy.

we've been making dinner together while opening up the kitchen window to let in the fresh early spring breeze and listening to music. sometimes it's the mormon tabernacle choir, sometimes it's arcade fire. either way, hero especially loves it and always asks for more "song??" in the 2 second quiet in between tracks.

after dinner, i clean up the kitchen and listen to chas and hero playing, coloring, and generally laughing their heads off together downstairs. it's a welcomed break for me and a chance for hero to just wrestle and be all sorts of silly with her dad.

for the past two sundays, after hero is asleep, chas and i have made cookies together. yesterday's batch was particularly yummy (which may or may not be due in large part to it being a pre-made mix). as they came out of the oven, we ate a few hot with ice cream on the side and then piled the rest onto 4 plates to take to neighbors.

generally, small and simple events but filled to the brim with joy and contentment nonetheless.


i did my second session practicing shooting film last weekend. photography is making me so, so happy right now. even though i have to wait a few days to see the results of my work with film, just driving home from that shoot, i felt so ALIVE and on a total creative high. getting the scans back from the lab and actually seeing the images for the first time brought back that same feeling of "yeeaaahhhh!! this is awesome!" (dorky photographer stuff)

you can see the full session here.


on friday night, chas and i tackled our basement storage room together and finally organized it all. while sorting through boxes, we found a photo frame set holding a picture of both my grandmothers (who have both long since passed). because hero's middle name is my maternal grandmother's first name (marilyn), i thought it would be nice to put the photos in her room on her nightstand. the next morning, after we've all been up for a bit, i hear hero in her room making the sweet little sound she makes when she's giving kisses ("mmmwaaahh, mmmwaaahh"). out of curiosity, i go into her room to see what random object she's bestowing so much love onto. she's on the floor, with the photos of my grandmothers lying down, face up, in front of her and she's leaning over giving each one a big kiss- one right after the other. back and forth, back and forth. it was the most sweetest thing. i had even forgotten that i'd put those photos in her room and hadn't showed them to her or anything. she just noticed them on her own, grabbed them off the nightstand, and started giving so many kisses. through tears, i asked if she knew her great grandmothers and she replied very matter-of-factly, "yeaaahhh!," with just a little hint of "duh, mom" in her voice.


we find out the gender of baby #2 today!!! stay tuned :)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

sunny, happy days

the weather here in utah has been super unseasonably warm. we're talking low 60's and sunshine. i can't believe how happy it's making me feel!

on sunday afternoon, i laid out on a blanket in our front yard and was soon joined by a good friend who lives across the street. we chatted and waved to families on bike rides and listened to the classical music her husband was playing on their car stereo as he cleaned out the trunk.

on monday morning, hero and i went outside for a bit. this quickly turned into three other moms with kids (2 of which are hero's exact same age) coming out and playing as well.

on tuesday, i got my hair done and hero played allll day with her best neighbor friend, kaya, and a few other neighborhood kids.

this morning, we ventured out once more and walked around the block. i gave hero a little bucket to carry so she could put all her rock/twig/leaf treasures she finds along the way in it. she held onto my finger almost the whole time, waved to "puppies," practiced our best bird sounds, and my mama heart bursted with love each and every time something new would catch her eye for her treasure bucket.

basically, our neighborhood and this weather is the best thing ever. i was telling chas the other night how amazing it is to be able to walk outside, send out a text to some moms, and within minutes, 3-5 other moms are outside with us- all living either across the street or a few houses away. it's complete mommy paradise. this little area of utah may not be the most posh or hip but who the heck cares when there are so many young families with girls the same age as hero (and some other pregnant moms too!). unless you're a stay-at-home mama, i think it might be hard to understand how vitally important it is to have a good support group of moms nearby. and what's more- it's never ever a fashion show, if that makes sense. i go out almost every day in my jammies and no-makeup and bed head and don't give a second thought about it. it's so refreshing and calming knowing that no one cares one bit about what you look like or what you're wearing. only genuine love and goodness 'round these parts.


a fresh cut and color is also adding a little bounce to my step. fun springtime hair is here! (excuse the lame instagram photo. like i said, i'm trying to focus more on writing and less on photo quality lately with this blog...)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

in the dark

friends and family often ask how my book sales are going. it's been officially published for about two months now but, the strange thing is, i have absolutely no idea how many people have purchased it and read it. truly. all the various distributors (amazon, barnes & noble, ibookstore, etc) only report their sales back to my "publisher" ( every few months. so, until then, i'm almost completely in the dark. 

i do know that at least 10 people have read it because that's how many reviews i have on amazon. so that's something. haha. 

when i do find out the sales, whenever that is, it will be such a fun surprise! at least, that's how i'm trying to look at it so i don't drive myself crazy with anticipation. and honestly, for the most part, i kinda just don't think about it lots. it's out and available and that's all there is to it. feels nice to have a break from it all after that last long, hard push to finish it. 

if you haven't checked out my book, you can purchase it on amazon here (or through most any other ebook distributor). and remember, you don't have to own a fancy kindle, ipad, or anything like that. a free ereader can be downloaded through sony if you have a pc or, if you have a mac, ibookstore is the ereader that's automatically on your computer and iphone. easy peasey. 

if you HAVE read the book, i'd SO love if you took a moment or two and wrote a review on amazon.

that's all for now. 
happy thursday. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

feeling confident in your parenting

when i was pregnant with hero, chas and i talked a lot about different parenting techniques. i knew that there would be guaranteed times where we'd feel lost, confused, and helpless as newbie parents but i also knew that if we searched and studied and researched, we could step into this parenting gig with as much preparation and knowledge beforehand which would hopefully help us feel more confident in the difficult moments.

we were so lucky to find "the aware baby" by aletha solter really early on in this journey. i wrote about the book and premise here and an early experience with implementing the "method" here when hero was only a few weeks old. i cover in detail what the book entails in both those posts so i won't repeat it here. if you're curious, check out those two posts.

lately, chas and i have been talking about how much we STILL love the teachings and ideas in this book and how helpful it's been for us and our daughter. i thought it'd be interesting to write a little follow-up post of how the principles in "the aware baby" have been a positive influence on our parenting experience now that hero is almost 21 months old (crazy!).

firstly, let me just say that i am not writing this post to try and convince anyone that this is how they should parent. nor am i suggesting that other methods of parenting are bad or wrong. as mothers and fathers, we, of course, are all just trying our best and we each need to be given the freedom to do what we feel works best for our own family without judgement or criticism. this is just what we've found to work wonders for us. if it sounds at all interesting, give it a try. or don't. either way, we are happy and confident in our parenting and hope you are too!


one of the greatest aspects about solter's approach, is that after 21 months of being parents, chas and i can probably count on one hand the times when we've felt completely lost and clueless as to what hero needs and how to help her. whenever she's having a hard time, all we have to do is ask ourselves a few quick questions: 1. are all her basic needs met (hunger, safety, sleep, etc.)? If she's not hungry, tired, or in physical pain or sick, then...she needs to cry. that's it. it's seriously that simple. we never have to feel frazzled or frustrated because we just don't know how to help or why she's upset or struggling behaviorally. and, let me tell you, having that kind of confidence and peace throughout our entire parenting experience has been so amazing.

we don't let her "cry it out" alone. we hold her and listen to her while she cries. we tell her she's doing a great job and how important it is for her to get out all the "sads" so she can feel happy again. we talk to her about her day and any potential upsetting moments that may have occurred.

when she's done crying, she's ready to go back to whatever we were doing and be totally happy and content instead of agitated, frustrated, or upset. and, what's more, when we ask her about her experience "crying with us" she will always say that "yes" she does feel better after she "gets her cries out."

hero has always been a happy, charming, independent girl. she sleeps like a rockstar: 13-14 hours a night with two 2-hour naps during the day.

it's been really fun to read what solter writes in her books about the personality traits of babies who are allowed to cry freely in their parents arms and how closely it describes hero.

out of any parenting method i've researched, "the aware baby" is the only book i've found that is in perfect harmony with everything i know as a clinical therapist. i love how solter's principles are the exact same principles that i'd try to teach in any therapy group i've led- whether it be with children, teenagers, or adults. namely, solter treats babies and toddlers just like the rest of us should be treated: as humans with a wide range of emotions. when we experience a difficult emotion such as anger, fear, sadness, or stress, we need to be taught how to deal with and EXPRESS those emotions in a healthy way with the positive support of those who love us. and that's exactly what "the aware baby" does.

because we've allowed hero to express her emotions through crying and/or raging in our arms while calmly listening to, accepting, and validating her experience, she's been able to live her life without tons of built up and suppressed stress. babies and toddlers experience stress everyday- just like we do. and when that stress builds up, if it's not properly addressed or released, it can manifest itself in the way they behave, difficulty sleeping, etc. the same holds true for all of us! but when we're allowed the time and space to safely express how we feel and have our emotions listened to and validated, we are given a release from the stress so we can move on and be happy! i just love knowing that i am teaching my daughter how to deal with her difficult emotions in a positive, healthy way- a skill that will help her be a happier toddler, child, teenager, and adult!

i think the most difficult part about "the aware baby" is having to deal with other people's reactions and responses to our parenting choices. for whatever reason, we've had to confront a fair share of raised eyebrows- no matter how well-meaning. we've tried again and again to explain the reasoning behind letting hero simply cry in our arms as opposed to "crying it out" but i think our families still think we're a little nuts. and that's ok. like i've said, we are 110% satisfied and confident in the way we're raising our daughter and it's alright if others don't understand or agree. the proof is in the pudding! we may be a little biased, but our kid is AMAZING. i'm sure part of her amazing-ness is just how she came but i'm going to be as bold as to say that part of her amazing-ness is the way we've chosen to parent her and help her deal with her emotions proactively.

sure there will be hard times in our future experience as parents. things aren't perfect and never will be. but i love feeling secure in being equipped with the proper tools to effectively deal with whatever is down the road for us.

i could probably write an entire 3-volume novel on how much we love "the aware baby" but i think i'll stop here.

moral of the story: being a new parent doesn't have to be fraught with feeling lost and helpless. there ARE great alternatives to "sleep training." and feeling confident and like a GREAT parent with a happy child is totally within reach for anyone.

Friday, February 14, 2014

my first all-film photo shoot

got my scans back yesterday from my first shoot with all-film. i'm obsessed. completely hooked.

you can see all the photos here.

let me explain a little bit about why i've fallen so hard for film so quickly.

first, the process of shooting with film is entirely different than with digital. when i'm shooting digital, i can take hundreds and hundreds of photos- and i do. with film, every single time i push that shutter button, it's costing me money. a roll of professional grade film costs me about $9 (and $16 to develop). that's $9 for 36 exposures, or images. unless i want to break the bank, i have to be so much more intentional, thoughtful, and mindful of the shots i'm composing. shooting film makes me slow way down and patiently wait for that exact right moment to click the shutter. and speaking of shutter- the sound of a film shutter is so fun to hear. it's kinda loud and it sounds like it's telling me that "yup! you just sealed the deal with that shot- for better or for worse!" the drama of it all is exciting.

there's also an element of trust and almost faith that goes along with shooting film. when i'm testing for proper exposure with a digital camera, i take my best guess at what the settings need to be, take a test shot, look at the back to see how close i was, and then continue to adjust accordingly until it's just right. but there's no lcd screen on the back of a film slr. so the way i get my settings right for lighting is with the light meter. i'm still learning how to use it and how it responds in every different lighting situation but, for the most part, it's pretty simple. once i take a reading with the meter, i enter into my camera what it says (usually over-exposing), take a deep breath, and trust that i've done it right and the photo will be exposed correctly. in short, with film, you can't just take a stab in the dark again and again and have it all work out perfectly in the end. you really have to know your stuff or else nothing will turn out right. i like knowing that i know how to not only shoot manually well but can do it even when i can't check the back of the camera screen. let's be honest- it's an ego thing.

and then there's the post-processing and editing- or almost complete lack thereof. i've actually never spent tons of time editing photos i've shot digitally. for a full family shoot, there's probably 2-3 hours of time sitting at the computer afterwards which, compared with lots of photographers, isn't too bad. i'll maybe take 400 photos during a family shoot, go through them all, and select the best 50-60 to edit for the client. that's the most time-consuming part. but 50 keepers out of 400 isn't a great percentage. in contrast, i only shot one roll (which actually already had some shots taken) for my film session. i took 33 photos and ended up keeping 25. and the other 8 didn't cut it only because i was manually focusing and so the focus was a bit soft and not sharp enough. 25 out of 33 is pretty dang good, i'd say! again, it's because of how much more focused and intentional film is that gives me such better percentages of keepers :)

so i received my scans from alpine film lab, discarded the 8 that weren't awesome and....DONE-ZO! film is just so rich and beautiful all on it's own that there's nothing i needed to do to edit them! NOTHING. that means almost zero time spent sitting behind the computer sorting through hundreds of images, correcting color, exposure, and white balance, etc, etc, etc. and let me tell ya- getting those images back and seeing them for the first time felt like christmas morning! it was so fun to view the results of the shoot after waiting a few days and being so pleasantly surprised with how it all turned out.

i definitely need to keep practicing and have a few more shoots lined up to do just that but i think this may be a real game-changer for me. i've got the film bug and can't wait to keep shooting and experimenting!