My Life

Early Halloween Post on this "Monsterly Monday"... by Julie Cruz

Why so early you ask? For starters, on Halloween day, I will be helping out in PJ's class for their class party (Room Mom duties call :)), as well as of course, trick-or-treating with PJ, but also because I have another crazy week (more helping in class, more shoots, a husband going out of town for work, my dad and also my best friend staying the weekend with us, pumpkin carving, etc, etc) it was sort of "now or never". Plus....truth be told, I was excited to post ;) PJ has had quite a few fun costumes throughout the years. Anything from an Octopus, to a skunk, a cheeseburger to Batgirl. Well this year she threw me for a loop and said she wanted to be "Mrs. Frankenstein". I wasn't sure where she had come up with that, but it turns out it was from a movie we had seen earlier this year (Judy Moody And The Not Bummer Summer). Instead of the costume looking like the character in the movie, she wanted the real deal Bride Of Frankenstein look, after perusing Google with me. Oh and what are the odds of her choosing to be The Bride Of Frankenstein months ago....and then splitting her ear in half at school and having to get stitches across her ear by a plastic surgeon last month? ;) Too bad the stitches are already gone...they would have gone great with the costume ;) haha.

We didn't want to go the cheesy "pre-packaged" route, so I found a dress on Ebay (for $7!), boots from H&M (for $19.95 - which she'll use not only for Halloween, but for regular wear as well) and some stockings ($2). Originally we were going to have our dear friend, Jess (who is an amazing make-up artist and works for Mac) do her make-up, but we had planned for today....and then realized we had a Halloween party to go to this past Saturday night. So rather than try and ask Jess to come up at the last minute, and also to avoid an extra day of trying to do this all again (on top of the party, her school Halloween party and Halloween night) Mark and I attempted to do her make-up and hair ourselves. Let's just say that we have a WHOLE new respect for make-up artists and hair stylists ;) haha. We didn't do too terribly....and it was definitely good enough for pics (and for her to win a prize for "Scariest" costume at the Halloween party on Saturday night), but take it easy on us. First timers here! ;)

So about an hour before the party, PJ and I headed to a location that i've been wanting to shoot at for a while now. There used to be a house there, but it was recently torn down, so there is just some leftover fencing, etc around the place (for now)....and just has that somewhat creepy feel. The best part is that as we left our house, there was this crazy marine layer of fog coming in. So yeah....turns out we got a "free fog machine" (hehe) which made for an awesomely spooky effect. Last but not least, PJ was totally "in character" (just like last year when she was Batgirl), which worked out perfectly since honestly, The Bride Of Frankenstein doesn't smile ;) ....especially not with multiple missing teeth (LOL)! She had a blast being Mrs. Frankenstein (and collecting pinecones for her class afterwards). Anyone that knows PJ, knows that this is the polar opposite of her real personality. She is a silly, goofy and crazy kiddo....but if there's one time of year that you can totally be someone else... it's Halloween! We totally nailed the creepiness factor this year (and all in only about 15-20 min!)...........

Ready For 1st Grade!... by Julie Cruz

Each year before school starts up again, I do a little mini shoot for PJ's "Back To School" pics. Sticking with our yearly tradition, we did school bus shots, just like we did for Preschool and Kindergarten. I plan on doing these "Back To School - Bus Shots" up until PJ is out of high school :)Finding school buses each year hasn't exactly been a piece of cake. I have been extremely lucky at finding some right around the time I need them, but not everything has been ideal. Last year it was pretty perfect. Dirt lot, tons of buses parked in a row, sun going down behind the buses, etc. This time? A few buses cramped between business park buildings (a.k.a ugly background, half shaded, half sunny - and not in a good way....I mean the top half of the buses in sun, the bottom half in shade, etc) and all randomly parked, practically on top of each other. Luck wasn't in location/light this year.....BUT luck was elsewhere. What are the odds that one of the buses parked right in front was bus number "116"?? Yeah, location, light, etc might not have been on my side, but seeing that "116" made everything worth it :) My busy season has officially started, so I didn't take much time to edit these, but they'll have to do.

I still can't believe that PJ starts 1st grade next Wednesday! I know she's more than ready, but am I?? It's going to be a huge change going from 3.5 hour Kindergarten days to full 1st grade days. Oh and yes, still NO sign of those front teeth! We're going on 7 months of no front teeth! So crazy.

Happy 4th Of July... by Julie Cruz

I know i'm a few days early, but I figured that most people will be out and about this weekend (and Monday), so i'm posting early....

So I guess this is the part when I tell you all of the things that worked against us while shooting ;) For starters, I had ordered her that romper and it was supposed to be delivered in time, but then I received notification that there was an issue with UPS, and everyones orders had been delayed and weren't going to make it until AFTER 4th of July. Great. I thought about using something else, but I already had this envisioned in my head (I was going for a retro "Shirley Temple Good Ship Lollipop"-ish theme). Then I remembered that my friend (who is also PJ's awesome agent at Zuri Model and Talent) Lindsay's little girl, Ivy, had one! The problem? Ivy is 2...and hers is a size 4 (and designer brands always tend to run a little small)! PJ is 6...and typically wearing a size 5/6. So we headed over to Lindsay's and tried it on. A little snug (basically height-wise)...but it fit! Good enough for some STANDING shots LOL. So yeah, that was the first battle. Then there was the wind. PJ's hair was in her face non stop, the flag was flying the wrong way, the sun was in and out of clouds every few minutes...and the icing on the cake was going back to the car and seeing that a flock of seagulls had a crapfest all over the car ;) HA!

Anyway, it was a quick 10-15 minute shoot and worked out pretty well (considering).

I hope you all have a wonderful 4th of July. Please be safe out there....and have fun! :)

A Little FAQ and Summer Break Post... by Julie Cruz

As you might have noticed, it's been a few weeks since my last shoot. I did have one shoot pushed out a few weeks, but I did purposely NOT schedule any shoots for this week because of PJ being out of school (her last day of Kindergarten was the 16th). I also try not to work on 4th of July weekend since we are always with our families during that time. It's been nice to have a little "summer break" to start out the summer. Of course my breaks aren't always fully "off" though. I'm still scheduling shoots (see below), working on editing, burning/packaging/mailing discs, replying to emails, collecting deposits, etc. Besides all of that, I HAVE been enjoying some nice time off as well. PJ and I have spent a few days up at my sister's house hanging out and enjoying their pool, we've gone to the beach with family and friends, we've had lunch dates with friends, gone to a birthday party, sold a bunch of her outgrown clothes/shoes (for those of you in San Diego, check out my friend Jenn's store called "Love Child" in Encinitas. They buy/sell clothing, etc....and if you go within the next few days, you might be lucky enough to score some of PJ's outgrown (and/or never even worn!) clothes ;) haha), hung out at my other sister's house, hung out (and had AMAZING pictures done - be sure to check out her blog and leave some love!) with a friend of mine who was out here from Atlanta (Jen Wright), etc, etc. Needless to say, so far the summer has gotten off to a super fun and relaxing start! :) But don't worry, shoots start up again late next week (and I have a little shoot with PJ planned for later today), so my blog will be "alive" again starting today ;)

In the meantime, here are some answers to my most recently asked FAQ's:

Q: We are thinking of doing another set of family photos next year. Is it too early to book anything? A: It's never too early in Lot116 Land ;) I book really far in advance (especially more-so now that I am taking on less shoots than previous years), so the earlier the better. I already have a good amount of bookings for 2012, so no, it's definitely not too early. In fact, I recommend booking early (and i'm pretty flexible with dates, so even if you book a date, i'm usually fine with moving it around a bit as long as other dates are available).

Q: Do you have any more sessions available for this year (2011)? A: I'm completely booked up for full sessions, but I DO have 2 *mini sessions* left. The info can be found HERE (and I will update once booked).

Q: I'm not sure what we should wear for our upcoming shoot. Any advice? A: Clothing can depend a lot of location, weather, etc, but if you check out my Pinterest page HERE, I have 2 categories called "What I would LOVE clients to wear to shoots" and "Awesome clothes for kids". Both of those boards have "dream outfits" that I would love for clients to show up in. I'll try and add more soon as well :)

Alrighty, time to get off the computer and head out to shoot in a little bit. Here are some photos of miss PJ from last week (and yes, still no sign of her front teeth...5 months later (haha). I shot these while Jen was shooting her (while also trying to keep PJ's hair out of her face, change her clothes, kill mosquitos, and not get in Jen's way LOL). Ohhh my little GUMmy bear.....

Oh and she started doing some russian dancing "da da da da...da da da da da da da...HEY!"

Oh and since a few people have asked about her outfits:

Orange/red dress is from ZARA Kids

Brown rounded boots (worn with orange/red dress) are BORN brand (but I scored these on SUPER clearance at Marshalls for $9.99!!...I did NOT pay the usual retail price of $114+).

Creamy white apron dress was a vintage item from ETSY. Scored it for $13!!

Navy blue tank top with lacing (worn under apron dress) is from H&M.

Brown cowboy-ish boots were from TARGET last year.

I'm a crazy shopper....BUT i'm a BARGAIN shopper! Hope this helps! :)

Miss PJ..... by Julie Cruz

Since I was gone on vacation (and gave myself an extra week off to get back to normal - haha), had a shoot rescheduled (finally shooting this Friday!) and a newborn who I thought FOR SURE would have been born weeks ago (but is still comfy as ever in her mama's belly), the blog has pretty much been snoozeville.....short of PJ and June's Easter/spring photos :) Since I don't have anything else to post right now, here are a few other pics from the same day we did those pics :)

.....and since i'm already in "mommy mode"'s miss PJ on the GAP website! :) It's still a bit crazy to see her on there!

From The Land Of Sunshine by Julie Cruz

If you were around last year at this time, you might remember pics from a shoot with PJ and a bunny named June. June is the super sweet bunny of my friend, Cindy, of Orange Turtle Photography. We decided to do another spring/Easter shoot with the girls....and I think we'll be doing this for years to come. It's just too much fun....and adorable as heck. On our way to meet Cindy and June, PJ said "I can't believe it. My dream is finally going to come true. I get to have a tea party with a real, live animal!". She cracks me up. This time around we had no sun, less teeth, shorter hair (with bangs that didn't want to stay to the side - lol), etc, but it was still super fun and I personally love the missing teeth. I don't have ONE single photo from my childhood where i'm missing i'm making sure to capture PJ in all of her toothless glory ;) Soon enough the mangled and crooked adult teeth will start popping in, so i'm more than happy with toothless for now ;) It doesn't matter much anyway.....June was CLEARLY the star of the show. She is just SO cute...and GOOD! She never once tried to run off or anything! She is very much like a cat....she just hangs out :) I love that bunny! If you or anyone you know is interested in a bunny, please do NOT just buy one because it's cute or "Easter-ish". Learn and read more about them, and if you would still like one..... ADOPT one (like Cindy did with June and her other bunnies, BunBun and Hops) from the San Diego House Rabbit Society (or your local shelter). June was not borrowed or bought just for photos/props.....she is a spoiled rotten and loved to pieces, pet. No, make that family member :)

I also took some shots of June & Cindy........

......and a shot I totally copied Cindy with ;) I just love how the flowers pop up :)

I also took a few other shots of PJ, but i'll post those next week sometime :)

Thanks for looking! I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!!

The Bahamas by Julie Cruz

Ok, so these aren't the greatest pics, nor do they do the Bahamas justice, but I was on VACATION :) Turns out I didn't take nearly as many pics as I should have, but when you're on the most amazing beaches you've ever seen, enjoying much needed quality time with your family, helping look for shells, swimming in the ocean and building sand castles.....well yeah, pictures aren't your first priority (well at least not mine). It's kind of like a chef going on vacation....and cooking the entire time ;) Plus, trying to keep water, sand, sunscreen, etc off of your camera isn't too easy either. Note to self: purchase or rent water housing for my camera next time ;) Oh and some of these were with my point and shoot (Canon G10) because it was raining one day and I didn't want to risk bringing the big camera. Of course, 10 minutes after we arrived at the beach, the rain stopped and it was the most amazing day. Oh well :) So anyway, we visited Key West, Nassau and Cococay. The water was UNREAL. Clear as drinking water, a gorgeous turquoise blue, warm.....and just frickin' gorgeous. Seriously, it made San Diego beaches look like dark sewer water. Oh and yes, I pull this right out of the water (you can't tell in this pic, but it was about the size of my whole hand). I wanted to bring it home....but I couldn't just evict the "tenant" ;) .........

Out Of The Office.... by Julie Cruz

I will be out on vacation until Monday - April 11th, so please note that if you email me, you will not hear back until 4/11 or later. If you would like to book a fall mini session (or any session for that matter), please DO send an email, because I will be booking spots in order of emails received, when I return. Thank you!! :)

Brynn (age 3)...... by Julie Cruz

Brynn is our next door neighbor. She's adorable, super smart, amazingly sweet......and is PJ's partner in crime. From picking flowers, playing in "boats" (made out of boxes by Brynn's dad), flying kites, decorating the driveway with sidewalk chalk, hula hooping, riding scooters, collecting grass, leaves, rocks, etc......Brynn is PJ's go-to gal ;) Whenever it's nice out, we're out there watching them play. The best part is that we are the last houses on the street, so we have our own personal cul-de-sac with NO thru traffic. It was a huge part of why we picked this house.....and i'm so glad we did :)  Anyway, here are a few snaps from last week........

6 Years Old..... by Julie Cruz

*sigh*Our little girl is 6 today (at 12:50pm to be exact). I still can't believe it. Sure, she acts like she's 16 already, but she's still our baby....and will always be :) Although she drives me insane a lot of the time, she can also be the sweetest little cuddle bug as well. I absolutely love cuddling with her. Hopefully she'll never be too old to cuddle with her mama. Her personality is a mix of crazy, hilarious, bossy and silly (the apple really doesn't fall far from the tree ;) haha - she's a perfect mix of Mark and I)....and she's too smart for her own good. She's always trying to be funny. Sometimes she genuinely is....and other times it just gets her in trouble. Anyway, I could spend all day writing about her, but I won't bore you to death ;)

We didn't throw a big party for her this year (because we leave for the Bahamas in a couple of weeks and I knew it would be too much time/stress/money, etc....especially right before vacation), so this past weekend we threw together a last minute family brunch/potluck (PJ's request - since she LOVES breakfast) at our house with our families. We had an amazing spread of food. Everything from biscuits and gravy, hollandaise sauce, shaved ham (all from Mama Kat's Restaurant and Pie Shop, of course!), poached eggs, scrambled eggs, blueberry french toast bake, breakfast potato casserole, 2 types of french toast casserole, english muffins, toast, bagels, fresh fruit, donuts, traditional filipino breakfast foods (garlic fried rice, longanisa, etc), bacon, well as milk, juices, mimosa's (for the drinkers - haha) and a whole coffee bar set up. It was an awesome little potluck and turned out so great (especially for last minute!). I found some cheap decorations (b-day banner on clearance for $1.98 and 1 dozen balloons for $8.99) and threw together some cupcake picks (scrapbook cut outs on clearance for $1.58, which I taped flat toothpicks onto) and we were good to go. Everyone ate, chit chatted, played Kinect, kids ran wild, we watched PJ open her gifts, sang her happy birthday, she spent some time painting a canvas in the backyard with her new paints that Aunt Katie bought her (along with a gazillion other art supplies) and then (like I mentioned on my Facebook page on Saturday night), I figured we should put those balloons to use and do a quick mini session before the sun went down. We grabbed a dress, threw it on, threw a clip in her hair and ignored the leftover chocolate cupcake on her face. For a 5-10 minute unplanned shoot in our street, it turned out pretty well :)

Ok, sorry for rambling. Here are a few pics. Some I messed with (edited), some I didn't. I didn't even have time to add borders, etc (still working on some stuff for her b-day at school, etc today), but I figured something was better than nothing :) Many of you have "watched" PJ grow up.....and if so, thank you for sticking around ;) If you haven't, hopefully you'll be around for her 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, etc b-days as well ;) xoxo - Julie

Crickets? by Julie Cruz

Yes, I know the blog has been super quiet for the past few weeks. Thanks to rain (two weekends in a row), shoots had to be postponed (due to location - it would have been a swamp), *BUT* shoots will resume this weekend, so next week we should be back to normal. Since a post is always better with pics, here are a few iPhone pics from my life from the past few weeks.....
Oh and here is one little peek from the 2011 Bumbleride shoot I did about 2 weeks ago........

March is going to be a crazy month for me. Along with regular shoots, another commercial shoot for Bumbleride, etc, miss PJ also turns 6 (!!?!??!!) on the 16th and we leave on vacation a few weeks later. Luckily PJ isn't having a "party" this year (since we will be celebrating her b-day on our vacation - phew...glad that suggestion went over so well with her ;) haha), so that's a huge piece of extra stress/work I won't have to deal with this year :)

Wanna see what I like? Wanna know more about what I love? by Julie Cruz

Then CLICK HERE to find me on *Pinterest*!Pinterest is a cool site where you can make different boards and "pin" photos that you like. For instance, I have boards called "What I would LOVE my clients to wear to shoots" and "Stuff I love".

If this looks like something you are interested in, I have THREE invites to join Pinterest left. If you'd like one, just be one of the first 3 people to comment and let me know :) Hope to see you over there!

Keep A Breast *giveaway* WINNER is.... by Julie Cruz

CONGRATS MAKALA!! I will be emailing you soon :)

I'm so happy that this amazing basket will be going to someone who has already BEEN supporting Keep A Breast for quite some time now.

Thanks to each and every one of you who left a comment are helping to spread the word about a great cause. Please CONTINUE to do so. Too many lives have been lost. It's time to help save the world (wow, so superhero-ish, right?) one person at a time.

XOXO - Julie

*Giveaway* - Love, Love, LOVE....your BOOBIES! by Julie Cruz

Instead of a typical Valentines Day giveaway, I wanted to do something different. Something that would help make a difference. I'm sure you've all seen or heard about the infamous "I love boobies" bracelets, t-shirts, etc that have been known to cause some stirs (especially in schools)? Whether you have or haven't, today is the day where you NEED to know about them....and the AMAZING company behind them. I highly encourage you to check out their website (link provided to the right - in bold) and learn more about Keep A Breast. Since the Keep-A-Breast slogan is "i love boobies".......I figured the "Day of LOVE" (Valentines Day) would be a great day to show LOVE and support for raising breast cancer awareness. Keep A Breast donated the most AWESOME basket FILLED with Keep A Breast items (including t-shirts, a bunch of bracelets, stickers, buttons, a water bottle, flags, a lanyard, etc!) for me to give away! ***TO ENTER TO WIN, JUST LEAVE A COMMENT (here on this blog entry)!!*** I will announce the winner on Wednesday - February 16th. Here is what you can win!.....

Rotten, toothless kid is not included ;)

Along with the giveaway, I wanted to share breast cancer stories from a few people in my life.....

Jaden's story (my friend's son).......

"It was December 2005, when we first found a lump on Jaden's chest. He was 2 years old at the time and like most people, we didn't think anything of it. To be sure, we took him to our pediatrician to have it checked out. He checked it out and told us it was probably nothing and that we should keep an eye on it and so we did. After a few months, we noticed the lump started to get bigger so we took him to see the doctor again. That time, they decided to run some blood tests to check his hormone levels and perform an ultrasound. The tests came back normal and again we were told to keep an eye on it and that it was probably "nothing". Over the next year, we continued to go through the same routine appointments not getting any answers to what Jaden's lump was all about. It wasn't until January 2007, when we were finally referred to a specialist who recommended that Jaden have surgery to remove the lump from his chest.

That February, Jaden underwent surgery to remove the lump from his chest. We were terrified that our son, now 3 years old was having his very first surgery, but hopeful that the lump was probably some sort of growth and continued to be "nothing". A few days later, we had a follow up appointment with his doctor where she told us the devastating news. I remember it like it was yesterday...hearing the doctor say the words "cancer" with Jaden's name in the same sentence seemed unfathomable. All of a sudden, the "nothing" we've been talking about for over a year is now "something" and it wants to hurt your baby. Nothing can prepare you when someone tells you your child has cancer. I felt numb all over not wanting to process what the doctor was saying; I was in disbelief. Our son is only 3 years old and you're telling us he has secretory carcinoma, an extremely rare form of breast cancer? How could this be? How could this happen? Even our doctor told us that she had never seen a case like Jaden's before.

In March, Jaden had to have two more surgeries to have the tumor and infected breast tissue, as well as his nipple from his right side removed. I remember crying so hard the day of his first surgery when they wheeled him away into the operating room. To see your child lying in a hospital bed, is the worst feeling in the world. As a family, it was the absolute hardest thing we've ever had to go through in our lives, but we were determined to fight this thing, one way or another. Being so young and innocent, Jaden didn't really understand the impact of his condition...he just knew he had an "ouchie" and that the doctors were going to fix it. Throughout the entire process, Jaden was incredibly strong and resilient and so brave! As a result of the surgeries, Jaden did not have to undergo chemo therapy or radiation treatment for his cancer. We were beyond happy and thrilled when the doctor called us a few days later to tell us the good news that Jaden's surgeries were successful and that he was completely cancer-free.

Today, Jaden is a healthy, typical, 7 year old boy, who loves to read, play soccer, chess and video games. He is currently in the 1st grade and is also learning to speak Mandarin. He's very friendly and social and loves playing with his friends. He is such a funny, loving and caring big brother who continues to make us proud through his actions and through his amazing heart, every single day. Today, when people see his scar on his chest and ask him "what happened?" he proudly points to it, laughs and says: "Oh, that's my tattoo!" :) Despite the difficult journey, we believe this experience has brought our family stronger and closer together and we are thankful to God and to our of our dear family and friends who have supported us through it all."

Kat's story (some of our best friends' mom...who is like another mom to us)......

"My name is Kathleen Herrera! AKA Mamakat of Mamakat's Restaurant in San Marcos, CA. I live a crazy, active life as a busy restaurant owner with 4 beautiful grandchildren, two more on the way. My experience with this disease has given me gratitude for my life, and taught me to enjoy every day, no matter how mundane or unfullfilling that day was!! Guess what? If we are lucky, we get to have tomorrow! I try to use my disease to remind me that each day can be a beautiful one. A sweet or mischevious smile from a granddaughter, helping a customer with a problem, listening to their health problems or stories, makes my day more meaningful.

The word cancer does not scare me, it makes me more stubborn, an attribute I used to think was bad, but not anymore. I have not suffered one day, I was sore after the mastectomy, but my recovery progressed rapidly. I have to say the effects of the estrogen blockers was the worst part of this whole experience. My joints ached like a 90 year olds, but now I understand what an older person feels like everyday, lesson learned...

Enough of my feelings. I was diagnosed after feeling a hard spot in my chest! I had noticed it in 2004, my mammogram was normal. We had two weddings in our family and life was busy and fun, but I vowed to get a recheck of the lump. The mammogram was still ok, but the tech could feel the lump on my chest, it was higher than the fatty part of the breast, you can have breast tissue under your armpit or higher on the chest. Anyways, she immediately brought me to an ultrasound and BAM! we both saw the growth, and I somehow knew it was malignant. My experiences with the surgeon were poor. He was so cold and technical. "Surgery, radiation, possibly chemo. Set it up with the nurses up front". I had two words SCREW YOU! I needed more info. I got online, I talked to every woman in the restaurant that had breast cancer, I asked them about their doctors and how they felt about their diagnosis and treatment. It took two months to change my insurance, and get in to see the doctor of my choice. I learned as much as I could during that time, probably not smart, but I knew my cancer was not the aggressive type, it had been present for a few years without treatment!

I have lost a brother at 33 to testicular cancer, a sister at 46 to stomach cancer, and watching their treatment as a young woman was very frustrating. They seemed to have no choice, no voice. I wanted a voice, and who knows how that will play out, but it's my life, and I love everyday of it! Choose to fight, wake up everyday and hope something amazing will happen to you, or someone you love. Tell your friends and family to stop looking at you like you are going to die because you know what? Every human being is on the same path! It is called LIFE..."

As you can see, breast cancer doesn't discriminate. It can happen to ANYONE (yes, even children (including boys, like Jaden) and MEN). Please get (or keep) yourself informed and checked. The KAB website has TONS of great information like signs to look for, instructions on how to check your breasts, foods to lower your risk, cancer facts (for instance, did you know that 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer in their lifetime???), etc.

I hope this giveaway/post helps as many people as it possibly can. Even if 1 life is saved because of this post, it's enough to help make a difference. PLEASE spread the word, share this link with your friends/family and help others get educated. Breast cancer is something that we all think will never happen to us.....but it can.

If you want to help make a difference, spread the word, and instead of buying that box of Valentines chocolate, that cup of Starbucks, or going to a super expensive "Valentines" dinner, etc, how about taking a minute and donating to a cause that IS making a difference? Even $5 can help! **CLICK HERE to help**. For each and every person who takes a minute to donate, I personally thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I also want to give a HUGE thanks to Lezlie & Jason, Deena and Kat, for letting me share their stories. Another huge thanks to Shaney & Amanda of KAB for donating and allowing me to give away such an awesome prize! You ALL are amazing!

XOXO, Julie Cruz - Lot116 Photography

Kicking It Up A Notch by Julie Cruz

One of my favorite things to do is bring my visions to life. The hard part? They take a lot of research, planning, time, help, etc. I often have people tell me that they want to do a shoot "just like that one" or ask me to bring crazy items to shoots (like a bed and farm animals! -haha). The reality is that the clients from those shoots helped me out with my visions. For instance, the family from this shoot owns all of those animals (and then some!) and when I told them my crazy idea, they were ALL for it. Dad disassembled their guest room bed and reassembled it in their front yard for me. So all of the key elements of this shoot (yard, bed, truck and farm animals) were theirs. I just had the idea and they helped execute it. I always have people say they want to be my guinea pigs and want to do something different. What most don't understand is that I don't have access to everything and everything. Locations are tricky to find, certain props aren't easy to find, and other things like ideal wardrobes, etc can't always be guaranteed. If you are a client, brainstorm and see if maybe one of your relatives, friends, etc has an awesome home or property we can shoot at. Maybe you have a cool bed that you could bring to a shoot? See if you have any elements to add to a different and unique shoot :) Anyway, I rambled a bit, but that was my precursor for my upcoming disclaimer. This shoot was pretty much a one time thing. Thanks to a wonderful friend, I was able to get approval to not only photograph a family here, but also to bring in a sofa (and yes, it was confirmed that it was a first! haha), so no, I will not be doing this same shoot again. If it were an easy feat, then yes, I wouldn't mind doing it, but it entailed weeks of approval, hauling a sofa down and carrying it quite some way (my arms are still hurting! lol. Keep in mind that my brother in law (who was helping me carry it) is 6'5" and i'm only 5'6" - haha!), being escorted in and out by security, etc. Needless to say, it was a good amount of work. I just wanted to mention this before people start asking for the same shoot.

So let's get back to the main point of this post! My sister and I brainstorm for her annual (every January) family shoot pretty much after each shoot we do. Last year we did a little "Glamour Meets Grunge and Nature" theme. This time I knew that I wanted to try out one of my visions on them. When I told my sister about it, she was ALL for it (like she always is with anything I mention). After that, our wonderful friend, Jeff, helped us out tremendously by getting permission for us. Thank you Jeff! We love you!

Without further adieu, here is a little peek of my gorgeous sister and her boys......

Goodness, Gracious, Great Walls Of Vinyl! by Julie Cruz

If I had to choose a favorite room in our house, it would be a tie between "the record room" and PJ's room. I love PJ's room because it's so fun, fresh and bright, but I love the record room because it's just fun to look at. From walls filled with records, to vintage record players, a vintage typewriter, some of my props, vintage cameras, to my new sofa..... well it's just a pretty cool room. PJ woke up not feeling well on Tuesday and within an hour, she had a fever, so I kept her home from school and played nurse all day. When PJ is sick, all she wants to do is snuggle, so pretty much the only time I got anything done was when she napped for a bit. Late Tuesday night (around 11pm), she still had a fever. Luckily she woke up totally fine yesterday, BUT I had to follow the school rules (they have to be fever free for 24 hours) and not have her go to school on Wednesday either. Since she was home for the day and was totally back to normal, I took advantage for about 30 minutes and snapped some new head shots for her and also snapped a few photos that I had been wanting to take for a while now. I won't bore you with the head shots, but here are a few fun pics in the record room. Doesn't everyone act like this when they are home sick from school? Hahaha. Oh and you might be able to notice, miss PJ lost her two front teeth within the past 2 weeks. She is officially Captain Snaggletooth (a.k.a Ruthless Toothless) at age 5 (she'll be 6 in March, but started getting teeth at 4.5 months, so she's losing them earlier than most kiddos her age). P.S - the sofa isn't normally there, I just moved it there for the pics ;) It's usually where the phonograph (on the right) is, and that table is usually in the middle of the room.....

Don't Give Up On Me Just Yet by Julie Cruz

Ok, so I know i've been on vacation for a long time now, but don't worry, I have my first shoot of 2011 this weekend! I was supposed to have one this past weekend, but it was pushed out to a later month (which worked out fine since we had our "Second (although technically it was my 3rd) Christmas" with my family at our house yesterday since some family members were out of town, etc for Christmas. Anyway, THANK YOU for sticking around and not giving up on me. Lot116 will be "back to normal" very soon. I must say that it's been pretty nice not having to "work" since the first to second week of December. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE my job, but we all need a break sometime and since I haven't had a nice long break in YEARS, I owed it to myself and my family to take a much needed month off. Now of course I have still been booking shoots and the whole email stuff, but actual shooting and editing has been beyond sparse. It's ok though, I think Mr. Camera needed a little break too. During my time off I have still been keeping pretty busy. I have been helping out in PJ's class a few times a week (the week before Christmas break I helped every day (because her poor teacher lost her voice) and it was quite rewarding to watch the kids do their Christmas performance which I (along with their teacher) helped them practice for each day. As you can see, even when i'm not working, i'm still "working" with kids. In all honesty, if I wasn't a photographer, there's a good chance that I might have gone into teaching. I love working with kids. I also love the fact that I KNOW each and every single kiddo in PJ's class. I know each and every one by name, I know each of their personalities, etc. I love the excited looks on their faces when they see me. I love that they ask me every time they see me whether i'm staying to help for the day. I love that when we break into groups and they are told they are in my group, I see smiles and hear "Yes!!". Although i'm not a "teacher", it's still rewarding to watch these kids grow and learn. Besides school, PJ started ballet last week. She had been asking me for quite some time now, so it was one of her Christmas presents. I got a little box and put in some leotards, tutus, tights, ballet shoes and a little note that said "You start ballet class in a few weeks!". She was thrilled and was so excited to start. Her first class was on Wednesday and she LOVED it. Here are a few (not so great) photos I snapped that day.....

I know this shot is blurry (I was literally outside of the room, shooting through chicken wire mesh on the glass) but I love it anyway....

Just in case you thought I was kidding ;) haha....

Ok, so I rambled in this post (what's new?), but yeah, stick around, I promise it will be worth it.

In the meantime, if you are looking for an awesome place to learn more about photography (whether it's how to use a camera, how to start your own business, how to deal with taxes, what to wear for shoots, etc), click and join......

***ALSO*** enter the coupon code FRIEND for a 20% discount off of any new subscription! :)

If you make your way over, be sure to find me. My user name is julieoflot116 Hope to see you over there!

Favorite 10 of 2010 by Julie Cruz

So here we are, just hours away from 2011! How crazy is that?? Another year has flown by, and again, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the love and support of another successful year for Lot116. I'm excited for 2011! Just like every year, narrowing down my favorites was close to impossible! I have SO many favorites, so choosing just 10 is a task that I can't even do by myself. Once again, I enlisted the help of family and friends to help me decide. Without further adieu, here are the "Favorite 10 of 2010".....