A marvelous giveaway

27 September 2018

UPDATE: Winners have been chosen! Congratulations to Madi, Rachel, Katie, Clara, Connie, Whitley, Elise, Katie, Virginia, and Ashley. All have been emailed :)

Friends, this is my Oprah moment! If you’re not going to host an amazing giveaway on your ten-year anniversary, when are you?! To celebrate each of you, I’m giving away ten prizes, keyed to ten of my favorite Em for Marvelous topics. Without further ado, here are the prizes, given in honor of our shared passion for…

Anagram Photo!

FINANCIAL FREEDOM | A year’s subscription to You Need a Budget. Though I’ve never used YNAB personally since I have my own crazy system, it comes highly recommended, I love their philosophy, and I know it will be an amazing catalyst for some lucky person.

FAITH | A complete Write the Word collection, including Write the Word for Kids (7 volumes!). Side note: right now if you buy three WTW journals, you get one free!

ADVENTURE | A $50 Airbnb gift card. Some of our most amazing experiences have been launched from the front doors of strangers’ homes – I can’t wait to see where this will take you!

KIDDOS | An Emily Ley baby book, in your choice of mint or blush. This is the memory keeper I use for both June and Shep, and unsurprisingly, it is perfect in its simplicity.

BEING GOOD TO OURSELVES | A jar of One Love Organics Skin Dew, my most beloved moisturizer.

FUN | A Scattergories set, one of my perennial favorites, with wishes for many happy game nights in your future.

MARRIAGE | A copy of The Meaning of Marriage, probably the best book on relationships I’ve read.

GOALS | A set of 2019 PowerSheets when they debut in October, in your choice of cover (!). Since I started using them, nothing has helped me make progress on my goals more.

CELEBRATIONS | A copy of How to Celebrate Everything, by far the best book I’ve read on creating traditions and cultivating a rich family life in the most doable, joyful, real-person way.

GENEROSITY | I will give $500 to the charity of your choice, in your honor, provided it is an accredited 501c3 public charity. We are blessed to be a blessing.

Very special thanks to Cultivate What Matters, One Love Organics, and Emily Ley for helping me throw this giveaway!


Since I’m just over here doing this for fun, I don’t have any hoops for you to jump through, but I am going to make you work a bit, ha! To spice things up, I’d love for you to leave a comment answering four questions as your entry:

1. The best book you’ve read recently:
2. The Hogwarts house you’d be sorted into:
3. The coolest place you’ve traveled in the United States:
4. A low- or no-cost item on your bucket list*:

*Examples from mine include hosting a chocolate chip cookie taste-off, taking June to play BINGO, setting up an ice cream sundae bar for our family just because, and hiking a Western NC bald :)

As a bonus, tell me which prize you’d most like to win! I will randomly choose and email ten winners next Thursday, October 4. Can’t wait to read your answers, and good luck!!

UPDATE: Winners have been chosen! Congratulations to Madi, Rachel, Katie, Clara, Connie, Whitley, Elise, Katie, Virginia, and Ashley. All have been emailed :)

Ten marvelous years

26 September 2018

Friends, ten years ago to the day I wrote my first ever blog post. You can still view it here, just like every other post I’ve written since — posts about weddings, mostly, at first. A heck of a lot of inspiration boards. Little bits of lovely before Pinterest came along. Funny DIYs :)

And then, here and there, a more personal post. Longer ones. A few poems, so close to my heart. A new name and site design.

A turning point. Another one. Another one.

A passion project begun. Scary posts to write and sad ones and the most joyful. So many adventures, so many anniversaries, so many goals.

Posts on this blog have changed my life. Some of you have been kind enough to write that they’ve changed yours, too.

Graham Terhune

Sneak peek of our newborn session with Graham! :)

Even aside from catapulting blog posts, a lot changes in a decade. You’ve graciously watched me become a college graduate, a North Carolinian, an editor, a first-time-apartment dweller, a fiancee, a wife, a homeowner, a person-who’s-been-to-Europe, a mama, and a mama again. And all along the way, writing this blog has not only been a place to capture those changes, but a cause of them.

Because before I was any of those things, I was a writer. Writing is the way I’ve processed, held myself accountable, and grown since I was young. Writing is a way of becoming, for me. “In the end, people don’t view their life as merely the average of all of its moments — which, after all, is mostly nothing much plus some sleep,” wrote Atul Gawande in Being Mortal. “For human beings, life is meaningful because it is a story.” Yes.

life is meaningful quote

I have shared many times about the importance of the narratives we create and believe about ourselves. Writing here invites me to make meaning out of my days, to decide what I believe about the things I do and the things that happen to me, the person I was and the person I am becoming. That person matters. She shapes generations. (You, of course, do as well.)

So yes, writing this blog matters deeply to me. This is my story I’m telling, but it’s not just me. It’s mostly my parents. It’s a whole lot my high school English teacher. It’s a heaping portion of John. It’s every wise, kind, talented, thoughtful person I’ve ever come in contact with. And it’s all God.

Roald Dahl quote

I hope that you have found something here over the last ten years that has made your life better, and allowed you to be better for other people. I know that I am better for writing here, and for being accountable to you all. If nothing else, blogging has kept the shine in my glittering eyes, seeing magic everywhere I least expect it, and that is a marvelous way to go through life.

Finally, friends, thank you for reading. I began addressing my posts to “friends” in the beginning because it just seemed like that’s what people did. Now when I write “friends,” I picture real people who have encouraged, inspired, and challenged me, even if we’ve never met in person. You all bless me greatly. To ten more years together!

P.S. The history of this blog, and one of my favorite quotes about blogging ever.

P.P.S. I have a MASSIVE anniversary thank you giveaway to share tomorrow – you will not want to miss it!!!

Fall fun list

21 September 2018

I wore jeans for the first time in months yesterday, which must mean fall is on the way! (Truthfully, I jumped the gun a bit with the jeans, but that’s North Carolina in September for you.) I haven’t posted a fall fun list for a few years (my last one was in 2015, pre-kiddos!), so I thought it would be fun to share! Here’s the version we now have hanging on our fridge, ready to be checked off…

fall fun list

Bluegrass / State Fair (buy your tickets online before the 11th for a discount!) / Pumpkin chocolate chip muffins / Apple cider scones / Cozy Fall playlist

What are YOU looking forward to this fall?

P.S. Halloween prep is underway! June and John Shep are slated for coordinating costumes, and John and I potentially have roles to play, as well. They will be semi-DIY as in years past… any guesses as to what we are planning? :)

Making a modern home movie using iMovie

19 September 2018

Over the last three years of making (and sharing) June in June, I’ve had many questions about how we film and edit these yearly movies of our daughter. It’s surprisingly easy to create a really fun and halfway decent finished product if you have just a few tools and tips, with the end result being something you’ll treasure forever. Today I’m sharing our best practices, if you’d like to try it yourself!

how to make an iMovie


Pick one month where you commit to having your cameras more readily at hand and filming multiple clips a day. The idea of capturing everything all year is daunting and overwhelming to me, but one month I can do! Even though kids change so much month-to-month, when we’re looking back from the vantage point of an eighteenth birthday, I think 18 mini movies will be enough for us :)
–We shoot almost all of our clips with my iPhone. (I have a 7 Plus – John has a 5S, so we don’t use his too often, ha!) The quality it produces is pretty incredible. We also have a GoPro, which we’ve used for underwater and action shots in a few movies! Very important: don’t forget to shoot horizontally!!
— Always film slightly longer than you think you need to – you never know when an extra half second will help you time something with the music, and it’s always better to have more footage rather than less.
— To help with editing, aim for variety in all ways! Film some scenes where your child is aware of, and interacting with, the camera, and some where he or she is not. Film multiple versions or angles of the same scene (like I did to create the opening montage of June watering flowers in Volume 3), as well as multiple versions of the same action over several days (like the opening sidewalk montage in Volume 2!). Film up close to your subjects and film from a distance. Film your subjects walking past the camera and towards the camera and away from the camera. Film them sitting and reading and film them running/walking/swinging/dancing/jumping.
— Just like with photos, try to shoot in good light – but don’t let “bad” light discourage you. Some of the sweetest moments happen in the evening or in the bathtub in a windowless bathroom :)
— Make sure to get both parents in front of the camera, as well as any siblings, family members, or friends that are particularly important to their life right now. Same goes for places you frequent, favorite activities, everyday routines, and funny habits or mannerisms — anything that’s a marker of their life at this age.


— I edit in iMovie, a program included with Macs. Since I’m far from a professional, keeping the editing simple and classic results in the most polished product. I don’t use a theme and generally don’t use transitions between clips (I did in Volume 1, so you can see what a “fade to black” transition between each clip looks like there, if you’d like!). I almost always use the “expand” title for text.
— We use Amazon Prime for phone photo backup. At the end of the month I download all of the videos from our back-up to my computer, delete any I definitely won’t use, then load the rest into iMovie. I usually use at least a piece of about 2/3 of the clips from the month (but that means about 1/3 end up on the cutting room floor).
— I purchase my song choice from iTunes, which easily loads into iMovie. Song choice is critical! I am on the hunt year-round for possible June in June songs, and store any possibilities in a note on my phone. If you’re stuck, try perusing Spotify playlists that fit with the feeling you’re trying to capture – they’re always a treasure trove of new-to-me songs and artists!
— I like to include a clip at some point where I can hear laughter or talking, since their voices change so much. Cue all the mamas sobbing in the corner.
Switch things up! Here’s where you’re grateful for the variety of clips you captured! :) Mix close up and pulled back shots and quick switches with a few longer shots (like at :44 in Volume 3) to give the viewer a chance to breathe.
— Don’t leave a clip on the cutting room floor because something is out of place. This is meant to capture your real life — don’t stress about your messy house in the background or your hair looking weird. The sweetest and most memorable moments are not fancy – some of my favorites in Volume 2 include June eating oatmeal in our bathroom and her ridiculous camping bedhead.
Three minutes is my max finished length – I usually shoot for between 2:00 and 2:30. This year’s was 2:45.

Most of all, remember this video is for you. Childhood passes all too quickly, and these yearly videos are my favorite way to capture all those things we’re so likely to forget: the length of their hair, their baby chub, the way they walk and run, their smile, the way they hold a spoon, the outfits they wear on repeat… all those things that, years later, will make you say, “Oh wow, I almost forgot about that…”

Happy filming, friends! If you have any questions I haven’t covered, drop them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer!

P.S. For those of you who have asked… YES, we will be making movies for Shep, too! Stay tuned for Sheptember Volume 1 in 2019 :)