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MTH Tampa: One Year Later

Hello everyone! First off, THANK YOU for the wonderful words of support and encouragement for my latest blog post–words cannot adequately describe how comforting it feels even just reading words of encouragement. It truly fills my heart.

So this has been a whirlwind of a week–big announcements, my birthday (wooohoo 32) and prepping for our site to launch early next week, but this evening, I wanted to take this post to acknowledge something very near to my heart and that is a workshop (movement) I took exactly a year ago (today) called Making Things Happen with Lara Casey, Emily Ley, Gina Zeidler and Natalie Norton.

A year ago, I was a different me. I felt stuck, in a funk, unhappy in my current employment and as a wife and mother, feeling like I was failing miserably.

When I signed up for Making Things Happen, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had long followed Lara Casey’s blog and figured “why not?” When the first day came and I walked into the room, all I feel was a sense of relief that I didn’t really  know anyone else. Not sure why I felt this way other than the fact that If I was gearing up to bare my soul, it would be easier to speak in a room full of strangers then with people I knew…don’t ask me why…but that’s how I felt at the time. As a workshop (and I really have to find another word because “workshop” just doesn’t cut it) unfolded, I found myself letting go of a lot of feelings that had been built up for sometime and seeing that my path was right there in front of me, ready for the taking. But to get there would require a lot of guts, hard work and most of all, deep seeded passion which I, and everyone else in the room had. I knew that I had to feel the fear that had paralyzed me for some time and take action to change my life. It was going to be hard, but oh, so worth it.

And it wasn’t that Lara, Emily, Gina or Natalie sprinkled fairy dust on everyone and magical things happened, but in their own, very personal way, reminded all of us that we had what it take to make things happen, it was just a matter of opening our eyes and seeing the big picture.

So I, along with several other women embarked on a wonderful (and hard) journey this past year and I’m privileged to consider them my friends. The week before when I was getting ready to resign from my position and needed my “pep talk” it was a godsend to sit down with a few of them and be reminded of where I was going (McKay, Desiree and Kate-Thank You).

But most of all, I’m honored to see their successes and growth everyday. I love everyone of you and can’t wait to see where all of us will continue to go from here!

On that note, the one thing I’d like to leave all of you with a picture of my latest love and newest addition to the “Clamp clan.” He’s a bundle of 12lb joy and partly (okay, hugely) responsible for my delayed post today.

If you haven’t heard of Making Things Happen, PLEASE click on the picture below for a link to the tumblr for the latest on their next tour and frequent updates!

Have a great weekend everyone! Natalie

A BIG ANNOUNCEMENT FOR CHIC SWEETS

So it’s with a mixture of excitement, nervousness and deep pride that I share with all of you that starting January 18, I will be devoting my love and attention to Chic Sweets on a full time basis. I’m leaving an amazing job as the “Network Manager” for The Network of East Hillsborough Neighborhoods, a wonderful organization aimed at engaging residents in a BIG way and spreading out quality programming in several East Hillsborough communities. This decision has weighed heavy on me for some time but I can tell you that this work fills my heart in ways that make every sacrifice, both big and small, worth it x’s 1000 (maybe more).

This year I realized that in order to make things happen I had to take the plunge, set goals and most of all, take action. My work has always been a part of me, a big part of who I am….and when things grew in ways I never imagined, I found myself deeply torn between doing what I was good at, versus taking the plunge into a business that was still growing. Add the pressures of being a wife and mother, well, I can’t lie–it was more than I could handle at times. Ultimately, though, I made the decision that in order to be the best wife and mother I can be, I had to wake up in the morning doing what sets my heart of fire and that my friends, lies here in Chic Sweets.

Thanks again for all the love and encouragement I’ve felt from all of you–my friends, my supporters, my family and most of all, my husband, Steve, since the truth is, without him, I just don’t make sense.

Love you all!

Natalie

PS–I swear it’s just coincidence this announcement happens to fall on my birthday! LOL! :)

Your Wedding Bands, Desserts and Photography


Hey Y’all! So I swear I have a bunch of blog goodness stored up in my head, but these past few weeks have been a blur of holiday events, my Baby Preston, (trying) to juggle my other bundles of endless energy, and plowing through a rebranding process…let’s just say, I’m really looking forward to enjoying a few days off with the hubby (“the boss man”).

But before I get ahead of myself, I wanted to share a few shots of our clients’ wedding bands displayed with our candy. Going through the process of overhauling our site has been fun, but it’s also allowed me to go through a lot of our past weddings and photos. One of the shots that I love to feature are when photographers play around with our client’s wedding bands.  For me, candy=fun, and when a photograher can play off the items on our table, it’s just great and most of all, something different.

Enjoy!!

And of course, special thanks to my friends over at Limelight Photography! They have also been overhauling their site & logo and everything looks fantastic. Rebecca and Michael’s determination in this business is more than inspiring, please take a moment to check them out.

P.S: say a little prayer that Baby P gives us some sleep tonightšŸ˜‰
P.P.S (a little confession): Due to Baby P, waking up and keepin’ me busy this post has been written, rewritten, saved, done over…oh, about 5x’s already! LOL!

Thankful

Hello Everyone!! Hope all of you have had a great Thanksgiving Holiday! I know I have as I’m sitting here, three days later, in my stretchy pants. This has been a different Thanksgiving for us, family, Baby Preston, growing business…the list goes on. So in honor of the craziness, I thought I would share the three very things I’m *thankful* for today.

1. Love. Love. Love. Love for my husband, my best friend and my business partner. We met almost ten years ago, working together for a national, soccer league in Tampa. And today, we work together as partners with Chic Sweets. I have to tell you, there is something very special about being able to work with your spouse. Steve is not only my husband, but my true partner in every sense of the word. Someone I turn to as a friend, as a colleague, someone I can brainstorm fantastic (crazy) ideas with, and then someone I can come home, lay on the couch and watch “Dexter” with. I’m a lucky girl.

2. Children: Brendan, Spencer, Carson and Preston. I can’t lie. It’s crazy. It’s busy. There are times when Steve and I look at each other and want to run for the nearest exit. But it’s our life. And the craziness is our own and that is something we are extremely protective and proud of. This was our first Thanksgiving with Preston and all I can tell you, is that we are silly-happy with our lil guy.

3. My Work: Three years ago, I sat down on couch with my husband, debating what our next jobs would be. We both worked full time but had frequently picked up second jobs every now and then to bring extra income into our household. This time around was different. I didn’t want to pick up a second job that didn’t mean anything to me, that I didn’t love and most of all, that I didn’t feel fulfilled in. So after some brainstorming, Chic Sweets came about and I’ll be honest with you…not a day has gone by that I’m not grateful for having made that decision.

Does that work ever end? Nope. Is it insanely much harder than I thought it would be? Heck, yes.

Do I love it? So much, my heart bursts.

For that, I’m thankful.

Preston George Clamp…20 days

So here I am with, laying in bed and staring at the most beautiful, bundle of goodness you can ever imagine. Can everyday be like this? It’s been almost 20 days since Baby Preston came into our world and it’s been a mixture of total bliss and exhaustion.

I gave birth about a week early before my due date. It’s amazing, the process of child birth. This is my third son, and you would think I would be an ol’ pro at the this, but every experience was so very different. My last birth was very quick, labor was under five minutes and without an epidural. So this time around, I was very much on board  and determined with going “all natural.”

So finally, on October 28, I was induced at St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital. My little guy didn’t waste anytime because within the hour, I was grabbing the rail, drenched in sweat, both my husband, Steve and mother becoming a painful blur in the background. I could see their mouths moving, but was just completely lost in my pain that I couldn’t hear anything. My wonderful nurse, Sandy, gave me a knowing glance and said, “Natalie, you are at 7cm. This is it, if we don’t do the epidural, it will be too late. Don’t worry, you have nothing to prove by trying to do this without the epidural.” “Okay, she’s totally right. Let’s do this.” Now, this is where it gets slightly funny. By the time my epidural was put in, my stubborn-self was already pushing. And within 20 minutes, Preston came into the world. Ironically, since the epidural takes about 20 minutes to take full effect, it only really kicked in, once he was born…yeah…I know…too funny. So there I was, holding my bundle of joy, but with no feeling left in my legs!

After the labor, Steve and I settled into our hospital room and examined every bit of goodness, that I call Preston. I mean it. Serious. Perfection. There is just no way to describe it.  Although it was a two-day hospital stay, I truly cherished the time alone with Preston and with Steve. Then it came time for Spencer and Carson my little boys to meet Preston. Wow…10 months of preparing them is nothing when they got to hold them for the very first time. The look on their faces is something I will never forget. And of course, there just aren’t any words to thank my parents for holding down the fort at home while we were at the hospital…I know it wasn’t easy!

So since coming back from the hospital, our lives have been a total whirlwind. Adjusting to life with Baby Preston, introducing Preston to Spencer, Carson and Brendan (my stepson), breastfeeding, trying to not to feel too bad about still walking around in my maternity sweatpants, having a few whytheheckishecrying moments. And oh yeah, still running Chic Sweets. Is our life crazy? Um, yes. Would I have it any other way? No, in fact, I can honestly tell you as sleep deprived as we are right now, I could not feel more blessed than I do right now. This pregnancy and this past year, have been unbelievably difficult, yet, Steve and I have managed to come out of this, stronger and more committed to making our lives work. God is definitely GOOD.

On that note, instread of  turning this blog entry into an epic-novel, I opted to give all of you a slideshow of a few photos, played alongside a song that literally brings tears to my eyes everytime I play it.

Enjoy and THANK YOU so much for all of your support and sweet messages on my facebook page. My family, Steve’s family, all of our amazing friends…Love. Love. Love.

Natalie and Baby Preston

Real Event: Barger Estates Grand Opening with Confetti Events

IMAGE CREDITS: LIMELIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY

Hey everyone! Wow, okay nearing my last hurrah with Baby Preston, so I’m determined to leave you with some great events before I depart (briefly). This next one is by one of my favorite, no seriously, I mean one of my most favorite people, Jamie Billig from Confetti EventsJamie has this insanely unique way bringing the best group of vendors together– to create an event that really just took my pregnant self to another level.

This event was to launch the opening of Barger Estates. This breathtaking venue is now available for rental (weddings, corporate events/retreats, parties, etc.) The Barger Estate features elegant styling and architecture and yet has all of the modern amenities that make for the successful staging of almost any event….and yes, I did catch myself daydreaming once or twice about what it would be to live here ;) 

For rental information contact:
Facility Representative: Leah Barger
phone: 813-344-1910
email: Leah@BargerEstate.com
Web: www.bargerestate.com

Vendor Credits:
Event Planning: Confetti Events
Photography: Limelight Photography
Candy and Dessert Table: Chic Sweets
Floral and Vintage Furtniture: MMD Events
Linens: Connie Duglin
Entertainment/Music: Inspire Entertainment 
Video: The Cinematic Moment Videography
Cakes: Cakes with a Kick
Tables & Chiavari Chairs: Signature Event Rentals

For a complete list of vendors, please check out Confetti Events blog here.

Photography and your Business

IMAGE CREDIT: LIMELIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY

So one of the most frequent questions I get asked is “how did I start out with great photos on our site?”

The truth is, in the very beginning, there was nothing I could do but use a few digital images that I had taken when I volunteered to do a few tables for close friends, baby showers, my son’s baptism, etc. Was I happy? Nope, hated all the shots but I had to start from somewhere. Eventually, once I established some relationships with partners in the industry (photographers, event designers) did I start to get requests to do photoshoots….

Photoshoots: Now this can be a beast in itself. I’ll be honest, had no idea what a photoshoot or what was expected from my end. Luckily the very first shoot I did was partnered up with MMD Events and Limelight, two partners that were able to tell me exactly what the feel for the shoot was–color palette, overall style, design, etc. From there I realized that photoshoots were a great tool for me to decide the type of shots I wanted.

What to do once you have pictures: Besides jumping up and down because you can FINALLY see your work through a professional photographer’s lens, is decide how the pictures are going to be used. Is the intend of the photoshoot to submit to a great, wedding or entertainment blog, promote a venue or product, or was the photoshoot simply a tool to build the photographer’s portfolio and of course, your own? There can be a multitude of reasons, but either way, just make sure that you are on the same page as everyone else on the team.

The shot (above) was submitted to a great entertainment blog, called The Cake Blog. Got me some great buzz off the feature and right from the start. Of course, the pictures were submitted only after getting the “okay” from the other photoshoot partners (Limelight/MMD Events) and in the end, they were thankful since everyone involved, recieves credit (no questions asked). Again, this goes back to building on those relationships!! If a photographer or other industry partner, sees the value in partnering up with your business, you’ll find that the opportunities will start coming.

Other ways to use photography (with photographer’s permission and credit): I created great photobooks that I take to all of my personal consultations and bridal shows. The books are my voice and I go to them constantly as a point of discussion, for inspiration, ideas, etc.

Investment: Every vendor’s investment in the time, work, products/services put into a photoshoot are different.  In my case, my investment was not only time, but an actual product (candy/desserts). This forced me to evaluate my marketing costs and what photoshoots meant to my work. What is more valuable to me right now? Spending money on ad space in a magazine, or getting involved in a few photoshoots where I could build what, at the time was a weak portfolio. In my case, the answer was clear.

Trade-outs: Sometimes I was able to build on my portfolio without having to do a staged shoot. Whether it be agreeing to do a dessert table for a photographer’s grand opening or a Holiday party for a networking group, I always ensured I would be able to recieve the images afterwards. Again, just simple ways vendors can create opportunites for eachother.

IMAGE CREDIT: CARRIE WILDES PHOTOGRAPHY/STUDIO LAUNCH

Finally….it’s okay to be picky: Now that I’ve been in business a few years, I have adjusted a bit, but overall, I continue to wholeheartedly believe in the value of photography and what great shots have meant for my work. Are there times I say, “No?” Of course. Everything has be a great fit–is this the type of photoshoot you want to participate in? Is the timing right? Can you afford to do a shoot at this time? Is the ultimate purpose of the shoot in line with what you are looking to build on? Don’t be afraid to ask yourself these questions (everytime).

Well, I hope I was able to provide a bit more insight into my relationship with photography and it’s value to my work. Will touch on advertising in a few weeks…

Natalie PLUS Baby Preston (37 weeks and counting)

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