Part of my 2021 goal is to complete our master bedroom. When my eldest daughter, Winter, told me that shopping at the "Salvation Army is where it's at these days, Mom." I think my eyes rolled so hard they almost fell out of their sockets. I love the thought that Winter has this whole Pheobe Buffay 'furniture with a story' vibe. I'm a fan of Girl Boss, just like the next person, but a gem like this doesn't come along every day; it's work searching for these babies!

After two unsuccessful trips to second-hand shops in the Houston area, we made our way to the Salvation Army. My mouth dropped at the amount of furniture they had, and all in excellent condition. I immediately fell in love with this dresser from the brass hardware and beaded detailing. And when I fall in love with something, it's like the scene from The Beautiful Mind - it reveals what it wants to be to me! I mean, check out all that potential in the 'before' picture!

To make it even crazier, it was discounted another 10%. I mean, for the original price, I already felt like it was a steal, $175. So, I went to the register.  The sweet shop lady said, "There is an additional 20% off, on top of the 10%."  I  acted calm with a simple "Thank you," but I was dancing like Paula Abdul from the inside, I hit the jackpot.

You don't have to sand the piece, but it certainly has to be cleaned well. We used this 3M Quat Disinfectant. I guess we shouldn't have been surprised when we looked at our wipes, and they were just covered in orange nastiness. It seemed to have stripped a layer of the stain off with it.

Going into this project, I knew that I would use chalk paint. I had no idea it was in a spray can. Spray painting is something I can totally jump on board with since Malcolm has become the master of spray painting since finding the attachment, which helps make the method smoother. If there's anything you want in your project toolbox, it's the spray can attachment thingy. Malcolm took off the hardware and went to town on spraying it. I noticed his technique is to spray down on the surface, so there's a limited chance of the paint running or the dreaded drip effect. To quote my famous supermodel friend, Zoolander, He's not just "really, really, really good looking."

I really can't be more impressed with how this turned out. Finally, we have a place for our "socks and small's." We have been using our nightstands to store our little clothing articles, but we all have to grow up sometime. And I don't love it when my teenage daughter is right..., but this day I absolutely love it.

As part of our New Year's resolution Malcolm and I wanted to focus on finishing the design of our bedroom. Part modern, part glam, and part regal. That's kind of how you can explain our couple design. Our home is about 40 years old so it can get quite chilly in the bedrooms. Yes, 40 something degrees is freezing to us in Houston. It all started with an idea to just get a stylish heater. Until we saw this amazing Electric Wall Mounted Fireplace.  Like any true Texan woman I wanted the biggest one I could find. Sixty inches of amazing! It has 9 color settings. But the best part - it heats so well too! I highly recommend it. But it just felt like something was missing - it clearly was an eye catching feature to our room now. I got to sketching!

I sort of eyeballed how tall I wanted it to come and how far out I wanted it to go past the 60" frame of the fireplace. The drawing above only has my estimates. It actually ended up 48" tall and 78" wide and 5.5" deep. I also wanted to design it so that if we decided to move it was something that we could take with us and not leave a hole in the wall for us to have to work on. We began making our list of supplies we needed. We had all the major tools we needed to cut the wood. We just needed wood panel, wood, screws, panel pins, L brackets, white paint to match our wall, wood putty, wood for the trim, and sanding bars. We headed our nearest hardware store and got our shop on!

I love Malcolm when he gets in the project mood zone! While we've made things and fixed things around the house quite a lot --- but we've never made a piece of furniture. So measuring twice and cut once was super at play here. To kick it all off we cut the panel to size. It was perfect that the panel was perfectly 48" tall. We cut it to 78" in length. 

We used the framing boards to help us keep our jigsaw in a straight line. I love Malcolm's little ways to make cutting much more accurate. 

We went back to our board and traced the opening of the fireplace. We made holes in the corners so we can start and stop where needed. 

Time to get to the framing boards. We cut them to size. We screwed them together on the outside and starting drilling the L brackets to give it extra stability. 

Now we attached our front panel to our fresh cut frame! I just started getting so excited (insert personal dance party here) when I could see it really coming together. We used panel pins to attach it. They're low profile and super easy to fill in with wood putty. I knew it would take a day or so more to put the finishing touches on it but it was looking so good! 

Now for the wood trim part! Well, Malcolm did this part on his own and didn't tell me as I was preparing dinner so I didn't get photos of it. Bummer. But here is what it looks like with it attached with it's 45 degree cut. Boom!

Fill in the uneven parts with the wood putty. Especially those wood knots (well, of course, not unless you want that look). You'll have to let it dry for a bit. I was so anxious to see this thing done it was really a test of patience for me. Once it dried we went to town to sand it perfectly. 

All sanded down - now what?! Well a few months ago I had bought Malcolm a paint gun from Amazon. We tried for ages to try to get it to work but it just was such a mess. Literally, it spit, leaked, and did not paint at all! Our hands were covered in paint by the end of it. So needless to say that we did not get photos of us painting it. We always keep fresh rollers and paint trays in our paint cabinet. We originally had wanted to do a faux concrete finish on our piece. I had done one before and loved it, but Malcolm suggested we go with the contemporary flair and make it "look like it has always been there". The Alison Victoria in me (Windy City Rehab) loved those words and agreed!

We really couldn't wait to get it up the stairs to our bedroom. I grabbed the two last empty frames from my STUDIO and placed them on top. Oh I can't wait to decorate this! I can't wait to take photos to fill these.

We took off the face of the fireplace and placed our new fireplace mantel. We did find that we could get it closer to the wall if we just took a small chunk out of the base trim to fit it around the wall molding. We put the fireplace glass face back on (it hooked right in) and even though the fireplace was solid in place the added pressure of the fireplace glass face really keep it secure. 

I still wonder what it would look like with a concrete finish, but now that's its primed and painted its one less step if I do decide to do a concrete finish on it in the future. I do absolutely love it as is. It's perfect to me and I'm glad that it's something that Malcolm and I can take it with us if we do ever move from this dream home to our next dream home. I got another fireplace for my daughter Winter's room since her room is the next coldest room. Another project just waiting for us!

There has been some pretty nice things that happened in the adaptions that we've been forced to make lately. Though the pandemic hasn't been easy, to say the least, we have gotten time to have a self inspection of each of our own lives. I could see the places in my life that weren't letting me live my fullest. And like me, some clientele were taking advantage of the down time for rebranding, updating photos, building content, and began leaving products at my door to photograph. It's been so awesome seeing how Houston business owners have found the silver lining. It's also been amazing seeing that through this all many friends of mine, both in life and through social media, have decided to also take this time to follow their heart and consider a career change. And some have inspired to be photographers for the longest time. I've been promising to write this blog post for ever for them. And today you'll find my essentials for Studio by Christa Elyce equipment list!

Since the stay at home order, I began shooting regularly in my home studio that we fitted out. The first thing had to be installed was a motorized backdrop system. I found mine on Amazon and luckily for me Malcolm is super clever and handy because it didn't come with directions and mainly in Chinese. I was sick of setting up the traditional stands and bar every time I wanted to shoot at home (that old backdrop system now is in my traveling studio kit which pretty much my below photo).

There was a dead space off of my kitchen. I seriously can't think of what people would have done with the space in the 80s (around when my home was built). It was a space for a tv that sits inset of the opposite wall to the back patio. I've made that my storage area. It's perfect for light stands, my Replica Surfaces, posing apple boxes, ring light, video slider, more 4ft paper backdrops, and a few other photography odds and ends. This is what my home studio normally looks on a random day after a shoot. I'm not messy but give me a break...I just had a shoot the day before. Access to our back patio on the left and retro entertainment space converted to studio storage on the right under stairs landing.

I found these Backdrop Foam Holders from Amazon. They've been a God send of a product to store my Savage Paper Backdrops on display. I bought two because the paper was getting out control and I'm thinking of purchasing another (I have a backdrop purchasing problem). It really has turned into a space I can work! I have to move the kitchen table sometimes but it's much larger than other studio spaces I've had in the past. (Plus, the kitchen table makes it for a consult space or prep table. And for food shoots my kitchen is just right there for prep). I also have space to handle professional business portraits so it was necessary to have the Posing Table and Stool. Another purchased I've been crazy about it my foldable and portable V Flats from V-Flat World. 

So here is the list:

Nikon D850
Nikon D800
Nikon D700
3 Godox Speedlights
Godox Transmitter
3 Elinchrom Lights
Nikkor 70-200mm 
Nikkor 24-70mm 
Nikkor 50mm 
Nikkor 85 mm
Nikkor 100mm Macro
Phottix Transmittor and Remotes
Portable External Hard Drive
Sekonic Light Meter
Manafrotto Tripod

So many light stands to count

Here are some photos that I've photographed in my studio or on location with my equipment.

Hopefully I answered a lot of questions about my studio! 

This was by far the best quiche I've ever had. Thank you Homemade Interest for sharing this amazing dish for all of us living the Keto lifestyle. I had purchased my quiche dish from a estate sale earlier this year and put it away and forgotten I even had it till I saw this recipe on the Homemade Interest blog. It was so easy to cook and I even allowed myself to be a little late to work just so I can have a 2nd slice of this dish!

Here are your ingredients: 

  • Eggs
  • Ground breakfast sausage
  • Cream cheese
  • Heavy Cream
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Fresh baby spinach


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. In a skillet over medium high heat brown the ground breakfast sausage until it is almost cooked through. Drain excess grease and return to the skillet.
  3. Add cream cheese and stir together with sausage cooking until the sausage finishes cooking and the cream cheese is fully melted.
  4. Place baby spinach in a microwave-safe bowl and add 2 tablespoons of water. Microwave for 2-3 minutes until spinach is lightly steamed and tender. If you prefer you can saute the spinach in a skillet with a teaspoon or two of olive oil rather than microwaving. 
  5. In a bowl add eggs and 1 cup of heavy cream. Whisk together.
  6. Spoon the sausage cream cheese mixture into a greased 11×7 inch casserole dish. You can also use a 13×9 inch casserole dish the quiche just won’t be as thick and may cook slightly faster. 
  7. Add spinach on top of the sausage and sprinkle the shredded cheddar cheese over everything.
  8. Pour the egg mixture over the sausage and spinach and use a spoon to move things around just a big to let the eggs get down into the mixture.
  9. Place in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes or until you can jiggle the pan and the quiche doesn’t shake in the center.
  10. Remove and let cool for about 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

calories: 429kcalcarbohydrates: 2gprotein: 18gfat: 38gsaturated fat: 19gcholesterol: 212mgsodium: 559mgpotassium: 299mgsugar: 1gvitamin a: 2385iuvitamin c: 4.5mgcalcium: 234mgiron: 1.6mg

I started noticing that Brighton was squinting a lot lately. Brighton loves playing video games with his friends, creating animations, and using his eye pad. With school just around the corner I knew it was probably time to take him to see our neighborhood optometrist at ProOptix since we found out that his schooling would all be virtual this year. Brighton's main concern was discussing his gaming advantages with better eye care and eye sight. He learned a lot about eye strain from looking at screens and how it affects his eye health. It was eye opening for him! ;) Pun intended!

I really thought he would be nervous but he was really excited. It was great to see that new technology eliminates you from having to have your eyes dilated and the time it takes to take effect and wear off. Lucky guy! That's not how it was when I was a kid. 

ProOptix was great at taking all the proper precautions for our city's fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. You text them from your car to let them know you've arrived. They only allow one patient at a time into the office. There's even a cup to dispose of used pens once you've filled out the initial forms.

That's the kid's eyeball! He would keep asking if it looks nice and healthy. 

He struggled through some of the smaller letters. I mean, seriously, I still couldn't do as well as him.

He found these Ray-Bans that he absolutely loved. He had a chat about needing lenses that had added protection for his eyes from all the computer time he'll be spending with school and his friends virtually. I normally would have opted out from blue light protection and glare but now I see how absolutely vital it is. This little dude is ready for school now! Even if it's not in the real classroom this year.

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