Free Photography Cheat Sheet | Storytelling Workshop

The day has finally arrived for the launch of

Storytelling with Heather Hart, a photography workshop!

Imagine loving your camera,
because you can create the photos you’ve always wanted.

This video shows my family, these are my candid personal photos, this is our beautiful story. You can take amazing photos that share your story too; you can do this!

Let’s take one day to understand what creates the emotion of your life story and how it translates into your photography. We will discuss elements of story and narrative photography as well as simplify the often overwhelming options for equipment, settings, apps and prints.

All of this, with an intimate group of women, eager to learn and support you. And of course, let’s not forget the inspiring setting of Cacao Sweets & Treats and the delicious natural, organic scratch-made confections that will spark our own creativity.

All camera types and all experience levels welcome. Participation is open to women high school age and above. Weather-permitting, we will conclude our time together with a photo walk through historic downtown Grayslake. Participation in this workshop also includes 6 months of membership in a private FaceBook group, a perfect place to share your story & continue your photographic exploration.

Workshop Pricing: $250 per participant
Saturday, May 2nd – 12:00PM-3:30PM
Cacao Sweets & Treats located at 122 Center Street, Grayslake, IL
Dessert table & beverages included
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ATTENDEE REFERRAL BONUS! Here’s the extra-awesome part: Because this workshop is all about you, the participants, we are offering a $50 CASH bonus for EACH additional paid attendee you refer! Want to attend for FREE? Simply refer 5 friends! Contact Heather for full details: heather [at] Storytelling with Heather Hart PDF As a gift in honor of this fabulous day, here is a FREE Manual Photography Cheat Sheet for all of my favorite people! Learn Camera Settings Happy shooting!



50 Shades of Strong

Have you seen that Johnny Depp version of Alice in Wonderland? The one with the haughty guy rolling in money telling Alice to “remain silent” and the partygoers panting at the thought of engagement (because who isn’t lusting after the man with the most cash and the biggest title?). But Alice isn’t quite confident in this proposal. In fact, she realizes that this is what we call A Very Bad Idea and decides she needs a moment to follow that white rabbit. And off she goes to find her “muchness”, slay a Jabberwocky and discover that she is indeed the right Alice.

There are many Alices out there. And last fall some of us got together to share stories of slaying our own dragons, achieving dreams and loving people well.

We are 50 Shades of Strong.

Date Night Rebels| Boltwood Evanston

My mom offered to take the kiddos, I polled friends for suggestions & I read the Chicago Magazine‘s Hot List – we were officially ready for a DATE NIGHT. We even had grown-up attire; I wore white pants, throwing caution to the wind. Rebellious for the night.

After kissing our two bundles of energy good-bye, we buckled into the Jeep and enjoyed 40 solid minutes of adult conversation while on the highway. It was magical. We talked about work, the house, travel, hobbies… all sorts of things that little ears find completely uninteresting.

And then we arrived in Evanston and set about remembering how to use a parking meter and cross walks. Things easily forgotten in suburbs with yards. We sauntered into Boltwood, smiled at the hostess and gave her a mild heart attack when we announced “No, we do not have a reservation.” We are rebels, remember? Date Night Rebels.  She quickly recovered and whispered, more to herself than to us, “Well, it’s still early, we can do this” and ushered us to our table.

Being the woman that I am, I immediately asked where the restroom was. The hostess pointed me towards a hallway next to the bar and off I went. Yes, I’m human and I regularly need to use the restroom (especially after drinking a Smart Water in the car- am I smarter now?), but more importantly I am a woman and I must check out the bathroom decor and note the level of sophistication. And yes, I did love the cowhide rug as a table covering and yes, I did announce that on social media. Because everyone needs to get on this trend. I need a hide somewhere in my house, surely.

Upon returning to the table, my husband of 8 years ordered me cocktail, something citrusy & minty because he knows me well and understands my adoration of mojitos. He’s an IPA man himself, and well, I have had about 2 beers in my life so I don’t have much to say about that.

The delicious drinks arrived and we told our waiter the salmon roe toasts sounded appealing… but THEN we threw down the GAUNTLET. OK, maybe it wasn’t quite that dramatic, but I like to think of us as the Date Night Rebels, remember? We told him to ORDER FOR US. At my husband’s suggestion, we’ve started doing this on our foodie date nights and I must admit I love it. It makes the evening a bit of an adventure and always provides entertainment. Sometimes the waitstaff shrinks back with a petrified look on their face, other times a glimmer sparkles in their eye and you can see them already planning your courses. We are adventurous eaters and convey that message which helps ease the tension. It’s amazing how placing your trust in someone bonds you to them. The times we’ve done this, I’ve felt like we were good friends with our waiter by the end of the night. They always stop back frequently to see how we like their choices and share stories about why the food is personal to them. And they ALWAYS pick food that I wouldn’t have ordered but nearly embarrass myself eating because it’s so good (don’t mind if I lick the bowl, OK?).

Upon our throwing of the gauntlet, our waiter calmly picked it up, looked us over, gave a knowing smile and confidently said “I’ve got it.” That’s what I’m talking about people. We need more waiters like these. The menu at Boltwood changes frequently based on mostly locally sourced items, which enticed me in the first place. I love changing menus, it’s the whole adventure foodie thing for me. He brought us a roasted beet salad, an item not on the online menu I’d eyed prior to our little evening out. My impression of beets generally revolves around those gelatinous looking slices you see on a tupperware-themed salad bar. So yeah, I really did not eat them. Like ever. But these roasted little bundles of goodness made me want to start buying beets on a regular basis. So sweet and tender, but not mushy, and perfectly combined with some micro greens.

AND THEN he brought us spare ribs. And I love me some ribs but I never order them at a ‘nice’ restaurant. For two reasons: 1) Ribs are BBQ to me, so I order them at places where they provide paper towels as napkins and 2) Eating ribs generally requires picking up your food with your HANDS (& I was wearing WHITE PANTS, REMEMBER?!) As the food runner set them down on the table, I had my own heart palpitation and used my fork & knife to place one on my plate (note: the hubs and I share all the portions on these adventures). Thankfully, the waiter stepped right over to tell us about the dish & I nervously laughed “Is there a graceful way to eat these?” With a mischievous twinkle in his eye he replied, “You just gotta dig in.” And he smiled. And then he left me to eat with my hands and my white pants. And it was glorious. And messy. And I told him whoever was in charge of the ribs in the back was doing something right. And later on in the evening I saw TWO other ladies sitting in my line of sight eating ribs with their HANDS and I felt as though we had an unspoken club. Maybe we need t-shirts.

The rest of the meal was delicious and unexpected too- however, I’m not going to describe any more of it in detail because that would dampen your own dining adventure. I expect you to jump into the fray and try Boltwood and tell me about your own foodie exploration.


Inspiration and Hope | FREE PRINTABLES

We’ve had several deaths in our family this year. The losses hit us fresh each time and they linger in the background of our daily life. I lost my father 15 years ago and the tears still hover just beneath the surface. However, hope permeates each loss and gives peace for my own future. My mom asked me to make a few word art images of Bible verses that have comforted her and I am happy to share them with anyone needing encouragement. They are high-resolution and can be printed up to 8×10. Please enjoy and pass them along to anyone who might benefit.
love & peace,

1 Corinthians 15:26

1 Corinthians 15:22

Modern Playroom Design | Lions and Trucks and Books

Lions and Trucks and Books… Oh my!

Here in Chicagoland winters belong to the brave, especially this one. You see, this year, Old Man Winter shook off the complacency of an occasional cold snap or snow day. THIS year, he rubbed his hands together menacingly and threw back his head back in maniacal laughter, “MINUS 50 degrees! Snow that NEVER stops! Schools closed & children kept INDOORS, HAHAHAHAHA!” Yes, that is a direct quote – I was there and it scared me.

Fortunately, we created a playroom for our 2 high-energy boys. However, I started to notice that these 2 boys seemed less and less inclined to play in said playroom. They drug toys all over the house. They whined about toys. They forgot how to play with toys. This called for drastic action as any parent of 2 cooped-up preschool children will understand. SOMETHING MUST BE DONE, I said to myself (without the maniacal laughter… for now).

Taking stock of the playroom, I realized the true Master of this Domain. The chaos would not ruin me, I would triumph.

I turned to my purging skills: The toys will be reduced by half.
I turned to my organizational skills: Everything will have a place.
I turned to my spacial skills: There will be room for movement.
I turned to my artistic skills: This room must inspire imagination.

So with the help of Pinterest, Etsy and Target (& a few others great stores) the Playroom came back to life. Look, enjoy and by all means support the artists & shops that helped my dream of winter sanity come true.

This is a mashup of boyhood adventure, childish whimsy and a mother’s modern minimalism. 🙂 The animal prints are digital water colors I purchased from Three Spins Press and then framed to bring in a little nature. The large paper lanterns and stars are from Z Gallerie (I love that place!) and are meant to look like the sky with clouds and stars. The capes (what preschooler doesn’t adore capes?!) are handmade by my mom – a woman truly gifted with a sewing machine. My boys love to dress up and review their own heroic prowess so the large mirror fit perfectly, and truth be told, I love to catch them making faces at themselves in it. Adorable. I’m a big fan of texture so I also included the faux fur blanket by Restoration Hardware and the floor cushion by CB2. The lamp is from Target— I needed something sturdy & wanted a bit of an industrial look, this fit the bill well.

Modern Play Room Design

Back when it was warm, and we could feel things like fingers & toes, I took a photo of my boys lost in the world of sidewalk chalk. I printed it on a canvas with an excerpt from You Are My I Love You by Maryann Cusimano. If you haven’t read it, you must… I don’t know if I’ve read a book that was a better description of how it feels to be a parent. You can see that I am a fan of large bins for toy organization – this makes clean up easy, especially since I downsized the amount of toys in the room. I put the other half of the toys in their respective bins and put them in an upstairs closest. I plan to rotate them periodically and keep the entertainment value fresh. My kids play  much better without having access to EVERY SINGLE TOY, ALL THE TIME. And now we can see the floor. Bonus. I am a book lover and have always wanted a tree bookcase, so I included one in this room to live vicariously through my children. It has that modern minimalism I love and made a perfect reading vignette with the Pascal chair and LIFE pillow.

Modern Play Room Chicago Design

My boys love dinosaurs and ‘Rawr-ing’ is one of our favorite pastimes. I wanted more emphasis on height in the room (in addition to the sky lantern sculpture) so I opted for a DIY hanging pendant that gave Rex the spotlight. He seems to flourish in it. I picked out a simple black linen shade and made the paper vine by punching circles out of construction paper and threading them together. I watched a lot of Downton Abbey while I did that. A lot. My boys also love big trucks and the folks at Bruder make such great looking toys I wanted them to sit out and entice little people to play with them. The Gunmetal Wall Shelves are perfect for displaying some artwork and a few of our favorite large picture books. They are very sturdy and went up in a jiffy.  Speaking of the artwork, the two you see below are pieces I’ve done and are available in my Etsy shop. I love CS Lewis and Star Wars and I want my boys to grow up inspired. The silver lion’s head mount is a nod to Aslan and the Chronicles of Narnia, a series of books we read when I was a child and I hope to do the same for my boys. The Mesh Silver Bulletin Board lets them revel in the joy of magnets and the room didn’t seem complete without a Radio Flyer tricycle. Yes, I do let them ride it around the house 🙂 We repurposed our old black coffee table for the playroom because the lip keeps Legos and train tracks perfectly contained… and we’ve had it for 8+ years, so it can handle the abuse. To add a little extra seating for the boys while they build their vast cities, I added a couple of Graphite Knitted Poufs. They also perform quite well when turned on their side and rolled around the house while racing your brother, FYI.

And just for kicks, you’ll see one of my super heroes taking his first flight around the room – we are indeed keeping Old Man Winter at bay. 🙂

Modern Play Room Chicago

Ladies Who Lunch | Mundelein Style

We braved the snow, because this little place is so worth it. When you happen to be in Mundelein, you must stop in and visit Chef Claude’s Taste of Paris Restaurant & Bakery (161 North Seymour Ave 847-949-9991). The lovely Lynnette was a smidge intimidated by the idea of French cuisine, but I assured her this culinary adventure would be full of  delightful comfort food, and it did not disappoint.

The chalkboard Specials menu at the entrance announced $5 mimosas, so of course I decided to partake. My lunch date and driver opted for the blood orange soda, so basically both of us were being healthy and getting our vitamin C. (humor me, people!) We started off with the rich French onion soup. The croutons, the sweet onions, the melty cheese. This was a perfect beginning on such a wintery day. While waiting for our next course, we browsed the bakery shelves and chatted up the girls behind the counter. Seductive flavors wafted over us and I nearly broke down and bought a croissant right then and there. A blip of self control emerged to save the day and I promised myself I would leave with some of these baked goodies.

Lake County Restaurant

We wanted to try several different things from the menu, however neither one of us could pronounce most of them.  Thankfully the waitress rescued us. And before you comment, YES, I did take 2 years of French in high school. However, I also took 2 years of Spanish in college so my mind is one big jumble of romance languages. Que paso? Oui. EXACTLY.  OK, back to the food. Our greens, Salad  d’Epinard, was divine! I mean spinach, bacon, egg, red onions, goat cheese and house made vinaigrette; I love it all! In fact I bought fancy bacon and pricey goat cheese this week just so I could attempt to make something similar at home. By this time, I finished off that tasty mimosa an opted for a pomegranate soda, another refreshing concoction. Now, we needed a bit of comfort food and a bit of out-of-our-comfort-zone food to get the whole French experience. For comfort food, we tried the Croque Monsieur, a decadent take on a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. Not for the faint of heart, or maybe even those with a pacemaker, but perfect for this crazy cold weather. For something out-of-our-comfort-zone, we tried a savory crepe: Poulet et Fromage. The crepes we’ve known were always sweet – full of berries and things like Nutella (oooohhhh, Nutella… what dreams are made of) but this was made with chicken, swiss cheese and Béchamel sauce- just a tad different. It was a creamy indulgence of different, to be exact. Similar to the decadence of the sandwich but with the class of a crepe that only the French can provide. Our own little taste of what it might be like living the cultured life of a Parisian. But without needing to actually travel there, or speak French. Because we all know how that would turn out for me.

Mundelein Restaurant

And then came our grand finale, our pièce de résistance, the Chocolate Mousse Dome. Enveloped in chocolate ganache and garnished with berries we savored EVERY. SINGLE. BITE. Let’s be honest, we nearly licked the plate. You can see for yourself in the photos. You must get one of these when you go there. Even if you’ve stuffed yourself silly on the other scrumptious food. Buy one and take it home or you will be sad, sad, sad. In fact, I am sad, sad, sad that I don’t have one right now. Maybe I will have to remedy that asap. hmmmm….  Well, after we finished our fantastic meal and lingered for a few moments to let it all settle, we each bought a box of French pastries at the bakery because this kind of sweet goodness was meant to be shared with loved ones. Trust me on that 🙂

Chocolate Mousse Dome