How To Take Awesome Product Pictures With Your iPhone

We take A LOT of pictures. Lots for fun, and also lots for our businesses. And since we’ve been taking photos for a long time, we’ve learned a few things over the years. I guess we’ve gotten pretty good at it—I get asked all the time for tips and tricks for pictures. Now, I could make this super complicated and talk about the cameras and the lenses and all the other expensive, boring, and sometimes overwhelming details. But that’s just not me—more often than not I’m shooting photos on my good old iPhone. So whether you’re using your phone because you’re on the fly or because it’s what you have, let’s learn how to take awesome phone pics!

Find Your Light

Using natural light plus artificial light.

Lighting is KEY. Natural light is always best but finding it can be such a chore. Weather, time of day, and location all can play a part in creating the right natural light. I don’t know about you but I have a life to live—I’m not here to schedule things around taking cool pictures. So we’re working with what we have. If you have a nice window in your space, that’s great—we shoot in front of our kitchen window A LOT. If you can combine natural and artificial light, WINNING! We use a super cheap light kit we bought eons ago, here it is: Lighting Kit for Photography. And here’s what our setups usually look like:

Lighting for flat lays: even and direct.

Want lighting setups broken down more? Determine where your light is coming from based on what your subject is. For example, if you were photographing food you would want it to be lit from one side to capture all the delicious details. Whereas if you were taking a picture of a flat lay you would want the light to be even and direct.

Style Your ‘Set’

Props. Background. Texture. All the things. Taking a minute to style your photos always pays off. If you’re taking a picture of a product or object, add something else complementary. A plant, a book, a muffin—make sure it makes sense though. I see flat lays sometimes and I’m like, “Why is a random sunscreen in this picture?!” Get what I’m saying? When we style clothes, we add jewelry, glasses, shoes, bags, and occasionally a book or planner if it fits the situation. My husband takes a million pictures of coffee and each one ends up different even though the subject is the same. Your background and added elements need to add ambiance, interest, and all the vibes while not stealing the focus.

Now let’s get into TEXTURE. So when it comes to photos, what exactly do I mean by texture? Let’s say you’re taking a picture of a cut-up apple. And it’s just there, laying on a plate. It would look much more appealing if instead, it was on a plate on top of a woven placemat, and perhaps you add a pretty napkin or a beverage. Adding layers, light, and appetizing accents will set your photos apart. Also, when photographing on surfaces (like you are with food), it’s important to note you want to use something with a matte finish. This way you avoid glares and reflections —wood surfaces work great!

Line It Up

When taking overheard shots or flat lays, make sure those arrows line up, the yellow one and the white one. When you’re at an angle with your flat lays, it ends up looking distorted or just not right. Use the tools your phone has! Make sure you’re directly overhead. Use the grid. Make sure you’re lined up! The grid is even more important when you’re not doing flat lays. You want to keep your horizon line level, aka you want whatever you’re taking a picture of to look level. Here’s how it looks:

Tap to Set Your Light

Tap the item you want to focus on. Here’s an example: the other night I was taking a picture of my daughter in the glow of the sonic menu. (lol—also, we had just been swimming and I had no idea I would be sharing this photo for demo purposes. Keepin’ it real!) I thought I got a decent shot. My husband then says, “tap her face and lower the light just a touch.” Voilà! What a difference that made. This is an iPhone camera tool he uses a lot. He’s tapping and moving that little light button while I’m over here frustrated like “Take the picture already!!” But as you can see it makes a difference. 

Why does this matter? Why is it helpful? Here’s the boring detailed answer: your phone automatically tries to adjust for proper exposure. In low light situations, your phone tries to make the subject brighter, which often causes the image to be grainy. See—in the second one the shadows got darker but her face got clearer. You can always edit the exposure later to brighten up your picture, but you can’t get rid of that graininess.

More iPhone Camera Tips

  • Clean your lens and clean your screen. If your lens is dirty you will look hazy and soft, and not in a flattering way.
  • Make sure your brightness is all the way up. If your brightness is turned up (aka that sun light slider in your phone’s control panel) it will enable you to use the grid and light tools on your phone properly.
  • Avoid selfie mode whenever possible—the camera isn’t as good so your photos won’t look as sharp and high-quality.

Oh, and before you say: “Well Katie, I don’t have the newest fancy iPhone,” keep in mind we’re using OLD phones (like iPhone 7 & 8’s) and we’re making it work! We don’t like change—I’m getting anxiety at the thought of getting a new phone.

I hope this helps you take some awesome product photos with your iPhone! Leave your questions in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer. And don’t forget to tag me (@katie.dunlavy) in your pretty pictures using hashtag #thepearlpages! Stay safe and be kind to each other.



Troubleshooting The Messy Bun

Hello dear friends! First, let me say thank you for all the kind words and sweet messages regarding last week’s post. You are amazing and we so appreciate all the love you show us.

Now onto this messy bun business…

Some of you reached out to me saying, “I watched the video, I read the blog…HELP! I just can’t messy bun!” So I listened to your issues and broke the messy bun down a bit further. If you missed the original post, you can check it out here but it’s not necessary—this post has you covered. Go ahead and watch this video first and then read along below.

Watch this first! I’m breaking down the most common issues you’re having with your messy buns.

Ok! So number one: VELVET SCRUNCHIES! I know you don’t think they matter…but they matter. The texture gives you extra hold and keeps that bun in place. These are the ones I use: 20 Assorted Color Velvet Scrunchies.

Now, when you go to put your hair up, wrap it twice with that scrunchie. Three times gives the bun a floppy feel.

Next, those corners, just tuck ‘em. Tuck and pull and tuck and pull until you’re satisfied with how it looks.

Mess up that wrap!!! Fluff it, tease it, shake it up, add texture spray (This Is A Dry Texturizer by Davines is my fave), whatever your jam is. Wrap and tuck!

Then if you’re not feeling cute yet, pull it up higher! Higher on top of your head, not higher like closer to Jesus—we don’t need our buns getting TOO BIG. A lot of times it comes down to just getting your bun to the right, most flattering spot on your head. 

For added cuteness, I pull some of the hair on the back of my head down to sag, pull a few face-framing hairs out. and then spray down my baby hairs. Remember those “my daughter was diagnosed with diabetes” baby hairs I was telling you about? They’re growing, but they fluff up in front and make me look like I’m straight out of the ‘80s—and not the good ‘80s. Was there a good ‘80s?? You get my drift.

Anyway, I hope this helps! I hope you’re having a fantastic week. As always, if you have messy bun questions (or any questions, really) leave me a comment or send me a message. When you try the bun, tag me using hashtag #thepearlpages—I love to see your looks! Stay safe and be kind to one another.



Saying Goodbye to My Foster Son

This blog is extremely hard to write. I feel guilty. I feel like a failure. I feel like a bad mother. I don’t even know how to explain all the feelings. Before we begin, please keep any negative thoughts to yourself. Please understand that this is all new and hard and I’m sharing my story in hopes to comfort someone else. I personally know NO ONE that has gone through this—I wish I did so I had someone to talk to who really GETS how difficult this is. Maybe this story will find a crying momma somewhere and give her comfort.

I love my foster son so much. I loved him before he was even born. He is sweet, smart, ornery, and absolutely precious. He’s brought so much joy into our home—he’s also brought many challenges. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been hard. Having a baby with RAD in quarantine is HARD. I had zero experience with babies that have experienced trauma and it’s HARD. It’s 100% worth it, but it’s HARD. Loving a baby that’s in foster care is HARD. With those challenges, we have all grown. Every single one of us is better for this experience. It’s something I often hoped wouldn’t end. So what happened?

Here’s the story. Back in April visitations went virtual due to the pandemic. We had comparatively few COVID cases in our region but our family was in full-blown quarantine mode and welcomed this change. After 10 weeks the county reopened in-person visitation, even though our county has become a nationally recognized hot zone. Yeah, we’re at the epicenter. His bio mom’s lifestyle doesn’t meet any CDC guidelines, and we are a high-risk family. So needless to say, we were very uncomfortable with this change, especially given the rapid growth in cases, still rapidly growing to this day, weeks later.

COVID-19 affects every family and every profession in a different way. As a family with two diabetics, one with asthma and a 10-year-old with asthma too, we are CAUTIOUS. Like, real cautious. I love my parents and my brother so much we don’t even touch them. Not because we are fearful they will infect us but because what if we infected them? The thought of all of us being sick is just too much for me to handle. On top of that, we are self-employed, so the financial implications for our family are enough to send me into a spiral.

Finger touches instead of hugs these days….

Because of this, we fought to continue virtual visits. We meticulously outlined the unique health and financial risks a possible exposure would have for my family. We offered social distance visits. We explained how my family has been able to build a beautiful relationship with him while social distancing. We offered daily virtual visits. Anything that would keep our family safe from exposure and keep us from having to make this decision. We were instead given an order for outdoor, masked, touching visits with a negative COVID test. Two weeks later his bio mom produced a negative test and the visit was set.

Given, she did follow the rules of the visit and did everything she was asked—for this we are very grateful. But with every day that passes my anxiety is growing. Her lifestyle continues to conflict with CDC guidelines. Her lifestyle is not necessarily a safe one, not that of a typical mother with a one-year-old child. So just because she was negative 3 weeks ago isn’t enough for me to relax. And testing her monthly or even weekly wouldn’t make me feel any better—there’s still too much risk.

Of course, she is free to make her own decisions and live her OWN LIFE. Under typical circumstances I wouldn’t have a problem with any of it. During a pandemic, these conditions make me extremely fearful for my family’s safety. I’m a pretty flexible person. I tend to see every side. But when it comes to my family, I’m a full-blown mama bear. I fought for him, too. Lord knows, I FOUGHT. I did what I thought was best as his foster mom. But the simple truth is, I’m not his mom and I don’t have the right.

That in itself is HARD. It’s maddening to love a child so much when you have absolutely no say for them. We care for him day in and day out every day. We don’t have babysitters, we don’t get a break. As I said, we’re taking EVERY precaution because we feel that’s what’s best for our family—that’s our right and our choice. And having someone in an office somewhere tell me what I “have to” do when I believe it puts him and my family in harm’s way has been HARD. I mean, if he gets sick are the people in the office going to come over and take the night shift? Are they going to fix dinner? Are they going to help with the laundry? Are they going to pay my lost wages? NO. Yet they have the right to make these decisions for my family.

I don’t mean to sound terrible—I do truly value social workers and all the work they do. And I love loving this child. The simple fact is, we’re just not an ideal foster family during a pandemic. Which feels like a cop-out, because who is?? But we just can’t do it anymore. I can’t willingly put the rest of my family at risk.

Please know this beautiful boy is not going off with a stranger, he will be with a beautiful loving family that we know and care so much for. I’m so grateful since that means I’ll still be a part of his life, but in a way, it makes this even harder. Even though it’s their decision, I feel like I’m putting them in harm’s way too. I just feel like I’m letting so many people down, including this beautiful boy. We love him so much and we will continue to love him and his new family. We’ll be as involved as we’re safely allowed to be and hopefully someday sooner than later we can hug and be close again.

This was not an easy decision. It’s still hard and it will probably hurt forever. Yet I’m so lucky. I had a beautiful son for 5 wonderful months. I loved him through the flu and cutting countless teeth. I watched him learn to crawl, pull up and stand. He has grown into such a talker! He will forever be a part of me. All I can do is think of these moments we had as a family and send him off with love to his new one. I hope you hug your family extra tight today—I’ll be doing the same with mine.



My Favorite Summer Products for Beauty, Family, and More

I LOVE spending the summer with my family. Every summer, my goal is to have as few obligations as possible to get in every single hug, art project, and sweaty pool-filled afternoon I can with my babes. This year is definitely different but the goal’s still the same, so I’m gearing up with some old summer favorites and new picks for 2020.

Ever buy something and then are AMAZED when it actually does what it claims? I’ll instantly message my girlfriends like, “TRY THIS!!!” This blog is my way of sending that same message to you. Here are some of my fave summer products that make it easy to relax and ENJOY!


Flower Beauty Glow Getter Liquid Illuminizer

image via

Let’s be real: makeup is expensive. And even though I’m not going out and about much these days, I still want to look put together—so I’m always looking for inexpensive beauty products that WORK. This Flower Beauty Liquid Illuminizer is perfect for giving your skin that summer glow. It’s only $13 and it makes me feel pretty—I mean, do I need to add more? $13 for a confidence boost?? AMEN! I don’t know if I’m using it exactly as intended, but I put it on my cheeks, nose, forehead before I use my tinted moisturizer and it makes me feel like Kate Hudson. Enough said!

Thinksport and Thinkbaby Sunscreen

Y’all, if you never researched sunscreen, DO IT! I’m not going to say anything more, but I will say it convinced me not to spray myself or my kids down with sunscreen. No judgment If you do! I’m no sunscreen expert, BUT I trust Think—they make the only sun-care products I’ve used since Ada was teeny-tiny. The kids and I use Thinkbaby and Mike uses Thinksport since it’s extra sweat-proof. Maybe there’s new and amazing stuff out there (my anxiety doesn’t want to go back down the sunscreen rabbit hole to check, lol) but Think has been a great safe sunscreen for our family. My fair-skinned Irish babes gladly lather up and haven’t had a sunburn in years!

Skinny Tan Wonder Serum

So as you all know Skinny Tan stopped making my favorite self-tanning product. They didn’t even ask me, can you believe it? 😉 Ever since, I’ve been trying to find a comparable self-tanner, even looking outside of the brand for a new fave. I’m not there yet—and I’ve had plenty of bad tans to prove it. So out of a cabinet full of tanning products I don’t love, I find myself continuously reaching for this Skinny Tan Wonder Serum.

Here’s what I DO like about it: first, you can see where you apply it. You get an instant, nice bronzey color! It also doesn’t transfer to your sheets, it doesn’t smell funky, and it dries almost instantly. All great things! What I DON’T like is how it comes off after 5 or so days later. Now I’m not great about exfoliating and moisturizing so this could be application user error but the Wonder Serum’s tan does come off kind of splotchy. That being said, Wonder Serum is the best self-tanner I‘ve come across so far—I’m still searching, though.

For the Kids

onn. Portable HD Projector

So in an attempt to A) make EVERYTHING extra exciting in the summer and B) give the kids back their beloved movie time with their uncle, we got this onn. Portable Projector to watch movies on our porch while social distancing. This is a total winner! It’s so fun watching movies or shows outside, and the projector itself is easy to use. It comes with Roku so you can connect to your Netflix or Disney+ and get watching. You can wirelessly hook it up to a computer too, although we haven’t tried that yet. So far the family is loving this projector—I have a feeling we’ll keep using it past COVID life!

Hello Bello Diapers and Wipes

Ok, not technically summer products, but I just discovered these diapers and it’s summer, so here we are. Mommas, get ya some Hello Bello!! These diapers are PLUSH—like I want to wear them, they feel that amazing. They haven’t leaked a single time either, which is something we really struggled with prior to Hello Bello. I turned to social media with a “Help! This baby keeps leaking, is it a boy thing? What is happening??” and Hello Bello diapers were one of the recommendations I got. Oh, and we also learned he’s sensitive to every wipe we liked (aka, worked well). Hello Bello wipes make everyone happy! You can order online as a subscription through Hello Bello’s website or find them at Walmart.

Polymer Modeling Clay

In my last product-picks blog, I talked about the girls’ favorite art kits. Well, now they’ve moved on to polymer clay and are making the cutest creations. They’re having the BEST time—the tools are relatively inexpensive and the girls use this Sculpey polymer clay almost every day. I love seeing what they come up with!

ALSO! The splash pad I mentioned in that same post, that I couldn’t wait to get? BUSTED!!! I’m going to add a disclaimer to that piece of garbage—it popped on the 3rd use and the only one using it was the baby. He got a new splash pad for his birthday which we’ve only used once so far, but I’ll share the details if it holds up!


Davines SU line

Summer can be so hard on your hair—the sun, the chlorine, the salt…all of it! So here are some must-haves for you beach bums, lake-goers, and poolside dwellers from Davines’ SU line. First, we have SU Hair & Body Wash, the perfect after-sun product for your lake house or poolside shower. It hydrates, replenishes, and nourishes both your skin and hair—the dual-use makes getting clean quick and easy. This wash has a  full-bodied foam that moisturizes and gently cleanses. It’s good stuff!

Next up is SU Milk—this one is like sunscreen for your hair, ok? It’s a leave-on softening spray that’s enriched with UV filters to protect color and lock in hydration against sun exposure. It keeps the hair soft, light, and protected and helps with combing and manageability after the shower. Last but not least…when the damage is done and you’re feeling that summer funk in your hair, enter SU Hair Mask. This product helps undo all the yuck in your hair, leaving it as if you never spent all weekend poolside. You know I love a good mask!

Davines The Restless Circle mask

Ok, let me back up and apologize to the Restless Circle first for thinking it was bogus. This mask is AMAZING! Davines says you can put it in your hair, go about life, and not look gross like you have a mask in your hair—I called BS. Well, boy was I wrong! This hair mask has been a godsend for my Iley Rose. As you know Iley (10) has THICK hair that’s down to her bum. And in the summer she swims A LOT! I’ve officially retired from combing her summer hair because our relationship just doesn’t need that kind of drama.

When I’m in charge, I comb her hair, apply conditioner, braid it, and voila: she’s ready for the pool. Iley will tie her hair in some wild braid and swim for a few days before taking it out. I know, AWFUL! But she’s 10 and I’m OVER fighting her on it—she can figure that actions have consequences, ya feel me? Well, this girl has discovered no matter the mess her hair’s become, she can apply this mask and get it brushed out. She does this before bed, doesn’t wash out the mask, and wakes up looking GOOD. How is that possible?? This kid learned how to avoid washing her hair after every swim and keeps it healthy with minimal effort. Bravo Restless Circle, you’ve won me over!

**BTW, if you’d like to try out or talk more about any of these products, hit me up! I ship for free and I LOVE talking hair with you!**

Guilty Pleasures

Chips Ahoy Cake Cups

Have you had a cake in a cup?? Am I late to this game? Chips Ahoy Cake Cups make me happy. They’re ready in an instant and are a perfect treat for the end of the day. I eat one in bed while watching true crime documentaries and it makes me forget the current state of the world. Get ya some, you deserve it!

Tito’s and Tonic

Alright, so we all know vodka tonics are quite delightful in the summer (or anytime, really). However, giiiiirl have you ever looked at the number of carbs in tonic? Talk about being shook! Needless to say, I quickly switched to diet tonic, which not only tastes better but you can drink guilt-free. I’m not currently ordering a vodka tonic from anywhere other than my kitchen, but I’ve always wondered why bars don’t stock diet tonic. You should see the look on a bartender’s face when you ask for diet! Let’s make this a thing—we need diet tonic! If not for us carb-counters, than for the diabetics worldwide that would like to enjoy an occasional low-carb summer cocktail. In fact, I think I could use one right now…

So that wraps up my summer favorites! I’m constantly on the hunt for things that make summer even better. If you’ve come across a fabulous summer product, share it with me in the comments or by tagging me on Instagram. Stay safe, be kind, and enjoy your summer!!



Your Personal Haircare Specialist

One of my FAVORITE parts of this blog is making hair recommendations for all of my new reader friends. It’s the BEST feeling when I get a message from someone with a specific issue and I’m able to help them! Now I want to help with YOUR hair challenges. So far I am batting a thousand so hopefully this blog post helps maintain my average.

I’m your personal virtual haircare specialist—let’s tackle your specific hair challenges. Sometimes we need to see or feel your hair in person to fix an issue, but we can often really help things just by talking about what’s going on with your hair.

Let me prescribe the best ‘medicine’ for your hair! Some of the challenges I can help you with via the internet are:


I always start with, “Have you read this blog post: How To Actually Shampoo Your Hair The *Right* Way??” because 9 out of 10 times it solves the problem. Dandruff is a problem for many people but it’s also caused by many different factors. So when it comes to product recommendations for dandruff, it varies greatly based on your routine, environment, and overall health. Identifying those factors is the best way to remedy the problem. But if I’m being really real here…more often than not this shampoo post can help.

Greasy Hair

Greasy hair is caused by an overproduction of sebum, leaving hair flat and just…gross feeling. Like dandruff, greasy hair can be caused by an array of issues. And again, my first recommendation for getting rid of greasy hair would be to refer back to that shampoo post. Gosh I know, I do that a lot. Many of the people who ask me about greasy hair are experiencing hormonal changes or going through puberty. (Ugh, as if they don’t have enough going on…why is greasy hair part of it? Bless adolescents.) If this is you, I recommend using a solid clarifying shampoo like Davines SOLU shampoo or Davines REBALANCING shampoo if it’s been a continuous issue.

Dull, Brittle Hair

When it comes to dull, brittle hair, we need to talk about lifestyle and environment. Are you eating a fair amount of healthy fats and protein? Do you work outdoors? Are you spending your weekends at the lake? Check your nutrition and wear a hat to start. Sometimes something as easy as a one-time mask can greatly help dull, brittle hair. Other times, more personalized assistance is required. The Davines NOURISHING line, OI line, and OI All in One Milk is ALWAYS a great soft, shiny and strong hair care routine, but especially in the summer months. Don’t forget swimming and being outdoors can have huge side effects on your hair, including making it dull and brittle.

Itchy Scalp

No one wants to get stuck with an itchy head. If you don’t have something like lice or psoriasis, take a look at your medications. Medications or surgeries can send your head into a real tailspin of issues, oftentimes including making your scalp itchy. Again, this can happen from a variety of causes with individual fixes, but my go-to products for soothing an itchy scalp are from the Davines CALMING line.

Frizzy Hair

Oh girl do I feel you…frizz can be seriously annoying. The good news is I have so many amazing products I can share with you! We just need to talk about your personal routine and hair type. Also, you should read this Blowdry Basics blog for more frizz-fighting styling tips.

Tangly Hair

Bless your heart—some hairs just tangle. They tangle when healthy, they tangle when cut, they’re just tangly. I have some product recommendations for you once I hear more about your routine and hair type, but also know you are not alone in this struggle.

Over-Processed Hair

This is a sad story. Once damage is done to hair, it can’t be undone but it can be improved. There are products made specifically for chemically damaged hair—my go-to is the Davines NOURISHING line, full of goodness to help get your hair back on track. But also know that if your stylist is continuously over-processing your hair, you need a new stylist. Of course, damage happens during chemical processes, I won’t say that it doesn’t, but every time? No way, switch to someone else.

Burned Hair

Unfortunately, burned hair really can’t be fixed, but it can usually be prevented. Please, please make sure your hair is DRY DRY DRY before you start heat styling. PLEASE. MAKE. SURE. IT’S. DRY! Styling your hair with hot tools when it’s even just a smidge damp can cause irreversible damage. I know life happens, I know you’re in a hurry and want to let damp be “good enough,” but listen to me: IRREVERSIBLE DAMAGE. Go with the Davines NOURISHING line to heal your burned hair as much as possible.

Curly Hair

Curly ladies, I know oftentimes I leave you out of the conversation. This is kind of intentional since you, my beautiful friend, have your own set of hair rules. You know this because you and your amazing curls are in the awesome minority, and “for all hair types” won’t always work for you. If you’re old enough to be reading this blog, you’ve more than likely already had to figure out your curly hair situation. But just know…girl, I always have products for you too. For the curly girl that doesn’t shampoo, I have a curl cleansing cream. What?? I know, so cool. I have a curl-friendly blowdry spray for when you brave that journey. I have an amazing-for-curls shampoo, conditioner, curl cream, curl controller, reactivator…I have all the things for you. Let’s be friends! I am a wavy, wannabe-curly girl too so I know some of these products from firsthand use.

So this wraps up our virtual haircare session—I hope you’ve got some new tips or product recommendations to try out! As we’ve covered, our hair can face MANY unique and specific challenges. If you have any follow-up questions or want to chat about any and all things hair, please send me an email or a DM! We can chat about what will work best for YOU specifically. Did I mention I LOVE HELPING YOU?! Let’s chat!



How We Threw a Spaced-Out Birthday Party with Social Distancing

So it happened: my foster son turned ONE! We celebrated with an out-of-this-world, epic, space-themed first birthday party. The day went by so fast my head is still spinning. I’ve thrown a few first birthday parties at this point and this one was different than the rest. Not only did we have to plan decorations, outfits, and treats, but we also had to stay safe by keeping social distance.

This party turned out to be the perfect way to celebrate our little guy. EVERYTHING turned out so cute and it ended up being the most budget-friendly first birthday bash I’ve ever thrown! My only complaint is that we were so busy ENJOYING the party we didn’t get enough pictures. Let’s go over the stellar details:


BALLOONS: talk about making an impact on a budget! I bought so many balloon kits I struggled to find places to put them. We blew up 300 balloons and somehow I don’t have a closeup shot of a single balloon garland. You’ll just have to trust me that they turned out amazing. We had balloons in trees, on the mailbox, EVERYWHERE! I bought these kits on Amazon: 88-piece Outer Space Balloon Kit and 89-piece Space Party Supplies. I was kind of nervous to put together the balloon garland (given the videos I watched on Youtube) but the kit made it so easy, I was shocked! I also purchased a balloon inflater⁠—best $15 I’ve spent in a while. It was so easy to use even Ada joined in. What 4-year-old can resist balloons?

I found some yard signs in my parents’ boathouse and decided they’d be perfect for the party. We spraypainted them black and got artsy! Iley Rose did a great job on the arrow sign. Mike did the “fueling station” sign where our guests received their cookies. I made “Welcome to Mission Control” and “Godspeed.”

To finish off the party decor we set up several inflatable astronauts, also from Amazon. We ordered rockets too, but they all arrived damaged :(. We played the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey on repeat to set the mood!


No party is complete without the perfect outfit. I found this adorable astronaut flight suit on Amazon and it was a MUST! It’s plenty big on our one-year-old so it can double as a Halloween costume this fall. The costume did come with a hat but it was way too big so Ada wore it.

Ada and I got NASA t-shirts from Amazon (adult NASA logo shirt and kids NASA space shuttle shirt, and Iley wore a galaxy print Jill skirt from our shop. Mike…well, Mike was handing out goodie bags so he needed to both look awesome AND be safe. This inflatable astronaut suit doubled as PPE and it was a big hit!


We made his first birthday cake here at home. We ordered a sphere-shaped cake pan set, baked the cake, and decorated it to look like Mars. He was happy with the singing but when it came time to eat the cake he didn’t like it⁠—he gagged and even threw up a little. Who would have guessed that?? It does make for a great story. He ended up eating a bit of cake later…I guess he just isn’t an icing kind of guy. The cake got good reviews from everyone else though.

And what kind of space party would it be without MoonPies?! We scored boxes of mini MoonPies at Walgreens for $1 each. Everyone was thrilled with them. We also got space-themed cookies from Coley’s Cookie Co that were ADORABLE! We purchased goodie bags with these cute stickers from Amazon as well.

The very best part of the party? The baby was the perfect host! He waved and said, “Hi!” to every single guest as they drove by. What a champ! Some of his bio family was even able to come by. It was very cool for our family to meet his and to experience this big day together. I wish we could have all hugged, hung out, and enjoyed this day a little closer. BUT we had a fun, cootie-free, SAFE birthday celebration and for that, I am so very grateful.

To say we had a blast planning this party is an understatement. And for the party itself to be even better? Absolutely STELLAR.



Your Top 25 Hair Questions, Answered

Hello, my gorgeous friends! I‘ve been getting so many good hair questions from you all, so I put together a list of the top 25 questions I’m asked from here and in the salon. Honestly, as I wrote these answers I thought, wow, each of these could be its own blog post. You can be sure there’s more hair tips and tricks to come. Read on through and I bet you’ll learn something. If I left off a question you want answered, feel free to leave a comment! I’m here to help you get the hair you’ve always wanted. Let’s dive into your hair FAQs:

  1. What’s the best shampoo and conditioner?

We know every head of hair is different and has different needs. But if I had to choose ONE that would be great for all people, it would be Davines OI shampoo and Davines OI conditioner. (Which, by the way, we ship for free 😉 ) These products give you shine, softness, and body. Whatever your hair needs, OI helps with it.

  1. Best hair spray?

Big Sexy Spray and Play. It gives you a good hold, it’s not matte or shiny, it’s just a nice frizz-free finish. In the salon, we’ve tried every other hair spray under the sun but this is one we always come back to. Now, if you need a good concrete-level hair spray for a dance competition or another high-hold situation, Amika Headstrong is your spray. My hairstylist bestie argues for Kenra Platinum. Grab a travel size if you want to test it out before you buy a full-size hair spray.

  1. Best hair oil?

I am all about Davines OI All in One Milk. This spray helps with tangles and elasticity, it’s a heat protectant and it fights frizz all while promoting shine. Did I mention it smells amazing? Literally all in one.

  1. How can I grow my hair long like yours?

It’s not complicated: quit messing with it! Pick a color and stick with it. Make only minor adjustments to your hair color for say, 5 years. Use high-quality products and tools. Be nice to it, brush it with a good brush, love it. Still not growing how you want? Keep in mind that your diet, environment, and lifestyle play a huge factor. Your hair is a direct result of your inner and mental health. If it’s good for you, it’s good for your hair.

  1. How do I do a messy bun?

Oh! I have a blog just for you: Easy Messy Bun How-to For All Hair Types (With Video!)

  1. My scalp is itchy, what can I do to help?

First, check out my blog post on ‘How to Shampoo.’ If that doesn’t help, check out Davines CALMING shampoo and Davines CALMING superactive. Both of these bring relief and promote healing to the scalp. Davines also has a RENEWING line of products and in-salon treatment that could be very helpful. I’m always happy to talk—send me a message with your specific scalp situation and we’ll figure out which one is right for you.

  1. How do I get my hair to look less greasy?

Again girl, I have a blog for you! And a blowdry blog that could also help! Still not getting where you want to be? Give the DEDE or VOLU lines from Davines a try. Do you use a good clarifying shampoo? Everyone should add clarifying shampoo to their shower regimen. It removes any buildup and gets your hair and scalp nice and clean. I use mine once or twice a month. Your own clarifying shampoo use depends on your lifestyle. Do you work out often? How much styling product do you use? The more sweat or products you add, the more often you should clarify.  

  1. How do I get more volume?

Again, that shampoo and blowdry blog could help! High volume hair starts with a strong foundation. I also really like the VOLU Hair Mist from Davines for soft volume. It won’t get your hair to heaven, so if you’re a bigger-hair-is-better girl I would recommend Big Sexy Root Pump mousse (Amazon link?). VOLU adds a nice texture at the root and with proper blowdrying it does give you some real volume. I also like the VOLU spray over Big Sexy Root Pump because it doesn’t make my hair feel sticky or gross. If you want to be able to still touch your hair, go with VOLU Hair Mist. If you want SERIOUS volume and don’t care what your hair feels like, go with Root Pump.

  1. What products do you recommend for men?

Hanz de Fuko through and through. Mike and I researched the best men’s hair products hard. We love Hanz de Fuko both as a company and for their products. They have so many options, and they’re designed to be “cocktail products,” meaning you can mix and match for a custom look. Mike uses Claymation and Quicksand. The Natural shampoo and conditioner are also great for men. They even have a fun quiz on their site where you can get product recommendations for your hair type.

  1. Are professional products really that important?

YES. If you only believe one thing I ever tell you, BELIEVE THIS. Skimp on your paper towels, toilet paper, laundry soap, ANYTHING before you skimp on shampoo and conditioner. It makes a 100% difference. I know some of the products I recommend are a tad pricey, but they’re worth it for the results you get. If you can’t swing it, Redken and Biolage make great products (except for Biolage Raw, it’s garbage). I’ve used Redken and Biolage on and off since I was in kindergarten and they’re on sale regularly at Ulta. Listen, If you have a quality handbag but are using Suave, you are doing yourself a disservice! Your hair is on your head ALL DAY EVERY DAY. Invest in yourself!

  1. If I can only afford ONE product, which is more important: professional shampoo or conditioner?

Again, I stress that you should make the purchase of both a priority. But I also understand the question. The answer depends on your hair. If you have fine or short hair, I would say shampoo. If you have long or thick hair I would go with conditioner. The longer your hair is the more important a quality conditioner is to keep those ends healthy and prevent breakage.

  1. How can I protect my hair in the summer?

Summertime is hard on the hair. I get it: pools, lakes, and SUNSHINE. OOoooo it can cause a head full of problems. I recommend covering your head when possible with a cute hat or scarf. It’s also helpful to get your hair wet with sink water or bottled water prior to getting in the pool or lake. Your hair is like a sponge so saturating it with “clean water” can keep it from soaking up harmful chemicals. You can even up the protection by putting conditioner in your hair prior to getting in the pool. I wet Iley’s hair, cover her hair in conditioner, and put it in a loose braid to keep it healthy. As far as specific products? I was in love with Aloxxi’s leave-in conditioner for all things summer but they switched formulas. I’m currently testing the Davines SU line of summer products and I’ll let you know the results. Oh, and check your labels for SPF—yes, your hair needs sunscreen too!

  1. Am I too old for long hair?

NO! If your hair will allow it, go for it. I don’t know who came up with this ‘long hair is for certain people’ rule. We are all different and beautiful in our own way. If your hair will grow long, GO FOR IT!

  1. My hair always looks the same no matter what haircut I get, help!

Are you styling it the same way? I mean, if you’re going through the same motions, this can definitely happen. The cut is the foundation, but the styling is a big part of how your hair actually looks. Pay attention to how your hairstylist does it. Or try switching things up. Use a different heat tool or technique. Add in a product you’ve never tried, like a good texture spray!

  1. Bangs, should I do it??

Bangs are like a tattoo on YOUR FACE. Ok, maybe extreme, but both are extremely annoying to change your mind about. If you’re considering bangs, think about it long and hard. Bangs require a lot of maintenance. Even if you don’t fix your hair, you WILL have to fix your bangs. I’m not trying to talk you out of it, just making sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. It’s always an adjustment when you first cut them, you’ll probably hate them for a week even if bangs were a good call. You could always buy a clip-in pair to try out before you commit.

  1. My hair is falling out, what should I do?

There are SO many different reasons your hair falls out, and the good news is most of them aren’t permanent. Did you start any new medications? Mood meds and blood pressure meds have been known to cause hair loss in some people. Look up your side effects! What are you eating? ARE you eating? A healthy diet with plenty of protein and good fats is love for your hair. Are you stressed out? Girl, when my clients are stressed I know right away! I can see a divorce or workplace drama coming in the door. I know “reduce your stress” is the advice for everything but I promise: IT MAKES A DIFFERENCE. I lost so much hair when Ada was diagnosed, most of it right in the front. I now have these 4-inch long not-bangs growing in to deal with. Fun! If none of what I’ve mentioned applies, talk to your doctor. From experience, I recommend documenting any hair loss. EVERY woman thinks they are going bald at some point and if you want answers faster, you need the data to back up your concerns.

  1. What hot tools do you recommend?

Currently, I’m on the hunt for a reliable brand that won’t let you down. It seems like whenever I find something that works, they discontinue it or update it in a way that makes it…worse. However, I will say this: if you can buy it at Walmart or it costs less than $50, DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME OR MONEY.

  1. How can I make my hair look thicker?

Any product with a matte finish will give you a thicker look. I particularly like the Davines VOLU Shampoo and VOLU Hair Mist when prepping hair for extra volume.

  1. Why won’t my hair stay put with a bobby pin?

Are you using it correctly? Let me grab you a graphic!

A black bobby pin with the wavy part face up and the words "wrong way" next to a bobby pin with the flat side on top and the words "right way" by Katie Dunlavy of The Pearl Pages.

The flat part should be on top, see? Also, not all bobby pins are created equally. I like Salon Care or MetaGrip just fine. And if your bobby pins are always magically disappearing, you NEED this cute little magnetic bobby pin holder.

  1. How can I get my hair to actually hold a curl?

A good shampoo and blow dry will set the foundation for any style. Use Davines Your Hair Assistant Blowdry Primer on your damp hair before you blowdry. Then prep your dry hair with Kenra Thermal Styling spray. (Note that this spray can change the texture of your curls, add it if your hair REALLY doesn’t want to hold a curl.) Use a professional heat tool or try the Hot Tools brand at Sally’s—they aren’t bad. Hold each curl until it cools once you release it from your heat tool. This will help your curls set. On the other hand, if you’re trying for looser curls, you can pull the curl down as it cools to make it more wave-like.

  1. Purple shampoo? Blue shampoo? What’s the deal and which one should I use?

Well, think about a color wheel: purple is across from yellow, and blue is across from orange. So purple shampoo will help cancel out yellowness and blue shampoo will help tone down brassiness. Are you seeing more yellow? Use purple shampoo or conditioner. Seeing more orange tones? Go for blue.

  1. Is drug store color ever OK to use?


  1. Why does my hair feel so great when you wash it?

The products I use and the way I shampoo⁠⁠—again, this dang ‘How to Shampoo’ blog is just essential. I shared my favorite shampoos and conditioners above, but feel free to leave a comment or send me a message for a personalized recommendation. 

  1. I bought the same shampoo on Amazon, why doesn’t it smell like the one from your salon?

Just like there’s fake Gucci, there are fake hair products. I know, it’s a sad story. Professional brands only sell products through salons or directly from their manufacturer account on Amazon, so those the only places you should buy them. Buying hair products from TJ Maxx or Ross is also a bad idea. They’re cheaper because they’re old, damaged, or often, not the real deal.

  1. What is the best thing I can do for my hair?

Use professional products, be healthy, be nice to your hair, and don’t drastically change colors. Every time you deposit and lift color you’re compromising the integrity of your hair. We want to keep that hair as strong and healthy as any other part of your body!

Whew, that was a lot⁠—I hope these answer your questions! Did you learn anything? Got a follow-up question? Tell me in the comments. If you use any of these tips, show me!! Post a picture using #thePearlPages and I’ll repost it to my Story.



When Foster Care Milestones are Bittersweet

My foster son is turning ONE! So of course, we’re planning the perfect first party for this perfect boy. I love a good birthday party: this time I’ve decided to go with an astronaut theme. My dad doesn’t have any grandsons, and he’s about anything and everything that has to do with rockets. It also seems appropriate due to all of the COVID restrictions because we can get together while we ‘space out.’ (Get it?)

I’m so excited to celebrate this child. I’m so excited for our families to come together and love this precious boy. My girls are beyond thrilled to be throwing a party. They’re already hard at work making signs and all of the homemade touches that make birthdays special. But as I’m sitting here with my Amazon cart filled with planet-shaped balloons, inflatable rockets, giant astronauts, and one damn cute flight suit, I can’t help but cry.

With every added detail (and hello, it’s me so there are A LOT of details) I feel like more of a jerk. With every item I put in my cart I feel like I’m stealing this moment from his bio mom. As I sit here sobbing with my online shopping cart I’m asking myself, “Is this normal? Should being his mom feel like I’m hurting someone else?”

As foster parents, we treat this little boy as if he is our own. That includes an over-the-top first birthday party. I know it’s a good thing. I know it’s a way we’re showing love. I know there’s nothing wrong with wanting to celebrate this child. Why can’t I shake this feeling then?

The whole fostering experience has been bittersweet. Since he’s my first foster child, I don’t know if it’s more bitter because he’s a baby. He’s had so many “first’s,” hit so many milestones and he’s doing all of them with us. Every single time I clap for him, every single time I squeeze him tight and tell him, “Good boy! I’m so proud of you!” a little part of me aches.

And it doesn’t necessarily ache because I’m here and his mother isn’t. I ache because he’s here in the first place. I hate that this child is in foster care. I love that he’s with us and I love loving him. He’s grown and blossomed and I feel so blessed to be a part of every moment. I just hate that these are his circumstances. I hate that these are the circumstances so many children are in.

I spent a long time wishing that little part of me would learn to go away, that I could just celebrate the sweet without the bitter. Until I decided that feeling the aches, the sadness, the bitterness isn’t a weakness, it’s a strength. You see, that’s just a sign of empathy, a sign of our ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Empathy is our great strength as parents, in our relationships, and as citizens of this country. Because really, everything worth experiencing in life is a little bittersweet, don’t you think?

I know I’ll shed some tears at his out-of-this-world first birthday party. And whether they’re happy tears or sad tears, I won’t be ashamed for him or my girls to see. To teach our children empathy, to teach them to embrace the bittersweet moments in life, that’s our greatest job as parents and foster parents.



P.S. My last post has a lot of resources for teaching your kids empathy towards others. It’s worth a read if you haven’t already!

Do Better: Resources for Doing “The Next Right Thing”

I can’t tell you how many times I started and restarted writing this week’s blog. This is not the time to talk about frizz-free curls or how to make coffee. Not when our country is hurting and people are dying. But I am also so completely ignorant about issues of race and privilege that I have zero words to say. I am fearful of speaking out because I don’t want my words to come across in ANY way other than loving and supportive. Maybe you feel the same way, too.

But here’s the truth: I am a privileged white woman. I grew up in a white world where white supremacy influenced me without my permission. I am acknowledging this TRUTH, even though it’s uncomfortable. Because it’s uncomfortable. And I’m vowing to do better, starting with education.

If you’ve seen Frozen 2, you’ll remember how they talk about doing “the next right thing.” Maybe we haven’t always done the right thing, but what better time to start than right now? I’m asking you to join me. Here are some resources I’m digging into and I hope we can talk about. I know that we will never fully understand but we can try.




Blog Posts



I’ve found some of these resources from this page: Anti-racism resources for white people. It’s got A LOT of links so if you’re looking for more, check it out. We may not know exactly what to do or say, but we do know the first step is education. I hope these resources get you thinking. I hope they get you talking and teaching your family and friends, too. And if you need someone to listen, I’m here.



Easy Messy Bun How-to for all Hair Types (With Video!)

I get asked two questions all the time: how do you get your hair so long and how do you do your bun? It makes me laugh every time, but I get it. A good bun is so versatile and a huge timesaver. I’ve been wearing my messy bun the same way since college. I remember all the cheerleaders lining up before games so I could do their buns. I didn’t think I was doing anything revolutionary. I was just trying to make a bun that required zero bobby pins, minimized breakage, and took less than a minute.

I made a video of me doing my messy bun in my Facebook group and it was a big hit. My group really enjoyed it and so many people shared pictures of their buns with me. I took all of their questions and made it into a new and improved messy bun how-to.

It’s SO SIMPLE. I’ll walk you through it in this video.

I really believe the velvet scrunchie is a key part of the equation. These are the exact velvet scrunchies I use—you can’t beat the price! These scrunchies are superior to a basic elastic because they’re softer and don’t put harsh pressure on your hair. That can lead to breakage. The added texture gives you a better hold without creating halos or those ugly bends in your hair. Plus they look cute, both in your hair and hanging out around your wrist.

My hair goes from up in a bun to down about 10 times a day. This bun creates a natural tousled wave in my hair that’s prettier than my natural waves.

Even if you have short or thin hair you can adapt this bun to fit your style. I’ve done space buns and top knots on Ada with this very bun. You might just have to add a few bobby pins for any short pieces.

Show me your buns!!! Tag me using hashtag #thepearlpages. My most favorite part of blogging is getting your feedback.



P.S. Got a bun-challenged friend? Share this post with them!