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Florida + The Florida Keys

At the end of January I jumped at the chance to tag along on a business trip to Florida. After MONTHS of the cold, blah winter, warm temps and sparkling waters were just what I needed to reenergize.


We covered a lot of Florida in one week, starting with the new-to-us West coast. After swooning over Naples (where I found many a dream home) and exploring Anna Maria Island we headed to West Palm Beach.


This was the work part of the trip…but not for me! I managed to take a stroll along the ocean every morning and devoured the most delish fish ever found in a strip mall.


We hopped down to Miami one afternoon to see The Wynwood Walls. They were amazingly inspiring. After the work was done we headed to The Keys to relax…ahhhhh.





I ended up filing a story about The Florida Keys from a fav spot! We also fed the tarpon at Robbie’s and saw a manatee up close and personal (a first!) at Casa Mar Village before heading to Key West.







Key West is my jam. The vibe, the colors, the warmth. I always come back from a trip refreshed and wanting to do ALL the things. You too?


Silver Surf Gulf Beach Resort for an affordable hotel with beach access
The Island Cabana and Pink & Navy Boutique for shopping
Shiny Fish Emporium is a fun shop with a little
Poppo’s Taqueria has delish tacos


Food Shack the BEST fish


The Wynwood Walls because they’re amazing…and pictures!


Key Largo Conch House everything is excellent here, especially the conch
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park to kayak through mangroves
Rainbow Reef Dive Center if you want to dive, snorkel or be awesome

Creekside Inn and Casa Mar Village for waterfront dining (Fresh Press Cafe, Made 2 Order), shopping (Muchie’s Skin, April Daze) and manatee watching
Whale Harbor Marina to catch a sport fishing boat or an excellent view
Robbie’s of Islamorada to feed the tarpon

Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail at the old 7-Mile Historic Bridge just south of Marathon for a spectacular sunset
Keys Fisheries Market and Marina for the Lobster Rueben

Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory to relax, cool off and be enveloped by butterflies
Southernmost Point because you must
La Crêperie for the best crepes of your life (no, sersiously)
Bahama Village for shopping, where you’ll find excellent shops such as Besame Mucho
Gilded Peach my fav jewelry made by a Baltimorean who transplanted to Key West!

For my comprehensive Keys picks, give my story in the March/April 2015 issue of Inspired Living Omaha a read!

Putting Together an Egg-cellent Shot List

By the time I start a shot list I already have a clear vision of the story I want to tell. I’ve gotten the assignment, brainstormed, concepted, tested the crafts/recipes/how-tos and gone on at least one prop shopping trip. I end up with a very long list of every craft/recipe/how-to and the types of photos I need for each. This becomes the master shot list that I keep handy during the shoot to make sure I get everything. Each snippet looks roughly like this:

Stamped Egg
– eggs being dyed
– eggs being stamped
– final photo
– within overall egg decorating photo

I start the shot list process by getting all of the ideas I’ve dreamt up out of my head. I create simple, quick thumbnails of every. single. shot. I can possibly think of. These are the most chicken scratch-y looking sketches on the planet, but they often straight-up translate into a final shot. See that sketch in the middle row on the right side? Yep, turned into a winner.

Next I go to Pinterest for technical insight. I use Pinterest in the beginning stages of planning for collaboration with editors, photographers and other stylists, but I also have a private Pinterest board that I use while creating my shot list. It’s an ongoing board, but since I use it in the heat of shoot prep projects tend to clump together. I pin thoughts specific to composition, styling, mood, lighting.

I use this board to help explain my vision. For example, I showed the photographer my thumbnail for composition and this image because I liked the light and angle. It resulted in the photo above.

I then get nitty gritty with my master list, breaking down shot ideas for each type of photo:

– final photo
+ stacked in bowl with focus on one egg writing
+ on colorful paper grass shot straight-on
+ in egg holder with front egg in focus and behind blurred

From there I bring everything together, pairing each shot idea from my master list with the visuals and notes for the photographer and styling assists. If I’m really organized I’ll print out a shot sheet with images and notes for each shot, but mostly it’s the printed master list with notes in my head and the visuals on my iPad or hanging on the wall. Props would also play into this, but I won’t go into that here.

We may try all of the shots on my list or we may collaborate a new solution on the spot…like the time the photographer showed up with a totally awesome patch of fake grass! On a small craft shoot like this the photographer typically doesn’t see the shot list until shoot day. Elaborate or on-location shoots involving models are a different ballgame. A shot list simply provides a solid framework to work from because come photoshoot day all bets are off!

You can check out the final piece in the March/April 2014 issue of Inspired Living. My favorite shot from the day (and the photo used as the lead for the feature!) happened to be my first sketch. Now that’s what I call a successful shot list!

Photos Dev Hanumara
Styling Heather Winkel

For Inspired Living Omaha, March/April 2014.

Process / Personal Board


AYP covers are hard. They’re not literal and are often multi-faceted, making it difficult to hook onto one focused idea.

The February/March cover story was about support teams. Every Y professional needs a group of people who can step back and help them evaluate themselves objectively. A personal board, if you will. The ideal personal board includes coaches, mentors and sponsors. Coaches help you evaluate certain behaviors and look at how those behaviors are impacting your results. Mentors take their own past experiences and what made them successful and they help you learn from their own experiences. Sponsors are advocates who have worked with you firsthand and can recommend you for specific career advancements as they open up.

Think of it this way: Having a support team is like going to a doctor vs self-diagnosing on Web MD. You may eventually get to the same conclusion, but it takes a lot longer to diagnose the problem on your own.

The designer and I got on a call with the editor to brainstorm ideas and found that support teams are actually a strategy permeating the entire Y mission. This got us thinking. Should we gear imagery toward the importance of support teams to the Y organization as a whole or focus on the individual? If stronger individuals mean a stable bigger team we could play with the idea of many items making a solid foundation or central core. We could go special ops or mission driven and either show the job of each player or focus in on the individual. Or what about the notion that all of your people are helping you get in the fast lane to success? Hmmmm.

We were sure of one thing: The cover had to be an easy read.

With heads spinning, the designer and I got to work. We settled on four concepts and sent them off to the editor with short descriptions (clockwise from top left).

1. The feeling that you’re hanging out with your support team and getting stuff done.
2. Even though you only see the tip of the iceberg, there’s a whole lot of support underneath.
3. A more abstract cover with a little bit of everything incorporated: coaching up and down the pipeline, a support system being at the core of the Y rebranding, supporting each other and building a support team at the individual level.
4. Our best interpretation of loading your entire support team up and getting in the fast lane.

We decided to move forward with options one and two. Though option one seemed like the safe expected choice we loved the feeling it exuded and decided to push forward. After adjusting the headline from “The Importance of a Support Team” to “The Importance of a Personal Board” and amping up the visuals by adding a colorful cup of pens, phone, clip board and sticky note, we felt it was spot on. The client agreed, but wanted to see even more color. Smart client.

We did a bit of rearranging and tried a number of color combinations before settling on a bright pink nameplate and yellow display type. We decided that two colors (vs one for nameplate and another for display) added interest and made the nameplate stand out. Plus, who doesn’t love pink?! Colorful handwriting on the sticky note and clip board added just the right pop to finish the cover.


We pulled the cover art through to the inside spread, and I love how fresh and actionable the package feels. So many hands, so much personal board goodness!

Art Direction Heather Winkel
Design Laura Walter

Produced at Network Media Partners for the Association of YMCA Professionals.

New Work / Valentine-y

Oozy grilled PB&J sammies have become a guilty pleasure of mine—heart shaped or not. Check out Momaha’s 14 Days of Love feature for more goodness, including these PB&Js, chocolate dipped cookies and a raspberry steamer from yours truly!



peanut butter
heart-shaped cookie cutter


1. Use a heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut two heart-shaped pieces of bread.
2. Spread jelly on one piece and peanut butter on the other before sticking together.
3. Grill each side in nonstick skillet over medium-low heat until golden brown–the peanut butter will be gooey and delicious!

For momaha the magazine, February 2015.

First Birthday Pics!

I promised my husband a sacred first birthday party for my little nugget. No magazines, no stress, no styling crazed me. But that pretty much went out the window when my editor saw the invite on Instagram and my head started spinning with story ideas. I was already planning a balloon pool party (EPIC) and that quickly snowballed into ideas for other indoor/winter parties. (You can read more about my winter parties story here.) Plus, what harm could come from having one of my favorite photography friends who was already invited to the party come and snap a few pics of what I was already doing??? Not much. So. Without further ado, the outtakes.

The best party decision we made was filling the pool with shades of blue balloons. It made it look like the pool was full of water! The beach balls were always part of the plan, but the blue water really made them pop!

It was really important for me to not be in the kitchen the whole party so simple, self serving foods were a must. I’d never actually served the super cute, single-serve dishes that are all the rage these days, but now I totally understand why they are all the rage. So easy! You have to put a little more effort into the prep, but service and cleanup is a breeze. The menu included rainbow Goldfish served in takeout containers, veggie sticks and hummus, colorful macaroni salad and a sandwich bar. We also offered guests miniature root beer floats as we greeted.

I printed 5×5 photos of my nugget’s first year and hung them with cool washi tape. (Actually, Krista hung them because she’s just that awesome.) We decided to keep the clear-balloon-filled-with-confetti theme from the invites going throughout. It did cross my mind that confetti-filled balloons would be a disaster, but one of the best moments was actually when one hit the ceiling and popped making it rain confetti!!

The party was a great chance to display our Sophie & Lili custom watercolor portrait. I’d been wanting one FOREVER and I’m so happy with it. The favors were clear bags filled with confetti, custom temporary tattoos, bubbles and balloons on sticks (suckers). We also had kazoos and sun glasses for the kids.

Can we talk about the cakes? My sister-in-law Joanne (of Inspired Taste fame) is my go-to, amazing cake maker!! They were delicious. The filling was mango as requested by the birthday boy!

For the record, I did manage to keep the party a family-focused affair by having my husband be part of the party decisions, doing the styled shots before the party started and forcing myself to stay in full mama mode for the festivities.

Styling Heather Winkel
Photos The Hursts
Cake Inspired Taste
Custom Watercolor Portrait Sophie & Lili