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Friday, October 24, 2014

Fall Family Pictures - 5 Tips On What To Wear, What To Do

One of the reasons I love the Fall, is because it means it's time for family pictures.  It's one of those things that Dan lets me indulge in.  I love thinking about the colors, the location, and the feel.  I thought I'd share my top suggestions for achieving the pictures you dream about.  
Again, full disclosure; I am not a photographer, and have not taken photography lessons.  I just love colors, and think I have a pretty good eye for things.  We loved our photographer, Hilary from Southern Sisters Photography and will be using her again.

1.  Colors 
Think about where you're going to display your pictures.  If you have a very dominant color in the room you will be displaying it in - say red - don't go for clashing colors - like purple and orange.  Neutrals are usually a pretty safe bet.  Also, think about colors already in your wardrobe.  For example, we bought Aidan's outfit, and loved it.  We coordinated our colors around it.

2. Black and White
Some pictures look better in black and white, some don't - it's worth a try, either way.  Different textures make for more interesting black and white pictures.
3. Lighting 
After sunrise, and before sunset are the prettiest times of day.  We opted for morning light.  We met with our photographer at 8:30 at a beautiful park here in Jacksonville.  I love what the light did in the pictures!

4. Work with what you've got / be patient
For the first little bit, Aidan was really into the whole process, and smiling at the camera, and being a ham.

After a while though, he needed a break, so we did some more candid shots.
5. Know the shots you want
I really wanted a sweet picture of Aidan with each of us.

I wanted a cozy snuggly one.  Now here, we ran into a little trouble.  The blanket wasn't big enough to wrap around all of us (hence the slightly awkward arm in one of the pictures), but I love how we all look!

And lastly, our photographer brought a "Merry Christmas" banner for us to hold.  I really love how this picture turned out, however the picture we used last year was very similar, and we wanted to do something different.  So, what I'm going to do, is have it printed, and bring it out as a Christmas decoration.

I hope these tips and suggestions helped you with planning your pictures!  Please let me know if you have any extra ideas you would add!  Thank you for stopping by!

I'll Eat You Up, I Love You So - Where The Wild Things Are Costume

You may remember from last year, that the Literacy Parade is my FAVORITE day of the year!  It's a Halloween- alternative costume parade my school puts on.  The idea is, that you choose a character from a book, dress up as that character, bring in the book, with your book project, and parade around school.  I look forward to it all year long, and have costumes picked out years in advance.  Obsessive?  Perhaps.  But it combines everything I love most - books and costumes.
My first year, I dressed up as Amelia Bedelia, last year I dressed up as Ms. Frizzle, and this year... baby boo and I dressed up as Max and a Wild Thing from Where The Wild Things Are.

I have always loved the book, Where The Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak.  The idea of a rowdy little boy, who comes up with a whole imaginary world - and then realizes his misses his mama - is a really sweet notion to me.  Growing up with brothers, I can totally get that!
To top all, this year is the year's 50th anniversary, and Aidan's grandma and grandpa got him the book... so it just seemed very fitting.

Firstly, of course I had to find Aidan his costume.  This was much easier said than done.  You may not believe it, but white footie pajamas with a hood are hard to come by.  So, I gave in, and bought his costume at Party City.  I can tell you though, it is well made, comfortable, and REALLY soft.  Aidan seemed to like it!

Now for my costume.  I didn't take pictures of the process, because most of it was just finding the right pieces.

Here's what I got:
Patterned leggings (I found mine at Target)
Orange and brown sweater/shirt (I found mine at Goodwill)
Faux fur collar (which I pinned together to make a hat)
Horns (Toilet paper rolls I cut a slit into, and rolled to make cones)
Wild Thing Feet

For the Wild Thing feet I took a sheet of gray felt, cut it in half.  Then, I took white felt, and cut about inch long triangles.  I sewed the triangles to the piece of felt.  Then, I sewed elastic to the back and bottom of the large pieces of felt.  Tada!  Wild Thing feet!  (This would also work for dinosaur, monster, or animal feet too.)

I assembled them all, and the end result was:

We all know it's not a party unless the snacks are AMAZING, so I knew I had to come up with something fun.  I reused my acorn idea from two years ago.  I also found Alpha-bit cereal (Literacy Parade - get it?), and found a really cute idea involving clementines and celery.  You peel the clementines, and stick 3/4 inch piece of celery in it, and low and behold, it looks like a pumpkin!

My kiddos had so much fun during our Literacy Parade!  They had such cute costume ideas!  I had a Cat in The Hat, a Thing 2, two firemen, a Sister Bear (from the Berenstain Bears), two Olivia-s, David from the Bible, the pig from If You Give A Pig A Party, Woody, a Doc McStuffins, Fancy Nancy, and more!  

I gave my best rendition of Where The Wild Things Are, with my special helper, and the kids loved it!

It was a wonderful day!  I love dressing up, and if it promotes literacy, it's just that much better!  Aidan was such a great sport about it too, and stole the show!
Stay tuned for Aidan's costume for our church's Light Up The Night event next week!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Book A Day...

It might be the Kindergarten teacher in me, or it may be an inherited trait from my mom, maybe it's the illustrations, or perhaps I'm a sucker for rhymes - but whatever the reason, I have always loved children's books.  With a passion.
For Aidan's nursery, we went with an Around The World In 80 Days theme, his baby shower had a library theme, my favorite day of the year is my school's annual Literacy Parade, I've even listed my top picks for must-read children's books in A Life Long Love Affair With Children's Books.  Needless to say, I'm a fan.
So, when we were on vacation in Boston this summer, home of the ducklings from Make Way For Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, I could feel a new family tradition coming on.
The gist of this new family tradition (which, by the way, you are more than free to copy and make your own), is that I try to get a book from wherever we're visiting (either set there, or the author is from there), and take a picture of us in some sort of connection to the book.

For example...

1. Boston, MA - Make Way For Ducklings

This is an adorable story about a Mallard duck couple looking for a place to raise their family of ducklings, and how they end up at the Public Gardens in Boston.  Lucky for us, Bostonians have placed statues of them in the Public Gardens.  Fun, fun family day!

2. Boston, MA - Paul Revere's Ride

Did I mention, that I also love history?  Buddy boy was asleep when we got to Paul Revere's house, but I waved at it for him... :)

3. St. Augustine, FL - St. Augustine A to Z

We found this gem in a little local bookstore in Jacksonville Beach.  Aidan celebrated his first 4th of July at the St. Augustine Castillo De San Marcos fort.  St. Augustine is the oldest European city in the continental U.S.  This book is really cute, and is even by a local author!

4. Florida - Count To Sleep Florida

This is just my "Florida" book, for now.  It's really cute though, and is a perfect bedtime book for babies and toddlers.  The ultimate goal is to go manatee watching and get the book Manatee Winter.  It is such a sweet book about the oceanic and river wild life in our area.  I read it to my class, and got so emotional at one part, where the mama and baby manatee get separated (spoiler alert, they find each other), that I nearly started crying.  It may have had a little to do with the fact that the manatee baby was 6 months old, and so was Aidan at the time... not sure, but regardless, you may want to have a tissue or clean sleeve nearby.

5. Florida - Good Night Florida

Our dear friends got Aidan this book.  It's by the same company as the earlier book, and I just love it!  Good news is, that the company, has a book for just about any place you can imagine!  So, if you're stuck, and can't come up with a book from a particular place, you can always use one of these as a back-up!

So, now that I've started this, of course I feel the need to travel, and buy books!  We spent the day in Old Town Alexandria, and drove through D.C. on our way home, so I guess I just HAVE to get him a book from there... maybe a history one?  Or I could do Woodrow, The White House Mouse.  I actually think I have a signed copy of that, that I got from my aunt somewhere...
I can't wait to show Aidan Budapest.  And I love the story of Vuk.  So, that might need to find its way into our library.  Or maybe Ludas Matyi...

My question to you is: Do you have a favorite book, that's based in a certain place?  Or by a local author?  Please leave me a comment, it just may inspire our next family vacation!

Friday, October 17, 2014

DIY Newborn Photo Shoot

If you're like me, you want amazing pictures of all the special moments in your life, but are bound by something husbands like to call a budget.  That's where DIY and creativity come into play.
This is where I found myself when it came to baby Aidan's newborn pictures.  Photographers charge a pretty hefty price for their newborn shoot packages, and with good reason.  Babies are fussy, not on schedules, take hours to shoot, and mommies really want that adorable picture.  So, I'm absolutely not knocking on photographers or their prices.  Just saying, that I don't have $400 to drop on a baby photo shoot.
What I do have, is a helpful husband, mom, a cooperative baby, and props.
For Aidan's nursery, we went with an "Around The World In 80 Days" theme.  (Pictures to follow, btw.)  So, our props kind of went with that.  But many of them could be altered to go with whatever you're doing.
*Quick disclaimer, I am not a photographer, I've never taken a photography class, I just love pictures, have an SLR camera, and think I have a good eye for colors, symmetry and angles.

- Large sheet.  (We had an AMAZING airplane sheet from Restoration Hardware.  Mom sewed one queen sized into a baby mattress size for Aidan, and we kept one.  Good call.)
- Boppy, other pillows.
- Blankets - babies get cold easier than adults
- Basket
- Antique suitcases
- Teddy bear
- Metal letters (that are hung on his wall)
- Knitted pilot's hat
- Metal toy plane
- Globe
- Letter wooden blocks
- Our wedding rings
- Passport

- Location, location, location.  Choose a space that is well-lit by natural light.  Either by a window, or glass door.
- Plan.  Know when the sun comes through your window, and at what angle.  You don't necessarily want direct sunlight, but you also don't want a bunch of shadows.  Play around with your camera settings, positions and angle beforehand.  Also, photographers suggest doing the pictures before 2 weeks.
- Get baby nice and full, so he'll sleep.  Newborns are easier to take pictures of while they're asleep.
- Set your thermostat to a little warmer than usual.
- Get everything ready, and have a helper on hand.
- Decide not to get frustrated.  That's just a good rule for new parenthood. :)
- Place Boppy pillow on couch, bed, etc.  Cover with sheet, and tack up to wall behind it, to create a backdrop.
- Set up the props you want.  We started with a basket, with a blanket inside it, so it wasn't too rough.

- Next, we stacked the antique suitcases, and laid Aidan in them.  Have I mentioned how adorable he is?

- We also got some shots of Aidan with our wedding rings

- Aidan LOVES his daddy!  As soon as he heard his voice when he was born, he was looking for him.  We got some pretty precious pictures of the two of them.  Also, I love Dan's tattoo of his family crest.  Aidan got his middle name, Judson, from that side of the family.

- And of course, I had to get in on the action.  This little boy is too cute not to get a picture with.

I know I didn't get everything just so (the sheet should've been tighter, and I'm sure my camera settings weren't perfect), but I was really happy with the results, and love that we did them ourselves.
Let me know what you think, if you have any tips for me, for next time, or what you've done that seems to work!

Get A Sister, Throw A Party!

Oh, happy, happy day!!!
My brother did the best thing he could ever do - he gave me a sister!
In August, we all went up to beautiful New Hampshire, for the fabulous event.  Of course, my mom and I, jumping on a chance to let our creative juices flow, decided that the Rehearsal Dinner was going to be as beautiful and special as they are.
The wedding color was guava, which is this amazing shade of corally pink.  My latest color obsession is aqua, and the two just happened to go so perfectly together, that we couldn't resist.
To make matters even more splendid, Target's summer picnic line was just these colors.  Let the planning commence!

We got:
- Blue Ball mason jars (9) for vases
- Ball mason jars (40-ish) for glasses
- Target's summer serve wear (bowls, platters, etc.)
- Aqua/pink/ivory candles
- Short vases
- Pink striped paper straws
- Aqua striped paper straws
- Ivory napkins
- Raffia
- Mini chalk boards
- Mason jar shaped drink dispenser
- Silver plastic silverware (we were staying in a rental house, and didn't know what they had)
- Pink/aqua/silver/ivory balloons
- My grandmother's doilies, hankies and lace tablecloths
- Flowers (baby's breath, cherry blossom branches, hydrangeas, roses)
- Brown paper labels
- Letter stamps, aqua and coral ink pad
- One really cool surprise...

The lady whose house we ended up staying at actually used to be an food editor for Woman's Day magazine, so you can imagine how AWESOME her house was!  So, there really wasn't much we needed to do to make it look pretty.  Or shabby chic.
Nonetheless, here is what we ended up with: 

The surprise!!!

See those cute pink ice cubes floating around in the lemonade?
Well, they are strawberry ice cubes.
Do the look too yummy not to try for yourself?
Here's what you're going to want to do:

- Ice trays 
- Strawberries
- Lemonade
- Mint
- Blender

- Blend together the strawberries, mint and a little bit of lemonade, freeze, and serve.  It's super easy, looks and tastes yummy, and your guests will think it's the cutest thing ever.  Also, as it melts, it turns your lemonade into strawberry lemonade, not watery lemonade.  


So, Katie, welcome to the craziest, and most loving family the world have ever known!