Sunday, November 10, 2013

Color combinations for family photos

'Tis the season for Christmas cards and we all know what that means... family photo shoots! I've recently photographed a few families and have been asked about how to choose outfits in different color schemes.

I pulled together a few outfit options from some of my favorite retailers (Carter's, Gymboree, Old Navy and Gap). You'll see examples of a Red + Brown and Pink + Navy. You can find sources to all these wardrobe pieces after I share some photo tips.

Here are a few of tips for group photos:
  1. If it's intimidating for you to choose colors, limit your palette to two dominant colors. Most holiday cards out there will let you customize colors to match, or complement, the colors in your outfits. I think two colors maximizes the visual impact of the photographs, especially if you'll be using a collage of pictures in your holiday card design. The eye prefers the ease of scanning over just a couple repeating colors rather than a full rainbow of colors.
  2. Aim for a balance of color saturation near the face of each person. What I mean by this is to avoid dressing family members in super contrast of colors, for example if someone is wearing a solid black shirt and another person is wearing solid white. It's not that it can't ever work (think bride and groom), but for balanced exposure it's helpful to have each subject wear similar shades or saturations of color so that no one looks washed out or even stands out too much. Overall, I prefer rich colors because I think the vividness evokes a celebratory holiday feel.
  3. Avoid too many large patterns. I'm all about mixing and matching patterns. I think it gives the photographs a more textured, interesting look. However, you should aim for smaller prints, like pinstripes or gingham or small polkadots or florals rather than big, loud patterns that could give more visual weight to one family member over another. Statement pieces have their place, of course. For instance, a woman could choose a solid blouse with one dramatic jewelry item like a necklace or earrings. Or a man could opt for a solid sweater but wrap a scarf around his neck that has more of a pattern to it. Same thing goes for children (think accessories like headbands, hats and ties). Consider subduing a patterned top with a solid jacket or sweater vest. You still get the pop but it's a bit tamer than going all out. The goal is for the whole family to photograph evenly.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Christmas gift bags

Paper waste ought not to be a holiday tradition. So, in an attempt to do a little better in that department, I made some Christmas gift bags to reuse year after year.

I made a couple of different versions. The one above is basically how you'd make a pillowcase, but on a smaller scale and with the fabric doubled over for reinforcement. The handles are sturdy ribbon.

This was a simple one. Just spiffy up a presewn canvas tote using a coordinating strip of fabric or ribbon. I found red and natural canvas totes in various sizes at Hobby Lobby.

Less trash, more style. That sounds like a pretty good deal to me!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Art and puzzle table

Our little play corner was begging for some TLC. I really wanted to have a space for the kids to sit comfortably to create art and work on puzzles--ideally something with some toy storage.

Look no further than IKEA for the basics, I say!

For under $60, I snagged a couple of ottomans, coffee table, wall lamp and some craft supply storage.

IKEA 365 44oz jar with lid (three for $2.99 each)

We keep the jars in a basket tucked away with paper and other art supplies in the adjacent cabinet.

LACK coffee table ($19.99) with Target's Sterilite Guacamole Green Plastic Basket (3 for $2.99 each)

SOLSTA PÄLLBO footstool (two footstools for $14.99 each). These have removable, washable slipcovers--perfect for cleaning up art messes.

SNÖIG wall lamp (green color was on sale for $7.99 in store; white and pink lamps are $19.99)

Stools = $29.98
Containers = $17.94
Table = $19.99
Wall lamp = $17.99
TOTAL = $57.96 + tax

Friday, July 13, 2012

Recycled city

Anyone looking for a rainy day activity? It's been stormy for nearly a week, so we've spent many hours indoors. One of my kids' favorite activities so far was building a city from recyclables.

Cardboard tubes, yogurt containers, parmesan shaker, coffee tin, egg carton... we just grabbed everything from our recycling bin and started creating buildings.

We covered the containers in construction paper. The children were the architects, stacking bottles and boxes and then I taped them all together.

"What kinds of buildings does a city need?" I asked my daughter. She decided we needed a library, a school and a grocery store.

She drew lines on the streets and designed where the street would go, taping it to the table. She reserved much of the road for a parking lot in front of the library.

A rubber duck from the bath tub gets relocated to our Duck Lake.

As soon as we added play cars to the cityscape, little brother became very interested.

Our egg carton converts into a car ramp.

A toilet paper tube and some green construction paper make a simple tree.

It took us longer to build it than actually play with it, but it was a fun morning nonetheless!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Adventures in vegetable gardening (pt 3 of 3)

The garden is still producing, namely cantaloupe and bell peppers. Here's a recap of the bounty we received and some plans for the future.

Week 4 (04/16/12)

Week 6 (05/01/12)

My little garden helper picks our first two mature squash of the season!

Week 9 (05/18/12)

Harvested most of the lettuce. The leaves were becoming bitter, so I pulled up 2/3 of it to make more room for the encroaching cantaloupe.

Cantaloupe runners are spilling over into the yard. Do your thing, melons. Do your thing!

The bell pepper plants are budding.

And the squash will be goners soon. I didn't treat them for powdery mildew in time. I was unsure on what kind of spray to use, especially since I wanted to avoid chemicals. Someone told me baking soda and water would help, but I never tried it. Still, we harvested nearly 30 squash and zucchini before we lost the plants; not bad!

Short carrots could've been left in the ground a week longer, but my daughter and I were anxious to pick them.

Fruit tree: Mr. Mac Satsuma
Just in the nick of time, we planted a citrus tree before the summer heat hit.

The tree is pretty small right now, but will eventually have a canopy of 10 ft, which may eventually cause problems with adequate sunlight over the raised bed. But, that's several years from now, so I may change things by then anyway!

Future plans for our "backyard farm"

See the random places I planted squash and cantaloupe? I just couldn't bear to just compost them when I thinned the plants, so I gave the seedlings a shot in unamended soil alongside the house and in bare patches in the lawn. They didn't really produce, but at least I gave them a chance. In the future, I'd like to amend the soil along the house to plant lettuce (I think they were overexposed in the full sun.)

Next season, I'd love to remove the dead tree in the corner and make room for two more raised beds to plant some veggies on rotation. Maybe add another fruit tree and invest in some blueberry shrubs along the fence. A girl can dream!

My more short-term goal is to replace the failing squash plants with tomatoes for the remainder of the summer.

Read the archives:
Part 1
Part 2

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Princess tea party

Can a preschool-age girl avoid the princess obsession? I mean, twirly skirts and tiaras just seem to be a rite of passage these days!

Our daughter requested a princess birthday party, which then evolved into a princess tea party.

We welcomed our guests at the front door with a framed invitation mounted on white cardstock.

The kids got started on an activity while we waited for everyone to arrive. Coloring the castle, which the girls later dubbed the "Princess Club."

Now, the tables are ready. Simple white tablecloths. Folding chairs with tulle tied on back. Vases with lantana blossoms. Borrowed china cups and saucers.

Our guests sipped their "tea" (raspberry lemonade.) See the child wearing the crown above? That was another time-filler craft using faux gems and stickers.

While the kids enjoyed their tea, parents went inside to grab plates of food for themselves and to serve the princes and princesses. In the photo just above, we created "tea cups" using plastic Easter eggs and buttons (see the blog, Creativity in Progress, for instructions). Filled them up with pastel M&Ms.

Opening gifts was a hoot, especially when our son tried to steal the show with his adorable antics.

A few details on these decorations. I changed out the decorative items on these shelves in our dining room to fit the theme a bit--kinda minor, but I think it helped with cohesion. Strips of scrap fabric tied to twine made for a pretty bunting to drape from the window above the food table.

And the highlight of the party--THE CAKE! I baked a three-layer Baby Vanilla Bean Cake and my dear sister (who has taken a Wilton's decorating class) did this frosting technique. The topper for the cake was a tea cup and saucer that my daughter and I made in a pottery studio when she was 2 years old, so very sentimental. Much like this photo of us where she rested her head on my shoulder while we sang to her. *mommy's contented sigh*

Guests grabbed a favor bag on their way out the door. Basically, I cut a square of tulle, filled it with goodies like a ring, a flute, stickers, a crazy straw and some candy. Tied it with some yarn and handstamped the child's name on a piece of cardstock cut to mimic the shape of a tea bag.


For my social butterfly of a daughter, a big birthday party is the best gift we could give her. It was a whirlwind afternoon, but oh-so-fun.

Please also see my Pinterest idea board for the party.