So I took a lot of photos this week with hopes of getting a few that I loved while also capturing a bit of my life. I am keeping track of all of my photos, more than one per day usually, on Flickr. You can find my Project 366 photos there. Most are public, however, any with my son or his friends in them are private and you will have to be a family/friend of mine on Flickr to see it. (Had to make all photos stored there of my son private after discovering a photo of him that I had on Flickr on a mid-western radio station's blog about whining. Sort of weird and creepy.)
I really can't believe how fast the holiday season flew by. December was so busy, I barely blinked and it was over. We had a great time over the holidays and enjoyed the season. Having a four year old in the house made Christmas more magical and certainly more entertaining.
We don't really do much for New Year's Eve, so it was fairly quiet. (Except for the neighbor's noisy midnight celebration in the street!) I watched CNN's coverage of NYC. Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin crack me up.
Today we had friends come over for brunch. I made the Pioneer Woman's Baked Cinnamon French Toast again...it was great! The boys played all afternoon and had fun. For dinner I made the traditional pork roast with sauerkraut. Using the crockpot, I put a bag of rinsed kraut in the bottom, added a bag of baby carrots, then added the pork roast. I used Penzey's 33rd and Galena seasoning on it and added slices of apple around. After 8 hours on low, I added bisquick dumpling batter to the pot and let it puff up for about a half hour. It turned out great and we have enough left over for dinner tomorrow.
This year one of my personal goals is to become more proficient at using my DSLR camera. For Christmas my husband gave me a speedlight for my camera. To get more practice in using my camera with different settings I decided to do a 365 project this year where I take a photo everyday. I found several groups doing this, but decided to go with the one hosted by Picaboo. One of their expert photographers and bloggers is Steph of A Grande Life, a local mom blogger who I met last summer.
This week's themes are Goodbye Holiday and Just Keep Shooting. I already completed the first day's photo, even though the project officially kicks off on Monday. I like there there will be different themes and techniques suggested to try. For today's photo, I used manual focus with the manual setting on my camera, along with my 50mm lens and an f-stop of 1.8. The goal was to capture the last of the holiday decorations/lights in a different way, out of focus with the lights highlighted. I photographed both my tree's lights and the lights on our banister.
I won't post all of the photos here, but once I find a spot for them, probably on flickr, I'll post a link.
I've blogged about creating holiday photo cards recently and received the two different cards I made this week. I love them! This is the one I ordered from Tiny Prints:I really like how it turned out. It has one of my favorite photos of the monkey on it, which I also entered into the 3rd annual Tiny Prints Talent Search Contest. There are categories for all ages, including Cutest Baby (From ages of 0-24 months,) Cutest Kid (From ages of 25 months - 10 years old,) Cutest Family, Cutest Couple, and Cutest Pet & Owner. I entered my kiddo in the Cutest Kid category and hope he wins the grand prize of $1,000 cash, plus a $500 Tiny Prints gift certificate. Have a favorite photo of your family or kid? You can enter too! The entry deadline is November 21st. After all the entries are in, voting will be open to the community! Official rules have all the details and you can enter your kid and family via the Tiny Prints website or their Facebook page.
I have to say I really love the quality of my cards and am currently waiting for a second order from Tiny Prints to arrive. I ordered a self-inking return address stamp to use for our cards, and year round!
If you decide to enter the Tiny Prints Talent Search, let me know so I can look for your entry!
I've been a big fan of Shutterfly for their quality of service and products. Every year I create a photo book for the monkey boy to commemorate another year of life and fun. Instead of feeling guilty about the box of photos and empty albums in the house, I use my digital images and create beautiful photo books that are bound and complete with my son's story. I've even created some for gifts too. I've also used Shutterfly for Christmas and Holiday cards and found the quality just as great as their books.
While planning my next photo book, since the kiddo just turned four, I clicked over onto the Christmas cards section of Shutterfly. There are so many great card themes this year, once again I had a hard time picking just one design. Something that I noticed that Shutterfly is offering this year are story cards complete with top ten lists of the year for the family. What a clever idea! I think this would be a fun card to receive! It's an alternative to those long newsletters some people send, but conveys the essential information. I think this type of card is perfect for sending to those family and friends that want to keep up to date with your family.
I'm often stuck for gift ideas for certain relatives (ahem, parents/inlaws,) and have created photo calendars to use as gifts. I'm thinking that might be a great option for my mother in law this year, as her birthday is on Thanksgiving and I know she'd love to get a calendar filled with photos of her grandkids. I have also created photo magnets in the past that make great photo gifts. Last year I made one for my son with our photo from when we "met" Thomas the tank engine. He loves that magnet. I also made ornaments for the tree. I have a photo ornament from evey Christmas of my son. Someday, when he leaves me (sniff) I'll cover my tree with his face. (Won't he just love that! HA!) I've given them as grandparent gifts as well.
I'm always amazed at all of the products that can be customized with a photo. Creating keepsakes is easy and fun. I can cross off some gifts now from my list for this year!
Disclosure: I am and have been a happy Shutterfly customer. The views here are honest and based on my experience with the company. I did receive a code for 25 cards in exchange for sharing my experience. No monetary compensation was received.
I take a lot of photos, especially of my son. Not only do I photograph him in order to preserve memories, blog and create albums, but I spend the second half of each year trying to capture the perfect Christmas card photo. Since he was born, I've been sending out Christmas photo cards to family and friends. I like creating them and seeing how much he grows from year to year. I also love receiving photo cards at the holidays, since I don't always get to see how big my cousin's kids have become or an old friend's family has changed. My sister always has great success with card photos, which isn't an easy feat with four kids.
This year I've been snapping pictures like crazy, mostly because my tempermental four year old has caught on to me and now refuses to pose for photos anymore. So, that means no professional photos this year for us! Last year I took a great photo of him in a pumpkin patch that became our card. This summer, while on vacation at the beach, I managed to get one half decent shot of him. I must have taken close to 50 photos to get one full head shot with half smile. He's such a bugger! I found that if I just keep taking candids, and talk to him without letting him know I'm snapping photos, I can get some decent shots. I've already starting checking out holiday card patterns at Tiny Prints to figure out what I'll use. I've found so many cute styles this year that it is hard narrowing it down to one. (I may end up using two differnt ones!) Here are a couple of styles I am considering so far:
I like this ornament style one. It has a classic look and the photo I'm planning to use would look nice on it. I also like the black & white photo look. Tiny Prints gives the option of using a photo in color, sepia or B&W, and I've been able to view how each color option changes the look of the overall card.
A completely different look would be this blue peppermint streamers flat card. I think the light blue background would also look great with the beach photo of the monkey boy. I also like the color combination of light blue and red.
I also found some fun address labels and self inking return address stamps on the Tiny Prints site. I am planning to order one of the self-inking stamps, as it is so easy to use year round, not just at the holidays. We have two last names in our house, which are not hyphenated, so creating a stamp for our return address using our last names can be tricky, since we can't use a single initial monogram. I found a style at Tiny Prints that will allow me to have both of our last names on the label stamp and still look elegant.
Tiny Prints has a blogger program that allows bloggers to share their holiday card tips and ideas in exchange for 50 holiday cards. If you are a blogger and would like to sign up, check out this Tiny Prints link for more information! That's what I did!
On Sunday we visited a local farm in Bucks County for Pumpkinfest! None Such Farms in Buckingham, near Peddler's Village, has been hosting Pumpkinfest for the past 15 years. We had gone last year and had a great time. The weather on Sunday was outstanding, so it was perfect for exploring the pumpkin vines. The event is free, but you do need to purchase tickets to do different activities.
A favorite part of the "fest" for us is the hayride around the farm. Last year we had a driver that gave us an in-depth tour filled with details. This year, the farmer/tractor driver did not narrate the ride, but it was still fun. I am always amazed to see how huge the farm is and how many animals they host there. The cows mooed on cue as we passed and we even spotted a peacock near the pig pen. The kiddo loved sitting right behind the tractor and watching how it worked.
There was a mini corn tunnel for kids as well as a "train" ride pulled by a tractor that the kiddo enjoyed. We also were able to have a quick lunch there while listening to a blue grass band play.
With the terrible rainy weather we had for two months of growing season this summer, the pumpkins were severely affected. We did manage to find some great ones, but at least half of the huge pumpkin patch contained rotten pumpkins. They didn't even have any gourds for sale this year or baby pumpkins. We found one huge pumpkin with a big hole in it. Inside was a second pumpkin that we guess someone stuck in there! I think the ride in the wheel barrow was the highlight for him!
On Tuesday we visited the Morris Arboretum to see the the newly reopened model train displays. It was fun to see all of the new displays and check out Thomas and Percy on their own tracks. The monkey boy loved racing around the displays trying to figure out where the trains were going to stop next or following them over bridges. The rose garden was in full bloom and it was just beautiful! We also checked out the fernery in the green house, including the koi pond. The day quickly heated up, so we cut our visit short. We will have to go back to check out the trains again, when there isn't a heat wave!
A couple of weeks ago it was my birthday and we did what every mom wants to do, go ride on a steam train! (We are going yarn shopping for the child's birthday celebration!) We met my parents in Strasburg, PA to spend the day at the Strasburg RR. The last time I had been there with my parents was the summer of 1974. There is photographic evidence of it, complete with five year old me in a red "Amish" hat/bonnet. It's quite the look in fashion. Trust me.
We went for my b-day because I struggled with how to celebrate the day with my 3.5 year old who can be quite persnicketty these days. It also gave us the opportunity to go to our favorite restaurant/deli in that area, Issac's. We had a great time and rode in a coach car with the windows down. It was a bit over cast that day, but cool.
The amusing start of our Lancaster County adventure began with a new way to get there from Philadelphia, relying primarily on our GPS and not the route I normally take, that is scenic, but long. We turned off of Route 30, the main road that runs from Philly through Lancaster, and headed south to Strasburg. I do not recall the name of the tiny side street the GPS had us turn down to get there, but it was a really small road surrounded by beautiful farms. We were mere feet from cows in their pastures and commented to our little guy about all the animals we could see (cows, horses, chickens.) It was then that I saw a cat in the driveway of a barn...but it looked sort of oddly shaped. As I drove closer to pass the driveway I realized why the cat looked unusual. It's not often that one gets to watch farm cats mate in the spring on a lovely Sunday morning. Yes, it was two cats, and they were attempting to mate. I'm not sure why it made me laugh so hard, but it did. Nature is a beautiful thing, right? :-)
My friend's have a house on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. They invited my son and I to visit this week, since it's the beginning of summer and preschool is over. We had a blast! It was a long play date for the kids and mommies. We spent one day in Chincoteague, Virginia and visited the beach and Atlantic Ocean on Assateague Island. It was a beautiful beach and I really loved the little town on Chincoteague Island. (So much so that I definitely want to return for a longer period of time!) We did not see any wild ponies, but we did get to explore the area a bit. We also had the chance to visit a beach on the Chesapeake Bay, on Deal Island. The kids loved playing together on the sand and in the water. My son said his favorite part of the trip was playing in the waves and eating ice cream. It was a great start to the summer!