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Friday, November 30, 2012

Family Holiday Portraits

A few weeks ago, while Saturday luckily turned out to be a success, we were also so very fortunate with Sunday's weather. It was so so warm and sunny for November! Similar to Christine, I've known Andrea since preschool! I took her holiday card photos in 2010, 2011 and I could not pass up capturing another year with her growing girls.

Do you recognize them? I've photographed Jenelle as a newborn, 3, 6, 9, and 12 months old and Maya at 2 years old.

The extended family portrait session earlier that day was with my niece, her five cousins and all her uncles and aunts.

Rather than a playground where kids (especially five kids between the ages of 9 and 1!) would prefer to run around and play than focus on a photographer, I selected the family's church as a backdrop.  This way, the extended family holiday portrait would be set amongst beautiful neutral bricks, stairs and pillars with minimal distractions.
**Don't see too many posed family photos? I don't want to spoil their Christmas cards!**

Enjoy your weekend and get started on those holiday cards!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fall Family Portraits - Chicago's Museum Campus

**Don't forget to enter my giveaway to win customized art for a child's room!**

If you've lived in Chicago, you know that one day you can comfortably enjoy being outside with a light jacket and the very next day you have to be bundled up with a hat, scarf and boots.  The unpredictability of our Midwest weather is why holiday family portrait sessions in Chicago need to occur in September and early October. I know that sounds super early for Christmas cards. But in addition to quickly dropping temperatures, by November, the trees lose all their gorgeous red and orange leaves baring naked brown branches - which is definitely not as beautiful as fall foliage at its peak in September and October.

Due to scheduling and re-scheduling conflicts, I fit two families and an extended family of 14 in mid November (not according to my advice above!!). I was very nervous about the weather not holding up, but we really could not have gotten any luckier!

Saturday's forecast called for a comfortable 65 degrees with no rain. Much to our disappointment, it down poured all morning and afternoon! After analyzing the doppler radar, I went with my gut and said let's just go for the session at our scheduled time. While scoping out the scene around Chicago's Museum Campus, skies were still dark with a drizzle, but a break in the clouds was approaching. After hopefully waiting for 30 minutes, the sky was clear and blue for this beautiful family...
This was one of my first shots of the session! Those first few minutes of a session are so critical when photographing children who can lose interest and genuine smiles quickly! And love how Christine coordinated the family outfits.

Do you recognize this brown eyed cheeky smiley boy on the left? It's Noah, who I've photographed at 1, 3, 6, 9 and 12 months old! He is such a big boy now at 20 months old. Big Brother Elijah {on the right} is almost 4 years old.

Still love Noah's big cheeky smile! Same time last year comparison!

The energy level of two young boys is extremely different than having one little girl.

But there are still sweet moments to be found amongst the craziness excitement.

Christine {who I've known since kindergarten} writes over at Grateful for a Coffee Break and wanted a few new head shots.

Momma treated herself to a brand new pair of heels! Not to mention, probably the first new pair of heels since having her boys! Oh man, you deserve it!

Parents are always surprised when I end the session with just the two of them. {The boys were safely and happily snacking in the stroller next to me.}
After having kids, life as a couple is so so easily forgotten. I mean really, how often do you, as a parent, get to be IN the pictures?! Let alone with your spouse?! With a professional photographer present!? Take advantage people! YOU, your spouse and the love you cultivate lay the foundation for your family - which is just as important as your kids' pretty faces.

Thank goodness the clouds parted, rain cleared and the sun came out so we didn't have to use umbrellas. But just for fun...

Whew! This post got a little lengthy, but stay tuned for more families tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012 Recap

**Don't forget to enter my giveaway to win customized art for a child's room!**

Coordinating family schedules with siblings, siblings' spouses, and siblings' spouses' families is always a challenge. We managed to fit it all in this year by...

Hosting Thanksgiving lunch Thursday afternoon. I wasn't sure if I could do it, but I successfully got everything on the table by 1pm. Good ol' grocery store flowers rearranged...{wire basket from Target's $1 spot}

Mia liked helping with everything from throwing ingredients into the brining bag... mixing the herb butter...Turkey Tom was 13 pounds this year and we're still working on leftovers...

...washing cranberries, mashing potatoes, licking the masher clean, and whisking ingredients for dessert...

Oh yes these curlers are from my tight, bouncy, heavily hairsprayed ponytail cheerleading competition days....

Love her hair curled, even if it doesn't last very long.

On my menu {click links for recipes}, we had:
Turkey - not a fan of the gravy though. I'll try a different recipe next year.
Cranberry Sauce - Its definitely chunky with the minimal liquid in this recipe. My mom preferred it thinned out.
Apple, Pecan, and Blue Cheese Salad with Dried Cherries - definitely making this PW salad again.
Red Lobster Cheddar Biscuits - a little too dry. Maybe I'll try again but mix it less to keep it lighter.
Roasted Vegetables- I also throw in green beans, zuchini and squash and use regular mushrooms and onions. Definitely cut the oil down from his recipe.
Creamy Mashed Potatoes - a stick of butter and a stick of cream cheese. What's not to love??
Blackberry Cobbler - this was so SO easy, light and delicious! I'm usually skeptical of recipes with just a few ingredients (only 5!) and minimal steps, but this was very good, especially for those who don't care for rich sweets.  Definitely saving this recipe!
Click here for my 2010 Thanksgiving recap. With my terrible memory, these recaps help me plan next year's menu!

But the feasting was just getting started. Friday we had Lou Malnati's for Halmani's birthday with a cake from Sweet Mandy B's. Their cake/icing is very rich, too much for Umma. Same time {two years ago} comparison!

Saturday we brought Grandma her last requests before she leaves for Thailand. Randomly paired, but still delicious - Great Seas chicken wings and Art of Pizza (yes, more stuffed pizza). We'll miss you sooo much Grandma!

Then to top it all off, I saw Breaking Dawn with my girlfriends and ended the weekend at RPM Italian to celebrate a 30th birthday. A lot of people mention the small portions at this trendy new spot, but I thought the pasta dishes were sized just right, especially with having appetizers and dessert. The buffalo mozzarella in the lobster caprese was soo nice and creamy. I wasn't a fan of the lemon in the fritto misto {fried calamari, shrimp and lemon} and the batter was very light, almost like tempura. My spicy king crab with squid ink spaghetti did have a spicy kick to it, but other than that, this dish wasn't too notable.

Ooooeee! That was filling! Can't wait for all the holiday get togethers this month!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

From my little family to yours...
If you couldn't tell, this little girl has a lot of personality! She is so so observant and remembers everything she sees/hears, even if only once. She heard/saw me pose my friend once and now girlfriend's got it down! See our card from last year here.
Thanksgiving Cards by TinyPrints

And if you ask her where this picture was taken, she'll tell you, "By the dumpster." Photography tip #1: Don't overlook good light in small spaces! Even with garbage right next to you, literally! Also, like the garage door in our family picture above. In the 15 minutes we had with my tripod and self-timer (not even a remote!) before a torrential downpour, Doug questioned "Why do we have to stand here?!" To which I screamed replied "You don't see what I see!!!!"  Photography tip #2: Trust your photographer's vision.

We have a busy weekend with good food, friends and family. I couldn't be happier or more thankful for everything we are blessed with on a daily basis. May you spend this weekend with your nearest and dearest.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Customized Artwork Giveaway!

Are you in the kitchen prepping for tomorrow's big meal? Or have you mapped out your Black Friday shopping plan with Christmas wishlists in hand? If you need a unique gift idea for a baby, child or expecting mother, then I have a giveaway for you!

You've heard me talk about customized name prints from Baby Byrds time and time again. This is no surprise, considering in the past two years, I've purchased 11x14 monogram prints for Mia, her four cousins, her four second cousins as well as other friends.

Each child's print was personalized with their name and birth information and customized with a different color scheme, pattern and image (bunny, fish, lady bug, car, train, frog, elephant, monkey).
Christen from Baby Byrds is a breeze to work with when choosing the background pattern, colors and image to your liking! She also just added new designs from trendy chevron to vintage gingham.

The prints can also double as birthday party decor! 

Enter to win your very own 11x14 customized print from Baby Byrds using the Rafflecopter widget below. Giveaway will close on Friday 11/30 at 11:59pm CST with one winner to be announced the next week.
**To enter, click the "Use your email" (only used to contact the winner) or login with Facebook. Then your first entry is to leave a comment on this post (with your first name, not anonymous - so I can identify a winner) and then click the "I commented!" button on the widget.**
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Don't get trampled by the crazies on Friday!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Kid's Thanksgiving Activity: DIY Thankful Tree

As usual, the timing of my posts are not a month ahead of the actual holiday, like the rest of the crafty blogging world. But now with Pinterest, you can go ahead and pin this project for next year!

Being a few months shy of 3 years old, Mia is barely preschool aged.  Despite being a young kid, we still opted to do a DIY Thankful Tree as a simple, easy, and free Thanksgiving activity.
Cost: $0
Time: 30 minutes
Materials: colorful paper, tape, marker, scissors, brown paper bag (optional), turkey (optional, came from an old greeting card)
1. For the trunk, I used a brown paper bag that I bring my wine home in. No cutting necessary, just tape right on the wall!
2. For the tree, from 4 sheets of green construction paper, I free-handed unevenly scalloped bushes and taped it to the wall. Use scrap edges for the grass.
3. For 30 leaves, cut various shapes from various colors of paper. Also free-handed. Fold sheets of paper in half, thirds or fourths to yield multiple leaves from one cut.
4. Every day, pick a leaf and write what you are thankful for and tape it up!

This squirrel {from one of Mia's school projects} reminds me of the fearless critters on the Quad in college.

I thought of the first few things to be thankful for so Mia could get the gist of what we were doing. Can you guess which ones Mia suggested on her own?
     Birthdays - girl loves to sing the song and party plan like mommy
     School - she cannot wait to go every day instead of just 3 days a week
     Daisy - her stuffed animal Dog
     Castle - a princess one of course
     Kitchen (set) - she cooks every single day, especially while I cook dinner (lifesaver!)
     Trick or treat candy - she has a sweet tooth like mommy!
     Pumpkin patch and farm - her 1st field trip with school, and
We hold the marker together and I write out each letter so Mia can tell me what letter she sees as I spell each word. Great teaching tool! We also read every leaf when we're done to reinforce what we were thankful for on the previous days. Even under the age of 3, I think she gets it. It'll be fun to see how her answers change each year!

linked up with:

Monday, November 19, 2012


This weekend was full of new and old traditions. 

On Saturday, Doug and I attended a Polish wedding where I was intrigued by all the little traditions throughout the reception. Upon arriving for cocktail hour and scoping out the details (so bummed I didn't bring my camera!), I immediately noticed the tall bottles of Belvedere Vodka on every. single. table! When I asked a groomsmen if I was seeing things right, he laughed saying, "You haven't been to a Polish wedding before??" I guess I haven't! Complete with little shot glasses at each table, the night was definitely entertaining from the partner swinging polkas, hard core club beats, to the one Asian guy in the entire room (my husband) going crazy to Gangnam style.

The next day however, warmed my heart with other traditions. As a kid, I remember Sunday morning breakfasts complete with bacon, sausage, eggs and making Mickey Mouse pancakes with my dad. My baby girl was able to build her own Sunday morning memories, in the exact same kitchen that I did.

Notice the egg on the counter and not in the bowl. Practice makes perfect!

It was all smiles until a little someone learned what a hot pan feels like, eek! Hopefully she'll remember how much fun she had and not the tears that ended the cooking experience that morning.

Thanks Grandma and Grandpa for always making heart warming memories. Even if it ends with band-aids!
Love you, little mini-me!