Thursday, December 27, 2012

Post-Christmas Clean up

Help! I'm drowning. In toys.

This year, Santa went a little crazy. My youngest got a plastic pool filled with those little plastic balls.

My daughter got a homemade Barbie house, a smaller dollhouse, and a bajillion dolls and accessories. All three kids were given a play kitchen from Cameron's aunt and uncle. Can you say spoiled?

My son got a plethora of legos and other sharp, pointy choking hazard plastic things.

The kids are ecstatic. We are tremendously blessed. It was the best Christmas ever.

Where am I going to put all  this stuff????

Pinterest to the rescue!!!!

I'd love to have a bunch of pottery barn baskets with chalk-board erasable labels fastened to them. But that's just not how I roll. The dollar store is more in my budget, and it doesn't disappoint. Check out some of these fun ideas using dollar store storage:

Ikea and Dollar store bins plus chalkboard labels

Plastic dollar store animals glued and spray painted onto jar lids. I could see doing this with legos or whatever you had stored in there so the kids who can't read know what the jar is for. 

I have a few of these plastic comforter/sheet holders for storage and I love them!

I love these storage tubs, and I think making a bin holder out of PVC is completely brilliant. PVC is cheap and you probably only need a hand saw and some special PVC glue to hack it. 

More PVC ideas
My kids would have fun with this one
I need this for my garage.

Shoe holders for Barbies

and other stuff...

Let's not forget to utilize all that space under the bed. Here are instructions for making this under the bed storage trunk from a single sheet of 1/2 inch plywood. 

I love Ana White's laundry basket dresser- it inspired the closet makeover we did in my daughter's room and it is so functional. And affordable. Laundry baskets make for great storage.

I also think an important part of embracing motherhood means not submitting to the notion that my house needs to look perfect. It's messy. There is a play kitchen and a dollhouse where my buffet use to be. It may not be magazine-ready but it's more fun that way. 

A purge of the largely neglected toys is next on the agenda. 

How do you handle the post-Christmas clean up? 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Being Brave

Something changed on Friday, when we learned about the shooting of over twenty young students and seven adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Even in a world where we regularly see shootings depicted in movies and video games, there is something unfathomable about innocent children being killed. It's one of those off-limit topics that even Hollywood won't broach. 

Some of the victims

I was sitting in primary at church yesterday, looking at all of the beautiful little children singing songs. I counted out 20 children and 7 adults, to try to wrap my mind around the loss Newtown is dealing with. It made my heart hurt to imagine the same thing happening to my community, to sweet little faces that I know. Then a little girl sitting on my lap whispered to me:

"Do you want to know a secret?"


"There are angels in the sky. We just can't see them from the ground."

Oh, my heart. That kind of innocence is worth preserving.

Looking at pictures of the victims, I see my kindergartener-  sweet faces still round with baby fat and mischievous eyes. I don't want to take him to school today. In fact, part of me wants to wrap him in bubble wrap and make him wear his bike helmet everywhere, just to be safe. 

But...what kind of example would I be if I let fear drive my decisions? I don't want my son to think the world is a frightening place. I want to empower him, not instill fear in him. We learn as adults that the only true monsters are people, and they can't always be stopped by "good guys". But he doesn't know this yet. I don't want him to know yet. 

Today, I will drive him to school with a smile on my face. I will hug him goodbye and try not to hold on for too long before he merrily skips into his classroom. I'll watch his blonde head bobbing up the sidewalk until he disappears through the glass doors of his school. I'll think of parents that did this very thing last Friday, not knowing it was the last time they would see their child alive. I will probably cry on the car ride back home, and say a quiet prayer to myself. But he won't know. I'll be brave. I won't let the monsters win. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Guest Post: Photographing Your Family- Part 6

Doing What They Do

There are so many photography tips. This is the final one I’m including here. Take pictures of the kids doing what they love to do. Group pictures and posed pictures are wonderful but those candid pictures sometimes get neglected and that is a mistake. You can see that some of these images are ‘set up’ but they are still enjoying themselves and doing what they love to do.

 It’s best if the kids forget you’re even there. I have pictures of my kids playing with play-doh and running through the sprinklers and sliding down hills on big blocks of ice. If they love to cook then get pictures of that. These are wonderful opportunities to capture the story of your child and who they are at that moment.

 If you love puzzles, take pictures of making a puzzle.

 Or playing in the living room.

 or . . . doing this.

The posed shots get what they look like but candids tell the story of who they are and what they like.

I love taking pictures of high school seniors playing their instruments. They get much less self conscious and who they are comes through on film.

This image was set up but this boy really did love to wear the tiara and play with the prince doll. Too fun!

There are so many things to think about when taking your family pictures. The biggest tip of the day is to have fun with it. They should be enjoying themselves and so should you. You’re stressed and yelling, the kids will always remember what you said and how you said it because they’ll have photographic evidence to remind them. Many times I’ll try to make a game out of their silliness. It doesn’t always work but it never hurts either.

Have fun!!!

You can see more of Kim Barlow's work by clicking here

Guest Post: Photographing Your Family- Part 5


Background is important. You can see we are in a garage and it looks like my subject has horns. Be aware of the background. You don’t want things growing out of the head.

You can take care of unsightly backgrounds in two ways. One is simply to zoom in close so that you can’t see it. The other is to move your subject or yourself so that the items in the background aren’t becoming a part of your picture.

 There are times when background is important to have in your picture. I love this picture of my daughter but I’m never going to be able to use it except to show it as a bad example. We are at the pumpkin patch and she is showing me the corn maze. I know that but no one else does. I should have included the background to tell her story.

 Because I included the background here you know, without knowing me, what we’re doing in this room and what is happening.

 In this photo you can’t tell we’re at the Seahawks Stadium in Seattle. You just wonder why that giant lady is about to eat that nose-picking man.

Again, background can tell a story.

Don’t forget to include it.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Guest Post: Photographing Your Family- Part 4

 Photo Composition
One important aspect of composition is where you put the head in a photograph. If you look at the person across the room you’ll see that you automatically put them in the middle of your view. It makes sense then that when you take a picture your natural tendency is to put them in the middle.

Here is an example of what I see in many photos. The subject is right in the middle of the photograph.

It is much better to put the head/heads at the top of the picture. This takes some practice but it is well worth the effort.

Here is a shot with two people. There is some room at the top but the subject is not in the middle of the photo.

When you’re constructing your shot keep in mind that keeping the subject right in the middle of the picture is visually boring in most cases.

Here is the same weed but placed off to the side. The subject is still boring but the picture is much more interesting

I’ve included some examples of the subject off to the side. It creates visual interest.

Here, the subject is not at the top but it is still very interesting.

I thought I’d throw in one more of the subjects off to the side.

More photography tips from Kim Barlow to come... check back soon. 

Guest Post: Photographing Your Family- Part 3

What Angle to Take the Picture From

There are three directions you can shoot from. Standing above the subject, at eye level and looking up. I generally don’t take photographs of men looking down at them. It isn’t masculine.

 Shooting down on women is very flattering. While this subject has no figure flaws it can be used to hide figure flaws on larger women. It is flattering on all women. This is a little exaggerated but it still works.

This boy was just so cute I had to throw him in to show you.

Eye level is great for everyone. It’s hard to remember to do with small children because you have to bend down so very far to get there. It’s well worth the trip.

 Eye level while people are doing something physical is very flattering and makes the subject look like they really know what they’re doing. It will improve your sports and action shots.

 You can put a child up on a table if you can’t get down but I prefer the floor. They’re safer there.

Eye level creates a lovely perspective.

Shooting up is fun too. It’s not a perspective we adults see very often so it is visually very interesting.

Have you ever seen a superman comic or a picture of superman? Of course you have. He is always taken from the perspective of the viewer being below him. Why? Because when we were small the people who were taller than us knew everything and could tell us what to do. This is a great angle to take men at as long as they don’t have an figure flaws. Particularly figure flaws in the chin area.

Shooting up is very visually interesting.

More photography tips from professional photographer Kim Barlow to come- stay tuned!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Guest Post: Photographing Your Family- Part 2

The most important element in a great photograph is great light.

I will see wonderful pictures of people on Facebook, or I will see potentially wonderful pictures on Facebook. So, my number one easy tip is turn on your flash.

Now, I rarely use flash because natural light is so beautiful but in many cases I will see beautiful backgrounds with the people either incredibly dark or missing.

 If you have your light source behind you, simply turn on the flash. Most cameras will adjust the settings perfectly. It is wonderful and it makes a MUCH better photograph.

Sunlight is where I’ll use my flash a lot. You see the subject with dark shadows under her eyes? Turn your flash on. Point and shoot cameras tend to adjust the settings perfectly with very little effort. You only really have to know how to force your flash on.

Here you can see the same subject with the flash turned on. Those dark shadows are gone.

This is a better example of what I usually see on Facebook.

This one simply has the flash turned on. I did lighten her up a bit in Photoshop but the principle is sound.

Sometimes you want the light behind the subject. Silhouettes are beautiful but only if you did them on purpose.

Light is everything in a photograph. My favorite light source is the sun.

My favorite light source is window light. Find a window and take a picture of your subject next to the window. We’ve already talked about the light source being behind you so keep in mind that your want the light source to either side of your subject.

 This photograph was taken with the light right on her whole face. This creates a flat look and is really great if your subject has a lot of wrinkles and it works in this photograph. Generally, you want the light coming in from the side because the shadows make the two dimensional photo look a bit more three dimensional.

 You can see on my daughter there is shadow because she is lit from the side. This is actually slimming as shadow can have a very slimming result. It also adds visual interest.

This image was taken in a very dark room with a very small window. That concentrated the light and looks lovely.

This image is actually back-lit but I love it.

An excellent light source, still the sun, but simply involves opening the garage. That is what we did in this photograph. I often do it for my professional shoots. It creates a wonderfully huge light source and is very easy to use and almost everyone has one.

We will have four more posts on photographing your family over the next few days. Stay tuned for more tips from professional photographer Kim Barlow.