11.21.2014

How to take Great Photos for Christmas Cards with Young Children

For the first year, my husband and I decided that we would take family pictures and actually send out Christmas Cards. We had never done so before. I think the last time that we sent correspondence via the mail was our wedding invitation, so we figured it was about time. 
Four years and a baby later, we are finally taking family portraits and sending out Christmas Cards. 

One of my biggest fears was booking portraits and my almost one year old having a meltdown during the photo shoot. My other fear was that because she is coming into her own, having someone she doesn't know trying to take her picture, she may also give a fake and non-genuine smile (like she did at the pumpkin patch) and I didn't want that for my Christmas card either. That meant time of day was KEY in making our photography appointment.

Gracia usually wakes up around 6:15am and is her happiest as soon as she opens her eyes. She will remain awake until about 9:30am when she is ready for her first nap of the day. So we booked our portraits for 8:30am. Luckily, our favorite photographer, Iris Mannings Photography was available at that hour.



Here are few things to keep in mind when trying to take Photos with young children:
1. Consider your child's mood throughout the day. Are they happiest first thing in the morning or are they more cooperative in the afternoon. 
2. Bring familiar items that will get them to smile. 
3. Bring a change of clothes in case something gets stained or ruined. 
4. Bring snacks as rewards for listening and cooperating.
We did all of these things and ended up having a great session at the Gaylord National Harbor Hotel in National Harbor, MD. 

I saw Tiny Prints was having a sale on their Holiday Cards so it seemed perfect to give them a try. I had been obsessed with their new foil Holiday Cards that I knew, once we got our photos back, that I would want to use them. Once I selected my favorite design, I wanted to make sure we had poses that  would correspond well with the options that I had in mind. To ensure this, I took print outs of my favorite selections to the photo shoots. As a result, we were able to capture some greats shots. 


When we first arrived at the site, Gracia was able to get familiar with our photographer. We got started, but soon she became moody and we realized in our rush that it was time for to eat once again and she was not going to cooperate if she was hungry. I love that despite having a "time-out" moment from the shoot, our photographer kept snapping away - despite me feeling all kinds of embarrassed because my child was not cooperating - and she was able to capture some great mommy and me moments. 

Once Gracia got her happy food - she was ready to go... 
I love the shots we were able to capture all over the hotel. 





Sometimes with young children you also have to let them lead the shoot and go with the flow... 
Gracia at this point (below) was tired of sitting on our laps and being manipulate into poses and what not that she had kicked off her shoes for the 50,000th time and was about to have full on tears... come to find out she just wanted to sit on the stairs next to us like a "big girl". I had to let her and look - she lit up like a Christmas Tree. 



I got home and plugged in a few proofs into my favorite Tiny Prints design and sent to my photographer for an opinion and to let her know which ones I wanted her to focus on editing right away so I can place my order.
I ended up settling on this one because I felt it was so fitting of where we are in life. 


And we got to snap a few solo shots to use for her upcoming 1st Birthday too! 


Merry Christmas!
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10.29.2014

Let's Go to the Pumpkin Patch

 
My favorite holidays are approaching!! Something about the holidays that fall within the last three months of the year that makes me feel all warm and loving inside. Probably because these last holidays of the year include a lot of family get togethers and capturing a whole lot of precious moments on camera. It had only been the two of us for so long that we are both so excited to have our first holiday season with our 10-month old daughter. Having kids around for the holidays gives us big kids at heart, an excuse to truly over-celebrate every holiday… for no reason at all. I mean really – when it was the two of us, the tree was put up probably two days before Christmas. Last year, I never even finished decorating the thing. I believe the ornaments and star that I purchased may still be in the bag. (hangs head down in shame).
We would purchase presents always on Christmas Eve and not one day sooner. We got each other what was left and were happy with the results because we never really wanted anything that was a hot ticket item. With a 10-month old, whose Birthday happens to be 2 weeks before Christmas and very excited Grandparents, this holiday season is like none other. Therefore, a LOT of planning and preparation is going into place for this holiday/birthday season.  
 
Even though Gracia is still really too young to even understand what is going on, I decided that we would begin some family traditions: starting with decorating the house for the holidays and sending out Holiday Cards! We received so many photo cards last year, but had nothing to show in return. In my defense, I was pregnant all holiday season last year.  I have always wanted to do send out cards and this year, I am determined. I had been searching for some great card designs and found that some of my favorite designs are on Tiny Prints. Now that I wanted to order them, I felt like we had no recent photos to order our Christmas Cards with. Who wants to get a card this year with her newborn photos on it? (I never did get to send those out). This year, I have more time to plan since I am not recovering.
 
Someone is ready for the Pumpkin Patch
So we began our Holiday prep this weekend with a couple of Family outings. There are some things that I loved to do as a child that my husband never got to experience.
 We planned our family outing around morning nap time, which is most important (if she is not rested, it will not be fun for neither of us) and we dressed in our fall inspired colors. We were off to the farm to experience the pumpkin patch as a family.
Telling her all about the Pumpkin Patch
One thing that I loved as a child was The Pumpkin Patch, Hay rides and Corn Mazes! My husband on the other hand had never been and thinks of the whole idea as me being “adventurous”. Whatever the case may be, it’s FALL! In keeping with the over-celebrating of every holiday… there is not a better way than to welcome the crisp air, than by picking out a pumpkin.  Luckily we live right across from the best Farms in town.  It has so many attractions, hayrides, bonfires, corn mazes, etc. more importantly a Pumpkin Patch.

 





Always trying to make an escape
 

If she is standing, she is dancing

 
We were not the only ones either. We followed behind those who look like they have done this before with their toddlers and cameras, sat Gracia among the pumpkins and just let her explore.
 
 She loved every bit of it. We loved seeing her beat on them and have this inquisitive look about her face. Daddy was so happy to see that his little girl is really growing up.
He however did not let her take one home this year. Maybe next time Gracia – I think she would’ve tried to eat it anyways. Little Miss Gracia is teething on everything these days.
 
After playing in the Pumpkin Patch, we walked over to the Farmers Market and each selected a sweet treat to take home. Gracia was recently introduced to solids and snacks so she was all too excited, almost too excited about Mommy’s kettle popcorn.
Needless to say, I had to hide the bag from her once we got home because she really was upset that mommy was not going to share any with her.
Now that she is a little more aware of what’s going on, getting her to smile while she is “busy” is proving to be tougher. While one of us is holding her steady the other is camera in hand trying to just snap away with hopes that we can get at least one picture that we like and perhaps get our Holiday cards together. She also does this toothless grandma thing where she bites her lips –
 
definitely doesn’t make for a cute family photo. So, candid pictures were the way to go! What we found was that, unfortunately for us, all of her excitement was when the sun was at her back which meant poor lighting for any type of photo cards.
 
That’s ok – there is another family outing to try to capture more photos planned for next week! Like I said, I am determined to send out a Holiday Card this year! Don’t you just love the holiday season?
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10.16.2014

Rasika: Lunch in the District

I have the pleasure of working in the District of Columbia, which is a great place to work and over the last couple of years has become a great place for restaurants for Foodies to enjoy. On this particular rainy day, I tried Rasika.
 
So, I had been hearing about this restaurant from my coworkers and decided that on a whim I would try it. I had been hesitant because 1. It’s Indian cuisine or so I thought, so I wasn’t 100% sure what that entailed and 2. The descriptions of the food honestly didn’t make sense to me. I just didn’t know what I was in for if I walked in the door. I didn’t want to be embarrassed and walk right out, just because I didn’t understand what the food was because the selections were in a different language. Feeling like an adventurous foodie, I was ready to see what the hype was all about!
 
So, I have found that whenever you go to a new place and you have a small party of yourself or one other companion, the best place to sit is at the bar -Especially during the lunch crowd. The bartender will give you the best service and will be more patient in trying to help you select what you want to eat versus a waiter who has to keep up with multiple tables. At Rasika, this proved to be the best option because it is ALWAYS crowded during lunch – another sign that this place is amazing.
I got seated and I immediately told the Bartender, a beautiful Ethiopian woman with an awesome purple streak in her hair, that it was my first time. She said “GREAT” and immediately suggested some of her favorites as well as what they are known for. She said that I HAD to get the Palak Chaat. (yup, who can tell me what that is by looking at it). The description of the dish itself wasn’t helping me either: Crispy baby spinach, sweet yogurt, tamarind and date chutney.  I do remember my coworkers ranting about a spinach dish during Restaurant Week – this must be it. I will give it a try. I took one bite… I AM IN LOVE! If ever I just want to have something quick and light, this will always be the way to go. It is popular for a reason. Ignore that you may not like those things individually. The chef has combined flavors that when you take your first bite, you will understand why as soon as you walk in, more than likely everyone has this on their table. It’s amazing. The spinach has a nacho-like crispness to it and the toppings just balance the crispy perfectly. With all of that on there, the spinach never got soggy. 

When it came time to choose lunch, I was unsure and started looking down the bar to see what someone else had. To my left, the young ladies dining had tried the half portions of Chicken Tikka Marsala. You cannot go wrong there. So I told my bartender that I was considering this option. She said, if I like spicy to go with the Chicken Green Marsala.
 
Loving her first recommendation, I went with the Green. AGAIN, one of the best dishes I had. The basmati rice was so fluffy and cooked perfectly. It was a perfect portion size. The spice wasn’t overbearing that I couldn’t enjoy what I was eating.  It was paired perfectly with a nice warm basket of Naan.
 
Rasika is a great place for lunch. Asking just a few questions about the menu led me to make some great choices. It is a place that I would even recommend to come back for dinner especially to try the Lamb Chops perfectly cooked.
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10.01.2014

So Where Do I Begin? : Time Flies when You are having Fun!

Last we left off, Gracia was turning 6 months old. She was still on trend wearing 6 months sizes and was in the 80-90th percentiles for her weight and height. 


Her personality was beginning to show more and more- we enjoyed a wonderful summer spending several weekends dockside on the Bay. We love to eat Crabs in the Maryland area. As long as there are steamed crabs it will always bring out big smiles from us!

Notice that patch on my arm? Yeah - it was around this time that I decided to do something about my energy levels and overall health. 
I was feeling completely rundown and with Gracie now learning to crawl, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. I did some research and decided to start Thriving. I will post specifically as to what it has done for me because it has been AMAZING a little later - but if you just want to know what I am talking about check out my site at www.vashtijasmine.le-vel.com 


Anywho, Gracia started crawling at 7 months and began to sit up on her own so much more. As she began crawling, we introduced her to shoes that would help her crawl, pull up and walk. 
Gracia was wearing a size 2 infant. In clothes she was a 6-9 months. 


Gracia starts to learn more words - Dada of course is her favorite. I had been trying to get her to say Mama but she is not having it. She says "mwah" when she gives kisses. Of course she has her own baby language. She says "Ut oh!" when she falls on her butt. She can also so Bye Bye. She just recently started saying "Mama" but thats because she also most recently started getting told "Stop" and "No no!" a lot more. 


At 8 months, I started a natural haircare routine because her hair was getting so long. She also went through a growth spurt around this time. We kind of bypassed 9 month clothes and went straight into 12-18 month sized clothes. 


My little fashionista and I have been enjoying her coming into her own. 

Lately, Gracia has been teething which has meant an abundance of drool which lead to double ear infections. She has learned how to pull up on things to stand and is standing on her own for a few seconds at a time. 


With her being able to cruise, she has been able to get into more and more things - this is the door to her playroom that she started to bang on it for fun and play with the door stoppers - oh what fun to my ears!

September means Birthday for Amos and I and Gracia turns 9 months old. 
It also meant that Gracia had pink eye and another trip to the doctor. 



Amos' Birthday is first and we celebrated with a few balloons and sweet surprises at work. 


I also realized just how much Gracia looks like her daddy when he was just about her age. What do you think? 


My cute little princess is definitely learning the art of posing on the stairs. LOL 
But she is getting so big so fast that I really can't believe it. 

This was on my birthday! Miss Personality was at it again - ready to pose for Mommy (or at least talk while I snap away).
We have truly enjoyed watching her grow. Her height and weight slowed up - so I guess her growth spurt is slowing down. 
She has started to eat solids. The Plum Organics are our usual go to for every meal but her pediatrician said to try Tofu and additional proteins. I am all for health eating and better choices for Gracia because I know it will spill over into our diet. 

This particular night I was cooking Quinoa and Sweet Potatoes for Gracia and Black Beans for us to go with some rice. 

Needless to say THIS is how she really felt about that Tofu and Quinoa. She would prefer to order out! LOL. But nope she has far from table food for now - she has a thing with textured foods and also doesn't like water or even watered down juice. She has zero interest in a sippy cup as well. 


She does on the other hand LOVE Gerber snacks. 
We took an impromptu vacation to Vegas and she was watched by her Aunt. We came back and she was addicted to Yogurt Melts. 
I mean a full out tantrum was had if she ran out of them... 

See.. 


This was less than a minute later - she was so content just holding the package. 


We are training her up the right way to go - She is a die hard Ravens fan like her parents. 



Of course, she is mommy's favorite shopping buddy. If I can just get her to stop eating the handles on the carts. Of course, I am the mom that forgets the two shopping cart covers that I own. 



She has even let mommy twist her hair while she sat up like a big girl. 


She is becoming such a big girl... I am thoroughly enjoying seeing the world through her eyes. 


Thank the Lord we got her out of our bed because we used to wake up to her shaking us like this!


This is just what we have been up to over the last couple of months. 

Gracia is now 22 lbs and 28.25 inches long and on her way to 10 months.














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