I love how Heather used the format of my Dated Wall Art poster, but then added her own twist, featuring her & her fiance's birthdays, their wedding date, first date, and engagement anniversary. What a great idea! And let's not forget that fabulous white painted frame around her gallery wall...it grounds it perfectly! Well done. Thanks for sharing how you used your (de)Signs by Andrea poster in-action.
She's not the only one either! Check out these great ways others have used this design & idea:
ixoye307 on flickr
For Ayla's 5th birthday she requested (okay I might have suggested - instead of a princess or Dora theme) a Hello Kitty themed birthday party. Though she might have been slightly guided in her choice, she jumped on board and was very excited about it! She helped me with all the planning, looking for ideas, shopping for and making decorations. We started by making an idea board in Pinterest:
And though we didn't use all those ideas, they got the creative juices flowing. So here's what we DID end up with - a simple, low-key playdate birthday party for six little girls.
I fell in love with the design of these Hello Kitty Simple Sign invitations from Tiny Prints. I ended up making my own instead of buying them, primarily because I had all the materials at my desk the day I wanted to make them, but buying them wouldn't have cost much for the 6 I needed. If I had been making more than that I would have bought them. I also personalized each invitation for the girl we were sending it to. :)
We kept the decorations fairly simple and only decorated in the dining room -- streamers, balloons, a handmade banner and a blue plastic tablecloth. I did buy some Hello Kitty themed plates, but stuck with light pink colored dessert plates, hot pink napkins and hot pink cups.
I made the "Happy Birthday" banner using the same technique as I showed in this handmade birthday banner tutorial using patterned paper and cardstock. Then I added some handmade Hello Kitty paper dolls to the ends of each banner, which I cut using this Hello Kitty font and my Silhouette.
Our party was from 10am to 1pm, so we served lunch. Ayla's menu request - pizza & pears. I added in pineapple and popcorn for a very simple lunch (all starting with P's). I had planned to do a semi-homemade cake by buying a round white cake from the store and drawing a Hello Kitty on top of it, but my VERY talented friend offered to make me the dream cake I'd been eyeing (see it up there in my Pinterest board?). She did an AMAZING job:
This is where I'm weak in the party-planning department. It's just like when I was little and my siblings wanted me to play Barbie with them. I liked to set up the house, get all the dolls dressed up, and then just look at it. I forget that everyone else wants to PLAY. But I did diligently look for activities (with Ayla) that we could do with 6 little girls at her party. We considered making necklaces, or paper dolls, or doing a bingo game, but keeping time, resources & money in mind, here's what we settled on:
Pin the Bow on Hello Kitty - I drew a Hello Kitty head on Ayla's easel and cut paper bows out of patterned paper. Then we used a scarf as a blindfold and ended up with a pretty silly looking kitty.
Draw Hello Kitty - I gave each girl a 6" x 6" piece of white cardstock and asked them to draw their own version of Hello Kitty and decorate it with stickers. We put each girl's page into a small scrapbook that we'll add photos to for Ayla to remember her birthday party.
Hello Kitty Tattoos - I bought a 24-pack of Hello Kitty Tattoos at the party store, so each girl got 2 tattoos. They all enjoyed that and they got to practice counting to 30 each time we applied a tattoo. Look at all those tan little feet. These girls have been swimming this summer!
Play - These girls are 4 & 5. They played together most of the time in Ayla's room. :)
Movie - After lunch and presents, while we waited for their parents to arrive, the girls sat on the couch with a big bowl of popcorn and watched a 30 minute Hello Kitty episode on Netflix.
No party is complete without favors. We raided the Target $1 bins and came up with pencils & erasers and notebooks for each girl. Plus of course, the felt Hello Kitty hairbows that I made and which were a big hit.
And...finally, I couldn't resist buying Ayla this SUPER adorable Hello Kitty t-shirt from Target to wear to her party:
There you have it. A super-pink, super-easy, super-cute Hello Kitty birthday party.
I'm often asked what kind of camera I recommend -- I guess because I'm always taking photos and I walk around with a big ol' honkin' huge camera, people think I have some authority and expertise.
Well, I don't know about all of that, but if you ask me what *I* think, as an amateur, hobbyist, not-for-hire, mom photographer - here's what I'll tell you:
Unfortunately, I don't have a recommendation for a point-and-shoot camera. I rarely use them, and when I do, they don't compare well to my SLR, so I just don't know much about the different point-and-shoot models and options, etc. Sorry!
I've always used Canon SLR cameras, so that's what I will recommend. That said, I'll bet the Nikon and other brands are fabulous too. I just haven't used them, so I couldn't say from experience.
My current camera is the Canon 40D. I love it. I use mostly manual settings on it because I don't always love the auto-setting results it gives me. So I've learned the manual settings and techniques while using this camera.
Most of what I do is trial and error, but I typically shoot on AV priority and change the aperture based on the lighting and number of subjects in the photo. Low number (2.0) for less light, less subjects, and a higher number (5.0) for more subjects.
I also adjust the ISO - using a low number (200ish) for lots of light situations and a higher number for low-light situations (up to 1600, which is grainy, but still helfpul especially when a flash won't reach your subject as in a really large room).
I bought the 40D almost 2 years ago (instead of another Rebel) because I wanted the high ISO ability - up to 1600 (great in low light) - a super-fast recovery speed, and wasn't as interested in the video features that are available on many digital SLRs now (though now I might be more swayed toward that option). Also, since I bought a refurbished model, it was in my price range. So far, I've been very pleased.
My old camera was the original Canon Rebel. They have released several newer models since mine was introduced, all of which are a great deal and a great camera, especially for someone just getting started with an SLR camera. When I had that camera, I almost always shot with automatic settings, but with no flash. I wasn't brave enough to try the manual stuff then! I would definitely recommend the EOS Rebel series though.
PS: Don't be lured by oodles of megapixels. They're nice, they're great, but you can get a great 8" x 10" or 11" x 14" print with a 6MP image. You don't *need* 14MP for every photo. Most of the time I shoot on 6MP. Thousands of 14MP image files will fill up your hard drive fast! I only use the 10MP setting (the highest on my camera) for special occasions or portraits that might be cropped or super-enlarged for printing.
Let's talk lenses. Lenses make ALL the difference in the final image. My Rebel came with a kit lens - the 18-55mm zoom lens. It's kind of "eh" if you ask me. But..it's the only lens I used for years, so I can't bad-talk it too much. And it's still my only wide-angle lens, so I do pull it out occasionally when I need a wider angle shot.
Eventually I bought a Canon 75-300mm zoom lens. I use it mostly for outdoor events when I'll be farther away from the action - the zoo, sporting events, beach, etc. It's a great lens, and takes fabulous shots, but it's heavy to carry around and my kids are usually too close to me to take photos of them with it. Someday it'll be great for sporting events. For now, I like to use it to get up close and personal to this beautiful beast (taken through glass at the zoo):
Then, I bought my favorite lens - the Canon 50mm fixed 1.8 lens. Some call it the "thrifty fifty" because it costs right around $100 and takes great portrait photos with low aperture (lots of great blur behind the subject of the photo). That also means it does well in low light situations without a flash, which is nice when you take pictures indoors, but don't like using an on camera flash (solution for that later). I highly recommend this lens for anyone with little kids. Even though it doesn't have any zoom, it's usually at just the right distance for great portraits of the little guys and girls. Occasionally I wish it was a wider angle (like when Paxton is crawling into my lap or running towards me while I try to take photos), but most of the time, this is the lens you'll see on my camera. In fact, I've bought it twice, because I dropped the first one and it broke. At only $100 it was worth immediately replacing.
Now...on my WISHLIST is the all-inclusive ultra zoom lens - theTameron AF 18-270mm. If I could sell my 75-300mm & 18-55mm to buy this lens, I would. But, I'd still be short about $500, so I better sell a few more signs first. :) It appears to be a great all-purpose lightweight lens that would be especially wonderful for traveling. I would LOVE to try it out one day.
Don't use the on-camera flash unless you have absolutely no choice. Blech. Those pictures usually look terrible - washed out, flat and boring.
A bounce-flash is nice, I used to have a Canon Speedlite flash that I liked. It could bounce light off of walls, cielings, etc. However, it was bulky, ate batteries, and was an expensive piece of equipment. I sold it a few years ago when I needed to replace my Rebel with a new camera since it had sat unused for several years and I haven't really missed it.
Recently, I discovered this fabulous jewel - the LightScoop. At only $30 it does what I loved about the Speedlite, for MUCH less, and it doesn't require any batteries and is extremely lightweight. SCORE. It uses a mirror to bounce light off of a light-colored ceiling or wall and softens the photo perfectly. It's best in rooms with low to mid-height ceilings, and might not be a good choice if you have really tall or dark painted ceilings (like it wouldn't work in your car). But if you're like me and have white 9ft ceilings in your house -- it's perefect! Check it out:
Cool, huh? My indoor photography style has been changed forever. Love this new toy.
And of course, there are a few extras you'll want to have when you make a jump to an SLR camera.
A good memory card (or 3). I use a Kingston Elite Pro 8 GB 133x CompactFlash Memory Card, and since I dump my pictures to my hard drive daily, I NEVER fill up my memoy card -- but it's a big one, so I shouldn't! It is definitely worth having at least one backup though.
Speaking of backups - a backup battery is a VERY good idea. I've been left with no battery power at the beginning of a big event more times than I care to admit. Though I will say, I'm very impressed with how long the battery lasts. Often a week or more, depending on how often I use the camera.
A lens-cap keeper for each lens. It's annoying to hold them, keep track of them, and even more annoying to lose them and not have anything to protect your lens. These little rubberband-like straps keep the lens cap attached to the lens -- definitely more helpful there than squashed in your back pocket.
A UV Protection Filter for each lens. These are a very good scratch insurance policy. It's so much easier to replace a $12 filter rather than your $300 lens. Going to the beach? You better have one of these on each lens!
A tripod. I wouldn't be able to get my self-timer full family photo shots without a decent tripod. Ours is kind of a mid-range Ambico model, with a quick-release mounting system. It works sufficiently and we also use it for our video camera. A mini-tripod that fits in your bag would also be a good investment if you do a lot of traveling, though I don't have one of those...we just drag the big tripod with us to the beach for our family portraits!
On my wish list - I still haven't bought one, I guess because I like that self-timer-running-to-get-into-the-picture-rush - is a wireless remote shutter release. Then I wouldn't *have* to do the running back and forth and could take several shots at once when you got it framed the way you wanted it.
- And, finally with all that stuff...you need something to carry it in and protect it. There are all kinds of REALLY cute camera bags and options out there, but I have a pretty basic backpack style bag, simliar to this Lowepro Slingshot 100 all-weather digital camera bag. It holds all my gear, plus my wallet, keys, phone, gum, and of course a diaper & wipes & a snack. Let's be honest, we all need a multi-purpose bag that lets your hands be free! This one does the trick. Plus you can whip it around to the front of you to get what you need without taking the whole bag off. It was a fabulous solution when we went to Disney World a few years ago.
Photo Editing Software:
Finally, I highly recommend finding a photo editing software program that you like. I started with Paint Shop Pro years ago, then switched to an old version of Adobe Photoshop 4.0 and then within the past couple of years have switched to Adobe Photoshop Elements. It's a cheaper version of Photoshop with many of the same bells and whistles. I've really enjoyed learning all about it and using it to enhance my photographs. I know there are other software programs that are cheaper and that people love as well...but if you ask for my help - this is the software I know, so I won't be much help with the others. :)
And there you have it folks. Those are my digital SLR camera & accessories recommendations. Take them for what they are - from a photo-lovin' mom of two preschoolers, scrapbooker, blogger, and artist - and NOT a professional photographer. :)
If you have other questions about the equipment I use or what I recommend, post them here and I'll try to update this post as necessary!
Here's a list of all the products I mentioned:
- Canon EOS 40D 10.1 MP Digital SLR Camera
- Canon EOS Rebel Series
- Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS SLR Lens
- Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 Telephoto Zoom Lens
- Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens
- Tameron AF 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Lens
- Canon UV Protection Filter
- Ambico V-0554A 58-inch tripod
- Wireless Remote Shutter Release for Canon 40D
- Lens Cap Keeper
- Kingston Elite Pro 8 GB 133x CompactFlash Memory Card
- Adobe Photoshop Elements V9.0
- Lowepro SlingShot 100 All-Weather Digital Camera Backpack
For Ayla's 5th birthday party next week, we decided to invite a small group of girls and have a Hello Kitty theme. Since we invited only 5 girls, I thought it would be fun to give each girl their very own "Hello Kitty bow" as one of the party favors. So I made them...of course.
I looked around for some bow-tie style tutorials, and found a great one, but it required some machine sewing and precision - which I *can* do, but it's not always very pretty (or precise). So, when I realized I had plenty of red felt and hair clips on-hand already, I altered the tutorial to make it a little easier, a little cheaper, and without quite as much sewing.
Cut felt strips, about 2" x 9". I made 8 bows, but you only need one of these strips per bow. Plus, then I also cut a strip of felt about 3/4" wide and a couple feet long to use as the wrap around the center of each bow.
Next I hand-stitched the 2" x 9" strips to make a loop.
Before cutting the string, I did a loose stitch up the center of the bow (through both sides of the loop) and pulled it taught to create a gather in the center. Then I wrapped the string around it a few times and secured it with a few stitches.
Next, I wrapped the narrow strip around the bow to make the center have a clean look, and stitched it together on the back side (securing it to the bow as well) and then trimming off the excess felt.
Finally, I secured the bow to a hair clip with hot glue and called it done!
Remember that Week in the Life project I did a few months ago? Well...it took me about a month to get the pictures printed & put into an album and then another month to finally "embellish" it, but I finally got it all finished up. I took the ULTRA simple route this time...nothing fancy, nothing complicated (and admittedly not as cute as the last time I did a Week in the Life project) - just pictures, handwriting, and my handy-dandy Silhouette did most of the work.
First...the pictures & the project in-progress (in case you have no clue what I'm referring to!):
Then, after all that photo-taking of the mundane intricacies of our days...it was time to put it all together.
This time, instead of creating daily collage prints, I decided to print 4 x 6 photos for each day so you could see more of the details....which after 7 days of photo-taking left me with a VERY large stack of prints that I managed to whittle down to about 180.
I used a standard 2-up photo album (like I did for our Disney Vacation Album) with tabs for each day of the week and a window in the front cover for a title. On the inside front page, I left two spots open to make a title page - which I cut completely from black cardstock on my Silhouette. Man I love that thing! Totally worthwhile purchase.
At the beginning of each day, I cut the day of the week from white cardstock and mounted it on corresponding colored patterned paper (to match the tabs for that day):
And, as you can see -- I kept the journaling VERY simple and basic and just hand-wrote captions telling what was going on in the pictures, what time it was, where we were, and who was pictured. Stuff I *think* I'd remember...but then again I forgot my grocery list at home today as I stepped into the store...so I tend to forget stuff. That's why I write it all down.
And there you have it. A finished album, showing off a regular-old week in our life in the Spring of 2011. If you're interested in doing a project like this, Ali Edwards is where I got my inspiration, and she's at it again, doing another round July 25th through July 31st, 2011.
You can read more about her approach and suggestions here. It's hard work, but I highly recommend it. The kids love looking at these albums. :)
Everyone's a winner though! Don't forget to use the discount code by May 31st to get 10% off your custom handstamped piece of jewelryl
Just use code SIGNME10 at checkout in the Frostings Etsy Shop or at checkout when ordering on the Frostings website*. This code is good through May 31st, 2011. *If ordering on the website, the 10% discount will be refunded after purchase.
Be Joyful Always Hand-Stamped Sterling Silver Necklace by Natasha Vaughn @ Frostings
Visit the Frostings web site and comment here telling me what piece is your favorite.
For a second entry, become a fan of the Frostings Facebook page.
(Leave a separate comment here to let me know you became a fan.)
For a third entry, follow the Frostings blog by signing up for their RSS feed.
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I'll announce a winner on Thursday morning, May 26th -- so go start shopping!
The crafting world is full of projects that have been remixed, remade and inspired by all kinds of people. So when I see something that I made pop somewhere else, I get excited that a project I came up with inspired another crafter. I mean, why else would I post tutorials and info about how to make the things I make?
Anyhoo...here are a few places I've seen my work inspire others lately:
Thanks to these ladies for showing off their inspired pieces! Have YOU made anything inspired by my posts? I'd love to see it!
Recently, a friend of mine asked me to make her some wooden alphabet blocks for her new baby girl (arriving in July). She gave me some color guidelines, a link to a style of block she liked, and some swatches from the nursery bedding:
And off I went to create this:
Here's a tip if you ever decide to make something like these: You won't find the blocks at a craft store. After visiting Michaels, JoAnns & Hobby Lobby, I finally headed to the hardware store, where I should have gone in the first place. These blocks were made from a piece of scrap 2" x 4" wood found in the scrap bin (at the back of the lumber section) at Home Depot. And the lovely lady working in lumber even cut them for me. Sweet.
measurements: 7" tall large blocks & 5" tall short blocks
Let me tell you...creating a project for a room you've never seen, using colors you've only seen on a computer screen is a little nervewrecking. There was about a 50% chance my colors would be WAY off from the room. Thankfully, it appears to have all worked out just fine. Here they are, living in their new home on a shelf in the nursery...just waiting for Baby Tate: