First Snow – Grayling, MI

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It’s amazing how transient things are, how quickly the seasons change.  We went up north last weekend as part of our continued “working on the cabin” saga.  And yes, that’s why things have been a little quiet around here on the blog.  Real life obligations always come first — in this case, it was an amalgam of things for clients as well as the addition we are adding to the cabin.

Anyways, last weekend we were expecting cold weather, but certainly not snow.  We unpacked the truck in between snow flurries and frozen rain showers.  And in the morning, we woke up to a winter wonderland.  Well, snow wasn’t completely covering the ground, but there was certainly enough for the boys to stomp about, shovel off the deck, and make snowballs.

Here’s a view off the back deck of the cabin, at sunrise.


Yes, it was still snowing that morning.  The grayish white specks all over these images (faintly resembling sensor dust) are really large snowflakes coming down.  Zack was enthralled and wanted nothing but to be carried outside so he could try to grab snowflakes.  Toby tried his hand at catching snowflakes on his tongue, before moving onto bigger ventures — shoveling the deck.bphotoart-DSC_8305-grayling-mi

There’s something to be said for the warmth of the early morning sun coming up over a snowy scene.  These pictures simply don’t do it justice.


The air was a bit hazy with all that moisture as the sun came up, giving off an ethereal glow…


And here’s the best “it’s snowing” picture I took before heading back inside to make breakfast.  So many snowflakes in the air.  It was gorgeous.  Cold.  But gorgeous.


Thanks for letting me share.  I’ll be working more blog posts back into the schedule this fall and winter, so don’t be surprised to see things get “back to normal” around here.  As always, I’d love to chat with you about planning a portrait session… so get in touch!

Retro Hollywood Senior Portraits

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Sometimes it’s fun to do something a little different, a little retro. These Hollywood glamour style portraits have a retro vintage feel, and definitely are not your average senior portrait. While this style of portrait is easily created in the studio, it’s also simple to create on location.

Creating a vintage-themed portrait does take a little planning, but it’s easy enough for anyone to pull off this look with the right vintage attire, and oh, don’t forget the curls!


Michigan Pasty Recipe – Meat Hand Pie

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While Michigan doesn’t have an official state food, in the UP (upper peninsula), there is a fond love for the pasty.  Pasties are meat hand pies, and depending on who you ask, a pasty may or may not have specific filling ingredients (potatoes, onions, rutabaga, carrots, meat).  A little further on, I’ll share our recipe for Michigan Pasties, but first, a bit of history.

According to a student webpage project done for Michigan Tech University, the history of the pasty is quite detailed.  It was a common meal for workers in Michigan’s upper peninsula copper mines (originally Cornish, but adopted by other European immigrants).

The pasty became popular with these other ethnic groups because it was small, portable, was very filling, and could stay warm for 8-10 hours. Pasty rivalry occurred between the Finns, Swedes, Irish, Poles, Germans, Scots, Italians and French with each group contributing something in the way of seasoning and other ingredients. All groups agree that pasties must contain two things, potatoes and onions.

The pasty was eaten by hand, and could be reheated or eaten cold. We’ve tried both ways in our household; the boys LOVED having cold pasty leftovers for lunch.

The portability of the pasty not only made it easy to carry, but if it should get cold it would be relatively easy to heat up. This was done by putting the pasty on a shovel and holding it over a head-lamp candle. Miners never ate a pasty with a fork, they ate it end to end, and held it upright to keep the juices in. Since entire Cornish families worked in mines and each member of the family wanted different ingredients in the pasty, the Cornish wife would stamp the bottom corner of each pasty with an initial. According to the Cornish Recipes Ancient and Modern, “The true Cornish way to eat a pasty is to hold it in the hand, and begin to bite it from the opposite end to the initial, so that, should any of it be uneaten, it may be consumed later by its rightful owner. And woe betide anyone who take’s another person’s corner!”

bphotoart-pasty-meat-handpie-DSC_6990An internet search for “Michigan Pasty Recipe” will produce many different pasty recipes — according to a UP pasty resource  I found, it appears there is no longer a set of required ingredients:

Pasties consists of a crust filled with diced potatoes, rutabagas, carrots, onions & ground beef seasoned to perfection. Now some people combine ground pork, ground beef, and ground lean beef. Now a days they even have chicken, veggie, and even a breakfast one.

Another bit of interesting history trivia?  In 1968, then Governor George Romney declared May 28th Michigan Pasty Day.  Oddly I’d never heard this, despite being born and raised in Michigan.  Thanks, History channel!  Apparently the tourism industry …er, the Mackinac Bridge, helped elevate the status of Michigan’s pasty from a homecooked meal to a restaurant-worthy entrée:

 After the 1957 Mackinac Bridge opened the Upper Peninsula for tourism from southern Michigan, the pasty shifted from being a food mainly cooked at home by U.P. locals (known as “Yoopers”) to one sold at restaurants to visitors from southern Michigan and beyond (playfully derided as “Fudgies” for their preferred dessert).

I also didn’t know that there is an annual pasty festival in early July (according to the Pasty Recipe on the Cooking Channel!)

Making Michigan Pasties

And now, it’s time to share our take on a Michigan Pasty.  Well, at least, our most recent variant.  I admit, I’ll make them with whatever is on hand.  This time, we skipped potatoes entirely (gasp) because I didn’t have any!

I chopped up the vegetables first - carrots, onions, and celery.
I chopped up the vegetables first – carrots, onions, and celery.
Then, I combined all the spices.
Then, I combined all the spices.
I added the melted butter to the seasonings.
I added the melted butter to the seasonings.
And then combined all the filling ingredients (vegetables, meat, and seasonings).
And then combined all the filling ingredients (vegetables, meat, and seasonings).

Next, it was time to start on the dough for the pasty.  We used freshly ground einkorn flour, and shortening (rather than our typical butter).  My toddler helped with this phase quite a bit!  Also, if you’ve never heard of a Danish dough whisk (#afflink), you need to try one …or at least check out when we made Irish Soda Bread with the Danish dough whisk.  It really simplifies the dough mixing process; I love how easily the ingredients get blended together — and how little mess there is!

My toddler helped me measure and dump.  To the flour and salt, we cut in the shortening...
My toddler helped me measure and dump. To the flour and salt, we cut in the shortening…
Here's what the dough looked like after cutting in the shortening, and adding water.
Here’s what the dough looked like after cutting in the shortening, and adding water.
Next, we divided the dough into four equal parts.
Next, we divided the dough into four equal parts.
One at a time, we rolled them out onto our baking sheet (~10" rounds)
One at a time, we rolled them out onto our baking sheet (~10″ rounds)
Adding the filling to our dough - just on half the dough, leaving at least 1" around the edge.
Adding the filling to our dough – just on half the dough, leaving at least 1″ around the edge.
I used the silpat to help flip the dough over top so that it didn't tear
I used the silpat to help flip the dough over top so that it didn’t tear
And here are two pasties ready to go in the oven, already crimped!
And here are two pasties ready to go in the oven, already crimped!

And that’s it!  Into the oven for almost an hour, and when they come out, dinner is ready!

A quick snapshot of a finished pasty, right before my toddler cut into it.
A quick snapshot of a finished pasty, right before my toddler cut into it.

Michigan Pasty Recipe

Dough Ingredients

  • 4 c. einkorn flour
  • 1 c. butter
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1 t. salt

Filling Ingredients

  • 1 lb. carrots, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 3 Vidalia onions, diced
  • 1 lb ground beef or venison
  • 2 T. butter, melted
  • 1 T. Thyme
  • 1 T. paprika
  • 1 T. rosemary
  • 1 T. coriander
  • 1 T. onion powder
  • 1 T. garlic powder
  • 2 t. salt
  • 2 t. pepper 


  • Combine flour and salt in bowl. Add butter, and use a knife to cut into flour.
  • Add water, and stir with Danish dough whisk (#afflink) until well combined.  If necessary, add more flour or water so the dough is workable.  If you use normal wheat flour, you’ll probably need another 1/4 cup of water.
  • Divide dough into four sections (we rolled ours into balls) and set aside.
  • Combine first four filling ingredients in a large bowl.  Separately, combine butter and seasonings; drizzle over top of fillings and stir to coat.
  • One at a time, roll each dough ball into ~10″ rounds.  place filling on half the circle, leaving 1″ border around the edge.  You can mound the filling up high.  Then, fold the dough over top, and crimp the half-circle pasty’s edges together.  We rolled these out on a silicone baking sheet, and then used the silicone to help flip the thin dough over top.  If you plan it out right, there is room to roll out two pasties per baking sheet (with no need to transfer).  That way, you don’t have to worry about the dough tearing and the pasty innards leaking out!
  • After all four pasties are completed, place the baking sheets in the oven at 375 F for 50 minutes, or until golden and cooked through.
  • Enjoy!

The nice thing about this recipe is that it comes together pretty quickly.  The ingredient list may be long, but if you have kids who like to “measure and dump” — no problem.  While older kids can be involved with every step of the process, you can let younger kids help help roll out the dough for their own pasty, place the fillings on the dough, and “check on the pasties” by looking through your oven window as it cooks.  My toddler was so excited to eat dinner the night we had pasties!

I love pie crusts, and the pasty crust is similarly delicious :)
I love pie crusts, and the pasty crust is similarly delicious 🙂

Have you made pasties before?  What fillings are your favorite?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

tour-the-world-by-foodThis post is part of the Tour the World by food series — make sure to check out some of the other blog posts that highlight various state foods!

Here are some more resources on the Michigan Pasty (and other state foods), if you’re interested:

Don’t Lose Your Pictures

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Don't Lose Your PicturesLast year, my child accidentally did a factory reset on my phone. And he wiped the micro SD card clean too. At first I was furious. He should know better than to mess with Mommy’s phone, right? But then I took a breather. He was only three, after all. He thought the pattern passcode on my lock was a fun new game. And, I obviously neglected to realize that I had the default phone setting “erase all data after 10 failed login attempts” turned on. whoops.

So, as I thought things through, my anger dissipated. In its place, I was left with a keen awareness of just how fleeting electronic data is. Sure, I’ve tested and reviewed data recovery software before, but I’ve never had an actual loss. It’s not the end of the world. These weren’t wedding photos, or birth photos. I know enough to download photos to my regularly. So all that was lost? This past month’s cell phone photos and videos. But they were still memories that mattered. Memories of Toby being brave at the hospital when he got his x-rays, a video of him getting his cast put on.

Thankfully I don’t have to report to a client that I’ve lost their photos. And I pray I’ll never have to do so… my redundant backups should be prevention enough. But I’m still regret the loss.

So I thought I’d take a moment to remind you — please download your phone pictures regularly. Save them to your hard drive, burn them to a disk, put them in the cloud. Do something.

And what should you do if you lose your pictures? Take it as a reminder to do better next time. A reminder to be grateful for the memories you do have.

My attempts at using a photo recovery program were mostly unsuccessful.  Out of 3,358 files recovered, only 303 were fully recovered. The rest were partially corrupted. Thankfully I found the manual backup I’d done when switching phones several months ago.  So I’m only out 2-3 months’ worth of pictures.  Yes, this made me sad.  But you know what?  My life isn’t defined by the photos I have.. my memories aren’t relegated to pictures.  Sure, they capture the memories for me to enjoy later, but I can think back fondly on those memories without photos too.

I’m strangely okay with the fact that these pictures are gone.  My life is not defined by the pictures I take of it.  My enjoyment of this life is not dependent on the pictures I have captured.  Life is more than that.

I’m glad I’ve been documenting and sharing snapshots from our life on social media — snippets of those months are preserved there.  And, in the big scheme of things… no one has been hurt by this loss.  Maybe an emotional drainage has occurred, but nothing more.


20 Questions About Dad (For Your Child to Answer)

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bphotoart-20-questions-ask-child-about-dadEarlier this month I shared a post with 20 questions about mom that I asked Toby; it was really cute to see his answers.  So, for Father’s Day, I thought we’d recreate the list of questions, but this time ask the questions about daddy!

1. What is something dad always says to you?
I love you.

2. What makes dad happy?
That I play with him.

3. What makes dad sad?
That I don’t listen.

4. How does your dad make you laugh?
He plays with me.

5. What was your dad like as a child?
When he was none, then he was one, two, three, four, five…

6. How old is your dad?
Like 100!

7. How tall is your dad?

8. What is his favorite thing to do?
I don’t remember, but I probably know. … play with me!

9. What does your dad do when you’re not around?

10. What is your dad really good at?
Playing tennis.

11. What is your daddy not very good at?

12. What does your dad do for a job?
I don’t know what he does. He sits down and works.

13.What is your dad’s favorite food?
Some broccoli.

14.What makes you proud of your dad?
When I work with him.

15. If your dad were a character, who would she be?
I don’t know. Maybe a fire engine!

16. What do you and your dad do together?
I sometimes go in the back with him, and I dig…

17. How do you know your dad loves you?
If Daddy builds a train track with me, that means he loves me.

18. What does your dad like most about your mom?
That she cooks dinner.

19. Where is your dad’s favorite place to go?
To up north.

20. How old was your dad when you were born?

21. If your dad becomes famous, what will it be for?
For playing with me.

22. How are you and your dad the same?
That I like to show daddy the bottom feeder. Daddy likes to build the playground with me. I like to build a snowman and throw snow at him.

23. How are you and your dad different?
I like to eat cereal and he doesn’t all the time.

Okay, so we did a little better with these questions a second time through, but I’ll admit he still didn’t want to focus on answering the questions.  Other things called.

Happy Father’s Day

I thought it was fitting to share this on Father’s Day, in honor of my husband and dads everywhere.  Thank you, sweetie, for all your hard work, for the times you make our boys smile and laugh, and the ways that you are a good role model for them.  It is a blessing to have these boys, and a joy to be raising them with you.  Here’s to many more years of parenting together!

Quick + Easy Oatmeal Cookies (GF Recipe)

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The other night we whipped up some cookies, and, as usual, I improvised the recipe.  This quick and easy oatmeal cookie recipe is based on Clean Green Simple’s Oatmeal Cookie recipe.  Except I had about 3/4 cup of gluten-free bisquick that I was trying to use up.  Because, honestly, what can you make with that little? Now I know… oatmeal cookies!

Don’t they look tasty?


I pulled out these lovely teal cloth napkins just to photograph the cookies.  They were my grandmother’s (read my blog post about her – Legacy of a Truly Excellent Woman).  And in case you’re wondering why there aren’t more cookies… well, by the time I got around to photographing them, this is all we had left.  Seriously.


Since I made up the recipe on the fly, I wasn’t quite sure if the oatmeal cookies would be fluffy or thin and dense.  They did puff up some, and ended up being nice and moist inside too!bphotoart-oatmeal-cookies-5881

Just a few more pictures of these oatmeal cookies, then I’ll get you the recipe.  I promise it doesn’t take long to make them up.  The hardest part was waiting for them to cool!

I love oatmeal cookies.  And these are good add-ins like raisins (or, if you’re my husband, gumdrops) too.  Or just plain.  Mmmmmm.


Okay, I promised my recipe.  Here’s the quick and easy oatmeal cookie recipe.

Quick + Easy Oatmeal Cookie Recipe


  • 3/4 c. gluten-free Bisquick*
  • 1 3/4 c. rolled oats
  • 1 T flaxmeal
  • 3/4 c. applesauce
  • 1/3 c. honey
  • 1/4 c. oil
  • 1 T vanilla
  • a dash of salt
  • Optional – 3/4 c. raisins or gumdrops


  • Preheat oven to 375 F.
  • Combine all dry ingredients except optional add-ins.
  • Add all wet ingredients, stir to combine.
  • Stir in optional add-ins.
  • Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto lined baking sheet (we use silicone baking sheets – amazing!!).
  • Bake for 13-19 minutes – remove when edges begin to brown; let rest for 5 min or cool enough to handle.
  • Makes 20 cookes (2-2.5″ diameter).

*A note about the use of Bisquick.  You don’t have to use bisquick – just sub it out for 1/4 t. baking soda and 3/4 c. flour of your choice (gluten free if desired).

And what was the verdict?  Well, our enthusiastic eaters approved of these cookies.  I love that this recipe can be not only gluten free, but free of refined sugar too, if you use normal flour rather than the Bisquick (who knew that Bisquick had sugar in it… before this, not me!).

The texture of the oats more than made up for (dare I say, covered over?) the usually distinctive taste of gluten free rice/potato flour blend that was used to make the gluten free Bisquick.

My husband, who is picky about his gumdrop cookies, gave the shrug of approval, as if to say, “not my standard go-to, but not bad.”  My toddler LOVED his cookie, and wanted seconds (we had to decline, since it was just before bed).

These went really well with a nice glass of cold milk. Just saying.

What’s your favorite kind of cookie?  Have you ever improvised a recipe on the fly?  How did it turn out?

5 Reasons We Love the Ann Arbor Hands On Museum

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I have many fond memories of the Ann Arbor Hands On Museum as a child. My girl scout troop had a lock-in there (we got to sleep on the 4th level of exhibits!), we had numerous field trips… and now I get to take my boys to experience the museum as well!  This post has actually been months in the making… I kept pushing it back in the schedule and I’m not sure why.  Maybe it’s because there is so much to do and see, or because the Hands on Museum keeps changing and updating their exhibits.  Whatever the reason, no more excuses!

These pictures are from a year ago, so it’s a bit of a trip down memory lane.  Toby looks so little, it’s amazing to see just how much kids grow in a year’s time.  And of course, Zack hadn’t arrived yet either.  A lot changes in a year.

Anyways, the Hands On Museum.  I wanted to share 5 reasons why we love it.

1. The museum encourages curiosity about how things work.

This is a biggie for me.  Growing up, my favorite books were “The Way Things Work” and an illustrated first aid book.  I was always asking: “why?”  I wanted to know how the world worked.  And I see that same natural curiosity in my boys.  Toby asks why a lot — and I don’t want to dissuade him from being interested in how the world works… but I admit sometimes the constant “why?” question does get old.  So we’ve come up with a solution — he has to ask what we call “why questions” or sentences.  It can’t just be “why?” — but needs to be a complete thought.  So far, that approach has worked pretty well!

2. There is a toddler room with age appropriate activities.

Before this room existed (years ago), all of the exhibits were child friendly, but many were geared towards older kids.  And during the day, when the museum became filled with children, it could be tough for the little ones to explore amidst the big kids.  The toddler room gives little ones a place to play …without worrying about being bowled over by older children.  There’s even a baby zone, for extra little ones.  We have spent many hours in this one room; Toby loves the ball whatchamacallit that has a conveyor belt, ramps, drop zones, and of course buckets for collecting the balls.  Also popular?  The toddler water table.  Two parent-friendly features that I really appreciate are the fact there’s a family restroom right off the toddler room (so you don’t have to pack up and leave just for a potty break), and that there is always a staff person monitoring the toddler room (to keep kids from leaving with out their adult)

3. It is a great option for winter excursions.

During the long winter months, it’s tough to keep from going stir crazy inside the house.  Since the Hands On Museum is about 15 minutes away from us, we would frequently bundle up and venture to downtown Ann Arbor for a fun playdate — either with friends, or just on our own. If we got out of the house as planned, we’d usually arrive just when the museum was opening.  Perfect for us, as it wasn’t yet busy, and we could plan around naps and lunch.  Sometimes it’s just good to get out of the house.  And the Hands On Museum can be a great place to go.

4. Membership options can include guest passes.

As a birthday present one year, we got a family pass to the the Handsn Museum — one that included guest passes too.  It was really nice to be able to introduce other friends to the Hands On Museum and not feel bad about finding out if they had a pass before inviting them.  We like to take care of our friends, and for the small upgrade fee in our membership, this option was totally worth it.  Plus, grandparents can take the kids too!  I think there’s also a named caregiver option as well, but since i watch the boys during the daytime, that was never really of any concern for us personally.

5. Making memories here is nostalgic.

Most people who grew up in this area have been to the Hands On Museum themselves — and since it’s been around for so long, many local parents my age have fond memories of going to the Hands On Museum as children.  It is so much fun to see your own child get excited about the same things that you fondly remember from childhood.  The ambulance is a classic, as is the working cut-away toilet, and the skeleton pedaling the bicycle too.  There are many new things to explore at the Hands On Museum, but one thing is sure — your child will definitely have fond memories of this place once they are grown.

The Ann Arbor Hands On Museum has over 250 hands-on exhibits that cover a variety of topics:  science, technology, engineering, art, math.  The Museum is open daily, and if you’re worried about it being crowded, you can always call ahead to see if there are any school field trips scheduled to arrive that day.

Make Your Own Fabric Play Fort Kit!

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Make Your Own Fabric Play Fort Kit for Hours of Imaginative Play!As a child, I loved making forts with my brother — we would remove the cushions from our sofa and reconfigure things to make a fort with a roof, windows, and even a door (another cushion).  This play fort kit is inspired by those memories, as I wanted to give my boys something that would inspire them to play creatively and use their imaginations.

What better way to do that than by playing fort?  Sadly, we don’t have couches that are conducive to making cushion forts (yes, I’ve tried, amusingly).  So this fort kit seemed like the next best option.

My toddler has enjoyed making blanket forts with me — but the downside of blankets is that they’re so heavy.  It’s almost impractical to use a heavy blanket for spanning wider spaces — sheets would work much better.

So, when we had to retire our master bedroom sheet set, I decided to salvage some of the fabric and turn it into pieces of fabric for a fort kit.

There was no formula, no measuring.  I cut the sheets up into random sized squares (well, rectangles, mostly).  The fitted sheet too — I trimmed off the elastic so the fabric could lie flat.

Since woven fabrics tend to fray, I did finish the edges.  You could use your sewing machine to sew a hem around each piece, or if you have a serger, just serge the edges.  Pinking shears (the scissors that cut a zig zag pattern) would have also worked.

Anyways, once the pieces were finished, I looked at the pile of fort fabric and decided we needed a bag to keep everything together.  So, I folded a long rectangle of fabric in half, and sewed it closed on three sides to make a bag.  Then, I added a drawstring to the open end.

Being the overachiever that I am, I also decided to decorate the bag so no one would be confused as to what it was for.  So I used permanent marker to write: “Fabric Play Fort” on the bag.  If you decide to decorate with permanent marker (or paint…anything that will go through multiple layers of fabric), make sure to put a piece of cardboard behind the fabric so that your decoration doesn’t bleed through.

Finally, we had some PVC pipe frames that were at one point used as laundry hampers.  They’ve been commandeered for use with the fort kit.  Or for use as a bear cave, or boats, you name it.  I love how easy it is to repurpose stuff when you’re focusing on imaginative play!

Here are some more pictures of the fort kit.  Click on any image below to enter gallery view mode, or hover over an image to read the captions.

We’ve already gotten a lot of mileage out of this fabric play fort.  And Toby has used it for more than just fort building too!  One day, the fabric pieces became a cape and wings, another day they were strewn on the floor to make a nest inside a cave… the imagination knows no limits.

I love that this fort kit was so simple to create.  You really don’t need the stow bag, and if you didn’t care about frayed ends, you could really skip the step of finishing the edges too.  Hey, while we’re at it, you could just get a cheap sheet set and leave it fully intact for use as a fabric play fort kit, right?  Stuff the sheets in the pillowcase for storage, and you’re done!

And, as a bonus?  My non-napping toddler was more than enthusiastic about taking a nap in the fort tent we made.  Naptime was easy, and as I was snuggled up under the fort, basking in the afternoon sun that streamed through the window, I was grateful for the new memories I get to make with my kids every day.

The pieces of fabric were tied together around the chair and clothes tree; the other end was shut into the dresser drawer.
The pieces of fabric were tied together around the chair and clothes tree; the other end was shut into the dresser drawer.


Do you have a favorite childhood memory that involved imaginative play?  Did you ever make forts as a kid?  Do you think your kids would like this fabric play fort idea?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

How to Make Boxes from Greeting Cards

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I don’t remember exactly when I learned to make boxes from greeting cards, but I do remember where I was taught and who was there.  It was a family gathering, around Christmastime.

For whatever reason, one of my extended relatives was teaching us how to make these neat boxes.  I think it was because she had given a gift in a greeting card box and everyone was really impressed.

Once you learn how to make these, you’ll agree with me — making boxes from cards is fun and easy!bphotoart-greeting-card-boxes-

Step 1: find an old greeting card, or an extra one you won’t need for its original purpose anymore.

Step 2: Cut the card in half, at the fold line.  If you’ve got skills, like me, you could even gently tear it in half.  Your call.


Step 3: Find a ruler and line it up along the edge of the card.  Use a pen to draw a fold/cut line on the card.  I just used the width of the ruler, but you could measure in 1″ if you want.  This measurement will determine how tall your box is.



Step 4: Next, you’ll want to make four cuts along the lines you just made.  DO NOT cut the whole length — just cut in to where the two lines intersect.  You will be folding all the other lines, as shown below.


Step 5: Now it’s time to put the box together. Fold the sides of the box in, and then flip up the remaining part of the box side.  Take a peek at the visual below to see what I mean.


Step 6: Secure the flaps you just folded with tape, or glue them if you prefer.  I’m lazy and use clear tape, as shown below.  You can tape the inside and outside, or just the outside, depending on how sturdy you want the box to be.


Step 7: Repeat Steps 2-6 for the other half of the card so that you can have a box lid!


Note that your box top and bottom will be the exact same size, so there may be a little warping/bending of the bottom as you fit them together.  You can solve this if you want, by trimming a slim piece (1/16″ or so) of the width and length of the “bottom” card piece before getting started. Again, it’s all about priorities, and whether you want to spend the extra energy doing this.


Toby had lots of fun putting the boxes together and taking them apart again.  he also started playing with them as boats, which prompted another greeting card-based activity, which i’ll be blogging about a bit later… bphotoart-greeting-card-boxes-1503

We made many boxes, and Toby had fun stacking them.  Wouldn’t these be cute for delivering little gifts?


There you have it.  I told you this was pretty easy.  And it’s addicting too.  Here are a few snapshots from that first year we learned how to make the greeting card boxes.  My mom and I got a little carried away with it.  Or maybe not.  Your guess is as good as mine!



You don’t have to limit yourself to using a particular season of greeting card.  These ones were made from Christmas cards, but you could make greeting card boxes from wedding cards, baby shower cards, birthday cards,…. well, you get the idea.

Do you have any nifty ways to repurpose old greeting cards?  If so, I’d love to hear about your ideas in the comments below.

Learn About Jaggies (Graph Paper Coloring Activity)

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bphotoart-learn-about-jaggiesFor Today’s ABCs of Photography, we’re learning about a slang term for pixelization: “jaggies.”  The term refers to how a computer uses square pixels to create diagonal and curved lines.

The more pixels there are in a line, the smoother the line will appear.

And the opposite is true too.

The fewer pixels there are, the more the jagged the line will appear.



See where the term comes from?

Now, for practical applications.  Color by numbers are a good way to understand this concept!

So we’re going to get out a piece of graph paper, and a plain piece of paper.

First, have your child draw a design with curved lines on the plain piece of paper.

Next, put the graph paper over top. If you can’t see the design through the graph paper, tape both sheets up on the window.

Now it’s time for the fun part.  Have your child trace the design onto the graph paper, but with one rule —

They have to follow the straight lines of the graph paper.

Easier said than done, I know.  But just give it a shot.  You may find the end result to be more recognizable than you’d think.

Here’s an example of how this shows up in a digital image that has been resaved at a very low resolution:

Learn About Jaggies With this Graph Paper  Coloring Activity!
Image by Liselotte Brunner from Used with permission.



Make sure to check back next week for the next post, where I’ll share an activity for the letter K. You might also enjoy revisiting last week’s activity where we learned about hue.

The ABCs of Photography - An Educational Series for KidsJoin Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography!  We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids

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Learn About Hue (+printable)

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Learn About HueThis week we’ll be learning about hue for our ABCs of Photography series.  What is hue?

Hue refers to color.  It can be tricky to explain if you look at the technical definition… like the one found at Steve’s Digicams:

Hue is the color part of color. When we say a color is blue, purple, or yellow, we’re generally talking about hue. Technically, hue is “the degree to which a stimulus can be described as similar to or different from stimuli that are described as red, green, blue, and yellow (the unique hues).”

But hue is a little more easy to understand when you consult

1. a gradation or variety of a color; tint: pale hues.

2. the property of light by which the color of an object is classified as red, blue, green, or yellow in reference to the spectrum.

3. color: all the hues of the rainbow.

4. form or appearance.

Hue describes the color, is what allows us to tell red from green, yellow from blue.  It is how we distinguish different colors!

One way to explain hue is to open an image editing program such as Adobe Photoshop (PS Elements 13 #afflink).  Usually there is some sort of Hue/Saturation adjustment option, like I’ve shown below:


You’ll notice three sliders. hue, saturation, and lightness.  The lightness slider is similar to the tonal ranges lwhen we learned about grayscale.  Saturation is how much color or how little, and hue is the specific color (as in ROYGBIV) of the tone.

We’re going with another simple coloring page today.Print it out and try to duplicate the hues with whatever media you’d like – crayons, acrylic, markers, colored pencils, etc.  Then, go out into nature with your printable, and look around.  See what hues you can find in real life that match (or closely approximate) the hues you’ve colored.

Here’s the printable (download links just below the picture):


Download Hue Printable PDF / JPG


Make sure to check back next week for the next post, where I’ll share an activity for the letter J (learn about jaggies). You might also enjoy revisiting last week’s activity where we learned about grayscale.

The ABCs of Photography - An Educational Series for KidsJoin Betsy as she works through the alphabet in this educational series for kids… The ABCs of Photography!  We’ll cover topics from A to Z, with activity ideas for both younger and older kids

Sign up for emails to get each week’s blog update delivered to your inbox, which will include future posts in this series.

DIY Travel First Aid Kit

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bphotoart-diy-travel-first-aid-kitEvery parents needs a mini first aid kit in their purse, backpack, or diaper bag.  I can’t count the number of times we’ve needed “ouchy cream” (home-crafted healing salve) to soothe a boo boo, or a bandage for an accidentally scraped knee.  And sure, they sell first aid kits of all sizes.  I’ve bought a number of those travel first aid kits myself.  But, the thing is, most of them come with a sampling of items — more of a one time use — and it doesn’t usually have much space to hold the supplies we need.

Here are a couple nice ones, if you want to give them a shot before making your own. A sidenote: I’ll be sharing #afflinks to Amazon in this post, mostly for your convenience, in case you want to buy any of the goodies mentioned.

But if you want to create a custom first aid kit that will be the perfect fit for you, then keep reading.  To make this nifty kit, I pillaged some items from around the house.  Specifically, the items below:

Yes, I happened to have all that stockpiled among our various medicine cabinets.  Oh, and there’s one more thing you’ll need. An empty Altoids tin.  In case you’re wondering what tin has white and green, that was an Ice Chips (Immunity) tin.  But apparently you can buy empty survival tins on Amazon too.  Your choice.

So, once I had my tin ready, and my supplies, I crammed as many goodies as I could fit into that small tin.  Your mileage will vary, just make sure to include the things that you tend to use most frequently during first aid incidents.

If you want, you can use some clear packing tape to put a pretty “First Aid Kit” sign on the front of the tin.  I’ve even made a free printable for you so that this project can be really easy.  Here it is below!  Download the JPG or PDF, print, and cut out around the black line.

From Altoids Tin to Travel First Aid Kit (plus printable label!)
Download First Aid Kit Label: JPG / PDF

So, there you have it!  An easy first aid kit that is portable and totally customizable.  Make one, make a few, or churn out a bunch to give away.  Your call.

What are your “must haves” in a first aid kit?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

10 Ways to Decorate Easter Eggs

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10 Ways to Decorate Easter EggsOne of my favorite parts about spring is celebrating Easter.  And with Easter, comes the necessity of making Easter eggs.  Over the years, I’ve enjoyed decorating eggs a number of different ways — but the traditionally dyed hard boiled eggs, along with hand-blown eggs, are my favorites.

I’ll get into the details of how we do things in a little bit, but first I wanted to help inspire you for the Easter egg decorating season.  So I’ll be sharing some images of Easter Eggs decorated in ten different ways!

But first, a little teaser about what we’re doing this year with our Easter eggs.  This one is my own concoction — and I’ll be sharing in more detail (with pictures) sometime in the next few weeks.  But, it’s actually not too complicated to adhere a photo to an Easter egg.  And if you combined this with the hand-blown egg process, it could be an adorable Easter gift for grandparents to receive!

Each of these ten different ideas for decorating was actually based on a different stock photo that I came across while looking for some images to use — and once inspiration struck, I couldn’t help myself.

So, rather than recreate each of the photos myself, I decided to share these “found photographs” (which are, of course, used with permission from

Now, without further ado, let’s get onto the 10 ways you can decorate Easter eggs!

1. Decorate Easter eggs with seed beads.

I haven’t done this myself, but I loved the look of these Easter eggs that had been decorated with seed beads.  What a unique and creative way to decorate Easter eggs!  Now, this activity might be suited for older kids or adults, but I could see adapting the activity to be suitable for younger kids by using pony beads or sequins.

Image from Used with permission.
Easter eggs decorated with beads.
Image from Used with permission.

2. Use pearls and silver cording to decorate Easter eggs.

This option also caught my eye as an alternate Easter egg method.  I imagine you’d use hot glue or something to easily adhere the pearls and the silver cord (or ribbon).  This activity would be doable for younger kids, although you might want to leave off the cording (or maybe put that on prior to having your kids get started.

Image from Used with permission.
Easter eggs decorated with cording and pearls.
Image from Used with permission.

3. Tried and true – just dye your Easter eggs.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with dying Easter eggs solid colors.  When put together, they look fantastic and add cheer to any Easter basket.  I’ve always used either an Easter egg kit or normal food coloring to dye Easter eggs, but I hear there are some fun natural food dyes you can use as well.

Image from Used with permission.
Simple dyed Easter eggs.
Image from Used with permission.

4. Crochet Easter egg decorations.

If you or your kids likes to work with yarn, you could always try your hand at making crochet Easter eggs.  This intricate lace egg ornament caught my eye, and I imagine it took quite a lot of time and skill to create.  But, there are simpler patterns for eggs made from yarn too.  Here is a pattern I found on Amazon for Elegant Easter Eggs (#afflink).

Image from Used with permission.
Crocheted Easter egg ornaments.
Image from Used with permission.

5. Make hand-blown Easter egg ornaments

This is one of my favorite ways to do Easter eggs.  You poke two holes in a raw egg (one at each end), and gently blow into one hole…and the raw egg will come out the other hole… giving you a hollow eggshell you can decorate in any way you like.  You could dye the shells, paint them, the sky’s the limit.  If you want, you can also thread a slim ribbon through the holes in the eggshell to make an Easter ornament that can be hung anywhere!

Image from Used with permission.
Hand-blown Easter egg ornaments.
Image from Used with permission.

6. Draw wax patterns on Easter eggs.

You can paint intricate patterns on an Easter egg, of course.  The wax application will keep the dye from taking in certain areas, allowing subsequent dips in dye to add to the different color patterns.  The ones in this photo are on the simpler side, but still reminiscent of pysanky (extremely intricate Hungarian eggs that can take 80 hours to complete).  Last year, we used white crayon to draw on the eggs before dying them — Toby’s pattern at that point was an abstract squiggle. It still turned out to be cute (at least for anyone related to Toby!).

Image from Used with permission.
Easter eggs with intricate wax designs.
Image from Used with permission.

7. Write words on plain eggs.

I found this photo with words written on eggs — they’re in German, and in case you’re wondering, the words are the names of different colors (green, red, blue, etc).  I thought a neat extension of this would be to write each child’s name on a set of eggs before hiding them for the Easter egg hunt.  You know, to make things more fair.  But you could also write Bible verses or other things of significance too.

Image from Used with permission.
Easter eggs with words on them.
Image from Used with permission.

8. Make smiley face Easter eggs.

I thought this one was really cute!  Especially with the googly eyes, don’t you think?  The facial features could be painted on or drawn with crayon/marker.  I think this take on Easter eggs could be a great activity for kids of any age.  Use glue for the eyes, or maybe frosting if you wanted it to be more food safe.

Image from Used with permission.
Easter eggs that have been dyed then decorated with smiley faces.
Image from Used with permission.

9. Paint intricate designs on Easter eggs.

These eggs are somewhat similar in intricacy to the wax resist eggs, but only require one session in the dye bath.  Then you would use paint to add in all the other traditional detailing and patterns.  Younger kids could make simpler patterns, or even just stripes of paint.

Image from Used with permission.
Easter eggs decorated with traditional painted designs.
Image from Used with permission.

10. Make ribbon-wrapped Easter eggs.

I love this concept.  It’s easy to do, and looks really classy.  Plus, there’s no need to work with messy dyes or paint.  You just need some lengths of ribbon and maybe some glue or frosting to stick things together.  Don’t these look neat?

Image from Used with permission.
Easter eggs decorated with ribbons.
Image from Used with permission.

What are your ideas?

If you have more ideas on how to decorate Easter eggs, I’d love to hear them! Please share in the comments section below!

Creative-Activities-for-Kids-Monthly-Blog-Hop-300x300Creative Easter Activities for Kids

This post is part of the Creative Activities for Kids monthly blog hop.

A Gift Guide to Inspire – 56 Different Things To Give As Gifts

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a gift guide to inspire - 56 different things to give as gifts - betsy's photography - http://bphotoart.comLast year I got the opportunity to evaluate and review a bunch of different products. They ranged from baby items and kitchen gadgets to tech gear and art stuff.  This list is the result of that experiment… 56 random things you may find useful — either as gifts, or for yourself.

I’m sharing this in the hopes that you find it helpful as you brainstorm gift ideas — I know that we have relatives who are always tricky to shop for — and a random list like this is just the thing that helps get my brain churning out ideas!

Note: I received one or more of these products gratis in exchange for an honest evaluation; opinions expressed are 100% my own.  #afflinks are included below where relevant — no additional charge to you, but I earn a small % on the sale. 

Hango Lunch Bags – We’ve been using this nice set of two lunch bags for our car picnics (as shown above), and the smaller lunch bag accompanied us on the plane flight to Florida.  I originally received the pink set, which for some reason smelled very much of plastic (off-gassing).  The company kindly sent us the black set to try instead, and I was pleased to discover the black Hango lunch bags did not smell (so we could use them!).  Toby promptly claimed the little lunch bag as his own.

Acrylic Paint Set (Ander Blake) – I love any chance to get creative.  And getting to try out these acyrlic paint sets did just that.  I’ll be doing a full out blog post with an activity where we used these soon, so keep an eye out!

50 oz Glass French Coffee Press – I was really excited to try out this French coffee press.  But not for coffee — I’m a fan of loose leaf tea.  And it seems like we never brew enough with one teapot when we’re having company.  So the capacity on this French press is fantastic. What’s even nicer?  No plastic comes in contact with the tea while it’s steeping, so if you’re one to worry about that sort of thing, this would be the perfect French press for you.  Although it’s dishwasher safe, I’ve just been handwashing it (very easy to clean).  It’s amazing how much more often I want to make tea now that we have this to steep it in!

Fractionated Coconut Oil – I was excited to use this as a carrier oil for my essential oils!  It’s been really nice to have a liquid form of coconut oil for that purpose.  I also enjoy using it as a moisturizer in our foaming soap dispenser (with Dr. Bronner’s castile soap).

Texting Gloves – now that it’s getting warmer I almost don’t need to wear these anymore, but I have stowed them in my coat pockets for “just in case.”  With smartphones it is so annoying to wear gloves (unless you have “smart” gloves like these.

Liquid Chalk Markers – I’m planning to use these to decorate our windows for springtime, it will be a fun activity for me and Toby (and easy to clean up when we need to take it down).

Buddha Board – “master the art of letting go”

We tried out two different teething necklaces.  First, the Silicone Teething Necklace with 5 silicone beads.  It has a slim profile, aside from the beads, which are the perfect size for Zack to grab onto and chew furiously.  I found that the cording got a little slimy at times from slobber, but aside from that, it was fantastic.  Next, we tested the Beabies Teething Necklace and Bracelet set.  I was really pleased with how these pieces looked, and Zack loved chomping on the silicone beads too.  Both necklaces have safety clasps, understandably, and the bracelet is elasticized for easy on/off (maybe a “which side you nursed on last” reminder?).

Organic Dandelion Root Tea – This tea has been a go-to for me the past week or so.  I’ve enjoyed brewing a quart of it, drinking a portion as hot tea in the morning, and then transferring the remainder to a glass water bottle for hydration as iced tea throughout the rest of the day while on the go. It’s actually gotten me to drink more water, so I’m thrilled about that.  There are some purported health benefits too.

LED Emergency Flashlight – I had to guard this well, as my toddler absolutely loves flashlights.  This LED flashlight, after testing, was immediately put into my car for emergency use only.  It takes 3 AAAs, has three light modes (normal flashlight, white light panel, and red flashing panel). There are a few comfort features like a rubber grip, a wrist strap. And, after reading the directions, I discovered that the base is magnetic so you can stick it on your car if needed.  How cool!

Supernova Orion Ultimate Survival Rechargeable LED Lantern and Power Bank – Continuing the flashlight theme, this camping lantern is fantastic.  It has a powerbank built into the base, so in addition to lighting your campground (or house, if the power is out), you can plug your electronics in and get recharged.  There are a number of light settings (high, medium, red, flashing red) that the lantern cycles through at the press of a button.  The whole thing turns on/off when you expand/collapse the lantern, which is really neat.  And then the lantern has two metal handles that fold down for compact storage.  While I hope we don’t have another power outage soon, this time I’ll be prepared!

ABX Yoga Towel – While I like the cushion that a yoga mat provides, I’m not a big fan of how the plastic feels against my skin – either sticky or slippery, depending the intensity of a workout.  With this yoga towel, that issue is eliminated!  The towel has non-slip grippy dots on the backside, a little pocket in the corner for stowing a tissue, and even has a mesh stow bag.

BBQ Brush with Scraper – My husband had been needing a new scraper for the grill, so he was happy to give this product a run for its money.  The brush handle is molded plastic, and pretty standard, so far as those things go.  It works well, and got our grill clean enough to grill dinner on!

Tutti Bimbi Baby Food Freezer Storage Tray – this silicone freezer tray is fantastic.  While we’re not really doing baby food, I have been using it to freeze everything from breastmilk to tomato paste.  It’s great for making little portions for easy use later… the tray has 9 slots that hold 2.5 oz each, so it’s just perfect for anything you need a little of when cooking (hence the tomato paste).

Firstchefpro Julienne Peeler – This peeler has two blades, one for julienning, the other for normal peeling.  It is sturdily constructed, and I have enjoyed using it to add carrots to our salads.

Verilux Cleanwave Portable Sanitizing Wand – This handheld wand is a little bulkier than a foot long ruler, but it travels really well and can be used to sterilize surfaces in a short amount of time.  The want has an auto-off feature for the light (so that when it is not turned face down, the light temporarily turns off).  The main drawback?  You can’t store the batteries in the wand.

Bobee Polka Dot Wall Decals – we were excited to use these decals to decorate Toby’s room — since he moved to his big boy room before Zack was born, we haven’t done much in the way of decorating.  I love that the decals are removable and reusable.

Birth Announcement Baseball – forget the old-fashioned way of displaying birth stats on a blanket or pillow — you can have your child’s birth stats laser engraved on a baseball instead!  We’ll be doing a follow-up blog post with this cool photo prop, but make sure to check it out in the meantime.

K2R-803 Cell Phone Charger with Flashlight – While powerbanks are numerous these days, this particular powerbank is neat because it includes a flashlight — just in case you need one when you’re on the go.  It also has dual USB charging ports; it would be perfect for camping or traveling when you can’t be sure of finding an electrical outlet.

Happy Fingers Gloves – These knife-resistant gloves work well, although the sizing may limit who can use them (my husband can’t fit them on his hands, they fit snugly on mine).

Portable Kettlebell – Toby enjoyed helping me fill this portable kettlebell with some beans so we could make a video review.  It worked pretty well!  Note that it’s not waterproof, so you can’t fill it with water (I didn’t read the directions and discovered this while filling it with water at the sink. Lesson learned.

Matcha Tea Ceremony Set – if you’re a matcha green tea fan, you’ll likely fall in love with this tea ceremony set. I liked how the whisk made it easy to keep the powdered matcha tea from clumping.  This is so much better than trying to make it in an American teacup with a fork!

Camping Folding Shovel Pick With Compass – This is a neat survival tool, it’s about the size of your hand (well, unless you have small hands).  The entire thing folds down into a pouch for storage or transport, and if needed you can quickly assemble the tool.  The compass is in the handle, and there are two hinged parts – the pick and the shovel blade — you choose which configuration you need for the task at hand.  This is definitely going to be a staple in my camping and outdoor pack.

Zim’s Crack Creme – I am loving this natural remedy that, when applied topically, is actually healing the fissures/cracks in my heels and fingers.  Deep cracks are painful and take forever to heal, but this stuff has really been impressive.  I even found a pack of 4 Zim’s Crack Creme on Amazon — this might be a future gift idea for some people I know.

White Angel New Bone China Tea Set with Cup Hanger – I haven’t decided where this lovely tea set will live in our home yet, but it is very classy and elegant. It almost makes me want to have a little tea party. My toddler loves the teacups and has been asking if he can drink water out of them.

Chew-Choos ‘Sweet pea’ Silicone Teething Necklace – This teething necklace has been a hit.  I like the modern style of the square (er, diamond, since they’re on an angle) beads, and the gray color is nice and grown-up.  My baby is loving how the silicone beads feel on his sore gums, and my toddler likes testing out the necklace when it’s not in use.  I am a big fan of low-maintenance jewelry.

Silicone Oven Mitts – These things are awesome.  I have tried silicone mitts and gloves before, but this is the first product that combines the silicone outer layer with an inner lining of padded “traditional” oven mitt material.  They grip really well, and hold onto hot things with ease.  No heat transfer whatsoever that I’ve noticed.  These will probably be my new go-to oven mitts.

Colore 26 Piece Sketch & Drawing Pencils Set – This is a great drawing set for anyone who wants to explore graphite drawing.  I have enjoyed using it, but it would be perfect for the beginning artist too.  There are numerous pencils in varying hardnesses, graphite sticks, charcoal too.  And, of course, no set would be complete without a sharpener.  More to come in a future blog post.

Cube Mobile Projector – This projector is, in one word, awesome.  It fits in the palm of my hand, and is about the size of a small apple.  I love that it connects to my phone or other device, and can play picture slideshows (even has a micro SD card slot).  The projection power is pretty impressive too, given the size.  I’ll be reviewing this in more detail for Professional Photographer magazine…but was so excited I had to share about it here too.

Pacifier Clip “Ladybird” – It’s so hard to keep track of pacifiers with little ones.  Or toys, for that matter.  Since neither of our boys really were attached to or needed their pacifiers, our pacifier clips have become toy tethers.  I’ll clip a toy onto Zack when we’re out so that it doesn’t fall onto the grimy floor, or simply out of reach.  This particular pacifier clip is nice because it features brightly colored wooden beads.  The clip itself is entertainment for baby!  Overall, it’s well made, and I anticipate this lasting us well through the baby phase for our kids (and maybe then getting passed on to another family).

Remo Recover Windows Media Edition – Have you ever had that sinking feeling where you just know you’ve lost some of your digital pictures? Well, I have, and it’s not pretty.  You can read about how my toddler reformatted my phone and I lost several months’ worth of photos (why you should back up your cell phone pictures regularly).  This Windows software will recover images from memory cards that have been reformatted, boot drives that won’t boot, and more.  There are a number of free options out there, but sometimes you get what you pay for.  I wish I’d known about this particular software when trying to recover my phone pictures.  But, as it stands, I’ve come to terms with that “loss.”

Masterclass Premium Hardcover Sketchbook – I’m a sucker for art supplies, if you hadn’t figured that out yet.  This sketchbook is really nice, and totally on par with most of the sketchbooks I’ve owned.  It’s 9×12, and has 100 sheets of 60lb sketch paper.  Great for most purposes!

‘+Lifeguard Mini 1 – This portable power bank is about the size of a tube of lipstick.  Perfect for stowing away in your purse …or diaper bag.  As soon as we got this one, I tried it out (worked great!), then stored it in my diaper bag for “just in case” my phone battery ever quits on me.  Because you know how inconvenient that can be, right?

Simplehold Smartphone Car Mount – I love this simple smartphone holder.  It clips onto any car vent, can rotate your phone 360, and since it’s spring loaded, you can get the phone in place pretty easily for a secure hold.  I use this pretty much daily; it makes navigation instructions much easier to see (and hear)… and when I’m not getting directions, it’s a great place to stow my phone so it doesn’t get lost in the mess of kid stuff that seems to multiply inside my car.

Rainbow Pacifier Clip – This pacifier clip has a rainbow assortment of silicone beads like you will find on teething necklaces.  I love it. So does my little one (we’ve been using it as a toy tether though).

Nokhoo Laptop Bag – I got to review this lovely bag from Nokhoo Design. I shared some pictures of it on IG. Gorgeously handcrafted, it makes my laptop fun to carry again. I will be blogging about this in a bit more detail soon, becuase it is that fantastic!

Shower Genius Idea Board – We actually loved this product – but not for the use you might think.  Rather than being an idea board for me, it was claimed by my son as a bath toy for the kids’ tub.  The board uses an oil-based pencil, so drawings or notes won’t wash off unless you wipe them away with the included microfiber cloth.  Suction cups help hold everything on the wall.

Microfiber Hair Drying Towel – This hair towel is specifically shaped to form an easy and lightweight turban on your head.  It includes a button and elastic to hold everything in place without adding much extra weight to your head.  Very helpful if you have thick hair that needs to stay wrapped up for a while.

Entertainmount – with this non-permanent mount, you can turn your car and smartphone into a movie theater.  The innovative design allows for easy rotation of the smartphone between the back seats and front seat (passenger) use if needed. We only wish it came in tablet sizes.

BakeitFun Silicone Kneading Dough Bag – this is the best invention ever.  We found a bread-in-a-bag recipe, and used the dough bag instead of a mixing bowl, then sealed it up and kneaded everything together.  It worked amazingly!  And, equally important, the dough bag was easy to clean.  I anticipate this kitchen add-on seeing much use in the future.

Travel Tea Tumbler by Pekoe Tree – This 12 oz tumbler may be my new favorite way to drink tea (aside from a teacup).  It is a double-walled glass container with stainless steel diffuser, so you can have hot loose leaf tea on the go.  It comes with a neoprene sleeve for further insulation.  I often forget to drink my tea for an hour or two — and with this tumbler, it won’t be cold by the time I get around to drinking it.

Pratisphere Ice Sphere Molds – These molds are really cool – you can easily make 2.5″ diameter spherical ice cubes.  Perfect for an after dinner drink, or for adding to a child’s drink to make things more fun.  My husband is enjoying these with his scotch, my toddler likes to have an ice ball with his water.

Pop Chart Lab Poster – we ordered one of these posters for Toby’s room.  The one we selected has graphics of all the baseball jerseys — present designs and historical ones too.  There are a number of other poster design options – some I liked?  Visuals of different camera models, golf courses, cars, and kitchen utensils.

Bluetooth Talk n’ Walk Headphones – these headphones were great for listening to music (with no wires!)  …I was a little sad that the phone mic feature didn’t work well for me.  It sounded really muffled.  I’m wondering if it was just my particular phone or something.  Anyways, if you want to just listen to music, these headphones are great (they even have control buttons on the headphones so you don’t have to dig out your phone while you’re walking.

4 Baby Bandana Drool Bibs + Pacifier Clip – These bibs are adorable.  Seriously.  And they don’t look like bibs.  I ended up putting them on my little guy to use as booger wipes for a particularly snotty day… worked pretty well.  My only caveat? They aren’t meant to be dried in the dryer. Other than that, they’re super soft on the underside, fashionable on the front side, and easy to put on or take off (metal snaps).

‘My Little Big Pillow’ by Snugg Organic Pillows – This pillow is so comfortable that I almost want to claim it for myself.  But, it’s for Toby, since it’s toddler-sized.  I love that it’s hypoallergenic; it’s so soft and luxurious… and is bound to help bring sweet dreams.

FSL Decimate Ear Protection – These earmuffs are very comfortable, and block out sounds well.  A must if you’re mowing the lawn and want to save your ears!  Also, they’re useful if you decide to use the leaf blower to blow leftover mulch bits out of the grass into a big pile.

Kids Safe n Sound Ear Defenders – Toby loved getting to pick out his favorite color for these earmuffs.  He chose purple.  And when they arrived, it was perfect timing to help Daddy mow the lawn.  Usually pretty timid about loud noises, Toby wore these earmuffs outside without flinching or complaining about the noise at all.  A win in our book!  Another bonus is that these are adjustable to fit both kids and adults.

Loose Leaf Tea Infuser Set – If you haven’t figured it out, I’m a tea fan.  Loose leaf, to be exact.  So I was really excited to try out these tea infusers.  The silicone “leaf” design is whimsical, but the infusers are practical and easy to use.  My only caveat?  They trap a bit of an air bubble so that it floats on top of your water to steep unless you “help” it sink.  These also come with little drip saucers, so you can steep a second cup of tea later.

Loctek Dual Arm Full Motion Monitor Mount – I recently converted my desk to a standing desk, and needed to raise my monitors.  This mount has been the perfect solution — with the added bonus of easily adjustable monitors so that they can be lowered in seconds for seated use too.  It comes with options to mount to your desk via clamp or bolt — I used the clamp and it is working like a charm.  Fantastic product, and really great for freeing up my desktop surface …as well as providing multiple options for using the monitors!

Chilled Glory Whiskey Stones – These ice-cube sized stones are meant to be stored in the freezer until you’re ready to enjoy your whiskey, neat.  My husband enjoyed trying these but wished they would have chilled the drink a bit more quickly.  That being said, they definitely succeeded at not diluting the whiskey!

Quicklids Silicone Suction Lids + Food Covers – I’ve never been a fan of transferring food from a serving bowl to a storage container — mainly because it makes more clean up.  So we often skip the serving dish.  But with these nice silicone lids, I don’t have any qualms about using my serving dishes.  I also discovered the lids make a nice cover to keep food hot while you’re waiting to serve dinner.

Nu Sheep Wool Dryer Balls – An eco-friendly asset for your dryer, these dryer balls help shorten drying time, saving you electricity.  I’ve made my own, but these ones are more visually appealing, I have to admit.

Mega Mesh Premium Magnetic Screen Door – We installed this on our sliding door to the porch.  It’s been really nice to be able to walk in and out without worrying about getting the ill-fitting sliding screen in place.  The magnetic door panels attach with velcro to the edge of your door frame.  It was easy to install, and my toddler could figure out how to use it, but the cats have not (yet).

Mommy’s Time Out” – a bottle of wine with a fun name!  It was a decent wine and would be great light-hearted gift for a mom’s baby sprinkle (given the right company, of course).  In case you’re wondering about that term, “sprinkle” is a small gathering and celebration for moms who’ve already had one kid.  Since you only really have baby showers for the first child.

Taking a Selfie: 5 Tips + Tools

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If you take it from my toddler, the secret to taking a great selfie is to take many many photos.  Just push that button and keep going!  Here’s a sampling of the images I found on my smartphone the other day after Toby was finished using it to talk to his grandparents on the car ride home from doing errands.

Found a plethora of new pics on my phone… #toddler #selfie series #mommyproblems #Pixlr

A photo posted by Betsy Finn {} (@bphotoart_com) on

In all seriousness, cell phones cameras have become the go-to for getting snapshots and self portraits. So today I’m going to share some tips with you to help those smartphones and cameras be a little more useful when taking pictures.

Taking a Selfie - 5 Tips + Tools to Help You Take Better Self-Portraits1. Be steady

This one is a no brainer (hopefully), but you know to hold the phone steady… and that includes when you are pressing the shutter button. A lot of people do a great job at holding the phone still when composing their picture, but when it comes time to press that button, a jerky motion yields blurry images every time.

2. Use your flash

If there isn’t enough light, your selfie will be blurry.  Use the built in flash to add light. Did you know that your phone’s camera probably has a setting to turn on the flash so it goes off all the time?  If you enable that feature, you can use the flash even if the overall image didn’t need the additional light.  This will help your selfie be adequately exposed in the foreground too.

3. Use a timer

Another built-in feature you’ll probably find on your phone is the timer feature.  This allows for a delay between the time you press the shutter and when the smartphone takes the picture.  If you can find a place to prop up your phone, this can help you take a fun selfie.

4. Use a monopod

Think of it as an extendable arm — a monopod will allow you to get a better angle (and/or further away) when taking your selfie.  I received a Solo Stick Pro Gold to review — it came with a bluetooth shutter (see next tip), which was nice.  The monopod is very lightweight, and collapses down to fit in a diaper bag or larger purse.  Easy to extend, the solo stick includes a ball head mount for use with small cameras like the GoPro Hero #afflink (an awesome little video camera) or the Canon Powershot G16 #afflink (the current version of my favorite pocket camera).

5. Use a bluetooth remote camera shutter

If you have an Android phone, the bluetooth remote that I received with the solo stick works seamlessly.  If you have a bluetooth enabled device, you can use the camera 360 remote shutter to take pictures.  The device comes with an on/off switch on the side (to maximize battery life), a spot for attaching a lanyard or key fob, and two buttons – one for the camera 360 app and one for use with the default android camera shutter.  I was really happy with this remote shutter, it was easy to set up and use.  Only downfall I can see? It could fall apart quickly.  But, hey, for under $10, there is no point in complaining.

That wraps up my quick tips on taking selfies.

Well, not quite. I have one more.

6. Give your kid an alternate source of entertainment

If you don’t want to end up with 100 toddler selfies on your phone, you may want to keep them entertained some other way.  At least Toby didn’t take a video — my friend found a video of her purse spanning most of a recent grocery trip.  So, it may be better to set your child up with an app on the phone or tablet if you really need technology to entertain.  Due to a previous experience, I’m no longer locking my phone to keep Toby off it (read about how he reformatted my phone accidentally). But maybe an app like Smarty Preschool (for iPad) would be good.  It’s a curriculum-based education game for kids (2-6 years).  You get reports on your kid’s performance as they progress through different academic skills involving colors, matching, counting, and shapes.  The verdict is still out on the app, but we’re going to give it a run for its money on our next family vacation!

Note: I received one or more of these products gratis in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed are my own.

I’m Glad You *GLOW* To School With Me Valentine (+Printable)

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I'm Glad You *GLOW* To School With Me - Printable Valentine to Give With Glow SticksThis year marks a milestone for us — Toby’s first Valentine’s Day at school.  As we’ve geared up for Valentine’s Day with our Valentine Blessings activity and by making Heart Cracker Crisps, Toby has gotten understandably excited.  One of his big concerns was “will I get Valentines from my friends too?”

Why yes, that’s the plan.  And as we’ve gotten closer to the “big day” (the preschool class Valentine’s Day party), it was finally time to figure out what we were doing about making those Valentines.  Toby wanted to make something for his friends.  He also wanted to give them glow sticks like we played with earlier this month.

Between those two desires and a few neat “non candy” Valentine ideas I saw on Pinterest, we came up with this Valentine.  Each kid will receive one or two glow sticks ready for use, along with a printout of this hand-drawn Valentine (toddler approved).

Toby was all smiles when I pointed it out: “see, glow and grow sound similar, isn’t that silly!”  Hopefully his classmates get the play on words… but if not, oh well!

Since I already went through the effort of making these for Toby to share with his class, I thought to myself, “why not share the love?”  All you’ll need to do after printing these out is attach your glow sticks.

If you need a source for getting some good quality glow sticks, here’s a pack of 100 glow stick bracelets #afflink on Amazon that we reviewed and were pleased with.

While you could do any number of creative things to pair the glow sticks with their Valentine, here are some ideas we had:

  • punch a hole in the valentine and thread it through the glow stick, curved into bracelet form (this would activate the glow stick though, so unless you’re making these last minute…)
  • punch two holes in the valentine and thread the straight glow stick through
  • punch a hole in the valentine and tie it onto the glow stick with a ribbon
  • use tape to stick the glow stick to the back side of the valentine

For any of these that aren’t put into bracelet form, I’d probably attach the bracelet connector piece to one end, as we did for our valentines.

So, after printing out our valentines (on pink paper, of course), I cut the paper lengthwise, and left the remaining cuts for Toby to do.  He got some good scissor skills practice in!

Next, we punched two holes in each valentine — one at the top (through the “O” in “GLOW”) and the other at the bottom, near the two stick figures.  {Yes, I customized Toby’s valentines with his name… per teacher instruction we excluded any “to: so and so” fields.}  Here’s a picture of our half-finished valentines.


Toby couldn’t get enough of a grip on the hole punch to punch the holes on his own, so he got help on that step:


And then we put the glow sticks through the two holes — make sure to bend/curve the paper and keep the glow stick straight, otherwise it will “crack” and activate the glowing goodness.



Cute, huh!  My husband thought it was clever.  Bonus points!

Anyways, if you’ve like to download a free printable to use these for your child’s Valentine’s Day exchange, I’ve put together a generic printable for you.  Here’s what it looks like (see below) — well, the printable is an 8-up version.  Just underneath the image are links to download the 8-up valentine printable.


Download valentine printable sheet: PDF / JPG

As I said, the printout you’ll be downloading is set up to print out eight per sheet of 8.5″x11″ paper.  Depending on your printer’s margins, you may need to scale it down a bit.

These were actually really fun to make, and I’m glad we came up with a fun (non-candy) valentine that my toddler was excited to give his classmates.

What kind of valentines do your kids give?  I’d love to get more ideas or hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Why You Should Backup Your Phone Pictures Regularly

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Why You Should Backup Your Phone Pictures Regularly
Photo from Used with permission.

Take it from me… you want to back up your phone pictures regularly.  I know this from experience.  I learned the hard way.

It’s not like I lost that many images, in the big scheme of things. And it’s not like I lost the memories that those photos documented.  But still, the entire thing was preventable…. avoidable.

How I almost lost three months’ worth of phone snapshots

You see, I regularly back up my phone pictures to my hard drive, just as a precaution.  And I take advantage of an Android app that backs up my images to “the cloud” as well.  But when I got my new phone last fall, I neglected to set up the back-up feature.  But everything was hunky dory.  Until I decided to install a screen lock password for my phone (a judge ruled that police can access your phone’s data if it’s not password protected).  And when I set that up, I didn’t realize the default option for “reset phone and clear data after 10 failed attempts” was on.  Since I chose the pattern password unlock screen, my creative toddler was excited to find a “game” on the home screen of my phone, and he gleefully played it …for… you guessed it… all 10 attempts.

The phone was handed to me with a reset notification blaring in my face… and I unwittingly let it proceed to wipe my phone’s internal memory — as well as the micro SD card containing my precious snapshots.  I diligently went about getting my phone back in order.  And when I set the password screen this time, I made sure to uncheck that evil “reset everything” feature.  But for some reason my password was recorded wrong. So the phone had to be reset before I could use it again.  No problem.  Reset to factory defaults, easy enough.

So, two formattings later, I discovered my SD card no longer had my data on it.  I was upset and sad.  All those pictures… gone.  Well, aside from the ones I’d shared to Instagram or wherever else.  But, I was still hopeful.  You see, there are software programs out there that can recover data from damaged and reformatted cards.  And actually, when a card is reformatted, the data doesn’t disappear until new data is written over top of it.  So I was pretty optimistic about getting some pictures back.

Now, remembering which software I’d reviewed in the past was harder.  The first one I tried using was a complete bust. It recovered the names of every file, but nothing further. Nothing readable. Nothing practical.  I was so sad.

That night I got to thinking.

Yes, I love photographs. I love snapshots. I love how they draw me into the memory of that moment. I love how the image brings back the smells, sounds, and emotions of that split second, or even the entire experience.  I treasure my photos very much.  They remind me of the joy in my life, the wonderful family I have, and all that good stuff.


Yes, but.  My stuff does not define me.  Those pictures are only a representation, an mere reflection on the surface.  They are a glimpse into the depth of my life experiences.  I still have those memories, even without the photos.  I still remember.  The photos are not “the key” to accessing my past.  They merely represent it.  My life will not be lived in regret of this loss — in the big scheme of things, it’s insignificant.

With that, I felt at peace about everything.  I was content.

Come morning, I decided to try one other software program to see if it could restore any photos.  Just for kicks and giggles. I didn’t really expect to see anything.

Was I ever surprised.

Before my eyes, the software started pulling up image after image.  My heart fluttered a little in excitement, I will admit.  Yes, I’d accepted my “fate” — but this was good fortune indeed!  Some of the images recovered were partially corrupted, and others had a working thumbnail but corrupted main image.  I didn’t get everything back. Some of my favorite snapshots were still gone.

But consider how many were recovered — I was elated.  I’d say for the three month time period when my phone wasn’t backing up images, I probably took a thousand shots easily.  80% were recovered, in some form (including some partially corrupted ones I deemed “passable”).

The videos, on the other hand, were lost completely.  Unreadable.

At that point, though, I didn’t really care.

Some of my images had been rescued.  Some of the pictures I’d thought were lost forever had been found.  I’m glad that I didn’t lose everything.

What’s the moral of the story?

You need to be backing up your memories regularly.  You don’t want to lose everything.  Back up your phone pictures, if you care about them. Back up your pictures that you diligently store on your computer.  Storage space is cheap. You can buy 1 TB drives for under $100 (Western Digital has 1 TB internal HD and 1 TB external HD options #afflinks).  You can use cloud services.  There are ways to back things up.  I’ll probably cover that in more detail in a future post.

But for now, know that your images need to be stored securely. And backed up on a regular basis.

Otherwise you might lose your photo memories, like I almost did.

Have you had a close call, or experienced loss of your photographs?  Either digital or physical photos? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.


Heart Cracker Crisps

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Heart Cracker Crisps ...the easiest cracker recipe ever!l have to admit, when I made these crackers I was a bit sad I couldn’t try them (we’re doing the Whole30 this month).  But, my toddler loved the crackers, so they have to be good!

This recipe is so simple you will want to stock up on crackers.  It can be adapted for gluten free too.

So, what did we do?

Well, last month we hosted a number of parties, and we ended up with way too many burger buns.  I went ahead and made croutons with a dozen buns, but still had two dozen left.  What to do…

In my search for recipes to use up bread, I found several suggestions to make crackers.  And so I took that concept and winged it.

First we quartered the buns with a bread knife.  Then, we used a rolling pin to squish and flatten the quartered buns (psst.. lots of fun for toddlers!).  The flattened pieces were then put onto a few baking sheets and drizzled with olive oil.  After a generous sprinkling of salt, I placed the baking sheets in the oven to crisp up.

At this point, you could just eat them as is… but since we’d been reading about Valentine’s Day I decided to indulge my son’s enthusiam and make the crisps into hearts.

Doing so was pretty easy, since we used burger buns – once quartered they are lmost heart shaped.  With a paring knife, I trimmed off the corners of the bun’s outer edge, and then between those two corners I cut out a triangle.

Voila! A heart!

Toby was thrilled.  And he wanted to eat them right then and there.  Based on his enjoyment, I’d surmise that the cracker crisps are deliciously crunchy…

So here’s the recipe.  And make sure to check out the photos further down to see what we did (click any image to open in gallery view mode).

Heart Cracker Crisps Recipe


  • burger buns, bread, etc
  • olive oil
  • sea salt


  • Preheat oven to 200 F
  • Quarter the buns, then press flat or flatten with rolling pin.
  • Place pieces on baking sheets, then drizzle with olive oil (you could spread butter over top instead). Sprinkle with sea salt (or try cinnamon sugar!).
  • Bake until crisp and golden, about 10-20 minutes,checking frequently.
  • Let cool.
  • To make heart shape crackers, cut off corners of rounded edge of cracker, then cut out a triangle between those two corners.

Note: You could adapt this to include cinnamon sugar on top for a sweet treat!  To make gluten free crisps, just use gluten free buns.

So yeah! Three ingredient cracker crisps!  Perfect for any time of the year, or maybe a less sweet alternative to all the Valentine’s Day candy… your choice.

Have you made anything like these before?  Or maybe you have a great recipe for using up leftover bread… share in the comments below!


More Creative Valentine’s Day Activities for Kids:

Creative Valentine's Day Activities for Kids

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