Monday, June 29, 2015

15 Tips to Help You Take Better Photos of Your Family This Summer

Author: Alyssa Craig

Summertime means the kids are home, family reunions are coming and there will be plenty of opportunities for the family to spend time together and create memories. This is a great time to get out that camera and capture these moments so you can preserve them for years to come. These memories are important, so you want these pictures to come out clean, crisp, and freeze the emotions in time.

photography, summer

Whether you are a seasoned photographer or an amateur trying to become a little better, here are some things to keep in mind to improve your photography skills this summer:

1. Practice Every Day: Always have a camera with you, even if it is just the one on your phone. Make an effort to take pictures every day and pay attention to what works better and what techniques/settings you should stop using.

2. Hold Camera Properly: Support the lens by cupping your hand underneath it. With the other hand, grip the body of the camera. This will help to stabilize the camera and decrease the number of blurry pictures you produce.

3. Use Light to Your Advantage: Pay attention to where light is coming from. This means natural light, artificial light, and watch where shadows are being cast.

4. Read Your Camera’s Manual: This might seem silly or tedious, but it will go a long way if you take the time to learn how to use all the different settings and capabilities on your camera.

learning to take good pictures

6. Framing: Frame a scene or subject to lead the viewer’s eye to whatever you want the primary focus to be.

7. Shutter Speed: Fast action shots (think kids running around and playing) use speeds of at least 1/500th of a second and even 1/1000th to 1/2000th. The slower your shutter speed, the better you can capture still moments.

8. Golden Hour: This is the best time of day to take pictures if you want to do portraits or take family pictures outside. This takes place shortly after sunrise or before sunset during which daylight is redder and softer compared to midday when the sun is high.

9. Keep it Simple: Choose just one or two points of interest in your picture. Don’t try and focus on too much or else it will just look messy and distracting. This also applies to backgrounds. Try to avoid taking pictures with busy or messy backgrounds.

10. Perspective: Change it up. Learn how taking pictures from different angles and heights changes the outcome of the picture and how the subject is presented. Crouching leads to more dynamic subjects while height will minimize their presence. So kneel, climb, lie down, or twist to get that perfect shot.

11. Shade: When lighting is not working in your favor, using even shade will give you better exposure for your picture.

12. Rule of Thirds: Divide your frame into thirds with vertical and horizontal lines. Place subjects at the cross-sections for the best points of interest.

13. Exposure: Change the exposure to account for the effects of the sun (or other light source) being too much or too little. For less sunlight, increase the exposure and vice versa.

14. Create Your Own Home Studio: If you want to take more official portraits of your family, consider creating a home studio like this one. It will help you to control the background, lighting, and other elements that are out of your control in nature.

15. Get Closer: Oftentimes a picture can go from good to great if you just take a few steps forward. Do not be afraid to get closer than you might think is necessary. This can create a great shot.

amateur photographer, summer

15. Posing: When taking pictures of your family, focus on their eyes and don’t take the picture straight on for the best angle. Make sure everyone is comfortable and consider taking natural, candid shots. You may come away with a really sweet moment captured forever.
Now that you know some of the rules a little bit better, make sure you still keep a sense of fun and adventure. Take risks with your photography and take many pictures, as sometimes it can take quite a few shots to get that one perfect image. When you upload your albums this summer, all your friends and family will rave about your talented photography.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

15 Tips That Will Help Make Any Summer Vacation a Success

Author: Alyssa Craig

With the children out of school, summer is a classic time of year to take a family vacation. Whether you are planning a road trip, a camping trip or you want to take a flight to another part of the country, traveling can be a stressful time as well. In order to make sure your summer vacation is more enjoyable than not, find ways to incorporate the following suggestions into your plans as they pertain to your family.

summer vacation, family vacation

  1. Involve Everyone: From the planning beforehand, to activities while you are out and about, allow family members to have some input in what you do on your vacation (though of course as the parent, you have final veto power).

  1. Start Rested: Get all your packing, planning, and last minute organizing done ahead of time and get a good night’s rest. This will relieve a lot of stress and make everyone much more reasonable come travel time.

  1. Hire a House-Sitter: You can pay someone or have a friend or neighbor come check on the house, water plants, move trash bins, collect mail and fliers, and turn lights on and off to make it appear like someone is home. Check out this article for more tips on keeping your home safe while you are gone.

summer, family

  1. Have an Itinerary: Plan ahead and have a basic layout of what you want to see or do each day you are on vacation. This is especially good for attractions that may not be open all days of the week or only open for specific hours.

  1. Know Your Destination: Prepare in advance by doing research on the area if it is new to you. Print out maps or information on attractions in order to avoid data usage, if that is a concern. Ask friends and family who have traveled there for suggestions on the best way to use your time.

  1. Pack Lightly: Many of us have a habit of overpacking. An old saying tells us “pack half the clothes and twice the money”. Lay out everything you want to pack and then find ways to eliminate items that are not necessary.

  1. Pack Day-to-Day: For small children, create entire outfits for each day of vacation and place them in zipper bags to keep them together. This bag can then be used to store the dirty clothes after they are worn.

  1. Take Pictures: Not only of scenery but of the family! Capture candid moments, be sure to get into the pictures too. But don’t be so obsessed with pictures that you miss participating in the moment.

summer vacation, family trips

  1. Go with the Flow: It is good to have plans and know what you want to see, but many times, trips do not go exactly as planned. Add a little flexibility to your schedule and be ok if a detour needs to be made or you decide to change plans.

  1. Create Travel Kits: Allow your children to help you create travel kits for each of them including healthy treats, a small water bottle, a toy and a small game or a book. This way everyone has ownership over what will entertain them while traveling.

  1. Prepare for Emergencies: If you are flying, have a carry-on with extra food, clothing, and diapers in case luggage gets lost or you are stranded for any reason. You can even take a small first aid kit in your luggage.

  1. Protect from the Sun: No matter where you are going, summer vacations usually equate to time spent in the sun. Pack the sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses. For car rides, bring blankets to cover the windows. If you are going to the beach, bring a tent or umbrella.

  1. Dress in Bright Colors: If you have small children and will be going somewhere crowded, consider dressing them in bright clothing so they will be easier to spot if they wander.

  1. Souvenir Budget: Help each member of the family create a souvenir budget, allowing them to decide how they will spend to avoid being asked a million times if the can “have that”. You can even create chores they can do in the week or two before the trip to earn extra cash.

  1. Trip Diary: Encourage members of your family to keep a small diary of the trip. Not only will it be good for them to remember the trip and memories that took place, but it will also be entertaining to see how activities and occurrences are perceived differently by each family member.

Remember the main reasons to go on a family vacation are to see new things together, experience quality time as a family, and build memories together. Just follow the tips above and your family will come back from these summer retreats with lasting positive memories.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Love is a Choice

I was really excited to get the book Love is a Choice by Lynn G Robbins because the title is something I really believe in.  Quick story about me before I tell you about the book. :-)

When Alan and I started dating and talking about marriage I knew that I loved him, but I didn't have that "head over heels" feeling that everyone talks about.  I just knew we were right for each other and that he had everything I was looking for in a husband.  We just fit and it felt right.  It wasn't until after we were engaged that I got that "head over heels" giddy honeymoon love.  And I'm really glad it worked out that way.  Because eventually that feeling goes away, but I always know that we are right for each other no matter what.

Lynn G. Robbins talks about this very thing at the beginning of his book.  He says, "Those who have confused infatuation for love may unwisely believe they are falling out of love when problems arise.  The resulting doubt might cause them to wonder if they made a mistake and if their real soul mate might still be out there somewhere."

marriage, love, family

Robbins talks about our responsibility and agency in our marriages.  I love the story he tells about a mom and daughter.  The daughter is frustrated with her marriage so the mom asks her daughter to make a list and on one side to write the things about her husband that bothered her.  On the other side of the list she was to write how she responded to each thing that he did.  Then she tells her daughter to cut the paper in half and to throw away the things about her husband and to work on her own behavior and actions if she wanted to have a happy marriage.  We can't change our spouses, but we can change ourselves.

He also does a great job explaining how to use the Atonement, repentance, forgiveness, and developing Christlike characteristics to help and strengthen our marriage.

I love the section in the book where he talks about raising children and to remember who they really are - children of God.  With little children running around in my own home, this is not always the easiest thing to remember.  A good thing to remember is when Robbins says, "Inappropriate behavior should not define a child's character - treat the behavior as temporary, as an act and not an identity."  I need to write this down and keep it on my mirror.  Such great advice!

In the rest of the book you will find advice on finances, unity, and Christlike virtues.  Using quotes from General Authorities, scriptures references, and LDS literature, Robbins supports his writing and helps you recognize the truth in his words.

This is a must read for anyone - married or not.  It prepares you if you aren't married and helps you think about your own marriage if you are.  There's so much great advice and truth that everyone needs in order to strengthen their marriage.

You can find Love is a Choice on Amazon.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker Giveaway!

ice cream, ice cream maker, father's day, dad, summer

Hello my friends!  Sorry I have been MIA for the past few weeks.  Life has gotten way more busier than I could imagine right now.  I often feel like I'm drowning in my to do list and blogging has sadly been neglected.  But I have a few family updates that you are going to want to hear!  Plus a few fun posts over the next few weeks.

So to kick off the summer, I have an awesome giveaway for you! A Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker!  Believe me, you want this.  We have an ice cream maker (it isn't cuisinart though...I wish!) and we love making homemade ice cream all summer.  You just can't beat it!

Here are the bloggers that are involved in the giveaway.  Make sure to check out each of their blogs!  And enter the rafflecopter below for a chance to win!  Good luck!

Ali | Home Crafts By Ali   Denise | Comfy Abode   Sydney | Tastefully Frugal

Alexandra | Mom's Bag of Tricks   Adrian | Adrian's Crazy Life

Thursday, May 21, 2015

How to Tackle Some of Your Summer Goals

Author: Whitney Hollingshead

summer, swimming

Are you ready for summer? As spring draws to a close, your mind may be racing about all of your summer hopes and goals. Odds are that your summer to do list includes at least one of the five activities listed below. Just follow these helpful hints and get ready to kick back and enjoy the coming season:

I want to plant a vegetable garden.

  • Survey your plot and determine how much space you have and figure out how much of that area gets direct sun. This will help you determine what will grow best in your garden.
  • Practice watering the plot before you start planting. You can easily pinpoint areas that are not getting enough water and adjust your setup before planting.
  • Utilize your local gardening center. Ask the experts about which plants grow best in your area and find out how soon you need to get each vegetable planted.
  • Buy your seeds early. You may need to plant earlier than expected and popular varieties may sell out quickly.
  • Only plant what your family is going to eat. This applies to not only what to plant, but also how much to plant.

I want to fix up my home/yard.

  • Carefully survey your home and yard. What areas need the most attention? Focus on any potential safety hazards first.
  • Plan a budget for your projects. Fixing things up always costs more than you expect. Make sure you have more than enough money set aside to see the project through.
  • Start watching for sales on tools and supplies you will need. You can also scope out yard sales and secondhand stores. Ask family members, friends, and neighbors if you can borrow a needed tool for a weekend.
  • If you are hiring someone to help with your hard or home projects make sure you hire someone reputable. These important tips will help you determine if the person or company you are considering is a safe bet.

I want to have some fun in the sun.

gardening, yard work

  • Stock up now on sunscreen. Make sure you have sweat-proof/waterproof sunscreen available for every member of the family. Put a bottle in the trunk or glove compartment of each car and put a smaller bottle in your purse or diaper bag.
  • Review water safety with each family member. Contact your local pool now to enroll children in age appropriate swim lessons. The earlier lessons are completed in the season, the better.
  • Make a list of fun outdoor summer activities now. Put your list in a place where you can see it often and start crossing things off.
  • Ask family members and friends to share their favorite summer activities and places to visit for additional ideas to add to your list.
  • Start planning simple summer meals now. After a day in the sun, the last thing you will want to think about is making dinner. Compile shopping lists to stock up on items for delicious sandwiches, salads, and smoothies.

I want to explore the great outdoors.

camping, summer vacation, goals

  • Plan a camping trip that suits your style. Whether it’s a long backpacking trip, a weekend in the mountains, a night at a nearby campground, or sleeping under the stars in your own backyard, put camping on your summer calendar now.
  • Research the best local hikes. Choose a few you’d like to complete and add them to your summer calendar.
  • Put some scenic drives on your calendar for Sunday afternoons.
  • Create a nature photo scavenger hunt for your family to complete. Compile a list of items found in nature in your area and award family members points for taking a picture with each item. This activity can last all summer and the points can be used toward a fun activity at the end of the summer.

I want to go on a summer vacation.

  • Book your vacation now. Hotels, flights, and campgrounds can fill up quickly.
  • Research your destination and the surrounding areas well ahead of time. This will help you prioritize your itinerary. You can also search for tips and deals that relate specifically to where you are headed.  
  • Ask a neighbor in advance to keep an eye on your home while you are gone.
  • Start setting aside a small amount of spending money for each family member. When you leave on your trip, give each family member spending cash and tell them they can spend it as they wish. This will help cut down on family members asking for souvenirs or extra treats along the way and can even help children learn how to budget their funds. Ice cream now may mean no t-shirt later.
  • Do not post anything on social media about the trip before or during your trip. Wait until you are home to post pictures and updates. This will help keep your family, home, and belongings safe.

Whatever you have your heart set on for this summer, make sure you start getting ready now so you can more fully enjoy this summer season!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Spring Cleaning: How to Make Your House Sparkle from Top to Bottom

Author: Alyssa Craig

spring cleaning

After a fall and winter of being cooped up in the house and tracking all sorts of dirt and grime inside, spring is here and it is time to do some cleaning! While some live for this time of year, others find it overwhelming as they look to tackle some deep cleaning. Regardless of your mindset, you will need some great tips on how to make your house sparkle, from top to bottom.
Light Fixtures


Before you get started cleaning all the different light fixtures in your home, be sure to turn off the electricity in whichever room you are in. You can even consider turning off the breaker to ensure safety. While microfiber cloths are mentioned in these tips, dryer sheets are a fantastic alternative.

Chandeliers: If it is small enough, take it down and lay it on a towel. If not, get a secure step ladder to help you reach. Take a picture of the chandelier before you begin so you can replace crystals you may remove. Use a solution made of 1 ounce mild dish soap, ¼ cup white vinegar, and 3 cups of water. Put the solution in a spray bottle and spritz each crystal. Let dry and polish with microfiber cloth.

Light bulbs: Wipe down each light bulb with a dry cloth. Do not spray anything on it or use a damp cloth, as it can damage the electronics.

Ceiling Fixture: Take down the fixture and put in a sink full of soapy water. Wash, dry and shine with microfiber cloth. Do NOT put in dishwasher, as the glass can break.

Recessed Lights: Wipe down the outside and inside of the canister with a microfiber cloth or slightly damp rag.

Before you clean your walls, push your furniture out of the way and put down drop cloths or old sheets to catch soapy drips. Avoid plastic as it becomes slippery and can lead to injury.

Painted Walls
  • Use a lamb’s wool duster to remove dust from the walls first. You can also use a broom or vacuum.
  • Wash walls from the bottom up to avoid dirt streaks from drying on the walls.
  • Dip a sponge into a cleaning solution and use a clean cloth to blot excess liquid.
  • Clean the walls from side to side. Be sure to do the whole wall in one session to avoid weird drying streaks.

  • Check the manufacturer’s guidelines to make sure you don’t use anything that may damage that particular wallpaper. Be gentle.
  • First dust with lamb’s wool and a dry sponge.
  • Use a lightly dampened sponge of cleaner to clean the walls.

  • General Tips: Dust first so you do not just move dirt around. Use heavy duty paper towels or a sponge.
  • Painted or Stained Doors (such as a front door): Use a furniture wax or polish. Use a diluted solution so it will not strip the paint.
  • Indoor Doors: Use a diluted water and dish soap solution to clean these doors.
  • Glass Doors: Household glass cleaner can be used in addition to a water and a dish soap cleaning solution.



  • Outside
    • Use a long cloth head of a strip applicator.
    • Add dishwashing liquid to a bucket of warm water, the less suds the better.
    • Clean with a squeegee in a reverse S pattern, wiping the squeegee clean after each stroke on a clean rag.
    • Dry off remaining drips with a rag. Wipe down windowsill with a different rag.
    • For multi pane windows, a handheld sponge or hog-bristle brush works best. You can also cut squeegees to fit the size of the window panes on your home.
  • Inside
    • Put down a towel to catch dripping.
    • Dust off windows first with a duster or dry cloth.
    • Fill a bucket with warm water and small amount of detergent.
    • Clean the frames with a sponge, using the cleaning solution in the bucket.
    • Drag the sponge of cleaner down and follow it with a squeegee.
    • Dry window with a dry cloth.

The should be done last, as dirt and solution from walls and windows could drip on the baseboards. First vacuum them down to remove excess dust. Use either a Magic Eraser, soap and water, or an all purpose cleaner to clean them. For tricky and hard to reach corners, try using cotton swabs.

As you start cleaning each room in your home, this is also a great time to notice when items in the house are broken and may need to be replaced. Replace light bulbs that have gone out, patch nail holes that are no longer in use, and replace broken blinds with great new window coverings like these. Soon, your house will shine and feel like a breath of fresh air.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

What I Was Born to Do #Imbornto

This post was sponsored by The Motherhood in partnership with the March of Dimes.  I was compensated for this post, but all opinions are 100% my own.

march of dimes

Have you ever thought about what you were born to do?  I feel like there are certain events and thoughts and desires that have happened throughout my life that have given me hopes and dreams and helped me understand what I was born to do.

The very first thing I was born to do was to be a mom.  I've always wanted a family.  A big family.  I had a few friends growing up with 5+ children and I loved that and wanted that!  I have never been one of those girls who just goes gaga when I see a little baby or loved babysitting.  But I knew that I wanted to be a mom and that I had a natural desire to be one.  I think most women have this.  

Being a mom can be hard and definitely comes with its challenges, but it's the best job.  Ever.  There's nothing better than my daughters running over to me, giving me a huge hug, and saying "I love you mom!  You're my best friend!"  Or my sweet boy seeing me across the room, smiling, and walking over to me to give me slobbery kisses.  And boy are they slobbery!  I think my biggest accomplishment will to see my children learn, grow, develop, accomplish, and learn for themselves what they are born to do.

I was also born to be a business woman.  I've always wanted to be a stay at home mom, but I have also had this desire to have my own business.  I'm not sure why, that desire has just always been there.  So I started this blog, I've had lots of dreams of starting Etsy shops, and finally began Mommy Admin with my husband this February.  The reality is, it's a hard time to do that with having 3 kids under 5, so it's a slow start, but I'm grateful for the opportunity to try and to build on my dreams when I have some spare time when my kids are in bed.  :-) But I'm doing it.  And I love it!

And I was born to be a teacher.  I love teaching!  I earned my degree in Elementary Education and I've had lots of opportunities to teach in my church and to teach my children.  It feels natural to me and I love the ideas that flow when I create new lesson plans.  I feel confident when I teach and I love helping others learn.  I've wanted to be a teacher since the 5th grade and started tutoring as a teenager.  And I haven't stopped teaching since.  It's one of my greatest passions.

What were you born to be?  What dreams and desires have you had?

What do you think your children are born to be?

I'm grateful that my children have the opportunity to be whatever they want to be. Through things I've learned over the years to help me have healthy pregnancies, vaccinations, and infancy testing,
March of Dimes have given my family a chance to be healthy and to have the strength for my children to live their dreams.

You can help every family have healthy babies too!  There are lots of ways to help!

Especially with Father's Day around the corner, give something to dad that also gives to an excellent cause.  The March of Dimes has partnered with companies who are donating to the March of Dimes with your purchases!

father's day

They are:

Martha Stewart - Celebrate dad online! Join the #THX2U movement and share your appreciation of Dad with the world. Upload a baby picture of your child, grandchild, or yourself using the hashtag #THX2U, and $10 of the Emeril/MSLO/Meredith donation will be recognized for each uploaded photo in support of the imbornto campaign.  How cool and easy is that?

Bon Ton - Purchase a fragrance for dad for Father's day.

Mud Pie - Purchase adorable headbands or socks for your baby with your dad's favorite sport.

Blue Rhino - They are supporting the March of Dimes.  Show your support of America's #1 propane tank brand and get grilling this Father's Day!

As well as A&E Jewelers, Alex and Ani, and Kmart. And of course you can always just donate to the March of Dimes. All of these sponsors and their campaigns can be found at Imbornto.

pregnancy, vaccinations

The March of Dimes has been focusing on families for over 75 years and was founded by FDR to eradicate polio.  And it did!  Now they focus on preventing birth defects and infant mortality. They want to help you and your family have healthy, full term pregnancies. The money they receive from your donations and the donations of these partners help the March of Dimes fund important research and programs that help all babies begin healthy lives.

Did you know that March of Dimes has helped you and your family if you have received the polio vaccine, taken a prenatal vitamin with folic acid, received an APGAR score immediately following birth, or if you or your child was born prematurely?  Amazing!

I love their theme that
every baby is born to do something special and unique.

But they know they can't do it alone.  The #imbornto campaign is to celebrate the moms and dads who keep their babies healthy and safe before and after birth.  So, if you can, donate to the March of Dimes directly or through one of their partners and help fund the research to help babies start with a healthy life.