Saturday, December 27, 2014

Friday, December 12, 2014

8 Pro Tips to Rock Your Christmas Photos This Year

8 Pro Tips to Rock Your Christmas Photos this Year

Whether you're hiring a professional for Christmas pictures or taking them yourself, I have some great tips to share with you that will help keep everything Merry & Bright.

As a mother of two and a professional family photographer, I have lots of experience with children in front of my camera.

I can totally relate to the stress of a professional shoot, both being in front of and behind the lens! There's something about trying to coordinate outfits, multiple family members, and camera settings that can make even the most patient mom want to pour Jack Daniel's into her spiced cider and throw the holiday cards out the window!

Even a "simple" in-home photo session by the tree can stress everyone out!

But before you give up on the adorable tradition of yearly Christmas pictures, read my tried and true tactics for successful photos!

1. Let the kids choose their own clothes. Even if it kills you. Even if they end up dressed like this. When children feel they have a say in something, they are a lot more likely to cooperate. Along the same lines, give them posing options. "Do you want to stand by the tree or lay down on a picnic blanket by the tree?" It's totally okay to let them feel like they're getting to express their autonomy - all you want is them, happy, somewhere in the general vicinity of those twinkly tree lights, remember?

2. Have at least two different noise-makers in your back pocket. I usually have a rattle and a party blower. Kids get bored easily so each loud noise will probably only capture their attention or really get a giggle once or twice. I like to get my camera completely ready, get the kids in position, and then get silly... I will [insert sudden loud noise] and then I squeal "WEEEE!" And between the noise and my shrill voice, I usually get eye contact in the very least, if not a smile of delight!

3. Go for massive quantity and you'll end up with at least one quality. When shooting kids, over-shoot. They move so fast that sometimes it seems I only get about ten great shots for every 50 I take, and I'm a pro! If your camera has a "burst" or continuous mode, use that. It amazes me how many more of those true smiles I can capture when I am able to fire of three shots in a second. It could be the difference between a laugh and a grouchy scowl!

4. Be flexible. The kid wants their favorite stuffed animal or action figure in the photo? Let them! They want to wear a billion hair accessories? Go for it! They want to sit down in front of the tree? Sure thing! Don't stress or bribe or threaten just to cram them into the stuffy dress Gramma sent or the "picture perfect" pose you saw on Pinterest. Those photos will be anything but picture perfect.

5. Think outside the box. Who says you can't blow bubbles by the Christmas tree? Or color in a coloring book with Christmas lights in the background? Or play a toy guitar? Kids do better in photos when they have a prop to play with. For obvious reasons, it feels more like play to them and less like work.

6. Ask them a crazy question that will make them smile... "OHMYGOSH is my camera on FIRE!?!?" Or "Do you want to go eat ice cream on the moon tomorrow?" It won't always gets you a smile (especially with very young children) but at least you'll get some eye contact!

7. Be respectful. Children are people, too. And their right to be respected is more important than your desire for a perfect Christmas pic or Aunt Suzie's desire for an updated photo with the Christmas card. If your child is fussing (or even throwing a blasted tantrum!) remember that they're kids and if they were more mature they might be calmly saying, "Mom, I'm feeling really tired and I don't want to do this anymore. Can we try again another time?" There's nothing wrong with including an "older" photo in your card so go into your Facebook timeline to remind yourself of some of your favorite candid family memories from this past year. Aunt Suzie will love to see a collage, too!

8. Make it fun and have a reward ready. I'll admit, sometimes my rewards morph into bribes toward the end of shoots, especially with my daughters because they get assaulted by me camera so frequently. But hey, a Christmas movie and some cookies and hot chocolate sound like the perfect end to a quick family photo session to me! Make sure to throw in some extra marshmallows and thank them for helping you get some great pictures to send to Gramma!

So now you're armed and dangerous. With these tips, your kids won't even realize they're having a portrait session done cause they'll be having so much fun!

And before you can say "deck the halls", you'll have some fabulous shots to mail to friends and family with your cards.

Merry Christmas and happy shooting!

Guest post by Jessica from There & Back Again, an Air Force Tale

Monday, December 1, 2014

What are Milso Bloggers thankful for?

This question was posed on Twitter and Facebook.

Joslin of Ech & Will - "My husband being home with me, plans to eat with some great friends, and all the travel opportunities we've had/will have."

Jessica of There & Back Again, an Air Force Tale - "My military family. This will be the last holiday I spend with some of the dear friends I've made over here (before they PCS)"

@slythieprincess - "that no matter where we go, I have family who will always come to spend time with us."

What are you thankful for? Share your answer in the comments below!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Duty Station Diaries: Kapaun Air Station

Duty Station Diaries

Today we're pleased to have Jessica from There & Back Again joining us for the duty station series.

Hi I'm Jessica Aiduk, pronounced "aye-duck", like, quack quack! I'm a hippie work at home mom with an Air Force twist. My husband started us on this adventure in May 2010 and that's when I started blogging our family adventures. At There & Back Again, you'll find funny stories, photos, recipes, encouragement, and inspiration. I have an obnoxious amount of energy which I channel into a lot of various passions... lately it's writing, photography, and yoga headstands.

Social media:

What is the name of your duty station?
Kapaun Air Station, Germany

Where is it located?
In the Kaiserslautern Military Community (KMC) area of Germany. 10 minutes from Kaiserslautern, 10 minutes from Ramstein Air Base, 30 minutes from the French border, 1 hour from Frankfurt. It is the largest US military community outside the United States.

How long have you been there?
Three and a half years

Any tips for incoming military members?
Jump right into this amazing culture. Our host nation is amazing! Live off base, but choose your village carefully. To get the full benefit of living in a European village, you should look for one with stores and restaurants within walking distance. All villages have bus stops, but the ones that have train stops are even more convenient for local travel.

Take German classes right away and get out there to use what you learn on a regular basis.

Be aware that the winters here are very dark and gloomy... lots of people struggle with seasonal depression, even if they've never had a problem with that before. I use a therapy lamp and I make sure to get out of the house to interact with other humans as often as I can. Connect with people easily by using facebook... there are a ton of KMC groups (something for everyone) that you can join and start to network with people who share similar interests. Find your people and hang tight; they'll be your family during your tour!

Say you’re hosting an out of town guest and you only have time to take them to three places or do three things. Where do you take them?

1. For our day trip, we'd go to Metz, France. It's only an hour away and it's like this tiny slice of French perfection. The cathedral there has the largest display of stained glass in the world! Two rivers run right through the city, and the views from the bridges are beautiful. There are great restaurants, a covered market, shopping, and parks. I love it there!

2. For our castle adventure, we'd go to Kusel Castle. It's a half hour drive and the entrance is free! You can climb up the reconstructed castle tower for great views of the surrounding countryside. And it's a fabulous place to explore the ruins and bring a picnic lunch (though the restaurant there is also delicious!)

3. For a taste of a true blue German village, we'd hang out right here in Otterberg. I couldn't ask to live in a more beautiful town. The people here are so friendly and there's so much to see! We'd have breakfast at my favorite German bakery, then walk down the main street. I can give you a tour of the second largest church in our state... it's a 12th century monastery that's now shared by the local Catholic and Protestant community. We'd have lunch right outside the church at one of my favorite restaurants... then we'd walk around the village so I can show you all my favorite old buildings. After that we'd hike up the hill to the monument they have from the world wars. I think it's a very sobering reminder of how we came to be stationed here. And for a more light-hearted end to the night, we'd eat at my favorite outdoor beer garden in town. They have great local food!

Have you checked out any local festivals or events?
We've done Oktoberfest and some really great wine fests, but I have to say my favorite are the super local Fruhlingsfest (Spring Fest) in my village and the Kaiserslautern Christmas Market.

The Spring Fest is an all day event in our village, to include a parade and then a hike up into the woods where they have a fabulous setup of food stands, bands playing oom-pah-pah music, and plenty of beer tents. You sit outside at tables (rain or shine!) and get to cheer on the local kids as they try to climb to the top of the "may pole" to get the prizes. There are also fun demonstrations and skits.

For Christmas Markets, many people love to travel to the larger cities for the more famous ones. And we've done a few. But I've found every year that I just love the simple Christmas magic of our own local "big city" market. You get many of the same items for sale and all the same delicious food and drink. Holiday treats, gluhwein, music, and a warm fire. All centered around the cathedral. Best tradition ever!

Where are your favorite places to eat/drink?
I really love the local beer garden outside the hotel Otterberger Hof in our village (Otterberg) and we also really like the local brewery the Brauhaus am Markt in Kaiserslautern. Barbarossa bakeries are definitely my favorite go-to for sandwiches, pastries, rolls, and good strong coffee.

Are there any local foods/drinks/anything that you love?
I adore German bread, beer, bratwurst, sauerkraut, and french fries. Yes, fries... they really know how to treat a potato right ;o) Fun fact: fries are usually served either with curry ketchup or with normal ketchup and mayo. Seriously, it's so good.

I also love this "pizza" type food called flammkuchen, which originates from France. It's basically a thin crust with creme fraiche, bacon, and onions on top. There are certainly many variations, but I think the original is fabulous.

What’s your favorite thing about your station/city/surrounding area?
There's always something new to learn or experience! I feel like everywhere I go I learn something new. And especially as I learn more of the German language, I get so excited to go out on the economy and talk to the locals! I love shopping at German grocery stores and seeing all the different products they offer that we don't have in the States. And I love love LOVE learning all sorts of cool things from my kids' and their German kindergarten teachers about German culture. It's such a blast! And of course it's amazing to be centrally located in Europe for all of the great travel opportunities. We've been to eleven countries so far!

Anything else you want to talk about?
Living here has definitely challenged my preconceived ideas about the German people. I have never lived somewhere where there are so many friendly smiles and greetings when you're out and about. The Germans in my area are warm and welcoming, celebratory, hardworking, and kind. I love my old German neighbors so much and every new German friend I make teaches me something amazing. I hate that I grew up with a "bad" perspective of the German people just because of their tragic past. I am so thankful that I was able to live here and learn how wonderful this country is.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Halloween Link Up: Traditions

Today's host:
[No host today]

Link up rules:
Must be a milso or milspouse blogger.
Past posts are allowed and encouraged, but please make sure they fit the Traditions category.
We prefer you link into the directory, but it's not mandatory.

Link Title: Post name
URL: Link of your post not your blog.
We will be correcting and deleting links as needed.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Halloween Link Up: Costumes

Today's host:
[No host today]

Link up rules:
Must be a milso or milspouse blogger.
Past posts are allowed and encouraged, but please make sure they fit the Costumes category.
We prefer you link into the directory, but it's not mandatory.

Link Title: Post name
URL: Link of your post not your blog.
We will be correcting and deleting links as needed.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Halloween Link Up: Crafts/DIY

Today's host:

My name is Brandi, I am 20 years old. I'm going to school for my dream job (cosmetology). My boyfriend is in the US Navy on the USS Carl Vinson! I started writing my blog so I can share my life with the world and hopefully make a difference! I am a survivor of depression.

How do you celebrate Halloween?
I have all my cousins come over and we all take pictures. While they are out trick-or-treating we get baked goods and we sing happy birthday to my uncle and pop-pop. Halloween is a great time of year for my family to get together and enjoy one another! Even the pets!

Pumpkin Paint brushes(XS,S,MED,LARGE)
Paint: white, black, purple (or any creepy one you desire)
Red glitter (You can use normal red paint, but I like mine to stand out.)

Step one: Paint the pumpkin all white. (wait for it to dry before moving to step two)
Step two: Paint the stem black.
Step three: Paint the color part of the eye the color of your choice. My choice was purple.
Step four: Paint the creases red

There you have it!

Link up rules:
Must be a milso or milspouse blogger.
Past posts are allowed and encouraged, but please make sure they fit the DIY/Crafts category.
We prefer you link into the directory, but it's not mandatory.

Link Title: Post name
URL: Link of your post not your blog.
We will be correcting and deleting links as needed.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Halloween Link Up: Recipes

Today's host:

Ciao! I'm Joslin of Ech & Will. My husband are currently stationed at Aviano AB in Italy and we love it! I blog about travel, housewifing, and the military lifestyle.

This year we don't have any Halloween plans. Cass will probably be working and I will probably just hang out at the house and hand out candy to the couple of kids that come around. Our landlord's daughter knows to hit us up and she'll bring her friends with her.

apple muffins

Instead of sharing a stereotypical pumpkin recipe, I decided to share a recipe for apple muffins. I make them every fall and they're delicious!

Apple Muffins

2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup oil
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups peeled, cored, diced apples (~3 apples)
~1/2 cup brown sugar

apple muffins

Preheat oven to 350 F
Cream together sugar, eggs, oil, and vanilla
Sift flour, baking soda, and ground cinnamon
Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture and mix until just combined (the batter will be thick)
Mix in diced apples
Fill muffin tins 3/4 full
Sprinkle tops with brown sugar
Bake for 20-24 mins
Yield: ~18 muffins

Link up rules:
Must be a milso or milspouse blogger.
Past posts are allowed and encouraged, but please make sure they fit the Recipes category.
We prefer you link into the directory, but it's not mandatory.

Link Title: Post name [exampe: Apple Muffins]
URL: Link of your post not your blog.
We will be correcting and deleting links as needed.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Halloween Link Up: Decor Ideas/Inspiration

Today's host:
Facebook / Pinterest / Twitter

Hello everyone! I'm Elizabeth and I blog over at The Blooming Air Force Bride! My blog is a compilation of my life- a FurMom, a few crafts, some DIY, an Air Force Wife, moving to Alaska, and the occasional recipe. Stop by sometime and take a little read!

I was so excited when I saw the Halloween series on Milso Blogger. I've always lived so far out in the country that I never had one of those conventional Halloweens that kids dream of. Hopefully this year that will all change! My husband and I will be arriving at our new Alaskan home mid-October and maybe we'll have a stroke of luck and be in a house for Halloween. Granted, we won't have any belongings, but I'm down for some Halloween decorations and candy! So please excuse me while I pile on a few Halloween decoration Ideas and Inspirations!

With all of these ideas I knew I had to do some kind of craft. But why not a tutorial? For some reason the monogrammed pumpkin just really stuck with me, so I decided I would find my take on it and make a little tutorial for you. After some brainstorming, this is how I did mine!

Link up rules:
Must be a milso or milspouse blogger.
Past posts are allowed and encouraged, but please make sure they fit the Decor Ideas/Inspiration category.
We prefer you link into the directory, but it's not mandatory.

Link Title: Post name [ex: Halloween Decor Ideas/Inspiration]
URL: Link of your post not your blog.
We will be correcting and deleting links as needed.