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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Family Photos - 5 Tips On What To Wear, And What To Do

Ahhhh.  Fall.  That time of year that fills homes with cozy smells, feelings and colors.  My favorite time of the year, not lastly because (if you follow my page you will know), it means family picture time!  It's my yearly Christmas gift from Dan, and honestly it's the only thing I ask for every year.

I was excited/nervous about taking pictures in our new home.  Excited because, it is quite possibly the most beautiful place on Earth.  Nervous because I didn't have any idea on how to find a local photographer.  Thankfully, when I asked someone who goes to our church, they directed me towards Happy Moments, a husband and wife team whose pictures were beautiful!  They were very quick to respond, easy to communicate with, reasonably priced, and ended up taking mesmerizing photos!  I would recommend them to anyone, and will definitely be using them in the future!

Now, on to the tips.  Some of these are ones I've mentioned in previous posts about our family photos, but I think they bear mentioning again.  If you're interested in those posts, you can find them here: 20142015, and 2016.

1. Keep Up With Traditions
We've been taking family pictures every Fall for years now.  The first year, we got a picture with Aidan standing between Dan and I, and then after that it became a "thing", and I just love it.  Here are the pictures, in order:

2. Layers, Patterns and Textures
One of the things I love most about the terrain where we got our pictures taken, was the layers of beauty.  First you have the lake, then your gaze goes up to the rocks, then the trees, the snow capped mountains, and finally the sky.  You can't generate this kind of beauty, but I decided to play off of it some.
Whenever you add textures, it adds to the depth of the picture.  Some of the places we did that, was my chunky knit sweater, cuffing my jeans, and then the boys' plaid shirts.  At first, I wasn't sure on having two different plaids, but it ended up working well, as they seemed to highlight each other, rather than overpower.

3. Neutrals
For the past year or two I've really been into neutrals, as has most of the world (thanks to Joanna Gaines), so most of the clothes we've bought for ourselves, as well as Aidan have fallen into the blue-gray-brown-beige realm.  This made it really easy to come up with coordinating (not matching) outfits, without having to buy new clothes (money saver there).  In case you really love what we're wearing, Dan's shirt is from American Eagle, Aidan's pants, jacket and boots are from Target, and his shirt is from H&M.  I've had most of my pieces for a while, and can't even say where they're from, but my boots, my favorite part of the outfit are from Vici Collection.

Another thing I love about neutrals, is that they seem to be more timeless, and you can put them up anywhere in your house, without them clashing with other colors going on.  (Of course, in my case, our home is mostly neutrals, too, so it's all good, haha!)

4. Trust Your Photographer
It's a little awkward at first, when someone you don't know is holding a camera, and tells you to close your eyes, and lean your foreheads together.  And then you have to stay like that for a while. It doesn't feel particularly natural.  BUT our photographer totally knew what he was doing, and we ended up with some very tender and romantic pictures of just Dan and I, that we haven't really had since our wedding, and I really love them!

We also trusted our photographer on location - we told them what kind of a place we were looking for - a lake with the mountains in the background, and they found they perfect spot.  Also, we were supposed to have pictures taken the day before, but they contacted us, and said they felt like the area was too foggy that day, and recommended going the next day.  We listened to their advice, and I'm so glad we did, because otherwise, we wouldn't have gotten these shots:

5. Don't Be Afraid To Be Playful - Still Come Prepared
This is mostly for families with young kids.  Kids are always more relaxed when we let them be themselves, play, and then we interact with them.  So, Aidan started playing with sticks, snow, and rocks, so we just went with it.  In one of the photos, he has just given me a rock, that apparently looked like "ham".  And then he gave me a kiss.  <3  Pretty magical, if you ask me!

Now, as for the being prepared part:  I packed an extra outfit for him, just in case there was a trip/fall (there was), or an accident, or what have you.  I had a blanket for us to sit on, because I figured there would be snow and rocks, and we might sit down - and I'm glad I did!  I also packed snacks, and gummy bears for bribery.  Not my usual parenting style, but it worked for this. :)

And then sometimes you get this, and love it just as much!

And there you go!  Basically, be comfortable, have fun, trust the photographer. :)  I hope you all enjoyed our pictures, that the tips helped you out, and that you love your family pictures this year!

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Natural Christmas Decoration Ideas

The Christmas season is in full swing in the Blair household!
For the first time in a few years, we have our own space, and can really realize our own interpretation of Christmas.  For a couple years we lived with a friend, and she was always super generous in letting me put out my Christmas decor, but it's a whole different feeling when it's in your own home.  Add to the excitement of it, that we're finally in Slovenia after nearly 2 years of talking about it - the magic is definitely there.

In the age of Joanna Gaines, DIY and hipsters, it's not revolutionary of me to say that I love natural Christmas decor, but there you have it!  I like looking at 50s-60s inspired Christmas decor, and trees busting with shiny-brite-style ornaments - in fact I have a couple boxes of shiny-brite reproductions from a dear sweet woman who loves me as her own, and they are precious to me.

But in this season of my life, natural beauty is what is really speaking to me.  One of the reasons, I'm sure is that Slovenia is the "Green Capital" of Europe.  People here are really into organic, local, natural, etc.  It's basically hipster heaven.
Another reason probably, is the easy access to a local market.  And then, of course there's just the esthetic of it.  So, this holiday season I've made a few natural Christmas decor things, and thought I'd share them with you, in case you feel inspired to do the same!

One of the best things about this, is you need basically the same 5-6 items for all of these.  Here's what you're going to want to stock up on:

Star anise
Cinnamon sticks
Pop corn
Holly, or any other red berries

1. Dried Orange Slices

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a post about making a dried orange slice garland.  The instructions are all there, and we had lots of fun making them.  My garland actually fell the day after I posted about it, so I just kept the slices, and ended up using them later.

2. Okay, a couple things I bought

So, as I mentioned, having a local market is a dream come true.  The produce is local, the flowers are as well, the prices are so affordable, and there is always about 5 ladies selling wreaths they've made.  So, about a month ago, I found some red berries.  The lady selling them told be to spray them with hair spray, and they'd keep.  That didn't quite pan out, unfortunately, but luckily I like how they look dried too.  The next week I bought some branches of cotton, and added them to it.  I love how it looked!

Yesterday we went down again, and I totally fell in love with this wreath.  The sweet man we bought it from gave Aidan a tulip, which our flower-loving-boy is cherishing!

This wreath just screams Christmas, and I can't get over it.  Something like this would be easy enough to make, you would need different types of greenery, berries and pinecones, and you're good to go!

3. Cranberry and Pop Corn Garland

What you'll need:
- Cranberries
- Pop corn
- Fishing line
- A large needle

There's really not to much to say, except to choose a cranberry/pop corn ratio that appeals to you.  I found 2 pop corn kernels to one cranberry to be the prettiest!  This is a really fun one to do together with the littles!  It's a great way to teach patterns!

4. Rosemary/Orange/Cinnamon Ornament

For this you'll need:
- Cinnamon stick
- Rosemary sprigs
- Dried orange slice
- Twine

I tried to think of the yummiest Christmas smells, and put them together.  Our apartment doesn't have many shelves, or places to hang things, so I wanted something that I could hang on our window handles.

So, I arranged about three sprigs of rosemary, with one cinnamon stick, then wrapped it together with twine.  I attached an orange slice, to where it hung off a little, and then made a hook.

5. Potpourri

Okay, when you hear potpourri, I know you're thinking of some great aunt, and a bowl of dusty dried pieces of flower in a bowl.  BUT!  This is not that.  I found a couple recipes on pinterest, and added them together to make something with things that I had, and liked the thought of.  So, here is what you need:

- About 10 cloves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 4 star anise
- An orange, cut in slices
- Rosemary sprigs

Other things you can add:
- A dash of vanilla
- Pine branches
- Apple slices
- Cranberries
- Lemon slices/lemon zest

You put it all in a pot, then you fill the pot with water, and let it simmer on a low setting on your stovetop for the day.  It smells divine!  You do have to check on it every once in a while, and add more water, but it'll last throughout the day.  I love how it filled the house with the warmth of Christmas smells.  It's a great way to use ingredients that are about to go bad, like too-soft oranges, or rosemary that is starting to brown.

 6. Natural "stuff" arrangement

To me, there's hardly anything more traditionally Christmas that clove studded oranges!  We always made them in school, and Aidan and I have made them every year of his short life.  So, we made some again this year, and then placed other things in the bowl, such as star anise, cinnamon sticks, rosemary, pine branches, red berries, cloves, dried orange slices... basically everything I had left.

It's simple, yet festive, and of course smells good!

Also, that beautiful runner you see there?  Yes, my amazing mama made that for me for Christmas, and yes, I'm crazy spoiled!
It's just gorgeous, and I love-love-love it!

So, there you have it!  Some ideas for easy natural Christmas decor this year.  Do you have any fun, family-friendly, DIY Christmas traditions?  I'd love to hear about them!

Have a wonderful holiday season, dear friends!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Globe "Together in Heart" Ornament DIY Tutorial

Ahhh, it's the most wonderful time of the year!
Which for me, means it's ornament making time!  Every year, I make my family a new ornament.  One year I made a felt cupcake ornament, one year a clay one in the shape of Hungary, one year I made a wood ring one, with our family picture on it, and last year, I made Clothespin People versions of each of us.

This year, I wanted to highlight, that even though we all live so far away, that we are still all together in spirit and heart.

This is what I ended up with:

To create your own, this is what you'll need:

3-inch foam craft balls
Segmented World map (I'll upload the one I used)
Paint (a color that matches the water color)
Modge Podge
Paint brush
Paper (for the strip around)
Black Sharpie pen
Small metal hook
Red-headed pins

Here is the map I used:


1.  Print out map.  I printed this one out at 155%, to fit the 3-inch foam ball.  You'll want to print out out, cut it out (when you're cutting it out, cut on the inside of the black line, you don't want that on it), and try it on the ball before you commit.  I did end up having to add another segment to it, because it didn't go all the way around.  So, I used that far left segment, that is mostly the Pacific Ocean.

2. Paint the foam ball.  I wasn't sure how the foam would handle the mode podge, if it would suck it up, and cause it to warp.  When I googled it, I saw someone suggest painting it first.  I chose a color that pretty much matched the color of the water, that way if if it peeked through a little, it wouldn't be so noticeable.  

3. Let them dry.  I used toilet paper rolls for them to sit on.

4. Brush modge podge on the white side of the map, then carefully wrap it around the ball.  This part is very tricky, because the glue causes the paper to curl and stick to itself, and you're trying to line up your segments at the same time.  I had one tear, which was distressing, but honestly, mode podge forgives much.

Even with this overlapping, there was still a little bit of space left uncovered, just for reference sake.

5. Next, brush the modge podge on the outside of the ball.  Run your fingers along it, trying to get rid of any bubbles or wrinkles, paying special attention to where the segments meet up.  As it dries, every once in a while rub your fingers along it, smoothing it out.

6. Let them fully dry

6. I screwed a small hook in the top, and looped some twine through it.

7. This part is optional, but after this, I wrote out "Although we're Worlds apart, we're together in heart." on a strip of scrapbook paper.  I then played around with placement, until I liked it.  I used the modge podge again to glue it around.

8. Finally, I pushed the pins into the four places we live.  Well, approximately, because New York is close to new Hampshire, and Slovenia is close to Hungary.

And there you have it!  I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial, and even more than that, I hope my family loves their new ornament!
Please share with me your favorite Christmas traditions, or ornaments,  I'd love to see them!