Monday, June 29, 2015

How to Photograph Fireworks & Where We Buy Our Fireworks (No Dud Guarantee!)

This post is sponsored by Provo Fireworks. Check out their No-Dud Guarantee! 



The 4th of July is my favorite holiday. There is so much focus on family. We spent the morning watching the hot air balloons launch over our sitting before hitting the gorgeous parade. We walk around the craft and vendor fair and then have a delicious BBQ before finishing with an amazing firework show. I always end up with hundreds of pictures from the day. It is the perfect day to photograph, so many bright colors and family moments and of course... fireworks.

Photographing fireworks can be as easy or as hard as you want it to be. Most point and shoots and even some SLRs have a firework mode that you can change too and most of the items below are taken care of for you. Just set your camera on a tripod and you are ready to go. If you are like me and you love to have full control over your firework shot, use the tips below to get the perfect one.

Tripod and Shutter Speed: In order to capture great firework photos, you will need to set your shutter speed for a lot longer than the typical split second it is open so you will get a lot of arm shake blur if you don't have something to stabilize the camera. A tripod is the best and easiest way to go, but if you have somewhere safe you can set your camera and release the shutter with a timer or remote will work too. In a pinch I have sat on the ground with both of my knees up, resting up arms on my knees as a I photograph fireworks. It works, but  tripod is much easier. You will want your shutter speed to be at least 1 second long to capture the full explosion of each firework, but experiment with this. I usually shoot between 1 second and 4.


ISO: Turn off your auto ISO. In order to compensate for the dark, your camera is going to try to auto set itself to a higher ISO, but fireworks are so bright, it isn't necessary. Set your camera to a low ISO setting, like ISO 100.

Flash: There is no way you flash can reach all the way to the fireworks. With firework photos, all your camera flash is going to do is ruin the photos.



When to photograph: I like to photograph at the beginning and middle of a firework show the most. There is less smoke and just a few fireworks in the air at the time. During the "grand finale" there are a lot of fireworks in the sky at once, losing some of the details that make firework photos so much fun. You can drop the shutter speed down to 1 second or so to avoid this.

Aperture: You want a higher aperture, that will allow your backdrop to be in focus. I start at f/8 and work up from there if I need to. Usually between f/8 and f/16 is my firework sweet spot.


Focus: You are going to want to turn off your auto focus and use manual. Fireworks are too fast in the sky to use them as the focal point. Find something to focus on out where your fireworks are going to be. Usually you can do this before the show even starts and just leave it.

Make sure you are buying quality fireworks with a no-dud guarantee: This year for our firework show, we are buying from Provo Fireworks. Whenever I walk into one of those tent firework stands, I feel overwhelmed. I am surrounded by fireworks but I have no idea what they will look like once lit. I feel like I am guessing and hoping that I am buying a good show. Provo Fireworks offers videos of most of their fireworks so you can make sure you are buying exactly what you want. Check out the video on the Mardi Gras Fiesta Firework, it is one of my favorite aerials. They have a wide selection, so I can buy a good range of smaller and larger fireworks for our show. I LOVE that they have a good range of aerial fireworks too, I often feel like there is only one level of aerial and they offer aerials for all different kind of budgets.

Growing up in Utah, everyone used to drive to Wyoming to get their fireworks. If you wanted great fireworks, you headed to Wyoming, Provo Fireworks is finally offering these same fireworks right here in Utah for much cheaper. Since you buy online instead of at a tent, the overhead is much cheaper and they pass that savings on to you directly. You can pick up your fireworks in Provo for free or have them delivered for only $5 in Utah County.

Provo Fireworks is a small business committing to creating wonderful customer relationships. They offer a no-dud guarantee. If you firework is a dud, they will replace it. How awesome is that? You can buy each individual firework or you can buy one of the packages the owner has put together for different groups of people. He has packages for families with young kids, family with tweens and even one for a whole block party.

Where are you going to be photographing fireworks this year?
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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Strawberry Piña Colada Greek Yogurt Parfait

Like I mentioned in my post yesterday, I don't eat a lot of sweets. I am such an all or nothing person that I have to cut them out entirely. I have done long stretches without any sweets, but I fall off the wagon hard core when I am pregnant and I mean a milkshake a day kind of hard core. Since my baby just turned one, I decided it was time to get back to my routine of no sugar.

Yesterday I shared a post about my tips for curbing sugar cravings, you can find all the tips here. One of my tips was find a replacement snack. Something that satisfies that need for sweets without actually jumping in the deep end. For me Greek Yogurt and with strawberries and shredded coconut is just the trick.

For this parfait you will need: 

  • Greek Yogurt in both Strawberry and Coconut (I like Yoplait Plenti)
  • Strawberries
  • Shredded Coconut
First halve and wash your strawberries. Spoon strawberry Greek yogurt into a cup. I love using mini trifle bowls, because seriously everything in better in miniature. Add a layer of strawberries and coconut. Spoon coconut yogurt on top. Finish off the parfait with the rest of the strawberry yogurt. Add strawberries and more shredded coconut to the top.
This is seriously one of my favorite treats. It is packed with protein, gives me the energy I need and satisfies that need for something sweet.
What is your favorite way to eat Greek Yogurt?
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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

9 Tips for Cutting Out Sugar




I love sweets. Even though I am not a chocolate person, I can name any number of sweets that I crave in any particular day — cheesecake, ice cream, yum! I love them all, but I don't eat any of them. You read that right, I don't eat them. I haven't always been off sugar and I sometimes slip off the bandwagon (ESPECIALLY when I am pregnant,) but in general I stay away from sweets and candies.

I know cutting sugar out completely isn't for everyone, but I do it because of how it makes me feel. I feel better and have more energy when I am not shoving candy bars in my mouth and also because I stink at sugar moderation. Why have a slice of cheesecake when you can eat four, right? Sadly, I am pretty sure that is how my subconscious seems to work, so I avoid it all together. I am an all or nothing kind of person.

Here is my guide to going off and staying off sugar.

The first few days of a sugar fast are the hardest. This last time I kicked sugar to the curb I ended up with terrible headaches for a few days. Isn't it sad how much my body thought I needed it?

Ways to Curb Cravings:



Stay hydrated: Get all 8 of your water glasses for the day. Dehydration can do some crazy things to your system, like making you crave sugar. Make sure you are drinking water and obviously not soda. It is so easy to consume and over consume sugar when drinking soda.

Exercise: When I work hard to keep my body in shape I naturally want to eat healthier. When you are feeling good you want to keep feeling good.


Eat fruit: The sweet in the fruit keeps me going when I want to reach for a candy bar. My favorite snack is fruit and Greek Yogurt. I like Yoplait Plenti Yogurt because it is Greek Yogurt with whole grain oats, flax seeds and pumpkin seeds already mixed into the yogurt. It is a high-protein snack with just a touch of sweet. I love the coconut flavor. It is a fairly new product, but my local Kroger type store stocks it. If you are like me and a little iffy on the tangyness of traditional Greek Yogurt, try this one. I am not normally a huge Greek Yogurt fan but I really like this one.



Eat on a schedule: If you let yourself get into starvation mode you are going to want to grab whatever is easiest, and that is probably sugar. Don't starve yourself. Eat good, nutritious calories and snacks in between.

Chew Gum: If I am having a moment where I absolutely can't stand being sugar free for one more second, I pop a piece of gum in my mouth. The action of chewing helps me take a step back and reevaluate. Try a good sugar-free chewing gum.

Tell people you are cutting out sugar: Make yourself accountable to someone. Sometimes it is the fact that people know that I don't eat sweets that keeps me from taking a cookie at the party I am at.

Get enough sleep: Not only is it harder to resist my cravings when I am tired, but I tend to gravitate towards sugar for a pick me up. Get enough sleep for your body or use natural pick me ups like a 10-minute walk.

Get rid of the treats: It is almost impossible for me to stay off sugar when I am visiting my parents. Why? Because there is sugar everywhere. Seriously, they usually have at least four different kinds of Oreos at once. You don't need that kind of temptation. You can't eat it if you don't have it.


Find a replacement snack: Find something you can grab when you just need to eat something. I like baby carrots. They are crunchy and often sweet without being a candy bar. If you need something high protein you can try Yoplait Plenti or a string cheese.

Remember if you absolutely can't stand it and need a cookie, eat one, but realize it is a treat and not a daily thing. If you can help your body realize you don't need a treat every day it is easier to walk away from sugar.

Be patient with yourself and be willing to start over if you fall off the wagon. The first three days are the hardest to get through, but once you do you will feel so much better in the long run.
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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Restaurant Survival Kit

“This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and Glad, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #pressnsealhacks http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV


It's no secret my husband and I love to eat out. It is our guilty pleasure and what we do for fun. We used to love to go out to the movies too, but since a movie requires a babysitter we go to far fewer than we used to. But we can't bear to part with our favorite guilty pleasure, so we have been dragging our kids to restaurants weekly since they were infants. We love spending that time with them and it has been fun to see them try new things and develop favorite restaurants themselves.

When we just had our older daughter, going to restaurants with a child was a piece of cake (not completely, but it feels like that compared to taking two). When our second daughter was born it didn't seem like it was going to be that much harder. Then she learned to climb out of those restaurant high chairs and I realized how wrong I was. I didn't want to give up one of our favorite things, so I started looking for things to make eating out with kids easier. I put together this kit and it changed everything. The kids can be crazy at times still, but this kit has overall brought peace and fun back to our weekly night out as a family.


I looked all over for the perfect makeup case for our kit. I wanted something that could be easily cleaned and had two distinct and separate compartments — one for baby dinning necessities and one for small items to keep the kids entertained at the table. I love this one that I found at a local drug store. It is perfect and I am always surprised how much I can pack into it.


Baby Eating Necessities I Carry: 

I love having the baby necessities on hand for any occasion. I don't always use the bib, but since my baby LOVES soup it is best to have one on hand if I need it. I carry wet wipes for obvious clean up reasons, but my real secret weapon is Glad Press’n Seal. 

If you have never used it before, you need to get yourself a roll because it is amazing! We used to spend a lot of time trying to keep our kids food off the restaurant tables and on plates before we discovered my favorite hack ever. Now I carry sheets of  Glad Press’n Seal in my purse and we use it as a place mat in front of our kids. They can put their food right onto the place mat and it makes clean up a snap. 


When we start eating, I place a piece of Glad Press’n Seal in front of each child. Since Press N' Seal adheres to just about everything, it sticks really well to the table and doesn't slide around while the kids are eating. My kids love to dip bread and soup at restaurants and this lets me put the bread right on the place mat instead of fighting them all night to keep it on a plate.


It works really well for all kinds of food.


 Smalls Toys I Carry: 

  • Pipe Cleaners and Beads
  • Small cans of Play-Doh
  • Crayons and Notebooks
  • Minifigures
  • Wax Sticks (these are awesome, kids can build anything out of them)
  • Alphabet Flash Cards
  • Suckers 

I also just bought a small Tangle toy and water game to add to our bag.



And makes the perfect play space before or after the meal while the kids are still waiting for the adults to finish. The things I pack for the kids to play with need to be small, but have a large entertainment value. The easiest thing to pack is a small notebook and box of crayons. This is the baby's favorite entertainment right now and works really well with our older daughter too. If all else fails you can play hangman and other games with it. I specifically carry a box with 16 crayons in it, as I find boxes with more are just too big for the space.

My older daughter loves it when I carry the small cans of Play-Doh, and for the most part it works pretty well at a restaurant. The Glad Press’n Seal keeps it from getting all over, but it is still definitely an option for older kids. I usually pack a small bag of pipe cleaners and beads. My daughter loves to thread the beads and make small bracelets as well as play tic tac toe with the pieces. Wax sticks are great for building, and honestly if you could only pick two things to bring I would bring the notebook and the wax sticks. They are the things that get played with over and over again for the longest amounts of time. We also love mini figures and the imaginative play that comes with them, as well as ABC Flashcards for building words. Some other items that come and go in our bag include matchbox cars, stickers, little pinball games and dinosaurs.


For cases of extreme desperation, I also love to carry small suckers or other candies. I don't always get them out, but I know that I have them if one of the girls starts to throw a fit and we aren't quite done with dinner yet.


After we are done with dinner and picking up our little toys, I just peel the Glad Press N'Seal off the table and roll it into a ball, taking the mess with it. I love that I can keep things more hygienic for my kids while not making a huge mess for the restaurant to clean up. I always feel so guilty when we get up and there's food spilled everywhere courtesy of my kids.

Eating out will probably always be our thing and one day I am sure the kids won't want to even be seen out in public with their parents, but until then we are going to squeeze in every family meal that we can and our restaurant kit helps us do that.


What about you? Do you take your kids to restaurants with you?
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Monday, June 22, 2015

The Ultimate Guide To Caring For Eczema

“I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Neutrogena. I received samples to facilitate my review and a promotional item to thank me for my participation.”


Dealing with my older daughter's extreme eczema has been one of the most frustrating parts of being a mom. I can't tell you how many hours I have spent fanning her legs or blowing on her face because her skin hurts so much. It absolutely breaks my heart to see her in so my pain. Luckily, through a lot of trial and error, we have found the tricks that really work and keep her eczema under control. Here are the things that matter the most when it comes to helping her skin.

Bathing and Moisturizing — Use warm (not hot) water in showers and baths, and do not scrub skin. I usually use the soft side of a surgical sponge and clean my daughter's body very lightly if I can help it. Avoid using any harsh cleansers and cleansers with fragrance. If your eczema is flaring up, you will want to avoid washing it at all. Do not towel off after a bath, instead apply moisturizers immediately to seal in the moisture. Apply moisturizer in downward motions, don't use circles. Moisturize even when you aren't experiencing a flare up to prevent future flare ups.



In my daughter's skin care, we use several different types of baths. These are the ones we use the most. 

Types of Baths
  • Bleach baths: Add 1 cup of bleach to a full bathtub and soak for 10-15 minutes. A bleach bath helps kill the bacteria that can be living in the affected portions of skin.
  • Baking Soda: When the eczema is causing severe itching, a baking soda bath can give a lot of relief. Simply sprinkle baking soda in a warm bathtub and soak for 10-15 minutes.
  • Oatmeal Baths: We do a lot of oatmeal baths in our house. They seem to be very good at soothing my daughter's skin. Buy natural, plain oatmeal at the store and then grind it in a food processor until it is very fine. Sprinkle over the bottom of the bathtub and mix in.

Laundry and Clothing — Changing our laundry routine is hands down the best thing we have done for our daughter's eczema. We wash EVERYTHING in a free and clear detergent. It is important to wash everything and not just clothes in the free and clear detergent, so a loved one with eczema isn't exposed to laundry chemicals on sheets, towels or even your clothes. Make sure to use a free and clear dryer sheet as well.

Stay away from fleece and flannel clothing, especially during flare ups. Fleece and flannel clothing have the tendency to stick to flare ups and make them itch more or bleed. Avoid any itchy fibers because they will exacerbate the eczema when rub against.

Food and Hydration — If you have eczema and you haven't already been tested for food allergies, you should be. They often go hand in hand. We discovered after testing that my daughter had a bad egg allergy. As we eliminated egg from her diet she had fewer flare ups.

One of the best ways to combat eczema is from the inside out, Make sure to stay very hydrated, which will in turn hopefully prevent scaly patches.



Air — Run humidifiers all year long, but especially in the drier months. Consider your sources of dander in your house. Keep your pets clean and groomed. I would actually LOVE to one day replace all our carpets with hardwoods to prevent as much dander as possible.
 

Sun Protection — Sun protection has been a continuous concern in our house. Many sunscreens irritate my daughter's extremely sensitive skin, but not using anything isn't an option. There have been many times she has cried while I applied her sunscreen. Luckily we have found things that help. We try to limit sun exposure when the sun's rays are the strongest, which is usually between 10am and 2pm, but that isn't always possible because we LOVE to spend time at the splash pad and we actually have season passes to our local water park.

I recommend using a rash guard and board shorts instead of small swim suits when possible, and to use one of the five Neutrogena sunscreen products that have been awarded The National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance.


For general application we love Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Sunscreen because it is a Broad Spectrum SPF 60 + (Broad Spectrum means it protects against both UVA and UVB rays), it is water resistant for up to 80 minutes, and 100% naturally sourced. It is fantastic on my daughter's sensitive skin and I have even used it to protect flare ups without any tears. We make sure to apply at least 15 minutes before going in the sun and reapply every hour and fifteen minutes with great success.

For her face we use Neutrogena Pure and Free Baby Sunscreen. It is also a broad spectrum 60+ SPF that comes in a stick and is absolutely perfect for applying to face and ears without getting anything into the eyes. It is also 100% naturally sourced and won't run into eyes. I personally use the Neutrogena Pure and Free Liquid for my face because it layers under my makeup so well.


Although 1 in 5 people will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, only 20% of people use a sunscreen daily. Problems with skin cancer run in my husband's family so I am careful to apply and reapply sunscreen when we are outside. I love that I have a sunscreen that not only protects my children, but doesn't aggravate our daughter's eczema either. Try the sunscreen out for yourself and then write Neutrogena website about your experience.

You can find more about the protects that have been given the Seal of Acceptance here.  

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Chocolate Covered S'Mores

 This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #LetsMakeSmores #CollectiveBias #sponsored
There is just something about s'mores. The chocolate with the marshmallows roasted over the fire. It takes me back to my childhood. When I was little, my family went camping every summer. We would have fires and s'mores, they are some of my happiest childhood memories. Memories I hope to recreate with my kids. The past couple of years, some thing has stopped us from being able to head out with a tent, last year it was having a brand new baby. Even though we aren't leaving town, we have decided to recreate those memories even if we aren't going further than our own backyard. You don't need to be on vacation to make s'mores. Any night can be a fun family night.

At home in our kitchen, with out microwave we have started experimenting with ways to make s'mores and have found some amazingly easy and delicious versions. In fact, s'mores are just as much fun to make indoors as they are outdoor AND it is such a quick treat.  Here are our favorite versions of chocolate covered s'mores.
You will need:

  • Hershey's Milk Chocolate Bar (the 6 packs work great for this)
  • Jet Puffed S'mores Mallows (they are square for S'mores! So smart! I found them at Walmart.)
  • Honey Maid Squares
  • a plastic bag (for squishing extra graham crackers)

Break apart all of the chocolate bars into a microwave safe bowl. Microwave the chocolate in 30 second increments, stirring between each one.
While the chocolate is microwaving, place some graham crackers in a plastic bag and crunch them down. This will become your topper.
There are three different ways to make chocolate covered S'mores and all are delicious!

1. Place a marshmallow between two graham crackers. Microwave the s'more for 10-15 seconds, or until it starts to puff up. Remove from the microwave and dip into the melted chocolate, using a spoon to cover it completely. Add smashed cracker crumbs on top.
2. Dip two graham crackers in melted chocolate until they are completely covered. Set on wax paper to cool. Microwave a marshmallow by itself for 10-15 seconds until it starts to puff up. Remove from the microwave and place between your two chocolate covered graham crackers.
3. Dip a marshmallow in chocolate until completely covered. Set on wax paper to set and top with a good amount of graham cracker crumbs.
My daughter's favorite is the s'more completely dipped in chocolate. Absolutely delicious!
We love the new square Jet Puffed Marshmallows. When I brought them home, my husband exclaimed "Finally!" They are perfect for s'more creation and the Honey Maid Squares make it easy too and everyone knows that Hershey's and s'mores are a must! We love that we can create s'mores even when we aren't on vacation with these easy ingredients.
How do you like your s'mores?
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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Easy No-Sew Jedi Costume

Do you ever feel like you are living in a copy of "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie?" I do. All the time, except this time the title was, "If you give your daughter Star Wars Cereal." Basically she is going to need a light saber to go with it. If you give her a light saber, she is going to need a Jedi costume. If you make her a Jedi costume, she is going to want to play Star Wars. If you let her play Star Wars, she is going to get hungry and need some Star Wars Cereal. Lucky for me, a Jedi costume is REALLY easy to pull together and I had all the stuff on hand. 

The cereal that started it all. ;)

You will need: 
  • A long piece of tan knit fabric, Measure from your child's shoulder to their knee and then double it. and add a couple of inches. That is how long your fabric needs to be. I just let my robe be the natural width of the fabric. 
  • Scissors


 Cut the extra couple inches off the end of your fabric, this will end up being the belt for the tunic. Set it aside. Fold the fabric in half.
 Cut a small triangle out of the fold. Start with a small triangle and go bigger if you have to. Knit stretches like crazy and so a small triangle will be more than enough.
 Pull the fabric over your child's head and use the couple of inches of fabric to belt it at the waist. If you child has long hair, pull all of their hair up and leave a section down and braid it. If they have short hair, you can always buy a strand of fake hair at the craft store and attach it to a clip for a easy braid.

Do you love Star Wars as much as we do? Then you will be thrilled to know that starting right now you can collect these limited edition Star Wars cereal boxes. The boxes will change over time and will come out in pairs, one featuring a "light character" and one featuring a "dark character." Right  now you can find Darth Vader and Yoda at grocery stores across the country.  My daughter's favorite part of the new boxes are the Star War trivia and games on the back! 
The Star Wars cereal features marshmallows in the shape of
 • Yoda (green)
• R2-D2 (blue and white)
• Jedi Fighter (pink/red)
• Stormtrooper (white)
• Lightsaber (blue)
• Lightsaber (red)

and corn piece in the shape of
• TIE Fighter
• X-Wing Starfighter
• Millenium Falcon

We love that not only are the marshmallows shaped but the corn pieces too! Try Star Wars cereal for yourself by downloading this $1 off coupon
So which side are you on? The light or the dark?


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