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Releasing Ladybugs: A Fun Activity for Kids and Families

Monday, May 1, 2017

Its Spring and finally warming up around here! We love the warmer weather and spending a lot of time outside.  Lately we have been eating lunch out in the backyard, playing in the sand table, and swimming quite a bit.  Aside from all that, Henley's favorite thing to do outside  is play with bugs.

Seriously, every day she is on a hunt for snails in our yard.  She collects them all into little snail families and gives them all family roles and makes houses for them.  The same goes for rollie pollies.   In fact, I had to get her a bug catcher because every time we would take a walk, she would have a handful of bugs and if she lost one, it was the end of the world for a minute, making walks to the park especially long, haha.

This beautiful Spring weather brings about a bunch of awesome opportunities to show kiddos the great outdoors, which brings me to one of our favorite bug activities: releasing ladybugs.


 

You can find ladybugs for sale at garden centers.  They are great for your yard, specifically for plants that are plagued by aphids or mites.  We buy ours at the local Armstrong Garden Center.  One container houses a few hundred ladybugs and costs around ten dollars.

Once you get your ladybugs home, you can keep them in their container until you are ready to release them.  The best time of day to release them is in the evening or early morning hours.  They are most active when it is cool (around 60 degrees or so).


To release the ladybugs, choose a part of your yard that has plenty of plants and flowers for them to munch on mites/aphids.  This year, we put them on two sides of our yard.  Mostly in our orange tree and a large bunch of snapdragons.


Have fun!  They will crawl and fly all over the place when released.  They were all over Henley and my niece Autumn.  We had to do a ladybug check before we went in the house, because they were even in our hair!  Luckily, none of us are squeamish towards bugs, ha!  We played with the ladybugs for about an hour.


Most of the time, the ladybugs will be gone by the next day.  This year, we were lucky and we had some stick around up to three days later!  Henley got up each morning to find the ladybugs and play with them, which was really cute. 

Ladybug Facts
  1. Ladybugs are a type of beetle and can also be called Ladybirds. 
  2. They can have anywhere from 0-20 spots.
  3. Ladybugs are red because the color is a warning to predators that they will taste bad or could be poisonous.
  4. To defend themselves, ladybugs play dead.
  5. They can live up to a year.
  6. Ladybugs are both male and female.
  7. An adult ladybug can eat up to 50 aphids in a day.
  8. Ladybugs taste and smell with their antennae. 
  9. They lay their legs on the underside of leaves and the eggs look like tiny yellow jellybeans.
  10. Ladybugs have two sets of wings, their outer harder wings for protection, and soft inner wings for flight.
Hope that you look into getting some ladybugs for your kiddos to release! It really is a wonderful experience for the whole family!



Note: this post is not sponsored, we just love bugs and wanted to share our experience with you all!



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How to Take Your Own Family Photos

Sunday, March 26, 2017

It has been such an exciting time around here as of late.  I hit the halfway point in my pregnancy with our second little girl a few weeks ago, woohoo!  I'm 25 weeks now and can't believe that in three short months we will be a family of four!  It was also Henley's third birthday this past week...where does the time go?! Feeling slightly emotional about our growing family and my little girl growing up, I knew I wanted to take some family pictures to document this special time in or lives.  In addition, the rains this past winter have brought us some gorgeous greenery and wildflowers, particularly at the location where my husband and I had our engagement pictures taken six years ago at this time...so, score!

I love pictures and photography is an amateur hobby of mine, especially when it involves my family. In the last few years, the pricing for a photographer seems to be going way up, when the amount of pictures you get back is going way down.  I don't want to pay a few hundred dollars for a few pictures, and I know you don't either.  If you have the time and want to put in a little effort, taking your family's pictures is totally do-able.  Here are some tips to take your own family photos:



Outfits, Props, and Poses:
Before our shoot, I searched Pinterest for photo ideas and poses that I wanted to recreate for each type of photo (myself/maternity, my daughter, me and my daughter, my husband and daughter, my husband and I, and all three of us).  I saved the ones I liked most in an album in my phone so I could quickly and easily find them and reference them while we were taking pictures.  I also looked at outfit ideas and put together each of our ensembles for the photos.  I brought along a white blanket that I had (lighter color blankets work best for light and bright photos).  I also planned on using some of the wildflowers from the field for props and picked some when we got there.





Camera
I have a Canon DSLR type of camera but it isn't top of the line by any means (Rebel T4i).  If you have a DSLR, use that!  If you have another type of digital camera, you could use that too.  Either way, get to know your camera, and look online for how to take photos with the look you are going for.  I love natural light photography with no flash, so that is what I aim for.   There are TONS of tutorials out there and that is how I have learned to use my camera (and I still have a LOT to learn).

Here is a link full of helpful cheat sheets for photograhy: http://www.u-createcrafts.com/cheat-sheets-photographer/

Location and Time:
Figure out where you want to take your photos.  I usually opt for places outdoors, especially where you won't have a lot of people around to worry about being in the background of your pictures.  Think of large parks, state/county parks, open fields, or beaches.  Next, figure out a time that you would like to take your pictures.  I aim for late afternoon because the sun is not super harsh in the sky and the lighting before sunset or "golden hour" produces some beautiful pictures.  If you can, try to go on a weekday when there will be less people out and about.  For these pictures, we got to the park around 3:45 on a Wednesday and there were only a couple of people around, which was perfect!


A Helper/Tripod
If you have a family member or friend to help take group photos...bring them!!!  For this shoot, my mom came along and took pictures of all three of us or the ones of myself while my husband entertained our daughter for a bit.  For the photos of me and my daughter, my mom and husband switched off taking pictures.  Out of the three of us, I am the one who knows how to use my camera and take the best photos, so in between some of the shots, I would check the lighting and make any changes to the settings on my camera.  I also told them where to stand when taking the pictures for the most part.  If you do not have a young child to watch, I'm sure you could enlist your husband to take pictures of you while you are not behind the camera.  We have used a tripod on other occasions, which works too, but it is a lot easier to bring someone to take pictures for you.  I have also traded services with a friend, where she took my family pictures and I took hers, so if you have a friend who likes to take photos, then I would suggest something like this!



Editing
I use Adobe Lightroom to edit my photos.  It isn't cheap, but they do have options where you can pay monthly (around $10 a month).  If you take a lot of pictures, it is worth it!  I also have Photoshop but I prefer Lightroom because it is streamlined to photos only, easier to use, and has so many editing options that are awesome.  I looked for lots of different tutorials on how to edit photos in Lightroom and how to edit to the style that I was looking for (light, bright, and natural looking).  Pretty Presets for Lightroom has some great tutorials to offer here. There are other free options for editing, and one that I like to use is Picmonkey, and a tutorial for editing photos can be found here.











I was so happy with how our photos turned out.  I think that they are comparable to many that I have seen that were taken by photographers in my area.  So, I do believe that it is absolutely possible to take your own family photos!   If you have any questions, feel free to ask!


Little Mermaid Birthday Party

Friday, February 17, 2017

I had every intention of sharing Henley's second birthday party with you all a long time ago, and now I am planning her third birthday!  However, her party was too cute not to share!  She loves ocean animals and one of her favorite Disney Princesses is Ariel, so an Under the Sea/ Little Mermaid party was a no-brainer!




For decor, we took blue surgical sheets (my hubby is a nurse and works in EMS so he brought some home) and hung them up all over the garage to look like we were underwater.  We used streamers as seaweed and I found sea creature cut-outs on Amazon and hung them up as well.  We also made balloon octopi and fish lanterns to hang from the ceiling.







For themed food, we had a Goldfish bar, seaweed (spinach) dip, and I made clamshell cookies.  We also had seawater, punch, and mermaid margaritas for the adults.





I was able to rent an awesome ocean bounce house, which was a hit, as well as a cotton candy (sea foam) machine, and bubble machine, because "life is the bubbles"!  For games, I filled a sand table with fake coins, necklaces, and trinkets for a "Treasure Hunt" and made a fishing game with plastic fish, paper clips, and magnetic fishing poles.  There was also a Mermaids and Mateys Tattoo Parlor where the kids could pick out temporary tattoos.  Finally, we had the cutest mermaid piƱata, because what kid's party would be complete without one?!










We had a blast at the party and I still can't believe we have an almost three year old! Now on to planning for birthday #3! Ha!

The Ten Best Tips for Surviving the First Trimester

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

You're pregnant.  Congratulations!  This will truly be one of the most exciting times of your life.  Whether this is your first or fifth, you've heard or experienced first hand, that the first trimester is not all its cracked up to be.  Take heart, because it doesn't have to be that bad, and even if it is, well, it'll be over sooner or later!

In my pregnancies, I've been subjected to the dreaded morning (rather, all day) sickness.  This has been the worst part of my pregnancies...but I managed to survive it!  Here are my ten best tips to alleviate the most nagging nausea and get through your first trimester woes:


  1. Always be snacking.  Try not to let your stomach get empty, because that is when the nausea hits! Even if you don't feel like eating, or if nothing sounds good, munch on a little snack.
  2. Leave crackers by your bed.  If you wake up in the night feeling yucky, eat a few.  Also, eat one when you wake up, whether you feel nauseous or not.  
  3. The best snack for me was popcorn.  I carried a bag of it around with me everywhere and it was my saving grace!  My favorite is Skinny Pop popcorn.  It has a minimal amount of salt and no fake butter on it.  
  4. They say ginger helps, but I can't stand most ginger flavored things.  If you are like me, try gingerbread cookies!  The Pepperidge Farms Gingerman cookies seemed to help me, even if it was just because I was eating and not really due to the ginger, ha! 
  5. Eat what you can.  If crackers and carbs are all that sound good or all that you can handle, that's ok!  Your baby will be fine.  Just focus on feeling better and eating something!
  6. If you can, nap!  I had crazy dreams with my first pregnancy and awful insomnia with both.  When I was tired, I was more apt to be nauseous.  Days that I was able to squeeze a nap in, I felt better.  I am fortunate that my little still takes naps, so I nap with her a few days a week.
  7. If you feel up to it, get out and do something active.  When I was busy and distracted, I usually felt a little better.  Of course, always bring snacks with you! 
  8. Drink lots of water!  I was constantly thirsty and had to carry a water bottle with me everywhere.  I also notice that if I don't drink enough water, I feel crampy and uncomfortable.  Later on in pregnancy, I find it brings on Braxton Hicks. So drink up! 
  9. TRY to take it easy.  What better excuse to be a little lazy than growing a baby?  Luckily, my daughter was very sympathetic when I didn't feel good and when I say that, I mean she complained of her own "sympathy pains".   We spent lots of times cuddled up in bed because "baby was making us feel sick" haha! She still tells me this when she wants to lay in bed and watch T.V. 
  10. Take up a crafty hobby.  I knit and crochet, and found that when I was concentrating on knitting a baby blanket, I was less apt to feel sick.  Distraction helps!
Hope that I shared some good ideas with you and that you are feeling well in your first trimester!  Here's hoping that the second trimester is more enjoyable for us all!

Baby #2 is on the Way!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

I am so excited to announce that we are having another baby!


We decided to start trying for another baby this past August.  For me, this was not something to take lightly, and it was a decision I approached with nervousness and dread.  After experiencing a devastating loss and then a long process to conceive our daughter, I was not looking forward to trying for another baby.  Not to mention, I honestly had prepared to need fertility treatments again as we had with Henley.  I was dreading another month (after month, after month) of seeing negative pregnancy tests again this time around.  At the same time, I knew in my heart it was time for another baby, and Henley was praying for a baby sister every night for weeks.  So, I did my best to "try without trying" and keep my mind off of it.

A week before Halloween, I was feeling less than awesome, and while I didn't expect to see a positive test, I was beyond shocked and overjoyed when I saw it!  When Henley woke up from her nap, I put her in a shirt that I had bought that said "Big Sister" and had her tell my hubby.  We were all so happy and so thankful that God answered our prayers, and much sooner than either of us had expected!

The day we found out! 

Thrilled to be a Big Sister!



I am now almost 17 weeks along (almost halfway, what?!) with our second little girl!  Doing great and still a little in shock that this is really happening!  We announced our great news to everyone the week of Christmas, when I hit my second trimester.  Can't wait to share more with you as this pregnancy goes on!




Ice Cream Bread

Monday, February 29, 2016

More and more I am seeing food videos pop up in my Facebook feed.  I'm sure you know the ones I am talking about: they're quick, look so easy, and of course, delicious.  I usually save them only to be added to the long list of recipes and links in my Facebook folder that I never really look at again.  Well, I came across this one and it stuck in my head, one, because it is a dessert, and two, because it only has two main ingredients that you might already have in your kitchen.  I had to finally try one of these video recipes to se if the are indeed that simple and "Tasty".

Ice Cream Bread 



Ingredients:
  • 1 Pint ice cream (any flavor, but I used plain old vanilla
  • 1 1/4 Cup self-rising flour
  • Optional: mix-ins (I used sprinkles and chocolate chips)


Directions:
  1. Allow ice cream to melt in your mixing bowl.  Once melted, slowly add in flour and mix until well blended. 
  2. Mix in sprinkles, chocolate chips, etc. 
  3. Line a bread tin with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.  
  4. Spoon bread mix into pan evenly.  
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 34-40 minutes.
  6. Let cool and enjoy with a scoop of ice cream!


Simple enough, right? I really liked this dessert, but more so when served with ice cream.  Keep in mind that this is a BREAD recipe, not a cake recipe.  Ice Cream Bread is only mildly sweet and is sort of dense.  When you serve it with ice cream it makes it sweeter and a little more moist.


This is a perfect recipe to get the kiddos involved in.  I had Henley add in the sprinkles and chocolate chips, and I would be lying if I said she didn't dip her fingers in the melted ice cream multiple times!  We had a great time making this and I am looking forward to trying another version of my own, so stay tuned!



The Story Box Review

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

In our house, we are avid readers, Henley included.  We read so many books with her each day (I'm talking ten or more books), that they tend to get old.  We have shelves and baskets of her books in nearly every room of the house, and they are all well loved.  I am thrilled that she loves to read, not only because it is something that I have loved from the time I was her age, but because I know it does wonders for her language skills.

Another thing I love...subscription boxes.  I currently subscribe to two for myself and I love the thrill of getting surprises sent to you each month.  So, last week, when I happened upon a new subscription box, The Story Box, while perusing Instagram, I was so excited!  The Story Box is a subscription box  for young children (ages 1-7) that was created by a speech-language pathologist and her husband, and includes two books and a learning guide to go along with them.


When The Story Box arrived today, I couldn't wait to open it!  The packaging was neat and fun, and Henley was excited about it too.  The books were carefully wrapped in tissue and fun crinkle paper, and sealed with a note.  Inside, there is a note from the creators, Holly and Clint, and a general guide on how to read and involve your child(ren) in any story at a variety of ages (baby, toddler, preschooler, or early elementary).  I found this interesting, and a great reminder to not just read to my little one, but to ask her questions and involve her in the story more.



Then, onto the books!  Included are two quality, hard cover books (not board books, these have paper pages), and this month, the books were Outside by Deirdre Gill and Go to Sleep, Little Farm by Mary Lyn Ray and with art by Christopher Silas Neal.  Both books were right up Henley's alley.  As most toddlers do, she loves animals and Go to Sleep, Little Farm has a bunch of them in it.  She really liked going through and naming each one, making its noises, and saying goodnight to them.  In Outside, there is a little boy playing in the snow, which Henley is also obsessed with right now.  Thanks to Frozen and last month's Frosty the Snowman on repeat, she is always saying that she wants to build a snowman.  This book was a hit with her, too.



Also included in The Story Box is a parent guide to go with each book.  It gives you a language concept to work on at each age group, along with an activity you can do to correspond with the story. For example, with Go to Sleep, Little Farm, it suggests to introduce prepositions to your toddler and as an activity, gives a recipe for a puffy paint mixture to make a moon painting.  I know Henley will love that! Since there are concepts and activities suggested for each age group, you can keep these guides and use them as your child grows.

Snowman Activity for Outside 
Overall, I was really impressed with The Story Box and I am looking forward to seeing what books they will ship out next!  I was also impressed to see that a portion of each sale goes toward materials for children with disabilities and from low income families.  I always am more inclined to purchase or partake in something when it goes toward a good cause!

If you love reading like we do, and are looking for something new to try or new ideas for learning with your littles, check out The Story Box! Holly and Clint have been so kind to share a coupon code with my readers, so make sure to enter TAKESIX at checkout and get $6 off of your first order!  I hope you love it as much as we do!