Photo tip: Take a picture with Christmas lights

I wanted to take a picture of my daughter holding the Christmas lights this year.  I had an image in my mind of something absolutely beautiful.  So, I pulled out the camera and took this picture.  I didn’t like it for several reasons (besides the fact that she isn’t looking at me).  Her face was too dark, the lights were reflecting on the wall (and in some of my earlier tries, on her face as well),  and when I tried turning on more lights or shining lights directly on her face it looked like it was the middle of the day and you couldn’t see the lights on the floor (which is the point). So, I tried several things to get the picture to work.  Here is what I discovered:

1. Turn off your flash.

2. Back up and use your lens to zoom in.  In my case, she was in a hallway with cream walls.  When I backed up I could get more light in the camera and get a better picture of her.

3. Turn your camera to AV mode and turn it lower.  I had to play with mine for a while because all the way down made it so she had to be perfectly still for the picture.

4. Try different angles.  Even without changing all of the things above, I found that taking the picture from another angle gave her face more light.

5. Turn on lights in the area that will reflect on the wall (and thus her face) without making it look like it is the middle of the day.

6. Move the lights closer to the face of the subject.  You can have them hold the lights up closer, or wrap them around the back of the subject.

At the end of my trial and error, here is what I came up with.  I was much happier with this photo…

Homemade Christmas Idea: Nutcrackers



In our family we have a tradition of making a homemade Christmas present for our parents each year.  So, we thought we would periodically share some of these homemade ideas with you.

Idea to make for Christmas -- nutcrackers to represent each personOne year we made homemade nutcrackers.  We went to our local craft store, where they had various unfinished nutcrackers.  You could also use some of the finished nutcrackers and just repaint them.  Then, we designed them to represent an individual in our family.  We painted them, used fabric, and various other things to get the look we wanted (clear marbles for bubbles, other wooden pieces, etc.) This is how they turned out.  This could be a fast last minute gift for your family.

Homemade nutcrackers for people in your family


Italy: Artists

michaelangelo-1One of the other things I wanted to do when teaching about Italy was to expose them to some of the great Italian artists.  So, I told them a little about Michelangelo, and showed them some pictures of paintings and sculptures that he created.

Then, we talked about the Sistine chapel, and how he painted that on his back.  To imitate that, I taped paper on the bottom of the table, and they had to lay on their backs to paint it.  Some of the kids loved it, but others thought it was too difficult.  But, they were all exposed to some of the great artists!

Silent Night Free download

Enjoy this free download of Silent Night.  To save and print, just click on the graphic below and then right click to save the image.  Enjoy!
silent night-2

Wooden Mary and Joseph




I saw these very cute wooden Nativities and just had to make them for a dinner we were having.

You will need 2 pieces of 2X2.  one needs to be about 10 inches and the other about 8 inches tall.  Paint the wood your preference of colors.  I choose to do some with “Joseph” brown and some green, and “Mary” blue.  We then sanded them down and applied stain over the top to mute the colors a bit.  Mary-and-Joseph4Place a painted knob (I got them at JoAnns) on top for their heads.  A scrap rectangular piece of any kind of flat board, (ply wood or any flat board wood) sized 3 inches by 2 inches, painted a cream color, sanded and stained again as well.  A button, painted skin tone completes the baby Jesus.  Glue him to the other two.  We then wound twine around the three and tied it off.

We made quite a few of these and they were a big hit at our Christ centered celebration!

Family History Quiet Book: Cupcakes

Cupcakes Quiet Book page: www.continuallycreative.comWhen I was thinking about quiet book page ideas, I found the “Imagine our Life” website.  She is an amazing designer.  She has a great page for cooking cupcakes. So, rather than reinvent the wheel, I decided to use it.  The only problem was I had allotted myself only one page per ancestor for this quiet book, so I made a couple of quick modifications to turn her beautiful two page quiet book page into a single page.

I like that it is a page that can have pretend play.  They can read the recipe book, add ingredients and stir, bake in the oven, and then decorate the cupcakes.  This has potential for a lot of play time.

Since she does such a great job of giving instructions as well as a beautiful patten, I recommend you visit her blog and use her pattern as well.  It is great!cupcake_one_page

Italy: Using Pizza to teach about half

pizza-1I wanted to teach them about the concept of half, so I decided to use pizza as my teaching aid (after all, we were learning about Italy).

I used this Melissa and Doug Pizza set and they absolutely LOVED it.

First, we cut the pizza in half to show how to divide into equal parts.  Then, We used the food on top to teach the concept.  We started by putting food of one type on one side of the pizza and the other kind of food on the other half.  Each of them took turns so they could all grasp the concept.  Finally,  I gave them a pile, and we divided it in half by keeping one piece, and then giving the second piece to someone else.  They had a lot of fun with this activity, and left with a strong grasp of the concept of half.

pizza-2 pizza-3 pizza-4

Simple fun effect with Photoshop

i-have-a-secret-for-santaSince it is the holiday season, I thought I would share a fun effect I created specifically for Christmas photos. I had a couple of pictures of my daughter with Santa last year, but I wanted to display one in our home that looked like a drawing.  So, I played around in Photoshop a little bit until I found something I liked.  Would you like to do something like this as well?  Follow these Simple Steps:


i-have-a-secret-for-santa_first-picture1. Open up your photograph.








i-have-a-secret-for-santa2_bw2. Change the image to Black and White with a good contrast in the photo.  I do this by clicking control U and then moving the saturation to nothing.  If you need to change the contrast, click on Control L and play around with the levels.






i-have-a-secret-for-santa_unsharp-mask3. Click on the Filter menu, Go down to “Sharpen” and then over to “Unsharp Mask”.

I played withe all the settings for a while, but ended up with the following:

Amount 187%
Radius 2.6 pixels
Threshold 46 levels




Have fun!  This works with all kinds of pictures, but Christmas ones with Santa are my favorite.

“UNO” Neighbor gifts

IMG_6521Here is another fun neighbor gift idea.  We wanted to give our neighbors something fun to do together.  I wrote the following poem to go with some UNO cards.

UNO Dasher, and Dancer and Prancer and Vixon.  Comet, and Cupid
and Donder, and Blitzen…but do you recall, the real reason for the season
after all?  We are grateful at this time of year to reflect on the birth of our Lord and Savior and the blessings we receive because of his birth into this imperfect world.  UNO we love and appreciate your great friendship and UNO we wish you a Merry
Christmas and Joy and happiness in the coming year.  We hope You will use this to find joy together as a family, and take some time away from the busyness of life,
because UNO you deserve it!

Fun idea!  Just attach the poem to the cards and Merry Christmas!

“Glade” neighbor gifts

IMG_6523The yearly neighbor gifts are so fun.  But, sometimes I stress about what to do.  I always want something nice, but creative as well.  We wanted to share some fun, very simple (it has to be simple this time of year, right?!) and creative things for you to give to your neighbors.

Everyone loves candles.  Glade candles are always on some kind of sale.  I love getting Glade products and adding a cute saying, such as “At this time of year, we wanted to let you know that we are so GLADE for your friendship, MERRY CHRISTMAS!”