Thursday, June 26, 2014

Taking the Perfect Instagram of Your Kids

As all parents know, our squirmy and active kids are hard to capture on camera. I always want to catch the adorable face Leela has just made, or Jiya's beautiful smile, but I can hardly get to it in time before they are on to the next activity, which is often less than a Kodak moment.

Aside from having professional pictures taken from time to time, I love taking and posting frequent pictures of my kids on instagram. It's the perfect medium to share these great shots with my close friends and family, as I like to keep  my instagram circle pretty limited. I also love looking back on these to see how much they have grown and changed!

Here are some of my best tips to get that perfect shot.

1. Back up... a lot. Taking a photo of your toddler at the beach won't be memorable unless you can also capture the sand, the stillness of the ocean, the way the sky is that evening... so don't angle for the face only. Back up and get the whole scene.

2. ...or Get Closer. Especially for babies. Nothing captures their soft skin, innocent faces, darling sleepy little eyes, like a close up.

3. Shoot from a Different Angle. Get on your knee, lie down on your chest, or stand above them and snap from above for a fun and interesting take on playtime. This is the kind of picture that will stand out.

4. Find the Light. Natural light is a blessing to all photos, but the instagram filters make it so fun to play around with sunlight. Get the sunlight in the pic for a timeless, magical feel.

5. Try it in Black & White. Chances are you will achieve that ethereal feeling, eliminate lighting issues and pack a real punch if you choose the "willow" or "inkwell" feature. I'm a firm believer that black & white is usually better... and this is always a great fix for photos that are dark or over-exposed.

6. Take pics of Action, not poses. Even though it's hard to resist taking a cute picture when your little girl is dressed up and smiling, my favorite shots are of my kids in the swings, or running around, or splashing in the water. Let the kids be kids, and try to document their childhood, not just their faces.

6. Sideline the child. While its easy and tempting to center your child in the shot, if you frame the picture slightly differently, you'll be surprised at how much more of the scene you can include. And it will make the picture a lot more interesting to look at.

7. Make them Happy. If your child is bad about smiling for pics, hand them a balloon or lollipop just before you whip out your camera. Works like a charm!

Do you have anything to add? I'd love to hear any of your tips or experiences with photographing your kids!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Summer Reading List

I know I've been MIA on the blog for the last couple of weeks... but I have good reason. The kids and I, with hubby joining us on the weekends, were enjoying a relaxed, sunny vacation in East Hampton. It was filled with trips to the beach, dips in the pool, long lazy afternoon naps, and lots of bonding time. I'll fill you in more very soon, but meanwhile, I'm back this week with some great posts inspired by my time off.

To kick off the official start of summer, here are my picks for summer reading! I've devoured every single book on this list during my two week vaca, and I know you all will love them just as much as I did. Happy reading!!

The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan was the first book I picked up while in the Hamptons, and it really captured me with its touching passages, insight into marriage, and unique juxtaposition of four marriages in different times with their own strengths and struggles. I also loved learning more about the diamond industry, and the idea of a diamond being forever, which is central to this novel. Definitely an enriching summer read.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart is an insanely addictive story about a young girl with partial amnesia resulting from a mysterious accident during her annual summer vacation at her family's private island. The Sinclair family is comprised of rich, beautiful people with blond hair, perfect features and equally imperfect relationships. I loved the author's well written description of their lovely home, their strained relationships, the close friendship between the cousins, and most of all... the enchanting nature of a first love with the backdrop of the magic of childhood summer. I promise, you won't be able to put this one down!!

The Vacationers by Emma Straub is about a family's two week vacation in Mallorca, where extended family is getting together to celebrate milestones. In the meanwhile, they surface tensions, rekindle relationships and even reveal secrets. This is a sufficiently satisfying story about family that is just as dysfunctional as any other, but the character development is definitely lacking in depth. Still, I'd classify this as a good summer read.

The Tender Bar by J. R. Moehringer is the most compelling memoir I've read in a long time. This was published many years ago, but was recently recommended to me by a friend who told me she thought this was one of the most significant books she's ever read. Truly, this is a heartbreakingly beautiful novel about a fatherless boy, his hard-working mother, and this young boy's struggles with society. This book is essentially about growing up, but told using a bar as the vehicle. Extremely well written and remarkably captivating... 

I am Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum is a reverse love story about a 34-year-old failed monogamist who has lost his mistress to a famous cutlery designer. Set in Paris and London, this is a strangely romantic, witty and hysterical story with deep emotional undertones. Richard Haddon, despite his many flaws, is a loveable character and you will certainly enjoying exploring the themes of fidelity, loyalty and fleeting youth alongside him.

What's on your reading list this summer?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Book Review: Loving Mr. Daniels by Brittainy C. Cherry

If you are in the mood to read an incredibly touching and unforgettable love story, pick up Loving Mr. Daniels by Brittainy C. Cherry... it's the perfect start to summer reading! This is very different than the books I usually read, but I wanted to review it because I think many of you may enjoy it as a beach read.

I didn’t plan to stumble into Joe’s bar and have Daniel’s music stir up my emotions. I had no clue that his voice would make my hurts forget their own sorrow. I had no idea that my happiness would remember its own bliss. 

When I started senior year at my new school, I wasn’t prepared to call him Mr. Daniels, but sometimes life happens at the wrong time for all the right reasons. 

Our love story wasn’t only about the physical connection. 

It was about family. It was about loss. It was about being alive. It was silly. It was painful. It was mourning. It was laughter. 

It was ours. 

And for those reasons alone, I would never apologize for loving Mr. Daniels. 

This novel centers around a "forbidden" romance between a teacher and student, but is about much more than the love they share. This is a moving and complex novel that will have you falling in love on every page! Daniel and Ashlyn have a chance meeting at a train station, after which he invites her to hear his band "Romeo's Quest" perform on stage. I loved all the Shakespeare references throughout this novel, bringing me back to my college days when I majored in English. A lot of this novel will bring you back to your youth -- the feeling of a first love, the all-consuming nature of attraction and chemistry... and the promise of tomorrows. 

When they meet, Ashlyn and Daniel are depressed and lonely. Ashlyn has just lost her twin sister to cancer, and  her family has fallen apart after this tragedy. Similarly, Daniel is broken and tortured, but they find happiness and romance with each other. Right away, they have a beautiful and intense connection but it is shaken when they both appear in class together -- him as the teacher, and she as the student. 

Although their love is "forbidden" -- it is unconditional, powerful and heartbreaking. The character development and prose of this beautiful story will leave you astounded and invigorate you, just before breaking your heart. While there were many parts of this book that are exaggerated, maybe even borderline trite, if you can let go of all that for a bit... you will find magic in this inspiring love story.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Father's Day Gift Guide

Father's day is around the corner! Beside breakfast in bed, what have you planned for your doting dad?

Here are some gift ideas for the guy who has everything!

1. The most hilarious book about fatherhood and parenting. I love Jason Good's blog, but his book is even better... a great gift, especially for a newbie! ($9.50)

2. Homemade gin kit would be a great gift and a fun project, too. ($50)

3. I love overhearing hubby sing in the shower. Make it a morning ritual with this Bluetooth Droplet Speaker - perfectly portable for the pool or beach all summer. ($75)

4. Mike's Hot Honey is ridiculously yummy. He'll enjoy using it on all his grilling favorites. ($10)

5. If he's anything like my hubby, he's probably FIFA obsessed and psyched for the World Cup! A spirited team jersey is ideal for any fan. ($150)

6. I love a fresh, classic scent in the summer. You can even personalize the bottle at (from $80)

7. Now you can take all those digital video clips of the cuties and mesh them together into one flip clip that he can carry around... sweet. (from $15)

8. Bonobos makes stylish and fitted clothes that every guy would love. ($85)

9. Love these adorable daddy & baby swim trunks! ($250 and up)

10. Treat him to a luxe grooming kit for a perfectly smooth and clean finish. ($195)

Monday, June 2, 2014

Summer Plans

It's finally warming up outside, and the great weather has gotten me thinking about all the fun things to do as a family this summer. I'm looking forward to enjoying two munchkins with outdoor fun! Poor Leela has been cooped up too much through this brutal winter. She's so excited to explore and enjoy the great outdoors! And as always, Jiya can't wait for her fill of sun and fun.
Although the days are long and light -- the summer season always passes too quickly, so I made a list of must-dos and must-sees so we can make the most of the next few months!!

1. A trip to Sesame Place in Pennsylvania.

2. Spending a long weekend with each set of grandparents.

3. Lots of ice cream and frozen yogurt runs with the kids, dinners outside, walks on the river.

4. Many trips to the beach, picnics in Central Park, mornings on the swings.

6. An afternoon in the sprinklers at the Children's Museum of Manhattan.

7. Utilizing our Wildlife Conservation Society membership by visiting the Bronx Zoo, Aquarium and Central Park Zoo as much as possible!

10. Making and eating fresh fruit popsicles!

As much as I love NYC, it's also so refreshing to leave for a day or long weekend, especially with the kids in tow. We have some travel plans at the end of August but are going to be around for a chunk of the summer... so we're hoping to hit the spots above for some family fun.
What's on your list this summer? Any other kid-friendly suggestions in the NY area? I'd love to hear...