Merry Christmas and happy holidays from our family to yours!
When we first visited Hillsborough, NC, early this fall, I fell in love with this grassy park along the riverwalk and thought it would make a nice backdrop for a holiday card photo. So we headed back one blustery weekend in October—the weekend Hurricane Sandy rolled through town, to be exact—and, fueled by Weaver Street coffee, set to work photographing the girls. We had a few misadventures and lots of hilarious outtakes, which I'll share in my next post. (One year I'm going to keep "the" photo for myself and just use the outtakes for our card!)
I'm wishing you cozy holidays filled with family and friends. And I'm keeping all those new little angels and the loved ones they left behind in my heart this week. Signing off until after Christmas...
Scrambling to finish your holiday shopping? Here's a roundup of gift ideas for you, whether you prefer to buy or make your gifts.
Want to give the gift of nature photography but aren't sure which images and sizes your friends and family would like? There's still plenty of time to put Calm Cradle Photo & Design gift cards under the tree. (You can print them yourself.) And for each gift card purchase of $50 or more, you'll receive a free 8x10 print of your choice from my portfolio (a $41 value). I'll ship the print for free to you or a friend. Here's how it works: Between now and December 25, 2012, purchase a gift card of $50 or more. As soon as I receive your payment, I'll email you asking which 8x10 print you'd like and where to send it. (I can no longer guarantee prints will arrive before Christmas, but they will ship directly from the printer.)
Have a little time to get crafty this week? Here are a few simple things I've made and written about this year that could be nice gifts.
Above: No-sew tutu. Below left: Christmas stocking embellished with bells and blanket stitching. Below right: Personalized yarn wreath ornament with felt flowers.
Below: Stamped gift tags.
I hope it doesn't seem petty to post this blog about a Christmas stocking when we are all reeling after Friday's tragic shooting. I am heartbroken and furious, frustrated and terrified. And while a weekend spent preparing for Christmas felt a bit forced, a bit inappropriate even given the circumstances, I realized that these seemingly unimportant acts—working on a Christmas stocking or planning a holiday meal—are not actually petty at all. They are the building blocks of family tradition, the underpinnings of the time we spend together. And I'm longing to hold my family closer than ever this year. I'm guessing you are, too. So here goes:
I wish I had the skills to knit, needlepoint or sew entire Christmas stockings for my girls. Alas, I do not. So I decided to order these simple, personalized felt stockings from West Elm and embellish them. Here's what the stocking looked like when it arrived.
This stocking was my first attempt at blanket stitching. Thankfully a hand-sewn stitch meshed well with the imperfection of the felt. There are many variations on the blanket stitch, but I chose the most basic. I used this diagram to get started. It was easy. Seriously, if I can handle it, anyone can.
After stitching around the top, I added a few stitches to two of the snowflakes, then sewed on jingle bells (from Michael's) here and there.
When Cricket woke up from her nap and saw the stocking on the table, she climbed up and started happily jingling all the bells. I have a feeling Nora will do the same as soon as she can climb.
I'm always looking for family photography inspiration and pinning ideas here. When I spied a sweet bath-in-the-sink photo by Jessica Haderlie on Marta Writes, I knew I had to make it happen with Nora. This month she was just the right size and stable enough in a sitting position to try it.
So amidst this weekend's Christmas preparations and yard work (it's 70 degrees down here!), I managed to sneak in a few minutes to take her 7-month portraits. She loved every minute of it, smiling, squealing, chewing on her toys—and the faucet handles—and holding hands with her big sister, who was quite jealous of the bath venue.
We typically have great natural light in our kitchen, but it was overcast the day I had a chance to take these photos. I cranked up the ISO to 1250, which left the images a bit grainy. To reduce the grain on Nora’s face, I smoothed the skin in some of the shots. (Here's a great tutorial on using snapshots and Gaussian blur in Photoshop to smooth skin.) I also converted the images to black and white to emphasize the light instead of the bright wall color. (Here are a few basic tips on creating nice black and whites.)
P.S. No, I didn't forget to post Nora's 6-month photos; I took them during our holiday card session and didn't want to give anything away. They'll make an appearance later this month.
Nora's previous portraits: arrival, birth announcement, 1 month, 2 months, 3 months, 4 months and 5 months.
A few of Cricket's portraits: birth announcement, 1 year, 20 months and 21 months.
Need some holiday gift ideas? Check out these simple DIY projects: no-sew tutu, photo plaque, heirloom display and gift tags. You can also view my holiday discounts and nature photo shop.
Cricket searched high and low for the perfect Christmas tree. Now that it's standing in our living room, I'm decking the halls and feeling jolly. So I'm offering another holiday freebie and more discounts.
FREE 8x10 print of your choice with a gift card purchase of $50 or more.
Are you thinking of giving the gift of artwork but not sure which prints to select? Consider purchasing gift cards to Calm Cradle Photo & Design for your friends and family. For each gift card purchase of $50 or more, you'll receive one free 8x10 print of your choice from my portfolio (a $41 value). I'll ship the print for free to you or a friend. (Gift cards are electronic, so you don't have to worry about whether they’ll make it under the tree in time.)
Here's how it works: Between now and December 25, 2012, purchase a gift card of $50 or more. As soon as I receive your payment, I'll email you asking which 8x10 print you'd like and where to send it.
Two new featured photo discounts + four ongoing discounts: 25% OFF
Now through December 15, 2012, receive 25% off the print price of any size of the following six photos. If you are interested in purchasing a canvas print, please contact me for pricing.
Vibrant trail is one of my most popular photos, taken in Summit County, CO. You can see a canvas print of it hanging in my toddler bedroom tour.
Baby giant tortoises acting tough 2 is another popular photo, taken in the Galapagos Islands. (You can find the entire baby giant tortoise series here).
I've been on a yarn wreath kick lately because, well, they’re adorable. First I made this fall yarn wreath. Then I made little yarn wreath ornaments as party favors for Cricket's birthday. These ornaments would be sweet holiday gifts. Here's how to make them.
3- or 4-inch diameter needlepoint hoop
To make the wreath: Wrap the hoop with yarn. Double or triple layering the yarn here and there creates a nice effect.
To make the flowers: Cut strips of felt about 1/2-inch wide. Don't worry about cutting in a straight line; squiggly strips work best. Take one strip and coil it tightly until the flower is a desired width. Using a glue gun, glue the end of the strip in place. Cut a small circle of felt and glue it to the bottom of the flower to keep the coil from unraveling. Make several flowers for each wreath. Glue flowers onto the wreath.
To make the ribbon initial: Remove and discard the fastener at the top of the hoop. Feed the ribbon through the holes and tie in a knot. Paint both sides of the wooden letter. Once dry, glue the letter to one side of the loop of ribbon. (Or you could hang a smaller letter in the center of the wreath, like I did on this wreath.)
Give the ornament as a gift or hang it on your tree to enjoy. Happy holidays!
(Need more gift ideas? Check out these simple DIY projects: embellished Christmas stocking, no-sew tutu, photo plaque, heirloom display and gift tags. You can also view my holiday discounts and nature photo shop.)
Somehow Cricket's 2nd birthday became the most anticipated event of the year at our house. For the last three months, she told anyone who would listen: "My birthday coming up!" She also insisted we sing Happy Birthday about 12 times a day to her and every member of our immediate and extended family. And she talked endlessly about eating birthday cake. (Okay, so I've been stingy about letting her eat any treats until recently...)
Needless to say, this party had to be special. While her first birthday seemed more about us, her parents, celebrating the fact that we had survived her babyhood—she had no clue what was going on—this birthday was for her and she understood that.
One great thing about a Thanksgiving weekend birthday is that we're usually surrounded by family. This year two of my sisters and their families joined us. (You may remember them from the mountains and the gardens.) What could be more exciting than a house full of cousins to help celebrate?
Below: Fall party table display, including a sheep cake, DIY flower pot cake stands and personalized trick-or-treating buckets.
Below clockwise from left: Sheep cake. I never imagined a time would come in my life when I would stay up late researching methods to fashion a cake into a sheep, but that's motherhood for you. Since the cake was a big deal to Cricket, I didn't want to disappoint. She told me recently that her favorite animal was a sheep, so we needed a sheep cake. Obviously.
Personalized yarn wreath ornament party favors. Fall yarn wreath with felt flowers, embellished for the birthday. Fall blooms.
Our guests made this adorable leaf garland as a surprise, inspired by Design Mom.
Below left: Cricket excitedly awaits the arrival of our guests. Below right: Trick-or-treating around the house for party favors. My sister suggested trick-or-treating for our party activity, since Cricket loved it this year. (Here's the saga of her goat costume, which we were actually able to stuff her into at the last minute.) It was a hit with all the girls.
One order of business was to take a photo of the five cousins. Together. In one frame. We piled them onto the couch, and I snapped this one...
Before we could re-position them out of the spotty sun, things suddenly devolved! Oh, well. The photo below most accurately captures the goings-on when these girls get together anyway.
Below clockwise from left: My sister made this adorable plaque for Cricket. When the cake arrived on the table, things took a serious turn; everyone grew quiet, shoveling as much cake into their mouths as possible. (Thanks to Christo for handling the photography during cake and presents.)
I'd say she had a pretty clean face considering the amount of cake and cookies consumed.
After cake, we moved on to presents. Here's the play kitchen reveal. She hasn't stopped playing with it since that moment. (Warning: Though super cute, this kitchen requires intense assembly. And you should anchor it to the wall; it has already tipped over once.)
I'm calling this much-anticipated party a success. Happy 2nd Birthday, Cricket!
I'm Julia Soplop, writer and photographer. I believe there is something profound in bearing witness to moments of joy and pain in others’ lives. My husband, three girls and I live outside of Chapel Hill, NC. You can read more about me here.
DIY crate bookshelf
Toddler bedroom tour
DIY twin bed
DIY braided scarf
DIY coffee bean centerpiece
Grandma knows best
Little gallery wall
DIY yarn wreath ornament
DIY no-sew tutu
5-month portraits + b&w tips
DIY felt heart mobile
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