Run the Rainbow, Eat the Rainbow

This post is in conjunction with New Balance & Chop Chop Magazine, who are giving away some super awesome stuff so keep reading!

We’ve just had a little streak of warm weather and it’s life-changing. Last year I was happy to hole up in the winter since I started it hugely pregnant and ended it with a tiny baby. But this year it seemed like winter lasted forever and I’m looking for some brightness in my life.

I am guilty of not getting the kids out for exercise very much during the winter. But now that there’s nice weather on the way, we’re going to be making a lot more playground trips. I’ve even started taking the midday walks with the stroller that I’ve been talking about for months.

Do you remember the pink shoes? Well they’re not getting quite as much use this spring. There is a new favorite shoe in this house and it is the Rainbow Shoe.

NB Rainbow

When I showed Graham these shoes on the computer he instructed, “Buy them for me while I’m at school, okay?” His rainbow shoes are now the supreme shoes in the house. He also doesn’t complain so much about them not being tight enough, since the velcro attaches to a lace that tightens. (LOVE THAT. For bigger kids the shoes have just plain laces.)

When he got his shoes right before we left for Texas he put them on and declared them “snazzy.” I have no idea where he heard that word. The next morning at the airport, the woman behind the counter told him his shoes were “snazzy” and that settled the issue. They are some snazzy, awesome rainbow shoes. They’re also for-real athletic shoes, which is a good thing because they’re getting some good use.

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The shoes get a workout on a warm day at the Zoo playground.

The rainbow shoes are part of a partnership with ChopChop Magazine, the food magazine for kids called Run the Rainbow, Eat the Rainbow. Even though Graham is only 3, we’re working to get him enjoying exercise and healthy food. (He’ll be starting soccer in a few weeks and we really need to have enough healthy foods to overcome his love of donuts.)

Encouraging different colors of fruits and veggies is a simple lesson in nutrition that’s easy for kids to catch on to. A rainbow plate has a variety of nutrients and flavors. Definitely better than the plates of beige our kids prefer so often. I am always impressed with how ChopChop finds ways to interest kids in food using all their senses.

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ChopChop’s Eat the Rainbow recipe is for fruit skewers using grapes, blueberries, kiwi, pineapple, cantaloupe and raspberries. Very tasty. But for my Bug I decided to give him a rainbow lunch since one of his favorite foods comes in a variety of colors.

I’m lucky my kid is a veggie eater. He likes crunch and it’s been our saving grace to get him to try more things. I never really thought much about texture before but it’s a big deal for him. Once we got him on crunchy vegetables he’s now moved on to “leaves” (aka raw spinach or greens) and many others.

I try to pack him veggies with sauce (ranch dressing) almost every day for lunch and he’s usually pretty good about eating them. He was really pumped when I told him today he had a rainbow lunch.

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As a bonus there were plenty of peppers left over, so I’ll be making rainbow jambalaya in the next couple days. I never would’ve thought to let my kid munch on peppers, but I highly recommend you give it a try. The bright colors are a great incentive.

Another way to do a rainbow veggie plate is to try red peppers, orange carrots, yellow cherub tomatoes (one of Graham’s favorites) and green broccoli. Serve that instead of your next veggie side dish and see if you get a few more bites than usual.

And now for some cool stuff! Not one but TWO giveaways!

New Balance and ChopChop are running a giveaway where you can win a subscription to ChopChop, a pair of the New Balance Rainbow 890v3 shoes and a $400 gift card for groceries. The contest runs through May and you can go here to enter.

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Plus right here on the blog I’m giving away a pair of New Balance 890v3 Rainbow shoes and a ChopChop subscription to one lucky person! The shoes are available in infant, preschool and grade school sizes. Infant sizes have the velcro and go up to a size 10.

To enter simply leave a comment on this post.

You can earn a bonus entry by tweeting: “Win @newbalance shoes and a year of @chopchopmag in the Run the Rainbow Eat the Rainbow Giveaway with @jessicaesquire! http://ow.ly/jVBRH ” Make sure you leave a second comment with the address of your tweet. (To get that, go to your twitter profile and click the time stamp on the tweet.)

Official Rules: No purchase necessary. By leaving a comment you agree to the rules of this giveaway. Up to two entries per household according to the directions set out in the post. Limited to entrants over 18 in the United States. Contest begins as of the time of this post and ends on Tuesday, Aprl 16th at 6 pm Eastern Time. One winner will be chosen. The winner will receive a pair of New Balance Rainbow 890v3 shoes and a subscription to ChopChop Magazine. Prize has value of approximately $60. The number of eligible entries received will determine the odds of winning. The winner will be selected using the “And the Winner Is” plugin. Winner will be notified by email and must respond within 48 hours to receive their prize. If a winner does not respond within that time, a new winner will be chosen. The prize will be provided by New Balance and Chop Chop Magazine. This contest is governed by the rules of Massachusetts, void where prohibited.

Disclosure: I received a pair of New Balance Rainbow 890v3 shoes in exchange for promoting the Run the Rainbow Eat the Rainbow contest. 

 

Becoming Your Family’s “Professional” Photographer

As soon as you start taking an interest in photography, other people start taking an interest, too.

And that is how you find yourself roped into taking pictures of all the grandkids in a not-quite-professional photo shoot.

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I’m pretty happy with these images. (Tell me that picture of Tessa doesn’t make you fall over dead. Also I’m super proud of how many photos have “catch lights” in the kids’ eyes.) But I took nearly 800 shots. EIGHT HUNDRED. It is not easy being the designated family photographer. I’m going to allow you to learn from our mistakes with the insanity that was these four kiddos.

DO NOT:

  • Give yourself only 30 minutes.
  • Use a room with barely any light.
  • Work without at least one wrangler for each child.
  • Do all of this for free. (Well, you can dream, right?)

We had only a short time period with all 4 kids together. Rushed is really not the way to go. I get my best pictures of the kids when we’re able to relax and just go with it. I like candids in particular, and we didn’t have time for any of those here. Little children aren’t always able to perform just when you need them to. (1-year-old Stella, in particular, was not thrilled about being here.)

Location

Adorable backgrounds are great. But we don’t all have fields of bluebonnets to plop our kids into on a moment’s notice. (If you’ve ever been to central Texas, the kid-in-the-middle-of-a-field-of-bluebonnets picture is standard.) In a way, the beige-ness of the living room at my parents’ house was a decent blank slate, but honestly, we could’ve used some pops of color.

A plain old playground can be fantastic. Green grass, bright colored equipment, blue sky.

Tessa on the Swing

 

This one, taken last weekend at the Zoo, is a great example. Sure enough it was just a shot I snapped without any pressure for a perfect portrait. It’s not perfect, but it has a lot more visual interest than the beige-ness of our posed photos.

Props

I learned this trick during our family photo shoot last year when Graham refused to look at the camera and we couldn’t get a decent shot of him until we gave him a rock to hold.

For our family shoot, I passed over some fake fruit. We used it a ton and it helped keep the kids distracted from the fact that they were being forced to sit still.

props collage

 

And every photographer needs that ace in the hole.

No, I’m not talking about the little birdie.

Treats

Bribe your subjects. The only way you’ll get them all sitting in a row together without all hell breaking loose is if they’re focusing on the idea of candy. (In our case, mini chocolate chips.)

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Guess where the person holding the candy is?

I’ve been really excited to learn how to use my camera, but just because I know a little more about light doesn’t mean I feel like I’m all set to go. I definitely want to practice. While this shoot wasn’t easy, it definitely helped me deal with some non-ideal conditions.

Cuz let’s be honest, while I love getting a cool photograph of the lion at the zoo, I really want to get these images of my kids. I want to get beautiful pictures of them without paying a whole lot. I want to have more choices than I know what to do with for our holiday cards.

With that in mind, and with the need to practice practice practice, I’ve joined up with Mom and Pop Photo (affiliate link).  You may have noticed their button in my sidebar. Most parents don’t have time or money for a photography course. The Mom and Pop courses have materials you use on your own time and a forum where you can share tips and organize local crews. Their Portraits 101 course doesn’t even care if you don’t have a super fancy DSLR. Point-and-shoot is just fine.

I love how the courses gives pictures with examples of how photographs look in different light and different settings to give you a clear idea of what everything means. They focus particularly on getting pictures of your kids and how to get your subjects to cooperate. Plus their community gives you a place to share. It’s fun to know that after that trip to the zoo I could upload my pictures to show that I didn’t need a super cool zoom lens or a lens hood or anything else to get some great animal pictures through the glass.

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affiliate image

 

Give them a look and you’ll see me around the forums posting even more pictures than I post on the blog. (Hard to believe, no?)

I am an affiliate with Mom and Pop Photo. I received a complimentary copy of their courses when I joined the affiliate community. I was not required to blog it. 

The Stress-Free Guide to Blog Conferences

I spent last weekend at Blissdom. For those of you who aren’t super nerdy bloggers like me, that’s a blog conference. Yes, we have conferences. And believe it or not, it’s not just a bunch of people sitting in pajamas with their laptops.

The more I talk to people about conferences, the more I hear about how they get nervous or stressed out about them. Or afterwards they’re exhausted and overwhelmed because they never took a break. But I think I’ve mastered the low-key approach to rocking a conference and staying sane and having tons of fun all at the same time.

 

 

The Social

  • Connect in advance. Join the conference Facebook group and check it regularly. Follow the Twitter lists. Talk to people. It makes a huge difference.
  • Get a roommate. This should be obvious, but if you don’t know anyone going you may not know how to go about it. (This is why you joined that Facebook group. I-need-a-roomie threads are a dime a dozen.)
  • Get more roommates. Even if you want to room with someone you know, get more roommates that you don’t know or haven’t met in person. They’ll be tapped in to social circles you may not be. They’ll introduce you to people you don’t know. You’ll always have people to eat lunch with. And they’ll bring more people with them.
  • When you go to a meal or a session with open seating, sit down at a table where you don’t know anyone and introduce yourself. It’s even better if it’s a table of kind of random people who didn’t all sit together. If you’re an introvert this may feel painfully awkward, but you’ll be glad you did it when you’re walking down the hall the next day and you see someone you recognize that you can say hi to.
  • Hang out with people who may not be in your niche. We tend to be too insular in the blogging world. But you’ll find that other niches have insights you don’t, especially when you start talking plug-ins or social media or monetization.
  • Connect people. If a friend comes up while you’re chatting with another friend, introduce them to each other. Plus this will make everyone think you know everyone even when you don’t.

 

The Anti-Social

  • Take time alone. It’s not as hard as you think. Don’t be afraid to say goodbye to people and head back to your room. Take a nap, watch TV, read a book, write a blog post, take a bath. Whatever you want to do, do it. I did this a few times a day at Blissdom and it helped me feel refreshed and centered. (Plus it means you can drop whatever random swag you’ve picked up so your arms get a rest.)
  • It’s okay to sit alone, to wander the expo by yourself, to have a meal without a crowd if that’s what you feel like. Let your introvert self out to breathe. (The pics on this post are from my solo photo walk of the Gaylord Texan while everyone else was doing other stuff.)
Free headshots–a definite must. I made sure to get them on my “cute” day. (Also, you guys, I’m crazy boobtastic in this pic.)

 

The Style

  • Blog conferences are somewhat notorious for ladies all decked out in their cutest outfits. It can be intimidating for those of us who spend the day in yoga pants and still have the remnants of a baby belly. Make sure you’re comfortable (IMO, heels are a no-no) and don’t be afraid to dress down.
  • Have one dress up day. Wear a dress, do your hair, put on your makeup, go all out. And then you can feel like you’ve done your part the next day when you get back to your tee and yoga pants and messy hair. I did it this time and it was great.

 

The Sponsors

  • I’m not going to stop you from going to every booth, talking to every sponsor, entering every contest and picking up every piece of swag. But it’s not my preferred method. (Plus your Twitter, Facebook and Instagram followers might get annoyed.) It also means your bags get very heavy if you have to fly home.
  • When things are crowded it’s a good time to make your rounds. See what’s going on at different booths, see what kind of goodies are being offered, etc. Take note of where you want to go when things get a little more quiet.
  • For the brands you really want to meet and potentially establish a relationship with, go by when things are quiet. You’ll want a chance to have a conversation, especially if you want to know what kind of work they’re interested in doing with bloggers.
  • Take advantage of the fun perks. Know who has coffee, candy, alcohol, etc. When you want a pick-me-up, it’s always good to know where to go. (At Blissdom I was the first person who knew that there was a coffee/espresso machine in the One2One suite.)
  • Don’t feel like you have to hit every perk. Sure, I got my nails done and my hair done, but I skipped out on the ice cream sundae bar. It’s okay, you’ll live. Plus those things can get crowded. It’s okay to say, “No thanks,” when someone offers you another goodie bag.

 

The Sincerity 

  • Be yourself. Don’t feel like you have to apologize if you’re the kind of person who’s going to go to bed early or wake up super early for the fitness session.
  • Let yourself go. Even if you hate parties and crowds and music and concerts… go anyway. At least do one thing that’s outside your comfort zone. Pretend you’re still 25 for a night. (You can still go to bed at 11:30. I won’t tell.)
  • Burn the evidence. Or post it on the internet. And make sure you keep some blackmail on your buddies.

 

The Social Media

  • Sponsors and sessions will give you hashtags to tweet and contests to enter. But try not to overdo it. It gets a little old for your followers, especially if they follow other bloggers at the same conference.
  • Use your Instagram wisely. I can’t tell you how many pics in a row I saw of posed Me-standing-next-to-so-and-so pics. There’s nothing wrong with them, but you can post them later on and you don’t want to IG a bunch of them in a row. Snoozefest.
  • Post updates that are interesting or useful for your followers instead of live-tweeting whatever session you happen to be watching. For example, I was thrilled to see a group of my followers pick up the #childhunger hashtag from End Child Hunger, our philanthropic sponsor. For a period every tweet with the hashtag donated 5 meals and I loved seeing them take the ball and run with it.
  • It’s totally okay to ignore social media completely. You’ve got a lot on your plate. Do what comes naturally.

 

The Sessions

  • It’s okay to skip a session or a keynote. It’s a great time for a nap or a quiet walk around the sponsor booths or some chatter with your new friends.
  • It’s okay to leave a session. Some say this isn’t polite, but you’re the one paying to be there. Sometimes session descriptions aren’t accurate. Or a presenter is boring. There’s no reason to spend your valuable time listening to a presentation that won’t help or inspire you. It’s okay to go into another session late. You’re there to learn, don’t sweat it.

 

The Takeaway

  • You never know when inspiration is going to strike. I didn’t go to very many sessions at Blissdom or BlogHer but both times I left with my mind full of ideas to try and pitches to send. I’ve got some great stuff to work on and I’m really pumped to do it.
  • Come with clear goals. They may have nothing to do with the direction you’re going when everything’s said and done, but when you’re not sure what you want to do for the next 3 hours it’ll give you some priorities.
  • Write an awesome recap post.
  • Go home and sleep for a few days.

I’m Officially Camera Ready!

Oh, the things I’ve gained from this blog.

It’s way more than an outlet. It’s the source of 98% of my social life. And I don’t mean that I spend most of my time online talking to people, I mean it’s how I met the vast majority of my in-real-life friends here in Boston. It’s given me the opportunity to go to fun events and conferences. It’s the reason I’ve been able to start a small business. And now it’s the source of a new hobby.

I never thought I’d be interested in photography. It’s the kind of thing the hipster dream girl does in an indie film, right? It’s not something regular people do. Especially those who lack any kind of artistic ability whatsoever. My stick figures drawn in Microsoft Paint are sadly better than my real-life drawings. I am TERRIBLE at art and wrote it off long ago.

But the more pictures I took for the blog, the more annoyed I was at how they turned out. My kid was cuter than this, dammit. I switched to phone pictures largely for convenience, which didn’t help at all with the quality. And finally, after considering all my options, I decided to take the plunge and get a DSLR camera. I never would’ve considered it if I hadn’t seen so many of my friends getting them and doing AMAZING things with them.

So I got it. I turned on my nice little (gigantic) Nikon and took pictures and… they looked pretty much exactly like the pictures I took before. I had to do something. I had to get myself out of “Auto” mode and learn what to do with this thing.

I got a few tips from photographer friends that got me through the last couple months, but I still didn’t know much about what I was doing. And while I could handle myself in Aperture-Priority Mode, it meant my shutter speed was adjusting and often giving blurry pictures because my hands shake.

When I heard from the ladies at Camera Ready Bootcamp, I figured this was a good opportunity to go for it in a low-key, comfortable setting.

We took a LOT of pictures at our class this past weekend. But I’m already seeing a difference.

Most of the morning was spent with this kind of tinkering. Change the ISO, change the Aperture, change the Shutter Speed, change the zoom.

At first it can be really intimidating to keep all these things straight. Which one should be high in low light again? Which one should be low in low light? Lots of things to keep straight at first. But by the end of the day it started to be second nature. There were a lot less throwaway pictures in my later photos as I got a handle on how to get the settings just right.

Kate and Ash who run the class are easygoing and fun, it made it easy to relax and not worry about getting it just right.

There were lots of great things in Kate’s studio to photograph, including some beautiful flower arrangements from Pollen Floral.

And we took plenty of pictures of each other. My friend Nicole was there and was a great sport about being photographed. (While I think I did a pretty good job at photographing her she’s pretty much the best subject because she already looks so good.)

Nicole isn’t so bad herself, she got some great pictures of me. I look nice in Manual Mode.

And once you’ve learned the rules, it’s time to break them!

I played a lot with Kate’s logo and the light coming in the window with some serious overexposure. I think it’s way cool.

I admit being kind of scared of a photography class, but it was great going to one that was fun and funky and filled with other bloggers and people who just wanted to get the hang of their cameras.

If you see me around, you’re a lot more likely to catch me looking like this…

Camera Ready will be offering their Bootcamp in the Berkshires, DC, New York and Boston in the coming months. The class includes lunch and a portrait session with Kate. (I’m really excited to see how my pictures came out!)

Disclosure: I received a blogger rate for the course in exchange for posting about the class. If I hated it, believe me, I would tell you. But I had a lovely time.

350 Pictures Still Aren’t Enough

Tessa has this great new smile. She smiles so hard her eyes shrink to a squint and then she closes them all together while her cheeks push up with happiness.

I want to get this smile on camera so badly. I tried for a million years yesterday and failed. I took over 350 pictures and couldn’t get it. But at least I have some that are close. And I finally got her cute little teeth. And about a million bath tub shots.

Enjoy.

I did get a couple shots that are REALLY close to that adorable smile. So enjoy:

Meanwhile, the hunt for that perfect picture continues…