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MomForce Podcast Episode 26: Traveling with Kids with Jessica Gee of The Bucket List Family

November 12, 2019

Welcome to the MomForce Podcast! Vanessa Quigley, mother of 7, entrepreneur and co-founder of Chatbooks, hosts this refreshing take on all things mom. Along with her 4 sisters, they’ll get into the nitty-gritty of real life parenting together, bringing you some tried and true tips and tricks to help make mom-life a little easier. And check out the #momforce by Chatbooks Facebook page. Episode 26: Traveling with Kids with Jessica Gee of The Bucket List Family Listen Here Are you frazzled at the mere thought of traveling with your children? Jessica Gee, mother of 3 from The Bucket List Family, has chosen to embrace it all and as a family they’ve visited over 80 countries! Vanessa chats with Jessica in this episode of The MomForce Podcast to chat about her tips and tricks for traveling with kids--everything from how to acclimate to time changes and introduce new cultures and foods, to what her favorite kid friendly destinations are and how to travel on a budget. And if you've seen any of The Bucket List Family's pics on Instagram or videos on YouTube, you know that documenting their travel is very important to them. Jessica also shares her tips for capturing those fleeting moments and the easy way she holds on to them forever. With our new Bucket List Family travel Chatbook you can hold on to your travel memories also! Click here to get started on your Bucket List Family Chatbook. And use code POD20 for 20% off your order! You can follow along on all their adventures on instagram @thebuckelistfamily and on YouTube. Also, be sure to check out Traveling Home, the renovation of their Hawaiian Bungalow. Wanna follow along with Vanessa? You can find her at @vanessaquigley on Instagram. Also - be sure to follow @themomforcepodcast on Instagram for more tips and tricks - as well as fun stories and highlights. Don't forget to check out our MomForce Facebook group! It has thousands of like minded women, helping each other to navigate the good and the bad of life!

10 Easy Thanksgiving Activities to Create Memories With Your Kids

November 12, 2019

When you think of Thanksgiving, you probably envision turkey, pumpkin pie, and sitting down to an enormous dinner with your family. But while the meal may be the main focus of the day, there’s a lot of downtime before and after the feast. And yes, everyone could spend that time gathered around the TV to watch the National Dog Show—but we have some better ideas. These no-fuss activities will appeal to kids of any age, so you can guarantee a fun and memorable day for the whole family.   1. Share What You’re Thankful For  Thanksgiving is, of course, the perfect opportunity to help your kids understand and express gratitude. Early in the day, ask each family member to share what they’re thankful for. Make it extra fun for the kids by writing down responses on paper feathers and creating a “thankful turkey,” or jot them down on a slip of paper to collect in a “thankful jar.” When you sit down to eat, read them out loud.   2. Do Something Nice For Your Neighbors While you’re in the giving spirit, brainstorm how your family can perform random acts of kindness for your neighbors. Rake the leaves in their front lawn, invite them over for a piece of pie, or simply leave a handwritten note at their front door. It doesn’t have to be extravagant—just a little something to brighten their day.    3. Bring Them Into The Kitchen  Invite your kids to help you prepare some part of your Thanksgiving meal. Maybe that means teaching them how to make the pumpkin pie recipe that’s been passed down in your family for years. Or, maybe it’s something as simple as whipping up some cinnamon butter. Whatever you make, your kitchen will probably (definitely) end up a mess. But the memories you’ll make will be so worth it. 4. Do a Photo Scavenger Hunt Entertain your family and capture priceless photos with a photo scavenger hunt. Separate the crew into teams of two or three people, and give them a list of photos to capture. (Some ideas to get you started: hugging your favorite furry friend, with the oldest and youngest person in the family, or posing with your favorite side dish.) The pictures you’ll end up with will be the perfect way to remember this Thanksgiving.   5. Decorate the Dinner Table No holiday dinner table is complete without festive place settings—so make it a family task. Maybe you paint mini pumpkins to put on each person’s plate, or weave together strips of construction paper to make placemats. Or, simply lay a long sheet of craft paper over the entire table, spread out some crayons, and let everyone decorate their own section of the table.   6. Participate in a Turkey Trot What better way to prepare for an indulgent holiday meal than running a few miles? You can find a Thanksgiving morning race in nearly any city, usually with distances ranging from a 5K to a half marathon. Many races will even offer a short, one-mile race specifically for kids. If you can’t find a race near you—or if you’re just not up for the logistics of getting to the starting line on Thanksgiving morning—simply take a family jog around the neighborhood.   7. Take a Nature Walk Need a break between turkey and pumpkin pie? Gather the family outside to go on a nature walk. Jot down a couple of items for everyone to look for—like acorns, red and yellow leaves, and pinecones. When you get home, you compare your findings. Who got the most leaves? The biggest pinecone? If you’re feeling extra crafty, use that loot to decorate a homemade fall wreath.   8. Share Stories   Write a couple of prompts (think: “The best day of your life so far” or “Your most memorable holiday”) and put them in a bowl. Gather everyone together and have each person select a prompt and share his or her answer. Some might be funny, some might be sentimental—but either way, you’ll probably hear stories you’ve never heard before.    9. Play “Minute to Win It” Games Short, silly, Minute-to-Win-It-style games are perfect for the entire family—and you can pull many of them together with things you already have on hand. For example, drop a handful of candy corn into a few tin pie pans, and then cover them with whipped cream. Give the players one minute to fish out all the candy corn—without using their hands. Or try this simple one: Put a cookie on the players’ foreheads, and tell them they have to get it into their mouth using only their face muscles. No matter if you’re a player or a spectator, you’ll have a good time.   10. Create a Holiday Photo Backdrop Encourage your family to get lots of pictures together by setting up a DIY photo backdrop. It doesn’t have to be involved or expensive—hang a gingham tablecloth on the wall, for example, or ask your kids to create paper chains that you can drape across the wall. Add props like these if you’re feeling extra festive, and then encourage your kids and family to take pictures throughout the day. (Here are some tips for taking great photos with your phone.) Whatever you choose to do on Thanksgiving, make sure to document it through pictures. Years from now, you won’t remember if the turkey was dry or who made the best pumpkin pie—but you will be able to look at your photos and remember all the fun you had that day. ____ Want more tips and tricks for your busy family? Join the Chatbooks #MomForce community on Facebook. Ready to turn your family photos into a gift or memory? Chatbooks is the easiest way to turn your pictures into books. Take 10% off your order with code photobook10.

MomForce Podcast Episode 25: Mind Your Manners

November 5, 2019

Welcome to the MomForce Podcast! Vanessa Quigley, mother of 7, entrepreneur and co-founder of Chatbooks, hosts this refreshing take on all things mom. Along with her 4 sisters, they’ll get into the nitty-gritty of real life parenting together, bringing you some tried and true tips and tricks to help make mom-life a little easier. And check out the #momforce by Chatbooks Facebook page. Episode 25: Mind Your Manners Listen Here Despite the fact that their first meeting ended with Vanessa in the ER with a broken leg (p.s. new snow skiers shouldn't go down black diamond runs!), Vanessa and her now mother-in-law have a fabulous relationship. In this episode of The MomForce Podcast, Vanessa, who is a new MIL herself, and Bonnie share that for them, it's all about space, support, and respect! The conversation continues as they discuss raising well mannered children, and how things have changed and stayed same since she was a young mother. And she shares Grandma Bebe's Golden rules for raising well mannered and delightful children. As a special bonus, Bebe shares the gifts that she, as a Mother-in-Law, has cherished most (and don’t we all need help with that!). Want to your Alexa to help teach manners? Click this link for directions on the "PLEASE ALEXA" hack! Wanna follow along with Vanessa? You can find her at @vanessaquigley on Instagram. Also - be sure to follow @themomforcepodcast on Instagram for more tips and tricks - as well as fun stories and highlights. Don't forget to check out our MomForce Facebook group! It has thousands of like minded women, helping each other to navigate the good and the bad of life! And use code podcast20 for 20% off your next order from Chatbooks! That code works for CARDS too! Order your holiday cards and send them our to all your peeps! They will LOVE it. Click here to download our AA Milne quote: undefined

How to DIY a Family Photo Shoot in Less Than 10 Minutes

November 1, 2019

You probably take dozens of photos of your kids every day. (Isn’t that what smartphones were made for?) But when’s the last time you snapped a picture of the entire family? Maybe you get family photographs taken once or twice a year. But professional photo shoots aren’t always a realistic (or affordable) option, especially for those of us who find that our nights and weekends are booked solid with soccer games and birthday parties.  So as the holiday season approaches, how can you capture quality, gift-worthy photos of your family without booking a professional photographer? Do it yourself.  Really, it’s easier than you think—and takes less than ten minutes (because, we know you have things to do). We’ve broken it down minute-by-minute to show you how. Prep Work undefined In the spirit of a speedy, fuss-free photo shoot, we’ll keep the preparation to a minimum. However, thinking about a few things ahead of time will pay off in higher quality photos. Choose a location. Natural light tends to produce the best photos. Typically, that means choosing an outdoor location—like your backyard or a nearby park. However, a living room flooded with daytime light can also work well (especially in front of some festive holiday decor!). Select a time. Bright, direct sunlight can result in harsh shadows and squinty eyes. To avoid that, aim for the morning or dusk, when the light is softer. If you do choose the afternoon, position your family in a shady spot or wait for some cloud cover.  Collect your gear. Have a DSLR camera? Great! Have an iPhone? Totally works, too. You simply need a camera with a timer (or a remote control shutter release, if you prefer), and a way to prop it up, whether that’s a tripod or a chair and a stack of books. (Tip: On the iPhone, go to your photo app and look for the little timer icon at the top of the screen. It’ll give you a very helpful three- or ten-second countdown! For any other camera, a quick search on YouTube should give you the instructions you need.) Dress the family. You can spend a lot of time coordinating picture-perfect outfits for a family photo shoot—but you really don’t need to. If you don’t want to comb through every family member’s closet, simply choose three to five colors and have everyone wear something in those shades. Keep accessories to a minimum, avoid anything with a logo, and choose classic, rather than trendy, pieces.  Now, you’re ready to get started!  Your 10-Minute Photo Shoot Plan undefined Minute 1: Get in Position Gather your family in your pre-selected location, making sure there’s nothing distracting in the background and angling everyone so they face the light. Avoid backlit photos—with the light directly behind you—unless you have editing software and know how to use it. Instruct everyone to get close to each other (too much space between people can look awkward), but not in a straight line. To add visual interest, make sure to incorporate different levels and heights. For example, you might have you and your spouse or the teens sit with little kids on their laps and older kids standing behind or next to them. From there, hold hands, lean into one another, or put your hand on someone’s shoulder—basically, remember that you love each other. Minutes 2-3: Set Up and Adjust Set up your camera on your tripod (or chair, table, or other platform), and make sure everyone fits in the frame—leaving a space for you, of course. Take a test picture to make sure you like the angle and lighting. “You want the camera to be set at eye level or above eye level and pointed slightly down,” says photographer Robin Angell. “Avoid lower-angled shots that capture what’s up everyone’s noses.”  If you aren’t using a remote shutter release, set your camera to burst mode (note: on iPhone, burst mode is automatically enabled when you use the timer), so that each time you set the timer, the camera will take several pictures, rather than just one. Minutes 4-5: Take the Formal Shots   Set your timer (or get your remote shutter release ready), join your family in front of the camera, and ask everyone to smile. Repeat a few times, so you have plenty of images to choose from. For additional options, rearrange your grouping between shots. Robin’s pro tip: “Whisper something to your kids that will make them smile—for example, talk in the voice of their favorite TV character, or tell them that you’re taking them to the park tomorrow.” You’ll avoid a forced smile and get a natural, genuine grin. Minutes 6-7: Switch It Up In addition to the more formal pictures, make sure to get a couple of candid photos that capture your family in all its goofy, giggly glory. “Good photographs evoke emotion and bring you back to a moment in time to sweetly relive,” says Robin. “It might not feel picture perfect in that moment, but one day that will be a cherished photograph.” To get those shots, start by offering up some commands like “Look at Dad!” or “Everyone fake laugh”—which usually results in everyone actually laughing. “Tickle each other, make monkey noises, hug each other,” suggests Robin. “Spin your child around, and stop when he or she is facing the camera. You get the biggest smiles when your kids are genuinely living in the moment.” Minutes 8-10: Narrow It Down Once you capture the entire family together, you might want a few shots of just the kids, or just you and your significant other (after all, it’s nice to remember how the family began). For each grouping, make sure to get a couple of different shots—both posed and candid.    That’s it! In just ten minutes, you’ll have dozens, if not hundreds, of photos to choose from: perfect for holiday cards, gifts, or personal mementos.  ____ Want more tips and tricks for your busy family? Join the Chatbooks #MomForce community on Facebook. Ready to turn your family photos into a gift or memory? Chatbooks is the easiest way to turn your pictures into books. Take 10% off your order with code photobook10.

How to Dress Your Family for a Holiday Photo Shoot With the Clothes You Already Have

October 29, 2019

There’s a lot riding on your holiday photo shoot. It’s your opportunity to get the perfect shot to include on your annual holiday card—which will grace your friends’ and relatives’ refrigerators for months. Of course you want your family to look their best! But in the middle of a busy (and pricey) holiday season, the last thing you want to add to your to-do list is buying new outfits for everyone. Good news: You don’t have to shell out any cash or leave the house to dress your family for your holiday photos—all you have to do is look in everyone’s closets. It’s 100% possible to pull together coordinated outfits from the clothes you already have.  And—bonus!—it might even result in better photos. “Kids are happier sitting for photos if most of their clothes are familiar and comfortable,” says Jenn Mapp Bressan, stylist, author, and founder of Tiny Closet, Tons of Style and a mother of two. Here’s a playbook for making the most of what you already have. Redefine “Holiday Best” undefined Sure, the holidays may bring to mind images of fancy dresses, suits, and ties, but that’s not the only way to add a festive spirit to your photos. “Don't assume your children need a brand new, head-to-toe ‘holiday best’ outfit,” says Jenn.  Simply look for rich, seasonal colors and cozy textures, and use those pieces as the foundation for each outfit. “An evergreen sweater layered over a gingham collared shirt or a cozy red cable knit tunic dress can easily be paired with neutral staples, like denim or leggings, from your kids’ closets,” Jenn explains. “We live in a relaxed culture, so don't fight it—just make it festive.” Select a Color Palette undefined Gone are the days of having everyone wear white shirts and blue jeans. For a more modern look, you don’t want everyone’s outfits to match—you want them to coordinate.  The easiest way to accomplish that is to select a color palette and plan your outfits around it. “A three- to five-color palette makes for interesting, dimensional photos,” Jenn explains. Less than three shades risks looking too matchy-matchy; too many colors can look uncoordinated. Choose one to two seasonal colors, like red, green, or gold, plus neutrals like black, white, or denim. Choosing a color palette gives you a wider range of options to choose from, which is especially important when you’re digging through everyone’s closets. Rather than trying to find everyone a shirt in the same color, for instance, you can consider a variety of items—tops, bottoms, jackets, shoes, and accessories—to match the colors in your palette.   Holiday Photo Shoot Color Palette Ideas Red, Tan, Black, White, Denim Red, Forest Green, Gold, Black, White Light Blue, Grey, Navy, White, Tan Green, Black, Khaki, Gold, Burnt Orange Pick Patterns undefined Solid colors look great in front of the camera—but surprisingly, patterns do, too. In fact, according to Jenn, “Prints are essential. Mixing patterns adds visual texture and sets a ho-hum family photo apart from one that looks professionally styled.” Your daughter’s dress with a large floral print, for example, could be paired with a more subtle gingham shirt on your son, as long as they’re both in your color palette.  Of course, you shouldn’t dress every member of the family in a bold pattern. But considering prints opens up the possibilities for what you can choose from your family’s closets.   When in Doubt, Start With Mom undefined If you’re having trouble coordinating several outfits from what you already have, take a step back and start with one standout patterned piece. Jenn specifically recommends starting with mom. “I always make sure mom feels pretty, comfortable, and confident in her look first—everything else comes together from there.” "Choose a dress with an interesting seasonal print to act as the focal point,” she explains. Select three to four colors from the dress, and then build the rest of the family’s outfits around those colors. Even if it’s not a perfect match, don’t worry. “You’ll drive yourself crazy,” she says.  Trust us: There are coordinated, photogenic clothes in your family’s closets—even if it takes a little planning (and digging) to get to them. By choosing from the clothes you already have, you’ll save time and money, and you’ll help everyone be more comfortable in front of the camera. And that’s key for quality, memorable photos. ____ Want more tips and tricks for your busy family? Join the Chatbooks #MomForce community on Facebook. Ready to turn your family photos into a gift or memory? Chatbooks is the easiest way to turn your pictures into books. Take 10% off your order with code photobook10.

How to Take Newborn Photos in 20 Minutes While Your Baby Is Sleeping

October 27, 2019

As a new parent, you’ll hear from nearly everyone how quickly the years will go by. Your baby may be just days or weeks old now, your friends and relatives will say, but tomorrow, they’ll be leaving for college.  You can’t slow down time, but you can preserve every tiny detail of your newborn in photos. And it doesn’t have to be a one-time thing. Even if you hire a photographer to take professional pictures in the first few days of your baby’s life, you’ll want more—trust us.   OK, but when do you actually take these photos? Here’s a helpful hint from busy moms everywhere: Grab your phone and spend a few moments capturing those shots each time your little one takes a nap. A sleeping baby is comfortable, stays still, and doesn’t cry—all key elements of a print-worthy photo! And to get the best quality photos possible, keep these tips in mind.   1. Find a Clean, Well-Lit Location You know your baby best, so you probably know where he or she will fall—and stay—asleep. That might mean putting him or her in the crib, in the middle of a large bed, or on a blanket on the floor. “Any room will do, but go for the room that has the best lighting and is easiest to declutter,” says family photographer Rachael Reuther. “You’ll want clean surfaces in the background.” Then, “look for good window light,” recommends photographer Melody Coarsey. “The flash on your camera will make the light harsh, so turn off other lights in the room and use the window as your main source of light.”  2. Keep Your Little One Asleep undefined To capture those sweet, peaceful shots, it’s helpful to keep your baby asleep. As new moms and dads know well, a little one’s favorite place to sleep is often in a parent’s arms—so use that to your advantage. “The pictures you will cherish the most are going to be the one of you holding and admiring your little bundle of joy,” says Rachael. “Take turns snuggling your baby while the other take the pictures. I guarantee your new little baby will stay asleep.” If you’d rather have pictures of her sleeping on her own, simply “crank up the heat a few degrees,” Rachael suggests. “They will stay asleep a little better.” In addition, even the tiniest noises—like the click of the camera shutter or your whispered instructions to your spouse—can wake up a sound sleeper, so drown those noises out with soothing sounds. “A white noise machine or even just having the vacuum running in the background can help keep a baby asleep,” says Melody.  3. Follow Your Baby’s Lead undefined You’ve probably seen photos of perfectly posed newborns, complete with props and outfit changes. While they may be cute, they’re best left to the professionals. “If you haven't been trained how to pose a baby and don’t know how to use Photoshop, do not attempt it,” says Melody. “No baby can hold their head in their hands for a photo. It’s Photoshop magic.”   Instead, you’re much better off wrapping your baby in a cute swaddle or an outfit you love, and see what happens from there, she says. “Baby-led posing comes out beautifully.”  4. Make the Most of Your Photo Shoot undefined Just because you don’t actively pose your little one doesn’t mean you can’t get a good variety of shots. “Find a position that you and your baby are happy with—where the baby is safe,” Melody recommends. That could simply be however your baby falls asleep—swaddled on his or her back or curled up on his or her belly. “Then, move your body.”  Rachael agrees. “In one single pose I can get four to six totally different pictures by just tilting my camera,” she explains. “Get close and tight pictures, then get a full body frame. Tilt your camera 45 degrees, stand on a chair, lay on the floor, see how many angles are possible, and go crazy.” Capture the baby’s toes, fingers, nose, hair—all those sweet details that you want to remember forever. For even more options, add a different blanket or invite a sibling to come lay down too. Without changing your little one’s position even once, you can get dozens of different photos. Above all, don’t strive for perfection. “Professional newborn photographers spend hours learning how to properly pose, handle lighting, and work their cameras,” Melody says. “Just enjoy taking pictures of your little one. These are images you will have forever.” ____ Want more tips and tricks for your busy family? Join the Chatbooks #MomForce community on Facebook. Ready to turn your family photos into a gift or memory? Chatbooks is the easiest way to turn your pictures into books. Take 10% off your order with code photobook10.

MomForce Podcast Episode 23: Nothing Good Ever Happens After Midnight

October 22, 2019

Welcome to the MomForce Podcast! Vanessa Quigley, mother of 7, entrepreneur and co-founder of Chatbooks, hosts this refreshing take on all things mom. Along with her 4 sisters, they’ll get into the nitty-gritty of real life parenting together, bringing you some tried and true tips and tricks to help make mom-life a little easier. And check out the #momforce by Chatbooks Facebook page. Episode 23: Nothing Good Ever Happens After Midnight Listen Here The oldest child in the family is often the guinea pig, but by the time it comes to establishing a curfew for the younger kids, parents are worn down and the rules become a bit more relaxed. Whether it’s your first time dabbling into the world of curfews, or you’ve been there done that, determining the appropriate level of freedoms to give your kids is hard!  Whether you’re going to follow the letter of the law or allow your child the flexibility to make their own responsible choices, you have the right to know where they’re going, who they’re going to be with, and how they’re getting home (even if they roll their eyes at all your questions). On today’s episode of The MomForce Podcast, Vanessa and Erika talk about their own curfews growing up, how they enforce curfews for their own teens and tweens, and share some brilliant advice from the MomForce Facebook group.  No matter where you land on your curfew, it’s important to let your expectations be known and stick to the consequences, should it come to that. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, but remember what they say… “Nothing good ever happens after midnight.” Wanna follow along with Vanessa and Erika? You can find them at @vanessaquigley and @rikkianderson on Instagram Also - be sure to follow @themomforcepodcast on Instagram for more tips and tricks - as well as fun stories and highlights. Don't forget to check out our MomForce Facebook group! It has thousands of like minded women, helping each other to navigate the good and the bad of life! And use code podcast20 for 20% off your next order from Chatbooks!

MomForce Podcast Episode 24: Good Moms Have Bad Days

October 22, 2019

Welcome to the MomForce Podcast! Vanessa Quigley, mother of 7, entrepreneur and co-founder of Chatbooks, hosts this refreshing take on all things mom. Along with her 4 sisters, they’ll get into the nitty-gritty of real life parenting together, bringing you some tried and true tips and tricks to help make mom-life a little easier. And check out the #momforce by Chatbooks Facebook page. Episode 24: Good Moms Have Bad Days Listen Here Moms everywhere are overwhelmed: driven to tears, hyperventilating, rage cleaning, or perhaps hopping in the car and driving away. Caring for an entire family is challenging. Often we ask ourselves, are we doing enough? Are we fun enough, compassionate enough, patient enough? No wonder we are feeling overwhelmed! Good mothers have bad days. The newborn stage is hard. The toddler stage is hard. Teenagers are hard. Heck! Even our adult children are hard! On today’s episode of The MomForce Podcast, Leah joins Vanessa to talk about how they handle the weight that motherhood places on your shoulders. They discuss recognizing your own needs and taking action. Alone time doesn’t have to mean jumping on the next flight to Bora Bora (though it would be nice). Sometimes just a few minutes alone in a quiet bedroom will do the trick. Turning to your support system when you need validation (or just a good laugh) can do wonders for your mood. And even something as simple as cracking a smile (even if you’re faking it) or giving a good 8 second hug can help… there’s science behind it! Deep breaths, Mama. This too shall pass. You’re just the right person for your kids, and we promise, they love you more than any mom out there! Download the Marco Polo App to connect and recharge with the people who get you! Wanna follow along with Vanessa and Leah? You can find them at @vanessaquigley and @leahrward on Instagram Also - be sure to follow @themomforcepodcast on Instagram for more tips and tricks - as well as fun stories and highlights. Don't forget to check out our MomForce Facebook group! It has thousands of like minded women, helping each other to navigate the good and the bad of life! And use code podcast20 for 20% off your next order from Chatbooks! That code works for CARDS too! Order your holiday cards and send them our to all your peeps! They will LOVE it.

MomForce Podcast Episode 22: How to Help a Grieving Friend

October 15, 2019

Welcome to the MomForce Podcast! Vanessa Quigley, mother of 7, entrepreneur and co-founder of Chatbooks, hosts this refreshing take on all things mom. Along with her 4 sisters, they’ll get into the nitty-gritty of real life parenting together, bringing you some tried and true tips and tricks to help make mom-life a little easier. And check out the #momforce by Chatbooks Facebook page. Episode 22: How to Help a Grieving Friend Being a good friend in times of grief (without sticking your foot in your mouth) Listen Here Grief is something we may all be faced with one day. There are varying degrees of grief, but it’s always complicated. Time heals, but grief never fully goes away. Rather it evolves and manifests itself differently over time.It is human nature to want to help those we love through difficult times. Sometimes our actions are helpful, sometimes our words are meaningful. But other times even the best intentions leave us with our foot stuck in our mouth. In this episode Vanessa sits down with Keenan, one of Chatbooks’ original MomForcers and a mother who has experienced heartbreaking loss. Five years after the death of her daughter, she reflects on the lessons she’s learned, the healing she’s experienced, and provides insight on how others were able to help her through her darkest moments. From discussing death with children, to showing friends and neighbors support, and the importance of being selfish as you heal, this episode covers some of the often overlooked aspects of grief. Everyone’s rock bottom is different, and many people may never discover theirs. But all grief is valid and should be treated delicately. Want to connect more with Vanessa and Keenan? You can find them at @vanessaquigley and @keenanhunsanders You can also find more tips and trick on our Instagram page @themomforcepodcast Don't forget to check out our MomForce Facebook group! It has thousands of like minded women, helping each other to navigate the good and the bad of life! And use code podcast20 for 20% off your next order from Chatbooks!

How to Create and Save Special Moments with Memory Books

October 9, 2019

The good news: Thanks to humans’ newly developed third eye—our smartphone cameras, never more than an arm’s length away—capturing memories is easier than ever. The bad news: We’re turning into digital hoarders, never allowing those memories to see the light of day. But back to some good news: It’s also easier than ever to print out our pictures in photo memory books.  In fact, printed photos are essential to the act of memory-making. A printed photo memory book may have a different sort of impact on our long-term memory than a digital album—a study from Chatbooks and HP found that 91% of adults believe that printed photos help them remember events and details that they wouldn’t otherwise. Help your family remember the good times: Download the Chatbooks app today and get started on your custom photo books Given the force of the printed image, any photo memory book is going to be effective. But you can boost the power of your personalized memory book with these pointers. Define your goals. You can make an engaging photo memory book just by scrolling through your phone—it doesn’t need to be an exhaustive endeavor. But taking 10 minutes before you start searching through your pictures can help you pick the most effective images. Ask yourself things like: What feeling do I want this book to evoke when I pick it up in 10 years? Am I aiming to capture a theme of my life, or a time of my life? Who do I want the “cast members” of my memory book to be?  Work the senses. Our brains make memories through our senses. Photos are visual, but showing photos of details that can trigger our other senses may help activate those experiences. Did you get roses for your child’s high school graduation? Include a photograph of them in your memory book. Did you make your famous sprinkles cake for your sister’s birthday? Include a picture of her enjoying it, midbliss. Let the photo book help your brain prompt the molecular exchanges that make memories stick. Capture family rituals. Your mornings might involve Cheerios being torpedoed across the room and literal crying over spilled milk—but it’s a routine nonetheless, and it’s yours. “Real life triggers some of the best memories later on,” says Julie Plagens, blogger and author of Creating Family Memories: How to Make Family Time with a Crazy Schedule. “It’s important to not only capture the big things you do together as a family but also the moments that happen organically in everyday life.” Snapping daily or weekly routines and putting them in a photo memory book ensures that you’ll be able to look back on them once those routines have changed. The morning scramble, kids’ bedtime rites, Saturday night burgers: The ordinary makes for extraordinary memories, as Chatbooks co-founder Vanessa Quigley discusses in this MomForce Podcast episode. Make an effort to document them before points of transition, like starting a new school. Clean house. You don’t have to have pledged to the cult of Marie Kondo to want to get rid of stuff. Still, you might want to remember the things that have been a part of your family’s day-to-day life. Toys your kids loved but no longer play with, clothes that no longer fit, your warehouse full of second-grade art—get rid of them, but photograph them first, and include them in appropriate places in your photo memory book. If taking one last photo of your child playing with their stuffed turtle won’t cause a tsunami of tears before you toss it, go for it. Bonus: Photographing beloved items can help you let go of them.  Get the story behind the story. Staged photos with all family members standing Chiclet-toothed in a row have their place in memory-making. But so do the moments directly before and after that orchestrated photograph: You get to see the humor, the love, the endearing awkwardness. “Capture the mess, appreciate the ordinary, and record the humor,” Julie says. Ask whomever is taking the photograph to surreptitiously snap some pics on both sides of the classic “smile and say cheese” pose. When you create your photo book, juxtapose the shots on adjacent pages.  Be unoriginal. You know those viral photo sets where people, usually families, take the same photo every year or so—same personnel, same positions, sometimes even the same clothes? Those go viral for a reason. They’re compelling, entertaining, occasionally heartbreaking, a clear-cut sign of commitment, and they often make for stunning images: the perfect recipe for making a memory. If you see the group only once a year, start photographing now to build your memory books over time—and if you’re lucky enough to see them more often, start shooting images more regularly. Consider using a family hashtag so you can easily find your series and print those shots into a photo memory book with just a few clicks. Make it easy on yourself. Chatbooks lets you print custom photo books that you can assemble with just a few taps on your phone. But if even that seems like a bit much, you can make it simpler by signing up for a Chatbooks ongoing photo book series, which automatically sends you a new book every time you reach 60 photos on your Instagram feed, or when you tap the heart in your Photos app to pick 60 favorites. Because given the choice between the world’s most perfect photo memory book that never comes into existence and a flawed, imperfect photo book that’s in your hands, option B is a clear winner. Click here to download the Chatbooks app, and in five minutes your custom memory book will be in the works.

MomForce Podcast Episode 21: Night Time Routines that WORK!

October 8, 2019

Welcome to the MomForce Podcast! Vanessa Quigley, mother of 7, entrepreneur and co-founder of Chatbooks, hosts this refreshing take on all things mom. Along with her 4 sisters, they’ll get into the nitty-gritty of real life parenting together, bringing you some tried and true tips and tricks to help make mom-life a little easier. And check out the #momforce by Chatbooks Facebook page. Episode 21: Night Time Routines that WORK! Listen Here It is recommended that 4th graders get 10-12 hours of sleep per night. But kids activities are often built around adult schedules. A night time routine is imperative for happy, healthy kids… but it’s hard!  Younger kids have this built in FOMO that leads them to believe that everything good is happening right after you put them to bed for the night. Older kids are just so busy these days! There’s sports and homework and extracurricular activities. It’s hard to balance all they have going on while ensuring they still get to bed before midnight! Today Kara and Vanessa discuss their evening routines, and share the tips and tricks they’ve used to ensure their big and little kids are getting the sleep they need! They agree… you have to set a time to officially wind down for the evening. When you can, have a family dinner at a consistent hour, and use that time to reflect on the highs and lows of the day. Allow children to wind down by reading or listening to an audiobook. But we get it! It’s not always that easy. Mama is tired too! Sometimes you have to trick your kids into an earlier bedtime, or turn to a teeny bit of children’s melatonin. Hey… whatever works!  Check out Casper Babypants here! The best way to watch family friendly shows - VidAngel Print our Teeth Brushing Chart HERE to make your evening routines run a little smoother! undefined We'd love to connect with you: Vanessa @vanessaquigely & @theMomForcePodcast Kara @karahaught & @rasisingwild The #momforce by Chatbooks Facebook page And use code POD20 to get 20% off your Chatbooks order!

October 3, 2019

Announcing Chatbooks' first Holiday Card Design Contest! Enter your original design for a chance to see your Holiday Card among Chatbooks' 2019 Holiday Collection and receive \u0024500 in Chatbooks credit. Step 1: Download this template, or simply begin your design in any 5x7in. format. Draw, paint, or work digitally on your unique design! Step 2: Email your design to social@chatbooks.com. Accepted formats include JPG, PDF, and PNG, which means you can take a photo or screenshot of your design. Please note that submissions close 11:59 PT October 22, 2019 and there are no limits on entires per person! If needed, Chatbooks graphic designers will reach out and jump in to reformat, digitize, or add a sample photo to your design. Step 3: Voting! You, along with Chatbooks customers, will receive a link to vote on your favorite Holiday Card designs. Chatbooks will determine and notify a winner, and announce it on our social media channels October 29th, 2019. Email social@chatbooks.com with any questions, and happy designing!

Action Mode: Tips for Photographing Children

October 3, 2019

You’re willing to make some “perfect parent” tradeoffs in the name of quality time. You made the Halloween cupcakes but skipped the handcrafted cupcake toppers; you dressed as a mermaid for your kid’s birthday but passed on renting the see-through water tank with the professional mermaid. But you’re already photographing your children pretty much nonstop, and while you’ve safely moved perfection out of your crosshairs, you know you can do better. Just by learning a little more about your smartphone camera and giving a few moments’ thought to some child photography ideas, you can improve on what you’re doing and make your pictures clearer, more compelling, and more memorable.  Inspired to make a custom photo book of your children? Download the Chatbooks app now. Here’s how to make the most of your favorite photo subject—your child. Go low. Photographs are more intimate when the subject’s eyes appear to be gazing at the viewer—impossible when you’re photographing toddlers from 3½ feet above them. Kneel down or plop yourself onto the floor so the lens is at their eye level. Enable easy open. The quicker you can get to your camera, the likelier you are to capture that once-in-a-lifetime shot. Most phones open up the camera automatically when you swipe right or swipe up, giving you another moment to frame the photo. Zoom in. That means you, not your camera lens. Zoom is fine when you don’t have another choice, but it can result in grainy photos. Kids’ photography tips often say to capture children in their element (good advice). But don’t make the mistake of including too much background. When you’re photographing children, it’s the child you want to see. Use burst mode. Seventeen hours of labor aside, kids move fast. Setting your camera to a high shutter speed when photographing children will help prevent blurry photos. But burst mode might be even more effective. It allows you to take several photos in quick succession by pushing and holding the shutter just once. This way, you don’t have to keep your eyes glued to the phone nonstop, and you’ll capture so many photos that at least one of them is bound to work out. Document the everyday. If life is what happens when we’re busy making other plans, maybe the planned stuff isn’t where we should be aiming our cameras. This MomForce Podcast episode includes 55 ideas for photographing children in moments that might be humdrum today—playing sports, morning bed head—but that will yield photos that pay off big emotionally years from now. Capture the process. Whether they’re building sandcastles, baking a cake, or just driving you to casual fantasies of a getaway to your pied-à-terre in, oh, Antarctica, your children’s activities have a beginning, middle, and end. Take a few snapshots of the whole process to tell a story: sandcastle gear gathered in a beach wagon, finding the right setup spot, the construction of the castle, the rising tide, the exhausted kids. (That last one belongs in the canon of kids’ photography tips: Sleeping-kid photos are more precious than they have any right to be for documenting something they spend literally half their time doing.) Make it a game. “Sometimes parents will do things like say, ‘OK, I promise you’ll get a piece of chocolate if you’re good’ to get them to pose for a photo,” says Meredith Zinner, a family photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. “That doesn’t work. They don’t know what ‘good’ means in this context, and they just want to please the parent without being engaged. You wind up with kids putting on fake smiles just to make the parent happy and get it over with, and that picture isn’t going to be interesting.” For posed photos, instead try challenging them to look at the camera for as long as they can without blinking, or to keep a straight face while you act a little bananas. For candid shots when photographing children, try challenges like, “How high can you jump?” or “How many of your stuffed animals can you show me in 30 seconds?” Be present. Some child photography ideas, like this one, are counterintuitive but effective: Strategically take fewer photos. “The more joyful the occasion, the more engaged your kid will be with the camera,” Meredith says. You can’t summon joy if you’re staring at your phone nonstop. If you find yourself getting swallowed up in phoneland, play pretend when photographing children: It’s 1998. You are obsessed with the Backstreet Boys. Digital photography isn’t a thing. You have exactly one roll of film with 36 shots. How are you going to use this precious resource? (The film, not AJ and Kevin.) Let your kids enjoy the photos. Tiny fingers and \u0024600 phones do not a happy parent make. Printing out your images in a photo book allows the family to enjoy the pictures, risk-free. No exaggeration: The Chatbooks monthly minis series costs just \u00245 a book and has a toddler-proof guarantee. If your kids wind up loving your photo book to pieces, we’ll replace it for free. (Offer valid once per book, within one year of original purchase.) Just email hello@chatbooks.com, send us a DM on Instagram, or simply tag @chatbooks on your Instagram or Facebook post of a photo book that’s been loved too much. Now that you know how to capture your children on camera, make a photo book full of their faces. Download the Chatbooks app today!

How to Take Good (or Great!) Photos with Your Phone

October 2, 2019

Congratulations, humankind: Collectively, we took more than a trillion photos last year. (We keep hearing how smart dolphins are, but so far the entire species has managed to eke out exactly one picture, so …) Now it’s time to make at least a few million of next year’s camera phone photography shots really good.  Once you learn how to take good photos with your phone, you’ve set yourself up for stronger images that you can share on social media or display in a custom photo book from Chatbooks without having to take the time to painstakingly edit each image individually.  Whether you’re focusing on iPhone photography, Android, Google Pixel, or another device, most phones have some variation on all of the settings mentioned below. Read up and make your contribution to this year’s trillion photos the best it can be. Focus Clean your lens. Sounds like a no-brainer, but a smeared lens just might be the reason why your photos always seem to be blurry. Phone photography may be convenient, but it means our lenses don’t get the same kind of camera-cap protection that film-based SLR cameras offer. Play with portrait mode. Professional headshots are as much about what you don’t see as what you do see—namely, background “noise.” If your phone has a portrait mode, it softly blurs the background, attracting all attention to the subject’s face. For iPhone photography on newer models, the bottom of the camera app will offer “Portrait”; many other phones offer portrait mode under the camera menu.  Use focus lock. Most of the time, autofocus works out fine. But sometimes you’ll want to focus on something besides what the software deduces is the subject of your photo. To manually focus a photo, compose the shot, then just tap the screen where you want to focus. Manual focus holds only for the specific setup on which you’ve set the focus, though—meaning that if something changes in the shot, like a person walking through the frame, your camera will automatically refocus. Focus lock “freezes” the focus so that even if something changes, your original focus point will stay sharp. When figuring out how to take good photos with your phone, making a habit of using focus lock minimizes the chances of once-in-a-lifetime snapshots turning out blurry. To use focus lock, tap and hold the screen where you want to focus until an icon reading “AE/AF Lock” or “AF/AE Lock” appears. Lighting and Exposure  Go counterintuitive with the flash. If you rely on your phone’s autoflash function, it will probably turn on the flash when you’re shooting at night and keep it off for daytime photos. Here’s a challenge as you learn how to take good photos with your phone: Try manually setting the flash and do it the other way around. Turn off the flash for night photography (see more on that below), and turn it on during the day. Daytime flash photography can minimize shadows and fill in details that your auto settings might pass over. Know your exposure. Smartphone cameras are generally adept at adjusting exposure, or the amount of light the lens lets in, which dictates how light or dark your image is. But camera phone photography isn’t foolproof in this regard, so try manually adjusting your exposure if a photo seems particularly dark or bright. With iPhone photography on newer devices, when you tap the screen to set the focus, you can adjust the exposure simply by swiping up or down. Other phones usually include an exposure slider, even in automatic mode; look for a sunshine icon. Experiment with night photography. Automated nighttime photography settings can be helpful, but sometimes they backfire. Most of the time, a night setting brightens the exposure. Great for showing more detail, terrible for clarity and balance. If your nighttime photos continually disappoint, play around with reducing the exposure to make photos darker. It may sound backward, but depending on the effect you’re after, it could yield better overall photos. Try the HDR setting. The high-dynamic range setting, or HDR, adjusts high-contrast situations to yield images with a balanced exposure. It’s perfect for landscape images (say, snowy mountains against a twilight sky), sunlit portraits, and any subject that’s backlit. If you’re someone who grooves on both iPhone photography and photo editing, you can take photos in HDR but automatically save the unadjusted image by turning on the “keep normal photo” option in Settings > Photos & Camera (or Settings > Camera). Ready to show off your pics? Download the Chatbooks app and start your custom photo book today. Shooting Snap now, delete later. If you’ve got 8 zillion kid/pet photos on your phone, this is hardly a news flash, but: Camera phone photography means that you can take as many photos as you want until you run out of room. Take advantage of this ability with burst mode, which allows you to snap several photos in quick succession with one touch. With iPhone photography and most other phones, burst mode is activated when you tap and hold the shutter button. It’s particularly good for capturing on-the-move kids and special moments when you’d rather keep your eyes glued to the action instead of to the screen. (Yes, we suspect burst mode was designed for kindergarten graduations.) Remember the rule of thirds. It’s a classic photo composition tip for a reason: Visually, dividing an image into thirds piques interest. A front-and-center photo can seem flat and awkward; shifting points of interest to appear along horizontal and vertical planes divided into three makes for a more dynamic image. Camera phone photography makes this easy—just turn on the grid lines and your screen will show you where to place your subject. Look for the grid lines option under Settings > Photos & Camera (or Settings > Camera). Stay still. Keeping the camera as steady as possible results in higher-quality photos, particularly in low lighting. The gold standard is a tripod (look for mini tripods designed specifically for camera phone photography). If that’s unavailable, make your body the “tripod” by leaning against a wall as you shoot. If that’s not an option, keep your hands steady by bracing your forearms against your body as you shoot. Briefly holding your breath as you press the shutter can help keep you even more still. Or don’t press the shutter at all: Most phones have the ability to use volume keys as shutter buttons (adjust under Settings > Photos & Camera or Settings > Camera), resulting in less shaking of the camera. You can also set the timer on your phone for a two-second delay so your hands don’t have to move at all at the crucial moment. Printing Make a personalized photo book. Camera phone photography doesn’t end at the phone. With the Chatbooks app, you can easily create personalized photo books. They’re reasonably priced (mini books start at \u00245; full-size start at \u002410), so they’re an efficient way to store your photos and to give as gifts. Spend a few minutes choosing pictures from your phone, social media feeds, or cloud storage, and you’ll come away with high-quality printed images that don’t need a battery to be enjoyed. Print singles. Even easier than a photo book: printing single photos. That one perfect shot deserves to be seen pixel-free, and it takes just six clicks in the Chatbooks app once you’ve signed up. The Chatbooks print service lets you print out multiples of your favorite pics to give to friends and family (or you can just print out singles of as many photos as you’d like for yourself). Double down on analog. Chatbooks also offers card and postcard printing, and it doesn’t have to be the holidays for you to send a family photo (or a goofy selfie with friends) to people you love. Add a handwritten note to the card and you’ve earned yourself some good-daughter brownie points, redeemable for one missed Sunday phone call. Make the most of your newfound photo skills with a custom photo book by downloading the Chatbooks app.

“Say Fleas!”: Pet Photography Ideas

October 1, 2019

We feed them by hand, we invite them to fall asleep wherever they please, and we even give some of them their own private bathrooms. No wonder our pets can be such prima donnas sometimes! But if your household’s (presumably) furriest member refuses to pose for your pet photo books, it might not just be about the lack of a photo clause in their contracts—it could be because you’re thrusting your phone in their face, refusing to meet them eye to eye, or trying to get their attention in ways that wind up alarming them instead.  Between dog photo albums, cat photo albums, and “other” pet photo albums (quokkas!), pets are the third-most-popular subject for photo books, as revealed by a recent survey from Chatbooks and HP of 15,000 families. So animal lovers are always on the lookout for pet photography ideas and tips. Use these pointers to make your pet pics shine. Don’t leave them out of the photo album fun, either! Printing out pet photo books allows you to record the subtle shifts in your pet’s growth and “haircuts” and will make for cherished memories once their time has passed.  Get started on your photo books for Felix and Fido: Download the Chatbooks app now! Bonus: Looking at animal pictures has been shown to boost marital satisfaction, making pet photo books a coffee table therapist. (Finally, a marriage counselor you can both openly say is cute!) Here are pet photography ideas to make your pet pics best in show. Get them at their best. Animals are at their best (read: cutest) when they’re comfortable, calm, and happy. Post-walk is prime time for a dog photo shoot, after they’ve trotted out some of their excess energy. Cats photograph particularly well after play but before their next nap, as they’re likely to want to be close to you without too much motion. If your pet enjoys being brushed, a snapshot taken after a grooming session can capture them in their preening glory. (In fact, a depiction of the grooming process in its entirety could make a fantastic dog photo album.) Meet them at eye level. Photographing a pet from your vantage point can be cute, but shooting them at their eye level puts you on the same footing. “It kind of humanizes them when the camera is at eye level,” says Meredith Zinner, a family and pet photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. “It establishes that connection between the subject and the viewer, and that’s where the magic is. The more connection there is, the more dynamic the photograph will be.” Find the light. Natural light is always best, so if you’re shooting indoors in an area with direct or indirect sunlight, turn off lamps and overhead lights. If you’re taking nighttime photos, turn first to lamps. “You want them to look warm and cozy, not like they’re in a science lab,” says Chris Diaz, a professional cat sitter who populates her Instagram feed with photos of her wards. “If the lighting is harsh, they’re going to look a little freaked out.” If you’re in the mood for a nighttime photo sesh, set up the lighting and get comfortable. “I’ll set up the lighting, and then it’s like, ‘Hey, we’re just going to hang out for a while’—and really, that’s the best part anyway,” Chris says. Set up a startle-free zone. Another reason to use daylight and lamps: Animals hate the camera flash. (Plus, using the flash leads to “green eye” in pet photos, an eerie trick of the light that’s the animal equivalent of red-eye photos in humans.) And make sure your shutter sound is off to avoid spooking them—otherwise your pet photo books will be populated with animals that look panicked. Catch the catchlights. When the light source of a photo is reflected in the subject’s eyes, it gives a flattering, luminous effect known as catchlights. “Those can make the difference between a photo working and it not—without them, it’s easy for pets’ eyes to appear lifeless,” Meredith says. Position your pet facing toward a natural light source, and make sure there’s nothing blocking the beam of light from reaching your pet. Get their attention. “Animals get used to things really quickly, so you have to keep surprising them without startling them,” Meredith says. Her technique: unusual noises at odd intervals. Once an animal expects a sound or movement, they get bored by it, as any worshipper at the feline altar understands. “I’ll make sort of a dolphin sound, or a singsongy dipping up and down, but I won’t do it on a regular beat. It elicits a curious and engaged face, and that’s what you want.” For a visual attention-grabber, Chris taps her chest or puts a hand above her head to get an animal to look upward, but she notes that their focus doesn’t last long with that technique, so be prepared to shoot quickly.  Deploy treats with care. Using goodies to grab a pet’s focus works, but do it sparingly. If your pet is hyperfocused on getting a treat, it can strain their expression and prevent your pet photo books from showing off your pet’s natural inquisitiveness. That’s not to say bribery doesn’t have its place. “You can make the animal more comfortable with your smartphone with treats,” Meredith says. “Whenever you put the camera between your face and theirs like you’d be taking a picture, make eye contact and give them a little treat. Then just walk away—don’t even take a picture.” Building a positive association with your smartphone will help keep them curious, not wary (or jealous). Use action mode. Shooting with a fast shutter speed helps keep pet photos crisp. “Even when you don’t think they’re moving, they often are. Just a cat’s purr can cause movement,” Chris says. Look for “action mode” on your smartphone, usually indicated by a sprinting figure. Plus, since pets can bolt at any second, shooting in full-screen mode (not square) allows for more space in the frame. “You can always crop it later, but you can’t add back in what you didn’t capture,” Chris says.  Put it all together. Pet photo books are great memory-makers for families. Stage a shoot with Fido and each member of the family, then have the pics printed in a dog photo album. Dogs tend to have more expressive faces than cats, whose facial muscles are more limited. To add variety to a cat photo album, aim to include more full-body and situational shots than you would in a dog photo album, which might include more portraits. Once you’ve designed your Chatbooks pet photo book, you can even put an animal-themed cover on it.  Click here to download the Chatbooks app, and in five minutes your custom pet photo book will be in the works.

MomForce Podcast Episode 20: Parenting in a Digital World with Anna MacFarlane of @kidsaretheworst

September 30, 2019

Welcome to the MomForce Podcast! Vanessa Quigley, mother of 7, entrepreneur and co-founder of Chatbooks, hosts this refreshing take on all things mom. Along with her 4 sisters, they’ll get into the nitty-gritty of real life parenting together, bringing you some tried and true tips and tricks to help make mom-life a little easier. And check out the #momforce by Chatbooks Facebook page. Episode 19: Parenting in a Digital World with Anna MacFarlane of @kidsaretheworst Listen Here Screentime. Devices. Social Media. Oh my! The MomForce is full of questions about raising children in a digital age. How old should your kid be before you allow them to play on an iPad? When is it appropriate to have a smartphone? What about a social media account? It’s a tech heavy world. Kids are practically born with the ability to work devices. Teaching online safety is just as important as teaching fire safety these days. Stop, Walk, and Tell should be taught right alongside Stop, Drop, and Roll. On this episode of the MomForce Podcast, Anna McFarlane of “Kids are the Worst” joins Vanessa to share her expertise on all things social media. It’s not IF your kids are going to see something bad online, but WHEN they’re going to see it. When kids come across something they’re not comfortable with, they need to feel like they can come to you about it. You can limit kids exposure, but the best defense is good communication. Check out Anna's media guides! Get Smart GUIDE recommended for kids ages 3-10 Let's Talk GUIDE recommended for kids ages 10-18 undefined We'd love to connect with you: Vanessa @vanessaquigely & @theMomForcePodcast Anna @kidsaretheworst & @annaistheworst The #momforce by Chatbooks Facebook page And use code POD20 to get 20% off your Chatbooks order!

Way Better Than Flowers: Personalized Gifts for Mom

September 28, 2019

Pop quiz! You’ve been tasked with finding the perfect personalized gift for mom—you know, the woman who has spent years of her life cleaning up your bodily fluids without complaint. Are you likelier to A) accept the task and unleash your scroll of uber-specific gift ideas you’ve been keeping just for this occasion, or B) buy her a one-click sweater (again)? Yes, we know, it’s B. “People are afraid to give gifts to anyone because they fear judgment,” says Aileen Avery, author of Gift Rap: The History and Art of Gift Giving. “And then you’re talking about your mother? We crave our mothers’ approval, so we put pressure on ourselves to make it perfect.”  Whether you’re looking for the best gift for your mother on her birthday, Mother’s Day DIY gift ideas, or just a personalized gift for mom, the answer can be as simple as a customized photo book. It doesn’t take up much space, it can be displayed or stored on a bookshelf depending on her style, and it features all of her favorite people in the world. (Except Brad Pitt.)  Make Mom feel as special as you think she is—download the Chatbooks app and start your photo book today. Here’s how to create a photo book for your mother. Juxtapose then and now. For her mother-in-law’s 70th birthday, Aileen combed through old photos and found a picture of her mother-in-law holding her son (Aileen’s husband) when he was a baby. She then paired it with a photo of her mother-in-law holding her grandsons in the same pose, and put the photos together for the front page of a photo book. “When she opened it, she started crying, and honestly tears can be one of those moments when you’re like, ‘I did it!’” Aileen says. For a DIY Mother’s Day gift idea, locate and scan photos of your mother with you or your siblings as children. You can visually re-create the photos in a number of ways: surreptitiously pose her with your own children in the same manner, or re-enact the scene with you and your children to show her that the maternal thread lives on. If you can find photos of her with her mother, even better.  Pick a theme. Vacations you’ve taken together, vacations she’s taken without you, a picture of where she went on her honeymoon. Meals she’s cooked for you, meals you’ve cooked for her, meals you’ve cooked together. A close-up photo of a book she read to you as a child; photos of your children reading those same books; photos of her at her favorite literary destination. You get the idea: Think of something she loves, then find ways to incorporate that subject into images of the people she adores (including herself!). You’ll emerge with a personalized gift for mom that she’ll love. Celebrate the woman alongside the mother. One of the best gifts you can give your mother on her birthday is a recognition of her other selves. “She’s your mother, but she’s not only your mother,” Aileen says. “She’s a sister, a friend, a co-worker; maybe she’s an artist or a business owner. Women are multifaceted, and their children should celebrate that.” Gather photos from parts of her life outside of the home for a customized photo book, and include a note that lets her know what you’ve learned by observing her holistic presence in the world. Get poetic. A custom photo book is, ahem, custom. But if you want to take your personalized gift for your mom deeper, include a handwritten note. If you’re a writer by nature, you’re probably doing this anyway for the women in your life. But you don’t have to be a Brontë sister to craft a message that will make her heart sing. Try this minimalist message: Pick three words that will forever make you think of her or three adjectives that you’d use to describe her. Write them in bold marker on a piece of paper of her favorite color, then snap a photo of it and include that picture as the first or last image in the book. You can also include a blank page in your photo book, then handwrite a note on the page before giving it to her. It’s a unique gift for Mother’s Day—or anytime, really. Make it a team effort. The best gift for your mother on her birthday might be the gift of seeing how others view her. “People don’t always think to say kind things directly to a person they love because it can feel awkward,” Aileen says. Absorb that awkwardness yourself by asking people in her life to send you their favorite photos of them together, along with a sentence or two about what they appreciate about her. Arrange the custom photo book by each contributor, beginning each “chapter” with a text page containing the quote—easy to do with the Chatbooks text page function. No matter what approach you take to a photo book for your mother, trust that you know her in a way nobody else on the planet could. “Every mother is different,” Aileen says. “But if you’re paying attention and can touch into that emotional aspect of the mother-child connection, whatever gift you choose is going to be right.” Download the Chatbooks app now and get started on creating a gift Mom will cherish forever.

Showoff!: How to Display Family Photos Tastefully

September 27, 2019

Pinterest is waist-deep with creative photo display ideas, but wading those particular waters can also make you never want to see a clothespin ever again. So, how to display family photos tastefully without hot-gluing your wedding album to your forehead? Read on. Mix and Match undefined Creative photo display ideas needn’t be limited to books or prints—if you’re looking for how to display family photos tastefully, try showing off both at the same time. Showcase the best and brightest in a framed wall display, and stash photo books in baskets in a shelving unit underneath, just like @sarah.w.kress. undefined Or skip the frame grid and book baskets. Instead, display photos in a variety of frames, and simply stack the books elsewhere on the shelving unit that holds your framed prints. Peek at this setup from @eat.plus.shop for inspiration. Ready to make your own Chatbooks custom photo books or prints? Download the app now! Remember Where the Term “Coffee Table Book” Comes From undefined If you’re looking for how to display family photos on a table, try … displaying family photos on a table. When you make a Chatbooks photo book, choose your most breathtaking photo for the cover (like the Italian vista @lifeontheshadygrove chose), then let it sit on your coffee table next to Ansel Adams. (Or skip Ansel altogether and just make a bunch of your own photo books.) Form a Vignette undefined Pairing photo books with something decorative can fill small surfaces in your home—perfect for when you’re looking for how to display family photos on a table. Like this cute seashell vignette from @faye_home_family. Design Your Own “Wallpaper” undefined One benefit of the Chatbooks print service is that the photos can become a living wallpaper. You can start with a border and go inward as your collection grows, or start with a collage at eye level and expand outward. It’s a creative way to display photos without frames—and with immense flexibility. Like this adorable wallpaper collage from @drnealhouse. Invite People In undefined By storing photo books in a number of positions, you strike a balance of practicality (spines outward-facing), display (photo covers), and allure (what visitor could refrain from thumbing through an open photo album?). It hints at how to display family photos tastefully while still being relaxed and inviting, the way @smithpartyof4willtravel showcases her vacation albums. Accessorize undefined A photo holder can be a simple, creative way to display photos without frames, like the way @_houseofjoy arranges her photo book collection. You don’t have to buy something special—a mail rack from an office supply store does the trick—but you can also buy accessories specifically designed to showcase your Chatbooks prints and photo books. Make It Interactive undefined Baskets, open-lidded display boxes, crates—the point of these isn’t just to store photos and photo books, it’s to store them in a way that doesn’t make them a total PITA to take out and look at. Keeping pictures in easily accessible bins encourages everyone to take them out and look at them, and isn’t that the reason you’ve taken each of the 26,792 photos in your phone gallery? Check out @thefreckledfox's little ones enjoying their photo books. Click here to download the Chatbooks app, and in five minutes your custom photo book will be in the works.

Making the Most of Baby’s First-Year Photo Book

September 26, 2019

Babies are awful at smiling on command, they drool midshoot, and they have at-will naptime written into their modeling contracts. Still, if overflowing smartphone storage is any indication, they’re our favorite subjects. And if the amount of time we spend showing pictures to friends, family, acquaintances (frenemies, shop clerks, crossing guards, random passersby) is a reliable gauge, we love to have people swiping through our phones as they coo over our progeny. That’s nice and all, but to make those photos pay emotional dividends, take a few extra minutes to make a printed photo book for baby’s first year.  Tell your baby’s story with a Chatbooks photo book. Download the app now! “I can’t tell you how many of my clients have lost their digital photos,” says Lauren Ridge, a newborn and family photographer and owner of Lily Sophia Photography in Atlanta. “They lost their hard drives and didn’t back up their photos—and backups fail too. That’s just reality.” Printing out baby’s first-year photo album serves as a tangible backup system. (Plus, a custom photo book makes a far better conversation piece than an external hard drive.) Added security is great—but the real reason to print photos with a custom book like those at Chatbooks is that a printed version of baby’s first-year photo book helps your brain make memories in a cohesive way. You might be able to appreciate an individual photo on screen just as well as you would when it’s printed out. Still, your memory of the story told by that photograph—much less a series of photographs, strung together to create a story—is crafted more strongly when you see photos in printed form, according to research in New Media & Society. Think of your earliest childhood memories. How many of them were informed or reinforced by a printed photograph? The best photo book is the one that exists, not the one that’s painstakingly curated. Baby’s first-year photo book doesn’t need to be perfect—in fact, scratch the term “picture perfect” from your vocabulary. It’s your baby, in a picture. Ergo, it’s perfect. Still, your baby’s first-year photo album—imperfect as it may be—will benefit from a few basic photography tips. Read on to become the Annie Leibovitz of the infant set, and get started with Chatbooks. Use a spotter. Until your baby has been able to sit unassisted for several weeks, use a spotter or prop up your baby with pillows and stuffed animals. If you prop up your child, photograph from above—if you snap a photo head-on, it gives the impression that your baby is leaning back. Let there be light. As with all photos, natural light is best, or light cast from above. Be careful of lighting your baby from below. “I see up-lit baby noses everywhere on Instagram,” Lauren says. “It looks like they’re holding a flashlight and telling a horror story.”  Capture details. Eyelashes, belly buttons, toes, earlobes—get in close and document details. “I have so many clients I photograph right after they’re born, and they come back two weeks later and look completely different,” Lauren says. “Babies change really fast, and you might remember some exact things that stood out to you, but you’re not going to remember all the little details that you noticed at first.” For a fun series of baby pictures month by month in the first year, photograph the same body parts in sequence each month. Choose your moment … It’s easiest to photograph newborns before the two-week mark, as they spend most of their time sleeping and are comparatively still. Around 24 weeks is another golden age, as babies can then hold up their own heads and sit up independently but aren’t yet crawling. … And know that every moment is a “moment.” You’ll probably be taking month-by-month pictures for baby’s first year (and maybe even minute by minute). So you’ll be capturing the moment when your precious angel flings cereal all over the floor, the first hints of sibling rivalry, and the tipping point of baby getting milk-drunk. Photogenic? Probably not. Memorable? Make it so. Chaos is a part of the first 12 months, so baby’s first-year photo book can handle shades of pandemonium. Hold the cheese. Attention-grabbers like colorful props have their place in getting an infant to look in the direction of the camera. But be careful about overusing photo prompts like “smile!” or “say cheese!” Babies might not understand the words themselves yet, but unnatural prompts set them up for unnatural smiles. “A lot of times pictures turn out weird and parents are like, ‘Why do they look like that?’ Because you taught them to!” Lauren says. “Just let them be themselves.” If you want them to smile, make a goofy noise or otherwise entertain them. Take a star turn. “It’s very important for you to be in the pictures too, as your kids are growing,” Lauren says. “Put them in your lap, sit by the window so you have some good light, and just talk to them and have your husband or a friend take some pictures, because all too often the mother is the one behind the camera.” So #getinthephoto already! Download the Chatbooks app to start making memories today.

5 Creative Thank-You Gifts Everyone Loves

September 26, 2019

Five bucks says that when you need an inexpensive thank-you gift, you default to a coffee shop gift card. Latte love has its place, but if you want to reach for a more unique thank-you gift, we’ve got five ways to show your gratitude in a real, personal way. Everyone loves to see themselves in a positive light. If you’re looking for thoughtful thank-you gift ideas for someone in particular, that means you’re grateful to them for a specific reason. Showcase that reason with an easy photo book that displays why you’re thankful. Snap a few shots of soccer practice or game day, taking care to get the coach in the frame, and you’ve got the start of a unique thank-you gift. Chatbooks lets you create photo books from your phone and social media feeds, so you can steadily build your gift every time you see this special person. Coach will prefer your easy, thoughtful thank-you gift to yet another candle—and will probably keep it forever. Click here to download the Chatbooks app, and in five minutes your custom thank-you book will be in the works. Think of what you use. Not so much what you would like, but things that you—and everyone—uses. You probably don’t need another mug in your already crowded kitchen, but everyone uses hand soap. Many people don’t splurge on nice bottles or bars for themselves, but as a one-off a premium soap still makes an inexpensive thank-you gift. Think about other things that everyone consumes and uses that you can get a little fancier with. Gourmet salts, lush dish towels, and a great pen fit the bill.  Homemade does get to the heart. People are sometimes afraid to give homemade gifts because they might not turn out perfectly—but they make memorable, unique thank-you gifts. Choose only what is simple to make, like granola you pack in mason jars. (It’s easy: Toast a large panful of oats and nuts, then add dried cranberries, raisins, and dark chocolate chips. Layer in a jar, then add a ribbon for a creative thank-you gift.) Forget stress-inducing miniature gingerbread houses with freshly grated ginger in the dough and perfectly piped white snow on the eaves. That’s for other people, not you. Those rarely come out the way we expect them to anyway. Hit the sweet spot quickly. If you’re known for a particular recipe, a one-time effort can give you years of unique thank-you gifts. Make a photo book of the recipe, with step-by-step pictures of how you do it. Chatbooks lets you include text pages in a custom photo book, so you can end the book with the actual recipe. If your famous Toasted Whatevers come from an old family recipe, include a photo of the original handwritten recipe card. Then print multiples of the book to keep on hand for emergency gifts. Make them feel like they’re with you. If Aunt Heather couldn’t make the cross-country trip for your wedding or the baby’s first birthday—but her lovely gift did—make a fun custom photo book from the event. It’s a thoughtful thank-you gift and the next best thing to being there. A brag book of pics from preschool parties and holidays fits nicely into Grandma’s handbag and lets her show off your kids to her friends. If you, your spouse, sibs, or Nana herself is in some of the photos, quadruple bonus points for you. “When you can touch somebody with a gift that evokes powerful emotion, that’s a powerful gift,” saysAileen Avery, gift expert and author of Gift Rap: The History and Art of Gift Giving. Exactly. Ready to give thanks? Download the Chatbooks app and start your custom photo book now! 

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