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MomForce Podcast Episode 34: Relentlessly Editing Your Life with Romi Neustadt

January 14, 2020

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 34: Relentlessly Editing Your Life with Romi Neustadt Listen Here IIs your never-ending to-do list sucking the joy out of your life? Pop culture has taught us that we can and should be doing and having it all. This epidemic of unrealistic expectations has left us stressed, exhausted, and feeling like a failure. We can’t be all things to all people! If you want to have your all, you’ve got to stop doing it all. On today’s episode of The MomForce Podcast, Vanessa and her sister, Leah, are chat with lawyer, PR executive, award winning author, and mother, Romi Neustadt to discuss ways to live a less frazzled and more fulfilling life. Priorities and goals are two different things. If your goals aren’t serving your priorities you’re not helping yourself. Throughout the episode, Romi teaches ways to “relentlessly edit” our lives in order to clear out what isn’t helping us be our best. We’re moms and wives and balance jobs and PTA and activities. We all have so much on our plates and are spread so thin. Learning to say no, identify our priorities, and set goals that will help us fulfill these priorities will allow us to take ownership of our hours and create the life we strive for! Did you know Romi is a best-selling author? Check her out HERE! Wanna follow along with Vanessa and Romi? You can find them at @vanessaquigley and @romineustadt on Instagram. Also - be sure to follow @themomforcepodcast on Instagram for more tips and tricks - as well as a for a chance to win a copy of Romi's new book! 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!

The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Family Vacation

January 8, 2020

Planning a family vacation is an exciting endeavor. Whether you’re introducing the kids to a familiar and beloved location or checking out a new destination, heading on a trip is a wonderful way to spend time together and create special memories.  But of course, there are plenty of moving parts to consider before you pack your bags and say, “Bon Voyage!” especially if you’re not used to traveling as a group.   The following tips from travel experts, who also happen to be busy moms, will help you plan the ultimate family vacation that’s sure to be memorable for all the right reasons.  1. Set Your Budget  We know: It’s definitely not the most exciting aspect of planning your getaway, but setting a budget is one of the most practical places to begin. “It’s not fun when you get to a destination and have already blown the budget,” says Jessica Griscavage, Director of Marketing at McCabe World Travel and mother of one.   She also points out that what you may have considered affordable destinations in the past might not work for your growing family. “You have to think about what’s realistic,” Jessica adds. “In Europe (and Mexico) you can’t put five people in one hotel room. So, for larger families, that means you’ll need a second room, which doubles the cost of your accommodations.”  Of course, lodging isn’t your only expense—make sure you account for travel, food, and kid-friendly activities, advises Kirsten Maxwell, founder of Kids Are A Trip and mom of three. A Travelocity and Moon Guides Ambassador who has been traveling the globe with her family for the past 15 years, Kirsten adds, “It doesn’t hurt to have a little extra set aside for unexpected expenses or splurges”—like springing for room service or hitting up the Apple store when your toddler drops your phone in the hotel pool.  2. Make a Plan That Works for Your Tiny Travelers When planning your family adventure, a lot will depend on the ages of your children and how much action they can handle.  You, of course, know your little ones best. If you’re traveling with a baby who can’t miss that 2 PM nap, maybe take a beach vacation where your tot can slumber while you sit on the patio and relax, Jessica suggests.  Or, do research to see what’s worked for other families like yours. “Read blogs, find books at the library, and ask friends,” says Kirsten. “Take all the advice you can find to help formulate a travel plan.” Sites like Family Vacation Critic offer tips for the best places for families to go and stay. Additionally, you’ll find fun outings to consider adding to your list of things to do while you’re there.  Don’t go overboard, though. “You won’t want to plan elaborate tours, late-night activities, or all-day excursions with young kids,” Kirsten adds. “It’s best to have a few things planned, and then be spontaneous about the rest. Kids will want downtime for eating, playing, and just running around.” 3. Create a “Wow” Moment for Everyone If they’re old enough, involve your children in the planning. Kirsten suggests asking questions like, “What interests you about the destination? Are there any foods you want to try? Do you want to be active or relaxed?” This way, everyone is on the same page before the trip begins. And, Jessica notes, their answers may surprise you! Once you’ve decided where you’re headed, try to plan a special outing with each family member’s favorite activity in mind. “Do they enjoy horseback riding or history? Think of something fun for each person and create a ‘wow’ moment just for them,” Jessica says.  One of her own favorite vacation memories is taking a “Learn to Paint Like Van Gogh” class in Amsterdam with her family, inspired by her son, who’s a budding artist. Whether it’s golfing, archery, zip-lining, fishing, or taking a cooking class, do something out of the norm that everyone will remember for years to come.   4. Pack Like a Pro Even if you could pack for yourself with your eyes closed, when it comes to a family trip, give yourself time to pack and double check you have everything you need—from medications and toys to portable phone chargers (because of course your battery would die 20 minutes into your Grand Canyon visit).   Kimberly Tate, author of Wanderlist, offers a handy family packing list on her travel site, Stuffed Suitcase, with formulas that recommend how many of each item to pack based on your trip length. Jessica notes, however, to keep it as light as possible. “Pack only what you need, especially if you’ll be taking more than one plane, train, or taxi. It becomes a lot to lug,” she says.  Speaking of transportation, if you’re flying with a child who requires a carseat, check in with the airline to make sure it’s FAA-approved prior to your flight. Or, if you’re renting a car, you can always rent a car seat as most major companies offer this option, which costs between \u002410 and \u002415 per seat per day.  Also, be sure to check in with your hotel if you’ll need to rent a crib or a cot. You’ll want to reserve this ahead of time to ensure it’s ready and waiting when you arrive.  From there? You’re almost ready to go. “Make a folder in your email to keep track of reservations or use an app like TripIt to keep everything organized,” Kirsten adds. “Once you’ve pulled everything together, you’re ready for your family vacation. Time to go off and enjoy it.” 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 33: The Power of Showing Up with Dr. Tina Bryson

January 7, 2020

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 33: The Power of Showing Up with Dr. Tina Bryson Listen Here Being present and showing up is important in every relationship, especially when it comes to raising our children. The best predictor of how a child turns out is their attachment to at least one parent. It’s not simply about being there when they come home from school, or showing up for each baseball game, it’s about making our children feel safe, seen, soothed, and secure. On today’s episode of The MomForce Podcast, Vanessa is chatting with Dr. Tina Bryson, author of “The Power of Showing Up.” Tina, a therapist and mother of three, discusses the power of the 4 S’s and how they relate to “attachment science”.  Whether you’re a working mom, a foster mom, a baby wearer, a single parent, or otherwise, these principles can help us be better parents, and help us be forgiving of ourselves when we make mistakes!  By showing up for our children, even when they feel strong emotions, become frustrated or overwhelmed, we are helping our children build mental models for what they can expect in new relationships. We are teaching them that they have value. When children feel safe, seen, and soothed they become secure in themselves and develop grit and resilience to face life’s challenges. And isn’t that what we all want for our kids?  undefined Did you know Dr. Tina Bryson's new book was featured in the NY Times?! Check it out HERE! Wanna follow along with Vanessa and Dr. Tina Bryson? You can find them at @vanessaquigley and @tinapaynebryson on Instagram. Also - be sure to follow @themomforcepodcast on Instagram for more tips and tricks - as well as a for a chance to win Dr. Bryson's new book! 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!

MomForce Podcast Episode 32: Growing a Business and a Family with Rifle Paper Co's Anna Bond

December 31, 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 32: Growing a Business and a Family with Rifle Paper Co's Anna Bond Listen Here Vanessa has always been a huge fan of Rifle Paper Co., and so when Chatbooks teamed up with the brand, it was truly a dream come true! In this episode of The MomForce Podcast, Vanessa chats with Rifle Paper Co. co-founder, Anna Rifle Bond, all about growing a thriving business while growing a family. Spoiler alert--it’s all about managing time, turning work off when you’re not at work, and learning how to cope when you’re feeling overwhelmed or things don’t go as planned.  Also, as 2019 has come to a close, it is a great time to create a 2019 Year in Review Chatbook with one of our beautiful Rifle Paper Co. designer covers. You’ll have a hard time choosing which one!  (And don’t forget to use PODCAST20 at checkout to save 20%). Wanna follow along with Vanessa and Anna Rifle Bond? You can find them at @vanessaquigley and @riflepaperco on Instagram. Also - be sure to follow @themomforcepodcast on Instagram for more tips and tricks - as well as more fun stories about our Rifle Paper Co Year in Review Chatbooks! 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!

MomForce Podcast Episode 31: Choosing One Word for 2020 with Shawni Pothier

December 17, 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 31: Choosing One Word for 2020 with Shawni Pothier Listen Here New Year’s resolutions can be ambitious and overwhelming. We’ve all created long lists and set lofty goals only to fall short come February. Why does it need to be so complicated? It doesn’t. Today Vanessa sits down with Shawni Pothier to discuss simplifying your goals for the New Year.  Mindful. Guided. Discipline. Focus. Enjoy. Choose. Be Still. A resolution doesn’t have to be something that’s daunting. Make it simple. Pick one word to represent the coming year. It should be something that inspires you or helps you progress toward who you want to be. You don’t have to pick it today. Maybe it comes to you a few months into the year, or your goals change and you switch it up in time.   Want to help your kids set resolutions for themselves? Give them the framework and allow them to think of what they’d like to work on in 2020. Keep track of your progress and record your goals from previous years so you can look back together and witness their growth.  Check out Shawni's Blog - 71 Toes She shares about deliberate parenting, recipes, travel, and keeping it real! Also, learn more about Families Fighting Blindness, to learn more Bardet-Biedl Syndrome and how you can help. Recommenced Books: 1. A Mother's Book of Secrets 2. Teaching Your Child Responsibility Wanna follow along with Vanessa and Shawni? You can find them at @vanessaquigley and @shellyhyde on Instagram. Also - be sure to follow @themomforcepodcast on Instagram for more tips and tricks - as well as more fun stories and highlights about travel tips. 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! The perfect gift for everyone on you list!

MomForce Podcast Episode 30: Red Alert: Mom is Going Out of Town!

December 10, 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 30: Red Alert: Mom is Going Out of Town! Listen Here Sometimes we’re better mothers when we take some time away to reset and refresh and a weekend alone or a quick trip away with your girlfriends might be just what we need! And bonus, our partners may end up appreciating us a little more if they are home alone manning the ship. Today Vanessa is joined by her sister, Shelly, on this episode of The MomForce Podcast to chat about their tips and tricks for prepping for a get away, so you can relax and not stress about everything at home! Who should be in charge of the kids? What do you do about meals, homework, or after school activities? How soon is too soon to leave a baby? How long is too long to stay away? With tips like setting up back up babysitters, and surprising kids with a kind gift or note each day you’re gone, you can set yourself up for success so you can actually relax while you are away! Wanna follow along with Vanessa and Kristin? You can find them at @vanessaquigley and @shellyhyde on Instagram. Also - be sure to follow @themomforcepodcast on Instagram for more tips and tricks - as well as more fun stories and highlights about travel tips. 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! The perfect gift for everyone on you list!

How to Do All Your Holiday Shopping in 1 Hour on Your Phone

December 10, 2019

When it comes to holiday shopping, which of the following sounds more appealing?  Option 1: Bundle up the kids, corral them in the car, brave a crowded mall, get frustrated when the gifts you want aren’t in stock, and return home exhausted—with items still on your to-buy list.  Option 2: Put on some seasonal music, settle in on the couch with your phone and your favorite warm beverage, and get your holiday shopping done in an hour or so—without the bundling, crowds, or stress.  We’ll take option #2 any day. And if you feel the same, here’s how to get all your shopping done from the comfort of your couch in 60 minutes or less.   Go in With a Plan Ok, let's be realistic: You're not going to get all your shopping done in an hour if you don't have some sort of pan of attach. To avoid hours of browsing -- without much actual buying - that this spreadsheet to narrow down who you need to buy for, gift ideas for each person, and your overall budget. Then, when you're ready to buy, you'll have direct links to each and every gift! Know Where the Gifts Are Going  Let’s avoid the scenario in which you get to the checkout page on your phone, realize you don’t know your nephew’s address off the top of your head, and have to text your sister and wait for her response before you’re able to complete your purchase, shall we? If you’ll be shipping your gifts to anywhere other than your own place, have the addresses on hand.  Shop Through Official Apps It’s totally possible to do your shopping through the internet browser on your phone, but it’s also possible that you’ll end up with 45 tabs open—all with different variations of your shopping cart.  You can simplify the shopping process by downloading retailers’ official apps. These apps are often easier to navigate, incorporate more security features, and may offer additional discounts within the app (hello, Cartwheel). Plus, if you already have accounts with those retailers, they may have your home address and credit card information saved—which can expedite the check-out process even further.  Pick Your Shopping Date Wisely  Shopping on your phone is convenient, but you could still run into snags if you postpone your one-hour shopping spree until too close to the holidays. So, either shop early or plan strategically. December 14, 2019, for example, is Free Shipping Day, when many retailers will offer both free shipping and a guarantee that your gift will arrive before Christmas. Sounds like a pretty perfect day to do all your shopping.  Of course, if you’re an Amazon Prime member, every day is Free Shipping Day, but you should still keep a close eye on delivery dates, so you can ensure your gifts arrive on time.  Buy in Multiples  Buying the same thing for multiple people on your list can feel like cheating, but it can be a great way to streamline your shopping experience. For example, if you have several nieces and nephews in the five- to six-year-old age range, Baby Shark would probably be a hit with them all. Photo books are always great gifts for grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Or, if you’re attending multiple holiday parties, a nice set of cheese knives could work as your go-to host gift. Simply increase the quantity of whatever gift you’re buying, and you’ll knock several people off your list at once.   Batch Your Gifts By Retailer   Finally, take a look at your planning spreadsheet and separate out your gifts by retailer. If half of your gifts are available on Amazon, and then the rest are spread out between Target, Crate & Barrel, and Anthropologie, you theoretically only have four websites to visit. Totally doable. Plus, that means you only have to check out four times, and you’re more likely to hit the free shipping minimum on each website.   In one evening, you can have all your holiday shopping done—and you don’t even have to change out of your yoga pants.  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.

6 Things You Can (and Should) Schedule Before Your Baby Is Born

December 4, 2019

If you have a little one on the way, you’re probably busy getting ready for his or her arrival: packing your hospital bag, checking off items on your registry, and sitting down to assemble that IKEA crib for the 19th day in a row. But while you prepare for your little one’s day of arrival, you should also think forward to the following days and weeks. They’ll be a blur, filled with feedings, diaper changes, and sweet snuggles—and the last thing you’ll want to do is worry about things like setting up the guest room for visitors or preparing a hot meal from scratch.  Instead, use your time now to schedule these six critical things. Your future self will thank you.   1. Meals  The minute you arrive home with your little one, you’ll likely have friends and family knocking on your door, casseroles in hand. And when you have your hands full with a newborn, you’ll be thankful for every morsel.  However, you’ll find it’s most helpful to have those meals spread out over a couple of weeks. If a friend or family member asks what they can do to help, see if they’re willing to put together a Meal Train for you, so others can sign up for particular times and days to drop off a meal. Or, they can just send out a group email with slots to fill.  And for those in-between days? If you like to cook, prepare a few batches of freezer-friendly meals, like lasagna, chili, or enchiladas, that you can easily reheat in the oven when you need a quick dinner.   2. Time for You When you’re in the thick of the newborn phase, self-care often takes a back seat. So before things get crazy, it’s important to figure out how you’ll carve out some time for yourself.  Maybe that simply means asking your significant other to take over baby duty every Saturday morning for a couple of hours, while you enjoy a latte at a nearby coffee shop. Or maybe you ask your best friend to stop by every Wednesday evening to hold the baby while you take a long shower and paint your nails. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate—just some time that lets you feel like you again. 3. Diaper Deliveries Amazon Prime will be your BFF in those sleep-deprived newborn days. Forget running to the store—a couple of clicks can get you a package of diapers in one day (or sooner, depending on where you live).  But you can also go one step further and avoid the whole “forgetting” part by setting up automatic deliveries through the Subscribe & Save option. Go ahead and set yourself up to receive boxes of diapers (and wipes, formula, and other necessities) on a recurring basis. Bonus: If you subscribe to multiple items, you get a discount.  Related: 10 Things New Moms Think Are Diaper Bag Essentials—But Aren’t 4. A Spotless House  Between taking care of a new baby, hosting friends and family, and your physical recovery, those first few weeks will be a whirlwind of activity—and the last thing you’ll want (or be able) to do is clean. Instead, schedule a house cleaning for sometime during those first few weeks.  Not in the budget? You don’t have to hire a professional cleaner—like we mentioned, your friends and family will be eager to help. Take them up on their generous offers and schedule them for some simple household tasks: washing dishes, cleaning up after your in-laws leave, or folding laundry. That way, everyone will have their marching orders once your little one arrives.  5. Newborn Photos You may not know exactly when your little one will make his or her arrival, but you can—and should—go ahead and reach out to a photographer to take newborn photos. In fact, if you wait until after your baby is born, many photographers may be fully booked, so it’s best to schedule your session ahead of the birth. Most photographers will book you within a general timeframe but will allow for some flexibility if you deliver early or late.  You can also browse through Chatbooks’ baby cards and pick your favorite now. Then, all you’ll have to do once you have your photos is drop them in and place your order.  6. Professional Postpartum Support Expert help can be a lifesaver when you feel overwhelmed. Consider looking into and scheduling a lactation consultant, sleep consultant, or postpartum doula during those first few weeks following your baby’s arrival. They can answer questions, help you troubleshoot issues you’re experiencing, and generally lend support and encouragement.  Postpartum doulas, in particular, can go above and beyond to help you transition into your new normal. Beyond offering help with infant care, they can also run errands, help cook, and even stay overnight to allow you to get some rest.  The arrival of your little one will be an exciting time, and you should be able to soak it all in. By getting these things off your plate now, you’ll be able to fully enjoy the newborn phase—even in those wee hours of the morning.  Want more tips and tricks for your busy family? Join the Chatbooks #MomForce community on Facebook.

MomForce Podcast Episode 29: Creating a Culture of Service in Your Family With Kristin Andrus

December 3, 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 29: Creating a Culture of Service in Your Family with Kristin Andrus Listen Here We all want to raise humble, grateful children but it’s so easy for kids to hit a “wall of entitlement”, especially this time of year. Creating opportunities for your family to experience the joy of service is a great way to break down that wall, but how do we get started? On this #GivingTuesday, Vanessa chats with Kristin Andrus about creating a culture of service in your family. Kristin, the self-proclaimed “Chief Culture Officer” of the Andrus family, works hard to create a culture of service in their home and is sharing how, with 6 young kids, their family gives back all throughout the year. Kristin's tips: Go to Justserve.org and see what needs are in your area. But don't get overwhelmed! Not all causes will speak to you and that's ok. Pick what you're passionate about and give or do what you can. Kristin also preaches the power of serving n your own family and neighborhoods. You don’t have to travel the globe to make a difference! #GivingTuesday is a great way to kick off the charitable season, but let this just be the beginning. Kristin challenges us to make serving and giving back a family a priority year-round. For more ideas on how your can serve in your community, click here - -> justserve.org Wanna follow along with Vanessa and Kristin? You can find them at @vanessaquigley and @kristinandrus on Instagram. (and wanna be a workout maniac - Kristin can help ya! Check out her FREE videos HERE!) Also - be sure to follow @themomforcepodcast on Instagram for more tips and tricks - as well as more fun stories and highlights about service. 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! The perfect gift for everyone on you list!

5 Apps That Edit Your Photos For You (Because Who Has Time for That?)

December 1, 2019

When you’re posting photos on Facebook or Instagram, you want them to look good. But when you’re taking the time to print them out into your holiday cards or selecting one for your photo book cover? You want them to look amazing.  Phone cameras can do wonders these days, but professionals know that most photos need a little editing after the fact to really make them shine. Luckily for you, you don’t have to have the pro skills or time on your hands to make your photos picture (or printer) perfect.  These apps pretty much do all the work for you, meaning you can fine-tune your family photos in just a few clicks. Load them on your phone, and you’ll be set with gorgeous-looking photos for life.  1. A Color Story  Price: Free, with options for paid upgrades Apple | Android Want your photos to look more like all the bloggers and Instagram influencers you love? Use this app created by two bloggers themselves, the founders of A Beautiful Mess.  The magic of this app comes from the 400+ filters created by professional photographers. Think of it as a souped-up Instagram, but with way more filters so your photos won’t look like everyone else’s. undefined Find your favorite filters, or create and save your own for even faster editing. The app also includes fun effects like light leak, which adds a vintage feel to photos, and flare, which makes a photo look like the sun is peeking in and reflecting off your lens. Plus there are tons of standard editing tools like cropping if you want to really fine-tune your work.  You’ll get a few free filters with the app download, and then you can buy new packs if you’d like. To see them in action, check out co-founder Elsie Larson’s Instagram—she typically uses filters from the app to edit her own photos.  (Popular app VSCO is similar, offering a different variety of presets, though we find A Color Story more fun and whimsical. It’s worth checking out both to see which is more your style!) 2. Snapseed  Price: Free Apple | Android Want to take your photo editing to the next level? Snapseed is on par with some of the more complex editing apps that photographers work with—but it’s delightfully easy to use and (bonus!) free. The toolbox spans basic editing tools like cropping, adjusting image brightness, contrast, or saturation, and shifting the white balance (which helps if the color in your photo looks too warm or cool). In addition, you’ll find advanced features like the ability to adjust the perspective if your photo framing was a little out of whack or “Portrait Mode” elements that you can add even after a photo is taken. undefined It’s worth taking a few minutes to familiarize yourself with all the tools here—then you’ll be able to use them quickly moving forward to make your photos look exactly like you want ‘em.  3. TouchRetouch  Price: \u00241.99 Apple | Android Ever feel like you finally got the perfect shot of your family—then realize there’s a random stranger standing in the background? Or snap the cutest picture of your kids playing in the park—minus the giant trash can in the frame.  TouchRetouch lets you get rid of those unwanted objects with a simple swipe. Professional photographers do this all the time with fancy Photoshop skills. With this app, you’ll simply paint over the object you want gone or select around it using the lasso tool, then push “go,” and the app will remove it and fill in the space based on the content surrounding it.  undefined There are several apps that offer this feature, including Snapseed above, but because it’s the only thing TouchRetouch does, it seems to work the best and have the simplest user interface. It doesn’t clean things up perfectly every time—it helps if you’re removing small objects and the background is solid—but it’s pretty darned good for something that takes just a few seconds (and is well worth the couple bucks you’ll shell out for slightly cleaned-up memories).  4. Photofox  Price: Free, with options for paid upgrades Apple Want to have a little extra fun? Photofox lets you create unique photo collages easily on your phone, allowing you to put your own spin on your special memories.  Perhaps the most popular option is the double exposure feature, making it easy for you to overlay a portrait or photograph with a beautiful background for unique effect.  undefined Photofox also has other “QuickArt” options for creating digital art with your photos, like the colorful, geometric “Duotone” pictured on the right. These are definitely a fun way to make the covers of your photo books pop! 5. Prisma  Price: Free, with options for paid upgrades Apple | Android Okay, so you might not use this one on a regular basis. But if you want to get a little extra artsy with your pics before you print them, Prisma is for you. This app turns your photos into artistic renderings, to make your memories look like they were painted in the style of a famous work of art undefined Upload your photo and select different styles to see what you like. Think of it as commissioning a work of art—for free!  Your photos are edited—now turn them into a masterpiece! Chatbooks is the easiest way to turn your pictures into books. Take 10% off your order with code photobook10.

5 Grandparent Gifts Your Kids Can (Almost) Make on Their Own

November 26, 2019

Homemade grandparent gifts always seem like a great idea—kids love making crafts, and grandparents love receiving those handmade treasures. Plus, while the kids are busy making their gifts, you get a little free time to tackle everything else on your holiday to-do list.  Unless, of course, you essentially have to make the craft for them. The best homemade gifts are the ones that kids can make with minimal adult involvement. Take these five gift ideas, for example. They’re easy enough for your kids to (almost) make on their own—and they’re things the grandparents will be proud to display. Your kids will have fun making them, Grandma and Grandpa will treasure them forever, and you’ll get some down time while your kids are crafting. Win-win-win. 1. Handprint Ring Dish  Everyone needs a little dish to store odds and ends like rings, keys, and spare change. To make one perfect for a grandparent, mold it in the shape of your kids’ hands.  Have your kids roll out a piece of clay, then trace their hand and cut away the excess material. Once they have the hand shape, they’ll lay it over a small dish or ball, and either bake it or let it air dry (depending on the type of clay). Your kids can even customize it further by painting it or writing their grandparents’ names on it.  2. Brag Book  undefined Grandparents love to talk about their grandkids—so what better gift to give them than a visual aid for those conversations in the form of a brag book? Have your kids pick out a few pictures from the year that they’re especially proud of—an image from a winning soccer game, a dance recital, getting a new puppy, or welcoming home a baby sibling. For a simple, kid-friendly way to bind them together, punch two holes along the left edge of each photo. Stack the photos—adding a cover if you want—then use string to hold them together as a book. Or, if you’re short on time, print them in a photo book. Your kids will love sitting with their grandparents and talking through each of the photos—and the grandparents will love retelling those stories and sharing those pictures with their friends.  3. Custom Coffee Mug Start with plain white mugs (pick them up at any craft store or order these on Amazon). Then, give your kids some oil-based Sharpies or glass paint markers, and let them go to town decorating the mugs with pictures, patterns, and messages. For the more ambitious, try sticking fun-shaped stickers (such as letters or stars) on the mug, coloring around them (right up to the border of the sticker), and then peeling it back to reveal the shape or letter.  Once the kids are done decorating, you’ll need to bake the mugs to set the designs (full instructions here). Then, they’ll be ready for grandparents to use each morning.  4. Salt Dough Holiday Decorations undefined For your kids, this is just like playing with playdough—but you’ll end up with surprisingly elegant decorations that are perfect for grandparent gifts. First, mix together a simple dough of flour, salt, and water. Then, invite your kids to mold the dough, roll it out and cut shapes using cookie cutters, or even write short messages in it.  When they’re satisfied with their creations, you’ll bake the dough. Then, your kids can add ribbon to make ornaments or string the shapes together to make a festive garland.  5. Photo Coasters undefined With a few pictures, plain white tiles, some Mod Podge, and a paintbrush, your kids can pull together a set of photo coasters. First, have your kids select pictures of themselves. You’ll need to print them in a square format so they fit the front of a square tile (hint: Chatbooks makes it easy to order square prints directly from Facebook, Instagram, or photos saved on your phone).  The kids will paint a thin layer of decoupage over the tile, adhere the picture, and layer on another coat. Glue small squares of felt or cork to the bottom of the tile, and—voilà—you’re done! A perfectly practical and sentimental gift.  For the most part—beyond the steps that involve an oven or printing photos—you can take a step back and let your kids have creative control over these gifts. And that’s just how their grandparents would want it. Want more tips and tricks for your busy family? Join the Chatbooks #MomForce community on Facebook.

15 Holiday Photo Cards That Look Great With Any Photo on Your Phone

November 24, 2019

Holiday cards are a sweet way to stay in touch with friends and family, highlight your year, and share a current family photo. They’re fun to give and fun to receive. But between gathering addresses, printing the cards, and getting them in the mail, we all know that there’s an element of stress to pulling them together, too.  With all you have to do this time of year, you shouldn’t also have to sift through hundreds of holiday cards to find the one that works with your family picture. Fortunately, there are plenty of card options that you can use with literally any photo on your phone. Here are 15 of our favorites.  1. Scripted Metallics  What picture doesn’t look polished with a foil-embellished greeting? Plus, you can choose the shade of the foil background—red, green, or neutral grey—to perfectly match your family photo. undefined 2. Bright Color Palette  For a modern look, choose a design incorporating more than just the traditional holiday hues. Because the colors in this card are separated from the photo (rather than overlapping with it), they will complement—rather than compete with—each other.   undefined 3. Minimalist With minimal text, your photo will be the star of the card. This is the perfect option for pictures that have a lot going on—like this shot of a gorgeous multi-generational family! undefined 4. Cheery Greeting Pair this festive lettering with a black and white version of your chosen photo. (On an iPhone, click edit, then tap the three interconnected circles at the bottom. Scroll to the right to choose a black and white filter.)  undefined 5. Instant Snow Any photo looks holiday-ready when you incorporate a snowy border. And because the design is simple and white, even the most colorful picture will look great in this template.   undefined 6. The Year Grid  Can’t choose just one picture? Highlight your entire year by choosing eight of your favorites. The choice of text options—ranging from holiday red to neutral tan—look great with just about anything and allow the photos to take the main stage.  undefined 7. Metallic Block Letters This elegant, metallic lettering looks beautiful on a range of picture styles, and the design is subtle enough to work with almost any vertical photo. undefined 8. Simple White Script When you’re highlighting a family photo, sometimes less is more. All you need is a simple Christmas greeting in white text.   undefined 9. Festive Bouquet These seasonal florals are delightfully bright, but their placement in the corner is subtle enough to let your family shine through. undefined 10. Holiday Leaves  This garland-adorned border makes even a simple photo look like it was made for the holidays. Plus, you can choose between five colors to find one that perfectly complements the shot you choose. undefined 11. Gold Frame Black and white or full-color snapshots will look great surrounded by this beautiful and oh-so-festive sparkly gold border.  undefined 12. Simple Black Text  Another neutral design, this card adds a simple greeting to the corner of the card—and with a beautiful family photo, that’s all you need.  undefined 13. Bold Color Block  Want to use a photo with lots of different hues? (You know, from that time you let your kids choose their own outfits?) This template plays off of the shades in nearly any shot. undefined 14. Trio of Pictures  Didn’t get a family photo? You still have time to DIY one! Or, with this card, just choose individual pictures of you or your kids, or just three different shots of the family.  undefined 15. Bold Noel No matter what photo you choose, this bright, decorative text will add a big dose of cheer.  undefined That’s it! Just pick one of these templates, select a picture from your phone, and place your order. They’re going to look fabulous—trust us.  Want more tips and tricks for your busy family? Join the Chatbooks #MomForce community on Facebook. Ready to order your holiday cards? Chatbooks is the easiest way to turn your pictures into cheery greetings. For a limited time, Enjoy 40% off holiday cards with code MERRY40.

MomForce Podcast Episode 28: Gifting Tips to WOW Everyone on Your List

November 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 28: Gifting Tips to WOW Everyone on Your List Listen Here While our moms may have been great about buying Christmas gifts year round and filling stockings months in advance, we aren’t all cut out for that sort of holiday preparation. But the season is upon us and whatever you celebrate, it’s finally time to start thinking about gifts!  It’s not hard to get our kids to share what they want. They presented us with a seven page (front and back) letter to Santa, after all. But Santa is on a budget, and we don’t want to fill their Christmas with more “stuff.” On today’s episode of The MomForce Podcast, Vanessa is joined by her sisters Kara and Shelly to talk about those “home run gifts.” The ones sure to get played with year round. Scoring the gift that stops them in their tracks doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank, either! The sisters share their tricks and tricks to finding the best toys at the best prices (while sharing what was a big miss, as well).  Gift giving isn’t always easy. Husbands, extended family, neighbors, and in-laws are sure to leave you stumped. Some of our favorite gifts haven’t been extravagant. Finish a project your spouse was never going to wrap up on their own. Personalize something they can treasure for years to come. Give them the gift of an experience they won’t forget. Help beautify the neighborhood, or make charitable donations on behalf of others.  Simplifying your shopping list will prevent you from making that panicked last minute dash to Target to load up your cart with stuff you don’t need. Being prepared will also allow you to put thought into gifts and make the most of your holiday season. After all, it can’t be the most wonderful time of year if you don’t enjoy it!  New free app to help track your holiday spending: GIVIE will keep everyone on the same page! ‎Save your sanity by using Givie to track gift-giving for holidays year round Check out Wild Florida! The greatest destination in Central Florida. Knock off "magnatiles" that were a HIT for our nephews: LINK HERE! Wanna follow along with Vanessa, Kara, and Shelly? You can find them at @vanessaquigley and @raisingwild Also - be sure to follow @themomforcepodcast on Instagram for more tips and tricks - as well as more fun stories and highlights about gift giving. 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! The perfect gift for everyone on you list!

This Google Sheet Will Organize All Your Holiday Shopping This Year (and Next)

November 20, 2019

Every year, you say you’re going to get ahead on holiday shopping, kicking it off with the Labor Day sales and having it all done before you carve the Thanksgiving turkey.  And then (if you’re like most of us), you find yourself scrambling mid-December to come up with brilliant, thoughtful presents for everyone on your list and get them wrapped and ready before the celebrations begin. But holiday shopping should be less about stress and more about gathering with the ones you love to enjoy a season full of merriment. Right? So to ease the burden, we’ve created a super-simple spreadsheet for organizing your shopping—and sticking to your budget, too. undefined Head to the Google Sheet template, click on “File,” then scroll to “Make a copy” to create your own editable version. Then, follow the instructions below to get all your shopping done in a snap. Step 1: Build a Budget Of course, we’d all shower our loved ones with extravagant gifts if we could, but most of us have limits. So the first thing you’ll want to do is to make sure your shopping budget is front and center.  Head to the “Budget Box” and enter the max you’d like to spend this season. As you start to add gift ideas and their costs, the “Current Total” will update automatically. As long as that box stays green, you’re good to go. When you go over budget, the box will turn red, reminding you to come up with some more affordable options.  Step 2: Make Your List, Check it Twice List everyone who you might buy gifts for this holiday season in the large cells under the “Recipient” column.  There are two sections in the spreadsheet: The first is the “Must Gift” section (think: your kids, your partner, your parents). Then, below it, there’s the “Nice to Gift” section. These are people who you might want to buy a gift for (such as a friend who you only see occasionally or a sort-of-close work colleague). This becomes especially useful if you find yourself going over budget, since the “Nice to Gift” can be the first people to cross off the list (or gift some lovely baked goods!). You can also batch people into groups. Maybe, instead of buying different gifts for all seven of your nieces and nephews, you want to give them all the same thing. Then, just put “Nieces and Nephews” in the recipient box instead of listing out each one.  Step 3: Brainstorm Your Heart Out Now, head to the “Ideas” column and jot down any thoughts you already have. Some might be specific, like a Photo Book from a family vacation or a toy they’ve been asking for. And some might be more general—for instance, you know your father-in-law loves skiing, but you need to do some research to translate that hobby into a gift.  You’ll end up culling these down later, of course, so don’t be afraid to go nuts. If you need more than three ideas for anyone, just right-click one of the cells in their section and select “Insert row.” Step 4: Shop for Specifics It’s time to start hunting down gifts! For well-defined ideas—like that Frozen toy your kid is begging for—shop around to find the best price, and then drop the link or store name in the “Where to Buy” section. For everyone else, start browsing gift guides and plugging in specific ideas. Make sure you track each item’s cost so you can keep an eye on your budget. Once your list is in good shape, let the shopping begin.  Step 5: Track Your Status Along the way, keep an eye on the “Status” column to see how far along you are—when everything is green, you’re good to go for the holidays! One especially helpful status is the “Price Tracking / Researching” label. Let’s say, for instance, you have a hunch that a popular gift might get marked down for Black Friday. If you mark those as “Price Tracking,” you’ll have an easy list of what to shop the sales for, rather than blindly browsing.  And that’s it! Make copies and use this spreadsheet for years to come. We’ve gone ahead and created a 2020 tab to help you get ahead—you could even copy ideas you don’t use this year over so you have them on hand. Before you know it, you’ll actually be getting that shopping done early.____ 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 27: Holiday Traditions that Spark Joy!

November 19, 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 27: Holiday Traditions that Spark Joy! Listen Here Research shows that much like displaying printed photos, practicing family traditions helps build children’s identity and strengthen family connection. But holiday traditions can be overwhelming! You don’t have to do ALL of the things in order to make your season magical. Holiday traditions can be elaborate nightly shenanigans for your Elf on the Shelf, or simply putting oranges in the toe of every Christmas stocking. In this episode of The MomForce Podcast, Erika and Leah join Vanessa to share the traditions they loved growing up, the compromises they made with their spouses, and the traditions that didn't make the cut! Whether you’re starting from scratch or hoping to carry on long standing generations old family traditions, take care to not become overwhelmed. Be realistic about your expectations, schedule your activities, and know that it’s ok to simplify. Every family is meant to be different so "you do you"! Want your very own Giving Manger? Click this link for and use code MomForce10 at checkout! Wanna follow along with Vanessa, Erika, and Leah? You can find them at @vanessaquigley @rikkianderson and @leahrward on Instagram. Also - be sure to follow @themomforcepodcast on Instagram for more tips and tricks - as well as more fun stories and highlights about traditions. 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.

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 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!

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 Check out some inspiration for clothing color palettes for your holiday photo shoots: undefined 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.

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