Cooking with Kids: Banana Chip Muffins

By Bree Hester /

Baking is a great inside activity for rainy or snowy days. As much as I love a cuddly day at home, keeping the kids occupied for that long is not easy.  We enjoy crafts, playing games, watching movies, and baking. A lot of baking.

I think that teaching your children to cook is one of the greatest gifts that you can give them. Not only are you teaching them a life skill (who am I kidding, MANY life skills) that they will carry throughout their life, but the experience is one that they will not forget. It is where memories are made. When I am cooking with my kids, we are talking, laughing and having a lot of fun.

Over the years, I have spent a lot of time cooking with my kids. I have picked up a few tricks to make it a fun and enjoyable experience for everyone. I think of cooking the same way I do when I am doing a craft. It is an activity, but one that yields something delicious to eat at the end.

1. Pick an easy recipe to start with. Muffins are perfect because you can make them with nothing more than two bowls and a spoon. There are lots of jobs kids can do – measure, stir, put the liners in the muffin tins, scoop the batter.

2. Bring the kids into the kitchen on a day when you are not in a hurry. If you are trying to get dinner on the table on a busy weeknight, or need to bake 100 cupcakes for the bake sale, it is probably not the best time to have the kids helping you.

3. I get everything ready before we start. I pull the ingredients out, get the tools out, and then ask the kids to come help me.

4. It’s going to get messy. There will be flour on the counters, it’s just the way that it is. That is what makes it so much fun.

5. Kids need to help clean up the mess, it is part of cooking and the process. Let the kids clean up the spills, load the dishwasher, empty the dishwasher. It might not be exactly the way that you want it done, but it gives the kids a sense of pride and ownership over the kitchen.

BANANA CHIP MUFFINS

MAKES: 18 muffins

2 ripe bananas
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line two muffin tins with 18 paper liners.

2. In a medium bowl, mash banana with a fork. Set aside.

3. In a large measuring cup or bowl, whisk together oil, buttermilk, and vanilla.  Add mashed banana and mix until combined. Set aside.

4. In another large bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, and salt.

5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined, the batter will have lumps. Fold in chocolate chips.

6. Fill the muffins 2/3 of the way.

7. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.

Teach Kids to Write Thank You Cards in 3 Steps

By Kristin Appenbrink /

I will forever be a fan of a well-written thank you card. As much as I love the convenience of email, texting, and social media, there’s something about the thank you card—it’s one of the few lasting signs of good manners. And thankfully, it’s an easy skill to master, even for your kids. That’s one of the reasons thank you cards have remained as we’ve ditched other etiquette rules. They are quick to write and can be relatively informal, but they still show more consideration than a text message. Read More “Teach Kids to Write Thank You Cards in 3 Steps”

Met Your Match? Meet the Wedding Collection

By Rachel Castro /

You’ve gotten engaged (congrats!), you booked your reception and now you can’t wait to spread the word to your family and friends. Enter our new, versatile save-the-date decals that double as a memento and a calendar heads up. These are part of the mini and full invitation suites that include items such wedding invitationsRSVP cards, escort cards, and photo books. The style ranges from the formal affair with the Black Tie suite or The Coastal Collection which would work great for a destination wedding or less formal affair. A favorite for the DIY bride is our new wedding decals perfect for creating a romantic photographic collage at the reception.

Read More “Met Your Match? Meet the Wedding Collection”

How to take a Day in the Life on Instagram

By Jennifer Tonetti-Spellman /

For any photographer, be it a hobbyist or pro running a business, a Day in the Life project can help you grow tremendously.

To document your day, or a child’s day is an important slice of history as well.

When its the last time you charted a day from start to finish? If you never have, hopefully you will find some inspiration to do so now.

Recently, I charted my own day via Instagram. It was a lot easier than suing my dslr but still challenging enough that when it was done,and that final shot was taken, I went to bed completely exhausted and fulfilled knowing I had created my own time capsule to reflect on in the years to come.

Here are some tips on how to make your Day in the Life come to life!

Read More “How to take a Day in the Life on Instagram”

How to Take a Great Holiday Card Photo Outdoors

By Jennifer Tonetti-Spellman /

Holiday card photos can be fun for the entire family. Forget about the forced, posed family photo and instead, seize the opportunity to take family photos during outdoor adventures.

Head right outside your home or to a local park. The key for shooting outdoors is to film during the most flattering light. Golden hour never disappoints as the sun drops in the sky and casts a beautiful, warm glow. The golden hour in photography is a period shortly after sunrise or before sunset during when the daylight is softer than full sunlight.

Read More “How to Take a Great Holiday Card Photo Outdoors”

How to Take a Great Holiday Card Photo at Home

By Jennifer Tonetti-Spellman /

Every year, we put enormous stress on ourselves to get the ‘perfect’ holiday greeting. What usually happens is as follows: dress the children up, kids don’t cooperate, we end up screaming, and it’s far from having a holly jolly ANYTHING.

Here are some tips to help ease into this year’s holiday greeting. Home is, after all, where the heart is.

I’m a true believer in snapping your holiday card photo or your client’s holiday card photo at home. But instead of all piling up in front of the tree here are a few other spots that can make your holiday card photo more of your own:

Read More “How to Take a Great Holiday Card Photo at Home”

Trying New Photography Techniques

By Jennifer Tonetti-Spellman /

© Jennifer Tonetti Spellman 2014

Whether you are a full-time/part-time photographer running a business or a photo enthusiast/hobbyist, there comes a time during the year where we all experience downtime.

Personally, I take off the month of December each year to recover from Fall shooting madness, regroup on my business and plan for the year ahead.

It’s also this time I do one of my most treasured things: embrace the downtime for new photography techniques.

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How to not be Annoying when Taking Family Photos

By Jennifer Tonetti-Spellman /

One of the hardest things about being a photographer with children is this incessant need to film them. Itʼs like the itch that can never fully be scratched.

I will admit, I’ve overdone it at times. I’ve let the desire to get the shot overtake me, make me angry if I didn’t get it, and just basically ruin the very moment I was trying to capture.

This side of me came out big-time when I was doing my 365 in 2013. I drove the whole house crazy – including our dog – to make sure I got the shot of the day. But that all changed this year when I decided to put down the camera, and realized that I was potentially hurting relationships in my home with my daughter and even husband {though he isnʼt the main focus of the images}.

Allow me to share with you some ways on how to keep snapping, but lessen the irritating factor when taking pictures of your family.

Read More “How to not be Annoying when Taking Family Photos”

How to Capture Natural Smiles in your Photos

By Jennifer Tonetti-Spellman /

I think out of all the questions I receive from the photography community, the ‘Jenn, how do you get those natural smiles from children’ one pops up the most.

My philosophy when filming children is quite simple:

1. To capture natural smiles you have to genuinely make children laugh and show them the way to fun.
2. Children are just smaller versions of ‘us.’ So treat them with the respect they deserve, don’t patronize or talk down to them and they will reward you by letting you in.
3. Keep it moving to capture natural smiles. Attention spans will wane quickly.

Let’s dig a bit deeper…

Read More “How to Capture Natural Smiles in your Photos”