Posts Tagged ‘kids’

My Photographic Eye

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

I read an incredibly interesting article the other day that analyzed the photos Melania Trump has posted publicly on her Twitter account.

(No this isn’t a political post. Yes, the article was pretty critical of Melania. Yes, I agreed with it. No, I don’t want to have a political discussion here.)

If you look beyond the actual subject of that post, the idea of learning how someone sees the world from how they capture it is fascinating. Even if you don’t think of yourself as a photographer, any time you stop long enough to take a picture you’re saying “This is how I see things, this is a moment I want to be preserved, this is my reality as I want it to be presented.” In this era of social media, photos are even more performative – you can crop or filter so your friends (or strangers) can see what you want them to see. You are making a lot of choices, whether they are conscious or not, and looking at those choices can be eye-opening.

Because I’ve been doing a 365 photo-a-day project for three years now, I have hundreds of everyday life photos to look at and analyze for patterns. Once I started thinking about my pictures (many of them not more than snapshots) as a body of work versus just individual photos, it became super clear that my photographic eye says a lot about what I value, what I want the world to see, and what I want to remember.

The most obvious fact about my photos is they are almost all of my children. I almost never photograph myself. I could make a list of my excuses for that, or I could look at it more analytically. My appearance in the photographic record isn’t a priority for me. I don’t want to remember what I looked like during these years. My body doesn’t need to take up space in the frame. It’s incredibly important to me that I witness my children’s lives, but not necessarily as a participant in their activities. This feels both sort of uncomfortable for me (I don’t want to be distant or emotionally separate) and accurate (I’m much more free-range than helicopter mom).  Also, from a practical standpoint, my live as a stay-at-home-mom revolves around my children, so obviously my work shows that.

The next pattern I saw right away is my love of capturing a small body in a big frame. I’ve chosen my equipment (mostly a 35mm lens) so I can focus on my subject while also including a lot of their environment.

When I think about how I framed these photos, I intentionally avoided other people in the frame (unless they were also my children) to make my subject stand out. I didn’t try to blur or compress the environment to the point where you couldn’t identify it – WHERE is an important part of the story. I took photos like these in every season, at home and away, with my subject aware of me and not. Children are small and the world is big. I want my kids to be confident and bold when faced with big things, unafraid of the world, so they remain the focus even though the environment could overpower them.

Another fairly obvious trend in my pictures is that I center my subjects.

 

There they are, right in the middle of the frame. The main focus. There is balance in this composition, and something very calming about a photo that tells you exactly what it’s about. It’s easy. When I think about these photos, I often took them during challenging times, when I didn’t have the energy to devote to seeing something artistic or unusual. Simplicity is something I often value.

Something I was actually surprised to see was my love of taking a photo from behind my subject. I think of my work as being full of faces, so I wasn’t expecting so many of these.

 

These photos are about seeing what my children see, looking at the world from their point of view. I often crouch down, sit on the floor, get low so I can capture their perspective. I want to learn about what catches their eye, what THEY view as important or noteworthy. I’m following along as they direct the show, ready to be supportive but not interferring. Without the emotion of their face, you have to infer feeling from their body language. When you’re raising kids, this feels true in everyday life as well; they often don’t – or can’t – tell you what they’re feeling, so you’re left to interpret what they need.

Something there is slightly less of but still often featured is taking photos of small pieces of my small people.

Fingers, toes, hair, eyes, hands. I love them. They are soft and unlined, a perfect example of how children are unbothered by the realities of life or age. The same way an elderly person’s hand speak to their lived experience, a child’s hands show innocence. Their eyes are clear and open, unguarded. They also are little pieces of where they come from – Caroline’s red hair comes from her father, Linc’s blue eyes are from me. These photos are more personal than any of the others. I do have to be physically close my children to take them, even if the small bodies are in motion and I have to be quick. They capture something so very fleeting – the split second before those feet grow bigger, run faster, carry the children away.

And finally, my neverending love of taking pictures of my kids while they sleep.

The sleeping photos fall into almost all of the previous categories – sometimes up close, sometimes lots of environment, etc – but I took them because of the sleeping so it deserved its own analysis. Children are loud and busy, capturing them at their most quiet and still is a treasure. While they are vulnerable, I watch over them. They feel safe in their home and with their family, which is why they so often fall asleep in places other than their own beds. Our home is comfortable, even if it’s not always magazine-worthy, with plenty of places to take a nap when you need it.

I really loved this exercise for myself, even if putting my emotions and inner thoughts into words was difficult. I appreciate my photographs more and I’m thrilled this record will exist (as a reminder, print your photos! I have both 2015 and 2016 books as hard copies of many of these, the rest are from 2017 and will go in a book in January).

Are there any trends you can recognize in your own photographic record? Go look at your Instagram feed or Facebook photos and see if there are patterns or constants that emerge. Or you can take some of this analysis and use it to inspire your own pictures. I’m definitely going to make an effort to take at least one self-portrait this spring.

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My Week(335) in iPhone Photos

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

I had absolutely no idea I was three weeks behind until I tried to find photos from last week. I guess that means spring is making time go by faster, which is good, because this winter was approximately 746 months long.

Sunday:

I bought GIANT yarn because it would be fast, but I still haven’t finished

Gnocci with garlic bread from one of the boxes

 

Last minute book report finishing

 Monday:

Happy baby

Me: Evan, are you ok with Linc sleeping on you? Evan: Thumbs up.

Hurricane Lincoln

Tuesday:

Letting the toddler get his own food so I can watch Jill’s Tuesday playdate

Sweetheart

Too cool for my filters

Wednesday:

Home Depot Helpers

Doing homework in the sunbeams

Evan was not interested in me today

Thursday:

He was so excited to be “uppa”

Mid-afternoon toddler crash

I don’t know why they’re yelling

Friday:

Linc’s chores include letting the dog in and dumping all his food on the floor

Tired boy

In case she forgets her name

Saturday:

Chubby baby arms

These tiny beads are a pain but they keep the kids super busy

SEIZE THE DAY

I think I lost a week because of spring break. It was a black hole of time, between my parents visiting and E’s work schedule changing and having all four kids to watch full time. It has made it very clear that my goal for the summer should be to make sure at least one kid is signed up for an activity every week. So far we have two Seaport camps, town day camp and VBS. Maybe I should look into farm camp for my horse and chicken obsessed daughter.

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Meal Delivery Showdown: HelloFresh vs Blue Apron

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, my love for meal delivery services is well documented. Although there are a lot to choose from and several I’m tempted to try, HelloFresh vs Blue Apron seems to be the most common comparison and most popular choices. I’m currently subscribed to both services, and have been using them for several months so I feel like I’ve gotten a pretty good sample size to make recommendations.

hellofresh vs blue apron

First, I’ll do a quick overview of how it works and what it costs. Both services ship food to your house in big cardboard boxes lined with insulation with fresh ingredients on top and meats in the bottom under ice packs. The system works well. My meat has always arrived sufficiently cold with the ice packs still fully frozen. If something leaks, it’s contained in the insulated bag/liner and doesn’t get on the cardboard box. None of my boxes have ever been damaged. HelloFresh boxes each meal’s non-meat ingredients in their own smaller box, while Blue Apron has all the ingredients together. At first I really preferred the separate boxes system, but it means you need to either refrigerate the whole box or take out things like sour cream that need to go in the fridge. There is quite a bit of packaging involved in sending food this way, but both companies encourage recycling and send things like sauces and oils in plastic or glass bottles or jars that make it easy.

Cost Breakdown

I’m currently subscribed to the following:

HelloFresh: Classic meal plan for 4, 3 meals a week, $119.88 (breakdown: $9,99/meal)
If you do the same number of meals in the family plan vs the classic plan, it’s $8.74/meal

The ACTUAL charge that shows on my credit card is $129/week, because of taxes I guess (it’s in their small print, but not easy to find).

Blue Apron: Family plan for 4 people, 2 meals a week, $69.92 (breakdown: $8.74/meal)
Family plan is also available with 3 meals a week, but the cost breakdown is the same

The ACTUAL charge that shows on my credit card is $69.92, so Blue Apron wins for transparency.

I know that breakdown makes it sound like I’m paying $200/week for meals, but because of our schedule and their menus, I skip more weeks than I receive. They both make that VERY easy to do, since you can read the menus and make changes from their phone apps as well as the computer. This was one of my big concerns before I signed up; there are weeks where E is gone and it doesn’t make sense to cook nice meals for just me and the kids when they prefer cereal and also because E can be pretty picky. Skipping is why I am still signed up for both. My HelloFresh comes on Mondays and my BlueApron comes Fridays (but those are flexible, you can choose most days).

A few more things: HelloFresh’s recipes seem to have less prep in general (less chopping and peeling and cutting) even though they have about the same average number of ingredients. Blue Apron seems to be slightly fancier, even though I have the “family” plan.

I haven’t had any problems with my Blue Apron boxes or deliveries, which means I haven’t had to deal with their customer service yet. I have had to both call and email HelloFresh (a box got lost, a box was late, ingredients were missing, once a cucumber was squishy) and their customer service is GREAT. They offered me either partial credit or a whole free box immediately to resolve issues. After my late box showed up I emailed them to tell them I got it and they told me I could keep the full credit as an apology.

HelloFresh assumes you already have more things (like butter) in your kitchen, which Blue Apron sends almost everything. Both offer vegetarian plans. Blue Apron has an option to exclude specific proteins from your plan (lamb, fish, beef, etc) but you can avoid specific ingredients easily by customizing your menus each week, either from the app or online. My plans show 5-6 different options, and HelloFresh just started including one breakfast option, which is cool either for breakfast or as breakfast-for-dinner. Both have “farm-fresh” ingredients but Blue Apron seems to make a bigger deal about sustainability, local-ness, and working with small family farmers.

HelloFresh assumes you already have more things (like butter) in your kitchen, which Blue Apron sends almost everything. Both offer vegetarian plans. Blue Apron has an option to exclude specific proteins from your plan (lamb, fish, beef, etc) but you can avoid specific ingredients easily by customizing your menus each week, either from the app or online. My plans show 5-6 different options, and HelloFresh just started including one breakfast option, which is cool either for breakfast or as breakfast-for-dinner. Both have “farm-fresh” ingredients but Blue Apron seems to make a bigger deal about sustainability, local-ness, and working with small family farmers.

Recipe Comparison

HelloFresh: Sizzling Beef Stir-fry with Bok Choy over Jasmine Rice

hellofresh vs blue apron

Prepped:

hellofresh vs blue apron

What the kids got on their plates:

We are technically a family of 6, but Finn doesn’t really eat human food yet and my children don’t eat a grown-up sized portion of anything yet, so the 4 person boxes have always been plenty of food. The only time it becomes a problem is if we get something like burgers or sandwiches which only have 4 rolls/buns to feed 5 people.

hellofresh vs blue apron

This was really good, although the rice was a little boring because there wasn’t much of a sauce. It was very gingery, which we like.

Blue Apron: Crispy Catfish & Creamy Lemon-Caper Sauce with Broccoli & Farro Salad

hellofresh vs blue apron

Prepped:

hellofresh vs blue apron

hellofresh vs blue apron

What the kids got on their plates:

hellofresh vs blue apron

Caroline ate it. Evan and Linc tried it.

hellofresh vs blue apron

I really love capers and lemon, so I thought it was delicious.  I did get one bone in my fish, but that’s not super unusual in catfish.

My Recommendation

I like them both. If I had to pick just one forever, I would go with HelloFresh just because the recipes seem to be slightly less work and I end up with fewer pots/pans/dishes. They offer pasta more often (in my experience) than Blue Apron and my family really loves pasta.  I also think their portions are slightly bigger. But those are small, picky things, not make-or-break problems. If you don’t have any picky eaters in your family and enjoy time spent cooking as a joint activity with your partner, you might like the Blue Apron experience a little more.  I plan to continue paying real dollars for both services until our living situation changes and the Navy steals my husband for an extended period of time. I’m looking forward to more summer seasonal ingredients in the next few months and will report back with an update about who offers me a balsamic salad with strawberries first.

If you sign up for Hello Fresh using my link, you get $40 off your first box and I earn a credit. Blue Apron does their affiliate marketing through a program I’m too lazy to sign up for, but you can get cashback if you use Ebates when you sign up and they’re always offering $30-$40 off your first box or even first box free if you Google for a code.

Non-disclosure disclosure: I don’t have a relationship with either brand, although I think when my brother-in-law finishes school he’s going to go work for the wine division at Blue Apron. I definitely would accept some free wine for review.

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Cirkopolis at Foxwoods: GO SEE IT!

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017

You guys, Cirkopolis at Foxwoods was SO GOOD. We’ve seen Cirque Eloize several times now and this one was definitely the coolest. They did all my favorite stunts (the teeter board and the hoop) plus this super amazing hand-to-hand ballet where a girl did an entire dance without ever touching the floor. It was so beautiful. But I think my new favorite was the diablo, which the internet tells me might also be called a Chinese yo-yo. It was like watching a magic trick except nothing was hidden, the guy was just a gravity defying wizard.

We got into the theater to see the cast warm up with the lights on and the chance to get right up close and take some photos (and video, which is over on my Instagram!)

That thing above is a lousy picture of the diablo, but maybe now you know what I was talking about.

The show was packed and the audience was so into it, which made it more fun for everyone. Finnegan was a good baby and actually slept through the first 45 minutes. Lincoln was WORN OUT from a super busy weekend so he also took a little nap. But the big kids were both the very loudest laughers and applauders, and E and I kept looking at each other going “How is that even possible!?”

Cirque Eloize: Cirkopolis runs through April 15th at Foxwoods so get your tickets now and go see it!

After the show we promised the kids we could go to The Sugar Factory. The line for the actual restaurant looked pretty long and we had managed a zero breakdown family fun day up until that point, so we opted for some gelato from the candy store side. It was delicious.

 

 

There’s a bunch of other fun stuff going on the rest of this week and the beginning of next for Kids Week at Foxwoods, so we’ll be back for more fun (and more Sugar Factory).

Foxwoods provided me and my family tickets both to the pre-show event and the performance at no cost, but all photos and opinions are my own. And we paid for our own gelato. 

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It’s Baby Goat Season!

Sunday, April 9th, 2017

I love baby goat season.

I think the only thing I love more than baby goat season is Linc feeding baby goats.

The place is Beltane Farm in Lebanon, they let you visit, tour, and taste cheese from 11-3 every Sunday in April and May.

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