Photo Challenge: Texture

I haven’t participated in the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge in quite a while, but this weekend’s trip to Yosemite has me in full-on picture taking mode. The theme this week is Texture, something this park has in abundance.

Here are a couple of my favorite Yosemite texture shots so far:

Fallen Tree at Mariposa Grove

Fallen Tree at Mariposa Grove Yosemite National Park

Detail Views: Boulder and Tree

texture-details

View of Half Dome from Glacier Point

Half Dome at Glacier Point

Yosemite Valley Near the Village

Yosemite Valley as seen near Yosemite Village

All photos were shot with a Canon 6D. The landscape views were shot with a Canon 24mm-70mm f/2.8 II lens and the detail views were shot with a Canon 50mm f1.4 lens.

 

Travelogue: A Beach Trip to the Gulf Coast

Planning an end-of-summer beach trip? View ideas for visiting the Orange Beach / Gulf Shore area with children.

A few weeks ago we took an extended weekend trip to the beach. Although we live in Texas and could have visited the beach along the Texas coast, we decided to head further east where the beaches tend to be nicer and better suited to swimming.

There are a lot of great destinations along the coast, but we decided on Orange Beach, which is in Alabama about 30 miles west of Pensacola, Florida. The beaches have beautiful white sand and the water is perfect for swimming.

We spent most of our time relaxing on the beach and didn’t seek out a lot of activities beyond lounging and playing in the sand. But we did explore the nearby area a bit, so I thought I would share some ideas for taking a beach trip to this part of the country with children.

Where to Stay

Planning an end-of-summer beach trip? See our picks for visiting the Gulf Coast area with children.
The beaches along the Gulf Shore, Orange Beach and Pensacola region are filled with affordable, family-friendly hotels and rental properties. We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn in Orange Beach. It’s located right on the beach so you can easily transition back and forth between beach and swimming pool. I highly recommend getting a room with a beach view. The photo on the left above is the view from our room. Sitting and watching the activity below was lots of fun for our children, who had only visited the beach once before this trip. You can also rent chairs on the beach, which is a nice option when you know you’re going to be coming and going and you don’t want to lose your spot (or leave your personal belongings to ‘reserve’ it) while you’re gone.

Where to Eat

Planning an end-of-summer beach trip? See our picks for visiting the Gulf Coast area with children.

When it came to meal time, we mostly looked to the area immediately near our hotel. Wintzell’s Oyster House definitely turned into our favorite dinner spot, and we ate there twice over the course of our trip. We also stopped at The Gulf on our way into town. I love this location. It’s right on the beach so the kids could play in the sand while we sat on sleek lounge furniture under umbrellas enjoying lunch. The kids’ favorite meal destination was Lulus. They have a large play area in the center of the 3-restaurant complex that includes a sandbox, an elevated rope course and many other just-for-kids activities.  Plan on spending awhile here. I wasn’t sure whether to include this location under ‘Where to Eat’ or ‘Things to Do.’ It’s a bit of both and the wait for a table seems intended to build in plenty of time for play. During our visit, we chose to eat at the upscale Lucy B. Goode (and the food was wonderful), but in retrospect I think the original restaurant, Lulus, would have been a more child-friendly option.

Things to Do

Planning an end-of-summer beach trip? See our picks for visiting the Gulf Coast area with children.

The beautiful beaches are reason enough to visit this part of the country with children, but the Gulf Coast area also has many bays that are perfect for taking boat rides. There are many options for renting boats and/or going on tours. We read about several dolphin tours and even saw a pirate-themed cruise pass by one afternoon. If we were staying longer, I definitely would have looked into the pirate cruise for the kids. Since our trip location was partly driven by visiting friends and family, we were able to spend an afternoon taking a ride on a friend’s boat. This was a highlight for Jason and Jenna, who loved sitting at the front while we raced along the water. 

This was our first trip to the Gulf Coast, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be our last.

Yosemite: A Photography Packing List

Trip to Yosemite: A photography packing list with top app recommendations for photographing Yosemite

Next week, we’re heading on a trip to California that will include a few stops, including Yosemite National Park. I’m crazy excited about visiting Yosemite, mostly for the opportunity to take pictures with my new camera.  Here’s my list of essentials for the trip:

The Basics

Lightweight jacket / Comfy walking shoes / A backpack

Serious Gear

My camera / My Favorite Lens / A Lens I Rented Here / A Grid System for Chargers, Batteries, etc.

Just For Fun

I recently bought some film for my vintage Spectra Polaroid camera. I haven’t had much success with it yet, but if I’m ever going to get some good shots, I’m thinking Yosemite just might be the place.

The Impossible Project Polaroid Film

Essential Apps

  • Canon EOS Remote: One of my favorite features about my new camera is the ability to connect to my phone. This app makes it all possible.
  • VSCO Cam: This has become my go-to app for editing and filtering my iPhone photos
  • The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite: I haven’t explored this app very much yet, but the contents look amazing. It is based on the author’s book of the same title and it provides comprehensive recommendations on where to shoot, settings to use, time of day, etc.
  • National Parks Yosemite Guide: This is the official guide to Yosemite and it provides a general guide to what to what to see and do in Yosemite along with maps for getting around.

 

Note: post contains affiliate links

 

Summer Trend: Hair Chalk

Hair Chalk: A fun way to temporarily color children's hair without the mess of spray-on colors

Earlier this summer, we attended a birthday party that had all of the stuff that makes children’s parties awesome – face painting, balloon animals, pinatas and even a hair-coloring station. Jenna was especially excited to get her hair colored, and, while I secretly cringed at the thought of spraying her already tangled hair with sticky spray, I let her join in the fun. She, of course, was thrilled with the results:

Use hair chalk as a safer, easier way to temporarily color children's hair

This weekend, we came across Alex’s Hair Chalk at the store and I immediately recognized the appeal. All of the fun of temporary hair coloring without the mess and chemicals of aerosol sprays.

The hair chalk is really easy to use and the results can vary based on how you apply it. I applied it to Jenna’s dry hair (and Jason even applied a few streaks to his own) for a more subtle effect, but I’ve also read that you can apply it to damp hair and spray it with hairspray for a more intense color.

Hair Chalk

Note: post contains an affiliate link

 

Making Fresh Pasta with Children

Cooking with Jason and Jenna is something I wish I did more often. They’re getting older, but I don’t always recognize how much they can handle these days - especially Jenna who loves to help out in the kitchen. This weekend was a serious reminder of just how much that little girl can do.

Making Fresh Pasta with Kids

On Friday night, I made a batch of pasta and saved some dough so that Jenna could make her own noodles the next day. I thought it would mostly be for fun and didn’t really think we’d end up with an edible batch. But the fettuccine noodles for lunch, shown above, were almost entirely Jenna’s creation.

The dough was already prepared, a step I’ll likely do in advance next time too since I used a semolina pasta recipe, which is a little hard to knead. Once I showed her how to flatten a piece of the dough and guide it through the KitchenAid attachment, she worked through the entire batch. My only role was adjusting the levels during the flattening step and turning off the power between each piece.

It’s been a couple of years since I’ve made fresh pasta, but now that I have a helper, I’ll be making it more often!

Making Fresh Pasta with Kids

Our Vacation Story on Steller

We just returned from vacation, and, on the way home, I realized it was the perfect time to try out the new storytelling app that I downloaded a couple of weeks ago. Its called Steller, and it allows you to create a digital storybook with your photos, videos and text. Our vacation was pretty awesome, and this app is a great way to capture our favorite moments.

You can view it by clicking the image below:

our vacation story on the new Steller app
Check out my story on Steller.

DIY Concrete Stepping Stones

DIY tutorial for creating stepping stones with children

Ever since volunteering at the art table during a Real School Gardens event, I’ve wanted to do this craft with Jason and Jenna. It’s messy, but the results are awesome and I love how these stepping stones look in our yard.

steppingstones1

We started by letting the kids select their favorite materials from a huge batch of stones, beads, marbles, buttons, glass rocks and other leftover craft materials I had on hand. We didn’t use any Legos (because I didn’t think of that), but my son commented that we should use Legos next time … as if we don’t already step on enough Legos around here.

DIY tutorial for creating stepping stones with children

Mixing the concrete is the hard part. We used Quikrete and mixed it into a bucket without wearing any gloves. FYI, I highly recommend using gloves if you’re going to mix the concrete by hand. Once the concrete was mixed, we poured it into shoe boxes and other similarly-sized boxes that we saved.

DIY tutorial for creating stepping stones with children

We let Jason and Jenna decorate the stones by pressing the materials they had selected into the wet concrete. You don’t need to press it in very far for it to stick, so this part isn’t messy and can be done without gloves.
DIY tutorial for creating stepping stones with children
We let our stones dry overnight, but it seemed like they were fairly dry within a few hours. Once they were completely dry, we placed them in the yard and let the kids start stepping, jumping and running on them.

DIY tutorial for creating stepping stones with children

Vertical Succulent Garden

How to create a sturdy base for a vertical succulent gardenThis weekend I attended a class on vertical succulent gardening at the Dallas Arboretum. I don’t think I would have figured out how to create a structure strong enough to support sideways plants and soil, so I was pretty excited to have an expert walk me through step-by-step. And I haven’t yet installed my garden along a wall, but when I turn it sideways, it seems to stay in place pretty well.

We started with the following materials:

  • Wooden Frame (our instructor made his own out of fence wood)
  • Flat piece of wood cut to the size of your frame
  • Plastic fence netting (I’ve also seen chicken wire used)
  • Black mesh fabric
  • Screws
  • Staple gun
  • Light soil suitable for succulents (our instructed recommended this soil mixed with crushed shells)
  • Succulent plants

 Here are the steps we followed:

Vertical Succulent Garden

Step 1: To create a strong framework, we cut the plastic netting and black mesh into rectangles that were slightly larger than the size of our frames. We pressed the plastic netting into the frame and stapled it along the inside of the frame; we repeated this step with the mesh fabric and trimmed both so that there wasn’t any extra coming out of the frame.

Step 2: Fill the frame with soil. We used a mix of lightweight soil and crushed shells. While sand is often mixed into soil for succulents, our instructor cautioned against this because it adds extra weight to the structure.

Step 3: Secure the flat piece of wood to the frame using screws.

Step 4: Once the framework was complete, we selected our succulents and arranged our design by setting the plants on top of the grid before we started planting.

Step 5: To plant each succulent, we cut a small square out of the netting and mesh – cutting an almost 2-inch square per 3 inch plant. Inserting each plant into the grid was the hardest part. We had to push all of the soil in the frame out of the way and then push the plant in, using a pencil to help push the base of the plant further into the soil.

This is my final garden:

How to create a sturdy base for a vertical succulent garden