Family Activities Away From The Screen

My eldest is turning twelve in two weeks, and my younger is 7 and a half (and she will tell you just how important that half is). Like most children these days, TV, computer games and various ipod/pad/phone devices are a favourite pastime. Finding a family activity that they’re both interested in can be a challenge, and if I have to play with trains or barbies one more time, I think my head will explode. So, what to do to drag them away from the screen? Here are some ideas to keep both old and younger kids amused.

Build something together, either with cardboard or wood if you’re feeling adventurous. My daughter loves her doll house that we made out of a shoebox, and it is surprisingly fun to decorate.

Make a family scrapbook of your last holiday, special birthday or event. It gives you a chance to finally go through the photos, and having the kids write down their recollections and favourite parts makes for a wonderful keepsake in years to come.

Baking! Both of mine loves to cook, and it gets a weekend chore out of the way as well. I like to make biscuits and slices for lunch boxes rather than store bought. Both of the kids also like to help with dinner, though make sure to save this one for a weekend, and not when you have 15 minutes to get something edible on the table.

Go on an adventure. Adventure time is a favourite here, and so I suggest we go searching for monsters. We are lucky to have a beautiful nature walk nearby, and as the weather fines up you can get some exercise and get the kids to let some steam off hunting for creepy crawlies in the bushes. If you take a plastic bag, you could collect some special finds for the Backyard Still Life activity I mentioned in a previous blog post.

Take a class together at the local community centre. This one requires a little more planning, but can be well worth it. Most councils have a local community centre that usually offer a wide range of classes, both term long and for just a few weeks. Cooking, painting, jewellery making, self defence, computer animation, public speaking, anything!

Take a trip to the library and spend the afternoon reading together. This one is surprisingly effective, even for the older kids. Mr 12 loves to spend an afternoon immersed in the comic section, and for Miss 7 our library has a wonderful children’s area, complete with a boat to sit in while reading.

Jigsaw puzzle. If you have a spare table or pieces of floor, try setting up a giant jigsaw puzzle. We were once going on one for over a month, and you’d find yourself hovering over it every time you passed it, trying to fit in just one more piece.

What no screen activity do you like best at your house? Let me know in the comments.

Get the Craft (and the mess!) Outdoors

I don’t know about you, but in my family the vaccum is filled more with glitter than dust, and we regularly find little foil stars in lunch boxes. You can hardly make it from my daughter’s door to her bed some days because of the next amazing box construction, and she is often running late in the morning because she is drawing the plans for her next creation. Just last night, we needed to name every colour crayon she had …’pond blue’, ‘pond-ish’ …by the time we got to the fifth mid blue tone!

This weekend, the weather was so glorious here in Melbourne that I sent her outside with a bucket of giant chalk. Now, our whole paved area is rainbow coloured, and she was amused for hours.

So, when you’ve had enough of the mess that craft creates inside, send it outside! Here are four great ideas for amazingly creative kids craft they can do outside and away from your kitchen bench top.

 #1 Cloud Drawing

Take some thick paper and easy to use texta or marker outside. Both of these help you to be able to draw on grass, your lap, or other surface that may not be as flat and hard as a table. Lay on your back and examine the clouds, then use your imagination to turn them into animals or characters and draw them.

#2 Sketch Your House

Sit your kids out the front of your house, even across the street if you have understanding neighbours, and get them to sketch your house. You could set them up with a clipboard to lean on, or an easel if you’re feeling ambitious. To keep the activity going, encourage them to add on to the house, or colour it how they would paint it.

My kids are both fans of the 13 Story Treehouse series by Andy Griffths, and they would have the time of their lives imagining what to add to our house. I’m sure a waterslide would be in there somewhere, probably one that wraps around the whole house.

 

 

#3 Crime scene body art work 

This one started innocently enough on the weekend, with my daughter wanting me to trace her outline with chalk, so she could draw a self portrait. Of course, once tween big brother spotted what she was doing, he immediately had to join in. His portrait however, quickly turned into twisting his legs around for the most gruesome effect possible, before drawing the blood spatters around the outline for good measure. I figured hey, they’re playing together without fighting ;).

 

#4 Backyard Still Life

Have the kids go on a treasure hunt through the backyard, and see what kind of interesting rocks, bark or flowers they can find. Arrange them artfully anywhere you can, the outdoor table, back steps etc. Then, have them draw a still life of their finds. For older kids, you could take it a step further and show them different art styles to copy. Monet’s water lillies has turned into Willow’s Backyard Daises on more than one occasion at our house.

So there you have it, four ideas for outdoor artwork that will hopefully starve off the ‘I’m bored!’ while also getting the kids outdoors AND being creative.  If I’ve learned anything, children and craft go hand in hand …this way it doesn’t have to go all over your table as well.

Choosing Your Baby’s Name

New parents can be overwhelmed when it comes to picking a name for their new baby. Some parent wants to pick a unique name for their child, while some want to give name that has special meanings to their child.

With the help of internet, different lists of baby’s name options are easily available and some websites can even list the choices of names in alphabetic orders, origin or meaning. While you can easily find list of babies names to choose from, picking the right one for your special little one can be overwhelming. Here are some great tips that will help you decide your baby’s name.

Where Do I Begin

 Start discussing with your partner and keep a list of favourites as soon as possible to set some guidelines. Whenever a new name pops into your head, you should add to you list of favourite and review them later. One trick my husband and I did was to keep our favourites list separate until we started to discuss names, so we knew we had not influenced each other’s choices.

Before you drain your brain power from thinking of names for your new baby, you could use the internet for some inspirations. Tools like baby name finder or baby name inspiration list are great ways to find name ideas. There are also books on baby names available.

Ancestry and Heritage

You may want you child’s name to reflect their heritage, as it is an essential part of who they are. Religious preference may lead you toward a certain list of names. Some families have tradition of naming their first son after their fathers. Have a simple discussion with your family members, but do not decide on the name unless you and your partner agreed.

If you love a name but it does not meet the family’s tradition, you can consider using it as a middle name for your child. Or name your child the name you prefer, and use the traditional name as their middle name.

Picking an Unique Name

Picking an unusual name for your child has the advantage of making your child stand out from the crowd. You can avoid the situation where there are two other children who share the same name in your child’s class when he starts school. On the other hand, avoid over doing it just to make the name sound unique. As someone who has been spelling my name my entire life, and then married someone with an impossible to spell surname, it is not fun.

A way of striking a balance when pick your child’s name, is to choose a familiar name if your child last name is unusual. If your child’s last name is Jones, you can consider something more unusual for his first name. If your child’s last name is Yuvanesh, then Ryan might be a preferable first name for your child.

Remember, the name you decide for your child today is going to be with him/her for the rest of their life. Although none of these are hard rules, the most important condition for your child’s name is simply that you and your partner like it.

How did you chose your baby’s name? Share in the comments!

Creating the Perfect Birth Announcements

The arrival of a new baby in a family is a highly anticipated moment, and one that should be celebrated. Friends and family members are always eager for that first picture, the birth announcement and all the details about the new baby. Photo birth announcements available today allow you to share your news in style, while at the same time creating a beautiful keepsake for the years to come.

Life is so busy when a new baby comes along, you may not find time for a shower, let alone creating and writing out your birth announcements. Why not let us help.

Birth Announcements Themes 

There are many themes and patterns available for birth announcements. Modern or traditional, monochrome or colour, stripes or dots, or even an announcement for twins – even one boy and one girl!  Some prefer to chose the card to match your favourite photo, or use the baby’s name to help chose the theme.

Some parents like to celebrate the birth announcement in theme with a special holiday season during the year, especially if your baby is born on a special day. Famous holidays include New Year, Easter, Halloween and Christmas. You can enjoy the fun of dressing up for your photo, and creating a birth announcement no one will forget.

Detailing Your Card and Beautiful Messages

Adding the pertinent information in your birth announcement card is a great idea, but what else could you include? A thank you message is very popular, but how about your favourite quote or saying, or special message from a sibling? You can see some beautiful quotes and wording suggestions for birth announcements here.

Photos and Colors

It always put a smile on the face to see a photo of a smiling or content child. Picking a photo of your baby while he or she is having fun is a good choice for your photo birth announcement. The other very popular shot is of a sleeping baby, which everyone finds adorable. As well as the traditional pink and blue, hues such as greens, black and white, and rainbow have become popular. These days, anything goes when designing your baby thank you cards!

As parents, being proud of your child is natural. Share your joy with your love ones by making and giving out a personalised photo birth announcement cards.

Free Printable Lunchbox Notes

ilivcards-LunchboxNotes-Preview

One of the cuter printables I’ve seen around recently are lunchbox notes. Cute designs with uplifting messages, slip one of these in your kids (or your partners) lunchbox.

Kids especially love getting a little surprise treat, it will brighten their day and make them feel special.

iliv Cards has created a series of 6 free printable lunchbox notes. You can download the PDF file below, print and trim and you’re ready to go

All I ask is that you share a little in return :).

 

 

 

[sociallocker id=”151″]Download ilivCards-LunchboxNotes[/sociallocker]

Kids Birthday Party Ideas on a Budget

Kids birthday parties these days can quickly get expensive. You’ve got the decorations, the food, the cake, the games and activities, and the goodie bags. This can add up to a lot of money if you are not properly prepared.

Here are five ideas to help you save money on your child’s birthday part, and you won’t have to sacrifice any of the fun to have a frugal party.

Theme Parties

These ‘character’ or ‘theme’ parties can be the most expensive of all. To cut corners, mix and match accessories and decorations with plain things such as tablecloths, napkins, plates, and such. If you are choosing to go with a theme such as a Disney movie or TV show character, find printable characters online or draw freehand if you can and use them for hanging banners, or even the design for a homemade cake. There are many great tutorials online for making cakes of all the popular kids characters.

Old Fashioned Picnic Parties

Taking all the kids for a big picnic in a park can be a great way to save money. The kids can use the playground and a simple $3 pack of balloons filled with water can provide a whole day of fun playing water balloon games. You can even bring a couple cartons of eggs at only a couple of dollars a carton, along with spoons, and play games like racing to the finish line without dropping the egg. There are many games like this you probably remember from your childhood, and kids today still love them. You may also like to get an organized game going, like cricket, football or soccer.

The Great Outdoors

An outdoor party where you camp out in the backyard, or even just have a bbq in the backyard, can be a wonderful time, especially for summer birthdays. Roast marshmallows and eat them straight off the stick. You don’t need an open fire, you can roast marshmallows using a small bbq flame. Set up tents for sleepovers, or just gather around the fire pit to tell spooky ghost stories until it’s time to go home. The cost is minimal for a big bag or two of marshmallows, and perhaps some other goodies such as popcorn or chocolate. For goodie bags, little flashlights and glow in the dark stickers are a great way to have fun outdoors.

Movie Premier Party

If your birthday party falls during the winter months, you’ll want to have your kids birthday party indoors. Most rental places have great deals on renting a group of movies, and for under $10 you’re on your way to a great party. Grab some popcorn, chips or a few nibbles, and  don’t forget the beanbags or cushions so everyone has a place to sit. You could even offer a ‘service’ to serve the kids their favourites at particular parts of the movie, just like at the Gold Class cinemas.

So, next time you’re planning a birthday party for kids, a few clever ideas can stretch that budget to the last cent, making use of many of the fun things in life that cost little to nothing at all!

Friday Weekly Roundup Post: Engagement Party Ideas

egI had an eventful week this week, due to the wild winds here in Melbourne, a giant tree came down over power lines and we lost phones and internet for three days! I finally managed to get back online after we were given a wireless solution to tide us over, and so this week’s round-up is a little late.

This week’s theme is all about engagement parties. Engagement parties are hot right now. Spring has sprung and love and weddings are in the air. If you are looking to plan an amazing engagement party then you will find a ton of ideas to help in the posts below. Let’s get started.

Engagement Party Fun! – Here are a few beautiful and fun things to incorporate into your party.

Unique Engagement Party Ideas on a Budget – Want the party to be perfect and on budget? Try these ideas.

Top 10 Engagement Party Decoration Ideas – Looking for decoration ideas? This post gives 10 great ideas plus where to find more. We especially like the party lantern idea.

10 Engagement Party Tips – Here are 10 party tips to help you plan that great party.

Throwing a Vegan Engagement Party – This post suggest some pretty good ideas for having a vegan engagement party.

10 Creative Ideas For Couples – Not sure what to bring as a gift to the party? Here are 10 good ideas.

Engagement Party Etiquette - Learn more about who is supposed to throw the party, where it should be held, who should be invited and more.

How to Plan an Engagement Party - You will find a lot of great advice including info on themes, toasts, games and more inside this post.

15 of the Best Places in Brisbane to Celebrate Your Engagement - Looking for a place to hold your engagement party? Check out these fab locations.

Hopefully these articles will give you a head start when it comes to putting together the perfect engagement party. If you have engagement party posts you would like to share please let us know about them in the comments below. Thanks for stopping by and be sure to check back next week for another weekly roundup post.

 

 

 

 

 

Take Better Photos – 9 Must Know Tips

With DSLR prices dropping, and compact digital cameras much cheaper than just a few years ago, it’s now much easier to be able to afford a really good camera. But, are you using it to its’ full potential? Whether photography is a hobby, or you just want to take better photos of your family, there are many things you can do to get a better end result. Here are 9 must know tips for next time you head out with your digital camera.

Even a beginner can take fantastic photos with a little preparation.

Be Prepared

Keep all your photography equipment ready for use. Collect everything you’ll need into one place. A camera bag is ideal, because it keeps all your stuff together and lets you carry it all with you. A good camera bag have room to carry everything, such as a mini tripod, extra batteries, memory cards etc. Mine also has a seperate compartment to carry all the non camera essentials, such as my wallet, snacks and those all important baby wipes, a must for sticky fingers and faces when you’ve got your camera out.

Hold your Camera Steady

Blurry photos are almost always the result of camera movement. Just your own unsteadiness can cause your camera to shake enough to blur your pictures. There are two ways you can fix this. If you have it available and the shot suits, use a tripod. When I’m out and about I’ve also often used a handy fence post, tree branch or picnic table. Having something to rest the camera on makes a huge difference.

If you can’t do this, steady yourself and your camera before you take the shot.

Plant your feet firmly on the ground and tuck your elbows in close to your sides. Instead of using the LCD viewer, steady your camera against your forehead and frame the shot using your camera’s viewfinder. You can also steady your upper body by leaning against a wall or a tree.

Once you’re all set, gently press the shutter release in one motion. Pressing the shutter release too hard could jerk the camera downward.

Credit: freedigitalphotos.net

Credit: freedigitalphotos.net

Get Closer

One difference in “snapshots” and really great photos is the composition of the shot. Unless you’re shooting an outdoor landscape, you can improve most photos just by getting closer to your subject. Depending on the situation, you can physically move closer to your subject, or use the zoom feature on your camera for the same effect. Make sure you’re using optical zoom, digital zoom can result in poor quality prints.  Try to get within a few feet of your subject so you eliminate most of the background. You’ll like the results.

 

Take more Pictures

Even professionals take loads of shots of the same subject – to get just a few that they will use. With a digital camera, you can delete the images you don’t like, and only print the winners – so don’t hesitate to take several shots of the same subject. Change the angle of the shot. Get a little closer. Adjust the lighting. If your camera has the feature, you can set it to multi shot mode, which takes several photos at once when you press the shutter. I’ve avoided the awkward ‘someone’s blinking’ photo many times using this, and also got some great action shots for the kid’s sports. When you’re not sure exactly when the perfect shot will happen, multi shot mode can give you a better chance of catching the action.

Why not fill the entire memory card with pictures of your kid at the pool, or your daughter’s birthday party? The more pictures you take, the better the odds that you’ll get a few shots that will really thrill you. If you don’t have a lot of storage space, you can always go through them at home and keep only the best. I don’t recommend deciding which to keep on the small LCD screen of the camera, it’s simply too small to evaluate each photo properly.

Vary the Lighting

Using natural light will give better skin tones when photographing people, so try not to use the flash if you don’t have to. Outdoor daylight shots are easy, but you’ll have to be a little more creative when shooting indoors. Try using the light coming in from a window for warmer tones than you would get using the flash.

Experiment with natural lighting. You can get stronger shadows by moving your subject closer to a window, and turning your subject can create more dramatic shadows.

Eliminate Red-Eye

Red-eye is the result of light passing through your subject’s eye and reflecting back. You’ll get it more often when using your flash, just because the light from the flash isn’t as diffused as natural light. So, the first tip for eliminating red-eye is simply to avoid using your flash when you don’t absolutely have to.

Another way to reduce red-eye is to have your subject look anywhere but at the camera. This reduces red-eye because any reflection isn’t directed back at your camera lens.

If you have to use the flash, some digital cameras have a built-in feature to automatically reduce or remove  red-eye. If you do post processing on your photos, for example using Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom, you can remove red-eye here also.

A fun candid family photo

Credit: freedigitalphotos.net

Go for Candid

Instead of posing two (or more) people looking directly at the camera, get a shot of them interacting with one another. Even two people having a conversation is more interesting than having them stand next to each other facing the camera. Some of the best professional portraits have the subject captured deep in thought, with their attention focused inward, rather than on the camera lens.

It makes a more interesting shot. Your portrait will look more natural – less posed.

Create a Scene

Putting your subject in the center of a photo is just boring. You’ll get a much more pleasing result if you place your subject off centre when you frame the shot.

This is a truly professional technique. Place your subject so that they occupy 1/3 to 1/2 of the total composition, but NOT at the exact center of the frame. Capture an interesting background object in the rest of the frame.

Check the background

Many people get so focussed on the subject of the shot, they forget to check the background. I get many requests here at iliv Cards to remove socks, blankets, cats or even other people from the background of my customer’s favourite photo. Unfortunately to do it properly is a big job, and can cost a lot in editing time. When framing your shot, keep an eye out on the background and make sure there’s nothing there you don’t want in the final shot.

 

By following even a couple of these techniques, your shots will be better and more professional, just perfect for your next announcement or invitation order.

 

Weekly Roundup: Bridal Shower and Hens Party Fun

BH03It’s time for another weekly roundup post. This week the theme is all about Bridal shower and Hens party fun! If you need help when it comes to planning an amazing party for the bride in your life then these posts will definitely help you. You will find a ton of ideas for games, gifts, and things to do.

These are just a few of our favorite Hens Party/Bridal Shower posts. If you know of one that you would like to share then please provide the link in the comments below. Check back next week for another roundup post.

Weekly Roundup – Amazing Birthday Cakes and Cupcakes

It’s time for another weekly roundup post. This week we are rounding up great posts all centered around amazing birthday cakes. If you are planning a birthday party

 

Camouflage Cupcakes – If you have a boy and are stuck for cake ideas, this is a great one for all ages.

Rainbow Ruffle Cake – An amazing cake for a rainbow party, you’ll need a few tools and some patience.

MINIONS! – Cakes by Choppa is an amazing YouTube channel full of easy decorated cake videos, and he’s Australian too.

Pinata cake with a difference – Want to surprise everyone when you cut the cake? Cake and chocolate – what could be better!

Princess Castle Cake – Every little girls loves princesses and pink, and this cake is both easy and looks amazing. I have made this for my own daughter’s birthday and used my own cake recipe and icing, you don’t have to buy the branded products. We used marshmallows (big and small) for the turrets, rather than sugar cubes.

Spotty Dotty Cake – This one has the wow factor when you cut into it, but is surprisingly easy to construct.

Angry Birds – I made this for my son’s 10th birthday. It was a huge amount of work, but the reactions were more than worth it.  We used Mars Bars in place of the bars mentioned in the tutorial, which worked great.

Rainbow Pull Apart Cake – Another rainbow cake, this one is easier and great for a crowd. There are some other great ideas on this page also.

Lego - Another ‘much easier than it looks’ and a great cake for boys or girls of all ages.

Enjoy your baking! If you need invitations for your next birthday event, we’ve even got invitations with cake!