Saturday, February 28, 2015

Spotlight National Craft Month

This week I was really lucky to be invited to attend a gorgeous blogger preview event held by Spotlight who are celebrating 'National Craft Month' during March for the second year running.  It was held above their South Melbourne store and we were given the opportunity to have a sneaky peak, and a play, with some of the new products hitting the store.

  To give you a good idea of the day I have put together a short video clip for you here:

There were several different product tables set up, with different craft activities for us to try.  These included Pebeo who make paint and markers that can be used on glass, porcelain and fabric, Pop Tape, which can be used for all sorts of projects and can be applied, removed and reapplied...it stays sticky (!)...as well as gorgeous scrapbooking supplies, such as the new 'Marquee Love' Letter kits by Heidi Swapp and pretty paper flower making kits by We R Memory Keepers.  There was also scrapbooking products by Amy Tangerine
I really liked the cakes on display by Roberts Confectionery and they were showcasing ready-to-use fondant icing for decorating cakes called 'Satin Ice'.  The cakes looked amazing!
My kids wanted to eat these cakes!  So did I, to be honest!!
There were gorgeous fabric, quilts and knitting projects on display, as well as some really fun Tie-Dye Kits and Fabric Spray by Tulip products.  My little girl took off with this Fox and started dancing around the room with him.  Wasn't sure I was going to get it off her!
I love this Ladybird button creation!  As well as beautiful craft products there was also a lovely High Tea put on for us and things to keep the kids occupied, such as face painting. 
I took home quite a few goodie bags with amazing products, as well as a miniature Spiderman (my four year old!) and a rainbow and star decorated five year old!
 
Throughout March Spotlight is hosting five mini festivals to celebrate the essential elements of craft:
  • Art & Craft Fest  28th Feb - 1st March
  • Sew & Quilt Fest  7th - 8th March
  • Cake Fest  14th - 15th March
  • Yarn Fest  21st - 22nd March
  • Scrap Fest  28th - 29th March 
Activities will take place at various Spotlight Hub Stores, which will include in-store craft classes, free projects, international guests as well as special discounts and bargains exclusive to the event.  They will also be running competitions with the chance to win major cash prizes, sewing machines, gift cards and much more.
Thank you to Spotlight and to Kids Business for organising and hosting this event!  We had a fabulous time.
 
For more information visit Spotlight's Facebook page or follow them via Instagram.




 

 

 


Friday, February 27, 2015

Closer to Nature Advanced Comfort Range & Explora Pack For Toddlers

I was very lucky to be sent some items to review from Closer to Nature, who make a fantastic range of baby and toddler feeding and change time products.  Despite not having a newborn or infant any more, I do have a very active toddler, who is not only busy feeding herself, but also still enjoying having bottles of formula twice a day.  It was lovely to be able to try out all these great products.
Advanced Comfort Bottle
I have never tried Closer to Nature's range of bottles before but I must honestly say I'm really impressed and would definitely recommend them to anyone making the switch from breast feeding to bottles, or those who either can't or don't want to breast feed.  I have always had bottles for all four of my children, because even though I did breast feed, I had a very limited milk supply and just wasn't good at it at all.  So I had to both breast and bottle feed my kids.  If I had to go back and do it again I would choose these bottles for sure.  The shape makes them really light and easy to hold, plus they are designed to feel like a breast, with the soft natural feeling silicone teat, which would have been perfect for me when I was doing both breast and bottle feeding during the one feed.  I think the proof was in the pudding for me because my daughter was perfectly happy!
The other thing I liked about them is the tube and value system they have, designed to help prevent colic, which can be caused by air bubbles in the milk.  My daughter used to get the hiccups after every feed (even BEFORE she was born....seriously!) and I think this value system would have stopped that.  Ok..so maybe not the hiccups she used to get in the womb.....
Magic Mat
Ok, so this is the coolest thing!  For any of you who have a toddler who likes to fling their food (or their bowl) across the room or at their siblings....then this is for you!  The Magic Mat is a great rubber suction mat that sticks easily to all flat surfaces and will hold either bowls or plates firmly in place.  Yay! 
I found it easy to clean, just wipe it down, but it can go in the dishwasher.  Bonus!
Easy Scoop Feeding Bowls & Explora First Cutlery Set
I have used these bowls everyday since I was sent them, and they have quickly replaced the other toddler feeding bowls in my cupboard.  I have had quite a few bowls made out of melamine, which is supposedly unbreakable, but my tiled floors seem to make a mockery out of this.  These bowls are perfect.  They come in a pack of four, which is all you should ever need with one toddler, they are dishwasher, microwave and steriliser safe, BPA free (just like their bottles), and the triangular shape makes scooping food out really easy.  In combination with the Magic Mat they are awesome.  My daughter didn't lose her spaghetti for a change!
She had no problems with the Explora First Cutlery Set either.  It's lightweight and easy to hold and has been designed so that toddlers can make an easy transition from using soft handled feeding spoons to metal cutlery. 
Explora Active Sporty Cups
I was quite excited to receive these cups, if the truth be told.  I've been on the look out for a good cup to give to my daughter, instead of always giving her a bottle to drink out of.  She's over 18 months now and I am still in the habit of handing a bottle to her every time she wants a drink.  These are great.  As well as the cute designs they are so easy to use with a screw on lid and a simple value inside.  There's no flippy lid, but despite that they don't leak.  They can hold hot or cold drinks, and if you lose your values you can buy replacements.  They are dishwasher safe too, and I'm finding that my two younger boys are enjoying them too...at age four and five!
Soothers & Dummies
There is always such controversy surrounding the use of dummies.  Me...I'm a fan.  If they help you get a little peace, or stop your baby using YOU as a dummy (which my children liked to do), then by all means...use a dummy!  Closer to Nature has a range of four different types, the 'Anytime', 'Night time', 'Air style' and 'Fun style'.  They all have the Orthodontic Teat Shape, a reversible silicone teat design, are BPA free and are available in 2 age stages, 0 to 6 months and 6 to 18 months.  I really like the 'Night time' style (which is the pink and mauve one in the photo above), as the handle glows, therefore they are easy to find at night...which trust me...is a total genius move as I have spent many a night groping blindly under the cot trying to find a dummy...., and I also like the 'Air style' as they have air holes in the shield to encourage air flow to help minimise the risk of skin irritation, which is something my daughter ends up with.  It will be great to use these to stop all those little red spots around her mouth.
Explora Electric Baby Food Blender
Now this I loved and wished I had one when I was actually having to make baby food.  It made it so much easier!  I think that I would have relied more on home cooked baby food and less on the bought stuff if I had a little blender like this.  The size is perfect for making up single or smaller portions and it is so easy to clean.  It can all be popped in the dishwasher (top shelf only), and can be used for fruit or vegetables.  It has a two speed setting, so you can make smooth purees or have a slightly chunkier texture as your infant advances with their eating, and it also has a pulse action, a lid with a safety lock and non slip rubber feet.  I have included a little video below to show you the blender in action!

Overall I was really impressed with all the products and was very lucky to give them a try.  Thank you to Closer to Nature for sending them to me to try!

 




closer to nature® is the number one baby feeding accessories brand in the UK and one of the top brands of infant products and accessories in the global market.   Loved by parents and little ones, closer to nature® receives numerous awards and accolades year after year globally. The closer to nature® range is available at stockists nationwide, for more information please visit closertonaturebaby.com.au I facebook.com.au/closertonaturebaby

 
 








 
 





Tuesday, February 24, 2015

How to Take Commercial Photographs

A large portion of the photographs I take could be classed as commercial photography.  The shots I take for the magazine I work for could also quite easily be used by the business for marketing purposes, whether on their website or for brochures, flyers or catalogues.  A lot of the work I do for the magazine is actually photos for advertisements.  Commercial photography wasn't a direction that I purposely took with my work, I seem to have just fallen in to it, but it is one that I really enjoy.
I find myself taking shots of galleries, cafes and businesses, and having to focus on food, art, jewellery, furniture, home wares and even things that might seem a bit uninteresting, like paint!  I always try to make everything look the best it can.
I find that often looking at things from a different angle can really highlight them better.  Such as this chair.  As well as being a fabulous orange, it looks a lot better taken at an angle because you can see the legs, the fabric on the seat and get more of an idea of the overall shape, rather than just take a shot directly from the front.
Be conscious of what is in the background as well as the foreground, and adjust your camera so that you have a greater depth of field so that both foreground and background are in focus.  Although having said that it can look fantastic when you focus in up close on something and the background is blurred, or it has a shallow depth of field.
I like to get shots of staff going about their job.  Your client might not end up using these shots, but it is good to provide them.  I think having people in photos makes a business seem more personal and approachable, which I truly believe is important.
Make use of natural light.  I never ever use flash photography.  I hate how it looks.  Make use of what light you have, and if it is a little dark make sure you have a tripod.  You don't necessarily need to spend a fortune on one, although I do recommend not buying the cheapest you can find....because it will be flimsy and most likely not take the weight of your camera....trust me!  Adjust your camera to a slower shutter speed if there is less light, and if you have to, editing will be your new best friend.
Sometimes you might get lucky with your lighting too.  This shot above was actually kind of a fluke (don't you love it when that happens!).  It was late afternoon and the sun was streaming in through the windows and it hit these maple syrup bottles beautifully.  Snap!  Perfect shot.  This one was used in this cafe's advertisement in pride of place, right in the middle of the ad.
As well as adjusting your camera settings you may find that you also have to adjust your own bodies settings!  For example with this photo above I was perched precariously on top of a ladder.  I did not feel particularly safe but it made for a great photo.  This way you can really see the boxes, the products themselves (the mushrooms) look good and are easy to see, and it was just an all round interesting way to look at things.  This photo below was another such example.  I was hanging out the back of the moving starters gate at the Warragul Harness Racing Cup when I took this shot.  Let's just say it was exhilarating.  And terrifying.  And incredible.  The horses were literally about a metre from the back of the vehicle, all baring down on me...nostrils flaring, manes tossing....amazing.  And I wasn't strapped in either!

Sometimes you might find yourself going 'out on location'.  These mushroom growers sold their product at markets, as well as direct to some smaller supermarkets.  It was nice to get this shot of the seller interacting with a customer.  Just make sure that you ask the customer if they mind being in a photo first.
This was another business I took photos of at this market.  It also is important to get close ups of their goods and their display.
Sometimes 'out on location' can really mean being 'out on location'....and you find yourself all over the place.  For example....
....this free-range egg farm.  Wear appropriate foot wear is my advice here.  Oh....and don't accidently touch the electric fence.  I found this out the hard way.
See what I mean about appropriate foot wear?  High heels are not your friend when you're taking photos.  You need to be able to move, to be able to get up and down ladders, or even lie on the ground.  And if you are me....you have to be comfortable knowing that your shoes can handle the cow pats.  I take a lot of photos of cows....
...more cows...
...well steers actually.  I do take the odd photo of an alpaca here and there....
....Watch out.  They spit! 
So...my biggest piece of advice with commercial photography?  Be prepared for anything!

















Sunday, February 22, 2015

My Weekly Favourites

I started this week surrounded by beautiful things. 
I had to take photos for an advertisement for the magazine at a gift store and cafĂ© called 'Impodimo'.  They had WAY too many nice things.  Unfortunately I spent almost all I would have made doing the actual shoot.  Whoops!  This was one such whoopsy daisy.
These four bracelets are all attached by a silver chain with a little heart locket on it.  I really like the silver leaf.  It's so fine.  Love love love!
I look like a doofus here, but I really like my new haircut.  It actually doesn't look spectacular here, it looked way better today after I'd doused it with water and let it dry naturally.  I had it cut on Tuesday, the first time in 11 months....and she cut it to suit the curl.  I never wear  my hair down because there is so much of it and it is really thick...but the hairdresser cut into it to take out some of the bulk, and even though she took an inch off the bottom it looks LONGER now.  Odd.  This curly hair thing is only a recent phenomenon for me...each time I've had a baby it's got progressively curlier and curlier.  What the?  Hormones are so weird.  Anyway, I like my new hair.  Particularly since it doesn't look like a gigantic boofy triangle any more.
I made up these brochures and had them printed through Vistaprint.  I swear, this company is insane!  (in a good way).  I did these on their website and ordered them last weekend and they arrived only DAYS later.  Wow!  These are brochures advertising my blog, but are more for advertising my copywriting and commercial photography services.  I thought (not that I'm not busy enough...like REALLY busy), that I'd try and get a bit of freelance work.  I like how they turned out.
I was really pleased with how they turned out.  Hopefully I remember to HAND them out.
My son Jesse made this dinosaur at 3 year old kinder!  Cute hey!
I kind of had a bit of a shopping spree at a children's store called Pumpkin Patch where I bought quite a few pieces for my daughter's winter wardrobe.  My husband is busier with his shearing during the spring/summer months so now is the time to buy while there's a little spare cash.  I go through all these pieces for you on my Vlog from this week which will appear Wednesday of this coming week.  (spoiler....I will also do a silly fashion parade for you too.....)
An odd Weekly Favourite, but this is Pip, my husband's kelpie, which is a working dog.  She normally resides at the farm, although for the last couple of years she has actually been living up north with my brother in-law.  She is the most beautiful dog.  I love dogs and I used to have a kelpie called 'Skeeto' who was the same colours, and who I sold for $2000.  I sort of had to get rid of him because he bit one of my boys.  He wasn't aggressive, he was just possessive of me.  Anyway, I then had a black and tan kelpie named Kate but she ran away at the start of last year......so since then I haven't had a dog living with me and I really miss it.  Anyway, my husband brought Pip home the other day because he wanted to take her to work at the shearing sheds, and she stayed a couple of nights.  I was so happy!
 
He is a photo of my dog Kate.....
....I know...she could take off with those ears.   I think the appropriate caption here is "What?  It wasn't me!  It must have been some other dog....."