How to Look Calm and Natural in Photos

How to Look Calm and Natural in Photos

How to Look Calm and Natural in Photos

I have never felt very photogenic. As someone with strong features, I just can’t seem to take a good picture—or at least one I like. But in this age of smartphones and social media, picture taking has become part of our daily routines. So, rather than shy away from the lens, I set out to uncover how to look natural and relaxed in front of the camera.
“Honestly, nearly all of my clients tell me they don’t like being photographed,” says Portland, Oregon–based photographer Shelby Brakken. “That’s super normal. Unless you’re a professional model, I wouldn’t expect you to feel at ease.”
That’s why Brakken makes it her first order of business to help clients relax. Before even unpacking her camera, she spends some time talking and joking with her subjects, as well as getting them to walk around in the space and move their bodies. “A lot of people become a deer in headlights when the camera comes out, so I keep them talking, and sometimes even have them fake a laugh. You can often capture something really natural right after that.”
Of course Brakken has a remarkable talent for catching the perfect moment, but many of the techniques she uses can help all of us snap better photos and look calm and relaxed when it’s our turn to be the model.

Here are her top six tricks.

1, 2, 3, Pop Up
“One of my favorite strategies to prevent blinking and create a relaxed expression is to have subjects look down at their feet. Then I count to three and have them look up at me. It produces the most natural gaze,” she says.

Alter Your Gaze
It’s okay to look at the camera lens, but don’t fixate on it. Brakken suggests mixing up where you set your gaze: look at the lens, then at the photographer, then beyond the camera.



Say the Vowels
Saying “cheese” does make you smile, but an ear-to-ear grin isn’t exactly natural. “I have people say the vowels—a, e, i, o, u,” says Brakken. “It keeps the mouth slightly open in a more flattering way.”

Smile with Your Eyes
Sometimes a full grin can look forced. By simply relaxing your mouth and “smiling” with your eyes, you can create a lot of expression.


Adjust Your Body
There’s a reason celebrities take those off-kilter poses on the red carpet—standing square to the camera can make you look awkward. To soften your look, Brakken recommends shifting one shoulder slightly toward the camera. “You also have to be mindful of the chin,” she says. “A good trick is to come forward with your forehead just a bit; it defines the jaw.”



Go to the Light
“You can take great photos if you have good light,” assures Brakken. If you’re inside, go to a window, and have the diffused light shine directly on you. If you’re outside, opt for areas in shadow—standing directly in the rays of the sun can create unflattering shadows.


By Linda Knittel, Senior Editor


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Your Reap What Your Sew – The Benefits of Making Home Made

Your Reap What Your Sew – The Benefits of Making Home Made

With our lives as busy as they are, we need to make a special effort to take time out to actually handmade something from scratch. It’s  a worthwhile thing to do, though and can hold many benefits for you and your family. Read on to find out more.



Satisfaction of seeing a job well done

First of all, one of the best thing about sewing your own items at home is that you get the satisfaction of seeing a job through from the beginning to then end. How many of us can say that we get to do this on a daily basis? It’s so common that, in our specialized places of work, we are only responsible for our small piece of the puzzle. That is why is such a refreshing change to be able to follow a project through fully.

In addition, creative activities such as sewing and painting have been shown to help improve our mood and mental health. So not only do you get the benefit of doing something fun, but it could actually help to improve the quality of your life as well.

You have creative control

Another advantage of sewing items yourself is that you have ultimate creative control over the end product. You get to choose the colors and the finish. You can make a tweak here and there when you-you get a bit more advanced too.

For any skill level

One of the greatest thing about sewing is that is works for any skill level. Beginners can start with basic projects like eye masks or pursues. While more experienced may opt for items of clothing like dresses or shirts.


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Some people prefer to try their hand a decorative embroidery. While others like to make practical things from their home like peg bags and oven gloves. There really is no end to the possibilities of things that you can make, which mean you’ll never get bored either.

Homemade gifts are special

One of the things about sewing gifts yourself is that, those that receive them are made to feel really special. They know how much work and time you have put into this item for them. It’s a really nice way of expressing your love, even if you haven’t got loads of money to spend.  That is why homemade gifts often have a lot more sentimental value than store bought ones.



Cost a lot less

One of the best benefits of sewing items yourself is that you can get a similar product for a lot less money. One you have your own sewing machine, you can buy wholesale fabric and materials and make multiple items from one batch of stuff. It’s much cheaper to make things from scratch than it is to buy them, all it costs you is your time.


They can be personalized

The fact that home sewn items can be personalized is another big draw for those that enjoy sewing. You can add names or initials. Or even particular phrases and designed that are meaningful for the recipient.


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Local Summer Events For Kids: The Secret Life of Pets movie event

Local Summer Events For Kids: The Secret Life of Pets movie event

PetSmart is having in store events for the release of the new movie The Secret Life Of Pets Check your local PetSmart for more information. Times may be different at some locations. The events are as follows:

On July 23rd from 12-4pm                             
The Secret Life of Pets
In-Store Event

Max has escaped, this time at PetSmart! Find him with the help of our clues & map for an in-store adventure. Visit 10 different stations throughout the store. First 30 kids to complete the quest receive a prize!


On June 25th the first 100 kids get a free movie poster, fun photo-op & treat samples for your pets. PLUS, get a free youth movie ticket with purchase.

How To Make: Crayon Hearts

How To Make: Crayon Hearts

All you need is a few boxes of crayons and some silicone heart molds and your ready to go

First thing you need to do is take off the wrappers off the crayons. The easiest way to do that is put them in a bowl of hot water for about 30 seconds. The wrappers will start peeling right away.

After you have peeled all the wrappers break up all the crayons in small pieces and put a mixture of each crayon in each mold and place all the molds on a cookie sheet.

Put in the oven for about 12 – 15 minutes at 350. When the crayons are all melted they will be like water, you just need to take the tray out of the oven and let it sit on the counter till they harden up (about a half hour).
Pop them out of the mold and that’s it. You can attach them to a Valentines card or put in a little decorated clear bag to give out.


Lucky Food For A New Year

Lucky Food For A New Year

For many, January 1 offers an opportunity to forget the past and make a clean start. But instead of leaving everything up to fate, why not enjoy a meal to increase your good fortune? There are a variety of foods that are believed to be lucky and to improve the odds that next year will be a great one. Traditions vary from culture to culture, but there are striking similarities in what’s consumed in different pockets of the world: The six major categories of auspicious foods are grapes, greens, fish, pork, legumes, and cakes.

New Year’s revelers in Spain consume twelve grapes at midnight—one grape for each stroke of the clock. This dates back to 1909, when grape growers in the Alicante region of Spain initiated the practice to take care of a grape surplus. The idea stuck, spreading to Portugal as well as former Spanish and Portuguese colonies such as Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador, and Peru. Each grape represents a different month, so if for instance the third grape is a bit sour, March might be a rocky month. For most, the goal is to swallow all the grapes before the last stroke of midnight, but Peruvians insist on taking in a 13th grape for good measure.
Cooked Greens
Cooked greens, including cabbage, collards, kale, and chard, are consumed at New Year’s in different countries for a simple reason — their green leaves look like folded money, and are thus symbolic of economic fortune. The Danish eat stewed kale sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, the Germans consume sauerkraut (cabbage) while in the southern United States, collards are the green of choice. It’s widely believed that the more greens one eats the larger one’s fortune next year.

Legumes including beans, peas, and lentils are also symbolic of money. Their small, seedlike appearance resembles coins that swell when cooked so they are consumed with financial rewards in mind. In Italy, it’s customary to eat cotechino con lenticchie or sausages and green lentils, just after midnight—a particularly propitious meal because pork has its own lucky associations. Germans also partner legumes and pork, usually lentil or split pea soup with sausage. In Brazil, the first meal of the New Year is usually lentil soup or lentils and rice, and in Japan, the osechi-ryori, a group of symbolic dishes eaten during the first three days of the new year, includes sweet black beans called kuro-mame.

In the Southern United States, it’s traditional to eat black-eyed peas or cowpeas in a dish called hoppin’ john. There are even those who believe in eating one pea for every day in the new year. This all traces back to the legend that during the Civil War, the town of Vicksburg, Mississippi, ran out of food while under attack. The residents fortunately discovered black-eyed peas and the legume was thereafter considered lucky.

The custom of eating pork on New Year’s is based on the idea that pigs symbolize progress. The animal pushes forward, rooting itself in the ground before moving. Roast suckling pig is served for New Year’s in Cuba, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, and Austria—Austrians are also known to decorate the table with miniature pigs made of marzipan. Different pork dishes such as pig’s feet are enjoyed in Sweden while Germans feast on roast pork and sausages. Pork is also consumed in Italy and the United States, where thanks to its rich fat content, it signifies wealth and prosperity.

Fish is a very logical choice for the New Year’s table. According to Mark Kurlansky, author of Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World, cod has been a popular feast food since the Middle Ages. He compares it to turkey on Thanksgiving. The reason? Long before refrigeration and modern transportation, cod could be preserved and transported allowing it to reach the Mediterranean and even as far as North Africa and the Caribbean. Kurlansky also believes the Catholic Church’s policy against red meat consumption on religious holidays helped make cod, as well as other fish, commonplace at feasts. The Danish eat boiled cod, while in Italy, baccalà, or dried salt cod, is enjoyed from Christmas through New Year’s. Herring, another frequently preserved fish, is consumed at midnight in Poland and Germany—Germans also enjoy carp and have been known to place a few fish scales in their wallets for good luck. The Swedish New Year feast is usually a smorgasbord with a variety of fish dishes such as seafood salad. In Japan, herring roe is consumed for fertility, shrimp for long life, and dried sardines for a good harvest (sardines were once used to fertilize rice fields).

Cakes, Etc.
Cakes and other baked goods are commonly served from Christmas to New Year’s around the world, with a special emphasis placed on round or ring-shaped items. Italy has chiacchiere, which are honey-drenched balls of pasta dough fried and dusted with powdered sugar. Poland, Hungary, and the Netherlands also eat donuts, and Holland has ollie bollen, puffy, donut-like pastries filled with apples, raisins, and currants.
In certain cultures, it’s customary to hide a special trinket or coin inside the cake—the recipient will be lucky in the new year. Mexico’s rosca de reyes is a ring-shaped cake decorated with candied fruit and baked with one or more surprises inside. In Greece, a special round cake called vasilopita is baked with a coin hidden inside. At midnight or after the New Year’s Day meal, the cake is cut, with the first piece going to St. Basil and the rest being distributed to guests in order of age. Sweden and Norway have similar rituals in which they hide a whole almond in rice pudding—whoever gets the nut is guaranteed great fortune in the new year.
Cakes aren’t always round. In Scotland, where New Year’s is called Hogmanay, there is a tradition called “first footing,” in which the first person to enter a home after the new year determines what kind of year the residents will have. The “first footer” often brings symbolic gifts like coal to keep the house warm or baked goods such as shortbread, oat cakes, and a fruit caked called black bun, to make sure the household always has food.

What Not to Eat
In addition to the aforementioned lucky foods, there are also a few to avoid. Lobster, for instance, is a bad idea because they move backwards and could therefore lead to setbacks. Chicken is also discouraged because the bird scratches backwards, which could cause regret or dwelling on the past. Another theory warns against eating any winged fowl because good luck could fly away.
Now that you know what to eat, there’s one more superstition—that is, guideline—to keep in mind. In Germany, it’s customary to leave a little bit of each food on your plate past midnight to guarantee a stocked pantry in the New Year. Likewise in the Philippines, it’s important to have food on the table at midnight. The conclusion? Eat as much lucky food as you can, just don’t get too greedy—or the first place you’ll be going in the new year is the gym.




How to Easily Decorate Your Home for Thanksgiving W/ Free Printables

How to Easily Decorate Your Home for Thanksgiving W/ Free Printables

How to Easily Decorate Your Home for Thanksgiving

There are not so many days left until Thanksgiving and, although many of you have already started preparing for Christmas, it wouldn’t be fair not to give the Turkey Day a proper welcome it deserves. Nurturing a thankful heart is something people should strive towards all the time, but it’s always good to have Thanksgiving as a wild card and a second chance to express love and gratitude, if you don’t get the chance to do it as often as you’d like throughout the year.

Now, speaking of holiday decoration, it is amazing what you can do with just a pair of scissors and a little imagination to turn your home into a perfect setting for this traditional feast. The main component of this easy home decor craft is this downloadable sheet of free Thanksgiving printables.

Once you print them out on self-adhesive or regular paper, you can start thinking about the best ideas where you can apply them. For example, you can start with the dining table and use them as food tags, create name cards for your guests or consider using them as personalized utensil holders. If you’re using disposable cups and plates, you can label them with these freebies and make them look more festive.

Thanksgiving printables can also come in handy when preparing dinner invitations, ‘thank you’ cards, Thanksgiving games and other props that will make this year’s holiday one to remember. The holiday labeling craft is not just easy but also one of those activities that all family members can take part in. In the end, holidays are all about family, aren’t they?

Thanksgiving stickers