Learning How to Shoot in Manual Mode

Learning How To Shoot In Manual Mode

Taking The Plunge

About 2 months ago I decided that I wanted to learn how to use my DSLR camera in manual mode vs. auto mode. I’m not financially able to enroll in any classes at the moment so I took it upon myself to scour the internet to figure out how to do this.

I was extremely nervous because I didn’t want to screw up this expensive piece of equipment that my family had gotten me for my birthday last year. The second that I turned that dial from the cute little pictures to the dreaded I became so overwhelmed and anxious that I took 1 picture and it was black so I immediately turned it back to the cute pictures and decided that I needed to learn a little more because I was going to ruin this camera.

I’m sure that if you’re here you’ve probably experienced the same type of situation! I wanted to put together a post with some of the resources that helped me figure out that dreaded M in hopes that it can help some of you too.

If this is your first time here and you’d like to follow me on my journey to learn photography you can check out this post!

How To Create Stunning Digital Photography

I searched Amazon for some beginner photography books and came across Tony Northrup’s How To Create Stunning Digital Photography in the Kindle edition. I was hesitant at first because it was $10, which isn’t much money but I’d never really read a book on my (sons) Kindle before, but it had a great rating and around 1,800 reviews that were nothing but good. I took the leap and made the purchase.

I am now one of those 1,800 who have nothing but positive things to say about this book. You can also buy a physical copy for $20 but I totally recommend the Kindle version because it comes with over 12 hours of video training as well! It’s really nice for people like me who are visual learners, I can read a chapter and then watch the video which essentially reinforces what I just read.

You don’t have a Kindle? That’s ok! Did you know that you can get a Kindle app on your iPhone? You can choose to have it sent to the app through Amazon. If you want to learn how to do this please leave me a comment or contact me through Facebook or Instagram and I will do my best to help you.

*If you choose to order a copy of this book from here I will get a small percentage of the purchase, however, I want to make it clear that I truly believe in this book and have not included it only because I can make money.

Click photo to order your copy!


After I searched on Amazon I went to Pinterest. This post from audryannphoto.com really helped me understand what each setting is and when to use them. She walks you through each setting and helps you understand why and when you want to use each one. She also gives examples of each, which is really helpful for me because as I said before I’m a pretty visual learner.

Learning How to Shoot in Manual Mode

Manual Mode Cheat Sheet

I created this image to help you remember what each setting is for and when to use them. I almost always start by setting my Aperture first, that way I can control what my background looks like. I like to shoot objects very close up so I typically use a low stop, that way I can achieve the blurry background.

I will change the Shutter Speed first if I’m shooting water or moving objects, like I was this week. I’ve yet to master getting the shutter speed correct when taking photos of my boys when they’re playing (not that I’ve mastered anything yet but still… lol). I’m going to be working on that this week!

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Learning How to Shoot in Manual Mode



While I was searching I came across Photography Starter Kit Classes at CreativeLive. They have all kinds of different classes from beginner to advanced but obviously I’ve focused on the beginner courses. There are paid courses which give you lifetime access to the class, bonus content, both streaming and downloadable files which are available on your phone, tablet or computer and they also come with a 100% satisfaction guarantee.

There are also “On Air Now” classes that are free! There are all kinds of different classes each day. They usually run for a couple of days and then the classes get switched. It’s nice if you ever have some alone time and you’re able to watch for a long period of time.

This website is not just for photographers but for all types of creative outlets! I’ve only ever watched the photography courses though.
Learning How to Shoot in Manual Mode


I hope that this gives you a bit of a starting point to switch that dial from the cute little pictures to the dreaded (or not so dreaded anymore) M!

As always…I’d love to see your Manual Mode photos on Instagram with #mymessylittlepics

My Messy Little Pics – Sunlight & Movement

My Messy Little Pics - Sunlight & Movement

Sunlight and Movement

This week I wanted to focus on shooting into the sun and movement. I have 3 boys and they’re always on the move! I want to be able to know my settings well enough that I can have them frozen or showing motion by my own choice. I also want to be able to control the look and feel of water or other moving objects easily.

I love photos that are shot into the sun. I want to be able to shoot into the sun and feel comfortable doing it. I’m sure that mine are not perfect right now but with some more practice I’m hoping that they will be!

Walk Behind The House

My Messy Little Pics - Week 2One day this week I took the 2 little boys for a walk behind our house. We walked the 3 acres of property that a vacant house sits on. The family that most recently lived there had made some trails around the perimeter of the property, so we were walking through the back where I shot this photo. I loved how the sun was shining between the trees and highlighting the leaves. I know that the colored orbs are probably just dust or something on my lens, but I like to believe that they’re my grandfather and cousin who are no longer with us. I don’t think that I would have done anything differently with this one.

ISO 200



Going For a Jog

My Messy Little Pics - Week 2


My Messy Little Pics - Week 2

My oldest son is really starting to get into cross-country running so I took him and a couple of his friends to a trail near our house so that they could go jog together while I walked with the two little boys. While we were walking I saw this plant in a little garden and thought that it may make for a pretty cool picture. I was right! I got right down on the ground, almost on my stomach and shot through the plant into the sun. I’m really happy with how it turned out. I’m sure that we’ll probably go back again this week and I may try shooting with a higher aperture so that the clouds come in a little more clear and possibly get some rays from the sun.

ISO 100




My Messy Little Pics - Week 2

While you’re walking down the trail you have to go over a few little bridges since a river runs right through our town. I loved how the sun was shining and tried to use the bars on the bridge as a sort of natural frame. I think that the picture is ok, but I’m in love with the rays from the sun!

ISO 400



My Messy Little Pics - Week 2

This little mini waterfall is in the water from the last picture that I showed you. There is a little rustic trail that you can walk down to get closer to the water. I could still see all the boys from where I was, because it’s not far from the sidewalk at all, so I went down and really wanted to get a good picture of the water movement. I’ve wanted to get a water movement picture that wasn’t shaky or terrible looking for weeks now. This is the first time that I knew where to put my settings and I nailed it! I love how the water looks soft as it flows over the rocks. I know that it’s not the “prettiest” picture but I’m so proud of myself for knowing where to set my camera to accomplish the look that I was going for.

ISO 400



Veteran’s Day

My Messy Little Pics - Week 2

I took this picture after I dropped my sons friends back off at home. I had found one of those cheap little flags on a stick that you get at parades and things like that sitting in the bottom of the stroller. I went into a parking lot that faces downtown and held the flag up. The sun orbs that you see is a reflection off the windows on the top of a building. There is absolutely no editing done to this picture! I’m super thrilled with how this one turned out!

ISO 200



Nature Preserve and Arboretum

My Messy Little Pics - Week 2ISO 100     f/11     1/50

My Messy Little Pics - Week 2

ISO 100    f/ 5.6     1/200

My Messy Little Pics - Week 2

ISO 100     f/11     1/400

The boys and I went to a nature preserve about 30 minutes from our house on Saturday to get out of the house and go discover. We found this cool little windmill that’s next to the treehouse they have. These 3 pictures are all the same windmill, right around the same time. Our 9-year-old was also taking pictures so I didn’t take these all at the same time. I’m not a fan of the first picture, showing the movement. I don’t like the stickers that are showing and when it’s in color it’s kind of dull and just blends in with the trees in the background.

I don’t hate the second picture. I like how the color of the windmill came through and I don’t think that the composition of it is too bad. I just wish that it had better contrast in the background.

I think that the last picture is pretty cool, with the sun and the jet line in the sky. I did put a filter on it.

My Messy Little Pics - Week 2

I mean… I couldn’t go an entire post without showing you at least ONE of our handsome boys! Truthfully… this was the only good picture that I got of any of them this week. They just don’t like to listen to me when I have the camera out, they think that it’s funny to make silly faces and run away from me.

He actually climbed up in this tree and did this pose kind of joking but I told him to stay there and not move lol. I think that it turned out really well! The only editing that I did to this one was the “auto enhance”. Man… I’m going to need an entire wall for their open houses!

ISO 200

f/ 5.6



I hope that you enjoyed seeing my progress this week and were inspired to go out and shoot in manual mode!

I just wanted to let you know that these have very little editing. Any editing that I do, I use PicMonkey because it’s free!

I also want you to know that I’d love to see your photos on Instagram! Just use #mymessylittlepics

As I said last week… I would love any comments, constructive criticism or helpful hints!

My Messy Little Pics – Week 1

My Messy Little Pics - Week 1

Finding My Passion

I really want to share my journey in photography with all of you. I plan on sharing the pics that I’ve taken each week and what I’ve learned.

I’ve never known what my “passion” was, other than being a mother. I have always envied those people who knew what theirs was because I wanted to have that one thing in my life outside of my family that I wanted to know more about and learn as much as I could. I’ve finally realized that it’s been right in front of my face! I’ve always loved to take pictures but never really thought about doing it professionally or learning how to make my photos better. I took pictures to document me and my family’s life and that was all.

I now have a completely new perspective. I want to take photos that are beautiful, that speak to other people outside of my family. I find myself wanting to go outside and bring my camera with me every day. I see the world around me in a different way now. Things that I thought were ugly and annoying are now beautiful because I can picture them through my camera lens. Seeing things through a camera in completely different from how I see them with my eyes. It’s very therapeutic for me in many ways. I love it and I can’t get enough of it. I feel like a sponge soaking up as much knowledge as possible now. I’m currently learning on my own, but I plan on trying to take classes at some point.

Why Did I Wait So long?

Last year for my 30th birthday my husband and parents all got me a DSLR camera to take nice pictures for the blog. My iPhone photos just weren’t cutting it anymore. Once I had the camera our youngest son started moving around and I had to be constantly watching him. I couldn’t just set him in the pack n play anymore while I worked on the blog. Needless to say, I didn’t do much blogging for a long time so I didn’t use my camera.

The camera didn’t get much use for a while because I wasn’t used to taking it with me and I would forget it all the time. We had a family reunion for my husband’s side of the family that you can read about here and I remembered to take my camera. I was dubbed the photographer for the weekend and I loved it! That’s when it all started. I started looking on the internet about self-taught photography and the #1 thing that I saw was that I needed to take my camera off of Auto Mode. It was extremely scary, it was like a foreign language to me and I didn’t want to mess up this expensive camera that my family purchased for me.

The 2nd thing that I saw the most was that the best way to learn how to use your camera in manual mode is to just use it, and it use it a lot! Practice is the best way to figure it out, so that’s what I did. I would print out things that I found on Pinterest and keep them with me as references but I finally figured it out. I’m still learning but I can proudly say that I very rarely use the auto mode on my camera now. It’s been a couple of months since I said no to auto. It gets a bit easier each time that use my camera but I still have a long way to go.

My Messy Little Pic Collection

This week I’m going to show you some of my favorite pics that I’ve taken over the past month or two. Some of these were taken in auto mode but the majority of them were taken in manual. When I took these my focus was learning manual mode, which I’m still practicing, but I’m also starting to throw lighting in there. None of these have much editing done to them at all. I plan on playing around with some of them and doing some subtle editing but I really haven’t even gotten into learning that yet. Baby steps!

My Messy Little Pics - Week 1I took this photo of our 3-year-old at the family reunion. He had just woken up from his nap and was sitting on the steps waiting to go for a ride on the horses! This was taken in auto mode.

ISO 1000      f/5.6      1/500

My Messy Little Pics - Week 1This was a spur of the moment photo shoot! I wanted to practice so I called my dads girlfriend and we took the boys to the apple orchard near the house. Don’t worry, she’s right to the side of the picture next to the baby. I get a lot of “wow, how did you get them to do that and all look the same way?” My answer is… I was at the right place at the right time. I took 2 photos of them like this and 1 of them they all just happened to be looking the same way. I may have asked our oldest son to look at the baby, but I don’t think that I did. This was the first good photo that I took in manual mode!

ISO 100      f/4.5      1/80

My Messy Little Pics - Week 1We had just gotten a couple of loads of firewood and I stacked it up on the porch. I was on the phone outside talking to my mom and actually said “I have to let you go, I’m looking at my awesome stacking job and I think that it’ll make a really good background, I need to get my camera and take some pictures of the boys” lol. So, we had another impromptu photo shoot! I had a few good shots but this was one of the favorites on my Instagram. This was shot in manual mode.

ISO 6400    f/7.1     1/60

My Messy Little Pics -Week 1

I love this photo for multiple reasons. It symbolizes the day that my perspective changed. I say that it’s the day I started seeing things around me through a camera lens. This old rusty truck and many others like it sit in the yard of the empty house behind ours. For years it has done nothing but irritate me and make me feel like I live by a junkyard. One day, after I picked our son up from school, I decided to drive back there and see if there was anything that I could take pictures of while the 2 little dudes were sleeping. I found a few things and then got back in the truck to head up to the house and that’s what I saw this truck and the pretty colored trees behind it (that you can’t even see in this photo lol). I didn’t see a broken down POS anymore, I saw potential for a really cool photo. When I took this, I looked at the screen and knew instantly that my settings were right and it was an awesome shot lol. This was in manual mode.

ISO 200      f/5.6       1/80

My Messy Little Pics -Week 1

It was a beautiful fall day so I decided to take the boys to the county park and take some pictures while they played in the leaves. I was able to get quite a few good photos so I decided that it would be better to create a collage. I’ve gotten so many compliments on this. The boys found a couple of girls who were making a big leaf pile and asked if they could play too, they had a blast! I wish that I could put which settings I used but they’re all different. We did a lot of moving around so I used a lot of different settings. They were all taken in manual mode though!

My Messy Little Pics -Week 1

Talk about spur of the moment and seeing things through a camera lens! I was pulling out of my driveway to take our son to school in the morning  and thought, “man that frost looks really pretty”, that’d be a cool picture! Normally I hate seeing frost, it means that it’s going to be getting cold out and snow. My perspective has changed though and I didn’t think about the cold or snow, I thought about the beauty and capturing it. I thought about it the 15-20 minutes there and back. I ran into the house and grabbed my camera, told the 2 little dudes to watch me out the front window and got down as low as I could to the ground and shot a few pictures from different angles. This was the best one of the 5-6 that I took. It has gotten a lot of love on my Instagram, waaaay more than I ever would have thought that it would! Once again, shot in manual mode.

ISO 3200      f/5.6      1/1000

My Messy Little Pics -Week 1

My mom and I took a little girls trip to a park that I was thinking about taking my cousin’s family photos at so that I could scope it out and get some idea for places to shoot. We walked down to a little fenced in deck on the water. I got down low and took a photo through the fence, I think that my mom thought that I was crazy until she saw what it looked like. I was reading about “natural frames” and lines, I thought that this was kind of cool. When I look at it now I probably would adjust it a little differently so that it’s brighter but I’m still pretty happy with the composition of it. Shot in manual mode.

ISO 400      f/5.6      1/30My Messy Little Pics -Week 1

This is one of my favorite black and white photos. We were at my husbands grandfathers house. We were out in his barn and he was helping us make this little dudes bulldozer costume. The boys had a few cars with them to keep them busy so when I looked over and saw them playing in the saw dust my initial reaction was to get them out of it, but I stopped myself because they were being quiet and playing. I grabbed my camera and this was one of the photos that I got. I love how you can really see the saw dust on his pant leg in the black and white. Shot in manual mode.

ISO 1600      f/5.6      1/40


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I hope that you enjoyed looking at my photos as much as I enjoyed shooting them! I can’t wait to share my progress with you all. I would love any comments, constructive criticism or helpful hints! I’m just trying to soak up as much knowledge as possible and become the best that I can be.



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How to Edit Your Photos For Free

How to Edit Your Photos For Free

I hear a lot about Photoshop, Lightroom and other paid editing software. I don’t know about you, but I like doing as much as possible for free! That’s why my favorite editing website is PicMonkey. I’m able to crop, rotate, adjust exposure & colors, sharpen & resize and much more without spending a ton of money.

How do I use Picmonkey?

Step 1:

Go to PicMonkey, hover over the “Edit” button and choose where you’d like to pull your image from.


How to edit images for free using PicMonkey

Step 2:

Now you’ll be able to do all the basic editing. If you’re using picmonkey to edit photos for your blog you’ll want to make sure that you use the “Resize” option for every photo. You can also change the canvas color here but you wouldn’t really use that if you’re editing a photo, that’s more for creating a blog photo. I plan on creating a post about that later!

How to edit photos for free using Picmonkey


Once you’ve finished your basic editing you can add effects to your photo. There are many effects that you can play around with here. There are both free and upgraded options.  I love playing around with the effects on my photos! My favorite to use is usually Orton or Black and White.

How to edit your photos for free using Picmonkey

Touch Ups

You have the ability to do touch ups to your photo, like fixing any blemishes that can be seen, whitening teeth, lip tint, etc. I haven’t used this feature much because I haven’t taken many photos of people other than my boys.

How to edit your photos for free using Picmonkey


There is an option to add text to your photos. I like to add quotes to my photos that have a lot of free space. You can check out my instagram to see some examples!

How to edit your photos for free using Picmonkey

Load More


Here you can add an overlay, either one from Picmonkey’s library (free or upgraded) or from your computer. In this photo I used a label to place over my photo. I used the fade adjuster to make it lighter so that you could still see some of the picture behind it. The arrows that I placed to show you where the overlay button on the left hand side is and where the fade adjuster is are also free overlays from the Picmonkey library.

Here's how to edit photos for free using Picmonkey


You can add a frame to your photo if you’d like. There are 6 free options to choose from and 5 additional frames that you can have access to with an upgraded account. In this photo I added a museum matte frame. With all the frames you have the ability to adjust them however you’d like.

Here's how to edit photos for free using Picmonkey


You’re able to add textures to your photos. In this photo I added a burst. You can control the blend mode, saturation and fade of these also. As with everything else there are many free and upgraded options.

Here's how to edit photos for free using Picmonkey


There are some themes that you can use. Many of them are Halloween, but there are also some Christmas, Comic Heroes, Celebrate, Valentines Day and a school theme. Inside these Themes are “costumes” like witch hates, santa beards, etc.; overlays, frames, effects, textures, text, etc. Each theme has something different. I haven’t used them much, but I think that they’d be fun for creating a card or sign of some kind.

How to edit your photos for free using picmonkey

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There are the basics of using PicMonkey to edit your photos for free! Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions. I hope that you love using it as much as I do!

How to Edit Your Photos For Free

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How To Add a Watermark Using Picmonkey

How To Add a Watermark Using Picmonkey

In my last post I showed you How to create a free and easy watermark using picmonkey. Today I’m going to show you how to add that watermark into your photos using picmonkey.

Step 1:

Open PicMonkey and hover over the “Edit” button, then choose where you want to pull your photo from. More than likely you’ll be getting your photo from your computer, but you can also pull it from any of the other options seen here.

How to add a watermark using picmonkey

Step 2:

Next, go to the “Overlay” tab that looks like a butterfly on the left hand side. Click on “Add your own” and open the file that contains the watermark that you want to use. Once it’s open you can place it where you’d like and then you can adjust the fade of the overlay.

I like to adjust the fade because you’re going to have some light backgrounds and some dark. You want your watermark to be easily seen but not overtake the photo. It’s easy to achieve this when you use the fade option.

How to add a watermark using picmonkey

Step 3:

This step is optional. Depending on what you’re going to be doing with your photo, you may want to resize it. Click on the “Basic Edits” button, on the top left hand side, then click the “Resize” button and change the dimensions.

How to add a watermark using picmonkey

Step 4:

The last step is to save your work! Viola, that’s it!

How to add a watermark using picmonkey


I would love to see your beautiful photos on Instagram with #mymessylittlenest. Click To Tweet

Now you’ll be able to easily add the watermark(s) that you created to your photographs! I would love to see your work on my Facebook Page!


How to Create a Free & Easy Watermark Using Picmonkey

How to create a free and easy watermark using picmonkey

I have recently sparked an interest in photography since I started taking my own photos for the blog. I’m by no means a professional, but I really wanted to show off my photos on social media. I didn’t want my photos to get stolen, so I decided to figure out how to create a free watermark. Picmonkey is my go to website for any type of free photo editing or graphic design.

Picmonkey is my go to website for any type of free photo editing or graphic design. Click To Tweet

Step 1:

First, you will want to open PicMonkey and hover over “design” and then click on “square”.

How to create a watermark using PicMonkey

Step 2:

Once you click the square it will look like this. Click on “Resize” and then make it whatever size you would like. Make sure that the “Keep Proportions” button is checked.

How to create a free and easy watermark using picmonkey

Step 3:

Next, if you’d like a photo or color swatch underneath your text you’ll want to add an overlay. Click on the little butterfly icon and then “My Computer” if you already have an image that you want to use. You can also choose from picmonkey’s library of free or premium overlays.

If you don’t want to use an overlay then you can skip to Step 4.

How to create a free and easy watermark using picmonkey

How to create a free and easy watermark using picmonkey
This is the overlay that I chose and what it looked like once I added it.

Step 4:

Next, you’ll add your text. Click on the “text” icon on the left hand side. Then, choose the font that you want to use. You can either choose from fonts that you have loaded on your computer or from picmonkey’s great selection. After you choose your font, click the “Add text” button and type the name for your watermark. You can use as many text boxes as needed. I used 3 for this project; 1 for “my”, 1 for “Messy” and 1 for “little nest” so that I could manipulate them how I needed.

How to create a free and easy watermark using picmonkey

Step 5:

Once your text is created, go to the “Edits” screen on the top left hand side of the screen. Click on “canvas color” and then the box that says “Transparent canvas,” then the “Apply” button. You’ll know that you’ve done it correctly when the background turns grey and white checkered.

How to create a free and easy watermark using picmonkey

Step 6:

You’re almost done! The last thing that we want to do is save our work. Click the “save” button at the top of the screen. Name your project and then make sure that it’s saved in .png format. I’ve learned from trial and error that if you save it in .jpg it will not have the transparent background.

How to create a free and easy watermark using picmonkey


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That’s it, you’re done! I hope that you feel confident now in creating your own free and easy watermark for your photographs. I would love to see your creations on my Facebook page!


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Sensory Boxes in My Messy Little Nest


How can I keep them busy?

This morning I was trolling Pinterest to try to find something fun for the toddlers to do indoors. I kept seeing these sensory box things. I’ve seen them before and they look fun, I’ve just never put one together. I decided that today was the day that our boys would experience a sensory box.

I found some old pearl barley in the kitchen that I was just going to throw away so I tossed that into a container with some bright buttons that I had. Originally I was going to put some bulldozers in there so that they could push around the buttons, but we couldn’t  find any (shocker) so we settled with cars.Sensory Boxes in My Messy Little Nest

I sat the box on the floor in the living room so that it as easily accessible to both of the boys. They actually had a lot of fun with it! They were pushing the cars through the barley and running it through their fingers. There was laughing and giggling rather than yelling and screaming at each other. I kind of knew that it was too good to be true, but I just went with it; they were having fun and that’s all that really matters.

While they were quietly playing I was drinking my coffee and checking all of my social media pages. I turned around saw that they had put a bit of the barley and buttons on the carpet. I told them that it was supposed to stay in the box. They continued playing and before I knew it the box was dumped out all over the floor! I was annoyed but they were still getting along and having fun together. I decided that it was a battle that I wasn’t going to fight. They were bonding and that was more important than the mess that I would have to clean up.

Pros vs. Cons


It was fun

They were bonding

It gave me a bit of quiet time



Made for work for me to clean up

Sensory Boxes in My Messy Little Nest


I think that I will probably try more sensory boxes with them in the future. Yes, it made a mess but I think that the pros outweighed the cons of it. I think that if you’re able to keep a close eye on your little one as they’re playing you could probably avoid a big mess!




Family Reunion On The Farm

Family Reunion on the Farm

This past weekend my husbands side of the family all got together to celebrate his grandfathers 90th birthday.

They couldn’t even remember the last time that everyone had all been together without at least one person missing. It was so fun to watch all 7 children interact and listen to all of the laughs and stories from the adults. I think that Pops really enjoyed having everyone all together again.

We all stayed at my husbands Aunts farm in Indiana. She had our day jam packed with fun! I was a little bit worried that it may be rushed when she told me everything that she had planned but it all went seamlessly. We started out our morning with breakfast sandwiches and/or crepes that were made by my mother in law. There were some people eating inside at the table and some were sitting outside on the deck by the fire with coffee in hand. It was the perfect way to start our morning!

Laughing, Living and Loving

While everyone was getting ready, my husband started cooking the pulled pork in the brick oven. I took our 2 little boys down to the front pasture to look at the horses with my mother in law and niece. They all loved watching the horses and petting the donkeys when they came to the fence.

After the kiddos were done watching the animals we went across the road to the creek. It was to chilly outside to go for a dip, but they enjoyed listening to the water and watching it flow over the rocks.Avalon Farm 2016

Once we headed back up to the house we noticed that the tractor was ready for the hay ride!

All of the children and their parents loaded onto the trailer and we headed back down to the creek. We drove through it to the other side where the field is. We went around the field and stopped to let the boys out so that they could check out the trails. The 2nd time that we let them out they saw 2 deer in the trails with them. They though that was the most awesome thing ever.

Avalon Farm Family Reunion After we were done with the hayride we went back up to the house and had a lumberjack competition between the men. They had to choose which axe they wanted to use, then they each had 3 pieces of wood that they had to split. Whoever split all 3 the fastest won. It was a very clever way of getting some work done on the farm while also having fun!

There were pumpkins hidden in the area that the lumberjack competition was, so after that was finished all of the children had a chance to run around and find pumpkins. Once they found them all they had the opportunity to chop them open! There are 5 boys and 2 girls, so this was right up their ally. Don’t worry… this was all done with the help of their dads. They also had the opportunity to choose what they wanted to use, like the men did. Our oldest son used his axe that he chops wood with at home. It took him a few tries but he eventually split it in half. Our nephew chose a big axe and he did a clean split on the first try! The younger boys all used different tools, depending on what their dads thought was best. I think that this was a highlight for all of the boys!

Once the lumberjack competitions were over we had all kinds of fun games planned.

There were potato sack races, three legged races, balloon races, etc. It was a good way to have the adults and the children doing things together. It was very funny to watch the adults and the children do the three legged race together! My husbands aunt was doing the three legged race with our 3 year old and at one point was lifting him up by one arm! He thought it was hilarious! There were many many laughs and memories made.

When the races were finished we had lunch together and then it was nap time for our two little dudes and the baby. While they wereFamily Reunion 2016 all sleeping the older children painted a plaster cake that my husbands uncle made. It was such a cute idea to include the children in the celebration of their great grandpa’s (Pops) 90th birthday celebration. They did such a great job painting that he though it was the real cake! After they were done painting the cake they were all given a small canvas and were asked to paint the cake on the canvas. I think that some painted the cake, but most of them just painted desserts that they enjoy. Our oldest son has a lot of fun with that project; he loves painting and worked really hard on the first canvas. He made a chocolate chip cookie and a brownie on a plate.

Once everyone was done relaxing and painting we went back outside and saddled up 2 of the horses.

We took them both down to the arena and all of the children were able to take rides. They each rode around the arena twice and then it was someone else’s turn. They were each given a cup of water and their goal was to hold on to the cup of water and see who had the most left when they got back. They all had fun with that little competition.

Family Reunion 2016I was talked into getting on one of the horses. I know the basics of riding a horse, I grew up around horses and mules that my uncle had but never had any formal lessons or rode consistently, so I’m not the best. This horse ride was doomed from the start! I put my foot in the stirrup to get up and apparently it wasn’t fastening for adults so I just slid right down the side of the horse. Everyone laughed, including myself and they fixed it so that I was able to actually get on the horse. Once I was up I realized that it wasn’t a real saddle, it was basically a foam pad on the horses back, I’ve never used something like this so I was a little nervous, but I did it anyway. I was able to get the horse into the arena but he didn’t have a bit in which is what I’m used to steering with. I had my husband yelling at me to do something with my foot, then his aunt telling me to lean forward a little bit because the ropes were tied short. I was all kinds of confused and frustrated, I could feel my anxiety rising. As I was going around a corner my husbands uncle came in front of me with his horse and started cantering… what does my horse do??? He tries to keep up!!! This wasn’t the first time that had happened to me, so I anticipated it. If I had a normal saddle on I think that I would have been ok, but I didn’t have anything to hold onto and I freaked out. I don’t know what I said, I just remember yelling and saying “I don’t know what I’m doing!!!!” and holding on to the horse for dear life. Of course everyone thought it was hiiiilarious! I was shaking and doing everything that I could not to cry, but I pulled it together and shook it off. We made it to front of the arena and I got off that horse as fast as I could!

Once we were done riding the horses it was time for dinner. We all went back up to the house and got ready to eat our pulled pork together as a family. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day filled with Laughing, Learning and Loving together.

It was the perfect ending to a perfect day filled with Laughing, Learning and Loving together. Click To Tweet


FlipStir Puzzle Review

FlipStir Puzzle Review

FlipStir Puzzle ReviewIf your children are anything like mine they always need something to do in the car. If they enjoy doing puzzles then they’ll love the FlipStir puzzle! It’s perfect for the car or just for quiet time in general.If they enjoy doing puzzles then they'll love the FlipStir puzzle! It's perfect for the car or… Click To Tweet

The FlipStir Puzzle is essentially a plastic tube with half moon shape pieces inside that have pictures on them creating the puzzle pieces. Then, there is a stir stick through the top that is used to manipulate the pieces into place. You just move the tube and use the stick to get the puzzle pieces where they need to be. I personally don’t have the patience for it, but my husband had it figured out in less than 5 minutes!

FlipStir CollageThis puzzle is perfect for long trips because there won’t be any loose pieces in the car that will get lost which will inevitably end up in tears while driving down the road. It will also keep them busy for quite awhile, which, lets be honest… isn’t that what every parent wants! 🙂 It’s also great just for some quiet time at home. It won’t make a mess and the stir stick fits completely back inside the jar so it’s very easy to find a home for. There’s nothing better than something that will keep the kiddos occupied for awhile and doesn’t make a mess.. at all!

This puzzle is for ages 7 and up and I completely agree with this. Our 9 year old was playing with it and it was a little challenging for him. He wasn’t in the mood at the time to sit down and try to figure it out, but he does play with it in the car. It keeps him busy for a good 5-10 minutes when he’s in the mood to do puzzles. If your child isn’t a puzzle fan than this probably isn’t the best toy for them as they’ll probably just get frustrated and never touch it again.


Available in 4 designs:
Level 1 “Rainbow Pencils”
Level 1 “Tyrannosaurus Rex”
Level 2 “Solar System”
Level 2 “Statue of Liberty”

FlipStir Puzzle is the winner of:

2015 Creative Child Magazine “Puzzle of the Year”
2015 Seal of Approval from The National Parenting Center
2015 Family Choice Awards Winner
2014 Tillywig “Brain Child” award
2014 Creative Child Magazine “Game of the Year – Puzzle Games Category”
Toy Man News & Reviews – The Toy Man “Seal of Approval,” The Toy Man “Award of Excellence,” The Toy Man “Editor’s Choice,” The Toy Man “Award of Recognition,” The Toy Man “S.T.E.M. Award,” and The Toy Man “Mom Approved” Award

Cost: $24.95

The FlipStir Puzzle can be ordered online at www.flipstirpuzzle.com

You can also go here to see if there is a store in your state that carries them!

Kids Imaginative Dinosaur Toy Figure Review

Dino Review

DinosaurHaving 3  young boys in our house, we have a ton of toys! Lately they have been really interested in dinosaurs, so when I was given the opportunity to review a 12 pack of BPA & lead free toy dinosaurs I was so excited! The boys absolutely love them, they have played with them almost ever day since we have received them about 2 weeks ago.

These dinosaurs really are nothing super special, they don’t require batteries, or make cool noises, they require imagination which I love! I enjoy listening to the boys making dinosaurs noises with each other while they play with these. I’m comfortable allowing the baby (8 months old) to play with these because they’re large enough and tough enough that he’s ok putting them in his mouth. They’re also BPA and lead free so that’s another reason that I’m ok with him playing with these with his big brothers.

The colors of these are pretty bright and look nice. They’re not all the most realistic I would say, but it doesn’t bother the boys at all. Our 8-year-old hasn’t said a word about it and I can’t imagine that most children would notice. For the price of these and the fact that you get 12, I think they’re perfect.

They’re very tough little toys! Our boys are quite rough with them and so far we haven’t had any injuries or fatalities from any of them. The dog on the other hand… he chewed the back-end from one of the dinosaurs, so they’re not completely indestructible. I had a pretty bummed out little 2-year-old for a couple of days, he has named all of them and “poppa” got eaten :(.

Our boys favorite thing to do with them is play in the bathtub. They’re perfect for the bath because there’s nothing that can be ruined from the water and so far we haven’t had any issues with discoloration. They play with these in the bath tub daily… all 3 of them. I just love how versatile they can be.

All and all I would say that these are great dinosaurs and I wouldn’t hesitate purchasing them! They can be purchased here.

*I was given this product for free in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion