Football Kickoff Kit

This week I will be doing something a little different and sharing gift ideas that were inspired by you, my readers.  I receive a lot of emails from people asking for gift ideas for all kinds of situations and people and some of the ideas we put together are so great that I have to pass them along!

Today we start with Trina who was in desperate need of some fresh ideas for her fiancee.  She is already a pro in the homemade gift department but after years of creative gifts she needed some help.  She told me a little bit about her fiancee and the idea I put together for her was a Football Kickoff Kit.  With football season fast approaching this is the perfect gift for your guy who loves the sport.  It doesn’t have to be for a birthday or anniversary even, this is just a fun “because I was thinking about you and love you” kind of gift.

This basket can be a mixture of items for staying in and watching the game or heading out to catch the action in person.  Here are some ideas of what to include:

  • -Cooler to hold everything
  • -Favorite team t-shirt or hat
  • -Gloves
  • -Foam finger
  • -Mini football
  • -Thermos
  • -Snacks
  • -Tickets to a game
  • -Also right now our local dollar tree has football plates, napkins, and cups.  They would be great to serve chicken wings and pretzel bites on during your football fun.

I made a pretty generic tag so this can be used for birthdays, anniversaries, father’s day, or whatever.  There is a space to write your message on the bottom if you’d like or you can just trim it off.

Download the PDF

When putting together your basket try to keep all the items and tissue paper in the colors of your favorite team.  It will pull it all together.  And now because we are talking football and their first game is coming up on Thursday I just have to say it… Rise and Shout!  Go Cougars!

A Smile Changes Everything

Today instead of a cute craft or gift idea I want to talk about something that is truly important and meaningful…the work being done by Operation Smile.

Operation Smile is  “an international children’s medical charity that heals children’s smiles, forever changing their lives.”  They provide operations to children who have been born with cleft palets and lips and would not otherwise be able to afford the operation.  In doing some research on Operation Smile I learned a few things about cleft lips and palets.  Besides being a facial deformity many of the children cannot smile or talk, and one in ten will die before they reach their first birthday because they cannot eat or drink properly.  And here is the kicker, a 45 minute surgery for about $240 is all it takes to change these children’s lives.  That’s it.  In the last 30 years over 200,000 of these life saving surgeries has been performed for free through this wonderful organization.  If you have 5 minutes grab a tissue and watch this amazing story of one of the children helped by Operation Smile.  (You will probably have to click through to see the video if you are reading this in an email.)

So now that you have dried your eyes you may be wondering what YOU could do to help.  Well I have a suggestion that is practical and easy.  I know A LOT of my readers have children in college because I received a ton of emails asking for gift ideas for college students and I know a lot of my readers are currently in college because you’ve been asking for ideas on a student budget.  So for all you college-minded people let me introduce you to Campus Book Rentals.  Man I wish I had known about them when I was still in school! Right now I have a stack of textbooks that I will never use again but cost me hundreds of dollars just sitting in our office.  It is ridiculous!  Well the genius idea behind Campus Book Rentals is that you rent a book for the semester you need it and then you can send it right back.  And it is SO much cheaper than anything you could find at your college bookstore.  And the really cool part?  A portion of every single book rental gets donated to Operation Smile.  You save some money and do something great all at once.

Right now I have one younger brother in college, two brothers-in-law, and two sisters-in-law also in college.  They were pretty excited about this when I told them so I thought it might be something worth passing along to everyone else.  So consider making this your good deed for the day!

Happy Helps with Ashley B.

hello darlings and happy august to you!  i hope your summers are all ending on a very happy note.  i can’t believe that august is nearly over.  but boy am i ready for some cool autumn weather!
this month’s post is going to be a little mixture of a suggestion/help and a challenge.  and i have very nerdily named it…
no i am not actually talking about your literal cheese in your literal fridge.  i am talking about the “say cheese” brand of cheese.  i know we’ve all said it at one point or another.  it’s fun and silly and who can resist?  well today i’m going to share with you some of my favorite non-cheese photos.  some are from my personal photos and others are from client sessions but i love them all the same.

this is my beautiful sister emma who so kindly scouted out locations with me while i was in arizona.  we were talking and being silly and she looked down for a moment in silence.  i have no idea what she was thinking or if she had simply drawn a blank, but i love the expression on her face.  she looks content and thoughtful.  i just think it’s a beautiful photo of her.

this is my oldest brother and my sweet baby bug.  i found the two of them playing together while we were at the park one day.  i thought it was so sweet.  i was able to sneak one candid before they noticed me and i’m so glad that i did.  i absolutely love the expression on his face as he’s looking at her.  and in her true fashion she is hamming it up for all it’s worth.  if i had walked up with “say cheese” or “look at the camera” i wouldn’t have been able to catch that sweet moment.  sometimes being stealthy in your picture taking can really pay off.
this photo is a result of all kinds of “smile”, “look at me”, “say cheese”, “look at the camera”, “is there a monkey on my head?” failures!  i wanted a nice picture for father’s day so i attempted for a staged smiley number.  although i did finally get all of them to look at me and mostly smile, i ended up using this picture anyways.  i melted over the way my four-year-old was looking at our lady.  and then i melted again over her adorably round profile.
this mama and babies session was a blast for me!  this shot was planned, but these things don’t always work with young children.  i gave him a focal point to look at and he just did it beautifully.  these are my favorite kinds of pictures.  mama and c aren’t exactly in the frame, but it works.  sometimes you have to forget about being precise and just have fun.  i have found that when i bog myself down with making sure that this and this and that are perfect, my photos start to lose the simple little qualities that i have always loved the most.


these two shots were also planned.  during the first shot i did the same thing that i did above, i gave him a focal point and asked him to just look at it.  you don’t want them to stare or things can start to look awkward.  on the second shot i actually did want him to look at me but i asked him to just look into my camera like he was actually trying to see right through my lens.  that may sound silly but it gives children a great visualization.  smiles are lovely, no doubt about it!  but sometimes capturing a different expression can leave your photos bursting with emotion.  i don’t just like to catch pretty smiles, i love capturing feelings.
for me this picture says a thousand words.  my then five-year-old was standing on the sidelines of his game hot, exhausted and frustrated.  and this picture says that all.
 i caught this little gem at the fourth of july parade this summer.  these two are usually so rough and tumble but here is a rare still moment which  i also thought was super tender.  no faces, no smiles, but it sure makes my heart pitter patter.
my brother and i were going back and forth over a tree that needed trimming on our neighboring property.  i was telling him how i wanted to leave as many of the low branches as we could and he was teasing me about coming back the next morning while i was gone and giving it a good trim.  we went back and forth, all in good fun.  a few seconds after our conversation was done, i looked over at him and found this expression on his face.  i’m pretty sure he was replaying our little talk in his head and thinking about how funny he was.  haha!  i have always enjoyed looking at people when they are in thought and seeing a little smile spread across their face.  it kind of makes me wish i could jump in their brain for a few seconds and enjoy the joke.  expressions like that are fun to steal away on my camera.
so as the ‘cheesy’ title suggests {am i just so clever or what?}, i am challenging anyone who is willing to use this next month to try something new.  be a silent observer and quietly snap a photo that your child isn’t expecting.  keep your camera handy!  the next time you see a great photo op, don’t walk over and announce your arrival.  try to capture a new emotion, something that you will look back on ten years from now and smile about.  you will remember so much more about a picture when you can almost see what is going on in their expression.  you won’t just remember what you were doing, you’ll remember the mischief or the deep thinking or whatever it is that is playing out on their face and in their mannerisms.  one simple picture really can tell a story if you catch it just right!
and as much as i joke, who could really get rid of the old standby, “say cheese”.  probably not me!  so keep that in your bag of tricks but try to mix things up a little.  as always, just enjoy yourself!
so happy snapping and i will see you all next month!xoxo.ash..

Goodnight Baby Gift Idea

I love holding sleeping babies.  If you don’t enjoy holding a warm, sleeping, cuddling little baby then I think you need to check your pulse and make sure your heart is still beating.

This baby shower gift focuses on that peaceful, content feeling the new mama is sure to capture when she is snuggling up with her little one just before bedtime.

Goodnight baby shower gift ideaThis gift is packed with cuteness but couldn’t be any easier to put together.  All you need is a blanket, a book, a set of pajamas, and a small stuffed animal.  Your gift will look extra coordinated if you keep all the items in the same color family.  To assemble just layer the pieces together, wrap them with a large ribbon and tie in a bow, and then tuck in the printable tag.

Download the PDF

So much preciousness.  Can you stand it?

Orange Cake

Or cake in an orange might be more appropriate.  Have you ever seen this fun idea before?  I hadn’t until my sister in law came to visit and told me about a fun date she had been on where they had made these super unique treats.  She showed me how to make them and I today I am going to show you the how-to as well.

Orange Cake

First up the ingredients.  Oranges, cake mix and whatever you need for the mix, and frosting (not pictured).  When choosing your cake mix choose one that will work well with orange flavor.  I went with one of my favorites- the party rainbow or funfetti, depending on which brand you buy.

Choose large round oranges.  Begin by cutting off the top of each orange.  If one side of the orange is a little more flat than the other then use that as the bottom so your orange will stand easier.

Next you want to scoop out the inside of the orange just like you would a pumpkin.  Scoop out the lid as well.  This is a squirty, sticky, juicy mess but with both me and my sister-in-law working it only took a few minutes.

All the orangey-juicy insides left over?  We squeezed all the juice out that we could and combined it with some pineapple, strawberries, ice, and a little bit of sugar for some delicious smoothies.  So don’t even worry about it going to waste.

Next mix up your cake batter.  To make it convenient I put mine into a large ziploc bag and cut off one of the corners.  This was a little neater than trying to use a spoon to fill up the oranges.  You’ll want to fill up each orange about 2/3 of the way full.

Cover each orange with their lid and then this part is very important…even if I forgot to take a picture of it.  Wrap up each orange in tin foil tightly.  If you don’t do this your cake will most likely run over and make a mess and the orange peel will have a hard time keeping its shape.  I followed the exact baking instructions on the back of the cake box and when I pulled them out of the oven the cake was done perfectly.

Once your cake is baked and cooled you are ready to add some frosting and decorate however you want.  The cake will have a hint of orange flavor and plus it is just really fun to eat it out of an orange!  When eating don’t scrape the sides of the orange because the peel is kind of bitter but other than it that it is a unique and tasty treat!

Muffin Gift Basket

Thank you all for your kind comments on the new blog, I appreciate it so much!

This gift idea is hard to categorize because it is so versatile.  And also relies heavily on puns so if that isn’t your thing I’ve given you fair warning.

Muffin Gift BasketThis basket is so fun and also seems so “homey” to me as well.  Just a big ol’ basket of comfort!  If you want to put together your own Muffin Gift Basket here are some things to consider putting in your basket:

  • -Muffin Tins
  • -Measuring Cups
  • -Measuring Spoons
  • -Whisk
  • -Mixing Spoons
  • -Cooling Rack
  • -Muffin Cups
  • -Lots of varieties of muffin mix

This would be such a great welcome for a new neighbor or a house warming gift to a new home owner.  You could fill the basket with some quality kitchen items and it would make a darling wedding gift as well.  And how about a way to say thank you to someone who has really been there for you?  Lots of people would be happy to receive this thoughtful gift.  And or course don’t forget the tag!

Download the PDF

I told you I would be using some puns.  I can’t help it, they make me smile!  But there is a blank tag included so you can write whatever you like and tailor it to the recipient.  I’m sure whoever receives this gift will have a smile on their face as well!