BOBBI ELLE’S MAD HATTER TEA PARTY!

5th Birthday Party Celebration

While we were celebrating Bobbi Elle’s 4th Birthday...strolling down Main Street at Disney’s Magic Kingdom….after spending the day with her favorite princesses…having a VIP dinner with 5 of her closest girlfriends at Cinderella’s castle…my little diva declared: For my 5th birthday – I want an Alice in Wonderland themed party!”

*Insert record scratch here*

Ummmmm…can we get thru year FOUR, please????

This is Bobbi Elle. Always thinking ahead. Planning. Strategizing. She’s a little too much like me and it’s scary.

I told her:  1) RELAX. And 2) Enjoy the moment. We have plenty of time to plan year 5.

“Ok. But I want Calyann to be the Mad Hatter and you will be the Evil Queen!”

Great.  Thanks, Bobbi…

— Cut to February 2018 —

She got her wish (of course!)

Now some of you may be aware that we have several celebrations for my kids birthday. And here’s why: I have a huge family and they have a ton of cousins their age. They also have a ton of friends at school that they love to hang out with. So sometimes – we just have to do two. One main party and a smaller celebration at school…and yes – they get to pick a theme park of their choice to spend the day. Cause we live in Miami and nothing is more than 3 hours away…and we pay for annual passes to most of the theme parks…and dammit I’m gonna get my money’s worth….and they only turn this age once…and I fully enjoy the process just as much as they do….so can I live??? And based on my explanation – can you tell that I’m constantly told I am “doing the most” – and I constantly have to respond with these answers?? Ha!

Back to the party!

So she got her wish…..and I found the perfect venue for her tea party at Serendip-A-Tea in South Miami. The tea room is small and quaint, so we rented it out and invited 20 of her closest friends/cousins and 20 adults. The place was super cute – so little decor was needed.

Bobbi Elle's Mad hatter Tea Party

The menu consisted of tea sandwiches, quiche and tomato basil soup for the adults, while the kids munched on mac and cheese, chicken fingers and pizza. For dessert, we offered macaroons, Rice Krispy cards, lavender cookies, brownies, and madeleines. And lots of tea!!!! It was all so delicious!!!!

And can we discuss the detail and gorgeousness of the cake??!! Designed by none other than – Divine Delicacies.

The kids had a blast…the parents had some adult fun…and Bobbi got her wish…along with a special surprise visit from Alice and The Mad Hatter!

And yes – she already knows what she wants to do for her 6th Birthday: A Troll’s Party.

Scenes from the day:

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Check out Bobbi Elle’s 5th birthday Photo Shoot: Five and Fierce!

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A PICTURE PERFECT LOVE: VALENTINE’S DAY PHOTO SHOOT

SIBLING LOVE!

To witness their love is truly a blessing. There is something about sibling love that is a beautiful mess. These two argue and fight like cats and dogs…but to see them show each other love and be affectionate with each other makes playing referee between the two – worth it.

There’s is no way I can do a photo shoot with one without the other wanting to get in on the fun. So a few years ago, I started the Valentine’s Day theme around Bobbi Elle’s birthday shoot to make it fun and have awesome photo keepsakes.  Last year we did a beach theme and one year we had a kissing booth.  I totally get into this and so do they – until one day, they won’t 🙁

Here are some of my faves from our Valentine’s Day 2018 photo shoot.

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Amarii Joseph:  3 years old

Bobbi Elle:  5 years old

Photography by:  Erica Melissa

Styled by:  Toni Lowe

Scene:  Somewhere on Lincoln Road

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10 TIPS FOR NAILING AN EPIC TODDLER PHOTO SHOOT

Yes…I take a lot of photos of my kids!  I’m currently organizing my iphoto library that currently stands at 43,786...just me?

I also do a ton of photo shoots.  I’ve done one for each child’s birthday….hell – I even did a birth journey shoot for AJ…so he’s been captured since out the womb!  Maternity shoots, holiday photos, even Mother’s Day shoots.  It helps that I’m married to a photographer…actually – that has nothing to do with it.  He’s no help.

I just love the idea of seeing my kids’ personalities flourish and seeing their growth thru photos.  And until they tell me they’re over it…I plan to keep it going as long as possible.  So after taking part in so many of these sessions – I’m sharing my thoughts on what helps our sessions go smoothly – as much as possible.

Here are my 10 tips for nailing an epic toddler photo shoot:

1. FIND THE RIGHT PHOTOGRAPHER:  Find a photographer that you AND your kids are comfortable with…and that may be hard if this is your first go around…but there’s a lot you can tell in a photographer just by having a simple conversation with them. I personally love going with a woman (no shade to my husband) but there is a particular sensibility they have with kids – especially if they have their own.  They know how to deal.

Trunk-or-Treatl Halloween 2017; One Balanced Mama

2. PICK THE RIGHT TIME:  Find the right time to shoot.  Our go-to time has been around 4 PM. Especially in Miami when we shoot outside..we don’t want to be too hot..and the lighting is usually perfect at that time. Plus, it turns into an event because we always end up going to dinner together as a family afterward – which is a nice treat.  Hey – you have hair and makeup done anyway – might as well put the look to use.
Trunk-or-Treatl Halloween 2017; One Balanced Mama

3. DON’T FORGET THE NECESSITIES: Comb, brush, hair clips, etc….there’s always a need to fix something up on set.

Trunk-or-Treatl Halloween 2017; One Balanced MamaTrunk-or-Treatl Halloween 2017; One Balanced Mama

4. BRING PROPS:  Use some of your kids’ favorite toys, books, blankets for the shoot. It makes them feel more comfortable, but it also allows you to capture that item for a lifetime….long after it hits the Goodwill pile.

Trunk-or-Treatl Halloween 2017; One Balanced Mama
Trunk-or-Treatl Halloween 2017; One Balanced Mama

5. SNACKS, SNACKS, AND MORE SNACKS:  Make sure you feed them right before the shoot – but bring plenty of snacks along the way. Food sometimes is the cure to fussiness so you want to have their favorites close by. Don’t be surprised if snacks become a prop in the photo…just roll with it. I did a shoot with Bobbi that featured goldfish cookies.

Trunk-or-Treatl Halloween 2017; One Balanced Mama

6.  CHANGE OF CLOTHES:  Whatever your child shoots in – they probably won’t want to stay in.  So make sure you have comfortable clothing that they can switch into. Speaking of clothes…it’s always cool to shoot in two different looks…it allows for variation…so I usually will do a themed look or dressy look – followed by a casual look. More bang for your buck.

Trunk-or-Treatl Halloween 2017; One Balanced Mama

7.  CURATE A PLAYLIST:  As in – their favorite Disney songs.  The same way music affects our moods as adults…same for kids…so download the latest Disney movie soundtrack – and watch your child light up for the shoot. The soundtrack for Sing, Beauty and the Beast and Trolls are my go to…but my daughter also loves Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas song – so I’ll throw that on to get her to perk up and flash that gorgeous smile of hers.  Even in February.

Trunk-or-Treatl Halloween 2017; One Balanced Mama

8.  CONTINGENCY PLAN:  If you plan to shoot outdoors, make sure you have a Plan B…as Andre 3 Stacks so eloquently sang – “but you can’t predict the weather.”
Trunk-or-Treatl Halloween 2017; One Balanced Mama

9.  PACK YOUR PATIENCE:  Your little one will absolutely act like a nut.  Just roll with it.  Sometimes the best photos are the ones that capture real moments. So if you’re little one is acting up – let them be!  Capture the moment of your life, cause that’s what is real.  If you end up not getting that perfect shot…as long as you and your family are in it – then its picture perfect!
Trunk-or-Treatl Halloween 2017; One Balanced Mama

10.  VIDEO:  I always like to whip out my iPhone to shoot behind the scenes of what’s happening.  Or I’ll ask one of my family members to come with us to do just that.  Photos are incredible – but there’s nothing like seeing footage from the shoot and to have it for your archives.

MOST IMPORTANT TIP:

ENJOY THE MOMENT:  Be goofy…be candid…be free…this is a moment in time and it should be fun for the whole family.  Don’t lose sight of that!

Trunk-or-Treatl Halloween 2017; One Balanced Mama

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MY THANKSGIVING DINNER MENU AND RECIPE LINKS

Every year, I start working on my Thanksgiving menu – a few weeks before the big day.  (Check out my Thanksgiving timeline).  While all of my main staples remain the same (I am all for a traditional dinner)….I do play around with the sides just to add something different to the menu.  For example, this year – green beans didn’t make the cut…nor did my glazed carrots.  I find that I always have way too much leftover so that’s a sign its time for a switch…so I’m replacing those two items with loaded cauliflower casserole and roasted butternut squash.

Below is my menu for this year….I’m including links to the recipes that I use.  To note – I always look at 2-3 different recipes of the same item to see how different people make it..and then decide how I want to proceed with a version of my own.

APPETIZERS:
I haven’t mastered the fancy apps for the pre-meal because its wayyyy too much cooking.  But I do offer a meat and cheese platter and pumpkin soup.  I found this Pumpkin Soup recipe from Rachel Ray and it is always a huge hit.  I make it on Wednesday night and its usually halfway gone by the time it makes it to the table the next day – so I usually double the ingredients.
Thanksgiving Menu; One Balanced Mama
Simple cheese platter for the appetizer.

MEAT:

Traditional Roasted Turkey:  I started to brine my turkey a few years ago and it’s been a game changer!  I started with Alton Brown’s brine recipe – but there are so many out there.  You can find one that works best for you.  Brining your turkey ensures that it comes out super moist and it allows it to season on the inside and out.  I also use this roaster oven…because it allows me to use my ovens for other items while the turkey roasts for several hours.
Tips for a Stress-Free Thanksgiving; One Balanced Mama Blog
Fried Turkey:  Because fried turkey is awesome! I’ll either fry a whole turkey or get a turkey cut up and fry the pieces.
Thanksgiving Menu; One Balanced Mama
Glazed Ham:  For my ham, I keep it simple by using the glaze that comes with the ham.  But if you feel like venturing out…here is a good recipe that I’ve used in the past.

Thanksgiving Menu; One Balanced Mama

VEGGIES:

Collard Greens:  Everyone has a different take on their greens.  I start off with sauteed onions and garlic and throw in smoked turkey neck and wings to steam for a little bit. I add chicken broth halfway thru the pot and let the wings boil for a bit more.  Then I throw in the greens.  I’ve used pre-cut collard greens and when I was feeling fancy – I would get bushels to clean and cut myself…but ain’t nobody got time for that anymore – so pre-cut pre-washed greens are my easy way out.  I also will throw in a scotch bonnet to give it a kick – along with salt. pepper and my go-to seasoning…Tony Chachere’s.
Thanksgiving Menu; One Balanced Mama
Basalmic Glazed Brussel Sprouts:  If you love the roasted and crunchy-style Brussel sprouts that they serve at restaurants..then this is the recipe for you…so easy to make and so good!  You can add cranberries and bacon to jazz it up.