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



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.


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











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.

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.


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


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.


The countdown is on….And I am super hyped!!!  Thanksgiving is a BIG DEAL in my home.  I love everything about it…looking for new recipes, planning the menu and hosting for friends and family.  Last year, I hosted close to 35 people at my house and did most of the cooking.  Yes, that’s nuts.  And yes, my feet are usually on fire for the rest of the weekend…but I would not trade it for the world…at least not now.

My goal is to share some of my staple go-to recipes in the next few days…but first, I wanted to share some of my quick tips on prepping for the big day.  If you haven’t started yet – you still have time!

Recipe Search:  A few weeks before Thanksgiving, I start to look for different recipes that I may want to try out.  My menu generally stays the same with all the key staples – but every year I try to add 1-2 new side dishes or new variations of a dish just for fun.  Its best to test out the new dish BEFORE Thanksgiving…but sometimes – I just take a shot to see how it turns out and if its worthy to make it on the dinner table.  By the way – we’re 5 days away from the big day – so if you’re going to try something new – today is the day.

Saturday:  Finalize your menu and make your grocery list.  You DO NOT want to wait until the last minute to start figuring out what you need. This year, I’m relying on Instacart to get as much as I can off of my list early. Note: Instacart is great for some things – but not everything.  Save the fresh produce, herbs, and meats for your own choosing for a day or two before.

Monday:    Clean out your refrigerator to make space for things you will need to keep cold while prepping…as well as leftovers.  If you’re hosting…this is also a good time to pull out all of your serving dishes and any décor you will need to use.  Don’t wait until the last minute to search for that perfect serving dish you haven’t used in the last 364 days…or worse – realize that it’s missing.  Also, take inventory of all the tools you need to cook and have them readily available – and working!  Nothing worse than finding out the day of that your thermometer konked out.

Make sure you have plenty of glass containers on hand for any leftovers.  I also like to have these containers handy for guests who like to make a to-go plate…so they’re not walking out with my good containers – cause they will.

Tuesday:  Start food prep.  I usually use this day to buy my fresh turkey from Delaware Chicken Farm early in the morning and keep it in the fridge until its brine time.  I also use this time to start cutting up any ingredients that I’ll be using:  onions, peppers, etc…chop them up and pop them in ziplock bags so they’re ready to go when its time to cook.

Wednesday:  First thing…brine your turkey in the morning so that it will have a full 24 hours to soak.  Trust me – its a game changer.  More on that later.

Make your cranberry sauce and desserts.  I try to knock these out in the morning so that I have the rest of the day to get any last-last minute items needed. Promise…it doesn’t matter how much I prep – there’s a moment of “Damn. I forgot to get the sour cream! BOB. I NEED YOU!!!!!!”