Life Theory Collective

the art of living and storytelling.

What's in Store for 2016? (hint: more laughter)

Life & StoriesAshleigh RaddatzComment

Every year it seems like time flies by faster and faster. And every New Year's Eve since I have lived here, I am still astonished at the amount of fireworks Germans light off to ring in the New Year! Haha! It is truly like nothing you've seen before, especially since they are being lit right in front of your house door. (I am also always shocked not to hear more ambulances and firetrucks blaring by all night because drinking and fireworks does not seem like the best mix... But, somehow things seem to stay relatively safe.)

If there is one thing Germans know how to do, it's how to celebrate! And I can honestly say, I have enjoyed every New Year's I've been here... Even the year I was stuck in bed with the stomach flu I remember thinking, "Hey, at least I get to have a front row seat to a firework show simply by laying in bed and pulling back my curtains".

 So, here we are 2016! This year is going to be really big for Elyse and me. 

For starters, sometime around March, Elyse will be having her second baby! 

And I will be officially launching my business within the next couple of weeks (just waiting on last minute paperwork/legal stuff to get finished up), Eeek!

And we are hoping to be able to blog a bit more, to talk about some real stuff, and to really give a better glimpse into what overseas life is like for expat families. (Such as getting used to the idea that many Germans allow their kids to pee wherever if there is not a bathroom close by... because when you gotta go, you gotta go...)

This is my kid, by the way. And my Mother-in-Law standing guard! 

This is my kid, by the way. And my Mother-in-Law standing guard! 

We have done a lot of talking about what we want Life Theory Collective to be in 2016. We really want to make sure we stay authentic to who we are as people, to write with our true personalities, from the heart and to give a more honest perspective to what things can be like.  (The good, the fabulous, the bad, the annoying, the times we call each other and say "I want to go home"...  or the other times we call each other and say "Thank goodness we are here and not in America right now" and everything in between.) The truth is, we have some of the funniest and most honest conversations ever, and we always say "We should blog about that" but, then we never do. Usually because we are worried about what people may think or how they might react. Or that it is too boring. Or that we might mess up the perception that life in a foreign country is always super grand (which it often is great but, running out of diapers on a Sunday and having all of the stores closed in the city can be realllllyyyy annoying).  And other times it is because we are just busy with family stuff.

But, we know that we can give our readers the most out of this blog by being true to who we are. A couple of funny,  messy, creative, sometimes emotional expats still trying to figure things out. 

So with that, we will still have photography tutorials. And we will still have recipes and DIYs. And also some posts about our travels and other expats that we may meet along the way. But we are also going to have some personal stuff on here too. 

We wish you all good health, love, happiness and the best for 2016!

X, Ash


What Has Torn Us Apart & What Do We Stand For Now?

Life & StoriesAshleigh RaddatzComment

I was going to post about different holiday cultural traditions between Germany and America, but given the mass shooting that happened last night in southern California, I feel this strong urge to sound off on that, and all of the other mass shooting that have taken place in the US in recent years, months, weeks and days.

People may not agree with what I am about to put out there and that’s okay. 

People may choose not to read Life Theory Collective blog any more, and that’s okay too. What’s become the “norm” in America is much bigger than this silly little blog so, I’ll take my chances.

Here is a different perspective, one from an American that is proud to be from such a great country but is also aching for the chaos America has become, the chaos that America has become known for. Here is a perspective from across the world, hearing what the rest of the world has to say about America and seeing how things have changed. Here is a perspective from 40,000 feet, from not being in the thick of it but still close enough to know something has got to change. Here is a perspective from an American that would eventually like to be able to come back home to the states with my kids, but can't bring myself to even consider it for the time being because all of the dissolve of what once known as a country united. 

Less than 24 hours after a mass shooting and what do I see on my Facebook feed. A couple prayers and sympathies to the victims and their families. And a whole lot of political arguments.  How sad is that? We have become so desensitized to mass shootings that instead of expressing how we should come together in such times, we start arguing about who is at fault when clearly, there is more to it than gun control or no gun control. (You can easily research how gun control works well in some countries, i.e. Germany, and how gun ownership rights work well in others, i.e. Switzerland. So, what’s up America? The problem is obviously bigger than that! Same argument, different day, and not a damn thing has changed!)

And now we have yet another mass shooting… And the cycle starts again, the breaking down, the divide of a country, the abhorrent pride that comes with getting to defend your views. The endless talks and resentments because the desire to be right is so strong that you use every opportunity to get on your soap box and preach your side. When none of that shit matters! Because as it stands, the way America is so divided, the way we get torn apart further and further with every shooting, every election, and every other opportunity that presents itself while the rest of the world looks on like “wow, America has really lost its shit”.  That’s freaking embarrassing.

America always stood for so much. America was always the leader and the example. America was always strong. But now we are the country that just tears each other down. Where is the pride in that?

You can blame it on Obama, you can blame it on gun control, and you can blame it on the full moon. But let’s get real. No matter who or what is responsible, when something like a mass shooting happens, America is broken again. Like two rival high schools, it is almost unreal the insults and negativity flung towards one another.

The debates start “Well, if someone had the right to carry, then they could have pulled their gun out and shot them”… “Well, if we were to implement stricter gun control laws, this type of thing wouldn’t happen”

And the craziest part? We are scared of letting refugees in because they might be terrorists.

Real talk. Americans are terrorizing themselves. You should be more afraid of the American citizen next door that feels they need to make a statement, to use their fear as an excuse, so they go and shoot up a place. But instead we focus on fearing refugee seeking safety from their war torn country. Open your eyes! These people that shoot up places are all terrorist no matter their race, religion, gender, or political views.

Instead of coming together and mourning the loss of lives, condemning the sick people that have attacked people in our own country, we get on social media and debate about gun control, conspiracy theories and whatever else we can use to push our political/religious/social views. We take it and run with it because “now is our chance to really change people’s minds, to hear myself talk endlessly about the same thing over and over again while trying to sound smarter than you yet not making a damn difference, while putting down other people on personal levels because they have a difference of opinion and feeding more negativity and fear into my kids so that they can do it just like me when they grow up. Yeah, I got this!”

But the truth is, you’re getting angry at the wrong thing, the wrong people. You’re spending all of your energy on talking talking talking. Actions speak louder than words. Get angry at the assholes that keep doing this. Not at your friend that has a different opinion than you do.

America is so dependent on fear. Fear is rooted so deep in American culture & that is what has torn us apart. We feed off of this fear and we are teaching our children that fear is the only way to live.

White people fear black people, black people fear cops, everyone fears Muslims, Christians fear atheists.

So much fear breeds anger and anger breeds hate and hate breeds violence.

America’s confidence is gone. It’s no longer the land of the free when you can’t even enjoy a movie, send your child to school or go in for a normal day at the office without some psycho possibly coming in and shooting up the place.

And who do we get angry at? We get angry at each other.

What does America stand for now?

How did we get to this point?

And when does it end?

When we use acts of violence as an opportunity to push our political or religious agenda what does that prove? And when we do that, what are we teaching are kids, our future generations? When instead of standing together, showing sympathy for the families that lost their loved ones and anger for the people who commit these atrocious acts, we lash out at each other. Politics, religion, race? How about instead of defining everything with a label, we teach our kids first and foremost that we are human. And it is our responsibility to take care of one another. That if we see someone in need, we help them. When we see a family hurting we go to them and comfort them. When you are afraid, “let your faith be bigger than your fear”. Because there are still good people in this world. And you can be one of them.

Lead by example. Get back to family roots. Love thy neighbor. Do good things. Be honest. Be kind. Be tolerant of others. 

And shut up. You can push your political agenda some other time but not today! Sometimes it’s good just to shut up and be there for the people who are suffering because of the actions of other people.  Just shut up for one day! 

If we take the time to mourn with the victims, maybe we would not so quickly forget. 

I am not saying we should stop voicing what we believe in. I am not saying we should not stand up for what we feel is right. But, what I am saying is we need to start holding ourselves to a higher standard, stop spewing baseless facts, stop flooding the world with more hate, and stop spreading fear. I am saying, that in the process of voicing what we believe in, we can do so without tearing others down. 

Be above the fear driven hate. And if you believe strongly about something, and you expect to see a change, you have to do a hell of a lot more than just talking about it over and over again on social media or at your Thanksgiving dinners. 

Hold yourself to a higher standard.

And maybe if we start expecting better of ourselves it will start teaching our children that we can stand united (as Americans used to).

We can make changes that start within the home. We can make the choice that we will not inspire hate and disdain into our children's hearts. We can change how we speak of entire religions, political parties, races, nationalities, sexual orientations or genders.

If we take responsibility of our own voice and own actions, maybe our children won't have to grow up in an America where gun violence and terrorism has become the norm. 

We should instill compassion, empathy, kindness, respect and responsibility. We can teach our children that it is okay to stand up for what we believe in, to fight for what we feel is right, but we can do so in a way that is not so full of hatred and spite. We can have a more effective and a stronger voice if we make changes with positive actions rather than out of fear.

Children learn what they live. And if we keep on living the way we have, when our kids are grown, I don't want to know fear and hostility they will feel in their hearts. 

So I ask you again...  

What does America stand for now? (fear?)

How did we get to this point? (fear?)

And when does it end? (when we no longer fear?)

I offer up my thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families. The victims from yesterday's shooting, the victims from last Friday's shooting, and the victims from the other 353 shootings that have taken place in 2015. 

x, Ash

Homemade Pumpkin Puree

Elyse DillonComment
homemade pumpkin puree

Halloween is almost here!!! Of course I'm still loving all things pumpkin, but here in Germany it's a bit less convienent to make pumpkin flavored treats since it's nearly impossible to find canned pumpkin! So for those of you also living here in Germany, or if you're just interested in a more homemade and fresh version of the store bought stuff.... this post is for you!

First of all, you need to find the type of pumpkin you want to use.  I use Orange Hokkaido pumpkins because they're very easy to find here in Germany AND you don't have to peel the skin off!! If you use a different kind of pumpkin you may need to remember to remove the skin before being able to use the pumpkin in any way. 

After you've picked out your pumpkin, roast it in the oven until cooked through! I wash off my pumpkin since I'll be using the skin, stab it all over with a fork so that it doesn't explode in the oven, then roast t for about 45 minutes to an hour. Once your pumpkin in roasted, remove from the oven and let cool. Once cool you can cut your pumpkin in half to remove the goop and seeds. You'll also have to remove the skin at this point if you're using a pumpkin other than an Orange Hokkaido. 

roasted pumpkin
roasted pumpkin

Once your pumpkin is roasted and cleaned out, you will want to cut it up into cubes and throw in your blender or food processor. I had to do mine in a few batches because i have a mini food processor :-) It blends up great on its own without any added liquid. Make sure to blend it completely to make sure all of the skin is blended up nicely as well. I think I left my food processor going for about a minute. 

pumpkin puree
pumpkin puree

And there you have it! Enough pumpkin puree to make all the pies, cookies, and whatever other pumpkin treat Pinterest has inspired you to make! Like these delicious pumpkin chocolate chip muffins I made with my puree! 

I threw the rest of my unused pumpkin puree in a couple glass jars with lids to be stored in the refrigerator until needed. We're attending a fun Halloween party on Saturday and I already have plans for all the rest of the puree! MAKE ALL THE PUMPKIN THINGS! Enjoy your fresh and healthy pumpkin puree my friends! And happy Halloween!!

homemade pumpkin puree

xoxo, elyse

The Growing Collective!

Elyse Dillon3 Comments
pregnancy announcement

Hello all! So it's true! As Ash said in a post before, I'm expecting my second baby! Just to do something fun and different, I thought I would do a little bit of an update just on my pregnancy. Corny? Maybe. But here we go! 

How far along?  18 weeks

Total weight gain/measurements: About 3 pounds

Maternity clothes: Sometimes! In the last couple weeks my belly has popped out! I don't really NEED maternity clothes yet but my AAAAAAAMAZING friends have been lending me all of their gorgeous and comfy maternity clothes which are way more fun to wear than my normal non maternity clothes.  :-)  

Stretch marks: Nope!

Sleep: I usually sleep fine. Sometimes I find my back hurting, sometimes my toddler wakes me up a couple times a night to go pee pee, sometimes I'm the one who has to pee 3 times a night... but generally I sleep just fine! 

Best moment this week: I LOVE MY MONDAYS! This week I put on some of my new maternity clothes, dropped off my son at kindergarten, put on my headphones and turned on my favorite podcast, rode the tram downtown, spent an hour at Starbucks working on photos, then spent a couple hours with some of my best friends and their amazing children at a local favorite coffee/breakfast spot <3  It was a morning that helped me unwind, spend time doing things, thinking about things and talking about things that mattered. It was a good day :-) 

Miss anything? Soft cheeses!!

Movement: Yes! I'm just now starting to feel the little jabs!

Food cravings: Chinese dumplings. I think about them every day. Have not been able to get my hands on any yet though. 

Anything making you queasy or sick? Nope!

Gender: I don't know yet! 

Wedding rings on or off? On

Happy or moody most of the time: I'm usually all over the place lately. It's a bit frustrating for the boys in my home, I'm sure. 

Looking forward to: Finding out the gender next month!

So, that's it! My pregnancy is pretty uneventful right now! I'm feeling good and enjoying every moment. My goals for the next few weeks are to take more bump photos and to be better at exercising! Do any of you have any favorite way to keep fit during your pregnancy?? I need some motivation!

Enjoy the rest of your week! Hope to see you here again soon :-)

xoxo, elyse 

 

Prague on a Tuesday Morning

Photography, WanderElyse Dillon1 Comment
prague

My best friend from California came to Dresden a few weeks ago for a visit! While she was here we took an overnight girls trip to Prague. It was so wonderful to explore the city and capture some special images along the way. Prague is definitely one of my most favorite cities in Europe. It has such a wonderful charm and there are so many beautiful sights to see as well as tasty things to eat! We walked around all day for 2 days capturing images, laughing, napping, eating and relaxing.  It was a bit chilly and gloomy during our time there, but I tend to prefer that kind of weather for this city. It seems to fit the vibe of the city quite well. I hope you enjoy these images from our time spent in Prague! 

prague
prague
prague
prague
Prague
Prague
Prague

XOXO, elyse

Some Big News + a Photography Tutorial

Life & Stories, Photography, WanderAshleigh RaddatzComment
Jena Fotografen

Hi there, our dear Life Theory Collective followers.  

We know we have been oh so quiet here on the blog lately but, it's been with good reason. Summer was really good to us! We've been busy traveling, organizing projects for the refugees that have made their way to Germany in recent months (we will have a blog post about that soon!), photographing our hearts out (weddings, vacations, babies... you name it, we shot it!) and one of the very best things to happen this summer: We found out that Elyse and Ryan are expecting a second baby! Oh yeahhh!!!! 

With all of the craziness that is life, we decided that summer was a good time to take a small blogging break, focus on our families, our business and creative plans for 2016 and really just to take time and enjoy the long summer days without sitting in front of a warm computer in our un-air-conditioned flats.  

Jena fotografen
Jena Fotografen

But, we are slowly starting to get back into the groove and thought we would kick things off with another quick photography tutorial. 

Jena Photographer

Let's talk perspective. I know I have touched briefly on this subject before but I thought it would be interesting to show you some varying points of perspective from the same object, and how changing your position can make the subject seem bigger, smaller, tilted, etc.   Perspective can change simply by changing your position to the object. Moving closer, moving further away, moving above, below, to the right, to the left, having things in the foreground or background. All of these things will change the overall look of the image.

Jena Photographer Ferris Wheel

In addition to perspective, some simple composition techniques can create a lot of interest in a photo. I used some differing composition techniques below such as filling the frame, isolating my subject, simplifying the scene, leading lines, and diagonals. 

Ferris Wheel

Here you see a series of photos from the same subject, a ferris wheel that I photographed while vacationing on the Baltic Sea this summer. I made my way around the ferris wheel, moving closer, further away, standing under, beside, etc.  Do you see how a change in perspective can really change the overall feel of an image? 

Jena Photographer

Now it's your turn to give it a try!

Jena Fotografen


Find something to photograph, a person, a building, a toy car, whatever... And make your way around your subject. Get high, get low, move forward, back, etc. Watch how the size changes, the verticals and horizontals change, and that certain perspectives lend more interest than others. This certainly takes some practice but eventually you will see just how a different perspective can take your photograph to the next level! 

xo, Ash

Maternal Bliss

Photography, Life & StoriesAshleigh RaddatzComment
Jena bauch bilder

Ah, the joys of pregnancy... The growing belly, the sweet little kicks and the anticipation of baby's arrival. 

Our good friends, Marcel and Nicole, asked me to photograph this special time in their lives, as they were preparing for their second daughter to be born.  We went up to their garden house at the edge of the forest in Jena, and just hung out a bit.  Although the weather was unpredictable, raining on and off most of the evening, we embraced it!  Rain boots and pretty dresses, why not?!

Jena fotografen bauch
familie fotograf jena
Jena Fotografen
Couples Photography
Maternity Shoot

Summertime and the living is easy...

Elyse DillonComment

It's summertime here in Germany and that means we have been busy eating ice cream, hanging out at garden houses, picking cherries off the tree, complaining about the freezing cold and rain one day, but then dying of heat the next. Yay for German weather!... 

Sorry if blogging has been a bit slow, but that's what summer is all about isn't it? Taking a step back and slowing down a bit with the people you care about. It's about grill parties, picking fresh mint from the garden, playing in bowls of water on the balcony with your sweaty toddler, and enjoying the sun (when we have it). 

Both Ash and I have some plans of traveling this summer and I'm sure we'll return with some new photos to share with all of you :-)

What are your plans for this summer?!

XO, Elyse 

German-Style Moscow Mules

Make, Life & StoriesAshleigh RaddatzComment
moscowmule

While visiting Elyse in Dresden a couple of weeks ago, we decided to put her new copper mugs (a birthday present from her husband) to good use by mixing up a few Moscow Mules. But, instead of the usual Vodka, Ginger Beer, and Lime recipe, we thought it would be cool to try something different! So, we concocted a German-Style Moscow Mule of our very own. The end result was delicious!!

We are calling this a German-Style Moscow Mule because in Germany, Elderflower (called Holunder in German) is used quite a bit. They use it to make syrups, teas, soft drinks, cough drops, marmalade and cocktails among other things. The flavor of Elderflower is unique and hard to describe, but we are sure many of you will like it.

In America you can buy Elderflower products such as the syrup online or at some specialty drink or food stores.

The Recipe

MoscowMules
  • Mint
  • Lime
  • 1 ounce Elderflower Syrup (more or less to taste)
  • Ice
  • 2 ounces Vodka
  • 5 ounces Ginger Beer 

The Details

MoscowMules

Muddle some mint in your glass or mug

GermanMoscowMules

Squeeze in the juice of a half of a lime

GermanMoscowMules

Add in 2 ounces of vodka

GermanMoscowMules

And half of an ounce to one ounce Elderflower Syrup

MoscowMulesGermanStyle

Pour in 5 ounces of Ginger Beer (you can buy Ginger Beer with or without alcohol) 

GermansytleMoscowMules

Toss in a couple of ice cubes, give it a stir and garnish with a slice of lime and a sprig of mint

GermanstyleMoscowMules

And enjoy the refreshing yumminess! 

Have you invented any cocktail recipes yourself? How have they turned out?

xo, Ash

Stamped Fabric

MakeElyse DillonComment
hand stamped fabric

Hello everyone! Today I want to share with you a quick post about hand stamping onto fabric! I have been attending a lot of Blessingways lately and so many of my friends have been having babies, so I have been creatively trying to give handmade and inexpensive gifts to all of my friends! And you don't have to stick to one item that you stamp, you can stamp most any kind of fabric; dish towels, clothing, canvas bags, pillow cushions, blankets... anything you want, really :-) Here to show you a simple tutorial on hand stamped fabric, I'll showcase some baby swaddling blankets that I made for my dear friend Caterina, who is expecting her baby to be born very soon!

hand stamping fabric

There are many different ways to stamp fabric at home. My two favorite ways are using fruits to get fun and natural patterns, and carving shapes into potatoes to be able to experiment with different shapes. You can get creative and do any kind of fruit or potato stamp you want! To carve into the potato, I just cut the potato in half so that there's a nice part for me to hold onto when stamping, and then use a paring knife to cut a shape into the potato. You can also experiment with negative space when cutting your shape into the potato. 

stamping onto fabric

Next, you will want to prepare your fabric for stamping and choose the colors of fabric paint that you will be using. I get my fabric paint from my local hobby and craft store. I'm sure any brand will work fine as long as it is advertised as fabric paint that will not wash off once it's set. Here you can see my black and red paint for my two cotton swaddle blankets. Stamping onto white or light colored fabric will make it easier to see the paint, but you can also get creative with your fabric colors. Make sure you lay something down under your fabric so that it doesn't bleed through onto your work surface or other layers of fabric behind it. 

hand stamping fabric

I like to pour a bit of fabric paint onto a plate and then use a paint brush to cover my stamp with paint evenly. You can also just lay the stamp into the paint to cover it that way, but I find that method to cause the paint o be too clumpy and uneven. Once your stamp is evenly (and fairly thickly) covered in fabric paint, firmly place your stamp onto your fabric. Press down to make sure all the edges as well as the middle get stamped onto the fabric. Less pressure will result in less paint being transferred to the fabric. Now you can either lift up your stamp and reapply more paint, or your can use the rest of the paint left over for another stamp. This technique will result in very uneven stamps, some much lighter than others, but that is a look that I am sometimes intentionally trying to achieve! It's all up to you! 

fruit stamped fabric
potato stamp

Make sure you follow the instructions that come on your bottle of fabric paint to make sure you set the paint correctly! Usually you have to let the paint totally dry on the fabric, set with heat, then wash once to make sure it's all ready and safe for use! Have so much fun creating your own hand stamped fabrics! If you make something you love, be sure to tell us! 

XO, Elyse

How to take Great Vacation Photos

Photography, Wander, Life & StoriesAshleigh Raddatz8 Comments

Our family recently got back from a trip to the States, our first trip back since December 2011! I took a few... er... 3000 pictures while we were there!!! We were there for a month, visited 14 different cities (probably more if I count the different restaurants we ate at in the surrounding areas), stayed in 7 different houses and visited with so many near and dear to our hearts. Oh and we gained a collective 12 pounds :)   It was such a special trip and was perfect in so many ways.  And now here I am, a couple months out from our trip, and looking back through our photos feeling both happy and sad at the same time. Happy that we had such an amazing trip, made so many new memories, and spent time with all of the people we love so much. And sad for the obvious reasons... I miss everyone more than I can put into words!  

Either way, I am so thankful to have my photographs and the great memories that we made. 

Ok, enough sappy stuff! Let's get to the Vacation Photo Tips!

No matter what kind of camera you are using, these tips should help you capture all of those special vacation moments and will make looking back at your trip extra special! 

1. Have your camera close by

Vacation Photo tips

Starting with the obvious here, keeping your camera within reach while traveling will remind you to take photos along the way. Even the most mundane part of trips can make for great photos and sweet memories. I will never forget how nervous we were about how our boys would do driving so long in the car. They did so well (despite a couple incidents of car sickness) and we were so relieved that they were reasonably happy on the road (Let's hear it for for excess amounts of tablet time and yummy snacks! We weren't trying for parents-of-the-year status... We were just trying to keep the content *wink*)

I was also happy to have my camera with as we did a bit of shopping and I caught Auggie and his cousin Gracie playing in the clothes racks! Partners in crime! 

I was also happy to have my camera with as we did a bit of shopping and I caught Auggie and his cousin Gracie playing in the clothes racks! Partners in crime! 

 

2. But don't stay behind your camera so much that you miss out on being a part of your trip!

Vacation Photo tips

I have to remind myself of this often! I love taking pictures so much, and it really makes me slow down and watch how life is unfolding right in front of me. But, I realize it is also very important for being a part of the moment and to be fully present and interacting with my travel-companions.   The same goes for posting pics immediately on social media. I make it a point to only post updates and photos about my trip either at night when everyone else is sleeping and I have a bit of alone time or after we are home from the trip. The rest of the world can wait to see what's happening in my life so I can be in the moment not worrying about how many "likes" I get ;) 

3. It's all about variety

Vacation Photo tips
Vacation Photo tips Ash Raddatz
Vacation Photo tips
Vacation Photo tips
Vacation Photo tips
Vacation Photo tips Ash Raddatz
Vacation photo tips

Looking back through my photos, I love seeing the variety in my pictures. From landscape shots, to portraits, to action shots, to small details. Having this variety really tells the entire story of our vacation.  

4. Think about light

Morning Light

Morning Light

Evening Light

Evening Light

When your taking photos, whether it be vacation photos or family photos, light can make or break the image. (They don't call us photographers light-chasers for nothing). Pay attention to how the light is falling on your subject, if it is highlighting important details or if it is too harsh causing deep shadows to be cast. Early morning makes for nice soft light, evening makes for nice warm light and mid-day makes for harsher light. 

If you are shooting mid-day, take note of where the shadows are falling. It's best to try to get your subject facing the light a bit to evenly highlight their face. Also, be careful of your own shadow in the pic. Try to get in a position where your shadow is behind you or to the side of you so it is not in the frame.... Unless you want it there purposely.

Vacation Photo tips

5. Tell a story.

Vacation photo tips
Vacation Photo tips Ash Raddatz
Vacation Photo tips Ash Raddatz
Vacation Photo tips Ash Raddatz
Vacation Photo tips Ash Raddatz
Vacation Photo tips Ash Raddatz
Vacation Photo tips Ash Raddatz
Not sure if you can see here, but dad is carrying both boys, one on front and one on back. 

Not sure if you can see here, but dad is carrying both boys, one on front and one on back. 

It's fun looking back through photos and seeing a complete story. A good way to accomplish this is to capture 10 or more photos of one activity. So, if you are going on a special excursion or to a museum for example, having various photos of different things from that one activity will tell the entire story.  The mountains surrounding you as you drove up, the walk to the river, the kids excitement, playing, capturing little details, and including people in your photographs to remember just how small the kids were next to the giant rock. And the journey back to the car, after a long day of fun... Seeing all of these images together tell us the story of our adventure that day in Sedona, Arizona. 

6. Find a theme

Vacation Photo tips Ash Raddatz
The theme of our trip was the sun! We had perfect weather almost everyday which provided for some awesome pics! 

The theme of our trip was the sun! We had perfect weather almost everyday which provided for some awesome pics! 

Vacation Photo tips Ash Raddatz

You can get creative with your vacation photos by seeking out a specific theme to capture throughout your entire trip. For example, when my aunt came to visit us in Germany, she loved all of the unique and colorful doors here. So she made it a point to stop and photograph any doors that stood out to her, and once she got back to the states, she made a calendar that showcased all of her cool door pictures!  

7. Have fun with Perspective

Vacation Photo tips Ash Raddatz
Vacation Photo tips Ash Raddatz

I know I wrote a bit about perspective in my last photography tutorial (found here) but, I thought it was worth mentioning again because it can make for some really fun and creative photos. By varying your perspective you can catch some really creative shots and can make your subject really stand out! 

8. Get in the picture! 

Vacation Photo tips

This last tip is one of the most important! Hand that camera over to someone else, and jump on into the pic! You were there too, after-all! 

xo, Ash






You Know You're Becoming German When...

Life & StoriesElyse Dillon5 Comments

As many of you might already know, both Ash and I are expat Americans living in eastern Germany. We have both been here for quite some time and often find ourselves acting.... strangely :-) Maybe some of you have experienced this same feeling. You are living in a different culture that what you're used to, you often times get annoyed with said different culture, you try and fight it for as long as you can but in the end, said new culture starts to change you. You're saying things, eating things, loving things that you never thought you would. You're in the middle of scooping fresh leberwurst (liverwurst) out of a pig intestine onto your piece of buttered bread for abendbrot (evening bread/ dinner) and you just stop and think to yourself, "what the HECK am I doing???"  Yep, we know the feeling. Here are our top 10 ways to know if you too are becoming German.  

1. You love those dang house shoes 

You have them, you love them, you take some with you when you're going somewhere with an uncertain house shoe status, they're the first thing you offer guests when they arrive, and you wouldn't ever even dream of wearing your outside shoes inside a home anymore. It's not a matter of just getting home and taking your shoes off, it's getting home and switching shoes. May your feet never be cold, my friend. Never. 

2. You find yourself capitalizing all nouns when writing in English

This one is from my husband more than myself, honestly. Probably because his German is WAY better than mine. Way, way, way, way better. When writing in German, you capitalize all nouns. Every single one. Ryan said that he now often finds himself capitalizing nouns even when writing in English! Quite an accomplishment, I'm sure. I don't know if I'll ever get to the point, but I guess we'll see! 

3. You regularly partake in Abendbrot

abendbrot

For dinner Germans eat something called "Abendbrot" (evening bread). Basically, you take your slice of bread and cover it in butter and whatever else you have on hand :-) Meats, cheeses, and veggies are always a favorite! When enjoying Abendbrot, one might also include a soup or a salad to go along with the bread. It took us over a year to officially switch from the American idea of dinner to the German Abendbrot. It's SO much easier! In Germany the biggest and "hot meal" of the day is at lunchtime, so that's what we do now since the times that we're most likely all at home together is in the afternoon. Eating this way is not only easier when it comes to preparation and clean up, it's healthier too!

4. Feel bad about checking out at the store with more than 5 things in your cart

I mean.... I still hold onto my American ways usually and fill my shopping cart with enough food for the whole week. But now I usually feel bad about it at least. The person in front of me in line makes me question all the things with their bag of potatoes, 2 beers and 3 yogurts while the person behind me is cursing me under their breath with their 2 bananas, fleischsalat (meat salad), 1 beer and bouquet of flowers. I just stare at my cart and don't look up. Ever. 

5.  You end your english sentences with, "or?"

If you speak German.... you know. Oder? 

6. You love, respect and appreciate everything about a Kaffeepause 

kaffee pause

We don't normally have coffee and cake time when it's just us at home, but you better believe it when I say that I get SO excited when I find out visitors might be coming over in the afternoon or we have a meeting here because that means... Kaffeepause (coffee break)! There is a really freaking amazing bakery right under our apartment, and any excuse to go in and buy all the cake I could ever imagine being able to eat, is definitely exciting :-) Especially when it's Kuchentag (cake day) and you get 5 huge pieces of cake for 2,50€. That is a good day, my friends. A very good day. But in all seriousness, Kaffeepause is a legitimate event in German culture. And I think it's wonderful. 

7. Must shake all the hands

Even when you walk into a party with 50 people, you shake every hand. And when it's time to leave, shake them all again. It's just second nature now! The only problem is when you go back to the States... and then everyone thinks you're super weird because you shake everyone's hand. 

8. Everything is better when it's a schorle 

schorle

Making something a schorle, basically means adding sparkling/mineral water to it. Apfelschorle (apple juice with sparkling water) is a little bit like..... the life blood of the German people. Basically, most every juice, syrup, and alcoholic beverage is better when it's carbonated. I definitely have jumped onto this bandwagon! "Oh yum, some fresh orange juice! This definitely needs some mineral water added to it." That's me, everyday. No shame! 

9. You get offended at an improper Prost

You better look me in the eyes. Even my 2 year old knows how to prost his milk cup properly! 

10. You find yourself shopping for inline skates, or better yet, those walking poles 

I actually do love roller blading and as a kid was pretty obsessed with it, but I think I have held off on buying some here just on principal. Though, every time I'm walking through the park trying to avoid getting killed by all the crazy skaters, I can't help but long to be one of them. Those walking pole things on the other hand... I just can't. I seriously don't understand those one bit. Especially the 20 year old using them to power walk down the street.  


There are many things about the German culture and way of life that so interesting and amazing :-) I'm proud to have added some German flare to my own personal culture! Though there are still some things (like those poles and eating raw ground beef on bread) that I'm still trying to wrap my head around, but I was taught in my Intercultural Studies classes at University, "Just because it's different, doesn't mean it's wrong". When you go into every new day and situation with that attitude, your own heart has the opportunity to become fuller and your eyes to grow wider :-) Ash and I can agree that living in a different culture than our own (we both grew up in Northern California) can be very difficult at times, but having the opportunity to expand our horizons, love for people, and culture makes it all worth it!   

How have you found yourself becoming German?! Or if you live somewhere else, have you found yourself adopting some aspects of the culture that you currently live in? We would love to hear from you! 

XO and Liebe Grüße, Elyse

Easy Parmesan Asparagus

MakeAshleigh RaddatzComment
Parmesan Asparagus

Spring is here which means that asparagus season is in full swing here in Germany! Restaurants are offering a variety of asparagus dishes, markets are stocked, and 22-50% of the population is scrunching their nose at the after affects (you can read up on why some people's pee smells after eating asparagus here)!  

Since I have two crazy toddlers who hang on me the entire time I cook and since I love asparagus, I thought what better a time to make my quick, easy, delicious, lazy-girl friendly Parmesan Asparagus.  What I love about making asparagus this way (other than the fact that it requires minimal effort and minimal dishes) is that the asparagus cooks up perfectly and still maintains a bit of crunch and it tastes amazing! And it only takes about 5 minutes! 

Okay, so here it is... The best asparagus ever!  (These pics were taken with my cell phone so may not be the best quality. But, you get the idea)

Our Ingredients:

Asparagus recipe
Parmesan Asparagus

Asparagus, Sea Salt, Garlic (fresh or powdered. I used powdered because it's what I had here), Olive Oil and Parmesan Cheese.  

Our Instructions:

asparagus recipe

First, you'll wash your bundle of asparagus and then you'll cut a bit of the ends off. 

asparagus recipe

Next you will wrap the still wet asparagus in plastic wrap insuring that it is completely sealed around the bunch.

asparagus recipe

Put the wrapped asparagus in the microwave for 2 minutes (depending on how many watts you have your microwave at, this time may vary slightly. Anywhere from 2-4 minutes should work, but you may have to test it out to see what times works best for yours)

asparagus recipe

Take the bundle out of the microwave and carefully, using a fork, unwrap the asparagus and lay it out on a large plate. Be careful when you unwrap because the steam and asparagus may be really hot. 

asparagus recipe

Now drizzle on your Olive Oil (about a tablespoon or 2), sprinkle on your Sea Salt and your garlic. 

asparagus recipe with parm

And then top with your fresh Parmesan Cheese. Use as much or as little as you'd like... I prefer lots because I'm healthy that way!  I have found that shaved or shredded Parmesan Cheese tastes best! 

asparagus recipe

Now put the plate into the microwave for 1 minute (again, time may vary slightly) or until the cheese is just melted. 

easy asparagus recipe
easy asparagus recipe

Take it out, and enjoy!!! I like to eat mine with a couple of slices of bread that I dip into the olive oil/garlic that's on my plate :)  It's delicious!

easy asparagus recipe

 

So, try it out! And tell us about it! 

xo, Ash

  

What is a Blessingway?

Photography, Life & StoriesElyse DillonComment
blessingway

Have you ever heard of something called a blessingway? Have you ever been to one? I'm sure that if you have attended or thrown a blessingway before, you know just how amazing and special this sort of ceremony/party truly is! Traditionally, a blessing way is a Native American ceremony held for the soon to be birthing woman. In today's culture, the blessingway has held onto a lot of the same sentiments as the original Native American ceremony, but now there are many different activities that you can incorporate into your very on unique blessingway ceremony. The term "blessingway" comes from the intended purpose of the ceremony itself! Blessing the woman into her birth experience and new journey of motherhood. The blessingway is to send her off on her new journey full of encouragement, prayers, blessings and empowerment from her circle of closest friends.

(Just a side note, these photos are from 2 different recent blessingways that I hosted. Some of the photography is mine, and some is from my friend Tamara who is crazy talented and only shoots on film. Each of her photos has a link to her website in the caption! Thank you, Tamara for taking photos at the last blessingway and for letting me use them here!)

photo cred: Tamara Aptekar

photo cred: Tamara Aptekar

blessingway

I know that in North American culture, it is very common to throw an expectant mother a certain party called a baby shower. These are great, especially for first time moms in need of all the essential baby gear that people are expected to give the mom to be. Baby showers are usually full of half a million gifts, silly (but often times cute) party games, fun stories from other seasoned mamas, cake, food, punch and lots of laughing, talking, belly touching and love. Baby showers are great and definitely have their place in the world :-) Blessingways are quite different though. As I somewhat already explained, blessingways are more of a ceremony. The pregnant woman is to be celebrated, honored, blessed, filled to the brim with strength, power, confidence, calm, peace, and love. It's a time to remind her and all the other women in attendance that we are all connected. That women are powerful and so essential to this wonderful process of bringing new life into the world. The blessingway guests remind the mama-to-be that they are all unified by their womanhood and sisterhood, that they are all connected to each other, and send their combined support and strength to the mama-to-be as she very soon faces the amazing journey of labor and motherhood.

photo cred: Tamara Aptekar

photo cred: Tamara Aptekar

blessingway

Even though games and gifts aren't a real focus of a blessingway, the person hosting the blessingway has a number of empowering activities to lead the group of women in and small gifts of sentiment for mama or baby are always welcome. For the blessingways that I have hosted I always ask everyone to bring a side or snack to share with everyone in attendance. Food is ALWAYS a good idea! :-) Generally, healthy and homemade food is the best. At the last bessingway I just hosted last week, I asked everyone to bring a salad and OH MY GOODNESS, that was seriously some of the best food I have ever eaten.

photo cred: Tamara Aptekar

photo cred: Tamara Aptekar

photo cred: Tamara Aptekar

photo cred: Tamara Aptekar

blessingway birth necklace

One of the most popular part of a blessingway ceremony is making a Birth Necklace for the mama-to-be. When the invitations are sent out, each guest is asked to bring just one or sometimes a number of beads. These beads are supposed to be picked out with the mother in mind. During the Birth Necklace ceremony, everyone is gathered in a circle and each guest shares with everyone else their bead, why they picked it for the mama-to-be, and also shared a word of encouragement, a prayer or mantra to go with the bead. Once everyone as shared their bead and has said their prayer/ encouraging words for the mother, the beads are strung together to make the Birth Necklace. This necklace should be worn until the day of labor, and even some women choose to wear their necklace through the whole labor, gathering strength from each bead, remembering what it represents, remembering their circle of support!

blessingway birth necklace
birth necklace blessingway
photo cred: Tamara Aptekar

photo cred: Tamara Aptekar

Another very powerful activity to do is the bracelet ceremony. With this, all the women gather in a circle, and with one long piece of yarn/ribbon/whatever they wrap it around all their wrists so that they are all connected. This is to symbolize their unity and connection to one another as women. Once everyone is connected to the circle, the host may say another blessing over the mama-to-be and comment on the great circle of women and the power that we all share. The possibilities are endless really! Then, the string is cut in between each woman and the bracelet is tied around their wrists. All the guests, host and mama-to-be are to wear this bracelet as a reminder of the mama being celebrated. Each time they look at their bracelet, they are to remember the unity of women to support the mama-to-be and should send a prayer or thought of strength to the mama :-) How awesome is that?!

photo cred: Tamara Aptekar

photo cred: Tamara Aptekar

As a sort of thank you gift to all the guests, the host can provide candles for everyone to take home with them. With each candle you can included instructions for its purpose and use. Once mama is in labor, one person will notify all the other women in her "circle of strength" (all the ladies who attended the blessingway), and then each woman will cut off their bracelet, tie it around the candle and light the candle. This act is to show their solidarity of support and love for the laboring mama. The mama can also have a birthing candle of her own that can be lit once labor begins. For this last blessingway, I am the mama's doula and will be there for the birth of the baby, so it is easy for me to be the one to send out the notification to the ladies to light their candle. But anyone who will be at the birth can send out the notification if a doula will not be present.

photo cred: Tamara Aptekar

photo cred: Tamara Aptekar

I could go on and on about all the amazing and sacred aspects of a blessingway but really, the host should get creative with the mama being celebrated to really make it unique to her and meet her needs and desires. There are SO many different ideas that you can incorporate into a blessingway! Henna, flower crowns, pedicure for mama, essential oil massage, hair bushing, songs, prayers, belly mapping, decorating and hanging birth affirmation flags.... so many possibilities! You can even make a blessingway a lovely religious ceremony for women who believe in God. A lot of prayers and reading of scriptures would be a great idea!

blessingway flower crown
photo cred: Tamara Aptekar

photo cred: Tamara Aptekar

blessingway

It is intended that the mama to be leaves bursting full of love, strength, confidence, and belief in the ability of her body to birth her baby. All the guests should feel empowered to support and encourage her :-) Blessingways are one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed and I wish everyone has the opportunity to attend one and also have one thrown for them! As part of my doula services I do offer a blessingway package deal and would be more than happy to help you plan your perfect blessingway, for yourself or a friend! I prefer to host blessingways in English, but if you would like one in German, I have another doula colleague in Dresden who offers the same blessingway package :-)

I hope you enjoyed reading about the special and sacred ceremony that is a blessingway!

XO, Elyse

Essential Oil Kits for Pregnancy and Labor

Elyse DillonComment
essential oil for pregnancy and labor

The benefits of essential oils have impacted my life and the everyday life of my family greatly! Have you ever tried them?? One of the best times to use essential oils is when you're pregnant as well as during labor! I'm a consultant with doTERRA essential oils and I can offer you these certified organic, 100% pure and therapeutic grade oils in a sample kit! As a part of my birth services I'm offering this kit of oils to help you, your baby, your labor and even your post partum time. I've chosen 5 of the oils that I think are the easiest to use and have the most benefits for you especially during your pregnancy and labor.

essential oil for pregnancy and labor
essential oils for pregnancy and labor

Since these oils are organic, pure and therapeutic grade, they're safe for diffusing, inhaling, putting on your skin as well as ingesting! The best ones for ingesting are lemon and wild orange. As these instructions say here to the right, put a drop of lemon in your water everyday to help prevent a number of ailments. Lemon as well as orange oil in your water helps to detox your whole body. Also, putting lemon and/or orange oil in your smoothies, cooking, desserts, salad dressings, tea, and baking adds a whole new level of flavor and health benefits to your everyday life. Peppermint can also be added to your water or tea to help with indigestion and nausea. Lavender, lemon and peppermint  mixed together is another amazing way to battle an allergy attack, especially when there are limited pharmaceutical options for you when you're pregnant! Both lemon and wild orange will lift your mood. A great way for a little mood and energy pick up is to put a couple drops of either oil (or mixed) into your hands, place your hands over your nose and mouth and inhale deeply for a few seconds. Ah! So many amazing ways these oils can help you!

During labor, lavender is definitely a major favorite. It's calming, soothing, relaxing, and promotes rest. It's the perfect oil for your partner or doula to rub on your back or shoulders when you're feeling overwhelmed. Peppermint oil promotes focus and energy. This would be the perfect oil to have diffusing in the room while in labor to help fight exhaustion as well as nausea. Clary sage is the best oil to have in the labor room! I can help increase contractions and may come in handy when labor stalls. Once the baby is born, clary sage is a wonderful oil to have rubbed on your abdomen to help encourage the placenta to be born. Continuing to apply this oil to your lower abdomen will help encourage your uterus to contract and get back to the size that it needs to be postpartum. Anyway, I could go on and on but I'll let you go so you can head on over to our shop to grab yourself an essential oil kit for yourself if you are pregnant, or for a pregnant friend! Along with the birth affirmation cards that we sell, you could give a friend a really amazing blessingway or baby shower gift! Seriously, PERFECT GIFT ;-)

essential oil for pregnancy and labor

I hope you all learned something new and useful about essential oils. I hope you can see how much they can help you out during your pregnancy and labor. I know my friends and doula clients all get oils from me, and my doula bag is full of these exact oils! So hurry up and go check them out in the LTC Shop! Happy Wednesday all!

XO, Elyse

Make: No-Sew Woodland Masks!

MakeAshleigh RaddatzComment
Woodland Masks DIY

Today we have something really cute and fun for you to DIY! Woodland creature masks!! These are super easy to make since there is no sewing involved. The instructions are pretty self explanatory, simply print the pattern, cut your felt pieces (use whatever colors of felt that your heart desires), punch your holes, use your choice of glue (craft glue, hot glue, super glue... They'll all work!) tie your elastic and voilà... You're an animal! 

Here's a pic tutorial of how to go about assembling your masks:

Above, you see all of the pieces laid out for the rabbit mask

Above, you see all of the pieces laid out for the rabbit mask

Rabbit Mask step1
Rabbit Mask step 2
Rabbit Mask step 3
Rabbit face mask step4
Rabbit mask step 5
And the final step. You just need to add your elastic and you're ready for fun! 

And the final step. You just need to add your elastic and you're ready for fun! 

Here is the owl mask pieces, all cut out and ready to assemble

Here is the owl mask pieces, all cut out and ready to assemble

owl mask step 1
Owl mask step 2
Owl Mask step 3
little helper
Just add you elastic and you'll be a hoot! 

Just add you elastic and you'll be a hoot! 

The fox mask pieces, laid out and ready

The fox mask pieces, laid out and ready

The extra nose piece can be a different color if you'd like, it is added to stabilize the part that hangs down. 

The extra nose piece can be a different color if you'd like, it is added to stabilize the part that hangs down. 

Fox Mask step 2
Fox mask step 4
And add your elastic to complete your look! 

And add your elastic to complete your look! 

You can make your own masks by using the patterns below. I am not much of an artist so, please excuse my drawings ;)

Right-click the image and open the image in a new tab. Print them out and cut your felt according to each pattern. The rabbit mask and the owl mask have 2 pages so be sure to print both pages so that you have all of your pieces! 

Rabbit mask 1
Rabbit Mask 2
Owl Mask 1
Owl Mask 2
Fox Mask

We hope you adore these masks as much as we do! Be sure to let us know how they turn out!! 

Xo, Ash

Chapters Ending

Life & StoriesElyse Dillon4 Comments
oliver

My son and I ended our breastfeeding journey a month ago, but thankfully we were able to make it to 2 years and 3 months. It was not an easy chapter to have end. It was probably one of the hardest and emotional chapters to have ended thus far in my parenting journey. Weaning is hard, no matter at what point it happens. After 2 days, 2 weeks, 2 months or 2 years... you all know the sadness of saying goodbye to something that was important to you and your child. Even if you never breastfed in your parenting journey, I'm sure you can look back and remember some part of your relationship with your child that had to end, transform or change. No matter what, these things are difficult!

I know some of you have varying thoughts and opinions about my having breastfed as long as I did, and that's fine. I'm not here to talk about the (many) benefits of extended breastfeeding, or to even promote breastfeeding at all. I'm just here to share my story, my feelings about something significant in my mama journey. Though, both Ash and I are avid promoters of mama choice and breastfeeding. We support breastfeeding no matter what, even if that means you choose to not do it. No mommy wars here, we're all just trying to do our best!

I remember the first time Oliver breastfed. It was soon after he was born and we were still snuggled up in the bed that he was born in. I remember feeling so relieved that he knew what to do! Little did I know that breastfeeding wouldn't necessarily get easier after that, in fact it got a lot harder. For those first few months of our breastfeeding journey, we both had to work very hard to keep at it! Maybe that's one reason why it was such a hard thing to say goodbye to, because we had to fight so hard for it to be successful. It's funny to look back and remember that my initial breastfeeding goal was 1 year. When I set that goal while I was still pregnant, little did I know that that 1 year mark would come and go with no end in sight! I had always hoped that he would just wean on his own, HA! That was not in our cards :-) As hard as it was to turn the page on that chapter of our journey together, our relationship has not changed so much! We still snuggle all the time and are still very close. I think that the anxiety of anticipating the end of our breastfeeding journey was harder than actually ending it. Of course, I cried a bit while he was nursing for that last time, and then cried a bit more when he all of a sudden sat up and asked to snuggle. I guess that was him telling we that he too was ready to move on. Thankfully my husband took a few photos of our last time breastfeeding so that I can always look back on that special time and remember the exact moment that chapter ended.

I guess all of this is to say, wow, being a mama is hard sometimes! Am I right?! The emotional ups and downs are not to be underestimated. I'm learning everyday as my son gets older that each new phase of his life is wonderful but also different from the last, and that's ok. It's ok to grieve the "lasts" as well as be excited for all the new "firsts" that await us! It's always going to be difficult when chapters of our story that we loved come to an end, but we have so many other new chapters to look forward to!

It was a great 2 years a 3 months my little wild man, but I'm excited to see what this next chapter has in store for you <3 

breastfeeding

XO, Elyse

A Weekend in Tübingen

Photography, WanderElyse DillonComment
tübingen

Last week we had to travel to southern Germany for a conference near Stuttgart. We were done by Wednesday but to try and avoid Easter traffic back into Dresden, we decided to hold up in an AirBnB for a couple nights and spend some time in Tübingen! What a gorgeous little city! So old and charming. Unfortunately the weather was less than lovely but we still had a great time.

Here are some of my favorite shots from our time in Tübingen!

tübingen
tübingen
tübingen
tübingen
tübingen
tübingen
tübingen
tübingen
tübingen
tübingen
tübingen
tübingen

Tübingen was one of the very first cities in Germany that I ever visited! It was almost 10 years ago that I was in Tübingen with some friends, and the beauty of the city always stuck with me. My husband has been all around Germany but had never visited this charming little city, so I've always wanted to be the one to show him :-) Thankfully we also have a friend who lives there and was able to take us to a great cafe and show us around a bit. Thank you, Tony!

tübingen
tübingen
tübingen
tübingen

Tübingen is just as gorgeous as I had remembered it, and we're already excited about going back someday! Hope you enjoyed this little photo tour of the city! Have you ever been to Tübingen? Let us know in the comments!

Have a great rest of your week, everyone!

XO, Elyse

Smitten With: Easter!

Smitten WithElyse DillonComment

Easter is here! Here is some last minute Easter Basket inspiration if you're on the lookout for sugar free treats that the kids will love :-) Easter was always when my Grandma would get us all new swimsuits (usually all matching for the cousins!) and towels! Think outside the candy box and get creative. Happy Easter everyone! And remember, He is risen!!

XO, Elyse

Date Night Jar

MakeElyse Dillon2 Comments
date night jar

My husband and I just started a sort of date night co-op with some other parent friends of ours. How it will hopefully work out is that we'll share turns watching each others kids so that we can go out on dates a couple times a month. Ryan and I realized a couple weeks ago that last year we had only gone out on a few dates, not acceptable! Over the last year and a half of living in Dresden, we have been collecting great ideas of all the wonderful kid free dates we wish we could go on, and now's our chance!

date night jar

I organized a bunch of date ideas into three categories: 1. Stay at Home Activities 2. Out and About Activities 3. Let's Eat Out! And then I wrote them out on different colored pieces of paper. The idea is to decide which type of date we want to go on, and then randomly pick an idea out of the jar according to the color! Say we wanted to go do some fun activity in the city then grab a bite to eat. One of us could pick a pink flag and the other would pick a green flag out of the jar and viola! Our whole date is planned out and ready to go!

date night jar

The best part of making the date night jar is sitting down with your partner and coming up with all your fun date ideas! You could do fun flags like I did or you could just write them on little pieces of folded paper, popsicle sticks, whatever you can think of! I used shish kebab skewers and folded stripes of paper in half around the skewer. With a glue stick I glued the paper together and then wrote my ideas on each one. Get creative with making your own date night jar!   

date night jar
date night jar

Lastly, put your date night jar somewhere visible in your home. Have it there to serve as a reminder to all the fun things you have to look forward to with your partner! Also, keep adding to your date night jar! Since making the jar last week, I have already added three new ideas to it :-)

date night jar

Enjoy making your own date night jar! And more importantly than that, enjoy your dates! If you try your hand at a date night jar, be sure to tell us about it! Happy Easter Weekend all!

XO, Elyse