Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Choosing Family Photo Outfits: 7 XMAS PIC TIPS

   It's that time of year again! Time to gather the troops, slap on some coordinating (but not matchy) outfits, and bribe the best smiles out of them. Like most things, it's not as easy at is sounds. Today, I'm sharing my Simply Cumorah SEVEN XMAS PIC TIPS with you, and BONUS: I'll provide shopping links to the clothes I curated for our recent beachy Christmas shoot.

Credit for the skilled photography, and for waking up SUPER early on her vacation in order to shoot our pics
goes to the one and only: Tisha Barlow - based in Queen Creek, AZ -  @tishabarlowphoto

I've never done our family photos in traditional Christmas garb, and I decided it was high time. Honestly, I got giddy about juxtaposing a warm, gorgeous beach with bright Christmas colors. Those reds and greens pop against the tranquility of the ocean...and, I like how I look in green...which is important. If you're in charge of what people are wearing, YOU get to choose a color that looks good on you, and build around it. That's the way the world works, people.

When choosing family outfits, I find one dynamic piece in the right color scheme, and I build from there. I knew I wanted red and green, but which shades? Would we go lime & brick, hunter & burgundy, kelly and candy apple? The color question was answered as soon as I found the standout piece. I was looking for a dress with a large, bold pattern and I came upon the red & white stripe dress from Liligal. Yep. That was it. This dress was the jumping off point for our shoot.

Liligal.com Maxi Dress
Liligal.com Stripe Maxi Dress $38

 I waited for that darling dress to arrive on my doorstep, and then I hit the thrift stores. I love utilizing second hand stores for occasions where I'm looking for particular colors, because all of the clothes are organized BY COLOR. It's a super efficient way to find what you need. At Once Upon a Child, I found the cutest green reindeer sweater you have ever seen (which answered the question for our green shade), the white collared shirt, the boys' shorts and the red gingham button up shirt - in the perfect shade of red to match the stripe dress!

Amazon.com Alex Stevens Reindeer Sweater $25 (I snagged mine, used, for $4!)

The Izod, red gingham shirt was purchased at a second hand store for $5, but I found a similar one online for a tad more.

Next, I hit up Goodwill, on the off chance someone had donated a perfect white or green holiday dress, and wouldn't you know it, Jackpot! Some sweet soul dropped their Calvin Klein white, petal cocktail dress at the Goodwill, and I snatched it up for a whopping $16.
 I've searched the web, and can't find the exact dress for sale...but this one by Adrianna Papell is pretty dang close.
While I want the overall family colors to coordinate - I also know that I'm going to want pics with just my man and I, so I ensure that our outfits work together, and that we don't wear predominantly the same color.  I mean, how embarrassing would that be if we both showed up in plaid suit coats?

Accessories are a fabulous way to spread your color scheme across every person in your pic. Caution! It's easy to get carried away with this. Not every person needs an accessory. I've made that mistake before - and it turned into an overly stylized - matchy-matchy mess. The use of accessories should look well placed, and effortless - like something that person might actually wear in real life - not like you forced them to wear it to match the family. (I admit, that is how Bella felt about that poinsetta scarf...but I think it worked, and sometimes you just have to take one for the team.) A well chosen hair bow, neck tie, bracelet or belt can be the perfect little thing to bring it all together.

Don't be afraid to mix patterns! It gives depth and interest to a photo. In these photos we have stripes, checks, plaid, print, floral and solids. That's a lot going on! Scale is the reason it works. The geometric patterns don't compete with each other because the stripes are a large pattern, the plaid is medium sized, and the checks are small. Be sure to balance pattern with solids & use different types of patterns to keep it interesting.

This is a tip that isn't exactly about choosing outfits, but it is such a huge part of your family pics - I'm going to include it. Choose a location that is either meaningful to you, or that you find beautiful. For me, this beach is both. And, huge perk, no coordinating shoes to buy.  Barefeet are the best feet! We don't live by the beach, but we love to vacation there. While it takes some extra effort to set up a photographer on location - it is lovely to have your photos professionally taken in a place where you have built lasting family memories. Take your photog on your family's favorite hiking trail, or to the outdoor seating area of your favorite restaurant, or the park where your kids grew up playing flag football. As my kids get older, I feel an urgency in capturing their youth. In holding on to what we have right now, today. Truth be told, it's not about the perfect outfits, or the perfect smiles, or the perfect lighting, it's about capturing the best of who we are, together. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Designing for Jesus

I once was in a church production where the lighting & audio technician spent hours of his free time making sure the show went off without a hitch. I thanked him for all of his hard work and he said something simple, something small, but something extremely powerful. I will never forget it for as long as I live.
He said, "We all just do what we know how to do - to move this work along. This," pointing to his microphones and cables, "is what I know how to do."
Well, I have never looked at using my talents for church service the same since.
What do I know how to do?
Sing. Dance. Create. Lead. Speak. Teach. And...make some kickin' invites & posters. I cannot even count how many posters, invites, logos, t-shirts, etc. I have designed in the name of the Lord. And, I love it, because This. This is what I know how to do.
This is the invite for a ladies' Christmas activity last year:

And this logo is hot off the presses!  I just created this for the project my dad, a Bishop, is implementing within his congregation. 
What do you know how to do? So many things, I am sure.
In what small ways do you help spread the love of the Lord? 
Probably in more ways than you can even think of.  
God bless you, sweet thing. God bless you. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Invitation to a Love Story

I love a good wedding. I love the love stories, the decorations, the music, the dancing, the flowers, the sneaky kisses when the couple thinks no one is looking, darling little nieces blowing bubbles as the bride & groom leave the chapel, and seeing all of the work that a mama, her daughter, and/or a wedding planner have stressed for weeks/months/years/a lifetime over - come to fruition.
When I get to be just a little part of someone else's big day, I get a teensy bit giddy. I was honored to design this adorable couple's wedding invites. I'm slightly proud of them. OK, more than slightly. The great thing is, since they are custom - they fit this bride & groom to be to a T.
So, you know...if you ever are getting married...or graduating...or throwing a party...or starting your own business...or hosting anything really, I sure would love to create something that fits you too. 
You can always reach me at CumorahMcomber@gmail.com. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Easter is the new Christmas

It is official. I, Cumorah D. McOmber declare that:

Yes. You read that correctly. I have decided that Easter is the new Christmas, and I couldn’t be more excited about it. Don’t get me wrong. I adore Christmas. I am confident it will stand forever as my number one, absolute favorite holiday. But let’s be honest, Christmas gets a lot of hype. It is a month long parade of cookie exchanges, work parties, church dinners, family functions, community events, public school “Winter Festivals,” sledding dates, mall visits, late night crafting, early morning wrapping, advent calendaring, card sending, wassail & peanut brittle making, tradition keeping craziness. And I love it. I really, truly, honestly do. (take a peek at my family blog for a taste of how we do Christmas ) But, I will tell you a little secret. It is stressful. And after all that preparation and work, and lack of sleep, there is that inevitable snippet of letdown intermingled with a snitch of family drama.
Have you ever sworn on December 26th, that you will never let yourself get that carried away again, only to find yourself in the same exhausted, bleary eyed situation the next year? Well, my dears, I may have found the solution for you, and it’s a little something I like to call Easter.
I believe I can turn Easter into the one big holiday in the year that we host all of our family, and still genuinely like everyone afterwards. I have decided after a splendid trial run with only two of my sisters, one niece and one brother-in-law visiting for this sacred holiday, that this is going to turn into the must-do, feel-good, family gathering holiday of the year.
Why should you consider Easter instead of Christmas for your big family get together? 
Number one: IT IS EASY. Easter has been around for a good long time, of course, but it’s just gaining in popularity (thanks in part to the advent of Pinterest and all those cutsie ideas on how to make Easter fantastically special.) I sure hope it stays small though, because currently, no one really expects anything out of Easter. No one expects you to give them an Easter present. There is no laboring over which friend may or may not be giving you an Easter gift, thus no stockpiling gifts to have on hand just in case. There is no expectation that you will show up on all of your neighbors’ doorsteps with a professionally photographed and PhotoShopped family greeting card affixed to a heaping homemade plate of Easter treats while you sing songs of the Resurrected Christ. Little ones are thrilled with a small basketful of dollar store trinkets and a few plastic eggs stuffed with Jelly Bellies and egg shaped Snickers. And I have ZERO misgiving about my husband not picking an Easter gift up for me. He shouldn't!
 The second reason being: IT IS BEAUTIFUL. The account of the resurrection is filled with hope, and faith, and unconditional love. Studying the magnitude of the atonement and resurrection with your family will draw you closer as you feel of the Savior’s love for you and all of humanity. Gathering for church services with your family on that Sacred Sunday can be a very powerful, bonding experience.

    Thirdly: THE FOOD IS GREAT
            Easter dinner rivals Christmas dinner, just minus the stress of every other holiday meal & gathering that leads up to Christmas. (There’s no Easter Eve dinner or special cookies to bake, decorate and leave out for the Easter bunny, or traditional Easter breakfast that must be prepped and cleaned before you can start in on Easter dinner. And the menu: comfort food defined. Ham, funeral potatoes, asparagus, confetti jello salad, homemade rolls, spinach & strawberry salad, lime & raspberry punch, with strawberry jelly rolls for dessert. How could you go wrong? Throw in some Cadbury mini eggs, and I’m pretty sure that’s the type of meal I will be lounging with in the heavens.

 Fourth, and perhaps most importantly: EASTER EXUDES VERY LOW LEVELS OF FAMILY DRAMA. (Our gathering had NO family drama, but it admittedly, did not include the entire family). I cannot guarantee you no family drama should you choose to host your family for Easter, (maybe your family has an uncle that is loud mouthed and offensive at every occasion) but I feel confident in guaranteeing  you less family drama than you usually have at Christmas time. With everyone’s expectations low, people get really excited about doing things like roasting s’mores with peeps – no drama regarding inequality of gift giving, or who spent more time/money/thought on said gifts. Can you even imagine adult tears over what candy the eggs were filled with? Or arguments over how to properly hang the Easter decorations? No. No you cannot. Take that Christmas. 
            Because the world hasn't caught on to the Easter craze just yet, your time will not be divided between so many activities you have to/want to attend but just can’t squeeze in, or do squeeze in at the detriment of your already over-partied family, and you can actually spend your time enjoying each other!
We laid by the swimming pool while the kiddies swam, played kickball at the park, rode bikes, attended the Mesa Easter Pageant, roasted peep s’mores, took a hike, visited the children’s museum, crashed a local Easter egg hunt, attended church, went to Zumba class, and did a science fair project. (That last one was a have to, but was 100% unrelated to Easter, so not sure that it counts.)
            All in all, this is just a really long winded way for me to announce that I had a fabulous Easter with my family. I mean really, really fabulous. I couldn't love my sisters more. (sure wish sister #3 was able to be with us too!)
They are fantastic. And next year, I really do hope that we can gather the whole family, and enjoy each other during this wonderful expectation/drama/stress-FREE holiday season. Happy late Easter and early Christmas to you and yours!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Just Roll With It

This post is for my newfound friend, Karen. We met at a preschool Thanksgiving feast, where we gabbed over plates of stuffing & chicken nuggets & homemade rolls. She graciously asked me for my roll recipe. I happen to LOVE my roll recipe. It is the ONLY one after many failed attempts that I can get to work out here in the high altitude of Colorado. And may I say, they are scrumptious.
So here's to you Karen {you sweet thing!}, and all roll lovers everywhere! Enjoy!
1½ cups warm water
1 TBSP sugar
2 TBSP yeast
1½ cups warm milk
½ cup butter
½ cup sugar
2 tsp. salt
2 beaten eggs
6-7 cups bread flour

In a separate bowl, activate yeast, warm water, 1 TBSP sugar, and yeast; set aside until bubbly.

Melt butter in milk, then add sugar, salt and eggs.
Add 3 cups of flour to the milk mixture, then add the yeast mixture.
After combined, add the remaining 3 cups of flour. If dough is too sticky, add up to another cup of flour.

Cover and let rise for 1-2 hours.
Punch dough down and form into rolls. Let rise for another hour.
Bake at 375ยบ for 12-14 min.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Failing with grace

On June 7th, 2012, I won a little radio singing contest. I called in and sang my heart out to Take Me Out to the Ballgame. The DJ’s, with their discreet taste in crooning, crowned me the singing contest winner. My heart pounded, I called my family in to hear momma sing on the radio a few minutes later for the replay. The kids laughed and squealed. Daddy smiled, kind of rolled his eyes, and asked, "Well, what did you win?"
That’s when a slight panic set in. My prize was four tickets to the local minor league baseball game the next night…AND…the glory of throwing the first pitch out at said minor league game.
All very exciting, except that I had not thrown a baseball since I was nine years old. And, may I say, I was not an exceptional little leaguer. In fact, my coach scared the living daylights out of me, and I volunteered to sit the bench whenever possible.
My sweet hubby agreed to help me practice pitching, and a beautiful blog post about “getting out of your comfort zone and in to your improvement zone” started brewing in my little head. I had grand ideas about laying out the details of how I put myself in a highly uncomfortable position...practiced a new skill…and triumphed as I entered my improvement zone.
This process started well enough. I had indeed got myself into an uncomfortable position. I had agreed to pitch my first baseball in 25 years in front of a live audience of thousands. I did indeed practice this new skill. Dan and I got up early Friday morning and threw the ball back and forth for two and a half hours. When he came home from work, we practiced for another hour. {my shoulder was sore for days!} And by the end of training, I was feeling fairly confident. I could throw with decent accuracy, and with enough heat on the ball to at least make it over the plate – something that prior to my training sessions would have seemed miraculous. This ‘comfort zone to improvement zone’ post was going to be good!
And then, the moment of truth was upon me. I stepped up on the mound {after the seven other “first pitches” of the night were thrown – sure wasn’t expecting that} wound up, and chucked the official Skysox baseball about fifteen feet in front of me – straight into the ground.

My nerves got to me and the ball slipped out before I could finish my real throw. I walked past the cameraman for the local news with my head hung in shame, and cringed when one of my neighbors caught my attention from his seat and yelled out, “Hey, way to go Cumorah!” At the moment, I was hoping this event could go unnoticed, and undocumented, and unspoken about – forever. I believe mortified is the correct word.
It has now been two months since this event transpired, and I am finally ready to talk about it.
The pitch was not a triumph. In fact, if you look solely at the experience as my pitch from the mound at Skysox field, the entire event would look to be a complete failure. But I’d like to let you in on some behind the scenes successes from this story. I am clearly a better singer than I am an athlete. But, my adorable husband is an athlete.

He has large, lovely muscles. He played basketball for his Jr. College, and is my favorite soccer player of all time to watch in person. I love spending time with him, and spending time with him doing something he is great at is even more rewarding. I absolutely love it. That fateful Friday morning, when we got up early and donned our gloves to toss the old baseball around, will remain one of my most memorable mornings with him. It was the kind of morning where dew lingered on the grass, even while the sun kissed our cheeks. We laughed liked little kids. He coached me. And not like my loud little league coach, but lovingly, tenderly. Our children woke after we’d been practicing for awhile, and giggled when they found us outside playing baseball. They disappeared back inside the house, and reemerged with a homemade breakfast of toast, fruit salad, yogurt and orange juice. We took a break from training and sat down to a beautiful outdoors breakfast with our four bed-headed children. We talked and laughed and licked our plates clean.
That night, we went to the game as a family, ate stadium hotdogs and nachos, and those sweet little chitlins cheered wildly for their momma, even after her pitch came up short.

Sometimes failure is laced with unexpected successes.
Looking at this experience two months later, I can put the embarrassment of failing on the mound behind me, as I recall and cherish the beautiful moments this failure created for me and my sweetie and our four little ones. Thank you Skysox and 95.1 for giving me this blessed opportunity to fail and love it.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Carnival Party ~ Behind the Scenes

I am a girl who loves cotton candy, and kettle corn, and face paint and squeals of laughter, and any game that could possibly end in prize winning. I am a girl who loves carnivals. Fortunately for me, my little girl happens to love all of those things too. So, a few months back when we thought we were moving at the end of the summer, I promised that carnie loving chica a big birthday bash to not only celebrate her big day, but also to make memories with her dear friends one last time before our departure. After Grammy & Grandpa’s home burned down, we decided as a family to postpone our move to be here to help them rebuild their home and their lives. Although we have put off our move temporarily, I couldn’t bring myself to cancel or even scale down Azure’s ‘farewell’ birthday carnival…so…the show went on. However, I will admit, that my attention was certainly placed elsewhere for the weeks leading up to the party. Thus, this event was thrown together in one week’s time. While it was not Martha Stewart style perfection, it was eight year old girl style elation.

Just in case you are ever considering throwing your own backyard carnival, or just in case you are the type of person who will find yourself haphazardly volunteering at the first PTA meeting of the upcoming school year to head up the annual ‘Fall Festival’, I’ll give you a behind the scenes look on how I whipped together Azure’s fair, to help you get those creative carnie juices flowing!

I designed the invite on Publisher (I know, so old school) and printed them at Costco as 4x6 photos. We ran them around to friends and neighbors one week before the party…and ended up with 34 friends with ‘yes!’ rsvp’s.

You know all those lovely 11-13 year old neighbor girls who love to come over to play? They make the best booth helpers! These sweet girls came early, helped with set up and were some of the most adorable carnies I’ve ever met!

Make a plan, and do NOT invite the wind. Heaven help me. I cannot stand the wind. Can.not.stand.it. Remember the backyard wedding reception we threw that was dramatically different than planned due to consistent 40mph wind that day? Apparently, two years is long enough to forget that every day is a windy day here, and that while I had quickly sketched plans for the carnival backdrop to look like this:
it ended up looking like this:
Sweet hubby bought rebar from Home Depot to stake the conduit poles into the ground, tied string across the tops, and we hung red and white alternating cheap plastic tablecloths (54”x108”) purchased at Hobby Lobby by stapling and taping them to the string, and securing them to the ground with big rocks in the back.  Sadly, it didn’t matter how they were attached/secured, the wind whipped them to and fro like they were thin, cheap plastic tablecloths or something. If you have the funds and minimal wind, canvas fabric would work well, or perhaps oversized beach towels.

I designed the signs to be printed at Staples as a 36”x90” $12 Engineer print. Right click, copy and paste, and you can use it too! Happy Birthday to you! Cut out the signs with a little white around the outside edges. I backed mine with blue and red poster board purchased at Target, punched holes in the corners, strung red ribbon through, and tied the blue signs over the red backdrops, and the red signs over the white backdrops. If your neighborhood is riddled with wind as mine is, it might be a good idea to simply staple gun these signs to wooden stakes and plunk them in the ground in front of each booth.

I gave each party goer a polka dot bag with their name on it as their favor bag. I only put a clown nose, a pixie stick, animal cookies and circus peanuts inside, and then they had to earn the rest of their favors by winning the carnival games. They were given a piece of candy for each game they conquered.
Giant Bowling- (purchased from Wal Mart.) Knock over all the pins in 3 tries, and you win! 

Ring Toss - tape colored paper around water bottles, and toss 6 mini discs (from Hobby Lobby) around them. If you get at least 3 rings around the bottle, you win!

Spray Away - stick golf tees (WalMart) into a block of styrofoam (Hobby Lobby), place ping pong balls (WalMart) on top and let contestants attempt to knock the ping pong balls down with a blast of water from a squirt gun. I had six golf tees & ping pong balls, but three would do it. It was difficult for the booth helper to get the balls steady on all the tees in between each player.  

Use Your Noodle - Duct tape 6 skinny pool noodles (WalMart) together as circles, then duct tape those to two thicker pool noodles that function as support poles. Use rebar (Home Depot) inside the support noodles and hammered 6" into the ground to make the noodle structure stand. Each contestant gets 3 skinny noodles to use as javelins to attempt to throw through the circles. Get all three through a hoop, and you win!

 Tin Can Crash - Wrap large tin cans (donated from friends) in colorful paper. Stack, and give contestants 3 tennis balls to use in attempt to topple all the cans. If they can crash all the cans in 3 tries, they win!
Clotehspin Drop - contestants try to drop 10 clothespins in a large glass mason jar. If they get at least three in the jar, they win! (somehow we didn't get any photos of our pin drop game)

Fortune Teller - elect a helper to dress up gypsy style and either give fake fortunes on the fly, or arm them with several paper fortune tellers and let party goers pick their own fortunes.

Face Painting - I purchased my Snazaroo face painting pallet from Amazon, and was quite pleased with the quality. I would suggest to do all the face painting AFTER any water games, as lots of painted faces got washed away during our water balloon fight!
Photo Booth- Who doesn't love to don a feather boa and a cowboy hat every now and again? I freehand cut black paper mustaches and hot glue gunned them to skinny wooden dowels (Hobby Lobby). I gathered props and costumes from our playroom as well as Hobby Lobby and Party City. 
As much as I love carnie games, at a party like this, it’s a good idea to have other group games planned as well. It gives you a chance to gather all the kids up for a little structured play time before you do cake and presents .

which quickly ended up in a (parent sanctioned) WATER BALLOON FIGHT.

 An obstacle course, relay race, and/or hula hoop contest would all work really well here too. We just ran out of time.

I am a simple country girl. I don’t know if there is any food I love more than Navajo tacos and elephant ears. I needed to keep it a little more simple for this carnival though, since I knew I would be busy keeping close tabs on a lot of kiddos, coordinating all the events and running the face painting booth as well. The food needed to consist of items that could be prepped before hand that little fingers could help themselves to. So, I decided on some of mine and Azure's other favorite fair treats…kettle corn, cotton candy (machine rented from Bruno’s Party Time Rental), licorice, salt water taffy, pretzels from Costco with melted Velveeta cheese, sugar cookies made to look like Whirly Pops, and cake & cupcakes made to look like buckets of popcorn. 
Yes, my dears, get your printers ready...here are the RECIPES for my homemade fair fare:

Make your favorite cupcake recipe. Mine is found at the cheekykitchen.
Top with your favorite butter cream frosting, mine is found here.

And then follow one of the many guides to making mini-marshmallows look like popcorn. I watched this one, and modified.
In an effort to save time whilst creating 80 cupcakes, I did not cut my marshmallows – I ripped and twisted and pinched and then placed them on the buttercream topped cakes. I scoured my city and couldn’t find red & white striped paper anywhere, and remembered while standing in the middle of the fifth store on my search, that I had red & white striped wrapping paper tucked away in a closet back home. That’s what I used, and though it was a little flimsy, did the job. {Thanks Grammy for helping with cupcake paper wrapping!} I also did not get to the 'butter' painting. I saved that for very last of all my things to get done that day, just in case I had spare time. Clearly, I did not have spare time, but I think they looked just delightful, even without it.

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
2/3 cup whipping cream
*cream together
5 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
*mix together
Bake at 350 for 6-8 minutes

1 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp. milk
2 tsp. light corn syrup
¼ tsp. vanilla extract
red food coloring (only for swirls)

Insert the sucker stick immediately after baking, with cookie lying on cooling rack. Let cool completely. Frost with white icing. Let harden. Ice with red swirls. Put in freezer over night to harden. Place in clear treat bags (purchased at Target), and tie with red ribbon. Return to freezer for up to 2 weeks until the day of your party.

MOCK KETTLE CORNair popper style, (popcorn bags from Hobby Lobby)
½ cup unpopped popcorn
¼ cup corn syrup
1/3 cup sugar
¼ cup butter
½ tsp. vanilla
1 tsp salt

Pop corn in a hot-AIR popper
In a small saucepan, combine butter, corn syrup and sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
Cook over medium heat 1 minute, continuing to stir gently.
Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
Sprinkle salt over popcorn, then pour syrup over popcorn and stir to coat evenly.
Let cool slightly before serving.

And there you have it. A carnival fit for a king, or a sweet eight year old girl, and 34 of her closest friends.