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    My name is Corina Nielsen and I am so happy you stopped by. I provide custom photography services in San Diego, Ca., mainly specializing in newborn portraiture and I also run a separate graphic design business helping photographers define their business identity. You can see samples of all my work right here on my blog... both of my photography and design portfolio's are located right in the above menu! Please take a look and if you are interested in either booking a session or getting on my design wait list, you can use the contact form to get in touch! I look forward to talking with you soon!

December Wrap Up- Part 1

December has definitely not turned out to be anything like I had planned for myself but it still all worked out to be a fantastic month in the end.  Why we decided to do a last minute remodel of the studio and guest room right in the middle of the holiday season, I will never know BUT luckily we got through it with flying colors and I couldn’t be more happy with the project.  I seriously cannot wait to show it off… just waiting on some studio sample products from the lab and then you can expect a full detailed post with lots of pictures!

The new “25 day Christmas Countdown” activity list has made a big impact on the family this month.  It was always a special treat waking up and having the kids run to see what we had planned for the day.  I am actually pretty shocked that both my 7 & 13 year old were excited about it all!   I knew my younger one would love the holiday stuff, but my older one was totally on board for most of it as well.  We will be keeping up with the majority of these new traditions in the coming years!  Here are a few more of the activities we did this month…

We planted a candy cane garden!

I grabbed some oatmeal, red glitter, small terra cotta pots (which the kids painted white), some candy cane sprinkles/cake decorations, some dirt from the garden, and then a few small candy canes for the project!  My 13 year old was excited to paint his pot, but then lost interest quick so it was just my daughter, hubby, the dog and me for this!

Put some dirt in the bottom of the pot, then I had Makena mix in the “magic fertilizer” (oatmeal and glitter), and added the candy cane “seeds”.

She watered them for a couple of days and then she watched them “grow”!  I actually had them grow in upside down first, dug in about 1″ or so and then flipped them around the following day:)

We had a Grinch movie night… I had been looking forward to this one ALL month long!  As soon as December 1 hit, the kids were both asking to watch “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” so I think next year, I might do this the first weekend of the month.  In any case, we had SO much fun!  It started out with doing Makena’s hair… of course we had to attempt something very Cindy Lou Who-ish:) Very cute for our themed movie night, kinda awkward walking through Target with her though.  We got the strangest looks ever… we couldnt have but laugh about it!

Then the kids and I made some snacks… Grinch punch (lime sherbet, sprite, a couple of drops of green food coloring in a red sugar rimmed glass, Grinch crinkle vanilla cookies, and a triple layer heart cake (didn’t get a picture of that though)!

One thing I decided when I did the list for the month was to pick ONE nice, easy, and inexpensive craft that could double as a little treat for people (garbage collector, postal carrier, cashiers at the market, neighbors, local police & fire department, etc.  I chose the candy cane reindeers with a box of pre done cards from Target.  Most of the little gifts we gave people had these 2 items attached to them.  Instead of trying to come up with a bunch of different things, these were SO easy for the kids to do themselves and didn’t cost much at all.

For our teacher gifts this year, we bought flowers & vases at a local nursery, bought some apples, kids wrote their cards out and included a Starbucks gift card, and made their candy cane reindeers.

These were our neighbor gifts… a CD of our favorite holiday tunes (with a print out of a quote from Elf) and homemade hot chocolate jars.  I LOVED how excited the kids were to deliver these to everyone in our cul de sac…

In the midst of the December holiday madness, I was also hosting my mommy groups annual Christmas party… this also happened to be the day that our oven decided to BREAK down!  We had the worst repairman and although he fixed it that day, it ended up breaking down again just a few days later.  We actually didnt have an oven until 4pm on Christmas Eve… seriously?  In any case, Costco saved the day for the Christmas party and the kids helped me put together my goodied for the gift exchange.  We made a few batches of gingerbread play dough (seriously SO easy and the kids loved playing with it) more homemade hot chocolate, and a little “spa” jar filled with a holiday loofah, lotions, soap, lip balm, nail file, nail polish remover, ruby red nail polish, cotton balls, and a cold eye mask.  They turned out so cute!

Makena also made the vegetable/cheese tray:)

And the oven was fixed just in time for one batch of my pumpkin gingerbread cupcakes!

Last thing I wanted to share was the new wall decal I got…. SO in love with this.  We put it up across from our updated photo wall which is in the center of the whole house.  I adore how we can see/read it every time we come down the stairs and it can really be seen from anywhere downstairs.  This decal is one of my favorite things in the whole house now:)

In case anyone is interested in our activity list for next year or the printables I made for us, I figured I would go ahead and make those available to everyone!

This was my list:

And you can download the printables HERE or you can click the image below!

Just a few notes… you can print this on plain paper or cardstock through your color printer, its a standard 8.5 x 11 sized sheet!  The candy cane garden cut out is meant to be used with a standard zip lock bag… just print,  fold it in half, and staple I made this AFTER we did our activity so mine is a bit different above and the CD cover is just used on a standard jewel CD case!    Hope you enjoy!

Stay tuned…. lots more to share soon!

Diane Enarson - December 27, 2012 - 11:45 pm

Thanks for Sharing Corina. I love how creative you are and how sweet and loving your family is. Wished I lived in your neighborhood! :) ) Thanks for the activities printout. Will definitly have to try it next year!!! Love your wall decal!!!!Glad you the oven was fixed in time!! Glad you had a wonderful holiday!!

Angela - January 1, 2013 - 3:14 am

Where did you get your wall vinyl from? What sizes are the letters??? Love love love this saying!!!!

New traditions & Deck the halls

Excited to share a little “personal” post this week.  I don’t share much of the pictures I take on a day to day basis with my family because, well, frankly it just takes too much time AWAY from them when I have to take the pictures off the big camera, edit, upload, post, etc.  Unless I’m posting on my Instagram which is super easy and instant on the iPhone, 99.9% of our personal stuff is just left on the computer and printed.  However, with December upon us and me more or less just wrapping up a few last branding projects & a handful of newborn babies… I’m technically “OFF” this month!  I have been able to find some time in between our activities to even breath!  It’s been a GREAT week here so I wanted to share some things my family has been up to!

December has actually been a VERY difficult month for me the past few years.  Not only is it the anniversary of my father’s passing, but it is also his birthday month.  Total double whammy.  I started dreading the month starting in September and then spent most of December hiding tears from family & friends.  It’s always hard losing a parent or someone you love, but having that happen around the holidays is especially a downer.  I decided this year was going to be different for me though…. I knew that if I kept myself busy (and not with work), it might help alleviate some of my anxiety.

I decided that planning something for the family to do each day would do the trick.  I knew I needed to organize it though and have it planned out so turned to Pinterest for some advent ideas!  Thus our 25 day countdown to Christmas “calendar” was born…

I went to Lowe’s and picked up a few items… a small piece of plywood, cream spray paint, picture hanging brackets, and little hooks.  I already had the foam number stamps, green/red paint, and canvas bags so for under $8 I was able to come up with something that is sturdy, cute, and will last forever!  The kids were SO excited about this and everyday they go back and forth opening the pouch for the day.

There are a TON of great ideas on Pinterest for holiday activities to do… I posted some on my Christmas board if you want to shuffle through them.  I picked and chose ones that I felt were important to me and things I knew the kids would enjoy.  There were so many things I wanted to do and make that I had to double up on activities on a few of the days.

The very first activity for us was to make a list of things we are thankful for this December. Initially, I was just going to keep the handwritten lists and save them BUT then when I was at Michaels picking up a few things, I found these clear “make your own ornaments”.  Thought I would make the activity even better and have everyone put their lists inside them!  We all typed out our lists on the computer, cut each item out, and put them in the ornaments.  What a GREAT keepsake to have and is going to be fun looking at them years down the line.  Love this new tradition!

Makena couldn’t help but double the amount of her list… And Blake tried to put Comet in his ornament since he is thankful for him:)

Perhaps my favorite item Makena put on her list… she is SO my daughter!

Another of my favorites this week was writing a letter to a soldier.  One of my mommy friends on Facebook (thanks Oriana) had posted a link a few weeks ago and I knew for sure I had to include it!  Kids were more than happy to show some appreciation to our men & women.  Blake’s letter was more than 2 pages and included an activity for them to do, some kind of puzzle he made up.  Makena kept it simple with a little note and illustration!  Both had very sweet letters.

In addition to writing their soldier letters, one of the other activities for the kids was  to write their lists out to Santa… all of the letters got mailed out together!

We also went through all of our closets, the garage, and the playroom and got rid of a TON of stuff!  Clothes, toys, electronics, furniture… everything was donated to a local shelter/half way house.  There are a lot of people trying to get on their feet out there… any little bit might help someone out more we know!

And since it’s the holidays… we had to throw in some baking here and there as well!  Perfect time to indulge and not feel guilty:) So far Makena and I have made Santa brownie hats & my Chocolate Mocha Cupcakes… hubby and Blake took part in the activity by EATING!

Another fun activity we did was making a few of these little treats and writing up cards.  Late last week while at the Starbucks, we brought a couple of these “gifts” with us and placed our order.  We not only bought our beverages & a hot chocolate for the Salvation Army bell ringer, we also left these and some money for the barista.  We asked her if she would be able to pick a couple of customers and give these to them… we said to pick customers that she felt were either having a bad day, looked stressed out, or who were just extra nice and friendly to her.  She looked at us VERY strange and even said she had never been asked to do something like this… I think she was inspired:) The kids wrote a little note in each of the cards saying “Happy Holidays… tis the Season… just a little something to brighten your day… With Love Makena and Blake” (something along those lines anyways lol)!

My kids LOVED doing this… this is something they asked to continue doing here and there throughout the year!  Can you imagine being the person receiving something like this?  You can’t help but get warm fuzzies in your tummy and want to join in.  Random Acts of Kindness… definitely something that should not only be done around the holidays!

Aside from our daily activities… I also wanted to spruce the holiday decor up this year.  One of my favorite things to decorate is our dining table.  Im a sucker for a pretty table scape!  I knew I didn’t want to go traditional “Christmas” though with ornaments, holiday colors, and an over the top look.  I opted for neutral, natural, simple, and beautiful.  I also didn’t want January to roll around and have to immediately change the look.  I feel like this is something I can carry on through all of Winter.

Hubby is always on board with my decorating shenanigans if he gets a piece of the action and gets to bust out a power tool so I enlisted him to make my little votive candle holders.  He cut up some pieces of wood for me (approximately 2″ tall) and then drilled holes in them.  I tied them off with a little old ribbon I had and VIOLA!  $0 spent….

I couldn’t find the kind of table runner I was looking for, so I decided to make my own.  Spent $6 on burlap and this is what I came up with… also tied off the chairs with some extra pieces I had.

OK and this idea… seriously ingenious!  THANK YOU PINTEREST….

I opted for the tiny clear hooks… also underestimated the cabinet length so couldn’t “tie” the ribbon on.  I had to cut a little slit in the ribbon and hang it that way.  Still totally worked perfect though!

Another little craft Makena and I did was make some throw pillows for our front room.  Instead of buying pillow forms at JoAnne’s we went to Good Will and bought these guys.  $2.99 each!  We got them home, washed and sanitized them, then began the project:)

First we measured and cut some neutral linen fabric I had for another project, then busted out some old scrapbooking stamps, and paint.  Makena was in charge of picking what we were going to write and then I helped her line things up to stamp.

Also dug into my button collection for her “LOVE” pillow…

And last for this post, but not least… hubby also gave us our annual matching Christmas pajamas!  He orders a new set for us every year.  These were SUPER comfy and from Chasing Fireflies.  Hubby always does a good job finding cute ones.  Unfortunately, he wanted nothing to do with having his picture taken for me to post though, gotta settle for me and the kiddos!

So, thats it…. a little over a week in December and it has been jam packed with busyness!  So many more things to share soon including our updated photo wall gallery and some other home decor stuff!

Happy December & Happy Holidays!

Lucy Chen - December 9, 2012 - 9:15 pm

Corina, can I come to your home for Christmas!!!??? Love love what you have!

Hope - December 10, 2012 - 8:41 am

You are such an inspiration. Love all your posts. Have a wonderful, blessed Holiday season

Jen - December 10, 2012 - 11:11 am

Beautiful, inspirational and definitely awesome role models! All I can say is LOVE! Merry Christmas to you and yours! xo

Rhonda Elder - December 10, 2012 - 12:11 pm

You are such a great mom. I admire you for taking the month off to make memories with your family.

Aunt Anita - December 10, 2012 - 12:15 pm

You are one creative Mom!! Have a wonderful Christmas! Love to all!

Lynette Moore - December 10, 2012 - 12:41 pm

You absolutely knock my socks off with your creativity, wish I could be more like that! AWESOME!!! Merry Christmas beautiful glad you are enjoying your December!! Love you….

Baby Avery: San Diego Newborn Photographer

December has officially arrived and so has my month OFF from identity branding and designing!  I have a few last clients to wrap up this week but after that December will be filled with family time, updating the website & blog, cleaning up the computers & hard drives, preparing tax stuff for January, crafting, new tutorials, and all things fun!  I will also be catching up on all of my blogging… there are 20 sessions just waiting to be uploaded.  Looking forward to getting this week out of the way so I can BREATH!

While I prepare for a busy Monday, I thought I would throw in another session from a few months ago, yes almost 3 months behind!

Meet Baby Avery…