How To: Get Great Family Photos (for Your Holiday Cards!)

It’s that time of year again—time to start thinking about family photos to grace this year’s holiday card. So whether you’re hiring a professional photographer or staging your own portrait session, these expert tips from talented San Francisco-based family photographers Katie Rain and Sarah Sloboda will ensure that you nail that picture-perfect shot.

How to Get Great Family Photos for Your Holiday Cards Photo: Katie Rain Photography

BOOK A PHOTOGRAPHER EARLY (AKA NOW!)
Reserve a session with your favorite local photographer as soon as you can. “October and November are always the busiest months of the year,” says San Francisco-based photographer Katie Rain. “Reach out early to ensure you get a session on the calendar.” Some photographers also offer shorter “mini” portrait sessions, so sign up for photographers’ mailing lists to hear about the offerings before everyone else does.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR
First, think about when you’d like to send out your holiday cards, suggests photographer Sarah Sloboda, who is also based in San Francisco. Right after Thanksgiving? Just as long as it’s before New Year’s? “Figure out the date you need to send them by, subtract a couple days for safety, and then subtract your card company’s turnaround and shipping times,” Sarah says. (Turnaround times can be found on the card company’s website.) Then, mark that day on your calendar with a big X—that’s your drop-dead date for placing your holiday-card order.

How to Get Great Family Photos for Your Holiday Cards Photo: Sarah Sloboda

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Most photographers will suggest some local photo-shoot locations, but you can also think of your portrait session as an opportunity to do something fun as a family. Visit that new art museum that opened recently and check out some exhibits together. Or, if your family loves the water, you could head to the local pier, beach, or aquarium. “My job is to help clients think in reverse—memories are something we look back on, but when planning a photo session, you want to look forward,” says Sarah. “What would be a special experience for you and your family? Documenting those moments will bring back more memories than just standing somewhere posing.”

How to Get Great Family Photos for Your Holiday Cards Photo: Katie Rain Photography

TIME IT RIGHT
Avoid taking photos at noon, when the sunlight is at its harshest. Instead, schedule your portrait session for late-morning, which is the ideal time for kids of all ages. “It’s when they’re most awake and their energy is still fresh,” says Sarah. However, if you’re going the DIY route and taking your own portraits with a camera and tripod, Katie Rain suggests timing it for “golden hour” —about an hour before sunset—when the sunlight is soft and most flattering.

How to Get Great Family Photos for Your Holiday Cards Photo: Sarah Sloboda

RESORT TO BRIBERY
“A photo shoot is a time for relaxed discipline and healthy bribes,” says Sarah Sloboda. Entice your kids with a reward after the photo shoot if they have fun and participate and pay attention. And during the session, remind them of the bribe. It helps if you keep everything positive—threats and discipline can really make a child stew, and then natural smiles will be hard to come by. A great photographer will develop their own rapport with your child, so encourage them to interact with them directly. Often children want to please strangers that they like, so if you refrain from too much reprimanding and give them space to listen to the photographer’s suggestions, they’ll often listen to them better than their parents (sorry, but it’s true!).


More from Katie Rain & Sarah Sloboda:
Katie Rain’s Portfolio
Katie Rain’s Instagram
Sarah Sloboda’s Portfolio
Sarah Sloboda’s Instagram 

More from Minted:
Holiday Photo Cards
2016 Top-Voted Holiday Cards
Foil-Pressed Holiday Cards

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A Beginner’s Guide: Starting an Art Collection

Collecting art sounds like a daunting task, something that perhaps requires an art-history major, loads of disposable income, and jet-setting to the latest “it” art fair. Not to mention all the questions that come along with it: How do you know what’s good? Where do I look? How much should you pay? Rest assured and definitely don’t be intimidated—anyone can collect art, whether you’re bidding for Klees at Christie’s or thrifting at garage sales in search of an overlooked gem.

Ready to dive in and start your own art collection? Click through for our guide to starting an art collection you love (without breaking the bank).

1. Browse a ton of art.
The best way to start your personal art collection is to figure out what types of art you like. Are there certain styles, colors, or subject matters that draw you in? Do you gravitate toward black-and-white photos, modern abstract paintings, Dutch-inspired still lifes? Note what you love.

Seeing art up close and personal, of course, is the best way to get acquainted with art. Visit local museums and galleries, attend MFA shows and exhibitions at nearby art schools, check out nearby First Fridays art strolls and chat with the exhibiting artists. In addition to browsing art in person, flip through art magazines at the bookstore and browse the many online resources for great (and affordable!) art: Minted, Etsy, 20×200, Artfully Walls, Saatchi Art, just to name a few.

Click through for more tips on buying art and starting your own art collection

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DIY: Fabric-Lined Wood Tray

Written by Sara Albers and Melissa Fenlon of  Alice & Lois

Sometimes, we fall in love with a certain patterned fabric and want to use it for absolutely everything. And we’re feeling the love right now for “Midnight Florals” by Alethea and Ruth, the crafting possibilities are endless with this pretty floral print—pillows, pouches, totes, trays… First up for us is this super simple fabric-lined wood tray. Your fave fabric, scissors, and Mod Podge are all you need to dress up a plain wood tray and make it unique. It’s perfect to use this summer for backyard picnics and barbecues, or as a coffee-table accent for books and a vase of flowers.

DIY Fabric Lined Wood Tray | alice & lois for minted
DIY Fabric Lined Wood Tray | alice & lois for minted

Click through for the easy step-by-step instructions…

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5 Ideas for Throwing a Laid-Back Fourth of July Picnic

My favorite way to celebrate the Fourth and beat the heat? A simple outdoor picnic featuring a cool color scheme and even-colder drinks. So whether you’re planning a summer picnic or a casual backyard fete, these are my favorite tips for a simple outdoor soirée.

july fourth table styled for minted by kelli hall
july fourth table styled for minted by kelli hall
boxed blueberries, july fourth table styled for minted by kelli hall Package your favorite summer fruit in individual-size kraft boxes.

july fourth table styled for minted by kelli hall Fresh cherries make a simple snack.

1. Think finger foods.
You can make a terrific picnic with foods that require only two fingers to eat. Start with the healthy nibbles packaged in individual portions: summer fruit like blueberries and cherries, olives, cheese cubes, crackers, and so on. Then, round those out with heartier options such as open-face sandwiches, sliders, or a make-your-own bruschetta bar with baguette slices and a variety of toppings.

blueberry and rasperry ice cubes,july fourth table styled for minted by kelli hall Frozen-berry ice cubes in patriotic colors

2. Keep drinks ice-cold.
Help guests beat the heat by making sure their drinks stay cold. Wrap beverage bottles in cloth napkins to insulate and keep them chilled; I also love freezing fresh berries in ice cubes for a quick cocktail cool-down.

july fourth mini picnic styled for minted by kelli hall Large throw pillows are a comfy alternative to a picnic blanket.

sparkler and tag, july fourth table styled for minted by kelli hall

3. Add festive summer touches.
What’s July 4th without some sparkle? Be sure to pack sparklers (or small bottles of bubbles if you’ve got lots of younger kiddos in tow) for some post-picnic fun. Pro tip: Place the sparkers (handles down) in a container about half full of water; once they’ve been used, you can quickly extinguish them in the water.

july fourth table styled for minted by kelli hall Tie a simple tag on a sparkler stick with festive grosgrain ribbon.

bubbles and wand, july fourth table styled for minted by kelli hall Your littlest guests will love a bottle of bubbles with a unique blowing wand. 

july fourth table styled for minted by kelli hall

4. Keep things packable and portable
When you’re planning a summer picnic, packing is key—here are some of my favorite tips and ideas:
• Wrap drink bottles in fabric napkins to keep drinks insulated (and looking pretty!).
• I also like to roll fabric napkins and a fabric table runner around drink bottles—it helps save on basket space and keeps them wrinkle-free.
• Recruit helpers: I usually ask two people to help carry all of the picnic items to the picnic (all in one trip!).

fabric wrapped bottle, july fourth table styled for minted by kelli hall A simple napkin wrap keeps drinks cool and bottles pretty.

menu hand fan, july fourth table styled for minted by kelli hall Cool down with a paper-menu-turned-hand-fan.

5. Think double-duty.
Keep things efficient by choosing picnic items that will work double-duty:
• Beat the heat with paper-menu hand fans: Attach a wooden stick to the back of a menu card and wave away the humidity and bugs!
• I like to wrap flowers in a white paper lunch bag—it keeps the stems in place while packing your picnic and can be used as a bag for post-picnic rubbish.
• Decorate place settings with fruit to add a festive pop of color and also serve as a tasty snack.

july fourth table styled for minted by kelli hall Wrap flowers in a paper lunch bag that can be used later for rubbish.

july fourth table styled for minted by kelli hall Scatter cherries on the picnic table like edible confetti.

summer poppies, july fourth table styled for minted by kelli hall Decorate the picnic table with a simple mason-jar arrangement of one or two blooms, like poppies and Queen Anne’s lace.

july fourth table styled for minted by kelli hall

july fourth table styled for minted by kelli hall

Resources:
“Watercolor Frame” invitation by Laura Condouris for Minted
“Cute Red Little Flowers” fabric napkins by Alexandra Dzh for Minted
“Breton Stripe” table runner by Melissa Selmin for Minted
Wooden cutlery
“Ombre” menu card by Dean Street for Minted
Hand-fan sticks
“Cool Cobalt” pillow by Kelli Hall for Minted
Mini buckets
Bubble wand
Bubble bottles
Picnic table
Picnic basket (similar)
“Enjoy” gift tags by Melanie Severin for Minted
Small modern cake stand from Minted
Wire basket (thrifted)
Kraft boxes from Minted
“Family Name” stickers by Jill Means for Minted
“Aviary & Ink” place cards by Kelli Hall for Minted
“Johannis” gift tags by Jack Knoebber for Minted
“Kite” party sign by Lena Barakat for Minted

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How To: Decorate a Store-Bought Cake

Sometimes there just isn’t any time to bake a cake from scratch. And sometimes your attempt at a homemade cake completely flops. And sometimes all the birthday kid really wants is bakery frosting. Whatever the reason, there’s no shame in a store-bought cake. And all it takes is a few minutes to make it look good, no skill required.

easy ways to decorate a cake

Click through to see the “before” cake and two other decorating ideas below…

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How To: Throw a Baby Shower in Just One Week

I recently threw a baby shower for my sister-in-law and, while I knew about it for months, I procrastinated as usual and put it all together in just a week’s time. Amazingly, it turned out just how I wanted it to, so here are my tips and timeline advice on throwing a great shower when you find yourself short on time:

baby shower decorations

One Month Before the Shower:
• Mail the baby shower invitations (okay, so this is the only step that should be done more than a week out).

fresh floral garland hanging balloons eucalyptus garland

One Week Before the Shower:
• Order florals. I ordered bay leaf and seeded eucalyptus garlands and peonies from Flower Muse. Accessibility to great florals is limited in my area so ordering online was the way to go. The quality was great and all the guests commented on how nice the garlands smelled.
• Order cookie containers to pass out as favors.
• Order any other supplies that aren’t convenient for you to buy locally, like pretty paper plates and decorations.

baby shower printables

Three Days Before the Shower:
• Print “motherly advice” cards and cookie-favor labels and trim.

baby shower menu
pink ombre cake

Two Days Before the Shower:
• Purchase food and any final supplies. The menu for this shower included turkey/bacon/pesto sandwiches, pasta and green salads, guacamole and chips, smoothies, and chocolate cake.

baby shower decorations

One Day Before the Shower:
• Food prep, which included making cookies for the favors
• Hang balloons from ceiling with fishing line and tape
• Decorate

hanging upside down balloons
where to order fresh flowers

Day of the Shower:
• Finish food prep
• Arrange florals
• Set out party favors
• Celebrate!

party favors

Completely doable right?! Proof that a great party doesn’t have to take loads of time.

Resources:
• Baby banner, lanterns, and cake plates from Meri Meri
• Greenery garlands and peonies from Flower Muse
• Table linen fabric from Minted
• Pint containers (for cookies) on Amazon
• Letter board from Letterfolk


More How-To Guides:
• How To: Host the Prettiest Spring Brunch
• How To: Create an Art Gallery Wall at Home
• How To: Make Mini “Naked” Cakes

More from Minted:
• Fabric
• Stickers and Labels
• Name Labels

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How To: Host the Prettiest Spring Brunch

Spring is in the air! My favorite way to celebrate the season? By hosting a brunch for friends, with a pretty palette inspired by glowy honey golds and delicate spring blossoms. Want to host your own spring-inspired fête? Keep reading for my tips on welcoming the season with a simple, freshly styled table.


spring pollen and rose quartz inspired brunch table by kelli hall

1. Set the tone with table linens.
A striped table linen offers the perfect graphic counterpoint to feminine blooms—after all, it’s about simplicity and balance. I like a linen with an asymmetrical, relaxed drape. To be completely honest, this tablecloth had a raw edge, which I don’t mind at all: I simply trimmed some yardage from one of my favorite patterned fabrics and tossed it on the table. Add cloth napkins with painted cherry blossoms and you’ve got a fresh, pretty table.

spring pollen and rose quartz inspired brunch table by kelli hall, copper piping place card holder

2. Add simple (and cheap!) table accessories.
Place cards can work for even the smallest of gatherings and add a special touch to a relaxed table. The key is easy presentation: Here, I repurposed simple copper pipe caps to hold a each place card (check back later this week for the copper place-card holder DIY). As for the napkins? I threaded the cloth napkins through a gold-toned purse ring. Napkin rings feel fresh again and these purse findings make the perfect linen bundle (and cost less than a dollar per ring!). Unsure if gold and copper can play well together? Of course they can—mixed metallics make for an decidedly informal feel.

spring pollen and rose quartz inspired brunch table by kelli hall

3. Choose double-duty menu items.
To save both time and money, think about how your food can double as decor. Jewel-like honey pots, ruby-hued grapefruit slices, and soft meringue icing on a cake all taste as delicious as they look.

spring pollen and rose quartz inspired brunch table by kelli hall Ruby-hued grapefruit adds a pop of color to the table.

spring pollen and rose quartz inspired brunch table by kelli hall Honey jar favors will give your spring table a soft, amber glow.

Click through for more tips on hosting a spring brunch

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How to: Host a Sweet Cookie-Decorating Party

Want a surefire way to delight a group of kids this Valentine’s Day? Encourage them to play with their food! We dreamed up this bold and bright cookie-decorating party with a sweet modern theme; recreate it at home this Valentine’s Day by following our steps below.


Step 1: Invite Your Guests
Set the tone for your cookie-decorating party with a bold and bright invitation. Think: modern typography, graphic lines, and loads of saturated color. We adore this “In Love” invitation by Kim Dietrich Elam.

Step 2: Pre-Bake the Cookies
Store-bought dough is perfect for this (that’s what we used), but if you’d like to make your own dough from scratch, we love this sugar-cookie recipe from Julep contributor Melissa Bahen of Lulu the Baker. Pre-bake the cookies ahead of time for your party; estimate three to six cookies for each child to decorate (you’ll pack up the extras for them to enjoy later).

Condiment squeeze bottles are much easier for kids to use
(and are way less messy!) than icing piping bags.

Step 3: Prep the Cookie Decorations
Here’s what you’ll need:
• Royal icing and condiment bottles
We made ours using this royal-icing recipe; add flavors and colors to the icing to your liking, then pour the icing into squeeze bottles and label each with a flavor sticker.
• Sprinkles/candy/other cookie embellishments and paint palette trays
Plastic paint palettes are a clever way to neatly corral all your cookie embellishments in one place.

Tip: If you have young kids, you can pre-frost the cookies by flooding them with a layer of royal icing (above) and allowing them to set in advance. The kids can then use the icing bottles to “glue” on cookie decorations like sprinkles and candy.

Letter-shaped cookie cutters will help the little decorators find their seat.

Step 4: Set Up
Before everyone arrives:
• Cover your tabletop with a playful table linen that complements the overall party vibe. We used “Golden Triangle” by Cindy Lackey. Alternatively, you could cut rectangles of wrapping paper to make placemats (so easy to clean up, too!).
• Stack the pre-baked cookies on a tray in the center of the table.
• Set out individual cookie-decorating embellishments at each place setting (the paint palettes also work perfectly for mixing icing and sprinkles!)
• Set out a cookie cutter in each child’s initial. They make the perfect place marker and take-home gift for future baking adventures.

Click through to read the rest of our cookie-decorating party ideas

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How To Display Your Holiday Cards: Fabric Cork Board

Chances are you’ve received lots of holiday cards from loved ones in the mail by now. Instead of letting them pile up on the kitchen counter, show ‘em off by displaying them on this clever fabric-covered cork board. This easy DIY project was created for us by the lovely Melissa Fallon of the fabulous blog Design Eat Repeat; it’s designed to look like a cute envelope with its heart-shaped seal (which also makes it perfect for Valentine’s Day—just keep it up until February rolls around, then swap out the holiday cards for valentines!).

How To Display Holiday Cards: Fabric-Covered Cork Board

Click through for the step-by-step instructions

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How To: Assemble the Perfect Fall Gift Basket

Sure, a pre-made gift basket is totally convenient, but let’s face it—nobody wants cheese dip with pimentos (and there are always pimentos in there!). Rather than buying a basket full of uninspired snacks, the better way to go is to assemble your own gift containing your favorite fall-inspired goodies—it makes the perfect present for a new neighbor, teacher, or coworker. Here’s all the ingredients you need to assemble the perfect fall-themed gift basket:

personalized gift basket

Click through for Melanie’s fall gift basket ideas

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