Friday, 13 December 2013

Please don't say cheese! A Review on how to take the best photographs of your kids PLUS a Giveaway

A couple of weeks ago I joined a bunch of fabulous Northern Beaches bloggers to do a photography course on the beach.  This was no ordinary photography course - it was one run by the lovely Robyn from Please don't say cheese and her objective is to teach parents how to take better photographs of their kids using their OWN cameras.

When I first met Robyn, at local business networking session, I jumped at the chance to do her course.  I absolutely love taking photos and might have a teeny weeny reputation for being a bit snap happy.  I think it drives my kids mad - although they can occasionally be very obliging and just humour their mum!  Most of the time I have to be so quick to get any decent shots of them in action.  It frustrates me so much when I don't have the camera on the right setting and I 'miss' that amazing moment!  It's even more frustrating when I capture that 'moment' only to discover that it's out of focus or blurry!!!
This photo of me was taken by Carolyn at Desire Empire
Ever since I've had my iphone 5 I have to admit that I take the majority of my photos with that, as the camera on it is pretty awesome (for a phone).  It's so handy because I pretty much ALWAYS have it with me.  Carrying around (or remembering to carry around) my big DSLR camera is such a pain sometimes that I don't use it nearly as much as I should.  When I do use it, I then regret not using it more often!!  One of the reasons I don't use it nearly as much as I should is because I don't actually know how to use it properly (other than on Auto!!).  I know this is a shameful thing to admit, but according to Robyn from Please don't say cheese, I am not the only one!!!

Robyn's course is 3 hours long and she takes you out 'on location' somewhere along Sydney's Northern Beaches.  We were at Dee Why Beach for ours.  She likes to go early in the morning or later in the afternoon to make the most of the 'golden hour of light', which she explains is the BEST light for taking photographs.

She taught us (using our own camera's) how to use aperture and shutter speed, how to get the best action shots and close ups and how to get that lovely 'blury' background, amongst other things. She also gave us SO many little useful tips that I would never have thought of.  Now all that's left for me to do it practice, practice, practice!!!!

Robyn also offers some great editing advice, tips and help once you have the done the course to help you make those photos you've taken even more amazing!!  She will taylor this advice to whichever editing package you currently use, so there is no need to go out an buy one.

Me in 'action' (by Carolyn again) taking close up photos of the flowers.
If you'd like to know more about this course and more about Robyn and her photography background, then you can contact her at Please Don't Say Cheese.  I think it would make a fabulous Christmas gift if you have a new camera or, if like me, you just LOVE taking photos and could do with a bit of expert advice.

Robyn has come up with a great idea for a giveaway for you.  She would like to offer 3 lucky Mrs D plus 3 readers the opportunity to do this course with me, sometime in the New Year!!  YAY - I get to do it again and get the chance to meet some of you!  Unfortunately due to logistical reasons, this giveaway is only available to Sydney based readers - but never fear, if you don't live in Sydney you can download Robyn's top 10 tips for taking better photos right HERE for FREE!!

Disclaimer:  I was not paid to write this review however I did not pay to attend the course.  All opinions are my own and all the photos I have used were taken and edited by me, unless otherwise stated.  The camera I used was a Canon EOS DSLR and the editing package I used was Pic Monkey.

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Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Cicada's!! A few random facts you might not have known....

This is a bit of a random post and if you don't live in a area where there are cicada you'll probably wonder what on earth I'm on about!!
A green cicada shedding its shell.  Image credit
I am sitting at my desk trying to get some work done while Miss L is asleep, and I can hardly hear myself think!!!!  The noise of the cicadas outside is literally deafening and really distracting when you're trying to concentrate.  I think it's a bit creepy that you can hear them everywhere you go but you never see them (except for their outer shells that are laying around everywhere).  Which is a actually blessing, because I think if I ever did see them flying around I can't promise I wouldn't freak out!!

Master J told me the other day that those little drips of water (like very light rain) you feel when standing under a tree is cicada wee.  "Oh really!!" I said, humouring him.  "IT IS MUM!!!" he insisted.  I decided to google it and guess what - he was right!!!!  EWWWW I am so not standing under any big trees any more.

While discovering that cicada's do in fact 'wee' on us, I also learnt a few other random facts about these strange bugs which I thought I would share......
  1. Once their eggs are laid they live under the ground for 7 years before they dig themselves to the surface to breed.
  2. They only come to the surface when the ground temperature is above 18 degrees C, so with our unseasonably warm weather this season they are out early.
  3. They are actually large tree crickets (not locusts)
  4. They drink the sap from trees and then 'wee' it out!!! True fact!!
  5. This year in Sydney there is a huge population of up to 1.5 million per acre.  WOWZERS!!
  6. They are the loudest insects know to man and a large swarm of them can reach up to 120 decibels - which is louder than a rock concert or a chain saw!!  No wonder I can't hear myself think!!
  7. Only the males sing because they are trying to 'woo' the females for a bit of loving!  Once they've mated they only last another month before dying.
  8. There are several different species and they all have their own unique song and colours. Some of have nicknames like the Green Grocer, Chocolate Soldier, Blue Moon and Yellow Monday.
  9. They shed their shells (usually at night) and often kids, like my Master J, like to collect the shells and bring them in to show you.  How lovely (not)!!!
  10. They are known to be 'the sound of summer'.  They louder they are and the earlier they start, the hotter the summer will be.
So there you have it, a very random but true bunch of facts about these strange little bugs that are driving me crazy at the moment.

Do you have any cicada stories??  Are they deafening you too???

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Sunday, 8 December 2013

Christmas Mince Scrolls - a slight twist to the more traditional Mince Pie (Thermomix Recipe)

Possibly not the prettiest looking scrolls but they were delicious!
I made the most DELICIOUS christmas fruit mince the other day.  It was so good I had to stop myself from eating it out of the jar with a spoon.  It was the first time I've ever made it and it was surprisingly easy - so much so that I don't think I'll ever buy mince pies again.

The kids are not huge fans of mince pies so this was really a treat for me.  I was all set to make my pies (with my special mince) when I saw a Jamie Oliver Christmas show on TV and he made scrolls instead of pies!!  Genius!  So I decided to be a bit of a copycat and make them too.  I do still want to make my pies but I think I'm going to have to wait just a little bit closer to Christmas otherwise I'll just eat them all - and then have to make them again!!!

Here's my recipe:  

  • 500g apples (peeled and cored)
  • 1/2 orange (juice and rind)
  • 1/2 lemon (juice and rind)
  • 300g mixed fruit (raisons, sultanas, cherries etc)
  • 30g dried cranberries
  • 50g raw almonds
  • 30g butter
  • 50g brandy
  • 20g apple cider vinegar
  • 200g raw sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp mixed spice

  1. Put the orange and lemon rind into the thermomix and blitz it for about 10 seconds on speed 8/9.  Scrape the sides and repeat if you need to until it is very finely grated.  If you prefer it chunkier then use speed 5.
  2. Add  the juice of the orange and lemon, the apples and almonds.  Chop them on speed 5 for about 5 seconds until they are in quite small chunks.
  3. Add everything else and cook for 30 minutes on 100 degrees with reverse speed soft.
The smell in the kitchen is AMAZING and so Christmassy, you have to make it just for that. Once the mince is ready you can store it in sterilised jars or put it aside for your mince pies or scrolls (or just eat it as it is like me!!).

To make the scrolls all you'll need is the mince (of course) and a few sheets of puff pastry.  

Firstly pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees.  Spread the fruit mince over the pastry sheet until it is completly covered and then roll it up like a long sausage.  You can use some beaten egg to help seal the ends together. 

Slice them up into 2-3cm sections (or bigger if you prefer) and arrange them on a baking tray facing upwards.  Sprinkle over some vanilla sugar over the top of them and bake for approx 20 minutes, or until they are golden brown and the pastry has completely cooked through.

Serve with custard, cream, ice-cream or brandy butter or just eat them on their own. DELICIOUS!!

I've saved some of my mince so that I can make the more traditional mince pies with my mum when she arrives from London in two weeks!!  At least then there will be more than just me eating them.

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Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Happy 1st Birthday Mrs D plus 3

Exactly one year today I started blogging as "Mrs D plus 3".  It feels a bit surreal actually, as I feel like I have been doing it forever.  I did do a little bit of blogging before I 'launched' Mrs D plus 3 (well it was hardly a launch, but for want of a better word) but it was so sporadic and I think the only people that read them were my family and few friends.  I really only did it to keep everyone in England up to date with what we were up when we moved to Australia and it seemed easier than writing the same email response over and over again.

I was so clueless back then about 'blogging' that I really didn't even know what it was.  I didn't have any social media accounts - I had NO IDEA what twitter was and I had never even heard of SEO.

I can't believe how far I've come since then and how much I've learnt.  Not just about blogging and social media, but about myself too.

If you fancy a giggle you can read the first blog post I EVER published HERE.

It's been a bit of a funny old day today.  I thought I would be out celebrating reaching my one year goal, but actually I have a horrible lump in my tummy and I feel really sad.  Nothing to worry about though and it's TOTALLY my own fault.  Yesterday there was the most adorable little puppy that needed a home and Miss L (and me) fell totally in love with her.  I really shouldn't have -  but I brought her home for a sleepover while they tried to find her and home and we all fell in love with her.  She was the cutest and most placid little thing and she just let the kids carry her around the house all afternoon and then (very naughty I know) she fell asleep with me in our bed last night.  We all decided that we just had to keep her so we gave our landlord a quick call and his answer was a categoric NO!  I am sure my Dad will be reading this thinking 'Good - the last thing you need is a dog.' and he's probably right.  I just never imagined I'd fall in love with a dog so quickly.  We'll get over it soon enough I'm sure - but right now, I'm feeling a bit devastated..
Isn't she just adorable??? Why I do these things to myself I do not know!!
Anyway after that little side track back to Mrs D plus 3.  I could go on about how much I've learnt etc etc but three biggest things that pop into my head right now are:

1.  How amazing my readers are.  I didn't in my wildest dreams image that so many people would actually read what I write and I really can't thank you enough.  You are ALL awesome.
2.  How much I love blogging.  I don't earn any money from it, yet I don't think I'll ever stop.  Writing on Mrs D plus 3 makes me happy.
3.  How many incredible on-line people I have met.  Some of whom I would actually call friends.  The blogging community is so incredibly, friendly, supportive, passionate and just all round fabulous.

So there you have it


I  hope you're all having a lovely day and thanks again so much for reading.

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