Back in the fall we had family visiting, so we took a trip to the Philadelphia Zoo. Opening in 1874, it claims the title of America's first zoo. I'll admit, I'm a zoo freak. I love zoo trips and I love exotic animals. But I can also be extremely picky- if exhibits are dirty or small then I can quickly become unimpressed. I also come from Indiana where the Indianapolis Zoo had given me extremely high expectations.
The Philadelphia Zoo is extremely impressive, in my opinion. I have been to several zoos, and this one definitely didn't disappoint. At $23 per adult (plus additional for parking) this seemed a little pricy, but it was worth it. We spent an entire day at the zoo and barely got to see everything. This zoo is huge which is surprising considering it's in the middle of Philly.
The zoo averages 1.2 million visitors a year and houses about 1300 animals. I was amazed at the exhibit setups. One thing that really stood out was a big jungle-gym like cage that hung in the sky above where visitors walked. Animals could run through that freely; this gave them ample space rather than just confining them to their single exhibit spaces. I thought it was a really unique way for the animals to get exercise, extra space, and extra viewing angles for zoo guests.
Another cool feature (for nerds like myself) is that the Philly Zoo is heaven for Pokemon fans. The zoo has several Pokestops, 3 gyms, and is a bustling attraction for diverse species of Pokemon. The zoo website even has a tab encouraging guests to play Pokemon GO during their visit, which I personally think is awesome.
If you plan a trip in the warmer months you can take a ride on the ZooBalloon, a giant hot air balloon. This is a really unique feature that allows guests to have the ultimate viewing experience. We personally didn't do this on our visit, but I've never seen it offered at any other zoo I've been to either. So that definitely bumped up the awesome factor.
The Philly Zoo is also proud to house several endangered animals, my favorites including the Amur Leopard, Chinese Alligator, Panamanian golden frog, and Western lowland gorillas.
You can check out more info about the Philadelphia Zoo at their website- http://www.philadelphiazoo.org/. I highly recommend it; if you can't tell from other blog posts, I've quickly fallen in love with so much that this city has to offer, including this zoo. This zoo definitely ranks among the top of all the zoos I've visited. It makes for an excellent day trip if you have family or friends visiting.
I tried a new recipe last week and wanted to document the process. I haven't done a foodie post yet on my blog, so I thought it was about time. :) My kiddos are HUGE fans of pancakes, blueberries, and cake. So I hoped a recipe that combined all three would be a home run.
Ingredients for the pan-cake:
3 cups of complete buttermilk pancake mix (I happened to only have a box of Great Value brand on hand, and it worked just fine!)
1 3/4 cups water
1 cup fresh blueberries
2 tsp. all-purpose flour
Ingredients for the frosting:
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup butter, softened
Preheat the oven to 350°. Combine the pancake mix and water until it's moistened. In a separate small bowl, toss blueberries with flour. Then fold into batter.
Pour into a greased 13x9-in baking pan. Bake until a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean. The recipe said to bake for 15 minutes, but mine had to bake for 29 minutes before it was thoroughly done. You may have to experiment depending on the brand of pancake mix you use. After it's done, let it cool so the pan-cake can be frosted.
Beat the frosting ingredients together until smooth; spread over cooled cake. (Notice the cute icing snitch!)
Although I let my cake cool thoroughly the frosting still sort of slid to the sides of my pan. I think the texture of the maple syrup kept it from solidifying as much as I'd have liked. So my cake didn't look very pretty because of the icing, but it was delicious. The next time I make it, I think I'll try poking some holes throughout the body of the cake after it's cooked/cooled so that the icing can drip down into it. I also added more fresh blueberries on the top of the cake even though the recipe didn't call for that. I would definitely do that again. This recipe could easily be thrown together within a matter of minutes, making it a great addition to weekend brunch.
What did the family think? I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. ;)
There's something I've been mulling over for awhile now, but finally decided to make it into a blog post. I often work with young children in my photo shoots and there's a few things I've learned from my experiences that I wanted to share with everyone (hopefully future clients!).
1. Drop all expectations. A lot of parents go into photo shoots having high expectations for their kids, and I get it. I mean, who doesn't want the perfect picture of their child protruding an angelic smile while sporting that Pinterest-perfect pose? I've found that most parents have looked at Pinterest and gotten ideas of what their ideal session looks like beforehand. But it's best to remember that Pinterest and other online sources compile many types of photography- some of them even stock photos that have professional child models in them. It's not always real life. And this is part of the beauty in lifestyle photography- I want to capture real life, not some fake posed stuff that isn't reality. Like the above pictures, if a kid is smiling and happy and wants to point, wave, or touch their hair, let them! Remember, photos are hard for kids. It's boring for them, and they are too young to understand why parents want these treasured memories. But lowering expectations can really allow you to appreciate photos that are taken while being on their own level.
2. Utilize your surroundings & props. I love letting kids interact with whatever's close by! Nature can make pretty props, and it's an easy way to fascinate kids (thus getting natural expressions). I also encourage clients to bring some of their child's favorite snacks or toys/books. Real life is kids playing with toys or giggling at their treasured storybook. That's the essence of lifestyle photography as opposed to traditional "posed" photography. Kids are also more likely to stay interested in the photo shoot; when they start to get bored or irritable with pictures, it's a great tool to be able to say, "Hey, let's sit down and look at your favorite book!" Kids usually appreciate what they see as a "break" from pictures while the photographer is able to capture some precious family moments.
3. Consider the kids when scheduling. Every kid has their own "best" time. For some kids it's right after nap time while other kids are happiest and most cooperative first thing in the morning. Whatever that time is for you, make sure you schedule around that time. I took the above photo at a 9am photo shoot because that's when the client told me her boys were in the best moods (and you can totally tell by their adorable cheese!). Nobody is a happy camper right before lunchtime or immediately after waking up. And good photographers should be flexible with your requests; of course there's ideal shooting times (for my style, I almost never shoot outdoor sessions in mid afternoon when the sun is blazing), but good photographers understand that children have very select and limited "happy hours". That should always be priority!
4. Have fun! I've encountered parents who become harsh with their kids or threaten them with punishments when they don't want to cooperate. Whenever this happens, children are typically very quick to shut down. I can't stress enough that the best way to handle an uncooperative child during a photo shoot is to just let them be. If I ask them to smile and they don't want to, I don't push it. We just move on to the next thing. One small scolding can ruin the entire mood of the photo shoot for little kids, thus ruining many good photo opportunities. This is yet another reason why I love lifestyle photography. Following a child around to get shots of him or her playing/acting naturally, rather than posed, is not only beautiful but much easier to keep a kid happy. I encourage silly voices, goofy faces, and joke telling. :)
5. Trust the photographer. Sometimes parents think they are helping by getting their kids to laugh and smile or by straightening clothing. But this can actually be a big distraction in pictures. Because as a photographer, I have to be ready at any split second to snap the camera when a young child is finally grinning, and often times the picture will be ruined by a mother looking down at her kid saying, "Smile big!". Trust your photographer to know how to arrange everyone and when to take the picture. It's the biggest help if a parent can just interact naturally with their child or smile. Be focused on the camera yourself so that when everyone else is ready for a picture you aren't the one holding things back.
If you are contemplating family photos and have young children, hopefully this is helpful. I absolutely love working with children and seeing their individual personalities shine through my camera lens. Working with young kids can be so rewarding- you never know exactly what they might do in a picture! It's always perfectly imperfect. ♥
A huge local attraction is Dover International Speedway that hosts two NASCAR races yearly. The track is nicknamed "Monster Mile", although I don't really know why. I'm not a NASCAR fan myself, but I thought seeing the race should be part of the complete Delaware experience. And, thanks to my sweet husband, he surprised our family with tickets for all of us!
The winner of this year's October race was Kyle Busch, who apparently has a net worth of $50 million. I'll admit, I didn't stay for the entire race to see his win myself. My kids got tired of wearing ear protection and it was just too loud to stick around without that. But it is a small piece of sports history that I can say I witnessed. :)
Although I can't say that NASCAR is my thing (or that I even honestly understand it), I did really enjoy watching the fans. There was a variety of interesting people at the race, and they took it super seriously. People were standing and shouting at the top of their lungs. Meanwhile, I was just trying to figure out which car was which driver. The "serious" fans had these little radio thingies that broadcasted live newscasting through their headphones. Almost everyone was sporting their favorite driver on shirts or hats. The fans truly seemed dedicated which was cool to witness; and that's how it should be at every sporting event.
I don't think Salem got too much out of the NASCAR race. She was mainly interested in the lemonade, cheese fries, and pretzels (a girl after my own heart!). Haha.
Never knowing where we will get stationed at next I hope our little family can keep exploring all of the places to see and local events everywhere we're at. It was definitely a fun experience for the family. Some lady asked Lincoln if his favorite driver won, and he said, "Yes! Lightning McQueen!" Poor little dude thought his favorite Disney Cars character was in the race. But hey, it was a fun time for all!