Campaign Photography with Sears Grilling: Product Photography #GrillingisHappiness #SoFabU


Can I just say, I’m so very sad that our class is about half over.

I have learned so, so much over the past few weeks; it’s amazing.  I’m actually enjoying taking pictures.

I’m learning to look at things from different angles, pay attention to lighting, zoom, manually operate my camera {gasp!}, and edit better than I’ve ever been able to.

Product Photography

This week’s unit was on product photography.

Unit 1 focused on editing skills in Pixlr and Unit 2 was about path-to-purchase photography.

Last week, I went out to our local Sears and took tons and tons of pictures of the grills in the store.

I feel completely horrible, too, because I forgot to mention how great Mr. Clark was.  He was helpful, didn’t mind me taking pictures at all, and really did some work to let me know when my grill would still be on sale, when he could do the Friends and Family discount, and more.  Two thumbs up for him!

Sears was absolutely fabulous and gave each of us a gift card to purchase the grill of our choice!  With the gift card and the sale going on, we got a $700 grill for $38.  Score!

This week our task was to photograph the grill we ended up purchasing.

We were given a few tips to help us make the most of our product photography session:

  • Make sure the product is the focus of the shot; front and center!
  • Use optical zoom {when the camera does the zooming, not using editing software to zoom} to fill the frame with the product.
  • Experiment with a bounce card {something white like posterboard or a tri-fold board} to provide fill light {fill the shadows}.
  • Experiment with different aperture and shutter speed.  The smaller the aperture {an f/stop number}, the more light is let in.

Look at what a difference changing a little number makes!

  • Experiment.  Then, experiment some more.  Finish by experimenting.  Just to be sure you’ve done everything correctly, experiment.

Our Grill

Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to introduce you to Phil, our Char-Broil TRU Infrared Grill.

His name really isn’t Phil; he doesn’t have a name.  But, I just felt like, for the purpose of this blog post, he should have a name…

This baby is the Char-Broil Quantum Infrared 4 Burner Gas Grill with Auto-Clean™.

It is big and pretty and awesome.

It has a large cooking area and can be rigged to use natural gas or propane.  It has an auto-clean feature to make clean-up a breeze.

I love it!

I took my photos during an overcast morning.  I’m glad I did; it was hard enough getting pictures without sunlight glare on that metal without the sun…

Here are a few of the 140+ that made the cut.

I’d like to once again say thank you to Sears for making this possible.  I haven’t enjoyed something on my blog so much in a while.

Our old grill broke a few months ago and we accepted the fact that we’d go the summer without one.

I was excited to learn about photography in this course.  We had no idea we’d be getting a grill for practically nothing.  Thank you.

I’d also like to thank Social Fabric for making this possible.  The instruction we’ve received has been phenomenal.  Again, thank you.

True Confessions:  I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™ and Sears #CBias #GrillingIsHappiness. All photos and opinions are my own.

Grilled Lasagna!

Part of a Fun in the Summer Sun series I did last year!


Welcome to the next Fun in the Summer Sun event!

Thanks so much for all the great link-ups so far!

Each Monday until September 7th, Mama to 4 Blessings along with Adventures of Mommydom, Sweet Diva, Harvest Moon By Hand, and Sweet Phenomena will be hosting Fun in the Summer Sun link-up events.

Here’s the line up:

  • The 1st Monday of each month: link up your “Kid friendly summer activities”
  • The 2nd Monday of each month: link up your “Kid friendly summer crafts”
  • The 3rd Monday of each month: link up your “Kid friendly summer recipes”
  • The 4th Monday of each month: link up your “How to stay cool in the summer heat”

Here’s our “kid friendly summer recipe!”

Grilled Lasagna!


We’ve slowly been chipping away at our summer bucket list, and one of the things we had yet to do was use the fire starters Babydoll made at camp.  She also wanted to make hobo dinners, so I figured we could kill two birds with one stone and make hobo dinners using her fire starters.

I didn’t really want to make a beef, onion, pepper hobo dinner, so I decided we’d look for something else.  I happened to get the new Food Network magazine and inside were a few recipes for grilled items.  We saw the grilled lasagna and thought, “How freaking cool!”

I’m not going to post the recipe here only because we didn’t really use it…  We pretty much did our own thing…


We made our sauce.


We began to layer our lasagna.

More layering

More layering…

And more layering

And more layering…


Finally finished layering!

And then we wrapped the little lasagnas tightly, cooking ten minutes on each side.  Let ‘em sit for a few minutes, and they’re ready to eat.

Be sure to use no-boil lasagna noodles; other than that, have fun with it!

Have any great recipes you’d like to share?


Homeschool Methods

Just a glimpse of the many homeschool methods!


There are a variety of homeschooling methods out there.  I’m still learning about some…

Really, the way you homeschool is a method.  It may be strictly one style or it may be a combination of several.

Still trying to figure out which one {or ones} work for you?

Here you go, the ultimate guide to homeschool methods!

Homeschool Mosaics Homeschool Methods – This is a new site, but it’s great!  There are methods on here I’ve never heard of before.

Choosing a Homeschooling Method:  Which One is Right For You? – An extensive list of homeschooling methods.

Homeschooling and Its Many Faces – Lots of links for a variety of methods.

Homeschool Methods – Finding a Method That’s Right for You – More links for a variety of methods.

Homeschool Methods, Uniquely You – A great post with curricula/resource info, too.

The Ultimate Homeschool Blogroll – This is so cool:  homeschool blogs are linked up based on their homeschooling method.

Homeschooling Methods – Lots and lots and lots of links!

Methods and Styles Directory – Exactly what the title says.

Homeschool Approaches – A few I’ve never heard of before.

Discover the Homeschooling Method That’s Right For You – A great bulleted breakdown of several methods.

Resources for Exploring Various Homeschooling Methods – Links to not only website, but books and other resources as well.

Best Homeschool Method Blogs 2010 – The voting may be over but this is still a great list of blogs about specific methods.

8 Homeschooling Methods – Um, eight homeschooling methods…

Curriculum Methods and Reviews – I think we all love learning about new-to-us curricula.

Homeschooling Approaches and Methods – Again, self-explanatory.

Carlie is looking to feature YOU!  She’s looking for posts on a variety of homeschooling methods.

Fun Food Stuff

Another fun one!  We love to cook and bake around here!


When you stumble into homeschooling {as opposed to it being something you’ve always planned for your children}, you have to work with what you’ve got.  When we started homeschooling, I had cooking and baking.  No awesome artistic abilities, no creative capabilities, no curriculum-building talent.  So, cooking and baking have been used as an oh crap filler, an addition to a lesson, a kick-off-the-school-year activity, or a just-for-fun-we-really-want-to-eat-this activity.  Following are a few of our favorite fun food projects and recipes.

1.  Bake something and decorate it

Whether it’s a cake you bake from scratch, a dozen cupcakes made from a box mix, or sugar cookies baked from a roll of store bought dough, kids love to decorate them.  You can use store bought frosting, buttercream frosting, or royal icing {this one hardens, but many kids still like to eat it…}.  If you don’t have any pastry bags and tips on hand, just put the frosting into a sandwich baggy and cut of a corner, creating an instantaneous piping bag.  This is a great opportunity to teach things like colors, kitchen safety, and math.

2.  Participate in a fair baking contest

This has become a yearly tradition for Babydoll and me.  We enjoy perusing the county fair exhibition books, looking for the various categories we’d like to enter something in. Generally, the children’s categories are judges on appearance and/or taste, and are divided into appropriate age groups.  Even if your child doesn’t win, they usually still get an participation ribbon.  Many fairs even give free admittance to exhibitors. This is our special time together, and involves learning how to budget your time, create or follow a recipe, write legibly, and speak publicly.

3.  Make homemade donuts

Donuts are surprisingly easy to make {don’t worry, you don’t need a deep fryer}, and they’re wicked delicious.  We make donuts to kick off the school year, attempting to make some shaped like the grade Babydoll is entering.  This is a great photo op to document the beginning of each school year. Our favorite recipe is this one by Paula Deen.

4.  Create your own rock candy

We did this during a science unit on rocks.  It’s super easy and Babydoll loved checking her crystals each day.  Babydoll has always been fascinated with rocks anyway, so seeing how they were formed was a treat.  Eating the candy afterward isn’t half bad either.  Here’s a great lesson plan designed around this experiment.

5.  Make your own pizza

Lots of families do this, but you can easily take this a step further.  Use this as an opportunity to teach your child about diameter, meal planning {let them make the list, find the items in the store, and comparison shop}, dough making, how yeast works, there are so many possibilities.  I give Babydoll her own dough, pan, and toppings and let her go to town.  There’s something about making their own food that makes kids feel special.

6.  Read a cookbook together

Sure, some cookbooks are simply filled with recipes and nothing more.  Some of the best cookbooks are filled with stories and personal anecdotes to go along with the recipe.  This makes the cookbook much more interesting, and worth sitting down to read.  In addition to practicing their reading skills, kids can also decide which recipes they’d like to make and what ingredients need to be purchased to make them. Babydoll’s current favorite is Cooking Rocks! Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals for Kids.

7.  Plan special meals

Babydoll loves it when we do theme meals.  Whether it’s for a family celebration or just for fun, creating a meal based on a specific theme lends itself to all sorts of learning.  Kids can come up with a theme, research recipes and decor, choose an appropriate date and time for the meal, help shop for necessary items, and help make decorations and prepare the food. Our personal favorite is spring brunch, complete with awesome folded cloth napkins, printed menu, and Winnie the Pooh spring china.

8.  Make ice cream

This is a fun summertime treat to make.  Whether you have an old fashioned ice cream machine, a frozen yogurt and topping dispenser, or an inexpensive model from a craft store, making ice cream can be so fun!  Help your children research and try different recipes, learning how the ingredients work together to create the frozen treat.

9.  Visit the farmers’ market

Farmers’ markets are wondrous places!  If you’re fortunate enough to live in a place that has a year-round market, you’re set.  You can teach your children about seasonal cooking, using the produce that is in season to create delicious and fresh meals.  If you’ve only got access to a summer farmers’ market, you can still fill your warm months by visiting the market each week and teaching your children about seasonal produce, growing seasons, the process of seed to plate, how to pick ripe produce, and engage in the fun activity of creating a meal from market purchases.  Some markets even have fish, poultry, meat, fresh baked goods, and homemade snack foods.  Search for CSAs, farmers’ markets, farms, and other food establishments in your area on this site.

10. Cook something from another country

When Babydoll attended a Montessori school in WA, one of her end-of-year assignments was to partner with someone and create a presentation on a certain country.  Babydoll and her partner were assigned Nigeria, and they had to research all sorts of things, one of them being food.  They didn’t have to prepare a dish from that country, but were encouraged to do so.  We had so much fun learning about the local ingredients, what people in that country traditionally ate, and what foods were viewed as snacks, special foods, market food, etc. We ended up making a dish called chin chin that is so delicious!  It was a great experience.

Food is a part of every culture, and is a common way for people to connect.  While cooking doesn’t have to occupy every homeschool day, it truly is worthwhile to work it in at regular intervals. Children will greatly benefit from the experiences, and it will likely draw the family together and create lasting memories and family traditions.

What about you?  Do you have any fun food activities you do with your kids?

Photo Credits – Fair, Brunch, Ice Cream, Farmers’ Market

Campaign Photography with Sears Grilling: Path to Purchase Photography #GrillingisHappiness #SoFabU


A couple of weeks ago I told you all about the awesome new class I was participating in:  Campaign Photography with Sears Grilling.

I was excited to learn some great techniques for editing photographs in Pixlr.  I used my skills to make a picture of rising yeast dough look much more appetizing.

This week our lesson was in path-to-purchase photography.

Path to Purchase

So, what is path to purchase?

This means the steps a consumer takes to purchasing a certain item.  How do you prepare for the trip?  What do you look at when you get to the store?  How do you make your decisions?

Our assignment was simple:  head to Sears and document the path to purchase of a grill.

I loved the explanation we got with this assignment; my previous Social Fabric shops have left something to be desired…

Now, I finally feel like I know exactly what the entire picture is, what they’re looking for, and I have some great tips for taking great photographs.

My Grill Path to Purchase

Prepare for Shopping

We were given tips on things to look for, pictures to consider taking, and more.

First up, how you prepare for shopping.

If I’m making an expensive purchase {and a grill is an expensive purchase}, I like to research things beforehand.

With all the technology out there, the catchy names for things, etc., I want to understand what I’m looking at before I get to the store.

So, my path to purchase starts with my laptop, at home.

I checked out the Sears site first, to see what grills were available in my area.

I started to lean toward the Char-Broil TRU Infrared grills, but really didn’t know anything about them, so I also viewed a few videos.

After viewing these, I felt I had a good handle on what I’d be looking at once I got to the store.

Heading to the Store

We live in the middle of nowhere, so the closest Sears stores are the Hometown Sears stores.

We have a larger Sears around, but I’ve found that while the selection may be larger, the smaller stores tend to have the not-frequently-bought items that I end up buying.

They also have great customer service, generally speaking.  Small town charm I tell you.

What did I notice about the exterior of the store?

They’re tiny, by comparison, but they’re not as overwhelming.

This day, they had a nice selection of riding mowers lined up in a neat little row.

That’s something that would definitely be great to have, but not today.  There was also patio furniture out there, but we already have a nice set.

I noticed that despite there being quite a bit of merchandise out there, it didn’t feel cluttered.  The walk area was nice and large, and the items were neatly placed, so it actually made me want to look at the items that I might not have normally taken a look at.

I can’t stand cluttered entries.

Store Arrangement and Brand Placement

How merchandise is arranged in a store can make or break a sale.  If things are cluttered, hard to find, or otherwise unappealing, it’s not likely many people will continue to buy from that store.

This Sears, although small, knew that it was grilling season and had everything right inside the door.

There were about seven or eight grills to choose from; not a bad selection for a small Sears!

Branding, Options, and Signage

Consumers like to have options.  They like to be able to choose products based on a combination of price, look, options, etc.

Here are a few pictures I took of the grills, the signage, and how it was all displayed.  A few photos include a before and after to show how they were edited {using the fancy skills I learned last week!}.

Other Tips

We also learned to try to take photos with clutter-free backgrounds, in softer lighting, at different angles.

The zoom feature is your friend, and incorporating brands and signage helps readers see what you were presented with, what you chose, and why you chose it.

You can see more pictures from my visit in the slideshow below!

Which Grill Won?

Yes, the fun part:  Sears is providing us each with a gift card to purchase a grill!!!!

I don’t have a picture of it…

It was one I researched online and the Sears site said there was only one in like a 50 mile radius, and it was at my little Sears.

They didn’t have it put together, though, so it was in the back in a box.

It’s a Char-Broil infrared grill with dual fuel intake and an auto-clean feature.  Love it!

I’d like to once again thank Sears for this opportunity!  I’ve learned so much already and am enjoying putting pictures on my blog so much more!  Thank you!!

True Confessions:  I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™ and Sears #CBias #GrillingIsHappiness. All photos and opinions are my own.