diy cake smash photo shoot

when you have a baby, the costs keep adding up. there are the necessary everyday items like diapers, but then there are also optional luxuries such as having professional photos done for your child. like many parents, we opted to do the newborn photo shoot because 1) we wanted high-quality images of penny, and 2) we didn’t mind splurging for our first child. (i’d like to think we’d be as generous with our subsequent children.)

dennis and i didn’t truly appreciate the work that photographers go through for the newborn photo shoot until we were at the studio. i mean, how hard could it be taking pictures of a sleeping newborn? thing is, newborns don’t sleep all the time and they have to be asleep for certain poses. our photographer cranked the heat up in the studio and was constantly feeding penny so she’d be sleepy and full. also, babies are diaperless during these photos so you can imagine what a lot of milk and no diapers can do during picture time!

as much as we love the newborn photos and now know how much work goes into baby photo shoots, we still couldn’t justify paying upwards of $700+ for the cake smash session. a baby’s first birthday is a significant occasion in general but in the korean culture, it is a huge deal. with the big guest list, traditional tie-ins such as the doljabi and hanbok, entertainment for the younger crowd, favors, and food the final total can go into the thousands, sometimes tens of thousands (eek!) in the end, we asked our friend, john, who has a really nice canon to take family photos and pictures of penny for her cake smash. that left dennis and i to arrange the “home studio.”

we chose the basement aka penny’s playroom for the space because it’s spacious and has a lot of natural light. fyi, natural light is your best friend. it’s okay to use both natural and artificial light but, if possible, you want to take photos near big picture windows to ensure the photos come out their absolute best. we chose to have penny’s photo session take place around 3:30pm (after her last nap so she has a long window of awake time). we also decided to use the wall facing the windows for optimal light since the sun sets in that direction.

word of advice: have, at least, one other person present during the photo shoot. i recommend two people though. while the photographer (could be you) is taking pictures of the baby, there needs to be someone distracting the baby by making noises and trying to make them smile and face the camera. also, when you’re doing multiple outfit changes it helps to have extra hands to do the job super quick. while john took the photos, his wife, alice, helped set up the different backdrops. remember: your baby will get agitated sooner or later so you have to make sure you allow plenty of time, but also give yourselves a break! we stopped for a short while so penny could have some milk – don’t forget, they’ll be hungry so have snacks and milk ready!

also, the photo shoot could take more than one day. i ended up taking pictures of penny with my iphone 6 a few days later so i could have more pictures of her, smiling. during the original photo shoot whenever dennis and i made noises for her to smile, she’d end up looking at us. thankfully, dennis’ mom came over to help with wardrobe changes and using props to get penny’s attention. these pictures turned out great too! i was worried about the quality of the iphone photos but i think the natural light helped immensely. all of the photos of her smiling were taken with my iphone!

okay, onto to the preparation of the home studio. i did a lot of research and saw that people purchased a big roll of bulletin board paper or craft paper for the backdrop. some used white (blank canvas and makes the photos super bright) while others opted for colored backgrounds. dennis and i went to jo-ann fabrics to see what we could find and we were pumped to see that they had a faux wood bulletin board paper! the ones that some people were using were 52 inches wide and ours was 48. just a few inches short but the width does make a difference because it determines how close/far you can take your pictures since you don’t want the wall to show. try to make sure you can find a width that’s 48 inches or more.

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make sure you tape the backdrop up high and without cutting it, roll it out so the floor is covered too.

i made the ‘one’ banner and hung it low so it would show in the picture. have a few decorations and/or banners on hand so you can have a variety of “looks.” i saved a fringe banner from last year’s baby shower, made the ‘one’ banner, bought balloons, and saved paper fans from my baby shower and penny’s 100th day celebration.

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how it looks close-up

 

for the smash cake, i decided to make a giant cupcake. i purchased a giant cupcake pan from amazon and it’s around $15.

i referred to this blog post, and it was really helpful. the only thing i have to gripe about is how much cake batter was left over. the ingredients ask for 2 boxes of yellow cake mix and you end up using about half, maybe a little more. i suppose you could just make more cake or cupcakes with it but after spending all morning making and prepping the smash cake i didn’t even want to eat the remnants.

anyway, if you don’t feel like opening up another link i’ll post the ingredients here:

ingredients and supplies

  • 2 Boxes of Yellow Cake Mix
  • 6 Eggs
  • 1 Package Jello-O Vanilla Pudding Mix
  • 1 c. oil
  • 2 c. water
  • giant cupcake mold
  • cooking spray
  • glass bowl
  • hand mixer
  • 1 lb. candy melts
  • long knife
  • 2 cans of frosting or homemade buttercream frosting (i opted to make frosting – recipe in included in post.)
  • *food coloring (only if you’re making the frosting – i used wilton)

i poured 2.5 cups of batter in the cone portion (left side) and 3.5 cups in the bottom part of the cupcake (right side).

when it’s done, let them cool in pan for 15 minutes and transfer over to a wire rack to cool completely.

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after they cool, level the raised parts of both the cone and the bottom portion of the cupcake. the bottom photo was taken before i did that. notice how the cone isn’t perfect? i used frosting later on to cover it up and faced that part away from the camera.

with the knife, you also want to slice off the ridges of the bottom part so that it fits into the candy mold later on. you will see what i’m talking about in the next picture.

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this candy mold for the bottom part of the cupcake is optional but it has a much better presentation than if the cupcake was just shown with the cake bottom.

the blog post says to put the candy melts (most of the bag) in a microwaveable bowl and melt the candy for 30 seconds in 3 intervals. i found that two times sufficed for me because the candy was too watery the third time around and wouldn’t coat the sides of the pan to create a thick shell.

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i purchased these from party city

after the candy is melted, pour it into the bottom part of the cupcake mold and make sure to coat the sides. if it looks too thin, you may need to harden the candy and try melting it again. i learned that the hard way. after refrigerating the shell for 40 minutes, i saw that it was way too thin to even take out of the mold so i had to scrape the shell off and redo it.

okay, so after the melted candy is in the mold put it in the fridge for, at least, 40 minutes so that it’s solid. then, turn the mold upside down and gently tap it… it should slide out easily!

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see how the candy walls are thick?

then, gently place the bottom part of the cupcake (with the ridges sliced off) into the mold. i had to keep taking the cupcake out to trim it even more because it was too big to fit into the mold. keep playing around with it.

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ta-da! it finally fit! see how much better the cupcake looks with a candy mold???

after i finished making the frosting, i put in one drop of the pink food coloring. the color i desired was a light pink so i wanted to start off slowly. be aware that food coloring can deepen over time so you want to start with one drop and then slowly add more. you can always make the frosting darker but you would need to add (and then make more) frosting to make it lighter. i only ended up using two drops!

here is the recipe for the frosting, borders & writing (if you’re into all that). i got it from my baking instructor.

icing

  • 1/2 c. crisco
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. vanilla
  • 4 tb. warm water
  • 1 lb. domino 10x confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tbs. corn starch

mix everything but sugar and corn starch.

add sugar slowly, and then corn starch. mix until smooth.

add food coloring drop by drop.

 

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IMG_6036and, viola! i took a cake decorating class at jo-ann fabrics a few years ago. sadly, i forget most of the techniques but the rosette is not hard to do at all. i just practiced a few of them on the plastic pad that i got with my decorating kit.

*note: if you want bigger rosettes, you want to use a bigger tip. mine took a while to do and the frosting was hard to squeeze out because i had used a lot of powdered sugar. more sugar, more stiffness.

please give yourself plenty of time to bake the cake, make the frosting, and set it up. ideally, it would be best to do the photo shoot in the afternoon so your child is well-rested and you have more time to get ready. dennis took care of penny in the morning but i still got up around 7am to prep and bake the cake. i was still working on it three hours later! i also didn’t put the frosting on until a half hour before the shoot, and we took pictures of it during penny’s nap.

it’s kind of sad to see your hard work get destroyed, but hey, it’s a cake smash! i admit, it was fun to see penny get mystified by the cake and then hesitantly touch it. she didn’t go all out as we had hoped but we still got some good pictures!

remember to have fun… and relax!

enjoy the pictures!

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penny’s first christmas

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penny in her playroom


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she loves yogurt!

’twas a very merry christmas!

i was so excited to celebrate our first christmas as a family because it’s such an important, and festive, holiday.

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playing with the gift the so grandparents got her


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one of her many gifts: a ball pit!


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thank you, jennie and kaylee, for the adorable headband!


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looks so much cuter with hair!

christmas is also my mom’s birthday. it’s rough having your birthday fall on the biggest holiday of the year and sharing it with jesus so we try to make it special for my mom. my parents came down for dinner on christmas eve, and we went out to eat with dennis’ parents as well. my mom is very selfless and doesn’t ask for much so i know she was overjoyed when we surprised her with a cake – strawberry cheesecake from vernon diner to be specific.

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i love you, mom! happy birthday ❤

taking advantage of being able to spend time with us, my mom practically held penny the entire time. she and my mil took turns feeding penny her bottle and butternut squash with pear.

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entertaining herself during dinner


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before we left for dinner

so much good happens in my life, and as every year draws to a close i wonder how next year can even possibly be on the same level, or even better, than this one. but every year has been better than the last.

2015 was no exception and is probably the most important year of my life since i became a mommy to a healthy, vivacious, happy, and beautiful baby girl. it’s hard to believe penny’s already 7.5 months. with each passing day, i’m in awe of what she knows and can do. for example, today she began saying “da da da.” she had been saying, “ba ba ba” for some time now but has been more vocal the past few days. she also has been screeching and yelling (while smiling) because she can.

penny also gave us a wonderful gift: sleeping on her own. we’ve been rocking penny to sleep since she was born. as she got heavier and heavier we have been wondering how long we would have to do this for. we knew we would have to start sleep training but i, in particular, was nervous about this daunting task. do we try the “cry it out” method? what do we do? it turns out we didn’t have to do anything except put her down.

when researching on sleep training i kept reading “put baby down ‘drowsy but awake'” and thought, “yeah, right.. penny will never sleep like that.” we were too afraid to risk it, and honestly penny probably wasn’t ready. until three days ago.

around 6 months, penny transitioned to a 2-nap day and her awake time has been slowly increasing. currently, penny’s on track to being on the 2-3-4 schedule. if you don’t know what that is, it means your baby’s awake period is 2 hours before first nap, 3 hours before second nap, and 4 hours before bedtime. for quite some time, penny’s awake time was 2 hours before each nap and then, maybe, 3 until bedtime. we have been slowly increasing the increments in her awake time while still following her sleepy cues.

we also noticed that if her second nap was a half hour and gave her a third nap, she wouldn’t fall asleep as easily for bedtime. therefore if she ever had a “disaster nap” for the second nap we would put her to bed a little earlier.

this website was so helpful in helping me figure out penny’s schedule. yes, all babies are different but the “sleep lady” was on point for penny’s needs. we don’t let penny sleep longer than 2 hours for any nap and we are mindful of her awake time.

back in november, penny was sleeping 10-hour stretches which were wonderful but also driving us crazy because she would be awake and ready to go at 4am. she would play for an hour or even more and finally end up falling asleep again. thankfully, she had learned how to self-soothe by then so she wasn’t crying for us but i would lie awake wondering if i would have to tend to her or not. on one of the nights penny would not fall asleep i told dennis to turn off the night light on the video monitor. we were skeptical, but it worked! with the room pitch-black, penny soon fell asleep! now we knew why she had had a hard time falling back asleep: as she became more aware of her surroundings, the night light distracted her and kept her from sleeping even though she was tired.

one of the other reasons for her early-morning wake-ups was that penny had started waking up around 6am or earlier so by the end of the day she would want to go to bed around 5:30! it was stressful trying to make her stay up until, at least, 6pm so she wouldn’t wake up so early the next day. (now that penny has a set schedule i see that she was trying to fully transition to 2 naps and we had to fiddle with her awake time.)

some days she slept even longer, until 5am, but then would not fall back asleep because.. face it, 11 hours straight is pretty dang good. that’s a well-rested baby. but again, with time, and with the increase in her awake time penny has been waking up after 6am and sleeping after 6pm.

i was pretty satisfied with penny’s progress until she threw me for a loop three nights ago. even though penny was tired, she would not sleep. i rocked her for 3 hours.. is that crazy or what?! every time i put her in the crib, her eyes would fly open. it was obvious she was ready to pass out because every time i picked her back up her eyes would immediately close. finally, out of frustration, exhaustion, and hunger i placed her in the crib around 9:40pm and walked downstairs.

as i ate a very late dinner and watched the monitor, penny fussed and played for ten minutes and then fell asleep. i couldn’t believe it. first of all, she had been on her side in the merlin suit and fell asleep like that! and second, there was no pacifier and no one to soothe her.. she just.. fell asleep.

thinking it was just a fluke and that she had just been exhausted from being up so long, dennis tried rocking her for her morning nap the next day. but, penny would wake up whenever he put her down. finally he came downstairs to see if she would fall asleep on her own AND SHE DID! penny has been telling us she’s ready to fall asleep by herself.. and we are ECSTATIC that we don’t have to rock her anymore.

sleep is such a beautiful, beautiful thing… and penny has been sleeping 11 straight hours without us having to tend to her. we still can’t believe it. of course, all will change when her teeth finally come in.. and the 8-month sleep regression is quickly approaching but we are SO enjoying this right now! and we are so proud that penny has been able to figure out how to sleep on her own. we are finally feeling more rested, and happier because of it too.

sweet dreams, penny.

“ohana” means “family”

it’s been a busy month, clearly. i was surprised to see that i hadn’t updated my blog in two weeks.

the sleep regression finally ended about a week and a half ago. penny is back to sleeping about 12 hours a night with one feeding around 3am. thing is, she started a new leap recently (that will last a MONTH!). with every development leap, come the 3 c’s: cranky, clingy, and crying. i still get impressed with how accurate the ‘wonder weeks app’ is at describing the abilities penny will pick up during this phase, and what signs are indicative of her leap.

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perfecting her grip... hmm, a future pharmacist like dad??

perfecting her grip… hmm, a future pharmacist like dad??

visit daddy at work

visit daddy at work

for instance, one sign of penny’s leap (“relationships”) is that she will “sleep less, sleep worse, and eat less.” she sleeps fine at night (thank god!) but her naps have been affected, mostly her second nap which used to be 2-3 hours. now, i’m lucky if i can get her to sleep 1.5 hours for her second nap. on days that she naps poorly, i try to squeeze in a fourth nap to compensate for her long awake time between her third nap and bedtime but most days it’s unsuccessful. she will fight me tooth and nail to stay up; it’s as if she knows she shouldn’t be taking a fourth nap.

i also don’t want to push up bedtime because she hasn’t been eating much during the day. some days she’ll have consumed less than 10 oz total and it’s 4pm! she’s been teething recently so it’s uncomfortable for her to eat but it’s also because of her leap. the good thing is that penny ends up consuming large amounts in a short period of time just before bedtime. it’s as if she knows she has to sleep a long stretch and she really should eat. the other night, she ate 9.25 oz an hour before she passed out! i never know how much she’ll eat so i just have milk ready for her and refill the bottle as i go. again, i’m just relieved her nighttime sleep isn’t affected.

speaking of sleep, daylight savings ends this upcoming sunday. supposedly, we gain an hour of sleep but this is so not true for parents. we’re up whenever the baby is up. still, there are preventative measures to keep your baby from waking up at 5:30am and wanting to party.

this article informs us how to make sure your baby doesn’t confuse the time change come next sunday. a week before daylight savings ends, you push back your child’s bedtime in 10-15-minute increments every night or every other night. penny has been going to bed around 6:30, if not sooner, recently so tuesday night i put her to bed at 6:50pm instead of 6:30pm. last night was 7:07pm, and tonight was 7:15pm.  it’s already working because she’s waking up a little later to nurse for the motn (middle of the night) feeding and also for the day. hopefully by the time sunday morning rolls around she will wake up at 7am instead of 6am. this’ll mean that i may have to put her to bed closer to 8pm on saturday night which is really late for her.. i’m worried about keeping her up and making her overtired especially with penny rejecting the fourth nap. i guess that’s why the article suggests short increments so the baby gradually gets used to having the bedtime extended. we’ll see how this goes *fingers crossed*

i’ve been working on this post since yesterday. my sister came down tuesday night to visit and stayed until 4:30pm today. i’m really thankful my sister was able to visit for a few days not only to help take care of penny but also for the adult company. my parents and sister actually came down to visit last friday and brought a ton of food from the restaurant and home. hard to believe, but they hadn’t seen penny since penny’s 100th day celebration back in august! even though they live only an hour and a half away, they’re so busy tending to their businesses they don’t have much time for anything else. i do hope my parents can find more time to visit though. they were amazed at how much penny has grown, but they’re also wistful that they missed out on so much already. that’s why my sister decided to visit again – she doesn’t want to keep missing penny’s milestones and developmental growths, or have her be a stranger to penny.

dad feeding penny

dad feeding penny

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so curious

so curious

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she LOVES her rainforest jumperoo

she LOVES her rainforest jumperoo

penny and i worked on halloween crafts several days ago. we created halloween cards using her hand-and-foot prints.

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today, genie and olivia came over for a play date. it had been a few weeks since i had seen them both so it was great to catch up. olivia can now sit up unassisted and has two teeth! so many changes in such a short amount of time… we plan to get together soon work on christmas crafts! can’t wait!

olivia :)

olivia 🙂

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penny has been aware of, and tracking, yuri for quite some time now but she also gets so amused by her. she’ll laugh and kick her legs whenever she sees yuri. what’s funny is that olivia is just as entertained by yuri. we noticed today that olivia would laugh and get excited whenever she spotted yuri; it was the cutest thing. at one point, both girls kept staring at yuri but she could care less. in fact, she hates it when penny tries to pet her no matter how gently she does it.. i think it’s because she’s still a bit jealous of penny.

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face/off

face/off

speaking of ‘olivia’, my friend, esther, became a first-time mom to a baby girl, olivia, three weeks ago. now i have two baby mama friends with daughters named olivia. congratulations, esther and william! here’s a picture of the beautiful family 🙂

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although i take pictures, and record videos, of penny nearly every day i have very little photos of penny with both dennis and me. i asked dennis to take photos of me with penny, and a neighbor walking by with her dog asked if we wanted family photos. of course we do! hoping we can take some decent photos soon for christmas cards as well.

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