You can use vacation time to take your Christmas card photos.

Taking your holiday card photos while on vacation

While Christmas cards are meant to be sent around, well, Christmas, you don't have to take your family's photo during the winter. In fact, any time of year is fair game for posing in your favorite red-and-green attire (or any outfit at all, really). You can even take a moment out of your family vacation this summer to snap a few shots. Of course, if you want to get your Christmas card pics out of the way while lounging on the beach, you should use a few of these tips:

Pick a spot
Once you've been on your vacation for a day or so, scope out a good backdrop for your family photo. It could be the beach, under that old tree or in front of your hotel, it's up to you! Ideally, the location of your photo shoot will be lovely to look at and free of passersby – you don't want a random pedestrian photobombing your Christmas card!

Set a time
Avoid adding stress to your hiatus by planning when you'll take your picture. You don't want to be lounging at the hotel bar and suddenly be flung into a photo! Decide which day during your trip is best for the picture and what time of day it should be taken. Avoid midafternoon, as the sun could be too overpowering for your photo. In fact, overcast days are the best for pictures. Consider planning your shoot for morning. That way, you'll have just showered and be looking your best. Let the whole family know precisely when you expect them to be on location for your shoot. 

Bring a tripod
You can hire a photographer from the area in which you're vacationing to take your picture, or you can do it yourself. If you plan on setting a timer on your camera and jumping into the shot, then bring a tripod. These devices allow you to pick a height for your camera and ensure that the shot is steady. 

Make adjustments first
If you're taking the photo, arrive to the location before everyone else does. This will give you time to set up your tripod and correct the settings on your camera. Your family will appreciate a smooth and quick photo shoot because they'll likely want to get back to relaxing. Test your camera's lighting and other settings by taking a few test shots and seeing how they look. 

Talk about the trip
When you do finally send your Christmas card, be sure to mention your wonderful vacation in your note. That way, friends and family who receive the card will get both a visual and textual look at your time away. 

Plan the perfect football themed birthday bash!

Throwing a football-themed birthday bash

Fads come and go among kids, but sports seem to always be in style. That said, a football-themed birthday party might be the perfect choice for your son and his friends this year. Not only does the theme keep your party guests excited, but it allows for each of them to come dressed as their favorite football player. Even better, throwing a football-themed birthday party lays the foundation for what kind of birthday invitations to send, what sort of activities to plan and where to host the event. Let the logistics fall into place with these tips:

Though the party may not be for a few months still, you'll want to ensure that you get your invitations sent out to guests well in advance of the event. Our customizable "Draft Pick'' invitations should set the tone perfectly for a great birthday. The front of the card features a football with the phrase "You've been Drafted!" and the back of the card contains space for all the relevant information. If you want to take the theme even further by adding a dress-up component, you can ask your guests to RSVP with which football jersey they'll be wearing.

You don't want to find yourself scrambling for activities on the day of the party, so be sure to plan some out in the weeks leading up to the event. For a football party, you'll want to offer a broad range of entertainment. The centerpiece of the party, if possible, should be a game of flag football (weather permitting). Try and include a few adults in the game as well to ensure that things stay safe (also, this tends to keep the game from becoming too one-sided). In addition to the game, you can purchase a football-shaped pinata and play classic backyard games such as "500." For a special gift for your son, have every guest sign the game ball and give it to him at the end of the party.

If the weather is appropriate and you feel up to the task, then a backyard will do perfectly for any football-themed birthday party. If you'd rather be able to leave the party upon completion, though, you might consider using a field at a local park. Try to ensure that the park has some sort of pavilion or gazebo for shelter in the event of inclement weather, and also that there are grills if you intend to cook while there.

Make your child's party a hootin' and hollerin' success.

4 features to include in your child’s Wild West party

Cue the quintessential high-noon showdown song and don your 10-gallon hat – it's time to head west for a wild birthday party! If your child is a rodeo enthusiast with a passion for justice, then hosting a Wild West birthday party is the way to go. Of course, you want all the details to be in apple-pie order, which means coming up with a heap of ideas. Here's some inspiration sure to grease your carriage wheels:

1. Head down to the saloon
When a rough and tough sheriff needed a break from protecting his citizens, he'd stroll to the saloon for a drink. This kind of Wild West pub is where lawmen, outlaws and civilians alike gathered to take a load off. Of course, if you're going to have a saloon at your child's birthday party, it will be one that serves soda. Consider turning your kitchen into a soda saloon, complete with pints of root beer. You can make fake saloon doors into your kitchen using cardboard cutouts and even slide drinks down the bar.

2. Send creative birthday invitations
The invites you send for your child's birthday should speak to the theme of the party. Good birthday party invitations informs guests of what the event will be like even before they arrive! For this reason, seek out Wild West invites for your child's party. Here are a few of our favorites:

Sheriff Badge: These invites from Pear Tree Greetings come in the shape of a sheriff's badge. With a distressed wood background and old-timey script, these cards are sure to rustle up some excitement. 

Yee-Haw!: The Yee-Haw! invites are the perfect way to invite cowboys and cowgirls to your child's big day. You can select a photo of your child to feature on the front, along with Wild West lettering.

Round 'em Up: Displaying the torso of a sheriff, the Round 'em Up invites get the theme across faster than a jackrabbit running from a coyote.

3. Provide attire
Your child should be the star of his or her party, so dress him or her up in Old West clothing. However, the guests attending would probably like to fit into the theme as well. Consider giving all the kids straw cowboy hats and colored bandanas as a favor they can wear throughout the event. 

4. Take 'wanted' photos
Your little sheriff has to round up the bad guys, but first he or she has to know who they are. Craft a large frame that looks like a Western "wanted" poster and have the kids take pictures holding it in front of their faces.