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We’ve all seen them - those dreamy photos of a family with beautiful children running across a meadow carefree, a mother lifting up her child as he smiles away, or a couple holding hands and leaning against each other lovingly. Those were the images in my head when I had arranged for my first ever family photoshoot a few years ago. Unfortunately, it didn’t go too well for a number of reasons (more on that later). I realized I could have avoided a few pitfalls and so, I saved those learnings for the time when I would need them again.

Recently, I had the opportunity to do a family photoshoot with Megha from Sunflare Arthouse Photography. There were a few small things I did differently this time around but they made all the difference (of course, having a great photographer played a big role too)! Sure enough, the whole session went much more smoothly and also relatively quickly, which is important when you one child climbing up on you and another running off to god-knows-where.

Folks, the end goal here is to have a happy photo-taking session without the fake smiles and cheesy poses. So here are the 7 mistakes to avoid when doing a family photoshoot. This isn’t rocket science and you’ll find most of these tips to be very practical. But believe me, sometimes we overlook the most obvious details. So let’s begin…

Mistake #1: Putting undue pressure on yourself

One doesn’t do family shoots often and so, there is a certain level of importance placed on getting the photos just right. Perhaps you planned to use these photos for a special event, or a photobook, or a family photo wall? But once you place that kind of importance on a photoshoot, expectations and a certain level of stress inevitably begin to creep in. Drop that pressure and have fun! After all, it’s the positive vibes and emotions that will be reflected in the photos. So smile more, worry less.

Mistake #2: Not investing in the time to find the right photographer

For my first photoshoot, I found a photographer who was good with fashion photography. So I assumed he would be good with family shoots. I was wrong. Despite his well-meaning and kind attitude (bless his heart), he did not have the necessary experience needed for putting children at ease and capturing candid moments. The result was awkward poses and photo editing that would be more suitable for fashion blogs. So this time around, I knew that I should go with word of mouth recommendations or take the time to look through a photographer’s previous works on their social media platforms. Consider their style aesthetics and editing. If you come across a photographer whose work you like, you don’t need to look much further.

Mistake #3: Picking a day and time that doesn’t suit you and your family

This might sound like a no-brainer but so often, we end up accommodating the photographer’s busy schedule rather than our own. It’s very important to carefully work around children’s naptimes and our own personal and social commitments. So be sure to pick a date and a time of day that doesn’t clash with these things.

Another mistake is not listening to yourself when you know better. Going back to the experience with my first family shoot, Krishnav was actually down with a cold and was a bit under the weather that day. I still pushed ahead with the plan because I didn’t want to cancel something we had worked hard to plan. The result? A sick child who was clingy the whole time and refused to smile. I learned my lesson that it’s better to postpone and do it right rather than rush into a shoddy job now. So don’t be afraid to postpone the shoot if needed.

Mistake #4: Not taking the time to think about location (for outdoor shoots)

Location is so important. But I don’t only mean choosing a beautiful setting. I also consider factors such as the following: Will it be hot outside during the chosen time of day? How crowded will it be and will that affect our shoot and comfort level? What is the lighting like? Is the place reasonably close by and accessible from our home? Are there bathrooms nearby in case of bathroom emergencies or outfit changes? Will the kids feel comfortable in this location?

Keeping all these factors in mind, I had picked the East Coast Park for our most recent shoot with Arthouse Sunflare. The location is beautiful with open green space and the blue sea in the backdrop. The kids were relaxed and familiar with the surroundings. Also, it is very accessible from our home so the convenience and proximity factor was a winner.

Mistake #5: Not bothering to pre-plan

One way to avoid getting stressed about the photoshoot is to simply prepare for it. Make a checklist of items to bring so you don’t forget them in the pre-photoshoot rush. Because believe me, it’s always a mad rush out the door when you have kids with you. Case in point: During my first photoshoot, we were running late and rushed to our shoot location without carrying the essentials with us. I had no water for Krishnav when he grew thirsty and no face cloth to wipe our sweaty faces which would be inevitable in the heat!

This time, I was better prepared. I packed the items I would need in a bag a few hours before the photo-taking session. My personal list of items included:

· Water and snacks for the kids

· Comb and makeup for your touch-ups

· Props/toys for the photos, such as a ball or stuffed animal for the kids to play with or hold

· Additional distractions to keep the kids happy and busy rather than bored and grumpy

· Outfit changes if you plan for them

Mistaken #6: Not knowing when to stop

Being a blogger, you would expect that I love the camera! Indeed, I seem to fork out an inordinate amount of patience for multiple takes in various angles and poses…whatever it takes to get the right shot! BUT I’m the exception to everyone else in the family. In my first photoshoot experience held outdoors, I pushed everyone to keep going despite a slightly unwell kid and a husband sweating profusely under the hot sun. As time wore on, so did their patience. Pleasant smiles slowly melted into pained expressions captured on camera. It wasn’t pretty. This time around, I had my own internal cues for knowing when to stop. When you notice the children starting to get restless and your spouse’s mood starting to turn, that’s when you know it’s time to wrap up!

Mistake #7: Not planning your outfits ahead of time or planning too many outfit changes

The clothes you wear and the number of times you choose to change is directly proportional to the crankiness of your husband and kids. Keep all outfits smart yet comfortable for everyone. If you are planning an outfit change, make sure you know where the closest changing room/restroom is if the shoot is outdoors. In my recent shoot with Sunflare Arthouse, we chose not to change our clothes for the outdoor session as it would have been too complicated with 2 kids and no restroom within easy reach.

A lot of the mistakes I’ve mentioned above are related to minimizing a negative experience and promoting a fun session. Be relaxed, find a good photographer, make a checklist, go into the shoot well-fed and well-rested, pick a time of day that isn’t uncomfortably hot, and be quick. You will thank yourself later! No one wants a kid having a meltdown in the middle of a photoshoot. And no one wants to be bickering with their spouse about “C’mon, suck and tuck!” or “Are we done yet?”

I’m so happy with how our photos turned out. We were lucky to have a photographer who did a fantastic job and had a great attitude. Megha was such a delight to work with! Her easy-going nature and friendly smile put us all at ease, making the shoot a very relaxed affair. I particularly appreciated how she tried to engage with my two boys in a playful manner and didn’t try to force anything upon them. Somehow she managed to capture sweet, candid moments of our family. It was really lovely and I would highly recommend her. Do visit her page at Sunflare Arthouse and her instagram @meghasunflare.

Candid shot which isn't perfect but shows all our happy crazy emotions!
Hello everyone! It's September already and if I was still living in New York, I would have been looking forward to cooler temperatures and pumpkin spice lattes (yum!). Instead however, we continue to face thunderstorms and humid weather which can only be described as unforgiving and brutal to my hair’s temperament. But I digress…frizzy hair or not, one can still find ways to look stylish and presentable, right?

So here are my 6 looks from August, some of which you have already seen in my previous post about Four Looks with an LBD”.

First up is this pink gingham top with flared sleeves. I got this last summer from a Singapore online store called Closet Lover. Cute stuff at really reasonable prices! I like the gingham design and when it’s in pink, it adds a certain sweetness to the look. So many ways to wear it but here, I opted to pair it with a black midi-length skirt from Mango. I wore this look to work.

Gingham top by Closet Lover | Skirt by Mango |
Shoes by Charles & Keith | Clutch by Just Gaya's
The next look is my recent purchase of this bright, eye-catching dress from Mango. When I posted this on Instagram, many responded saying that they wouldn’t have thought to wear a dress with such a busy design and bright colors. I suppose it takes going outside your comfort zone to wear something like this. But for someone like me who loves color and prints, I liked this outfit right away! But honestly, it just goes to show that sometimes we are overly conscious of what others will think if we wear something – Don’t be! Wear what makes you happy.

Dress by Mango | Clutch by Bling Box Singapore | Shoes by Charles & Keith
The last 4 looks are the different ways that I styled a black sheath dress, using different accessories such as a belt, scarf, or blazer. You can read more styling details and tips about these looks here.

So which look did you like best? 
There are days when you want to just walk out the door without having to think about what to wear. And then there are days when you don’t mind putting some extra effort into your look. Depending on which side of the bed you woke up on, the color black is a reliable friend for us moody mavens. To be precise, the black dress can be the single more versatile piece in your closet. The LBD never goes out of style and there are any number of ways to dress it up or down. 

There are no rules, just play around with the different accessories you have to create different looks. For example, you can add one or a combination of the following:
  • Blazer 
  • Statement necklace 
  • Scarf 
  • Belt 
  • Plays with color: Add pops of color or, conversely, use muted tones 
Here are 4 looks I styled wearing a black dress.

Look 1: I call this the “Basic” Look. Hey, basic doesn’t have to be mean boring! In fact, basic can be understated but well put-together. Here, I chose to keep the look understated and let the dress be the main focus point. The accompanying accessories of the handbag and shoes are in muted beige and brown tones which are complimentary colors with black. Simple and chic!

Look 2: I wore a scarf here and opted to cinch it with a belt. This red scarf with embroidered flowers is from Sue Mue and it’s the right length to be paired with the dress. Note that a shorter scarf would not have necessarily looked right. In such cases, just wear the scarf in a different twist.

Look 3: Add instant boost to the black dress with a smart belt and a blazer that pairs well with the shoes (this doesn’t mean the two have to match but their colors should compliment each other).

Look 4: For this look, I chose to wear a fringe necklace and throw in some color to the mix – a yellow blazer and lace-up flats. Hope I don't look too much like a banana but oh well...:) 

So tell me - which look did you like best?
Munching away on the sweet potato pancakes from Fusspot & Foodie
With the end of August fast approaching, it’s “back to school” season! I can’t believe that my older son is almost 5 and will be starting kindergarten! The start of the new school year is upon us, and I’m already in “mom preparation mode” for Krishnav’s daily school lunch box. As a working mom, I don’t have the time to necessarily cook everything, nor would I like to send him with too many processed, packaged foods. Like any mom, I fret about what my son will eat and whether he will eat enough in school. What food items are easy to prepare and uncomplicated to eat? Which snacks are healthy but still delicious for him? 

Fusspot & Foodie has been the convenient solution I was looking for. Probably the only meal kit and catering setup in Singapore designed specifically for kids, Fusspot & Foodie provides healthy, wholesome, kid-friendly meals and snack options. The food items are planned and cooked using fresh ingredients. As a parent, all I need to think about is going on the Fusspot & Foodie website and picking out what I’d like to order as and when I need it (food arrives 1 week from the time order is placed). I first learned about Fusspost & Foodie through their Instagram and fell in love with their fun food creations and recipe ideas. Since then, I have met and spoken to Founder and Head Chef Tanya Soman who is extremely passionate about her business and the idea of building a healthy and positive approach to eating in children. I’ve had the chance to order a few meal kits for Krishnav to try and he’s given it a thumbs-up (no mean feat for a “fusspot”!). As it turns out, even my 13-month old has enjoyed munching on the foods we’ve ordered.
The blackbean brownies are a favorite in our household!
So what have we tried and liked? We’ve ordered the blackbean brownie and sweet potato pancakes (both of which are a particular favorite among my boys!), fish patties, homemade hummus, pasta sauce, and falafel. I can’t wait to try their Superfood Chocolate Sauce next. Made with organic cacao (hello antioxidants!), organic cold pressed extra virgin coconut oil (healthy fats and naturally antibacterial) and organic Australian honey,it sounds divine! I know Krishnav would love it with his pancakes, added to his milk for flavoring, or drizzled over fruit kebobs!

I’m sure us moms can all find ways to make our lives a little more manageable. Having a few healthy options for snacks or meals ready in the fridge has been a lifesaver for us. Definitely recommend trying it out.

Fusspot & Foodie also provides catering for kids birthday parties. Says Tanya Soman, “Deep fried snacks, high sugar treats and empty calorie sweet beverages are the standard items at children's parties today. Fusspot & Foodie wants to change the way kids eat at parties. Our menu's are proof that 'party food' doesn't have to be 'junk food'. It can be made with fresh veggies, fruit & whole-grains while being creative and fun so kids truly enjoy it!”

You can use the discount code URBANMANTRA10 to get 10% off one item on www.FusspotandFoodie.com. Happy, healthy eating!

The two pictures above were provided courtesy of Fusspot & Foodie.
We're half-way through the middle of the year and I just can't believe where the time has flown by. For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you will know that I mentioned that I've had a hectic last few months with several work and personal things all going on at the same time - an upcoming apartment move, a school change for Krishnav, work travels, personal vacations, work on pending tasks which had been put off for too long, etc. I tell myself to take each day as it comes. And to look good while doing it! So here goes my June 2018 look book!

Look 1: This boho top with the flared sleeves adds a dramatic effect to what would otherwise be a boring black outfit. I paired it with a black pencil skirt and tied a bright belt and added a colorful clutch to add that needed pop of color. Voila! I can imagine wearing this top in a more casual setting with a pair of blue jeans and sandals too.
Boho blouse from ShopBop | Pencil skirt from H&M (old) | Juicy Couture belt | Shoes from VNC in Bangkok (old) | Georgio Armani sunglasses | Clutch from Mumbai

Look 2: I've always seen white on white look good on others but couldn't figure out how to make it work for me. Then I realized it's about combining different textures and shades of white. This gold polka dot, ruffled top paired with white jeans works and is complimented with the brown tones seen with the shoes and bag. Clean and simple look but still with a style factor to it.
SheIn Gold Dot Print Top | Espirit white stretch jeans | Charles & Keith shoes | Burberry purse

Look 3: I love this checked skirt from H&M. I bought it when I was on maternity leave last year but it wasn't fitting me then. Now that I've lost a bit of the postpartum weight (still a long way to go!), I'm able to fit into the skirt. I opted to keep things simple with a solid black top. What might also look good is print-mixing the checked skirt with another printed top. Something to try for next time! Throw in the tassel earrings for a fun addition to the look and you're good to go. This is an outfit I wore to work earlier this month. 
H&M checked skirt (no longer available) | Forever 21 black top (old) |
Staccato flats | Just Gaya's white tassel earrings | Miu Miu purse
 (similar here)

Look 4: It's okay to be matchy-matchy but sometimes I just like to throw in an unexpected element to a look. This floral dress is pretty and sweet. But the green bag, although it doesn't match at all, still adds something interesting and unexpected to the look. Some might say it works, some wouldn't. But hey, it's just a bag. So let's not overthink it, right?

Pink Floral Print Dress from Lulu's (no longer available) | Marc Jacobs cross body bag | Charles & Keith shoes | Ralph Lauren sunglasses (old)

Look 5: Living in a tropical place like Singapore means you're able to get away with wearing clothes which have a summery, beachy vibe to them. This smock dress with the watermelon-shaped straw clutch and pom-pom sandals looks like I could be vacationing somewhere in a tropical beach destination. But nope, it's just a regular chill day in Singapore. This dress is simple but the pop of bubblegum pink stands out. I threw in some accent accessories for fun. I love this look!
Vero Moda Tiered Off-Shoulder Midi Dress | Ammos Accessories Atalanta sandals |
Clutch from Zhai Eco Collection

Look 5: June was also the month that my little baby-boo turned ONE! Yes, what a milestone! I can't believe it's been a year since this little butterball entered our lives and enriched it with his dimpled smiles and mischievous laughter. We celebrated with our family in Bangkok with a party! I chose to wear this light yellow Indowestern outfit purchased from a boutique in Bangkok. Additional tailoring touches were thrown in for a better fit and look. I love the embroidered design on the dupatta stole and on the dress itself. 

Mallika's Boutique in Bangkok

Now your turn to talk: Which of these 6 looks did you like best? I'd love to know!