Posts in “Photography”

Gifts For Him

Friday, December 6, 2019

It’s another year of gift giving this Christmas! Have you started shopping for presents yet? Or maybe a list of gift ideas for your loved ones such as the men in your life? Men can be hard to shop for and if you’re feeling the same, you are not alone 🙂 I asked my husband, Brent, to share his wish list, for lack of a better term. He really likes quality above everything else and rarely buys impulsively.  If you know someone like him who shares the same principle, check out the list for quality gifts for the men in your life.


  1. Bullet Grid Journal

Journaling is probably more of a woman’s thing but it doesn’t mean guys won’t enjoy it, too. My husband tracks his goals using his bullet journal. He enjoys making his own schedule and goals in different charts/columns. It’s not only for journaling but it can also be used for doodling and drawing. A perfect way to start 2020!

2. Qalo Silicone Wedding Ring

If your man is active, likes to swim, works out and prefers not to wear his ring on his finger, I recommend to get a durable silicone ring. Both of us have one and we love it so much! It’s comfortable to wear without the worry of losing or scratching it.

3. Klean Kanteen insulated tumbler 

Whether he’s a coffee lover, tea lover, or just hydrates eight times a day, this reusable tumbler is a good one to carry! It’s totally insulated and will keep your drinks fresh all day long. 

4. Hammock

Laying in a  hammock might be one of the best forms of relaxation ever. This hammock comes with plenty of colors to choose from. It can be used for two  and perfect for tall people as well. 

5. adidas Hat

If your man is a hat lover, better check out this hat collection from adidas. Whether for sports, hiking, or  just city strolling, it’s the hat to wear without sacrificing style. I own one from their women’s collection and it fits perfectly and comfortably.

6. adidas training top

A lightweight top for men even when they’re not super athletic. It can be worn for workouts, strolling, or while running errands. It’s made from moisture-wicking fabric that’s comfortable and drying even on extra busy days.

women’s hoodie sweatshirt

I hope this list can help you and make your gift searching easy. Let’s face it! Shopping for men can be a real challenge. 

  How about you? What are your gift ideas for the men (husband, father, brother, etc) in your life?


In partnership with adidas. Thanks for supporting the brands that make my blog possible.



How’s being a stay-at-home mom?

Thursday, November 21, 2019

I’d like to share with you today some images I took of my good friend, Brittany and her beautiful family + horses… We’ve known them for several years now and I’m excited to welcome her to the “Mother of three boys!” club ;). Here are some things about her that you might find interesting. 


Tell me about yourself?

I’m 30 years old and married to my best friend for 8 years now. We have 2 boys, another one on the way, and have fostered 3 boys over the last couple of years that have since been reunited with family. We live on 10 acres in a small south Texas town with a menagerie of animals. I’ve loved horses since I could say the word “horse” and I’m blessed to live my dream out in the country with my family.


How’s being a stay-at-home mom? 

I decided to become a stay-at-home mom when I was 5 years into working on a PhD in School Psychology and just had my first son. It was not an easy decision to leave a doctoral program where I had spent so much time, passion, and energy. I NEVER thought I would be a stay at home mom. I had plans to be a psychologist and a researcher, yet once I had him, I knew that wasn’t my path anymore. It was a difficult decision, but I knew it was the right one because God gave me total peace about it, so I left school. I have not regretted it since (although I might regret those school loans a little bit 😉 ). 

Staying home with the kids can be exhausting and isolating. Some days I don’t speak to another adult besides my husband when he gets home from work. Some days I feel like I didn’t get enough house cleaning done or enough time spent doing “educational activities” with the kids to be worthy of being a stay-at-home parent. Then I remember God told me to do this, He picked me to be their mom, and I am enough. I’ve been there for all of my kids’ “firsts”, for all their sick days and their well days, and oh my goodness it’s just an overwhelming feeling when I think about it. I know not everyone has the privilege to be a stay-at-home parent. I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity.

 I do not have any stay-at-home jobs or “side gigs” to momming currently, although I started a blog for fun ( I haven’t been blogging much this year, but I do post memes and daily happenings occasionally on social media (@dirtanddiapers). Feel free to check it out and maybe I’ll have some time in 2020 to really get that going. Ha! We’ll see!


How did you and your family start fostering? What you love about it and what challenging parts?

I’ve known I wanted to foster/ adopt since I was a child. When my husband and I were dating in college I made sure he knew I felt a calling to foster care, and that I also wanted 7 kids whether biologically or through adoption. 7 was always just a joke when people asked how many kids I would want someday, but Reid knew I was serious about having a large family and helping orphans. It didn’t scare him off! 

We had our first baby in 2015, started the foster licensing process end of 2016, and were a licensed foster home shortly after our son turned 2 at the beginning of 2017. We also had several miscarriages in 2016 and to our surprise, found out we were pregnant the week of our home study. We decided to still accept placements and our first one was an 11 mo. old little boy. We had him for several months and then he was reunited with his family. After he left we took a break for the birth of our second son and then got relicensed with another agency shortly after he  turned 1 year old, beginning of 2019. 

At that point, we had 4 and 1 year old biological sons, and began our fostering adventure again. A lot of people I talk to about fostering say they would love to, maybe once their kids are older. I’m here to tell you, you can foster with young kids. Our next placement was a 3 year old boy who had severe emotional and behavioral issues. This was one of the hardest things we have done in our marriage and as a family. There were some days with hour long tantrums, conflict between the boys, biting, hitting, scratching, and ending with me in tears. God was our strength, and He reminded me of our calling to foster care. I learned our family was more capable than we ever imagined and I knew it was teaching us how to love even when it’s hard. He was reunited with family after several months, and then we got a call about a 6 year old boy in a psychiatric hospital for threats of suicide. This was a scary decision to make. We had two young children of our own. Was bringing a child with psychiatric issues into our home a good idea? God spoke to us. Has God ever turned His back on us out of fear? No. Fear not, you are walking in faith and obedience. Nothing can stand against you. 

We accepted that placement and learned you cannot trust a blurb on a paper, but you can trust God. This kid was a challenge, but he was nowhere near the behavioral description we had initially received. He just went home last month and we are awaiting the call for our next foster placement. Oh and we are also expecting our third son in a few months. This time, I’m unsure, but I don’t think we are taking a break from fostering as we did with our last birth. Maybe it’s because we’re just used to chaos now, so what is a little more? We’re still trying to discern what God has in store. We’ve accepted 7 placements over the last couple of weeks, but none of them have ended up with us. We’re just along for the journey at this point; whatever journey that may be.

I also want to mention, one of the most common statements people tell me is, “Oh I would love to foster, but I’m afraid I’d get too attached.” Yes, you will. That is the whole point of fostering! To love a child as your own, be a safe place for as long as they need you, and get way too attached. Everytime a child has been placed with us and left our home, I shed tears. God reminds me each time: “This isn’t about you. This is about Me and this is about the kids. And these kids need love more than you need to protect your own heart.”


What have you learned from motherhood?

Before I joined the motherhood club, I had no idea what was in store. It’s a messy, tiring, fulfilling, adventure.There are highs and lows, and sometimes I feel like I have no idea what I am doing. But as I mentioned earlier, one of the most important things I have learned is simply: I am enough. If you are a struggling mother, please know that God chose YOU specifically for your babies.You are enough.

 I’m so thankful God chose me to mother all of these boys (biological and foster). 

Photography by Em Smith


Mix and Match Basics with adidas

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

helloislandmama x adidas street style

In partnership with adidas

A New Year is a good time to invest in a new wardrobe. But being a mother sometimes mean limited sartorial choices. I always go for basics and essentials that can easily be styled for any occasion. I believe that a great wardrobe is a mix of casual basics complemented by fashionable and contemporary designs. It is important to invest in timeless essential pieces that can be worn throughout multiple seasons and can be combined endlessly. Running around three energetic little boys require both stamina and proper clothing!

Houston weather has been kind to us lately, allowing me to wear something other than leggings. Dressing up is something I still enjoy doing. Mixing and matching can be time consuming but if you’ve got your basics covered, it’s a no brainer.

This soft velour skirt from adidas is one of my current favorites lately. It’s slim, high-waisted, and extremely easy to dress up or down.

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I’m fond of soft colors because they’re easy to pair with other pieces. I matched my skirt with a light grey cardigan and a simple black top. It makes the look chic but balanced. I finished the outfit with knee high socks and black ankle boots.

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For the second look, I decided to go for a more laid back look. I borrowed one of my husband’s sweater to compliment the skirt. I’m a huge fan of oversized sweaters. I would wear them all the time if possible! 

The skirt is comfortable to wear and super soft, too! The plush texture gives the sporty skirt a feminine vibe. I finished the look with a strap-back hat and adidas shoes (this color is not available anymore but there are other colors to choose from) for a full on laid back style. Perfect for chasing and running around with the kids!

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Be patient with yourself as you build a core, mix and match wardrobe that works for you.

Building a wardrobe takes time and major decluttering. It took me a while to do so but certainly worth the effort. Stocking up on basics was one of the best decisions I made and have made my life easier.

What’s in your wardrobe? And do you prefer feminine chic or laid back style?


The Art of Fireworks: Happy 4th of July!

Friday, July 6, 2018


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I’m sharing some of images in celebration of Independence Day celebrations at Friendswood Centennial Park. We’re glad the rain stop before the celebration started – but the grass was still wet all over  (wish we had brought a tarp to sit on instead of our “banig” 😉 ) A lot of people came to celebrate and see the fireworks. It was our third son’s first time to celebrate 4th of July and to see fireworks.

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Surprisingly, he didn’t even cry when the fireworks started. The kids stayed up late and were excited to ride the shuttle bus, which was a school bus, to and from the park.

I love watching fireworks! I think the coolest thing about fireworks when it comes to photography is that you can play around with the images in editing software to create some pieces of art. I used my old  Nikon DSLR, Sigma 35mm lens and Photoshop.

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I hope everyone had a great 4th of July!

Thank you America!


Hello Spring + behind-the-scenes of creative photography

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

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Hello, first day of spring! Can you tell in this picture how happy I am for this season?! Let’s say goodbye to thick clothes, and say hello to more fun, lightweight outfits. 😉 I love spring because it gives our family a reason to go out and enjoy the weather.  Whether we go to the beach, park, or other fun places, spring makes it all more enjoyable. Also, this season is when I will be celebrating my birthday with my youngest son for the first time! Today on Hello Island Mama, I also wanted to share how I created this spring themed photo with my chill baby. 🙂 Scroll down for some fun!

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First, I googled an image of a bike, so I could sketch it and tweak some areas to fit my idea for this shoot. The more simple the sketch, the better, since I imported this illustration into Photoshop and added more details there.

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I did the cleaning in Photoshop by removing the background and decided to make the bike white in color by using “Color Overlay”.

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I know, I look silly here… Haha! But anyway, I used a counter stool for me to sit down on and pose in the position that I liked for the riding on a bike concept. Take note that you should check your clothes, like your top, to make sure it’s in the right flow. This also helps to add a more realistic look to the image when you’ve removed the background.

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Here’s the close up shot in my Photoshop workspace.

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Since I used a biking concept, I thought it was better to add a wind blown hair effect. I used my hair dryer (on the cold setting of course) to do the trick. I selected the hair to manipulate in the main image.

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I’m wearing a flowy pink top from Pink Blush, with pretty lace details. I also paird it with white jeans and a pair of slide sandals (similar to these).

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Of course, my little man wanted to join in on the fun too! His big brothers didn’t make it in the photo since they are too heavy to ride on the imaginary bike. 😉 However, it might be possible in real life to ride with 3 kids with something similar to this. That photo was taken in the Philippines. Haha!

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I hope you enjoyed today’s creative post! What are you looking forward to in this new season?

“As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.” – Hosea 6:3


A sign you need a MOMCATION (+ photo editing tips)

Monday, February 26, 2018

sign you need a momcation helloislandmama

Do you ever take a vacation all by yourself, leaving the house and mom duty for a few days? As much as I love my kids, I sometimes wish that I could take a few days away from the noise, refresh my mind, and spend time alone. Maybe I could have a spa appointment, go to the beach, stay in a hotel, and eat my favorite treats without hiding from my kids? Yeah, it’s all just daydreaming right now. 😉

Here in Galveston Island, we’ve been getting lots of tourists these past few days, since the weather dropped down to the 70s. Brent and I brought the kids to the beach over the weekend too. As I was walking with my baby by the shore, someone stopped me to ask if I had 3 boys. I replied that I did. They are a couple from Canada who have 3 boys too, but are all grown up. They were on vacation here in Galveston Island. How wonderful it will be when you reach the age when your kids are all grown up! I’ll be able to travel with my husband like that couple! Brent and I are looking forward to that. Today, I want to also share photo tips and a behind the scenes look at this creative shot! I thought it’d be fun to share what goes on behind my creative shots. It’s fun to look at, especially if you have an interest in photo editing and photography in general!

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I took a picture of myself wearing this pretty ivory floral wrap dress. It can be used during pregnancy and nursing as well.


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I used a chair for my toddler’s table set, so I could take a picture of my baby, pretending he was on top of the suitcase.

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As for the floral wallpaper, I laid my dress down on a flat surface and took a photo of it to transfer on Photoshop. I then edited it for use on the wall. I adjusted the levels and used the “Multiply” tool to make the photo look realistic on the wall.

Again, I used my Nikon DSLR (an oldie, but it still takes good images), a tripod, and my remote (like this one)  to make the shoot easier.

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This is an image I took in Austin, TX while Brent and I were on our honeymoon. I thought the image was beautiful, so I decided to use it for what was outside of the window. sign you need a momcation photo editing (8)

Hope you enjoyed today’s behind the scenes topic!

Where do you want to go and what do you want to do for your “momcation”? Give me some ideas!


Cultural Differences (When Filipina meets Kano)

Friday, February 2, 2018
cupids valentines day hello island mama family adventure photoshop

“Cupids”… I hired cupids to make sure this man will celebrate Valentine’s Day!

It’s February everyone! Girls, are you excited for Valentine’s Day and receiving flowers? Or perhaps, you don’t have a date? Well, that’s totally fine! Nobody even gave me flowers or Valentine’s cards until I met Brent after college. It’s so funny, yet amazing to look back at those times when Brent and I started to date. Our relationship was mostly long distance since he was in Thailand teaching kids, while I was in the Philippines working. That time in our relationship was difficult, but God used it to build trust between us and strengthen our relationship. Now, we are married!

I never really thought of dating a man who was from a different cultural background than mine, or even dreamt of living in America (which I talked about from this post about my American citizenship). Yet, here we are! We had so many adjustments to make learning about each other’s cultural beliefs and habits, personalities, and even our own families. What I love about Brent is that he is open-minded about diversity and is really friendly with Asian people. He had been traveling and working in China and Thailand for a few years, before he went to graduate school for Psychology here in America. We have both seen our cultural differences in everyday life, especially when we entered marriage. As we are bound to honor each other in marriage, we learned to compromise, even when it is difficult. I wanted to share a few Filipino cultural habits that Brent has seen and experienced, after marrying a Filipina like me. 😉

Balikbayan Box

Have you heard of this? Well, this is a large moving box that you put different items inside, to send to your family in the Philippines. Whether it is secondhand clothes, toys, canned goods, pretty much anything. My husband is always confused about why I’m sending dishwashing soap inside the box. Why not?? 😀

Normal voice

My family and I may sometimes talk loud as if we are in different rooms, even if we’re together in the same place. Sometimes, my husband wondered if my mom and I were fighting, but we were actually just using our normal voices.

We like to eat

I know all people love to eat, but Filipinos really love to eat all the time! If we have birthday parties, holiday parties, weddings, you name it, we love to make or buy different meals to share with everyone. We can’t do something like only celery and carrots for snacks… I mean those veggies are healthy, but really, we Filipinos love big meals!

Close family

Brent used to ask me, “How many aunties and uncles do you have?” In my culture, we like to call older women and men, Tita or Tito, as a sign of respect. Even if someone may be a more distant relative, we try to call them aunt and uncle. We also love to hangout with second cousins, third cousins, and so many other relatives!

Rice forever

Americans eat certain foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Filipinos on the other hand,we can eat our leftover dinner for breakfast, rice for breakfast, and rice for the next meal. We always eat rice! Ahh, I love rice, especially the fried rice that I make! But like I said, marriage is compromise, so I try to cook other meals that don’t need rice.

Mall Marathon

The first time I went with Brent and his family to the mall, they only stayed for 30 minutes or so. We Filipinos do differently. I’ll use my mom as an example. She can stay at the mall for more than 2 hours or until closing time. Who wants to hang out at the mall with my mom? Not me, I have kids!

Are you dating or married to someone from a different culture? What’s the biggest adjustment you and your man experienced?

hello island mama cultural differences filipina and american

Seriously, this was our real conversation here…

Me: Can we have a photo together?

Brent: What for?

Me: For a Valentine’s Day post!

Brent: What do you want me to do?

Me: Just smile, or maybe try to hold my face like you are about to kiss me?

Brent: Nope. I definitely won’t do that!

Ahh I love my husband!

Have a Happy Heart’s Day month!


3 helpful tips for maternity shoot

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

houston maternity photographer newborn lesley lastufka pearland alvin friendswood galveston john o'quinn nature preserve-10a

A good friend of mine,Caroline, had her first baby girl (she is adorable!). I had a chance to do her makeup for her maternity shoot, here in Galveston Island. I also had the chance to work with one of the photographers in Houston, Lesley. Today, she wants to share three tips for those who are expecting and how to be ready for memorable images that you can share with your child, family, and friends.

houston maternity photographer newborn lesley lastufka pearland alvin friendswood galveston john o'quinn nature preserve-9a

Schedule Your Session Early

Maternity portraits are captured ideally between 6-9 months of pregnancy. Your photographer will be able to help you determine the best time based on your weight gain, previous pregnancies, and if you are having a high-risk pregnancy. Start searching for a photographer early to ensure a spot and have adequate time to plan. Once your baby is almost here, you will have so many other things to think about!

houston maternity photographer newborn lesley lastufka pearland alvin friendswood galveston john o'quinn nature preserve-8a

Find Your Style

Indoor or outdoor? Your home or a studio? Spontaneous or guided? What kind of images do you enjoy looking at and envision on your wall? Lesley is proud to offer portraits that she design together from the beginning, bringing your vision to life. Starting a Pinterest board is a great way to help select elements that you love.

houston maternity photographer newborn lesley lastufka pearland alvin friendswood galveston john o'quinn nature preserve-12a

Make It Last

Portraits of timeless moments are meant for so much more than ‘likes’ on Facebook. Let your children know you’ve loved them from the very beginning. Consider asking your photographer for a photo album, wall art, or other printed portraits that you can show off or easily access. She is pleased to offer both maternity and newborn photography sessions. You can book both sessions together for a bundle savings, and select photos from both sessions for one lovely photo album!

houston maternity photographer newborn lesley lastufka pearland alvin friendswood galveston john o'quinn nature preserve-14a

Lesley specializes in customized portraits both outdoors and in-studio. She also does newborn photoshoots and is trained in newborn safety by industry leaders.

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This is behind the scene for our makeup session.

What’s your favorite tip for having a maternity shoot?




Welcome to Hello Island Mama! I love to share about motherhood, makeup, DIYs, home styling and faith. Based in Houston, Texas. Originally from Philippines. Thank you for your time to read and don't forget to subscribe above! - Em

"I can do all things through him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13

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