There is no honor so great as being asked to bear witness to some of the most important and intimate moments in people’s lives. Weddings and parties are wonderful to photograph, but perhaps the most emotional and humbling are newborn photos. Ashley and Andrew are very dear friends of mine, so I was all too happy to make myself available to capture the early moments of their first experiences in parenthood.Meet Madison Kinsley, a beautiful baby girl born on July 22nd, 2015.This little lady came into the world already loved by so many! I can’t wait to continue to photograph her as she grows! Maddie and her mom and dad are happy and healthy. With parents like she has, I know that the future is bright!
A few months back, I was asked to photograph a lovely young family with the sweetest, happiest baby boy! Not only was the entire family beautiful and photogenic, but we were lucky to have some gorgeous Fall foliage to add to the scene! I wasn’t entirely prepared for the session, however, because I failed to bring a toy or noise-maker to distract Baby Boy and get him to look toward the camera. I made do though, with a branch of crackly, dried leaves that he seemed to find amusing when shaken!The session didn’t take long, but we managed to capture some fun moments with the new parents and their pride-and-joy. Hopefully, these will be images they can cherish forever and perhaps I will see them next Fall, when they welcome Baby #2!
I remember being very small, perhaps four or five, and watching an episode of Sesame Street that showed a beekeeper demonstrating where honey comes from. Near the end of the segment, the beekeeper and his children pulled out big chunks of honeycomb and began eating them straight from the comb. I still remember the way my mouth watered, wondering what it must taste like and being certain that it was delicious.
Fast forward about twenty years to a local Farmer’s Market ad on Facebook: “Homegrown Wildflower Honey in the Halfcomb.” Naturally, I pounced on the chance to fulfill a childhood craving.Upon opening the box, an overwhelmingly pleasant smell is released. Think beeswax blended with a faint, flowery aroma. I love the smell of beeswax candles – it is an intoxicatingly pleasant, natural scent. The comb is made of soft wax, and while it is a texture that not everybody cares for, it’s all natural, and entirely edible. Personally, I enjoyed the way the honeycomb melted in my mouth in a mixture of silky-sweet nectar. Honey in this form can be eaten any way you like. I personally enjoy it with either tea or simply hot water and lemon, but it can be spread on bread or scones, or quickly melted to become entirely liquid. One thing is for certain – my five-year-old self was right – honeycomb is nothing less than delightful!
After years of planning other people’s baby showers, bachelorette parties, and bridal brunches, it was finally my turn! My older sisters joined efforts to throw me beautiful bridal shower and they could not have chosen a better day! The inspiration for the party was Downton Abbey, one of my favorite TV shows, and was decorated with bunches of fresh flowers.
In true bridal shower tradition, the women gathered to share advice, play games, and shower me with gifts. I’ll admit there were moments when I felt a little uncomfortable – I’m so used to throwing parties for others but I can’t recall ever being on the receiving end of something like this. I felt very loved, and I’ll admit a tad spoiled as I opened gifts.I was blown away by the generosity of the women in my life and excited to use my new dishes and other household items. My oldest sister, a restauranteur and amazingly talented cook, provided an elaborate array of finger foods – prosciutto wrapped melon, miniature strawberry short cakes, individual-sized rhubarb pies, chicken cordon-bleu bites, and plenty more that I ate an embarrassingly large amount of!
My favorite part of the whole shower was the guest book – a teapot for everyone to sign! I’ll definitely cherish this teapot for the rest of my life and remember the beautiful women who shared this day with me. But my bridal moment doesn’t end there – since my fiancé’s family lives several hours away, his mother and sister threw me a second shower, in Minnesota! This time, the shower was Beauty & the Beast themed – my favorite fairytale.
Who says superhero-themed birthday parties are for kids? Ashley and I hold the self-appointed titles of official “Party Planners” and are always happy for an opportunity to get together and let our creative juices flow. When we realized our good friend Isaura’s birthday was coming up, we knew just what kind of birthday surprise the Wonder Woman enthusiast needed! Most of the credit goes to Ashley, who really took the reigns on this one due to my packed work schedule. Believe it or not, the cityscape backdrop was created by Ashley and her husband using AutoCAD and foam core board!
The cake was yummy and best of all, the birthday girl seemed to enjoy herself! She’s kind of a Wonder Woman herself sometimes – wife, mother, salsa-making extraordinaire (seriously, her salsa is the bomb!) so she deserves a day to be celebrated. After all, it’s not every day you turn 27!
Of all the paths you take in life, make sure at least a few of them are dirt. I grew up in the country, on a sprawling farm and ranch at the end of a dusty road. My father and uncle acquired the operation from my grandfather, who had taken over for my great-grandfather and, well, I guess you could say that agriculture is a family tradition of ours.
Part of that tradition includes “working cattle” which generally means gathering the herds back to the homestead in order to be sure each of them are properly recorded, have been administered necessary vaccinations, and are branded. It’s a big job and requires lots of help, which is why many of my siblings and I head home to join in the process.
This year, we were especially thankful to have beautiful, sunny weather. While I’ll admit I am a lot less helpful when I am behind my camera, I thought it was important to capture some of the moments that we take for granted. The American cowboy is a dying breed and traditions such as these are not as common as they once were. It’s funny how sometimes you have to grow up and move away from something before you can truly appreciate it. I’ve always been proud of my roots, but as a child, I had no idea just how special my family really is.
It makes my heart glad to see my nieces and nephews pitching in to sort the cows and calves and relieve the older generation of some of the physical demands. A lot has changed over the years, but some things stay the same, like the way my uncles like to good-naturedly banter with the youngsters, or my dad’s never-ending wisecracks. Abundant laughter and good conversation are what take this from being a hard day’s work and change it into something lively and entertaining.
I love watching my family work together and I’m grateful to be a part of these experiences. There is something infinitely satisfying when, at the end of the day, your hands are dirty, your body is sore, and your boots and jeans are splattered with mud. It’s about more than just the task at hand, it’s about taking pride in what you do. It’s through that pride and the lessons that come with it that help the legacy to live on.
Last Sunday, my friends and I threw a brunch-time bridal shower for our sweet friend, and soon-to-be-bride, Jaime. It was a beautiful morning of sunshine, tulips, and stuffed french toast! It’s not every day that the girls and I have an excuse to dress up and drink mimosas, so we welcomed the opportunity to indulge in a little elegance while celebrating the upcoming wedding of our friend.
We borrowed from Jaime’s wedding color scheme, which was perfect for a sunny morning in April. A turkey platter doubled as guest book and I turned a decorative banner into a fun afternoon DIY project. The finishing touches were a custom-designed canvas with one of her favorite quotes and thick slices of french toast stuffed with strawberries and cream! The best part of all, however, was spending time with some of my favorite girls – cheers!
For today’s Five Favorites, I’m talking about television! I watch way too much TV (just ask my fiancé). I will admit that I could probably get a lot more accomplished if I limited myself a bit. But where’s the fun in that?!
Here are my current favorites. If you haven’t seen them yet, you have my personal recommendation and seal of approval! If you have seen them, and love them as much as I do, feel free to comment or message me so we can geekishly gush about them together.
1. The Walking Dead
I have a confession to make. I am a late convert. For years people obsessed over this series but I was never tempted to watch it because I thought “Meh, I’m not really into the whole zombie thing.” But one day I felt intrigued enough to try out a couple of episodes. OH. MY. GOSH. I was wrong – it is so much more than just a show about zombies!
It’s really an imaginative speculation on what the world might actually be like if we were to experience an apocalypse of some kind. I’ve really enjoyed watching how the characters have evolved from being who they initially were to the hardened survivors they are now. The struggles to make sense of saying goodbye to the world as we know it is a very interesting concept. Needless to say, I am now obsessed with this show and feel like I will die waiting until October for Season 5. Does Norman Reedus have anything to do with my obsession, you ask? Er….no comment. But those arms….it’s okay for a grown woman to doodle “Mrs. Daryl Dixon” on her notebooks, right?
Six months until the season premiere – plenty of time for you all to catch up!
2. Masterpiece Classic
Just as The Walking Dead comic aficionados roll their eyes at those of us who hopped on the bandwagon after it became a TV show, I feel a tad annoyed at the recent rise in Masterpiece viewers due to Downton Abbey. Don’t get me wrong – I love Downton Abbey – but Masterpiece is so much more than that. I grew up with only 3 channels, and watched pretty much everything on PBS, so I’ve been a Masterpiece Theatre fan for as long as I can remember….we’re talking Northanger Abbey, Bleak House, A Tale of Two Cities…Downton is great and all, but it’s essentially just a soap opera and not necessarily a true representation of everything Masterpiece has to offer. I beg of you to try exploring some of the older classics, like Cranford or Little Dorrit, and I can almost guarantee you will be hooked – after all, they are truly masterpieces!
3. Orange is the New Black
I only recently started watching this show after desperately flipping through Netflix in a sad attempt to curb my Walking Dead withdrawals. A few of my friends have been talking about it for a while, and one of them made me watch the first episode with her. I have to admit – it’s pretty good. The show portrays life inside a women’s prison and does so in a lighthearted yet dark method. I used to work at a women’s prison, once upon a time, so I find it interesting to see the dynamic they have created for the characters. I’m still only midway through Season 1, but so far I have been enjoying it. I will, however, warn you that it has some shocking displays of explicit sexuality, so if you are prudent by nature, you might not cope well with this show.
4. Hell on Wheels
I love historical dramas, especially when they are set in or around my homeland in the rugged western edge. Hell on Wheels follows the expansion of the railroad and the many dangers and adventures people encountered in the Wild West, including disease, crime, and Native Americans. What is most fascinating to me are the parallels between the booming West and the oil boom here in North Dakota. Crime, shady characters, shortages of women…even the “tent cities” of old times are reflected today in the many RV parks scattered around the Prairie. Hell on Wheels is exciting and well-written, and easily takes a place on my list. The new season premieres this summer and Charlie and I can’t wait!
5. The Vikings
Just like #4 on my list, this is a show that Charlie and I enjoy together. It’s an adventurous drama with a hint of macabre, following Ragnar Lothbrok and his band of Viking brothers. If you have any interest in Norse traditions or the stories of Odin, you will enjoy this bloody and brutal saga. If you’re like my fiancé, and have Scandinavian roots, you might also feel compelled to get in touch with your warrior side. He insists I learn how to be a good “shield maiden” and has requested that we use drinking horns instead of glasses. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
They say it is important to stay in touch with your inner child. I firmly agree with this ideal, and in fact, not only have my inner child and I stayed in touch, but we spend a considerable amount of time together each day. I’ll place that blame, or should I say credit, on my mother, who always encouraged my siblings and I to use our imaginations as much as possible. I’m a dreamer, a fantasizer, and a creator. But I don’t think I’d have it any other way.
While traveling and working on ships, I connected with many people from around the world who, while seemingly so different from this American farm-girl, could not have been more of a reflection of my true self. I recognized within them a kindred, childlike exhilaration for life.
One thing about creative people – they’re never really concerned about acting their age. That’s why, one humid summer day while docked in the Bahamas, some of my musician friends and I decided to play in the sand.I’ve built plenty of dirt houses and mud-pies in my day, but having never seen the ocean or a proper beach until I was in my 20s, this was my first time building an actual sand castle. The powdery-white sand at Half Moon Cay was a big contrast to the dark, rich soil on our farm, and I enjoyed the way it slipped like velvet through my fingers.Later, the rising tide would wash away our day’s work, erasing all evidence of our creation. But nothing will wash away the memories.
Recently, an opportunity presented itself for me to try something new – skiing! As part of my 30 Before Thirty, I couldn’t pass this up, so Charlie and I packed our bags and headed to the Rocky Mountains for a weekend on the slopes with some of our friends. As someone who is fearful of heights and speed, I was surprisingly optimistic about the idea. In fact, in an overwhelming burst of confidence, I may or may not have made a prophetic declaration to our group the night before that “I have a feeling I’m going to be really good at this!” They very politely refrained from commenting.
I added skiing to my list of goals for a couple of reasons. First, because it is shameful that I have never been skiing when I live this close to the mountains, and second because, believe it or not, I like to challenge myself when it comes to things that scare me. No one would ever accuse me of being an adrenaline junky, but I do love adventure, and my mantra is I’ll try anything at least ONCE. (Disclaimer: this statement does not apply to bungee jumping, orgies, or enrolling in quantum-physics courses).
When we got to the ski lodge, the men hit the bar and the women geared up. There were three of us hitting the slopes that day and two of us were beginners. We signed up for lessons but still had an hour before they started, so we decided to try the bunny slope out on our own. How hard could it be?, we thought. Shockingly, we quickly learned that there is more technique involved in skiing than just standing at the top of the hill and pushing off.
Fun Ski Fact #1: Trying to stand up while wearing skis is the second most-difficult thing in the world (first is trying to stay awake while reading anything by Anton Chekhov). Ski boots are stiff to provide support, which means you cannot bend your ankles, which means that when you try to stand up you will end up looking like a drunken turtle. People passing by on the lifts took pity on me and tried to help by shouting suggestions “Turn your skis so they’re perpendicular!”, “Try to squat and lean forward!”, “Give up and belly flop down the hill like a penguin!” (okay, that last suggestion came from a voice in my head, but I was seriously considering it).
By the time I got to my feet, I was panting like I had just completed a triathlon. I was still optimistic and certain that my next attempt would be smoother. So I took a deep breath and pushed off again. Turns out, I was right – this time I made it farther….about a whopping six and a half feet. My third attempt would have been a much greater distance, but for some reason I started veering off to the left, toward a crowd of people. I had two choices: plow into the innocent bystanders, or bail by throwing myself backwards. After several nano-seconds of weighing my options, I chose the latter, and skidded to a halt just inches from the crowd. This time, a group of toddlers skied to a stop beside me and helped me to my feet while I shook about a truckload of snow out of the back of my coat. By the time I reached the bottom, it had taken me 20 minutes to descend a 30-foot slope.
My friend and fellow-beginner, Ana (names have been changed to protect the clumsy) unfortunately fared worse. I found her in tears at the bottom, tangled in the orange plastic snow fence. We decided to wait for the lessons before attempting it again.
It’s a funny thing, fear. The more you pay attention to it, the stronger it gets. Standing idly for thirty minutes gave me a lot of time to focus on my growing anxiety about what the bigger slopes would be like. Beside me, Ana was still wiping away tears of frustration. “This isn’t very much fun so far,” I ventured. “Skiing sucks,” Ana quickly replied, rubbing at what would later become a series of dark bruises. Suddenly, doubt began to creep into my mind as I contemplated quitting altogether. But we had already paid for the rentals and lessons, so I tried to shake that from my mind.
Just then, a third beginner joined us at the bottom of the slope. “Hi, I’m Sara. You guys in the adult beginners group?” she asked, nervously chewing on her bottom lip. You could feel the anxiety radiating from her body as she shifted from foot to foot. Seeing her so fearful seemed to only strengthen the nagging fear Ana and I were both trying desperately to suppress. By the time our instructor, blonde and bouncy, arrived to greet us, Ana and I were quietly discussing quitting.
Little by little, bit by bit, my anxiety was replaced with a new feeling – enjoyment. After a few successful runs down the slope, I realized I was actually starting to have fun! Emboldened by the relief that had taken over my body, I suggested to Ana that we attempt one of the actual ski slopes. “Just once,” I said, “to say we did it.” So we boarded the ski lift and slowly rose to the top of the slope. I despise chair lifts (again, I am a raging acrophobic) but at that moment I had bigger fish to fry, so I pushed that from my mind and focused on the tops of the trees.
Finally, it was time. We set off down the slope, side by side, being careful to control our speed. I felt like a rock-star. Never mind the fact that there were small children flying past me – at that moment I felt like I was the coolest person on earth.
I was enjoying my moment of self-love when suddenly I heard Ana begin to scream. “I can’t stop! Oh s***, I can’t stop!” she flew past me and toward the trees that marked a drop-off of the slope. I skied faster, trying to catch up with her while shouting “Dig your skis in! Make a pie! Make a pie!” (In our beginner’s course, the instructor taught us to turn our skis in at a point – like the shape of a slice of pie – to come to a stop) At the last second, Ana threw herself to the ground and slid to a stop.
I caught up to her and stopped to help her to her feet. “Deep breaths, take deep breaths. It’s okay, we can do this”, I said, trying to pep her up. Just then, I heard a faint whimpering coming from the grove of trees across from us.
“Sara!” I said, recognizing the nervous girl from our beginner class. She was standing uphill from a large tree, clinging to it with all four limbs as she squeezed her eyes shut. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” she stammered, “just taking a break!” As expert skiers whizzed past us, no doubt annoyed by the obstacle, I grabbed Ana’s arm and skied over to Sara. “Come on,” I said calmly, “We’ll all go down together.”
The last half of the slope was the steepest and narrowest part, but I didn’t have time to be afraid, as I suddenly felt responsible for Ana and Sara. A self-assured cheerleader that I didn’t even know existed inside of me, began to emerge. “We can do it! Let’s go girls, nice and easy!” The three of us took off downhill while I continued my peppy affirmations. A few minutes later, Ana was again beginning to lose control and gain speed. I darted after her, shouting some more about “making pie.” Feeling guilty about having to choose which person to “rescue”, I looked behind me to see an increasingly-distant Sara, eyes wide with fear. “I’m sorry Sara! I’m sorry!” I shouted, as I watched her aim herself toward another tree to use for an anchor. I never did see if Sara made it down the mountain. In fact, she may still be up there, clinging to her tree. Let’s all take a moment of silence in memoriam.
Later, as I returned my skis to the rental shack, I was filled with an extraordinary sense of accomplishment. I did it….I really did it! To most people, this might seem insignificant, but to me…it’s #22. And for that, I am proud.