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!
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.
My friends Amy and Loren recently welcomed their first child into the world – an adorable baby boy named Clarence William, and they asked me to be his Godmother!I was thrilled to accept the honor and happy to know I would have a special place in his life. During the baptism ceremony, Clarence was a perfect angel and didn’t even fuss when the priest blessed him by pouring holy water down the top of his head. Amy and Loren seemed blissfully happy and the three of them make a beautiful little family.
Being someone’s Godmother is a great honor, but I have to boast that this was not my first time! My nephew Avery was my first Godson, followed by my niece Abigail, who refers to me as her “Fairy Godmother.” I love my God-babies and know they will always hold a special place in my heart!
I suppose I am long overdue with introducing to you the newest member of our family. Meet Gilly Louise Grandell:About a month and a half ago, my sister Holly frantically called me from her car, saying “What do I do?! There is a cat here in the middle of the road and I think she got hit by a car!” I told her that she had to go pick the poor thing up and when she did, she found that the skin-and-bones feline was frozen to the ground. Here in North Dakota, we’ve experienced some record-breaking low temps, and that particular day, the wind-chill was at a whopping -60 degrees! Holly brought the cat to the local animal rescue, where a veterinarian determined that the cat had indeed been hit by a car and appeared to be suffering from temporary nerve damage due to the freezing temps. They put her on a feeding tube and kept her for three weeks. The tips of her ears fell off from frostbite and there were patches of frostbite on her nose and all four paws. The tip of her tail was also frozen, and while it hasn’t yet happened, about an inch of it will definitely fall off soon.
And then…I fell in love with her. She is the sweetest cat I have ever encountered, loves affection, and has lots of personality. Charlie and I adopted her and named her “Gilly” after our all-time favorite Saturday Night Live character played by Kristen Wiig.
It was strange adjusting to having a cat. Charlie gave her a bath (she badly needed it) and I bought her a plush kitty bed, even though she prefers to sleep on my lap or the foot of our bed. When we got her, she weighed a mere 5 pounds, but with some good quality food, she’s now at a healthy 8! Her favorite things to do are play with my ponytail elastics and nuzzle my chin. She is without a doubt one of the best parts of my day.
Sometimes, when I’m working, I find myself checking the clock to see when I can go home and snuggle with my cat. I have become the crazy cat lady who talks about her cat all the time and always wants to show people pictures. And there is just something about her fuzzy little forehead – I can’t stop kissing it! Luckily she seems to enjoy my constant smothering as much as I enjoy doing it.
She loves to snuggle with her “Daddy” too, but she is definitely a mama’s girl!My cell phone is FULL of photos and videos of her doing ridiculously cute things, like her seal impression (she’s such a weirdo – what cat lays like this??):And all the other cute little positions she balls herself into. She’s our first furbaby, and while we always expected we’d get a dog (which we still will, someday) Gilly has been an amazing blessing to us and I wouldn’t want it any other way!
Reality recently struck when I realized that in a few short weeks I will be turning 29 and will officially be in the LAST year of my 20s. How do I feel about that? Well….freaked out, depressed, panicked… I know that all the people over age 30 are rolling their eyes right now, but it’s a really scary thought for me! I feel like, after years of wasting time, I really need to get my act together! Once you hit 30, it’s not cute anymore to still be trying to “find yourself” and decide what to do with your life.
A popular notion these days is “30 before thirty”: a bucket-list of sorts that is to be completed by the time you reach your 30th birthday. Unfortunately, I only have a year to complete this so I won’t be able to include such lofty goals as “swim the English Channel” but I could probably just…learn how to swim. And don’t expect to ever see “Go Skydiving” or “Bungee Jump off the Brooklyn Bridge” on any of my lists, because that is never going to happen (fear of heights).
1. Travel to Scotland. Of course my first goal involves travel. We’re planning to go there for our honeymoon this fall but we haven’t made any concrete plans so I am making this a goal in order to ensure that it takes precedence. Within this goal, is my desire to travel from Scotland into England so that we can spend a couple of days at my alma mater in Wroxton. Also, I have to connect with my friend Jen at some point or I will just die!
2. Learn how to swim. Maybe in my next 30 years I can tackle the English Channel. To clarify, I do technically know how to swim, but I am very very bad at it. Just prior to embarking on my first cruise ship contract, I hired a local swim instructor for private lessons. We met once a week for four weeks and she taught me the basics, like how to tread water and a couple different styles of strokes. But….I haven’t practiced a whole lot since.
3. Get into my ideal shape. It’s the last year of my 20s and I’m not getting any younger. Enough is enough! I have zero upper-body strength and that has got to change! I deserve it. I think believing that might be the most important part of this goal.
4. Become a better photographer. I love photography, but I can be pretty lazy when it comes to learning how to better use my camera and equipment. I’m really going to buckle down this year. Practice makes perfect! I would be wonderful to take a hobby and a passion and let it evolve into something more!
5. Write blog posts more regularly. Also pretty lazy about this. But never fear, faithful readers – that’s all about to change! I want to set up a day each week which I dedicate to writing and posting!
6. Dust of my guitar. When I was in college, I took guitar lessons for the acoustic I bought after graduating high school. Since then, it’s been propped in a corner, collecting dust. I love playing music, so I think this will be a fun goal!
7. Audition for Globetrekker. I want to send my audition reel to Globe Trekker. It’s been my goal my entire life to be one of Pilot Production’s Globe Trekkers. Maybe that’s not meant to ever happen, but I think I owe it to myself to at least try. I’d be stoked just to do ONE episode!
8. Re-kindle some old friendships. I have several “ship friends” who are very near and dear to my heart. But sometimes life gets in the way and I don’t call them as often as I’d like to. Time passes by so quickly. I never want to be at a point in which they are not part of my life, so I need to be sure to cultivate those relationships!
9. Volunteer. I’ve been trying to be a part of the local animal rescue, but so far haven’t been able to help out (they’re really bad at contacting volunteers). There is a fundraiser coming up this Spring and I’d love to be a part of it. It’s a cause that is near and dear to my heart.
10. Go vegetarian for one month. There are a plethora of reasons for this – first off is for the sheer health of it. But there is also that nagging guilt in the back of my mind every time I buy a pack of chicken breasts that I know probably came from one of those nightmarish chicken-concentration-camp-style farms…if I can pull this off, it could be huge.
11. Learn how to handle and shoot a gun. Charlie has tried teaching me before, but I am totally freaked out by guns in general. I’ve gotten better about it (I live with an ex-military man, so I really have no choice) but I think it would be smart to know how to use them. Having guns in the house and not being able to operate them is actually more dangerous than becoming familiar and comfortable with them.
12. Get my concealed weapons permit. I know that sounds crazy because if you know me at all you’d say “whaaaa??” but the truth is, in this oil-boom crazy town, there are a lot of shady characters, and we’ve had crime and violence in the area like never before. It might be smart to at least have the option.
13. Attend a self defense course. It’s not that I’m paranoid, but it seems like it would just be a smart idea. There could come a time in my life that I would regret not learning some skills!
14. Run. Tried this one last year and it didn’t work out so well. I’m the absolute antithesis of a runner. But for some reason I have a strong desire to be one. My knees, hips, and feet, disagree with me, so I’ll have to take it slow and strengthen my legs before I start out. I don’t want to run a marathon, and I don’t even want to run a HALF-marathon. I just want to be able to run.
15. Spend more time with my little brother. I get so busy and sometimes I go for weeks without visiting my parents and playing with my little “mouse brother” (my nickname for him). But I love that kid more than anything, so I need to make him a priority in my life. He’s growing up way too fast!
16. Develop my design skills. This should technically be higher on this list, because it is very important to me. I’d love to learn more about graphic design related software and programs.
17. Go to church more often. I’ve been in a weird, soul-searching phase for the last couple years. While my beliefs have changed quite a bit, I still believe in one, true God, and I would love to reconnect with my spiritual side. I’d like to make more time for this and it would be great if Charlie and I could do it together.
18. Make plans to visit Machu Picchu. This is probably #1 on my actual Bucket List but I know it won’t happen before I’m 30. I just want to be sure that it will, in fact, happen someday. So for that reason, I am setting the goal of making plans to go to Peru!
19. Pay off debts and save money. Okay, so my car won’t be paid off within the next year, and my student loans are probably with me for life, but I have a few smaller debts – hospital bills, store cards, that I’ve been dragging along with me. If I’m going to be a grown-up now, I’m going to have to really learn to be fiscally responsible and build up our savings!
20. Stay in touch with my dreamer side. I don’t ever want to grow up in the sense that I feel like I have to stop dreaming big. Even though I am about to be married and we may eventually want to start a family, I don’t want to ever feel like the exciting part of my life is over. I want to travel, have adventures, explore new things. I’ll just have to take my family with me from now on, and I think that will make my experiences all the more exciting!
21. Be a better fiance (and soon wife). I can be impatient sometimes, and I forget that men think differently than women (understatement of the year?). I’d like to be a better partner to Charlie. He’s a great guy and he deserves the best – I want to be that for him.
22. Learn how to ski. I’m from the flattest territory in the world. The mountains aren’t too far from where I live, but my fear-of-heights combined with my lack of athleticism have stopped me from ever trying this out. However, I can proudly say that I have always been willing to try things out and face my fears at least once, so I am going make this one happen! **Goal Accomplished! Read Tales of a First-Time Skier.
23. Polish myself. If anything, this list has thus far opened my eyes to how lazy I can be. Most days, I mindlessly throw on a sweater and sweep my hair up into a ponytail. I always admire the women who seem put together at all times with their hair neatly styled, flawless makeup, and perfectly accessorized outfits. I’d like to make an effort to emulate that.
24. Conquer my driving anxiety. I drive all over every day and it’s no problem – but I hate driving on the freeway, I hate driving in unfamiliar places, and I hate driving outside of city limits after dark. Hate. Hate. Hate! I have crazy anxiety about this and I never fully feel in control. If I am in an unfamiliar place and there is a lot of traffic, I can feel the tears in the back of my eyes and I slowly start to melt down. I have to deal with this.
25. Sing with old friends. In the next year, I’d like to take some time to get together with old friends and sing showtunes. Just for the fun of it! I miss it a lot and I really miss singing with some of my college theatre friends. Once I’m done with wedding preparations, I’d like to organize something like this, so stand by!
26. Learn to speak Spanish. I studied Italian for a while and I intend to re-visit that someday, but for now, it’s most practical for me to learn Spanish and I feel like the stars have aligned for this perfectly. I’m excited about this one!
27. Become a morning person. This one might be the one I fail at, because honestly, it’d be easier to choose “Climb Mt. Everest”. I am such a nocturnal, it’s not even funny. But I love mornings (the few times I do get up) and working out in the morning is so much better than any other time of day. This will be a tough one but I really want it!
28. Go to a pro hockey game. Preferably for the Minnesota Wild. Charlie is a huge Wild fan and played hockey most of his life, so I’ve been making a conscious effort to learn more about it so that I can share his enthusiasm. I enjoy watching it (even though I still don’t understand what’s going on sometimes) and I think it would be a fun experience to go!
29. Tell all the people I love how much they mean to me. I think the older I get, the more I realize that life is short and fragile. I love my family and my friends and I don’t know that I do a good enough job letting them know how special they are.
30. Write more. I have a vivid imagination and I genuinely enjoy losing myself in a story. But the perfectionist part of me gets in the way and stops me from finishing stories or completing projects. This is the year.