Des Moines is a happenin' city. People continue to ask me (as happens when you move!) "Why Des Moines?". And I'll tell you why: because it's a fun place to live! It has the perks of a large city (lots of amazing restaurants, parks, social events, and shopping of course) with the advantage of a midwest town. Seriously-- I bump into people I know at the store or downtown. What are the odds!?
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It’s been a busy summer of fun and travel. I can’t believe that we’re almost halfway through it already! Clarissa (the sister) and I traveled to Chi-Town, I camp counseled High School girls for a week, and we celebrated the 4th of July. What else could you ask for?! :)
I’ve got an exciting announcement today— I’m moving!
The Goodbye Road Tour, featuring creatives Johnnyswim, Drew Holcomb, and Penny & Sparrow, made their way to the Hoyt Sherman Place Theater last evening. The evening concert brought a wide variety of audience members together, dropping barriers and differences, to enjoy sweet music and good laughter!
It's wild to hear that 2018 is almost here, isn't it?! Being a 90's kid, I can't imagine that we are almost in the 2020's!!! But, crazy as it is, I'm also so excited. 2017 was such a growing, stretching year for me...and I have no doubt that 2018 will be even bigger and better.
So, what are my goals and dreams for this year?
One of the key things I learned about prayer growing up is that God always answers. It may just be that answer isn't the one you were hoping for. (The three options are no, wait, and yes. Just in case you wondered.) However, in all the Sunday School wisdom passed on to me, the one thing that never really stuck was that regardless of the answer, it is all God's grace for my life, and His absolute best answer for me. "No" isn't a secondhand, answer-for-the-sake-of-answering from God. A "wait" or "no" just may mean a better "yes".
In this grand year of 2018, I was bound & determined to host a Galentine's Party of my own. Below, you'll find some photos, tips, and thoughts on hosting your own heart's day fête!
"I'm so busy."
This simple phrase appears in almost every conversation I have these days. Every person I encounter seems to be overwhelmed by their every-growing "to do" list, running around from work to errands to events with hardly a glance to their bank teller or grocery clerk. And when we do have a free minute (or hour), they are quickly swallowed up by scrolling through social media, playing mindless games on a smartphone, or watching another episode of the latest TV show.
The Des Moines Christkindlmarket is a German/European inspired Christmas Market! I grew up in Germany, and have distant memories of the real deal. This winter, I finally made the time to hit up this winter extravaganza. Although smaller than the market I've visited in Chicago, Des Moines' Christmas Market warmed my soul and stomach.
It's no secret that my favorite time of year is Christmastime! Track it back to my birthday in December, or living in Germany during my early childhood (land of all things magical and Christmassy!!), watching the local Nutcracker Ballet every year, or simply the sheer romance & nostalgia it pulls us all into. (Don't tell me you can't listen to classic holiday music and wish for a minute you lived back in the 1950s!) The winter holidays bring out our biggest hopes & dreams; even with the stress of the end of the year, we each feel like a carefree child for a few moments when we get caught up in the first snow.
During high school, I'd get so excited for the end of the year, that I would break out my Christmas CD's in October. I've matured just a bit since then, thankfully, but November 1 always reminds me that even with the freezing and gloomy weather heading our way, there's something wonderful coming on the coat-tails of the winter winds. Christmas.
I realize we've just welcomed November to the calendar, but I just couldn't wait to start daydreaming about my Christmas (ok, and birthday!) wish-list. Being an adult, though, means that gift giving is actually often more fun than receiving! So, I figured that I'd share some great gift ideas...just in case you get stuck when you start thinking about Black Friday shopping or just Christmas gifts in general.
I don't know a single person who doesn't love a good candle. What I've learned during my few years as a candle connoisseur is that the 3 wicks are generally the best--they allow for more scent to be released! My current favorite candle was a surprise...$8 for a LARGE candle from TJ Maxx! They have a wonderfully broad selection, and often have multiple size options. If you want to give candles as a gift, go here first, and you'll get more bang for your buck than you do at Target.
2. Echo Dot
For the tech person in your life, this would be a fun addition! (Unless, of course, they already have one.) I don't personally own an Echo Dot, but they're fun and useful for checking weather, playing music, or managing phone calls hand free!
3. Art from a local artist
As a small business and artist in my own way, I always try to support local businesses and artists when I can! It can be hard to get off the ground, especially when it seems everyone is so concerned about "cheap art" these days. So, here are a few suggestions for you!
--Lauren of Wild Akers creates all kinds of beautiful lettering and design work. ALSO, she has some sweet custom christmas cards!! So, if you've had someone take your family photos, pick your favorite, and order from Lauren instead of mint.com or something!! Her etsy shop is here. (Bonus points for her super clever business name!!!)
--Amelia M. is a good friend of mine, and she has been pursing her own career in art! Everyone who knows her speaks highly of her character, and her work. She's mega talented, and has an etsy shop full of watercolor prints, and larger paintings! Shoot her an email if you want custom art for your grandma, significant other, or even just for yourself. ;) That's allowed!
--Myself! I won't say much here, but I DO offer Gift Certificates for photography sessions! If you know of a friend or family member who would love a family/portrait/anniversary session, but they just wouldn't spend the money on themselves (or maybe don't have the money to spend), you can purchase a full or mini session for them!
4. A Hammock
Hammocks are super "in" these days. If you have a high schooler or college student in your family who enjoys the outdoors--this would be a GREAT gift for them! I purchased my hammock two years ago, and have loved using it during the warmer months. (Last February, I even pulled it out on the weird 70* day we had!!) For a starter hammock, I recommend checking out OuterEQ on Amazon. I purchased a double hammock so I can share with a friend, as well as straps (not included with the hammock). This brand won't break the bank, and been durable and comfortable so far!!
5. Coffee (or coffee related items!)
It's hard to go wrong with coffee. Check out a local store for some beans (Sidecar in Cedar Falls, Burgie's in Ames, and Horizon Line in Des Moines) or if you aren't sure what they like, buy them a mug! You really can't have too many, and who doesn't love a mug from their favorite shop!? Even better, purchase a handcrafted, artisan mug from a potter! Need a few suggestions? Erin Carpenter lives in Ames, look into the gift shop at the Cedar Falls Hearst Center, or look around online. (Shopping for a tea lover?! Check out Gong Fu Tea in Des Moines!!)
If you know me at all, you knew this had to be on here someplace!!! ;) A few great reads (or wanna-reads):
--Katie Davis Major's latest book, Daring to Hope
--It's What I Do, an autobiography by Lynsey Addario, an amazing woman and war photographer
--Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. I'm behind on reading this, it seems, but it was amazing!
7. Local Wine or Beer
For the 21+ friends in your life, gift them something local! In the central Iowa area, I suggest a brew from Alluvial Brewing or Boone Valley Brewery, or a quality wine from Prairie Moon Winery.
The most common questions I get from people is, "How did you get started in photography?" and "When did you start a business?". Since I haven't been very regular about blogging personal or business things of late, and now that winter is on it's way and my sessions will *theoretically* slow down, I wanted to share some of my story!
I love these people—it is amazing to me, how a group of 60-100 souls can go from strangers to family in a short matter of time. Most of these (now) friends were strangers to me until just over two years ago in mid-2015…actually, I didn't meet many of them until November of 2015, or even May of 2016! We've only spent about 20-25 days together. That hasn't stopped deep friendships from forming (and some of those friendships have even turned to marriages). And one cute baby so far! ;)
Edge Corps class of 2015…thanks for being the best out there. It's been an honor and joy to serve on campus ministry staff with y'all, and I look froward to seeing some of you in November, Lord willing, and others of you around the country (or the world!!) throughout the rest of our lives!
This has been my first summer in Ames, and although it has been busy and mainly packed with work, there have definitely been some great moments! A highlight will definitely be going to the Reiman Gardens for the 4th of July celebration. They throw it the night of the 3rd, probably so that adults who attend can sleep in the morning of the 4th. ;)
The gardens were crowded with hundreds of people, but there was still plenty of space on the lawns to set up blankets or lawn chairs. We brought in dessert and wine, and sipped while we wandered through the flowers and fun art exhibits. A band played music by the butterfly wing, and children ran around waving balloon swords and animals. It felt festive, but not overwhelming…the perfect mix!
The morning of July 4th, the city of Ames hosts a free pancake breakfast. City counsel members, firemen, and local police were around to chat with locals. The pancakes were tasty—but Chris Cakes always does a great job! After the breakfast, the parade hits the downtown and was lots of fun to watch, as well!
I loved getting to walk around, see a few friends, and observe local citizens all decked out in patriotic colors. This was a fun way to practice my street photography as well! Ames, you've done a great job…I can't wait for the 4th of July in 2018!
I remember when Spotify first came out. I was really just starting to listen to music—honestly, I mainly used CDs and the radio then!—and couldn't figure it out for the longest time. (I really liked Pandora in those days, because it introduced me to new music, and I don't think Spotify discover was around yet.) One of my favorite photographers posted about listening to Foster the People on Spotify via social media (I think???) and so I gave it a shot. It took a while, but I finally made the transition to Spotify about two years ago and have hardly touched any other music listening service!
My senior year, I figured out that I could pay $5/month for Spotify Premium (student version)...and loved it. I tried going back to the free version, but man, it's hard! $10/month is really reasonable for unlimited music, being able to listen ad free, and even being able to download playlists! This last year, I've really dug into using Spotify Discover. My favorite thing is that each Monday, the personalized Discover playlist reloads! I've discovered a ton of music artists that I love.
Summer always seems to bring new music on the radio, concerts in the warm evening air, and tunes that will remind you of "that summer when…" for years to come. If you love finding new car jams and tunes to sing to as much as I do, this is the post for you. Below, you can find some of my current favorite summer songs!
I Was Born— Hanson
This song (and band) came on my radar this spring, and I just adore them! They played at Wooley's in Des Moines, but I wasn't able to go. Someday, I hope, I'll get to see them live!
Bus Stop— Andreas Moe
I found this song via Spotify radio and it's one of those great tunes that you just immediately love! Andreas' sound is a lot like Ed Sheerin, just less known. ;)
Something Just Like This— Coldplay & The Chainsmokers
You've most definitely heard this song on the radio, but it's catchy and fun. A classic band, and a new one. How does it get better?!
The Cure— Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga is not always my go to artist, but this song is pretty good. Check it out!
I just want to dance to this song while the sun sets in South America. Or something. (Latin music is just in right now! Desperado anyone?!)
Yours if You Want It—Rascal Flatts
I listened to pretty much just classical, Christian, and country music in high school. Now, I listen to a much wider variety of tunes…but especially in the summer, I return to country! Rascal Flatts will always have a place in my heart, and I'm super excited that this song feels just like everything summer should, and sounds like classic Rascal Flatts. <3
I'll probably end up with a playlist at the end of the summer featuring these songs, and more that I come across over the rest of June and July. What songs have you discovered lately? I'd love if you share your current tunes in the comments so I can listen to them as well!
Photography by Rachel Nerison
Happy Friday, friends!
I did an introduction & some fun facts about me over on my Instagram the other day, then realized I hadn't done that here in a while! If you don't have Instagram, I'm reposting those facts (and adding a few more)! If you do have Insta but don't follow me—let's be friends there! :)
In case you didn't know, I am a wedding and senior portrait photographer serving Des Moines, Ames, Cedar Falls and anywhere in Iowa (or the world)!
1. I'm 5'1" on a good day. I just bought my first sandal wedges (pictured left) and I think they are going to change my life! I may wear them to every session this summer...
2. Ranunculus are my favorite flowers, but I've never actually seen or had any in real life. Mainly, I just pine over them on Pinterest and Instagram posts. (I've realized that I might have photographed some in bouquets without knowing it, though!)
3. Adoption & foster care are two of the biggest things on my heart. I dream of welcoming in many children to my someday home! 4 to 7 kids (total…biological and adopted) is my dream.
4. I lived overseas as a kid (Japan and Germany!) and am itching to get back. Anyone need a travel buddy?! Other places I dream of traveling: Hawaii, South Africa, Thailand, China, and Canada!
5. I love coffee but sometimes, it just doesn't love me. Most days, I'll just settle and order decaf. Or, I'll grab tea. Rose tea from Stomping Grounds in Ames was my absolute favorite tea, but they discontinued it. Green tea with lemon or camomile are close seconds.
6. Favorite colors are over-rated. (That's how I say I'm indecisive and can't pick just one.) Can I just say glitter is my favorite color?!
7. I rarely get comments on my blog…but comments make. my. day. Leave me a comment below and share a fun fact about YOU!
I'm heading to Colorado for 10 days after a 7am engagement session tomorrow…so I may be quiet here for a week or so. However, I'll be shooting an engagement photography session at the Des Moines Farmer's Market (the opening day, no less!) so get excited to see those photos soon!!!
I spent an afternoon with this sweet little guy. His dark curls snagged my heart the first second I saw him, and we had the best of times together! Babies are truly my first and greatest love, so it a treat to get to know this one. He is definitely loved & the sweetest thing! If you have a baby (or babies!) I'd love to spend time playing with them, snuggling them, and maybe even photographing them!!
This winter hasn't been ideal for reading, in that it has been so warm! I could have used a few more snowstorms to ensure a cozy reading day…or two. Good thing that hasn't stopped me yet! The local public library is probably one of the most dangerous places for me. I could spend all day there, reading my time away. Growing up, my dad would always say, "You can waste your whole life watching movies." It's true. I know I could do that! But it's even easier for me to spend all my time reading. I have to be careful! It's been a learning process, and now I know to only get a few books at a time. Otherwise, bedtime gets pushed back until way too late!
Anyhow, maybe you're looking for some book recommendations. If that's the case, you're at the right place! I've been reading a mix of literature and non-fiction. Comment if you've read one of these books…or if you have any suggestions for my next trip to the library! And keep an eye out for my mini-reviews on Instagram, using the hashtag #ameliareneereads!
1. First up, "And the Mountains Echoed" by Khaled Hosseini. Oh my. This book was fantastic. I found it on the Book Club shelf, and my eyes gravitated to it after realizing the author wrote "The Kite Runner." (I read that over the summer on my way to Mongolia, and am still trying to get the guts to watch the film.) I loved the mystery of not knowing the characters at the beginning, the interwoven stories, and the bittersweet ending. This book also covers many years, which helps me understand the history of war-ravaged Afghanistan (alongside a few of the other books you'll see below!)
2. Oh my—"The Dressmaker of Khair Khana" by Gayle Lemmon. This is one of the two non-fiction book I've decided to highlight! It's written so well, you'd think it was a novel. When the Taliban took over Kabul in 1996, overnight life changed for women. They were unable to work outside the home and attend school. This is the incredible true story of women who fought for their livelihoods, families, and freedom. An inspiring story, Kamila (the dressmaker) is a woman who changed her neighborhood and world.
3. There might be a theme in my reading tastes lately, huh? ;) This is another true story—biography style. I read this book FAST, and really want to re-read it again, more slowly. "Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus" is the fascinating story of a young man who grew up in a conservative Muslim home. Over many years, through conversations, and research (in which he discovers hard things about his background) he comes to a point of asking this key question: "Who are you, Lord?"
4. I'd been wanting to read this book for a long time, on the Instagram recommendation of another photographer! Last time I'd checked, the Ames Public Library didn't have it. Stumbling on "Station Eleven" in the Book Club section, I was more than thrilled! I'm a fan of post-apocalyptic literature, so this was right up my alley. However, it felt a lot more realistic than some! Emily St. John Mandel writes in a back & forth way between characters, allowing you to see multiple sides and yet not understand the full picture until the end. Wonderful for keeping you on the edge of your seat!
Ok. I have to be honest with you all.
I am in no way ready for 2017. (And, oops, we are 5 days into 2017 already!)
Thankfully, as Lara Casey puts it, "There's nothing special about January 1st."
2017 brings excitement, as any new thing does. It is shiny and sparkly—full of gold balloons and noise poppers and bubbly champagne. But then the party ends. Friends bundle up and head into the dark morning. And you climb into your bed under extra blankets and wonder…what will this year be? 2017, for me, will be full of changes. What changes? Well, I'm not entirely sure at this point! Which is ok.
The learning curve in your 20's is steep, or so they tell me. So far, I've moved out of my parents' home, transferred from a local college to a state university, legally set up my photography business, graduated university, started a job in full time campus ministry, and turned 25. The past two years, specifically, have been truly growing. I've learned so much about who I am, how I'm wired, and ultimately…that I need to follow Jesus daily. Life after college is so different, and even though I'm still connected to college students for my job, my life is really in a different stage and thus, I have different needs. We are not made to live in college forever, wandering and wondering about our purpose.
2017 holds a lot of unknowns. My full time ministry commitment comes to an end late this spring, leaving summer open and full of questions. People and sharing life & Jesus with them has a huge part of my heart. I want to continue on that path, but I am unsure what that looks like. Will I stay in Ames? Will I use writing and media for mobilizing to the nations? Will I actually make it full time in photography? I don't know! That stresses me out, y'all. BUT, it is also a wonderful place to be. It's a place for dreaming. Asking questions. And praying for answers. So, with that, I have dreamed up some goals for this new year, both personal and business, and am sharing them with you today!
- Drink (and eat) healthier. I know it seems like everyone says this, but it's valid! I don't normally drink pop, but I want to replace it with sparkling or regular water, or milk if possible. Family history shows me that I neeeeed to make sure I'm getting enough calcium, even as an adult woman. So, milk it will be! Eating wise, I'm going to keep healthier snacks around the apartment (like carrots or green pepper slices.) Also, bonus! I'll be blogging some of my favorite healthy-but-cheap meals this year, so keep an eye out for that!
- Spend less. One of my favorites, Hannah B, fasted from shopping last January-March. I want to intentionally spend my dollars, and more importantly, my time. The most valuable thing we have is time! So, this month, shopping goes bye-bye. Groceries are fine, and maybe a new pair of running shoes (mine are at least 5 years old!) so that I can do goal 3…
- Exercise regularly. 3 times a week would be ideal! Our apartment complex includes a small gym, and with that a 3 minute walk away, I really don't have any excuses! Stationary bikes are my jam, so I hope to bike, run, and do abs a minimum of three times weekly this month…but hopefully the entire spring semester! (EDIT: I'm 2 for 2 this week so far! Sore, but worth it.)
- Be present (aka less social media). Social media plays a big part in both of my jobs. And I love it! Sometimes, it can hurt more than help. 2017 will be the year I start to cut back. I'm setting limits to how long I can browse Instagram and Facebook, which will allow me to be present with people around me, and grow in creativity. I'll also be logged out, except for specific times for work or fun breaks. Instead of Instagraming every waking moment, I want to adventure more, cook new things, read more books, try new art forms, listen to more live music, & hold more babies. [My words for the year? Pursue and Cultivate! Inspired by the desire to be present, to create, and to chase after what matters.]
- Live generously. Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts worked some things out in my heart. Not to mention, I read it when I was fundraising my full salary to come on ministry staff. It's been a hard and humbling two years, but also wonderful! And joy filled! I want to continue to grow in generosity—not just financially, but with my words, time, and giftings.
- Shoot more. I really want to grow this year in my style and technique! This means, say yes more. To lifestyle sessions, family photos, alll the seniors (if you know high school juniors who will need senior photos this year PLEASE shoot me a note!) and of course, engagement/weddings. Also, I've been wanting to explore the arena of styled sessions. This year might be that time
- Explore video. Videography has been a huge obsession of mine, but I've never seriously dedicated time to it. That changes now. (Literally, actually. This afternoon I will be heading off to shoot video. For fun!) If you want to see a few videos I've already created, check out my vimeo.
- Collaborate with other artists. I'm not sure what this looks like, honestly. I just want to do this. So, if you are a photographer or artist in Des Moines, Ames, Cedar Falls, or even someplace else…let's talk!
- Book 10 weddings, minimum. This is SO scary to put out there! But if one of my goals is to move towards being a full-time photographer, this needs to happen. So far, I've officially booked (contact signed & deposit down!) 3 weddings. Shoutout to all you newly engaged folks! I've still got spots available in May, June, July, August, September, and into the fall. ;)
- Second shoot. I'd love to second for other local photographers out there. Hit me up if you need an extra pair of hands to carry bags and snag alternate shots!
Whew! That's a lot. (And I'm sure I've forgotten to write up a few things here.) 2017 might just be my craziest, busiest, scariest year yet. However, I know that Jesus goes before me in all things and that He will provide all that I need. It may not be the way I expect, but it will make me more like Him, and ultimately, that's my biggest prayer for 2017. As I journaled last night, "Would you use this work to sanctify me, to make me more like you?" I have no doubt that, wherever this year goes, He will do that. :)
What are your goals and dreams for this year? I'd love to hear them!
Growing up, it was a real good bet that you'd find me with my nose in a book. We went to the library regularly, and I could never leave with under 10 new pieces of literature. In fact, I wanted to be a librarian when I grew up! (Still kinda do…)
As an adult, it's been important for me to learn how to rest in my time off. I love watching movies and television, but honestly, that isn't the best way to rest. A lot of my life requires me to be on a computer, camera, or phone screen. So, resting in other ways is really, really healthy. And fun! It's been amazing to get a new library card. I've used it multiple times, and have no plans to stop. ;) For those of you who also enjoy a good book, here's a list of a few of my recent "reads"…maybe you'll enjoy them, too!
1. A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg (blogger at Orangette). This book was one of my favorites! I'm considering checking it out again, just to make some of the recipes inside. Molly crafted it with class and taste, and it's a great example of a creative non-fiction work. Find this at your library if you enjoy food & memoir-style books.
2. Madeleine L'Engle has been a favorite author of mine since I re-read A Wrinkle in Time in late elementary school. The Ames library doesn't have many of her works, but this one was perfect for a lazy weekend with a few mugs of tea. Certain Women ties together family, love, mystery, & art in classic L'Engle style.
3. At Home in Mitford is the first in a series by Jan Karon. I actually picked up the first one for $.50 at a local thrift shop last year & fell in love! So far, I've read about four of the books in the series. These are sweet and easy reads, bringing in faith, a little mystery, and lots of good fun!
4. Seven by Jen Hatmaker turned out to be so much better than I'd imagined! I seriously laughed and cried through it, and was also really challenged to think through where my time and money go. I'm not sure that I could pull something like this off…but I have some practical fasting goals for this year, in part inspired by this book!
There you go! A few books to look into, if any of them sound like your kind of read. I would love to hear what books you have read lately! What books do you suggest for me this spring? Leave your ideas in the comments below!
The only thing that can really truly capture (and share) my love of Colorado would be a sound bite of me, squealing with joy at high-pitched frequencies. So, I will spare your ears the probable pain and instead share some photos (much more appealing to the senses!) of my brief time in Colorado for my fourth Edge Summit. I hardly pulled my camera out, but did snag a few photos with two of my good friends out at Garden of the Gods…and a few more at a coffee shop in town.
I'm in love with The Principal's Office. It's in an old schoolhouse (Ivywild) that has been purchased and re-created into the neatest space for creatives! My kind of hang. ;) They've got a great assortment of drinks…you could hit them up for your breakfast cup of joe, and then head back in the evening for your after-dinner drinks! Definitely check them out if you're in the Springs.
Also, I'm seeing so many proposals happenin' out there these days! Tis the season for engagements…which means that wedding season is coming up fast. :) I'm still booking 2017 weddings, and have room for some bookings yet this summer and fall! Shoot me a note on my contact page if you are getting married this next year. Or, if you have a friend who just got engaged, I'd be honored if you would share my website with them! I would LOVE to photograph not just midwest weddings, but weddings in other states as well… like Colorado! ;)
Be on the lookout for some fun "end of the year" posts!