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The 12 Dates of Christmas (Des Moines, Iowa)

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The 12 Dates of Christmas (Des Moines, Iowa)

One of my favorite instagrammer/bloggers in NYC posts her & her husband’s “12 Dates of Christmas” each year on her blog. I thought that this year, I’d join in! You can do these with a significant other, a group of friends, or just by yourself. Some of these activities cost a little cash, others are free or cheap. You can pick an choose which Christmas events you’d like to join in on over the month of December. All of these are things taking place around Christmastime in the greater Des Moines area! Please feel welcome to comment any suggestions of your own on this blog post. Enjoy!

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Shop Local for Black Friday and Small Business Saturday in Iowa

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Shop Local for Black Friday and Small Business Saturday in Iowa

If, like me, you’ll be doing some shopping online as the turkey and mashed potatoes settle this evening and into the weekend, I’ve got some great tips for you to look into! Besides finding great deals to help me stretch my bank account, I’m a huge advocate of shopping local and supporting small businesses. I have collected quite the resume of local shops in Iowa (mainly in Cedar Falls, Ames, and Des Moines) so pull out your legal pad of paper (or iPad!) and let’s get planning!

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fall mood board

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fall mood board

moving into a historic neighborhood in Des Moines (the drake neighborhood) brought about all the mood city feels this autumn. after living in smaller towns and cities in iowa, it’s exciting to live in a place that hustles and bustles just a little bit more! everything is new here, including living smack dab in the middle of every wal-mart and aldi in the metro. hahaha.

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What An Iowa Wedding Photographer Learned About Weddings From Being A Bridesmaid

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What An Iowa Wedding Photographer Learned About Weddings From Being A Bridesmaid

As an Iowa wedding photographer, I’ve photographed over 50 midwestern weddings and attended 20-30 more! However, I’ve only been in a bridal party a few times in my life. Two years ago, my best friend got married and I had the honor of standing up with her as one of her maids-of-honors. It was a wonderful day, and I also learned quite a bit! Here are a few lessons from my day in Erin’s wedding.

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A Sneak Peek of our Des Moines Apartment

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A Sneak Peek of our Des Moines Apartment

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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My Summer So Far

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My Summer So Far

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?! :)

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My Goals for 2018

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My Goals for 2018

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?

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When God Says No

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When God Says No

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".

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Slow: a reflection on film photography

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Slow: a reflection on film photography

"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.

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Des Moines Christkindlmarket

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Des Moines Christkindlmarket

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. 

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Best Christmas Gifts for 2017!

There’ll be much mistletoing
And hearts will be glowing
When loved ones are near...
— Andy Williams, "It's the most wonderful time of the year"

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.

1. Candles! 
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.

where to shop for christmas gifts 2017

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! 

shop local artists and small business owners in Iowa 2017 Christmas

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!!)

coffee to buy for Christmas artisan mugs Iowa Erin Carpenter

6. Books
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.

Boone Valley brewery local Iowa wine

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My Photography Story: Part One

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My Photography Story: Part One

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!

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Edge Corps: The Final Summit

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!

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4th of July in Ames, Iowa

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!

Reiman Gardens Ames Iowa
girl holding wine in garden
Reiman Gardens Pond
Reiman Gardens 4th of July
Reiman Gardens summer flowers
things to do in Ames Iowa Reiman Gardens
Reiman Gardens free day Ames
Reiman Gardens Ames admission
Reiman Gardens flowers
reiman gardens wine alcohol wedding 
reiman gardens wine alcohol wedding 4th of July
Reiman Gardens Fireworks

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! 

Ames 4th of July Parade
Ames 4th of July activities
Ames 4th of July activities parade
Ames 4th of July activities parade
kona ice ames july parade
Ames Iowa Downtown Ames

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My Summer Soundtrack

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!

flatlay product photographer iowa best music of summer 2017

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

Touching Heaven—Johnnyswim
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!

Cumbia— GAWVI
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!

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