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Happy Gal/Valentine's Day!

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Happy Gal/Valentine's Day!

From Leslie Knope and me… to you. I’m always down for a celebration with waffles (see example A from last year’s Galentine’s Party).

Of course, we will start it off with this…

Indeed it is. Galentine’s is the best day because it’s about celebrating other ladies! And valentine’s is about celebrating love (sacrificial love, if you know the history).

Ok. I’mma be real. I’m just here because Parks and Rec is the greatest sitcom ever created…and I wanted to share lots of gifs. The following gif applies to you if you happen to disagree.

Last year’s party was pretty great…

And this year was very chill. No party, just a normal day and evening. But! Cupcakes from Little Blackbird Bakery.

Anyway, just wanted to leave you all a little love note on this internet corner. With lots of Leslie Knope enthusiasm and hugs!

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2018 Year in Review // Personal

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2018 Year in Review // Personal

2018 has been a wild ride. Tumultuous emotionally, in many ways, but also such a year of sweet moments. Isn’t that just normal life?! Perhaps I’m just adjusting to life as an adult. I believe that reflecting on the past, planning for the future, and living in the present can add such insight for wise living. With that, this is my Personal post on 2018! Mainly for my processing, but you’re welcome to join me. ;)

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Winter Wanderings

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Winter Wanderings

I’m sitting here, emotionally bursting with quiet joy, as snow falls quietly outside. It’s the perfect storm— a January weekend in Des Moines, as Friday evening traffic moves hesitantly down the interstate just blocks from where I sit. A mug of mostly-drunk chamomile tea sits next to me on the warm, black radiator. I’m curled up on it, my seat warm and my back cool against the attic windows. In-between sentences in my new library book, I watch the snow accumulate and my neighbor back his car off the street and on to his lawn. The city will go into snow ordinance mode, something I’ve never had to learn about until this winter.

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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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