Prom photography bonus shots

Prom photography bonus shots

If I sit and ponder my recent birthday for too long, I might get a little melancholy. It feels impossible to me that I could be just one year away from being 50. My gosh. Didn’t I JUST turn 40?!?

My husband asked me what I wanted to do to celebrate. I couldn’t really come up with much. But after this extraordinarily long winter, I knew it should involve being outside, feeling warm air on my skin and taking photos.

During the course of the weekend, we went on several long walks and visited a couple of lovely forest preserves. I got to take photos of my 15-year-old playing baseball on the high school baseball team, which was so much fun. (My hands have been too cold to pull out a camera up until now!) I also got to photograph a mama owl two different times and even spied her babies in a nest.

But the photography highlight was taking photos of our oldest son and his sweet girlfriend on their way to prom. I posted a few of these on Facebook and Instagram, but I thought I would post a few more of them here for those who are like me and get excited to see a cute couple all dressed up and ready for prom!

My goal with photography is to try to capture the true emotion and personality of the people I’m taking photos of. It’s easy with these two because they are so genuinely happy to be together.

This was probably one of the photos where I asked them to “look serious.” THIS is what always happens!

Because it’s been so cold for so long, there was barely anything in bloom this past weekend. I was so happy when I saw that the place where I wanted to take the photos was covered in these little blue flowers! I had to think of some way to get them in the shot.

I also try to capture the details that you might overlook when taking a photo. Things like, the girl’s hair, their socks and shoes, her nails and his bracelet.

Because we walked a little ways to get to our photography spot, my son’s date wore her Vans. My son actually had given her these shoes for her birthday a few weeks earlier. Since he had the exact same pair, we asked him to bring them along.

Aren’t they just the cutest?

So, I’ve really enjoyed taking photos this year, and I’m thinking about doing some senior portraits. I recently updated my photography web site, which has been sitting dormant for a few years. Check it out if you are interested!

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A shower made for a storybook

A shower made for a storybook

Do you have a favorite children’s book?

You know… that one you can recite from memory because you’ve read it so many times?

On Saturday morning, I hopped out of bed early with storybooks on my mind. I sorted through our shelves of books, pulling out all of the ones that were classics. I had teamed up with two of my friends, Jami and Sarah, to host a baby shower for our friend, Lindsay.


We had found tons of ideas for a storybook themed shower on Pinterest. Jami had planned out all of our themed foods, like a Hungry Caterpillar fruit salad, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs meatballs and If You Give a Mouse a Cookie cookie tray.

I designed and cut out banners with characters from classic children’s stories. And Sarah planned out some cute decorating touches…


But we needed just one thing more for our decor… books!

I set up children’s books all around the living room, entry and kitchen. When my kids saw them, they immediately sat down and started reading them to each other. I was amazed at what a flood of memories washed over me just looking through those books and hearing them read the words again.

Now that they are 17, 15, 13 and 8, and can read on their own, we don’t spend much time reading books together. But the words came right back, and I could recite many of them by heart.

My favorites:

  • Dinosaur Roar
  • Are You My Mother?
  • The Bear Snored On
  • Put Me in the Zoo

Oh, how I cherish those days of little kids snuggled up in my lap reading books together!

Anyway… Here are a few other details from the shower, which was SO fun to put together. I had been working super hard the month before to get ready for Easter at our church. (When you work for a church, Easter is pretty much the biggest day of the year!)

My husband saw me cutting and pasting together the banners and other decorations, and remarked at how happy I looked. There’s nothing like doing something creative to help me relax after a long few weeks! Somewhere in my secret dreamworld life, I imagine myself spending my days as a professional birthday party planner. (Is there such a thing?!?) I wonder if I would get bored designing and cutting out decorations for parties all day long.


I was in charge of creating the invitation for the shower. After searching the Internet for ideas, I came up with this one… an invitation designed to fold out like a little book. I Photoshopped characters from classic stories to create this simple, but cute invitation.

Jami did an amazing job planning out our spread of children’s book-themed food!

I used my Silhouette to print and cut the banners and signs for the food. Since I had already found a lot of storybook characters to create the invitations, it was easy to put together the other signs. I used the “registration” feature on my Silhouette to first print the characters on shiny cardstock, then cut out the circles on my Silhouette.


Sarah created this adorable wreath, using small books and stuffed animals she found in the $1 aisle at Target.

She added lots of other tassels and finishing touches…

We simply printed out one more themed cover for these little clipboard notebooks that we gave as party favors…

And then we added more books and quotes to finish off the decorating…

For our party games, we created a sheet with lines from classic children’s books and the guests had to guess which book they were from.

And then, we played the game, “Guess what’s in the diaper?” I loaded diapers with an assortment of candy, fruit and other foods, like melted cheese, mashed up Fig Newtons and my favorite, guacamole! I think this photo says it all!

As always, planning the party was almost as much fun as the party itself. But I especially loved my little stroll down memory lane through the pages of all of those books.


So what about you? What’s your favorite children’s book?

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Eight wishes on an eighth birthday

Eight wishes on an eighth birthday

One of the advantages of being the youngest child in the family is that you get to see and experience life through the eyes of your older siblings.

A few years ago, our youngest daughter got to hang out with her big sister on her birthday when she hosted a “spa” party for her tween-aged friends. Since that day, our youngest has been begging to have a spa birthday party of her own. Each year, I’ve told her “no.” Her friends needed to at least be old enough to sit still long enough to have their nails painted or enjoy the relaxation of a paraffin wax treatment on their feet.

This year, after many persistent requests, I finally agreed that on her eighth birthday, she could host a spa-themed party.

We could have taken the girls to a real spa for pedicures or hosted a princess pamerping party somewhere. Bu, we’ve always loved the parties we’ve hosted at our house the most, and this seemed like a great opportunity to have a birthday party at home.

A quick search of “spa party” on Pinterest will bring up as many spa-themed DIY ideas as nail polish choices at the salon. I often joke that my favorite “hobby” is planning a themed party, and I couldn’t resist the urge to try as many spa party ideas as possible. With our daughter’s birthday on Dec. 1, I came home from a Black Friday shopping trip, not with Christmas gifts, but the ingredients and supplies to make our own neck wraps, bath bombs, lip balm, facial scrub and more.

Our daughter had picked out a color scheme for her party that included turquoise, minty green and purple. We immediately got to work sewing neck wraps and concocting bath salts in her party colors.

I love nothing better than a theme and a color scheme, so I immediately started thinking about how we could “brand” our DIY spa products for the party.

I had recently purchased a bracelet at a Fair Trade holiday bazaar that we host each year at our church. It wasn’t just the little bracelet on a leather strap that I loved, it was the cute packaging that I knew I wanted to use for inspiration. The bracelet was one in a series called, “Six Wishes.” Each bracelet included a different “wish” for the receiver.

This inspired me to think about birthday wishes, and the number 8. As I thought about the two circles of the 8, I loved the visual symbol of the “8” in the background of a circular label. Now, we just had to come up with my daughter’s “8 wishes” for her friends. We had tried to keep her guest list as small as possible by limiting it only to friends from school. I didn’t even realize until that moment, that of the girls we invited, it ended up being a list of eight who could attend.

My daughter and I brainstormed our list of eight wishes for a group of eight girls in their eighth year of life. Here’s what we came up with:








and happiness

We used the idea of “8 wishes” throughout the party. I created “8 wishes” labels for the homemade spa products that would go in their goodie bags. And each girl made a bracelet with eight beads, representing each of the eight wishes.

When the girls arrived, they each received a “menu” of the spa services available to them.

They got to go to one of three stations, which kept things more manageable by dividing them up into groups of threes. My older daughter and her friend helped with hair, and my husband filled the foot soaking tubs with warm water.

Keeping with our theme of “8 wishes,” we also ended up with eight DIY projects for the party:

Each girl got to enjoy a homemade neck wrap, which also became part of her goodie bag.

We made homemade bath bombs for the party favor bags.

We made lip balm from coconut oil and Kool Aid.

We made our own facial masks that we used during the party. (The girls used clean paintbrushes to paint the masks on their faces.)

We wrapped a strand of each girl’s hair with embroidery floss.

We gave each girl a personalized mirror, which we bought at the dollar store. I used Oracle adhesive vinyl to cut each girl’s name on my Silhouette.

We made our own fizzy foot bath station, complete with paraffin wax treatment. (We used the same recipe for the fizzy bath salts as we had used for the bath bombs.) Above is a pic of my older daughter and her friend testing out the foot station before the guests arrived!

And each girl got to make her own “8 wishes” bracelet. Each bead represents one of the eight wishes.

I wasn’t sure what my daughter’s friends would think of the party. But several of them declared it was the “Best Party Ever”! They carried around their spa menu, and chatted excitedly about which station they planned to visit next. It also didn’t hurt that we were blessed with nearly 60 degree temps on the first Saturday in December. This allowed the girls to take breaks from all of their pampering to play on the trampoline and run around outside.

The party ended up being a lot of work, but I had a blast putting it all together. My favorite part of the whole party prep was thinking about those wishes for the next year for her and her friends. I would love to make this a tradition in our home for each person in our family to think of a list of birthday wishes for the coming year.

I’m not sure if they will remember any of the “8 wishes” we sent home with them that day. But who knows? Maybe their little bracelets or a fizzy bath will remind them of some of the more important things in life that we hope they get to experience this year!



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adventure day

adventure day

On Monday, I got to hang out with two of my very favorite people, filling up my love tank with quality time for my birthday! The hubs took the day off work and our 5-year-old asked if she could miss preschool to go on a birthday adventure day.

We were planning to spend the day outside, enjoying the amazing spring weather we’ve been having and yes, doing what I love to do — shooting photos! But our crazy Illinois weather didn’t cooperate and we had to come up with a quick change of plans to deal with 50 degrees, strong winds and rain on and off throughout the day.

We started our adventure with a quick stop at Starbucks and then headed to the zoo. We figured we could at least see the dolphin show and go to some of the indoor exhibits, even if it was chilly.


I’m not normally a huge fan of the zoo, but we had THE best time together! We have taken our Little Person to the zoo many times before, but I guess she was too young to remember. So in her mind, this was her first trip to the zoo, and she absolutely loved it.

We pretty much had the place to ourselves — other than a couple of bus loads of school kids — we got to see our favorite animals in action, and I got to practice using my new camera lens. YAY!







So, one funny story from the zoo. I was standing there with a bunch of school kids, watching the lion as he slept. Suddenly, he woke up! We were all so excited and everyone grabbed their camera or phone or ipad to start shooting photos and video. The lion gets up and yawns and all the people are oohing and ahhing. Then, the lion goes over to the lioness and starts getting primal!

All the kids are screaming. “No! Stop! I can’t look!” Everyone puts down their camera and jaws are dropping. It was awkward and hilarious. I guess we all assumed the zoo gave them a private room somewhere!




After the zoo, we needed to warm up, so we headed to one of my favorite spots, the Garfield Conservatory. The beautiful flowers and warm greenhouses were such a treat on a chilly day!






Our fun day of adventure ended with the girls in the family heading out to the movies.

I was completely filled up by such a fun day with people I love. Hard to believe it STILL wasn’t even my birthday yet!

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For most people, it seems the birthdays that end in zero are the difficult ones mentally and emotionally. For me, it’s the years that end in 5 that are tough. It’s those years when you feel like you are half way through a decade. You’ve hit your mid-whatever years. You are now at the top of the hill sliding down toward the next decade.

Last year, I turned 45, and it was a big challenge for me. I’ve always thought the term “mid-life” crisis was all in your head. And I’m sure it is all in your head, but I definitely hit mine. I was in a pretty negative place most of the year.

This year has been a different story. I worked through many of my issues, and I’ve been proving to myself I can do things better and be more of the person I want to be. I’ve been trying to think of a word to describe this year, and so far, for me, the word is “better.”

My husband just sat down to talk about my birthday, and out of the blue, right when I was thinking about “better,” he said he thinks our word for this year is “inspire.” We’ve both been pursuing our interests and working with our kids to pursue some of theirs. It’s been a super fun year so far, so I think either word works.

For the last few weeks, I have been totally looking forward to my birthday, which is on Tuesday. Our little 5-year-old has been spending hours at the table making secret pearler bead creations for me. She has them all wrapped up and hidden under her bed, and I can hardly wait to open them. Every morning, she announces excitedly how many more days until my birthday.

One of my greatest gifts is that she loves to hang out with me, so this afternoon we spent some time jumping together on the trampoline while listening to our favorite music.


My husband also totally surprised me by kicking off our weekend with my absolute dream gift. Wanna guess what it was?

I’m going to keep it secret a little longer, but let’s just say I’m jumping for joy!

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