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TheAmy Allender Blog is where you can find all the latest projects, freshest faces, and most current happenings from Amy Allender and The Art of Living Project.  Here, you’ll find inspiration for everyday living, Christian devotionals, awkward moments, design inspiration, and tales of my misadventures as I navigate life in Minot, North Dakota {or, as I call it…Practically Canada.}  I would sincerely love to have you follow along.

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Artists In The Schools | Classroom Canvas

Artists in the Schools

Way back when the leaves were still green and the mosquitoes were still at large, I participated in Arts in the Park.  I brought an interactive “Community Canvas” that I had outlined a design on, then let those attending the park concert help me fill in.  When I took that first canvas I didn’t anticipate the amazing response it would receive.


Shortly after that night, I was invited to take part in Minot’s “Artists in the Schools” program.  I think this program is genius and I think every town should be doing it.  It’s just that great.  Here’s how it works…The arts council puts together a catalog  of local, working artists that offer specialized art sessions in classrooms.  Teachers can browse the catalog and choose a session that fits in with what they are studying, or parents can purchase a session as a gift for their child’s classroom.  {Isn’t that just the best teacher gift idea ever?!}]


I’ve put together a list of sessions I thought teachers and kids would like and enjoy and had them added to the roster.  A “Classroom Canvas” being one of them.  Same drill as a community canvas–it’s just done in a classroom, not a street festival or event.


So yesterday I had my first ever Artists in the Schools session.  Mrs. Nelson, the first grade teacher that had requested me said she wanted something “owly” and fun to match her classroom.  I painted the outline above.

Aritsts in the Schools

When I first arrived, I was a little nervous about how it would go.  This was my first time, after all.


But kids never fail to amaze and surprise me.  They were so excited about the big piece of art they’d be making.  There was no complaining, no fighting, and no rogue artists who painted as they pleased.  The were great at following instructions.  It was precious to see how hard they focused to stay inside the lines.  Once they had gotten started I barely had to help at all.  They got the idea and did a great job.  However, I really had to laugh a couple times at the comments I heard them making:


Did you know most owls are actually brown?

Owls aren’t ever pink in real life?

Why are these leaves two different colors?

[spoken to me] You should be Olaf for Halloween.

I love your shirt. [I was wearing a plain gray t-shirt]


They painted in groups of 3-4 students at a time.  For the rest of the class, I printed up coloring pages of the picture we were making as a class.  On the canvas I’m pretty bossy about what color goes where, but on their sheet they could color any way they wanted.  These may have been my favorite part of the day!

Artists in the Schools

When they were done, it looked something like this–sorry for the blurry photo!

Artists in the Schools

As I was cleaning up, a boy came up and gave me a hug.  When he turned around he accidentally knocked a painty pallet off the table onto the carpet.  I picked it up and was met by the infamous classroom, “Um-m-m-m-m-m…”  One kid said, “Mrs. Nelson is going to be so mad….”


“Okay, everyone relax.  Mrs. Nelson isn’t going to be mad.  I’m going to clean it up, just don’t walk over here for a minute.  We don’t need painty shoes too.”  Little did these kids know, this isn’t my first paint-on-the-carpet-experience.  But, as soon as the words left my mouth Mrs. Nelson walked back in.  Immediately a little boy went and grabbed her by the hand.  Without a word he led her over to the painted carpet, pointing the whole time.  Tattle tail.


Big surprise, it was no big deal.  I just had to share the story.  Those kids crack me up.  I had so much fun.  Today I reoutlined the image.  Monday I’ll be taking it to it’s new home in Mrs. Nelson’s classroom!  I’m so pleased and proud of how it turned out, and I’m so grateful to have had a chance to hang with such an awesome class.

Artists in the Schools


Fall Decor | Chalk Trees & A Grumpy Cat Pumpkin

Chalkboard trees

Check out my spooky fall trees!  Usually the chalkboard panels only live inside when I’m expecting or shooting photos…but a few weeks ago a client asked if I ever decorate them and leave them up.  You can imagine how silly I felt when I told her “No.”


So, one night, while Derek was working late I drew up these spooky trees.  I love them.  They really put me in a festive, fall mood.  Since we’ve had to clear everything out of the basement as we start to make progress on that project all my decor is being stored in the attic and is inaccessible.  For the first year I can ever remember, my house was stark naked of fall decor.  No leaves, no wreaths, no paper bats, no Halloween candy dishes, no 60′s plastic pumpkin lamp.  Nada.  I’m still jonesing for that pumpkin lamp, but the chalk trees are doing a good job of holding of a real hate rage.

Chalk trees

My question, for you is…if you were me, would you leave these up all the time?  Should I leave them through Christmas?  Let me know.  Comment here {really hoping the glitch is gone from  the comment system…} or tell me on Facebook tonight.


On a side note, a couple nights ago some friends of ours hosted a pumpkin carving party.  I cannot even start to describe the genius of these people I’m lucky enough to call friends.  Look at this spread!  Not a triangle-eyed face among them.

Pumpkin carving party

Please take special note of Mufassa, the adorable hedge hogs!!  Oh, and Grumpy Cat!  I’m so stinking impressed with every single one.  I carved the spider.  Probably my best yet.  Even better than last year’s.  Derek made the eagle in back.  He’s so American.

Obviously, when we got home we snapped one of our self-timed pics we are so notorious for.  Again, the trees look awesome.

Pumpkin carving party

Oh, and for good measure I nabbed a close up of the Grumpy Cat pumpkin our friend Danica made.  Hope she’s okay with me stealing it from her Facebook page…I included it here because it’s so amazing and you all deserved to see a close up.

Be sure to come back tomorrow for more fall fun when I show off my first Artists in the Schools piece that I did today with a group of first graders!


DIY Canvas Art | Everything You Need to Make Your Own

I’m still trying to get some Christmas crafts in the works.  One thing that I want to make for a few friends are canvas/sign art.  I really didn’t know what route I wanted to go…so I started looking into the bowels of the Internet for inspiration.  Without further ado…


20 tutorials, resources and ideas for creating your very own DIY Canvas Art

DIY canvas lettering

1. This technique from ‘A Casarella is fool proof.  You don’t even make the letters yourself, and it looks super classy.

2.  Great tutorial on making this colorful canvas, from Kallie at But First, Coffee.

3.  I use this technique for all kinds of projects…including my statement stairs!  Leana, at A Small Snippet did a great job of making an easy to follow tutorial.

4.  This one requires a projector…but the results are simply amazing!  Craftaholics Anonymous has a fab tutorial for using liquid leaf to make this statement piece.

5.  This is another technique I love.  Only basic supplies needed to transfer any font you can think of to canvas!  See the how-to at Virginia & Charlie.


6.  Christa’s Adventures offers an easy to follow tutorial for making an upcycled sign and adding lettering to it.

7.  When it comes to making a distressed sign, I haven’t found a tutorial I like better than this one from Miss Mustard Seed.

8.  The Thinking Closet made this sign with vinyl lettering.  But even if you don’t have a vinyl cutter you should still pin this one simply for the sake of the pallet-sign tutorial.

9.  This one doesn’t require any lettering at all.  Just buy the letters and light them up.  Another great tutorial from Uncommon Designs.

10.  This tutorial from Saved By Love Creations does an awesome job of breaking down this pallet sign and how she got it perfectly lettered.

hand lettering

For those of you feeling a little more adventurous, here are five awesome tutorials on hand lettering and sign painting.

11. Diddle Dumpling used her printer and water to make a perfect transfer onto wood.  Then she painted over the top.

12.  This is a great look at how to create a hand lettered design from start to finish.  Head over to A Pair & A Spare to see the tutorial.

13.  Kristi from I Should Be Mopping the Floor did a guest post at Ring Around the Rosies to explain her technique for letting on a chalkboard.

14.  For those confident in free handing, here’s a handy tip from Oh, So Very Pretty.  I love that the tutorial covers the lovely gradient effect she achieved on the canvas!

15.  Emily at Jones Design Company offers a great how-to on turning your own hand writing into something fancy-schmancy.

Now, just to make sure you are ready to create, here are five more resources for getting your quote art under way!

16.  Get letting inspiration and great fonts from

17.  Bible Gateway put out a list of it’s 100 most-read verses.  It’s a great place to find the perfect quote.

18.  Oh, and this is the page for A-Z Lyrics.  I’ve got this linked to all the Switchfoot songs right now…a great place to find good quotes, since they are one of the greatest bands of all time.  {But you can search any artist you like.}

19.  Brainy Quotes has a great data base of all kinds of quotes.  You can search by author or genre.

20.  And finally a link to Rifle Paper Co.  If you can’t glean inspiration from her, you won’t get it anywhere.

Happy Making!

Nathanael |Class of 2015| Fall Senior Portraits

fall senior portraits

This is Nathanael.  He is another upstanding member of the class of 2015.  And, in case you don’t notice by his photos…he’s got more musical talent in his little finger than I’ll probably ever have in my whole being.  I totally envy people who can play multiple instruments.  Heck, I envy people who can play one well!  Nathanael is another youth group member that dazzles me with his spiritual discipline, Biblical interest and knowledge.  He is sweet and helpful, and another senior I’m very proud to know.


We started his session in the park with his guitar.  From the photos, you wouldn’t know that the wind was completely reckless on this awesome fall afternoon.  But it was.  Through the whole shoot I was thankful that he had short hair that didn’t show the wind!

Senior portraits guitar

fall Senior portrait guitar

But despite the windy conditions, I’d say this was basically the perfect fall day.  Warm and sunny.  Totally aflame with brightly colored leaves.  Ideal for fall senior portraits.

fall Senior portraits

water senior portraits

senior portrait fall leaves

senior portrait

Since Nathanael was one of my last guys for senior portraits I knew I wanted to take him to one of my most favorite backdrops for boy portraits:  The hub cap wall.

senior portrait hub cap wall

I love it.  And I hadn’t even used it yet for the class of 2015.  So I asked Nathanael if we could make a quick detour before setting up for his drum photos.  As you can tell by the photos, he obliged.

senior portrait hub cap wall{In case you were wondering…this photo, right here, right above, just might be my favorite of all Nathanael’s senior portraits!}

senior portrait hub cap wall

Then, when we were done with hub caps, we headed out of town.  You see, earlier in the week I shot his sister Jenna’s senior portraits–you might remember her.  At her session she and another sister told me they thought I should have Nathanael bring his drums out into a field.  Once I realized that was a possibility he’d be up for, I was all over it.  Great idea, ladies!

senior portraits drums

senior portraits drums

senior portraits drumsThanks, Nathanael, for letting me take your portraits!  I had so much fun.


Be sure to check the Facebook page over the weekend for Jenna and Nathanael’s print contests!  Be sure to come over and vote to help them each win an 8×10″ print of one of my favorite shots from their sessions.

DIY Distressed Glass Bottles

I know it’s only October–not even Halloween yet–but I’m already trying to line up some Christmas craftiness.  Every year I tell myself that I want to make home-made gifts…and every year it comes to crunch time.  I stress over getting things made, which completely zaps the joy out of crafting.  This year, I’m determined to be different.  I’m determined to start making a few things here and there–and hopefully by December I’ll have a good stash of hand-made creations to gift.


I started this week with these distressed glass bottles.  These were kind of a trial run, but I am totally head over heels with the result.

DIY distressed glass bottles

They were so easy to make.  They took a couple hours, but only due to drying time.  This project started with my love for a maple syrup bottle that Derek and I emptied out over some loaded {shredded coconut, almonds, cashews and chocolate chips} pancakes.  I loved it’s shape, I didn’t want it to be tossed to the bin.  I started there and added a well-beaten red bottle I got in a “lot” at an auction.

DIY distressed glass bottles

Step one was giving each bottle an undercoat of spray paint.  I experimented with two different colors.  Hoping that the end product would allow a little of the color to peek through the distressed paint on the bottles.

DIY distressed glass bottles

I’ve been hearing word of the wonders of chalk paint and found this handy recipe to make my own {I used the plaster of paris recipe}.  It you don’t know what chalk paint is, visit the link, it explains it all.  But for the sake of this project, just know that it is well covering, opaque and will adhere to nearly any surface.  I mixed some up in soup bins from the recycle bin and brushed an even coat on each bottle.  Once that dried, I repeated the process.

DIY distressed glass bottles

Once that dried, I used a fine-grain sand paper and gently rubbed away some of the paint.  In some places I took it down to the glass, in other places, I only took off the chalk paint to expose the spray paint underneath.

DIY distressed glass bottles

As a subtle finishing touch I rubbed a little glaze {left over from my cabinet redo} into textured places on the bottle.  As soon as it was on, I wiped it away and into the cracks with a paper towel.

DIY distressed glass bottles

Once everything dried completely, I gave each finished bottle a spray coat of clear acrylic finish.  I used this matte finish from Tree House Studio.

DIY disstressed glass bottles

Pretty cute, right?  Now you can make your own…or gamble on your chances of receiving this set from me for Christmas!

Patrick |Senior Portraits | Class of 2015

senior portraits fire escape

This is Patrick.  He’s graduating.  And he let me have the good pleasure of taking his senior portraits.  I can’t speak for him, but I can tell you that I had fun times a million while shooting his session.  We hit up some of my favorite, rustic locations in Minot, then took a drive out to that trestle in Burlington that I’m so very crazy for.

He put up with my many awkward comments, he climbed and sat and was patient as I got just “one more shot…”  And while, that line might actually mean “Let’s do a whole bunch more…” Patrick was totally willing and good spirited through my long list of ideas.  I think it paid off, and I think you will too.

senior portraits urban wall

senior portraits urban wall

senior portraits book store

One of my most favorite things about shooting senior boy photos is that they usually bring a mom along.  {I think I might have mentioned this before.}  Patrick’s mom is awesome.  I had a great time chatting with her while we waited on wardrobe changes.  And–she gets to take full credit for showing me this awesome wall!  What could be more perfect for a senior photo?

senior portraits grafitti

formal senior portrait

formal senior portrait

senior portrait fire escape

Seriously, friends, I cannot imagine a more perfect day to take in the fall colors of Practically Canada.  The hills of Burlington were simply lit up with colored leaves.  An ideal backdrop for gorgeous photos.

senior portraits railroad trestle

senior portraits railroad trestle

senior portraits railroad trestle

Thanks for an awesome night, Patrick!  Happy senior year!

Jenna {Class of 2015}

North Dakota Senior Portraits

Just a heads up, it’s going to be a senior photo kind of week here at the blog.  Several weeks ago the perfect storm of senior sessions happened:  Four senior sessions in one week.  For me, that’s a whole lot.  But there are simply no words for the amount of fun I had getting to know these upstanding young people.  We walked balance beams, traveled to the rail road tressle, hauled a drum set into an open field and rode a four-wheeler to remote corners of a family farm.  It was an amazing week and I’m excited to be showing you three of those four sessions this week.


Tonight, meet Jenna.  She is gorgeous, an amazing gymnast, giving, fashionable and compassionate.  I’ve had the pleasure of having her in my youth group small group for two years now–and I count myself lucky for it.  She’s the kind of person who just makes you happy when she’s around.

senior portraits

senior portraits

Okay, enough bragging on Jenna.  You all know how much I love seniors.  I could go on all day.  Instead I’ll start showing you these amazing images.  Like this one that we all drooled over when I first posted it on the Facebook page last week.

Senior Portrait with Balloons

The results are pretty amazing, but I’ll admit, working with balloons in an open field in North Dakota proved to be a difficult task.  Let’s just say many minutes were spent waiting for the wind to die down before we snapped a few good ones.

Senior Portrait with Balloons

field senior portraits

Oh, and earlier when I said she was athletic, I meant to say…she’s a brilliant gymnast.  {Which explains how she gets so mad high on those jumps and how her toes stay pointed.}

gymnastics in fieldgymnastic senior portraitShe even let me come to her gym to see her in action.  For good measure she brought alone a sample of the medals she has earned over the years…I told you–she’s amazing.

gymnast senior portraits

senior portraits of gymnast, MInot, ND

park senior portraits

park senior portraits

Senior portrait brick wall

Minot Senior Portraits

Congratulations, Jenna!  Thanks for hanging out and making me just a little cooler in the process.

gymnast senior portraits

Senior portrait brick wall


Norsk Hostfest {thoughts from an outsider}

Norsk HostfestI’d probably be a more successful blogger if I narrowed my writings down to one specific topic.  But, like my life, my career and my choice of ice cream flavors…I just cannot seem to pick just one thing that I like best.  Life if just too interesting, not to discuss and write and dream about.  So, I guess that’s how it’ll continue to be around here.  A grab bag of stories and odd moments, of life and art and work, all rolled together.


One reason I simply cannot bring myself to write only about work or daily devotionals is that Practically Canada is such a bizarre and fascinating place.

click for source

It’s no secret that Minot is on the small and isolated side of the city scale.  But once a year they put on a festival that is the crown jewel of Practically Canadian living:  Norsk Hostfest.  Practically Canada is chock full of residents sharing Scandinavian heritage.   During Hostfest these folks, as well as other Scandinavians from around the globe {seriously, the globe} flock to the North Dakota State Fair grounds here in Minot for five days of Scandimonium celebration.


What is Hostfest?  That’s a very reasonable question.


It’s a five day festival that encompasses the entire state fair grounds complex.  Inside are vendors selling handmade items using old-fashioned Scandinavian techniques, Scandinavian food {Lutefisk anyone?}, cultural music, entertainment, and nightly concerts.  It’s kind of like a fair, but held indoors and everything has to do with Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, or Iceland.  There are imports for sale and Norweigen wool sweaters and viking drinking horns.There are free stages with entertainers from those countries {magicians from Sweden, tenors from Norway, etc.}, cultural cooking demonstrations, and speakers.  Bigger concerts take place at night and feature well known artists like Bill Engvall, Josh Turner and Jennifer Nettles–they perform in the Great Hall of Vikings {#obviously.}


There is a lot to see and do.  A lot is even very fun.  But the whole event {at least to an outsider} has a very Dwight Schrute-ish quality to it.  You know how, on the Office he talks about his weird German farm traditions like they are completely normal and everyone else is crazy because they’ve never heard of it?  That’s kind of how Hostfest feels.

Hostfest Games

With highlighted games like “Ring the Trolls Antlers” and “Knock the Fleas Off the Black Plague Rat” you  can really help feeling like Belsnickel is around every corner ready to ask if you’ve been “Impish or admirable.”

There are people who walk around in a Dala Horse costume.  Yes, that’s people in there.

click for source

There are men in traditional dress roaming the halls playing the accordion.  And wooden trolls to have your photo with.

click for source

There are tons of people and hoards of married couples come in matching his and hers Nordic sweaters.  {#wantonesobad}

click for source

But, for me {and Derek} the prize of prized is Viking Village, where people exhibit viking craftsmanship {blacksmithing, silver hammering, wood carving, weaving…}  Everyone is dressed in period costume.  Outside they do demonstrations of viking battle techinques.  This year we were lucky enough to catch a demonstration of viking games.  Simple, family friendly games like these.


Tug of war.  Put two people in a loop of rope.  Have them wear it around their waist.  Then they get down on their hands and knees and start crawling away from one another.  Whoever gets dragged across the line loses.

Viking Games Norsk Hostfest

If that’s too tame, have the participants wear the rope around their necks.  {Notice the sweater in the spectator section.}

Viking Games Norsk Hostfest

Or what about this one.  Sandwich a person between two people.  He wins if he can get out of the sandwich.

Viking Games Norsk Hostfest

Or there’s this game {which we didn’t see in person, but I’ve saw featured in an ad for the Hostfest Pre-Event}.

hostfest vikings

click for source

It’s crazy.  It sounds crazy.  But it is fun {especially fun for us on military free admission day}.  Like I said, people come from all over.  Lots camp out in their RV’s for the week, in the parking lot, so they don’t miss a moment.  There are about 1,000 RV lots available.  Tickets to the festival plus camping fees will cost you upwards of $700.  And although that includes free coffee and a polka jam session with Minot’s accordion club, I’m not sure it’s worth it. It’s fun…but maybe not that fun.


Until next year, Hostfest…



Community Canvas | Minot September Block Party

Community Canvas

The latest Community Canvas is complete!  A few weeks ago I took a “downtown” themed community canvas to Minot’s end of summer block party in downtown Minot.  I’d been asked to bring it to the street festival for kids to paint on as they strolled between games and activities.

As, you can imagine, I was a little nervous when I arrived and discovered that my fellow children’s activity vendors included face painting, a bouncy house and games that gave away real prizes.  After I set up and several parent’s asked it I painted faces {to which I had to say “no”} I figured the canvas would be a giant dud.

However, to my pleasant surprise, as soon as I started filling in a few spaces on my own, droves of kids started showing up, wanting to paint as well.  It was a steady stream of kids for two hours straight!  Sometimes there were more kids wanting to paint than brushes!  The community canvas turned out to be a big hit.  Crazy, I know.  I had so much fun.  Even the tiniest artists worked hard to stay in the lines and use the right color.  Only one {who I’ll call an abstract artist} went totally rogue as you can see by the yellow streak in the red door.

I guess, it just goes to show that kids are attracted to creativity.  Their little hands want to create and be creative.  As grown ups, I think we should try our best to let them do that as much as they can.

So here is how the canvas progressed.  Start to finish.  First the outlined painting that I showed you earlier.

Downtown Community Canvas

This is what I brought home from the block party.


When I bring it home I basically just retrace the black outlines.  In this case I added a few other details as well, like bricks, window glare and cloud color.

community canvas

As of now, this painting still doesn’t have a home.  So, if you are in the Minot area and know of a business or nonprofit that would like to have a Minot-inspired art piece…created by the children of Minot–get in touch.  I’d be happy to let you have it.  It doesn’t exactly match my personal decor in my home.

I feel so super blessed by the opportunities the Minot art community has given me lately.  At the end of this month I’ll be doing another Community Canvas, but this time it’s actually a “Classroom Canvas”!  I’ll be drawing up an owl themed canvas for a first grade classroom to paint.  It’s going to be fun times a million.


Expecting | Baby Announcement With Dogs

Expecting | A Baby Announcement With Dogs

Baby Announcement With Dogs

Something very exciting is happening to the Allender clan.  Well, technically it’s the Kennedys.  But since Erin was originally an Allender, I’ll still claim it as a victory for our team.


They are expecting!  Which is just fabulous, because I myself love kiddos, but am still on the terrified side of actually carrying a baby and being a mom…however I have absolutely no qualms about being a zany aunt.  I’m very, very excited {as are our parents–obviously}.  I know the Kennedy foursome–Sis insists on including her dogs in everything–will look lovely as a fivesome.  I’m so excited to show off this one-of-a-kind baby announcement with dogs.

baby Baby Announcement With Dogs

Now, about the dogs.  Erin loves her dogs.  Loves them.  You might think you love your pets.  But she really takes it to a unique level.  Unique–not totally crazy.  {It’s a fine line.}  So, you can imagine my surprise and delight when she told me their household was going to expand by two feet…not four.  Because of the deep rooted love for the dogs {Jillian is the big one, and Penny is the little one} they obviously had to be part of sharing the good news.

Baby Announcement With Dogs

For me, sometimes the most fun part about sharing photos with all of you is being able to tell the story behind some of them.  These were taken at my parent’s house, when I was home to Indiana.  You might even recognize the chair from the family photos we did in July.  About half way through her short session my mom said she “had and idea,” and would be right by.  I think as she walked away she said something about knowing, “just what we needed.”


No more than five minutes later she had returned to the yard carrying two baby bonnets.  One from each of us sisters.  Two minutes after that, they’d been strapped to the dogs’ heads.  I love our family.

Baby Announcement With Dogs

How she produced them so quickly is a mystery to me.  It takes me longer to find Scotch tape in the drawer than it took her to find and deliver two bonnets that haven’t been used since the mid-80′s.  And as you can imagine it was a pathetic sight to behold.  Jillian didn’t even seem to care.  She doesn’t care about much as long as there is a squirrel to watch.  Penny, on the other hand was really embarrassed, but I am so SO glad that I got this close up of her.

Baby Announcement With Dogs, boston terrier

It’s safe to say there are a lot of things about this first Allender pregnancy we will never forget.  Congratulations times a million to this brilliant couple.  Thank you for letting me shoot your baby announcement.  It was a night I won’t soon forget.  And I pray luck upon those dogs, because they are in for a shock when the baby arrives and starts hogging their attention.






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Hi. I'm Amy. Thanks for coming by. I'm in to trying new things and learning to live better. I hope you'll hang around...together we can come closer to mastering the Art of Living.

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