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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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The Pankratz Family {sneak peek}

Let me start by telling you that I absolutely love taking photos at my client’s homes.  Some of my most favorite sessions have taken place at breath taking country ranches and farms in the vast Practically Canadian countryside.  I love it.  It’s unique, it’s personal, it’s my favorite.  {Minus mosquitoes and ticks in the summer.  Those are no one’s favorite.}


So anyway.  I’ve known this gorgeous family since moving to Minot, but I’ve never been to their home…so on the day of our shoot I was very, very pleasantly surprised when my GPS took me to a breathtaking farmhouse just outside of Minot.  Big porch, lots of windows, rolling country, horses.  The whole deal.  We spent an hour {give or take} snapping some fresh family photos.  I’m so pleased with the outcome–and I had a wonderful time getting to know this dear bunch a bit better in the process.

Family photos in home

Outdoor family photos

This special guy got some images all on his own, and I must add in a few words about him.  Well–actually there really are no words for him.  What a card!  I’ve met a lot of little ones, but he is just so funny!  When we were discussing where to get the family photos he told us that we shouldn’t go next to the grain bins because it would “look weird.”  He wanted the cat in the photos.  He laughed so hard his face was turning red when we shot images with his siblings {Mom and Dad were standing behind me being hilarious…}  I love this little personality!  And isn’t he just about the cutest little country boy you’ve ever seen?!!

pankratz 3

Thanks so much for trusting me with your family photos.  I loved every second and every frame.  You’re drive will be at church tomorrow night!




For Sale By Owner

Look at that post title.  Is this seriously for real?  I don’t know how it can be…because last time I checked Minot is amazing and I’d like to stay forever {or at least another 5 years or so.}  But they are forcing me out.  In the last month’s I’ve been closing up the photography biz, tying up philanthropic commitments and trying my best to ensure that all the honey pots I’ve stuck my hands into over the last four years will cap up nicely when I leave.  I’d rather not leave a bunch of sticky fingerprints all over.

I’ve been cleaning and organizing and clearing closets and purging things I haven’t used in years.  I’ve been doing a few minor repairs and shining everything up–all leading up to this day.  The day I list my house online:  For Sale By Owner.  {See the Bisman listing here for additional details.}


Now I’m armed with photos and descriptions.  I’ve done the math {which hurt my brain}.  Math on square footage and interest and pricing and escargot…I mean escrow.  Now that’s left is to find a buyer for what I consider to be the cutest, dreamiest, most fun, charming, darling, comfiest, dearest house in the greater Minot area.  So take a look, snoop around the blog.  This amazing place could be yours very soon {granted you have proof that you are pre-approved for a loan.}  I’ve poured the last four years in to making this an idyllic home and I’ve loved {almost} every second of it.  And now….it’s time to brag on this beauty.  Scroll through and you’ll see photos and my favorite things about living at 900 3rd St.


The landscaping lends major curb appeal and it’s super easy to maintain.  I love pretty yards, but I don’t like a lot of upkeep–so all the best are planted with hardy perennials that will look better and better each year.  Bonus–there are loads of top-notch peonies and lilies so in the spring you can keep the house stocked with fresh flowers.

We love to be outside, and in the city a big yard can be hard to come by.  This home has a supersized corner lot that’s fully fenced–perfect for kids, dogs, and yard games.

exterior night

One of the most glorious things about living in Minot is the looong, perfectly temperate summer nights.  Grill out on the deck, dine alfresco, and entertain friends around the fire pit on the patio.  The patio is created from salvaged brick from a flood home.  The patio is also great for hosting outdoor movie nights, pumpkin carving parties and dancing in the moonlight.  There are even outdoor speakers for setting the mood.  The buyer can keep as much of our outdoor furniture as they please–and the grill too!  And neighbors?  You’ll never live among finer, more respectful folks.

Living room

The inside of the home boasts restored charm alongside modern, eco-friendly upgrades.  While this is a historic home, the house does have an open floor plan, which is great for entertaining and hosting large groups.  The living room has fresh bamboo flooring which never gets too cold and is easy to clean. The chalkboard panels can be taken down–I pink swear I’m not hiding anything behind them.  The buyer can keep them, or I can have them taken out–up to you.


The kitchen and dining room have Dura-ceramic tile that was put in just before we moved in nearly four years ago.  I love having hard floors because they are so easy to keep clean in the winter when snow and mud get brought inside on boots.  The dining room features a period inspired light and charming built in cabinets.


I love this kitchen because it’s got so much storage.  There is cabinet space I’m not even using!  It’s floor to ceiling.  And the best part is this:  the corner cabinets {top and bottom} are fitted with over-sized lazy susan’s so there is no wasted space!  The second best part is this:  a brand new Maytag convection oven.  I’m in love with this appliance and I’d take it with me if I could.  {No joke.}


The bedrooms in this home are very spacious for a house of this age.  The master bedroom has lots of floor space and shows off hardwood floors original to the structure.  An expanded closet was added to the room, giving it a nice, organized storage space.


The office used to be our guest room.  There is plenty of room in here for a bed and two dressers.  However–when we finished the basement remodel, this became a home office and where I store my art supplies.  It’s not pictured, but this room also has a large closet fitted with clothing racks and rods.


The bathroom has incredible storage–a built in cabinet, where I store linens, and a shelving unit for towels.  I had Derek build the custom pull out drawer because the shelves are so deep!  This way no space is wasted.  The shower has an awesome shower head and great water pressure {things you really don’t find out until you move in…but are nice to know in advance.}


The basement remodel was completed in July 2015.  It’s waterproofed by Innovative Basement Systems, who offer a fully transferable lifetime warranty on their work.  In simple terms that means it’s guaranteed that water will never come in to this space.  Ever.  We use this space as a guest suite, but it’d also make a nice master suite or home office.  There is lot’s of storage down here, including shelving under the stairs and an unfinished “closet” space.

The washer and dryer are also down here, closed off in their own closet.  Those appliances can stay with the house, as can the upright freezer.  There is a 1 3/4 bathroom in the basement as well {toilet, sink, shower–no bathtub}.  It’s new and the plumbing is guaranteed, as is all the electrical work–and the lights themselves are supposed to last about 20 years before they need to be replaced.


All in all this is the smartest, best purchase you could make.  Help me spread the word by sharing this post with your friends who might be looking for a perfect place in Practically Canada.  It’s really a great place to live–you can even walk downtown for dinner when the weather is nice–so let’s get selling!

Okay–now I have to link this page up to actual home-buying sites.  Wish me luck.




Killian {Newborn Sneak Peek}

Newborn family photos

This is Killian and his proud parents.  Last week, they were kind enough to invite me in to their home to capture his first portraits.   He loves dragons, his new kitty-brother Flynn, and super soft blankets made by his Nanna.  He’s got gorgeous deep blue eyes and just a hint of ginger coloring–and it’s safe to say he’s stolen the hearts of both his parents {and most definitely his adoring Nanna, who could look at his sweet face all day.}


I had a wonderful time getting to know this sweet family.  Welcoming a new baby home is such a special blessing–as usual…I’m blown away and honored that they trusted me to capture these precious {and adorable} moments with their son.

black and white newborn photography

I don’t typically show off an entire collage of black and white images…but I couldn’t resist.  I love this series in monotone–it’s got a sweet stillness about it.

newborn photos stocking capnewborn photos stocking cap

Okay, seriously–how peaceful does this baby look?!  After being so wide awake at the start of our session I was thrilled {and a little shocked} when he finally dozed off.  I love the way he looks sleeping in these images and the contrast between the highly textured blanket and hats and his brand new, smooth skin.  These are some of the coziest images I’ve taken this year.

newborn baby boy

I can’t resist throwing one more image in to the mix.  Killian has a super cool Pokemon onsie and his dad just happened to be sporting a very similar T-shirt.  To his Nana’s dismay we snapped a few of him in the outfit that caused her to say,

“What is that poor baby wearing??!!”  With an incredulous tone in her voice when she walked in on these images being taken.  And while it might not be her favorite…I think it’s pretty darn cute {but really, what isn’t cute on this little guy?} and, after all I really do like photos with personality.  So I’ll leave you with this:

Pokemon newborn




Katie & Tim { snowy engagement sneak peek }

Engagement photos with a puppy

Everyone…I’d like you to meet Katie, Tim and Max.  Max is the little one, with the brown fur and the gorgeous blue eyes.  I’ll be honest…when Katie told me she’d be bringing her dog to the engagement session, I expected someone a little more mature.  But this was definitely a pleasant surprise!  I love, love, love puppies!  {Who doesn’t??}  And I’ll be totally transparent, Max kind of stole the show.  {How could he not?}


Now I’m getting off topic.  Katie and Tim are engaged and they’ll be starting their together-forever as husband and wife in October, and I am so flattered and honored that they chose me to photograph their engagement.  We had a picture perfect winter day and I could hardly take my eyes off of Katie’s fabulous hair.  {So.  Pretty.}  These two are full of personality and silly moments.  I love couples who laugh together.  I got so many good shots of candid, fun moments with these two I couldn’t really narrow things down–which is why it’s taken a little longer than I would have liked to get their preview up online.  But alas, here is it, gorgeous photos from a lovely day, with an even lovelier couple.  Take a look.

Candid Engagement Photos

Oh, and did I mention that there was a near miss with a little snow fight?

starbucks cup engagement photos

Katie is a barista at Starbucks, so one shot she knew she wanted included Mr. and Mrs. coffee cups.  Such a cute idea that showed off her personal style.  And speaking of style—take note here.  I get asked all the time, “What should I wear to my session?”  Well, Katie nailed it.  I want the outfit she is wearing.  She’s got classic pieces that aren’t going to look dated years down the line.  Then she added some “now” touches, like the cuffed jeans, wedge ankle boots and a chunky necklace–that keep things looking modern.  And the texture in the sweater and flannel gives great dimension to the images. Love it!

Snowy engagement photos

Again, I’m simply honored that this couple trusted me to capture these moments.  Congratulations on your engagement–savor this sweet season.  I hope you enjoy this preview–your flash drive is going in the mail today!



Stella {Newborn Photos}

home newborn session

This is Stella.  Isn’t she just about the cutest thing??  When I arrived at her house she was sound asleep in her mama’s arms.  Warm, snuggly, peaceful.  So we laid out the soft, cozy blanket and the soft, comfy pillow.  Stella laid down, sound asleep.  Then I pulled the plug.  I pulled the lime green, pacifying plug.


It was incredible.  Like flipping a switch, as soon as the pacifier was out the wiggling began.  Still seemingly asleep, but now squirming around.  Tossing and turning and throwing arms in every direction.  Not one to risk letting a sleeping newborn wake up, I put the plug back in.  Immediately–sleeping again.


This happened several more times.  Plug out.  Wiggle, cry a bit.  Plug in.  Sound asleep.  Plug out.  Arms flying, crying.  Plug in. Peaceful, sound asleep.  Eventually through a slow, methodical technique of removing the plug over the course of several minutes–she stayed asleep.  And the camera could see her whole, gorgeous face–without the lime green pacifier blocking it.  Comical, precious, and totally worth the patience.

newborn on blanket photos


Vintage basket newborn photos


Toward the end of her session she finally did wake up.  For real wake up.  Look at these bright eyes.  She was squirmy and happy and I loved capturing every moment of her personality.

awake newborn photos

I’m so honored to have been invited in to Stella’s home to get these first ever portraits of her.  Congratulations on the new arrival of this precious blessing!



The Addingtons { Winter Family Photos }

winter family photos

Many moons ago Heather bought a mini session I donated to a silent auction.  Her gorgeous {and very fun} family opted to wait and use their session once we had snow…which turned out to be a pretty tall order.   Even at Christmas card time we didn’t have snow and I was waltzing around in a sweater with no jacket.  When the snow finally came, it brought icy temperatures and wind chill advisories.  And although winter family photos look awesome {see above} and sound so fun and snowy…no one likes to suffer through with red eyes and noses and kids crying frozen tears because they are miserable and cold.


So we waited and rescheduled and rescheduled again.  Then–just as we were about to throw in the towel and wait until March–Minot gave us a gorgeous, only slightly windy, 30˚ day.  Such a payout.  I’m loving these so much.  The jackets, the boots, the snow….!  I’m so glad we finally got it.  And I sincerely hope this gang loves these images as much as I do {is that a canvas print I hear calling???}


This session was #2 of three outdoor snowy sessions I’m hoping to knock out this week.  {The first was Emily and Author}. As soon as I hit publish on this little post, I’ll be headed out the door to set up for another engagement session.  And this time instead of dreading the icy weather I’m actually a little concerned that it’s gotten too warm!  {Is there such a thing in Practically Canada in January?}  Most of the snow has melted away and I’m concerned the bride and groom to-be might get mucky.  But we’ll just have to wait and see.  If nothing else, I’m sure I’ll have a good story to tell…Look for a preview image up on the Facebook page tomorrow.



Emily + Author { Winter Engagement Photos }

winter engagement photos

I remember it clearly.  This adorable, red-headed teenager asked if we could get together and talk.  So we did.  We met at Pita Pit and over sandwiches–excuse me, pitas–I got to know Emily.  We talked about prom and how I couldn’t get a date to save my life in high school and how maybe I should read the signs a little better when three guys turned me down for prom.  But I went anyway, and survived, and eventually all the weirdness that high school can bring gradually faded and I was left with a little more clarity and pockets of crazy stories to tell.


She mentioned Snap Chat and I played it really cool–like I totally knew what that was.  In reality, after the pitas were gone and the iced tea consumed I immediately went to my car and Googled “snap chat” from the parking lot.


As time went on, the drama of high school and prom subsided–as it always does–but we kept meeting.  Mostly for coffee, mostly early in the morning before her classes at the university started.  And while I’m not a morning person, chatting with Emily and researching Scripture with her was a morning worth starting early.  It was one of these days that I first heard about a boy named Author.  “Aurthur?”  “No…Author.  Like an author.”

winter engagement session

I called him Aurthur in our conversations for months–but I’m finally getting the hang of it.  Just in time too…because this boy I heard of once upon an Americano-one-pump-of-vanilla-room-for-cream—is sticking around indefinitely.  These two are engaged and I couldn’t be more excited.  I love that their relationship is rooted in Christ.  I love that Author spoke with our pastor and Emily’s dad before proposing.  I love that they are in love with each other, but even more in love with the Lord.  It’s a beautiful thing.

winter engagement photo ideas

As with most winter photo sessions, these winter engagement photos were scheduled and rescheduled several times before we got it right, but in the end we had a gorgeous day.  And I’m in love with the results.  Congratulations guys!!  And thank you for choosing me to capture your engagement.  What an honor!




2015 Christmas Favorites

It’s here.  I know this has maybe taken too long to post up.  But  I’m not too apologetic.  I think everyone can understand that things run a little slower in December.  Among the hustle and bustle of holiday festivities, business as usual, and taking time to prioritize reflecting on Jesus’ birth….it’s no wonder that I’m just now getting around to putting these precious photos online.


That…and…I don’t like to spoil the surprise of anyone’s Christmas photos.  This way {hopefully} everyone has had a chance to post and share and print cards to their heart’s content.  And now–I just can’t take another second of delay.  This is perhaps my favorite crop of Christmas photos.  I’m so happy that so many lovely Practically Canadian friends trusted me with their photos {especially after a very vague announcement about the set}.  Like the trust fall in Mean Girls…I totally caught you and didn’t let you smack your head on the gym floor.


Oh–and one more thing.  This year the proceeds from Christmas photos was donated to local causes.  Because of the gorgeous, smiling faces in these photographs a lot of beautiful things were possible in Practically Canada.  A donation was made to the Ward County Historical Society {because they were kind enough to let us use the fire truck}; the YWCA received a new crib mattress {they’d given one of theirs away to a single dad in need}; 11 pairs of winter boots, 10 pairs of insulated in soles, a jumbo pack of paper plates and laundry detergent worth about 300 loads was given to the Minot Men’s Winter Refuge; and gifts were bought for a family in need of some extra holiday cheer. 


But I don’t want you giving me even an ounce of credit for even half a second.  I’m sharing this list of goodies with you because it was your dollars and business that made it possible.  Wealth of all kinds, every dollar I have in my wallet and bank account comes from the Lord–the creator of wealth.  I’ve simply spent some time asking Him what to do with the money–and He opened my eyes to some local needs.  God gets the glory for this….I give because He has taught me to give.  My hands are open towards others’ needs because His hands are always incredibly open to my needs.  I hope this testimony glorifies God and encourages you to ask Him how He may be more magnified through your own, unique walk.


Okay.  No more delays.  Now the photos.

christmas photos with vintage car

Okay.  I’ve gotta say just one thing.  I was shocked that more people used the fire truck than this adorable Studebaker.  Isn’t it just the cutest thing?  Who is your favorite?  I know loads of people are having dress envy over Kate’s adorable ModCloth ensemble.  It’s so perfect.  I’m a huge fan of Carson and Olivia, personally.  {Fourth down on the left column.}  They dazzled me with their cuteness last year when they came in PJ’s with milk and cookies.  This year the whole family was there and they looked so sharp!  I love Carson’s tiny vest and tie!!

I was very excited that Mr. Caswell–the legend himself–stopped by for a photo.  He is the owner of this adorable car and was kind enough to let me borrow it {and drive it!!!!} for the weekend.  He’s an avid local collector who showed me stalls filled with cars of all kinds and let me have the pick of the litter.

But I’ll be totally honest.  I can’t pick a favorite.  That’s why these collages are so huge!  Okay.  On to the fire truck.  Everyone loved using this cool truck and I don’t blame them.  It’s rustic and colorful and looks undoubtedly Christmasy with an evergreen stacked on the back.

christmas photos with vintage truck

Let’s take just a second to recognize all the super cute outdoor wear that came to the fire truck sessions.  Hats galore!  I’m especially partial to the little reindeer hat worn by the littlest member of the Forehand clan.  {Insert excited squeaking here.}

Next I’d like to thank all the precious pups that joined their families on photo day.  Everyone behaved so well, and most {except Mr. Taco in the right column} even looked at the camera.

I love these warm and wacky images–from the wreath around Eddie’s neck to the tight squeezes and piles of empty presents.  This crop brings a smile to my face and a pitter patter to my heart.  We have fun, don’t we?


I hope you are having a happy Christmas season–and that these brought a little smile to your face.  I never stop being awed by how unique and beautiful every person and every family is.  Thanks to everyone who chose me and trusted me with your Christmas portrait.  I’m honored and flattered and hope your Christmas card list is floored by your gorgeous photos!




2015 Christmas Photo Samples

Hi all–


I hope you had a very merry Thanksgiving and are gearing up for a very happy Christmas…wait–did I get that backwards?  Things of all kinds seem to be upside down and backwards right now.  The first of the winter holidays passed by in a blissful, pie-filled blur…my house is in that awkward teenage stage between fall decor and winter wonderland…I’m slowing down in the work department as I attempt to start tying up lose ends in Practically Canada before a move this spring…as usual, I’m pining to start a few new projects and I’m longing to write more….add it all up, and I’d say 2015 is coming to a fun-filled, mind rattling close.


Not to complain.  I really truly love this time of year.  {Cold winds and plastic on windows included.}  I like the process of winterizing the yard, stocking up on canned apple butter, kicking myself for not starting to craft up a gift storm sooner and even the satisfaction of a freshly shoveled–or snow blown–driveway.  It’s all pretty great.  Minus the windchill.  {Get it…MINUS the wind chill??  Because it’s usually in the negatives…Okay, so that one was a stretch.}


By far, one of my very favorite parts of this season–not including parties that allow me to wear a fancy dress and my once-a-year-dressy coat–or watching White Christmas and quoting nearly all of the lines–is taking Christmas photos.  I’ve always loved creating a fun photo for Christmas.  Yes, they are nearly always staged.  No, this probably isn’t Derek’s favorite part of the season.  Yes, I think they are adorable.  Yes, the only thing that has made it better is that for the past three years I’ve been able to share the set with others.


So in the days leading up to Thanksgiving I wrapped giant boxes and tracked down a Charlie Brown tree {thanks TC Nursery!!}.  I pulled the sled out of storage and stressed over what wrapping paper patters would look best with which ribbon.  It’s all leading up to this weekend’s Christmas mini session extravaganza!  And Derek–who truly proves himself to be my BFF and a selfless, loving husband over and over–not only tolerated the madness of our home, but loaded it all in the car on Sunday when we went to take some sample shots.  {Because I wasn’t sure I’d made enough props…in case you’re wondering…there’s plenty.}


Here’s what we got.

Christmas Card photos with vintage fire truck

We only posed with the fire truck because the other car is privately owned, and I’m already asking quite a bit to be borrowing it for two days next weekend.  And really, if I had another car in the mix we would have been there all day!  I am so pleased with the final result.  I think these are so much fun and can’t wait to see what adorable things will happen this weekend.

Christmas Card photos with vintage fire truck

Wondering what to wear for your Christmas photo this year?  Remember to take a look at this list of tips–or this one from last year.



The Trondson Family { industrial family photos }

I know it’s really cliche to talk about the weather.  But up here in Practically Canada we are experiencing a weather phenomenon.  Temps are still hitting 40˚s during the day.  There’s no snow on the ground.  Heck, I’ve only worn a coat once or twice this fall.  Today a scarf and a flannel button down were all the outerwear I sported.  So…I’m talking about the weather.  Never in the years have I lived here have I been able to shoot outdoors {fairly} comfortably so late in the season.


Just a few weeks ago I was blessed to spend on of the more chilly mornings {note a couple red noses} photographing the beautiful Trondson family.  Even thought I’ve known them for a few years, this is our first session together.  I so enjoyed this opportunity to get to know them better–especially the chance to talk to these precious kiddos!


These turned out to be kind-of-sort-of industrial family photos. I love using these brick and metal walls as a back drop.  And as a side note–since lots of you are asking what to wear in your Christmas photos–I love what this family wore to their session!!  Greys, white, black and blue jeans.  They look classic and classy–but not matchy matchy.  They’ve struck a great balance, and they look fabulous.  This family is absolutely beautiful!
industrial family photos

Oh, and can I just add that I absolutely love snapping a few photos of just mom and dad together?!  These moments are so special.  I love photographing couples whose love and marriage have matured.  These two are just so adorable!


Eventually, the littlest of the bunch got a little fussy and fingers began to grow icy.  So instead of insisting that we make kidcicles, we moved our party inside where we finished the session.  And, as you can see by these smiles–it was a good choice.  {Oh, and how sweet is this shoulder shot?!  She’s a momma’s girl, which is just about the cutest thing in the world.}

industrial family photos

Thanks Trondson family!  I had a wonderful time with you and can’t wait for you to see the rest of your images!



Well, hello there!

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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