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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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It’s A Big Deal

17081_The_Giftimage via

It’s December 17th.  Christmas is still  more than a week {okay, eight days} away.  But every year shortly after December hits the calender the holiday starts closing in.  Slow at first.  A party here, cookies there.  Then things become faster and more frequent as last minute gifts demand to be purchased, gifts need to be wrapped, travel plans made, events organized and attended.  And then, around December 17th I start feeling a knot in my stomach because the pressure is simply becoming too much.


Maybe I’m alone in feeling this way.  Or maybe you feel this way at some point during the month of December too.


I think there’s a reason we feel so much pressure during these days.  It’s because Christmas is a big deal.  Now, I’m not talking about the commercial big deal of Christmas.  I mean, Christmas is a big deal.  It celebrates what is tied for the event marked as the biggest deal of all time–Christ’s birth.  God coming to Earth in human form.  {The event tied with this is Christ’s resurrection.  And, for the record…this is referencing Amy’s Personal Book of Big Deals.}


With this really big deal in mind, it’s no wonder these become days filled with activity.  This is a season of giving because God first gave to us.  This is a season of celebration because God gave us a reason to celebrate.  This is a season of outreach because the joy and excitement of Christmas is contagious, which makes it a great time to win hearts and share the Good News.


A lot of effort goes into Christmas.  Because it’s a big deal.


But before you go off and tell everyone you know that I said Christmas is all about giving loads of gifts, getting new toys and eating until even your stretchy pants feel tight, let me add a few more thoughts.


We have to remember to focus our business, our celebrations, and even our shopping on the reason Christmas is so monumental–Christ.  Through all that we do during this season {and the others as well} we must remember that, “…whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. {Colossians 3:17}


So all those parties–attend them, but only if you can do it in the name of the Lord.  Go and have fun.  Show uncontainable joy that looks out of place at an office Christmas party…because you are celebrating more than a Christmas bonus and a few days off–you are celebrating the moment everything changed.  The moment God came to Earth.  The moment the prophecy was fulfilled.  The moment God made it possible to have a personal relationship with Him–no animal sacrifice required.


Buy the gifts, shop your heart out.  But do it joyfully, knowing your gifts are a small symbol of the best gift ever given.  Wrap them up and even add bows if you like…use those gifts as a tool to open conversation about the heart and attitude behind the gifts.


As I’ve spent time thinking about Christmas this year, my heart has been drawn to John 3:17.  I think it sums the whole thing up pretty well:


For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.


That’s the Christmas story in a nutshell.  Sure, there were angels and songs and kings and a journey and a barn–those are details, this is the main point.


This verse is significant because it dispels any notion of ulterior motive.  Until Christ’s birth, God coming to our planet was often a terrifying and wrathful thing.  The Israelites didn’t even want to hear God’s voice, because they were sure that encounter would cause them death.  {Exodus 20}  People knew He is great and they were sinful.  Since sin entered the world, the human race feared not only God on Earth, but also His messengers.  Think of all the stories that tell of angels being met with awe and terror.  {Matthew 28, Luke 1:30}.  Deep down, the human race knows it should fear, because it should be condemned and judged.


John 3:17 spells out God’s intentions.  Jesus didn’t come to wipe out the mess, to tell us that we will never be good enough for God.  Just the opposite.  He came to save us.  To tell us that He loves us, He knows us, and He wants to be with us.  It’s a huge gift, totally free.  He didn’t come to ask us to be perfect, but simply to love Him.  And when we love Him, really and truly, it becomes easier to do everything, even Christmas, even shopping, even travel, even overbooked schedules in His name and for His glory.


Maybe take a minute tonight to refocus on the big deal that is Christmas.  Remember why it’s such a big deal.  Let that reality sink in.  I’m going to take some time tonight to let that knot that’s started to form unwind…to wipe away the pressure of man–to make things sparkly and over the top for the sake of appearance–and cover my attitude with the joy of Christ’s arrival.  Let your knot unwind too, and let the next 8 days pass by with insurmountable, unspeakable joy.





A Wonderful Christmas Time {a friends photo shoot}

When Jessica got in touch with me to ask if I’d be willing to do a photo session for her and a group of friends I was immediately excited.  I know this group.  I like this group.  They are 100% fun.


In Jessica’s initial message asking about the session she told me that they wanted to capture this unique season in life.  Young, unmarried, most of them living away from family.  In a lot of ways this group of friends has become family.  And that’s a magical, special thing.  Maybe as you scroll through these images you’ll see a piece of yourself and your own friends looking back at you.  I hope you’ll smile as you remember those good times with the family that didn’t share your DNA.  Or that you’ll feel especially grateful for your own amazing friends.  Or that you’ll pick up your phone and send a message {or actually place a call} to a friend from a season in your life that has come and gone.  Moments are special and relationships are gifts worth cherishing…a big thanks to every single member of this group for letting me hang out and capture the art of this moment for you.

Friend Christmas shoot

Friend Christmas shoot

You might be wondering what it is about these people that is so dear to me.  Well…let me tell you.  As you can tell by that list I wrote up of things to do in-and-around Minot this winter, I like doing things.  And I like people who do things.  This group does things.  They go out, they stay in, they are welcoming and hospitable to new-to-the-area folks and {correct me if I’m wrong} the Minot Young Adult Facebook group sprung from this very gang.

Friend Christmas shoot

Friend's Christmas Shoot Minot, ND

I simply adore that these antlers were worn constantly during the session.


This was a VERY windy, very snowy, very cold day.  But what is a full length, Practically Canadian, Christmas photo session without a few outdoor shots?  So, we watched the window carefully.  And when the snow and wind had calmed enough that we could actually see more than a pure sheet of white…we bundled up and braved the cold.  It was very brave.

Friend's Christmas Shoot Minot, ND

Friend's Christmas Shoot Minot, ND

Friend's Christmas Shoot Minot, ND

Friend's Christmas Shoot Minot, ND

Then they literally ran back inside for more cookie making.  I’ve never seen so much raw cookie dough consumed in one sitting before.  I’m not judging.  I’m not even mad…I’m impressed.  Oh, and please notice the amazing cookie cutter shapes they had.

Friend's Christmas Shoot Minot, ND

Friend's Christmas Shoot Minot, ND

Friend's Christmas Shoot Minot, ND

Friend's Christmas Shoot Minot, ND

Friend's Christmas Shoot Minot, ND

Friend's Christmas Shoot Minot, ND


The Gift of Survival {DIY Winter Emergency Car Kit}

Over the last month or so, I’ve been busily putting together Christmas gifts…in an effort to keep from losing my mind at the very end.  All in all, it’s going well.  I just have one more gift to put together, then I’ll call it good.  And while what I’ll be showing you today doesn’t exactly have to be a gift it’s nice to have on hand and does make a lovely present for someone moving to a cold climate, a college student, or that person on you list who has a loooong commute.

{Image via}

Today, we are talking a DIY winter emergency car kit.


This idea surfaced the week of Thanksgiving when I realized my own winter emergency car kit had been depleted of some of its necessities.  My kit was, fittingly, given to me as a gift by my dad when I left for college.  I think he even gave it to me for Christmas my freshman year.  Even though it is winter appropriate, I’ve left in my car year-round since I got it.  Luckily I haven’t needed the major stuff…but I regularly burn through some of the smaller items, at which point I replace them.


When my parents were in town for the holiday, I asked my dad for tips on restocking my kit and making a second kit–for Derek’s car.  You see, he’s kind of an emergency preparedness guru.  For a while he was our county’s Emergency Management Coordinator.  Even now, his work involves creating plans for the “what ifs” of life.  It’s safe to call him a trustworthy and expert source.


The following in a list he put together for me.  It is formatted in order of importance with the necessities first and the “nice-to-haves” toward the end.  Start with an empty backpack.  If you are making this for yourself, just use what you have on hand.  If it’s being given as a gift, splurge for new, or like-new, items.


1.  First Aid Kit.  This should have supplies for treating injuries {bandages, gauze, cold compress, aspirin, antiseptic ointment, etc.} as well as medications needed/taken by you and your family, or personal hygiene items custom to you {prescriptions, extra glasses, spare contacts, etc.}  The Red Cross sells ready made first aid kits, or you can pick one up at a local drug store.


2.  Cell Phone Charger.  Keep a spare phone charger in the car that can plug in to the cigarette lighter.


3.  A Gallon of Water.  Don’t store it in an old milk jug.  Instead, keep it in unopened bottles, empty/washed pop liters.  Don’t fill bottles all the way to the top.  Leave some space as the water will expand if it freezes.


4.  Food.  Keep about a three day supply.  This doesn’t mean you need a ton of food…just some high calorie, high nutrient items, like protein bars.  Clif Bars are a great choice.


5.  Flashlight.  Don’t store batteries in the flashlight.  Instead, store them in a separate, unopened container and update them regularly as cold temps can deplete their power.


6.  Waterproof Matches.  Get the strike-anywhere variety and keep a stash of them in an old prescription bottle.  This will keep them from scattering at the bottom of your bag and it will keep them dry.  Heat is vital to surviving a winter car catastrophe.  Matches can provide heat.  You can burn the candles {that you’ll put in the kit in a minute}, or–if needed–items in your vehicle.


7.  Candle in a Can.  Dad recommends putting several candles in a coffee tin with a plastic, seal-able lid.  The can will offer a place to keep your fire safe and will keep your candles dry.


8.  Emergency Blanket A blanket or sleeping bag that can compress is ideal for your winter car kit.  I really like these compression bags, made for backpacking, that help pack a sleeping bag or blanket into a very small, tight bundle.


9.  Extra Clothing.  These can be things that were headed to the Goodwill.  Bigger is better than smaller in this case.  Put in a coat/sweatshirt {fleece is good since it repels water}, hat, sturdy gloves, socks, boots, a rain poncho, and a compact towel.


10.  Tools.  Add a multipurpose tool like this one, traction pads for stuck tires, a small {but sturdy} shovel, an axe, plastic sheeting or tarp, and duct tape.  If you can’t find traction pad, or don’t want to buy them you can pack a gallon bag of clay cat litter instead.


Dad also added these nice-to-have items.


11.  A battery powered, or hand-crank radio–a weather radio, if possible.


12.  Extra batteries.


13.  A written list of family contact information–in case your phone dies and you don’t have the numbers memorized, or if help arrives and needs to know who to contact.


14.  Extra cash.


15.  A state map.


16.  Playing cards.



The White Christmas Ball

White Christmas Ball Denver{via 9News}

This year I’m celebrating my golden birthday.  28 on the 28th of December.  I know it hasn’t quite happened yet…but with a birthday that close to Christmas, I’m usually worn out, full of over eating, or on the road driving cross country on the actual day.  This year, this golden year, I was determined to make sure my birthday rocked.


I told Derek the only thing I wanted was tickets to the White Christmas Ball in Denver.  Yes, that’s an extravagant request.  But I wanted it so bad.  And, Derek is amazing.  So we went.  And it was fabulous.  The best party I’ve ever been to.  The best birthday gift I’ve ever gotten.


{It should be noted that photos being shared in this post were mostly not taken by me…as I was determined to enjoy the moment instead of documenting it.  You can click the images to go to their sources.  Most of them are from the fabulous Sheila Broderick Photography The ones that look really cruddy were–no doubt–taken on my phone.}


White Christmas Ball Denver{via Sheila Broderick}

You might be wondering what the White Christmas Ball is and how I came across it.  By now, you should know that I’m an expert at finding really fun things to do.  It’s just a knack I have.  When something amazing in mentioned to me, I file it away in my beady little brain and pull it out at just the right time.  In this case, I heard of this little ditty from a friend while we were shopping at Minot’s city wide garage sale.  She saw a 1940’s military cap and said it’d be perfect for the 1940’s Ball.  I have that moment, and Google to thank for getting me to Denver last weekend.


This event is actually an off shoot of the 1940’s Ball.  A non-profit summer event in Denver that celebrates the Greatest Generation with a…1940’s themed ball.  The White Christmas Ball is the winter side of things.  The 1940’s Ball is a nonprofit organization, whose proceeds benefit the Wounded Warrior Project and the Spirit of Flight Center in Colorado.


White Christmas Ball Denver

Okay, back to the ball.  I think the thing I love most about this event is that it is attended by participators.  People who are willing to commit to the theme, come in era-appropriate dress, and have a great time.  As soon as we walked in to the venue, the atmosphere started to swallow me up.  The Christmas decor, the lighting, the 1000 guests all beautifully dressed, and the amazing live music threw off an aura of warm, cozy, Christmas fun just waiting to be had.


The even staff does a great job of making sure there is lots to see and do.  There is a vintage vendor fair, touting retro clothing and nostalgic memorabilia.  Food trucks with some of the best mac ‘n’ cheese I’ve ever consumed.  A huge dance floor.  Continual live music, only occasionally broken up by live entertainment.  Attire contests.  Photo stations.  Beautiful pro-photos from Cake and Knife Photography.  And when your feet are tired of dancing {or for those of us still nursing a somewhat bad back…} there was a movie theater that played White Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life, and The Glenn Miller Story.


White Christmas Ball Denver{via Sheila Broderick}

White Christmas Ball Denver{via Sheila Broderick}

My second favorite thing about this event is that it’s full of people who know how to have a good time.  They dance because they like it, not because they are peer pressured into it.  And no one needs to be drunk to make their way to the dance floor.  Was alcohol available?  Sure, but it wasn’t the center of the party.  I respect that.  I like that.  As a girl who never mixes drinking and dancing {my dancing is plenty crazy without the extra influence}, I love being surrounded by people who can have an uninhibited great time–and this party was full of them.  There were even a handful of WWII vets cutting a rug with pretty girls on the floor.  That’s an image I’ll never forget.


For those that weren’t up for dancing themselves, there were several great live performances to watch.  And wish you could move like that.  The group below, 23 Skidoo, rocked my world.

White Christmas Ball Denver{via Sheila Broderick}

White Christmas Ball Denver{via Sheila Broderick}

And what’s a White Christmas party without a few numbers from the movie?

White Christmas Ball Denver

White Christmas Ball Denver

At one point we stopped to take a photo with a Christmas Story vignette and a gal from 9News saw us.  She took this photo and put it up on the station’s website along with others from the night.

White Christmas Ball Denver{via 9News}

I really cannot say enough good things about the bands that played.  Amazing!  Just amazing.  Toward the end of the night Rat Pack impersonators did a set with the The Hot Tomatoes Dance Orchestra.  Hands down my favorite music of the night.  These guys were so perfect it was trippy.

White Christmas Ball Denver{via Sheila Broderick}

White Christmas Ball Denver{via Sheila Broderick}

The only thing that was a little off was this large, mustached man who appeared on stage with “Bing Crosby” and introduced himself as “Danny Kaye.”  I’m thinking there must have been some last minute change of plans…because he looked nothing like the limber, leggy, ginger we all know and love.



But really, who cares?  Because while they were on stage they did a balloon drop!

White Christmas Ball Denver{via Sheila Broderick}

Seriously this was an amazing night.  A night so good it made up for every disappointing, lackluster New Year’s Eve I’ve ever spent.  This is the greatest party I’ve ever been to.  And I’m convinced it’s the closest I’ll ever come to the real Columbia Inn in Pine Tree, VT.  So, thank you, thank you, thank you to the 1940’s Ball team for putting on such a great event.

White Christmas Ball Denver

White Christmas Ball Denver

And outside the venue–the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum–was a bedazzled B-52.  So…yeah…

White Christmas Ball

37 Things to Do This Winter {in and around Minot}

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As the winter really settles in over Practically Canada, the grumbling tends to start.  Oh, boy…here comes six months of frozen misery.  For those that don’t complain {especially for those newish to the area} it can be a very uncertain time.  What do you do all winter?  It’s true, activities do have to be altered a bit, and you might need to get creative.  However, this doesn’t have to be a time of woes and frostbite.


I’ve put together a quick list of 30 awesome things you can do right here in Practically Canada to fill these winter months.  Some are Christmasy and time sensitive…those are first.  Others are here until the thaw.  And if this isn’t enough, you can review last year’s list of 40 fun things to do during the cold season.  Here we go…37 Things to do in Minot this winter.  {Maybe it’s better to say…in and around Minot…but you get the idea…}


1.  It’s a Wonderful Life, a radio play–put on by the MSU theatre department.  I love this story and tickets are cheap–only $6 for adults.  More info here.  Runs 12/11-14

2.  Minot Symphony Orchestra’s Christmas concert–I’ve never heard a negative word breathed about the MSO.  Their holiday concert will feature Christmas classics, followed by select scenes from the Nutcracker {performed by the Rinat Mouzafarov Institute of Dance & Ballet Theater}.  More here.  Concert 12/11


3.  Historical Society Christmas Tea–This is the first year that the Minot Historical Society will be hosting an old fashioned Christmas Tea and Caroling.  Will it be spectaular?  I don’t know.  It’s the first year.  But I do know that events only get better if they are supported by the community.  And I know that it’s better than sulking at home because you hate winter.  So give it a try, and sip some tea, darn it.  Tea on 12/13 2-4pm


image via

4.   See the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train roll through town.  Bundle up for one of my favorite holiday events!  Music, dazzling lights, a concert, and {of course} an appearance from Santa.  See their website here for complete dates and details.  It rolls through Minot on 12/16.


5.  Drive through Oak Park to see light displays.  It’s not the Girswold house, but it’s still fun to see all the lights, and kiddos love it!  Just a $5 donation per car that supports the Sertoma Club of Minot.  Runs through 12/31.  Info here.


6.  Catch a concert from the Minot Chamber Chorale.  See dates here.


7.  Skate at the Maysa Arena.  Rental is cheap and skating is cheap too.  Check here for open skating hours.


8.  Get skating lessons at Maysa Arena from the Magic City Figure Skating Club.  Learn a new winter skill.  Go to their website for links to coaches, classes and events.


9.  Skate for free on weekends at the State Fair Grounds!  You heard me.  If you own skates it is FREE.  Otherwise, just pay rental.  Details here.


10.  See a play by the Mouse River Players.  Schedule here.


11.  Paint along with a local artist at the Taube Museum’s “Paint the Town Red” series.  Here’s their website, but the most current dates aren’t up.  I have {from a good source} that painting classes are happening on Dec 16, Jan 27 and Feb 24.  You have to register, so call them to be sure.


12.  Take a class or simply pop in and paint ceramics at Margie’s Art Glass Studio.  {During December she’s offering fused ornament and glass blowing ornament classes.}


13.  Learn to cook something cool at a class from Gourmet Chef.


14.  Take your kids to story time with Ms. Danielle at Main Street Books.  They offer several day time story times through the week and an evening story time on the first Thursday of the month.


15.  Cross country ski in Minot at Oak Park, or at Lake Metigoshe State Park, or Cross Ranch State Park.

Cross Country Ski Lake Metigoshe

16.  Escape for the weekend by renting a cabin…like we did last winter.  The North Dakota tourism site has this list of 7 great, cozy cabin getaways.


17.  Ski at Huff Hills or the Bottineau Winter Park.


18.  Tube the lazy way at Bottineau Winter Park {a conveyor belt pulls you back to the top of the hill!}


19.  Take the kids to Minot’s “Discovery Center,” the first phase of a permanent children’s museum.  Admission is only $4.  Supporting this mini-museum will help raise funds for a bigger, awesome, permanent museum for Minot’s curious kiddos.


20.  Sled with the locals at the hill at Magic City Campus {Minot High}


21.  Build your own hot cocoa at Sweet & Flour.  It’s the best in town.


22.  Go to open mic night at the Beaver Brew.  Check their website for dates.


23.  Get midnight breakfast, or what is rumored to be Minot’s best milkshake at Schatz Crossroads.  Yes it is a truck stop.  Yes, the locals have told me it’s a well kept secret and totally worth hitting up.

Minot Curling Club

24.  Learn to curl!  The Minot curling season has already started, but you can contact the club to arrange an event for your organization or private party.  Or, stop in and watch a game from the club house.


25.  Stay in and read.  Did you know Minot’s public library offers eBooks?  You know what that means?  You can check out a book for your eReader right from the library website.  No cold air exposure whatsoever.  Getting a library card is as easy as showing proof that you live here.

image via

26.  Learn to dog sled.  Yes, you heard me right.  Visit Prairie Isle’s website for more.


27.  Catch a class at the Minot Adult Learning Center.  They offer all kinds of classes, from PowerPoint to yoga to watercolor…it’s a little known resource that offers lots of fun stuff.  Some classes are one session and let you walk away with a finished product, like a wreath, pie, or paining.  Here is the fall schedule to give you an idea of what is offered.  New classes will start early in 2015.  If you have a skill you’d like to share, they are always looking for good instructors.


28.  Go to a hockey game.  The Minotauros play all winter long.  Schedule here.


29.  Go to a game at MSU.  It might not be the Big 10, but it’s still fun to take in a college game every now and then.


30.  No gym membership?  No problem.  Get your cardio in at the MSU dome.  It’s open to the public for walking and jogging.  Mom’s even bring strollers…or just let their little ones jog ahead to wear them out.  It’s totally free, and a great way to get out and be active while the world around us looks like Elsa’s been turned loose on it.  Here‘s the public walking schedule.


31.  Get your laser tag on at Planet Pizza.  It’s a pretty good set up.  If you go on a week night, or after 9pm…you’ll hit a sweet spot when there is no line of sweaty middle schoolers.  Also, if there isn’t a line and you joke with the attendant, chances are he’ll give you bonus minutes of playing time.


32.  Ice fish.  Now, I’ll be honest.  I’ve never been…and I don’t have a deep desire to try it.  However, a friend called me out last night for not including it on the list.  She loves it.  And this winter time only activity does, indeed, deserve to be on the list.  Woodland Resort has full equipment rentals.  They are in Devil’s Lake, not too far from Minot.


33.  Pretend it’s summer with indoor water slides at Splashdown Dakota.


34.  Go bowling.  Bowling is fun…but no one ever thinks about bowling.  Minot only has one alley, but it’s big, smoke free and it turns galactic-glow-in-the-dark on weekends.  Games are reasonable.  And they offer a military discount.  So…yeah.  Here’s the North Hill Bowl site.

image via

35.  Take a weekend trip to Fargo to explore the city and catch a flick at the historic Fargo Theatre.  They feature a classic film series, indie movies, foreign films {they showed Belle!!}, and movies that don’t always make it to Minot.  The theatre also boasts live performances too.


36.  Rent snowmobiles and go riding.  A rental place is tricky to come by, but…if you are military you can rent on base.  I haven’t found a rental place for civilians yet.  If you know of one–leave it in the comments.


37.  Skate outdoors at Corbett Field or Polaris Park.  The rinks are open now, and warming houses will be open as of December 15th.



PS–you should also follow the Things to Do in Minot page.  They are the BEST at keeping me filled in on what’s happening.


Wild About Water

I’ve struggled for years to come up with an answer for this question:  What do you do?  Or…from the especially confused:  So what exactly is it that you do?


I still don’t know how to put it into words.  I do all kinds of things.  Lots and lots of random things for lots of people, and lots of causes.  And that’s fine.  I like it that way.  Even as the photography season slows down a bit, I’ve been plenty busy with the million and one other fun opportunities that Practically Canada is throwing my way.


One such awesome, fun, random activity was the Wild About Water Festival that happened a few weeks ago.  Before Thanksgiving even.  I know, shame on me for not getting this post up sooner.  What is the Wild About Water Festival?  In short, it’s a program for elementary school students that teaches them about all things water.  Water in our bodies, how it effects health, ecosystem stuff, the water cycle, water shed, flooding, river history…you get the picture.

Minot Wild About Water Festival

The next thing you are probably wondering, is how I fit into this equation.  If you’ve spent time with me you know I’m not especially sciency.  I’m a lot of things…but I’m no Bill Nye.  So, you can probably imagine my surprise when the kind folks from Ackerman Estvold, a local engineering firm, contacted me about doing a short, art-centered presentation for the even.  I was a little nervous, but I love kiddos and a kind word from the Minot Area Council of the Arts seemed to have given them confidence in my abilities, even if I’m not a rocket scientist.  So I agreed.  And…Just like that, I can now add “5th Grade Science-Art-Speaker Thing” to my list of skills.  I think it should go between Nesquick mascot guide and Christmas tree shearer.  {Both real, paying jobs that I’ve held at one time or another.}

Minot Wild About Water Festival

I spent the weeks between our meeting and the festival preparing a short spiel about the basic natural water cycle…and pairing that spiel with a talk-and-draw mural that progressed with my words.  I’d go through the steps of the water cycle, drawing a landscape and coloring it in with water color crayons {which are totally awesome BTW}.

Minot Wild About Water Festival

Minot Wild About Water Festival

Then, when the cycle was ready to start over, I swapped crayons and marker for water and a sponge.  This time I asked the 5th graders {a multi-hundred crowd that although young and adorable also wielded the ability to make me a little nervous} to shout out the steps as I used the water to bring our drawing to life…because water brings things to life.  Get it?

Minot Wild About Water Festival

I had two major prayers going in.  One, that the other adults there–history teachers, water treatment employees, and others who seemed much more legit than me–wouldn’t tell me afterwards that I’d gotten the cycle totally wrong and ruined hundreds of children’s water education.  And two–that the kids wouldn’t think I was horribly lame.


I think we can all remember an elementary school presentation that was awful and the topic of recess mockery after it was over.  I didn’t want to be that girl.

Minot Wild About Water Festival

I must have practiced my water cycle talk a hundred times in the days leading up to the festival.  I’d make Derek listen to it before bed.  I’d say it in the shower.  I’d recite it while I drove.  On the big day, my palms were a little sweaty when I started.  And I’m sure I messed up a couple times.  But things went fine.  The kids were impressed when the crayon turned to water color paint.  Some even stopped me afterward to tell me that 1) “That was awesome.  and 2) I talk like Princess Anna from Frozen.  {I get that a lot–it’s an odd compliment.}  And the grown ups seemed to think it was pretty okay too.

Minot Wild About Water Festival

I had an amazing time.  All of it was fun–from getting to know the folks at Ackerman Estvold, learning up on water, making new friends, and having the opportunity to draw, talk and joke with a crowd of kids…to learning the water cycle in a new way.  I love art, and I’m very glad the Minot community strives to make it a part of the education experience.  I’m so happy to have been a part of the Wild About Water Festival.  Sharing my very varied skill set to do as much as I can, for as many as I can, for as long as I can is my heart’s greatest desire.  And I thank all involved for letting me share in this amazing and important event.


**PS–a big thanks to Ackerman Estvold for giving me photos from the day!

Christmas Sessions 2014 {My Favorites}

The day has finally arrived…Christmas photo day!  Today I’ll be sharing my favorite shot {or in some cases shots} from each mini session I did over the last several weeks.  I don’t like to be a photo spoiler…so when it comes to Christmas photos I send them to the clients first.  Then I only share one {or two} here on the site…in case they are surprising family and friends with images for Christmas.


Anyway, today is the big day.  I’m showing off my favorites.  So grab some cocoa.  Turn up the Bing Crosby, and enjoy!


Christmas mini sessions Minot, ND

If you follow the Facebook page, you will recognize these two cuties from the preview I posted last night.  I love that Momma brought cookies, milk and Christmas jammies!

Christmas mini sessions Minot, ND

Christmas mini sessions Minot, ND

This little elf is on the sassy side.  At first all she did was roll her eyes at me.  Really, she rolled them!  But after a bit she cracked a smile–and I’m so glad she did!  Adorbes!  {You can see more of this sassy pant here with her cousins.}


Christmas mini sessions Minot, ND

Can I just say that I’m in love with this sister shot??  I love everything about it.

Christmas mini sessions Minot, ND

Have you ever seen a baby with cooler hair than this?  I haven’t.


Christmas mini sessions Minot, ND

This dog’s name is Wrinkles.  She is adorable and had no problem wearing antlers and a sweater.  Seriously!  What a hunnie!  {See more of Kate and Jake…sans pup, here.}


Christmas mini sessions Minot, ND

If you are wondering why this precious ginger baby is grinning so brightly….it’s because this guy was behind me cracking her up!

Christmas mini sessions Minot, ND

I loved working with this couple.  And my heart fluttered when she texted me to say that she’s getting canvas prints of her images!!  Love that.

Christmas mini sessions Minot, ND

On my first day of shooting a plastic snowflake hanging from the ceiling got tangled in my messy bun and I ripped it off it’s fishing line.  Little did I know that was a God-send.  Give an anti-smiler a snowflake to hold…make a reference to Frozen…and they are putty in your hands.

This pistol hated the idea of having a photo taken by himself.  But he loves his momma…and playing hide and seek with snowflakes.


Christmas mini sessions Minot, ND

You’ve seen these two before.  They get real giggly when they have to kiss under pressure.  Which cracks me up.  They also claim that they aren’t photogenic…but I don’t buy it.


Christmas mini sessions Minot, ND

This is a great photo.  It’s snuggly and Christmasy and warm.

Christmas mini sessions Minot, ND

This is an even better photo because these two adults appear to be afraid of the faux snow I gave them to throw.  I warned them it was just glitter.


Christmas mini sessions Minot, ND

Remember Wrinkles and how well behaved she was?  This is Max.  He is about the size of a bear.  And he was terrified of my kitchen floor, basement stairs, and sitting still.  This is his best shot {sorry his face has a flake in it!}.  The poor guy was so scared his daddy had to carry him up the stairs and out to the car like a baby.  A very big, fury, intimidating baby.  Pretty much one of my favorite moments of mini sessions.

Christmas mini sessions Minot, ND

This guy insisted on giving me “the look.”  The look that says, “Lady, I don’t know who you are…and you haven’t earned a smile from me…and I don’t find you funny.”  Lucky for us, he is ticklish.  And his parents know the sweet spot.  I adore this image.

Christmas mini sessions Minot, ND

And speaking of ticklish, laughable moments, how about this one?  Presh.


Christmas mini sessions Minot, ND

Or this one?  I love catching the antics of grown ups trying to get kiddos to smile.


Christmas mini sessions Minot, ND

Look at this blue eyed beauty!  She was a gem.  It took a little work, but those giggles were worth it!  And although she tried to eat the Christmas lights, I’ll forgive her–because…just look at her.  How can you not?


Christmas mini sessions Minot, ND

This tiny man wins my fictitious award for best dressed toddler.  So stylish.  And that look on his face.  So sweet.


Christmas mini sessions Minot, ND

Oh, are we talking about sweet things?  What about Santa Baby?  Love that face!


Christmas mini sessions Minot, ND

Someday this photo might be seen as embarrassing for her.  But right now, in this moment, she loves that purple-bear-snow suit and she isn’t afraid to show it.  Ridiculously adorable.


Christmas mini sessions Minot, ND

I have no words to describe how much a adore these facial expressions.  What a moment.  What a trio.  What a smoulder…


Christmas mini sessions Minot, ND

You’ve seen this gang before!  Every time we work together it’s a hoot!  With four kiddos the room is bursting with personality, and I love every second of it.


Christmas mini sessions Minot, ND

I love that this super special group of girl friends got together for photos.  This is my absolute favorite of the bunch.  Doesn’t this photo just remind you how precious friends are?

Christmas mini sessions Minot, ND

There is something special about sibling photos.  And I love this one.  It’s fully of personality…and a little mischief!


Christmas mini sessions Minot, ND

And last, but not least…as Thanksgiving tradition holds, it’s the Allender family Christmas portrait.  These are my adorable parents, and their very spoiled, very lovey dog, Lady.  Yes, she is wearing a scarf and a wreath.  No she doesn’t mind.  All she wants is to kiss my mom’s face.


Thank you to ever single family that chose me for their Christmas portraits.  I had a absolute blast and I hope you did too.  Thank you for coming to my house, laughing at my jokes…and not being too creeped out by my very un-legit set up.  I love you all and I will personally recommend you all for the Nice List, if Santa asks.


Merriest, jolliest, happiest of Christmases to all of you.




Thanksgiving 2014


I really hope you had a happy Thanksgiving.  I know I did.  This year I have so much to be thankful for…which, I guess, is true every year, but this time around I’ve been acutely aware of all I have and just how blessed I am.  I’m walking {mostly pain free}, I just got the o-k to start jogging, work is good, I’m crazy about Derek {nothing has changed in that department}, the family is healthy, and Mom and Dad were able to make the trip up to Practically Canada for the third time to celebrate with us.


That’s just a few.  My list could go for ages.  I’m sure yours could too.  And that’s a good thing.


Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  Maybe because it happens on my own turf.  We don’t travel, usually Mom and Dad come up to us.  There’s much less stress, I get to make lots of food, I sleep in my own bed, and it’s an occasion that calls for board gaming while the food coma is wearing off.  I love it.  I also love that my Minot bestie, Katie and her husband Sean usually join us too.


This year, I went a totally different route with lots of things.  Different brine, different turkey, different pie, different stuffing.  I was nervous.  But let me tell you…this is the best turkey {and pie} I’ve ever made.  Here’s the secret.  Start by reading this article from Alton Brown {my culinary hero.}  I used his brine recipe, and lots of his handy tips.  And–I learned the science behind cooking a turkey.

Next, while shooting a newborn session for the Rockwells {remember the maternity session}, Sarah’s father asked if I’d ever heard of “spatchcocking” a turkey.  Nope.  And, no, I’m not making that word up.   It’s kind of weird…but it makes lots of sense.  You cut the back bone out, then roast the turkey on a cookie sheet.  Laying it out flat let’s all the meat cook faster and more evenly.  To let you know just how fast…I cooked up a 14lb bird in about 80 minutes!  Martha explains the technique really well.  Just be sure to put some water in the pan and set the bird up on a bed of onions so the juices don’t burn up!

I rubbed the turkey down with compound butter.  What’s that?  It’s a treasure in butter form.  Try this recipe from Alton Brown.  Or this one from Miss Information Blog.

Now, pie.  I make a killer apple pie.  Someday I’ll give you the recipe for that.  But in the mean time–let me show you this gorgeous recipe I used from Southern Living.  A little time consuming, but entirely worth the effort.

I should have taken better food photos.  But alas–I was too eager to eat.  So, I only have these crummy Instagram shots.  My bad.


Perhaps one of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions is whipping out the big, fancy camera {which we usually have set upon the tripod for the timered shot of everyone at the table} for some after-dinner photos.  I’ve told you all the details and all the foody stuff.  Now, I’ll force some random photos on you, that {hopefully} invite you right into my living room, into our holiday.





{I’ve just got to say…I’m the absolute weirdest in photos.  Why am I holding my cup like that?  Why??}


Printable Chirstmas Gift Tags {and an Etsy Coupon}

Happy Black Friday everyone!


I hope you all had an amazing Thanksgiving with lots of amazing food…and of course, pie.  Now, it’s still on the early side here in Practically Canada.  Not quite 9am.  And I realize some of you might be out shopping already.  But I thought I’d post early with a special holiday treat from me to you.


Four sets of hand drawn printable Christmas gift tags.  They are now for sale on my Etsy shop, or by visiting my shop page here on the site.

They are printable, formatted to an 8.5x 11″ sheet.  Six tags print to a page and since they are square, they’re easy to break apart.  I recommend printing them on white or cream colored card stock.  Once you purchase and download the file you’ll be able to print as many as you’d like.


And–best of all…I’ve got a coupon code on the Facebook page.  It makes these suckers super cheap.  {And all the other items I have cheap too.}  Because I like you, and I want you to have awesome gift tags for all your awesome gifts.  So be sure to check the page and like it while you’re there.


Happy shopping, today!



DIY Infinity Scarf Tutorial

DIY Infinity Scarf Tutorial

Last Christmas, I made a few infinity scarves.  They went over really well with the friends and fam.  I found a few tutorials online, I combined a few steps.  I’m sure you could find other tutorials out there too.  But this is my version, and I’m glad you’re taking a look.


The first thing you need to know is that this is easy.  It’s quick.  And you don’t have to be a pro with a sewing machine to make it happen.  Just a couple straight lines.  Really, it’s easy.


Here’s what you’ll need:

1.5 or 1.75 yards of fabric–Flannel works great, but I’ve also used some thick, slightly stretchy knits that have worked nicely too

Pinking shears


Sewing machine



The length of fabric really depends on how you like your scarf.  I like them tight to my neck, so I tend to favor a 1.5 yard cut.  If you like it looser, go with a little more length.  That cut of fabric will yield two complete scarves, so this is a perfect crafternoon project.  You and a friend can each buy a cut of fabric and swap patterns.  Or–since it is the gifting season–you can make one and gift one.  Anyway…


Step One:

Lay your fabric out on a flat surface.  Unfold it and cut down the middle length-wise {so you have two pieces about 27″ across}  Use the pinking shears to prevent it from fraying loose from the seams you’ll be putting in in a minute.


Step Two:

Fold the “right sides” of the fabric together, and pin the open edge.  {Side note…the tutorial is a demo of a different scarf than the one in the intro image}

DIY Infinity Scarf Tutorial

Step Three:

Leave a 2″ gap at the end of the fabric, then sew all along the open edge.  Remove the pins as you go, stop about 2″ from the other end.  Back stitch at both ends.

DIY Infinity Scarf Tutorial

Step Four:

Turn it, so the right sides are out again and you have a tube of fabric.  Fold that tube in half and line up the open ends.  Follow me here…You’ll have four layers of fabric stacked on top of one another.  Take the middle two and pin them together.

DIY Infinity Scarf Tutorial

Step Five:

This is where it gets a little tricky.  But not too tricky.  Get the outer two layers out of the way and start to sew the layers you’ve pinned together.  Start at the very end.  Back stitch.  Keep going all the way around.  Just try it.  It makes more sense once you’ve done it.

DIY Infinity Scarf Tutorial

Step Six:

When you are done, you’ll have a circular tube of fabric with just a little hole.  {That’s the 2″ gap we left earlier.}  Tuck the fabric that is sticking out back inside.  Now, you can hand sew the gap…or, if you are lazy like me, fold the seam together and use the machine to sew really close to the edge.

DIY Infinity Scarf Tutorial

DIY Infinity Scarf Tutorial

DIY Infinity Scarf Tutorial

After that you are done!  It really is super easy.  I wear the ones I’ve made all the time.  Here’s me at Eddie Bauer last Christmas.  They were making balloon hats for some reason…but who am I to say no to that?

DIY Infinity Scarf Tutorial

Happy crafting!

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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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