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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 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!



Christmas Card Outfit Ideas {9 tips}

I’ve had lots of you asking for Christmas Card outfit tips!  Be sure to check out the list I posted last year.  But if that’s not enough…I’ve come up with 9 more tips for looking positively awesome on this year’s card.  Most of the gorgeous photos in the list below aren’t mine.  Click the image for the source.  I had a blast looking through so many stunning images from fabulously talented photographers all over the web.

1.  Layers

Christmas is in the winter.  So unless you live in a warm place, or are trying to do a warm-wishes theme for your Christmas photo–I advise dressing appropriately for the season.  Layers are a great way to give your photos the feel of winter without stating the obvious with outerwear and accessories {more on those things in a bit.}

Layers also give you the opportunity to incorporate color and texture into your photographs in a low key, intimidating way.  A neutral cardigan easily tones down a bright color.  A collared shirt under a sweater instantly brings class to an otherwise rowdy boy.  Layers can also give you something to do with your hands…hold the scarf, put a hand in a pocket, rest your fingers along your lapel.

2.  There’s a wide variety of neutrals

My basic rule for photos is this:  be neutral.  You’ll never go wrong if you keep your whole family in a neutral zone.  But sometimes we can get stuck thinking that neutral only means black, white, brown and gray.  While those are neutrals, there is practically a rainbow of other neutrals that you can use.  An easy formula is to anchor your clothing in those mainstay neutrals, then add in one of these other color-neutrals.  And even if you opt for all gray, brown, oatmeal, and tan…you still don’t have to look boring!  Neutrals are awesome and timeless.

Blue is a very neutral base.  This is why just about everything looks good with jeans.  Blue rarely clashes, looks good with every skin tone and is always a safe choice for photos.  Just stick to soft, light, and denim shades and steer clear of anything vibrant that will steal the show.


Other neutrals you can use include yellow, green, and every shade of brown known to man kind.  Like with the blues, keep your color choices on the muted, dull side and away from bright, neon and vibrant.  You can mix all the neutrals I’ve mentioned here {and I’m sure there are more that I forgot} or just use one of the more colorful neutrals in your photos.  Totally up to you.

3.  Thread a color or pattern

If you want to go a little bolder add some brighter color.  This is a way your family can look unified without looking uniformed.  And no one wants to look uniformed in their Christmas portraits.  Red is a classic Christmas color to weave through your images…but you can do it with any color under the sun, or with a similar patter–for instance adding bits of plaid or stripes throughout your clothing….just don’t over do it because you start to clash.

Keep in mind that the color doens’t all have to be in the same place on each person.  This idea board does a good job of showing how mustard can run through everyone’s clothing without being uniformed.

4.  Outerwear

I loooove this image.  Love it!  I could only find it on Pinterest…and the original source is a little foggy.  It may have been original to Matt Clayton Photography–but the site says it no longer exists there.  At any rate, this is an awesome photo taken by a talented photog.

These folks are nailing the outerwear thing.  The key is creating photo-pretty outerwear.  Don’t dress exactly how you would for a day of sledding or a long time outdoors.  You won’t need your ski mask and snow pants.  Instead, use elements of outerwear to accessorize your outfit.  It’s not too hard.  I promise.  For instance, instead of pulling your scarf over your nose and zipping your coat up to your chin (which hides both your gorgeous face and your cute outfit underneath)–leave your scarf loose and your jacket unzipped.  Instead of putting a hat on and pulling your hood up for a lot of warmth, only do one or the other.

Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 11.58.18 AM

The other tip I have for outerwear is to remember that Christmas photos aren’t necessarily realistic.  You’ll only be outside for a short time–so adding just a splash of outerwear (like boots, hats, gloves or vests) over your outfit gives the impression of Christmasy-wintery vibes without taking the parka thing too far.

5.  Accessories

Accessories are a fun way to winter up your Christmas photos.  I’m a big fan of adding hats, scarves, mittens and ear muffs to your outfit.  It’s pretty much the only time of year that this kind of accessorizing is appropriate.  And if you are wanting a nice, cozy look–you’ll never go wrong with boots!  {Just keep in mind that not all boots are created equal.  Classic snow boots, riding boots and work boots look great in photos…but the marshmallowy kind with cartoon characters on the side look a little tacky.}

Christmas mini sessions Minot, ND

6.  Dogs

Lots of my clients bring their pups to the family Christmas session.  If you bring your dog…and if your dog {or cat} will tolerate it, I highly suggest adding some Christmas cheer to their attire as well.  {See the dog in #4}.

Christmas mini sessions Minot, NDChalkboard Christmas Sessions

Chalkboard Christmas Session

7.  Babies

Since our sessions will be outdoors this year–I suggest bundling your baby up well.  I will never insist that you compromise safety for a good photo.  And besides…this is the one season and the one age in your child’s life that they can pull off wearing a fuzzy snow suit in the family portraits.  If weather isn’t a concern, I suggest snug fitting clothes that won’t bunch up or cover your little one’s face when held or if they slouch down.

Christmas mini sessions Minot, ND

{Charleen C Photography}


8.  Fabric choices

Choosing warm, textured fabrics will give your photos a cozy look.  You’ll never go wrong choosing flannel for your Christmas photos.  Chunky knits, nubby sweaters, and other fabrics with texture will add interest and dimension to your images.

new born christmas session

9.  Going classy

This year is a great time to take your photos to a classy place.  Since we will be using vintage cars–we’ll have a nice, classy background too!  Some times it’s fun to dress up and Christmas is a great time to do it.  If you decide to go classy with your photos basically anything you wear will look great.  Just make sure your whole family is committed to the same level of dressy {we don’t want one in a ball gown and the other in a sun dress}.  Add some jewelry or a nice coat for a special touch.

Christmas mini sessions Minot, ND

Christmas mini sessions Minot, ND

2015 Christmas Mini Sessions {think retro}

christmas card ad

Okay.  So you know that part in the movie Mean Girls where they are all in the gym and they confess their secrets and do a trust fall?  It’s very girl powery and the crowd of high school junior girls catches each other girl as she does a trust fall off of the stage.  {Well except for that one that just confesses that she’s popular.}  That’s kind of what this year’s Christmas card sessions are going to be like.


Follow me here.


It’s a bit of a trust fall.  I don’t have a sample photo ready to show you–like in years past.  There’s no cute, quirky photo of me in funky winter clothes or Derek and me wrapped in lights.  You just have to trust me.  But I give you a pinky promise that I won’t let you fall onto a hard gym floor.  I’ll catch you and your images will be awesome.  Here’s what I’ve got in mind.


A vintage car.  Decked out in holiday gear.  Packed with oversized, colorfully wrapped gift boxes.  The retro sled.  A Christmas tree.  Here’s the inspiration I’m working with.  {You can go to the original source by clicking the images.}


Now.  You might be wondering if I can really pull this off.  The answer, of course…is yes.  While working on the Monster Mash {another giant pull off} I got a contact number for a local vintage car collector.  Yesterday, he toured me around his stash which included about 30 restored vehicles.  Everything from 20’s trucks to 50’s Studebakers to 70’s Pacers.  I was shocked–and giddy.


I finally narrowed down the selection and here’s what we’ll be working with.  First of all–a vintage fire truck, housed by the Ward County Historical Museum.  I’ll fill the back with boxes and bedazzle it with holiday cheer.  Like I said–you need to trust me here.  These phone photos don’t do it justice.


Second….we’ll have one of these snazzy cars.  I’m really torn and just can’t decide between the precious Studebaker Cruiser {minty green in the top left spot}–or the 1949 Hudson {in the bottom two images.}  If you’ve got an opinion shout it out!

vintage car

Here’s a better idea of what these cute cars look like when they aren’t in a garage or taken on a shaky phone.

Yes.  You read all that correctly.  You’ll have a choice of 2–count ’em TWO vintage car sets.  The red fire truck–and either the black or mint car.  Now that you know what I’m thinking…let’s get to the nitty gritty.


I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll be able to do a test shoot over Thanksgiving weekend.  It’ll be a dry run so everything is perfect for you the following weekend.  Stay tuned to see those images.


Mini sessions are just $50.  You get a 15-20 minute sessions and 5 images.  Your images will be delivered digitally and you’ll have the printing rights to them.  Times open run from 11am-4pm on December 5th and 12-4 on December 6th.  I’m limiting availability to 20 sessions.  Your family can choose one of the two sets–or you can book two sessions to use both.  Sessions will be outdoors {it’s an El Nino year!}–so keep your fingers crossed for good weather.  If the weather is just plain poopy–we’ll reschedule.  Sessions will happen at the Ward County Historical Museum–on the grounds of the ND State Fair.  Your photos will be back to you by December 9th.


Make sense?  Have questions?  Wanna book?  Get in touch.  Send me a Facebook message.  Or call me {574-361-7268}.  And just for good measure–let’s remember how adorable the last two years’ images have been.

Christmas Chalkboard SessionsChristmas mini sessions Minot, ND



The Oase Family { fall family photos }

family of three photos

The is the Oase family.  When we booked their session months ago–I never in my wildest dreams thought we’d have an evening so beautiful, so late in October.  I figured it was a gamble at best.  I figured we’d be fighting a biting wind and flurries.  But, happily–I was wrong.

Despite the date, the weather behaved beautifully.  In my few years in Practically Canada, I’ve never seen a nicer fall.  It’s really been ideal.  Perfect for a good crop of fall family photos.  So while our evening together was a little chilly…our biggest challenge came from getting this adorable little one to crack a smile!  And that’s a challenge I’ll happily accept.  {But let’s face it…with cheeks like those even a perfectly neutral face is simply sublime.  Isn’t she precious?!}

Lucky for me they came equipped.  Between wagon rides and tosses in the air and kisses from her puppy–eventually we caught some really adorable images.  See?

radio flyer baby portraits

fall family photos

I’m so glad I was able to get to know this sweet crowd.  Thank you for choosing me to capture the art of these precious moments!



Minot Monster Mash : A Grownup Halloween Party

grown up halloween party

Holy cow.  There are a lot of unbelievable things going on right now.  First, I can scarcely believe it’s November.  Really?!  Second, I cannot believe that the temps in Practically Canada are still on the balmy side.  This is the longest, nicest fall I’ve experienced here.  It’s glorious.  I also can’t believe Halloween is over.  It seems like I’ve been eating, sleeping and breathing Halloween for months now.  Yikes.


I’ve been so consumed with the creepy I’ve hardly done anything else.  {Okay, you know me…I’ve been doing plenty of other things.} But this year Halloween really took up a good chunk of my time.  And if I was one of those bloggers who is actually really good at blogging…I would have kept you up to date on the whole thing.  But, let’s face it.  I’m just not that good.  So here’s a recap.


I’m on the executive committee on the Minot Area Council of the Arts.  A while back {like in March} we brainstormed some ideas for fundraisers.  We collectively decided a Halloween party would be a good idea.  And it was.  After I found out we’d be staying here through Halloween, I volunteered to coordinate said event–and thus began a very fun, informative, stressful, time consuming, rewarding, endeavor.  And so the Minot Monster Mash was born.


When I dug in to planning the Monster Mash, I started thinking about what kind of party I’d pay money to go to.  If I would be promoting the event, I wanted it to be something I could honestly convince people to come to with my integrity intact.  It needed more than just music, food and costumes.  But since there were few people available to help, the scope had to be narrow and concrete enough to carry out.  In the end, the driving force behind the Monster Mash is my deep loathing for the phrase, “There’s nothing to do in Minot.”  I didn’t just want the Mash to be a night of “something to do” I wanted to teach a man to fish for things to do all winter long.


With that mission in mind I started seeking sponsors who offer things to do and entertainment more people should know about.  I sought prizes that offered guests things to do.  In the end, we gave away $800 in prizes that included everything from hockey tickets and skate rentals to wine and theater tickets.  Our swag bags had information on wine tasting classes, cooking classes, fitness, theater, symphony, art and free ballroom classes.  Oh–and don’t for a single second get the idea that I did this all alone.  I had fantastic help–amazing graphic designers lent their talent, folks called sponsors, picked up gifts, met to get the details in order, promoted on Facebook, volunteered at the event, moved furniture, offered ideas, and just plain helped wherever they were needed.  I owe lots of thank you’s to lots of people.


And now…without any more delays.  Let’s relive the Mash.

grown up Halloween party

The Monster Mash was held in the Minot Carnegie Center–originally a Carnegie Library built in 1911.  The inside is gorgeous, weird, spooky and eccentric.  The closets are filled with the old and odd.  It was the perfect place for a grownup Halloween party.  Spooky, yet refined.


Oliver Nicole Events took care of the decor.  Tawyna, the owner was so incredibly easy to work with.  She spoke my language of DIY and low-cost.  I can’t put in to words how perfect the decor was.  She absolutely nailed the atmosphere I was hoping to achieve.  Ghostly, but not horrifying.  Scary, but classy.  “You know that party the parents go to in Hocus Pocus?…I basically want it to look like that,” I told her at our first meeting.

grown up Halloween party

grown up Halloween party

I know Tawnya did most of the work…but I helped where I could.  I was so super proud when I secured a massive donation of only slightly damaged pumpkins!  I loaded somewhere around 70 pumpkins in my car–which Tawnya put to good use.  When she called to tell me the dead roses she’d been eyeing were $3 a stem…my genius mother asked if we could just use dead plants from my own flower beds.  Duh.  The centerpieces were then filled with dead or dying sedums  and peony leaves.  It takes a special level of talent to turn yard waste into a classy display and she totally nailed it.

halloween art gallery

Downstairs in the old Children’s library we set up a small gallery with local art.  I loved the creepy entries we got.  Oh, and that spooky photo of the girl with a sickle??  I found it in a closet.  {Told you this place is a little weird.}

minot symphony orchestra at the monster mash

Going back to my original goal of showing off Minot’s art scene and things to do in Minot–we kicked off the evening with a performance by musicians from the Minot Symphony Orchestra.  They absolutely blew me away.  And I LOVED that they showed up in costume.


When 8pm rolled around guests started arriving.  Lots of guests.  The best part was that everyone {EVERYONE!} came in totally awesome costumes.  Nothing helps a party like folks who are fully committed to the theme.  I am still shocked that everyone who walked through the door arrived looking positively amazing decked out as someone they weren’t.  The entertainers, the guests, the volunteers.  Everyone looked great.  That really had my heart doing somersaults.

grown up halloween party

When the party was in full swing, while Derek and I were dancing, I told him, “This is what you think Halloween will be like when you grow up…but it never is.”  Seriously.  Halloween and New Years are always so romanticized in the movies and on TV.  As a kid you expect that you’ll grow up and have these super dazzling things to do–but that hardly ever comes to fruition.  Finally in the year 2015–in my 28th year…Halloween was how I pictured it as a kid.  All these people in a spooky old building, crowded with costumes, an awesome cover band and lots of dancing…to me, this is magic.

grown up halloween party

Okay.  Let’s talk costumes.  Everyone blew me away.  I love the Frankensteins.  And I totally admire Mr. F for staying in his mask throughout the whole party.  I was also a big fan of the Man in the Yellow Hat {who took 2nd place in the costume contest.} Oh, and how can you over look Beetlejuice and Lydia!  She nailed it.  But wait!  There’s more!!  What about Disgust from “Inside Out”–amazing!!–or Mary Poppins–Or the coolest skeleton I’ve ever seen–or the Cheshire Cat {who nabbed 1st place.}  Hippies, royalty, an awesome rendering of Bonnie and Clyde–Roger Rabbit, Sandy and Danny, Three Blind Mice!  How do you decide??


We also saw a fully committed squirrel, someone dressed as a SnapChat, a full blown flying monkey {a little terrifying actually}, Ariel, Cruella, Red Riding Hood and a Wolf dressed as grandma…the list goes on and on.  The costumes were wonderful.

grown up halloween party

The Mouse River Players came and did a Sanderson Sisters bit {I put a spell on you…}, the MSU Community Dance Club busted out a mash up that showed off thriller and ballroom styles all together, we were taught to Thriller, The Magic Tap Cloggers dazzled with their high energy Elvis mash up.  We ate junk food and sang and danced and gave away prizes.


Some people left early.  And others stayed to the very last song.  Like I said…there are things I’d do differently and things that I think can be improved…I hope everyone had fun.  But at the end of it all–this is the most fun I’ve had on Halloween in many full moons, this is how I think Halloween should be.  I’m so glad so many people came out and shared this fun night and helped out the arts in the process.

the rescuers costume

It was a lot of work.  But for some reason, I just love this town.  I love it.  And I hope that maybe, just maybe I can help other people love it too.




Austin {The last fall senior photos }

It’s been quite a senior season.  I’ve been so busy shooting these fabulous, young, ambitious faces I’ve hardly looked at anything else.  Okay–so that’s not true at all–but the crop of 2016 seniors has been my biggest yet.  But, alas…all good things come to an end, and up here in Practically Canada, the senior season ends with the yearbook deadline: October 30.


So.  It’s official.  Austin is the very last senior of the year.  And, let me tell you, this was a great session to go out on.  I shoot a lot of photos for girls {which I love}, but I do enjoy having a chance to photograph guy senior photos as well.  Especially fall guy senior photos.  Especially when it involves crazy cool buildings, fall colors and a dreamy sun set.  {But the wind was almost a little much for us…}  Anyway–without any more chit chat, here is Austin:  Class of 2016.


Oh.  Wait.  Just one more thing.  I think this kid looks like a Disney prince.  Am I right?  Look at that Flynn Rider smoulder.  Seriously, he’s adorable.  And by adorable…I obviously mean manly-handsome.  *Awkward cough*  I don’t really know how to compliment guys.  I mostly work with girls and babies.

guy senior photos vintage truck

senior guy rail road tracks

guy senior photos downtown

We were working with a very chilly North Dakota breeze on the night of his session.  I was comfortable in a sweater and scarf, but my fingers were stiff and frozen on the camera.  I can only image how cold it felt to Austin, who has recently been imported to Minot from the exotic land of Alabama.


There were the usual bouts of waiting for “the breeze to pass,”  followed by a crazed effort to get a few images before the next gust.  When I move away to a less windy location I think my sessions will be drastically shorter without all the wind-intermissions.  It’s just another quirk of this crazy place–and I actually like it, because while we wait we get to chat…and let’s be honest–getting to know my clients is my favorite part of any shoot.

guy fall senior photos

Here’s my favorite thing about Austin and his mom:  They were both talking about how beautiful the North Dakota landscape is.  I totally agree!


I hear so many complainers who yap and yap about how ugly it is here, how boring it is, how they hate the weather and the landscape and the lack of trees.  It was utterly refreshing to be with people who looked around at the rolling hills and said, “This is so pretty.  Back home all our hills are covered in trees–so we never get to really see the hills and the landscape.  It’s beautiful here.”




Beautiful is right.  The wind was calmer out of town.  The light was perfect and creamy.  The grass looked golden in the setting sunlight.  The hills are on fire with fall color.  It is beautiful.

I’m so grateful to Austin for hanging out with me and choosing me to take his senior photos!  You’ll get your drive tomorrow–in plenty of time for the yearbook deadline.  Have an amazing senior year–and welcome to Practically Canada.



Lilly { fall senior photos }

fall park senior photos

Everybody…say “Hi,” to Lilly.  We shot her fall senior photos just over a week ago.  For those of you in Practically Canada, it was the same day as the Norsk Hostfest–cold, chilly, ending in icy rain.  We almost cancelled.  Almost.  The rain held off until the end of the shoot, and even then we powered through for “Just one more shot…” {I think that’s a lie all photographers tell at one point or another.}


But honestly, with golden fall colors leaking out of every nook and cranny in the landscape and a senior who is as fun and adorable as Lilly–why wouldn’t we press on?  I had so much fun getting to know this one who–at the beginning of her session told me she’d never had her photo taken before, not professionally.  It was absolutely lovely to spend time with her, her mother and sister.  Between takes she may have been wrapped up in a blanket, but these are some of the warm-fuzziest fall images I’ve taken to date.

fall park senior photos

I get asked all the time, “What kind of clothes should I wear to my session?”  If you are wondering that…book mark this page.  Lilly totally nailed it in the wardrobe department.  From the vintage pieces her sister told me she picked up in Kansas City {so cool!} to the Target boots they, “Just picked up on the way to the session,” her look is perfect for senior picture day–especially for fall senior photos.  Classy, modest, in style without being overly trendy, enough accessories to look special but not over done–and most of all she looked comfortable and natural.  I love it!

fall senior photos

fall senior photos

After these photos in the red blazer {I want this outfit so badly} the weather started to take a turn.  Little drops of rain began to fall, the wind picked up and it got colder.  The way this gal could control her face and look so beautiful with wind-blown hair and ice cold hands–it floored me.  I’m so glad we went out to the country and got these shots–despite the weather.  I love the look of the wind in her skirt and how you can see some rain drops on the fabric.  It’s all very magaziney.

shabby chic senior photos

I think she was glad to put on a cozy flannel shirt after those photos!

train tracks senior photos

Congratulations to Lilly on her senior year!  Thanks for choosing me to capture this special season in your life!



The Basement Reveal {B&A}

finished basement

Well, well, well, well, well.  The day has finally arrived.  The basement has officially been finished since July {wowzers that’s quite a while…} and I’m finally posting the B&A here on the blog.  For a long time I testified that the master bedroom redo has been my favorite project…or maybe the patio…but I think those just got trumped.


Maybe it’s that those other projects were done by myself–and for once Derek and I actually had a chance to tackle a project together.  Maybe it’s the HUGE payout in the B&A images….the glory of having a second bathroom, the brilliantly bright can lights, killer storage, or just how darn cute it is.  I may never know the reason, but this is my favorite project to date.


As lots of you know–we started from scratch.  A totally unfinished, cement-walled, damp basement.  We had things to store and they weren’t stored well.  Instead the lowest level of our home was a cluttered mess of seasonal goodies that we could barely get to when we needed them.  So, just to warn you all–the before photos are really a mess.  Honestly, I’m a clean person.  Really.  I am.  Please don’t judge the book that is me, by the cover that is the way our basement looked.


I’m serious.  If you are going to judge me…look away right now.


Stop scrolling.


Okay, fine.  You can look.  You can all look.  Just never bring up how cluttered it was when we talk face to face.


The now finished basement is open and mostly dedicated to being a guest quarters.  It also houses a storage space, laundry nook and second bathroom.  Here’s a B&A of the bedroom.  {And the most amazing thin is…all that stuff on the left is still with us–well most of it–it’s just organized, restored and accessible now.}

bedroom b and a

Now watch it morph.

basement b and a 1

The closet situation was a little tricky since codes indicate that you aren’t allowed to put a fuse box in the back of the closet.  But–I think it turned out really nice.  We have a skinnier closet, but we gained some open shelving.


Just to give you a run down…the short closet on the left opens up to keep linens, shoes, etc.  There’s also an outlet in there, so you can place a TV on the shelf facing the bed, and hide the cords.  The skinny clothing closet has two rods and one shelf.  The space where the dresser is could easily keep a desk or office nook.  The door on the right leads to the bathroom…which you saw earlier this week.  The bathroom door was salvaged from the upstairs redo.

closet b and a

I should have done a better job documenting the bathroom…but alas, I did not.  But here is a pretty good look at the totally unfinished space where the basement now stands.

bathroom b and a

Our laundry hook up is right at the base of the stairs.  Before the redo, wood paneling hid crumbing cement walls and just looked tacky.  With the whole basement finished, I wanted to be sure we could hide the washer and dryer–so guests weren’t looking at something that reminded them of chores when they visit the great city of Minot, ND–renown for being a relaxation hub…

The doors we used were a major steal.  They are stock doors that I stained and fancied up with trim and nice knobs.

laundry b and a

The stairs were our biggest challenge.  They are old and not square and were covered in layers of carpet, linoleum and vinyl.  All of these things were held in place by about nine thousand staples, screws, and nails of all sizes.

stairs b and a We added some nice storage with shelving under the stairs.  The doorway in the right on the photo above leads to a “less finished” storage area.  Our freezer, some extra furniture and seasonal decor lives back there now.  Derek made some awesome shelving that easily organize those big RubberMaid tubs–and makes it easy for me to get them out without help.  You can see the shelves below.  I’ll have to show you that area in another post.

storage b and a

We were a little concerned that this new, freshly finished space wouldn’t flow well with the rest of the house…which is on the old, thrifty and eclectic side.  But if there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s granny-ing up a space.  I didn’t buy a single thing do decorate with.  Instead I joyously got items that previously had no place in the house and stuck them downstairs.  I steered clear of using any decor that was new, and just shopped the shelves in the other rooms of our home.


I layered the bed with vintage coverlets, pinned up some of my artwork that didn’t sell at a craft fair, and brought out my weird array of books to display.  An old lard tin is the bathroom trash bin, a planter holds towels, and an end table that once belonged to Derek’s grandmother keeps the bathroom organized.


I love this space.  Dearly.  Thanks to all of you who came over and helped frame walls, hammer nails, or install ceiling tile.  And thanks to all of you who have been asking to see the end result.  It’s a pleasure to share the end result with you.


Happy Friday!

Abbe {Class of 2016}

senior photos class of 2016

This is Abbe.  As you can see she’s graduating in 2016 and she’s the first of a crop of fall senior sessions I’ve got coming up.  We had a gorgeous evening for shooting…which I think was appropriate for this gorgeous girl…with gorgeous hair {that looks a lot like Taylor Swift’s, if you ask me.}


Anyway–enjoy a short look at some of my favorite shots from her session and congratulations to Abbe on her last year of High School!

plaid senior photos

fall senior photos

rustic senior photos

And…as a special bonus we snapped a few images of Abbe’s big sister as well.  Two beauties in one night–so fun!

abbe sister

See you tomorrow,


Basement Part III {The Bathroom & A Very Awkward Moment with Plumbers}

Sometimes projects are just too big to handle alone.  No matter how much I wish I could learn every skill in the whole world, it’s just not feasible.  So…when that happens you call in back up.  Last time I wrote about the basement I talked briefly about our process of finding contractors.  Tonight I’m going to tell you about our plumbers–and one of the most awkward things I’ve done over the last calendar year.


But before I get to that…let me just say that making a bathroom from scratch is a lot of work.  And it’s complicated.  We tried to tell ourselves that part of it was ready…since there was a floor drain.  Okay, maybe that was just my wishful thinking.  The reality was that drain in the floor or not, making a bathroom where there was formerly only a cement floor and cement walls was a real challenge.


So the weirdness begins.  Derek and I are not architects.  {Even though in my restless college years I did a semester as an interior design major…so I’m somewhat savvy with drawing up floor plans.  Somewhat.}  However, we drew up our own plans, on graph paper, to a very rough scale.  We went to the hardware store and looked at tubs and toilets and sinks.  The whole shebang.  Then came home and figured how it would fit in the space we had.  We made a plan.


Then the plumbers showed up.


They’d already come for the estimate and a second visit–when Derek was actually able to be home–to go over details.  So on the day they arrived ready to jack hammer up the floor I thought everything was already in order.


But they had questions.  And suddenly there was an issue with putting a tub in.  And there was a question about how far the pipes could reach.  And it would all end up costing more money than planned.  And did I really want that?  And how should they proceed?  And how big is the exact unit that was going in?


I dug out the highly accurate floor plan we had made up–but the questions still remained and Derek was at work.  So, I made some choices.  I changed the plan.  This was one of the most stressful mornings of my recent life.  I axed the bathtub and shower combo, instead opting for a shower stall…which seems very small in theory.


While they tore up the floor, I stewed upstairs hoping that Derek wouldn’t hate the choices I’d made, and that a three foot shower would be big enough to hold a grown-up-sized showerer.


When they left, there was a hole in the floor and our job was to fix it–which you can read about in the last basement post.

basement bathroom

In the end, it all ended up just fine.  After the floor had been cured and we’d added studs for an additional wall–the downside of my choice for a shower stall…one more wall to frame–they plumbers came back and put in the shower.  Derek is a genius, so he installed the toilet and sink for us.  Things were really starting to look finished–then we turned on the shower.

basement shower

As great as the plumbers had been, they made one little mistake.  The shower faucet didn’t work properly.  The “on” was “off”, the middle of the temperature gauge made the water hot…while cold was warm and hot was cool.  Weird.  A simple phone call and they offered to come back and fix it.  Which leads me to a very. embarrassing. morning.


When I got on the phone with the man in charge of our project, he told me the crew would be by mid-morning–probably around 10:30 am.  Cool.  That’s great.


I wake up on the morning of the appointment.  It’s 8am.  I get up, throw on some grubby gym clothes.  Stretchy pants and an athletic, long sleeved t-shirt.  It’s purple {you know how I am with purple clothes.}  It’s the kind with a weird athletic hood.  You know, with a perfect circle for your head to go through–very effective for outdoor running, very stupid looking in real life.  To paint a perfect picture, I need to tell you that I typically go to bed with wet hair.  I sleep on it and it gets crazy and wavy overnight.  In the morning I tame it down…but first thing in the morning, it’s a curly, beach-head mess.


So I throw on the t-shirt.  As I pull it on, the hood catches up over my head.  Totally fine, because I’m cold anyway, and no one is in the house to mock my appearance.


Since I’ve got some time, I clean the bathroom upstairs and get laundry together.  Meanwhile, Panda {the world’s most precious baby angel cat} is meowing, meowing, meowing.  Because, although she is adorable and my BFF, she’s also addicted to food–and in the morning she demands her breakfast.


I finish rinsing the sink, flush the freshly scrubbed toilet and grab two laundry baskets stacked on top of each other filled with clothes.  Hood still up, hair still a mess, I head downstairs.  It’s 8:30am.


As I descend the stairs I loudly declare in a sing-song voice, “It’s breakfast time for babies!”  I’m obviously talking to Panda.  She’s a baby angel, after all.  And that’s just kind of how I talk to my cat–whether I’m alone in the house or not.  I can’t help it.  I’m weird.  And in this moment, I looked really weird too.  Like a purple scuba diver without a mask.  Then it happens.  From the kitchen I hear,




It’s a man’s deep voice and it’s not Derek.  For a split second I freak out.  Then I see who it is.  The plumbers.  One standing on my kitchen mat, the other just outside on the deck.


“Mrs. Smith?”


Oh. My gosh.


Quick. I pull the hood off my head, run a hand through that crazy mane and sit the basket of dirty sports bras on the table.


“Hey, yeah.  Morning…I was just, uh…”


“We knocked and knocked but you didn’t answer.  Sorry for trying the door.  It was unlocked.”


Ahh, yes, knocking while the water was running and the toilet was flushing.  “I was just talking to my cat.”




“What?  I mean…I need to feed my cat.  But that can wait.  She’s too fat anyway.”


Blank stare.


“Nate said you guys wouldn’t be by until mid-morning.”


“Nope this is our first stop.”


“Okay…well, let’s go downstairs…”


Happy Friday.  Try not to be too awkward this weekend.  The bathroom is hard to get in a picture, but I did my best.  Better, non-phone photos are coming next week.

basement bathroom finished


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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