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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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Nathanael |Class of 2015| Fall Senior Portraits

fall senior portraits

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


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

Senior portraits guitar

fall Senior portrait guitar

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

fall Senior portraits

water senior portraits

senior portrait fall leaves

senior portrait

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

senior portrait hub cap wall

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

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

senior portrait hub cap wall

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

senior portraits drums

senior portraits drums

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


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

DIY Distressed Glass Bottles

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


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

DIY distressed glass bottles

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

DIY distressed glass bottles

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

DIY distressed glass bottles

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

DIY distressed glass bottles

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

DIY distressed glass bottles

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

DIY distressed glass bottles

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

DIY disstressed glass bottles

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

Patrick |Senior Portraits | Class of 2015

senior portraits fire escape

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

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

senior portraits urban wall

senior portraits urban wall

senior portraits book store

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

senior portraits grafitti

formal senior portrait

formal senior portrait

senior portrait fire escape

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

senior portraits railroad trestle

senior portraits railroad trestle

senior portraits railroad trestle

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

Jenna {Class of 2015}

North Dakota Senior Portraits

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


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

senior portraits

senior portraits

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

Senior Portrait with Balloons

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

Senior Portrait with Balloons

field senior portraits

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

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

gymnast senior portraits

senior portraits of gymnast, MInot, ND

park senior portraits

park senior portraits

Senior portrait brick wall

Minot Senior Portraits

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

gymnast senior portraits

Senior portrait brick wall


Norsk Hostfest {thoughts from an outsider}

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


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

click for source

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


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


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


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

Hostfest Games

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

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

click for source

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

click for source

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

click for source

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


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

Viking Games Norsk Hostfest

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

Viking Games Norsk Hostfest

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

Viking Games Norsk Hostfest

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

hostfest vikings

click for source

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


Until next year, Hostfest…



Community Canvas | Minot September Block Party

Community Canvas

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

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

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

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

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

Downtown Community Canvas

This is what I brought home from the block party.


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

community canvas

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

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


Expecting | Baby Announcement With Dogs

Expecting | A Baby Announcement With Dogs

Baby Announcement With Dogs

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


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

baby Baby Announcement With Dogs

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

Baby Announcement With Dogs

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


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

Baby Announcement With Dogs

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

Baby Announcement With Dogs, boston terrier

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






Amazing Chicken Salad Without Mayo

Chicken salad without mayo

For a long time I hated chicken salad. I think it was mostly because I’m not a mayo fan. Then, when I got older and more health conscious, I was glad I didn’t like chicken salad, because it turns out mayonnaise isn’t very good for you. But, as it is a staple baby shower, bridal shower and casual lunch food, I decided years ago to make my own recipe. A recipe that was both healthy and mayo free.


Without further ado, here is my very own recipe for great chicken salad without mayo.


Tonight, I’m sharing that recipe with you. It’s so good. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Chicken {I typically use left over chicken breasts from dinner the night before. The amounts in this recipe use about 1.5-2 chicken breasts.}
  • 1/3 cup Low Fat or No Fat Greek Yogurt
  • 1/4 cup Low Fat or Fat Free Ranch
  • 1/4 tsp of: black pepper, garlic powder, and basil
  • 1/2 tsp dill
  • 3 T Dark Mustard
  • 1/2 cup Raisins or Craisins
  • 1/4 cup Almond Slivers
  • 3 Stalks of Celery

Keep in mind that you can alter the amount of celery, raisins/Craisins, and almonds.  It’s your lunch, make it how you like it.  As a variation you can leave out the dried fruit and sub in 1/2 cup of halved grapes.


Here’s what you do.


I prefer to shred my chicken by pulsing it in my Ninja. But you can shred it with forks or your Kitchen Aide. Whatever you prefer.

In a bowl mix together the yogurt, ranch, mustard, and spices. Add in chicken, celery and fruit. If it looks dry add a little more yogurt or ranch.


It’s that easy and it’s so good. Enjoy!  {And don’t forget to Pin it, for easy access.}

The Bredenkamps | Family Portraits

Today I have a very special family session to show you.  It’s especially special because it’s my actual family.  While I was home to Elkhart last month, I did some fall family photos for my family.  The reason I love doing sessions for my own family is two fold.  Firstly, I love taking photos.  Secondly, it forces them to spend more time with me.


And I love spending time with the fam.


Since I’ve disclosed to you that this is my own flesh and blood, it’s safe to assume that I might be a little bias…but I’ll tell you anyway–I think these portraits are the bomb.  I think these kids are geniuses.  I think this family is the cat’s meow.  The only thing I don’t love about this is the fact that they live in God’s country {northern Indiana} and I live in Practically Canada {which is also lovely…but not quite as amazing as the Michiana area.}  So enjoy the photos.  Perhaps you can glean a little inspiration for you own family portrait session.

Bredenkamp Stone Wall

Bedenkamp Family portraits

Now, I’m going to take a moment to point out something that this family totally nailed:  Clothing choice.  Sometimes that can be the trickiest part of photo day.  I get asked all the time:  What should we wear?  Well, when it comes to fall family photos, you can take a lesson from the Bredenkamp clan.  Solid colors are always a winner.  It’s also a good idea to put everyone in jeans for cohesiveness, then mix up the shirts.  The orange and green lend some color and look amazing with the fall backgrounds.  The kiddos in gray and white are perfectly neutral.


I also advise folks to steer clear of trendy clothes.  That way when you look back at your portraits, you’ll remember the amazing day, the lovely weather and the family.  If you go too trendy, you’ll likely be distracted by your atrocious clothing, hit yourself in the forehead and ask yourself, “What was I thinking?”  {Also, that sets you up to be made fun of by future generations.}  Now, enough clothes talk.  Let’s get back to the session.

Bredenkamp family portrait

Field portrait

If you are wondering where this lovely setting is, let me tell you.  It’s Cobus Creek, one of Elkhart County’s newest parks.  While it’s been around for a few years now, there are still lots of folks who haven’t heard of it.  Let’s just say I came out looking pretty cool when I introduced them to this awesome location.

Bredenkamp on dock

Bredenkamp siblings

Okay, that’s one fam session down.  I shot two others while I was home.  Be on the lookout for those.  You’ll especially want to see the one with a goofy Boston Terrier wearing a hat.  She looked so embarrassed.  I’m telling you, it’s worth a look and a laugh, so stay tuned!

Our Best Costume and How I Know We Don’t Suck

I love Halloween.  That’s no secret at all.  One of my all time greatest dreams is to go to or host an epic Halloween party, just like the one in Hocus Pocus.  Skeleton-clad musicians included.

Even though I’ve never been to a party that great–yet–I’ve  still had my fair share of awesome costumes.  Mostly because I have an awesome costume partner.  And, although most of our costumes were thrown together in the last minute, we still pulled them off.  It’s been a few years since we were costume clad for Halloween…one year I was hospitalized, the next Derek was working, and the years after that we had moved to Minot where our house was too small to host a party and none of our friends did either.


But.  But, but, but…that doesn’t mean that our most amazing {and infamous} costume has been forgotten.  Quite the opposite.  I do my fair share of Pinning, but 90% of the time when I’m notified that one of my Pins has been repinned…I see this.

DIY Spartan Cheerleaders Halloween Costume

Me, Derek, Spartan Cheerleader costumes.


Yes, it’s amazing, I know.


So I thought today, being October 1st–I’d revisit this costume.  The one that gets me so much buzz.


A friend recently told me that she found it on the top search results on Pinterest.  Last year a friend saw it featured on a blog…and today I was contacted by the associate editor of Huffington Post Weddings.  She wanted to run it in a feature about couple’s costumes.  You can read it here.  It’s called “18 Awesome Halloween Costumes for Couples Who Don’t Suck.”  So, I guess it’s official.  If you think we suck, you’re wrong.  The Huffington Post says otherwise.


Crazy, I know.


The craziest part is that we literally threw that costume together the day of Halloween for a party we’d just found out about.  We walked into the thrift store with a few basic ideas, and when we laid eyes on those atrocious, red, men’s pants, we knew we’d struck gold.  The white bands are cut up white T-shirts destined for the rag bin.  I cut the letters out of felt, and the whole ensemble is hot glued together.  Who know, way back then in Enid, OK we’d be making costume history?


We even quickly memorized one of the Spartan cheers, just in case.  But that never got performed in public, since the party turned out to be pretty lame.  {Especially for the types who don’t consume adult beverages…us.}


After all the moves, we still have the sweaters somewhere.  Just last year, I made Derek get rid of the pants.  He wore them curling.  I told him we could afford a pair that is new, and not bright red, or part of a gag.  I only hope they have found their way into the heart of another cheerleader…


If you are looking for costume inspiration this month, check out my Killer Costumes board on Pinterest, or the HuffPost article there are some seriously clever things in there {uhhh Butter and Paula Dean?!}


Happy Haunting.

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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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