Vulnerability

This past summer, I watched a Ted Talk by Dr. Brené Brown, a leading Social Work professor who has spent ten years researching vulnerability, shame, courage, and authenticity, with a more recent focus on living in a wholehearted way.

I opened her book, Daring Greatly, and flew through the pages. Drank up her words. Felt afraid to put myself out there, and yet yearned to live every moment of every day this way. I’m one who is expressively emotional. I like to think I have it all together, and know when to say the right thing at the right time, but often I find myself wishing I could slurp the words back in.  Too often. Brown has encouraged me to be thoughtful in word and action, and to say and do what makes my heart happy. What is right, albeit perhaps new and scary. To be vulnerable is not to be weak, but strong. “To be a doer of deeds, in the arena,” to quote Teddy Roosevelt. And of course, the lovely Eleanor, who said so bravely, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

This inspirational talk and book both really affected the way that I lead my every day life. At work, at home, with my family, with acquaintances, and with strangers I meet for the first time. It has inspired me to begin an equal parts lovely, exciting, soul-expressing, vulnerable pursuit of my photography as a bud-blossom-business.

In Daring Greatly, Brown refers to an eloquent speech by T. Roosevelt, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

Erring is natural and expected. But better to have erred and learned and grown and blossomed a little bit than to not have tried at all, to dwell in criticism of others or comparison and envy. I have found that sincere, thoughtful baby steps go a long way.  Dear friends are supportive. Family offers to help in any way, and be cheerleaders, naturally.  Strangers {they’re just people too!} have pointed me in the right direction as I open up my eyes and explore the path of business ownership and photography.

Each day is another gift, and I want to bring a little bit of light to at least one person each day.  Seeing the light in my students’ eyes through my teaching and seeing the light in my clients’  eyes through my lens brings light to my heart.  I am on my way.  One day at a time, I make choices that point me in the direction I hope to be blessed to go.  Being vulnerable takes practice, and courage. So, here is an exercise in vulnerability: some photos from recent photo shoots, as my portfolio grows into an extension of my soul.

Now. Some pretty pictures. This is the real vulnerable part. Eeeeeeshk!

 

Alyson Ann Photography

Alyson Ann Photography

Alyson Ann Photography

Alyson Ann Photography

Alyson Ann Photography

Alyson Ann Photography

Alyson Ann Photography

xoxo,

Aly

Huckleberry is One!

Today, our day was all about Huckleberry. We napped, we couch-snuggled, we slept in until almost 8 am!

DSC_1369Dogs have a way of scootching into our lives {And in between us on the couch.}  Believe it or not, Huckleberry isn’t completely in charge of the McCann family household.  However, he does have more expensive shampoo than I do.  My after-school goal is to get home as quickly as possible to let my pooch out of his “casa” and play fetch and catch for awhile after a long walk (which will get longer as soon as spring arrives!). We have lint rollers strategically placed and use them often.  We vacuum like nobody’s business. Huck has a blanket for when he sits upon his throne {aka. the couch} as king of his castle {red flag?}. We have frequent buyer cards at three pet stores. We buy Huckleberry all-natural bully sticks and elk antlers and other rugged, protein-y treats. This past week, he even starred in a professional marketing photo shoot for a new Sunglasses and Watches company {I couldn’t make that up. Total coincidence, total truth.}.

First experience with a candle. A little too close for comfort. We blew it out immediately after this photo...

He got distracted while we were singing to him. Rightfully so, as this was his first experience with a candle. A little too close for comfort.  Needless to say, after the last line of “Happy Birthday,” we blew it out…

Today is Huckleberry’s first birthday. We got him three presents: a tennis ball rope tug, a tennis/rubber ball combo, and an elk antler. Two of the three have been annihilated {hint: Huck is getting lots of fluorescent green fiber in his diet…}.

Vanilla Ice Cream with Peanut Butter. Of course.

Vanilla Ice Cream with Peanut Butter. Of course.

I can’t believe how much he’s grown in the past year! And, how much happiness his little raspy bay-howl and cuddly snuggles and snores bring to me.

The week we brought Huck home last April...

The week we brought Huck home last April… He was so little – gahhh the cuteness!

His excitement at seeing me {ears flapping while bounding, paws launching up for a hug} when I come home from work makes any tension I’m holding from the day melt away. This authentic love he brings to our family makes me want to share that kind of love with others. Without asking for anything in return, to simply be a ray of sunshine, and a happy presence for those that want for love and presence.

Busy getting birthday-sugar buzzed.

Busy getting birthday-sugar-buzzed.

Such determination.

Such focused determination.

I think we could all benefit from thinking, at least for a little bit, the way that our dog does, and treat others, friends and foe alike similarly:

“YAYIT’SYOUIT’SYOUIT’SYOUMYFAVORITEHUMAN! I love you. Let’s be friends forever. And maybe take a nice long walk together. We don’t have to talk. And then maybe watch your current Netflix obsession. And just be happy together.” How lovely to just give of ourselves to others without asking in return, to know what they might need that day or moment, without even asking, and give it freely.

DSC_1424

Getting the peanut butter off of his whiskers.

Getting the peanut butter off of his whiskers.

Happiness comes to us in the simplest of ways.  Though some days bring copious dog-hair, kennel accidents, splashy-baths, endless “business” trips outside {BRRR}, and really stinky moments {ahem}, I know that these things are fleeting. What will last is the sweetness in our hearts made by the little paw prints of unconditional love from our Huckleberry.

Huck totally looks up to Dad.

Huck totally looks up to his Pops.

My little Schmoopy Face Schnicklefritz Schlobber Huntz.

My little Schmoopy Face Schnicklefritz Schlobber Huntz. Love his face…

Happy Birthday, Huckleberry! We love you, Butterbean.

Best Breakfast: The Buttered Tin

We discovered a bakery/cafe that feels like breakfast in bed. Sun shines through the windows and drenches the wooden tables and the butter yellow tufted booth seats with its warmth {even in these below zero days!}.  Plates are loaded with colorful, fresh fruits and veggies and hearty home-baked bread.  Their bacon is THICK, and their coffee is strong. Their bakery case is one I dream about, American, but reminiscent of a classic French patisserie. STOCKED with mini, rustic apple pies, crunchy granola, buttercream-topped cupcakes, chocolate chip whoopee cookies, and “TBT” ho-hos!

Is this real life?

IMG_3136

Before…

IMG_3138

Poised and Ready…

During!!

During!!

Well, twice in the past four days it’s been my real life! Good Morning Buttered Tin!

...And After.

…And After.

On our first visit, we arrived just before noon on Saturday, prime brunching hour. Needless to say, at a popular restaurant such as The Buttered Tin, we waited about 45 minutes to be seated. It’s a small corner cafe in a big city.  Classic Saint Paul: feels like a neighborhood cafe, where everybody knows how you take your coffee.  Many customers whirled in for their morning cup of joe and freshly baked scone while we waited.  Others waited for their table, chitchatting and cheers-ing with mimosas.  We chose to linger over our dark roasts and drool over the bakery case.

IMG_3135

IMG_3132

IMG_3131

Cupcakes and Ho-Hos!

Our corner table dripped with sunshine. The waitress was delightfully sunny herself, happy to keep the refills coming.  Everyone ordered something different from the tin-and-paper menu, posted over the open kitchen:

IMG_3130

Huevos Rancheros Benedict.

IMG_3143

Biscuits and Gravy {with two organic poached eggs}.

IMG_3139

Buttermilk Pancakes {with salted maple bacon butter} {see above photos – inhaled by yours truly}.

‘Pig’s Eye’ Breakfast {another nickname of Saint Paul-clever!}.

Roasted Veggie Sandwich. {eaten too quickly to be photographed!}

Bread Pudding HotDish Special.

IMG_3141

I only made my family wait a minute or two – enough to snap some “before” photos. The “after” shots were unanimous: clean plates, perfectly full tummies, and happy hearts.

IMG_3145

IMG_3144

On the “Next Time We HAVE to Try This…” List are: the Thanksgiving Sandwich, the Short Rib Reuben, Creamy Polenta {with smoked bacon and mushroom ragout + egg}, and the Banana Foster French Toast {with maple pecans and fresh whipped cream}. Also, the Arnold Palmer Iced Tea!

In order to tackle the above list, since today was a “Cold Day,” I met a lovely friend {dearest Emily!} and crossed the Banana Foster French Toast off the list. Sweet, light, fluffy, nutty, and homey. My new favorite.

butteredtin1

Their “Sweets” menu sells breads, cupcakes, cake by the slice, mini pies, and daily specials of bars/brownies/cinnamonrolls. Plus, they do custom sweets catering!

One of the owners, Alicia, was on the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars – and helped owner of Cupcake {well known cupcakerie with locations around the cities} take home titles!  They’ve been open only since June of 2013, but have already made a name for themselves, becoming a staple in STP’s up and coming Lowertown neighborhood.

Both owners left the corporate world to pursue their dream of bringing classic, comforting, home-baked, sunshiny American breakfast and lunch foods with a creative twist to friends and family. LOVE. Their head chef came to them from another twin cities restaurant staple: The Smack Shack! See an interview with owner Alicia Hinze {here} and a video of the Buttered Tin owners walking the walk {here}.

Bravo! Delicious. And, cute name.

IMG_3148

Open 7-3, every day.  Thanks for bringing the sunshine to the city, Buttered Tin!

Mi Scusi!

This new year’s eve, we waited until 4 pm to make a dinner reservation. Normally, this would be a problem for anyone wanting to eat at a regular dinner time. City people like their date-night restaurants. Available tables, much to our procrastinating reservation-making phone calls, were few and far between.

But, we’ve discovered the secret to life. And to getting a table, even on the busiest date night of the year: eat EARLY.

IMG_2929

I’ve wanted to go to Scusi since we have moved here. Then, when we checked out their menu online, what sealed the deal was on their appetizer list: burrata!  We had JUST watched an episode on the Cooking Channel whilst home over the holidays that showed how to make this specialty buttery, creamy, mozzarella-like cheese from the Puglia region of Italy. We could not have been more sold.

IMG_2928

What a perfect opportunity – New Year’s Eve date night!  As long as we were out by 7 pm, we had the restaurant to ourselves (and a few families of four and five)!  We took the deal, and never have I been more pleasantly surprised with not only the burrata, but all that Scusi offered to us on our date night out.  I dressed in a sparkly little black dress and heels, and my husband wore a suit and tie. JT would have been impressed.

For starters, we had the world’s friendliest, not-too-attentive-just-attentive-enough server. Her charm sparkled like the flickering candle on our table.  We ordered some local Summit beers (shhhh, I know we were supposed to have wine – Scusi is famous for their wine list, but… SALUTE!).  Then came the burrata, in all its creamy glory, on a bed of basil pesto, with olive oil almonds, olive tapenade, sweet cherry tomatoes, and crostini to serve as our shovels. Though we tried to savor it as much as possible, the plate was clean in less than five minutes. I kid you not.

IMG_2946

Pasta plates on the dinner menu come in two sizes; and we, being Italian at heart, opted for the larger of both the Carbonara and Veal Bolognese Gnocchi.  My dad taught me to order gnocchi whenever I have the chance. And of course, in doing so, pronounce it with an “I am not really Italian but here is my best guess as to this delicious pasta’s pronunciation” accent. With hand gestures. So I did.

Side note: check out a short history from the New York Times on Italians and their use of hand gestures during conversation here :) :

Both pastas were creamy, hearty, rich, and authentically Italian.  We most definitely had leftovers; the flavors were equally as robustly satisfying on day two.

At our checkerboard-tableclothed-bistro table, we lingered over amaretto lattes with ‘zucchero in zolette’ (lumps of natural, Italian sugar), reliving the garlic, herby, homemade pasta, toasted, roasted, creamy flavors of our ‘cena,’ talking about our plans for 2014, and planning the rest of our New Year’s Eve (finishing Season one of House of Cards, Skype-ing with some near and dear college friends, and champagne and cookies at midnight – yes, we made it to the stroke of twelve – we’re not THAT old!).

IMG_2940

Scusi gave us the homemade, authentic Italian experience we craved.  I recently heard as well that they have a great wine and wood-fired-pizza happy hour at 9pm nightly.  We will most definitely be back to try our hand at pronouncing in our best Italian, any of the other items on the extensive {wine list and} dinner menu.

Also, we sang this the entire car ride home:

Bellisima ristorante!

Places to go, Lattes to Drink… The Bean Factory

Sometimes, this is how I feel about living in a cold state:

IMG_2727

We’ve had an especially ridiculously cold start to winter. There are many things you can do to ameliorate the situation, including but not limited to buying fur lined Sorel boots, always wearing your fur lined hood, a scarf, a hat, mittens, and sometimes a coat under your coat. Seat warmers in cars make a world of difference.  Wrap in blankets, drink warm tea, and pull on socks that are several centimeters thick.

This seems like a lot of work to those that live in warm climates. Some days, I completely agree.

IMG_2675

However, there are things that make winter and those who thrive in {read, endure} its whipping winds and relentless snow dumpings beautiful.  There is something exquisite about the purple/slate/orange hues of a night sky as the snow falls.  Nothing makes our puppy happier than bounding and playing in the fresh snow for hours.

IMG_2795

Rosy cheeks are cute. Sweaters and scarves layered upon more layers are lovely.  And, in my humble opinion, piping hot, cinnamony sweet lattes taste better on below freezing winter days.

Piping Hot.

Piping Hot.

The ding of the coffee shop door bell ringing behind me as the cold wind dissipates around me is replaced by a smell of freshly roasted and brewed coffee beans and a simultaneous sigh of relief that for an hour or so, warmth will replace a seemingly ever-present chill.

IMG_2683

Having worked in a coffee shop on and off since high school, I am predisposed to sniff out the best hidden coffee shop secrets in any town.  Since we’ve moved here, we’ve been on the hunt for the new family favorite. A couple of weeks ago, we came upon a gem in our very own St. Paul.  On Randolph Street, right in a cozy, snow-covered neighborhood, the steamy windows of J & S The Bean Factory beckoned.

With vintage decor charm, eclectic mugs, and in-house-roasted-daily beans, I couldn’t ask for more in a local shop.

IMG_2686

Also, they sell donuts.  With Christmas sprinkles.

IMG_2690

They have Friday night music, friendly staff and regulars, and most importantly, unbelievable lattes. My new favorite has been the Miel {French for ‘honey’}, which has a natural hint of honey, and a subtle cinnamon spice. Not overly sweet, this is the quintessential {and completely addictive – in the best way possible} cozy winter drink.

The brewers travel to countries around the world to choose which beans they want for their customers. They roast beans in a 25 kilo small batch roaster.  As my fingers defrosted in a hug around my mug, I felt right at home as we took our sweet time simultaneously solving the problems of the world and caffeinating our Saturday.

Consider the coffee drinks at The Bean Factory near the top of the ‘What’s Wonderful About Winter’ list.

We just may have to stop the hunt for our St. Paul Coffee Shop. Loved it!

Grateful.

When I was out shopping on small business Saturday, I saw the most lovely, authentic sign in a home decor shop from {this store}.

It read, “Thank you God, for blessing me with so much more than I deserve.”

After spending the past week bopping from family home to family home, sharing amazing meals and authentic conversation, and learning a top secret McCann Christmas cookie recipe, I feel inspired to be reflective and grateful.

image-4

There is so much in my life that is good. However, in our society’s daily information bombardment, it is so easy to dwell in a negative comment or be saddened by a lack of love or get wrapped up in a bottomless pit of materialism or become overwhelmed by a disastrous world catastrophe.  We can begin to feel helpless and insignificant.

This time of year especially, I want to do my small part. I want to be a ray of sunshine for those around me {especially when the skies are grey and clouds are heavy with white fluffy stuff}.  In Mother Teresa’s words, I want to “spread love everywhere I go, so that no one ever comes to me without leaving happier.”

image-7

I like to think that one happy comment can cancel out one bad something in the world. Little acts of love can have a much greater impact than you might think.  Notes and words and kisses and hugs and even thoughts have great power.

My December challenge to myself is to be as authentically love-and-goodness-spreading as I can. To feel inspired, here is first a little list of things that make me feel blessed.

image-6

~ a whip-lash tail wag and stinky puppy breath kisses that greets me every day after work

~ staying healthy so far this winter!

~ a cozy home to call my own {and the luxury of paying for rent, groceries, gas, and Christmas presents}

~ my job and my cheery students who remind me that each day brings a fresh start

~ the zillion and one ways technology makes it easy to stay connected

~ my kind, smart, thoughtful, motivated husband who is working his butt off in grad school to do what he loves and provide for his family

photo 2

~ sisterly love that gets better and better as we get older. Also, our knowing what the other is thinking without speaking.

~ parents and grandparents who, in their infinite wisdom, even after we’ve “grownup,” still think about what would make us happy and consequently have those favorite cookies baked or that mechanic on speed dial.

~ love that is so tangible in a family it is heard in the clinking of a holiday toast, smelled in a sweet baby’s pink baby smell, tasted in a home cooked comfort-food meal, and felt in teary goodbyes, warm hellos, and those-new-jeans-look-good-on-you sassy spanks.

~and OH. so. much. more. Volumes more. I’ll save a little for tomorrow. The thing about gratitude, is once you get going with the recognizing phase, you realize that the blessings in life truly abound. Infinitesimal. Like stars.

image-5

Here’s the plan.

I’m going to spend a little time each day feeling grateful, just like I did above, and then also spend a little time each day spreading the love. This might mean listening to someone with patience when I’d rather talk, calling a friend or relative whose voice I haven’t heard in awhile, donating my winter clothes {and summer clothes!} to those in greater need, paying forward a little latte at the coffee shop, secret santa-ing someone at work with a chocolate square, making a recipe for my husband with extra love, being kind to the crazy drivers and too-busy-to-look-where-they’re-going shoppers, and thinking about the needs of those around me before my own.

photo-26

Cheers to spreading the love. Maybe it’s even better than presents.

Craft Breweries, Football, and some Guess Who

A couple of weekends ago, some besties from Milwaukee (aka cousins/collegefriends/soulfriends and their adorable snuggling pup) came to visit.  You know. I love having people visit. I look forward to weekend visits with happy butterflies.  So does Huckleberry. He barely slept a wink on Thursday night.

It gets us out and about, away from the humdrum of daily life.  I’ve found we are more apt to explore this beautiful area and all it has to offer if we have someone here to show it to.

So, upon their arrival, we ate at the Nook.  Highly recommended by Guy Fieri, St. Paulians since forever, and now all four of us. We ate next to the bowling alley (yes, the bowling alley). Summit on tap and some juicy nookie burgers (stuffed with cheese and topped with caramelized onions) were the order of the day. There was an hour wait when we arrived, but they got us to our table in half that time! Great company, excellent food – they got our weekend off to the best start!

IMG_2266

IMG_2278

Literally the hottest wings I've ever eaten. Correction: wing. I stopped after one so that I wouldn't have second degree burns on my lips. Please serve these with ice cream, Nook friends.

Literally the hottest wings I’ve ever eaten. Correction: wing. I stopped after one so that I wouldn’t have second degree burns on my lips. Please serve these with ice cream, Nook friends.

IMG_2286

What else is there?

What else is there?

Cousins. Love.

Cousins. Love.

IMG_2288

Our view throughout dinner.

Our view throughout dinner.

On Saturday morning, we watched my cousin’s peewee football team take the city championship. SO EXCITING! They got medals and lifetime bragging rights and we got a chance to sit in the stands of Midway Stadium, home of the St. Paul Saints before the stadium is no longer used – they’re moving downtown!

IMG_2296

Rooting from the stands! Go Red!

Rooting from the stands! Go Red!

Cutest cheerleader ever.

Cutest cheerleader ever.

Surrounding their championship plaque!

Surrounding their championship plaque!

This stadium is old-fashioned and has a small-town feel. I hope we can see a Saints game before they move to the new stadium!

This stadium is old-fashioned and has a charming Baseball-is-America’s-sport small-town feel. I hope we can see a Saints game before they move to the new stadium!

We headed to Northeast Minneapolis next, and grabbed a bite at Spyhouse Coffee before dropping in at 612 Brew, the first of our brewery visits.

Spyhouse. Knock if you want killer lattes and hearty sandwiches.

Spyhouse. Knock if you want killer lattes and hearty sandwiches.

Ham and Brie!

Ham and Brie!

We loved the tasting room as they had old Trivial Pursuit cards in the middle of the tables {which happened to be constructed from repurposed bowling alleys, in all that’s coolness}. The ladies shared a flight of their craftiest craft brews. We were all rocking On Wisconsin red, which helped the Badgers win, by the way.  We discussed notes of mint, agave and coffee {though Joe actually does home-brew, and knows his stuff – the rest of us were just hypothesizing} and declared our favorites from the flight.

IMG_2345

IMG_2321 IMG_2330

In Pursuit of 1970s Trivia.

In Pursuit of 1970s Trivia.

IMG_2337

IMG_2329

Slainte! Prost!

Slainte! Prost!

A little ways up the road in Northeast, we found Dangerous Man Brewing Co.  Both of the guys were on board when they discovered the logo was a man with a beard. Also, they encourage bringing in your own food, since they don’t serve any.  Lots of cute local restaurants – I highly recommend Maeve’s Cafe!

IMG_2348

IMG_2350

IMG_2366

Back to the brews. This was my favorite of the breweries we visited since it was sunny and decorated in a hip, exposed bricky way, with driftwooden accents.  There is a mural of a bearded musky fish.  I mean, what’s not to love? The stools were high school chemistry lab-ish.  The pumpkin ale that I had was DELISH – a little sweet and just spicy enough to keep me pumping my autumn fist in a “yeah buddy!” Bring on the flannel.

Sunshine and Flannel.

Sunshine and Flannel.

Pumpkin Ale.

Pumpkin Ale.

Reading up on crafty craft brewing.

Reading up on crafty craft brewing.

More sunshine.

More sunshine.

A cozy stout.

A cozy stout.

IMG_2413

Also! They have a cupboard FULL of old school games. We spent about a half hour losing to our friends in round after round of Guess Who. Then, we made a comeback when the McCanns used strategy beyond belief in a rousing, ship-sinking game of Battleship.  Scores even, we headed home for an afternoon nap and some cheese and crackers. Because, as our guests are also Wisconsinites, they understand and appreciate cheese’s importance to a balanced diet.

Guess who won. Yes, these two scholars. Must be their intense gaming skill, as seen here.

Guess who won. Yes, these two scholars. Must be their intense gaming skill, as seen here.

IMG_2386

Winning!

Winning!

Thank you, DM!

Thank you, DM! Also, look at that bright cerulean sky. I love autumn days when colors pop like this.

The girls went shopping for a bit {danger, we hit up Madewell!!} and the guys rested up before taking the pups {YES!} to Flat Earth Brewing Co., right here in our West Seventh neighborhood. The dogs weren’t allowed on the tour, but they were totally the stars of the tasting room!  We joined them {and some other family who met us there later} for a sip of an autumnal ale.  Flat Earth is heading to a much bigger facility next year {the old Hamm’s brewery} and we’ll be sure to visit them again when they’re all set up.

We really did all of these things in one day. Energy flows out of me when loved ones are near. There’s more. Isn’t there always? The writer’s dilemma. I’ll try to be brief.

We got all gussied up and headed to Chino Latino in Uptown for the dinner to end all dinners. There was my kind of dance music playing when we walked in – read: latin/salsa/eclectic. There are guests who had ordered whole roasted pigs!  The entire bar area glowed red-orange.

I don’t even remember  most of what we ate. I know there was some banana boat chicken, some queso that blew my mind {chorizo added}, and bacon wrapped pork tenderloin served on a sword. Schwingg! {that is the sound of my fancy sword emerging from mmy fancy scabbard, in case you were wondering.} Then, for dessert we had some seriously amazing tres leche cake and fried ice cream, both with toasted coconut infused somehow, and the latter capped off with a sparkler.  Most importantly to me, my heart was happy throughout dinner since the company was especially superb. This place has a big city vibe, with glitter and spicy foods. My kind of evening.

IMG_2394

Banana boat chicken with a creamy, sweet, curryish sauce.

Banana boat chicken with a creamy, sweet, curryish sauce.

Stuffed to the gills, yet I made room for this dandy in my extra dessert compartment.

Stuffed to the gills, yet I made room for this dandy in my extra dessert compartment.

Sparklers!

Sparklers!

More family outside of C.L., with sparkles behind us, naturally!

More family outside of C.L., with sparkles behind us, naturally!

IMG_2407

Saying goodbye is so hard to do. But  Sunday morning pancakes from {Love and Cupcakes} made it a little easier.

Until next time, friends! xo

Lake Calhoun Lovely.

I don’t want to brag or anything, but here is some honest real talk. My sister is the best. She and her husband came to visit this weekend. And. I could hardly wait to edit and post these photos because they are 1. lovely; 2. happy; 3. memories of my favorite people; 4. autumnal; and 5. so stinking cute that I can’t handle it.  Right after they headed home and we had a {teary, huggy} goodbye, I pulled up my big-girl bootstraps and got down to photo editing.

Come Sail Away.

Come Sail Away.

We had the best. weekend. Complete with a French Meadow visit, a Lake Calhoun visit, a Trader Joe’s and MOA visit, a trip to Minnehaha dog park with Huck {a whole post, complete with photos, will be coming up on this wonder of a doggy heaven soon}, an interior decorating brainstorming session at Ikea and then continued at Patina (Click this link. you’ll be glad you did. And this one too: my new iphone case).

In addition to sharing what’s been up in our long-distance lives, suggesting new books to read and movies to watch, as well as planning our next visit and life goals and dreams, Kristin and I also decided to both we are both adding photo collage walls to our homes.

I’m just getting started.

We also had a round of Shamrocks Juicy Nookie burgers and “Wisconsin” Cheese curds.  Then we indulged in two ahh-mazing pizzas from Pizza Luce – “loaded baked potato” and “the bear,” a meat-lover’s option, of course. YUM!

shamrocks2

shamrocks

Having our siblings visit means so much to me.  I feel so at home when they visit!  We had endless great conversation, watched Argo (see it!) and Now You See Me (what a twist at the end!) and drank lots of Copper Rock coffee (Freshly roasted coffee beans are hands down the best hostess gift ever!) and pumpkin beers.  We also got them some sweet NWHSU swag to represent on the east side of the Mississippi.

To top it all off, we sisters continued our epic winning streak as we {nearly} swept the series of several very rousing rounds of Catch Phrase. Note Bene: we won the sports and games round {Humble-brag}.

No big. Just a little tired today. But not, however, too tired to share these lovely photos from the lake.

DSC_0262

These photos were taken at Lake Calhoun {my first time visiting this Minneapolis oasis, but will be sure to return!}.  I’m always on the lookout for nice locations to shoot at. My sibs happily agreed to be my lovebird models on Friday as we visited the lake.  Apparently they are not often asked at work to model for photographers. Weird. They are naturals.

DSC_0287

DSC_0268

True Love.

DSC_0286

We first had the bright idea of walking around the whole lake. HAH! That’s a long way. Miles, even. So, we walked a quarter of the way around {on the trail marked bikes, mind you… oops}, took some pretty pictures, got our long hair stuck in our lipgloss due to the crisp, sudden gusts of lake breeze, and walked back to the car {this time on the trail marked ‘pedestrians,’ thank you very much}.

DSC_0293

DSC_0221

Details.

DSC_0300

DSC_0238

DSC_0241

DSC_0240

DSC_0236

DSC_0223

DSC_0269

DSC_0350

Sketchy photo effects!

Sketched Sepia photo effects!

This posing was all for a teeny beef liver treat. He earned it!

This posing was all for a teeny beef liver treat. He earned it!

to the left, to the left!

Tall and regal pup!

Superhero pup!

Superhero pup!

DSC_0302_2

I know I say it all the time, but, THOSE EARS!!

I know I say it all the time, but, THOSE EARS!!

More photos of Kristin and Bradley. Two years of marriage down, a lifetime to go!

DSC_0288

Hah!

Why hello there. Yes, I do this often, why do you ask?

Aww, our shoes!

Aww, our shoes!

When I asked Kristin to step into the sunshine for better lighting, this is what she did. Beautiful.

When I asked Kristin to step into the sunshine for better lighting, this is what she did. Beautiful.

DSC_0292

DSC_0282

DSC_0276

DSC_0272

Sassy.

Sassy.

DSC_0258

Also sassy. Cute though, right?

DSC_0245

DSC_0256

Whitewashed exposure. ISO was too high, but I love the effect!

DSC_0252

Sailing off into the distance. Sort of.

Sailing off into the distance. Sort of.

I am always amazed at the stark contrast between the bluest sky and the puffiest of cotton ball clouds. They are an eternal fascination of mine, and both subjects I like to include in my photos.

Calhoun

DSC_0317

DSC_0235

Here are some girly/ sisterly love shots. Thanks to my photographer brother in law Brad, we were able to capture these precious moments.
Sister love.

Sister love.

True sister love.

True sister love.

It's not easy modeling while the pup is chasing a squirrel scent.

It’s not easy modeling while the pup is chasing a squirrel scent.

More love.

More love.

DSC_0348

As good as it gets!

After our beachy photo shoot, it was on to the cheesiest of all lunches. This hot little number warmed us up, body and soul, after the aforementioned chilly fall off-the-lake breeze. Thank you, French Meadow for your continued excellence!

Mac N Cheese

I am so excited to see these two again soon, and photograph them at Thanksgiving. WITH THEIR NEW PUPPY! Abraham. He and Huckleberry will be the cutest of subjects.

On a side {but sortof related} note, I am entirely excited to be taking photos of a dear friend’s little ones this week. Pray for lovely weather, the grace to know which camera settings to use at which time and the sunshine and lighting of these photos. Here we go, photographer-girl!!

xoxo

An Apple a Day.

We’ve been eating apples a lot lately. Like it’s our job.  In lunches, as after school snacks, and smeared in apple butter form {a serendipitous moment of “I followed the recipe for overnight crock pot applesauce, but woke up to one overcooked, browned batch of newly named apple butter”}. A peck {or so} of macintosh apples made its way home with me after visiting Pine Tree Apple Orchard in White Bear Lake last week.

DSC_0170

DSC_0168

Makes me think of the song from Guys and Dolls, “I love you, a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.”

You’re welcome for that.

DSC_0223

DSC_0226

DSC_0230

Back to the orchard. I was hoping we’d get to pick our own apples. My family used to drive our red minivan out into Star Orchard’s cortland and macintosh rows to pick the choiciest, juiciest brown paper bagfulls of apples. Applesauce making and apple pie baking ensued. Nothing like breaking out the apple peeler-corer-slicer.  I can feel the spicy, warm cinnamon and nutmeggy scent wrap me up in a cozy plaid flannel blanket of warmth.

DSC_0262

DSC_0221

While Pine Tree Apple Orchard didn’t do pick your own {or they did, but it was much easier to pick up a couple of bags in their apple shop considering how busy the place was}, we still had a lovely time crunching through leaves, traipsing down the rows of trees and photographing it all, to every last cartwheel, caramel apple, and cornstalk.

peekaboo.

Peekaboo.

DSC_0240

My lovely hometown girl Emily and I usually spend some Sunday time together. This past Sunday we planted ourselves at the farm for some girl time. She happily agreed to be my apple orchard model.

I wish you warmth and crisp apples and a house that smells like autumn.  Happy October!

DSC_0193

A bushel and a peck. and a bushel and a peck. and a bushel and a peck...

A bushel and a peck. and a bushel and a peck. and a bushel and a peck…

DSC_0174

Waiting in line with the other apple-obsessed Minnesotans.

Waiting in line with the other apple-obsessed Minnesotans.

Sorting the pretties from the baking apples.

Sorting the pretties from the baking apples.

The half inch of caramel envelopping this apple made for a perfect energy-spiking lunch.

The half inch of caramel envelopping this apple made for a perfect energy-spiking lunch.

Knotty picnic table.

Knotty picnic table.

Autumn sunshine.

Autumn sunshine.

Apple picknickers.

Apple picknickers.

White Bear Lake and Shore.

White Bear Lake.

DSC_0208

This makes me want to climb halfway up, pick and apple to eat, and swing my legs while sitting on the branch.

DSC_0215

DSC_0216

Sun and Shadows.

DSC_0211

DSC_0227

Golden Delicious.

DSC_0224

DSC_0238

DSC_0234

DSC_0233

By the corn maze.

DSC_0236

DSC_0232

DSC_0231

Some yoga happened.

Some yoga happened.

Em has some serious balance!

Em has some serious balance!

Obligatory selfie. Not so easy with a Nikon D90.

Obligatory selfie. Not so easy with a Nikon D90.

Cartwheel 1.

Cartwheel 1…

...and cartwheel 2.

…and cartwheel 2.

More knots.

More knots.

DSC_0265

DSC_0266

DSC_0268

Love how her blue earring pops.

Homeward bound. Country in the city.

Homeward bound. Country in the city.

Somepup was really pumped to snuggle with me when I came home.

Somepup was really pumped to snuggle with me when I came home. Talk about cozy.

 

The State Fair!

I’m a little late on posting about the state fair, but, mark your calendar for next end-of-August. It’s sunny and delightful and street after street of food booths and music and animals and art.

Minnesotans {in general} wait 11 months for this event-of-the-year.  They save change, collected from pockets and under car seats and between couch cushions to have an extra bit of fair spending money.  They plan their routes and essential stops as if they’re on a safari hunt. For cheese curds.

IMG_1672

IMG_1677

One of the first things we did after moving here last summer was go to the fair with my aunt, uncle, and cousins. Welcome to Minnesota!

IMG_1656

IMG_1683

This year, my love and I went solo, but ended up meeting some friends who happened to be going to see the Macklemore concert that night at the grandstand.  We shared Australian potatoes. DELICIOUS.

IMG_1641

IMG_1707

IMG_1659

The fair prides itself on being in competition for the biggest state fair in the nation {Texas is our biggest competition}. You could walk around for days just eating deep fried food on sticks. Some people do! One afternoon was just perfect for us, thank you. :) A lovely date that involved people watching, our beloved cheese curds, and about four miles of walking.

IMG_1702

Our day took us to a few favorite spots:

The only cheese curds booth to stop at.  None of the others know how to deep fry them right.

IMG_1661

IMG_1660

IMG_1663

Tip – bring a camelback full of water. We were so glad we did… it was in the nineties that day!

Local craft beers and garlic fries.

IMG_1684

IMG_1687

The dairy barn and this strawberry rhubarb malt. {it’s not tomato sauce, promise.}

IMG_1621

IMG_1625

They also have dairy princess busts carved into blocks of butter. Yes. You read that correctly. One per county.

IMG_1622

IMG_1623

The miracle of birth barn. There are fluffy, downy chicks, piglets, sheep, and calves. Adorableness. {Side note and little known Aly fact: As a little girl, I actually wanted to grow up to be a farmer.  Except for the getting up at 4 am daily and the constant smell of manure and the fact that I can’t really keep plants alive for longer than a couple of months it’s not a bad career choice…}

IMG_1640

The local artists building. A good break from stuffing our faces with deep fried deliciousness.

IMG_1682

IMG_1667

An old timey dinner and a movie joint. Which included roasted corn scallion cream sauce wood fired pizza as well as sweet corn ice cream topped with bacon brown sugar syrup and toffee popcorn. Also, the Addams Family was on. We sat and feasted on our corny dinner and dessert. Watched some corny oldschool tv. The seats were old mini-van benches. Took me back, friends.

IMG_1695

IMG_1696

IMG_1700

IMG_1698

Then, the rain started. We ran the couple miles back to our car {parking is in neighboring Como parking lots and streets – we parked at a local school. Always love to support schools when I can!}.

IMG_1701

I am not entirely sure that all of the walking we did canceled out our deep fried/frozen dairy treats/beer caloric intake, but I’d like to think every now and then having some quirky eats is entirely worth it.

Some other sights we took in:

Shoutout to my friends at the French Meadow!

Shoutout to my friends at the French Meadow!

Beergarita! Authentic, I know.

Beergarita! Authentic, I know.

O'Gara's at the fair. Love the irish flair, and the misters!

O’Gara’s at the fair. Love the irish flair, and the misters!

IMG_1676

The most handsome fair-goer.

Leinie's Lodge - folksy musicians play here all week.

Leinie’s Lodge – folksy musicians play here all week.

Sweet Martha's cookie buckets were everywhere!

Sweet Martha’s chocolate chip cookie buckets were everywhere!

Next time...

Next time…

IMG_1649

Probably never.

Spin in a capsule at a zillion miles per hour and hundreds of feet in the air and then plummet towards earth only to be thrust skyward again? Probably never. No probably about it. Never. Buuuuut, Fresh French fries? Most definitely.

A girl and her pony. Also, love the braids.

A girl and her pony. Lovelovelove the braids.

Hot dish on a stick. Is that possible? Also, Deep Fried Banana Split? Seriously. Only at the fair.

Hot dish on a stick. Is that possible? Also, Deep Fried Banana Split? Seriously. Only at the fair.

Love the Summit!

Love the Summit!

Most definitely will have one of these next time.

Most definitely will have one of these next time.

Everyone in the state. Here with us. F.U.N.!

Everyone in the state. Here with us. F.U.N.!