Trellis Events + The Loft at Studio J Stillwater Wedding / Jillian + Jack

Jillian and Jack met just over four years ago on OkCupid.  They bonded of a mutual love of traveling, comedy, and their love for the greatest city ever, Minneapolis.  As they got to knew each other, they fell deeply in love.  Jack loves Jillian’s compassion and drive to be kind to everyone she meets, and Jillian loves Jack’s ability to make her feel safe and secure so she can truly be herself.  A couple years ago on Jillian’s birthday, Jack proposed after her college graduation.  For their wedding, they chose an outdoor ceremony at Trellis Events then held a reception at The Loft at Studio J in Stillwater, Minnesota.

Everyone arrived at The Loft at Studio J in the afternoon to put on the final touches.  Jack and his portion of the bridal party hung out downstairs in the studio while Jillian and her portion met in the bridal suite.  One of the many things I admire about Jillian and Jack is their impeccable tastes, so of course, everyone looked absolutely stylish and stunning.  The bridesmaid’s dresses were a combination of a deep wine and a lighter pink, the the suites were dark with a pop of color from the flowers that tied everything together.

Once everyone was ready, we traveled to Pioneer Park for the first look.  This park sits on top of a hill and overlooks downtown Stillwater and the river.  Before seeing each other, Jillian and Jack exchanged heart felt letters.  As Jack finished his, Jillian crept up behind him and greeted him by wrapping her arms around his chest.  Jack turned around to see his elegant future wife and the two of them shared a very special moment.

After some photos at the park, the bridal party met us in downtown Stillwater for some group photos.  The river provided a much needed breeze on this sunny and warm September day.  Everyone traveled back to The Loft at Studio J and boarded the Trolley to Trellis Events for their outdoor ceremony.

Trellis sits on the outskirts of downtown Stillwater.  This place is a wedding sanctuary.  Green leafy trees greet you as you enter the wooded path down to the white ceremony tent.  Sparkling chandeliers hung from the ceiling of the tent and at the back was a metal gate adorned with red and white flowers for Jillian and Jack’s ceremony.

Their ceremony featured a reading from the Velveteen Rabbit as well as hand written vows.  Leslie of Positively Charmed shared some wise words with the couple about their love and commitment, and after the exchange of rings, the happy couple kissed and walked down the aisle as husband and wife.

The trolley took the bridal party and family back to The Loft at Studio J for dinner, drinks, and dancing.  The tables were set with vintage matching china that glittered along with the gold tones of the table linens in the candlelight.  There were also a variety of delectable cupcakes on each table for their guests to treat themselves.

Jillian and Jack greeted their guests as they made their way to the buffet line, then took their seats at the head table for toasts.  Both families shared how ecstatic they were with this marriage and how lucky they all were to have Jillian and Jack in their lives.  Jillian’s brother toasted to her as a role model and Jack as a new friend.  Once all the kind words were said, the dance floor opened up with Jillian and Jack’s first dance.  After the formal dances, guests made their way to the dance floor to cut loose and celebrate the newlyweds.

To Jillian and Jack- you both are magnificent!  You two have hearts of gold and are so so kind.  Thank you so very much for letting us be apart of your special day.  Every detail was so perfect and we couldn’t be happier that you two found each other.  We wish you many years of happiness and hope our paths cross again soon!

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The Loft at Studio J Bridal Room Getting Ready

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Photography- Angela Divine Photography

Videography- Prana Lens

Ceremony- Trellis Events 

Reception- The Loft at Studio J

Linens – Linen Effects

Officiant: Positively Charmed

China – Vintage Soiree

Florist – Pristine Floral

Bakery – A Sweet Retreat
Catering: Marna’s 
Transportatoin: Schmitty & Sons
I love the city of Stillwater, Minnesota!  Here are more sessions from there!

The 2010 Blizzard in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Seven years ago from yesterday, 17.1 inches of snow fell in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  It was the largest snowfall for the Twin Cities since the 1991 Halloween Blizzard.  Not only is this the largest snowstorm on record for December for the Twin Cities, but this storm is the fifth largest snowfall in a single storm to hit the Twin Cities since 1891.  I remember that day so well, and maybe you do too- it was a crazy day!  Here’s my story of having to be somewhere and getting absolutely no where.

I remember waking up like it was any other day, despite the fact that it had been snowing for a while.  Seven year ago, I was working three jobs— I was an intern at a photo studio, I worked in a restaurant as a sever, and I taught yoga very part time, so I was always on the road, always busy working.

On this particular morning, I was teaching a yoga class, and arrived at the studio pretty easily.  The roads weren’t great, but I gave myself plenty of time.  When I was done teaching, I had a voicemail from my manager saying it was time to shut it down and cancel the rest of the classes.  I hadn’t even had a chance to look out the window, and when I did, I was shocked.  Half of my tires were buried in snow and getting my car out of the parking lot looked grim.

Luckily, I kept a shovel in my car thanks to my past experiences with plows in college at UW Madison, so I started to dig myself out of the lot and further dig the path out to the street.  I couldn’t keep up.  As soon as I got somewhere, my other path had been buried, so it became dig, move the car, dig move the car.  Luckily, a very nice man with a wrinkled forehead and a big white beard saw me struggling and dug me out of the lot with his bobcat.  That couldn’t have come at a better time.  I think he was my guardian angel.

It took me about an hour to get close to home, and I called my boyfriend (now husband) on my way home to see how the side streets were.  He laughed and told me nothing had been plowed and things were getting worse.  I turned onto my street and immediately got stuck in the snow.  I joined the 15 other cars sprawled over a three block radius where people were out of the vehicles helping each other push their cars out of the snow.

My boyfriend and roommates suited up in their snow pants and heavy gear and made their way out to my car.  It’s amazing what the snow in Minnesota does- it truly bands strangers together.  We helped push the stuck cars to the sides of the roads then cleared a path to attempt to get my car into the garage.  My boyfriend and roommate were two strong men and pushed and pulled my car the best they could.  Next to them were two petite girls (my rommie and me) with a combined weight of less than 200 pounds.  We weren’t much help.  The struggle was so real and it took over an hour to get my car the two blocks to the garage, but we did it.

I took a moment to relax then remembered, I was the on call person at my work that night.  There’s no way I could even come in with this weather.  At this point, the buses had shut down and the city was closing down and telling people not to travel.

Before it was time for me to call in, my work was already calling me.  This was not a good sign.  My heart was beating high into my chest, thumping loud.  When I answered, my manager informed me that I was going to need to come in.  They had called off several people on their normal shift because of the weather, but no one could make it in because they couldn’t get to their cars, so I would have to help out.  I thought it was a joke and laughed.  Nope, they were serious.  I asked how I was going to make it in and explained that I had just been on the roads and there was no way my tiny Nissan Altima was going to make it to Uptown.  They told me they would call me back, but I had to come in.

This is when the tears started.  I couldn’t believe that they expected me to show up.  I totally get that as the on call I am subject to work, but it was something about this situation that made my blood boil.  The only way I was going to get there was to walk and that would have taken me about three hours in a blizzard.

The next hour was the longest hour of my life.  I had already told myself I was just going to have to get written up and maybe fired for not being able to make it.  There was nothing I could do and my boyfriend and roommates agreed.

After an hour, I called them back.  They told me not to come in, it was probably going to be slow anyways.  Really?  Slow in a snowstorm?  WTF.

Some good came out of this experience- my roommates made cookies and I ate a lot of them.  My husband threw out his back and started coming to yoga- something he now loves.

I hope we don’t get another blizzard like this, but it’s inevitable.  I think when a blizzard hits, we should all just go home and stay there for a while.  Don’t yiy>

If you have an interesting story from this epic snowfall- I’m all ears!  Reach on out- I’d love to listen!



Minneapolis Newborn Photography / James, Jennifer + Joe

Jennifer and Joe were head over heals when they found out that they were expecting.  They were ready to start a family and at the end of July this past year, their newest addition, James, entered the world.  For their newborn session, they wanted natural and genuine photos of James but also of the three of them as a family.  I rented my friend’s beautiful space, Block studios, so the four of us could relax, hang out and get to know each other through the session.

When Jennifer and Joe arrived, James was waking up.  His big blue eyes peaked out from behind the blankets in his car seat.  Joe slowly brought him out of the car seat to change him into his white knitted diaper for the session.  After a few photos, James was hungry, so we took a break from the session to let James eat and get to know each other better.

Jennifer and Joe have been married for eight years.  They said that being new parents had been incredible.  James likes to stay awake during the day which makes it easier for them to sleep at night.  Joe had been off from work on his paternity leave, but was due back the next week for his first official full week back in the office.  Although this schedule would be new to them, they said they had been playing everything by ear.  They had been letting things unfold and working with whatever came their way, which coming from new parents is inspiring for those of us out there (me!) who want a family but are little frightened by the whole life changing schedule thing.

After eating, James was awake and happy for photos.  He was so sweet and easy to work with during our session.  His energy was very calm and relaxed, just like his parents, and their photos show just that.  I hope to see the three of these amazing humans soon- working with them was a dream come true- and to Jennifer and  Joe (if you are reading this) congratulations on James!  You two are already great parents!

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I’m so happy for these three!  I have more newborn sessions below if you want to see more of these natural moments with parents and their babies.

Theo’s newborn shoot – 10/2/16 – St. Paul, Minnesota

Welcome, Seamus – 8/18/16- Minneapolis, Minnesota


My Second Vipassana

Wednesday afternoon, I packed a suitcase full of pajamas and blankets and headed to Dhamma Visuddhi meditation center in Menomonie, Wisconsin.  When I arrived, I turned in my cell phone, was assigned a lower bunk bed, and after a light meal with about 10 other women, took a vow of noble silence that would last through most of Saturday.  The course was technically three days long and consisted of a time table of waking up at 4 am, then meditating on and off for about 13 hours a day until 9pm.  Vegetarian meals and tea are provided, and the hardest part was the fact that after 12, there was no eating which meant no dinner.  When I tell people about everything, they often ask WHY would I do this?  As intense as the schedule and silence may sound, it comes with great benefit.   

First and foremost- Vipasanna is not a religion or a cult- it is a universal technique of meditation that helps people see things as they really are.  It is one of India’s most ancient techniques and was used by Buddha more than 2500 years ago to find enlightenment.  As I mentioned, it is universal.  You can practice this technique and still be apart of an organized religion because it is simply learning to use your own breath and sensations to purify your mind.

The path consists of three parts- Sila or moral restraints, Panna or wisdom, and Samadhi or concentration.  Here are the five precepts anyone must take as their Sila when coming to the center:

1- to obstain from killing.  This sounds easy- but when there’s a big spider in your room and you have to reolacte it using a cup, it can be a little more challenging.  Hence why I will never do a Vipassana in Thailand, India, or pretty much anywhere where there are giant bugs.

 2- to abstain from stealing

3- to abstain from sexual activity

4- to abstain from telling lies

5- to abstain from all intoxicants

Since I’m an old student- meaning I’ve done a 10 day course- there were three other precepts for this course-

6- no eatting after middday- so no dinner, no nothing after 12 (this was rough!!!)

7- no seneusal entertainment and body decorations- take off your jewlery, makeup and forget about your hair

8- abstain from using luxurious beds

For the technique to work, you have to surrender yourself completely and really try it out, which means while you are there, there is no yoga, exercise, reading, writing, or practicing other rituals like prayer.  You are also in noble silence which means there is no communication with anyone outside of the course or at the course.  Noble silence means no eye contact with others, no body language, so you pretty much have to act like you are all by yourself.  If you truly need something, you can communicate with the servers or the assistant teachers when they have their office hours.  Sounds lovely so far, doesn’t it?

 The first 1/3 of any course is spent learning the first part of the technique called anapana.  Anapana meditation teaches you to observe your natural breath.  Sounds easy, but again, not so much if you are coming from a yoga background like me.  In yoga, we use forced respiration which calms the surface levels of our minds, but anapana wants you to observe breath as it naturally is.  It may be soft, loud, quick, long, whatever it is, you must observe, and keeping focus on your breath sharpens the mind for the second part of the technique- Vispassana.

Once the mind is sharp, it starts to feel sensation all over the body.  The body is constnatly changing and that’s why we feel sensation.  While practicing Vipassana, you comb your body from head to toe feeling sensation but the key factor here is that you cannot react to it.  Sometimes sensation feels good- tingling, light and airy, other times it is solidified and feels like pain or numbing.  The key is to have no preference and remain equanimous.  Remaining equanimous and just being ok with whatever sensation you feel goes to the root level of our minds and snips what causes our misery.

According to this technique, the root of our misery is preference.  We feel something good and we cling- we attach and we crave for more.  When there is no more, we become very sad.  An easy example is a nice warm vacation in cold winter- everything is so beautiful, you have drinks on the beach and enjoy time away from work, but then you have to go home and you are so sad.

 The other way our mind reacts is with aversion or dislike.  Our mind doesn’t want something so it pushes it away and generates misery because it doesn’t want it.  Example would be construction- it’s annoying, it causes your work commute to be an extra fifteen minutes, and you get red in the face every drive at work until it’s over.

But the thing is, nothing is permanent, nothing lasts forever, and all things change, so we get stuck in this constant cycle of craving and aversion that makes us miserable.  To find ultimate liberation, we must change the habit pattern of our minds, and Vipassana aims to do just that.

 It doesn’t happen in one course, it doesn’t happen in two, it happens over time, and for me, many life times.  I went back to the center because I needed to clean my mind.  Things were getting very dark for me, and I wasn’t seeing things as they really are.  I was focusing on the negative in myself and in others. 

My experience—

Going back scared the crap out of me.  I knew what was coming, and that almost made it worse.  I was afraid of the schedule and especially the precept about no dinner.  

My second course was just as challenging as my first.  Every day started off easy, but around 4pm, I would get crabby and tired.  My back ached, my butt was constantly numb, and I just wanted to go home. My mind was restless and hard to tame.  It wandered to the past, into the future, and into day dreams that I never hope to experience.  For a while, I felt  hopeless.   I had tied so many knots and multiplied my misery so much since the last course, it was a battle that I wasn’t going to win.  

On the final day, I had a few breakthroughs.  There were a lot of tears, and I felt some large sankaras (positive and negative reactions from the past) peel away.  On the final day, we also practice a technique called metta which helps you share your peace and love with others.  It was then that I felt in contact with Dhamma or the plain, undistorted truth of the universe.   When you feel this connection to the truth and peace that exists in the universe, it’s overwhelming, or at least it is for me.  Tears streamed down my face.  I felt touched, like someone had extended an olive branch to me and was saying, welcome back to reality.  I then felt the ability to share my merits of peace with everyone around me, and it was straight up and down beautiful.  This same experience happened to me at the first course, and let me tell you, there’s nothing I’ve ever felt like it.

I’m so grateful for the opportunity to sit a this course.  It showed me exactly why I was miserable and what I needed to do in this stage of my life to stay happy.  I had stepped off the path.  I was doing so much in my life and got wrapped up in a cycle of constant comparison and instant gratification.  I stopped meditating seriously, and it had a huge affect on my happiness and behavior.  I now will take my meditation seriously because when I do, it helps me see the beauty in myself and the world around me.  It helps me see how worthy I am of love and how worthy everyone is of love and happiness.

I could write about this all day, but I think it’s probably time to stop.  If you want to learn more about the technique, the center, and my experience, reach out to me using the contact form on my site.  If you ever have the opportunity to do a Vipassana, please do.  It will change your life!!!  It’s not going to change what happens to you, but it will change how you see what happens to you and how you handle it.

There is so much peace in the universe that we are blind to, and it connects you straight to it.  It shows you exactly why you are miserable and helps you understand how to stop multiplying your misery.   All around us is peace, we just have to connect to it.  Thanks for reading, and I hope this inspires you to be brave, to love yourself, and to love others.

Let’s all be happy.

More resources on Vipassana-

Minnesota Apple Orchard Engagement Session / 10.20.17 / Janelle + Justin

Janelle and Justin met online.  When asked why they connected, Janelle said she reached out to Justin because his profile picture was with his dog.  She figured if his profile picture was with his dog, he must be a true dog lover just like her.  She was so right, and it was Justin and his childhood dog.  For their engagement session, they wanted to do something fun and festive for fall, so they chose Sponsel’s Minnesota Harved Apple Ochard in Jordan, Minnesota.

Sponsel’s has a bit of everything ranging from apple cider beer and wine to home made apple pie.  I arrived a bit early so I could load up on some home made apple cider (it’s my favorite fall drink) and grab a few pumpkins to carve.  After getting out of my car, I walked by a table where Janelle, Justin, Janelle’s brother (Josh), and their dog Finn were enjoying a nice cider beer in the warm fall sun.  They had taken the day off and were enjoying an excellent Friday evening.  I like their style, straight chilling.

There was so much to do at Sponsel’s Minnesota Harvest, so we started off in the apple orchard for some apple picking.  The grove of trees was exploding with round, red apples.  Justin lifted Janelle to the tree tops to pick some fresh ones and gather them into their basket.  Finn ran between the trees, stopping to pose with mom and dad when asked, their dog is adorable.

After the apple picking, we made our way into a very orange forest where the leaves on the ground were piled high.  Beyond the forest was a very muddy corn maze.  It didn’t take too many steps in before everyone realized we might not get out with all of our shoes, so we turned around and headed to the other side of the orchard where you could see the golden glow of the sun striking the grass.

Janelle and Justin love to be silly and have fun, and their images show just that.  They were down for anything, weather it be rolling in the grass, throwing leaves at each other, climbing on an old abandoned car.  These are the kind of people I love working with because you can’t help but just join in the fun.

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Fall Minnesota Apple Orchard Engagement PhotosSponselMinnesota Harvest Apple Orchard Engagement Session Photographer

Aren’t these two great?  I loved this Minnesota apple orchard engagement session.  Here are some other amazing fall engagement sessions from this year with dogs!

Boom Island Engagement Session / Tiff and Brendan

Coldwater Spring Engagement Session / 10.9.17 / Sam + Cory