I’m writing this on 7/21/19. Cancer is a horrible thief. Cancer took my best friend, my sweet boy who I miss so much. I am completely devastated by this loss of my loyal sweet boy. His first symptom was on June 26th, just a few weeks ago he sneezed and a tiny little speck of blood with some clear discharge came out of his nose onto the ground. It was such a tiny speck of blood I thought maybe it was from a scratch in his nose as he loves to root around so much in the sharp pokey brush around the property. I was slightly concerned…

Then just two weeks ago we were out walking when he sneezed and some snot shot out onto the driveway. I could see it and was shocked as it was clearly streaked with blood. I have had dogs all my life and had never known a dog to have snot, let alone snot with blood in it. I knew this was not good. I ran in the house and grabbed my cell phone and took a picture of it then called the vet. Big was diagnosed with nasal cancer. The vet said usually 1-3 months to live, but in one case a miracle occurred and a dog lived one whole year. The progression of this cancer was extremely fast. Last Sunday we thought we were going to loose him for sure, there was a lot of blood coming from his nose and his mouth. I thought he was going to bleed out. he lost about a cup and a half of blood that we could see, not including blood that likely went down his throat over a period of just a few hours. Our vet gave him some strong anti inflammatory medications that were supposed to slow the growth and provide him with some relief. His airway seemed to be closing as sometimes when he was breathing he sounded like he was snoring very loudly. Within a few days he could no longer breath through his nose at all. He could only breath through his mouth and it was very challenging for him. On Thursday I noticed that his limbs would sometimes tremble fast and he would loose use of one or two of them at a time. The vet said the reason for that is he was not getting enough oxygen. the limbs are the last part of the body to get oxygen, so they were experiencing that loss. By Thursday he was having obvious pain when he tried to eat or drink (he would yelp). By Friday he hardly drank water anymore and wouldn’t even eat a piece of cheese. His breathing was so labored that with each breath his rib cage got huge as he tried to take in air. By this time there was a constant drip of blood from his nose and mouth and he seemed absolutely miserable. I knew he was near the end and could not bare to see him suffer so much. In hind sight, I wish I would have made the call sooner. We called a vet out to the house on Saturday afternoon. He died peacefully Saturday afternoon at 3:00. After we said our good bye and he had passed, I opened his mouth to get a better look at his tumor and I was absolutely shocked at what I saw. The tumor was so huge it had split the roof of his mouth and looked like it was splitting his head in half from within. It was also protruding out so far I’m surprised he was able to close his mouth at all. I can’t even imagine how painful that must have been. I wish I had ended his suffering sooner. I felt awful. Our family is devastated by the loss of our sweet boy and miss him so much….words cannot even describe the grief I am feeling over this loss. I loved him so much!
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Rest in peace sweet boy, I hope you know how much I love you. You were the best dog I ever had and taken from us way too soon. The house is so quiet now without you, we are devastated…

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I absolutely love Pad Thai….BUT, the only time I have ever had it at a restaurant and actually liked it was at Big Bowl.  I have ordered it so many times all over during our travels but am so disappointed.  I have been tweaking a recipe over the years and I think I have finally have it (dare I say) perfected. 20190626_124355I have it pictured above with sesame seeds but I don’t usually use them. Also, pictured is my daughter’s cute doggo “Junie” they were over visiting for the day. She is the sweetest dog I have ever met, you can follow her story on here Instagram
So, anyhoo….back to the recipe:

Must have:
Crushed peanuts
Fresh Bean Sprouts
Fresh lime juice (one or 2 limes)
Fresh cilantro
large cuts of green onion
Flat Thai rice noodles
the sauce (recipe below)

Optional:
julienne carrots-about 2 large
about a half of an onion thick sliced
rough chopped garlic 2 large cloves
snap peas chopped-handful
1 large jalapeno pepper (mandolin or very thin sliced)
1 or 2 chili thai peppers (mandolin or very thin sliced)
Cubed firm tofu

Make the rice noodles, rinse in cold water, strain, set aside.

Make the sauce-in small saucepan combine and heat on high:
(heat just to boil then set aside)
3 T. Fish sauce
1 heaping T. chili oil sauce (see pic below) got this at Whole Foods
1 T. Soy Sauce
5 T. brown sugar
1 T. rice vinegar
If you like it really spicy you can add Sriracha to add more heat or more hot sliced peppers.

In a large fry pan, heat up about 5T. peanut oil on high, add cubed tofu or other desired protein, heat until a little crispy on edges. Some of it will stick to the pan, that’s ok. Add garlic & onions, then carrots, toss. Remove pan from heat, squeeze the juice of 1/2 of a lime over everything in the pan, let it sit and “sweat”. Once things cool down a bit it will loosen and a spoon or spatula will easily scrape everything loose that’s stuck to the pan. Now bring back to high heat, add noodles and sauce, mix around in pan, then push everything over to the side, add a T. butter to the pan, then 2 eggs, stir them up a bit so they will be “scrambled” and let sit a bit. Once pan has heated up nicely and eggs are almost cooked fully, mix everything up. remove from heat again and add rest of ingredients (crushed peanuts, green onions, cilantro, fresh bean sprouts, more lime juice) just before you plate the food (or even after its plated-will look pretty)
20190627_103714This stuff is magical, you HAVE to get some…seriously so good!!!

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02Many of you know our daughter got married on our property last Saturday and it was one of the happiest days of my life! I wanted to share the behind the scenes details of how we saved thousands on her beautiful wedding. According to the Knot the average wedding in the Midwest is $39,000 with the average number of guests being 136. We were able to keep under the budget of $20,000 with 120 guests.
My daughter and her fiancé wanted to get married on our property, which I was absolutely thrilled about! I’ve been photographing weddings since 1988.  I’ve gotten to know a lot of vendors, who is really good, who is not so good, who is less expensive but still awesome etc., and also learned a lot about what goes into planning a wedding.

  • Tent/Rentals We knew one of the first steps besides hiring our key vendors was to select a tent/rental company and although we did get quotes from 3 other companies just to compare, we pretty much knew we would go with Apres because of the reputation they have. I will say this-hindsight being 20/20 I learned a lot from that experience and there are a few things I would do differently. For example I was not expecting to have to clean the farm tables, tighten bolts on them and also wipe down the 120 wooden folding chairs. I also did not realize it would take over 8 hours for the crew to put up the tent (my fault for not asking). By the time they were done I just wanted them off of my property so we could start putting things in the tent like the 50 bottles of wine, decorations, linens, etc that I did not feel comfortable doing while they were still setting the tent up. As a result we were working past dark to load things into the tent and although it wasn’t that big of a deal, I did not anticipate that. If I were to do it again, knowing that we won’t be able to start until about 5:00pm I would have had a bunch of people helping.  I am SOOO glad we went with the Textilene Mesh Sidewalls. I would never use anything else if I were having a tented wedding! They allowed air to pass/circulate but were still heavy enough to protect from heavy winds and rain (which we ended up needing the morning of the wedding). Plus they looked so pretty!  You could see out through them.  Plastic sidewalls, even when partially open just do not allow enough air circulation, even with fans going. I can’t tell you how many weddings I have been to or photographed where you could smell the plastic tent and the air felt heavy and damp from the trapped moisture. Plus, I think Textilene Mesh Sidewalls visually just look way better!

Things that helped keep the cost down:

  • DIY-Over the time frame of the 18 months of planning I hand made all of the signs, the 8 foot wedding arbor, head table backdrop wall, donut wall, yard games, paper goods like invites, menus, program fans, table numbers and many other items for the wedding. If you’re not crafty, many of these things can be purchased on Facebook Marketplace groups for really cheap. I actually bought the outdoor LED string lights used from someone on Facebook and paid about half of what they would have been new. I highly recommend LED string lights if you are using generators for power, they barely use any gas at all as opposed to the non LED type that we had inside the tent that hogged more gas than anything else including the DJ’s equipment or the air conditioned luxury porta potty trailer that had three bathrooms inside.
  • Our caterers were seriously AMAZING and were surprisingly inexpensive. I highly recommend them! The company’s name is Classic Catering. Classic’s staff went way above and beyond and also was extremely professional; they even helped with all of the decorations for the tables and escort cards (which were DIY of course).
  • Our Luxury Porta Potty Trailers  We used Biffs, they are way cheaper than other companies and were absolutely great!  We had guests raving about them, which admittedly is a little weird, but still very nice to hear.

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The two areas that we splurged a bit: Photography and Flowers. Photography because after the wedding all you have left are the photographs and we value high quality photography of course, and for flowers of course we hired one of the best in the Twin Cities: Terri Uy-Lennon but we saved by not doing flowers for parents or grandparents. We also saved flower petals from the rehearsal dinner for the flower girls to scatter down the aisle, and Terri designed the large greenery swag to double as a head table decoration (we just had a designated person remove it after the ceremony and place it on the head table). Well designed floral arrangements can really make a big difference in the décor, it was important to me to not go cheap on the flowers, so I was really glad my daughter agreed. People kept asking me: “So who is going to photograph your daughter’s wedding, you’re not going to are you?” My answer was of course not, I wanted to be in the pictures, not be the one taking them, I wanted to be just a mom, not working at my daughter’s wedding! But obviously I know a lot of photographers, so I made a list of about 10 photographers and let her choose. She invited me along for some of the interviews, which was fun. In the end she chose Melissa Hesse from Rivets and Roses and we couldn’t have been happier with her choice! Melissa and her assistant Lucy did an excellent job, they were very professional and worked very hard to capture everything that was happening. The images are perfect and I can’t imagine a better fit for my daughter’s wedding.

More advice/things I learned:

  • Helpers Choosing the right people to help out is key. My daughter picked friends who had worked as RA’s at her college, they were hard workers who understood there was a lot of work to do and really got things done! They did not stand around chit chatting or goofing off. They followed their instructions we provided them to a “T” and even trouble shooted issues, seemed genuinely happy to be helping and even went above and beyond what we asked or expected of them. They were very mature, well-adjusted adults who understood how busy we all were doing what needed to be done and were an absolute pleasure to have helping out.
  • Power/Lights We were lucky that we did have a few outlets close by the site that we ended up using for one of our giant tripod lights at night and also for the ceremony, but most of the power came from generators that we rented from Sun Belt rentals. They were extremely helpful and very reasonably priced. The equipment was top notch; the generators we used were very quiet. One area of our property was converted into a parking lot for cars and required a light source so people were able to see when they went back to their vehicles at night. We rented a 4000 watt vertical mast light tower that had a built in generator that ran on diesel fuel. We ran it for about 5 hours and only used about ¼ of a tank. It was the perfect amount of light for about 70 cars parked on about 2 acres of land. We also rented a 2000 watt tripod light stand for another area away from the tent before the parking lot area. I’m happy to provide details if anyone has questions. We used 2- Honda 3000 watt inverter generators, one for the string lights inside of the tent (they were not LED) and one shared by the luxury air conditioned porta potty trailor (from Biff’s) and the beer tap trailer/cooler, and one 2000 watt generator for the DJ. I worried a little bit about the power, not knowing when we would need to refill generators with gas or if we would need to refill them. The big surprise ended up being how much the string lights inside the tent bogged down the generator’s power and how much gas they used. We had to fill that generator twice from the string lights, none of the other generators had to be re filled at all and actually barely touched the gas. In hindsight I would never use anything but LED lights. Not only did they require an incredible amount of power, there seemed to be shorts in the cords as we had intermittent problems with some sections going out and then randomly back on. (our inside tent lights were provided by and installed by Apres, who since the wedding apologized and reported to me that they will be retiring those lights and replacing them with LEDs in the future.
  • Plan for Wind! One thing I underestimated was wind.  On the wedding day the wind was at around 9mph, which isn’t too bad, but it was windy enough that the florist was faced with some challenges with tables blowing over that were not weighted down and small floral arrangements blowing away.  Sand bags or plastic bags of driveway or water softener salt were placed over the table bases of the high top tables.  We also had to add 2 inch thick wood cookies to each of the high top tables to weigh them down and prevent the linens from blowing off.  Sign easels and sandwich board signs had to be anchored to the ground with thick twine and landscape stakes pushed down into the ground.  We also had some potted fern plants that kept tipping over from the wind, we set big rocks around them to help with that.  I was surprised that the wind was strong enough to flip tables over that were not weighted down with our big heavy wood cookies and other decorations.  We had 3 sides of the tent completely closed and one side partially open.  By about 5:00 the wind stopped, but leading up to that point (setting up and pre-ceremony) it was a little hectic dealing with the wind.

These are just a few things I wanted to jot down before I forgot, I will update this post when I have more time, but feel free to contact me if you have any questions! More photos coming soon!!!

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My beautiful daughter Athena on the left and her beautiful bride Carleigh on the right. What an amazing day I’ll never forget!

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Sometimes someone taking a picture during the ceremony can be really cute, but sometimes it can actually ruin your wedding photos.  If you are willing to take that chance, that’s up to you of course, but here’s a few things to consider:

This is an adorable image that I captured of the bride’s dad taking pictures during the ceremony:IMG_3847-copy

A news story with some real life examples:

Wonder how couples enforce an unplugged wedding? To start with, just for the record I’m all for unplugged for the simple reason that it’s important to me as a person to be present and focused, I feel your guests should have that, but I do also realize it’s not my wedding, so if you decide it’s not for you then I support you 100% and can work around whatever your guests do!  I would like to add that of the hundreds of weddings that I have photographed that have been unplugged, not one of my couples has regretted the decision. Back to enforcement: First things first, make it clear to your guests from the beginning, then repeat.  Any opportunity to make your wishes known should be taken.  Your wedding website, even invites can include instructions for your guests.  Spread the word among friends and family that you will need their help getting the word out.  You can be funny or formal, whichever your style, just make it known.  Signs tend to get ignored at weddings, so consider having your officiant make an announcement that you request their full and complete presence so they can feel “all the feels”.

Another thing to consider is who you hire to capture video of your wedding.  Have you seen those large steady cams?  How about one of those just inches from your face as you recite your vows during the ceremony?  Some very talented videographers may be very good at capturing footage for commercial ads, but may not have the ability, talent or correct equipment to properly capture a wedding.  The videographer you hire should have lenses that are able to zoom in from a distance during the ceremony, so they don’t become a part of the ceremony and block everyone’s view (including guests and your photographer’s view).

 

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