Anyone who knows me knows I’m a dog nut. We have three dogs: Big, Alice and Ruby. Alice and Ruby are the old ladies and Big AKA “Biggie” is the young, high energy goof ball. Alice and Ruby were “designer” dogs (purchased from breeders when we were looking for something very specific. Biggie is a rescue that someone mistook as our Alice. We tried for four years to find his owner. He is now officially “ours”. I have to admit he’s my favorite-shh, don’t tell Alice, she would get angry! He’s just so lovable, and he is such a mommy’s boy. he is so protective and loyal. I have no doubt that he would give his life for me. Dogs in general too, when I’m taking a walk with my hubby and we come across someone with a dog, it seems like dogs always look at me and smile, so to me the natural response is to say hi! My husband thinks it’s goofy. Anyway, when my clients ask me if they can include the dog in the engagement session I am all over that! So obviously this was an especially fun session because the doggie was included:

IMG_6673-copyIMG_6734IMG_6756IMG_6788IMG_6811IMG_6829IMG_6724-copy

Share on FacebookTweet LinkPin on Pinterest69,109,97,105,108,32,77,101eM liamE

Tonight I had the incredible honor of photographing one of the most inspiring people I have ever met.

I photographed Nikki’s beautiful family 3 years ago. We had a wonderful time “playing” in downtown St. Paul. It was a wonderful relaxed lifestyle type session. The results were beautiful. I was thrilled that they remembered me-Nikki’s wife Jenny sent me an email a couple of months ago asking me if I would be interested in photographing an event for them. Nikki was recently appointed to the bench in Ramsey County (judge) and they wanted the swearing in ceremony to be photographed. I was so honored that they thought of me, of course I said yes! I had never attended a swearing in ceremony before, I went through the photographic planning process with Jenny through email. It sounded very similar to a wedding logistically speaking. Getting ready, family portraits, guest of honor portraits, then documentary for the rest of the evening. Well, let me tell you…this event was one of the most inspiring events I had ever experienced. Maybe a close second to photographing a home birth…that was amazing too. Anyway, I really wish I would have had an audio recording of everything that was said-the opening remarks by the Honorable Teresa R. Warner, Chief Judge Second Judicial District, Comments by John Choi, Ramsey County Attorney, and Patrick Kittridge, Ramsey County Chief Public Defender, and especially her special remarks-The Honorable Judge Starr (Nikki) herself. Some of the things that really stood out during the opening remarks were all of the examples of the incredible things Nikki has done for humanity, in the name of humanity, but especially the story about helping a man’s family when most people would have probably turn away. I think most of us would not have the intelligence or strength to do some of the things she has done. She is just an incredible human being, an example of what we all should be. One of the (many) things that stood out for me during Nikki’s special remarks was when she thanked her parents for demanding she think for herself, overcome diversity, be creative and something like being a pioneer…oh how I wish I could remember, it was perfect and eloquent, you’ll just have to take my word! I was in tears through most of her remarks. I just know that Nikki’s parents are awesome and they should do seminars on how to be an effective parent and raise perfect children! I would pay to sit and listen to that!

IMG_6953IMG_7073-2IMG_7090

Share on FacebookTweet LinkPin on Pinterest69,109,97,105,108,32,77,101eM liamE

One of our family traditions is for each person’s birthday, they get to pick any kind of cake they can imagine.  It can be one I’ve made before, or one they have imagined.  This is one that I imagined.  I made Key Lime Pie cupcakes for my daughter’s high school graduation party last year.  Apparently they really impressed my son Eric because he has requested this flavor cake for his birthday this year.  Yum!  I can’t wait to make it!  I’ll be using my basic cake recipe then add grated lime zest and fresh lime juice.  I’ll use my basic cream cheese frosting recipe and do the same-add grated lime zest and fresh lime juice!  Super easy, and super yummy! 

Update: So I made this cake for my son’s birthday on Sunday and it was soo good! I decided to do the ombre effect:

IMG_8746

Share on FacebookTweet LinkPin on Pinterest69,109,97,105,108,32,77,101eM liamE

I love Easter family gatherings! I love time with family, seeing how big some of the little ones have gotten, playing catch up with the parents, aunts, uncles, in laws and grandparents. I love exchanging recipes-when everyone brings something it’s so enjoyable for everyone. Bringing your own thing is kind of like sharing a little bit of yourself. This year my mother in law hosted. One of the things I brought was this speckled malted milk cake. The cake has malted milk powder and the frosting has malted milk powder-it was sooo good! I love how my father in law responded to my description of the cake; he said “You are so evil Michelle-I LOVE malted milk!” He loved it so much he had two pieces-SUCCESS! I really had fun making this one-the speckles are really fun to do.malted-milk-cake

Speckled Malted Milk Cake Recipe
2 cups of flour
1 cup malted milk powder
3 tsp. baking powder
3/4 cup of unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs-separated
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup of milk

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and dust with flour 2 8-inch round cake pans.
Sift flour, malted milk powder and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add egg yolks one at a time, beat until well blended.
On low speed, mix in flour mixture and milk, alternating a little bit at a time until well blended. Set aside.
Beat egg whites until stiff and glossy. Gently fold in to the batter mixture. Pour into pans, bake for 25 minutes

Frosting
1 cup of unsalted butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1 cup of malted milk powder
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 T. milk
gel food coloring
toasted shredded coconut
malted milk eggs, or Cadbury eggs (pictured)

Mix butter with beaters in large bowl until light and fluffy.
Add powdered sugar and malted milk powder, one cup at a time, vanilla and milk.
Beat until well blended. Add desired coloring. I went for a vintage peach color.

Make sure cake layers are completely cooled. I put them in the refrigerator covered with plastic wrap until they were cold.

It made it easier to ice the cake.

Speckled effect
Mix 1 tsp. cocoa with 1 tsp. vanilla extract (mixture should be like paint)
Dip (clean) barbecue brush in paint (the stiffer the brush the better)
Flick the brush to splatter speckles onto the cake.

Share on FacebookTweet LinkPin on Pinterest69,109,97,105,108,32,77,101eM liamE

My oldest son Andrew took this photo of me with my grandson:20150310_133535 copycopySometimes you have to take time for family. I have had this one on my bucket list for a long time! Bringing our whole family including our grandson to one of our favorite places on the planet-Cozumel.  I got to introduce my 4 year old grandson to the beautiful Caribbean.  We snorkeled, ate delicious traditional Cozumel food, the best chips, salsa and fresh guacamole on the planet and explored the island together.  It was so fun, this was a dream come true for me!  With another grandchild on the way, we’ll have to do it again, I cannot wait, it was just awesome!  Here’s a slideshow of our trip:

If you are interested in planning a trip to Cozumel, I have been vacationing there since 2000, so I know the island well!  Cozumel is amazingly affordable besides warm, fun, safe and beautiful! I love being helpful, so feel free to contact me if you would like some insider tips!  It makes for a wonderful location for a destination wedding too!
There are many wonderful options for vacation rental properties and hotels. We have found the best value in renting condos on the island. Many options can be found through the following websites:
VRBO
TripAdvisor
Or my favorite: Rentals Your Way
Which is who I have used the last three times. We like to try different locations, but we always look for a property that is located right on the beach. We enjoy snorkeling, so being able to enter the water without having to drive somewhere is preferred. I have also stayed at several of the hotels on the island. In my opinion, if you are going as a couple, a hotel is fine for the price you pay, but for a family, a condo or house in the beach will provide the space needed, for much less money. Even for a couple a condo is cheaper than a hotel, and many of the condos have the same services available (maids, concierge etc.) without the crowds of people and late night noise of activities keeping you awake at night.

The one we stayed at on this trip was Peninsula Grand Condominiums. All of the condo units have the same layout, the only difference being in the furniture and décor inside. They are designed to accommodate 8 people comfortably, but you could add one or two more guests in a pinch if you needed to (have extra guests sleep on couches, or bring inflatable beds, they do have extra bedding available, and the rooms are very large). If you shop around you can find very good deals. I have noticed that some property owners will charge double or triple for the same (almost identical) property others are offering. Peninsula Grand was a beautiful well maintained property and grounds with very easy access into the ocean for snorkeling. Even our four year old grandson was able to enjoy the snorkeling there! Almost all of the underwater photos in the slideshow were taken out in front of Peninsula Grand Condos. We also liked that the property was very quiet. There were always lounge chairs available on the beach and the (infinity) swimming pool was not packed when our grandson wanted to have some pool time. Our kitchen was fully stocked with everything we needed to prepare meals. With two large grocery stores on the island-Mega and Chedraui, both with a large selection of everything you could think of including alcoholic beverages, and prices about 1/2 of what we pay here at home at our local Cub Foods store, you can save a ton of money. We had lunch at Coconuts one day (on the East side of the island, very good food) and The Rasta Bar (southern tip of the island) another day. We always have dinner at least once at Casa Denis (the oldest restaurant on the island, kind of a tradition) my husband and I always order the seafood platter for two.:)
IMG_6629IMG_6603-2-copycropped

If you are considering planning a destination wedding in Cozumel, here are just a couple of beautiful resorts I recommend in Cozumel that are well equipped to handle weddings:

http://www.secretsresorts.com/aura-cozumel/weddings

http://palaceresorts.com/cozumelpalace/en/home

“When we become aware of the fragility of our life and we get older, we focus on a narrower group of friends and family. We become much more focused on intimacy and deeper relationships with folks and being connected to a few things that make us feel purposeful in the world. And that can change overnight.”

Share on FacebookTweet LinkPin on Pinterest69,109,97,105,108,32,77,101eM liamE