December 28, 2012

Otto Family Maternity

While visiting family in Wisconsin for Christmas, I had the pleasure of photographing our cousins, Ryan and Erika and their two girls, Molly and Lauren, as they prepare to welcome a baby boy. I had my fingers crossed for snow and we lucked out with a big snowfall the day before our shoot.

I took their photos on Ryan's parent's (Aunt Patti & Uncle Tom) farm. I seriously love their land and it had me pining after a farm of my own.

Ryan and Erika quite possibly may be the most photogenic couple in America and their children both look like baby Gap models, so they made my job pretty easy. Below are some of my favorites from our wintry Wisconsin day.

December 22, 2012

Happy Holidays

Just wanted to drop in and wish you all a happy holiday! We are in Wisconsin visiting my in-laws for Christmas. If you haven't been following the weather, the Midwest just got pounded with snow! I'm so excited to have a white Christmas.

Yesterday I got to do a dreamy wintry maternity shoot with our cousins. Stay tuned for the finished product, but below is a sneak peek that I snapped of my camera screen with my iPhone.

December 12, 2012

The Big Surprise

As I mentioned last week, Jake got a big surprise this year for his birthday. I went behind his back and got the entire family (and some of his coworkers) involved. Jake's been wanting some new golf clubs for quite a while. It seems though, that there is always something more essential that we find we need to spend our money on.

I asked anyone in the family that normally exchanges gifts with Jake to send me Golf Galaxy gift cards in whatever amount they would typically spend on him. I put them all together and then saved up to cover the rest.

I started the scavenger hunt with Friday's blog post, which lead him to several coworkers desks and to a few random spots before he eventually found me in the parking lot of Golf Galaxy. When he pulled up, I handed him the final clue that explained how much everyone had pitched in and that he could pick out a new set of clubs.

I'd love to say that he jumped up and down like a contestant on the Price is Right, but that's not really Jake's style. He was really quiet and started sweating a lot. I honestly don't think it hit him until we left the store.

One of my favorite moments of his scavenger hunt was provided by our friend Paul. Jake headed over to Paul's desk for his next clue which read, "Take off your pants and meet me in the last stall of the men's bathroom". Paul had replaced the clue that I had sent to him to give to Jake. Jake said it took him a minute to understand that he was being pranked.

All in all it was a great birthday surprise. I neglected to take pictures, but on Saturday I slapped up some decorations, cooked Greek food, had a cake and invited the family over to celebrate Mr. Jake.

Please enjoy these instagrams of my man in all of his birthday glory.

December 10, 2012

Mama Joyce

Today is my mother-in-law, Mama Joyce's, 60th birthday! I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge how special this woman is to me. She's a great wife, mother, grandma, sister, nurse and friend.

We often joke that she keeps the post office in business, because she sends basically anyone who has entered her life cards for every occassion. She is queen of the label maker, and has harnessed its many uses.

With her caring and nurturing spirit, this woman was honestly born to be a nurse. Above all else, I am grateful to Mama Joyce for raising the man of my dreams.

Cheers to you, Joycie! I hope your 60th is as special as you are.

December 6, 2012

The Glorification of Busy

When I read this quote a while back, it implanted itself in my mind and I've come to recognize that there's something deeper here. Busy has a positive connotation in our culture. If someone is busy, they must be in high demand, important -- wanted.

I think if we question what we have on our plates, most of us would find that we have unnecessary tasks on our to-do list. I know that I do. This got me thinking about what impact being busy has on our lives. The key areas for me:

Friendships: On more than a few occasions I've said to a friend, "Sorry I haven't called. I've been so busy!" as if that lets me off of the hook. In all honesty, I think there's a subconscious part of me that equates being busy with being successful. I've always cared a little too much about what others think of me, old friends especially.

Family: I know that when I'm overwhelmed it's my family that feels the brunt of it. Particularly, my mom and Jake. I tend to lash out at the people I feel safest with. They're the ones that I know will love me through it. I'm making an effort to get better at this. Besides adjusting my attitude, I have to recognize that there are unnecessary stressors in my life. It is irresponsible to take on more than we are meant to handle. Furthermore, It's hard to have real and intimate moments with the people that you love when you're always thinking about the next place that you have to be.

Personal growth: I think keeping busy bars me from taking an honest look at my life and the person that I am. I'm most introspective when I am alone and things are quiet. When I'm rushing from point A to B, there's not much time to sit with my thoughts. I think that's one of the reasons that I am drawn to writing/blogging -- it forces me to take time to sit and reflect. I've found that writing helps me to be more intentional with the way that I live.

Time is not a renewable resource, we only have so much of it. I'm challenging myself to be more selective about the things that I sign up for or the events that I have to be at.

Rather than rush from place-to-place and task-to-task I want to make a phone call to someone important to me, spend quality one-on-one time with my husband, or even (gasp) have some quiet time alone.

Do you look at being busy as a positive? Are you able to say no to unnecessary tasks? 
I'd love to hear more about how you find balance.

December 5, 2012

Christmas Pup

A little dose of Penny cuteness to get you through your Wednesday. My mom got her these PJs and I kind of wish that she could wear them at all times. I tried to carry her around like a baby last night, but she was not having it. 

P.S. You wouldn't believe the amount of effort that it took to get this photo. 
Most of them look like this:

December 3, 2012

Christmas via Instagram

This weekend we decorated our humble abode for the holidays. Jake and I danced around the house to the Pandora Christmas station - each of us singing our hearts out. Jake's rendition of Mariah Carey's, "All I want for Christmas" could surely skyrocket him into Youtube stardom.

   I snapped some instagrams of our decorations. I failed to get a photo of Penelope in her Christmas PJs. I promise I will try my best to capture this before the season is over, it's a must see.

P.S. If you're wondering why the bottom 2 feet of our tree remain ornamentless? Her name starts with a P and ends with enelope.

November 29, 2012

The Power

Some words of encouragement to round out the week from "The Wizard of Oz" (the film that gave way to the name of this here blog).

I've been holding myself back from working on a few areas of my life that could use my attention. Playing the excuses game as to why I can't move forward with something that means a lot to me - when the truth is, I possess everything I need to take the leap. 

Sometimes we create unneccesary road blocks. I think we fear how strong and capable we actually are. I'm working on getting out of my head and moving towards what I want to accomplish.

Do you ever have trouble getting out of your own way?

November 28, 2012

Time to Readjust

I started my day off in a less than ideal fashion. I was tired from a disagreement that Jake and I had last night. We stayed up late talking and I went to bed feeling pretty drained.

I chose to wake up earlier than normal to get a jump on the day ahead. I gave myself plenty of time to get ready and to take a nice long shower. By the time I headed out the door I was feeling in control.

That is, until I got on the highway and sat in stand-still traffic, which resulted in my lateness to work. The elevator was broken in my parking garage (laaaate). Lunchtime rolled around and I realized I had left my lunch in the car (I park a few blocks away from my office).

At this point I started feeling sorry for myself. Tell me you know the feeling. "Today sucks" is what I told my sorry little self. It was noon and I was already resigned to the fact that the entire day was shot. I've heard the old adage about not letting yesterday take up too much of today -- but what about letting a few insignificant events in the morning determine your outlook for the rest of the day.

I wanted so badly for the day to be different, and that's kind of where it clicked. The day can be different. A lot of stuff is totally out of our control, but the way that we react to those happenings is actually a choice that we are given.
We do have a say.

My brain tends to laser focus on the negative. Thinking positively and handling conflict in a healthy way is something that I have to continuously work on, it does not come natural to me. But, there is hope for me yet. You see, I married a very patient and understanding man - and I consciously work on my attitude. It's all about readjusting. It's knowing that even if you just snapped at someone you love, or overreacted to something small, you still have a choice to move forward with a fresh attitude. The day, or project, or trip, or night out doesn't have to be wasted on negativity.

One of the many reasons I love having a blog, I get to preach and blabber on about things that I really need to learn how to do myself. Thanks for letting me vent.

Do you have any methods for turning that frown upside down?

November 27, 2012

No Place Lyke Home for the Holidays: Gift Wrap Guide

No Place Lyke Home for the Holidays will feature fresh holiday inspired ideas; from recipes, to gift wrap and festive decor - I'll be sharing my favorites this holiday season.
I've always been kind of awful at wrapping gifts. It may have sprung from when I was a child and would wrap random things around the house with toilet paper and give them to various family members as gifts.

Last year, I decided to take a stand. No more lumpy packages with enough tape to reinforce the Hoover Dam. I am a sucker for nice presentation, so learning how to wrap a pretty package was important to me.

I started with this video tutorial via Real Simple, which I found very helpful to get the basics down. Then I checked out this list of tips and tricks via my main woman, Martha Stewart. I ended up with the below monochromatic package using silver paper, silver twine and hand stamped gift tags.

This year, I'm hoping to be a little bit more adventurous. Below are some of my favorites from around the internet.

Think outside of the box for embellishments (tutorial here).

Let photos replace gift tags (via).

Give simple brown paper a little pizzazz (via).

Use black paper and chalk marker to give a chalkboard look (via).

Add lace (via).

Do you have any gift wrapping stories or ideas to throw my way?

November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

We spent Thanksgiving this year at my parent's house with a mixture of friends and family from all over. My mom spent 4 days cooking and setting tables to prepare for our wonderful feast. 

My brother-in-law, Adam, flew in from NYC to stay with Jake and I for a few days (which was awesome!). Together, Adam and I prepared a range of sides including: roasted chili lime cauliflower, roasted asparagus with toasted pine nuts and lemon zest, sharp cheddar and bacon corn casserole, sausage stuffed mushrooms and cheddar sage biscuits. Also, Adam made a pretty epic pumpkin tiramisu.

All of the food that we prepared was combined with my mom's scratch made mashed potatoes, sweet potato souffle, English peas with pearl onions, two different kinds of stuffing (my favorite was the cornbread sausage stuffing) and cranberry chutney. The main events were smoked turkey, fried turkey and filet mignon.

F o o d   c o m a. 

 We washed everything down with my dad's "Thanksgiving Dinner" cocktail which basically tastes like the holidays in a martini glass. I will see if I can get him to share the recipe here.

My sister and her husband, Mike, are due with their second daughter, Ellie, in early January. Since Mike's family was in town, we decided it would be the perfect time to surprise Britt & Mike with a shower. Our theme was "Thankful for Ellie". My mom ordered an adorable pumpkin shaped carrot cake that read, "Thankful for our little Punkin'" and I made a bunting and a "Thankful Jar" for all of us to fill throughout the day and place in Ellie's nursery.

All-in-all it was a fabulous Thanksgiving filled with dear friends and family and no shortage of food, great conversation or laughter.

Special thanks to the movie, "Brave", for teaching Addie to bend over roughly 55 times throughout the day and yell, "Feast your eyes!" (pictured above). Side note: I think Addie loves Kellie even more than her Rudolph.

Major photo overload, but with good reason -- lot's of beauty to capture.

How did you spend your Thanksgiving?
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