This year we spent Thanksgiving at my Dad’s in his new home, a beautifully historic 1860 folk farmhouse in a small town on Lake Michigan. I already have plans to turn it into a bed & breakfast, it’s okay, I already told him I’m taking over. He seems fine with it.
Cole got a major surprise when we stepped onto the trolley and he was greeted by Mrs. Claus and she invited him to sit and chat with her while we rode around town a few times. Later we stopped into Santa’s Workshop where Santa was put back by Cole saying his big want this year was a stop sign, lol! Probably hasn’t heard that from a 5 year old before. Cole wants a stop sign for his bedroom, so everyone knows it’s his zone only. A 5 year old needing privacy, what is my life going to be when he’s 13. Please send help! We had a good long conversation with Santa, snapped a Norman Rockwell esk photo and headed back home with good cheer in our hearts and being belted out of our lungs to holiday tunes all the way home.
Every year, since before I was born my parents have taken me to the tree farm. Since we have continued this tradition with our own little family we have fallen in love with the Wisconsin pine & fir trees. This year we decided to try a new farm, one on the way to my Dad’s house that we have been eyeing all year.
Another HALLOWEEN in the books. Cole has been in love with Nintendo and all the Mario characters for the last year and has been so excited to have the chance to dress up as his favorite pizza loving plumber since last Halloween. I don’t know any other kid that has his costume ideas for the whole family the entire year before, lol.
A few weeks ago Troy’s parent’s also know as Gigi & Poppy visited us and they brought along Grandma Weeks. It was the first time Troy’s Grandma has been able to come visit us here in Wisconsin and we were so glad to have her. The first two days the trio visited we spent our time on a little mini getaway in Door County. We enjoyed shopping our favorite lakeside stores including…..
The last few years we’ve been creating the space in our lives for our own family sessions. We believe in celebrating each stage of our lives and turning them into tangible heirlooms to treasure forever. I am so happy to know in 30 years, Cole may be sitting around the table with his kids showing them how stinking adorable he was at 5….
Over the weekend Troy & I captured beautiful images at a romantic farm wedding on the banks of the wolf river. This summer has been busy and we were ready for some time to ourselves. We drove along Lake Michigan and the beautiful sand dunes of the Upper Lake Michigan Shore, which could easily be confused with the outback.
We have been wanting to build a playground since we’ve moved in three years ago and this summer we finally did just that. Eight random days, my Dad and I took to building Cole’s Cabin one math problem at a time. Since I can’t commit to actual designs, I like to have a concept in mind and then eye ball it, somehow I’m always more accurate than actual math, lolol.
Elle's GRATEFUL for;
- Cole & every single moment he's in my life
- Troy & each day we have together
- the fresh Wisconsin air
- daily rituals that help me grow as a person and spirit
- yoga for keeping my muscles strong and loose during a strange and uncomfortable year in my body.
At the end of every year I feel like my ears are overhearing the phrase. "I can't wait for this year to be over, next year is going to be better!" But what is it that was so bad about this year? And what are we so eager to get to?
I'll be the first to admit this year went foul in some seriously unfortunate ways and I was most likely the leader of the squad saying I was ready for a fresh start and a New Year. For myself and a lot of my friends, I can honestly say this was the most trying year I can remember over my lifetime. If you want to hear about one of our sad and frightening moments from this year (that made us grateful and stronger), here is a little [ peek into that story ]. Bottom line is, I'm always wishing time away and at the end of the day, I do not want time to go by any faster than it already has. Each day that passes means I'm another day closer to Cole no longer fitting in my lap, no longer giving me a hundred kisses before 10 am, and no more “I love you Mommy,” first thing in the morning and every night before bed. I fear that day! Those precious moments will stop on their own time and they are not something I want to rush.
Should we shove these days away, never to revisit them again because they didn't go the way we wanted? Is there a way we can learn, grow, and even be grateful for the suffering in our life?
What is it that we are so eager to run towards that we cannot create right now? What is it about a calendar date that says we will have our shit together? We'll be the perfect business owner, Mom, Wife, cook, be organized, have financial freedom, time freedom, or more family vacations. Whatever it is, why do we settle for next year and not open ourselves up to having those experiences right now?
This post isn't a cheers to a Happy New Year, but a Congrats to creating a Happy Life! So let's throw down the thoughts of disaster that irked us hard the past year and let's take on 2018 with a splash of whiskey and as many happy moments as we can create. This year is going to be exactly like last year and also the best year yet. We will have good moments, bad, and all that goes with life. But this year we can be more present and aware of how we're are approaching these situations and take them head on. I mean a bad day only lasts 24 hours right? With the right tools and mindset we can have more good days than ever before.
This past year I had little time to myself yet created space to work harder on myself than ever before. My goal was to learn how to become more grateful and curate situations that didn't go as planned into something that helps me grow.
4 Daily Rituals that have taught me GRATITUDE.
- No. 1 - I started a Gratitude Journal. Each night before I lay down but already comfy in bed. I revisit my day and list as many things I can think of that I'm grateful for including but not limited to; people, places, gestures, feelings, things that happened in my day, needs being met, memories, and having the time to do this activity. I try to dive as deep as possible and be as specific as I can. If your like me and you're obsessed with Pinterest I have a whole board dedicated to Journaling you can take a peek at [ right here ]
- Meditation - as little as taking a few seconds to disconnect and reconnect with your core a day has proven to restructure your brain at a cellular level. My evening meditation is scheduled to last an hour and the very last thing I focus on before I open my eyes is to list a few things I'm grateful for every day and a few things specific to that day. You don't need to dedicate a whole hour. 5 minutes a day is beneficial.
- A Hot Cup of Herbal Tea - this one is my favorite and to most people may seem simple and confusing on how it could possibly teach someone gratitude. But each time I sit with my tea it centers me. That still moment of silence with a hot cup in my hands and a fragrance of pure happiness and health put me in space where I can be present and honestly if I get to drink the whole mug while it's still hot, I am darn tootin grateful AF.
- A Deep Breath - One of the first things I do in the morning while my pot of water is boiling for my tea, I take a step outside. No matter how cold or hot it is ( we can laugh now, we all know it doesn't get hot in Wisconsin. It does get darn cold thou. ). I take a deep and long breath, focusing on bringing in that good ass Qi ( Energy, Chi, Prana, whatever you yourself call it ), envision it going in my mouth and down through my body to my root Chakra, pause holding my breath 4 seconds, and then slowly letting it out rising up out of my body along my spine and out my mouth. I do this as many times as I feel I need to replace any stagnant energy in my body and revive my life force and ground myself.
I've shared some of my personal gratitude towards life and this year along with 4 rituals that help me live in that space. Would you share 3 of your most beautiful parts of this year or your life your most grateful for in a comment below?
- spending time and playing with Cole
- being alive and sharing life with Elle & Cole
- working for a company who supported my family and myself during one of the hardest years of our lives
- filling our weekends with outdoor adventures
- leaving this year healthier than it started
Elle x Troy Photography, husband and wife photographers capturing Intimate Wedding Photography for rebel souls wildly in love.
Every Winter since the year before I was born, my family has set out to the Tree Farm when the ground is frozen and there's a chill in the air perfect for being warmed up with some hot cocoa. This family tradition started in Missouri at Pea Ridge Forest, it was over an hour away and worth the drive. Our entire family would gather together at the farm on the Sunday after Thanksgiving and we would enjoy shopping at the adorable gift shop and always picking up their personal Pea Ridge Ornament for that specific year. Sip hot cocoa, given out by the same cute old lady every single year since I can remember. Play in the creek our parents wished was frozen, because someone would always fall in. And wandering all over the property searching for that perfect pine tree to call ours. Everyone has their idea of the perfect tree. Mine is short and stout yet perfectly shaped, much like myself (yay, i just busted up laughing at myself there too). Before we left and tied our tree to the top of our toyota we took a photo with Santa and told him what we wished for him to bring us that cold winters eve. On the way back up the hill we said our goodbyes to the reindeer. And we're pretty excited to venture back home to decorate.
We have made it a point to continue this family tradition but of course the way we do, we put a spin on it. Whispering Pines is the perfect place to keep our tradition alive. A trip to sit on Santa's lap, listen to singing reindeer (these are stuffed, but cute & do the trick - please laugh with me of how terrified Cole looks ), the multiple rides on Thomas, James, and Percy. Yeah, I know! Cool right?! They have freaking trains - Thomas & Friends none-the-less, and the most beautiful property full of the most perfect pine & fir trees I've ever seen.
This year we brought Pa pa, since he's Cole's best friend and finds himself still believing in these magical moments of the season. The boys played with left behind pine swords, played hide and seek, and we even caught some decent family photos of us. Andddddd! Cole even was sweet enough to take a few with me. He surprised me with some kisses and that made this Mama very happy!
Who goes on a picnic to the beach during Winter, Am I right?! The answer is us. Yes, we are indeed strange people. No doubt! Point Beach in Two Rivers is one of our favorite spots to visit on the weekends throughout the year. This park is covered in tall pines, boardwalks, sand dunes, beaches, the Rawley Point Lighthouse, millions of; rocks, corral, fossils, and minerals gracing the shoreline, and a campground. We love this place so much that we were out here two weeks in a row; one to play around in the sand before it was too cold, and the second to capture a couple very much in love on their weekend getaway. You can read more about Chelsea x Nate's Point Beach Couples session here.
We planned this afternoon outing around playing in the sand, drinking vegan hot cocoa, and some delicious homemade apple fritters made by my Dad. Ie..also the guy who took the images of all three of us. Troy and I took it upon ourselves to get a mini branding session for ourselves in while Cole and Pa Pa played. I've got to say I'm kind of addicted to flirting with my husband while he takes pictures of me now! I don't think I've ever felt so comfortable in front of the camera.
So without anymore dragging on, here is our little rebel family picnicking on the beach in late November. lol. Let me know in the comments below if you're crazy enough to venture out into the 30º weather to play in the sand? Or what is the craziest thing you've done in the cold weather?
Have you been following our Vacation through the Porcupine Mountains & Copper Country? If you'd like to see our night at the beach and all the waterfall chasing we've done you can read more at Part I & Part II.
We headed out of the Porcupine Mountains and up along the Keweenaw Peninsula towards Copper Harbor. We took our good ole' time climbing around and enjoying the restful rhythm of the water at a few waterfalls along the way. Our first falls of the day was Bonanza, it was a short walk with a steep but easy climb down. This falls was peaceful and fun to take Cole across the rocks, he had fun crossing back and forth over the flowing water and watching it rush by and down the next set of falls.
While on our way to our next stop in Eagle River, we attempted to find some off in the backwoods waterfalls and it didn't work out quite so well. We felt like we were in that movie "The Hills Have Eye's," and finally I was lucky enough to talk Troy into turning around after about an hour of driving down dirt roads in the middle of who knows where along the edge of the scariest bluff I ever want to be on. We finally made it to Eagle River to check out the Eagle River Falls waterfalls, eat a delicious lunch at Fitzgerald's attached to the Eagle River Inn, and enjoy some country store ice cream on the iron bridge. I even made a new chipmunk friend that was clearly not threatened by me even a little.
We quickly jumped out of the car snapped a photo of Jacob's Falls and ran back to the car. There's a great little gem there called the Jampot ran by some local Monks, if you like baked goods, it's a must see.
We finally made it up to the Brockway Mountain Scenic Drive were you can pull off and see some spectacular views down the mountain of pine trees, golden grass, and flowers. All the way down to Lake Superior and out across the waters. One overlook you could see Copper Harbor below, it reminded me of one of the old mining towns I had seen as a kid in the hills of Colorado.
After forcing ourselves to leave the Mountain Top and venturing down the drive back down to the Lakeshore. Our next stop was Fort Wilkins, an early Army post set up to protect the local Miners in the late 1800s.
The sun started setting and it was a race to Hunter's Point, a spot Troy insisted we had to make it too before the evening was over. Apparently, it's a must see spot. We ran through the rough root and rubble covered trail to get to what was the least breathtaking spot our entire journey. I had to laugh after being initially annoyed. My foot some blisters and my knee was giving me heck after all the hiking we had been doing, plus I'm old and I was tired and cranky. But Cole enjoyed tossing rocks in the waters and we watched the sun set behind the rocks on the point across from us where I caught a sweet silhouette of a couple watching the setting sun as well. We then had to race the last of daylight left to get back to the car before it was pitch black. We also found a dog that we thought was a wolf at first. It was quite a little adventure of it's own. But we all enjoyed the day and it was a lot of fun.
We woke the next morning to dash out the door of our lodging, which was the cutest mid century motel the King Copper Motel. We spent the morning navigating two track roads to even more waterfalls and the great Estivant Pines. Heading back to town at lunchtime Cole got his picture on the giant rocking chair and we had a great lunch at Zik's. It was finally the time to start heading back down the peninsula, but first we had to make a stop at the Delaware Copper Mine, where we got to explore the mine shafts on a tour guided by Cole himself. How cute is he in that hard hat?
After a tiring walk up the 100 steps back to the surface around the ruins and through the rock piles we set out to search for the ghost town of Mandan, where the Mandan and Medora mines operated in the mid 1800s. What you see in the pictures below is all that's there and it was hard enough to find the road leading to them.
Once back in Houghton, we enjoyed a movie night and pizza in our hotel. Our last day in the Upper Peninsula we found and played for hours at the Shoots & Ladders Park on the river, checked out the Quincy Mine, then took a scenic drive along the river to the Calumet Waterworks Park where we spent several hours scouring the beach for agates and digging mounds in the sand while playing TMNT. It's sad to say this was the end of our trip and all that was left was driving back home.
If your interested in some of the Lake Superior Falls here is a great guide with directions and photos. And if your interested in reading more of our waterfall chasing or playing at the beach you can find that in Part I & Part II.
Let me know if your a waterfall chaser as well, and the biggest falls you've seen. If the biggest one isn't your favorite, which is your favorite falls? Comment below!
After spending the first half of the day chasing waterfalls, we set off in hopes to view the highest point of the Porkies at Summit Peak. We didn't spend very long there before we were off in search of good food and then Troy suggested finding a beach to watch the sunset enjoying each others company while the tide came in for the evening.
Last weekend we headed up to The UP for our summer vacation. We spent four days hiking and chasing waterfalls throughout the dense fern filled woods. I'm splitting this post into two sections for Day One and then there will be two additional posts for the other days. Be sure to check our the additional posts to get a glimpse of our Bear encounter and to see some glorious mountain top views.
Party Like a Pirate. Well.....Let's just say. I'm spent.
A four year old's Birthday Party is exhausting. Like grab a group of 21 year old's and a bunch of Red Bull, mix it with techno music and pulsing lights with glow sticks. That will not even come close to the amount of party hard that these kids did. It's been a week and I'm still taking naps to get over my pirate hang over. No there was no alcohol involved. Unfortunately!