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2019 P52, Week 9. Jumping for Joy + a Reminder to Back Up Your Photos. Elyse Rowland Photography, Kalamazoo Michigan.

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2019 P52, Week 9. Jumping for Joy + a Reminder to Back Up Your Photos. Elyse Rowland Photography, Kalamazoo Michigan.

The past week could best be described as tumultuous. Lots of ups and downs and lost sleep. But I managed to get my camera out one afternoon and snapped the set below. As always, shooting these three jumping around overwhelmed me with joy & helped me see what’s most important.

And if you’re wondering about my ups and downs this past week, I think this Instagram post sums it up pretty well:

“PSA: *Please please please* back up your photos! On Sunday I came home from an in-home session, started uploading files and I’m not even certain how it happened, but my external hard drive crashed to the ground. I freaked. Because I just knew it was going to be bad news. I plugged it in, and nothing was left, not a single thing would come up on my screen. I heard clicks and then silence. I was stunned. Thankfully though, I run multiple back ups. It’s still an absolute pain to get everything organized again (because we’re talking thousands upon thousands of extremely large files) but my images were safe & sound with @backblaze - an online cloud back up. For a small price, they FedEx’d me a copy of the drive, and I’m currently uploading it to two new externals. One will go into a fireproof safe, the other will stay where I can easily grab it for client orders, etc. If you hear nothing else I say, hear this: it’s not a matter of IF your back up method will fail, it’s WHEN. Having multiple back ups is key. It would have cost me around $2500 to recover my files had I not done regular Cloud back ups😳. Sadly I have super slow internet at our new house and have to switch to offline back ups, but you can bet I’ll continue putting every image in atleast 3 spots, and printing too.”

So thankful for the dancing and laughing and jumping and playing that happens on a regular basis around here. And photos that help me re-live the moments.


Thanks for visiting my blog! I’m Elyse, the face behind Elyse Rowland Photography of Southwest Michigan, near Kalamazoo.

I currently offer both in-home documentary and outdoor lifestyle sessions. I customize each & every session to my beautiful client's lives, and I'm able to give clients my full attention by only taking a small number of sessions each month.

More of my work: Portfolio .  Facebook . Instagram.

For pricing & package information, click here.

If you'd like to book a session or want more info, please click here.

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2019 P52, Week 8. Rollerblades & Salad Greens

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2019 P52, Week 8. Rollerblades & Salad Greens

Pretty sure these photos speak for themselves. We’re all feeling a little tired of cold weather, cooped up a little too much, & craving movement, which means I pretty much say yes to anything (within reason) to help pass the time. So… rollerblades & bikes in the house? SURE! :)


Thanks for visiting my blog! I’m Elyse, the face behind Elyse Rowland Photography of Southwest Michigan, near Kalamazoo.

I currently offer both in-home documentary and outdoor lifestyle sessions. I customize each & every session to my beautiful client's lives, and I'm able to give clients my full attention by only taking a small number of sessions each month.

More of my work: Portfolio .  Facebook . Instagram.

For pricing & package information, click here.

If you'd like to book a session or want more info, please click here.

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My Favorite Frothy Mocha Shake. Kalamazoo Michigan Photographer, Elyse Rowland.

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My Favorite Frothy Mocha Shake. Kalamazoo Michigan Photographer, Elyse Rowland.

frothy mocha shake sitting on table surrounded by bible, nature books, and pens

Almost every morning I wake up, have my version of a Bulletproof Coffee (brewed half-caff, a giant scoop of coconut oil, and Green Remedy CBD Oil), and then get right to my daily workout. And every day I have a little leftover coffee by the time lunch rolls around.

So when I’m ready for my first meal of the day around noon or 1pm (typically a shake and some veggies or eggs hash), I throw the leftover coffee in my shake, and voila - a Frothy Mocha Shake is born! I’ve learned a few tricks over the years to get it frothy, so I thought I’d share my recipe, which is more like a list than a recipe since I eyeball everything…. ;)

ingredients for frothy mocha shake
pouring bulletproof coffee into vitamix blender

In a Vitamix (or your favorite blender), blend the following til smooth:

1 scoop of your favorite chocolate protein powder (I like IdealLean or Garden of Life)

A handful of Kale (or any greens you like)

1 small Banana (or 1 Medjool Date)

Leftover Bulletproof coffee (about a cup, mine is usually ‘bulletproofed’ from the morning, so it has coconut oil & CBD Oil mixed in)

1-2 cups Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk

1+ tbsp Cocoa Powder

1-2 tbsp Ground Flax

2 cups ice (approximate)

Add water if needed (just make sure your ice to liquid ratio is about equal — the ice, coconut oil, and flax are the ingredients that make this shake ‘frothy’)

hand sprinkling green kale into vitamix blender

Blend until all ice is smooth. Texture should be lumpy and frothy from the ice, flax meal, and coconut oil.

A quick note: once you begin blending, you’ll know if you need to add some more almond milk or water and over time you’ll be able to estimate the amounts a little easier. I’ve been making this shake for around 3 years so it takes me just about 2 minutes to make, & I love it because the frothy texture makes the shake so much more satisfying!

ERP5B04A2372.jpg

It’s the perfect on the go meal replacement if you choose the right protein powder & add greens & oils. Throw a water bottle, a handful of nuts & some cut veggies in your purse and you should be set for hours.

little boy pushing vitamix blender button
frothy mocha shake overhead view
frothy mocha shake sitting on table ready to drink

If you make this shake, let me know what you think in the comments below! Or if you make any adjustments, share them for others to see – every person is on their own healthy journey and has to eat the way that works best for them. This shake has been a huge help in my wellness journey.

Xo,
Elyse

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What I Learned in 2018 + Our Family Film, Elyse Rowland Photography of Kalamazoo, Michigan.

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What I Learned in 2018 + Our Family Film, Elyse Rowland Photography of Kalamazoo, Michigan.

It’s hard to believe 2019 is almost here, you guys! I can’t even wrap my brain around that. The older I get, the quicker life flies by.

I was thinking back over the past year, about what the most valuable moments were — the things I’m so incredibly thankful we did.

One of those things was camping. The experience of being on our own time, letting the kids run wild, and making memories. It wasn’t always easy, because… kids… but it was worth it. I’m truly counting the days until our next trip & we plan to camp as often as possible in the coming year.

The other super important thing we did in 2018 was this right here…. this amazing piece of gold created for us by Audrey of Where the Heart is Family Films.

I’m sitting here trying to think of how to describe what this video means to me, and I really don’t think there are perfect words, so let me just tell you about the experience….

Audrey has such a calming presence. My boys loved her and wanted her to “watch this!” or “LOOK AT THIS!” (as they swung from the rope, walked a rolling log in the water, or showed her the rocky dam we created.) Somehow among the chaos, she captured these moments. And not just any moments — she documented the moments every mom begs their brain never to forget. Arms around necks, and sly smiles, and baby booty hanging out of their suspender pants, and my husband looking at me like I’m the only person in the world.

Even as a photographer who is always telling clients at the end of sessions “You have nothing to worry about - your kids did PERFECT and I got a TON of photos” (which is always true!), I still couldn’t fathom that she had much to work with by the end of our time together. In my mind, I could only recall a few things that might have turned out okay for her. But I knew 100% that I could trust her and wasn’t worried… it was more like I felt bad that my kids and dog were c-r-a-zzzzz-y. Ha!

And here we have it. When the gorgeous white box and beautifully packaged USB came in the mail with her thoughtful note, I cried the happiest tears. You GUYS. This is PURE GOLD. It’s months later, and I still cry alligator tears and laugh hysterically (simultaneously) every time I watch this.

I’ve realized now that my favorite things in 2018 were experiences and I’m centering my entire 2019 to-do list on living life with this sweet family of mine. Presence over presents. Collecting experiences instead of things.

So, if you’re still reading, grab your planner for 2019, contact Audrey, and schedule a film of your own. You won’t regret it.

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Kalamazoo Michigan Family Photographer | Location Scouting

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Kalamazoo Michigan Family Photographer | Location Scouting

Location scouting.

It's practically a dirty word in the photography world (ok, two words...), because it easily becomes a time-killing side hustle when spring hits. With local preserves doing their controlled burns right now, and the fact that winter lasted well into April this year, it's been difficult trying to find anything photo-worthy in these parts. 

However, I have a pretty amazing husband... 

He knew I'd been spending every extra second driving all over Kalamazoo County and checking with locals. He may have thought I was crazy the morning I woke up at 3 am in a panic knowing I had a session in two days, and couldn't seem to find what I was searching for. 

So yesterday on the way to a family outing, he stopped in at a friend's private property and in less than two minutes, we had permission to the amazingness below. Take a look for yourself. I can't stop grinning about the wide open spaces, rolling hills, tall grass, meandering creek, logs just the right size for taking a seat, and surrounding dirt roads. It's a photographers dream...

boy walking on log by creek

Three years old and so ready for adventure, this boy of mine. I'm thankful because it helps immensely to have a person to photograph when I'm testing out a new location. His willingness to climb trees, run through prairie grass, or splash in a mud puddle makes him extra helpful.

I can't wait to see the magic that happens in this gorgeous spot! 

I have just a few spots left on my calendar for 2018. Be sure to reach out if you've been considering family, maternity or newborn photos this year! You can email me at elyserowlandphoto@gmail.com or contact me here

Happy SPRING!
xo, Elyse

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Documenting the Everyday in Just 5 Minutes | Kalamazoo MI Children's Photographer

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Documenting the Everyday in Just 5 Minutes | Kalamazoo MI Children's Photographer

It takes just 5 minutes to document an everyday sort of moment, and I'm always glad when I do. Today I grabbed my camera as I was headed outside to do a few chores, and then snapped a few as the boys came inside to unwind. There's nothing spectacular going on in these images -- just our everyday life -- but in just a short amount of time, these photos will represent days gone by.

So grab your camera! It only takes 5 minutes to capture a piece of their childhood. 

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Rhett's 4 Months + Mama's Gone Minimalist | Kalamazoo MI Photographer

It's hard to believe we welcomed Rhett into our lives 4 months ago. (One of these days I'm going to write his birth story & share it with you...)  I just can't imagine life without him. He's this perfect little addition whose big gummy smile lights up the room. Seriously though -- picture the most easy going, happiest little babe... that's our Rhett. So if you're considering a third baby (like we were for quite some time...), let me tell you, they're right - the third is usually the easiest!

four month baby holding toes

Another big plus to having a third baby? I feel confident in my decisions as a mother, and I've become more and more minimalistic with each child because of this. When our first arrived, I had everything under the sun that you might need for a baby. With our second, I cut back a bit, but still had far too many things. I barely used the 'suggested gear' though, so with Rhett, I left everything in storage and kept things simple. Then when we found out recently that we were moving, we packed everything away and only kept out the absolute necessities. 

And guess what? I've LOVED it. 

When it comes to babies, minimalist living makes life so much easier. So today I thought I'd share a few of my favorite minimalist baby items...

Virginia Kate Muslin Swaddle Blankets

These are so soft, wash up well, and are sturdy. Ours have been spit up on, pooped on, and go everywhere with us. I'm not the best at laundry, but regardless, they still look great after many washes. A few days ago I had forgotten my ringsling while out hiking, and I was able to tie one of these on to help hold the baby (I still held on to him firmly, but it saved my back muscles the agony of holding ALL of his weight for the entire hike.)

 

ErgoBaby Carrier

I actually own the older model of the Ergo, but this newer model would be my recommendation. With the new 360 version, baby can also face outward in the front carry. With Rhett being right at the point where he wants to start looking around, I can really see why outward facing would be a nice feature to have. With that said though, I still love my 'old' Ergo, and use it daily. It's so comfortable and evenly distributes the baby's weight on my hips, rather than pulling on my mid-back or shoulders. 

 

Nursery Night Light

This may have been one of my absolute favorite buys this time around. In the past we had these cutesy lamps that were either too bright or too hard to turn on. Super annoying. But these? They're amazing. I love that soft, warm glow, and the fact that I can make it as dim or as bright as I need to. It's perfect for those middle of the night feedings when you need a little light for diaper changing, but you don't want to wake baby up completely.

So there you have it, my faves. I hope this helps if you're preparing for a new babe and are trying to figure out the must-haves. 

Happy shopping!

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My Top Wedding Vendor Picks in Southwest Michigan | Kalamazoo MI Photographer

Earlier this summer I decided to strap my newborn in the ring sling and head on over to Arcadia Ales where the Kalamazoo Chapter of the Rising Tide Society was gathering. I almost didn't go because getting a two month old out the door on a sticky summer day isn't my idea of fun, but I love the energy that flows when you get together with other creatives, and I needed a night away from the house, so off I went. 

What's Rising Tide Society, you might be wondering? It's this passionate group of creatives who get together to support eachother, share creative and entrepreneurial knowledge, and purposely choose community over competition. It's not a networking meeting -- it's a creative gathering. I've now attended two meetings, and both times I left feeling ready to take on the world... or atleast write a blog post for the first time in ages. Like this one. ;) 

I often get asked if I photograph weddings, and while I still occasionally take a small, backyard wedding, or assist other wedding photographers, these days I mainly focus on families, maternity, and newborns. But I still like to give those who inquire a list of awesome names they can look into... vendors who have proven to be trustworthy, provide quality over quantity, and stand by their work. 

wedding floral arrangement

I'm lucky enough to call each one of the following names a friend since I've gotten to know them through Rising Tide Society, social media, or working alongside them. I've even been lucky enough to talk over coffee with a few of them, and I can tell you, these are stellar individuals who are passionate about their work. Most importantly though? They each communicate well. With you AND with other vendors. That's HUGE. That might be one of the most important things when it comes to choosing your vendor dream team. 

So here's who I recommend for photography, videography, wedding planning & floral arrangements, DJ, and planning your honeymoon. 

Wedding Photographers

Adventure Photo Stories
Kalamazoo Michigan + Destination Wedding Photography for wild hearts
Website
Facebook
Instagram

Photography by Audrey Klein
Kalamazoo Engagement + Wedding Photographer
Website
Facebook
Instagram

Jaky Janine Photography
Southwest Michigan Wedding + Engagement Photographer
Website
Facebook
Instagram

GAUPERphoto
West Michigan Photographers for joyful couples
Website
Facebook
Instagram
269.929.8777

Videography

Thomas Wrench
Michigan-based wedding filmmaker
Website
Instagram
(269) 744-6892

Wedding Planning + Floral Arrangements

Brooke DePauw
Wedding Planning, Design & Floral Design
Website
Facebook
Instagram
hello@stellalunaevents.com

DJ

DJ Adam Freeman
Serving Kalamazoo and all of Michigan
Experienced DJ'ing bars, private parties, and weddings since 2013.
Website
Facebook 
Instagram 

Travel/Honeymoon Planning

Anna Thelen, Dream Come True Vacations
Kalamazoo Michigan
Specialize in: Family, Romance (Wedding/Honeymoon & Anniversary), & Multi-Generational Travel. Knowledgeable in: Domestic, Caribbean, Mexico, Hawaii, All Inclusives, Cruising, River Cruising.
Facebook
Instagram

 

So there you have it - my top recommendations. If you have any questions after looking over this list or want to hear deeper thoughts on the 'why', please contact me - I'm happy to answer questions. (Examples might be: WHY is a DJ so important? Because without a good DJ, your reception will not run smoothly! or WHY should you have a Videographer & Photographer who communicate well with eachother? Because they'll be working side by side ALL day and you don't want these two vendors working against eachother. Promise.) So reach out! I'm here to help. 

Happy wedding planning!
 

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The Best + Only Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe You'll Ever Need | Kalamazoo MI Family Photographer

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The Best + Only Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe You'll Ever Need | Kalamazoo MI Family Photographer

Atleast a couple times a month the boys beg me to make homemade chocolate chip cookies. Thankfully, we have the best chocolate chip cookie recipe around. I don't even bother looking on Pinterest or trying anything new, because these. are. amazing

boy baking cookies with spatula in kitchen

Our 3 year old is our baker. If we agree to make cookies, it never fails, he's the first one in the kitchen. He grabs the cookie sheet, spatula and stool and waits not-so-patiently until we arrive.

I completely forgot to take a photo of the finished product, but I'll add one in here next time we bake! Until then, here's the recipe:

WORLD'S BEST CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
(This is a double batch - bake some & freeze some!)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

3/4 C Sugar
1 C Brown Sugar (packed)
1 C Butter (2 sticks, soft but not completely melted)
1 Tbsp Pure Vanilla Extract
2 Eggs
3 C Flour
3/4 tsp Baking Soda
3/4 tsp Salt
3 C Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
1 C Chopped Walnuts (optional)

Mix all ingredients (we love our KitchenAid mixer!) and form small balls of dough on greased cookie sheet. Bake for 12 minutes. 

Now just pour yourself a glass of milk and enjoy! :)
 

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Remembering our Beautiful Boy's Birth | Kalamazoo Michigan Family Photographer

Today, our sweet middle boy is three, and he's by far my easiest child to photograph... always in a pretend world, or creating up some new character, and he just plays and plays. So today, I'm sharing a few favorite images of him. You can also read his birth story here. I woke up today thinking about the amazing four hours of labor, and smiled, because it was such a beautiful experience. Not easy, but certainly beautiful. 
 

silhouette of boy with sunset
boy on bike with grandfathers
boy sitting in sunlit kitchen
boy holding mom's hand
two young boys in tent
young boy kissing brother
little boy in garden full of tomatoes
young boy taking sink bath with spraying water
young boy with puppy
little boy sleeping in underwear
young boy climbing couch and hiding behind curtains
young boy in lion costume painting pumpkin at fall festival
young boy running in the fall color
young boy smelling flower

Happy Birthday, my sweet Riverbug! You are such a joy.

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40 Weeks Pregnant

Life is a little unpredictable, yes? Today I'm sharing a bit of my heart in words and photos. I'm 40 weeks pregnant + 2 days, and it feels like I'm riding a roller coaster right now, and yet finding a glimpse of peace in God's timing as we wait for our third little boy to arrive. My first two boys each came 4 days early, so I've never known what it's like to be 'overdue' (which I realize isn't technically a thing, since babies are ready when they're ready), but it's certainly been a test of patience & has felt a bit like a mental war. On one hand, I've been able to spend extra time with my little boys - hiking, baking, origami, homeschool, and lots of farm chores, while also keeping up the house (i.e. constant nesting). On the other hand, I'm feeling a little drained from the prodromal labor I'm experiencing and the fact that I never thought I'd face my due date without my baby in my arms. 

So, I've been reading, listening to homeschool podcasts and praise music, and trying to keep my face toward Jesus instead of pitying the fact that I'm 'still pregnant' when well-meaning friends & family ask. My camera has been out more in the past week than it has in the last 3 months. When my life feels out of my control, I turn to my creative outlets and that includes journaling God's word, writing his truths in my commonplace notebook, and pouring my heart out to Him every chance I get. It helps. I won't say that I'm in a perfect head-space, but He is certainly making this journey easier.

And he is such a good, good God. I woke up the past two mornings thinking "Please Lord let this baby come today..." but my heart said otherwise - I distinctly heard the words His will, not mine. More of Him, less of me. He already knows the moment that this baby will be born, and He goes before me, and that gives me the greatest peace.

I love that the spring weather is finally here. It's lifted all of our moods and we've been able to explore the new growth and actually *see* the things we've been learning about in our nature studies. (If you're wanting a book to encourage nature study, check out Julia Rothman's 3 book collection - it's amazing!)

Our homeschool days (which right now are sporadic & extremely relaxed since Remy isn't technically even eligible for Kindergarten until this fall) have become my favorite days of the week. We read good books, sing hymns, have Bible time, and learn letter sounds. Things are simple because I've purposely kept them that way, and both of the boys have thrived in this environment. We play card games & board games for math, and because we have the hobby farm and some land, the boys are always learning something new. I honestly don't think the boys even realize they're 'doing school' most of the time... it's just a natural part of life - being curious and putting "things worth observing" in front of them (Charlotte Mason). Kyle has really embraced nature study without even realizing it, and he teaches them (and me!) the most interesting facts about our natural world. It's been amazing seeing just what a wealth of knowledge he truly is, and watching him share with our children makes me see him in a completely new light. Marriage is incredible like that. You can be married for 10 years, and still learn something new about the other person. 

This morning we made origami jumping frogs, and the boys had a blast with them. I'm thankful for these moments. I know when the baby does make his grand arrival, things will likely feel off-kilter for a while...maybe chaotic at times. As any mom of three, I hope I do a good job of giving these boys the attention and love they need as we adjust. 

Isaiah 40:31 says "...but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." I'm placing all my hope in Him and I'll keep praising Him, even if I'm feeling the weight of being 'overdue'. I'm so excited to meet this baby boy (and finally share his name!), but I also know that life happens in a blink, and all too soon, he'll be 5 years, 10 years , 20 years old... and I'll be holding back tears wondering where the time went. Thanks for letting me share my heart today. 

~Elyse

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Wildflowers Workshop with Joy Prouty | Indianapolis | June 2016

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Wildflowers Workshop with Joy Prouty | Indianapolis | June 2016

As I sit down to finally write this post, four months post-workshop, I have so many memories drifting around in my head. Memories of the four hour drive to Indy - the furthest I've driven alone, part of it in a crazy downpour on a highway with too many lanes to count. Walking up the driveway into the cabin with a pounding heart... wondering what the three days ahead would hold.  This felt like such a huge step for me - investing a decent amount of money into furthering my education. I had dreamt of attending not just any workshop, but this workshop, for years. I had followed Joy Prouty on social media and read every magazine article she had written or been featured in. Something told me her workshop would be filled with my kind of people. 

As I entered the cabin, I noticed Joy's lovely quilts adorning the couches and chairs, and the ladies chatted like old friends. We came with no expectations other than to learn from Joy, and knew nothing about the other attendees, yet we felt connected from the first moments. There was not a single note of judgment, only love.

Over the course of the days there, something happened to me. My eyes opened to the idea of figuring out who I really was so that I could better serve my clients while also balancing my family life. I realized that I needed to make some changes, and scribbled approximately 50 pages of notes in the little green notebook Joy gave us at the beginning of the workshop. I still look at those pages every week or two, and it brings the rush of realization back. The excitement, the passion, and the desire to work through some things in my life so that I could be the person God created me to be.

We really made the most of our time together thanks to Joy and her wonderful family. They have such servant's hearts. We shared our stories, ate delicious meals, chatted by the campfire, danced in the rain, and photographed the most beautiful families. We learned so much from each other and I feel connected to these women in such a unique way. Their stories are now woven into my own, and we support and lift eachother up on a weekly basis. I'm so thankful for that.

It's rare that a day goes by when I don't think about our workshop. I think about Joy and her strength and vulnerability. I think about each of the women and the authentic way they shared. I think about the long drive home from our time together, and the prayers of gratitude I lifted up. A dream of mine came true, and the gifts I took away from that trip are abundantly pouring out of me into all areas of my life.

If you'd like to read more about the workshop, these beautiful ladies also blogged their experience from our workshop, and I know you'll enjoy reading their words...

Tara Strohl of Tara Strohl Photography
http://www.tarastrohlphotography.com/wildflowers-workshop-2/

Michelle Maddox of Isaac & Isabelle Homestead & Photography
http://www.isaacandisabelle.com/unveiling-my-heart/

If you're reading this and considering a workshop with Joy, I urge you to say yes. Go, learn, and share your heart with the world. 

I'll also be blogging my own images from the two family shoots we took part in, so stay tuned! For now, here's a glimpse behind the scenes at our Wildflowers Workshop.

It was hard to leave, knowing this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and that I may not see every person I connected with over our 3 days together. But I left with a notebook scribbled with dreams, a rekindled passion for documenting life, and friendships that will last a lifetime.

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Goodbye Johnny Cash, Hello Lynard Skynard | A Personal Post about Chickens and Chores

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Goodbye Johnny Cash, Hello Lynard Skynard | A Personal Post about Chickens and Chores

Winter's not exactly my favorite season, but I've grown to really enjoy it since becoming a work-from-home mom. Cozy mornings filled with hot tea, making  oatmeal blueberry yogurt pancakes, and fun totschool activities that keep both boys busy for a few minutes at a time while I have my quiet time in the Word, wash dishes, & catch up on emails or blog. Today I set them up with a carwash activity, and it kept them busy for a full 30 minutes.

If you have toddler or preschool boys, this is a sure way to keep them settled for a few minutes while you get things done... I simply filled a couple of loaf pans with warm, soapy water, gave them a pile of toy cars, and a couple brushes. They washed and buffed and dried each and every car, and barely made a peep. It was amazing to say the least.

When they tired of that, we dumped the water and scooped a big pile of snow into each of their pans. Another 15 minutes later, the kitchen was cleaned up, and their daddy was pulling in the driveway. 

Beautiful morning.

We're spoiled on these really blustery days -- Kyle gets out around 12:30 because he goes in so early to plow. We love having him home, and today we decided to wait until he arrived to start our outdoor chores. The sun came out and the wind died down just as we were stepping outside. 

I thought it'd be fun to document some of our chicken chores and what we did this afternoon, so here's a little peek into chore time. 

River is a huge egg fan. And not in the eating sense, but in the "Give me ALL the eggs so I can throw them on the ground" sort of sense. We're still working on that....

FB2IMG_1767.jpg

A heated bucket purchased at TSC keeps the water from freezing. We usually refill it every few days since we only have 6 chickens at the moment (we've had as many as 30 in the past).

Seeing fresh eggs in the coop never gets old. In the winter we get far less eggs, partly because the days are shorter and chickens need light to keep laying. But it's also important for chickens to go through a moulting period, where their bodies recuperate from constant laying. I like to think of it as a nice little break for them.  Eggs that are purchased in stores typically come from hens who are under lamps 24/7 in small, dirty cages. I love that our hens are happy & healthy.

Meet Lynard Skynard. As the title of this post says, we said goodbye to our sweet Johnny Cash rooster last week. He was a gentle giant. Bigger than most small dogs, actually. I would look out the upstairs bathroom window every summer morning and think there was a dog running around our back field, but it was just Johnny and all his hens following behind. He was quite the protector and undoubtedly saved several of our hens' lives in the short year or so that he was with us. So when we went to get eggs last week and found his head had been taken & eaten, likely by a hawk or owl, I cried a few tears. No shame here. I know, I know. These are farm animals. I usually have no problem with a lost chicken. It's a part of our farm life, and it's almost impossible to keep predators out all the time. But sometimes you just get so used to something, it's hard to accept that things change.

So the next day, Kyle found Lynard on Craigslist for $3. I looked at the photos and picked him out, and he & Remy went to pick him up. And he's sweet as can be. We pet him and hold him, and I get in nice & close to take cute little rooster headshots :) We affectionately call him Lynny now, and the hens have taken to him quite well. 

Kyle was smart and decided to take a few eggs that were laid in the days surrounding Johnny's death, and he's currently incubating them in an upstairs bedroom. So, we should have some Johnny Jr.'s in no time at all. (Isn't it amazing that an egg develops a baby chick in 21 DAYS? That's so fast! Imagine if us humans only had 21 day gestations... whoa.)

Such a good guy. Watching over his hens. 

Thirsty girls, loving the fresh water. This red hen is the friendliest of the bunch, and lets us pet or hold her any time. The white birds are leghorns, and they're flighty. Kyle and I have determined (without reading up on them whatsoever) that they're the best birds if you want large eggs and less bird loss. Because they're so flighty and small, we've never lost one, and they lay the largest eggs. Win win. I love figuring things out on our own sometimes, without the help of Google. Helps me understand what it must've been like for my ancestors. 

We like to balance work with fun, so after chores we played in the back yard, throwing snowballs, watching the kids sled down the temporary snow banks, and enjoying the sunshine with our good old dog Hank. 

This is the life. 

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2015 and The Big Fat Win | A Personal Post

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2015 and The Big Fat Win | A Personal Post

Friends, can I be real with you for a moment? 2015 was a pretty significant year in my life, especially in regards to my work-life. There was a shift in my thinking. I experimented more than I ever have in the past. I said no to work that didn't feel right for me. I said yes to families and maternity and babies in a documentary style, and yes to commercial work; and I watched my portfolio branch off in a new direction. I found my 'village' in a beautiful group of local talented women who encourage me on a regular basis. I read and watched what felt like hundreds of tutorials and took an online course focused on creating emotional images. And to round out an already amazing year, I placed a deposit on a 2016 workshop with my all-time favorite photographer, Joy Prouty of Wildflowers Photography. My heart pitter patters just thinking about staying in a cabin on a private lake, learning from one of the greats... *sigh*.

Before you scroll down any further, I feel the need to warn you: this post contains a ridiculous amount of personal photos. As in, you may get bored halfway through, and I get it... I do. Truthfully, I want to share my personal photos with the world because it's my experimental and personal work that shows a more intricate bit of who I am. Perhaps this post is as much for me as it is for you. As an artist, I believe we must see both our strengths as well as our imperfections to grow and evolve. To be completely honest, in these images I see so many technical failures; yet as a whole, this set of images is a big fat win. And I say that for a few reasons. 

Over the course of the year, I found my voice, and I realized my calling in regards to photography....that I must be so much more than just a mom with a camera, and I must do so much more than just arrive at a pretty location.

There's the back and forth with each client where we discuss wardrobe ideas, a location that fits their personality and the emotions we aim to capture. Then there's the hours spent planning and preparing, gathering, dreaming, drawing out ideas. On the way to each shoot while driving, I pray that God would help me to capture the family in a genuine way, and that each person would feel at ease. When I arrive, I'm either hoping to make a new friend, or looking forward to hugging an old one. :) And then... there's that moment where I carefully put on my art director hat. Depending on my subjects, I must be cautious not to give too much direction, because afterall, I'm seeking out authentic moments. But if I don't use the right words, or give no direction at all, the clients feel nervous and unsure what to do. It's a balancing act, and one I've come to love. 

1 Peter 4:10 says God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.

This gift he gave me - - this opportunity to see people for who they are, their authentic emotions, to capture life's most beautiful moments, to create artwork, to keep record of childhoods and milestones, to gather memories in permanent form - - it's nothing short of incredible. It's a gift I received from God, and a gift I intend to use for His good. 

I hope you enjoy these images that tugged at my heartstrings as I sifted through my personal images from 2015. Several times throughout the year, I shot throughout an entire day to document a 'day in the life' of sorts. If documentary photos like those you'll see below are what you want to hang on your walls in 2016 and beyond, please don't hesitate to contact me at elyserowlandphoto@gmail.com. I'd love to hear from you, and hopefully, make a new friend! 

Blessings to you and yours in 2016. 
XO ~ Elyse


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2015 | Year in Review | Kalamazoo MI Photographer

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2015 | Year in Review | Kalamazoo MI Photographer

2015 year in review

9 commercial shoots, 29 family sessions, 11 newborn sessions, 9 maternity sessions, 1 engagement session, 1 personal project, + 1 wedding (as second photographer)
that's a grand total of 61 amazing moments in time.

twenty fifteen. 

the year full of growth and change. the year I realized I no longer wanted to put clients into picture perfect poses - instead I went after real, authentic, genuine moments. 

I redesigned my website (quite the undertaking), upgraded to a MacBook Pro, purchased a new lens, and took the leap of faith and signed up for an intensive workshop with the one and only Joy Prouty of Wildflowers Photography. (I'm still in shock that I'll be meeting her.)

What a year.

Thank you to each of you who trusted me as your photographer - it's such an honor to be asked.

Wishing you many blessings in 2016!

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Spring is coming!

Spring is coming. Spring is coming. SPRING IS COMING. I've been telling myself this over and over for the past few weeks. The bitter Michigan cold mixed with too many dreary days can make even the most optimistic person have a rough day month. So, when I received an email a few days ago from Shoot & Share saying that I was a finalist in the global 2015 Shoot & Share Photo Contest, it suddenly felt like Spring had arrived. (Okay, it may have helped that the sun was shining, and the forecast is showing 50s for the next week!) But honest to goodness, it was such a pleasant surprise & completely lifted my mood.

At this point, I'm still not certain if I placed, nor do I know when they'll be showing the results. However, I do know the contest started with 110,928 photos and that my photo made it into the top 10% for the Children's category. So, now it's just a waiting game while they tally the results.

Here's the photo in case you're wondering .... :)

FB (1 of 1)-5 Shoot & Share also asked me to submit the story behind the photo for use on their site, and here's what I told them:

This image was taken about a year and a half ago, when I was still learning my camera inside and out. My son fell asleep on the couch, and his peaceful state demanded I snap a few photos. Within a few minutes I had exactly what I wanted. I captured his sweet features -- those lashes, lips and button nose.  The image also represents that precise moment in time to me... when we had nothing but time. No other siblings yet, my photography business had just begun, and all of my time was devoted to being his mama. This photo allows me to look back... reminisce.

Whether this photo goes beyond being a 'finalist' or not, I'm grateful my work was seen & admired by someone. And more than anything, I'm thankful that Spring is around the corner.

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Kalamazoo MI Food Photographer | Quick & Savory Breakfast Casserole

The Saturday before Christmas I decided it was time to start an elimination diet. Yes, before Christmas. Worst possible time to start one, but both of my boys suffer from terrible eczema & my 5 month old was suddenly covered head to toe in the weepy, yucky rash. Over the past 2+ years, I've tried every 'eczema cure' thrown my way, and I've come to the realization that food really is our most important medicine. quick easy breakfast casserole recipe

 

This dish is savory, sweet, and perfect for a morning get together, though I can attest to the fact that it's great at dinner time too! It was just the thing to bring to this mornings MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) meeting, and I made a second casserole dish to serve my family this evening. Both casseroles were gone in minutes! Here's the recipe...

Simple Sweet Potato & Sausage Casserole

[10 minute prep, 1 hour cook time. Preheat oven to 350 degrees]

4-5 Sweet Potatoes, cubed 1 lb sausage, cooked 2 organic apples, cubed Cinnamon Maple Syrup

Begin by cooking your sausage in a medium sized pan until slighty crispy. While the sausage is cooking, cut up your sweet potatoes and apples. Mix the sweet potatoes, apples and cooked sausage into a large casserole dish. Sprinkle with cinnamon and drizzle with raw maple syrup. Lightly mix within the dish, and then once again sprinkle with cinnamon and drizzle with syrup.

Place in preheated oven (350 degrees) for 45 min to 1 hour, or until sweet potatoes are soft when forked.

Enjoy! 

 

 

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River's Birth Story

Our sweet River Cordell arrived bright and early Thursday, August 14th at 7:36 am. This is his birth story.

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To tell you the full story, I have to begin with Monday evening. The day was like any other, with Braxton Hicks (BH) contractions occuring randomly. I decided early on in this pregnancy that I would ignore all 'practice' contractions until I knew I was definitely in labor, because I didn't want to become impatient or rush this baby. And from 20 weeks on, every time I had a 'practice' contraction (which was quite often), I did just that. I patiently told myself "These little contractions are paving the way for birth". That evening from 9 pm to 11 pm,  I had regular contractions, and despite Kyle wanting me to keep track of them, I went about my normal routine. I laid in bed with Remy until he fell asleep and then climbed into my own bed. Admittedly,  Tuesday morning I woke up slightly sad that I wasn't going to be meeting my baby that day, but Kyle & I were thankful he didn't arrive early in the week because of his work schedule (he doesn't get vacation time, so we jokingly said it'd be great if he came on a Thursday).

So, on Tuesday, I stuck with my normal routine. Remy & I spent the day outside, and I cleaned and did laundry when I had a chance. My dad made a special trip to Tudor Tea House in Kalamazoo after work for some Raspberry Leaf Tea (I was all out the day before and felt that I really needed it). And my mom stopped by to see us as well. Together we weeded the front flower gardens and cleaned up the hedges. My belly felt gigantic. My hips and back hurt to the point that I could barely walk at times (I suffer from major pelvic pain at the end of my pregnancies despite regular chiropractic care from the wonderful Dr Val at Rambling Road Chiropractic), and even simple tasks proved difficult at times.

Wednesday morning, I called my sister-in-law Chelsey to see if she'd be willing to take a few photos of Kyle, Remy, & I at Grandpa Jim's apple orchard. She happily obliged, and I remember feeling particularly grateful due to the sense of urgency I was feeling -- as if he could arrive any moment. After photos, we chatted with Kyle's family for a few minutes and then headed home. I downloaded the photos to my computer and edited just a couple because I knew once baby arrived, my editing time would be few and far between.

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Around 8:30 pm, I started bedtime routine with Remington and by 9:30, I was snuggling with him in bed. He fell asleep quickly and I was thankful because I felt exhausted. As I was falling asleep I had a few 'practice' contractions (or so I thought) but fell asleep without trouble. Around 11:30 I woke up to yet another 'practice' contraction. Nothing major. Just like any other. I walked myself back to my own room like every other night and went to sleep beside Kyle. Suddenly around 3:30 am, I awoke lying on my back and had an extremely strong contraction. Being on my back made me feel like I was suffocating. I reached for Kyle and clutched to his arm while loudly whispering "Kyle, this is a REAL contraction". When it was over, we chatted for a few minutes about how I was feeling and he said I should try getting in the bath and start timing each rush with my phone app.

The bath felt amazing. I threw in some epsom salt and soaked for a few minutes. About 20 minutes after the first contraction, I had another. Kyle decided to text our doula and after a few texts back and forth, she ended up calling. She could hear me doing some low moaning noises and breathing through my contractions and it was decided that I should head to the hospital sooner rather than later, so she would pack her things to leave (she lived about 1.5 hours from the hospital). I could feel a rush of excitement as I exited the tub, dried off and headed back to our bedroom. My bags were neatly organized with a list on each one of them noting the 'last minute items' I would need to grab. During this time though, my contractions began picking up.... going from 15 minutes apart, to 12, to 10, to 9, 6, etc. Finally my bags were packed and my mom was on her way to watch Remy so we could leave for the hospital (Kyle called and told her "please come now - we need to leave"). I had one big contraction on our living room couch, then sprinted to the kitchen for some coconut water. Kyle quickly made me some PB&J toast, and as soon as my mom arrived we jumped in the van.

I couldn't sit normally in the van due to the contractions, so I kneeled backward on the front seat and hugged the headrest. I took a few bites of PB&J and kept switching positions, leaning forward over the dash, trying to sit sideways, hugging the headrest again. Nothing I did felt comfortable and I couldn't wait to get out of the car. Kyle and I chatted about how quickly things were moving and hoped our doula would get to the hospital before I had the baby.

When we arrived at the hospital around 5:30 am, it was pitch dark. Kyle dropped me off at the front door while he parked the van in the parking garage and walked down. It felt like an eternity, but I know it was only a few minutes. I had a couple contractions outside on the bench, and then we walked in together. It took all my strength to continue walking through the long hallway to the elevator. I simply wanted to be on my hands and knees or get in a nice warm bath. I did not feel like walking through cold hospital hallways, and kept wishing I had somehow convinced Kyle to do a homebirth. Still though, the excitement was building within me as we took the elevator up to the maternity floor.

At the top, the intake nurse took some information and it was clear (to me) that I was in full labor. I kneeled on the ground, crawled around, squatted while holding onto the desk, breathed deeply and moaned low noises while we waited for someone to take me to our room. It felt odd to be crawling around on the floor right there in the intake area, but I literally had no choice.

About ten minutes later a nurse took us back. I was given a spacious room with a bed, couch, rocker, full bath & a huge window. I had previously toured the hospital with my incredible midwife Janie and decided I liked the Borgess labor rooms better than Bronson's, even though Bronson is newer. Borgess felt more 'homey', and the nurses were by far more supportive of natural birth and my birth plan. My midwife unfortunately was not on call that night, but one of my other 'top choices' was - Megan Deibel. I hadn't met her before, but I knew from my research that the Kalamazoo natural birth community recommended her.

I spoke with Megan for a few minutes while the nurses prepared the room. Kyle started diffusing Joy in my essential oil diffuser, and we decided now would be a great time to get in the bath.  The relief from the warm water was amazing. I don't remember how long it was until my doula, Jessica Stackowicz of Sacred Birth Services arrived, but it didn't feel very long. Still, I was ecstatic to see her. Her presence alone gave me a boost in confidence. She had poured so much of her incredible knowledge into me throughout my pregnancy (I asked a lot of questions!), and although this wasn't my first rodeo, I had fears from my first natural birth to deal with.

Within a few minutes, Jessica had blown up a little bath pillow for me, sprayed the room with a wonderful essential oil spray, brought me a delicious birthing drink in the cutest glass with a straw along with some organic peppermint chapstick, turned the lights down low, and was beside the tub. I cannot explain how thankful I was in that moment that she was there. (If you're reading this and debating whether you really need a doula or if you should spend the money... let me tell you: you do & you should.)

For a while I stayed in the tub and breathed through my contractions. During this birth, I was able to appreciate the calm, quiet feeling that comes between contractions. I had read about it in my Ina May book but didn't have that experience with my first birth because I had felt so fearful of the unknown. At one point, I had to sit on the side of the tub to cool down a bit and when I got back in the water, the contractions really picked up in intensity. I threw up several times and was given cool, wet washcloths for my face and neck. I remember telling Jessica that I felt like I needed to throw up but didn't want to. Thankfully she reminded me that it's part of my birth journey, and typically shows that labor is progressing. She also explained that changing positions was a great way to help labor move along, and that the first contraction after each new position would be more intense. She was so right.

Someone recommended I move to the bed since Borgess doesn't allow tub births at this time. I was hesitant, but I knew the time was coming. I was able to use the restroom (I mention this because I was so fearful during my first birth, that I literally couldn't urinate prior to the birth), and Kyle, Jessica & the nurses helped me move to a blanket on the floor. I leaned over a birthing ball and loved the way it felt. Kyle pressed hard into my low back as the pain got more intense. After a handful of contractions, my knees were sore, so they helped me up to the bed. It was so much more comfortable. Then the really tough contractions began. I don't know how many there were, but I could tell I was in transition and just wanted to get through it. I could feel myself practically begging River to join me. His head was getting extremely low and with the next contraction I naturally started pushing. It was as if my body just took over and knew it was time - I didn't even have to think about it. The midwife came back in the room at this point in time and said she just wanted to "see where the head's at" (I had never been 'checked' prior to this point, and that was one of the best decisions I made in my pregnancy. In case you're wondering, you can refuse to be checked. There was no medical reason for me to do so, and I knew to keep my head in the right place and not get ahead of myself, I needed to turn down every opportunity of being checked.) Within a few seconds I heard her frantically saying "We need help in here!" and nurses were scurrying all around me. I was still on my hands and knees over the ball so I couldn't see who was doing what, plus I went into my zone - completely focused on the task at hand. Kyle was next to me letting me squeeze his hand (he later said I squeezed so hard he thought it might fall off) and my doula took a turn pressing and massaging my low back while giving me reassuring words... words I desperately needed to hear at that moment in time. She could really read the situation, and honestly, when she visited me after the birth I had to ask her how she was always one step ahead of me -- she always knew where my head was at and gave me encouragement for what would happen next. I'm still amazed by that.

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The sky was incredibly blue and the sun was shining as I began pushing my baby out. I worked with, not against, every single contraction. I trusted God and asked him for help (out loud) when I needed it. I remembered the verse I had meditated on for weeks before the birth: "I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears." Psalm 34:4. I knew my body was made to do this, and had already done it once before. I'm not certain how many times I pushed or exactly how long, but I believe it was around 5 minutes...extremely quick. His head came out, and with the next couple of pushes, his body too. I rolled onto my left side and the nurses laid him on my belly, almost exactly 4 hours after I woke Kyle up with my first real contraction. The sun made the room feel like it was glowing, and I felt such relief knowing my baby boy was in my arms. River Cordell Rowland.

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The midwife allowed his cord to completely stop pulsing before they cut the cord, and then she let me get a really good look at the placenta. It's such an amazing and beautiful thing - God made our bodies to do this. River remained on my chest, and no one bothered me about wiping the vernix off or getting him into the bath. It was lovely. I just held him and gazed at him until he was ready to nurse. He did so well and I felt that instant connection to him. All the concern I had about figuring out how to spread my love between two little boys completely vanished in that moment.

Because I was born to do this. To be their mama.

Sometimes when I think back to the birth, it feels like a dream. Perfect in every way. All glory to God.

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Birth Photos by Jessica Stackowicz of Sacred Birth Services

Family Photos by Chelsey Rowland

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Big Brother | Vicksburg Michigan Children Photography

Remy is becoming a big brother in the next few weeks. He is the beautiful child who made me a mother, and the most wonderful gift I've ever received. The one who says "I wuv you mama" as he drifts off to sleep, rubbing my ear lobes. His bear hugs turn me to mush. And I feel blind as I look forward to the birth of our second child, not knowing exactly how sleeping arrangements will work, or how to make sure I'm giving enough attention to both boys. But I do know that God has perfect timing, and He will lead me. The nice thing about your second time around is that you're so much more confident in the decisions you make. Natural birth, breastfeeding, and co-sleeping through toddlerhood? Been there, done that. And I can't wait to do it again, maybe even better than the first time around. In May of this year I began writing letters in a journal to both Remington and River. Here are a couple of excerpts from Remington's journal...

"What a gorgeous day we're having. This morning when I got out the vaccum, you said "I will vacuum too" and ran to get your toy vacuum. You helped for a good 20+ minutes. I'm so amazed by your sweetness and the way you love to help."

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"My protruding belly, filled by your new baby brother, makes picking you up difficult these days. But this past week I felt so blessed when, for the first time, you wrapped your little arms around my neck and whispered "I wuv you". And I could tell you really meant it. You have the sweetest, kindest heart and I know whoever God has in store as your future wife will so appreciate that about you." FB (1 of 1)-8 "I cannot explain how much I love you. You are my world. And though I don't know what the next month will look like, I am choosing to trust God. I know our relationship will change, but you will always be my first little - the one God used to make me who I am today. I'm so grateful for that." FB (4 of 4) FB (4 of 4)-2 FB (2 of 4)-2 FB (2 of 4) FB (1 of 4)-2 FB (1 of 1)-7

For now I'll keep soaking up the days I have with just Remy. And when River arrives, I know we'll become the family of four we were always meant to be.

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Sweet Honey | Vicksburg Michigan Lifestyle Photography

Raw honey. It's sweet, gooey, makes my tea taste amazing and sweetens our morning oatmeal. And it's been a staple in our lives for about a year now. In the Spring of 2013, we purchased our first beehive along with two other families. The hive was located off to the side of our field and we extracted 9 quarts (approximately 34 lbs) of honey that summer. It was a learning curve, but a beautiful one, because we enjoyed our third of the honey all winter long. Then that dreadful winter of 2013 hit. When we opened our hive this Spring, the bees were laying dead in the bottom of the hive. A very sad day to say the least (honey bee hives cost around $150, so you need the hive to sustain year after year in order to make it cost efficient). But we were determined to start over. So in April of this year, we purchased our second hive and placed it in the same spot in our field, except this time we felt more confident. A sense of "we've done this before, and we'll winterize differently this year".

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Yesterday was our first extraction from the new hive, and it went perfectly. Kyle's brother Jereme and his wife Holly are also half-owners of the hive, which is nice because we split the cost and work evenly. Kyle & his brother drove out and gathered the full trays, leaving plenty in the hive for the bees to continue working on. When they returned about 20 minutes later, our toddler boys played in the yard while the adults took turns scraping the trays & then placing into the homemade extractor (a gift from my grandpa, but in the past we've rented one). Once in the extractor, the trays are spun by hand and the honey is poured into a bucket with a cheesecloth to strain out any wax or particles.

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Once the honey is completely strained, we jar the honey and split it between our families. From start to finish, the process took about 3 hours - much faster than our first time in 2013, so I feel we're making progress on this learning curve. It's a great feeling.

And here's the best part: this year we extracted 21 quarts, or 70 lbs of honey. We were in shock as we noticed the 5 gallon bucket was nearly full. These bees are workhorses! So very grateful. And there's still plenty of honey left in the hive for the bees.

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Today I enjoyed honey in my Peaceful Mama tea, and as always, it was delicious. The taste of store-bought, heat processed honey just doesn't compare to the taste of fresh, raw honey from your own land.

So, let those wildflowers grow! Dandelions included. And let's all put away the weed killer - it's killing our bees. For more information, read this excellent article: http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/17/opinion/spivak-loss-of-bees/

Thanks for reading! ~Elyse

PS: We've received a lot of questions about purchasing our honey, but unfortunately it's not something that will happen for atleast several years. It takes time (and money) to establish new colonies, and we currently use all of the honey we gather. I would love to someday make honey a part of our family income and will keep you all posted when we do!

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