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5 Great Toddler Friendly Ornaments from Etsy – Eden Prairie Child Photographer

sleigh bells christmas tree ornaments

5 Great Toddler Friendly Etsy Ornaments

Everyone knows Etsy is a small business owner’s dream.  Over the last few years, they have saved my holiday decor, mostly by making my Christmas “non-breakable” not be “tacky”.  You know what I’m talking about, the plastic ornaments that are just so plastic or the general avoidance of any ornament at all.  There is hope for all of us parents who want a beautiful, family-friendly tree that can be full of sentimental value for years to come.  Below are my 5 favorite non-plastic, attractive, and lasting Christmas tree ornaments.  (All opinions are my own, I am not receiving any compensation for this post or links).

  1.  Wooden carved animals – There are some amazing carved wooden ornaments out there!  For Everett’s first ornament, we ordered a sweet wooden seal with his name (which I forgot  to photograph for you all!)  Being from Minnesota, I personally love moose and reindeer too, but you can find so many animal choices to fit your child’s personality.  I am charmed by this Reindeer one right now.
  2. Sleigh Bells – Sleigh bells remind me of Santa’s sleigh and the Polar Express kids book, plus it makes the tree jingle whenever someone touches it (instant kid alarm)!  This one has great packaging, but you can use any bell and attach a ribbon too!
  3. Felt or Cloth – So many ways cloth and felt can make great ornaments!  These felt stars are so sweet trimmed with gold or if you are into Christmas balls, try these cloth ones!  I have similar from last year plus some my great grandmother made just like them.
  4. Dipped Leafs – These cypress dipped gold foil leafs are beautiful, and simply glow on the tree when the lights hit them!  Celebrate nature by incorporating organic style elements to your tree.
  5. Crystal Bead Stars and Snowflakes – My mother made mine (AraliaDesign Jewelry), but you can get a similar one like this.  They look like large snowflakes and are as unique as the real ones!

I hope you enjoy this quick mini-post on ornaments!  Toddlers make Christmas a challenge, but the joy of seeing the holiday through their eyes is worth all the effort!

bead snowflake christmas tree ornamentsnon breakable christmas tree ball ornaments


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My Favorite Holiday Traditions 2017 – Eden Prairie Family Photographer

boy decorating tree in holiday tradition

6 Holiday Outing Traditions To Start This Year

The Holidays are all about *magic* (or at least they are for the kids, right?).  Now that I am a parent, I realize how many traditions I took for granted as a kid without knowing the behind-the-scenes work that Mom and Dad pulled off to make that *magic* happen for me.  Besides all the work decorating, shopping, hiding in a closet wrapping presents until 1am, and configuring family visits, what seems to be the hardest is starting Traditions.  There are so many choices of things to do for the holidays and it can leave one a bit paralyzed on what to include and what to leave out.  White lights or colored?  St. Nick’s Day presents or not?  Does Santa wrap the gifts or set them up? When do you open family presents?  Go to services?  The anxiety ramps up as we try to make the years consistent, predictable, and magical to our children.   My major dilemma this year (and I kid you not its keeping me up at night) is that in our current home the fireplace with stockings is in our lower level but our tree is on the main level, so where does Santa deliver the gifts?  The tree?  The fireplace?  The stockings?  Do we move the stockings???  HELP HELP HELP!

So many family outing activities are available around the Twin Cities right now too, so I thought in honor of confusing you, I would give you my top 6 favorites to try out with me this Holiday Season (and they don’t include cutting down a Christmas tree since I do an artificial one each year):

  1.  Folkways of the Holidays, The Landing, Shakopee –  I love the Landing, the historic town that is part of the Three Rivers Park District in Shakopee.  We always try to make it out for all their seasonal events.  In the Summer they have an art festival, in the fall its trick or treating, and in the winter its the Folkways.  A horse drawn trolley takes you down to the town from the parking area, where you travel around and go inside the historic homes.  You are greeting by actors in costume and character of the 1800s and get to enjoy learning about so many traditions.  Often even singing.  You do have to dress for the weather, however.
  2. A Christmas Carol, The Guthrie Theater – This is no surprise, but if you haven’t gone to this classic for the last few years, its worth going (especially now at the new Guthrie – there is no bad seat in the house!).  I love how every year they change the play slightly and add different comic effects.  If you want to enhance it more, trying reading the book to your kids before you go too.  Nothing says Tradition like the ghosts of Past, Present, and Future!
  3. Its a Wonderful Life Radio Show, The St. Paul Hotel – My favorite Christmas movie is now also a radio read play down at the St. Paul Hotel.  My best friend went the last few years and I am excited to try it out this year for myself.  They also provide a three course luncheon or dinner during the performance.  Just thinking of it makes me want to sing “Buffalo girl won’t you come out tonight” and think of George Bailey realizing he really has had a wonderful life, Old Building and Loan pal.
  4. The Nutcracker Ballet, The Continental Ballet Company, Bloomington – I’m a big believer in supporting community events, so I have to plug Bloomington’s Center for the Arts ballet company.  I tried a few lessons of ballet with them years ago only to find ballet is really, really hard!  I love a good Nutcracker performance, and being a local theater, it won’t cost you an arm and a leg if your kids get bored halfway through.  A great chance to embrace the story by reading a kids book beforehand too.  Keep dancing, sugar plum fairies, keep dancing!
  5. Santa’s Train Shop, Minnesota Transport Museum  – For the train loving boys and girls in your life, take a ride on a real train, see Santa (if the kids want, I hate those crying photos of kids with Santa), and enjoy some fun activities.  The Train Cars are even heated!  You can read the Polar Express on the way too.  “For all who truly believe.”
  6. Feed My Starving Children or Toys for Toys – Giving, but not just to those you love (or without receiving back), I feel is one of the greatest traditions to install in any kids’ Christmas teachings.  If your kids are old enough to be helpful, take them with you to pack food for children overseas.  If not, help them shop for toys to donate to Toys for Tots.  There are so many ways to bring charity into your holiday traditions, I hope you find one of your favorite holiday charities to donate to.

There are so many more wonderful traditions and activities to try over the holidays, I wish I could have included more, but it took all I could to narrow it to 6.  I seriously hope I take my own advice here too and GET OUT OF THE HOUSE this holiday season (the flu season has me hiding inside like a prepper right now)!  But even if you just decorate your tree, make your cookies, listen to your favorite music and watch your favorite holiday movies – I hope you enjoy the Holiday and Christmas Season!


Eva & Family

boy enjoying holiday traditions in front of christmas tree

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A Saturday Morning Play Session – Blaine, MN Family Photographer

This was such a fun in-home Saturday morning session.  We just hung out inside due to the cold weather and read, played with their dollhouse and magnetic blocks (how did I not know about these!?!), and even jumped on the beds!  (I always ask the parents if this is okay before the session because I never know that the house rules are.)  Two little monkeys jumpin’ on the bed…

Having Star Wars obsessed boy in the session meant that The Force was wielded over me a number of times as I slid to the floor, unable to get up, and the kids giggled at their new found power.  A few sleepy eyes were happening towards the end of our session after all the excitement and action, but I can only imagine how tired they must have been by the end of the day due to an in-home party later that night!

Growing up is hard work, and it was wonderful to capture not only the fun moments with this family, but also see how these parents are helping their children navigate the struggles of strong emotions.  I hope looking back at these images, they will see the beauty I saw in these teaching moments, instead of the exhaustion of the day, and know – you did good mom and dad.  You did good.

Because let’s face it – parenting is an amazingly adventure.  What’s even harder to believe is that although there are so many things that all parents have in common, there are still so many different ways to be a parent and none of them are wrong!  That’s what I love so much about photographing young families in their homes – I get a glimpse into so many different, wonderful lives.

Its not just the parents’ different styles, either – each child is so unique in their interests, skills, and personality.  Sometimes I discover similarities between my clients’ family and mine (such as being able to sing out Mr. Roger’s songs on cue) and sometimes, I get to learn all about what its like to have a girl too (with an all boy household, we have no dolls or dollhouses in our home).  I hope you enjoy learning about my family during our Saturday morning playdates as much as I enjoy learning about yours!

So without further ado, our Saturday morning “playdate!”

girl craddling doll in bedroom on saturday morninggirl playing with dollhouse on saturday morningboy and girl jumping on bed peanuts wall drawings on saturday morningfamily playing and reading on saturday morningmom and daughter reading on saturday morning, girl sucking thumbkids playing next to family dog on saturday morningfather son reflection in countertop on saturday morningfather and son playing with blocks on saturdayfather and son building spaceship on kitchen counter on saturday sessionfamily playing on kitchen counter at saturday sessionmother daughter cuddling on saturday sessionmom and daughter spending some silly time on bed on saturdayfamily cuddling on bed on saturdayboy sliding down stairs on saturday session


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Twin Cities Mom’s Blog Halloween Spooktacular Family Event! – Minneapolis Lifestyle Family Photographer

This year I had the pleasure of being invited to photograph the Twin Cities Mom’s Blog Halloween Spooktacular Family Event at the Wishing Tree Play Cafe!  First, I am always amazed at the awesome level of creativity families go to at Halloween for a group costume.  Slowly clapping.  Well done MN families, well done.  From Disney to Game of Thrones to a League of Their Own I saw it all at the event.  I started out with good intentions for Halloween costumes last June, but let’s be honest, dressing up is not my thing.  Making a costume?  Please, I can barely sew.  I darned socks this week and my husband asked if I was sick.  Needless to say Everett wore a Target costume this year.  He looked adorable, but it will likely not last another wearing.

Back to the Event – sponsored by the Wishing Tree Play Cafe in White Bear Lake and Metropolian Pediatric Dental Associates

There were kids game’s and activities for trick or treating, plenty of goodies from healthy snacks to CARS posters and awesome Lego bags.  Everyone (except me of course) was in costume!  Great food (curse you IBS! as I wanted to eat some so badly!) and the best part being that the play cafe shut down just for this event – so the families had the place to themselves!  There were so many toys and places to move and get that winter cabin fever out!  No shoes allowed in the play area of course.

What had me even more in shock was the Disney characters who came for the party – you know, the “real” Princesses and Spider Man.  I think they actually made the event.  And they never broke character, like, ever.  Even when heading to the restroom.  I have no idea how they do it, but they do it well, that’s for sure!

Below are some of my favorite images from the event, but there are many more of all the families over at the Twin Cities Mom’s Blog page!

halloween spooktacular event TCMBhalloween spooktacular event TCMB treatshalloween spooktacular event TCMB treats and gameshalloween spooktacular event TCMB bowling gamehalloween spooktacular event TCMB cars posterhalloween spooktacular event TCMB activties table Metro Pediatric Dental Associateshalloween spooktacular event TCMB arrivalshalloween spooktacular event TCMB tableshalloween spooktacular event TCMB bean bag gamehalloween spooktacular event TCMB stickershalloween spooktacular event TCMB Wishing Tree decorhalloween spooktacular event TCMB heading into play areahalloween spooktacular event TCMB sponsorhalloween spooktacular event TCMB lego baghalloween spooktacular event TCMB princess hughalloween spooktacular event TCMB meeting princesseshalloween spooktacular event TCMB pumpkin decorhalloween spooktacular event TCMB adorable boy in lion costumehalloween spooktacular event TCMB spider boy meets spider man will the real spiderman please stand up?halloween spooktacular event TCMB unsure boy in cow costumehalloween spooktacular event TCMB a princess and spiderman tea partyhalloween spooktacular event TCMB boy captain america enjoying event foodhalloween spooktacular event TCMB play time with iphone picturehalloween spooktacular event TCMB wishing tree play areahalloween spooktacular event TCMB - spider says gamehalloween spooktacular event TCMB guests enjoying foodhalloween spooktacular event TCMB thanks for stopping by sign


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Our Halloween Pumpkin Re-Cap – Bloomington, MN Child Photographer

October & Halloween Happenings

This was Everett’s third Halloween and our chance to really start stepping up our Halloween traditions.  Which this year meant stepping up our pumpkin game.  In my mind I had several Instagram worthy traditions in mind to start including visiting a real pumpkin patch to get our pumpkins and some adorable carving time.  While we did score on getting both tasks accomplished, we could have done better, team.  Plus, what a glaring reminder that all is not gold that glitters when it comes to Instagram vs real life, right?  See below to see what I mean.

As far a trick or treating went, we did get out in the freezing MN cold (about 30°F as usual) to hit up my parent’s, grandparent’s, and neighbor’s houses.  As usual, all MN costumes must fit the following criteria: can we fit a Parka underneath?  Besides wearing jeans, a long sleeve shirt, and a sweatshirt under his costume, Everett also had to wear his coat and hat over the top.  We had to stop to unzip his coat and remove his hat right before we rung the doorbells for his actual costume to be seen.  We still got cold and turned in after about 12 houses.

Is is just me, or has Halloween neighborhood Trick or Treating really taken a hit?  We had a total of 7 kids at our door this year with many houses not giving out candy at all.  Growing up in the Twin Cities, I was taught that Halloween was a chance to have some fun while connecting as a kid with your neighbors.  It was about (on a deeper parental level) getting together as a community to let kids know who their neighbors were, so if they needed help they could go to those houses and know they would be welcome, safe, and assisted.  So many kids only go to Halloween events and the neighborhood aspect has been lost – I try to walk the neighborhood with my son each year and talk with the neighbors if only briefly so my son will know they are good people, they can be trusted.  Besides National Night Out, how do we preserve the neighborhood anymore?  I hope next year we will see more kids again!

So after all that lofty talk, back to business, pumpkin business.

The Pumpkin Patch

As we live in the southern half of the Twin Cities, the closet pumpkin patch to us turned out to be Peter’s Pumpkins down in Shakopee.  What a fun place to visit!  The staff were so friendly and it was a very sweet store front.   Of course, being that we decided to go last minute amongst crazy October schedules, we arrived just before a rainstorm.  If only we had left an hour earlier it would have been sunny and less windy!  Still, Everett made the best of it with us.  It was a longer walk out to the Pumpkin Patch but they provide wagons with good treads for hauling those pumpkins (Everett enjoyed the ride).  We may have come home with 4 pumpkins, mostly because Everett wouldn’t choose (go figure, a two year old wants them all?) and he also insisted on a green pumpkin that was not quite ready (we just colored it, not carved).  I almost lost a lens cap to my camera (but found it under my seat!) and we made it out before the rain hit.  So win?

peters pumpkins MN store front

peter's pumpkins pumpkin field on a cloudy fall day

my son in a pumpkin wheel barrow heading out to pick pumpkins pulled by his dad

unpicked pumpkins in peter's pumpkins halloween pumpkin patch

dad helping son carry pumpkins picked for halloween in pumpkin patch

father and son discussing which pumpkins to pick in pumpkin patch field

boy riding back with pumpkins in wheel barrow peter's pumpkin patch mn

father pulling pumpkins and son in wheel barrow while picking pumpkins in peter's pumpkins patch mn

pumpkins sitting near shed and apple orchard at peter's pumpkins around halloween

Carving Our Pumpkins

Fast forward to Halloween day, when we traditionally have carved out pumpkins.  (Re-thinking this timing by the way as it makes for a very busy afternoon/evening.)  After weeks of saying hi to our pumpkins on the front porch, Everett was a bit, um, upset by the idea of bringing them indoors to…carve them.  What do you mean my beautiful pumpkins must be gutted!?!  He calmed down when we got to the best part of drawing our designs on them in sharpie.  Everett got a bit covered in sharpie marker and continued doodling as my husband scooped them out.  As usual, poor dad got relegated to the duty of the slimy mess inside the pumpkin (no one else wanted to touch it).  Then, as more usual, the toddler walks away and I ended up putting down my camera to go chase the toddler so…the pictures end at that point with no finished product.  But – those pumpkins are still cute a week later out on the front porch!  But away they go to the trash later in the week (hopefully when Everett is sleeping so he won’t be traumatized).

So…Happy November folks!  Looking forward to updating you again on some of our November happenings!

boy crying over having to carve pumpkins on halloween

father and son drawing designs on pumpkins for halloween

son drawing with sharpie on pumpkins for halloween before carving

father digging out carved pumpkins on halloween

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