“Goldilocks” – Storybook Shoot

Posted on February 25, 2015

If I have to choose ANY kind of photography that I would LOVE to be doing forever, it would be photographing children and turning them into characters of beloved story books.  This “Goldilocks” shoot was such a fun one to put together… It’s like being a kid again and getting to play with dolls and playing dress-up.  Love love love it!!!

“Max” – Where The Wild Things Are – Storybook Shoot

Posted on December 13, 2013

At long last, I get to share with you another one of my special Storybook Photo Shoots.  Maurice Sendak’s classic, “Where The Wild Things Are” is one of my favorite children’s books ever.  When I was scouting around to find the perfect little boy to play “Max,” I didn’t have to look farther than my very own home.  My youngest son, Lukas, looked at me with those giant dark eyes one evening with tears streaming down his face.  “Mommy, I dreamed that monsters were chasing me!”  To calm him down, I sat him on my lap and told him that monsters were just made up creatures.  I then showed him the book, and then the lightbulb moment happened:  OMG.  He’s going to be the perfect Max!!!  And the rest is history.  🙂

Easter Egg Cake Pops!

Posted on April 6, 2012

Hello again!  You are seriously going to think that this is more of a craft blog than a photography blog, but I promise you…. if you just go to my Facebook page, you’ll see pretty much all of my most recent work.  I seem to like blogging only once in a while, and when I do, I tend to blog about some fun stuff I’ve been making with my children. 🙂

In honor of Easter (this was actually last year’s project — so the boys were all a year younger), I made these special cake pops with my boys, because I always wonder what else I can do with those plastic eggs after the boys ravenously empty out their contents after a hunt.  I had this idea of making Easter egg-shaped cake pops that look like real eggs when you open them (with the yellow yolk in the middle and everything), so I searched the web for instructions. Alas, there were none… so I had to make them up. Good thing the boys are on Spring Break!!! They did help… even just a little. 🙂

Ingredients: boxed white cake, boxed yellow cake (I bought the lemon flavor just for fun), white frosting (I made that one from scratch because I forgot to buy the canned version), Pam, candy melts, food coloring, styrofoam block, 8-inch cookie sticks, plastic Easter eggs.

First, bake the yellow cake.

Crumble the cake.

Add frosting and mix until combined (until it sticks together enough to be able to mold — do not use all the frosting or it will be too sweet).

Make balls that fit inside a plastic Easter egg with about 1/4 of an inch to spare all the way around (use the bottom – not the pointy – side of the egg for measurement).

Chill cake balls in the fridge for about an hour or until firm.

Watch 2-year-old break all the other Easter eggs.

Let 2-year-old eat chocolate inside eggs.

Make 9-year-old bake the white cake 😉 (with some assistance).

Remember, it is white because you don’t put the egg yolks in. Trust me, I learned the hard way and wasted a whole hour.

Watch 6-year-old come up with creative ways to put the broken plastic eggs back together.

Cut up the white cake.

Trim the “brown” crust off with knife.

Mix frosting. You may also use a little bit of condensed milk for that dulce de leche flavor!!! 🙂

Press the “white” mix to the sides of the bottom part of a plastic egg (make sure to use Pam so it doesn’t stick). Then, make an indentation with your thumb about the size of half the yellow cake ball you made.

Do the same to the upper half of the plastic egg.

Close the egg, twist a few times to compress everything inside, then take apart. I had to use some excess white crumbs to get rid of the connection line.
Chill your “egg” cake balls for about 30 minutes. 🙂
Divide candy melts into however many food colors you want to use. The deeper the bowl, the better for dipping.
Make sure to work fast, before the melted candy get too cool and start to harden.
Use melted candy to “glue” the cookie stick into the egg, about an inch of the way in.
Dip egg. Swirl, tap, and shake it all about and do the hokey-pokey and turn yourself around… (and pardon my 6-year-old’s dirty fingernails… He did wash his hands… but it’s still gross looking. Must cut nails.)
Dry the eggs by inserting the handles into styrofoam blocks.
Decorate with sprinkles (if you do this, you have to sprinkle while the coating is still wet), icing gels, edible glitter, etc… You can re-dip a dried egg halfway into another color, too, if you like the double-color look. 🙂
Voila!!! 🙂 Better than hardboiled eggs dipped in vinegar. 😉
AND, when they bite into them, they look like real eggs (but taste way better)!!!

Home-made Vanilla Extract!

Posted on December 24, 2011

Sorry, I have hardly kept up with this blog at all this year.  I am planning an overhaul of my web/blogsite soon, and that will contain all my newest stuff, but if you are interested in keeping up with my work, check out my Facebook fan page here.  (For some reason, I’ve preferred to keep my Facebook posts more up-to-date than my blog posts.)  However, since the holiday season is upon us once more, here’s another step-by-step DIY post for ya…

At our Christmas bunco last week, the ladies got these really cool, home-made vanilla extract in fancy bottles as consolation prizes, courtesy of our awesomely creative friend, Rebecca Garrett. Sadly, she has moved to another town (boo!), and December bunco will never be the same… but thanks to her, I got inspired to make my own vanilla extract to give to the boys’ teachers as Christmas presents this year!!! 🙂

The recipe from Pinterest suggested vodka as the alcohol base, but after talking to the knowledgeable “wine guys” at Whole Foods, they highly recommended using Bourbon Whiskey instead. After all, when you go splurge on the “expensive” vanilla extract, it’s usually “Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla” which means it is made with Madagascar vanilla beans soaked in Bourbon. 🙂

Got these cute red-topped bottles from Cost Plus World Market. Both the Reno and Sparks stores are completely sold out of them (Gee, I wonder why?), but the Carson City store still had quite a few left… so I went there after my South Lake Tahoe photo shoot this past weekend and got me enough bottles to give to all the boys’ teachers and assistant teachers (plus one for me to keep for myself). *Four boys in school means A LOT of bottles!!!

My boys jokingly called the tops, Super Mario mushrooms!!!

Cut each vanilla bean crosswise and lengthwise…. (The Madagascar vanilla beans were also from Cost Plus World Market, but I was told you can buy them cheaper in bulk from Beanilla.com.)

Put the equivalent of three whole beans in each bottle…

Looks pretty already!

Measure out six ounces of bourbon. (The formula is one vanilla bean for every two ounces of bourbon.)

Six ounces = 3/4 of a cup, in case you forgot the math. 😉

Pour alcohol into bottle using funnel. (Pour some of the leftover drops into your own mouth!  Just kidding.  Okay, not really.)

Seal with pretty red mushroom cork…

Admire pretty light patterns…

And pretty red tops…

Practice some artsy photo-taking…

a couple times…

Admire pretty light patterns one more time…

Print out home-made labels onto sticker paper (from Office Depot). (I have the pdf file of this label, if you need it. I created it myself, so you won’t find it on the internet.)

The normal steeping time is 1-3 months… but it only gets better with age… And the best thing about vanilla extract is, it never expires!!!

Stick labels on the bottles…

Prettify with cute ribbon…

And voila! A super adorable gift people will actually use!!!

Make sure to tip each bottle sideways and wet the cork to ensure an even better seal. Learned that from the wine guys as well! 🙂

Admire pretty bottles lined up in a row with beautifully blurred background…  I can’t help it!  I am a photographer! 🙂

Thanks for the inspiration, Rebecca!!! 🙂

My Newly Remodeled Office!!!

Posted on July 3, 2011

After much whining and grumbling, my dear hubby finally caved and gave me my very own office. He moved all his stuff to one of our guest rooms, and told me I now had a blank canvas. I got soooo excited, and then overwhelmed, because I never had to decorate a room in MY very own style before. Finally, after spending some time doing online and magazine research, I found that I am drawn to a combo style I now call Victorian/French. Soo, that’s what I did to my office, and seriously, it is now officially my absolute favorite room in the whole house!!! 🙂

BEFORE: Khaki brown walls. Oak furniture. Cluttered desk. THREE MONITORS??? What the heck! Black chair I got for $5 at a garage sale. Blech.

BEFORE: Oak bookshelf basically falling apart from the weight of the stuff on it. My beautiful artwork is perilously perched on top.

BEFORE: TWO stations, one for me and one for my husband. Very tight quarters and very distracting.

BEFORE: What a messy looking office.  How could anyone possibly concentrate on creative work?!?!

AFTER: My newly installed IKEA shelves, complete with interior lights and glass doors. (I know, I haven’t completely populated it yet, but you get the point. It took a boatload of screws to install, but I am very pleased with the result.)

AFTER: My new client seating area. When I told people I was finally going to get a girly girl room in my house, they wondered why the heck I chose to paint it blue. This is why. I chose quite a lot of girly girl accents, enough to balance out a pretty nice looking hue of an otherwise masculine color (FYI, the color is called BEHR Arctic Ice, at 50% strength).

I painted some oval frames from Aaron Brothers (buy one get one for a penny!) red and tied black ribbon on them for my boys’ silhouettes. Very Victorian.

Not quite fully furnished bookshelves, but you see the tap-on, battery-operated LED lights I installed (from Home Depot).

My new desk!!! It’s white!!! And remember that horrendous looking black desk chair that I got at a garage sale for $5? I’ve reupholstered it velvety red! Now it’s all girly!  Black ball curtain rods from Lowe’s, with 20% off coupon, and white curtains with metal clips, 90% off (yep, 90!) from JCPenney home store.

Hydrangea flower arrangement: A $4.99 thrift-store find. My middle name comes from the Spanish word for hydrangea. 🙂

Soon-to-be home of some of my photos, which haven’t been printed yet. (They are metal wire curtain rods with clips, from IKEA.)

The desk was inspired by Pottery Barn’s Bedford collection, which was too expensive for my budget, so I found a very similar looking one from JCPenney.com for a fraction of the price).

A $10 eBay find:  vintage Kodak folding camera.

Another thrift-store find: $2.99 for all four!!! I love my friend, Will’s comment on our egg coloring project last Easter about the colors being CMYK (ok, technically, the K is for black, but green is definitely more colorful), so I put water and the same food colors in them for display. The light over them illuminates the colors beautifully, too!

Girly-girl decor from Pier One. 50% off!  It’s not entirely useless, either!  (It gets to hold my homemade lens bag, and maybe a purse and a coat.)

Thrift store find: $5 bird cage photo holder. Reminds me of that episode of FRIENDS where Rachel and Ross shared their love of Pottery Barn, and Ross knew the exact catalog page number of the “ornamental bird cage, large.”

The chairs were 50% off, and I had a coupon code for an extra 10% off plus free shipping! And the felt roses pillows were from Pier One, with a $20 coupon! (Never buy anything full price.)

While moving this little table, I accidentally dented it with a sharp object, and it was so annoying, I had to cover it up. Found these wooden flourishes from Michael’s, and they did the trick. (They also match my chair design!)

Added wooden accents to my desk as well, because I accidentally dented it too! Sheez luiz, the clumsiness!

Future home of silhouettes of my four boys, who are at Grandma’s house on vacation right now, so I have to wait until they get back, unless Grandma does them for me… 😉

Super cute black and white ribbon, 50% off from Michael’s!

Beautifully displayed art.  White accent table ($49) from Marshall’s, and pretty easel ($20) from Ross.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE my gorgeous new office!!!

Standout Competition Pieces | Reno, NV Baby and Children Photographer

Posted on February 22, 2011

Every once in a while, I like to jazz up my photos more than usual to practice some new editing skills and to try to score some accolade points from fellow professional photographers.  In the process, I spend hours going through my whole archive of photos to find the ones that, in my opinion, more accurately represent what I am all about as a photographer:  fun, classic, and heartwarming.  Here are three of my favorite children’s portraits from the past year.  The wedding/family/engagement/seniors categories are going to have to wait for the next time I get some “extra” time in my hands 😉

Snowmelt | Reno, NV Photographer

Posted on February 22, 2011

After a couple of weeks of Spring-like weather, we were greeted once again by snow.  There is a blanket of white outside my house right now, and everywhere I look, I see Christmas card scenes!  Just for fun, I went out to my backyard and practiced some good old fashioned “still-life” photography.  It is truly amazing how much beauty there is in the simple little things, like melting icicles.

Our Candy Cane Christmas Tree Project!

Posted on December 10, 2010

Since this is predominantly a photo site, I don’t usually post my DIY projects on it… but this one is very special, so I am making an exception.  My boys (4 boys and their dad) have this annual tradition of going up to the Sierra Nevada forests on Thanksgiving weekend to hunt down and cut a Christmas tree for us to decorate.  Most years, they’ve come home with trees that are over twelve feet tall!  This year, though, the Sierras have been pounded with snowstorm after snowstorm, and on the day the boys were supposed to go hunt for the tree, the roads were impossible to drive on.

Also, this year, the boys have an uncharacteristically longer Christmas break from school, so we decided to take the long drive up to Washington state to spend the holidays with the extended Nordhagen family.

Needless to say, my husband and I reluctantly agreed to opt out of having our own “live” tree this year…  However, in our effort to find alternatives to a Christmas tree, one of my boys came up with this crazy idea of making one out of candy canes!  At first, I dismissed the idea as far-fetched, crazy, impossible.  But then I came across a box of candy canes at a grocery store one day and admired how beautifully they looked.  Then I thought the candy cane tree wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all!!!

The engineering phase is really the most difficult part of the process.  Once I’ve decided which materials to use and how to make the structure stay up and remain stable, the work of assembling the tree was actually a lot of fun.  First, a little background on The Candy Cane:

Legend has it that in 1670, a choirmaster at a Cathedral in Cologne, Germany decided to give the children peppermint “sticks” to suck on so that they wouldn’t be too bored during the really long Christmas church services.  Then, in 1847, a German-Swedish immigrant decided to hang them up as decorations on his Christmas tree.  In the 1920s, Lt. Bob McCormack found a way to mass produce them and distribute them as Christmas treats.  It wasn’t until later in the century that more Christian symbolism was attached to the candy cane.

In the modern Christian tradition, the shape of the candy cane, J, stands for Jesus Christ, while the upside down cane symbolizes a shepherd’s crook, for the shepherds who visited the baby Jesus at the manger, and for Jesus’ symbolic role as The Good Shepherd.  The red stripes stand for the blood Christ shed for us on the cross, while the white stripes symbolize the purity associated with the cleansing of our sins as a result of His sacrifice.

Whichever way you interpret the meaning of the candy cane, I think it is an essential element of Christmas, and our house is not complete at Christmastime without them.

So, without further ado, here are the steps we took to make our beautiful candy cane tree.  There was a lot of trial and error involved, but the final product is nothing short of magnificent, if I do say so myself 😉

Yep, “BOB’S CANDY CANES” still exists… named after the original Lt. Bob McCormack, who came up with the idea of mass producing candy canes.

For the main structure of the tree, I got these styrofoam circles at Michaels, along with a styrofoam cone for the top.  Originally, I was going to use the skewers to provide the spaces in between the circles, but that didn’t work out too well… so…

I decided to improvise and use my sons’ Lego blocks instead.  I glued them to the styrofoam to keep them from moving and falling apart.

If you don’t have any Legos, you may also purchase these styrofoam blocks from Michaels and cut them to the right height.

Make sure you place the structure at the final display area so that you won’t have to move the entire tree later.  Now, the fun begins!  I realized too late that I shouldn’t have taken the plastic wrappers off the styrofoam circles, because I wanted to stick each unwrapped candy cane onto the circles with tape.  The tape sticks better to plastic than to styrofoam.  I will keep this in mind for next time! 😉

It’s nice to have some little helpers, to take the candy canes out of the boxes and straighten out to ends of the plastic wrap for easier taping.

After each layer round is complete, make sure to double up the tape to prevent the candy canes from falling out of place.

After 36 boxes of candy canes, this is how far we got!  I needed to go back to the store for more…

Finally, 44 boxes later, the tree has come to life!!!

For the ornaments, we used green pinwheel candies (peppermint-flavored, just like the candy canes!) bought at the bulk section of our local Winco Foods grocery store.

The tree top is simply a miniature candy cane tree, stuck onto the top with lots of tape!  (This project could have easily been sponsored by Bob’s Candy Canes AND Scotch Tape.)

Now for the topper…

Soften 4 red Starburst candies (get it, STAR topper out of STARburst!) in the microwave for 15 seconds, then roll them flat on a non-stick surface with a non-stick rolling pin.

Use a star-shaped cookie cutter to cut out the star.

Use coconut flakes to make snow for the base of the tree… (because it’s just not Christmas without SNOW!)

Stick a toothpick into the Starburst star, stick that into another softened Starburst shaped into a cone base, then put that on top of the tree… and TA-DA… We have a Candy Cane Christmas Tree!!! 🙂


Working on old photos…

Posted on March 24, 2010

Lately, I’ve been playing around with some new-found skills, and they don’t just apply to photos I will be taking from now on… but also to photos I’ve taken in the past that I haven’t had the chance to process until now.  I’ve always loved this photo I took of my kids’ great-grandpa, whom they lovingly call OppyPoppy.  He’s got a lot of personality wrapped up into one adorable, hard-working cattle farmer of a man.  He’s one of those people who will work until God decides he can’t do it anymore, he’s incredibly funny without even trying to be, and he LOVES kittens!

An ode to my favorite season of the year! :-)

Posted on March 18, 2010


I love spring!  I love the new life that sprouts up from everywhere, the beautiful flowers, celebrating my birthday, Mother’s Day, and Easter Sunday… It is so beautiful outside — not too warm or too cold — just a perfect combination of light breeze, floral perfume and the melodic chorus of birds chirping.

All images and text Copyright 2012 by Amen Photography. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited.