August, 13, 2016

I have fond memories of this day. This bride hands down wins the photographer's dream award! Ashley was so great about having people ready for pictures and just made everything run so smoothly. Not to mention these guys are such good, fun, loving people it was easy to hang out with them all day.


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April 15, 2016

I grew up in a small town of 400 people. I was pretty much an only child, (my brothers were already out of the house by the time I was born). Despite not having any siblings to play with, I whole heartedly believe I had the best childhood ever. Although I didn’t have any brothers or sisters, there was Sam. Sam West lived across the street in an old victorian house with a barn and plenty of tree forts. I grew up with this kid. He is my brother. His mother was another mother to me and his brother and sister became my siblings. I spent almost every day playing at his house, he always had the cool stuff like Nintendo 64 and wood/tools to build things. I could reminisce forever on how lucky we were to grow up in a small village. How we could run around gathering up the other neighborhood kids and start a game of Annie Annie over. I was never bored. Now we are grown ups? I guess you could call us that. We both got out of that small town of Racine, I did my travels across Europe, Sam served our country in the Middle East. He bought himself a cozy little home on the lake and found himself a gal. And they are perfect for each other, she loves to snowboard, what else could you ask for! And now here we are, I get to document a huge moment in Sam’s life and I am gaining an awesome “sister” too. These nature loving kids were so much fun to hang out with the other day for a photo session on the lake.


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Febuary 18, 2016

Let me start by saying being an Au Pair was the most difficult yet amazing thing I have ever done in my life! Wait what is an au pair you say? Well according to Wikipedia, An au pair (plural: au pairs) is a domestic assistant from a foreign country working for, and living as part of, a host family. Typically, au pairs take on a share of the family's responsibility for childcare as well as some housework, and receive a monetary allowance for personal use.
I really wanted to write a post about my nanny experience abroad, in hopes that it inspires any of you wanting to travel but lack the funds or just don't know how to go about it. In this post I will attempt to give you the advice that I wish I had before going into it. I will talk about my experience and how it was the best thing I ever did with my life, and I will probably talk about the times when I wanted to come home crying to my mom and dad. Like I said, moving to a completely foreign country where you don't know anybody, you don't understand the language, and you are thrown into another family's life is not the easiest thing in the world, but oh so freaking rewarding!
So I guess I will start with step one;
FINDING A FAMILY.

I used a couple of different websites, https://www.aupairworld.com/en being the best rated I believe. You create a profile describing your services as well as your preferences on the type of family your looking for, where you are looking to go etc... Now this is VERY important. Make damn sure that the family you find is cool and legit. Skype with them several times. Make sure they offer to pay for you to go to a language class while you are there. Decide if you can handle living in the same house with a bunch of strangers, or if you would rather find a family that offers separate housing; there are a few out there. Make sure the family lives in an area that you can easily access things, people, etc... You do NOT want to be stranded at some house in the middle of the country with no means of being able to go out and be free for a bit. If they do not talk about getting your work visa together, run the other way (more about that in a bit).
I will now quickly share my first time experience. In 2012 I found my first family; they lived in Zurich, Switzerland. I wasn't particularly trying to go to Switzerland, at the time, but it didn't really matter to me as I was just trying to go somewhere. This family seemed legit, so a month later I was on a plane to Zurich for a three month stint of my first nanny abroad experience; my first experience abroad ever, for that matter. It turns out, the host dad was a short man trying to overcompensate his stunted growth by using major assholery techniques. I loved the girls and the mom was cool, but seriously the dad was a dick. Any time I was ever home at the same time as he was, I avoided him at all costs, usually by locking myself in my IKEA furnished room, watching "Peep Show", and drowning my sorrows in Nutella. I won't vent forever about how terrible this dude was but it is important for any of you future au pairs to make sure the family gets a legit "au pair" work visa prepared for you. The Swiss family did not do this, and later on I found out it was illegal to have me working for them without an au pair work visa. I quickly became aware of how shady this guy was.

Right, so if I haven't scared you away yet, please keep reading because it gets so much better!

Second step;

GET THERE

No matter where you are going you usually have to go through an annoying amount of paperwork; trust me, it's worth it. Try to find a family that is willing to help pay for at least some of your travel expenses; this helps if you are broke like I was. Prepare yourself to say goodbye to your friends and family. For me, I was so excited that the homesickness didn't set in until I was there for a few days. Yes, you will get homesick and lonely but I will talk about that later on and what I did that seemed to help. Pack light; there is a good chance you will end up feeling self conscious about your style once you get there and reworking your entire wardrobe in the end. At least that is what happened to me.

This is a picture displaying that if you live in Bordeaux, France, four year olds will have way better style than you.

Okay, so back to my experience. When I was living in Zurich I made some amazing friends, two of whom I am still really good friends with to this day. This made the whole "dad being a fascist dictator thing", so worth it. Alex, an American from Washington DC, and Linnea, a Swedish girl, who I met on my first day of German class, made the whole experience amazing. Imagine going on a month long road trip by yourself... That is sort of what it would be like to not have any friends sharing your au pair/ abroad experience with. Finding friends is sooooo important. Put yourself out there; you can do it!

Alex and Linnea being super cool on a visit to Paris

Alex had been living in Europe for quite a while and really took Linnea and me under his wing. Linnea was also an au pair in Zurich and we confided in the challenges and woes of living with a Swiss family. In the end, once my Swiss job was over, Alex convinced me to search for another au pair job in the South of France. He is a Francophile at heart and had lived there for years before I met him. France? I had never even thought about France. Thank God for Alex.
Three months later I hit the jackpot. A family living in Bordeaux... the wine capital of the world... "I like wine", I thought. The mom was a stay at home yoga and painting enthusiast. The father was a lawyer, and the little girl who was my responsibility, was a cute four year old blonde named Salome. The first time I skyped with them they were at their beach house in Bidart. The mom didn't seem to know how to work the computer and they were all drinking red wine... This is when I knew it was all going to work out. The family was the most amazing bunch of people I could have asked to be placed with. They showed me their world; I can't even find the words to describe how they changed my life. I could go on forever about my experiences and the awesome things I got to do, but I will get back to the advice you were probably seeking when you started reading this.

If your host mom is super chill, takes yoga and painting classes, eventually teaches you yoga, shares her Buddist ideals, and uses mint flavored essential oils to fix your tummy aches, BONUS!

-You don't have to necessarily like children to be an au pair; just look at it as your job, and maybe you will surprise yourself. But know that...
-Being a nanny is SUPER hard, the kid is probably going to hate you at first.

Case in point, I took this photo of Salome on the first day I met her and this was the look she gave me...

And this one..

When I first arrived in France I didn't speak any French, and Salome, the girl I was watching didn't speak any English. Needless to say, it was difficult. It took a certain amount of patience I didn't know I even had in me. Salome taught me the most French out of anyone. She was probably more patient than I was. She was four. After living in France for a year and a half, and taking French classes part of that time, I can say that my French is "OK"? Also, being with a family 24/7 you tend to feel like you are constantly being watched. This feeling fades after a bit, depending on how well you integrate yourself into the family. It is hard, however, not to feel like you are walking on eggshells sometimes.
-Being in a different country is different. Umm duh? But no seriously just be prepared for things to be somewhat different than they are at home. For me, some of the adjustments I faced living in France werefacts like: stores aren't always open; everything is smaller; there is only one Chipotle in all of Europe; you don't understand what people are saying most of the time; it takes allot of courage to just go up and order a coffee; currency is different, ect... The first time I attempted to purchase a coffee in Zurich, I tried paying for it with a 5 cent franc; not really knowing how much a franc was worth. Priorities are different. If you go to France be prepared to sit at the dinner table for at least 3 hours.

-Learn the transportation system. This is your lifeline. Do not be afraid to go out and explore, if you do not do this, then what is the point? Go get on the tram and ride it to the very last stop and back, if you are in Europe, drink a beer while you're at it!
-Speaking of beer, go to PUBS!!!

If you happen to go to Bordeaux, check out "Molly Malones" was my favorite, these guys that worked there ended up being my closest friends, I ended up marrying the one on the left...

This is where I met most of my friends, not to mention my now super sexy British husband. :] Seriously, most pubs will have English speaking peeps there. Become friends with the Irish bartender and receive cheap drinks... Go to quiz nights, get drunk and ride bikes through the cobblestoned streets. Buy a late night kabob or better known by Americans as a "euro". Meet new people everyday and attempt to speak to them in their language; being a bit tipsy helps with this.
-Try super hard to learn the language, it is scary, and for some people this does not come easy. The only real way you will learn is to practice. I'm sorry, but if you took a few years of French class in high school its not going to help much once you are actually there. You HAVE to speak it all the time, do not be afraid to make mistakes because it will probably happen constantly.
-Be prepared for homesickness, more so at first but it really never does go away. A few things I did to help with this; I wrote in a journal, I explored, I took photos, I confided in my host mom, I went to pubs, I made friends, I confided in my new friends, I tried to remember that this was an experience of a life time, I looked at new apartments on Craigslist for when I would return, I went for long walks and got lost, and I skyped with my family. Eventually, you will feel like this new place is your home and you will get into a groove.

-Try to travel to other countries while you are there if you can! If you are in Europe, it is fairly cheap to buy plane tickets to other countries. While I was living in France, I was able to travel to Spain, Greece, and Switzerland all the while being on a low budget.

-If the family has a beach house in Biarritz, its a plus

You will experience a lot of "first times"
here are a few of mine

  • eating foie gras
  • surfing
  • eating pate
  • eating rabbit stew
  • drinking Pastis
  • snorkeling
  • eating cheese that smelled like you shouldn't be eating it
  • peeing my pants in front of someone on a first date
  • pooping in an alley
  • wiping poop from the butt of a four year old
  • meeting the love of my life, now husband
  • drinking/buying beer at Mc Donald’s
  • drinking beer on the street
  • drinking beer on a train
  • drinking wine at a castle
  • riding a horse through a vineyard
  • eating Baklava
  • going to an underground speak easy
  • riding a train
  • paddle boarding
  • nude beaches
  • being nude on a beach
  • seeing other people nude on a beach
  • wearing a T shirt in February
  • yoga class in French
  • cut my hair to my shoulders
  • became a brunette for a while

These are just a few things I can think of right now. Of course, everyone's experience will be different depending on your personality and where you go. The point is you will get to do so many things in life that you never even thought existed. Eventually Salome started to like me, I love that little girl to this day... and I think she loves me too. Maybe I will let the photos tell the rest of my story.

Salome looking like she should be in a child vogue magazine...


The view from the family's beach house in Bidart

Bordeaux during Christmas

If you get a chance to go to Ibiza, don't, go to Formantara instead, also wear sunscreen

Learn how to read a map

Some people will teach you cooler things than others...

French Class with Danielle (American) and Nicole (New Zealand-er), notice the bottle of wine. Have I convinced you to go to France yet?

If you manage to find yourself a foriegn love, by all means necassary, convince him to come back with you. Maybe I will do another post on K-1 Visas, how exciting that would be!
Well I hope this was helpful for all you kids out there feeling that travel bug. Becoming an au pair is a great option for those who want to travel and really experience what it is like to live in another coutry.

Read on for random journal entries from my experience abroad...

"I lost it last night. I haven't had a day to myself yet and I think it's getting to me. Plus I started my period. Then add on the fact that I've been kidnapped into the middle of nowhere to this Buddhist retreat with just the parents and Salome... "

Feb 7th 2013

"Sitting at my usual coffee shop. Skipping class... sitting right next to two girls who are so incredibly British. They don't know I can understand them, I like that feeling, it makes me smile."

"1/20, Wow last night ended up being a disaster. Left awkward pub and was immediately bombarded with men. I was on my way down the street for a stroll when some guy stopped me to talk. I decided to give him a chance since I was desperate for a friend. His name was Victor and he seemed nice enough. We ended up talking about getting a drink so i followed him onto a bus and we end up near HB we walk into a Coop and I immediately became confused. Turns out, his idea of getting a drink was to buy two cans of beer and drink them on the street... upon realizing this, I called John back, the creepy Turkish man from the pub..."

"Well I did it, I asked them if they spoke English (most my age do) They were nice and everything but you could tell they were weirded out that i was talking to them"

"I have become obsessed with Nutella. This morning I had cereal with Nutella not milk, for lunch it was bread with Nutella on it, and for dinner a blueberry muffin...."

1/25, "At my usual cafe in Horgen. Getting a Deutsch lesson from the worker and a nice customer lady who speaks English. They are trying to help me decide where to go for my week off. I am getting tired of smiling and nodding like I am supposed to understand. I think they like me here, they really enforce that I should know German. I think I am slowly learning. last night German class went well. I feel like I know more than most here. I met a really cool Swedish girl. She knows English well and is allot like me. I think I will see what she is up to tonight."

"Dropped phone in toilette, pirate bar in basement with bad ass old jukebox, played the banana song from Beetlejuice. Found a sweet skeleton key that i kept and turned into a necklace"

"This morning Julie (five year old girl I nannied) told me they don't wear pajamas out in public and I said that "well I do". she was like oh... probably embarrassed to be seen with me."

"As I sit here and bask in the sun. Feeling tired but at ease, I contemplate my future. Feeling lost. The past year of my life has not been real. Ive been living but not the way I have for the past 23 years. A completely different life, routine, look, identity, friends, language, family... 9 months ago I arrived in Paris, met Alex and Linnea at Le Gare. After that my life has been a blur of beach, sun, rain, salome, french class, beer, and walking evreywhere. Things are much easier now, its good between me and salome. we understand each other and there is finally a level of mutual respect. she loves me and I love her. I have a lot more patience as does she."

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Febuary 14, 2015

A huge thanks to this family for inviting me into their home to capture this 7 day old human's first moments on earth. At first I was wondering if I have ever seen a person that young! It is simply amazing to watch a mother who just knows what to do.


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January 3, 2015

I wanted to do my first blog on one of my recent endeavors. I spent the most perfect day with my girl Gina doing some sweet little boudoir shots. The term boudoir actually comes from the French word meaning a woman’s private sitting room or salon, or her private bedroom. It is now also a term used for this style of photography. I love the connection of the word, it makes me think of a luxurious madame lounging in her own little sanctuary in the south of France.

After actually living in the south of France for a year, I want to explore this idea even more. I got a small glimpse of the luxury that is the bourgeoisie lifestyle and I want to encapsulate that in this style of photography. I want to help my clients feel like a million bucks at the end of the day. In this shoot, it wasn’t just about taking pretty pictures, the day turned into grooving to music, picking out outfits, laughing about secrets, and eating at the delicious local Hola Arepa to top it all off.


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January 11, 2015

So excited to have met this couple and to be shooting their wedding in less than a week! When I first met Maren for coffee, I knew she was my kind of bride, very organized! :-) When we met up to do the engagement photos they were pros at looking in love, so it made my job very easy. Here is a sneak peak of the love they have for each other. Stay tuned for photos from their wedding day!


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January 7, 2015

This was one of my favorite weddings so far! It does help that I’ve been friends with these guys for quite a while and they are wonderful people! With the groom cracking jokes and making us laugh the whole time while we did getting ready shots, it was a great way to start the day. The location was so cute. They had the wedding in a tiny, and i say tiny, little art gallery in Wisconsin. But the people piled in, they stood, some sat, some peeked through the windows from the outside. But they were all there and not at all bothered by the cramped quarters, just excited for the upcoming vows. The party continued across the street at the cutest coffee shop, complete with hardwood floors, cat decor, a balcony overlooking the river, and a magician. The most memorable part of the night, was when the music stopped. Yes, something happened to the amplifier. You would imagine this would be quite the party downer, but no! After a few moments of wondering what happened, the bride and her sisters started proudly singing Disney songs, i think they started with “A Whole New World” and the party continued! I will say that my friend and I proudly saved the evening by confiscating another amplifier from across the street where the ceremony had taken place. A successful party indeed! So happy for these guys :]

Flowers done by: nolasflowers.com

Cake done by: blueheroncoffeehouse.com


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Febuary 3, 2015

My husband and I woke up, that Saturday morning in January. Another wedding day. Another adventure, I thought, anticipating the events to come. Today we were going to be a part of the most exciting time in two people’s lives. Not only be a part of it, but to make sure the moments are never forgotten. And not just snapshots, not just posed documentation, but actual moments, genuine moments! The expression of the groom as he awaits his first look at his new bride, the women he is about to promise forever to. The teary eyed gaze of parents as they proudly watch the day unfold, the day they pray that they did everything they could leading up to this point to be a good parent, because now this child is no only longer theirs. The look of excitement on the bridesmaid's faces as they watch and assist their best friend get ready and transform herself into a beautiful bride. The absolute joy and confusion all at once on the bride’s face as she attempts to cut the wedding cake with her new husband at her side. The look of absolute abandon and freedom of the brother of the groom showing how it should be done on the dance floor.

All of these moments are what really makes up a wedding day. Maybe there will be beautiful decorations, or a live band, or a fire juggling dude on a unicycle. These are all cool things don’t get me wrong, but in the end it really all comes down to the expressions.

This day with Maren and Dan was all of the above. They did have beautiful flowers, and they did have an awesome band and DJ, it was at a super cool historical venue on the beautiful river in Red Wing, Minnesota. All of these things were the perfect addition to the love and emotion, and the people that stole the show. Thank you so much to Maren and Dan for including us in your cast of behind the scenes in your big debut of Mr. and Mrs.

Kind words from the bride:

“Thanks so much! We LOVE the photos, you so seamlessly capture a variety of types and styles shots. You (and Dan) were so wonderful to work with and the end results were stunning. You were amazing- thank you! “

Flowers: www.bridalsupportbyleeah.com

Venue: www.st-james-hotel.com

DJ: www.beautifuldaydjs.com


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