Saturday, December 27, 2014

An Amish Photoshoot

Back in November I was taking a walk in our little Amish community and spotted these little munchkins playing in a nearby cornfield. As I had my camera with me, I asked if they would pose for a few shots...

Okay, okay...I'm not serious. =) Actually my father wanted some pictures of Amish people to use for wall displays at our Amish-themed hotel, and since typically Amish people don't like having their picture taken, the obvious option was to take several of my family members and dress them up Amish for a shoot. =) Hudson + Rebecca were the chosen two. We took these pictures on the last nice day of fall, in November. I was so thankful we did them then, because the very next day it snowed and has been cold ever since! #seizethemoment

There are lots of Amish in our community, and we are related to half of them + know the rest, so coming up with some genuine Amish outfits wasn't hard at all. And I must say, I think my siblings can pull off the Amish look pretty well!

Speaking of borrowing the outfits, there is a hilarious story behind that! If you care to hear, read on...

So back several months ago, my mom had borrowed clothes from an Amish friend of ours, for my siblings to wear for a themed event, and also for this shoot. When it was time for the shoot, I realized that I had everything that I needed except the broadfall Amish boys pants for Hudson. For the other event he had just worn regular black dress pants, but I wanted this shoot to be GENUINE so I wanted to have the real deal for him this time. =) 

Mom had told me which Amish lady she had borrowed the clothes from. I think I was in the middle of something when she told me, and not totally paying attention. But she had told me how this Amish family was selling the clothes in a new little store they had just set up and right away I "knew" exactly who she was talking about---some Amish friends of ours who own a little store/rummage sale next to their house. I was sure I heard her say the name "lda" but it didn't really matter since I knew exactly who she was talking about. So I sort of tuned out and didn't think anymore about it...until it was time to return the extra clothes + get broad fall pants. Then off I trekked to our Amish friend, Ida's house. 

Unfortunately Ida wasn't home, but her children were. I explained to them that my mom had borrowed some clothes from their mom a while back, and that now I was back needing a pair of pants. They didn't know anything about it but I didn't think anything of that because I knew that my mom had talked to their mom. One of the daughters said they didn't have any little boys amish pants to sell or rent, which I did think was kind of weird because my mom had told me that their little store was full of Amish children's clothes. But they said I could borrow a pair that one of their brothers had outgrown, so I was all set and didn't think anymore about it. I told them I would go ahead and return the extra clothes (that some of my other siblings had used for the other event) and then bring back the rest when we were finished. They weren't sure of the price for renting the other clothes, which was also kind of strange, since my mom had told me that they sell/rent clothes out all the time, and even though they were happy to let me borrow the pants, it didn't seem like this whole thing was a typical occurrence. So I gave them my number, and told them to have their mom call me when she got home, to tell me the amount, and then I would send a check in the mail.

I went home with the remaining clothes that we needed and we did the shoot! Yay for beautiful weather, awesome Amish outfits, and unimpressed, uncooperative, but nonetheless, photogenic siblings! =) #keepingitreal

That evening I saw that I had missed a call. I listened to the voicemail and was super confused. It was the mom of the family I had borrowed the clothes from, and SHE sounded pretty confused. She said her children had told her that I stopped by, but that she was quite sure there was a mistake, since the clothes that I had returned were not theirs. She said we had never borrowed any from them. Furthermore, she said that the dresses & covering I had returned looked like some from Ila's (another Amish friend of ours) girls. 

Now I was MAJORLY confused. What was going on? 

I came out to the kitchen and explained the whole thing to mom, telling her that Ida had called and said that she (my mom) hadn't ever borrowed the clothes from them + that the clothes I had returned weren't theirs. What was going on?? At this my mother burst out laughing. I wasn't really seeing the joke although I had figured out by now that I had obviously made a mistake. She finally quit laughing long enough to ask me why in the WORLD I had taken the clothes to Ida?! I told her it was because she had told me that Ida was who she had borrowed them from. Amidst laughter she managed to inform me that she had borrowed the clothes from ILA, not IDA.

Whaaat?! Ila? How had I managed to miss that?

Well. Thank-goodness for gracious Amish friends + a sense of humor! All involved got a good laugh out of the situation, and all turned out well. 

Pictures were taken + canvas's ordered, the respective persons had their clothes returned, and yours truly felt quite humbled + made a mental note to LISTEN a little better next time information is being given. =)

Moving on....{smile}
Here are a few of my favorites from that day!

Favorites, anyone? And don't you agree that they pull of the look so well?

-Chels

Saturday, December 20, 2014

My Recent Lessons in Faith + Grace

{note: I wrote this post the middle of last week, two days before the LACP. It seems hard to believe that this was just a week ago. In the busyness of everything I didn't get it finished + stuck it in my drafts folder to be retrieved at a later date. Namely, today. =) Even though in a way it is past + irrelevant, still I thought I would go ahead + share it, as a little testimony of what God can do when we yield to Him + His plans.}

And I have a lovely picture here for y'all today! (haha, NOT)

This is what you have for lunch when its the day before the first LACP showing + you are wanting to break your record of being sick every year over the play + you woke up this morning with a sore throat, a cold, and extreme fatigue.

Ah, the joys.

So there's my big bowl of vegetable soup (with plenty of onions/garlic/chicken broth), oversized mug of peppermint tea, and dinner roll. The dinner roll is added for yumminess, since, sadly, I don't believe it has any healing properties worth mentioning. (unbleached flour healing? Nah.)

It is Christmas Play season here right now. (for those of you who haven't followed very long and don't know what this is, it is a huge, $30,000 drama that my church puts on every Christmas. It is one of the most amazing things I have ever been a part of, but there is also an unbelievable amount of work + energy that goes into making it all happen)

 And just to be 100% honest, it has been a tough past two weeks. The play this year is so dynamic in how its been written + how the gospel is weaved throughout EVERYTHING and as a result of that, the spiritual warfare has just been unbelievable. I was talking to a friend from church the other day about the amount of bizarre and crazy things that have happened just in the past week, and all of a sudden it just hit me: "This stuff is so abnormal that really the only way to explain it is that it really IS totally spiritual warfare. "

All that said. It has been ALOT. I have had my patience tested and tried in ways that I never dreamed possible. I have lost my temper so many times I'm embarrassed to even try to count. It has been a refining time for sure. I've failed and failed and failed. People that I normally love so much (and still love so much!) have just rubbed me the wrong way. There were more areas of leadership for me this year but along with leadership comes still being under other people's authority and I'm realizing again just how good that really is for me since I don't do very well with it. And working with a team of people that are just as opinionated + determined as one's self definitely makes for many moments when you just have to extend grace and hope that others will extend grace to you too! (easier said than done though) There were comments made, and things said, and decisions made, and plans changed. There were things that were going perfectly + smoothly and suddenly there were changes made and I found myself nearly frantic with how it felt like I was just losing control of everything I had worked so hard for.

Two Sundays ago my pastor preached a message on grace. I can't remember the exact title but what I do know is that it spoke to my heart. It was the perfect message for that time in my life. He talked about how God gives grace + forgiveness to us, and we need to be willing to extend that same forgiveness + grace to people who are part of a trial or difficulty in our lives.
At the time I remember thinking "I need to remember this for the craziness next week."
Haha-I had not a clue what was coming! I've been involved with the play for three years now + this was the first year I have ever experienced conflict + issues like this year. It's been almost uncanny how many things seemed to fall apart, and go wrong, and just how many stressful situations came up! One night just a few nights ago, I came home from rehearsal thinking, "If one more thing goes wrong, this whole play is just going to go up in smoke!"

One of our deacons preached the message last night (our church service was combined with the last rehearsal) and he talked about how this play can produce faith in all of us, if we let it. He talked about people who do things you don't appreciate. He talked about misunderstandings. About spiritual warfare. And about LETTING GO + LETTING GOD use it all to increase our faith and make us more like Him.

Wow, I am so thankful for men of God who are willing to preach His Word. Both times I felt myself feeling very small in my pew, feeling like God had this message just hand-picked + prepared for me. I so needed those reminders, both for this season of preparing and then also for the upcoming play this weekend. If I can just get my eyes off myself + what I am comfortable with, and keep focused on JESUS and remembering that He sees the bigger picture!

{Here's a little "teaser" shot of me and my "LACP Mother". =) More to come shortly!
It is strange to look back now and think that all this was going on just several weeks ago. To think that now it is all history + a thing of the past. The rewards live on, though. God moved in amazing ways-just amazing! The way He blesses the faithfulness + obedience of His children never ceases to awe me. He is so good. It was so incredibly worth it. I would do it all again. Can't wait to post about it all soon.}


"Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the church by Jesus Christ throughout all ages, world without end, Amen."
Ephesians 3:20+21

-Chels

Friday, November 21, 2014

Life Lately

It's that time of year again! The time of no blogging! 
Haha, no, actually, the time of the intense preparations for our church's annual Live Animal Christmas Play.
Which...actually ends up translating to almost no blogging anyway, so I guess I might as well stick to that description. =)

The last two weeks I've been living, eating, and drinking Christmas Play. I've been cooking for all the actor recording practices, which has been super fun because first of all I love to cook, and secondly, it is super fun to be here and get the behind the scenes scoop on everyone's recording parts. There's seriously nothing quite so fun as listening while someone else tries to nail their part, because I totally know the feeling of having to do my part over and over again while a whole group of people are watching and laughing when I butcher my lines. =)

As always, acting is one of my favorite things and recording/acting opposite one of my dear friends has been a highlight. The time period for our scenes is one of my favorites (Edwardian era, like 1905-1912ish) As I type this I am listening to the soundtrack for our opening scene song, which we are all supposed to be practicing individually.

I'm also working with my Cassie friend (us above!) to pick/design/purchase all of the costumes needed for the twelve actors in the opening scene. We are having such a grand time doing it together--we went to town the other day and got a great start on the costumes. Now it is "divide and conquer", and scour every single thrift store and costume store within a sixty mile radius. =)

On Wednesday while we were shopping we gave ourselves a little treat at the end of the day by taking advantage of Caribou's awesome "buy one get one free from 4-7pm" deal. (for those of you locals, this is at the waterfront HyVee Caribou, in Iowa City) 

So that's just a little rundown on life lately. Between all of that and still balancing my job + home responsibilities, life is staying quite peppy! (and rehearsals haven't even started yet!)
It is wonderful, though-there is absolutely nothing better than being busy in the work of the Lord. 
And speaking of the Christmas Play, here is the whole rundown on the details. Would love to see some of you there! Visit the website for more info!

Have a fabulous weekend, friends! 
-Chels

Saturday, November 15, 2014

TODAY

TODAY....
-grocery shopping
-running errands
-buying chocolate and tea to send to friends to remind them I love them
-drinking peach tea at this favorite place while writing letters to my mom's uncles & aunts
-mailing packages and afore mentioned letters to the great-uncles & great-aunts
-stopping by a cousin's house to give her a carmel macchiato & chocolate & a hug
-playing games with my little siblings
-writing a note to my sister
-making supper for my family + two groups of hard-working people at our church
-playing Christmas music
-lighting pumpkin spice candles
-making hot chocolate for a brother who was out late working
-giving hugs and kisses just because I can
-being thankful for the cold weather + promise in the air of snow to come
-having plans change, and change, and then change again. #farmerdaughterslife
-getting upset over a very insignificant problem + having to apologize later
-learning lessons the hard way
-remembering my cousin, and his memory challenging me to just soak up every moment

And that was a bit of my today. 

I leave you with my current gmail status: 
"Only one life to live for Christ. Never promised tomorrow. Live like today is the last. The only thing I can take to heaven with me is relationships. That's the most important thing."

-Chels

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Burlap & Lace Gift Wrap DIY

I thought I'd share with y'all this morning a little DIY tip for a fun gift-wrap project.

One of my favorite things to try to do is to THINK OUTSIDE OF THE BOX. 

Don't think of things the way you've always seen them done. Instead, take unique ingredients you may have on hand + brainstorm! 

This gift is one I wrapped for a dear friend's wedding recently. I used the following items:
-large brown paper bag
-part of an old ripped lace table cloth
-part of an XXL lace shirt I got somewhere
-burlap scraps
-a piece of sheer cream ribbon
-tape
-scissors
-super glue
-And last but not least. That top part of the flower? (with the tulle and the little gems)
That I cut off of an old shirt of mine that I had to throw out because it got several holes in it. But I just couldn't throw out that flower! So I cut it off the shirt + put it in my "treasures" pile, to use at a future occasion such as this. =) 

I cut apart the brown paper bag and wrapped the gift. Then I put a band around the gift using more of the paper bag, a strip of the tablecloth, and the piece of ribbon. (you can see the ribbon strip on top of the lace one if you look closely)

Following that, I cut out lots and lots of different size circles using more of the paper bag, the sleeve of the lace shirt, and burlap scraps. I put my tee shirt flower on top, super glued the whole deal together, and tada! There you have it.
How about you? Do you have any unique ideas for fun gift-wrapping? Leave a comment!

And speaking of comments...thanks for all the sweet comments on the Vlog yesterday.
Y'all are so kind. =)
-Chels

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Boho Blogtober VLOG!!

Yay! Today is the big day for the Vlog!!
I really still can't believe we actually did this! And to think we made it through the whole thing on the first take. I am still shocked about that. 
{Boho Blogtober Vlog from Hannah Elise on Vimeo.}

Just a little disclaimer here: Please disregard any element of ridiculousness. I am completely not used to videoing myself and it was more challenging than I thought it would be. Certain elements of what we talked about were serious, but I feel like I came across like a giddy thirteen year old. {which, hey, I am. At heart} 

So this was take one, and who knows? 
Maybe Hannah & I have discovered our true life calling producing Vlogs will be back with another one sometime?

As always..would love to hear your comments! 
(not on the outfits, either...have NO IDEA why I added that part at the end!)

- Chels

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Life As A Musician||Learning, Practicing, & Mastering an Instrument

It really isn't as hard as you might think.
All you need is an instrument and a whole lot of determination + good work ethic.

All this hype about "you can play well because you just have music in your genes" is exactly that: HYPE. It's just not true. Now, you can get a LOVE for music from your genes. That's what I got. My mom's family loved singing together-her four older siblings even had their own quartet and produced records together. My dad tells us stories about how his family went and heard almost every single group that ever came to their town.

So the love of music was something that definitely was passed down from the previous generations.
But the actual ability to play an instrument well? That's something that comes with practice, my friends, and LOTS of it. Hours and hours and HOURS.

Now, there is such a thing as a musical genius. They are few and rare, but they are out there. But even they have to practice to truly be accomplished with their instrument! Back when I had my piano studio, I used to joke to my family that there were four kinds of students:
1) the ones that don't have much talent, but work hard
2) the ones that have tons of talent, but don't work hard
3) the ones that don't have much talent, and don't work hard
4) the ones that have tons of talent, and work hard

Number four? That kind of student was a GEM, obviously. But so was number one. It really always boiled down to how hard they were willing to work to progress. Even if they didn't have much "natural ability", or a natural "ear for music",  a good work ethic and willingness to practice was what really mattered, and what helped them progress in the long run. In music, skill is 99% practice.

For our family, the ages we started with learning different instruments has varied depending on the person. My parents required us all to take at least several years of piano lessons. (and I would DEFINITELY recommend this! Piano is the best instrument to have as a foundation and it is super helpful later on when you are adding other instruments because you are already familiar with chords, note names, etc)

For violin, we started younger, mostly. All five of my siblings who play the violin started when they were either five or six, except for one brother who was seven. The Suzuki Method (which we used) really encourages students to start young, as the first few years in particular are focused on hearing + then playing what you hear, not so much on note reading. This is great for little people who aren't even reading yet. Find an exceptionally amazing and classically trained violinist, and there is a very good chance that they started lessons when they were 3-5yrs of age.

As we went on, we added other instruments. Mostly they were instruments we wanted to do, although there was one sibling (I won't say who =)) that did not want to play a certain instrument, so my father asked this person to try it for one year and then if they wanted to quit, they could. That was...a long time ago, and the instrument stuck! =)

Often it just takes a little time to get your feet wet, and get into it. The first few years ARE rough though, especially if you are starting at a very young age. All of my siblings and I would credit any musical success we may have to our faithful mother, who pushed and pushed and PUSHED us. Those first few years, practicing 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, was as paramount as eating three times a day. It just wasn't optional. We did it. My mom always said "we pay a lot of money for your lessons, and so as long as you take lessons, you are going to practice!"

We were blessed with great options for violin and piano teachers right here in our community. Over the past fifteen years, we have had various teachers at various times. Overall we had two piano teachers and four violin teachers. There was also a gentleman who taught banjo & bass guitar to two of my brothers for several years. With dobro and mandolin, those of us who play have mostly learned on our own. Like I said, once you have one instrument down, the second (and third and fourth!) are much easier.

For years now Allison and I have taught our five youngest siblings piano + violin. We used to each have our own studios and taught other children as well, but since our touring with our family ministry + other things have picked up, we decided to quit our studios since it was hard to keep up with all the students, as much as we were coming and going!

Some of us are more into music than others. And that is okay! My parents were always super supportive of an musical instrument we choose to try, but they never insisted that we all play 10 instruments, or anything like that. So as a result, there are some of us who play one or two instruments, and some that have almost mastered every instrument we have. =)

People ask a lot if we play by ear or if we read music. The answer is both. Overall, our strength is playing by ear, since that is mostly what we do with our family music ministry. Almost 100% of our music we arrange on our own, without sheet music. Those of us who took classical violin & piano all the way from little through high-school, read music and spent our high-school years playing pieces by Beethoven, Bach, & Mozart.

And a word about vocals! Sing, sing, and sing some more! (I asked my mom what advice she would give about learning to sing well and this was what she said =)) Practice exercising and developing your voice. Practice singing harmony. USE A HYMNAL and learn to read the notes and different parts. My five younger siblings are miles beyond where us older five were at their age, vocally. Why? Because for the past four years my mother has spent 15+ minutes every weekday morning singing hymns with them. All of them can sing harmony parts effortlessly, on their own. This didn't just happen; it came as a result of hours upon hours of singing hymns and learning to hear the harmony parts.

For teaching theory + basic music facts, I would recommend musical flashcards like these.  You can pick these up at a music store. They are one of the best inventions ever. I use them with my siblings + they are SO HELPFUL for cementing music knowledge such as note names, musical terms, etc. They are great for any/all ages. My youngest sister has been doing them for several years already and on occasion, just for fun, I even let the younger ones do them to me and see how fast I can get through the whole stack. =)

One last thing-this isn't about a formula, or a certain way you have to do it, or certain instruments you have to play, or anything like that! I still have a lot to learn and I'm not a pro at all.
I probably wouldn't even have thought about posting about how we do music, except that a reader commented a while back and asked that I do a post about it. Ultimately, it is all about honoring and glorifying the Lord through our music. Hopefully some of these tips can be an encouragement to some musician out there!

Okay, now off my soapbox, and onto the fun stuff. =)  Here are a few of my favorite music resources!

{Music Resources}

The Piano Adventures Series by Faber & Faber
I was taught using the Alfred Method but when I started my own piano studio, my previous teacher recommended that I use The Piano Adventures, since she had just switched over to them and liked them much better than the Alfred. So I did, and I used them all six years that I taught, and I still use them with my siblings. I think they are much more thorough (especially the theory books). I was also surprised at how many musical terms and different things Alfred hadn't taught me. I'd be teaching with the Piano Adventures and a student would ask me a question about something and I would tell them "Well, I don't know...I never learned this, so we will learn together!" It didn't happen alot, but enough for me to know that there were definitely some things that the Alfred curriculum missed.
When I had my piano studio (and still for my siblings that I teach) I have them each going through a set of four books from the Piano Adventure Series-Lesson, Performance, Theory, & Hymn book.

The Suzuki Method
All of us that have taken violin lessons (Allison, Denver, Elizabeth, Hudson, Rebecca, and myself) were trained using the Suzuki method. When Allison and I first took lessons way back, our teacher used the Suzuki method pretty exclusively and that was our main training. Now that Allison teaches the other four, she has chosen to incorporate quite a bit of other music, although she still uses Suzuki as a base. It is a very foundational classical method, one that focuses on children beginning lessons young and exercising lots of memory skills!

Boruff Music
Eric Boruff (the violinist) performed at our church a few months ago and he was INCREDIBLE. We were super excited when we learned that he + his mother have sheet music + music books for their arrangements! Typically we play most of our sacred music by ear and arrange our own music. But sometimes (especially for instrument parts + variety) it is a treat to just have the music there in front of you + get new ideas from someone else's arrangements! Other than Tracy Ann Collin's music, we have never used sheet music for our gospel instrumentation pieces, so we were excited to get these. We ordered several of the books and have been playing various pieces from them ever since and LOVING it. I HIGHLY recommend this music! The very fun thing is that they have arrangements for all levels. I have one book right now that Hudson (piano) and Liz (violin) are doing a duet from, and then I have another one with duets for Allison and I, and there are lots of books for all the levels in between as well. It has been especially fun for the younger ones since they aren't experienced/able yet to come up with their own arrangements. But they love to play duets together, and now they have "real" music to do it- music for songs they know + love!

Banjo Ben
Some friends of ours told us about Banjo Ben Clark awhile ago. He gives banjo, guitar, and mandolin lessons online! This is a great option if you aren't able to find a teacher of these instruments in your area. (you will find it is easier to locate violin + piano teachers, but once you get into the bluegrass instruments...teachers seem to be few + far between, especially depending on the area you live in)
Obviously I still think one on one lessons, face to face, are the best choice, but if that doesn't work for you, then definitely check into Banjo Ben's lessons. My younger brothers (Carson, Josh, Denver, & Taylor) have taken his lessons, and I have seen HUGE progress in their playing + skill levels since they started. His lessons aren't free, but then the best things in life seldom are, right? =) My family bought a lifetime membership + it has already been so worth it. He is a little on the redneck side, but a great musician + teacher. =)

Sadly this store is only an Iowa chain, although I think they sell online as well. But if you are from Iowa, chances are good that there is one nearby you, as there are six scattered throughout the state. This store is where my sister & I buy most of our music, including the Suzuki Method books & the Piano Adventures.

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Does anyone have any music-related questions you'd like to ask? Or for the musical ones out there, are there any resources that have been especially helpful to you that you would recommend? I'm always looking for new ideas! Please leave a comment and share!

-Chels

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sister Road Trip Recap

This is the story of two sisters who were greatly missing their cousin beloved. Cousin dear lived in the faraway land of Manitoba Canada and it had been two whole years (since this time) that the three had been together, just them. 
Because the sisters loved roadtrips and loved their cousin...well, the natural thing to do was to plan a visit. 
Details came together last-minute and on October 13th, at 4:15am, they set off. 
Sixteen hours and many adventures later, they arrived in the faraway land of Neepawa, Manitoba!
And thus began the time of all times....
Meals were scrumptious, plenteous, and very relaxed.
The past years weeks had been very VERY busy + intense, so the sisters decided this would be a vacation. 
It was hard for them to transition at first to no schedule for three days, but they got the hang of things quickly. =)
On the first day they practiced hairstyle options for an upcoming wedding.
Much time was spent in cousin's lovely little coffee-themed kitchen.
this trio...such a wild group they are. =)
There were long conversations over big mugs of coffee. There was sharing of the deep + hard things in life. There were times of prayer together. There were makeovers and manicures. There was music and music and more music. There was dancing and peals upon peals of laughter. There was an abundance of quoting from all things Jane Austen + Audrey Hepburn. There was much reminiscing over old memories + escapades. 
There was lots of cooking + eating. There was joy and love and all things feminine. 
These pumpkin crepes were...well, the LAST WORD in crepes. Cousin + younger sister made them and older sister took pictures + sampled the cream to make sure it was suitable. {ahem}
Can't you almost taste them?
Ready to dig in! The cousins ate these while watching the BBC Persuasion. In the middle of the morning. It was definitely out of the ordinary for them and felt quite odd to be sitting and doing nothing profitable in the middle of the day. But it was fun to do, just once. =)
Music was played. And played. And played. Such great memories. This is what the cousins used to do all the time when they were together.
The little house rang with the piano duets and accompanying violin. Everything was played, from "Come Thou Fount" to "Jingle Bells".
One day the ladies went out and strolled around the little town of Neepawa. They admired lovely things at shops where things were way beyond their budget. Then they also visited a junky little thrift store where they were right at home and found some amazing treasures.
THIS PLAQUE.
It was found at one of the shops. It had BONTRAGER written all over it. =) The sisters decided they were going to go home and paint this outside their house, and in their house, and on all the barns...because they really felt that the quote was written with their family in mind. =)
At another shop they found these boots. Older sister fell in love, although she did not purchase them.
And then she saw these and she really could hardly handle all that loveliness, so they had to quickly leave before she was tempted to spend waaaaay too much for two pairs of red shoes. =)
Browsing books at a musty old used book shop.
Ah!! It twas just like old times. So so SOO wonderful to be together again! These cousins have been besties for years, although they had all sorts of drama + full blown arguments along the way. =) You'd never know it.
Back at home again, there were dishes to be done...
But there was no need to stay focused. =)
And then one afternoon they all went to Tim Hortons, because the sisters had given that as their only request of things they felt they "had" to do whilest in Canada. =) And while they were there, they helped cousin set up her new blog, Loewens in Love. (visit it if you haven't already!)
This was purchased. =)
Then younger sister performed a dramatic makeover for cousin dear.
The Marissa cousin is such an amazing + lovely lady!
Perfect hostess, kindred spirit, and confidante...all rolled into one.
Older sister loved the charming little white dishes that cousin had. So much so, that she took to drinking cheddar bunnies out of them. Please, don't judge...
Diligently purusing their stack of library books about Kate Middleton + Prince William.
Younger sister made these little cheesecakes one night. They may or may not have been finished off in record time.
This is very possibly the ladies at their worst, doing face masks one morning.
Trim Healthy Mama pancakes...DELICIOUS!
One morning cinnamon twists were made.
The finished product.
And then some self timer portraits were taken

These cousins are professionals at consuming oreos. 
Healthy ones, that is. Newman O's, to be exact.
Lovely dinners were had with cousin, her husband, and the sisters. On this night, they had steak, fettichini aalfredo, salad, and fizzy raspberry drinks.
The sisters were introduced to THE BEAN GAME by cousin + her husband. They were instantly hooked...such a fun game!
They got to play by candlelight since the electricity randomly went out during the game. #memories
On the way home, the sisters drove through Lowe Farm, Manitoba and spent a few minutes with this dear friend + her daughter. The time was short but sweet and more memories were made over lattes and meaningful conversation.
In Grand Forks, the sisters stopped for lunch at Qdobas. As they were exiting, older sister heard someone calling her name. And lo and behold who should be there but this sweet friend, whom older sister hadn't seen since the friend's wedding last year, and didn't even know lived close by!! What a surprise...the world is truly small.
As they were nearing the cities, the sisters got stuck in a rather large traffic jam. Older sister took advantage of the stopped time to snap a few pictures of the beautiful scenery. 
Finally, Friday night, there was one last stop near Minneapolis to surprise a dear friend on her thirtieth birthday!!
And finally the roadtripping sisters arrived home on Saturday night, just in time for dinner with their family.
The trip was a success. Many, MANY (2,000+) miles were covered, and many memories made, to be cherished for years to come.

The end. Til next time! =)

-Chels