SIOUX FALLS, SOUTH DAKOTA: A "Who-Knew?!" Great Family Get-Away (Part Two)

We started our third day in Sioux Falls with a sweet (literally, with chocolate chip pancakes and banana caramel pancakes) breakfast at the All Day Cafe. Afterwards we headed next door to the outdoor apparel & goods store, Scheels. Why would the folks at Visit Sioux Falls suggest we visit a sporting goods store? The moment we walked in, we understood. It was not your typical store. It was a destination! Who would've thought!?! It is certainly one of those hidden gems you'd never know to visit unless a local told you. The boys got sucked in to the store and did not want to leave. It had bowling lanes, a putting green, a play shooting gallery and a ferris wheel! 

We then headed over to the warm oasis of the Butterfly House and Marine Cove where we got to touch stingrays and go "inside" an aquarium.

Then we went into the butterfly house. It was so fun to see my very active boys standing still in hopes that a butterfly may land on them.

Located right across the street was the Outdoor Campus. A nature center that taught us a lot about the local flora and fauna. They had all sorts of activities available like ice fishing, snow shoeing, cross country skiing and more! The boys loved meeting the pet rabbit.

After a delicious pizza lunch at Red Rossa and cupcakes at Oh My Cupcakes! we headed home to rest and get ready for our evening adventure.

 the gelato at Red Rossa

the gelato at Red Rossa

That night our minds were totally blown away at the Cirque Du Soliel Ovo show which took place in the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center and was conveniently attached to our hotel. This was certainly a highlight for me. My husband and I were at the edge of our seats watching the graceful acrobats perform. So much color and light and activity! We gasped out loud several times. The boys loved it too. Dear Arlo especially loved watching their magical shadows dance on the wall.  Cy took advantage of his distracted parents and polished off a bag of cotton candy that was larger than his head. 

That night when we returned to our hotel, Cy asked what day it was. His eyes teared up a bit when he learned that the next day would be our last full day. A true sign of a great vacation!

We awoke the next morning to a beautiful bluebird ski day. We headed over to the Great Bear Recreation Center. We were going to ski! Our family loves to ski and this would be the first outing of the season for us. What a lovely lodge!

We were all so surprised at the proximity of the ski hill to the hotel. It only took a few minutes to get there. We had a great day on the slopes! 

After that we headed back to the hotel to get ready for our last evening in Sioux Falls.

We started the evening with an incredible dinner at Grille 26. I had a Honey Chicken Penne Pasta dish that had me searching the web for the recipe afterwards. The boys all loved their meals as well. They even enjoyed an alligator appetizer!

For our final night we met up again with Jessie (the local mom) and her boys for an NBA D-League game, the Skyforce. My husband and I decided that going to a D-League game is the ideal sporting event for a family with young kids. The boys were enthralled and watched every point, every play. We had great seats. It is an intimate arena so there is not a bad seat in the house. The concessions were reasonably priced and there were no lines for food or the bathrooms. Best of all, a few of the players came out and signed autographs after the game. My kids both wanted to sleep with their autographed posters that night. Such a treat!

We stopped by the beautiful Cathedral of St Joseph on our way out of town the next morning. It was a beautiful send off. 

We will definitely be back Sioux Falls! We will come for the the long list of activities that are exciting, reasonably priced, well-maintained and easy to access. We will come for the art, the waterfall, the milkshakes, the Skyforce, the hotel pool, the people, the great shops and restaurants. But most importantly we will come for the memories. They are priceless.

 

Thank you so much for this wonderful opportunity! 

A Magical Time in Duluth, MN for Stormy Kromer

I am so excited to share a bit of what it was like shooting for Stormy Kromer up in Duluth, MN a few weeks ago! 

If you first want to read the story about how I became a involved with the Stormy Kromer Brand and a Brand Ambassador almost a year ago, read here:

http://www.shineonphotos.com/crayblog/2015/9/3/a-funny-thing-happened-on-the-way-to-the-cabin

 It seems that everyone in my family wears Stormy's!

It seems that everyone in my family wears Stormy's!

So after reading that, you can see why I love the brand and the people behind the brand!

Anyhow, a few weeks ago I said goodbye to my boys and left home on a Sunday afternoon. I headed straight up north to one of the most beautiful houses in Duluth. I was scouting it for the next day's shoot.

 iPhone shot - i couldn't resist taking a shot of this dream tub!

iPhone shot - i couldn't resist taking a shot of this dream tub!

I was thrilled when I arrived at the home and discovered that not only was the house and the land totally stunning, the ground was still covered in snow too! Score! We were shooting Stormy's Fall/Winter 2016 catalog for three days and we were hoping things would look as "wintery" as possible. 

 iPhone shot of the home's front door

iPhone shot of the home's front door

That night, I watched the news in my hotel room and the weatherman predicted fog for the next day! I grabbed my iPhone and texted both my husband and my good friend Rita the joyful news: "FOG!!" They both texted back shouts of joy! Oh! What luck to be able to shoot for an all-weather brand like Stormy in one of the most beautiful backdrops mother nature can provide with the perfect filter: fog! Hollywood would pay top dollar for a top of the line fog machine and have it shipped in just to get this sort of effect!

 Nothing looks better than a Stormy in the fog! 

Nothing looks better than a Stormy in the fog! 

The next day didn't disappoint. We had fog. Lots and lots of thick fog. We also had an amazingly handsome model named Josh who was a total outdoorsman and a perfect fit for the brand. You can check him out on his Facebook Page: https://m.facebook.com/gawrysiakmodeling/

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 An iPhone shot of my computer screen while I did an initial check of my images

An iPhone shot of my computer screen while I did an initial check of my images

 

That afternoon a girl with perfect dimples, insanely long eyelashes and the sweetest smile joined us. Her name is Sami and she is a model from the Twin Cities. I learned more about her as we went along. She likes to do photography as well - and gave me several ideas on backdrops while we shot. She also is a fashion blogger and all-around very sweet person. Check out her blog: http://www.simplysami.co

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We spent the afternoon shooting Josh and Sami on the grounds of the house. We made a fire. They had smores. They played cribbage and more! It was so cute to see them genuinely having fun!

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The next morning Sami braved some pretty strong wind and rain. Good thing she got to wear some of Stormy's finest all weather gear! She was a trooper!

And then Sami left and we all packed up and headed down to Canal Park where we met our final model Taylor. He was such a ham! You could tell he was also an actor and an artist! He had a twinkle in his eyes that was irresistible. And boy was he a good sport! You can see his art here: http://taypayart.com

 The water lens gave a few of my photos a hazy sort of filter! 

The water lens gave a few of my photos a hazy sort of filter! 

The rain and wind was so strong that water got everywhere - including INSIDE my lens! I had been shooting mostly with my 20-70mm lens and I ended up switching out to my 50mm at the end.

At one point, we climbed up on the rocks on the Lake Superior shoreline & the whitecaps were crashing so hard that they were making the journey all the way over 50 feet of rocks and onto the shore! The rain was pelting... and we were yelling out "whoop!!" and "yahaw!" and catcalls. It felt invigorating and exciting and wonderful! "And THIS is why I love photography" is what I remember saying to myself! 

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And finally, on the third day, we had a true Midwestern blizzard! It snowed so hard the power in the hotel went out. We got stuck going up a hill! Nevertheless, it gave us the most perfect dreamy winter wonderland for a backdrop.  

 

I feel so blessed to be a part of the "Stormy family." It was an honor to be asked to do the shoot and an honor to spend time with the good folks from Stormy! I just adore Gina, Andrea, Samantha and Alan. I really felt a kinship to them. Up north folks are always such good folks. Maybe it is because my family hails from a small town, but I always feel "at home" when I am up north! 

 

Much love Stormy - thanks again for the honor! 

xo, 

Jill  

A Trip to the North Shore

Last weekend we headed back up to the North Shore where the boys were all about collecting rocks again! Oh I just loved our little adventure. We packed so much in! Hikes, pie for breakfast, rock collections, the alpine slide... Everyone is still buzzing today from all the fun over the weekend.

Truthfully I was a little mad that school was starting again and cutting into our adventure time... but now I remember how good it feels to have a little structure and scheduling. It feels healthy! And the weekends are pure bliss. 

 

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A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Cabin

 

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Cabin

If you have read my past blog posts, then you already know that a few weeks ago I decided to take my boys on a spur-of-the-moment road trip. We went up to the North Shore of Minnesota, then down along the southern side of Lake Superior and through Upper Michigan and into Wisconsin until we reached the family cabin on the northeast side of Wisconsin. 

We visited places such as Gooseberry Falls State Park, Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, Park Point Rec Area in Duluth, Amnicon Falls State Park, Brule River State Forest and the Porcupine Mountain area.

It was a wonderful trip. The sort of trip you hope will give your kids memories for years to come. Skipping rocks, collecting rocks, hiking near waterfalls, singing silly songs, seeing all sorts of wildlife, rainy nights in hotel pools and all three of us accidentally falling asleep in the same bed nearly every night.

While we were traveling, I made a point to take us through the towns of Ironwood, MI and Hurley, WI. I remembered how beautiful the area was from countless ski trips up to that area growing up. I had seen the area many times in the winter, but never in the summer. 

While we were driving through Ironwood, MI, my son Arlo pointed out the window at a statue of a giant hat and said "Grandma Lynn!" Sure enough, it was a statue of a hat my mom wears all the time! A Stormy Kromer! How funny to pass right by that giant hat. I have always had a love for the brand: my dad is an avid outdoorsman of all types - hunting, fishing, skiing, etc. In fact, he grew up in a small town not too far from Ironwood, MI. He is a very practical outdoorsman who would never consider spending more than $30 on a pair of jeans (he has bought his jeans from Fleet Farm for as long as I can remember) and he has always had a Stormy on his head. I have heard him say many times that it is the best hat possible for ice fishing. Warm. Keeps the sun out. Easy to grab on and off. And most importantly, it allows you to cover your ears on an as-needed basis!

Anyways - my dad converted all of my family into Stormy lovers. My mom (and dad) volunteer at a humane society and spend 20-30 hours a week walking dogs. No matter what the weather is -  they walk for hours! My mom has at least 4 Stormy Kromers.

So, of course I pulled in and we bought our first and only souvenirs (besides rocks of course) of the trip! A round of new hats for all!

That night I stalked Stormy Kromer out on social media and found out they were looking for Brand Ambassadors! It seemed a bit fateful that I happened to pass through their hometown at just the right time. So I threw my name into the hat and a little while later I found out I was accepted as a Brand Ambassador!

I have turned down many offers from other companies to act as their rep. To be honest, I am not a big fan of advertising in social media. I try to use Instagram for art, not marketing. This was certainly the first time I asked a company to be their rep!  However, I am already taking photos of everyone in my family with these hats on so it seems logical - and exciting. 

It feels like a wonderful fit already. They don't have a big PR team asking for certain actions or making requirements. In fact, they haven't asked me to do a thing! The only thing they've done so far is offer me free clothes (SO EXCITED - their line is totally my style! I am ordering this poncho right after I write this!) and they sent me the most charming video from the CEO. He made a video specifically to talk to us reps - to tell us he is already proud to have us on the team. He seems so genuine. I am already feeling like I have just become part of a new little family.

I am truly bursting with excitement!  

I have visions of getting the company involved with my community organization, Minnstameets... We can do give-aways and photo-challenges! Who knows what else!? It seems like the possibilities are endless.

 I am also excited to challenge myself in my photography to try take the best possible creative photos for them! I am hoping they like my photos so much they use them for more than just their social media! I am excited to showcase the life of a midwesterner!

And, I have been looking for a few good bags for a long time -so I am hoping to pass on a few ideas on products as well! I have been envisioning the perfect photographer expedition day pack!

So here's to seeing what the next three months as a Stormy Brand Representative bring! Cheers!

xo,

Jill

PS:  All of the photos in this blog post were taken BEFORE I agreed to be a rep! Talk about a natural fit!

 

To read their post on the Ambassador program, click here!

End of summer kidnapping

About mid-August I started to get that crazy nostalgic feeling that summer was going by too fast. I have a son starting first grade and one in preschool...

 Emily & I gave the North Shore some love

Emily & I gave the North Shore some love

I had just returned from a 4 day excursion to the North Shore with my friend Emily who was traveling as a part of an Explore Minnesota campaign. That was a wonderful trip and it inspired me to "kidnap" my boys.

So, two days after returning, I surprised my two sons and we set out on a final summer hurrah. Just me and the boys. Dad stayed home to work but met us for the weekend about halfway through our adventure. We ended up being gone for about 14 days. We are a family on a budget so I planned our adventure with that in mind. We ate picnic lunches each day and stayed at friends' homes and camped when we could. Most of the second week was spent at the family cabin.

It was great fun because we didn't have any concrete plans. I knew I wanted to show them Minnesota's North Shore and then end up at the family cabin over in northeastern Wisconsin..

I can't possibly share everything in one post so here are some shots from the day we visited the Split Rock Lighthouse and Gooseberry Falls. The boys love to collect rocks so it was a rock-themed day. We even stopped at a rock shop! We also splurged on huge slices of pie at Betty's Pies. Yum!

Thanks for taking a look!