Capturing the Essence of Rome with Lifestyle Photography

Enjoying the View of St. Peter's Basillica

Enjoying the View of St. Peter’s Basilica

For The Love of Rome

Almost a year ago now, (yes, I’ve been VERY remiss in my job as a ‘blogger’) we took a family side trip to Rome on the way to my husband’s home country of Norway.  One thing that I’ve learned about myself over the years is that I LOVE to travel.  Ok, I don’t love all the details involved in getting ready for a big trip, but I really enjoy seeing different parts of this world and exploring new places, eating local foods, learning local history, and -this is where the photographer in me comes out- walking down EVERY nook and cranny to find awesome photo opportunities.  Exploring our country and world is one of the goals that my husband and I have made for our family, and I’m so thankful that we’ve had the opportunity to travel to some nifty places over the years.

Traveling with a Kid

I was a little skeptical about taking our then almost 6 year old on a 5 day tour of Rome.  Although she’s a good traveler and focuses well – she’s 5 – unpredictably comes with the territory and I didn’t want to take this once in a lifetime opportunity and then it become a disaster!  Thankfully, she LOVED it.  Before we left, I downloaded some Rick Steves mp3s on some of the sights we were going to see  while there, and she DRANK THAT UP!  I think she knew more about the Colosseum than we did after that trip!  Thank you Rick Steves!

Rome was great to get around if you didn’t mind walking or taking public transit, which we didn’t.  We were literally able to either walk or take public transportation around the entire city, and we could get to almost all of the major attractions on foot.  Although our daughter was almost 6, we took a stroller along, which was a LIFESAVER!  My mom had one that wasn’t as bulky as a jogging stroller, but its wheels were better than your average umbrella stroller.  It literally saved us and made our vacation a breeze!  No “I can’t walk anymore…I’m TOOOOoooooo tired.”  Nope.  We just strolled along on our merry way into ruins that were thousands of years old.  This is MY kind of vacation!

Photographing Rome

A cafe that has fans that spray cool mist during a hot Roman day - I'm IN!

A cafe that has fans that spray cool mist during a hot Roman day – I’m IN!

If anyone out there wants to do a photo shoot in Rome and take me with, I’LL SHOOT FOR FREE!  TAKE ME WITH YOU! LOL!  Seriously, though, Rome was FABULOUS to photograph.  I’d go back there in a heartbeat!  I love cobblestones, little cafes and bakeries, and architecture that hasn’t been built in the last 600 years.  I loved photographing my family in Rome.  There were so many fun places for my daughter to explore, and sweet, natural moments that I wanted to capture forever were abundant.  I also enjoyed the opportunities Rome afforded my Fine Art Photography.  I enjoy urban photography, and this was city life at a slower pace with a romantic backdrop. Fabulous.

Here are a few of my favorite images from the trip.  Many of my Fine Art photos can be purchased in my Etsy store:

Thanks for reading!


Star Wars Birthday Cake

Star Wars Birthday Cake

 I got to say that I never thought I’d write four posts on the topic, but I learned a lot over the course of planning this birthday party, and for those of you in my shoes with a child who really loves Star Wars, I hope I can make it easier for you!

If you haven’t, check out parts

for other great Star Wars Party ideas!

Conquering Fondant – A Star Wars Birthday Cake

I had never used fondant before, and I was really nervous to try, but I just hadn’t found pictures/ideas of any cakes that I thought I could/would want to replicate with frosting.  I decided to give it a go, and I’m so glad I did!  My daughter was super happy with the cake, and so was I.

star wars (1 of 1)-2

Along the way, I found some helpful tools in making this cake SO much easier.  First, I looked around on quite a bit to find the right fondant.  Never having worked with it before, I decided I’d better do a little research.  I know fondant is notorious for being difficult to use, drying out quickly, and usually tastes pretty yucky, so I was super excited to find this Fondarific fondant.  I thought it tasted pretty good, and my daughter wanted to eat it by itself!It was super soft and easy to work with.  I colored it myself with some food coloring and kneading.  I wish I would have had a rolling pad and rolling pin for fondant, but I didn’t – just worked with my good old kitchen island, flour, and an old skool rolling pin.  The rolling pin was a little frustrating because eventually the fondant was larger than my rolling pin size, which meant that the fondant started to show the edges of my pin.  Next time, I’ll be buying this baby to make my cake making much easier.

I did use a smoother, which really helped.

This size of fondant covered two 9 in rounds on top of each other plus some extra.  I had wanted to do a tiered cake, but I didn’t know ahead of time that I should have bought two containers of fondant.  Oh well….

One thing I did notice, however, is that this Fondarific fondant did not work as well for the cut outs.  It got too soft when I worked with it.  Great for rolling over a cake-not so great for cutouts.  Although, I’m sure if I put it in the fridge for awhile, that probably would have helped.

After finding out I was low on fondant, purchased some Wilton fondant, and the Wilton worked GREAT for cutouts.  It is much stiffer, tastes much more blah, and I would not have liked having to color and roll it out for a whole cake.  But, it served it’s purpose for the cutouts and cake decorations very well!

Decorating the Cake

As for the cake decorations, I found these two sets of cookie cutters from Williams Sonoma, which were fantastic! I colored my Wilton fondant, rolled it into small balls, and pressed down on the cookie cutters.  (Add a little flour to the cutters-it makes it really easy to remove the fondant).  I was really happy with the way they turned out!

As for the stars, I used nesting stars like these and layered them for a cool effect.

star wars (4 of 6)

I had a clothes steamer, and I had seen Buddy from the Cake Boss steam his fondant cakes, so I thought I’d try too. LOL.  Well, it worked really well in adding a shine to the cake and removing any left over bits of flour.  Make sure you don’t get the steamer too close to the cake, though…you don’t want it melting!

I hoped this post helped you and will save you some time in your cake making adventure!  Good luck!

*By the way, in the interest of full disclosure, I get a small percentage from Amazon if you order any of these products by clicking on one of my item pictures and then purchasing them on Amazon.  I wouldn’t recommend a product that I don’t have or wouldn’t use myself, and hopefully it makes your cake making process a little easier too to have the links all in one place!  Thanks!*





Easy Jedi Robes for Kids

Super Easy Jedi Robes for Kids

I’m sorry it’s been such a LONG time since I last posted!  Things got crazy busy between our trips to Rome and Norway and then my daughter starting school, work, and family illnesses.  But I did want to finish my Star Wars series because the party was a smash, and the kiddos had a lot of fun.

At the end of the last post, I was going to explain how to make Jedi Robes for the little ones. I didn’t have a lot of time, so I kept it simple.

First, take a piece of fabric and fold it in half (for some reason my daughter thought she should be white).  I don’t really have specific measurements on the fabric, I just approximated out how tall the kiddos were from shoulders to knees and then doubled it because you need a front and back. You could make the robes longer, but I didn’t want them tripping while playing games.

star wars (1 of 1)

Next, it’s easiest if you use one of your kiddos as a model and trace/cut around the lower parts of the arm and the body in the approximate shape of a robe.  MAKE SURE the folded part is at the top by the head!!  Also, trace first if you have a kid who’s a mover – we don’t want anyone to get cut.  DO NOT cut a hole for the head yet! It should look like this.  It doesn’t have to be perfect!

star wars (1 of 1)-7

After you’ve cut out the robe, you need to cut a hole for the head.  Obviously, if you didn’t trace first and just cut out the pattern with your child laying down, you need to make sure they get up for this part. I didn’t think to take a photo of the fabric cut out, so I just added a V-neck in photoshop to show where I cut on top of the image of my daughter.  In my experience, it is better to cut the “V” a little small and make it larger if you need to later.

Star Wars Jedi Costume

I quickly sewed the arms like this.  I left the body open because I was making multiple robes and wanted to save on time.

Sew Star Wars Jedi Costume

Next, cut a strip of fabric out to be a belt and THAT’S IT!  I told you it was simple!  As you can see from this pic, my daughter didn’t want the “V” neck, so I just made a circle cut for her.

star wars (1 of 1)-5

It is seriously simple and I hope you have an AWESOME Star Wars themed party!

If you missed parts ONE and TWO of the series, click on the links! Please feel free to Pin or share this page with your friends!

Star Wars Birthday Party Ideas: Day 2

If you didn’t get a chance to see the Day 1 post about some fantastic Star Wars birthday party ideas, make sure you check it out!!

Star Wars Birthday Party Ideas:  Day 2

Day 2 of birthday projects continued with creating a yummy treat that any Star Wars Fan would love!  Han Solo in Carbonate chocolate bars!  Sounds yummy, right?

Han Solo in Carbonate Chocolate Bars

Han Solo in Carbonate candy/ice cube molds.

Han Solo in Carbonate candy/ice cube molds.

I bought some chocolate melting candies, melted them on a low power setting and added some drops of vegetable oil.  A couple of years ago, I found these molds:

They are supposed to be ice cube trays, but they work great as candy molds!  As for the melting candies, I used a local Milwaukee brand.  I really don’t like the Wilton melting candies.  Yes, you can find them ANYWHERE, but I’ve had them burn on me in the micro before, even on a low setting.  Blah!

Melting candies:  not quite enough yet!

Melting candies: not quite enough yet!

The master chef at work.

The master chef at work.

Waiting for Han to cool.

Waiting for Han to cool.

Once the Hans were done cooling, they came out like this!

Han Solo chocolate! YUM!

Han Solo chocolate! YUM!

Death Star:  Day 2 – Decorating

While Han was cooling, we went back to our work on the Death Star.  It was dry, so next was to add some detail.  My husband had the awesome idea of using duct tape!  So, we proceeded to cut duct tape to make it look like an awesome Death Star!

Death Star is dry and ready to decorate!

Death Star is dry and ready to decorate!

Building a Death Star is hard work!  She did have fun, though.

Ok Mamma, it’s time to put the camera down and get back to work!

Decorating done! Now to take out the beach ball.

Decorating done! Now to take out the beach ball.

After removing the beach ball, we worked on the laser “bowl” of the Death Star. I took the plastic cup I had used during drying and cut the cup in two.   I did this because I didn’t have a small bowl to put in the hole, and the top of the cup fit my hole perfectly.  I didn’t want a super deep laser “bowl” either, so I trimmed the cup down a bit and patched it back together with duct tape.  Not the prettiest, and I probably could have come up with something better…but this is a piñata for a kid’s party.  It’s going to be destroyed soon anyway, and now I have a easy way to get candy in it!

Death Star is complete!  The Force was with us!

Death Star is complete! The Force was with us!

My daughter and I are both please with the way it turned out!

Thanks for reading Day 2 of our Star Wars adventure!  Day 3 is [ilink url=””]here[/ilink].



Star Wars Birthday Party Ideas

Awesome Star Wars Birthday Party Ideas

In a week or so we’re leaving on a trip to Italy and various parts of Norway.  (Looking forward to some rockin’ picture taking opportunities!) My husband is from Norway so we usually go there every other year or so to visit his parents and brothers.

Anyway…one of the things we usually do before a big trip like this is to sequester ourselves a week before we leave so we don’t catch any nasty flu or cold bugs.  I mean, we still go to the grocery store and places, I just don’t take my child to the YMCA childcare or other places with lots of kiddos who could be sick. Who wants to be sick on a European vacation?!!  Not me! Blah!

This leads me to my post today.  I needed to find something fun to do with my daughter to keep us busy in the coming days.  Her 6th birthday is coming up at the end of September, and since we’re gone most of August, she starts Kindergarten full time in September, and every weekend in September is already booked, I thought now was a GREAT time to begin planning for her Star Wars birthday party!  Not only does it give us something fun and creative to pass our days with, but she gets to be an active part of planning her party and we get some time consuming things done now.

I realize this is mostly a photography blog, so here are some of the quick images from today.  Even photographers don’t have time to set up the scene all the time, and with Mod Podge all over my hands, I did the best I could to capture some images that we can look back to in the future.  After all, that is what it’s all about for me with photography for me…capturing memories and emotions!

Death Star Piñata

The first item on the agenda for the day was to make a DEATH STAR piñata! Never thought I’d say that! (I’m so glad I have a geeky kid!)  This Death Star won’t be destroying planets, but the kiddos at the party will have fun destroying it and racing to grab all the candy they can! I found the idea on this Kristen’s “More Than The Mulberries” blog and thought it was a great idea!

Items needed for a making a Death Star Piñata.

Items needed for a making a Death Star Piñata.

I took a beach ball, covered it in plastic wrap so that the Mod Podge wouldn’t stick to the the ball. We tore up some newspaper and went to town with the Mod Podge.

We began with using a paint brush and soon went straight to using our hands as brushes.  Much easier!  My daughter wasn’t so sure about having such sticky hands and not being able to push her hair out of her face, but she did enjoy peeling the layers of Mod Podge “skin” she accumulated.  Yeah, it was kinda gross.  We left an opening around the place you blow air into.

Picking off the Modge Podge!

Picking off the Modge Podge!


What one does when you can't use your hands to get your hair out of your face!

What one does when you can’t use your hands to get your hair out of your face!

Several layers later we added a top layer of black construction paper and we had ourselves a Death Star!

Almost There!

Almost There!

Finished with the Death Star!

Finished with the Death Star until it dries!

Building a Death Star, it can take a lot out of you, but we washed up, checked on the garden, and began on our next project:  R2D2 cups.

A yummy Lemon Boy tomato from the garden!

A yummy Lemon Boy tomato from the garden!

R2D2 Party Cups

For her party we’ll all be enjoying Yoda Soda (more on that in a later blog!), and what better to drink Yoda Soda in than in a R2D2 cup?! I found a link to this great R2D2 pattern on Catch My Party Blog. I enlarged it a bit in Photoshop to fit my cups better, printed it out on whole sheet of label paper (so it was basically a large sticker), and my daughter and I had fun cutting it out and decorating our cups.  Just as a planning FYI: it required two R2D2 stickers per cup.

R2D2 cup patterns

R2D2 cup patterns

Final touches on the R2D2 cups!  My daughter thought R2D2 needed his red sensor, so she added it with a marker.

Final touches on the R2D2 cups! My daughter thought R2D2 needed his red sensor, so she added it with a marker.

After I lined the cups up to take a photo of the final product, my daughter thought they looked like a droid army.  This was when the real memory-making magic came in.  She ran upstairs to get her “army” and proceeded to set up her stuffed animal dogs in a line and give them a pep talk about their upcoming battle with the droids.

Awesome R2D2 party cups!

Awesome R2D2 party cups!

My daughter prepping the troops for a battle against the droid army!

My daughter prepping the troops for a battle against the droid army!

Getting ready to attack!

A dog’s eye view.

Getting ready to do battle!

Getting ready to do battle!

I love spontaneous moments like these, and I’m so thankful to be able to capture them in  images that I’ll have forever!

I hope you enjoyed today’s installment of Star Wars Birthday Ideas and photos!  I’ll have more to show you in the next view days of finishing the Death Star and some yummy Star Wars party treats! (*UPDATE*- The post of Day 2 is here!)

Thanks for reading!


P.S.:  Feel free to share these ideas on Facebook or Pinterest!!




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