November + December Recap – Low Key Holidays // Behind the Scenes

November + December Recap – Low Key Holidays // Behind the Scenes

Hey all! Now that we’re skating on into February, I think I’ve got a minute to give you a short little November and December Recap. When I went through the photos, I ended up pulling a lot of them out, because as N gets older, I’m trying to be more mindful of what we share about her life on the internet. She doesn’t need to have her entire life broadcast everywhere, and so except to see a little less of her face, and I’ll probably keep her details even more vague for a while.

That said, we tried to keep the holidays really low key this year, and in the end, I’m really glad we did. N had some unexpected health issues in December, and we ended up spending quite a bit of time at the hospital and at doctor’s appointments. Now, nearly two months later, I’m so happy to say that she’s healthy and it looks like it was just a total one off thing, but I’m so glad we keep things pretty chill for the holidays and tried to focus on spending time together.

1.  N loves our piano. I’ve been playing piano for a long time, but I’m a true dabbler at it. I can play scales, read simple music, and plunk out a few tunes. In the past few months, H has started learning more, which has lead to N wanting to play quite a bit too. She had a blast, and I’m so glad that we are raising her with music in her life. I’m also glad that this piano (which we inherited from H’s family, and the brought over during their move from Germany) is electric and has a headphone jack. That may come in useful in later years. ;)

2. We had an early snow in November and N was so excited. Shadow was probably more excited, which is why I don’t have any photos of him, since he was running all over like a crazy pup. We thought it’d be the first of many many snow days, but it looks like it was one of the few we’ve had so far. I’ve got my fingers crossed for a bit more snow in February before spring comes along in March. [Let’s be honest: a March snowstorm is not unheard of here in Spokane, so I wouldn’t be surprised by that either.]

Music and Outdoor Fun with Toddlers in Spokane

3. My in laws hosted Thanksgiving this year and my job was to take care of dessert (as usual). I always make a pecan pie, even though I can’t stand the idea of a pie made of corn syrup and nuts. Why? Because H loves pecan pie. Mine is based off this Pioneer Woman recipe, but I’ve tweaked it quite a bit over the years so it’s not quite the same.

4. At the last minute, we decided to make a pumpkin pie as well (this one from Smitten Kitchen) and HOLY SMOKES. First off, I love any recipe that my toddler can help me with, and this one was pretty simple (she doesn’t stir on the stove yet, but she’s aces as mixing on the counter and helping add ingredients), and it uses heavy cream (a staple in our house) instead of sweetened condensed or evaporated milk. Second, it was possibly the best pumpkin pie I’ve ever had. Even my poor husband, who dislikes pumpkin pie, had a slice. Winner winner, this one got saved to our cooking binder.

Pecan Pie and Pumpkin Pie for Thanksgiving

5. N’s second birthday was in December and we celebrated it…in the ER. It was a really rough week, with us going to urgent care first and being told that she was fine, to ending up in the ER after a couple of rough days and nights. We are so so thankful for the amazing people at Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital, who let us snuggle her close during all the scary stuff and found out what was wrong with her.

6. Oh, and then we went back two days later to find out that she wasn’t getting worse, but had also caught a really nasty stomach bug (which she shared with me). She got her first ultrasound (and xray, and then a second ultrasound at a follow up.) and she did a pretty good job, but we were so so tired. And oh man, you guys, I’m so thankful for good insurance as we’ve been getting the bills for all these appointments. Ouch.

Taking your child to the ER if they're sick

7. We kept our Christmas decor pretty simple this year and stuck to a zillion lights and a tree that N was completely enthralled with. Thankfully, my mom passed down her collection of non-breakable ornaments and we used those on the bottom of the tree, and saved a few super precious ones for the top. Our pets have always been pretty good about the tree, although Lola (the cat) has been known to knock some of the stuffed ones off the tree when we’re not around!

8. A couple days after our trips to the ER, we were both feeling better and I bribed her with park time in exchange for a trip to the grocery store for provisions. The park was dead. Totally dead. No worries, we had a lot of fun until I dragged her to the store where she ate like three samples of zucchini (thanks, Trader Joe’s) and got a zillion stickers.

Simple Christmas Decor and Outdoor Fun in the Snow

9. H had a work party that happened after hours at the Carousel, which was basically N’s idea of a dream come true. Since we first rode the Carousel last spring, N has been asking for a return trip. She rode it over and over and over with each of us until we dragged her out for dinner and then bedtime.

10. We have the world’s most patient dog and I really just needed to share that with you. Shadow is a saint, and he will put up with so much insanity. But then when she’s done giving him pretties, he shakes them off and gives me sad faces. Love you, puppy!

Holiday trip Spokane Carousel

11. One of our family holiday traditions is that we have a class Bavarian breakfast on Christmas morning. Well, the German Deli in town (Alpine Deli, it’s amazing) is no longer able to get the same pretzels that they’ve been getting for the past few years. So, instead of sourcing them from another bakery or whatever, I decided to make them from scratch. Which includes using lye (a “very nasty” chemical) to get the crunch. I used a couple different recipes, and while they still need some work, I was pretty impressed. I made three rounds of them over the holidays before tossing out my lye solution and seeing this photo has me itching to make them again.

12. All the heavy eating of the holidays makes me crave my favorite simple foods, like fried rice. It’s my favorite of all the ‘clean out the fridge’ meals and it only takes a few minutes to whip up so I can even make a single serving for lunch.

Baking German Pretzels from Scratch and eating Fried Rice

13. This year, we had a fancy Davenport Hotel brunch with our in laws while they were visiting in December and now N insists that the Davenport is their house. Haha! When we arrived, N climbed up on this chair and then proceeded to point out every tree in the lobby, which saying hello to everyone who looked by. This is the second time we’ve taken N to the Davenport for a Sunday brunch, and both times the staff have been amazing. Brunch buffets are a great place to take a toddler, because there is going to always be something they like. I can’t remember what she ate this time, except that she stole all my strawberries (the usual) and last time we went, they had this adorable smoothie shooter and she drank like 5 of them. Pro tip: snag a dessert plate for your kiddo or bring one from home if your kiddo can’t handle actual silverware and plates. We’ve done both things.

14. Found this little art while wandering downtown and it made me smile. Love this city we live in!

Sunday Brunch at the Davenport during Christmas

15. Every year we exchange an ornament, and this year I lost my freaking mind and decided to design and make a custom cross stitched ornament. Here’s the first part I did, in November.

16. I then procrastinated (because I can only work when everyone is busy elsewhere) and had to rush to finish it. And somehow only have this one, kinda crappy, photo that I snapped. It’s a suitcase with flags for each of the countries we visited (Czechia, Germany, and Austria), as well as a pineapple for our new state of Hawaii. This will be a one of a kind thing because it was hard and tedious and I’m not doing it again.

Custom designed Cross stich for travelers

17. Winter walks and I love how pretty our neighborhood is. South Perry District, I’m so glad we live here.

South Perry District in Winter

18. Half of N’s Christmas gifts this year helped get her outside, and her two faves are from small shops! She’s rocking a Skida hat that is her new favorite, even over her fave wool beanie from Everlane. These pajamas are made from merino wool, so super soft, and N wants to wear them 24/7. I’m already planning to buy another pair from Simply Merino. And these gloves she insisted we pick up in Germany are huge but she loves singing us baby shark while wearing them. [Socks are smartwool, boots are Kamik]

19. We closed out the year with a trip to the hospital for some follow up lab work, and she did such a good job even if it was hard for both of us to handle. All these hospital appointments were hard, but we’re down to just one follow up and I’m so thankful my boo is healthy again! I have a lot of respect for families with chronically ill kids, because it is hard to watch your babies go through hard stuff and not be able to make it better. Lastly, a huge thank you to all the wonderful people at Sacred Heart. N had to get her first blood draw, and the techs let her stay in the sling so I could comfort her, and were so gentle with her afterwards.

Winter gear for outdoors with toddlers and making hospital visits easier

Whew! And that was that. A (somewhat forced) low key holidays and too many doctors visits and we’re head on into the tornado twos.

What to Wear for Family Photos — Tips for Clients // Spokane Mini Session Photography

What to Wear for Family Photos — Tips for Clients // Spokane Mini Session Photography

Last week, I talked about my fall mini sessions. I know a few people from my mailing list said they want to do photos, but are so overwhelmed with what to wear. I completely understand! We had our family photos done in July, and I was so overwhelmed by what to wear – and I’m the expert. I realized, I could talk about outfits for hours, but I wanted to give you a quick and basic breakdown. My goal is to make this easier – not harder – for you. At the end of the post, I’ll share one of our family photos!!

1. DO NOT leave your outfits until the last minute. You’ll want plenty of time to shop (in stores or in your closet) and make sure that you’re not doing laundry at 11pm the night before your 8am session (like I did), because the outfit you want your husband to wear is dirty (because you didn’t tell him not to wear it that week). Give yourself plenty of time to plan, so it doesn’t stress you out. Because stress isn’t what you want to be wearing to your photo session.

What to wear for Photos // Emily Wenzel Photography

2. Start with your own outfit. I’ll be honest, I find it the hardest to dress myself. It’s easy for me to pick out clothes for my husband and babe, but when I look at my own closet, I turn into a blubbering idiot, crying in the corner. So, start with your own outfit, and build everything else around that. For us, I knew I wanted photos of me wearing my babe, so I started out by laying out the the ring sling I was considering, and picked a dress that went with it. My ring sling is a mix of greens, whites, and blues, so I went with a coral and white striped dress for me. Normally, I’d encourage you to add some accessories, but I’m not a big jewelry person (and little miss is at the pulling stage) so I kept it simple this time. Remember: You want to feel comfortable in what you’re wearing. The dress I chose for our session is one I’ve worn dozens of times. I’ve worn it to shoot weddings, and to climb mountains in Greece. I love it, I know I look amazing in it, and that made me feel good being in front of the camera.

Spokane Engagement Photographer // Emily Wenzel Photography

3. Mix, match, and layer. Long gone are the days of everyone in blue jeans and white tees. While some photographers like you stick to neutrals, I prefer when my clients use pattern and color! Stick with a color palette – for us, that was blue, green, and coral – but mixed it up the colors and each of us wore more than one color. In the image up top, you’ll see that Alyssa & family wore maroon, grey, and white for their family photos last fall. She even rocked a little touch of sequin gold – which I loved – and they were all in rich colors with lots of texture. Right above this, you’ll see that Misha is wearing a red sweater, and Tony’s plaid shirt has a similar hue of red running through it at their winter engagement session.

Spokane Lifestyle Family Photographer // Emily Wenzel Photography

4. Pay attention to when and where you’re doing family photos. If you’re doing family photos outside in the winter, you’re going to want bright, bold colors. They’re going to pop when everything else is kind of bleak. Spring makes me think of soft pastels, summer has rich and vibrant colors, and fall is all about those jewel tones. For us, we did our photos down by the river, and I knew the blues would look great with that, and that they would be more casual. Want to wear something glam? Talk to your photographer about a downtown location, not a field or a forest. For a newborn or at home lifestyle session? Wear more neutrals and let your surroundings – or kids – shine.

Spokane Fall Mini Sessions // Emily Wenzel Photography

5. Wear something you love. I know I mentioned this above, but it needs to be repeated. Wear something you feel good in. Not just you, but everyone in the session. Because it’s hard to be nervous in your favorite shirt. If you don’t ever wear dresses or skirts, don’t pick your photo session to be the day you decide to wear them. You’ll feel awkward – not glamorous.

Lastly, if you’re not sure — just ask me! I love to help my couples and families find outfits that make them feel amazing. I want you to love your photos 100%, and that starts with loving how you look in the photos.

Family Photos by April EglyFamily photos by April Egly Photography.

Photos for Right Now — Tips for Clients // Spokane Family Photographer

Photos for Right Now — Tips for Clients // Spokane Family Photographer

You confess to me the first time we talk that you’re nervous about having your photos taken. You haven’t had photos taken since high school, and now you’re getting married, post college. Or maybe it was your wedding, that was just a few years ago. Well, the kids are in elementary school now, so maybe more like a decade ago? You lament that there are so few photos of you as a family. Maybe you did them with your newborn – the first one – but not since then. I get it. Life happened, and somehow you woke up one day and years had passed since you had professional photos taken of your family.

You think I’m just saying that, but no, I really get it. I started my marriage with great intentions of doing photos every year. And for the first couple years, we did a good job of getting those photos done. But then, life happened. We moved, we bought a house, we adopted a dog. Days turned into months, which turned into years. And then I got pregnant, and I got my butt in gear. We did maternity photos, photos I’ll cherish forever. But now I’ve blinked and my baby is six months old. [No really, I only blinked. It can’t have been six months already.] I want real photos of the three of us. Right now. At this stage where she snuggles her head into my shoulder when she’s tired. Where she’s almost sitting. Where she’s full of giggles and smiles.

Spokane Engagement Session with Kids // Emily Wenzel Photography

Maybe your kids are grown and gone. When’s the last time you did a big family photo, huh?

This has been on my mind for a while, the way we stop taking photos. But last year, my family got some news that really shook me. The big dreaded “cancer” snuck into our lives. Thankfully, it was caught early, and after a very successful surgery, we’re nearly a year out and that sneaky word has no place in our family. But I realized this week – when the last time I got good photos of my family – my parents and siblings and all of us – together? Besides that one I did a couple years ago at Thanksgiving? It’s been a long time. Too long. What if things hadn’t gone so well for us? Oof.

[And yes, this news came while I was pregnant. I cried buckets of tears. But things are so much better now.]

Spokane Family Photographer // Emily Wenzel Photography

I know my excuses – I have nothing to wear, I’m busy, I can take them myself. You just want to go to the gym, lose five pounds, grow your hair out, wait til your kid isn’t a Tasmanian devil 24/7… Ladies and gents, I’ve heard them all. And while I say these are excuses, they are also facts of life. The things that make us these people right now.

Take a moment and look around you. This moment, this time in your life – when your babies are this size and your spouse looks so dang fine – it’s fleeting. So schedule that session sooner, not later. Because someday when they’re grown and gone, I want you to have beautiful photos to look back on. The kind of photos you hang on your wall, not just the ones on your camera roll.

Spokane Lifestyle Family Photographer // Emily Wenzel Photography

Maybe standing in a park in your best clothes isn’t your thing. Or your kid’s thing. I get that – I totally do. Let’s do something together! We’ll go for a hike, pick some berries at Greenbluff, or make cookies in your kitchen. This doesn’t work for mini sessions, but in home lifestyle sessions are fantastic. Your family is comfortable, your photos reflect your crazy, beautiful, messy, happy life as it is right now. And bonus: I come to you, so if a shoe gets lost or clothes get dirty, it’s okay. You’ve got more in the closet (or the laundry basket). <3


The Larson Family // Spokane Family Photography

The Larson Family // Spokane Family Photography

When Christi contacted me about doing some family photos last summer, I couldn’t wait to see her and her sweet family! Christi and I met back when I was in high school, and she was a freshman at Gonzaga, at an orientation for the exchange program we both studied abroad with. And, after I came back, we’d sometimes run into each other at Gonzaga, and we had a class together too. Over the years, we’ve lost touch a bit, but in true Spokane fashion, there’s never more than a few degrees of separation between people at any one point.

In fact, when Amy, of Inland Mama, was working on her post featuring the Larson family’s session, her husband noticed that he recognized Derek from classes they’d taken together.

Christi & Derek, thank you for inviting me to photograph your family! It was great to meet everyone, and to spend a little time capturing this slice of your life, as it was on that sunny August day.

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PS – The Larson family took these photos for their Christmas cards. I know August seems a little early, but isn’t it so great to have photos in the warm sunny weather?!

The Hallock Family — Spokane Family Photographer

The Hallock Family — Spokane Family Photographer

A few weeks back, my friend Angie asked me about taking some updated photos of her boys. We schedule it for a time when their family was in town, so that we could also get a few photos of the extended family. All in all, six boys from newborn to teenager, and five adults.

Whoa. I was a little nervous. On the whole, boys don’t like having their photos taken like girls do. But these boys!

They had me laughing and snapping away so much, I almost forgot how cold and windy it was. Most of the time, I just chased the boys around a park (and parking lot) taking photos. I had to laugh, they’d find a spot they thought was cool (including this first spot) and yell out to me, Emily! Can we take my photo here?!

Then we popped inside to a little space Angie found, and took some more traditional family photos. Her little ones got a bit cranky towards the end — there’s only so much sitting still a kid can do at once — but we didn’t have any major meltdowns.

Angie, thank you for letting me capture your charming family! I had so much fun spending the afternoon with you all!

Spokane Family Photography // Emily Wenzel PhotographySpokane Family Photography // Emily Wenzel PhotographySpokane Family Photography // Emily Wenzel PhotographySpokane Valley Family Photography // Emily Wenzel PhotographySpokane Valley Family Photography // Emily Wenzel PhotographySpokane Valley Family Photography // Emily Wenzel PhotographyLiberty Lake Family Photography // Emily Wenzel PhotographyLiberty Lake Family Photography // Emily Wenzel PhotographyNorth Idaho Family Photography // Emily Wenzel PhotographyNorth Idaho Family Photography // Emily Wenzel Photography

Spring is on it’s way! If you’re looking to get some family or high school senior photos done this spring, shoot me an email,, and we’ll create a plan to capture your family :)