Meet the Writing Team


Meet The Twin Cities Moms Blog Writing Team



Married to her wonderful husband, Paul, and mom to three beautiful boys, Aimee currently resides in Plymouth.

Aimee was born and raised by her parents, Vietnamese refugees, right here in Minnesota. She grew up in a family steeped in culture and it created her love for food. Her dad was able to follow his dream eventually and opened up a Vietnamese Restaurant in Eden Prairie, MN. She spent many days and nights hanging out in the kitchen and in the front of the restaurant (when allowed) and learned to love the passion her dad had for cooking and it created a foodie in her.

Aimee and her husband were married 6.5 years ago and joined their two families and cultures (Vietnamese and Laotian). Aimee and Paul had their first born arrive on August 14th, 2010, less than a year after they were married. About 20 months later (also not in line with Aimee’s timeline and plan), the couple had twin boys bless their family.  In this short period of time, Aimee and her husband made the decision to have one of them stay at home instead of doling out thousands of dollars into daycare. With the way Aimee’s career was progressing, it made sense that he would stay at home with the kids and Aimee would continue with her corporate job and continue to go to school to earn her graduate degree. Today, Aimee and Paul work together to provide for their little family, but still find time to spend their time together to continue the partnership and love they have for each other.



In her youth, Airika imagined life would play out like Secret of my Successmeets Romancing the Stone. After traveling to her share of exotic locales and marrying a man with the bluest of eyes, all she had left was the hostile takeover of a multi-million dollar business or finding buried treasure. Never one for predictability, Airika opted for Door 3: have a baby, Fletch (’07) and work from home in St. Paul. It wasn’t long until a plot twist took the whole family east to CT, where their biggest adventure began.

In an attempt for baby #2 (fingers crossed for a girl), they had triplet boys (’11). Cooper, Hudson, and Nathan brought with them joy, laughter, utter exhaustion, and the realization that Minnesota was the best place to raise four strapping boys. Currently residing in Arden Hills, Airika’s day to day is more like Animal House meets National Lampoon’s Vacation.

As a Stay at Home Mom, Airika tries to embrace her mini-van and navigate playground etiquette; all the while helping others understand the joys and pains of life with multiples. She is a connoisseur of 80s film, lyrically interesting music, and the canons of young adult literature. Above all else she aspires to live with kindness surrounded by good humor. Follow her exploits and mishaps on her blog: LottoWinners, or on Twitter: @airikawithana.



Alice is the creator of Dining With Alice and writes about recipes, motherhood and Minnesota. She regularly appears as a television cook on Twin Cities Live and has recently appeared on the Rachael Ray show. In 2015, she wrote her first book, Freezer Meals for Moms, filled with freezer-friendly meals. Alice has also been recognized for her writing on body image and motherhood and has been featured on national parenting web pages including Scary Mommy. Alice works outside the home at a Twin Cities nonprofit organization as an education researcher and advocate at the state legislature. Alice went to college and graduate school for political science and international politics.

Alice’s favorite and most important role is mom and wife. Alice has two children, Stella (6) and Wes (3). She is married to Will and they celebrated their 10-year wedding anniversary this past year. Her family loves cooking, biking, making art and reading together. Her family also loves adventuring around Minnesota and checking out new food spots. Alice’s favorite Minnesota tradition is the Minnesota State Fair. Her other loves include: coffee, bacon, Nutella, thrifting and dance parties. Find her comfort food recipes and adventures on her Facebook page and on Instagram {@aseuffert}.



Amber has lived in Minnesota her whole life, with a 4-year stint in Iowa for college (Go Norse!). She and her husband met while both trying to kayak for the first time. The kayaking didn’t go well, but their relationship did! They’ve been married for over 10 years and welcomed a daughter into their family through International adoption and a son through birth.

Fortunate to call raising children her full-time job, Amber also works part-time for encompass Church and has a small photography business. Whenever there’s free time to be had, she enjoys getting lost in a book, savoring a cup of coffee on the front porch, or walking to the neighborhood restaurant for dinner with her husband.

Amber describes herself as a recovering perfectionist, unashamed introvert, and extremely empathetic. Her favorite moments are those rare ones during the day when time stands still and she can see with fresh eyes the amazing little people who call her mom.



Annie and her partner of ten years are making strong efforts to raise their two rambunctious kids, a daughter (2012) and a son (2014), with an appreciation for adventure, laughter, love and being at the kitchen table at the same time while eating the same meal. They hike, paddle-board, snowshoe, camp, snowmobile, kayak – basically if you can do it outside, they probably are, along with their big ol’ spotty dog.

They are passionate about exploring new places, new people, new food, new adventures, so they travel as often and as far-flung as they can. Plus, there’s nothing quite like living through an epic airplane meltdown to make you really appreciate life. So far they’ve managed to live on both coasts and overseas, but the longest stint is in Minneapolis. When she’s not outside with her family you can find Annie madly trying to catch up on all the laundry, oh and working full time for a nonprofit focused on engagement and impact of media in different communities.



Born and raised in Canada, Cari moved here in 2001 and has claimed Minneapolis as her adopted home. She spends copious amounts of time with sweet bundles and cute little ones as she is a lifestyle newborn and family photographer in the Twin Cities. Her perfect day would include breakfast at Starbucks, lunch at Chipotle and dinner at home with her favorite four. If she could get away with wearing comfy sweats all day she would!

She is mom to three beautiful children , Bella (10) , Caleb (8) and Lili (5) . They have her running from dance classes to soccer games with a white chocolate mocha in her hand. All of her free time is spent reading, writing, and working on home DIY’s. She is known to be juggling several projects at once and her family often teases her for her inability to focus just on one thing at a time.  She has been married to her cute, Brazilian, drummer for almost 12 years! Their favorite way to spend their evenings are cuddled together on the couch binge watching Suits, or Master Chef. Throw in some coca cola and guacamole and it becomes the best date night ever.

Even though she tends to be more of an introvert, she strongly believes in real, close and authentic relationships, and loves meeting new people and new friends! She writes candidly about her families everyday experiences on her blog Dugansincahoots.



After spending almost twenty years of her life in Louisiana, Daci decided she wanted to experience her eyelashes freezing.

Four years later, she and her husband feel right at home in South Minneapolis. In February of 2015, they welcomed a baby girl who makes all of their Twin Cities adventures—from walks around the lake to rooftop drag brunches—that much sweeter.

Daci works in communications at a non-profit and, in her spare time, runs into yoga classes three minutes late, convinces her friends to attend obscure concerts, recites The Very Hungry Caterpillar in her sleep, and thinks about writing in her blog at



Jen is a mom to two sweet girls, Avery (4) and Addison (2), and a wife to her husband Dean of 8 years. Although she grew up in a small town in northern Minnesota and never saw herself as a city girl, she moved to the Twin Cities over 12 years ago to be with her husband Dean and instantly fell in love with the city and could not imagine living anywhere else.

She enjoys being active and has a passion for the outdoors that she loves to share with her family. During the day she works as a full time IT Engineer but on the evenings and weekends you will often find their family playing at the park, camping, spending time at the cabin, fishing, snowmobiling, or relaxing on the pontoon with a nice cold drink in hand. But don’t let her outdoorsy side fool you. She has quite the girly side as well and loves all things fashion, Pinterest, throwing fabulous theme parties, and indulging in Bravo reality TV.

Jen is passionate about sharing the knowledge she has learned as a mom and giving encouragement to others as well. Being a mom is one of the hardest things she has ever done, but by far the most rewarding and she continues to be amazed every day of the adventures and joy that motherhood brings! 



Jessica is a mom to two young girls, ages two and under: Charlotte (“Charlie”) and Camille (“Cam”). She and her dashingly good looking husband, Brian, have an 85lb rescue German Shepherd named Herman. Brian and Jessica both juggle dynamic careers and get by with a lot of help from their nearby families.

Jessica is Deaf and an in-house attorney. She uses American Sign Language (“ASL”) and English. Brian and both of her daughters are hearing. At home they use both ASL and English, and sometimes they make up their communication style as they go along. Jessica loves watching Charlie’s little fingers sign, “please,” “more,” and even “ice cream” … at 7 in the morning … nearly every day.

In the movie of her life, she hopes Marissa Tomei or Marlee Matlin plays her. Her favorite movies are: Bella; Love and Basketball; and Kill Bill, volumes 1 and 2. These days she finds her zen in baking, vegetarian cooking, and an occasional yoga class.  Her favorite things about being a mom are sprinkles, cuddles, the way toddlers sashay their hips when they run, and eating for two. Never being one to play it cool, she’s really excited to be here. 



By day, Karri is a Pediatric Dietitian for children with special healthcare needs.  by night, she is a Curator of Adventure for her two wild and carefree boys.

Ten years ago on Independence Day she married her soul mate Brandon, and there are still fireworks today.  Together they like to travel {Disneyworld is a yearly destination}, go to concerts, and attend many of the happenings the Twin Cities has to offer.

When she is not at one of her kids’ sporting events, chances are you can find her at church, a fun new restaurant in town, or at home on a Thursday night watching Parenthood.  She loves spending time in the kitchen and is introducing her boys to the joys of fine dining, one burp at a time. Karri has learned to be crafty {with her money, not with art} and has developed a knack for thriftiness as she is passionate about giving her boys unique experiences without breaking the budget.  A self-proclaimed music junkie, she blogs regularly…okay, sporadically at Larson Lyrics.  Karri is on a journey to living with a purpose and mindfulness and is taking her family along for the ride.



When people refer to her as a mom, Kate still blinks a few times before realizing they’re talking about her. In her second year at the baby circus, she’s perfected the art of the midcentury modern block tower, Livin’ on a Prayer-Old MacDonald mashup and only forgetting clothes or food in the daycare bag (not both). Her spunky daughter humors her cloth diapers, metal sippy cups and bento boxes full of organic veggies – but man, does she go nuts for a container of puffs and a toy with all.the.batteries.

When Kate isn’t using her communications skills to describe bodily fluids in exquisite detail to the pediatrician, she’s using them in her fulltime job helping Minnesotans live healthier, happier lives.

Mom, Dad, Toddler and Dog love exploring their South Minneapolis neighborhood, maximizing lake-picnic season and putting mega-miles on the jogging stroller, hiking backpack, bike trailer and anything they can rent that floats. Their biggest regret in life is not investing in a sunscreen company before having children.



In 3 years of wrangling a little boy whose natural energy rivals that of a hummingbird on Red Bull, Kristin has taken a total of one nap. And each evening, Kristin displays her remarkable ability to forget about her son Jonah’s spirited mornings by staying up late reading, catching up on trashy TV or doing any of the little housekeeping tasks that didn’t get done during the daylight hours. So she drinks coffee. Lots  of coffee. Kristin’s experience spans medical device marketing, technology market research, and most recently (and most dear to her heart) part-time freelance writing for publications like Runner’s World, Martha Stewart’s Whole Living and Minnesota Bride and lots of great clients – but you haven’t seen The Real Kristin until you’ve watched what she can do with a some pipe cleaners, paint, baking soda and a salad spinner. Legend is her crafting abilities nearly earned her the moniker “Mommy the Great” but the title was stripped when Jonah realized he couldn’t eat the creation. Tough luck.

When she’s not navigating a new writing assignment or forging a path to the nearest bathroom (potty training!), she’s camping or hiking the great Minnesota landscape with her husband Craig, Jonah and Wheaten Terrier named Fletcher; biking; working out; cooking a mean vegetarian dish; exploring a golf course; or falling out of a new yoga pose. And making a resolution that tonight will be the night she’ll go to bed early. You can read more about Kristin’s misadventures as a career-changing, infertility-surviving, search-for-a-coupon-code-before-buying-anything mama and wife at One Sonny Mama.

Lauren J


Lauren is a small town girl at heart, but has called the Twin Cities her home for almost a decade. Single in the city initially, she soon met the coolest guy ever through the aid of a popular dating website. She then did the smartest thing ever and married that cool guy a few years later. He’s programed in her phone as “That Guy I Married.” She and Jesse have now been married for over three years, and just recently bought their first home together on the edge of St. Paul. You can usually find Lauren digging in her garden (when the ground isn’t frozen), digging through the racks and shelves at thrift stores for treasures, or convincing Jesse that they need a third dog or backyard chickens (or both!). She likes to start crafty home projects and sometimes even finishes them. Instagram and Facebook, however, are an entirely different story. She loves to keep her friends and family more than in the loop, and is a self proclaimed social media aficionado.

Lauren and Jesse have been hoping to add to their family since soon after they were married, and have (so far) unsuccessfully undergone a slew of fertility treatments to make their dream a reality. While she’s not a mom quite yet, Lauren looks forward to the day when that will happen, all while continuing to advocate for the 1 in 8 who struggle with infertility. Being a nanny has definitely kept her quick witted and on her toes, and she is even convinced she’ll be a halfway decent mom someday. She prides herself in having already perfected the fine art of embarrassing her nanny kids in public whenever humanly possible, and also successfully changing a messy diaper on a wiggly one year old at warp speed. A mom in the making right there. Maybe? Hopefully!

Lauren L


Lauren lives in South Minneapolis. She’s married to Josiah, and they have an extremely energetic and always talking son named Soren.

Lauren is a convert from full-time working mama to stay-at-home mama and is constantly learning the balance between being a mom and finding time for herself. She has a passion for people that are honest and real with their life experiences and loves spending time with people in her community. For fun she likes to explore the best pizza locations in Minneapolis, walk the paths around the city lakes, and check out local boutiques. She has plans to slowly take over all closets in their little South Minneapolis home with her ever-growing clothing collection.

Follow along with Lauren as she writes on her blog, The Middle Girl, and her day-to-day life in pictures on her Instagram {@the_middle_girl}.



A lover, not a cooker. Seven years ago, Leah’s college bartender asked for her number and she figured it would be appropriate to marry him 5 years later, especially since he’s an excellent cook. After years spent in their college town, Josh’s career brought them to Lakeville in June 2014 with their then five year old son, Vance.

Most weekends, you’ll find her sipping tea and toting around the family’s newest addition, Elvie, while she and her husband cheer on their son in his latest sport endeavor. It’s safe to say, the last thing Leah ever saw herself as in her mid-twenties was a soccer mom of two. But most will agree, it fits her oh so well.

Leah works from home as a Marketing Director for 4 locally owned restaurants in Mankato. With her education in social media and newly found passion of sharing the raw, real life details, a blog based on transracial adoption and parenting today was formed. You can learn more about Leah’s colorful family, biological search, mommy-things and more at You’re Holding Your Pencil Wrong or find her on her Facebook page.



There’s always a reason for some bubbly. Mandy is an eternal optimist and truly believes life should be fun. By day, she leads the creative team behind the hit afternoon show Twin Cities Live on 5 Eyewitness News. Her job is to find and promote all things food, fashion and fun in the Twin Cities. Growing up on a horse farm in the Northwest Metro and working at her family’s western store, taught Mandy the value of hard work, the importance of doing something you love and that family always comes first. Her three favorite “party guests” are her football-loving hubby, energetic 2 year old “Stella Bean” and 10 year old rescue Chihuahua. Mandy and her family recently moved to Blaine and have made it their mission to find the best family-owned restaurants in the North Metro. They are also thrilled to be adding another daughter or son to their family this April!

You can keep up with Mandy’s work and family adventures or like her on Facebook & Instagram {@mandytadych}.



Marielle is a toddler chasin’ chaos embracin’ wife and stay-at-home mama from the southern ‘burbs of the Twin Cities. She has been married to her husband, Andrew, for 3 years, she’s small-talk challenged, and she battles daily between her desire to be one of those cool, healthy #fitfam moms and her desire to eat entire packages of Oreos in one sitting (usually she just does a little bit of both and hopes they cancel each other out).

As a former business analyst, she has taken her workaholic habits with her into her new role as full-time “mama” under the close watch of her tiny boss, Miss Theodora (Teddy) Mae. Teddy is currently whipping her into shape for an upcoming promotion to “Mama to 2 Kids Under 2,” which will officially take effect this Christmas.

If there’s anything Marielle has learned, it’s that motherhood is hard. Sometimes she gets it right. Sometimes she doesn’t. That’s pretty much what she writes about over on her blog, The Resplendent, when she’s not just attempting to communicate with other humans who speak actual words. Needless to say, she is super excited to be a part of the Twin Cities Moms Blog team, and to meet some new mommy and bloggy friends! 



Maureen is an educator, a mom to a sweet and wild three year old named Leo, and aunt, sister and daughter to an incredible family that is a regular part of their lives. In the classroom she seeks creative ways to reach her students, involve parents, and love her little ones as if they were her own. She and Leo can be found digging in the dirt, seeking adventures outside, traveling, hunting down thrifty deals, visiting local museums and parks, discovering new global flavors at local restaurants, and looking for resourceful ways to be involved in their community together.

Maureen is a single mom who is eager to connect with those around her regardless of where they come from and is passionate about raising a son who cares for the world around him. Both she and her son have a strong desire to be where the action is, yet yearn for the solace that is found when they’re surrounded by nature. When not in the city where home and work is, they can often be found venturing north and setting up camp where the only thing they need to worry about is where to bike that day and where to find the best view of the sunset.

Despite the fact that she’s the only one doing the cleaning, she’s not afraid to jump into the mud with her brave and adventurous boy and believes that the best days typically end with lots of dirty laundry piles. You can follow Maureen and Leo’s daily adventures on Instagram.



Raised, but not born, in Milwaukee, Melanie moved to Minneapolis in 2002 for college, and has called it her home ever since. True to her heritage, she is both a Gophers fan and a Packers fan. She is a scrunchy mother of two children and too many cats. With a master’s degree in nonprofit management and bachelor’s degree in family social science, she spent over a decade working with domestic violence survivors and legal nonprofits. She is currently on hiatus from her career as a nonprofit director while working for the most demanding bosses ever–a four-year-old girl and two-year-old boy.

When Melanie has free time, she enjoyed 90’s alt-rock, horror movies, gourmet cooking, running, traveling, doing yoga, and reading murder mysteries. Now, you can find Melanie attempting photography, enjoying Netflix, and pairing tantrums with wine. You can learn more about Melanie’s parenting journey, Giada-like cooking, Martha-like organization and more on her blog Footprints and Tantrums  or find her on her Twitter page.



Melissa is a 35-year-old lover of life as a wife, mama and food blogger. Nick is her patient, supportive, wonderful, hilariously Type-A husband of six years. They have a 4-year-old daughter named Georgia who fills their home with spunk and joy and a 2-year-old son named Jude who keeps them laughing and loving all day long. Life is busy busy…and oh so good!

Aside from playdates, toddler classes, and the gym the majority of Melissa’s time is spent in the kitchen experimenting, tasting, sharing and writing over at Nourished Peach. She is a food enthusiast and is committed to nourishing her family through their bellies…and they really don’t seem to mind. Aside from her interest in family meals, Melissa also loves to entertain and get her kiddos teeny hands dirty with her in the kitchen doing projects and fun “kid recipes”. She feels blessed to be a part of this wonderful group of moms and to share her journey of life, love and nummy food with all of you!



Michelle is a born and raised Minnesotan who moved to the Twin Cities almost 8 years ago.  After being in a long distance relationship, she recruited her country-loving husband, Matt, to the cities. He was gung ho about starting a family immediately after their wedding while she wasn’t so sure that motherhood was for her.  They compromised on having the baby conversation over a glass of champagne on their 1st anniversary.  Their 2nd anniversary was spent as a family of three.  Since becoming a mom to sweet baby Louis almost a year and a half ago, she has traded in happy hours, heels and rented city living for bath time, comfortable flats and a home in the ‘burbs.  And has loved (nearly) every post-transition moment. Poop in the tub, anyone?

By day, she’s a registered dietitian who has introduced broccoli in every way, shape and form to her jaw clamped, head twisting, carb loving child.  Admittedly, she’s never turned down a bag of Cheetos.  By night, she’s a wrangler of all things boy, launderer, chef, story-time teller and occasional reality TV watcher.  She strives to be a DIYer but frequently finds the outcome of desired projects to resemble a unicorn’s regurgitated supper instead of displayable art.  She finds no better way to grow as a mom than experiencing it firsthand and learning from those who have already lived it. Follow her bloopers and Louisgrams on Instagram {@cheldraxten}.



Monica is mama to two little ones, Luca (2) and Lila (4 months). She’s been married to her engineer husband, Chris since 2012. They love calling Woodbury home. Being fairly new to motherhood, Monica is learning how to balance it all. Monica works part time as a dietitian in maternal and childhood health. Early childhood nutrition is a passion of hers and she is constantly reading books on how to raise a healthy eater. Her son Luca is an extremely selective eater who keeps her on her toes. She is determined to have Lila become a food lover just like mama!

You might find Monica around town at yoga sculpt with her sister; at happy hour with her closest girlfriends drinking a glass of wine (preferably red); at home watching HGTV (can Chip and Joanna please come to the Twin Cities?!); and outside jogging on one of Woodbury’s many trails with her family. You might also find her at one of the local coffee shops. She firmly believes that a good strong cup of coffee is the secret to being a supermama!

When time allows, Monica enjoys blogging, creating recipes and meal planning. You can find her blogging over at Monica Hoss Nutrition. Follow her on Instagram (@monicahoss) to keep up with her family adventures.



Wife. Mother. Social strategist. Home renovation & style blogger.

Five years ago, Morgan locked eyes with this stud in a bar, and to make a long story short they ended up hitting it off, dancing the night away and have been inseparable since that day! Two years later they were married and one year after saying “I do” they welcomed their son into the world.

Morgan works at Snap Agency as the Director of Social Media as well as running her own home remodeling business with her husband, construction2style, all while blogging about the details. When they aren’t renovating their own homes to flip, they are contracted by others.

With her education in marketing and merchandising and her passion for interiors, she is grateful that she gets to dabble in both industries, marketing and home improvement. She hopes you can learn a thing or two about running your own business, home decor, social media marketing… all while being a wife and mom.

You can learn more about Morgan at where she shares her family’s lifestyle and passion for home remodels, woodwork, carpentry and tutorials. 



Nealy is a full-time photographer and Twin Cities mom of four busy blue-eyed children, ages seven and under. She is owner of Photography By Nealy, specializing in newborn, family, and senior photography in Minneapolis St. Paul. She loves white kitchens, good food, and great people.

Nealy is passionate about her faith, connecting people, great design, and documenting life on Instagram To make Nealy’s day, bring her a bouquet of fresh-cut pink peonies and a peach-pear La Croix sparkling water!

You can check out Nealy’s work as a photographer at or on Facebook – Photography By Nealy. Nealy also shares her time and talents with Twin Cities Moms Blog as the group’s photographer.



Until she became a mom, Shannon never imagined how simultaneously amazing and exhausting parenting could be. She also could never have imagined this life without her hubby who she met at the University of Minnesota and married in 2009, after a long courtship. Shannon graduated with a degree in Art and Design but also found a passion volunteering alongside children with special needs and elders in their final years of life. After graduation, she worked in sales for an international commercial furniture company, but eventually went back to school to pursue a degree in nursing.

In 2013, her twin girls (Alaina + Hannah) arrived and she decided to take a break from school and stay home. Not long after, she began blogging as an “escape” and quickly learned to laugh at herself and take very deep breaths! In addition to chasing her sweet gals and blogging; Shannon is a Coordinator of a MOPS group that she helped to start in Forest Lake this winter. She loves photography, trying new recipes in the kitchen, running outside, doing laps in a pool or looking awkward in a yoga class. Lately, date nights have been rare but when they do happen, she and her husband enjoy checking out new restaurants around the Twin Cities or popping in the theater to catch a good flick.

You can keep up with Shannon on her blog Ladybugs + Jumping Beans, onFacebook  or Twitter.



Tammie and her husband, Dave, moved from Michigan to St. Paul as newlyweds eighteen years ago. They thought they’d stay one, maybe two years at most. Their first winter here was deceptively mild, which led them to believe all the fuss about Minnesota cold was hyperbole. They were suckered into staying put and developed a love for this state, real Minnesota winters and all. Several moves and four kids later, home is now a hobby farm just outside of Woodbury. They chase horses, goats, chickens, cats and an ungainly standard poodle around the farm. It’s a ton of work but they wouldn’t trade it for the all the world. Unless you dangled a beautiful no maintenance townhome in front of them – then they might be willing to negotiate.

During the week Tammie teaches chemistry at a homeschool academy and homeschools her four kids. (She unashamedly calls shoveling manure gym class.) On the weekends she stitches boo boos, sets broken bones, and saves the world from strep throat and stomach bugs as a Physician Assistant in a local emergency department. Despite all the chaos she still finds time to binge read books and take long walks in the countryside.

Several years ago Tammie and Dave became host parents for a local nonprofit that provides homes for children whose parents are in crisis. She fell in love with the kids and mission to support at-risk families and now works as church engagement director for the organization. Tammie loves building community, encouraging others and is a passionate advocate for vulnerable children. She writes about matters of faith and all of this happy madness at Twenty Shekels. 

Photos generously provided by Photography by Nealy