After getting settled in, water sliding, eating really gross smoothies, and zip lining (all in part one here), we were ready to go hiking on Saturday! Carla volunteered to stay at the house with the toddlers (Henry & Winston) while they napped so the remaining crew headed over to Old Man’s Cave. It was absolutely beautiful there with little creeks, a waterfall, and lots of foliage and rock formations.

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Back at the house, Winston napped like a champion and my typically great napper Henry woke up about 10 minutes after we left to go hiking. (Sorry Carla!) There was a stroller-friendly hike at Ash Cave so we went back to get Henry, Carla, and Winston and head back out for a quick, easy hike before dinner. Sadly, I left my camera at the house for that one, but really could’ve used it because there was a small wedding going on in the cave and there was no photographer. Had I had my camera, I would’ve taken some photos for them!
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After dinner Saturday, we headed outside for some much-needed updated family photos. Megan took the reins on it since she’s much more skilled with family photos, but I kept my camera handy so we could swap off. You know what’s really awesome about our family gatherings? Having two professional photographers on hand. I’m embarrassed to say our standard for vacation snapshots has gone way up.
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That evening, we started a campfire and pulled out the necessary ingredients for s’mores. I should mention that we had the most wonderfully perfect weather while we were there. It was warm (but not as hot as expected), but the nights were cool and I was glad to have thrown in a long-sleeved shirt.

As I mentioned before, the next-door property was a wild life hunting preserve. There were plenty of natural wildlife roaming around our house (non-threatening animals like deer, frogs, lizards, etc.), but beyond the fence were wild boars among other scarier animals.

So as the evening turned to night and the conversations turned to scarier stories (why do we tell scary stories at night outside??), we started getting really jumpy. At one point a mouse ran across the brick and we all screeched. But it was nothing compared to when a cat jumped out of the bushes nearby (with those beady eyes!) and sent us scattering. It was midnight by then so bedtime was looming anyway, but that cat did it for sure. (My younger brothers had also gone to bed by that point and we were leery they had ulterior motives to sneak back out to scare us.)
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Vacation ended Sunday afternoon. We spent the morning slowly packing up, having a short devotional, and then playing games in the rec room. Henry went down for a nap and we waited to leave until afterwards. He had done really well in the car on the way out (albeit with an iPad in hand and Super Simple Songs on repeat) so we were hopeful for a successful trip back home as well.

We stopped for dinner about 2 hours into the trip, then he fell asleep around 8:30 that evening. Our plan was that if he fell asleep, we’d try driving the whole way back home (instead of grabbing a hotel room). Kevin blazed the trail (bless him and his driving skills) and we made it home around 11:45 Sunday night. I carried Henry in and laid him in his crib and the kid sprawled out with all the love of finally being in his own bed again.

The vacation I had anticipated for so long is over, but I’m truly so grateful for the wonderful memories with my family. I just wish we didn’t live so far apart.

My parents are celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary this fall. For over 5 years, they’ve been talking about doing a family vacation. We didn’t plan it soon enough for their 40th and it kept falling through the cracks with both my sister’s (also a photographer) and my wedding schedules and everyone else’s work. There are 22 of us total with 10 of those being kids so you can imagine how hard it is to coordinate 12 adult work calendars. Finally, over a year ago, we nailed down a date so we could all block our calendars. Since then, I’ve been looking forward to spending a long weekend with everyone.

My parents rented a huge house called Tanglewood Manor near Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio. The house itself was out in the middle of nowhere with no cell service at all. (Our phones actually read “no service” up in the left corner where the bars usually are.) The house was equipped with wi-fi so we could have some access to the outside world, but the only way to call in case of an emergency was on the house phone in the living room. (Which was a little iffy since the next-door property was a wild life hunting preserve; we saw them haul in a wild bore at one point!) There were plenty of rooms (the house can sleep 40 people!), nearly all with private bathrooms, so we were able to spread out. It also came with 2 dining rooms (one for the kids; one for the adults), a large kitchen that was stocked with everything you could need (pots, pans, mixer, paper towels, etc.) besides food itself, a recreation room, laundry room, and a large living room.

To make the meals easy, we split up into families. The Sarvers had dinner Thursday night, Jordan & Payton (with help from mom) had brunch Friday, we had dinner Friday night, the Whipples took Saturday brunch, and the Millers took Saturday dinner. Snacks and Sunday breakfast & lunch were all leftovers and miscellaneous foods we brought along for sharing.

We arrived Thursday afternoon and spent some time unpacking and checking out the house. While everyone was spread out inside, there was also a lot of outdoor play area. There was a large cement pad with basketball hoops and a volleyball net as well as a 60′ slide in the side of the hill and a swing set. Henry’s gold mine was the huge shed nearby that housed all kinds of kid’s toys including his favorite Cozy Coupe car.

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While the kids got out the ride-on toys, the boys immediately picked up game of basketball (where they conveniently lowered the hoop for dunking purposes).
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After dinner that night, we got out the garden hose and turned the slide into a water slide.
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After the babies & littles were cleaned up and in bed, we played a disgusting Fear Factor-esque food challenge. Foods were color coded–sour cream, marshmallows, ice cream were white while peanut butter, prune juice, and chocolate syrup were brown, for example–and corresponded with colored paper in a draw bowl. We were split into 3 teams and one person from each team would draw a paper and the corresponding food item of that color that was next up in line would land in a blender. Some notable combinations were black beans+prune juice+sour cream, Ranch dress+mayo+beets, refried beans+avocado+corn chips, and ice cream+milk+green beans. (You cannot understand the level of disgusting.) The three people (one from each team) that drew the colors had to drink the combination and the first person to get it all down got a point for their team.
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On Friday after brunch, we headed over to Hocking Hills Canopy Tours to go zip lining. It was the first time most of us had ever tried it so there were some mixed feelings and nerves. I figured if I could repel down a building in Chicago, I could go zip lining. And, it turns out, it’s not scary at all. It was more awe-striking than breathtaking. It was absolutely beautiful out there and wasn’t nearly as much of an adrenaline rush as I had thought it might be.

There were several different courses, including a kids one that Kylie and Gavin did. The rest of us did the x-tour, which took almost 3 hours from start to finish. A few of us had GoPros with us to capture some video; the rest of these photos were taken by my sister Megan (we were split into two groups and she was in the next group that started half an hour later).
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Friday evening we were all exhausted and spent some more time outside before hitting the showers and then sprawling out in the living room until midnight reminiscing old memories and hearing even older one from Mom & Dad.

I’ll be back soon with part two of the vacation, which includes hiking and roasting s’mores and being scared out of our minds in the dark.

Note: my sister, Megan, and I took a lot of photos and pooled them together. This blog shows a lot of my photos, but some of hers as well.

No one expected it to be chilly in July, where the average temperature in Iowa is somewhere in the 90s. But on July 2nd, the temperatures topped out in the mid-60s and guests showed up to the wedding wearing sweaters. The enormous thunderstorms that swept across the state went just below us so we got cloudy skies, but no rain.

Just across from the church, Amy was finishing up her makeup and hair when we arrived. Her mom and grandmother were on hand to help her get into her gown. Amy’s beautiful, curly hair was pinned in a stunning updo that felt so perfectly un-fussy for her. (Side note, during their entire engagement session, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t stop talking about how jealous I am of her hair.)

Amy & Zach chose to have a first look and take their photos before the ceremony. I love seeing these two together; they are such great friends that it makes their love nearly contagious. We had so much fun with their bridal party as well and the guys could not stop laughing, which made me laugh so hard too. They got married in the Catholic church and hosted a wonderful reception afterwards in Washington.

It was such an honor to be part of your wedding day, Amy & Zach! I wish you all the happiness and love in the future! Congratulations!

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This garter was the same one that her grandmother and mother both wore at their weddings.
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Amy is absolutely stunning!!
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Amy & Zach are huge Cardinals fans so there was plenty of baseball items interspersed with the rest of the reception decor.
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It was Zach’s grandfather’s birthday so we all sang “Happy Birthday” to him.
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There was a beautiful field right outside the reception hall so I pulled them outside for a few minutes to grab these quick shots. Loooovvveeee!!!
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Photography: Emily Crall Photography

Makeup: Peyton Atwood

Hair: Sam Moore

Bridal & Maids’ Gowns: Bridal Dreams

Florals: The Garden Gate

Cake Artist: Cherie Westendorf

Catering: Barb Baker

DJ: Portable Playlist

Paper Suite: Blackboard Printing Company

Backdrops & Linens: A Formal Affair

Humidity made the air thick and the sun shone bright on their wedding day. The ladies were gathered in her air conditioned hotel room, cool and calm as they sipped mimosas and snacked on homemade cookies and sandwiches. Sara had the happiest smile on her face the whole time; patient and excited for the day to unfold.

At their engagement session last fall, Sara & Corey had told me about the first time they met. About how they had texted for a while before being able to coordinate an in-person meeting. How Sara had liked him over text and hoped he didn’t turn out to be lame. (“He did not,” she said.) Their conversation was easy, comfortable. “I had a feeling he was really genuine and kind and I knew I wanted to see him again. That was unusual for me. I didn’t just want to give him one more try; this time, I was actually hoping for a second date.”

That first date turned in a second date, then a third, fourth, fifth, and now a lifetime of dates ahead. Sara & Corey are so comfortable together and they are incredibly kind to the people they come in contact with. At the reception, one of Corey’s cousins told me, “Is there anything wrong with the guy? I’ve been trying to find a flaw for years.”

Despite the heat of the day, their ceremony was held on the Hotel Vetro rooftop patio and it was absolutely perfect. Right before the ceremony began, we got some delicious cloud coverage, which helped ease the heat and a slight breeze ruffled through the rows. As for photos, I found a spot on the University of Iowa campus that would provide shade during the high heat as well as a slight wind tunnel due to the positioning of the buildings. With that combination of shade and a breeze, we all made it; just a few drops of sweat!

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Sara was just the most joyful & radiant bride!!
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I am insanely jealous of Sara’s beautiful freckles. I was so happy that her makeup artist stayed very natural and classic with her makeup and didn’t hide the freckles at all. Isn’t she stunning?
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Sara & Corey had their first look before the ceremony which provided us with ample time to get all of their photographs done prior, which also meant they could enjoy cocktail hour with their guest!
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This bouquet was a masterpiece. Covington & Company for the win once again!
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Anddddd they’re married!!!
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Their reception was held inside Hotel Vetro with stunning centerpieces and table settings (and lovely gold chargers of which several groomsmen were confused about the purpose)!
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Right after the bridal party introductions, Corey & Sara shared their first dance together. After their first dance, tables were dismissed for dinner. There were several “stations” set up, including a make-your-own salad bar, southern grits & shrimp, and taste of Italy where you could have a chef create your own pasta dish.
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To end the evening, I pulled Sara & Corey back out to the rooftop for a few evening photos together.
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Photography: Emily Crall Photography

Videography: Diamond Label Films

Makeup & Hair: Zen Salon & Spa

Bridal Gown: Weddings by Design

Maids’ Gowns: David’s Bridal

Suits: Men’s Wearhouse

Florals: Covington & Company

Cake Artist: Deluxe Cakes & Pastries 

Dessert Bites: Jules Bakery

Catering: HotelVetro

DJ: Colby Yoder

Paper Suite: Zephyr Weddings

Venue: HotelVetro, Iowa City

Musicians: String Quartet (ceremony) and Kevin B.F. Burt (cocktail hour)

Transportation: Hawk Bus Properties

They first met several years ago in a University of Iowa lab that she worked at. “We were introduced briefly, but didn’t see each other again for a year,” she said. “In the summer of 2011, he began doing a research rotation in my lab and we became friends quickly. … We were friend first so it’s a little hard for me to recall when our official first date was, but I do remember details from the first time we hung out together alone out of work. He was helping me study for a very important exam and I remember thinking, ‘How can someone be so smart?!?!’ I was also very impressed at the time because of the exam and…he was very patient and understanding. I felt encouraged and confident.”

Fast forward to 2016 and they are planning their spring wedding while also juggling very busy lives apart from each; Xiaoni now working on her PhD at Yale and Jung finishing up medical school at the University of Iowa. This past weekend, she was back in Iowa City visiting and we quickly coordinated our calendars to make this engagement session happen. It was a perfectly beautiful Sunday evening for a session and we started downtown before making our way out to the lake.

One of the things that struck me the most while chatting with them was when Jung talked about Xiaoni and his career. It was very clear that, though he loves his chosen career path, Xiaoni comes first. This matched perfectly with what Xiaoni had told me previously, that one of the things she admires most about him is that he puts family first. While their futures are a bit unclear, with residency coming ahead and a job search after earning her PhD, they are both committed to being together, wherever that may be. I’m so thrilled for them and am so excited for their future together.

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These two are so natural in front of the camera and I think I kept making a fool of myself gasping at every image I was taking. Aren’t they so beautiful together?
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Xiaoni! You look so happy!!!
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One of my favorite images ever.
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I asked Jung if he always dresses so smashingly; he said that Xiaoni tells him what to wear. 🙂
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We went out to the Lake MacBride area for the second part of their shoot, where Xiaoni also showcased this stunning dress! We went for a bit of a walk into the grass and it was beautiful.
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The guys had not yet arrived at the church, but the ladies were spread out in a room in the basement finishing up their makeup and hair when we arrived. Emily’s gown was hanging in the window in all of it’s ballgown glory and the maids’ gowns were lined up nearby. After hellos and hugs, I took a peek through some of Emily’s carefully set-aside details; her heirloom pearl necklace, their paper suite, her shoes & jewelry, and her handkerchief, another family piece. Each item, in it’s own way, showcasing the small part it was playing in the grand scheme of the day.

Since Emily & Mitchell were holding both their ceremony & reception in Old Brick, there was a major room “flip” during cocktail hour, but Tamara’s team pulled it off spectacularly and the day couldn’t have gone any better. After the ceremony, while the church was being flipped over for the reception, I took the bridal party a block away to the Old Capitol area for photos. We managed to hit the jackpot with pedestrian traffic (for some reason, there was nothing going on right then!) and got some of the most fun photos!

Emily & Mitchell, thank you so much for having me be part of your day. My prayer is that these photos will help trigger your memories with sweet smiles and happy thoughts. Congratulations!

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I adore this photo of Emily’s mom clasping her necklace right before the ceremony.
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+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

Photography: Emily Crall Photography

Wedding Coordinator: Tamara Wendt Design

Makeup & Hair: Eden Salon

Bridal Gown: Mori Lee from Wedding Shoppe

Bridesmaid Gowns: Kennedy Blue from Wedding Shoppe

Suits: Men’s Wearhouse

Florals: Hy-Vee

Catering & Cake Artist: Hy-Vee

DJ: Anytime DJ

Paper Suite: Minted

Venue: Old Brick, Iowa City

Officiant: Reverend David Flemming

Musicians: Iowa Summer Strings

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