My little family was established, for the most part, in a suburbia outskirt of Denver, Colorado. About a year and a half ago, our family packed up and moved back to my hometown in rural Michigan to embrace and embark on a new lifestyle. I jokingly call our Michigan home a “farm,” however, that’d be kind of a stretch as of now. Our dream is to one day have a fairly self sufficient home, with little bits of modern technology thrown into the mix (like WiFi is an absolute must-have, as well as Netflix and a climate controlled atmosphere that is constantly 70 degrees indoors… well, I think you get my gist. I’m kind of a princess in those ways.)
I can tell you though, in the past year and a half that we’ve lived in Michigan, we’ve done quite a few things that take massive steps in that direction, such as building a barn, planting over 100 trees, getting chickens and guinea fowl, and planting an impressive garden. This year, however, we are adding in the excitement of both of our kids attending school. So all of our back to school must-haves really have to seamlessly transition from farm life to busy school days.
About the Kids
Vivien is our oldest, and she is a proud five and a half (that part is emphasized and important) years old. She will attend kindergarten in the fall, and is very excited. In our area, kindergarten is a full day program. She has been attending half-day preschool for the past two years, so I know she is mentally and emotionally ready for that jump. What I’m not ready for, on the other hand, is her insistence on riding the school bus to and from school. But that’s a topic for another day. What can I say, she gets her independence and determination from her mama.
William is three and a half, and will begin his first year of preschool in the fall. I know he’s ready to be challenged, and he is unbelievably smart and witty. But his daily temper tantrums and mischievous ways make me feel less confident for a smooth transition. I am very excited to be able to spend the majority of our days hanging out with him one on one. Being the second born kid, and only 25 months younger than his sister, I’ve had to “split” my time and attention with his sister since he was born, and I’m really looking forward to getting to know him more, and having those special memories and moments alone with him that I once shared with his older sister.
About the “farm”
As I mentioned before, we have done quite a few things recently to enhance our property, and make it feel like more of a homestead, rather than a house on 10 acres in the country. This past spring, we planted over 100 trees in the front yard. We wanted to have less lawn to mow weekly, and give the property a more private and wooded feel. We also added in a small apple and cherry orchard that we plan to add more into annually. We got four laying hen chickens last year, and they are kind of my favorite thing right now. (Unashamed, I now proudly embrace the “crazy chicken lady” title.) And after finding quite a few ticks on the property earlier this spring, we decided to add guinea fowl to the flock, as a natural way to hopefully keep the tick and insect population down. This spring, we also planted a large garden, that is currently going crazy with 7′ tall stalks of corn, and enough lettuce, cucumbers, and other veggies to feed a small army.
Vivien’s primary “job” around the farm is to take care of the chickens. She has a weird and special bond with all kinds of animals that I totally capitalize on. She checks on the chickens throughout the day, fetches eggs, feeds them, checks their water, and supervises their free ranging when she’s outdoors playing on her swing set. Will is slowly learning the ropes around here, and we’ll be adding in some responsibilities and chores for him within the next few months. As of now, he’s a good helper with the chickens and guineas, and really enjoys going out to the garden and working alongside his daddy.
Apparel for Mom
Taking the kids to school means having to pull myself together earlier in the morning every day. I (along with two other friends) own a Michigan wedding photography business, and so nights and weekends are the time that I am usually out of the house shooting weddings, or having consults with brides or business meetings. My apparel has to be able to transition from being practical on the farm during the day, to stylish enough to jet off to work in the evenings. Living in rural Michigan allows me the luxury to be able to sport a sweet pair of cowboy boots anywhere without getting a side-eye from anyone, because they are probably wearing them too. Even a pair of cowboy boots can be practical, and yet look chic enough to dress up in the evening.
Handmade boots can oftentimes run upwards to $600 per pair. I don’t know about you, but my family’s budget simply doesn’t allow for that kind of spending. I was thrilled to learn about Tecovas Fine Bootmakers, and how they aim to bring leather, handmade boots to the masses at an affordable price tag, without forgoing impeccable quality. The fine people at Tecovas spent months researching and traveling to gain insight on the best practices of handmade boots, from sourcing the leather, to the construction. Every pair of boots are handmade in León, Mexico (also referred to as “the shoe making capital of the world.”) Instead of placing their boots in a retail store, they deliberately chose to cut out the middle man, and sell them directly online, saving you that percentage in cost markup that you automatically get once you walk into your local farm store. Because massive profit margins aren’t their shtick, Tecovas vows to exceed the quality standards of other handmade boots, so that in the long run, you’re getting a better quality product for the money you spend. Tecovas Fine Bootmakers yields proudly from Austin, Texas. (They know their cowboy boots down there!)
The Penny from Tecovas is the perfect boot that fits in everywhere, whether I’m taking engagement photos in downtown Detroit, or I’m feeding my chickens and chasing my kids in the pasture. It’s a modern-vibed bootie that has subtle, yet gorgeous details throughout. The pointed toe dresses it up, and makes them the perfect bootie to wear to date night, and they look great with jeans or a dress. If you’re a country music dancing fan like I am, you’ll be thrilled to know that the leather sole is perfect for spinning and two-stepping the night away, without getting your feet jammed on the floor because of a rubber sole.
My Favorite Features:
- 100% leather (calfskin upper, bovine lining) including stacked leather heel
- Butter-soft bovine lining
- Glove-like fit
- Hand-laid and hand-stitched cording
- 6 ½” heel-to-pullstrap height, 12-13″ shaft opening circumference
- 1 ¾” ground-to-heel height
- Available in three colors: Bourbon Calf, Desert Calf, and Midnight Calf (as shown)
I personally love how the calfskin upper feels and looks. It isn’t loud, flashy, or gaudy. It looks like a feminine and subtle cowboy boot that really fits my lifestyle to a T. While some girls feel their sexiest rocking a short skirt and a pair of heels to a night out on the town, that simply isn’t my jam. The Penny from Tecovas is the perfect boot that marries my country roots with my urban and chic job atmosphere and persona I’m expected to uphold when I’m photographing someone’s wedding day. They are comfortable to wear for the long-haul, and have been tested vigorously while photographing 8+ hour long weddings. (And I get tons of compliments on them, too! Bonus!)
Apparel for Kids
It goes without saying, the beginning of fall typically marks the end of summer, and in Michigan at least, is kind of the gateway to cooler weather and seasonal changes. Whenever the calendar hits September, the shorts and flip flops usually get packed away, and replaced with shoes where their toes won’t be exposed to the frost that’s on the grass on the way to the bus stop in the morning. Once again, being on a budget and needing practical clothing is a big deal around here for us. My kids put clothing to the test, for sure.
If there’s one brand name in rural Michigan that rings true and everyone knows, it’s Carhartt. Carhartt was created in 1889, a time of steel, steam, and locomotives. Carhartt was founded in a Detroit loft, where the founder began producing overalls with two sewing machines. The Carhartt bib overall quickly morphed into the standard for quality workwear. During World War II, the company produced coveralls for soldiers and support personnel, jungle suits for Marines in the Pacific, and workwear for women entering the factories on the home front. Along with the bib overalls, Carhartt is also known for their Chore Coat, which dates back to 1917. That coat remains mostly untouched today, and when your kids sport it to and from school, you know that it’s durable and rugged enough of a design and structure to last 100 years. Today, Carhartt employs more than 2,200 American workers, and proudly hails the phrase, “Made in the USA.”
The Boy’s Work Active Jac is the quintessential chore coat, but tot-sized to fit a junior-sized farmer. The outer material is 100% cotton canvas, and it’s soft and comfortable for him to wear while doing chores or waiting at the bus stop for his sister to go to school. The warm inside has a quilted taffeta lining, so he’ll be warm and cozy in the fall, as well as in the dead of winter. I love how the cuffs are ribbed, so when he’s playing in the snow, you can tuck some gloves underneath it, and he won’t get a draft up his sleeve. It really locks in the warmth. The bottom cuff is stretchy, so he can wear it throughout the year, and it’s rugged and durable enough that it will absolutely last into next year, if he hasn’t grown like a weed between now and then. (Making it ideal to use as a hand-me-down coat, too!)
The Logo Fleece Zip Hoodie is a durable, mid-weight sweatshirt, made out of cotton and a poly-fleece blend. It has front pouch pockets, and the Carhartt brand name embroidered across the chest. This hoodie will make for the perfect outerwear item to dress him in during those times where it’s too warm for a coat, but yet still chilly enough that an extra layer is warranted.
He’ll also be excited to wear the same style work pants as Daddy, with these Canvas Work Dungarees. Once again, they are super durable (are you seeing a theme here?) and made from cotton canvas that get softer every time he wears them and you wash them. They have an adjustable waist band, so he can grow throughout the year comfortably. I also love the side utility band and ruler pocket, as well as the Carhartt brand bookmark on the back pocket. He truly looks like a miniature version of his Daddy in his Carhartt outfit and coat.
The same rugged cuteness is available in a feminine style, and the Girl’s Quick Duck Mountain View Jacket is the perfect example of that. It features the same canvas outer layer, and also comes with a built in hood, and Rain Defender® durable water repellent. The bright pink contrast color is featured on this jacket in the quilted liner, as well as the peekaboo style hidden ribbed cuffs and pink zippers and stitching on the pockets. It has a hidden left pocket with media port, so she can slip her headphones on and jam to some tunes while she’s working in the fields. The Quick Duck canvas is also 30% lighter than the typical canvas, so she’ll be waterproof, and she won’t be bogged down by extra weight – making it playground approved!
Carhartt has a wide variety of seasonal shirts for girls, and if you have a horse loving little girl, you’re in luck. This Force Run Free Horse Tee is similar to the one photographed (but long sleeved) and is a lightweight, 100% polyester heather jersey material. The FastDry technology wicks away moisture, while the StainBreaker technology infused in the material allows for a quick and easy clean up at the end of a long and dirty day.
We also love the Signature Canvas Hat for girls, because it’s feminine and fun, yet practical to wear on the farm or on the playground. It has the Carhartt brand embroidered on the front in a delicate script font, and an adjustable velcro closure in the back.
EXPLORE AND CONNECT
Jelly the Pug is a favorite brand here, for sure. They’ve been devoted to offering little girls adorable and fashionable clothing since 2007. The founder, Diane, is a mom herself and began making her own daughter’s clothing in a whimsical and classic fashion. She loved using bright and colorful materials, and joining them together to form the perfect ensemble in one cohesive way. Diane began traveling to trade shows to showcase her apparel, and her trusty pug, named Jelly, became her loyal travel companion. Jelly soon established a large fan base that drew mobs of little girls to Diane’s booth, and so it only seemed fit to name the company after the beloved pet dog. The brand Jelly the Pug was named straight from the mouths of its tiniest customers.
The Navy & Red Medallion Brook A-Line Dress is the perfect fancy dress for a little country-loving girl. It’s a breathable cotton and lycra blend, which allows for all day comfort, with a natural stretch that she can grow into throughout the year. It’s machine washable (woohoo!) and the contrasting belt and bow adds a fun dash of charm that you both will love.
The Coral & Navy Medallion Brandi A-Line Dress is another cute option for her, and once again really brings all the adorable fabric prints and textures into the perfect dress for your little girl. These dresses are perfect for the fall and winter months, because you can easily add in a pair of tights or leggings to transition into the cooler months, while being breathable enough for the warmer mid-days of fall. The little dainty flower on the belly is a touch of whimsy and a fun detail she’ll love. Jelly the Pug is available online, or through their frequent Zulily events, and they are affordable so you can stock up at the beginning of the season, without breaking the bank for a niche boutique brand.