My main floor is undergoing extensive renovations (including my office space), which makes editing within a construction zone a little tricky. Our outdoor space has been my saving grace…
My son Lucas made me the LOVE sign on the side wall. My son Ty made me the adirondack chair camera bottom left. These little personal hand-made-with-love touches make this space my happy place.
From my heart to yours,
Meet My Ty…
After years of photographing Grads, I had the proud honour of capturing our own ridiculously handsome Grad. We are so proud of the man he’s grown to be….kind, funny, smart, strong-willed, determined, witty, and full of life.
Our little family watched with pride as he confidently walked the stage to receive his diploma…
Our 3 amazing kid, love them so much!
Ty and his gorgeous, kind-hearted girlfriend Kaila…
Ty asked his Aunty Brenda (my little sister) to be his escort for the March (isn’t that awesome?) Love, love, love this moment…
My boys at the banquet…
I’m a pretty proud Mom…
We don’t have many family photos, what’s that saying: the shoe maker’s kids have no shoes? 😉 Thank you so much Laurie for capturing our family on such a special day.
Congratulations Ty, we are so proud of you! Can’t wait to see what your future holds.
All my love,
Yesterday, I posted the first part of our first ever family tropical adventure to Sandos Playacar Resort & Spa in the Mayan Riviera. Check it out HERE. I’m posting a ton of pictures for those who are also researching the resort and want some visual eye candy and tips.
There was so much to see and do at Sandos.
We spent most of our days lounging and swimming under swaying palm trees at the main pool.
My kids loved the mini golf which snaked it’s way into an eco sanctuary under the canopy of vegetation where monkeys would jump from tree to tree, iguana’s would scurry past, and the sounds of a peacock floated in the humid breeze. Check out the archery and tennis courts as well.
tip: climb up the treehouse, and there’s a couple of comfy seats up there to relax in and read a book.
Beside the mini golf in the La Bambola bar, there is THE BEST Crepe station filled with the ingredients of your choice made by the kindest woman named Rosalinda. She was so good to my kids, and they came back often, thank you!
Tip: Try Nutella or Chocolate with peanut butter topped with soft ice cream. So good!
We booked a Hacienda suite so all 5 of us could stay together (2 double beds, and a pullout, there’s also a 2 bedroom option). The Hacienda’s are a block of 8 suites centrally located with shared access to a private pool, hot tub, and swinging hammocks. We felt like we had our very own pool, as it wasn’t occupied by other families most of the time.
Tip: there are golf cart transports around the resort if your room is further away from the beach.
If you need some further relaxation, book a massage either in the Spa or right on the beach. There’s also a gym by the spa if you’d rather work than relax 😉 The trainer there is very helpful and will give you tips/advice on your workout.
Tip: before you go for your massage, visit their steam room and hot tubs.
The entrance to the spa…
I had read that it’s a bit of a walk from some of the rooms to the beach. I loved every second of the walk and often took the long way through trails of lush green vegetation greeted by the sounds of monkeys and birds. This trip may have cured my illogical fear of birds 😉
Another favourite part for my kids was the cupcake cafe and the Teen club (next to the meeting point). I think they ate their weight in cupcakes and enjoyed the arcade in the evening.
Tip: try the “Michael Jackson” cupcake, the cheesecake, fresh fruit smoothie, and the iced mocha coffee.
If you are looking for something to do Ocean side, try the daily Zumba, beach volley ball, collect seashells, enjoy some drinks & food at the Bagel Cafe, or kick back for a siesta on a lounging bed while you listen to the gentle ocean waves.
Tip: try the Miami Vice slushy drink or order a Dirty Monkey
The food! There were many options to eat from Buffets to a la Carte. We loved the food there. You will never ever go hungry. Like ever. Breakfast was our favourite and kept us going right until supper.
Tip: Try the Brazilian and the Steakhouse a la carte, and if it’s busy at the Festival buffet, go around the corner to the Italian buffet where you have access to both buffets (they are connected). We loved the atmosphere at the Italian Buffet.
The entrance to the Italian buffet…
I saw this on my walk, and I assume it’s used to cook.
We checked out bikes one day (included in your all-inclusive) and road them to the local market in Playacar which is very close (there’s even a Starbucks at the market).
Tip: We found just as many treasures at the Playacar market than at 5th Avenue in Playa Del Carmen. I enjoyed the no-hassle atmosphere of the smaller Playacar market and the bike ride there was so pretty.
Our biking trip before and after…My husband was so excited to find the biggest fishing hat, I laughed all the way home watching that big hat flop around in the breeze. ha!
In the evening there are shows to enjoy in the Theatre or by the Festival buffet.
Tip: Check out the Circus show, we absolutely loved it.
We ended our trip with a family photo shoot on the beach at sunset. Because I’m a photographer, we asked someone to take a photo for us, but there is a Photoshop there with great photographers who are excited to capture your family experience. What’s a family vacation without photos to remember it?
There’s so much more you can do in Mexico that we didn’t even get to in our week there. We will definitely be back to explore some more!
Thank you to the wonderful staff at Sandos Playacar, you made our stay perfectly memorable. I will always treasure ever memory we made there as a family.
If you want to book yourself a little trip, check out their website: http://www.sandos.com/hotel-playacar-in-playa-del-carmen.htm
or find them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Sandos.Playacar.Resort?ref=br_tf
From my happy heart to yours,
Living under a direct flight path near the Edmonton International Airport in snowy cold Alberta, I see many planes fly overhead everyday and I always wonder what magical destination they are flying to. We have happily dropped off many a family friend to the airport, yet our family of 5 has dreamed of our very own tropical vacation as we have never travelled outside of Canada together. We finally saved our pennies, and as our oldest son will be 18 this year, we figured 2014 was our year to fly. I’m a researcher (it’s annoying really), and for weeks I researched different resorts and destinations. I quickly realized it’s no small task finding a nice yet affordable resort that is family-of-5 friendly. Most resorts tailor their room bookings to maximum occupancy 4 (thank you Tanya Schneider, at Fareconnect for all your help). Our friends recommended Sandos Palyacar, a convenient 40 minute drive from beautiful and sunny Cancun, Mexico. I spent weeks pouring over reviews and searching for photos. This is the main reason for this lengthly post, in hopes other families will find it useful in their research.
After much annoying research, I was confident that Sandos Playacar was a perfect fit for our family as there are many activities for our kids (ages 9, 12, and 17) plus lots of perks for us adults too. We booked a Hacienda suite for all 5 of us, which included a smaller pool, hot tub, and hammocks right outside our door (shared pool space with 8 other suites, but we mostly had it to ourselves). My kids were over the moon excited, they have never been on a plane or dipped their toes in an ocean. We needed this time together as a family.
Finally, the much dreamed about day arrived, and we travelled to the airport through a typical Alberta spring blizzard. My kids giggled in their seat as our plane took off. My daughter wrote a special entry in her journal during the flight…
Five and half hours later we arrived and the heat hit us like a warm welcoming hug defrosting the Alberta icicles of our soul (we’ve had a loooooong winter, no exaggeration). The sun was setting as we travelled to Sandos Playacar, the palm trees were gently swaying in the humid hot breeze and we pulled up to the resort.
Check in was quick and we were all served something cool to drink. We were whisked off to our “Hacienda” via a lively little golf cart ride. It was dark at that point, so the next morning carried with it so much eye candy this photographer geek didn’t know what to do with herself.
We awoke to the sounds of birds of paradise as beams of sunlight flooded our room. My husband and I enjoyed a fresh cup of hot coffee on our patio as the kids quickly wiped the sleep out of their eyes and jumped into the little pool outside our room.
Palm trees, coconuts, pools filled with happy families, mayan ruins, a peacock, monkeys, donkeys, papaya trees, vibrant flowers, and the most pristine beautiful white sandy beach along the crystal clear blue green ocean awaited us just a few sandy steps away.
The first thing we did was take our kids to see the ocean.
This moment right here? My kids very first toes in the sand ocean wave experience…
Yay I have long arms, they come in handy…
We quickly learned the staff at the Sandos Playacar resort are very kind, friendly and helpful. We booked an excursion through the resort with “Mystic Adventure” to see 2 Cenotes via Quads. The word “Cenote” is derived from the Mayan word “dzonot” which means sacred well. A cenote is a natural phenomenon, a fresh water sink hole that the ancient Mayan civilization used as their main source of fresh water. The Mayans also believed the Cenotes had healing properties and considered many of them to be sacred; an portal to the underworld to communicate with the Gods.
The first Cenote we quadded to was small, refreshing, and beautiful. A private paradise in the middle of the jungle rich in history and meaning.
The second Cenote we went too is called “Dos Ojos” meaning “two eyes”. It’s actually two circular cenotes which provides many areas to scuba dive, snorkel, swim, and explore under a canopy of limestone. It was amazing!
I wasn’t sure how my 9 year old daughter would do with her first snorkelling experience, but I should never have doubted her, she did great.
We all loved it, definitely one of the highlights of our trip.
We attempted an underwater family shot…
After noticing our family flailing around in the water with a camera, our tour guide offered to get in the water and take one for us 🙂
After enjoying a hot tamale we headed back to our resort to explore even more that Sandos has to offer.
From my happy heart to yours,
The start of our Relay was literally full of rainbows and butterflies too (thanks to Team Butterfly of Hope).
As the sun set, we gathered around the stage to celebrate the incredible amount of funds that each team brought into the event for the Canadian Cancer Society.
it’s tricky to take a photo of our team with my long arm… lol
thank you Darren for taking our team photos for me!
Laurie beautifully spoke from her giving heart about love and loss while the relayers huddled around one another in support and understanding. It was a touching tribute for the Luminary ceremony.
After a moment of silence in memory and honour of all those affected by cancer, everyone made their way to their luminaries. I can’t begin to describe the emotion that floats and lives along the track. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time.
Remembrance, love, loss, respect, mourning, honour, thanksgiving, celebration…It’s all of that and so much more.
I’m so thankful for my Dad who received amazing news this year that his prostate cancer levels are as close to zero as it can possibly get…
These are just a few of the luminaries that lit our path as we walked during the night. Each luminary signifies a precious, important, loved-to-the core life…
This is why we relay…
We relay so that one day there will be a cure…
As the morning arrived, many luminaries still burned on with tenacity…
We huddled together for the closing ceremonies and walked our last lap together. It was an amazing night, and us relayers will be back next year to do it all again. If there is a Relay for Life near you, put together a team and join in. Your heart will forever be changed.
We Fought Back!
Click HERE to go to my photography Facebook page where I’ve uploaded more photos from the event. I will continue to add photos to it as I edit. If anyone wishes to order a print of one of the photos you see here, please use the contact form on this blog to send me an e-mail or give me a call at 780.980.0703. All proceeds will go directly to the Canadian Cancer Society.
From my heart to yours,
The 2013 Leduc Relay for Life was once again an amazing event. From 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. we relayed with love and pride and collectively we raised almost $80,000! A HUGE thank you goes out to all the organizers, survivors, supporters, and those who donated their time and funds all in the fight to make Cancer history.
The Relay for Life is more than just an overnight event to raise funds for cancer research, it’s a living breathing entity that pitches a tent within your heart and lives there because of the people involved. Their stories of survival and hope will never be forgotten…combine Hope and Love, and you have one powerful force. If you haven’t had the chance to be part of a relay, what are you waiting for?! I promise, it will touch your heart in a big way.
The evening starts out celebrating the survivors with a much deserved banquet. The room is a sea of yellow, the colour signifying strength and wisdom.
After supper, they make their way outside to gather together linked by an unspoken bond to release their balloon with pride and celebration…
Together they start the Relay by walking the first lap while everyone cheers them on. The lap is .7 km, so it really is quite a distance around. I’m always in awe of the impressive display of determination and pride.
The enthusiastic cheering section is very appreciated to the survivors who walk the lap…
Just as the survivors were done their lap, it was time for the team laps. The rain started quickly and poured on all of us. Within half a lap I couldn’t believe my eyes at the beautiful rainbow that covered the sky around us….
BMS Bootcamps was there to lead us in a warm up, 12 hours of walking will take it’s toll on a person!
The team outfits were awesome this year!
I was honoured to be a part of team Hier Power this year…
As always, there was something for everyone. Bingo, Zumba, Bouncy Houses, Face painting…
Each team was asked to put on a game… Bra Pong was a hit!
Connectivity Dance did a Fabulous job entertaining everyone with their dancing talents…
Leduc has one of the most beautiful walking routes for the Relay…
As our team was walking the track, my friend Ang told me to look over the edge down to the water.
Through out the night, symbolism was all around…first with the double rainbow that covered the track to start the Relay, and also within these delicate eggs. Such precious cargo amongst frigid water, wind, and debris . Through such adversity, life forges on with a little help and support.
Although the weather forecast was for thunder showers, wind, and rain, we lucked out for the night.
Click HERE to view Part Two of the Relay.
I’ve been avoiding writing this post, because I struggle with articulating just how much the Relay for Life means to me and to all who participate in this event. You would be hard-pressed to find a single person who hasn’t been touched by cancer in some way. Some more than others to such a devastating extent that it keeps me up at night questioning “why”. There of course is no rational explanation to the whirl wind of destruction that accompanies cancer. It’s an entity unto it’s own…a dark presence that invades and seeps into daily life you can’t seem to run from like one’s own shadow.
When I see the pain of a cancer diagnosis within my friend’s families, there are a huge range of emotions…from empathy, to sympathy, to helplessness, to understanding, yet there are also feelings of guilt because we as a family have been blessed with good news regarding my father’s cancer journey. While we are over-the-moon happy about his recent test that revealed his levels are close to zero, there is so much cancer within several friend’s lives that within our gratitude and bliss we also wish and pray that they too receive the same positive news. And this year has brought with it heart break, as I witnessed my friends suffer through indescribable heart ache as cancer ripped apart their lives through the loss of mothers and fathers.
I pray for HOPE because purpose lives within hope. Every year that has passed since cancer invaded our peaceful family life, I’m shocked at how it has changed us all. How it contorts and alters the way we view life. There are positives within that change of mindset; there is much understanding and love when you can look into the eyes of a loved who is suffering through an all too familiar pain. So yes, there is power within understanding and healing within support and sharing.
It serves as a reminder to cherish this crazy ride called life and to show a ridiculous amount of love to others. It also lights a fire within my heart to do something, anything to fight the cancer demon. The only way I can find purpose within cancer is to walk in the Relay for Life to raise funds for the Canadian Cancer Society to find a cure for cancer. I’m honoured to once again document the event through photography as well.
I can’t begin to express my gratitude for all the donations that have poured in on behalf of my father (and on behalf of your own loved one) over the past couple of years that I’ve participated in Leduc’s Relay for Life. Every single donation made is passed on to my Dad through our conversations and I get to share your stories of strength, devotion, and kindness along with who you are as a person. Here’s an example of our conversation: “Guess what Dad, my friend Jackie just made a donation to Relay for Life, she’s a spitfire of a girl. Mom to 3 active girls who talk her ear off. She actually bakes the things she pins on Pinterest. (insert 10 minute conversation explaining what Pinterest is). She’s a kind-hearted woman who has suffered through her own loss within her family because of cancer. She’s supported you with a generous donation today.” For a lover of stories like my Dad, that’s a pretty big deal and he calls often for updates. 😉 So if you have donated to my pledge page, please know my Dad knows you by name and he’s invested in your life simply because of your kindness and generosity.
This year I relay once again in Memory of my brave and strong Aunty Lorraine and my dear kind friend Chris. Missed so…
I relay in honour of my childhood friend Tara who is battling Breast Cancer. Even in the face of the biggest trial of her young life, she forges on with positivity and such strength of spirit that it brings me to tears. I’m so proud to know her.
I relay in honour of my Aunt Elda who is laying in pain in a hospital bed after surgery to remove cancer from the body she’s always taken such good care of.
I will be relaying on Team Hier Power this year. Team Hier Power has raised over $10,000 every year in Leduc and they do so in memory of my friend Cheryl’s husband Jon. I can feel his memory & spirit within Cheryl’s eyes as she reminisces their time cut short. She loves him with no boundaries. Their kids are so beautiful, and they walk along side of their Mom. Cheryl’s heart is huge as is her passion and determination to raise funds.
And of course I relay for my kind-hearted Dad. His PSA levels are almost zero and his new treatments are working well. Thank you God! When the doctor shared the latest test results with him he told me he just sat and cried with gratitude.
This past couple of years that Dad has been battling cancer has felt like a fog, It’s also served as a lesson in love, a test in faith, and the immense strength of the human spirit.
I have set a fundraising goal for this year’s Relay for Life held on June 14th in Leduc, Alberta and I need your support! We can make a difference my friends, there is no amount to small. How much money do we spend on coffee, suppers out, movie nights, clothes…why not donate even a little towards finding a cure for cancer; a disease that affects us all in some capacity. We can make a difference, every fibre of my being believes we can. Every penny helps and I can’t begin to express how grateful I am for the support.
Let’s join together to make cancer history.
To donate, simply click this link: http://convio.cancer.ca/goto/chrissyhopaluk
Thank you so much for reading my post, sorry it was a bit of a novel! 😉
From my heart to yours,
Meet my beautiful niece Leah.
Leah graduated this year from high-school. We live a couple hours away from one another, so unfortunately I wasn’t there to photograph her on her actual grad day. We decided the perfect time for a grad session would be during our family vacation at Loon Lake, SK (Makwa Lake). I come from a large family; I’m one of six girls. Every year since my sisters and I were little, we’ve vacationed at Loon Lake. We have many great family memories spending our summers together swimming, boating, fishing, and huddled around campfires talking over one another . We’ve continued our yearly vacation tradition as we’ve all grown up and now have kids of our own. Leah is my sister Sharon’s daughter, and she’s the youngest of three. Sometimes it’s hard to believe she’s grown up. I still have flash backs of Leah as a little girl sporting her huge smile and long flowing black hair. I feel a special bond with Leah, and she often gets told that she looks a little like her Auntie Chrissy.
We started our session on Jumbo Beach. A special thank you to my sister Brenda, and to my niece Dianna for helping me for Leah’s shoot. You made the perfect “wind” and held the off-camera flash at just the right angle. 🙂
At Steel Narrows there is a gorgeous view of upper Makwa lake that I’ve admired every time I’ve driven past it. I’ve always wanted to photograph it…this was the perfect opportunity.
It was just after 8 p.m. The sun was setting over the lake and the weather was perfect.
Here’s a behind the scenes shot of my sister Brenda helping us out. After 5 minutes of holding the light stand like that, I realized I didn’t tell her that she could simply drop the legs and tilt it rather than hold it up. Ooooopsie Daissssey 😉
Just when the light was at it’s prettiest, we heard the coyotes howling. At first it was just a few, and they sounded (to me anyway) like they were far away. My sister looked at me with big scared eyes and says “WOLVES!!! We are surrounded by Wolves!” and I replied “It’s just a couple of coyotes, keep holding the light.”
All of a sudden in the opposite direction, more coyotes joined in. I will admit they did sound very close and I’ve never actually heard that many all together howling. I looked at Brenda and she was panicking…running around in a small circle holding my light stand. Her panic transferred to Leah who thought for sure we should run for our lives. Both of them were screaming “Wolves!!! Let’s get out of here! The shoot is over.”
And what did I do? I just kept shooting, even when Leah tried to run away. “Don’t move! Stand still. Don’t look so scared. it’s perfect light! They won’t hurt us I’m sure. Brenda stop running in circles and hold the light steady.”
I will admit, when I got home I kind of expected to see 200 coyotes (or as Brenda would say “Wolves”) in the background of these photos. That would have been awesome!
I can only assume the coyotes were scared off by Brenda and Leah’s screaming, and as quickly as they started…they stopped and we continued on for the best light of the night.
Thank you so much Leah for the fun night! Love you and I’m so proud of you!
I’m not sure I can articulate the range of emotion that lives within a Relay for Life event. My eyes have changed through the years of volunteering as a photographer at the Relay. Five years ago, my dear friend Hope Walls introduced me to the Edmonton Relay for Life event and within minutes my heart was taken by the amazing people that walked the track all of which share a common bond…cancer. Three years ago, my home city Leduc held their very first Relay for Life. My friend Jackie registered “Team Hope” and for the first time I was able to participate in the event as a Relayer along with my lovely girlfriends. I relayed in memory of my Aunty Lorraine, and my friend Chris. Little did I know that just months after walking the track in Leduc’s first Relay, my Dad would be diagnosed with prostate cancer. And so my eyes changed as our family rallied around my Father as he bravely fought cancer. You view life differently when cancer seeps in, some days it invades like a flood and other days like a dripping tap. But it’s always there, hiding in the shadows. I quickly learned cancer is a family disease.
This year as the Relay approached, I put off fundraising a little longer than I usually do and I even considered not participating in the relay…because it hurt. It’s been a tough year of treatment for my Dad. And then I realized that’s the whole point. That’s the reason I Relay…To raise funds to fight the monster. To find purpose within chaos. To etch Hope into the landscape of this beautiful life. To support my Father, because he deserves all the support we can give. I set out to raise what I could and littered my facebook news-feed with pleas for donations.
And then something happened…
I was reduced to tears as the generosity and support of my friends and family poured in to the tune of $5,000.
This Relay for Life, more than any other, held so much meaning. It represents loss and sorrow. It represents the power of community, support, and friendship.
But above all, the Relay for Life represents Hope.
We Fought Back.
Up first was the Survivor banquet.
Let me introduce you to Matt. He’s an incredibly strong man with a powerful story of survival. After he was done speaking, one gentleman stood up in appreciation and the whole room followed suit.
After the supper, we made our way outside for the survivor group photo and balloon release.
They kicked off the Relay with the first lap.
It was so good to see familiar faces from the last two Relays.
This is Al, he is such a sweet man!
The Relay teams on their first lap…
I think Leduc has one of the prettiest walking tracks for the Relay.
These two lovely angels greeted us with a “hello” at every lap, and a “Good Morning” as the sun rose.
The amazing team Hier Power who raised an astonishing $15,500!
I was honoured to be a part of Team Hope. Together we raised $8,670. I sure do love these soft-hearted girls…
Even if you aren’t participating in the Relay, the event is a wonderful place to bring the kids for some fun. There’s always lots to see and do.
The Leduc Kanata Gymnastics Club put on an amazing show of young talent.
As I ran the track, I was very touched by the messages of encouragement to all on some of the luminaries….
We were blessed with beautiful weather, it was even made sweeter as we remembered last year’s June snow storm. The sun shone brilliantly warming all of us Relayers on the track.
Click here for PART TWO of the Relay. It was a beautiful sight to see when the sun went down.
*All images are copyright of the Canadian Cancer Society
As the sun went down, Christine McCourt made her way to the stage to speak at the Luminary Ceremony. Her speech touched all of our hearts. She is such a strong, devoted, and empathetic woman.
After a moment of silence we made our way to our luminaries to light them.
In honour of my soft-hearted Dad Ralph Dicke, who greets each day with a smile and a heart full of gratitude…
Yes, there is Hope Dad.
In memory of our Aunty Lorraine. We miss her vivacious spirit and caring heart…
In memory of my dear friend Chris who’s infectious laughter still sings within my memory. I wish I could stop by her house for a coffee and talk about how amazing her daughter is.
Along this silent track there are stories that live within each luminary lit…
There is more loss than one person should endure in a lifetime.
There are tears of remembrance and hope for strength…
There is respect and understanding…
And most importantly, Hope lives at the Relay for Life. It is the very promise that urges us to the Relay.
As I was taking these photos, the “Hope” luminaries magically transformed into “Cure”.
In Part One, I introduced you to “Al”. He told me that he had a luminary along the track in memory of his Mom. It was only when I downloaded these photos that I realized I laid down in front of his precious luminary to take this photo…
Given the much better weather, the night flew by fast and before we knew it the sun peaked over the skyline. I walked by this devoted young team enjoying the sunrise.
7:00 a.m. marked the end of the Relay and as we were came together for the closing ceremony, I turned around and saw the same team that enjoyed that sunrise gathered together in a supportive group hug.
How amazing is that?
Thank you to the organizing committee of this year’s Leduc Relay for Life. You did an amazing job. Much respect!
Click HERE to go to my facebook page where I’ve uploaded more photos from the event. I will continue to add photos to it as I edit. If anyone wishes to order a print of one of the photos you see here, please use the contact form on this blog to send me an e-mail or give me a call at 780.980.0703. All proceeds will go directly to the Canadian Cancer Society.
See you next year,
*All images are copyright of the Canadian Cancer Society