Every Christmas I make my mother in law’s famous butter cookies. I love making them, but even more than that, I love photographing them. The decorating is the usually the best part, especially when done with someone in the family. When my daughter is in town, she helps; it’s an important part of our Christmas traditions and preparations. We mix the dough, using only real butter (accept no substitutions!), and refrigerate overnight. Then we roll and choose from the many cutter shapes we have accumulated over the years. This is the difficult part: Deciding which shapes we want to decorate the most.

After baking to a light golden brown, we remove them from the cookie sheets and let them cool.

And now – let the creativity begin.

Step one: Color. Most people utilize colors like red and green for Christmas icing. But we take it a step further with specialty colors, like a royal purple. Because of a certain alma mater for a majority of clan members, there are always plenty of purple cookies in this household.

My rule about icing is the deeper the better. Yum.

Step Two: Sprinkles. Sprinkles liberally applied with joy. Use with abandon! That’s my guideline. You might be beginning to understand why the cookies are so highly addictive and caloric.

Once in a while I get lucky and get some extra assistance. Sometimes a male family member will assist with placement of a “ball bearing” (known in the baking world as a “nonpareil”) or two. I’ve found that men last from three to five minutes before cookie inertia sets in. But this year I got help from a little guy dear to my heart. Frosting adorned everything – his mouth, his hair, and even his nose. Shimmering sprinkles fell on his clothes, but not too many hit the cookie itself. But that’s okay; it was his first experience with the cookie extravaganza.

Loving this job!

The cookies are delicious, no doubt about it. Tender and tasty, loaded with butter and sugar, calories and contentment. But to me, the real joy in the cookies is the beauty of the finished product. Perfect for all sorts of decorations and further creativity in photos. A few generously decorated cookies on a silver platter – glittery reflections from the Christmas lights themselves, and some fun creations result.

And an abstract of an elevated ridge of sprinkles.

And now? The cookies are gone, and some people are dreaming of a nice winter snowfall.  I’m just dreaming of what I can do with pink icing in February!



What photographer in her right mind would plan a session for midday with harsh light? Sometimes you have to do what you have to do.Mary-Lou-Christy-Photography-Vero-Beach-Portrait-Photography



I walked the beach at noon the day before this shoot. There were the most amazing (and unusual for Vero Beach) tidal pools, just begging for a photography session.  The idea germinated. I absolutely had to have children running, playing, and moving within the tidal pools.  Of course there were no guarantees the ocean would actually provide these pools the next day, but in an optimistic approach, I did check the tides and plan the shoot for the appropriate time.


But children in bathing suits at the beach? Pretty ordinary. Fun, yes, but ordinary.

Why not take these precious little girls and dress them up? Why not a swirling, flowing dress at the beach?  I became excited.


Luckily, the mom in question was happy to accommodate me.  Katie, the older of the two, was delighted. Dress up and twirling are right up her alley. I had to do a little convincing with Anna. She doesn’t really enjoy wearing frills for any occasion, so why would I take away the joy of the beach and make it a dress up event? She wasn’t really onboard, but with some gentle persuasion, she agreed to give it a try for just a few minutes. I think from her expressions in the photos she had quite a good time. But she did insist on bringing a wetsuit “just in case.”


I find when I can envision a photo before the shoot, it usually turns out really well.


And now I had a plan. The gorgeous environment, two beautiful little girls in party dresses, hmmm… let’s see. Props, we needed props.  No one who really knows me will be surprised that I came up with flowers.  But they couldn’t just be beachy, tropical, Florida flowers. No hibiscus allowed!  Too predictable.  So I grabbed a bunch of multicolored roses, popped the thorns off, and gave each child three roses to play with as she saw fit. 



Nothing is quite so much fun as dancing in the tidal pools with twirling skirts and roses!



Nothing is quite so much fun as drowning a rose in your submerged party dress.


And no sand castle is quite the same as one topped with a rose.



Oh, and about the “inappropriate light?” I got quite lucky. A nice cloud cover gave me the soft, muted light that was just perfect for this project.



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