Photographer Profile

My name is Melissa Howell and I specialize in custom portrait design for your home. You can visit my official photography website at to view more of my work and to contact me to set up a consultation.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Two and Blue Take Two

Last week this little guy came to my studio and things did not go so well. Yesterday I went to his home to try again. What a difference! I got such sweet, precious images of him playing with his toys and just being in his natural environment. Things were going so well with him and his brother jumping in his crib--until he hit his lip. Then the photo shoot was over :( Luckily, I had already gotten a bunch of great shots. Here is a sample of just a few of my favorites.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine's Day Movie List

Because tomorrow is Valentine's Day, I thought I would share with you my list of not completely-obvious Valentine's Day movies. These movies just make me happy, and they're perfect to snuggle up with your honey and watch together. As a bonus, they're all rated PG, so you don't have to worry about any awkward moments. Can you think of a movie that should have made my list? Leave a comment with your favorite Valentine's Day movies, and tomorrow, we'll have a vote to determine the best one!

1. Leap Year
This is the most recent of the movies I'm recommending. When I first rented this movie, I was afraid it was going to be dumb and slapsticky. I found it instead to be completely charming and lovely. I can't get enough of Matthew Goode asking for a bit of mercy in his Irish accent. Love, love this movie.

2. Win a Date With Tad Hamilton
I know, I know. The name alone sounds so stupid. I thought it would be a huge waste of my time to even watch this movie, but I was wrong. My husband even loves it. Topher Grace delivers a wonderful deadpan humorous performance and seeing his scrawny little body next to Josh Duhamels, uh, not scrawny little body is just so funny.

3. That Thing You Do
Warning: These songs will be stuck in your head for a week. But they're all awesome, so it's really not a problem. While not technically classified as a "romantic comedy," this still has a sweet romantic element to it. I love Steve Zahn correcting someone who calls their group "The O-need-ers" (it's spelled Oneders, as in Wonders) by saying, "Hey, that's O-ned-ers to you."

4. Penelope
You can't get much sweeter than this movie about a girl who discovers true love while having a pig's nose. I've even forgiven the movie makers for casting James McAvoy (who is SO not attractive). You get over it by the end.

5. Strictly Ballroom
I believe this was the first movie done by Australian filmmaker Baz Luhrman (who also did Moulin Rouge, which I absolutely hate. I thought everyone involved in that movie was on drugs). If you love ballroom dancing and Australian accents and way over-the-top hair, you will love this ugly-duckling-turns-into-swan-movie. This is the first movie I saw after my mission, and as soon as it was over, I rewound it (yes, this was in the days of the VHS tape) and watched it again. One of my all-time favorite movies.

So, there you have it. Something a little different for Valentine's Day. If you have any other favorite movies to add, please let me know in the comments!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Chocolate Mint Brownies (The Best Brownies You'll Ever Eat)

Take away the mint from these brownies, and you're left with the best chocolate brownies ever. I don't think I can ever make brownies from a box again. The texture of these is perfect. They're rich, dense and moist, but hold together to make serving a breeze. Add the mint, and you have something divine. You can also make these with other flavors, such as orange (yum!) lemon, raspberry, etc. They'll always be amazing. I got this recipe from Our Best Bites.

Brownie ingredients:
4 one-ounce squares unsweetened baking chocolate, or 3/4 cups chocolate powder plus 4 Tbsp. oil
1 cup butter
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Frosting ingredients:
1/2 Tbsp. milk
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
Green food coloring

Chocolate glaze:
6 ounces (about 1 cup) semisweet or dark chocolate chips
6 Tbsp. real butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x13 inch pan with foil, making sure the foil extends over the edges. Spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray.

Chop the unsweetened chocolate and butter into chunks and place together in microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring in between until just melted and smooth. Set aside to cool, stirring occasionally. (I have never done it this way. I take the easy way out and just do the next step--mixing together the butter with the eggs and sugar, etc., and then add the chocolate powder and oil).

Beat eggs, sugar and vanilla for 2 minutes. While the mixer is running, add the melted chocolate slowly. Add 1/4 of flour and the baking powder and mix. Add the remaining flower and mix until just combined. Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 20-30 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool completely on a metal rack. Combine all the frosting ingredients, starting with 1 1/2 Tbsp. of milk and beat until light and fluffy. Add more milk by teaspoonful as needed. Spread frosting evenly over cooled brownies and chill the brownies in the refrigerator.

While brownies are chilling, prepare the chocolate glaze. Place chocolate chips and 6 Tbsp. butter in a small pan on the stove. Melt over medium-low heat. When all melted and stirred together, remove from heat and let cool for about 15 minutes. Then carefully spread on top of the frosting layer. Return to refrigerator. When chocolate has hardened, use foil to remove the entire sheet of brownies from the pan. Cut and serve. Store leftovers in the fridge. (For a Christmas treat, use red food coloring for the frosting layer and sprinkle crushed candy canes on top).

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Two and Blue {Parker baby photographer}

I've been photographing this adorable boy since he was born. You'd think he'd be used to getting his portrait done by now, but actually, now that he's old enough to know what's going on, he doesn't like it very much :( After trying all the tricks we knew, his mom and I decided to try again next week at their home where he is likely to feel more comfortable. However, I did manage to get some super-cute images of him, in-between the tears and escape attemps!