took a hike, took a camera: Miller’s Head & Stony Man

It was Labor Day weekend and one look at Skyline Drive would lead you to believe that everyone in the Valley had hiking on the brain. Rightfully so. It was a gorgeous day and somehow between my August hike and this one, Fall started. The top of the mountain  beamed with yellows and fading greens. Still lush but whispering change. We settled on a hike with only two cars in the lot: Miller’s Head, a short little number with a trail that leads up and down through the woods to a stone-built overlook. When we finished our hike we craved more so we tossed in a hike to Stony Man Mountain. A numbered trail with a corresponding booklet that shares a bit of information about each spot along the way. The view at the top does not disappoint…even when my eyes are fixed on my kids, through a lens.

Miller’s Head
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Cell phone summary: MillersHeadStonyManCelljpg

took a hike, took a camera: Hawksbill

A harmless invite and there I was in a panic. “Meet us at the park,” she suggested. “The kids can play.” Time paused a moment as my world zeroed in on me: my son doesn’t play at the park. My son doesn’t play at the park! He’s a teenager. Teenagers don’t play at parks. Little kids play at parks. And he is not little anymore. When he stands our eyeballs meet. He will soon surpass me in height. Seemingly impossible considering I just paced a path into the living room floor after mid-night feedings, rubbing his back, shooshing him the way mothers do to relax his ten pound little body back to sleep. That tiny life that I raised, that I’m raising, is too big for park swings. One day you wake up and everything is different.

I am peeved by mottos instructing us to “live like there’s no tomorrow.” Sayings like this are far removed from their intended meaning and used as an excuse to live an irresponsible and reckless life. Living like there’s no moment after this moment, in the literal sense, is not realistic. Tomorrow my electric bill is due, therefore today I have to plan how to pay it. And that probably means I’m going to say no to dinner with friends a time or two in order to work to earn said money for said bill.  If everyone lived like there was no tomorrow, the world would be in complete shambles. The laundry would never get cleaned, the seeds would never be planted, shelters would never be built, books would never be written, families would fall apart, everyone would be broke and uneducated and the world would turn black and die! I exaggerate, but really, who has the time and resources to truly live like there’s no tomorrow? Not me.

Every now and then, I am reminded that time isn’t waiting for my electric bill to be paid. It’s not waiting for invites to the park. It’s not waiting…it’s moving. So there are times when even if I’m tired, even if the dishes are dirty, even if I haven’t had a moment to shower in three days, even if it means we’re having Nutella and granola bars for dinner…I just go and do something that deposits memories in the bank. That’s what the sunset hike to Hawksbill was for us. It was a long day and I was tiiiiired with endless to-do’s to check-off but we went anyway. We couldn’t have timed it more perfectly and arrived at the summit with thirty minutes to spare before the sun fell below the blue ridge. The looks on my kids’ faces at the vast, spectacular view are the moments I live for. Uninhibited awe. We snacked and explored and sat together and said prayers for people who need them. With the setting sun came almost immediate darkness so we strapped on our headlamps and headed back down the trail to the car. With nearly no light pollution and tree leaves covering the starlight, the walk back was the darkest dark I remember. My daughter squeezed my hand and chatted with me the whole hike back. The boys searched for deer and frogs with their flashlights and clonked their every-growing teenage feet behind me. It was the coolest hike of the year.

While you can’t plan every second and you can’t realistically live like there’s no tomorrow, you can enjoy right now. You never know when you’ll give them their last push on the swing set. You probably won’t remember the last time you helped them wash the shampoo from their hair, the last time you had to walk around the grocery store with a babydoll in your cart or the last time you cut up their dinner. But the last time will come for all of these things, as it should. Their childhood is moving and changing and fading and with good effort, it will be a fond memory they tell stories about one day. I hope to keep giving them stories to tell. ❤

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Red Wing Roots III

It’s the third year in and I’m not tired of it yet. Not one bit. I love the drive to Mt. Solon. I love the growing sound of banjos and harmonicas as I walk closer to the Chimneys. I love seeing all the familiar faces of Harrisonburg. I love meeting new faces. I love overhearing people gush about how beautiful this festival is. I love the running, smiling, happy children. I love being blown away by performers I never even knew existed. I love my dirty feet at the end of the day. I love watching the weekend through my viewfinder. I love when a moment is so perfect it pulls me from a conversation because I just can’t not take that photo. I love the blue skies. I love the gray skies. I love the food. Oh God, the food. I love working with photographers who are kind and respectful and fun. I love that next year, Red Wing Roots will return and I can do it all again. Aw sookie!

Below are a few of my favorite shots. You can find more on my Facebook page in the coming days and on Instagram at @bsomephoto.

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Bands pictured in this post in order of appearance: Dr. How and the Reasons to Live, Locust Honey, Bryan Elijah Smith and the Wild Hearts, Mandolin Orange, Jon Russell, Chatham County Line, The Judy Chops, Scott Miller, Cahalen Morrison & Eli West, Missy Raines & the New Hip, The Barefoot Movement, Nikki Lane, Sarah Watkins – Sarah Jarosz – Aoife O’Donovan, The Steel Wheels, Possessed by Paul James, Billy Strings & Don Julin, Red Tail Ring, The Shook Twins, Spirit Family Reunion, The Honey Dewdrops with Caleb Stine, The Wood Brothers

Other relative links pictured: Lucas Roasting Company, Larkin Arts, South Fork, South Street Brewing, Eno, Friendly City Hoops

Say Cheese, Pumpkin.

I have never made a cheesecake. And after this shoot, I can now say: I still have never made a cheesecake but I have seen one made. Seen it right through my camera lens. I first met Isabelle at the Blue Nile (RIP). She was the friendly bartender and I was the loner at the bar, staring at my planner, eating nachos and replying to emails. She would make me a white Russian and keep me company from time to time. Since then, through various social media, I’ve come to know Isabelle as a true lover of kitchen-time…and insects, and the wonderful little trinkets of this weathered-world that go overlooked by the masses. I knew she was a perfect candidate for October’s Celebrating Life shoot.

Last Saturday, Isabelle invited me over on a chilly fall morning to help….er watch her do some baking in her adorable apartment in the heart of Harrisonburg. When she greeted me at the door it’s as if she was holding the smells of fall mornings hostage. A warm, comfortable wave of baked  pumpkin hugged my face and my cheeks rosied at the latch of the door lock behind me. What a great reflection of the soul a home is. I let myself get lost in her comforts before getting down to business. I mean, pumpkin cheesecake is surrrious business.

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"That's Logan's little pile."

“That’s Logan’s little pile.”

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As Isabelle measured and tossed ingredients into the mixing bowl, she told me about the glass jar of vanilla on the table. Her sister makes homemade vanilla each year as gifts for the family. When they are finished with the jar, they return it to her to refill. She also shared that she got most of her ingredients locally at the Friendly City Food Co-op which is walking distance from her place. She described that she loves to give her adored knickknacks away to spread joy because they’re just things that she’ll find joy in replacing on her next round of thrift shopping. Some of her things hold sentimental value…like the artwork on her fridge. And her cat. When I asked about her home and her style inspiration she put it simply: “it’s all about color and comfort.” And I guess she nailed it…because it all visually worked and I was dang comfortable. Isabelle loves baking and sharing the sweet goods of her efforts with local friends. On the evening of this particular day, she would head off to the Shendandoah Mountain Bike Festival to volunteer her time shuttling bikers and sharing her homemade cookies at the cookie table (<—every event needs one of those!). She talked about her dreams of opening a local, French-inspired bakery. She spoke kindly of her family and her parents and her life. I have only one wish for my time with Isabelle that day…and that is that I could’ve stayed just a bit longer. She is a joy to be around and her loving, positive outlook on her life is refreshing. And yeah, the cheesecake was dank!FriendlyCityLensPumpChs11FriendlyCityLensPumpChs12FriendlyCityLensPumpChs18FriendlyCityLensPumpChs20FriendlyCityLensPumpChs7FriendlyCityLensPumpChs22FriendlyCityLensPumpChs23FriendlyCityLensPumpChs21FriendlyCityLensPumpChs24FriendlyCityLensPumpChs25FriendlyCityLensPumpChs26FriendlyCityLensPumpChs27FriendlyCityLensPumpChs30FriendlyCityLensPumpChs29FriendlyCityLensPumpChs31FriendlyCityLensPumpChs35FriendlyCityLensPumpChs33FriendlyCityLensPumpChs36

I hope you find some time today to enjoy a friendly face in your community, bake something that makes the smell of your home hug someone’s face, support a local business that bakes goods with love and purpose or, perhaps, indulge in a hefty slice of pumpkin cheesecake. Here’s a recipe that look a-friggin-mazing. And here’s one that doesn’t even require and oven (and it has lovely photos too). Happy National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day!

And be sure to check out more from my Celebrating Life series!

 

Red Wing Roots II: Day 3

It felt a lot like a Sunday when I parked my car on the third and final day of the second annual Red Wing Roots Music Festival. Time moves differently on Sundays. It ticks away and reminds us to notice the smells and colors and faces and light, to slow ourselves down and enjoy one last little morsel of, in this case, a mid-summer musical dessert. When I shut my car door, there were no echoes on this third day…no soft melodies or harmonicas bouncing off the Chimney’s. There was quiet. A little alarming, I admit, for a music festival…but I proceeded anyway, with curiosity and camera. As I moved towards the back of the seated, silent crowd, I heard Trent Wagler wailing out a line from his gospel set. It was an experience to be there in that moment, watching this community church under overcast skies, surrounded by beauty and bodies who needed this healing sound. People napped and recovered and carried themselves to the stage to wake up. Dang good way to start a day.
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Next up was Willie Watson, who I found to be a pleasant surprise. I love watching passion pour from a face with each lyric…eye wrinkles forming in the delivery of a verse, veins bulging with blood pounding from an aching heart and a shaky esophagus to distract from a tear. I got to see this in Willie’s performance of Rock Salt and Nails, among others. I feel you man. But before I let myself get stuck in my own head, I wandered around to mingle and grab images of smiling faces. It was a good move, the sun joined us and the rest of the day came with a smooth, steady beat as each new band took the stage.
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bsomeIMG_9686bsomeIMG_9699Above: Lucas Roasting Company saved the day for a lot of folks. Below: Year-old swag…we missed you this year Caleb!

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Above: Blackfeather Furniture made taking a break look goooood.bsomeIMG_9632

JP Harris & The Touch ChoicesbsomeIMG_9603bsomeIMG_9626bsomeIMG_9645bsomeIMG_9636bsomeIMG_9602bsomeIMG_9612bsomeIMG_9646bwbsomeIMG_9623bwbsomeIMG_9655bsomeIMG_9613bsomeIMG_9677bsomeIMG_9678bsomeIMG_9671bsomeIMG_9668bwbsomeIMG_9667bwbsomeIMG_9582bwbsomeIMG_9477bwbsomeIMG_9480bwbsomeIMG_9482bwbsomeIMG_9719

Bourbon Barrel CongressbsomeIMG_9727bwbsomeIMG_9730bsomeIMG_9726bsomeIMG_9722cbsomeIMG_9733bsomeIMG_9755bw

Bryan Elijah Smith & the Wild HeartsbsomeIMG_9874bwbsomeIMG_9864bwbsomeIMG_9889bwbsomeIMG_9941bwbsomeIMG_9915bwbsomeIMG_9893bsomeIMG_9894bsomeIMG_9903bsomeIMG_9896bwFCLIMG_9688bsomeIMG_9713bsomeIMG_9716bsomeIMG_9759

The Revelers

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It was time to fill our tanks with some Hanks.bsomeIMG_0030 bsomeIMG_0027 bsomeIMG_0034cbsomeIMG_9578bsomeIMG_0212

Peter Rowan’s Bluegrass Band
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Townes Van Zandt Tribute Set packed the stage with a smorgasbord or festival talent.bsomeIMG_0171 bsomeIMG_0136 bsomeIMG_0116bsomeIMG_0060bw bsomeIMG_0132 bsomeIMG_0135 bsomeIMG_0162 bsomeIMG_0064bsomeIMG_0106bsomeIMG_0065 bsomeIMG_0056

Hayes Carll wrapped up the evening and the festival for the year.bsomeIMG_0291 bsomeIMG_0251 bsomeIMG_0216 bsomeIMG_0228 bsomeIMG_0219c bsomeIMG_0247bw

See you next year, friends!bsomeIMG_0050

Didya miss Day 1? Click here to get caught up! What about Day 2?

This post is part of my year long series Celebrating Life.

Check out my photos from last year: Red Wing Roots Music Festival 2013! Day 1Day 2, & Day 3.

Beau Knows…Ravioli

There I was, in a pickle. And when you’re in the kind of pickle I was in…the my-ravioli-makers-have-all-fallen-through-and-I-only-have-six-days-to-photograph-and-compile-a-National-Ravioli-Day-post kind of pickle, you call the most knowledgeable local food guru you know. In my case, this culinary angel was Amanda Cannon. In less than ten minutes, I had a “very handsome” ravioli maker to photograph. Boomtown! 

When I arrived at Amanda’s cozy cottage, I was greeted by a mischievous black cat, “Bad Kitty”, who led me to the door while offering intriguing conversation. Chatty cat-hy. Amanda prepared a cup of coffee for me, introduced me to her boyfriend, Beau, and left.
bsomecIMG_0267bwbsomecIMG_0265 bsomecIMG_0263bsomecIMG_0301What a great way to meet someone for the first time, in the comfort of a home, with warm coffee in one hand and my camera in the other PLUS the lingering thought of homemade ravioli filling my gut in the near future. Lay off me-I’m starving! Beau is the sous chef at Bella Luna Wood-fired Pizza which gives him instant credibility. Bella Luna came to town with great anticipation and did not disappoint. Probably because they hire kick-ass people for front and back of the house, like Beau. Starting the noodle dough from scratch, he got out the ingredients and kindly explained the whole process to me: a ravioli virgin.
bsomecIMG_0297bsomecIMG_0279 bsomecIMG_0313 bsomecIMG_0333bsomecIMG_0316bsomecIMG_0353 bsomecIMG_0364Once the milk was heated for the ricotta, Beau added apple cider vinegar to create the milky, curdy separation. <–Clearly I’m a pro now. After a few moments, however, Beau realized that he accidentally used light cream instead of milk. In his defense, the two cartons looked very similar. Waddayagonnado? He started the ricotta again from scratch. I’ve never tasted fresh, warm ricotta before but his was deeeelicious.bsomecIMG_0272bbsomecIMG_0340collagebsomecIMG_0306 bsomecIMG_0311 bsomecIMG_0322collagebsomecIMG_0357It’s awesome watching someone in their zone…doing something they love. There was joy on Beau’s face, there in the kitchen. In the chopping, the mixing, the cooking, the mishaps and even in the cleanup. A chat about this sort of thing was brought up when he noticed that I took a photo of the dirty wooden spoon in the sink. In my effort to explain why I saw this as photo-worthy, I recalled the book “The Sun My Heart” by Thich Nhat Hanh. There’s a section in the book that discusses dish washing. It’s quite transformative, but here’s the gist: “…the idea that doing dishes is unpleasant can occur only when you aren’t doing them…. If I am incapable of washing dishes joyfully, if I want to finish them quickly so I can go and have a cup of tea, I will be equally incapable of drinking the tea joyfully.” Since reading this book I try to find those beauties in my daily life; in my job; in my chores. Folding warm clothes, shoveling the (constantly falling) snow, making my bed, hand dryers, rainy days, rush hour traffic jams…you get the point. I have countless photos of my sink. It’s not just a sink full of dirty dishes. It’s proof that I just made epic pumpkin pancakes for two happy kids that sit full-as-ticks on the sofa. It’s evidence of the existence of the last 2 hours of preparing a feast for my friends. It’s beautiful, really.

Beau’s history, naturally, is different from mine but his time in the Army offered circumstances that led him to a similar philosophy: “Embrace the Suck” as he put it. When he found himself in really awful places and less-than-desirable conditions, he would remind himself that even that would have a say in who he is and will become as a man. He is no doubt a stronger human for taking life, and all that it has thrown at him, in stride.
bsomecIMG_0319bsomecIMG_0330bsomecIMG_0281bsomecIMG_0284 bsomecIMG_0295 bsomecIMG_0372bsomecIMG_0376 bsomecIMG_0384 bsomecIMG_0386 bsomecIMG_0396bsomecIMG_0435c bsomecIMG_0421 bsomecIMG_0400collage bsomecIMG_0429bsomecIMG_0351Ravioli stuffing was ready. The dough was ‘resting’ (shhh!) in the fridge and the clouds parted to reveal the beautiful, blue, Saturday sky. The cats, Bad Kitty and Bijoux, were becoming increasingly vocal as aromas of sun dried-tomato white sauce poured out of the kitchen. It was time for the exciting part, noodle stretching! (That may or may not be what the process is actually called.) A familiar kitchen tool appeared (the bench scraper/knife) followed by a new one: the pastry cutter/crimper. All this newness was so.exciting. And I’m not exaggerating. Beau demonstrated the crimper but also explained how a drinking glass can easily be substituted. The sauce on the stove was turning into a mouthwatering, gravy-esque thickness. At this point, he was doing the traditional kitchen dance that occurs just as everything begins to come to the end of its cooking cycle, all at the exact same moment. So there’s Beau, with a strainer full of ravioli over a sink full of dishes with cats circling his feet like two inverted vultures waiting for a noodle to fall to it’s death. And there I was, standing there with my camera in hand. Laughing. Ha! Sorry, Beau.bsomecIMG_0409 bsomecIMG_0426bsomecIMG_0441 bsomecIMG_0447 bsomecIMG_0451 bsomecIMG_0452 bsomecIMG_0476 bsomecIMG_0485 bsomecIMG_0496collagebsomecIMG_0499 bsomecIMG_0506 bsomecIMG_0508 bsomecIMG_0510 bsomecIMG_0513 bsomecIMG_0515 bsomecIMG_0524 bsomecIMG_0530 bsomecIMG_0535bsomecIMG_0577 bsomecIMG_0575 bsomecIMG_0572 bsomecIMG_0566bsomecIMG_0567 bsomecIMG_0555 bsomecIMG_0570bsomecIMG_0610bsomecIMG_0584

Then…magic. All the chaos gets placed on a plate like the edible masterpiece it is. I even noticed a happy little basil-tomato face smiling up at me…then I ate it! Happy National Ravioli Day everyone! Go indulge yourself in some tasty carbs, wouldya?!bsomecIMG_0588 bsomecIMG_0608 bsomecIMG_0602

Read more about my Celebrating Life series here. And get caught up on the January & February posts!

Lucina’s Tortillas

With two shoots under my belt and flurries swirling towards my windshield, I darted up Rt. 11 on the brink of flight. Running late. As usual. A text came through: “Take your time. Latinos are an hour late for everything. No worries.” Well ok then. The text was from Anneke, my former teacher, current coworker, friend, professional spreader-of-joy…and, today, the interpreter. Anneke arranged this particular shoot after I did a call for tortilla chip makers on my photography page as part of my year-long Celebrating Life series. Being the connector that she is, she worked her magic and even agreed to come along. For this shoot, we were celebrating National Tortilla Chip Day by making homemade tortillas in the Cardoso household. Not chips…but hey, it’s my series so I can bend the rules, yeah?

When Lucina opened her kitchen door to greet us with a warm hug and a smile, a sense of comfort came over me. She was wearing a pink pearl-button apron that made her feel like family. My grandmother (Nanny) had variations of this apron for every day of the week. And just like Lucina, she wore it as a uniform of sorts for her day-to-day living.  As I stepped into the kitchen a wave of bakery-esque sweetness smacked me in the face: freshly made cinnamon biscuits. Aw lawdy. Just hangin’ out in that blue bowl on the table like it was their job. I was immediately drawn to this unintentional still-life basking in the natural light. I swear though, in the half a moment it took me to press my shutter button, Lucina was elbow deep in a bowl of Maseca, flour and water.

Habiendo completado ya dos sesiones fotográficas, que realmente es un día completo de trabajo en sí, iba volando por la ruta 11 con poquito de nieve cayendo en el parabrisas.  Iba a llegar tarde para la tercera cita a las 11:30.  Tarde.  Como siempre.  Entonces, recibí este mensaje de texto: “Toma tu tiempo.  Todo empieza una hora tarde para los latinos.  No te preocupes.”  Bueno, pues.  El mensaje era de Anneke, mi profesora de la prepa, actual compañera de trabajo, amiga, y profesional repartidora de alegría… y, hoy, intérprete.  Anneke coordinó esta sesión fotográfica después de que yo anuncié en mi sitio web de fotografía que buscaba a una persona que hiciera tostadas como parte de mi proyecto “Celebrando La Vida.”  Anneke arregló esta sesión fotográfica.  Siendo la que sabe contactar con todos, hizo su mágia y hasta aceptó acompañarme.  Para esta sesión fotográfica, celebramos “El Día Nacional de las Tostadas” haciendo tortillas de maíz en la casa de Los Cardoso.  No fueron tostadas, pero es mi proyecto y yo puedo manipular las reglas, ¿no?

Cuando Lucina abrió la puerta de la cocina para saludarnos con un abrazo cariñoso y una sonrisa, me sentí inmediatamente cómoda y a gusto.  Llevaba un mandíl rosado con botones brillosos que me hizo sentir como si fuéramos familiares.  Mi abuelita, (Nanny) llevaba mandiles semejantes a éste. Ella tenía un gran surtido y uno para cada día de la semana.  Y, así como Lucina, lo llevaba como algún tipo de uniforme para su rutina diaria.  Al entrar la cocina, me llegó a la nariz un aroma dulce de pan horneado: gorditas de trigo.  ¡Ay Dios!  Allí, no más estaban en el plato hondo azul, tapadas con una servilleta como si su único trabajo fuera existir. Inmediatamente me llamaron la atención en toda su belleza y bajo la luz natural.  Juro que en el segundito que me tomó sacar una foto de las gorditas, Doña Lucina estaba hasta los codos en la masa.
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brandy somers tortilla34 IMG_6681 IMG_6680 brandy somers tortilla05 brandy somers tortilla06 brandy somers tortilla03brandy somers tortilla08 brandy somers tortilla09Not a utensil in sight. Just Lucina’s experienced hands, a counter top and a green bowl. She poured water over the Maseca and flour until it just felt right and continued to knead the dough until it was a plump lump ready to have lots of little corn tortilla babies. Next she went through a prep ritual of laying a hand-crocheted cloth on the table (aka hot, airborne tortilla landing strip), pulling out the iron tortilla press, and lighting the gas range with a yellow Bic® (another thing my Nanny did). The woman knows her way around the kitchen, to say the least. Lucina has raised three children who have grown to love her cooking and they all come back home to Ma, eager to enjoy her made-with-love tortillas.

No había ningún utensilio a la vista.  Sólo las manos expertas de Lucina, un mostrador y un plato hondo verde.  Echó agua sobre la Maseca y un poco de harina hasta que la masa se sintió correcta y la siguió amasando la masa hasta que se transformó en una pequeña montaña perfecta de masa lista para hacerse tortillitas.  A esto le siguió un ritual de preparativos que incluyó poner una servilleta para recibir las tortillas recién hechas en la mesa (también conocida como una pista de aterrizaje para las tortillas calientes), sacar la prensa, y prender la estufa con un encendedor amarillo Bic® (igualito al de mi abuelita, Nanny).  Esta mujer sí conoce bien su cocina.  Lucina tiene tres hijos a quienes les encanta su cocina y vuelven a veces a la cocina de su Ma, para comer sus tortillas amorosas recién hechas.
brandy somers tortilla10 brandy somers tortilla13 brandy somers tortilla11 brandy somers tortilla12brandy somers tortilla17 brandy somers tortilla20 brandy somers tortilla21 brandy somers tortilla22 brandy somers tortilla23 brandy somers tortilla24 brandy somers tortilla25 brandy somers tortilla27 brandy somers tortilla18I observed Lucina’s painstaking repetitiveness: pull, pat, roll, place, press, removed, put on the griddle, wait…wait for it…turn it!, wait…watch it become a balloon, remove, frisbee throw that sucker onto the pretty little cloth. Sounds easy enough, right? She let me have a go at it and I had directions coming at me in English and Spanish and like a child, all I really wanted to do was toss tortillas around the room! The tortilla I made had a hole in it. Ah well. Here I am 32 years old, making hole-y tortillas when Lucina was hauling water from a nearby natural spring in El Dormido, Mexico to make tortillas with her nine siblings at the age of seven. 7! And on this particular day, I was just a fly on the wall for something she concocts 2-3 times each week. On top of working a full-time job and cooking other full blown meals for her family. Impressed.

Observé la repetición meticulosa de las acciones de Lucina:  agarrar, arrollar, colocar, aplastar, remover, poner en el comal, esperar…esperar un poquito más… ¡voltearla!, esperar…  esperar hasta que se haga una almohadita, removerla, y tirarla como un disco volador en la servilletita.  Parece fácil, ¿no?  Me invitó a tratar de hacer una, y las instrucciones me llegaban al oído a la vez en inglés y español, y como una niña, ¡lo único que quería hacer era echar las tortillas calientas por todas partes!  La tortilla que hice tenía un hueco.  Ah, pues.  Aquí estoy yo, con 32 años, haciendo tortillas con huecos, mientras Lucina, a la edad de siete años acarreaba agua de un manantial en El Dormido, Guanajuato, México para hacer tortillas para sus nueve hermanitos.  ¡A los 7 años!  Y en este día que la visité, yo no más era una mosca en la pared observando algo que ella hace dos o tres veces a la semana.  Además, trabaja a jornada completa y prepara comidas caseras para su familia.  Impresionante.
brandy somers tortilla16brandy somers tortilla26brandy somers tortilla28 brandy somers tortilla31brandy somers tortilla37When one tortilla was on the griddle, the next one was on deck. When one tortilla was complete, the next one was on the griddle. Over. And over. And over again. Until the plump lump was gone. There must be some peace in a routine like this. Some predictability and appreciation for something tried and true. A familiarity in the dough. The kind that connects you to your past through your hands that were once so young and inexperienced. A connection that carries over to the people you feed and love.

Mientras una tortilla se calentaba en el comal, la próxima estaba esperando su turno.  Cuando una estaba completa, la siguiente estaba en el comal.  Una y otra vez.  Y otra vez.  Hasta que la montaña de masa se hizo montañita y desapareció completamente.  Ha de haber un sentido paz en una rutina así.  Alguna previsibilidad y reconocimiento para algo comprobado. Una familiaridad con la masa.  Del tipo que te conecta con el pasado por las manos que antes eran jóvenes y carecían de experiencia.  Un vínculo que se comunica a los que alimentas y a quienes quieres.
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By the time Lucina finished her batch of homemade corn tortillas and wiped every last crumb off the counter (just like Nanny would have), I had surely worked off the cinnamon biscuit I devoured upon arrival. As quick as my stomach grumbled, the spices of warming mole drifted up my nostrils. I couldn’t list all the ingredients if I tried but there was mention of bananas and chocolate and cloves and …almonds(?) and pork. Anneke and I sat by the window and drooled over the bowl of mole and rice Lucina had prepared for us. We wasted no time picking up a tortilla shaped utensil and scooping that goodness into our mouths. What a lovely way to spend a cold February morning.

Para cuando Lucina había terminado de hacer sus tortillas de maíz y limpiado hasta la última miga del mostrador (exactamente igual a lo que hubiera hecho mi abuelita), seguramente yo había quemado las calorías de la gordita de trigo que me comí al llegar.  Cuando empezó a rugirme la panza, el aroma de un mole calentando llegó a mi nariz.  No podría hacer una lista de todos los ingredientes si intentara, pero oí mencionar una banana, chocolate, clavo, almendras, y cacahuete (?) y carne de cerdo. Anneke y yo nos sentamos junto a la ventana y anticipamos con gusto un plato de mole, carne de cerdo, y arroz que nos preparó Lucina.  No perdimos ni un momento antes de agarrar una tortilla y servirnos todo lo sabroso frente  a nosotras.  ¡Qué linda manera de pasar una mañana fría en febrero!
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It seems that when I follow my passion, my grandmother says hello. “Hey, Birrrdieee.” I can just hear her…plain as day. On this chilly morning, Nanny said hello to me through Lucina. Through her pink apron, her yellow Bic lighter, that lacy white table cloth, her joy in a clean home and her insistence on feeding me until I pop. To Lucina: muchas gracias por un día muy especial.

Me parece que cuando sigo mi pasión, mi abuelita me dice “hola.”  “Hola, Pajarrrrritaaa.”  Puedo oírla… en pleno día.  Esta mañana fría, mi abuelita, Nanny, me saludó por medio de Lucina.  A través de su mandíl rosado, su encendedor amarillo Bic, ese mantel blanco tejido, su placer en mantener un hogar limpio  y su forma de insistir que comiera hasta más no poder.  A Lucina:  “¡Muchas gracias por un día muy especial!”

Read more about my Celebrating Life Series here! and here (pg 7)! And check out January’s Celebrating Life post on National Pie Day here!

Herr Vanilla Pie

“Mimosa ingredients stocked, dead stink bugs swept up. See you tomorrow!” <–that might just be the most flattering text I’ve ever received from a woman. That’s what local pastry chef (and more importantly, my friend) Rachel Herr sent the night before our shoot.  At the beginning of January I did a call for pie makers, and lovers, on my photography page to kick off my year long series: Celebrating Life. Out of all the responses, Rachel’s story stood out to me because it involves memories and family and tradition…plus, her grandmother was mentioned and I was a goner. There’s a large chunk of my heart reserved for grandparents. A big, mushy, full-of-rummy-games-and-french-toast kind of chunk. Besides, Rachel is an amazing pastry chef (<–page 30!). I’ve been on the receiving end of her drool-worthy creations many times both in her home and at Local Chop and Grill House. I was thrilled for an opportunity to photograph her doing something she loves, and that also holds sentimental value. Rachel wrote: “…My dad makes one, and only one dessert…vanilla crumb pie with molasses.” Now, Rachel makes this pie for her family and enjoys a sweet bit of nostalgia with every oozing bite.

IMG_4932above: Rachel holds an old photo of her mom and dad…wadda bunch of cool kids.
IMG_4594 Rachel said that Vanilla Pie is a recipe from her “grandmothers old falling apart Mennonite cookbook.” Below: Grandma Kauffman’s tried and true Mennonite Community Cookbook, inscribed to Rachel ten years ago.
IMG_4603 IMG_4604 IMG_4609 IMG_4638 IMG_4626 IMG_4627IMG_4644 IMG_4650 IMG_4656 IMG_4666 IMG_4660IMG_4687 IMG_4694 IMG_4696 IMG_4675IMG_4739IMG_4830IMG_4705IMG_4706IMG_4708 IMG_4713 IMG_4724 IMG_4729 IMG_4758 IMG_4757IMG_4784 IMG_4774 IMG_4781IMG_4788 IMG_4795 IMG_4807 IMG_4810Here’s a little Rachel Herr trivia for ya: What is Rachel’s favorite kitchen tool? ….A bench scraper. You can cut, divide, clean up…and, well…. scrape. But those orange handled scissors came in handy too!
IMG_4828IMG_4840 IMG_4847IMG_4855 IMG_4853 IMG_4863 IMG_4864Once the pie was concocted and placed in the oven, Rachel whipped up mimosas and dishwater. Warmth and sunlight and molasses-y aromas filled the room.IMG_4875 IMG_4882 IMG_4887 IMG_4889 IMG_4893I have a thing for birds…and not in a Portlandia kind of way. Not really in a bird kind of way either…but that’s a-whole-nother post… Anyway. It wasn’t until seeing the following series of photos that I realized the bird watching I was doing in the Herr household.  1) A cute grandma-esque birdie tea towel. 2) An original bird print on the refrigerator. 3) A drawing by Rachel’s son, Cole, that has an avian feel, if you ask me. 4) Rachel’s husband Mike’s impressive list of birds seen from their kitchen window. By the way, if you’re reading this Mike, we totally saw a Great American Bustard. 5) A stuffed, and I quote, “Rock Dove, also known as a pigeon” on the office wall. Normal. 6) The yellow eagle on Rachel’s shirt. And Mike, just kidding. It was a Red-tailed Hawk. I think. IMG_4598IMG_4835collage IMG_4672IMG_4904IMG_4938 IMG_4916IMG_4905 IMG_4910When the pie was finished we did what any respectable pastry chef-photograper duo would do on a Sunday morning and we took the pie for a walk around the house for photos.
IMG_4959 IMG_4963IMG_4970 IMG_4998At long last the time came for tasting. Somehow in my snap-happy frenzy, I forgot this shoot would end in delicious satisfaction. Good gawd. I will spare you the visual documentation of our first taste. They’re pretty hilarious images but I don’t want those as part of my digital dossier from here to eternity. And I’m sure Rachel and Ella would concur. Just imagine a bunch of faces enjoying something really awesome. Yeah…IMG_5006 IMG_5015 IMG_5050Rachel, in her happy place. Go ‘head girl…dance.IMG_4950

Read more about my Celebrating Life series here.

Tres-giving

I am not complaining about my bulging waistline. Really, I’m not. It was a labor of love that I would do all over again tomorrow. I am so so thankful that my day was filled with three separate events, each with amazing family and delicious friggin’ food. I paced myself. I did. But as you scroll…you’ll see why there is more of me here this evening than there was this morning.

#1: Harrisonburg: Lunch

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#2: Luray: DinnerfclIMG_1967fclIMG_1960 fclIMG_1962