took a hike, took a camera: Cedar Run Falls

I’ve never fully understood what causes us to remember certain moments over others and what causes many moments to fall through the filter. It makes sense to remember huge events: my wedding day, the birth of my children, the day my Nanny passed, the day I purchased my own home as a single mother, that time a dog ate my face for breakfast (really, 50 stitches I won’t forget). But what makes us forget other seemingly huge things? Things like graduating high school, driving a car for the first time and signing divorce papers all happened in my life but I couldn’t tell you a thing about them. I remember a lot about my senior year of high school but not about graduation itself. My Nanny taught me just about all there is to know about operating a vehicle but I can’t recall the first time. I do, however, remember the first time I drove as a licensed and legal 16 year old…it was with my three little sisters. We went to the mall.  I have been married and divorced but it appears that those final final days have been blocked from my memory. The brain is so fascinating.

Just before sitting to write this post I was making myself lunch. I heated up my quinoa soup, topped it with Sriracha and put the sauce back in the fridge. As I was sitting at the table eating, I realized I didn’t know where the Sriracha went. Sure enough, it was in the fridge. I put it there, I guess. We all do this at one point or another. We get to work and don’t remember the commute. We take a second dose of our vitamins because we forgot about the first dose. We put the milk in the cabinet and the cereal in the dishwasher. We see a bruise and think “surely I should remember how I got that“. We stare at our car door wondering why on earth our house key won’t unlock it. I’m not alone here, right? We are distracted individuals. These types of things happen because they’re routine and we go into autopilot. Not much brain power is needed to do mundane tasks so they are forgettable. Things that really stick with us are the new experiences. The firsts. The first time I hiked Old Rag: epic. The first time I went white water rafting with a bunch of ballsy dudes: terrifying, but memorable. The first time I camped and hiked in Denali, Alaska: surreal. Epic, terrifying, surreal…not words I would use to describe my morning routine. Each of those adventures not only put me out of my comfort zone but they made me feel strong, independent, confident, capable and worthy of all of those feelings. Being little in the middle of big nature does that for me. Giant rocks, massive mountains, roaring river rapids – nothing will put you in check like Mama Earth.

I don’t know what my kids will remember about their childhood and I really have little control over what they’ll retain along their way. But I like putting them in front of memorable experiences. I like showing them what it’s like to feel small…and I like feeling small with them. Each summit – a badge of self-reliance. Each waterfall – a source of confidence. Every trail – a step closer to themselves. I hope they carry these memories with them and I hope more is learned from our days in the mountains than I could ever teach them with my words. 
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Cell phone summary:

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Ashley & Her Dumplings

There are a few roads and chunks of land in Rockingham County, just west of Rt. 42 near Linville, that act as a time machine for me. Gravel turns, belly-flipping hills, broken fence posts, chicken houses, touched-by-time barns, cow-trampled dirt, a storm following the ridge-line in the distance…they serve as photographs to moments passed. To me, these moments are treasures. Little golden trinkets of knowledge practically useless to speak of, yet undoubtedly priceless in the making of me; parts to a whole. This chest of images was spread out before me last week as I drove passed these real-life photographs, on my way to photograph a new memory.

Apples are one of those things that remind me of my Nanny. She was a hard working woman that started picking in the Timberville orchards in her pre-teen years. She used to buy and peel apples for me when I visited her on the weekends as a child. I decided on National Apple Dumpling Day as my Celebrating Life shoot for September in honor of her. When Ashley Sauder Miller told me about her grandmother’s apple dumpling recipe, it took me about four seconds to reply to her…I was sold.

It has been five years since Ashley lost her father and only three years since she lost her grandmother but they are very much alive in her home. For Ashley, her rooted appreciation for cooking didn’t come solely from her grandmother. While Ashley wrangled three of her four children to the kitchen counter, kept multiple conversations going at once, measured ingredients and made me coffee, she reminisced about her dad’s presence in the kitchen when she was a child. She told me a story, one I’m personally familiar with, of the aromas that fill a home during a big cook…and the sounds. These things create connections to your younger self. Just as the salty air and sound of the sea; just as the smell of those ol’ jeans you wore to the last bon fire; just as your sweaty little puppy-dog-smellin’ son after playing outside in his fort all day. Her dad did this for her…he created memories and connections…and meals.

Her content children helped with both dumpling prep and dumpling devouring. They left and rejoined us and went to play again and then helped some more. Those kids don’t even know the information their noses and ears and tastebuds are recording with each moment like this. None of us do I guess. Her son, Sullivan, returned to the kitchen to tell me about their recent visit to get milk from Mt. Crawford Creamer and then he helped mix ingredients with his hands and spoon and then he zoomed his bike around the front porch. Her youngest daughter, Taitum, carried unrelated cabinet findings to a pile in the center of the kitchen floor as her way of helping…all while eating, what seemed to be, an everlasting apple. Her other daughter, Finnly, who was home from school sick, helped stir the sugary, cinnamon-y, glazey topping on the stove then retreated to the sofa for some r&r ‘toon time.  And poor Teagan, the oldest, was stuck at school all day. Wamp.

As Ashley chopped, boiled, mixed and baked, loved on her children, wiped noses and laughed and talked the echoes of her father and grandma filled her kitchen in the form of smells and sounds and love. John and Zona were surely smiling from above…with their mouths watering.

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John, Ashley’s dad, holding her as a baby.

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An old photo of Zona, Ashley's grandma, oversees the apple dumpling making.

An old photo of Zona, Ashley’s grandma, oversees the day’s dumpling making.

Happy Apple Dumpling Day!
Go enjoy the smells and creations of your loved ones!

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

Rice and Roll

I have made sushi a total of two times in my life. And by made I mean someone else cooked/cut/prepared everything and I rolled up a bunch of colorful stuff, dipped it in wasabi soy and ate it. One of those two times was at a surprise birthday party my best friend planned for me and the other time was at my friend Todd’s house. Even after both experiences, I was useless in remembering how it was done. Kind of like singing a song with no music. Once the radio is up and the lyrics get going, I’m all “shooooot, I got this!” but if I’m flying solo it’s like watching one of those awful auditions on American Idol. So when planning for June’s Celebrating Life post, I skimmed right past National Donut Day and National Chocolate Ice Cream Day (to my children’s dismay) and landed happily on June 18: International Sushi Day. If my past behavior was any indication, I knew the day would end in a shark-like feeding frenzy and I would soon forget all the steps…again. Luckily, this time I came armed with two things that rarely let me forget anything: my camera and my children. 

My friend Hannah, being the patient, child-loving, occasional sailor-mouthed, teacher and friend that she is, offered to make sushi with us. She collected all the ingredients from various cabinets and assigned jobs to each of my children. My daughter was in a bit of a funk (she doesn’t like sushi…or much of anything for that matter) but when Hannah put a sharp, “dangerous”  kitchen tool (aka the vegetable peeler) in her hand, she perked up for a moment and focused on her task. Meanwhile, my son did some chopping and peeling and Hannah brought the rice over for a taste test.

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Hannah's salt and pepper shakers!

Hannah’s salt and pepper shakers!

Friendly City Lens Sushi 2Everyone helped prep the ingredients for our rolls: rice, cucumber, crabstick, roe, avocado, nori, wasabi, salmon and shrimp. Hannah explained how in Korea sushi is called kimbap (or gimbap). From what I understand, kimbap is similar to the sushi we made except larger and not always filled with seafood…sort of like the Korean version of a sandwich. You can switch up the filling (seasoned veggies, beef, chicken, tuna, etc) in the same way we could switch up a sandwich: a turkey sandwich or a pb&j or a rueben. She also told us about her upcoming trip to visit family in Seoul, Korea. Her husband has never been before so she has Post-it notes placed around the house with both the English and Korean version of everyday items like “plate”, “bowl”, “towel”, “bathroom”. I was glad to hear this because after seeing the notes in the bathroom, I assumed she was just leaving little works of art everywhere…I mean, it wouldn’t really surprise me.
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International Sushi Day with Ha44International Sushi Day with Ha45International Sushi Day with Ha46International Sushi Day with Ha47International Sushi Day with Ha48A lot of the sushi ingredients we used here were purchased at Friendly City Food Co-op and Food Maxx. If you can’t make your own sushi today, go support your favorite sushi spot! If you’re local, you’re in luck! You can devour some excellent rolls at Sushi Jako, Oriental Cafe, Beyond and Kyoto. And if you’ve never tried sushi before, it’s a good day to be adventurous. Happy International Sushi Day!!

 

Today is not National Macaron Day.

This post is a testament to one of the most delicious mistakes I’ve ever made. May is home of National Macaroon Day. May 31st, to be exact. There it was, jotted into my planner, making it fact. For this month’s Celebrating Life post I wanted to photograph a macaroon maker, working his or her macaroon magic at home in their kitchen. With some word-of-mouth references I quickly landed a sweet, willing candidate…and cute to boot! When I arrived at Amelia’s house to invade her space for the afternoon, she greeted me at the front door with a big smile, warmly welcomed me into her home, offered me a glass of water…then straight up schooled me. “People always confuse macarons with macaroons,” she explained as she showed those eggs who was boss. Wait, what? Ah geez. That’s me. I’m the people.

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MacarOONS are chewy and made with coconut. MacarONS are made with almond meal and resemble a cookie-like sandwich. They basically share the same list of other ingredients, but let’s face it: as delicious as they both are, macarons are the Homecoming Queens and macaroons are sitting at home in their sweatpants, eating a pint of Kline’s peanut-butter-cookies-n-cream, watching reruns of Girls. After some brief research, I learned that they both started in Italy but the recipe branched into the two directions where macarOONS became more popular with the European Jewish folks and macarONS became a thing of France. Which is why you may know them as French macarons rather than just plain ol’ macarons. Went to foodiversity; servin’ up some knowledge. Aw sookie! Seriously though, you have no reason to trust me. I just used high school, Hollywood and binge eating to prove a point.

As I photographed Amelia in her kitchen, her daughter and the two boys she was babysitting that day played contently in the room around us. Crawling in and out of the sliding door, tossing sippy cups for more water, piecing together giant puzzles on the floor, tugging at her apron and coming in for leg hugs. All the while, Amelia mixed batter, refilled their water, cleaned her work surface, translated the child-grunts, carried on conversation with me, babbled with the kids and distributed about four rounds of gold fish crackers. What a sweet juggler-of-the-daily-circus she is.

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When Amelia pulled the macarons out of the oven, she pointed out their feet. “They gotta have feet,” she explainedThat’s the raised up, crispy-looking bottom half of the cookie that is not as smooth and fluffy as the top half. She had lavender and buttercream ready for the first batch of decorating, followed by cocoa powdered macarons filled with a family recipe for caramel cream that she whipped up on the spot. The kids acted out my thoughts as they tried to snatch a filled macaron at each hint of her potential distraction. It was also hitting that weird hour of nap time when kids turn into zombies on the verge of self-destruction…fearless of consequence. Must. Eat. Coooo-kieeee.

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Even though this was intended to be a shoot to celebrate National Macaroon Day…it is not. I didn’t even shoot macaroons for cryin’ out loud. But I did learn something new and meet a pretty cool gal…and that’s really why I created this whole series to begin with. It was great spending the afternoon getting to know Amelia and taking a glimpse into another hardworkin’ mama’s life…and learning that I’m a culinary idiot, but I’m trying ova hea! I didn’t know anything about Amelia before knocking on her front door, other than she was kind enough to invite me into her home for baking and photos. And after checking out her work online, I’m thankful I knew very little because I would’ve been intimidated by her craftiness! Amelia does creative design/styling and has a growing portfolio of handmade details to make any event extra special and unique. 

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The most precious unintentional smear of flour on her face is a document of hard work in the kitchen…with a super sweet payoff.

The most precious unintentional smear of flour on her cheek is proof of her hard work in the kitchen…with a super sweet payoff.

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 As I drove home to my children with a packed plate full of freshly made macarons, I felt a wee bit smarter, a wee bit plumper and whole lotta happy.

Stop by your local bakery and taste a macaron today…then tomorrow, celebrate National Macaroon Day by trying one of those coconut goodies. You can feel smarter and plumper and happier, too.

MacaronSmall07Check out more from my Celebrating Life series by clicking here.

 

The Tweet Life

In the shower and in my car… two places where multitasking is not worth the risk.  It’s in these two spaces my brain begins to twitch and convulse as it’s forced to relax and be there, in the moment. Gripping my steering wheel, having a staring contest with the dotted line or soaked with soap and water, that’s when most of my ideas drop in and say “oh haaaay girl, you gotta minute?”

August.
So there I was, in the shower….probably singing like I’m Neko-frickin’-Case or something because dangit that woman’s voice sounds like an echoey shower goddess! Anyway, so, in the shower, two ideas came to me:  1) I will hostess a solo art show next year and 2) I will start a year-long, lifestyle photography series called Celebrating Life.  The latter is what you’re reading now. (check) For me it’s enjoyable, fulfilling, goal-oriented and reasonably paced with one shoot & post a month. (check plus)

December.
Ate a lot of food. Did a lot of nothin’.
Made an outline of the holidays I was interested in photographing for this series.

February.
I found myself completely consumed with my solo show. For this exhibit, I decided to do a photographic review of my timeline which gave me a solid list of over 80 faces to photograph. I darted all over the East Coast filling each precious moment with reconnection, familiar faces, new memories and checks on my to-do list. (ch-ch-check!) Armed with inspirational travel time, this instagrammin’ fool found herself passing through Richmond with an idea of a way to celebrate April’s holiday: Draw a Bird Day (it’s real).

Part I: RVA puts a bird on it.
An instagram post by Richmond based artist and friend, Tim Skirven, grabbed my attention. He posted a photo that his fiancé/fellow artist, Ali Croft, shot of him hanging his art show at 821 Cafe on Cary Street in Richmond. The show was a simple yet bold collection of black birds on white square panels. They stood out nicely against the exposed brick walls of the cozy cafe. I shot these two love birds (haaa) a message and within moments, I had a bird drawing session to photograph inked into my calendar.

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It was a quiet, peaceful Richmond morning and something about walking up Tim and Ali’s creaky wooden steps prompted my slow-mo. I love that sound. I could smell freshly brewed coffee and the cats greeted me with a quick scamper and sideways glare. Light poured into the living space and Tim had already set out his bird reference books. It was a casual Saturday morning shoot…we’re talkin’ pjs and bedhead. The perfect kind.

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They quickly fell into their zone…or maybe they were already there. The cats slinked around, #2 pencils and Prismacolor pens scratched over the surface of their paper and the Black Keys played softly in the background. #chillestshootever? <—likely.bsomeIMG_7424collage bsomeIMG_7422collagebsomeIMG_7492 bsomeIMG_7483 bsomeIMG_7454collagebsomeIMG_7519bsomeIMG_7543bsomeIMG_7546bsomeIMG_7521bsomeIMG_7515bsomeIMG_7504bsomeIMG_7537bsomeIMG_7532bsomeIMG_7562bsomeIMG_7553collagebsomeIMG_7560bsomeIMG_7523

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Part II: Harrisonbird….Yeah? 
Feeling recharged and functioning on a higher frequency of busy, I returned home to Harrisonburg, VA, ready for round two. It’s no secret in these parts that Lynda Bostrom is BOSS when it comes to doing her artistic thang. I have to admit though, I chose Lynda based on instagram also. I swear I have real life connections with people but being a strong visual learner, seeing something burns it into my memory. When I had the idea to do this post, I immediately remembered some photos Lynda posted over a year ago. She was working on a series of birds that fondly reminded me of Charley Harper’s work. Simplified animals with blocks of bold color and modest, deliberate lines. So beautiful. I dropped by her place one evening and was pretty pumped when I walked into her window-walled apartment to see the pieces for her upcoming show sprawled out on the floor.

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Lynda referenced Google for some chubby, jolly birds and started doodling with her fude pen. We chatted as she drew bird after bird and the yellow evening sun filled her space. In compiling this post I noticed a lot of similarities in the two different bird sessions. Tim and Ali also had great natural light. Both had creaky steps and floors. All three of them hid behind their drawings when I asked them to hold them up for a photo. (ha!) Both artists have current and/or upcoming shows; they’re active, working artists. And while that may be a fulfilling and good-for-the-soul gig, it ain’t always easy. They’re doing it though and making it work. It’s admirable and I’m happy to know them.

After my confessional-esque intro, I was curious to know where their source of creative energy comes from. And you know what, they both said the same thing…that conversations inspire them. Stories and interactions with people give them a bank of art arsenal to carry them through. Lynda said she hopes that seeing her work “feels like a good conversation.” …Now isn’t that just lovely?

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I also noticed some things about myself through these photos. I guess I like photographing shoes? And plants. And pets. And feet? I like learning these things about myself. I guess in a way, my interactions with Lynda, Tim and Ali taught me a few things that had nothing to do with birds at all. So, thanks guys.

If you’re in Richmond in August, you can check out Tim’s work in person at Quirk Gallery.

Lynda has two upcoming shows this year (2014): Art Lotto (a collaborative portrait show at Larkin Arts in Harrisonburg, Va) & Axcess Art in Brooklyn, NY late this summer.

And the solo show I mentioned, titled “Some of My Parts“, will be opening April 11th at the Blue Nile in Harrisonburg, Va.

Now git off this box and go draw some birds! Happy Draw a Bird Day!

You can follow Tim on instagram @timskirven, Ali @alicroft, their joint design gig @504andahalf, Lynda @lyndaboss. Woo!

 

 

Featured!

My friend and fellow photographer is showing some “local love” weekly on her photography blog. I’m honored that she chose little ol’ me as her very first feature. Check out what she has to say about me at this link.

Below is a photo I shot of Misti last St. Patrick’s Day when we had a surprise snow storm. Wadda cutie!bsomeIMG_9956bw

 

Red Wing Roots Music Festival: Day 3

The third and final day of Red Wing was upon us. We stopped caring about the mud under our toenails, the sweat beads on our forehead, and the mild stench that was totally-that-dude-beside-me and not me. Right? We were all friends now. Rained on, shined on, danced together – friends. I was a little sad finishing these photos. Nostalgic even. They reminded me of this pocket of happy that existed in my summer. A pocket I’ll dig into again next summer only to rediscover it all over…just like that wrinkled up five dollar bill that’s surely waiting for me in my winter coat.  ….winter….  Ah geez.

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Pokey LaFarge and all his amazing faces that I just couldn’t take enough photos of.FCLIMG_1308FCLIMG_1407FCLIMG_1369FCLIMG_1337FCLIMG_1361BWFCLIMG_1342BWFCLIMG_1324 FCLIMG_1332FCLIMG_1383FCLIMG_1387FCLIMG_1375C FCLIMG_1376C FCLIMG_1344BWFCLIMG_1404BWFCLIMG_1345BW FCLIMG_1346FCLIMG_1410 FCLIMG_1415

The Steel Wheels & Friends Tribute SetFCLIMG_1435C FCLIMG_1424 FCLIMG_1419FCLIMG_1446FCLIMG_1464BWFCLIMG_1453FCLIMG_1465CFCLIMG_1481C FCLIMG_1493C FCLIMG_1497 FCLIMG_1512 FCLIMG_1533 FCLIMG_1519BWFCLIMG_1539 FCLIMG_1428See you next year, yeah?

Red Wing Roots Music Festival: Day 1

Red Wing Roots Music Festival: Day 2

Copyright © 2013 · Photos by Brandy Somers. All Rights Reserved · friendlycitylens.com & brandysomersphotography.com. This material may not be copied, downloaded, altered, cropped, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting my creative property.

Brunch & Bubbles

“Man, I hate brunch” said no one ever.  Anything that prolongs the breakfast experience is ok with me. For this particular brunch, the occasion was to celebrate the end of the school year and the beginning of summer.  …I hear ya… “Girrrl, you cray, it’s August!” I am aware. It’s a common misconception that teachers have all summer to do absolutely nothing thereby quantifying their mediocre annual pay. Wrong. I spend a large part of my summer (which was 7 weeks this year) working to earn money to compensate for what my “day job” does not pay. And I am just now finding the free time to complete this post. Excuse me while I step down from my soapbox and get back to…brunch. The kids and I headed to meet my friend Martha and Jewel at Jewel’s new home. Her hand has surely touched every inch of her yard and perhaps even watered it with her sweat and tears. It’s gorgeous. All the flowers stood tall and the trees chatted about their spectacular views. Oh, Harrisonburg. You so pretty. Jewel made a variety of treats including a cheesy crumb cake(!), a sweet breakfast crumb cake, fresh fruits, a fruit smoothie and of course, coffee. Mm. After chatting about art and work and life the kids (and adults) had fun with Jewel’s bubble set!
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So cool!FCLIMG_7583 FCLIMG_7589 FCLIMG_7592CFCLIMG_7605BW FCLIMG_7599BW FCLIMG_7601 FCLIMG_7608Reaga had fun too.

Copyright © 2013 · Photos by Brandy Somers. All Rights Reserved · friendlycitylens.com & brandysomersphotography.com. This material may not be copied, downloaded, altered, cropped, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting my creative property.

Lee & Jodi: Side B

One Saturday evening last month I drove to Roanoke to do an engagement session for one of my best friends. (click here to see it!) Talk about a fun day. Oh mah gooodness. The shoot was a long one but so friggin’ fun and so the saying goes…time flies. As I sat down to upload and edit all the photos and I knew right away I wanted to not only share the sweet good ones but the funny good ones. I swear I laughed a new wrinkle right into my face that day.  Here’s a look at what I really see behind that lens….

Me: Just hang out while I test the light.
Them:
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Me: Let’s try a piggyback.
Them:

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Me: Jodi, is that another tick?
Them:
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Me: Lee put your hand in your pocket. …not your arm.
Them:
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Me: Just pretend I’m not here for a sec…
Them:
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Me: Ok. Now look right at me and smile normal.
Them:
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Me: ….
Them: (is that boob grab?)
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Me: As you’re driving away, look back at me.
Them:
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Me: Big smile!
Them:
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Too hot for this website!
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Me: Marrying Jodi is like…winning the lottery!
Them:
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A little serenade break…FCLIMG_3506

Me: Silly face.
Them: (same face)
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And this is why they are perfect for each other. 
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We ended the night with dinner and a drink. Lookadem two gorgeous people!FCLIMG_3598

Copyright © 2013 · Photos by Brandy Somers. All Rights Reserved · friendlycitylens.com & brandysomersphotography.com. This material may not be copied, downloaded, altered, cropped, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting my creative property. 

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photo by Ben Fraits

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photo by Ben Fraits

Cabaret with The Judy Chops

If you get bored in Harrisonburg, there’s about a 23% chance that you suck at life. There really is something for everyone in this town. On this particular evening, it was my friend’s birthday and we ventured to The Artful Dodger where we were certain we would be thoroughly entertained. And we were right. The Judy Chops played, girls ate fire, some guy danced around on broken glass, and we were oohed and ahhed for a solid hour. Sound like a good time? Good news: this show was only a teaser for a big Cabaret production they’re planning for April at Court Square Theater. Haaaay.bsomeIMG_9558bw

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