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!

 

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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!

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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Love CanonbsomeIMG_9807bsomeIMG_9804bwbsomeIMG_9812bsomeIMG_9802

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.

Red Wing Roots II: Day 2

It took two showers to wash away Day 1. Fragments of nostalgia broke away from my muddy footprints on the shower floor. Pieces of Mt. Solon dirt and blades of surely the greenest-grass-in-all-the-land sang sweet harmonies as they swirled to their watery death. I assured my lonely pores that their sweat buddies would return soon. Red Wing Roots Music Festival II, Day 2, started at noon with two bands I did not want to miss: Loves It and Smokey and the MirrorbsomeIMG_8553bsomeIMG_8554

Loves it.bsomeIMG_8564bsomeIMG_8569bsomeIMG_8570bwbsomeIMG_8594bsomeIMG_8600

Above: Red Wing shirts printed by The Mark-it.
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Lucas Roasting Company (above) keeping folks energized and Wholistic Wisdom (below) keeping folks relaxed.bsomeIMG_8558bsomeIMG_8782

Smokey and the MirrorbsomeIMG_8618 bsomeIMG_8625 bsomeIMG_8636

Above and below: So sweet to see their daughter watching the performance from backstage.bsomeIMG_8644 bsomeIMG_8642bw bsomeIMG_8622bw bsomeIMG_8631bsomeIMG_8739

Above: remnants of Pokey LaFarge’s performance.
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Above: One cute little Blue Mountain supporter. Below: One cute little Red Wing supporter.bsomeIMG_8606bsomeIMG_8674bw

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Below: Artery kicked off on Day 2. Hundreds of children and adults came to help work on this community painting.bsomeIMG_7494absomeIMG_8585bsomeIMG_8579bsomeIMG_8705bsomeIMG_9030

Eric Brace and Peter CooperbsomeIMG_8753bwbsomeIMG_8732bsomeIMG_8746bsomeIMG_8589bsomeIMG_8961bsomeIMG_8654bsomeIMG_8766bsomeIMG_8614bsomeIMG_8970bsomeIMG_8712bwbsomeIMG_8760bwbsomeIMG_9136bwbsomeIMG_8617bsomeIMG_8825

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Above: Grilled Cheese Mania. Below: Jack Browns Beer and Burger JointbsomeIMG_8832bsomeIMG_8896

The Stray BirdsbsomeIMG_8814bsomeIMG_8789bsomeIMG_8817bw

Brothers Comatose
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Miss Tess and the TalkbacksbsomeIMG_8933bsomeIMG_8924bsomeIMG_8932bsomeIMG_8661bwbsomeIMG_8938bsomeIMG_8906

The Judy ChopsbsomeIMG_9025bsomeIMG_9017bsomeIMG_9004bsomeIMG_8983bsomeIMG_9008bsomeIMG_9012bsomeIMG_8986bwbsomeIMG_9045bwbsomeIMG_9042bwbsomeIMG_8974bsomeIMG_9036bsomeIMG_8950bsomeIMG_8899

Sarah JaroszbsomeIMG_9117bsomeIMG_9068bsomeIMG_9073bwbsomeIMG_9061bsomeIMG_9122bsomeIMG_9095bsomeIMG_9100bwbsomeIMG_9115

One really awesome thing about photographing this festival, is that I get to work with other photographers who I know and love. I admire each of them in very different ways and I’m truly a fan of their work. I feel we have a great network and support system of creatives here in the Valley and I simply can’t imagine it being any other way. I’ll introduce my photog friends below. I encourage you to check out their work!

This is Keesha of Ruby Sky Photography. <–If you click on that link, I have a feeling you’ll enjoy her music selection. In fact, feel free to let it play as you continue to look through the rest of this post…you’ll find it quite relevant. Keesha can usually be found with three little assistants. In the photo below, the third assistant is playing hide-and-seek.bsomeIMG_9103

This. Ha. Well, this is Pat Jarrett. He likely rode in on his motorcycle that morning after shooting in Newport News. He’s a busy dude and if you’re a Stauntonian, you’ve probably seen him walking to and from his downtown studio.bsomeIMG_8977

These girls are my studio neighbors at Spitzer Art Center and are an inspiration to me. They own and operate The Pinwheel Collective. It’s great how well they not only work together but also how nicely their work compliments each others. They do cool stuff. And sometimes funny stuff, too.bsomeIMG_8158c

Oh hay. That’s me. You’re looking at my work now…but I do some  other stuff to. Like weddings and portraits and I photograph for a blog I do with my friend Katie about Harrisonburg. I also plan this really cool community portrait show with my friend Denise Allen every year called Art Lotto.bsomeIMG_9131

Trent Wagler and the Steel WheelsbsomeIMG_9147bwbsomeIMG_9148bsomeIMG_9155bsomeIMG_9174bwbsomeIMG_9164bwbsomeIMG_9221bwbsomeIMG_9389bwbsomeIMG_9216bsomeIMG_9182bsomeIMG_9226bsomeIMG_9158bsomeIMG_9266bsomeIMG_9235bsomeIMG_9314bwbsomeIMG_9331bw

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

Check out this writeup and MORE of my photos from Red Wing Roots 2014 Day 2 on ilovemyburg!

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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.

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.
International Sushi Day with Ha18International Sushi Day with Ha39International Sushi Day with Ha37International Sushi Day with Ha08International Sushi Day with Ha09International Sushi Day with Ha16International Sushi Day with Ha15International Sushi Day with Ha11International Sushi Day with Ha17International Sushi Day with Ha19International Sushi Day with Ha41International Sushi Day with Ha20International Sushi Day with Ha13International Sushi Day with Ha21International Sushi Day with Ha22International Sushi Day with Ha28International Sushi Day with Ha23International Sushi Day with Ha30International Sushi Day with Ha31International Sushi Day with Ha32After Hannah’s sushi-rollin’ tutorial and our first round of food-crushing silence, the kids were eager to give it a whirl. It didn’t take long for them to realize that it wasn’t quite as easy as her experienced hands made it look. But Hannah helped and before long we had a table full of sushi to consume. We ate and talked and laughed…and laughed at Hannah’s laugh. It’s so contagious! I believe my son is her #1 fan.
International Sushi Day with Ha33International Sushi Day with Ha36International Sushi Day with Ha24International Sushi Day with Ha35International Sushi Day with Ha26International Sushi Day with Ha25International Sushi Day with Ha27International Sushi Day with Ha38International Sushi Day with Ha34International Sushi Day with Ha42Once the sushi mess was under control and we all had Garfield belly, it was time for dessert and another lesson in Korean cuisine. The golden melon she peeled and chopped is called Chameh. It’s a Korean melon that I would describe as a cross between cantaloupe and watermelon, but sweeter. We all tried it but I was full to my collarbone with sushi so I didn’t have much room to thoroughly examine it’s taste complexity. However, I did some searching and found a tempting popsicle recipe using chameh. If the use of Papyrus font is too much for you, try this recipe instead. I’m not judging. 

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!

 

 

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.
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