Blogging My Way

IMG_9161I have mentioned several times over the past month that I have been taking an E-course called Blogging Your Way. While I have a little catching up to do and the forums are still open for a bit longer, the official part of the class came to a close on Monday.

Bittersweet day. Bitter because it's ending. Sweet because our time together has been so, so good.

As someone who writes everyday of her life, both personally and professionally, I'm actually struggling to find the words to express what a meaningful, nearly life-changing experience this class has been for me. A perfect mix of the technical and philosophical aspects of blogging, the class offered lessons from tapping into social media to finding your niche to tips for taking better photographs for blog posts. Each lesson was thoughtfully prepared and stunningly presented. (It should be no surprise that Holly Becker and Leslie Shewring have some good taste, people.) I learned so much! I was so busy learning that I haven't had time to start implementing! Not much at least. You may have seen some changes to the photos, maybe. But boy, have I been doing a lot of thinking. Leslie and Holly ask such wonderful thought-provoking questions about why we blog and more. I've learned a ton about blogging but a ton about myself in the process as well.

I have always been a somewhat private trespasser in the internets. Yeah, I have a blog, but I rarely comment on other blogs. (Not very nice, I know.) I lurked. I, oddly, figured that no one really wanted to hear what I had to say. Somewhat ironic, yes? A wonderful, wonderful bonus of this class has been the amazing other bloggers I've discovered along the way. Meeting them through their blogs. Commenting there and having them visit here has meant the world to me. There are some pretty amazing people writing and sharing out there...I'll start sharing some of these finds with you next week.

I expected to be inspired, and I was. I expected to learn some great tricks to assist in my blogging, and I did. I expected to maybe feel my way along this path a bit better, and I have. I did not expect to so completely fall back in love with my blog the way I did. I did not expect to open my heart to this genre and own my love of this blog the way I have. Blogging Your Way was so much more than a class. It was an incredible gift. My heart is full.

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lightroom fun for Halloween

Halloween_spencerI got a few shots of some of my favorite kids on Halloween. And played some with some new Lightroom presets in the process. I've been learning SO much new photography stuff in my Blogging Your Way e-course, I simply hate to see it end. Right now there don't seem to be enough hours in the day to get everything done that I want to try to do. No changes were made to the above photo, but hello? How darn cute is that? Homemade costumes, people! Spencer Rocks!

1011_Halloween14-1 Nurse Rebecca, and her gorgeous angel girl, Margaret.

1011_Halloween14-1-2 Seen again with the preset Gavin's Old Polariod, found here. The change is subtle, but moody. I like it.

Halloween_angel2The original is on the left, and it's pretty cool looking itself, if I do say so! On the right, we have WIW Dust, found here.

Halloween_angel1And finally we're back to Gavin Seim, with his color fantasies, found here, this one called Lemondrops.

Best part of all of these is that they're FREE.  I think one has to be careful not to go crazy with these things, and I have seen the preset fun overdone, but seriously, folks, I could have downloaded presets all day. I'm feeling pretty sure they'll pop up on my photos every so often.

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shop love

1011_Selmas_Stock_Photos2 When this week's homework for the Blogging Your Way E-course included suggestions for blog posts, how could I not jump at Idea #1: Shop Around? I'll use any excuse to invite you back into this delightful place.

1011_Selmas_Stock_Photos3 It's been almost a year since Meg, Marianne and April took over ownership of Simply Selma's (new website coming soon), and the place feels alight with all of their great energy while still capturing the spirit of Kathy Axelrod, the founder and original owner.

1011_Selmas_Stock_Photos67 It's a good place to be.

IMG_8472 These are the lovelies who take care of you when you come to Selma's. Each and every one of them can make you feel like you've stepped into their home...but unlike when you come to my house - and I haven't swept up the dog hair - they're glad to have you!

Selmas stuff The merchandise in the store is a crazy delightful mix of stuff from gorgeous jewelry to serving pieces to picture frames. I can't even begin to tap into all the things they offer.

1011_Selmas_Stock_Photos51 You know the kinds of things I'm talking about...all the stuff you never knew you wanted, but once you see it you absolutely have to have.

Selmas teaIt's my go-to for any kind of gift I have to buy.  Birthday, housewarming, baby, hostess. You name it. I can always count on finding something classy, tasteful and quirky.

1011_Selmas_Stock_Photos73 What I need to do is shop more for myself there. Right Neel?


1011_Selmas_Stock_Photos26 When I was last in taking photos for these guys, Christmas was just the merest hint about the place. Since then they've pulled their annual all-nighter+ and be-dazzled the store in the best of ways. I haven't seen it yet, but I can't wait to swing in and take in the Christmas glory. They make it a show-stopper every year.

1011_Selmas_Stock_Photos11 I've been starting some exciting collaborations with these guys over the past weeks, and I hope we can continue them. It's not just the work I do with the Selma's gals that makes me feel good; it's how I feel when I'm in there too. Welcomed. Part of things. But it's not just me. They're that way with everyone. I can walk in with my gi-normous camera bag and tripod and find that they're talking with a customer about shoes while helping her find the perfect wedding gift. Or telling another that her favorite jewelry vendor is coming out with a new line. They're good at taking care of things. People too.

If you have any interest in shopping local, this is an awesome and easy way to do it. It's half and hour door to door for me to get there, and the distance is nothing when such a warm welcome is waiting. I'd go every day if I could.

On my last stop in I took photos of all the gals...look for those shots on the blog next week!

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1011_PB&J1 I'll be the first to admit that I'm a little suspicious, but Callum claims he's never had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

1011_PB&J8 The thing is, he's usually right about stuff like that. If Callum tells you something has or hasn't happened in his lifetime, you can bank on him remembering it correctly.

1011_PB&J6 So I'm gonna trust him on this one too.

Pb&jWe made one after school yesterday.

1011_PB&J10 Fresh jar of jelly.

1011_PB&J12 He liked it.

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 Our neighborhood is over-run by boys. There are laughing children everywhere, but the gender bias definitely leans boy-ward. These beauties live next door to us, and our afternoons often intertwine. Elliot, the elder of the two, playing trains or cars on his front sidewalk while Landon, well, Landon is busy growing up adorable.


1011_Landon_Elliot5 You may remember this darling from a few months ago. He's seven months old now.

1011_Landon_Elliot10 His older brother is very busy in the rough and tumble way that all boys have. It's train tracks and cars lined up in rows and bike rides. He's got some fierce focus, that little man.

Thomson duoI don't know much about brothers. I'm an only child, and as you know, Callum is one too. So this affection is alien to me, this brother-love. Even rough and tumble, and expressed at four years old, it's beautiful to behold.


1011_Landon_Elliot32 This was one of those lucky photography days for me, caught camera-in-hand, just at the golden hour. Gorgeous, willing subjects. I snapped shot after shot after shot. If all portraiture worked like this for me, I could do it for days! Still, I walk away feeling not skilled, but lucky.

1011_Landon_Elliot46 I am lucky. I was lucky enough to see both these boys come into the world. I was there when they each drew their first breath. How lucky is that? Now I'm lucky enough to watch them grow up.

1011_Landon_Elliot47 Lucky to have a camera for it all too.

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five things, october 21st edition

1. I think I still have a lot to learn about writing and photography and who I want to be when I grow up.
2. I think I'm feeling very lucky these days.
3. I'm thinking it's time again for chicken and waffles.
4. I think I need a makeover, a glamour consultant and a photographer...STAT.
5. I think I really need to give my living room some love. Right now, except for my pink wall, I am not feeling it. I walk through it quickly to get to the back of the house, and I want it to be a room we want to spend time in again. I need furniture, but I'm open to suggestions. And donations. But only of gorgeous stuff.

P.S. Come and try the new line of teas that they're featuring at Simply Selma's!

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sneak peak :: alberto parada @ simply selma's

1011_alberto_selmas2 You know, I really put my camera down this summer. I guess I needed to. It chafed at me though. My camera bag, sitting on the shelf, staring me down. I was equal parts need to breathe without its weight in my hand and restless agitation without it. It's not the best of places to be. It's hard to remember that there's much to learn in the in-between spaces. It's easy to be revved up. Teaming with thoughts and ideas and filled with abundant creativity. Learning in leaps and reveling in bounds. Those are the thoughtless, easy times. When the ideas fly in and the work flies out. But there's value in that space between. And it's easier to remember that value, when you're feeling good, I suppose. Not so much when you're in it. I'm realizing now, that I learned a lot this summer when my camera fell silent.

Things are clearer now for me that weren't before.

1011_alberto_selmas1 My friend Marianne has asked me to come in and take some more pictures of her store. I can't tell you how excited I am about this. You may remember when we did this before. Simply Selma's is a wonderful place, and I love being there. They need photos for a new website, and I'm beyond thrilled that they've asked me to take them. One of the things I realized this summer is that this kind of photography, still life, is among my favorite.


1011_alberto_selmas4 One of the things that Marianne asked me to photograph was a trunk show of Alberto Parada Jewelry they were having this weekend (before she was one of the owners, she was the jewelry buyer for the store...let me just say, you feel good knowing your jewelry options are in her hands!). Alberto Parada's work is stunning, and it's sustainable, which is pretty important in my book. I got to meet this special man, and see a lot of his jewelry. Not bad for a Saturday morning.

Bliss, actually.

I don't get out much. That's not a slam on Marianne or Meg and April (the other owners) and especially not Alberto and his wife Ashley, who were absolutely delightful. It's just that my work is mainly solitary, and I do it from home. So to spend the day with these lovely people surrounded by their laughter and their vibrant personalities was pretty much heaven to me. Oh, all that jewelry. And take pictures of it all? For me, it just doesn't get much better.

1011_alberto_selmas6 Here they all are; you can see how special they are.

I'm still editing like crazy, and the photos are really Selma's to share once the web site launches. I may post a few more here though, if they let me.

1011_alberto_selmas5 I left feeling like I still have so much to learn, you know? But that's okay. I also left feeling a lot of gratitude for such an amazing opportunity. And with the feeling that I really could do this thing. I know Alberto is the one smiling in the photo here, but there I am in the reflection. Can you tell how happy I am?

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idea thief

1011_garbanzos2 As soon as I saw this post, I knew I had to make us some roasted garbanzo beans.

I have long been a devotee of the humble garbanzo bean. When I was growing up, all of my grandparents would try to visit us in Tennessee at the same time. My mom's mom and my dad's parents, traveling from Illinois and Pennsylvania respectively to spend some time. These visits were very steeped in ritual and tradition. At one point the grandmothers would go shopping, my grandpa driving them to the mall and returning home to wait for the call to fetch them home again. One night they would make Shake and Bake pork chops. My Grandma Mercedes (my mom's mom) would do some ironing for my mom.  Every time we went out to dinner, they'd fight over who'd pay the bill. On their first night in town, we'd almost always go to Shoney's for dinner. (The branches of this tradition continue to exist: whenever my mom or dad come to see us, California Pizza Kitchen is always our first stop.) One year my dad and grandpa and I sat in the parking lot of Shoney's in my grandparent's huge old boat of a car and listened to the final outs of a Mets/Astros playoff game while my mom and the grandmothers went in and got us a table. It was 1986, and things didn't get much more exciting for me than listening to that game on the radio.

Best part of Shoney's was the salad bar. It likely still is. I haven't been in awhile. And best part of a salad bar are the garbanzo beans. My salads were always heavily weighted down with garbanzo beans (And only when we moved to Central Pennsylvania did I learn that they were also called chickpeas or cecis. Go figure.)

1011_garbanzos1 And roasted? Hello, y.u.m. My first batch stayed in the oven a bit too long, but we ate them up quickly enough. The second batch I dusted with cumin, garlic salt and a little chili powder. They won't be our last.

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fall surprises

Hydrangeas Surprise #1: The hydrangea is offering up one last bloom.

0911_fall surprises1 Surprise #2 (that's not me): We were asked to help film a political commercial.

0911_fall surprises6 Surprise #3 (not): It stormed again this weekend. That's Neel standing there watching the clouds.

Patio Surprise #4: The patio is almost, almost done. The dogs like it.

1011_fall surprises3 Surprise #5: Well, I'll have more to say about that tomorrow.

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I am not a street photographer

Asheville (1 of 13) We stopped in Asheville, NC on our way to visit Neel's family in Atlanta earlier this month. Callum calls it Hippy-town. He's probably right, but he should have seen our college campus!

Asheville (2 of 13)

Asheville (3 of 13)

Dogsasheville One night in this fun and funky town is not nearly enough. I was reminded as we walked down town looking at hippies for a place for dinner, that site-seeing and street photography are two entirely different things.

Asheville (5 of 13) my feet, reflected

Asheville (6 of 13) true sign of the south

Asheville (7 of 13) I imagine that to do street photography right, you need to not have a hungry husband and 11 year old tagging along. I saw so much I wanted to stop and savor with my camera. I wanted to take time.

Asheville (4 of 13) We were hungry. Not just Callum and Neel, but me too. So! Many! Choices! After passing The Southern (pictured above) and heading down the street to read menus outside Indian restaurants, American cafes and French Bistros (Bon Appetite, y'all!), we ended up right back here. When in Rome, y'all.

Asheville (9 of 13) Here we are from the inside/outside. After days and days of 90-100 degree heat, it was dreamy to sit outside in coolish air.

Funnyfaceasheville From street photography to portraiture, Callum and Neel practice their "camera-ready" smile.

Asheville (10 of 13)

Asheville (11 of 13) French 75 and some awesome beer that Neel loved for us to drink. Homemade pretzels and chutneys to dip, but why oh why did I not take a picture of Neel's chicken and waffles? Hello. That was yum. Even though I had pimento cheese crostini, we all decided that his dinner won. If I can get the chicken sausage gravy figured out, we're totally adding that to the rotation. Even if not.

Asheville (12 of 13)

Asheville (13 of 13) Callum and I went for ice cream after dinner. He had his usual: cookie dough. Mine, you ask? Brown sugar bacon maple. Yeah, it was good. After I had that puppy in my hands I was too busy eating to take more pictures. So it clearly is one or the other. I want to go back for more.

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Selma's_Shop-13-1 I'm in a bit of a funk this week, I think. Nothing terrible. But my head hurts, and we're in a parenting rough patch, and it seems like there's a lot to do. And it's hot. Death by 1,000 paper cuts. August is hard every year, and this year is no different.

I have two card's full of pictures to download and a ton of others to edit. I should get cracking.

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screen-free week

Callum chair It's screen-free week around these parts which means that Callum signed a pledge at school to be screen free for seven days. It's not that much of a stretch for us, really, but I have to hop on here and write a quick post before he sees me and gets mad and calls me a cheater. I tried to tell him this was work, but I'm not sure he was buying it.

This is just about the second shot I took with my tripod. Not the greatest, but it highlights a part of the living room I'm planning on redecorating (for $500 apparently). Bye-bye chair. There are paint chips on the coffee table as I type, awaiting a decision. Just for one wall, though. And Neel's promised to do the trim. Score!

So this will be fast in case the kid gets up, and I woke up with a headache anyway. I'm waiting for Neel to get up and make us coffee. Plus I have a big project that I'm trying to get off my desk and to my editor for work so I can get all my other projects off my desk and to my editor too. She'll be thrilled! I'll be thrilled. And I have to go to the grocery store. There's no worse chore than going to the grocery store when you're in a food rut. What are you up to today?

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corners of my mind

BannisterWe had a great weekend around here. Starting with Mexican food in the backyard on Friday night (I still owe the cornbread recipe to some folks), and then Field Day at Callum's school on Saturday. Field Day is A.Big.Deal. at Callum's school. It was our first real Field Day (although we'd been invited last year as a new family) so we kept asking around, "How long has Field Day been going on?" Pretty much as long as anyone could remember, really. Someone placed it back as far as the fifties, and that made sense. There's a raffle at the end, and just before the last item was raffled off the headmaster spoke and asked what we'd been asking all day. "Who knows how long Field Day has been going on?" (I had to wonder if he asks that question every year, why more people couldn't be definitive in their answers.) How's this? Since 1891. That's a long time. The Lower School alone sold over 20,000 raffle tickets, and apparently there's a tradition at the end of the day where everyone throws their tickets up in the air. It was quite beautiful, actually. I tried to take a picture with my phone, but my camera on that thing moves as slowly as I do some days. It's getting old. Aren't we all.

And my Mother's Day was quite lovely, thank you. We went out for a delicious brunch, and Neel and Callum got me a tripod for my camera (that picture of our bannister was one of the first shots I took using it.). We ran some errands, and I took some pictures for my class assignment this week (You'll see those on Thursday, probably.) It started out cloudy and then the sun came out. A great day, really.

Lately, through all the work I've been doing and big decisions I've been making and pictures I've been taking, there is a corner of my mind where all I can think about is redecorating my living room. Deep stuff, here people. I may have mentioned before that it's been a rough winter around these parts. Every so often panic would set in, and I'd fear we'd have to leave this house and sweet life we've built for ourselves here (job issues are the worst). For the most part, I'm pretty good at trusting that things will be okay, but those moments were few and far between in the dark days of winter this year. Now that we're coming into the light of spring and things are looking up, I'm ready to redecorate! It's almost like Neel and I have had a recommittment ceremony to the house. His work in the back yard is paying off in spades. We love how the kitchen turned out. It's a good place to be, this house. And I'm ready to turn my attention to the living room. It feels heavy and dark and thrown together to me, so while I'm not sure exactly what I want it to be yet, I do know what I don't want it to be.

Summer is around the corner and change is in the air.

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