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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 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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all politics are local

Localpolitics-6 This is Callum with our friend, Evans. His Excellency. Last night, Evans hosted a meet-and-greet for our new state senator, Ralph Northam. New to us because of recent redistricting. Neel's been following this guy for awhile because he's a physican affiliated with the medical school where he teaches.

Localpolitics-7 Senator Northam is great, and I'm thrilled that he represents us now. He gets it that things won't get done on either side of the aisle, but across the aisle. I'm looking forward to voting for him in November.

It was a great back yard, neighborhood event. Some local brew, some wraps (best wrap I've ever had, by the way) from a local restaurant and a nice crowd. Young people (younger than me!) who care about their city and the future of their country too. That's nice to see.

Localpolitics-5 Politicians were thick on the ground. Here's Callum with Paul Fraim, the mayor of Norfolk. He's a nice guy. It was said last night that he's been encouraged to get involved on a state level, but he chooses to stay here, taking care of our city. I appreicate that.

And how's this....

Localpolitics-1 Callum and Senator Mark Warner! This is a good Virginia guy. We all felt honored to meet him. I'm not going to get all political. I've been pretty irritated this summer. But I like this guy. I like Mayor Fraim and Senator Northam, and I'm grateful for the work they're willing to do.

Neel even asked Senator Warner to not forget funding the NIH.

Localpolitics-3 He said, "Of course...!"

Holy MOLY, what a summer Callum has had. Braces! Hanging with a circuit court judge! And now meeting our mayor, state and U.S. Senators! How can 6th grade compete?!

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0711_MargaretPostonBirthday84 Today is my friend Rebecca's birthday, and I thought I'd celebrate by sharing the celebration of a special little lady in Rebecca's life.

Remember this baby? She turned one this month! A whole year on the planet!

0711MargaretBirthdayduo2-1 Such a gorgeous girl deserves a great party and her parents did a great job obliging. What better way to celebrate a summer birthday than with a pool party? I can't think of one.









0711_MargaretPostonBirthday6 Another happy family...I know Margaret's birthday was a happy one. Hope yours is too, Momma.

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Callum_courtday-2 I told you Callum had a big week coming up. Wearing a tie (that he tied himself) during summer vacation should certainly qualify, yes? So here's why he got so dressed up on a hot summer day. Our dear friend Evans's (husband to Nurse Rebecca) dad is a local judge, and a few months ago when the judge learned that Callum had read and loved John Grisham's new books for kids, he offered for Callum to come and spend the day with him at the court house! Yeeeeeee! Neel and I were beside ourselves with glee and envy. I mean I didn't watch all those seasons of LA Law just to see Jimmy Smits. And don't get me wrong, Callum was excited too. I just don't think he quite got how big a deal and how cool this offer was.

So after much negotiation of schedules, Callum made plans to meet with the judge on Tuesday this week and then again tomorrow too. We dropped him off at the courthouse (criminal to the right and civil to the left) where the judge had plans to take him to lunch along with his (the judge's not Callum's) law clerk. After lunch, Callum would spend the afternoon observing the mental health docket. Gulp. Callum was nervous waiting in the lobby so we played some half-hearted games of tic-tac-toe, and when they stepped off the elevator, there was not just one judge, but three!

Callum_judge-2 What a day! Everyone was so kind and helpful and interested in him. He got to sit in on the mental health meeting and then watch the court proceedings for each case. His favorite was when a man who'd been imprisoned for kidnapping was set free based on new information that he was not guilty. He saw deeds for the city dating back to the 1800s. He asked questions about the cases he saw and the law in general. Were there some boring moments? Yeah, sitting around and waiting, but that didn't last long. His favorite part? Maybe lunch (a cheeseburger and coke!), but really seeing the court in session. On Friday, the judge will pick Callum up on his way into work for sentencing day. Now that should be interesting.

We were invited, Neel and I. And oh sure, we wanted to go. But this was Callum's deal. His gig. His own experience, not ours. We wanted him to have it on his own. In one of the emails in the flurry going back and forth between Neel and the judge to set up scheduling, Neel said how much we appreciated Callum having many different positive role models in his life. On Tuesday, Callum asked the judge if he felt bad if the jury found someone innocent when he thinks they're guilty. The judge said sure, but it's worse to see someone innocent found guilty for something they didn't do. That sounds like a good role model to me.

Have I ever mentioned that I went into labor with Callum while I was watching a Law & Order marathon on A&E? We'll be renting some of those for sure.

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getting our irish on

IMG_3177 We celebrated St. Patrick's Day in the 'hood on Friday night. Aussie Paul made Irish Soda Bread, (and while the beef brisket was good, it's not so photogenic) and we had our first al fresco meal of the season on Tyler and Catherine's back patio. The kids rode bikes and kicked the soccer ball and we talked and laughed with the NCAA tournament on in the background (my bracket's totally busted, how about yours?). Guinness started the evening, but we finished up with cheese and dried fruit and Jameson under the stars and almost-super-full moon. It was a great start to the weekend and, I think, a harbinger of a great spring to come.

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IMG_1043 So as you may have seen, my neighbor Catherine is expecting! I've been taking a lot of pictures of her lately. Since she wasn't having a proper shower with games and all, several of us on the block scheduled a lunch and connived to make it a celebration of mama and bubster.

IMG_1058 I can't even count the emails that were involved in planning this realtively simple affair, but the celebration part was meant to be a surprise. And a large percentage of those emails were panicked when A) Catherine considered backing out because she was too busy, B) Catherine got sick, and C) Catherine decided to drive herself to lunch.

IMG_1061 It all worked out in the end, and instead of lunching we had high tea (consisting of tea sandwiches, scones, petit fours and cupcakes) did occur to me to worry that she was disappointed that we didn't go out to lunch. (Don't worry, we made plans.)

IMG_1075 Take note of the cupcakes. They're from Carolina Cupcakery. Hello. Rebecca, who was in charge of cupcakes said that they do one alcholic cupcake a day and you have to have an adult there with you to pick it up. Yesterday's cupcake was "pink champagne." Now why couldn't we have hosted a wedding shower? I kid! I kid!

IMG_1079 Pretty table. And what's a shower without petit fours and deviled eggs?

It was a perfectly lovely afternoon. Poor Catherine didn't feel well, but we still managed to laugh and laugh and laugh. I hoped she felt a little better. And celebrated as the wonderful mama that she is. New babies are pretty special.


IMG_1187 BW Friends are pretty special too. Love you guys.

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home safe

IMG_9142 This bad beagle jumped the wire Saturday night. One hard-to-latch gate that hadn't quite been latched (it was my fault), and like a flash she was gone. Out and into the dark.

We didn't know it until it was time to call them in. Thea and Violet (good girls) came right away, and it's not all that unusual for Lucy to lag a bit behind, lingering over some doggie-pleasing smell in the back yard. But when I called once, then twice and not a rustle. I knew something was wrong.

It was 10:20 p.m.

Of the three dogs, it's Lucy's escape I fear the most. The other two? When they've escaped, they waddle their way back to the front door. Not Lucy. Nose to the ground, on-the-scent beagle, she heeds nothing when she's past the confines of the gate. And she bolts too. The few times she's slid past the perimeter of our yard, she's bolted as fast as she could, nose and body low to the ground, running flat out. It's happened a couple of times. Enough so that we learned the trick of luring her back. Sweet-talking words, "Come on baby girl," and me of all people, low to the ground like I can't wait to see her. She always comes to me.

IMG_9144 Standing in the dark, feeling the temperature dropping, it was hard to imagine that this was anything but impossible. I hadn't started to panic exactly, but I just didn't see how, in the dark late night with a bolting dog, we could ever get her home.

Callum was undone. We traipsed around the back yards. Neel and Callum walked the block with a flashlight. We called out as loud as we dared given the late hour. A neighbor came by walking her dog, and she promised to keep an eye out. Then Neel decided to get in the car and drive. Somehow we both knew I should stay home, in case she scented her way back, so when he got Thea into the car, Callum and I stayed behind. Callum, restless, couldn't stay outside.  I, restless, couldn't go in.

So I stood there waiting, breathing in the night air. It's funny. I'm rarely out that late, unless it's running from the car to the house. Getting inside, out from the cold. It was a beautiful night. Star-filled and crisply clear. Listening to every rustle, every distant bark, I tried not to worry, but really? How could this end well? When I stepped inside for a minute, Callum went out to spell me. We all knew that someone needed to be outside at all times, waiting for her to come home.

I came out to find Tyler talking with Callum. Our avowed dog non-loving neighbor took our boy out looking, diving through back-yard underbrush to search for our pup. I knew it was as much to keep Callum's mind occuppied as anything else, and I was so grateful for that. I was not doing such a good job at that myself.

So there I stood, alone in the yard. Listening to every rustle and every distant bark. Trying not to worry. I'm still not sure how it happened, but my mind alerted to more barking and movment along the street. Bolting toward me, flat-out fast. Could it be our beagle?

I called out her name, "Come here, Lucy-girl!" But she was so low to the ground, I almost wondered if it was our height-challenged Corgi. Had Neel let her out of the car to come home? No! It was a beagle, certain of it. Lucy, making her mad-cap way as fast as she could back to her home.

She tumbled up to the yard, just short of me and stopped flat. She's been known to dart away before, but she didn't this time. She wouldn't look at me, but stared instead at the house as I dove towards her and wrapped my fingers around her collar. That's when my heart started beating madly and my breath came fast. I called Neel right away. "She's home!" I told him. "She just ran back to me."

He was back in a heartbeat, and the three dogs were reunited in the warmth of the house. We tried to call Tyler, and before the phone stopped ringing, I looked up to see him and Callum walking down the block towards the house. Hugs all around. Relief-filled hugs and tears too. And everyone bundled back into the warmth, away from the cold night.

IMG_9143 She'd been gone an hour. It was now nearing midnight. No one was ready for sleep at that point. Thea and Violet were restless, demanding biscuits as if they were the ones who'd been on the great adventure. (Although I guess Thea does have a point when she claims that she "herded" Lucy home.) Lucy watched them pace about the place a bit before curling up on the Christmas bed and falling gratefully asleep. Lucy, we've always joked, has never been the brightest of our dogs. And we pictured her blithely wandering along before suddenly realizing that she was far from home and the world was a big, big (scary) place. "Mama? Papa? Callum? Where am I?"

It was a scary, long hour for all of us. We all fell gratefully into bed after that particular nightmare. Neel was up before me Sunday morning, and when I came downstairs, he was already laughing. "I had to carry Lucy outside this morning," he told me. "She was curled up in her crate and shaking, and she wouldn't go."

Then he told me, "When I set her outside, she just stood there on the porch. Still shivering and obviously scared to go into the yard. Thea took one look at her, barked right in her face and pushed her down the steps.

"She's fine now."

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so it was Christmas, friends edition

IMG_7607 For four (five?) years now, we've gathered with some friends and neighbors to celebrate the season and check out each other's holiday decorations. It's a night I look forward to every year. When I looked back at this post last year, I realized that we couldn't host our normal appetizer course because our kitchen was in such a midden. I'll have to show you how it all turned out sometime.

IMG_7605 We switched it up again this year, and I made dessert. My heart is full when I think of these friends, so I think I'll let the photos do the talking. Living here is one of the very best parts of my year. Every year.










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five things, july 30 edition

1. I think this is the worst thunderstorm, with the most flooding, that we've ever seen.
2. I think I like ketchup less now than I did as a kid.
3. I think I'm getting excited.
4. I think I need a project.
5. I think this is wonderful. Or dangerous...


Holy funnel clouds, Batman! My own little corner of Virginia got hammered last night. Tornadoes and flooding, you name it. Quite exciting, actually.

I'm hanging up the "gone fishin'" sign on the Blue Rain Room over the next few days. Give me a week and I'll be back (or before, if I can manage it, but no promises), maybe with some changes in tow, maybe not.

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three young men

IMG_2785 Callum's best friends are two brothers who live on our street. One is just his age and will be in his grade next year at the new school, and the other is two years older. Somehow, they manage to make this friendship, with varied ages, work splendidly. It has been a summer of three. Callum over there playing Wii or World Cup Soccer outside, or them here, playing Wii and FIFA World Cup for Wii inside. Callum's days are organized around these two. How soon he can get over there once he's up in the morning. How soon he can get back to them if we go out. They've been here all day, playing Callum's new World Cup soccer game. I've been cleaning out the Blue Rain Room, and I can hear their shouts and laughter all the way upstairs. When one of them scores they take a lap around the new circuit of the house that our remodeled pantry has created, big boy footsteps thudding. Callum made sandwiches for lunch for everyone, and I happily cleaned up the detritus when they bolted back outside.

Of course as I typed this, they got in their first "fight" of the summer. Some boys storming off and one boy in tears. Callum would handle this better if he had a brother, I think. Would better understand that arguments are part of friendships. They took a little breather, and it typical boy fashion, they were soon back in front of the Wii as if it never happened.

It's bittersweet for me, of course. Watching this boy who used to need only us be shaped by deepening friendships. Especially bitter when he's hurting. But it's mostly sweet as I see him rush out the door to be with his friends, as anxious to be together as if he hadn't played soccer with them until after dark the night before.

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yard envy

IMG_1888 The gate to Tyler's and Catherine's backyard has been open over the past few days.

IMG_1887 It's like an invitation to step inside.

IMG_1907 The sound of burbling water, just on the other side of the fence, is further invitation. Tyler's worked hard back here, and we all enjoy it. Outdoor get-togethers wind up in this yard because it's the perfect spot for kids and adults alike.

When I look at our yard, I feel inspired, but like we have a long way to go. I think that was just the effect Tyler was looking for! Good thing he says, "the gate's always open."

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maybe Martha had it right after all

  IMG_1397 In the summer issue of Everyday Food, Martha has an article on burgers. Did you see it? The last few issues have had some good stuff in them. I tend not to be a skeptic, but when I saw the recipe for Aussie Burgers, I had to go to the source to see if it was authentic. Turns out, Martha was spot on. Of course we had to try them.

IMG_1343 A quintessential Aussie dinner calls for quintessential American side dishes, so I made Julia Child's potato salad.

IMG_1355 We're in the south, so of course I use Duke's (the secret of southern cooks).

IMG_1363 Bad light, good salad.


IMG_1378 So we gathered on Friday to test this delicacy. Of course there was Bundy and Lime...

IMG_1434 The grilling began, and things look pretty familiar up to this point.

IMG_1432 Just add eggs. Hmmm.

IMG_1443 Here's the assembly line where things get really crazy.

IMG_1451 In order, from bottom to top: bun, burger, cheese (so it melts), tomato, lettuce, pineapple, beets (Yes, beets. Or beetroot, as they insisted on calling it.)

IMG_1448 BBQ sauce and/or ketchup on top, and presto! An Aussie burger, you've got. 

IMG_1447 They were tall and drippy and gorgeous and wonderful. That perfect combination of salty and sweet. These guys are definitely on to something here. We might need to have them again...soon.

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color comes out

IMG_1053 It's early yet, still winter, and the color we're seeing tends to be of the human-made variety, not natural in form. Some chairs.

IMG_1105 The seat of a swing.

IMG_1186 The collar of a good dog.

IMG_1258 A faucet, ready for spring watering. Not that we'll need it, it's raining as I type.

IMG_1227 And if you know where to look, which Neel did, there's other color there too. Proof that the earth is waking up. I took those pictures over two weeks ago. How much more awake are things now?

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