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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1011_trees1 The wind is blowing fiercely today. It started around Callum's bedtime last night (It always seems to start around Callum's bedtime, rattling his shutters and making for restless sleep.) and seemed to pick up as the night went on. Each fall the acorns hit the house and sound (quite literally) like gunshots. Last night that sound woke us up over and over.

We're all feeling a bit fractious today.

Unexpectedly, I had the chance to catch up with two dear, but far away friends yesterday. (Look at me, all phone-talkey and social.) Despite the delightful conversations, they are both hemmed in by worry and sadness. And late last night, an email from my mom about her sister, my only aunt, dealing with her own health worries. (I'll email you later today, Mom.)

It's a lot. All around us. I had been thinking a good bit, even before a class started making me more reflective, about changes I've been wanting to make for our family. I'm not going to lie. It's been a rocky autumn around here. Windy and fractious. Those changes, mostly little but for a greater good, seem terribly necessary. But what days like yesterday remind me is that the most important work I can do is to be still and listen. To try to hold the worry lightly, both for myself and others. And to pay attention. Both inside my house and out.

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tighten up

tartlette-esque photos/

Changing things on the blog. Direction I want to go in. Neel says don't change the content. Food photography? Still life photography? Capturing the magic of every day moments.


There are practical considerations as well. My family would like to eat rather than wait for me to take pictures of  their food.

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1011_coffee5 I took a personality test this week as part of my Blogging Your Way e-course. Turns out, I'm an ESFJ. Neel really got a kick out of the "J" (Judging) part, let me tell you. I imagine Mark will too. I bet his "J" part comes in BOLD.

1011_coffee1 Although my "E" was considered mild, it was still present. Enough so to make me consider my current work schedule which keeps me much at home and alone.

I think part of why I've been feeling blue lately is because I'm a more social animal than that.

1011_coffee4 So a group of us has started meeting for coffee once a week, and I realize that this is just the thing I need. (I may have mentioned in my last post that I should get out more!)

1011_coffee3 A baby joins us.

1011_coffee2 The first time we gathered, we moved from coffee shop to front yard. We had a lot of talking to do. Not everyone can make it every time, but the commitment is there. The commitment to reconnect with each other whenever we can. For me, there's the commitment to finding balance too. Between my social and solitary selves.

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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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five things, october 14 edition

1011_boxes11. I think that at a time when I'm feeling particularly rudderless and heavy-headed, this class was just the thing I needed. You've probably seen the button on my sidebar and maybe wondered. I know I've written about wondering what direction I've wanted this space to take and what place I want it to have in our lives, and this class (even in just the first week) has challenged and inspired in all the right ways. Made me think good thoughts. Pushed me in the right direction. I'm ready to take a leap, I think. I can't thank Neel enough for encouraging me to dive in, even this far.
2. I think I want to take one of this woman's workshops. The Natural Light Food Photography or Food Styling and Photography. I'm wondering if it'll be harder to talk Neel into this than it has been to get him to drink water.
3. I think I'm ready to take some things in hand.
4. I think, and I have backup on this, that you can't have too many suede wedges.
5. I think I'm very excited about some packages that arrived yesterday. More on that next week.
6. (Bonus). I'm feeling very grateful that Callum's head injury yesterday wasn't any worse than it could have been and also very glad that I trusted my instincts to bring him home early from school.

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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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box score

1011_secondgame1 He's been worried about his hitting.

1011_secondgame3 Everything changed with Saturday's game. He went four for four, with a 2 RBI double at his first at bat. Stole some bases too. In the bottom of the last inning, with the score tied and runners on second and third, Callum comes to the plate.

1011_secondgame4 Neel hears the coach for the other team tell his players, "Play's at home; this guy will hit." And he did. Walk-off RBI single.

1011_secondgame5 This look on his face says it all.

1011_secondgame6 As does this one. I don't think he's stopped smiling yet.

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five things, october 7 edition

1. I think I am so grateful for the talk I had with a friend this week. She's one of Callum's former teachers and a parent of girl who's in 6th grade with him. They too are finding the homework load pretty intense this year. Not just on the weeknights but on the weekends too. It's not just us! We're not alone! Callum does have a lot of work. So far, 6th grade is a ton of fun, but it's hard.
2. I think this is the dogs' favorite time of year.
3. I think the hardest thing about trying to change how I eat (I'm trying make some changes in how I eat, by the way) is breakfast. I am not a breakfaster. Unless it's brunch, and bloody marys are involved. But I'm trying. I recognize that 10 a.m. is not optimal, but my body is not really feeling the 7 a.m. timeframe so much.
4. I think harder than that is to try to get Neel to drink water.
5. I think these are five things I need right now:
    a) more glamour
    b) less shy
    c) more structure & routine
    d) more mindfulness
    e) black boots

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not martha

1011_martha_dinner2 I pick up my Martha Stewart Living every month at the grocery store. I've had a subscription before, and somehow subscriptions rarely seem to work for me. Except when we lived on the West Coast and I had a subscrption to Sunset (oh, how I miss Sunset!), and now with my Everyday Food, it always seems to me that the content of a magazine dips precipitously when I pay for a subscription. Maybe because those other two were gifts...I don't know. It's a phenomena I've experienced again and again, so Martha and I meet up in the grocery aisle.

Oh happy day when the new Martha Stewart Living comes out. I'm not trying to say that she's reading my mind or anything, but did anyone notice that this month's issue featured an article on pot pies...after I wrote this post? Just sayin'.

0911_marthadinner1 I find a lot of the recipes in the main text overly fussy (I really am more of an Everyday Food gal, I guess.), but I always turn to the "What's Cooking For Dinner?" article with great anticipation. Many of those streamlined meals have found their way to our table, and this month was no exception

Marthadinner Pasta with roasted veggies and bacon was a big hit here...for me and Neel at least. Poor Callum. I feel bad for him (he didn't love the cauliflower) because we'll surely be having it again. Along with the mushrooms too.

Sadly now, I've been through this mag a dozen or so times now. So we wait for next month. Although, my friend Rebecca just gave me a stack of her old House Beautifuls and Architectural Digests...I might not get anything done all week!

Updated to add: Maybe the title of this post should have also been "Not Steve." When I set up to post in advance sometimes life gets in the way, as it did last night with the news of Steve Jobs' passing. We're Apple folk around here. I "work" on my PC laptop, but all my blogging and photography is done on our Mac. Not to mention my iPhone addiction. I said to Neel this morning that while I do a lot of work on my laptop, I don't *love* it the way I do our Mac. I'm grateful to Steve Jobs every day, really. Not just for the technology he created that makes us fall in love with it, but also for how he looked at life. How he *lived* life. May he and his family be filled with lovingkindness.

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double thumbs up

1011_alfrescodinner2 On Tuesdays and Thursdays Callum stays late at school for play practice. I pick him up at 5:30, and by the time we get home he's ravenous. On these nights Neel comes home before us, and (if I leave detailed instructions) he finishes up dinner to have it ready and waiting. Last night (leftover taco soup and salad), we came home to this lovely surprise on the new, almost-done patio. Dinner al fresco! I couldn't ask for anything more.





For the evening's entertainment, we have...

1011_alfrescodinner6 three hounds. Looking out instead of in for a change. And so put-out and forlorn! They kept us laughing the whole meal. Get a load of all those spider webs, would you? Fall's a-coming, I tell you. Neel's patio rocks.

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sea change

1011_fallball4 Somewhere along the course of the summer our boy picked up a glove and a ball and started throwing it around with anyone who would accomodate him.

He started following the Phillies (Go Phillies!) and asked for a jersey and a cap. And he still wanted to throw the ball. We read this book on vacation. And he still wanted to throw the ball. And then he decided he wanted to try baseball. Play on a fall ball team and check it out.

How could we not let him?

Practice Turns out he loves it.

He loves practice. He loves watching games. And he still loves throwing the ball in the front yard.

Poor guy had to wait weeks for his first game (darn rain), and when last Saturday rolled around, he was so ready.

1011_fallball5 Ready to be part of it all.




When Callum first started practice, his coach got his name wrong a couple of times. This is not that unusual. His name is unusual, after all. Neel pointed out that this was a fresh start in a way. Nobody on this team knew him, and he could be whoever he wanted to be.

The next night at practice his coach kindly said, "I'm sorry son, I forgot your name."
    "It's Callum, but you can call me Cal."

0911_fallball3 Cal, huh? Somehow it suits him. And it works, out there on the ballfield. Baseball suits him too. I can't shake the feeling that we may have seen our last lacrosse game.

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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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five things, september 30th edition

0911_crackersbw1 1. I had dinner with four friends last night, and let me just say that I think they mean the world to me.
2. And I think we need to do it more often.
3. I think that today should be very interesting...I'm ready for whatever comes our way.
4. I think I'm having fun finding a winter drink. Negroni gets a thumbs up.
5. I think I'm very excited and happy for my dad today. Congratulations, Alfie!

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dispatch from the tropics

0911_rain2 No wonder the bananas like it here. It's hot and muggy, and all it does is rain.

Yesterday afternoon as Callum and I sat in the carpool line waiting to leave school, we watched wisps of clouds drop down from an ominous-looking wall cloud and pull back up again. They seemed to be trying to form funnels. Gulp.

0911_rain1 My favorite weather guy says that drier and cooler air is moving in tomorrow, but until then, even when the sun is shining, it rains.

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salad days

  0711_salad1 A dozen years ago, when we were living in California and I was very pregnant with Callum, I went to a wedding shower for a woman that Neel worked with. (I ended up going into labor the day after her wedding.) The woman hosting the shower, who was the wife of one of Neel's bosses, served two really lovely salads. All the ladies went ga-ga over them. One was Flying Farmer Chicken Salad and one was Chinese Chicken Salad, pictured here.

I really liked the Flying Farmer Salad, but that Chinese Chicken Salad? Oh my! Ramen in a salad! I had no idea! (Remember, this was a looooong time ago. I had a lot to learn about food, apparently.) Everyone loved those salads so much that our hostess kindly shared the recipes, and after Callum was born that Chinese Chicken Salad was just about all I wanted to eat. I'm not joking. I don't know what it was: the crisp green Napa Cabbage, the crunchy ramen, the salty/sweet dressing, but I absolutely craved that salad. Poor Neel made it for me over and over again. I can remember sitting in our bedroom with the bright California sunshine streaming in through the high windows, tiny Callum slumbering beside me as I scarfed down bowl after bowl of that salad.

Here we are a dozen years and 3,000 miles later and we're still making that salad. There are as many recipes for Chinese Chicken Salad as there are for potpie, I'd imagine. My mom read us one when she was up here last time that I meant to write down and try, but I forgot. I lost the original recipe for ours a long time ago, but here's how we do it:

Chop one head of Napa Cabbage
Crush 2 packs of Ramen Noodles (with seasoning packet)
Cube about a cup of cooked chicken breast (optional, but my meat-eating manchild prefers it)

Saute the Ramen in a bit of vegetable oil until lightly brown. Combine Napa and chicken and add Ramen.

For the dressing, in a jar with a lid combine:
Vegetable oil (I totally eyeball this, but I'm guessing about 1/3 cup, maybe a little more)
A dash of toasted sesame oil
Soy sauce (Maybe another 1/4 to 1/3 cup, just less than the oil)
A dash of rice vinegar
Sugar, several tablespoons.  All to taste.

Shake to combine, taste and adjust before adding to the salad. If you add the dressing while the Ramen is still warm, it makes a nice sizzle!

Like I said, we've been making it for years. It's a staple in our house now, especially in the summer. A cool and easy go-to supper. Except when your twelve-year-old gets mad at you when you have to break into the hurricane-kit stash of Ramen, and he decides that this makes him sad.

Sometimes I really hate September.

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