Friday, June 29, 2012

Portraits: Gavin’s First Birthday

In celebration of their little man turning one, Katie and Joel decided to have family photos (and portraits of their oh-so-handsome almost-one-year old, Gavin) taken - by me! Of course I was honored to be chosen as their photographer but even more so, I was excited to spend two hours with this fun family and this adorable little babe. (Who, according to Trevor, looks like he could be Channing Tatum’s baby brother, I see the resemblance.)

Though we shot these photos last Sunday in a Central Pennsylvania park, after a busy week of working, packing, three photography jobs and traveling to Montana - I just managed to finished the final edit and send the proofs off to be printed and delivered just in time for Gavin’s big birthday celebration!

Hopefully he enjoys his real birthday cake next weekend as much he enjoyed this one on camera last weekend.

You can view the rest of the photo’s from Gavin’s birthday portraits on my Facebook page!
(And maybe hit the “like” button while you’re there?)

I am currently booking photography sessions in the Anaconda and Butte areas of Montana from now until August and in the Central Pennsylvania area from August through December. If you are looking to have photos taken of your children, with your family or with your significant other - please contact me as soon as possible to reserve your date!

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Though I don’t live at home any longer, I still enjoy the benefits of our family garden none the less. I’ve been meaning to share with you a zucchini lasagna recipe I made last week using only home grown zucchini and spinach but my time has been monopolized with photography jobs, working six days a week, and preparing for my trip.

Despite my busy to-do list, I snuck in a lot of time at my parents house this week since the north east's heat streak has kept my little city home at above 89 degrees (until today, when it finally cooled to a reasonable 83). Tonight, after sneaking in last minute first-year portraits for the daughter of a  high school friend, I came home to enjoy the air conditioning, a home cooked dinner and my favorite part, time with Aiden. (Though he’s now taken with singing clever songs about zombies.. Oh. My.)

Right before the sun finally set around 8:30, we snuck out into the garden for a few handfuls of sweet peas and blackberries. As usual, rows of corn have grown up to shadow the other crops which include eggplant, zucchini, leaf lettuce, cucumbers, and snap peas. Now, I’m snuggled up the living room with a hint of sunburn and apparently, a fever. If it weren’t for the Business and Society exam I need to finish by 8 a.m., perhaps I’d share that lasagna recipe... but for now, here’s a sneak peek to show you just how great a family garden can be. (Check back early this week for the recipe!)

Rock-A-Bye Babe

June 9th, 2012
4:24 p.m.
8lb 1oz - 20.25 in.

I spent my afternoon in one of my favorite spots - on my best friend’s couch - but this time, it was different. This was the afternoon I had been anticipating for almost nine months. Today, we spent our time together admiring a cute button nose, and tickling little baby feet. Our conversations weren’t about guy troubles, how hard our day at work was or the hundreds of things we wanted to do this summer. Instead, we talked about sleeping troubles, baby growth spurts and the silly sounds that Joey makes, even when he sleeps. We wondered what babies dream about when you finally manage to get them to sleep. We passed binkies and bottles to each other, cleaned dripping milk messes and eventually managed to sit down for lunch as Joey slept in his swing. I was in awe as I watched my best friend sooth her new baby to sleep, I was amazed at how Joey always seemed to know just when his mom left the room - even with his eyes closed. I remembered how fragile just new babes seem to be and realized that just a year ago, things were so different for us. Over the past nine months, I’ve watched my college best friend grow into a beautiful and perfect mother. I’ve spent those months reassuring her that she would know exactly what Joey needed, or how to take care of him just right - but today, watching her, it made my hopes and reassurance seem insufficient - she was born to do this. I know that this is just the beginning but my best friend is already the perfect Mama to her little Joe Joe Bean. Steph - I love you so much and am so lucky to call you my best friend. I couldn’t be happier for you and your new, perfect, little family. Besides, I think he’s the cutest little babe I’ve seen.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

June Photo a Day Challenge: Week 3

Day 15: Fresh flowers at work.
Day 16: Taking care of business on campus - keep your fingers crossed for a fall internship!
Day 17: New bag filled with my favorite journal, my wallet & my makeup bug.
Day 18: I bet you didn’t know that I have a banana tree in my kitchen.
Day 19: In a hurry to get to work, my bed wasn’t exactly made the way I like it
Day 20: Field Day, 2011.
Day 21: Spent the night on Aiden’s playroom couch to take advantage of my parents’ central air.

Monday, June 18, 2012

I’ve never liked to follow the crowd.

And seeing how my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and RSS feeds have been full of Father’s Day posts and expressions of love - I decided to write a blog about... well, moms.

(Not that I don’t love my papa but let’s face it - the internet? It’s not his thing.)

As I said last weekend, I got to spend an evening with my boyfriend’s family - and that, of course, meant meeting his mom. If you’re anything like me, that’s a bit of a nerve wracking situation to begin with but imagine that your boyfriend is 2200 miles away, you’re supposed to be moving in with him in three weeks and, you’ve got plans to take portraits of her while you’re there. Looking back at it now, I’m not sure what I thought would happen. Perhaps I thought I would forget how to operate a camera, or maybe she’d tell Trevor not to let me come to Montana? I don’t know.. but the point of the story is, I had such a good time with his family and the pictures? Well, I didn’t forget how to use my camera. (And the risotto we had for dinner? so good.)

Truth be told, I felt a little guilty since my own mother had been asking me to take photos for her for well, the past few months. I always planned to, but something was always in the way - Aiden had homework to do, I was working, she didn’t feel like it. But somehow, the stars aligned to take portraits of my mother on Father’s Day. I feel like this should somehow make up for my lack of an appropriate Mother’s Day blog.. Maybe even for the missing birthday blog, too. Or, maybe not.

My last nine days in Pennsylvania are shaping up to include a lot of photography projects - this week I will be taking first year portraits, wedding anniversary photos (with dirt bikes involved), and a photo swap with my friend, Lindsey. In between that, I’ve been designing new business cards and client information, ordering prints, updating my website and getting ready for two months of doing photography as my sole source of income. I can’t say that I’m not terrified nervous but I’m also excited about the opportunities that I’ve been given. It’s also been enlightening to look back this week at the more than 7,000 images which fill my Lightroom catalog and to see how my style has evolved over the past year. I can only hope that two months in Montana, and a lot of time spent with my camera, will continue that trend.

What are your goals for this summer? 

Friday, June 15, 2012

“Maybe in distance but never in heart.” | 2

In April, we went to the beach. It had been on our to-do list since Christmas, when our first planned trip, well, fell through. I was constantly frustrated when our plans fell through. That time he missed my brother’s going away party. Or when he was sick for the night of my birthday party. How he got sick and missed a few days of work, and now we weren’t going to the beach. (If only I realized then how little those things mattered.) But now, now it was happening. We were headed back to one of the places we both loved, a place that had special meaning to us as an “us”. 

Before Trevor, I never appreciated the beach. I feared the ocean, I hated the hot sand. Other than a quick weekend at Virginia Beach with my family, I hadn’t been to the beach since I was too young to remember it. I flip through my scrapbook now and then and feel hints of memory at the sight of myself, in a red and polka dotted “100 dalmations” ruffled swimsuit (and Sean in a yellow full-piece, built in inter-tube, ensemble), burying my father in the sands of Ocean City. It’s always faint but I know that the memories are there. I know that I hate the ocean because once, I was knocked over my waves as my dad donned goggles and dove beneath the water in search of in tact seashells. I know that I kept a jar of shells for years following those trips. But despite those hints of beach memories, I felt uncomfortable and unfamiliar with the idea of visiting the eastern shores.

Then, last summer, when I don’t think I’d even picked up the term “boyfriend”, we both made up excuses to our mutual job of why we couldn’t work for labor day. Clearly, the beach for labor day wasn’t the wisest of choices but the ocean was calling Trevor and I was determined to follow along. (At this point, if you’re my mother, you’re going to be wondering why you don’t remember the trip - I didn’t tell you, you didn’t know who Trevor was, and I wasn’t about to explain that I was going to the beach with him. Now, nearly a year later, we’re happily in love and he obviously did no harm by taking me to the beach, so relax.) We spent four days sleeping with open windows to the sound of the ocean, laying in beach chairs and laughing when I got sunburnt each time, browsing the typical shore stores in Bethany Beach, and discovery “our restaraunt” - Blue Coast. My fondest memory from the trip? Trevor is a born and raised gentleman. (I’m not sure if I should thank his mother or his father or perhaps both but someone taught that boy right.) He spent the weekend opening car doors, paying for my dinner, pulling out chairs.. and I got so angry. Looking back on it, I suppose I simply wasn’t used to that kind of treatment and for some reason, I felt defensive at his chivalrous attempts. We came back from dinner, and I was wearing my favorite summer hat - a straw fedora with black trim - and a dress of some sort, and Trevor took my face in his hands and asked me what was wrong, clearly, I was upset. I told him that he was wrong, that everything was just fine. And he paused for a moment and looked at me and said “I think the problem is that you’re not used to being treated like an adult - like a woman - you’re not used to being treated well.” It’s a moment I’ve thought about time and time again since that September weekend and to this day, it’s a problem that drives itself between us - sometimes I don’t know how to accept the fact that I’m loved, I’m treated well, and I don’t have to do anything to earn it. If you didn’t realize the story was coming to this, I fell in love with the beach that weekend. I learned to love salty air in the morning and the short walk to the beach. We fell in love with fresh seafood at a little place on the water, and I bought too many boxes of taffy. And from that weekend onward, I yearned for our next trip.

And so, in April, it happened. We made it to the beach. Trevor had asked off from work for the weekend. He scrambled in nine sales in four days so that Friday and Saturday, they were ours. Though I had requested a Saturday off, I still worked Friday lunch and that meant a long, anxious wait for our trip. But, during my Thursday night class, I got a text, “let’s leave now.” I texted back that I simply couldn’t, I worked the next day. But, after a bit of maneuvering that was no longer the case. I rushed home, packed my miniature black floral suitcase and left for Trevor’s. After much persuasion through the week, and the close proximity to the Hanover wine and spirits store, Trevor had stopped for a few bottles of our favorite champagne. (I say ours. It was once Trevor’s favorite. Now? It’s ours.) We sat upstairs and had a glass then I sat impatiently and watched another episode of “The Big Bang Theory” before Trevor was finally ready to leave.

One of my favorite relationship quirks? Trevor takes nearly three times as long as I do to get ready. Whether it’s for work, a trip to the beach. We’ve learned that it’s one of our strongest differences but I’m thankful. You see, Trevor has a strong admiration for long hot morning showers and while it means little hot water for me, it also that when Trevor’s early morning alarm goes off - I’ve still got forty minutes to sleep, and better yet - to sleep snuggled in next to Buddy. After that, I’ve got another twenty minutes to spend wrapped in blankets alone, watching the Today Show. Then, eventually, I manage to shower and get ready for my day while Trevor makes his coffee and let’s Buddy out. We give each other a hard time about it - he laughs and asks if I’m going to set my alarm clock for 9:50 when I work at 10. I agree that, just this once, I’ll set it for 9:45 and perhaps have time for makeup - I ask him if he could possibly leave me some hot water that day. Writing it down, it seems silly. But for us, it’s our routine - our morning. It’s funny how sharing it makes my heart ache to wake up together. 

We left for Bethany at nearly midnight. I don’t remember much of the trip, I was asleep before we made it out of York. Trevor loves that I sleep through our drives. I always feel guilty. But it was after three o’clock when we pulled into the tiny beach town that holds a big piece of that boy’s heart. The hotels weren’t yet open for the season. The stores? Closed for the night, of course. We got out in the shopping area and walked for a minute or two. We took deep breaths of cold ocean air that stung when they entered our lungs, we laughed at ourselves for being alone, in Bethany, at three o clock in the morning, in April, because, well, we wanted to be at the beach. Together.

With no hotels in our tiny town of choice, we climbed (I should say, I climbed - Trevor easily stepped) into the signature red Tahoe and headed for Ocean City and straight to Trevor’s hotel of choice, the twelfth street Howard Johnson. Due to a cheerleading competition, no ocean front rooms were available and so once again, we were on the pursuit of somewhere to sleep for the weekend. With the powers of the off-season on our side, we booked a room at the almost-new Marriott and quickly loaded our belongs onto a luggage cart, up the elevator and into our nearly perfect hotel room. We then drug ourselves back down the hallway and through the beautifully tiled stairway, onto the street and finally, into the sand and down a walkway of rocks barely jutting out of the ocean water. It was too dark to see far onto the water. We could make out ship lights and the faint outline of clouds. Behind us, the lights of the boardwalk illuminated the sand and our footprints back to our weekend home. In the chilly four a.m. air, we admired the sounds of a quiet beach and rough water as we shivered, not staying long before the draw of a comfortable hotel bed grew too strong. It pulled us back up the stairs, through the lobby, down the hallway and into our room. We pulled the balcony doors open wide, turned up the heat, and snuggled into bed for the night. Or morning, rather. We fell asleep to the once again familiar ocean sounds and awoke to construction on the boardwalk just outside of our window. In a groggy voice, I asked Trevor about the noise, confused to have woken up in a strange place to bright sunshine and terrible sounds. He slipped out of bed, pulled the balcony doors shut tight and sleep came quickly again.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Wednesday Wish List: Summer

I’m lusting over these new finds. What’s on your summer wish list?

Rainy Days

It seems as though the weather only has two options in the last few weeks - unbearably hot, or unbearably rainy. With my trip to Montana drawing closer and closer, I made plans to spend the day with Aiden. Lately, I’ve found myself spending most of my time at home alone, doing homework, tying up loose ends before my trip, cleaning..  So at first, I had an extensive list of options for our day and couldn’t seem to decide on any one choice - the zoo, the swimming pool, the beach. But then, the weather forecast changed and as you know, we were left with a wet, muggy, summer day (just another reason I’m leaving for the summer). Instead of our grandiose outdoor plans, Aiden and I settled for a day of painting at Color Me Mine, followed by a chinese buffet lunch (Aiden’s favorite) and his first trip to Sweet Frog.

Given the extensive options of pottery pieces to chose from - ranging from piggy banks in the shape of baseballs to ruffle edged tea pots - Aiden chose an army tank and me? A coffee mug. If you know anything about my youngest brother, it’s that he loves anything military or camoflauge. Combine it with art and you have a great way to spend nearly three hours on a rainy day. I chose to paint my mug, which will be the host to many cups of hot tea this summer, in a tribal pattern. Looking at the unfinished version, you may question if I ever took art classes - and let me promise you, I did - but an inpatient seven-year old calls for rushed designs. And the best part? When you’re drawing straight lines and he’s constantly kicking under the table. But hey, I’m sure I’ll be missing those kicks and silly never ending stories soon enough. I’m trying to figure out how to safely transport said mug to Montana so that I can think of my day with Aiden each morning. We’ll see.

In other news, I also managed to finally make a trip to the store for much needed makeup and even managed to clean the entire house, tonight. (The rain is good for some things, after all.) And while I’m glad to have accomplished some required tasks and to have gained the well deserved x’s on my to-do list, tonight I’m just feeling thankful for time spent with my own family this week - and Trevor’s.

I’m also feeling anxious (if you know me, you probably realized that when I mentioned cleaning the house) because tomorrow kicks off a busy fifteen day count down until my plane leaves Philadelphia once again. With a more than full work schedule, two summer courses, an internship interview, a newborn babe to snuggle, and multiple photography sessions to do, I’m hoping that these next two weeks will simply fly by.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cake

Here in Pennsylvania, tiny, ripe, local strawberries are one of the signs that summer has come (though the crop was a bit late this year). When I was invited for dinner with my boyfriend’s family, I realized that I should probably bring a dessert and after serving local strawberries with Grand Marnier whipped cream at the Blue Heron all evening, I thought strawberries would be the perfect theme. Unfortunately, this thought came to me at ten o’clock on a Saturday night and most of our local strawberry growers refrain from doing business on Sundays.. so there I was, at Price Rite, buying strawberries after work.

Before you dive into this recipe, I must warn you that it is a bit time consuming - but I found that it was manageable when split over two days time. For this version, I used an 8-inch spring form pan and a gluten-free yellow cake mix - I then torted the cake into three thin layers. You could easily create this recipe using standard 8-inch cake pans but I would recommend slicing each pan into two layers and using an extra layer of filling. You can obviously chose a non-gluten free cake mix in yellow, white, or even chocolate, for your preparation! I highly recommend baking the cake the night before you need it, and if using a spring form, to let it cool in the pan overnight. A cool cake is the key to nice smooth layers, especially when baking gluten-free!

But enough about that, let’s get to the important part - strawberries and chocolate. Inside the cake, you have two fillings - glazed berries and a chocolate strawberry whipped cream. Outside, a pink tinted buttercream and a coating of chocolate ganache. I will walk you through the ingredients in the order that I prepared them.

Glazed Strawberries
While I made these the next morning, you could easily prepare this filling while your cake is baking.

You will need:
2 1/2 Cups of Strawberries
1/4 Cup of Sugar
1/4 Cup of Water
1 Tablespoon of Corn Starch

You will need two cups of thin sliced strawberries - you can prepare them before starting the glaze, or while it is cooking, if you like to multitask!

For the glaze:
Dice strawberries until you fill a 1/2 cup measuring spoon.
Put the strawberries into a small saucepan and crush them with a fork.
Add 1/4 cup of water to the pan and place it over medium heat.
Cook this mixture for two minutes and remove from heat.
Pour the mixture through a strainer and collect the juice in a small mixing bowl.
The remaining crushed berries can be thrown away, and the juice poured back into the pan.
Mix 1/4 cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon of corn starch with a bit of warm water to make a rue.
Mix the rue into your strawberry juice mixture.
Cook until thick and clear. (See below)

Make sure to stir almost constantly while the mixture is thickening so that it cooks evenly. Once it reaches the above consistency and color, remove it from the stove and allow it to cool slightly. After the glaze has had a chance to cool, pour it over your two cups of sliced strawberries. This mixture will form the filing to your cake. In my case, I had plenty left over which made a great breakfast over pancakes today. I almost imagine it’d make a good ice cream topping.

Chocolate Strawberry Whipped Cream
I have made this recipe previously as a simple strawberry whipped cream and it was to die for - so feel free to exclude the chocolate if you would like!

You will need: 
1 Cup Heavy Whipped Cream
1/3 Cup Sugar
1 Tsp Vanilla
5 - 6 Tablespoons of Chopped Strawberries
Cocoa (to taste)

Chop your strawberries into very tiny pieces. You can do this by hand or with a food processor.
Beat the heavy cream and vanilla until it begins to thicken. I use a hand mixer at high speed.
Add in the sugar. Continue beating until it reaches the consistency you’d like.
Sprinkle in cocoa powder (no more than 1tsp at a time) and beat. (Do this to taste.)
After the whipped cream is down, fold in your chopped strawberries.

Keep the whipped cream refrigerated until you are ready to fill your cake. I don’t recommend making the whipped cream the night before, especially during the humid, hot, summer.

Buttercream Frosting
If you want to make your frosting from scratch, I recommend using a “quick” buttercream.

You will need: (per batch)
3 Cups of Confectioners Sugar
1 Cup of Butter (softened)
1 Teaspoon of Vanilla
2 Tablespoons of Milk
Food coloring (optional)

Using a hand mixer, beat the butter until it is light and fluffy.
Add the sugar and beat for three minutes.
Add vanilla and milk and beat on a medium speed for a minute.
Add food coloring to your preference - start with one or two drops.
Beat on high speed for three minutes.

I find it helpful to take a bit of the icing and add extra milk so that you can crumb coat your cake more easily.

At this point... You’ll want to put the cake together. I did so in the following way:

Take your bottom layer of cake and spread a very thin layer of icing (crumb coat texture, if you have it) across the top. Then, pipe a ring of icing around the rim of the circle - you can use a ziploc bag with a hole in the corner. This helps your filling from oozing over the sides of the cake and into your outside icing. I filled the first layer with whipped cream. Repeat the icing steps for your next layer and then add the glazed strawberries. Make sure you make the filling layers even so that your cake will not lean. Finally, add the top cake layer and coat the entire cake with a crumb coat of icing. Then, take your thicker buttercream and ice the cake. I have found that it works well to place the cake (still attached to the spring form bottom) on a bowl to help with icing the sides of the sake. I then used the back of the chef’s knife shown below to smooth the sides and top - run it under cool water every few “swipes” to give the icing a smooth finish. I put the cake in the fridge while making the ganache so that everything had a chance to cool and settle into place.

Chocolate Ganache
This is perhaps my favorite part of this cake - especially because I used the extra ganache to make chocolate covered strawberries, yum.

You will need:
4 oz. of Bittersweet Chocolate
(I used a Ghirardelli baking bar for my chocolate and kept 1 square out for decoration.)
1/2 Cup of Heavy Cream
1/4 Cup of Light Corn Syrup
2 Tsp of Vanilla

Chop your chocolate into small pieces as shown above.
Place the chocolate in a medium size mixing bowl.
Heat cream over medium heat until it begins simmering.
Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and whisk until smooth.
Then, add the vanilla and corn syrup and continue to mix.

You will want to allow the ganache to cool for a few minutes before pouring it over your cake. To get dripped edges, start in the middle of the cake and adjust accordingly.

For decoration:
I simply sliced strawberries length wise and placed them in overlapping circles around the top of the cake. I then used the end piece of strawberry for the middle.

To make chocolate shavings, I simply used a vegetable peeler to shave the Ghirardelli square.

Overall, I think it was a successful recipe and everyone seemed to enjoy it. The balance of chocolate and strawberry was nice - I used a yellow cake which helped offset some of the sweetness but it would be good as a chocolate cake, too. Another benefit was that most of the ingredients I already had in my pantry - I only purchased a chocolate bar, strawberries and a cake mix. Plus, these fillings and frostings can also be used for a wide variety of other cakes and treats!

What desserts remind you of summertime?