Friday, January 28, 2011

Oh Baby!

I have to admit when my friend Page first sent her email with her request my initial reaction was you want me to do what?  See, I love when people ask me to do photographs for them – engagement photos, headshots, babies, just for fun… there’s nothing I love more than being behind my camera lens.  So I was excited that Page was asking Jamie and I if we’d be willing to come photograph her new baby…but a little nervous that she was asking us to photograph her brand new baby.  Like, arriving into the world brand-new.  Jamie and I both readily agreed, but even on the way to the hospital the night that Page was being induced we were a bundle of excitement and nerves.  Where would we stand?  Would we be in the way?  Would we capture the perfect moments of this incredibly amazing moment in this family’s life?  Would we ever decide to have children of our own after witnessing childbirth for the first time? 

I don’t want to share too many details, because this is Page’s story, not mine.  But it was truly an incredible experience in my life, and I just can’t get over how thankful I feel that Page invited us to share this moment in her family’s life.  I was in tears myself when the delivering physician, Page’s hubby himself, told his wife the news that their bundle of joy was going to wrapped in a pink blanket.  Of all the moments I’ve ever captured with my finger on the shutter release, Page’s reaction at learning she was the momma of a little girl is my all time favorite. 

I’ve obviously never seen a baby who is merely seconds old, and my breath was captured by her perfection.  Matt has told me many times that being in medicine, contrary to what you might think about it being all scientific, has only further cemented his belief that we are creatures of God’s design.  Witnessing this intersection of science and miracle, I suddenly perfectly understood what he means by that. 

And amazingly, all the fears that I have had about going through childbirth (which have been many) have actually diminished by witnessing it.  I will forever be indebted to this family for inviting Jamie and I into this moment of their life.  Happy Birthday, sweet Faye and welcome to the world.  Just to give you a heads up, you’re in really good hands for the life journey ahead of you. 


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Tomato Soup: I’m Obsessed.

Something fortuitous happened to me this week.  I had been couponing a little too aggressively and as a result, I ended up with 7 cans of crushed or diced tomatoes on my shelf.  I don’t really like stockpiling food, and all these cans of tomatoes were bugging me.  Since I don’t really care for pasta dishes, I wasn’t sure how I was going to use up all the tomatoes.  I went to AllRecipes to do a search by ingredients for crushed tomatoes when I came up on this recipe for Tomato Basil Soup.

It’s no secret I love tomato soup.  But I’ve gotten picky.  I don’t really care for the Campbell’s condensed version (although in a pinch, it will do… especially if there is grilled cheese to dunk in it.)  My craving is best satiated by Panera’s version – slightly creamy, a little hint of basil, and great tomato chunk texture.  This recipe looked like a perfect replica. 

I only made a half batch to see if I liked it, and I made a few tweaks by cutting back some of the butter that seemed extraneous.  It was so good.  I know exactly where the rest of those canned tomatoes are headed. 

Here’s the half-batch recipe (made 4 1 cup servings), with my tweaks.  You can still see the original in the link above:

  • 1 (28 oz) can of crushed tomatoes
  • 8 oz chicken broth
  • 10 basil leaves, minced**
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 T butter

**I didn’t have fresh basil on hand but I had minced, frozen basil on hand.  I get it in the freezer section of Harris Teeter.  This is the brand I use.


How to:

1. Add the can of crushed tomatoes to the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.


2. Add basil and sugar.  Reduce heat to low and stir in cream and butter.  Stir until butter has melted.


3. Serve with homemade croutons!  (See below).


Homemade Croutons

This isn’t really even a recipe… just a quick how to.  Cut up any stale bread into bite sized pieces.  Put in a ziploc bag and add just a drizzle of olive oil.  Add any type of seasoning you want (I like just a pinch of salt and dried basil).  Pour on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 10 minutes.  Flip, and bake for another 10 minutes.  They’ll keep in a tupperware or plastic bag for about a week.



Enjoy!  I apologize in advance to Panera on Penny Rd.  You will probably see a substantial drop in your tomato soup business now.


(Oh hey, stats!  In case you’re counting.  Per 1 cup serving: 217 cals, 14.5g fat, 628 mg sodium, 6g fiber, 6g protein.  Croutons will depend on how much bread and OO you use.  I used 3 oz bread + 2 T olive oil.  Per serving (4 svgs): 116 cals.) 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

She Writes Her Name

On a wall in my living room hangs a rural scene
A structure so sturdy in a field so serene
The brush stroke that rendered the settings precise
Its value incomparable to any asking price
I imagine the artist as she selected the frame
And in the lower right corner, she signed her name

A painter, a quilter, a gardener and cook
Her talents have always demanded a look
But her greatest creation hangs not on a wall
Nor covers a bed or grows in soil so tall
Its cultivation took years and hard work and love
And support of someone who smiles down from above

Her masterpiece can't be seen, touched nor heard
Its description requires more than a word
There are seven in fact that she gave herself to
Gave love and belief in all that they do
That first clan has flourished to nine and twenty
From New York to Georgia, love and laughter are plenty

The artist's hand, both gentle and sure
Has created a piece that through time will endure
I imagine the artist as upon us she gazes
I wonder if she will ever fully hear all our praises
Just like her name on that lower right side
Her name and her touch we all carry with pride

written 12/25/07 for Grandma


On Monday morning, I came back in for a run and saw I had missed a call from my Mom. No one ever calls at 5:30 am with good news, so I had a feeling I knew why she was calling.

My Grandma was, as my Aunt Patty put it, the original superwoman. She had 5 kids by the time she was 25, and added two more to the clan a few years later. She could do anything around the house, and she was creatively talented as well. She could paint a masterpiece inspired by a pot of flowers sitting on her kitchen table while a carrot cake from scratch baked in the oven, and finish it off by hand stitching a quilt for someone's Christmas gift. We ran into one of her best friends at the grocery store today, and woman who had known her for more than 60 years, and she told us that she used to iron diapers. I'm honestly not surprised.

My Grandma was a fiercely independent and extraordinary competent, but she wasn't what you would call a "warm and fuzzy" woman. In fact, my siblings and I often quote one of her most famous lines spoken to my brother one Christmas a few years ago when the cousins took over cooking. "Michael, this bruschetta is terrible."

You could trust Grandma to always tell it like it is, like it or not. She may not have always been right, but I can assure you, she was never wrong. Her love was not doled regularly in platitudes, but measured in acts of service - a pot roast delivered to your fridge, a hand painted Christmas card, a made from scratch Boston Creme pie every birthday, a washer and dryer found for a struggling young mother. Grandma's love language was doing, and if you were listening for that, she never stop speaking it.

When I had been out running on Monday, I saw a shooting star drop from the sky. I literally stopped in my tracks and said "Buddy, LOOK!" (He didn't, of course, as he was much more interested in dislocating my shoulder in an attempt to sniff a nearby tree.) I'd never seen one before and I was awestruck for a second at how bright it burned, yet fell so quickly and disappeared. Once it was gone, there was no physical evidence that indicated it's path - just my memory of it.

When we gathered on Saturday to say our good-byes and remember her life, I think we all felt a bit like I had felt on that street corner Monday morning.

Gone are any physical reminders of the path of this fiery, bright life. Now we stand together, a bit bewildered, reminding one another of all the memories that we collectively share that prove that she was there, she touched each one of us, she burned a path through this Universe.

Goodbye, Grandma. We will miss you, and your love will burn brightly in our hearts.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2010: Year in Review

This is my 3rd year filling this out (see: 2008 and 2009 here if you want) and every year I love taking the hour or so it takes me to write it to just think back to what’s transpired in the past year, and my expectations and hopes for the future year. To give credit where credit is due, I originally found it on this blog.

1. What did you do in 2010 that you’d never done before?
Traveled to California. Twice. Made sushi. Got air on the wakeboard. Hosted Christmas. Took engagement photos. Twice. Took a yoga class.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I didn’t post my resolutions anywhere public, but I had jotted these down at the end of last year and stuck them in my journal. I came across them a few weeks ago. Here’s how I did:

- Try yoga: I took a beginner’s class with Anne and Crystal in January. I liked it, but never did anything after our 5 classes were up.

- Shoot more people: I do believe I meant photograph more people… and if so, I did this. I shot Katie and Dylan’s engagement photos, and Jess and Charlie’s. Jamie and I also spent an afternoon doing headshots of each other. I loved every moment of these shoots, and I definitely want to do more in 2011.

- Try 12 different wines: I am 100% certain I achieved this goal.

- Make my blog look the way I wanted it to: I made my blog look the way I wanted it to (well, actually, my friend Heather did.) But I still have two blogs floating out there – my and this one – and I haven’t really figured out how to reconcile the two.

- Exert the willpower to be kind: I honestly did try to keep my mouth shut whenever I felt like I was going to gossip or judge. I can’t say that I always did this, but I know I was more conscious of it than I had been in the past.

- Read the books I have: I only bought two new books this year, and I made a good effort to read the ones I had borrowed or bought before. I didn’t read all of them, and I returned a few that I knew I probably wasn’t going to.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes! This was quite the year of babies. Let’s see… I’ll apologize in advance if I’ve gotten birth months wrong. My grad school friend Ellen welcomed twins Haley and Spencer in January. Jamie’s Aunt Gig and Uncle Jon, who Matt and I want to adopt as our own family members after visiting in Utah and Toronto, brought Georgia into the world at the end of January. My cousin Danielle had her fourth(!!), a little girl named Riley in February. Another Baltimore friend, Katie, had her sweet Madelyn in February as well. My bloggy friend Kathryn introduced us to precious Quinn in September, and I love getting to see his days captured in her amazing photography. Another blog/Twitter friend Lindsay had her sweet Claire in March, and I love the CC updates via good ol’ Twitpic. Our residency friends Tim and Crystal had their little boy in November, and that was especially fun because she’s the first friend I’ve ever lived in the same place while they were pregnant. I even got to hold baby Ethan when he was just 10 hours old. And lastly, our next door neighbors Clay and Mindy welcomed their Christmas gift, Mason James, into their lives just 2 weeks ago. 9 babies? That’s a lot of diapers being changed in 2010.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
One of my research participants passed away, quite unexpectedly, in late summer.

5. What countries did you visit?
My passport sat in the safe deposit box for the entirety of 2010. Now that’s just sad.

6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?
More appreciation for the present moment. Starbucks gift cards. More locally grown food.

7. What dates from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Feb 14th – my baby sis called to tell me she was engaged

Sept 13th – first day of my new job

Sept 18th – ran my 3rd half marathon

Oct 30th – my Jessie K got married

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Tripling the number of coaching clients I had in 2009. Finished writing my book. (Don’t ask me what the next step is. Unless you know what the next step is, then tell me.) Interviewing and getting a new job. Was I supposed to choose one?

9. What was your biggest failure?
Not being more in the moment / wishing time would hurry up.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I did not. 2010 was healthy – my colitis was in remission and I made it through half marathon training with just a few aches and pain. Very thankful for this.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
an iPad for my hubby, a bunch of delicious wine in Sonoma County and lift tickets in Park City

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
My hard-working husband. I am hoping that in our 4th year of marriage his “never complain” policy will finally rub off on me. He was also super supportive when I was going through a rough patch earlier this year, he’s not afraid to use a vacuum and he never erases The Office or The Soup off the DVR before I’ve watched it. How could you not celebrate that?

Also, those Chilean miners were pretty awesome too this year, eh?

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Dooce taught us all an important lesson on “topics of which we shall not blog.” Moving on.

14. Where did most of your money go?
According to, Harris Teeter and Wells Fargo Mortgage.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Jess’ wedding. Travels to California and Utah. Hosting our Christmas party for the 3rd time. Running on the Lowe’s Motor Speedway for my half. (Which turned out to be not nearly as exciting as one would hope.)

16. What song will always remind you of 2010? Free by Zac Brown Band. Anything by the Glee cast (sorry co-workers.) Forget You (or you know, that other version) by Cee-Lo.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:a) happier or sadder?b) thinner or fatter?c) richer or poorer?
a) I wouldn’t say sadder, but I feel like this year had some growing pains for me. Martially and socially, I am happier than ever. I have been healthy, which always begets happy. Professionally, it was just a challenging year in many ways and I feel a little ruffled from that still… but not sadder. Maybe just pensive and hopeful about change and what’s to come. b) Thinner, considering this time last year I was on prednisone. Hello, chipmunk cheeks. (Otherwise, the same.) c) Slightly richer, thanks to no longer working in the public sector.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Traveled. Wrote. Prayed. Listened. Blogged. Took pictures of people (not just food.)

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Complained. Judged. Whined. Cleaned out Buddy’s crate.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
My in-laws came up on Christmas Eve for dinner and exchanging gifts. I spent Christmas Day like a regular Saturday – folding laundry, cleaning, working out – while Matt went to work. My parents and brother came on Sunday, Katie and Dylan came on Tuesday and we did “Claffey Christmas” on Tuesday night.

21. Did you fall in love in 2010? I think it’s fair to say I went head over heels for a little house named “Jimtown” located in Sonoma County. I just pray that it’s not an unrequited love, and I shall see my beloved again one day. (Too dramatic?)

22. What was your favorite TV program?
Glee and How I Met Your Mother

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
I will be really disappointed in myself if I ever answer yes to this question – I’d like to make it a lifelong goal to never feel hatred towards someone. Yuck. (So the answer is: no.)

24. What was the best book you read?
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. The Hunger Games series.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Vampire Weekend (I heard them on M+K’s blog, loaded them into Pandora and fell in love.) Zac Brown Band. Phoenix. A Fine Frenzy.

26. What did you want and get?
A new job. A new camera lens. To be healthy again.

27. What did you want and not get?
Work from home privileges. Buddy to chill out. Frye boots.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
The Blind Side. (It was excellent, although to be fair I only saw that and Eclipse this year in the theater.)

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
28! We went down to Myrtle Beach for a few days, and then came back to Winston and met friends out at Foothills.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
A hefty dose of patience and maybe a less anxious dog.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?
Ann Taylor Loft + Ebay/Goodwill + Target. Skinny jeans with flats or riding boots. Lots of scarves.

32. What kept you sane?
My hubby, gratitude journaling, wine, best friends, monthly wine nights with best friends, my mom, running.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I fancy Oprah, with a side of Jamie Oliver.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
I don’t really follow politics because it puts me in a bad mood, but I have to say I am scratching my head that we’re still debating gay marriage. I’m quite certain we’re going to look back at this issue in 20 years and think we were ridiculous for not making it legal sooner.

35. Who did you miss?
My parents, my siblings, and far-flung friends.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
I can’t remember if it was the end of last year or early this year, but we met our friends Kate and Charlie through our friends Anne and Locke, and I’m thankful for our friendship with them. I’ll be doing my best to make sure they intend to be townies for life like us.

I also met a number of friends through Twitter first, and then in real life. I love when social media turns real life social.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010.
Happiness is an act of purpose, a result of intentional thinking. It doesn’t just happen and it’s not about luck or circumstance. And it’s not about stuff that happened in the past or is going to happen in the future, it’s about being grateful and present in the right this moment now. I do intend to carry that lesson with me firmly into 2011.

La Jolla Kayak

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Hello, 2011!


Should old acquaintance be forgot and ne’er brought to mind…?

(Um, no?  I should hope not.  I must say I never quite understood how such a sad song became the way we kick off each New Year.)

We rang in 2011 with good friends and a good meal.  The Meyers hosted our little gang for a potluck dinner.  As we ate, we all discussed how happy we were to be in a cozy home with good friends instead of corralled on a cold New York City street with strangers and porta-potties. At midnight, we gathered round to count down for the big drop.  Happy 2011!