Friday's Fancies | Labor Day Weekend

We have NO plans for this weekend.  This is big, y'all.  I don't have another open weekend until mid-October.  We might go up to Petaluma, we might do some fun stuff here in the city, who knows.  We can do whatever we want and we can wait to make a game-time decision.  It's a lovely feeling.

I do know that, whatever we end up doing, I wish I had this awesome outfit to wear while doing it.  It's the kind of outfit I'd wear multiple days in a row if I knew I wouldn't see the same people.  (Don't even laugh - you know you do it, too.)  How cute are those shoes?  And I have an Anthro gift card burning a hole in my wallet.  I've got my eye on you, raglan top!

1. Diamond raglan
2. Frayed Fedora
3. Moonrise Necklace
4. Michael Kors watch
5. Midrise Toothpick jeans
6. Oxford flats

On a completely unrelated note - The Boyfriend is watching Project Runway with me right now.  During a commercial break, he turns to me and says:

"I have an idea for a reality tv show. 
I'd get a camera crew to follow Tim Gunn around to after parties and bars and stuff and capture when he stumbles out wasted and reeking of cigarettes.
Then I'd follow him as someone takes him home and puts him to bed because he's so drunk.
And you know what I'd call it?
Gunn Control."



Roasted Tomato & Garlic Soup

We had 4.5 lbs of tomatoes in our latest CSA delivery.  That's a lot of tomatoes.  And they're organic so they don't really last very long.  What the heck do you do with all those tomatoes?  Well, you make soup!

Jackie recently sent me this tasty tomato soup recipe she found in Gourmet magazine (August 2009 issue).  It is quite possibly the best tomato soup I've ever had.  The Boyfriend kept grunting and mumbling while eating it the other night and, in between the mmm's and yum's, he said it was better than soup in a restaurant.  I have to agree.  It was pretty freakin' delish.

You should know this took a long time to make.  It was almost three hours from the time I started slicing the tomatoes till the soup was served and I was sitting down to eat.  Granted, I'm slow in the kitchen but still... that's a long time.  At least we had leftovers for lunch the next day!

What You Need:
- 4 lbs. tomatoes, halved lengthwise
- 6 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 tsp. Italian Seasoning
- 2 tsp sugar
- 2 tbs butter
- 3 cups chicken broth
- olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
- sour cream & fresh basil for garnish

What You Do:
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
2. Arrange the tomatoes in a large baking dish, cut side up.  Add the garlic cloves to the pan then drizzle the tomatoes and garlic cloves with olive oil.  Season with salt & pepper.  (I used two Pyrex dishes for this step.)
The yellow tomato looks like Pac Man.
3. Roast the tomatoes and garlic for 1 hour then let them cool in the pan.  Remove garlic cloves and peel.

4. In a large stock pot, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter.  Add the onions, Italian seasoning, and sugar then cook till the onions are tender (about 8 minutes).  Be careful not to let the onions caramelize - you just want them to get soft, not brown.
5. Add the peeled garlic cloves and tomatoes - juices and all - to the onion mixture.  I basically just dumped all the contents of the pans into the stock pot, including the oil and tomato juices.
6. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.
7. Remove soup from heat and let cool just a bit.  Puree in the blender in batches then force through a sieve to strain out the seeds.  Simmer again for 2 minutes and add salt & pepper to taste.
8. Garnish with a spoonful of sour cream and fresh basil then enjoy!


Wise Words

What rules will you break today?



Weekend Snippets

The Boyfriend's cousin (aka my quasi cousin-in-law) got married this weekend!  The wedding was on Saturday but we made a full weekend of it up in Sonoma.  I may have enjoyed the rehearsal dinner just a liiiiiitle too much and paid the price the next day.  My 30-year old body just ain't what it used to be.  But it's okay because a) my abs were so sore the next day (yes... from puking) that I consider it a default workout and b) I used the lost calories as an excuse to eat three slices of pizza and a cake pop for dinner.  Such a healthy weekend.

I made a conscious (and very difficult) decision not to take my camera to the wedding because I wanted to actually be in the moment and enjoy it.  When I'm shooting a wedding, I'm constantly on alert and scanning the room for those special moments that tell a story.  But I'm observing it as an outsider, documenting what's happening in front of me rather than fully experiencing it.  So I shot the bridal prep and, once we all headed out for the church, I left the camera at home.  It was tough -and I cheated a bit by snapping a few with my phone- but it definitely made for a different experience.

Also, I felt like crap and probably wouldn't have done a very good job anyway.  I went with bold lips & a hot date to distract from the pale skin & sleepy eyes...

Thanks to our CSA share, I'll be able to recoup all those lost nutrients with plenty of fresh fruits and veggies.  I think I want to make a simple tomato sauce with all those organic tomatoes so if you have any recipe suggestions, please send them my way (I'm looking at you Marissa...). :)

How was your weekend?


The Revelation

I shot a wedding at a beautiful location last weekend.  It was an old art deco theatre built in 1929.  It was almost overwhelmingly gorgeous.  My clients love to go to the theatre so the venue suited them perfectly.

Some of my clients get married in beautiful locations.  Some of them get married in just fine locations.  Whatever aesthetic the location may have, they chose it because it meant something to them.  This realization was an important one for me because when I shoot, I'm drawn to people and relationships, not the places they're in.  I want to see the way a groom looks at his bride for the first time.  I want to see the look on a mother's face when she hugs her newly-married son.  So a lot of my photos are focused on the people and their interactions rather than the space that surrounds them.

But the space that surrounds them can be just as important as those relationships.  It's an expression of who they are at that moment, whether it's an art deco theatre or they're childhood backyard.  Granted, there are times when a location is chosen more for budgetary reasons but doesn't that also speak to who you are at that point in your lives?  In thirty years, when you're looking back through your wedding album, you'll think fondly about where you began and how much your life has changed since.

I realized that, in addition to capturing the people and relationships at a wedding, I also needed to embrace the space.  The space is a key component in the story of a wedding day.  Rather than ignoring the location -or worse, fighting against it- I needed to embrace it.

And then, the revelation came.  I've written before about my insecurities in this little adventure.  I'm pretty hard on myself when it comes to my work.  I constantly criticize myself and nit-pick every little thing that's less than perfect.  Only recently have I even thought about trying to make that criticism constructive.  Since photography has been a passion of mine for nearly 15 years, I expect myself to perform like a seasoned pro.  But the reality is, I've only been a wedding photographer for less than a year.

I need to embrace the space between where I am and where I aim to be.  Only then will I have room to grow.  If I'm constantly plagued with anxiety over meeting some unrealistic expectation, I won't be able to focus on strengthening my weaknesses in a positive way.  Every mistake or misstep is a learning opportunity but only if I'm able to see it as such.  By embracing the space, I can be fully present in where I am as a photographer and business owner and take positive strides to where I want to go.  Can't take a step forward if I'm constantly looking back, right?

Embrace the space.

Those three little words are my new life motto.


Friday's Fancies | Summer Sunset

There was a time when I used to get excited about Fridays because it meant I would get two full days away from work and the office.  Now I get excited about Fridays because it usually means I get two full days of work.  How crazy is that?  These two cute little lovebirds are tying the knot tomorrow and I can't wait to photograph it!  Not only are they getting married at an awesome venue, they're also tons of fun to hang out with so I know we'll have a blast.

Speaking of shooting (like that transition?), one of my favorite times of day to shoot is at sunset.  So when I saw that Summer Sunset was the theme for this week's Friday's Fancies, I got just a tad too excited.  Now, I know at first sight the outfit doesn't look much like sunset but I was more inspired by the light at sunset rather than the colors.   

Just imagine the beautiful, warm, golden sunlight seeping through the lace dress, illuminating all the floral details.  Simple sandals and cuff keep the outfit more boho chic than boho hippie and, of course, sleek aviators shield your eyes from all that buttery sunlight.

1. Pinta cuff
2. Lace dress
3. Golden Rolled sandals
4. Michael Kors aviators

Happy Weekend!!!


Zucchini Walnut Bread

We got some squash and zucchini this week as part of our CSA share so I decided to make some zucchini bread.  After consulting a few cookbooks, I finally found a recipe that looked like I could adapt it to suit what I had on hand.  The result is a perfectly moist, ever-so-slightly sweet bread that makes for a great breakfast, afternoon snack, or dessert!

What You Need:
- 1.5 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 c. sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 c. canola oil
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1.5 to 2 c. grated zucchini and/or yellow summer squash
- 1 c. chopped walnuts

What You Do:
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x5-in. loaf pan.  I usually just spray a very light coat of Pam for Baking in the pan and leave it at that.

2. Shred your zucchini and/or squash then chop up the walnuts.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon.

3. In a separate large bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, vanilla, oil, and salt.

4. Stir in the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined.  Then fold in the shredded veggies and chopped walnuts.  Pour bread batter into your loaf pan and bake for 45-50 minutes or until the bread starts to pull away from the sides of the pan.

5. Cool on a rack for about 10 minutes then flip pan upside down.  The loaf should just slide out.  Turn it right side up and let it cool completely on the rack.

6. Slice it up and enjoy!  I melted a little bit of butter (for the photos, of course) but the bread is delicious and moist all on its own.



Wise Words

If you could live life exactly as you pleased for one day, what would you do?  I'd fly to France, eat macarons from LadurĂ©e, and spend the day people-watching and photo-making.


Thank You, Anonymous

I love reading comments from you guys.  I love responding to them, too.  I especially love when there's an email address connected to your Google profile so I can actually write back to you.  But lately, I've received quite a few comments from anonymous users and, since they're anonymous, there's no way for me to really respond.  So I thought I'd take the time to do it now.

To Anonymous #1 (a.k.a. A1) who said:

I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you make this website yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you? Plz reply as I'm looking to design my own blog and would like to know where u got this from. thanks

Technically, I did not make the website myself.  Google did.  But I did the design for the blog all by myself.  I'd love to give you more details, A1, especially since you specifically requested a reply, but I can't.  You a) commented anonymously and b) left no means for me to actually respond.  If I knew where you lived, I could send smoke signals, but I don't so this will have to do.

To A2, who saw this Weekend Snippets post and said:

wonderful submit, very informative. I ponder why the
other experts of this sector don't notice this. You should continue your writing. I'm confident, you've a huge readers' base already!

You know what, A2?  I ponder that all the time!  I'm so flattered you think the other experts of weekend summaries should take note.  Maybe I'll submit my snippets for publication in the internationally acclaimed Journal of Weekend Summaries.*

To A3, who wrote:

I must thank you for the efforts you've put in penning this site. I really hope to view the same high-grade blog posts by you in the future as well. In fact, your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my very own blog now ;)

That is actually a pretty sweet comment.  And A3 left a link to a site about traveling.  But the comment was on one of my San Diego recaps which has about 5 sentences and 20 photos.  Not much 'penning' going on in that post.  Unless 'creative writing abilities' actually means creatively arranging a bunch of photos.  But, in the off chance that it was not a spam comment, I do appreciate the kind words.

All three of these came within 24 hours of each other so I'm pretty sure they're spam.  Or Anonymous is the same person and just killed time by reading my whole blog.  Anything is possible, really.

Any interesting or amusing anonymous comments on your blog lately?
*Not a real journal, folks.


Weekend Snippets

Happy Monday everyone!  My sense of time was all thrown off this weekend.  I was basically off by a day.  I woke up Friday thinking it was Thursday, then spent most of Saturday thinking it was Friday.  For all I know, today is actually Sunday.  Or Tuesday.  What do I know?

Saturday was our day to sort for our CSA ("community sustained agriculture").  It's not a bad gig, really.  Everyone who participates in the CSA alternates weekends for sorting so in the six months that we receive fresh fruits and veggies, we only have to do the sort on three Saturdays.  This weekend was a big delivery, too.  We had bell peppers, tomatoes, corn, lettuces, radishes, eggplant, garlic, basil, carrots, onions, potatoes, peaches, plums, cantaloupe, blueberries, green beans - and that's just what I remember off the top of my head!  We weren't even half-way through the sort when I took this photo.  The baskets were overflowing by the end.  Everything looked so delicious we had a hard time deciding what to eat for dinner!

On Sunday, I had a maternity shoot with this lovely mommy-to-be.  We got a lot of great shots (including some with daddy-to-be) and I can't wait to share them with you soon!

The rest of the weekend was spent working - lots and lots of photos to edit.  Luckily my job is pretty mobile so I did a little bit of it from bed.  It's one of the perks of self-employment. :)

How was your weekend?



Awkward & Awesome

- After I left the gym yesterday, I made a quick stop at the post office.  I was standing in line, waiting patiently, when all of a sudden I got a whiff of some nasty b.o.  I had an internal freak out because I thought it was me.  I mean, I did just leave the gym.  But then I noticed that the smell got stronger as some dude approached me.  It was a bittersweet moment.  The smell was definitely not coming from me, but I had to stand in line next to Smelly Man for almost 10 minutes.

- Molly is going for the gold in guinea pig gymnastics.  While running laps in her cage yesterday (something she does when she's really excited), she popcorned mid-lap.  Her happy little jump propelled her out of her cage and onto the little shelf we have above it.  When she landed, she froze -eyes wide with shock- and clearly had no idea what just happened.  Luckily I was right there to catch her before she fell back in!

- Overhearing The Boyfriend fight with our obnoxious printer.  He would probably put this in the Awkward category but it's pretty entertaining to hear this from the next room:

"What? Jam?  There's no jam in the machine."

(banging around as he double-checks for a paper jam)

"Ok, Printer.  I'm telling you, THERE IS NO JAM!!!"

"What?  Again? ... ugh, I hate you."

- Team USA!  Not only did Misty May & Kerri look amazeballs last night, but USA pulled ahead of China in the medal count.  And a lot of those medals belong to women athletes.  Holla!

- Speaking of holla, I have five little words for you.  Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.  I know, I know.  It's so bad, I can't even believe this is on TV right now.



The Impeccable Ms. Middleton

Kate Middleton's style is perfection.  If Lady Di, Jackie O, and J. Crew somehow had a child, she would be the Duchess.  WWKMD is my new shopping motto.

I just can't handle it.

You go, girlfriend.


Self-Employment | Month 7

Things have been so busy I haven't actually looked through my website since February.  Yeah, I go into the software to update the galleries and whatnot but I haven't gone to the actual site and viewed it the way a potential client would view it.  I know, bad business owner.  Well, I made up for that earlier this month.  I'm planning on releasing an updated site soon so I was scoping it out to see what to keep and what to eliminate.  In doing so, I felt something I never expected to feel - pride.

Since I haven't looked at it in a while, I was able to view my portfolio with a fresh set of eyes.  And you know what?   I liked it.  I actually was happy with what I saw.  I finally feel like I'm starting to come into my own as a photographer and discover my own style.  Sure, there's plenty of room for improvement.  Who doesn't need improvement?  I firmly believe we can never truly stop learning.  But I've come a long way since starting this journey last fall and I can see that difference when I look through my work.  That, to me, is key.  As long as I'm growing, I'm moving in the right direction.  Visible and measurable growth gives me a much needed confidence boost.

Please don't get me wrong - I know there is still a lot of work to do.  I know I need to continue reading everything I can about running a business, practicing editing techniques, pushing myself creatively, and shooting photos at every opportunity.  My weaknesses are no secret and I know what needs to be done to strengthen them.  And I don't mean to sound arrogant or egotistical, either, but if we can be honest with ourselves about the negatives in our lives, why can't we be equally honest about the positives?

This month, I've realized it's important to recognize what you've done - both good and bad.  We have a natural tendency to see all our flaws and beat ourselves up over them but we should be just as honest about our strengths.  The good can be hard to see sometimes with the bad and the ugly crowding it out.  But for me, this month was all about learning how to see the good and, you know what?  I'm happy to say, the good is looking pretty darn good to me.


Uncle John

Earlier this week, The Boyfriend's great-uncle passed away.  He'd been sick for a while so it wasn't completely unexpected but it's still a very sad time for the family.  He was a San Franciscan born-and-raised, World War II vet, and a devout Catholic who loved his family and had a great sense of humor.  (He was also our next door neighbor and the source of this yummy limoncello recipe.)

We had services to honor Uncle John yesterday but I wanted to share a little bit of him with you, too.  A few years ago, he and his wife (of 64 years!!!) were interviewed by a local news station about a little-known San Franciscan lie.  They're basically the cutest old couple ever so do yourself a favor and take a few minutes to watch this video of the news segment.  I promise you'll love it!

Rest in peace, Uncle John.


Good Reads | The Age of Desire & A Giveaway

When I first picked up The Age of Desire, all I knew was that it was a fictional story based on the life of Edith Wharton.  Now, I knew Edith Wharton was an author but I'd never actually read any of her works.  But that didn't matter to me.  I love historical fiction and this was historical fiction set in Paris.  Who can say no to that?  Not this girl.

What I didn't realize was, this was a romance novel.  No, not the 50 Shades of Grey type.  (If that's what you're in the mood for, then check out Edith's very own naughty bit of writing.)  I still haven't read 50 Shades but from what I understand, the writing is craptastic and the story is a bit convoluted.  The Age of Desire, on the other hand, is a beautifully written book with rich characters and vivid imagery (a result of author Jennie Fields' intensely dedicated research, no doubt).  And, yes, there is a little bit of sexy time in there - but it's the romantic type so it's okay.

Essentially, Edith undergoes a sexual awakening of sorts when she reaches middle-age and falls in love with a younger man.  Being a married woman, she's torn between her responsibilities to her marriage and her desire to follow her heart.  As you can imagine, this all makes for a very intriguing read.  Add to that the fact that, as Edith's marriage is falling apart, Edith's lifelong friendship with her secretary (and former governess) Anna is also on the brink.  Knowing that this was based on real people and real events just makes it all the more compelling.

And now, one of you lucky lovelies can check it out for yourself!  If you'd like to win your very own copy of The Age of Desire all you need to do is:

1) Be a follower of Big Mario Life
2) Leave a comment below letting me know one of your good reads this summer.

That's it!  Super simple.  If you want a few extra entries, you can also:

+ Tweet about this giveaway using @bigmariolife
+ Like Big Mario Life on Facebook
+ Follow me on Twitter
+ Follow me on Instagram

The giveaway will stay open until August 8th (one week from today) and the winner will be selected using random.org.  Oh, and be sure to leave a separate comment for each one of those extra entries! :)

To see a few other thoughts on the book (and for more giveaways), check out the reviews from the other book club ladies:
© Twentieth Street | All rights reserved.
Blog Design Handcrafted by pipdig