Williamsburg

I first moved out of state and away from the comforts of home and my family in 2003, and in the 12 years since that move I have been able to celebrate Christmas with my family, on Christmas, maybe two or three times.   When I reached out to my dad and brother in late summer I was highly doubtful that schedules would align to allow all of us to be together, here in Virginia, for Christmas but to my great delight they were both on board with making it happen!  It was such a wonderful low-key Christmas, just spending time with loved ones - so very special!

The first 11 years of my life moving every three years was my norm.  My dad served in the Army until I was in 6th grade, and during that time he was stationed in the DC area twice.  We definitely made the rounds to all the historic sites, museums, and cultural events the area has to offer when we were kids, but it has been close to 30 years since I've ventured out and visited most of them again.  Dad, being retired, decided to fly out about a week ahead of my brother and I was so excited when he mentioned he wanted to visit Williamsburg!  As a little girl, I was obsessed with all things involving times past - it didn't necessarily involve a certain time period, but if it meant wearing "old-time" clothes I was down!  Needless to say, Williamsburg was a wonderland for my costume loving little-self!

I hope you enjoy our day at Williamsburg, and if you'd like to check out our time at Jamestown, be sure to read this blog post.
 

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January 10 on 10

David and I have frequently planned trips around our love of wildlife photography.  It's not often that we remember to take in the historic opportunities our great state has to offer, making our trip to Williamsburg and Jamestown (with my dad) such a fun one!

I hope you enjoy a quick "tour" through the Jamestown Settlement, as seen by me!

This blog post is part of a 10 on 10 blog circle - 10 images documenting and sharing everyday life, shared on the 10th of every month.  Please continue on in the circle and visit the talented Lenka Vodicka, a photographer and creative, as she shares a glimpse inside her daily life!

Dinovember: Football

Happy Monday everyone!

First, let me apologize for not getting the Dinos to you yesterday.  They were so tuckered out from all the nuptial partying that this is how I found them.  I myself was so tired that I didn't find them until well after dinner.

This morning, was a different story.  After a good bit of rest, it appears the Dinos had tons of energy to blow off, and what better way to do it that a game of football.

Feeling too unsteady to play carpet football, the Dinos knocked over an old painting and decided to play canvas (arena) football. 

A bit of a bossy pants, Vlad insisted that he play quarter back.

Peder ran back and forth because he'd seen pro football players do this on the TV, and..why not?!

Brutus did his best to intimidate Bronte, but that only thing scary was his breath.

Vlad was all set to throw and touchdown pass...

...but realized his team was still just roaring and making a bunch of noise.  Maybe reviewing the rules of Football would have been a good idea.

Dinovember: Here Comes the Bride

We are gathered here today...

Tootsie and Vlad got married!!  Who knew that underneath their bickering and seemingly mutual dislike they were actually in love?!

So in love that this was not just a Dinos only affair, even the cat toys were invited.

Everyone was in awe of the beautiful veil to bride made herself, and loved that Vlad opted for an ascot over a bow tie.

Even Luciano, Placido, and Jose were on their best behavior.

Titus officiated.

And the smiles on Tootsie and Vlads faces lit up the room - they couldn't wait for Titus to say "You may now kiss your bride!"

And for the first time, I am proud to announce Mrs. Tootsie T-Rex and Mr. Vlad Velociraptor (Tootsie is keeping her last name)! 

Congratulations to the happy couple!

Dinovember: Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty

Folks, this is the scene that greeted me as I stumbled in to the kitchen first thing this morning.

Immediately I began to dread the worst - the Dinos had eaten all the cat food and we'd have to try and trick the cats in to eating something the never would. 

But as I got walked passed the open drawer, and my perspective on the scene changed I realize I was wrong.

I was prepared to be annoyed and frustrated with those Dinos and then I realized that they were, in fact, doing me a favor.  The weren't eating the food, they were feeding it to the cats!

Well, mostly feeding it to the cats.

Thanks for cover the back side of the drawer Luciano - it could have been disastrous had Velcro decided to jump up and join you guys!

While that fuzzy grey face melts my heart all the time, it was nice to have a break from his 2:00 am feeding call.  Thanks for giving me a break Dinos!

Dinovember: Limbo Time!

Every Limbo Dinosaur
All Around the Limbo World
Gonna do the Limbo Rock
All Around the Limbo Clock
(Chubby Checker "Limbo Rock")

The Dinos must have heard the oldies music I was playing the other night and felt some inspiration!  As I entered my office this morning I found that they had had a Limbo contest on my cutting table! 

The dancing must have been wild, as my button jar was knocked over.

Not one for dancing, Peder tried to get a game of soccer going.

A great time appeared to be had by all!

Dinovember: Gone Fishin'

Jealous of the beautiful weather the daylight hours bestowed on the humans, the Dinos took it upon themselves to enjoy a day at the fishin' hole.

Titus and Truman worked on their casting skills, rather than focus on how many fish they could catch. 

Luciano and Placido fought over who got to use the last fishing rod. Eventually they realized it was too big for either of them to use alone, so they partnered up to figure out how to team fish with one rod.

A small group protested, shouting the famous line from the movie Finding Nemo "Fish are friends, not food!"

Some how they had missed the memo that this was a catch and release trip, and in their protesting blocked Annie and Stegman from releasing the fish caught by Vlad, Tootsie, and Jose.

Rather than fish or protest, Gertrude chose to take a dip in the water.

A great time was had by all - even Vlad and Tootsie managed to put their differences aside and enjoy each others company.

Dinovember: Get out and Vote!

The Dinosaurs take their voting VERY seriously - all of them showed out to cast their votes in the local election.  Even Velcro the Cat showed up to help keep the order!

Vlad made sure all the Dinosaurs knew exactly where they could cast their votes.

Stewart proudly shared with others he had voted.

Tootsie and Peder were excited to be voting in their first elections!

The Dinosaurs want to make sure to remind you to go out and vote today!!

Dinovember is here!

Yesterday a package appeared on my doorstep while I was out running errands.  I didn't think twice about it, I was sure I had ordered some film and just had forgotten about it.  I brought the package in, set it on our kitchen island, and went about the rest day, completely forgetting to open the package.

This morning after sleeping in , a few text messages with my husband (he's out of town for work), and some cuddle time with our cats, I dragged myself out of bed and to the kitchen for a hot cup of coffee.  Imagine my surprise when I saw this:

Folks, DINOVEMBER IS HERE!  I can't begin to tell you how excited I am - I thought Dinovember was for for kids only; who knew that the dinosaurs with no homes make a point of finding a good home for themselves and having kids is not a requirement! I can't wait to see what adventures the go on in our home, and am praying they stay out of trouble! 

Check back daily to see what the Dumfries Dinosaurs are up to, or follow me on Facebook!

To learn more about Dinovember and it's creators make sure to visit the official Dinovember facebookpage.

Film

For the last three years I've had a pretty strong itch that needed some scratching...an itch called FILM.  In July, this beauty joined my camera arsenal.

I've had a lot of people look at me like I was crazy when I've expressed my desire to start shooting film.  Many have asked "Why?!?!" It's just one of those things that's really hard to express why.  Anyone love the sound of records over CD's or MP3's?  Or, how about, anyone prefer handmade over mass produced?  There's a quality to the product/music/photograph that you just can't duplicate (or duplicate easily).  And don't get me wrong, by quality I don't mean good or bad, high or low, I just mean a difference.

Loading my first roll of film in to the camera took forever, and then trying to decide what was worthy of one of the 16 shots I had on each roll was painful. I wanted to make sure every shot counted.  I slowed down, I looked at my subject from different angles, and then made a decision whether to push the shutter release button or not.  My first roll of film took two trips to Chincoteague to finish.  My second roll of film took about 45 minutes to shoot thanks to my awesome sister-in-law who is always willing to be a model when I'm trying some new technique or gear out!

After what felt like weeks and weeks of waiting, I finally got an email from the lab saying that my scans were ready to download. I help my breath as I downloaded everything to my computer and opened up the files.  I was certain none of the frames I shot would be keepers, but I was wrong.  I was over the moon to see that my patience shooting paid off, rather than one or two keepers from each roll, there were only one or two discards.  There's definitely room for improvement, but for my first rolls of film shot in nearly 20 years, I'm pretty proud of myself.

Stay tuned, more film images are in the works!

Homemade Pho

It's hard to believe that fall is here!  Although the days are still warm, for the most part, there is a noticeable difference in the air.  One of the things I love most about living on the east coast is having four seasons, and like so many, fall is definitely my favorite time of year.  Pumpkin flavor seems to top many peoples palates as the days begin to cool, but for me, it's all about soup, stew, and hearty warm meals.

So...hearty and Pho may not go together for many people, but for those of you who are Pho lovers, I think you can understand why I love Pho in the winter (I actually can eat this year round).  I am so thankful for the Pho truck that visits my office during the colder months, as well as the nearby Vietnamese restaurant that I can grab my co-worker and head off to for a soothing warm lunch, but I am definitely lacking a great place for Pho close to my home.  Part of me loves that delicious Pho is not convenient to my home - it makes it a special treat, but part of me knows that when I want Pho, I want Pho now!

After doing a little research and trying my hand a making my own Pho, I think I've come up with a great homemade recipe.  Let me stress, this is just a great substitute and not the real thing.  What makes Pho so incredibly delicious is the broth and authentic broth takes a lot of time to make and ingredients I don't keep stocked in my kitchen at all times.  That said, the flavor of this homemade Pho definitely scratches my itch for Pho when it's not close enough to go out for.

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups beef broth (4 cups for your soup broth, 1 cup for cooking your chicken)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 sweet yellow onion, cut in to large pieces (I cut mine in to 4 large pieces)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 whole star anise (if you like anise flavor, add another half or whole piece)
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 thumb length size knob of ginger (roughly 1 ½ - 2 inches), sliced into coins
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 1 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1/2 package pho rice noodles
  • 1 chicken breast, sliced very thinly *
  • Fresh basil and cilantro, bean sprouts, lime wedges, slicedgreen onion, and sliced jalapenos to garnish your soup with.

Directions:
In a large pot stir together 4 cups of broth, 2 cups of water, onion, garlic, star anise, cloves, ginger, cinnamon stick, fish sauce, soy sauce, and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and let simmer for at least 30 minutes.

While broth is simmering:

  • Cook the noodles according to package instructions. Immediately drain hot water from the noodles, and rinse with cold water to prevent over cooking and mushy noodles. Drain cold water and set aside.
  • Prep your soup garnishes
  • Cut chicken breast in to thin slices

When you Pho broth is just about finished, bring 1 cup of plain beef broth (you can add water if you need more liquid) to a boil in a small pot.  Once boiling add your thinly sliced chicken piece by piece to cook.  Chicken will be cooked through in 3-5 minutes.**

When your chicken is cooked and you are ready to serve up your Pho, fill your soup bowls halfway full with your rice noodles (it’s ok if your noodles are cold, the hot broth will warm them right up.)

When you are ready to serve the soup, fill the serving bowls about halfway full with noodles. Then cover with the hot broth, and immediately stir in the steak so that it cooks. Top with your desired garnishes. Add your cooked chicken and the garnishes you like to your soup. Stir and enjoy!

* Chicken in beef broth, what?!  YES!  This is the way I have had it and it is surprisingly delicious!

** Many recipes call for raw, thinly sliced beef to added to your bowl right before you ladle your finished broth over the rice noodles.  Because I like chicken as my protein (I, personally, would also use this technique if I were making it with beef) and I’m a little neurotic about food poisoning, I keep my raw chicken completely separate from everything, and cook it in plain beef broth that I discard once my chicken has cooked completely.

Enjoy!

Crispy Chicken Burritos

This is one of my favorite recipes!  It's easy, filling, and fast - perfect for leftovers and the nights I don't want multiple pots and pans to clean!

Ingredients:
Leftover shredded chicken
Leftover roasted vegetables
Leftover black beans
Avocado
Salsa
Goat Cheese
Burrito sized flour tortillas
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sour Cream

Directions:
You may notice that I haven't put any specific measurements in.  I always make this dish with leftovers and eyeball my amounts.

1.  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Line a cookie pan with parchment paper.

2.  Lay one tortilla in shallow bowl or on a flat surface, and add your preferred fillings, see the first six ingredients listed for mine. Careful not to over fill.

3.  Fold the sides of your tortilla over your filling, make sure that the tortilla sides over lap.

4.  Folded side down, place your tortilla on you parchment lined cookie pan.  Drizzle 1/8th of a teaspoon of extra-virgin olive oil over your burrito.

5.  Place in oven and bake for 6-7 minutes, then carefully flip burrito over so folded side is now up.  Bake for another 4-6 minutes.

6.  Enjoy!  I like a dollop of sour cream with a little lime juice and dried cilantro for dipping.  Careful, filling is VERY hot!

Happy eating, friends!

Weekend Recap

I can't believe it's been so long since I last blogged.  My attempt at doing this regularly fell by the wayside when life got super busy.  The last 6 weeks have been so full of emotions that my head is spinning  just thinking of them.  One of these days I will blog about it, but I just need to time be with my thoughts and process. So while I process how about a little share of backyard wildlife?

June has not been the best weather month in Northern Virginia this year.  Between rain, and heat & humidity that is  usually reserved for late summer, it's not been a little brutal. Add to the mix David having surgery and we have not ventured anywhere to enjoy some wildlife photography.  In my attempt to turn lemons in to lemonade, I have been trying to remind myself of how much I love the local wildlife that visits my back yard.  Birds, bunnies, lizards, turtles, ground hogs, and squirrels!  I know many people view squirrels as pesky tree rats that steal the seeds they leave out for birds, but quite honestly I love them.  We don't have tons of squirrels running around, so I really get excited when one visits my deck and partakes in some of seeds and nuts that I've left out. I love watching their little paws bring the food up to their mouths and some of the looks you get out squirrels are pretty funny.  I've been slowly trying to gain a little trust from the two squirrels that frequent my deck  Don't worry, I have no plans on trying to domesticate my wild little buddies, I just want to be able to photograph them through a cracked sliding door instead of a dirty window.  I think we made a little progress this week. 

I don't have any super cool animal photos to share this week, but I hope you enjoy the pics of my little squirrel friend.

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Happy Earth Day

When David and I bought our first DSLR's, I had no idea how much our new hobby would change my perception of the world. It's hard to admit, but the simple fact is that until I had this amazing tool that helped me see the world differently, I was pretty apathetic to things like climate change, trophy hunting, environmentally safe products, and so much more.  While I’m far from perfect in making sure my footprint on this beautiful planet we live on is as small as possible, I have made significant strides in trying to be a responsible citizen of this earth.  

In honor of Earth Day, and as a reminder of why these continued changes are important, a little look back on some of my favorite wildlife and landscape images from the last year.

Changes, however small they can be, are hard. But even a small change that reduces your environmental footprint will have an impact, for the good, in the long run. 

 


Cucumber Tomato Salad

Growing up, I used to love a very simple cucumber salad my grandmother used to make. It was cucumbers (of course), dill, and homemade vinaigrette.  She tossed all three ingredients together and what resulted was a deliciously refreshing salad, perfect for eating on hot summer days!

This past Saturday, my husband and I spent a large chunk of time in the car.  It was very warm (over 80 degrees) and our windows were down most of drive.  By the time we made it home, all I could think about was my grandmother's cucumber salad.  I was too tired to run out and buy cucumbers, but made sure they were bold and highlighted on my grocery list for my Sunday shopping.

My salad definitely differs from my grandmother's, but the cool crisp cucumbers still transport me to my grandparents small farm, and enjoying lunch together around the table in their kitchen.

Ingredients:
2 mini English cucumbers, roughly chopped
10-12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/8th of a small red onion, chopped and soaked in white balsamic vinegar
Crumble of soft goat cheese – optional
1 TBS – white balsamic vinegar
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil (I use 1TBS of Lime infused evoo, and 1TBS or plain evoo)
1 tsp honey
1 tsp Italian herbs
½  tsp red pepper flakes (use more or less depending on your personal preferences)
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp of pepper (again, more or less based on your preferences)
Pinch of Salt

Directions:
1.  Chop onion,  put into a small metal bowl and just cover with white balsamic vinegar.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to marinate for at least 10 minutes.

2.  Combine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, honey, Italian herbs, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in a bowl and whisk together to make your vinaigrette.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge until you are ready to use.  You will only need to use half of this vinaigrette for this recipe.

3.  Chop cucumbers and quarter tomatoes and combine in a medium sized glass bowl.  Drain your marinating red onion and add to the cucumber/tomato mixture.

4.  Re-whisk your vinaigrette and drizzle half over you salad.  Toss to coat the salad in vinaigrette.

5. Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving.  Optional, crumble a little soft goat cheese over top of your salad before eating.

Happy eating, friends!

Cherry Blossoms

In the nearly 10 years I have been back in the Northern Virginia area, it's hard to believe that I have only made it down to see the Cherry Blossoms once!  Truth is, as a kid, my family and I went to the Cherry Blossom Festival every year we lived in the DC Metro area, and as beautiful as they are, the crowds during the festival can be a bit overwhelming.   Last year, David and I decided to get up at 3:00 am (!!!) in order to be at the Cherry Blossoms early enough to find a spot and catch sunrise.  When we first started walking around the basin, I remember thinking to myself "This isn't too bad, there are not a lot of folks..." but the further we walked, the more dense the packs of photographers got.  At one point I remember just laughing - I'm not sure I have ever seen so many photographers in one place.  Putting up with the crowds paid off, David and I came away with some wonderful shots and at that point we vowed to come back again next year.  Well, it's been a year and needless to say we decided NOT to head in to DC this year and simply take in the beauty of our neighbor's Cherry Blossom tree, oh yeah and the Groundhog that came to take in the beauty of our neighbor's tree as well.  We've named him Turbo.

 Turbo kept us entertained running back and forth between the bushes in our neighbor's yard, the Cherry Blossom tree, and a storm drain in the ditch behind our homes.  I was shocked at how fast this stocky critter was!

Turbo kept us entertained running back and forth between the bushes in our neighbor's yard, the Cherry Blossom tree, and a storm drain in the ditch behind our homes.  I was shocked at how fast this stocky critter was!

 Once at the storm drain, Turbo would jump in, pop his head up, jump back out and run back to the tree or bushes.

Once at the storm drain, Turbo would jump in, pop his head up, jump back out and run back to the tree or bushes.

 Apparently, Cherry Blossoms are not only beautiful, but also delicious.

Apparently, Cherry Blossoms are not only beautiful, but also delicious.

 Seeing a groundhog in our neighborhood is definitely a first for us.  My husband spotted Turbo as we were getting dinner made.  Needless to say, dinner was delayed as we grabbed our cameras and did our best to stay quiet and hidden from this guy.

Seeing a groundhog in our neighborhood is definitely a first for us.  My husband spotted Turbo as we were getting dinner made.  Needless to say, dinner was delayed as we grabbed our cameras and did our best to stay quiet and hidden from this guy.

 I was excited to see Turbo back visiting Monday evening.  I realize that Groundhogs generally are viewed as pests due to their burrowing, but I can't help but love our new visitor.  It's wonderful living in a place where we can see wildlife from our own deck.

I was excited to see Turbo back visiting Monday evening.  I realize that Groundhogs generally are viewed as pests due to their burrowing, but I can't help but love our new visitor.  It's wonderful living in a place where we can see wildlife from our own deck.

White-Bean Soup

Nothing warms my soul quite like a hearty bowl soup.

It’s hard to believe that the temperatures dipped low enough this weekend to bring snow to certain parts of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, but they did!  Thankfully, despite the cold, we were spared from the white stuff.  The cold weather, along with some delicious artisan olive oils (a birthday present from my dad) were the perfect inspiration to whip up a batch warm, filling soup.

White Bean Soup
Ingredients:

  • 1 – 15 oz. can of Cannellini Beans

  • Vegetable Stock.  I use the can the beans came in to measure out 1 can + ½ can (if needed) of stock.

  • 12 oz. Baby Red Potatoes, quartered (I buy a 24 oz. bag and use roughly half)

  •  4 oz.  Baby Portobello Mushrooms, quartered (I buy an 8 oz. package and again use roughly half)

  • small medium carrots, peeled and chopped.

  • ½ - medium sweet onion, chopped

  • 2 TBS butter

  • 2 tsp garlic

  • 1 pinch Black Truffle Salt

  • Pepper

  • White Truffle Oil

  • Sour Cream

Directions:

  • In a stock pot melt 2 TBS of butter over medium low heat.  Add carrots, garlic, and onion and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes.

  • To the soften carrots and onion, add the quartered potatoes,  mushrooms, and a pinch of black truffle salt and few grinds of black pepper.  Stir frequently for another 3-5 minutes.

  • Add Cannellini Beans and 1 bean can of vegetable stock in to your stock pot.  If needed add up to another ½ can of stock.  Allow soup to simmer for 30 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender.

  • Remove soup pot from heat, and ladle ½ of your stock pot contents in to a food processor or blender.  Blend until smooth, or reaches your desired consistency.  Add blended soup  back in to the pot with the remaining “chunky” soup, and simmer another 5 minutes.

  • Once ladled in to bowls, I love to finish each serving  with a small dollop of sour cream, a little drizzle of White Truffle Oil ( a little goes a really long way), and a small grind of fresh cracked black pepper.

  • Serve hot with a crusty piece of bread!

Enjoy!

Home.

Every new home needs a bouquet of beautiful flowers.

It's hard to believe that my journey to create a home on the internet, where I could share my love of not just photography, but all things creative and my musings about every day life, has taken years, YEARS, to complete.  Throughout this process I have frequently thought back on the crazy ride my husband and I went through when we bought our home together 6 years ago.  In that processes I learned that there is no perfect house, but what's most important is holding out and waiting for the one that just feels right.  Reflecting on that, I have found that to be true of so many things in life - college, jobs, relationships - nothing is perfect, but there is definitely a right one.

So, in celebration of my new website, I'd like to share a bouquet of flowers and welcome you to my new home! 

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