Absentee

22 03 2009

Yes, I’ve been noticeably absent for over a week. We were in San Antonio visiting my family from March 13-20. Plus, I was battling a raging sinus infection from the day after I arrived to the day I returned. Thanks to a visit to a doctor (plus a shot in the behind and a fistful of drugs), I am feeling better now. I will have photos to share from our vacation but wanted to post this shot I did of ZenaB on the stairs yesterday afternoon.

Oh, and by the way…my father and younger sister have now been introduced to the world of blogging. They both came in kicking and screaming, though, but it’s really for their own good. They are both gifted writers and should be sharing their talent with the world. They have both promised me they will post soon. Until they do, bookmark their sites and check back occasionally. Dad’s blog is www.thekingoftexas.wordpress.com. (The blog takes its name from the royal title my friend Debbi bestowed upon him in a fairytale she wrote about me a few years ago). I have encouraged him to blog because he has wonderful stories to tell in his stream-of-consciousness way. Some of my regular visitors have already been enlightened and informed through his “Grumpy Grammar Guru” comments and posts that I have shared on this blog.

My sister’s blog is www.itsjustnotright.wordpress.com. (This blog takes its name from something my sister says often.) I have encouraged her to put her thoughts into a blog because she is very funny. Her observational skills are amazing and her recall is astounding (sometimes much to my chagrin when she remembers things from our childhood that I thought I had blocked out)—whether she is talking about her single-girl-dating days or sharing the antics of her two children. I doubt she has even noticed that I replaced the standard banner with a great shot of her with her daddy. Let’s see how long it takes her to notice (and change her password so I can’t gain access again). Give them both a chance to build some momentum. I believe they will both be pleasantly surprised at how rewarding blogging can be!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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Josie turns 147!

11 03 2009

…days old, that is. I got the chance to photograph baby Josie again in my studio on February 20, along with her mom, Elizabeth, and two of Elizabeth’s friends who were visiting from out of town. I’ll post the group shots separately. I didn’t get a lot of shots of Josie because her attention span was shorter this time around! Not to worry, there will be plenty more photo ops in her future, I’m sure.

Check out Josie’s first debut on my blog here.

See Daddy’s little girl here.

View Josie “au naturel” in my studio here.

And with Mom & Grandma in the studio here.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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Chocoholic Party 2009

10 03 2009

Fellow Chocoholics, I apologize for my delinquency in posting a recap of the party in a timely manner. I recently finished preparing the “party favor portraits” I take at each event. The night before the party, Sue and I collaborated on a new backdrop—a lively summer-sky-blue background with bouncing chocolate balls. I still had my original pink and red rose background available as an alternative, though. I think Michael and Norma appear to be the only ones who escaped having their sweetheart portraits done this year. How did that happen?

Thank you to everyone who helped in the pre-party preparation—Carmen and Sue (for organizing, cleanup and decorating help), Regina (with her big batch of delicious vegetarian chili), and Michael (who made sure we didn’t run out of chili this year by preparing two giant pots of turkey chili). Carmen (up from Greenville, SC) and Sue (up from Huntsville, AL) arrived earlier in the week just to join us for the event! Carmen was my co-creator of this year’s “bordello chandelier” in the kitchen (photos of the chandelier to come soon), as well as an all-around hard working assistant—even baking cookies as she flitted from task to task earlier in the day.

Sue was my co-painter for the new bouncing chocolates background and also helped design the buffet table centerpiece (photos of that to come soon, too). Special thanks to our bodacious bartender, Brenda, and her ever-handy-kitchen-cleaner-upper-and-mingler extraordinaire husband, Tom. Brenda created a lively and fun-to-read drink menu (which I’ll share in a later posting) for the Chocoholics in attendance. Tom and Brenda came all the way from Pennsylvania to join us again this year, and have developed quite a fan base among our local friends. I’m sure their contribution of a drink bar made them even more memorable this year.

Much appreciation goes to Karen W. for her brilliant suggestion to move the main buffet table to the library area so guests wouldn’t bottleneck in the kitchen (the kitchen is the heart of the home and our guests seem to agree). That arrangement worked out so well that I’m surprised none of us thought of that for the three parties prior to this one. Then we added Bodacious Bartender Brenda with her full and lively bar to the mix—which kept the “libation curious” in the kitchen anyway! Plus, the highlights of the party—the chocolate fountain and decadent desserts—were also in the kitchen. We just need a bigger kitchen, I’m thinking.

Thank you to everyone who brought wonderful side dishes, appetizers, and desserts, too (special thanks to Norma, who brought the it-wouldn’t-be-a-party-without-’em deviled eggs as well as additional chili). Karen B. brought her infamous cheese straws to the party again this year (with her two lovely teenage daughters in tow). Click here to see last year’s party recap and the Whole Foods cheese straws recipe she shared with us. Nanda and Sudha briefly took over the stove and heated up flatbread on-the-spot for their traditional Indian rice and potato side dishes. Karen W. and husband Joe were assigned cornbread-making duty earlier in the week (and sent home with a plethora of very heavy cornbread pans from our extensive collection) and they didn’t disappoint in their delivery.

Insert shameless plug for friend here:
Half of the cornbread-making duo was my dear friend Karen W., a skin care specialist with her own salon, Karen Wyatt Skin Care, in Burke, VA. If you live in the Northern Virginia area (or are just visiting) and would love to be pampered by a knowledgeable and sweet-as-the-day-is-long skin care expert, Karen is your gal. Click here to learn more about her salon and to make an appointment. I had never had a facial until I met “Magic Hands” Karen four years ago. Now I know what the fuss is all about. Last summer I treated my sister Debbie to a facial with Karen (it was her first experience, too) and she loved it!

A great big thanks to F.T. for taking the initiative to record the festivities with his digital camera and dropping off the CD for me. That gesture was much appreciated and I’ll be preparing a collage of both our candid photos for a later posting.

I must say—having so much help is wonderful! This was the first party where I was actually able to shower and change more than 10 minutes before the first guest arrived. This year I had an entire hour to get party-fied. Imagine that! I’m usually still buttoning my shirt, slipping on whatever shoes are handy (whether they match or not), trying to apply the rest of my makeup, and running to the door with wet hair when the doorbell rings. I’m almost certain this isn’t how Martha does it.

Regarding the very last photo—I have no idea what Carmen said to Karen, Regina and Sue in this photo, but I imagine she delivered it as only Carmen can—I love this shot!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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Signs of spring

8 03 2009

The snow from earlier in the week (see my Currier & Ives posting about Monday’s snowfall here) has melted, and this afternoon I discovered the harbingers of spring—Hellebores and Crocus—were blooming wildly in the front yard garden. We had just returned from the Meadowlark 2009 Photography Expo at the Meadowlark Botanical Garden in Vienna and I had my camera handy. Jeff Evans, friend and fellow photographer, joined us for this adventure. I recently blogged about Jeff’s exhibit at Gallery West in Alexandria here. Although the show ended February 1, Jeff’s work is on display there and in A Show of Hands, a Del Ray area gallery that recently relocated to 2301 Mt. Vernon Avenue in Alexandria, Virginia.

Each year I have to remind myself to look for the Hellebore blooms. These downward-facing flowers are quite shy and always hide their beauty, so when I catch a glimpse of the lime green, pink, or purple hues, I grab my camera. I posted a nice shot of one in bloom in last March here. As I plunked myself down in the middle of the bed of Pachysandra to photograph these blooms this afternoon, I was forced to assess all that needs to be done to get the garden looking good again. There’s work to be done, that’s for sure!

Speaking of the Meadowlark 2009 Photography Expo, I bought a Lensbaby Muse from Hunt’s Photo and Video‘s booth. I also discovered David Honl’s product line, HonlPhoto, at Penn Camera‘s booth. I bought the HonlPhoto Speed Strap, Gel Kit, and the 8″ Speed Snoot to use on my strobes and Nikon Speedlights. I’m always on the lookout for accessories to improve and stretch my flash capabilities. These products are reasonably priced, simply designed, and will take up very little room in my already full camera bag. Check ’em out!

I’m also debating on whether to get one of the HonlPhoto Speed Grid attachments. Read about their application on the Strobist site here. By the way, this website is an excellent resource for photographers who want to learn more about lighting!

The show continues tomorrow (Sunday) and if you’re in the area, it’s worth a visit. All of the vendors offer show prices on their products during the show. The entrance fee is $5. And don’t forget to check out the juried exhibition of photos from local camera clubs.

And after not checking the mail for two days, I discovered my Nikon Speedlight DVD, featuring photographers Joe McNally and Bob Krist, had arrived.

Photo inspiration. Photo chat. Photo gadget bargains. Beautiful weather. First blooms of spring. Neighbors out to chat. Something other than bills arrived in the mail. Today was an especially good day!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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Lilies at Longwood

7 03 2009

I photographed this beautiful lily at Longwood Gardens this week. Enveloped by the uplifting fragrances and visually stimulated by so many blooms in the Conservatory, I nearly forgot there was still that blanket of snow outside! And yes, the colors of the lilies really do glow like that in the filtered sunlight. More photos to come…

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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Bluer than blue redux

5 03 2009

In early February I posted a collage of my blue flower photographs here.

On Tuesday Michael and I took a field trip to Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, to see the Orchid Extravaganza at Longwood Gardens. I was inspired to do so by fellow photographer and blogger, Patty Hankins, who has been regularly posting her orchid photos from Longwood Gardens (thanks, Patty!). I spent quite a bit of time photographing this bed of beautiful blue flowers in the Conservatory.

If I have identified these correctly by the marker in one of the beds, then these flowers, a member of the Aster family, are a Longwood hybrid—Longwood Hybrid Cineraria (Pericallis x hybrida). Learn more about the history of this hybrid here. I’ll do some extra fact-finding to make sure that’s correct.

After our photo excursion to Longwood, we headed over to Philadelphia to the 2009 Philadelphia Flower Show. This was our second time attending the event (first time was in 2006) and we were disappointed that Borders Books didn’t have their garden-books-only booth. (As if I really needed more gardening books. But still…)

compleastsquash1We still managed to part with a little money, though (seed packets, a worm bin compost system, and the book, Melons for the Passionate Grower, written by Amy Goldman with beautiful photographs by Victor Schrager.

I found one of Goldman’s other books, The Compleat Squash: A Passionate Grower’s Guide to Pumpkins, Squashes, and Gourds, at a kitchen store that was closing in San Antonio this past Christmas. I paid just $6 for this coffee table book. I have her book, The Heirloom Tomato, on my radar now. Check these books out on Amazon—the photographs are exquisite still lifes; stunning in their simplicity. melons

Now I can identify those pumpkins, squashes and gourds that I photographed last fall here and here at Nalls Produce, a local plant and produce stand in Springfield, Virginia. Mind you, I have no room in a townhouse garden to grow melons or pumpkins, but these books are simply beautiful works of art, and informative too. How could I not add them to my library?

As you may have suspected, I’ll be posting more flower photographs from Longwood soon.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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Currier & Ives morning

2 03 2009

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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