Published in Japan!

6 12 2010

Thanks to my friend, Charles Mokotoff, for alerting me that I’ve been published in Japan’s Gendai Guitar magazine. Charles is a classical guitarist and was featured in the January 2010 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, published by the Hearing Loss Association of America (see cover at right). You can download and read that article here: hlmArticle12_09.

I did several photo sessions with Charles and we became fast friends. He graciously performed a live concert during our first-ever Tapas Party in November 2009. Check out photos from that soiree here.

Check out his website and listen to him play here. Charles produced his CD, Autumn Elegy, in 2008 and it is available for purchase on CDBaby here and on Apple iTunes here. Read a glowing review of his CD by Acoustic Guitar magazine here.

In the video below, he plays Sevilla by Isaac Albeniz in a live concert at St. Albans Church in Washington, DC this past spring.





Scenes from a wedding

19 09 2010

These are just a fraction of the many photos I’ve been working on from photographing Todd and Abbie’s wedding last Sunday (happy one week anniversary today, you two!). I’ve got a lot more to prepare, but wanted to share this compilation on my blog. Enjoy!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





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.

chocoholicheads






Have a cuppa tea, y’all

11 01 2009

At long last…photos from Sue and Barbara’s December 14 Christmas Tea at Sue’s house in Huntsville, Alabama. Sue and Barbara are pictured in the bright green and red polka-dotted aprons that Barbara commissioned just for the event. And before we get started, thank you, Sue, for including me in this special event (and for flying me to Huntsville, too!). It was a pleasure “breaking scones” and getting to know Barbara and your new friends and neighbors in Huntsville. Now stop dawdling and start planning the spring tea!

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Top photo: Sue created the beautiful wreath that graces their front porch entrance. Kitchen duty photos: I attempted to help her make sandwiches but she was so picky with her exacting crust trimming procedures that I happily went back to decorating duty. I may be good at some things, but apparently trimming neat edges on tea sandwiches is not one of them!

Her first decorating assignment for me—I got to decorate her Christmas tree in the living room without any restrictions; she even let me pick out new decorative elements (faux feathers, gold pinecones, glittery sprays, silk poinsettias) from the Trees N Trends store earlier in the morning—I must say, there is nothing more fun than decorating on someone else’s dime!)

Sue knows I prefer decorating to playing in the kitchen. (She’s the one who bought me a handpainted wooden sign to go over the stove. It reads, “I kiss better than I cook.”) Admittedly, I’ll never dethrone Martha Stewart or Paula Deen, but check out some of my past creations at a small dinner party in June, Chocoholic Party 2007, Chocoholic Party 2008 (with more photos and my friend Karen’s yummy cheese straw recipe), and our favorite event, the annual Pesto Fest. The Fall 2008 Pesto Fest was sadly canceled due to incessant rain in our area. This Italian-themed event must be outdoors for the proper ambience. Fiddle-dee-dee, 2009 is another year!

Before decorating commenced, Sue presented several plastic bins of ornaments, tassels, fabric, candles, candleholders, and roll after roll of ribbon for me to play with (an artist must have her supplies, you know!). After I finished glamourizing the chandeliers over the tables, I checked in on Sue’s sandwich-making process later and felt compelled to point out that not all of her sandwiches were visually appealing—she’s pointing to the not-so-perfect ones in the fourth photo. What would Martha think?

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Decorations throughout the house, including the mantel where Sue and Steve displayed their new painting, a gift from me…and a southern holiday greeting on the napkins

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Top photo, left: Barbara makes the rounds, visiting with friends. Top photo, right: Sue in the laundry room, cranking out endless pots of hot water for tea. Bottom photo: Guests mingle at the main table.

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The dessert table was a big draw…especially with Barbara’s original peanut butter and chocolate cake topped with peanut butter cups (as if it needed more sugar!)—I told Barbara she could make a fortune selling that cake! Also on hand…pecan divinity, various cookies, and a chocolate fondue for strawberry dipping. Bottom photo: Sue and Biddy

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Top photo: Billie June and Shirley. Bottom photo: Sue and Barbara present the tea-inspired gift basket to Anita, the winning ticket holder.

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Top photo: Each guest received a beautiful homemade teapot-shaped sugar cookie as a parting gift. Bottom photo, left: Barbara showcases her culinary creations. Bottom photo, right: Lisa and Sue

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Top photo: Rebecca (Cathy’s sister-in-law), Lois (Cathy’s mom), Cathy, and Diana. Middle photo: Barbara, Biddy, Julia and Sue. Bottom photo: Biddy and Julia

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Top photo: Debbie (Sue’s neighbor), Sue and Kari (Sue’s hairdresser). Middle photo: Jenny and Sue (Jenny moved to Huntsville from Virginia about five years ago. Sue actually met her at New Hope Church in Alexandria years ago.) Bottom photo: Sue’s sister Gaye entertains guests.

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Top photo: Diana, Lois, Barbara and Fran. Middle: Gaye and Lisa. Bottom photo: Billie June and Barbara

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Top photo: Laura and Sue’s mom, Wanda. Bottom photo, left: Sue displays one of Barbara’s handmade cookies. Bottom photo, right: I was going to make some small ornament earrings for Wanda and Sue said they needed to be much, much larger since her mother likes wearing flashy jewelry. So Wanda, being ever the willing participant, actually wore these at the end of the party (they’re lighter than they look).

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Top photo: Sue with her lovely neighbor, Sandy. Middle: Cathy, Lois, and Rebecca. Bottom photo: a partial group photo

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Top photo: Wanda, Barbara, Sue and Gaye. Middle: A gathering of tea-cozy-covered teapots. Bottom photo: Quick! What else can you do with a tea cozy? Allow me to introduce you to Laura and Mary Ingalls and their uppity friend Nellie Oleson.

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When Michael and I were vacationing with Sue and Wanda in the Pacific Northwest last fall (see multiple postings about our funfilled trip here and here), Wanda mentioned that she had always wanted a “smooth cake.” (I knew she meant a fondant-covered cake.) Sue told Barbara about Wanda’s desire and the day after the tea party, Sue drove over to Barbara’s house to pick up a “smooth cake” she had made especially for Wanda. (Now that’s pure southern hospitality in action, y’all!) In the photo above, Wanda shows off her “smooth cake.” Take notice that she’s wearing a fun engraved bracelet that reads, “Does this bracelet make me look fat?—a gift from a friend. (You can buy that cute bracelet here. Warning—it’s not costume-jewelry priced…and $25 for shipping a resin bracelet? Hmmmmm…)

And finally, just in case anyone is interested—I was born in Selma, Alabama. The city is best known for the Selma-to-Montgomery civil rights marches that began in 1965.

Something that Sue’s guests and new friends might not know about her—when I first met Sue in 2003, she was working on a tea-inspired page-a-day calendar and was having a not-so-good experience getting it designed. (Sue was my neighbor, just a few houses away—I met her when I called about the community’s garden-open-house event). The calendar was a project produced by her company, Tea Memories. Since I’m a graphic designer, I volunteered to help her with the project. It was fun to design and produce and we became the best of friends during the process. I found mention of the 2003 and 2004 calendars on www.teaandcoffee.com (scroll down to the 4th entry and read about the project).

Sue has returned the creative favor numerous times by serving as a most professional model for photographs for publications and magazines I design. Below are shots I did this past spring for Hearing Loss Magazine, a publication of the Hearing Loss Association of America.

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© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





My few minutes of fame…

25 09 2008

on Kim’s Head of the Table blog…check out the rest of her site and glean inspiration for great party and entertaining ideas. Thanks for featuring my table setting, Kim!





Party of six…

22 06 2008

Yet another favorite thing to do—set the table for a small dinner party. I should throw more of these smaller, more intimate gatherings (rather than the large “let’s invite everyone we know—and then some” parties). I picked up the gorgeously graphic tablecloth from a Crate & Barrel outlet (I think), and the table runner was just three cheap twig placemats (bought on clearance, of course) strung together with wire. The small salad plates, a recent acquisition, are from Home Goods, have free-form edges, and are embossed to look like rings on a tree trunk (way, way cool). Tableware was a forged “fiddlehead” pattern from a Pottery Barn outlet (really, really cheap; couldn’t pass them up)—very organic and earthy, even if the three-prong design on the fork requires an attitude adjustment. The etched “grass glasses” were on sale for $1 each at a Pier 1 clearance store…couldn’t pass those up, either. Yes, I have a thing for leaves, grasses, and trees. Oh, and don’t get me started on bird- and feather-related things!

This was a very last-minute gathering (although it was called a “Mexi-fest, we joked about it being “The Last Supper” since my sister Debbie was flying home the next day). Debbie made her signature enchiladas and the rice and beans were from Baja Fresh (we cheated on the sides, which made it so much easier on us!). The salad was gathered from our garden (lettuce only). Regina made her “Nana’s Sweet Pie” for dessert and Tom brought Corona and Sangrias (very appropriate for a Mexi-fest!).

The centerpieces were made with flowers from the garden, too—white lilies, yellow yarrow, “unknown” greenery, and past-their-bloom Purple sensation alliums (very architectural in their current state)—all tucked into two sand- and water-filled square glass vases (cheap, from IKEA).

And those two narrow hutches in the background? They’re unfinished pine cabinets from IKEA. I painted them with leftover Home Depot’s Behr Swiss Coffee (a slightly warmish white color) eggshell paint, slathered on a walnut stain, then rubbed burnt umber acrylic paint onto embossed wallpaper (a leaf pattern from Home Depot) that was cut to fit and glued into the recessed squares on the cabinet fronts. The cabinets were used in my painting studio until I relegated them to service as both a drink buffet and dish storage unit in the kitchen. I’m going to submit the project to the website IKEAHacker. If you’re fortunate to live close to an IKEA store, check that site out. You’ll be amazed at the things you can do with all the inexpensive products from that store!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.