Eat Me!

My friend Gretchen is the best. She is gorgeous and sweet and kind, creative and smart and funny. There aren’t enough adjectives to describe her. She is also a fabulous cook. Simply phenomenal in the kitchen. Visiting her is like taking a trip to heaven.

A few days ago we were talking, making plans for our next get-together, and we got to reminiscing about some of our most memorable trips. One year we celebrated Thanksgiving in Turkey, Christmas in Germany and New Year’s in Austria. We’ve ridden camels in Tunisia, road-tripped across Poland, Slovakia and Hungary and train-hopped to Switzerland and France. Our trips are a little less adventurous these days but no less fun. This year we passed a quiet New Year’s at her home in Charlottesville.

Our lives seem to run a parallel course. We both lived in Germany (where we met), then Hawaii (our time did not overlap), and now Virginia (at opposite ends of the state). Her husband was tagged for a deployment to Afghanistan. My husband was tagged too. Déjà vu.

This time last year my husband was nearing the end of his deployment. Enter me, suitcase in hand, into Gretchen’s home and kitchen for a nice, long visit.

It was then, during that very trip, that Gretchen launched her food blog. Kumquat. It’s full of delicious recipes, beautiful photography and brilliant health tips. If you like to eat you must check it out. It is lovely.

Oh what a trip that was. We passed the time largely in the kitchen, a room for both of us synonymous with laughter and love. She cooked while I chilled, salivating and waiting for my chance to lick the spoon. We discussed blogs and food and photography at great length and photographed her creations to no end. And then we ate like kings.

Here’s what I came away with from the visit: 10 extra pounds and the revelation that photographing food bites. I mean, it is really, really tough. It’s surprising because you’d think food would be putty in your hands. After all you can mold it, touch it, turn it, taste it. But it’s fresh and fragile and sours easily. Full of self-preservatives, you have to sweet-talk it before it will whisper eat me.

Gretchen though, makes it look so easy. She is artistic and talented and, the icing on the cake, inspirational. She’s one of the reasons I revamped my photography website as a blog.

Though I’m happy to leave food photography to foodies like Gretchen, in honor of Kumquat’s one-year birthday I thought I would post a few of my photos from that memorable visit. Here’s to you my dear friend Gretchie!

And happy birthday Kumquat blog!

jill cordes - March 26, 2012 - 11:12 pm

Not only are the food pics beautiful, but so is the pic of your friend! I want you to make me look beautiful! (ha). Thanks for sharing.

Sol


I can’t believe I almost canceled this shoot. It was scheduled for a late afternoon and by midday the clouds had rolled in and all but covered the sun. I sat on the fence too long and in the end had no choice but to go. I figured if it just wasn’t happening we’d try again on a prettier day.

But there’s one thing about this little girl, Sol. She has an exceptional brightness about her.

Sol. The sun. The star at the center of the solar system.

Her father chose the name because of the sun’s importance in every culture. Her mother loved the name because she missed the ever-present sun of her native Venezuela.

Sol. A fitting name for a colorful, vibrant girl. Always shining. Always beautiful. She brings the sun with her.

Gaby - March 23, 2012 - 2:07 am

I said it before and I say it again, What beautiful pictures you took of my little angel! You really captured her inner shine and the words you used to describe the shoot were just so sweet. It was beautifully written.
Thank you so very much for such an amazing treat, these pictures as well as the blog are a treasure!

Scott - March 23, 2012 - 3:19 am

Incredible photos! So glad you didn’t cancel.

Lucky Charm


Short on ideas for a Saint Patrick’s Day blog post I decided to solicit some from a bunch of my mom friends. Wow. For a holiday largely associated with anything and everything green I sure got some colorful ideas. One friend suggested staging a mock bar scene with kids knocking back green milk from their sippy cups. My sister, in the throes of potty training her 2-year-old twins, suggested constructing a rainbow ending with a kid sitting on (this is bad) a potty of gold. While these ideas may be conceptually clever, both are hard to pull off.

One idea that held a lot of promise was taking shots of children watching a Saint Patrick’s Day parade, eyes wide and arms outstretched, catching strings of green beads and clapping for the bagpipes. In Old Town Alexandria, nary a holiday passes without a parade so this should have been a breeze. On the day of the parade I arrived early and staked out my spot along the route. As the festivities got under way though, I realized I couldn’t go around snapping pictures of other people’s kids lest someone call the cops on me. I hadn’t even thought to bring a stack of business cards to hand out. I didn’t take a single photo.

It just so happens this same mom-of-the-parade-idea has a lovely little red-headed girl. Her great-great-grandfather was from Ireland and that makes her Irish enough in my book to win a place as my Saint Patrick’s Day feature.

And what says Saint Patrick’s Day more than a bonny lass enjoying a fat green shamrock cookie? It was a winning idea if I ever heard one. There was just one small hitch. At 21 months, this sweet little girl is cutting her molars. Give her a sugary green cookie and you end up with an abundance of crumbs and green drool. Ah, that’s the luck of the Irish for you.

Despite the slobber it was a lovely shoot. Cheerful and inquisitive, she happily explored the garden while munching away. Somehow the cookie even held up. She must have been my lucky charm.

The delicious cookies are from the Firehook Bakery and Coffee House in Old Town.

Hair Grows


I don’t know if it makes you a horribly vain person to think your baby is no looker but there it is. The first time I laid eyes on my daughter I remember thinking: Oh Dear, her hairline starts at her eyebrows. She was born with a whole head of hair, dark and long and silky smooth. But it started low on her forehead, literally, right above her eyebrows, and progressed all around her head, sticking out in every direction and ending in a bitchin’ mullet. And, poor thing, she had a cowlick. I’m sorry to say, she got that from me.

I also don’t know if this makes things sound better or worse but I’ll tell you I wasn’t alone in my thinking. My husband, who was deployed to Afghanistan when our daughter was born, took one look at her first picture and thought: Well, she’s my baby and I guess I’ll love her no matter what she looks like. Let me just say it was not a flattering picture. And I didn’t take it.

Our daughter never exactly lost her hair but as the weeks went by it seemed to get lighter and shorter. And lighter and shorter. Except for the mullet. Her hairline retreated from her eyebrows back to a normal position on her forehead. I remember musing one day that she was getting cuter. Only when her grandfather piped up with “it couldn’t go much the other way” did I realize I had said it out loud.

Not long after that her bald spot started coming on. It spread like wildfire until it consumed the entire back of her head. The mullet, of course, survived unscathed. Without hair the back of her head looked as flat and wide as a blank billboard.

Eventually hair took hold and her bald patch started to fill in. The new hair grew like a weed until it was neck and neck with the mullet. But while the back and top were sprouting, nothing was happening around her face or on the sides.

By nineteen months my daughter’s hair was as wispy and flyaway as could be. Cutting it seemed counterproductive since I’d like to see it grow long, but something had to be done. And so, last Thursday we went for her very first haircut.

The second we entered the salon my daughter knew something was afoot. She clung to me and buried her face in my legs. She was none too happy when I sat her in the chair, but once her body disappeared under the kiddie cape I think she was afraid to move.

For the next 20 minutes the stylist worked her magic. I wish. She did shape up the raggedy ends and trim the jumble that hung in my daughter’s eyes but she was done in two minutes. I guess I was hoping for an artistic transformation but she didn’t have a lot to work with. There wasn’t even enough hair to save.

Though my daughter may be follicly challenged I could not have hoped for a lovelier child. She’s the sweetest thing. Dazzling and delightful. Divine in every way. And, thank goodness, hair grows.

Latina - March 10, 2012 - 7:35 pm

Now this was funny. LOL. I’m so glad I am not the only one this honest. NOT all babies r cute period. But yours IS a lil angel I love her big brown eyes. Thanx for the laugh.

Gaby - March 10, 2012 - 8:18 pm

I’m still smiling… I feel your pain, especially because I have quite the opposite problem with Sol, she was born with a full head of hair, it was smooth and silky and has evolved into a full fro! And it is so hard to take care of, I’m afraid she’ll grow up with a fear of combs and hair products… Watch her get dreadlocks when she’s 16!!!!
The photos are gorgeous, she may have thin hair but your girl is a looker :)
Thanks for sharing.

Kristyn - March 10, 2012 - 11:01 pm

Too funny! Growing up with baby fine hair myself, I feel for GiGi. But no matter what, she’s gorgeous!! : ) xxxx

Lynn - March 11, 2012 - 11:58 am

I love your wit and writing style, Cindy! This cracked me up. Gigi is precious and beautiful. When can we see her again?

Linda - March 12, 2012 - 1:25 pm

How funny. When we were considering adopting a biracial child, I have to admit that hair was my biggest concern. I was afraid her hair would be nappy, and I wouldn’t know how to take care of it. It started out thick and fairly straight, but has gotten curlier the older she’s gotten (and also the least of my challenges with her!) As far as looks at birth, GiGi had Claire beat by a mile! We adopted her sight unseen, and after I saw her first pictures, I was SO GLAD that they had not provided those. She was the ugliest baby I’ve ever seen. I’m sure I would have said no.

I love these pictures. She’s so serious. I’ve always thought GiGi was a cutie pie. Can’t wait to see her again!

Scott Higdon - March 12, 2012 - 6:36 pm

Great comments and the humor in this is great. I noticed that in the latter pics, there was a nice sucker provided to the victim of the first haircut. Just for the record, I used to rock the mullet…a few years ago.

Tamara Broughton - March 13, 2012 - 10:45 pm

All my girls rocked the mullet – and thankfully, they all have a nice head of hair now. Virginia, my baldy for the longest time, has gorgeous thick hair. You just never know. Gigi looks adorable! I hope to meet her this summer.

Will-o’-the-wisp

The little girl who lives down the hall is delicate and light in a way that seems too perfect for a toddler. Her voice is faint and sweet. Her laughter tinkles about her like music through an open window. She is enchanting, ethereal.

At least that’s the will-o’-the-wisp I know by day. Bedtime, apparently, is her witching hour. Sleep is her nemesis which she fights with otherworldly powers. Some nights she sobs, inconsolable, for hours on end before finally giving in to sleep.

This charming being is my daughter’s best friend. Exactly one week apart in age, two greater opposites do not exist. By day my daughter is a tempest. By night, an angel. She goes to bed blowing kisses and babbling softly to herself before drifting off to a peaceful, untroubled slumber.

In one way, and one way only, the two are perfectly alike. Awake, they are unceasing motion. That makes it all the more satisfying when I’m able to capture those fleeting expressions and details of playthings and outfits that might otherwise be forgotten. The “now of toddlerhood,” a friend described it.

Since these photos were meant as a Valentine surprise from the will-o’-the-wisp’s mama to her papa I didn’t want to post them before their own celebration, which was last night. Her mother hoped she would hold up a simple card. Te quiero Papa. I love you Papa. And she did. Out of the mouth of babes.

Gaby Griffith - February 17, 2012 - 5:41 pm

Your description of Sophie is perfect, I agree she is the most delicate and feminine little girl, and oh so lovable! The pictures are perfect, they must have been such a wonderful surprise to her loving daddy, especially the shot of her smiling face, she has such resemblance of both her parents on it! What a wonderful gift idea :)

Jill Cordes - February 18, 2012 - 2:44 am

beautifully written!!!! Seriously. Made me weep. Of course.