Last week, I explored the cutest little cupcake shop just up the street from where Meghan lives. It’s a new-to-me shop, having opened up last year, I had just never ventured inside until last week.
I have no idea why it took me so long.
The store smelled delicious, was bright and cheery and had seating right next to the window so you could people watch while eating cupcakes and drinking coffee. They not only had cupcakes, but also kitchen towels with snappy sayings, little trinkets that would make great stocking stuffers, different flavored syrups and chocolate candies wrapped up in pretty little packages.
Lilly, the store manager, let me poke around and take pictures with my friend for as long as we both liked and we both walked out of there with cupcakes to bring home (my friend later texted me letting me know that her cupcake didn’t even make it that far, that she ate hers in her car on the way home!) and definite plans to visit the store again, but this time I won’t wait so long.
I entered this image in a four-state regional photo competition last May, along with two other photos, a black and white and a portrait of Joe. I had them printed and took them to our local camera shop to be submitted, came home and promptly forgot about the contest, diving headlong into mountain bike races, summer time and relaxing.
I received a newsletter this morning from our local photo society that I’m a member of. I’m not a very active member, only joining so that I can get discounts on prints. This morning I found out that this image, a photo I had taken in my office one drizzly winter day earlier this year, had taken first place in the fine arts category.
I remember taking this that dreary February afternoon, hauling out my lighting equipment, putting batteries in the speed lights, getting the (loathsome) tripod set up just right, adjusting the backdrop and taking the test shots. I had fully planned on using my speed lights - - - that was how the picture was lit in my head - - - but when I looked at the photos on my computer (I was shooting tethered, something I do whenever I’m shooting inside) I actually really liked how the natural light was hitting the bowl and the ice cream. So the above image is actually a “testing, testing, testing. Is this thing on?” result.
And then, after scrubbing caramel sauce out of the rug and washing my hands, I promptly ate up my subject.
An unexpected treat for sure.
I made a choice this past January after the passing of my sister. I chose to do one brave thing a month for all of this year. I figured that after surviving the death of our middle child twenty years ago and the recent death of my sister, everything else that Life threw at me would be a cakewalk after those tragedies.
I began by visiting local eateries in town armed with a few of my images of recent food photos I'd taken and my business card. It was really scary to walk in and introduce myself to the person behind the cash register and explain my purpose. Doing something like that goes against every bone in my body, and there were a few times when I had to sit in my car and talk myself into opening up the car door and walking inside the building. I think I tend to be a shy person by nature, someone who likes to sit and observe the scene before her rather than jumping in with both feet. But I really wanted to follow through with this personal challenge I had set before me and that trumped my desire to bolt the other way, so I continued until it no longer got to be scary or hard.
I didn't realize it had stopped being scary until the day I walked into our local macarons shop to buy some of their cookies to take home and photograph. I was at the register paying for them when I blurted out that I was a local food photographer and did they need anyone to shoot their product for them? I don't know who was more surprised, the cashier or myself, but it was at that moment when I felt a gleam of pride inside me that I had conquered that shy little observer and that I was going after what I wanted to accomplish : doing one brave, scary thing a month.
I put that bravery towards everything after that day. I said yes to a Facebook friend of mine to meet up with her for a photoshoot with a college girl from the sorority house where my friend was the sorority mother. I said yes again to another photoshoot later the next month and finally I said yes to joining my friend in photographing cancer patients and their families last month at our local cancer support house in Fayetteville. If I had said no to that last project, I would've missed out on meeting some incredibly brave and beautiful people.
What they have to go through on a daily basis makes my nervousness at being told no seem so trivial and trite. They are so, so brave.
I've also said yes to attending marches and rallies here in Fayetteville, supporting causes that are important to me. I've said yes to shooting the floor directory at my parents retirement home, and will accompany a small group of my parents' friends as they zip line over the Buffalo River Valley next month to photograph them as they come swooping over and whooping it up high above my head (my 80-year-old mom included in that bunch. My dad is just coming along for the bus ride. Smart man!).
Again, that mustering up of courage and putting myself out there paid off last week when our family's favorite burgers and fries place called me up and asked if I could come in on Wednesday the 20th to re-shoot their menu. We've been going to this particular restaurant since they've opened in 2009, and the owners have watched Meghan and Joe grow up just as we've watched their place get bigger and bigger, so much bigger that they are opening up a second location in a near by town, thus the the re-branding and the need to shoot the new menu.
To say that I'm excited is an understatement, but I'm also a little nervous. When I get nervous before a shoot, I tend to do the following: run or clean house or weed the garden or bake. Well, today I did all four, so yeah, I'm a bit scared. It's going to be a lot of fun, though. I'll be shooting seven hamburgers, one hamburger/fries/drink meal and also one Chicago-style hot dog/onion rings/drink meal. I have all my camera kit loaded up, along with fill/flag cards, tripod, surfaces, wooden picks to arrange the food just so . . . . I think that's all.
Wonder what else my "Big & Brave Challenge" will lead me to this year?
Just think what might happen if you started saying "yes" more often?
Every great success has a story behind it! Well known for our barbeque sauce, McClard's Bar-B-Q Restaurant in Hot Springs, Arkansas is no exception.
Westside Tourist CourtIn the twenties, Alex and Gladys McClard owned Westside Tourist Court, just a few blocks west from the current location of McClard's Bar-B-Q Restaurant at 505 Albert Pike, Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas.
When a down-and-out traveler could not come up the the $10 he owed for his two-month stay, he asked the couple to accept instead a recipe for "the world's greatest bar-b-que sauce". Since something was better than nothing, the couple accepted the recipe. To their great surprise and delight, they tasted the truth in the traveler's claim.
Carhops hung trays of ribs and sandwiches on automobile doors.In 1928, the Westside Tourist Court became Westside Bar-B-Q with goat as its star menu attraction! In 1942, McClard's moved into the current location - a white-washed stucco building.
For many years, drive-in service was provided for a horn toot or blinking lights. Carhops hung trays of ribs and sandwiches on automobile doors while the driver dialed in the radio to catch the tunes from the neon jukebox inside. Today goat has disappeared from the menu, and the carhops from the curbside.
In the kitchen is still the McClard family: 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generations of McClards continue the traditions set by Alex and Gladys. In the kitchen, though, is still the McClard family: 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generations of McClards continue the traditions set by Alex and Gladys. Each week they serve 7,000 pounds of mouth-watering hickory-smoked beef, pork, and ribs. Alongside go 250 gallons of spicy bar-b-que beans, 250 gallons of cole slaw, 3,000 hand rolled hot tamales and 3,000 pounds of fresh-cut potatoes french-fried to perfection.
And over the crusty-on-the-outside, fall-away-tender-pink-inside smoky bar-b-que, in handy bottles on the side.... is the sauce. The famous sauce that started it all. The priceless sauce whose $10 recipe now sits locked away in a safe deposit box in downtown Hot Springs.
and sheer stubbornness (okay, so that last one is more than one word).
Have y'all ever heard of the t.v. show, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee by Jerry Seinfeld? It's a show that David and I began watching a couple weeks ago on Netflix on one of those nights that there was sheer drivel on television (not that this show is intellectual, philosophical or anything like that, but it was way better than say "NCIS in New Orleans"). Seinfeld picks up fellow comedians, actors and other fun people in these amazing classic cars, takes them for a drive and winds up in a random coffee shop, where they drink coffee and discuss comedy, life, parenthood and politics (just a smidge). Last night we watched the episode with David Letterman and I hadn't laughed that hard in, gosh, I don't know how long. David actually started laughing at me, which made me laugh even harder. I could hardly breathe and I began squeaking, which is always a good sign that I've totally gone off the deep end.
Or as Joey once said when I had an attack like that, "I think I broke Mom!"
Anyway, it's a great show to take your mind off the state of the world in its current condition.
The show has lots of scenes of cups having coffee poured in them, often in slow motion with that one wonderful drop splashing into the dark liquid below, making that beautiful little "plop!" sound. I'd been studying those shots, figuring out how to do them, and yesterday, while I had a loaf of almond bread in the oven, I brewed a pot of coffee, grabbed my fat white coffee cup and tried to replicate those shots I saw on television.
Well, two lenses and two cameras and 600 photos later (and a whole lot of swearing!), I got the seven shots that I'd seen in my mind's eye two hours earlier. I found out that it's a lot harder to do this on my own than I thought it would be, the camera has a hard time focusing on coffee inside the mug but a quarter placed in the bottom of the cup works well, as does a mark from a Sharpie. I'm happy with them though and feel good about trying it out.
As David is fond of saying, "You'll never know unless you try!"
Growing up, Mom always made bread for our suppers. She'd make French bread, rye bread (not my favorite) and whole wheat bread, among others. Our house smelled like a bakery on Bread Days, and it was always such a cozy treat to walk in after school, especially on snowy afternoons, and smell the rising bread in the oven.
The smell of fresh bread is the smell of my childhood, along with coffee and Oil of Olay, the other two smells I associate with Mom.
Years ago, Mom copied down her recipe for whole wheat bread, probably passed down to her from her grandmother who was the one responsible for teaching Mom how to bake bread, and gave it to me where it sat in my recipe box for years. Every time I'd flip through those index cards searching for the recipe for Pork Chops & Rice or Almond Bread (complete with Meg's childish scribbled, "I love you's" and happy faces all over it and why I can't bear to re-copy the recipe onto a clean bit of paper), I'd eyeball Mom's bread recipe and tell myself that one day I'll have the nerve to try it out. Maybe it had to do with being nervous of trying to replicate a part of my childhood that only Mom could fill or the fear of failure that held me back, but I had never tried to make her bread recipe.
But Sunday, I did.
And I had a lot of fun, especially when it came time to punch down the bread.
Or rather, Joey punching down the bread.
It only took three frames (including Joey's finger getting in my test shot) with flour flying everywhere and whoops and hollers from me and Joey's little sly grin, pleased with himself for helping his mom get the picture she wanted.
If I can somehow work photography into baking bread, then we're going to have Bread Days a lot more often.
And it wasn't so scary, after all.