August Recess.

Summer2015-55 Summer2015-56 Summer2015-57 Summer2015-58 Summer2015-59 Summer2015-60 Summer2015-61 Summer2015-66 Summer2015-68 Summer2015-69 Summer2015-72 Summer2015-73 Summer2015-74 Summer2015-75 Summer2015-76 Summer2015-77 Summer2015-78 Summer2015-79 Summer2015-80 Summer2015-81 Summer2015-84 Summer2015-85 Summer2015-86Everyone gets to be an expert on at least one thing. Everything gets to know more than others about something about the thing that they do day in and day out. If you are a parent, you get to be an expert in your child. If you are a teacher, you get to have the last word in your subject. If you are a doctor, lawyer, scientist, whatever — you get to have the upper hand in discussions related to your profession. This is what makes conversations interesting, because we all bring what we are best at to the table. It’s why I like to have friends from all walks of life, because I learn things from all of them.

There is, of course, an exception to this rule: politics. We live in a democracy, and thus everyone gets to have a say in what is happening in Washington, gets to have a seat at the lofty table of Right and Wrong in the political realm. And for good reason! Not only do we all (hopefully!) vote in elections, thus having a say in who is running this country, but all it takes is the reading of 2 good articles you saw on Facebook and you are an EXPERT. Forget the fact that most people in our lives here in DC have devoted their professional existence to studying politics and examining its minutia (on both sides of the aisle)– you read 2 good listicles on BuzzFeed. By all means, continue.*

This is a unique frustration of people who live in DC, whose jobs and lives ebb and flow with votes and sessions, political happenings and elections. I want you to know that mixed in with all the squirrely sorts in this city, there are good people who are good at their jobs. They devote all of their time to this profession, but outside of the Beltway, they can’t dare to claim expertise above the average morning-news watching American, or they look like a Washington snob. A removed and aloof politico out of touch with the country. And so the abuse rains down.

Which brings me to August Recess. I was driving home the other day and listening to the radio, and I heard something that had my blood boiling. Some glib radio host was ranting about Congress, and ended by declaring that they were all about to leave for their “6 week vacation” of August Recess, upon which all the hosts started hating on those lazy politicians and their staff who get 6 weeks off.

I might have yelled an obscenity at the radio.

Because August Recess? August Recess is what all of those who love political staffers live for.  And while a 6 week vacation would be nice, people still go to work every day, but that work stays a little more defined to regular hours. My friend Anna and I have been texting for weeks about how August was coming, and if we could just hold on, we would no longer be Political Widows. We would get to sometimes see our husbands during the week. The work days that are often endless, having James walking home late into the night, will shrink back to encompass the normal 9 hour workday. During August Recess, everyone in DC takes a breath. The tourists have trickled off, the school groups haven’t started, interns go home, and work is manageable. Senators and Congressman head back home to reconnect with their constituents, and their staffers get to come home each day for dinner and reconnect with their families. August Recess keeps this city sane, and allows us to enjoy a little work-life balance that much of the country views as a right year round.

August Recess has me feeling like summer is really starting, even as the rest of the country is kicking it to the curb and looking towards full.

This past weekend, we got just a glimpse of the joy that will be August. We made breakfast sandwiches, played chess, and hosted a cookout to celebrate James’ birthday. I made peach pie and we ordered pretzels from DC Pretzel Bakery. We rode bikes around the city, wandered Easter Market, and had some lazy times around out home. I want more of this.

And I will hopefully get more, because August Recess is upon us.

*Please know that I am not mocking people who genuinely try to follow politics and invest substantial time and energy into trying to understand and engage with what’s happening. I think we all have a duty to care about what our nation is doing. What I am deriding is the all-to-common Internet expert, nourished by opinionated blogs, closed to hearing from actual experience and limiting their research to cherry-picked articles that agree with them. I think a little humility and openness is in order when we approach things that aren’t our specialty… and since mine is French Literature, you can bet that I pretty much never get to be the specialist in real life scenarios.

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Dissertations and Distractions.

summertimeY’ALL.

I committed to a dissertation topic. I’m sure that only a tiny portion of you actually care about the minutia of our everyday, but to that portion, please know that THAT is how I have been spending my summer. The above collage of happy photos might paint an otherwise rosy picture of carefree summer days, and they are happy, but they have been fraught with lots caring, lots of reading, advise seeking, counsel-listening, tears, excited Googling… only to be followed with utter despair when I find that someone had the nerve to write a PERFECT book on EXACTLY what I wanted to do for my dissertation.

But at long last, I have an idea that I (and those close to me) can live with for the next couple years, one that will hopefully increase my future employability, and one that might have a tiny space left in it for me to carve out a relatively individual niche. Or so I hope.

This might not seem like much to you, but for a commitaphobe such as myself, this is a huge deal. I spent weeks waffling between two topics (different subjects, centuries, and approaches to literature), before intense meetings with my advisors and a decision. Should you care to join me on this dissertation journey, you would be spending the next 2-4 years (hoping for 2!) reading lots of 19th century French novels and reflecting on relationships between urbanization and identity….

…Annnnnddddd I can hear you all clicking “unfollow” all the way over here on this side of the internet. So instead, here are some other things I have been reading and loving, things more inclined to appeal to the masses.

Speaking of reading, if you watch this and don’t find it hysterical, we probably wouldn’t be friends in real life. Libraries! Parodies of pop songs! Harry Potter references!

There are lots of cool people in DC. I am not one of them. But! I do know a couple of them, including the fine ladies of Sweet Root Village — even having the distinction of getting to throw a baby shower with them (totally name dropping) — and they teamed up with some of the other Cool DC Elite to throw a pretty amazing dinner party.

In France, it gets really hot and there is no escape, but maybe that is ultimately a good thing? Note the question mark… I am skeptical, because I do love me some frigid window units blasting in my face.

Or maybe AC is just another sexist plot.

My favorite food blogger/writer turns out another beautiful post and tasty looking tart.

We are the selfie generation, and sometimes it gets downright existential.

This man and his airline thwarting skills, are FASCINATING.

I shared a photo here, but I am so obsessed that I am linking my new magic shampoo here too. Go harness the power of the ocean into your hair.

You know that you wanted famous cats from art history to pop up every time you opened a new tab. Thank you, oh Internet.

We are at that stage I hit at the end of every summer, where I am just tired of our little run-down apartment. I start dreaming of painting everything stark white like Megan and Mike did in their studio, and I start fortifying my soul for another year of small living by rereading this blog post with the cutest tiny apartment. Most days, I genuinely feel happy that we have less to clean and maintain… but some days I just want a big house with modern storm windows. And I want to spread this rug all over the middle of it, and lie upon it and gaze up at my freshly painted walls, unstained ceiling, and fall asleep to the gentle hum of central air.

But alas, those days are not today. Back to the books.

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Photos that stop time.

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“Photography does not create eternity, as art does. It embalms time, rescuing it simply from its proper corruption.” -André Bazin

I started this week talking about the non-photographers I love, the ones who bring some everyday beauty in my life and Instagram feed, and I’m ending this week with some talk about professional photography, and the photographers I love following.

I know that I came down a little hard on people with overly perfect pictures the other day, just as I came down on people who throw hashtags around without thinking last week. I do keep my feed mostly free of “stylists” as a personal preference in what I find most interesting and enjoyable, but I do love following some good photographers. Some of them, like my friend Susannah, I follow both because they are good, and because I am genuinely interested in their personal life. But there are others I follow just because their work gets what photography is about.

ef6391ecad03b0405576c3fed952d017There is no shortage of excellent photographers in the world. Especially in this digital age, where everyone with a camera or phone is a “photographer.” We have diluted the term until it means almost nothing. I have watched friends build photography businesses, seen the work behind it all, and I am careful to inform people when they ask me to photograph their weddings or families: I am not running a professional operation. I am a former art student who stumbled into this because she loves beautiful things, loves true things, loves the way that art teaches us just a little more about life.

And because I love these things, I love following people who are masters at producing this sort of art. I read that Bazin quote at the top of this post during my first year of grad school and it has stuck with me. Photography seizes a moment from the degradations of time and holds it in a sort of perfected memory. A good photo allows us to relive how we felt in that moment, not just how it looked. Which is why, in all my harshness about suffocating beauty and perfection, I still follow lots of professional photo-takers. It isn’t the glossy finish that’s that problem, it’s when the polished scene has had all the emotion, all the life, scrubbed out of it that I wrinkle my nose in distaste.

6e01090581d58db821f0ed5c3a692992I love photos that show things that are real, even if some posing was involved. I love photographers who capture moments beyond merely staging them. I love artists who embrace all the colors, textures, and light that this world has to offer. I love when I’m scrolling through my feed and a photo passes by, not merely a pretty picture, but one that reminds me why all of us are out there holding phones over our dinner, snapping away: We want to save these moments.

IMG_3114(1)Here are some of the photographers who fill my feed with little glimpses of embalmed time, little images of frozen beauty.

@adventureweddingphotogs // Jen and Chris intersperse beautiful travel pictures with perfect quotes and gorgeous couples. Just the right balance for my literary soul.

@_whitneyneal // Ok, so really I have just been a Whitney-fangirl every since she photographed my wedding, and you should all probably jump on the fangirl(boy) train too.

@arianatennyson // I think I’m in love with every photo this girl has ever posted. In a world where everyone is going lighter, Ariana photographs her subjects in that perpetual light just before sunset or right at dawn – warm light with darkness hovering around it.

@perryvaile // I found her when I was helping my brother look for a wedding photographer and DREAMY is the only word to describe her images.

I always love finding new photographers to follow… who are you loving?

Images: 1/2 /3

PS: All of my own [much lesser talented and legit] photography tips and FAQs can be found here, though starting this spring I did switch cameras so it maybe needs a tiny upgrade.

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Keiko Jane

KeikoJane-95 KeikoJane-97 KeikoJane-11 KeikoJane-16 KeikoJane-20 KeikoJane-29 KeikoJane-30 KeikoJane-22 KeikoJane-39 KeikoJane-48 KeikoJane-62 KeikoJane-63 KeikoJane-1 Untitled-1 KeikoJane-105 Untitled2 KeikoJane-115 Untitled-3 KeikoJane-119PS: Mas and Erica’s wedding photos here, and Keiko Jane’s baby shower here.

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Clara

I realize that this post is not exactly seasonally appropriate, as this was an Easter shoot marking 6 months of Clara’s life.  But honestly, does anyone really object to seeing babies in bunny ears, even when Easter is past? No. And so, even as she is getting close to one-year, here are Clara’s six month shots.ClaraMauro-5 ClaraMauro-13 ClaraMauro-18 ClaraMauro-55 ClaraMauro-65 ClaraMauro-72 ClaraMauro-73 ClaraMauro-82 ClaraMauro-85

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Lies, truth, and photos.

Let’s talk about photography.

It’s one of the biggest parts of this blog, one of the most enjoyable hobbies in my life. Whether it is an official wedding, or just photos of our weekend, I love getting behind the camera and then sharing what comes out. Last spring before I left for Paris, I did a couple photoshoots that never made it to this blog before I left the country.  I decided that rather than scattering them here and there, I am just going to post them all this week, inundating you in one rush of babies and love. Brace yourself.

But I also decided that I wanted to take some time at the beginning and end of the week to talk about photography, to share with you some of the photographers I love and whose work I follow. I feel it is only fitting to start with the main medium of photography in many of our lives… Instagram.

I, like many of you, have a love-hate relationship with the grams. I genuinely enjoy taking and sharing photos, looking for little pieces of beauty around me. I love seeing photos of my friends and family around the world, catching up on minutes from their daily lives without the onslaught of articles and opinions that often clutter up Facebook. I like Instagram.

But then again, sometimes it is just too much. Sometimes everyone’s life looks more perfect than mine, everyone’s home better decorated, everyone’s dinner both healthier and tastier, everyone’s vacations more exciting, and everyone’s personal appearance better groomed. Sometimes I scroll through my feed and find myself liking both myself, and everyone I’m following, less.

And the thing is, I know it’s all an illusion. I know that they are using the same filters I am, that they too dragged dinner into the living room because the light is better, that they too trudged down the street for a better wall in front of which to take that Outfit of the Day picture. I know that they picked the moment when their kid was still clean and not crying, that they are sharing the rare date night, and that usually their laundry is also unfolded for days on end, acting as a modern art installment in the living room. I know this, because we are all the same under all those filters.

And yet. Sometimes, the truth I know doesn’t change the lie that I believe, the lie that I am less somehow because others are more.

“Just another casual day at the park! #blessed #itsthesimplethings ” (Photo via here.)

Which is why I recently instituted a policy. If someone’s pictures start making me hate on myself on a regular basis, I unfollow them. If someone’s feed is fostering in me the sins of envy, greed, pride, and discontent — I unfollow them. If I find myself smugly judging someone because of the pictures they post, I unfollow them, because that’s not the type of person I want to be. It’s not to punish them, to teach them post differently (because let’s be real- they probably do not notice), it’s to protect myself, and to try to make sure that the apps filling my day actually add to my life and perpetual character development. In a medium like Instagram where some people are sharing daily life, and others are curating business presences (both of which are totally legitimate uses), I find that this is the best way for me to keep my balance and my sanity.

On the other hand, there are some people who show up in my feed like a breath of fresh air. Their words challenge me, their pictures make me smile, and their presence brightens my day. Some of these people are “big deal” grammars, people with thousands of followers, and some are people who only bless a tiny corner of the Internet. None of these people are professional photographers or stylists, though I will be sharing some of those that I love later in the week.IMG_3050

Some rays of cyber sunshine in a dark world of self-judgement and comparison:

@Lydialovesmarcus // In a world where it seems like everyone is going minimal, rocking neutral colors and proudly sporting undone face and hair, Lydia is a welcome reprieve of color, bold lipstick, and big southern do’s.

@frandorsey // No one makes me laugh on the grams as consistently as Fran, but she punctuates her jokes and endearing self-deprecation with words that leave me thinking.(PS: Fran also wrote a great post on Instagram and comparison here… maybe my Internet claim to fame is that I do know this woman a little in real life.)

@hannahacarpenter // This woman makes me excited about having children someday, because she shows how fun, how unpredictable, and how zany life with little people can be.

@foundandfavored // Sometimes the sweetness of someone’s soul just shines through the Internet, and that’s how I feel about Lauren and her simple and beautiful posts.

What about you all? How do you keep the grams in check, or do you find it unnecessary? Who are the people who shed a little happy light in your own feed?

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Friday Questions: Tastes like Summer.

Summer2015-49 Summer2015-50 Summer2015-52 Summer2015-53I’m back with another round of “let me annoy you with my questions because it’s Friday!”

What tastes like summer to you?

Maybe it is just because we are on the world’s longest Whole30, so it feels like we can’t have annnyyyyy of the fun summer meals, but I am in a little bit of a food run. I really want caprese salad covered in big hunks of mozzarella and all sorts of sweet tea making condensation down the side of tall glass. I want fresh scoops of ice cream dripping down waffle cones and pizza eaten on patios. I want roasted corn on the cob and a Starbucks s’mores frappucino so badly. These are the super-bad-for-me tastes of summer that I love. But instead, we have been eating:

Lots of fruit. Nectarines! Watermelon! Cherries! Peaches!

These muffins, with unsweetened raw cocoa powder and fresh cherries added.

Strawberry mojitos… minus the alcohol and sugar. So basically fizzy water with mint and fruit.

Arugula with radishes and fresh peas.

Peach, spinach, prosciutto,  and almond salad, tossed with lavender balsamic and olive oil.

All of these things are good, especially the fruit… but I would really love some new recipes to mix up our rotation. After aimlessly drifting through the quicksand that is Pinterest, I decided to ask you fine people. What do you crave during the summer?What are you cooking/eating these days? All recipes are appreciated, especially clean eating ones. The others I will just drool over for the next week and a half and then pounce.

Happy eating!

 

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