Thursday, May 26, 2011


Its crazy how many decisions there are to make when you start a new business. Designing a logo, a website, learning so many new skills! One of the things I recently started to brainstorm about is packaging. I want to keep everything in line with my logo, and this is my first crack at it. There are a few things I'd like to do differently next time, but for now, this is the kind of setup my client's products (prints, etc) come in! It was fun to hand the first one off today to one of my senior photography clients. I've always liked to give gifts, and handing over their goods wrapped up like this feels like gift-giving. 

My job is so cool.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

the art of food

The title of this post isn't meant to suggest that I'm an artist while cooking. I do, however, believe that cooking is an art, and it takes artistic energy. I never really cooked when I was a kid, mostly because my mother was just so darn good at it. She is the queen of throwing things together and them tasting amazing. But, as she always says, you can't ask her to duplicate it. It just happens. There is no recipe. 

I learned many of my domestic talents from my Mother: cooking, baking, cleaning, sewing, and gardening. To be fair, my Father had a fair hand in teaching me too, especially about gardening, and he is a great cook! I was in 4-H. I had to learn to sew. I didn't enjoy it when I was a child. I do, however, enjoy it as an adult. I liked to bake but would rather have my Mom bake for me. And because you didn't really cook for 4-H, I didn't really learn how to do it. 

My first year as an "adult" in college, I lived in the dorms, and people made my lunch. I didn't know how to make much beyond a good grilled cheese and a can of tomato soup, and I was the master of boxed shells and cheese. However, cooking in my dorm was a hassle, and I had a food plan anyway with the ISU dining center, so I just ate there.

When I became truly lost was when I ventured to Italy and studied abroad the first semester of my sophomore year. Suddenly, it was a minimum of 7 euros to eat a meal, which got expensive really fast. So I found myself using my expensive euro minutes to call my Mom and ask her how to make scalloped corn, and stir fry, and anything else I craved as I yearned for familiarity. And in Italy, I became a vegetarian. Suddenly, I fell in love with eggplant, any kind of bean, squash, and tons of other vegetables I had claimed to abhor. Suddenly I was learning to cook for myself and be a vegetarian at the same time.

I made and ate some strange things that semester. Before, I had hated beans, but canned beans were so cheap, and my roommate and I would buy them, open the can, heat them up, and eat them right out of the can. A favorite meal was when I fried potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers, and toss them with olive oil and pasta. I burned a lot of potatoes and learned that timing is everything. I started spending my mornings before class at the Italian language computer lab, browsing for hours through websites like Better Homes and Gardens and Vegetarian Times trying to demystify recipes, ingredients, and how to make modifications for Europe. 

After that, I only got  more curious. I subscribed to magazines and bought Vegetarian cookbooks. I became an artisan bread baker.  I became obsessed with beautiful food and beautiful ingredients. And then cooking became therapy, another love, and another art for me to embrace. 

Today, I make all kinds of things. I love to cook. My kitchen overflows with dishes, appliances, and possibility. I have recipes I pass on to friends for my best homemade pizza, my brown-butter tortellini, my three-bean chili, and my baked oven eggs. In November, I started eating meat again, and it has opened my culinary door to infinite possibilities, even though I still hold a special place in my heart for vegetarian meals. 

This past year, I didn't cook much. I didn't explore much. Or at least, I didn't enjoy cooking. It is funny how when I get stressed or overextended artistically and physically, the last thing I want to do is cook. I have such a hard time finding the creative energy for it. As soon as I graduated from IU, I could feel my culinary chains loosening. I have started to enjoy cooking again. I hope to start documenting some beautiful food moments on this blog, especially after tuning into CreativeLive's last amazing photography workshop with the amazing food and culture photographer, Penny de los Santos. It not only inspired me photographically and as an artist, but it made me want to appreciate and document my life more. After all, that is why I picked up my first DSLR in the first place.

This week, I think one of our best nights was when Ayron grilled cheesy chicken sausages and we sipped fresh strawberry margaritas and munched on:

Spicy black-bean hummus
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 heaping tbsp tahini
  • 1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/8 cup water
  • red pepper flakes
  • chipotle chili pepper
  • smoked spanish paprika
  • hot sauce (we have some pretty spicy Louisiana style hot sauce)
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, plus some to drizzle on top
Mix all ingredients in a food processor. Drizzle with olive oil.

Guacamole, Kelly style:
  • 2 ripe avocadoes
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced fairly small
  • a handful of grape tomatoes, diced
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • lime juice
  • Olive oil to drizzle on top
Mash avocados in a bowl (a potato masher works wonders!). Mix in remaining ingredients. Drizzle with olive oil and serve.

My favorite moment of Penny's from the aforementioned seminar?

"If you're not doing what you love, why not? Why are you not doing what you love?...Whatever it is you want to do, you can do it.  Whatever it is you want to be, you can be it.  So go do it.  That is your final assignment." 

Thank you Penny. I will do it. I will be it. I will do my very best to fall in love with my chosen path every day, and to embrace what I'm meant to be.

somewhere between excitement and total panic

The past couple of weeks have been full of all kinds of ups and downs. My husband and I received our masters degrees from Indiana University and headed back to Iowa to reunite with friends and family. I am so relieved to be graduated it is hard for me to find words to describe it.  It is like a long, beautiful chapter of my life is over and now the next wonderful stage can begin.

The trip home was mostly bliss for me, especially getting to be with my family (especially that sweet niece of mine who is pictured below). This will be the first summer ever that I don't spend in the middle of the cornfields, immersed in the routine of walking with my Mother in the mornings, working at the house or on the farm for the rest of the day, and digging my hands into that lovely stretch of 8x8 raised beds and gardening whenever possible. It will be the first summer without the communal dinners where we put our heads together and have nightly feasts. It will be the first summer I don't walk around barefoot on the grass and walk out my front door and smell that deep, heady scent of twilight. It will be the first time I'm not home for Father's day.

It is hard to describe that deep yearning for a place to someone who doesn't have a similar spot in their heart for someplace like this. I always wondered why I wasn't like many "normal" children who feel the innate desire to be different; I never wanted to forge my own new path into some unknown world and leave all that I had known to reach beyond it. That doesn't mean I don't have hopes and dreams, but for me there is no greater satisfaction, no greater peace, and no greater beauty in any place besides that stretch of 200 odd acres in northwest Iowa. My family is there. My history is there. My heart is there.

But I cannot figure out a way for it to make sense for my physical self to be there. I have this awesome opportunity to be a photographer here. I think I can do it there, too, but here I will have more opportunities to get experience. And Ayron needs to be here to continue to pursue his dream of becoming a professional singer, and I want to support him one-hundred-and-ten-percent. 

I just feel like there are a lot of growing pains. And there will be so many more. Starting a business and actually growing it and moving it forward are so exhausting. Yes, it is rewarding, but it is hard some days not to be stifled by the fear of it all. There is this deep fear of not being good enough that accompanies almost any artistic endeavor. Who am I kidding? It accompanies almost any big step in life. 

I just have to remember that to truly grow you have to take risks. Truly great things always take a lot of effort to attain. On the hard days, I just have to remember why I started taking photographs in the first place. One of the reasons is right here:

I just have to pray. And dream. I need to always keep dreaming.