Remember how I wrote here that I was thinking about upgrading my camera? Well, I did it. I'm now the proud owner of a fabulous Canon 7D and spent the week getting acquainted with my new gear. I had planned to post some 34-week maternity self portraits today, but they all turned out either unflattering or a bit too revealing for public consumption. (Unfortunately, I can't fault the new camera for either issue...) Maybe I'll try again next week.
In the meantime, I thought I'd give an update on some of the artwork I'm collecting for Cricket's new bedroom. I'm realizing that decorating a "big-girl room" is a different undertaking from designing a newborn nursery. For the nursery, I collected things that were meaningful to Jeff and me. But our big girl now has a big personality filled with opinions and life experiences from which to draw. So here goes:
I found the 8x10 poster above by Yellow Button Studio on Pinterest and couldn’t resist. It’s a perfect fit since mountains play a big role in our lives and, of course, we think Cricket is amazing enough to move them.
I saw the print above with black text on the blog sfgirlbybay and knew the sentiment belonged on Cricket's wall; we are trying to raise her to be an adventurer alongside us. (You can buy the print here.) The aesthetics didn't quite jive with the rest of her room, so I decided to place the text on a photo of her with her dad that I snapped on Emerald Isle a few weeks ago. Voila:
The mountain poster and the above photo will hang next to each other in a collage format with a few additional and undetermined items. I'm also printing the photo below, Vibrant trail, which I shot last summer in Colorado (Cricket was just around the bend of the trail with Jeff), on a 20x30 canvas to hang above her second-hand, freshly painted blue dresser.
We still have a ways to go finish up the room, but I'll be excited to share the results with you in a few weeks!
In working on Cricket's new bedroom, we had trouble finding a bookshelf that fit our space and budget constraints and wasn't made out of some scary, toxic plastic material.
So I had the genius idea of buying four unfinished wooden crates from Michael's ($12.99 each), spray painting them white, tacking them together and then bolting them to the wall.
The problem with my "simple" DIY construction projects is that while I'm the designer and enforcer, my husband typically gets stuck as the implementer. And because he actually has some knowledge of how to do such things, he always uncovers quite a few flaws in my plans.
For example, the spray paint, which I thought would be faster than painting with a brush, failed. Miserably. So he resorted to using several coats of some paint we had left over from a recent bathroom trim project.
Then it took multiple iterations of bolts and screws to secure the crates to each other in a way he felt would be safe when Cricket got her hands on them. And then there was the standard debate of how best to anchor the finished shelf to the wall.
So the project took a bit more effort on his part than I anticipated, but I kept reminding him along the way that we were saving money by constructing the shelving ourselves. (Somehow the reminders didn't seem to improve the situation.)
The undertaking immediately seemed worth the hassle, however, as soon as Cricket saw the shelves in her room and exclaimed, "Oh!" as she ran over to investigate. Now we just have to fill them with her special books and toys.
(You can check out the completed toddler bedroom here and the nursery here.)
Addendum added 11/25/12: I've had a ton of interest in this bookshelf and was asked for a few more details on how we secured the crates together. I'm sure there are many ways you could do this, but we wanted to make sure it was very, very secure since a toddler would be pulling on it.
We stacked the crates, then drilled two holes into the center of the two middle planks of each shelf. (Photo below.) We used 3/4-inch bolts (screw plus nut) to secure the bottom of one crate to the top of the one below it. We made the opening of the holes wide so the top of the screw and the nut on the bottom side could recess into the wood (and not snag). The screws are visible on the shelves, but of course they are covered once you fill the shelves.
During the summer of 2010, we traveled to Costa Rica to stay at my in-laws’ newly finished house. Though we'd been to Costa Rica before, the trip was a bit more chaotic than we anticipated—think washed-out bridges, unexpected ferry rides across the Pacific at 1 a.m., broken water lines and power outages, all experienced while I was six-months pregnant. But we still thoroughly enjoy our crazy voyage, and I captured a lot of shots along the way.
The house is situated in the rainforest, where frogs chirp much of the night. One evening as we sat out on the back deck, we noticed something swimming in the pool. It turned out to be several frogs. I grabbed a camera and snapped a few photos of these little guys darting here and there. And voila: Swim frog.
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We had so much fun on our last "last trip" before the baby arrives (see posts on Hilton Head and Savannah) that we decided to sneak away just one more time. This weekend we headed to Emerald Isle and Beaufort, NC, with one of my sisters and her family.
While we were on the road, my husband told me he brought two boards and my wetsuit in case I wanted to surf. Then he looked over at my belly and said, "Oops, I guess your wetsuit probably won't fit right now." Yeah, probably not. It took him another moment and a searing look from me to realize that paddling out on a pregnant belly would be impossible, not to mention stupid. So he and my brother-in-law surfed the weekend's almost-non-existent waves together instead, surrounded by dolphins (above).
The house we rented sat right on the nearly empty beach. We walked, grilled and played mini golf, during which my baby niece insisted on holding a club the entire time while sitting in her stroller and my daughter insisted on holding a golf ball in each hand. It was lovely and relaxing, despite the fact that we were all experiencing various stages of the same illness. (We learned this year that along with all the joys, having kids means introducing a continual string of plagues into your life.)
On Sunday afternoon, we headed north to Beaufort, where we wandered around the historic waterfront, spied wild horses across the bay on Carrot Island and dined outside at the delightful Beaufort Grocery.
After my freshman year in college, I spent a summer at the Duke Marine Lab on Pivers Island (below), just over the bridge from Beaufort. Somehow it's been 11 years since that summer. Ouch. I decided it was high time I introduced my husband and daughter(s) to this special place. Our visit may have technically been more of a break-in, thanks to a "new" security gate—one that had been installed at some point over the last decade. But man was it fun to be there. Even the post-St. Patty's Day vomit sprinkled around the quad brought me right back to the good old days.
After posing for a photo with Cricket at the best happy hour spot in North Carolina (below), we headed home, where we're settling in for the long haul.
This weekend one of my three wonderful sisters threw us a little shindig. She'd asked if we wanted an official baby shower, but that seemed a little much since it feels like our friends and family were just showering us with gifts before Cricket was born. (They were. She was just born.) So we settled on a small, no-gifts event with a few close friends and family.
My sister throws a great party. She deemed the theme "Welcome to the Beautiful World," and even used some Calm Cradle photos in her decorations (above). Each guest brought along a little note, photo or memento of welcome for the baby, which my sister will be assembling into a book. Cricket and our three gorgeous nieces from my side of the family, along with a surprise visit from one of my DC cousins, kept the occasion quite lively. Looking around, I was overwhelmed by the thought of how lucky our new little girl is to have this community waiting for her. I know she'll fit right into the mix.
The celebration came at an appropriate time; it seemed to mark the transition from being mid-way through this pregnancy ordeal to seeing the light at the end of the tunnel—and desperately needing a nap at all times of the day. I suspect my blogging will slow down as I shift my focus to finishing the ever-growing to-do list and putting my feet up whenever Cricket will allow it (never). I'm getting so ready to welcome this baby into the beautiful world!
This week marked a bittersweet occasion for me as a photographer, mother and granddaughter; I sold the little Leica collection my grandpa passed down to me about a decade ago, which included two M6 bodies and several lenses. The selling of old gear may not sound significant to a non-photographer, but Leicas are the darlings of the photo world. They're a collector's dream. And oh boy, did the guy at the camera shop I sold them to drool when he got his hands on them.
For about a year, my Leicas traipsed around the world with me. They accompanied me to Paris, where I studied black and white photography at the wacky Studio Vermes, and all over Europe. They even joined me for a few months in Madagascar, where we lived together in a tent and shot mountains of color slides. There we took one of my favorite photos of all time—of a toddler in a nearby village (below). I never quite got her name (Or his? It’s hard to tell when a child wears only rags and has a head shaved to treat lice), but it sounded like Penelope Sue, so that’s how I still think of her. To me, the photo screams Madagascar: impoverished and dusty but still gorgeous.
And then my world suddenly turned digital. I continued to lug my Leicas from home to home as I finished college, moved to a new city, moved again to start graduate school and then got married and bought a house. But in each new place, I simply relegated them to a new closet—where they’ve sat for the better part of the last decade. I’m neither a collector nor a hoarder, so it was beginning to feel as though they were losing their place in my life.
Last weekend, as I was yet again lamenting the quality of my current camera (a Canon Rebel XT) and fantasizing about an upgrade, my brother-in-law suggested I sell the Leicas to fund a new camera. It was the first time the idea actually seemed worth the sentimental loss.
I mulled it over for a few days before hauling the equipment to a local camera store to see how much it was worth. It turns out I was sitting on a gold mine, which I suspected but never had the guts to have it appraised.
I hauled the Leicas back home to debate. What would it mean to sell them?
As a photographer, I would be able to fund a serious and necessary camera upgrade. I’d also lose a valuable collection. But I’m not a collector, so…
As a mother, I would gain a camera capable of better preserving memories of my kids. I’d also have quite a bit of extra cash to purchase the double stroller that could become the key to my sanity in just two months and the play kitchen I’ve been coveting for Cricket to help occupy her while I’m tending to the new baby. Plus I'd still have a chunk of change to put away for a future home improvement project.
As a granddaughter, I would lose a precious gift from my 92-year-old grandpa. My sister reminded me, however, that my grandparents are the least sentimental people ever and would completely understand. She also suggested I shoot some nice photos of the cameras to hang in my eventual studio, which seemed like a nice way to memorialize them.
It became clear that the benefits of selling the Leicas outweighed those of keeping them in the closet for another decade. Feeling justified, I took the leap and unloaded them this morning…and came home with a fat check. Whew. Yikes. Yippee!
I’m not allowing myself to look back. Instead, I’m researching my new camera. Perhaps the Canon 7D?
It's around 70 degrees and starting to feel like spring down here in Raleigh. Since those of you in cooler climates may not have many flowers blooming yet, I thought you might enjoy this image, Pastel blossom. Nothing says spring like a freshly blooming Japanese magnolia! There isn't an exciting back story to this photo; I shot it in my neighbor's front yard. But I keep coming back to it again and again, because it just makes me happy.
From now through 3/21/12, receive 15% off any size print of this image.
When we moved into our house nearly four years ago, we had almost nothing to hang on the walls or fill our shelves (besides tons and tons of books). So we set to work slowly accumulating meaningful art and objects that remind of us places we've been, places we dream of going and people we love. We're just not interested in things that hog space without inspiring us or stirring up warm memories.
So I was thrilled when, on a recent visit, my mother-in-law brought a delightful little gift: this engraved baby spoon that belonged to Cricket's great-grandmother, Marguerite. Neither Cricket nor I had a chance to meet Marguerite, since she passed away several years ago.
I have an idea for displaying this spoon in Cricket's room and will share it with you as soon as the project is finished. I hope its presence in her little haven will evoke lots of questions about her great-grandparents.
We've also been working on several other home projects that I can't wait to show you! Stay tuned.
(Check out how I hung the spoon in Cricket's toddler room here and here.)
Last weekend we escaped to Hilton Head Island for our last vacation as a family of three. (Check out my Hilton Head blog post.) We also spent an afternoon and evening in Savannah, since it was less than an hour from where we stayed. Who could resist a little time in the city that inspired Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil?
It was blustery as we wandered the historic downtown area, taking in the Spanish moss, the squares, the churches, the hundred-year-old homes. In the late afternoon, we ducked into Wright Square Cafe for hot chocolate and cookies before continuing on to Forsyth Park to get some wiggles out before dinner.
We used to turn down our noses at activities that seemed too touristy. But now that we're always on the lookout for family-friendly things to do, I couldn't help making a dinner reservation at The Pirates' House. The restaurant has four things going for it: it’s been around since 1753; it boasts a captivatingly rowdy history packed with pirates, sailors and ghosts; it’s got good food; and the wait staff and patrons put up with Cricket yelling, “Hi! Hi!” to every person who walked into the dining room until she elicited an adequate response from each.
Satisfied by our full bellies and a day of soaking up history, we made our way back to Hilton Head, vowing to return soon to Savannah (especially to see if we could drum up any promised ghost activity at The Pirates’ House).
Above, top left: Independent Presbyterian Church
Above, top right: Iron gate surrounding a gorgeous brick home built in the 1800s
Above, bottom left: Forsyth Park
Above, bottom right: The Pirates' House
Below: A giant bonus shot to demonstrate my obsession with Spanish moss
I'm Julia Soplop. I've spent my life documenting the world around me in writing and photography. I believe there is something profound in bearing witness to moments of joy and pain in others’ lives. My husband, three girls and I live outside of Chapel Hill, NC. You can read more about me here.