It had been more than a year since our last trip to visit family outside Charlottesville, VA, so we packed the car—and by car I mean new minivan, because, yes, it actually happened—and drove northwest until that unmistakable blue of the Blue Ridge Mountains rose into view. When we weren't watching the girls play games, swim and weave bracelets with their older cousins (read: heroes), we meandered along idyllic backroads and wound our way through Shenandoah National Park a few times. This gentle, rolling swath of country makes my heart happy.
Above: Sunset over the Shenandoah Valley from Shenandoah National Park.
Below: Farmland around Harrisonburg and Charlottesville. Views from Shenandoah National Park. Racing around the Charlottesville downtown pedestrian mall.
I came across this tiny country chapel last year and had to stop by again.
A sprawling farm outside Harrisonburg.
It's always tough to get the girls to bed when we travel, so I had the brilliant idea to head back up to the park with Nora to catch sunset over the valley. I figured she would fall asleep on the drive, I would get to watch and photograph the sunset in peace, then would drive home and transfer her to bed. Right. She didn't sleep a wink and spent the evening free-climbing the stone wall at the outlook. But it was a much funnier and more memorable experience than if she'd fallen asleep like she was supposed to. Isn’t that how life always pans out with kids in tow?
Goodnight, Blue Ridge.
Whether she's sitting in our bike trailer eating a lollipop, riding a tricycle on the back deck or pedaling furiously on her pretend bike (the arm of the couch), Nora is obsessed with biking. We are too, so naturally we decided to have a bicycle-themed party for Nora's 2nd birthday. I may be more than two months late in posting, but I couldn't resist sharing a few snaps from the special day.
Above: Thank goodness my engineer father-in-law was in town to help carve the path winding down the side of this mountain of cake or I would have been in trouble. You can find the inexpensive bicycle figurines here.
Below: The birthday girl.
Of course she needed some bicycle paraphernalia for her party. You can find this adorable dress here.
One of these days, I'll post Nora's 2-year-old portraits from our trip to Florida this spring. In the meantime, here's a preview from her (non-bike-related) invitation.
On our first blueberry-picking trip to Herndon Hills Farm in Durham, NC, we encountered a serious dilemma: whether to eat the blueberries immediately or drop them into our buckets to take home and bake into a delectable treat.
Predictably, Nora (2 years old) couldn't stop shoving the berries in her mouth and, when it was time to leave, presented me with a completely empty bucket. Cricket (3 years old) tasted a few, but continuously reminded us that blueberry muffins awaited. And what would her cousins say if we showed up to their house on the Fourth of July without baked goods? Needless to say, her bucket was brimming with berries as we finished.
When we returned home, I read that Design Mom is bringing back her Love the Place You Live series today. This announcement arrived at a perfect time for us for two reasons. First, I shot way too many blueberry photos (iPhone only on this adventure) and needed an excuse to share them. And second, we're debating a move within the next few years and are always tallying up pros and cons of living in the Triangle area of North Carolina.
Was picking organic berries at Herndon Hills Farm a pro? Absolutely. Will we go back again? Yes, and soon. This time around I know which little lady I can trust to fill her belly and which I can trust to bring home the goods.
(I've participated in the series twice before. You can check out the posts here: Historic Hillsborough, NC, and Eno River State Park, in Durham, NC.)
Allow me to introduce you to one of my newest—quite literally—friends, Baby Kate. Her arrival marked a week of huge transition for her family: a few days after welcoming her as their second child, they closed on a house following a year-long search for just the right place to raise their girls.
Shortly before Kate was born, her mom, inspired by this bittersweet story, had the brilliant idea to take Kate's newborn photos in their new house before they moved in.
"Is that a crazy idea?" she asked me.
Before the words were even out of her mouth, I had my answer: "No, we are absolutely doing this."
Something I love about lifestyle (or documentary-style) photography is that it captures not only a moment in time but also adds essential context to that moment. I hope these images of 9-day-old Kate will remind her family not only of her arrival—her tiny hands; her smooth, soft, delicious-smelling skin; the way her big sister would run in, completely unprompted, to check on her and give her kisses—but also of this time of transition—growing from a family of three to a family of four; creating a childhood home out of an empty house in a new town. I hope these images will remind them that this time in their lives, despite all the stress, was good. It was more than good. It was oh so sweet.
Welcome to the world, Baby Kate!
Above: Baby Kate dozes in the cradle her grandmother slept in as an infant.
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.