Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas 2011

We are one of those families rooted in traditions:

- Filet mignon on Christmas Eve, either preceded or followed by church, at which there is the very-much-anticipated candle lighting. 
- Lasagna on Christmas Day, with appetizers to include shrimp and punch, among other things. 
- Crumb cake on Christmas morning. 
- Stockings first, presents second. 
- Ice cream cake to celebrate my grandma's birthday, which is on Christmas Day. 
- My mom's handwritten notes to each of us kids on our Christmas cards; they recap our year and usually take up the whole back of a card.
- Homemade cinnamon rolls made by my sister.
- Lights in milk jugs out in front of our house, lit on Christmas Eve by my dad, illuminating the way down our street (we're going to try and get our whole street to do it next year).
- A quick drive on Christmas Eve - with everyone packed in one car - to see lights in other neighborhoods.

But throughout the years, traditions have changed. Some have been welcomed and others... well.... haven't. This year my mom couldn't find our stockings, so she put our goodies in gift bags. And this year Grandma wasn't with us - she passed away in August. And Christmas was on Sunday, so we went to church, which just adjusted schedules a bit. And our Christmas here at "home" was smaller - just mom, dad, and me, since both my siblings are married. But the food was the same. The note on the card was there and written in red. The lights outside on Christmas Eve were pretty. And we again rejoiced in Christ's birth many years ago.

Sometimes I have mixed emotions with taking pictures on Christmas. I like enjoying watching everyone else and don't want to be caught up with my eyes behind the lens. But I tried to snap a few, and have some stories behind a few.

Each year I give the boys the newest Hess truck/car series. They look forward to it each year.

They also love Pez candies. This year my mom stumbled upon HUGE Pez
dispensers and they were in love.

Kids these days...they are getting so familiar with technology. Grant (especially) has been asking for a Nintendo DS
for years now, and each year he doesn't get one. This year all the boys got a DS. I am sure
they will be kept busy for hours and hours.

While they don't glorify Santa, the boys leave cookies for Santa.
Santa graciously writes them a note back and tries to disguise his handwriting.

Crazy Rudy with his bone. This is the dog that swallows socks, so you can imagine the horror when we
found out that he swallowed one of those ends of the bone WHOLE.

Fritz with his bone. He is a lot more quiet and looked apprehensive when someone would approach.

One of Santa's little helpers. :-)

It was tough on my emotions to know Grandma wouldn't be with us this Christmas, especially compounded
because her birthday is on Christmas Day.  There are a number of possessions my grandma had that my
sister now has - including this Christmas cactus. While my grandma had it, there were many a pink
flower that could be seen blooming around Christmas, but since my sister has had it, there haven't been too many.
But a few weeks ago, the pink flowers started popping up. What a joy to see
new life coming out of sadness in the loss of her life. We remembered her throughout the day and
thought of her as we had our ice cream cake, although this year minus the singing of "Happy Birthday."

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Gavin and Cranberry Streusel Muffins

I am doing some testing with my watermark being applied to pictures (a goal of mine to have for all my blog and website pics for 2012)...and of course what better than to apply it to an adorably cute picture of my nephew from a few days before Christmas.

I had a wonderful Christmas and am thankful for the gifts I received. It was great spending time with my family and seeing the expressions on my nephews faces as they opened their presents. Hope you had a wonderful day celebrating with family and friends.

And just because.....I found this new recipe I am dying to try. If you're interested in a good muffin recipe, try this out. I have cranberries on the mind because I just mentioned to a friend last night that I was craving these grilled cranberries muffins we get at a fantastically wonderful coffee house in PA.

Cranberry Streusel Muffins

1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 T baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
a pinch of salt
1 stick unsalted butter, chilled and diced
1/2 cup chopped mixed nuts
2 cups fresh cranberries
grated peel of 1 orange
2 T unsalted butter, melted

(makes 12)

1. preheat oven to 350.
2. put buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla in a small bowl and whisk lightly.
3. put the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large mixing bowl. add the chilled, diced butter and rub into the dry ingredients using your fingertips. when the mixture looks like bread crumbs, add the chopped nuts and mix to combine. scoop out about 1/2 c of the dry mixture and set aside in a separate bowl.
4. add the egg mixture to the large bowl and mix until only just combined. add the cranberries and orange peel and fold in briefly.
5. spoon the mixture into the muffin liners, filling them almost to the top. 
6. pour the melted butter into the reserved dry ingredients and mix with a fork until crumbly. scatter evenly over the muffins.
7. put the muffin pan on the middle shelf of the oven. bake for about 20 min. or until golden  and a wooden skewer inserted into the middle of the muffin comes out clean.

When I make mine, I'll take pictures to post.

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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas....

Merry Christmas everyone. 
I pray that today you are able to reflect on Christ's birth 
as you spend time with family and friends.

I await 2012 with anticipation.....


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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas rose

For many years, my dad has given me a single red rose on Valentine's Day. He walked in from work yesterday with roses for my mom, and a single red rose for me. I immediately noted that the "greens" behind the rose were not the typical ferns you see. He mentioned the lady at the floral counter said they were all out, and hoped these would do. I actually prefer them. The edges are tipped with white and they almost have this smell of Christmas to them, if Christmas can have a smell.

And so I knew my next step would be finding a vase. I knew right away what vase I'd get...the one I got this summer from my friend's wedding. She had looked and looked for the perfect vases, which would become just one part of the centerpieces for her tables at the reception. And she gave me a vase from her special day. It has an antique-like feel to it and yet a modern flair - the perfect fit for me. And so now my rose has a home, in a very special vase, from a very special day this year.

I can't wait for it to open up even more.

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Friday, December 23, 2011

Larry, Moe, and Curly

Alright, so their names aren't Larry, Moe, and Curly, but they are still some of the cutest kids in my life. I am so proud to call them my nephews and I will - even if they outgrow calling me it - forever be their Aunt "Sissy".

And of course, they are subject to my camera a lot more frequently... and tolerate it when I ask them to stand still for the millionth time...well, with bribes of course!

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Mr. and Mrs. Burkholder

I met Megan and Jared during my tenure at PBU. Jared was the student government president and I served as his advisor.  We had many meetings together to plan and think about many potential ideas or possible events for the students he was leading. And Megan was his faithful girlfriend, then bride-to-be. I got to know Jared "faster", simply because I interacted with him a lot. But Megan soon became one of my favorite people to see in the halls and in the office where I worked. Whenever I'd see them - individually or together - a nickname began to stick. My initials are SAZ...and so became the nickname many would use at PBU. So whenever we'd see each other, it was, "Hey SAZ", or "SAZ, how are you?" When they asked me to photograph their wedding, I couldn't have been more honored to photograph their special day.

They got married on a beautiful (and sunny) day in July. Their wedding was at Chelten Baptist Church and their reception was in a beautiful barn in Telford, PA. My favorite part of the wedding was watching the emotions as Jared shared a dance with his mom and Megan with her dad. The candid smiles and giddy faces show how much their families love them both.

Megan and Jared, God's blessings on you as you navigate through this thing called marriage. I am excited to hear what's next with jobs and opportunities to serve and be leaders, just like you were at PBU.

Love,  SAZ

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mr. and Mrs. Haas

It's exciting to know that my job will allow me to celebrate in the joy of marriage with couples who choose me as their photographer. And it's even more fun when I know the bride and groom, along with members of their families and bridal party. Such was the case with Jess and Phil. Their wedding was in Clarks Summit, PA on a beautiful Saturday. Rain was in the forecast, but held off long enough in the morning for us to get pictures outside. We drove to nearby Scranton - where a graduation ceremony was taking place - and took some beautiful shots near this location we appropriately called "The Secret Garden".

Their ceremony was heartfelt; one of the things I loved about it (and wish others did this too) is that for most of the ceremony, they faced their audience. So often brides and grooms are facing the pastor and all their guests see is their backs. So Jess and Phil, I loved this decision you made.

Their reception was equally as touching. At one point, they played a video, but it wasn't just a photo slideshow...both Jess and Phil had voiceovers throughout the video to thank important people in their lives. I will admit, I had tears in my eyes as I photographed reactions to this video, especially when they thanked their parents.

Jess and Phil, thank you for allowing me to photograph your special day. God held the rain off just long enough...moments after they got in their getaway car, the rains came down!

Here are just a few of my fav images from the day...


And many thanks to my friend Natalee who assisted this day. She got some great shots.
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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Hallmark: Featured Work

In June I graduated from Hallmark Institute of Photography. Every few weeks, Hallmark changes images on their website and features work of its most recent students. It's been encouraging to see my work featured on there a few times, like here and here. And just today I went on and saw another of my pictures on the homepage:

It's a teaset I talked about here just about a year ago. It still is one of my more favorite shots from the commercial studio.

And yesterday I got an email from a staff member at Hallmark informing me that some of my images are in the new Hallmark 2012-2013 catalog; a copy is coming in the mail soon. How exciting!
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Thursday, October 27, 2011


Here's an attempt at a haiku about a tree I photographed while we were picking pumpkins:

Tree barren of leaves
Caught by an autumnal gaze
Majesty displayed

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Luca, Lititz, and "loss"

Last week my mom and I traveled to Lititz, PA (near Lancaster) to have lunch with my cousin and aunt. My cousin has a handsome little boy who was on his best behavior during our visit. Poor kid....he had to hang out with 3 chatty women.

Meet Luca - the adorable little redhead.


We went to this great place for lunch - Ten Thousand Villages - and had amazing turkey chili and quiche and yummy desserts. Ten Thousand Villages is one of the world's largest fair trade organizations; they sell wares of artisans from Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. Their goods are sold in North America and the funds are sent back to their countries to provide for things like food, education, healthcare, and housing.

It was so wonderful seeing the works of art that were contained within the store....beautiful pieces of jewelry, paintings, ceramics, baskets, kids toys, sculptures, and stationery. But I think my most favorite thing to see was the variety of nativities they had placed around for the upcoming Christmas season. There were tiny, delicate nativities from Sri Lanka, colorfully decorated ones from Peru, ornate ones from ...but my absolute favorite was this one entitled "Roly-Poly Felt Nativity" from Nepal.

Here's a small pic from the website:

But go to the link above and see it for can click on the image there and see portions of it larger....the sheep are just so whimsical. The whole thing was crafted by using wool felt balls.

Isn't it just precious??

All in all, we had a GREAT time in PA visiting with our family. Upon leaving for home, we just haaad to stop at one of our favorite places to pick up some traditional PA food we like to get; the store used to be called Farmer Brown's, but years ago was taken over by a market known as Martin's. When we arrived, we were SHOCKED to see that our beloved Farmer Brown's is going out of business. The shelves were becoming bare and there was no fresh food. We came home sans everything we love but Herr's potato chips, made with the good stuff - lard. :-)

Martin's - aka Farmer Brown's - in Morgantown, PA

(Photos courtesy of Google search)

The building was also home to another favorite - the Country Porch Primitives store, chock full of country folk items. I was like a kid in a candy store every time we'd go in there.

So another era passes as we "mourn the loss" of childhood memories, of trips to Farmer Brown's so we could run around in the quilt shop upstairs, get a hot pretzel from the vendor on the way out of the supermarket, hit the bathrooms before heading on our (seemingly) long journey home to NJ when we were kids, and throwing our pennies into the water where a small waterwheel spun water into a pool of tiny fish.

But I'm sure as we continue to go, we will become fond of the places we now go, and look forward to the new places we've not yet been to.
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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Great Pumpkin

I guess it's time to pull out Charlie Brown's "It's the Great Pumpkin" and watch it with my nephews. Yesterday we went pumpkin-picking with them and had a good time. Of course I was busy trying to get them to pose for pictures while they were wanting to run around and find their own "great pumpkin".

But I did get some good silhouette shots in as the sun was setting. As excited as some get about pumpkins, I like the array of gourds that are in the big buckets for the picking.

I picked one of the orange and white pumpkins to take home as my souvenir for the evening. I'm sure this weekend will consist of some gutting and carving and lighting some candles. Here's what it looked like last year after all was said and done....can't wait to see the designs this year....

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

"Why God Made Little Boys"

I stumbled across this poem (author unknown) and really liked it:

God made the world out of His dreams 
Of magic mountains, oceans and streams, 
Prairies and plans and wooded land, 
Then paused and thought "I need someone to stand 
On top of mountains, to conquer the seas, 
Explore the plains and climb the trees. 
Someone to start out small and to grow, 
Sturdy, strong as a tree…" And so, 
He created boys, full of spirit and fun, 
To explore and conquer, to romp and run. 
With dirty faces and banged up chins, 
With courageous hearts and boyish grins. 
When He had completed the task He'd begun 
He surely said "A job well done".

And it made me think of this little boy who I had the pleasure of meeting two weeks ago for the very first time....what a sweet-natured, vivacious, and handsome little one. I tell you, he is going to be one of those boys mentioned in the poem above...he will most definitely be one to romp around and for sure will have a very courageous heart.

He was a champ riding around the house in his
"car"...he's going to be walking sooooon!

Baby "J" with his friend Ted

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Friday, October 7, 2011

Fallin' in love with fall....

Here are just a few reasons why I love fall:

crisp mornings
caramel apple spice at Starbucks
bonfires and smores
the changing leaves on trees
wearing down vests
apple cake
fall colors: oranges, yellows, browns...all in glorious mixtures
crunchy leaves under your feet
light breezes that make you wish for a blanket while outside at a fall sports game
post-season baseball and the World Series
sleeping with the windows open

Here are a few fall images that I think about each year:

Craft fair in Deerfield, MA - fall 2010

Dean at Ort's Farm in NJ - fall 2009

Some of the most beautiful foliage I've ever seen
Maine - fall 2007

Maine - fall 2007

Maine - fall 2007

Hacklebarney State Park, NJ - fall 2009

Ort Farm, NJ - fall 2009

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Prior to attending photography school, I worked at PBU as the Director of Student Programs. One of my roles was to advise the Student Senate, which is the student government for the school. Two years ago I had the opportunity to advise this great group of students. They decided they wanted to go on a quick retreat away from school, and one of the student leaders offered up his farm as the getaway place. When we arrived, we realized we'd have the opportunity to see all sorts of animals - piglets, goats, cows, and a few farm cats. While there, we had the opportunity to meet this incredible family - the Mecks. They were so hospitable, serving us a great Lancaster county meal, enjoying lots of laughs over a competitive game of Dutch Blitz, and wonderful company.

The Meck's son - Derek - was one of the students on the cabinet (whose engagement pictures I posted here). They have two other kids - Kyle and Rachelle. When we were there for our retreat, Rachelle had just gotten a job with a hospital and was leaving for her hospital shift. Since that meeting, I've kept up now and then with Rachelle. She has such a sweet personality and is one of the most kind people I've had the opportunity to meet. So when I went to take Derek and Jen's engagement pictures at the family farm, I got to see Rachelle again. Her mom asked if I could snap a few pictures of Rachelle, so in this very impromptu mini photoshoot, I took just a few pictures of her. 

Rachelle, you have such a depth to you, and a beauty that is characteristic to those who love the Lord as much as you do. I hope you know how beautiful you are.



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