Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category

A few changes on the way

March 3, 2011

This blog has served as a catchall for baby and kid stories and photos, ramblings, recipes and client photos for a very long time, and it’s time for something new!

When I started here on wordpress nearly five years ago, I didn’t even have a phone that took a photo. (Really!) So all my posts about my kids turned into long (long!) winded narratives with lots of lovingly and carefully selected photos and…well, I think only crazy new mothers can keep that up. Or bloggers far more organized than me.

So then, when I got a phone with a camera (I think this was the first time I posted a cell phone picture, in 2008) and started using it all the time to illustrate the funny moments in our days, it didn’t seem like this spot was the place—mixed in with gorgeous brides and sweet, clean babies—to feature my messy, muddy duo.

And, since I was almost never sitting down at the computer to record the moments I wanted to remember, it felt like I needed a place to post by phone the mobile memories we were making. So, Will and Henry (a.k.a. Hank and Willie) have a new home on tumblr. It’s right here, and the address is annasawin.tumblr.com.

And has fine images like this one there:

I’m going to keep a similar eclectic mix here, but those tiny feet you see above in the header have grown (when I can find the image file of those feet, it will migrate over to tumblr, too) and might not need so many posts of their own. Since, thankfully, they don’t keep us up at night anymore, and as I look back, it seems that all I did was write about that and post recipes for hot fudge sauce.

So this space here, connected to my photography website, is going to be undergoing a transformation along with my website this month. I’ll still be posting client images here until the transformation is finished, but I’m hoping that will be soooooon–I’m ready!

Here’s a wee sliver of a peek at the website and blog changes coming up, designed by Lucinda Wesson of Chocolate Creative Design. Can’t wait!

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A new year

January 20, 2011

I’ve been so headlong into my plans for the new year that I didn’t notice I had, very ungracefully, let the old year linger far too long on this page.

I’m working on a few things, including a new website, new business blog and a new Hank & Willie, so  perhaps you can forgive me for being in the moment elsewhere and not here!

How’s YOUR January treating you?

Something to consider here–I borrowed this from the ladies at Design & Voice in Old Saybrook, CT –I thought this was just SO for the new year!

In reruns: The Fabulous Housewives of Stonington

December 13, 2010

Remember when I used to do Food Fridays? Remember when I used to blog almost every day? Sigh. I’m hoping my brand new spanking blog and whole new look in 2011, designed by Chocolate Creative Design, will change my deplorable blogging habits.

In the meantime, I had so much fun reading Heidi ‘s guest post on shoes over at  Glitter, Glue and Fireflies (if you haven’t been following along in the gift guide, catch up now!) that I had to go back and watch the entire Fabulous Housewives slide show. Boy, that was fun. Boy, that was a lot of bronzer. I think next up the fabulous housewives are planning a 70s fondue evening, but I’m hoping a 50s housewife party, complete with retro aprons will be on the docket someday!

Food Friday: Fabulous Housewives and a Champagne Dinner for Eight

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Who needs to be real housewives when you can be fabulous ones? A few brilliant and creative friends, (including Lucinda Wesson of creative design studio True & Wesson) recently engineered a send-off to a friend leaving our staid New England shores for sunny Florida. The send-off involved, among other things, a can of hairspray, seven pairs of false eyelashes, several pairs of tube socks and an awful lot of bronzer as we channeled a retro Florida fabulous groove in her honor.

gorgeouslori

gorgeouslori#2

Thankfully, the evening also involved a fantastic progressive meal (plus a stop in a local establishment before the main course to be SURE our outfits were appreciated). The menu? From “A Party with Fizz” in the June 2007 issue of Bon Appetite. The food? Fabulous.

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The complete menu is available here, and it was just terrific, from the Shiitaki, Goat Cheese and Chanterelle Pizza appetizers,  the salad, the Roasted Shrimp in Champagne-Shallot Sauce, the delicious Orzo Risotto and the amazing Blue Lake Green Beans with Lemon and Thyme that we all raved about.

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Menu cards and table design by Chocolate Creative Design/Lucinda Wesson, china and stemware from the extraordinary and lovely collection of the bronzest housewife of all, Heidi,  who bravely hosted this dinner.

I can only take responsibility for the Lemon Cream Tart, and hardly at that because (come closer, I’m going to whisper this) I didn’t actually make the crust, but used a premade one. I’ve never done this before, and I was really surprised at how okay it was. Or perhaps it was the champagnes paired with each course that dampened my ability to be critical of pie crust. In any case, the recipe is easy and so darn good, especially with a bit of Raspberry-Apricot Compote with Champagne and Lemon Verbena on the side. I’m just saying.

Lemon Cream Tart Crust

  • 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 large egg yolks

Filling

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon (packed) finely grated lemon peel
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

For crust: Butter bottom (not sides) of 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Blend flour, sugar, grated lemon peel, and salt in processor. Add butter; blend until coarse meal forms. Add egg yolks; blend until moist clumps form. Gather dough into ball. Press onto bottom and up sides of prepared pan. Freeze crust until firm, about 15 minutes. DO AHEAD Crust can be made 2 days ahead. Cover; keep frozen. Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake crust 5 minutes. Press up sides with back of fork if falling. Continue to bake until golden, pressing up sides as needed, about 18 minutes longer. Cool completely. Maintain oven temperature. For filling: Whisk sugar, eggs, yolks, and lemon peel in heavy medium saucepan. Whisk in lemon juice and wine. Cook over medium heat until custard thickens and just begins to bubble, whisking constantly, about 5 minutes. Transfer to medium bowl. Cool to just warm, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Gradually whisk in cream. Pour filling into crust. Bake tart until filling is set in center and begins to puff at edges, about 20 minutes. Cool in pan on rack. Refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 6 hours.

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If you have your own party, you’re going to need a little of this–SERIOUS hairspray and nearly illegal coral lipstick.

For the full, fabulous experience, enjoy our extremely fabulous slide show here.  And let me know if you are having your own fabulous housewives party, because I want to come!

Oh, hi. You’re still here?

July 8, 2010

Well. I cringed a little when I looked at the date on my last post, APRIL 28. I have never taken such a long, extended break from my beloved blog, but I ended up having a really full life in May and June of all good things, and I just didn’t take the time to post it.  At the same time, I’ve been considering the newest directions for this blog, which serves so many roles for me–my electronic baby book, first and foremost. Also, my preview site for photography clients and future clients. And, for those who have been reading a long time, you’ll recall that the wanna-be food writer in me found a home here, too.

Hank & Willie as we know it is going to look a little different very soon, thanks to the creative touches of Lucinda Wesson at Chocolate Creative Design, but in the meantime, I’m back and have so much to post! I have missed this so much!

Stay tuned for a million pictures coming your way shortly.

xo,

Anna

Why we have blogs

January 28, 2009

If you haven’t noticed, I’ve had a case of the blahs lately. Something to do with this endless winter we’re having in New England, maybe, and tired of taking photos inside? So I haven’t had much inspiration to spend time here, until I get a lovely, thoughtful comment like this one, out of the blue, from a mom who had just read a post I wrote a long while back about the trauma (to mom) of seeing your child knock out a tooth.

From reader L, who no doubt found me via Google:

Hi, just had the same experience with my 3 year old son. I sobbed at the sight of his tooth loss and pain. He fell off his bed and into the radiator three feet away. My husband and I are still puzzled over the physics of how this occurred and needless to say, we moved the bed.

I just wanted to say thank you for your posting. It really comforted me, especially the part about feeling irrationally responsible for what happened. It might sound dramatic to say this, but I did experience deep depression after the event, in large part due to the helplessness I felt and my inability to protect my child. Your mind also starts turning over completely senseless things you could have done to prevent the accident, and in the end, you arrive at the realization that some things are beyond your control. I think this last part is what bothered me most about the accident. At any rate, reading your posting made me feel I wasn’t alone and thanks a bundle for that. Your children are also extremely adorable.

Thank YOU, L, for your nice comment, because it reminds me, in part, of why I’m here. While I started this blog as an electronic baby book, and I still value it beyond measure for the record it keeps of my children’s babyhood and maybe beyond, I never knew, when I started this, the value it would provide in connecting with other parents. I’ve connected with all kinds of parents—those scarred by premature birth or premature tooth loss, parents of boys, parents exploring different parenting philosophies, parents hunting for a “dirt cake recipe” (nearly every day, according to my stats) and so on. I’ve met friends with so much in common, and friends without almost anything in common, and I, too, have been comforted by their words along the way.

So now you’ll have to excuse me, while I go search the sometimes wise, sometimes funny and nearly always comforting words of the blogosphere for something new tonight. Let’s see, should I try “Second fall on front tooth, looks slightly gray?” “Bleeding front primary tooth, preschooler” or just “Will my son’s baby tooth fall out because he just fell on it again, for GOD’S SAKE?”

Blame that fussy baby new year

January 1, 2009

Since life has conspired to keep me from finishing my now annual photo roundup of the year just past, I give you last year’s as a place holder.

You know, in case you had nothing else to do for a few minutes.

Click HERE.

I hope to finish it by tomorrow. Got any good song suggestions for me? I’m having a hard time topping the one I used last year.

Happy new year to you all!

Not dead, just wondering when

November 6, 2008

…my Congressman will help out with those extra hours in the day I requested. All things are possible in this new day, so why not that?

Back later with some Halloween photos, though my costume is already completely out-of-date. And I’m completely okay with that.

Test Pattern Here/

August 2, 2008

Day eight of DSL interruption at Hank & Willie HQ.

We’ll be back next week, even if we have to MOVE to get better Internet service. Sigh.

Don’t forget the gummy worms!

July 28, 2008

Okay, so I’m kind of in reruns today. This is technically a “reprint” from a guest post over at Crunchy Domestic Goddess and as a contributor to a great New England parenting site, Kidoinfo. While lots of you Best Shot Monday folks could write the book on photographing kids, I’m hoping some of you will find them helpful for taking photos of your families this summer.

But before we get to that, it is Monday, and here is my Best Shot for today, Henry in the blueberry patch last week. Looking for more Monday favorites? Click over to Best Shot Monday.

As you can see, the boy loves his blueberries.

DON’T FORGET THE GUMMY WORMS

(And six more tips for taking better photos of your kids this summer)

It’s summertime, and the activities from each busy day could fill their own photo album. Maybe you’ve got a digital SLR camera, or maybe you’re a diehard point-n-shooter, but we’ve all got the same goal in mind: to take the best possible pictures of our families, preserving the memories in the jewel-like light we remember them.

I can guarantee you’ll see great results in your photos if you try a few of these tips, and I won’t even talk about shutter speed and f-stops. And if you’re a devotee of automatic settings, you don’t have to change your stripes. You can try all these tips in auto mode.

1. Get involved.
Get close. Then get closer. Then get down low. Chances are you’re taking a photo of your child in a location you’d like to remember—maybe a scenic mountainside or a sparkling beach. But one of the biggest mistakes we can make in a photo is trying to include too much information, like taking a landscape photo that just happens to have a small, faraway person in it. Instead, fill the frame with your subject, making them the most important part of the photo. Because they are.

Want to remember the beach? Get up close to your child and photograph his toes buried in the sand, or the look on her face when she spies a new piece of sea glass. Want to remember the mountain? Zoom in as your child reaches in to pick a wildflower or throws a rock in a rolling stream.

And unless you and your child are the same height, you’ll want to get down where the action is. It’s all part of getting involved.

2. Find the sweet light.
Your photos will be 1000-percent improved if you do nothing else but this: think about the best times of day for kids to be out in the sun and shoot your photos then. Early morning before the sun gets too intense (you’re all awake anyway, right?) and afternoon/evening when the intensity wanes.

Here in New England, that’s before 8 a.m. and after 5:30 p.m. this time of year. (Bribe ’em with ice cream if they are melting down at day’s end.) Full-day sunlight washes out colors, creates harsh, unflattering shadows and causes sunburn, of course, while the warmth and softness of early and late-day sun will bring a beautiful, unrivaled tone to your images.

Now, I know what you’re saying. Plenty of life goes on between 8 and 5:30, in fact most of the day for those of a certain age in my household. So if you’re stuck outside at high noon on a sunny day, pray for a cloud or find some open shade (a spot out of direct sun lit by reflected light. Just go under a tree.) and shoot your photos there.

And, if you end up with a cloudy day on vacation, you can be the annoying one that chirps, “Well, it’s an absolutely perfect day for photos!”

3. Go for the unexpected
If your child is about three or up, they probably know what it means to pose for a photo and you end up with a series of lock-jawed grins. So go for the anti-pose. Have your child leap in the air. Make a crazy monster face and challenge them to make one, too. (Guaranteed to get a laugh.) Sing the ABCs to them, and get it wrong, so they have to correct you, giggling all the way.

Younger than three? Try positioning them in or on something, like a ride-on horsie, a bathtub, a bucket or a basket and shoot away until they escape or are done. Then follow them around and capture their entirely unselfconscious anti-poses. Or hand them a prop you can stand to see in your photos, like a bright red ball.

4. Get cheeky
When photographing more than one child together, have them avoid perpetuating the grip-and-grin pose they see in adults. Instead get creative to get their faces close together. Have them lie on the ground and look up, which almost always will bring on the giggles. Encourage a whispered secret or a kiss on the cheek. Or just request “Cheeks together!” which will bring you sibling closeness you didn’t know you had.



5. Remove the bulls eye from your child’s forehead

So you’re on the beach. It’s 5:45 in the afternoon, and glorious streams of golden light are bathing the scene in front of you. The sky is a brilliant blue, the sand is warm and inviting, Junior is waving his snappy red shovel and he flashes you a big, natural-looking grin. Mentally patting yourself on the back, you get down on his eye level, perform a quick check on the background to be sure the lifeguard chair isn’t growing out of his head, center him perfectly in the frame and…STOP!!!

Try this. Move your camera slightly to the right or left, so that Junior is now off center. Is there something else across the frame that you can bring into the photo, like the bright blue bucket he just threw in frustration when his sand castle caved in?

I promised no photo lingo in this post, but if you’re ever tempted to Google the phrase “rule of thirds” you’ll learn a lot more about this composition technique (and you’ll find much better examples than the one I took, above.) In short, it can make for a much more appealing and interesting photo. Give it a try.

6. Take your camera for a spin

Take your camera and turn it 90°. Try using the camera in vertical or “portrait” position to capture an image of one or two children, a format that naturally crops extra information from the photo and focuses in close on the important stuff: your subject.

While excellent portraits can be in either landscape (horizontal) or portrait (vertical) position, trying the portrait position might bring a brand new focus to your shots.

7. Don’t forget the gummy worms!
While portraits don’t need to have dead-on eye contact to be successful, there is always something a little disappointing about the image that is nearly perfect in every way, yet has a child with a vacant stare over your shoulder, probably because a well-intentioned person was jumping up and down trying to get a laugh.

When I’m nearing the end of a photo-taking session (and I use the term loosely, I’ve been known to break out this trick in the backyard with my kids) and want to bag a few more good shots, I sometimes drape a gummy worm around the barrel of my lens. This usually promotes a tractor-beam lock on my lens (hello, eye contact!), as well as an interesting discussion about worms and eating them, depending on the age of your subject.

It doesn’t last long, and if you’re shooting someone else’s kids you probably want to check the guidelines on sugar consumption, but it can be a serious secret weapon at the right moment.

BEFORE AND AFTER

Last week at a playdate, I used some of these tips to demonstrate what they can do in two quick snapshots.

Here’s Sydney before, out in the blazing sun at about 11 a.m., in a cluttered snapshot, taken in landscape view with too much visual distraction around her, and too much strong sunlight washing out her face and creating harsh shadows on her eyes. Like the disembodied adult arm and half toddler in the background?

Here’s Sydney a minute later, under a tree in her yard. This photo was taken at her level, in portrait view, in lovely open shade. She was so happy about it she even gave me a smile!

Got a great summer photo to share? Some before and afters?
Post a link to your blog, Flickr or web page in the comments section here, and let me know if these tips are working for you. Don’t have a place to post your photos online? That’s a topic for another post!

Food Friday: Splashy Summer Cocktails (and Real Simple photo)

June 20, 2008

When you start seeing photos like this of yourself in national magazines and people start writing about you like this—”Anna’s wardrobe isn’t drab, she loves color!”—it’s time to get out Martha Stewart’s Hors D’oeuvres Handbook and serve something appropriate for the outfit.

However, I can’t POSSIBLY cook dressed like this, so I will have to simply mix up a few of these cocktails and start sipping. Join me? I’ll be on the patio by 5:30 p.m.

Limon (Lemon Drop)

1 cup crushed ice, plus ice cubes for chilling

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, strained

2 Tablespoons superfine sugar

4 ounces vodka

3 sprigs min

Fill glasses with crushed ice and place them in the freezer. Pour the lemon juice, sugar and vodka into a shaker with ice and shake hard for 30 seconds or until the sugar is melted. Pour the liquid over the crushed ice in the glasses. Rub the lip of each glass hard with a mint leaf just before serving, and garnish with a mint sprig.

Fresh Lime Daquiri

Martha says: Tinted sugars of various crystal sizes are an ideal decoration, not only for baking, but also around the rim of a cocktail glass. Select shades that contrast nicely with the drink you are making. To make your own, add just the smallest toothpickful of paste or gel color to superfine sugar, then blend until the color is combined with the sugar and the desired shade has been reached. Anna says: But, of course.

I WILL BE SKIPPING THAT STEP. I DON’T WANT ANY FOOD COLORING, EITHER A PASTE OR A GEL, ON MY WHITE JEANS.

2 Tablespoons light green sanding sugar for the rims of glasses

3/4 cup fresh lime juice (save halves)

1/4 teaspoon grated lime zest

6 ounces good-quality light rum (no Bacardi’s Rum PLEASE. My tenth-grade self thanks you.)

1/3 cup plus 1 Tablespoon superfine sugar

Pour the sanding sugar into a saucer big enough to encompass the rim of the glass you are using. One at a time, rub the rim of each glass with reserved half of a lime, so that the lip is wet about 1/8 inch into the glass. Immediately dip the rim of the glass into the sugar. Gently tap the glass to remove excess sugar. Set aside.

Add the lime juice, zest, rum and sugar to a blender. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add ice to fil half the blender. Blend on high until all the ice is pureed and the mixture is slushy, about 1 minute. Pour immediately into the prepared glasses and serve.

Mango Cocktail

Martha says: Look for mangoes that have unblemished, yellow skin blushed with red. This cocktail is more delicious with fresh mango juice made in the blender than canned or bottled mango nectar. Anna says: But of course.

4 1/2 ounces light rum

1 Tablespoon superfine sugar

1 1/2 cups mango puree (about 2 mangos)

3/4 teaspoon Cointreau

1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

6 ounces seltzer or sparkling water

In a large pitcher, whisk together the rum and sugar until sugar has dissolved. Add the remaining ingredients. Whisk to combine.

Fill four tumblers with ice. Divide the liquid evenly among the tumblers.


Pomegranate Martinis

Martha says: Pomegranate juice is often sold in the produce section of your grocery store. Of course, you can also juice your own, scooping out the seeds and pushing them through a fine-mesh sieve. Anna says: OF COURSE.

5 ounces tequila

1 1/2 ounces Triple Sec liqueur

5 ounces fresh lime juice

2 ounces pomegranate juice

1 Tablespoon super fine sugar

Sugared Rose Petals, for garnish

Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Place all of the ingredients except the rose petals in the shaker and shake hard for 30 seconds. Fill 2 glasses with ice and strain the liquid into them. Garnish each glass with the rose petals.

Sugar Rose Petals

Martha says: The sugared rose petals give these pretty drinks a very special look. Anna says: As if I’m spending my time putting egg white on roses while wearing my awesome outfit.

1 small bunch pale pink edible (unsprayed) one-inch roses

1 large egg white

1 cup of our old friend superfine sugar

Place the roses in a vase filled with cool water while you work. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg white with four or five drops water to thin the consistency. Place the sugar in a second small bowl, and place a pair of tweezers and a teaspoon nearby.

Choose petals that are smooth and unblemished (OF COURSE) and, working one petal at a time, dip the petal into the egg mixture and use your fingers to coat it. Cover the entire petal, and wipe off the excess. It will appear as though the petal is lightly veiled in the egg-white mixture.

Using the tweezers, hold the petal, and lightly sprinkle sugar on the petal, sugaring the front and back and tapping off the excess. Allow petals to dry for at least four hours or until crisp and brittle.

Now that I’ve got you good and liquored up and laughing yourselves silly over sugared rose petals, I’ve got a favor to ask of you. I need some guest bloggers to fill in here while I recover from tasting all the cocktails above go on vacation. You don’t have to be a blogger to be a guest blogger, you know. I just can’t be held responsible if you become so addicted to it that you start your own.

Interested? Leave me a note in the comments or send me an email and I will be in touch! Oh, and this would be like in a week, since I am nothing if not Last-minute Lucy.

Cheers!

P.S What the hey is superfine sugar and where do I get it?

helloooooooo?

May 6, 2008

Yes, still here, actually.

Just not HERE very much this week.

But I definitely have a treat for you tomorrow.

I PROMISE.

Food Friday: Candlewax?

May 2, 2008

Between Henry’s molars (I get it! You are erupting! Thank you!) work, out-of-state travel, early sunrises and a few other things, I’ve been burning the candle on both ends so badly this week that I think they just met in the middle.

Which is another way of saying I have nothing much for you today. I do have embarrassing 1990s photos of me next week for you lovely March of Dimes donors (I didn’t forget!) and some other new photos, and I did get some video of one of my children that I should be ashamed of encouraging, but will post anyway, but for today? Nothing. I took my own advice and had a hot chocolate this morning, and may need another this afternoon. In an IV.

I do have a question for you all, though.

How many of you are on Twitter? You know, one of the “fastest growing phenomena on the Internet” according to the NY Times? I see lots of my blogger friends there and only one of my real-life friends. I’m still not sure where I sit on it, but I like parts of it and can see some really interesting uses for it in the future. If you are on Twitter, leave your info in the comments!

And if anyone wants to come over and get up with Henry at 5:50 tomorrow morning? Let me know and I’ll leave you a spare key. Kthanxbai.