Erin Go Bragh–New York, NY

Happy St. Patrick’s Day from NYC. The sweet sound of bagpipers are drifting through our neighborhood as helicopters fly overhead for the parade. Here’s my own little photographic version of the Irish flag…

Green–Palm Leaf–Bali, Indonesia
White–Art deco ceiling detail–Napier, New Zealand
Orange–Farmer’s market carrots–Tasmania, Australia

My family is very Irish American; in fact, that is my entire heritage. We did a huge Haymaker’s Jig at my wedding, sing at the piano with the O’Keefe Irish Song book at every possible family gathering (the in-laws hide in the kitchen), and try to incorporate important lessons that my Irish grandfather–who lived to be 101–imparted (“a shot a day keeps the doctor away.”) My two year old daughter’s favorite song of late is Whiskey in the Jar. That’s normal, right? However you celebrate, Happy March 17th!

Travel Tuesday–Hunter Valley, Australia

I’m heading to the West (best) coast this weekend for a little girl time in Calistoga, CA. I can’t wait to shed my hat and gloves for 36 hours. My last visit to wine country was in Australia, when we journeyed to the gorgeous Hunter Valley for a long weekend. In honor of this weekend’s trip, I’m finally posting my vineyard images from that (now very distant) weekend. I’m so behind in blogging about the amazing places we’ve been during our recent time abroad, so over the next few months, I’ll be featuring a “Travel Tuesday” segment. Welcome to the first edition!

The drive from Sydney to Hunter Valley takes about 2.5 hours, if you go the normal way. But of course I made my husband take the “scenic road” (which adds about 35 minutes), or so it was deemed in my travel book. Due to very high winds the day before, the narrow, winding road was littered with huge tree branches that threatened our rental car. We did see some cows and sheep, but the scenery was not worth the stress of my husband gripping the steering wheel and swerving around found objects in the road. Oops. Once we arrived though, Hunter Valley was visual heaven–rolling green hills, hopping kangaroos in the driveway of our hotel, colorful old barns, and sleek metal and glass facades on contemporary wineries. And did I mention the food? What goes best with great wines? Cheese. Lots of cheese from the Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop. Mmmmm.

We didn’t have much of an agenda, aside from my hubby playing golf at the Greg Norman designed course at our resort, where signs on the course read “Do Not Approach the Kangaroos.” One late afternoon we set out to taste some vino and grab an early dinner. On a whim, we pulled into the gravel parking lot at Cockfighter’s Ghost (named after a horse with quite a story) and headed into the tasting room just as it was about to close. The room is a work of art, with soaring ceilings, poured concrete floors, and a wall of floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors that open up to the most picturesque view of verdant vines and the mountains beyond. They graciously poured us a flight of wine, but I could hardly focus on the beverages as the light outside was incredible. I quickly disappeared out the back door with my camera…my poor husband is used to that! By running outside, I was able to capture that perfect golden light (photo above) before it quickly slipped behind the mountains. All in all, what a great and unexpected treat for just pulling over on a whim and visiting a winery we hadn’t researched at all. And the wine was really wonderful. I highly recommend checking it out if you are in the area.

Non-parents everywhere, don’t kill me for mentioning this, but vineyards and breweries in Australia are surprisingly kid friendly–lots of places have toys and books to entertain little ones while you taste, and some even have playgrounds in view of the tasting area (win-win!). So don’t shy away from exploring even if you have a little taster with you. They will love their sparkling apple juice while you taste your own version of juice! Happy travels.

Hunter Valley Travel Tips:

STAY:
The Vintage
DRINK:
Cockfighter’s Ghost (see above)
Audrey Wilkinson (amazing history and view)
EAT:
Olive Tree Restaurant at Wyndham Estate (gorgeous, rustic, delicious)
Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop (amazing fixings for a real or carpet picnic)
1843 Harvest Cafe at Lindeman’s Vineyard (casual lunch, tasty and creative wood-fired pizzas)

Riley and Cooper–Brooklyn Heights, NY

I had a blast working with this family and their gorgeous twins! Riley and Cooper are nearly one and have so much personality. Riley was very playful–hamming it up and trying to take off her diaper the whole time, and Cooper was so sweet but a bit more serious.  They had many great spaces to photograph in, and despite it being a freezing and gray day, we were able to take advantage of beautiful window light. Their colorful nursery had lots of fun details to photograph, and the view of the Staten Island ferry zipping past was a bonus!

I’ve photographed twins before, and even using all of the squeaky toys and photographer tricks in the universe, it can be twice the challenge to get two 10-month olds to stay in one place, look at the camera, and not cry! I included a couple of funny outtakes here, but we did manage a few cute shots of the two of them.  Special thanks to my photo assistant that day, Eileen Meny. You may remember an old post that I wrote about trying to get a smile out of children and how sometimes it’s best to record their mood of the day. I loved capturing their amazing eyes, eyelashes, and adorable expressions.

Every year, I choose a special non-profit to donate a portrait session to. This session was the result of a donation to the auction at Harlem Academy, a great K-8 school in Harlem. It feels good to give back and it’s a bonus to meet an adorable family as well! Riley and Cooper, thanks for a great morning and I hope to see you again soon!

Winter. Here to Stay–Nantucket, MA

Moving home from Sydney on their first day of summer (December 21st) seemed like a bad idea at the time, but we had no idea just how much winter had in store for us when we arrived home. Wow. Of course I miss Sydney’s turquoise water right about now, but being a native New Englander, I love storms, heavy snow, and the Weather Channel hullabaloo surrounding them all. So I was pretty excited when we found ourselves on Nantucket last week with a  huge Nor’easter forecasted to bring over a foot of snow. In the end, the island got stuck on the wrong side of the snow/rain line for a few hours, but still watched in awe as the wind howled all night and blew swaths of snow against the house. Our attempts to get wood from outside during the middle of the blizzard also proved entertaining…let’s just say I could have used some ski pants and goggles.

We ended up with only about 6 inches, but the next morning dawned sunny and crisp, and the view out of the front door was breathtaking. Here are a few photos I took just before we headed to the ferry. Thanks for the winter show Nantucket…see you (soon?) in flip flops!

Fine Art Friday–U.S.A!

Happy Friday! I’ve been pretty glued to the Olympics over the past few weeks, and today should be pretty exciting as we take on Canada in men’s hockey. Yesterday’s women’s hockey game was a complete heartbreaker.  I grew up playing hockey (starting out as the only girl on an all boys team), and was amazed and proud at the top level of play that I saw yesterday. It was exciting, heart stopping, impressive, and gut wrenching all at the same time–but the end result was devastating, particularly having the gold in grasp and then having it ripped away in the final two minutes of regulation.

As a tribute to today’s game, here’s a red, white, and blue image that I took last week on Nantucket.  The sun didn’t help warm the blustery, freezing day at one of our favorite spots, Sankaty Head Lighthouse, but the gorgeous winter sky was the deepest blue I’ve seen. Have a great weekend. Go U.S.A!