My 2014 year of reading

January 12th, 2015 , Posted in personal | 2 comments

Happy 2015! Ahh, another year has passed and I feel the need to continue my tradition of blogging about the books I have read this year. I have been keeping track of the titles of books that I have read for quite a few years, and I have been blogging about them since 2009. I have had clients and family comment on this post and I have found many new books to read by sharing what I read–hence the tradition continues.

I thought that this would be a bumper year for reading considering I had a two week vacation in Hawaii and then spent another 5 months on a break from my job while traveling to New Zealand and Australia with my husband while he was on sabbatical. You should have seen my amazon wish list before I left! I spent all year adding books to my cart with grand dreams of catching up on lots of missed reads, but alas, it seems I read about the same number of books regardless of the country I am living or the demands of my job. I always say that if you are the type of person who likes to make resolutions, reading more books is a good one. This year I will try to take more time to read that isn’t just right before I fall asleep. I still feel guilty if I pick up a book during the day or anytime that I should be working, cleaning, cooking, exercising, being a fabulous parent, etc. Maybe a good book on letting go of guilt is needed. ;)

Now before I share my books a little disclaimer or two. These are not book reviews, just a small line or two to remind myself of what I read and perhaps give you some ideas about books you want to read. Since I only jot down blog titles throughout the year some of these books I hardly remember reading. Next, even though I barely write anything for this blog post it is still more than I have been accustomed to writing and I am way out of practice. I think my resolution needs to be to write more, this sure is painful when you don’t do it much.

*Can you believe it. After I finished writing this whole thing I tried to save it and my blog had signed me out and I lost everything!! Yes, I am an idiot for writing directly in my blog and not in Word. Lesson learned.


Island Girls by Nancy Thayer


This was an impulse library book grab. It was sitting on a display table tempting me with a warm picture and quote about passing this book onto the women in your life that you love. I haven’t read a book that was so fluffy and had all the characters get what they want in a long time. If you need happy endings and very little conflict you will like this book. She only lets bad things happen for a few pages and then yeah! things turn out great. I did finish it, and it might have been just a little nice not to have to worry or think to much while reading it.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner


There were some good parts, but I felt no need to read the next book.

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher


I had to grab one of my teenagers books while we were camping when my kindle lost power and this one was available. This might be a good discussion book for teens about suicide and how your actions or non-actions can have an impact on others. It was okay, but not one that I felt like my teenager had to finish (and she didn’t).

Divergent by Veronica Roth


Another book grabbed from my teenager. I enjoyed this one more than I thought I would, but again not enough to continue onto the other 2 books in the series.

Champion by Marie Lu 


This was the last book in another teen dystopian trilogy. This series grabbed me enough to finish the series, although I am still conflicted about how I feel about the ending.

The Bone People by Keri Hulme


And, now a move away from YA books. This book takes place in New Zealand and I started this book about 4 times and I could never get past the first 80 pages, but I gave it one more time once we were living in New Zealand and everything fell into place. This is one of those books that has a strange structure to it and it uses lots of Maori words that can be difficult to get used to. It was also my favorite book of the year. I am pretty sure I will read it again, but hopefully the next time with an English teacher. Highly recommend.

The Dinner by Herman Koch


This was a book club book. I hated it. Yuck, blah, poop.

Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling


To quote the author: “This book will take you two days to read. Did you even see the cover? It’s mostly pink. If you’re reading this book every night for months, something is not right.” I had a great time reading this book. I thought it was honest, and real, and smart. I laughed, but was also inspired. I have given this book as a gift to friends and recommended it to older teens as well.

The Signature of All Things: A Novel by Elizabeth Gilbert


This book had a great start, but my interest in the story and characters waned towards the end. Even though I didn’t love this book I did like it much more than Eat, Pray, Love, her other book.

Dat is Fat by Jim Gaffigan


If you have seen any of Jim Gaffigan’s stand up shows, you probably don’t need to read this book. If not, the book is really funny–especially for parents of young children. It would probably make a great book to listen to on a road trip.

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle


This book was sitting on a shelf at the house we rented in New Zealand. It was so fun to read, but please do not read this unless you have plenty of wine and lots of good cheese in the house. OR, you could just give this book to someone you love with a plane ticket tucked into it. Actually, I don’t own this book so if anyone who loves me is reading this–what a great idea. ;)

Book of Ages: The life an Opinions of Jane Franklin


This historical fiction book was about Jane Franklin, the sister of Benjamin Franklin. Since the author had so little to go on to create her story it is also a rumination on who history forgets, especially if they are women. It was a short book, and not entirely a page turner, but I did enjoy it.

Aimless Love by Billy Collins


Thank goodness for Billy Collins because I can now say that I read a poetry book this year. I love him–and I’ve even ordered a new poetry book to read for this year by another poet. I hope I won’t be let down.

Tracks by Robyn Davidson


I love a good adventure travel memoir and this one was great. It had violent camels, a sexy photographer, big snakes, a loyal dog. If you do read it I highly recommend that you look up the original photos that were done by the previously mentioned sexy photographer.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood


My sister-in-law recommended this series to me. It is another dystopian book set in a future where genetic engineering rules the world. I have read quite a few dystopian books recently and this one was the most believable to me and hence the scariest. I will probably finish the series.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach


J read this book first and it did seem sort of like a guy book (lots of baseball) so I didn’t pick it up until I was on a 14 hour flight and I needed something to read. I got really mad at this book a few times, but in the end I really liked it. I didn’t love it–and the middle dragged a bit, but I have passed it on to friends which is my measure of how much I liked a book.

We Were Liars by e. lockhart


I like to stay on top of the hot new teen reads and this book was getting a lot of attention, especially for a twist that you can’t talk about. I think this might been one of those teen reads that is actually just for teens. I didn’t really care too much for it, but I can see why teens like it.

In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner


This was my favorite book that I read for book club.  It’s based on the authors own experience during the regime of Cambodia’s Khymer Rouge. It was beautiful, and enlightening, and really really sad. I loved it.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty


I couldn’t resist this book. It is a murder mystery with the murder taking place at a preschool fundraiser. It is funny, with great dialogue and a good ending. It is a quick fast read that makes me want to read another book by Moriarty.

The Fever by Megan Abbott


A while back I read an article in the New York Times about girls in upstate NY who were having verbal and physical tics. It got a lot of media attention with lots of speculation about what was causing the symptoms. In the end the cause of the outbreak was found to be psychological. This book was inspired by that story, which is what interested me. The book dives deeply into the world of teenage girls and a little bit into their parents lives. Being a teenage girl is scary and this book brings that fear to the forefront–fear from the girls, but mostly fear of the parents about their teenage girls.

Heft by Liz Moore



This was another book club book that I read on my own while we were in New Zealand. I had a lot of empathy  for the characters (a morbidly obese former academic stuck in his home, and a high-school star athlete of a drug abusing mother) and I  was sad to leave the characters when it was over. The premise sounds like it could get really depressing and sentimental, but there is a lot of hope in this book which was really well done.

Unfinished books:

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

I thought I would try to read this after seeing some hype about the tv show based on the books coming out. I tried, got about 100 pages in, but couldn’t really get into it. Maybe I will try the tv show instead.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I had great goals of keeping up with Echo’s 9th grade reading list. I loved this book when I first read it and it was just like I remembered it reading it a second time. I think I must have read it recently because I didn’t feel the need to finish it. Now they are reading the Odyssey and well…my goal of keeping up has been scaled back.

Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas

I saw this book all over the place in New Zealand and Australia. The author is Australian. I liked the start of this book, but I got sidetracked by Big Little Lies. I hope to finish it, but my track record on this isn’t great.

I also like to keep track of any live music or shows we see. With Sadie getting more involved in theater and Jason playing more I hope to see lots of great theater and music in 2015.

We had great travel this year, but we didn’t get to see much live music.The only live music we saw was our friend and neighbor Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers and Wendy Ramsey and while I wish we had seen more live music we love seeing their shows.

Our big show this year was for Sadie’s birthday.

Matilda on Broadway. It was great–especially the talent of the kid actors.

Our favorite local shows we saw this year:

Hairspray and The Piano at Syracuse Stage

The Color Purple, The Penguin Tango, A Year with Frog and Toad and Tarzan at Redhouse Arts Center

Looking back it wasn’t a great year for reading. My kids didn’t want me to read aloud to them much, and I didn’t press it. We started a few books, but they always got pulled into their own books and we often didn’t finish. I am disappointed in this, and I miss it.

I also read zero non-fiction books. I make fun of my husband for his lack of fiction reading, but I am just as bad. This needs to change as well.

Thanks for following along, and please–if you have read a great book recently tell me about it. My amazon cart needs refilling. Thanks!








Cady & Mark are married!! | Syracuse, NY wedding photographer

November 3rd, 2014 , Posted in Portraits, Weddings | No comments

I had been looking forward to this wedding ever since meeting Cady and Mark during our initial consultation and photographing their engagement session. They did not disappoint. Their wedding was so much fun to photograph-full of laughter and joy and a wonderful relaxed attitude despite some last minute setbacks with their ceremony location.

Admiring the dress and the rainy view.






Cady and her bridesmaids walked from the hotel over to Sky Armory to finish getting ready.



Tara was hanging out with the guys and captured this fun shot.





Cady and Mark exchanged beautiful vows that made people laugh and cry.







I love how Cady and her mom have the same expression here.



The limo driver was a hoot–here he is photo bombing my group formal.


Coleman’s bar is their neighborhood bar and also where they had their first date so it was natural for them to stop there after saying their vows.




I love it that the whole bridal party was dancing during the formals.


I wish I remember what was said before I took this photo.


So much fun.



See the big pink limo in the back?


Formals in Armory Square—so great.


Tara and I were calling Mark, Sinatra all night long. The hat was perfect.



Cady and Mark were the first couple to get married at the new Sky Armory.










Check out the dessert table!






Cady and Mark, thank you so much for choosing us to photograph your wedding. We wish you the best of everything.


Colin and Binglei are married!!| Syracuse, NY wedding photographer

October 31st, 2014 , Posted in Weddings | No comments

Congratulations to Colin and Binglei who were married on Sept 6th. Tara and I had such fun wandering around the ESF campus with them (where they met) for pre-wedding photos until rain pushed us away. They then had a lovely daytime wedding at Camp Brockway in Pratt’s Falls Park.

These two were such good sports–out in the rain with me–always laughing.


Here are a few of my favorites from their wedding.


Binglei’s mom feeding her while getting her hair done.


A little pre-wedding music rehearsal.



A first look on the ESF campus.


A walk across the lawn that you are not allowed to walk across. I had no idea.


The brewing storm added some awesome wind and sky.







I loved riding on the bus with the wedding party.



Staying dry and unseen.















I love Binglei’s reaction.




This wedding wins the award for most babies in attendance.






Thanks again for having Tara and I photograph your wedding. Congratulations and best wishes.


Eleora & Jacob are married!!| Syracuse, NY wedding photographer

October 8th, 2014 , Posted in Weddings | 1 comment

Eleora and Jacob were married outside at the Lily Pond  on an unsettled day with dropping temperatures and threatening rain. The weather was unexpected, but the wedding was amazing and the weather added to the beauty of the day. My wonderful second photographer Tara was along. Enjoy a few of our favorites from the day.

Last minute flower preparations.






The unsettled weather made for some amazing light for the ceremony.



The beautiful chuppah made by Backyard Garden.













The bride and groom originally had hoped to have the ceremony in the backyard of Jacob’s grandparents house. That plan didn’t work out, but they still stopped by for some photos.


The reception was at The Lodge in Skaneateles.












When Eleora and Jacob contacted me I was living in New Zealand and they live in Australia. I joked that this was the first Syracuse destination wedding I had photographed.

Thanks so much for choosing us to photograph your day.



an amazing birth | Syracuse, NY birth and newborn photographer

August 10th, 2014 , Posted in Portraits | No comments

I have just sat and stared at my computer trying to put into words how incredible it is to be selected to photograph a birth and I keep coming up with a white screen. I guess that is why I am a photographer.

Fran was amazing during her daughter’s birth and labor lasted all day and night.


Her beautiful baby girl was born a moment after this photo was taken.



I just went back to her house to see how the little baby had grown.




Thanks again for letting me document such an amazing experience.


Family Session on the lake | Cazenovia, NY family photographer

July 29th, 2014 , Posted in Portraits | No comments

Remember the mini summer polar vortex that hit recently? It came on all of a sudden and changed the weather from tanktops and shorts to jeans and sweater weather. It was a lovely relief from the super hot humid weather, but it was a bit of a disappointment for the family I was photographing because they had hoped to do lots of photos in the water.

So, we settled for the beautiful yard to start the session.



There was an awesome tree swing and a new PUPPY!! This really is the perfect combination for family photos.


I do love photographing twins and especially getting a non-smile photo of them to compare to the smile photo.


Sweet girls.


Hee-hee. I just couldn’t resist this photo.


The kids were real troopers and said they would get in the water despite the cooler temperatures. Yes!

Before the plunge.






You can almost hear the teeth chattering.


Grandma was there to help keep them warm.



Thanks for being so brave and jumping in the water. Loved this session!


Mark & Erin are married!! | Syracuse, NY wedding photographer

July 28th, 2014 , Posted in Weddings | 1 comment

Congratulations to Erin and Mark who were married on the campus of Wells College on a beautiful hot summer day.

I love watching the hair transformation during the getting ready time. I sort of loved this punk style on Erin.





Erin had two dresses–loved them both, but the short lace dress was so great–especially on this hot day.


Mark and his pre-wedding gift.




Thanks to the wonderful Tara who was my second shooter on this wedding and also photographed the guys.





















The light streaming in during the first dance was divine.








Thank you so much Mark and Erin for choosing me to photograph your wedding. Congratulations!


Back to work| Syracuse, NY family photographer

June 30th, 2014 , Posted in family, Portraits | No comments

I hope you enjoyed all my New Zealand photos, and I still owe you an Australia blog, but for now I have been back at work and it is time to show some of it off.

I will start with a beautiful and fun family. I left the session wishing I too had 5 kids. Who knew?!

Untitled-1 Untitled-2 Untitled-3 Untitled-4 Untitled-5 Untitled-6 Untitled-7



Queenstown & FoxGlacier|NZ travel journal

May 13th, 2014 , Posted in personal, travel | 3 comments

I have heard from a few friends that read my blog that while they enjoy following along, they are also insanely jealous of our trip and also that we got to skip out on a horrible CNY winter. To those friends–this is my last New Zealand post, but it might make you a little jealous because it was probably the best one week trip ever. I’m sorry.

We left Christchurch on Easter Sunday and arrived in Queenstown at about 5pm.

It was easy to find a good picnic spot our drive. I can’t remember the name of this lake, but the mountain in the back is Mt. Cook.



a little mini session.





Rain and sun driving through Cornwall–the home of some really tasty pinot noir.


Love the fall colors.


The road up to Mt. Difficulty winery.


Queenstown is a tourist town that has it all. We started off the day taking the gondola up to check out the view of the city.



Sadie was having a bit of a sulk because we didn’t let her luge down. We also decided not to bungie jump. ;)




After an overpriced lunch and a wander around the lake we boarded the Earnslaw Steamboat to do a farm tour.




The farm tour must be a top tourist tour because it was packed. There was one amazing tour guide for about 200 of us. We were introduced early to the head sheep dog–perhaps he was herding all 200 of us along.



puppy love. I guess we ignored the sign.


This is the view from a huge patio where they served some tea and goodies. As we were all sitting and enjoying the moment the head sheep dog from above came by with a kitten in his mouth. He then dropped the almost dead kitten in front of everyone. I guess he was trained to get rid of feral cats too?


Then the killer dog showed some more scary skills herding the sheep. Then our multi-talented guide after taking us around the farm and hosting tea sheared a sheep in front of us all.


Back on the steam boat a piano player lead folks singing old turn of the century US folk songs. It was a little weird.


Our big splurge was to do a tour of Doubtful Sound. In order to get there you have to take a bus, then a boat, then another bus ride to a power station down a deep tunnel to a power station, then a bus over a crazy gravel road until you finally get on another boat for a 3 hour trip through the sound out to the rough Tasman Sea.

From the first boat.


This was just crazy–you are in a bus going about 600 ft underground in the exposed rock. Sadie decided she never wanted to do that again and I’m pretty sure I don’t blame her.


Ahhh–back in the sunshine on the boat.



Lots of pretty views, plus some dolphins and penguins.





We left Queenstown  onto yet another fantastic drive. It think it took us twice as long to get anywhere because I kept asking to stop the car.

Can you tell why?



Who knows?




another rainbow!!





Jason thought it was the best drive we have done yet in New Zealand. We stayed the night at a home stay right near Fox Glacier.

The next day we suited up and went on a guided tour onto Fox Glacier–you are only allowed onto the glacier with a guide.





A week before we arrived part of the glacier collapsed making the old route up to the glacier on the left side unsafe. I did ask–umm, were there any tours out when this happened? Our friendly guide said that she lead the last tour before it collapsed, but no one was hurt. The new route had the us needing to cross the river and they had a clever pulley system worked out.



The water looked pretty cold.


The view when you are not looking at the glacier.



I was ready to grab her at any minute if she slipped down that hole.


I think Sadie will go on any guided hike. She loved being right next to our guide (in red).



See that little ice cave behind us? You were allowed to go into it for a look around. We were told it was really cool and it won’t be around too long. Sadie and I decided that we were not convinced that they knew when the ice cave was going to collapse, so we opted out.


Brave Echo and Jason had a look inside.


It was awesome being out there, but I keep thinking that this would never be a tour in the US. There were rock slides. A fairly small one happened while we were there and the guides were like–awesome, sweet–check it out. I was like–keep moving!!!

I was scared, but it was so awesome and probably the highlight for me of the week–even though I skipped out on the “sweet” cave. Our guide said sweet about 300 times.


As I was grabbing more photos I noticed that the guides really seemed to be pushing us along and were pulling folks over the river much faster than on our ride out. Apparently there was another collapse and big chunks of ice were going to be coming down in the river soon and they wanted us off before they came. Someone actually has the job of sitting up high on the glacier and watching it for collapses to warm the folks below–apparently you have about 5-10 minutes to prepare.


We  only saw some larger chucks of ice.


We were back from the glacier in time for an awesome outdoor lunch. Now tell me–if there was a restaurant with a an outdoor patio like this and this view, would it ever be empty?



And right from the restaurant a beautiful hike.










Our day ended with another rainbow. We drove a short distance to Franz Joseph glacier and did a short hike in the rain. I thought a rainbow hitting a glacier would be the perfect photo to end my New Zealand travel journal.


And–for those of you still reading. Our trip has been amazing. It has been one of those once in a lifetime opportunities and I am so glad we took it. Did it cost a lot of money–yes–we will be paying it off for awhile. Was it complicated–yes! Our oldest daughter will have to re-take some classes and it will put her off of her old track. The kids had to un-enroll from school when we left and I have to re-register them again when we return. We have had to ask favors of all of our friends and neighbors which will be hard to ever repay. I had to put my business on hold and miss out on lots of great sessions, weddings, and births.

On a lesser note, we haven’t been able to watch Game of Thrones, or The Daily Show, or Call the Midwife (that is just me). There is no netflix or hulu here. no creamer for my coffee, no goldfish crackers (the girls mention), no cereal choices (just cornflakes, rice crispies or granola).

We have missed birthdays, and hanging out with friends, and dinner parties. We have had people over to our house one time since moving here (not including 11 and 14 year old friends).

All first world problems I know.

And if you are still feeling jealous–to get back home we will first take a 14 hour plane ride, then a 5 hour flight, and finally a three hour flight. On our way out our luggage was lost and we were three days late with flight cancellations, so I never expect an easy flight.

And, if any of you get or take a chance to do something like this–I am ready to follow along and help out with your pets or empty house back in Syracuse.

And our girls–now they are the ones I am jealous of. They are the ones that really got to get immersed in the culture here and they both made great friends. If they come back to New Zealand they will have a place to stay for free.

Thanks for following along and I will see you all soon back in Syracuse–probably at Target or Wegmans. ;)

Oh, and my June schedule is almost full. Email me if you are wanting a summer session.


Christchurch, New Zealand| travel photo journal

May 6th, 2014 , Posted in family, personal, travel | No comments

Christchurch has been our home city while we are living in New Zealand. As you might have been able to tell from our many weekend trips to beautiful places it is a great base for exploring the south island. Before the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes that destroyed much of Christchurch the city was a tourist destination as well, with lots of good restaurants, beautiful parks and a thriving city. To be fair the city still has pretty parks, and some good restaurants, but now when tourists visit it is to see a damaged city. The 2010 earthquake was larger than the 2011 one, but in 2011 the earthquake was so violent in it’s shaking that it was one of the or the strongest earthquake ever recorded in an urban area.

It has now been three years since the earthquake and in many ways you could go into the city and think that the earthquake happened 6 months ago.

This was the famous cathedral that was destroyed. There are so many barriers around the city and many of them have been decorated, providing a little bit of positive in all the destruction.


The building behind this barrier is also off limits and empty. When you first arrive in the city you look around and see buildings that are still standing, but then when you get a closer look you see that they have been deemed unsafe and empty. I don’t know when or if these buildings will come down or be repaired. I have read that it will take Christchurch 50-100 years to completely recover at a cost of over 40 billion.



A creative little playground in front of an abandoned building. The play stuff is made from the trash from the city after the earthquakes.



I didn’t feel too safe letting my kids play under a building that was deemed unsafe, but….


Art in front of the empty buildings.


This little street is tucked in-between the buildings from the previous photos. It was restored and opened last year and is a little colorful oasis in the middle of grey empty buildings and rubble.


The city has small little spots of recovery. The Re-Start Mall is some pedestrian only streets that have shops created from shipping containers.




This is the site of the CTV building where almost half of the deaths from the earthquake occurred when it collapsed.



The cardboard cathedral that opened in August.






Jason just finished up writing his reflections on living here for a report, and he sums our Christchurch experience well.

Living in Christchurch has opened our eyes to community issues that we’ve never experienced. Natural disasters are not a part of life back home—Syracuse is not subject to any major natural disturbances.  So witnessing Christchurch’s attempts to reinvent itself after what in some cases seems comparable to reconstruction after the War has been fascinating and heartbreaking in equal measure.  When you meet people for the first time, you quickly get their ‘earthquake story’—what they were doing when the second more devastating quake hit, and what happened in the aftermath.  It is astonishing how many people had to leave their homes, and in some cases are still out of their homes even three years later.  Nearly everyone has had to move around to some extent, both their living circumstances and their place of business.  And yet people are still here, shops keep popping up everywhere, kids don’t appear unusually traumatized (I find this particularly remarkable), and the tourists still come to see a city centre that is mostly not there.  To be sure, people are frustrated with local government, and I’m sure we talk to a more affluent cross section of town than the average, but on the whole life here goes on.  We have never experienced something like this and it’s reassuring to see such resilience in a community.  

Christchurch will need loads of resilience. The earthquakes have changed many things underground as well as above ground which are contributing to lots of other problems in the city–pot holes, sewer issues, and recently floods. Twice in the 4 months we have been here our neighborhood has flooded. Here are some photos from near us.




I know I don’t paint a pretty picture of the city of Christchurch. It isn’t pretty right now with all of the abandoned buildings and construction work, and floods. It has been a very welcoming city to us and seeing what these people have had to live through I am continually amazed that there is humor and light to be found.