Monday, June 27, 2011

So I walked into my television set...

...and found myself in the live studio audience of So You Think You Can Dance. At least that's what it felt like.  If you aren't watching this show, you are truly missing out. But, I've jumped ahead. Let me back up just a bit.

About a week and a half ago, one of my girlfriends sent me a most tempting note on Facebook. It read: "I'm going to see SYTYCD next Wednesday!!!! I sooooo want you to come with me! Any cheap last-minute flights?! :)" Ummmm, yuh huh!!!!  But realistically, I didn't think I could pull it off.  I had conflicts, kids in camp, work, plus the challenge of finding a flight that didn't cost an arm and a leg. However, turns out, where there's a will, there's a way!  I won't go through all the details of what happened to make it all come together, but I have a wonderful babysitter, husband, mother-in-law and bank (that allows me to earn points which basically gave me a free flight) who all came together to help make this trip a possibility. The next thing I knew, I had booked my flight and told Krista I'd be landing LA at 6:45pm the following Tuesday.  Holy cow! This was really gonna happen! Yahoo!

I headed to the airport and just as I was about to get on the plane, I spotted a twin mommy friend of mine who I don't get to see very often.  As luck would have it, she was on my same flight and we got to spend the next 4 hours chatting and catching up. A nice, unexpected bonus to my trip!

Both Krista and Mike picked me up at the airport, which was such a nice surprise. I hadn't expected to see Mike and it made me smile that he was there too.  We headed out for sushi and had a fabulous dinner at Teru Sushi.  Krista and Mike had an ongoing, very entertaining argument (all in good fun) about whether or not Krista had ever been there and how often Mike had suggested they dine there. All I know is that the food was delicious and we had an entire room all to ourselves.  It was wonderful to not be on any sort of time schedule, other than my body clock which I was working hard to convince was already on Calfornia time!  (The lighting in there was a challenge to say the least, but I snapped a few photos anyway.)

Much to my surprise, Krista and I stayed up talking until about 1AM, which was 3AM my time. I'm not sure how I pulled that off, but I did.  I guess that's what happens when you know you only have a short time to spend with an adored friend you don't get to see very often.

The next morning, after we were all up,  Mike offered to make us breakfast. He made homemade hashbrowns, scrambled eggs and vegetarian bacon (which was interesting to try and quite good).  We ate out on the back porch, which apparently doesn't get used too often. Hopefully, they'll use it more now!

After breakfast, Krista and I stayed in our jammies and talked until about noon.  What a treat!  While we did have to be at the studio for the taping at a certain time, there wasn't any sort of rush that morning. So, we just relaxed and got ready starting around noon.  An absolutely perfect morning! Mike took off for a 10 mile run while we primped. We had to wait for him to return so that he could take a few photos of us before we left for the show. I also wandered around the backyard and took a few shots of their awesome lemon tree and pretty flowers.  
I would so make lemonade on a regular basis if I had one of these in my back yard!
 I have no idea what type of flower this is, but I loved how the light was hitting it.
All dolled up and ready to go!

Krista and Mike's baby is a little ball of fur named Lucy.  She is an adorable little thing, who according to Krista, can be quite ferocious. However, we seem to be fast friends and so I got her in on the photo taking action too! Perhaps it's because she seems far more like a cat than a dog to me. And yes, that is a cat bed she's snuggled up in!

Before we hit the studio, we stopped at Chipotle for lunch!  A friend and colleague of mine lives quite close so she joined us for lunch. It was so great to see Nilah, especially since she has a little person about to make his arrival! I was sad our visit was so short, but I'm so happy we got to spend even a short bit of time together.

After lunch, we headed to the studio.  It was oh so exciting! We were actually going to see the show live!  I had to turn in my camera and my phone, which was painful, but I knew it was going to happen.  Nonetheless, I took a few shots before and after the taping, before I turned my camera in and once I got it back.
Where we picked up our official tickets - before I had to turn my camera in!
This is where we waited to head inside.
The CBS studios where the show is taped.
Krista and I after the show, just outside the studios!

It was so hard to not have my camera with me, but there really wasn't much I could do about that.
As you saw from the first photo, Krista and I had awesome seats and could be seen on TV several times. We even chatted with Cat a few times, which was so much fun.  What a sweetheart she is!

Krista and I also make friends with Melanie Moore's mom - our favorite female dancer this season. She was kind enough to give us a few signs to hold up in support of Melanie.  We chatted for awhile and she told us that if I gave her my cell phone number, she'd text us later to let us know where Melanie would be after the show.  Yes, that worked for us!!!  She said Melanie would be happy to take photos with us and sign the sign!  Oh, we were so looking forward to that!

After the taping, Krista and I headed over to the Grove. It's a big shopping and dining area right next to the studios. We wandered around a bit, checked out a few stores, took some pictures in front of the fountain and finally decided to have dinner at a restaurant called The Farm, which served locally sourced and organic produce and meats.  Perfect!
Neither one of us have problems asking random people to take our photos!  :)
A mini photo shoot just for fun.
I love this photo of Krista - anything with a real laugh always makes me smile.

I couldn't resist taking photos of the fountain. This was right next to where we ate dinner.
Clearly an overexposed image, but Krista and I agreed that it kinda made it look like a painting. Sometimes exposure accidents are a good thing!
This is where we ended up eating, outside, next to the awesome fountain.

After we sat down to order and eat, Krista spotted Nick (the fabulous tapper from the show) on the other side of the fountain.  It took me 2 times to get up the nerve to walk up to him, but I finally did and he was such a sweet guy. Right as we were getting ready to take a photo, Clarice walked up and I pulled her in too.  We chatted for awhile and I wished them both the best of luck.

I went back to join Krista and we both ordered some wine. I must admit, I love taking photographs of wine. If you must know, mine was the larger of the two (I wasn't driving!).  :)
After we had started eating, Melanie's mom, Vicky, sent us a text to let us know that Melanie was guessed it...The Farm! How funny!  After she finished eating, she walked over towards us and we met her in the walkway.  What a beautiful and kind girl she was!  Both Krista and I were thrilled to get to meet her. She signed my sign, took a few photos, answered a bunch of questions about what this experience was like and then we wished her well.   She has our votes every week for sure!
Look at how adorable they both are!

After that, we finished dinner, paid the bill and headed home. The day turned out to be so much more than we had anticipated!  Once we got home, we turned on the TV to see ourselves which was oh so much fun. At that point, I was so tired I could barely see straight and had to go to bed.

 I woke up pretty early the next morning and was showered and packed by the time Mike and Krista got up. That way I could spend time with the two of them instead of running around like a crazy person, trying to get ready to go.

I couldn't have asked for a more perfect trip to visit my friends and see one of my all time favorite shows!  Thank you, Mike and Krista, for the tickets and for having me as a guest in your home. I had such a wonderful time! I adore you both and hope we are able to all get together again before too much time passes.

Give Lucy my love.  :)

Free Photo Shoot Giveaway Contest

Check out my latest contest! If you are going to be a High School Senior or know someone who is, let them know they have a chance to get their senior photos done for free! Enter on my Facebook Fan Page at!

Good luck!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The B Family Sneak Peek

Tammy and I used to work together quite a few years ago now.  A lot has changed in both of our lives since then!  Her and her husband's family grew from 1 little girl to 5 little people. I had twins.  (So did she.) We've both changed jobs but kept in touch from time to time. Recently, she called to see if I would be interested in doing a photo shoot for her and her family (all 7 of them), plus another 6 family members.  Well, of course I would! Though, I must admit the idea of doing a 13 person shoot was a bit daunting. My biggest to date was 12 people and that had been just about 2 years earlier.

Tammy and I hadn't seen each other in probably 4 years or so.  But, when she got out of the car, it felt like we had worked together just the week before.  Time has flown by and it was so great to see her and her husband Matt.  I anxiously rounded the corner of their van to get a glimpse of her 5 kids who I knew had grown so much since I last saw them.  And wow! Such a beautiful group of little people was in front of me.  Tammy dressed the entire family PERFECTLY!  The longer I do this, the more I see how coordinated clothes really do make a difference.  This family could not have possibly coordinated themselves any better.  We got started with the 7 of them, while we waited for the other family members to arrive.

Once everyone else joined us, we started shooting various combinations of family members, along with doing several group shots. What a fun group of people I had to work with. Everyone was willing to do what I needed them to and without being asked, the other grownups jumped in to help get the kids to smile and look in various directions.  It's a bit challenging to keep track of 5 kids and 8 adults!    But, this family pitched in, was patient and had fun spending time together. That's exactly how I always want my shoots to feel for my clients. No one seemed to be in particular hurry to finish so I took my time and took a TON of shots.

This last shot was a "recreation" of an image from when these three siblings were little. While I didn't see the original photo, I can image it in my head.

You have many, many, MANY more shots to come your way with the final gallery, Tammy & Matt & Co.  I can't begin to tell you how wonderful it was to see all of you. Your family is just gorgeous and your children were such a treat to photograph. I hope you enjoy the images!

Monday, June 13, 2011

In Memory of Sheryl

Many of you may remember that I lost one of my childhood best friends to ovarian cancer, this past Thanksgiving.   Sheryl had an amazing spirit and her six year battle to fight that ugly disease was something to behold.  She taught so many of us so many lessons and died with as much dignity and grace as one could hope for.

It's hard to believe she's been gone for almost seven months.  Since we didn't talk every day, I still feel I should just be able to pick up the phone and call her.  At the end, she told me, as she did several other friends, that she was worried we would only remember her as she was in her final days. I assured her that her last few weeks could never overshadow the 27 years of friendship we shared.  What comes to me again and again is her laugh and her energy and her smile and her funny "Sheryl-isms" that we all loved so much. She lived life to the fullest, even when that wasn't easy for her to do.

Yesterday was the SheRox triathlon downtown Naperville.  Funds were raised to help with research for finding a cure for ovarian cancer.  Sheryl's 2 sisters raised just over $2500 and the law firm Sheryl worked for, Hennessy and Roach, raised over $10,000 in her honor!  They also set up a tent at the end of the race for everyone to gather at and celebrate the success of the day. It was a huge turnout and I know Sheryl was right there all along, encouraging the athletes and watching all of us share wonderful memories while raising money for a great cause!

Pam and Robin, along with another of Sheryl's friends, Amy, ran the Triathlon as a relay. Jen Vierling, another friend of ours, did all three legs on her own. I'm so proud of all of them for this wonderful accomplishment!  I didn't get down there early enough to see much of the Tri, but I did meet up with everyone post race.
Such a wonderful way to honor our friend, sister, daughter, mom, wife.   I still miss her and always will. But, she sure is still leaving her mark on this world, even after she's moved on to the next one. 
We love you, Sheryl!