11 Things I Learned About Italy

Excuse me, I’m still on Italy time.

Last week I was in Italy. Yes, Italy. Not only was I in Italy but I was there, celebrating my Grandmother’s 80th birthday with all of our family. #1 bucket list trip destination, Italy, bonus, I experienced it with my whole family. Bill asked me what #2 was, I said there wasn’t a number 2, but I should probably figure that one out. But really, it’s probably just going back to Italy.

We stayed in a Villa, on the side of a mountain in Tuscany. Yes it was perfect. Yes it was magical. Yes I am still pinching myself, and if there wasn’t photographic evidence and witnesses I probably would be convinced it was just a dream.

I took a whole lot of pictures, which I’ve narrowed down to about 250 favorites. That said, I’ve still got some narrowing down to do before I share all those. But before I forget, I wanted to write down the 11 random things I learned about Italy. So here it goes.

1. English underutilizes one of the best letters in the alphabet. Italian takes full advantage of it’s beauty. Z
zizzania – discord
piazza – square/market

And so on. The double zz actually makes a ts sound. It’s fancy and I like it.

2. For the most part no Italian treated me like a “stupid American”. I wasn’t sure how this was going to go down, you hear a lot that Americans kinda give themselves a bad name when we travel abroad. Lets be honest, we can be jerks. But I did a crash course in Italian before we left (thank you Little Pim) and I know enough Spanish to piece together some things and this seemed to ease me into the good graces of the people. They always immediately spoke Italian to me, and when I asked if they spoke English, and they said no, but then I followed it up with a bit of broken Italian, demeanors turned from irritation to kindness.

3. Rome is busy, Rome is hot, wear your walking shoes. We took a bullet train to Rome (more on this in a second) and spent the day wandering around and seeing some of the many sites. But record high temps took my very optimistic walking tour of Rome plans down a few notches. We did see the colosseum and get to go into the bottom level and walk out onto the floor, which most people never get to see. And seeing the look on Bill’s face as we walked those halls made all the heat, and swollen feet 1000% worth it.

4. Train systems with bullet trains that span your country, nay, multiple countries are awesome, get with it America. To drive to Rome from where we were staying would have taken 2 and a half hours. The Frecciabianca (White Arrow) got us there in about an hour and 5 minutes. Why can’t I hop a bullet train to Dallas, or Austin or San Antonio from Houston instead of driving the 3.5+ hours to each destination? Please tell me.

5. Small towns in Italy and the Tuscan countryside are exactly how they’re pictured in paintings, books and movies. Exactly. Often while at the villa overlooking vineyards or while walking down narrow cobblestone path ways, with tall old brick and stone apartments on each side, all covered in window boxes full of flowers and laundry drying in the breeze, I wanted to just push them. Like maybe they were just a series of elaborately painted backdrops, and if I tapped them just so, they’d all tumble over and reveal it was all just a farce.

6. Bars in Italy are my jam. Bars in Italy are not smoky, dark, venues with alcohol and sleazy men where everything seems just slightly damp. Bars in Italy are coffee bars, where they also happen to sell alcohol, or pastries or gelato or maybe local meats and cheeses. There is no to go coffee, no paper cups, no waste. And a café is an espresso and its served in a tiny ceramic cup with a cucchianino (those tiny spoons) and you stand with the locals at the bar and drink that sucker straight up and it’s the smoothest, most luxurious espresso you’ve ever tasted. It’s magical. It’s like stars in your mouth (as my grandmother would say). Oh and did I mention these Bars are everywhere? Everywhere. Gas stations, tiny towns, everywhere and its glorious.

7. Americans are butchering coffee. We’ve taken a beautiful magical art and stabbed it several times, added about 30 tons of sugar, lit it on fire and then slapped a siren label on it and a really big price tag and called it coffee.

Since I managed a cafe way back when, I’ve been a coffee purist. When it was decided that we were going to Italy, one of the things that excited me most was drinking the coffee. And let me tell you, my coffee taste buds will never be the same. Seattle, I don’t know what you thought you were doing…but it’s wrong. I should probably stop while I’m ahead, because I could really go on here. For a real long time. But I’m not just talking about the big American coffee giants, I’m talking about gas station coffee, and diner coffee and it just makes me really sad. Legit, Italians call cafe Americano acqua sporca, or “dirty water”. Which I’m now convinced is 100% true because café is good and pure and its good and pure everywhere, even at the gas station bars.

8. All tomatoes are dead to me. There was a vegetable garden at our villa and in it grew tomatoes, in that Tuscan volcanic soil and that my friends is what a tomato is supposed to taste like. I can hardly describe it, soft like a perfectly ripe peach, so juicy that it oozes down the corner of your mouth and down your chin a bit, firm skin, bright but deep red, sweet but a mellow sweetness and meaty, like a perfectly cooked steak. And the smell, the smell is amazing. But even the store bought produce was better than anything I could buy here in the states. Everything was ripe to perfection and flavorful.

9. Riposos, also my jam. Seriously, lets shut everything down between the hours of 2 and 4 and take a nap. We’re all dragging around that time anyway, and it’s freaking hot, who wants to be out in that? Let’s give in to our bodies natural clock and relax. Granted this doesn’t happen so much in the larger cities like Rome, but the closest town where we were staying, dead quiet, not a soul between those times. There’s something really smart happening there.

10. The food. Good God the food. If the coffee wasn’t good enough, the cheese. Italy is doing cheese right. Lets be honest, no one is slicing up American Cheese and putting it out at fancy parties with olives and nuts and fine wine. What is amazing is all the fancy expensive cheeses you buy here, are local to Italy, so they’re cheap, stupid cheap. I may have sat down to a whole wheel of cheese (or several). Maybe.

One word, gelato. Gelato made me miss Blue Bell a whole lot less. Cioccolato Fondente, I will dream of you. We need more gelaterias, like stat.

I vow to stop overcooking pasta. You hear people say al dente pasta, well that’s pretty much just how pasta is cooked in Italy. Except for if it’s fresh pasta, which is basically the best thing I’ve ever eaten and a whole different ball game from fresh pasta.

Dominos, Little Caesars, Papa Johns, Cicis, you need to stop. You do not make pizza. You make some cardboard, cheese slathered imposter. This is pizza.

Pizza-Italy

Lastly, hello dinner, at 8:30. I suppose because of the riposo people are eating dinner later, like much later. And dinner, is multiple courses. First the antipasti-the appetizer of local meats or local fair, we had ricotta stuffed squash blossoms which sounds fancy, but you can totally just buy squash blossoms at the store, apparently its a regular thing. The first course, the Primo, pasta, soup or risotto. The main course, some kind of meat, plus side dishes. All this is followed by dolce, dessert and coffee. And then sometimes fruit, because it’s supposed to help with digestion. I thought I’d take more issues with this, but what I found was that I wasn’t night snacking or ravenously hungry the next morning, like I typically am after our standard 5:30 dinner. Which allowed me to eat a traditional Italian breakfast which is simple cafe and a pastry or maybe fruit or cheese and meat on bread.

11. I could easily assimilate. There was a moment there, where I was like, lets just send for Issa, we can trade in our return tickets and get her here. There’s so much about Italy that is just so me. On day one my dad looked at me and said, “this is your element, you fit here.” And he was 100% right. The food, the respect for the land and the things it produces, the cafe, the bars, the risposo, the late dinners, the community, all of it. It’s me. And I’m not real sure why that is. Maybe it’s some weird genetic thing, like my Italian blood is calling to me. Maybe it’s just my personality fits with the culture. Maybe it’s the Tuscan sun. Who knows. But one thing I do know, I’m going to keep learning Italian, just in case.

Posted in Travel Tagged , , |

A Home Maternity Session, Spring, TX

Back in the summer of 2009 when we first moved back to Houston, Kamee and Jarod were the first people in Houston to hire me. I remember well the moment Kamee walked up to me in church and asked me to take photos of her and Jarod. They believed in me at a time where Bill and I were in a whirlwind of change, disappointment and newness. All I knew at that time was that I wanted to keep shooting and they gave me the encouragement to keep going and to reestablish my business here in Houston. They also became amazing couple friends, we celebrated life together.

But sometimes paths deviate from each other, for years at a time. And in another whirlwind of life change Jarod and Kamee left to work over seas for several years and we lightly kept in touch on Facebook. They were living a life thousands of miles away and we were living our lives here, with a growing business and a growing family.

Then surprisingly, sometimes, life paths come back together in the form of a maternity photo session.

During their own whirlwind of change Kamee sent me a Facebook message and asked me to shoot their maternity session. I was honored. Not only because I was going to get to photograph them, especially at this joyous time, but because they thought of me, even after our paths had been so far apart for so long. During the session, which we shot in their new home, it was like they had never left. We picked up where we left off, except for with a bit more knowledge about photography, birth, babies and parenthood.

I am thrilled to have them back in our lives, and to share with them in this amazing thing that is being a parent. It took everything in me not to cry while sitting in Starbucks, editing this session. They are such beautiful people and they are going to make the most amazing and loving parents. I am over the moon for them, and here are their photos…

Spring Texas Maternity Photographer Spring Texas Maternity Photography Crossfit Maternity Photographer The Woodlands Texas Maternity Photographer Spring Texas Maternity Photographer Spring Texas Maternity Photographer

These photos are black and white heavy. I’ve been thinking a lot about my days shooting black and white film, and hours in the darkroom and while editing the light and emotion of these images reminded me of film, very raw, very honest and natural.

Posted in DP&D Photography Sessions, Families & Kids, Photography Tagged , , |

Tommi & Josh, Engagement Spring, TX

I can’t believe I haven’t shared this session yet. Weeks ago, in the midst of all that crazy rain, an hour before this session, it started down pouring. A weather reschedule was not an option, we had to shoot, the US Army didn’t give us a choice. Josh shipped out two days after the session to serve our country But somehow, in the midst of rain, it just stopped and the sun shone brightly. I am beyond honored to capture an engagement session between Josh and his new wife Tommi.

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Did you catch the nod to the LIFE VJ Day Kiss photo?

Please continue to pray for the safety of our men and women in our military. They are sacrificing huge things (like spending time with a new wife) to serve and protect this country. There is nothing I could do that could truly express my gratitude.

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Zelt Wedding Pt. 1 at Vista West Ranch, Dripping Springs, TX

May was filled with lots of shooting which means June has started out with long, late night editing sessions. First on the list was Melissa and Glenn’s Dripping Springs, Texas wedding. Their wedding was right smack dab in the middle of all that flooding we were experiencing in Texas. I prepped for the worst, buying new fun umbrellas, rain boots, a stack of rain ponchos and waterproof coverings for our gear.

With 60% -90% chance of rain the night before, I started praying. I’d heard all about the venue Vista West Ranch from Melissa as well as a few photographer friends. That it was a “photographer’s dream” and the plans for an outdoor ceremony with a peony and eucalyptus spotted archway. I wanted to shoot rain free, I wanted Melissa to have her dream outdoor ceremony among the hills of Texas hillcountry. We left Houston early in the morning and after a brief sprinkle the skies opened up and the sun shone brightly and Texas showed us how beautiful it can be. There was not a drop of rain the rest of the day.

There are so many beautiful images from this wedding that I’m going to have to share it in two parts. And without further ado, here’s part one.

Vista West Ranch Wedding Wedding Photographer Austin, TX Father Daughter Wedding Photography Wedding Photographer Houston Vista West Ranch Wedding Photography Wedding Photographer Diliberto Photo & Design Wedding Photographer Diliberto Photo & Design The Bride Wedding Photographer Diliberto Photo & Design The Groom Wedding Photographer Diliberto Photo & Design Vista West Ranch Wedding Photographer Diliberto Photo & Design Kilts Wedding Photographer Diliberto Photo & Design Vista West Ranch Wedding Photographer Diliberto Photo & Design Wedding Photographer Diliberto Photo & Design Vista West Ranch Wedding Photographer Diliberto Photo & Design Wedding Photographer Diliberto Photo & Design Wedding Photographer Diliberto Photo & Design Wedding Photographer Diliberto Photo & Design

Did you notice the flower girl’s face during the kiss? Kills me!!

More to come in part 2!

 

Posted in DP&D Photography Sessions, Photography, To Be Wed Tagged , , , , |

The Big Taste 2015

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you may have seen a few posts about the award I designed for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Houston for their annual Big Taste of Houston. It was a true collaboration between myself, my awesome mom sculptor Bridgette Mongeon and Joe from Carvewright. Through a FaceTime conversation with Bridgette and the wonderful folks at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Houston I came up with the below sketched design and then later did a very rough mockup in Illustrator.

bestofbig_sketches

From there Bridgette did her digital sculpting magic in ZBrush and created a 3D model of the award and Joe worked his craft and did some amazing things with his Carvewright and woodworking skills (you can see his whole process here, it’s pretty awesome). And well, then there was an award.

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The three of us with the award at the event.

Big Taste 2015

The Big Taste was this past Sunday and it was fantastic. I’ve coordinated and worked large events like this and I know how much time, energy, endless work, blood, sweat, tears, etc. goes into an event and the folks at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Houston did a stellar job.

More than anything I was reminded why I love this city, there is SO much talent and love and pride in this city that it’s overwhelming sometimes. The beginning of the event overlapped with the Rocket’s game and folks were glued to the nearest TV during the final minutes of the game. A guy from Dallas won the Audi that was raffled off, and everyone was a little upset about it. And the food, oh the food. There are some seriously talented chefs in this city.

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BigTaste15-08 Killen’s Barbecue presented a short rib [insert other fancy things I can’t remember] with a bleu cheese dumpling (see below). It was excellent. I could have eaten those pickled onions all by themselves. The basil lemon cheesecake from Red Dessert Dive in the Heights might just be my new favorite dessert of choice (and this is coming from a person who doesn’t really love sweets).

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The winners of every award, Dish Society.

Equally as amazing is the organization the whole event benefited, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Houston. As a parent I couldn’t be more thankful for the friends and family who pour into my daughter’s life. The Bigs in this program are pouring into the lives of children who start out as complete strangers. I really believe that is the epitome of love, giving selflessly to a stranger. As the President of Big Brothers Big Sisters Houston Pierce Bush said at the event, “I dream of a day where there is no need for this organization.” Until that day, Big Brothers Big Sisters will continue to do what they do, with the help of others in the community both as Bigs and as generous donors to the cause.

If you’d like to donate to Big Brothers Big Sisters Houston visit www.bbbstx.org and click the Houston button. For a list of all the Big Taste 2015 participants check out The Big Taste.

Posted in Business & Marketing, In The Press, Life Tagged , , , |

The Day B.B. King Came to My House for Dinner

In second grade I sold enough World’s Finest chocolate bars and chocolate covered almonds to reach the top tier prize group, the one where you get your pick of a shiny new bike, remote control airplane, or my prize of choice, a tape/record player. I distinctly remember this conversation with my teacher:

“Christina, do you want the record player or the CD player”?

“A CD player? I don’t know what that is.” I responded.

“It’s the disc things Mr. Muller plays in music class.”

“I don’t have those, I have records.”

It was roughly 1992-ish. We had records. Lots of records. Vinyl is what I first heard music on, and I still believe music sounds best on vinyl. Memories of my early childhood are filled with my parents playing classic rock, Christmas albums, and a few Disney albums. It’s on vinyl that I first heard blues, specifically B.B. King.

It’s strange to me that in the same week that great man passed, my husband bought me a record player for my 30th birthday, and I got to share the glory of my vinyl collection with my own daughter (she’s thrilled with it by the way). During my birthday dinner, my dad quietly mentioned, “Did you hear B.B. King is in hospice?” “Yeah, I did, it’s really sad.”

To anyone else, that was a transfer of pop culture news, but to our family, it was something different.

On Thursday B.B. King died, and it got me thinking about the day B.B. King came to dinner at my house. I was little, younger than second grade, but old enough to understand that it was a really big deal and that it was a memory I should really hold on to.

My mom is a sculptor, and a darn good one at that, over the years she turned a hobby into a career. It was early on in her career, right near that “oh wow” point, that point where anyone who’s ever followed a dream understands. It’s when suddenly you receive a spark of success that is completely unexpected but so desired and you stand back and look at what you’ve done and you think, “hey, maybe I really am an artist” or a musician, or a fire fighter, or a chef or whatever it is that dream leads you to be. During that time, she was allowed the chance to meet the blues legend and do a portrait bust of him. She actually wrote about it all recently here on her blog. Reading her blog and thinking about that time, and watching a few friends recently running after their dreams and maybe even turning 30 all got me really thinking about a lot of things.

I remember walking to our front yard and picking flowers, not roses or daisies, but more along the lines of dandelions and those little purple flowers that pop up with clover in the south. “Mom, these are for B.B. King.” Oh the heart of a child. I picked weeds for B.B. King. But he was a man with a kind heart and while I can’t remember specifics, I do recall that he did not reject my flowers, but he gave me a tiny lapel pin with a blue guitar on it (which I later learned was Lucille), and his name in a big bold font.

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But B.B. King isn’t just a legend, and it isn’t just that he ate dinner at my house, at the table I still eat dinner at when I take my daughter to ‘Gamma’s’ house. He did something for my family when he agreed to let my mom sculpt him. He gave her that “oh wow” moment, he gave a young artist that spark of early success that sends you propelling forward. He believed in my mom and her talents. And what that did was allow her to continue to follow her dream. Which taught a very young girl that following dreams was completely appropriate and encouraged, even if it’s crazy or harder or silly or whatever nay-sayers tend to call dreams. Watching my mom pursue and push and run after her dreams showed me that I could do that too.

She writes in her blog post about B.B. King, “Reminiscing on paying my dues, I realize that the most important belief in myself had to come from me. Counting others to believe in oneself is senseless. You are the most important thing to you.”

And while she totally taught me to believe in myself, to count on myself, to be self sufficient, that I can do all things I put my mind to, I have always known that she believes in me and because of that I have never had to believe in myself alone.

It wasn’t always easy, there were times where there wasn’t work, and we struggled, but to see where she is now makes me know the hard part is worth it, the work is worth it, the time and energy and blood sweat and tears is worth it, because sometimes, B.B. King comes to dinner at your house.

Thank you B.B. King for giving that to our family. Your memory will live in our hearts and our ears, every time I play that vinyl record.

Posted in Life Tagged , , , , |

I’ve Been Writing In My Head

Throughout the day I write blog posts in my head. It’s weird. I think of great topics, and things to say and antidotes and puns, all while changing a diaper or vacuuming or washing that one dish for the 100th time.

When I sit down to actually write, that blinky line cursor thing mocks me. It laughs at me with every. steady. blink. “Remember when you could remember things? Remember when you wrote interesting blog posts? Remember when you knew what was going on in the world and had somewhat of an opinion?” That’s what it says to me.

Seriously. I have a friend who lives in Baltimore and her Facebook status was something along the lines of, “Can’t go to do [insert important thing she had to do] the freeways are closed down because of rioters.” And I was all, “Rioters? What the heck is going on?” Then I saw that Baltimore was trending, which immediately told me that I was not.

And while, all that is happening in Baltimore and Nepal and the baby princess and all of that is big news, the biggest news to me is that I woke up early, before Issa, and put my hair up and got dressed and threw on a little mascara and when I went in her room to get her she gasped and said, “mommy you look soooo beeeeauuutiful”. And right now, in this stage in my life, that’s all that really matters. For me, that’s better than any headline.

All this to say, I hope to write more personal posts here again. But if you don’t see anything from me, know it’s because I’m living life and fully enjoying the little moments with the people who hold my heart.

Posted in Life

Senior Photos, A Cheerleader, Spring, TX

Savannah is gorgeous. Period. So, shooting her session was so easy. We got to a point though, where we were in a field and she was in her cheerleader uniform and I just kinda said, “umm do what a cheerleader does”. A rare occurrence, I wasn’t sure how to direct her, and at that moment I realized Savannah is our very first cheerleader we’ve ever shot. Which is odd, because we’ve shot swimmers, athletes, artists, dancers, theater kids, figure skaters, skateboarders, and all different kinds of seniors. So thanks Savannah for being our first cheerleader, and thanks for being gorgeous. Here are our favorites from her session.

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Posted in DP&D Photography Sessions, Photography, Seniors Tagged , , , , , |

A Newborn and Family Session, Spring, TX

I love this family. My daughter tells me at least once a day about their oldest, George and how he’s her best friend. Makes me melt every time. They brought the sweetest most lovely little lady into the world and I was absolutely honored to capture her newness in these images. Here’s some favorites from their session.

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And this happens on most newborn sessions, either to mom or dad or me. It’s part of the deal. Thanks for being a trooper Lauren.

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Posted in DP&D Photography Sessions, Families & Kids, Photography Tagged , , , |

First Communion Portraits, Tomball TX

I met Bianca and her mom through another really great client. They joined us for our snowy holiday mini sessions back in December. Mini sessions are short, its the main reason I don’t love doing them, so I didn’t get to really get to know Bianca and her mom. But, when they told me they’d like me to shoot her first communion portraits I was thrilled that I’d have a chance to spend more time with them and to capture this beautiful young lady.

I knew in my head I wanted an old timey, white, country church. I did a lot of research and found this beauty a short 20 minutes from our house. It might be one of my new favorite locations (I’m pretty sure I need to shoot a bridal portrait there next).

It was sprinkling at my house when I left to go to the location Friday morning, but God must have heard my pleas for a lull in the rain because by the time I got to the location it had let up. Things were drenched but we working with it, tucking towels here and there and tip-toeing through the soaked ground. Bianca is a beautiful girl and I’m loving her photos. They’re all her and I’m so thrilled her and her mom let me capture this special time in her life, and her faith.

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