an eventful trip home

During our Stateside visit, as we headed east from Chicago to our hometown in Central Pennsylvania, my head was spinning with more parties and plans than I could fit into five short days with family and friends. I knew we'd hit the ground running with a stop at the local Grower's Market, an introduction to a new "member" of the family, and preparations for a going away party the following day. I also knew that a box with my name on it containing a new DSLR would be arriving before the visit was over. But even taking into account all of the plans and all of the anticipation, I still couldn't have guessed everything that was in store for this trip to PA.

Still wearing this shirt proudly.
Captured with the iPhone 3G

Here's a sampling from our trip:

July is one of my favorite times of year in Pennsylvania. For one thing, the local produce scene is at its peak.

Sweet crepe by Simply Mediterranean 
at the Williamsport Grower's Market
Captured on the iPhone 3G
Not pictured: My savory crepe featuring lamb, spinach, and feta. 
A visit to this stand is a high priority.

In July, PA is sunny and hot, the pools are open and refreshing (rather than ice cold), and there are tons of things to do outside. NS got his family's 4-wheeler out to take me for a spin on trails that no longer exist. That was interesting.

Confident trailblazer.
Captured with the iPhone 3G
And since it was our one and only trip home for the year, I got to spend an afternoon with this young lady on a belated birthday outing. Pizza for lunch and lipstick for dessert. Sounds about right.

Her only complaint: Too many options.
Captured with the iPhone 3G

As I said, we helped to organize a going-away party, getting right to work on creating a Florida-themed menu. My wonderful MIL did 90% of the work, my sister-in-law did 8% of the work, and I did 2% (including N's contribution). Good people to have on your team!

Nutter Butters + an icing tube + flower sprinkles
= a hit with every kid at the party.
Thanks, Pinterest
Captured with the iPad 3

Nautical napkin rings with twine and Life-Savers.
Thanks, AES
Captured with the iPad 3
Why a Florida theme for this party? Well, my parents, who had been residents of the State of Pennsylvania since the '70s, finally decided that nothing could entice them to endure another long winter in the North. Dad successfully sold his dental practice and entered that magical phase of life called "retirement". Of course, you can't let people escape the town they've called home for almost 40 years without some sort of celebratory send-off. Enter the Funky Florida theme party.

What about the beach doesn't solicit a huge grin?
Captured with MOD's Canon Rebel t3i
We set up a photo booth, of sorts, to get some snaps of the guests with my parents, but of course the younger generation raided the props faster than I could ask them to say, "Cheese!"

I had no part in the design of this pose.
Captured with MOD's t3i
Ultimately, as bittersweet as it is to leave a place you've called "home", Mom and Dad were so completely ready for this move. When the time is right, and things fall into place, it's hard not to be excited for a new phase.

Having the time of their lives
Captured with MOD's t3i
I thought I would get really emotional about leaving behind the home of my childhood. The fact that our visit last Christmas was the final time my whole family would be together in "our house" wasn't lost on me. Fortunately, our summer visit occurred several weeks before the official move, so it's not like the entire house was boxed up and hollow-sounding. Plus, it certainly doesn't help the people that are leaving if you're walking around sniffling and weepy. Years ago, I had to say goodbye to N on two separate occasions while he was in the military (for basic training and for a deployment), and I have to admit that my emotions got the better of me and certainly didn't make the situations any easier. Being supportive is the best course of action.

Besides, I think we all have a bit of Funky Florida in us already.

  photo credit: NS
If I knew that I could actually serve a volleyball overhand, I would make this face every time.
Captured with MOD's t3i

In more recent news, Mom and Dad claim they are beyond thrilled with their new digs and have fallen head over heels in love with the Florida lifestyle. But I won't believe it until I see it; thus, tickets have been booked for a visit this fall. Already excited for a reunion of this variety:

                         photo credit: AES
Are you ready for this, Florida?
Captured with MOD's t3i

Along with a "goodbye", we had a "hello". My sister, ADP, recently got herself a precious little teacup-sized Yorkie, and I swear that every cell in his tiny little body screams, "I am adorable! Pick me up!"

She calls him "Bentley"
I call him "Bentley Boo"

The most entertainment I've had in a while was watching this little tyke boldly chase after my parents' Golden Retriever, who's easily ten times his size. He's a feisty little thing, but also a total cuddler. I'm convinced; we all need a Bentley.

And now, for the biggest news of all: During our short little jam-packed crazy five-day trip, N's sister managed to get herself ENGAGED. To be MARRIED. 

I know.

Blinged out
Captured with the iPad 3

She's snagged herself a totally sweet guy. As per the photos below, he's Mr. Solid, and she's Miss Lively.  It works.

The first thing I thought of after they got engaged was taking engagement photos with my new camera. 

Which hadn't yet arrived. 

Still, we went ahead and picked a date and time that worked for everyone: Right after work as the sun was setting on the day of the camera delivery. Seemed like a bulletproof plan at the time.

I was counting on UPS making a delivery in the early afternoon so that I could get the camera, crack open the manual, and figure out what the heck was going on before attempting a legit photo shoot. See, I didn't exactly replace my last camera (a Canon Rebel t1i) when it broke on me. I upgraded. After taking literally tens of thousands of photos on a cropped-frame sensor for three years, the time had come for full-frame. And since Canon had recently released their 5D Mark III, and it had all these bells and whistles and highly-rated features that improved upon the Mark II which NS could not bear foregoing on a technology purchase... well, the Mark III it was. But going from a Rebel to a 5D is a jump and a half, and I knew there would be buttons and knobs that would stare right back at me if I picked it up and just tried to run with it, so I cleared my afternoon schedule and waited for the UPS man.

And waited. The hours ticked by, and soon A&C were off work and in their photo shoot clothes, ready to go. Meanwhile, I was nearly beside myself, wandering around the house with nothing to do except to wait for a certain brown truck to come down the driveway. It's not that I don't know how to have a bit of patience, but the setting sun would wait for no one, and I wasn't about to attempt photos outside of golden hour.

FINALLY. We could hear the truck at the end of the long driveway. N went out to meet him. Brought the box in. Emptied its contents. Popped the battery into the body. Turned it on. 

No juice. 

I should have guessed; the first page of EVERY set of instructions says to fully charge your device before using. This one had zero charge, and I had about 20 minutes before it was go time. My options were pretty limited. We plugged that bad boy in and gave it 20 minutes to charge while I opened the user manual and made sure I could at least navigate the main screen by the time we ran out the door.

But oh my heavens. That Mark III.  It did not put up a fuss that its battery was barely 20% full. I've never been able to take photos of this caliber before. The camera thrives on gorgeous images. 

Or maybe it just thrives on gorgeous people. Or gorgeous rings.

It also helped that A&C were the easiest people to pose ever. I'd give them one tiny idea and then end up with a shot like this:

Can't really take credit for the actress on the right or the genuine smile on the left.

The fun only continued.

Had a bit of hair jealousy when I took this shot.

Laughter is not only the best medicine but makes for the best photos.

Giggly girl

Spotted: Two lovebirds

Photography magic happens during golden hour. I can't talk it up enough. The sun basically smiles down upon the world and puts a halo on everything. The Mark III was happier than ever.

Oh, funny story: So AES was cute and crafty and got wooden numbers for the date of their wedding (yes, she had a date picked already), painted them her wedding color (yes, she had colors chosen already), strung 'em up, and used them to get some save-the-date snaps.

Except... since these photos were taken, the date has changed. But some of these shots turned out so cute that I had to share. (Just don't get this date stuck in your head!)

My favorite!!

For more of my favorite shots from A&C's engagement shoot (trust me, you don't want to miss out on this photogenic pair), check out my Google+ album.

Whew! What a great trip. I always enjoy our visits to Pennsylvania. Between the rolling hills, the farmland, the local produce, and of course, the wonderful people, it never fails to leave me satisfied. I do live in paradise here in Cayman, but I come from another paradise. Pennsylvania Paradise. Where I'll always be home.

Next in the travel series: A weekend in another state we called home for seven years. Quality time spent with one of our favorite small (but growing) families was a perfect way to end our July mini-tour of the States.


  1. I hate that i missed this trip--I love NS taking you for a ride on the four wheeler. It seems like it was a great and full trip!


  2. holy smokes, that Mark III is as good as they say! no, wait, it's your camera prowess :) let me just say, i can't wait to see pictures from your upcoming october trip... ;)

    1. I never knew how badly I needed a full-frame until I got one. October is going to be magic!!

  3. Great post! I love that teacup puppy! Sorry, Walter, I'm totally in love. The engagement pictures are lovely. I'm going to have serious Rebel-contentment issues if all your future pictures look this incredible. Watch out, Brent. Love you and miss you!

    1. Even Walter might like a Bentley! We'll see about the quality of future photos.. still feeling like a total novice. I think A&C benefited from a good dose of beginners' luck. :)

  4. Those are great engagement photos!! Now I want you to come take our photos. ...except that we're not nearly so easy and natural to pose. :-/

    Surely you can photoshop the right date in, right?? ;)

    1. With your adorable kids? I beg to differ. :)

      Photoshop would probably help. Now I just need to learn it...

  5. Okay, so WHEN is the wedding, now? I didn't know the date got changed - lol. Great job on the pics, Jenn. You are amazing:)

  6. Just a day sooner ;) May 24th.