Oh Boy, Here He Comes!

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Tomorrow is the day…tomorrow we meet our 3rd little man.

There have been days of wondering how we were going to do this whole birth abroad thing. In a country where we don’t speak the native language and not everyone can or is willing to speak English. I can’t tell you the relief I felt when a nurse came up to me and said, “Are you Katie?” in perfect English after we’d been waiting to meet our doctor at the hospital for our walk through.  Until then, no one had been able to help us. I hugged her!

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For the most part, I pushed these nervous feelings aside, because I knew that it was the best decision for our family, especially logistically, and I’m simply trusting that the Lord has this. That said, this whole process has truly been one big adventure. One Hebrew word I have adopted over the years is balagan. Essentially, it means a state of chaos, a hot mess, or a cluster f*@$. This word describes so many “Oh, Israel” moments so perfectly. Last Sunday, a week from our scheduled c-section, we sat in the hospital for our last check up, hearing balagan being tossed around by the maternity ward staff.  All we could do was look at each other, laugh and wait, because “this is Israel,” as they say. Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Virginia anymore.

The other hard thing about delivering abroad is being far from your people back home. When one of my best friends said this was my first pregnancy she hadn’t been a part of, I ugly cried for a bit. That has been pretty tough. However, we have been surrounded by our wonderful Israel village of friends that have supported us more than we could imagine. They have cleaned, cooked, organized, loved on our boys, showered us with gifts, prayed over us, and even let me sleep on their couches when I was too tired to parent. We have felt truly blessed by these amazing people.

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They have also kept me accountable, especially this last month and half, to slow down. I’m a do-er, I tend to go all in…to a fault. Although there hasn’t been a lot of blogging this summer (sorry!!) there has been a lot of doing. So much so, that I may have overdone it…no I did, I did over do it…a few too many times. I even had a pre-term labor scare one night over Labor Day weekend and it was a wake up call that, if I wanted this little man to stay put until October 14th, then I had to stop doing all the things.  So I did, I said “no,” I hibernated, became a little anti-social, and I tried to limit myself to one outing/socializing/demanding thing a day other than parenting my boys. Obviously it worked because here we are, less than 12 or so hours from baby and now my mom is here so I can really relax! Phew!

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I think my biggest take away from this journey is how important it is to be intentional. Being intentional is not a new concept, I have even blogged on it’s importance before, but it really rang true in this season. We are meant to love fiercely, give grace, be still (I know!), choose joy, and above all trust that the Lord has this (whatever your this may be). We cannot do any of that without being intentional. Although I feel nervous about tomorrow, I’m intentionally setting my heart on higher things and trusting. Oh and praying away the BALAGAN!

I want to thank you for being a part of our community here on IACW, it has been whirlwind of year and we are looking forward to whatever may come next and #sharingthiscolourfullife together! I especially look forward to sharing our tiny man with you soon!

Cheers,

kdg

 

Lessons in Loss

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This year has been marked by loss for both Lindy-Ann and myself. As we all struggle to process our way through these difficult times and cope with our own temporariness, I have been overwhelmed with life lessons. Things I have taken away from the lives of those we have lost, watching the people around me process through their grief, and best of all seeing how good truly can come from tragedy and loss.

From a grandfather who is finally at rest after a period of struggling, I learned that it truly is important to invest in your family to form loving and lasting connections that withstand distance and time. To not allow one day to pass without your people knowing you truly love them and they are worthy.  We were never meant to live isolated, and the technology of today can be harnessed to keep families connected regardless of distance.

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From a beloved uncle, as you may have read, I learned that the way you live matters and impacts people more than you will ever know. Leaving a legacy of love and faith with your family and friends will help them heal and grow through the pain of the loss of you.

Then there is the tragedy of a young mother sacrificing her life for her child. Last September, Arlene blew into our community like a warm, floral scented, tropical breeze. Everyone who met her says the same thing: she was was full of life. She lived and loved vibrantly and with passion. Her kind heart and her willingness to be vulnerable and open drew people to her and she was able to share her faith and passions with them.

Our paths were weaved through volunteering at school, Bible Study and church. I also had the honor of capturing her family’s love last fall in their first ever family photo session. It was a fun seaside session with laughter, cuddles, and jumping for joy.

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For the second time this year I was reminded that my job goes beyond just a nice picture on a wall, it captures a moment in family’s life to be treasured, especially in loss.

Which leads me to the first thing I learned from Arlene:

1. Capture the moments with you in it: as I worked on the slideshow for her memorial service I was thankful for two things: the accessibility of Facebook and the way Arlene captured her life. Even though the majority of them were iPhone photos and selfies, she had documented her life and the people she loved. It will be a comfort to her family, especially her children as they grow. It has challenged me to pass my camera off a little more and care a little less about how I look in photos for the sake of my boys. We photogs need to be intentional about being in the photos, not just taking them.

2. Let your light shine: Arlene’s light shone brightly through her smile and her positive attitude; and she shared that with those she loved. The legacy she is leaving her children is one of faith, love, kindness, and living life to the fullest. At the memorial service and in the past few days, everyone agrees that Arlene had a special light about her and, I can tell you, it was supernatural. We all need to let our lights shine brightly and spread that love to others.

3. Don’t procrastinate life: In his speech at the memorial service, Arlene’s husband Joseph challenged us with two things: 1) have the tough conversation with your significant other about your final wishes and 2) intentionally schedule and spend quality time with your loved ones. He reminded us that tomorrow is not guaranteed – we can’t push things this important off to later date that may never come.

Now what? 

How do you want to be remembered? What do you want your family, friends, and community to say about you? It may sound morbid, but if we are truly meant to fight the good fight, and finish the race well, then the day to day does mean something. Your daily choices make up your life and build the legacy you will leave behind.

My hope is, that at my memorial party (which will be a pub filled with revelry and good beer – just saying), the attendees will say I lived boldy, loved deeply, laughed often, gave good hugs, and was His hands and feet. I want to leave my boys with a legacy of faith and truth, the power of prayer, and importance of a good belly laugh. In the midst of the sadness of loss, there has to be laughter in the memories of what has passed and hope in what is to come.

with love,

kdg

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Black Isle Brewery – Scotland

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It wouldn’t be a DG family adventure without us checking out the local brew scene. We discovered a stellar brewery just outside Inverness, Scotland. The Black Isle Brewery started as a Homebrew operation 20 years ago and now ships all around Europe and as far as Canada and Japan. They haven’t broken into the USA market yet, but I’m certain they will at some point. They are that good!

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In 2011 they moved to their current facility located north of Inverness and 2 years ago opened their first brewpub in the city itself.

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We visited the brewpub first for some delicious pizzas and to sample a few brews before making the 20 minute trek to the brewery the following day. At the pub, the atmosphere is light and funky, combining the classic wood and industrial look of the brew world with pops of tangerine and painted murals of the local landscape (pictured behind our sleepy kid below, ha). In addition to the food and beverages, you can also rent a room and stay for the night as you romp around the highlands or if you’ve just one too many Migrator DIPA’s to continue on.

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Having had a lovely evening the night before, we were happy to visit the brewery itself. Kate, our brew guide, met us at the door and invited us on a tour of the facility to learn about their process and their space. She was so kind to our boys and didn’t mind their silly questions and odd comments like “yum it smells like pasta!” What?! Not like this is their first brewery, ha! Boiling wort does not smell like pasta, I promise!

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We learned that they are committed to a totally organic process and grow most of their malts on the farm next to the facility. Once the mash is finished, they feed the spent grain to the black sheep in their pastures. Since Scotland is too cold to grow their own hops, they source organic hops from California and New Zealand, depending on the recipes.

I really dig their logo as well, design geek that I am. It features the flower of Scotland, the thistle, and each brew has a designated color for the bloom of the thistle. The creative behind the labels and logo is the brewer’s wife. She recently started to develop variations on the their original labels to differentiate between their flagship brews and their special ones like their barrel aged oatmeal stout and collaboration brews. Oh, and we learned that each of the brews is named after a bird in from the area too, pretty cool.

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We had the honor of interacting with the master brewer himself. He overheard us and recognized that the hubs is a true brew lover, so he stopped and chatted for a minute. He demanded that we take home two bottles of the newest brews literally fresh off the label line! He was correct in his suspicion that we love us some hops!

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Another great note about Black Isle Brewery that makes them stand out from other local UK brews are their higher ABVs (alcohol by volume). Although they do have sessions ales at about 3%-4.5%, good for a few rounds at the pub, they also have some heavy hitters at 8-10.4% (specifically of interest to my beer guy!). We found it rather interesting how low the average ABV is here, but it makes sense if you plan to be watching a rugby match for hours. Interestingly, I did recently learn from some British friends that if you go outside the main cities to the small towns, the pubs have taps with higher ABVs. It’s good to be “staggering distance” from your lodgings though!

If you’re visiting Scotland and like a well crafted, organic brew, we highly recommend tasting one of the many Black Isle ales they offer. They even have a tasty Gluten Free brew called the Gold Finch. This brewery truly was a standout for us. Try it and let us know your thoughts!

Cheers!

kdg

Follow along with our brew adventures with #dgbrewphotos on Instagram.

It’s a…

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Thank you to everyone who commented on last weeks update video, we definitely felt all the love! It’s so fun to share this journey with you!

Without further ado it’s a BOY! A third Boy!

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Yes, to answer the obvious question, we were trying for a girl. It was a little sad for me, at first, to know I will not be braiding the hair of a daughter of my own, but that’s ok, I have plenty of wee girlfriends to borrow!

I’ve also been having lots of revelations about being a #boymomforlife over the past few days and I realized it suits me. As my husband reminded me, I do actually like superheroes, Star Wars, and “boy” things.

I was also reminded that as a boy mom I have the honor of raising my boys to be good men. Men who are respectful, supportive, gentle, strong, loving, compassionate, and faithful. Men that could be humble leaders with integrity, wisdom, and discernment. Future husbands who would love and cherish their wives and encourage them to pursue their dreams too. To be fathers that would be present, involved, and willing to model THE Father’s grace-filled love for their own children. Simply put, to be men like their daddy (full disclosure: he would say to be better than him).

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These are my prayers for my boys and I’m humbled at the task of raising these three arrows.

That said, we’re not perfect, I mess up daily, but that’s where the grace and loads of prayers come in. That’s why we have mommy mentors, grandparents, and teacher friends to lean on for help and to give advice. “It takes a village to do life well,” as Emily Ley says. What a relief right?!

Whelp, it’s going to be a wild, noisy, dirty, sweaty adventure filled with sweet moments and I look forward to sharing it with you, in addition to the usual creativity, inspiration, tutorials, and fun here on the blog!

cheers,

kdg

Loss & Legacy

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This week my family suffered the loss of a beloved uncle in a tragic accident. The grief and feelings come in waves. Powerful and crushing and at the same time cathartic and cleansing. The hardest thing is not being able to be there with our family. To tell stories, hear the memories, give hugs, so this is how I will share my heart. This is to honor a man that loved fiercely and did everything with passion.

Uncle John was a bear of a man that would stomp into Grandma and Grandpa’s house with the screen door slamming behind him and a smile that said he was happy to see us come get your hug! He gave bone cracking hugs and good advice. He had the heart of a Scottish highlander in fields of Virginia. He was a great story teller, a hard worker, an inspiring teacher, at talented musician, a soldier, a proud father of four miracles, loving husband to an amazing woman, a believer, and rock to lean on. He was not perfect we all know that, but even those moments were redeemed by the way he loved his family, all of us.

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He was one of the first members of the family to welcome me into the clan and even wore a kilt at our wedding. He loved my husband like more than a nephew, he cuddled his great nephews tenderly as babies and played with them as little men, and always encouraged us to keep adventuring and to grow in faith.

A couple years ago we had the pleasure of spending a weekend with my mother-in-law, grandma and grandpa, and Uncle John and his family at Cove Point Lighthouse. It was a memorable weekend of bonding and being together as a family. That weekend is even more cherished now as one of our last adventures with him.

While we were there Aunt Laura and I had schemes to take their family photos, since they hadn’t had never had them done. I was honored of course and the session worked out perfectly, the colors the lighthouse, the beach, the love captured…all of it.

Those photos were my gift to their family and now they will help our cousins remember their father.

When my MIL called to check on me (I know she is the one that lost her brother!) she told me that my gift of photography was special and meaningful. She shared that one of the girls has been carrying my photos of her family in her hand all week, and that even though I can’t be with them my spirit will be there at the memorial through those images. That was a comfort and an overwhelming revelation.

What you do matters. The legacy you leave behind matters. How you love others matters.

Uncle John loved his family fiercely, this is the legacy he leaves behind, love. I’m so thankful to have felt that love and to have been there to capture it forever for his family.

With Love,

kdg

“We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won’t need to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don’t fire cannons to call attention to their shining – they just shine.”  –Dwight L. Moody

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Capturing the End of a Chapter

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As a photographer, and an expat myself, it is my heart to capture my client’s stories for them to share with their loved ones far away and memorialize them as they were at this time, in this place. For those back home, they will get a sense of the setting and how much kids have grown.  For the families it will be how they remind their children of where they have been and reminisce about friends and experiences they made while they were there.

This is exactly what my friend, Mel, wanted when she asked me photograph her children before they moved this past summer. She had her older two photographed before they moved to Israel, and now they were closing their chapter here as a family of five.

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About a year ago my husband was flying solo at an event and met this lovely Australian couple. He came home and told me all about them and that I would really dig her. He was super impressed with her braving the summer heat of the Israel in her third trimester. He was so right, Mel is is one brave, kind, and fun-loving gal. Her laugh is infectious and she is always willing to help anyone in need. Needless to say I was honored to do the session.

Location: Herzliya Beach, Tel Aviv, Israel

Date and time: June 8:00am

Weather: Bright & Sunny

The spot I chose has this great garden and rock formation before you walk all way to the sea. It has since become one of my favorite spots. It is perfect for getting some extra texture and colors, in addition to the tans of sand and the blues of the sea. Not to mention, kids cannot help but be the pulled to the waves and play with the sand, so starting on grass is helpful. The shots we captured here are some of my favorites, the sibling love is overwhelmingly adorable!

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Often times when shooting children I use the goofball technique to help them let their guard down, but another way to do this is by using props. I suggest the kids bring any special toys we could photograph with them, putting them at ease as well as capturing the memory of the toy. Mel’s gorgeous littles each brought their most treasured stuffed animals, which are really special because these stuffies are “tragedy teds” received during hospitalizations and they can’t be replaced by look alikes! I was told they are not allowed to travel with them because if they lost them it would be forever. Gah, are they the sweetest!

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Once we made it to the sand and most of the posing was over, the real fun began for all of us. I encouraged them to jump, do cartwheels, play in the sand, and simply let them be kids.

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Overall, I adore this session on so many levels: the colors, their coordinated outfits, getting to bond with each of them separately and truly seeing each personality, and above all the sibling love!

I am so grateful when I walk away from sessions like this when I feel inspired and impassioned – knowing that one day they will look at these images to remember their life here fondly. That one day came a few months ago when I awoke to whatsapp’s from Australia with photos of new canvases mounted, and my heart swelled! This is why I do what I do. These are the clients remind me of that! Thank you Mel!!

Lesson learned: Our session was the first day of summer vacation so I had my oldest home with me as my “assistant.” Little lesson learned here, even if your client is super cool with your kiddo being there (and Mel was), for me, it is distracting. Maybe when he his older he can join me as a second shooter, but I will wait a few years. On the flip side it is fun for him to see what I do and hear him tell people that his mom takes “really good pictures.”

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We have about 18 months before the DeeGees close our Israel chapter and I can hardly believe it! If you are in Tel Aviv area and want to capture your family’s time here I would love to chat!

Cheers mates,

kdg

A Love Culture – part 1

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A lifetime ago, when I worked full time (and then some) for an amazing architecture firm in DC, we talked a lot about mentorship. There was always the debate about what was better, organic mentorship or assigned mentors. I can see it both ways. I personally prefer to mentor, and be mentored by, people I’m drawn to. Alternatively, what happens to those that don’t really connect or are too shy to put themselves out there to be mentored?

For better or for worse, my firm chose the organic approach in mentoring, as with design in general. It became a sink or swim situation for people; a culture that you either fit in or you didn’t – and you simply moved on. In addition to mentorship, we used to discuss personality types. The thought process was if you understood where your bosses, peers, or subordinates were coming from, then you would know how to relate to them better. Again, this was a part of forming the firm’s culture.

Even though I’m no longer in the workforce, I still find these concepts relevant and important to cultivating healthy relationships. I also believe love languages play an important role in how we can learn truly love the people in our lives. They way they prefer to be (as opposed to the way we prefer).

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My mentor, Anita and I talk about this a lot. She shared with me that their family took the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test to identify each individual’s personality types and the results helped refine how they relate as a family. It was a revelation! Using what we know about my-ENFP-self, my ESTP husband, and our boys, we can learn to adjust what we do (and how we might prefer to do it!) to create an environment where they thrive and develop into who they are meant to be.

Just like in the firm setting these tools can help us form the culture of our families. From the things we prioritize and value to how we relate to each other. Each child is different and often what works for one does not work for the other, but hey they are our kids, we don’t want them to leave our firm…

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Let’s make the decision to mentor and motivate our kids, love them they way the receive it best, and relate to their specific personalities. Then we can be a generation of families that raise each other up, honor our differences, and spread love.

Here’s to developing a culture of love!

kdg

Check out these resources for more:

Personality: Myers Briggs  | Quick MBTI test | GEMS  

Love Languages: 5 Love Languages | For Children: Love Language

Stay tuned for PART 2 on creating your own family culture in the coming weeks!

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For the Love of Israeli Food

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Last month, while my folks were visiting, we took them to all of our favorite restaurants and introduced them to some fantastic Israeli cuisine. My mom was overwhelmed by the combinations of spices and flavors, so much so, that she was determined we should take an Israeli cooking class. Now I love to eat, but cooking is definitely not my love language, that said any new experience I can photograph is a WIN for me.

One of our lovely Israeli friends, Shani, offered to look into an instructor for us and came up with the best solution ever…her husband, Shai.

Shai is an amazing chef with several years of experience in the restaurant industry, however he had only done cooking classes for his close friends before our group. We were honored that he was willing to plan and execute such an amazing event! For three hours he awed us with his skillZ in the kitchen. Seriously, in three hours he prepared 16 different menu items to serve 8-10 people! Ah-mazing!

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He had purchased all the groceries at his favorite local markets and shops, each item was fresh including fish, beef, lamb, fruit, veggies, and spices. Shai even said he could offer classes at the markets and teach people how to shop the markets, especially for spices.

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Speaking of spices, Shai had prepared a packet describing each spice we would be using. The biggest surprise for me was sumac, this beautiful garnet colored spice can be sprinkled on anything from meat to focaccia bread. Shani told us her boys request it on everything, ha!

We learned a lot about food, Israeli culture, and where they intersect. When we all sat down to eat it was quiet with the exception of the sound of “mmmmms” from around the table. It was truly a perfect and memorable day.

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Of course, the entrepeur in me couldn’t help but suggest Shai do this more often. I know the expat community is literally hungry (pun intended) for great experiences like this. He agreed to think about it, so if you are in the Tel Aviv area and you’d be interested let me know!

L’chaim {cheers in Hebrew},

kdg

Special thanks to Shai for teaching & feeding us, to Shani for setting it up, to Vienna for hosting, and to my clever momma for the fabulous idea!!


PS – Don’t forget to join us for the L O V E Photo Challenge this month!

#IACWLOVE2018 – Shot 4 – Pink or Red….RED, of course!

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Kicking off Christmas in Jerusalem

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This past weekend we were invited to a German Christmas Market held at a church in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem. It was a perfect day and start to our Christmas season, both surreal and totally normal at the same time. Much like expat life.  We drank fantastic cups of steaming gluhwien while the children ate German waffles and the moms eyed the tables covered in crafts and decorations.  All the while, the seemingly unaware market was surrounded by ancient churches, mosques, and temples, stone streets older than anything in the United States, and both old and new marks of a history of tension and religious conflict.

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Living in Israel does have a surreal affect on you, some days you could be anywhere in the world and others you are in THE Holy Land, eek! If I am being honest, the city of Jerusalem is not my favorite place in the country. The tension you feel there is palpable and many warnings about potential unrest make me want to run to the hills surrounding the Sea of Galilee. That said, in the last month I have made the 1.5 hour trip to the holiest place on earth twice, and both times were amazing and fulfilling adventures. I’d say Jru is growing on me, especially when the Christmas spirit is all around you and you’re with some of your favorite people in the country!

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Since it was a rather last minute decision to attend the market, we were unprepared with only a few shekels in hand. Thus, I wasn’t able to splurge on much. However, I did come across a Palestinian artist who was on a mission for peace and unity through her art. My creative heart was inspired by her project and I purchased two sketches, one of Bethlehem and one of Jerusalem, and a painted sketch on a postcard of some of the famous architecture from around Israel.  The whole interaction with the artist made me excited for my own shop this coming weekend.

The kids were less than impressed with the vendors and were waiting patiently for Der Weihnachtsmann, aka Father Christmas, aka Santa, to arrive. They sang Jingle Bells as they waited and finally he appeared ringing a bell and carrying a large sack full of chocolate Santas for each of the children. It was adorable how they sat and listened to him tell his story in German. Even though they couldn’t understand any of it, the heart of the story was clear.

Afterward our party of almost 30 departed and 21 of us attempted to find a place to eat together at 5:00pm on Shabbat (Sabbath) in a highly religious city. Which means the majority of places were closed for another 2 hours. We finally discovered an Irish Pub and it was perfect for our group, including our horde of children hopped up on chocolate.

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It truly was the perfect way to kick off our December –  loosely planned, a bit chaotic, full of joy, and drenched in the Christmas spirit. When you live an expat life, at Christmas time you sacrifice a lot of your traditions, but it can lead to a richer and deeper connection to the season and your family. I hope those of you far from home find your village to celebrate with and make the most of the holiday season as you add new traditions and memories to your collection.

Happy December,

kdg

PS Tutorial: Stamping away the crowd

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The past couple weeks I have been post processing the images from my Fall Mini Sessions. Unlike all the amazing autumnal sessions I’m drooling over from back home, my sessions were seaside, and the Mediterranean did not disappoint! My seven families, all sporting a variety of blues, were perfect against the teals and turquoise tones of the sea, and the morning light was glorious. Each session even had it’s own special moments and poses unique to each family, which kept it fun and fresh. Overall, it was a dream day, with the exception of all the other beach goers.

Not only did we have several walkers, joggers, curious by standers, and sand castle builders to compete with, we also had the absolutely unnecessary older gentleman in a speedo…seriously?! This actually led to a few good smiles and laughs from my clients, but we do not want those in the shot, am I right?!

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This is a quick tutorial on how I utilize the clone stamp tool in Photoshop to get rid any background noise that takes away from my subjects, including people and litter.

I hope it comes in handy for you and that you don’t have to deal with an old Israeli in a electric blue speedo any time soon!

Cheers,

kdg