Wednesday, June 29, 2016

All Wrapped Up

For those who know us well, you know we're both fans of the plant-based diet. But what many don't know is that I adopted this diet 21 years ago. Before cooking blogs, before faux cheese, before most veg cookbooks and way before Beyonce and Bill Clinton made plant-based cool in the mainstream media!

Back in 1995, there weren't many learning opportunities out there for vegetarians or vegans, but I found one - the Vegetarian Resource Group.

These folks published cookbooks and a quarterly magazine - both then and now - and provide resources for individuals, chefs, nutritionists/dietitians, doctors/nurses, schools and food service industry about veg eating. Their books and magazines were my early guides and a big part of how I re-learned food and cooking on my personal path.

So imagine how amazing it was to meet the directors, Charles and Debra, YEARS later! Turns out the Vegetarian Resource Group has its headquarters in Baltimore! And imagine how exciting it was to shoot the cover for their new pamphlet, Vegan Diets in a Nutshell. The VRG and their staff/volunteers will hand out thousands of these flyers, helping folks learn more about plant-based eating. I'm so proud to have a balance photo image on the cover!


There were quite a few set-ups for the cover before a winner was selected. We tried different backgrounds, table settings and side dishes. All to create the ideal image representing a healthful and tasty vegan meal.


We liked several of these as well - I mean, hello, who doesn't want to chow down on any one of these stuffed black bean burritos, brimming with veggies and mango salsa? Yum!


Craving that kale on the square plate. Kale... so hot right now! But this one didn't make the cut either...


To make all even more fun, VRG featured the shoot in a "behind the scenes" column in their magazine, Vegetarian Journal. Love it! That's me, Nathaniel and Jess. Or at least it's the back of our heads.



I'd like to put a big thank-you out into the world for Charles, Debra and the whole crew at the Vegetarian Resource Group. 21 years ago, you made my transition to plant-based easier, and to this day, Nathaniel and I still read your magazine and use the cookbooks your group has published. Thanks for all you do! And thanks for trusting us to shoot the cover of your pamphlet.

Ready for more? Be on the look out, we've done more pics for VRG and they will come along soon enough... Nom nom nom!

~ Rissa

Sunday, May 1, 2016

A year since...

May first will always be a meaningful day to Nathaniel and I. It's the day last year when our greyhound, Lochrima, died. Though we had ten wonderful years with her, and she lived a long life - age 13 - it's always too soon to say goodbye to your beloved.

Twelve complete months have passed since we lost her to cancer. Many clients have missed her, coming in for new headshots or family pictures, and her familiar golden eyes were not there to greet them. We have been overwhelmed, learning how many people loved Lochrima. The stack of cards was several inches high and almost a dozen clients & friends made donations to various rescues in her honor.
Lochrima, 2007 in Rehoboth Beach, DE
Which led us to wonder... how can we best honor her? As we came out of the grief of her absence, our course was illuminated: we would foster 13 dogs before adopting another forever-companion. What better way to honor our time with Lochrima than to help 13 other dogs find a love of their own? We like to think she would be proud.

Now, make no mistake, fostering is not easy. Nathaniel and I knew it was going to be a challenge. After all, when you foster, you take in a homeless animal, love it, care for it - and let it go when the right adopter comes along. Could we bear 13 more heartbreaks?

Today, May 1 2016, we are happy to report that we have successfully fostered 8 dogs.  We'd like you to meet them...

 
Bullwinkle, September 2015

 First came tiny Bullwinkle. At age six, this mini-dachshund found himself out of a home. His adoption group was Dachshund Rescue of North America and he was with us about one month.

Ripley, October 2015
Next, we fostered Ripley. He finished his racing career in Florida and found his way to Greyhound Rescue Inc.  Ripley was placed with a wonderful family in Baltimore - we occasionally get to see updates on his happy new life.

MariMae, November 2015
Foster number three was MariMae, a retired racer from Alabama. This girl had it going on! We really adored this southern belle - she loved to snuggle and was so smart. She learned to sit and shake paws in only two days! Who says greyhounds don't sit?

Stan, December 2015
Also retired from a track in Alabma was Stan. This good-looking dude was the shortest foster ever - finding his new home in literally one day!

Nathaniel and tiny Zoey
Itsy Bitsy Zoey dog, December 2015

We had the pleasure of co-fostering tiny Zoey dog in December, also from DRNA. This sweet pup was a mix of Chinese crested and terrier, and honestly, she was one of the most well-mannered dogs we've ever met. We were happy to see her go to a forever home in time for the holidays.

Jacks, January 2016
After New Year's, we got little Jacks. This wily fellow loved to PLAY. He could play for five hours at a time with no break. Both of us had so much fun with him - and got our exercise for sure! Lucky guy - he went home with a couple that enjoyed hiking, so he gets loads of time outside to wear him out.

Gable, February 2016
All dogs are gorgeous, but sometimes, one is a little more gorgeous. That was Gable. To call him handsome is sort of an understatement. We were happy to see Gorgeous Gabe find a home only two miles from us! We get to see him, and he's now living with his cousin, Shelley, another retired racer.

Mohican, April 2016
Our most recent foster was pretty hound dog, Mohican. Another southern belle, she came from Alabama and was a little shy. Which made it all the more disarming and sweet when she gave out a kiss. She went home with a family in Maryland, and we occasionally get update texts.


Fostering all eight of these special dogs has been rewarding. One of the most incredible parts was realizing how many great dogs are out there, looking for a forever home. Every single one of these eight dogs was loving, fun and beautiful. They were all amazing companions. It's mind bending to us how so many fantastic dogs end up in shelters or homeless  - or euthanized. Big thanks to our friends at DRNA and GRI for saving and homing these magnificent animals - we are proud to have been part of the process.

We are still five fosters away from #13. At the moment, we're on the fence about what to do when we reach #13. Should we immediately adopt again... or keep fostering to help more dogs find homes? After all, when you adopt - you save one life. But when you foster, you save two - because a space opens at a kennel, plus you can make a homeless dog transition more smoothly by training him or her to be house-friendly.

Nathaniel and I are still deciding what will happen when we get to #13. Until then, we hope that our precious Lochrima is honored by the work we have done in her name. And that all eight of our fosters are as happy and spoiled in their homes as our girl was during her decade with us.

~Rissa


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

With a Steady Heart

Lindsay Shields isn't your everyday stylist. Sure, she's mega talented and can make your make-up and hair look like you belong on the cover of Harper's Bazaar. She directs the Academy of Make-up in Cockeysville and also is an artist at the Maryland office of Up Do's for I Do's. But she's a great deal more that her talent. She is so much heart.

Lindsey Shields, Make-up Artist and Stylist

For the past several years, in conjunction with Up Do's for I Do's, Lindsey has set up an amazing program with two area hospitals. Basically, she asks hair and make-up artists to volunteer their time, talent and supplies to go into cancer centers and give free make-overs to patients receiving treatment for breast cancer. Nathaniel & I go along, and offer a free portrait session if desired, or if a family is along, sometimes we do a family portrait.

This idea came to Lindsey two years ago when she was doing make-up for a bridesmaid who was 23 years-old and going through chemo for cancer. The young woman had
-- no brows, no hair, and no lashes. 

"I put fake lashes on, drew in brows. She looked in the mirror and started crying. She said she forgot what she looked like, " Lindsay said. "At that moment, I knew I wanted to do something to make these women feel beautiful again. I remember how my mom felt  going through treatments and how special it was to have her face on, or get her hair styled. Women lose sight of their beauty and I wanted to find a way to bring that back."

The Up Do's artists setting up at Mercy Cancer Canter
Lindsey's mom died from breast cancer after a seven-year fight for her health. The entirety of her mother's treatments included a double mastectomy, reconstruction, and chemotherapy. After going into remission, the cancer returned and spread into her liver. She died between Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2009. She was treated at Mercy, which is what led Lindsey to approach them and offer this service. 

"We were there (Mercy) a lot, so I love going there. Our experiences there are why we also offer services to the nurses too.  There was a nurse there who treated my mom and we thought of her as a friend," Lindsey explained.


Lindsey does make-up on a nurse at Mercy.
Each time the team heads into Mercy, or Holy Cross, Hospitals, they do between 12 and 17 make-overs.  Not all patients are up for the beauty treatment and they decline the service, but many women really enjoy it  - some see what's happening and request to be part of it.

For Lindsey, the process of setting up and working at these events is very personal. She often thinks of her mom. And in her mother's honor, Lindsey believes this is a good way to give back and offer something positive. 

"It feels great use what I do for a living, to really make people feel beautiful on a day that's not their wedding day –during a time when they need it the most," Lindsey said. "It’s also very emotional because when I go there, I think of what  my own family went through. I know Mom would have loved this kind of experience.  It makes it that much more rewarding."

Having portraits is part of the day for Lindsey as well. For a variety of reasons, it's not likely that the artists will run into the patients again. But giving them the option of a well-made professional picture is a gift to the women and their families, as well as a reminder of how beautiful and worthy they each are. When her mother was undergoing treatment, pictures were not taken. Lindsey reflected that she deeply wanted one more photo of her mom, and that was a gift she wanted each of the patients getting makeovers to have the option of receiving.  In some cases, it will be a marker of a period in the patient's life; in others, sadly, it may be a final portrait for their loved ones.


Beth and Serena from Up Do's, making a nurse's day a little brighter.

One of the most incredible comments Lindsey made during our interview was that she wishes people would go out and get involved in their own communities. Not just fundraising by running a 5K - not to downplay the importance of fundraising -  but actual hands-on involvement that can impact individual lives. She believes that really making a personal connection with someone can have a big impact - could change their day or change their fate. Someone could be inspired by your act of kindness to go forward and fight harder.


Up Do's and Lindsey don't go into these events to make money, gain clients or spread the word about their business. Each artists is fully committed and only shows up with the intention and hope that they can do some good, share some love, with a patient who needs it.

A nurse gets a beauty make-over.
"I absolutely plan to continue doing this. I feel like with the team involved, they want continue no matter what, too, " Lindsey said. " Everyone has been touched one way or another doing this. Our team has worked hard to be there and make it happen. And I couldn’t do it without everyone. "

Some of the Up Do's team outside the Oncology Center.

Today, April 12, 2016, Lindsey and the team went back to Mercy. Nathaniel was along to take pictures. And again, as in the trips before, all the artists were humbled by the grace, strength and beauty of the patients and nurses at the Mercy Cancer Center. No words I have can convey our amazement at Lindsey' heart to continue these events. No words can convey our gratitude for being involved. 

On a personal note, both Nathaniel and myself know what it means to have a parent with cancer. We understand the helplessness, the moments when you wish you knew what to do, the tangles of emotion when you think how damn unfair cancer is. We have been and are aware of the range of human experience cancer creates. Cancer leaves a trail of tears in its wake, for survivors, family, friends, even pets. 

Our involvement with these projects is a gift to us, too. While we cannot create any cures, at least, perhaps, our pictures can save a beautiful memory of a mother, daughter, sister, wife, partner, friend, aunt, cousin, colleague, teacher, or neighbor for others. 

~Rissa


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Celebrating 15 Years!

Back in 2000, when I had the idea to start my own "side business" doing headshots, it never occurred to me that the company would still be going strong in 15 years. I wasn't even sure back then that the company would last for 15 months! It kept rolling along though. Nathaniel joined in and well, here we are, it's 2015 and thanks to you - the clients, friends, family and vendors who have supported this vetnure -balance photography is now 15 years old!!

To celebrate, we had a little party recently at Burleigh Manor Animal Sanctuary in Ellicott City. It was on May 17 and despite the threat of rain, we had a gorgeous day. We wanted to share a few images from the event, and again take this time to thank YOU for the role you have played in balance these past 15 years...
 
The stunning grounds and manor house at Burleigh.

Display of our work, spanning fifteen years! We've been through six logos and both film and digital technology.

More of the artwork from the past fifteen years on display around the barn at Burleigh.
Some of our gorgeous flowers, thanks to Local Color Flowers.

Nathaniel with long-time client, Amy.

   
Nathaniel and Rissa during a toast and remarks.

Lisa from Burleigh Manor chats with Maeion, our long time beauty partner, and her hubby Lou.

Rissa catches up with long-time clients Dave and Donna, who drove in from York, Pa for the party! Other guests came from as far as West Virginia, Philly, Washington DC and even Nashville TN! Thanks to those who traveled so far to be with us.
Where would balance photo be without Ashley Riddle and the crew from Up Do's for I Do's!?
Stephen, our associate photographer of 9 years and his son, Liam. All of these pics were taken by Stephen at the party.
Debbie and Dave meet Moose the mule during the tour of the Animal Sanctuary grounds.
A huge tour group!


Arizona the rooster is standing guard over Jenny the donkey during the tour.
Lisa introduces Brenda and Liam to Lily the pot belly pig during the tour.
Iris, Ryan, Jasmine and PJ stroll the grounds of the farm as the afternoon lingers on. A lovely way to spend the day!


Again, we want to thank EVERYONE who has been part of this business for the past fifteen years. There are way too many folks to thank by name... but family and friends and neighbors who supported us in this dream to be working artists; vendors who did hair and make-up, made prints & albums, fixed cameras and computers, did our accounting and legal work, and more; colleagues who mentored us, referred jobs & took referrals, loaned us equipment and learned with us about business; our assistants & associates - there are 14 of you now in the history of the company;  and of course, our CLIENTS  - without your headshots, weddings, portraits, boudoir, product shots, albums and general belief in our talents, none of this would exist.

Special thanks to the vendors who made this party special...

Venue: Burleigh Manor Animal Sanctuary
Flowers: Local Color Flowers
Rentals: ABC Party Rentals and Ted's Rent-It Center
Piano: Patrick Sutter
Rissa's Hair and Make-Up: Jessica Lynn Baligush/Up Do's for I Do's
Food: Land of Kush, Dudley's Desserts
Beverages: Wine Bin and Boochleggers

~Gratefully, Rissa

Friday, May 9, 2014

Ruff Times for the Summer

Summer means long days and long weekends - and traveling. We propose that you pack up your best friend for those trips this year. And now, with the Ruff Guide to the United States, there is no reason not to take your canine companion with you. 


It's no secret that we take our greyhound, Lochrima, every possible place we travel to.  She's been in 14 states and toured mountains, beaches and cities with us. Yea, we even walked her through a shopping mall in D.C. once - no one said anything. Maybe because she's so good-looking and well-behaved?

Anyhow, with this cool new Ruff Guide, there are features and vacation spots in EVERY state that welcome houndie guests.

A few of the really cool ones: Surfing lessons in California, camping in Yellowstone Park, treehouses on the Appalachian Trail, B&Bs on Gettysburg battlefield and Gondola Skyrides. Oh - there are high end locales too - try taking your pooch to Palm Springs for some spa luxury or a tour of sophisticated Santa Barbara. How about touring a garden in Georgia?

Pretty much, there's something in the Ruff Guide for every dog and his/her person. Which brings me to the avenue by which we discovered this book: Grapehounds.  Grapehounds is an annual event - with weekends in both Virginia and the New York Fingerlakes. Basically, wineries open up their tasting rooms to hounds, and the organizer, Larry, also arranges for pooch-friendly hotels, B&Bs and camping, we as well as vendors selling collars, coats, crafts and more - oh and free concerts. The event is always a great time and we're proud to say, we've been involved as the official event photographers since the very first event.

Grapehounds is listed in the Ruff Guide - and we hope that means that even more attendees will arrive this year in both Virginia and New York to enjoy this fun weekend. Even better- all the proceeds from both events are donated to charities that work to save racing greyhounds.

Want to learn more? Here's a little taste of what Grapehounds is all about... shopping, drinking, eating and of course... hounding out!


Small businesses sell doggie wares. 

Naptime at the winery!

Strikingly handsome fellow...

Vineyards are great for long walks.

Winetasting for people. Naps for hounds.




Where are my treats?




We love North Gate - a vegan-friendly and entirely green winery in VA!

Resting after a long day touring wineries in Virgnia.


If you'd like to learn more about Grapehounds, visit their website. If you want to check out the Ruff Guide, buy a copy on Amazon or at your local bookseller. Be sure to look for our pictures in there!

Happy Summer trips - with your doggies!
~ Rissa