Friday, August 16, 2013

A Love Letter

This is a love letter of sorts.  As is the case with nearly all of my blogs, this one begins as one thing; a celebration marking two years in business and ends up as another thing altogether;  an acknowledgement of gratitude to the many who have helped me make it through these years of modest but steadily increasing success.

It’s important to celebrate milestones, not only because I love a good party, but also because a celebration helps me recognize what I’ve learned and experienced along the way.  Marking a specific stage of progress acknowledges, in a heightened way, the work I’ve put in and the personal or professioal growth I have or have not achieved.  

This month I celebrate my second year selling photography on Etsy.  It’s been a major adventure that has stretched my brain in ways I could never have imagined.  I finally fully mastered the computer - a beast I never thought to tame and made the leap from PC to Mac, which may have helped in the taming.  Moving from film to digital -- something I swore would never be -- happened almost without my noticing.  I’ve met and made amazing new friends -- many of whom I may never actually greet face to face, but who know a part of me better than some of my oldest, dearest friends.  Each of these new friends is on a similar journey and each has shown a generosity that astounds me.  They have helped me solve problems and maneuver hurdles.  They’ve listened to me whine in my worst moments while pushing me to set goals and grow.  They have each shared personal knowledge and expertise and best of all, they seem to want me to succeed almost as much as they want to succeed themselves. These new friends have been a very great gift.

My lifelong family and friends have shown their support as well, of course.  Offering advice and listening as I verbally think through various challenges, always offering emotional encouragement and support, waiting patiently by my side while I take ‘just one more’ photo.  Some of my friends have become my best customers, coming back time after time to purchase my work.  I don’t imagine they understand how much those purchases have meant to me as I strive to grow a small business and master the mysteries of search engine optimization -- also known as “getting found” in the massive shopping mall that is the internet.  During dark moments when I doubted success -- and those moments came more often than I’d like to admit -- one of them would magically appear to make a purchase for themselves, or for a family member or friend.  Each one of those sales provided enough encouragement to lift my spirits through what were sometimes months of scarcity as I continue my forward progress.

Do you wonder why I’ve chosen sailboats to brighten my love letter?  They were a wet, wild, exhilarating adventure to photograph and they represent a sample of my work, but they also visually represent my journey as I personally and professionally sail forward into bigger seas -- finding grander waves of adventure and discovery and occasional deep and scary troughs of rough water.  The lesson I’m learning over and over is this;  if I wait calmly and quietly for a little while - and try not to battle the current - the weather will clear and the sailing will be smooth once again.  Giant leaps forward may be what I crave, but thousands of teeny tiny baby steps are my natural pace; the one that takes me where I’m headed if I can remember to be patient.

Michelangelo said something like this about sculpture: “Every block of stone has a statue inside and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”  That’s how I feel about the images I choose to offer for sale.  If I can photograph the beauty I see around me in such a way that allows another to see it as well, then a lovely connection unites us;  we are joined in a way both impersonal and personal.  It’s like sharing a wonderful secret -- how better to delight in something treasured than to share that treasure with a friend?

So cheers and thanks to you my loved ones, my friends old and new and my customers past, present and future for your support and recognition of this glorious adventure into beauty that I call my business.  Wondering where my sails will take me in the next two years...I hope you’ll be with me.  

With gratitude & love,

E. England

Monday, August 5, 2013

Farmers Market Freshness

When I spend my time in the City, most Sunday mornings will find me over at the Headhouse Square Farmers Market picking out fresh goodies for the week.  Nearly every Sunday, it’s crazy jammed with shoppers and baby strollers and too many friendly dogs for the tight space.  But it’s a mellow Sunday morning, right?  The perfect opportunity for a zen experience surrounded by goodness grown locally.

There is always some history to be shared when you’re in Philadelphia and the Headhouse Square market is no exception.  The sturdy, picturesque structure is an outdoor Georgian “shed” originally built in 1745 for the same thing it’s used for today - to shelter merchants selling their wares.  With arched open-sides made of brick, there is a “headhouse” at the north end which originally housed the master of the market (think quality control) and a firehouse which was added in the early 1800’s.  A cupola topped by a weathervane sits on top and cobblestone streets border each side.  The shed in this location, between Lombard and Pine streets, is known as the Shambles by locals and was restored in the 1960’s - it’s been in use off and on ever since.

During Summer and Fall weekends, tables are stacked high with local produce, cheeses, chocolates, fresh cut flowers, Alaskan-caught fish, fresh roasted coffee beans, breads and pastries, local honey and candles.  There’s even a garden plant man who gives great advice on what to plant and where best to plant it.  

Did I mention the happy goats?  They aren't actually at the market adding to the chaos, but their photos are.  They say happy goats make better cheese and I'm charmed enough to buy a round of this amazing cheese every time.  

This week the beets looked amazing -- red, golden, orange -- and I started thinking it was time to whip up a couple of goat cheese and beet towers for a light summer salad.

The Recipe:

Ingredients:  Four (4) medium size beets
                    One (1) small package of fresh goat cheese:  herbed, plain or pepper
                    Two (2) shallots, thinly sliced
                    One (1) bunch of red leaf lettuce, washed and patted dry
                    Pine nuts (a handful or so)
                    Olive Oil & local honey (enough to drizzle to taste)
                    One half lemon

Boil or roast four medium size beets until tender.  Any color you desire, or mix it up.  Toast pine nuts over a medium heat until golden brown in a non-stick skillet - set aside to cool.  After the beets have cooled, slip off the skins and slice into 1/2” slices.  Gently tear red leaf lettuce and divide onto four salad plates.  Lay the first beet slice on top of a lettuce bed, top with a very thin slice of goat cheese, add the next slice of beet (alternating colors makes a very pretty salad).  Top each layer of beet with goat cheese.  Keep going.  One beet per plate.  Add the shallots to the lettuce and drizzle each plate with olive oil and honey.  Squeeze lemon juice over the lettuce to taste.  Add fresh cracked pepper, salt and a sprinkle of toasted pine nuts.  Enjoy.  

What are you finding at your local farmers market?  Even better, what are you cooking?

Come visit my Etsy shop:  I hope to see you soon.  Until then, enjoy your August.