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Even more things you probably didn’t know

My desk is currently awash in tissue paper, foldable paper boxes, gray ribbon, scissors, double stick tape and stationery, so I figured today was as good a day as any to do another one of these posts. I bet y’all had thought I’d run out of ways to talk about myself, didn’tcha? FOOLED. YOU.

1. I will only eat smushed grilled cheese sandwiches. This involves taking a spatula and flattening the sandwich while it’s still in the pan- it makes it more crispy, thus more delicious. And that’s a scientific fact.

2. My family lived in Orlando for 3-4 years when I was little while my parents attended seminary, so when we finally moved back to Virginia, I had no idea what a change of seasons looked like. Therefore, myself and my brothers did the only logical thing we could think of on the first day of Fall: we dressed in heavy outwear [coats, boots, scarves] and tromped outside, expecting frigid temperatures and falling leaves….only to find that it was still 70 degrees out.

3. I get SUPER weepy when Christmas music comes on right after Thanksgiving- I guess I’m just so happy that it’s Christmas time again that I cry? Whatever it is, it’s embarrassing to be driving along and then break out in tears when something cheery like Sleigh Ride comes on.

4. I will NOT write with blue ink pens. I won’t do it! It has to be black ink. Either that or a pencil.

5. I’m not the only one who collected Polly Pockets, right?

6. I’m convinced that the “Lick ‘a ‘stix” included with Fun Dip are really just long, white Tums.

7. My mom and dad never did Santa with us- mom’s thing was that she didn’t want to lie to her children. THANKS FOR RUINING MY CHILDHOOD.

8. If we’re ever fortunate enough to build our own home, mark my words: it WILL have a secret passage. I read a lot of Nancy Drew books in fifth grade.

9. I really and truly enjoy the smell of gasoline. And home garages! My Granny & Pawpaw’s garage smells sooo good.

10. I’m a memories hoarder (which is probably why I’m a photographer). I saved every single corsage from every single school dance and still have all of my old dresses hanging in the closet at my parents’ house. And I’ve saved every letter and Post-It note Matt’s ever given me because “our grandchildren will want to read them! We have to have something for them to cherish when we’re old and wrinkly!”

And because every post is better with a photo, here are those photos from the trip Matt and I took to a corn maze. Those ones I completely forgot to share? Whoops.

Temple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace Photography

Thank you, random stranger who offered to take our photo!

Temple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace Photography

Holy SOW, that pig it huge.

Temple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace PhotographyTemple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace Photography

Matt playing a solitary game of tetherball.

Temple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace PhotographyTemple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace Photography

He’s going to kill me for posting this.

Temple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace Photography

Just in case it wasn’t painfully obvious by the tiny little cow seats that this ride was designed for small children, here are all our fellow passengers!

Temple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace PhotographyTemple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace PhotographyTemple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace PhotographyTemple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace PhotographyTemple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace Photography

This is Matt’s “Can I go now?” smile. And this is my “WE’RE AT A CORN MAZE!” smile.

Temple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace Photography

Ok, so I’m a believer in NOT CHEATING. The corn maze had paths that were laid out by the maze designers, then there were paths cut by cheating McCheaters. I like to refer to them as “rogue paths.” This is Matt attempting to take a rogue path and me refusing to follow. Because I, unlike SOME, abide by the rules.

Temple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace PhotographyAnd then we saw a peacock?

Temple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace PhotographyTemple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace PhotographyTemple Hall Corn Maze, Leesburg VA- Abby Grace Photography

Happy Friday!

Sarah B. - December 14, 2012 - 4:20 pm

I also collected Polly Pockets – in fact, I still have them! :D

You and I are meant to be friends – I would not cheat at a corn maze either!!

And also, you are so stinking cute! I love the outfit!!

Breanna - December 14, 2012 - 11:17 am

So I just found your blog last week, and I already feel like we are friends :). I had a whole village of Polly Pockets! I’m sad that they don’t make them so little any more. It’s just not the same. Hope you are enjoying a beautiful holday afternoon!

Rebekah Hoyt - December 14, 2012 - 10:52 am

You and Matt are SO adorable! I love that picture of the two of you! Also, #5 – I am convinced that I have the largest polly pocket collection known to man… or woman… seriously. I’m still proud of it and have kept ALL of them! We should have a playdate sometime. Just sayin’…

Lena - December 14, 2012 - 10:19 am

No Santa! Ahh so sad, but on a good note, smushed grill chesses are out of this world!

Anna K. - December 14, 2012 - 10:03 am

My parents didn’t tell us about Santa either!!! I was that kid that went to school and told everyone he wasn’t real, woopsies!

Rebekah Carter - December 14, 2012 - 10:00 am

I loved Nancy Drew books too. I think I have all but one of he original 56 at my parents’ house & I still read one occasionally just for old times’ sake. My parents never really did much Santa stuff w/ us either & I never felt like I missed out. I don’t want to lie to my kids either so I’ve pondered not doing Santa stuff w/ them either when we have kids someday. Maybe that is a bad idea? I don’t know. Even as a kid, I just never saw much point in Santa.

Lindsey - December 14, 2012 - 9:57 am

How fun!! These pictures are so cute – you two make the cutest couple :)


Decisions on film

If you’ve poked around my blog over the past few months, you’ll know I’ve been playing around with film! It’s been such a trip- I’ve learned way more than I ever knew possible. I’ve learned that Fuji 400H is my favorite film stock, that trying to shoot seriously without a light meter doesn’t really work for me, that medium format is my long lost sister, etc. etc. As I was working to integrate film more and more into my workflow with engagement sessions and weddings, it was causing quite a bit of… well, stress. I LOVED the images I was getting back from RPL, no doubt about it. But because I was editing my digital images immediately after a wedding or session, I was having to wait the additional 2-3 weeks to get my film back before I could deliver those images. And then there was the issue of the fact that my digital images and film images looked NOTHING alike. As it should be- they’re two totally different mediums. So I was either faced with giving my couples two different sets of images, throwing out the film ones, or going back and trying to re-edit the digital images to look more like the film ones.

I started playing around with the VSCO presets, actions for LightRoom that mimic the look of film for your digital images. I think I did alright for a while there, but something one day pulled me up short. I was looking back over my notes from WTAW and saw where I’d scribbled a few words describing my work- “organic, intimate, authentic, classic.” Those words are meant to be a litmus test for any decisions I make for my business- if I’m not sure whether or not to do whatever I’m considering, hold it up to those words. If it matches, I should be ok. If it doesn’t? It’s time to reconsider.

Film itself is organic, authentic, and classic, and my portrait style remains intimate. But me spending countless hours manipulating my digital images in post production to make them look like something else? To me, that’s not organic at all. When I describe my work as “organic,” what I mean is that I do minimal touch-ups to my images- that they’re clean, ready to be viewed without any heavy-handed editing. And as much as I love the look of film, unless I was ready to leave my digital work behind and go 100% film? It wasn’t allowing me to stay true to what I already loved so much about my work. Not to say that there’s anything at all wrong with editing your images with a little more of a heavy hand- for some people, that really works! But it doesn’t work for ME. I found that I was taking images that were beautiful in and of themselves and felt like I was ruining them with all of the processing I was putting them through. I managed to seriously stress myself out over it. “Matt: do you like this edited version of the photo? Or this one? A… or B? A… or B? One more time, A…” I really felt like I was having an identity crisis when it came to my work.

After months (and hundreds of dollars [and a lot of agonizing over photo edit A or B]), I think I’ve finally decided to keep film as my personal project. Because there’s no doubt about the fact that I absolutely love shooting it- it truly keeps me inspired, and I’ve loved every frame I’ve shot over the past few months! I certainly don’t count any of this time as wasted- I invested a lot of energy into something I grew to fall in love with, eventually came to decide shooting both isn’t the direction I want to take my business, and I truly believe I’ve come out as a better photographer. So while I most definitely won’t be selling my film equipment or giving away the boxes of film in my fridge, I am going to scale back to keeping it for personal work and the occasional inspiration session. Because frankly? I don’t think my clients deserve anything less than my best, and I know that now I’ll really be able to focus on giving that to them.

Happy Thursday!


Michelle - December 22, 2012 - 7:20 pm

Thanks for sharing! I think all your images are stunning :)

Faye Bernoulli - December 15, 2012 - 1:07 pm

I, too, dabbled with the VSCO presets, but after editing an entire engagement session with them, they looked NOTHING like my normal work. I don’t have the guts to jump into film just yet (hopefully in the near future!), but like you, it would be a personal project.

Jessica Fike - December 13, 2012 - 12:42 pm

Thanks for sharing this! I, too, started playing around with film this past summer because I love the idea and look of film. But it’s a lot of work and those images don’t at all match up with my digital images. So I was stuck. Continue with my film journey and try to include it in my business as best as possible? Or just keep it as something “fun” to do for myself and learning purposes? I think it’s clear that I need to go with the second option for very similar reasons that you’re experiencing. Hearing that you’re going through something similar is reassuring to me…so thanks. :)

Ali w - December 13, 2012 - 11:37 am

What a cool process you went through! Adam Barnes shot my wedding and delivered a ton of different looks because he shot so many different kinds of film [and digital] and that is why I hired him. But he is an “artistic” wedding photographer. I expected to come out with pieces of art, not a catalog of images who’s style all matched. I can see why you came to this decision and it’s totally right for you! If you ever want to have a inspirational film shoot let me know – I’d love to play too!

Rachel Ziegler - December 13, 2012 - 9:42 am

I love your work in film! So whenever you get the urge to play around with film I will whip up some flowers and you can bring out your film equipment and BAM you can shoot in film :D

Rebekah Hoyt - December 13, 2012 - 9:03 am

Abby, I love that you’ve been so open with your journey through film! It takes a strong person to take a step back and look at the bigger picture, what makes you the best as an artist and also what the best is that you can offer your clients. Thank you for sharing this with all of us! I am looking forward to seeing more personal projects and inspiration shoots on film :)

Christine Bonnivier - December 13, 2012 - 8:13 am

Thank you for this post!!!! :-)

Wine Wednesday- Where to buy?

Hooray! Another Wine Wednesday post! And today, since I started out having NO idea where to buy wine, we’re going to chat about my favorite places to shop for the stuff.

First things first: let’s get past the preconceived notion that you have to spend $15 to get a decent bottle of wine. I’ll be totally honest- our budget doesn’t allow for me to buy expensive wines, so almost everything I buy is $8/bottle or less. Are there some incredible wines for $35 a bottle? Definitely! But there are also some really great wines for a lot less than that! Maybe one day when I own my own personal château and have a wine cellar to hold 300+ bottle of vintage cab sauv, things will change, but I’m totally satisfied with the wines I’ve been finding lately. There are a couple of particular wines I’ll splurge on a couple of times a year, but for the most part, the wines I’m buying run between $4-8.

My absolute favorite place to shop for wine is Trader Joe’s! They have an AWESOME selection of wines from all over the world, and their staff are incredibly knowledgable and helpful. If you have no idea where to start, they love offering suggestions for which wines to try and what they pair well with, and I never feel dumb for asking questions. Trader Joe’s is also home to the famous “Two Buck Chuck,” Charles Shaw’s line of wines that cost $3.29 a bottle. Yep, you read that right. $3.29. And it’s decent wine, too! We had a bottle of their Sauvignon Blanc a couple of days ago and I really enjoyed it. I have no idea how they manage to price it so low, but it’s awesome.

Wine Wednesday

One of the things I love about Trader Joe’s is that they include little descriptions of each wine, sometimes offering pairing advice (I LOVE helpful hints on pairing!).

Wine WednesdayWine Wednesday

If I’m on short-notice and can’t make it out to Trader Joe’s (the closest one is 25 minutes from us), I’ll hit up Wegmans. Wegman’s has overtaken Harris Teeter as my favorite grocery store and their wine selection has a lot to do with it. There is a LOT to choose from! It can be kind of overwhelming if you’re not sure what you’re looking for which is why I slightly prefer Trader Joe’s, but Wegmans’ wine staff is also super helpful. The last time I was there, I chatted with one of their wine people for 15 minutes about decanters and whether or not they actually make a difference (they do!).

Wine Wednesday

Seeing signs like the one below makes me feel better about walking straight past the $40 bottles of Pinot.

Wine Wednesday

See? Wegmans cares about wine education!

Wine Wednesday

I also love going to local, independently-owned wine shops because a) you’re supporting a small business, and 2) because the people who own and work in those shops LOVE WINE. The selection you’ll find in independent shops will be a bit more expensive that what you may find at places like Trader Joe’s and Wegmans, but independent wine shops don’t sell anything but  GREAT wine. Matt and I will occasionally pop over to the Ashburn Wine Shop if we’re looking for something a little more special and they always take good care of us. Plus, most local wine shops that I’ve encountered offer free wine tastings on the weekends, so you can have a chance to try a selection of wines before making any purchasing selections.

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Feel free to leave them in the comments! Happy Winesday!

Megan Lesley - December 13, 2012 - 7:02 pm

YES! A decanter totally makes a difference. We recently received one as a housewarming gift and it. is. fabulous. xx

Becky - December 13, 2012 - 8:52 am

Ok so I’m SUPER ignorant about wine (loving these posts!) and I was wondering if you could talk about the main types of wine, what they’re like and what they pair well with. Right now I’m basically choosing between red and white and I have no idea what the differences are between Sauvignon blanc and Pinot grigio, etc.

Megan - December 12, 2012 - 8:37 pm

I also love Trader Joe’s, especially for their wine selection! I always get Francis Coppola’s red blend there and it is sooo good.

Another new product Trader Joes just came out with is their 75% dark chocolate nonpareils. The best chocolate I’ve ever had! I am afraid it’s just a seasonal item that they will take away!

Kerith - December 12, 2012 - 1:11 pm

Umm… Wegmans is my grocery store LOVE. I am OBSESSED with them.

Also- I like cheap wine too, but if you have $35 dollars to spend and can get to Wegmans I HIGHLY recommend South African Red- Chocolate Block. SO. Good. It’s my favorite wine ever.

Meghan Hochgesang - December 12, 2012 - 11:38 am

world market is also a great place for wine! when i worked in chevy chase i hit up the one there all.the.time!

Melissa - December 12, 2012 - 10:44 am

We LOVE TJ’s wine selection. So much that we drive to Old town to buy a few cases every few months. One of our favorites is the Blue fin Pinot Noir – and we also love the La Finca Malbec!

heather - December 12, 2012 - 10:31 am

Trader Joe’s rocks! I love finding new wines there that are under $7 :)


When I was in 2nd/3rd grade, they used to play this gospel-esque version of “Happy Birthday” over the announcements each day and read off all the kids names who were turning a year older. I think I’ll go find that rendition and ask my family to sing it to me tonight over a pyrotechnic birthday cake, yeah? That’s not unreasonable, right?

For real. I LOVE my birthday! It always seems to pass in an-out-of-body experience kind of way- does anyone else get that? I wish I’d spent time collecting photos from my parents old albums for this post, but alas. Next year, definitely! Now, let’s review some of my favorite/most memorable birthdays:

December 11th, 1987: being born. I’d say that was a pretty big deal.

December 11th, 1990: my 3rd birthday party- we decorated gingerbread cookies! It’s also the same birthday at which I found my best friend at the time, Kelly, opening my birthday presents under the table. Cue: tantrum. And my friend from up the street, Julia (pronounced Ju-ya when you’re three years old), brought me a can of Juicy Juice because it was my FAVORITE! Remember when Juicy Juice came in cans??

December 11th, 1992: My mom had been telling me for years that you couldn’t go to kindergarten until you were five. So on my 5th birthday, I got up, got dressed for school, put on my backpack, walked out to the car and waited expectantly, and then sobbed when my mom told me that I’d have to wait until the next school year began to attend. “But you said I just had to be five!!!” I wailed. BREAK MY HEART, WOMAN.

Look! I found a photo!! This is from 1992- we went to go see the Nutcracker! Go ahead, laugh at my stupid hair. It’s ok. (I’m the one all the way to the right, the one with the creepy smile.)

December 11th, 2000: My first year in middle school, which meant my friends papered my locker in wrapping paper and birthday cards. It made me feel super popular.

December 11th, 2002: Snow day! Except I was REAL mad when it happened because I’d been watching everyone else get balloons for their birthday from all their friends and I REALLY wanted some. Balloons were the silly bands of 2002- the more you had, the more popular you were. And I knew if my friends got me balloons, they’d all be deflated by the following day. Womp womp.

December 11th, 2006: First year in college and my birthday falls during exams week. LAME. Fortunately, the only exam I had that day was my biology final, and the final exam was optional and since I already had a B in the class, I didn’t take the exam. And then it ended up being one of TWO B’s I received in college. Dangit. Also, I had my “jury” exam for band- it’s where you play an intense piece you’ve been working on all semester in front of a panel of professors from the music department. Because it was my birthday, I wore a tiara just to spite them for making me play. And none of them ever let me forget it!

December 11th, 2009: Matt surprised me by showing up at dawn in Radford, all the way from George Mason, just to make me blueberry pancakes! And I was on CONSTANT watch for him to propose.

December 11th, 2010: Last single birthday- my cousin and maid of honor, Meg, had my bridal shower that day. It was the BEST!

Our New York trip in November was mostly for my birthday, so here’s a shot of the best gift I’ve ever received (courtesy of J&M).

Justin & Mary, NYC anniversary session

Happy December 11th! And Happy Birthday to my birthday twins Amber and Susan!

Karen Field - December 11, 2012 - 10:13 pm

I remember each of your birthdays. including the ones mentioned above. The most poignant one being the one on your on your 5th birthday. I felt crushed for you that day. I wanted to take you to school to see if they would let you enter that day, just for you! I love the picture above of you and Matt. And I remember the obsession with the tiara, the recital for your bassoon in which you wore a tiara, prior to college. Did you get one when you won homecoming queen at Radford U? Folks, this gal has the stuff to be followed. Watch out for where she goes! Happy Birthday, Abby! Another toast of the champagne from dinner!

Sarah B. - December 11, 2012 - 8:21 pm

Birthday’s are my favorite, too!!

I hope you had a positively delightful day!

Jean - December 11, 2012 - 6:29 pm

While you were at college your grandparents would drive to Radford to celebrate your birthday with you. Red Robin was your your choice for one occasion, but I think Applebee’s was very popular also. Such fun for us!

Dad - December 11, 2012 - 12:52 pm

My favorite daughter was born on this day as I flew down the Dulles toll road in my police car with the lights on and the siren screaming, Abby’s mother was concerned that we were not paying at the toll booth! LOL, happy birthday my princess!

Rebekah Hoyt - December 11, 2012 - 11:08 am

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ABBY! I love reading all of your birthday memories! I can totally relate to the middle school balloon thing. The number of balloons you had to carry around on your birthday was completely equivalent to how popular you were, and I was SO concerned about getting balloons because apparently when you are 13 years old, status is EVERYTHING. It must be so fun to have your birthday during Christmas-time! So fun :)

molly - December 11, 2012 - 10:29 am


Mia Bjerring - December 11, 2012 - 10:26 am

Happy Birthday, Abby! I hope you have a wonderful day!

Kristin - December 11, 2012 - 10:03 am

Love that image of the two of you. J&M are FAB!

Clarisse - December 11, 2012 - 9:55 am

awwww baby Abby! Adorable! Happy birthday! I love the story about your friend opening up your presents under the table…. that’s something I would do :)

Lauren @ Every Last Detail - December 11, 2012 - 9:46 am

Happy happy birthday!!!!! :)

natalie - December 11, 2012 - 9:42 am

happy birthday! I love the pictures and story line. I hope it is a wonderfully blessed day with your husband! :)

Tara - December 11, 2012 - 9:32 am

Happy birthday! The day after mine! :) Hooray for December babies!

Laura Gordon - December 11, 2012 - 9:32 am

Happy Happy Birthday to you Abby!!!!! <3

Monday Mash-Up

Hello thar, Monday! Is it just me or did this weekend in particular go by way too fast? During wedding season I usually pine for Mondays so that I can dig into the wedding photos from that weekend’s wedding, but with everything slowing down, I’m realizing wedding-free weekends are JUST as awesome! This past Saturday I drove down to Richmond to be a part of Help Portrait, a day around the globe when photographers come together to bless those less fortunate with photos. It was my first time participating and I loved it!! Sometimes I find myself wondering what sort of lasting, significant impact I’m making as a wedding photographer, and then things like Help Portrait remind me that we CAN making a difference. It was so excouraging!

As always, things that transpired over the past week/weekend:

  • When purchasing our Christmas tree, we were expecting to have issues with Lily knocking ornaments off. What we weren’t expecting was for her to develop a palate for pine needles. She scoots her way under and around the back of the tree and gnaws off twigs and needs- it looks like a pine graveyard back there.
  • Also regarding our Christmas tree- remind me to get one with softer needles next year. Holy COW. I can’t even pick up twigs Lily’s chewed off without impaling myself.
  • I know I’ve said this a million times before, but I am so blessed to be married to Matt. He got up early yesterday morning before church, and when I finally rose too I walked out into the living room to find him arriving home with a bag of fresh Panera bagels. Cinnamon Crunch bagels, to be specific. “I thought we’d start your birthday week off right!” he says. I freaking love him.
  • Yesterday I had a three-year-old at church guess that I’n turning 35 tomorrow. Then I went home and applied copious amount of wrinkle cream to my face. (just kidding)
  • I have a love affair with garlic. If a recipe calls for it, I’ll double whatever they call for. And if a recipe doesn’t call for it, then I’ll usually add some in anyways. I love garlic so much I doubt I’ll ever be in danger from vampires. Unless they’re the Twilight-y kind, because apparently garlic doesn’t bother them.

Hey look! Our Christmas tree! I was going for “1940′s”esque, hence the bulbous colored lights and tacky star at the top :). Next year, I think I’ll add gold tinsel!

I made that bear ornament on the left in kindergarten- it’s one of my favorites. And look! Coke in a glass bottle!

Obligatory “puppy’s first Christmas” ornament.

Happy Monday!

Holly - December 10, 2012 - 10:09 pm

What’s the water droplet-looking ornament?

Sarah B. - December 10, 2012 - 4:13 pm

I ALSO LOVE garlic and add tons whenever! :) We are definitely meant to be friends! ;)
Also, have you seen the movie The Christmas Story? Because your tree reminds me of theirs – and I am sure you can get tinsel inspiration from it! :D

Sarah G - December 10, 2012 - 12:46 pm

Happy early Birthday! The BF’s is Wednesday so I need to buy a gift quick! Love the tree – I like to do different themes or colors every year.

molly - December 10, 2012 - 12:09 pm

i love your lights!! trees with ornaments and memories are my favorite!

Lena - December 10, 2012 - 9:39 am

Cinnamon crunch bagels! So proud of him, and oh so jealous! Happy start to the birthday week!

Alexandra {Heart Love Weddings} - December 10, 2012 - 9:26 am

Lily snacking away on the Christmas tree = me lol-ing like crazy!!! : ) And yes, soft needled trees are a must. We weren’t really thinking this year, just picked a pretty tree and were delighted to find (halfway through putting the ornaments on) that the needles were soft as silk and not hard as nails like last year’s tree. Oh, and cinnamon crunch bagels from Panera are THE BEST!!! : ) Happy early Birthday, Abby!! xoxo

Rebekah Hoyt - December 10, 2012 - 9:10 am

I LOVE your lights!! I grew up using smaller lights, but I really love the big bulbs! Your tree looks amazing! Also, we are garlic twins because I am exactly the same as you! I add more than I need to any recipe, and usually add it to everything else, too!! :)

Oh, also, when I ask kids how old they think I am, the guess 15, so you should feel honored that you are actually adult-looking unlike my teenage-looking self :)