A Letter to My Neice on Her First Birthday

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Dear Annie,

Today, you woke up to find your house filled with cake, balloons, and presents. Grandma and Grandpa are there, too, having driven 12 hours just to see you. Mommy dressed you in a new shirt and Daddy hung pink and purple decorations.

Today, we celebrate the day you were born.

It’s also a day to remember, and to feel deeply, that you are wanted. It’s one day of the year that says directly to you, “You, Annie Grace, are invited into life.”

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Published: Edible Kansas City Magazine

edible_kansas_city_cover_photograph_parisi_images_sarahLast summer, I had the opportunity to spend some time in Kansas City. Aside from spending time becoming acquainted with a great guy, I made myself useful and photographed Food Now—a fun, festive foodie event held in the city’s West Bottoms. Turns out, one of my images from that evening now graces the cover of Edible Kansas City. On the back cover is a Food Now photograph, advertising this year’s event.

A big shout out and thank you to Tamara at EdibleKC for making this happen!

In Pursuit of Passion

Everywhere I turn, I see my generation as a collective, passionate people. We are passionate about photography. About music. About the perfect brew. Passionate about Uganda and sustainable agriculture and travel. Passionate about Red vs. Blue and the Blackhawks and skinny blue jeans.

But most of all, it seems, we are passionate about passion itself.

Growing up, us Millennials—the moniker given to my generation—feasted on a diet saturated in encouragement to “discover our true passions.” Whenever we asked “What should I do with my life?” our teachers and parents often advised us to “follow your passion” wherever that may lead. (1)

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed this Millennial-specific career advice working itself out in two distinct ways. On one hand, there is no shortage of twenty-somethings espousing unusually strong passions for everything and anything, from the grandiose to the mundane. People in this group tend to be the creative, artist-type. The entrepreneurs, using and exaggerating their passions to serve as a selling point for their wares, a raison d’être for their business and being.

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Fair Oaks Dairy Farm Tour

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Anyone who drives between Indianapolis and Chicago should know well the billboards advertising Fair Oaks Dairy Farm that sideline I-65. I’ve personally driven past the exit for Fair Oaks Farms a countless number of times, always with a thought in my mind to stop and visit. Two weekends ago, I finally made good on that thought.

Located in northwest Indiana, this dairy farm is the “largest agritourism destination in America.” Large doesn’t even begin to describe Fair Oaks Farm. And “agritourism” is somewhat a misnomer, too. In reality, the farm is a massive cow-themed amusement park focused on enticing families (and, more importantly, their kids) to dairy heaven.

There is plenty that could be said of this expansive enterprise, but several resources (see “Further Reading” below) give fair account of what you might expect to see—and feel—if you were to visit Fair Oaks Farm. For now, I’ll simply allow my images give you a visual sneak peak.

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Field-Grown Rubies

Far out, where the roads turn from pavement to gravel and the sky turns from gray to blue, there are fields of rubies. Red, sweet, delicious rubies, ready for picking. Ready for eating. Ready for savoring. Be in wonder of the bounty. Be in wonder of the beauty.

At: Stokes Berry Farm, Wilmington, Ohio

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Beauty and Joy, Tears and Heartache

As someone who struggles with depression, the topic of present joy is very real and pertinent to my everyday. It’s not something that I think about only when I reach a crisis or a particular turn in the road. No. I think about joy—the work involved in reaching and staying in a place of joy—all of the time. It’s a matter of survival for me.

This month I went on a couple of really beautiful, lovely dates with a certain young gentleman. They were fun—great food, great conversation, great company. Everything you would want from your first two dates with someone with whom you might start a relationship. Of particular beauty, the second date took us to the, new-to-me, Cincinnati neighborhood, Mt. Adams.

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Mt. Adams sits atop a series of hills overlooking the river and downtown Cincy. It’s a place where cool restaurants, hipster bars, designer apartments and cobblestone alleyways line the streets. It’s a place where signs announcing opening weekend for the Mt. Adams’ Farmers Market grace public doors, where dogs walk their owners and where art and architecture are part and parcel of the community. It’s a place where the light dances with flower gardens, plays hide-and-seek along old brick walls, and beautifies everything in its path. In short, it’s a place of beauty, light and joy.

When I think about that second date with this particular gentleman, it’s this beauty, light and joy that I remember most.

Unfortunately, I don’t think my date noticed the beauty or the joy, either in me or in our environs, and there will be no third date. His reason? My “joy-quotient” was not high enough. Because I failed to portray myself as someone of “optimism and joy” (his words), he decided we were not compatible for the long-term.

For my date’s part, I don’t really blame him for this misunderstanding. Just that evening—the same evening of so much light, beauty and joy on Mt. Adams—I shared with him some of journey with and through depression. Most people advise against sharing such personal stories at first introductions, but I’ve never been one to follow that advice. To know me is to know my testimony of faith and it is impossible to share my testimony without revealing my personal struggles with depression. I’ve never allowed depression to define me and to share about God’s work through my sadness is always an act of worship.

But it should come as no surprise when someone hears my story and misunderstands. For me, living with depression is not unlike someone who must learn to live with Type 1 Diabetes—once you learn you have it, you treat it, manage it and deal with it. For others, especially a potential suitor, mention of depression may easily signify a “red flag” of the highest degree.

Hearing that there would be no third date because of my supposed lack of “optimism and joy” was a hard rejection. It cut straight to the core of my desire to run hard after joy—and not the fleeting kind called “happiness,” but the real, centered-on-Jesus joy characteristic of an “abundant life.” After hearing this particularly harsh rejection, my type-A tendency turned on and I offered him a rebuttal—an argument as to why and how I was, in fact, a person of optimism and joy. I offered a rebuttal despite my own hesitations to argue in these situations, as I know all too well that matters of the heart are often inexplicable and always complicated. I don’t think “arguing” someone into “liking” you makes good use of either person’s emotions.

As it turned out, however, my argument wasn’t for my date. It was to battle my own insecurities and self-doubts that told me my date was right. Despite all of my efforts to live in a place of joy, what if others only see the depressed me. What if I really am not joyful, or even merely happy? What if depression does define me? Does sadness make one un-dateable, unlikeable…undesirable?

It’s very tempting to think this, all things considered.

But it’s not true.

What’s true is that constant optimism and so-called joy are not prerequisites for Christ’s love to dwell in you. Christ himself was well-acquainted with grief and sorrow. What’s more, Jesus does not require us to have the joy-thing completely figured out before we can be in relationship with Him, nor does he promise there will be no tears when we walk out our journey of faith.

In a powerful, and timely, reminder of this truth, my devotions took me to Hebrews 5:7—

“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death….” (NIV, emphasis added)

Like us, Jesus carried sadness with him. Burdens. His heart ached. I am not any less desirable because I feel deeply, sorrow often and shed tears easily. What’s more, God is always at the ready to hear my fervent cries and tears, and he likes me no less for offering them up to him frequently.

Tears, sadness, burdens and heartaches. And beauty and joy.

And third dates.

Yes, please.

(Image from The University of Cincinnati Library Collection.)

House to Home : Cozy Bedroom Retreat

When decorating a home, my own bedroom always seems to be finished last. After all, no one but me spends much time, if any, in the space. In some ways, I’ve always thought that giving too much attention to a bedroom hinted at vanity.

When decorating, I’m self-conscious to a fault that I don’t want my space to be “too girly.” This mindset meant that I avoided pink in any of my decor. Turns out, I regret that decision, mostly because I enjoy pink love the color’s versatility and vibrancy.

The bedroom became the remedy for that mistake. I decided I wanted to decorate with my three favorite colors—pink, green and brown—and let the design flow from there.

It turns out, I love this room. I love it because it is girly and feminine and completely me. I love the pictures of my family on the walls. I love the old radio re-purposed as a nightstand. I love the grungy, old brown box on my dresser where I keep my makeup. And I love the stuffed frog, a staple of my room since eighth grade.

And all of the pink? Turns out, I love that, too.

RESOURCES:
Bulletin Board: Pottery Barn
Flower Quilt/Shams: Anthropologie
Heart Artwork: Rifle Paper Co.
Lampshade: Target
Pink Coverlet: Land of Nod
Purple Blanket: Pottery Barn
White Frames: Pottery Barn

All other items are family heirlooms, found on the side of the road, or antiques.

RELATED: 
Chicago Bungalow Home Style
Wheaton, IL Wedding Photography Gallery and Consultation Design
Chicago Wedding Photographer Home Office

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House to Home : Chicago Bungalow

What makes a house a home? What makes a home hospitable? Inviting and beautiful? These are all things I consider when decorating the three-bedroom bungalow I call home.

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Even though I am a visual artist, designing for print or web is very different from designing in three-dimensional space. Regardless, the same principles of my personal style—clean lines, composition, and color—still apply. I’m not sure how professional interior designers work, but I always start with color, and by that I mean I find something with every color in it that I love and match all other items to that piece. In this case, I purchased the rug and curtains with the same bright peacock pattern, hanging the curtains in the family room and using the rug in the dining room to tie the two distinct, but conjoined, spaces. I intentionally choose something with tons of colors to allow me to color my space with variety—and, if I get bored of one hue, I can always add another!

Perhaps the biggest challenge for me in designing my home was to select artwork for the walls. As an artist and photographer, I tend to be very picky with what I am willing to hang. I feel the merit of the artwork I hang in my house is a visual answer to the question “What is good art?” Deciding on something to hang on either side of the couch took the most effort and reflection. I wanted something to tie in with the books to create a library-esque feel. In playing off the trend of hanging vintage Penguin book covers, I created my own canvases, switching out the book titles for lines of songs or quotes that inspire me.

The rest of the space is, for the most part, a collection of family heirlooms, personal creations, and favorite items I’ve discovered on the side of the road discarded as trash, or at antique shops or garage sales. Among some of my favorite finds include the old tea box I found discarded outside a used bookstore and use as an end table. It’s made only of plywood held together by aluminum angles, but never fails to earn a compliment from guests.  The old phone is an antique from the early 1900s and would still work if only there were switchboard operators! Perhaps what I love most about the space is the bookshelves—or rather, the books themselves. If there is anything that I consider a “comfort possession” (something I don’t have to own but love to anyway), it’s my books. It’s easy for people to figure out who I am simply by looking through the titles of books I own.

Six years of collecting, curating and cultivating my own design style has resulted in a space I’m proud to call mine. How do you go about creating a space you love? Share in the comments!

RESOURCES:
Bird Rug and Curtains: Anthropologie
Calendar: Rifle Paper Co.
Green Chair: Jubilee Furniture
Orange and Green Kantha Blanket: Hand & Cloth
Red Pepper and Corn Salt and Pepper Shakers: Brimfield
Red Rug: Pier 1
Red Spotlight Lamps: Pottery Barn
Photographs and Vintage Penguin Artwork: Parisi Images
White Bookshelves: Ikea

PAINT COLOR:

Behr Navajo White

BONUS MATERIAL:
View the home office and Parisi Images’ Gallery, both of which are part of this same home, on Parisi Images’ blog.

Update (6/14/2013): I’m so pleased to announce that the bungalow has been featured as a House Call on the popular home design blog Apartment Therapy. Hop on over there to check out the post and leave some extra comment love.

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Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture : Pocantico Hills, NY Farm Tour

After spending two days at the Kilpatrick Family Farm in Middle Granville, NY this past April, I was able to head south to Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture. For most young farmers—especially those of the “organic,” “locavore,” and “sustainable” persuasion—a trip to Stone Barns Center is kind of like a trip to Disneyworld is for a child, filled with inspiring wonder and magic, a place you dream about not only visiting but also experiencing.

Stone Barns Center is a walking exhibit of how the entire farm-to-table concept can work in real life. Situated in the Hudson Valley just north of New York City, the center farms six acres of vegetables plus over 22,000 square feet of four-season greenhouse space. A number of animals also contribute to Stone Barns’ ecosystem, with cattle, pigs, sheep, bees and chickens all represented. Everything grown and raised at Stone Barns Center is used in their very own restaurant and cafe or sold at local markets. It truly is a triumphant demonstration in how a farm focused on growing and using local, can be a successful business enterprise.

But above all, Stone Barns Center is about education and their success at drawing families and individuals out of their city dwellings to experience the “great outdoors” was obvious the day I visited. In a very honest, down-to-earth way, Stone Barns Center is not unlike many of the farm education “centers” available to families across the country. I was reminded of how Cosley Zoo in my hometown of Wheaton, IL provides the same educational opportunities to Chicago suburban families through programs like “Morning Chores” where kids can see what its like to care for and feed farm animals. Just 26 miles from me and in downtown Chicago, Lincoln Park Zoo’s Farm-in-the-Zoo exhibit allows kids to “experience hands-on lessons on the origins of food.” Take an entirely different demographic in the farm-state of Ohio, and there is Young’s Jersey Dairy in Yellow Springs where families can spend a day feeding goats, petting baby calves and learning how milk turns into ice cream. All of these are examples of the ongoing efforts to educate the public about agriculture, each catering to their unique, local audience.

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Stone Barns Center has over 22,000 square feet of greenhouse space that allow for four-season growing. The greenhouses use minimal heating, even in the coldest of winter months.

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No pesticides, herbicides or chemical additives are introduced to the soil at Stone Barns Center. Instead, the farmers rely on compost created created from Stone Barns’ natural agriculture waste products and other natural elements like grass clippings and leaves.

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Over 200 varieties of produce are grown year-round at Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture. Click here to read about Claytonia, a plant often eaten raw in salads.

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The greenhouse roof can be raised and lowered to make maximum use of the the sun and wind.

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Stella, a Great Pyrenees, keeps guard over the sheep.

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You won’t see any traditional “red barns” at Stone Barns Center. Instead, these modern hoop buildings house the various types livestock.

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The actual “stone” at Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture where both the restaurant Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and the cafe are located as well as the administrative offices and classroom/event space.

The Furry and Feathered Faces at Kilpatrick Family Farm

While growing and selling vegetables is the flagship business at Kilpatrick Family Farm (where I visited in mid-April), the farm is not without its share of furry and feathered—and fun to photograph—faces.

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WATCHDOGS
A good watchdog is essential at any farm with livestock. Prior to getting two Maremma Sheepdog‘s to watch over their brood of chickens, the Kilpatricks lost over 20 chickens to predators in one month. These two cuties have knocked recent losses down to zero. Not a bad track record for a dog with a such a mild name like Carrots, eh? (Did You Know: It’s the scent of the dog—not the barking—that warns predators to stay at bay!)

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THE MILK COW
The Kilpatricks keep one milk cow whose milk they keep for personal use. Read an earlier post to hear about my own experience hand-milking a cow.

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GOATS
In addition to cows, goats provides a great source of milk or meat. Even more, they offer a great deal of comedic relief in the barnyard. The Kilpatricks had just acquired two dwarf Nigerian kids at the time of my visit.

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CHICKENS AND DUCKS

The Kilpatricks keep a good number of chickens on hand and sell eggs at local farmers markets and grocers. Click here to read an earlier post to learn more about chickens. Only two ducks—one male and one female—share space with the chickens. I think they served as “barn parents,” or something like that.

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BARNYARD CATS
It goes without saying that cats are an essential part of any working farm, keeping the mice population firmly in check. And as much of a dog person that I am, these cats were of the hospitable sort.

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THE FAMILY DOG
The Kilpatricks keep two Border Collies as family pets—a mother and her pup. From what I could tell, Gracie (pictured below) was the hardest working animal at the farm, constantly watching out for opportunities to participate in the day’s activities. Not to be unfairly compensated for their hard work, both dogs enjoy special privileges—like warm, indoor beds and, of course, plenty of toys.

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