Welcome, Sweet Baby Jane

It’s funny, I had been thinking about Erin and Mike and their new arrival just a few hours before she texted me to see if I could come take some photos of Jane while she is still so small. I wasn’t expecting it. “I can’t believe I thought I wouldn’t want these,” she told me.

You don’t have to tell me. I always said I didn’t want to do newborn photography… then I had kids of my own. Those precious wee weeks go quickly. It’s a privilege to witness them.

Jane was as sweet as could be, and Erin and Mike were beaming. Jane is so lucky to be born into a home with so much love and compassion (and avocados). Congratulations to your whole family.

Jennifer Prat
Cover to Cover: Images from Pequot Library Special Collections

Promotional photographs for the upcoming Pequot Library Special Collections exhibition, Cover to Cover: How People Bind Their Books. I could have spent hours playing with these fragile pages. The exhibition opens November 7.

Jenna + Jason: So, this is love.

As I pour over the work from the past year, so many wonderful days behind the shutter come to mind. One of my favorites was this past October when I had the pleasure of photographing Jenna and Jason’s wedding, exactly one year after capturing their engagement session. The love in the room was palpable at this music-infused celebration that even included a jazzy number sung by the bride!


Elephants & Ambitions

My worst habit is that I wait for ideal conditions to do things. I’ve spent the last year saying, “when I have more time...”, and, “when I’m getting more sleep...”

But then I realized how quickly that can lead to putting your ambitions on the back burner. All of a sudden a year goes by and you haven’t done the things you intended. What if I’m tired for the rest of my life? Then what happens? So, I won’t be using that as an excuse anymore.

Over a year ago I had the idea to do a collaboration with Mobile-based artist Kathleen Kirk in response to the Trump administration’s decision to allow ivory trophy imports. The idea was that we would each draw one half of the same bull.

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There’s still some work to be done, but it felt so good to pull him away from where he had been resting in the corner between my desk and the wall; to take pen to paper and give him some life. I’m not sure what will come of him, but at least he’s not waiting on me and my excuses anymore.

Zweig

If you were to browse through my Ravelry favorites, you’d find pages of sweaters I’ve wanted to make but have been too apprehensive to cast on. It’s intimidating - the thought of committing that kind of time and money to a project where mistakes can’t be easily undone. But, after making what seems like countless baby items, I was ready in November, and I went for the big guns.

Caitlin Hunter of Boyland Knitworks has a gift for design, specifically a knack for piecing color and texture together in ways that you wouldn’t expect. Earthy fiber selections coupled with dynamic elements make her pieces feel somehow modern and timeless all at once.

Zweig incorporates lace, color work, and cables knit up with a fingering weight wool that makes the sweater versatile, beautiful, and engaging to knit. The x-pattern not only adds a delicate detail to a practical piece, it also creates a flattering fit from a straight body.

I am so proud of the finished product. There is something incredibly special about creating a quality garment for yourself. I love the idea of filling my closet with meaningful, handmade pieces that I can keep by my side for a lifetime.

Pattern: Zweig
Author: Boyland Knitworks
Yarn: Brooklyn Tweed Loft


Zesty Tortilla Soup

I’ve gotten every. single. germy. bug that has come into our home this season. Between lingering illness and irritatingly chilly weather I have been doubling down on sauces and soups. Because, you know, when it’s a little damp, too warm for snow, but too cold to want to go outside and play, something bubbly on the stove makes everything feel a little warmer.

Spicy, warm, and filling, this tortilla soup is guaranteed to take the chill off. Give it more or less heat by moderating how much jalapeño you use. I also think this soup would be great if you swapped in rice for the tortillas. Bonus: Most of the soups I make are a snap. One pot, big flavor, low maintenance.

Tortilla Soup

2 tbsp coconut oil
6 green onions, chopped and separated into whites and greens
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 jalapeños*, seeds removed and finely chopped
2 tsp chile powder
1.5 tsp ancho chile powder
28 oz can of canned peeled tomatoes
1/2 cup dry white wine or pale beer (like Modelo or Corona)
4 cups chicken broth
1 boneless skinless chicken breast
1 cup sweet corn
1/2 diced sweet potato, uncooked
1-2 cups vegetable oil
2-3 flour or corn tortillas, cut into strips
Salt & Pepper to taste
Crumbled Cojita Cheese
Chopped Cilantro
Lime Slices
Fried Tortilla Strips

1. In a heavy dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the green onion whites, garlic and jalapeños* until the onions and peppers begin to soften. Add chile powders and sauté until fragrant.

2. Reduce the heat to medium and add the tomatoes to the pot. Stir only occasionally, letting them caramelize.

3. Deglaze the pot with the wine or beer, scraping any bits off the bottom of the pot. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil.

4. Reduce to a low simmer and add the chicken breast. Place a lid on the pot and let it cook until the chicken is fully cooked and tender. Remove the chicken and shred with two forks.

5. Place the shredded chicken back into the pot along with the corn and sweet potatoes, and simmer until the sweet potatoes are soft. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile…

In a cast iron skillet, add 1-2 cups of vegetable oil. Heat until the oil is shimmering and a drop of water spits when introduced to the pan. Add the tortillas and fry until lightly browned. Remove to a paper towel to drain the oil, salt lightly.

OR

Brush tortillas with vegetable oil and bake at 375* until browned.

Put it all together.

Spoon soup into a bowl and top with crumbled cojita cheese, lime, cilantro, chopped onion greens, and fried tortilla.

*You can moderate the spice by reducing or removing the peppers.

The original recipe came from Alison Roman and NY Times Cooking.


Diamonds for Doodle

Knitting was a skill I learned on a whim in college and now, 16 years later (oh my god), it’s one of my favorite activities. I love that it’s both creative and methodical. I love that it can be as simple or complex as I want or need. I find it incredible to look at a finished product and think about how the whole thing is just one long piece of string arranged in a special way to create something new.

I’ve really started to love making kids sweaters. They’re a great way to practice new techniques without a huge time commitment, and the girls always need new sweaters. This December I volunteered to be a test knitter for Big Red Balloon’s new design, String of Diamonds. They are one of my go-to designers for kids sweaters. Hailing from Iceland, Big Red Balloon’s designs are full of the warmth and texture befitting a nordic winter. This design features a doubled-up collar and a single cable panel for extra warmth and squish. The pattern was released on Sunday (January 9) and is available in her Ravelry store.

If you’ve been wanting to try knitting a sweater, this is a great pattern to start with. The structure is relatively simple, and the cable adds a lovely detail that also helps create a flattering fit. Shelter by Brooklyn Tweed is a nice starchy new wool that really showcases structural details and finishes very nicely. I especially love the earthy quality of their fibers and colors.

Doodle loves her “new purple sweater” and has barely taken it off since it came off the needles. Now, if only I could get her to stand still for a photo…

Deck the Halls: Magnolia Garland

For Bernie, dry magnolia prompts memories of hours spent raking the yard of his childhood home in Metairie (but I’d be willing to bet a bit of sentimental nostalgia as well). To me, the sweet leathery leaves bring with them an understated elegance alongside wild imaginings of Garden District grandeur. Our home is cozy and perfectly suited for the tartan and greens that come with the holidays - preferably enjoyed with a fire in the hearth and old fashioned in hand.

As much as I’ve enjoyed the carryover decorations we’ve had over the years, I’ve always wanted to put a more handmade touch on my hall decking. At the top of the list is a magnolia garland for our mantle. This year I was thrilled to find reasonably priced branches at the PopShop Market. I layered magnolia with evergreen and red berry branches, then wove through copper-wire fairy lights and gold pinecones. The end result is a full, fragrant, handmade garland that brings our home comfort, joy and maybe even a touch of that southern grandeur I love so much.

[Throwback: Last year’s holiday memories]

Gold Star Father, Khizr Khan

Pakistani American father of United States Army Captain Humayun Khan, who was killed in 2004 during the Iraq War, Khizr Khan was the subject of international attention following his speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention criticizing then Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. I’ve never heard a person speak so passionately, knowledgeably, and peaceably about the American constitution.

Welcome to the World, Henry Wills

When I reentered the world of freelance photography, I always said I wouldn’t do newborn sessions. Then I had two babies of my own and learned how preciously fast those early weeks go. It’s a blur of heart exploding, sleep deprived, frustrating, blissfully tearful joy - and you forget, so quickly, how hard and wonderful it is to introduce life to the world. 

Well, I guess it’s safe to say I’ve changed my stance. Being let into a newborn household to capture the fresh moments is such a privilege. I know too well how hard it is to open your door during those times, especially to a stranger. But it’s also a gift: The hushed set-up, careful cooing and whispered cues bring me back to fleeting moments with my own children.

Thank you to the Loth family for inviting me in to photograph sweet Henry.


Jennifer PratComment
Autumn Spiced Butternut Squash Soup

It’s no secret that when the New England air gets the slightest chill, people change gears (to put it lightly). As soon as the thermostat dips below 50-degrees, it’s nothing but pumpkin spiced lattes, apple cider donuts, and sweater weather. For me, the trademark of early fall is when the Le Creuset comes out of hiding and moves to it’s seasonal home on my stove. From that point until mid-May there is almost always something bubbling in that sturdy blue pot, filling our little cape with the warmth and the smells that make a home.

Now, when it comes to local food, nothing screams “autumnal” like the orange bounty of October: squash, sweet potatoes, and carrots. Beyond their beautiful hue, they are rich in vitamin C, beta-carotene, and potassium. Add warm spices to the mix, and a dollop of yogurt for a nice cool contrast, and you have a perfectly balanced, nutrient rich soup to warm your belly and welcome the soft chill of fall. Sophisticated yet rustic, this soup is loved equally by friends at a dinner party as is by my two-year-old daughter after a long day at daycare.

AUTUMN SPICED BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 shallots, chopped
4 cups vegetable broth
2 sprigs rosemary
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground clove
1 bay leaf
4 peppercorns
1/4 cup parsley, chopped finely
salt & pepper to taste
plain yogurt

1. In a dutch oven over medium heat, warm oil until it shimmers. Then add squash, potato, carrots, and shallots.

2. Sauté until the shallot is transparent and potato begins to soften. Add spices and continue to stir until fragrant.

3. Stir in vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Once the soup is boiling, put a lid on the soup and simmer over medium-low heat.

4. When the potatoes split easily when poked with a knife, remove the pot from the heat and use an immersion blender to purée the soup.

5. Return to heat and simmer on low until ready to serve.

I like to serve this soup in a warmed bowl with a dollop of plain yogurt, a sprinkling of fresh parsley, and a lightly toasted piece of sourdough. To make it more hearty (and non-vegetarian), this soup is possibly even more delicious when topped with crumbled sage sausage.

NourishJennifer PratComment