On Southern Snow Days & Slowing Down

Snow in the South is a magical thing. 

(Yes, our Northern friends also find it to be a comical thing, but that’s a different post.)

Southern Snow is rare and lovely and shuts down the world around us. It slows us down. It confines us to our homes. It feeds our bodies with home-cooked meals and outdoor play and laughter. It warms our souls with a freedom from distractions, from work, from appointments and traffic. It bonds us to the ones we love and asks us to care for our neighbors and the birds in the yard. It reminds us of the beauty of nature as we crunch through the snow, stare out the windows, and marvel in God’s handiwork.

Southerners are pretty good at being slow–we smoke our BBQ for hours, we take the time to smile at kids and old folks, we  spend the extra minute to pull out the “good crystal” when company comes–but even we are not immune to the chaos that tears us away from what is most important in our lives.

Southern Snow rocks our world faster than your Maw Maw can say  “Bless her heart…” 

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Southern Snow brings frenzied searches through our cookbooks for meals that will warm both our bellies and our souls. Southern Snow ALSO brings frenzied searches through our grocery stores for bread and milk (there is none), ingredients for steaming pots of chili, and shoppers with whom to share conversations along the lines of “I can’t believe there is NO MORE  meat in this entire store!!” Southern Snow sends us into our kitchens, whipping up cauldrons of love.

Southern Snow glues us to our windows, our local tv stations’ non-stop coverage of the “weather event,” and our Facebook newsfeed in childlike anticipation of those first falling flakes. Southern Snow changes every hour–every minute even–from tiny flurries to huge puffy cotton balls to sleet and then all over again, keeping us going back to the windows over and over and over to exclaim, “It’s STILL coming down!!”

Southern Snow bonds us to each other. There is no traveling on icy roads, no snow plows to pave the way ahead. We hunker down at home until it melts, and we play together, and we build fires and laugh. We talk, and we marvel at the beauty around us. We walk around the block, no traffic noise, no planes overhead, just the crunch crunch of the slush under our bread-bag-wrapped boots. We check on our neighbors, making sure they’re warm enough, trekking through the pristine yard to deliver hot soup…or cold beers.

Southern Snow reminds us to enjoy the simple pleasures. A fresh cup of coffee. Extra marshmallows in your hot chocolate. Brunch that smells like cinnamon and sausage…at noon. The way you can’t even tell where your yard ends and the road begins. The glow of streetlights on the perfectly icy land. The fluffs of snow clinging to every tree branch, every pine needle, every fence post as far as you can see. The smell of a wood fire. A hand to hold and a warm body to snuggle next to. Handmade quilts. A pot of soup bubbling on the stove. Power and a warm home. Real conversation about love and life and God.

Last week during the “Snowpocalypse of 2014,” there was no cabin fever for this girl. I loved every minute being cooped up with my bearded husband and our sweet cat. (Not that the cat even knew it was snowing. As with most house cats, Pearl could care less what goes on outside of her  little world, so long as the food keeps showing up in her bowl.)

I must admit that I was a little sad to see the snow melting and the roads clearing. I knew that meant the spell of The Magical Southern Snow was broken, Tony would go back to work, the fall leaves we never raked would again be visible in our yard, and the real world would creep back in.

But I am grateful. Grateful for the fluffy white magic that fell from the sky the week of Valentine’s Day 2014, reminding us about love and life and simply slowing down.

What about you? What are your favorite parts of a snow storm, Southern or otherwise?? Leave a comment below to let me know what you love (or don’t!!) about snow!

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Introducing Amy Clifton Keely Photography | Welcome to the New Site!

I am so incredibly excited to announce the official launch of the new Amy Clifton Keely Photography–a new name, a new logo, a new website, a re-newed sense of joy and excitement for photographing your moments! In the past year+ I have married my sweet Mr. K and gotten myself a new name…so my photography business needed to follow! While I am still that same girl portrayed in my “old” website, I have a new perspective on life as a bride and a wife. I wanted this logo, this website, this BRAND to match who I am now, so I welcome you to Amy Clifton Keely Photography! I hope that you will take the time to explore all the new galleries, the testimonials, the “About” pages of my website. I hope that you will “like” me on facebook–you can click the facebook button at the bottom of any webpage to like my business fb page, and you can “like” any individual blog post as well to share it on your wall. Thank you for your love and support of me, of the Keelys, and of my adventures in photography. I am grateful.

And because, of course, every post needs a photo, I share this one with you from Michelle and Rich’s recent Greenville SC wedding…

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My husband is a happy guy. My favorite photos of us show us laughing together. He makes me happy, and he just has this way about him that makes everyone feel comfortable. On our wedding day, however, he had this different smile, this different glow of happiness. It was so cute, and I even commented to him after our “First Look” that I’d never seen him so smiley! This photo of Rich and Michelle reminds me of that look on Tony’s face–pure, unedited joy. Always–ALWAYS–when I am behind the camera, my most important goal is to capture “you” as you really are and to preserve so much emotion that you feel it all over again when you view your photos.

Again, WELCOME and THANK YOU!

As always, I love it when you leave a comment below to “show us some love!”

–Amy

Getting “Wed”ucated | Wedding Workshop

Please, please, please forgive me for my terribly neglected blog! I was doing *so well* updating about mine and Tony’s engagement, and then, well…..I had surgery, we got into the frenzied final month of wedding planning, we got married (yay!!), we relaxed for a few weeks, we went to Italy for two weeks, and then life just took over. I promise that I will work on recapping the wedding and Italy for those of you who faithfully kept up with our engagement journey. But first, I need to share some photography posts!! (After all, this is a photography blog, not just a “Tony + Amy Got Engaged” blog. 😉 )

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Just last week I flew to beautiful Salt Lake City for a photography workshop about child and family portraiture, which reminded me that I never posted photos from another fabulous workshop that I attended a whole year+ ago. (See, life got way too busy!) In both my photography life and my non-profit life, I really enjoy workshops, webinars, articles, anything to keep me inspired and learning. There is always more to learn, ways to improve, and just fascinating information out there. For instance, at a recent education conference that I attended for my non-profit job, I learned that the Voyager spacecraft has traveled at 18,000 mph for over 34 years, and it is JUST NOW getting ready to exit our solar system. How vast is our universe??

But I digress.

Last spring I attended the “Walk Through a Wedding” workshop with fabulous CT based photographers Justin & Mary, where I took all of the photos below. At the Walk-Through, I learned a lot about interacting with clients to create a calming presence on their wedding day, posing, and using directional light to tell a beautiful, textured story. Perhaps the most important thing that I walked away with, however, was the importance of examining my “Why.” Why do I love photography? Why do I make the decisions I do when photographing my clients? Why does my work have value? Why do I use a certain prop or go to a certain location to shoot? Why, why, why. Always in the back of my mind.

Again, I digress.

Our theme for the mock wedding (using real-life couples as our models) was “American Honey.” Old barns, a flowy gown, lots of buttery yellows, and yes–honey. Enjoy this sweet feast…

“Getting Ready” details…

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Our beautiful and completely timeless bride and groom, real-life couple (and soon-to-be parents!), photographers Matt & Leslie.

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Seriously??

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Bridesmaids details.

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If I ask you to “Look to the person beside you and laugh,” it always FEELS weird, but I promise that it LOOKS adorable!

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Super sweet details at the “reception”…

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A couple of shots of our adorable wedding party…real-life newlyweds and photogs Samantha and Graham.

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And our fabulous teachers, Justin and Mary. Justin uses his ninja skills to get the right shot…

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…while Mary shows us how to pose!

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Thanks for stopping BACK by the blog after a long hiatus. Stay tuned…lots of exciting changes are coming to Amy Clifton Photography this year!!! And as always, I love it when you leave a comment below to “show me some love!”

–Amy

We’re Engaged! Month #9

The wedding is a short 10 weeks and 1 day away–holy moly!!

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In our 9th month of being engaged, Tony and I have…

–picked out our wedding bands! Both rings have been ordered. Now, to decide what we want engraved inside.

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–spent the weekend in Charleston for the Wine + Food Festival. It was the perfect weekend get-away: rainy days sampling wine and watching cooking demos in the Culinary Village; UNC basketball on tv; amazing food at Anson’s, FIG, and Blossom; brunch under the trees of Lowndes Grove Plantation, complete with an a cappella gospel choir; walking around one of the most beautiful cities in the South (maybe the world?); and wandering the barrier islands. We love our little get-aways together!

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It POURED on our first day of the Festival, but we had fun sloshing through the rain and mud. Don’t judge my hair….you know you loved this episode of Friends when Monica’s hair got bigger and bigger and bigger! 😉

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Cooking demo by Tony’s friend and former boss, Chef Tory McPhail, head chef at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans.

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Lowcountry Gospel Brunch at the historic Lowndes Grove Plantation. We LOVED this event!

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Brunch was beautiful and tasty….and breezy and chilly!

–The Big Beard continued to grow. In the photo below, you will see Edgar Allen Poe, The Big Beard, Tony, and Yukon Cornelius all looking thoughtful (and hairy) on Sullivan’s Island…

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–applied for my Passport. Yay! Ready to travel…

–went to Lake Junaluska and Apple Hill Farms to meet with our new planner and to show our florist, Adina at Frilly Bloomers, our wedding sites! It was a beautiful and peaceful 24 hours in the mountains.

–ordered Tony’s wedding gift. 🙂 (I think he ordered mine too.)

–got our “wedding wine.” It’s all in the basement just hanging out til May!

–got my cute little “Mrs. Keely” hanger for my wedding dress. Even though my dad says I’ll always be a Clifton, I’m excited to become Mrs. Keely too!

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–had my final alterations fitting for my wedding dress. The next time I go to try it on, it comes home with me!! Wow!

–Alllllmost finished designing and deciding on our invitations, RSVP cards, and info cards. They are going to be super cute. Here’s a tiny little peek…

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During Month #9 we also faced some scary news as a couple: both my mom and I have to undergo surgery in the next couple of weeks. Mine is Monday, hers is 2 1/2 weeks later. Even during this uncertain time, however, Tony and I are growing stronger as a couple, closer to our families and friends, and more dependent on God and prayer. I hate that we are already testing the “in sickness or in health” part of our vows, but it is an amazing feeling to know that Tony is by my side no matter what happens and to feel so loved by the people around us. I truly am a lucky girl.

Thank you all for your love and for being a part of our story.
–Amy + Tony

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We’re Engaged! | Month #7 and #8

Whoa! Time is just tick tick ticking away….I completely missed my Month #7 post (sorry to all our Moms who looked for the update), I’m a week late for our Month #8 post, AND we are already less than 100 days out from the wedding!! 94, to be exact. (But who’s counting?) Go grab your popcorn, get comfy, and be prepared to hang out for a bit: Tony and I have been engaged for 8 months now, and we had a lot going on in Months #7 and #8! Get ready for tons of photos and engagement/wedding updates.

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In Month #7 of being engaged, Tony and I….

–shared our first full Christmas together (although Tony DID come over to my parents’ house last year for dinner and the white Christmas). It was so special to spend time with each other and our families during the holiday season. This was our first time experiencing the “we need to see everyone” schedule that most couples face, but we made it work. (Thanks to a nap!) It went something like this: Christmas Eve church services at his dad’s church, Christmas Eve dinner at my parents’ house, including baking and fudge-making…Christmas morning stockings and brunch with my parents, visit Tony’s sister’s house to see his nephew’s 1st Christmas, his parents’ house for gifts and snacks, his grandma’s house, nap at my parents’, opening gifts with them, dinner at 10pm, and falling asleep on the couch watching Rudolph. Then the next morning, we got up to meet his grandparents and Mom and her husband for lunch in Greenville, stopped back by my parents’ house to see our sweet family friend Shirley, and back to our house to meet my BFF who had driven in from Alabama. I’m tired just remembering all of that!! 🙂

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Christmas Eve church service…my parents, Tony’s parents, and his two brothers

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Christmas Day with my parents….adorable stockings handmade by my mom (mine when I was a baby, Tony’s cute gingerbread chef this year)….our first “family picture” with Pearl the Cat

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Christmas Day with Tony’s parents….this has been a big year for their family (a new baby and 2 engagements), so it required all new stockings!….Take 1 of the family photo…Take 2 is much better. *Sigh* 😉

–had a great visit with my BFF and Matron of Honor, Rebecca. Since she lives so far away, she hasn’t been able to be involved face-to-face with wedding plans. During her visit, we packed in tons of catching up, wedding planning, and dinner out. There’s just nothing like time spent with the people who know you the best and love you the most!

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–ordered bridesmaids dresses!! They will be in mid-March, and I’m so excited to see them! I had a fun morning with Rebecca (MOH), Robyn (bridesmaid and match-maker), and Ella Jane (Flower Girl Extraordinaire) at the dress shop. EJ’s favorite part was dancing on the pedestals and hiding in the dress racks. 🙂

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–worked on a Bridesmaids Craft Project, thanks to Pinterest! We are making these cool candles for the reception space….just glass jars, modge-podge, and lace. **I still need glass jars if you can donate any to the cause!**

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–welcomed the New Year, also known as “The Year We’re Getting Married.” Tony had to work late, so I hung out with my parents for the countdown, and then he and I toasted at midnight on Mountain Time when he finally got home. We just pretended we were in Colorado. 🙂 The next day, we had lunch at the Waffle House and ate traditional porkchops, beans, and greens with my parents and played funny card games with them. It was a great way to spend the first day of our Wedding Year!

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Happy New Year, 2012!

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One of my favorite recent photos of us…so comfy.

–celebrated Christmas and Hanukah with more of Tony’s family, hosted at our house. It was fun to have them here with us!

–hung 4 humongous canvases from our engagement portraits!

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3 of the 4 canvases!

–WE FINALLY FOUND OUR FLORIST!! We are so excited that Adina at Frilly Bloomer’s Florals will be prettying up our wedding and reception. She is super talented, and a complete riot!!

–we attended a wine tasting, and while we were there we decided on our honeymoon location!!

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We are traveling to……….Italy!!

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–I had my last visit with my one-of-a-kind Aunt Dot, who died just a couple of days after I spent a perfectly normal afternoon at her house. Tony and his parents all helped our family say goodbye to her.

–spent the weekend in The ATL with Rebecca and her husband Marshall. We have a blast with these two! We went to the World of Coke Museum (thumbs down, except for the all-you-can-drink tasting room), ate some great food, laughed a ton, and visited CNN (pretty cool, even though I don’t watch the news.)

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This photo just cracks me up; it was too funny not to buy from our CNN Tour! I don’t know why we are wearing coats while reading the news. I told Tony that it looks like I am interviewing a homeless guy; thanks Big Beard!

During Month #8 of being engaged, Tony and I…

–visited with my awesome far-away bridesmaid Marilynn while she was in town for a couple of days. We have family and friends attending the wedding from SC, NC, Alabama, Illinois, Iowa, and Las Vegas, but Marilynn wins the prize: she and her hubby are coming all the way from Seattle for our big day!!

–received our first wedding gift from our registry! Tony’s grandparents sent us an amazing 1st Gift: our KitchenAid Mixer! We are so excited to begin using it….recipes are welcomed. 🙂

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–had a quick and fun get-away in the mountains with our awesome friends and photographers, Craig and Lindsey. (3 photographers on a trip, and no photos…oh well!) Our engagement portraits were also featured on their blog–yay!

–WE FINALLY FOUND OUR CATERER!!! Food is such a big part of our lives, and we had a really difficult time finding the right caterer for our wedding. We are beyond excited that Brian from Tupelo Honey Cafe’ in Asheville is keeping our tummies full during cocktail hour and dinner. The menu he prepared is ridiculous. We could not be more excited about our wedding food!

–got our Save the Date cards!

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–hosted our parents for the Superbowl. It is so awesome that our parents are friends through our relationship!! (They even get together, and don’t even invite us! 😉 )

–continued our weekly cooking nights when Tony gets home from school, and we also had an awesome Spanish dinner night, thanks to our inspiration from Chef Jose Andres’ cookbook and some authentic products from La Tienda in Virginia. Yummo.

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On the menu: anchovy-stuffed olives, manchego cheese, braised chicken with stewed vegetables, and potatoes cooked with chorizo and paprika. Oh my. (And yes–we cook in our jammies.)

–picked out at least one song for our wedding ceremony, and we picked out our nephew’s Ring Bearer outfit. SO CUTE!

–started planning several showers and our Bachelor/Bachelorette party! Yay, let the celebrating begin! (or continue…I guess we’ve celebrating our engagement and marriage all along…)

–picked out the guys’ suits for the wedding, and Tony got measured for his! We also got ties for Tony, our dads, and all the groomsmen. My bridesmaids’ dresses are a color that’s difficult to match, so we are really excited that we found 3 different patterns of ties in the perfect color!

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–celebrated our “engaged Valentine’s Day” with a 10 course tasting menu at Devereaux’s downtown. Dinner (and my date!) were amazing! I also got a beautiful necklace and earrings, and I gave Tony a wine book and a Pinterest-inspired homemade gift.

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–continued to grow The Big Beard. TBB is sort of like a pet, or a houseguest, or an old friend. It is definitely an entity all its own. (It will also be gone before the wedding.)

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The Big Beard on one of its bushier days; Tony, deep in thought, comparing beards with the inventor of Coke.

If you’ve continued reading this post all the way to the end–thanks for being so interested in me and Tony, our engagement, and our love! We love you and we’re excited that you are part of our journey. Leave us some love in the comments section to let us know you made it to the bitter end. 😉

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Love,
Amy + Tony