Saturday, March 2, 2013


photo commissioned by Full Circle Exchange
As you may or may not have guessed, my absence from my blog is due to my working the past few weeks.  Every project has been new, exciting AND creatively fulfilling. I can't believe the amazing opportunities I've scooped up!  I've really been dying to blog about it all.  Finding the time has been the challenge.  If you know me at all, you know that I rarely sit down. I'm always on the go and it's truly when I'm at my happiest and most content.  I love to be busy and working fairly steadily now makes me so very happy. I have no intentions of slowing my blogging; it's just been a very busy few weeks, months even.  I'm still working out the kinks in this whole working mother thing.

This blog has been extremely instrumental in helping me discover my talents and giving me the confidence to do some freelance work and start a business.  For years, this space has been my test kitchen and my practice field.  You, my friends, family and loyal readers have been my supportive audience. I want to say thank you, thank you, thank you!

I've been dying to share the news and a few personal notes about how it's all happened.  I'm literally running between the computer and the stove, cooking dinner for the girls as I write this.  My time has always been at a premium, but right now it seems it's even more precious than ever!  Juggle is the word that's been popping in my mind a lot lately.
photo commissioned by Full Circle Exchange
When I started this blog in 2007 I knew I wanted it to be bright and primarily focus on photos. It was mostly photos of my children back then.  Over the years, I've tried to elevate the photography on my blog little by little.  It's something I've always loved to do.  With each new thing I learn, I become more and more passionate about photography.  Now I'm doing some freelance photography work. That's right! I'm getting paid to take photographs.
I received my first contract as a photographer a few weeks back.  Maybe you recall the photo journalism style piece I did on Salem's last year?  The story was published in the embassy newsletter and the owner liked the photography so much she asked me to be in charge of the product photography as well as the design for her business' new look book (it's just a cooler version of a catalog).  It's an amazing project for a number of reasons.  She's given me almost full creative freedom with the photos and the design work, as well as complete flexibility with my working hours.  The job has been exciting and challenging.  I've never had to worry about my photos living up to expectations.  I definitely felt nauseous handing my client a CD with the photos!  Even better, I was allowed to design the look book, write the text, arrange the photos, choose the style and font.  It was amazing to see my vision for the photos turn in to a product and then have my client love it. It's an ongoing project.  I can't wait to see it in print at the end!
photo commissioned by Full Circle Exchange
My work with Salem's has led to additional work with Full Circle Exchange.  Have you heard of them?  It's a non-profit organization that works with small businesses in developing countries. They purchase the products and sell them at different retailers and on their own website.  It's a wonderful way to empower some of the small businesses who are struggling in the third world.  This kind of exposure is priceless.  Salem's has a partnership with Full Circle Exchange.  Over the last few weeks I've watched the artisans at Salem's weave and finish seven hundred scarves for Full Circle! Some will be sold at!  I've been lucky enough to be Full Circle's photographer in Ethiopia.  You can see the photos of the scarves on their website as well as some of the women and the products on their facebook page.  That's my photo as their cover shot!  So darn cool. I want to pinch myself.
photo commissioned by Full Circle Exchange (this is Rosa-one of the beautiful hardworking women I've had the opportunity to meet at Salem's.
I've been cooking and baking my entire life.  It's in my DNA.  It's also something I've had more time and more interest in perfecting since becoming a stay at home mom.  I love feeding my family and creating beautiful and delicious food.  I started my bakery business, Ladytroupe Sweets last year and I'm pleased to say that business is booming.  Word is getting out and I'm swamped with orders and interest.I have a planner and calendar devoted just to orders and delivery dates. I'm steadily selling at the US embassy's market day as a vendor and it's been wonderfully busy. The expats here in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia are hungry for delicious things. I've also done some small catering jobs.  Not just desserts and baked goods but dinner parties!  I just received my first request to cater a birthday party for 40 people!  It's a lot of work but I'm so excited about all the people I'll get to feed and the gorgeous cakes I will create.  I get so much satisfaction from feeding other people.  Not to mention the party planning.  I LOVE party planning.  It's hardly work at all!
custom order ready for pick-up
For awhile now I've been dreaming about being a personal chef some day.  Maybe when we've settled back in the States and the girls are all in school.  It would be hard to manage now; the timing just isn't right. but some day this is my goal.  I feel like the catering is a good step in this direction.  Who knows?  Maybe I can pursue more than one angle for Ladytroupe Sweets.  I am so blessed that this venture has taken off and that I'm still enjoying it. Mostly, I'm happy that all this work can be done at home, when I have time, around and among raising my children.
Double dip caramel cupcakes filled with homemade salted caramel sauce.  Seriously, the best thing I've tasted in weeks.
Being at home is key for me. When I told my girls I would be working a bit during the day here and there, they were upset! Having me available is important to them so I try very hard to incorporate them in my baking and cooking and be away from the house during school and nap hours. It's not easy, and I try to use my time wisely. I often sacrifice my evening hours by using them to get work done.  But it's important to me to give them a home cooked dinner every night and sit and play or read with them when the request it.  Ashlynn is my kitchen baby.  She knows the difference between the sound of the ice cream maker and the stand mixer. But she is completely aware that they both yield delicious spoons for her to lick. Hats off to all working mother who work outside of the home.  It's a tough gig, and I'm just working at home-part time.

If you would have told me a year and a half ago, as we were preparing our family to move to Ethiopia, that I'd be starting a small business and doing freelance photography as a stay at home mom, I would have raised my eyebrows at you in disbelief.  As a woman deep in the trenches of motherhood, I had no intentions of working.  I felt prepared to be a mom and to be honest, I could hardly see past the following week at that point in my life.  I knew I'd work again some day down the road, but I never imagined I'd forge my own opportunities to make money doing something I love.
red velvet cupcakes for Valentines Day.  I had no idea how crazy people are for red velvet. 
To my surprise, Ethiopia agreed with me from the start.  As Ashlynn hit the eight month mark, I was bursting with creative energy. Maybe it was the feeling that our family was finally complete after three children.  Or it was inspiration from living in Addis Ababa.  Maybe it was the baby fog lifting once and for all, or the amazing Ethiopian coffee that's fueling my life right now.  It could be a combination of being at the right place at the right time.  Probably, it's a little bit of all of those things.  But a part of me would like to think I've been working for this, little by little, without even realizing it for years now.  I'd also like to think it's a bit of a reward for being so committed solely to my role as a mother for five solid years of my life.  Whatever it is, I'm enjoying it.  No, really, I'm having a blast working.

Additional thoughts-A huge amount of gratitude goes out to my amazingly supportive husband who takes me (convinces me) to live in fascinating places around the world with him.  He works his tail off so I can be a mom and stay at home and be creative. I am immensely thankful for him.  We're a great team and I couldn't do any of this without him.


The Gunning Family said...

You are an impressive young woman! So happy for all of you and the exciting things happening in your lives!

Emily said...

This makes me so happy for you!

Nomads By Nature said...

This is uplifting - not only with the photography work you do, but the happiness you bring others including your girls. You exude happy! And those cupcakes look really really yummy. Seriously yummy.

dwharlow said...

Wow Sara! I just popped over to your blog after "running" into you on facebook comments of a mutual friend. Congrats on the success of your business and photography project. Your energy and drive is so inspiring!

Bfiles said...

congratulations Sara! Wow, I used to wonder how you did it with 3 kids...then with Ladytroupe you have added another amazing job. You are an inspiration. I wish you could bottle your energy and send me some!

Heather P. said...

Congratulations dear friend! I am so excited for this new creative venture for you. What a perfect fit, doing things you love. I wish you the best!

Sara said...

Everyone's excitement for me is so nice and maybe a little too much for me to take in. Thank you so much for all these wonderful words of encouragement. I have no idea what the future holds for me but for right now I'm happy. I hope the same for every single one of you!

Emily Joy said...

Sis- I am so stinking proud of you!!! You are anamazing mom, photograher, and caterer! I wish i could be there to enjoy it first-hand, i am excited to see where are your effort and talent takes you! Love you!

Sadie said...

How fortunate you are to be able to combine all your loves into quality work and home lives! It's rare, and you make it look easy (though I know it isn't!).

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