Category Archives: Photography

The Vintage Beaded Sweater Made in Hong Kong

This cashmere beaded sweater came from Hong Kong in the 1950s – my dad bought it for my mother on their honeymoon.

I have a beautiful vintage beaded sweater that belonged to my mother.  She gave it to me many years ago when she was going through some old clothes and I tucked it away to preserve it.  It was already showing signs of age and I didn’t want it to get worse, so I bought a good garment bag and stored it in my guest room closet.

This week I was at my favorite thrift store and was about to leave when I made one more pass through the jacket section.  That’s when I spotted it…an off-white colored beaded sweater with a Hong Kong label.  It was gorgeous and in incredible shape and only $4.99…and as I picked it off the rack, that’s when all the memories rushed back to me about the beaded sweater from my mother.

After my parents got married in Cambodia, they went to Hong Kong for their honeymoon.  My dad was always insistent about buying quality items.  I remember one Christmas when I was in high school, I wanted a small stereo and I knew money was tight so found one at a discount place for about $50 and showed it to my mother.  When Christmas rolled around, I didn’t get that discount place stereo.  Instead, my dad went and bought a Magnavox stereo complete with stand and headphones!  I had that stereo for years too.  So I can just imagine my dad in Hong Kong with his new bride making sure it was a memorable experience.  I think this is when he bought mom two beaded sweaters…one in black and one in off-white.  Both were cashmere and both were stunning!  I remember as a little girl putting them on and they were – still are – quite heavy!  The detail in the beads was always amazing to me.  I could not imagine the time it took to create these masterpieces and I would turn it over and over admiring the detail of the beaded design.

These sweaters symbolized glamour to me.  When I tell people about my parents, where and how they met in Bangkok, and then tell them about their wedding in Cambodia, people always comment on how exotic and exciting their lives sounded.  Growing up I loved looking at my dad’s photos of their time in Cambodia and Thailand and also the photos he took of my mother. before all us kids came along.  I especially loved the photos of mom all dressed up for nights out with dad.  My mother had the glamour factor going for her big time in my little girl eyes.  She would wear her blonde hair up in a French twist and dress up in one of her hand-made (to fit her figure) Thai silk dresses or suits.  She would then add her favorite black peau de soie spike heels and on cooler nights out, she would add one of the beaded sweaters.  She looked like Grace Kelly to me.

I know my dad probably took many pictures of my mother wearing these beaded sweaters but I’ve only come across one in the slides that I’ve scanned and archived.  In this photo, mom is at a dinner party in Puerto Rico in the mid-1960s wearing a blue Thai silk dress, the peau de soie shoes I mentioned, and the black beaded sweater.  There is also a photo of mom and her best friend Gladys and another woman (not sure who she is) before they left for the party.  The more I looked at that photo the more I think Gladys is wearing the off-white sweater!  The photo is a little overexposed and while I worked on it to see if I could identify the sweater, I wasn’t able to say for sure.  Still…mom and Gladys were very close and don’t girlfriends share clothes at times?  I’m going with the idea that Gladys IS wearing the sweater.

It’s funny how a piece of clothing can bring back such memories.  I need to talk to my mother about these sweaters again.  We’ve talked before but I need a refresher and I always love watching her face when she reminisces about these early years.  Meanwhile…I’m still on the hunt for a photo of mom in the off-white sweater!

 

 

 

Remembering Easter 2008

Easter 2008 Mimi’s swing photo – this year including Ryan and Lucy!

Easter is meant to be a symbol of hope, renewal, and new life.  Janine di Giovanni

This week I’ve been putting our family’s Easter plans together.  We’ll have lunch at our house on Sunday afternoon, so family members have all been notified about what time to arrive for our traditional Easter spread.  The “big cookie cake” has been ordered as well as the Honeybaked ham.  The dining room table and buffet have been decorated in bright spring colors and on Saturday Eddie and I will try to clean off the deck from all the pollen and other spring “gifts” the trees are sharing this week!

I don’t know what made me look back on photos from past Odom family gatherings.  I was thinking about the Easter egg hunts we used to have with all three of my kids in the house.  Charlie, Anna Marie and Emily would all start at the top of their stairs with a basket and when Eddie and I would give the signal, they’d come running down to see how many eggs they could find that had been hidden in the house the night before.  Every year, we’d find a candy filled egg or two that wasn’t discovered during the hunt a few weeks later.  And every year, Emily would be the one who would win with the most found eggs.

But for some reason, I opened up the 2008 Easter gallery and as I looked through the photos I was filled with so many emotions.  Little did I know what types of stories I was photographing that day only to discover them all these years later.  If memory serves me correctly, it was our last Easter at my in-laws home in Jasper.  The year before, my father-in-law, Glen Odom, passed away in March.  Eddie and his brothers were working on getting their mother, Johnnie, into a newer house with less property to manage.  Most of the photos I took that day revolved around a game of touch football in the backyard that the “kids” were playing.  They first did this at Thanksgiving a few months earlier and wanted to recreate the fun they had that day.  These photographs prove they did just that!

My now son-in-law, Ryan, was with us that Easter.  I think it was his first time to spend a holiday with us in Jasper and the first time to be included in the traditional Odom grandkids swing photo.  My pup, Lucy was also with us that day too!  We had just gotten her and at this point she was only about 6 months old and looked like a fuzzy house slipper!  She was so fluffy!  It was fun to see her in all her fluff and I had honestly forgotten she went with us that year!  It was also her first time to meet the family, including Rhonda, my sister-in-law, and her dog, Bentley.  Lucy and Bentley would have a love-hate relationship for years to come.  Mainly, Bentley hated Lucy to chase him around the house but she did it anyway!

We celebrated two birthdays that day too.  My son, Charlie turned 19 and Rhonda’s grandson, Jonathan, turned 12, if I’m counting the candles on his cake correctly!  My mother is standing behind Charlie in a few of the photos and she looks so happy.  Her hair was finally getting thicker after having lost it due to chemotherapy the year before.  Easter 2008 marked one year since she had been diagnosed with breast cancer reminding me how fragile life can be.

It’s ten years later now and if this trip back through my family photos has taught me anything today, it’s that I need to take even more photos when the family is together.  For instance, I regret that I didn’t get a photo of my mother-in-law that Easter.  She’s in a couple of photos from a distance but I don’t have anything close up that day.  I also wish I had asked my husband to take a few photos of me with both my sisters-in-law that day.   Looking back on these photos, I see opportunities that I missed but I also see what I was able to capture too.  In the photo of Rhonda holding Lucy, my sister-in-law has her head thrown back and is laughing.  I can actually hear her laugh when I see this photo!  Ten years isn’t that long ago but in this short time, we’ve lost several family members from these photos…Johnnie, Rhonda, my nephew, Aaron, and just recently, Bentley.

These photographs remind me of our family story.  They also tell me that our family story will continue.  It will have highs and lows, good times and not so good times.  Through it all…we will come together each Easter for our own hope and renewal.  And we will remember every family member and keep their stories with us.

Happy Easter from my family to yours…

 

 

 

Spirits of Thanksvings Past

Thanksgiving 2012 – Odom Family photo

This time of year, I do a lot of reminiscing and looking at old photographs.  Thanksgiving has always been “the” holiday in our family – both Zuniga and Odom.  When my dad, Aunt Gail, and grandmother were still alive, we always had Thanksgiving on the actual day at my house.  And we would have the Odom family Thanksgiving in Jasper the Sunday before.  Soon, we were having our gathering on the actual day in Jasper.

One of the things that remained constant for many years was the annual family photo on the Odom family swing.  We have been taking a grand-kids photos for years on the swing but we really didn’t start taking a family photo until 2006.  My niece, Kate became our “family photographer” for these photos and we used these photos for our Christmas card too.  We were pretty consistent with this for many years until we switched to Christmas in 2015-2016.  But for this Thanksgiving, I thought an Odom Family pictorial over the years was in order.  Meanwhile, I always like to encourage everyone to take photos so you can reflect back on these times later in life.  I’m finding time goes by very quickly and these photos and memories are so priceless.

Here are our photos over the years…beginning with 2006.  We were all seated on the family swing and Allen and Rhonda’s dog, Ozzie decided he wanted to get into the picture!

In 2007 – Our 2007 photo was taken after a major family football game in my in-law’s backyard!  I’m surprised we were all so put together after all that!  Then in 2008, everyone sympathized with Anna Marie by puffing up their cheeks.  She had her wisdom teeth taken out a day earlier and was a bit swollen!  We didn’t use any of these photos for our family photo, of course, but she was a good sport and posed for photos regardless of how big her cheeks were that year!

I couldn’t locate the photo from 2009.  But here are the ones from 2010 and 2011.  We included Lucy in the 2010 photo.

Here are the photos fro 2012 and 2013.  In 2013, we hosted Thanksgiving in Hoover so we took the photo on our deck.

In 2014, we took our last family photo on the Jasper swing.  After that, we had to change to taking the photo after decorating the Christmas tree at our house in order to have everyone together.  I’m sure this will continue to change over the years but if we can manage one family photo together a year, I’ll be happy!

Nov 2014 – last family photo on the swing in Jasper at Thanksgiving

 

 

Odom Thanksgiving at Kate and David’s House!

The Big Thanksgiving Cookie – it’s a family tradition!

 The Big Thanksgiving Cookie – it’s a family tradition!Thanksgiving doesn’t officially happen until November 23rd, but this year the Odom family had the gathering a little earlier than usual.  As all of our kids get older and everyone moves out of the general Birmingham/Jasper area, we are getting creative with how we celebrate and where!

Kate and David outside their new home in Athens, AL!

This year, my niece Kate and her husband David wanted to host the family at their new home in Athens, Alabama.  Kate and I kept in touch the week of the gathering via text message down to Kate making sure we had pumpkin pie covered for my daughter Emily.  (I thought it was so sweet that Kate remembered how much her cousin loves pumpkin pie!)  Their home is beautiful and there was plenty of space for everyone to spread out and enjoy each other’s company.  But you know where everyone gathered, right?  Yep…the kitchen!  I told Kate that they have the same situation we have at our house…the end of the island is right in front of the refrigerator and that’s where everyone wants to stand!  Of course, I said this as I was standing there opening a bottle of wine!!

Everyone was able to be there this year except for my daughter Anna Marie and her hubby Ryan.  They were in town last weekend from Colorado for a family wedding so couldn’t return again this weekend.  We were also missing my nephew Dustin and his daughter Maddie.  They always make the gathering more lively!  We missed them all.  But we are working on a cousin reunion in December when everyone is back in town so stay tuned!

Our gathering was just what this family needed…great food, great wine (thank you Perry’s Steakhouse!), the tradition of our Thankful Tree, group photos and of course, the big cookie!  I didn’t take as many photos as I normally do…surprise…but here are several I took throughout the day.  Happy “early” Thanksgiving, everyone!

 

 

 

Black and White Photo Challenge

You’ve probably seen the black and white photo challenge on Facebook these past few weeks.  You get tagged, you post one black and white photo a day for seven days, they can’t be of people and you can’t describe the photo (“no words”) – and you tag someone else to challenge.

I got tagged a week ago and decided it would be a good time to go through some of my photographs.  To say I take a lot of photos would be an understatement!  I used to think my dad was nuts when he would use up an entire roll of film on a single flower.  Now I get it!  And with digital photography now…gosh…just keep snapping away until you get the image you are looking for!

The challenge made me remember what it was like to take photos with film.  I remember buying black and white film at times to experiment.  I always loved the effect and the detail of the photos when I would have them developed.  And speaking of getting photos “developed,” it was always interesting to see what the final result would turn out to be when you picked them up from Walmart or Walgreens.  For the most part, you just never knew!  My dad took so many photos from the time he moved to Bangkok, Thailand for his work and bought his Leica camera.  This was around the time he met my mom.  Going through his photos and slides is always such a treasure to me.  It’s like seeing the world through his eyes at that point in time.

These days photo editing lets us take color photos and turn them into black and white, or sepia or other artsy variations.  The photos I used in the black and white challenge all started out in color but I used my Camera+ app to convert them and get them just right.  I am still amazed at the detail that comes through with the conversion.

Here are the photos I used in the challenge, only this time I’m breaking the rules and telling a little more about them!

Day One – Taken at a winery in January 2010.  This was our 25th anniversary trip to Napa and the wineries were pretty empty as the holiday and new year’s rush was over.  We received tons of extra attention from the wineries since they weren’t getting a lot of traffic.  I loved the way the wine barrels were lined up at this particular winery and the lighting was just perfect in this cave where they were all stashed.

Day One – Black and White Photo Challenge

Day Two – My husband and I visited Ft. Worth, Texas earlier this year and visited the Stockyards.  We heard about the daily walk of The Herd and positioned ourselves directly in front of where the herd made their turn.  We couldn’t believe the horns of these magnificent creatures!  It felt like this one was looking right at me and saying “take the picture already!”

Day Two – Black and White Photo Challenge

Day Three – This is a portion of the Four Little Girls monument called “Four Spirits” on the corner and across the street from the 16th Street Baptist Church.  It was unveiled in September 2013 and received a lot of traffic.  Everyday leaving work, I would pass it and see all the people taking pictures and paying respects to the four little girls who were killed when the church was bombed in 1963.  One evening I left work early and spotted the monument virtually empty.  Fortunately, I had my camera with me and pulled right up and was able to take a number of photos including this one.

Day 3 – Black and White Photo Challenge

Day Four – In 2011, I was attending a conference in Washington, DC.  My colleagues and I were able to take some time to tour a little and it was unanimous that we wanted to go to Arlington Cemetery.  Seeing all the white tombstones stretching across all the hillsides was a sobering sight.  Everyone in our group was silent but emotion was visible on all of our faces.  Converting this photo to black and white, I believe, shows this emotion.

Day Four – Black and White Photo Challenge

Day Five – This was taken on a very cold day after a little snow in Alabama.  The birds were going nuts in our backyard and flying all over the trees most likely in search for food.  Our bird feeder was empty so I’m sure this was their way of telling us to get it filled again!  This little guy decided to pose for my camera despite all the flying and chirping going on!

Day Five – Black and White Photo Challenge

Day Six – For our 24th anniversary trip in 2010, Eddie and I went to Callaway Gardens for the weekend.  We toured the beautiful grounds one day and found this beautiful chapel – the Ida Cason Callaway Memorial Chapel.  What I love most about this photo is the reflection of the chapel in the water.  Such a beautiful place!

Day Six – Black and White Photo Challenge

Day Seven – My last photo is of my favorite subject…my puppy, Lucy!  Lucy loves the snow and this was photo was taken on our back deck where she was frolicking and trying to eat the snow.  I think the coldness of the snow makes her frisky!  This is one of my favorite photos of her too with the snow falling on her black ears and one caught in flight right in front of her left eye.

Day Seven – Black and White Photo Challenge

If you like photography, I would encourage you to take a few photos and convert them to black and white.  Then, compare the color and B&W photos side by side and notice the difference in detail and dimension.  This black and white photo challenge was just what I needed to take a critical look at my photography.

Happy Fall Y’all!

My first picture of my favorite tree this year…still a little green but beginning its fall color show.

It’s finally fall!  This morning while I was walking my pup Lucy, it was a cool 50 degrees, sunny and the wind would blow just ever so slightly.  A few times, while we were walking the leaves would fall off the tree and float by us.  Listening to the wind and the rustle of the leaves was so calming.

It’s been a little rainy and dreary these past few weeks.  Around the end of October, I always start to watch my favorite tree in my neighborhood.  I wrote about it last year in a post called,  My Favorite Tree.  It’s just such a gorgeous tree and when the leaves start changing, they change quickly and then before you know it, they’re gone.

Two weeks ago, I noticed a spot on the top of the tree that was beginning to turn orange.  I knew the tree would begin its color change soon.  This past week, I began taking a photo of the tree everyday as I left my neighborhood.  The first day was a brilliantly blue and sunny day, much like last year when I photographed the tree.  I stopped my car just across the street and took my first photo of the tree this year.

Over the next three days, the colors kept changing against a gray sky.  We had some rain and wind so I began seeing more and more leaves falling and covering the ground below the tree like a gold blanket.  I was so hoping the tree would be able to turn completely orange and gold before the leaves began falling.  But still…this tree is beautiful to me no matter what stage it is in.

Today, I was coming home from running errands around 4 p.m.  The sun was starting to set  and was catching the gold and yellow of the tree as I drove up.  I stopped briefly to capture one final photo this year.  I know in the next few days, all the leaves will fall and the tree will settle in for a long winter’s nap.

Today’s photo of the tree – it has already lost most of the leaves from the back side. In a few days, it will be bare.

Whispers from the Past – A Native American Experience

Whispers from the Past – October 2017

There is an event called Whispers from the Past that takes place each fall at Aldridge Gardens in Hoover.  I’ve always wanted to go but for some reason or another, I’ve never made it.  This year I was determined to go and I knew my mother would love it so we made plans to go.  The event is designed to provide attendees with an accurate portrayal of the lives – both past and present – of Native Americans in the Southeast.  There are approximately 530 different tribes in the US, each with its own customs and language.  That day we were just hitting upon a handful and the event  definitely lived up to its educational purpose.

We arrived just in time for the first dance demonstration – the Native American Pow Wow dancers.  As the dancers prepared their beautiful regalia, we listened to Alex Alvarez as he introduced each dance.  We learned that Pow Wows are the Native American people’s way of gathering in dance, song and friendship.  He went into great detail about the regalia, the significance of all the regalia, the reason for the dance and also a little information about each dancer who had traveled from all over the Southeast to participate in the event.

One dancer in particular, a young woman, wore a dress with metal cones that jingled when she walked and danced.  Alex explained that this was a healing dance and that there were several versions of a story involving a dream where the dress to be worn along with the dance and song to be performed appeared to a person.  Instructions on how the dance and costume would be used were spelled out in the dream.

The dance with the men wearing the bustles was incredible!  I think the back of the clothing in this instance was more striking than the front.  The dance signified the retelling of stories of the hunt to their tribe.  The beaded moccasins were adorned with fur from Icelandic sheep.  Alex mentioned that when a Native American wears something from an animal they are asking for that trait to reflect upon them.  The bone bead breastplates were worn to keep arrows from piercing their chests and the head-piece was made from porcupine.

There were several other dances and I hate that I lost track of their significance.  Taking notes while photographing was a little difficult! That’s why I let my photos tell the stories at times.  This is one of those times!

This was a very kid-friendly event with activities galore!  One that mom and I found very beautiful was leaf pounding….and it’s just what it sounds like!  We walked around the back of the Aldridge Gardens house and there were people placing leaves between two strips of white cotton fabric and pounding the leafs with a rock to make the transfer.  Some of the designs were really beautiful too!  Mom and I picked up the instructions and decided to try this at home.

Other families were making dream catchers together.  These are so iconic when you think of Native Americans.  We thought about making one ourselves but then mom spotted artist Jim “White Cloud” Hill doing a sage cleansing on someone and she was intrigued!  We walked around after watching a cleansing but she kept mentioning it so we went back so she could experience this.

The use of smoke is not uncommon in religion.  For Catholics, incense is used during mass and it is also used by Buddhist and others.  To many people it can symbolize spirituality.  For Native Americans,  the cleansing is done using a large feather to fan the smoke in order to rid the person from any negative energy and help with healing.  I could tell this ritual was having quite a positive effect on my  mother as I watched this play out.  She smiled sweetly as she followed Mr. Hill’s instructions during the process.  Afterward, he gave her a hug and maybe it was my imagination, but she appeared “lighter.”

Mom and I learned a lot that day at Aldridge Gardens.  It left us wanting to know more and I hope we can find other ways to learn about Native American culture in Alabama.  I know there are opportunities…