Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Ham and Cheddar Potato Chowder

Recently a friend of mine brought it to my attention that maybe I should combine my love of photography with my love of cooking.... I believe all art forms go hand in hand, so I figured I'd share my first recipe...

Ham and Cheddar Potato Chowder

3 tablespoons margarine or butter
3 medium-sized carrots, peeled and sliced
3 celery stalks, including ones with leaves, chopped
1 medium-sized onion, chopped
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
Salt and Pepper for taste
3 cups ham stock or 3 cups chicken broth
2 cups milk
4 medium sized white potatoes peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1lb. left over ham (on the bone) (or 1lb. diced ham in thick slices)

Pre Prep. Hambone by placing in a large pot and cover with water.... Allow to simmer on med. heat for approx. an hour... Allow ham to cool and pull remaining meat off bone discarding fat and bone fragments... (Usually renders about a pound of ham)...  Save 3 cups of stock from the pot. Make sure to save any remaining meat left over from the boil in the pot. 

In a 3-quart pot over medium heat, melt butter. Add carrots, celery and onion; Cook until tender and onions are transparent for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in flour, and allow it to brown lightly combining with the butter and vegetable mixture. Creating a roux... Gradually add milk, Ham stock (or chicken stock), ham pieces, dry mustard, celery salt, dill weed, and potatoes. Continue to stir occasionally. 
Bring to a boil over high heat; and then reduce heat to low... Cover and simmer for approx. 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender. 

Remove from heat, add shredded cheese and stir till melted. Garnish with additional dill, shredded cheddar, and celery leaves. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot with a baguette of crusty bread. 

Makes 6 servings. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Tragedy brings awareness to rare disease.

December 14th was one of the most difficult days in my life. Watching the news unfold a story not far from where I live, a story of tragedy and chaos where 26 innocent lives were lost. 20 of those victims, young children, in school. The remainder of the victims were teachers shielding their young students.  I watched, I cried, I begged to find some kind of peace in the days, weeks, and months to follow. 

I was not the only one that felt compelled to do something, do something that made the pain go away for even the slightest moment. 

When I come across a post from a fellow photographer and her challenge to other photographers... "The Olivia Act" was being formed... The Olivia Act is a movement created by a photographer in honor of both her daughter and one of the children lost in the Newtown tragedy on December 14th. Olivia Engels family had family photos done shortly before Olivia was killed... What a blessing those photos are for them now... Many people don't have that opportunity to get beautiful photos of their family, so I called out for families that were deserving of such a gift to give back in honor of Olivia and the rest of the angels taken that devastating day.. 

I received an overwhelming response from people and their nominations. One of which received 3 nominations and I felt was deserving of the gift of beautiful photographs to cherish. 

That family is the Grecco family. Mother Nicole, and her husband Dan have 3 beautiful daughters, Amanda, Briana, Haley, and one very smiley, happy, and flirty little boy named Daniel.

Daniel was born like any other delivery and was thought all was well until about 6 months of age. He started to show signs that something was wrong. He was unable to hold his head up, sit up, crawl or start to speak like a normal child. At that point, Nicole and Dan decided to contact a neurologist and find answers.
The first diagnosis was Cerebral Palsy. They were devastated to think that something happened that they didn’t see in delivery but by the time Daniel turned 2 he began to bite his fingers uncontrollably all the way to bone. 
The family would try to stop him but every time they would walk away from him for a second, he would bite again and again. They went back to the neurologist after looking up child biting online and had him tested for Lesch-Nyhan syndrome. He also needed to receive arm braces to stop his hands from entering his mouth. Shortly after his test, they found he in fact had Lesch-Nyhan.
Lesch-Nyhan is a rare genetic condition that affects male children at a very young age. The first sign of Lesch-Nyhan is an orange crystal like substance in the diaper (which Daniel had but even the doctors didn’t know what it was at the time being a rare condition) Children with this syndrome get kidney stones, they cannot control their muscles, and they develop an irresistible urge of self mutilation. Because Lesch-Nyhan is so rare, it can be difficult to find a care provider and insurance coverage for their therapy needs and positioning equipment. Lesch-Nyhan affects approximately 1 in 380,00 children.
Genetic testing is the only way to diagnose Lesch-Nyhan. Most people have the gene passed on from generation to generation but their case was different. When Nicole was born, her cells changed which made her the first case in the family to start the hereditary trend. Because of that all of the girls need to be tested to see if they carry this gene. They have a 50/50 chance.

Lesch-Nyhan has taken control of their lives. Taken away precious time with their girls since Daniel needs constant care. Thankfully they have raised some amazing girls that instead of complaining, they help every chance they get! 
They are so very proud of them. Daniel receives lots of love and attention since a child with Lesch-Nyhan’s life span is unknown. With the self hurt, they don’t know how long they have with him but try every day to keep it together and give him the happiest life and all the love he can get for as long as they can for he is their hero! 
"He has made his mark on this world, he has touched so many people and he amazes us with all his accomplishments that some say he will never do…because he can do it!"
What a pleasure it was to be with this loving and supportive family. All four of the Grecco children were wonderful to work with, and the love Nicole and Dan have for each other and their family glows from them. 

 A huge thank you to the wonderful friends and family that nominated the Grecco's to be part of my Olivia Act movement. 

"On behalf of our son Daniel Grecco Jr. we would like to thank Kym Zwick and The Olivia Act for giving our family the photo shoot of a lifetime! We have thought about having them done in the past but with the expense, it has been impossible for us. We would also like to thank our family and friends that nominated us for this wonderful experience!" 
-Nicole Grecco

For more information on "The Olivia Act" please visit http://theoliviaact.blogspot.com/

And to learn more about Lesch-Nyhan Please visit http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/lesch-nyhan-syndrome

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A daughters love for her mother.... and a story to change your life..

April 11th 2013

My day started as any average Thursday. Woke up at 5:30am. Poured a cup of my favorite french roast, fired up the Mac and began my day. Never would I think this day would change me, as a person, as an artist, as a friend, as a daughter....   

As most people on Social Media, I love reading my messages and catching up with the overnight drama that was posted... Guilty pleasure, I know, but I do enjoy saying good morning to my "friends"... 

When I randomly received a friend request, from someone I did not know, have never met, or spoke to... I assumed it was a fellow photographer with questions or someone that has seen my work from afar, so I accepted it... Never did I think this person would change me... 

As I went on with my day, one by one checking off the many tasks of the day. I remembered I had to start preparing for Mother's Day Photo shoots... This time, I had something new in mind... Contemporary Glamour, surely a Mother would love to receive this!! So, like any other good facebook addict, I did a shout out... I did not know, I would meet a new friend... 

Shortly after I posted my request I received a private message from my earlier friend request... 

"Hi Kym- I'm not sure how you ended up in my timeline but I'm glad you did/ I feel as though you were meant to. I saw your post about mother and daughters. I am 33 and my mom is 63 and she is my best friend. Her inner beauty just shines straight through. I know you would be happy and excited to photo her. Not sure where you are in CT. but if you're interested in us, I'd love some beautiful pictures of me and my mom. Thanks Kym and thanks for the beautiful images you capture so amazingly!"

Something Just told me, In my gut, this was special... How many daughters would respond so quickly about having images of her and her mom?? She doesn't know where I am, or what I cost, she doesn't know me, heck she never spoke to me... 
So, I tell her, call me... 

As soon as I got on the phone with this girl I knew why I had to photograph her and her mom... She spoke so lovingly, and sweet about her... She loved her so much it brought tears to my eyes... Literally brought tears to my eyes during our conversation... 

April 16th, was the day for their session... When they walked in, I instantly felt comfortable, as if I've known them forever... I wanted "The Story" but that wasn't the time, it was time to take gorgeous images of them to cherish forever... While looking at the images, I saw a story... A DEEP story, being told in their eyes... A story of love, strength, unbelievable will and courage. A friendship between Mother and Daughter that you don't see everyday... They moved together like life long best friends with stories lingering in their eyes... 

I've since finished those images and cried like a baby just viewing them... When I asked my new friend what "The Story" was... Then it all made sense... Here is her story.....

My mom and I have always been close, but what made us even closer were our scars. We are just the everyday kind of women- we aren’t supermodels and have the stretch marks to prove it, but we love what we do. We work hard and love our families endlessly.

What made us closer is definitely not the “average” story though…

In March of 2012 my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. She immediately had a lumpectomy and began intense radiation treatment soon after. This was heartbreaking for my family because we had been through the pain of cancer once before. 

In June of 2005 at my son’s 1 year routine checkup, our Dr. gave me the news that I had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The lumps in my neck that were biopsied were not just swollen glands. The cancer had spread to my chest and after a portacath was placed near my
shoulder with a tube running through a vein directly into my heart, I began 7 months of chemotherapy. After a few rounds of chemo, I started to lose my hair and felt as though I had lost my identity at the same time; there was too much change and heartache all at
once. In October of 2012, after my pet scan, we found out that the chemo did the trick and I was in remission.

When my mom was diagnosed however, I always wanted to think ahead and be ready for the next step because I didn’t want her to think about it- I didn’t want her to worry.

Before we knew that she wasn’t going to lose her hair, I had done some research and was going to have my long hair made into a wig for her. She always said that she wasgoing to “rock the eye makeup” if she was going to lose her hair, but I knew what it was like, and I wanted her to be prepared to feel the way I did. Luckily she did not lose her
hair, but I did end up donating 12 inches to “Locks of Love” to “pay it forward.”

Hearing that my mom had cancer was very traumatic for me- I never wanted to have her feel sick and weak as I did- I wanted her to live for such a long time and watch my two children grow up and be around to hold her newest grandchild. You see, I found out almost to the day that my mom was diagnosed with cancer, that I was pregnant with our third child. We all saw my pregnancy as something to “get us through” the next couple of months of my mom’s treatment and day to day happenings. To be honest, it did- it made people hopeful.

My mother finished radiation in mid August. After daily radiation therapy in the morning, she would drive to work her normal 12 hour shift in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) at CCMC (Connecticut Children’s Medical Center). To this day, I don’t know how she did it, but her strength wouldn’t get her down. She carried on and pushed herself because that is what she knew. She doesn’t know how to “give up”. About 2 weeks after the good news, that my mom’s radiation treatments seemed to work, our son was born. His due date was December 19th, 2012. On August 31st, 2012, our son Calder was delivered via emergency c-section at only 24 weeks along. Having a NICU nurse as a mother, I knew this wasn’t good. She came to our side when we needed her most and was at the hospital to help my husband and I understand what was happening to our son. She was there to watch her only daughter and son-in-law hold their newborn son as he died in their arms- only 37 hours after hearing him cry at his birth.

My mom still goes to work in the NICU at CCMC and still brings her passion for helping those babies and families when they need a friendly face the most. She is truly a blessing to everyone she meets.

As for me, with all this hurt that I have felt, I knew I needed to do something more with my life- realizing how fragile life is, I needed to make a change- I needed to make a difference. For the first time, I was listening to the universe as it was telling me that I could do more. I took a leave from an 8 year tenured teaching career to become the first Program Director at The Hygeia Foundation. The Hygeia Foundation comforts and supports those who grieve the loss of a pregnancy or infant. In addition, we strive to improve awareness of the impact of pregnancy and infant loss on families. (www.hygeiafoundation.org)
This job was meant for me- I was meant for this job. It is hard, I am not going to lie, but the feeling at the end of the day when I look back and see the difference I have made or the difference I am striving to make, is immeasurable. It was a giant leap to take, but I honor my son; I honor Calder with every life I touch.

I cannot hold him, I cannot kiss him, I can only dream of him and know that someday he will be in my arms again. The only thing I can do is honor him and make society aware that this happens. Mothers lose their babies more than we know. It is a terrible thing to think about which is why it is not spoken of, but we NEED to talk about our babies- we need to hear their names.

Some may think that Calder helped us all get through my mom’s cancer diagnoses,some may think that he led me to where I am now at Hygeia or helping me get on my way to become a professional bereavement counselor; the truth is, we may never know what Calder’s purpose was. All we can do is appreciate every second of our time here, learn to love deeper and strive to be amazing. My mother has taught me all of these things. She is that soul on this earth that loves endlessly and only knows how to be amazing- even when she doesn’t think she is. I am lucky to call her my mom and I’m lucky to have her here......  with me.

There are days as a photographer, where I doubt myself... There are times I wallow over the demands of being a small business owner... But then, there are people like this, that magically make it into my life... That change it with their stories, and I can capture that twinkle in their eye that brings me so much joy.. I'm doing what I'm meant to do, I'm following the path I'm supposed to travel... Its amazing people like these, and many many others, that confirms I'm closer to god through my lens... Melissa and Kathy, you're such beautiful women, and I'm so blessed to call you my friends.. Here's to the beginning of a long friendship... <3
Happy Mother's Day.. xoxo

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Saturday morning peace....

The clock says 5:54am... I've been up for an hour already, and while most people are asleep, I want to begin my day...

My life is pretty exciting, and while I've never been much of a sleeper, I look forward to everyday I wake up to start something new... I'm not so sure there are others so passionate about their jobs where they naturally wake up at 5am and start blogging on a Saturday morning... Yes, there is something wrong with me... lol..

The reason I do this, is because I like to let my clients, friends, and family get to know the passionate Kym that consumes this career and all it brings to me... I'm like a kid on Christmas morning...

Desperately combing through the internet for inspiration for a shoot I have later today... I know nothing ever goes planned, but I still search through numerous pictures for something I may be able to capture... A pose, a look, that someone else was thrilled to share... And I wonder, did that photographer look at other photographers work to get the inspiration to capture it?? Probably not... Well, they probably did, but it didn't turn out the way they originally envisioned it, but created something new... Thats whats funny about photography, you can try to recreate something, but it rarely goes as planned because people have different personalities, and you bring those out individually...

Every photo is like a broken mold of a moment you'll never get back... Really cool if you ask me... (I'm thinking I really love that little quote I just made up.. :))

So, as I sit here with my morning coffee, planning the day, most are still in bed and don't want to get up... lol.. But I welcome the morning of peace where I can get my creativity flowing.... I suggest everyone do that everyday.... (But it isn't necessary to get up so early to do it)...

So on behalf of myself and my French Roast Light and Sweet... Good morning, enjoy your day, and remember to take it all in!!!!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

So many colors...

I recently viewed a Youtube video which was made up of a compilation of female photographers whom were given a task of describing themselves in one word of which was written down on a single piece of white paper... As it scrolled through the many beautiful woman in their daily lifestyles, I watched as they described themselves as a "mother" an "athlete" a "Cook" a "friend".... I began to think of myself, and what words I would describe myself as... I call them my "colors"... Its something I look at in every single person I meet, and I challenge myself to dig deep and find those many colors people bring to me...

Some people possess qualities that I do have, and others I don't, but also ones I wish I could have... A large combination of similarities and some amount of envy....

Everyday, I feel as though a different color shows up... One day, I could be a cook, so thats how I'd describe myself, the next day after a great workout I'd call myself an athlete... If I had done that assignment, it would depend on what I was doing that day, and what color was shining bright... As I have so many, I'm sure the assignment would have left me frazzled and confused, which is yet another color :)... One color to describe myself?! How boring when I have so many!!!

My artistic mind over analyses everything, and when it comes to creativity, it must be different, it must stand out, it must scream and describe me and speak volumes... It would send me in a tailspin, desperately searching for the most powerful word to describe me completely... I guess some would say I've got too much time on my hands to search for the perfect word to describe my colors, but even if I were the ruler of the world, my creative mind finds this very meaningful and something I must do regardless of how big my to-do list was... Am I truly the only person in this world that would find this task mind boggling and endless??

 In the end, I've decided that since I simply cannot describe myself in one word, and my mind goes completely blank and over loaded, I've come to the conclusion that I'm not just one word, or one "color"... I'm colorful... :)

Saturday, January 7, 2012


Oh where do I find it?? Is it under this rock, nope, dirt... It it around the corner?? Nope, there is nothing there either... This time of the year, everything looks ugly... Theres no snow, not that I like the snow anyway.. Its cold, I can't feel my fingers, days are short and its always dark, there is no color but brown... The Holidays are over, so there goes the red and green... There is a reason there is a condition called "Seasonal Affective Disorder" (SAD) its depressing!!!! But is my life as a photographer over?? If I see no beauty are my "eyes" gone??

Not a chance....

I should have known this happens from time to time... As an artist, when I'd work on a drawing, I'd spend days non stop with non stop creativity flowing. My days flew, and everything I looked at were shades of light, angles, color, and flair... I wanted to draw everything!! I'd put the pencil or paintbrush in my hand and I'd work as if someone else took over my body and did it for me... But, just as the desire hit me with great abandon, it leaves just as quickly.... A mental writers cramp for the artist... poof.. its gone...

How do you get it back, especially when its your living?!

I know that if I had a few shoots, It would come back. I'd pour every bit of me into the shoot, and it would come out great. But January is a slow month for photographers, it isn't just myself, its all of them, and I'm pretty sure everyone of them have been battling this for the last few weeks as well.. Who wants to have pictures done with a bare brown backdrop, bundled up in big coats, my lens fogging up from the cold air, and seeing your breath... agh..

I desperately tried to get myself out of my funk by taking pictures indoors, of inspirational sayings and quotes... Didn't really work.. GET CREATIVE, DAMMIT!!!!

Until the other day, I had seen some work from a freelance street photographer... All black and white, with people going about their daily lives, and it touched me somehow... This woman collaborated 200,000 photos in her lifetime of all people she never knew, or spoke to... How'd she do that?? Just take pictures of people?? Surely now a days my camera would be thrown in the road by someone if I just randomly took pictures of them... People just don't welcome it..

I decided to try anyway...

I decided to take a little drive, with my camera around my neck, ready to take any shot of anything and everything I see different or unusual... I went around seeking normal things from an average day, trying to find the beauty in it... Hey, theres a guy standing there smoking a cigarette, should I take a picture of him?? No.. He'll see me and get mad... Hey, theres a farmer on his tractor picking up hay, should I?? Nope, I don't want to irritate anyone else on the road... Hey, there's a lady walking across the street, should I?? DO IT KYM!!! JUST DO IT!! ~snap~ Wow... this is pretty cool... its a simple task, yet different, I like the angles, it tells a story... Hey, lets drive here... Wow, look at that!! ~snap~ Oh, the clouds look great there ~snap~ I've never seen that before ~snap~ .....

Just as my creative drive went away, it came back... All from seeing normal everyday things, and stepping outside of my comfort zone...

This may not be the last of my artistic writers cramp, but its nice to see it isn't gone forever... Just sitting back and watching the beauty of everyday life... Seeing things a little more differently, and learning a little about yourself in the process...

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Happy Birthday wish to my sister....

Today is a special day for one of my favorite people... My sister Michelle... Today is her birthday, and I wanted to send a little note, for all to see.... My sister, the dreaded middle child, was always one that I looked up to... She was beautiful, smart, and talented... She always seemed to have a celebrity lifestyle in my eyes, always running with her many friends, active in school activities, going to parties, and spending time with her boyfriend... She's 8 years my elder, so to a young kid, I idolized her... She was perfect to me, and I was a little kid that was always finding my spot in this world... I always wanted her to be my friend, but through the young years, we barely spoke two words to each other in passing...

She was born Dec. 26th and was my Mothers Christmas baby... Born with a full head of jet black hair amongst two other blonde females, (my mother and my oldest sister)... Michelle was the spitting image of our dad... Tall, thin, and dark dark hair and it was only fitting she's be named "Michelle" named after my father "Michael".. When she was born, they noticed she didn't develop properly, and was born without hips.... She was put in a full body cast which she had to wear till she was 5... I've heard the countless stories of how my mother made her specialized clothing to go over this big bulky cast... She would not learn to walk until it was removed at the age of 5.. Because of her condition, she had to get a lot of attention, so, when I came a long a few years later, I'm not so sure she was open to sharing the spotlight, with me... When I was 5 my parents divorced, and my mom packed Michelle and I up and we moved to New York State... It seemed when we got there, she instantly had a new group of friends to occupy her time... But I do have many fond memories of our growing up together.... One of which was when she taught me how to ride a bike... I had training wheels for a while, and I remember a older neighborhood boy taking my bike from me, and breaking my training wheels off of them... I ran into the house crying, and thats when she decided, we didn't need them anymore... She took them off, brought me out to the road, and ran behind me with her hand holding my seat so I wouldn't fall over.. It took a few tries, and bumps and bruises, finally after a few times I was off on my own... All thanks to my sister that I adored, but seemed untouchable to me...

Michelle was rough growing up with at times... We joke at how she had a "Jan Brady" syndrome being the middle child... And literally the "black sheep" with that jet black hair... But she had something different about her... We knew she was off to great places, and I feared she would leave and forget me... Right after graduating highschool she moved to California with her boyfriend... My time living with her seemed shortlived, and I never had the chance to grow with her like I wanted to..

She came to visit sometimes, but always sent pictures of her lifestyle in Southern California... Going out with girlfriends that looked like super models, out to clubs, and really cool coffee houses, driving convertibles, and spending days at the beach... Again, to a young kid like myself, I looked up to her like she was a celebrity living it up in California.. My family and I went to visit when I was 15... She brought us to LA, and to the Beaches of SanDiego... giving the Northeastern family a taste of the good life...

She moved around a few times... Always from one touristy beach area to the next, and finally ending up in Tampa Florida... Thats where she met her husband Steve... We never met this guy, and suddenly we get a call one day... "Come to Florida, We're getting Married, Oh... And by the way, I'm pregnant"... Whoa!!!! We all packed in the car, and made the drive from Connecticut to Florida to be at the wedding...

My sisters wedding was insanely beautiful... Set in a oceanfront mansion that was owned by a friend of hers... Catered by a friend, with food I've never heard of... We stayed at her friends house in a gated community, with beautiful views, and everything we could ever want to be comfortable.. Michelle has always been a great hostess...

6 months later, she had my Niece, Bayli... Named after Tampa Bay... and spelled with an i specifically so she could dot it with a heart growing up... Bayli was given the middle name "walter" in memory of her grandfather on her dad's side... Michelle told me that because my middle name is "Michael" (named after my dad) that having a "boys" middle name was an honor, and since I grew up with it, and ended up fine, they wanted to pass that along.... Of course Bayli was born with a full head of Dark Brown hair... lol..

Up until a few years ago, my sister and I never really spoke much... I didn't really get to know her... The day that changed all that, was a few days following the death of our father.... Because I was the baby, BOTH my sisters felt the need to protect me... And after an incident involving one of my fathers neighbors not showing the most sensitivity to us about our fathers death... I was visibly affected by it... It was my sister Michelle that approached this woman, and let her have it... She stood up for me, and protected me against this woman's comments.... From that day, I knew both my sisters loved me, and will always protect me...

After all of that, Michelle and I suddenly developed a bond... I actually missed her, and flew down to Florida almost once a year to spend a few days to be with her.... In those times, where I've traveled, we became friends... We laughed a lot, we cried a lot, we shared a lot, and we both grew a lot. We hung out like friends, having lunch on the beach, and meeting with her friends at a few local hotspots... Most importantly we grew to realize, how much alike we were in so many ways... She shared to me that she misses our family, and we both missed the times we were not around...

We speak almost once a week, and whenever she is out on the town, she will frequent a few of our favorite spots we go to when we visit.. She always makes sure to request the band to play a few Dave Matthews songs for me... So on some random Friday nights, I'll have an voicemail on my phone with the familiar voice saying "Kym, I'm having them play your song... I miss you... I love you... Michelle... "