This week’s highlighted business couldn’t be more appropriate for shining the lens of The Camera’s Eye!
Local Utopia, located at 32 Lake St in the downtown, historic Owego Marketplace embodies the concept of LOCAL. Liz Skovira, moved back to her hometown of Owego after being displaced from her NYC job during Covid. Inspiration struck while binge watching Schitt’s Creek with her mom during quarantine. She wanted to create a store that could highlight smaller, local businesses that don’t have brick and mortar shops… and that is exactly what she did!
Filled with well over 90% local, hand-made products, Liz’s gift shop has two simple concepts; Waste Free & Chemical Free. Currently, the product focus is Homegoods: candles, teas, kitchenware, coffee, body scrubs, skincare, but she’s ever evolving so if you’re this type of artisan or manufacturer, Local Utopia is your showcase.
Open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 to 5, you can find Miss Skovira working away behind the desk. A confessed Shop-a-holic, ordering and inventory is anything but a chore for her.
The best part of popping in to check out the vendors within? Liz knows the skinny on each one and is more than happy to share their story, location and how the product(s) are made.
Think about the concept behind this Gift Shop with me for a moment… you’re walking into one store filled with products for your home or body created by manufactures with a passion for saving the environment or keeping chemicals off your skin or out of your blood stream curated by a woman who can tell you anything you want to know about the manufacturing process. No wondering, “what’s in this?” No trying to grab your glasses or your magnification app on your mobile to see the tinsy tiny print on the back of the label. No… you just turn and ask, “Hey Liz, who made this and what’s the process behind it?” Outstandingly Brilliant!
To shop online or for more information, check the web at Local Utopia, call 1 570-731-0373, or send Liz a direct message at email@example.com. Thanks again for reading the Local Lens. This week’s find is a true treasure and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! Know a business that’s in need of recognition post Covid or that simply has a lovely concept? Leave a reply on the Blog and I’ll be sure to check it out!
I met Noella, co-operator of Oxbow Farms a few weeks ago at Farmer Browns Farmer’s Market in Apalachin, NY. Wow, that’s a lot of Farms in one sentence! Intrigued by the leap of faith she and her husband, Tim took to be the first local farmers to set up in FBM’s marketplace; I had to know more, so I packed up my gear and met her under the marketplace tent.
As a business owner, she’s engaging, knowledgeable and caring- everything you would imagine from a farmer who is dedicated to “growing food while learning resilience and adaptation in a changing world.” That’s their Instagram business description! As Covid restrictions begin to lift across the world and in the Southern Tier region of Upstate NY, where Oxbow Farms thrives, I knew this business would be the next focus of The Local Lens. Couldn’t we all learn a bit of resilience and adaptation in our changing world!
Noella and Tim had the same goals of producing food on a small scale with practices that support farm ecology without the use of any fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. The catch? They lived states apart, one from Massachusetts and one from Pennsylvania. They settled as a 29 acre, family-run farm located in a beautiful valley in Chemung County, NY and have 2 adorable girls who can be seen in the background learning the family tradition.
The farm sees the first and last frosts of every season, is the home of 6 mobile hoop houses, one wood-heated greenhouse, and has the adaptability to grow over 40 different crops each season. At this point in the growing season, their focus is on all kinds of lettuce. To offer a unique crop, Oxbow turned its focus to Asian greens like Mizuna & Senposai. To learn more about these amazing greens, drop Noella or Tim a message through their website where you can find a kitchen-full of recipes on how to eat these greens.
Where can you buy their products? 2021 marks our 12th season Noella and Tim can be found filling the bags of shoppers at the Ithaca Farmer’s Market. They’re located at Stall 69, April through December.
Most recently, they have graced Farmer Browns Marketplace, under the large white tent at the entrance, Fridays 1- 5pm. Owner, Logan Keeney is delighted to have them as his roots in planting began at a organic vegetable farm in Pennsylvania.
An interesting note about Oxbow Farms, as we all have something more than what appears to “Be” at face value… they love Goats and have Bucklings for sale! Their pedigree-worthy Goat, Pumpkin produced 3 Bucklings this season- Fred, George, and Ron. If you’re like me and know very little about goats, a Buckling is a young male less than a year old.
Interested in purchasing a buckling or wanting more information about Oxbow Farms? Connect with owners Noella and Tim by following any of the links in this post or use the links below:
My previous blog post chatted about prepping for First Holy Communion photographs – the “ins and outs” from the parent’s side of things. This post is what we can learn from children during the event. Really, who’s the student here? Me!!!
As I began the morning, I had a whole new lighting set up to make things more protected taking Covid into account. Instead of a wide open set, I had created a bit of a cocoon to slide one child into at time. First boy into the set stops me dead in my tracks, “Ummm, can I say something?” Me, “Sure! are you uncomfortable? Is everything ok?” Boy…”Oh yeah, I just think this is like sooooomething out of a movie- are you gonna clone me in here or anything?” Ha ha ha! What do you say to that?!! This is 7:45 a.m. GREAT way to start my day! I loved it!
I’m about 20 minutes into shooting, and posing is happening effortlessly. I think to myself, these parents are incredible, they must show their children images of “how” they want them to smile, or look serious, etc. So I just ask… “How did you know how to give me such a great little smile just now?” Answer… “Oh I didn’t, I just really like your sneakers and they made me smile.” There you have it – posing is all in the shoes! I do try to “dress down” when working with kids and I had a pair of floral printed Chuck Taylors on… I might need to start a collection!
Continuing with the theme of clothing as it was a hot topic this particular morning, I quickly fell in love with the dresses and asked, “Oh my goodness, this dress is so unique, did you pick it out yourself?” Without a care in the world as if we were in the Royal Palace prepping for Tea, “This one? Ohhhhh Noooooo, Harper picked it out for me, of course!” lol! I really had to keep my composure on THAT one, because THAT was hysterical!
I think it’s important to introduce yourself to children. They have all the same feelings as we do, so I try to let them know whose working with them to create their portrait that day. As more kids arrive and people are buzzing around, I sometimes forget, so I accidentally introduced myself twice to one child. I saw the look on her face,… “did I already tell you that?” Answer… “Um yes, you did, but that’s ok Lisa, because I’ve been wanting to tell you I really like your necklace- it reminds me a Jelly Beans!” PRICELESS!
There’s always a few children that just aren’t comfortable smiling- whether they don’t like their teeth or they’re afraid to be silly because it’s a Church event, who knows why. I try to get them out of the moment by asking about their pets. This morning, I got the entire history of the family pet, as well as the family! “Do you have a pet? A dog or a cat in your house?” Loooong streaming answer… “Yessss. A dog. He’s kinda like Bolt. Acts like Bolt too. Do you know the movie, Bolt?” Me…”uhhhh, Yes, I do- great movie!” Continuing….”oh yeeaaaaah, well he even runs around like him, zoom zoom, like lightning and then we have to yell his name to calm him down. My Grandmother named him by the way. She said we have to name him Bolt and the next thing you knew, we called him Bolt.” At this point, I’d forgotten the whole reason I asked about a pet. “How did we get to talking about Bolt?” “I don’t know. You were taking my photo and asked me if I had any smiles in my back pocket, and then, You asked me about my pets.” RIGHT!!! Schooled again!
I feel thoroughly prepared for next year. I need a new wardrobe, a name tag made of candy, and a fashionista to pick my clothing for the event! What a treat to work with kids!!!
Seldom do I share my personal Life on my business platform; however, an old friend once told me, “drastic conditions call for drastic measures, Lisa.” I laugh at this today as we were coaching middle school, female, athletes at the time. EVERYTHING is drastic & dramatic in that realm. lol. This drastic time is different, and I feel an intense desire to share, so I’m rolling with it. So many friends, near & far feel a weird “something” – sadness, strength, worry, fading hope, love, despair – something for sure and truly it bonds us All, we just don’t always talk about it.
As a pro-Photographer in Upstate NY, I travel through winter months as means to supplement my income. If you’ve ever lived in an area where people hunker-down in the cold chill of Winter, this makes perfect sense as clients and neighbors begrudge facing the weather to buy essentials; forget about getting dressed up with their Family in tow for an updated portrait of their chilled-to-the-bone loved ones. Let’s be realistic!
This year during my work travels, I honored a wild itch to further my education and within a 2 week time frame, I was smack-dab in the middle of an intensive program even farther from home. Buried in studies, trying to re-establish some presence of a working office, this pandemic hit. In my early 40’s, I made a paradigm shift in the way I choose to see & respond to most Life events. This World event challenged my newly found thinking and stirred a struggle I could barely mutter to myself. My daily meditation, which always started with “We are all connected, We breathe the same air” veered from the path of enjoyment to the path of necessity to keep my focus on… Anything! Let’s just be human and honest; I’m miles from home in an intensive “bootcamp,” my career is dangling on sketchy internet & a wobbly night stand/makeshift work station and my 78 year old Mother had been in & out of the hospital the entire month of February. I was MEDITATING for far less than ENJOYMENT!
In this program, I was surrounded by a small network of people who became much like a Family. This Family was from all over the US and World; Russia, Oregon, Alaska, Costa Rica, Vermont, Switzerland- you name it, one of them was from somewhere. My roommate was a business owner from Seattle, Washington. Yes, ground zero for the US virus outbreak. If I needed information about COVID 19, I had reliable information in minutes. Following the recommendations of the World Health Organization, we too were eventually closed down and given the option of staying put or returning home.
If things weren’t difficult enough in my internal struggle, the Universe just added coal to my fire – or rather I added it myself. If you ever have the opportunity to know me, you’ll quickly learn I’m flighty and have a lifestyle that allows me to follow my whims at the drop of a hat. So, I’ve done a bit of traveling. You’d think that’s amazing and truly, IT IS! But in all my whimsical travel, I’ve gotten myself into predicaments I’d rather not been alone and so I’ve established a fear of flying. Not the actual, “get up in the air and stay there until your final destination” flying. No; more the logistics of security, the sitting on the plane for endless hours only for the flight to be cancelled nearing midnight, or the waking at 3 a.m. to make an early flight so you aren’t stranded in an airport late at night ONLY to wait the full day in the airport midway to your destination and then be stranded in the airport nearing midnight, this time EXHAUSTED. You create the scenario, I promise, I’ve lived some form of that dilemma in the airport… Alone.
My “Family” began to pick up on this Fear… might have been my pacing, maybe the incessant need for chocolate, or might have been my roomie overhearing me say, “I’d sit curbside in Newark, NJ all night before I would sit IN THE AIRPORT for 24 hrs during a World Pandemic!” Who knows, who cares; I was freakin’ out and it wasn’t a matter of muttering it to myself anymore. It was a matter of spilling it all over the place and into the Peace of the people around me.
I reached out to my network all across the US and took my meditative practice to the next level by booking a Bee session with author, Juls Amor. With the last of my money, except $20 I saved in cash for traveling, I laid atop a bed of stingless bees in effort to raise my vibration and shake the Fear long enough to ride a 2 hour shuttle, get on an airplane in an international airport and drive 4 hours in the midst of a pandemic in the mid of the night… Alone. Juls was as uplifting as an angel from the Heavens and I left the session with this mantra… “I’m protected- We are all protected.”
All of this sounds crazy as I type, but really, this is just a Life experience. I can’t make any of it up because I’m living it, as are you. Why would I share this story as it seems I’m adding chaos to the current chaos?… because it’s Life. It’s not that any of Us have perfect Life tools to manage because we added a mantra to our meditation. It’s how we learn to see and deal with Life and how we connect with those we’re already fundamentally connected that changes the chaos. This process for me is ever-evolving and today, You are apart of it.
My flight was cancelled 10 minutes prior to riding the shuttle and I was given a later, same day option or a next day option. I turned to Brit in my educational Family… “get on or stay? Talk to me, please talk to me!” “This shuttle gives you 8 of us in which to ride and walk through security… I say GO with Us now!” On I go. 2 hours later, we zoom through security and 6 of the 8 board and fly away. It’s down to Ellie and I. Little does she know, the hug she gave me when it was time for her to board was so encompassing, it could have filled the airport. She just didn’t let go and you guessed it, I felt “protected”… amongst travelers with face masks, 5 feet social-distancing announcements, disinfectant wipes and rubber gloves galore! Hours later it was my turn and every Fear I had played into fruition. If you’re thinking I melted to pieces, you’re dead-on accurate. It’s what happened next that carries today’s message.
The plane was almost full to capacity and we sat on the runway for just under 2 hours waiting for an extra, but unnecessary flight crew. If 5 feet social-distancing was required, we shot that rule right out the window! I tried to meditate, but felt stifled while breathing deeply as the woman behind me repeatedly tried to muffle her cough. One hour and 45 minutes into the wait, I had closed my eyes and buried my hands in Juls’ book, “The Year of the Frog.” “I’m protected, we are all protected,” I just kept saying it over and over and over. The loudspeaker breaks my pattern, “Hey! This is Captain Andy again from your flight crew. It’s occurred to us that you’re not aware of why we’re waiting so faithfully for this crew… You are on the LAST flight out for THIS airline from THIS airport.” Behind closed eyes I begin to sob desperately – the kind of tears that if you weren’t silent would project from your eyes like an animated character in a children’s cartoon. My thoughts are racing. “This plane is NEVER going in the air! I’ve done this before. They’re going to delay for as long as they can and then ship us back into an airport that will become a make-believe homeland of quarantined international vagabonds! Nooooooo way! No, NO, Nooooooooo!”
At that moment, at that very moment when I was debating frantically climbing OVER the refined elderly couple next to me and running hopelessly down the center aisle to WHAT – I have NO IDEA, but I was running anyway… I heard a voice, soft and even-toned, “Honey, are you ok?” Unaffected but tuned in, I reply, “Hmmmm, no.” “Are you afraid because I’m elderly and sitting next to you?” “Hmmmm, no.” “What can I do for you right now?” Eyes still closed, trying with everything I have NOT to burst a spray of tears all over the back of the seat in front of us, “Hmmmm…” Silence. Nothing came out of my mouth! Mind still racing, I think.. she’s waaaaay to kind for me to ignore – Who has this much kindness right now??? Eyes closed, “Ma’am, my name is Lisa… are you a therapist?” All I could think was HOW on Earth did I land a seat next to a therapist????? As calm as she began, she replies, “my name is Brenda and No, I’m not a therapist, I’m just old as can be.” Opening my eyes to turn and look at this Being – fearless in her 70’s, it was as if someone shot a sedative straight through my veins. “You and I can’t swim home so I thought you should know, Honey, we’re going to New York… tonight!” Without anything else from her, “I was protected.”
24 hours later I arrived at my front door in NY, exhausted but grateful… for Juls, Brit, Ellie, Brenda & and all of Us. I’ve wanted to tell that story to all of Us for days, but I kept it to a select group of friends and family because I thought it was too chaotic to add to the uncomfortable reality we’re living. Really though… it’s NOT. It’s exactly what we need right now… to know that everyone of Us, US or Worldwide (that I’ve chatted with) is staying home, doing their part, and feeling “something.”
Don’t be misled, I fully understand I’m including myself in those sentences above using the word, “Us.” In sharing with you, I’m reminding myself. The thing we’re NOT right now, is ALONE despite the reality that we’re confined to places that would make Us feel… Alone. In isolation, whether warranted or welcomed… Fear grows. I was not Alone on that plane. Some fascinating Universal energy sent Brenda to that seat next to me and with my eyes closed, I felt her Peace. Yes, touch is a beautiful thing and I long to hug you All, but for now, “we are not only ALL Connected and Breathe the same air… we are Protected.”
It’s important to me that you understand, I’m not sharing this Life experience and message from a seated, Guru position of enlightenment. Quite the opposite… I share it with Us as a way of processing it, as a way of connecting, and as a way of trying to see the Light I know is hidden in this time of chaos. In meditation today, tears quietly fell down my face as I realized every conversation I had yesterday was filled with COVID 19. If we aren’t infected, who are we kidding? Our minds are infected- or I’ll speak for myself – my mind is infected with Fear. I would praise a news channel to put a “Brenda” or a “Juls” on the prime time reporting hour and watch the Universe heal emotionally. For today, I encourage Us all to part with Fear, or to at least acknowledge it and let it sit in the Air to dissipate like the dark smoke it is. My tears in meditation are Fear and my resistance to sit in meditation is my resistance to that acknowledgement… I am afraid of what is happening around me.
… and with that honesty, the Fear lessens and the Reality sinks in… “we are not only ALL Connected and Breathe the same air… we are Protected.”
Hey, Tioga County residents! Don’t miss this amazing event on November 2nd and November 3rd! The Camera’s Eye will be shooting portraits to be displayed and for sale as posters throughout downtown Owego during the month of December. All proceeds benefit the Tioga County United Way! Just bring $20 and your best smile. You’ll walk away with a hard copy and a digital file to show your community pride all over social media!
Check out the Heads Up Tioga event page on Facebook! And if you’re a client of The Camera’s Eye from Tioga County, you KNOW I would love to see you again! Mark your calendars for this Friday and Saturday, and get ready to be the face of Tioga County!
As the owner of The Camera’s Eye, I find networking with business owners vital to thriving in small upstate NY! Last week, I shared my love of gardening with the owners of the soon-to-open Belva Lockwood Inn and scored a fun gardening project that exploded with creativity and opportunity for two other local shops! Read through to learn how THIS WEEK you can own a piece of our project and support The United Way at the same time 🙂
Locals Julie and Ike Loveless purchased a dilapidated building at 249 Front St. Owego, NY and gained more than they bargained for with both a spot on the hit HGTV television show House Hunters AND a striking piece of history from the 1800s.
When Julie asked me to “fancy up” the half-torn-down porch for an official tour by travel bloggers converging for an international TBEX conference in Corning NY, I was “game on!” I drew in Logan Keeney, the new owner of Farmer Brown’s Marketplace, not only because his flowers adorn my property; his brother-in-law designer, Adam Coney, also created a stunning arrangement across the street from my studio that I used as a photo backdrop all summer!
Adam wanted to incorporate a shabby chic style to match the re-purposing of the old house, so off I went to Rusty and Jewel to beg owner Lisa Bystrak for wares that could create the look Adam desired.
Adam named the custom arrangements “A Cinderella Story” because they literally came to life in one night! The event went off fantastically, and construction at the Inn is now back in full force. Logan and I can’t handle seeing the Cinderella arrangements become covered in deck stain and wood-working dust, so we’ve decided to auction them off on Facebook with proceeds benefiting the United Way! Bidding is Friday and Saturday, September 28th and 29th – check out our sneak peaks all week!
These two ladies filled out the applications for the Country Living Fair as a way to challenge each other and up their motivation. They made their applications as crazy and unique as possible, and it seems to have worked – they were both accepted to take part in the fair in Rhinebeck! I tagged along to photograph all sorts of art and antiques, and to meet awesome creative folk!
Both ladies bubble over with excitement and pride when talking about their experience at the Country Living Fair. It was a huge professional affirmation of their talents. There’s nothing like being supported and uplifted by other artisans with the same interests! It was a major instance of getting a foot in the door professionally, and it lets both ladies “take [themselves] a little more seriously” as artists.
The fair features about 200 vendors from all over the country – a mix of artisans and those who purchase goods for a store, such as antiques dealers.
So let me introduce you to a few of them! Striking Swedish country antiques from Jeffree Turney at Lone Ranger Antiques, South Florida/Sweden:
Heart of Ohio Antique Center. Abbey Knight came all the way from Springfield, OH to showcase the goodies she buys and sells all over the country!
GORGEOUS jewelry from Mary DeMarco /La Contessa, based in Baltimore.
Stunning handmade jewelry from Andrea Lithgow / Dandy Craft, down in Texas!
The Run is crazy, crazy fun….and funny at the same time. You see all kinds of runners – those who take it seriously, those who are there to laugh and maybe avoid some of the nastier obstacles, and a non-competitive group who could walk and have fun!
The obstacles aren’t impossible, but they are HARD. I was glad to be behind the camera rather than neck high in mud, like some of the runners.
At the end of the day, it’s an awesome cause. The money raised went to the Family Enrichment Network. All the runners get to wash off with hoses and enjoy some yummy food and great music. There’s a very communal atmosphere, where everyone gathers with friends at picnic tables.
I get so jazzed by the energy at events like the Mud Mountain Rock and Run, and it’s really when I’m shooting something like this that I’m at my BEST!
I’ve been photographing A Knight for a Princess every year that it’s been around, and I always love seeing these ladies dressed up with their dads. Hard to believe that these ladies are going to be contenders for “Best Dressed” at prom in a few years!
Some other people who make the magic happen at The Camera’s Eye – my mom (my #1 money-maker) and my assistant Patrick…
…and my long-time friend Jason, wearer of AWESOME shoes and subject of hilarious photographs 🙂
Of course, none of this would be possible without the organization and support of Epiphany’s AMAZING Sister Anne Quigley!
It’s easy to tell how much everyone appreciates having A Knight for a Princess around, year after year.
For the full gallery of candids, head over to the proofing page on our new and spiffy website! Password for viewing is Knight15.
With all the things to love about summer in the Southern Tier, one of my favorites has to be gardening. I have 13 (!) of my own garden plots at home and, despite a constant war with slugs, deer, and other foes, I love cultivating my own vegetables and flowers! That’s why I was so excited to learn more about VINES, a community gardening and education group in the city of Binghamton. My social media manager has a VINES garden plot, and invited me to a Saturday morning “work party” so I could learn more.
The work party was at the Corbett Avenue garden in Binghamton’s south side, a site that’s been going strong for five years now. Members sign up to rent a plot for the season at a garden location of their choosing. The raised beds are already built and the soil is already cultivated – all that’s left to do is start growing!
Dick Andrus, a professor at Binghamton University, manages the site. He gave me the grand tour before the everyone arrived, starting with a spot of particular pride – the newly developed compost pile.
As I chatted with members and wandered between the beds to snap photos, it was clear that the name “VINES” was more than appropriate. There were vines EVERYWHERE!
Yes, some of them were weeds, which the garden members were taking to task….
…but many hinted at deliciousness yet to come!
Even though the program is well established – and obviously popular…look at the turnout at 9 am on a Saturday to pull weeds! – it was a nice reminder that improvement, growth, and change is always possible. The group added a long-awaited official VINES sign to the front gate while I was there.
VINES does a lot more than just provide gardening space for its members. At their Urban Farm, volunteers grow food that goes out to farm share subscribers. It’s also available for sale at the weekly Binghamton farmer’s market (9-2 on Fridays in downtown Binghamton).