July 24, 2013

17 Apart Turns Two!

Image by Tori Watson of Marvelous Things Photography

Today marks the 2 year anniversary since we published our first post here on 17 Apart! Over the past year (since our last anniversary post) we've been so proud to stay connected with so many of you and meet even more people with similar interests and sometimes eerily similar stories or connections. We continued to work on little projects around the house and garden, and are probably most proud to have pulled off and gotten through planning and putting together the wedding of our dreams. It's been so fun to have a platform where we can share the details about so many aspects of our lives and it continues to amaze us that you want to keep up with us!

As a way to celebrate our second full year of blogging together, we thought it would be fun to continue with the tradition of opening up the Q&A forum to you guys — so we asked for your help in asking us anything you wanted. Today we're excited to dig deeper into all your burning questions!

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1. Carolyn asks:
What's your favorite part about maintaining this blog??

Mary: I love that it gives the two of us a mutual hobby to work on together, but most of all, I love the archive of our lives that it's ended up creating. Both of us look back at different posts and completely forgot about something we'd done — maybe it was a trip or just a little detail from a weekend. It's a great reminder just how much we've tackled together and inspiration to keep it up.

Tim: I second what Mary said — it is fun to have something to collaborate on. It's also kind of natural for us both. I have been writing a food blog a little longer but this did allow us to just expand into all the things we are passionate about. I really get excited thinking that this project or that recipe is going to be really fun for our readers, and we hope we inspire just one person to try it!

2. Tori Watson asks: 
What are your top favorite sources for home decor inspiration AND your top favorite spots in Richmond to thrift for home decor items?

Mary: I find inspiration from so many sources and love to gather ideas that strike a chord on our Pinterest Page. Pinterest has been a fun way to collect inspiration and has also helped us discover and define what our mutual tastes are — we definitely tend to lean towards an industrial vintage style. Currently, my favorite brick and mortar spot in the Richmond area to find great thrifted finds is Class & Trash — we've written about them a few times before, it's where we found those great oversized metal letters and arrow signs. They seem to to have a wide and quickly rotating collection of treasures that fit in with our decorating style at what we consider to be reasonable prices.

While not a permanent destination, I'd have to say our favorite local sources for finding thrifted decor include the Estate sales, pop up flea markets and alley sales we've come across on the weekends. Sometimes we'll start out with a specific one we've plugged into the GPS from Craigslist and then "freestyle" (as Mike and Frank from American Pickers would say) when we see different sale signs pop up. Richmond's Craigslist is also a fun place to browse for different thrifted decor if you have the time and patience to dig.

We're still looking forward to checking out ERA Vintage and would love to know from you and anyone else in the comments section what other great places we should be checking out.

3. Kelly sent an email in with the following question:
My question is about your photographs.  They are amazing!  How do you manage to make a photograph of a kitchen sink interesting and artful and beautiful?  Do you use your images right out of the camera or do you do any post production work?  Do you only use natural light?  Your photos have so much depth and color and life.  As a novice photographer, any tips would be greatly appreciated.  I think we even use the same camera... Go Rebels!!

Mary: Thanks Kelly! We actually feel like total amateurs, but love trying to get a good photo, so we are continually pushing ourselves to learn more and try new photography techniques. We share a 4 year old Canon Digital Rebel XSi Camera purchased as a starter kit. Tim actually had two vintage 80's lenses from a manual Canon SLR of his own (macro 50mm and zoom 35-135mm lenses) that ended up fitting perfectly on the body and work with the camera's automatic settings. For most shots, you'll find us using the 50mm lens — it delivers those sharp detailed shots with the slightly blurred backgrounds we love so much.

When it comes to shooting, we laugh at all the acrobatics that go on behind the scenes. We're big fans of shooting at an angle and getting flat overhead shots — which means you'll find us up on chairs, ladders, and maybe even laying down on the floor to get whatever angle we're going for. Here are a couple fun photo examples from some of the more extreme lengths we've gone to in order to "get the shot:"

Mary shooting our DIY pallet shelf project

Tim shooting new dishes for Peter Chang China Cafe

We take tons of photos for a single end shot. For every one photo you see here on the blog, there might have been 10 different shots in different angles taken before we nailed it. We also try not to take ourselves too seriously and will never shy away from posting a terrible photo shot with our camera phone to show you something we did during the day or catch a funny moment that would otherwise be missed if we didn't have our camera in tow.

Tim: Personally, I thought our sink was pretty interesting (haha)! When it comes to photos, I always make the following joke — put a hot dog in front of me and I will make it beautiful, but give me a wedding or a family standing around a tree and it might be a #fail. Our subject matter is something that we are really comfortable shooting and keep trying to learn more about.

When it comes to lighting, we are huge fans of soft natural light only. We shoot the majority of our food and product photography on a board right near our big kitchen window and make sure to turn off all the kitchen lights before beginning. You can see the cart and board next to the window in this shot:

We load images straight from the camera into iPhoto and use the basic editing features like straightening, cropping and resizing most frequently. If needed, we'll adjust the exposure or saturation of an image to show off the brightness, especially when it comes to whole room shots, like this one that have been harder for us to capture straight from the camera:

All of this being said, we're still learning, and eager to learn more. We'd both love to take some basic SLR courses so we feel even more comfortable switching in and out of automatic mode!

4. Virginia, from our Facebook page, asks:
I love your commitment to eating local food and gardening....but, what far away food or beverage, if any, would you find it hard to live without?

Tim: Well my beverage would be a Hannen Alt. I have yet to find this beer outside of Germany. Please let me know if it is available where you live. Road trip! On the food front, Mary and I both agree that anything from this restaurant, Fatal, in Budapest is a hit. We both have Hungarian heritage and early in our relationship she came with me and my family on a trip to Budapest where we beeline to eat our first dinner at Fatal after checking out the local market — we can't wait to go back at some point.

Mary: Tim is also a sucker for the blood orange flavor of San Pellegrino — they are his Achilles' heel and we pick up a case probably more often than we should. While we both enjoy bringing the hand crank ice cream maker out in the summer, I have a particular fondness for the Mint Chocolate Cookie and Peanut Butter Cup flavors of Ben & Jerry's ice cream. Since Tim doesn't typically eat sweets (I know!),  I try to use the excuse to go out and pick some up for movie night when Tim's kids come to visit.

5. Lori, from our Facebook Page, asks:
Would you explain the background of your title?

Tim: Well besides the fact that Mary is obviously 17 years older than me... All jokes aside, 17 Apart does symbolize the age difference in our relationship. We may be a generation apart, but we find it’s those differences we once worried might break us apart that are actually the glue keeping us together and laughing at ourselves. Hop on over to our About Page to learn even more from our story.

Image by Tori Watson of Marvelous Things Photography

When it comes to the story behind the actual naming of the blog, we'd been toying with the idea of starting a collaborative blog together. We'd each had separate blogs at the time and when Mary moved back from New York, we started doing so many projects together that we'd playfully argue over who's blog was going to get what project! One night while sipping on some drinks at the bar down at Bistro 27, we decided it would be fun to just start the blog once and for all but needed a name — I thought on it a few minutes and then said, what about "17 Apart?" It's been the perfect fit ever since and the rest is history.

Mary: Tim is the witty one, and clever with words. He's so great at thinking on the spot and this was one of those many moments he really nailed it with the name. We both loved the play on words in an instance and it's stuck.

6. TAnk, from our Facebook page, asks:
What's your advice for dealing with those humans who insist on looking at you funny (or outright informing you that "it won't work," etc.) when they learn that your significant other is significantly older/younger than you are? (Frame of reference: I am the younger end of a relationship with an almost 13 yr age gap.)

Tim: Honestly I was worried about that early on, and we even took a break for a short period in the beginning of our relationship because of it. Now, I honestly do not even think about it or worry about it at all. Both sets of our parents probably had initial hesitations but were overly supportive because they could see our happiness. Mary keeps me young and in the end it is about you and your partner — not what others think. If it is truly meant to be, you'll make it work.

Image by Tori Watson of Marvelous Things Photography

Mary: I was always confident enough in my convictions to date Tim that it didn't matter so much to me what others thought. We are also lucky in that our closest family and friends have all been supportive and happy for us, because, like Tim said above, after getting over any initial hesitations, they could see the foundation for a happy and healthy relationship. If those same people had had reservations based on areas of the relationship outside of the age difference, that may have been a different story.

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Image by Tori Watson of Marvelous Things Photography

And with that, we've rounded up all the questions that rolled in this year! We've linked up this post under our FAQ's page and hope to continue in making this Q&A style post a regular Blogiversary tradition. We hope we were able to shed some light on the lesser frequented topics and if you had a question you didn't see answered in today's post, feel free to submit in the comments section below or shoot us an email anytime.

Here's to 2 years we couldn't be prouder of, we can't wait to see what the next one brings along. Most of all, thanks to each and every one of you for following along with our little slice of the world!


  1. Congratulations. Hope the next 2 years will go just as well.

    1. Thank you Carole for your readership it makes all the difference in the world!

  2. Amanda from CincinnatiJuly 26, 2013 at 9:46 AM

    Congratulation on your blog anniversary! I cant wait to see what the future brings for the 2 of you and the blog - I have so much fun reading your posts each day!

    1. Thanks Amanda we certainly appreciate your readership! We hope you will stay in touch!

  3. Congrats to both of you! It truly is the most amazing blog. Do you guys ever sleep? :)

    1. Well right now we sleep in shifts but we have some exciting news next week that we hope well allow us both to get some rest! It is good news and we think everyone will be excited. Stand by on that!


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