Pssst. Don’t tell the Minx, but I just bought her a colouring book for our plane ride at the weekend.
Well, to be more accurate I’ve just bought myself a colouring book, as I’m sure she would probably prefer to be plugged into an electronic device of some sort.
But honestly, who in their right mind could resist the intricate and magical pen and ink drawings in Secret Gardenby ‘ink evangelist’ Johanna Basford?
Twelve hours on a plane doesn’t seem nearly so long now. (Check out this review from the Guardian, which includes some printable pages to download).
Speaking of The Secret Garden, which remains one of my favourite children’s books of all time, check out these beautiful clothbound keepsake editions of children’s classics from Puffin, designed by the amazing Daniela Terrazzini.
As the mother of an utterly voracious and rather advanced reader I’m the finding the classics to be one of the best ways of giving the Minx age-appropriate reading material. I understand from the Internet that these beautiful books can be hard to track down, but we found ours at the weekend in Seattle’s wonderful Elliott Bay Bookstore. Some are also available on Amazon. (There are some more boy-friendly options too.)
So henceforth there’s going to be an awful lot more of THIS going on in our lives.
School finished last Friday (I still can’t get over how LONG the school vacations are here), so we’ve got a summer full of camps and visits and trips planned.
I’m painfully aware that this is probably the last summer that the Minx will truly be my little girl (can you believe she’s already eight?) so I mean to make the most of it. I think it will be good for me to slow down a bit too. All the stress-related issues I talked about at the beginning of the year are much better, but I’m still not sleeping as well as I should and a summer of fun in the sun, relaxation, stress-free photography, reading, cooking and dreaming is just what the doctor ordered I think.
I’m hoping to get fitter (just started using a Fitbit yay!), learn stand up paddleboarding, read lots of books, do a few workshops, cook up a storm and host lots of parties.
We have trips booked to Menton again (leaving on Saturday!) – we have rented an apartment there for three weeks – and to Canoe Island, and Grandad is coming to stay. The Minx will be going on her very first overnight camp (leaving mummy and daddy to have our first consecutive nights away together since she was born).
I WILL continue blogging, but only when it really feels like the right thing to do (though I have got tons of things I want to talk to you guys about). If you want daily updates though, please come and find me on Instagram.
Instead this summer will hopefully be all about this
I hope yours is too.
I’m hosting ‘Mom Camp’ tomorrow. In the morning I will be teaching five eight year olds how to make pie and then we’re doing on a photography scavenger hunt. Think of me…
It’s still difficult to put into words exactly what the weekend meant to me, mostly because I don’t quite yet know myself. But let’s just say that if you mix mindblowingly beautiful surroundings with a bunch of hugely talented and creative people; throw in sessions of intensely creative work spiced with highly amusing play and season everything with long, leisurely walks on a gorgeous beach, you have a surefire recipe for having your soul turned over just a teeny bit.
I wanted to show you the photos I took while I was there. Part of my difficulty in summing up my weekend is that I was both immensely inspired and enormously frustrated.
I want to do this. I love doing it. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to do it. But I’m not quite there yet.
For our first session we talked about using natural light for food photography and the importance of bending it, shaping it, softening it and brightening it, with bounces, scrims and reflectors, to get exactly the effect that we want. And we were given a bunch of beautiful desserts to play with.
Although many props were available I wanted to style things simply and just focus on playing with light for this session. I know quite a lot about this stuff now after attending so many workshops, but this was actually quite tricky for me as the southern light was so very different from the softer light I’m used to here in Seattle. In Alabama the light had to be scrimmed (using only window blinds) instead of augmented, and finding that sweet spot between harsh and flat was tricky.
This is one of my favourite pictures that I took. One of the props, a beautiful cake, got dropped and squashed before we started. It’s more of a ‘found’ picture than a ‘made’ one – not a lot of styling and propping involved in this one – but it’s a interesting perspective on cake and I loved the way the light plays across and shapes the roses on the top.
For our second assignment we were talking more about composition and propping and had a selection of appetisers to photograph.
I still find propping a table setting so that it looks real yet beautiful to be a challenge, so this was a tricky for me, though it was super fun to play with all of Helene’s glorious props and backgrounds.
It was in this session that I learned a very valuablelesson. I was so busy making sure that the light on the grapes and on the top of the cheese and on the knife handle looked beautiful, that I omitted to notice that I wasn’t showing any of the bottom of the small pedestal stand the cheese was on and so the cheese looks like it’s hovering a few inches off the table.
And I managed to do that in every. single. one of the shots I took this session, so they all featured flying saucer cheese, most even more ludicrously than this, with the cheese plate seemingly floating over the knife.
So I ended up submitting a plate of runny cheese and crackers for the critique at the end.
Our next assignment was very fun. After watching a Helene and Clare both give a styling and propping demonstration during which they made it look SO easy, we were told to split into teams of two where we would take it in turns to be the stylist and the photographer, and given two very different real world assignments, so we had to style to spec.
I was paired with the lovely Michael and our first assignment was entitle Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. I was delighted to find out that he had been on a previous Helene workshop where learned to style the perfect sandwich, so he was the food stylist, I was the photographer and we worked on the prop styling together.
This again was a stretch for me but I was pleased with how this worked out, though it’s not my usual thing.
Our next assignment was for something Colourful and Contemporary, so I chose to style the fabulous red lentil soup we’d had for lunch. The gorgeous bowls are from Suite One ceramics (as are the textured cake stand and plate in the cheese shots). This assignment could have been made for me. I’m starting to realise that my ‘style’ is all about the juxtaposition of light, shape and colour. I was in charge of styling for his shoot and Michael was in charge of photography. Looking at the photo now, I wish we’d done a little bit more with the light.
Our final assignment was pretty challenging. We all had to choose a can of soup and make it look appetising. Not easy when you see what’s in these things. In honour of my Italian heritage I decided to go with a minestrone and chose a rustic styling, which again is not quite my usual thing.
I think I made the soup look vaguely edible, but I wouldn’t exactly call it appetising. What are those pallid beige cubes floating around in there?
Do you know what the single most inspiring thing about this weekend was though? Meeting Helene. You already know from her blog that she’s funny, charming, delightful and talented, but in real life she just crackles with enthusiasm and energy and she’s just so darn good at her job. Watching her prop a shoot, with meticulous attention to detail, knowing just where to put each element and making it all look so easy, is quite simply awe-inspiring. (I will gush separately about Clare when I recap the Whidbey Island workshop).
If you’re interested in this stuff and can get to one of her workshops you really mustn’t hesitate.
And what was my ultimate takeaway from the event? It showed me that I really, really, REALLY want to do this. I find the whole interplay between food, tableware, light, colour and composition to be endlessly fascinating and challenging. I could do it all day.
So I’m putting it out there to the universe now. I want to be a food photographer.
With heartfelt thanks to Laura Vein and Libby Stephens who made the most unbelievable food and looked after us all like mother hens all weekend (oh and buy Laura’s preserves – they are divine). And thanks also to Marilyn, Jerry, Tiffany, Gale, Janice, Karen, Serina, Paula, Nancy, Michael, Sharon and Kara for being such hugely fun, talented and inspiring companions.
Delighted as I am with the kitchen, I am almost happier with the way the bathroom turned out.
What used to be such an actively unpleasant, uncomfortable space now feels peaceful, clean and soothing and is filled with the most beautiful light.
Again I took these photos just after it was completed. I’ll do some more when all the details are finished and it’s fully ‘styled’.
We’re really delighted with the vanity units, which we designed ourselves and had made up by our contractors (again heartfelt thanks to the utterly amazing craftsmen at GTR Residential Contracting). We’ve kept the old round medicine cabinets for the moment (which are chipped and can’t be opened with the taps in the way) but they will be replaced with round mirrors which should be arriving shortly.
We wanted this bathroom to be in keeping with a craftsman house, but also fresh and modern and so decided to use ceramic tile in a non-traditional way, particular as this is in a non-Craftsman part of the house.
As you know we were thrilled with how the large hex tiles on the floor worked out (now complete with delicious underfloor heating) and decide to complement them with smaller hexagons around the bathtub and shower.
As with the kitchen, the hideous panelled ceiling has been transformed into a beautiful design feature now that is painted with a coat of gloss paint (all the trim is Benjamin Moore’s Simply White).
And yes we replaced the even more hideous glass brick window with something a little more pleasing.
The paint colours ended up being inspired by my trip to Gulf Shores and the beautiful white-trimmed pale aqua houses near the almost white sand beach. (And I like to think that the emerald green leaves shining through the window look like the emerald green sea).
It took me a long time to hit on a perfect aqua, that wavers just at the midpoint between blue and green and found it with Benjamin Moore’s Lido Green. I’m SO in love with this colour.
The alcove at the back where the toilets (and also the washing machines) are situated was painted in Benjamin Moore’s Lychee, a soft luminous colour like a shell-sand beach. The colours work so well together and I am thrilled.
Again here are a couple of pictures of the previous baby poop coloured ghastliness. The full ‘before’ horror-story is here.