A Seafood Picnic on the Beach.

•  02.September.2014

A couple of weeks back I was asked by my friend Aran Goyoaga to come along for a day on the beach at Discovery Park during a 3 day photography workshop she was teaching here in Seattle. I absolutely love collaborating with friends and didn’t think twice about spending a day in the sun sharing some of my thoughts on prop styling.

The goal of the day was to give the students opportunities to learn lighting techniques for when you are dealing with direct sunlight and tips on styling shoots on location. I loaded up a rustic vintage picnic table into the car and packed up a couple of bins of relevant props (lots of wood, neutral pottery pieces, some pretty linens) and we headed down to the beach to create some fun.

The night before the workshop I pinned together an eclectic mix of soft linens and fabric pieces in a color palette Aran had been inspired by for the shoot. The resulting canopy/tent provided some much-needed shade on the rocky beach that day. Aran brought along the most beautiful produce and food she had sourced from Pike Place Market, and she in turn created the most stunning tabletop spread for a seafood picnic feast.

Since shooting on location is always a bit more challenging than shooting in studio, a few tips for creating a beautiful setting outdoors :

1. SEEK OUT THE PERFECT SPOT : Find a location that offers a variety of textures, color and lighting opportunities (dappled light is quickly becoming my favorite environment to shoot in, especially in the summer months). If you’re having a picnic on the beach with friends, you definitely want to have a shady place you can escape to if you get overheated from the hot sun.

2. PLAN AHEAD : 80% of my job as a prop stylist takes place before the day actually arrives. Give yourself plenty of time to plan out the details of the day. Find inspiration photos online that inspire your ideas and color palette. Find props that help to evoke the mood you are hoping to create. Think in terms of texture, color and dimension. Vintage is always a great way to achieve all of these goals…there is so much character and worldly charm that is already built into vintage items and props. Instead of purchasing a new picnic blanket for example or some basic paper plates, pull out that beautiful old afghan your grandmother passed down to you and generously pack some pretty vintage plates you picked up on the cheap from a second-hand store. Enamel is also always a great option for shooting or enjoying food outdoors – very sturdy!

3. FIND HELPING HANDS : Anytime you are planning to create an event or photo shoot in a location other than your home make sure to ask for or find help. First off, things are always more fun when you are working on a team, and second you don’t want to be completely exhausted from carrying furniture/props/decor from the car to your location before you even start setting up the scene.

4. GET CREATIVE : Maybe instead of a conventional picnic on a blanket, you bring chairs and layer them with cute pillows to be placed among the tall grass lining the beach. I’m of the philosophy of thinking outside the conventional box with pretty much every visual aspect of my life that has the potential to be unique or different. As Steve Jobs once said “For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.” It’s perfectly okay to keep things simple when it comes to styling or event planning, but even that simplicity can be done with great intention with every detail of the day.

5. FIGURE OUT YOUR LIMITATIONS : Some local parks and outdoor areas require permits or special permission in order for you to set up a photo shoot or event in that area or space. Be sure to check with the city or park about whether or not you are allowed to be there. The last thing you want is to spend a whole lot of time planning and setting up only to be shut down before you even get to enjoy your efforts.

6. DRESS ACCORDINGLY : You want to be comfortable especially since you will be working hard to set up all of your props/decor/food, but you also want to wear something that reflects the vibe you are attempting to create. I always have my friends pointing out how I end up matching the event or the shoot I’m working on. Although not always an intensely conscious decision, it is intentional nonetheless. If I know I’m going to be attending an event or styling a photo shoot in a very natural environment, I tend to wear clothing that reflects the palette of that environment. Especially with a photo shoot where I might not have it in the budget to bring a model on board. I know there will inevitably be a shot where the photographer asks me as the stylist to “reach for something” within the frame. I make things a whole lot easier and a heck of a lot more visually cohesive if the sleeve on the top I’m wearing or the jewelry on my hands pairs well with the items I’m reaching for. Plus, it helps me as a stylist to set the tone for the day for not only myself but for those on set. It’s like turning on music to create a mood…I dress accordingly to also set that mood for the images I’m hoping to create.

For more photos from our day on the beach and a fantastic corn chowder recipe that’s nearly too pretty to eat, make sure to check out Aran’s blog post about our collaborative adventure here.

 

photography and food styling by aran goyoaga | prop styling by jenn elliott blake.

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Ring Hunting with Blue Nile.

•  29.August.2014

What a week it has been! As I mentioned on Monday, I’m in Italy right now styling a wedding for a wonderful couple from Seattle, and the villa we are staying at right outside of Lucca could not be more beautiful! I feel so blessed and honored to be here, and I can’t wait to show you all the pretty wedding decor and resulting magic that is happening here in the Tuscan sunshine (and rain)! If you aren’t already, follow me on instagram for a bucket load of images and updates from the trip thus far!

In sticking with the wedding theme on the blog this week, I figured this the perfect time to talk about the oh so important engagement ring. A close girlfriend of mine reached out to me a few weeks back asking for advice on finding the perfect ring. Her fiance had proposed earlier this summer, but he wanted her to have a say in what her ring looked like. As a result she was having trouble finding a ring that suited her taste. She had already hit up all of the local ring shops she could think of with her fiance, and was feeling frustrated that she couldn’t find a setting she really loved. I cannot even imagine what kind of stress the guy (or gal!) is put under when they decide they want to pop the question to the love of their life – what size, what color, what setting, what shape?? The list of possibilities go on and on. Things become all the more complicated (and fun!) when both partners have a say in that final choice of ring.

Luckily I had the chance to attend a really fun (and really informative!) cocktail party put on by Blue Nile last week in downtown Seattle. Although Blue Nile fully admits that their initial boundary to launching their brand was the unnerving question as to whether or not folks would actually be willing to purchase such an important and symbolic piece of jewelry online. What they found quite quickly was that people actually were! They have become the largest online retailer of certified diamonds and help nearly 365,000 proposals happen every year…isn’t that crazy?! I got the chance to try on many of their beautiful and sparkly engagement rings (check out this instagram shot…which one happens to be your favorite? . . . that Kate Middleton look-a-like knocked me off my feet!). I was really impressed by their large selection of styles. I know when Adam was looking for a diamond for my ring setting, he searched high and low to find the perfect diamond to suit his budget and taste, and I have no doubt Blue Nile could have been a big help!

When it comes to finding that perfect diamond there are a few key factors (a few key C’s to be more specific) to keep in mind:

CUT – Blue Nile notes this one as being the most important of the 4 C’s. If you’re looking for a ring that is extra sparkly you will want to pay special attention to how the ring is cut – the higher the cut grade – the more sparkle. The cut of a diamond is ‘the measure of a diamond’s symmetry and light performance’. The team at Blue Nile also noted that the round cut (although the most popular) is also the most expensive. If you are on a budget, or want more diamond for your buck, consider an emerald or princess cut instead of a round cut.

COLOR – Before I had my own engagement ring I had no idea how many variations in color there were among diamonds. I found out later on that this was the ‘C’ that was most important to Adam. He wanted the most colorless ring he could afford to match the platinum color of my setting, so he went with a D grade colorless diamond. Blue Nile suggests that there is great value and little to no noticeable difference to the eye if you look for a diamond in the near colorless grade of G-I.

CLARITY – This is the ‘c’ that still has me a bit baffled. Clarity is ‘the measure of the number and size of a diamonds inclusions’. You won’t see most inclusions with the naked eye, which is why trained professionals use magnification to determine a diamonds clarity. Inclusions do not necessarily affect a diamonds beauty when viewed by the average person, so avoiding “flawless” is wise if you are looking to save money. Blue Nile does not carry anything below an SI2 – whereas a standard jewelry store typically carries SI2 and below.

CARAT WEIGHT – Oh the ever so controversial carat size! I would say this is probably the one ‘c’ that is most debatable or appreciated when it comes to engagement rings. Most men would prefer to go with a diamond that is of the highest quality (great cut, color and clarity) while more women would typically prefer to focus on obtaining a larger diamond within budget. Blue Nile suggests that you can save quite a bit if you choose to go with a diamond that is just under that full carat weight (i.e. if you want 1 carat, go just below at .97 and save or if you are going for 2 carats hit at the 1.97 range). Nobody will be able to tell the difference and your sweet partner can feel like they got a lot more diamond for their all hard-earned time-saving for that ring!

What about you? What has been your ring experience? Do you have a favorite diamond shape? If you’re on the hunt for an engagement ring, be sure to check out Blue Nile’s amazing selection! Hope you all enjoy your weekend! Adam and I will be celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary in Lucca tomorrow…can’t wait!

**Also, my friend Sally created the beautiful illustrations above. Isn’t her hand lettering just divine?! If you’re about to get married or have a fun event coming up, seriously get in touch with Sally – she is one of the best in the biz when it comes to custom paper details and hand lettering, and she ships her work all over the world!

 

This blog post was sponsored and created in collaboration with Blue Nile. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Original hand illustration by Sally Balt of La Happy.

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On The Streets of Paris.

•  25.August.2014

On Sunday morning, with 9 bags in tow, McKenzie and I jetted off to Lucca, Italy for a wedding for some fun clients of ours. I’ve been working with this couple for nearly a year and it’s just so so exciting to finally see their wedding come to life. Although I don’t work on weddings full-time, I do love styling a couple of these types of events each year and am always all the more thrilled when they are in unique destinations. I’m so thrilled to be celebrating such a special day with Ali and Kevin, and I’m giddy with excitement to see their wedding come to life on Thursday!

With this week being my “week of wedding” I figured no better way to celebrate than with some fun wedding inspired content right here on the blog! Since summer typically marks the most intense period of wedding season, it’s crazy knowing the warm hot summer months will soon be coming to an end already. I can’t believe how fast this summer has flown by and I’m going to do the best I can to really soak up the Tuscan sunshine all week!

Since weddings have always been one of my favorite events to style and since my own wedding anniversary just happens to be  THIS week (5 years Adam! can you believe it love?!) it’s so fun to share some bridal inspired images I captured along with my friend Jill Devries back in early spring in Paris, France. I had flown to Paris to do some collaborative projects with Jill and my friend Jonathan Grant and before leaving for the trip I was offered the chance to attend a French ball at the Palais Garnier by my friend Anne whom I stayed with during my time in France. It has always been a parisian DREAM of mine to attend an event at this gorgeous opera house and knowing I’d be attending with my dearest friend Grant made it all the more special!

The only MAJOR problem?? I had nothing to wear to the thing. NOTHING. And as a girl who rarely (if ever) wears high heels and certainly doesn’t keep ball gowns in her closet, I was in a bit of panic mode leading up to the trip. Thankfully my friend Camille Wynn and her amazing collection of bridal gowns came to the rescue! I’ve known Camille for quite sometime now and her bridal shop The Dress Theory is one of the best in the biz. Not only does she have a shop just down the street from me here in Seattle, but she has also opened a boutique in Nashville as well as San Diego too! The woman is so so inspiring! If you or someone you know are looking for the perfect bridal gown…Camille is your gal! You can find more info on how to find the perfect gown and the locations of The Dress Theory here or find loads of pretty bridal inspiration here.

On a whim and assuming nothing would quite fit me right for the occasion, I wandered into Camille’s shop less than 24 hours before leaving for Paris. She suggested I try on Jenny Packham’s Eden gown and to my surprise it fit LIKE A GLOVE. Even Adam nearly fell off his chair when I walked out of the room to show the number off and I fought back tears knowing how special it was to be able to take such a beautiful gown right off the rack and fly it to Paris with me. I mean seriously…how lucky was I?! Certainly not deserving, but definitely lucky!

I held the gown tight to my chest during the entire route to Paris (3 plane rides, 2 trains, and a not so short walk to my friend Anne’s apartment in Saint-Germain-des-Pres in the wee wee hours of early morning). I eventually stopped correcting people when they would congratulate me on my upcoming wedding (after the 10th person, I just decided it was better to bring a smile to someone’s face, rather than to tell them I wasn’t really a bride heading to her wedding).

The dress luckily made it to Paris in one piece, and it was such a treat to slip it on the night of the ball. It was like a fairytale to hop in a cab that night with Grant in his fancy suit and to drive through the streets of Paris to the opera house. I seriously felt like Cinderella at the ball the entire night, and it will be a moment in my life I will always cherish and NEVER forget! Grant and I could not stop giggling at our good fortune throughout the entire night. We spent hours and hours walking arm in arm going from room to room listening and dancing along to the amazing array of music (an old man jazz band in one ballroom, a youthful 50′s era band in another, a hip-hop DJ in another). We assumed we would stay no later than midnight, but finally headed back to Anne’s apartment around 4am with the lights of the city guiding our way.

The next morning before I packed up the gown to ship it back to the States (Camille had been kind enough to allow me to borrow it for a few days, but needed it back in her shop to allow potential customers to try it on) I decided to take it out for one last spin. With my hair completely in “bed head” mode and a quick dab of Jill’s lipstick, I tied up a sweet and simple bouquet of purple lilac that Grant had purchased from a street vendor earlier in the week, and Jill and I hit the streets to snap some casual photos of the dress. The photos you see here are the result of that time with Jill, my attempts to look like a fresh-faced Parisian bride and the amazing generosity of Camille. Cannot wait to be back in Paris again in September!

 

photography by Jill Devries| Jenny Packham Eden gown compliments of The Dress Theory.

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A Welcome Home Baby Shower

•  22.August.2014

Oh my gooooooodness. Is it Friday already?! The past few weeks have just flown by so so fast! I was out to dinner with a few girlfriends last night and we were talking about how winter and the change of season will be here before we know it…eeek! I have had all the meaning in the world to share so so much with you this summer (about the house, about travel, about some current inspirations), but work has pretty much taken over lately. I took on a HUGE styling/photography project over the past couple of weeks, flew home for a few days to see my new nephew (ooooh he’s SO cute!) and am gearing up to leave on Sunday to style a wedding in Italy and then spend nearly a month abroad. All the while, I’ve been dying to share images of this baby shower I styled and co-hosted with Nicole for our sweet friend Julie. The images Nicole captured of the celebration seriously bring me so much joy. Because honestly in the midst of the madness, moments like the one I’m about to share with you are why this life is really worth living.

Julie is a dear friend and one of the first people who invited me with warm and open arms to my life as a stylist. Jules is a brilliant photographer (you can see all of her amazing work over here) and she has been such a huge support in my life here in Seattle, especially creatively. So when word got out that she and her adorable husband Andy would be making the big move to Hawaii to be closer to family this spring I was selfishly devastated. Although I was happy for this couple I cared about so deeply, I couldn’t imagine life in Seattle without Julie, and it felt horrible knowing that she would be so far away, especially with her first babe on the way.

As life often does, time slipped through my fingertips while Julie was away, and although we didn’t get a chance to connect as often as I would have liked, she was on my mind daily. So when I found out that she would be moving back to Seattle in July I was over the moon with excitement! Julie was already planning to be back in town to shoot a wedding and for us to throw her a baby shower this summer, but when I found out the date would also represent her return to her friends/family here, I wanted the shower to be all the more special for her.

We hosted the shower at Nicole’s house in Greenlake (her backyard is so so gorgeous and was the perfect summer-y and whimsical backdrop). Nicole and I brainstormed and created all the details for the shower with plenty of lead-time so we could get creative and source pretty vintage props. Nicole sourced the most gorgeous vintage blankets and made a bunch of beautiful dream catchers to hang around the yard, and also found some great inspiration for all the food we served. I got to work on a feather/wood bead and soft golden yarn backdrop for above the food table, some graphic paper details, really wild flower arrangements and some hand painted triangle napkins to add some soft and sweet touches to the shower. We tag teamed making the food (the fig and arugula pizzas and strawberry crumble bars being a few of my favorites!) and along with Julie’s closest Seattle friends, we showered Julie and her baby boy to come with all the love we could that day.

One of my favorite details of the day was the mobile. I don’t know about you, but I have found when helping friends design nurseries that finding a baby mobile that isn’t too cheesy or too expensive can be a bit of a feat. Since Nicole and I already had our crafty/DIY hats on, there seemed no better opportunity to create a mobile for above the baby’s crib than during the shower itself. Using leather, suede, pretty feathers and more wood beads, each guest who attended the party stranded their own string of beads to the mobile throughout the evening. It was such a special way for each person to be involved in the shower and everyone was so excited to know they had a hand in making something pretty for the baby’s room.

You can find lots more pictures from Julie’s baby shower over on 100 Layer Cakelet where it was featured last week! Happiest of weekend’s to you friends! Lookout for exciting new posts all next week!

 

photography and outdoor styling by nicole vaughn | tabletop styling and floral arranging by jenn elliott blake.

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Lately.

•  20.August.2014

Without an official announcement, I took a break from the blog for a few weeks to focus on summer and some exciting new (and very time-consuming) styling projects. As a solopreneuer it can become quite daunting to manage all of the various sides of running a business when you are a one woman show, and sometimes certain things have to take priority over others. When you are sleeping only a few hours a night and running on fumes, you ask yourself  ”okay Jenn, what must give”? And as much as I hate this here blog having to be the thing that shuffles to the back burner from time to time, warm weather/lots of travel opportunity/catch up with friends/exciting new work and some much-needed rest sometimes makes a break from bloggin’ imperative. I’m just simply considering this little moment of silence like a summer sitcom hiatus…everyone is busy in the summer so shows refrain from sharing new episodes, but they rev right back up mid to late August – so here I am – back with all new content…yay!

For today, I thought I’d just share a quick rundown on what I’ve been up to lately. Instagram has become such an amazing way to share the moment by moment happenings of life and my business, so if you aren’t following me there yet, be sure to check it out – AND please, please say hello! I’m always looking for fun new people to meet and follow!

Lately :

1. Farmer’s market visits EVERY Sunday morning. Organic produce is my religion.

2. New nephew snuggles in Colorado. Don’t babies just smell divine?!

3. A huge fall styling project for Starbucks/Teavana…more on that to come soon!

4. Prep, packing and last-minute detail finalizing for next week’s Italy wedding clients. Wishing my suitcase was a bit larger right about now! Lucca, Italy here I come!

5. Breakfast/lunch/happy hour/dinner dates with friends. Cause summer really is the best time to play “hey how’s life going for ya?” with your favorite people.

6. RyanAir flight booking between Morocco and England. Nearly one month abroad officially kicks off this Sunday!

7. Bought a new vintage rug for the kitchen from my friends at Homestead Seattle.

8. Talks about potential new book styling gigs next year.

9. Doggie popiscles (aka ice chips) all day everyday for B-Bug. 80′s nearly everyday this summer here in Seattle! Say what?!

10. Lists and lists of house remodel “to do’s” and none of it done. Hey, that’s what crappy winter weather is for, right?

11. Homemade turkey and mushroom stroganoff with sweet peas for dinner last night. Was craving comfort food.

12. Inspiring and life altering coffee dates with Jenny, Lisa and Rina over the past few weeks.

13. A new pair of comfy (might as well be pajama pants) from here.

14. Long mind-centering walks through our neighborhood.

15. A painful sunburn and an even more painful bee sting. Ouch!

16. Multiple summer celebrations of baby. Currently have 6 Seattle friends who are pregnant right now, certainly not including folks from back home or family too! I’m officially classifying 2014 as the year of baby.

17. Burgers and fries date with my parents in Denver. This place is our happy place.

18. Flower arranging nearly everyday.

19. Newfound cocktail spot in our hood. Their fresh basil gimlet is SO tasty!

20. A much-needed San Diego beach day with my sis-in-law.

 

More updates and pictures of some recent styling work to come later this week! Thanks for hanging with me during my summer break friends. More soon!

 

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La Hacienda Evening.

•  25.July.2014

Happy Friday ya’ll! Oh can I just tell ya just how happy I am that it’s Friday?! The weather has been so crummy all week, but woke to the sun shining and much warmer weather…hallelujah! Couldn’t be happier, no way!

I wanted to cruise into the weekend by sharing some pretty pretty photos my dear friend Dorothee captured of a fun cocktail party I had the pleasure of attending a couple of weeks back. Believe me when I tell you we have had one gorgeous summer in Seattle and this evening party at Theresa’s (the temp was in the high 80′s that day! it was hot!) was the perfect way to celebrate the joys of summer. I had the pleasure of meeting Theresa through mutual friends (Miss Katie to be exact) and boy does this lady make me laugh – and that big shrieky laugh to boot! She is such a riot and honestly has such great style – I mean look at her living room?! It was beyond. Her apartment made me wish we could sell our new house and move right on it. Every architectural detail was just so dreamy.

The party was in main part a celebration of the ever so talented Michelle Armas coming into town for a visit. Michelle is an amazing artist whose work has been an inspiration to me for a long long while. I was so excited for the opportunity to finally meet her especially in the company of such great friends.

The party itself was hosted not only by Theresa, but by Jenny and Katie too. I shared Jenny’s work earlier this week(isn’t she great?!) and Katie is such a dear and talented friend as well. Katie whipped up those beautiful floral centerpieces, combining them with Theresa’s amazing tabletop decor…I was seriously in prop stylist heaven during this party, let me tell you! Katie was also kind enough to share with me some of the recipes she used to create the treats we consumed that night so I could share them with you! Looking for a kick-ass party cocktail or the ingredients to the beautiful triangle watermelon salad? Keep on scrolling – see below!

It’s always so fun not only to spend an evening with inspiring friends, but also with my Adam as well. It’s not too often that the boys are also invited to this types of shindig, so it was extra special and so adorable to see them chatting away, even at times more than the ladies – love that!

I cannot ever get over how well Dorothee seems to capture these perfect moments and just feel so fortunate to have friends who not only make me feel so loved, but also capture feel good memories so I can remember them for a long time to come. It was also so much fun getting to spend more time with LydiaBrian and Samantha too!

 

I hope you enjoy these sweet and simple summer recipes and have your own opportunity to share in the celebration of the season with friends or loved ones this weekend! Happy Weekend ya’ll!

 

WATERMELON SALAD
Start with 1/2 large watermelon cut into triangles or squares (whatever your heart desires). Top watermelon with fresh mozzarella (cut into the same shape) followed by a couple tablespoons of fresh chopped mint and basil, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of Maldon Sea Salt Flakes, and a handful of walnuts. You can repeat this 2-3 times.

 

KATIE’S WATERMELON SPRITZER
Your favorite vodka (1-2 shots)
1/2 cup fresh watermelon juice (available at Whole Foods)
1/2 cup ice
1 tsp fresh lime juice
Sprig of Mint

 

KATIE’S LEMON SPRITZER
Your favorite vodka (1-2 shots)
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemonade (Whole Foods)
1/2 cup ice
Sprig of basil

 

photography by : Dorothee Brand | flowers and recipes : Katie Hackworth | beautiful home belongs to Theresa Crim.

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July has been a month for slowing down. For soaking in the warmth of the sun as it blankets our city in ways it avoids nearly 9 months out of the year. I’ve spent this month connecting with friends, working on house stuff, celebrating life transitions, and focusing on the finer things in life (good food, good friends and netflix of course!). Being a freelancer it always seems to pour when it rains – work comes in waves – weeks where you are so busy you can barely remember who you are or what you’re doing, and weeks where you wonder if you will ever work another day again. On those slower weeks, I’ve had to learn and concentrate on remembering that the slow times are a precious gift offering the opportunity to recharge my batteries, to rest and to look for new inspiration.

This week in particular I’ve made an effort to see the inner workings of a few creative friends of mine here in Seattle whom I greatly admire. One of those folks is my dear sweet friend Jenny Vorwaller. I’ve briefly shared Jenny’s work here on the blog before, and Adam and I have been fortunate enough to slowing grow our own collection of Jenny Vorwaller artwork (we have 3 beautiful pieces in our home right now and I’m eyeing a new piece that may just need to make its way home soon). I had been so eager to see Jenny’s studio space and she was gracious enough to allow me to stop by this week to get a behind the scenes glance at all her magic. Every last one of Jenny’s paintings intrigues me, and I’m always so so excited to see what series she’s working on next. Honestly if I could nab every last canvas you see here I certainly would! I found so much joy in leisurely exploring her space with her, followed by coffee and deep conversation over a blueberry fritter at a local donut shop. A good day it was indeed.

If you’d like to see more of Jenny’s work and maybe even acquire one of Jenny’s amazing pieces for your own home (I promise you, you do!) check out her available work on her website here or over here too. Thank you for sharing your lovely studio Jenny!

 1.

You know you’ve got it pretty dang good when your work week consists of a whole lot of play. When putting effort into achieving something exceptional means you get to share in laughter, fun and a multitude of happy memories over dinner with some wonderful people. When hosting a friend from out-of-town ultimately means supporting them in achieving one of their biggest goals in life….let’s just say life has been pretty great lately.

A little less than two weeks ago I was given the most amazing opportunity to host a dinner party alongside my friend Sally in celebration of my dear friend Anna’s kickstarter journey. Collaborating with these two insanely talented women was already something I’d had the pleasure of experiencing before (at this event in NYC) and knowing I’d get the chance to collaborate with them again on my own home turf of Seattle literally made me giddy.

The evening took place in Sally and her husband Chris’ beautiful backyard (I mean how enchanting are those stranded bulb lights against the bamboo?!) amidst the company of our husbands and some dear friends from the wedding industry here in Seattle. When Anna reached out many many months ago to ask if a dinner party in Seattle was a possibility, I never once hesitated to say yes. Let’s see : a private dinner cooked by an amazing chef and I get to style a pretty tabletop to celebrate the occasion?? YES, PLEASE!

AND seriously! What an honor it was to support Anna’s mission. Anna set out eight months ago to self publish her own cookbook - over 100 healthy and simple recipes meant to inspire others to not only eat well, but to celebrate in the joy of sharing a meal around the table. To set communal dining as a priority and to engage with others often over the sharing of life experiences and the pleasure of eating well. In the midst of cooking, shooting and executing all of the recipes and images for her cookbook, Anna proceeded to pack up a teeny VW bug in early June and drove from NYC all the way to LA, all the while concocting the most beautiful dinner parties along the way with blogger friends. Each dinner uniquely promoting the upcoming release of her book. She flew to Seattle as her last destination and what a joy it was to be in her company. You can read all about Anna’s journey, nab a first edition copy of her book AND support her kickstarter campaign here … (as of this afternoon she’s only a few hundred dollars away from her goal with 7 days to go!! She’s so so close!).

Being that Anna always puts in insane amount of effort into any experience, she sourced the most beautiful cheeses and artisan breads, along with local crostini and some pretty bits of Simple and Crisp dried fruit for appetizers for the evening. We all toasted to Anna’s long cross-country journey and the beginning of new friendships over glasses filled to the brim with wine. We took in the amazing evening sunlight and warmth of summer while gearing up for a dinner menu that was sure to be a big treat.

Sally used a pencil to hand letter the most beautiful menus on lush creamy white paper to give the table a casual yet elegant feel. Before dinner I hand-burned the edges of the menus to pay tribute to our fireside s’mores we would be having for dessert before placing them on a chartreuse fringed napkin at each setting.

I wanted the design of the tabletop to be simple, fresh and colorful to celebrate the summer season and reflect the joy I felt not only for my friendship with Anna, but everyone else around the table. Bold pops of color from peonies, lavender from my yard, chamomile, and a plethora of other PNW locally grown florals completed the floral design for the table. We used simple manila tags to create name cards for each person, which were safety pinned along the side of the pretty Auntie Oti linens at each spot at the table.

Seattle Farm Table‘s beautiful dark barnwood benches, antique flatware, clear glassware I’d sourced from my travels to Paris, and an array of mid-century pottery completed the look. We ended up getting 13 of us around the table that evening despite our fear of barely fitting 10. The more the merrier had always been Anna’s philosophy with entertaining, and after this amazing meal I couldn’t agree with her more. The evening was just so so perfect.

Everything from the appetizers, to the salad of arugula & local fava beans, to the parchment paper wrapped cod was just divine. I’ve had the pleasure of consuming many of the dishes in Anna’s cookbook but this dinner was definitely one for the books. I loved that everything was served family style making the evening all the more communal and warm. We ended the evening with s’mores over Sally’s fire pit and never-ending conversation and laughter. Being that it was a work night I expected everyone to wrap up and head home by 9:30, but it was nearly midnight before we finally started packing up the night.

Anna is honestly one of the most exceptional people I’ve ever met, and as I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I admire not only her talents as a chef and food writer, but her tenacity to fight for her dreams and not only express them but experience and live them out fully. It was such an honor to be the last city on Anna’s amazing kickstarter journey and with just 7 short days to go and her being so so close to achieving her goal, I couldn’t be prouder of her! Thank you for such an amazing evening Anna!

If you’d like to contribute to Anna’s campaign and nab yourself a first edition copy of her cookbook, be sure to head over here ASAP as the campaign ends next week! Cannot wait to get a copy of her book in my hands!! It’s gonna be so so good!

Also, a gigantic thank you to Elizabeth who so graciously photographed the evening on last minute notice when we we found ourselves without a photographer. It was so much fun meeting you and I’m so grateful for your presence that evening despite not knowing any of us before arriving. I hope we get many more chances to collaborate in the future! Thank you for everything!
Photography : Elizabeth Rudge | Calligraphy : Sally Balt of La Happy Design | Chef : Anna Watson Carl | Styling and Floral Design : Jenn Elliott Blake | Wood Farm Benches : Seattle Farm Tables
 3.

Oh my goodness. What an amazing month of June it was! Over the past few years I’ve spent much of my summers traveling, but this year I wanted things to be different. Seattle is at its very best during the summer months – seriously in 7 years of living in this city I cannot remember a better June than this one and I’m so happy I stayed put long enough to enjoy it!

The sun has been shining on more days than I can count over the past few weeks, and we’ve had a plethora of amazing visitors coming to stay with us. This week as the perfect celebration and counterpart to the 4th of July holiday, my littlest sister Coli and her boyfriend Zach are coming up from New Mexico to hang with us for the week. I’m literally jumping with joy! I can’t wait to show them some of our favorite spots around town and spend our days soaking up the glorious sunshine!

A few essentials that I have in mind for this week’s festivities and city exploring :

01. Sunglasses : a good pair of Ray-Ban’s is practically a summer staple in my book. I’m definitely coveting these ones.

02. Denim Shorts : never been one to love wearing shorts, but you cannot go wrong with a great pair of classic denim cutoffs especially for an afternoon on the beach.

03. Ankle Wrap Sandal : simple is everything I want in a sandal this year. I love this perfect pop of green color too.

04. Picnic Basket for Two : one of my favorite things to do in the summertime here in Seattle is evening bonfires on the beach. Golden Gardens is our favorite spot and this pretty picnic basket for packing up treats could quickly become my new BFF.

05. Marshmallow Skewers : uhhhh, what is a bonfire on the beach without some s’mores eh?! I love the handle on these metal ones.

06. Simple and Crisp : oh my gosh. Although I’ve never been a big “dried fruit” type of gal, I can’t get over the yummy tastes of Simple and Crisp. Their blood orange fruit slices are so so good, and with a bit of creamy cheese on top this will be my go-to snack this 4th.

07. Cozy Tee Shirt : comfort has always been my biggest priority during the 4th of July holiday. It’s typically a warm weather day and a loose, simple cotton tee-shirt is a priority for sure.

08. Lip Balm : when the weather is hot and we are acting as tourists in our own city while showing visitors around town, my only must have for a quick makeup pick-me-up is a light dab of chapstick. I love the smell of this rose scented one.

09. Bikini Bottoms : we are always looking for new ways to celebrate a holiday and to explore our city in new ways. This year we are definitely taking kayaks through the arboretum. For only $10 (I know right?!) you can take a rented kayak out into the beautiful waters of Lake Washington. We’ve never done this before despite wanting to for years! I’m SO excited for this part of our week, and a pair of cute bikini bottoms is perfect for dunking in the lake water to cool off from the heat.

10. Bixby Bicycle : riding a bike through a city with the wind in your hair has always reminded me of my most cherished moments in Paris. I would give anything to have a pretty bike to ride around town this 4th of July.

Wishing you all a relaxing and joyous 4th of July this week. I hope you get a chance to spend time with loved ones and celebrate the pleasures of summer.

 1.

A couple of months back I had the pleasure of collaborating with West Elm and my dear friend Aran of the world-renowned blog Cannelle et Vanille. When Aran initially reached out to me asking if I would style some images for some of her favorite summer time spanish recipes I absolutely couldn’t resist. I have admired Aran’s work for longer than I can remember, tasted the delightfulness of her amazing cooking during many get-togethers with girlfriends, and spent practically at least one afternoon a week scouring the props and decor of the local West Elm in downtown Seattle. Collaborating with not only Aran but a brand like West Elm was a no brainer.

I was like a kid in a candy store as I scoured West Elm’s site looking for the perfect summer season compliments to Aran’s planned dishes. I couldn’t wait to taste her paella (I’d actually never had paella before as seafood has always made my tummy churn a bit, but this shoot alone and the tastefulness of the dish convinced me that consuming it again on a recent trip to Barcelona was an absolute must). I loved West Elm’s gigantic paella pan so much that we now have two of them in our own kitchen. I’ve also gushed before in IG how much I love Aran’s spanish tortilla so seeing that on the list of recipes made me gleefully happy.

Be sure to head over to West Elm’s blog : herehere and here or Aran’s blog post to check out the full list of recipes and for more pretty pictures.

Photography & Food Styling : Aran Goyoaga | Prop Styling & Florals : Jenn Elliott Blake | Many of the items you see in this post are from West Elm’s summer collection

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