The past year has been quite a whirlwind. Auggie was born late in 2015 and the first six months of his life were wrought with challenges I never expected which left us at home non-stop for the majority of the first half of the year. The idea of a legitimate family vacation felt like a far off dream back then. But as we have settled into parenthood and I finally got back to work, traveling with a baby seemed manageable, even exciting, do-able. So when Hilton Garden Inn reached out asking if I wanted to partner with them and head to Kauai, Hawaii for a week this winter it didn’t take long for me to say yes.
I have dreamed of going to Kauai for as far back as I can remember – a friend of mine from college whose dad lived there, and whom spent every college break getting an amazing tan, always talked about Kauai like it was this magical exotic far off wonderland. We’ve also lived in the PNW for nearly a decade and it seemed absolutely absurd that we still hadn’t taken a Hawaiian vacation since there are direct flights to Lihue right from our backyard. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that Kauai had to happen and with a baby in tow no-less!
We arrived in Hawaii and were immediately giddy. The palm trees, the vastness of the ocean and the sunset…oh the sunsets. I forgot just how beautiful the setting sun could be and how it could do things to the sky not even the most skilled painter could recreate. We got settled into our cute cottage accommodations pretty quickly, covering the windows with trash bags and painters tape (if you’re a parent and haven’t used this trick yet to blackout a room while traveling it’s the easiest and breeziest! and if you’re not a parent, TRUST ME…100% worth the effort) and laying out Auggie’s adorable swimsuits that by some miracle still fit from early July when we bought them (thank you lycra!).
We went down to the beach as quickly as we could (which was just a short two minute walk from our room across the lawn and right on Wailua Bay!) and soaked in the first of many gorgeous cotton candy sunsets and sunrises. It felt so overwhelmingly beautiful and comforting to watch the warmth of the sun fall on my boys’ sweet faces as it escaped under the horizon, and to hear the bellowing sounds of the waves hitting the shore. Auggie had never been to a real oceanside beach before, so seeing his little toes bury themselves in the sand was pure joy for this mama.
After an AH-MAZING nights sleep in the comfy king sized bed we headed up to The Garden Grille on site for our first breakfast as a family. We immediately ordered pancakes smothered in the most amazing fresh coconut syrup, an omelette filled with every vegetable imaginable and consumed as much fresh papaya and pineapple as we could stomach. Auggie’s sleep schedule means his actual meals happen when we usually don’t have time to eat with him or are at hours we aren’t as hungry, so it was the most fun to sit at the restaurant as a family and actually eat a meal together. The simplest of pleasures, but such a treat! He was so proud of himself to be sitting at the table right alongside mama and papa. When we were done with breakfast we decided to take a walk around the property, swooning over the pretty pool and the ocean views as we went.
After breakfast and our wander, Adam stayed back and put Auggie down for a nap and I hopped in the car to explore the island. We had brought our favorite babysitter Susanna along on the trip to help with Auggie so Adam and I could actually enjoy some of the excursions we had planned and we could both work as needed. Susuanna wasn’t occupied that morning so I brought her along on my day trip adventure which was SO fun.
Just a thirty minute gorgeously scenic drive from the Hilton Garden Inn was the Kilauea Lighthouse. The views were absolutely impeccable and I was in total shock just how turquoise the water was against the rocks. Oh my gosh and the humidity…the closer we were to the beach and the more it sprinkled drops of rain, the more untamed my hair always got! By the end of our trip I finally just gave in and let it go as wild as it wanted.
Before leaving the Kilauea area, we stopped to shop at Hunter Gatherer (an absolute must if you are ever on Kauai!) and nabbed a fresh juice from Kauai Juice Co. They have a location in downtown Kapaa as well and it was definitely a consistent staple of our trip.
I continued our afternoon drive north settling into the beach town of Hanalei. Wanting to get to a secluded place on the water, I pulled off the road at Waikoko Beach and had not a clue how to actually get down from the road to the water as there was a steep drop and appeared no walking route. Luckily a surfer with a cute little scraggly dog wearing a puka shell necklace (seriously, only in Hawaii!) was kind enough to give me and Susanna advice on how to make the trek down : “oh just take off your shoes and climb down the tree roots, they are super strong!” I looked at him in complete bewilderment and laughed a bit thinking he must be kidding? He wasn’t. So in an effort not to look like a seriously old lady in front of Susanna who is 10 years my junior, and with a determination to have an authentic Hawaiian experience, I clung to the tree roots and climbed my way down, feeling like a kid for the first time in years. Once we were down to the sand it was absolutely breathtaking. It was one of those postcard moments you wished you could live in forever.
That night after a relaxing drive back to our hotel along the coast, including a stop at Duane’s Ono-Char Burger for some grub (the teriyaki and pinapple burger was HEAVEN!), Adam and I left Augs with Susanna and set off for a luau and hula dancing performance at Smith’s. We were so entranced by their beautiful property and the botanic gardens. I also couldn’t get over how effortlessly those hula dancers make their hips shake! I don’t think I could shake my body like that even with years of practice!
Two of the things I enjoyed most during our time on Kauai was a helicopter ride we took with Safari Helicopters and our Na Pali sunset dinner cruise with Capt Andy’s. Neither Adam nor I had ever been in a helicopter before so it was such a thrilling adventure for us both (in all honesty, I was terrified before the flight especially now that we have a child who depends on us but it was something I will never regret doing). The views were SO beautiful and it was fun to see the coastline from so high up. And after living in Seattle for almost 10 years with not a single whale sighting, catching multiple views of humpbacks during our boat ride was an absolute thrill that made me cry. There is just something so stunningly beautiful about seeing animals in their wild habitat unrestricted right?
Every morning we made an effort to get to the beach before sunrise allowing us lots of time to adventure around town with Auggie. I’ve traveled many times before, but experiencing a new place through the eyes of your child takes the cake. Everything is new to them (the fresh pineapple and mango at the farmer’s market, the rusty stairs of the lifeguards post, people watching during brunch at Java Kai in Old Town) and everything is so much more fun because of it. I get so much satisfaction from solo travel, but having my little buddy along on this Hawaii trip was the cherry on top of such a great experience.
The morning before we flew back to Seattle, we took one last drive to see Wailua Falls, Opaekaa Falls and the Wailua River. I’m obsessed with waterfalls and my one regret of the trip was not having more time to go on a hike and wade in the calm waters under the falls (oh and not taking home any of the coconut syrup…dang it!). We got to Wailua Falls right after the sunrise and were the only ones taking in its misty glow…it was absolutely breathtaking. I also got to capture a few photos of my boys being extra cute which was an added bonus. This trip to Kauai will be one I will never forget and I’m so glad we got the opportunity to travel as a family to such an awe-inspiring place.
A few other worthwhile stops if you are ever on the island of Kauai:
When I received the initial email I couldn’t respond fast enough. After nearly 8 months of non-stop diaper changing, nap scheduling and laundry washing (who knew babies wear like 10 outfits a day?!) this mama didn’t have to waiver for even a second on an invite to a fancy summer dinner in a winery. And when I saw that the dinner was also a collective collaboration between Sur La Table, Fortessa and DeLille Cellars I was all the more eager to attend.
For those of you who live in Washington, DeLille Cellars is just a quick drive outside Seattle in Woodinville and is just so peaceful with some of the oldest vineyards in the state. They specialize in french styles of Bordeaux, Provence and the Rhone Valley and I was SO eager to try their wines (a quick note : their 2013 D2 is FANTASTIC – I mean, best red wine I’ve had in a really longtime).
Ever since I visited Provence about 7 years ago, I’ve had this fixation with wine varieties and have always wondered how wines are perfectly paired with dishes (I learned a simple trick : take a bite of your food and then take a sip of wine. If you can still taste the flavors of the dish without the wine overpowering it, you’ve got a good match!). I have a dream of becoming a sommelier someday (in my extra spare time of course, ha!) so visiting DeLille on a perfect summer evening was such a treat.
When I arrived that evening at the vineyard, I was blown away by the beauty and simplicity of the table. As a prop stylist I always find myself gravitating towards the details of an event on immediate arrival, and the stemware and plating were just so striking. I’ve had a long adoration for Sur La Table (I source from there for pretty much every last photoshoot) and have a soft spot in my heart for them since they started right here in Seattle. Fortessa’s new Schott Zwiesel Air Collection available exclusively at Sur La Table instantly captivated my attention – each glass was just so gorgeous and sparkly!
Over the course of the evening, we were told about the wonderful quality of the Air and Air Sense stemware – durable, chip & scratch resistant and also dishwasher safe (which seriously blew my mind with how seemingly delicate and light they are!). I am absolutely OBSESSED with the 1872 Air Sense glass which is handmade and hand blown with a stunning decantation sphere right in the center of the glass that helps to aerate the wine. The innovative design (one I’ve never seen anything like!) allows for additional air to enter the glass which brings out all the complex flavors of the wine it holds.
Alongside the stemware, the table was decked out with Fortessa’s beautiful collection of tableware. I had no idea that Fortessa supplies and develops over 70% of the four and five-star hotels tableware in North America and after seeing their gorgeous collection it makes sense! The menu that evening was beyond tasty and the tableware highlighted the complexity of the colorful menu all the more. That salad…OH heavens. It might have just been the most vibrant and pretty dish I’ve ever consumed!
Overall the evening was the perfect ode to summer, and I absolutely loved getting to know all the amazing folks behind the scenes who made this collaboration happen. I cannot wait to incorporate some of the Air Collection into my upcoming shoots and some fall dinner parties I have in the works.
This post was sponsored and created in collaboration with Sur La Table and Fortessa. All opinions are 100% my own and I appreciate you supporting the brands who support this blog.
As a stylist it wasn’t hard to get excited about the process of making a designated room for our soon to be little cherub. I was immediately flooded with an array of ideas (too many really!) and spent a couple of months in early pregnancy slowly piecing together an initial design board (you can see it here) and seeking out details for the space that didn’t necessarily scream ‘baby!’ As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we knew we were gonna to be up against a space issue – our home only has one 10×10 bedroom on the main floor with our other two bedrooms on the lower level, so making a nursery posed some logistical challenges.
A couple folks suggested we just forgo having a nursery all together, but I was determined to prove that even in the most constricted spaces you can have a beautiful area for your baby to dwell in, which can not only be a direct reflection of your personal style, but also offer a fluid extension of your traditional space. We went back and forth over and over again about the possibilities of where we would put baby (all of us downstairs? all of us in our bedroom? him in our bedroom, us downstairs?) and finally settled on us all staying on the main level of our house. I loved the idea of converting our kitchen/breakfast nook to our “baby nursery” and although I knew it would be a tight fit, on the flip side the idea of being secluded in a room away from our main living space while breastfeeding him 40+ hours a week was a horribly unattractive idea.
Being that the space is super teeny (8×8) I started the design process knowing I wouldn’t be able to fit much. I therefore wanted to be really intentional about making a few investments that would offer a lasting and beautiful bang for our buck. The design of the space initially centered around this gorgeous cloud print by Megumi Shauna Arai (a local artist here in Seattle) and I could see myself happily gazing at it in the wee morning hours of exhaustion in the those early months of motherhood.
We had the artwork professionally framed and placed it above this vintage Drexel Kipp Stewart credenza which was a piece we had coveted in our home for a while but had been in storage for the past year and half during our remodel. It has offered such a great way to store all our baby clothes/supplies and paired really well with this Dwell Studio changing station which we secured to the back of the credenza. It took about six months for everything to come together and each day that a new box of goodies arrived on our porch or I spotted something that would be perfect for the space while out and about I got so immensely giddy. The entire process has been so much fun!
The baby nook sits all nice and cozy directly off our kitchen and it makes me so elated to peer in there while I’m making dinner or moving about our home. That chair was seriously worth EVERY last penny and is SO SO comfortable. Being that I’m nearly 6 ft tall I needed a chair with a high back so I could rest my head in the middle of the night and catch some extra zzz’s.
After sitting in nearly 20 nursery chairs, this West Elm Graham Glider in dove grey stole my heart and made my lower back super happy. I also love that it’s not a traditional nursery rocker and can transition to other areas of our home long after baby boy grows. The shaggy pouf ottoman is a Land of Nod find and pairs perfectly with the comfort of the chair.
I spent a lot of time considering lighting for the space and gleefully settled on this hand crocheted chandelier my Grammie made nearly 20 years ago. I love it so so much and until now had not found the perfect spot for it. It adds such a soft and inviting touch, and helps make the space extra special/feel very personal.
The gold sconce above the chair is from Schoolhouse Electric and I’m OBSESSED with it. Their lightning is such amazing quality and I love that they are PNW pals with their headquarters just down the road in Portland. It will be so nice to switch on the sconce in the middle of night for diaper changes without flooding the whole room with light.
Also, that Land of Nod bassinet…uhhhhh swoon right?! I love how snuggly it fits right in the room and offers additional storage space beneath it. ***A little sidenote : being that we live in an earthquake state, I have NO intention of having our babe sleep in the bassinet while under the shelving. During his nap times I will be pulling the bassinet away from the shelves or into our living room to keep him safe.*** But when it’s not in use, it fits perfectly under the white custom shelves Adam made and those West Elm antique brass prism brackets.
In conjunction with the nook, we are also planning on having our babe in our bedroom for the first few months after bringing him home. I wanted him to be visibly accessible in the middle of the night (new mama worries!) without having to leave our bed. We borrowed this sweet Babyletto origami mini crib from our friends Andie & Christian and it instantly became our solution for overnight sleep. The cozy vintage african mud cloth crib blanket was custom-made for us by One Fine Nest and the blue quilt was made by hand by Adam’s Aunt Sandy using fabrics from my friend Keli over at Drygoods Design. The cute polka dot mini crib sheet is from Land of Nod.
These GORGEOUS baskets are from The Citizenry and have been so ideal for storing toys and all of the beautiful blankets we were gifted by friends and family at our baby showers. The colors of the baskets are so dang pretty and vibrant, and I love that each one was handmade and is one-of-a-kind. The persian rug is a vintage find from an estate sale a few years back, and the macrame wall hanging was made by me and my mama about a year ago for an Anthropologie photo shoot. The mobile consists of drift wood and shells I picked up along my beach walks at Discovery Park here in Seattle. The vintage black and white african mud cloth pillow as well as the pillows in the bassinet in the baby nook are from The Mod Boho.
It has been such a treat to set out all of the amazing items and teeny shoes we have been gifted on these simple shelves. The little wooden toy cars were actually Adam’s from when he was a little boy, the maternity photograph was shot by pal Catherine Abegg when I was about 29 weeks pregnant, and those adorable wooden name blocks are made by Little Sapling Toys and were a gift from my friend Laura. The vintage painting was a treasure found during my travels in Berlin last year; the bear piggy bank was a sweet antique find from my sister Coli; and the stuffed knit raccoon doll from my Aunt Sue is from Blabla.
Everything about this space gives me a rush of happy mama feelings. I absolutely cannot wait to bring our little guy home to this loving space as it has quickly become my favorite spot in our home. I’ve already spent many an hour sitting in this space with our pup and am counting the minutes until I’m holding our babe in my arms.
The idea of taking professional photographs of yourself when you’re not feeling your most svelte can seem a bit daunting. What to wear? Where to do them? How to cover up my expanding thighs, my dimpled arms? When? But since becoming pregnant I knew that no matter what, this time in my life was something I wanted to (I MUST) capture, regardless of any developing body insecurities. For many of the women in my life, pregnancy had been something that they had fought years, even decades for. Some were given the sullen news that pregnancy would never be an option for them, others are still trying with all their might to start or continue their families.
So when we got pregnant relatively quickly (I went off birth control in May of 2014 and we got pregnant without consistent effort and a crazy travel schedule by February of 2015) I thanked all our lucky stars that we were able to conceive a baby naturally and without much trouble. Therefore, I’m intentionally appreciating every last-minute of this pregnancy with unwavering gratitude and even though I don’t always wake up feeling or looking my best, I couldn’t imagine not documenting this exciting event in our lives. There is something so incredibly empowering about seeing your female body transform throughout pregnancy, no matter what that pesky scale might say.
Here is where I tell you the story of how freaking fortunate I am to have the girlfriends I do. Each one is equally passionate about their life, their work, their families and each one provides something so unique and special to my life. Not only do I have a plethora of numbers to call or text when the going gets tough, but I know that each one of these women are over the moon for me and Adam and this little bebe we are about to bring into the world. So when I considered taking some traditional maternity photos not one, but FOUR friends offered their services. Seriously?? I could sob uncontrollably in a blanket in response to the generosity of these women. And honestly there is NOTHING more special than having someone you love capture your special moments…it’s priceless REALLY.
Julie and Catherine were kind enough to tag team a maternity shoot for me a few weeks back, and I cannot even begin to tell you how much fun it was, although I was pretty nervous from the get go. The dresses I had ordered for the occasion came late, our house was a total disaster the weekend before the shoot and my face/chest were in that lovely stage of pregnancy breakout (ick). But at 7 months pregnant I knew that I wanted to capture my body in all it’s expectant glory before I felt too tired, too bloated, or too stretched out to enjoy it.
With A LOT of help from Adam our house was cleaned, I picked up the dresses from UPS the morning of the shoot, I had my hair and makeup done by sweet Chelsey and Julie and Catherine came over in the afternoon sunlight and worked their magic. I felt comfortable, and beautiful and just so joyful and happy. Julie shot with her digital camera, Catherine with film. We spent about an hour going from room to room and even to our backyard to capture the light and my growing belly. I cried happy tears when Julie sent me the first images she had edited and I couldn’t resist sharing a few of my favorites here. I cannot wait for the day that my little guy is old enough to (maybe?) appreciate seeing these photos of when his mama was growing him in her belly. Regardless of his enthusiasm, I feel so thankful to have images like these ones to forever remember this fleeting time in our life.
If you are even considering getting pregnancy photos, DO IT. Even if it’s just a few photos taken by a loved one, don’t pass up the chance. I considered canceling the shoot a few days before after feeling overwhelmed by the idea of being behind the camera (and not feeling so great physically with non-stop contractions), but am SO glad I went through with it. I plan to have my belly captured one last time right before our due date (just to get it in all its fullest, roundest glory) and am counting the days until I can get some of these framed for our home.
Thank you again to Julie and Catherine for taking the time out of their busy mama/biz lady lives to make this shoot happen. You can see more from the shoot over on Julie’s blog.
When we bought our house back in January 2014, we were so eager to have a home of our own that we overlooked many of the red flags and happily committed to buying a home that might not have been one of our finest choices. You can read more about our home buying experience in this post, but long story short…it has been a treacherous journey. In conjunction with the number of issues with the home, I quickly realized that even though our house was a generous 1600 square feet, the layout wasn’t so ideal. Our first floor only had one bedroom and with guests eager to visit we quickly had to get creative. Our basement was gutted (for reason’s I’m too exhausted to explain), so our only option was to either offer our guests slumber on an air mattress in our living room (complete with dog licks and smelly breath panting) or to convert our breakfast nook into a tiny guest bedroom sans doors.
Breakfast nook it was.
For over a year and a half, it worked! Friends and family came to visit and they resided in our kitchen right next to the dishwasher and sink. No one complained (if they wanted to they were too kind to say anything), but after decorating the 8×8 space with a few favorite heirloom pieces and a Jenny Vorwaller oil painting, the nook did well serving a purpose other than just an eating spot. You can spy a few images of the nook as a guest room in the last post.
When we made the decision in mid 2014 to stop ‘not trying’ for pregnancy it quickly became apparent that we needed another solution. Where would we put a baby? Would we all transition downstairs to the basement once we had it finally remodeled? Could we get it remodeled in time? How much would it cost? Would we move our bed into the guest “kitchen” room and give the baby our room as a nursery?? Would baby be in the kitchen? We went back and forth for what felt like months trying to decide how we would transition to a family of 3. Knowing full and well that many of our friends who lived in much smaller places or even studio apartments in NYC made life with a new baby work, we knew there was a solution…it was just a matter of picking one.
By May of this year, we finally settled on a plan : Guests go to the basement. We stay in our room. Baby gets the kitchen nook. Kitchen nook quickly became “baby nook” and the basement was quickly remodeled to accommodate our plan. Now with just 10 weeks to go until baby arrives, we have moved the guest bed downstairs and I’ve started setting a plan for baby boy’s space. I love that we are going to be in tight quarters as a family during his first few months and seeing my new glider already finding its spot in the nook has made me all the more excited for this new adventure. We plan to keep our babe in our room during nighttime sleeping hours for the first few months, but everything else (rocking, breastfeeding, changing, playing, napping etc.) will hopefully happen in that sweet little nook right next to the dishwasher and sink (ya know, what’s so bad about that?).
Much more to come on how we transitioned our breakfast nook into our new baby room, but for now a quick peek into some of my initial design inspiration for the teeny nook. I cannot wait to get everything set up and to rock that little guy in my arms come Thanksgiving!
It’s hard to imagine that I actually thought I was rocking a serious baby bump at 17 weeks when Talitha took these photos a couple of months ago (vs a whole lot of belly bloat!). At the time everything felt so new and exciting and I felt like my belly MUST BE showing. Now with less than 3 months to go, it feels as though these images could have been taken a lifetime ago. So much is changing in our lives (especially my waistline!) and this new teeny person we are about to bring into the world is certainly the most thrilling part of it all.
When Talitha spontaneously asked to take some photos in our home after a brunch date, I couldn’t have imagined at the time how much I would value them. Not only for documenting the beginning signs of my pregnancy, but for capturing our home before all the changes began to happen. Our breakfast nook, which served as our guest room for over a year and half while our basement was in disarray, is slowly being transformed into our baby nook.
We plan to co-sleep with our little guy in our room for the first few months (I’m so excited to use this cute mini crib), but things like my glider for feedings and his changing table will take permanent residence in the nook. I could not have imagined when we first bought this house that we would be utilizing this little space off our kitchen for a baby one day, but I’m so excited to keep us all in close quarters during the first months as a family of three (four if you count our precious Bailie-Bug). I’m sure I cannot even begin to anticipate the changes we will need to make to the arrangement as we figure out sleep/feeding schedules and the personality/temperament of our babe, but I’m eager for a fresh start in that tiny little space and it has been so fun to brainstorm colors, patterns and art for the room.
These days my bump is now loud and proud, and I’m spending nearly every waking minute “nesting” - driving Adam insane no doubt. I had always heard about the nesting urge, but it wasn’t until six months of pregnancy when I really realized how intense it can be. From scheduling every last yoga and childbirth class I can get my hands on, to frantically finishing our basement remodel, to closing out that decades old IRA account, to purging unnecessary items to make room for baby gear, to preparing two season’s ahead for the holidays just to ensure our nieces and nephews don’t go gift-less this year; I’m trying to dot my i’s and cross the t’s on anything and everything I can possibly think of. I’ve never felt more productive (or tired) in my life, but I know as each day passes I’m getting closer to focusing my time on what matters most which is this sweet bambino I’m growing in my belly.
I can’t wait to share with you my plans for our baby nook and of course some photos of our little guy once he arrives come November. The fall still seems so far off, as the PNW heat (it’s SO weird to say that!) has still refrained from letting up, but I know the leaves will begin to change color and begin their final decent in no time.
As a first time mom I would love to hear any tips or advice you have about pregnancy or those first few weeks as new parents. Everything feels so new and different and I’m trying to anticipate as much as I can as we jump into this new adventure.
It has been quite some time since I checked in on this here blog of mine. I decided back in October after a very busy couple of months of work to take the early winter weeks off to travel and spend some good quality time with friends and family. This included time off from blogging, email answering and really anything that could be classified as “work”. As an entrepreneur you get in the practice of never really taking time off…EVER. Even on those days when an outsider looking into your life might say, “hey that chick ain’t working!” I would still beg to argue. And the argument would actually be a new one for me.
I too used to think on those days when I was home and not answering emails that I was in fact “taking a day off”, but what I quickly realized as a stylist is that even on those days when I feel like I’m prioritizing self-care and downtime, I’m still seeking out inspiration in mundane places, still fussing with our house and practicing my styling, still fretting over business practices and the future, still flipping through magazines and blogs and book to hone my creative eye, still taking photos of life while being overly cautious of composition and lighting and scale etc. So I decided that (minus my treasured instagram feed) I would attempt to refrain from REALLY working. I’d turn down jobs, put on an out of office on my email and for the first time in four years, really REALLY just rest, travel and enjoy the sweet joys of life. I was going to try to have a period of winter calm. So far, I’ve done…OK. There are days when I feel horribly guilty for not responding to emails straight away, or turning down jobs that could otherwise help us with our much-needed and anticipated home renovation, but I’m a work in progress and know soon enough, I’ll be back to the hard focused grind in the early new year.
For now, I wanted to pop in and share a couple of images my dear friend Dorothee captured of me during our time together in The Netherlands. We stumbled upon this beautiful little cafe/boutique in Amsterdam (I had forgotten how many of the spots double as a cafe and clothing shop) and the light was just so so stunning that afternooon. It was bitter cold outside, so we decided to lay low and sip coffee and tea while thumbing through the magazines they had on hand. I’ve visited so many amazing cities in the last few months that I’m dying to share with you – lots of shopping and where to eat tips and of course images too! My plan is to work them into a new feature of city guides that I’ll be working on over the next few weeks (see how that “work” word seems to always creep in there?!).
Until then, I’m off to Raleigh, London and Albuquerque over the next two weeks. I hope, like me, you are finding yourself enjoying this lovely holiday season (we got snow in Seattle while I was home for a few days last week…yahooo!) as well as some time of your own to relish in the simple beauties of life.
You can follow my current travel adventures here : @jelliottblake
After a month of non-stop travel, a week of family in town and then an immediate dive right into a big holiday campaign, it’s no wonder the blog has been a bit quiet lately. Regardless of how busy the change from summer to fall has been, I’ve been so eager to share some recent work I did alongside Rina Jordan and Jean Galton earlier this year for a book that released just this week!
I’ve always had a mad love for pies, so when Kate Lebo reached out and asked if I’d style and help conceptualize the images for her upcoming pie book I couldn’t help but say “yes!” Kate had a very particular aesthetic in mind for the book, one that was very much a reflection of her own personal style. Anytime I see Kate, she’s dressed head to toe in 50′s era vintage, with her large collection of bold vintage dresses being one of my favorite things about her! It was so fun to brainstorm ways to incorporate Kate’s love of bold prints and era driven aesthetics into the styling of her book. If you peek closely I actually used a couple of her favorite dresses as napkins in the book!
If you love pies as much as I do and are looking for some fantastic pie recipes for the upcoming holiday season (including pointers on how to achieve the perfect pie crust!) be sure to pick up a copy of Pie School! Don’t forget to check out the full double page spread chapter openers as those images are some of my favorites from our shoots! The book is available on Amazon, as well as Barnes and Noble, Williams Sonoma and Sur La Table too! Just got a copy in my own hands today and was so excited to see it in its completed form! Congrats on your new book Kate!
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.
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.