It’s been a long time coming and took a little bit of juggling and re-adjusting positions and schedules but my family is here. My parents, my brother, his wife and my two nieces arrived late Thursday night after a long day of traveling. It’s been nothing but laughter and catching up since then. And it feels good. Real good.. We get to spend a Christmas and New Year’s Eve together. The first time in many many years.
There was no Birmingham in our future when we started planning this family vacation last year. There was no new position in my photography career, no new house, no old house full of moving boxes. No being long distance relationship for me and Bill thrown in the mix. Needless to say, it has taking everyone a lot of giving in, giving up, selflessness to make it happen and have everyone feel good.
That’s my family. Tight. Together. Tighter after the last year mourning so many close loved ones in short periods of time. Tragedy struck us hard many times over the years. But we came out stronger. We came out better and with such an expanded amount of love and "do – live – go" attitude. I know they give me strength.
I had my "this is so worth it" moment this morning when Bill and I took the dogs for a jog on the beach. After the horrendous week that we all felt as a nation and community, sharing the sorrows of so may families, I could not wait to hug mine. My nieces, so beautiful, so young and innocent. Their parents, their fears as caretakers and educators. My parents, for the many many good things and tough lessons they have brought us over the years.
The next few days will be all about cooking together for Christmas, hanging out and just be together. We have decided to mix American and French traditions for Christmas dinner and I am looking forward to breaking into the foie gras and at the same time have my nieces have their first go at sweet potato casserole. One thing for sure, there will be Buche De Noel. And Spiced Poached Pears with Mascarpone Cream. And definitely my grandmother’s Riz au Lait, or rice pudding will be made over the next few days.
I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season, filled with good cheers, lots of love and great food. Keep up with traditions or make new ones but most importantly, take care of yourself.
It’s been a couple of fast paced weeks but I would not change a thing. Work is fairly busy as everyone is preparing to take some time off for the holidays. I am still getting acclimated to all the parameters of the job. Addressing everyone’s expectations can be quite tricky at times but at the end of the day, I think that everyone comes out feeling that they gave or got the best they had.
The daily collaborations are really inspiring and downright fun. There is always lots of laughter and discombobulated moments while being completely focused on the task at hand. I am around serious creative minds allowing me to be as well. I am still learning to let go and just go for it. Whatever "it" may be at the moment. Going for more contrast, an unexpected angle, a bold choice of color.
It’s been a little over two months since I started and I am slowly stopping to feel like I am on borrowed time. Seeing the change of season in a new place, new town is a nice way to feel anchored in new surroundings. After a few weeks of spending every evening and weekends with the windows wide open, it has finally started to be "Crisps and Cobbler Weather" around here. Time for some thick plush socks, a nice blanket or a cozy fire.
I have been enjoying quiet evening in the new house with the old dog but I admit, I am ready to head out to Charleston for the holidays and be with Bill. To top this good feeling off, my parents, brother, sister in law and two nieces are arriving in a week. It’s been too long since we last saw everyone! We rented a beach house for everyone, pups included and will be spending the holidays there together. To say that I can’t wait is an understatement.
I can’t wait to spend time chatting with my mom while we cook and bake together, see if my nieces are still enjoying baking as they did a couple of years ago. My brother is a fantastic cook also and it will be interesting to see what we come up with for Christmas dinner. Honestly, I just want to be with them. I’d be happy sitting in a corner watching them interact for a while.
One thing I definitely want to make when we are at the beach in a couple of weeks is this mixed berry cobbler. I dream of coming back from a long walk on the beach on a chilly afternoon and digging into a warm bowl of juicy and tangy cobbler. Maybe topped with a dollop of Chantilly. Maybe not. I plan to spend the holidays guided by the flow of the family’s rhythm. Too many people under one roof. I just want to be and enjoy them. With all their flaws and qualities and all of mine.
I am not sure the nieces ever had cobbler but I sure plan on fixing that!
Thank you everyone for the great response to the food and lifestyle photography workshop I am teaching with Clare in Gulf Shores, Alabama. I am happy to say that there are a few spots left but they are going fast! If you are interested, click here for all the details.
I am super excited to announce that I am teaming up once again with Clare to teach an awesome food and lifestyle photography workshop and retreat by the sea, in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
We have taught numerous workshops, both as individuals and as a team, and we understand how to guide students to develop their own style. Our goal is not to create cookie-cutter photographers, but to share with students our combined years of experience to support them in becoming the very best they can be.
Attendees will spend 4 nights in a gorgeous house located across the street from the beach in Gulf Shores Alabama, learning about exposure, utilizing natural light, composition, choosing props, styling, and how to tell a story through photographs. Lots of hands on time as well as plenty of relaxing moments by the ocean.
When: April 25th-29th 2013
Where: Gulf Shores, Alabama – Dream Big House (click here for pictures)
Workshop is limited to 12 students
Fee: $1850 and includes:
– 4 nights accommodation
– 3 days of hands on classes, photoshoots and assignments
– all meals and snacks
– does not include travel fare to the workshop
For more details about the class and sign up policy, please click HERE.
Registration will open Tuesday December 11th at 11am US Eastern time. Hope to see you there!
To learn more about the type of workshops Clare and I lead, here are some posts written by previous attendees about their experiences:
– Tiffany at Savor Home
– Julie LeClerc on her blog aptly named Julie LeClerc too.
– Danielle from Danielle Acken Photography.
– Lorie at A Savory Nest.
After quite many people emailed asking about the restaurant we seemed to always take our workshop attendees to when in Charleston, I figured I’d do a little special post about it and its wonderful crew.
The restaurant is Lana. Located a tad off the tourist path at the corner of Cannon and Rutledge in Charleston, SC. It is by far my favorite spot in town. Granted, Executive Chef John Ondo is not only a close friend but he is one of those "good people" with a heavy dosage of natural talent for his craft. It is easy to just walk in, sit at the bar and order blindly from the menu. And have a heck of a tremendous meal.
John and his staff focus their culinary talent on Mediterranean cuisine while infusing a touch of Southern flair by interpreting classic regional dishes through local ingredients. I love their respect for sustainable and local seafood, local business and the care they put into each dish. Classical inspirations with an adventurous spirit.
I love nothing more than taking a night off and grabbing my camera to hang out with those guys. They are a dream for a photographer’s eye. You can tell from the flow of the kitchen, the fast yet precise pace of their motion, all the intensity of their dedication to the meal being prepared. The whole restaurant crew make it very easy for you to fall in love with the food, the place, the moment.
My dream is to have John sit down long enough to compile his favorite dishes into one book. That I would campaign to photograph…of course! Not only I would cook from it every day, but I would still visit the restaurant for more.
I hope and trust everyone to have enjoyed their Thanksgiving holidays and little time off here in the States. We sure have. Bill and the pups came to Birmingham for Thanksgiving and the older pup, Tippy is staying with me while Bill and Bailey (The Inseparables) have gone back to Charleston.
While we were busy bees around the house, hanging paintings, fixing odds and ends around the place and getting the last bit of furniture we needed, we also enjoyed being together and doing things for the two of us, as a team. We had not spent any quality time together for a long long time (September or so) and these four days felt like the ultimate luxury.
We do have a blast together. One would hope so after fifteen years together, right?! We are quick to recognize our "adjusting" period and give the other some breathing room. After operating apart for most of the summer and Fall, it is imperative that we do not waste any seconds of those precious moments. And I enjoy pampering him with good home cooked meal whenever I can and these past four days were no exceptions.
We had a fabulous Thanksgiving dinner with friends eating turkey, yes, drinking Champagne cocktails and making S’Mores huddled around an outdoor fireplace. We also hosted our first dinner in the house we are renting this year. I am pretty happy with how the decor/furniture situation is shaping up. Nothing like having a blank canvas to take your time to find the appropriate pieces.
It was in that cozy spot that I came up with this new soup. A complete "open the fridge and throw a few things together" kind of moment when I find myself with way more vegetables than days available to eat them. A mix of Swiss chard, kale, zucchini, turnips and avocado. I topped each bowl of soup with a few grilled shrimp, well seasoned with smoked paprika to make it a bit heartier since the days got wintry cold almost over night here.
I am liking the feeling of a comfy sweater, warm high socks and a big bowl of soup by the fire these days.
One more thing before I go: Congratulations to Jacqui of Good Things Grow for winning Julie Le Clerc’s cookbook Made By Hand. Please send your mailing address to mytartelette AT gmail DOT com so I can send the book your way!
We are back from our trip to Scotland and Ireland and slowly catching up on mail, emails and returning calls. Nothing out of the ordinary. We are also catching up on friends' news, family happenings and local news.
In the 156 updates about the new house, here is the latest. A new dining room and chairs were delivered last Saturday turning the new pad into a real home. At least, that’s how it feels to me. Seeing this new space where new and visiting friends would now gather and break bread with us truly made me feel peaceful.
Having been brought up among amazing cooks who took every opportunity to gather friends and feed and wine them, and where no Sunday was without a dozen people gathered at the dining room table, I knew the moment of feeling home would truly come when that corner of the house would no longer be empty.
Now, I am deep into looking at new recipes to cook and plan dinner menus for possible dinner parties. I am finally feeling a sense of being settled and started unraveling the cookbooks, the food stories, the imagery I had to set aside this whole summer and early Fall because of all the cacophony happening in my life.
It felt a bit strange to spend Sunday doing things just for me. Well, for the house really. I built some shelves, took care of the giant pile of leaves on the back deck, and did all the mundane things plenty of people do on a Sunday. Coffee and the newspaper in the morning. A walk in the park in the afternoon. Laundry, vacuum. Sundays were never completely mine as a freelancer. There was always a file to edit, a folder to send, a lot of backing up to do. And I admit, I am digging a good Sunday now…
Especially one that starts and ends with cake. A Parsnip cake to be exact. Think Carrot Cake but with parsnips instead. Not something this Frenchie would have ran to make had I not met the cookbook author behind the recipe, just very recently.
Meeting famed New Zealand cookbook author Julie Le Clerc was one of the highlights of the workshop I taught in Charleston last week where she was an attendee. Getting to know her personally, her food philosophy and realizing how much of a hard worker she is (writing, styling and shooting each of her books – all 14 of them), kind of made me fall even more with her recipes. Beside the fact that she is lovely, generous and humble in person…I did own a couple of her books prior to meeting her but had not spent enough time cooking from them.
After a great weekend of photo workshop alongside Julie and a dozen other talented women, I could not wait to get back home and take out her books from that big box staring at me since I had arrived in Birmingham.
She definitely created a good cake when she included that recipe in her book, Julie’s Favorite Cakes. The thing is, it does not taste "parsnip-ish" at all. Instead the mild flavor lets you enjoy the pineapple and frosting a lot more than if it had been carrot. I am definitely sold on the concept!
I realize that some of you may not know Julie and her recipes very well. To remedy that, I am giving away a copy of her latest book, Made By Hand. She brought a copy with her to the workshop and it is stunning. The design is lovely, the photography is superb and the recipes tempting. There are also icons with each one guiding you in your choice if you are vegetarian, celiac or grain free, without being necessarily geared toward one food choice over the other.
It makes cooking for friends that much easier…!
To enter the giveaway and throw your name in the hat to win a copy of Julie’s book, just leave a comment at the bottom of this post between today, Monday November 19th and Friday November 23rd at midnight, central US time. One entry per person, no anonymous comment will be eligible. The lucky winner will be announced in a follow up post next week.
Version with a parsley garnish.
The workshops are over and I find myself immersed into work mode as I unpack my stuff here in Birmingham. I drove home today with ample time to reminisce and reflect along the stretches of forestry and marsh land before me. It was really the first time that I had some alone time with my own thoughts. It was energizing and restful at the same time.
It’s good to be back in the city and get back to work this morning. I am calling it home. It’s where we are building something now. Where I am continuing to set a standard and gratifying work for myself and where our family of two + furballs will establish a new path.
It’s good to also take time off to recharge one’s creative batteries with collaborations and associations. I was so glad we were able to bring Tami, a pro food stylist in Atlanta to this past weekend workshop in Charleston. I have worked with Tami on personal and professional projects before and I knew that the attendees would get so much from a couple of styling sessions with her.
Working with stand-ins before the final dish is ready. Photo Courtesy of Laura Vein.
I had the privilege to do a demo with Tami, as one of our photo shoots of the weekend and after thinking about doing pasta, or drinks, or pie, I finally suggested Shrimp and Grits. She approved. And we had a blast. Working with people who know their craft and are here to share and have a good time while doing it is a blessing.
Here are some images from our demo together on shooting Shrimp and Grits. The recipe is right after the jump.
Version without garnish.
Thank you Tami for making the time to join us and workshop with us!