Currently. This is where I have been for the past week and where I am for the rest of this week. The beach. Not bad a location to teach a couple of food photography workshops…
We have been guiding and instructing in a gorgeous set up with two completely different and wonderful groups of students. Women from all walks of life, all levels of photography and styling.
I feel in a really good place when I teach. I love seeing how the attendees shape their own style. No cookie cutter workshop. Everyone here is working to find their own visual voice. No day is the same.
We are tired. But happy. Working hard and sharing a lot of ourselves. We are also all taking the time to discover one another and to learn something about ourselves.
I know I am. Every weekend of the sort lets me unravel another thread I did not know about myself. Another boundary pushed.
I leave you with some pictures of the beach. A dreamy spot. One I miss and I know I can always come back to…
Early morning and not a creature in the house is stirring. The wind is making itself known, a really pretty dappled light is dancing against the wall. I am sitting at the kitchen table, looking at the ripples on the water in our creek below. "I had almost forgotten how calming this view was at dawn" I think to myself. This familiar dance of the tide brushing the edge of the yard. Nothing else around the house is as palpable though. Boxes, piles, more boxes and bubble wrap.
Bill has been busy boxing the house up while I have been busy unpacking and getting settled. It’s like we are on opposite side of a mirror, a very E.A. Poe-esque mirror.
After a few days in Birmingham, I still felt like I was teetering around the kitchen. Months spent between a hotel room and a suitcase can really make you feel that the space you are in is still temporary. I had to do very basic things to ease myself into the new house. Walk barefoot in the yard. Cook dinner. Meet the neighbors.
I am back in Charleston for the next couple of weeks and I find myself looking for other anchors. Landmarks, familiar paths and sounds. I listen to the oysters down below and their clap-clapping choir. I observe the fiddler crabs crossing over the edge of the yard with their funky sidestep motion. But again, I find my balance back in the kitchen.
Clare and Laura are here. Tami will be joining us next week. We are teaching a couple of 4 day workshops on the Isle of Palms, here in Charleston. It’s good to have them around. In a world where you are constantly on the go, without an on/off switch, it’s pure pleasure to take those 4 days to teach, share, communicate and talk about the subject that fuels and nourish us, photography. Food, people, light, composition.
Almost as soon as I got home, I pulled out big bowl, made tart dough, peeled a few apples and started making my grandmother’s Apple Tart. Thin, filled with vanilla infused applesauce and topped with as many apple slices as could fit in the pan. Mamie Paulette was quite famous for her apple tarte. I am convinced now that it had special powers whether you were the one making it or eating it. If you shared it, it was twice as good.
Sometimes, it only takes an apple tarte to help you find your sense of place again.
P.S: Thank you Ana of Blog Milk for the blog redesign! It was such a pleasure to work with her and such an easy process. Once I had chosen my favorite templates among the ones she creates, we worked together to customize it with my own vibes. I hope you like it too…!
Little by little, I am settling in my new digs. Every evening after work has been taken by something to get, something to set up, nail, paint, something to be delivered, something to be returned. Moving ain’t easy…! But it’s terribly fun and I am enjoying the process. I finally have a bed. Still seating on the floor until Wednesday that a sofa gets delivered. Little by little. The house takes shape.
I have lovely neighbors all around me and the neighborhood is very dog friendly. This motivates even more my decision to bring old pup Tippy back with me after I teach a couple of workshops with Clare in a week. He’ll love the yeard and huge reduction of stairs to climb. At almost 16 years old, he’s ready for some comfort…The labrador next door might need a buddy too.
Work has been intense and absolutely wonderful. I am having a blast. As a true Dujardin, I tend to keep my expressing of emotions in check but inside? Oh inside, I am doing a happy dance.A very happy one. I had lots of hopes and dreams about this position and where I would envision possibilities, I now truly see full realizations.
I am working on really fun cookbook covers shoots for publications such as Cooking Light and Weight Watchers as well as tons of interior shots. Never a moment to get bored. Some of my shoots this week will be out on location while others will be in the natural light studio. I love the challenges and opportunities comin my way. I love how each shoot pushes me to give 200% of myself, whether in the difficulty of execution or in the complete different styles and photo requirements.
This complete change of scenery, pace and time spent without Bill and our immediate circle is made easier by the kindness and thoughtfulness of the people in Birmingham. The town is buzzing and I am happy to check as many places as I can. Restaurants, antiques, music venues, etc… Birmingham definitely has a lot to offer if you let it.
Cooking in my new digs has been fun too. I am still re-arranging cupboards and items and how to make it efficient for the way I prep and cook. I love the kitchen set up and the concrete countertops so making is a real pleasure there and I christened the space by making a couple of my new favorite salads the other week. Nothing tremendously difficult but good, nutritious food I was craving after so many months on the road.
My first official dish in the new house was a fennel and arugula salad loaded with pomegranate seeds, radishes and red onion. I make this salad at least once a week, sometimes adding some crumbled cheese (feta, goat, blue work really well) or some chickpeas. The dressing is a simple lemon vinaigrette with a little mustard for a but of tang and creaminess.
A couple days later, a phone conversation with my brother about food and potatoes roasted in duck fat (instead of olive oil which we do often) prompted a sudden craving for duck breast. There is a certain amount of fat being released from the cooking of the breast itself (to be kept for potatoes!) but the breast itself is a sweet combination of juicy and tender lean meat. Paired with a few fresh figs, some roasted golden beets and a drizzle of vinaigrette and you have one tasty dinner salad.
Before I go…the winner of the "Marmalades" cookbook are: Lindsay E. and Elin Woods. Please email me at mytartelette @ gmail . com with your add so we can get the books off to you!
Radio silence once again. If you know me, you also know that this is not my usual thing to be this quiet. Lots and lots happening again. Generally, I would never come up with reasons why I did let something get a bit more silent (this page) but this time, tonight, there are plentiful and I am letting them all be.
The last five months have turned into a blurr. Many destinations. Workshops. Two cookbooks shoots. Fifty recipes for other clients. A job proposal. An acceptance. A house hunt. A bare bone move (seriously moved with three boxes labeled kitchen, clothes, toiletries and office. Oh and some props, linens, reflectors and strobes…)** And my first day working with amazing talent propping and styling the recipes I will be shooting.
A wave of emotions is taking hold of me as I reflect on the years gone by. I am sitting in an empty living room. It’s an unsually chilly day for Birmingham, I am told. I have a fire going. Some hot soup on the stove. A glass of wine. This is it. What comes to my mind, very clearly, though is how I would have never imagined the winding roads of this career would take me to this moment.
Yet, how everything I did in my work was never by chance but always from a place of hard work and desire of a job well done. How goodness comes to one’s own heart by just trusting yourself onto others. How just opening up your guts and heart to the universe gives you ten times the hopes you sent out there. How leading lights of desires, friendships, mentors and aspirations, inspirations lead one to just pack up and go seek a better life for the ones you love.
I am not alone. Bill has been the best team mate of all. He fully let me take hold of the direction of this team of two we created 14 years ago. That’s big. And then there is the team at work. Mindblowingly creative. I feel completely supported to bring myself into team project. A place where individual growth will happen as I work on many different collaborative projects.
Good people working on fun projects always make for a fun day at work. That is one if the reasons I wanted to share this book I photographed a few months ago, Marmalades by Elizabeth Fields (Running Press). It just came out and while I take a little time getting situated in my new life, I wanted to share with you some good old fashioned and modern marmalades recipes by giving away a couple of copies of the book, courtesy of Running Press.
All you have to do to participate is to leave a comment on this post. Two winners will be picked at random this Sunday October 14th, midnight central time. The giveaway is open to all, one comment per person, (no anonymous comments please).
** some of you seem to think I permanently moved with three boxes. No! That’s all I could bring to Birmingham before flying out of the country for a shoot and coming back directly to Birmingham. I have not been home to Charleston to get my stuff since mid September. If I had the luxury of time and space, you bet I would have taken a couple more….!
I really wanted to update the blog last week but if I had, it would have sounded vaguely familiar. In a way… It would have started just as it did several times over the summer: "I just got back from here and I am re-packing to fly over there". And I did. Except I drove. I have been on 27 planes since June. I am so not kidding. Driving was a nice change. Except I don’t drive long distance. After 20 minutes, my eyelids get heavy and I just want to pull over and take a nap. Impossible this time.
Right after I got back from teaching in New Hampshire, we loaded both our vans with "stuff". A futon, a dresser, a bedside table. A first box of clothes, cookbooks, kitchen cookware, anything and everything to get me started in Birmingham. We had four days to find a house, an apartment, anything we could rent for a year while I start at Oxmoor House in October and he wraps up his contract at CofC until May.
We were on a mission. Some people thought we were crazy. Or seriously and overly optimistic. I just refuse to believe there is never a solution to an issue. And when I say "I refuse" you can trust me that I woke up saying just that when we headed to Birmingham this past Wednesday. Why? Because I came with an added little problem, the one called "I have boxes, where should I put them?"…I am heading back to wrap up a cookbook shoot on Thursday for about 10 days and flying right back to Birmingham to start my new job about 36 hours later. I had to keep the optimism factor way up.
Again. Call me crazy. Or driven. Or severely crazy happy about this next phase of my life. We found the house.(check my Instagram feed for some pics) We love it. It’s the right thing for the next few months that I will be in Alabama and Bill still in South Carolina. And it will be ours for a few months before we buy something more suited for a couple with two dogs and things. It’s perfect to host dinner with friends and drink some wine on the back deck. It has a peach tree and a pecan tree. A space to grow veggies. I have been Pinteresting decor ideas like crazy.
It’s all falling into place. And if I don’t stop and think too long, I can actually talk to dear friends without hugging them until they can’t breathe or hold them tight until I feel the void burning inside. I am torn. I feel guilty to say how excited I am to friends here and I feel slack not showing how excited I really am to the peeps there. A balancing act once again.
Driving those eight hours to Birmingham was actually one great balancing act in itself. I had to balance reflective moments with dancing in my seat (literally) so I would not get drowsy. I made "Eye Of The Tiger" my "driving to Birmingham" official song. Smile all you want, it worked. That and bopping around on the edge of my seat singing "blablabla" to songs I had never heard before.
I also made a lot of recipes in my head. Without having found a home yet, I was already thinking about my first dinner party in Birmingham. Would I make a special cocktail or stick to wine? Would I make something comforting and Fall inspired or something lighter and weather appropriate? We are still in the South after all. How about dessert? What would I want to bring to my guests as we linger on the back deck at the new house?
I wanted to remember Summer. The summer I felt ran through my fingers faster than a handful of sand. I enjoyed every moment of it but I did not really feel like I captured enough of its essence to last me through Winter. So, right there, in the car, I drew a couple of easy going, easy to make and savor recipes chock full of Summer. Lemon, raspberries, lemon verbena. Something light and refreshing. A raspberry lemon verbena water and a modified raspberry syllalub. Raspberries, a little Port and plenty of lavender whipped cream.
Something that I hope will let Summer know that I am now ready for Fall. Now that I had my little taste of sunshine, complete with friends here on the back deck. And now I am ready for all the adventures ahead…
Traveling so much these past few months has sort of turned into an amusing social study of myself and my fellow travelers. Nothing like getting stuck a airport to reflect, notice, smile or get a few eye rolls going. I have noticed that my patience has no limits going somewhere. As if I were not really in a rush to leave home and slowly making my way to my new destination. On the other hand, that same patience runs thin when I am getting home. I want to be home and I can’t wait to be there. The time in between? The time I am working, shooting or teaching? I love it! I get fully immersed into it and don’t see it go by.
I just got back from shooting a first set if pictures for Le Cordon Bleu’s upcoming cookbook this past Sunday and I am writing this post from the airport. Yep, a short 48 hours home and I am heading to New Hampshire to teach a couple of workshops. After that, I will be heading to Birmingham with a first load of boxes to find a house (leads look good) , then it’s back to shoot Le Cordon Bleu for another week. From there, I will fly directly back to Birmingham for my first day at Oxmoor House.
I thrive on busy. I can even thrive on crazy. This is a bit insane. But, we are aware this is only temporary insanity and that a certain discomfort must take place. All these years of working toward a goal…not about to let a little crazy get in the way…! I smile thinking that one of the chefs at Le Cordon Bleu nicknamed me Le Courant D’Air….The Draft. Too bad it does not come with flying superpowers…
I think the trick to it all, beside hard work, is also to be organized. Bill and I took a big calendar and started mapping routes, airplane rides, car rides, days in, days out, hangouts with friends, dinners, dates…everything went in. I started making a separate map. I know that when I get home, he is super happy to have me back in the kitchen humming and cooking something simple and comforting. Something that tells him that I know I am gone often lately and that I appreciate his mending the fort. So, while at airports or on airplanes, I map out meals. The ones I am going to leave for him for while I am gone, and the ones I will make the day I get home.
This risotto came out of a combined desire for the comfort of slow cooked rice and the need to use up the chanterelles I could not resist getting at the farmers market. The lobster? A couple of extra tails from a shoot which were the perfect little something to say you’re special. It turned out to be the perfect way for us to reconnect in the midst of the hustle and bustle.
A comforting dish, a glass of wine and a good conversation. My idea of a lovely time.
Chanterelles and Lobster Risotto
Notes: I like to stop adding all the liquid before the end as I like my risotto on the drier side, meaning not as creamy as you would usually see it. I really like the firm bite that it provides by doing so while respecting the cooking method of traditional risotto. If you like it creamy smooth, add all the liquid, if not stop before adding the last cup or so of liquid.
2 medium lobster tails
4 1/2 cups seafood stock
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 pound chanterelles, scrubbed clean and chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
Fill a large stockpot with water, add a good pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Add the lobster tails and boil for 8 to 10 minutes or until their flesh turns white. Remove from the water, drain and let cool for about 15 minutes. With kitchen sheers, cut the shells open lenghthwise and remove the flesh. Cut into 1/2 inch pieces.
In a medium saucepan, bring the seafood stock to a boil and keep to a low simmer.
In the meantime, heat the butter in a large skillet. Add the mushroom and cook until tender, about 5-8 minutes, add the garlic and cook another couple of minutes. Add the white wine and rice and cook until most of the liquid is absorbed. Add about 1/2 cup of stock and cook until the liquid is absorbed again. Keep adding the stock to the rice mixture, 1/2 cup at a time until the rice is cooked but still a little firm to the bite, about 20 minutes. I don’t like mine gooey or too creamy so I stop a little before and keep it on the drier side.
Stir in the lobster tails and cook for just a minute. Serve into big bowls and garnish with fresh chopped chives.
Thank you all so much for the well wishes and congratulations. I am really excited about the beautiful work to be done ahead with wonderful food and prop stylists working by my side. Right now, things are a severe blur. I am shooting a cookbook away from home for two weeks, while completing another assignment and looking for a place to live in Birmingham. I have never embraced technology as much as I have in the past month.
It’s both fascinating, life saving and a tad exhausting at the same time. However, the pure joy of logging online after a heavy day at work and read that Charleston friends have bought a house while my favorite food stylist has gotten engaged makes me realize that I will always be close to the things that matter. In that regard, I love you Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and more than ever Skype which has been crucial for Bill and I to plan our next everything for the three months ahead.
It makes my head hurts at time. I admit I am looking forward to the dust settling some and unplugging for a weekend. Soon I hope. A craving. A quiet day. No buzz, notifications or replies, follows and so forth. Finding that balance again. A day fit for baking I think. That day will come again when I find myself settled in our new home, wherever it will be, baking and cooking dinner with new friends.
I see a day made for tarts and tagine. The process. The hand feel. The motion. The wait. All punctuated by a chat and a glass of wine. Or a sit down and a cup of tea. It does not really matter at this point. I would be happy either way. As long as I feel the minutes go by ever so slowly.
I am not complaining a bit about the speed of things right now. I am embracing everything. I am also dreaming about the moments ahead. I dream them sweet. Sweet as Fig and Goat Cheese Tartelettes.
Again…thank you all so much for your sweet words about my last post. Your support would give anyone a skip in their step. It did for me. Thank you. ' Fig and Goat Cheese Tartelettes.
For the pastry crust:
I used this one from my friend Jeanne at The Art of Gluten Free Baking but I also recommend this one from Holly Herrick if you are not gluten free.
Preheat the oven to 350F and position a rack in the middle. Roll the dough in between sheets of parchment paper if you are using the gluten free one or on a well floured countertop is using the regular one. Cut the dough the fit eight 4-inch tart rings or shells. Fill the shells with dried beans or pie weights and bake until the shells are completely cooked through, about 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool about 20-30 minutes before filling again. You may turn the oven off at this point and turn it back when you are ready to fill the shells.
For the filling:
6 oz goat cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoon sugar
juice and zest of one small lemon
1 large egg (slightly beaten)
1/2 cup heavy cream
In a medium bowl, whisk together the goat cheese and powdered sugar until smooth. Add the lemon juice, zest, egg and cream and whisk again until fully incorporated. . Divide among the tart shells and bake at 350F for about 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool about 20 minutes.
8 to 10 small figs, quartered, (your choice of variety)
2 to 4 tablespoons honey
When you are ready to serve, place the quartered figs on top of the tarts and drizzle with honey…as much or as little as you like…!
I have been toying with how to break the news to you… Late at night, I would design some cute picture involving the husband and the pups, just the pups, just the husband but of course, I always ran out of time. It’s been a whirlwind since May. Workshops, cookbook shoots, some editorial shoots. Lots of travel. Lots of packing and unpacking.
Well…there will be one more big swoop of packing. But not a couple of suitcases. A few many boxes actually.
We are moving!To Birmingham, Alabama…!
No, Bill did not take a job there. I did.
I am completely stocked and thrilled to announce that I am the new Senior Photographer for Oxmoor House, cookbook publisher of titles such as Southern Living, Cooking Light, Health, Sunset.
Now can I do this? : !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Never mind…I just did!!!!! (and more)
If you know me well, you know that I am right now smiling wide but quietly while inside, I am jumping up and down like a crazy woman. I get to photograph all sorts of cookbooks throughout the week. Different titles, styles, authors, recipes. A dream.
Oxmoor House emailed and asked me if I would consider coming down for a test shoot for the position. I flew to Birmingham, test shot for two days with super nice, creative and dedicated art director, food stylists, prop stylists, photographers, etc…. My excitement and desire to be part of the team grew stronger. But I knew I had to put this in the back of my head. There was Ireland coming up, then Seattle, a couple of cookbooks and editorials to be photographed. More workshops.
Then finally last week, I heard the news that I had gotten the job. I called my parents and told them the news. My mom asked "is that good?". I laughed so hard. Nerves. "Yes, mom. It’s really good." For the first time, it hit me. The reality of the future ahead.
So yes, we are relocating. We are both super excited, not only about the job but about the possibilities ahead. New places to see, new friends to be made. New favorite hang outs to find.
It’s all good…
I hope you are smiling along with us. I will continue to blog, but bear with me as I make the transition to another rhythm and city. It might take me a few days to get my bearings when it happens next months.
A huge "Thank You" to Matt, Clare, Tami, Anita and Laura. You guys know why and how much you mean to me. Love you bundles.
It’s been a week clearly balanced with working and nesting. I am heading out of town next week again to shoot Le Cordon Bleu cookbook and have been spending a good portion of my free time baking, cooking, preserving, etc.. I clearly manifested an intense homemaking phase which I believe to be only normal since I am incessantly on the go this summer.
I feel I won’t be touching ground for a while and spending time in the kitchen, mixing, kneading, chopping, gives me time to think, make plans, draw list, organize thoughts and priorities. Some good music in the background and the undivided attention of the pups and I spent a couple of days stocking the fridge and freezer with some good meals and treats for Bill to enjoy while I’m away.
I like to believe a sweet treat once in a while makes the distance a little more bearable (and thank you Skype inventor!). He also gets invited left and right everytime I go away, no matter how stocked up the fridge is. His parents, the neighbors, our close friends…They all seem to take pity on him! At least, I know he never arrives empty handed to a dinner…
These little tea cakes may be the most simple things to bake but there is value in the essentials, the basics. I know that I can freeze plenty for us to have one morning over brunch, to keep in the fridge for a little four o’clock pick me up with a cup of tea. I can pack a couple in his bag before he heads to work in the morning. They are full of good nutrients, blueberries, coconut sugar, whole grains and the addition of Key limes provides just the right amount of pop from the limes.
Nothing like a good basic tea cake fresh out of the oven to make you feel like the chaos around you can indeed slow down…even if only for a few minutes.
Blueberry Key Lime Tea Cakes:
Makes 24 muffin size tea cakes.
2 cups Jeanne’s gluten free flour mix (or cake flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
zest and juice of 6 Key limes (or 1 lime)
1 cup (2 sticks – 8 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cups coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
4 large eggs
2 cups blueberries
Preheat the oven to 350F and line the inside of 24 muffin cups with cupcake or muffin liners. Grease with some melted butter or cooking spray. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Reserve.
In another large bowl or container, combine the milk, vanilla extracts, zest and juice from the Key limes (the milk will curdle but do not worry – it’s normal).
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter and coconut sugar until smooth and creamy (medium high for about 3 minutes). Beat in the eggs, on slow speed, one at a time until everything looks well combined. The mixture won’t be smooth but make sure all the eggs look mixed in.
On low speed, beat in the flour mixture alternately with milk mixture in 3 additions, just until the batter comes together. Fold in blueberries with a spatula and give the batter another 10-12 strokes to finish mixing it all together. Divide the batter equally among the muffin tins.
Bake for about 25 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out free of raw batter.
I finally sifted through all the pictures I took at the workshop Clare, Becky and I taught last weekend in Seattle and as usual, it was pretty hard deciding which ones to post and which ones to archive. So many good moments! It was intense. Attendees were focused, diligent and really really fun to hang out with.
Teaching with Clare was as much fun and excellent as the first time we did it together in Charleston this past May. We are really excited to be doing more workshops together in November and throughout 2013 when our schedules allow it.
Kuddos to Becky who not only led the food styling portions of each day and photo shoot but also prepared us the best lunches and a fabulous Vietnamese focused feast for our farewell dinner the last day. Loved meeting Marc who came to help Becky in the kitchen throughout the weekend. Those two kept the kitchen firing great dishes and great jokes. (Above set up by Tina Jeffers
Hard at work at the studio…
Gorgeous foods displayed for each shoot assignment quickly became the best snacks and lunches…
One assigned shoot was to create a picnic scene in the park and Becky worked on a gorgeous picnic basket set up to give students some inspiration.
Marc and Becky…
A trail of photographers' set up at Volunteer Park.
These sandwiches were so tempting…
Another location shoot assignment was held at Poppy restaurant. Chef and owner Jerry Traunfeld graciously led us meander throughout the kitchen and dining room as they were setting up for a busy Saturday night.
Loved the decor and feel of the restaurant. Wide open, with lots of gorgeous light and lots of opportunities for one’s photographic eye to be inspired.
What is a trip to Seattle without good coffee?…!
I could eat this dungeness crab, nasturtium, avocado and shiso salad everyday. Simple, refreshing and clean. To the point.
Squash blossom fritters with walnut feta filling and red pepper sauce.
Thalis are one of the specialties at Poppy. The various ones offered by Jerry and his staff are a true work of art for all senses.
In the garden…
A sweet thali for two: ice cream choice, cocoa-nib anise shortbread, nutter-butter squares, pâtes de fruit, pimentón chocolate caramels, sabayon and raspberries.
The last day of the workshop ended by a fabulous dinner. We set out the tables with props used everyday on shoots, plates, glassware, silverware and linens. A little whimsy is always a good thing.
I got busy eating so this is the only picture from the delicious dishes Becky and Marc prepared for us.
Thank you to all the attendees for making this workshop special to us as we were sharing and guiding. Thank you Seattle for always making me right at home whenever I visit!