It’s been too long once again. Not because I haven’t wanted to write, but because there are only so many hours in the day. 

Summer is always a double-edged sword for me – on the one hand it’s great to spend more time with my girl, more time entertaining friends on our roof deck (the cocktail of the summer is the pistachio sour) and more time just lazing on a lounger reading beneath the stars on a warm summer night.


On the other hand it’s always a time of enormous creative frustration. The light is so amazing, the markets are groaning with the most glorious produce and the temptation to spend time time playing in the kitchen and photographing the results is so very, very strong.

But it’s been punishingly hot here – too hot to turn the oven on – camps finish early, it’s a struggle just to complete my regular work (astonishingly I seem to have pulled together a portfolio of regular clients – Edible Seattle, Seattle Refined and Zagat’s, and have been doing a lot more commercial work) and a house full of tween girls making videos to Taylor Swift songs is not very conducive to creativity.


This year that tug of inspiration, that craving to follow the muse’s siren song to the exclusion of everything and everybody else has been overwhelming thanks to two amazing workshops I’ve attended in recent months.

You already know Ilva and Jamie of Plated Stories fame. When I heard that Jamie and her husband Jean-Pierre had acquired a small hotel in Chinon in the Loire Valley I of course had to invite myself over for a visit while I was in Europe. Before very long a whole workshop was being arranged, with Ilva too, under the title ‘Finding Inspiration’.

Because obviously inspiration is hard to come by when you’re visiting the world’s most charming hotel (of which more another day) in the world’s most charming small French town (also of which more another day), under the tutelage of two incredibly patient, generous and supremely talented women and while sharing the whole experience with a bunch of other immensely talented, smart and funny photographers and writers. We ate delicious meals in Jamie’s kitchen, critiqued each other’s work, bounced ideas off each other and chatted long into the night, while our eyes and minds drank in more beauty than any eyes and minds should reasonably have the right to expect.

Was that my camera clicking from early morning until nightfall? Perhaps finding inspiration wasn’t such as struggle after all.


The summer’s second workshop blew my mind too, but in a totally different way. After reading my friend and mentor Jackie Donnelly’s write up of Seattle portrait photographer John Keatley’s Survival Guide workshop, I knew I had to attend. Even if it meant heading to St. Louis (which, as it turns out, is charming and fun, with killer ice cream and barbecue).

This time I didn’t even turn my camera on. Instead I listened as John, his wife Nichelle and his assistant Taylor told us everything they had learned about running a successful photography business. And by everything, I mean EVERYTHING. How to market yourself, how to pitch, how to bid on a project, how to invoice and even what thank you presents to send afterwards. We talked branding and direction, target markets and dream clients, got right into the weeds with finances and had our portfolios constructively and comprehensively critiqued by both John and our peers. The workshop was held in food photographer Rob Grimm’s awe-inspiring studio – it was worth the price of admission alone just to spend time in that space – and the creative energy sparked and fizzed all weekend.

This time the only pictures I came away with were a few grainy phone pics (I’m hating on my iPhone 5s with fire of a thousand suns currently) but instead tucked into my suitcase was something infinitely more precious, a small notebook with the text of every one of John’s slides, covered with all my own hastily-scribbled notes  – the blueprint for growing my own business to the next level and beyond. Let’s all hope that my scribbles are actually legible.


It’s funny how inspiration strikes – a scrap of an idea here, a fleeting picture there, a story or a conversation that will lead you off in a whole new direction, changing your life in big ways and small.  Chinon’s incredible fleamarket inspired me to visit the antique shops of Snohomish, where I ended up buying a set of vintage weighing scales like the ones Jamie had in her kitchen. Walking through the chateau de Chinon chatting with Ilva led me to reread a couple of biographies of Eleanor of Aquitaine (who spent part of her life in Chinon) and then to watch the supremely fabulous Empire (which is based on her story – Eleanor’s not Ilva’s). My late night conversations with Stacey have inspired me to search for a studio and my portfolio reviews with John Keatley and Rob Grimm have made me want to focus more on my still-life food photography. I want to blog more and market myself more, grow my Instagram following and rebrand my website and collaborate with more people and start teaching workshops. But above all else I just want to make images and write stories. My head is currently bursting with them.

On Sunday we’re off to spend a few weeks on Whidbey Island, so I can relax and recharge and make the most of the final weeks of what has been an incredible summer here in the PNW. But come September 9th when school finally goes back, I’m SO ready to put all this pent-up inspiration to good use.

The images in this post were made in Jamie’s apartment under Ilva’s watchful eye. Through their blog posts and Facebook updates those two inspire me every single day. (Here is their take on the subject of Inspiration). 


Go Love Your Room–Michele Varian’s NYC Loft

I loved Michele Varian’s SoHo shop so much that I was thrilled when she posted on Instagram that her loft apartment had been featured in a New York magazine.

Michele Varian's Loft

And if you’ve seen her shop, her loft is everything you would imagine it would be – stuffed full of fascinating and beautiful objects, perfectly arranged in gorgeous vignettes. If you read the article (which you really should) you’ll realise that pretty much every single thing in her apartment has a story behind it. This is a place where people live and work and laugh and love. And it shows.

Michele Varian's Loft

This kitchen is giving me LIFE. From that perfect blue to the open shelving to the mismatched china, to the well-used pans, to the spices. It looks like the kitchen of someone who loves to cook, loves to eat and loves to entertain.

Michele Varian's Loft

Anyone would be inspired in this workspace.

Michele Varian's Loft

That bed and the THROW are gorgeous and there’s something really cool about that framed pair of gloves. And that mirror. Naughty girl Michele!

Michele Varian's Loft

Michele’s husband is a musician and I love that his presence is really obvious all round the apartment. 

Michele Varian's Loft

Michele’s wallpaper makes the perfect backdrop for his guitar collection and tiny vintage piano.

Do yourselves a favour and read the entire article by Eliza Krpoyan for Scene Magazine. All the beautiful photography is by Peter Murdock.


Weekend Link Love

Double Rainbow Over Seattle - photography by

It’s been a week of sunsets and showers, flowers and sunshine, hot cross buns and Cadbury’s Mini Eggs – and the most extraordinary rainbow that I think I’ve ever seen. And you really can’t get much better than that. (Also it’s astonishing what one can do nowadays with the pano feature on the iPhone).


I will be spending the weekend baking a Simnel cake and hosting a traditional Easter Sunday lunch with lots of roast lamb for some British friends here.

Simnel Cake photography by

If you want to do the same, my recipe for Simnel cake – the traditional English Easter cake – is here.


If you want to make dye eggs using natural dyes, my friends Leigh and Pamela had fun this week.

This his and hers food photography is insanely beautiful.

Saveur magazine came up with this list of the best food blogs around. I’m looking forward to looking and drooling.

Brene Brown and Chase Jarvis did an amazing interview about Unlocking Your Creativity  which is worth watching in its entirety.

Here’s a little post on capturing authentic ‘moments’ with photography. I always think my photography is too contrived, so this is something I’m striving for.

And here’s an interesting piece on how Facebook manages its filtered feed, though not terribly helpful for those of us trying to get even a few organic viewers to our Facebook pages.


On the blog this week, we discussed New Trends in Kitchen Design, read Don Draper’s Tarot Cards and worked out how Mad Men is going to end, visited Bunny William’s amazing New York shop Treillage and the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, and had a stressful time baking a Roller Skate Cake.

Hope you are all having a wonderful and relaxing weekend.