Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Little Creativity and Some Lessons Learned.

Beer and cake and notes scrawled on napkins. Who's best ideas HAVEN'T come to them right before last call??! If you recently picked up a copy of Coupe Magazine, you may have noticed a big ol' cake covered with words of wisdom. Well my friends, I'm proud to say that that cake was the product of another super-fun collaboration between myself and the uber-talented Dana Harrison. We decided to take up some ad space in this year's annual and use it as a promo-piece designed to congratulate all of this year's winners.

Here's a little peak into where our inspiration came from and a couple lessons we learned along the way:

After we fuelled up on Sweet Tea and Brisket Sandwiches, we ate A LOT of fortune cookies, all in the name of inspiring our copy of course.

We realized that in order to pipe our copy onto the cake (YES, Dana did that by hand!), we would have to create some kind of template.  Here comes lesson #1 - It's never a good idea to use cinnamon to create a guide for text on a white cake. That results in a whole lot of retouching.

How could this icing colour not inspire something awesome?!

Here comes lesson # 2: No matter how well Dana's dog is behaving while there is food on set, he is always, always waiting for his moment to pounce. We stupidly let our guard down for all of thirty seconds, and very nearly lost hours of work to a sneaky dog. Through some stroke of luck, he was feeling particularly generous and only ate the discard plate I was using to style the cake with. OY! Lesson learned.

As always, Dana and I had a blast. Who knows, maybe someday we'll open an online store where we sell snarky yet inspirational cakes. Someday.....

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Creativity Hall Pass

For many creative-types, personal work is essential for clearing our heads and re-invigorating creativity. You may have noticed a drop in my attendance to my blog, and before I bombard you with lame excuses for not posting much this summer, like my dog ate my keyboard, or my friend's kid super-glued my laptop shut, or I was too busy eating hamburgers - the honest truth is that when I started this blog it was very much my creative outlet, as well as my main source of inspiration. For whatever reason, my creativity-senses were tingling this summer and told me to find inspiration offline. I guess the answer was to go out in the world and create something just for me. So that's exactly what I did, and hopefully this post will prove that I wasn't neglecting you for nothing.

To my dismay, summer seems to be abruptly drawing to a close. I began working on a project that is very much about summer and feel like now's a good time to share it, as a final so'long for now to summer.

I'd like to expand this body of work and thought a fun way to do that would be to have you to share your long repressed childhood heartaches with me. Then I'll go out and shoot them. What treat would your six year old self have excitedly received and promptly dropped?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Something For Your Sweet Tooth

Like most people I know working in the arts, be it fine art or commercial practices, personal projects are what keep me going. Usually when I'm at my busiest, amidst all the chaos, inspiration will strike. Sometimes the greatest luxury during the busiest of weeks is to empty my head of all the images floating around.

Recently, the image of a bold floral print kept reappearing in my thoughts. Once that pattern was securely lodged in my brain, on thing led to another and soon I was dreaming about sweet old ladies sipping tea and snacking on sweets. Perhaps they would play bridge later in the afternoon. Thinking that I would need something rather delicate and feminine to complete the image that was slowly growing in my mind, I turned to Alie Romano of Simply Sweet, a pastry chef known for her irresistible meringues. Here's what we spent the afternoon shooting... and then eating.

While we were at it I shot some quick portraits of Alie and her magnificent pavlova topped with black cherry sauce and white chocolate curls.

Alie was nice enough to whip together a recipe as well as a few tips for making the perfect meringues.  Meringues are a nice light option for a summer dessert or after a heavy meal. With strawberry season fast approaching, she thought it would be nice to share a Sweet Strawberry Meringue with you.  

Strawberry Vanilla Meringue Baskets

For the Meringue
4 egg whites (at room temperature)
230 g (one cup) caster (superfine) sugar
1 tsp natural vanilla
few drop of red food colouring (optional)

For the Filling:

300ml of whipping cream
a pint fresh strawberries, washed and hulled.
1 Tablespoon icing sugar
1 Tablespoon white sugar

Preheat oven to 235 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Beat the egg whites in a large bowl with electric beaters until frothy and stiff.  Slowly and gradually add the caster sugar while beating the egg whites, about one tablespoon at a time. Beat until thick and glossy.  Add vanilla flavouring (and food colour if using), scrape down bowl, continue beating until stiff peaks form.  Transfer the mixture to a piping bag or spoon out onto your prepared baking sheet.  Pipe approx. 9 shells keeping a few inches apart from each shell.

If piping, be sure not to compress the mixture, coil with a light hand into a circle and layer the edges to form a bowl.

If spooning, spoon approx. ½  cup to a cup of the mixture in a blob, hollow out a center and use spoon to shape the outside as desired.

Place in oven and bake for 60-75 minutes, or until meringues peel nicely off and sound hollow when tapped.  Turn oven off and leave meringues in the oven over night to dry out.

Wash and remove stems of strawberries, if using big strawberries chop into bite sizes.  Place in a bowl and toss with white sugar.  Meanwhile whip whipping cream and add icing sugar.  Fill meringue with cream and drizzle strawberries and juices over meringue shells

Tips and tricks for the perfect meringue:

• Plan to bake your meringues a day or two ahead.
• Separate your eggs when cold, it’s much easier to separate your eggs cold than at room temperature. If a bit of yolk breaks into the whites start over, that batch is no good!
• Use a metal bowl and ensure the bowl is clean of any grease. 
• When you are ready to whip your egg whites they MUST be at room temperature
• Always sift your caster (instant) sugar
• Use the whisk attachment on your mixer.. the better the mixer the better your meringues will turn out.
• Very Important: Add sugar slowly!!! Like a slow soft waterfall!
• Beat your meringues on high speed, only turn the speed down a notch when adding the sugar.. but only a little!
• Add flavouring/coloring at the end and re-whip to ensure stiff peaks and that everything is incorporated
• Once you’ve placed the meringues in the oven, keep the oven door closed! Don’t check on them until your timer goes off.  When you’re checking on them, don’t pull them out of the oven! Very carefully reach into the oven and check your meringue by lifting a meringue off the baking sheet, if it doesn’t peel off easily than continue to bake for an extra 15minutes.  If the meringue does peel off nicely than shut the oven door and turn off the oven. Leave the meringues in the oven to dry out over night. 
• Meringues aren’t ready to eat until the next day, so if you try a warm meringue you will be disappointed.. it will be chewy and sticky in your mouth, be patient and wait
• Keep meringues out of the refrigerator, they store best in metal tins.
• Whip your cream, fill your meringue and allow to soften  10-20 minutes before serving

Happy Baking!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Big Reveal

Well folks, the deed has been done! My hair has been lopped off and delivered safely to Angel Hair for Kids.

Last friday I packed up my hair and was off to meet Kerry and Ana for the big cut. I was a complete bag of nerves and excitement all morning. I'd become more attached to my long locks than I thought I would. Kerry shot some "before" portraits of me, which was a pretty great way to say goodbye to all that hair before the scissors made an appearance. I'm pretty sure that I held my breath the entire time Ana was braiding and cutting my hair. It took an eternity for her to get all the way through my braid. I thought I might cry or feel completely naked once all my hair was gone, but what I ended up feeling was really excited that I was able to grow something that could mean so much to someone else who had lost her own.

I wanted to be sure that my precious cargo arrived safely at Angel Hair, so I grabbed my braid and delivered it in person. When I arrived, I was greeted with such excitement by two wonderful women, Dee and Roslyn. They proudly gave me a tour of the little studio that is used for fittings and showed me photos of the girls who have received wigs. Even though I didn't meet any of the girls in person, I could feel happiness exuding from their photos. I knew that something as simple as a head of hair was life-changing for these girls.

I want to thank everyone for their oh-so-generous donations. THANK YOU!! Because of you, we've raised $2512.00! That's enough money for almost three wigs!

My donation page will be active until June 13th. Feel free to spread the link far and wide while there's still time to help me reach my goal.

And now...... THE BIG REVEAL......

    Wait for it.....


    Images by Kerry Shaw  Hair & Makeup by Ana Sorys

Friday, May 18, 2012

Take That KFC!

I'm celebrating an anniversary of sorts. This week marks one year of shooting for and working with the awesome folks at The Grid. Man, that came around fast! If you read The Grid, you know that they don't mess around, and this weeks shoot was no exception. As kind of a sister story to last year's Big Mac Challenge, four chefs were asked to create their own version of the KFC Double Down. Let me tell you, they did not disappoint! The creativity and excitement that each chef brought to their creation was contagious, and might I say delicious. BQM Burgershoppe was so into the challenge, that they'll be serving up "The Pull-Down" until May 27th at their Queen and Ossington location. If anyone wants to join me for a sandwich the size of your head, give me a holler. I could probably eat ten. Yup. It's that good.

Click here for the full story.

Happy Drooling!

"The Dirty Bird" by Cardinal Rule chef Marta Kusel

"The Pull-Down" by BQM Burgershoppe chef Chris Horvath

 "The Inverted Torta de Milanesa" by Milagro Cantina owner and chef Arturo Anhalt

"The Hammered Chicken" by Hammersmith’s chef and co-owner Colin Reed

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Buh Bye Braid!

I'm working on a project that has little to do with photography and nothing to do with food, but it's something important to me and I wanted to share. Those of you who know me, may have noticed that my hair has been getting extremely long these days. No, I haven't been too lazy to cut it, or been dared to grow it to Rapunzel-ian lengths. I've been growing my hair so that I can donate it. This is something that I've wanted to do for years, and I'm really excited to be doing it now!

What's even more exciting, is that my plan to donate has turned into a bit of a collaboration. One of my fellow Sparks Photographers, Kerry Shaw, and I were talking one afternoon when she just happened to mentioned that she's obsessed with photographing hair. I told her I was chopping mine and that she was welcome to shoot it before it went. We got talking, and decided that it would be fun to shoot a before and after and have a go at raising some money while we're at it. I've chosen to donate my hair to Angel Hair for Kids. The Angel Hair Foundation helps financially disadvantaged children, in Canada, who have lost their hair due to medical conditions and treatments. They create wigs and provide them at no cost to the child's family. Each wig costs about $1000 to create, and being a not-for-profit organization they rely exclusively on donations.

On May 8th, 2012, I will be putting my hair in the hands of the lovely and talented Ana Sorys, and my face in front of Kerry's lens. Until then, we will be raising funds to help turn donated hair into wigs. We're hoping to raise enough money for three wigs, so please spread the word. We only have a month to hit our goal.

If you're interested in making a donation, go to my giving page and help me to say buh bye to my braid in style!

Friday, March 23, 2012

To The East!

I've got a little gem (ok, it's a massive diamond) of a project in the works that I'm just dying to spill the beans about! Over the last few months I've been working with the most fantastic team, being led by a fearless and sleep deprived Shawn Bailey, and every step forward just fuels my excitement. I can't give away too much, but I will tell you this: It's an iPad app for Massimo Bruno (who you may remember from this post). Essentially, it's a do-it-yourself-supper-club-bonanza packed with full cooking show episodes, recipes and mouthwatering photography (ahem...) for twenty different regions in Italy. Since I can't share the images we shot with you quite yet I'll tell you the story of a fun little day-trip Shawn and I took - pictures included.

Ever since Shawn and I sat down for our first meeting back in September he's been telling me about a handfull of places he likes to go to for props and other awesome junk. They're just outside the city, and I was told that they are the kinds of places where I would "lose my mind."  Since then, of course, I've been desperate to go. When we wrapped our second day of shooting last week Shawn announced that he'd be heading out of town to poke around for some extra props and invited me and the app's graphic designer Dana Harrison, who you may have met here, to tag along.

The morning of our road trip we loaded up on coffee and snacks (of course the snacks were mostly for me since I can't go ten minutes without eating), hopped into Shawn's truck and were on our way. First stop: Cobourg. We hit a place called Legacy which is in an old train station that has been FILLED from top to bottom, inside and out, with stuff. Mind blown. Dana and I were like kids in a candy store. Touching everything and shouting out from across the store to show off the cool things we had just found.

I quickly came to realize that maybe we weren't the best trio to be out on this excursion together since we all loved everything and all agreed that it was a great idea to get whatever it was the others had found.  Next time, perhaps we should bring a neutral party who will weigh the pros and cons of filling our homes with stuff we have no room for and serve no real immediate purpose. On second thought, screw that. Our way is clearly more fun.

Here's some of the awesome stuff we left behind:

From Cobourg we went east and north to Codrington, Morganston, Warkworth, and then stopped for lunch at a great little place in Hastings called Banjo's.

Some days I have moments where I truly understand that my love of food is "special" and different from others. I had a couple of those moments that afternoon. The first was when my drink arrived at the table and Dana lost it. Laughing and insisting that she take a photo before I drink it. What was it? Hot Chocolate with whipped cream... is that so weird? Sometimes a girl just wants a nice hot cup of "ice-rink" hot chocolate, and how could I refuse when the waitress offered me whipped cream on top? As if! The second moment was when I was telling Shawn and Dana about how sad I was to find out that Blondie's greasy diner in Gravenhurst had been turned into a gluten free bakery! I then went on to possibly say something along the lines of "that burger will forever be with me in my memory" to which Dana so kindly pointed out to Shawn that I was not kidding, and we all had a good laugh at my expense. Ah well, at least no client will ever doubt how much I love what I do. I just can't hide it for a second.

After lunch, Shawn stopped to show us his lovely cottage on the Trent River where I stood by the lake dreaming about the old Press camera I had found (and will go back for someday).

The last two stops of the day were in Keene. The first one was a little shop filled with cheap antiques, where I thoroughly made a fool of myself by actually loosing my mind as Shawn had predicted. While on set yesterday, Shawn likened me to the woman from the Ikea commercial who gets such a good deal that she feels like she's stolen something and runs to the car laden down with bags yelling "Start the car! Start the car!" When I told Dana she completely agreed and again had a good laugh at my expense. In my defence though I got all of this stuff for $16!

This I did not buy, but it was awesome none-the-less:

Our second stop was to take a look at Muddy's Pit BBQ:

By the sounds of it, that GIANT smoker they've got out front pumps out some proper Carolina-style BBQ all summer long. They don't open until April 18th, but rest assured, I've already got a group organized and we're planning to be there on opening day.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

A Drink With The Queen

Last week I shot a job for Maclean's Magazine, and it was such a hoot that I can't help but share it with you.

My photo editor Liz told me that we'd be shooting a story about Dubonnet. I'd be shooting at The Drake Hotel because Mixologist Mike Webster makes a killer Dubonnet cocktail (I can now confirm that he does). Liz then told me that I would be shooting someone seated at the bar dressed as The Queen of England. YES! This was going to be fun.

My good friend Tammy is always willing to stick her gorgeous little hands in front of my lens, and luckily, she was available on the shoot day. I was a bit vague when I described the shoot to her and just sort of "forgot" to mention that she would be sitting in for The Queen. When she arrived, I handed over her wardrobe and she instantly broke out in laughter insisting that she wear the entire pink Chanel suit just to "get into character."

We spent a couple hours laughing, sampling some of Mike's amazing cocktails, and speaking in terrible British Queen accents - oh and we took some pictures while we were at it. Yup, these are the kinds of jobs that really make me love what I do. I've got to admit, I'm a pretty lucky gal.

Thank you, Mike and Tammy, for being such super-duper folks and letting me take over your Sunday afternoon! Thanks Liz for sending me such a fun creative!

For your viewing pleasure, here's the winning shot, as well as a few outtakes:

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Simple Can Be Awesome.

Sometimes when I begin a project, my initial reaction is to come up with the most complicated way to accomplish it. I can't help myself. I get excited and then get lost in the endless possibilities of my imagination. What I have learned over the years is that most often, the simplest solution is the best one. It's usually the hardest one to arrive at, but in the end it's usually the best.

In honour of beautifully executed simple ideas, I bring you Otherlands Coffee Bar's "Best Cinnamon Toast in the South." When Zac and I were in Memphis, TN., we stopped here for breakfast. I have a weakness for cinnamon sugar on - well - anything. I couldn't have possibly resisted a breakfast item being touted as "the best in the south," and let me tell you, I'm glad I didn't. Thick slices of buttered white bread covered in an almost equally thick layer of raw sugar and cinnamon cooked under the broiler until crisp. If you had this in Montreal, it would likely be called "Toast Brulee."

Try it at home kids, I doubt you'll be disappointed.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Hunka Hunka Burning Love

I seem to have more images than words floating around in my brain these days, which in the end I suppose is a good thing, since I am a photographer. On the other hand, it's not so fantastic because it's been keeping me from filing the pages of my blog. I've decided that while I work on my voice, I'll share some of the things my eyes have seen.

Here's where I begin to play catch-up....

When Zac and I took our road trip back in November, we drove through Memphis, TN. We're not particularly Elvis fans, but how could we possibly pass through Memphis and pass on Graceland, the home of The King? As we arrived, I immediately put on Paul Simon's Graceland, which I happily played in my mind all day long.

I found myself inexplicably drawn to all the Elvis souvenirs (both in the gift shop and in the displays). I could have spent days looking at all the chatchkas. I was blown away by the kitch factor and the empire that is Elvis.

The house was really something special, and I would highly recommend it to everyone. Elvis fan or not. Graceland is spectacular. It's like walking into a time-warp. A wonderfully gaudy, imaginative, shiny, upholstered time-warp. I wish I could have taken more pictures of the inside of his house, but the tour was crowded and the house is extremely dark. Getting a clear shot with a proper camera was tough. My two favorite rooms were the "Tiki room" complete with indoor waterfall (below left), and the billiards room (below right) where the floor, celling, walls and furniture are all covered in matching fabric. Unreal. I can only imagine that his cleaning lady hated that room.

As the house tour came to an end, a larger than life oil painted Elvis bid us adieu.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thumbs up to Win!

Hi there friends, I know I've been a bit slack in the blog department lately and for that I apologize! The good news is that I'm still here, and the better news is that by sticking with me, you've earned the chance to win!

I've recently joined a very talented group of people on the roster at Sparks Photographers and I couldn't be more stoked! What does this news have to do with you, you ask? Sparks is having a contest! Head on over to the Sparks Photographers Facebook page 'like' it and your favorite image. Your name will be entered in a draw to win the image of your choice which will be custom printed and framed just for you! Hurry over to the Sparks page, the draw takes place on February 10th.

Good luck!!