Jun 20, 2016

The Academy France a week with Heather Bullard - Part 2

Hello friends!
I'm back with part 2 of my trip to France. 
So much happened, it was hard to squeeze it all into one post, so here's the rest of the highlights of my trip.

The basis of this trip was to learn photography and styling from Heather Bullard.
It was great to get her tips and insight on how to set up a shoot and all that goes into it.
We also got to hear some pretty funny stories on some recent jobs she did and stuff you never hear about behind beautiful homes!

We were paired up with one other attendee and brought items from our flea market trip that we could photograph.


I chose to bring this pitcher, little green canning jar, and flower snips for my set up.
The flowers were from the bouquet that was in my room.

We worked on several different angles and back drops and Heather came around to each group to give her tips or answer questions.


This was my partner, Gina.
A Texas girl!
She was so fun to get to know and has done extensive traveling all over Europe.



This cute little vignette was part of another group's- I thought it was so sweet.

We went out to a few French villages during the week (after our lessons) to practice what we had learned.

The first village we visited was Perigueux.
It was beautiful and we photographed the farmer's market that was going on.


I loved this crusty Frenchman who was smoking his cigarette while selling herbs and flowers!

Photo taken by my friend Shannon.  (Find Joy in the Journey blog)
Those aqua doors and shutters were my favorite! That's Jamie of So Much Better With Age next to me in the shot.


My most favorite village was Saint Emilion in Bordeaux.
It was absolutely enchanting.
It is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre.
Every corner was breathtaking, and the cobblestone streets were incredible.

Someone in our group said
"...you can almost imagine Belle from Beauty and the Beast turning the corner...."
So true.


We enjoyed a picnic lunch in an 3rd century (? I think that's what it was) church courtyard.


These cute little linen bags were from the Etsy shop YUI Basics.
Another one of our gifts of the day!
They are so adorable, and I'm looking forward to using it again!


The panzanella salad that we had with our lunch was to die for.

We also visited a centuries old candy shop in St. Emilion.
Everything from classic chocolates to fun stuff for little ones.
Hannah's only request was that I bring her back some French candy.
And I'm not talking the fancy stuff.  She wanted the fun stuff, so I picked an assortment of suckers, chewy candies, and something that looked like pop rocks, but was gum.

The thing we all noticed with French sweets vs. American, is that they're not overly sugary.
It's just the right amount of sweet, but not the kind that burns your throat.
They also like to incorporate a lot of floral flavors in their candies.
Again, subtle- not overtly.


Our final village / market day was Riberac.
It was a more homey feeling place with a nice mix of handmade goods.
I bought a few French market bags, a linen shirt, some French soaps, pottery, and a few other goodies.



On the way home after lunch, we saw some gorgeous farmland and French cows by the roadside.
We had to stop and grab a few quick photos.

photo credit: Shannon Brown



Later that evening, we had a fabulous dinner in the chateau barn.
It was so beautiful and so much fun.  I miss those dinners a lot!
I can't remember the last time I laughed that much in one week.



So dreamy.  The little glass votives had "La Fermiere" written on them, and when I asked Heather about them, she said they were yogurt jars!
The French do everything so pretty.
Of course, the next chance I had in a grocery store I bought a couple to bring home!

Our last evening at the chateau, we had a blind wine tasting dinner hosted by one of the Australians on our trip.
It was so much fun, so delicious, and so informative.
I love wine tasting, but am absolutely terrible at identifying the smells or flavors.
So I after a few failed attempts at guessing, I just sat back, ate, and enjoyed.


I had my first taste of sardines in France- you can see them above here.
They were absolutely amazing.
Our chateau host, Laurent, made an incredible feta mint dip that I couldn't wait to recreate when I got home.  It was fantastic.  I may have to do a little share here on the blog.

And of course, the best cheese.


One of the funniest stories of the week was the groundskeeper, Benoit.


We noticed him one morning at breakfast.
He came buzzing through the grounds on his golf cart, and was wearing this long sleeve shirt you see here.
A few minutes later, he came back, but was wearing a beret.
A few minutes after that, he came driving through again with no shirt, and just the beret.
After that we nicknamed him Naked Benoit.

The same day, he kept driving by the barn doors that were part of our lecture area.
He was going by so often, that he caught Heather's attention, and she couldn't stop laughing.
With each drive by, the vehicle got bigger (golf cart to tractor) and the way he sprawled out on the seat with each drive by let us know he definitely wanted to be noticed.
Those Frenchmen.

It was a fantastic week meeting so many fun and amazing women from all over the world.
I will never forget the opportunity to go and learn and experience all that I did.
A huge thank you to Heather, Jill, Jaci, and Terry for all that they did to make this such an amazing and special trip.
This trip was planned down to the smallest detail a year before we arrived, and we definitely felt spoiled all week.
It was surreal to get all the advice that I did from someone I've admired for so long.
Again, thank you so much Heather.

I am so grateful to my family for letting me run away on this adventure half way around the world.
I can't wait to bring them back to these places.

And our wonderful chateau hosts, Martine and Laurent were so gracious and wonderful.
If you are ever looking to stay in the Bordeaux region, please look them up.
Chateau Mondesir
They are on Air bnb!


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Jun 13, 2016

The Academy France- a week with Heather Bullard part 1

When I was a little girl, I loved looking through my grandma's National Geographic magazines.
I was totally enamored with different cultures and other parts of the world.  
The beautiful photos of landscapes, food, and the way people dressed.
Ever since then, I've always wanted to travel.

In high school, I decided to take French as my foreign language, because I was sure I was going to go on to fashion design- and of course, I would need to know how to speak in Paris.
I didn't do fashion design, but went on to a Fine Arts program in southern California.

My wanderlust grew, and as time went on, I never knew if I'd ever be able to travel.  
I got married at 20, and life starts to happen and other priorities take over.
I still always hoped that someday, I would be able to travel overseas.

Life has strange twists and turns.  
I developed a love of antiques over the last few years, and was blogging and trying to develop my photography skills.  
I also dreamed of being able to travel to Europe and buy antiques to sell here in the U.S.

One thing I've always been frustrated by as I've started my own business, was trying to learn how to take better photos that were specific to my work.
I tried a few online courses, but they were always a bit vague for me, or the equipment that was being used in demonstrating was different from what I was using.

So this last October, while I was on Facebook, a post popped up that made my heart jump.
Heather Bullard, who I've long admired, was offering a trip to France to study photography and styling.  

And bonus- there would be a flea market buying trip and lots of sightseeing.

Heather's work always stands out to me.  
I've saved several magazines over the years with her work.

If you love Country Living magazine, you are probably pretty familiar with her style.
She is a contributing editor for the magazine and works for several other publications including HGTV magazine and Food Network.

I wistfully showed Jon the post knowing that there was really no way I could afford to go.  
He looked at it and said, 
wow, that sounds pretty perfect for you!

I kept looking at the FB post and trying to figure out a way I could make it work.
And within 3 days of the post on Facebook, half of the spots were already filled.
My heart sank, and my desperation grew.  
I knew this was exactly the kind of class I wanted to take, and it felt so far out of reach for me.

I decided to start a Go Fund Me account and scrape together what little extra cash I had in my business account to put down my deposit.
It was so hard to ask people for money.  
I literally cried as I hit the publish button for Go Fund Me.  It seemed so frivolous to ask for handouts for something like this, but I hoped people would understand that this was a dream that they could help make happen.

 I also knew I would have to work super hard over the next few months to get there.
Within a few days, I was overwhelmed by the donations that came in from family, friends, acquaintances, and even a few strangers to make my dream come true.

If you scroll down Heather's FB page, you can probably find my comment about reserving my spot.
Elated doesn't even come close.

Part of our welcome packet photos from Heather Bullard 

On May 12, I boarded a plane with my prized passport and my family's blessing, still pinching myself that I was actually going.


The pessimist in me kept trying not to think about the Alanis Morrisette song, 
...he waited his whole damn life, to take that flight, and as the plane crashed down, he thought well isn't this nice....
I am happy to say that the flight didn't crash, and I made it to France in one piece.

When I landed in Bordeaux, I met several other ladies in our group. We were all excited and enjoying meeting each other after our initial introductions on our group Facebook page.
Ladies from all over the world and all walks of life.
  Heather greeted us with a Bonjour! and a cheek cheek, kiss kiss en francais.
So cute.

Our 13th century chateau that we stayed in for the week was absolutely charming.


We all oohed and ahh'd as we drove in, and Heather personally showed us to our rooms.  
It was a thoughtful touch, and the welcome baskets waiting for us were amazing.



I stayed in a little part of the chateau called the gite.  (pronounced zheet)


We had a lovely porch with shuttered windows and doors.


France is every bit as charming and magical as you see in photos.  

Our first full day was a brocante (flea market) shopping day.
We were gifted these French market bags with little ribbons and calligraphy name tags (all done by Jill) on each one.


We were also given a little etiquette lesson from Terry Littman (Antiques From France) on how to shop and negotiate.
It was super helpful.
Our assignment was to find props at the flea market for our first photo shoot lesson.

Shannon, me, Lori, Stacie 
Who forgot until half way through the day that they were supposed to be curating a collection of like items?
This girl.

Because vintage French flea market.
Best. day. ever.

I'm only sorry I didn't have more cash and more room to bring home everything I fell in love with.
So many regrets.

I learned so much about photography, and I am still processing some of the information that I learned.  Please don't judge some of these photos yet.
I had a batch that didn't turn out and I was so disappointed.
But I know more about ISO now, and so that was a good lesson in itself.


We had lots of great interaction in our small group of women- 16 of us- and it was so great to finally figure out some things that I've been struggling with.  Like I said, still a work in progress, but it's nice to feel like I really picked up some things that I didn't know before.

All of the food was incredible.
Whether we were eating out, or having our food prepared for us by Jill
(Heather's assistant- super talented calligrapher and fashionista)
or the chateau hosts, Martine and Laurent.

I told myself I would try everything, and I did,
(including oysters and foie gras) and for the most part it was delicious!


We are all crossing our fingers for a Academy France cook book of everything we ate that week.


We had a jam making afternoon- we made strawberry rhubarb jam; and strawberry, rhubarb, balsamic black pepper jam.



Michelle, Heather, and trip photographer, Jaci
It was tough to get good photos in the kitchen with the lighting, but we had a lot of fun making and tasting it!

One of our most special events of the week was our Diner en Blanc.
I had a massive fail moment.
I decided not to bring my camera (or my phone) and just enjoy the evening.
In my mind I was thinking, live in the moment!  Everyone else is taking photos!  
That's right.
On a photography trip.
Leaving my camera behind for a special night.
Yep.
This was taken by my friend Shannon- it gives you a glimpse of how pretty and fun our evening was!

My friend Teresa who was on the trip, did a blog post specifically on the evening, and if you want to check it out, I highly recommend it.
You can find her here.

In a nutshell, it's Dinner in White.
There are international chapters that you can join in for this annual event.

Everyone dresses in white, the table and food are all white, and it is absolutely amazing.
Especially when Heather Bullard is putting it together.



Since there's so much to share from this trip, I'm splitting it into two parts.
I'll be back soon with Part II.
It was a dream come true!
Au revoir!

Want to see more photos?
You can find more under #theacademyfrance or #noblevintageinfrance
on Instagram!



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Jun 7, 2016

The Farmhouse Show spring edition 2016

I can't believe I have 3 shows under my belt for this year already! 
whew!

The Farmhouse Show was a month ago, and it was awesome.
It was so fun to see this event grow even more, and as always, the customers are a blast.
You guys cleared me out by take down!
There were only 4 pieces of furniture to take home and a few smalls, so take down was relatively easy.
It was kinda fast and crazy taking snap shots of my booth because I also volunteered this year to take photos for the show's Facebook page, so I was racing around at the last minute to get as much as I could before the flood of customers.
I'm really trying to take more photos with my DSLR this year, so I didn't rely on my iPhone like I normally do at shows.

Unfortunately, because I was in a hurry, the first few shots were not awesome. There is so much last minute running around, and with it being indoors, I didn't get my settings adjusted until I was half way done.
Boo.


I've also been struggling this year with how my spaces have looked at shows.
With rebranding this year, and trying to figure out what image I'm wanting to have that is consistent, put together well, and easy for set up / take down, it's felt a little miss mashed.

I'm refining more of my product with each show, and trying to really focus on what sells well, but has a good overall look and flow.


My goal moving forward, is to have vignettes that make sense in a natural home setting.

When I added in my black and white awnings a couple years ago, it stemmed from the idea of what I would want my brick and mortar shop to look like if I had one.


Now, I want to focus on the interior of my booth and how to make it flexible for markets but still look like the shop space that I would have if it were permanent.



It's a ton of work hauling in furniture and all the bins that make up the inventory, so having "walls" that are easy to set up and don't take up a ton of storage or muscle in and out each time is the challenge.


I'm so glad this show went so well, because I was relying on whatever I made as my spending money for France.




I love vintage garden gnomes....I ended up keeping one them!
 With our fun park-like backyard, it's been fun to hide them in the ferns and around the trees.

There were so many great booths, and here is a peek at just a few - you can see more in the next couple weeks on the Farmhouse Show Facebook page:




So much fun!
I can't wait for the fall show in late October!

I'll be back in a couple days to share my trip to France.




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