A Birthday on Tomales Bay

Last weekend we joined Marina at the Inn on Tomales Bay in Marshall for her birthday, celebrating with too many oysters Rockefeller and games of Scrabble (is there such a thing?), cappuccino It's-its, daffodils, leisurely breakfasts and dinners, long walks, and new friends. That woman sure knows how to live. I took some impromptu birthday portraits on Sunday and I'm so glad I did. Happy birthday darling, I love you!

Modern Motherhood // Interview with Sarah from Electric Sun Creatives

Sarah and I met a few years ago when I first started nannying. I was taking over her position with a family in Berkeley and I went on a "ride-along" with her and the two little girls I would be watching. She is a seriously talented metal artist and creative and is currently making and selling beautiful brass and wood wall hangings. Harper is 2 years old. 

What did you love most about being a kid?

The first thing I think of is being barefoot in our backyard, the sun shining, and getting dirty…that carefree aspect that my parents really fostered. My parents put a lot of time and effort into making our backyard a kid’s dream, with a sandpit, trampoline, garden and a huge lawn. When the lawn needed mowing, my Dad would make crazy zigzag patterns so that we could play a lava-like tag game where you can’t touch the un-mowed areas. That game was everything for us kids. My parents were highly invested in our neighborhood, [which was] packed with young families and kiddos my age. It was like “everybody go over to the Goddard’s house!” I think of all that…being barefoot and surrounded by community.

What did you think about your mom when you were little? How have your feelings changed as you’ve gotten older?

I thought she was a killer business woman [laughs] and she still is. She has a very driven personality, which I really respect. She gets stuff done. But she's nurturing and loving too, of course. She always had the priority to be home with us after school and arranged for her job to work around what us kids were doing. She’d take us to school and pick us up; she was always present, even with a full-time job. I really value that to this day. It’s interesting growing up and then having a child of my own…I have so much more respect for my parents and especially for my mom, like, holy smokes, you did all of that for me, and you CONTINUE to do all of that for me.

Tell me about your path to motherhood. Did you always know you wanted to have kids?

When we were engaged and even dating we talked about having kids and it was always a five-year plan. And so we got married and it was still a five-year plan, and then it became the six-year plan, and then the seven-year plan…but then she was a surprise! So it became a 2-and-a-half, almost three-year plan [laughs]. We can’t imagine life without her! She’s the greatest gift.

Becoming a mom wasn’t much of a thought or priority in my life, so the surprise was really a surprise. It was the greatest surprise of our lives! 

What are some of your favorite things about being a mom?

Oh man, getting to witness the blossoming of this little human; seeing her play…her creativity and her excitement for life is the best. I love having a front row seat to her world that’s growing by the day. 

I have a lot of friends who love babies. They see a baby in a room and they don’t even know the person whose baby it is and they’re like give me the baby. I was never like that. It’s this age that I love and that I find myself thriving in. It’s the interaction and communication that’s just so exciting. This age and season of motherhood is my favorite (so far). 

What is one part of motherhood you struggle with?

The hardest thing is the work/life balance. I’m a stay-at-home Mama, but I'm also running a business from my at-home studio. Time management and expectations of naptime work sessions have been my biggest struggle. Previously, I would expect to work when Harper was napping, but we all know how unpredictable that can be. I would find myself so bummed when she would wake up earlier than I hoped. I’m trying to learn from this by shifting my perspective and expectations, and by compartmentalizing my time. There are “Mama/Harper Days” and there are “Studio Days.” On days with her, that is our time. If she naps an hour, that’s ok, if she happens to nap two hours, that’s ok too, I wasn’t expecting to be in the studio anyway. 

What have you learned about yourself since becoming a mother?

How much I need community. The first 16 months were so trying for me. With sleep deprivation (it’s real, people), figuring out the wonderful-crazy nursing relationship and caring for a beautiful little human that poops endlessly; it was really hard. Enter the people in my life that made me feel a little less crazy. They would tell me that I was a doing a great job, make us delicious food, they would hold Harper so I could focus on other things and they gave me the soundest advice. Community is huge. And I’m so grateful for mine, especially during that time.

Who do you turn to for advice?

My pals Vanessa and Britany are two incredibly wise woman that I can turn to for anything parenting related and beyond. They’re not just wise, they’re vulnerable and open. They relate and make me feel a little less alone in this wild journey of life and motherhood. 

What has surprised you about motherhood?

I was surprised by how much I would love it, almost 2 1/2 years in. I didn’t quite think about how great it would be, because she was a surprise. I almost didn’t have time to think what is this really going to look like? A year out, two years out, and beyond? We just went. And, gosh, I’m so grateful for our daughter. It is such a gift being her Mama.

Also, Patrick and I have always valued community, recognizing that if you don’t have community, oh my gosh, what are you doing? We were surprised by how much a catalyst for community [Harper] has been because you can instantly connect with other parents—and people just love kids, and they love Harper, they adore Harper. When I’m in the grocery store and she’s sitting in the cart, people can’t help but stop and talk to her and talk to me. I get to connect with people that I wouldn’t have connected with otherwise.

Are there any societal pressures on motherhood that you feel more than others?

The pressure to have it all together and the pressure to have a pristine home. But, I am definitely learning to let that go. I have some pretty rad women around me, with older kiddos, that have gone before me and have encouraged me that none of that matters. All that matters is you’re doing your best and your child is healthy. I think it’s easy to get sucked up into anything that society expects you to do, but if you have a community that reminds you to put the first things first, that perspective changes everything.

How does technology impact motherhood? In which ways does it connect us and in which ways does it isolate us?

Oh man, technology is cray. I love it for the opportunities it has brought my way— to connect with working artists all over the world and even seeing how other mothers do things. But, I definitely struggle with it taking my time and presence from being with Harper. I’m currently working on that balance. 

What are some of the biggest differences between your childhood and the one you’re creating for your daughter?

I had a really really great childhood. My parents were awesome—they very much cared about our need to be kids—letting us romp around in our backyard, exploring and using our imaginations. I feel like we’re doing that. A difference is living in these artist lofts with a bunch of interesting, creative people as our neighbors. What’s really exciting about raising her here is that she gets to meet so many different people. And having a home in an urban core, in downtown Sacramento, she’s encountering all kinds of different cultures and people with different professions. It’s so varied.

How has your relationship with your mom changed since becoming a mother?

When you’re a kid, you look at your mom and she’s just your mom, but now I can say that as a fellow Mama, we’re in the same club. I realize that she also cried at 2 a.m. with a babe in her arms, she experienced the joys and pains of toddlerhood, and she knows the intense, all-consuming love for a child. We can relate on so much more. 

Can you tell me a little bit about your husband? How has your relationship with Patrick changed since having Harper?

I love that guy. He is an incredible father, incredible father. He reminds me of what my dad was like with me. My dad thought that the sun rose and set on me. I definitely see that is how he views Harper, which is so so so so good for my heart. He’s very intentional with Harper and I’m just so grateful that Harper gets the experience of having a dad who thinks she’s the raddest kid. How has our relationship changed? It’s gotten better for sure. We talked about that a lot when I was pregnant, about what the dynamic would be like. Kiddos can put a lot of strain on a relationship because it’s a whole new thing and you’re having to figure it out. We definitely had that in our minds that [the relationship between us] is number one because she benefits from that. It’s not like we’re putting her on the back burner, but we have to make sure we’re good and simultaneously love her like crazy.

What are your hopes for Harper?

I hope that she is secure in her identity—that she is of great value, is loved, and that it’s not contingent on anything she does. She just is.

Patrick and I believe that everyone is created to be creative, and that it’s not just a title that a fine artist can hold, but that we all have it inside of us. It’s how we’re wired—the ability to bring things to life from our imaginations. It’s a lifestyle choice, really. We hope that she taps into that and is present in that. We hope that in tapping into her God-given creativity, she can contribute amazing, life-giving things to the world. And I hope that she is kind and continues to care about other people deeply.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? You’ll have a twelve-year old.

Errrgh! That’s crazy! But so exciting and so fun to think about. We’re only planning on having one kiddo, so I would be grateful to be living our life as a family of three and investing in her. I hope that we will continue to be creative together as a family, me with my business, Patrick with his bike building and investing in whatever Harper finds to do with her heart and hands. Is it real that someday we will have a twelve-year-old? That’s bonkers.

Thank you Sarah and Harper (and Patrick)! You can shop Sarah's incredible wall hangings on Etsy and follow along with her new creations on instagram

To see the first segment in this series, click here

Living Room Sneak Peek!

After months of not having use of our living room, we finally moved in this week. I love it so much, I can't believe it's ours. We haven't gotten any art up on the walls yet, but the curtains are hung, our rug has a home, and the kitties and Jeffery and I couldn't be happier. The rug is an ebay find that I scored a few weeks after we moved in. I gave it a good beating on the clothesline, but until now we haven't had a space large enough to roll it out in. I rescued a bird of paradise and a philodendron from Ikea, and they should do well. This room gets the most incredible light, and it feels so serene. It also has amazing acoustics.

When we moved the couches in we got our dining room back, which we had been using as a living room. Our dining table was purchased for our Tenderloin apartment, so it's a bit small for the space. Eventually we plan on building a new table. 

The most gratifying part is that we did everything ourselves (with the help of friends and family). Six months ago, when we got the keys and started tearing wood paneling off the walls, I could envision what it would look like when we were done. It's not completely finished, but it's even better than I imagined. To enjoy a space that we worked so hard on is the ultimate reward. (To see before photos and some of the renovations, click here. To follow along you can search #ourgrassvalleyhome on instagram.)

Baby Girl Turns One!

At the end of April we headed up to Grass Valley to celebrate our niece's first birthday. On Saturday morning we stopped by the Nevada County Certified Growers' Market at the North Star House. It was the first farmer's market of the year. Christian bought flowers for babe and mama. The sweet peas smelled heavenly.

It had just rained, so the quality of light was incredible. It also felt like the trees and the ground and the people were all exhaling, happy and grateful for the precipitation and the beautiful day.

I love the purple speckled ones. When we arrived the birthday girl had just woken up from a nap and was getting dressed for her party.

This little lady has a wealth of older cousins to look up to. They are all so lucky to have one another.

And then the sugar rush set it...

Bath time. :)

The Big Island

There really are no words. Despite two days of debilitating sickness for me, it was the perfect vacation. Late March was the time to go. The weather was glorious and the sea life showed up. We took four long hikes in six days to remote and beautiful locations all over the island: Shipman Beach (15 sea turtles!), Waipio Valley (whales!), Papakolea (more whales!), and (not pictured) Kealakekua Bay, where we were treated to the best snorkeling I have ever seen and we got to swim with a pod of 30-40 spinner dolphins. Traveling with our friends and getting to share our favorite parts of the Big Island was a gift. It was the perfect combination of relaxation and adventure and I am so grateful.

November in Hilo

It's Saturday evening and the chickens are out for their nightly forage. The neighboring roosters are crowing out of jealousy or hunger or loneliness, chained to their a-frame shelters. Nala girl stares through me, her eyes are bottomless pools of caramel. I think she is the most perfect creature I have ever met. 

It's Sunday and the sky is bright blue and littered with cotton ball clouds. I am surrounded by young coconut palms and I am mesmerized by lines and light and color. Later, mom and I will go for a long ocean swim, out of the reef and into deep water. We will see multiple sea turtles surfing in the waves and we won't know that it's our last sunny day.

It's Wednesday and for the second afternoon in a row I'm tied to a roof documenting a module installation for my dad's company. It's starting to drizzle, and I keep having to wipe the raindrops from my lens.  

It's Thursday and the table is set. There is too much food. We invited three adults and two children to join our table, but failed to tell them how many people there would be, so they brought enough for an army. We will eat leftovers for days.

It's Friday at noon. It's been raining all morning and I had to postpone a photo shoot for the second time. I'm up the road visiting the brand new baby sheep we saw on our Thanksgiving walk. Surprisingly, the mama comes right up to me when I call her, and her little black lamb bounces along beside her. On my walk back home I will find a perfectly ripe avocado on the ground that we will enjoy in our salad for dinner. 

It's Friday evening, and I'm outside the fence admiring how the light catches and dances off water droplets. Mochi kitty comes running out to join me. He has proven to be my most challenging subject. Every time I get down at his level he runs to me for loving. I discover that if I put him on the fence it buys me some time. His eyes are the same green as the ginger. 

sunrise from Mauna Kea

It's Sunday morning, 6:20 am and we're up above the clouds at the Mauna Kea summit. At 13,000 feet the horizon is apricot colored fading to blue, both getting brighter as our spot on earth rotates closer to the sun. It's below freezing and the wind is blowing. I can't feel my hands, and the Japanese tourists are hopping around in their orange snowsuits, trying to stay warm. The shadow of the volcano is printed on the candy-colored clouds to the west. I slip into the car and pour myself a mug of Earl Grey hot chocolate and warm my fingers and my lips. We will later go out for pancakes.

It's Sunday afternoon, and mom and I have finished the quilt top to my new quilt. We designed and sewed for four days while it rained and rained and now it's spread out on the dining table full of safety pins waiting to be quilted. Nala is cowering under the table because she knows her days with me around are numbered.

It's Sunday evening and we're taking Nala out for her walk. I have to run back for my camera because the sky is putting on a show. A lot of water has fallen during my visit, but when it isn't raining the sky is doing spectacular things. All that rain makes you appreciate the relief even more, and I revel in its beauty. 

It's Monday morning and my flight leaves in a few hours. I am rejuvenated. I walked Nala every day. I spent quality one on one time with my parents. I photographed four families, I reconnected with an old friend, and I made plans for my next visit. I feel really lucky and happy and grateful and excited for what's to come.

4th of July // In the Garden // Willits, CA

Our 4th of July weekend was enjoyed up in Willits with good food, great friends and lovely surroundings. I was lucky enough to photograph a friend's expansive garden in the evening, morning and afternoon light, and that was pretty much the best.

In the morning, I grabbed my camera and headed out to the garden in my pjs when everyone else was still asleep. The bees were making their rounds to the poppies, which had opened overnight. I watched their wrinkly new petals change in the light as the sun made its way through the trees. Poppies may be my favorite flower to photograph. I love them from every direction, in any light, in focus or as a speck in the background. 

That the afternoon I returned with Christa to water. She proved to be a lovely subject. As were the chamomile and the sunflowers.

I'm appreciative of good friends who cook up delicious breakfast feasts, make ice cream sandwiches with cookies warm from the oven, play multiple games of ping pong and Settlers of Catan, and share their bounty.

I'm anxious to have our own garden, where I can watch the bees dance from flower to flower and study the light on petals and greens. 

P.S. Last 4th of July in Santa Cruz and the one before that (also in Santa Cruz).

Memorial Day Weekend with Friends // Grass Valley

Warning: this is a photo-heavy post. 

We drove out to the Sierra foothills on Jeffery's birthday to spend Memorial Day weekend with some of our favorite people, to enjoy the lush surroundings, and to meet a very special little lady. Jeffery had never held a baby before and it was pretty incredible watching these uncles fall in love with their one month-old niece. 

On Saturday we hiked past Lake Carr and Lake Feeley to Island Lake, fishing poles in tow. 

Island Lake, Tahoe National Forest

That evening we enjoyed some more baby snuggles. 

Katie runs the garden program at the Grass Valley Charter School, and on Sunday morning she gave us a tour of the [incredible!] grounds. I would send my kids to this school just for the garden. Ranger liked it too.

That evening: family, food, and more baby loving. Uncles, aunties, and cousins, all gathered around, we couldn't keep our eyes off of her.

Welcome to the party, little Ava! We're so glad you're here. 

Birthday Weekend in Lake County

For my birthday we drove up to Lake County, known for its meth problems and mercury contaminated lakes, but also for its rolling hills and stunning views. We stayed at the Tallman Hotel in Upper Lake Friday (highly recommended) and on Saturday morning met up with our friends Ross and Nicole and their new puppy (!) and drove out to Nicole's family's cabin. 

The cabin sits on the edge of a small valley, only about a mile across. It was breathtaking in every direction. Her stepdad grazes cattle in the valley, and some of the cows go there to die, so sun bleached bones were scattered throughout the wildflowers and valley oaks.

The best part was that I got to shoot Ross and Nicole's engagement session Saturday evening. It was unbelievably beautiful. I can't wait to share the rest.


And then I took some of Nicole with her mom and her stepdad. These are the moments I feel privileged to witness, the photographs I love taking the most.

Jeffery is always sticking his hand in my shot. 

We feasted on ham, scallop potatoes, and a green salad with apple and celery. Delicious.

In the morning we hopped on ATVs and took a tour of the property. It was my first time driving one, and it was totally invigorating. Such a fun weekend. 

Thank you Nicole and Ross for sharing your family with us, for showing us a new part of Northern California, and for letting me shoot your engagement photos! I think I've figured out the formula for my perfect weekend: visit a beautiful location that I've never been to before, go with people I love being around, and eat good food. Bonus points if there are doggies or kitties hanging around, oh, and if everything is in bloom. 

P.S. Last year's birthday getaway to Anderson Valley.