Strawberry Jam

Hannah in Louisville


This writing is from one year ago, after we had celebrated our 1st anniversary in Seattle. Evie was 2 months old. ♡

“I’ll never know, and neither will you, of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.” ― Cheryl Strayed

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I love my life, and, at the same time, am keenly aware of the other life I’ll never know. In a way, this feels like 1st grade all over again, only this time, I know that it’s okay, and even very good, to be my own self, drastically different from others.

I’m very much enjoying adulthood. I have a fantastic husband, a really sweet baby, and I dipped my toast in my own jar of strawberry jam the other day. It’s been really great.

How and Why I [Want to] Write

It’s been almost a year since I published something here last. I’ve consistently written in a private journal since early 2012, and it’s something that Jesus has really used to work in me. As a verbal processor, they are like transcripts of a lot of my conversations with God. Whenever I imagine a picture of this, I literally think of me stomping around my old room at my parents’ house and Jesus just being so gentle with me. I’m usually pretty hot on the keys when I write, and I love that they feel like little hammers. After I come to a stop, I usually read over my work, no edits, and close Evernote down. (I love that writing process.) Sometimes there is also a teeny tiny voice that says, “Maybe this would help somebody? Maybe this will come up in someone’s desperate late night Google search or mindless Facebook scroll?” That’s really why I want to write. I love when others write like that, and I happen to find it when I’m in a really hard place. There’s just so much tension between copying the piece into an empty blog post and hitting publish.


Viewing Home in a New Place

Hannah Novak Deception Pass Seattle, WA

I had a dream the other night that I was back in my hometown. For some reason, I walked on side of the highway from my parent’s house to the gym, and I cried on the way back. I was glad to be with my family, but it wasn’t I5, and there were no sidewalks or bike lanes or tall pine trees anywhere. Things looked familiar, and it was good to see the sights I grew up seeing, but it didn’t feel like home. And that was hard – still is.

Moving to and living in Seattle has wrecked how I’ve viewed home. I used to have one picture of it, and moving here shook that upside down and into pieces. Before, it wasn’t a perfect picture that I had, and there were things that frustrated me a lot about my hometown, but it was one picture – all I knew. Now I have pieces of two different puzzles to make up my picture of home. One side is a big city with cool shops and restaurants, tall pine trees, the Puget Sound, Lake Washington, lots of fruit trees, and our very good friends. It’s cool and artsy. It’s the first place we lived as a married couple, and where our first baby will be born. The other side is a southern state, warm most of the year, filled with countryside, the places I used to go as a little girl, and our families. It’s homey in it’s own way. There’s family and room to sprawl out. It’s where we first met and where we got married. It just makes me sad that they don’t fit together as one perfect place – that I’ll always be torn and homesick, until Jesus comes. It’s something that I never had to face before.

Hard Seasons Come with Good Gifts

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” -James 1:16-18

Baby Novak's Crib

I’m so excited to have my own tiny baby – Eric and I both are. Maybe it’s because I’m so young, and it’s like having a dream for years and years, day after day, and finally the dream comes true! Surprise! My little pint sized kitchen has turned into a real one. The life size baby doll I cared for so much has now turned into a 5+ inch long growing person who I love. Saying, “I want to be a mama someday.” and sometimes, occasionally, “artist” has turned into actually being those! It’s very exciting.

Frosted Ivy in the Sunlight Seattle

Even good seasons of life have difficult facets, though. The flip side of being little and having a pretend kitchen (which was loads of fun) meant that I didn’t get to plan my own meals. Now, we’re both grown ups, married, and we have a baby on the way! One of the hard places in this good season of life is handling [so much] outside opinion. I think looking back allows us to see even more good in our lives, because we are able to put more pieces together and see the bigger picture – even if still in part. It doesn’t make hard places and seasons much easier, but it helps me to see, at least, how Jesus has orchestrated everything for good. It helps me see that he gives good gifts.

Our baby is 17 weeks old now, and apparently about 5+ inches long – probably more if it’s taken after Eric – who is 6’4″. I’ve been getting super hungry lately, too. Baby really starts moving whenever there are loud noises, like lots of people talking, laughing, and singing. I noticed it moved a lot when we were visiting in Kentucky, because there were so many family members around, and we sang and played the piano lots with Eric’s side of the family. Hopefully we’ll find out this month whether we have a baby girl or boy!

A Life List

We changed our blog to have a more journal feel, as we meant it to be in the first place, and I wrote this little list!

Making: one of Eric’s Christmas presents!

Cooking: lots of food for guests soon!

Craving: bagels with cream cheese, fruit, and berry flavored yogurt. Those have pretty much been my staples this week.

Drinking: lots of water! Eric keeps getting sick, and I’m trying to avoid it.

Reading: The Year Money Grew on Trees, Heads in Beds, Jesus Feminist, and The First 90 Days of Marriage – one by myself, and the other three with Eric.

Looking: forward to Christmas, going to Kentucky in January, and meeting our baby!

Sewing: baby clothes soon with a pattern and some fabric Eric gave me!

Wishing: more like excited for a lot of things!

Enjoying: time in Seattle with my husband and good friends.

Waiting: on answers and to see family.

Liking: the big windows and plants in our house.

Wondering: if our baby is a boy or a girl, and what he or she will look like.

Loving: being with Eric every day and feeling the first baby flutters.

Hoping: to enjoy here. It’s so easy for me to look ahead, worry, and plan, but it takes a lot more effort to look around, enjoy, know that this place and time is good, and that I’m here right now for a reason.

Marveling: at how Seattle is such a forest-y city. There are huge evergreen trees and other kinds of plants that grow crazy and wild everywhere in the city! It’s really nice.

Wearing: jeans, a purple shirt my mom bought me, my favorite scarf, and wool wool socks. I haven’t needed maternity clothes yet!

Noticing: how God provides for us right when we need it. I might think I need something for the future, but God knows the future better than I do, and will provide for it. It’s my job to trust in him, work hard, and be a good steward.

Knowing: there are a lot of possibilities on the horizon, and having to trust and enjoy right now.

Hearing: Eric working across the room.

Thinking: about work, cooking, learning, and making presents.

Feeling: settled and content.

Bookmarking: a new tutorial for one of Eric’s Christmas presents. What I had started wasn’t looking right, so I started over.

Opening: a couple of new ventures soon, one of which is brick and mortar! I’m excited about them and bringing more focus into my work.

I got the idea for this post from Sydney and Hannah. You should check out their blogs!

Our Pictures Aren’t Perfect. Our Reality Isn’t Either.

Hannah and I wake up early to start the shoot. We eat breakfast together, scrambled eggs, dusted with garlic, pepper and sea salt, mixed with sauteed onions and sprinkled with strings of cheddar cheese. We split an avocado. “These things really are happy food,” she states. I mention something about them literally effecting your mind. I can’t remember the details, but I think they stimulate your neurotransmitters. We pray and eat, and it is good.

We’re shooting in my parent’s kitchen, and there isn’t a huge amount of real light that comes in on the dark-stained wood counters, so we grab an old table, prop open the back door, and wedge it into place in a large shaft of defused sunlight. We’ve decided to tackle three recipes today, and we pretty much ban everyone else from using the door until we’re done. It’s going to take all day.

Unless you’ve worked in photography for a number of years, you don’t have any idea how much work goes into one shot. Look at the crepe cake, or the banana ice cream recipe– each photo in those articles took well over an hour to prepare. The crepe cake took the better part of five hours to make, style and finally grab a few good shots, not to mention the post processing that goes into every picture.


Preparing a beautiful drip of lemon curd for Hearth Magazine.

Mid-afternoon, we’ve been shooting Jam all day long. We realize that we’re missing ingredients and Hannah is about to melt. We somehow pull ourselves together, bundle into the car, and drive down the road to a fruit and vegetable stand. Plum jam goes in the book, because cherries are out of season, and we can’t find them anywhere. Somehow Taylor Swift ends up on the radio and we blast the song as loud as we can just to get a little energy flowing. “Trouble, trouble, trouble!” We’re laughing, because we’re both not Taylor fans, but we’re exhausted and it’s only 2 p.m. We don’t just take pictures because it’s on the schedule-for us, it’s a way to preserve life. It’s our way of capturing all those years that we had in the kitchen with our parents.

Here’s the schedule: cook the food, style the food, shoot the food, clean up after ourselves and then get ready to cull the photos, print the photos, cull the photos again, and finally fall into our own beds for a well-deserved sleep. This is hard work and there are some things that taste amazing, but don’t look half-way appetizing on camera. We want to be honest, and let you know that we aren’t perfect. Part of being authentic, is being imperfect. Part of being genuine, is showing we aren’t a standard.


Left, a non-edited spread of lemon curd, and cream scones. Right, a richer color, a few well placed crumbs and a lot less table cracks

There isn’t any standard. Recognizing this is so important to how you view yourself and your creative work. If you take a picture, and it doesn’t look like anything you’ve seen on Pinterest or on one of those fancy food blogs that you love to visit, don’t be surprised. Photographers take pictures of the best food. We take pictures of the best sides of the best food. We scatter crumbs on the table, and then in post, we edit them out. We do this in an effort to present the most beautiful rendition of what we see, the most perfectly remembered piece of cake.

Every picture you see has been modified to some extent, to present reality in the best possible light. In truth, this creates a sub-reality, one that isn’t even possible to achieve. There isn’t anything wrong with this new created reality, but it easily breeds discontent and frustration with true reality. Hundreds of boards across Pinterest make this point exceeding clear: You’re missing something. You’re missing the perfect moment, the perfect coloring. Feel that longing? It will be satisfied if you just. do. more. Subtle lies are spoken and we believe.

But there is truth: None of us are perfect. We just aren’t. We aren’t a standard. We don’t deserve to be held up as a banner for the work that we do. We’re imperfect people in a broken world, drawn to perfection for one reason: to point us to the perfection of the Son. We strive to create perfection in a subconscious effort towards something greater than what we have.

Hannah and I put away the cameras, and do another load of dishes. Our best memories are made cooking in the kitchen together without trying to create a masterpiece, and as we roast asparagus together, kiss in the kitchen, and rub each-others sore backs, we find that imperfect-perfection: being simply satisfied in what He has given us.