Yesterday we had our second official cookbook shoot, and it was fantastic. It felt more like the first in a lot of ways, as we had real props (courtesy of ABC Home!), a brand new set-up (we're now shooting lower to the floor instead of on the yellow table), and some new camera equipment. Our awesome intern Elise took some fun behind-the-scenes pictures, which I'll be sharing with you on Monday!

But for today, I wanted to share with you a few thoughts I've been having the past few days as I inch – little by little – closer to realizing my dream. I've talked in previous posts about how dreams can come true, but how they often happen in a different way than we were expecting. (True.) Take yesterday, for example. As the shoot was in full-swing – me cooking and food-styling, Signe snapping pictures, and the apartment in total disarray (we had to rearrange all the furniture), Elise laughed and pointed down at Signe's and my feet: we were both wearing slippers. I smiled to myself at the irony.

All these years I've dreamed of creating my own cookbook. But in my fantasy version of how this would happen, it involved a big photo studio, with a team of people (food stylist, prop stylist, photographer, assitants, art director), and I'd be wearing make-up and have my hair blown out, walking around advising how I wanted things to look. (This is a dream, so of course my hair looks nice! Ha!) And I'd definitely not be wearing slippers.


Slipper sisters: Signe (L) and me (R) modeling some pretty sweet slippers on set.

And yet, now that the real-life, messy, and totally authentic version is happening, I wouldn't change a thing. We clearly don't have the budget for a big studio and a team of people, but it's SO fun to be able to get up and start work in my own apartment: in slippers! It's amazing to have total creative control of the process – to cook and style the food myself, to pick the props for each shot, and to work in such close partnership with Signe. At this point, we don't have to answer to anyone else about how we want this book to look – we are creating something that we think is beautiful, and doing it in a totally unconventional way. Slippers and all. :)

But there's something else I'm realizing. Yes, creativity takes courage. But it also takes a lot of elbow grease. You know that quote that says genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration? I think that slightly downplays the role of creativity and inspiration, but it gets the point across about the value of hard work. My (less-eloquent) philosophy goes like this: Realizing a dream takes equal parts creativity and elbow grease. There's no having one without the other. I think we often envision our dreams happening in this beautiful, seamless way (i.e. blown-out hair!) with all sorts of fanfare, but in reality, they usually happen in a totally non-glamorous way, accompanied by a ton of work.


Elise carrying the infamous wood panel around Manhattan; me in front of ABC Carpet & Home with all of our bags!

Let me give you a very funny example from this week. In preparation for this shoot, we needed to find a really cool, vintage-y wood surface. Something like 2 ft x 3 ft that we could put on top of a low table to get some good overhead shots. Elise helped me research where we might find something like that: she checked lumber yards, hardware stores, and even D.I.Y. websites on how we could glue together wood, and then paint and distress it to look like an old table. Of course, living in NYC we have limited space – AND we live in a walk-up apartment, so buying extra furniture isn't really an option! She ended up calling a hardwood-flooring showroom to see if they had any samples we might use. (Which was a totally creative idea on her part - I would have never thought of that!) It turns out they couldn't sell us one, and they didn't have any discontinued ones to give away, but they said we could borrow one for the shoot if we returned it the next day.

Commence elbow grease.

The day before the shoot, Elise and I met at Trader Joe's to start food-shopping. We then lugged four bags to Eataly, bought a few more items, then headed to PID Floors to pick up our wood panel. It was perfect – but not exactly lightweight! We loaded up our grocery bags and the wood panel to walk over to ABC and pick up the props, which were packaged and waiting for us. By this time, between the two of us we had 5 bags of groceries, 2 purses, a wood panel, and 2 huge bags of bubble-wrapped props. Oh NYC, how I love you. But how I miss having a car on days like this!! We hailed a cab, loaded in all of our bags and headed to my apartment. And then carried everything up five. flights. of. stairs.


Instagrammable shot of cranberry walnut bread recipe-testing prep; Nouka curiously checking out this whole set-up.

Thank GOODNESS for Saint Elise, the best intern in the world!! What would I do without her?! We unloaded everything, and then I spent the rest of the night recipe-testing and prepping for the shoot the next day. I got five recipes done (we were doing eight for the shoot), went to bed at 1 a.m. and was up the next day by 6:30 a.m. to finish prepping. The shoot started at 9 a.m., we wrapped at 3:30 p.m. (since the light starts fading by then), cleaned for an hour, and then hauled the board via subway back up to the store in time for their 5 p.m. closing time. Then back to the apartment to finish cleaning and flop on the couch with a glass of wine to watch an episode of Nashville! (Still to do: re-wrap the props and return them the ABC.)

Pursuing a dream takes a ton of work. That's just the reality of it. Was all of the lugging and hauling and stair-climbing and late nights and early mornings this week worth it? You better believe it!! I've never felt so passionate about a project before. It's so amazing to be able to pour my energy into something that I love, that's so creative, and to have a chance to collaborate with amazing people. That wooden panel took a lot of work to get in and out of the apartment, but wait until you see the pictures...totally worth it!


Granola shot on the wooden panel; returning the floor panel via the NYC subway! All in a day's work...

I hope you all enjoy your weekends! I'm about to send out a newsletter with a re-cap of this week on The Cookbook Diaries...If you haven't already signed up, please do!

xo, Anna