Thursday, May 19, 2011

My Fifi Shoot and a Review of 'Romantic Prairie Style' by Fifi O’Neill

Reviewing pictures on Dan's laptop, 18 May 2010.
Photo: Todd Foster

My King and Zuzu watching Dan and Fifi.

Photos: 1 & 4 - Sandy Foster, 2 & 3 - Fifi O'Neill

Photo: Fifi O'Neill

Zuzu amid the foxgloves after I just missed capturing
the first hummingbird of the year on them!

What you don't see in magazines: the detrius.

As I decorated my studio last year, I always thought, “Hm, now what would Fifi do?”

I am a lucky girl.  I got my wish.

When I was a fledging blogger, I shyly emailed the Editor of Romantic Country magazine requesting permission to use one of her interior photos here.  Days later Fifi contacted me at work.  The answer was ‘yes,’ and she asked if she could shoot my studio for Romantic Country and her upcoming book.  I had to shut the door to my office so I could giggle and hop.

When she called to firm things up, I mentioned the only florist in the area was Price Chopper’s--did she mind wildflowers?

“Wildflowers are the best,” Fifi replied.   Gotta love her.

The hard-working Editor/Stylist/Author Fifi held her day job heading Romantic Country and went on several grueling shooting tours for weeks at a time.  For example, for my house she flew to New York 17 May 2010 (on her 64th birthday) then drove 3 hours up to the Catskills to rest briefly at Dan Mayer’s weekend farm in nearby Andes.  The following morning, lilacs were picked and they arrived at my property at 9 a.m. and shot until 4 p.m. on a day pestered by chilly rain.  They got back in Dan’s car and headed for the next stop: Rhode Island, 5 hours away for tomorrow’s shoot.

Fifi’s a delightful human being.  She has a gift for making everyone comfortable.  She speaks just the way she writes on her wonderful blog, soft-spoken yet possessing a delight in making up witty word associations in her French accent.  She breaks into a face-splitting grin whenever she encounters farm animals.

Fifi didn’t mind when our clumsy black Lab Momo practically licked her face off with doggie kisses. (We took pregnant Momo’s temperature every hour during the shoot because we thought it was her whelping day, but as it turned out her breeding failed and she simply was fat.)

If Fifi had a fear of heights and crossing streams, to her credit she didn’t show it.  A self-described ‘high-heel’ sort of girl, I warned her how steep and rugged my place is, and she came prepared.  She wasn’t, however, prepared for the size of my stream, which she called ‘a raging river’ in a hysterically funny blog post, nor the fact she had to cross it on our log slide for the firewood we cut in early spring.  She hesitated, then did it.  Inspiration personified.

Photographer Dan Mayers is a great guy; laid-back and funny.  Dan said to stand perfectly still while his wireless shutter release took pictures because movement would shake the floor and blur them.  I tried to make everything as easy and efficient as possible – boxes to move props, a snack table with fruit and homemade cookies courtesy of my Italian-born neighbor, cleaning supplies.  I made sure Fifi was alone for long periods of time to compose and create by steering my friendly pets and dear husband (who will talk your ear off) on to other things.

We delighted at the pictures on Dan’s laptop before he packed his gear up, I gave them little gifts, wished them well, waved them off, and slept until the next day I was so cold and tired!

In September I spoke with Dan Mayers about shooting me as I worked on my ‘second studio’ for my book.  We chatted, and I learned he wasn’t shooting Fifi’s book after all because Ryland, Peters, and Small don’t allow the photographers in their books to sell their pictures again.  My friend Bella over at Bella’s Rose Cottage excitedly emailed me after her garden was featured in Italy’s Casa Romantica, and she noticed my studio on the cover of a subsequent issue.  It was the story Fifi and Dan shot, and it found a great home.  So, I don’t show the final shots in case Mary Forsell (the anointed editor of Romantic Country, Fifi left to chase new dreams) decides to run the story.   A fun day.   I'll remember it always.

*           *          *

Book Review: Romantic Prairie Style: Homes Inspired by Traditional Country Life

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee,
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.

Emily Dickinson

Before the book is even opened, the dust jacket lifts and transports you to a sweet world where:

“Prairie Style is much more than a way of decorating—it’s a way of life…The influences—from traditional country life—are nostalgic, sweet, rustic and chic, often all at the same time.  They are personal and universal—and as enduring as the prairie itself.”

We know this isn’t a Pottery Barn catalog of brand-new furniture and accessories for tract-home suburbanites primarily interested in surrounding oversized wall-mounted TVs with places to sit and play video games.  It’s a book for those that cherish family heirlooms and prefer to shop in flea markets, yard sales, and antique stores:

“Value on the prairie relies less on an object’s age and provenance than on its usefulness…and other beloved trinkets that are typically of little financial value are treasured for their deep emotional meanings.”

Fifi’s exuberant Florida cottage of course is featured, leaving one rapt with her originality and fearless yet tasteful use of color.  Titled “Prairie Chic”, and other sections feature homes (many of bloggers) showcasing other styles, giving the book excellent variety in its three main chapters, “Traditional Prairie”, “Romantic Prairie”, and “Vintage Prairie”.

My favorites?  “Prairie Savvy” features antiques dealer Joy Waltmire’s home with industrial accents and patio by a tin-roofed shed where their white picket fence is swallowed up by hollyhocks and clematis.  “Refined Prairie” shows Carol Spinski’s skill at mixing chippy paint architectural pieces with Louis XV and French industrial furniture.  “Perfect Prairie” enchants with Nordic-French style at the upscale farm of antique dealers Caroline Verschoor and Jon Paul Saunier.  “Inspired Prairie” is a delectable stay at Maria Carr’s elegant yet childproof ‘French Ranch’.  “Rustic Prairie” tugs at my homesteader’s heart with Michelle McCauley’s cabin mixed with vintage-find flair.

What touched me the most is Mark Lohman’s landscapes of working farms and his skill at catching tender moments with children, pets, and farm animals.  It’s clear he woke up early, walked around for the best shots, and stayed up late as the amazing dusk shots at Anne Marie’s Na-Da Farm attest.  Kudos to the book design team for using Mark’s black and white farm scenes between chapters.  My only regrets are a fine book like this should have a linen cover (publishers are cutting costs), and I'd like to see the author’s cottage on the dust jacket cover.

Inspiring poetry and pose peppers the book, each section is packed with tips from the featured homeowners, and there's a well-stocked source index, so rush and buy a copy to find out how they can help you!

“The time has come for a gentler world and a simpler life.”
– Fifi O’Neill from Romantic Prairie Style.


I'm on my annual spring 'workation' up at my farm next week,
and getting to the library to check email will be harder, I apologize in
advance for desultory replies to email and comments.
Enjoy the holiday!

Until next time, stay shabby!

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Rosemary@villabarnes said...

I love the book! I purchased a copy at my friend Joy's "Shop The Shed". Her home is just as beautiful and inviting up close and personal.

My Shabby Streamside Studio said...

@Rosemary - Joy's such a delight, so happy (and jealous) you've met her in person and shopped her shed!



Bella said...

Hi Sandy,
I loved hearing all about your shoot! You tell it well and I can see what a magical day it must have been! I was shocked to stumble over my name you are so kind for the mention:-)
I am also glad to hear you have some time at home! Even if is a workathon, here the sun has finially decided to shine and I am on a weedathon for as long as it allows:-) Not that I mind :-))
Big Hugs,

Marisa said...

BEAUTIFUL! That is so exciting! I love fifi and I LOVE your little cottage! I just shared it in my last post :), someday if Im lucky enough to have my own I'll would fifi and SANDY do it?!

Sizzle and Zoom said...

Always inspiring post. Enjoyed it. Love your look.

Susan said...

Superb review of the book, and tempting view into that photo shoot. I've been wondering what happened to those photos, after reading about your photo shoot many months ago. I'll be one of the first to buy a mag or book with the story. Can't get enough of your stylish studio and talent!
- Susan

Daphne Nicole & Lynda Cade said...

Hi Sandy, this book sounds fabulous and your review of it is wonderful. I can't wait to purchase mine... thanks so much for sharing!!!
Blessings~~~ Daphne

Olivia said...

As always fabulous! Fifi would be so fun to meet! What a blessing for you and your darling studio! Love the pics and can't wait to see more. Have fun on your week of retreat! Hugs,

Olivia said...

As always fabulous! Fifi would be so fun to meet! What a blessing for you and your darling studio! Love the pics and can't wait to see more. Have fun on your week of retreat! Hugs,

Olivia said...

As always fabulous! Fifi would be so fun to meet! What a blessing for you and your darling studio! Love the pics and can't wait to see more. Have fun on your week of retreat! Hugs,

Olivia said...

As always fabulous! Fifi would be so fun to meet! What a blessing for you and your darling studio! Love the pics and can't wait to see more. Have fun on your week of retreat! Hugs,

Olivia said...

As always fabulous! Fifi would be so fun to meet! What a blessing for you and your darling studio! Love the pics and can't wait to see more. Have fun on your week of retreat! Hugs,

NanaDiana said...

Sandy-What a great post-I read every word. I grew up not far from where you are-in Bradford County,PA. We lived on top of a mountain and I was a "woods" girl-I spent every spare moment in the woods...and believed in leprachauns and fairies long past the time of early childhood. There is just something about you and your place that takes me back to that sweet spot...hidden in the trees surrounded by the fresh green foilage and wildflowers. I look forward to your posts because I feel connected to "home" once again-even though I live in the Midwest now. Thank you- xxoo Diana

stefanie said...

I love good stories with happy endings!!!!!
loving that book!!

Rachel Noelle said...

I am sooo happy for you!!;) I would love the chance to meet Fifi! Hugs, Rachel

French Farmhouse 425

High Street Cottage said...

Sandy, what a wonderful experience and review. Such and honor to have Fifi and Mark in your studio too.
Hope you are not working yourself too much, it's my busy time too, but I'll get to relax next week. xxx tami

Bringing Pretty Back said...

Fifi is am amazing woman and wat an HONOR for her to be at your studio...again.
You...also are amazing and I can not get enough of her style- and yours too of course.
This was a great post with GREAT detail!
Have a pretty day!

Stephanie ~ Angelic Accents said...

Hi Sandy! I'm sure you had an absolute blast with Fifi. And it is wonderful that you explain what hard work a shoot actually is. I'm sure some people have no idea. Love the review you did of her book, too! Great job!

Big TX Hugs,
Angelic Accents

Mariette said...

Dearest Sandy,

Lovely post and great tribute to the charming and talented Fifi!
Too bad you will be busy and not able to go to the library as I would love for you to see my post of today where I write about a lady in France being featured in the French Style May/June magazine with her extraordinary ROSES. The prettiest I've ever seen in the entire world.
Have a great time and we read each other again...



Julie Johnson said...

So timely as I just met Joy and Fifi today at a book signing in Geneva, IL. It was wonderful to meet them, and I can't wait to sit down for a few hours and pour over my book! I'd love to have her do a photo shoot of my home. Her work is amazing...and so is your little world!

Prior said...

Oh, how fun, I haven't bought her book yet, but can't wait! Your little studio is a little spot of Heaven, as usual!


elinAnita (eddaskreativiteter ) said...

Hello sweetness:)
Yes that woman is just amazing:)
She is an inspiration....and for me in my age...I can belive that I can change direction in life:)
I will by that book...:)
Hugs to you over there....

Burlap Luxe said...

Sandy, you already know how I feel about your beautiful romantic life, there is nothing I can say that I haven't already said many of times in my visits.

I would trade you anything I have girl for your place :)
The photo shoot turned out beautiful, the book release equal to all. I am always inspired with white when I visit, and leave floating in a white cloud of whispering dreams.

keep doing what you do best!
PS....I am having a GiveAway perhaps it will suite you :)

It's me said...

Hi Sandy...great post !! Fifi is a great person !!....and you too !!...the book is on his way to mail you after the weekend...too busy now......have a nice weekend....oh i are in the book darling ??? so nice to see !!! love

Jackie said...

Good day Sandy~
I love your photos (Fifi and Dan's too, ofcourse)!! Beautiful post...I just love the photo of Zuzu amongst the flowers!
Enjoy your workcation!
Blessings to you and yours,

Alyssa said...

You are so lucky! What a great experience for you! I used to work in the Catskills...A beautiful area! Seeing your studio amongst the woods must be breathtaking. Have a great day and enjoy the bliss! Alyssa of Boston Bee

Carolyn said...

I loved hearing all about your shoot! I love fifi and I LOVE your little cottage!

San Diego Mobile Notary

Alan said...

Lovely post.That is so amazing.I love Fifi.Thanks for sharing such a nice blog.
-romantic pictures

Marina Mott said...

This book sounds great!! Beautiful pics!!xx

Passionate for White said...

You know how lucky you are right?:)

Charlene said...

GREAT POST SANDY! I haven't visited in forever & thought I'd stop by to see you & Juju. I loved the story of Momo... Just fat! Try again! Great photos! Hope you'll stop by to see our new puppy (shes 6 months old now). I did a cute post May 17th

I have to smile when you talked about when you first started blogging. THAT is when we met! I remember you had just started & we talked for hours in emails. WOW! Look how far you've come. We just bought a 5th wheel trailer & hope to travel. Wouldn't it be great if we could finally meet in person!!!!! HUGS!

A Cottage Muse said...

Love seeing a fairytale come to life! I'm so happy for you and looking forward to your book!

Linda said...

What a wonderful day you must have had...I love your little cottage!

Marie Arden said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marie Arden said...

Happ Spring. Love the insider post and seeing the shoot! We all love Fifi and your studio!

Fay said...

Sandy its sooooo pretty and interesting too Loved it
fay xx

cityfarmer said...

girl ... you're as sweet as candy.
your streamside studio is just p.r.e.c.i.o.u.s.

funny thing, before I popped over here ... I posted a gi-normous post ( mine are usually short)
on Fifi being here again Friday( 19th) for her NEW BOOK ...
then I start blog hopping and find this story ... oh how I wish we were neighbors.

Villabarnes, your first comment is a dear friend of mine!
I tink she got the last copy of the book at my sale, and I hear New York is sold out too!

hey, let's write a book you and me ... I think I've caught on to the the ins and outs !!!

bikim said...

lovely post! i love your cottage and the decor on it!
your dog is lovely!
take care,

sylvia said...

hi Sandy.
so nice to hearing about you shoot,
so beautiful picture,
I enjoy,
and I have this book of Fifi.
love it.
have a nive day.
from sylvia in norway

Kathy said...

I am so happy you shared the story about the shoot and esp. the day of pictures. I have followed you since your first splash in blogland and I can only hope you are busy with your own book. Your itsy-bitsy hideaway is magical, thanks for sharing.
Blessed, Kathy

Tracie~MyPetiteMaison said...

Beautiful photos of shooting photos, Sandy!

Your dog is beautiful, I know my Zeke would love her too.

One of my fav things about Fifi is she is a true animal lover. I think the world of her, she lifts so many up and never makes it about herself which isn't easy to find these days.

I agree... wildflowers are the best & better than frou frou fleurs any day ;)
~Tracie @ My Petite Maison

Kathy said...

Congratulations on your well deserved feature - I can imagine this was a dream come true moment for you! Can't wait to see the article!
God Bless,

Anonymous said...

Such a wonderful post, Sandy! I still have not seen the book, but after your review, I am hunting it down! :)
Wishing you a lovely one,
~ Zuzu

Burlap Luxe said...

Hi Sandy returning for another beautiful visit!!

Now I can leave refreshed and again inspired :)

Hapy a beautiful weekend!

red ticking said...

looks amazing..i will buy the book! and happy to have found your blog... xx pam


What a great post about a wonderful experience! I love your little dreamy studio and I love Fifi's Book. I could not resist, so I ordered it from amazon (the english version). I received the New Busse-Seewald Catalog for the forthcoming books this autumn. And as I see, Fifi's book will be published in German... the same publisher! Wow....

Hope you are fine... how's the farmwork going? What about your own book-project?

wish you a good time,
xoxo Mira!

Burlap Luxe said...

Hi Sandi,
Just stopping by for another breath taking look into your beautiful world of white!

It is a beautiful moment when we catch a glimpse into your creative works when we spot you here or there! the many postings, featured places, books, Tv, Mags, it is indeed a beautiful life with you in it.


PS. come for a visit to see my gray and whikte roses Salvage inspiration.

Home and Lifestyle said...

I think it's a lovely book, just like Sanselig Summer! I read it here in my garden! I don't understand the words but all the photos are amazing!

You will be very proud!

Kind regards, Ingrid

Carolyn said...

Hi Sandy,

That book is on my list and glad you enjoyed your shoot with FiFi.

Thank you for your kind words on my blog today. I loved seeing your romantic retreat in the book too.
Looking forward to your future endeavors too.


Anita @ Cedar Hill Ranch said...

I can't beleive I just found your blog. I saw it on Between Naps on the Porch. You little house is stunning. I am a follower now and I added your button to my blog. Beautiful, beautiful!!

Katrine said...

I love your blog and your cottage, it is fantastic!
The most beautiful cottage I have ever seen. Your style is awsome.
I made a link to your blog from mine, hope it's OK :)

Madelief said...

Hi Sandy,

How exciting this must have been for you! I enjoyed scrolling the photo's very much.

The book looks very much worthwhile!

Have a lovely day!

Lieve groet, Madelief

Alicia said...

Sandy, beautiful pictures, very relaxing to look at. Sounds like the photo shoot was a success! You are an inspiration. Thanks for sharing!

Karena said... name is new blog is "A Loblolly Life". I first heard about you over 6 months ago from my husband. From then to now I've watched your Stream side cottage capture the imagination...I just wanted to say congrats it's BRILLIANT......

jade said...

Oh Sandy, i can´t tell you, how much i love this´r such a lucky girl........your Studio is sooooooo heavenly and how wonderful to have Fifi there!!!!! I enjoy every picture and every word and it is so funny, what you told about Momo.........Sheila is much to fat too ;)))! Wish you a wonderful weekend full of love and sunshine, kisses to all your sweet dogs,

warm Hugs, Jade

jade said...

I saw, that Fifis book will be published in German - how loooooooovly, that´s soooo great!!!! I can´t wait!!


Melanee Carmela Packard said...

I LOVE the shelving unit behind the chair in the photo! Where ever did you FIND it??? Thanks for sharing your story with gives me hope that one day my Shabby Cottage home will be seen by all! Light and love. Melanee


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