The story of our summer solstice photoshoot…
My close friend Alëna Skarina is the brains behind our enchanted photos. If I were stuck on a desert island, the one thing I would bring would be her; I bet she has incredible survival skills because her knowledge of nature is overwhelming. You can see this in the detail of her botanical work. (And Corey Moranis fans might remember her special Sparkle Girl from our colouring contest last April.)
We like to play together, like kids—so that was the plan for our shoot. I picked her up before sunrise so we could arrive at our location on Lake Ontario to watch the sunrise, and then take photos in the morning light. We biked to find a perfect spot by the water, and along the way Alëna collected wildflowers with her shears, being careful not to step on snails or get attacked by birds.
We hung a chime by a nearby tree and Alëna started to whip together flowers. I loved watching her hands move; it was like discovering a secret language I didn’t know she spoke. I was in awe. She made what we called ‘salads’ on her hands with different arrangements of flowers and jewelry. (I have to add that she is my favourite cook, always making the most beautiful and delicious food. We are planning to have a picnic at her house this week with her daughter, and the theme is pink. She is making pink dumplings. I will bring edible glitter.) We magnified the plants with the thickest lucite bracelet we had, looking through it like a microscope. We were not on drugs, her parents are microbiologists and I do have a science degree. LOL. We captured a lot of beauty and were really excited about the magic we were cooking up.
After that, Alëna dressed up in our favourite dress from Horses Atelier that we call the Russian Princess Dress. We have similar roots (no pun intended, nature shoot): she grew up in Russia and my great-great-grandparents were from there (and Poland). She sprayed our ankles with a potion she made from essential oils to keep away the ticks. I smelled amazing for the rest of the day! From there, we did slow motion running decked out in jewels, posing with snails, pretending to smoke from daisies, magic tricks with flowers, and an official Corey Moranis Commercial.
At the end of our shoot, we ate cheese and crackers and a layered waffle cake she made with chocolate cream and cardamom. It was only 11 am, but we had lived a full day! I hope this shoot inspires you to play, play, play this summer.
A chat with Alëna:
Is it true that you have been known to use leaves instead of Band-Aids for foot blisters?
Yes, plantain weed is nature’s Band-Aid that conveniently grows everywhere.
Favourite summer album?
How do you make pink dumplings?
The pink dumplings are a vegetarian take on a Russian classic called pelmeni. I use Beyond Meat for filling, and tint the dough with beet juice.
Favourite wildflower and why?
Tansy – reminds me of my childhood. The yellow tops are like little velvety cushions, and the scent is warm and sweet with a hint of bitterness.
Favourite DIY tea? (She constantly makes teas from nature!)
Linden with anything growing in the garden: mulberries, black currant leaves, thyme and sage flowers, sweet mint, service berries, oregano.
What’s in your homemade tick repellent?
Peppermint, cedar, and eucalyptus pure essential oils. (Three drops of each, in a spray bottle with water.)
What’s your morning routine?
Wake up before sunrise (4-6am), meditate, eat a piece of chocolate, quick nature walk to the lake or the woods.
What’s your favourite thing(s) to do in summer?
Watch everything grow and get lush!
What’s your favourite time of day in summer?
After a summer storm, when everything smells like ozone and is covered with billions of sparkly water beads.