Category Archives: Personal

May 1, 2012

My Wedding // The Venue

Oh the venue search.

Possibly the most exhausting part about wedding planning. When you first get engaged, exploring the many beautiful venues seems like a fun way to spend a weekend.

But then you get hit with reality. And reality is all about logistics. No bathrooms on site? Noise restriction curfews? No parking available? Shuttle service required? $20,000 site fee?!

I’m not going to lie, it started to drive me bonkers having to juggle so many different needs and wants versus financial and logistical restraints. It also made me really really sad and stressed out, which has been such an incredibly unfortunate byproduct of planning a wedding. A wedding is such a happy culmination of everything wonderful and lovely in a person’s life. The planning for me, not so much.

We looked at the gorgeous ranches, wineries, estates and historical sites available in Northern California. And I fell in love with so many of them.

Durham Ranch, Annadel Estate, Carneros Inn, Black Swan Lake, Diablo Ranch, Headlands Center for the Arts, and on and on. EVERY SINGLE ONE of these venues is stunning and amazing and I would love to get married there. But ultimately we decided that Northern California would be such a logistical challenge for my family, nearly all of whom are in Los Angeles where I was born and raised. I said goodbye to these venues with a bit of reluctance. But onward!

So. Maybe Central California? We looked into the amazing Holman Ranch, the super unique and rustic Los Laureles Lodge and still we kept shifting further south. Ok. Santa Barbara then! Close enough to LA without being IN LA which for several reasons, we wanted to avoid. Helloooo land of stunning private estates and gigantic price tags. Right, so Los Angeles it is.

And here I went into hyperdrive. I feel confident in saying that I have pretty much looked at every non-hotel venue in the Los Angeles area. From Simi Valley to Palm Springs, I’ve researched them all. So you would think the decision would then become easy, right? But the sheer number of venues was overwhelming and there was always *something* wrong. Several venues were 100% booked for 2012. Some venues had crazy restrictions. Some venues had impossible parking situations. And others just had a terrible failure of communication. But to be honest, it was my bizarre issue with finding the PERFECT place that was such a stressful force and the real reason it’s taken so long to find a venue.

Because I really 100% believed that there was this venue out there that was perfect, beautiful, spacious, super affordable, conveniently located, allowed me to bring my dogs, and was operated by kind people. I thought, if I just look hard enough, I WILL FIND IT.

We had a couple of false starts, contracts nearly signed when something happened to derail the whole thing. Thousands of dollars in hidden fees unannounced til the last minute, finding out that bugs swarm the property during the day, only specific caterer and DJ allowed (no thanks!). And the budget, always the budget to consider. Maddeningly numbers floating in my head at all hours of the day.

As months went by and more and more people kept asking me WHERE?? WHEN?? I started to have these wild ideas pop into my head. What if we found a tree tunnel and got married there? Lake Como, we have to get married at Lake Como! Maybe George Clooney will lend us his villa? I think I was loosing it.

Nothing is ever perfect. And my Mom told me, “No one cares where you get married, they just want to be there to see you get married” and that was so true.

Yes, logistics matter. It matters that your guests don’t have to walk half a mile from the ceremony site to the reception site and that they don’t have to use porta potties. It does matter. But not nearly so much as you might think. Or how much *I* thought. So I took a deep breath, I took a step back. And I thought, “Where can I imagine myself getting married?” And I kept seeing one place, over and over. So I think we’ve found our place.

Finally…

March 14, 2012

Paris Trip // The Beginning

If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” – Ernest Hemingway

Airplane tickets booked, a darling apartment in the 6th arrondissement has been rented out, and Tony and I are learning our way through basic French via a Nintendo DS game (My French Coach). We are SO ready for Paris!

Midnight in Paris Intro
It’s funny, France has always been one of those places I’ve wanted to visit, but never urgently. I never yearned for France, or gave it much active thought. I never would have considered myself a francophile. There are quite a few other places in the world that I had placed higher on my list of MUST VISIT places than France. It was just one of those “Oh it would be nice to vsit” sort of places for me.

But somehow in the past 2 years or so, Paris has crept into my subconscious. Maybe it started with Julia Child. I devoured her memoir, My Life In France (I can’t recommend it highly enough) and came to admire her tremendously. And her Supremes de Volaille aux Champignons (chicken in mushroom cream sauce) recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking is SO so good. After that came The Sweet Life in Paris by the charming food blogger, David Lebowitz. It’s really one of the most hilarious reads ever. I kept reading out loud parts of it to Tony and then catching myself mid-sentence with wild guffawing. There was also Lunch in Paris – A Love Story, A Paris Wife, and Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. One book after another.

And this past year, Midnight in Paris ended up being one of my top films of 2011. In the same way Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona moved and inspired me to go to Spain, Midnight in Paris enchanted me. It made me think, I *have* to go there.

Paris has seeped into my life. And so we decided that since we have some free time in May, let’s just go for it! I’m so excited and also a little nervous. Paris has been so romanticized and the expectations are pretty high. I’m simultaneously ramping up my excitement and spazzing out, while also trying to keep my cool and be more nonchalant about the whole thing.

If anyone has any recommendations for things to do and see in Paris, please leave a comment!

January 23, 2012

Favorite Books 2011

I love lists. One of my favorite things about the end of the year is getting the scoop on what might have been the best foods, reads, movies, recipes, etc of the year. My Google Reader becomes full of lists as many of the blogs I follow take a look back at the past year. I adore these “Best Of” lists!

So here’s my list of favorite reads from the last year. These aren’t necessarily the the most high brow literature books, since sometimes my tastes run everywhere from Sci-Fi to contemporary to trashy vampire Young Adult fare. But just the books I enjoyed reading the most.




Cleopatra – A Life
by Stacy Schiff
Brilliant historical account of one of history’s most intelligent, resourceful, and ruthless leaders. And a story that has never really been properly told. As a feminist, this book was a joy to read.
Quote:

“Cleopatra stood at one of the most dangerous intersections in history; that of women and power. Clever women, Euripides had warned hundreds of years earlier, were dangerous.”

Born to Run : A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
by Christopher McDougall
This book as the potential to be life changing and I think it should be recommended reading for EVERYONE, even if you utterly hate running. Trust me, it’s good.
Quote:

“You ran to eat and to avoid being eaten; you ran to find a mate and impress her, and with her you ran off to start a new life together. You had to love running, or you wouldn’t live to love anything else…We were born to run; we were born because we run.”

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand
by Helen Simonson
Utterly charming. I could not stop grinning over every dry English quip, each clever turn of words and phrases.
Quote:

“You are a wise man, Major, and I will consider your advice with great care–and humility.” He finished his tea and rose from the table to go to his room. “But I must ask you, do you really understand what it means to be in love with an unsuitable woman?”
“My dear boy,” said the Major. “Is there really any other kind?”

Bel Canto
by Ann Patchett
One of the most lyrical and beautiful books I’ve read in a really long time. Just utterly exquisite and will probably end up as one of my favorite books ever.
Quote:

“Carmen prayed hard. She prayed while standing near the priest in hopes it would give her request extra credibility. What she prayed for was nothing. She prayed that God would look on them and see the beauty of their existence and leave them alone.”

World War Z
by Max Brooks
The BEST zombie book ever. Not that I’ve read a ton, but it was so thorough, almost historical or sociological in its writing. A zombie book with real intelligence.
Quote:

“Most people don’t believe something can happen until it already has. That’s not stupidity or weakness, that’s just human nature.”

Looking for Alaska
by John Green
One of the best Young Adult books I’ve ever read. Just so smart, thoughtful and well written. If I had read this as a teenager, I think it would’ve been like what Vonnegut had been for me at that age, a book that completely helps to shift and shape your world paradigm.
Quote:

“Thomas Edison’s last words were ‘It’s very beautiful over there’. I don’t know where there is, but I believe it’s somewhere, and I hope it’s beautiful.”

“They love their hair because they’re not smart enough to love something more interesting.”

Blind Assassin
by Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite authors, and I think she outdid herself on this one. Even better than my previous favorite, The Handmaid’s Tale. This was like a showcase of truly genius level talent.
Quotes:

“Farewells can be shattering, but returns are surely worse. Solid flesh can never live up to the bright shadow cast by its absence. Time and distance blur the edges; then suddenly the beloved has arrived, and it’s noon with its merciless light, and every spot and pore and wrinkle and bristle stands clear.”

“Women have curious ways of hurting someone else. They hurt themselves instead; or else they do it so the guy doesn’t even know he’s been hurt until much later. Then he finds out. Then his dick falls off.”

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
by Rebecca Skloot
I am not a huge science buff, but despite the plethora of scientific information in this book, I was so hooked. One of those books that I think all people should read, since the history and implications are so far-reaching.
Quote:

“You know what is a myth?” Bobette snapped from the recliner. “Everybody always saying Henrietta Lacks donated these cells. She didn’t donate anything. They took them and didn’t ask.”

Art of Racing in the Rain
by Garth Stein
I love dogs, and so I love books about dogs. Cheesy? For sure. But I can’t help it. Books like this, and Story of Edgar Sawtelle, A Dog’s Purpose, Marley and Me, etc, they all make me weep.

“People and their rituals. They cling to things so hard sometimes.”

Vampire Academy
by Richelle Mead
Yes, I sometimes read trashy vampire chick lit. No, I don’t feel guilty about it. And at least this one has a main female character who is a trained fighter and bodyguard. It’s bad, but in such a good way.

“The only thing better than imagining Dimitri carrying me in his arms was imagining him shirtless while carrying me in his arms.”

The Imperfectionists
by Tom Rachman
I’m not usually a fan of short inter-connected stories, but I LOVED The Imperfectionists. Funny, wry, poignant.
Quote:

“If history has taught us anything, Arthur muses, it is that men with mustaches must never achieve positions of power.”

Unbroken: A World War II Story Of Survival, Resilience, And Redemption
by Laura Hillenbrand
One of the most spectacular true stories I’ve ever read. It blew me away, not just the sheer terrifying amount of trials and tribulations, but the heart and humanity in it. I was sobbing by the end.

“Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen. The stubborn retention of it, even in the face of extreme physical hardship, can hold a man’s soul in his body long past the point at which the body should have surrendered it.”

The Sweet Life in Paris
by David Lebovitz
I picked this up as a nice easy read, from one of my favorite food bloggers. And it ended up being a witty, funny, and supremely informative book on all the joys, frustrations, and quirks of being an American living in France.
Quote:

In a country where there’s such an emphasis on fine dining, whose good food is celebrated not just here, but around the world, it’s stupefying why Parisian coffee is so vile that fed-up French food writer Sophie Brissard described it as “donkey piss.”

Bossy Pants
by Tina Fey
Not only is this book hilarious, but Tina Fey’s humor is just so intelligent. So sharp, and quick. And rooted in so much common sense.
Quote:

“Some people say “Never let them see you cry.” I say, if you’re so mad you could just cry, then cry. It terrifies everyone.”

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
by Barbara Demick
I have a strong interest in North Korea, not just because my Grandpa was originally from North Korea before he escaped during the Korean War, but because I have always had a fascination with dystopian society. This was an incredible and haunting look into the lives of defectors, both in North Korea and out of it once they escaped.
Quote:

Dr. Kim couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen a bowl of pure white rice. What was a bowl of rice doing there, just sitting out on the ground? She figured it out just before she heard the dog’s bark. Up until that moment, a part of her had hoped that China would be just as poor as North Korea. She still wanted to believe that her country was the best place in the world. The beliefs she had cherished for a lifetime would be vindicated. But now she couldn’t deny what was staring her plainly in the face: dogs in China ate better than doctors in North Korea.

The Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern
Enchanting is the only word for this book. But do yourself a favor, stay away from reading too many reviews beforehand!

“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.”

And because I actually wrote up a post a year ago and never posted it, here’s my list of favorite reads from 2010.

Never Let Me Go
The Book Thief
Ender’s Game
Water for Elephants
Suite Française
Pillars of the Earth
Hunger Games Series
Dune
The Namesake
Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Medium Raw
The Glass Castle
My Life in France

And a shoutout to the worst books I read in 2011, Ready Player One, Inheritance, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.

Here’s to another year of great books. What have you been reading lately?

December 9, 2011

New Orleans // The Food

A few weeks ago, I took a trip to New Orleans and whenever people asked me about the trip afterward, I just kept saying: “I was SO full the whole time”

So much to eat, so little time. And since I haven’t done a food photography post in awhile, here’s a little glimpse into some of the great food we had while in the Big Easy.

At John Besh’s Restaurant August…
New Orleans Restaurant AugustNew Orleans Restaurant AugustNew Orleans Restaurant August

At the famous Cafe du Monde…

New Orleans Cafe du Monde beignets

November 22, 2011

Wedding Planning // Part One

It’s been a good 3 months since I got engaged and it just so happened that my engagement corresponded with the busiest part of my wedding season. And I just have to say, I have some of the sweetest clients ever. So many of my brides and grooms have spotted the ring and given me such an outpouring of congratulations, even though it was their big day. So sweet!

But I really haven’t had a ton of time until very recently, to really throw myself head first into wedding planning. After the initial amazing giddiness of being engaged, I settled into a warm happy bubble and would wave away all the questions that kept coming my way. I was engaged! All the planning stuff would come later. And then weeks drifted away and I found myself face to face with something I like to call the post-engagement-dear-caught-in-the-headlights stage.

This is the part where I started to freak out a bit. When, where, how?? You would think that being in the wedding industry, I would have all the answers figured out long ago. But no, when I hunkered down to do some planning I literally felt like every wedding I have ever photographed came flashing through my mind. Almost every wedding I photograph, there’s yet another cool element that inspires me, so that my wish list for my own wedding keeps expanding or changing directions. So many different types of weddings, so many different venues, which one was right for us? I’ve been lucky to photograph so many beautiful weddings, and shoot at some amazing venues. It was a situation where there were TOO many options.

I slowly figured out what I wanted our wedding to be and to represent. I knew the kind of atmosphere I wanted, how I wanted the whole thing to feel. But how to accomplish all that? The practicalities can be daunting. I soon came to find that out of the plethora of wedding resources out there, my FAVORITE online resource has turned out to be blog posts by wedding coordinators, other brides, and the amazing power of pinterest. I can’t tell you the number of times in the past few weeks when I’ve felt overwhelmed just *thinking* about planning the wedding, the budget, the guestlist, that I would read a blog post by another bride, or see some truly simple but amazing advice on a blog or a forum and felt like, “hey, I’m not crazy. I’m not alone in this! Other people go through this and there’s a solution for every problem.”

So out of gratitude to those bloggers and planners who freely share their experience, I feel motivated to do the same. And I’ll try and update about my progress as a bride in the hopes that this might help other brides, or if all else fails, just be entertaining for those who read it.

First off, a few wedding planners who I feel provide invaluable advice and share it freely on their blogs.

Amy Nichols – Planner extraordinaire from the Bay Area. She has a great series called “5 Quick Tips” with advice from some of the best planners and designers and other wedding industry folks. I read through pretty much every one of these quick tip posts, jotting down notes the whole time. It’s a treasure trove of great advice from across the wedding spectrum.

Kelly Oshiro – Swoonworthy is a word that gets tossed around a lot in wedding circles, but Kelly, a floral and event designer from Santa Barbara literally has the kind of style that catches your breath. What I found so invaluable on her blog was her Wedding Planning Tips cateogry, which goes over the tricky topics of budgeting for rentals, catering, etc and she also is a great venue resource if you’re planning a wedding in Santa Barbara. There’s lots of venue guides around the internet, but it’s nice to be able to get venue recommendations and some specific details from someone who has scouted out the venue herself.

Amber Events – From my hometown of Los Angeles, Amber has in my opinion the most refreshingly frank and upfront “voice” of a wedding planner and blogger. She has a wedding advice category on her blog that goes over nearly everything you could think of for planning a great wedding, including this post about How to have a raging Dance Party which every bride & groom should read!

And now to Pinterest, aka my new best friend. What was the world like before Pinterest? I can’t even remember. I am such a visual person, and I’m also somewhat scatterbrained. I often have a ton of ideas floating around in my head so that you’ll catch me just running around looking for a piece of paper so that I could write something down before I forget. I was a bookmarking fiend before Pinterest. Now I can codify all my thoughts and ideas into one place, and best of all, it’s VISUAL. Which is how my brain functions.

Everytime I look at my wedding Pinterest board, I feel absurdly happy. I don’t know how, I don’t know when, but it’s all going to come together like THIS.


And in addition to my wedding inspiration board, I’ve used Pinterest to keep track of the venues and vendors I’m interested in.

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Whew! I think this is the longest post I’ve ever made! There’s something about becoming a bride that makes it so that I just can’t stop talking about weddings and wedding planning. More posts to come soon. Next up: The Great Venue Search of 2011.

October 29, 2011

Obsessed // Downton Abbey

I only heard about this show a few weeks ago, and in that time I’ve managed to watch all of Season One and catch up on the currently airing Season Two.

Downton Abbey

I’m a huge fan of period pieces. Particularly being over the moon about Pride & Prejudice (the book, the BBC mini series, the 2005 movie). And Downton Abbey is exquisite. Just the clothes alone are to die for. Swoonworthy regal elegance. I love watching this show while I edit weddings especially. It puts me such a romantic frame of mind.

Now hand me a cup of tea and I’m good to go.

You can catch this series on PBS Masterpiece. Watch it, love it. Go buy yourself a hat afterward.

August 30, 2011

Engaged!

After attending so many weddings as the photographer, I guess it’s my turn now to be the bride! So surreal and exciting at the same time.

A lot of people have been asking how it all went down, so I figured that if there was ever a personal thing to blog about, this is it!

Things to know about me:

  • I adore dogs. I mean, really really love dogs. Especially my dogs!
  • Lake Tahoe is one of my favorite places in the world. It’s just spectacularly beautiful there.
  • Apple cidar is my favorite drink eveeeer. Forget wine or beer or soda, bring me a bottle of apple cidar (I don’t even need a glass) and I’m good.
  • Tony and I met because of our mutual love of video games, but my primary objective when playing games is pretty much to FIND THE TREASURE. I love treasure. I want to become a treasure hunter one day.

How it Started
I had been away on a girl’s trip up to Mendocino from Sunday through Tuesday. And when I got home on Tuesday, I found my apartment filled with balloons. This led to a scavenger hunt that Tony had arranged. The scavanger hunt was in the form of puzzles, and after I finished the puzzle, I was given my prize: A trip to Lake Tahoe!

I was so giddy with excitement since Tony had been working so hard lately, and I’d been wishing he would take a sick day or something. So the fact that he took 3 whole days off work to surprise me with this trip blew me away.

In Tahoe
Tony treated me to some of my favorite things. An hour long couple’s massage, a massive lunch of TACOS (my favorite food!), and then finally took me up on a hike to this gorgeous view of the lake. He had brought up a bottle of apple cidar and it was amazing sitting on top of this mountain, overlooking the most gorgeous lake and having that spot all to ourselves.

The Proposal
He asked me if I wanted a present, which got me super alert (and a little tense) and then preceded to crack me up by reading a poem I had asked him to write weeks ago titled “The Hair on My Head”. I sometimes request random and silly poems for him to write, the other assignment I gave him recently was to write something called, “Where has all the Poop gone”. I was laughing, HARD. And I thought, “Huh, so he was just tricking me, I guess he’s not proposing!”

At which point he brought out a scrapbook called “The Adventures of Tony and Hannah” that he had been spending months putting together. It chronicles our whole journey from our very first date when we watched the worst movie in existence, The Legend of Zorro (the movie had a horse running on top of a moving train. I mean, really) and all the places we’d gone, the things we’ve done, the food we’ve eaten.

If you’d like to see a few pages from the book, you can do that here: Scrapbook

But it wasn’t until I got to the pages about our dogs that got me crying. My beautiful dogs, such a huge part of our lives and our familia. They couldn’t come with us to Tahoe, but I’m so glad they were in the book.

That’s when Tony brought out the treasure box. This adorable little thing that he had spent so long looking for because he knew it would be perfect for me. Waaay better than a regular box, a Tiffany’s box, any other box in the world. And inside was the most stunningly gorgeous ring.

Everything about the proposal was perfect and so in tune to who I am and who we are as a couple.

We were crying and laughing and I nodded my answer yes. I’m so grateful that we were able to have that amazing moment to ourselves. Almost as soon as we were done wiping away the tears, these two older ladies came hiking up the hill, saw us, and offered to take our photo. What great timing!

Still enjoying the post-engagement bliss and trying my hardest not to worry about all the stuff that’s going to come after (wedding planning, ahhhh!). I’ll be writing about all that stuff in the months to come. In the meantime, thank you all my dear friends, family, and my wonderful clients who have shown so much happiness and support for this new development in our lives. You’re all the best.