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Wine Tasting in Amador County

What’s better than a weekend wine getaway at friend’s ranch in the Amador County Wine Country for Easter weekend?

The answer: a weekend wine getaway at a friend’s ranch in Amador County Wine Country for Easter weekend where we have an adult Easter Egg Hung and roast a lamb.

Pleasantly warm temperatures, abundant sunshine, good friends and a lot of wine equal quite possibly the best weekend ever.  Add some charcuterie and cheese plates to the mix and the whole weekend becomes as delectable as burrata on toast.

Want your own Amador County wine weekend?

STAY:

PLAY:

  • The roads in Amador County are perfect for road biking so bring your bikes along and tour the wineries in the best way possible.  There is a limited amount of road routes available at this site, but from what I can tell, most of the roads we were on, including the main highways, would be amazing to ride on.

EAT:

  • Taste has a rotating menu of seasonal ingredients and you can get an appetizer and beverage pairing for $13 at Thirteen Dollar Thursdays at the Wine Bar.
  • Andrae’s Bakery is heaven from the tables of cookbooks outside the door to the breads, pastries and sweets that line the glass counter inside.  Make sure you pick up some of their specialty sea salts while you’re there.  The Mediterranean Blend is great to coat on grilled fish, chicken or veggies and the Durango Hickory Smoked Sea Salt can’t be beat for steaks and burgers.

DRINK:

  • Holly’s Hill is my most favorite winery of all time. It’s not on the fastest road to Amador, but you should totally take the long way to Plymouth and Sutter Creek vie El Dorado County and stop into Holly’s Hill. Their staff is unbeatable and their grounds are gorgeous.  Nearby Madroña Vineyards is also always a clear winner.  I love their zinfandel.
  • Helwig has beautiful grounds with an amazing outdoor amphitheater.  Large groups can reserve the private tasting room for a true tour of what Helwig has to offer.  Check out their summer concert series schedule – buy a bottle (or three) of wine and take a picnic to enjoy the summer nights.
  • Cooper Vineyards is a favorite.   The owner, the grounds and the atmosphere are relaxed and unpretentious.   Locals love to visit on the nights they host their “Old-Timers’ Music Jam.”
  • Turley is one of my most favorite wineries of all time.  I can still remember the first time I ever took a sip of their wine.   Their wine is hard to come by and a must order when I find it on restaurant wine lists.  The tasting room is open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM.
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Mountain Bike Fruita | Sneak Peek

I’m currently on a kick ass mountain biking vacation with friends in Fruita, CO and Moab, UT.  You’ll have to wait til later for the full write-up but here’s a sneak peek to hold you over.  Just know this: mountain bike Fruita is awesome.

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Berkeley Wedding Photographer | SSquared Day 3

The third and final day of Sarah and Suman’s amazing three day celebration of their 10th year Anniversary culminated in the formalization of their union at Cesar’s, a delightfully intimate Spanish style tapas bar in the “Gourmet Ghetto” of Berkeley.  Officiated by Sarah’s sister, the ceremony was simple and peppered with readings by family members, toasts from friends, and a heartfelt and tearful speech from Sarah thanking everyone for their presence.

Cesar’s presented an amazing array of appetizers and dishes and loaded wine glasses with sangria and my personal favorite, a nice dry rosé.  I personally can’t imagine a better way to celebrate the union of two people who are so committed, at ease and loving than the way these two chose.  After three days in their presence, I felt inspired and challenged by the grace, love and respect that was ever present in their relationship.

Sarah and Suman, thank you so much for the honor you bestowed upon me when you chose me as your Berkeley Wedding Photographer.  It really was the best wedding ever.

Congratulations and may you have a lifetime of nerding out, wine drinking and laughter together.

Wedding Dance Party, Wedding Photographer, Tahoe Wedding Photographer, Berkeley Wedding Photographer

Berkeley Wedding Photographer | SSquared Day 1

The first time I spoke to Sarah, I felt totally at ease with her.

You see, Sarah and her husband to be, Suman, had been together for 10 years.  There was no doubt in their minds, she explained, that they were committed to a lifetime together but they had seen no reason to formalize it.  I get that.  

So when Sarah told me the story of her relationship, their history and her wonderfully fun and totally informal wedding plans, I was sold.

It was the Best. Wedding. Ever.

Here is a little bit of info about this couple and their totally informal, off the beaten path three day extravaganza that they called their wedding.  Fist off, the whole weekend was a huge party of the best kind.  They had their own twitter handle.  Their friends and family are not only hilarious, but insanely intelligent.  They love wine as much as I do.  They are self-depreciating, sarcastic and witty.  They hosted a trivia night.  SERIOUSLY.  Even better, the trivia night involved a New Orleans themed restaurant.  Stop my beating heart.  By the end of the weekend, I felt like a guest.

I loved every minute of this wedding weekend and every one of their family members.  I’m sad I don’t get to hang out with them all the time.  I feel so honored they choose me as their Berkeley Wedding Photographer.  I am super excited to share the photos from the weekend and in the same fashion as the weekend, I’ll break it up into the three days of events.

So, without further adieu, I present to you SSquared Day 1: a gorgeous celebration and party at the Berkeley Alumni House on the UC campus with unbelievable food from Bistro Liason, a Lauren Lindley photo booth, a “This is Your Life” retelling by Sarah and Suman that introduced each and every person in the room and their relationship to the couple and ultimately, a dance party so epic thanks to DJ Wayne that I couldn’t bear to leave when my contracted time was up.

Venue: Berkeley Alumni House | Catering: Bistro Liason | DJ: Golden State Productions | Photo Booth: Lauren Lindley Photography 

PSIA Western Spring Convention - April 26, 2014

Mammoth Photo Booth | PSIA Western Spring Convention

It’s not every day that Glen Plake gets in my photo booth.  That happened.

Each year at the 2nd night of the Annual PSIA Western Spring Convention there is a wonderful dinner at the Mammoth Ski Lodge accompanied by a silent auction, DJ and of course, our Photo booth.  This year the theme was Rock’n’Roll 50s and a few of us dressed the part.

Thanks to all who participated and joined in on the fun in our Mammoth Photo Booth.  Here are a few of my favorite photos from the evening.  As always, the link to the full gallery will remain on my website under the 2014 Photo Booth tab.  Head on over to the gallery via this link to download your photos, share to social media or order prints.

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Mammoth Photo Booth | PSIA Western Spring Convention

Last year, I partnered with the Western division of PSIA to offer my services as a Mammoth photo booth operator at their Spring Convention in Mammoth Lakes, CA.   We had such an amazing time that I was absolutely eager to return and provide our services again.  The convention is multiple days of ski and snowboard instructor clinics for the Professional Ski Instructors of America & American Association of Snowboard Instructors.  This year, the first night, the convention hosted a really wonderful happy hour, dinner and party at Lakanuki’s Tiki Bar in the Mammoth Village.   This was the first year they offered to host us and I must say, their service, food and ambiance for the Hawaiian themed luau party was absolutely perfect.

To the surprise and delight of some, we’ve had Christmas in April this year and the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, from Mammoth Lakes to Tahoe, received up to three feet of snow in some areas from Thursday night into Saturday morning!   Instead of just having a luau, Bri and I were joking with guests that we were having an arctic luau.  I love all the photos of attendees covered in snow with leis on!

Here are a few of my favorite photos from the evening.  As always, the link to the full gallery will remain on my website under the 2014 Photo Booth tab.  Head on over to the gallery via this link to download your photos, share to social media or order prints.

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Marin Wedding Photographer | Jeff + Eva Sneak Peek

This backyard wedding celebration involved a pig roast, a tres leches cake, the greatest vibe ever, and two of the raddest people I’ve ever met.  I want this couple, their friends and all of their family to be my best friends.  I’m so thrilled they choose me to be their Marin wedding photographer and I can’t wait to share more images with you!

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Travel Photography | Washington, DC

After spending a few days in New York City, Boyfriend and I headed down to Washington DC via bus to meet up with M, my post-college roommate, travel partner and marathon running partner.

A few years ago, M got the hare-brained idea to run a marathon and insisted I do it with her.  We chose the California International Marathon as our first event and despite apparently telling people that I was never going to do that again, we signed up again the following year for the Dallas Marathon.   By now, we are absolute pros at our drink-wine-and-don’t-train-marathon-training-program and took it to the streets of DC for the Marine Corps Marathon, which due to it’s popularity is as difficult to get into as it is to run it.

The race itself was absolutely outstanding, though it did have some lonely moments.  There’s an absolutely surreal bit of it that goes on the freeway overpass to Virginia: it’s very exposed, sun baked, and eerie, as if you’re in a zombie apocalypse movie all of the sudden.   The experience overall was phenomenal and awe inspiring.  It was hard not to cry at the starting line as jets flew over, dropping marines with American Flags and parachutes into the crowd as the anthem played.  It was encouraging to run along side Wounded Warriors as they pushed themselves on hand bikes with no gears up the hills of the 26.2 mile course.  It was invigorating to hear words of encouragement from Marines stationed every 200 yards in the last few miles.  “Keep your head up! Run with purpose!  Never give up!” they called.  It was thrilling to know that you were in the last tenth of a mile when the row of marines waiting to high five you for your efforts at the finish line showed up and then, as you cross the line, another row of Marines, waiting to shake your hand, hang your medal on your head and thank you for supporting them.

You think the laundry list of things to see in New York City is overwhelming?  DC is worse.  I wish we’d had two weeks there to really take in all the sights and museums available to you.  Here’s what we did, but this is by no means the extensive list.

STAY: Fred and Kadija’s Cozy Rowhouse on Airbnb is absolutely perfect for exploring DC from.  It’s extremely close to the NOMA metro stop and made it so insanely easy to get out on foot every day and check stuff out. The house is adequately stocked with almost everything you would need, was clean, comfortable and perfect for a group.  You won’t need a car if you stay here!

EAT:

  • Indigo is just around the corner from the Rowhouse.  Order menu items a la carte to share or scarf down by yourself.  It’s BYOB, casual and amazing.  Apparently, it’s the only authentic home-style Punjabi (North Indian) food that you’ll find in DC.
  • Our meal at Tash was one of the most memorable of our trip.  The grilled flatbread rivaled my own and was perfectly accompanied by heaping mounds of Baba Ganoush.  M’s meal, the Gheymeh Lamb Shank, was rich and cooked with precision.
  • Thank god for Teds Bulletin.  I spend four and a half hours of every marathon thinking about nothing but breakfast.  After a serious people-moving snafu occurred after the marathon (apparently moving 100,000 people via public transportation is not that easy), we were a bit concerned that it was so late we wouldn’t be able to find breakfast.  Teds Bulletin came to the rescue and not only did I have the most perfect post marathon breakfast of all time but our amazing waiter treated us to free homemade pop tart treats after we told him what we had just accomplished.

DRINK:

  • Little Miss Whiskey’s is awash with concert posters and a dark, but chill vibe.  The bartenders were great conversationalists and chatted with us for quite some time about our adventures.  The beer selection is varied and filled with local gems and the whiskey knowledge and selection is what you would expect given the name.
  • Beirgarten Haus serves authentic German beer and food in a eerily accurate setting.  It took me back to Oktoberfest.  The draft selection of German brews is extensive and the pretzel bread is not to be missed.
  • The Hawk n’ Dove is practically a historical monument in DC.  It was recently rennovated out of it’s “dive bar” status and while the locals may notice and dislike the changes, we were so comfortable here that we returned more than once to imbibe at the deep dark comfortable bar.

EXPLORE:

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Travel Photography | New York City

In October of 2013, I was registered to run a marathon in Washington DC.  I felt we would be remiss to fly to the East Coast and not visit at least one major city other than DC.  Boyfriend and I settled on New York City: he had never been and I was excited to visit with my old college friends who live there now.

When I lived in Texas, I would travel to NYC frequently since it was an easy non-stop flight.  I hadn’t been back since moving to the West Coast and I how I have missed it!  New York City is a special place: not one that I’d ever like to live in, but certainly one that I enjoy vacationing in.  From amazing food, to fun character filled bars, to gorgeous museums and parks, NYC has something to offer everyone.

When we first started planning the vacation, I firmly told Boyfriend that at least one musical would have to be seen.  He complained about everything from the unforeseen price to the unknown forthcoming experience until the show started.  On a tip from my friend Darbi, we bought tickets at TKTS for Once.  It was the BEST musical I’ve ever seen. 

Once is the musical adaptation of the movie from Glen Hansard by the same name.  When it debuted, the musical received eleven Tony Award nominations and won 8 of those awards.  Less than ten minutes into the show, we could see why.  The cast, which also serves as the orchestra, was absolutely outstanding on their minimalist bar-themed set.   During intermission, the audience can walk up onstage and order drinks from the stage bar!

 In addition to Once, we also went to see an Off-Broadway production of Avenue Q, which I knew would appeal to Boyfriend’s love of non-PC humor.

There is an unbelievably long laundry list of things to do while visiting New York City that I won’t even begin to attempt to start.  Instead, here were the highlights of this particular trip for us:

STAY: We have the good fortune of staying with friends for free, but if we didn’t, I’d totally utilize Airbnb to book an adorable room in an East Village Apartment or book a totally affordable room pod at The Pod Hotel, where a room will set you back as little as $95 on a weeknight. EAT BREAKFAST:

  • At any New York City Bodega, where the cream cheese is plentiful, the bagels delicious and the breakfast sandos are made to order for less than the cost of a Venti Drip at Starbucks.

EAT DINNER:

  • Swine - A gastropub with killer cocktails and an extensive and mouthwatering menu peppered with delights like bacon mac’n’cheese, chicken and waffles, and bacon wrapped dates.
  • Joe’s Pizza - I was tipped off to Joe’s thanks to Jimmy Fallon, who likes to support businesses he loves on Twitter.  The pizza was everything you want in a New York pie: hot, messy, and sold by the slice.  Established in 1975 by Joe Pozzuoli, who is originally from Naples, Italy (the birthplace of pizza), Joe’s Pizza is a “Greenwich Village institution” offering the classic New York slice for over 37 years.

DRINK:

  • Upright Brew House in the West Village serves craft beers on tap and in the bottle from New York, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx.
  • Jimmy’s Corner was an unbelievable find.  In a town of $14 beers, we managed to order two and a shot of whiskey in this dive bar and our total bill was less than $10.   Found oddly tucked away in the middle of tourist chaos in Times Square, as soon as you duck inside everything is quiet and calm.  There long narrow bar is covered in photos from Jimmy’s days as a boxing guru and the jukebox has nothing but jazz albums.  Other than myself, Jimmy’s wife Swannie was the only woman in the bar.

SEE THEATER:

  • TKTS - Do not do TKTS as the tourists do, which is to wait in line for hours trying to buy tickets.  Either mosey on down to the South Street Seaport late in the afternoon and buy tickets for whatever strikes your fancy OR mosey on up to the window in Times Square after 6:00 PM, which is long after the rush.  Sometimes theater’s will release additional seats to shows not available earlier in the day.

EXPLORE:

  • The High Line - The High Line is a public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side.  It is maintained as a public space for residents and visitors to enjoy by a non-profit group that works with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation and is open every day from 7 AM to 7 PM.
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SXSW Photographer | SXSW Sneak Peek

Remember that time that I went to see Alt-J and Phoenix and Joan Jett surprised the crowd by showing up and playing a set and I said it was the best night of my life?  I think this one may have topped it.

Janelle Monae is a verified Bad Ass with capital letters.  Story and more photos to come when I get home!