Friday, February 19, 2010

Lori Krause

Gentle spirit, loving heart, formidable skills – these are phrases that come to mind when I think about Lori Krause.

Lori is a photographer and entrepreneur who’s going to be working with Red Letter Days more closely in creating lovely, enchanting events. She’s been a beloved colleague since the beginning, and we’re so happy she’s going to be contributing even more.

I was lucky enough to have Lori shoot my engagement photos. She made my husband feel comfortable in front of the camera, and touched both our hearts. I was excited to get to chat with her and find out more about her background and how she got to be so amazing. Where did it all start?

Lori grew up in Michigan and founded her first photography business there at the age of 21. At her studio, she created portraits of kids and families, shooting the subjects who are still closest to her heart.

Family is central to Lori’s life. Her parents have been together since they were 15, and they always wanted to create a close and open family. Ten years ago, she moved to California to be with her sister and nieces – to be close to family. A year after Lori arrived, her parents joined the group, everyone reuniting on the West Coast.

The best thing about California at first? “Being where no one knew me, because I grew up where everyone knew everyone.” Anonymity was freedom.

She discovered that everyone was a bit different out west – very informal and down-to-earth. People were more laid back and seemed less materialistic; the community was accepting, that fabled melting pot.

Of course, the flip side of no one knowing you is that it can get a little lonely after a while, not recognizing anyone and not being recognized. Luckily, after a decade, Lori is definitely connected to friends, colleagues, and family.

When she arrived in California, however, she took a break from shooting portraits, giving herself time to acclimate to the new location and different culture. She managed another photo studio and assisted a wedding photographer friend, although she’d never wanted to do events and weddings.

So she carried equipment, switched lenses, and supplemented the primary photographer’s more formal shots with 35mm black-and-white journalism-style candids. And as time went by, she started to realize how different the events were from what she’d seen in the Midwest. They happened outside, the light was beautiful, and everything was much more informal.

Lori moved on to work with another wedding photographer, finding herself immersed in the field by accident. It’s funny how life works, though. She’d studied journalism in college because she wanted to write features. She loves people and was drawn to human interest stories.

As her skill with weddings grew and she began her own business as a wedding and event photographer, Lori discovered that she was once again doing what she loved best: documenting human relationships and the wonderful stories of what happens between people. But this time she was doing so with images rather than words.

It’s no surprise that this was a natural fit. As Lori said, “I’m a very emotional person. I shoot from the heart. I don’t set the stage for portraits. Instead, I watch what’s going on.” She adds that she may not be the most technical photographer or the most invested in setting things up just so. Rather, she notices what’s going on and shoots what’s naturally happening.

Following the natural flow of life has brought another shift in recently, with a bit less photography than in the past. “I stopped doing photography full-time due to personal responsibilities,” Lori explained. As she stepped up to meet those obligations, she also joined a small architecture office, which she likens to being part of a small family. “It was the best thing at the time it came into my life.”

Along with that venture, she acquired her food-handling license because her business Lori’s Homemade has been taking off. What does that mean right now? Cookies!

Lori said, “I come from a family that loves dessert, loves baking. My mom is an amazing cook and baker, and I grew up in the kitchen.”

She finds that being in the kitchen is nurturing and therapeutic. Baking has a great element of pride, too – in the best way. The results are pretty and smell and taste good, which makes her feel good, and she loves to share that with others.

Specifically, Lori shares her signature Chocolate Cherry Mama cookies.

She played with recipes, combining different elements to figure out what she liked best, finally settling on this formula. The oatmeal chocolate chip cherry cookies are a hit. They have a little piece of home for Lori, since they feature dried tart Michigan cherries, and everyone who’s had them loves them.

After five years of hearing the same thing – You should sell these! – Lori thought, Maybe I should start a business. After all, she said, she loves her own cookies, and everyone else seemed to feel the same way. So a couple of Christmases ago, she let friends order the cookies to give to vendors and clients.

She played around with packaging, and a friend from the architecture firm did design work and helped her name the cookies. Chocolate and cherry are, of course, key ingredients. Mama conveys how hearty they are from the oatmeal, like something your mama makes, and they make you feel good just like your mom does.

After refining and tweaking, this Christmas Lori sent an e-mail out to about 35 individuals and businesses, letting them know that the cookies would again be available. That one e-mail generated $1,000 of cookie sales.

I’m thrilled for Lori, and not surprised at all. I was lucky enough to eat a couple of the cookies the first year she offered them for sale. I have a very clear memory of sitting in my car in Banker’s Hill, with two fresh Chocolate Cherry Mama cookies in my hands. It was a blue-gray, cloudy late afternoon. Before I started my car, I took one bite . . . and fell in love. The rest of that cookie and the next disappeared in short order. It’s one of those magic moments that’s fixed forever in my mind.

Before any closer association began, Red Letter Days was already a huge fan of Lori as photographer, cookie queen, and friend. She confirms, “The first time I met Bek, we bonded. You can know someone for 20 years and know nothing about them, but you can instantly bond with someone else. . . . Sometimes you click and share something.”

With all the changes in her own life, and with her natural instinct to reach out, Lori’s looking forward to assisting Red Letter Days with events. She used to worry about weddings because they are one-time events, which can lead to a lot of pressure. Now, however, she embraces the opportunity to be present at such a heartfelt moment.

With so many different life experiences – as a photographer, entrepreneur, and business manager – and having gone through challenging times with her health, the health of loved ones, and finances in the past, Lori believes the nicest thing about being in a joyful place now is that it feels so good to help others and to give back.

She’s come to event planning with a happy and open heart. She loves to give, to be busy, and to be with people. Lori says, “I used to stress out about everything, to worry about everything, every moment of every day. I don’t do that anymore. I know things will be okay, even if it’s difficult.”

Local Loves

When Lori has visitors from out of town, there are a few places she always wants to take them.

No surprise, Extraordinary Desserts is on that list. Her favorite offerings there are the chocolate bread pudding and the chocolate and raspberry torte.

Next is Balboa Park, right next door to the original Extraordinary Desserts location. “It’s a really really special, beautiful place,” Lori says. She loves the combination of outdoor, natural beauty and manmade art and architecture such as the Spanish village, the Prado, and the museums. It’s a great place no matter what your age – young, old, or parents with small children.

Lori used to live by the park and got to walk through it every day. She thinks it’s wonderful that everyone can walk through and enjoy so much that the park has to offer for free.

Further north, she likes to take guests to the Self-Realization Fellowship Meditation Gardens in Encinitas, which she thinks is one of the most beautiful places in the San Diego area. “It’s a hidden treasure – beautiful, peaceful, with gorgeous koi,” Lori explains. She likes to walk uphill to look out over the ocean.

Being at the ocean in general is one of Lori’s favorite things about San Diego. She listens to the waves and enjoys how peaceful and calming they are, still conscious of how different this experience is from what she grew up with in the Midwest. One of her favorite activities is power walking up and down the beach, breathing in the fresh ocean air.

Behind the Suit

. . . except this can’t really be called “behind the suit,” since Lori can’t remember having worn a suit more than once or maybe twice in the ten years since she moved to California! Instead, I think this is really a glimpse inside her heart.

Lori exudes joy when she says, “I have the most amazing man in my life. Without him, I wouldn’t be where I am right now.”

They’ve known each other for six years, and she says he’s the most patient, loving, and understanding man she’s ever met. She thinks life is so good because, in large part, she has such an amazing partner – even though they’re total opposites. They always laugh about it. She says they’re the classic yin and yang couple who balance each other out in the middle.

“He’s such a bright light, and he came when life was very dark. He’s a big part of why I see the light in all things.”

Red Letter Days is so happy to continue working with Lori, joining forces to bring more joy into every event. She couldn’t be a better partner!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Couples

How are some of our fabulous couples spending their Valentine's Day?

Stephanie Orton Glover and Bryan Glover
Photographed by: Eddie Bojorquez / Studio 512

Hiking Cowel Mountain...

Riann Lee Ballenger and John Ballenger
Photographed by: Amy and Maurice Wright / Theorie

Anxiously anticipating their reunion (John is currently deployed with the United States Marine Corps)...

Anne Mauler and Joe Bigham
Photographed by: Jennifer Brogdon / Absolutely Photography

Dreaming and scheming...

Stephanie Kurtz to Dan Koeppen

Think pink! Stephanie and Dan's wedding was an inspiration of color and an occasion loved ones had been waiting for.

Stephanie and Dan met at their mutual friends' destination wedding. With sparks flying, they boldly declared in the guest book THAT DAY "See you at our wedding!" Truer words were never spoken!

Thanks to the talent of Nick Abadilla Photography, we're excited to share images from their celebration on this day of love!

Fuchsia complimented Stephanie's bridesmaids well, as did the style of dress. Nice selection, Ladies!

(Yes, those are boats suspended above the ceremony site).

Centerpieces that popped!

And how fortunate to have a pink wall behind the sweetheart table!

Modern flare to compliment a contemporary venue.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

San Diego Treasure: Extraordinary Desserts

It's the week before Valentine's Day, and we are all about love at Red Letter Days. It's been on my mind a lot since my wedding anniversary is this week, too. And of course, I'm living in the land of amore!

Today, though, I've been thinking about one of San Diego's treasures, a place that I visited for every birthday and celebration, a place I wanted to take everyone who came in from out of town. If you've ever driven up Fifth Avenue in the evening and seen a long line of people winding out onto the sidewalk, you've driven right by the original location.

You know I couldn't be talking about anywhere but Extraordinary Desserts.

I'll always remember my first visit. It was late in the evening after a friend's birthday dinner when we got into line out on the sidewalk. As the line moved forward, we filed in past display cases full of amazing pastries decorated with fruit, flowers, and gold leaf. There was a happy hum in the air as we tried to pick out what we wanted, running up to check out the larger cases, then jumping back to our spots in line to ponder the phenomenal tea selection and the day's specials.

After placing our orders, we sat out on the patio, seemingly lit only by candles on the tables. Each table also had a sweet, tiny succulent plant in its center. As we waited for our lavish treats in the candlelight, surrounded by dozens of contented people, I realized I'd discovered a magical place.

Then the desserts arrived.

I know my friends ordered chocolate creations so rich that they could barely speak from happiness. Me? I had what it turned out I would order again every time it was available: passion fruit ricotta torte. (I need to pause a moment just to savor the memory.) That night it was a featured special, served with a tropical sorbet and sauce . . . guava, papaya . . .

On subsequent visits, I found out that Extraordinary Desserts is just as wonderful during the day. I like to check out all the wonderful little extras that are available, from jewelry and stationery to candles and coffee and tea accessories. A few years ago, I found a candle there that perfectly matched the scent of my mother's favorite, long-discontinued perfume. Gift score!

When Extraordinary Desserts opened its second location in Little Italy, another San Diego aesthetic took center stage. In contrast to the earthy, organic vibe near Balboa Park, the newer space is sleek and urbane. It offers a savory menu in addition to desserts and is a fantastic place to meet with friends right in the city.

Especially as I sit here now, all bundled up in boots and a wool sweater and skirt, floating between my wedding anniversary and Valentine's Day, I can't stop thinking about Extraordinary Desserts. It's a quintessential San Diego experience: world-class food with global influences served in a laid-back environment. Just take your pick between urban sophistication and classic SoCal with a refined Eastern influence.

So go! Savor your favorite cake, or try something new and spectacular. Take someone special and share the love. And make sure to tell us in the comments: What's your favorite scrumptious treat from Extraordinary Desserts?

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Amber Gilliatt to Bryan Robinson

It's true what they say about remembering your wedding day forever. Since becoming a mother last summer, Red Letter Days planner Amber Robinson has been reflecting on her wedding (featured in Ceremony San Diego Wedding & Events 2009 magazine). She couldn't be happier with the joyful memories that came from all the planning and love that went into the event.

Here are some of her thoughts about that wonderful time. . . .

Our wedding was such a magical day. Looking back now, I can't believe it's already happened.

You're constantly running into people who, when the subject of weddings comes up, say, "Oh, I would have done this differently," or "I would have done that differently," and even today, people ask us, "What would you have changed?"

But I can honestly say, looking back, there's not one thing I would change. I loved every minute.
So many of my friends and family were so worried because I am such an organized person, and I want everything to be just so. My aunt who’s a nurse even came with a little emergency medical kit in case I made myself sick because I was so nervous or stressed out.

But I knew this wedding was only going to happen once, and I wanted to enjoy every single minute of it. So I promised myself, that when Thursday morning came -- the Thursday before the wedding -- I was going to let it all go. If it wasn’t done at that point, I wasn’t going to worry about it. And I kept that promise.

As soon as we went to the hotel, dropped everything off, and the car was empty, I was done. We drove to the nail salon, and I just relaxed and enjoyed myself with all my family and friends. I didn’t worry about anything from that moment on. It was completely out of my hands, and in the hands of Rebecca and Mia, and I completely trusted them.

You can see from the lovely details below that Amber's trust was well founded. The planning paid off, as all these elegant images show.

But not everyone knew and understood just how confident and relaxed Amber was able to be that day . . .

At one point, while we were getting ready on the morning of the wedding, my maid of honor -- my best friend, I’ve known her since I was five -- walked up to me and said, “Can you freak out about something, because you’re starting to worry us! You’re too calm. You’re making me nervous.” And I just had to laugh. I was happy. I was absorbing it all and enjoying every minute and taking it all in.

I can’t wait till my daughter has that same joy. That’s part of why I think I love being a wedding planner, because I want to give other brides that same satisfaction.

Before I got married, I wanted to give that to other brides, but now that I’ve had my wedding, I’m even more devoted to it. I can’t wait to make somebody else’s dreams come true.

One of the things that I love the most about our wedding day, which is a decision I never thought I would make, was the fact that Bryan and I chose to see each other before we walked down the aisle.

That’s something that he’d wanted from the minute we got engaged. He wanted to see each other first, get our pictures taken care of first, because he’s kind of a photo nut and wanted everything to be perfect. But I was worried about how untraditional it was, that it would take away from the magic.

Then one of my cousins said that the only regret she’d had on her wedding day was that she and her husband never had a few moments alone to really enjoy and experience the magic of the day. She wished she’d seen him before they walked down the aisle, because from that point on, you don't have the privacy to share the thoughts and the emotions that are welling up inside.

Bryan and I getting to have that moment beforehand was so unbelievably magical. It was just us and our photographers and videographer. We got to spend about 15 minutes with just each other, talking about how much we love each other and what the day meant to us and how much we meant to each other.

When the time came to walk down the aisle, we were able to enjoy it and see everything that was going on around us.

We were able to just celebrate and hear every word that was said during our service, to see the tears running down our parents’ faces and the joy in each other’s eyes, and, you know, laugh at the little quirky things that might be happening at any given second.

I am so glad we made that decision.

Your wedding day is just such an amazing time. I saw my grandparents dance and laugh, and my dad holding back the tears as we tried to dance. My husband was so emotional as he did his mother-son dance.

Being able to completely relax and let go was an amazing experience.

The only wish I have is that I could do it all over again . . . and not change a second.

Venue: Grand Tradition Estate / Pala Mesa Resort
Floral Design: Modern Bouquet
Photography: A House of Photography
Videography: Mission Visual
Cake: Jodee's Bakery
Linens: Concepts Event Design

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Reflections 2.2010

Then I look at you

And the world's alright with me

Just one look at you

And I know it's gonna be

A lovely day

-Bill Withers

It's February 1st and we're in the midst of brainstorming romantic Valentine's Day dinners for sweet couples. The calls we've received in the past for this service are priceless and adorable:

"Umm, I really love my wife and well, this Valentine's Day must blow her mind."

Duly noted, Friend.

One key component we explore when launching the planning process is the genre of music and/or significant artists that stir the souls of the couple. We high-five it all: Michael Bublé, Aimee Mann, Beyoncé; Céline Dion, David Bowie (my personal favorite), George Straight.

So as I think through what we're up to this year, I wonder (invoking my inner Carrie Bradshaw):

What song is love for you?

I checked in with my sisters at RLD for their input. They were full of ideas because, well, they're event planners and smart ladies.

Jessica was the first to raise her hand. She shared "Blue Sky" by the Allman Brothers "because it's my song for my husband." (Good answer.)

Lori (our newest member to the family…you'll be introduced to her on the blog next week) said "The Way You Look Tonight" by Frank Sinatra because her "love" sings it to her. (She and her man are just too cute.)

Chrissy was straight up – "Better Together" by Jack Johnson. She also shared the sweetest story:

"When my husband and I met we had a lot in common and one thing was not being fans of 'Hallmark' holidays. When Valentine's Day rolled around we both assumed that we would do nothing for the day. I guess with all the love in the air, however, we felt pulled in. We surprised each other with letters saying how much we appreciate the fact that each day is like Valentine's Day for us. We've been together for 11 years and to this day we write each other a love letter on Valentine's Day and leave it at that. That means more to me than any flowers or diamonds."


Mia says she's pleading the Fifth on this one (although it's important to note that she has a shameless love of chick flicks.) Guess that's fine because it balances my list of songs (I have a tendency to over think things):

A parent's love for his/her child – "Vienna" by Billy Joel;

For someone special – "Home" by Zero 7;

From grade school dances and high school proms – "Somebody" by Depeche Mode;

The love of dancing like a fool in your living room – "Lovely Day" by Bill Withers.

Please share what song is love for you. We want to know.