Pets & People Gallery

Here comes the first installment of – hopefully – an ongoing series of pet portraits from our SF Bay Area wedding vendor community, proof of what a big heart (for furry friends and otherwise) you all have!

The first one to share a photo for this gallery was harpist Erica Messer, with husband Lincoln in the background. I know them both really well – because I was their wedding planner! Since then, Erica and I have done many, many weddings together…

Erica, Lincoln & kitty
Erica & Lincoln, just married!

Next up are Leah and Vader, doggie siblings living with my longtime assistant Quan Wu. Vader (a Corgi boy) came first, and he helped to pick his new sister, Husky girl Leah. They have become inseparable!

Doggie Mom Quan – formerly at Thomas Fogarty Winery, now working for Taste Catering

Here is a real outdoor girl: Abby, a red merle Australian Shepherd (WITH tail!), living and hiking with her Mom, real estate whiz Manon Celaya, in the Tahoe area. Despite her outdoorsy and adventurous nature, Abby is super well behaved and calm – a true lady!

Abby, queen of the mountain…
… and her Mom, Manon

To mix it up, here’s the next kitty: Sherbert, an orange tabby girl (I am told that’s a rarity among tabbies!) – and while she’s looking sooo young, she’s actually ten years old. Her “human,” violinist Laura Rubinstein-Salzedo of the Mersonacta quartet (who played for us lately) got her when she was just 6 months old, and she could not be happier with “Sherbs” who has both an Instagram and a TikTok presence!

Playful “Sherbs” in action
… and her Mom Laura at work!

On to more doggies! Here is Bacci, the sweet King Cavalier Spaniel boy living with “Kiehl’s Queen” Susan Ciacchella (thanks again, Susan, for all the samples you sent to so many Kiehl’s fans in our community!)

Bacci thoughtful…
… and coming home from a snow hike with his Mom

More dogs! Next up is Junebug, an English Terrier, here with her “waitstaff,” caterer Janay McCullough of Avocado Catering (look up her Quarantine Cakes!) and her husband:

Junebug “holding court”…
… and cuddling with her parents

Another Aussie for you: four-year-old Cosmo, a blue merle Aussie boy, living with my friend and assistant (and “Doggie Mom for the Day” at my events), Melinda Meier:

Cosmo on his way to his favorite place: a doggie ranch in Half Moon Bay

Cosmo is a personal friend of mine, because he is MY dog’s best friend! The two are currently missing each other very much – normally they share playdates in my backyard every few days, tearing through the greenery at full speed for 45 minutes… so here is the other half of this “Duo Infernal,” our own Bear, three years old, a black-tricolored Aussie, truly Cosmo’s brother!

Waiting for his friend…
Helping his Dad with woodchopping…
… and in action in our backyard!

Lastly, an incredible cat family and cat story by Teri Menchini of La Bocca Fina Catering (who recently contributed a delicious breakfast recipe). In her own words…

“The past 20 years have brought me:

~  A family of newborn kittens whose mother was found dead in the fields.

~  Fast-forward 10 years later to a mommie with 4 babies, left behind by her owner in a move…  Can you believe that!

~ 6 years later, the cutest little orange kitty who needed a home, even though I said ‘let’s find it a home’!  Her mommie kittie dropped it off at a friend’s home.

~  And lastly the cutest fluffy kitten that just showed up at my back door at just about 6 weeks of age…  I think a stray mommie must have dropped her off.  The word was out, ‘We take kittens here’!  

With a current count of 7, I found the sign and took it down!”

Thank you all for sharing your wonderful companions and heartwarming stories!

Magical Nathaniel is teaching magic!

This is one of the very rare occasions that a professional magician reveals one of his tricks – but as Nathaniel Segal (aka Magical Nathaniel) is one of our Bay Area wedding vendor community, he shares it with us all today as a special treat. Maybe you parents watch and learn it first, then teach your kids? So they have something to share and show off to their buddies on Skype?

Let the magic begin…

And if you can’t get enough of it: Nathaniel offers online magic classes!

Gabby is working her cake magic!

My longtime friend and colleague Gabrielle Feuersinger of Cake Coquette fame made a time-lapse video just FOR US!!! How nice is that?! In case you were wondering how long it takes Gabby for the elaborate decoration of one of her masterpieces, now we know: exactly 27 seconds – on timelapse!

You’ll have to look twice and watch a couple more times to see it all what she’s doing, but even then we’ll probably miss a good part of her skill and artistry. In any case – get inspired for your own edible art!

Please click the play button to see Gabby in action.

Here is the finished masterpiece close up:

And if you need even more inspiration, here are some of Gabby’s recent creations for you to swoon over!

Ladies: Channel your inner Barbie Doll!

As we are preparing you for your next virtual cocktail party, we thought of including a tutorial on a really stunning makeup! My longtime friend and colleague Jira of Wowpretty Salon (whose hair and makeup stylists have transformed countless brides into red carpet-worthy beauties) is contributing a tutorial on how to do it – one of her stylists is taking you through it step by step:

What about you try it out and send us “before and after” photos? We want to see it!!

Let’s have cocktails together! (virtually… of course)

Why not?

Our friends Jim and Stephanie invited us “over for cocktails” last week, and it was just lovely! We all dressed up, joined in a zoom.com meeting (more of that later), and had our cocktails while catching up on things.

So… here are some of my favorite cocktails with recipes!

The Cosmopolitan:

INGREDIENTS

2 oz vodka, 1 oz cranberry juice cocktail, ¾ oz fresh lime juice, ¾ oz triple sec

Orange twist (for serving)

PREPARATION

Combine vodka, cranberry juice, lime juice, and triple sec in a cocktail shaker. Fill shaker with ice, cover, and shake vigorously until outside of shaker is very cold, about 20 seconds.

Strain cocktail into a martini glass and garnish with the orange twist.

The Mojito:

INGREDIENTS:

10 fresh mint leaves; 1/2 lime, cut into 4 wedges; 2 tablespoons white sugar, or more to taste; 1 cup ice cubes
1 1/2 fl. oz white rum; 1/2 cup club soda

PREPARATION:

Place mint leaves and 1 lime wedge into a sturdy glass. Crush the mint and lime with a muddler; add 2 more lime wedges and the sugar, and muddle again. Do not strain! Fill the glass nearly completely with ice. Pour the rum over the ice and fill up with club soda. Stir, taste, and adjust sugar if desired. Garnish with the last lime wedge.

And… my favorite: the Chi Chi

INGREDIENTS:

3 oz vodka, 4 oz pineapple juice, 2 oz cream of coconut (e.g. Coco Lopez), 1 tsp (or more) confectioner’s sugar, 1 cup crushed ice

Pineapple pieces and Maraschino cherries for garnish

PREPARATION:

Combine first five ingredients in a blender; process on high speed until combined, ca. 30 sec. Pour into chilled glasses, garnish with pineapple and cherry. Serve immediately.

Lastly, the meeting format! These days, it’s videoconferencing, and we used zoom.com – free for up to 45 minutes. Just have everyone sign up for it ahead of time, send a zoom link to your event in time to all your friends, and… oh, we forgot. Dress up. And the ladies: “doll up!” Stay tuned for that – the “Barbie Doll” makeup tutorial is in the works!!

Everybody LOVES Kiehl’s!!

Do you know Kiehl’s? Do you use their products? I guess you do!

Did you know that Kiehl’s started as a single pharmacy in Manhattan at Third Avenue and East 13th Street in 1851? And these days, they are EVERYWHERE and offering pretty much everything (even including dog care products!!).

I am a super lucky person, as I have a special friend. Susan is not only a wonderful neighbor, friend, confidante; caring, warm-hearted and generous… she is also the Kiehl’s Sales and Training Manager for the Bay Area and Northern California (that’s HUGE, actually). AND she is offering free Kiehl’s samples to our local wedding vendor community!!

Susan has samples of the following:

Cannabis cleanser, Ultra Facial Cream, Midnight Recovery, Powerful Strength line reducing serum for the face,  Rare Earth Mask (shown in action on Susan, below), Pure Vitality cream.

All you have to do is to email her at susan.ciacchella@kiehls-usa.com, and she’ll ship the samples of your choice to you. Isn’t that fantastic?! All she is asking in return is your permission to pass your email on to Kiehl’s for future promotions.

UPDATE on 4/21/20: due to overwhelming response, Susan is currently unable to fulfill further requests – BUT she’ll be back with more samples in a couple of weeks, and she’ll have Mother’s Day specials for you, too! STAY TUNED!!

Continuing education with “Masterclass” courses

Now that I suddenly have more time on my hands than ever before (and more time than I like…) I was looking for something constructive to do – beyond my COVID-19 support & encouragement series here, that is! I wanted to widen my horizon, learn something new, and not necessarily something related to my business.

I have to give my husband credit for finding something for me, something that I didn’t even know existed: “MasterClass!” It’s a platform of online courses taught by accomplished professionals in their respective fields – chefs and pastry chefs, to start with; there is Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue; interior designer Kelly Wearstler, fashion designers (Diane von Fuerstenberg, Marc Jacobs), dancers, magicians, star architects (Frank Gehry), photography (Annie Leibovitz), acting and game theory. And many more whom I haven’t even explored yet! Each master class consists of 12-20 lessons of approx. 20 minutes – short enough to fit into my day and sometimes to even watch several in a row. This is something I am now really looking forward to every day! I already found an intuitive approach to gardening through watching “Gangster Gardener” Ron Finley (and maybe I’ll eventually develop a “green thumb” after all!) and I learned from pastry chef Dominique Ansel to make heavenly Madeleines. (BTW, all the links above lead to free sample lessons – enjoy!!)

Have a look at the course selection. The cost? You sign up for a year, and for access to all courses on the platform you pay 50 cents a day. It’s so totally worth it… and NO, I don’t get a kickback for recommending the platform. I’m simply enthusiastic!

Let me know what you think…

Wise advice to engaged couples

A guest post by photographer Anna Hogan

Planning a wedding in the era of the Coronavirus

Photo credit: Anna Hogan Photography

The world around us has taken a long pause due to the Covid-19 virus pandemic, forcing most of us to shelter in place and practice social distancing. While the essential businesses are still operating, the wedding industry has literally stopped in its tracks. All events have been cancelled or postponed to the near… or the far future…? The couples who spent months navigating the wedding planning process are now facing a new set of challenges. All small business owners who cater to the wedding industry like photographers, florists, caterers, hair and make-up artists are without work for possibly months. 

When the shelter-in-place order gets lifted, the return to normal life will likely be a multi-stage process, and eventually some gatherings will be allowed.

Below are a few ways how to make your wedding safer for you and your guests. 

  1. Keep it small.

Looking back at the last couple of months, events with over 50 attendees were the first to be cancelled, so it is likely that the return to normal will follow a similar path.   Keeping your guest list small will likely help to “make it happen” as it will be safer for everyone – and as a side benefit in these uncertain times, it will be cheaper, too. I know, you tried to keep that guest list small from the beginning, but in the current situation I think everyone will be much more understanding.

If you are local to San Francisco Bay Area, have you considered getting married at San Francisco City Hall once it reopens?

  • Keep it local and minimize travel.

Even without a pandemic, planning a destination wedding presents its own set of challenges – but risking to contract the virus on a plane or getting stuck somewhere en route is not fun at all. 

  • Keep it outdoors.

The chance of catching a virus in an open space is much smaller than in an indoor space, so take advantage of the beauty of our nature and get married outside! Vineyards, parks, backyards, and beaches are all great options.

  • Streaming your event.

One of the ways to keep your most vulnerable guests safe is to live-stream your wedding.

It could be just the ceremony, or it could include more key events like your First Dance, Cake Cutting or speeches. 

Hiring videographer to document your celebration is a great idea as well.

  • Avoid buffet or family-style served meals. 

Having all guests use the same serving spoon is probably not the best idea in these times, so if you decide to have a buffet make sure that all food is served by catering staff.

  • Offer hand sanitizer and reusable face masks with fun designs to your guests.

I know that hand sanitizer is “worth its weight in gold” right now! Still, try to find it for your celebration. There are also a lot of cute face masks available these days; the skilled craftspeople making them would certainly be happy to help you.

We are sheltering in place to “flatten the curve” – but after a few months of confinement at home we will all go back to our “normal life,” whatever that means. It will certainly take time to recover and life might be different than before, but the world will start spinning again and people will start getting together again and celebrating.  No matter how scary things are right now – the most important things are that we have our health and that the people we love are close. If this continues, then we are winning. 

Written by Anna Hogan

Hundred Hearts… and counting

Today I want to share with you an extraordinary undertaking that I just came across. It’s called the Hundred Hearts Project – and it was started by one single person, a woman trying to fight her own depression and anxiety by reaching out to others and expressing her gratitude to them by painting one heart for each person she wanted to thank. And through giving to others, she herself began to heal. I find this story incredibly moving and impressive.

I will definitely do my own “Hundred Hearts” project. Maybe not through painting, but through writing letters, through giving my time, my thoughts and my affection to those who deserve my gratitude.

I would encourage you all to do the same!

Let me kick the campaign off with my own first “letter of gratitude.” It goes to my longtime friend Robbie Schlosser of Magnolia Jazz. The year was 2012. I had just opened my wedding planning company, starting from scratch, a total newcomer to the Bay Area wedding scene. I was lucky to secure an invitation to an industry event – but, of course, I knew no one. I tried desperately to introduce myself to the little groups of people who were in lively conversation, obviously all longtime acquaintances. Nobody was interested in me. I felt totally miserable. Suddenly a middle-aged gentleman approached me. “I believe we have not met yet… are you a new addition to our community? I am Robbie. Let me introduce you to a few people.” I could not believe it. He had not only noticed my predicament – he had stepped in to help. He literally took my arm and “worked the room” with me. Needless to say, I have never felt so relieved in my life, and I am eternally grateful for Robbie’s selflessness and generosity.

Well knowing that there is no way for me to “repay it” to Robbie, I have been “paying it forward” to all newcomers to our group in the same way ever since, and I will continue doing so. But I always wanted to say that big “Thank You.” Finally, here it is.

Magnolia Jazz is playing for us!

You all know my friend Robbie Schlosser and Magnolia Jazz! Robbie is one of the most helpful and warm-hearted people around – you all know that! – and so he immediately offered to contribute to our little series of “COVID-19 support and encouragement.” He is playing “I’m Old-Fashioned,” and you will love it so much that you, too, will declare: “I’m Old-Fashioned!”

Enjoy, and do let Robbie know how you liked it! (robbie@magnoliajazz.com)