February 28, 2011


As a little girl growing up in Michigan, I always loved hummingbirds.  Outside my childhood bedroom window, we had rhododendrons and flowerbeds, and every summer I would watch the tiny birds flit around effortlessly.  These days, hummingbirds still fascinate me, and while we see a lot of them every year now, I was overjoyed to find that one is nesting in the tree outside my office window. Since my office is on the second floor, I have an eye-level view into the foliage, and have been watching Mother Hummingbird build her nest for the last couple days.  I can't wait to see the little ones this spring!

Happy Monday!

February 25, 2011

Diamonds + Coals - Pacific Pinball Museum

With all the rain and cold weather lately, Josh and I found ourselves searching for indoor activities that didn't include watching DVDs at home (our default).  We thought about heading to the movies, or going bowling, but we just weren't feeling it.  Then Josh suggested the Pacific Pinball Museum.  We had run across it online a while back, and it seemed like the perfect day to try it out.  The Pacific Pinball Museum isn't a hands-off, displays-behind-glass museum-- you can actually play the vast majority of the vintage pinball machines.  And, as it turns out, pinball is really a lot of fun!  They have machines dating from the 1930s through today, all organized in rooms by era.  My favorites were the 1970s machines-- more excitement and flashing lights than the older machines, but simple enough that I could still follow the ball.  I particularly liked the El Dorado machine, where one of the goals is to knock down a row of cacti (pinball with a western twist-- perfect!), with the Fireball machine coming in a close second.  We ended up staying for about four hours, and had a great time!

This week's diamonds go to...
- Pinball, obviously.  Tons of fun with a bit of nostalgia mixed in.
- New slippers.  The duct-taped pair has officially been replaced, and I couldn't be happier!

And coals to...
- This weather.  How about some warmer temperatures, eh?

February 24, 2011

When Your Closet Goes on Strike...

A few weeks ago, I wrote about finding a great suit jacket that I totally forgot I had at the back of my closet.  Evidently, the closet was trying to tell me something with that gift, and it seems I may have missed the message and offended it.  As a result, two days ago, it went on strike, and the main closet rod snapped in half and dumped a good portion of Josh's clothes on the floor.  This time, the message was clear: Time to clean out the closet.

We had to move all of the clothes out of the closet in order to replace the rod, so we went through everything as we cleared the mess.  I am always amazed at the amount of stuff you can amass in even short amounts of time, and we ended up with a discard pile large enough to sled down.  I tossed a variety of "belly" shirts (I swear they were longer when I bought them!), and Josh got rid of jeans that he's had for twelve (yes, twelve!) years, along with a wide assortment of clothes we've neither seen nor worn since moving into our house six years ago.

All in all, our closet's looking pretty slim now.  I just hope we can keep it that way!

February 23, 2011

Wedding Trend - Unique Bachelorette Parties

I read an article this morning about a really neat bachelorette party idea.  The bride's sisters threw her a cooking party.  A professional chef helped them prepare a delicious five-course meal while they enjoyed each other's company and some good wine.  Unique bachelor(ette) parties are definitely on the rise, and I talk to more and more brides and grooms who are forgoing the standard night-out-on-the-town party, and are heading out for a day at the spa, a round of golf, afternoon tea parties, and trips to sunny, sandy places.  One of my brides recently flew to Las Vegas for a weekend of casino fun with her best friends.  Another will be heading up to Lake Tahoe soon to spend some time at the casinos there.  Others are staying local, and spending time in San Francisco, getting pampered with spa treatments, sampling great restaurants and throwing fondue parties.  Many grooms are playing golf or hitting the ski slopes for their day out, and heading to comedy and jazz clubs in the evening.

Above all, every bride and groom is going out with good friends and having a great time.  So, what will you be doing for your party?

February 22, 2011

Jessica + Bryan - Walnut Creek Engagement

"Breakfast is the most important meal of the day."  Everyone's heard that saying (I tell this to Josh on a weekly basis!), and for Jessica and Bryan, well, it's really true!  A couple after my own heart, Jessica and Bryan love to go out for breakfast, and so when Bryan proposed one quiet morning over breakfast at their favorite restaurant, it was a definitely the most important meal of the day!

Jessica and Bryan go for walks around downtown Walnut Creek in their free time together, so an early morning stroll was the perfect setting for their engagement shoot.

One of the things that I absolutely loved about this shoot was Jessica and Bryan's joy and happiness.  Jessica smiled the entire shoot, and it was contagious-- I couldn't stop smiling myself!

I just love this photo-- it makes me smile every time.

February 21, 2011

Adventure Camera - Backcountry Skiing

Given the massive amount of snow that's blanketed the Sierra this last week, it seemed appropriate to blog a wintery post.  A while back, before this last storm system, Josh and I managed to get up to the mountains for a quick overnight trip and some backcountry nordic skiing (think cross country skiing, but without trails).  I love getting out on the BC nordic skis-- it's a lot like off-trail hiking, but with a lot more snow, and the skis allow you to cover a good bit of distance pretty quickly.

We decided to tour an area near Kirkwood that we've become fairly familiar with over the years.  We got an early start, and meandered through the forest in the morning light, before climbing up to the saddle above Winnemucca Lake.  The views were amazing, as always, and there wasn't a soul around.  Something about the snow-covered landscape in the Sierra just puts me at peace, and there's nothing quite like sitting in the snow and eating breakfast in the middle of the great white expanse.

So, for those of you up in the mountains today, enjoy the fresh snow and the winter wonderland!

February 18, 2011

Diamonds + Coals - Down Boots and Breakfast at Tiffany's

I grew up in Michigan, where slippers are an absolute necessity in the winter, and even here in California, I still wear slippers around the house when it's chilly.  For the last couple years, my slippers of choice have been down boots, usually of the REI variety.  Since I wear them a lot, they usually last about year, and by November are starting to look pretty sad (and decorated with a little duct tape on the soles).  It works out alright, though, because someone inevitably gives me a new pair for Christmas.  This year, though, REI stopped carrying my favorite slippers, and now that it's February, the foam soles in my current pair have started to make an escape from the remainder of the boot, duct tape notwithstanding.  So, this morning, after I nearly tripped my way into the kitchen for breakfast due to a runaway sole, Josh announced that today was Shop for New Slippers Day.  And so the hunt for 2011's slippers begins....

This week's diamonds go to...
- Having lunch with friends.  It's always great to catch up over a glass of wine and some good Chinese food.
- Uncle Yu's.  I had only been there for dinner until yesterday, and turns out, they have great lunch specials, and of course, great wine pairings.

And coals to...
- Breakfast at Tiffany's, the movie.  We watched it for Valentine's Day, and though I really wanted to like it, the plot was just all over the place.  Maybe it's a generational thing.
- Breakfast at Tiffany's, the song.  After watching the movie, I haven't been able to get Deep Blue Something's song out of my head all week, and it's getting very, very old. 

Have a great weekend, everyone, and I hope to see you at the Concord Wedding Fair on Sunday!

February 17, 2011

Jessica + Nick - Half Moon Bay Engagement

Jessica and Nick are positively adorable together.  I love the way he's always looking out for her, protectively, and the glint of laughter in her eyes whenever she looks at him.  It's love, and I love the lighthearted way they embrace it.  Nick proposed to Jessica on the roof of a certain hotel in Half Moon Bay, and though I'm still not entirely sure how he managed to get up there, and stay up there (it's a pitched roof, not a flat one!), it seemed like the perfect place for their engagement shoot.  We had another one of those gorgeous January days, warm, sunny, and perfect for a trip to the beach.

We started out at the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, where Nick had taken Jessica to watch sunset over the ocean on the day he proposed.

We then headed to downtown Half Moon Bay, which, much like Jack London Square, is an absolute smorgasbord of fun, colorful backdrops, including a multi-story, multi-building mural dedicated to surfing and a wonderful selection of doorways.

Jessica worked the camera like a pro.... Hot!

To wrap things up, we headed out to the beach for a little champagne and relaxation.  What resulted are some of my favorite beach engagement photos to date!

Jessica and Nick, Josh and I had so much fun spending time with you at the beach!  I just know your wedding day is going to be amazing, and I'm honored to be a part of it!

February 16, 2011

Upcoming Event - Brocade Wedding Fair - Concord, CA

If you're in the Bay Area this weekend, stop on by and us at the Brocade Wedding Fair at the Concord Crowne Plaza on Sunday.  Josh and I will be there to tell you all about what we do and show you our latest work, including our Custom Guest Sign-In Albums and our Wedding Day Art Books.  The show is open from 11am to 4pm, with two fashion shows during the day.  We'd love to meet you, and hope to see you there!

February 15, 2011

Wedding Trend - Groom's Attire

In the world of wedding attire, it's generally a given that the bride will choose to wear a gorgeous gown, and her bridesmaids will wear coordinating dresses, but what about the groom and his groomsmen?  Though the standard remains a classic black and white tuxedo, many grooms are adding some of their own style and attitude to their wedding day duds.

Especially for more intimate and informal weddings, suits have become a popular choice for grooms for a few reasons.  First and foremost, since it's not a rental, a suit can (and should) be tailored to fit him to a tee.  Wearing a suit also allows the groom to choose a shirt and tie that more suits his personality, and can add a refreshing pop of color.  Finally, suits come in a wide variety of colors and patterns that aren't typically available for tuxedos - charcoal greys, light tans and pinstripes, for example.

For more formal affairs, tuxedos are still the standard, but can easily be personalized.  A little flair can be added with subtly (or not so subtly!) colored vests, ties and cufflinks.

Last but not least, as with the bride's attire, accessorize!  Shoes, socks, belt buckles and watches are great places to add some personality.  A modern metal-banded watch is an easy addition, and most grooms have a favorite timepiece already.  A pocket-watch will lend a vintage look.  Matching argyle socks for the groom and groomsmen is a popular trend, and results in some very memorable photos.  For our own wedding, Josh wore cowboy boot inspired black dress shoes, and they were a huge hit!

So, grooms, don't feel limited to the standard black and white tux if that just isn't you.  There are tons of options to show your style on your wedding day-- just make sure it coordinates with your bride!

February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day

Back in the day, I never used to celebrate Valentine's Day.  To me, it was a sappy Hallmark holiday, and what's a girl to do when her love is 800 miles away in another state?  Over time, it became habit, and while we'd always say "Happy Valentine's Day" to each other, and spend the evening together, we never really did anything special.  Until last year, that is.

Last February, about every five minutes on television, we saw that Baskin Robbins commercial advertising Valentine's Day ice cream cakes ("Ice cream and cake!  Ice cream and cake!  Ice cream and cake, do the ice cream and cake!").  Being a person who can generally always find an excuse to eat ice cream, I suddenly thought Valentine's Day would be the perfect time for an ice cream cake (Baskin Robbin's advertising clearly works on me.).  So, I ordered us a delicious heart-shaped cake proclaiming "Happy Valentine's Day" in sugary red icing.

We went on a wine tasting tour of Arnold's wineries that Valentine's Day.  Our tasting glasses had little hearts on them, and we walked around downtown holding hands and laughing.  It was like it was our first Valentine's Day together, and we celebrated love and life with meaningful gazes, delicious food, handmade candies, and a lot of very good wine.  Thus began our new Valentine's Day tradition.

This year, we celebrated a few days early, and went to our favorite restaurant, exchanged gifts, bought a heart-themed cake and bags of candy hearts.  Josh bought us a bunch of Valentine's Day movies, and we spent the evening curled up together watching sappy movies all about falling in love.  And I have to say, it was absolutely perfect.

Here's to love and celebrating it with abandon every chance you get!  Happy Valentine's Day!

February 11, 2011

Diamonds + Coals - Shopping in Your Closet

Over the past year or so, I've been trying to downsize the amount of stuff I own.  You know, the stuff that we all collect on a daily basis.  It sits around the house, and hardly ever gets thrown out, but you have no idea why you're still keeping it.  That stuff.

For me, it's been a challenge and a learning experience.  I'll admit, I have a few pack-rat tendencies, and have been known to hang on to things a bit too long.  My closet seems to take the brunt of it (I just know I'll find a place to wear that dress again, someday!).  Every so often, though, I find something good hiding at the back of my closet.  This time, it was a charcoal grey suit jacket that I wore maybe three times, years ago.  Back in the day, it was strictly for business and interviews, but now looks a lot more fun dressing up a pair of jeans, which is great, because I was just thinking that a grey jacket would make a great addition to my wardrobe...

This week's diamonds go to...
- Finding great clothes you forgot you had, in your own closet.  It's like the mall, only way more convenient.
- Costco.  For making it easy to return that second 12-pack of paper towel that I mistakenly bought.

Coals to...
- Telemarketers.  For making me jump from my desk and dash downstairs to pick up our home phone, all to tell me about a special on air duct cleaning services.
- Costco.  For putting the paper towel right next to the toilet paper so that I mistakenly picked up paper towel thinking it was TP, when our TP situation at home was in dire straights.

February 10, 2011

Susan + Watson - San Francisco Zoo Engagement

You can tell Susan and Watson are in love by the way he makes her laugh.  She can't help but smiling whenever she looks at him, and you can see in his eyes that he adores her.  So, when Susan picked up their new kitten one evening after work and found a note on it's collar that read "Will you marry me?", her response was a surprised and delighted "Yes!"

Susan and Watson love to have fun, so it's only natural that we went to the San Francisco Zoo and Golden Gate Park for their engagement shoot.  It was another gorgeous January day-- sunny and warm and perfect for a stroll through the park.

First, we found a great alcove with tree trunks and a spectacular orange wall.

Then on to some greenery, and a tour of all the concrete and brass animal sculptures...

After the zoo and a quick wardrobe change, we headed over to Golden Gate Park for some sightseeing.

The De Young Museum is a great work of architecture, with pressed-metal siding that made a perfect backdrop for my favorite image from the day.

Susan and Watson, I had a great time touring the zoo and park with you two, and I can't wait for your Big Day!

February 9, 2011

Adventure Camera - Architecture

I visited the Hayes Mansion for the first time yesterday, for an engagement shoot with a gorgeous couple (more on that soon!), and what a beautiful place!  Graceful arches, ornate details, and a fantastic red sofa... We all agreed, they just don't make buildings like that anymore.  It's the little details that really give a place a personality, and can add a lot of style to a wedding or engagement shoot.

Now, I know there's a ton of great architecture to be found in California, but one of my favorite architectural delights isn't in any city-- it's in the middle of the desert in Death Valley National Park.  It's a place called Scotty's Castle, and it reminds one of the days when the west was wild, and adventuresome pioneers were settling the frontiers of California.

So, Jodie, this one's for you-- here are a few of the architectural details of Scotty's Castle.  Enjoy!

February 8, 2011

Wedding Trend - Selling the Dress

You've heard about brides selling their wedding dress after their Big Day, but I recently read an article about brides pre-selling their dresses before their own wedding.  Some brides selling pre-ceremony gowns have gone over their dress budget, and are hoping to recoup some of that money quickly.  Other brides say that it helps their gowns sell faster, because the style is still current.  Either way, it's an interesting concept, especially from a sentimental view.

Almost every couple saves certain items from their wedding for sentimental reasons, whether it's the veil, the bouquet, the cake topper, or very commonly, the wedding dress.  Somehow, after you've said your I do's, it all seems to mean a little more than it did before.  I'm a prime example of this.  Before our wedding, I said that I was most certainly going to sell my dress after the Big Day-- I wasn't planning to wear it again, and I've only met one person who has actually worn her mother's dress at her own wedding.  A year and a half later, it's still in my closet, and I'm just not quite ready to part with it.  I occasionally make jokes about wearing it about town on Halloween or an anniversary date to cover, but it's not fooling anyone.

So, my question is, will any of the brides pre-selling their dresses feel differently about their gown after having been married in it?  What do you think?

February 7, 2011

Winter Sunrises

As a photographer, sunrise is one of my favorite times of day.  Everything is fresh and peaceful in the soft, predawn light, and then the sun blazes over the horizon, painting the sky in broad strokes of pink, orange and purple and warming the landscape below.  During most of the year, you have to be up and at it really early to catch the sunrise, sleep much past 6am (or 5am in the summer!), and you'll miss the best of it.

In the winter months, however, sunrise occurs much later, in the seven o'clock hour.  Here at the Filliater household, we're up early, and I've gotten to watch sunrise nearly every morning for the past couple months, which I love.  The unfortunate part is that right now, sunrise is a solid hour and some after we get up, and I don't think I have to tell anyone about the challenges of convincing oneself to climb out of a warm, soft bed on a dark, chilly Monday morning.  So, for those of you still working on waking up, here's a warm Death Valley sunrise to help you on your way.

Happy Monday!

February 4, 2011

Diamonds + Coals - January in California

While growing up in Michigan, January was the month I liked the least.  It was cold, with bouts of freezing rain and sleet, and the sun peeked out for what seemed like a scant ten minutes each day.  Living in California, however, has entirely changed my views on the month of January, especially this year.  It's been sunny and warm, perfect for engagement shoots, whether on the beach, in town, or at the zoo.  So, while my family is all hunkered down for the "Snowpocalypse,"  I've been out shooting gorgeous couples and spending some time on the water with Josh.  Yes, I believe I'm a true Californian now.

This week's diamonds go to...
- January in California.  Sunny and 70 degrees, need I say more?
- My brother Brian.  For introducing the words "snowpocalypse" and "snowmageddon" into my vocabulary.  I plan to use them with reckless abandon whenever talking about the Midwest.

And coals to...
- The news channels here who are already thinking about the "D" word.  Really, it's been a lovely January, can't we just enjoy it for a while without worrying about a drought?

Have a great weekend, everyone!

February 3, 2011

Wedding Trend - Heirloom Wedding Rings

Like most girls, I'm a sucker for all things sparkly.  If it glitters, shines, shimmers or twinkles, I'm in love.  So, it only makes sense that one of my favorite wedding details to shoot is the rings.

Rings are one of the most personal and unique parts of a wedding, and always reflect the couple's personalities perfectly, whether it's a simple, elegant solitaire, an artistic design with colored gems, or a spectacular diamond-encrusted halo and band.  I can personally attest to this-- Josh chose a ring with sapphire accents for me, and it's positively Me.

Every once in a while, though, I meet a couple whose rings have a little extra sentimental value.  Nikki and Paul were one of those couples, and her engagement ring, which had been handed down through generations of Paul's family, was the perfect fit for two of the most wonderful and devoted people I've met.  They designed two wedding bands to complement her engagement ring, and the result was a gorgeous blend of old and new.

It seems that heirloom rings used to be more common, but are more of a rarity these days, which begs the question:  Will you be handing your rings down to your children and grandchildren?  Why or why not?  I'd love to hear your thoughts, so please feel free to comment!

February 2, 2011

Adventure Camera - Kayaking in the Rain

For a long time, Josh and I were weather wimps, at least with regards to the rain (snow and cold weather is an entirely different story).  Hiking in the rain, biking in the rain, running in the rain.... it just isn't our cup of tea.  This year, however, we made a commitment to get outside as much as possible, even if the weather didn't cooperate.  No more wimping out for us!

We ran into our first challenge last week, when the weather forecasters sentenced us with a cold, rainy day, but we were ready this time.  What better way to spend the day than in a kayak?  We were already going to get wet, so what's a little more water?  Kayaking turned out to be the perfect rainy-day activity.  We bundled up in every bit of neoprene we had, and headed out to Tamales Bay for a January tour.  In stark contrast to a trip we took there last summer, we had the whole bay to ourselves.  The quiet waters combined with the grey skies gave us a sense of humbling solitude.

Finally, after many bouts of rain and very thick fog, the clouds broke to reveal the green pastures surrounding the bay, with a full rainbow arching overhead.  A perfect finish to a great day.


February 1, 2011

The Gym

Yesterday evening, Josh and I tried to get back on the gym bandwagon after, well, a really long time off.  It was the most successful attempt to date-- we made it all the way to the parking lot and into a parking space before turning around and going home.  Today, we decided to try something a little different, and headed to the gym in the morning, before starting our day.  This time we actually went into the gym and worked out for a half an hour before the extreme boredom got to us.  Somehow, reruns of Charmed just don't keep me motivated.

I admit, I used to have a few gym rat tendencies.  I'd work out every day, sometimes twice a day, and even taught kickboxing classes for a while.  (Yep, I was that person.)  Then, I discovered outdoor recreation-- biking, hiking, kayaking, trail running-- and the gym suddenly seemed a lot less interesting.  So, after today's trip to the gym, Josh and I are looking back to the great outdoors for our workouts.  We'll see how it goes, but what I do know is that I miss riding my bike.