Several months ago, a woman named Wendy emailed me and asked if I would be open to holding a food photography workshop in her home near Laguna, CA. I said, YES, of course, and I was honestly excited about the opportunity. However, there is always some apprehension about meeting and collaborating with people who you only know through social media. What if you don't get along? What if the chemistry is just wrong?
Plus, there is another thing.
I am just going to say it-- I have some pre-conceived notions about Southern California.
I feel guilty writing that, but it's just the truth.
As a Seattle gal to the core, I have always been surrounded by outdoorsy, earthy, socially-conscious people. My city is comprised of funky neighborhoods with community gardens, cozy coffee shops, used bookstores, and farmers markets. Many people walk or bike to work, and nature is always close at hand-- whether it's the San Juan islands, the Olympic rain forest, or the mountains, it's always easy to get out of the urban landscape.
People who don't live in Seattle usually think it rains every day (it doesn't) or that everyone is a flannel-wearing, grunge-listening liberal (not true either.)
My point is that Seattle people get stereotyped every day. Some assumptions are accurate, some aren't.
It happens everywhere, about every city and every group of people.
The important thing is that we push past our assumptions and allow ourselves to be proven wrong.
As Joe and I rolled in Los Angeles, we both started grumbling. The temperature was too hot for us, the traffic was unbearable, there were too many strip malls, the sky was hazy. After inching along on the freeway for 2 hours, trying to get to our hotel in Santa Ana, we were about ready to scream.
My So Cal assumptions were turning out to be pretty accurate.
The next morning, we woke up ready to tackle the tasks at hand. I needed to figure out a vegan menu for the photography class and then buy the food for my workshop happening the following day. We needed to navigate our way from Santa Ana to Ladera Ranch in traffic, (again.) We needed to find a park where Nina could run around.
Our first stop was Whole Foods. I must tell you, I was a little nervous about creating a totally vegan class, which was Wendy's request. I have a certain menu I am comfortable with for my classes and, well, it tends to involve a good amount of cheese.
So, when I walked into the Tustin Whole Foods, I was overwhelmed. I needed a variety of vegan foods that would hold well overnight, be delicious and provide a nice lunch for my students, and would also be photogenic.
I am happy to say that everyone who helped me at Whole Foods was AWESOME. Each employee I spoke to helped me design and pick out vegan items that would work perfectly for my class.
Next stop was Wendy's house.
Any fears and anxieties I had were immediately put to rest the second I met Wendy. Her huge, gorgeous smile and warm hug made me feel instantly comfortable. She showed me around her beautiful home, (which was perfectly prepped for the workshop, complete with multiple workstations that included hand-painted tables Wendy and her husband had prepared) and then we discussed the logistics for the next day.
Based on Wendy's suggestions, Joe and I spent the rest of that morning at a nearby dog park and then a good part of the afternoon in Old Towne Orange, since there are over 60 antique shops within a one-mile radius and she knew my obsession with prop shopping.
Needless to say, I was in HEAVEN!
I found a few treasures, and we were blown away by the lovely service we received and the several dog-friendly businesses that welcomed Nina in their doors.
Later, we enjoyed a really tasty dinner at Mozza in Newport Beach.
The next day was the workshop. And, wow. All of the lovely ladies who attended were simply wonderful-- kind, funny, gracious, generous, and immensely talented. I feel lucky to have met them.
And the vegan menu that I was so worried about provided some big but ultimately really rewarding challenges for everyone. The photos that were created by the attendees were gorgeous.
Wendy and her husband, Steve, invited Joe and I (and Nina) to a beach in Laguna following the workshop. We walked and talked. We drank some wine, watched the waves, and talked some more. Nina desperately wanted to dive in the surf but we obeyed the rules and didn't let her. We almost got attacked by the impending rising tide but got away in the nick of time. And then we went to a little restaurant that Wendy and Steve love and ate some freakin' awesome tacos. And talked some more.
Rarely do you meet people who feel like kindred spirits, like instant friends. Wendy is one of those people. She just shines and, consequently, you want to know her better. Her husband, Steve, is just as lovely-- thoughtful, sweet, and so easy to be around.
Joe and I cannot wait to see them again, (and we hope they travel to Seattle sometime very soon! Hint, hint.)
I am leaving So Cal with an immense amount of gratitude and a lot of great memories.
And I am looking forward to the next visit.