And now, for the final batch of beautiful faces that I met in Sonoma this past weekend:
I met Erin, above, earlier this year at the ALT Summit, and found her really charming; however, I was able to spend far more time with her this past weekend, and "charming" doesn't even begin to describe her. This woman is criminally adorable. She doesn't have an unkind word to say about anybody or anything, and she reminded me of a Disney Princess. Everyone agreed, too: we all suspected that if she just sang a few notes, birds and other wildlife would cautiously appear out of the woods surrounding us, entranced by her voice and ready to do her bidding. And I sincerely say all of this without a trace of irony -- she's that lovely.
I've followed Nicole's blog for some time -- she writes about transforming her lovely bungalow outside of Chicago into something even lovelier. Since I love home decor and Nicole is a master at design (girlfriend had me at her library -- my heavens, what a lovely place), I expected her to be incredibly stylish.
Needless to say, she was. But even more than that, the word I'd use to describe Nicole is "classy." She was always so composed and so gracious. It was lovely to finally officially meet her in person.
This was the first time I really had an opportunity to sit down with Roxanna, and my goodness, what a treat. It turns out that we have a lot of similarities -- we're both from Caribbean islands and we're married to European husbands -- so meeting her was almost like reuniting with family. She's friendly and funny and she didn't laugh at me even once when I tried to speak Spanish. A lovely woman.
Erin is a sommelier who gave us a wine education course before heading off to a vineyard for a wine tasting. She can explain everything about wines and the wine industry that you ever wanted to know, even using words like "bouquet" and "round" and "angular," and it doesn't feel the least bit pretentious, and you won't feel the least bit stupid. She's incredibly engaging, and when at the end of a wine tour I asked her to sit down and let me photograph her, she didn't hesitate for a moment. I'm so glad I asked, too -- because when the light saw her face it did lovely things in my camera lens, and the shot above is one of my favourite portraits I've ever taken. Thanks so much, Erin.
What can I say -- I just love Cecily. She's funny, searingly smart, raw and unapologetic. I've know Cecily for several years, and I don't think I have any clue what this woman looks like when she's not smiling. I don't even remember when I met Cecily -- she's been a constant at many different blogging conferences -- but every time I see her she's always ready with a warm, kind word.
Also? I secretly totally covet her shocking magenta hair.
If there's one person I'm really sorry I didn't get to know better, that person is Elizabeth -- or "Legs," as she was quickly dubbed, since she has apparently participated in thirty-seven -- that's thirty-seven -- ultramarathons and marathons, and honey, it shows. (Sidenote: even if the difference in our fitness levels isn't immediately apparent just by glancing -- which, dear God, it is -- it's also obvious in our level of knowledge, for I have no clue what on God's green Earth an "ultramarathon" is. In fact, I suspect I don't want to know. But I digress.)
What I love about Elizabeth however, is how radiant she is. At one point over the weekend, my friend Kelly brought Elizabeth to me, and said, "Karen, you have to become friends with Elizabeth -- she's our peeps!" and without hesitation, Elizabeth gave me this huge hug.
Sadly, that was about the sum total of our conversation over the weekend. But I suspect that Kelly is right -- Elizabeth is my peeps.
While walking through the redwoods on Sunday, I fell in step with the very lovely Leah, a blogger from the Bay Area. Two minutes into the conversation it was clearly apparent that this was a woman who fiercely loves her family, and fiercely loves her friends. When she spoke about her partner, her child, or her best girlfriends, her face positively lit up, and it was so beautiful to watch. I loved meeting her, and can't wait to keep up with her on her blog.
Liz is one of the first people I met when I arrived at the hotel on Friday evening, and she approached me almost as if she'd seen me just the day before, and even the day before that, as if we were old friends. At this point, I've hopefully convinced you that everyone I encountered this weekend was warm and friendly; however, Liz still wins the award for being the most approachable, laid-back and easygoing person I met. She's positively delightful, and I can't wait to get to know her better.
Plus she has that positively sunlit smile. Can you believe that amazing smile?
And finally, the lone rooster in the hen house, Bryan. Bryan is actually Maggie Mason's husband, and he was there basically to help ensure that everything ran smoothly. I met Bryan at the beginning of this year, and immediately liked him: he's wickedly smart and incredibly funny, and I was really flattered when he invited me to join him on his SXSW panel, "8 Ways to Deal with Bastards." A great guy.
So! You've now officially seen all the beautiful new faces that I photographed this past weekend. Thanks to all of the wonderful people who let me take their photographs -- I'm so grateful.
Images: Everyone photographed with my Nikon D300, 50mm lens.