Knott's for the Cure

"We want women to survive and thrive through breast cancer." And with that statement, applause thundered throughout the room.

Knott's Berry Farm has proudly partnered with the Orange County Affiliate of Susan G. Komen, and it was there at the celebration breakfast that the true power of it all began to unfold. The room was a sea of pink, but it wasn't just the decor. Audience and speakers alike were decked out in the color that has become synonymous with breast cancer awareness, showing their support thereof and solidarity with one another.

Because everyone has a story.

Every. single. person. in that room had been touched in some way or another by breast cancer... whether they were a survivor, a support, or were there to honor someone's memory. In Orange County, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. But, thanks to Komen's funding of research, new treatments and awareness of the importance of annual mammograms to detect breast cancer in its earliest and most curable stages, the survival rate for breast cancer has risen dramatically over the 33 years of the organization. Leading to many more celebrations like this one.

Because there was a strength in that room as I've never before seen. These women were powerful, and many of them weren't even aware of their strength and beauty. The survivors stood tall. And a few women, still undergoing treatment, stood the tallest of them all. These women will not go down without a fight.

They've taken their stories, their struggles, and their pain... and turned it into strength. Turning towards one another for not just comfort, but the recognition that they weren't alone in this battle, and then taking that strength and bringing it out into the world to help others.

The mic was passed, and a few stories were shared. Many had a similar theme: "I can't have cancer. I don't have TIME for this." Because it's often overlooked... just because a woman deals with "the C word," it's not like the rest of the world slows down around her. One woman mentioned her own struggles in balancing real life again, and said she worried about spending too little time focusing on her son. But out of the mouth of babes sometimes come the healing words that are needed the most: "Mom, remember that day when we were helping to save lives? That's what it's all about."

Breakfast was concluded the way it began... with thunderous applause and cheers... as Rebecca shared her own experience: "I am 4 years away from cancer, and every day I walk further away from it and give it the finger."

It had been stated that the journey through breast cancer is like riding a rollercoaster. There are definitely ups and downs, any maybe even a bit of screaming and crying. But there is also strength in numbers, and no one needs to go through the journey alone.

With that thought in mind, the breast cancer survivors went for a symbolic ride together on the Pony Express... one of the rollercoasters of Knott's Berry Farm.

Surrounded and empowered by those who have all "been there before," their screams of fear turned instead to screams of joy.

Knott's Berry Farm is playing a pretty big role in helping to find a cure for breast cancer. From February 1 through March 31, they are offering a special "Pink Ticket" for theme park admission (available for purchase online at www.knotts.com), as well as limited edition specially designed "pink" merchandise. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Susan G. Komen Orange County. And to kick off the promotion, Knott's Berry Farm has generously donated $25,000, which will provide 400 women in Orange County with life-saving breast health services.

KnottsSusanGKomen-65Guests entering the theme park during the time of the promotion will be greeted by this special display, and guests are able to purchase a commemorative limited edition magnet to place on the display in honor of, or in memory of, someone affected by breast cancer.


KnottsSusanGKomen-59I, myself, left a magnet in honor of my mom's best friend, Jackie. She is definitely a strong woman, and the world is a much better place with her still a part of it.

KnottsSusanGKomen-55These magnets, as well as special edition pink Knott's for the Cure shirts, are available in select merchandise locations inside Knott's Berry Farm, and all proceeds will benefit Komen Orange County.

KnottsSusanGKomen-46 You can even take a picture in-park and share it with your social media network.

KnottsSusanGKomen-50Because it's all about spreading the word. Touching people at an individual level, so that their voices as a collective become that much stronger.


KnottsSusanGKomen-42KnottsSusanGKomen-37For instance... Jacque is a survivor. She got through it, and didn't let her cancer define her. Just a little piece of her story: She is a single mom, and had just started taking classes at a community college when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She found out on her son's 2nd birthday. When many women might crumble under the strain, Jacque decided that she was not going to let it win. She continued her classes and graduated with a full scholarship to UCI. Just having graduated from there with a B.A. in Psychology, she is about to continue her education by going for her doctorate.

KnottsSusanGKomen-39She is most definitely an inspiration, along with so many other women I had the pleasure of meeting that day. As individuals, they are strong. As a collective, hear them ROAR!


Show your love and support by participating in this wonderful event at Knott's Berry Farm.

Visit Knotts.com to learn more, or connect with them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Visit KomenOC.org to learn more, or call 1-877 GO KOMEN. You can also connect with them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


how a McDonald's drive-through reinforced what it is I do

20140129-141140.jpg I was craving an iced coffee. Badly. And I was practically drooling just thinking about it. But I was also in a rush. Rather than take the few minutes to park, walk into Starbucks and wait in line, I decided to hit up the MCDonald's drive-through for one of their fabulous sugar-free vanilla iced lattes with nonfat milk instead. I meeeeeean, their coffees ARE pretty great, right? And let's face it... they're a whole LOT cheaper than the ones from Starbucks.

good coffee + save a few bucks = great idea, right? Maybe not...

Grumble #1: the drive through was more crowded than I'd imagined it might be at that time. What I thought would be quick turned into an extra-long wait.

Grumble #2: placing an order for something mega-complicated at someplace like McDonald's. (totally my bad.) Yes, they DO offer a medium sugar-free vanilla iced latte with nonfat milk (and I've ordered it plenty of times). But it's a mouthful to say, and a bit more complicated than asking for a simple diet coke that can be ordered with one push of a button on the employee's end. I had to repeat the order a few times to make sure the guy got it.

Aaaaaand, then things went from bad to worse...

Grumble #3: I was handed a HOT latte. I explained to the woman in the window that I'd ordered an ICED latte. She was totally flustered and didn't know what to do.

Grumble #4: She scooped a cupful of ice, then started to pour the HOT coffee over the ICE. Now, children... were you all paying attention in science class? Know what happens when you pour HOT liquid over ICE? Yup... lots of extra water in my "iced" latte.

Grumble#3: So there I was, leaning from the driver's seat of my car towards her window, waving my arms wildly and yelling "excuse me" over and over again, trying to get her attention. And let me tell you... it was NOT pretty. And I felt more than a wee bit like an idiot.

Grumble#4: I got her attention, but... She. Didn't. Understand. When I asked if she could just make me a real one from scratch, she left to get her manager to deal with me instead. The cars were piling up behind me, and my face was burning with embarrassment. I mean, I could have just let it go, but I'd come there just FOR that iced latte. I didn't think it was a complicated request, but I felt like a fool.

Thankfully, her manager understood what I was asking for, promptly made me my coffee the correct way as it had been ordered, and handed it to me with an apology and a smile. I thanked her and quickly drove away.


My heart rate was elevated, I was now in a foul mood, and though I still drank it, it felt like my magical little outing had been spoiled. The coffee tasted okay, but I could no longer enjoy it. Because my experience had been ruined. And I immediately remembered why I started going to Starbucks, even though it meant taking a few more minutes, and paying triple the price for a cup of coffee.

Because with SOOOOOO many things in life, it's never just about the actual item you were after... it's also about the entire experience that surrounds it.


Aaaaand... how this actually relates to what I do:

I hear some version of THIS more than you might think: "The last time we had professional photos taken was over a year (or two or three) ago... we'd gotten a GREAT deal, but it was soooooo stressful. The kids were crying through most of it and my husband didn't want to even be there. It was a nightmare. We DID get some good pictures out of it, and my mom loves them, but I just don't want to go through that again..."

So here's my promise to you: I'm not the McDonald's of the photography world. I don't offer a quick in-and-out experience, and my rates aren't the cheapest you'll find. But I CAN promise you this (pinkie-swear and all): what I offer is tooooootally worth the investment.

I focus on the experience as a whole (so that you don't have to), by offering a FUN portrait session (from start to finish)... where moms can relax, dads actually smile (for real) in front of the camera, and kids are able to be their awesome selves. (And I'm a whiz at avoiding meltdowns.) You'll have an amazingly personalized experience, memories will be made, and the resulting photographs will be like souvenir keepsakes of your time together. (And I'll even get your coffee order right.)


Ready to PLAY with a session of your own? Or want to simply learn more about the process? Contact me and let's get started.





As Seen on: Fashionably Geek

I never truly realized I was a geek until I got older. Long after the girls around me began to focus on makeup and boys, I'd still loved my cartoons and superhero movies. So when I met my husband, it was a match made in heaven. I mean, come on... during our first date we were even singing some of their theme songs together. Ha! Tony helped me delve even further into the land of geekdom, and I have since fallen in love with many of his passions, as well. I can tell you which character is of what universe (talking Marvel vs DC here), why the new Star Wars trilogy never should have happened the way that they did, and can fully defend my position on why Batman and Iron Man are possibly the best "superheroes" ever, even though they're not actually superheroes at all (hooray for the self-made man!). Tony also introduced me into the world of Cosplay, where people dress in costume to pay homage to their favorite characters, shows and the like. With his amazing design skills and my mother-in-law's mad sewing skills, they created this beautiful Steampunk-Lady-Iron-Man costume for me to wear at WonderCon. It was soooooo incredibly fun, and I felt amazing in it. Almost like a superhero, myself.

So, especially on the day that Iron Man 3 hits the movie theaters, imagine my delight to see that my costume and I had been featured today on the website Fashionably Geek.

The Suitcase Studio featured on Fashionably Geek as Cosplay Lady Iron Man

Click here to see the full article.

I'll be wearing this again at ComicCon in July, so if you see me, PLEASE come say hi.  Hope to see you there!!!


to remember.

Today is a day of remembrance for me, and I wanted to (re) share some of the most important words I've ever written.... and also a BIG reason why I do what I do. The blog post below was written 2 years ago, but too important not to share again:

That’s ME in the middle of the picture below. The one with bright maroon haircut in the shape of a bowl.  The one who hadn’t yet discovered the art of eyebrow waxing. The one who still suffered heavily from acne. I cringe when I look at myself in this image. But I wanted to share it, along with a few others, for a very important reason. Please read on…

These images were taken in March of 1999, during my trip with the Fullerton College Choir to China. It was a very interesting trip, complicated by the fact that I had gotten sick with bronchitis on the plane trip over there. And for 10 days, I lived off of NyQuil and DayQuil. But I DID it. I visited places I never thought I would see in my lifetime. I got a chance to perform a song, sung in a Chinese language (Mandarin), to actual Chinese people (no pressure there...). I even climbed the Great Wall of China, bronchitis and all. Because I could either embrace this opportunity for all it was worth, or give in, give up, and go back home. So I stayed, and gave it all I got.

And so, I have an album filled with grainy images from my trip to China. Bad haircut, bad skin and all. But these images are even more precious to me than you might think…

Please take just a second to notice the other person featured in all of these pictures I have posted here. This was my good friend, David Lam. Unfortunately, I have to say “was,” because about one month after returning back home from our trip, David was killed in a car accident. This happened 12 years ago, today… April 26, 1999. And as I get older, and my memories fade with each passing year, I look to these photos to help me remember him. Seeing these images triggers my memory to dig a little deeper, to draw to the surface what might have otherwise been lost. And suddenly I can see us both in the moments when the photos were actually taken… I can hear the sound of his voice, see the way he moved and facial expressions he wore… things that made up who he was. And I can remember.

My bad haircut is forgotten. It’s not important here; I don’t even notice it anymore. Instead, I will forever be grateful that I stopped for just one moment to have these photos taken. So, the next time you find yourself thinking, “I don’t want to have my picture taken because I don’t look good today,” or “I want to lose 10 pounds first,” or “I simply HATE having my picture taken,” please stop and think of this. It doesn’t matter if you don’t look perfect. This is your life, and you, or somebody you love, might want to look back on this very moment and remember it.

So, whether you get professional pictures taken by me, or you simply pick up your point-and-shoot or even your iPhone to capture your days, please do it. I can promise you that your bad hair day won’t even be an issue.


One last thing to show you just how much pictures really matter… here is an image of Dave while we were in China. He had actually brought a framed picture of Catherine Zeta-Jones along with him so he would have something pretty to look at. I’m totally serious.  : )  And it still makes me smile.

Superhero for a Day // WonderCon 2013

I was 8 years old. Wearing my Strawberry Shortcake plastic apron and hot-as-heck mask with the elastic bands and barely-there mouth hole (children of the 70s/80s... you KNOW what I'm talking about), but I wasn't simply wearing a costume. I WAS Strawberry Shortcake. For a few short hours on Halloween night, my pretend world became real, and I was her. It was the ultimate expression of what I loved and who I really wanted to be. As I grew older, and it became less acceptable to play in the pretend world, my toys and dolls were regulated to their shelves. Stuffed animals stayed on my bed a bit longer, but even they eventually got put away. I still decorated my notebooks with Hello Kitty stickers (because that form of expression was still "okay"), but most of the land of make-believe got left behind.

But I still looked forward to Halloween each year, because only then could I dress up and PLAY like I used to when I was a kid.

Till now...

Last weekend I took a trip to the Anaheim Convention Center, although for all intents and purposes I might as well have been on another planet.

Surrounded my space aliens, superheroes and cartoon characters alike, it was definitely a geek's paradise. And I loved every moment of it.

These are my people... WonderCon2013 128.jpg

Welcome to WonderCon. For those of you who haven't ever heard of WonderCon before, don't worry. You're not alone.

WonderCon is like the kid sister of Comic-Con (which is the mother-ship of all geekdom). Here's the scoop: Comic-Con is a 4-day spectacle of everything comic, cartoon and pop-culture, including panels of actor interviews, sneak peeks at upcoming movies and tv shows, and a humongous tradeshow. But tickets are known to sell out within 15 minutes (no joke), so not everyone gets to play. So the people who operate Comic-Con did something pretty brilliant... offer smaller versions of the event at various locations throughout different times of the year.

Enter WonderCon. Now in it's second year at the Anaheim Convention Center, there are talks of making this a permanent annual event. (woohoo!) Yes, the tradeshow is nice, and some of the panels are pretty spectacular (Joss Whedon was there this year), but my favorite part of it all are the costumes!

It's like Halloween. On crack.

No, you don't have to dress up, but it's definitely encouraged. And applauded. The world of cosplay is pretty amazing like that.

So, this is me. As a steampunk version of Iron Man. (Costume designed by my husband and created by my mother-in-law. Yeah... they kinda rock like that.)

WonderCon2013 178.jpg

My husband (Tony) also got into the fun, dressed as Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean. (Most of this costume was also created from scratch by his mother.)

WonderCon2013 202.jpg

And then... we PLAYED. Tony and I met up with friends of ours (also in Marvel-universe steampunk costumes) and simply wandered the lobby area, enjoying the spectacle. (And many, many thanks to Tony, for tag-teaming the camera with me... to ensure that I actually ended up IN some photos for a change...ha!)

(Deadpool, Iron Man, Lady Deathstrike, another Deadpool and Wolverine)

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(And Jack Sparrow, of course...)

WonderCon2013 47.jpg

There were plenty of pirates to go around.

WonderCon2013 71.jpg

And I found other members of my Avengers team... and nemesis Loki, as well.

WonderCon2013 87.jpg

There were also lots of other people there in Iron Man costumes, as well. WonderCon2013 73.jpg

But none as cute as THIS kid, dressed as Tony Stark!

WonderCon2013 159.jpg

I headed back outside just in time to capture this fantastic photo-op... sooooo many costumed characters from the DC Universe posing all together. The rows of photographers lined up to get these shots were 10 people deep, so rather than wait behind them all for a glance at the scene, I wedged into the sidelines and shot from where I was.

WonderCon2013 125.jpg

But I got lucky. The person running the show spotted me in costume with my camera, and waved me over to the FRONT  of the group of photographers, and gave me a dead-center position!!! Which is how I got this shot below, as well as the first one in this blog post.

WonderCon2013 131.jpg

Words cannot express how much FUN this day was. So I'll let my photos do the talking for a bit...

WonderCon2013 23.jpg WonderCon2013 26.jpg WonderCon2013 136.jpg

Captain Hammer, Dr. Horrible and a person from the Bad Horse Chorus (Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog)

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Plenty of players from the Star Wars universe

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Cosplayers from the Batman world

WonderCon2013 39.jpg

Misc. others

WonderCon2013 30.jpg

And, of course, lots of Disney characters. How CUTE is this father/daughter dressed as Wreck-It-Ralph and Penelope Von Schweetz???

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And a few personal favorites of mine... My Little Pony characters.

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Wolverine and Wolverine. Too, too adorable!!!

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Note to parents: this is a kid-friendly place, and makes for fantastic entertainment at a low-low cost. Meaning, it's FREE. While tickets to actually get into the tradeshow and panel area do cost a little bit (and are known to sell out ahead of time, as I learned the hard way), the front and lobby area of the Anaheim Convention Center are open to the public for free. And this is where the people in costume spend most of their time.

I highly recommend putting this on your radar for next year. I know I'll be there... dressed and ready to PLAY.


Click here to see even MORE pictures from the day.

Vegas, here I COME...

camera? check.business cards? double-check. notebooks & pens? checkity-check. uber-comfy shoes??? triple-check on THIS one!

It's that time of year again... from March 7-14, 15,000+ photographers will be swarming MGM Grand in Las Vegas for the annual WPPI Expo. (WPPI = Wedding & Portrait Photographers International.) So if you want what happens in Vegas to STAY in Vegas, I would suggest NOT being there when we are. Cameras blazing, we're in full force, and it's a sight to be seen.

It's a LOT of fun, but it's also a fabulous learning experience, as well. Kinda like being back in college for a few days... early morning classes & late-night parties. Ha!

And it's one of the highlights of my year. This will be my 5th year in attendance.

I'm looking forward to the HUGE tradeshow, where I'll be meeting with my current vendors as well as scouting for some new ones. I'm BIG on comparison-shopping, to make sure my clients get the BEST products possible.

And of course, there are the classes. I'll always be a student at heart, so I'm excited about this, too. I'm signed up for 5 classes, and might even squeeze in one more if I can. From motivational speakers to better SEO and album design, I can't wait to soak it all up. But the class I'm looking forward to the MOST: learning how to put together stylized/themed shoots for children. Yup, that's right! I'll be offering THEMED mini-sessions VERY soon... so be sure to stay tuned for all the news on THAT one!

But for now I'm in still in the Vegas prep & planning stage. I've got my color-coded schedule printed out (yup, I'm THAT much of a dork), my new WPPI app loaded to my phone (crossing fingers it works with everyone trying to access it all at once), and just purchased my ticket to the best party EVER!

Now I just need to figure out what to wear...


behind the scenes: coloring & contortionism

I am not a graceful photographer. When I'm on a shoot, I don't dress in cute skirts or heels. I bend. I twist. I kneel and crawl. Whatever it takes to get the shot. I contort myself into some pretty interesting poses. I've never quite seen it from this side of things. But thanks to my husband and his iPhone, I got to see myself act like a monkey. Ha! But thanks to his iPhone, I also got to see another cool side of what happens... something that most clients don't see until they experience it for themselves. The FUN and unexpected moments. Like coloring. Yes, coloring. As in crayons, markers & drawing paper.

Sometimes I'll incorporate it into the actual shoot. I might ask everyone to create a family portrait together.

And sometimes I'll use it to create a pocket of alone time when needed. For instance, I'll ask the kiddos to create a quick picture or card for their parents. They've got 5 minutes... GO! And then in that time, I have some alone time with the parents... where I'm able to get pictures of JUST THE TWO OF THEM TOGETHER. Because, honestly, how often does that actually happen?

And the next part is fun, too. Each kid takes a turn presenting their drawing to their parents. The pure love and joy on their faces... and the hugs and kisses that follow... are absolutely beautiful to behold. And 100% genuine.

And it makes for a FUN... and memorable... experience for all.


Some behind-the-scene iPhone pictures...

And the resulting shots I was able to capture...

A few more behind-the-scenes with the iPhone...

And some resulting shots...

Contact me if you're ready to play with a session of your own. I promise we'll have FUN.

DIY Packaging Station

This is the year of organization! And my first mini-project: an over-the-door wrapping/packaging station! I've wanted to do this for SOOOOO long, but just never took the time to tackle it. Till now. (Ta-Da!) (That's a lot of "t's", but let's move on, shall we?)

I have a teeny-tiny place, so not a lot of room to spread out as I'd like. But I didn't relish my old routine of breaking out a box of supplies and digging through them every time I had an order to prepare. Nuh-uh. So now, I'm streamlined. (I hear the angels singing as a golden ray of sun appears...)

I bought myself an ordinary over-the-door towel rack to use for this project. Then I simply draped my favorite tissue papers over the bars. (Note: must use smaller size tissue, as many types are too long to fit here without being trimmed first. I learned this the hard way with the striped-patterned tissue paper.)

On one hook at the bottom of the towel rack hangs my spool of baker's twine.

On the other hook hangs some gift bags. I use one gift bag to hold the rest of my smaller packaging supplies: thank you notes, pens, scissors, and logo stickers.

Now everything has its place. My boxes are kept flat inside my closet, and my smaller supplies have a place of their own within easy grasp.

Easy-peasy. And super-cute, too. TheSuitcaseStudio_0039.jpg


REMEMBER: Just a few short days left to take advantage of 2012 pricing! Pricing goes up as of January 31st. Contact me here to book your session now.