Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Help Fire Victims & Finish Holiday Shopping Early!

Our thoughts are with all of the families affected by the fires of the past few weeks. To help those in need, Polka Photos will be donating 50% of its print sale profits from now until Dec. 31 to the Red Cross California Wildfire Fund.

So get all of your holiday shopping done early and help fire victims in the process!

If you'd like to make donations directly, here are a few organizations helping people affected by the fires:

American Red Cross - California Fire Fund

Direct Relief International - California Fire Fund
Direct Relief International provides medical assistance to improve the quality of life for people victimized by poverty, disaster, and civil unrest at home and throughout the world.

Salvation Army - Wildfire Relief Effort
There is now a great need for financial aid to support such efforts as rental assistance and temporary housing for fire victims.

The Burn Institute
The Burn Institute is a nonprofit health agency dedicated to reducing the number of burn injuries and deaths in San Diego, Imperial, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

If you know of anyone who needs burn assistance, The Burn Institute has funds available left to provide counseling, financial aid and other support for the 22 people seriously burned in the Cedar and Paradise fires. Due to medical privacy laws, the names of these individuals cannot be released so please pass the word along that free medical help as well as support is available.

California State Firefighters' Association
To help the CFSA encourages a tax-deductable donation to the Fire Services Training Institute.

Los Angeles Firemen's Relief Organization

San Diego City Firefighters

For our animal friends:

SPCA - Disaster Animal Response Team

San Diego Humane Society & SPCA

To offer non-cash donations (food, clothes, blankets, etc) or volunteer:

California Governor's Office of Emergency Services: 1-800-750-2858

Salvation Army - Southern California

San Diego Food Bank

The Jewish Community Disaster Fund

St. Vincent de Paul


California Volunteers

Help in Disaster

Emergency Animal Rescue

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Prayers for California

Los Angeles, California
It is difficult to work today knowing so many places are burning right now. From Santa Barbara and Malibu up north, to San Bernardino in the east, and San Diego in the south, the massive infernos are relentlessly consuming everything in their way. There are at least 12 uncontained large wildfires that have burned over 335,000 acres, destroying hundreds of homes.

I hope everyone reading this blog is safe and sound. You are in my thoughts and prayers. Especially our dear friends Liz, Joel, Eddie and Kim who were evacuated yesterday and Denise who was visiting SD for the weekend.

Special prayers for all the firefighters working day and night, leaving your homes to save others. Thank you.


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Monday, October 22, 2007

Congratulations Myriam & Barry!

Los Angeles, California
Myriam and Barry tied the knot in their own backyard high up in the Hollywood Hills. The couple had a traditional Jewish wedding that was moving and funny at different times, but always joyous. Rabbi Perry Netter spoke so eloquently about love that he almost had me in tears.

Many of the touches were hand-made, including this ring pillow sewed by the bride's mom.

As the bride was getting ready, she spoke lovingly about her husband-to-be. She called him truly a good man. Judging by the way Barry looks at Myriam I'd say he feels the same love for her.

The chuppah was held aloft by Barry's brother and Myriam's mom and siblings.

Mazel Tov!

Isn't this Ketubah just stunning?

Despite the hot day, the guests danced the afternoon away. Thanks to DJ Paolo who not only kept the guests entertained but also helped with coordinating the ceremony and reception.

Myriam's expression is priceless as she's hoisted up on a chair for the Hora.

It's a steal!

I especially enjoyed meeting Barry's mom Sydel. I could listen to her for hours. She told me she's been waiting for Barry to get married forever. Here's a photo of her and her "beautiful daughter-in-law" as she kept calling Myriam.

Marriage is not only about the union of a couple but also a joining of families. Seeing Barry and Myriam with their families I could definitely feel the bond between them all.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Custom Albums Rock!

I spent an exciting day at the Leather Craftsmen facility in Santa Ana. This place is so awesome! Here's a quick photo from my camera phone...

Leather Craftsmen is a custom bookbinder that makes both traditional and ultra-modern wedding albums. It's interesting to see some of the most contemporary coffee table books being made in the same tradition as books over a hundred years ago. Ira, who led us on the tour, was taught the craft in New York by a fifth-generation bookbinder.

The craftsmanship that goes into each album is truly remarkable. Every album is completely hand-made. They glue each page by hand, then the pages are hand-bound, and the edges are smoothed and polished. The spine is rounded using a hammer, the leather or fabric is stretched onto the cover that goes around the pages, the cover is then imprinted if desired and voila! That's an oversimplification since there are lots of steps in between - but you get the picture. It's amazing to see everyone at work - each step requires extreme precision.

And each album comes with a lifetime guarantee!

Polka Photos is very excited to be offering Leather Craftsmen albums.

Your photos tell your story. Leather Craftsman makes your story into a beautiful book.

Thank you to everyone at Leather Craftsman including Joe Fiore who answered all of my questions, Dan Hammel who taught the design class, and Ira who led the tour.

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Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Greatest Love Story

One of the most moving love stories is that of the daughter of Burmese General Aung San and a British scholar of Tibetan culture. Aung San Suu Kyi married Dr. Michael Aris and they had two children together. But this is not a fairytale and there is no happily ever after.

Suu Kyi went back home to Burma to take care of her sick mother. She was moved by her people's fight for democracy and became involved in local politics, helping found the National League for Democracy. A year after returning to Burma, on July 20, 1989, she was placed under house arrest. She was offered freedom only if she would permanently leave the country.

Aung San Suu Kyi would never see her husband again. Michael Aris was denied an entry visa, even after he was diagnosed with cancer. He died in 1999. His wife continues the struggle for democracy. Her love of country and fight for freedom cost her the chance to spend her days with the man she loved.

Last week, thousands of Buddhist monks led tens of thousands of protesters, including members of the National League for Democracy, in cities across the country. Government troops fired automatic weapons into the crowd killing and injuring demonstrators. Several monks were severely beaten, some to death. Security forces have also raided several monasteries. The U.S. has tightened sanctions against Myanmar, the ruling party's official name for the country, and the UN sent special envoys, which have met with both Suu Kyi and government officials.

A couple whose wedding I recently photographed is involved in documenting the struggles of the Burmese people. David (the groom), Brett (the bride's brother), and two friends secretly filmed in Burma in 2006, sponsored by Invisible Children and Restore International. The Road is about genocide, persecution and the struggle to survive. David is trying to get a grant from Razoo to finish the film and needs to find people to sign up on Razoo's site. If you'd like to help this project get funding, please go to: http://beta.razoo.com/groups/the_road_to_burma - sign up and VOTE for the film.

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