Through the Lens of Marianne Lozano

angkor wat_Marianne Lozano

Fueled by New Settings from F-Stops to Train Stops

By Liese Gardner

Spontaneous. Detailed. Soulful. These are the words that describe photographer Marianne Lozano. They are also the words that on the home page of her web site giving the viewer immediate insight into what fuels Marianne and her work. That, and her her logo with its trademark burnt orange which she artfully weaves through all the things she does – from flowers in a tradeshow booth to the ribbon that becomes a finishing touch on thoughtful gifts she brings back from her travels.

I follow #travelwithML on Instagram, but I’d already been a friend and follower of Marianne’s journey for some time. In the past year that journey took her to some 30 cities and 13 countries including Italy (from the Amalfi Coast to Tuscany), Nepal, Alaska, London, St. Petersburg, France (from the Provence to Paris) and Mexico.

Well before she began to embody that hashtag, Marianne had made a name for herself as a sought-after wedding photographer. On her trek towards personal growth and change she then began to glide easily between event and wedding photographer to traveler and artist each time her shutter clicked.

“Shooting weddings keeps the soul in my photography.”

Living the Edited Life

“I didn’t fall in love with photography until my 20s,” she says over lunch at a Westside pizzeria. “I borrowed my dad’s 30-year-old Canon film camera and I suddenly saw everything in high definition. Things I’d driven past now took on new meaning. But what really did it for me was the first time I developed a photo in a darkroom. The first few seconds an image starts to appear on that blank paper floating on the developing tray…it’s like magic.”

Just like that first time picking up a camera, that sense of heightened awareness stays with Marianne as she begins to use a global view finder. “Travel is like a drug,” she says, referring to how it has opened her mind and the heart in ways that are addictive. “Like photography, travel it allows you to see ordinary things in a new way.”

Truly, seeing anything through Marianne’s lens makes it look perfect; a world filled with work she loves that allows her to travel and explore her art and dreams. And new talents … the woman who admits to traveling with five pair of shoes for a three-day weekend has learned the art of the edited life.

“For my recent trip to France, I had one carry-on bag and the other was my equipment.” All the better for hopping trains throughout Provence or trekking through Nepal. “Kathmandu was a photographer’s playground,” she says, and her most favorite photographic experience yet.

On a whim, she and her sister bought tickets for Nepal and four weeks later were there. “We are not climbers by any stretch of the imagination,” she says, “Nor do I have any desire to become one. I just wanted to take pictures.”

And she did. “The sight of Mt. Everest from about 14,000 feet was truly breathtaking,” she recalls, “But I have to say, the journey was equally gratifying. We took a small plane from Kathmandu to Lukla (about 9,400 feet) with our Nepali guide. Then we started the journey by foot.”

“We walked for hours,” She continues, “Stayed in lodges, went through a dozen or so villages, crossed half a dozen suspension bridges, and met people from all over the world. It was physically tolling; some days it felt like being on a Stairmaster for eight hours. The altitude was an added obstacle. Yet having no cell signal or internet ensured us that we connected totally with what was around us. It was the experience of a lifetime.”

But that doesn’t mean that more, and different, experiences don’t keep coming. This year Marianne released a photographic book of floral arrangements with floral artist Eddie Zaratsian simply called Eddie Zaratsian: Custom Florals and Lifestyle. The images are deep, rich and intense and, well, I’ll just let them speak for themselves …

Speaking to diversity within a career, Marianne says, “In some way, shooting weddings keeps the soul in my photography. I’m not the most patient photographer. I won’t sit for hours waiting for the sky to turn a different color. Weddings and travel allow me to capture moments as opposed to artificially creating them.”

Seizing the moment is what Marianne does in her photography. With technology today, while images no longer slowly appear out of a blank page, a life does. And as for Marianne’s life and her journey in it, one could say it’s all developing nicely.

Elements of Marianne’s journey that Fuel us

  • Do what you love
  • Don’t worry about making what you love fit into your own, or someone else’s, idea of who you are or what you should be doing
  • Find something beautiful about every day
  • Stay curious
  • Be spontaneous, detailed and soulful

Marianne’s main site is and she has just launched a new web site for retail sales of her photography. To follow her on Facebook: And on Instagram: #travelwithML. Twitter: @mariannelozano. All photos in this post:  © Marianne Lozano

03. December 2013 by passionsthatdriveus
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Leaning In


When Sheryl Sandberg titled her book about women in the workplace she probably didn’t expect the phrase “lean in” to become part of the daily lexicon. Yet the visual metaphor has stuck – the image of a woman leaning in to take an active role in her life, leaning into a discussion in the boardroom, leaning into the wind, moving forward in spite of obstacles or leaning into another person to really understand them.

Maria Shriver leaning into a conversation with philanthropist Wallis Annenberg during an interview for Los Angeles magazine.

For several years, when she was producing the Women’s Conference, I had the pleasure of watching Maria Shriver interview a wide range of people from celebrities and CEO’s to small business owners and Supreme Court Justices. Her body language said everything as she physically leaned in to be closer to the person who was talking. I could see in her face and hear in her remarks that she was busy processing everything, actively listening. What struck me the most was that she seemed genuinely hungry for the information she was receiving.

The tables are set for conversation and dinner.

We have a hunger for information, for others, and to create a connection; it’s what feeds us. So it’s no surprise my next metaphor will revolve around food, specifically a “supper club” that I just attended. Each month a different chef and menu are chosen by the hosts and the call for fellow diners goes out via their e-mail list. I heard about it through a friend who had been to two and it immediately struck a chord with me as I’ve often considered doing this and wanted to see it in action. Plus, it would be fun!

The evening’s chef, David Feau, ready with dessert.

At the event, 40 people gathered around three tables set in the hosts’ backyard. Some knew one another from other dinners, but many were strangers. This is nothing new of course, and has been happening more and more from farm tables to city restaurants – people finding common ground over food. There is a need to connect offline, but busy lives, traffic, time make it harder to do so. The web is an important piece of the puzzle, but at the end of the day, it’s about how we make and keep personal connections.

Guest, Marcus Gray of Shades of Gray PR with Heather Somaini

EatPlusDrink is the passion of Heather Somaini who happens to also be Chief of Staff at an independent film company. Suffice it to say, she has no problem leaning into the boardroom. When she gets home, she leans into her family life with a wife and two children, and her hobby — her online venture in the blog that has now taken her passion offline and included others.

It’s a great example of what happens when you discover what you want, and then support it with action. We need to lean into life, to one another, to the discussion — elbows on the table and all.

13. August 2013 by passionsthatdriveus
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Fueled by Brazilian Chef Alex Atala

Alex Atala

By Vicky Crease, Guest Blogger

With the upcoming 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, the world’s eyes will be focused on Brazil this decade. And thanks to innovative chefs such as Alex Atala, so will our palates. Vicky Crease, a top South African catering and event professional, caught up with him at Design Indaba in Cape Town earlier this year and shares her impressions here.

Alex Atala

The message from the host of Design Indaba 2013 read: “Greetings thinkers, dreamers, doers, activists, and makers.” Big and real words for the main man that I had come to see at the conference — renowned Brazilian chef Alex Atala.

Design Indaba is a design and creativity conference held annually in Cape Town. Since 1995 it has invited the world’s top creative minds to address professionals from the creative, corporate and educational sectors alike. This year, Atala was one of the inspirational speakers at the conference.

A native of Sao Paolo, Atala creates exceptional gastronomic experiences using local ingredients. I suppose his take on cuisine is not much different from other thoughtful chefs today. What makes Atala different is his complete passion for the Amazon jungle and his philosophy on wastefulness and sustainability which was the the key focus of his talk at Indaba.

His views echo my own on taking a food component and making use of all of it. I mean ALL of it … head, trotters and eyeballs too! He speaks about our relationship with food and how we must respect it. Nature gives us food but we don’t recognize the value. Natural conservation is imperative, as many plants and insects (which are interdependent) will soon be lost if we pursue a Westernized wasteful food philosophy.There is collective benefit and equitable commerce in respect for nature.

He speaks of the old days in the village where cooks would use entire animal. They roasted the leg of lamb on special occasions, the ribs on another. They then make a delicious casserole with loads of onions and the liver for yet another meal. He speaks about being more resourceful and considerate with food; using only what we need, not being greedy. I think of those plates full of chicken wings that people devour and I know what he means.

What I love is the deep understanding he has of his Amazonian environment. He refers to the mix between nature and culture as food evolution.

“Nature is so generous and can feed and sustain us, and even though it also serves us bitter flavors, it is so diverse and can be used in interesting, arresting ways”

I ask him about the challenges faced by catering and event professionals, especially supplying diverse menus and concepts so far in advance, and not being able to be as seasonal as we’d like. He admits that it’s a challenge. His suggestion is to always add an element of surprise, serve food in a surprising way, and most importantly, respect the integrity of the product, not altering its natural state to an unrecognizable degree.

His mantra is God is a Chef, Respect Nature, Respect Food. Words to live by. Food — and fuel– for thought!

Vicky Crease and Atala

Vicky Crease is owner of Vicky Crease Catering and Events in Johannesburg, South Africa. She has won multiple awards for her catering and design. This year she was honored to have been chosen as the caterer and event planner for the newly created prestigious fundraising event for Sentebale, Prince Harry’s charity, which he attended.

Alex Atala opened D.O.M. in 1999 in Sao Paulo. In January 2009, he opened a second restaurant Dalva e Dito focusing on Brazilian heritage dishes based on home recipes. He is the author of three books, Por uma Gastronomia Brasileira (Bei editora, 2003), Com Unhas, Dentes & Cuca (Editora Senac) and Escoffianas Brasileiras (Larrouse Brasil). His latest is due to be released by Phaidon in 2013. D.O.M. has been continually listed over the past seven years in the The World’s 50 Best Restaurants by the U.K. based magazine, Restaurant. D.O.M. presently holds 4th position on the 2012 list.

Food photos of food and DOM courtesy of Ede Online

30. April 2013 by passionsthatdriveus
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Fueled By: The Power of Storytelling

An Interview with Marc Friedland

By Liese Gardner

Today, brand experts talk about the power of storytelling — creating an experience that has a beginning, middle and end. It is upon these “acts” that the message, or the story, is built. Emotion is used to create a connection that will last beyond the event or experience.

Given this, it’s clear to see just how important the invitation is, be it digital or print. “Before the event, an invitation beckons people to partake,” says Marc Friedland. “Afterwards, it becomes a physical keepsake that will always trigger the memory of that moment.”

Friedland understands the power of this type of emotional “bookending.” As owner of Marc Friedland Couture Communications in Los Angeles, he has created invitations for hundreds of clients and events from Oprah to The Oscars. In the past two decades, Friedland has blazed his own trail from the invitation to the fully integrated design experience. In his own way, he’s keeper of the visceral flame, engaging the senses from the rip of the envelope opening and the touch of the paper to the look of the graphics, fonts, and colors.

While Friedland would be the first to say there is a place for digital invitations such as save-the-dates, home parties, and casual barbecues, nothing marks the sense of occasion like a printed invitation. “The opening of an invitation contains so much emotion,” Friedland says. “It elevates the moment into something and gives it meaning and focus.”

Branding versus Theme

When Friedland talks about telling a story with an event, he isn’t referring to a theme party. He means something more along the lines of branding, even for social events.

Marc in his office, a hive of wit, style and creative intelligence.

“In order to give an event a context, we create a vocabulary for it.” 

For instance, in talking with a recent wedding client, together they realized the wedding had three acts. “There was the rehearsal, the ceremony and the brunch, each with its own theme of celebration of life and love,” he says. At that meeting they came up with a different graphic image, message and element for each event.

Creating the perfect branding for an event is about more than paper “It’s about wit, style, and a point of view with the experience threaded through,” Friedland says.

Photo by John Ellis

That sense of style could be as simple as a blue feather placed among white feathers for an elegant destination wedding in Aruba. The theme of “Heaven and Earth” was told through a whimsical design of Lucite and feathers. Amid the all-white feathers symbolizing heaven was one blue one representing the ocean.

Photo by Joe Atlas

Or it could be as complex as creating many points of activity and discovery through the event’s message. “For a hotel opening that was actually a sleepover, we played with the context of a first date,” Friedland says. “There were candles and accessories branded with the event’s message, even cocktail napkins printed specially with fun facts about the property.”

Branding the Oscar Invitations

This year, Friedland took that philosophy to one of his most prestigious clients – The Oscars — and approached them with something new. “I proposed looking at the Oscar season as a brand,” he explains. “There are five different events during this season and I devised a separate color palette for each, as if each one was its own couture collection. Some members of the Academy go to more than one event, so they would know by looking at the invitation that it was Oscar related on one level, and on another, that it was differentiated from the others.”

Photo by Joe Atlas

The color for the invitation to the Oscar telecast was ruby; to the Governor’s Ball that follows the telecast was designed with black diamond; the invitation to the Nominees’ lunch was sapphire; to the Foreign Language cocktail party was amethyst; and to the Science and Technical Awards was emerald.

Marc, the design board for the Oscar winner envelopes and the final product. Photo: Associated Press

Gold was reserved for the winner’s envelopes, which Friedland also designed and produced.

Like all good things, events and stories come to an end. But in the hands of someone such as Friedland whose work underlines the message with tactile elements, both the story and the experience live on in memory…dare I say it? Happily ever after.

25. April 2013 by passionsthatdriveus
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By Liese Gardner

All journeys leave us with mementos — photos, souvenirs, ticket stubs, postcards, receipts, bags of shells, and more. And of course each is a touchstone for a memory. When I returned from Vegas and started sifting through business cards, receipts, gifts from friends, notes and programs, I looked down at my desk and saw a trip in full — only deconstructed. Each one with its own story. But before mementos and memories comes the experience. It’s all about the journey and this one began on the I-15.

“The journey is the reward.”

I always like a road trip, even if it is to Las Vegas which some Angelenos believe to simply be “Greater Los Angeles.” Some of my favorite memories as a child were being awoken before dawn, piling in the station wagon with my brothers, all of us still in our pajamas, and watching the sun come up on a new landscape. I’m sure that my parents remember sleepy, cranky kids, but that’s what’s so great about time. It sorts through memories, like a gold miner’s pan, leaving the gold on top and letting all the rest fall back into the stream of consciousness.

Then and now for me road trips are about leaving day-to-day routines, about being able to gaze over a vista where I can’t see a building or person and about what lies ahead. Clearly a road trip is the one time where we are looking forward. In this case, I was looking forward to four full 20 hour days, taking advantage of this time in which old and new friends come together from all over the world. It’s a small point on the map of time and there isn’t a moment to waste.

I pulled into Vegas in time to catch the tail end of the WIPA board meeting and have a drink with everyone. At California Pizza Kitchen, a humble eatery by Vegas standards these days, I shared salad and swapped stories with two wonderful WIPA women – my old friend Carol Rosen of Party Designs By Carol and my new friend Sharon Alexander of Sweet Sensations in Atlanta. Between laughter, there was some serious talk — after all, this would be the week the new Pope was named — and a little late-night shopping at those over-the-top Vegas stores. By the end, my day was complete and I was ready for what may come.


The first seminar on the Event Solutions wedding track was at 10:30 Sunday. I introduced the Destination Wedding Gurus — a group of high-profile wedding planners who formed this venture to curate a rotating collection of high-end international properties that they promote and recommend to brides. Natalie Vishny, Kevin Covey and Laurie Davies revealed their 2013 Hot List to a packed room (watch their Facebook page for the entire list).

This year was the first in seven years that John Daly of John Daly International Inc. was back speaking. What a legend, lovely man and dear friend. He spoke on the psychology of the corporate client using a Porsche event as a case study and he also did a session on business etiquette.

This was the final look of the custom venue. What began with shipping containers because the client wanted "different" morphed into this look.


The Porsches were lined up waiting for test runs on the deserted airfield. In the background, another view of the temporary venue created just for this event. See a full story on this event from Event Solutions E:News here.

That night was the Welcome Event at The Mirage pool and the Event Solutions Advisory Board Welcome Event Committee worked to make this dedicated area a success. The goal was to create an environment that guests could find in the larger Catersource party in which we could welcome the Spotlight Finalists and where attendees could meet the Advisory Board. Thanks to Lenny Talarico, MGM Resorts Events, Laura Schwartz, White House Strategies, Connie Riley, CSEP, T. Skorman Productions, Ray Thompson, Images by Lighting, and Christie Garness, City of Las Vegas for being on that committee and to Ray, Laura and Spotlight producer Eddie Diaz, Encore Creations, for their warm welcoming remarks.

Towair Arch by Airstar

And thanks to Atmosphere North America, Las Vegas for the tunes, to Lisa Wessels from Airstar America for the Towair Arch with the Event Solutions logo, the Aquastar which congratulated Spotlight Finalists and the Accents that glowed on each table with linen from MGM Resorts Events.

Lighted at night with purple LEDs to drive traffic to this area. Photo courtesy Warner Bros. Special Events Facebook page.


Vicky Crease and Gavin Rajah with Prince Harry at the Sentebal fundraiser in South Africa. Gratuitous, yes, but when else would I get to have a pic pf Harry on my blog?!

The morning began with coffee with the super talented Vicky Crease of Vicky Crease Catering and Events and Gavin Rajah of Gavin Rajah Concept from Johannesburg and Capetown, respectively. They came bearing gifts — the zulu bracelets you see in the deconstructed photo and an amazing box of chocolates from London that you don’t see (they were very good). Vicky talked about what it was like to cater Prince Harry’s fund-raising event for Sentebal and Gavin had my favorite quote of the conference …

“The future of success is collaboration.”

~Gavin Rajah

Then it was time for my session at which I moderated a panel featuring case studies of signature marketing campaigns. Kylie Carlson, founder of The Wedding and Event Institute, Eddie Zaratsian, Eddie Zaratsian Custom Florals and Lifestyle, and Rhonda Couchigian, owner of RaycePR and I discussed three campaigns specifically.

These signature campaigns are those that mark a brand, reach out to clients, or delve into a new market in a way that differs from the day to day. It could be online — a Pinterest campaign, an Instagram contest — or offline — a community building event such as Eddie’s “tea party.”

For months I had been  working with another Eddie — Eddie Diaz of Encore Creations in Florida and Meryl Snow of Feastivities Events in Philadelphia on the CATIE-Spotlight Awards. Eddie was this year’s producer and Meryl was helping from the ICA-Catersource side while I assisted from the Event Solutions side. One of the elements I was responsible for was the envelopes. In January I had attended the Oscar Press Preview event and reconnected with Marc Friedland of Marc Friedland Couture Communications. As luck would have it, this was the first year that the Event Solutions-Catersource show was not the same weekend as the Oscars. Because of that, Marc was able to do 30 gorgeous, custom envelopes for us. Working with his team was a dream. As expected they are very nice, very creative, very detailed people. This is EXACTLY what you want from your invitation designer. And, they flew up to Vegas to hand deliver them before Marc’s seminar on Tuesday morning.

The envelopes, please. As you can see, they were sealed up until the very moment we all took the stage on Tuesday.


Tuesday was the big day. Everything seemed to be scheduled all on that day. In order to accomplish everything Mecca had going on, independent producer Tiffany Chan came up from Los Angeles to help out, meeting me at Rrivre Davies’ (owner of Rrivre Works) session on Fair Trade Events. Rrivre has always practiced business using the principles of what he calls Fair Trade, a term coined from the agriculture and coffee industries. He’s been speaking on it at WIPA and this year he was asked by Event Solutions to talk about it. As he says, weddings are a billion dollar industry with no clear rules among the creative partners. He hopes to change that through Fair Trade.

Rrivre and me.

The day continued with a run over to the tradeshow floor where Kylie Carlson and I put together a full schedule of video interviews that The Wedding and Event Institute and WIPA will promote following the show (to be announced in early April).

And I mean full. Fourteen amazing professionals in six hours. Kylie is super organized but it was so helpful to have Tiffany there to keep it all on track so Kylie could focus on the interviews and I could I race back to The Mirage for an Event Solutions Advisory Board meeting.

Kylie, ready with her iPad and microphhone!

John Goolsby of Godfather Films was there to get it all on film. Kylie with David Merrell owner and creative director of AOO Events and the blog, Designdawgs. Dave was one of 14 top event pros interviewed by Kylie that day.


Finally, it was time for the awards! The Advisory Board once again took center stage, literally, as presenters during the awards. Both the Spotlights and the ICA CATIES were given out in a night of magic produced by Eddi Diaz, Encore Creations. For the full list of Event Solutions Spotlight Winners, see the bottom of this post.

Photo courtesy of Vicky Crease's Instagram feed


Winners loved the envelopes! Thanks to Vicky Crease for a lesson in Instagram and working those hashtags!


Finally! Time for a walk around the trade show floor. The linen companies truly represent on the show floor with all-out design in their booths.

Napa Valley Linens showed off classic patterns with a country feel and banquette by Rrivre Works.

La Tavola drove it home that French country was the look they were presenting this year — they built an entire barn on the show floor! This linen is Casablanca in steel blue.

Wildflower Linen showed laser cut charger decor that was then mirrored in the laser cuts in the wall treatment. That same pattern was stenciled into the leather chair covers.

My favorite marketing gimmick on the show floor was from Honey Smoked Fish Co. who was giving away plates of smoked salmon salad and T-shirts. BUT you had to wear them. To make sure of it, there was this comely lass to put the T-shirts on you. Great for the guys. I heard next year they are getting a handsome man for the ladies. But truly, what was his investment? For a few more thousand dollars more he had hundreds of caterers walking the show floor wearing his shirt and smelling faintly of delicious smoked salmon. Brilliant.

The Champagne Creative Group run by the artistic Heather and Orlando always has something new to show. In their booth they had such crowd pleasers such as show girls in bird cage banquettes dripping with crystal. No respectable Vegas event would be without one! At the events during the conference they showed off Moulin Rouge and other creative looks.

Colin Cowie closed the show with a General Session …

Colin Cowie on stage. Photo courtesy Event Solutions Facebook page

and then it was time for me to get going …

A&B Home

Big love to all…

The Rrivre Works iconic Love buffet table in the Napa Valley Linen's booth.

And back once again on the road.

And home … but not before picking up the cat, who immediately struck a pose that spoke volumes for her and said it all for me too! Tired, but content, with a memorable experience behind and new opportunities ahead.

+ + +

The Winners, Spotlights 2013

Congratulations to all!

Designer/Creative Director of the Year
Mircea Manea, Blueprint Studios

Entertainment of the Year
AA Musicians

Event Company of the Year
MGM Resorts Events

Event Planner of the Year
Mellysa Levy, Sasha Souza Events

Event Producer of the Year
Gavin Rajah, Gavin Rajah Concept

Event Site of the year
Meet Las Vegas

Event Supplier of the Year
Vicky Crease Events

Floral Designer of the Year
Jose Graterol, Jose Graterol Designs

Marketing Professional of the Year
Kevin Dana, CORT Event Furnishings

Organizational Planner of the Year
Heather Hawes, Spelman College

Rental Company of the Year
CORT Event Furnishings

Rising Star, Female
Flo Miniscloux, Extraordinary Events

Rising Star Male
Alan Andai, AA Musicians

Technical Support Company of the Year
Creative BackStage




20. March 2013 by passionsthatdriveus
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Fueled By: A 35-Year-Old Recipe for Pizza

Why Longevity is Not Always the Key to Success

By Liese Gardner

Note: This article appears in my column Fuel For Thought in the Spring issue of Event Solutions available digitally and in print now.

Hollywood Boulevard is iconic. Its legend is built on glamor and hope. Yet, the reality is that those famous pink terrazzo stars that line it never move. They don’t change, shine, or twinkle. They remain fixed where the cement dried years ago. If they are lucky, those stars are located in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the El Capitan or the Egyptian Theatre. But the one I walk over these days is less fortunate — set between a T-Shirt store and a pizza parlor. It is there that I learned a lesson about business.

Over the holidays, my gym moved to a temporary location in the heart of Hollywood. Each morning on my way to a 6:30 class I walked over the star of Doris Day, past a window in which a man was making pizza. At that time in the morning he was starting on the dough. By the time I walked back at 7:30 he already had several pies in the window.  It was a little puzzling, since there was not that much demand for pizza at that hour, but I loved his dedication. I thought, “Those must be amazing pizzas.”

One Saturday I was there at an hour in which buying a slice was more appropriate. I struck up a conversation and discovered that the pizza man had been doing this, in the same place, for 35 years. I ordered, but took it to go…just in case. I was hopeful of course; anticipating finding an undiscovered treasure. After all, the artisanal fantasy is about someone who does just one thing and does it to perfection.

My first bite was a revelation, yet not in a good way. I realized that just because you’ve been doing something for a long time does not mean you are doing it well, or even right.

Between the orange grease and limp dough it came to me – this was a man who was not curious about anything. Not about improving his work, or about what was going on in the world beyond the star outside his window. Maybe he was just doing as much (or as little) as was expected. Maybe he had wanted to do something more when he was young, then got complacent. By the time he turned around he was too old to change. I can feel a collective shudder; you’re wondering has it happened to you?

Many business owners rest on the tried and true. They feel that customer service, attention to detail and quality set them apart. Yet that is where every business should begin, not end. Every so often we need to look at our businesses through fresh eyes and discover what truly sets us apart. Easily, pizza man could have differentiated himself by using new ingredients (even goat cheese would have been a welcome change), or simply taking a risk and doing something goofy — naming pizzas after celebrities, making them in the shape of a star, or an Oscar statue. Anything would have been better than making the same pizza day after day blaming the sorry state of his business on tourists, the location or the economy.

In the interest of changing it up and learning something new, consider attending as many different presentations you can at Catersource/Event Solutions in March. Even if you have been in the business for 35 years and get up every morning at the crack of dawn to ply your craft, there is always something new to learn. Take a class in another discipline than your own. Take a beginner’s class if you are a master, take a master’s class if you are a beginner. Don’t be the pizza man who gets up every morning to look out a window yet sees nothing. Be interested in everything and everyone. Simply put: Be a star. One that rises and falls, explodes and implodes, lives and breathes. Above all else, beware the concrete. Being set in stone is not all it’s cracked up to be. Just ask Doris Day.


05. February 2013 by passionsthatdriveus
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The Up Side of Downforce

By Liese Gardner

Over the holidays I drove through winding roads with a car fanatic; the faster the better for him. Calculated speed, as opposed to reckless driving, is an art form. Like any art, it has its finer points which I learned more about on these drives … first hand. With coaching I applied the gas through the curves and braked well before them. Sounds counter intuitive, but when I stayed steady with my speed around the bends, I could feel a cliché come alive – the car was literally hugging the road.

A little geeky, but a good illustration of all the places where downforce is designed into a race car.

The reason: downforce. This is created by the aerodynamic design of a car. Race cars are engineered for this.  Sports cars are designed with it in mind. Downforce allows a car to travel faster through a corner by increasing its vertical force on the tires, making them grip tighter to the surface. It’s the same force – although it’s called aerodynamic grip – that is used to do the complete opposite action and lift a plane up.

The fundamentals of opposing forces – while a favorite theme of mine – seem to go against all common sense. Yet engineering is one of those art forms based on unwavering truths. It got me thinking. What if we approached life as if it were a road and we were race cars designed to handle the curves that come at us? Could we put our trust into that type of precision engineering? What if we sped up when faced with adversity? Consider this: braking causes the front end of a car to rise when pressure from the brake releases. On a curve,this totally throws off the suspension, making the car unstable.

Do we too become unstable when we apply brakes at a time we should be hunkering down through the tough stuff and going with the flow?

mmm. The 2011 Aston Martin GT4. All that they improved was the downforce. Not so geeky now?!

Mechanical truths operate in the world of black-and-white. Of course, when paired with the opposing forces of our hearts and minds the chaos creates art that is beautiful, tragic and messy with emotion. Perhaps it’s best just to trust that this type of engineering is part of  the greater design.Trust that going forward, at any speed, is far better than stalling or stopping; to keep moving with hope is better than being buried by doubt and recriminations.

Perhaps the truest up side of downforce is how good it feels to push our new found skills to the limit; to roll quickly, smoothly and expertly through those curves, and maybe, just maybe, begin to look forward to the next bend in the road and all the excitement it can bring us.


08. January 2013 by passionsthatdriveus
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Three Little Big Things from 2012

That I’m Taking With Me In 2013

By Liese Gardner

The concept of Aparigraha This is the yogic word for non-possessiveness; to give up greed. While greed for money and material objects is obvious there are other ways in which we can be greedy. Sometimes we ask too much of ourselves and others. In terms of yoga, this might mean pushing oneself into a pose our bodies aren’t meant to do. It might mean rushing through the day so fast that we miss what really matters. It could even apply to business when we take on more work because we can’t say no. When I catch myself in all these moments, I remember the goal is not to keep pushing, but to find contentment in the pose, the work at hand, the moment.

Never be too proud, or too disappointed in yourself A goal for me is to continue to   reflect on who I am, my accomplishments, my failures, my loves and losses with a cooler, more non-judgmental eye. This too relates to finding contentment in the moment. Rudyard Kipling put it best in the poem, If. This last stanza, which of course applies to women as well, sums it up.

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

And last …

To everyone whom much is given, much will be required Living and acting on the parable of the humble servant can not only bring about deep personal transformation but also create change on a universal level as our world becomes increasingly smaller and we need kindness, aparigraha and contentment more than ever.

2013 is the year to turn “ifs” into certainties.


01. January 2013 by passionsthatdriveus
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We Are All Kings

By Liese Gardner

Every day we slaughter our finest impulses. That is why we get a heart-ache when we read those lines written by the hand of a master and recognize them as our own, as the tender shoots which we stifled because we lacked the faith to believe in our own powers, our own criterion of truth and beauty. Every man, when he gets quiet, when he becomes desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths. We all derive from the same source. There is no mystery about the origin of things. We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, to discover what is already there.
~ Henry Miller

I ran across this quote in my notes the other day. That first line, the use of the word slaughter, struck me. No simple word that. The longing expressed by Miller is not simple either. Certainly not to someone like myself who always feels that I’m falling short of my own profound truth.

I have rewritten beautiful passages from favorite books just to feel what it would be like to write like that author. There is not a doubt in my mind that each of those writers lost sleep over each of those words, editing, and re-editing, as one does, but to attain what they did, even their roughest of drafts began as sheer brilliance.

The knowledge that even masters are plagued by their own demons and angels is some solace to the rest of us who  struggle to create an emotional connection through our art be it painting, music, art, words, or even, on some levels, an event.

It takes guts to express deep emotions. To expose them is akin to holding out one’s heart to the huntsman. But as Miller says, a master is fearless. A master doesn’t extinguish his or her best impulses. And that we are all masters.

Tendril shoots are fragile, yet their only impulse is to grow upward. Some make it. Some don’t. But all of them stretch for the sun. Their roots move opposite, to make a deeper connection for future growth. The dual action, the angels and demons, the light and dark. That is what makes it all exciting.

As we move into the New Year, do you grow quiet and reflective searching out the last bits of dwindling winter sun, or do you begin to spring into motion, anxious to move toward new light? Perhaps both actions are taking place in you as they do in the tendril. No matter really. Either way, the most important thing to do is simply to pay attention. As Miller writes, we have only to be quiet, and listen to our own selves to uncover what is already there. We are, as the song by INXS goes, our own personal savior. Reach out and touch faith.


11. December 2012 by passionsthatdriveus
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Under Construction

Stress cracks. It’s a term for what happens to aging walls. It also applies to relationships as they progress. But cracks in the wall are easy to fix. Not so with cracks in a relationship or ourselves. These are harder to detect; covered by layers of old repairs. They have become like scar tissue — protective and almost impossible to remove.

My latest project is repairing the stucco on the exterior walls. As with each project I take on in this old house, I find stress cracks both in the walls of our home and myself. On the hard projects, such as the kitchen remodel, these fissures are easily visible. But it’s on the smaller jobs, the ones that seem easy, where the cracks become harder to pinpoint and repair.

I quickly learned that in construction things have to get worse before they get better. There is a point in every project that brings on a sinking feeling, that moment when everything is in utter chaos. But from the point on, the only way to go is up. Still, it’s always hard to believe that 90 percent of our effort goes into things that no one will ever see — digging out cracks, opening up walls, replacing rotted wood and replacing wiring.

Finally, once a wall or room is stripped of all its dignity, the process of beautification can begin — plastering, installing dry wall, filling cracks, sanding. Progress is never pretty.

Being under construction is a confrontational process and calls upon every bit of mental and physical strength and endurance we have. But at the end of the day, the effort we put in directly correlates to the results we achieve. Along the way we confront ourselves and one another. Just as with the cracks in a wall, we can’t just gloss over them. There’s work to be done here too. We have to examine that which isn’t so pretty, creating chaos as we go in order to get to the root of the problem until we reach the end goal — a strong relationship with one another and ourselves and a beautiful environment that sustains and nourishes us.

07. December 2012 by passionsthatdriveus
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