Tulips and wine in the Springtime:The Romantic Tulip Valley Vineyard & Orchard

April 17, 2009





Each month, we will do a blog post about a favorite wedding vendor in order for you to  learn more about these talented people.

Since nothing says romance quite like flowers and wine, we are excited to feature one of our favorite vendors in the area, Ector de Leon, one of the owners of the Tulip Valley Vineyard & Orchard, which is the home of the Red Barn Cider and the world famous Tulip Valley Wines.

The Tulip Valley Vineyard is a “must see” destination here in Skagit Valley.

Built around a 1920’s Red barn, this beautiful Winery also offers a Tuscany inspired wine tasting room, where you will find traditional wines such as chardonnay and pinot noir, in addition to some award-winning apple-cider wines made from local fruit. Stop by any day and you are more than likely to meet Ector de Leon, the hospitable  winemaker and Vineyard co-owner, who is always ready to tell you the stories behind their  award winning wines and cider.

Come by this month  for a sip of their local wines and ciders, meet the owners, take a tour of their art gallery and listen to local musicians perform. While there be sure to  view Tonic Design Studio’s fine art canvas prints currently on display in their Tulip Room.

If you are a bride in the process of planning your wedding, and you & your partner both love wine, why not consider having a wine themed wedding? For a Wine themed wedding, a winery is the best choice because it offers great views, timeless beauty, and tranquility for your guests and your loved one. Be sure to call Ector at Tulip Valley Vineyard and ask him about hosting your wedding or your reception there.

How to get there: From I-5 take exit 226 [WA-536] west toward Kincaid St. Go .2 miles. Turn left on Kincaid St. and go .2 miles. Turn right on S. 3rd St. and go .3 miles. S. 3rd St. becomes W. Division St.—go .8 miles. W. Division St. becomes WA-536—go 1.3 miles. Arrive at 16163 State Route 536 on the right. Look for large red barn on right and sign for wine/cider tasting.

Tasting Room: Open to the public. Complimentary wine tasting.

Amenities: Tasting Room, Tulip Room open for bridal showers, corporate meetings, Art Gallery, Vineyard available for hosting social events (weddings, reunions, special events)

Phone: 360-428-6894, Phone: 206-321-9424




Java with Joe: The Cost of Investment.

March 3, 2009


Good MONDAY evening to all you blogger junkies that on occasion stop by to visit our blog site. I am always thankful to get this first work day of the week (for most of us) in the books. Four days until FRIDAY!

For some time I haven’t had much of a voice on the Tonic Design Blog, but my beautiful wife is in bed sick and down for the count, so I thought I would make a hot cup of coffee and drain my brain of some thoughts that have been on my mind this day.

When my father died in 2001, the only earthly possession that he left behind in the way of a heirloom was a wooden jewelery box. I loved this wooden box because my father would come home daily from work and place his wallet, loose coin, and watch inside the box.

On one occasion my father had spilled an open bottle of Polo cologne, quickly filling the inside green felt with it’s fragrance. For months , every time the wooden box was open the luxurious fragrance would fill the room as a result of my fathers carelessness.

This jewelery box had been given to my Father as a gift for many years of faithful service within his profession and when he passed I could only think of what he had sacrificed in the giving of his time, talent, and ultimately his health in order to provide a living for his family.

When my father passed at age 54 the final words that he spoke to me were words of affection. He said “I love you.” How I longed my entire adult life to hear my father speak these words of affection to me. Sometime later, my mother gave me a picture of my father holding me as a 2 month old infant asleep in his large arms. Looking at this image I could feel the strength and security of my proud father. As I looked at the picture I felt in the quiet of my heart the Lord speak to me saying “Joe, your father loved you the best that he knew how and I love you. I will never leave you, nor will I ever forsake you. Abide in my love.” Hearing these words, I began to weep as I was overcome with a sense of the Fathers love and faithfulness over my life.

Everyday that I open this wooden box I can still smell the scent of that spilled bottle of Polo cologne and I am overcome with emotion and the memories of my father. But, even more precious to me is this portrait of my father loving me as a child that has been branded like a hot iron into my spirit.

Recently I was approached by a client who was having difficulty up- grading herself from one of our fine art prints to a larger 16X20 canvas portrait. There was a significant increase in the cost of her investment, and when I shared my experience with her she was able to understand the powerful importance of not only leaving an heirloom for her children, but also the spirit of leaving a legacy that was deeply shared between she and her family through photography.

Thus, the “true cost” was not about what she was going to monetarily invest, but rather the daily investment of what she was daily pouring into her family…her time. Her time captured by us, time capsuled through photography. And this is truly the most fragrant investment that we can make that yields the greatest impact and heals us from the inside out. Blogger junkies…love much,forgive much.

Till our next cup of Java~



Merry Christmas from all of us!

December 24, 2008

Here’s a Christmas greeting from our family to all of you. May you all have a great holiday season and a blessed 2009!


A Blue winter sunset shoot and my frozen fingers.

December 21, 2008

Everything seems to have come to a beautiful standstill this week. So I took Ellya, the camera and my strobe out for a quick 10 minute sunset shoot in front of our lake covered in snow.

We only had a few minutes before the sun disappeared for the day so I had to hurry and get our sunset shot set up using a Joe McNally “The Moment it Clicks” technique I learned this past year. I’ve been waiting for the right time to get a shot like this and again, I’ve learned that it’s all about catching the right light at the right time.

With halfway frozen fingers and a shivering model eager to pack things up and go back to the warm house, I quickly pressed the shutter and captured one of my most favorite shots of 2008.

After shooting a few frames, we quickly ran back up to the house and placed our hands under warm water to thaw out. Ouch! Never take pictures without a good pair of gloves on.

But then again, the pain of having halfway frozen fingers may be worth it after seeing these images below. These images may qualify as one of my favorites from 2008.






The snowstorm, the eagle and the snowhorse.

December 18, 2008

Boy did it snow this week! One thing I missed about the Northwest is the change of seasons. We didn’t really have much of that when I was living in Vegas and SoCal. So when the first snow of the season hit a few days ago this week, I had to go outside just like a kid in a candy store and play.
Since its been awhile since I got to take Ellya out on a photoshoot, we took advantage of the gorgeous snow storm and the unusually beautiful light and took some winter shots out in our backyard.

Here’s our backyard covered in the first snow of the season.


Some dramatic shots of Ellya by the old lamppost.


My brother commented that this photo reminded him of something from “Twilight” the movie. What do you think? I know the book was set in Washington so perhaps the ambiance? Anyway, there’s something magical about these photos. Does this say Twilight to you? By the way, Joe just got me the book today and I am looking forward to reading it. Ellya just saw the movie and told me that she thinks the book was way better than the movie.





Since we were snowed in today, I decided to take my new 17-50mm 2.8 lens for a walk around the farm. Our brave UPS man just delivered it last night, and you should’ve heard me screech as he pulled into our driveway and handed it to Joe,  right out of his freezing  brown truck. Yes, I have a thing for lenses.

Anyhow,  I ended up following my son John Andrew while he ran around the backyard, trying to catch snowflakes with his tongue, throwing snowballs at me and making his magical snowhorse. He also made a snow chair and a snow Eiffel Tower. I asked him why the horse, the chair and the Eiffel Tower and his reply: “Just because I was inspired”.

The old farm fence in the snow.

0054The cold weather didn’t keep this boy inside the house.
When was the last time you stuck your tongue out to catch a falling snowflake?


And here’s his magical snowhorse…


While out taking photos, John and I got  so excited to see the eagle come back that afternoon to join us. This eagle is a daily visitor and visits at least 2-3 times a day, “hanging out” on the island out in our backyard. So  Mr. Eagle flies by and sits by the tree. Now, I’ve been trying to get a good shot of this elusive eagle for weeks now. I’ve also been stalking him for at least a year now and have gotten good photos of him throughout the year in different seasons  but I have never captured one of him during a snowstorm.
It’s kind of strange how it seems as if I’ve gained his trust. He seems to recognize me as I approach him with my camera. I know that these majestic creatures have great eyesight and can see for  1 to 1 1/2 miles away (thus the term eagle’s eye). So I know that he can see me as I come close to him with my camera in my face. Well this time he stayed still for a few minutes and posed for me. Thanks Mr. Eagle. You are gorgeous!


Alas, he flies away as I move in closer.

With my beautiful wildlife subject gone for the day, I went back to shooting the kids having fun in the snow. Here’s Ellya and John goofing around.





I couldn’t resist taking more photos of our place blanketed in snow. Who would’ve thought shooting landscapes could be fun?

The bridge to the island. By the way, this bridge was built by Joe’s step dad. It was a childhood dream of his to build a bridge that would connect the farmland to the small island surrounded by the slough.
I seem to like winter branches…
0155The frozen slough…

The long walk from our driveway to the house…


I was pleasantly surprised when I saw Joe come up and join me for a walk, so I had to take this photo of him, clearly one of my favorites from the day.



And one of me that Joe took…I had no makeup…I’m so brave to place this on the blog but I sort of like it…what do you think?

Have a great Christmas everyone, enjoy the season and stay warm, Toni

‘Tis the season…

December 5, 2008

Tis the season to start seeing all the twinkling lights everywhere, to see candy canes and Santa all over, to promise not to gain all that holiday weight, to break out the eggnog and sniff those cinnamon pinecones, to drink Peppermint lattes and sing Christmas carols, to find that favorite scarf from last year and to wear those winter  boots, to try not to be a Grinch this year and to promise your kids they’ll get something under that tree if they’re good, to try and read everything on their long Christmas wishlist and to figure out what to get your hubby this year, to try and keep up with the long Christmas card list, it’s also time to let go of my busy to-do list and experience the beauty of this season…and it’s also, well, time for me to start  blogging again.

I know, I’ve fallen behind on blogging but  just wanted to pop my head up from the busy editing floor to let you know that I’m still here!

Aside from wearing the business owner-photographer-wife and mom-of-3 kids hat, I also wear the college professor hat in that I’ve been teaching a college digital photography course part time. It’s now the end of the quarter and my class is knee deep in doing critiques and evaluations and turning in their  final photography project. We’ve had an incredible fall and I have the awesome  privelege if teaching such an extremely talented bunch of photographers. I’m really amazed at what these students have accomplished throughout this quarter. Witnessing their talent develop throughout this course has been a real blessing. I’ve learned so much about photography just by teaching these students.  I’ve probably learned so much more about photography than I have learned in my entire career just because I teach it now. It’s true, the quickest way to learn about something is to teach it.

I’m so proud of these students. Some of their photos have brought tears to my eye. They’ve managed to produce  true art. And like all artwork, it deserves to be seen, so I will have to post some of their inspiring work here on this blog.  Sniff…sniff…I feel like such a proud mama. So again stay tuned!

I’ll also be blogging about some recent portrait and commercial shoots we’ve done as well as a wedding we shot a few weeks ago. Again, stay tuned!

Before I sign off, here are a few holiday related images  I took this afternoon while out location scouting for a Christmas shoot tomorrow. Stay tuned for images from that shoot. I’ll be blogging more shortly, In the meantime, enjoy! Love, Toni C.




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And here’s Joe telling us how he really, really feels…he doesn’t know I’m posting this one… so I love you honey…:)) Toni


Holiday Cards & Boutique Packaging now available!

November 26, 2008

Holiday cards and boutique packaging has arrived at Tonic Design Studio! There is still time to place your greeting card order and select from a variety of custom designed greeting card templates. This is a fabulous way to showcase your engagement, wedding, or family portraits. Contact us to place an order before it’s too late to send your holiday cards out!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Joe & Toni