Justine Ungaro

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

Thanks for stopping by, please come visit my new wedding blog, The Unbride or my photography blog. And while you're there, leave a comment, I love comments!

Thursday, November 30, 2006


Oliver and I arrived in Los Angeles safe and sound last night after a (literally) turbulant airplane ride. The poor boy was stuffed into a little bag with the help of some doggy valium and stuffed under the seat in front of me.
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(The saddest picture ever)
I was very lucky to have a vacant seat in between me and a very nice man who was sitting by the window. So, Oliver got to spend the bulk of the plane ride in the middle seat with his head sticking out of the bag. He did make several escape attempts but overall he did extremely well for his first plane ride, despite the fact that we hit lots of bad air that visibly shook all of the passengers on the plane, including myself. I don't think that I would have been quite so frightened if we had not been grounded for an hour and a half at Dulles while they replaced the broken flight computer. That just didn't sound safe to me that major repairs could be done so quickly.
Anyway, we did make it safely and Gary was waiting there at Long Beach airport to pick us up and take us home. I have never seen Ollie so exhausted in my life!
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Saturday, November 25, 2006


The International Special Events Society and especially the D.C. chapter have been a very happy home for me for the past 3 years. They have also been extremely kind to me to present me with the Esprit Award for the past 2 years...I'm still not quite sure how that happened however I'm eternally grateful. Unfortunately, it seems that I'm missing most of our events these days since I'm spending more and more time in L.A. I still want everyone to remember how much I adore them and that I miss you all and I hope to be back for as many meetings as possible during 2007.
Here is a lovely picture by the very talented Steve Canning of me and my dear friend Martin at the American Red Cross Building. I believe that was October's meeting...this is post fire alarm of course. Please note the very nice festive menu. :)
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This is the view inside my laundry room in the basement of my D.C. house. This is the source of many many issues for me over the Thanksgiving holiday. The first was a lovely little flood up through the drain hole in the floor. Luckily this time it was shower water/ washing machine water and not sewage as it was once or twice in the past. (that was when I realized that plumbers do actually deserve whatever exorbitant rate they are charging you) Gross! Anyway, after trying to put one of those Home Depot snakes down the drain, I proved myself once again to be absolutely worthless in all aspects of homeownership except for writing checks...which I always do reluctantly. It is hard for me to part with money unless I'm getting one of the following things: new shoes, clothes, jewelry, great sushi, camera equipment, computers, investments etc. etc. I really HATE spending money that literally goes right down the drain. And that's exactly where $534 went when I had to call a plumber in to fix this problem. I thought I would be done with these issues, until the plumber came up with a bunch of tree roots stuck to the rooter he had put down the drain...and some bad news. Apparently, the tree in my front yard has broken into the pipes that go from the house to the street. The roots have actually grown right through the pipes for the water and um, "fertilizer". No wonder that tree has been looking so good, bastard! Anyway, now it looks like I will have to have my entire front yard/ driveway dug up and new pipes put in. The plumber also recommended that I have the tree removed so it doesn't happen again. So, if that wasn't enough, later I got a call from a claims adjuster at State Farm who owns my Homeowner's policy. Jonathan, was it? Anyway, he gleefully tells me that he doesn't think that this sort of thing is covered by my policy since it's outside of the "dwelling". So, after many tears and an email to a lawyer friend, I'm still waiting to find out a) how much this is going to cost me AND b) who at my insurance company I will come after if they say it's not covered.

So if all of this wasn't enough. After the flooding fiasco, I realized that the heat in the house was not working. Although being a veteran of laundry room floods, I knew that the pilot light had probably just gone out. And I was right. So with the help of Lauren shining a lampshadeless lamp on the floor under the hot water heater (no we don't own a flashlight much to our father's dismay), I lit part of a Trader Joe's bag on fire and stuck it under the water heater. After a few attempts it actually did light and being cold, I turned the dial from the OFF setting, past VACATION, WARM and straight up to HOT. I wasn't messing around anymore. Then I scalded myself in the shower and decided that WARM was hot enough. Unfortunately though, the house is still cold, it has been perpetually at 65 for days now...which to me is cold. And anyone who knows me will tell you that if it's less than about 78 degrees, I'm cold.


Thursday, November 23, 2006


Wow, I am such a fat fatty today! But I'm not alone. I think each of my family members must have consumed at least a stick of butter today...EACH. I couldn't believe it but every single course was just drenched in butter. But yummy. Tomorrow starts the annual post holiday diet and exercise plan which I'm sure will be put off until Monday when the leftovers have run out. The pecan pie is calling me back so I must go. But first I'll leave you with a family recipe we like to call "Great-Granny's Carrots", named after my great-grandmother Maime Houldsworth of Blackpool, England. It is a holiday staple in our family.

5 pounds carrots
1 stick of butter

- peel carrots and slice up into 1 inch pieces
- put in large pot and bring to a boil
- boil until semi-soft
- strain water and put back into pot
- add 1 stick of butter and chop up with a knife into bits
- add a lot of salt and pepper to taste

Excellent with turkey, mashed potatoes and other holiday favorites. Yummy!!!


Sunday, November 19, 2006


Yesterday I had the opportunity to work with the most wonderful couple, Mary and Andy. They were married at the National Museum for Women in the Arts in Washington D.C. which is one of my absolute favorite venues. My sister Lauren came along as my assistant to hold my "light on a stick". I'm telling you, if you're single (which she's not) what a way to meet men. There were at least 2 guys following her around all night. Luckily the groom stepped in and told them to get lost :), because I needed her help.

This was the first wedding that I implemented my newest lighting concept. This consisted of 2 1600 alien bee strobes on stands on either side of the band. These lit the dance floor with great directional light. The 3rd and main light was my on-camera speedlight with a "Fong Dong" (a.k.a. lightsphere pj) and the 4th was another speedlight with a lighsphere with dome (pointed at subjects from a 45 degree angle) mounted on a monopod which Lauren carried around for me. These were all triggered by Pocketwizards.

Oh yeah and I did have one catastrophe, my 24-70 2.8 lens popped right off the camera and crashed onto the concrete sidewalk. I pretended like it was no big deal but it totally was. The plastic casing is cracked and I think some of the interior glass broke as well. Besides it being expensive, it's my work-horse lens which means that I use it for absolutely everything at a wedding. And I managed to drop it within the first 2 hours of coverage. D'oh! Anyway, going with out it forced me to be creative in a new way and to use my other lenses to make due. And I think it was a blessing in disguise because I'm thrilled with the way everything has turned out so far.
Here are a few images.
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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Now that I'm back in D.C. for 2 weeks, I've decided that I simply must lose the excess weight I managed to gain during the 1 week drive across this great country. GK and I found that it is just littered with Denny's, Cracker Barrel and the like...and now it's easy to see why this nation has such a weight problem. I managed to develop one inside of a week, yikes! Anyway, after being very good (about my diet) all day long, my sister Lauren and I just made a trip to the grocery store for the necessary breakfast foods; yogurt, raspberries and granola. We also managed to pick up some chocolate chip cookie dough along the way. Of course we both needed our own though, I bought the Pillsbury variety while Lauren opted for Nestle Tollhouse. As she was eating the dough straight from the roll, I pre-heated the oven to 350 degrees. Looking puzzled she asked, "what are you doing? don't you want some dough?" I told her that I'd rather eat my cookies warm right out of the oven with milk. And she looked at me in disgust and said one of the funniest things I've heard in a long time "oh, you're so L.A. now, you and your cooked cookies!" I almost fell to the floor I laughed so hard. I'm only typing in my blog right now as I wait for 2 more cookies to bake.

Monday, November 13, 2006


Last night Janet and David invited us over for a wonderful home-cooked meal...or two meals really. We enjoyed turkey medallions and stuffing as well as stir fried vegetables and chicken. We called it "asian thanksgiving" and it was very yummy.
Spent most of the evening playing with their twin 3-year-olds, Molly and Harry who wreaked havoc on the place as usual. :)
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These two were having bicycle races around the house.
I think some of the top quotes of the evening were:
"No grapes in the play-do"
"That thing is a headache on wheels"
We ended the night in the kids' room with some bedtime stories. I got to read a very condensed version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs while Gary had the pleasure of reading "Walter, the Farting Dog" which combined tales of flatulance and tolerance. I don't rememeber having any books quite like that when I was a kid. It was a fascinating read except for the fact that the last page had been torn out so we had to infer the ending which was not difficult.
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We were so worn out by the end of the night, I don't know how people do it, especially with twins it is literally twice as exhausting. They seem to multiply and you just can't keep up. Luckily they are incredibly cute and charming and sweet.
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Sunday, November 12, 2006


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I just got an email from my friend Laura Metro in D.C. about her friend, Melissa's online store called Not Too Shabby.
Everything they do is custom and it's all wonderful. Terrific for baby gifts etc.


If anyone (Mary) ends up actually making my london broil, it tastes great in sandwiches the next day. I made wraps for Gary and I for lunch. Just spread flatbread with wasabi mayonaise and add lettuce, tomato, fresh mozzarella cheese & dried cranberries. I would have liked to add some avocado too but we're out. Serve along with some roasted red pepper and tomato soup. Yummy!
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Justine, Michael & Kay
Last night Michael and Kay threw me a great party at their house to welcome me to L.A. It was so great to catch up with so many old and new friends. Kay served some terrific middle eastern food which was so delicious and the cupcakes were a big hit. They even came with these cute little wooden forks so that you don't have to get your hands all dirty. However Kay had a bit of a freak out over the forks, apparently she has this weird unfinished wood phobia and couldn't be anywhere near the things.
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The only other person I know who has this sort of thing is Kelly and her issue is cotton balls or anything that feels cottony, like fleece blankets and such. It is just the weirdest thing.
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Jamie & Lawrence
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Eric & Andy (my friends from high school)
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me and my cousin Susan
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Stephanie & Justine


Okay so at one point during the party someone looked down at the table and noticed that there were about a million treos just lying around. We thought, oh that's so L.A. that we all have the same phone so I had to take a picture. Kinda makes you want to throw up, doesn't it?
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I'm not sure if it was a good idea for me to be my own bartender last night because apparently I make really strong drinks and that definitely kicked in by the time Gary and I got home. I don't remember much of this but he said I refused to leave the couch so he had to remove all of the cushions and turn the couch into a bed and sleep there with me. Only I don't think he slept much because he said I was speaking "vulcan" in my sleep all night. Sorry Gary. Luckily I took some excedrin before passing out so I feel fine today although I have to admit I'm still wearing my fake lashes from last night. :)



GK and I decided to drive out to the beach to the American Botanical Pharmacy to pick up some of Dr. Schulze's super food which we like to put in smoothies every morning. It looks like fish food but it is so much better for you than taking regular vitamins. It's all stemmed on the idea of keeping the bowels working properly to create health and prevent disease. It also just makes you feel really good and energetic.
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After stopping by Party On La Cienega, a paperie to check out some paper options for my business cards and stationary, we headed over to Sprinkles in Beverly Hills to pick up some cupcakes for my party.
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There were literally dozens of people in line to get themselves a $4 cupcake.
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This place is basically the L.A. version of NYC's Magnolia Bakery and just as yummy. We picked up 2 dozen cupcakes for the "bargain" price of $72. I'm telling you, everything here is soooo expensive!
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At this point we were both exhausted so we headed home to rest up before the party. As we drove down Hollywood Blvd, we glanced to the left and sitting in a convertible on the side of the road were the guys from Velvet Revolver posing for a photo shoot. The first thing you couldn't help but notice was Slash behind the wheel, complete with hat and sunglasses of course. Scott Weiland was reclining and looking cool. Gary made me get out of the car to get a quick picture with my little Canon Powershot. I've been so happy to have this camera with me lately as the 5D is just too huge to lug around most of the time. But this was one of those moments where I would have been thrilled to have my 5D with my 70-200 2.8 lens pointed at these guys. The photographer doing the shoot was using what looked like a Hasselblad with a digital back. No lighting at all though which sort of surprised me. I guess he got lucky and managed to find the only overcast day I've seen since arriving in L.A.
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I only recognized Slash and Scott, I had to look up the names of the other guys. :)


I have started cooking since I arrived in L.A. and am quite enjoying it. And it only took a $100 trip to the grocery store to make what would have been a $40 meal in a restaurant. So what I really mean is that if I continue to cook for Gary, he is going end up a very poor man. Hmm :) I think it would actually be quite a riot to watch me cook but that is forbidden because I get embarassed. I have cutting boards spread over every possible surface including the stove burners and I use the sink for storage of whatever food is waiting to be used. So anyway, here is the meal I whipped up and the recipe to re-create it on your own.

London Broil
mix together 1/3 cup ketchup, 1/3 cup soy sauce and 5 or 6 cloves of pressed garlic
stab london broil with a fork a bunch of times to soften and allow the marinade to soak in
put london broil in ketchup/soy marinade and put in the fridge for at least 3 hours, longer is better
But in a broiling pan and cook at 500 degrees until god knows when or medium rare (be sure to use a meat thermometer so that you don't get food poisoning from my recipe)
slice thinly on the diagonal

Stuffed Mushrooms
1 large sweet yellow onion, very finely chopped (you will cry a lot during this)
12 portobello stuffing mushrooms
bread crumbs
soy sauce
dry cooking sherry

melt 2-3 tablespoons of butter in a large frying pan on medium heat
remove stalks from mushrooms and chop very finely, set aside
add chopped onion to butter and sautee for 10 minutes or so
add chopped mushrooms to onions and continue to sautee, add more butter if necessary
remove from heat and add bread crumbs to soak up excess butter, stir as needed
in a small bowl, add 1/3 cup each soy sauce & dry sherry
dip each mushroom in soy/ sherry mixture & then stuff with dry mixture, place on baking sheet
bake mushrooms at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes or until they start to brown

Asparagus (this is the really easy one)
heat olive oil and 2 cloves of garlic in frying pan
after washing, take one asparagus stalk and break it on the thick end
wherever it breaks, cut the other stalks to the same length
add stalks to olive oil and sautee until slightly soft and browning
add a little kosher salt during cooking

Throw it all on a plate and enjoy with white wine, yum yum yum

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Here I am looking very glamorous at the dinner table

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Last night Gary took me to the newly opened Griffith Observatory up in the hills. The place is literally right above where we live in Los Feliz but we had to drive to Hollywood in order to catch a shuttle up to the observatory.
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Gary & Justine on the bus
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Outside view of Griffith Observatory
The place is pretty spectacular looking, especially at night. There is a memorial to James Dean near the entrance since Rebel Without A Cause was filmed there. Of course as soon as we got there I had to eat immediately. I must have put on 6 or 7 pounds worth of Denny's & Cracker Barrel and other American "cuisine" during the cross-country drive and I seem to need constant sustenance in order to survive. :) Luckily, there was a terffic cafe run by Wolfgang Puck right there, yum yum yum. We spent a couple of hours browsing all of the new exhibits. The place had been closed for 4 years until this week so we were some of the first people to be up there in a long time.
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The moon
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There is also a spectacular view of all of L.A. from the roof. Of course I was cold though so we didn't stay up there for long. We also didn't get a chance to look through the big telescope because of an hour-long line. I think that's just too long to wait in line for anything.
I think my favorite part of the whole place was when we visited the planetarium, it was a narrated show that really managed to make you feel insignificant and unimportant in the grand scheme of the universe...and it was just amazing to hear about the new technology that is going to bring humans to visit Mars very soon. Gary's favorite exhibit were bits and pieces of meteorites on display. They even had some polished up into saucer-type shapes so that you could feel them. They are actually very hard metals (irons etc.) and not rocky like you might expect. There was also a 'create your own impact creator' machine, very cool!


Tonight, Michael and Kay and Gary are throwing me a "welcome to L.A. party." It's so exciting for me, until a few weeks ago I hadn't had a party thrown for me since my 11th b-day. :) I did however, have a truly fabulous surprise send off thrown by all of my sneaky sneaky friends back home in Fairfax, hosted at Kelly & Erich's house. I don't know how they pulled it off without me knowing, although I was so distracted with moving, someone probably could have told me "the dinner at Kelly's is actually a surprise party" and I still wouldn't have gotten it, I just wouldn't have believed them. Mary even used the pregnancy card to stall me so that I wouldn't arrive too early. Kelly made me think that it would be just all of us girls eating dessert and crying on eachother at her house. That would have been too sad.
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I am surprised by all of my sneaky friends and family
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Gary & Justine talking to Marylou (Kelly's mom) who sent me off with a gorgeous new carry on bag so that I'll be sure to come home a lot :)
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All of my best girls


Friday, November 10, 2006

Robert Plant Sighting at Graceland
Gary and I spent last Thursday in Memphis doing the whole Elvis/ Graceland thing. We were planning to dress up as Elvis & Priscilla for Halloween to run around the streets but alas, we arrived a day too late and without costumes so that didn't quite come together. We did however, get to eat some delicious pork BBQ sandwiches at a really crummy "restaurant" (the only one open at Graceland that day) and in line right in front of us was a guy who looked curiously like Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin. I was sure it was just some random guy until we detected the british accent and overheard him on his cell phone saying "this is Robert, blah blah blah Rolling Stone..." So he ended up sitting at the table right behind us and instead of looking like idiots with our cameras, Gary caught this sweet picture of me and Robert Plant. :) Gary circled Robert Plant and labeled him so that you won't miss him.
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I showed this picture to the girls from Shut Up Stella the other night when they asked about the trip. Kristin thought it was a great story, Jessie looked puzzled and asked "who's Robert Plant?"


Nashville Neon
In going through all of the images I just took on my 2nd cross-country road trip (always east to west and never west to east, hmm) I'm thinking that I might try to put together a show of all neon sign images. They just photograph so well, check out these images from Nashville's music row.
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Today was my 4th full day of living in Los Angeles and I have a lot to catch up on. After arriving on Monday afternoon, unpacking and getting settled, Gary and I spent Tuesday & Wednesday evenings in the studio with Shut Up Stella (an emerging girl band) and Good Charlotte as they wrote and recorded 2 songs. I'm telling you, these girls are going to be a huge hit when they break. Gary, Kay & Janet are currently producing a reality show about Jessie, Kristin & Fan and all of the drama that follows them or that they create. Fan regaled us with a story of how her grandmother had knit her this nice scarf. Well, she threw up on it the other night and instead of washing it, decided it would be easier to cut the vomit out...with scissors. So now grandma's scarf has a big hole in it but she's still wearing it. Kristin got about a million phone calls from various guys she seems to be mostly uninterested in. Jessie was bubbly and adorable and spent half the night teaching Kay some sweet dance moves. Joel from Good Charlotte thought Kay was 28 which totally made her day and I announced that my new fake L.A. age would be 22. Ha, yeah right. Jessie thought I could pass and Kristin just didn't want me to be younger than she is and my mother has already told me that there's no way I could pass for being that young "because 22-year-olds don't have the bone structure" that I have. Which is of course just a really nice way of saying "you look much older than that." Kay gave me a lecture on the benefits of early botox treatments but seeing as I've only been here for a few days, I think I'll stick with my current method of anti-aging: sunscreen, hats, big sunglasses and the occasional microdermabrasion session. :)
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Jessie, Kristin, Kay & Fan
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Joel from Good Charlotte

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