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March 17, 2014

FILED IN: Personal, Travel

letter-the coastal highway took us straight into Santa Barbara and, since we had some time to kill before we had to return the rental car, we decided to park by the pier and stretch our legs while checking out the downtown area. I’m so glad we did because the rest of the week, we were at the Fess Parker and really busy with the conference schedule so this was the perfect chance to liesurely adventure.

(See part 1, part 2, and part 3.)

Everything about Santa Barbara was adorable. Literally. Even the mailboxes were cute. There seemed to be lots of city codes keeping everything within a beautiful guidelines of Spanish architecture (or else everyone living and doing business there just has great style). Stucco reflects light so beautifully and it made the whole city burst with life.


March 10, 2014

FILED IN: Personal, Travel

letter-after the afternoon roaming through Los Angeles, we found a hotel in nearby Santa Monica very close to the beach. And so began our Santa Monica adventures. We went to the hotel first to check in and then promptly got lost trying to find our room. After finding our room with the help of the staff, we discovered the most delicious scone-like cookies in the lobby, which we promptly gobbled up as if we hadn’t eaten all day (when, in fact, we had).

We grabbed our cameras and headed outside to walk to the beach. We made it to the beach just barely before the sun dipped over the horizon and we got to see some of the most glorious skies in that short amount of time! One of my favorite images from that evening was an iPhone photo that I ‘grammed.

I love this shot because I can hear the sound of water coming towards me when I look at it. I had leaned over, put my camera close to the sand, and fired quickly as the water rushed towards me.


March 6, 2014

FILED IN: Personal, Travel

I flew to the United conference in California with two lovely ladies, Rachel & Valerie, and our adventurous spirits were so in check that, despite the fact that we were relatively new friends, we were really in sync with what we wanted to do or not do. This is the first part of our trip: our Los Angeles adventures. I’ll be posting more from our trip over the next couple of weeks.


March 1, 2014

letter-despite the fact that we’ve all dispersed from Santa Barbara back to our homes, the online United party is still rolling with story after story (some funny, some inspiring, some absolutely moving) and photos and memories and online hugs. It sounds very dramatic to say that this year’s United conference changed my life, but truly, it did.


February 28, 2014

FILED IN: Personal, Travel


While in California this month for a photography conference, I spotted two girls eating this on a bench. My friend Rachel asked where they got it and they said it was from The Cow’s End. It was less than a block away and so I ordered this and still cannot stop talking about it! It was one of the most delicious breakfasts I’ve ever had. There was fresh blended açaí smoothie in the bottom with a layer of granola and then topped with coconut and bananas.


The last time I was in California I was 6 years old on a family vacation. I so vividly remember how much I loved the state though so I’ve always had a crush on that part of the country. When I was there this month, I knew why I first fell in love.


This long and drug-out winter we’ve had has wreaked havoc on my skin. I put out a “please help me” on Facebook earlier this month because my fingers were cracking to the point of bleeding. Of all the advice I received, the one that helped the most was the advice to put coconut oil on my skin. I now carry around a little container with it so I can apply no matter where I am. Tip: a little goes a long way!


When I first heard about this, I was immediately sucked in. It sounded too good to be true! A lipstick that, when applied, adjusts based on your body’s pH levels to the exact pink shade that matches your skin tone. For those of us who lived through the mood rings of the ’90s, this lipstick does NOT change based on your mood. It strictly is shaded based on your body chemistry. To try this out, my best friend and I both put it on and our lip colors were different. Hers was slightly more pink in comparison to my slightly more red shade. The great news about this is that it’s easy to use, it goes on smooth like vaseline, it doesn’t dry out my lips, it doesn’t leave a lip print on cups & glasses, and it stays on throughout an entire day. I purchased mine on eBay, but I have since noticed that several U.S. companies have started producing this lipstick, though at a much higher cost.

April 22, 2013

One of my goals for this year was to attend a photography workshop. I’ve gone to many conventions, but there was something more personal about a workshop that I knew would be so beneficial for me. When Melissa Jill opened up her North Carolina workshop back in February, I jumped on board before I had a chance to let myself back out.

Fast forward to last week. I flew out of Cedar Rapids on Sunday and got to Charlotte around 6 PM local time. I met another workshop attendee, Nancy, at the airport and we split a cab to the hotel. After a quick freshen-up, we headed to the workshop location, which was hosted by the truly lovely Leslie Hancock. Let me tell you something about Leslie: she is the perfect hostess. When you pull up to her driveway, you can immediately tell that she loves creation and that she loves to have people enjoy what she loves. Her yard…oh, her yard. It’s not even really yard. It’s kind of like an enchanted place where nothing ugly can grow. Only beautiful things. Then you walk into her home and feel immediately enveloped in warm hugs of welcome. Every nook and cranny is perfectly situated to host people. I felt so welcome and so at home.

Sunday evening was a meet and greet. All but 1 person from the workshop were able to be there Sunday night and it was such a good time getting to hear everyone’s back stories, how they got into photography, where they are from, married, kids, the whole gamut. Because Melissa keeps her workshops small (there were 13 of us, I believe), everyone got to know each other over the next few days and the environment of teaching/learning was so open.

Monday morning we got right into the workshop and, honestly, the next 2 days flew by for me. There are so many goals that came out of this for me. Some of my goals were reaffirmed, some were revised, but everything was amazing.

This area along the side of the house is Leslie’s enchanted garden. It really does feel magical.

I love the sound of water (except when it’s flooding my basement) and so the fountain in the back yard was such a peaceful place for me.

Breaks and lunches were spent outside in the beautiful North Carolina weather drinking coffee and chatting.

We had a mock engagement shoot on Monday night. It was a great chance to see how Melissa runs her sessions and also to hang out with everyone. Honestly, if no one would’ve kept me on scheduled, I could’ve spent the entire 2 days just hanging out with these women!

Tuesday evening was a fun chance to get headshots for everyone. These are obviously some of the outtakes. 🙂

Thank you, Melissa, for sharing your wisdom and being so genuine and kind. Thank you, Michelle, for keeping the entire thing running behind the scenes and for making us that delicious dinner! Thank you, Leslie, for hosting us in your home. And thank you to Jill, Taylor, Stacey, Anna, Melissa, Sarah, Jen, Emma, Christine, Nancy, and Moe for sharing your lives, your stories, your friendship, and your hearts. I’m truly a better person because of meeting you all.

All images were taken with a Canon 5D Mark III and a 50mm f/1.2 lens.

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