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The Place I’d Rather Be

Fla004

I stand at the waters’ edge while the last of the tide’s energy splash over my feet. My newly painted toenails match the sea foam colors of the water. Over my shoulder, children screech with laughter and joy as they charge full speed into the calm, warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Some are content playing chase with the breaking waves, giggling with joy from the ceaseless game. The bigger kids covered from head to toe with beach gear including hats, goggles, swim trunks, and sunscreen — SPF 50 — charge the gentle waters with boogie boards in tow while mom and dad setup the umbrellas and chairs for a day in the summer sun.

My wet feet collect the small white grains of sand for which this area of the Gulf is famous. The cloth material on my chair matches my toes and the waters before me. Such a beautiful, rich color. As I settle into my chair and reach for my sunglasses, I find peace in the music of my surroundings. The music from the waves reaching the shore, children laughing and enjoying the water, and the sound of the wind as it reaches my ears and pushes my ponytail sideways. It’s all music.

This is my room with a view. It’s a never ending view. It is my peace; my happy place.

The First Sentence

PJ Book2

My ninth grade English teacher challenged me. She forced me to think outside of the box — outside of my very small-minded comfort zone — and open my mind. She forced to me answer  questions in which the response I gave was neither satisfying or, at times, tolerant of others’ opinions. Her assignments taught me there was more to the world than the two mile trek from my home to school. There were assignments I didn’t fully understand until I became an adult. There were assignments I still don’t understand — even as an adult. There were assignments to this day I am still proud to read.  This is profound — to me — because there are photography gigs from last month I can’t remember, but I can recall a handful of assignments from nearly 20 years ago! Needless to say, her teaching methods had a lasting impact.

One of the more confusing tasks was what I’ve grown to call the first sentence assignment. We were to choose 10 books and list the first sentence of the book and explain why we chose that book. In theory, I believe the task was associated with dramatic writing and first impressions. I think she was teaching us how a well written single sentence can captivate a reader well enough to continue reading although the subject may not be all that captivating. Personally, it forced me to think. Why was this important to me? What about this moved me?

As I was reading through the many blogs I follow, one post jogged my memory of this assignment. A blogger, Andrea Badgley, posted quotes from a book (one of many it seems) she reads. For some reason, that post spoke to me and reminded me of that long ago assignment.

There’s no way I could remember all 10 of those books on the decades-old list, but I wanted to share the ones I knew were listed. If you had to do this assignment which books would you list and why? It’s a lot harder to list than you may first think.

From 1994’s List:

Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry” by Mildred D. Taylor: “Little Man, would you come on? You keep it up and you’re gonna make us late.”

The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton: “When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home.”

The Giver” by Lois Lowry: “It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened.”

The Bible: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1 (New International Version)

Sati” by Christopher Pike: “I once knew this girl who thought she was God.”

(The photos on this post are of a notebook created and shared by a group of Pearl Jam fans who have, over time, bonded through through this book, their love of the band, and the friendships forged from both. I was able to see this book and have it explained to me in detail last year. I took a few shots of thinking I would write a blog post about it. I didn’t get around to writing the post, but I thought the photos fit here. These are dedicated, long-term Pearl Jam fans who are moved by the members’ music, writing, and causes. Just as the first sentence of a book can speak to us.)

PJ Book

The Anniversary!

Hannah and Harley proudly celebrates its one year anniversary as a blog today!

It’s fitting the anniversary is today, the day before Valentine’s Day. I think my first post was intentionally not on Valentine’s Day, but I can’t be sure. As people prepare to celebrate Valentine’s Day and seeing as today is important for Hannah and Harley, I thought I’d share some photos of the furry, four-legged, love of my life and a few things he’s taught me along the way. Enjoy the photos. Most are snapshots with my phone.

Here’s What You Need to Know About Harley:

  • He’s a beagle.
  • He loves to roll in the grass even though he’s got really bad allergies.
  • He likes to wear sweaters in the cold weather. His favorite sweater is the green one.
  • He’ll do anything for a treat!
  • He recently learned to how “shake.”

Here’s What You Need to Know About Having A Dog (in case you were wondering):

  • Owning a dog = love.
  • There will always be laughter and love in the home with a dog around.
  • A little hug goes a long way.
  • Long walks are good for everyone (as long as it’s not 10 degrees outside.)
  • Treats aren’t just for dogs. Finding the little things in life make all the difference in the world.
  • Snuggles are awesome. Blankets too!
  • All you need is love.

In celebration!

This is month Hannah and Harley will celebrate its one year anniversary as a blog! For those who are already following us, thank you! You are already entered into a drawing for a $25 gift card to Starbucks! (Make sure your email is up-to-date and accurate. That’s how I will notify the winner.) Actually, because you are a loyal reader you are already entered into the drawing twice!  From now through the end of the month those who start following this blog will receive one entry for the gift card. Good luck! :) To follow Hannah and Harley, enter your email in the space provided called “Follow Blog Via Email.” Yes, it’s that easy. If you already have a WordPress account, simply click the follow button.

The Camera Question

This is an example of a point and shoot camera (the red one) and a DSLR.

This is an example of a point and shoot camera (the red one) and a DSLR.

As freelance photographer I get this question all the time: “I want a new camera. What do you recommend?”

I follow it up with a question. “Well, what do you want the camera  for? What do you want to take pictures of with this new camera?”  The responses vary from pictures of my __________ (kids, pets, flowers, etc.), but it’s always followed by a long pause. A hesitation. It’s usually one of  two things: they weren’t expecting me to ask a question or they hadn’t given any thought as to why they wanted a new camera.

For most, a new camera is only a new camera. When you ask a photographer what camera do you recommend it’s like asking a movie critic what movie to watch or a chef what’s for dinner. We need more information to answer it properly. With that in mind, I’ve created a few tips that will help you pick out a new camera. These tips are based on conversations I’ve had over the years. I’ll still be more than happy to provide a recommendation, but these tips should also help you narrow down your choices and help you make a more educated decision.

1. Seriously. Why do you want the new camera?
Be honest. Do you have a baby on the way and want to capture all the wonderful and cute memories? Perfect. New puppy? Sounds good. Are you simply replacing a broken camera? Knowing why you want the camera will help you figure out the options on the camera.

2. What kind of camera do you want?

Admittedly, you are asking me so you don’t have to give this question any thought. I recognize that, but that’s not how I roll. We are going to talk to this out. Why? Because I’m the photographer and I said so! All joking aside, there is a purpose to talking it out. There are several types of cameras and in order to give my best recommendation I need more information.

Let’s talk type. In its basic form there are two kinds of mainstream consumer cameras: point and shoot and DSLR (digital single-lens reflex). A point and shoot is just what it sounds like. You point at something and you take a picture of it: point and shoot. DSLR are the digital versions of cameras with mirror reflective abilities as well as removable lens. (A removable lens is always the rule, but it is the majority.)  The single lens reflex refers to the components on  the inside of the camera where a mirror captures the image and reflects the light to the viewfinder. In the past, the light that image captured was exposed to film creating a negative. Today, that mirrored image is converted into a digital file. The DLSR provides a higher level of control in regards to light, shutter speed, and other variable settings compared to a point and shoot. (There’s new technology that doesn’t require a mirror and allows for the same type of controls and speed capabilities as the DSLR.)

How much control do you want over the camera?  If you’d rather let the camera do the thinking and really just want to take pictures at parties and social gatherings then a point shoot is probably more your style.

Do you want to change settings? There are higher end point and shoots that will allow to change and control some settings. But if you answered yes to one or both questions below I do not recommend point and shoots cameras. Period.

Are you going to be taking photos in low light environments?
Are you taking any action shots?

Now that you’ve figured out the type let’s talk price.

3. How much are you willing to spend?
If you plan ahead and think this through you will be better off in the long run knowing how much you can or want to spend. We are all guilty, myself included, of spending too much on an item. By setting a budget you keep from over spending, falling for a sales pitch, or settling for the wrong camera.

Once you’ve determined your budget and the camera you want.  Research it. There are plenty of sites that offer deals on cameras. If you’ve got the time, try to avoid purchasing it from the first place you look. I know it’s easier said than done. On large purchases like this, do some price compairisons.  It will be worth your time.

If you will ask yourself these questions you will be better informed and make a better decision about your new camera. I hope these tips have helped a little bit. Knowing what you want and how much you are willing to pay for it whether it’s a camera, a new car, or the latest gadget for a Christmas present will always make you a better consumer.

In celebration!

This is month Hannah and Harley will celebrate its one year birthday as a blog! For those who are already following us, thank you! You are already entered into a drawing for a $25 gift card to Starbucks! (Make sure your email is update and accurate. That’s how I will notify the winner.) Actually, because you are a loyal reader you are already entered into the drawing twice!  From now through the end of the month those who start following this blog will receive one entry for the gift card. Good luck! 🙂 To follow Hannah and Harley, enter your email in the space provided called “Follow Blog Via Email.” Yes, it’s that easy. If you already have a WordPress account, simply click the follow button.

The Homemade Air Freshener

The Homemade Air Freshener

It doesn’t get much easier than three ingredients to make this homemade air freshener. (I’d call it Febreeze, but it’s not Febreeze so I can’t really call it that. It’s a knockoff of that name brand.) It’s super easy to make and you can customize it to your liking.

Here’s What You Need:

  • spray bottle
  • 1/8 cup of fabric softener (your favorite scent)
  • 2 tbsp of baking soda
  • water

Here’s What You Do:

  • Add the baking soda and fabric softener to the spray bottle.
  • Fill the remaining bottle with hot water.
  • Shake well and enjoy! (Shaking before each use is recommended.)

You can find the original post here.

The 12 Days of Christmas: The Survival Package

I am very excited to bring to you the second annual 12 Days of Christmas. This project began last year as a last-minute gift idea guide and because it was so successful it started this very blog you are reading now! I will feature 12 different holiday gift ideas and/or recipes with instructions. I hope you enjoy them and are inspired. Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Hannah and Harley.

Don’t let the name of this post fool you. It’s sounds neat, but it’s really more of a thank you package. As part of our Christmas card  this year we handed out “survival packages” at the office. The package included the following:

  • a handful of peppermints – because you (or someone near) may need a breath of fresh air
  • a handful of Kisses, Rolos, or both – because everyone needs chocolate in their lives
  • a package of Advil – for those everyday headaches even — or especially — this time of year
  • a pack of Kleenex – because you are human and sneeze or may need to wipe something off
  • hand sanitizer – because it’s just handy to have around
  • a package of Swiss Miss hot chocolate – because life needs a little of flavor from time to time.

These types of kits are very easy to create. The ones we created at work couldn’t be gender or themed specific because of the variety of people we gave these to. The kits are great for themed or gender ideas. For example, if you have an all ladies book club to give you can create a fingernail themed kit with polish, file, remover, clippers, cuticle cutters, toe separators, etc. You get the idea. For men it’s the same way you can create a shaving kit, food related kit, sports kit. That list goes on and on as well.

These are really good if you are on a budget as well. There are a few things you should keep in mind. Listed below are some tips I provided based on my experience gathering everything for our survival package.

  • Know your audience. Is it a mixture of ages? Is your group all men or all women?
  • Create a list. You will need to know what you are going to put in the kit before you ever purchase a single item. This include the final package. You need to what you are going to put the kit in. We started with plastic container, moved to a glass container, and decided on cellophane bags wrapped with ribbon. It was shipped in a USPS small flat rate box.
  • Know how you are going to distribute these items. Are you mailing or shipping anything? There’s a cost there too. Make sure you include shipping in your budget. We choose to USPS flat rate small boxes. Are you going to hand deliver these kits? Think about the gas it will take to get from place to another and all over town.
  • Be willing to adjust your list based on availability, cost, and ease of purchase. Initially, we wanted to include band-aids and dental floss in the kits. The floss was too expensive. We considered for a brief moment the floss sticks , but who wants to use it knowing someone else may or may not have touched the floss sticks. Pass. We didn’t use band-aids for presentation reasons.
  • Buy in bulk. Unless you are creating less than five of these kits the cost of purchasing everything not in bulk will get expensive quick. Buying as many items as you can in bulk will assist in keeping the costs down. The peppermints, Kisses, Rolos, Advil, and hot chocolate were all purchased in bulk. I’m not saying go to your local warehouse store and buy it all there in 20-pound bags. No. Let’s say you want to include Hershey bars. Instead of buying 20 at the checkout line in individually wrapped bars for a $1 go to the candy aisle and price check the multi-pack. That’s what I mean by buy in bulk.
  • Price check. Everything. Do the math. You may think it’s a great idea to include a newly released cookbook from your favorite chef in the kit, but if that cookbook is $15.99 and you’ve got 20 kits to gather that’s $319.80 already spent. Research everything. I spent about 30 minutes looking up prices and availability on the items we choose before I presented it for approval from co-workers and bosses. That help me set my budget and know what I could purchase.
  • Check out the dollar stores around you. It most likely won’t be name brand items, but you will be able to find more than you expected in these stores. I purchased the hand sanitizer and cellophane bags from The Dollar Tree and spent less $40. Browse the aisles you may even be inspired.
  • Have fun. If you have fun then other people have fun. Fun spreads. Share the fun!

The 12 Days of Christmas: The Peppermint Scrub

Peppermint made with sugar and peppermint essential oil.

Peppermint made with sugar and peppermint essential oil.

I am very excited to bring to you the second annual 12 Days of Christmas. This project began last year as a last-minute gift idea guide and because it was so successful it started this very blog you are reading now! I will feature 12 different holiday gift ideas and/or recipes with instructions. I hope you enjoy them and are inspired. Have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Hannah and Harley.

Sugar scrubs are great gift ideas. They make several containers full usually, are super easy to make, and there are so many different variations that you could make several kinds and package them together as one. The ideas for sugar scrubs are endless. (On a side note this recipe calls for red food dye. So if you have issues using the red food dye you can make it without it. It just won’t have the contrasting colors in the scrub.)

 Here’s What You Need:

  • 2 cups of sugar divided into separate cups
  • Peppermint Essential Oil
  • Carrier Oil of your choice (I used an almond carrier oil.)
  • red food dye
  • plastic or glass containers to put the mixture in (the photo above those are 4-ounce containers.)

 Here’s What You Do:

  • Add about 3-6 drops of food coloring into one of the cups of sugar. (The food coloring will go a long way. So if you don’t want a strong red color in your scrub go light on the dye. I went heavy on the dye because I wanted a strong contrast between the colors.)
  • Stir the sugar and food dye until it’s blended to your liking.
  • Add about 5 drops of peppermint essential oil and the carrier oil to the other cup of sugar and mix well. The amount of carrier oil you use will depend on the consistency you’d like the scrub to be. I went with a thicker scrub.
  • Start layering the scrub. You can start with either color. There’s no science to it, just make sure you alternate layers to give it the pepperminty look. Layer until the container is full.
  • You may want to press each firmly before moving to the next layer. This will help to keep it from settling too much later.

Enjoy.

If you use a Popsicle stick or spoon to dispense the scrub it will last a little longer. Depending upon the size of the container, the scrub is good for about 4-6 weeks. Also please make sure and use caution when in the shower or tub. There is oil in it so it may be a little slick when you are done.

Peppermint made with sugar and peppermint essential oil.

Peppermint made with sugar and peppermint essential oil.