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Happy Thanksgiving

Whether you live in the United States or not,

I hope you have a wonderful day today.

I have so much to be grateful for –

I hope you do too!

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The Holidays Have Begun …

The cranberries are made.

The potato casserole is made.

The turkey is soaking in brine.

I’ve been at grocery store(s) and in the kitchen cooking almost nonstop the last couple days.

It’s hectic, but I like it.

I love having my family here.

The weather is picture perfect too.

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I’m planning on taking a lot of long walks over the next few days.

It would be a shame to waste the beautiful days by not getting outside.

Besides, I think it takes a lot of trudging through sand to work off all that turkey ….

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Pumpkin Dessert Squares

I stopped into Williams-Sonoma a few weeks ago to look at oven thermometers.

(My oven has been misbehaving lately.)

While I was there, they gave me a bite size sample of Pecan Pumpkin Butter Dessert Squares.

Their sales strategy worked.

I bought a jar of Muirhead Pecan Pumpkin Butter (sold at Williams-Sonoma stores) and made the squares the next time we had friends over.

They were a big hit.

Even nicer, the squares are easy to make and great for a crowd.

(I like easy recipes around the holidays, don’t you?)

The thing is, you could easily substitute a different brand of pumpkin butter, or even use apple butter (or something else entirely) to make variations to this recipe.

The squares are very rich.  As a result, I cut them into very small squares.  The small size seemed perfect when served to guests with a cup of coffee or tea.

I’m sharing the recipe exactly as it was given to me at the store, but feel free to make substitutions and/or experiment with ingredients as you see fit.

(Sorry I didn’t take a photo to share.  I hadn’t planned to blog this recipe at the time I baked them.)

Pecan Pumpkin Butter Dessert Squares

1 package yellow cake mix; set aside one cup

1/2 cup butter, melted

3 eggs, large

1 jar of Muirhead Pecan Pumpkin Butter

2 Tbsp milk

1 Tbsp flour

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup butter, softened

1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350F.  Divide yellow cake mix, placing all but one cup in a mixing bowl.  Stir the melted butter and one egg into the cake mix.  Press the mixture into the bottom of a greased 9″ x 13″ pan.  Mix the jar of Muirhead Pecan Pumpkin Butter with two eggs and milk.  Pour over the cake mix.  Stir the reserved cup of cake mix with the flour, sugar, softened butter, and cinnamon.  Mix together until crumbly.  Sprinkle over top of the pumpkin layer.  Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool.  Cut into 2″ squares.  Serves 24.

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Why Do Men Like Beer More Than Women Do?

•  Are you thinking about buying a camera this holiday season?  What camera should you buy?  Read my post on choosing the right camera for you before making your purchase.

•  Why do (most) men like beer more than (most) women do?

This is what I was wondering as I did some of my Thanksgiving grocery shopping last weekend.

I like a cold beer once in a great while, on a hot day, or sometimes with a certain dish.

Beer is filling though, and there’s just so much of it.

Men, it seems, like beer a lot more.

Maybe because men consider burping an art form?

•  Why do OC women bring their little (itty bitty) dogs around with them everywhere?

I love animals, and dogs in particular, but I find it really annoying.

Are Mini-Dogs the new OC fashion statement?

It seems to be a particularly big issue in Newport Beach, where itty-bitty dogs are rarely seen without fashionable clothes on.  I see dogs in department stores, in restaurants, in grocery stores – basically, everywhere.  Sometimes Mini-Dogs are in purses or baby strollers.  Oftentimes, Mini-Dogs are leading their OC Plastic Barbies around by rhinestone leashes.

Mini-Dog Owners all seem to feel it’s their right to have a dog wherever they go.  (Of course, a sense of entitlement is the norm for people in Orange County.)

•  Why are my still bionic nipples still so fabulous?

Oh wait, that wasn’t supposed to be in this blog post ….

•  Why hasn’t anyone published a book of all the text messages my friend Nike and I have exchanged over the years?

There is so much humor and inappropriateness in our messages.  The ironic thing is, neither of us lifts an eyebrow when random messages come across our phone.  We may not have talked for weeks, but then there’s an exchange like this:

“I’m in a biker’s bikini bar and a naked woman just grabbed my boob.”

“So jealous!  Why didn’t you invite me?”

“It was a hasty decision.  But, I got you a t-shirt about having sex with a midget!”

Little People!”

“No, he specifically asked to be called a midget and he gave me a sex t-shirt for you.”

“Oh. Well then, thank you???”

“He’s wearing a diaper ….”

“NOOOOOO!!!!”

•Why are OC women taking the drug Topamax (an anti-seizure medication) in record numbers for weight loss?

Topamax, which doctors often refer to as “stupid pills” affect your THINKING.  Is it really worth it?  By the way, this is a drug which was presented to me as a possibility for pain control.  I turned it down, because I highly value the gift of my brain.  I’d love to be pain-free and skinny, but I would never consider forfeiting my intelligence.

A woman I know (very well) is taking it for weight loss.  Yes, she’s lost a lot of weight.  She’s also lost all her friends.  No one can tolerate being around her because she acts like an idiot all the time.  She’s also going home with random men she meets in bars now – something she would not have done before.  She’s not thinking.  She’s not herself.  I honestly don’t know if she’s safe from her own bad decisions.

I don’t understand why doctors are prescribing this purely for weight loss purposes?

(Unless the doctors are the men picking up on Topamax Women in bars??)

•  Is there something you’re wondering about, lately? 

If you’ve got some odd or interesting why questions rattling about in your brain, I’d love to hear them.

Maybe, together, we can come up with answers ….

P.S.  My blogging might be hit or miss this week.  I’ve got family around all week for the Thanksgiving holiday.  I’m very excited about having everyone here, but I know I’ll have a very busy week.

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Crystal Cove State Park

I was at Crystal Cove State Park yesterday in the late afternoon.

We’re expecting rain today, and I was hoping to photograph some interesting clouds.

(Clouds being a rarity for us!)

I wasn’t planning on staying long, but I seem to lose track of time when I’m shooting.

Before I knew it, the sun was setting and lighting up the incoming storm clouds.

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Off Road in Kauai

One of my favorite adventures in Kauai last summer, was the day we spent in Polihale.

We knew we’d be taking the jeeps through dirt and ditches and potholes to get there.

We didn’t expect a sudden (prolonged) rain storm, or quite so much mud.

At the beginning of the trip, the “road” looked very manageable.

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Of course, we had a problem with one of the jeeps almost immediately.

And then – the “road” became less and less of a road.

And then – the sky opened and buckets of water fell for what seemed like an eternity.

The mud, the puddles/lakes, the ditches, the potholes –

Well, it was a LOT of fun!

(Did I mention the eleventy-bazillion gigantic FROGS?)

After quite awhile,

We found ourselves at the end of the mud road.

We sat in the jeeps for awhile until the rain stopped.

It felt like we were, perhaps, the only people on earth.

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Polihale is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.

We weren’t sure if the road (??) was in good enough condition to leave, but we headed back out of Polihale after the sun set.

The return trip was quite an adventure, but we made it out.

To be honest, I think our entire group would have been okay being stuck there for days.

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Life Changes

I feel like my life is approaching a turning point.

Do you ever feel that way?

I’m not sure WHY I feel like this, but I just sense change.

Maybe it’s because 2012 is winding down?

Maybe it’s because my photography business has been growing by leaps and bounds in the past several months?

It’s hard for me to even wrap my brain around everything positive that’s happened with my art in 2011.

I can’t imagine where my life might be a year from now.

I feel like I’m leaving some things behind, and stepping forward into a new beginning.

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Maybe it’s because I’ve finally found someone I really trust to help me with my damaged body?

After everything I’ve been through, it’s not easy to let someone new work on me.

(That may be a difficult concept for a “normal” person to understand.  Going to PT for a month or two is very different than going FOREVER.)

Long term PT is a whole different experience –

You need to have a lot of confidence in the person working on you.  (Paul Newman is very, very, good at what he does.  I feel a huge sense of relief about finding him.)

You need to be compatible personality-wise.  (Being able to laugh, and be my usual smart-ass self, at PT helps a ton.)

You need to be able to trust someone with the parts of you that hurt the most.  (This has been very hard for me in the last year or two, but I’m trying.)

It also helps if he looks like Paul Newman and uses warm lube to massage you.

Yesterday, I begged Paul Newman for more “women” stories to entertain me, but he just blushed and shook his head no.

I’ll keep on working on him though.  (Seriously, he must have SO MANY!!)

I did hear one woman get positively belligerent about him yesterday.  An assistant suggested she schedule her next appointment with a PT at the practice other than Paul Newman.  “I want Paul Newman” she insisted, loudly, and repeatedly.  The assistant assured her she could see Paul Newman again eventually, but the woman wants to see only him.  (Apparently, there isn’t always enough of Paul Newman to go around.)  She got louder and louder about it.  She sounded angry as she insisted she HAD TO HAVE HIM.

I find things like this very entertaining.

Doesn’t she know?

My mom’s entire generation wanted Paul Newman too, and they didn’t all get to have him ….

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The Checklist

Whew – I needed yesterday … in so many ways!

•  First of all, I haven’t taken my shoes off (except to shower) since the scorpion incident.

•  What?  You’ve worn shoes to bed before, right?  (You’re so KINKY!!)

•  I have not  (!!!!!)  seen a scorpion in the last 24 hours.

•  I am still very concerned about scorpion(s).

•  By the way, I AM a scorpio (n?) – for those of you who believe in astrological signs.  (Emotional?  Intense? Sexier than hell???)

•  I moved 13,000 RAW files off my laptop yesterday.  Yes, I said thirteen THOUSAND!  (Thanks to thunderbolt technology – it went faster than expected!)

•  Omigod – can you believe it?  I was told I’d never hold a camera again – and look at me now!  My heart is bursting with joy over this accomplishment!  Seriously, it’s crazy and AMAZING!

•  I (finally!) got a couple hours to mentally recharge yesterday.

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•  I highly recommend you NEVER hike over zillions of rocks, wade through waves, gingerly step through tidepools (in your new sneakers), while carrying a huge, heavy, tripod, a backpack full of gear, and a professional camera.

•  Seriously – you’d be out of your mind to do something like that.  (It’s really hard to balance while climbing and carrying so much crap.)

•  It was hot yesterday.

•  Scorpions like hot weather.  (Boo!  Hiss!  I don’t like scorpions!)

•  I got sunburned and I had sunscreen on.  (My nose has not stopped peeling for months!)

•  I really, really, needed to be out there though.  I’m a better (nicer/calmer/saner) person now.

•  I’m still behind on everything.  (Of course I am!  I was out playing with my camera instead of tackling my To Do list!)

•  Can’t we just go back to September until we all get caught up with our lives?  (I want a couple months to get ready for the holidays!)

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What Black Cloud?

Ugh -!!

Have you ever noticed life seems to go through positive and negative cycles?

The last few months, things have been going SO well.

The last few days?

Well, they’ve sucked.

Okay, so maybe all of November (so far) has sucked.

There’s nothing major wrong, but I’m being bombarded by lots of little BAD things.

Yesterday, I decided I just needed to escape.

“Just two hours by myself!” I thought.

I cleaned my camera, my lenses and my tripod.  I charged batteries, cleared memory cards, and packed my car.

I checked the tide schedule, and the time of sunset … I was prepared!

I really needed a couple hours of “me” time on a beach, camera in hand.

I had driven (maybe) a half mile away from my house when my car said, “Warning!  You have a flat tire!”

“No, I don’t!” I replied.

“You have a flat tire,” my car insisted.

“NO!” I argued vehemently, even as disappointment sank in.

“You’re back right tire is FLAT!” scolded my car.

Why in the hell did we teach cars to talk??

I pulled over.

I walked to the back of my car and saw a huge nail protruding out of my back right tire.

Very bad words came out of my mouth.

I texted my son who, fortunately, was close by and had the day off school.  He agreed to meet me at a tire store about a mile away.

I dropped my car off, transferred my camera gear to my son’s car, and was informed my car would not be ready for pick up until 6 p.m.

I said more (really) bad words.

Did you know sunset was at 4:49 p.m. yesterday?

I came home and stared at this photo and pretended I was there.

Sigh!

P.S.  AFTER I wrote this post, I threw a load of (my son’s) laundry in the washer.  A LIVE, HUGE, scorpion fell out of his laundry basket.  I freaked out!  What the hell?

P.P.S.  My week is about to get better, right??  Right?!!!!  

P.P.P.S.  I am never closing my eyes when I sleep again.  EVER!

P.P.P.P.S.  I think the only solution is to burn the house down.

P.P.P.P.P.S.  OMIGOD IT WAS A SCORPION.  AND IT MOVED.  AT ME!

P.P.P.P.P.P.S.  Where is it’s mate?  Where are their babies?  AAAAAAAAAAAACK!!!!

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When Weekend Plans Fall Apart

My weekend began last Friday afternoon when I came down with a killer sore throat and fever.

By Saturday, I added lots of snot to my Sexy Factor.

Amazingly, I’m perfectly fine now.

(Except I feel like a gigantic marshmallow from sitting around all weekend!)

It was just a slightly-more-than-24-hour bug, I guess.

As a result, my belated birthday plans for Saturday night were cancelled.

This, apparently, is the year I completely skip my 24th birthday.

It is just not meant to be.

I’m raising a white flag.

I officially give up on having a birthday celebration in the year 2012.

I did get a great present, though.

Briefcase didn’t know what to get me for a birthday gift this year so he suggested I “just order something photography-related.”

I was happy to take him up on his offer.

My self-ordered gift arrived just in time for my Sick Weekend.

(Come to think of it, since he left his offer vaguely open-ended, maybe I should have ordered the Canon 1DX instead?  That bill sure would have shocked the hell out of surprised him!)

While I was playing with my new birthday toy, the rest of Orange County was out enjoying a beautiful, spectacular, weekend.

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I drank tea, gazed longingly at my camera, wiped snot from my nose, and tried to cheer myself up by beginning the process of learning how to use a Wacom Tablet.

(Yes, I really have been the only photographer on earth who wasn’t already using a graphics tablet.)

I’ll write more about my Intuos 5 in time.

For now, I’ll share this:

•  Yes, I am a nerd.  What was your first clue?

•  If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, a graphics tablet is sort of like an iPad except you draw/paint on it.  Nothing shows up on the all black tablet though.  (That’s the confusing part!)  What you draw shows up on your computer instead.  Sort of.  It involves making your hand draw/paint in the correct part of the tablet that corresponds to your computer screen.  Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

•  People weren’t kidding when they told me there’s a  2 – 3 year week learning curve with a tablet.

•  Eye-hand coordination has taken on a whole new meaning since I began teaching myself how to use it.  (Apparently, I don’t have any?!)

•  Parts of my brain clearly don’t function.  (There’s a reason why Paul Newman tells me I have some of the same needs as a “neuro” patient???)

•  It’s good for our brains to learn new skills, right??

•  In spite of my lack of innate ability, I’m already falling in love.  I wish I had made the purchase sooner.

•  Seriously, this toy is magicaland you know how I love my toys!)