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School Memories

Do you remember your first day of school ever?

For me, it was kindergarten.  (There were no preschools in my, at-the-time, still rural community.)

I was four years old which was young for kindergarten, but I was deemed precocious and "ready." 

I remember my first day of kindergarten as vividly as if it just happened.  

I can even recall my teacher in the greatest of detail.  

Her name was Mrs. Riley.  

She had red (!) hair.  It was the first red hair I'd ever seen up close.  

It was so pretty!  

I can still remember the scent of her perfume when she hugged me.

I will never forget my mom walking me into the classroom on my very first day, and then – walking away.

I remember it all, perfectly.

It's that time of year.

Time for books, and pencils, and the smell of new erasers.  

The memories of the first day of school, whatever the grade, will never go away.  The excitement, the nervousness, the fear and yes – even the joy.

Joy?

Yes, I'm a nerd. 

Learning has always been a joy.

School?

Well, school wasn't always filled with good memories.

By third grade, I was deemed "gifted" in a school system with inadequate means to deal with its brightest students.  I was bored, academically, on a regular basis.  By my teen years, I frequently used my "smarts" to manipulate the school system.  I was quite proud of it at the time.  

I never could relate to most girls my age, and they couldn't relate to me.

I found their preoccupation with "girly" things inane.

I still do.

They found me "different."

They still do.

With naturally light blond hair, early sprouting DD boobs, and intelligence too - 

I was an immediate target for bullying by "the mean girls" in high school.

I remember, so many times -

Just wishing I could fit in even if it meant being a little more like them.

I'm no longer in school, but I continue on a quest for more knowledge.  

I seem to have an insatiable desire to learn more, to delve deeper.  

An expert at nothing, I consider myself a damn good "generalist."

(I'm fairly competent, but not great, at a lot of different things.)

Yes, I still remember my first day of kindergarten in the tiniest of details.

I wish someone had told me then,

It's the best thing in the world -

In fact,

Really – it's a badge of honor,

To be different.

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Labor Day Weekend

* I'm not feeling great which means this may be the most random post I've ever written.  Lucky you! *

Most of my readers from the United States have probably spent the weekend celebrating Labor Day weekend.

Me?

I was hit with a stomach-bug Friday afternoon.  (It was probably possibly an allergic reaction to a new "health" food I tried on Friday.  That will teach me to be healthy, won't it?)

I've done a lot of nothing for the past few days. 

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Well, I've moaned and groaned a lot.

Is there anything worse than feeling sick to your stomach?

I made the giant effort of taking a shower yesterday.

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Trust me, it was a giant effort.

So, instead of hanging out at barbecues, and the Trailer Trash Party I was supposed to go to -

I've been trying to muster the energy to edit a few photos while laying on the couch.  I'm starting to feel better, and I'm sure I'll be back to "real life" by tomorrow.  In the meantime, here are a few of the photos I edited this weekend:

Some family members enjoyed the holiday weekend without me:

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Golden retriever jumping into a swimming pool.

It's nice someone was having a good holiday weekend, right?

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Please don't put your wet balls in my lap!

(Ahem!)

Mocha, my chocolate lab, was more concerned with what was cooking on the grill.

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Something smells good!

I did make a few trips out to our patio with my camera -

Changing your sitting environment is important when you don't feel well.

Look what I found while I was outside:

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Fall leaves.

The first signs of fall ….

© Twenty Four At Heart

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The Most Beautiful Sunset Ever

This is such a beautiful sunset photo from Maui.

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Maui, Hawaii, sunset

I could sit on this particular beach every evening, for the rest of forever, watching Mother Nature's light show.

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Beauty

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Succulent

There's beauty everywhere, if you take the time to look.

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Important Questions; Half-Ass Answers

I'm answering questions from readers today.  

These are questions I've had emailed to me, or perhaps left in my comments section recently.  If you aren't interested in one question, just skip to the next and see if you can find something more to your liking.

•  Is it expensive to get a blog/business name trademarked?  No, it isn't.  You can do it yourself.  I had a lawyer handle it for me because he was also handling some other legalities for Twenty Four At Heart at the same time.

•  Do you have to rinse the salt water from your pool off the dogs after they swim?  Um, no we usually don't.  They don't have any skin problems either.  They do look all fluffy and cute after they dry off though.  (The salt content in our pool isn't any higher than it needs to be.)  They do sometimes battle swimmer's ear – especially our Golden Retriever.

•  You've never been to a Farmer's Market before?  Yes, I've been to many Farmer's Markets before – I had just never been to the one at the OC Great Park before.  (It's great!)

•  Will dermaplaning cause you to grow whisker stubble?  No, it won't.  The explanation is long, but the soft little hairs that grow on women's faces are different than the hair on men's faces or women's legs.  It is recommended you get a dermaplaning facial every 3-4 weeks for the best results.

*  Was dermaplaning done in a doctor's office?  Yes, dermaplaning must be done in a physician's office.  It cannot be done (legally) in a salon.  A dermatologist or plastic surgeon's office is your best bet.

•  Did dermaplaning irritate your skin?  No, my skin is extremely sensitive and it was not at all red or irritated.  In fact, a "regular" facial often bothers my skin and dermaplaning did not.  (Dermaplaning on a regular basis would bother my wallet though.)

 I want to fly out and take photography lessons from you, can I?  I was shocked the first time I got this request, but I get it a lot now.  I do give private lessons, but I've discouraged people from spending a lot of money on travel to come here.  

But …  

Several of you really seem to want to do this.  I'm considering putting together a weekend photography workshop.  I'm trying to find a way to make it affordable.  I don't have details worked out yet, but I'm interested in hearing suggestions.  I'm also interested in hearing from you if it sounds like something you'd like to participate in.

•  What's in your camera bag?  

Ahh … a lot.  

But, because of my bionic arm, I usually only have two lenses with me at any given time.  I've accumulated a lot of photography equipment, however.  

If you're just starting off I still stick by the advice I gave over a year ago.  

On the other hand, here's a recap of what I've used a lot this summer:

     •  Canon 7D  (Which I love, but I will be eager to get a MarkIII if they come out with one soon.  Yes, I want to have two bodies to use.)

    •  Black Rapid RS-W1 Women's Camera Strap – a must with my bum arm

    •  Lowepro Fastpack 350 camera backpack

    •  Speedlite 580 EX II, with a diffuser

    •  Canon 24mm/1.4 lens

    •  Canon 24-105/1.4lens

    •  Canon 10-22/3.5

    •  Canon 70-200/2.8

I do use other lenses too, but the ones listed above are the ones I've used the most during my travels, etc., this summer.  

•  Is your blog going to change now that you've incorporated?  Twenty Four At Heart is always changing because it's a reflection of me, and my life.  Twenty Four At Heart is going to be getting a "facelift," in upcoming weeks – but it's long overdue and was already in the plans.  The content here will continue to be as random as ever.

•  How's your arm?  Aack – I'd love to say perfect, but it's not.  I've been experiencing quite a pain flare-up for the last week.  Pain and disability are something I will deal with for the remainder of my life.  I do really appreciate all the support you've given me though.  I get strength from you, always, when I seem to need it most.  

I am so grateful to each of you.

•  What mode do you shoot in?  Well, that depends on what I'm shooting.  The majority of time I shoot on manual and I shoot RAW.  But not always – it depends what I'm shooting and what the circumstances are surrounding me at that moment.

 What's the latest with the kid at your son's school?  This is the (bad) soap opera that just won't go away.  In one form or another, it keeps haunting us.  As of today, Problem Kid is out of the country and not attending college with my son this semester.  I believe he's received some mental health care.  There's a lot more to this story, but that's where it stands as of right now.

I think that answers a lot of questions for today.  If you're interested in a Photography Workshop weekend, or have suggestions on ways to make it affordable – let me know.  (A lot of people requesting this are from out of state.)  

If today's post made you think of even more questions, feel free to leave them.

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Somewhere in San Diego County

I've been very active with photo sharing on Google Plus.  I recently realized, a lot of photos I've shared there (primarily with other photographers), I have yet to share with you here.  Of course, you're more important than anyone else.  And yes, I sincerely do mean that. 

Today, I'm going to share a few photos I've taken in the San Diego area this summer.  San Diego is about one hour (driving time) south of where I live in South Orange County.  By Southern California standards, that means San Diego is pretty damn close to where I live.

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San Diego beach near the Hotel del Coronado.

I normally like photos with a more realistic look to them, but I was playing with the above photo and had fun stepping out of my normal comfort zone while post-processing it.  (And for you photographer-types the above is not an HDR photo.)

Speaking of stepping out:

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Oak wine barrels.

I took the wine-barrel photo at a wine tasting store in Carlsbad.  I'd tell you the name of the store, but I must have tasted too much wine while I was there because I don't remember it.

Alcohol and the city of Carlsbad, (which is in the northern part of San Diego county), seem to go together:

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Liquor store.

I fell in love with this old, funky, liquor store.  I took a lot of photos of it while my husband looked on questioningly.  Have I mentioned I love old and funky?  (Especially when it comes to photography.)

I was walking to dinner in the Gaslamp District with my friend, Neil, one night when we both stopped dead in our tracks.  A man was crossing the street in front of us, his guitar in hand.  I immediately knew I needed to take his photo.  (Neil and I were both on the same wave length in this regard.)  We asked the man if he would mind stopping for a moment.  He was more than happy to oblige.

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Mariachi player.

San Diego, the city itself, has such a pretty skyline:

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San Diego skyline.

I took the skyline photo while hanging out with some blogging friends on Coronado Island.  We were waiting for a ferry back to our hotel after having lunch at the Hotel Del.  The people I was with were in awe of Southern California weather, plants, topography.  We went to Coronado specifically for them to put their feet in the Pacific Ocean for the first time ever.  It made me realize how much I take for granted my beautiful surroundings and beach lifestyle.

I hope you enjoyed the photos of San Diego, and San Diego county today.  

Tomorrow I'm going to answer some reader questions I've received.  If you have anything you've been wanting to ask, feel free to leave it in the comments section today even if it isn't related to today's San Diego photos.  If you're too shy, you can also email me directly.

© Twenty Four At Heart 

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Dermaplaning

Earlier this week, I experienced my first-ever dermaplaning facial.

I didn't know what a dermaplaning facial was, but I had a Groupon for one so I showed up at my appointed time.

In hindsight, it's probably a good thing I didn't know what I was getting myself into.

Another term for "dermaplaning" is blading.

So, um, yeah – a woman took a scalpel to my face,

But in the nicest possible way.

To be a tad more specific, a woman used a #10 sterile surgical blade to exfoliate my skin.

(Wouldn't a cheap drugstore facial scrub be so much easier?)

The blade was gently stroked over my face in a similar fashion as a man might shave.  

There was no cutting, no blood, and no recovery involved.

Dermaplaning removes a few weeks worth of outer dead skin cells by gently scraping them off.

Doesn't that sound sexy?

I have to admit, my skin has never felt smoother or softer than it does post-dermaplaning.  It's like having baby skin again.

Maybe I should become a dermaplaning poster blogger-face?

Is there such a thing?

A dermaplaning facial also removes any "peach fuzz" you might have on your face, although de-fuzzing isn't the primary purpose of dermaplaning.  A lot of women start getting fuzzy once they hit their mid-thirties and beyond.  (Some of us are even lucky enough to have a random pubic hair grow out of our face!)

No kidding, I don't have a single whisker on my face right now.  Sad, isn't it?  How will my friends and family recognize me?

I don't get facials on a regular basis, and I wouldn't have done this one – if not for the Groupon offer. 

Would I do it again?

I would love to!  

Dermaplaning was relatively quick, painless, and it made my skin look great.

I've heard dermaplaning facials aren't overly expensive in other cities.  Of course, in Orange County everything is expensive.  It would cost me $150 to return to the same facility, without the discounted price, and get the same service again.

Have I mentioned I have two kids in college right now?

I won't be getting $150 facials anytime soon.

But, if you can afford to get dermaplaning facials regularly I highly recommend them.

It really did make a remarkable difference in my skin.

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Up, Up and Away!

Have I ever mentioned I'm afraid of heights?

As in, very, very, very afraid of heights?

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Orange County's Great Park Balloon

In spite of my fear, I've wanted to take a ride in Orange County's famous "Big Orange Balloon" for a long, long time. 

Last weekend, I did.

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Me, up in the hot air balloon.

The above photo was taken inside the balloon when we were about 200 feet above ground.  

Please note, I'm desperately clutching the side of the "basket."  I clutched the inside railing of the hot air balloon basket the entire time I was up in the air.  (Also, a total stranger had his arm around me trying to reassure me I wasn't about to fall to my death.)

I was totally about to fall to my death!

By the way, the giant orange balloon is tethered to the ground.  I guess the tethering keeps you from floating out over the ocean where you'd fall and be eaten by sharks, but it certainly wouldn't stop you from dropping like a rock if the balloon popped.  

(Yes, these really were the thoughts going through my brain as I risked my life for the purposes of a blog post and a few cool photos.)

The hot air balloon ride lasts about ten minutes.  It's also free.  That's right, it doesn't cost a penny to risk your life.  (You do need to get tickets ahead of time at the Great Park Visitor Center though and tickets go quickly.)

I couldn't look down without hyperventilating, so I concentrated on looking straight out at the horizon and the, admittedly, beautiful view.  

When we reached 200 feet, I was proud of myself for making it through the ride.  Then our "pilot" informed me we had arrived at the halfway point and had another 200 feet to go.

Halfway point?

As we reached 300 feet, the wind began to pick up and the balloon began to sway.  It tilted somewhat to one side.  Our pilot asked a few people to walk over to the other side of the basket to help balance it.  They did.

(I don't think they wanted to plunge to their deaths either.)

At 400 feet the wind could really be felt.

Someone asked the pilot if people have "freaked out" once they're on the ride.  He said yes and told us a story about a "big tall guy, at least six feet five inches tall" who laid down on the floor of the basket (face down) so he couldn't see out and would feel more secure.  

I laughed.

Then I thought about laying down on the floor of the basket, but I didn't dare let go of the side railing for a second.  (Because holding onto the side of the basket was helping to keep us up in the air!)

A woman on the ride with me decided to jump up and down hard inside the basket.  Her jumping didn't have any affect on the basket at all.  I begged her to please stop anyway because Omigod.We.Are.All.About.To.Die.  

She laughed at me, but she stopped.

Who does that?

Who thinks it's funny to jump up and down inside a hot air balloon to see what it will do?  

When you're 400 feet up in the air?

Rides on the balloon are cancelled whenever the wind picks up.  It wasn't windy when we first took off, but I was (of course) convinced the breeze wind was about to tip us over and make us fall to our deaths once we were up in the air.

As we began our descent, the wind swayed the balloon more and more.  

By the time we were back down to about 75 feet above the ground, the balloon was really swaying.

I breathed a huge sigh of relief when we finally landed safely.

And then, you know what I said?

"That was SO FUN!!"

And I meant it.

Next time, I want to go up at sunset.

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Orange County Great Park Balloon at sunset

Can you imagine how beautiful the city and harbor lights are at night?

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Orange County’s Farmer’s Market

Last week, I mentioned the Orange County Great Park hosts a Farmer's Market every Sunday.

Not long after I wrote that post, I got a request to please stop by the Farmer's Market for a visit.

So, I did.

I ended up having a great time, in spite of the heat wave (!!) we're experiencing right now. 

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Jalapenos for sale at the Farmer's Market.

It was nice to see so much locally grown produce.  

Some of it came from right here in Orange County, and some of it was imported from an hour or two away.  (In Southern California terms, an hour or two hour drive is not far at all.)

I came home with some very sweet, white, corn.

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Fresh corn on the cob.

Produce tastes so much better when it's freshly picked.

Some of the signs at the Farmer's Market made me laugh.

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Got Nuts?  Roasted peanut sign.

The man selling roasted peanuts laughed at me as I took the above photo of his sign.

Walking around the Farmer's Market made me hungry.  A lot of the vendors were giving out sample of their produce/food.  It was a good thing too.  My breakfast consisted of their "samples."

Everyone seemed more than eager to have me take photos and write about them.

I couldn't resist indulging when I saw cupcakes from my favorite OC bake shop for sale.

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Meringue Bake Shop at OC Farmer's Market.

There's nothing wrong with having a cupcake for breakfast, is there?  (Honestly, having one of their cupcakes makes a trip to the Farmer's Market worthwhile all in itself.)  I'd show you a photo of a cupcake, but … ahem, some random 16 year old boy might have inhaled them the moment I got home.  

Meringue Bake Shop also sells "push cakes" which are amazing.

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I've got more to share with you about my morning at the Farmer's Market, but I'm going to save it for future posts.

(For example, I might have found myself 400 feet up in the air, tethered by a rope, at one point.)

I'll definitely make future trips to the market.  I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and variety of products for sale.

I also really appreciated how much effort the vendors took to gain the attention of their customers.

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Funny sign on the fruit at the Farmer's Market.

I'm not exaggerating when I say I brought home some of the best fruit I've ever tasted. 

I'm wondering why it took me so long to visit?

© Twenty Four At Heart

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Water Dogs

I own two water dogs.

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My Golden Retriever and Chocolate Lab enjoying our swimming pool.

We've been having hotter than normal temperatures here, and both dogs have been spending a lot of time swimming in our pool.  (Being water dogs, it's almost impossible to keep them from jumping in.)

A lot of dog swim time also means I've been trying to prevent both of them from getting swimmer's ear.

And no,

I'm not joking.

It's a rough life, being an Orange County dog.

© Twenty Four At Heart