Free Herbal Medicine & Eco-Gardening Classes in So Cal!

If you are in Southern California (especially the South Bay area in particular), I have found a great lineup of free gardening classes coming up this summer!

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The photo above shows one of my most recent projects…a new herb garden which includes a variety of medicinal herbs. More on that coming soon!

First up, is a class that I am really excited about…intro to herbal medicine at Sunflower Farms Nursery in Torrance. It is taking place on Saturday, June 14th (tomorrow!) from 10-11:30 a.m. The class will include a history of herbal medicine, overview of common and less-known herbs and their uses, garden tour, question and answers, and more. Attendees all receive 10% off their purchase the day of the class too! I can tell you from experience that they are very knowledgeable about so much, and herbal medicine in particular. The past couple of weeks have been really rough around here since our son started getting all of his first set of molars in. I went into Sunflower Farms last week, desperate for some recommendations of something that could help him. We happily went home with an amazing herb called a toothache plant which has been doing wonders (I will blog all about it later!). At Sunflower Farms, they also have some amazing sample gardens that are worth the trip alone (drought tolerant garden, formal garden, English cottage garden, desert style garden, etc.)!

Sunflower Farms is located at:
17609 S Western Ave
Torrance, CA 90501

Next up is the Eco Gardening series at the South Coast Botanic Garden, sponsored by the Water Replenishment District of Southern California. You need to register ahead of time, but classes are free with paid admission to the garden (and free for garden members). If you are outside of the Palos Verdes area, you should periodically check back on the Water Replenishment District website since they also offer classes in other areas of Southern California as well, such as Lakewood, Norwalk, etc. You can register for the classes and find more info on their website here.

I attended the first class this past week and am very excited about all of the upcoming classes! The first class covered garden design and planning, and gave me some new ideas for our various projects. I even got sent home with a great workbook, some info fliers, and they were so kind as to provide snacks during the class which was great since this tired mama didn’t bring enough to keep my little man occupied. πŸ™‚ The SCBG also has lots of other great classes as well, so be sure to check out their website too!

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Last but not least, the Manhattan Beach Botanical Garden also offers a series of free gardening classes! Most of these are already past, but there is one remaining that I am looking forward to, sustainable edibles. A lot of edibles require high water usage, so I am excited to hear what recommendations they have at this class. Be sure to check the Manhattan Beach Botanical Garden website in the future for their upcoming schedules of classes.

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Working with Myself as My Client

I mentioned previously that I wanted to spend some time working on some fine art self portraits, and I’m so happy that I’ve been making the time to do it. I’ve done a few things on my list so far, and wanted to share. πŸ™‚ There is more up at http://apluscphotography.com/fine-art. You can read about each image on my photography blog: http://apluscphotography.com/blog.

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Valentine’s Day at the Queen Mary with Ehrmann Mixim Launch Party

Last week for Valentine’s Day, we had the honor of attending the Ehrmann Mixim Greek Yogurt launch party on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA. The Queen Mary was transformed into the Love Boat for the event, all lit up in pink. After growing up in the Long Beach area, I have been to the Queen Mary many times in my life and I have never seen her look so beautiful as she looked all dressed up in pink!

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We started off the night in style on the pink carpet! So fun. πŸ™‚
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Then we were brought up to the VIP lounge, where the tastings were held.

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If you read my blog regularly, you know that I have had to unfortunately cut dairy out of my diet temporarily while I am breastfeeding our baby since he was having an allergic reaction to cow’s milk proteins, even via my milk. We are hoping that this will only be temporary! So, until I can have dairy again, my husband was more than happy to be my taste tester. πŸ™‚

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I actually remember that when we were on our vacation in Germany a few years ago, Ehrmann yogurts were part of our picnic lunches that we were packing up on most days (Ehrmann is a family owned company from Germany). It is so exciting to see them launch here in the U.S. My husband absolutely LOVED the Mixim yogurt! He said it was smooth and creamy, and not tart like some other Greek yogurts he has tried. We loved that there are two options for the toppings, each in their own individual compartments in the adorable heart shaped containers. I am allergic to artificial food dyes, so I was really happy that there are no dyes in any of the toppings! Before our son was born, I used to get so frustrated with constantly checking for artificial dyes in yogurt ingredients. Thanks for keeping things natural and healthy, Ehrmann!

For any fellow photographers who may be reading this…don’t freak out that something is wrong with the white balance of my photos. πŸ™‚ The VIP lounge was all lit up with these pink lights, making it fun and festive.

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Later in the evening, Ehrmann made a donation to the Children’s Heart Foundation, $1 for every photo that was uploaded to social media with the hashtag #miximlove. I loved that they picked a great charity to help with this event!

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My silly guys had fun playing around with the Mixim staff with the lit up heart balloons! πŸ™‚
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And then, the cutest thing happened! Recently, I did a birthday photoshoot for this adorable little baby girl, who is the daughter of my good friend. My baby boy E came along for the photoshoot and fell madly in love with the little girl that day, as you can see below (more at www.apluscphotography.com). πŸ™‚

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My friend saw my posts that we would be attending and told me that they were going to come to the party as well. When I saw how many people were at the party, I thought there was no way that E was going to find his new little girlfriend for his first Valentine’s date. As luck would have it, as soon as we went down on the main deck for the Guinness World Record event, we ran into our friends! E was pretty excited that he got to spend Valentine’s Day with his new girlfriend. πŸ™‚

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E was not too thrilled that she kept trying to steal his hat. He had to explain to her that they aren’t married yet so the whole “what’s mine is yours” thing doesn’t quite apply yet. πŸ˜‰

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All of the couples at the event participated in a new Guinness World Record, of the most couples simultaneously feeding each other. πŸ™‚ It was such a fun thing to participate in!

After the tasting, a Journey cover band, DSB, played. The music was great and some amazing fireworks followed the concert.

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E was in awe of the heart shaped fireworks. πŸ™‚

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The party was so much fun! Definitely the best Valentine’s Day I have ever had. I was so happy that I got to go to such a fun event with my two handsome dates. The fireworks show even finished with my favorite song by Heart. πŸ™‚

After the party was over, we decided to walk around the ship a bit. E is quite a night owl like his parents. The boys had fun playing some video games.

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Then they goofed around a bit inside a giant bell on the ship. πŸ™‚

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Definitely a night to remember!
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Thanks so much for having us, Ehrmann! I can’t wait to be able to eat dairy again! Ehrmann Mixim’s six flavor combos can be found now in California, Arizona and Nevada in retailers such as Albertsons, Bashas and Safeway. For more information on Mixim, visit the Ehrmann website: http://www.ehrmann-usa.com/. You can also find them at the following links!
β€’ Ehrmann MIXIM Love Boat Event Page: http://bit.ly/1f8bgQC
β€’ Twitter: https://twitter.com/EhrmannUSA
β€’ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EhrmannUSA
β€’ Pinterest:Β  http://www.pinterest.com/ehrmannusa/
β€’ Instagram: http://instagram.com/ehrmannusa/
β€’ Valentine’s Day Sweepstakes:Β  http://tinyurl.com/psq3b87

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*This is a sponsored post.

Join Us On the Love Boat for Valentine’s Day!

For all of my Wonderland readers who are in Southern California, you have got to register to get tickets for an amazing free event tomorrow night on the Queen Mary in LongΒ  Beach! The party is being thrown by Ehrmann, to celebrate the U.S. debut of their MIXIM Greek Yogurt, which looks absolutely delicious! The cherry & dark chocolate mix on their Facebook page (here) looks SO good. πŸ™‚ You can register to get your tickets by clicking here.

You should also enter to win their Year of Love contest here…a night out every month for a year plus a monthly delivery of yogurt! Sounds amazing…especially for new parents, a date night every month sounds like a dream! πŸ™‚
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Once you’ve registered to attend, tweet me and let me know…if you find us on the boat, you may get your photo featured in my follow up blog post! I will even send you a download link for your high res image. πŸ™‚ You can find me on Twitter @apluscphotos.

In the meantime, I am trying to pick my outfit for tomorrow night, and could use some opinions! Which outfit below should I wear tomorrow night? The pretty sparkly new Anthropologie sweater that I was really excited to find recently with some faux-leather pants, my favorite leather jacket with my super soft black velvet pants (another Anthro find), or this cute dress with another favorite Anthropologie sweater? I will probably wear my pink Manolos with whichever option I end up choosing since they are my favorite (and a super sentimental gift from my husband). Which outfit is your favorite?

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As you can guess, my studio is still set up from the Valentine’s Day mini sessions that I held recently. πŸ™‚ There are some really cute babies and young children coming to my photography blog (here) tomorrow in case you are interested!

My Journey As a Photographer

A+C Photography

I often get asked how I got started as a photographer. Since I had to take over a year off from shooting while laid up with my pregnancy and my difficult postpartum recovery, I feel like I have had to start over with the photography business (link here). My husband (and business partner) and I had to make the decision that we will no longer be shooting weddings since I can only handle being on my feet for about two hours at a time before the pelvic and leg pain from the pregnancy comes back. Since weddings were the primary focus of the business before, I have been working on refocusing and re-branding the business to just focus on portraits, primarily babies & families.

It is interesting to me how everything with my photography has come back around full circle to where I started as a photographer, many years ago. When I was in high school, I started taking an interest in photography. My dad, a former photographer, got me a camera and started teaching me about photography. I signed up as the photographer for the community service club at my high school. I went around photographing all of the volunteer events and absolutely loved it. I loved focusing on the joy and happiness of the interactions. There was one place where we all volunteered where I really took an interest in photographing the events, a local shelter for women and their babies.

His Nesting Place is a house in Long Beach, CA where women can go with their babies when they don’t have a lot of options. They are an alternative to abortion, and provide a safe haven for women and children at risk. I loved volunteering there so much, and started photographing all of the new babies that came through there, gifting the mothers with some prints of their babies. This was many years ago, before the digital photography revolution, so those prints were very precious. I received so much positive encouragement with my photography from the staff of His Nesting Place, and it really helped spark my confidence as a photographer. I did not have any fancy props or elaborate set ups, but I took some beautifully simple pictures with just window light, a bed, and a baby. Back in those days, I was spending most of my babysitting/pet sitting/house sitting money on film and lab development. πŸ™‚

Every year, our club went to a tri-state convention where our yearly scrapbook with all of the photos from our events was entered into a competition. My photos kept winning out of all of the high schools from three states. I got so much encouragement from the staff at His Nesting Place to consider pursuing a career in photography. When I spoke with my high school guidance counselors, I was strongly discouraged from doing anything of the sort. To a prep school guidance counselor, apparently photography is not a valid career path, especially for a student who showed strong aptitude in math and science.

I put all thoughts of becoming a photographer aside while in college. However, whenever I was stressed out, I would find myself wandering around campus taking photographs of the architecture, flowers, etc. The guy at my local photo lab at that point thought I was crazy for studying engineering when clearly I had a strong creative side that was begging to come out. When I made the switch to fashion school, we had a lot of marketing classes where I really started to have fun with my photography again.

After I finished school, I found my way into working in e-commerce in the fashion industry. It was the perfect mix of my engineering background and my creative, fashion-loving side. E-commerce obviously is very photography dependent, so it was a natural progression for me to start using my photography skills at work. Years later, and a few different jobs later, I entered a very challenging phase in my life.

My grandmother was suddenly sick with cancer and dying. We were very close, and she was one of the few people I talked to every day. The stress of knowing she was dying flared up a very large cyst/non-cancerous tumor in one of my ovaries. Work was getting out of control also. My boss’ plan was to get rid of much of my support staff, and increase my workload significantly. I left work early one day to go see my grandmother at her house when I found out how sick she was. I tried to not tell her that I was feeling sick myself, but she knew right away when she saw me.

I had a long talk with my grandmother about the stress at work, and the strain it was putting on my body. I had been showing her various pictures that I took both for fun and for work any time I saw her. She urged me to consider a career change at that point to lessen the stress on myself. She told me that she had been watching my photography progress over the years, and that she strongly felt that it was time for me to get rid of all the stressful parts and just focus on what I love, the photography. She was very wise and I really valued her opinion, especially since she was right from the start about my husband when I had some reservations about him (he was very anti-religion when we started dating but soon had a conversion of heart).

When the time came and my grandmother was about to pass, the growth on my ovary ruptured and I had to go to my own hospital across town.Β  While I was in the Emergency Room, the doctor was concerned about how many times I had been in there in the few years prior with similar situations. He told me that I was at extremely high risk for developing ovarian cancer, and he highly recommended that I have my ovaries removed right then and there. Since my grandmother was sick, we had moved our wedding date up to a.s.a.p., in the hopes that she would be able to attend. I refused to have my ovaries removed then, especially since our wedding was going to be taking place in just a few days. I still had hopes that maybe, by some miracle, I would be able to get pregnant, and I was not willing to give up on that hope.

The doctor recommended that I seriously evaluate my life and cut down on my stress levels since I refused to have my ovaries removed. My grandmother passed that night, and her funeral came a few days later. Our wedding took place a few days after that, despite how upset we all were.

I ended up taking a week off work for my hospital visit, my grandmother’s funeral, and our wedding. When I had a meeting with my boss, she said that it was “very inconvenient” that I had taken a week off, and I would not be eligible for a raise since I had taken that time off. I had barely taken any of my allowed vacation time in the years I had worked there.Β  My husband and I decided at that point to add me onto his insurance, and that I would quit and start working on starting our own photography business.

We started out primarily focusing on weddings, but I also started shooting babies, children and families again. It felt so easy and fulfilling, without being stressful like a “regular” job. I felt like I was really getting the hang of things when everything got put on hold with our move and then my pregnancy.

After our baby E was born, I could not wait to be able to start shooting again. Before E was born, I feel like I approached the photography business in a certain way. I wanted to make sure that I got most of my weddings and engagement shoots published in wedding blogs, so I tried to mold my photography around what it seemed like the blog editors were looking for. Props and styled shoots are popular, so I worked hard on incorporating lots of props and styling into my shoots. Certain styles of photo editing and actions are popular, so I started editing my photos using a combination of those techniques. In retrospect, I feel like I put aside my own creative voice a bit in order to try to get my work to conform to what the blog editors wanted. Don’t get me wrong…I still love the work I did before I was pregnant with E (and it definitely got us published in many places and won a prestigious award), but I still felt like a bit of my own creative voice was missing from it all.

Recently, I started trying to prepare myself to get the photography business back up and running again. I evaluated my portfolio, and even went back through and looked at some of my really old photos and editing, from before I started the business. I started thinking back about all of the photos I used to take at His Nesting Place, and the clean simplicity and beauty of them. I wish I still had some of them to reference, but I made the dumb mistake of letting the school convince me that they were their property, even the negatives, even though I paid for it all with my own money.

I came to the realization that I would let my own creative voice dictate my photos going forward, and try to ignore what the “trends” are as dictated by blog editors. I loved some of my customized photo editing before I started purchasing Photoshop actions, and have been inspired by those to try some new things lately. I decided to do E’s three month photoshoot with inspiration from my memory of my old photos that I used to take at His Nesting Place (example from this shoot seen above). I contacted His Nesting Place to see if I could start volunteering there again and photographing the babies again. I am so grateful that the Lord has blessed us with E, despite all my infertility problems, and really want to find a way to give back.

A lady from His Nesting Place called me the other day and let me know that unfortunately, they cannot utilize my services to shoot the babies at this time since the house is currently vacant. Apparently they had some major plumbing problems, and have had to turn all of the women and babies away for now. Many of them are living on the street until HNP can raise enough funds to have the plumbing repaired. I am excited that I will be helping HNP with a charity fundraising event later this month. I really hope they can raise the funds quickly. Their cause and mission is so close to my heart, and I feel especially supportive of them since they were so encouraging and supportive to me when I was just starting out with my photography. I find it so amazing that I started feeling my love of photography when photographing babies at their house, and now my journey has come back around to focusing primarily on photographing babies. If you would like to help His Nesting Place get back on their feet, please click here to contribute!

E’s First Trip to the Aquarium of the Pacific!

As I mentioned in my post yesterday (seen here), our little guy has taken quite a liking to aquariums (and animals in general!). My husband, my parents and I have been excited about the idea of bringing him to the Aquarium of the Pacific for a while now, but we figured we would have to wait until he was a little older for it to be interesting to him. After he took such a strong interest in his crib aquarium toy, we decided to go to the aquarium and see how he liked it. We all went on Monday, and for a baby just shy of 8 weeks old, he was shockingly enthralled with all of the sea animals! I think he barely blinked the entire time we were there. πŸ™‚ He had the best time hanging out with Grandpa, looking at all the fish and other animals!

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At the end of the day…all worn out from his adventure. πŸ™‚

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