Monday, September 1, 2014

Sunrise Shooting

I'm not really a morning person.  My ideal wake up time is anywhere between 8:30 and 9am, but being a responsible grown up means getting up before my kids do.  Other than tending to my children, I only get up early on Sundays to lead worship at church.  But when my old friend Justin told me he was going to be in town and asked if I'd want to go on one of his sunrise shoots, I couldn't say no - especially when he offered to come all the way out to the country.  So I set my alarm for 5am on Sunday, got up after hitting snooze a few times, and threw on something I could go straight to church in.

I met Justin in college through my friend Garrett.  We were all a bunch of artsy kids with lots of side projects and helped each other out however we could.  They both taught me a lot about marketing and design and took pictures for my jewelry business, and in turn I would model for different projects they had going.

I'll spare you any of those images, as we've all come a long way (their photography has improved and I've lost my college 15), but it was fun to step back to what we used to do.

All those years ago, I never had any interest in photography.  I remember wondering why it took photographers so long to figure out light and what all of the fuss was about.  Now that I'm usually the one behind the camera, it was nice to be on the other side again with a new appreciation.

My in-laws and I try to go on a long walk down the backroads around here several times a week. There is a lot of beauty I've been wanting to capture, and I thought now would be the opportune time (when I'm not trying to exercise).  We started off getting some shots before the sun made it up over the horizon.  I knew Justin would want me in pictures, but I figured I could learn a thing or two along the way, and as someone who is self taught, I jump at any chance I can get to learn from professionals.

Justin also brought his friend Logan along (an amazing wedding photographer) and he gave me lots of tips as a fellow Canon user.

We headed to a new spot and waited for the sun to come up.

It's extremely popular to shoot at sunset (what's known as the golden hour), but shooting at sunup had never really crossed my mind.  It does make sense though.  You hear of photographers chasing light to get all of their shots in, but when the sun is coming up instead of going down, there's no chasing necessary.

I definitely needed a nap that afternoon, but it was an amazing experience that I would certainly be up for again.  Thanks again, Justin and Logan!  

Are you a morning person?  

Some photos by me.  Most photos by Justin Meyer or Logan Clement.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Turning 30 in My Favorite City.

I've mentioned it before on this blog, but I spent some time in New York City after college. As someone involved in music and theatre from a young age, it was always the city I pictured myself living in.  Along with my love for its arts and culture, New York is just pretty magical.  The people are full of life, and the streets are bursting with opportunity and excitement.

I also have family ties there.  My grandparents were married at The Little Church Around the Corner and my mom was born in Manhattan.  I love looking at pictures of my grandparents strolling through Times Square in the 40's or my Grandma's school picture from P.S. 23 (if most of our stuff wasn't in storage, I'd show you some).  Hearing stories from different family members about living in The Big Apple throughout the decades has always been something I've enjoyed.

When I decided to give the fashion industry a go, I chose New York without hesitation.  Living there was quite a roller coaster, but I loved every minute of it. Marrying my husband brought me back to the Midwest, and while I cherish being 10 minutes from family and the ease that Missouri living brings, New York will always be my favorite city in the world.

I haven't been back in a few years, so when Better Homes & Gardens invited me to their Stylemaker Workshops I said yes without hesitation.

Not only will this be a chance to absorb a ton of knowledge from Better Homes & Gardens editors, it will also be an opportunity to meet some other bloggers that I've known online for several years now.

And Nate Berkus will be there.  No big deal.  Right?  His TV show was only my main nap time indulgence for a few years.  Hopefully I can hold it together and not look like a total idiot.  Don't remind me of the Justin Timberlake incident.

Since the Stylemaker event is the day after my birthday, I decided to go a few days early to just enjoy my favorite city.  I can't wait to catch up with dear friends, stroll the streets, people-watch at corner cafes and just be Gwen for a few days: not caretaker, not housekeeper, not cook.  Just a girl ready to take on what that big city has in store for me.  

Any recommendations for places to visit while I'm there?  I'd specifically love to go to a few museums, home decor stores and thrift shops.  ABC Home and Housing Works are already on the list, but I'd appreciate any other recommendations!


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Building a Home: One Step Forward, Ten Steps Back

I had another post ready to go for today, but this is what has been on my mind, so I thought I would share.  

We've been chugging along with the house plans and the stress was really getting to me.  When you get a construction loan, you have to show the bank every little detail before they will approve you. They want to know how much everything will cost (down to light switches and door hinges) so they can hand you over money knowing that a house can actually be built for what you're borrowing. Even though we will be doing work ourselves, and some friends and family will be generously helping for much less than the going rates, we can't put those things in the bid.  We must include labor and supplies at face value.  And then we must put down 20% of that, even though we plan to come in under that.

This was all getting pretty stressful (I don't want to decide on countertops yet!) and on Tuesday I picked up our final plans from the architect - giving us the ability to get all the bids going with the intent to have everything turned into the bank by next week.  I felt so great about our final plans and was excited to get this part of the process finished so we could move on to breaking ground.  The house felt perfect - like our dream home.  There was not one thing I would change.  But all of that was about to change.

Micah contacted the surveyor to come stake out the house on the lot and quickly received a call back. "Um, that house isn't going to fit on that lot."  What?  "That easement doesn't allow for the house to fit."  What easement?

My parents have owned this lot for over 20 years.  The plot they gave us that we, in turn, gave the architect doesn't show an easement anywhere.  But the surveyor shows a big one running on the south side of the lot, knocking 30' of buildable land off.

We reached out to the city and they use it for a storm sewer.  If we want to pay an engineer something like $15,000 to draw up plans and do testing for moving it, they might (yes, might) approve that, and then it would be our responsibility to cover the costs of moving it.  Clearly that's not an option.

Our other option is to try and figure out a way to change the floor plan.  Our lot, while big in square footage, is an unusual shape.  The two story colonial we had decided on was really the best for the pie shape, and I'm not sure what else would fit on there.  We can probably moving things around (do away with a side entry garage and go from a 3 car to a 2, loose the walkout basement and windows) to make it work, but it's going to be tricky and push our timeline back quite a bit.

This is all pretty disappointing, but I also have the assurance that it will all work out.  There doesn't seem to be a clear answer yet, and while part of me wants to fix it right here and now, I've learned that when an answer doesn't seem obvious, it's best to just wait.  Sit back and wait for the right thing to make itself known.  Am I good at waiting?  Not really.  But it's often in the waiting that we find the perspective.  It reminds me just how fortunate we are to even be in this situation.  We're a young family attempting to build a dream home in a neighborhood that anyone would be happy to live and raise their kids in.  It doesn't really get much better than that.

Don't forget to enter for your chance to make your photo storage and accessibility seamless: here.