Hazel Mountain Morning

Hazel Mountain Overlook | Beebower Productions

Hazel Mountain Overlook

Before the van rolled to a stop, I rocketed out the door, grabbed my gear and sprinted toward the rocks.  I’d miscalculated our travel time to the overlook.  There could be no greater sin for a landscape photographer.  You just don’t miss sunrises.

The entire drive from our cabin to the park I’d fidgeted, mentally kicking myself as I watched the first faint bands of pink color the sky above the mountains.  As we wound up the twisty, turning road to the park that morning, I realized we were so close yet so far.  My barnburner sunrise might just happen without me.

My husband and I traveled to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia for a long weekend.  The goal:  capture as many sunrise shots as possible.  Day One wasn’t going so well.

I usually get to a location before sunrise to capture the period just before the sun peaks over the horizon.  It produces beautiful, colorful light.  This day I definitely missed the Belt of Venus, as that light is known, but I had just enough time to set up my tripod before the sun actually rose.

Thankfully I’d scouted the Hazel Mountain Overlook the day before. I had composed a photo in my mind that I hoped to capture the next morning.  I knew where the sun would shine its first rays of the morning.  The mountains layered one upon the other from this vantage point.  And the cool rock formations at the overlook perfectly framed those mountain peaks.

On this crisp winter morning, I was alone.  That was good.  No one but my husband and our dog saw my pell mell rush from the van that morning.  The pair decided to keep warm in the van, occasionally checking to make sure I hadn’t fallen off the cliff in my photo quest.

I didn’t have to wait long for the show to start.  That morning’s stress washed away as ribbons of color danced above the purple mountaintops.  A little magenta here, a bit of orange there.   The show just kept getting better and better.  In fact, I didn’t even mind freezing as I bracketed the shot.  (That’s a bold statement for me.  I hate being cold.)

A few hearty birds joined me at the rocks.  They sat facing the rising sun, twittering amongst themselves.  Besides the birds, the only sound I heard was the wind gently blowing across the mountaintops.  Perfect.

I continued shooting for about 40 minutes.  The pictures looked pretty good plus this slice of nature helped me unwind.  So maybe I redeemed myself.  I didn’t miss that glorious sunrise after all.

Bonus: I now knew exactly how long it took to reach the mountaintop from our cabin in the valley.

Christmas Disasters

O Christmas Tree | O Christmas Tree 2 | Beebower Productions

“Merry Christmas!” “Now, Put ‘Em Up”

Imagine a cozy and warm scene of a family decorating the Christmas tree, laughing while sipping hot chocolate and hanging ornaments with Bing Crosby crooning in the background.  Sounds wonderful, right?

Our first year to host Thanksgiving as a married couple turned out anything but wonderful.  We decided after the big dinner we’d purchase a Christmas tree and start decorating with our guests.

At least that part of the plan went off without a hitch.  We successfully picked out a beauty at the local tree lot and hauled it home.  My parents and Jonathan’s friend dutifully began unpacking the decorations box while my husband and I set up the tree in the living room.

And then the fighting began. 

I asked, “White lights or colored?” 

White, naturally, I thought.  White looked so peaceful and serene like sun glistening off of freshly fallen snow.  Everyone knew that, I thought.

“Colored.  It’s cheerful and reminds me of presents wrapped in all kinds of colorful paper,” he said definitively. 

Wait, what?  You want colored?!   I’d barely processed that thought when I noticed a hodge podge of ornaments popping up all over the tree. 

“Why are you hanging all of those ornaments?  None of them match!” I said in frustration.

He countered with, “That’s how we always do it.  Besides what do we need ribbon for?  We use tinsel.”

Our guests heads’ whipped back and forth like spectators watching a high-speed tennis match.  Things were getting heated!  The tree decorating ground to a halt. 

We had the classic matching vs. eclectic decorating fight.  No amount of pre-wedding counseling prepared us for this.  The pastor never mentioned Christmas decorations.  We felt cheated.  Someone should have told us this would be a major problem!

So that poor, half-decorated tree sat in our living room for a couple of days before we worked out a solution.  (Both of us are a bit stubborn.)  We would, henceforth, have two trees:  one embellished with matching decorations and the other loaded down with a mishmash of ornaments. 

Now that many years have passed we can laugh about that first tree decorating debacle.  We’ve even learned a bit more about the art of compromise.  Each year I buy him non-matching ornaments for his tree.  He lets me put the matching tree in the living room instead of alternating as we originally negotiated.  The way we see it, Christmas is twice the fun it used to be.  Now that’s love.

Now It’s Your Turn

Leave a comment below.  Tell us about your biggest Christmas disaster or just wish the rest of the Photo of the Month Club a Merry Christmas.  Just share something so we can enter you into the drawing for a FREE Photo Print!

BONUS:  Just in case you’re one of those people who never wins drawings, we’re including a 25% discount to our web store just for you.  Simply use the Promo Code: Jack&Abe! when you order and you’ll save 25% Storewide.

Our Favorite Christmas Tradition

Merry Christmas Gingerbread House | First Gingerbread House | Gingerbread House| Hawaii Gingerbread House | Beebower Productions

The Candyland Housing Project

It started with a few flakes of frosting that quietly fluttered down from the roof.  Then a glob.  And finally a blob.  Our group of merry party goers held their breath as the roof suddenly shimmed and shook left, then right before collapsing directly on top of the walls.  But the walls held.  All in all, it wasn’t too bad of an earthquake in gingerbread land.

Our friends were the proud new owners of a flat-roofed gingerbread house complete with one traumatized gingerbread man.  Since we lived in Sierra Vista, Arizona a city known for flat-roofed homes with swamp coolers up top, all of the party attendees agreed this wasn’t a Pinterest fail.  No.  We merely adapted to our environment to portray a realistic southwestern home.

The gingerbread earthquake happened during our first year of hosting a gingerbread decorating contest.  It quickly became one of our favorite Christmas traditions.  We’d round up a group of friends, split into teams and set the clock for 30 minutes.  We loved an evening of light-hearted competition with questionable prizes for the winners.

As novices, we chose to make all of our building supplies.  No easy peasy kits for us!  We labored over homemade slabs of gingerbread and whipped frosting.  We quickly learned two lessons:  slabs of gingerbread weigh a lot and most frosting makes terrible glue to hold together heavy slabs of gingerbread.

As a result, many of our creations looked like gingerbread slums, with walls leaning at odd angles, roofs caved in and candy decorations slowly sliding down the walls.  “Do your best and caulk the rest” really didn’t help in this situation.  The houses could be compared to a building apocalypse, only much more tasty and less terrifying—unless you were the gingerbread man.

Eventually we found a mold for the house, a good light-weight gingerbread recipe and an even better frosting recipe that worked like Super Glue.  We deemed these houses suitable for habitation. 

Despite the advances, we still ended up covered in frosting, eating way more of the decorations than we should.  The sugar rush just added to the excitement of the event.

I suppose the sugar highs also explained the trash talking.  One year in particular got nasty when our friends made a Kansas State gingerbread house to taunt me, a Mizzou grad. 

The college rivalry dates back to 1909.  It was so on!  Naturally my husband and I stepped up our decorating and handily beat them with a stylish, delicious house plus a little snark for good measure.  (Don’t tell them, but I actually liked their snowman.  He was quite tasty.)

So what started with an unfortunate earthquake graduated to a real housing boom for the Gingerbread Man.  This tradition gives gingerbread men around the world and us something to look forward to each year.

Now It’s Your Turn

Leave a comment below.  Tell us about your favorite Christmas tradition or just wish the rest of the Photo of the Month Club a Merry Christmas.  Just share something so we can enter you into the drawing for a FREE Photo Print!

BONUS:  Just in case you’re one of those people who never wins drawings, we’re including a 20% discount to our web store just for you.  Simply use the Promo Code: DubSaw! when you order and you’ll save 20% Storewide.

The Most Exotic/Unusual Christmas

Christmas Vacation | Norfolk Island Pine | Island Stylin’ Christmas | Beebower Productions

Exotic Island Christmas

Think you can’t do Christmas in a tropical paradise?  Think again!  Hawaii lends even more  magic to the Christmas season.  My husband and I were fortunate enough to live there and experience the full gamut of what the Islands have to offer.  Even Santa trades snow and reindeer for the beautiful sand and sun of Hawaii. 

The Hawaiians put their own spin on a traditional Christmas.  We love it!  To help you see the possibilities we’ve compiled a list of 10 reasons Hawaii rocks Christmas:

1. Santa arrives in Waikiki in a red outrigger canoe each year.   He’s greeted with hula dancers and excited keiki (children).  You might even catch a glimpse of Old St. Nick when he trades his Santa suit for a bathing suit.   He likes surfing at the local beaches with his elves.

2. It’s a full family affair for the Clauses.  While on Oahu, Shaka Santa and Tutu Mele (Santa and Mrs. Claus) like to hang out at the Honolulu City Lights, greeting keiki joyously.  The twinkling display set up at Oahu’s Honolulu Hale (city hall) boasts the largest number of lights in the Islands.  Kids can catch a train ride and families will find plenty of goodies to much on at the food trucks.  Inside the building each city department decorates a tree.  A back hallway displays creatively decorated wreaths from around the island. 

3. Island Stylin’ Christmas…Hawaii bursts with unique Christmas decorations.  Locals make use of tropical plants that grow around the island.  You’ll see real poinsettias that can easily reach monster-sized proportions growing in people’s yards and blooming near December 25, wreaths festooned with hibiscus or pineapples and cheery palm trees decked out in Christmas finery.  Imagine hanging those lights!

4. You should experience a Norfolk Island pine at least once in your life.  Yeah, they kinda look alike a Charlie Brown tree, but once you load them up with decorations they take on an elegant Hawaiian look.  Plus they don’t turn brown as quickly as traditional Christmas trees.  We loved picking ours out at Helmano Farms on Oahu.

5. Christmas dinner is an ono (delicious) feast!  You can find traditional foods at some buffets, but don’t miss the local grinds (yummy food).  Kalua pig, poke, lomi lomi salmon, poi, laulau and sticky rice will fill you up and delight your taste buds.  Don’t forget the haupia (coconut) pie from Ted’s Bakery on Oahu.

6. You have a great reason to skip those ugly sweater parties.  Remember the tropical weather?  Opt for the swimsuit and beach instead, although hot chocolate still tastes fantastic even when it’s hot outside.  It’s chocolate.  Enough said.

7. “Mele Kelikimaka is the thing to say on a bright Hawaiian Christmas day…”  I love that song!  We discovered all kinds of fun new Christmas music while living in Hawaii:  

Who wouldn’t want a mynah bird in a papaya tree?!

8. Missing the traditions of Christmas?  You can trade your snowman for a sandman on the beach.  After opening presents on Christmas morning locals head to the water for a relaxing afternoon of swimming and surfing.  Even Santa rides the waves after his work is done.

9. Still missing snow?  No problem!  Quite often the summits of Haleakala, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa sport a nice coat of snow.  We barely escaped the summit of Haleakala before a snow storm forced rangers to shut down the park!  Hawaii lets you experience tropical weather and snow all in one day.

10. Finally for the football fans, you can catch the Hawaii Bowl every December wearing shorts and slippahs (flip flops) rather bundling up like Ralphie’s little brother in “A Christmas Story”.

Now It’s Your Turn

Leave a comment below.  Tell us about your most exotic/unusual Christmas or just wish the rest of the Photo of the Month Club a Merry Christmas.  Just share something so we can enter you into the drawing for a FREE Photo Print!

BONUS:  Just in case you’re one of those people who never wins drawings, we’re including a 15% discount to our web store just for you.  Simply use the Promo Code: OneFive-O! when you order and you’ll save 15% Storewide.

Christmas Decorations

Homemade Christmas | Double Trouble | Beebower Productions

Christmas Decorations

The reports weren’t pretty.  Dock workers on strike in Los Angeles held our household goods, everything we owned, hostage.  Our move to Georgia from South Korea took a turn for the worst.  Our inventory of supplies consisted of a few sets of clothes, an inflatable mattress, a couple of folding chairs and dog paraphernalia.  Christmas looked bleak indeed.

Then inspiration struck!  We’d buy a real tree and make our own decorations.  We even made new friends to invite to our impromptu cookie ornament decorating party.  We dressed gingerbread men, candy canes and star shaped cookies with layers of frosting and candy.  Then we strung popcorn to use as a tree garland.

The Grinch didn’t steal our Christmas after all!  We happily festooned our tree with the cookies and popcorn swag.  It looked pretty darn good, if I do say so, myself.

We had, however, overlooked one thing in our Christmas decorating zeal.  Dogs.  Yes, dogs. We had two of them and it never occurred to either of us that the fully decorated tree created a doggie buffet.

But our dogs wasted no time in tracking down the source of the delicious smells.  While we visited with our new friends, they promptly ate about 1/4 of the lower tree decorations.  We suddenly realized an abnormal quiet had enveloped the house.  A quick search turned up two happy dogs snarfing down all the decorations.  The scene reminded me of the Bumpuses’ dogs devouring the turkey in “A Christmas Story”.

One dog merrily munched on a string of popcorn.  Unfortunately it was still attached to the tree, putting the entire thing in danger of toppling over.  The other dog froze with an innocent, mangled gingerbread man wedged in his mouth.  He knew the gig was up and looked slightly guilty, especially as he glanced down at the crumb-laden floor that convicted him of gingerbread homicide.

After the initial mayhem and chaos of removing the dogs from the vicinity of the tree, my husband and I regrouped.  Only the top half of the tree needed decorations, we decided.  Yes, a half decorated tree seemed ideal.

And so our third Christmas together proved to be one of our most unusual with half of the tree decorated with homemade ornaments and two dogs who hoped to repeat the mouth-watering buffet.

Eventually the dock employees returned to work and our stuff finally arrived.  The next Christmas we decorated normally.  But I caught the dogs sniffing the tree more than once. I imagine they were longing for that smorgasbord of decorations.

Now It’s Your Turn

Leave a comment below.  Tell us about your Christmas decorations, your pets, or just wish the rest of the Photo of the Month Club a Merry Christmas.  Just share something so we can enter you into the drawing for a FREE Photo Print!

BONUS:  Just in case you’re one of those people who never wins drawings, we’re including a 10% discount to our web store just for you.  Simply use the Promo Code: TenSpot! when you order and you’ll save 10% percent.

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