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This is a Memorial Day party for the books. No doubt, the party of the year. Jonathan and Louise hosted a five year anniversary party this past Memorial Day weekened at their Iowa farmhouse and it was just oozing Americana goodness — BBQ, pie baking contest, dancing, croquet, fireworks, sparklers, a random bonfire, and my favorite part of the day: a hayride. It was seriously about as authentic as it gets. We even were asked to wear all white or pastels, which — not gonna lie — was a challenge for me (I am usually dressed in hot pink from head to toe). Everyone fulfilled the dress code and looked sharp as hell! I was impressed.

Sharing these memories with my friends and colleagues filled my heart with so much happiness. We all came from different corners of the country — Michael of The Flashdance flew in from LA to spin some records for us, Whitney traveled from the east coast to bring a Smilebooth, and Seattle-based Brian of Shark Pig brought his super 8 camera. Of course, with families and loved ones in tow.

I feel incredibly honored to have kicked off the summer in such good company. Thank you, Jonathan and Louise for putting together such a great party. And be sure to read more in the feature on 100 Layer Cake!

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I can’t get this trip to Iowa out of my head.

The short version is that going to Fairfield was designed as a way to bring together our “work family” — nearly everyone from the creative collective The Flashdance flew in from dual coasts and spent several days in a town that shares a common history for many of my creative colleagues. We were all invited to a memorial day party to celebrate Shark Pig co-founder Jonathan Lynch’s five year anniversary with Louise (which was amazing and I’ll share pictures in the next post). But it was so much more than that.

It’s hard to explain, but rural Iowa really left an impression on me. This day in particular, when we all went swimming in a quarry, after which I spent hours exploring country roads chasing the most beautiful golden hour light I had seen in a long time — was blissful. My eyes felt fresh, my creativity awakened, and I really connected to the American heartland like never before.

Below are some personal photos that I love — one lens, one instant film camera, one day.

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Some iPhone snaps taken while traveling over the past few weeks.

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Every now and then I start to miss living up north. Like Colorado, Alaska is a part of my soul and I was so lucky to call it my home for two summers. During my last year working in Juneau I rarely picked up my camera — my eyes were tired and I was working long hours, so I mostly kept my head down and simply went through the motions. But every now and again I would look up and snap a frame for personal memory — like when I had a few extra minutes to spend with the morning fog on my drive to the office, a flight over the glacier in the rain, the end of season boat trip with co-workers, my brother coming up to visit, kayaking to the glacier with friends, and watching a meteor shower on Douglas Island.

When I left I felt like I experienced everything I could in Alaska for that chapter of my life. Los Angeles may not have whales and glaciers, but it’s definitely where I belong right now.

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One of my main motivations to travel to England was that two friends of mine, Jenise and Jimmer, live in Liphook — about an hour south of London — and had a standing offer for me to stay with them should I ever come visit. I consider myself lucky to have friends all over the country, let alone the world, but luck doesn’t even scratch the surface of the amazing hospitality provided by Jenise and Jimmer. I totally feel like I won the friend lottery — those two basically MADE my trip to England as amazing as it was. Without them I wouldn’t have had nearly as great of a time as I did, and not just because Jenise made me a BADASS cake on my birthday (complete with a fondant unicorn, flat cat, camera, and rainbow — I seriously cried), and Jimmer not only tolerated my sundried tomato obsession, but also gave into my demands to watch reruns of Friends pretty much non-stop. Seriously, they are the most rock n’ roll couple in England. No one can convince me otherwise.

With the Olivers as my tour guides, we embarked on road trips to Stonehenge, Bath, Brighton (twice), and nearby villages, including a special trip to Colin Firth’s birthplace, which I will always associate with the memory of buying a hideous Posh Spice mask that I think would be good to wear on blind dates. Brighton was such a charming coastal town that is a favorite getaway spot for J&J, and after our time there I can totally see why.

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Alright, let’s get the unhappy stuff out of the way real quick. The truth is that the Mediterranean cruise my mother, grandmother, and I planned for back in the spring — the main reason I went to Europe in the first place — was drastically cut short. We pretty much missed out on the whole experience because of a family emergency. Two days into the cruise, my grandmother became suddenly ill out of nowhere, suffering from dehydration, heart failure, and a magnitude of other serious health problems and was rushed to the nearest hospital the second we reached our nearest port: Monaco, where we would stay for the remainder of our trip.

During this time, I went through one of the most stressful and heart-wrenching experiences ever shared with my loved ones in recent memory. I’ll be frank: the night she got sick on the cruise ship was absolutely miserable. I had never seen my grandmother so bad before; often I feel like I am strong enough to get my her through whatever situation she may face, but that night I felt completely helpless. It was incredibly hard to watch.

Thankfully, we were supported by our travel insurance, as well as a team of caring individuals — from the kind staff on Holland America, to the employees at Princess Grace hospital (my dynasty-loving grandma got a kick out of that), my brother who was stateside, and, most importantly, our travel agent Michelle, who effortlessly arranged everything we needed within a heartbeat so that I didn’t have to deal with any more drama than what was already piled on.

While this was going on, I was feeling really bad for my mom — I had already been traveling for over two weeks before we met up in Barcelona (where the cruise departed from) and seen quite a bit, yet this was also her first time in Europe and it had come to an abrupt halt almost as soon as it started. Although most days were spent keeping grandma company, waiting on her health to be stable enough to fly her home, my mom and I did manage to sneak away for a couple days and do a little bit of sight-seeing to make up for the cancelled cruise a bit.

We had been told that Nice, France was about a 20 minute train ride away, and the border of Italy was equidistant from Monaco in the opposite direction. My mom — not nearly as savvy with trains and public transportation as I — needed a bit of encouragement for the day trips, but was ultimately impressed by the EU train system.

Personally, I just adored Nice and enjoyed our day there significantly more than my time Paris. Overall I found the people to be friendlier and the city centre livelier. It had the charm of France paired with the colors of Barcelona — a perfect combination for me.

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Back in January when everyone else in the country was battling blizzards and harsh winter weather, I went out and took some snapshots around California for fun. I mainly used my Fuji Instax 210 for these, as it’s a simple yet cute little instant film camera that I really enjoy playing with.

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