[And welcome to my little blog.]

I'm Amanda! So happy you are here. Grab a glass of wine, read along, and let's be friends.

Best Place to Visit in the United States

Thursday, June 28, 2012
I can't believe I never actually posted about the Sonoma and Napa, California trip that we took in January.  I've had a draft post written since a week after we got back but just couldn't find the right words to describe how wonderful this trip was.  "We had so much fun together!'  "The weather was beautiful!"  "Loved getting away from the crappy Nebraska winter for some wine tastings in the wonderful California sun"  BARF.  BARF.  I hate being cliche but too often the cliches just fall out of my mouth so easily.  I disliked everything I wrote and re-wrote about the trip, so instead I just didn't post anything.  

I typically don't spend much time thinking about the past, but I absolutely love looking back at some of the great trips we took in 2010 and 2011 so I am determined to catch up.  So instead of delaying any further, I'm simply posting.  

Honestly, Sonoma was perfect.  Both Kevin and I had to travel to the Sacramento area for work, so we conveniently planned our trips for the same week and spent the weekend before in wine country, which meant free flights.  Thank you again Union Pacific.

I don't know if my expectations were low since it was a last minute trip, or if it is really is just THAT amazing, but this trip surpassed everything I was hoping for.  I had heard so much about Napa and Sonoma that I assumed it would be really commercial and chalk full of tourists.  Instead it was surprisingly rural, the scenery driving from vineyard to vineyard was incredible, and all the people that we met were super relaxed and friendly (could it be the free flowing wine in the middle of the day??).  

We stayed a block away from the center of downtown Sonoma in this perfect bed and breakfast called Bungalo 313 (Dolce guestroom). We generally try to avoid staying at the big box hotels, but occasionally the alternative is a bed and breakfast that is just a little bit too quite (and too frilly).  Kevin and I tend to like to go out to dinner and go out and sometimes I feel bad walking into an old creaky bed and breakfast late at night.  But this place in Sonoma was awesome.  They actually had completely separate "bungalows" so you had your own entrance, which made it feel like you were staying in your own little house.  And the homemade granola in the morning was AMAZING.  I'm a huge granola fan and I'd like to consider myself somewhat discerning.  Biggest regret of the trip was not buying some to take home with us.  

So without further adieu, some of my favorite pictures from the trip:

We stopped for lunch at this awesome little Italian place along the road.  Cafe Citti.  Totally recommend this place.

Our Bungalow entrance

This is a picture at Frog's Leap, an organic vineyard in Rutherford, CA, and our absolute favorite vineyard we visited.  The yellow flowers were just stunning and something we didn't see anywhere else.  Maybe the because they don't use pesticides the flowers bloom early?  

I put the wine bottles we brought home on our wood chest in the living room to display (and because our wine rack was full and we have zero counter space).  When I went to take this picture I realized that our living room totally matched the wine bottles.  I don't think I've posted any pictures of our new (old) condo that we moved back into in October.  However, I know I did post about buying that extra wide chaise instead of a couch.  Its so nontraditional that I didn't think Kevin would go for it, but common, how often in your life can you choose to forgo owning a couch and instead buy an over-sized chair meant for only 2 people?  So we did.

I'm glad that I took a picture of the wines that we had sent home or else I'd never remember all the names.  Sadly it is only June and we've already managed to drink all of these "special occasion" wines.  Time to head back?

On the Jay Leno and Ellen show!

Friday, January 27, 2012
I've gotten terribly behind on my blog, and I have zero time to be doing this right now, but I just had to post these pictures from last weekend before they get buried in the archives of photos I do nothing with.

Last weekend, Kevin's mom flew me and Kevin's two sisters out to LA to see both the Ellen show and the Jay Leno show.  I can't believe Rose and Kris pulled off getting us tickets to both shows two days in a row and on top of that we got to go to Santa Monica to the beach. It's been so long that I've been to the beach that I almost forgot how much I loved it.  I think I actually liked the beach better than the shows, but the shows were also fun.  Apparently we made it on TV quite a few times on the Ellen show, but my favorite was the Leno show.  We got to see Ryan Seacrest, Randy Jackson, and Steven Tyler, and Jay Leno was surprisingly super nice.

Highlights of the trip:
(1) Basking in the California sun in the middle of January
(2)  Getting picked before the Ellen show as a potential "random" contestent that might be called on during the  show
(3)  Being very relieved when I was not picked as a contestant on the Ellen show since the game involved making out with the celebrity guest Shemar Williams, which would have left me in the dog house with Kevin for months
(4)  Putting my toes in the Pacific Ocean, sitting in the sand, and truly soaking up the moment
(5)  Drinking half a dozen Hibiscus martinis, and spending girl time giggling like an idiot

Lowpoints of the trip:
(1)  Traveling home for 8 hours back to Nebraska with a hibiscus martini migraine

Here are some of the pictures from the trip, mostly from the beach since you weren't allowed to bring cameras into either of the shows.

Thanks again Rose for the trip.  It was so generous of you and was a very fun trip.

And for anyone that wants that Hibiscus martini recipe, it was fabulous:  Blue Ice Organic Wheat American Vodka, hibiscus syrup, fresh lime and lemon, organic agave nectar, muddled fresh ginger and cucumber served straight up.  Yum.

One more thing crossed off "the list"

Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Thank you so much to everyone's wonderful responses to my last blog post about starting a business.  It really means a lot to me that you guys care enough to read along, let alone provide such encouragement.  Throughout this whole process I've really been amazed by people's generosity and support.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Since I haven't blogged since early October, I was looking back through my pictures to see just how many I never got around to posting.  There's a lot I left out, and I definitely won't catch all the way up, but I thought it'd be fun to post a few pictures anyways. 

Just a little background - originally when I thought I was going to quit Union Pacific entirely to pursue my work at Ova Ova, I thought it'd also be fun to do some photography work part-time.  I have always enjoyed photography, and the more pictures I've taken over the last few months, the more I've liked it.  I know it's so cliche - it seems like everyone is a photographer these days.  And real photographers must be really annoyed with people like me who pick up a camera and start snapping a few pictures and then call themselves a photographer.  

But it was sort of inevitable.  I think my brain is wired a lot like my dad's, and like many of you know he's done photography part-time for years.  So when my dad gave me his broken Canon 5D and I was able to get the entire shutter replaced and the camera back up and running for $200 bucks, I was totally hooked (thanks dad!).  I even had my wonderfully talented friend, Danielle, create a photography logo for me, and I laid claim on the the domain www.amandakohlerphotography.com.  That's about as far as I got when I realized there was no freakin' way I could do photography and run Ova Ova all the while working at Union Pacific 20 hours a week.  I may be crazy, but I'm not that crazy.  

So alas, Amanda Kohler Photography will remain on pause for the foreseeable future.  But I still thought it would be fun to post some pictures of the beautiful weddings I was able to attend during the second half of the year.  I really do love weddings.  Here they are in order:

Adam and Erica (Kevin and I's wonderful wedding photographers, The Moment It Clicks, were super nice and let me tag along to one of the weddings they photographed)

Nina and Robert (Kevin was an usher in this wedding.  His cousin Nina married one of his best friends, and it was a great wedding)

Jessica and Jay (One of my new friends, Emily, and I took pictures at this wedding.  I was nervous, but it was so much less nerve wracking with a second photographer - thanks Emily!)

Kait and Jake (Kait has been one of my best friends since elementary school.  I was a bridesmaid in her wedding, but still couldn't resist snapping a few pictures).

Even though I don't plan on taking on too much of my own photography work for awhile, I do plan to partner up with my dad on some weddings this year.  My dad has been doing photography professionally for years, and we've shot a bunch of weddings together, but this is the first year that he's officially opened the door to weddings.  He is a far better and more experienced photographer than I am, and having recently shopped for a wedding photographer, his prices are definitely on the lower end for his talent and what his packages include.  Here's a link to the wedding packages if anyone is interested.

So, with all that being said, I am officially crossing number 13 off the Pre-Baby Bucket List:  "Take Up Photography." When I put this one on the list I was more just hoping that I'd finally be able to remember the difference between aperture and ISO.  Let's just say I went a little over the top on this one, but I had a lot of fun crossing it off the list.

Over the last few months I've had quite a few questions from people that are interested in learning photography.... what camera to buy, what lenses, books to learn, etc.  If you are looking to get more serious about photography, I'd recommend you go with a Nikon or a Canon.  I've heard great things about Nikon, but my dad has a ton of Canon gear that he's nice enough to let me use, so it would be really silly for me to go the Nikon route.  If you're interested in buying a Canon - here's an email I sent to a friend giving the details on what I would recommend.  Obviously if you're not in the market for a camera, this information is totally useless, but I thought I'd throw it out there in case it might be helpful for anyone.


I would recommend buying the Canon T3i (for $712) or the T3 for (for $454).

The T3i is obviously the nicer camera (and it's more expensive), but the T3 is also very nice.  

The two main differences between these cameras are:  (1) the number of megapixels and (2) high definition video.   The T3i has 18 megapixels and the T3 has 12 megapixels (more megapixels is better).  I use the Canon 5D which only has 12 megapixels and I haven't had any problems with it at all - I love it.  The other deciding factor between these two cameras is whether you want to record hi-def video with your camera.  The T3i has high def video and has an LCD that flips out so you can use the camera more like a video camera.  If you don't care that much about video, I'd go with the T3.

The standard lens that comes with the T3i or T3 is ok, but I would highly recommend buying a second lens.  If you're not going to buy at least one decent lens, I personally think it's not even worth buying an expensive camera. I have had really good luck with the Canon 50 mm 1.8 lens.  It's under $100 and since it opens up to F 1.8, you can create those professional looking photos where the subject is in focus, but the background is blurry.  You can also take pictures in lower light without a flash (and flash photography takes awhile to get the hang of).  You won't be able to do either of those things with the standard lens that comes with the T3i or T3.

Check out this link to go to my amazon store with all the products that I mentioned.  I put some Kelly Moore bags on there (those are those purse/camera bags - they are kind of expensive and not really great quality, but they are really nice for carrying your large camera around).  I also put the flash cards I recommend, and a book I liked that can teach you the basics.  I would buy 2 flash cards if I were you (definitely buy these online - they are way cheaper than at the store!).  If you end up buying anything from amazon (which amazon has some of the best prices), then I get a 4% kick-back in Amazon gift cards.  I've never tried it before, but I wanted to give it a go since we may eventually sell fertility related products on Ova Ova.  Let me know if you have any questions!!


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