Last Thursday evening we hosted our first ever Annual Ugly Christmas Sweater Party when we arrived back to the homestead in Culver. It was also our second meet-up for young Culver residents and the group keeps growing. We decided about a month and a half ago that there were many young people who were choosing to make Culver their home and we needed a way to connect with them and network a little bit. We had our first get together on November 17th and then decided to make it a monthly meet-up group, so the December group became out first Annual Ugly Christmas Sweater Party. We have a hit here! We even made the evening complete with perpetual trophies awarded for the best Ugly Sweater and Ugliest Sweater. Can you say fruitcake?

The evening was a great success with our house festively decorated (tinsel garland anyone?) for the occasion. We managed to also put up our Christmas Tree in the living room and other decorations so that we were a little bit more into the Christmas spirit around here.

Dana scored us our lovely sweaters, after stopping at a consignment shop and asking for Christmas sweaters. The lady there told her they didn’t have any of “those”, but to run out to the lady in the parking lot who just tried to bring some in. So, she did and bought a whole bag of very festive sweaters for $4. Pure ugly Christmas sweater awesomeness. We decided as host and hostess, we were ineligible for prizes. Thank goodness, since my handsome hubby went all out on his outfit, even breaking out a dicky and some extra fur. Our winners… Brian “Pockets” Pohl for Ugliest Sweater and Dana’s fiancé, Dave Noel, bringing home the Ugly Sweater prizes! Granted, Richard “Hot Pad” Easterday gave the winners some serious competition as well with his hand sewn decorations and snazzy lights! Definitely a great way for us to come home and kick off the holidays. We are looking forward to many more meet-ups and Ugly Christmas Sweater parties in the future. 🙂

The voting ballots

Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

Ed & Bill…see what I mean?

No fun was had…

We love our vinyl cutter and all of the fun things we can do with it!

The Holiday Season is one of my favorite times of the year and meeting cute Miss E, for her Always Happy Life Photography Holiday Mini Portrait Session was a highlight of mine so far! Her family signed up to be part of the Christmas in Culver mini sessions in early Novemeber. Little E was dressed up for her Christmas portrait and brought along her favorite companion, Jack, who was also in his holiday best…along with her parents. This session was all about E though and all of her cuteness! She definitely hammed it up during our Mini Session as we played on the grounds of the Culver Academies on a beautiful late Fall day. One of my favorite images of her is now featured on my current holiday marketing cards and her sweet face is also on the Always Happy Life Photography Facebook page! I know her parents can’t wait to share their custom made Holiday Cards, printed on beautiful pearl paper with all of their friends and family back home. I’m so glad I had a chance to meet the Simon family and look forward to more sessions with their family in the future as this little Santa’s Helper grows up!

A preview of their adorable Christmas Card!

I’m looking forward to being back home this week (I hear there is snow on the ground!!!) and meeting the winner of the Small Town Savvy Helping with the Holidays giveaway who will win a portrait session from Always Happy Life Photography, as well as, a special custom designed holiday card from Shelly at Unlocked Creativity. Make sure to spread the word and enter to win. Today is the very last day to enter!!! There are many great prizes from 10 different local businesses to make your holidays merry and bright!

Hello Always Happy Life readers! Dana here and I’m new to the Always Happy Life and Sail22 family! With that being said, I am also new to blogging, so bear with me. 🙂 If you’ve been to Culver, then you may know me from the Original RootBeer Stand here in Culver, or you may recognize me from the local Edgewater Grille where I may have slid a drink your way. Or if you don’t know me at all, here’s your chance!

I grew up fairly close to Culver in a small town called Monterey, with a whopping population of around 200. I had a dog named Powerhouse, and her four puppies all named Larry (for some reason I liked that name). My childhood consisted of swimming in corn bins, riding around with my dad in the combine, and being constantly teased and tossed about by my four older brothers. Growing up on a secluded farm was nice–I could always see the stars, it was quiet, and not another person for miles.

I went to Elementary School in Monterey, then in 7th grade traveled over to Culver where I then graduated from the High School in 2004. From there I went on to Purdue University in West Lafayette where I studied Communications. In December of 2008 I graduated with a Public Relations and Rhetorical Advocacy degree and moved back home to hopefully find a job. Well, as some of you know Culver isn’t a booming town for new college graduates, so I had some trouble getting started. I continued to work summers at the Original RootBeer Stand, where I’ve been for the last ten years (gasp) and the last two years have been spent also bar tending at Edgewater Grille. It was there that I met Ed and Becky. I got to know them quite well from catering/bar tending at their wedding, the C Scow Nationals and many other local events. Thank goodness I did. I doubt I would have gotten this opportunity otherwise. 🙂

All thru school you’d be hard-pressed to find me without a camera. I was always hijacking my parent’s old 35mm and acquiring shoe boxes full of film. So imagine how thrilled I was with the debut of the digital camera! 🙂 Photography has always been important to me. I love documenting everything around me, no matter what the occasion is. That’s why I love my job here. It allows me play with my camera even more! What could be better!

Along with Photography I also enjoy Traveling. I love, love, love seeing new places. Any chance or extra cash I have, I am somewhere else in the country. I try to get out of here at least twice a year. In the past year and a half I’ve been to Hawaii, Key West, Seattle, St. Petersburg, and numerous weekend trips to Nashville, Chicago, etc. I always love an adventure!

Jewelry is another passion of mine. Yes, since I’m a gal it seems typical, but most of my jewelry was made by my mother, or purchased for under $10. 🙂 I’m a big big fan of the gaudy, huge, costume jewelry and my collection shows it.

I’ll be working here at Sail22 headquarters in Culver, while I currently reside in the heart of downtown Culver with my Fiancé David, and our rambunctious kitten, Scotch. You’ll be hearing more from me in the future!

Guest blog from Ed today!

It’s that time of year again when I get to stop shaving and not get any flack about it from my wife. Last year I heard about Movember from my brother, the web and some friends on FaceBook. Movember you say…what is Movember? The month of November is about men’s health awareness and what goes better with November than a little bit (or a lot) of facial hair? Do you really need a better excuse to not shave than to raise awareness for men’s health? I really don’t and Becky loves it…really…she does. This year, I’m being official about it and have registered (points with the wife) and you can donate to my campaign if you’d like by clicking on my Movember page. I’m already off to a great start!

After all, I am into healthy living and need to be in good shape for my job and hobbies. As with last year, I stopped shaving as I was preparing for the Iceman Cometh Mountain Bike race. Since it is always the first weekend in November, it’s perfect to stop shaving in preparation for the Mo. This year our Iceman trip was a guys only weekend with my brother, cousin and I all racing and Dad along to be our support crew. So I spent the first week of Movember growing some fine facial hair for our Grizzly Adams weekend before sculpting my Mo. Follow along here and on our Always Happy Life Facebook page to see how the Mo grows and go make a donation on my Movember page to help support Men’s Health. If you are lucky, you too can laugh at your man’s crazy facial hair like my wife does with me. It’s only one month of the year so jump on and enjoy the ride for a great cause. Check back here often for a Monday Mo Update to keep you entertained. Send us a photo of your favorite Mo by Friday and we will add it to our the Mo post next week!

I had another wonderful family portrait session working with the C Family from Edgewater, Maryland while visiting the Annapolis area (my old home town) from Culver, Indiana (my new home town ♥). I met Andy through sailing many years ago and then later, met his beautiful wife, Jenn, but had yet to meet their 13 month old bundle of sweetness, little Miss K. I was super excited for this family session, since Miss K is at such a fun age! We lucked out with gorgeous late Fall weather and I’m so glad their session was scheduled then, as the following weekend the weather was terrible. As in…snow…which wouldn’t have been as much fun.

We started out at their home, playing in the yard and also spent some time making sure their doggies made it into their family portrait. Being a pet lover, I really enjoy having families want to include their pets into their portraits. Their two dogs even cooperated. 🙂 Such a cute family!

Let me tell you, little K has some very fun parents and you can tell she brings lots of smiles, joy and laughs into their daily life. They said she’s never really crabby and I believe it. Very smiley, inquisitive and easy going is how I’d describe her. And…she loves banana puffs. So glad I stocked up on those before their session!

This one is a favorite of mine. We were walking to the beach and baby K saw her shadow. I couldn’t help but capture it and I’m so glad I did!

I LOVED her adorable little girl shoes! How much more adorable can you get, really?

Another favorite of mine. Sweet tiny hands.

Thanks C Family for spending the afternoon with me and letting me document your world forever with your sweet little girl. I can’t wait to watch her grow and see all of the joy she brings you in your life!

A few weeks ago, I met Lindsey, a very beautiful, high school senior from Culver High School for her senior portraits. We had the perfect warm Fall afternoon for her senior photos! There was definitely excitement in the air when she arrived and we went over all of her outfit options for her senior session. So much fun to be able to pick and choose! Dana helped her finalize her accessories, as she is the jewelry guru and had many options available. We decided on several different locations around Culver, Indiana and started out in our fields at Always Happy Life Photography for her session, then moved to the Culver Park and then checked out the Culver Academies. Last week we met again for her viewing session and had a great time picking out her favorite portraits. I shared several of them on the Always Happy Life Photography Facebook page last week, but there were so many great ones I had to share!

Our session was cartwheels of fun!

So pretty in Black & White…

Seriously beautiful

All dressed up at the Culver Academies


This past weekend in Annapolis was busy with family portraits on the beach and at client’s homes. We lucked out and had beautiful weather all weekend long! Saturday morning I spent with the O Family who wanted to go to the beach at Bayridge. We headed there for their family photos with the goal of capturing one worthy of their annual Christmas card. The session came out great and I definitely think they have some great options for their holiday card! It’s always great for me to visit an area and be able to photograph new and old friends and their families to provide them with family portraits they’ll treasure. I definitely love being an on location photographer and capturing families in their favorite places! I’ll be in the Maryland, Washington, DC & Virginia area through next weekend and still have some availability for a few more sessions. I plan to be back this way again in November and will also be able to schedule sessions during my upcoming trip, so please contact me soon to reserve your slot today.


Meet the O Family! If you’re sailors, you may know this crew!

Last evening, I met them for their image viewing session and they were very excited. The little ones loved their slideshow and kept pointing out themselves and their parents. Viewing sessions are definitely one of my favorite parts, which is one of the reasons I choose to do them one-on-one with clients. It’s rewarding for me to see how much they love my work!

This is one of my favorites from their session. 🙂

Both O Family little girls are cute as can be and all though one started off a little bit reluctant, she was all smiles in the end!

Sweet sisters!

They had lots of fun during their family portrait session…and plenty of laughs…

And one their parents…because as they said…it’s been a long time since they have had a professional portrait of themselves done!

We stopped by the mechanic yesterday for an update on the progress of our Morris Mini Cooper S refurbishment here in Culver, Indiana. He’s been able to get the engine out of her and she wasn’t seized, which is a plus on our end. The engine head is now off as well and it appears the head gasket blew at some point, so there is a small pit in the head. Had a chance to look at the valve seats and she must have dropped a valve at one point. The water pump is toast…which is no surprise at all and since she sat for over 30 years with coolant in there, so nasty stuff accumulated. Will need to spend some time on that area and have it cleaned and hot tanked to removed the gunk. The timing chain seems a bit loose, so we’ll need to have that replaced. Our next step, is finding someone who knows the engine and can take it apart, clean it, replace the seals, gaskets and anything else that needs it. Basically make her look brand spanking new again and updated to 2011. Hopefully this is someone in the Midwest, as we’ve heard good things about there being a great classic mini group in Ohio, but we also have a Florida contact who is an option. We just want to keep it reasonable and paying our mechanic to learn our engine isn’t ideal. We’d like to keep him doing the things he knows best.

The wiring is almost completely removed and we’ll have a new wiring harness installed that will support the car through her future. We’re considering adding a security system and wondering if any one else has ever put one in? Also, for music, we’ll use our iPad or iPhone and want to make sure it supports these. The old wires definitely are in terrible shape with fraying and wear in many spots. There was no question in our mind about new wiring!

Jason also put her up on the lift for us to take a look at her belly. The underbody was treated back in the 60’s or 70’s, but there is some areas of rust. It’s in pretty good shape, but we want to preserve the integrity of the car and structure for the long term. Jason will be wire brushing out the areas, cleaning, treating with a rust stopper and reinforcing or replacing any areas that need it. The underbody will be sprayed black and the engine compartment a silver gray prior to the wiring going back in. The brakes will be tackled soon too. We potentially plan to upgrade these to more recent vented disc brakes and we’d love to have a fun color on the calipers. The wheels are in good shape, but will need to be bead blasted and painted. The question is, does it make sense to buy new wheels? We’re also on the look out for new tires. Yokohama makes 10″ tires and so far, they are our top choice.

We’re also starting to plan for the trim work on the car and thinking she’ll get some carbon accents. We’re missing a bumper, so we’re thinking about replacing both bumpers with carbon ones that we’ve found. Also, some carbon trim and potentially, if the dash can’t be saved, we’ll do a carbon fibre dash too. Interior wise, she needs a whole new one, minus the original headliner which is actually in really good shape. We’ve heard it’s a tough one to replace, so we’re planning to clean it up and keep it. We’ve started looking for seats too on eBay and other places. We’ve seen a few Recaro and Sparco seats that could work, but we’ve got awhile to figure it out. A back seat is a necessity, since the nephews are already asking when they can go for a ride! She’ll definitely be a fun little car to drive when she’s back together…it’s exciting!

Timing chain has some slack:

This is the gross water pump…new one needed for sure!

Clutch, fan, etc all needing servicing to make just like new again.

Beautiful Liza Pregnant Portrait

Pregnancy portrait sessions are not always on every future new Mom’s list, but I personally think they are so important to capture! I’ll definitely be doing more maternity sessions in the future as part of Always Happy Life Photography.  I persuaded Liza to let me give it a go and show off her adorable baby belly while on location in Brooklyn, New York a few weeks ago. She definitely wasn’t going to make it out to Culver, Indiana before little girl Sussman is born in early December, so it was perfect to do her portrait session at her home while visiting NYC.

Here’s Liza’s perspective on her maternity portrait session!

I’m genuinely not into the idea of pregnancy photos, but when Becky asked if she could try out some of what she’s been learning about maternity photos on me when they passed through NYC for the night last month, I asked reluctantly “Can I keep my clothes on?”.

Thankfully, she agreed, but that meant I had to comply with my end of the deal.

So, on a cloudy Sunday afternoon, I threw on a black t-shirt and some jeans and got ready to play.At the time, I was just about to start my 26th week of pregnancy…with a definite baby bump, but it still wasn’t so pronounced. Now at 30 weeks, I’d say this baby is growing like a weed in there and she and I will be huge in the very near future…

First we tried my building’s back “yard” which is more of a cement, tile, and brick barren wasteland…which wasn’t so inviting for pictures. I was able to work out being a little less awkward for the camera though an

d got the hang of where Becky was telling me to put my hands and my legs and of course my belly.

When we decided that the back “yard” wasn’t so photogenic…I suggested our roof. It has amazing views of Brooklyn and great light and ended up being a great option. Here we were able to play with both my position and the background. While the silver coating on the roof seemed at first like it was going to be pretty harsh, it actually worked out well.

As we tried out poses, Becky was willing to take suggestions and gave her own suggestions in a way that didn’t make me feel like I was taking orders. It started to get a little more fun as time went on and the more relaxed I got, the more I was willing to experiment. My favorite shots are actually ones that I suggested and Becky executed exactly like I pictured it in my head…

Clearly I didn’t want to actually be in the pictures based on the ones I like, but I was pretty satisfied with the result and we had a good time. I also feel like it’s worth mentioning that I didn’t have ANY makeup on and hadn’t even done my nails but the photos didn’t make any of that stand out.

The end result of our photo adventure was some great shots that will be fun to look back on and share with my daughter. Taking the photos was also great for sharing with friends and family that live far away and can’t see me as my pregnancy progresses. I didn’t realize until the photos were taken and shared how much people are interested seeing a growing baby bump!

While I admit that having fun taking maternity photos was a little unexpected, I am now even more excited about our upcoming newborn photo session and I am definitely looking forward to the arrival of our little girl in December. I can’t wait to have Becky come take her picture and have great photos of our growing family!

Announcing Holiday Portrait Mini Sessions from Always Happy Life Photography!!! It’s that time of the year when we start to think about the Holidays and Holiday Cards. The air is crisper, the leaves are starting to change and there’s a beautiful glow to the fields that surround us here in Culver, Indiana. I know, it seems early…but if you’re going to send out personal custom cards this year, they really need to be done as soon as possible to be in the mail in December. I’ve teamed up with The Culver Coffee Company to offer a very special package for both of our clients on Saturday November 5th. The town will be having their annual holiday bazaar and it’s a great time to check out the great little stores our quaint little town has to offer.

A favorite from last year’s holiday session!

Bundle the family up for some holiday photos in beautiful Culver! There are a very limited number of reservations for the 20 minute session spots on location in the Culver Park available by appointment only. Enjoy a free cup of delicious coffee before or after your session and a special discount at the The Culver Coffee Company too! For $50 you’ll receive your mini session, 3-5 digital photo proofs and you’ll also one digital file for your holiday cards. Let me make your holiday cards or make your own!!! I’ll also be offering $5 off of gift prints from your mini session to share with your friends and family to all Holiday Portrait Mini Session participants! Singles, couples, kids, little families to big families are all welcome. You can even bring the family dog! 🙂 Feel free to call Becky at 574-889-0022 or email at to reserve your session or stop into the Culver Coffee Company today to sign up! I’m looking forward to meeting many new people in the area and providing beautiful holiday portraits!

If you can’t make it on November 5th, please call to schedule your own session. I’m still booking sessions in October & November. 🙂