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California FAQ

A lot of people have asked me the same questions about my trip to La Jolla, so I’m going to take the easy way out.

Q. What was the point of your trip to California? Why did Sony pick you?

A. The short answer is, I don’t know but I was glad to be included! The longer answer is that it wasn’t Sony that made the choice, but a marketing company that is doing a campaign for Sony. Sony wanted to get mommy bloggers excited about their cameras, and Rocket XL chose participants, presumably from a list of previous contacts.

There’s a lesson to be learned here: if a nice lady named Andrea from Rocket XL ever emails to invite you to review a product, be nice back to her and say “oh, yes please!” You want to be on her contact list. Thanks, Andrea!

Q. What did you do in California?

A. Fourteen mommy bloggers from all over the country met and mingled a bit; we ate far too much; and we oohed and aaahed over our new cameras.

Then we got down to business: We participated in a live tutorial to get familiar with the basic operation of our new cameras. With the help of Sony personnel, we explored many of the features and learned to navigate the settings and menus.

Finally, the real fun started: Photographer Me Ra Koh taught us to make use of all these wonderful tools and fancy features. She gave us tips on composition and framing, lighting, choosing a setting, and helped us understand how to make sense of the different modes in our cameras: we learned to use shutter speed, aperature, white balance, and light metering to actually make our photos turn out the way we see them in our heads! Well, with practice…


She answered endless questions about getting action shots of children, handling shadows or bright light, achieving realistic skin tones, and more. She told stories and gave examples from her own experience; and she reminded us that nearly everything we were learning was also in her set of instructional DVDs – which we received free.

Which reminds me…she also said I could give away one of her DVDs here, so watch for that after I get home.

On the second day, her husband arrived to play Me Ra’s funny sidekick and together they gave a friendly critique and analysis of some photos that we volunteered to share. This was really helpful and highly entertaining. 🙂

I also found a few minutes to MIRL with some virtual friends. Hi, Rachel! Hi, Elizabeth!


Q. So Sony gave you a camera? Why? Do you have to blog about it?

No. Sony gave me THREE CAMERAS. Because they’re really nice people. And I don’t have to blog about; I want to blog about it. To the best of my knowledge, they didn’t actually mention anything to me (or the rest of the group) about blogging about our new cameras. I’m pretty sure they expected us to feel that way about it all; after all, we’re bloggers and a blogger blogs. It’s what she does.


Q. You’re already done in California?

Yes, I was only there from Wednesday afternoon until Friday afternoon. The entire event was a whirlwind! I could have been pampered like royalty, but really just wanted to soak in as much info as I could. I never took time to use the monstrous garden tub with the jet thingies; I didn’t find time for my spa treatment; I didn’t walk down to the seal beach; and I even skipped lunch on Friday because the last session ran late and Brendon the “limo” driver was waiting. There was just too much to learn, and I get enough pampering at home.

Q. Why is “limo” in quotes? And where is the picture of the limo driver?

OK, nobody asked me that yet, but I figure somebody will ask eventually so I’ll come clean now. There was no limo. There was a sharply dressed driver with a British-sounding name and accent, but the vehicle from the airport to the hotel was a very nice SUV. Don’t ask me what kind; I’m a girl. I can tell you it was white, OK?

The same driver took me back to the airport 48 hours later, this time in a big shiny black car, but I’m sorry. It wasn’t a stretched car. Somehow I just don’t feel like complaining, though, you know?


Q. When are you going to blog more about your cameras?

OK, nobody really asked me that either, but I’ve really got camera-on-the-brain so I’m just waiting for someone to ask. Please! All of the photos in this post were just quick, unplanned snapshots with the tiny, too-small-to-be-a-real-camera Cybershot, and I’ve even got a preliminary post ready about it. Who wants to see?

We have cameras!

Sony did it. This morning, when we entered the verandah room (4th picture in the slide show) for our first formal meeting, the 14 of us saw 14 neat stacks of camera boxes.

Each of us is now the happy owner of a brand new Cybershot, Handycam, and Alpha DSLR. The day was jam-packed with live tutorials on using these specific models, a photo workshop by Me Ra Koh with many tips on lighting, composition, hardware and settings, and more!

We also received a complimentary set of Me Ra Koh’s instructional DVD’s, which our family can’t wait to review! Based on Me Ra’s teaching style, I think we will love these and learn to make the most of all of our cameras.

I am too tired for Photoshop and I have no energy to fight with WordPress tonight so I just uploaded all 31 shots to Drop Shots. Click on any photo below to go see the entire collection of my first day shooting with the new Sony Alpha DSLR. Well, the first round of keepers. I’m not telling how many I deleted.

And just for fun, here’s the whole gang gathered for dinner.

I think I’m going to dream of f-stops, aperatures and shutter speeds. And home. I’m going to dream of home.

La Valencia Hotel

I’m here. I’m there. Whatever. I’m speachless and stunned. I can’t even spell, see? Speechless wasn’t supposed to have an “a.”


My room is unbelievable. Beach front view, sea gulls crying, salty air, 2 balconies, whirlpool tub with the jet thingies. Yes, I’m so impressed I’ve forgotten what the jet thingies are called.


I have a fireplace and a loft. There is a glass shower with a bench and 2 showerheads, and there are 2 robes, and 2 pairs of slippers. Where’s my poor husband when I need him?


On the bed is a red rose, and a big white box with tissue paper and a FedEx label. This is to complimentarily ship my complimentary Sony products back home. There is chocolate on the bed too. This is for me to eat. There are vouchers for dinner (gratuity included) and lunch and a spa treatment.

And I can smell the salty ocean air, and the Internet is free. I’m off to dinner.

Aaaaaaahhhhhh. I love being a blogger.

I am a star

Thanks for your input on the Supermom Vitamins. I am so taking these vitamins right now.

I leave tomorrow for a trip to the west coast. I’ll be travelling on Sony’s dime, a very frugal way to go. Quite fitting for a Frugal Hacker, wouldn’t you say?

By the way, if you haven’t looked at Frugal Hacks lately, please do! We have guest posts and over 500 members in the Frugal Blogroll, and Mrs. Mecomber has added a scrolling box option to display the blogroll without letting it take over your entire sidebar. I’ll be adding the option to the official Join Here page soon but in the meantime watch for it on the front page of Frugal Hacks. See it in action right on the sidebar of Frugal Hacks.

But what am I blathering on about? I just got the details for my upcoming trip and learned that when I arrive in San Diego, there will be a limo driver holding up a sign with my name on

Does that strike anyone as unreal? I never expected that blogging would take me there. I wonder if they’ll want me to drop down to Hollywood and leave my handprint on a sidewalk somewhere. I’m pretty sure I’ll need dark shades for this trip. And business cards. And an agent. And a pin to puncture my huge head and let out some of the hot air that’s building up in there, because this has got to be a joke.

Don’t get me wrong; I never longed for fame. This is not the culmination of any of my childhood hopes and dreams. I have never ridden in a limo and never pondered the possibility. I’ve never even had a manicure. I’m just hugely amused that this is happening to me, a humble homeschooling mom of a bunch of kids, wife of a good and humble man, yet another woman who should probably find a way to install an alarm clock on her computer so she can get to bed at a reasonable hour.

So why is a limo driver going to hold up a sign with my name on it?

Family history: what would you ask?

I mentioned that one reason I am so excited about the upcoming Sony mommy blogger event is that it will help us to accomplish another goal: a visit with my grandparents for the purpose of creating a family history.

The workshop will give me greater skills and training with my new cameras (Andrea U., is that really what you told me on the phone?  There was a lot of background noise and my own brain was screaming no way so I’m still not sure I heard correctly) – and can you believe this:  Sony has graciously agreed to buy the airline ticket for my extra little jaunt up north before sending me home!

I’m going to spend a week with Grandpa and Grandma, asking questions and interviewing them, getting videos of their childhood stories and other memories, hearing stories of my mom’s childhood, taking down their advice and wisdom and whatever else I can think of.  Hubby has also suggested taking a drive around the area to visit some or all of my old childhood homes.  We moved a lot, so that could take a while.  (umm…Grandpa?  Grandma?  Did you know my visit was going to be this much work?)

So here’s where I need help: What would you ask? There is so much to cover, I have the feeling I ought to go in with a plan.  I don’t want to forget the important stuff because we’re having too much fun just enjoying each other’s company, though I’m sure there will be plenty of that!  Help me out.  This is for our children, our grandchildren, and our great-grandchildren.  What would you want to know about your ancestors?  What would you want to hear in their own words?

I’m going to do it.

Remember this? I’m in. In mid April, I’ll be here, playing with this and this and this. It’s all rather shocking, and we spent several days thinking,cybershot.gif praying, receiving and considering counsel before making the decision to participate. I appreciate the input I received from several readers – even those who recommended we pass on the offer. But we feel that this lines up well with our goals as a family in several important ways, and we could see no reason to decline.

And really: a camera that knows to take the picture when the child in the viewfinder smiles? This baby even has built-in software to instantly add smiles right there on the camera, just in case the kids got tired of laughing at your lame jokes 142 clicks ago.

What was I thinking? How could I hesitate? Did I mention that we took 218 pictures on Easter, just trying to get everyone looking in the right direction? Smiles would be the icing on the cake.

And I get to visit my grandparents in Portland. That’s like chocolate icing.

Oh. My. Word.

I don’t often do the Period. After. Each. Word. thing for emphasis, but I’m really feeling emphatic about this. An internet marketing firm that specializes in creating buzz among bloggers has invited me on an all-expenses paid trip to California for a “Sony Mommy Blogger Event”!

I know you’re probably thinking noooo KimC, it’s a scam! But we’ve dealt a bit with this company before (remember this?) and we also did some online research. This is the same company that did the Dove Real Beauty campaign. Remember the immensely popular video of the process of turning a real-life woman into a billboard model?

And besides, the offer starts with airfare, so a scam would leave me at the local airport, 10 minutes from where hubby works. Not bad for a worst-case scenario. 🙂

We haven’t decided yet if I’ll be going. I would love to be able to hop up to Portland and visit my grandparents while I’m on the West Coast – this was something we had hoped to do this year anyway, and this event might allow me to do it at very little cost. I’m not nervous about traveling at 7 months pregnant. And we can work out the household logistics. With a 12yo and 14yo in the house and plenty of relatives within a half mile, these things are surprisingly simple.

The big question is, do we feel it’s appropriate for me to be off alone in a strange city, large and far away? We both had the same initial reaction: No way! But on further reflection, we really haven’t come up with a good reason to feel this way. I’ve driven hundreds of miles on many occasions, both with and without children. A thousand miles from home on an airline flight seems much closer than 300 miles from home in a van in the middle of nowhere.

We’re thinking, considering, praying, and taking counsel. This sounds like it would be fun, educational and maybe even be profitable (free gifts were mentioned…) And of course it would be good blog fodder! It might not rival Shannon’s trip to Africa, but hey – I haven’t been to California since I was 12 and camping with my parents and 6 younger sibs. Incidentally, that was the last time I ever wore a 2 piece swimsuit. Short story, humiliation galore. I’m not sharing that story.

If I go, I hope to come back with stories that don’t make me want to live under a rock for the next 3 years.