Category Archives: photography

Home Isn’t Always Where Your Heart Is

flashback friday


I had the privilege of growing up in Montana, a state of rugged land and rugged people. 

It’s a state where you watch for rattlesnakes and prickly pear cactus, neither bother you and you know both are edible.

The average person never dresses completely in style, or completely out of style, and cowboy is always an accepted style.

A four-wheel drive pickup has always been the vehicle of choice, and not because of the flashy commercials and current buying trends,  but because you can help your friends move, transport your building materials, and haul home the gutted deer that’s food for the winter.

Montanans have been slow to adapt drinking good coffee, but are quick to offer you a cup if you stop by.

When I visit Montana, my soul is invigorated,  I am alive and at home.  I write and photograph like a mad woman, knowing the visit will soon be a vaporous memory.

In 2005 I received my first digital camera and immediately forged the  habit of shooting pictures through the car windows.  We had driven to Montana for Thanksgiving with the relatives, and I was reluctant to leave.

Montana Shack
On my way home, I shot frantically out the water-spotted windows, capturing those last fleeting images that would be my final souvenirs of a too-short visit.

Picture 382
I wondered if these ranchers were content with their simple lives and their land, or if they dreamed about the city lights and all that existed beyond their mountains.

Hearty sagebrush kissed by early winter’s frost, brought a lacy, softening touch to the landscape.

Picture 393
A peak into a valley I imagined Lewis and Clark traveling.  I can almost see Native Americans on their horses watching the process below. Shadows of past buffalo herds highlight the base of the mountains.  I long for the rocks to speak, to tell me the stories I have missed.

Picture 403
The winter beauty of Montana isn’t the flashy floral beauty and white sandy beaches of warmer climates. But, if you look closely, you will see so many shades of brown, gray, and green, your heart marvel at the Creator’s palette.

The foothills of the Rockies aren’t the towering peaks that demand to be scaled, they’re the mountains of quiet strength and constant presence.

Picture 438
Even the rocks cry out majestically in their diluvian formations. There is gold in those hills, and silver, sapphires, copper…it’s the Treasure State, but the treasure it gave me  wasn’t monetary.

Picture 417

I shot through the valley and into the mountains.  I shot horses, trees, and the Yellowstone River that  kept us company for part of the trip.

And then, I put my camera down.  There was no prolonging it any more.  I had to go home, and my home isn’t in Montana.

But my heart is.

Making your home sing Mondays

Honoring the Veterans

I love small towns.  Not only do they have that Mayberry feel my metropolis-tired body craves, they often have little surprises, such as thrift stores and historical sites,  nestled in between the cottage-lined streets and the two-block long Main Street. The people I meet feel like they could be my next best friend.  However, they  know I’m nobody’s friend, and give me frank, but kind, stares. 

This summer, Cadott, Wisconsin, population 1,440, was no exception. They claim to be on the 45th parallel, halfway between the North Pole and the equator, but in July there weren’t any polar breezes.  I was thrilled to discover a Veterans memorial and took as many pictures as I could, until the 95° heat forced me back to the AC in my rental car.

Wisconsin Veterans Memorial 033

I love history and I love to honor veterans, so the Wisconsin Veterans Tribute was a great find.

Wisconsin Veterans Memorial 002

The House of Heroes and tribute flags in military precision.

Wisconsin Veterans Memorial 007

A tank used during the Cold War sitting peacefully on a grassy hill. I remember crouching under desks during elementary school bomb drills, the fear of the Communists sometimes infiltrating our recess play. The American hockey victory over the Soviets was an unforgettable triumph for those who grew up during the Cold War. Our young men trounced them, but no lives lost.  I wish it were always that way.

Wisconsin Veterans Memorial 024

Wisconsin Veterans Memorial 008
This shark-toothed Cobra made me smile. Although war is a frightening, horrific time for American soldiers and civilians, the soldiers don’t allow their sense of humor to be totally demolished.  This reminded me about the messages WWII veterans write on the bombs. 

Wisconsin Veterans Memorial 011

Wisconsin Veterans Memorial 032
An pre-WWII canon, either Japanese or Chinese.

Wisconsin Veterans Memorial 034

Wisconsin Veterans Memorial 039
And because the small town feel had already enveloped my heart and mind, reading the inscriptions on the stones brought tears to my eyes.

Wisconsin Veterans Memorial 015

Wisconsin Veterans Memorial 016
I wondered how the Rollins parents were able to let their five sons go.

Nearly 70  years later the inscription still brings wonder and worship. “The grace of God brought each of them safely home.”

I can only imagine that family reunion.

Wisconsin Veterans Memorial 018
Grief and love never subside, as this family recorded.

Wisconsin Veterans Memorial 020
I wondered how many prayers went up from this county in Wisconsin to bring these five men home from Midway.

Wisconsin Veterans Memorial 022
Grief and joy mingle together between the monuments, honoring soldiers who returned, and those who didn’t.

Wisconsin Veterans Memorial 023
Proud of their Greek heritage, more proud to fight as Americans.

Wisconsin Veterans Memorial 025
“We would have gone to the wall for you!”  is the inscription from the tenacious Eau Claire Vietnam Veterans.

Wisconsin Veterans Memorial 027
Agent Orange, an enemy our soldiers didn’t know they would be facing, with side-effects they couldn’t evade even in peace time.

Wisconsin Veterans Memorial 029

We must never forget.



Wisconsin Veterans Memorial 005

My tribute and gratitude to Veterans
and those that love them.



Read more about Veterans:


Making your home sing Mondays      WHWButton#2

When Everything Became Black and White

On a North Dakota morning in July, I rose before the sun to begin a leg of my journey home to Washington. In the states where the sun dares to shine all day, driving into the sunset isn’t a poetic ending, it’s a  sun-blinding disaster when you get to the Rocky Mountains in Montana.

As always, my camera was standing by in automatic mode for quick shots through the windows as I drove on the country roads that were being utilized by only one car – mine.

After living nearly half my life on the prairie, I knew a new day wouldn’t  merely begin.





It’s the kiss of Creation that greets us every day.


The glory reminds us  there’s new mercies, new strength, and new hope for each day.


The prairie scenery, tinged with wisps of heavenly color and wrapped in fog, was a comforting and familiar friend. In my fumbling to capture the scenes searing peace into my soul, I accidentally moved a button on my camera.


When I pulled into an approach to shoot this abandoned barn, I was stunned by the image on my screen. Raw beauty stood starkly in the absence of color.


I had unknowingly changed the way I saw the world.


It’s not that we don’t enjoy the beauty of color, we long for clarity. simplicity. understanding. We want to easily identify and categorize every aspect of our lives.

Our longing for for black and white grows from real lives that can be complicated. burdensomeoverwhelming. Lack of understanding and moments of weak faith may cause us to illogically pursue easy answers instead of endurance.

If only it were as easy to change our emotional and spiritual view as our view through the viewfinder.


Montana 2012 250

In case the heat of the day makes us forget the promise of the morning, we’re reminded again in the evening.  We can’t let our longing for black and white strip our enjoyment in creation and our loving Creator.

And that Montana sunset I was driving into?  It was as resplendent as the promise of the North Dakota sunrise.

Making your home sing Mondays    WHWButton#2

Ribbet is the Kiss that Makes Your Pictures Princely

It’s Wednesday.  Only two days until Friday. Yahoo!  It also means that you’ve caught up on all your laundry, the house is clean and your fridge is sparkling and stocked.  I’m sure you’re not in your pj’s sitting at your computer with coffee breath and uncombed hair, like someone else we know.

And, since you have all that done, you can waste some time learning how to turn your pictures into pictures.

In the Olden Days, as my ten year old daughter likes to call my youth, we had film cameras.  When you brought film to be developed, you were at the mercy of the technician.  They estimated the exposure time for  the negative according to the first few pics on the roll, then developed the rest at the same setting.  Pictures could be easily be ruined by  underexposure or overexposure.  If you kept the negatives, you could pay to have a shot you wanted reprinted and they might do a better job, but most of the time, the pictures still  weren’t that great. If a roll of film was $4-$6, and developing cost $6-$8 per roll, every mistake was a costly one.

If you shot part of your roll indoors and part outdoors, your pics would be ruined for sure. Many of us figured that little strategy out late in life.

We live in a great time for photography. Digital cameras allow us to shoot until it’s perfect. And if we still can’t capture the moment perfectly, technology gives us the ability to improve those pictures. 

cool tools 008

Today’s Cool Tool is Ribbet, and I’m not talking about the sound a frog makes before you kiss him into a Prince. I’m talking about a free online photo editing tool.  FREE.  If you’re going to waste a lot of time with this tool,  you can justify it because you aren’t spending any money.

Trust me, this could be addicting. There are many ways to use your stunning digital photographs.

1. Greeting cards

2. Email greetings and updates

3. Facebook photos

4. Pinterest

5. Family slide shows/videos

6. Embellish your blog

7.  Reprint on t-shirt, mug, mouse pad, fridge magnets

8. Art for your home (print on canvas)

9. Digital photo frame

10. Scrapbook (cheaper than embellishments!)

All this amazing creativity begins with the green button on the Ribbet site.



You begin as in all other environments,




you upload a picture from your file on your computer.

If you are one of those OTA (Older Than Average) bloggers/readers that cannot download their own digital photos onto their computer, or upload them into an online environment…..

Softball 040

Why, yes, I did run out to the corner in my pj’s to take this picture for you, how did you know? 

This is your homework. You have to learn to download/upload your own photos.   ‘Cuz I said so, that’s why.  Our ancestors crossed the continent in a covered wagon, you can do this! 

Do not let your fear of technology keep you from creating memories. 

If you can read, you can learn.  You don’t have to read the camera manual that comes in 42 languages and the hardest one to understand is always the English portion. 

Ask a child, grandchild, or any random teenager in the neighborhood.  The digital world is their world.  Write down what they say so you can do it when they’re gone.

If you can’t find a teenager, use your computer. Everything you want to learn is only a few keystrokes away.


Bing it on!  They can help.  Ask them anything.  They know everything.

Back to the tutorial.  Ribbet makes it suuuuuuper easy. (Say that with a Minnesotan accent just for ol’ times sake, k?)  That’s the second criteria for my Cool Tools.  It has to be easy enough for me to figure out. I am not a techy, geek, or nerd.  I can’t even set an alarm clock or a watch.


But with my trusty mouse finger, I can click on icons.  If you get confused or think you messed up your picture, no problem. The site makes that easy, too, with these buttonsimage on the right hand side of the screen.



Effects: soften
Frame: museum matte
Text added

Effects: matte
Frame: border


My first granddaughter wrapped her Daddy around her fingers at birth.


You can always make a good picture better. You can always make a better picture betterer.
Just seeing if you were praying attention.
Of course I know bettterer isn’t a word.  I should have said bester. A little more cropping, a little softening, get rid of the heart because the action says it all.


If you don’t know where to begin,click on image then image.

The Frame I selected for the last two pics is called Before and After.  Get it?  Before I edited it and after I edited it?

Oh, you’re smart.  So smart, in fact, I know you’ll be able to RIBBET your pictures into works of inspiration.


Effects:  Morocco
Frame: Border
Text Added



Effects: Boost
Frame:  Polaroid


Not that my handsome hubby needs help, but thought I’d show you the features that will convince all you women to use this online photo editor.

Effects:  Insta Thin and Blemish Fix

Even though my 7th grade teacher promised me I would outgrow zits with puberty, she was wrong. The bigger the event you’re preparing for, the bigger the zit will be on the end of your nose.  Never fails.  Blemish remover will handle the zits, Insta Thin can take off those few pounds you’ve gained. Notice how his moles just disappeared?  His face is thinner?  Yea, ladies, this feature is for us.


Hey, Girl!  You need Ribbet, this week’s Cool Tool.

Adventure Through the Viewfinder

The first time I heard someone describe Washington, I wanted to visit. We planned an RV trip with our children, but at the last minute plans changed.  I cried. 

Two years later, I found out we were being relocated to Washington.  I didn’t want to live in the big city with a bajillion people and traffic, I just wanted to visit.  I cried.

We survived the transition by enjoying the beauty around us.  Weekends were for exploring and adventure. 


November - Howells 121

 Sunset over Alki Beach


Snoqualmie 064

Snoqualmie Falls


Tiger Mountain 061

The Space Needle



Mount Rainier




Ocean Shores

Tiger Mountain with Keith 139

View of Mount Rainier from Tiger Mountain

Tiger Mountain 135

Paragliding on Tiger Mountain


November - Howells 134

Seattle Skyline

Summer 2012 286

Cascade Mountains

San Juan 035

Roche Harbor, San Juan Island

San Juan 069

Lime Kiln Lighthouse

Through my viewfinder, I see life as an adventure.

What are your favorite adventures you’ve captured in picture memories?



Do Ya’ Wanna’ Free Monkey?

cool tools 008

Once upon a time there was a little, white-haired girl named Melinda.  She was very, very little and her hair was very, very white.  It was sometimes hard to be very small in such a big world.  She had to learn to have a big voice and big ideas to make sure both were  broadcast upwards towards all the Big People. 

First grade was a challenging time for this little girl who had a very big teacher.  She was taught to be polite, so tried not to stare, but Miss Forgey was very large and very stern.  That is the perfect writer’s word to describe the woman who could stare little children into learning their alphabets and spelling “mother” and “father” and “said” correctly.  Stern. She had iron gray curls, like old women, but she wasn’t large and happy and squishy like my Gramma.  She was just large and solid and stern.

No matter how nicely Melinda colored in the lines or how perfectly she could read, “See Dick run.  Run, Dick, run” Miss Forgey rarely smiled. 

Mindy in 1st grade

One day, Miss Forgey went around the room and had  each student tell about their pet or a pet they would like to own.  Little Melinda wriggled in her too-big seat with excitement and unstuck her sweaty legs from the varnished seat.  She knew exactly what she was going to say.  Surely, this would make Miss Forgey smile, maybe even show her teeth.

When her turn came, she dared to look Miss Forgey right in the hole-boring eyes and said, “I want a monkey.”

The rebuttal was a slap.  “You don’t want to own a monkey.  Monkeys stink and they are hard to take care of. It would probably die.”

When the little girl tried to break in and assure her she could take care of a monkey the teacher continued, “They need to stay warm and they need special food…..blah, blah, blah.” (Insert Charlie Brown teacher’s voice with anger.)

Even though the words were meant to douse the flames of ambition, they only fueled them. I can still feel my resentment at her harsh rebuttal grow into resolve.  As an adult, I always wondered why she didn’t patronize me and say, “Oh, that’s nice”  or “That’s an unusual request.” 

Cuz’ ya’ know what?  I still don’t want a dog or a cat, I want a monkey.

So, not too long ago I found a free monkey on the internet and I adopted it. 


(click on pic)

It’s free photo editing program that’s so easy to use, even someone dumb enough to want to own a monkey can figure it out. Yep, it is a Cool Tool, for sure.

It can’t take away the sting of misplaced, angry words, but it improves my life today.


Click “Edit a photo.”   It brings up your photo storage, just like when uploading in other social media environments.

I had used it before and it was fine.  Today it made me install Adobe and Google Chrome.   Sneaky, sneaky.


See?  Easy Peasy.  Even a monkey could do it.

Then, you just start reading the words and clicking the buttons.


This is the special effect DUSK and  TEXT. 

This is my best friend from high school, Janet, a photographer who needs to write for her business.  I am a writer who needs to photograph for my business.  See why we are such good friends?  I don’t pick on her dangling modifiers and she doesn’t pick on my over-exposed pictures.

If you don’t live in North Dakota so can’t hire her, you can visit her Facebook page.

Scott Hey Girl

I sharpened the pic, added some contrast, saturation, and my words. Creative, I know.

Better late than never with the “Hey Girl” craze, but I think my hubby is way better looking than that other guy…

Mindy and Honey Bucket

…even though he has this annoying habit of taking pics of me coming out of these things.

That’s what I get for saying, “Here, hold my camera.  I hafta’ go poddy.”

BTW, that’s hand sanitizer in my hand.  Just to keep things real here.

Under the FRAMES, this is the Polaroid frame option.

Banana Slugs

I’ve learned the hard way, if you accidentally step on a slug, you could almost throw your back out. So, when we saw this while hiking Boulder Creek, I was very cautious.  Boulder Creek is the home of the beautiful waterfall I used to teach you how to make a panorama. 

This Simple Edge Frame gave room to put the text below.  I had tried every color and every font and couldn’t get my words to show up directly on the pic.  A few more clicks and I found  this border, rounded the corners and moved my text down.



And, when something doesn’t work quite right,


their little dialogue boxes are actually fun to read.


I felt like clicking the wrong things on purpose, just to see what the box would say.


Other than being free and easy to use, PicMonkey will help you produce the graphics you need to make your photos stand out no matter where you use them.  I look back to my blog photos from when I started blogging, and I cringe.

PicMonkey Free Features:

  • Basic Edits (crop, rotate, exposure, colors, sharpen, resize)
  • Effects
  • Touch Up (Wrinkle remover only comes with the upgrade package for $33 a year.  Rats!)
  • Text
  • Overlays
  • Frames
  • Textures
  • Themes

And if you really get into their coolness, you can follow their blog.

It took me 40 years, but guess what Miss Forgey?  I now have my own monkey – PicMonkey!


Piece Together a Photo Panorama

cool tools 008

In case you haven’t noticed, I like to demo Cool Tools.

Only my tutorials are pretty basic,
uz I’m one of those old people who grew up without a computer.
My advice is for other people who grew up without computers.

I figure if I can master a skill,
anybody can.

If your love language is html, then read along for fun.
Just don’t move your lips while you’re reading,
‘cuz that’s like really annoying.

Today I’m featuring a cool free feature from

(click to go to Microsoft for free download)

Microsoft’s Windows Photo Gallery,

Amsterdam View

This was the early morning of our last day in Amsterdam in November 2012.
I wanted to capture the view I saw everyday,
but don’t own a wide angle lens.

But, I remembered this cool feature in my photo editing software,
so I took three pictures in a row,
panning from left to right,
overlapping features just slightly.

home school projects 006


home school projects 007


 home school projects 008


Oops, got the window sill.
It won’t matter. Just watch.


In Windows Live Photo Gallery environment, I highlighted the pics I wanted to use.
If you are frustrated because you can only highlight one at a time,
here’s the trick-
hold the CTRL key down and click on the pics.

Recognize the three pics from above?


Under the Create tab click on Panorama.


It gives you a polite message while it’s sewing them together.


Then you name it.

See how easy this is?

Amsterdam View

It turns out like this, then you crop it.


Amsterdam View

Because I am using Windows Live Writer,
why yes, thanks for asking, I did wrote tutorials on that product also,
I was able to give the Amsterdam Panorama
a black border and a watermark.


Old dog learned a new trick.

Boulder Creek pan 2

On a recent hike along Boulder Creek with my neighbor Kelly-Across-the-Street,
I tried  my new skills again.

While watching  the waterfall I had a moment of genius.
I’m not bragging, just thankful for a moment of it once in awhile.
Since Photo Gallery stitches pictures together
side to side,
not top to bottom,
I got creative.


I took three pictures to bottom.

I tipped them sideways using the the little arrows.


I stitched them together,
then tipped the finished Panorama right side up.

Boulder Creek waterfall panorama
There ya’ go.

You now can fit an entire skyline
or a waterfall
in your camera.

You just have to

You don’t need an expensive lens,
just a free Cool Tool,
Microsoft Photo Gallery.

Wheeling Through Amsterdam

One bike,
Two bikes,
Red Bikes,
Blue Bikes.

Shopping bikes,
Cruising bikes,
Riding with my Dad bikes.

Carrying bikes,
Racing bikes,
Flying through the street bikes.

Bikes with baskets,
Bikes with crates,
Bikes with buddy seats,
Ain’t that great?

Some go fast,
Some go slow,
All keep peddlin’,
Go, bikers, go!

Photo collage made with PicMonkey,

my newest bloggy toy.
Not just ‘cuz I love monkeys and ‘cuz it’s free.

Just ‘cuz it’s awesome.

And so is Amsterdam.
I wanna’ go back,
but next time,
I’m gunna’ rent a bike.

I’ll be the crazy blonde lady with
the camera attached to her eye,
the bike wobbling through the traffic,
and her scarf dangerously blowing in the wind.


Walking Miles in My Shoes

Picture me running through Amsterdam with my
practical black Born shoes with buckles,
my purple purse slung over my shoulder,
even though I was warned against carrying it that way
because of muggers,
and a camera always in my hands.


I guess you don’t have to picture me,
I found a picture.

Oh, yea, and my nose was wrinkled up from the smell of smoke
and I was constantly coughing from the smoke.
And, if you have birthed many children,
as I have,
you know how challenging it can be to cough.
I know, you’re cringing on my behalf,
aren’t ya’?

Won’t go into details because single women
and married without children women may be reading this blog,
and I don’t want to discourage them from having children.
And I wouldn’t want to embarrass myself or my children,
but you can imagine crossing of legs might occasionally happen.

Remember, there aren’t a lot of potties in Amsterdam.



Anyhoo, it was a thrill to be walking briskly through this city.

The buildings in Amsterdam are older than my country.
It gave me a burst of pride for what our country has accomplished
even though we’re so young.


In my neighborhood, they tore down an “old” elementary school
to build a brand-new, larger building with more windows.

I was in shock when I heard that.
The building wasn’t even 40 years old.

The new building is beautiful and the families love using it.
But, o
nly in America do we have disposable buildings.
Can’t we build anything here that will last generations?


I loved The Amsterdam Clock Tower.
Not only did I know what time it was,
if I could see this spire, I knew I wasn’t lost.


Another view.|
Picture me standing on the street, looking up with my camera,
and almost getting hit by a biker.
Yea, they may be in suits, but they are dangerous.



A friend asked me to go look at a house they were considering buying last spring.
It was still under construction, so we were able to walk around.

The 2×4’s were warped and still had bark on them.
They don’t use wood, they use pressboard, ya’ know, scraps and glue mixed together.

I kept thinking about those shoddy materials when I viewed these buildings.


The Royal Palace in Dam Square.

It felt funny to be using the “d”  word all the time.
Kinda’ bothered my Christian sensibilities.

I was reminded of a time my little boy was enthralled when crossing the
Canyon Ferry Dam to get to Gramma’s house.

When we arrived, he told his grandparents we
“dwove on the dam bridge across the dam river to get to your house.”


Another building in Dam Square and one I didn’t go in.
Since I wouldn’t pay to meet real movie stars,
I figured I didn’t need to pay to meet wax ones.







Everywhere you look, the buildings are magnificent
and so are the waterways.


I loved the canals.
Seattle shoulda’ done this.

They curved from the sea into the city,
so if you had to get to a business,
you just took your boat right into town,
unloaded, then hit the sea again.

amsterdam canals (2)

You can clearly see the canals in this map that I
memorized at the hotel and hid in the inside pocket of my Levi jean jacket.
I didn’t want to stand on the street and look like a tourist,
so I plotted the course at night, and carried it just in case.

The strategy worked.
The second day out I had two people stop and ask me for directions.





My husband would love to buy a boat. |
He wants a huge motor to go really, really fast.

This is what I picture.
I think I could own a boat if it were a houseboat.
A slow-moving boat with rooms for books and craft stuff and a garden.



Then, when I walked miles and miles,
without getting lost,
well, not for very long, anyway,
I’d trudge back to Central Station.

I’d fumble in my pockets for the right euros to buy my ticket,
then sit on my seat rigidly, looking out the window,
anxious to not miss my stop because I
didn’t want to end up in Belgium.

But that would have made the ending to this post more exciting,

got grafitti?


the graffiti in Amsterdam enthralled me.
for the first time,
i saw artwork.

i saw colors,
heart cries.



young people,
who may never be a Rembrandt,
left marks of their bondage
in the city where people
used to find freedom.

today, they will be featured
in my gallery.

the irony of this thought?


this was right beneath.

pretty sure hundreds of years ago 
the artists, residents and architects 
who made the city great
were dreaming of a different legacy.