Sunday, March 18, 2018

Pour Some Sugar On

This may be the one and only time you see me say I was hoping for snow this week. Especially, since it is March and everybody is ready to be done with winter, including me. But last week found me doing a run and gun through a favorite historic homestead and walking park, looking for my daily 365 photograph.  I had about an half hour to kill before I had to pick up Findley, so I thought I would do a quick walk through of the house and barn areas. That is when I saw the metal sap collection buckets. It had snowed with snow squall force that morning and the maple trees and buckets had a heavy blanket of white on them.

I grabbed my daily shot, but knew I wanted to come back when I had more time and my tripod. I also wanted to continue practicing my Compelling Frame photography course lessons.

I have become quite attached to my tripod. I know most of you photographers are saying, "But I hate carrying my tripod, I want to be free to move around." There is certainly truth to that, but I have learned that I also want to be free to slow down and improve my game. A tripod makes me slow down, and honestly my "vision" is so much better when I use it.

Monday morning I got my wish. It wasn't a heavy blanket of white, but it was enough to give a thin coating to the layers of fallen maple leaves, and provide the backdrop I needed for my adventure.

I grew up surrounded by maple trees. When my dad retired he decided to tap those trees and begin making maple syrup. As if his beekeeping hobby, and tenacity for cutting wood for his wood stove weren't enough to keep him busy already. He built his own sugar shack, and would be out there at all hours of the day and night boiling down that sap.

On the average it takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup. Interesting article on maple syrup making here. The average sap collection period can last anywhere from four to six weeks. There were abundant years and there were lean years, but as my dad approached his 70's, I think he had had enough of the lean years. He sold the equipment, and turned the Sugar Shack into another storage shed.

During January and our Whole 30 adventure, we had to give up ALL sugar. It is amazing when you start reading labels on the food at the grocery store how many items have sugar. Here we are mid-March and I still read labels. Now, if I purchase items with sugar, I try to make sure it is either organic cane sugar, or more preferably natural sugars like honey and maple syrup. Locally sourced natural sugars are the best, since my dad still keeps his bees I get my honey from him, and I buy my maple syrup at the farmers market.

I spent a satisfyingly slow hour photographing sap buckets, snowy trees, and the sugar shack. Before I returned to my car to warm up my frozen feet, I made a little detour down a snow covered wooden walkway.

My initial run and gun turned into a substantial exploration.  I throughly enjoy having my creative/adventure days early in the week.

In Other News...

My friend Cathy H. made a comment on my blog last week that resonated so deeply with me, "Sometimes I feel just holding the camera and pushing the shutter button brings me more joy than seeing the photo I took!"  I held that sentence in my heart this week. All it really takes is that first press to get rolling again, the results are not the important part. 

I returned to filming this past week, squeezing in moments when I could. Working on something a little outside my comfort zone, it won't be perfect the first time, but the learning and improving is in the doing.

The kitchen flooring has been ordered. We have found pendant lights for above the peninsula, and they have been ordered. Next step is to contact the electrician to install. More painting ahead this week, coating everything in lovely, neutral Alabaster.

I finished listening to A Gentleman in Moscow this week. I love listening to books while I am in the car and when walking. It is amazing how much you can listen to just running errands around town. I give the book 4-1/2 stars.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Simple Truths

"Creativity embeds knowledge so that it can become practice. We move what we're learning from our heads to our hearts through our hands. We are born makers, and creativity is the ultimate act of integration -- it is how we fold our experiences into our being. Over the course of my career, the question I've been asked more than any other is, "How do I take what I'm learning about myself and actually change how I'm living?"...after lots of research and interviewing hundreds of creatives, I've come to believe that creativity is the mechanism that allows learning to seep into our being and become practice."                                                                          ~Brene Brown

Simple truth: When I feel stressed or overwhelmed in my everyday life, I seek solitude and calm in my creative life.

For the last two weeks, I have been feeling a little overwhelmed. My kitchen has been in chaos. The choices for countertops and backsplash have gone so smoothly, but we are faltering in our flooring and lighting selections. Lighting is difficult to envision. Certain fixtures look tempting when hanging amongst hundreds of others in the store, but by itself in my unfinished kitchen, held up by my husband's hand above the peninsula, I am less sure if that is THE right one. There has been plenty of buying and returning in the last couple of weeks.

Simple truth: Because of this sense of feeling overwhelmed, I have been unable to do any filming for the past two weeks. The films I make require planning and storyboarding. This is something that comes fairly easily when my mind isn't overloaded with utilitarian decisions.

Simple Truth: Instead of filmmaking, it has been easier to grab my camera, jump in the car and go on a photo adventure. This leaves the planning and shot list to chance and happenstance, instead of placing the burden of more decisions on me.

Simple Truth: If I don't have an idea for this blog space by Thursday, there will be no blog post on Sunday. I work better being early instead of late.

Simple Truth: I am not afraid to try new things until I find something that works. In the spirit of trying something new, for the month of March, I am going to try and find my inspiration spark early in the week.

Sunday afternoon I sat down with my new book, Just Write One Thing Today - 365 Creative Prompts to Inspire You Every Day, flipping through the pages looking for inspiration. A couple caused small stirrings of interest, like: Flavors - Write down five of your favorite drinks, or Old Watch - Describe an old watch that has been covered in cobwebs in a box in the attic. Both of those could have been fun, but just not quite the right one. Finally on Day 280, I found the one that I couldn't stop thinking about: Evergreen Forest - Imagine you are in an evergreen forest. Describe the sights, smells, and sounds of your surroundings.

Monday morning, I loaded my tripod and camera into the car before the eight o'clock hour and set off for the Spruce Loop.

Simple Truth: I am a beach shooter, not a forest shooter. I love negative space. I had to work harder to find it in the tangle of trees.

Simple Truth: If you have made it to the end of this post and all you remember are serene, morning-lit pictures of an evergreen forest, that's alright. I take the photographs to share with you, but I write the words for me. I have taken what was in my head, used my hands, and moved it to my heart.

Do you have an evergreen forest where you could go for a walk this week?

In Other News...

For all my angst, the kitchen is actually coming along well. The countertops are in, and I LOVE them. The tile backsplash is up and I LOVE that too. The cabinets have been "refreshed" and look brand new again. Not bad for thirty year old cabinets. I spent Tuesday and Thursday painting over the Robin's Egg Blue the walls use to be. They are now a very neutral Alabaster. Outlet covers are still in the deciding stage. Flooring has been decided and I will get that ordered this week. The lighting saga continues...

Serendipitous moment at the grocery store this week. My path crossed with another blogging friend who I have never met before. She is @kateterhaar on Instagram. We have been friends for years on FaceBook and Instagram. She is originally from where I live, and happened to be in town for a conference and to visit with her sister. The chances of both of us being in the produce aisle at little past eight on a Friday morning are pretty slim. Meeting Kate felt like talking with an longtime friend.

Happy adventures this week my friends!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Washed Ashore

I am a great collector of photography challenge lists on Pinterest, and every time I discover a new writing prompt book I have to buy it and add it to my ever growing collection. What I have yet to find is a book or list that combines both a prompt for words to write and photographs to compose in one neat package.

Last week I bought this book after looking through a few pages and liking the prompts that were listed in it. I can tell that I haven't been writing much lately, because I am overusing words like beautiful, wonderful, fabulous, and joyful. As a creative who enjoys writing, I can do better than that. So I bought the book with the intention of getting back to a daily practice of fifteen minutes of wild writing. If you are wondering what wild writing is, you can read my post about it here. I am not good at too many long term sustained practices, but I am good at returning to practices such as wild writing, photograph class lessons and such.

The prompt I chose to write about on Tuesday was this one: Washed Ashore - Write down five objects that might be found washed up on the seashore lakeshore. I have spent enough time photographing at my local state park where a plethora of items wash up on the shore in any given season, to have a pretty good idea of five things I could write about. But...I am someone who would rather be out adventuring than sitting at my wintertime desk and thinking up found items to write about. I wanted to go out and find those five objects.

Since the tile guy was coming on Wednesday to put up my new kitchen backsplash, I figured that Wednesday would be a good morning to go to the beach and photograph washed ashore treasures. Once a level of trust has been established with your tradespeople, being in the house while they work is about as uncomfortable as sitting in your underwear watching paint dry. You don't want to talk to them, and they don't want to talk to you. That level of trust has been reached with my kitchen people, so I left Dave to cut and apply tile, while I went to the beach.

Tuesday, after I had written for fifteen minutes on Washed Ashore, and decided that I wanted to go to the beach and photograph the five items, I remembered David duChemin's photography class The Compelling Frame. The last time I worked on a lesson was December 10, 2017. This knowledge is easily obtained when you date your homework.

I had left off on Lesson Six - Perspective and Exploring POV. It wasn't that I didn't want to do the lesson. What I wanted to do was the lesson outside. In December, January and February it has been too snowy and cold to be outside for any period of time long enough to photograph objects from at least six different angles. Wednesday's forecast was partly cloudy and mid-40's. With the proper clothing and gear, I could easily spend an hour or more at the beach laying on the ground, shooting from above, from a distance and up close.

I have also learned to throw my expectations to the wind. What I want to find and what wants to find me are often two very different things. I am always blessed when I let things find me.

With some clever creative thinking I have been able to make my own exercise combining words and photographs in a refreshing new way.

Sunday, February 25, 2018


The other day while washing dishes, I glanced out the kitchen window at the gray, gloomy, soggy backyard and noticed the silhouette of a robin hop between two spruce trees near the edge of the pond. Seeing that robin hop made me happy for two reasons: First, the hope of spring. Second, I am learning to see movement.

For the past six years, I have trained my eye to look for stillness, actively seeking calm. Don't we all want more calm in our lives?

 As I embark on this film making journey, I am learning to see differently. Short films of still landscapes are not the most riveting to watch.

Findley has been a willing participant in my films, but I have to get over my fear of filming my family, afraid of their reaction to being on film. I am also learning that I can be in the moment and also capture the moment.

If you know anything about me by now, you will know that to me a little knowledge is good, but a lot of knowledge is so much better. In that spirit, I signed up for a second Xanthe Berkeley film class, Make Films: 12, which actually dovetails extremely well with the first class Make Films. This second class expands on what is learned in the first class, and we work on different month long themed projects.

After my summer in the meadow last year, the joy and satisfaction of working on longer projects really took root. I love not feeling rushed, taking the time to tell the story to the best of my ability.

Here is my first project film - the theme is Audio is the Hero...

February was: snowy, filled with friends and a trip up north for a wine tasting weekend, snowy, and a kitchen make-over begun. Hoping March has a little more sunshine and less snow. February 18 was Findley's birthday. He is two already, can you believe it? If we aren't friends on Facebook or Instagram and you haven't seen the slideshow I put together of Fin's first two years you can watch it here...

End Notes

I would love for you to visit my blogging friend Jill Ruskamp here. Jill is taking the Make Films course too. What she is doing with black and white is fabulous, and I have already seen so much growth in her films. She made this one to celebrate her 54th birthday. I will be 50 in June and I want to do something similar. What a great way to document a life event.

The kitchen remodel began this week. Old countertops and backsplash out. New countertops and sink in the next day. Sink hooked up the day after that. Cabinets refreshed on Friday (they look amazing). Backsplash coming next Tuesday. I may have found new pendant lights, that will be determined this weekend. Next steps: electrician, ordering the flooring, new half bath vanity, and order the refrigerator. No going back now.

Sunday, February 11, 2018


They came to measure for our new kitchen countertops this past week.

This remodel has been five years in the making. First, we had to save the money so we could pay cash. Second, we were waiting for Scout to pass on, so that the remodeling wouldn't be hard on him. Third, we were trying to make up our minds how long we will live in this house yet, because that determined how much we would spend and how much we would remodel.

Well, the money is all there and then some. Scout crossed the rainbow bridge over a year ago. We have decided we will probably be here another five years or so. We have scaled back from a total gut job with a price tag of $50K to a much more reasonable refresh of under $15K.

The decisions have been made, the money has been paid, and the process has begun. We are keeping the oak cabinets and having them reconditioned. But I am getting quartz countertops, tile backsplash, and new laminate wide wood plank flooring.

When we first moved into this house over fourteen years ago, I thought this would finally be my dream kitchen - a farmhouse kitchen, with a large white farmhouse sink, granite countertops, natural stone backsplash, chef grade appliances, and dark wide-planked wood floors. Fourteen years ago, I enjoyed cooking much more than I do today.

It was our intention to replace these countertops much earlier than is actually happening. I have never liked them from the start. Too light, to textured, too chipped, too dated. But, once you start thinking about replacing one thing, you realize then you need to replace another thing, so we did the easiest thing - nothing. Well, nothing time is over and it is time for something, a lot of somethings.

As I waited for the countertop measurers to come, I began to really think about these countertops. How many friends and family have sat in these chairs over the years, sharing stories while meals were prepared. How many years of newspaper ink is ground into the countertop. How many meals I have produced here, always complaining about the bad lighting. The dog paws that have rested on the edge of the counter, Scout was a bad one for counter surfing. All these memories made me get out my camera and take some photographs to document our past. Our past with this kitchen, with these countertops, with these chairs. The good thing is that we have at least five years to make memories with the new kitchen.

End Notes

Glen and I finished our Whole 30 food challenge strong. And then right afterwards we went away for the weekend.

Other than wine, and trying a couple things that had been on the do not eat list for January, we found ourselves mostly sticking to our Whole 30 way of life. We are now exploring a mostly Paleo lifestyle.  The one downside of Whole 30 was the lack of a social life while on it, gatherings and fellowship involve food. We are happy to be able to dine out again, just trying to make smarter choices.

I briefly hit a brick wall with my 365 photography project this past week - Day 156. I really, really wanted to quit. I was uninspired, there was nothing to photograph anywhere. But then I thought - 155 days in, I can't quit. So I took a photograph of a dictionary page with the word light on it. It was boring, but somehow that light got in me, I picked up the camera the next day and started photographing my kitchen.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Soundtrack of Life

Coming of age signifies that moment in your life when you get to make at least some of your own decisions. Granted they are not always the best decisions, but that's part of the journey. I came of age during the 1980's. The decade of big glasses, big hair, tight leather pants, bandanas and jackets with upturned collars.

One of the decisions that I was finally be able to make was what music I wanted to listen to.  No longer did I have to listen to my mother's country western music in the car or on the home stereo. I had my own car, a rockin' four door Chevy Chevette, and I had my own portable tape player in my room.  I bought cassette tapes of some of my favorites bands that I heard on the local rock radio station, then I made mixed tapes so I could have all my favorite songs on one.

On my mixed tapes were some of the big hair bands: Def Lepard, Motley Crue, White Snake, the Scorpions and Bon Jovi.  But at heart I was a punk rocker, there were posters of Billy Idol all over my room. I would sit and listen to White Wedding and Dancing with Myself for hours.

At my own White Wedding in my coming of age season, we gave a small nod to traditional wedding songs, and were also overly kind and let my grandmother sing a special number (so glad that's on video tape, said with sarcastic voice), but we also played a ballad by a big hair Christian rock band called Styper. We may have only been eighteen and nineteen, but we knew what we wanted, and we were going to do it.

Quickly transitioning to a wife and full-time working adult, I hung up the black leather pants, and the chain belt that went with them. I threw away the hair mousse, the heavy kohl eyeliner. I folded the bandanas and tucked them into the back of a drawer. There were no longer hours on end to listen to my favorite music while doing homework. Instead it was go to work for eight hours, come home cook supper, walk the dog, do some laundry and collapse into bed exhausted. There was no music.

Music stayed nonexistent until the mid-90's and the birth of our daughter, Mallory. Like any good first time mother I wanted her to fall asleep to the sounds of lullabies. I am not blessed with a melodic voice, so I bought her a portable cassette player and found a couple wonderful lullaby tapes. The best one was by Nicolette Larson with a song on there called Mallory's song.

Parenting through the 90's brought lots of classic Disney films on VHS,  mornings of Barney the Dinosaur, and The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round stuck in my head.

When Mallory outgrew Barney, music faded away again.

Late elementary school and we found something we all liked - Christian rock. We went to concerts, big outdoors festivals, listened in the car, on the computer. Eventually though we progressed, and Christian rock did not.

College years and Mallory's own coming of age. She brought home her own sounds, influenced by others. It was new and exciting indie artists like Josh Garrels, Death Cab for Cuties, The Black Keys, and Bon Iver. It was a whole new season of music again.

Over the last six years, I have drifted in and out of songs, playing some like Adele's Hello time and time again, and then leaving them completely to obsess over podcasts or audio books. But this new filmmaking adventure has brought me back to music; new artists to explore, new music sharing sites, all so I can find that perfect soundtrack for my life.

End Notes

These are some of the artists I enjoy listening to at the moment: Lord Huron, Gregory Alan Isakov, The Lumineers, Jake Bugg. Interestingly, almost all my artists have a haunting quality to their voices.

Pandora Radio is a great way to find new to you artists.

I have been using Soundstripe for the music for my films, endless choices.

My new car came with Sirius XM radio free for the first four months. I don't plan to renew once the free period is over, but I have been loving the 1940's station, and the big band sound.

I am an eclectic mix.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

A Winter Walk at the Beach

I wasn't going to do the homework assignment for this week's Make Films class. Slo-mo, that wasn't my shooting style, and I saw no need for it. Part of this attitude was influenced by the fact that it is winter and so far I have only been shooting inside. There is nothing I could do inside that would need slow motion. Also, Findley and I were working on our next film, and I wanted to put my available time into that.

Tuesday afternoon I watched the class videos, and Xanthe said something that changed my mind. She said, even if it isn't your style or you don't see a need for slo-mo, make the film, watch how things move, learn from it. Point taken. Still I had no idea what I was going to shoot. Then I watched her inspiration films, and had a thought. What if I took you all on a photo walk with me. I have shown you photographs for years of the state park near my house with the big red lighthouse, what if I actually took you on a filmed walk of it.

Thursday morning was clear and still, even if it was only 29 degrees. I loaded up my gear: two dslr cameras, a tripod, a poetry book, my iPhone mount that fits in the hot shoe of my dslr, and my phone. It was fairly early and cold, so there weren't many people around, but the glassy stillness of the water was perfect.

Let's go on a walk...

Xanthe was right. I did learn a lot from filming this. I thought a lot about movement, and found delightful surprises when I was editing it all together. Little nuances that I will bring into future films.

This entire film was shot on my new iPhone 8 Plus. I have been talking about upgrading for the last year. In the last couple of weeks I have been doing lots of research, mostly comparing which would be the best to use in film making. The decision was between the iPhone 8 Plus and the iPhone X. Yes, there is a price difference between the two, but I also budget for a new phone every two years, and it has been three years since my last phone. What it ultimately came down to was how it felt in my hand, and the iPhone 8 Plus felt right.

Only three weeks into the Make Films class, and I already feel I have learned and grown so much.

End Notes

Glen and I have three days to go on our Whole 30 food cleanse. The first week seemed like an eternity, the last three weeks have passed in a blur. I would definitely do this again, it may become a January tradition. 

In researching slo-mo ideas on Pinterest, I came across this YouTube channel. It's all about photographing and filming on your mobile device. These guys are young, hip, and funny.

Have a great week!