Category Archives: Photography

My newest love. I’m a girl with a camera, not a photographer yet but I’m learning and loving it!

Another Spectacular Sunset

One kid is still sleeping and the other two are actually playing nicely together (well mostly nicely) and I am about to go outside and sit on the back patio for my regularly scheduled Saturday morning coffee date with my guy. But real quick, I want to share with you last night’s incredible sunset.

Between finishing up the day’s yard work and making pizza for dinner, I stopped for a moment, the sunset catching my eye, and then ran for my camera. We are blessed by many spectacular sunsets, but they never cease to take my breath away. Never. Each and every one.

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Disclaimer: I am not a photographer in the technical sense of the word (meaning I have a great camera and no clue how to use it to its full capability or the why and how of a good picture) but I LOVE taking pictures and am having a lot of fun learning. So, that being said, I give you, last night’s sunset …

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Have a great weekend.

I hope you get to start your day sitting on the back porch with someone you love.

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Blazing a Trail Along the Salt River

A few weekends ago, my husband, oldest son and his Cub Scout Wolf Den were part of a “clean-up” along the banks of the Salt River. My husband told me about the gorgeous spot they found and suggested I take my family hiking there while they were visiting. He was working and couldn’t join us but the suggestion turned out to be a great one.

The Salt River is one of the most popular outdoor recreation destinations in our area and is well-known for tubing – not “tubing” at 40 mph behind a boat, think “lazy river float” with your bum in an inner tube that is tied to the inner tube of one or more people you want to spend several hours floating down a river with. Choose carefully. The Salt River is also a great place for camping, fishing, kayaking, canoeing and of course, hiking.

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We started our hike welcomed by Red Mountain, a well-known and well-loved landmark around here. This isn’t the most famous profile of the mountain but it is still beautiful.

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Of course my overly imaginative Cub Scout had to begin our hike by marking our trail. Side note: he also has ADHD so while the trail marking started out impressive, let’s just say it’s a good thing our ultimate survival did not depend on a consistently marked trail.

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Brothers ready for adventure. I don’t know if I’ve told you, Nathan’s favorite color is green and in his book, three different shades of this much beloved color makes the perfect outfit.

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And they’re off; my 100 mph in every direction at once child in the lead as always!

Our first discovery, the coolest picnic tables ever …

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Okay not overly scenic, but I LOVE these old Forest Service concrete picnic tables. Complete nostalgia.

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These tables have been around for a long time; just think of all of the people, the friends and families, who have come over the years to enjoy this incredible place.

I sure wish I could have one, I have the perfect spot for it. Someone really should make replicas (hmmmm, maybe someone does). I’d like to have the real thing (nostalgia), but I’d take a replica, delivered and placed of course – can you even imagine how heavy those must be? My husband complains when I ask him to move landscape boulders (what? he’s big and tough). Can you even imagine what he’d say to “I’m not sure honey, I think the massive concrete table needs to be just a little more to the left”?

Sorry, tangent – back to the adventure.

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Funny, no one was willing to take a peek and see who might be at home.

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A man, alone with his thoughts. Lots and lots and lots of thoughts. Sweet boy.

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When you are a boy under the age of ten, even a little bit of water pooled in the pit of a rock after a recent rain is interesting. I love that. I love nostalgic picnic tables too.

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A budding photographer and her little brother taking in one gorgeous view.

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The Salt River

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and still snow-capped mountains in the distance. Gorgeous.

I can’t imagine who would want to be inside on a day like this!

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The home of a Cactus Wren nestled in the protective spines of a Staghorn Cholla. Those tufts of purple and gold will soon be the most incredible blossoms.

I promise, my camera is ready and waiting! As are my hiking buddies.

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I don’t know, Nathan may have been onto something with that outfit – he sure “goes with” the budding spring landscape. I’m not sure what will be more interesting (or colorful) the blooming cacti or the outfit Nathan pulls together. We shall see.

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Making our way down after blazing our own trail. Even the bravest adventurer sometimes needs a hand from his big sister. After all, he can’t let his great-aunt, grandma or aunt beat him down.

One last stop …

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 at Saguaro Lake to feed the ducks.

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And one fat squirrel.

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Saguaro Lake is one of my favorite places. It is so incredibly beautiful and deserves a post of its own. I’ll get to work on that. I’m sure our sweet neighbors will take us out on their boat so I can get some great photos to share. I’ll bake something for them.

Oh, and if anyone knows how I can get my hands on one of those picnic tables (legally) – I’ll bake something for you too!

Now get out there and blaze a trail!

A Perfect Day in the Desert

Yesterday was just about perfect. Another welcome reminder of how blessed and fortunate I am to live in such a unique and inspiring place. I have come to love the Sonoran Desert and am always excited to share it with the friends and family who visit. Usery-1One of the best ways to enjoy all the desert has to offer is to get out there and experience it. Yesterday, I took my aunt and my sister on one of my very favorite hikes; camera in hand, hoping to capture the beauty of the desert in the Spring, just beginning to bloom, teeming with life.

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The Usery Mountains and Tonto National Forest are pretty much our backyard and no matter how many times I hike the same trails, there is always something new to discover.

Always something that takes my breath away.

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Always something interesting and unique.

The <PHOENIX sign on the mountain (our version of the HOLLYWOOD sign) was done by the Boy Scouts in the 1950s as a directional marker to the airport. Some people don’t like it but I think it is a little bit of interesting history and for us, always a  “welcome home”.

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Hike after hike, I am still in awe of the harsh and beautiful landscape that is home to us. The surprises I always discover when I slow down and take the time to take it all in.

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What is harsh and threatening to some is safety and home to another.

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Each Saguaro is unique and incredible. They amaze me.

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It really was a perfect day.

If you live here too, I hope you’ll get your camera and get outside. If you don’t, I hope you have the chance to visit and experience it for yourself sometime.

“When through the woods and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze;
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee; How great Thou art!”

A Trip to the Market

My mom and my aunt are visiting right now and a visit with my mom and my aunt will always include a trip to the market. Always. Not only do we love to cook and eat together but we love to shop together. Grocery shop. Call us crazy but we “window” shop at the grocery store like other women window shop at the mall.

My littlest guy is only in pre-school a few days a week so he is my grocery shopping buddy. He pushes the cart for me, crosses items off of the list for me and helps me find what I am looking for. We had so much fun taking grandma and Aunt Andi to our favorite store yesterday.

First stop, the pastry case. Nathan was given the very important task of picking out a dessert treat for himself and his brother and sister. A big responsibility. But a challenge he was most happy to accept.

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So many choices.

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In the end, it had to be the chocolate cupcakes.

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Of course I had to get a picture of the chocolate croissants.

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And the fruit tart. I love fruit tart but today, I’m just looking.

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Next, cheese. We were shopping for the Greek salad we’d planned for dinner so I only needed Feta but it is always fun to look and imagine the possibilities contained within that deli case. On my aunt’s recommendation I also picked up some Myzithra. Delicious!

By this point, I had heard “lobsters mommy, lobsters” at least 10 times so, it was off to the lobster case.

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Nathan loves to visit the lobsters. What five-year-old boy isn’t fascinated by the lobster tank?

As for me, the lilys in the floral department caught my eye.

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No matter how busy I am, I always walk through the floral department. It makes me happy.

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Question: Why is Nathan blurry? A) Because his mom is still working on her photography skills. B) Because his mom feels a little weird taking pictures in the grocery store and is trying to be quick and discrete. C) Because Nathan never stops moving. D) All of the above. Answer … oh, I think you know the answer.

Next, produce. By far my favorite. Truly. The colors alone captivate me. Grocery store poetry.

Next time you are in the produce aisle, try not to just race through and grab the bananas and bag of salad scribbled hastily on your list. For a moment, forget the list and take a little time to take it all in. Be inspired and realize how blessed you are. We have at our fingertips, health and wellness, variety, beauty and a reminder not only of God’s blessing and provision but of His wonderous creativity.

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See what I mean? Color. Variety. Bounty. We are blessed.

When I’m ready to “check-out”, I always look for Debbie. She’s our favorite checker, Nathan usually spots her first and makes a beeline for her. She is always happy to see us, always remembers us and always has a smile for us. And on this trip, she let me take her picture.

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Grocery shopping doesn’t have to be a chore or an errand or just one more thing to do. The grocery store can be a place where we spend time together as a family, laugh and imagine the possibilities, see really cool creatures up close, work on our big-boy skills, make connections and slow down just enough to see all that we have and remember just how fortunate we are.

Joy is where you find it.

By the way, we girls don’t just like to grocery shop. My sister gets into town this afternoon and we’ll be hitting the thrift and antique stores too. We may have to do that while Mr. Nathan is in school though; think “bull in a china shop”.

Oh, I almost forgot, I have an amazing Greek salad to tell you about. I promise I’ll do that soon!

Spring has Sprung; well at Least it had Yesterday

I think, finally, I can say that it is officially Spring around here. Finally. It is a little cold and rainy again this morning but I am going to stick with the idea that it is indeed, Spring.

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I know, I know, if you are back east, in the midwest or up north, you don’t want to hear a southwestern girl complaining about the cold – especially today with yet another winter storm blowing in. I used to live with snowy long winters too but I have been in Arizona for a long time now and my blood has become very thin. VERY thin. I could never go back, I wouldn’t survive a real winter.

Even here, we have had an unusually cold winter with several nights of record below freezing temperatures – not fun for desert plants or desert gardeners. There were a few mornings of taking kids to school in 20 degree temps that I was sure I wasn’t going to make it. Heated seats are the only thing that saved me.

But it has been warming up and for about a month now, I have been crazy to get outside and get my hands in the dirt and on the pruners. We live on just over two acres of Sonoran Desert and I have fallen in love with cultivating this harsh but beautiful land. One day soon, I will tell you the story of how we ended up here but for now I will just share that we have put almost 3 years of blood, sweat and tears (literally – everything here has a thorn or a spike) into our spread. I know it is only two acres but there are days when it feels like 200.

Finally, with the warm weather and long weekend, we were able to spend four straight days working outside; which is also why it has been a few days since I posted. It was warm and sunny and wonderful. We  planted a couple of new citrus trees and did a lot of pruning, clean-up and fertilizing and started working on our outdoor kitchen. We still have a lot to do but I am happy to report that everything seems to be showing signs of life – everything except my beloved Hibiscus but I haven’t given up or lost hope yet.

Yes, it is spring and I have proof …

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The tall spiky branches of the Ocotillo are covered in green.

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The landscape plants are starting to bloom.

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The Lantana, which was hit hard, is starting to show signs of life and recovery.

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and mandarin oranges,

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and lemons,

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and figs,

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and tomatoes,

and Meyer lemons, navel oranges, limes, grapefruit and fresh herbs (the full vegetable garden is in the works for next year).

We have also had our first visitor …

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found happily sunning himself stretched out on the back patio. I have come to an understanding with his kind. As long as they don’t have a rattle or venom of any sort, stay outside – let me repeat that STAY OUTSIDE, don’t startle me, don’t end up in the pool either dead or requiring rescue, don’t hiss at or threaten me or camouflage themselves in such a way as to startle me when I don’t see them, we are able to live in harmony or at least in tolerance. The rest of my family thinks these gopher snakes (who are around 5′ long when fully grown) are cool, awesome and “soooo cute” as Nathan says. As for me, I am just happy they don’t have fangs and a rattle.

So, now that Spring is officially upon us, I will be outside, A LOT, happily playing in the dirt. I may be absent from the blogosphere a day or two, here or there, but I promise I will be back with more stories of the land, the house, the family, the food and the savior that I love.

Come back for a visit tomorrow – I have a confession to make.

Happy Spring!

So about 9 hours after posting this, I am feeling the need for a “Post-Publication Edit”  …

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Ariel view, taken today, of the ball fields where “spring” training starts next week.

Spring 13A view of the Loop 101 Freeway in Scottsdale, taken today.

In this part of Arizona, we do not get snow. Not ever. Okay, once in a million years and today.

I may be an optomist but it is a good thing I’m not a weatherman.

Today, I Will Share the Cake Because It’s Valentine’s Day and I Love You!

God has certainly had my heart focused on Lent but I do LOVE Valentine’s Day. I know it is hard for some. It has been hard for me in the past too. Maybe you don’t have a Valentine as the world defines the term but know you are deeply loved.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

I have been blessed by love in my life and I can’t help but celebrate it. I am loved as a daughter. I am loved as a sister. I am loved as a friend. I am loved as a wife. I am loved as a mother.

So much love, but it is my “Valentine” in the true sense of the word that I am thinking of today.

Anniversary-Blog-1We were married on a cold and snowy January day, seventeen years ago.

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Surrounded by the people that we love the most.

In the presence of our Lord and Savior.

Anniversary-Blog-8On that day, we stepped out into the world together.

Anniversary-Blog-4As Husband and Wife. For Better or Worse. My forever Valentine.

Anniversary-Blog-2Oooh and there was cake. I’m sorry, I have mentioned before that I am not the most romantic person. The mushy stuff is not so easy for me and that was all I had so naturally, I turned to cake.

How about this, love is life and life is always better with cake. Sorry.

A quick side note on cake: If you are in the market for cake, in the Spokane, Washington area, you must check out Just American Desserts and let them make you your very own cake to die for. If you don’t live in Spokane, you may want to plan a trip there, just for the cake.

Someday, I may tell you about how I ate the entire wedding cake-top, meant to be shared on our first anniversary, ALL-BY-MYSELF. The WHOLE thing. Just me. Alone.

But for now, I just want to wish my sweet husband a Happy Valentine’s Day!

He still loves me. Even after I ate all of the cake.

I have embellished all of the photos on this post with overlays but all original photography was done by Kim Price, Spokane Washington.

A Ton of Bricks

A while back, I read an article that really resonated with me. Okay, who am I kidding? It hit me like a ton of bricks. This article, “The Mom Stays in the Picture” was written by Allison Tate, a mom who was hiding herself, keeping herself out of the picture; until she realized just what doing so meant.

“Come take pictures with me, Mommy,” he yelled over the music, “in the photo booth!”

I hesitated. I avoid photographic evidence of my existence these days. To be honest, I avoid even mirrors. When I see myself in pictures, it makes me wince. I know I am far from alone; I know that many of my friends also avoid the camera.

We’re sporting mama bodies and we’re not as young as we  used to be. We don’t always have time to blow dry our hair, apply make-up,  perhaps even bathe (ducking). The kids are so much cuter than we are; better to  just take their pictures, we think.

But we really need to make an effort to get in the picture. Our sons need to  see how young and beautiful and human their mamas were. Our daughters need to  see us vulnerable and open and just being ourselves — women, mamas, people  living lives. Avoiding the camera because we don’t like to see our own pictures?  How can that be okay?”

Wow, that is me. She is me. I am her. And NO, it is not okay.

Brick load number one.

As I read a little bit more, brick load number two

“I’m everywhere in their young lives, and yet I have very few pictures of  me with them. Someday I won’t be here — and I don’t know if  that someday is tomorrow or thirty or forty or fifty years from now — but I want  them to have pictures of me. I want them to see the way I looked at them, see  how much I loved them. I am not perfect to look at and I am not perfect to love, but I am perfectly their mother.”

WOW. I am letting my vanity rob my children of their memories. And it is NOT okay.

Brick load number three …

There are VERY few photos of us together as a family. We fought so hard for this family and yet we have never even had a picture taken together. All of us. Together.

Brick load number four …

Why? Excuse after excuse but the reality, I couldn’t or wouldn’t be photographed with the extra 30ish pounds I have allowed motherhood to visit upon me.

Message received.

The day I read that article, the very day, I called my photographer friend Lorraine and booked a family photo session.

Brick load number five …

Oh.My.Heck. I am going to have my picture taken. Like this.

Yes, I am. Just like this.

As it turns out. I am not the only mom this article struck a chord with. Since it was published in October, it has been viewed millions of times. MILLIONS of times. In response, The Huffington Post challenged moms everywhere to share how they’ve gotten back into the picture.

So today, I am sharing.

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This is my family, ALL of us.

Okay, okay, I know this is cheating but it is a start, I’m in the picture. Family-Photo-2

Okay, I know I am hiding behind a kid. Why couldn’t his head be bigger? Family-Photo-3

Behind yet another kid. My friend Lorraine is a genius “mom poser”. Family-Photo-4

There! I did it. A side view pose in “skinny” jeans.

Just so you know, that is the unscripted, unprompted, unsolicited reaction of my children to their parent’s PDA. Funny kids. Can you imagine how much this picture will mean to them someday? What it will mean to their kids. What it means to our family. What it means to me.

If you are a mom, or anyone for that matter, who is feeling less than picture worthy PLEASE remember that you mean the world to someone. You deserve to be part of the memory. You deserve to be in the picture.

All of the photos on today’s post are the incredible work of the very talented Lorraine Nunes of

Lorraine Nunes Photography