December 11, 2013

winter wonderland

How are your Christmas preparations coming along?

Shopping done?

Cookies baked?

My to-do list is getting pretty short, which is nice because it leaves me with plenty of time to complain about the weather.

Regardless of what you've heard, sub-zero temperatures aren't as glamorous as they sound.

Winter does have an occasional up-side though, and a snowy, wintery scene was the perfect backdrop for the fun Christmas session I had last year with one of my darling 2013 seniors.

This is one of my favorite sessions to date, and I love that my girls are always willing to go the extra mile and brave a little frostbite to make my visions come to life.

Montana girls? You are awesome.

This particular beautiful Montana girl makes my job especially easy. I just point my camera in her general direction and the magic seems to happen all on its own.

And don't even get me started on those eyes. Beyond gorgeous.

I'm already starting to daydream a bit about my upcoming senior season. It will be a bit of a re-building year, as I lost my word of mouth momentum by taking this last year off.

But ultimately, I think that is a good thing. That time off let me re-evaluate what I truly want my business to be and how I want it to fit into my life. I tend to let my business run my life, but that is no longer how it's going to happen around here. I struggle to say no. I'm a pleaser. Cancer is pretty sucky in most ways, but it's awesome for changing your perspective and your priorities.

All I know is that I love to create beautiful art through my photos. That's what gives me joy.

So here's my 2014 business plan.

Keep the Joy - Get rid of the stress.

That's it.

Think my accountant will approve?

Here's wishing you a less stress, more joy Wednesday everyone!

October 31, 2013

an ode to all things viney

Cinderella pumpkins?

Cutest things ever.

Unless you want to talk to me about these guys.

The wartier the better.

Warts and stripes?

Come to mama.

The love doesn't stop with pumpkins.

I'm officially a gourd-a-holic.

I've collected one of every single kind I can find and plan to save the seeds.

Plan is the key word here. I better get on it because a few of these fellas are already starting to mold.

I faithfully haul them inside every night it's going to freeze, as frozen gourds are not happy gourds.

I also love to throw a turban squash or four into the mix.

My neighbor gave me these darling minis.

We've had a couple wild windstorms so our fall color is almost all gone, but until this week, this is pretty much what greeted us every morning.

And this was our typical afternoon.

Absolutely dreamy.

Have a Happy Pumpkin Day!

October 28, 2013

pink thoughts

My planner says today is Breast Cancer Awareness Day (even though I couldn't find internet proof to back up that claim), so I thought I'd photograph a bunch of pretty pink things in my house, and say a few wise and inspiring things about breast cancer, and then wish you all a wonderful day and send you off to enjoy the week.

But, today is gloomy and windy and gross, and I don't feel like fighting with the horrible lighting to go the all pink route, so I am instead going the "I bought this painting for the frame, and behind the hideous bird picture I was thrilled beyond words to find this delightful paint-by-number" route.

(Has anyone besides me noticed that I have a tendency toward the run on sentence? I also talk in run on sentences, so let's just say we're going for authentic and pretend it's not annoying.)

So, even though there is not a trace of pink to be found in the photos, I'm still going to talk the pink talk.

First of all. Thank you.

Thank you for your kind, encouraging words. They have meant the world to me these last months.

Several times, I have gone back and re-read the comments on my original post and they just make my day.

I especially love it when you let me know that you've scheduled your mammogram or have spent some quality time checking in with the girls. And my very, very favorite was hearing that you were doing a self-exam whilst reading my post. Cracked me flat up and made me smile from ear to ear.

Keep it up, ladies. This is important stuff.

And if you haven't done a self-exam or scheduled that over due mammogram, isn't today the perfect day to get the job done?

As for me, I'm almost four weeks past my last chemo and I'm feeling better every single day.

I've got nine eyelashes left (two on one side and seven on the other - lopsided is the newest trend for fall), and check every day for the new babies to start growing.

(By the way, does anyone have any false eyelash advice? I've found some fairly natural looking eyelashes, but have never worn them before. I'd love to hear any newbie tricks or tips.)

I somehow kept a decent eyebrow count, so I'm quite happy about that.

I'm all about the new hair patrol. I make my family check my head for hair pretty much every time they walk into the room. My son says I've gone from one sprout per square inch to three, but I think that was just so I'd leave him alone for five minutes.

I can take my daily walk and make it home without wanting to take a nap in the ditch on the side of the road.

I'm sleeping better, to which I have to say a big ya-hoo, because sleep issues were probably the biggest thorn in my side during chemo.

I've gone from 468 prescription bottles on my night stand to three, and I'm hoping to get to zero asap.

I had a great chat with my oncologist last week, and while there are no guarantees that my cancer won't come back, I'm planning to live my life like it won't. When I get a little freaked about the eleven percent chance that my cancer will return, my hubby is quick to remind me that I have an eighty nine percent chance that it won't.

And that, my friends, is a glass that is much more than half-way full.

October 22, 2013

tomato blue cheese soup

My very least favorite part of blogging is the writing part.

Sometimes it comes fairly easy.



Right off the bat I'm stuck on easy vs. easily.

Sometimes, like today, it's a huge struggle to do the words putting into sentences part.

So, since I have recently acquired a recipe for tomato soup that just may change your life, and I really, really want to share the tomato soup love with you, I am simply going to go the bullet point route and leave you to make sense of it all.

But first, here's the picture. Hopefully that will hold you over until I actually get to the recipe part.

Ready? Here we go.

(Where is the bullet point key on my keyboard?)

(I guess we'll do asterisks instead.)

(Chemo brain. Love having that excuse in my back pocket.)

* I have a neighbor.

* My neighbor has an amazing garden - both flowers and veggies.

* My neighbor regularly hosts gatherings for some of the neighbor ladies, of which I am one.

* My neighbor did that very thing last week and served tomato soup as part of the delicious menu.

* My neighbor passed the recipe along to me.

* My neighbor also gave me a large bag full of delicious heirloom tomatoes.

* Score!

* My neighbor is very pretty and sweet and giving.

* I have been on the hunt for a good creamy tomato basil soup for years.

* We used to have a restaurant in town that made the very best creamy tomato basil soup on the planet.

* Sadly, that restaurant closed.

* This recipe is even better than that recipe.

* Score!

* Here is that recipe, along with the changes I made.

Tomato Blue Cheese Soup from

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced - I used a very small amount of garlic, as I'm not a huge fan
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper - didn't have a pepper on hand
1/4 large red onion, chopped - used a Walla Walla from my garden
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese - used Gorgonzola, and let's be honest - I used more than 1/4 cup
1 (4 ounce) package cream cheese, softened - cream cheese makes everything better
1/4 cup heavy cream - used half and half
1/4 cup milk
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes - used the heirlooms
1 1/2 cups tomato juice - had V-8 on hand
2 teaspoons dried basil - I used fresh and lots of it
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon granular no-calorie sucralose sweetener (such as Splenda®) - good old sugar for me


1. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the garlic, bell pepper, and onion; cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the blue cheese, cream cheese, heavy cream, and milk. Heat until the cheese is melted and the mixture is simmering, 5 to 7 minutes.

2. Stir in the diced tomatoes, tomato juice, basil, sweetener, and pepper. Continue to cook and stir until the soup is heated through, 15 to 20 minutes.

I doubled the recipe because I had so many tomatoes, and I added the Gorgonzola at the end because I didn't want it totally melted.

If you are a tomato soup fan, this recipe is a keeper. It is creamy and dreamy and delicious.

Have a wonderful Tuesday!

October 16, 2013

molasses cookies

Have I mentioned that my middle son is back in the desert?

He's about half way through his deployment, and I can't wait for him to come home this spring.

In the meantime, I send him cookies!

We've discovered that his all time favorite chocolate chip cookies are a no-go. It can take anywhere from a week to a month for a package to make it into Junior's hands, and even vacuum packed, the chocolate chip cookies are not at their best when they arrive.

However, my sister's molasses cookies are another story. They are still soft and chewy even weeks after I send them off.

Spiced with lots of cinnamon, cloves and ginger, these cookies are a perfect fall treat.

I have big plans to fill them with pumpkin ice cream, as I think they'd be out of this world as ice cream sandwiches.

(Just to clarify, I would not be sending the ice cream sandwich version overseas.)

Molasses Cookies

1 and 1/2 cups melted butter - recipe calls for shortening, but I'm a butter believer
1 and 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup molasses - I use the dark, full flavor version
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt

I usually soften my butter in the microwave to an almost, but not quite melted point.
Cream butter and sugar, then add eggs and beat until light and fluffy.
Add molasses and mix until blended.
I usually sift the dry ingredients together into a bowl and then add them to the mixer in batches and stir until everything is just combined.
But sometimes I'm not very Martha and don't sift anything but just dump all the dry ingredients into my mixer and then say bad words as the flour goes flying all over my kitchen.

Four cups of flour is a lot of flour to add all at once.

Either way, they always turn out perfect and delicious.

Except for the first time when I made them with no sugar. They were not delicious that time.

Chill the dough for a couple hours, and then roll the cookie dough into balls. Roll the cookie balls in granulated sugar and place on a ungreased cookie sheet. Do not press the cookie balls down. They will flatten out into perfectly round cookies as they bake.

Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.

I've made them from all different sized cookie scoops, as I'm always trying to maximize the amount of cookies I can fit in a flat rate postal box. The smaller cookies are usually done the eight minutes and the largest can take up to eleven minutes.

So are there any other cookie shippers out there? If you've got a recipe that travels well, I'd love to hear about it.

Have a happy Tuesday!

October 4, 2013

trust the journey

I've always loved the above quote, but I especially love it this year.

My spring was entirely taken over by my diagnosis, the hugely oppressive, chest crushing weight of the unknown, and then major surgery and recovery.

But having completed my final chemo treatment yesterday - yay! - the hardest part of my battle is over.

Even though I know I've got a couple more weeks of foggy chemo yuck ahead of me, at this very moment, I'm feeling light as a feather.

The black cloud I've had hovering over me is gone.

Our gross, rainy weather has cleared and the skies are a brilliant blue.

My beloved mountains are covered in a beautiful, fresh snow.

The leaves are turning.

Life is good.

That bears repeating, people.




Two very dear friends of mine sent me this gorgeous tote to use as my chemo bag.

It's imprinted with the words, "Trust the Journey".

Trust the journey.

While the journey is still far from over, taking it one step at a time with my faith, family and friends, I know I can face what still lies ahead.

I hope you have a fabulous weekend!

I know I'm going to.

September 30, 2013

so long, september

It's looking like Montana has decided to straight from late summer/early fallishness to dreary, gloomy winter.

Buckets and buckets of rain, a frost that crispified my zinnias, and our earliest ever lighting up of ye olde fireplace.

It's made me all nesty and homemaker-ish.

I want to bake, but my oven is on the fritz. I've been around my own self long enough to know that a big part of the reason I want to bake is because I know I can't bake.

So, I just pin things that I want to bake when my oven is back in working order, which is about the time the desire to bake will have passed.

Right now, at this very moment, I want to bake these Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars.

And this Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bread.

My sister made this Cinnamon Cream Cheese Coffeecake and said it was delish, so it's pretty high on my baking list.

Cream Cheese is my love language. True story.

But most of all, I want to bake my friend JJ's Chocolate Chip Harvest Cake. I need this cake in my life, pronto.

Have you all been in a fall baking frenzy?

If yes, torture me a bit with the details, and then go have yourself a delightful Monday.

September 23, 2013

September 20, 2013

it happens every year

For all my talk about being a hopelessly devoted summertime girl, I have to say that lately, I have again found myself totally obsessed with all things fall.

Around the middle of August, I usually start to panic knowing that my beloved summer will soon be heading south for the winter. But every year, without fail, I wake up one morning and just like that, I'm ready for fall.

I don't want to be hot anymore.

I want to fire up the crockpot.

Wear a sweater.

Make a pot of soup.

Chop some firewood.

(Kidding about the firewood chopping but I do dearly love a neatly stacked pile of logs.)

Since fall has not fully arrived here in my part of Montucky, I went back through my pictures and dredged up some photos of the falls of yore.

Additionally, I have been a Fall pinning fool on Pinterest.

Yesterday, I came across the ultimate fall board. I loved every single thing on it. I started re-pinning like a mad woman only to eventually discover it was my very own fall board.

Sometimes Pinterest is nice and tells you when you've already pinned something, but in this case I was getting the silent treatment.

Then I had to go back and delete, because I'm very neurotic about having duplicates on my boards.

It keeps me up at night.

(Here's the link to my fall board, just please don't look at any of my other boards as they are all a hot mess. I finally figured out how to put them in alphabetical order, but other than that, there is not much rhyme or reason to be found.)

How about you? Have the leaves started turning in your part of the world?

Temperatures dropping?

Soup pots bubbling?

Are you pinning pumpkin everything onto your Pinterest boards?

Happy Friday, friends!

September 12, 2013

five things

1. I've been home alone for a couple days, and last night I did something I've never done before. I succumbed to the Dairy Queen propaganda machine and drove all the way to town - the far end of town no less - solely for ice cream. I've jumped in the car spur of the moment with the fam many times before, but going by myself would take things to a new level and I was torn between no nonsense practicality (gas prices and being in my pajamas) and frivolity (I want a Blizzard. I WANT A BLIZZARD!). But, the Blizzard commercials were finally too much for me, so after a text from my bad influence daughter-in-law that said, "do it, do it, do it!!!!" I hopped in my car and drove to town for the Blizzard of the month, Choco Covered Cheesecake. (Pretty sure Choco is just a fancy way of saying fake chocolate.) My BIDIL (bad influence daughter in law) also reminded me that it was BOGO for 99 cents, so I picked up a Cappuccino Heath to stick in the freezer for my hubby when he gets home.

I got home, put in a movie and snuggled up on the couch full of chocolat-ish cheesecake anticipation cheesecake.

They forgot the cheesecake.

I had chocolate ice cream and some choco chunks, but NO CHEESECAKE, which was the whole point of the excursion in the first place.

Dairy Queen, why do you have to hate?

This should not surprise as our DQ does not have the best reputation for getting things right, but still. It's the stinking Blizzard of the Month!

I didn't have it in me to go back, or even call. I had consumed at least half of my Blizzard before I finally gave up fishing for a cheesecake chunk, so I was pretty full and my heart just wasn't up for a cheesecake confrontation with Joey, the 16 year old night manager at DQ. So I just did what any normal cheesecake deprived person would do and ate my hubby's Heath Blizzard and called it good.

There's a valuable lesson in here somewhere, I'm just not totally sure what it is.

2. I absolutely love, Love, LOVE every single Target back to school commercial this year.

Love the music.

Love the colors.

Especially love the little girl doing the pull-up.

They just make me want to buy a pee-chee and a new box of crayons and some of that colored tape.

Oh, here's one more.

What can I say. I'm easily entertained.

3. Almost every single field in my hood is decked out with either freshly cut hay or hay bales. It is my absolute favorite smell in the world. A breeze is blowing and the windows are open and I'm constantly catching a whiff.


4. Shortly after my oldest son and his wife moved back to Montana, he got a job as a police officer in our small town.

He's been on the job for six months, and I have yet to see him in his uniform. It's making me a little crazy and so I've resorted to some unsavory behavior, otherwise known as stalking.

Just last week I saw his police car turning down a side street. I whipped into the left turn lane in an effort to engage in a hot pursuit, but sadly, I was thwarted by oncoming traffic. By the time all the slow poke drivers had passed by, junior was gone.

Another time I was heading home from the grocery store and came upon a fresh fender bender right in the middle of the main road through town. Nobody was hurt, but it was obvious the police would soon be arriving. I slipped around the corner and parked my car discreetly next to the coin operated car wash and waited. He'd never see me in my awesome hiding spot, but I'd finally get to see him in action.

Up pulls the police car and out hops.....another police officer. What? Our police force is quite small and I was sure it would be him.


What do I have to do to see him in his uniform? Rob the liquor store?

He told me later that he was at the shooting range.

Shooting range?

Sounds suspiciously like code for donut shop to me.

5. Going through chemo, I knew I'd miss my hair. Now I'm losing my eyelashes and I miss them a lot, too.

But, I never dreamed I'd miss my nose hairs. Those pesky nose hairs serve a purpose, and I've gone through more tissue in the last two months than I have in the last two years.

Tip of the day......respect your nose hair.

That's all I've got, so go have yourselves a beautiful Thursday!

September 11, 2013

September 9, 2013

file this away

When I found out I had breast cancer, three hundred and sixty five million thoughts took their turns rolling through my head.

Make that three hundred and sixty six.

I'm sure none of you will be surprised to hear that after the initial life and death types of thoughts, and the I have no clue what's in store kinds of thoughts, I eventually worked my way down the list to the losing my hair during chemo kinds of thoughts.

I put off thinking about it as long as possible, but the wonderful nurse who was pretty much in charge of managing my life from the day I was diagnosed finally forced me to think about it the week before I started chemo.

We talked about wigs and hats and scarves - all perfectly viable options - and then at the end, she told me about a company that takes your own hair and turns it into a wiggish/cap type of thing that you wear with a hat.

Bingo! I was sold. It was the perfect option for me.

The company is called Hip Hats With Hair, and they have several different products, but the one I chose is the Underhair Halo Wig.

While it was still extremely - and I mean extremely difficult to have my hair cut and then have my head shaved, it was a bit easier knowing that I would soon have my very own hair back on my very own head.

Here I am with my youngest the day before the big haircut.

My BFF followed the website instructions for cutting and packaging up my hair. We both cried while she put it in all the little ponies, we cried some more as she cut each pony off, and then we cried some more while she took the clippers to my head.

And then, thank goodness, we were finally done crying.

About two weeks later, my hair arrived right back here, ready for wearing.

Here I am with my hubby and my new hair and my favorite hat.

(This picture was taken with the self timer on my camera and we are laughing because I obviously have no clue how to use the self timer on my camera. That we ended up with one acceptable picture is a miracle in line with loaves and fishes.)

My hair is amazingly comfortable. (Although, bald feels the best, and the second I get home the hair comes off.)

I pop it on almost every single time I leave the house.

You can wear it with any hat that covers the cap.

It is very well made.

I feel totally myself when I'm wearing it, and during a season in life when I'm not feeling myself in many other ways, that means a lot.

In order to have a halo made with your own hair, your hair needs to be at least eight inches long. However, they have many similar products available that do not require you to send in your own hair.

So ladies, file this one away in case you or someone you love ends up walking down this road. It's been a huge factor in my ability to feel good about myself while going through chemo, so I wanted to get the word out in case it can be of help to someone else.

p.s. Random zinnia pictures included simply because I realized I haven't posted a single zinnia picture this year, and summer can't end without some zinnia love.

p.p.s. Six treatments down, only two to go. If I stay on schedule I'm done October 3rd. WOOT!

September 3, 2013

so long summer

The flowers in the garden are getting pretty sad and tattered looking, but I was able to scrap together enough daisies to make one last bouquet.

Fall is definitely in the air. Even though our days are still warm, there's an underlying crispness. It's hard to describe, but you know what I'm talking about.

I thought these sweet daisies deserved one last shout out to my favorite time of year.

I know I've asked this before, but I'd love you to share your favorite season.

I'm a summertime girl through and through, with fall being my second fave.

How about you?

Summer sun, watermelon and flip flops?

Or colored leaves, pumpkin everything and really cute boots?

Maybe a blazing fire, hot cocoa and a crisp walk through the snow is more your thing.

Or do you go weak in the knees for daffodils, baby chicks and a really cute umbrella for those spring showers?

Lay it on me and then go have a fabulous Tuesday.

August 15, 2013

my studio

I've wanted to post pictures of my photography studio for over a year.

Funny enough, the reason I now have time to take and post pictures of my photography studio is because I put my photography business on hold for this year.

Actually, not totally on hold. I have one client and we are spreading her senior session out over the summer. One outfit per shoot. One shoot per month.

It's perfect for me to have a little something to creatively dream about, while not overwhelming or stressing me out. She is very sweet to work with my schedule, and we've already got some awesome shots.

Side note. It was easy to put my business on hold while I'm going through chemo. Any woman who has gone through chemo whilst still working, or any woman who has gone through chemo and has small or medium sized kids, or even large kids at home has my utmost respect and never ending admiration. Women who both work AND have little kids and go through chemo? (Yes, I'm talking to you, Michelle.) Truly amazing.

Side note officially over.

For several years, our front room was virtually unused. We have a family room where we watch tv, and my hubby has a man cave, so the front room was just sort of sitting there without a purpose in life.

Once I decided to make a real go of my senior photography business, I had a blast turning that room into my studio space.

While I have never been one to make any part of our house particularly manly (except the man cave), it's been so fun to go extra girly with my studio. (My business is senior girls only.)

We use the studio for our pre-shoot consultation, and again after the photo shoot for our ordering session.

It took quite a while for it all to come together. The aqua chaise was first (Target online), then the cupboard, and finally the pillars. My hubby built the shelf on top, and that's when I was able to start filling in pretty much every square inch of free space with vintage finds and girly frills.

The chandy is my most recent addition, and I love it to pieces.

It's has an alarming burning smell when we turn it on.

We should probably look into that.

I am constantly on the prowl for vintage prom dresses and beautiful old umbrellas. I will never have enough of either.

Vintage suitcases and fun jewelry are also high on my list. Are any of you familiar with Charming Charlie? My niece introduced me and I'm hooked. Fortunately for my wallet the closest location is in Washington.

I still have many vintage picture frames I need to find a place for. Sadly, I'm out of walls.

I also seem to have a dress form addiction. My son calls them my pretend friends.

I still have odds and ends to button up.....and part two of this post will be the other half of the room once said odds and ends are done.

So.....maybe part two will never happen? Pinterest has given me plenty of inspiration, but follow through seems to be the issue at the moment!

I'm already looking forward to next year and picking up where I left off with my business!

Until then, I will just hang with my pretend friends in the studio when I need some girl time.

p.s. Apologies for the watermarks. I hate them, but unfortunately, they are necessary.

Happy Thursday afternoon!