Category Archives: Home

Anything and everything pertaining to our home: cleaning, organizing, decorating, etc.

Dreaming big, and asking for help

When I was 20, my entrepreneurial Uncle Ron took me, and my cousin (his son) to a big business conference in Portland, Oregon. We heard from many leaders and successful business people about what it takes to succeed. The only part that really sticks out in my mind was a spot that Goldie Hawn filled. All of the speakers spoke to their climb to success and what guided them. She said something about how, when she was about 13, someone asked her what she wanted to do when she grew up, and she said, “Make people happy.” That was it. At the time she was studying Ballet, and was doing really well at that, but her drive was to make people happy. And with that simple intention she has succeeded.

So, as I have been trying to find my way in my own photography business, I have often asked myself, what do I want to do? I see beauty everywhere. I notice details many become immune to seeing. From fine art nature photography to weddings, these traits serve me well, but I’m still not succeeding in a way that can help me contribute to my family. Part of this is time, that’s certainly true, but part of it, I think, is that I’ve been holding back. I haven’t been completely honest with myself. What I have always done is help people.

Now this has taken many shapes, and provided many opportunities. I remember my first real job as a courtesy clerk (bagging groceries), I always kept busy and one time offered to take out the trash for the floral vendor who put together bouquets on site. She was grateful and a week later offered me a part time job. What she didn’t know is that I really wanted to work for her!

As life moved me around, I found myself oddly offered jobs literally helping others: from tutoring to baking to landscaping to wedding photography to an Internet start up to writing and a few odd jobs sprinkled in there. When I started a family, I decided to pour my heart into it, and I have learned so much more.

As our family started to grow, I could see room for me to help contribute to the family. That’s when I decided to use my photography in a way that could brighten someone’s day and fit into my full time mommy life, fine art nature photography. Two and half years into it, and tax season showed me it’s not the right direction. This has been my year of transition. I’ve taken a class on posing, a class on studio lighting, and attended a creative challenges class. All of it is leading me to the realization that I have never spoken about how I want to fulfill the desire to simply help people.

So, I’m going to put this out here on the Internet so it’s never forgotten: I want to use my photography to help people. At first I thought that it could be achieved to help capture a family’s life in an annual photo session. Then, I thought I could do it through modern portraits of women where they can see how beautiful they really are. And now I’m getting even more specific: I want to help non-profits through photography. My dream business involve doing part non-profit work traveling internationally and partly portraiture in Seattle.

In October, I will join Workshops With A Purpose in Bolivia to learn more about the Little Ones Project. Basically, it’s a work and learn opportunity: tell their story through photography while learning how to use photography to help non-profits around the world. Most other photography workshops are held in comfy retreats around the United States, and this one appealed to me because we are actually learning in the field and giving while learning.

Why Bolivia?

As their promotional video starts, “Bolivia has the second highest infant mortality rate in the Western Hemisphere.” Food for the Hungry is working to provide a solution to this through the Little Ones Project – teaching mothers nutrition and proper care to grow healthy kids.

As many of you already know, feeding kids well is one of my passions. And, while I have no idea what this program teaches, I’m sure we won’t be talking Paleo and Gluten Free. It will probably be basic, and my job will be to simply help them continue to do the work. Photographs will help tell the story and gather support.

And, Bolivia holds a special place in my heart. My grandma’s parents were missionaries in Cochabamba when she was teenager. She wanted to revisit her old stomping grounds about 50 years later, and chose me as her traveling companion when I was 16 (probably because I had street smarts and was young enough to not have a family of my own yet). Ever since that trip, I have wanted to go back. It was the first time I had ever seen real poverty. I promised myself then, that I would return someday to help. Guess which city the Little Ones Project is operating out of? Yes, Cochabamba.

Why now?

The timing is sudden for someone like me who likes to plan ahead and save. I had always held this dream in the back of my mind as something I couldn’t do until I was in my retirement years and the kids were all grown up. I assumed I would have to work first to build a successful photography business, then go on trips to donate my photography services.

Now I’m learning that you can do this as a way to make a living, and the only way to see if it’s really a dream I want to keep following is to experience it. Since my photography business is already taking a turn toward portraits and away from fine art, why not explore what I really want to do? Why wait and do it the traditional way I had envisioned?

Shout out to Studio 3 Cubed for capturing this image of me in action.

I am going to be honest. For my business, I’ve put every penny earned back into it, and this year I’m close to having a positive balance of just over $40. My biggest block is marketing and promoting myself.

So, I want to break through that block, and earn my way into this Workshop. Every photo session and every art photograph I sell between now and September will go toward my tuition and traveling costs. Not everyone can afford a photo session or needs a fine art print, and I get that. So, I’m asking you to help me book 16 photo sessions in the next two months. And, I’ll be adding a bunch of art prints to my Etsy shop to help me raise the funds ($6,000.00 will cover tuition and airfare) by September 10th.

As a thank you I will send a postcard from Bolivia to anyone who either purchases a session or  is able to refer and help me book a session or sell something from my Etsy shop.

And, yes, I offer gift certificates. I’m also thinking of doing a fundraising mini-session day so those with tighter budgets can get portraits too!

Swings And The Goat Farm

One last summer adventure found us in Montana! We got to visit a small Goat Farm, and I felt like we had walked into a Martha Stewart magazine. This family has goats, chickens, and a couple rabbits. Their home is a wonderland for a family of four kids. If I could capture their home for a real life magazine, the photos would look something like this:

Goat House

Goat Portrait

Goat eating

Tire Swing

Egg House

Outdoor swings

Farm Art

Farm Art

Farm House Decor

Diningroom Swing


We’re super grateful to The Goat Lady for letting us stop by as we visited relatives. And, yes, she even sent us home with a bar of goat milk soap!

Show and Tell: I finished a Bunk Bed, failed a new muffin recipe and witnessed a case of stage fright.

I had a busy week. Instead of neatly showing off each thing, post by post and laying out the process or delving into the details I found to be most amusing or baffling, I’m trying something new today. A photo-journal of sorts…

I built bunk beds!

Finished Project: Bunk Beds

After a month of working on bunk beds, they are finished! My neighbor and friend, Amanda, had the tools, space and skills to teach me how to do it myself. It was my first ever wood-working project. I could not, would not have attempted to do this on my own.

Amanda literally guided me through Home Depot, showed me how to pick out wood that wasn’t warped, and proceeded to let me use her power tools (after showing me how and explaining safety precautions). She was a patient, helpful teacher. I really looked forward to our scattered work sessions (lasting only about 2-3 hours) as our schedules allowed. And, she did help along the way – where it seemed like I needed it. My husband even pitched in a sanding session to get these done on the one sick day I needed to stay home and rest. Honestly, it was easier than I had expected. It has wet my appetite to make other things for our home, but not enough for me to want to do it for a living.

We made the bunk beds from an Ana White plan– she’s got so many great ideas and plans for everything from an entertainment center to simple book shelf (and they’re free!). Amanda introduced me to her site, and has recently completed a head board. She’s a crafty DIY blogger herself:

Recipe Experiment: from muffins to granola!

Muffin Mistake

I make mistakes. All the time. The recipes I share are ones I’ve perfected and have tested on unassuming family and friends. Last week I was trying to create a new muffin recipe using some pre-soaked and roasted Walnuts (because I read that they are easier to digest). Well using pre-roasted nuts turned into burnt nuts. They were black! I didn’t notice until my taste-tester-son starting crumbling up his muffin and picking out the nuts. So, facing my defeat and frustration for  wasting all the ingredients, I suddenly realized I could follow my son’s lead. I tore them all apart, picked out the nuts, and decided to make granola. I laid out the bits onto a cookie sheet, added Ghee and Honey and baked it on low for about 2 hours. My husband ate it up, but did add some dried Cranberries and Almonds. So now, I want to try making granola from the start!

Stage fright: a first recital.

Saturday was the big day. Our daughter, Iris, is a spontaneous dancer – ever since she could stand, she’s danced anywhere, anytime when the mood strikes her.

She has been taking Pre-Ballet classes for 7 months and even enjoys the micro performance when parents get to see them demonstrate what they’ve learned.  Saturday was her first recital. She wasn’t keen on the idea of getting on a small stage for the rehearsal on Friday. But, she did like the idea of wearing her costume and lipstick and blush (we practiced applying it).  I made the mistake of assuming once she was surrounded by her class mates all would be well.

Photo by Aunt Jennifer.

I should have planned on asking my relatives to photograph and film the event – that’s what I thought as I sat back stage with Iris clinging to me in the sea of tutu’s and adorable little girls. There was a “Room Mom” for every class to keep order. But, Iris insisted that my lap was the only one she wanted. So, I grabbed my cell phone and recruited my multi-talented sister-in-law, Jennifer to be the photographer.

Thankfully, Iris’ class was not the first one up on stage. She enjoyed watching the big girls perform. But, when it came her turn, she wanted me to go on with her. Since I could not, she joined her class reluctantly, then part way through decided to exit the stage and join me. Poor thing. Really, I felt bad about it but I was glad she knew what to do about her feelings. That should could leave the stage. Everyone was really nice about it and some other Mom’s went out of their way to compliment how well Iris did. It was sweet and hopefully not too traumatic for Iris.

As soon as we got home, Iris requested music and danced her little heart out barefoot style.

Lessons from my road trip to rural Oregon.

Rural Oregon Road - along the Blue Mountain Range.

I felt like I walked into another world full of sunshine, warmth and simple beauty. I was forced to slow down. I was in a rural Oregon town to visit my Mom and family for a quick Easter weekend. While I only had a full day to visit, I savored every slow hour.

The drive down with my brother behind the wheel was a mixture of anxiousness at his careless texting while aggressively driving and gratitude for the quiet time we had to talk while the kids slept in their car seats. We only really visit each other when he needs me to cut his hair or at a family dinner. It was neat to reminiscence about childhood, and where we are as “adults” in life right now. He has an epic adventure to Japan coming in September. I have my own adventure with this blogging thing, plus life as a parent and wife. It was interesting to hear what he cares about or struggles with in the context of stuff, owning a Truck, and debt. I tried my best to not tell him what I think he should do, but just listened and appreciated where I am with similar things.

Lesson #1: I don’t have a vehicle I am emotionally connected with – and that feels freeing. I don’t want stuff to get in my way of being debt-free or traveling. Right now, we’re aggressively paying off our debt, and will be free from it in the next 4 months. I have the itch to do more de-cluttering of things that fill our home, and focus on my own things that just sit around to just look pretty or are unused.

: : : Too much Phone Time : : :

As chance would have it, I forgot my phone charger at home, and the battery died. I was without a cell phone for almost 24 hours. What a great way to realize that I check it too much! I waited until this year to get a Smart Phone, and only got it because my husband thought I should have one. Honestly, it is really nice to read eBooks on it, check Email, get Blog Comments, or use Google anywhere. But, I have been using it too much. Do I really need to respond to emails every hour? Not that I get that many, but still…it was a little uncomfortable not having it on me while I knew my husband was on the road driving to meet up with us. He did check in by calling my Mom’s phone to let us know when he’d left home and provided an estimate on his arrival time.

Branding Wall at the local hardware store - like urban graffiti but more permanent.

Lesson #2: I can still enjoy my Smart Phone, but don’t need to check it every hour. It’s addicting and very tempting to use all the time, especially since I can also take pictures and post them to Facebook. So, I am going to still use my phone, but with less frequency for things like Email and Facebook.

Speaking of Facebook, my friend, Staci wrote a really honest post about her realizing that she’s on it too much. The post actually got me thinking about sharing these lessons I learned Easter Weekend, and prompted my need to share.

: : : Food is the great divide : : :

While only eating a whole day’s worth of meals in this rural Oregon town, I was

Rural America - where most of our food is grown and raised.

aware of how hard it is to get local, or a decent selection of vegetables and hormone free meat. You have to know someone who knows someone and buy like half a cow. Or, stock up at the weekly Farmer’s Market. Sure, the Super Walmart has some Organic branded options, but it’s not the same as finding fresh Kale or Rutabagas. Rural America is given less food choices than urban areas. And the irony is that most of our food is grown in rural areas and shipped to the cities for “picky/informed/passionate” consumption. I hate the fact that I can buy fresh Kale, Cucumbers and Basil within 5 minutes of my house, but my Mom has to wait until the local Alberstons store decides to carry Kale (the last time they had it, she said it was old, and wilting but she bought it anyway to support such variety).

Lesson #3: I am passionate about food and access equality. Why can’t the rural Americans have as many choices as we do in the city? This fuels my desire to further support locally, sustainably and organically grown food.  Somehow I hope to accomplish this, at least as another straw on the Camel’s back, with blogging.

: : : Slow Down : : :

My husband was only able to join us on the trip for an afternoon. But, we fit a date into the time we had, and really enjoyed walking around a small town. They have an amazing coffee house, White House Coffee, and local book store where a kitten played in the window and beckoned us inside. We wandered through isles of old and new books finding little spots to sit and read. While purchases one book, I couldn’t help but smile at the little sign advertising that you can also buy farm fresh eggs (at a book store!). It’s places like this that outshine mega stores or franchised businesses.

Lesson #4: I will make more time to slow down and enjoy unscheduled time with my husband and family. Just this weekend, we took time to explore our neighborhood walking trails. I want more of that in our lives. It makes me less wistful about living in a small town and raising Chickens.

Life is good. Sometimes I just need to slow down to really savor it.

What do you love about where you live? Is there anything you’ve gotten too busy to appreciate? If so, maybe you should take a day off from scheduling it full and just wander. You never know what thoughts or adventures await.

Home Making Goodness: Plants and Decorating

Plum Pruning = Spring Indoors!

I love to learn new things, especially in the area of home making – like with decorating or organizing. I’ve got three things worth sharing that can make a difference in your home no matter what size it is. I have learned some really cool things over the years that fall out of those categories and into some tangent areas, like growing more oxygenating air with houseplants.

Spring Indoors – Around the Seattle area, we had spring like weather for the past couple of weeks, and the trees are blossoming. Now, we have a freezing week, with some dusting of snow. My In-laws gave us some pruned Plum Tree clippings, and we have them in a glass jar (provids better stability than our vases).  This saves some of those precious blossom buds who would freeze otherwise, and delights my kids as they watch them open.  You could do this even without erratic weather patterns this spring, saving some pretty blossoms from the compost pile or yard waste bin. And, best of all, they will make for a beautiful bouquet for free!

Make Clean Air – Last spring, I checked out the book, How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 House Plants that Purify Your Home or Office, from the Library and researched the best plant for my husband to have in his office. I learned that we had 3 of the plants already in our home!  The book explained that some of them needed to be misted once in a while, and now I take better care of them.

Well, I just stumbled upon this blog post that pretty much explains it all, better than I could at – well worth sharing with you. The best part is the listing of the top 10 plants as sourced from the book directly at the bottom of the post. If you enjoy learning a bit more about the science behind this, and the reasons why you’d want to get more oxygenated air into your home, read the whole thing.

My daughter's second-hand custom made rocking chair. My favorite spot in the house.

Decorate Simply – Reading has inspired me to live a more simple, “minimalistic” life – a recent post directed me to Miss Minimalist’s Decorating tips post, Adding Warmth Without Adding Stuff.  Yeah, I know, link, link, link, but it’s worth it. She points out how to put together specific textures or colors to make a cozy home with less stuff. This reminds me of my Mom’s interior decorating business tag line, “Making your home your own.” In the mid-80’s and early 90’s she redecorated homes using what people already had. So, you could say she instilled some “minimalist” values in me. Part of this has stuck due in part because I want to live within my means. So, while I may enjoy looking at Pottery Barn’s website and stores, I have never felt the need to shop there in order to decorate my home.