Category Archives: Uncategorized

Ten Instagram Feeds That Make Me Happy!


Are you on Instagram?  It serves as a mini-scrapbook of my life.  And my phone is always with me so it’s easy to capture the little things in life.  The picture above is the first photo I ever took using my Instagram app.  It’s a still life of my dresser at the time.  I love it because it says a lot about me.  My style is revealed in the sunglasses and jewelry box.  It shows that I love the color green and the scent of a good candle.  I also made the framed linen piece in the background to hang my jewelry on, so it reminds me that I am creative when I want to be.  I just love this picture.  You will find an entire community of creative people on Instagram from all parts of the world.  Here are ten of my favorites to follow!

1)  Christie Brinkley (username:  christiebrinkley) – I know. I know.  She’s a former supermodel.  Someone recommended her feed and I was skeptical too.  But she’s a darn good Instagram photographer.  Her shots of NYC are STUNNING.  She travels (most recently to Africa to take up the cause of saving elephants from harm and exploitation) and takes photos that are truly captivating.  She includes her personal life in her feed too.  And she draws some wonderful designs in her morning coffee.   I haven’t regretted following her at all.  She’ll fill your feed with beautiful things.

2)  Aerin Lauder (username: aerin):  If I could vote Aerin most beautiful Instagram feed, I would.  She’s near the top of my list of style icons.  The granddaughter of the late cosmetics tycoon, Esteé Lauder and daughter of Ronald Lauder, Aerin recently launched her own line of cosmetics and furniture & accessories for the home.  She is also the subject of a gorgeous coffee table book that should be arriving on my doorstep any moment!  Her posts tend to be beautiful still life images shot around her home & office.  Always exquisitely styled and timeless.

3)  The Recapturist (username:  recapturist) –  “Photography, preservation and micro-history of vintage America”.  That what his feed consists of.  Gorgeous photos of hotel and restaurant signage from an earlier era.  If you like old stuff, you’ll love this feed.

4)  BeachBungalow8 (username:  beachbungalow8) – She’s a creative girl who loves design, both retro and current.  She blogs at  I find stuff on here ALL the time that inspires me.  Excellent feed.

5)  Plum Collective (username: plumcollective) –  If you love mid-20th century design, you will love this feed.  All kinds of mid- century furniture, lighting and design on this one.  Check it out.

6)  Kelly GoLightly  (username: kellygolightly) – In her words, it’s a “style guide for the modern-day Audrey Hepburns of the world.”  She’s gorgeous, has great style and reeks of vintage style.  She travels often and posts great pics from places like Palm Springs, Beverly Hills and Marfa, TX.  I swoon over her fashion sense & she knows how to throw a party!

7)  Adored Vintage (username:  adoredvintage)  Like vintage dresses & style?  Look no further.  You must follow Adored Vintage.  Sometimes she posts other things but the focus is vintage dresses.

8)  Liljeberg (username: liljeberg) – A Swedish feed that captivates you with letters and numbers, all photographed beautifully.

9)  Mrs. Lilien (username: mrslilien) –  One of my very favorite feeds!  I could honestly ask myself every day, “What would Mrs. Lilien do?”  I love her.  Her style, her love of old things, her appreciation of a good font; the list goes on.  And on.  She blogs at

10)  Donald Robertson (username:  donalddrawbertson) –  Doodling, drawing, painting – he does it all.  The creative director for Bobbi Brown Cosmetics has one of my favorite Instagram feeds.  I’m wildly inspired by this guy.  He frequently shares photos of his wife, kids and home but most of his posts are his stunning artwork, often done with gaffer tape or just a few strokes of a magic marker.  He’s unbelievable.  Hard for me to go a day without looking at something he posts!

I hope you found at least two or three new people to follow after reading these.  I hope to make this a regular feature on my blog and I hope you’ll keep checking back to find more new good stuff!

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Angels & Witches

photo-20This has been my relief for the past week. A step back into my past that takes me back to a simpler time, both in my life and the world.  I’ll be honest. One reason I’m watching them is that  I screwed up the tv and can only figure out how to use it with a DVD in.  Remember when all we had was a knob and maybe three channels?  For a while where I grew up, your options were 6 (NBC) and 12 (CBS).  If you lived in certain spots in town that “got the signal”, you might have 8 (ABC).  Now very few televisions are operational without at LEAST two remote controls that together have about 100 buttons.  And MODES!  Is it in DVD mode? HDMI mode?  Goodness!  Shout out to my oldest son who bought a VCR and video tape collection at the thrift store and is in heaven with his retro technology.  Love that kid.  I digress.

This week has been one of continuing back pain, oral surgery for my daughter who was home from TCU on fall break, issues with turning homework in, gripey carpool teachers, gripey neighbors, gripey Facebook friends, a traveling husband and my favorite baseball team is stinkin’ it up somewhat in the World Series. I definitely needed a little escape and since a trip is out of the question at the moment, I just settled for a trip back to my childhood when watching Bewitched with my best friend or watching Charlie’s Angels snuggled up on my dad’s lap was my idea of heaven.  It’s been fun.  I love the retro fashion in both shows.  Most of it would be back in style right now and I find myself swooning over dresses and furniture and homes in these shows.  I still have a part of me that longs to twitch my nose and get things to work out for me.  So far, it’s not working.

I try hard, when things are bugging me, to focus on the positive, so I have been.  I’ve worked with great clients this week, had a healthy family (other than the back issues), done my best to help a friend out from afar, helped a neighbor, had a kid ace a Spanish test and essay, done some Christmas shopping, cheered for the Cardinals with Chuck and almost finished the huge stitching project I’ve been working on. And the Christmas cards I ordered earlier than ever arrived and I love them!  There’s always something to be thankful for!  Hope things are going well with all of you.

As long as we’re on the subject, what shows take you back to your childhood?

Just a few random things…….

I’m not posting a photo to go along with this entry because if I did it would be me sitting on the toilet, hair sticking out in 1000 different directions, eyes glazed over from lack of sleep and energy, donut glaze on my cheek,  yelling at my kids to, “for the love of sweet Jesus, learn to put a new roll of toilet paper on the holder & pick up the damn potato chip wrappers & Coke cans in the living room” because we haven’t had a kitchen for a week.  Also, if I share a picture, the President’s men will see it and immediately put me on the no-fly list because they will draw the logical conclusion that I’m a danger to my fellow citizens.  That’s pretty much how my entire month has gone, frantically running from end-of-school-year event to event, watching my daughter graduate and watching, at 3 a.m. one morning, my mother’s apartment go up in flames. I also had a bikini wax because I love to kick myself when I’m down and I hadn’t done enough screaming at the kids to get my monthly fill.  So, how are you guys?

But seriously, THANK YOU for all the love and support shown to my mother as she faced dealing with the loss of all of her possessions, the sentimental stuff being what mattered.  There were 4 fires in a three-month period in her building as of the night that hers was deemed a total loss.  There has been one fire since in the south building across from her, set in the same way, so they’re being called “suspicious” at this point.  It’s bad enough to endure the trauma but to endure it out of someone’s meanness is very unsettling.  Your gifts, love, hugs and support have meant the world to her.

Ryder graduated on the 23rd and then turned 18 on June 8.  We will be taking her to orientation at TCU this week.  I am excited, if for no other reason than for three full days I won’t have to listen to boys fight over and talk about Minecraft servers, I can go to Clotheshorse Anonymous and raid IKEA.  I’m also looking forward to some good Texas meals & hotel room bedding.  Maybe a dip in a pool or two.  But I will miss all three of my boys. 🙂

Our flooring installers finished and our new floors look, well, MAGNIFICENT.  That’s really not too strong since they turned out exactly as I envisioned the day I walked into the flooring store.  I want to bow and kiss them.  They completely change the look of our kitchen and den.  When I get the walls painted and artwork hung, I promise a picture. Right now I am putting a desk together (again, I love you, IKEA) for my tiny office nestled in the corner of our bedroom where I can work in peace.  Speaking of work, it’s going well & I’ve had the opportunity to photograph some beautiful girls lately.  Things are good.

The pool finally opened full-time & I’m enjoying some time there basking in the rays and reading on my new Nook, which I love.  I can never replace the friends I have made through our neighborhood pool – it’s definitely one of my happy places.  I’m so glad my kids have many childhood memories from that place.  Last night, our little buddy Clay turned 10 and our oldest son Wyatt, who is three years older than Clay & a TEEN,  went to his party with us.  Right after we got there one of Wyatt’s friends called and wanted him to come over & he said he could after a while, but that he wouldn’t miss Clay’s party.  As the oldest boy there who had an offer from his best friend, my heart was very proud.

Brooks plays his last spring season baseball game tonight and will have a break from baseball until fall.  He pitched a good game the other night & I’m very proud of him.  He will start again in the fall with the same team & I hope his love for the game continues. It hasn’t exactly been a joyride the last couple seasons and as an introvert, adjusting to a new team has not come easy for him. He’s going to attend a camp in July that I think will give him a nice mid-summer dose of baseball and allow him to spend time with a good friend who moved last fall.  I’ve made the choice to have him step out of his comfort zone a bit and decisions like that are one of the harder aspects of parenting, aren’t they?

I recently finished reading a rather life-changing book by David Sheff called “Beautiful Boy”.  It’s a “hard-to-read-emotionally-but-inspiring” book about his son’s struggle with meth addiction.  Last night I started a memoir written by David’s son, Nic Sheff, called Tweak.)  It’s really made me do some deep thinking about my parenting and honestly, parenting in general and what we are doing to our kids these days. (Not necessarily because of anything the dad did in the book, however.)  I feel very strongly that our generation tends to parent from the perspective of what WE want our children to be and do.  We want them to do what will make us look good & give very little thought to what may actually be the right thing for them.  The book just made me think that we really have very little time with them & if you screw that up, there’s no getting the time back.  It’s a heartbreaking read but there are so many passages that struck me & I don’t even have a child dealing with addiction.  The quotes are applicable in other areas of parenting too. I do have some experience with people who want their children to succeed for their own accolades (not my dad, who raised me) and I think it’s just sad.  We need to love our children for what they are and what they choose to become.  I think Mr. Sheff definitely loved his child for what he was & probably had no idea in writing his book that he would help people in areas other than addiction.  I commend him and his son for being brave enough to share their stories.

I have to meet Chuck in an hour for lunch and I’m nowhere near presentable so I hope your summer is off to a good start and that the sun shines brightly on you today!

Spilling open….

IMG_61 copyThe other night I was looking at old pictures and videos with my daughter, who about a week and a half ago, graduated from high school.  She will be 18 next Saturday & I’ve gotten rather reflective the past few weeks.  When I turned 18 I was worried about getting drafted.  Not because I had a legitimate reason but because my grandma worried about EVERYTHING, and on the list of worries I was genetically pre-disposed to when I turned 18, was the draft. (I spent the earlier part of my childhood fearing attacks from “the Russians”, so logically the armed forces would need me.) I’m not sure what, if anything, my daughter worries about.  I hope not much.   It’s certainly not “what people will think when they see the state of my bedroom.”  That I know.  The photos we were looking through made me realize she has had an incredible childhood, surrounded by wonderful, interesting friends who have been there through thick & thin, family who loves her and trips to places like Paris, Barcelona and San Francisco, all of those without us.  She bravely applied to 7 different universities from NW Arkansas to the east coast (Charleston).  She was accepted at all but one & completely of her own accord, chose to attend Texas Christian University in Ft. Worth which completes an unusual circle since that is where my parents lived when I was conceived. I have not been back since I was in that womb.  Life’s funny that way sometimes.  You get right back to where you started.

Someone asked me the other day what my hopes for her were.  That one is simple.  That she is happy.  I don’t care what she becomes, where she works, who she marries or how many children she has, if any.  I just want her to be happy.  I want her to live her life for herself and no one else.  So far, she has done so well in this category & I couldn’t be prouder of her.  We allow her to make most decisions herself & we are criticized for this often.  I think it’s been instrumental in fostering her independence and giving her the confidence she needs to go off on her own.  I know if we are here to fall back on, she will use us to lean on but I also know if a situation requires her to act independently of us, as many will when she ventures off to Texas, she will be well-prepared.  By letting her make her own decisions, all the regrets are on her & it leaves little room to resent us for being overbearing.  I will never, ever understand why people want their children to be dependent on them.

As for advice I would send her off with, I had to think on that one a while.  I would like to send her off into the world with two often diametrically-opposing pieces of advice:  Use good judgment & have very little fear.  Sometimes these two can collide in a horrible way. Sometime in the worst way.  A couple weeks ago, a group of students from the University of Arkansas were involved in a horrible boating accident on Grand Lake in OK & two of them died.  The driver admitted to having 10 beers, a shot of tequila and unprescribed drugs in his system.  I don’t think there’s one parent getting ready to send their kid to college who didn’t shudder at the loss of life & think, “That could be my child.”  I also shuddered at the likely prison sentence facing the kid driving the boat & thought, “How awful for his parents because once our kids are gone we have no control. (In all honesty, we have very little when they’re here.)  Like it or not, that could be our child too.  And by “ours”, I mean both you and I, dear reader.  These kids probably had very little fear as they were stepping into that boat but they sure didn’t use good judgment.  Had either of these forces played out in reverse, it would have saved some families some grief.  But dammit, we aren’t always there to be that voice of reason….

After Ryder graduated last week & shortly after that boat accident, we let her go to one of the lakes about an hour from our home & spend a few days on the houseboat of one of her friend’s families.  Chuck called me and said, “Ryder thinks she’s going to the lake tomorrow and says you know?”  He was a little surprised.  I said, “Yes, I know.  It’s hard, believe me.  But she is going off to a city 6 hours from us in two months & we have to trust her to have good judgment.  She’s made good decisions in the past & we have to trust she will again.”  She made it home safely.  On the way home she even turned the wheel of her car over to the friend who had the houseboat since it was raining super hard and she, unlike her friend, had never driven that curvy road before, even in good conditions.  I can pretty much tell you I didn’t have that sort of judgment right before I turned 18. I trust that she will continue to make wise decisions.

Now for the fear factor.  As stated before, I spent my entire childhood living with my grandma who feared EVERYTHING.  At one point, I was sure I was going to contract lockjaw because I fell into a rosebush & got horribly scratched & cut.  Because that’s how you get lockjaw, right?  Rosebushes. I was taught to fear weather, to fear the Russians, to fear microwave ovens, to fear someone breaking into my house, to fear being kidnapped…….I could go on all night. (Oddly enough, now that I’m older, I fear very little. I’m sure it’s a subconscious rebellion against my grandma’s attempts to instill fear & therefore make me dependent on her.)  I do not want my child to have fear.  I want her to be consciously aware of her surroundings but  I want her to explore the world,  make new friends, take risks in business and life, & live life to the fullest.  I don’t want her to fear taking a vacation overseas, flying in a plane, switching her major, starting a business, breaking up with a boy, etc.  And when it’s time to use fear to her advantage I hope she will have the good judgment to do so.

Make sense?

Crime. Close To Home.

So, one of my neighbors texted the other night and asked if I’m concerned about the crime in our neighborhood.  I’m really not.  For three reasons.  First, we now have a locally-based social media site that reports every single burglary in our neighborhood, from routine bike theft to armed robbery to someone reporting a sack of potting soil missing.* My theory is that most of this crime was going on in the past but we didn’t have someone obsessively reporting everything that comes across the scanner.  As a sidenote to this first point, I’d like to point out that our bicycles were stolen out of the front yard (except for mine, because according to Chuck, no self-respecting heterosexual thief would want my bike & its gay wicker basket) & we didn’t notice it for over 4 months, so it’s also entirely possible we don’t care.  I digress…….my first point is that crime is always happening & seems more prevalent when it’s brought to your attention on a daily basis.  My second point is that I try to make my house as secure as possible without making it look like the Cummins Correctional Unit with bars and razor wire. Past that point, if a criminal wants to get in, I guess he will.  If they want to bad enough, they usually do.  But I refuse to live my life in fear, imprisoned in my home.  My third point is that my dog, Apollo, is bat-shit crazy (postal, some might say) when it comes to protecting me so I think the sound of him awakening and threating to gnaw on your carcass like a dead buzzard after he chews through your jugular is at least a mild deterrent.  I hope so.  I continue to feed him well and make him watch Cujo on Netflix once a week or so.

Sooo……in review:  No, I’m not scared.  I don’t have anything material I can’t live without.  I try to keep my house fairly secure.  I have Apollo. HOWEVER, none of these things can protect me from my children.

I like privacy.  I LOVE being alone.  If you know me only through Facebook or my blog, this may shock you.  I grew up as an only child and I could stay in my room for hours, reading, crafting or just daydreaming about my future plans to have a pool, a cook, servants to wait on me & a hot husband that I could lie in bed with for long stretches of time without worrying that our parents would come home & freak.  So, now that I’m older, I still like time to myself.  To read, to stitch, to sketch, to dream about that pool, cook and servants & to lie in bed with my husband, uninterrupted.  This is, apparently, NOT possible.  I believe I’ve said this before but let me say it again.  Our house is small — around 1700 ft to be exact.  FIVE of us live here.  I love the neighborhood, our neighbors, and I’ve even grown to love the house despite it’s quirks and constant need of repairs.  What I DON’T love is the lack of privacy.  First, we have a bedroom with door access from the hallway & the kitchen.  Yes, the kitchen.  The downside is people just randomly stroll into your bedroom when they want to go out on the back deck or when they want to “cut through” to the hallway.  The upside is that when you want a bag of Oreos, a Coke or a martini at 3 a.m., it’s just a few steps to satisfying your craving.  From the day we bought the house, though, that door has been able to be locked.  So, if things were looking like one of us might get laid, we would lock that door and then go to the other door which leads to the hallway, be SURE it was completely shut and then open the adjacent closet door so that if an intruder (read: nosy kid) came in & we were in a compromising position, they would barge in, bang their head on the second door, & we would be alerted in time to pull up the sheets.  This plan is not foolproof.  It relies on memory, the kid choosing the correct door and, you guessed it, remembering to lock the door to the kitchen.  Right in the middle of our naked, heated passion, we hear the knob & both get that sick feeling in the bottom of your gut that you get when the realization hits that neither of you locked the door.  We both turned to see our middle child with a traumatized look of horror on his face turning to make a slow, stunned exit.  And well, let’s just say that an experience like that KILLS anything that might have been going on at the time.  We were leaving for Florida that very morning and I will never forget the serious, “holy shit, what did I just witness?” look on my son’s face as he gazed out the window all the way to the Gulf Coast.  If you’ve ever seen the Modern Family episode where the kids catch Phil & Clare in THE ACT, you’ve basically watched my life in action, as I am married to a real life version of Phil Dunphy.

Sooooo…….time to put a lock on the door.  Chuck spends part of one Saturday installing a doorknob & I am in heaven.  I can lock the kids out, the dog out, even CHUCK out!  I can have peace!  Napping!  Stitching!  Reading!  Sex without an audience!  Notsomuch.

Sunday morning, Chuck & I enjoyed the opportunity to sleep in.  One kid was at a friends’ house, Ryder is unable to be awakened by an army of Iraqi insurgents & that just leaves Wyatt.  We’ve had enjoyed a little romp in the hay earlier that morning and at this point, would kinda just like to lie in each other’s arms and sleep.  Undisturbed.  Soon we hear stumbling around the house.  Hallway doorknob rattles.  No luck.  Footsteps around the living room through the kitchen to the other doorknob.  Rattles, but no luck.  We’ve been successful.  Privacy at last.  Notsomuch.

After lying there a few more minutes, thinking we are safe to nod off and sleep another hour or so, I begin to hear rattling and scraping.  I thought the dog was out so at first I ignored it.  He knows to come knock on the door when he wants in and I assumed Wyatt would be in there to take care of that.  More rattling and then I swear I hear a window open so I say to Chuck, “Do you hear that?”  He says, “Yes, I think we have a breach of security.  An inside job.” I’m still trying to figure out what’s going on in my head when the door to our bathroom that is INSIDE our master bedroom swings open and my 5′ 11″ 7th grader walks out, strolls past the bed and says, “Get up, Dad!  I’m hungry for bacon!”  We just sat in stunned silence.  He had gone out the front door, entered the backyard, climbed the stairs to the deck and lowered himself into the bathroom through an unlocked window.  All to tell us he wanted bacon, which he could have done by simply knocking and using his “outside voice”.  DUDE, did you not LEARN?  Do you want to be traumatized again?  And have some manners!  Chuck & I look at each other in defeat & Chuck says, “That’s it!  I’m telling the kids, if you come in our room unannounced there’s a good chance we’ll be naked and having sex. Being blunt with them will be our best deterrent yet.  THAT’S WHY DOORS LOCK.  Keep out.”  We shall see.  The only thing left is for one of them to throw a rock through the sliding glass door and enter that way.  Hopefully they have better sense than that but at this point I’m wondering if they have any sense at all.

So, now the bathroom window is locked securely & I’m still feeling relatively safe in the war against criminal intruders.  It’s the tribe of humans I birthed myself that I can’t seem to keep out. Maybe those barred windows aren’t looking so bad after all.

*You laugh at that last one but a guy who lived down the street actually went door-to-door a couple summers ago questioning all of us as to who could have stolen a small bag of potting soil from his driveway.  Don’t think I didn’t use some restraint in my answer. I said, laughing, “Can you look at my barren yard and honestly tell me you think I’m the thief?”  I COULD have said, “No one wants your peat moss, granola-head & yes, I walk my dog on a leash even if you think it ‘inhibits his doggie freedom.’  Also, my 8 yr.-old (at the time) refers to you all as ‘the drunk people’.  Now, carry on with your search for the real killers, OJ.”

Where The Boys Are ’13


What possesses a sane woman to agree to go on a trip to Florida with 9 teenage (senior) girls and three other mothers?  I’m not sure. Perhaps I’m not sane.  But I CAN say, I’m glad I was possessed.

This trip came right on the heels of taking Ryder to Charleston, SC by myself to check out a college so to say I was a little travel-worn was an understatement.  I basically unpacked, washed the clothes and put them back in the suitcase. (YES, I do laundry!)  We left last Friday afternoon bound for Mobile, where I had chosen to stay the first night since my injured knee retaliates when I drive long distances.  We stopped to eat in Jackson, MS and one of the other moms asked, as we got back in our cars to head for the night’s final stop, “How much further?”  I will never forget the look on their faces as I said, “Just 4 more hours!”  They were not amused.  Soon though we were on the road and completely entertained by following Lil Wayne’s seizures, collapse, coma and resurrection via Twitter.  AND I drove rather fast, according to those trying to keep up with me but we arrived safely a bit UNDER 4 hours.  I plead the 5th on speeding but I now frequently answer when called “Danica”.

The hotel in Mobile was an experience.  The night manager was an interesting fella with a greasy ponytail, an accent that reminded me of a gay man on downers & ZERO personality.  He bordered on just plain rude but I just wanted a room key so I was nice.  I was clearly inconveniencing him though.  Chuck, the kids & I had stayed at this hotel before when we came through Mobile and it was, in 2010, the Radisson Admiral Semmes.  It no longer carries the Radisson brand and although the breakfast in the restaurant was very, very good, it’s gone down a notch. It’s just the generic Admiral Semmes now. We survived.  As I kept saying, all I needed was a clean place to lay my head.

The next morning we headed for “Money Well Spent”, the beach house we had rented in Seagrove Beach, FL.  Yes, that’s one house for all 13 of us.  But it was spacious and comfortable.  Being a veteran of beach house rentals, the first thing I noticed was that it was quite noisy compared to other houses I’ve stayed in.  Footsteps sounded like thunder and then immediately we began noticing things that weren’t working properly.  There was a bit of rain our first couple of days, which wasn’t too annoying until it began to rain on Rachael on her top bunk on the bottom floor of the house.  Not cool.  We dealt with that for most of the trip.  The stove went from 0-350 in about 60 seconds and I CHARRED three loaves of garlic bread.  A chair broke when someone sat on it. The stairway window would NOT close and lock.  It took us a day to figure how to turn the TV on (it took them a day – I was no help!), the microwave was a piece of crap, and the toaster was on the fritz some too.  The icemaker clogged the first or second night and housekeeping left us about 9 towels total after assuring us there were enough for 18 guests, even though we only had 13.  Then on the next to last night, I woke at 3 a.m. to what I thought was the sound of a girl sitting on the bathroom floor (I shared a bath with 5-6 of the girls) eating potato chips.  Who eats potato chips at 3 a.m.?  Well, living with Ryder I can tell you sometimes teenage girls do.  So I was annoyed, but not alarmed.  But then all of a sudden this feeling came over me and I realized it wasn’t potato chips.  It was a mouse.  A BIG mouse.  Couldn’t be a rat because rats know I don’t like them and they stay away.  I thought for a while it was in my new plastic Lilly beach bag so I proceeded to throw stuff at the bag AT 3 A.M. because we all know what a house of 13 women need in the middle of the night is a mouse gone batshit crazy after being tortured by a topless woman in boyshorts who is burning up because the air/heat is either full on or full off, but never just right.  After lying motionless the better part of a half hour listening to this rodent chew I got up the nerve to walk over and nudge the bag, again, because that ALWAYS helps a “giant hiding rodent” situation.  That’s when I realized the creature was in the wall and it sounded much bigger.  Like the size of Garfield the cat-bigger.  I finally did what any woman of this day and age would do and took an anti-anxiety medication and went to bed because it’s just a little mouse anyway, right?  The next morning I shared my story at breakfast and Mary Carol said, “Oh, I saw a huge RAT in front of our house yesterday.  It went down under the porch!”  I don’t think I was ever fully asleep for the remainder of my vacation.  So, we amended the sign for “Money Well Spent”!


Overall, though, the house fit our needs, was spacious, 50 yards from the beach, across the street from two swimming pools, one of which was heated and I had my own room!  It was also near 2-3 other houses of Little Rock girls and boys.  That made it convenient for them to hang out.  I could overlook all that other stuff.  I just think maybe the homeowner doesn’t give it the care and attention we’re used to with the house we usually rent.

On Wednesday, Ryder came up from the beach, laid down on the couch for a nap, & woke up 5 hours later, with her face looking like Phyllis Diller after facelift #5.  It was frightening.  I kinda wanted to take her to the ER that night but due to circumstances beyond my control I was unable to.  She survived but has been in pain ever since.  I took her the next day for a steriod shot, which helped but she still is suffering from rash-like patches and intense burning.  It’s been determined to be a reaction to medication, exacerbated by the sun.  I felt terribly sorry for her because I feel like it ruined her trip.  She had a great attitude and even went out on our last night there.  She donned a plastic unicorn head, but she went out.

There was drama (13 women?  Did I mention that?), there was laughter, there was friendship.  More than once throughout the weekend I saw girls make sacrifices for each other & forgive and forget. They thanked me repeatedly for things I did for them. We ate well, we rode to Seaside and shopped on our bikes, the girls all went out to dinner one night (except Ryder and myself 😦 ), there was a bonfire on the beach, we laid by the pool, I met two friends for meals out, I ran the girls to Chik-Fil-A in Panama City a time or two and we made many, many trips to Publix for groceries.  The water was cold, the wind was a little much, but as always, when I plant my feet on the soil of FL Hwy. 30-A, all my worries disappear.  I could live here.  I hope to live here.  And I miss the girls already.IMG_1447

“What Kind Of Camera Should I Buy?” – Part One

As a professional photographer, I am often asked, “What kind of camera do you recommend?”  This is not a simple question to answer, but after months (years?) of promising to address this, I am finally going to try.  After all, I put “click” in the title of my blog because I originally planned to share a bit of photographic knowledge with my readers each week.  Before I begin with specific camera choices, I would like to cover two topics.

#1 — It makes absolutely no difference if you have Nikon or Canon equipment.  I prefer Canon because I had a Canon film camera “back in the day” & that is what I am most comfortable with.  My dad, also a professional photographer, shoots both Canon AND Nikon.  You cannot tell a difference in print quality.  Rather than share more on this opinion since I don’t think it matters, you can go here to read more.  Ken Rockwell is well-respected in our industry & gives an excellent history of both brands. (I realize there are many other brands but those are the two leaders in reputation & quality.)

#2 — A specific camera will not make you a good photographer.  A motivated person with a willingness to learn, study the instruction manual & develop a basic understanding of light, can take award-worthy prints with a point & shoot camera.  Conversely, a fancy digital SLR* with 5 different lenses will not make you a good photographer unless you’re willing to invest the time to master the equipment.

So… that we have that out of the way, I would ask, “What do you intend to primarily photograph with your camera?”  If you would like a camera for good vacation photos & snapshots, you don’t want to spend a fortune, yet you would still like to have some creative control, I would recommend a high-end point & shoot camera.  If you intend to photograph sports, sell your prints online or think you will pursue a serious hobby or career in the field of photography, I recommend you purchase a digital SLR with interchangeable lenses.  This is a significant investment & cannot be done cheaply, though there is a trick that can save you some $$$ if you want to go that route.  (I’ll cover that tomorrow.)  Today, let’s cover the point & shoot.

Drum roll…my pick for the best point & shoot camera on the market is the Canon Powershot G15.  Before you freak out over the price, listen to me. I am generally asked what camera I recommend for the best pictures.  I have owned several cheaper cameras & I am convinced that for the many features, quality of prints & ease of use, it is WELL worth the money to spend roughly $500 on this camera.  It should last you for many, many years.  I took mine to Florida in 2012 and barely picked up my Canon 5D SLR.  Not only was it much, much lighter and more convenient to take from place to place, the picture quality was astounding.  It is a 12.1 megapixel camera, which basically means it takes very high quality photos/files and has the added bonus of 1080p full HD video capabilities.  The camera is very easy to learn to use and can be fully automatic or completely manual.  The zoom lens is 28-140mm & is very “fast” in low-light situations.  It has an attached flash but I rarely need to use it since you have full control over the ISO (what we used to call film speed–the camera’s sensitivity to light) in both manual and program modes.  I really can’t say enough good things about this camera.  It is also wonderful for professionals like me, who take a lot of pictures but do not want to risk wear & tear on their SLRs taking lots of personal snapshots & are tired of lugging their big cameras everywhere.  If you search the internet, you will find this camera ranging anywhere from $425-$499.  It is definitely worth it & locally (Little Rock) available at Best Buy.

Canon G15 front

If you would like to save even more and don’t mind buying a lightly used G15 or purchasing on Ebay, you can find some great deals.  You can also look for models from previous years, like the G12 (which I also own) or the G10, which fashion designer Tory Burch claims to carry with her. If Tory likes it, it has to be good, right?  Canon typically adds features each time that the model # changes so those cameras may not have as many megapixels or a lens as fast as the G15, but are still fine cameras if you can’t swing $499.  I can, however, only speak for the Sureshot cameras that have a “G” model number.  I have not used the other Sureshot cameras.  If you’re looking for a great source for used camera equipment, I buy almost everything from  If you don’t find what you are looking for on their website, call them because they often have equipment that is just not yet listed.  They are a reputable company that refurbishes what they sell so stick to EX or LN (excellent and like new, + or – after the rating is also ok) and you’ll be fine!

I don’t like to recommend cameras without showing examples, so here are a few examples of photos that I have taken with my G12 & G15.  The Colorado photos were all taken with the G15.  Almost all of these picture were taken on the program or full auto settings for convenience since I was on vacation.


It takes great portraits!



The G-series Sureshot cameras capture action well!


This was converted to black & white in Photoshop.



Excellent sunset photos – handheld!


IMG_1088cpy copy

Great color saturation!




It takes excellent photos in that tiny window between dusk & dark.






It captures goofy kids well!


Intense color saturation, even at night.


And finally, it allows you to override auto settings by shooting in manual mode (& in this case, manual focus) for creative control.

I hope this has been helpful in your search for a camera.  You really do get what you pay for & I hope if you are in the market you will consider going the extra mile and purchasing Canon’s G-series point and shoot cameras.  I don’t think you will be disappointed.

* SLR stands for single-lens reflex & these cameras are the ones with interchangeable lenses like the pros use.

“We’re goin’ to Jackson…..ain’t never comin’ back…”

Ok, we came back.  But who can resist a good June and Johnny reference when talking about Jackson, MS?  Before I tell you this story & before you ask, “Why Jackson?”, I should probably tell you something about myself.  I believe there are few, if any, cities, that don’t have something of interest to offer the traveler who passes through.  Some treasure to find.  History to seek.  Art & architecture.  People & food.  And often, yes, shopping.  We travel through Jackson every year on our way to the gulf coast of Florida.  We have eaten at Cracker Barrel, O’Charley’s, and Ruby Tuesday.  We have crashed at a Hampton Inn.  We have never taken the time to explore this southern city, the capital city of Mississippi.  And I knew in my heart there had to be more.

Soooo…..earlier this fall, I decided that a mother/daughter weekend was in order & my mom and I set out early one Saturday morning for Jackson.  Our first stop (after the donut shop) was Lake Village, AR.  I had never been to Paul Michael Co., a giant warehouse of decor and furniture that is based there,  so I wanted to stop there on the way.  I would be less than honest if I didn’t tell you I was underwhelmed.  Maybe the stuff just isn’t my style & it was somewhat picked over since it was near Christmas, but I think I escaped with a total expense of around $25.00, unheard of in these parts.  Another motive for choosing Jackson was knowing that the catalog At West End (AWE) is based there.  I wanted so much from their catalog this fall and I assumed they had a storefront too.  I was slightly wrong.  They have an outlet, very similar to Paul Michael, but with cooler, more “quirky” stuff.  I got out of there for less than $20.00 though!  Unfortunately for Chuck, I found many more places to swipe my debit card so he didn’t get off for less than $100.  But the important part is we had a GREAT time.  Let me take you on a little photo tour of our journey….

We started our day in Fondren, a historic neighborhood in Jackson with cute galleries, independent restaurants, antique & thrift shops & many cool, vintage signs…..We tried to eat at Walker’s but they were only open for dinner 😦

IMG_9845IMG_9849Is this storefront graphic not the cutest?
IMG_9862Along with some vintage Christmas ornaments, I snagged this vintage crewel embroidery piece in a thrift shop….

IMG_9897We stayed at the historic King Edward Hotel, downtown.  It is now a Hilton Garden Inn but they have done an excellent job of restoring it to it’s former glory, even going to the extent of keeping the King Edward rooftop sign.
The lobby was stunning….IMG_9901Me with my mom.  Thanks to the teenager in the lobby for snapping this…
IMG_9998We wanted to eat at the Mayflower Cafe, but the wait was too long.

IMG_9903So we ate here instead.  It was like stepping back in time.  A good meal.
When we got back to our room after dinner….I had a craft for us to do.  I know, right?  They turned out so cute.  I wish my picture was better.IMG_9917 The next morning, at our hotel, we ate these.

IMG_9926And this too. I’m telling you this breakfast was GOOD.  And there was so much more available than this.  I love the hotel life!IMG_9925The next day we drove around waiting for stuff to open.  I found a cathedral, because I most always find a cathedral.
IMG_9996We found more cool signs.  I’m not sure what part of Jackson has EVER had sand, but at one time this hotel was ultra-cool.  I’d love to have the money to restore it to “ultra-cool” again.
IMG_9938We saw the Governor’s Mansion.  Southern elegance at it’s finest.
IMG_9997 We shopped.  We found more cute boutiques.  We LOVED  Turkoyz in Highland Village.IMG_9974 IMG_9977After an Italian lunch in Ridgeland, MS, we headed for Oxford.  The town was shut down since school was out for break.  However, Square Books was open and I happened upon an autographed copy of Tony LaRussa’s book for Chuck’s Christmas present.  And my favorite restaurant in Oxford, Old Venice Pizza Co.  just happened to be open for dinner.  Who says you can’t have Italian twice in one day?  The square was lit beautifully.  It was worth the detour.
IMG_0011We did other stuff too.  We got lost looking for a flea market and ended up in the worst part of town. But hey, there were MORE cool, vintage signs to photograph!  We killed time in a Books-A-Million, we fed a homeless man our fruit, we drove around the Capitol building, we laughed, we got lost again in Oxford.  We had fun.  And we can’t wait to do it again.

Merry “Noelle”!

Vintage Love!

Vintage Love!

I grew up in a family that loved the holidays, none moreso than Christmas.  Even my dad loved to shop.  We would always hop in Dad’s super-sized 70’s Lincoln Town Car & head for St. Louis or Memphis to squeeze in one last shopping excursion before we opened presents.  I got the entire backseat to myself and we usually spent lots of time looking at lights & decorations.  I still love to see towns that go all out on their holiday decor.  Drape a banner between light poles at your town’s entrance & you have me for life.  Cute decorations on your telephone poles as I drive through your town??  Be still my heart!  Unfortunately, my children don’t seem to get the same awe-inspiring feeling when we drive them around to see lights.

Growing up with the name “Noelle”, I experienced soooo much frustration at never being able to find anything personalized.  Those kids that had pencils with their names on them? Not me.  Stickers that said, “Property of Noelle”?  You have to be kidding.  Those were reserved for the Tracys, Stacys and Maries of the world.  Even if you saw my name on Christmas decor, it was always “Noel”.

My grandma, Dorothy & I spent most every Saturday in Poplar Buff, MO shopping, taking baton lessons (yes, me) & visiting her sister, Phyllis & her crew.   My favorite destination was Newberry’s Department Store.  Not only did they have toys, but a REAL, honest-to-goodness lunch counter where you could take a break, hop up on a stool and enjoy a hot grilled cheese and cold, thick milkshake.  It was a small slice of heaven to me.  In fact, if I make it to heaven and it’s a Newberry’s store, I will be ecstatic.  One of my favorite things to buy was Christmas decorations.  Lights, ornaments, you name it.  Christmas was a big deal in our house.  So imagine my surprise when I stumbled up on a display of ornaments that were made by a company called NOELLE.  Not Noel.  NOELLE!!!  I was even more surprised to learn that they were manufactured at a facility in Poplar Bluff, MO, the very soil on which I stood.  I remember being so excited about this discovery that one time my dad drove me out to the plant just to show me that it did indeed exist.  The ornaments were not fancy.  They were pretty much just glass balls in various colors, but to me they were nothing short of gorgeous.  I have no clue the total number of boxes of these ornaments we must have purchased when I was small.  I wish I could say that I have a huge collection of them; that my grandma passed them all to me when she died.  The truth is they were lost.  My grandma swears our decorations were stolen from the outside storage shed she kept them in.  Possibly true.  But my grandma had so many unconfirmed crime stories that happened on our property, she should have been a novelist.  I don’t know where those ornaments are but I hope they’re enjoying a good home.

Well, imagine my surprise AGAIN, a few weeks ago, while enjoying a spur-of-the-moment trek through the Midtowne Antique Mall.  The box of NOELLE ornaments you see above?  $2.25!  Two dollars and twenty-five cents for a slice of my childhood that I never expected to encounter again.  I love them!  I will save that box forever.  The company went out of business after not too many years, if I remember correctly.  It’s a shame because when I walk through the stores today and see plastic ornaments and LED lights, I remember what it was like to have Christmas back when things were “real”.  And then my kids call me old for reminiscing, roll their eyes at me, and we move on.