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A couple of months ago, during the height of home renovation, Seattle photography classes and taking on extra articles at our paper, I was asked to do the Fall cover for the Methow Valley Arts Magazine.  It’s one of my favorite assignments.  I love working with artists, hearing their story and doing my best to capture that story in images.  It’s always a unique and interesting exchange.

This issue was dedicated to a local folk singer named Hank Cramer. 

We met for coffee and got to chat for a while.  His wife Kit, a high country wrangler, even joined us for a bit.  They’re really sweet people that have learned over the years what it means for Hank to be a professional singer.  In the process of his successful career, he’s recently been able to help find and produce some other talent (“no egos!”), which it seemed like has been really gratifying for him.  

They live on a ranch in Winthrop, Washington, with horses, dogs and a cat.  

Living in the Pacific Northwest, you may have heard of our wildfire situation pretty much all over our state, coming from Canada and from neighboring Montana, Oregon and California.  The smoke has been thick and intense all summer.  The day we scheduled to shoot, there was an apocalyptic yellow haze that hung in the sky like nicotine clouds.  Not having seen real sunshine for days, we just had to go with it and I did my best. 

I had dreams of horses backlit by golden hour sunlight and dust in the air.  However, without any real light, I’m not going to lie, it was a real struggle to make things interesting. 

Hank serenaded me with his folk music almost the entire time.  It was so nice, peaceful and comforting and yet many times I’d have to make him hold still.  A face captured while singing tends to be what it looks like when you put a movie on pause- ha!  

I think this one is my favorite of the outdoor portraits. 

If you read the biography on his website, you will see that he has traveled all over the country as a musician. It’s pretty incredible. 

I was feeling iffy about the outdoor shots.  I was concerned the haze would feel more gas mask/ war torn than folk singer’s dreamy ranch life, and wanted back-up options. I asked him if we could go inside to get a few more.  I’m soooo glad I did!  He has a little guest house and for whatever reason, the light and the booth reminded me of a cowboy’s early morning cup o’ joe, when the world is quiet, the sun is just waking up to a big day of work ahead. 

Not to mention, I LOVE the moodiness of window light.  The contrast of dark and light can be really haunting and lovely to me.  This is probably my favorite of the indoor portraits. 

And this is probably my favorite of all the shots that day… I just love the light on a musician’s hands.

Since this shoot, I haven’t picked up a camera.  I haven’t edited a picture.  Between all that has been going on to get our home ready for the market, two Seattle photography classes that were within two weeks of each other, this shoot and editing, all while being pregnant with stress fractures in my feet (podiatrist appointment on Thursday- YESSSSSS)…Oh!  And taking on extra article at our paper because our poor editor was down for the count for a couple of months with some crazy back virus…  It was a LOT.  

Now that the house is clean, I pretty much spend all of my extra time meditating.  Ha!  No, really. No check lists, no to do’s, no hundreds of photos to edit… I’ve barely kept in touch with people.  Anything that feels like panic or work or ‘I have to’ has been shelved.  It has been the most amazing few weeks.  I would even use the word BLISS. 

I also packed up all of my baking stuff to make the house look less cluttered, so no baking 24-7 temptations there.  It’s like every instinct in me is saying, “It’s fall- you’re supposed to be making apple pie!”  No, Habit.  I’m really not.  I actually bought a pie at the store yesterday.  Ha!  I BOUGHT A PIE!!!  (Granted the pies at our bakery are kick ass, but still…)

Not to mention, the storage on my laptop is completely full with the photos I have on it. I couldn’t import anything new if I tried!  I bought a monstrosity of an external hard drive months ago in Seattle but the idea of spending time transferring photos right now sounds like a panic attack waiting to happen.  It sounds like death.  Instead, I’m just SO super enjoying the peace, resting in the quiet and recharging as best I can because I know when this house sells, our Relocate-to-California Adventure will require a lot of energy.  

Once we get there, I will be grateful to pick up the ol’ girl again.  Photograph my growing belly, our new life… But in the meantime, I’m focusing on gratitude for what I have right now, manifesting new owners for our adorable cozy cabin and taking in all the beauty our little place has offered us while I still can.  

The past year has been an education in putting away the Type A, 60 hours a week, money is everything, workaholic mentality to learn the joys of a work/life balance.  As dramatic as it sounds, it has been life changing. Now I’m learning what it means to be still.  In that stillness, I’m finding that who I am isn’t defined by work– or even more so, creativity or the projects I’ve finished, it’s who I am in the quiet that is actually me.  The crazy thing is that in doing nothing, I’m not even remotely bored.  I’m just in utter gratitude.  

I’m curious how this all plays out when our little one joins us, crying at three in the morning, needing constant attention.  Maybe the angels know how important this time is for me– to really know and recognize the spiritual being in this physical body bag before our lives flip upside down.  Whatever happens, big changes are ahead and I feel like I’m looking on a future that is so different and incredible than one I’ve ever lived, I literally have tears of gratitude and I don’t even know why yet. 

Also, I love our little Baby Soul… I finally felt a real kick the other night.  WOW.  She was dancing up a storm on her ultrasound the next day.  I can’t wait to meet her… Yes, big changes are ahead.  I know it is going to be such a special time.  As backwards as it seems, it’s– strangely– making me insanely grateful for every moment of right… now. 

 

When I found out we were pregnant, something resonated in me:  “Do it differently, Amanda.”

As I’ve previously shared, I’d always been terrified I’d end up the neurotic mom from ‘Modern Family.’ Was I going to lose myself?  Would I become a high maintenance control freak? Would my life revolve around my children?  Would I end up trying to keep up with the Jones’ like our American culture demands? Would financial constraints turn me into a resentful monster?  

Part of me also couldn’t shake icky feelings from my days as a server in Los Angeles, waiting on moms who expected everyone’s existence to revolve around their very special children.  A-very special children.  Or rather, audacious moms and dads, that expected you to be a babysitter, allowing kids to play in the middle of an aisle with an entire backpack of sprawled out toys while you’re serving hot coffee in a tight diner setting.  UGH.  It can leave a bad taste in your mouth for sure.  

But when a friend recently asked what I meant by wanting to do motherhood differently, I was dumbfounded to be at a loss.  What the heck did I mean?  Where does this idea resonate from? Am I just totally full of shit?!  My kid is sure to the color on the walls– I’m not that naive, but how do I want to do it differently?  

In the brief moments I have to actually connect with Baby Soul, I let this idea marinate.  I asked my friend Stacer (now Aunt Stacer!!!) to send me articles about unconventional parenting and like the pro that she is, she has supplied me with articles and podcasts about living minimally, or selling everything to travel the world.  Thus far, I’ve hinted to my sweetie, nothing says good parenting like zip lining through the jungles of Africa and he wasn’t having it.  HE NEVER LETS ME DO ANYTHING!!!!  *hogs remote to watch 127th hour of HGTV* 😉

Before getting pregnant I watched ‘Captain Fantastic.’  SUCH A GOOD MOVIE!!  It’s such an unknown, little independent gem.  If I had the Harvard education and insane physique, I would be over the moon to raise my kids off the grid in the mountains.  Well, “Power to the people!” minus the plot twists.  😉  

Talking with my BF (now Aunt BF!!!) about our shared love of this movie, she suggested I read some queer parenting literature.  After scratching my head for a minute, she mentioned it’s Unconventional Parenting 101.  DUH.  Very true! That’s kind of a brilliant idea. 

I also began thinking about parents I did admire.  Friends that have traveled to Mexico or Italy with their newborn and haven’t let being parents stop them.  Parents that brought their kids to every social party their friends were throwing because having kids wasn’t going to stop them from a social life.  Parents that are still making music videos or auditioning despite being moms and dads.  Parents where the mom brings home the bacon and dad plays Mr. Mom.  Etc, etc, etc… 

In a podcast, I remember Elizabeth Gilbert (now Aunt Liz!!!!)  sharing a story about her mother going into her room and shutting the door behind her two kids.  They knew that for an hour every day, it was mommy’s writing time.  Soon, mommy’s writing time became Liz’s writing time and she still recalls the impact that had on her as a young girl.  She didn’t view it as selfish or mean, it’s just what mom does and it taught them to play on their own and develop their own creativity. WHAT A GIFT!!!

In my ‘Psychic Teachers’ podcast with Deb Bowen and Samantha Fey (LOVE THIS PODCAST!), Samantha talks about doing the same.  Once nap time was over for her girls at a certain age, she introduced ‘alone time.’  The girls would spend an hour a day doing their own thing alone in their room.  They write, they listen to music, etc. This allows their mom to spend time mediating or having the alone time she desperately needs as a psychic to cleanse and get her work done. Not to mention the girls have learned to love it as well!

Obviously, I’m still figuring it out (and have a sneaky suspicion I will be for the rest of my life 😉 ) but what I do know is that I don’t want to live in fear.  I would love for my kid to backpack through Europe after high school. I would love for Baby Soul to learn to fix cars and ride motorbikes like her dad.  Why not a Mother/Baby Soul photography adventure through Brazil?  Maybe a culinary adventure through Paris?  (Nothing says ‘Make mommy dinner, kid!’ like French cheeses!)  Maybe hiking the PCT?  Maybe it just means we don’t let our (potential) daughter watch Disney princess movies because there’s more to life than finding a man.  I don’t know! 

Painting an elephant in Jaipur would be pretty cool to do with Baby Soul? (Ten year visa!) The men who take care of these elephants in India literally live with them in their cement ‘houses.’ The elephants are so well loved, they are practically family members.

But I will love this adventure…  🙂  And I would LOVE to hear what ‘doing it different’ means to you.  Any ideas you’ve had or stories you’d like to share, it would be a LOT of fun to brainstorm.  Not to mention would help a sista’ out.  xoxo

 

 

 

 

Wow.  Life.  Summer. Craaaaaazy… anybody else?  Damn, Gina!!

There are 4,598 things going on and while some days I feel like I am hanging on by a thread, most of it is exciting stuff– part of which, is what I am FINALLY sharing with you today.  🙂

I’d say the scales started to tip in my creative/exciting & time crunching/hair pulling favor, when I got to collaborate with THIS girl!

Everyone, meet Jess.  

She is ADORABLE.  

The fabulous Ms. Jessica DaCosta is an artist and ‘sculptress’ that specializes in copper, and more specifically, copper weathervanes.  So freaking cool.  You can check out her Facebook page here.

But she also does super fun stuff like pointed elf ears!

One of her sketches… 

And she does these fabulous masks… 

Jess was chosen by Methow Arts to be their featured artist for their summer magazine and I was lucky enough to get to do the shoot! 

A lot of her work is very magical which was a match made in heaven.  Some of her weathervanes have fairies or mermaids, phoenix (!!!) and so we decided to play with the whimsy and magic of her work… 

Her business is also called ‘CopperMaiden’ so I liked the idea of photographing her as such.  Those photos are later… In the meantime, we spent our time in some magical aspens and did our best to blow glitter.  Ha! 

I love the below photo… Not because it’s technically or compositionally great… I just caught her in this gorgeous moment laughing and you really get a sense of her girlish spirit.  

She also made this crown out of fantastic antlers… She’s such a sorceress!  🙂

Crystal balls… *swoon*

She was SUCH a trooper… We shot two days.  One was at her shop and the next day, we squeezed hundreds of photos into a few hours. 

This girl was up for anything and I think it really paid off.  

We had her wade in the river for some photos that weren’t my favorite.  But I wanted to include this one because you can see her fish weathervane below to the left and in her hand she’s holding a copper fairy!!!  I just love her work…

And then later, we got to transform her into the The CopperMaiden!  🙂 🙂 🙂

She let me put foil on her face and although you can’t tell too much, her face is covered in copper face paint.  We also through pieces of metal, glitter, crystal balls and God knows what else in her hair. Fearless!  It was so much fun… 

These turned out very Mid-Summer Night’s Dream to me… 

I really love to tell stories with my camera so I tend to gravitate toward documentary portraiture.  I looove to interview someone, hear their guts and really do my best to try and capture their story in a photo.  

The challenge with the Methow Arts’ shoots, however, is that I’m not the one doing the interviewing.  Jess and I had to get to know each other real quick, but she was so brave, fearless and trusting.   If these photos are successful at all, its all because of her! 

This is my favorite.  I love the light, the colors… it’s very summery to me. I think she looks gorgeous. 🙂  *swoon*  

If only she were prettier, ya know?  😉

And because I don’t get to do these more artistic, super creative shoots often, I really had a blast playing with any and every preset known to man. Ha! Presets are kind of to Lightroom/Photoshop what filters are to Instagram.  With documentary portraiture, you really want to stay as true as possible to the subject or the story you’re telling.  So I don’t tend to use them too much.  However, when a shoot allows for total, complete, chaotic and creative process? Presets can be SUPER fun.  🙂

This is super Lord of the Rings to me with her magical elven ears… *swoon*  🙂

It certainly doesn’t hurt that she’s a super gorgeous girl! 

She also had this gorgeous dress with all this COLOR… Ugh.  Makes the job so much easier.  🙂

I think this photo is interesting, too.  Technically, her foil is blown out but the dreaminess of it, makes me come back to it… (Sometimes ya can’t help but like what ya like!)

Also, Jess is TOTALLY a shapeshifter!!!  In this photo, I think she looks a bit like Jennifer Love Hewitt.  There are times she just looks like a Vogue model and other times, she was channeling Katy Perry.  I’m great at channeling Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids, you know what I’m saying?  But I’ll take it…  😉

She took so many beautiful shots, and I had such creative fun, I had a really hard time which photos I liked most.  And even worse, knowing what to send to the magazine!

Our try at glitter again… Note to self:  Next time use strobes.  Also, who wants to carry around strobes?  😉

All in all, it was SUCH an honor.  You can read the Methow Arts Magazine article here written by Marcy Stamper.  

And while I’m saying a lot about how gorgeous Jess is, it speaks nothing to who she is as an artist.  And even moreso, just the fact she’s a doll of a human being.  

This girl is ALL heart.  I can tell she’s intuitive and connected.  She manifests her own magic… A ‘sculptress’ indeed!

AND TOTALLY ADORABLE!!!!

I hope you enjoyed these photos!  Please be sure to check out her work!!  She is currently taking orders WORLD WIDE!!!  I will say I knew her when…  🙂 

Thanks for the honor, Jess!  xoxo

 

JESSICA DACOSTA INFO: 

Instagram and twitter:  @coppermaiden.

Her Facebook page is @weathervaneartistry:  https://www.facebook.com/WeathervaneArtistry/

And her website is:  http://www.coppermaiden.com

 

When I think back on 2016, it all seems like a bit of a blur.  It was hard.  I was insanely tired. Burned out. Depressed, anxious, confused, unbalanced;  I felt stuck.  For me, a personal emotional rollercoaster for various reasons. Needless to say, when I stopped to really think of what actually took place, I was shocked. I had forgotten SO much!!! Despite those feelings that made it challenging, 2016 was was an epic year of highlights, a million firsts that will forever change my life. I guess a good reminder to myself that everything doesn’t have to be perfect for life to begin.

I couldn’t begin to tell you how I could top this year so ironically, I’m trepidatious to get into 2017.  But I promise you this, I am TOTALLY open to it being even better!  🙂  

Today, I’m reflecting in gratitude all of the great moments of 2016.  Later tonight, I’m gonna dream big for 2017.  

Here is my list of Top 10 things that happened in 2016 that made it a year I’ll never forget:

  1.  I MARRIED MY SWEETIE!!
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Photo By: Stillpoint Photography

Okay, duh. So I totally remembered getting married.  😉  In an amazing feat, my family and friends pulled off our wedding.  Folks came in from all over the country, every one pitched in.  It really is the best day of your life.  You’re marrying your best friend but also all of these people in your life remind you how much they love you?  It leaves you feeling pretty incredible. 

If only my dad loved me more…  😉

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Photo By: Stillpoint Photography

2.  I WENT TO INDIA!!!!  

India was my first foray into traveling abroad. I used my passport and visa for the first time ever and it felt amazing. We went to Delhi, Agra, Alwar and Jaipur… We got to see a ton, took a cooking class, visited the Taj Mahal, spent time at an orphanage and rode an elephant!  I got to paint her, ride her and give her a nice bath.  Elephants are so warm and leathery.  I loved her.  🙂

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There’s so much to say about India and yet I barely remember it now.  I do my best to live through the photos.  I remember thinking I should be keeping a journal but I didn’t know what to say.  It felt just like rehashing the day.  Now, I totally wish I had.  I forget EVERYTHING. I’m also pretty sure I’ve lost a good chunk of my photos.  I guess that will teach me to use a proper workflow.  

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I literally took thousands of pictures in India.  It overwhelms me to think about how to share them in a way that a) won’t make me crazy and b) that will do the experience justice. I’ve decided it’s pretty much impossible.    

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3.  WE GOT OUR BABIES!!!

There is something about raising little kitties from the time they are just babies.  I am totally their mama!!!  They are so snuggly and comforting… stinky and annoying… But I wouldn’t trade them for the world.  They totally have my heart. And their paws on my face. Sniff, sniff… 

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We got Sophelia The Great and Thomas in early July.  They have gotten so big!!! Wahhhhhh!!!!  Little Thomas we sometimes call ‘Fat Cat’ because he scarfs as much as he can during feedings knowing he has to share!  This morning, as soon as just a few pieces of kitten chow were in the bowl, his head was in there.  I literally had to pour food on top of his head to get it in the bowl. It’s crazy. Poor Sophie just sits there until Thomas pulls back for a breath.  Sophie is still Little Sophie but her name has also morphed into Sophatilla and then Tilla or Little Tilla…  Thomas has the big black patch on his face, Sophie has the little wisp… I love them so  much.

“Come play with us Danny…”

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When I think of how small they were when we first got them… I CANNOT EVEN HANDLE IT.   

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My heart literally aches.  I want to cry ugly tears, dry heave for hours.  Whatever… I just… it is literally painful to think of my babies as babies… 

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4)  OUR FIRST TRIP TO STEHEKIN!

I’ll share more about Stehekin in another blog but if you get the chance to go, do it!  It is a tiny town (?) at the very northern tip of Lake Chelan. 

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My honey and I went after the wedding for a few days to visit our friend Tammy, the most exceptional host.  It was so quiet and peaceful, even despite a terrible cold!  Not to mention gorgeous…

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5) FIRST YEAR WITH MY DSLR!

Talk about life changing… For the first time in my life I had $1500 saved for no reason.  That was the exact amount it was being sold for on our local bulletin board.  A Nikon D7000 with a shutter count of 200 that included a bunch of lenses, bag, cards, etc.  It was a steal and I just knew it was meant to be.  Who needs savings?!  😉   I literally can’t imagine my life without it. Technically I bought the camera in November of 2015 but I was too overwhelmed to really use it till this year. One of my first shots… I look back on this period of my picture taking and it makes me nauseous.  Ha!  All part of the learning curve, a lifelong journey, and I’m overwhelmed by what I still need to learn… but nauseating nonetheless!

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6)  OUR TRIP TO LA!

So much to say about this trip as well!  I’ll be sharing these travel blogs as well very soon! We drove along the coast and it rained nonstop… Despite it all, we had a really great time!

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It was all sunshine when we got to Los Angeles… 

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We went to our friends’ Halloween party…

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Walked around Grand Central Market…   🙂

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7) I LAUNCHED MANDICROCKER!

My little outlet where I get to create lots of fun content, share my experiences and projects… It’s a lot of fun.  A LOT OF WORK.  But I have my fingers crossed that this opens up the doors for it to be a paid gig, or even more, opens doors to be able to travel and shoot.  I would love the inspiration/human interest part of this website to become its own thing maybe?  Who knows!   I love doing it all but I think experiencing a new place through the lens is my favorite form of expression right now. We’ll see!  Again, I’m open to it being whatever it is supposed to… even if it’s just for me!  🙂 

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8)  I BECAME A PAID WRITER!

It occurred to me that I also started writing my Mazama column for the Methow Valley News this year! It is such a little baby stipend each month but it technically makes me a paid writer. AND it is totally a stipend that helps! It is a huge challenge to write these every week.  For starters, there’s not too much happening around these parts, I usually have very little time to put into them but the weekly deadline keeps me disciplined.  I also got to do a couple of side articles for our supplications as well!  Click here if you’d like to read one!  

9)  I BECAME A PAID PHOTOGRAPHER!

Every season, we have a Methow Arts Magazine that comes out locally.  I was asked to do the photography for the Fall Season’s artist, Rick Swanson. It was a HUGE learning curve for me.  I was probably asked to do it before I was ready but I think its important to say yes and trust what the universe brings into your life. 

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I also started doing paid portraits, headshots and family photos– another learning curve but a LOT of fun!

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My seester is soooo pretty.  🙂  🙂  🙂

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10)  SISTER TRIP TO SEATTLE!

We are not sisters that typically vacation together. Usually our incomes allow us to merely survive in big cities, let alone have anything extra, but this year we made it happen.  

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It was a bit of a whirlwind… But when the Sisters Three are together, all is as it should be. 

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SO A LOT OF AWESOME SHIT, RIGHT????  And these are all big events!  That doesn’t even begin to cover other little things that happened.  My friend Glen came to visit us, etc.  That’ll learn me!  

Anyway, I hope everyone has a wonderful New Year’s Eve and heads into 2017 with full hearts and big dreams.  Anything and everything is possible.  I’m going to do my best to remember how great 2017 is while I’m living in it this time!  😉

Mandi

 

Most people that know my mom know that she spent over 20 years in the mental health field.  It took her to the brink of sanity on many occasions.  Especially the last five years, I could just tell that my mom was soooo very unhappy. I would always ask her if it was really worth it to wait it out. She just kept her eyes on the prize of retirement.  

What most people don’t know is that my mom is an artist.  She draws. She sings. She painted a beach scene on my sister’s wall when I was little that I’ve never forgotten.  She likes to put all of her kids’ creative success solely on their fathers.  She is such a creative person, but to raise four kids, lived in art-less, uninspired ‘mom-survival mode.’  So many moms I know do this!  She not only downplayed her artist instinct but she almost squelched it like a bad memory.  You would never know by the way she lived her life.  Now that she is in retirement she seems happy as a little clammy jay bird! She has redecorated and repainted parts of the house.  She’s actually taking the time to breathe and think about herself for once, a relief to all of her kids.

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I Relaxed the Day After Christmas.

 

I’m on the phone with her this week and she tells me she took a ‘sip and paint’ class– one of those classes where you get to paint a picture and drink wine.  She thought it was so  much fun but was slightly annoyed that there were lines on the canvas to stay within, and that she couldn’t paint her tree the way she wanted.  Finally, she just resolved that she was was just going to paint her tree the way she wanted anyway!  There was a hint of law-breaking rebel in her voice that I adored.  HELLO, ARTIST MUCH!!??? Most people are SO content to stay within the lines and do it ‘right’ so that they have a pretty picture to instagram.  Just the idea that my mom got out of the house to do something creative made me soooo very happy (and happy for the other folks there creating, too!) She said it inspired her to buy some paints and a canvas. WHAT IS HAPPENING?!!!

Can you imagine if my mom locked herself in a room once a day and actually did something creative for herself the past 20 years?  How much happier she probably would have been?  

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I Planted My Garden

 

This Inspiration tab is for sharing stories that I find  courageous, brave and inspirational, for sure, but I also created this page for the Artists, Creatives and Creators.   I believe wholeheartedly that there is an artist in all of us.  Maybe we’re not all Picassos but who cares!?  That is the point.   We all are uniquely creative and have a muse inside us that loves to create for the joy of it.  If you watch ‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi’ you realize even a career in raw fish can be inspiring. 

I believe our culture has trained us to look at creativity and artistry as frivolous, totally selfish, unpractical and unnecessary, an utter tragedy in my mind.  How many mid life panic attacks do we have to have, second homes do we have to buy to keep ourselves happy and socially ‘okay?’  What if part of that hole that needs filling is creation?  The joys of childhood that were stifled with words like ‘responsibility’ and ‘logic’ and ‘career’ and ‘success.’  Most of us, myself included, are perfectionists… “If I can’t do it perfectly, what’s the point?” or “If it’s not amazing art, I shouldn’t share it.” What about the tried and true-less: “It’s just too late to start that now.”

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I Self-Cared In a Warm Bath of Epsom Salts.

 

Creating art isn’t about finding self worth in our ‘likes’ or in the money we make as artists.  It is about the joy that it brings us– which is far from frivolous, if anything it helps maintain our balance as humans.  We also can’t wait for everything to be perfect before we begin. How can we ever become great artists if we aren’t creating regularly?  For every photo I like, I’ve taken 200 photos I’ve hated.  Get me? Maybe in ten years, I’ll have one great photo.  But I am so happy to live for that one great photo. 

Take a moment to think about how amazing this planet would be if more people concerned themselves less with clean houses, making money, being martyrs to their families, letting fear rule, <insert a million other excuses here>, and just created?  Shared it fearlessly and without expectation? Art, music, books, photos, gardens, trifles, pottery, drum lessons, landscaping, dance classes, etc, etc, etc… 

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I Took Photos of Our Kittens Rather Than Murder Them For the Mess They Made

 

This year I started working on a series of photos I’ve titled ‘The Mess Series.’  It occurred to me just how much time I spend cleaning each day and how little time I spent doing something creative.  The clutter constrains me, I say.  Well, bullshit.  I decided I wasn’t going to do that to myself anymore.  Out of self and creative care, it was no longer allowed.  Rather than clean, I take a picture of the mess and the title becomes what I’ve done instead.  It is a work in progress but a series that has really helped me to put my inner artist first, find peace in the chaos (a great practice for life anyway!) and kick my excuses to the curb. 

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I Hiked Maple Pass

These photos are some of the un-award winning pictures I’ve been taking.  It also helps me deal with being comfortable in my own skin as messes are personal, can be judged and posting them can feel vulnerable.  A statement for how we live our lives really.  I hope they inspire you to put aside your own excuses and create. This series is a work in progress so most of these won’t end up in the final project, I would imagine.  But because they mean something to me as an artist, they are worth sharing for now to make a point.  THINGS THAT MEAN SOMETHING TO US ARE WORTH SHARING, HOMIES!!! 

At the very least, CREATE.  Okay, rant over.  🙂  

I have a HUGE fire under my butt this upcoming year– not to accomplish but to create.  For the JOY of it!  I have projects I want to start, things I want to say, feelings that need to come out in a healthy way.  I really hope you’ll join me.  Please share your thoughts in the comments below! I’d love to hear what you’re working on! xoxo.

Mandi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October was a terrific whirlwind and to be frank, totally kicked my ass!  I was prepping desserts for the event at our local theater, I had a friend in town, I was transitioning into a new job and had hardly gotten any sleep.  All that to say, our trip to Los Angeles and drive down the coast, to put it quaintly, was hardly planned.   All I really knew was that Lliam was planning our first two nights, the rest was totally open and eventually we would make it to Los Angeles.  

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We were so behind on laundry and packing, we didn’t leave till mid morning that first Monday.  Whenever I road trip, I always leave bright and early with a big cup of coffee, and sometimes even my favorite song at the time on pause ready to go.  That was not this trip.  Ha!  Thankfully, my dear friend Tammy put together this awesome little snack pack for us.  I never thought we’d get into it, with so many intentions of eating our way down the coast…  But as we soon learned, there were a lot of things that were going to be unexpected on this trip! 

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For starters, it downpoured as soon as we got on the road. Despite our late start, the non-stop rain, and windy roads that made me want to barf, we eventually made it to Klickitat– population 400.  It is a beautiful little nook of a place, and Lliam knew of a campground. There was still daylight when we arrived which concerned me a little bit.  To get down the coast and enjoy all the ‘great spots’ to see south of us in California, I was beginning to worry that we should have gone farther our first night.  Regardless, we hadn’t yet stopped all day so we were ravenous by the time we arrived.  There was one place in Klickitat to eat: The Huntington Steakhouse.  

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I’m no stranger to a good dive bar…  And maybe it was the scarcity of the season, the deathly quiet hunter drinking solo, the smell of rotted, warped ceilings or the creepy dull noise of Dallas Cowboys football in the background… but I was kind of terrified.  I couldn’t help but think this was either a Dexter kill room location or the most amazing dive bar I’d ever been to!  The jury was still out when Krampus arrived… 

 

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The entire ceiling was covered in ‘graffiti.’ I couldn’t fathom that this place ever had people in it, let alone became enough of a ‘party place’ that it would have ‘3am party graffiti,’ but clearly this was the place to be (at some point in the night and at some point in the year). Living in a tourist town, I get the ebb and flows of the season, so this was especially fascinating. Various signatures, phone numbers and crazy stories talking about the ‘greatest night of my life’, going back decades even, were scrawled on the rotted ceiling.   

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We ordered burgers and fries and a couple of beers (which I hear is a mistake because supposedly the steaks are truly awesome).  After our bellies were full, knowing we had reached our destination, we were able to stop long enough to remember, ‘Oh, right.  We get to relax now.’

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We opted out of the Duck Fart Cheesecake.  Lliam was ‘full’, a concept I’m not sure I’ve ever understood.  This added to some ‘feelings’ I had been experiencing throughout the day and previous month.  You have to understand that my intention of driving down to Los Angeles was initially a romantic one.  It involved me and my dreamboat inner adventurer.  Okay, and Hannah Honda.  A titillating threesome!  This was to be the kick off of the traveling portion of this website.  I would get to document experiences and eat new foods, photographing places I’d been to previously but didn’t have a DSLR at the time.   Whatever I felt like doing!  Whatever I felt like sharing!  Exciting…  I love flying solo!  

When Lliam said he was able to go, I was excited because I love my honey… and yet… I was also concerned.  He kept calling it ‘our vacation.’  It made my eye twitch.  A vacation is what you do with cocktail drinks in the Keys.  Adventuring, as a woman on her own, requires some fearlessness, your hands behind the wheel, a few breathless moments,  a whiff of audacity… Not that a totally safe trip down the coast is like peeing on a train in India but you’re not supposed to be entirely comfortable.  ‘A vacation’ is totally comfortable.

Needless to say, on MY adventure, whether or not I was full, I would have dove head first into anything called Duck Fart Cheesecake.  I mean, how could you NOT?  It’s practically a dare!  Sadly, the “I ate the Duckfart Cheesecake and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” part of the adventure never happened and I did my best to let it go.  We got to our campsite and set up for the night.  It was cold. And it was raining…still.  What was this– October??? Oh.  Right. 

The next morning we got started… you know, again… ‘early enough.’  I hadn’t slept well.  Lliam told me we were really close to Portland.  He had been at the helm; I had no idea we were so close! Portland is home to many amazing eateries but one of my favorites of all time is a Lebanese restaurant called Nicholas Restaurant.  It is, by far, one of the most amazing eating experiences I’ve ever had.  At seven thirty in the morning, on a ‘vacation,’ however, Lebanese food wasn’t going to happen. On MY adventure, I would have kept going the night before or I would have hung out in Portland for a few hours to eat at this amazing place.  Food is part of the adventure to me. I am totally THAT girl. 

I was grateful, however, when Lliam found us Mugs Coffeeshop in Bingen for breakfast.  It was dry.  It was warm.  They had a bathroom.  I wanted to lay my head on this sweet, soft puppy and commiserate on how we ‘couldn’t even’ today.  It took a little longer than we thought as they were pretty slammed but we’d make up time on the road… Right?

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We finally get back on Route 14 and I trepidatiously throw out the word ‘donuts.’  Could we squeeze it in? I mean, if you can’t Lebanese, at least you can donut (the other t-shirt in progress), because Portland is also home to Blue Star Donuts! While I was a little nervous about making a stop so early in the day, after we really hadn’t gone that far, Lliam said that sounded fun.  A win!!!  I kept trying to explain the pictures I would need to take because ‘really this is, you know, a work trip.’  

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A few minutes later, he mentions he had planned to stop at Beacon Rock right up the road.  Um… Okaaaaay. Sure, cool.  Quick photo op. Here’s where I’m going to say, dear friends, that it’s not that I didn’t want my honey’s input on the trip. Not at all.  It’s that I didn’t want his input to be a surprise! He then says there’s a mile trail up this big rock with great views at the top like we have all the time in the world!!!  My mind became a calculator and I started doing the math on miles, hours, minutes, etc.  This was not part of the day’s plan!  He never mentioned it!  I wasn’t going to give up the donuts!  NOT AFTER MISSING DUCK FART CHEESECAKE. 

With another late start, a lot of miles to go before we sleep and a stop in Portland half an hour away, how on earth were we ever going to get down the coast to enjoy all the places I actually wanted to photograph let alone arrive on time for our friends’ Halloween party!? It was also windy and cold!  I wasn’t dressed for hiking or a trail or whatever the #!$% this thing was… Putting all of these things together, my mind began freaking out.  And freaking out is NOT how I like to adventure. I’m not sure how much he knew I was in my head but I just kept telling myself there were donuts on the end of this stupid hike. I also knew how much my mind was being a little shit. 

Note:  Maybe after I take a photoshop class, I’ll know how to remove the purple from the bars of this photograph.  Lightroom brushes weren’t having it! 

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As much as I hated to admit it, despite the cold and nasty wind, the fresh air did me some good;  And God knows, I will do anything for a donut. 

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Everything around us was gorgeous.  I knew being present and grateful was a better solution.  But it’s always so annoying to drop the ego!!!

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I mean, if it wasn’t for my sweetie, I would have missed beautiful Beacon Rock!  

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There would have been no Klickitat campground.  No beautiful, windy, barfy drive. Certainly no steakhouse with a back of house kill room. 

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I totally would have missed this cute slug!!!  My honey is always so curious and always looks around.  He catches the little things I miss constantly. 

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The trail continued to climb and climb… Every time I began to question how long we were gone, I just let it go like a tried and true Disney Princess. 

 

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I later read on Wikipedia that in 1805 Lewis & Clark were here along the Columbia River, measuring the tides to know how close they were to the ocean.  I’m not gonna lie… They kinda had the adventure thing down.  Maybe we weren’t so far off? I began questioning if I really needed to put my adventuring into a box… 

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What if I let go of my plans and expectations and decided I was just on vacation with my hubby?  Would that be the worst thing in the world?  

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Far from it.  While I  might not have gotten any real work done, it would definitely be night and day more enjoyable!  

Note:  Lliam’s face in this picture cracks me up… He just needs some bear skins and he would look like Leonardo in ‘The Revenant.’  Ha!   🙂

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Beacon Rock is a an 848 feet tall monolith composed of basalt.  Lewis & Clark actually named it Beaten Rock, then later renamed it Beacon Rock.  It was also known as Castle Rock for a while (random!) but changed back to Beacon Rock in 1915.  It was also 1915 when Henry Biddle purchased the rock for $1 with the sole purpose of creating a trail to the top.  Construction took three years and the trail consisted of 51 switchbacks, handrails and bridges. 

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As you can see, the trip to the top was totally a waste of time… Worst day EVER. 

 

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Let this be a reminder to all of us that get stuck in our heads when traveling… Sometimes its good to change up our expectations.  You might actually end up in the steps of great explorers without even knowing it.   

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Thanks for coming along with me… Portland is next!  Where are YOU headed!???