Category Archives: Photography

Vacation recap

We just got back Monday evening from a much-needed vacation, and I’ve been covering a murder trial all week, so I just got a hand free to start Photoshopping some images.

We left as soon as we finished up at the copy desk in the wee hours of the morning Aug. 10 and drove straight through to Tucumcari, because I hadn’t been out there in 20 months, hadn’t had a proper vacation in two years, and simply could not be bothered with such niceties as sleep until I got a lungful of high desert air.

We’d been on the road somewhere around 12 hours when we rolled through Erick, Okla., on Route 66 and passed a familiar rust-covered sign standing sentinel over a pasture near Texola:

I’ve always loved this sign between Erick and Texola, Okla.

At Vega, Texas, I insisted on stopping for a photo op with the mascot for Rooster’s Mexican restaurant. If you’re a fan of The Bloggess, you know why this was important.

Knock-knock. Vega, Texas.

As soon as we reached New Mexico, I insisted on stopping at Russell’s Travel Center in Endee so I could pick up one of their awesome green chile burritos before we went on to Tucumcari. Do I even have to tell you where we stayed?


Despite having been up for 38 hours — and on the road for a good 18 of them — I woke up at 6:30 the next morning, feeling more refreshed than I had at any point in the past two years. Once Ron got up, we loaded the car, grabbed breakfast at Kix on 66 (green chile breakfast burrito) and headed for Santa Rosa.

Santa Rosa, N.M. Practicing Bob Dylan covers on a crappy student guitar I picked up for $80 at Hastings.
Santa Rosa, N.M. Photo by Ron.

We visited the Rudolfo Anaya monument, where I sat under a tree, quietly playing Bob Dylan covers and singing to myself. We also wandered down the park trail, trying out the outdoor exercise equipment the city has put in since my last visit. (I was, of course, inspired to add “build outdoor gym in backyard” to my to-do list for my next creative outburst.) After Santa Rosa, we took the old alignment of 66 up to Santa Fe, making a short detour to Las Vegas, N.M., to see Allan Affeldt’s latest project — an old Harvey House called La Castaneda that he recently acquired and plans to restore. We spent some time poking around the interesting little shops downtown, which I highly recommend.

La Castaneda.
La Castaneda.

We got an order of green chile cheese fries — which I’d been craving for two solid years — at El Parasol in Santa Fe before heading to Albuquerque, where I broke my green chile streak with a trip to the Dog House for a (red) chili dog. We stayed at the Monterey Non-Smokers’ Motel, which was comfortable as always, and grabbed green chile breakfast burritos at the Frontier Restaurant before heading out of town.

Owl Rock, west of Albuquerque, N.M.
Owl Rock, west of Albuquerque, N.M.

In Gallup, we went to Aurelia’s Diner, where I consumed what might be the greatest thing ever invented: a “green parfait,” which is a parfait glass full of mashed potatoes layered with green chile stew and topped with shredded cheddar. GLORY.

We’ll pick up this saga there tomorrow, assuming I can shake free to work up a few more photos. I’ve got tons of images from Amboy Crater to share.


On the Road


Quick scene from the road. Ron took my picture looking competent with my guitar at the Rudolfo Anaya sculpture park on Route 66 in Santa Rosa, N.M., yesterday. The lighting was weird — hence the strange color — but I kind of like it. If you didn’t know better, you might almost be fooled into thinking I know what I’m doing. (You’d be wrong, but that’s why I’m posting a photo and not a video.)

If I ever get run over by a bus or come down with bubonic Ebola pox or something, go ahead and run this shot with my obit. It’s about the hippiest photo anybody has ever taken of me.


A Song for you




“I know your image of me is what I hope to be….”
— Leon Russell

This was our Saturday night after work. Nothing fancy; just a few iPhone images of a nice, quiet evening with a big dog snuggling for all he was worth.

(Riggy was pouting about something and wouldn’t come out of his crate long enough to cuddle and be petted, so Songdog had Mommy and Daddy all to himself for a little while.)


Eeeeeeeeeeeee! SQUEEEEEEEEE!

In the past eight months or so, I have spent a LOT of time digging, hauling, lining, smoothing, filling, treating, landscaping, dechlorinating, filtering, and just generally mucking about to get a healthy, pretty pond fit for amphibian habitation. Today’s discovery was worth every single strand of filamentous algae I’ve had to extract from the filter with a bottle brush and a Q-tip.

Look. Right there, in the middle of the water lettuce. Right there, just hanging out on a leaf. Look closely. See it? No? OK ...
Look. Right there, in the middle of the water lettuce. Right there, just hanging out on a leaf. Look closely. See it? No? OK …
… let’s get a little closer.
Found these two hiding under a leaf. Yes, that’s my finger at the bottom of the picture. No, I don’t have unusually large fingers. The toads really are that tiny.
Ron decided to put a penny in for scale. Itty-bitty baby toads the size of Lincoln’s head. Eeeee!
Of course, if it wasn’t Instagrammed, it didn’t happen, so here’s your gratuitous moody-artsy-filter shot of a tiny toad looking pensive.

Have I mentioned how much I love my pond? It wasn’t cheap, and I worked my butt off to install it and get it balanced (and am still working to keep it that way as I wait for the plants to spread enough to shade the entire surface), but these adorable little guys make it worth every dollar and every minute.



These little critters right here …

There's a lot to love in this photo: the toads, the duckweed, the eggs, and the fact that the water is absolutely clear. Yay, healthy pond!
There’s a lot to love in this photo: the toads, the eggs, the duckweed, the lilies and the fact that the water is absolutely clear. Yay, healthy pond!

… are the reason I got out the spade and dug a big hole in my yard last fall, hauled in a couple hundred pounds of sand, sculpted the sides, laid in a flexible liner, loaded 250 lbs. of decorative stone into my car, unloaded it, arranged it, blew $100 on a UV clarifier, and ran all over Southeast Missouri in search of duckweed and water lilies to keep the algae down.

If you look closely at the right side of the photo, you’ll see what looks like a string of tiny beads. Those are toad eggs, and there are hundreds of them out there, which means at some point in the next two weeks, I will walk outside to find the water absolutely black and wiggling with tadpoles that will spend the summer growing into itty-bitty toads.

Benefits of providing toad habitat:

1. They’ll eat a metric crap-ton of mosquitoes and other garden pests. Yay, toads!
2. They sing their hearts out.
3. It’s hilarious to watch the cat when they start singing. Walter has spent the entire evening stalking the back hallway, staring at the back door and trying to figure out who’s making that sound.

If you don’t have a water feature in your yard, I highly recommend adding one. Doing it right is a lot of work (and expensive as hell), but the fringe benefits are terrific.


Eco-Saturday: Beekeeping

Hive inspection.

Assuming you don’t have anaphylactic allergies, beekeeping is pretty much the greatest hobby ever. Given the role of honeybees in the ecosystem, it’s also one of the best things you can do for the environment.

Rescuing a swarm. And baby-talking them, because OMGfuzzybees!

We started keeping bees when we lived in Belleville, Ill. I was having trouble finding cut comb to use as a treatment for hay fever, and I liked the idea of having pollinators living in my garden, so Ron’s parents gave us some old beekeeping equipment, and we ordered our first package of bees.

Mites killed them before the season was out. That could have been the end of the story, but then I interviewed a pair of beeks in Tulsa a couple of years later, and the next thing I knew, I was giving my credit card a workout on the Dadant website.

The first time I went out to inspect a hive myself, I was terrified, but I sucked it up, suited up and opened the cover.

(More after the jump, along with umpteen photos that will terrify my friend Marilyn if I post them without warning.)
Continue reading Eco-Saturday: Beekeeping