Protected: Let me turn your snapshots into adorable keepsake images you will enjoy for years to come

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:


Shelter Photography

If you are interested in volunteering your photography talents at your local shelter, here’s a few articles you might find helpful.

  1. Pet rescue and shelter photography: A “saving grace” for homeless pets. Can you help?

  2. Pet photography: Calling all volunteer pet photographers and shelter managers

  3. Pet Photography 101: What is aperture and how does it effect my pet photos? Going manual

  4. Pet photography 101: What is the best digital camera auto settings to use when photographing pets?
  5. Shelter Me Photography:Nanette Martin continuing her mission for shelter pets- slideshow included

  6. Volunteer pet rescue/shelter photography series: Part 1- Getting started

  7. Volunteer pet rescue/shelter photography series: Part 2- Doing an organized shoot

You can find these articles and much more on my page
Southeast Missouri Pet Photography Examiner

And have a gander at this article as well. It’s written by my friend, photographer and author Gretchen Steele. Read what she has to say about the backgrounds of your images.

Shoot to Thrill: Calling all photographers — time to join the ‘Border Patrol’, by Gretchen Steele

Homemade Laundry Detergent

OK, I broke down and tried it. I did. I admit it. I tried the homemade laundry detergent. My one word description is: impressive.

Some months back my friend Mel Suderman, wife, mother, homemaker, and librarian, was talking on FB about making homemade laundry detergent and how much money it was saving her. With 5 people and a dog in the family, I know Mel is and experienced laundress. And whats more, she has a husband and son who like to play hard. Like working on cars and driving motorcycles kind of hard. So not only does she do a lot of laundry, she is really dealing with some serious dirt.

She gave me the recipe for the liquid form of the detergent she was brewing up. The ingredients were simple and easily attainable items in the cleaning isle at most stores. Wal-Mart would certainly have everything I needed.

Unscented bar soap, Borax, and Washing Soda.

The recipe Mel gave me was for like 4 gallons of this stuff and I wasn’t sure I really wanted to jump into a batch that size and then discover I didn’t care for the way it performed.

So I started reading on the internet about similar recipes and discovered a few for dry detergents in much smaller batches. All of them contained at least the three ingredients Mel had given me in her recipe.

A few weeks ago, while looking for ways to trim my budget, I came across these detergent recipes. I decided to give it a shot and see what happened. After trying a couple different variations on the recipe, this is what I came up with. (I make it in much larger batches but broke it down in a smaller batch for you to try)

1/3 bar of soap (Ivory, Fels Napfha, or Zote)
1/2 cup Borax (20 Mule Team brand recommended)
1/2 cup washing soda (Arm & Hammer brand recommended)
Do not confuse washing soda with baking soda. They are not the same thing.

Using a cheese grater to grate 1/3 of the bar of soap into a bowl.
Add Borax and washing soda, and stir until bar soap is well broken up and blended completely with dry ingredients.
This is what it is going to look like when it’s all broken up and blended well.
You could actually pulse this in your food processor and break it up much finer. Don’t over process though or it will melt the soap and cause clumping.

The photo shows what it takes to wash 1 load of clothes, 2 tablespoons.

That’s right, 2 tablespoons of this stuff really packs a punch. Extra large or heavily soiled clothes; I use 3 tablespoons.

To compare usage amounts (commercial detergent vs homemade) here’s what a measure of homemade detergent looks like in your commercial laundry scoop.)

Store detergent in a cool dry place in a container with lid. This recipe will fit into a small cottage cheese container or butter bowl.

Variations for this recipe:

  • Add 1/2 cup Clorox all fabric bleach to maintain vibrant colors in your clothing and added stain removal.
  • Add essential oils to scent your detergent.

Although the detergent has a clean fresh smell in the container, your clothes will come out of the wash with the absence of smell. No odor at all. I was amazed.

Here’s the fun part, which totally blows my mind.
Cost of doing a single load of laundry with my store-bought detergent: 63 cents per load.
Cost of doing a single load of laundry with my new homemade detergent: 6 cents per load

Seriously, I am saving 57 cents per load, and with all the laundry I do, that is a substantial savings.

I don’s have a great deal of clothing to wash; just what I wear each day,  and a couple of outfits a week for my grandson, (oh and the occasional visit from one of my sons wanting to do his own laundry. )

But I have several animals which means I go through several blankets, furniture covers, and doggie beds each week. That’s about 6 loads per week right there, and that’s in good weather.

Top that off with my not being a big fan of cramming our landfills full of disposable paper towels, and the mountain of cloth towels and rags I use each week would scare a normal person.

It may not seem like a huge savings, but I will take it where I can get it.

Some discoveries I made while trying out these recipes:

  • Aside from being seriously economical, this detergent is safer to both the environment and you, than any commercial detergent! This mix contains no dyes, perfumes, or other components to irritate skin or pollute the environment.
  • During the month I have used this detergent my dog has not had any mysterious break outs. (She’s allergic to everything including commercial laundry detergent apparently.)
  • I have had no dry itchy skin.
  • My clothes all look and smell clean. I worried about the dog bedding not coming clean and smelling fresh but I was pleasantly surprised. There was absolutely no smell in the bedding what so ever.
  • I gave some of the detergent to a friend of mine who cannot use any detergents with any kind of perfume in them. it causes her respiratory distress. After trying out this detergent she says she will never buy laundry detergent in the store again. She has had no allergy issues with the homemade detergent.
  • A couple of hunters also let me know that the detergent was perfect for their hunting clothes as they want zero scent on them when they go out into the woods.
  • I have not noticed any visible difference in the color of my clothing. Nothing appears to be faded or dull. Whites are still coming out white, colors still bright.
  • I still use fabric softener sheets because I want the softness and a slight scent to my laundry. The scent is much softer from the fabric sheets when using the homemade detergent.
  • If you want to soften your clothes and are not concerned with any scent, use a 1/2 cup white vinegar in your rinse cycle to soften fabric. Your clothes WILL NOT smell like vinegar when they come out of the dryer. They will have no smell at all.
  • When I wash my cleaning rags, I don’t use any fabric softener sheets. This allows me to use cloth rags to clean glass without streaking.
  • Because this detergent requires such a small measure per load, it’s space saving and is convenient for campers, truck drivers, or anyone who travels.
  • This recipe does not create suds and therefore is fine to use in top front loading machines. It is however recommended that you cut the measure in half for front loaders.
  • This recipe would be a perfect money saver for animal rescues and shelters that wash a lot of animal bedding.

Since the dry version of this detergent was such a success, I decided to make a couple of gallons of the liquid version. I stirred it all up tonight and will start using it within the next couple of days. After I have tested it out, I’ll let you know how it goes and give you the recipe for that as well.

Coming up, I’ll share recipes for the following as I have had a chance to try them out thoroughly.

  • Stain remover for the laundry
  • Fabreeze type air and fabric freshener
  • Household bleach cleaner
  • Window and glass cleaner
  • Dishwasher detergent


Day 2 of the original batch of liquid detergent- This batch did not gel or clump up.

I was perplexed because almost every recipe I have read about says the mixture will thicken, gel, clump, separate when gelling, etc. My batch had no clumps, no gel, but was just milky and slightly thicker than water.

That’s actually good btw because it means that I can use it in a spray bottle like a pretreatment (Shout or Spray -N- Wash for example) without messing about with it clumping in the sprayer.

Whatever the issue was with the lack of thickening, I used some of the watery detergent today, washing two stinky, dirty dog beds, and they came out of the wash perfectly clean and smelling….well they had zero smell, so just clean.

It bugged me so much about the gelling thing that I made another batch of liquid detergent tonight. This time I processed it just slightly different.

  1. In the original batch I melted the soap in a little water on the stove  till dissolved.
  2. Then I removed from heat and added the Borax and washing soda into the HOT water with the melted soap.
  3. When everything was dissolved in the pan, I added the soapy mixture into the bucket with the rest of the water.

I also stirred the first batch every couple of hours for about half the 24 hour period it was “curing”. (Never noticing any thickening I might add).

Batch 2:

  1. This time I first dissolved the Borax and the washing soda in the bucket of room temperature water.
  2. Then I added the hot melted soap and water mixture from the stove into the bucket of borax and washing soda mix and stirred.

I even went a step further and once it was mixed I poured this batch into two different containers.

One I have covered and plan to leave alone for 24 hours. The other I’ll stir occasionally to see if I can keep clumps from forming (if it does gel).

Mystery solved.

Adding the Borax and washing soda to the scalding hot melted soap mix in the first batch must be the reason for the mixtures refusal to thicken.

So far that’s the only difference in the batches, and this batch was gelling within minutes of stirring it up. Thickening was actually apparent before I had it all stirred up well.

Image Fix- a shelter project- non profits

Anyone who knows me personally or follows me in any way online is well aware that I am a huge animal lover. I have been involved with shelters and rescues for many years and will do anything I can to help out anyone saving animals.

I don’t have a lot of money to give, but I have skills, and they are worth something.

One of those skills is the art of image enhancement and restoration. I have revamped more images in the past decade than I can possibly count.

Here’s a simple enhancement. Cost to my clients for this level of correction: $10

Click here to see several other examples.

This is a way for your shelter to pull in donations while giving something back to your supporters. It costs nothing to enroll and is simple to do.

How does it work?

1. Shelters must sign up using this survey form. This is information needed to verify an organizations non-profit status and secure payment information on where to send the donations each month.

2.  Any non profit in the US may register.

3. Registered non-profits spread the word using any communication available to their organization. Information and links to the site can be shared by:

  • Social media
  • Website
  • Email contacts
  • Newsletter
  • Inserts into adoption packages
  • Organizational events
  • Flyers
  • Newspaper ads
  • Various other forms of communication and advertising
    The more you share, the more you make!
    Link directing supporters to the link to make their orders.

4. Through this link clients are informed on how to order enhancements, of which 1/2 of every purchase goes as a donation to the shelter of their choice. Please check the link for a current list of participating shelters and rescues.

5. The first week of each month, sales profits are calculated for the previous month each participating shelter is paid for their participation.

Free money. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Click here to read more about this offer. If you are a shelter and wish to sign up, there’s a link to do so at the bottom of the page. You can’t collect donations if you are not registered.

If you are an individual who thinks your local shelter or rescue group would be interested in this sort of fundraiser, please share the link so that they may get started.

Remember, this programs is for any non profit animal organization in the USA

Have questions? Just ask by leaving a question in the space below. I will respond asap.

What are you waiting for?

Homemade Egg Noodles

Ok yes, I know this is an artery clogging dish. But it’s good ‘ole, stick-to-your-ribs home cookin,’ and it’s not like I eat egg noodles 5 nights a week. Besides, my grandson thinks I rock because I can make my own noodles and will eat a pile of them without complaint.

Some folks like to eat these noodles in place of dumpling but I use them in a beef dish. I just boil salted stew meat in water till it falls apart. That usually takes the better part of the day. Then I make my noodles and add them to the beef mixture and simmer until the noodle soak up all that gravy.

I didn’t take pics of this recipe all the way through because I really didn’t want to handle my iPhone with dough covered hands.

But here you go Laura, this ones for you. You’ll have to forgive the aloof manner in which I present this recipe. It’s one of those I usually just throw together and eye out the measurements. This will get you close though, and this is a recipe that’s hard to mess up.

  • 2 Cups flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  • Splash of milk
  1. Mix all ingredients well. Dough should be gooey. If not add a little more milk.
  2. Turn dough out onto floured surface and incorporate more flour as needed to make dough pliable and workable. It should be sticky when you are through.(try not to over-knead)
  3. Roll dough out flat and thin (1/8 – 1/4 inch thick depending on your taste)
  4. Coat top of dough liberally with flour.
  5. Roll dough up like a jelly roll.
  6. Refrigerate, uncovered for at least 2 hours to make dough firm.
  7. With a sharp knife, cut noodles in widths depending on your taste (I do 1/4-1/2 inch) If you are squishing your dough when you cut it, you should put it back in the fridge for a little longer.
  8. After noodles are cut dust with flour to await boiling water. (All this extra dusting of flour is to keep the noodles from sticking together after they have been cut. Dough will become softer as it warms to room temperature)
  9. Boil noodles in a pot of water separate from your main dish. These are a super starchy noodle and will create a thick paste when cooked so you want to at least partially boil them alone.
  10. Strain and add noodles to your main dish.

Just on a little side note. These are not hard noodles to make. Just messy. Some people like to make large batches, use what’s needed for a meal, and freeze the rest.

These noodle freeze very well. You need to do it right though so you don’t end up with a big lump of dough.

To freeze:

  1. Prepare and cut noodles as directed in the recipe.
  2. Liberally toss with flour and place on a cookie sheet. Try not to handle the dough too much as it warms and softens it.
  3. Place noodles in freezer for as long as it takes noodles to freeze solid.
  4. Remove from freezer and break apart noodle placing them in zip lock bags for storage.
  5. These will keep in the freezer for several weeks.

To cook frozen noodles:

  1. Remove from freezer and drop in boiling water.

A little color back home

I recently had the opportunity to go back home and spend some time shooting with a friend of mine. I have known Gretchen forever. Her mother was my third grade school teacher and our lives have been intertwined throughout the years in one fashion or another for as long as I can remember.

Yesterday, we got to “play” together for the first time in many moons. We were hoping to spot a few deer foraging for the evening meal but we weren’t so fortunate. But the setting sun was casting some beautiful color in the evening sky and there was no sense in wasting that.

Enjoy . . .

First stop for color was City Lake. Can’t tell you the countless hours I spent at this place growing up. Funny how I see it differently now than I ever did way back when. I can see the beauty of the shadows of a fall evening out here. It’s a good place to sit and work out the trivia of the day or simply appreciate the beauty of the landscape.

Driving along Gretchen spied this great find. Nice silhouettes in the distance. It kept us busy for awhile.

Shadows and silhouettes might not be everyone’s cup of tea but they sure make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

“Back home” for me is rural America. Farm land as far as the eye can see and flat for the most part. That enables one to get some really nice shots on the horizon in the harsher rays of the early or late sun. Thousands of acres that have remained unchanged for hundred of years, or at least for as long as I remember.

But there have been some changes. Modern society and the increasing need for energy have transformed a chunk of that farm land into a major mecca of movement.

Imagine driving down a country road with corn and bean fields in every direction with nothing around but the occasional home spotting the landscape. Off in the distance you can see something poking above the horizon that looks more than a little out of place.
Right in front of you, just a few miles outside of a handful of small Illinois towns, in the middle of a field, you can happen upon this monster looming in the horizon. Something about it just seems sinister in the late evening shadows of the setting sun.

Traveling the road the transfer lines are visible far into the sunset.

It all seemed less ominous as we drove away.

I was thrilled with the color I captured on my little outing, and had a wonderful time with my friend. I look forward to the next time we can “play” again.

Just a Meatloaf

For Lacey, who has forgotten the recipe the last couple times she has visited.


  • 1lb lean ground beef
  • 1/2 Onion
  • 1 Green pepper
  • 1 Fresh garlic bud or 1 t. minced garlic
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/2 C Ketchup
  • 3/4 C Oatmeal (uncooked)
  • 1/4 C Milk
  • 1 T Salt
  • 1 t fresh ground pepper


  • 1/2 C Ketchup
  • 1/4 Brown Sugar

Combined all of the meatloaf ingredients in a bowl.

Once all ingredients have been combined well. Make a loaf of the mixture in  baking dish.

Mix ketchup and brown sugar together in a separate bowl.

Pour ketchup mixture over the top of your raw meatloaf.

Place meatloaf into a 350 degree oven and bake for 1 hour. (Cooking time may vary depending on how think you make your loaf.)

Remove from oven and allow loaf to rest for a few minutes. (If you cut it fresh out of the oven it will fall apart)

Serve with mashed potatoes or your favorite vegetable.

Photographers Beware! Donald James

I periodically get leads for photography jobs from places like It’s an online service I have a listing with, where people look for photographers. If someone goes there looking for a photographer in my area and makes a request through the website, I along with any other photographers listed in the area, get notification of the customers need via email.

I have received many leads through but a recent request made me take pause.

On 09-22-11 (5:34 pm) I got a lead in my email for Donald James looking for a wedding photographer in the St. Louis County area.

On 09-23-11 (7:05 pm) I got another lead for the same Donald James but looking for a wedding photographer in the Jefferson County Missouri area this time.

09-24-11 (8:21 am.) I get yet another lead from the same guy but now he’s looking for a photographer in St. Charles County Missouri.

The guy is sending out requests to photographer listed in three very large Missouri Counties, and apparently not get a response.

So I thought, ok, I’ll bite. Lets just see what happens. So I emailed him. This is the contents of our email exchange that began in 09-24-11 and the last email being on 09-29-11

Me: I got your request looking for a wedding photographer. Can you tell me where the wedding will be held?

Donald James replied shortly there after.

Thanks for the mail,Here is a little about the wedding.The wedding is taking place in Denver, Colorado. It is an 7 hours event starting from 9am till 4 pm. It is an indoor event which consist of 100 guest at most, I will like you to cover the reception as well which will start from 2 Pm till 4 pm on that day. I will like the picture to be on a CD, and I don’t have a wedding planner, I plan it by myself. Please reply me by e-mail cos I am physically impaired (Hearing).
You may think about the flight and hotel accommodation, there is provision for that , my flight agent will make arrangement for that. I think with all the details have given to you now,Calculate your fee alone, you should be able to calculate and let me know how much it will cost. Please get back to me as soon as possible. I just contacted you via marketing tools and want to know if you can handle it.

At this point I am thinking something is more than just a little off but hey, I could use a long weekend in Denver. It’s a beautiful place and what the heck right?

So I reply:

I need to know the address of the wedding and reception in order to book my accommodations. This will better enable me to send you a more precise quote including travel and expenses.
You can see my wedding package here.

I am curious as to why you are looking to hire a Missouri photographer for a Colorado wedding. Surely there must be a photographer closer that would be more economical than flying one in?

09-28-11 (6:52 pm) This was Mr. James reply to me:

Event Center, Denver Colorado 4400 East Kentucky Avenue, Denver  and the reception will take place at the same place.
I will prefer to make the arrangement for the flight with my booking agent from here. Please let me know how much I need to pay for it and how much I need to pay as the initial deposit to get the date reserved.
Please let me have the name and the address to send  the check for the deposit to. The date is almost near so I want everything to work out fast.
Please get back to me soonest

At this point I know something was really amiss and decide to check out the address he had given me. It is indeed an event center.  The Infinitely Event Center to be exact. Looks like a very nice place, and should be for a booking price of almost five grand a night.I wouldn’t mind shooting a wedding in such an elegant place.

So I called Infinity to verify Mr. James’ date. It was after office hours when I called, but I left a message, told them my situation, and asked if they did indeed have a Donald James wedding booked there for the 25th of November.

I did not send any further correspondence to Mr. James pending a verification from Infinity.

09-29-11 I didn’t hear anything from Donald James or Infinity.

09-30-11 This morning at 7:38 am I get this:

Mr. James had again begun his search for a wedding photographer, and again searching in St. Louis County.

I am totally baffled as to why a person would want to fly in a photographer to Denver from Missouri. Then there is the fact that he doesn’t want me to contact him by telephone. And additionally, he wants “his travel agent” to make my travel arrangements.


I got a message from Sara, the event coordinator for Infinity in Denver. She apologized for not calling the day before about my inquiry. I was informed that there was no wedding or reception on November 25th for a Donald James. As a matter of fact there was no Donald James in the schedule for anything at Infinity for the rest of 2011.

It was just a bunch of BS as I had expected so I emailed Mr. James, politely declined his request and wished him well on his search for photographers. I then emailed and told them what was going on with Donald James.

Shortly after my first message from Infinity, I got yet another message from Sara. Listening to her voice on the other end of the call I could tell she was a little confused and more than a little creeped out. Seems there was another photographer that called there today making the same inquiry as I had and yes, about the same person, Donald James. She stated she felt it was an obvious scam and sounded a little dangerous.

I tried to call her back but she was in a meeting but I was told she would be contacting me first thing Monday morning. The girl taking calls said that a total of 4 photographers had called the center over the past 4 days making the same inquiry as mine.All of them from Missouri, and all of them woman.

I haven’t heard any more from Donald James, nor have I heard anything back from the folks at Marketing Tool.

I hope they can trace Donald James’ IP address and find out who he is and what he’s up to before someone gets seriously scammed or hurt.

I have never heard back from Mr. James since I sent him my email to decline his offer. And he is apparently continuing his search.

Popular print sizes

I’m working on a few specials for print pricing this fall and I thought it would be important to find out what people want before I choose what goes into those specials.

If you could take the time to answer just one question it would help me so much.

Please feel free to share the poll with your friends and family. The more demographics that it hits the better.

Thanks in advance!

Waste not, want not: A Chicken and Dressing recipe

Dressing is not something that’s common place on the tables of America today. It’s an old school recipe that’s a little more time-consuming to prepare than most folks are willing to put into it. Sure you see it on Thanksgiving, other holidays, or assorted special occasions. But it’s just not as prevalent as it once was for the average American diet.

Now while a tasty side dish for any pork or poultry meal, dressing wasn’t on the menu in my Nany’s kitchen simply because it was delicious food.

I had once noted when I was young that dressing appeared on many tables about the end of each week. Sunday was a big dressing day at Nany’s and something my grandfather drooled about for days, in anticipation of the gooey stuff.

One Sunday morning as Nany toasted every scrap of “leftover” bread in the kitchen, I asked her what was up with dressing on Sundays.Did we have dressing on Sunday’s because it was a special day?

She said “Well, you see all this here bread I am toasting in the oven? I have been saving it all week for this pan of dressing. The heals from loaves of bread, couple of left over biscuits, some cornbread too crumbly to spread butter on.  All go into the dressing bin. Sunday just happens to be the day that falls at the end of the week and we have to use the bread before it goes bad. Don’t want to waste those good left overs. Don’t want to throw out money”

I answered with a nod noting the bread loaf heals, stale biscuits from meals earlier in the week, and even a clump of cornbread from the day we had eaten ham and beans.

She went on to explain to me that when she was growing up, before it was common place to buy bread in a store and most people couldn’t afford it anyway, bread in her home was made on Mondays. Bread for meals, sandwiches, or dipping in soup, all prepared in one day to last an entire week. Cornbread and biscuits filled in on days when sliced bread wasn’t required, and no one ever minded a fluffy pan of biscuits topped with country milk gravy.

So dressing was a Sunday staple not as a special occasion, but out of necessity and saving waste. It was about not throwing away money. Dressing was about making the most of every little crumb, and enjoying it.

So when I went into my kitchen today and seen the half a bag of left over hamburger buns, and knew they were going to go bad if I didn’t do something with them soon, dressing came to mind. I hate to waste anything, especially food, so I scrounged around the kitchen to see what I could come up with.I threw the buns in the over to toast.

Toasted Buns

Once out of the oven I crumbled up the buns and added onions, rosemary, sage, salt, pepper, and lavender. Yes I said lavender. It grows right along side the rest of my herbs and adds a wonderful kick to my recipes. The aromatics are to die for.

Seasoned breadcrumb

I needed some broth to mix up this dressing so I used the chicken breasts I had thawed in the fridge. I cut them up in chunks and browned them for flavor, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper. Once they were slightly browned I added about a cup of water to de-glaze all the goodies that were stuck to the pan. I let it simmer for about 15 minutes.

Cookin chicken

Then I removed all the chicken from the pan and used the “broth” from the chicken to mix up my dressing.


Along with the broth I poured over my seasoned bread crumbs I added 1 egg and about 1/2 cup of milk. I stirred the mixture lightly, just enough to coat all the crumbs. (Note, if you stir it too much, it will all turn into a big glob.)

Wet dressingIt’ll look like a big wet mess of goo until you bake it, but my mouth was watering at this point. The smell of the smashed herbs rising out of this mixture was delicious.

So now the chicken goes back into the original iron skillet I fried and de-glazed it in.

Chicken in a pan

And then I spread the dressing mixture over the top of the chicken. Yes, I said the dressing goes over the top.

Chicken and dressing

Then it all went into the oven on 375 degrees.

The next 35 minutes my house smelled like a spring herb garden with a hint of roasted freshness.

Then out of the oven to rest for a few minutes, it was actually a “pretty” dish that would have made any one of my chef friends proud.

I’m thinking you could probably divide this recipe up before baking, into individual size servings,  and cooked them in separate mounds in the pan. Might make serving a bit easier.

Chicken and dressing baked

From the side you can see the layer of dressing melted into the layer of chicken chunks.

LayersI wondered as I cut into it what this was going to look like plated up. And maybe I should have went with the individual serving size mounds, but much to my surprise I think it came out looking fairly sharp plated up.

Plated upAnd wow, it really did taste as good as it looked and smelled. It came out hearty, full of flavor from the fresh herbs, and was quite filling for a one course meal.

Chicken and stuffingI think the only thing it was missing, was some type of glaze or sauce over the top.

Like maybe a cranberry glaze made from boiling a bag of fresh cranberry’s to death  with a cup or so of white sugar, a cup of water, and some lemon zest. Maybe even add a splash of Tabasco or red pepper to the glaze to make a sweet and spicy addition to this dish.Garnish with s spring of fresh mint and wha-lah! a gourmet meal.

Just drizzle the glaze liberally over the top after plating.Hmmmm yes, that sounds about right. Too bad I didn’t have cranberries in the house.

Chicken and dressing 2Quite possibly another flavor that would go well with the herb blend in the dressing would be fresh orange juice. I’ll bet the added orange flavor and cranberry glaze would really make this dish pop.

At any rate my Nany would be proud. I used up that bread that would have went to waste and created a smart one pan meal for a few bucks.

*Note: All photos taken for this illustration were shot with my iPhone. (I love my iPhone:-)

Waste not want not….good advise, especially in the kitchen.

Just an awesome couple of days

The happenings of this week are not anything that would make the average person jump off their chair about, but I am pleased at the way things have worked out in recent days.

Monday I published an article on Examiner about a puppy taken in by Caruthersville Humane Society. He was found wandering the streets with his head swollen and infected from chemical burns. A news reporter from Channel 8 (ABC) in Arkansas, read my article and promptly called the shelter and requested an interview. (which CHS eagerly agreed to.) It made me feel good that 1. I could help a shelter get the word out about their situation in the financial ruin we call an economy, and the good work their shelter is doing. And 2. That other people in the news industry actually read my articles! Bonus all the way around.

While I was out and about today I bumped into a shelter volunteer from Safe Harbor Animal Sanctuary and she had this adorable blue-eyed little girl in tow. At first I wondered if she was scared as she was acting a little shy and most young dogs in public are outgoing. Turns out she had just been picked up from the vet where she had undergone a spay earlier in the day. She wasn’t being shy, she just needed to sleep off that nasty ole’ anethsetic.

I didn’t catch her name, but this lovely will be available for adoption through the Safe Harbor Animal Sanctuary (Jackson, MO) in the coming weeks. If you are interested just call them and ask about the little blue eyed baby and I bet they will know who you are talking about. I’ll get details on her soon and pass them along.

I finally got to see the new location for Busch Pet Products in Cape Girardeau. I hadn’t been in the store since it had moved locations although I have followed their progress for months on Facebook.

The new store is fantastic with tons more square footage than before and Stacy has a few interesting events coming up that’s sure to be crowd pleasers.Stay tuned for all the details on Busch Pet Products in an upcoming article on

And on my way home from the days adventures I enjoyed the natural canvas of the back roads of Southeast Missouri. It’s an awesome way to unwind. I am always amazed at how breathtaking the skies can be around here.

Even with a cruddy old highway in the view you can’t help but be taken back by the beauty of the skies.

Humane Society calendars to hit the stands soon

Three years in a row I have shot the photos for the yearly calendar put out by the Humane Society of Southeast Missouri, located in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

Every year it’s a tedious process what with trying to line out a dozen human models and a dozen pets, and rarely the pairs or groups come from the same homes. That’s a minimum of 24 people (models and pet owners) to lock into appointment times and it is never a simple task. Folks are all just so busy these days.

But as in previous years we set out to make it happen and it did, and I think it all came out wonderfully. The calendars went to print last week full of adorable adoptable pets and the children who love them dearly, and of course 12 happy sponsors who’s donations made getting all the calendars printed possible.

None of these images are in the calendar. You’ll have to wait for it to come out and get yourself a copy to see all the kids and pets together.

I promise it’s chock full of cuteness and a wonderful way to support one of our local shelters. 100 percent of the proceeds goes to help the Humane Society of Southeast Missouri to keep their doors open. And like shelters all over the country, they need all the help they can get right now.

Look forward to future postings on how you can order your calendar hot off the press.

Puppy with chemical burns makes miraculous recovery

Clay: Puppy on the mend at Caruthersville, MO Humane Society

A little over a week ago a seven week old puppy was found wandering alone on a road in Pemiscot County, MO. On his head and face were severe chemical burns judged to be about a week old and left untreated, his whole head swollen from infection. It’s unimaginable the pain he had endured.

Clay sustained chemical burns all over his head. Photo by Caruthersville Humane Society

This young male Pit Bull puppy, now called “Clay” was taken to the Caruthersville Humane Society. There he has been received treatment and is reportedly doing well. Animal Abuse officer Karol Wilcox says “It’s amazing everything this pup has overcome. We just didn’t think he was going to pull through. But after seeing what a loving little thing he was and his desire to live, we had to give him every chance possible. We just know this little guy is alive for a reason and meant to do something with his life.”

Read the full article.

Fluffy Whole Wheat Biscuits

Found this recipe online. Tried and true, these biscuits are the bomb!Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 cup milk

In a medium bowl, combine flours, baking powder, sugar, and salt; mix well. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in milk just until moistened. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface; knead gently 8 to 10 times. Roll to 3/4-in. thickness; cut with a 2-1/2-in. biscuit cutter and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 450 degrees F for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve warm.

A Nany kind of day.

The weather in Southeast Missouri today left much to be desired. It rained and drizzled on and off all day and the temps were in the low 60’s. It was just gray and drab and nothing worth looking out the window at.

My oldest son came in from church hungry for one of momma’s good old country brunches. He had bags with eggs, milk, and bacon so off to the kitchen I went to make his day.

I didn’t have enough flour to make a full batch of white biscuits so I tried something new. Whole-wheat biscuits. Yummm! (Click here for the recipe)

Never thought of using whole wheat flour for biscuits but they turned out fabulous. Better than any biscuit I have ever made as a matter of fact. Light and fluffy, full of flavor. They were the bomb covered in milk gravy made with bacon drippings, and there weren’t any of them left over.

I had already started a pot of soup for the day before Anthony blew in the door requesting a cholesterol filled, artery clogging meal.

With a beef soup bone and left over roast, potatoes, and carrots from supper last night, I added some more fresh veggies (onions and celery) and some canned tomatoes, making a pot of hearty beef soup with drop dumplings.

It was a fitting supper for a chilly fall day. And as always with a pot of soup, there’s plenty left over.Great for a quick microwaved lunch later in the week, or perhaps a whole other meal with some sandwiches.

I got the mess all cleaned up from the brunch and soup making, and got a taste for something sweet. I got a taste for chocolate cake. A cake I have made so many times in my life that I no longer need to look at the recipe to make it. A recipe that brings back memories of a time when life was more simple and easier to enjoy. Nany’s chocolate sheet cake. A favorite of mine and that of many of my family and friends.

It wasn’t until I pulled the cake out of the oven that I realized that I didn’t have the powdered sugar needed to make icing. Not being a big fan of icing anyway I shrugged it off and set the cake out to cool.

And just so you know, ice cream makes a wonderful substitute for icing any day.

Animal Welfare Examiner for the St. Louis and Southeast Missouri Region-

Among the many things I do in life, I write a column on for Animal Welfare in the St. Louis and Southeast Missouri region. I’ve been involved with pets in one fashion or another for so long, why not write about it? I do my research. I am well informed. And I enjoy sharing the information with others.

When I worked for HSSEMO in 2010, we worked an animal hoarding case that was one of the wildest situations I ever photographed. Over 75 animals were taken from a single residence. The majority of them were actually residing in the house with one adult and one child living in a mountain of trash and animal feces.

The city later condemned the house, the child was placed in state custody, and criminal charges we filed. Check this link for the article on hoarding and photos of the scene.

Shortly after the big hoarding case came another case involving over 40 Jack Russell Terriers. It was a back yard breeder situation gone horribly wrong. That spawned the question from many, “What exactly is a back yard Breeder?”

I also write about things like Pet tips for the holidays, Microchipping your petexceptional pets in the community, and other helpful articles related to animal welfare. 

I am excited about a couple of future articles that will contain information on a couple of new pet supply stores in Cape, and all the wonderful merchandise and services they offer.

Interested yet? Click here to browse my articles on St. Louis and Southeast Missouri Animal Welfare on

Pet Photography Examiner-

Pet’s are a major part of my life and photographing them is a big love of mine. Like children they are blessed with a vast range of personalities. I have enjoyed all I have encountered over the years.

I photograph pets in their homes, at events, on location, in shelters, on farms, and a variety of other places too numerous to mention. I think it is safe to say that I have a little experience with the subject.

So I write about photographing pets as well and have a column with titled Pet Photography Examiner. I cover topics for the St. Louis and Southeast Missouri Region.

I write about subjects like, how to take a better photo of your pet, camera settings, and interviews with photographers from areas throughout the region.

You can find a complete list of my articles on pet photography by clicking here.

Children at Play

ZoKids. They just do what they do, and pour every ounce of themselves into whatever it is they’re into at the moment. They’re amazing creatures and if you just watch them, uninterrupted, you just might learn a think or two. 

It doesn’t take a big studio, lots of tedious lighting, or even a Sunday-best outfit to make quality portraits, especially with children.

Good portraits should capture not only the likeness of our subject, but their personality as well. And some of the best images captured will happen when you least expect them.elly

You simply cannot get this naturally thoughtful image from an orchestrated pose.

I’ll give you that these are not your typical portrait images and I by no means insinuate that you have your next children’s portrait session in a mud hole.

But try your child’s next photographic session in their comfort zone, doing their own thing, while your photographer does theirs.

I didn’t have a bit of trouble getting these youngsters to smile for me.


Gone are the stodgy old portraits of yesteryear.

We’ve busted out of the studio and the possibilities are endless.

~ Gila

New Beginnings

Nothing quite like new beginnings. A little scary and yet exciting. We all have them if we are lucky and those of us who are smart make the most of them and usually come out ahead of the game. Life is after all, all about the ride.

I’m sure you have heard the saying “When one door closes another one opens.” Well I believe that to be true. This blog is a testament to my faith in that concept.

Join me on my ride and let the games begin:-)

Life's a Blur

Life's a Blur by Gila Todd

Hydrating Solution

This is a simple recipe for hydrating fluid in case of dehydration. It works well with people as well as pets and was recommended to me by a physician when my youngest son was an infant. I have used it many times over the years to help prevent dehydration due to the stomach flu.

Mix well:

  • 4-5 cups of tap water
  • 6 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt

As an adult I drink this chilled.

This is by no means a medical solution for hydration but will help during a case of the flu. It works similar to Pediolite.

Always consult a physician in cases of dehydration.

Here’s the link to other solutions for re-hydration.

Chart for hydrating solution mixture.

Pet Odor Remover

Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water.

Apply enough of the mixture to saturate the area affected, and allow to almost dry. (On carpet, blot with a paper towel or absorbent rag to speed the drying process.

Next, apply a liberal amount of baking soda over the area and then drizzle hydrogen peroxide (about 1/4 cup) mixed with 1 tablespoon dish soap or laundry detergent.

Work mixture into area and allow to dry.

Remove with vacuum or clean cloth.

22 Uses for Bounce dryer sheets. It’s not just for the dryer anymore.

All this time you’ve just been putting Bounce in the dryer!

1. It will chase ants away when you lay a sheet near them. It also repels mice.

2. Spread sheets around foundation areas, or in trailers, or cars that are sitting and it keeps mice from entering your vehicle.

3. It takes the odor out of books and photo albums that don’t get opened too often.

4. It repels mosquitoes. Tie a sheet of Bounce through a belt loop when outdoors during mosquito season.

5. Eliminate static electricity from your television (or computer) screen.

6. Since Bounce is designed to help eliminate static cling, wipe your television screen with a used sheet of Bounce to keep dust from resettling.

7. Dissolve soap scum from shower doors. Clean with a sheet of Bounce.

8. To freshen the air in your home – Place an individual sheet of Bounce in a drawer or hang in the closet.

9. Put Bounce sheet in vacuum cleaner.

10. Prevent thread from tangling. Run a threaded needle through a sheet of Bounce before beginning to sew.

11 Prevent musty suitcases. Place an individual sheet of Bounce inside empty luggage before storing.

12. To freshen the air in your car – Place a sheet of Bounce under the front seat.

13. Clean baked-on foods from a cooking pan. Put a sheet in a pan, fill with water, let sit overnight, and sponge clean… The anti-static agent apparently weakens the bond between the food and the pan.

14. Eliminate odors in wastebaskets . Place a sheet of Bounce at the bottom of the wastebasket.

15. Collect cat hair. Rubbing the area with a sheet of Bounce will magnetically attract all the loose hairs.

16. Eliminate static electricity from Venetian blinds. Wipe the blinds with a sheet of Bounce to prevent dust from resettling.

17. Wipe up sawdust from drilling or sand papering. A used sheet of Bounce will collect sawdust like a tack cloth.

18. Eliminate odors in dirty laundry… Place an individual sheet of Bounce at the bottom of a laundry bag or hamper.

19. Deodorized shoes or sneakers. Place a sheet of Bounce in your shoes or sneakers overnight.

20. Golfers put a Bounce sheet in their back pocket to keep the bees away.

21. Put a Bounce sheet in your sleeping bag and tent before folding and storing them. It will keep them smelling fresh…

22. Wet a Bounce sheet, hose down your car, and wipe lovebugs off easily with the wet Bounce.

14 uses for coffee filters besides the obvious. Who knew?

Coffee Filters! Who knew? And you can buy 1,000 at the Dollar Tree for almost
1. Cover bowls or dishes when cooking in the microwave. Coffee filters make excellent covers.
2. Clean windows and mirrors. Coffee filters are lint-free so they’ll leave windows
3. Protect China. Separate your good dishes by putting a coffee filter between each dish.
4. Filter broken cork from wine. If you break the cork when opening a wine bottle, filter the wine through a coffee filter.
5. Protect a cast-iron skillet. Place a coffee filter in the skillet to absorb moisture and prevent rust.
6. Apply shoe polish. Ball up a lint-free coffee filter.
7. Recycle frying oil. After frying, strain oil through a sieve lined with a coffee
8. Weigh chopped foods. Place chopped ingredients in a coffee filter on a kitchen
9. Hold tacos. Coffee filters make convenient wrappers for messy
10. Stop the soil from leaking out of a plant pot. Line a plant pot with a coffee filter to
prevent the soil from going through the drainage holes.
11. Prevent a Popsicle from dripping. Poke one or two holes as needed in a coffee
12. Do you think we used expensive strips to wax eyebrows? Use strips of coffee
13. Put a few in a plate and put your fried bacon, French fries, chicken fingers, etc. on them. Soaks out all the grease.
14. Keep in the bathroom. They make great “razor nick fixers.”

Helpful tips for your car, Ice proof your windows. Prevent car doors from freezing shut and more.

Keep your headlights clear with car wax! Just wipe ordinary car wax on your headlights. It contains special water repellents that will prevent that messy mixture from accumulating on your lights – lasts 6 weeks.

Squeak-proof your wipers with rubbing alcohol! Wipe the wipers with a cloth saturated with rubbing alcohol or ammonia. This one trick can make badly streaking & squeaking wipers change to near perfect silence & clarity.

Ice-proof your windows with vinegar! Frost on it’s way? Just fill a spray bottle with three parts vinegar to one part water & spritz it on all your windows at night. In the morning, they’ll be clear of icy mess. Vinegar contains acetic acid, which raises the melting point of water—preventing water from freezing!

Prevent car doors from freezing shut with cooking spray! Spritz cooking oil on the rubber seals around car doors & rub it in with a paper towel. The cooking spray prevents water from melting into the rubber.

Fog-proof your windshield with shaving cream! Spray some shaving cream on the inside of your windshield & wipe if off with paper towels. Shaving cream has many of the same ingredients found in commercial defoggers.

De-ice your lock in seconds with hand sanitizer! Just put some hand sanitizer gel on the key & the lock & the problems solved!

Interview: Gretchen Steele, hunting dog photographer

A typical morning for many photographers is up early, dress nicely, and out the door for coffee on the way to the studio or location.

But Gretchen doesn’t start her day like most photographers. She’s up long before the sun, suited up in camo, yes I said camo, and in a duck blind or field, waiting for dawn to break. She’s prepped everything the night before and is ready to take on the days events.

Gretchen is a hunting dog photographer. Working dogs or not, they are pets, but these are pets that earn their keep so to speak. The dogs she works with hunt birds, both water and land, which means they are retrievers and pointers. They are breeds like Labrador’s, Spaniels of all varieties, and German Shorthair’s..

Continue reading the rest of the article.

Pet photography: Practice makes perfect

There are countless numbers of photographers who are willing to photograph pets but for some, it’s a high anxiety shoot. Why? Possibly because most photographers do not have the opportunity to photograph pets as often as they do other subjects or events?

Photographers can get plenty of practice shooting a wedding or three, human subjects are always available for practice, and events can be found in droves. But how many opportunities does the average photographer get to shoot pet photography?
If you are one of those photographers, amateur or pro, looking for avenues to practice, here are some helpful hints in finding them.

Shopping for the perfect pet photographer

It takes a certain sort of person to photograph pets, and do it well. You can find photographers most anywhere who will do a good enough job to put a print on your wall. But only a person with a genuine love of animals will produce a portrait worth displaying for a lifetime.

Not just the kind of person who lovingly smiles at Butch as he or she pats Butch’s head, but the kind of person that wants to enjoy the playfulness in your pet no matter how young or how old, how big or how small, or how furry or bald.
When shopping for pet portraits choose a photographer that suits your pet’s needs as well as your own. The best way to do this is to take your pet with you when seeking a photographer. Let your furry friend sniff them out, literally. Observe any interaction your pet has with the photographer both initially and after they have gotten a chance to know each other. It should only take a few minutes. Sometimes you will know instantly.
Continue reading on Shopping for the perfect pet photographer –

Pet photographers and their little bag of tricks

Every photographer has a few tricks up their sleeve when trying to gain and maintain the attention of their models.

When photographing children you will see the photographer use toys that are cute, funny, and some that make noise. There is almost always a squeaker in the box somewhere. These items work wonderfully to draw out the smiles and laughter that makes so many child portraits priceless keepsakes. The sheer fun in it brings a child’s personality to the surface for capture.

This method works well when photographing animals as well and most attention getting items are readily available at local pet stores. There are a few items no pet photographer should be without. If you check the bags of a few, you will most likely find some or all of the following.

Note: Always discuss the use of any objects or treats with the pet owners before your photographic session begins. Some noise makers may be unpleasant for some pets and food allergies may prevent the use of treats. Always get to know your subject.

Read complete article.

Everything is a Prop

Most photographers use props when shooting portraits. Props are simply items used to enhance the personality of your subjects or to prop your subject upon. In some cases a family pet is used as the prop.
Where does one go to find the perfect prop? Well just about anywhere will do.
My favorite place to start is thrift stores and flea markets. There is no rule that says your equipment must be new and unused so why pay and arm and a leg for something when you can find the same item used, that will work just as well? I also like to look through old barns and buildings for things like old wooden boxes, pieces of wood and old equipment. Ebay has a wealth of items suitable for a prop.

Pet photography: Get to know your subject

Getting to know your subject is a key element in portrait photography. It is of the utmost importance with pets.Arley

With a human client you can question their likes and dislikes and find out a bit about what makes them click, and do so in a relatively short amount of time. A brief conversation with a few key questions is all it takes to determine what will be the best environment or setting to photograph your subject in or what look you are going for.

When photographing pets the process is not accomplished so quickly…..

Click here to read the rest of the article Pet Photography:

Chocolate Microwave Cake in a Mug- Tastes like and Otis Spunkmeyer Cupcake


•1 large coffee mug
•4 tablespoons plain flour (do not use self-rising)
•4 tablespoons sugar
•2 tablespoons baking cocoa
•1 egg
•3 tablespoons milk
•3 tablespoons oil
•3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)
•Small splash of vanilla
•Chocolate syrup (optional)
•Whipped topping (optional)


1.Add dry ingredients to mug, & mix well .
2.Add egg & mix thoroughly.
3.Pour in the milk and oil and mix well.
4.Add chocolate chips (if using), vanilla, mix again.
5.Set mug in the microwave & cook for 2½ to 3 min at 1,000 watts.
6.Cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don’t be alarmed!
7.Some report that 2½ minutes works best. It depends upon your microwave. So, watch carefully to not over do it!
8.Remove from microwave.
9.Allow cake to cool a little, then tip out onto a plate, if desired.
10.Drizzle with chocolate syrup and top with whipped topping, if desired!
11.This can serve 2 if you care to share!

The Right Environment

IShelter Petn order to photograph pets and get good results one must find an environment each animal is comfortable in. While some pets can be photographed in studio, many will require that the photographer get out and adapt to the animals preference. After all, what sort of portrait will it make to prop a skittish animal on a posing table three feet off the floor? FeFe the prize-winning Poodle may pose nicely on your table but JoJo the Bull Mastiff will likely be nervous with his feet that far from the floor.

Read complete article.