Saturday, November 28, 2009

Beginnings, Middles, and Ends - win a free PHOTO SESSION

The Parelli Natural Horsemanship horse training program that I study is all about self improvement. There are many amazing parallels with being a successful horse trainer and being a successful and happy human being in general. By being dedicated students of the program, we learn to not blame the horse (or other people) and take personal responsibility when things aren't going well. We learn that horses (and kids) need equal doses of love, language and leadership. We learn that we need to become more emotionally fit in order to be good leaders (parents, spouses, friends).

In my study of this program, I've also learned that most people prefer either beginnings, middles, or ends.

  • A beginnings person thrives on change. They have lots of different hobbies, interests and talents. They get bored quickly and want to move onto something new, fun and more interesting. They are bored by routine and don't feel a real need to finish things.
  • A middles person doesn't like change or being pushed out of their comfort zone. They like repetition and are good at doing a few things very well. They are comforted by routine and aren't bored by repeating things they are good at doing.
  • An ends person likes the feeling of accomplishment that comes with finishing something - with getting a degree or completing a project. They are great at pushing through the boring middle to get to the end and see the job done.
This concept Is very interesting to me. I think it's important to learn about ourselves, be self aware, and find ways in which we can make our weak places become stronger.

My mom is good in all three areas. As a college professor, she's had to be. As a mom and wife and sole caregiver of an ill spouse, she's had to be. She's also someone who's quite balanced between right and left brain. It makes me realize that we aren't stuck with the weaknesses and personality imbalances that we are born with. We can learn and grow and develop ourselves.

The point of all this rambling is that I have discovered that I'm a beginnings person - BIG TIME.

I have way too many interests. I have dozens of half finished projects around my house and on my hard drive. I'm excited about the next shoot, the next trip, the latest and greatest ________ (most of the time). I do like to accomplish, but I really hate middles - dishes, laundry, endless hours of photo editing, yard work, etc.... But I'm better at all those things than I used to be, or at least my attitude is better. And I want to keep working on myself, I want to keep improving in all areas of my life.

And boy do I have a long, long way to go.


But here's the deal. I've been hearing from a lot of folks who say they read my blog but never comment. So I thought I'd try a little incentive to see who's out there. If you leave a comment on this post, you will be entered to win a random drawing for an (after Christmas) photo session with me.

To be entered, just let me know which you are - a beginnings person, a middles person, or and ends person. Or two, or all three, I'm just kinda curious to know.

If for some reason you have a problem leaving a comment, let me know by email -

Contest ends at midnight on December 5th, a week from now. I will post the name of the winner here on my blog.


And here are a few photos of my kids taken on Thanksgiving day. Love these guys!

We were down at a place called The Barracks where there's a tunnel that goes under the highway.

Friday, November 27, 2009

'Tis the Season to be Thankful!

Yesterday was Thanksgiving Day. What a brilliant holiday! No gifts to buy, no major expense, just good food, a day off, and the opportunity to give thanks.

I was raised in a home with very little money. We had one older car that my parents shared, we each owned one pair of tennies and a pair of church shoes - sometimes a pair of sandals in the summer - usually 2 pair of jeans and a handful of shirts. We moved around a lot and lived in rentals and tiny student housing apartments for much of my formative years. But we certainly never went hungry, we were always clean and cared for and we had all our needs met. We knew we were loved.

We were poor compared to many of our school mates, but we were rich compared to the majority of the world. And I learned that you don't have to have money to be happy. I also learned (from my optimistic mother) that a huge part of being happy is feeling grateful for everything you do have. You don't have to look very far to find someone worse off than yourself.

My kids asked me one time why we weren't rich (they were about 7 and 5). I got a little bit upset at that and marched them into the back room to show them our freezer full of range-fed beef. I also talked to them about how we have our own home, horses, cars, bedrooms full of toys and everything we could possibly need. And to be always wanting more is to be ungrateful.

And ungrateful is something I never want my children to be.

For the most part, they are very unspoiled children. They are used to having modest Christmas' and they get very excited about very little. They always thank me profusely for every homecooked meal - not cooking every night tends to make them more grateful when I do. (It really works, you should try it sometime.) They're happy with hand-me-downs and no Nintendo. I'm proud of them.

And we are rich, definitely rich. It would take me days to list all my blessings and I love a holiday where we take the time to be appreciative. Here are just a few of the things I'm thankful for:

Him, definitely him. I really do have an exceptionally good husband.

And these 3 cute little buggers...What good kids they are.

All of these guys, and the rest of our extended family, you know who you are! I'm so thankful for all our wonderful family.

These 4 - especially the one on the right. That's Patty, she takes care of the kids.

And this sweet girl:

She was our wedding present from my old boss and she's almost 14, three years older than our oldest child and very much a part of the family.

All of my great friends close to home or far away - I love you guys!

The great place I work - man do I love my job and my co-workers!

And I had to specifically mention a few of my closest companions...

And for those of you who have wondered "What the heck is Parelli? and why did she name her blog that?" Here's a picture of my horse training mentors....

Pat and Linda Parelli. They rock! They're changing the world for horses - one human at a time.

I love this picture because it includes two things that I'm so very thankful for - my country and the temple. Many people in this world are not free to worship how they please, I'm so grateful for that freedom and for my religion.

And most importantly, my Savior. My soul aches with love and appreciation for Him and all that he did for me, for us all.

"I know that my Redeemer lives, what comfort this sweet sentence gives."

Gratitude equals happiness and I am one very happy person.

Thanks for listening. Happy Holidays!

Sand Dunes Family Photo Shoot

We live in a such a beautiful part of the world. About 20 minutes from my house is a place called the Coral Pink Sand Dunes. It is a state park and lots of folks go there to recreate and view the gorgeousness that is the dunes. It's not only fun in the summer, but it's a fantastic place to go sledding in the winter time.

Anyway, my friend Cassie's husband is a park ranger out there and they live there as well. They'd never had their family pictures taken at the dunes, even though they've lived there for years so we figured it was about time.

This is what it looks like:

Neato, huh.

Cassie has 3 cute boys and a caboose of a little baby girl, so it was fun to get Little Sister with all of her fun big brothers together.

Is this a cute bunch, or what?

We shot each of the boys by themselves and I'm learning to recognize a phenomenon common to just about every family with young kids that I shoot. It's called, "I don't necessarily want to get my own pictures taken, but I like to get in on the action when it's someone else's turn". And it results in photos like this:

Which then results in encounters such as this one:

Is that funny, or what?

And then we got on with it.

We took some of the whole group that turned out cute, but my favorite was this one:

Thanks, guys, for letting me come out and play in the sand, it's so cool. And I literally had about 1/4 cup of sand in one of my shoes when I got home. Good times.

Monday, November 23, 2009

No Sugar Apple Pie and Fool Proof Crust Recipe

Since this week is Thanksgiving, several people have reminded me that I said I would post my apple pie and pie crust recipes. So here they are:

(I feel like the Pioneer Woman! Ha!)

No Sugar Apple Pie -- (This pie filling obviously has natural sugars, but no artificial sugars and it still tastes very sweet. Yum!)

6 apples

6 oz. frozen apple juice concentrate

1 tsp. cinnamon

2 Tbl. cornstarch or arrowroot (mixed in a little bit of water to make a paste)

2 Tbl. butter

For tender apples, slice and steam apples for 15 minutes in a veggie steamer basket before putting them in the pie. This way the crust doesn't get over-done while the apples are getting baked enough and the pie doesn't boil over in the oven. This is a great tip, my smart mom figured this out. The pie just seems to taste better too, I think it absorbs the flavors of the filling mixture better.

Put apple juice in heavy sauce pan, add cinnamon and cornstarch paste. Whisk constantly over med-high heat until thickened like a pudding. Remove from heat and add butter. Stir mixture into apples and bake as usual - if you steam the apples first, only bake the pie until the crust looks done, about 20-30 minutes at 350. If you don't steam the apples, bake until you can insert a knife into the pie and the apples feel tender - about 45 minutes to 1 hour.


This pie crust is called Fool Proof and I am the fool who has proved how well it works. I've never been a great cook (although I'm getting better all the time) but I've always been able to make this crust work perfectly. I can whip it up in about 10 minutes and the texture is amazing - thick, flaky and light.

* The original recipe calls for 4 Cups of sifted flour, but I don't believe in sifting or any other labor intensive cooking, so I just use a little less than 4 Cups - I don't quite fill each cup, about 90% full and that seems to be about perfect. I've also found that if I use shortening, I don't have to refrigerate this dough to handle it, but if I use lard (yea lard!) it helps to refrigerate it about 15 minutes before rolling it out.

Also, this dough will keep in the fridge for several days before you need to use it or in the freezer for several months. Since this recipe makes 4 single crusts, and I don't always need that much, it's nice that it will keep.

Fool Proof Pie Crust

4 C. flour * (see note above)
1 3/4 C shortening or lard
1 T. sugar
2 tsp. salt

1 T. vinegar
1 egg
1/2 C cold water

Mix first 4 ingredients together with a pastry blender or mixer. In a separate bowl, mix the 3 wet ingredients, lightly beating the egg with a fork. Add the wet ingred. to the flour mixture, stir with fork and then knead lightly. Refrigerate or roll as usual.

If you make a mistake rolling this out, you can wad it back up and roll it out again, it won't make it tough.

LOVE that! And this is what it looks like from the inside. (My pie filling was a little wimpy here.)

Happy Thanksgiving and happy baking everybody. If you try either of these recipes, let me know how you like them!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Hoyt Kids are FUN!

I took my friend Jill's family pictures a couple of weeks ago and she decided that she wanted to get together again and take portraits of each of her kids. They're such cute kids and I've known them all their lives. Jill is my neighbor just up the hill from me and our kids play together all the time.

I took me a while, but I've figured out that the more fun you have with kids, the better everything goes. So we laughed and played and had a good old time. All the kids are such characters, they crack me up. Getting the group shot proved to be a little tricky, but we got some really nice ones of each of the kids by themselves.

I played around with these in Photoshop just to entertain myself, and I'm also posting some of the silly ones, they're always my favorites.

This one's called, "If you can't beat 'em, join em'." (Her mom was saying something like, "please cooperate and don't show your fingernails" and I was clicking away- love it!)

We got lots of handsome ones of him....

...but I love this one. It's a little blurry, but I don't care. He kept giggling and his giggling made us all laugh.

Get a load of this little dolly-face! Her Mom does hair for a living and all these girls have the prettiest hair in town. Those curls are killin' me!

especially with the light shining through 'em!

I just love the look on his face - classic, "are we done yet?" look.

And then his little sister stole his hat. She is all about the hats, now.

What a kid - love this one.

This girl is growing right up and getting gorgeous like her Mama.

My favorite.

Thanks, Jill, for asking me to do these. The kids did great and they were tooooo funny. There are so many more good ones it might take me a little while to get them all done. But I know where to find you. :)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Anna's Eyes

As I continue to learn about photography and portraiture, one of the things I've found is that I am now more likely to see beauty - in the world, in people. I appreciate everything more, I appreciate details, I appreciate the beauty of children.

When I photographed Anna last week I realized that I've never noticed how gorgeous her eyes are. But they are so pretty that they deserve a post of their own.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Keen and Cute!

It seems like the most recent photos I take are always the ones I like the best, and this was my favorite kind of shoot - one on one with a beautiful little human being.

This handsome little guy is Keenan and he is 15 months old. He belongs to my friend Betty and she told me that since he's the baby of the family, she has the fewest pictures of him and wanted him to have his own special session.

When he got here, he looked pretty serious and I was afraid he would be not so cooperative, but boy was I wrong! He smiled up a storm and we ended up with dozens that were really nice.

We started in the front room with the light coming in through the doorway. It's a place that I'm confident I can always get delicious catchlights in the eyes. He liked my old rocking horse and playing peek-a-boo with Mom.

Then we went out and sat him on my BIG rocking horse and he liked that one as well.

... then on to the fort which is always fun....

I LOVED his sweater and Betty told me that her mother-in-law made it and all three of her boys have worn it. Fun way to incorporate a family heirloom in the photos.

We put him in the cottonwood leaves out behind our house and I loved how he looked with his pretty blond hair in the golden leaves and weeds.

On this one I used my latest favorite Photoshop action from the fabulous CoffeeShop Free Actions - it's called Faded Day Dreams. Did I mention all her actions are free?! She has so many neat ones that work with Photoshop Elements. I love this look.

He sure likes his Mama, and I don't blame him, she's pretty great.

Thanks, Betty, for letting me play with your cute little guy, I loved getting to know him a little better. Hope you enjoy your sneak peak, there are lots more where those came from!