Category Archives: travel

The Nevada desert

I went to WPPI and the only photos I took were in the desert.

WPPI is an annual convention for wedding and portrait photographers that happens in Las Vegas every March. I always share a hotel room with my awesome friend Blonnie, and we always take a lot of pictures of each other.

The photos start with our afternoon trip out to Valley of Fire State Park. Remembering our trip there the year before, when it was actually hot, we brought along food for a picnic and all kinds of snacks that sounded great for warm weather, like watermelon. The year before, I was hiking in a tank top and was sweating.

This year, it was not so warm. In fact it was pretty chilly. We did sit and eat our picnic but we ate fast because the picnic table was shaded and it was too cold to linger. We didn’t even eat the watermelon.

But we took a lot of pictures of each other and a few of the desert. I LOVE THE DESERT. It’s so gorgeous there.

All of the photos here that have me in them are Blonnie’s. I was shooting with the Fuji x100s (such a great travel camera!), and she was shooting with the Nikon Df.

Our friends Eve and David were with us on this trip.

© Blonnie Brooks 2014 []
© Blonnie Brooks 2014 []
This one cracks me up because you can totally see David shoving a sandwich in his mouth in her sunglasses.

Our rock band photo.

This one cracks me up, too…the photographer stance.


And then we drove back to Vegas and took a nap, getting up at about 11:30pm to go to dinner. Dinner lasted until about 1:30am. Then we played some $5 blackjack from a video dealer (it was so weird, but it was cheaper than playing at a table with a live dealer, where the minimums were $15).

And then we went up to our room. I had decided I wasn’t going to go out for the sunrise shoot. I took a shower and got into my PJs—a t-shirt and yoga pants. Then I was having a snack and playing Scramble with Friends—like you do—and suddenly it was 4:30am and David was saying, “It’s time to go,” and I said, “I’m not going,” and Blonnie said, “Yes you are; here we’ll bring your pillow and you can sleep in the car.” LOL So I just put on two sweaters over my PJs and followed her out the door.


What happens when you use a really slow shutter speed accidentally. Happy accident. I like it.

© Blonnie Brooks 2014 []
© Blonnie Brooks 2014 []
© Blonnie Brooks 2014 []
© Blonnie Brooks 2014 []
As we drove past this post I said calmly, “I see a naked woman.” So David stopped the car.

© Blonnie Brooks 2014 []
© Blonnie Brooks 2014 []
© Blonnie Brooks 2014 []
Pretty sure David was at this point just ignoring us.

© Blonnie Brooks 2014 []
© Blonnie Brooks 2014 []
© Blonnie Brooks 2014 []

And then, we went back to the hotel and crashed. We considered going to breakfast first, but that didn’t last long. It was 8am; we went to bed. At 1 I woke up starving so I went out to get food but with only a few hours sleep I felt like it I’d gotten up really early, so I was super confused the rest of the day.

We then went out for sunset to Red Rock State Park that evening.

Taken out the window as we drove.

© Blonnie Brooks 2014 []
© Blonnie Brooks 2014 []
© Blonnie Brooks 2014 []
© Blonnie Brooks 2014 []
© Blonnie Brooks 2014 []
© Blonnie Brooks 2014 []
We did not see any tortoises.

© Blonnie Brooks 2014 []

I love the desert.

Nostalgia ahead: spring break road trip

I’m finally getting around to writing about our spring break trip, which was a different kind of trip than usual for me. The goal was to visit my dad’s grave in Illinois to see the headstone, which was put in last summer, along with a military marker.

Originally Lyle & I were going to fly up, rent a car, spend one night, and fly back the next day, but then my mom said she’d be interested in doing it as a road trip, and suggested we stop at my grandmother’s house in Missouri on the way there & back (to avoid having to get hotel rooms). So this became our spring break trip.

I had not been back to this part of Missouri since my grandad’s funeral in 1995. It’s not near anything. There is no easy way to fly in for a visit. I’ve seen my grandmother many times in that time—she has visited me in places I’ve lived, and she’s visited Dallas at holidays when I was in town, and most recently she’s been living near my mom in a nursing home in Dallas, so I visit when I’m visiting my mom. But I hadn’t been back to her house.

So this seemed like the perfect opportunity for some visits to places from my past and a chance to show them to Lyle.

Standing in my mom’s driveway, waiting to hit the road.
First stop in Missouri was a relative’s house…one of my mom’s cousins, Berthini. She’d made cookies for us.

I just called it our first stop in Missouri, but this was actually Arkansas. The town my mom grew up in was very (very) close to the border. It’s all Missouri to me. These are small towns where everyone knows everyone and it seems like nearly everyone is related somehow.

My mom & Berthini talk regularly by phone. She’s one of my mom’s main sources of information about all the Missouri peeps.
Lyle was fascinated by country life. He asked if we could go outside and explore while my mom and Berthini were catching up. This was him trying to get their attention through the window. (They never noticed him.)
When we went outside, Berthini came out to point out how far we could safely go, I guess, without trespassing. No other homes were visible from hers, and she pointed down the road toward the way we came from and said, “That’s my land up to the top of that hill, and then all the way over to that creek bed, and then”—indicating a fence way in the distance the other direction—“to that fence.” Lyle looked at me and asked, “ALL OF THAT IS OURS?” I said, it’s all HERS, yes. I asked him how he would like to live someplace like that, and he said he thought it would be awesome. There was so much space to run around! You could play so many games outside on all that land!

After an hour or so, we left Berthini’s and drove on to Tucker, Missouri. Talk about a small town. Can you even call Tucker a town? I’m not sure. When my mom was growing up, 13 people lived there. All named Tucker. I’m not sure how many live there now. Fewer than 13. Tucker is a lot of land, a few gravel roads and houses, one church, and one abandoned general store.
First stop was the house my mom grew up in. Which burned to the ground several years ago. This is all that’s left. My grandparents had lived there for 50 years before they sold it and moved to town. (“Town” is Doniphan, a town of 1,997 people. My mom says, “Just give them a few more years and they’ll get all the way to 2000!”) There are rumors that the people who bought the house set fire to it on purpose to try to collect insurance money. But no one seems to know anything for sure.

I’d known about the fire, but it was still so surreal to see a pile of rubble where my grandparents’ house was supposed to be.
The little wooden shed is all that’s still there.
And a few yards down the road is the old general store, which my grandparents owned & ran for years. It was originally called Tucker Brothers (run by my granddad and his brother), and then when the brothers married, their wives became owners as well. I spent a lot of time in this store as a kid. They sold it in the 80s and it’s now abandoned.
Across the street, the church.
And a mule. Donkey? (How do you tell?)
And a few more yards down the road, the cemetery. I’m related to pretty much everyone in it.
Tucker is at the end of Z highway.
It was Lyle’s first time to see where my grandmother used to live. This is her house in town. The neighbors keep an eye on it. My mom says she needs to go up and clean stuff out. Lyle thought it was pretty cool to see her space.
And then the next day, we were on to Illinois. Bridge over the Mississippi River, which my brother & I used to love crossing.
The military marker at the foot of my dad’s grave.
The headstone.
Sacked out in the hotel in Vincennes, Indiana, nearest town with hotels. (About 10 miles from Lawrenceville.) There is one (new-ish) B&B in Lawrenceville that we discovered when we were there for the funeral last year, but they don’t allow kids under 12. Boo.
Lawrenceville breakfast the next morning…this was a half-order of pancakes. What.
One last visit to my dad’s grave.
Back in Doniphan at my grandmother’s house again for that night. We’d brought along Clue and Connect Four to play in the evenings.
And on our way back to Texas the next day we stopped at a cemetery in Arkansas where my great-grandparents are buried.
And then we came home. I don’t know when I will make it back to Lawrenceville again to visit my dad’s grave. But even though it’s not an easy place to get to, it still feels like the right place for him to be.

Photos from the bottom of the world

blog-0719_zpse345c53dDefinitely one of my favorites; he looks like he’s ton elephant seal showing me his teeth. It looked like a yawn, but it’s not—it’s an aggressive act to let us know he has teeth. He’s not even full-grown. They said he’ll still likely double in size. Lemaire Channelblog-1123_zps5983b486Crabeater seal. They don’t eat crabs. I took this from a zodiac as we passed very close by his piece of chick dogpile!!!!!blog-9845_zps0fb6355bHumpback whale!blog-4277_zps0e4af87cThe ICEblog-9134_zps0241264bOrcas in a feeding frenzy. They worked in groups as they chased did not know that Antarctica had from a zodiac as we cruised along in the waterblog-9824_zps0556ae51More zodiac cruisingblog-9632_zps812b7603Breaching minke whale. This is, apparently, very rare. Our on-board marine biologist, Jimmy, said he had never seen a minke breach before, and he has seen a lot of whales. So this was some serious luck that I caught this iPhone shot. 😉blog-1322_zpsdaddb103Humpback whale tail. Several humpbacks spent a while playing around the front of our ship–I think everyone on the ship got a shot similar to this because they gave us so many great ops!blog-1343_zps4c1d8405The ice was truly of crabeater seals. They actually eat krill, just like nearly everything else in oh-so-scenic Lemaire Channel againblog-9724_zpscf0cf509In February I went to Antarctica, and it was incredible. Words will never be able to do justice to this place, and photos probably won’t either, but this gives you a taste at least of what this amazing continent is like. I’m writing about it extensively on my Antarctica blog; if you’re interested in following along, join me there. If you want a simple overview of what it was like, you can just go straight to this post.

Snowy New Year’s


New Years at Keystone with friends. (Plus a couple extra pics at the end.) It was bitterly cold, and there was lots of snow, and I completely loved it. Also it gave me a chance to test out some of my gear for our trip to Antarctica. There was a hot tub (surrounded by a wood deck covered in ice). There were also games,  sledding, tubing, skiing, giant snow forts, ice skating, snowball fights, NYE fireworks, and staying up late. Totally amazing couple of days. I love it up there.

Christmas in Colorado

Thank dog for Amazon. We shipped all the gifts to my MIL’s house, and then brought an extra suitcase with us for bringing home gifts. And it WORKED! We managed to fit everything in suitcases for the flight home.


I’m resolving to start writing more in this blog, instead of just posting pictures without words, after reading the posts that the Houston Moms Bloggers have been writing about the “Before 8am” project. Their writing adds so much to the photos that they’ve inspired me to write more myself. To give a little more context with the images when I post them.

For Christmas we went to Denver, as we do every even-numbered year. Evergreens, mountains, dry air, the crispness of the cold air…I love everything about Colorado. I love the sun shining on the white snow, the snow falling and blowing around us. Even the sub-zero temperatures that we had for several days. I love the layers and the winter clothes.

I love that our trip started with Santa showing up at our gate in the Houston airport.

Hope you all had a great holiday too.