Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

Marking the Changing Life Seasons

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014






Because many of you reading this column likely have been on this earth five or six decades, you probably remember pre-Internet scenes, such as when you were a kid and your parents would make a new pencil mark in a house, barn or work shed doorway each year to measure your growth.

Other than holidays and summer haircuts, this unplanned “measuring” was one of the few fun traditions my family participated in and enjoyed doing together.

I carry on the tradition of marking changes with my family, but I observe those changes with my camera. I also enjoy marking the changes in the landscapes and seasons around me as time marches forward.

Like many others, I get so busy I feel like I gobble life without tasting. It seems our world is spinning faster every day. Consequently, there is a lot written these days about the importance of slowing down to see and feel, to appreciate and experience what surrounds us in the present moment.

I drive my youngest son to school most mornings, and I usually stop to admiringly photograph a small pond near the road to his school. I love seeing how it is changed by the elements. Even the addition of a new structure changes the landscape.

You may find that picking a location—a familiar spot to mark the passing of time in your world, especially the seasons—might be an enjoyable photo exercise.

Be sure to document in different weather and at various times of day. Angle, intensity and color of light will change how you see and feel about any scene. And try to shoot from the same angle, with the same lens.

Maybe assemble your photos and make a personal family calendar or Christmas cards afterward. There are plenty of online sites to help you. You might even want to print some inexpensive books. There are many easy-to-navigate websites where you can print books inexpensively, including these three:, and


daveDavid LaBelle is an internationally known photographer, teacher, author and lecturer. He has worked for newspapers and magazines across the United States and taught at three universities. He grew up on a frog farm in rural California, roaming the creeks and hills with his coon dogs. Many of the lessons he learned during those magical boyhood years have been applied to photography and teaching the essence of this art form. For more information, visit

Make the Outdoors a Part of Your New Year’s Resolutions

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014
New Year’s resolutions don’t have to be completed solo. In fact, they are more fun when others are involved. Also, experts say the support provided by family and friends increases the chances you will achieve your goals. Photo by James Bowyer

New Year’s resolutions don’t have to be completed solo. In fact, they are more fun when others are involved. Also, experts say the support provided by family and friends increases the chances you will achieve your goals.
Photo by James Bowyer

Here we are again at the start of a new year. Time to give some thought to what we want to accomplish in 2015.

Don’t forget to add one or two outdoor resolutions to your New Year’s list. Maybe you want to hunt more, catch more fish, or log more hiking, biking or boating miles.

Whatever your goals, here are seven tips to consider:

  • Set SMART goals. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time specific. Goals that meet these five criteria are more likely to be completed.
  • Keep the list manageable. By limiting the number of goals, you can focus your energies more effectively. Trying to do too much, too soon, almost certainly leads to disappointment.
  • Write them down. As my grandmother used to say, it’s nothing more than wishful thinking if you don’t write it down.
  • Keep the list in front of you. Put your goals where you will see them every day, such as on the refrigerator, nightstand or calendar.
  • Break big goals into smaller ones. Smaller, incremental goals are less daunting and more manageable. They also provide a sense of satisfaction and progress when completed, so you are more likely to keep going.
  • Take setbacks in stride. Don’t be discouraged if you fall short. Keep plugging away. You can always adjust expectations or try again later.
  • Reward success. Sticking to a goal deserves recognition. Reward yourself in some way to acknowledge the achievement.

Wildlife Photo Tip
One way to capture great wildlife images is to give your camera legs. A tripod is a useful piece of equipment for photographing animals from a distance or in low light.

A long lens not only magnifies what you are photographing, it also magnifies motion. A tripod compensates for that.

In a pinch, you can use a tree, a boulder or some other solid, stationary object as a tripod substitute. Place a backpack or coat underneath the camera to protect it, and shoot in short, three- to four-frame bursts to improve your chances of success.

Outdoor 101:
What Knot to Do
There is an ideal knot for every situation. The key is to learn enough knots to know which one to use for a given task. Check out books about knots, such as “The Ashley Book of Knots” by Clifford Ashley. Long considered the definitive book on the subject, it shows the right knots for every task. Once you figure out the knots to use, watch instructional, step-by-step videos for how to tie them at

Did You Know?

  • Fish make up 99 percent of an osprey’s diet. The other 1 percent is comprised of rodents, birds, reptiles and other small critters.
  • The bobcat is the most prolific wildcat in the U.S. They are rarely seen, even though an estimated 1 million bobcats roam the country.

Got a Tip or a Whopper?
Send us your favorite outdoor tip, photo or story. If selected, we will send you $25 for one-time use. When sending a photo, identify people and tell us the story behind the photo. Email your submission to gro.etilarurnull@ofni.

24authMany of Curtis Condon’s fondest memories involve outdoor adventures with friends and family, whether fishing with old school buddies, backpacking in the mountains of the Northwest with his sons or bird watching along the coast with his wife. He feels fortunate to have had the opportunity to write about the outdoors and other subjects for more than 30 years.


The Healing Power of Art

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014
Photo by Chris Jones

Photo by Chris Jones

By Sharon Naylor

As we age, we accumulate a lot of “dust” in the form of stress, aches and pains, memory loss, grief and any number of unpleasant aspects of time’s passing. Art can be a cleansing hobby that heals and lifts our spirits.

“Art therapy is becoming more common as more people are discovering the benefits of the practice, particularly for seniors,” says Kerith Glass, an art therapy expert. “In fact, many caregivers are incorporating art into their routines as they provide companion care for seniors who still live at home. Art therapy has been found to contribute to the well-being of seniors as they find more value in life and new ways to enjoy it.”

When art becomes a regular creative outlet for baby boomers and seniors, the benefits include relaxation, anxiety relief, increased dexterity, relief from physical pain, a lessening or avoidance of depression and an outlet for dealing with medical issues.

Art projects or art therapy can be beneficial to people suffering from arthritis and other painful conditions. Doctors may recommend gentle movements and keeping a range of motion and flexibility in joints.

Artistic hobbies such as needlepoint and crocheting projects can help aging hands that are starting to ache from arthritis. Using soft materials, such as yarn and felt, is soothing and aids in pain relief.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the number of Americans 65 and older with Alzheimer’s is expected to triple in the next 35 years—from 5 million currently to as many as 16 million by 2050.

Seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia often feel they have no control, so drawing or painting can provide a new sense of control in the opportunity to choose the direction of their artwork.

Their artwork frees them from the bonds of their cognitive issues. This is especially uplifting to the many seniors dealing with dementia. If the disorder can be held at bay for several years through healthy activities such as art, can enjoy an extra half-decade of quality of life. Some dementia patients even say art activities such as painting help with the recovery of memory.

Another benefit of art as a hobby is creating an outlet for people to express their feelings and fears. Through art, they can more easily communicate these emotions, or just get their worries and fears out of their heads and safely onto paper, so they can let go of emotions that have a hold on them.

On a lighter note, being an artist may have long been a person’s life goal, which they can now actualize. And reconnecting to a favorite hobby of their youth can lift their spirits and awaken talents they forget they had.

Here are a few tips for adding artistic hobbies into your daily life, or into the lives of your parents or other loved ones you support:

  • Choose from solo art activities, such as knitting, or group activities, such as working on a mural with friends. Some people work more comfortably on their own rather than as part of a group, so decide on this important factor first.
  • Designate a craft area where messes are welcome. Professional artists’ workspaces are splattered with paint, clay and other mediums. A person with challenged dexterity needs to be able to make a mess or spill some paint without worrying about a ruined floor or you being angry about the disorder.
  • Choose an easy craft that builds confidence, rather than a challenging project that will cause frustration, higher stress levels and anger. After that first success, it is more motivating to take on new craft projects with higher difficulty levels. Some early art choices include watercolor painting, clay sculpting, knitting, free-form painting, sketching landscapes and still lifes. Keep vision in mind, since diminished eyesight can make threading needles difficult, and a senior could be unwilling to ask for help.
  • Get safe, nontoxic art materials from the craft store, and choose pens with thicker barrels and grips suitable for arthritic hands.

The experts at say that art helps seniors adjust to new surroundings.

“Art therapy encourages socialization and gives new residents a chance to meet others, which can decrease depression and provide a sense of hope and security,” says Kerith.

Finally, remember that music is art as well—listening to it as well as composing it. Tapping a foot to a beat increases circulation. Songs can often bring back fond memories. Sharing musical choices with family members and friends fosters socialization.

Music can make the soul soar. So in addition to a project-creation art project, make an effort to bring the art of music into your or your loved one’s world.


Advice for Artists and Crafters With Arthritis

By Kristen Castillo

Stiff joints, swelling and pain: These are facts of life for many of the more than 50 million Americans who have arthritis—and they are not necessarily old. According to the Arthritis Foundation, two-thirds of people with arthritis are younger than 65.

The two most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis, known as OA, which is a degenerative joint disease that breaks down joint cartilage, and rheumatoid arthritis, known as RA, which can cause inflammation throughout the body, but typically affecting small joints in the hands and feet.

  • Stay active. Stretches and exercises that move the joint while increasing range of motion and decreasing pain are best. Staying active is important because a sedentary lifestyle promotes increased stiffness, and shortening of tissues leading to contracted joints and muscles.
  • Get moving. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many people with arthritis report significant limitations, such as difficulty stooping, bending, kneeling, climbing stairs or walking a quarter-mile. Frequent stretching and activities such as walking, swimming and biking can keep muscles and joints from getting stiff. While exercise is essential for arthritis sufferers, start slow and build up stretching and fitness routines.
  • Make accommodations. Just because you have arthritis does not mean you have to give up your favorite activities, such as painting, sewing and crafting. The key is to adapt and make accommodations so you can continue to enjoy those activities.

A B&B With a Mission

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014
Pepper pets Pendleton the mule, a favorite at the Cherry Wood Bed, Breakfast and Barn in Zillah, Washingon.

Pepper pets Pendleton the mule, a favorite at the Cherry Wood Bed, Breakfast and Barn in Zillah, Washingon.

The Cherry Wood Bed, Breakfast and Barn caters to clients who want more than the usual B&B experience

By Victoria Hampton 

Pendleton appears to be just like any other mule: jack rabbit ears and a lackadaisical demeanor. His brown coat glistens, and his cocked back hoof and hanging lower lip reveal that life is good for this 1,200-pound animal.

What sets him apart from his other equine counterparts is his history. Pendleton would not be alive today if it wasn’t for Pepper Fewel’s love for horses.

“From the time I remember walking, I was on a horse,” Pepper says.

Pepper and her husband, Terry, own an apple and cherry orchard in Zillah, Washington. In 2001, they added wine tours to supplement their horse rescue program.

“There are 22 wineries within a 12-mile radius,” Pepper says.

Settled into the rolling hills of Zillah wine country, the Cherry Wood Bed, Breakfast and Barn is the ideal setting for visitors to saddle up a rescue horse and meander from two to three wineries, taking in the views and enjoying the four-legged transportation.

“It’s the perfect storm,” Pepper says of their location. “I don’t know if you could do this anywhere else.”

The idea for the bed, breakfast and barn evolved from a series of events in Pepper’s life throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Pepper was a member of the local horse-cutting club, a western riding style competition where the horse and rider are judged on their ability to separate a single cow from a herd and keep it away for a short time.

The club started riding trips to three wineries in Zillah. At about the same time, Pepper received requests from people for her to find horses for them. She met a local man who got horses from the slaughter house. That inspired Pepper to start a rescue program.

“My husband said, ‘If you can find a way to feed them, you can rescue as many as you’d like,’” Pepper remembers. “He should have never said that.”

She laughs.

Pepper has 30 rescue horses, ranging from Pendleton the bay mule to Booker the palomino quarter horse and Wild Bill the paint miniature pony.

Most of the horses are “as old as dirt,” Pepper says, noting they range in age from 17 to 25 years old.

“Most of them are just old, and people don’t want them,” Pepper says.

She says many of the horses they adopt have been abused and neglected. Fattening up the horses up isn’t the challenge, Pepper says.

“If we can get past some of the mental issues, I think we’ve done good,” she adds.

Pepper’s daughter Tiffany is a certified Feldenkrais Method practitioner and works with the horses to prepare them for the wine tour. She has human and animal clients throughout the valley. Her training helps people with arthritis, cerebral palsy and minor to severe aches and pains by improving how they move their bodies.

“It’s a movement connecting your synapse back,” Pepper says. “It’s about being able to move with ease.”

Pepper works with the owner of the local feedlot to acquire horses. The horses there are sold to a slaughterhouse in Canada unless they are bought by an outside buyer, like Pepper.

Before bringing a horse to Cherry Wood, Pepper visits the feedlot and watches how it reacts around the rest of the horses in the pen.

If the horse wants to stay out of the way of the herd and not get into trouble, that is a positive sign about the character of the horse, according to Pepper.

Pepper pays anywhere from $800 to $1,400 for the horses.

In 2001, Pepper started charging for wine tours. From there, she expanded the business into a bed and breakfast by setting up six teepees on her property.

“This isn’t for everyone,” Pepper says of the accommodations.

The teepees are open from March to November and allow visitors to have a more rustic experience with Western-style decorations and an outhouse bathroom. In the morning, Pepper cooks a hardy breakfast for guests. They also offer twilight tubs where guests can soak under the sun and stars.

“I prepare meals you aren’t going to make at home,” Pepper says of her Swedish pancakes, pear and blue cheese quiches and other unique breakfast items.

Proceeds from the wine tours and bed and breakfast go to the care of the rescued horses.

“The transformation of people after staying here and riding is remarkable,” says Pepper. “We’ve made a lot of people happy with what we’re doing, and we’ve saved quite a few horses.”

Pendleton follows Tiffany around a pasture of 15 horses waiting for her to stop and pet him. Some join in Pendleton’s pursuit while others watch as she walks by and give a lip smack signifying they are at peace in their rescue home.

“It’s a passion and I love it,” Pepper says.

Readers Share a Taste of Winter

Clark Fair says cross-country skiing around open water can be tricky, “but the scenes can be beautiful.” Clark’s friend Yvonne Leutwyler skis along Silver Salmon Creek near Aleknagik, Alaska. Photo submitted by Clark Fair of Dillingham, Alaska.

Clark Fair says cross-country skiing around open water can be tricky, “but the scenes can be beautiful.” Clark’s friend Yvonne Leutwyler skis along Silver Salmon Creek near Aleknagik, Alaska. Photo submitted by Clark Fair of Dillingham, Alaska.

Clark Fair says cross-country skiing around open water can be tricky, “but the scenes can be beautiful.” Clark’s friend Yvonne Leutwyler skis along Silver Salmon Creek near Aleknagik, Alaska. Photo submitted by Clark Fair of Dillingham, Alaska.

A gorgeous view from Driveway Peak near Thompson Falls, Montana. Photo submitted by Kathy Conlin of Thompson Falls.


Fluffy new-fallen snow covers the landscape and hangs in the bare branches of trees. Photo submitted by July Bailey of Troy, Idaho.

Happenings Out West

Wings Over Willcox,
January 14-18

Photo courtesy of Wings Over Willcox

Photo courtesy of Wings Over Willcox

Birds of many feathers are celebrated at Wings Over Willcox in Willcox, Arizona. The annual event attracts birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike to view sandhill cranes and other species that winter in the area. The five-day event offers a variety of activities, including bird watching, seminars, a nature expo featuring live animals, and photography, agricultural and overnight ghost tours. For more information, visit the event website at

Start Them Young

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014
Photo by Christopher Futcher

Photo by Christopher Futcher

Eating healthy foods is important for growing bodies

By Sharon Naylor

The trends are alarming. The number of overweight children 6 to 11 years old has more than doubled in the past 32 years, rising from 6.5 percent in 1980 to 18 percent in 2012, according to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. At the same time, the number of overweight teens has more than quadrupled, jumping from 5 percent to nearly 21 percent.

These statistics show that children need better nutrition and a healthier lifestyle, since overweight children are more likely to become overweight or obese adults. Health problems once considered “adult health problems”—heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and joint problems—are now all too prevalent among even junior high school students.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one in three American children born in 2000 will develop diabetes at some point, and poor dietary habits already are manifesting in artery disease among children. Extra body fat and poor nutrition also are proven risk factors for cancer.

Add to the frightening health statistics the reality that overweight children often suffer from low self-esteem and bullying at school and the message is clear: Children need better nutrition and eating habits.

“Choose nutrient-rich foods for children,” says registered dietician and nutrition communications consultant Julie Meyer. “Many kids are missing out on the critical nutrients they need for growth and development, so bulk up their diets with food naturally rich in nutrients, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains and lean proteins, such as chicken and fish.”

Avoid empty calories from sodas, candy and refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pastries, she says.

The solution starts in your shopping cart. If you don’t buy the white bread, soda, candy and cookies, your kids don’t have a supply waiting for them in the pantry.

“Keep your fridge stocked with healthy, low-fat and nutrient-rich foods and that is what your family will be eating,” Meyer says. “Save ‘treats’ for outings like pizza nights on Fridays or cake at birthday parties.”

Pizza ranks among many children’s favorite foods. It also provides a great opportunity for a healthier strategy.

“Allow kids to choose their own toppings for a pizza or fillings for a taco from a collection of healthier options, such as fresh veggies or avocado slices,” suggests Suzanne Monroe, a food coach and author of “The Real Life Food Cookbook and Lifestyle Plan.”

Some healthy pizza toppings include diced green or red bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, broccoli and spinach. Using low-fat cheeses still allows for the melty texture kids love, while reducing saturated fat content. They also get a dose of calcium, which the CDC says many children lack, putting them at risk for early osteoporosis.

“Make sure to include a vegetable at every meal to provide a dose of antioxidants to boost immunity,” Monroe says. “Keep a veggie chart of all of the veggies the family likes and those they haven’t yet tried. Each week, have a child choose which new vegetable the family will try.”

Giving children a voice in choosing a healthier menu helps.

“When kids have a say in what they are eating, they tend to be less picky and feel a sense of accomplishment if they helped to create the meal,” Monroe says.

Meyer agrees: “Have kids help you make a few choice recipes that are healthy and delicious. Some good ideas include whole-grain muffins, fruit kebabs or veggie dips.”

Presentation also is a key motivator for kids.

When fruit is used to make kebabs, involve children in the “art” of designing the kebabs, flexing their creative muscles as they build their signature apple and pineapple “wands.” When play is introduced to meal and snack preparation, kids view fruits and vegetables as a friendlier diet staple.

Cut out sodas and sugar-based fruit drinks altogether. Replace them with water served in fun, themed cups and garnished with the child’s choice of fruit. A circle of orange dropped into a glass of water gives that sweetness children crave and delivers a touch of vitamin C and fiber.

“You can keep it sweet, but naturally sweet,” Monroe advises. “Eliminating refined sugar will help your family to feel better and have more energy. Substitute white sugar with natural sweeteners, such as honey, agave, brown rice syrup and maple syrup. These sweeteners taste just as delicious as sugar but have more nutrients and fiber, making them healthier for the body and easier on the blood sugar.”

Part of making healthier eating a lasting value for your children is teaching them why you are making changes to their diets and eliminating unhealthy snacks. When you have made healthy switches, bring the child’s attention to how much better he or she feels, how much more energy he or she has, and how much better he or she can concentrate in school and on homework.

Of course, emphasize the importance of physical activity—a cornerstone of children’s health—by limiting computer time and encouraging sporting activities. For instance, the entire family can go for bike rides and walks together after dinner.

Speak to a pediatrician to tailor your child’s diet to his or her unique needs, as well as any family history of disease. Check with the doctor before introducing new items to the child’s diet—especially any homeopathic products you have read about as nutrition boosters. If your child takes any medications regularly, a doctor’s approval of dietary and vitamin changes is essential.


Seven Tips for Eating Healthy and Affordably

  • Reconsider your source of proteins. Cuts of meat vary in price. Some are much more expensive than others. For a cheaper and healthier option, poultry—such as chicken and turkey—is your best bet. Ground beef is good if you want red meat, but make sure its fat percentage is low.
  • Do not forget vegetarian options. When we were children, my mother would make us beans and rice, just as her mother did when they were poor. They not only are tasty and inexpensive, but have lots of nutrients. Tofu and “mock meats” are cheap and good sources of protein, so don’t hesitate to cook with them to replace meat.
  • Look at the unit price of every item to determine how much each serving costs. For example, if a $1.50 box of pasta has eight servings, it costs about 19 cents a serving. Most grocery stores list that information.
  • Buy seasonal fruits and vegetables. When they are not in season, they have to be shipped from different parts of the world, which is expensive. However, certain staples—such as potatoes, onions, garlic, celery, lettuce and carrots—tend to have lower price tags no matter the season.
  • Canned and frozen items are inexpensive and major timesavers in the kitchen. Stock up on canned corn, beans and tuna, or get spinach, broccoli and peas in the freezer aisle. The nutrients are still there, and they will last longer than fresh items.
  • Look to your backyard. If you have the space and a green thumb, grow your own fruits and vegetables.
  • If all else fails, do it the old-fashioned way: Look for sales at your local grocery, and clip coupons or find them online.
    —Sharon Naylor

Cort Family Plum Pudding Recipe

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014



Cort Family Plum Pudding Recipe

  • 1¼ cups moist sugar (brown sugar)
  • 8 ounces finely chopped suet (substitute 2 sticks margarine or butter)
  • 1 1/3 cups sultanas cleaned (substitute raisins)
  • 1 1/3 cups currants
  • ½ cup shredded orange candied peel
  • ¾ cup flour
  • ¾ cup plain bread crumbs
  • 2 ounces almonds blanched and shredded (Note: You can use walnuts, but put a few drops of almond extract in place of almonds)
  • Grated rind of lemon and juice of lemon
  • 4 eggs
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2¾ cup milk
  • 1 wineglass brandy

Mix all dry ingredients together. Stir in well-beaten eggs, milk and brandy. Turn mixture into well-greased 48-ounce basins (such as aluminum bowls) and cover with a thin cotton cloth, securing around the rim with a string or elastic yarn. To steam, put about ½ inch of water in large kettle and put bowls of putting in pot. Bring the water to a boil and turn to low heat. Cover and steam five or six hours adding water as necessary so pot does not become dry. Recipe makes two puddings.

Note: The plum pudding is served with bird’s custard sauce, which can be purchased in packages at the grocery store. Follow directions on package.

Home for the Holidays

Monday, December 1st, 2014
On December 15, 2013, a tearful Sadie Kelley embraces her father, Staff Sergeant Jesse Kelley, after his surprise appearance at a holiday choir perfomance in Akron, Ohio. Photo by David LaBelle

On December 15, 2013, a tearful Sadie Kelley embraces her father, Staff Sergeant Jesse Kelley, after his surprise appearance at a holiday choir perfomance in Akron, Ohio.
Photo by David LaBelle

A few years ago, I met a man as I hurried to catch the bus to the airport terminal. He was an older man, giddy with excitement, and he could not contain his enthusiasm. As he ran toward the bus, he lifted his hands to the heavens and shouted, “My son, my son is coming home today!”

It was one of those special moments, a gift that reminded me how wonderful it is to be alive. The fact that this man felt compelled to share his joy with me—a total stranger—nearly moved me to tears.
During the short ride to the terminal, he explained his son was finally coming home after being out of the country for several years. We talked just a few minutes. When we arrived at the terminal, I shook his hand, congratulated him and we parted. The last I saw of him he was running toward the waiting area to meet his son’s flight.

As thankful as I am for that treasured moment, I have always regretted I could not follow him to witness—and photograph—the reunion. No doubt, it would have rivaled a scene from the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

I have witnessed and documented many other emotional reunions through the years—in airports, bus terminals and hospital waiting rooms.

A photographer I admired once said, “There are places where the heart beats louder.”

For me, the theaters of life where people reunite, where emotional celebrations of love, longing and thanksgiving erupt without coaching, are such places.

I love real, unscripted, unrehearsed, honest emotion, in whatever form it is manifested. The airport waiting area is one of my favorite places to watch and photograph. Few places offer more pure, unguarded moments. It is here that fear, anxiety, hope, relief and celebration often collide. Consequently, it is a place that offers an opportunity to study unrehearsed emotion.

That first glance, that first eye-to-eye exchange and then the falling into each other’s arms in tearful embraces. Sometimes these exchanges are so raw and beautiful I can barely see through my own tears to capture the moments.

One year, while working on a feature for a television station in Phoenix, I spent the better part of two days in airport waiting areas watching and photographing emotional holiday reunions. I witnessed broken families reunited, and separated lovers coming back together for another try. I saw the eyes of grandparents light up at the first glimpse of a grandchild. I ached watching a man with puffy eyes embrace his family as he arrived to attend the funeral of a brother who had been killed in an accident. Mostly, I photographed small groups of people embracing, thankful for each other.

Airport and bus terminals also are semi-private places that require slow movements and sensitivity. Using a longer lens is a good idea, so as not to interfere or interrupt personal moments.

Also, I seldom use a flash in quiet or emotion-filled environments. Flash can easily become an intrusion and call attention to you.

I usually wait until the emotional exchange has passed and then approach and tell people I have photographed their reunion and explain why. They almost always understand and appreciate me sharing.

There are so many wonderful reunions happening all over the world everyday, particularly during the holiday season. These precious moments require anticipating and planning for the unexpected, but they are worth documenting and sharing if captured with sensitivity.

daveDavid LaBelle is an internationally known photographer, teacher, author and lecturer. He has worked for newspapers and magazines across the United States and taught at three universities. He grew up on a frog farm in rural California, roaming the creeks and hills with his coon dogs. Many of the lessons he learned during those magical boyhood years have been applied to photography and teaching the essence of this art form. For more information, visit


Celebrating Holiday Heritage

Monday, December 1st, 2014

Families share traditions through the generations

By Victoria Hampton

The warm, fragrant smell of plum pudding steaming on the stove is an English hallmark passed down to sisters Susan Cort Johnson and Jennifer Hinrichsen of Westwood and Sacramento, California, respectively, from their grandmother Gladys Morley Cort.

“Eating plum pudding brings good memories of my grandmother to each Christmas celebration even though she is no longer physically with us,” says Susan. “Also, it keeps us connected to our English heritage.”

What enriches our country is the melting pot of culture that shines during the holidays when generations-old traditions are shared with family and friends. Many of the season’s celebrations are based around feasts, decorations and activities that are reminiscent of Christmases past.

Gladys Morley Cort immigrated to Sacramento from Eccleston, England, in 1922 because of the poor economy in England after World War I. Gladys brought with her the Christmas tradition of making plum pudding for each of her childrens’ families, three daughters and one son.

Before Christmas, Susan and Jennifer’s family would drive from Latrobe, California, to Sacramento to visit their grandparents. Susan says her family would be given their presents along with a bowl of plum pudding with bird’s custard to pour over the dessert.

“She had bowls she steamed all of the puddings in and would give to each of her children,” Jennifer says. “I believe she tied them with a ribbon.”

Jennifer has carried on the tradition of making two plum puddings for her family during Christmas. She even uses her grandma’s original bowls.

“They are kind of beat up now, but work great,” she says. “I have special Christmas dish towels I cover them with. One is for all of the family to share and one is for Dad.

“We grew up eating plum pudding and loved it. We always looked forward to it as children.”

Staying True to German Upbringing
While Susan and Jennifer enjoy a centuries-old English tradition during Christmas, for Barbara Milford the holiday is all about the bird.

When Barbara moved from Hamburg, Germany, to Melbourne, Florida, in 1978, she stayed true to a few of her German holiday traditions, including the holiday feast of goose, potatoes and red cabbage.

To ensure she does not have to settle for a lesser-quality bird, two months before Christmas Barbara orders a goose from a company in New York. It costs her more than $200, but she insists it is the best.

“I always think of all the effort it takes cooking it so I want the best,” Barbara says.

On Christmas day, she invites friends over for a dinner—but only friends who enjoy goose, she says, noting that some people think the bird is too greasy.

“All my friends are excited for this Christmas,” Barbara says. “If you like goose, you love it.”

While a home-cooked meal satisfies family and friends, decorations truly bring the holiday spirit into a home.

On Christmas Eve, Barbara’s family would decorate the tree, garnish their dining room table with pine branches and enjoy carp for dinner.

“We had real candles on our tree,” says Barbara. “They were only on when people were in the room because of the fire hazard.”

Trimming the Tree and Packages
The tradition of Christmas trees came to America in the 1800s with the Puritans. Ornaments did not become festive fair until the 1840s with the immigration of the German and English.

The first ornaments were made in Germany of hand-cast lead and hand-blown glass. As they gained popularity, they became more elaborately made of silk thread embellished with tinsel, stiff spun glass and figurines.

Stores such as F.W. Woolworth Co. in New York City sold German-made ornaments in a five-and-dime fashion, offering an assortment of inexpensive household items.

In an industry dominated by mass-produced ornaments, Verla Jean Zielke of Hermiston, Oregon, stays true to the fine craft of ornaments, hand-painting a variety of scenes on glass ornaments for her family and gifting them in small boxes.

On Christmas morning, Barbara would discover her presents under the tree. Before she could open them, she had to recite a poem.

“My mother said I never got past the first stanza,” Barbara says with a laugh.

Celebrating in Song
For centuries, poems and songs have been a communal way to commemorate holidays and cultural history.

Classic caroling songs from Russia and Yupik tribal songs are the center of a holiday tradition in Dillingham, Alaska.
Carol Shade of Dillingham started participating in the starring ceremony at St. Seraphim of Sarov Russian Orthodox Church in 1977.

Carol says the tradition is to go from house to house with a star made of wood and decorated in garland, and sing festive songs in Slavonic. Because of the local Yupik’s tribal influence in Dillingham, the starring groups also sing in Yupik.

The houses the starring groups visit offer something to eat or drink.

“Some families bake or make a meal,” says Carol. “It’s not about the food, though. It’s about bringing the joy.”

The starring ceremony represents the star the three wise men followed when Christ was born, which the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates according to the Gregorian calendar on January 7, with New Year’s Eve on January 13.

“I was not used to the different days, but it’s still celebrating the birth of Christ,” says Carol.

The starring event starts the night of Christmas, January 7, with a ceremony at the church and the first starring at the priest’s house. Starring groups travel from house to house after work weekdays and for most of the day on weekends.

It ends New Year’s Eve, January 13, with another ceremony—known as the Molieben or prayer—and a bonfire.

“It’s a time of rejoicing and gathering,” says Carol.

When a Russian expedition discovered Alaska in 1741, it opened the region to immigration and a blending of Russian and native tribal traditions.

Today, the Russian Orthodox Church may be the hub of the starring ceremony, but the event is a way for the community to come together and spread holiday cheer. For residents in Dillingham, the ceremony is a hallmark of Christmas.

Whether a tradition is based around food, decorations or celebrations, the holiday season is about bringing family and friends together and, in some cases, sharing traditions that have been passed down for generations.

For Susan and Jennifer, Christmas would not be the same without plum pudding.

“Some things just are Christmas,” says Susan. “Even if you served plum pudding in the summer, it would still remind me of Christmas.”


Verla Jean Zielke with one of her custom-painted ornaments exhibiting an ice skating scene.

Verla Jean Zielke with one of her custom-painted ornaments exhibiting an ice skating scene.

A Personalized, One-of-a-Kind Christmas Gift

When it comes to large families, it can be a struggle to get every member something they appreciate without depleting your bank account. Verla Jean Zielke of Hermiston, Oregon, found a solution. She hand paints ornaments for her four children, 10 grandchildren and 23 great- grandchildren.

“It’s something that is inexpensive and will last a long time,” says Verla Jean, who gives the ornaments in small boxes. “It is a gift each grandchild could keep even after grandma’s gone.”

Verla Jean has taken art classes and says she enjoys painting. It takes her one to three hours to finish an ornament. She uses standard glass Christmas balls and acrylic paint.

“I look through Christmas cards sometimes,” Verla Jean says, explaining how she decides what to paint. “Some of them I originate.”

She paints a variety of scenes, from elaborate flower designs to children playing in the snow. This Christmas, her family will enjoy snowman-themed ornaments, each with the words “Great- Grandma Verla 2014” inscribed on them.


Community members visit the Tillamook Animal Shelter in Tillamook, Oregon, to share Christmas morning with adoptable pets. Photo by Maria Nagy

Community members visit the Tillamook Animal Shelter in Tillamook, Oregon, to share Christmas morning with adoptable pets.
Photo by Maria Nagy

Share the Holiday with Adoptable Pets

Bring holiday cheer to four-legged friends by spending part of your holiday season at a local humane society or animal shelter.

In Tillamook, Oregon, community members are invited to the Tillamook Animal Shelter beginning at 10 a.m. Christmas to walk and play with adoptable dogs.
Shelter manager Maria Nagy says the event is important to the well-being of the dogs.

“Socialization of the dogs is important,” she notes.

The shelter dogs are able to experience groups of people of all ages. It is important to familiarize the dogs with different situations and people so the animals can be successfully placed in forever homes, Maria says.

Maria and volunteers offer hot chocolate and holiday treats to visitors. More than 20 people attended the event in 2013.

“There are still many people who don’t know about the shelter,” says Maria. “It was an amazingly good turnout.”

Maria says she was surprised so many people were willing to visit the shelter on Christmas morning, let alone bring gifts. Visitors donated toys, blankets, food and treats. She says the items needed most are blankets and towels, but everything helps.

“We’re a community-supported animal shelter and we wouldn’t make it without community support,” she says.

Check with your local humane society about holiday events and ways to give back to the four-legged community.

The Tillamook Animal Shelter is at 1315 Eckloff Road. For more information about the shelter, visit


David Pichcuskie sets 150,000 lights to Christmas songs in  his yard in Stanfield, Oregon. Photo by EJ Harris/East Oregonian

David Pichcuskie sets 150,000 lights to Christmas songs in his yard in Stanfield, Oregon.
Photo by EJ Harris/East Oregonian

Lighting Up the Neighborhood

By Victoria Hampton

A light display featuring dazzling arches, star-topped trees and frolicking reindeer transforms David Pichcuskie’s yard into a winter wonderland.

For the past seven years, David has made his Stanfield, Oregon, home a Christmas destination for people from the Tri-Cities to Boise.

“I saw musical lights on TV, looked into it and started doing it,” says David.

The display is set to music, with 13 songs played each night. David designed the display so certain lights turn on, off, flash or change colors during different parts of the song, keeping time to the beat.

“Silent Night” uses all of the 150,000 lights in a symphony of flashing colors.

David has an FM transmitter dialed to 106.9 so viewers can hear the music from their vehicle’s radio.

“People around here respect me a lot for the light show,” says David. “I don’t charge anyone anything. I couldn’t imagine doing that.”

David has set up bins for people to donate canned food for a church food bank, but this year he will raise money for Cancer Care Northwest in Spokane.

His wife, Terri, was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2013. In March, after battling nearly nine months, Terri died.

“My wife insisted I keep doing the light display,” says David. “I promised her no matter what I would keep doing it.”

He plans to set up an online account so people can donate to the center.

The display runs from December 1 to January 1. On December 23 and 24, the Stanfield Fire Department brings Santa on a fire truck so children can let him know what they want for Christmas.

“By the time the first is here, I’m usually struggling to finish it,” says David.

He hires two people to help him set up the display, which takes a month to complete. Aside from arranging the display in his yard, it takes David about 13 hours to program each song using Light-O-Rama software on his computer.

A cord runs from his computer to a main control box. It is hooked up to nine more control boxes, where various lights are plugged in.

Five miles of wiring and extension cords stretch around David’s house to deliver electricity to all the different light features, such as 18 arches, nine mega trees and many more figurines.

He changes the light display every year.

“I have to be able to picture the show in my head,” says David. “It’s a lot of work.”
David also has a Fourth of July display before Stanfield’s firework show.
He hopes to buy a public address system so people can hear the music better from outside their vehicles.

For people interested in visiting, David says there is plenty of parking since his house is across the street from Bard Park.

For the month of December, David’s electricity bill is about $600. David usually pays $100 a month, but he says the extra expense is worth it.

The event runs from 6 to 9 p.m. at 325 W. Roosevelt Ave. in Stanfield.

Six Gift Ideas for Outdoor Enthusiasts

Monday, December 1st, 2014
It seems there is a multi-tool for every endeavor, from fishing to hiking and shooting to boating. That is why they make a perfect gift for just about anyone. Left, the Hexus II by Topeak is an inexpensive pocket toolkit for bicyclists. Photo courtesy of Topeak

It seems there is a multi-tool for every endeavor, from fishing to hiking and shooting to boating.
That is why they make a perfect gift for just about anyone.
Photo courtesy of Topeak

VMC Spinshot hooks
, According to an old saying, there are two types of fishermen: Those who fish for sport and those who fish for fish. Tackle manufacturer VMC offers anglers in the latter category a better way to land more fish. The company’s Spinshot hooks make rigging a drop-shot setup fast and easy. The hooks feature a post with two eyelets; one is for the main line and the other is for the drop line. The post is mounted so the hook spins freely, which eliminates line twist, enhances lure action and provides better hooksets. Spinshots are available in six sizes for $4 per pack.

Supreme Products Pocket Chain Saw,
Why didn’t somebody think of this before? The Pocket Chain Saw is compact, lightweight, effective and easy to use. Basically, it is a 28-inch length of chain saw chain with handles on each end. Its bi-directional teeth facilitate cutting in both directions. You can’t fall a redwood with one of these, but small trees, limbs and PVC pipe are all well within its capabilities. It also cuts in close quarters. It is made in America and retails for $30.

Topeak Hexus II Multi-Tool,
A multi-tool is like having a pocket-size toolbox full of tools. The Topeak Hexus II is a multi-tool for bicyclists. It features 16 tools, including spoke wrenches, universal chain tool, chain hook, tire levers, Allen wrenches, and Phillips and flat-head screwdrivers. It retails for $28, but is available for $18 to $20 at various discount outlets online.

Voltaic Systems OffGrid Solar Backpack, Charging small electronics while on the go—even in remote areas, far from the nearest power outlet—is easier than ever with this 1,500-cubic-inch backpack. It is ideal for charging cell phones, tablets, GPS units, digital cameras and other portable devices while out on the trail or water. The solar panels on the backpack can convert one hour of direct sunlight into three hours of cell phone power. At $199, the OffGrid Solar Backpack is a bit on the expensive side, but the company also sells other, less-expensive backpacks and solar power systems, including stand-alone solar arrays that can be attached to any backpack.

Bear Grylls pocket-size survival kit,
Every outdoors person should carry a survival kit of some type, whether pieced together with household items or purchased as a pre-packaged kit. The new Bear Grylls line of survival kits makes it easy to be prepared. The company’s offerings range from a basic kit for $23 to the ultimate survival ensemble for $52. The basic kit includes a mini Gerber knife, emergency whistle, snare wire, fire starter, matches and three more essentials. It comes complete with a ripstop nylon carry case that fits easily in a back pocket, backpack or glove box.

Walden & Bork custom game-hide creation,
Create lasting memories of one or more of your hunter’s successful expeditions. Walden & Bork has made a name for itself by producing custom, handmade wallets, purses, book covers, belts, gun cases, sheaths, tote bags, briefcases and many other items made from hunters’ own game hides. The company offers dozens of styles and options to choose from, or suggest your own ideas. Prices vary—and they can be expensive—but what better gift for the hunter who has everything?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMany of Curtis Condon’s fondest memories involve outdoor adventures with friends and family, whether fishing with old school buddies, backpacking in the mountains of the Northwest with his sons or bird watching along the coast with his wife. He feels fortunate to have had the opportunity to write about the outdoors and other subjects for more than 30 years.


Tin-Can Trailer Art

Monday, December 1st, 2014

Corinne adds trailer line art to one of her handmade mugs.

From modern mainstream to vintage Airstream

By Debby Schoeningh

Leaving the bright lights and bustling pace of New York for a small-town lifestyle, Corrine Vegter has found her nirvana—a place to perfect her artistic endeavors while enjoying the wide-open landscape of Eastern Oregon.

Corrine left her career as a high fashion hair and makeup artist for publications such as Vogue and Rolling Stone to create ceramic vintage trailers.
While working on a fashion shoot for Urban Outfitters in Oregon, Corrine says she fell in love with the state.

“I came home with probably 300 photos from the trip,” says Corrine. “I was feeling like it was time to experience what it was like to have more breathing space, with lots of open land and great routes to ride our bicycles.”

After making the decision to move, Corrine and her husband, Brian, put their home in Manhattan on the market and sold it in a day. Within two months, they were living in Oregon—initially Bend—but now Baker City.

“At times, I miss the excitement of working in the fashion industry in New York, but at the same time, I am extremely happy with my choice to do ceramics and live in Baker City,” says Corrine.


Corinne Vegter’s vintage trailer ceramic art

Corinne says while she and Brian were traveling in their VW camper van, “I fell in love with the cute little trailers that some people refer to as ‘tin-can trailers.’ I had all these thoughts, like ‘who lives in there?’ and ‘how long have they lived in that tiny little trailer?’ It was a fascinating lifestyle to me.


Corinne’s work features everything from classic Airstream designs to canned-ham trailers.


“Growing up in Chicago, I had never been on camping trips, so it was really exciting for me to see this way of travel or living. One day, leaving a campground, I said, ‘when I get home I am going to make ceramic trailers.’”

And so her artistic pursuit began. She started accumulating photos of Shasta trailers, Road Runners, and Alohas—everything from canned ham shapes to teardrops—and although she loves them all, the Airstream remains her favorite.

In the beginning, Corrine says, her first miniature trailers were heavy and resembled something you might find being pulled by the Flintstones’ stone-wheeled foot-mobile. She has since perfected the hand-built trailers that are made by piecing together clay slab cutouts, before being fired in a kiln.

“Now, I pay more attention to scale and balance,” she says. “I don’t have any fancy equipment to make sure things are exact, but I think I have a good eye for getting it pretty close.”

Although she adheres to the actual shape of the trailers, she adds her creative signature with the addition of fabric curtains and hand-painted designs. Some models have lights, but she leaves out more modern trailer features like air conditioners.

“I don’t work too hard on making an exact copy, mostly because that would take the fun out of it for me,” she says. “I might even use completely different colors while keeping the time period of the trailer in mind. I have painted flowers on them with pendant flags, polka dots, stripes, arrows, and I have even glazed an Airstream bright red.”

Corrine works out of their home-based Dusty Dog Studio, named for their dogs, Bettini and Zephyr, that routinely get covered in clay dust while keeping Corrine company.

The Vegters purchased a life-size, restored, 1962 Airstream Bambi in 2011 and joined the Wally Byam Caravan Club, named for the founder of the club who was born in Baker City. They also purchased a 1976 Airstream Argosy that they are working on to get it “road worthy.”

The duo plans to paint the exterior of the Argosy in a graffiti style.
Corrine, embracing her playful artistic nature, says, “Argosy trailers were usually factory painted white, so why not do something a bit crazy?”

For more information or to view Corrine’s art, visit


Much of the holiday art decorating Roseburg, Oregon, store front windows this time of year is the work of Dawn Fox.

Much of the holiday art decorating Roseburg, Oregon, store front windows this time of year is the work of Dawn Fox.

Creating a Window Wonderland

By Craig Reed

Snowflakes, holly, snowmen and Christmas trees greet people as they walk by store fronts throughout Ruralite country. The Christmas season is the most popular time for window art.
In Roseburg, Oregon, many of the artistic creations on local business windows are the work of Dawn Fox. She likes to share the spirit of the season with others.
“I like to make people smile, and if the window scenes make somebody smile, then my job is done,” she says.
In the two weeks following Thanksgiving, Dawn spends most of her spare time turning clear windows at area businesses into holiday scenes. Holly, big ribbons and bows are the most requested artwork, but there are also candy canes and snow-covered fences and trees.
The most popular phrase used in the scenes is “Merry Christmas.” Dawn says another phrase frequently requested is “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.”

“I love Christmas,” the 39-year-old says. “If you see me out painting, there’s probably Christmas music blaring out of my truck. I bee-bop to the music. People might stare at me, but you have no idea how many people love the window art. It just makes them feel good.”


Photo by Wendell Franks

Photo by Wendell Franks

Happenings Out West
North Pole Postmark Available Now

Every year, the U.S. Postal Service receives hundreds of thousands of requests from around the world for the North Pole, Alaska, postmark. It is

a service provided at no cost.

To receive a North Pole postmark, prepare your Christmas cards as usual, address the envelopes, seal them, affix sufficient postage to each, place them all in a larger envelope or box, and mail it to:

North Pole Holiday Cancellation
4141 Postmark Dr
Anchorage AK 99530-9998
Source: U.S. Postal Service