I am dedicating this post to introducing the reader to Summer Drake of Drake’s Cakes.  (I love the rhyming name).

Summer ia a former student of mine who graduated from Apollo High School in 2005.  Back then, once a student graduated it was very rare to ever connect with them.  But with the advent of social media,  that is no longer the case.  I was very happy to reconnect with Summer on Facebook.

Summer was posting the amazing pictures of cakes on her page.  All sorts of cakes, from cupcakes to fairy tale cakes, to Hello, Kitty cakes.  Summer had gone into the cake making business. She became her own cake boss-ette, so to speak.  What I also noticed is the excitement Summer has for making and decorating these baked delights.  It is always nice to find someone with a great enthusiasm for what they are doing.

I asked her if she did wedding cakes.  At the time she hadn’t but that was her ultimate goal with her business.  It’s also nice when someone achieves one of their business goals.  A couple of weeks ago, Summer posted with much deserved pride a picture of her first wedding cake.

Summer and I both have in common that we are in the early stages of our new business enterprises.  I can appreciate some of the difficulties  in securing new business and new clients for our services.  With that in mind, I wanted to take this opportunity on my blog to introduce the reader and potential client to Summer’s business; DRAKE’S CAKES.

I have posted 5 sample pictures of her creations.  For a complete look at all the wonderful items she has baked, check out DRAKE’S CAKES’ Facebook page HERE.

There has been this big push recently about patronizing small, independent businesses.  So here’s your chance.  If you need a baked good for a party or gathering, rather than running to a big chain grocery story, try out a cake from DRAKE’S CAKES.

Enjoy the pictures, check out the Facebook link.  As for me, I am looking forward to the wedding I photograph that has a wedding cake by Summer.  I’d like that very much.

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One of my favorite things to tell new parents is to get their newborn an electric train for the child’s first Christmas because that was what my Dad got me for my first Christmas.  Or so I thought.  Thinking that this would be a fun subject to write about on my Christmas blog, I went and dug up my baby album to find the picture of me and my electric train on my first Christmas.

Much to my surprise and disappointment, the photograph I saw clearly in my mind for all of these years did not exist.  However, I did find THIS Christmas photograph of me and my electric train.


Me and my electric train, Christmas 1952. I was always such a looker.

This photograph was taken on my second Christmas.  The basic starter Lionel Train set.  My Dad eventually built the coolest portable layout for the train.  I remember when we moved out to Arizona when I was 4 years old the anxiety I had because the train set and layout had not made it with the rest of our belongings.  It was the last thing to arrive from Ohio.  We always set up the layout at Christmas, and if I was lucky, I got a new car or accessory  on Christmas.

I still have the train.  It is boxed away.  The portable layout long gone having been done away with when I was at college, (along with half my comic book collection).  Even though the set is old, it isn’t worth much.  Too many high speed wrecks, and from what I understand, the premium prices are paid if the cars are in their original orange and blue boxes that you see in the back of photograph.  But the sets value to me in fond memories is priceless.


Christmas and Lionel Trains. Like peas and carrots.

I  must say I was a bit disappointed that my 1st Christmas present at the age of 11 months was not the electric train.  It was such a great story that I have told for years.  But as I looked through my baby album for the first time in 30 some odd years, I was delighted to find a picture of me at the tender age of 11 months with my 1st Christmas present.  I didn’t even remember the picture, but it explains so much about yours truly.


There I am.  Banging my first drum.

Jeff Paisley

And I still bang the drums today.

Always to old to die, never to old to rock and roll.

It’s 12:20 on Christmas Day.  Merry Christmas, everyone.


Some people are dog people, some are cat people.  I am a both people.  So I thought I would share a few of my “cats and dogs, living together” stories on this Christmas Eve.


When we finally got out of apartment living and into a house, we had decided we wanted a dog.  And eventually the Duffer came to live with us.  Duffer was a purebred Cairn Terrier (think Toto from The Wizard of Oz) who we got from a coworker that could no longer have a pet.  I never thought I would like a small dog, but Duffer changed my mind.  He had the best disposition and temperament, which really helped when cats decided to become part of the household.


One night outside the carport door there was this hoarse, rasping sound.  I looked out and there was this kitten looking at the door and making this sound.  I figured it was just hungry, so I put a little bowl of left over clam chowder out for it.  Not only did the poor thing not sound well, he didn’t look well either.  He was scrawny and his eyes were filmy.  I figured he would eat and move on, not hanging around the yard because of the dog.  I checked a little later and the bowl was empty and he was gone.  But he came back the next night.  This continued for a few nights until one time as we were opening the door to leave, the cat scurried inside the house.  I went after him, a bit worried about how the dog would react.  The cat went right up to Duffer and head butted the boy, and Duffer responded by licking the kitty’s face as if to say, “my brother.”  So much for cat vs dog crises.  We kept the cat, nursed him back to health and called him Squeaky because he never could meow, he just squeaked.

We picked up LC  when she was a kitten a couple of years later.  Taking pet population control seriously, we had set an appointment to get her spayed.  Unfortunately, at the time we did not have a pet door.  Of course as I was letting the dog out, LC streaked out of the house and into the night.  She later had 5 kittens.  The vet had told us to set up a nice box for her to have the kittens in and serve as a kitty nursery, and so we did.  A few days after, I was laying in bed taking a nap when LC came up with one of the newborns in her mouth and dropped it right on my chest.  She went and got another one and did the same thing.  As she was going to get the third one, I scrambled to figure out what the heck she was doing.  Thinking that she might not be liking the box she and her family were in, I took a chance and went and opened one of the closets.  Call me the cat whisperer, because I had hit the nail on the head. She took the next kitten into the closet and  put the rest of them in there as well, and that’s where she stayed until they kittens were old enough to come out on there own.   They were the cutest things.  I was tempted to keep them all, but 7 cats and a dog seemed to be a few too many.  We were able to find them all good homes.


I eventually became a practical man and installed a pet door for all the convenient reasons there are for having one.  But one of the side consequences of having one is that the house became a haven for some of the other cats in the neighborhood.  I first noticed this phenomenon when I was up late watching TV.  I heard one of the cats eating some dry food back in the laundry room.  However, when the cat came out of the room, it wasn’t one of mine. As soon as the cat saw me see him, he took off on a mad dash to the pet door.  On another night, I was up reading when I noticed a cat coming out of the guest bedroom.  Again, this cat was not one of mine.  I noticed that Duffer was lying down in such a way that the cat would pass right by him in order to get out the pet door.  As the cat walked by Duffer, the Duff raised his head, sniffed, and then lay his head back down with kind of a snort as the cat sauntered on out of the house.  Over the months I had managed to see 5 different cats that didn’t belong to me wander in and out of the house, apparently with the blessing of my dog and two cats.


In the course of the years, Duffer and Squeaky passed on, and we added Hillary to the family, getting him from a little girl giving away free kittens.  Then came Mose.  We named him Mose after a character in the movie “The Searchers”.  In the movie Mose was an old Indian fighter who wanted to finish his days in a rocking chair by the fire.  That’s why Mose came into our little family, I think, to finish out his days in the warmth and comfort of a home.  Mose was an old, stray cat.  I believe he at one time had been domestic, but had been cast off at some point.  I don’t know how old he was, but he was pretty beat up.  His ears were all torn up, and there were scars and bare patches in the fur from all of the fights and scrapes that Mose had been in.  I first discovered Mose in the front yard.  One day he showed up and was laying in the flower sill on the front of my house.  He was laying there every day for weeks.  I finally decided to put a bowl of dry food in the sill with him.  I did this for a few days when Mose sort of disappeared.  He did show up later, but much to my surprise  the next time I saw him he was laying on the living room couch as big as life.   Over several days he gradually let me get close to him and allow me to pet him.  The other cats were curious, but basically ignored him.  I eventually took Mose to the vet, where he was diagnosed with various ailments.  After determining that it was safe for Mose to be around my cats, he was given shots and medication which got him as well as he could get.  Mose definitely liked the company of people as he spent much of his time curled up in my lap or my wife’s  lap.  He lived about 3 months longer, not having to scrounge for food and  passing his remaining days in his own version of a rocking chair by the fire.


The pet door is gone and the cat hotel is closed.  Hillary couldn’t go outside without getting into a fight and after $1,000 surgery to fix an eye, I figured it was cheaper, and healthier for him, to keep him indoors.  He has a little sister named Amelia.  They are both asleep close to me as I write this, ready, I am sure, to help in anyway they can.

Merry Christmas and have the best of holidays.  I hope it is your version of a rocking chair by the fire.


Duffer and one of the newborn kittens.


Duffer inspecting the kitten. The kitten practicing cat indifference.


Squeaky and Duffer.


Amelia, asleep but ready to help me at a moments notice.


My blog “What is That Song Stuck in My Head?” introduced the reader to my friend John.  Recently John and his wife Freda asked me to do a family portrait of them (two is a family I think, three if one includes Rufus, the Wonder Pup).  Obviously, I did say yes.

I remember the positive changes in John’s life when he and Freda started dating.  It was evident to me and his other friends that John had finally found his one true mate.

As time passed and their love and bond with each other grew stronger, John and Freda decided to get married.  I was honored when John asked me to be one of the witness for their ceremony.  The other person they asked to be a witness was our friend Dave.  I introduced Dave in my “Try Getting Outside” blog and have mentioned him in other posts as well.

The ceremony was to be a simple one performed by a Peoria judge. On the appointed day we met at the City Courthouse.  My first surprise was needing to go through a metal detector and needing to take my belt off.  I know, I know… but I haven’t flown in years, much less gone to a court house recently, so it was a new experience for me.

 John and Freda checked in at the front desk and were told there was a slight delay because the judge was busy due to a hearing he was conducting.  So we waited in the lobby and had a pleasant conversation to pass the time.  After about an hour, we were told to proceed to the courtroom.

We went into the courtroom, and it was full of people in the audience, with the plaintiffs and defendants and their respective lawyers still at their tables.  Whatever the case was, it was still going on, so the judge took a quick recess so he could marry John and Freda.

Let me take a moment to acquaint the reader further with Dave.  Dave thinks he is funny.  And he actually is 99.9% of the time.  Dave just at times doesn’t dial it down when he should.   Such was the case at the ceremony.

The judge greeted us with a smile on his face and proceeded to apologize for the delay because the case was taking much longer than was anticipated.  Dave pipes up with “and whose fault is that?”

The smile immediately was replaced by a look I am sure the judge reserves for the most heinous criminals that appear before him, fixed  his cold heated eyes on Dave and proceeded to tell us that he and the City were doing the ceremony as a courtesy and a service to it’s citizens AND that the City did this for free AND… at that point I stopped listening because I was to busy inching myself as far away from Dave as I could without being too obvious while trying to decide if I was going to bail Dave out or let him stew in lock up overnight.  I truly expected to hear the phrase “contempt of court”.

Miraculously, and thankfully,  those words never were spoken.  Dave straitened up and flew right and things proceeded without further incident.  Dave actually got back on friendly terms with the judge who started telling Dave and us that his ceremony book had several ceremonies in it depending on beliefs and such, and that he had used them all except the ceremony written for an Apache couple.

Finally, as no one had left the courtroom, the judge had John and Freda turn around and he presented them to the courtroom.  The audience applauded.  Even the young lady at the defendant’s table was wiping away the tears she had shed during the brief ceremony.

Later, to complete the ceremony, we gathered at John and Freda’s home with friends and family and the lovely couple “jumped the broom.”  It was a beautiful thing.  Sometimes simple is the best.

The photo session with John and Freda was a treat to shoot.  They fit well with my shooting style.  Traditional poses have their uses, but I like shooting pictures that tell stories.  Freda and John made that so easy.  All through the shoot there was a playfulness about them that I feel is evident in these shots, from the Freda ambush of John with a handful of leaves to the romp on the couch with Rufus the dog.

George Bernard Shaw penned the statement “Youth is wasted on the young.”  Love can be wasted on the young as well.  It is evident that John and Freda are not wasting a single second of their love for each other.

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“take a sad song and make it better.” *

About three month’s ago, the Photographer’s Adventure Club started advertising for interested club members to volunteer for something called Help Portrait.  At the time, I didn’t have any idea what Help Portrait was, nor did I have any interest in finding out about it.  And so I went about my merry way going about my merry business.  Then about a month or so ago, I saw another posting in Facebook saying they still need people to lend a hand in the Help Portrait endeavor.  By then I had heard a little bit about the project, had gotten some literature on it, and figured I might as well go ahead and volunteer for the day.  I am glad I did.

This is Help Portrait in their own words: “In December, photographers around the world will be grabbing their cameras, finding people in need and taking their picture. When the prints are ready, the photographs get delivered.”

The PAC held it’s Help Portrait day at the 1st Congregational Church in downtown Tempe.  There were makeup artists, hairstylists, 4 studio stations available, 4 printing stations, entertainment including a magician and a face painter.  Snacks and water were also provided.   Those that had their photograph taken were given a high quality print and the option of a jump drive with their photos on it.  This was all free to those getting pictures taken.

I don’t feel that I am a good enough of a wordsmith to accurately describe the way the day affected me and the others in PAC that contributed on Saturday.  Anything I think of writing just seems inadequate.  The good feelings of the day came from working with the clients that came through the door.  From the first lady I met who showed up at 9:30 to be the first in line so she wouldn’t have to wait, to the single mother of four, to the last man who came and took his picture with his dog, and all the other individuals and families  in between, these people are what made the day a special experience.

I think one could safely assume that everyone who came in to get photographed had had their share of hard luck and trouble.  But I hope and believe that once they walked into our little “studio”, that as they became our “customers” and we made them the center of our attention, that some of the hardships of life were suspended for a few moments and things got a little better this day.

Kimberly Haugen, a member of PAC, summed up the day best when she talked about how much everyone was smiling and what a happy day it was.  There certainly were many a smile that day.  My job allowed me to roam around quite a bit so I spent much of my time at the printing station just watching the reactions of people as they first saw their photographs come out of the printer.  There were smiles all around.  It was a beautiful thing.

*lyric from the Beatles’ Hey Jude