with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Water Droplets on Sheet Web

Water droplets on sheet web - photography by Brent VanFossen.

Water droplets on sheet web - photography by Brent VanFossen.

Just as there are many types of spiders, there are many types of webs. A favorite of ours is the sheet web.

Lying flat across plants and grasses, Brent and I are impressed by these diligent web makers as they work on the horizontal rather than vertical. Our front “yard” filled with knick-knick, Oregon Grape, and sahlal, native Pacific Northwest plants, is a haven for sheet web-making spiders.

In the fall, the rain comes down, drenching these sturdy webs with water drops. Brent was able to get in close to capture the droplets without disturbing the web.

I love the patterns, the wet texture, and the lovely colors of nature in this photograph. Made into a puzzle, this one would be a tough image to put together.

Backlighting Devil’s Club Overhead

Devils club leaves photographed by Lorelle VanFossen backlit in the forest.

Traveling to Seattle, a friend and I went to the John Bastyr School for one of their health and herbal festivals. A nature walk through the forest next to the campus intrigued me. It was incredibly informative, discussing how to use plants in the wilderness for medical treatments and health.

The Pacific Northwest forest was dappled with sunlight and the treacherous Devils Club hung over our heads at one point in trail. I worked around the group trying to get a good angle on the plant to capture the details with the strong backlighting.

The Devil’s Club is one that I’ve run into since a child digging around the forests of the Pacific Northwest, and trust me, this is one you do not want to stumble into. Called the Devil’s Club or Walking Stick, it can grow up to 16 feet (5 meters) tall in rainforests and damp environments to which Western Washington is well equipped. Spines are found not only on the stems but the leaves, making it a painful experience to touch in any way, even brush against.

According to our guide, Native Americans used Devil’s Club for medicine to treat diabetes, tumors, chapped lips, and tumors. It can also be used as an analgesic, though it isn’t as strong as traditional aspirin. It can be used in herbal teas and he said that they ate it as food. He didn’t clarify which part they ate, from the red fruits that form in clusters off stems that look like clubs, or from the leaves or root.

For me, this is a plant I’ve endured most of my life, having spent too many hours pulling its little thorn-like spines from by arms and legs and out of my dogs. Still, it is a magnificent examples of the unusual in the world. A plant I think of when I imagine what plant life was like during the dinosaur times.

Love Letters of Wood

Photograph of a large piece of Douglas Fir wood for a workbench with sale sign. Photograph by Brent VanFossen.

A text and a chat alerted me to Brent getting way to excited about sharing something with me. I was driving, so it had to wait until I was in a safe place. The alerts on my phone instructed me to check my email for a love letter.

This is what I got.


I checked the beams in the garage last night. The first two I checked were at 34% moisture content – which is the maximum my meter will read. I also measured 24% and 20% depending on the piece.

I went to Restore again today. I found a beam that is thick and straight and dry and already glued up. 6″ x 15″ x 18′ for $2 a foot = $36 total. So I paid for it and will pick it up tomorrow. I’ll cut it in half with the chain saw. The wood inside is beautiful, looks like Douglas Fir, and the grain is all vertical, very tight and as nice as or nicer that the beams we got from the barn.

Photos attached.

Love you!


This is my version of a love letter from my husband. Sure, everyone needs mushy words of love and devotion, but after twenty years together, I get excited more when he’s excited. For the past two years, anything made of wood gets his passion flowing.

I love it.

Flash Isolates Natural Subject

Dried Thistle phtographed with flash, thus the background goes black. Photography by Lorelle VanFossen.

This dried thistle head in the Painted Hills of Oregon caught my attention with its textures and lines. I’ve always loved thistles, alive and vital with their fluffy tops, and dried out cone-like structures of mystery and pattern.

To isolate this thistle, I used flash to force the background to go to black. The flash also dove into the textures highlighting the dimensional quality of the seed head. The black background brings out the delicate curves of the plant.

To create this yourself, get close to your subject and use full flash. I recommend putting your camera on a tripod to maximize the sharp focus of the subject.

If the subject like this thistle is moving in the breeze, just be patient and wait for it to pause. The flash allows the camera to photograph at higher speeds, but you want all the odds on your side.

The Mystery of the Stargate Coasters and the Pears

Box and coasters representing the gate from Stargate - photography by Lorelle VanFossen.This is a story about the mystery of the Stargate Coasters and the pears.

The story begins with Stargate episodes on Amazon.com. It probably begins further back, but that is where I will start.

I’ve been having trouble sleeping for the first time in my life. My mother, once a chronic insomniac, continues to be jealous of my ability to drop off anywhere, no matter the noise or distractions. If I need sleep, I sleep, anywhere, in any position, at any time – except for naps. I’ve never been a napper. She’s attest to that. With changes in my body the past two years, my system is slowly stabilizing and sleep is returning, but it has been a battle.

A science fiction fan, a few months ago I started spending my sleepless hours snuggled up in bed watching reruns of Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis, and Stargate Universe on Amazon.com, taking advantage of their Amazon Prime membership and Amazon Instant Prime Videos. Unfortunately, Amazon continues to make it extremely difficult for members without an iPhone or Amazon Fire. Android continues to be ignored, even though it is the fastest growing mobile OS worldwide.

A slip of the finger and I’ve purchased an episode or season. This leads to time wasted going to my desktop computer and contacting them for a refund since these are available for free.

The storyline expands with our housemate and his preparation for moving to Canada. In preparation for his move, he ordered computer equipment and materials he will need in his new home, as anyone would when preparing for a big move and life change. Along with Christmas presents, daily visits from UPS, FedEx, and other shipping companies have been a daily routine for months. The boxes pile up and are sorted and divided up when we get time. (more…)

Exploring Painted Hills in Oregon

painted hills - trail proceed no further sign - lorelle vanfossen

A few years ago, my mother and I went on a genealogy romp through Oregon trying to track down the records of my family. We swung out into Eastern Oregon to one of my favorite nature parks, Painted Hills. I’ve photographed it for many years. Here are a few of the choice images from that trip to revisit this odd geological spot where the winds and rains have worn away the topsoil to reveal amazing colors of the minerals in the ground.

Are You Still Paying for International Phone Calls?

Cell phone on desk next to coffee mug with Doctor Who logo - photography by Lorelle VanFossen.According to a recent Harris Interactive/Rebtel Research Study, smart phone and web users are idiots and spending money they don’t have to call internationally.

Despite the number of free web services available to make international calls, US smartphone owners are shelling out close to $37.8 billion a year to keep in touch with foreign contacts. According to a recent survey, 21% of those with a smartphone use their device to dial internationally. That breaks down to an average bill of $156 a month.

Google Voice Stays Free In 2013 But VOIP Is $15 Billion Industry” from Forbes says that even though most people know that Skype is free, “30 million Americans pay for VOIP services and they are expected to generate about $14.5 billion in revenue.”

While we are not yet to Arthur C. Clarke’s prediction and dream of free communication world-wide, we are getting closer.

Come on, people. Get smart.

I’ve traveled all over the world and want to stay in contact with friends I’ve made in those countries. With the global nature of social media, don’t be constrained by the old boys club thinking when it comes to staying in touch across borders.

We know that this should be easier. I agree. Unfortunately, we are usually stuck calling people only on our plans, with our provider, or using the same software or app. Some charge fees for mobile phone access (2g, 3g, 4g) but are free for access with the same phones over WIFI. There are work-arounds, and these are worth exploring if you would make regular international calls like I do.

I used to use international calling prepaid calling cards and all types of gimmicks to make affordable calls internationally, but with the expansion of VOIP, there is no need for that any more. Save time and money being smarter about connecting.

I connect with my friends internationally from my computer (laptop, tablet, phone, etc.) frequently with Google Talk, Google Hangouts, and Skype. All for free. Skype is the easiest for those unfamiliar with the rest. Use their app or desktop program to place calls for free to international members of Skype. Need to call direct to a non-Skype phone, take advantage of their cheap membership prices.

I can’t recommend Google Hangouts enough. I love it. Not only can I voice, text, and video call for free to anyone in the world with a Gmail account, it features conference calling (up to a limited number for free), whiteboard, screen sharing, and more.

Snow on the Road

Snow on the road from Breitenbush Hot Springs, Oregon, 2012, photography by Lorelle VanFossen.

I love driving in the snow. Yeah, I know that most people freak out, but I’ve always been calm and cool when driving in winter conditions, even extreme. I know what I’m doing and I have total confidence in my abilities. What I don’t have confidence in are the other people.

I was thrilled when the snow started coming down in waves of great flakes on our last day at Breitenbush Hot Springs. It feel on our warm faces and into the waters of the meadow hot pools. You could see the snowflake as it sank and melted into the water. It was beautiful and amazing, and cold.

Brent wanted to leave early but I reminded him that it is always safer to drive on compact snow rather than slushy stuff. We had lunch and then headed out.

The trees bent down over the road with the weight of the snow accumulated over the past few days, creating a tunnel of white and shades of gray.

Love it. What a great way to leave our peaceful retreat and re-enter the world.

Photographing the Moon Eclipse 2008

Time laspe images of the moon eclipsing the sun in 2008, photography by Lorelle VanFossen.

Time laspe images of the moon eclipsing the sun in 2008, photography by Lorelle VanFossen.

It was freezing cold outside. And dark. Not the kind of dark that just comes with night but the dark that happens when the earth passes between the sun and the moon.

It was February 20, 2008, and I was in our new temporary home in Gaston, Oregon, an hour west of Portland, in time for the total eclipse of the moon. Brent and I stood in the cold for hours to photograph and watch this rare event.

NASA explained that the difference between this eclipse and other annual eclipses is that this one was first visible to the majority of people on the planet, covering the Americans, Europe, Africa, and western Asia. The full eclipse happens only when there is a full moon and only if the moon passes through some portion of Earth’s shadow, when the earth, sun, and moon are in total alignment.

We are used to seeing solar eclipses, where the moon blocks the sun for a few minutes. A lunar eclipse lasts for hours as the earth blocks the light hitting the moon. No special glasses are required for a lunar eclipse, unlike a solar eclipse. The previous total or full lunar eclipse was three years before. The next one is April 15, 2014.

There are two shadows that the earth cats on the moon, an inner an outer shadow. It is the inner shadow, the umbra, that happens when earth blocks all direct sunlight from reaching the moon, making it totally dark. If the moon passes through the umbra, it is a partial eclipse. If the moon passes through both the umbral (outer shadow), then a total eclipse occurs. We were in for a total eclipse.

As the moon passes through the various stages of the eclipse, it turns from red to dark brown and dark gray. That is what we experienced.

For us, it was a rare enough event as clouds didn’t interfere with the show. (more…)

Where the hell is Lorelle?

Like a game, Lorelle bounces around the world and the web. Here is a new listing of all the places where you can find Lorelle, and hopefully she will recover from speaking in third person soon.

Lorelle on WordPress: This is now considered my “main” site. It covers all things WordPress, blogging, web publishing, and social media.

Learning from Lorelle | Learning WordPress, blogging, social media, and web publishing: This is my teaching site where all my students go for the latest and best information on web publishing, WordPress, code, family history blogging, writing for the web, and more.

Blog Your Passion: This is a zen-like site dedicated to teaching you the basics of blogging and writing on the web. It features a simple How to Blog article series for beginners. Currently the site is in an innovative WordPress Theme called Duotone which changes the background color to complement the photograph in an article. It is used mostly by photographers so I’m pushing it beyond typical usage.

The Tech Nag: The Tech Nag is my place to expound upon the problems of technology, poor user interface, customer support, and general bitching about how miserable things are and how they can be improved.

Lorelle Writes: This is my personal online journal where I share my writings and lessons learned at various writing workshops and classes.

Family History | VanFossen, West, Anderson, Farlin, Knapp, Elwell, Disbrow and More: More than a hobby, I’m the family’s “official” genealogist and family history researcher. I share my family’s history and stories here.

I play around with many other sites, but these are currently the most active. Swing by and say hi!

Finding Vegetarian and Raw Food Sources Near Beaverton, Oregon

Red peppers in the market in Tel Aviv, photography by Lorelle VanFossen.I’m finally starting to explore our new neighborhood near Hillsboro, Oregon. My new quest is to find healthy and organic local produce and natural foods stores, and some good ethnic groceries so I can eat with healthy recipes from all over the world.

Here are some resources I uncovered on the web to help me find these food suppliers in the area.

Infinite Wilderness – Organic Resources near Portland, Oregon offers some of the best natural food groceries and resources around the Portland, Oregon, area, including Hillsboro and surrounding communities. The list includes organic grocers, gardens, produce delivery, clothing, restaurants, and more.

People’s Food Coop – Portland Area U-Pick Resources lists a wide area around Portland, Oregon, for picking your own fruits and vegetables from local farms and suppliers. Some are organic, and others are not quite organic, with information in the notes.

I’m still looking for some co-ops and CSAs that will deliver or provide really convenient access for pick-up. We’re just that step out far enough that we’re off their delivery routes, but I’m still looking.

Uwajimaya is a Pacific Northwest treasure. Currently, there are three Uwajimaya stores in the Northwest, one in downtown Seattle, Redmond, Washington, and now in Beaverton, Oregon. This is a magical grocery store stuffed with all these Asian including rice cookers, steamers, chopsticks, kimonos, books, fresh fish and seafood, Oriental teas and spices, and aisle upon aisle of international foods.

Seeking sushi, I stumbled into Tokyo Japanese Restaurant right next to Trader Joes on 185th near Highway 26 in Hillsboro and tasted some of the best sushi I’ve had in years…decades maybe. They have a citrus sushi roll called the Pink Dragon which is pure sin to me. The lemony flavor doesn’t overwhelm the fish and it slips down so fast – order two. They aren’t cheap but worth every hum, ooo, and awe. I usually get one to take home to relive the tongue joy the next day. They do specialty items as well and are always welcoming and accommodating and just about everyone can find something good to eat there, sushi or not. (more…)

Lorelle’s World as of April 12th, 2012

The following is a snippet of Lorelle’s online world published weekly.

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Lorelle VanFossen published Lorelle’s World as of March 30th, 2012.

Lorelle’s World as of March 30th, 2012

The following is a snippet of Lorelle’s online world published weekly.

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Lorelle’s World as of March 19th, 2012

The following is a snippet of Lorelle’s online world published weekly.

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Lorelle VanFossen published Lorelle’s World as of March 17th, 2012.

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Lorelle VanFossen published Lorelle’s World as of March 15th, 2012.
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