An Interview with Jen@The Light Laughed

Selfie in golden field

“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious…and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”  ~Walt Disney 




This month I thought I would bring you another interview with an amazing person I have grown to know in the blogosphere.  As you might remember, after receiving and award from Julie@Gardening Jules, I had promised to do several interviews of some amazing bloggers and share them with you.



So for today’s interview, I am talking with Jen Vandervoort@The Light Laughed.  You might know Jen from her days blogging at Muddy Boot Dreams.  That’s where I met Jen, when she lived on the coast of British Columbia and created magic in her pictures and prose.  I think that was over 5 years ago now.  Since then Jen has been on many new paths, and I have enjoyed seeing her bloom and grow.  She is an inspiration for me in so many ways….her photography, her blogging style, the way she creates community through her blog and her willingness to keep creating new ideas.



So let’s meet Jen……..


Hi I’m Jen, chasing a laughing light through the Okanagan, camera in hand. Photographer by heart, blogger by day fan of Instagram, and Pinterest for their visual appeal. Weaving words among my images, sharing stories, and exploring the world of blogging with a focus on midlifers.

I believe in being our own personal best as bloggers no matter what level we aspire to.

I’m a co-founder of a FB group for bloggers who’d like to grow, share, and support each other through blogging, we’re always welcoming new members, and have been working on a few interesting changes to roll out in soon to make the group even better.




 1.  Jen it has been such a pleasure knowing you.  As I said I am inspired by your blog and your style of blogging.  So why did you start blogging?


I discovered blogging about at the same time digital cameras became affordable. I’d been sharing digital photos with friends, and on Flickr, so when I discovered blogging it just evolved. There is something in all of us that seeks affirmation for our creativity, and blogs allow us to share our lives so easily.

When I came across The Pioneer Woman’s blog it changed my life in so many ways, she introduced me to blogging, and Photoshop. I happily realized that I could start to build a community of amazing people to surround myself with who would share their work, and appreciate my work too.



Wet garden and cat

2.  I bet there is someone who we can say inspired all of us to blog.  What inspired you to recently change your blog?


I moved from Blogger to Word Press because I was feeling hemmed in, and had too many issues with being shut down without reason. I like my content, and images to belong to me, not to the whim of some computer nerd tucked away.

Word Press allows me to own my own content, it’s self hosted, and Blogger can no longer shut down, or remove my blog.




3.  I understand wanting to own your own content.  So Jen, what is the significance of the title of your blog?


The Light Laughed reflects who I am now as a blogger, and photographer. When I’m out there with my camera, I’m searching for the light, where does it come from, what is it doing? Have you ever watched the light drifting through the branches of trees.  It settles, flits, laughs….that’s how I got my blog name…wandering down the country road in my new life, camera in hand, watching the light laugh.

We’ve reached our Muddy Boot Dreams, it was a long journey of almost 12 years, and it’s wonderful to be here, but the name just didn’t fit anymore.



Bare branches at the side of the road

4.  I love what you say about the light.  I too found inspiration in that light.   What keeps you blogging?


My community of blogging friends, and an urge to share these small wonderful moments of everyday joy. The way you’d point out something interesting while you’re out with friends is how I want to blog. We all have a story to tell, to share, to read in the comments that my readers felt like they were there with me, that it touched their hearts…that’s what keeps me blogging.



Feathers and acrons

5.  I couldn’t agree more about the blogging community.  What are some of your creative endeavors that give you pleasure?


Photography is my most beloved create endeavor right now. I am also writing more, and exploring the exciting world of short videos.




6.  Your photography is incredible…more like art to me.  It speaks to my soul.  Do you have a favorite space or spot that is sacred in or around your home?


My garden is an organic, natural space, where wildlife and birds wander, and my heart lives there, it’s where I find my peace.



Bokah daisies

7.  Nature and gardens do that for us, don’t they?  I know you have moved to your dream spot.  What makes this place nirvana for you?


Each time we had to leave to go back to the coast I couldn’t help but cry during the drive back, an intense feeling of having left a piece of my heart behind. The day we moved up here it was as if I was given it back. It’s not just being surrounded by family and friends, it’s a homecoming.

It’s where we belong, and are flourishing.




8.  So let’s shift a bit.  Tell me what famous person or not so famous person you would like to meet?


Ansel Adams…The Group of Seven, Emily Carr, to all of them I would have liked to say, thank you for changing the way the world looks at art and photography.



Primrose in post and birds nest

9.  I would love to meet and just observe Ansel Adams.  And I can see why he inspires you through your photography.  What is or would have been your dream career or job?


I think I’m living it now. But if I had to choose, a small shop, selling stationary, beautiful flowers, books, and gifts, tea and scones…that would be my dream.




10.  And I would love to frequent that shop especially for a cup of tea and to read a special book.  If it is possible to pick a favorite book, what would you choose?


I love to read, and of each good book I’ve read the latest would be one of my favorites. Being immersed in the pages, reading the words, the tactile dragging of fingers over good quality paper while turning the page.

Visually stunning photographs that transport me into others worlds, where I get to walk among the characters, sit on chairs in beautifully decorated rooms, smell the flowers in the gardens…



Old bus in yard[6]

11.  What are some spots you love to travel to and why?


New Zealand is on my list for a repeat visit…it captured my heart, if I didn’t live here, I would try to live there.




12.  Photography is such a big part of your life. What is your creative process?


Creativity’s an intense feeling in my heart…[ I know I talk about hearts a lot ] …but it’s that feeling inside that drives me to create. When something is evolving creatively in me it’s almost as if it takes over and won’t be silenced until it’s made. You just have to go with it.



Echinacea pink

13.  The pictures here are all incredible creations of Jen’s.  Aren’t they just stunning?  Jen, what are some words of wisdom you have for those of us who are still learning about photography?


The most important thing you can do is practice, everyone improves that way. Learn the basics of composition, and technique, challenge yourself to move beyond the Auto button. Constantly compare, not to others but to your own older work, so you can see how much you are learning and how your style is evolving. That’s what is going to inspire you the most.




14.  Ah yes that Auto button.  I am still working on moving beyond it.  Someday soon I think…..What new form of arts or craft would you like to learn?


I would love to learn to create encaustic art with found items and my photos. Something about working with bee’s wax makes me think it would be very interesting.



Spring mockup

15.  Well that is a new one for me, encaustic painting.  It sounds fascinating.  Is there anything else you want to tell us about your life, and what might be next for you?


I’m eager to explore more about designing websites, creating digital goods, and video, that’s where my heart seems to be headed lately. I think the journey has just started…and it’s going to be interesting.



Fence and cloudy sky

Jen, I know I will be anxiously awaiting your next creative steps…..


I hope you enjoyed this little talk with Jen Vandervoort.  I love learning a bit more about the creative people who touch my soul, and inspire me to move beyond my limits.  Jen you are definitely one of these inspirational people.  Please make sure you visit Jen in all the wonderful places she hangs out.


Here are her most popular links…Although Jen is on Twitter and G+, she says she doesn’t really visit there too much.







All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2015.  Photos are the sole property of Jen@The LightLaughed and their use in this post is by permission of the photographer.

Conversations in the Garden-On Perseverance


“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

~Winston Churchill



If my gardens have taught me anything in the last 20+ years, it is the lesson found in this wonderful quote.  And oh how I have stumbled and bumbled around in my garden.  Planting mint or anything in the mint family in a moist sunny spot….a nightmare as it takes over.  Letting teasel go to seed in the meadow… get a meadow of teasel, not native wildflowers.  Or trying to grow tomatoes in a spot with barely a few hours sunlight….you might get one tomato if you are lucky.




And through all these experiences, I have continued forward.  With a dogged determination to not give in or give up, but to persevere.  To keep going and fighting and learning from these mistakes…..I like to call them experiences.  Yes I could give up.  I have thought about it.  But a voice replays a very wise saying in my ear each time I do want to just throw up my hands….’It is, what it is.



It took me a long time to figure out what that meant and not fight against it too hard, because it is like beating your head against a wall.  So what to do when you plant mint?  Continue to rip it out.  You will still have enough to use, but it will not take over.  With teasel (pictured here), which is a beautiful and somewhat dangerous plant, you have to keep pulling it out too.  Eventually you get ahead of it and begin to see progress.  The plant cannot get a foothold and you can see your wildflowers flourish instead.



There are times shear willpower will not win out, and during those times I study, plan and put in the effort.  Take growing tomatoes.  We knew we needed more sun so we waited until we had a sunny spot to grow them.  But then wilt and blight killed the plants.  And year after year with no tomatoes we again contemplated throwing in the trowel.  Instead I looked for hybrid tomatoes that were grown to resist these fungal diseases.  I tested different ones until we found those we liked, and now we have tomatoes growing and ripening.



IMG_7513As it is with my garden, so it is with life.  Things have not always turned out as I had envisioned.  My story has changed many times through many lessons and hardships.  The paths I followed led to new paths…some good and some not so good.  And sometimes I let setbacks get to me, but not for long.



Through it all, there has been one constant…..I never stopped trying to reach a dream. Those dreams may have been delayed until the timing was right.  Each struggle helping me grow, to make me ready.  To learn the lessons hidden inside the wait and the struggle. And many times I let the dream go…not giving up, but releasing my tight hold on it.  Inevitably the dream came back around, many times changed and morphed into something better.



And it was because of this steadfastness I cultivate inside of me, that I have grown.  I have a rich, purposeful life.  Maybe not the life I envisioned or dreamed about many years ago, but a wonderful life.  Full of rich experiences with persistence and determination…a life of happiness and joy.  And now on this new path since retirement, I am learning many things still.  Not content to sit and let my memories wash over me.  No I am flexing those ‘moxie muscles’ again as I pursue new dreams…new hopes with the same perseverance I have always shown.  I whisper these new dreams on the wind, let them go and continue to move forward one step at a time.  I am excited to see what comes back to me in time.



teasel collage







Special Note:  The pictures here are of wild teasel or Dipsacus fullonum.  It is considered an invasive plant and weed here in the US that was introduced in the 1800s for use in the textile industry.  In The Language of Flowers, it has come to represent Misanthropy.  The plant is not to be trusted as it is covered in sharp barbs from tip to root, and will cause injury if you get tangled in it.




I leave you with a few additional words about Perseverance.  I welcome you to download the photo and share it.

on perserverance

All other photos and original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-2015.  Any reprints or use of other photos or content is by permission only.

August Break Completed


“A dream is your creative vision for your life in the future. You must break out of your current comfort zone and become comfortable with the unfamiliar and the unknown.”

~ Denis Waitley




I promised I would finish up the photography challenge,  The August Break, the creation of Susannah Conway.  Today I have the last 4 prompts, and my interpretations.  These last few words seemed even more of a challenge, but I practiced patience and waited as the inspiration took hold.  Some came to me days later, and I changed the images that didn’t seem to work for me.  So here we go.


The first picture above is Day 30-Smile.  Yes that is me, or what I was willing to show of me as I wanted to emphasize my everyday smile.  Just a hint of a smile always on my lips as my mouth upturns and my cheeks puff out.  This photo was actually taken on my Mac computer using the application, Photo Booth.  The camera on my Mac is easier to use for taking self portraits.  And I love some of the effects that this application has.  The effect I used for this was picture is called, Color Pencil.




In The Bag collage

Day 28-In My Bag  This particular prompt had me stumped.  I had many ideas none of which I liked.  As I was going by the pond, I noticed the yellow waterlily finally blooming at the end of summer, which was late.  And I remembered it grows in a cloth bag at the bottom of our pond.  The cattails have all but crushed this waterlily, but I was happy to see it was not going to be pushed out.




in my bag collage2

Then the next day, I saw the new bag of my favorite coffee waiting to be opened and ground.  And it hit me!  I opened the bag on our kitchen table and let it spill out.  And here are 3 views of the coffee beans (that was in my bag of coffee) spilled on the table.  I love these images and can still smell the coffee.





Day 29-Listening  I knew I wanted to take a picture of our, almost antique, receiver.  My husband has had this receiver for a long time, even though we no longer have the turntable.  We have a CD changer still hooked up to it, and we love to use the radio.




tree frog

Day 31-August Was….  Full of Discovery.  Everywhere I looked in my garden, the smallest creatures seemed to bring delight.  And I continued to see more and more special scenes like this one.  This a Gray Tree Frog.  They are more gray when they are living closer to our trees, and green when in the garden.  As I walked by the stalk of a plant, this tiny green blob caught my eye.  Only an inch long, they are hard to see, but they make a mighty song in high summer when mating.  The pictures were processed a bit differently to highlight this little creature.


At the end of the post is another little creature hard to see when they rest in our big ash trees, on tiny branches.  Of course I am talking about the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird.  This is either a female of juvenile hummer.




So there you have the photos from days 28-31 of  The August Break challenge.  Here are the links for the my other posts from this challenge: Days 1-10, 11-20, and 21-27.


I am linking in with the I Heart Macro meme hosted by Laura@Shine The Divine that happens every Saturday, with Judith@Lavender Cottage who hosts Mosaic Monday, and with Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday) photo linkup party at image-in-ing.




I leave you with a bit more sentiment about creativity and joy.   Feel free to download the photo and share.

create joy

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-15.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.

Wildlife Lesson-Who’s Your Momma?

baby cowbird5

“I have a mother,” said the baby bird.

“I know I do.

I will find her.

I will. I WILL!”

~P. D. Eastman, Are You My Mother?



One day this summer, I was looking out on the garden as I had heard a bit of chattering that told me baby birds were about….or I should say fledglings or newly fledged birds.  As I looked, I spied a new arrival on the patio….a common landing area where we see many new fledglings rest and explore until they get their courage up to take another flight.



As I watched this babe (you could tell he was newly fledged as he hardly had a tail and hebaby cowbird2 was sporting baby feathers still, here and there), I thought to myself that I had never seen this type of baby bird before.  Certainly too big for a sparrow, and not quite right for a red-winged blackbird.



The babe was definitely curious taking in his surroundings, wandering on the step of the patio and seeking out seeds.  He hopped about, but always kept one eye on the sky as he cried a bit to be fed.



baby cowbird4As I was still trying to figure out who this was, another bird swooped down.  It was a smaller song sparrow.  I thought nothing of it until, the sparrow approached the baby bird, and suddenly fed the big baby bird.  Immediately the lightbulb in my brain went on, and I knew immediately who our visitor was; a fledgling Brown-headed Cowbird.



Now if you don’t know, cowbirds are one of the few birds who do not build a nest.  Instead they lay their eggs in other birds’ nests.  I always found it fascinating that these birds laid eggs, and left the care and upbringing of the egg and baby to other birds much like a foster care program for birds.



I have read many birds are not amused with this behavior by the cowbirds, and baby cowbirdwill destroy the eggs if they notice them in the nest.  Song sparrow and cowbird eggs are very similar in appearance so it is no wonder they are duped into thinking the egg is theirs.  It must be quite tight in the nest though with the baby cowbird, as they are double the size of baby sparrows.



The sparrow fed the baby cowbird there on the patio for a while and then they were off to the trees and others areas in the garden more protected and remote.  As they flew off, I marveled at this scene that had played out before me, and how these stories give me pause to reflect about our own human race.  Perhaps we could take a page from nature and try to work more in harmony helping each other without question and prejudice.  It’s a dream!




baby cowbird3

Here are some interesting facts about Brown-headed Cowbirds:

  • The female cowbird usually chooses an open cup-nest to lay one egg.
  • The female will wait until the host bird has at least one egg in its nest, many times removing an egg from the nest before laying her own.
  • Female cowbirds will continue to lay one egg at a time for about a month, and can lay up to 40 eggs in host nests.  That’s a lot of cowbirds.
  • The incubation of cowbird eggs is short taking typically 10 to 12 days, thus allowing the young cowbird to get a head start in the nest.
  • Young cowbirds grow quickly, which gives them a competitive edge for food over the other young in the nest.
  • Young cowbirds will also leave the nest quickly usually after 8 to 13 days.
  • It takes the young cowbirds quite a long time to become fully independent from their host parents, about 25 to 39 days.
  • Once they become independent they will form small flocks with other juvenile cowbirds and juvenile birds in general.
  • The care for the cowbird from egg to independent juvenile is usually at the expense of the host bird’s other young, as the cowbird is bigger and grows faster thereby giving it food and attention more than the host bird’s young ones.



baby robin collage

This summer we have witnessed many fledglings in and around the garden especially baby robins.  No robins nested in the garden this year, preferring the undisturbed abandoned house next door.  And it appears our crazy robin momma had a couple of small broods as we saw her feeding babies weeks apart.


This babe flew to the arbor and stayed there for quite a while as it took in its surroundings.  It was quite content to stay put for more than an hour waiting for its parent to come and feed it.




young robin

I spied him, or a sibling, a few weeks later in the garden searching for food and not far from his parents still.



With this wildlife story, I am joining in the meme Wildlife Wednesday hosted by Tina@My Gardener Says that happens the first Wednesday of every month, and with Saturday’s Critters hosted by Eileen@Viewing nature with Eileen that happens every Saturday.  I am also linking in withMichelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every week.



And I am sharing this lesson with Beth@PlantPostings for her wonderful Garden Lessons Learned meme.  I hope you will join her.  Please check out all these great blogs.



Also as the equinox approaches, please join me at my garden blog, Gardens Eye View,  for my quarterly meme, Seasonal Celebrations. There you can find all the details for linking up to this celebration of the coming of the new seasons around the world.




I leave you with another thought about the lessons I am learning from nature.  Feel free to download the photo and share.

baby bird

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-15.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.