American Flag Pin

The idea for this craft came from I modified it to make it easier and would like to share my modifications… and the reason for doing so. Perhaps you’d like to make one for a veteran you know and give it to him or her this 4th of July!

I was asked to attend Girls Camp in Arizona’s Coconino National Forest earlier this month and to find a service project that about 80 teenage girls could do at camp.

Some of the girls recommended helping military veterans somehow. I looked on and discovered an agency that serves veterans near me. When I asked if there might possibly be something these girls could make while out in the woods and give to the veterans, the kind woman at the agency suggested making these adorable patriotic items that can be pinned onto a hat or jacket.

Up at camp, we gave each girl a paper plate for her own workspace and poured several beads onto it. We also had them place a few rocks on their plates in case the wind blew a little. Fortunately, there wasn’t more than a pleasant breeze, and the project worked great!

Only 58 girls wound up with time for the project, so back at home my daughter Sydney and I leisurely made a total of 30 more while enjoying all 3 of Marvel’s Thor movies. Sydney, with her incredible skill, chose to pick up each bead and slip it onto a pin. What worked easily for me was keeping the bead on the plate and poking the pin down through it.

As you can see from the photos, we pinned the beaded gift onto a card with a hand-written thank you note. Some of the girls at camp wrote a very thoughtful message (especially those aged 12 and 13).

From a few of the 13-year-olds:

“Thank you for all that you do for our country. It really means a lot to me.”

“What you do to protect our country is a big deal and you deserve a lot more credit. You have a lot of courage– more than most people.”

“Thank you sooo much for your service. I really appreciate and admire your courage!”

“I respect you so much (even though I don’t know you).”

“Thank you for being and staying strong for us.”

“Thank you for serving us and protecting our freedom. I hope that this will help you remember why you are [were] there.”

From a couple of the 12-year-olds:

“Dear Veteran, Thanks for serving our country and families. You helped keep the U.S. safe–and me.”

“Thank you for risking your life for our country. I hope you know that I love you and have a wonderful day.”

The agency was happy to receive the pins. They know how grateful the veterans will be!

Here are the Materials I recommend:

  • 10 small silver-colored safety pins—size 1 (27mm)
  • 1 large silver-colored safety pin—with no loop (57 mm)
  • 1 small, clear earring back
  • red, white and blue glass seed beads—size 12/0

My Instructions:

1.Each small safety pin holds 9 beads. For the first pin, thread on the beads in this way: 5 blue, 1 white, 1 red, 1 white, 1 red.

2. Repeat with the second, third, fourth and fifth safety pins.

3. With the sixth thru tenth safety pins, start with red and alternate the 9 beads red/white.

4. To make step 5 even easier, line up the beaded pins on the table so they look like the American flag— with the blue beads on the left. Pick up the first small safety pin (on the left), and turn it around so you’re looking at the side with no beads.

5. Slide the coil end (little loop) of that first small safety pin onto the large safety pin—all the way around the curve onto the other side of the large pin. Add the other small pins the same way. (You need the pointed part of the large safety pin free to attach to a card, hat, jacket, etc.)

6. Thread the earring back onto the large safety pin— also somewhere past the pin curve onto the other side— so the small safety pins can’t move back around the pin curve.

Have a beautiful day!


Watermelon Cutouts

It’s been a crazy busy couple of weeks and a busy Friday, but I was determined to post something on my blog tonight. Sydney asked me to cut the watermelon, and inspiration struck! The lighting isn’t the best, but let me tell you…. the watermelon tastes delish. It’s especially tasty when shaped with cookie cutters and topped with a morsel or two of candy, a grape or even a chow mein noodle. Why not? (The noodle was Sydney’s idea.)

Marvel-ous Cakes

The Bifrost cake.

Cake creations are a thrill at my home. The planning for Sydney’s birthday party cakes (yes, more than one) this year began a couple of months ago. The Lego characters that would top them did, after all, have to be ordered online well in advance. Above, Sydney places them on the cake depicting a well-known place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe– Heimdall’s Observatory and the Bifrost (a.k.a. the Rainbow Bridge) on Asgard.

We enjoyed the reactions from Sydney’s friends!

Most of the cake’s Lego people represented characters in the movie Thor: Ragnarok (including Loki, with his signature gold helmet, and the Hulk)… but not all of them. The Valkyrie questions one she doesn’t recognize during the battle on the Bifrost.

Batman is a DC Comics creation… not Marvel.
Hela, a nemesis of Thor.
Lego really goes all out. I think Lego people are adorable!
(We wash them before putting them on cakes… and after!)
Heimdall on his observatory.

You’ve surely noticed that this cake is not perfect-looking in scale or any other way. I hope it will inspire you to try something fun like this… especially for a child’s or teen’s party! I recommend helping them, but letting your kids design and do as much as they can.

So how did we make this? We used a 14″ x 2″ cake pan for the base, and two 6″ x 2″ pans for the dome-ish observatory. I leveled one little cake and put the more rounded one on top.

For the spire, we put extra cake batter in a tiny 2″ x 2″ cake pan and topped it with the golden drill of the Lego Ninjago set called “Cole’s Earth Driller.” Tanner, my son, had conveniently just gotten it for his birthday a few days earlier. It hadn’t been part of our plan, but it became very welcome addition! A toothpick held the tiny cake in place, and edible metallic gold spray paint sold at a local craft store gave the yellow cake the tint we were hoping for!

The Bifrost was a piece of cake. Literally and figuratively. We cut a piece from a cake made in a 13″ x 9″ pan. Four strips of “Sour Power” candy sold at a local candy store was simply placed onto it to produce an obvious rainbow bridge.

Pre-packaged white frosting mixed with sky blue icing color, plus royal blue decorating icing applied in swervy lines, gave the effect of water.

To be sure each cake would easily come out of the pans, we greased & floured the pans, then put baking parchment in them (cut to the size of the bottom of each pan). A 16″ cake board (cardboard pre-cut for this purpose) was great for displaying the cake and transporting it to the table.

The Colosseum cake.

Another scene in Thor: Ragnarok is the colosseum fight between Thor and the Hulk. We decided to make a colosseum.

Mayors’ Prayer Breakfast 2019

I love photographing the East Valley Mayors’ Prayer Breakfast the last few years. It’s always a beautiful venue. Last year, it was in an airport hangar. This year, it was out on the lawn in front of the Gilbert Town Hall.

The Bel Canto Singers of Gilbert Christian High School performed with a special soloist, the popular McKenna Breinholt.

McKenna Breinholt.

Gilbert Mayor Jenn Daniels hosted the event. She told of this year’s theme, “Fabric of Hope,” which represented government, businesses, nonprofits and faith groups working together to help those in need.

Mayor Jenn Daniels.

Lots of talents was on display!

The Gilbert Town Fiddlers welcomed guests.
The woman in the middle shows off the lovely quilt she made and displayed at the event.

High school student Hailey Gates sang The Star-Spangled Banner.

People of various faiths prayed together.

First responders from various cities prayed too.

Mesa Mayor John Giles with some Mesa Police officers.

Chandler Mayor Kevin Hartke chats with Rabbi Mendy Deitsch.

Mayors stand to be recognized.
Several mayors pose together.

Have a day full of hope!


Light the World Giving Machines

Left to right: Dave Richins, CEO of United Food Bank;
Michael Hughes, CEO of A New Leaf; Katy Pompay, manager of Helen’s Hope Chest;
and Tom Kertis, CEO of St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance.

What happens when thousands and thousands of people in the community donate funds to local and global charities? Those charities receive a lot of money to purchase items for the people they serve!

I was happy to photograph the event at which 4 charities in my neck of the woods received enormous checks from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Church had set up special vending machines called “Giving Machines” during the 2018 holiday season in 5 cities, including Gilbert, Arizona.

So, what exactly are Giving Machines?

A Giving Machine.

Imagine that instead of putting money into a machine and getting a snack immediately out of it, patrons paid for items to be donated to charities that work year-round directly with people in need. Pictures in the machines represented 42 choices. When purchased, the pictures dropped and collected in the machine tray. Choices included a polio vaccine, a box of fresh produce, a sewing machine, a pair of work boots, two live chickens, clothes for a refugee child, etc., etc., etc. From $2.00 for fingerling fishes to $210 for “school in a box,” donors could easily find something in their price range to give.

Many donors, especially young ones, were excited to help pay for families abroad to receive animals. Eager to buy a cow, two girls raised the requisite $150 with their own bake sale!

Readers may be delighted to know that the animals can still be purchased! Visit The website explains the need for another popular choice: “A goat gives a family nourishing milk to drink. It’s also a vital source of income, since extra milk can be sold at local markets. And because they’re always in demand, goats are like stocks or bonds, easily traded for vital goods and other animals.”

How did the idea of the Giving Machines come about? I was fascinated to learn as I interviewed people in the know. They are part of the Church’s Light the World initiative. “It started by thinking, ‘How would Jesus Christ celebrate His own birthday?'” says Jeff Taylor, Executive Creative Director of Bonneville Communications (Boncom). “And we came up with this campaign called ‘Light the World,’ which is essentially celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ by emulating His life.” People were encouraged to do nice things for others throughout December.

Continuing to work under the direction of the Church’s Missionary Department to promote the campaign, the Boncom Creative Team got an old vending machine, fitted it with the cards and dressed it with Light the World banners. It looked nice, but public property owners were understandably skeptical about granting it space. Finding it a holiday home in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah took time. A week before Thanksgiving in 2017, someone at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building called and said, “We’ll take it.” It brought in approximately $500,000, all of which went to charities.

Next comes one of my favorite parts of the story. Leaders of a Catholic congregation in Manila, Philippines, happened to be touring Salt Lake at the time. They immediately recognized the machine’s potential and were eager to partner with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in that relief effort. At Christmastime the following year (2018), a set of Giving Machines stood by their Catholic church, which resides inside the world’s seventh largest mall, the SM Megamall in metro Manila’s Ortigas Center.

Machines also went to London, England— by Hyde Park Chapel (owned by the Church) and New York City—by the Manhattan Temple.

Elder C. Dale Willis, Jr. and Gilbert, AZ Mayor Jenn Daniels tell attendees of a Gilbert Town Council meeting about the Giving Machines just before the checks were given.

On February 7, 2019, four Arizona charities received checks at a Town Council meeting in Gilbert. Elder C. Dale Willis, Jr., an area authority for the Church, said at the meeting, “Administrative costs (including credit-card fees) for the campaign and costs associated with its nonprofit partners were covered by The Church Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” He adds that “100% of donations will be used for the purchased item or similar items or service of greater need as determined by the applicable charitable organization.”

Elder Willis (left)
and Fran Lowder, the City Outreach Specialist for the Church in Gilbert (right)
give CEO Michael Hughes the check for his organization.
CEO Dave Richins had fun in front of the camera!

Those really are big checks! CEO Tom Kertis said the check he received would allow his food bank to provide almost a half million meals!

LDS Charities had thoughtfully chosen all the beneficiaries. Machines worldwide supported Care, Unicef, Water For People, WaterAid and two to four charities nearby.

Water, the #1-selling item, was sold in separate machines. Those machines collected $101,929 to give undernourished people abroad fresh water.

Donations allowed the following to be given:

  • 842,620 meals
  • 19,640 chickens
  • 15,776 medical and health supplies (including vaccinations)
  • 10,817 clothing and household supplies

The total dollar amounts collected are as follows:

  • Salt Lake City, Utah: $1,279,927 (48,030 transactions)
  • Gilbert, Arizona: $862,120 (34,843 transactions)
  • New York City, New York: $131,842 (4,556 transactions)
  • London, England: $20,912 (1,434 transactions)
  • Manila, Philippines: $15,041 (3,327 transactions)
  • Total: $2,309,844 (92,190 transactions)

The concept of Giving Machines was foreign to everyone. It took vision and trust. Thanks to incredible collaboration, the trust paid off.

The 2019 locations are not yet known, but the Church looks forward to this initiative continuing to expand. Meanwhile, find current needs of charitable agencies at

Have a charitable day!


Photo Ops While Stranded in Kingman

We were on our way to Utah for Thanksgiving 2018 when the truck started sputtering and spasming. Fortunately, we weren’t miles and miles from civilization when it happened! We were pulling into Kingman, Arizona, where we would spend the next six and a half hours while our fuel pump was replaced. Hey… at least they were able to get it fixed that very day… even on the day before Thanksgiving!

We loved this sign. Hilarious, plus fun to play around it!

England, 2013

View of the Tower Bridge from inside the Tower of London.

Time to revisit my family’s 2013 European vacation and exhibit more photos!

Bus crossing the Tower Bridge at night.

View of the sunset from inside the London Eye.

The London Eye grants several wonderful views.

Tanner running around an enormous tree in a London park.

Windsor Castle.

Windsor Castle.

At the Tower of London.

Happy travels… wherever you go!


Republican Goals: See If You Share Most of Them!

The U.S. Constitution defines government power granted by the People.

Here’s an article that I wrote for the local Republican website. I hope you’ll take time to read it!

During Primary elections, voters try to choose the very best person to represent their favorite political party. During General elections, it is wise for voters to know the goals of each party so they can choose the party that best aligns with their way of thinking. One party or another will then be granted more authority to make, execute and interpret the laws by which all Americans will be expected to live.

So… what do Republicans hope for? There’s a rather good chance that you have the same goals (or most of them), even if you haven’t considered yourself to be a Republican! Remember Ronald Reagan’s maxim that, “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally–not a 20 percent traitor.” Conservatives and liberals need not see each other as enemies.

*Republicans want all of America to be a beautiful sanctuary from the lawlessness and chaos sadly rampant around the world.

*We want to be and feel safe, knowing that our brave military, police, and other first responders will earnestly try to protect everyone they can from harm.

*We want to pay a fair amount of taxes to support the government that protects us and provides numerous services. However, we want to keep enough of the money we rightly earn so we can take care of ourselves and our families, and also give to those in need both here and abroad. We don’t like to be forced to give–by exorbitant taxation–but we choose to give out of love for all people of the Earth.

*We want to welcome into our homeland refugees and others who long to share with us the American dream at a sustainable rate. We know that for us to have anything to offer people from other places, we must remain a nation of industry, a nation of plenty. We want to be free of unnecessary regulations so our economy can thrive.

*We want to keep foreign interests from affecting our elections. We therefore want all voters to show proof of registration/citizenship.

*We want to maintain our sovereignty. A world government with no borders and no competition sounds wonderful. But the chance of oppressive, power-hungry despots gaining control… and quickly… is too great. Many Republicans (as well as people of other political persuasions) believe in and look forward to the day when the Messiah will reign justly upon the Earth. Republicans think that no one else should be trusted with that much authority!

*We want to conserve The Constitution of the United States. We cherish it as an inspired, timeless document.

*We want to conserve our freedom to practice or not practice any religion–according to our own conscience. We stand with Israel. It is a beacon of light and religious tolerance in the Middle East. We recognize the myriad peaceful members of the Muslim faith, and we support their right to worship as they choose. 

*We want to conserve our freedom to speak out when we think our elected leaders are not representing us well and not tending to our needs–without fear of harm to ourselves, our families, our reputations or our livelihood.

*We want to conserve our right to protect ourselves with firearms if necessary. The citizens of nations and U.S. cities where guns are prohibited are easy targets for tyrannical governments and criminals.

*We want to be able to choose the school that best matches the learning style of our children. School choice also allows schools that teach from original sources–rather than from books that retell history with a leftist slant–to exist. We hope all schools will let students think for themselves as they discover various viewpoints and teach them to respectfully express their own opinions. We agree with James Madison who declared, “A well-instructed people alone can be permanently a free people,” and Thomas Jefferson, who suggested, “Say… whether peace is best preserved by giving energy to the government, or information to the people.”

*We want to conserve the institutions of marriage and family. Families with a mother and father are typically much more self-reliant, rather than reliant upon the government for food and other necessities. Children who grow up in a loving family have countless advantages over those who do not. We hope more people will acknowledge that fact and help promote the concept of the family.

*We want laws that protect the innocent, rather than laws that cater to criminals.    

*We oppose human trafficking and exploitation of any kind and hope for the freedom of every person.

*We want children and adults to know about the devastation that comes from using mind-altering drugs, and not have the government legalize the cause of such devastation.

*We want Americans to have the best healthcare system possible. Socialized medicine–the single payer system under Socialist governments–produces countless patients in critical need of medical assistance who must either wait indefinitely for treatment funded by the state, or pay prohibitively high costs all on their own. The “free” aspect of free healthcare, as with free college education or anything else, is an illusion. The burden of such pricey arrangements is always placed on taxpayers.  

*We want judges and Supreme Court Justices to recognize their role, according to the Constitution, to interpret laws, rather than create them. Several laws have been wrongfully forced upon the American people by appointed judges and Justices, even after the majority voted against those proposed laws. 

*We want to conserve the right of every individual to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We recognize that abortion is now legal in our country, and that in a few circumstances, it is unfortunately needful. But we hope that more and more people will prioritize life. We hope that many who cannot or choose to not raise their posterity themselves will give that opportunity to adoptive couples who greatly desire to be parents. 

*We want fairness and justice for all. When we look around us, we see incomprehensibly valuable individuals–rather than merely representatives of an ethnic, religious or social class. The term “social justice” sounds nice. However, we are not willing to sacrifice the freedom of one innocent individual in an attempt to have that person atone for the misdeeds of some who happen to share his or her race, gender, etc.

*We want to conserve our status as “innocent” unless it is proven beyond reasonable doubt that we are guilty of a crime. If our fellow Republicans are truly guilty, we think they should pay their debts to society. We seek after trustworthy, law-abiding individuals to represent us in government. 

*We want to conserve “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” as did Abraham Lincoln, the father of the Republican Party. 

*We hope for a virtuous nation. Benjamin Franklin stated, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” Honesty, integrity, responsibility, accountability, perseverance, wisdom, citizenship and courage are examples of the numerous virtues that foster a free and peaceful society.

We sincerely invite you to join with us in conserving the freedom we enjoy in America, and the form of government that perpetuates it. It is a marvelous example for the world. Please consider voting for Republican candidates!

God bless America!