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Month: June 2023

Secrets of Outdoor Photography in Texas 100 Year Old Parks System

100 Years of Texas State Parks

tips on capturing memories

We are celebrating the 100th Anniversary of our Texas State Parks!  Our family has so many memories of Guadalupe State Park, one of the 1980’s additions. Camping with friends, watching children splash in the shallow waters, and enjoying the night sky together around a campfire are etched in our memory.

In 1925, Governor Pat Neff described Texas State Parks as a place where people “might go and forget the anxiety and strife and vexation of life’s daily grind.” Still applicable today, we couldn’t agree more. You see, the Governor persuaded the Texas Legislature in 1923 to create the State Parks Board. The benefits of which have compounded over the years in both acreage and memories in the hearts of Texans.


With the availability of automobiles and a developing series of roads, the park system was originally seen as a series of roadside stops.  Although we still have some of the best roadside parks in the nation, the State Park system has far outreached this vision including historic sites and natural areas to serve millions of visitors every year.  Governor Neff would be proud.

Formation of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) kick-started development for the Parks System.  Taking undeveloped land and building park’s infrastructure gave needed jobs during the depression years.  Palo Duro Canyon, Garner State Park, and Balmorhea directly benefited from this program.

Texas women kept the parks operating and open during WWII, setting the path for Texans to enjoy camping, hiking, and fishing after the soldiers came home.

The 1980’s saw its greatest expansion with the addition of over 30 parks.  A couple you may recognize are Big Bend Ranch and Enchanted Rock.

During this 100 year celebration, I encourage you to explore the Texas State Parks and Wildlife’s many locations.  You’ll see wildlife and native flora, discover Texas history, and most importantly “escape life’s daily grind” to create a memory.

In honor of the Texas State Parks, this month we aren’t giving you a traditional recipe, but rather a “recipe” for how to capture family memories.

Outdoor Photography Tutorial 

I recently returned to Guadalupe State Park with Callie Jacks, a friend who shared many of these experiences with our family.  It rang true that the laughter and happiness of vacations stay long in your memory!

Callie is a hobby photographer, trained in workshops in Big Bend and Southwest Craft Center and the experiences of many years of photographing friends and family. It is her joyful passion and she is sharing some tips you can use simply with your phone to capture those outdoor moments.

“Outdoor photography is an unpredictable and ever -changing space!  Working happily with whatever “cards you are dealt” is the key to capturing fun moments and memories”, shares Callie.

Here is Callie’s recipe for the three “L’s” of outdoor photography: Light, Level, Levity & Laughter

LIGHT: All the outdoor photos of me as a child scowling (so many!) were due to not being able to balance lighting! Our moms had us staring into the sun in mid-afternoon. (but I am very thankful they took photos!)
The optimum time for photos is usually an hour before sunset or an hour after sunrise. if those times aren’t convenient, and they rarely are for busy families, look for shady spots*
It is always helpful to have the sun at your back if possible. Or wait till the sun goes behind a cloud! Choose shade without speckled light- that tends to cast shadows.

Another tip: if it is too sunny, and the colors seem washed out, use your edit tools (built into your phone on your camera) to change the photo to a black and white shot. It is often dramatic and beautiful.

LEVEL: when photographing kids, it is key to position your body at their level somewhat – it usually makes for a more intimate and natural looking photo. and I get some great smiles from kids as they see the positions I have to get in…

LEVITY AND LAUGHTER: I love to capture kids at play. Be patient and wait for moments.  Often kids complain and don’t want to be in a photo because they have to stop their play and pose for you. That is so NOT fun!  There will always be time for “posed photos” later.

God has gifted children with joy and energy and movement. We took family friend, Sloane (5 yrs old), along to explore. Capturing life is more important than the perfect picture. But sometimes, magic can happen in the process. Skipping rocks, letting your bare feet hit the water and peeking inside the holes in the trees. Try using Callie’s tips to capture memories you will treasure.

When you do need that perfect photo, there are many talented professional photographers and I would encourage you to find one with a style compatible to yours. In the meantime, grab your iphone or camera and start photographing sweet moments with your family!

Go to www.texicureans.com to view a video about outdoor photography with Callie.

Callie also creates notecards from her photography.  You can find her on Facebook and Instagram @createdbycalliejo or email her at calliejo.jacks@gmail.com.

Perfect Summer Pasta Salad

Are you looking for that one dish accompaniment to your fave grill?  Here it is!  Full of veggies, a little meat for flavor, and wrapped in a light vinaigrette, this recipe covers it all.

The secret is adding the vinaigrette to the warm pasta. It  makes all the difference in flavor.

Best of all – if you’ve been following me for very long, you know I love to prepare as much a day ahead as possible.  The flavors actually meld together to enhance your tasting experience.

Leftovers?  This full meal deal is perfect to grab for a quick lunch.


Perfect Summer Pasta Salad

The one-dish accompaniment to grilled meat
Course Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 10


  • 1 box medium shell pasta
  • 12 oz shaved parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 16 oz artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 16 oz kalamata olives
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella pearls
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, cut in thin strips
  • 12 oz fully cooked uncured Canadian bacon, diced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved


  • 3 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1-2 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper


  • Combine all ingredients of vinaigrette and whisk thoroughly.  Hint:  It helps to whisk while adding the olive oil.  
  • As soon as pasta is ready, drain and mix in  vinaigrette and 1/2 of the parmesan cheese.  Cool. pasta according to package
  • Add remainder of ingredients to cooled pasta.  Add salt and pepper to taste


Make this a day ahead to enhance the melding of flavors and declutter your entertaining day!