Memorial Day Ceremony at Pierce Brothers Memorial Park Westlake Village

Remember what Memorial Day is for: remembering. We get a day off to honor the men and women lost in the line of duty to our country and freedom.


Last year I brought my children to the Memorial Day Ceremony at Pierce Brothers Memorial Park in Westlake Village to expose them to the solemn reason behind this holiday. I can explain it to them, but I thought a ceremony of this magnitude would drive the point home a little bit better, since their lives are so removed from the sacrifice, danger, and violence of war.

IMG_2921the war memorial at Pierce Brothers Memorial Park in Westlake Village

This year will be the 25th annual Memorial Day Ceremony at the park on Lindero Canyon Road just north of the 101. Members from all branches of the military attend and are honored throughout, as soldiers and officers make speeches, sing tributes, and play music. Last year there was a flyover of military airplanes. Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars accept donations and hand out poppies to passersby, reminders of the millions of people who have died in service.


On the weekend of Memorial Day, children from Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and other organizations place flags on the graves of passed soldiers to commemorate the occasion. By the time you arrive at Pierce, the red white and blue are fluttering everywhere.


The ceremony starts tomorrow at 10:30 AM. Arrive early to get a parking spot – we got there about 30 minutes early last year and managed to get parking inside the park, but overflow parking was available at the shopping centers nearby. There was plenty of seating by the grandstand, but families also spread blankets to sit on in the grass.


The music and solemnity moved me greatly. I could not hold back my tears, especially when the announcer listed each American war from our lifetime and invited living veterans to stand and be recognized. Each stood to emotional applause.



It was a hot day, and I hadn’t brought snacks or water, so the children were restless although they asked a lot of questions about the wars and the different military services and I answered them if I could. On the way back to the car, my older son stopped to talk with the men handing out poppies. He told them how his Great Grampa, who died in 2012 at the age of 93, was a soldier in WWII. He put a dollar in the jar and proudly accepted a poppy to wear in remembrance.

great grampa soldierMy father’s father, WWII


20131204110005_00003AMy other grandparents, who served in the Army and the Navy WAVES

The ceremony is free and incredibly moving.  Arrive early and bring snacks, water, and sunscreen. And tissues. It’s a sad occasion, but I recommend it for any family. By now there are very few of us who are not touched by war in some way.

Memorial Day Ceremony

Monday, May 25, 2015
10:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Pierce Brothers Memorial Park
5600 Lindero Canyon Rd
Westlake Village, CA 91362
(818) 889-0902

Mother’s Day Gift: Portrait of Mom With Her Children – Sittings May 17

Los Angeles photographer and owner of Litetrap Studios, Michael Murphree, has offered Mother’s Day-themed mini sessions as a priceless gift for the moms in your life with all proceeds going to support Help a Mother Out’s efforts in Los Angeles.

mother and baby portrait

Portrait by Michael Murphree

For a donation of $100 or more, up to 20 mothers and their children will receive a 15-minute portrait session on May 17, two 5 x 7 prints, and a custom Facebook timeline photo.

Michael Murphree has 20 years of experience as a commercial and celebrity photographer, starting his career as apprentice to world-famous photographer Annie Leibovitz. It was when Michael had his own family that he fell in love with photographing his wife and twin babies. This led to the creation of Litetrap Studios, where Michael takes joy in capturing the special moments in other families’ lives with the goal of creating cherished heirlooms that pass on through generations.

litetrap studiosThe mini-sessions are available to up to 20 mothers and their children, and children of any age. Want a priceless memory of you with your own mother? This is a wonderful opportunity to have a true artist create a portrait of you, and help another mother out at the same time.

Studio space is generously provided by Books and Cookies, a bookstore and play space in Santa Monica.

books and cookies logo

To reserve your sitting appointment or to arrange for one as a gift to that special mom in your life for Mother’s Day, make your donation here.

Mother’s Day Mini-Sessions with Michael Murphree
May 17, 2015
Books and Cookies
2309 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA 90405
To purchase click here

For more information please contact me at

The Outtakes Are Better Than the Final Shot: Humorous Christmas Card From Minted


I love Christmas cards so much. I save the ones I receive and bundle them up with a ribbon when I pack up all of our Christmas decorations. At the beginning of December, when it’s time to decorate for the holidays again, I pull them out and leaf through them. Sometimes I go back several years to when everyone’s kids were babies, comparing their little faces to what they look like now.

I love the gesture, the idea that someone was thinking about our family when they address the envelope to us. I hope they feel the love when they receive a card from us. And I hope it makes them smile.


I quite enjoy going through the photos we take in preparation for our Christmas card. This year the experience was a little bit less hectic because my family knows the drill. As soon as the kids see me setting up the tripod and pulling out different shirts for them to wear, they’re on to me.



Since the photos we don’t use are often more entertaining than the final one we pick, I decided to go with an outtakes theme. I didn’t force it – I set up the shot, gathered my kids and husband, and let my mom and dad stand behind the camera to press the button. Since I’ve been fussing with camera settings, of course I left it all on the completely wrong settings for the kind of light that was hitting us at Leo Carillo that day, so even after it seemed like we got a nice shot, I made everybody do it all over again.

Then I got all fancy and took more shots of the kids as the sun sank lower in the sky and the light became more golden. And then I got artsy. Well, as artsy as I can get. I’m not very artsy. I’m not even a good photographer. But I always like the photos we get during these shoots. They’re real, and they capture a moment in time, the best way you can pretend to freeze your family in this happy moment.



Once we get home and I look through the shots, then it’s time to pick a card layout. With so many choices on minted, this year I wanted to use a design with a lot of photos on the front, and one on the back. These are the ones I played around with (also with the help of my friend Desiree who has an eye for this sort of thing): holiday collage our favorite moment

I especially love minted’s option for different backs of cards. The full card printed background is classy, but then you can add a photo and even text. This was one of my favorites:


multi merryxmas



multi merryxmas back


I don’t like to share photos of our Christmas card until after they have been mailed out, so stay tuned for a later post when I add all the photos and a shot of the final card.

Minted is running a special right now – they will address your envelopes for FREE. You just have to upload your address book and make sure all the addresses are correct, and you can pick artsy fonts and logos and such for the front. Also today they have a deal – 15% off and free shipping on all holiday cards!

I received credit at minted to facilitate this 2-part series of posts.