Albuquerque for Thanksgiving

November 29

Hopped on a plane to Albuquerque, NM to spend Thanksgiving with the family!

The desert greeted me and I marveled at how alien it feels now that I live in lush Central New York. I can appreciate the stark, dry beauty better now that I don’t live in it. I spent the week drinking wine, going on hikes, eating delicious green chilis (aaah how I’ve missed thee!) and stuffing myself with Tgiving leftovers! We went on pretty hikes in the Bosque by the Rio Grande and watched the evening sun turn the Sandia Mountains pink. We also found quite a few porcupines perched in trees sleeping and partaking in their leafy dinner. Who knew the little porkies lived in trees!

    Carlito Springs, NM

My little brother signed me up for a 5k Turkey Trot on the morning of Thanksgiving…He even bought some exciting hats to wear on the run. My turkey hat had an obvious lean and boinked me on the back of my head every step I took. Young children and adults a like pointed and laughed.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Fall Mandala

November 14

The dark months are upon us. The overcast Upstate New York winters have arrived. The trees have shrugged off their colorful foliage and stand naked against the stark sky. Surrendering to the cold that clambers under their bark and creeps into my bones. This winter I’ve decided to combat the dreary and freezing with the practice of creating the feeling of cosiness, charm, happiness, ‘contentness’, security, familiarity, comfort, reassurance, kinship, and simpleness. I’ve dedicate a day every week to practicing Hygge and to practice mindfulness.

Happy Novemberrrrr….

This month I collected sweet smelling leaves and berries from the trees around my sweet country home and arranged them in pretty mandala designs. A fall mandala to savor the colors around me before winter turns them brown and dead. I left the bowl of pretty colorful leaves perched on my fireplace, a lovely bowl of fall to greet me in the cozy evenings when I curl up warm in the blankets on the couch and watch a romantic movie. Enjoy!

How to Make a Fall Leaf Mandala

  1. Take a walk in the woods, your backyard or local park and collect pretty petals, leaves, herbs, berries, rocks (anything that calls to you!)
  2. Find a lovely spot to stage your mandala, your staging canvas can be almost anything or anywhere! Examples: a slab of rock, the grassy ground, a piece of paper…etc
  3. Sort your fodder into piles of similarity – all berries of a particular color in one, all leaves with a particular shape in another. Sometimes the act of sorting will give you ideas for a design. See how the objects lay on the canvas, some will curl and some will lay flat. These different elements and the way they interact with the surface will give you ideas!
  4. Then begin placing them on your canvas, try them out one way, if that doesn’t feel right move them to another. See what looks and feels right. Ask the leaves and petals where they want to go, how they want to be? Who do they want to be next to?
  5. Every once in a while take a step back and look at your work from a distance. There is no right or wrong here. Approach this activity with no judgement, no criticism – only peace and acceptance.

Practicing hygge is a way to find moments to celebrate! Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. It’s like a perfect marriage! 🙂

Photography, Portraiture

Memorial Day & Family Photography

June 12

I loaded up the sleepy puppies at 4am in the morning and we made the 8hr trip to my sisters’ house, and my childhood hometown, for Memorial Day Weekend for some family time. After living on the West Coast for years, it’s so odd and lovely to be able to pick up and drive to Indiana!

The boys had grown like weeds!

I feel like life hit fast forward from the last few times I saw them.

We had some fun adventures that turned into lovely impromptu photo session: catching frogs, chasing the dogs and reading books. So much fun!








Food Photography

March 26

I’ve been doing a fun food photography project on the side for a cookbook I’m working on. Recently we mixed up some to-die-for Chimichurri sauce to go on our Fried Eggplant Salad. Of course I not only get to shoot lovely photies, but I also second as a trusty taste tester. This sauce made me weak in my knees!

Fried Eggplant Salad I Food Photography

Food photography has always been a tricky business for me. I remember in college we had food photo assignments and it would always stress me out. But for me now, I use some trusty components to help me get the results that I’m looking for:

  • Beautiful natural light – find a lovely window, shoot on a overcast day or hang a diffusing cloth to achieve the soft light.
  • Use a clean, neutral background (watch out for clutter!).
  • Choose the angle the makes the food look the best, in these two shots I choose a high angle using the wood cutting board as the background.

More fun food photography tips and delicious recipes to come!

Have questions? I’d love to hear from you! Leave me a comment or shoot me a message.


Homegrown Movement – Corning, NY

February 18

Interfaith Rally for Immigrant Rights - Tom Reed's Office from Mandolyn McConaha on Vimeo.

Every Tuesday evening Market Street in Corning, NY comes alive with citizens gathering in front of  Representative Tom Reed’s office to speak their truth. Their imploring voices and applause echo off the store fronts and are greeted with honks and shouts. This week the interfaith community, representing the United Methodist Church, the American Baptist Church and Islam, spoke out on President Trumps Executive Order on Immigrants and urged Tom Reed to vote to remove the ban.


Protests are Therapeutic

January 22

This election has left a large swath of the population feeling angry, mourning and unheard. It created massive divisions throughout the country that far outreached the politicians and the Cheeto tinged manchild that now stands in the White House. It tore open deep racial wounds and brought hate speech and hate crimes to the forefront. It questioned the truth of systematic inequality, science, facts, climate change, right to healthcare, woman’s right to choose, equal pay, equal rights….to name a few. We mourned because so many things that we hold dear, so many things we believe to be inalienable human rights are now up for question.

On inauguration day, many of my co-workers wore black to show their heartbreak. The shroud of sorrow has hung low on all of us since the election results were announced. As I was sorting through my dresser trying to decide what to wear that morning, I made conscious decision – “I don’t feel like mourning any more,” I whispered to myself. “I feel like fighting!” So I donned my “Pussy Grabs Back” handmade t-shirt, pulled a sweater over the top and headed to work. Throughout the day, as media poured in about the inauguration, I felt calm and resolved. I walked downstairs to my co-workers office and greeted her by lifting my sweater revealing my shirt underneath, she did the same revealing her identical shirt. It was a show of solidarity and a reminder of the fight ahead. And the first step on that fight – the Woman’s March on Washington!

Saturday we woke up at 1am to hop on a bus bound for Washington, D.C. We navigated traffic jammed freeways, overflowing metro stations until we finally made it to the National Mall. There we joined the over 1 million protesters in D.C. (and over 3mil internationally) who had made similarly lengthy journey to do one thing that day, to let Trump and the world know that we will fight! We will fight for equal rights, for a woman’s right to choose, for a woman’s right to NOT be sexually assaulted, for equal pay, for climate change, for Obamacare for immigrants and minorities, for science and facts. We will fight against walls, against hate, against systematic inequality. We will not be ignored, we will fight until the world we live in is the world we want!

It was a peaceful march, protesters were kind and considerate to each other, cheering each other other, acknowledging each others struggle and lending support. We chanted in one voice and marched in unison. It felt unifying, fortifying and I no longer felt alone. Tears came to my eyes for all the outpouring of love I was seeing around me and the feeling of belonging that spread through my heart.

As we made our final turn, marching up the sidewalk beside the White House the Secret Service began closing the roads and shoeing marchers away. “It’s the presidential motorcade” a woman leaning against the fence shouted to the crowd. And as the limousines drove by with their flashing escorts, the crowd let out a resounding “booooo.” It echoed off the National Monument and the cold, stone faces of government buildings and across the White House lawn like a wave. As I paused to catch my breath a peace fell over me. For the first time since the chaos of this election began, I felt heard.

As the event came to the end, all the participants headed for the metro. The subway conductor roused cheers out of the weary crowds by thanking them for participating in the historic day and asking, “Who runs the world?!” And everyone shouted back, “GIRLS!”



Daily Work, Photography

Hello from Upstate New York!

November 27

Hello from sunny, Upstate New York!

Did I mention I was moving? Trading California heat and desert with pretty fall colors and glorious waterfalls? No? Well it was news to me too, but an opportunity arose I jumped at it! So I packed my two dogs in the back of my Mini Cooper, picked up Aaron at the LAX airport and embarked on a 3 day cross-country road trip! We made stops in Las Vegas to see a great friend (KARLA!), zoomed through the red rocks of Utah, chugged up the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and made a pit stop in Kansas. We zoomed through Missouri, Illinois and spent the day with my sister and her 3 munchkins in Indiana. The dogs finally got a chance to stretch their legs chasing the boys and the ball around the yard. One last stretch in the car and we finally landed in Elmira, NY where I now live and work!

We made it just in time to catch the trees don their glorious fall colors and see the first icy fingers frost my windshield. The first week, my apartment was 55 degrees (brrrr) and I saw my first snow dusting after 5 warm years without a true winter.

I now spend my days working at the Food Bank of the Southern Tier implementing hunger relief programs for children and youth and brainstorming ways to organize and advocate. In my spare time I’m a photographer again! Tackling tantalizing projects and assignments (stayed tuned!). I’m stoked to be picking up the camera again and learning (finally) how to have a work/life balance.

Here are some pretty photos for your Sunday viewing!

[IMG-Gal id=4384]



Puppy Birthday Party!

August 6

The past few months have been so crazy-busy that I forgot to celebrate a couple important puppy milestones: Zoe’s 6 month adoption birthday & Bella turning 2! On Friday, I decided it was past time for a puppy party! So I went out and bought some colorful party hats, slid a doggy cake (with sprinkles!) into the oven and made a makeshift pool out of a storage box for the water-loving Zoe. The excitement was palpable. The party started off with a mad run around the yard, a couple splashes in the makeshift pool and then out came the hats. Oh My. Bella was having none of it, she immediately pawed it off and looked at me with her brown, reproachful eyes. Zoe was a little easier to distract, but soon she started asking “what is this on my head?!” then the meltdown ensued:


Bella finally came over and gave her an older sister assist. The emergence of the birthday cake on the scene made life a whole lot better! We ended the night sated and sticky.




Destination —> Ithaca, NY

July 20

I swapped desert shrubs with rolling, verdant hills and waterfalls this past month when I made a trip to upstate New York for an overdue visit. The throbbing California sun was replaced by billowing clouds, raindrops and silence. There were no freeways of bumper-to-bumper traffic, the only road hazard we came across was a farmer herding his cows across the country road. The forests of green trees seemed to crowd around me and hug me close. It felt like…home.

My life and adventure partner met me at the airport and whisked me off to delicious (to die for!) Indian food, and a weekend of hiking, climbing waterfalls, catching lightning bugs, Khmer food for breakfast and gorgeous farmers markets. My heart (and tummy!) couldn’t be happier!

Enjoy the photos!

IthacaFarmersMarket01web    TremanFallsweb





June 29

There are moments when you are faced with the transient nature of this existence.

The past few months have been challenging. Not long ago my father was diagnosed with a hole in his aortic valve paired with aneurysm near his heart. He was in need of a large surgery. Soon after my mother was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer and she immediately started chemo.

Daily Work, Dwell, Photography

Grow Your Garden Tall

April 21

It’s Spring!
And time for planting, of course!

This is my absolute favorite time of the year! When small seeds put out feelers and roots and cling to the soil of life. Lineayah, 9, from our Mariposa Youth Garden, has been gardening with us for over 2 years. She shows the younger students the right way to pull fat carrots from the ground and how to turn the soil and make it fluffy and ready for planting. There is only one thing I love more than Spring it’s self! Spending it with students at the Mariposa Youth Garden!


Daily Work

By the Sea

February 6

01302016_SeaBird01web Pismo-Beach02web

A little weekend adventure lead me way up the coastline, to where Southern California doesn’t feel southern anymore. Pismo Beach and the Monarch Butterfly Grove were beckoning and I wanted to see the place where thousands of honey colored beauties rest their wings in January and February on their long migration. I had read about this as a child in the cherished pages of National Geographic. Some kids hoarded money or toys, we hoarded Nat Geo magazines, their glossy pages taking us on adventures around the world, to places we couldn’t even begin to imagine. We read the stories of the great Monarch migration and planted milkweed by our horse’s watering trough to give them food. Strolling around the grove I never imagined the Monarchs resting high high in the tippy top of the Eucalyptus trees. And so instead of trying desperately to get a good shot with my sadly too short lens, I leaned against the wood fence and peered up into the tall, branching trees to watch them soar through patches of streaming golden sunlight to settle together for the cool night.

I wandered down the sandy path to the beach and watched the seagulls soar and listened to the waves crash. On the beach rested a stranded seabird with a broken leg. How harsh nature can be. How unfair the final resting place of this wild and free creature, trapped, to be peered at and poked. I sat above him on the sandy bluff, a loose companionship, watching the beauty of his light colored eyes and dark feathers glistening in the evening light.

A weekend full of beautiful sea views, soaring butterflies and beachy adventures is a weekend well spent.

Dwell, Foodie

Hello Fall

November 23

I’ve been spending a lot of time curled up in sweaters flipping through Pinterest for new recipes and ideas to experiment around with. Cold weather is the best weather for cooking and baking in the kitchen. And I love to fill the house with the delicious scents wafting from the oven. And Bella is usually camped out right by my feet waiting for any tidbit that might fall to the floor.
So here is a delicious recipe I’ve made a couple times now and can’t get enough of!

Baked Caprese Chicken
with Balsamic Reduction

Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 45 mins
Total time: 50 mins
Serves: 4 servings


Baked Caprese Chicken with fresh melted mozzarella cheese, basil, roasted cherry tomatoes. To give the dish a bit more depth, you can always add roasted Pablano peppers and spinach. Drizzle a sweet garlic balsamic reduction and sprinkle julienned basil on top for a delicious meal that’s ready in less than an hour, but tastes like you’ve been slaving over the stove all day! The perfect meal to impress with!


1 clove garlic, smashed
½ cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons honey


4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon dried basil
4 bone-in skin-on, chicken breasts
1 clove garlic, chopped
4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 4 slices
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
10 leave basil, julienned



Place all the ingredients in a small saucepan, stir, and place over high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and allow it to simmer until the vinegar mixture reduces to by half, about 8-10 minutes. Set aside to cool.


Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 450ºF.
While your balsamic reduction is simmering, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Stir in the salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, and basil. Brush the chicken breasts with the melted butter mixture.
Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in an oven-safe skillet over medium high heat. Add the garlic and allow it to cook for just 30 seconds. Slice into the middle of the chicken breasts 3/4 of the way through and lay open, place a chunk of mozzarella cheese inside and close the flap. Add the chicken breasts to the skillet, skin side down and allow each side to sear for 3 minutes. Place the chicken breasts skin side up and allow the chicken to bake for 15 minutes. Add the cherry tomatoes to the skillet and continue to cook for another 7-10 minutes or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 170 degrees. Place the mozzarella slices on each chicken breast and turn the broiler on for just 1-2 minutes or until the cheese starts to melt.


Place the cherry tomatoes on the chicken breast, top with julienned basil, and drizzle with balsamic vinegar reduction.

Daily Work

Onion Farming in the Antelope Valley

September 10




After a day going over company policies (snore) I took the back roads driving home and ran into skies from my dreams! If you’ve lived in the Antelope Valley (and even if you haven’t) you might know of how dry and weatherless this place is (as long as you don’t count triple digit temperatures and unrelenting wind). Dramatic skies, rainbows and that ooooh so elusive thing called RAIN are pretty much non-existent here, which makes it such a treat when they come out of hiding. And then I came across never-ending rows of burlap sacks stuffed full of our #1 produce – Onions! And rows and rows of workers were picking onions by hand against the dramatic backdrop of the stormy skies. Happiness is this right here! So I lugged out my trusty camera (actually its a new trusty camera I’m playing around with these days…shhhh don’t tell Nikon I may be cheating on them with Canon!) and proceeded to enjoy my oh so rare photie shoot! I learned many interesting things- each burlap bag weighs 100lbs and workers get $1.25 per bag, workers come from all over to pick onions and onions love to grow on loose, sandy soil which makes the AV perfect for them.

Enjoy the photies!