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back burner

I have this urge to start every long overdue post with ’Are you there god? It’s me Margaret!’  … but then I don’t. Because I’m not writing a letter to God. Nor is my name Margaret. Nor am I writing about needing to increase my bust size. Though I will say that most of Margaret’s favorites (“I like long hair, tuna fish, the smell of rain and things that are pink.”) I can relate to; Almost every day I regret my insanely impulsive hair cut (in which I chopped 8”), I made a wickedly amazing tuna salad pasta recently, last Sunday I had a rain day off work and it was THE best day and things that are pink are ok sometimes.

But I digress.

I have not been here. I have left the bajillion avid followers hand full of fans of Chocolate Moose Images yearning for more for months upon months. I have withheld loads of cute animal photos, travel stories, antics about The Girls and gobs and gobs of selfies.


Can I be totally honest right now? Because I got burnt out. Things got way too daunting with years upon years of photos and stories. When I would feel inspired to write – to really write and share my stories and my secrets and my dreams and my loves and my fears and my failures and my tales and my adventures – I would throw myself into it. For hours. And hours. Then when it was all put together, I would hit the magical ‘publish’ button and boom. With a grand sweeping gesture, it was there! For the world to see and read and love or hate. And within minutes, my meticulously crafted post of puns and prose, of animals and selfies, of Minnesota and abroad, was old news. The handful of people who were going to read it read it and moved on. “Lovely!” “Thanks for sharing!” “So fun!” Were comments I would get regularly.

And please, please, please don’t get me wrong, i LOOOOOOOVE to hear when people read the posts!! The comments are what have kept me going.

BUT after a few years of going at my own speed on here (i.e.; not dedicating my life and work to multiple posts a day or even several a week), I started to feel like my time might be better spent elsewhere. Hence the silence for a while.

I think my big-ol-Birthday was what sparked this whole thing … as 2016, another birthday and a new decade of life approached, I wanted to start fresh. One of the best things a woman slightly older than myself shared was that at some point in her 29th year she decided she was just done with her 20s and ready to see what her 30s had in store. I loved that. I soon started to feel the same way. My 20s were full of all kinds of things – the biggest highs and lowest lows I never imagined possible. But my 30s are here and waiting for me to do awesome things. In order to start fresh with this decade I wanted to step back from what I had come to know as my dreams, goals and ambitions since I was 20, or even 10. I wanted to begin again and take a far more simplistic approach.

I thought about a boat load of actives and if they made me smile, I wrote them in the ‘good’ column. If I was indifferent, they went in the ‘meh’ column and if my stomach lurched in an undesirable “I just ate way too much cheese” sort of way, it went in the ‘pass’ column. And since then I’ve found a slightly new direction and I’ve been day dreaming of new adventures in so many different walks of life. Does 30 year old jess want to keep moving? To sit still? To blend the two together? I think the blend is more her speed these days. So now to figure out what that looks like …

I’ve been reading a lot and trying to keep my interactions with social media and technology at a minimum (well… i am having a hard time kicking this silly cat game I’m decently obsessed with. Neko Atsume. What is it about? Not much. There are cats. And a yard. And I put food for the cats in my yard. And toys. And places for them to sleep. Then they show up. Or they don’t … That is it. Oh and there are cats with punny names like Mr. Meowgi and Saint Purtrick. If you want to see me cry laugh, we should discuss the names some time. It’s fun for the whole family!) Reading though; this reading that I’ve been doing has really put the bug in my ear that I might be happy exploring travel writing and picture taking in a different way. It remains to be seen what that is, but it’s at least a slightly new avenue (or should we call it a little footpath I found down the hill from the old path?)

So what will be on here moving forward? Well, while I’m on this roll of honesty, I might as well keep going… I have no idea what I’ll be publishing. I know that I do like this place – it’s been a home for thoughts and photos for 8 years now! It’s a nice spot to share what I’m up to, where I’m at, what I find exciting. But I am finally coming to the sad realization that my heart is just not in updating this blog like it deserves. For now, the best stuff will probably be on Instagram. So follow me there. Heart stuff. Comment. It all feels real nice 😃 @chocomooseimages

Thanks for the support personally and professionally!! This is not a goodbye, it’s just an acknowledgement it might be a while an even longer while between exciting updates.

Ciao! Besos!

feeling excited for…


… excited for what?

Oh I don’t know! And honestly, I don’t even care today 🙂 I’m just in a good mood! Lately so much has been going on (shocker, I’m sure…) Work was insane leading up to the holidays, I started to (really!) get the travel itch again and simultaneously I’ve been nesting like crazy in my new apartment that has a fireplace, space for me to spread out my crafts and no one to hold me accountable with my pile of dirty dishes or scraps of fabric all over the place.

This morning I finally got back in touch with someone from high school with LOADS of suggestions and ideas for what she and a friend can do while in New Zealand. Pulling up maps, googling names of restaurants and going through old photos made me nostalgic not just for New Zealand at large, but for the simple day to day life. I love that making a trip into town to pick my own produce, finishing up a long day of work, sharing beers with the crew and checking out library books are the things that jump out. For me, that’s the mark of a good adventure!



It was delightfully wintery today – crisp, windy, sunny and snowy – so I went for a walk in the woods but now that I’m home and eating chili with a fire in the fireplace, I’m again reminiscing about my little life there. So, voila. A handful of photos and thoughts of the not-as-flashy version of New Zealand.

[the brewery I worked at]
[that time i shoveled compost to pay my rent]
[mastering my driving on the opposite side of the road]
[the rascals i called co-workers for 8 months and friends for much longer]
[baby chicks!]
[ok this one is kinda epic…… sorry, couldn’t resist 😉 ]

I love those times when remembering what I’ve done, the places I’ve been and the experiences I’ve lived can put me in such a happy and excited mood. Not only because of the obvious and tangible, but because of the anticipation of the unknown, the undecided, the undreamt. Because of the endless possibilities in life.

And on that note, I think I’m going to go day dream more … And look at more travel guides. And try to make more progress on a new car to buy so I can start working on the plans for my next adventure 🙂 Stay tuned!

Cheers everyone! Happy 2016! As always, make it a good one. I can tell it’s going to be another fabulous year.

i LOVE sunshine :: minneapolis pet and travel photographer


Full disclosure … I wrote this post a week ago on one of the most beautiful early November nights I can remember. And then I got distracted by life and didn’t hit publish.

I decided it seems maybe even more appropriate that when the weather turns icky, we remember how much we love the sunshine 🙂

I am so distracted right now. I had grand plans to arrive early to work, sit outside on the patio and sort through loads of food photos from the last 5 years to help complete a super exciting project I have in the works. But as I’m sitting outside in the sunshine, I’m remembering that editing photos while trying to see through my reflection is challenging and beyond that, sorting through the minute differences between option A and option B is virtually impossible. I’m going to end up with ALL the photos with eyes shut tight and out of focus snacks. So instead, I am reflecting on how much I love the sunshine. I am not willing to go inside and continue working on that project, so I am going to sit here and start a new one.

A blog post on the sun!

Ha. It sounds like a science project. Discussing a variety of things including how you should not look directly into it. Which I just did and now am blinking starry blobs away from my computer screen.


But instead, the point of this post is two fold; to declare that my love for sunshine is limitless …

It’s also another reminder that I am my mother’s daughter, a woman who loved sunshine more than anyone else I know.  And an excuse to post this photo …

Yep, that’s us. Loving the sun, that tiny pool and oh yeah, the cat swimming suit I’m wearing. Swoon!

Honestly, there isn’t that much more to say about the sun. It’s bright, it’s hot. It dries things out and warms things up. It glows and after long enough, I glow too. So instead of me blabbing on and on about who knows what, I’m just going to post some of my favorite photos that make me feel all warm and fuzzy on cold, wet nights.

(ps you can click on the little images to make them bigger and cruise through the whole gallery)


it’s pretty icky out side in this great Northern state … on days like today I’m really happy I held out for an apartment with a fireplace. And so are the girls.


fall photo update :: minneapolis pet and travel photographer

I’m not sure what it was about tonight that made me plant myself and write. I’m sure it’s a build up of a lot of things… I am trying to decide on some new art for my new walls (and therefore going through a bajillion photos), I have a session to edit, I have a session to shoot tomorrow and I found myself with a rather free night after my dinner plans got spoiled by a computer hard drive meltdown. (Side note – make sure you back up regularly, folks!)

Anyways, here I am. Sitting at my computer with this little lady curled up on my lap watching the cursor move along the screen. Occasionally she nibbles on one of my wrists to try to ‘encourage’ a hand to scratch between her ears. Hmmm perhaps I should do a split screen between my writing and a YouTube video of birds flying. I bet that would keep her happy for as long as it takes for me to write this!


So I think it goes without saying that I have at least 1000 topics I could write about right now … my epic backpacking trip in New Zealand, the various road trips I took around the S Island, my adventures around California one weekend, hiking in Northern Minnesota, several trips to the farm in Iowa with the family that seems to grow exponentially each time I go, my life as a house painting nomad in Europe, the bazillion churches I saw around Italy and Spain, the animals I met in Europe or heck, even the animals I worked with before Europe! Or maybe my new apartment or the way I showed my Italian friend around Minnesota or even how much I LOVE fall!

After throwing a [figurative] dart at the topics of my life over the last few years, I’ve decided on …


… Backpacking in Northern Minnesota! YAY!

I absolutely love being up north, especially during the fall. Honestly, I often don’t try to go up there in the summer because it’s such a zoo! But there is something about the fall that just gets to me. It’s a bittersweet season – its beyond gorgeous, i get to start wearing my scarves again yet oober cold weather and stressful winter driving driving is nigh. Last fall I convinced dad to watch the girls so I could cruise up there mid week and get some camping and hiking in. I somehow lucked out and skirted the rain my first night which helped me have an absolutely amazing evening at my favoritest camp ground. Now, I know it’s risky to give up favorite places up there, but I’m willing to bet the handful of people who are reading this are not going to make a significant dent in usage up there. Though if you could clear your plans with me ahead of time, that would be swell 😉





THIS is my favorite park. George H. Crosby Manitou State Park. It’s off of a long gravel road (which my mazda protege loves cruising over), the only camp sites are pack in, the Superior Hiking Trail passes through it and it’s inland from the lake a handful of miles. I feel like these details keep the park a bit quieter than the others in the area and i LOVE it!

The night I camped there I had the entire park to myself (unless there were some SHT folks passing through) … it was both super encouraging and a bit terrifying. My site had a bin to keep my food away from the bears and I had no cell service. I was clearly not in the city anymore!

Once I had my tent set up I wandered off to a hike I had done once before. As I made my way past the waterfall, I saw the clouds clear and knew I was going to get sunset in the glowing hills! And it was then that I fell in love with the area all over again …



Besides not getting eaten by a bear, I was SUPER excited to have been able to start a fire, cook my meal of mango curry and to survive a night all by my lonesome in the middle of the dark woods.

The next morning I moved along. I had planned to camp a second night but the clouds moved in early and I decided I had proved enough for a few days. I was more than happy to spend my next night catching up with family rather than roughing it out in the woods. We wandered around Duluth for a bit but mostly just hunkered down out of the rain. I was treated to a warm bed, hot beverages, fresh pancakes when I walked in the door and even a warm shower. My family is amazing 🙂

Overall, this was a fantastic trip! I went up again this year but the timing wasn’t quite as good and the weather did not really cooperate. It was still amazing and brought back fabulous memories, but there is something about wandering through a golden forest that makes my heart happy.