Weekly Photo Challenge: Ephemeral Streams

When I first saw this week’s photo challenge – “ephemeral” – the first thing that popped into my head was ephemeral streams. Thinking this might not be the most interesting photo subject, I played around with other ideas but just couldn’t shake this one. So consider this your environmental science lesson for the week! (smile)

Ephemeral streams are areas are also known as “dry washes” (I suppose it’s really all a matter of perspective). An ephemeral stream, by definition, is a stream that flows only in direct response to precipitation, and thus discontinues its flow during dry seasons. Such flow is usually of (duh) short duration.

Arizona wildflowers, saguaro cactus

Wildflower Wash

Ephemeral streams can be found throughout the deserts of Arizona*. They make great hiking trails as they naturally clear vegetation and other obstacles. However, they are only great trails in the dry season – if a storm comes along these areas can be incredibly dangerous. These dry little beds can literally become mini-rivers in a matter of minutes during monsoon season. I’ve had the personal experience of trying to cross one in a large, solid truck – you start all the way over on one side of the road and once you’re across you’ve moved to the opposite shoulder of the road. Not as much fun as you might think. There are several roads that close during rainstorms to protect against just such cases of human brilliance.

If you’re wondering why my ephemeral springs look more like dry washes, I point you to the  above paragraph. I just haven’t had the opportunity to photograph one in relatively safe conditions. Someday. (smile)

desert wash Arizona

Sunny wash

These streams are incredibly important to the local eco-system for a number of reasons (most of which are too technical for this post). Perhaps their greatest role is to provide a wide array of ecological functions including forage, cover, nesting, and movement corridors for wildlife. Thanks to the relatively higher moisture content in these areas, vegetation and wildlife abundance in and near them tends to be much higher than other areas. The (hopefully responsible) human recreation is just a happy side effect. (smile)

*There are 4 deserts in the United States – Great Basin, Mojave, Chihuahuan, and Sonoran. Arizona is the only state where parts of all 4 can be found, although the Sonoran Desert is the largest to be found here.

 Annddd lesson over :)
Have a great weekend everyone!!

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Bathrooms & Outhouses

I admit that some of the photo challenges I participate in are truly that – challenging. Whether I just don’t have a photo that fits the topic or I just can’t find the right angle, it’s both frustrating and motivating. When I originally saw the prompt for today’s Black and White Photo Challenge from Cee – Bathrooms and Outhouses – I instantly panicked a bit and wondered what I was going to do. So what happened? It turns out that I may miss a lot of obvious photos but if it’s the least bit odd, I’ve probably got one – or embarrassingly more – shots of it somewhere. And this, my dear readers, is total proof of that (especially given that these are only the best of)!

Black and white, outhouse

In the Outhouse


Cee's Black and White Photo Challenge

Metairie Cemetery, New Orleans

One of the popular things to do in New Orleans is to visit one of the “cities of dead,” aka unique cemeteries. Due to the low sea level and flooding, most graves in the area are above ground in order to prevent people popping up during a good rainstorm. Being a bit of a taphophile myself, I was super excited to check one of these out during our stay in New Orleans. Arguably the most popular cemetery, St. Louis Cemetery #1, is now open to visitation only by tour groups. The reasoning quoted for this is preservation; if they can make a bit of money in the process, well… So unable to find a suitable tour for my needs, I looked for another cemetery instead – and ended up at the beautiful Metairie Cemetery.

As it turns out, Metairie Cemetery offers plenty of educational beauty. If you stop by the funeral home visitor’s center (small front office on the side of the building facing the road), the nice people will loan you a CD and a map for a self-guided audio tour. It’s also a good place to pick up a bit of the history.

Metairie Cemetery New Orleans Louisiana

Metairie was originally a horse racing track. The story goes that the Metairie Jockey Club refused membership to one Charles T. Howard, a local resident who gained his wealth by starting the first Louisiana State Lottery. After being refused membership, Howard vowed that he would some day buy the track and turn it into a cemetery. True to his curse promise, that’s precisely what happened. You can even still see the oval layout of the track today.

Metairie Cemetery New Orleans Louisiana

From what I understand, Metairie has the largest collection of marble tombs and funeral statuary in New Orleans. I was hooked when I read a TripAdvisor review admiring all the angels – and my oh my are there angels! Maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to expound upon my actual beliefs, but suffice it to say I do believe in angels and love seeing all the different manifestations. The angels in Metairie are no disappointment! They’re standing guard wherever you look – some with books, some with instruments, some peaceful, some sad…all so very elegant. (smile) I could’ve easily spent most of my day just on these beauties, but my dad had other ideas (and when it’s not your car, you learn to compromise!).

There are many other notable tombs in the cemetery including the monument to the Army of Tennessee, Louisiana Division and the former burial site of Jefferson Davis. Metairie is the final resting place of former governors, gamblers, soldiers, politicians, and movie starts – in short, it has a little something someone for everyone. It even has it’s own pyramid!

I’ve always known these types of cemeteries existed in Louisiana, and especially New Orleans, but being able to go and see them for myself was probably the highlight of my trip (I know – as my dad told me without the least hesitancy, I’m weird). We went early in the morning and pretty much had the place to ourselves. You can drive around aimlessly, but I recommend checking in with the staff to learn more about the grounds first. I found everyone to be super helpful and very pleasant. Even if you aren’t all that interested in cemeteries themselves, this one – or any of the others in New Orleans – are still worth a visit. These silent “cities” are very much a part of the local culture and, depending on where you go, you may even run into a Voodoo Queen. (*wink*)

Metairie Cemetery New Orleans Louisiana

 

My Favorite Instagram Photos

OMG what a weekend! Normally I try to reserve my weekends for exploring and/or precious rest, but not so this week. I spent some time cuddling furballs at the animal shelter, hiking, bagpiping (or watching anyway), and cleaning. Now I’m off to brunch and baseball! Of course given how short Spring! is here in the desert, I don’t regret taking advantage of these gorgeous days as much as possible – I can hibernate soon enough. (smile)

I was looking back through my Instagrams (yes, plural) the other day and thought it might be fun to share some of my favorite photos. I only update my blog-related account these days, but it’s fun to look back at all the memories! It’s hard to believe now that I was so opposed to using Instagram at first. Now it’s pretty much my favorite social media! There are so many gorgeous photos of far-flung lands it’s like a mini-adventure every time I open up the rabbit hole (which is also a little dangerous for productivity). I’m always on the lookout for new people to follow and new memories to share!

Please follow along @pondertheirrelevant for more fun adventures!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fresh Flowers

I’m guessing there will be plenty of flower photos showcased for this week’s photo challenge “fresh.” But I’m perfectly okay with that because it’s SPRING! and flowers are always lovely! (smile)

Bartlett Lake Arizona wildflowers

Fresh flowers & Fresh (chilly) water :)

Fall and winter are normally my favorite seasons (a byproduct of being forced to hibernate during the summer) but there are those couple of weeks here in the desert where everything miraculously transforms. It’s like the earth itself is excited, which makes it hard not to be excited myself!

Y*mmy: Chocolate Whiskey Bundt Cake

chocolate, whisky, bundt, cake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder + 3 Tablespoons for dusting pan
  • 1 ½ cup brewed coffee
  • ½ cup American whiskey (or bourbon)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. Butter bundt pan well then dust with cocoa powder, shaking out excess.

Heat coffee, whiskey, butter, and cocoa powder in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, whisking until butter is melted. Remove from heat, add sugar, and whisk until dissolved. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and cool for 5 minutes.

Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Whisk together eggs and vanilla, then add to chocolate mixture whisking until well combined. Add the flour mixture and whisk until just combined (batter will be thin and bubbly). Pour the batter into prepared budt pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean (about 40-50 minutes).

Allow cake to cool completely in pan. Loosen cake from pan using a dinner knife then turn out onto rack. Allow to cool completely before storing or add glaze and serve immediately.

*Side note: the flavor of this cake improves over time. Store in a cake keeper or wrapped well in plastic wrap at a cool room temperature. It can be made up to 5 days ahead and chilled, but bring to room temp before serving.

*This recipe was adapted from one found on Epicurious. Any changes are based on personal trial and error.

Basic Glaze

  • 1 ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 3 – 4 Tablespoons milk or water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sift powdered sugar to remove any lumps. Slowly stir in vanilla and liquid of your choice until the glaze reaches desired consistency.

* Side note: If you put the glaze on a warm cake, it will absorb. This doesn’t affect the taste so much as the looks.


This post is also Day 5 of the 5 day challenge. I’m opening this one up to anyone who would like to join the fun! If you would like to participate, post a photo every day for five days and write a story to go along with each photo. Your stories can be fiction or non-fiction; short paragraphs, multiple pages, or poems. I’ve even opted for a recipe to tell my story for today, because to me sometimes recipes are the best kind of story! (smile) Each day, please invite one person to carry on the challenge. The challenge is not mandatory and can be refused, but I hope you accept and have fun!

 

New Orleans Voodoo Museum

A couple of weeks ago I met up with some friends down in New Orleans for a long weekend. I’d visited the city a few times in college, pre-hurricane, and was curious to see if anything had changed since. So we visited the typical tourist areas and I visited some of the stranger attractions (I can’t for the life of me figure out why more people didn’t want to get up early on a Saturday to spend time in a cemetery…). Being in New Orleans, it seemed appropriate that one of the top sites on my list to see was the Voodoo Museum located in the historic French Quarter.

New Orleans Louisiana Voodoo Museum

The Voodoo Museum was started by Charles Gandolfo (aka “Voodoo Charlie”). Voodoo Charlie was famous for recreating voodoo ceremonies at Halloween or even private weddings! After his death, his younger brother Jerry took over as caretaker of the museum. The artifacts present were collected over a number of years from a wide variety of sources and are meant to represent various aspects of the religion and it’s practices.

Louisiana Voodoo, also known as New Orleans Voodoo, describes a set of underground religious practices which originated from the traditions of West Africa. It is a cultural form of the Afro-American religions which developed within the French, Spanish, and Creole speaking African American population of the U.S. state of Louisiana. Voodoo was brought to the French colony Louisiana through the slave trade. Louisiana Voodoo is often confused with (but is not completely separable from) Haitian Vodou and southern Hoodoo. It differs from Vodou in its emphasis upon Gris-gris, voodoo queens, use of Hoodoo occult paraphernalia, and Li Grand Zombi (snake deity).

The core beliefs of Louisiana Voodoo include the recognition of one God who does not interfere in people’s daily lives and spirits that preside over daily life. Spiritual forces, which can be kind or mischievous, shape daily life through and intercede in the lives of their followers. Connection with these spirits can be achieved through dance, music, singing, and the use of snakes, which represent Legba, Voodoo’s “main spirit conduit to all others.” Unlike the Judeo-Christian image, the Voodoo serpent represents “healing knowledge and the connection between Heaven and Earth.” Deceased ancestors can also intercede in the lives of Voodoo followers.

This museum has mixed reviews on Trip Advisor, etc. but for a $5 admission fee I figured it was worth taking a chance. The museum is certainly not traditional, but I generally find that makes things more interesting. (smile) It’s really just a couple of rooms and a hallway filled with a hodgepodge of artifacts related to the voodoo religion. There are photographs, a few explanatory cards, newspaper articles, and a wide array of interesting looking skulls and statues. Mr. Gandolfo was speaking with some other patrons while we were wandering about and really seemed to know his stuff. I definitely recommend asking any questions you may have! Overall, I would recommend stopping by the Voodoo Museum if you have some time to spare – it’s well worth the admission (just go in with realistic expectations).

The museum has a small shop and there’s also a very legit (or so I’m told) fully stocked voodoo shop just down the street should you be so inspired. (smile) The museum is located at 724 Dumaine Street and is open daily from 10am to 6pm. Admission is $7, but it seems most people get the discount down to $5.

New Orleans Louisiana Street lamp

 


Travel Tuesday

This post is also Day 4 of the 5 day challenge. I’m tagging Molly @ The Move to America to join the fun! If you would like to participate, post a photo every day for five days and write a story to go along with each photo. Your stories can be fiction or non-fiction; short paragraphs, multiple pages, or poems. Each day, please invite one person to carry on the challenge. The challenge is not mandatory and can be refused, but I hope you accept and have fun!

Desert Wildflowers

wildflowers saguaro cactus spring in Arizona

AZ Spring

Rocky, barren mystery
Brown, thorny bushes be
Unforgiving, dusty haze
Unbroken, monotonous gaze

Behold the magic of the seasons
Radiant yellow, red, purple reasons
To pause in our pursuits and look again
To notice the signs of winter’s end


This post is also Day 3 of the 5 day challenge. I’m tagging Julie @ A Sawyer’s Daughter to join the fun! If you would like to participate, post a photo every day for five days and write a story to go along with each photo. Your stories can be fiction or non-fiction; short paragraphs, multiple pages, or poems. Each day, please invite one person to carry on the challenge. The challenge is not mandatory and can be refused, but I hope you accept and have fun!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Painted Walls

urban art, wall murals, graffiti

urban art, wall murals, graffiti

Several years ago, my friend and I took a daring chance and moved to downtown Phoenix. She liked to say we were “urban hipsters.” I believe the more common slang at the time was “ghetto snobs.” Tomat-o, tomahto, right? It doesn’t matter really, all we cared about was having a good time and exploring our ‘hood. During that time, downtown was in transition from “slightly scary” to “place to be.” When we first moved in, everything shut down at 7pm with the exception of a few nightclubs (or on game nights – both the pro baseball and basketball teams are down there). Fast forward a few years and suddenly all the newest, trendy bars and restaurants were within easy walking distance of our little casa.

It was a hard decision to leave the area, but she followed a guy to California and I couldn’t quite afford the prices in the renewed area (go figure). I’ve lived all over the valley, but downtown is still my favorite place to be. Luckily, I don’t live that far away now so I can visit fairly often. These days the trendy just keeps trending and it’s almost hard to recognize our old neighborhood. Walls that were once covered in graffiti now feature “urban art.” Old houses that made you pick up your step before are now the places to go for organic coffee, vegan treats, and hot boutiques. It’s amazing how so much can change in so little time! I admit that sometimes I do miss the downtown I knew, but I can’t help but be happy for this little piece of the big, bad city. It deserves all the attention and pretty outdoor artwork it can get. (smile)

This week’s photo challenge is “wall.”

This post is also Day 2 of the 5 day challenge. I’m tagging Ruth at Mad Meandering Me to join the fun! If you would like to participate, post a photo every day for five days and write a story to go along with each photo. Your stories can be fiction or non-fiction; short paragraphs, multiple pages, or poems. Each day, please invite one person to carry on the challenge. The challenge is not mandatory and can be refused, but I hope you accept and have fun!

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Cameras

film camera

film camera

Camera, Nikon D90

This week’s black and white photo challenge is “any kind of camera or photos of photographers.” I have always loved playing with cameras, but it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve begun focusing on the technical aspects of the actual photograph. I ran through many rolls of film as a kid – so many that now, looking back through those pictures, I’m surprised my mom put up with it! Oh but it was fun! (smile) One of my favorite subjects was – and still is – my grandmother’s garden. It’s the best place guaranteed to capture beauty and color.

Now that digital is the norm, I don’t feel quite so bad about taking an over-abundance of photos. It’s such an indulgence to take as many as I want, knowing that I can simply delete the rejected ones, no charge. It’s also a huge benefit to be able to immediately see the image captured! I’ve read stories about Ansel Adams carrying glass plates through the wilderness to capture just the right shot, and I am always in such awe of his dedication and ability to process those photos in his mind. The more familiar I become with digital, the more tempted I am to return to film. I suppose it’s taken the safety-net digital provides to gain enough confidence to go try other mediums.

In the meantime, I’ve started – quit unconsciously – collecting old film cameras. I’m pretty sure they are unlikely to capture images again, but they are fascinating works of art in themselves.


Cee's Black and White Photo Challenge

This post is also Day 1 of the 5 day challenge. I was nominated by Terry at Through the Lens of my Life (thanks Terry!) Now I’m tagging Tom at Spirit in Politics to join the fun! If you would like to participate, post a photo every day for five days and write a story to go along with each photo. Your stories can be fiction or non-fiction; short paragraphs, multiple pages, or poems. Each day, please invite one person to carry on the challenge. The challenge is not mandatory and can be refused, but I hope you accept and have fun!