Weekly Photo Challenge: Descent Into…

This week’s photo challenge is descent. I thought of a few different variations on this one, but in the end I’ve opted for the obvious. Although I will say this – if hell is anything like Dante’s Inferno, spiral staircases would be my punishment. I wonder if there’s a fancy name for that phobia

Cave, stairs

Straight into…

Happy Weekend Everyone!!

Phobophobia: The Fear of Phobias

 

QuoteI am generally the type of person who tries to meet my fears head on, often with mixed results. I can generally do okay as long as I can keep a mental grip, but if I walk into a spider web all bets are off! I could totally market this phenomenon: InstaNinja – Just add spider web! (grin) But even with spiders I’m only really afraid when I’m taken unaware. I have no qualms about finding the nearest shoe or, on very rare occasions, suffering them to live if they’re out of my direct path. (See, miracles do happen!) I have other slightly irrational fears as well such as water or confinement, but luckily those are easier to avoid (smile).

I think we all have our individual fears and phobias; they make us who we are on some level. But there’s something about this time of year – especially Halloween – when we can’t help but look over our shoulders a bit more (usually on the way to a haunted house or slasher flick to purposefully scare ourselves silly, but nonetheless…). There’s just something in the air I suppose or perhaps its genetic memory of the real fear felt by our ancestors when faced with the long dark nights. Who knows for sure?? But in the spirit of the season, I thought it would be fun to highlight some pertinent phobias. They’re good to know for those Halloween cocktail parties (yeah, I know) or frankly just fun to try to pronounce (smile)!

phobias

 

phobias, Halloween

Do any of these apply to you??

[P.S. I hope no one is actually triskaidekaphobic. Can you tell why?]

Travel Tuesday: City/Country/Small Town Kinda Girl

Happy Travel Tuesday everyone! It’s been a crazy day at the office, but I got to spend my lunch break looking at my client’s travel photos of the UK, so to steal his phrase – “it’s all good.” (smile). This month’s Travel Tuesday prompt puts country against city in terms of travel preference. I must admit I’ve had to think about this one a bit. I feel when it comes right down to it, it all just depends on the mood.

I grew up in the country and couldn’t wait to live in a big city. When I was young, Paris was my dream and I simply couldn’t imagine a better travel destination! I’ve visited Paris and quite a number of other large cities in the intervening years and now, oddly enough, I find myself longing for countryside more and more.

New York City

New York, New York

When I plan a trip, I normally plan on flying into and spending at least a few days in the city. Not only does this strategy offer cheaper airfare, it also allows me an opportunity to get my bearings. Cities offer a great deal of culture and convenience in one nice package. It’s generally easier to maneuver and, if you’re in a hurry, it’s a great way to get a feel for a place. They also offer a lot of history – the buildings, streets, and sometimes even the form of public transportation available tell you a story about the evolution of a place that can often be surprising. While a countryside may have been settled for years prior to a city being formed, the city generally has a more concentrated feel to that history. It’s also really nice to have options for food, lodging, and meeting people nearby!

Scotland, UK

Scottish Countryside

But if I have the time or I really want to get to know a place, I plan excursions outside of the city. People who live in the country are different – the lack of city “conveniences” creates a different way of life out of necessity I think. In some cases, it also makes people much friendlier (or nosier, depending on where you are – smile). But aside from the local charmers, the landscapes are as much of a cultural or historic experience as anything found in the city. The landscape could very well be the reason the cities are located in certain areas. I’ve also found that some of the strangest things to see and/or do are often located in the countryside (and we all know how much I love strange things – smile). As an introvert, I find a particular freedom in the wide open spaces that speaks to some deeper part of me. I also prefer landscape photography, so there’s that too (smile).

Bisbee, Arizona

Bisbee, Arizona (Hi to the brother!)

And in a best-of-both-worlds scenario, there’s my favorite compromise – small towns! I grew up in a small town so there’s a certain level of comfort there. They all have their own stories, societal drama, and beauty to keep things plenty interesting. These days I try to spend a few days in whatever city the airport’s in and then promptly take myself off to a conveniently located small town/village/etc. to use as my base. I get the sense of people and community without being overwhelmed, and those gorgeous countryside sunsets are generally just a few minutes away! In Arizona, one of my favorite weekend activities is to go exploring one of the many small towns nearby. These “outposts” all have their own unique personalities and, on occasion, I’ve certainly felt like I traveled to a different country altogether (smile). They’re great mini-trips that keep the wanderlust at bay and it’s the perfect way to learn about the area I live in – win/win!

How about you? Are you more of a city, country, or small town kinda girl/boy??


Come join Bonnie, Camila, Jessi, and Amy for more fun travels!!

Travel Tuesday

Sunday Photo: Dream or Not???

My brother and I have been on a mission for the past year or so to scan all of the family photos, papers, and other worthwhile odds and ends. He scans, I sort (I feel I may have gotten the wrong end of this deal somehow). I thought we were making good progress until I found the storage tub full of photos on my last trip home…yeah. Anyway, while I was sorting through the latest round of scans I found this photo – clear evidence that this macabre interest of mine in cemeteries and supernatural goes back further than I realized!

Fifth grade poetry

From the local paper (I blame them for the “misprint”)

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: [Book] Cover Art

This week’s photo challenge is to come up with “cover art.” Luckily, the prompt also suggests a number of different methods of interpretation on this one as I admittedly felt a little lost. Then I remembered a personal project of mine that’s been sitting in the “development” phase for ages now – a photographic book of churches. While my personal views on religion are a bit unique, I’ve always been fascinated with churches; and particularly older, more rural buildings. The project itself is ongoing, but this image is one of the first to come to mind when I think about potential cover art. The title is a list of ongoing puns…(smile)

Arizona church fall leaves

Divine Framework

Happy weekend everyone!!

Y*mmy: Pumpkin Streusel Muffins with Maple Glaze

You guys…we started our morning at the office with mimosas and these amazing Pumpkin Streusel Muffins! Seriously. Yum. There are definite perks to working in a small office with very laid back “bosses!” I thought it was only fair to immediately share the recipe with any of you guys that may be in the throes of must-have-pumpkin-everything-right-now like me (smile).

As so often is the case, I came across this recipe on Pinterest. No biggie. But here’s what makes these babies special – I made almost no adaptations to this recipe. For someone who is always changing something, that’s pretty major! I just added a bit more spice (I like the “pumpkin spice flavors” a lot) and changed the glaze a bit. The original recipe can be found over at DamnDelicious. Not only do I absolutely love these muffins, I adore that name! I can’t wait to check out more of her recipes!

Pumpkin Streusel Muffins with Maple Glaze

Cinnamon Streusel Topping

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

Combine flour, light brown sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Add in cubed butter. You can either “cut” the butter in with a pastry cutter or just use your hands. Work the butter into the dry ingredients until you have a coarse crumb mixture.

Pumpkin Muffins

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 15oz can pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix well (I recommend a sifter if you have one).

In a medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter, pumpkin puree, eggs, and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients over the top of the dry ingredients and fold mixture together until just combined (just until there’s no more flour hiding at the bottom).

Evenly distribute the mixture into a standard muffin tray with liners. Unlike cupcakes, I filled these almost to the top and they puffed up nicely! The original recipe says it makes 12 muffins, but my batch made 16. Bake at 350 degrees for 16-20 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center of the muffin comes out clean. Allow to cool.

Maple Glaze

  • 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (the good stuff)
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk

In a small bowl whisk together sugar, butter, and syrup. Add milk a little at a time until mixture reaches desired consistency. Drizzle over the top of the cooled muffins. Allow glaze to set before serving or storing.

pumpkin streusel muffin recipe, baking

I feel like this should be one of those “Ahhhhhh….” moments :)

Travel Tuesday: Finding a Good Ghost Tour

A client was telling me about his recent trip to Edinburgh and London (via York) this morning and aside from being slightly jealous was also a bit inspired! I’d highly recommended the ghost tours in Edinburgh as a great way to see different parts of the city and to learn some history (if there are a few “thrilling moments” along the way even better, right/). He and his wife chose the City of the Dead tour and it sounds like they were definitely not disappointed!

I’ve been thinking – how do you find a good ghost tour? What really makes a ghost tour good?? It seemed like the perfect topic for a Travel Tuesday discussion so here we are!

New Orleans StreetWhat makes a good ghost tour?

  1. Location. Not all locations are appropriate for setting the necessary ambiance. Generally speaking, the older cities or more remote locales make for the best experiences. Older cities have simply had more time to acquire stories and tend to have a special ambiance about them. The same can be said with remote locations – the feeling of isolation automatically triggers the feelings of unease necessary to really get you into the proper mood (smile). So when you visit a location look around and listen to your instincts. If you’re in a happy place with zero creepy vibes, it may be better to save the experience for another time.
  1. History. This again goes back to age. Older places tend to have more stories – and really any good ghost story is just a well told historical tale. Learning something about the location and how these stories evolved ensure that you leave somewhat satisfied, even if you don’t encounter any spirits. This may also be the best way to sell an adventure to any non-believers in the party!
  1. Options. I really like companies that give you options to choose from. If you have kids, mobility impairments, or just a tight schedule, being able to choose different options is really helpful in creating the relaxed and open mood best suited for these sorts of things.
  1. Tour guide. Like pretty much any tour, your guide can truly make or break your experience. A good storyteller can make even the most stalwart skeptic second guess themselves – even if just for a moment. It’s difficult to control how talented your tour guide is, but sometimes the companies have guide bios on their website. It’s worth skimming through to see if there’s any one person that sounds more like your type of storyteller. I generally just like being surprised (smile).

CemeteryHow do you find a good ghost tour?

  1. Friends. The absolute best method is through your friends. If you have friends that have been to a city before, just ask their opinion on things to do. Whether or not they’ve participated in a ghost tour themselves, they may have seen signs or groups roaming around. Or maybe they have friends who know. Chances are your friends will also understand you well enough to know what to recommend – or not. Direct channels are almost always the best bet!
  1. TripAdvisor. As a Plan B, head on over to TripAdvisor and read the reviews. It’ll give you an opportunity to check out other local options and gather several opinions about tours in one place!
  1. Hotel or local. I always check the brochure stands in hotel lobbies (when available). You never know what kind of random happenings you may find and usually the hotel staff can be counted on for reliable advice in terms of trusting those flyers. This isn’t always the case though, as some hotels get kick backs from referrals. If you feel like this may be the case, it never hurts to double check with #2 before you head out.
    Likewise, locals may be able to recommend a ghost tour or other sites. If you’re really lucky, the locals might just share a few of their own tales with you for the cost of a drink! This experience, in my opinion, is a bit like winning the ghost tour lottery – especially if you’re in a pub full of locals who enjoy sharing their local knowledge with the visitors (smile).
  1. Fate. I’ve been on ghost tours around the US and in Europe, and if I’m being honest, I’ve stumbled across most of them by happenstance. I maybe see a tour walking around after dark or a sign outside a pub and just go for it. Unless it’s an impromptu go-right-then kind of tour, I do usually try to check it out prior to booking. And booking, my friends, is a priority if you’re looking for a ghost tour in a popular spot (e.g., Savannah, GA; New Orleans, LA; Edinburgh, Scotland; etc). Just like interacting with a spirit, sometimes it just takes being in the right place…

 What are your tips for finding a “good” ghost tour??


Come join Bonnie, Camila, Jessi, and Amy for more adventures!!

Travel Tuesday

Ghost Stories (Vol. II)

Since I was quite small, I’ve always been able to sense “others.” But I’ve never actually seen one – nor do I wish to do so. Feeling them – the bone deep knowledge that they are there – is more than enough for me. Like all forms of beings in the universe, spirits run the spectrum between good and evil. My first true interaction was, luckily, with a relatively “good ghost.” It wasn’t until many years later that I met a spirit on the opposite end of that spectrum…

In the 6+ years that I’ve been in Phoenix, I’ve lived in many areas of the city. My current lodging actually overlooks a rather large cemetery – a fact that is oddly comforting (but I have a strange relationship with such places). Several years ago, my friend and I lived together in downtown Phoenix, just across from the baseball stadium and literally right along the lightrail line. A less likely place for a spirit encounter I would’ve thought difficult to find, but I suppose we can’t all be right all of the time.

stairs to townhouse

We had the middle unit up the stairs.

The place was a townhouse of sorts with two floors situated above a communal garage. It was an absolute ideal location and the guy who rented it to us was the perfect landlord – only around as needed. We lived there for just over two years in total and celebrated a lot of wonderful memories (smile). I can’t remember when I first felt something a bit off, but I don’t think we’d been there long. We moved in around February and she took off for a summer abroad – I remember distinctly not being nearly as happy to be living there on my own as I thought I would be. I never left all of the lights off and I always made sure everything was locked up tight. I just chalked it up to being in a downtown setting even though that setting was the reason we lived there. I was so relieved when she got back!

I think it was some months still before she mentioned feeling the same way that I did – as though there was just something a bit “off” in the mood of the place. Admitting it to one another seemed to be exactly what the spirit was waiting for. The cats (we each had one) went completely out of character. They would either both sleep with me or wake my friend up in the middle of the night staring at one particular corner of the room and periodically hissing. We were both beyond perplexed but determined not to admit that we might actually have a not-so-friendly ghost. I was relating some of these happenings to my colleagues one day when one of them – the least likely one I might add – suggested that she contact a friend of hers who performed “cleansings.” After the Alabama experience I figured it couldn’t hurt to have a professional take charge, so we got in contact and set the date.

The very nice lady came over early one Sunday morning. She was a full Native American who was related to someone high up in the tribal spiritual arena, as well as a celebrated archaeologist. We made small talk around the reason of her visit and then finally she asked us to take the cats and wait out on the patio. We never told her what exactly was going on – she said she didn’t want to know. Just as we were beginning to get a bit concerned, she came out and informed us that yes, we did have a spirit in the place. She explained where it liked to reside (that bedroom corner), why it was likely there, and how best to cleanse the space. Even after the Alabama experience, I was the skeptic. Until she showed me the old maps of Phoenix and the proximity of our townhouse to a cemetery razed in the name of progress. I had a new understanding for the hostility of the spirit, but was even less inclined to let it remain after hearing her description of the force it put out into the world. On the good – evil spectrum, it veered strongly toward evil.

So we all went back inside, cats included, and walked behind the lady with the smudge stick, repeating the incantations after her – some in English, some not. After we had cleansed the living area, she wanted to go to the communal garage as well. Of course the neighbors chose that moment to run errands…they thought we were odd anyway but I’m sure that sealed the deal. After the garage was properly smudged, we went out back and had to forcefully “cast the spirit away.” Then the lady blessed us with a proprietary mixture of herbs, cornmeal, and turquoise while we each made our peace with the sun. Shortly after, we all parted ways. As she was leaving, the lady informed us that to speak of the spirit, especially while inside those quarters, would only entice it back in. She also indicated that although we had sent it back to its resting place, it would likely creep back in again to the first abandoned space it could find. Good to know….??

My friend and I spoke of the experience only in broad terms while we were home and told few people. We smudged all of rooms annually, and I kept the smudge stick for use in each new place until I finally finished it at my current residence. One can never be too careful after all, especially when there’s a cemetery in your “backyard.”

carved pumpkins

Read in order, these guys pretty much sum it all up!!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Refractions

This week’s photo challenge is all about light refraction. I love this particular challenge because it required a bit of extra thought and I’ve really enjoyed seeing the interpretations posted thus far! I originally had an entirely different direction in mind until I came across this guy – he blends in well (smile).

Mexico, beach, crab, water refraction

The Crab Refraction

Happy weekend everyone!

Around Town: Hotel San Carlos Ghost Tour

Well, I made it back to Phoenix! (And, sadly, straight back into work…) I came in to a fully decked-out office with spiderwebs galore (thanks to the person that “decorated” my desk – smile). Much like any area, Phoenix is no stranger to resident spirits. The Hotel San Carlos in downtown Phoenix is thought to be one of the more popular spirit hangouts in the city! They used to offer special ghost tours around Halloween and I was lucky enough to “hunt along” before they stopped!

San Carlos Hotel

Hotel San Carlos, Phoenix, AZ

The Hotel San Carlos claims to be the only historic boutique hotel in Phoenix and has been in continuous operation since 1928. The hotel has boasted a number of famous guests over the years including Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe and Mae West. The French Cafe at the San Carlos was considered the place to be seen during the early 20th century and many stars that couldn’t get a room at the hotel made it a point to at least come to the Cafe for a meal while in Phoenix.

Perhaps one of the most famous guests at the San Carlos is a young lady named Leone Johnson. Most accounts agree that although she had traveled across the country to marry her love, he spurned her on arrival for another. Ms. Johnson, being considerable upset, jumped from the rooftop of the hotel – some say in her never-to-be-worn wedding dress. Several witnesses have seen the specter of a young girl in white standing at the end of their bed or up on the rooftop. Her spirit appears to friendly, but never speaks.

San Carlos Hotel, ghost tour

Those spots are reportedly “spirits” of the children…

There are also stories of three children who laugh and play down in the basement of the San Carlos. Exact accounts of their death differs, but the spirits, at the very least, sound friendly. Some witnesses claim to see Marilyn Monroe taking advantage of the pool from time to time. According to our lovely tour guide, there are quite a few other spirits in residence as well, each with their own story.

Today the San Carlos is a bustling hotel and tourist attraction. However, there are still guests to this day who check out in the middle of the night after encountering “something.” Whether this is a product of stories and the excellent refreshments down at the bar or truth…who knows? But having walked those halls, I can certainly believe it would make for an excellent spiritual hangout (smile). It is certainly a beautiful historic building with unique rooms, bars, and restaurants – a perfectly fun place to hang out whether you believe in ghosts or not!

San Carlos Hotel, ghost tourHave you ever stayed at a haunted hotel??