The Only Thing That Is Constant…

…is change.

Lately, I’ve been doing this thing where I have this great idea and I run right up to it and think “Yes! This is it! I’m finally going to commit to a direction and change my stars!” Then I promptly spend the next however long systematically talking myself out of doing anything. (My inner dragon is quite the pragmatist.) I’ve got this great post sitting in my drafts right now – it’s all about seizing life and committing to my true self – but I don’t want to publish it because I know that come tomorrow I will likely panic and change my mind.

I am so afraid of making the wrong decision and having to suffer the consequences. I feel like I’ve finally won some acceptance and respect from my family, but I know that the quickest way to lose that is by doing exactly what I’ve been contemplating – changing. My life right now is firmly fixed in a set of those proverbial “golden handcuffs;” a fact which seems to bring contentment to everyone else and nothing but resentment to me.

Staying on this path – or lack thereof – is literally so painful. I’m on meds for depression and anxiety. I found out late last year that I have fibromyalgia, most likely triggered by stress. I am constantly on the lookout for some type of legal and non-self-harmful relief. In short, my emotional and physical self are suffering because my mental self can’t seem to get it’s s**t together. All three are beyond frustrated.

So what great idea is causing all this emo-anxiety? Well, I was presented with a potential job opportunity, which would not only be a career change but would also take me to a different location than I’d ever intended. It’s not a guarantee, but it is a very viable option. My family and co-workers would be most displeased. Perhaps I would be too. Taking this would be the equivalent of a long leap off a short cliff – I may survive just fine but odds are there’s a stretcher in my future. Am I being a bit dramatic? I wish that’s all it was…

I’ve written on here time and again that I am a people-pleaser. I thought that I was a recovering people-pleaser, but as this post has shown, that is clearly not the case.  If I was the only one to be affected by change, I would reinvent myself every chance I got. I don’t fear change – I long for it – but I do fear disappointing others. And I know, I know, I know that “you can’t please everybody” and “sometimes you have to do things for yourself” and “if they love you they’ll support you” and “it really will all be a-okay.” But knowing and knowing aren’t exactly the same thing. Ugh.

I hope. (smile) I hope that when the time comes to tell everyone about my decision, they will all understand (or at least pretend to). And failing that, I hope that I can conjure that old inner strength to move forward anyway. It’s a beautiful thing, basking in the sunshine of acceptance; but it makes for cold nights alone with the one person you can never escape – yourself. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what tomorrow brings…

quote

Weekly Photo Challenge: Reward Yourself

Sometimes the best “reward” isn’t necessarily a thing, but rather a feeling or a place – or (best of all) a place that gives you a feeling. One of my favorite places to go for that oh-so-rewarding feeling of relaxation is the beach. Sunscreen, sand, and sunburn aside, it’s a place that never fails to make me feel better. Whether it’s warm and tropical or cold and desolate, I’m a happy camper. The pretty drinks and beautiful sunsets are just extra “bonuses!”  (smile)

Pina Colada Thailand beach

Mexico, sunset, beach

Happy weekend everyone!!

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Ferris Wheels

Yay for “almost Friday!” I tell ya, after this week, I’m definitely looking forward to the weekend! For this week’s black and white challenge, Cee’s set the theme for “wheels.” I automatically thought of ferris wheels, as I have long been fascinated with them for some reason. They’re usually one of the only amusement rides you can coax me onto! (smile)

London Eye Ferris Wheel Black and White England UK

Edinburgh Christmas Festival Ferris Wheel Scotland UK Black and White


Cee's Black and White Photo Challenge

Travel Tuesday: Tumacácori National Historical Park

Happy Tuesday guys! It’s a lovely day here in the desert – chilly by our standards, but a veritable oasis compared to the rest of the country. Times like these make me super grateful I live here; exploring local treasures just makes me grateful to be alive and able (smile).

Tumacácori National Historical Park, Arizona

So if you haven’t noticed, I have a thing for places of worship, particularly churches. It doesn’t matter if it’s a soaring cathedral or a humble church, I find them all fascinating. The only exception to this being the new pre-fab buildings and/or strip mall “churches” that are so popular these days – no originality there. Anyway, suffice it to say that if there’s one in the vicinity, I want to check it out! (One day I’ll even make my photography book…) Needless to say, when I happened across Tumacácori National Historic Park a couple of weeks ago, I immediately planned a trip down to check out this 17th century Mission.

Tumacácori National Historical Park, Arizona

Jesuit Eusebio Francisco Kino founded Mission San Cayetano de Tumacácori on the east bank of the Santa Cruz river in 1691. Established one day before the nearby Mission Los Santos Angeles de Guevavi, Tumacácori is the oldest Jesuit mission site in southern Arizona.

After the Pima Revolt in 1751, where Indians killed two priests and more than 100 settlers as well as several mission buildings, the site was temporarily abandoned. In 1753, Tumacácori was moved to the west bank of the river and renamed San Jose de Tumacácori.

The church you can see now was begun in the 1800s by Fray Narciso Gutierrez, but the mission’s poverty and the Mexican wars for independence slowed construction. Sadly, by 1848, the mission was abandoned and began falling into disrepair. Restoration efforts began in 1908 when the site was declared a national monument by Theodore Roosevelt. It became a part of the Tumacácori National Historic Park in 1990.

This site exceeded my expectations. I’ve become so accustomed to barriers and “do not touch” signs that it was a very pleasant surprise to have (relatively) free reign to roam around and explore at Tumacácori. The staff at the visitor’s center was so very nice and offered me a “loaner” copy of the self-guided tour book. Located in a somewhat remote location, there were more visitors than I expected, but not so many that I couldn’t enjoy the peace and quiet. The grounds are well kept and the day I visited there were a couple local artisans demonstrating their skills on site (including homemade tortillas – yum!). I felt that the self-guided book was fairly sufficient for my purposes, but I think if I ever go back I’ll be on board for the guided version. Apparently, there are also other portions of the park as a larger whole that are available only through scheduled tours – adding that to the “well I wouldn’t mind…” list! (smile)

Tumacácori National Historical Park, Arizona

Tumacácori is located off of Exit 29 of I-19, 45 miles south of Tucson and 18 miles north of Nogales, Arizona. The park is open from 9am – 5pm every day, except Thanksgiving and Christmas Days. Admission is $3 per person.

Sunday Satisfaction

Is there any better feeling on a Sunday night than knowing you accomplished your entire weekend To Do list?? I’m notorious for putting weekend tasks off until the weekdays then grousing about how I never get to do anything fun during the week. It’s a bit self-sabotaging really, so I’ve been trying to get better about (loosely) planning my weekends out. This helps me find a better balance between productivity and laziness (smile). With two full weekends coming up, I really needed this one to take care of some prep work – less to worry about later always leads to more fun!

So this weekend I caught up on sleep, had a mini-adventure, baked (3!) desserts for tomorrow’s office b-day celebration, hit the grocery store (my least favorite errand ever), cleaned the apartment, caught up on some blog house-keeping, took a hike, and made dinner/tomorrow’s lunch. Now I’m contemplating a bubble bath and some quality time with Tivo and the Oscars (smile). It feels good; I feel good.

I was contemplating getting all philosophical here, but after trying fruitlessly to make it work, I’m just going to wrap this up with a few teaser photos and call it a night! I hope you all had a lovely weekend – no matter how you define productive! :)

Mission San Xavier del Bac, Tucson, Arizona

Mission San Xavier del Bac

Mission San Xavier del Bac, Tucson, Arizona

Landscape shot directly left of the above photo

Weekly Photo Challenge: Rule of Thirds

This week’s photo challenge is all about the “rule of thirds.” Long before I understood this concept, I would use it all the time. As I became more aware of the techniques of photography, my photographs seem to have become much more centered! I’m sure there’s a statement in there about some life lesson, but I’m not gonna over think it…

boat on the water with blue skies

Blue Paradise

lego cat photo Phoenix Arizona

Urban Lego

Happy weekend everyone!!

Tonto Natural Bridge State Park

Happy Tuesday everyone! Thanks to the 50+ degree temperature drop compliments of a quick work trip to Wyoming, I’m remembering all over again why I chose to live in Arizona. This is by far the best time of year in my part of the desert (Super Bowl weekend aside – that was a total fluke!), and I’ve been so inspired lately to get outside and explore! I found Tonto Natural Bridge State Park – quite by happy accident – not long after I moved to Arizona and was blown away by how cool this place is! It’s still one of my favorite places to visit in the state.

Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, Arizona

Tonto Natural Bridge State Park is located just north of Payson, Arizona. It’s believed to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. The bridge stands over a 400 foot long tunnel that measures 150 feet at its widest points and reaches a height of 183 feet.

The natural bridge was first documented by David Gowan, a prospector, in 1877 while hiding from hostile Apache tribe members. The Gowan family lived near the bridge until 1948; the lodge building survives to this day and currently serves as a visitor’s center.

The lodge features a great museum area and there are several hikes around the area. The bridge is in a deep valley, so even after the drive down to the visitor’s center, the descent to the bridge is pretty steep. The path, however, is well trod and easy enough if you take your time (and lots of water). You can explore under the bridge area, but swimming is prohibited.

My favorite time to visit is during the week when there aren’t as many people. It’s a great opportunity to explore and take photos without having other people in them (smile). With the water falling over the bridge, it’s such a soothing place to relax and enjoy the views.

The park is open 7 days a week from 9am to 5pm. The entry fees are $5/adult and $2/children.

Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, Arizona

Perfect motto :)


Travel Tuesday

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Natural Symmetry

This week’s photo challenge is “symmetry.” It never fails to amaze me how much symmetry can be found in the natural world if one only takes the time to see it. I suppose it shouldn’t be all that surprising, but in a world of man-made monuments, sometimes it’s easy to forget where the root of the inspiration comes from (smile).

hillside reflected in water

Water Reflections

symmetrical trees at tucacori national historic site arizona

Tree Reflections

Hope everyone has had a lovely weekend!!

Y*mmy: Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

I have a confession to make – I am a red velvet cake snob. Big time. Growing up in the south, this cake was a staple, so I know what good tastes like (smile). It’s always so disappointing to come across a piece with dry cake or weird, sticky frosting. Allow me to say this up front – even in today’s low-everything diet world, there is no room for “lighter” when making a red velvet cake. These things are an art form to be honored! Since Valentine’s Day is coming up this weekend, I figured this would be the perfect time to share the perfect recipe (smile).

red velvet cake recipe

This one was for the February office b-days :)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2.5 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tablesppons unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 8-ounce container sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1-ounce bottles red food coloring or 1 tube of red color gel*
  • Dark or white chocolate chips (optional)
  • 2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 32-ounce package powdered sugar**
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 3 8-inch round cake pans.

Beat butter at medium speed until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.

Combine flour, cocoa, and baking soda. Add to butter mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla then food coloring. Spoon batter into prepared pans.

Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks for approximately 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans and allow to finish cooling completely on wire racks (about an hour). Assemble and frost once cakes have cooled. Add chocolate chips on top for additional touch.

For the frosting, beat cream cheese and butter at medium speed until creamy. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until fluffy. Mix in vanilla.

*I find that the food color gel is more potent and thus takes less. Beware getting it on anything as it definitely stains!
**I don’t usually use the full 32-ounces as I find that to be too sweet, so take this recommendation with a granule of sugar (smile).

Original recipe from Southern Living magazine via grandma.

Travel Tuesday: Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

After a miserable Saturday spent indoors with a blinding headache (a fitting description as it was caused by having my eyes dilated that morning), I knew I had to get out and enjoy the sunshine on Sunday. So I picked up my camera for the first time in way-too-long and headed out to do some exploring. I’ve driven past the signs for Casa Grande Ruins National Monument along I-10 many times, but this was my first stop. I had some vague idea of what the attraction was, but I was much more impressed than I anticipated. It was a perfect way to spend a beautiful, sunny Arizona day (smile).

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument Coolidge Arizona

Casa Grande Ruins is, as the name implies, a grand house built by the Hohokam and believed to be in use in the 1300s. By the mid-1400s the house and surrounding compound were mysteriously abandoned. Written historic accounts of the Casa Grande begin with the journal entries of Padre Eusebio Francisco Kino when he visited the ruins in the late 1600s. In his description of the large, ancient structure before him, he wrote the words “casa grande”  or “large house,” a term still used today.

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument Coolidge Arizona

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument Coolidge ArizonaThe Casa Grande is a part of a much larger complex, which was completely surrounded by 7-foot walls. Almost all of the structures were made of a concrete-like substance found in the area called caliche. The Casa Grande itself is the tallest and most massive Hohokam building known, standing 35-feet tall and containing nearly 3,000 tons of caliche.

Other homes in the compound were much smaller, casting mystery on the Casa Grande. The exact purpose of this structure is unknown, although there are many theories, one of which is that it may have been an observatory of sorts. The small circular window in the upper left portion of the wall aligns with the setting sun on summer solstice, the longest day of the year. The square whole in the upper right aligns once every 18.5 years with the setting moon at an extreme point in its cycle. Other windows and doorways in the upper part of the building also align with the sun and moon at significant times of the year. In essence, this structure, much like Stonehenge, may have served as a sort of astronomical observatory and calendar.

The Casa Grande Ruins National Monument is located in Coolidge, Arizona about an hour from either Phoenix or Tucson. It can be a bit of a drive, but it’s well worth it. The National Monument is open every day of the year except Thanksgiving and Christmas from 9am to 5pm. Admission for adults is $5, but the guided tour (should you choose to participate) is included.

Just as I was getting ready to head out, I happened to overhear one of the rangers pointing something out to a small group. Curious, I joined the group to find this surprise waiting! Apparently, there are a couple of owls that nest in the building and overhead structure. So cool!

Fact: National Parks are established only by an act of Congress; National Monuments can be created by Presidential Executive Orders.


Travel Tuesday