Weekly Photo Challenge: Angular [Bridge]

This week’s photo challenge is angular. On my last visit to Alabama, my dad and I took the boat out for a cruise around the lake. I braved the adventure with my camera and came away with these shots of one of the many bridges spanning the water to connect Alabama and Georgia. It’s a beautiful place but something about the rusty metal angles against the blue sky makes these some of my favorite photos from the trip (smile).

Lake Eufala Bridge Alabama

Angles reflected

Lake Eufala Bridge Alabama

Close-up

Lake Eufala Bridge Alabama

From underneath

Happy weekend everyone!!

Isle of Islay

Since I was – appropriately enough – traveling on Travel Tuesday, I missed my regular post. Sad day. So I thought I’d make it up with a combination Travel/Throwback Thursday (#tbt) to this time last year. For my 30th birthday, my brother and I traveled to Scotland to visit my spot. And exactly one year ago today, we were drinking our way around the beautiful little wonder that is the Isle of Islay (phonetic: aisle of eye-la).

Isle of Islay, Scotland

Clear morning views

Islay is the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides off Scotland’s southeastern shore. The island is home to around 3,000 residents primarily engaged in agriculture, whisky distillation, and/or tourism. It’s a relatively easy island to get around, which is great given that it boasts somewhere around 10+ distilleries. The island’s malt whisky is so distinct, Islay is actually a distinct region for Scotch.

Unfortunately, due to some rather windy weather, we were only able to spend one full day on Islay instead of our original two. We still made it to 4 distilleries though, so not too shabby (smile)! It’s a gorgeous place, even in the off season. I would love to see it in the summer months with the wildflowers blooming. (sigh) It’s certainly on the shortlist of places I really want to return to – there was just something so relaxing and inviting about the land and the people. Islay certainly stood out as one of my favorite places we visited on our Scottish road trip.

Isle of Islay, Scotland

I wouldn’t mind having one of these myself :)

Sitting here in the desert sunshine today, I can’t help but wish I was back there. I’ll definitely be having myself a wee dram this evening to celebrate those beautiful memories…and making plans (smile).

 

Y*mmy: Salted Chocolate Espresso Cookies

I love finding new recipes on Pinterest. But what I really, really love is finding new baking blogs with tons of new yummy treats to try (smile). That’s how I happened upon this gem of a recipe a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve already made these cookies twice! The ingredients are simple but the impact is *wow*. Trust me on this. I will say that if you don’t like coffee, this is probably not for you (sorry). Fair warning, these little beauties pack one yummy punch!

You can find the original recipe along with many others over at My Daily Morsel.

baking, recipes, salted chocolate espresso cookies

The magic of baking…

baking, recipes, salted chocolate espresso cookies

From little balls of yummy chocolate to these decadent morsels :)

Salted Chocolate Espresso Cookies

  • 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, divided
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Sea salt, for sprinkling

Roughly chop chocolate. Melt 8 ounces of the chocolate with the butter and espresso powder in the top of a double boiler (or heat proof bowl) placed over simmering water. Stir until chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.

Mix together the eggs, sugar, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Add the melted chocolate mix until fully incorporated. Fold in the dry ingredients and remaining 2 ounces of chocolate. Stir until just combined.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour (up to overnight).

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a small ice cream scoop, drop the dough on the baking sheet, spacing the cookies at least 1-inch apart. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the tops are dry and cracked.

Remove from the oven and top each cookie with a pinch of sea salt. Allow to cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. [Typically makes 3 dozen cookies.]

 

Around Town: Goldfield Ghost Town

Goldfield Ghost Town is an old mining settlement that’s been rehabbed into a tourist attraction. It’s located just northeast of Apache Junction, Arizona (which is in the southeastern corner of the greater Phoenix metro area). Situated at the foothills of the Superstition Mountains, it’s a fun stop with fabulous views (smile).

The community at Goldfield was established in 1892. The official find of gold (and the legend of the Lost Dutchman Mine) led plenty of miners to the area and soon the town boomed. Within five years, 1,500 people were in residence at Goldfield. Unfortunately, like so many mining towns in this area, once the ore vein started to run out, so did the people. Almost as soon as it began, Goldfield became a ghost town.

In 1966, a long time treasure enthusiast and his wife purchased the area and rebuilt the town. Today Goldfield Ghost Town features underground mine tours, an array of shops, a saloon, and the only narrow gauge railroad in operation in Arizona. The town is open daily from 10am to 5pm (the saloon is open daily from 11am to 9pm).

I discovered Goldfield Ghost Town by happy accident. I was out on a drive into the Superstition Mountains and just happened by the town. I, of course, immediately had to stop and check things out. It is a bit touristy; but it’s also fun. I’ve taken several visitors back to the town through the years. It’s a great place to entertain guests, learn some history, and to visit a “real” ghost town. Considering it’s proximity to Phoenix, it’s much easier to visit Goldfield than some of the other ghost towns in Arizona. I can’t speak to the train ride, but the mine tour is pretty cool. And the ice cream shop is superb! (smile)

Superstition Mountain Museum

Superstition Mountains Museum

Once your done at Goldfield, you can visit the nearby Superstition Mountain Museum and/or continue your drive further into the mountains themselves. But do beware, the Superstitions have a long and storied history (they got that name for a reason after all) and the trails can be notoriously tricky. I highly recommend sticking to your expertise level – and groups!

Concert Etiquette: To do or Not to do

The Black Keys, tickets

Several months ago I purchased tickets to The Black Keys’ concert here in Phoenix. I’ve been excitedly counting down the days to the show and Monday night was the big event! My friend flew in and we made a full night of it, which was icing on the musical cake (smile). The show itself was absolutely amazing and we had a fabulous time!

However (yes, the ominous however), I was super annoyed that I was distracted for a good portion of the show by the antics of the other people in our section. I don’t know what it is about people en masse, but all social courtesies seem to fly right out of the window. Instead of being upset and letting the annoyance ruin the evening, I decided to take notes instead and turn it into a blog post. Because that’s how all good social experiments should end (smile).

Although this “please don’t” list is directed to concert goers, it pretty much applies to any major event.

The Black Keys

Such a great view… (before trouble arrived)

Please Don’t…

  • be that person that sits in the middle of the row but “needs to get out” every 10 min. Stock up, hold it, or find somewhere to mill about for a while. I personally like my toes and prefer to keep stepping on them to a minimum.
  • try to steal someone else’s seat. At least give the people a chance to get there before sniping those premo seats. And please, please don’t pretend you just made an innocent mistake. It’s awkward for everyone when it turns out you’re in the wrong section altogether.
  • wear a huge bag or hat. The hat just blocks the view. The bag – especially if you persist in wearing it the whole time – can leaves bruises. It’s also super annoying when the person next to you keeps getting smacked by it while you jump around and obliviously enjoy yourself.
  • wear inappropriate clothing. I realize this one is relative, but I personally don’t need to know that you have a heart tattooed on your ass or that your friend has nipple piercings. Enough said.
  • hit on other people’s significant other. I feel like this should go without saying, but after witnessing it personally the other night I had to add it to the list. Not cool people.
  • make fun of others. Yes, clearly you are having a good time, but please know that those “boring people” you’re “quietly” making fun of are doing the same thing to you. Two wrongs do not equal a right.
  • get so trashed you spill your drink, etc. on others. How do you even know if you’re having a good time or not? I’m definitely not enjoying being wet or having my toes stepped on.
  • start a fight. This one goes along with being distracting and hitting on other people’s significant other. Again, I’m there to see the show I paid for, not the drama. Take it outside and please stay there.
  • be the smoker. And by this I mean that single person in a sea of many that lights up your questionable cigarette and then blows smoke all over the rest of us. I don’t enjoy smelling like herbs anymore than I enjoy smelling like beer. I’ve got nothing against your choices, just find a better location.
  • take selfies expecting them to turn out well. The lighting in there just isn’t meant for that. And please don’t complain about the look on my face in your background. That flash is brutal.
Mechanical Bull tour, Kings of Leon

Kings of Leon concert (also amazingly awesome)

Please Do…

  • jump/dance around. You’re there to have fun – go for it!
  • sing along/cheer/whistle. We’ll all be right there with ya!
  • take pictures (if it’s legal). Just point that flash in the other direction!
  • turn your phone on instead of the cigarette lighter. This used to bother me, but now real lighters just seem like an accident waiting to happen.
  • arrive in your own time. Some people like to be there early, others late. Just remember to be patient with the seat snipers.
  • meet your neighbors. We’re all pretty cool people, amiright??
  • have fun! It’s why everyone’s there to begin with – just don’t forget there are actually other people there with you. (smile)

What are your concert pet peeves??

Travel Tuesday: Favorite D.C. Memorials

Happy Travel Tuesday everyone! I wish I could tell you it’s been a productive day, but I’ve spent most of it recovering from last night (it’s no fun getting older). Today is Veteran’s Day in the U.S., and since I’ve spent most of it being lazy, I wanted to make some effort to reflect a bit on the day and what it means. I’ve been wanting to do a post for a while now about my favorite memorials in Washington, D.C. and I think this is the perfect week – and day – to do just that!

Most of the memorials in D.C. are located along or within the National Mall and Memorial Parks; areas which are managed by the National Park Service. All memorials are free and open year round unless there is a special event. In addition to various memorials, the National Mall also features fountains, walking paths, and a few museums (just the Smithsonian museums – no big deal…). This makes it a gorgeous place to spend a day – or few (smile). However, today’s focus is on two of my particular favorite memorials that are actually located away from the National Mall in Arlington, Virginia.

I just want to say now that although I happened to find these memorials very moving personally, all of them – on the National Mall and off – are worth a visit. It’s really amazing to see all of the different interpretations from various architects and to learn about the history behind each site. No matter how you may feel about any one element of a memorial, they all make for unique opportunities to pause and reflect on the commitment of individuals – whether you agree with the politics or not, it’s important to respect the sentiment of dedication behind each person/place/event.

Air Force Memorial

The Air Force Memorial is located in Arlington, Virginia very near the Pentagon. The monument was dedicated in October 2006 and is composed of three memorial spires ranging from 201 to 270 feet high. The spires are meant to evoke a modern image of flight. The number three is also important representing the three core values and is also the smallest number of elements needed to define and enclose a space. Each of the spires is a different height, causing the views to be different at every angle.

I feel a certain affinity for this particular memorial for a couple of reasons – most of my family in the service have spent time in the Air Force, I really like the location, and the spires are pretty significant. The memorial sits on a slight hill and features stunning views of the surrounding landscape. I also appreciate the fact that you can pretty easily tell what the memorial is meant to represent with very basic knowledge about the Air Force (some are a bit more “abstract”). It’s a quiet area away from the crowds, making this memorial the perfect place to relax and reflect. On Friday nights, the Air Force band plays free concerts, which are well worth a stop given the venue and talent (smile).

Marine Corps War Memorial

The Marine Corps War Memorial is also located in Arlington, Virginia near the cemetery. The memorial is also known as the Iwo Jima Memorial as it depicts one of the most famous incidents of World War II. However, it is a memorial dedicated to all Marines who have given their lives in the defense of the United States since 1775. The memorial is based on an award winning photo by Joe Rosenthal of an actual flag raising that took place upon securing the island of Iwa Jima in February 1945. The memorial itself was dedicated in November 1954.

The memorial is a bit secluded and features a rather sizable park surrounding the statue. It’s a quiet place perfect for learning a bit of history; the statue is a perfect representation of a rather poignant moment in a notable event. I found it almost impossible not to be moved by the sight of the statue – even without knowing the entire history behind it. I knew I’d seen the photo, but coming upon the statute for the first time (quite by accident actually), was a rather striking sight. On Friday evenings during the summer months, you can watch the Marine Corps Sunset Parade featuring the Marine Corps Drum and Bugle Corps. It’s a free event and the perfect opportunity to see an amazing military ceremony and to show support for men and women in uniform. The afternoon I went, I even got to see Hilary Clinton (this is probably as close as I’ll ever get…)!

Happy Veteran’s Day!!


Come join Bonnie and her co-hosts Courtney, Cynthia, and Yalanda for more fun adventures!!

Travel Tuesday

Options for Finding Free or Discount Books

In my dream house I would have one of those sprawling two-storied libraries with the ladders that swivel around the shelves. It would be packed with everything from fancy first editions (because if I can afford the house, I can afford my dream books too!) to the most ridiculous paperback romance novels. Oh books…I love them all! I may have succumbed to the allure of ebooks, but my heart will always belong to “real” books. Nothing beats that smell (smile).

Unfortunately, I don’t have my dream house or a place to store all of the books I read. I also don’t have the budget to pay full retail for those books. But I love reading, and in the spirit of the Winter 2014 Book Challenge (which just started by the way, so come join the fun!), I thought it’d be fun and pertinent to discuss some other methods of obtaining these magical, written words.

Library of Congress, Washington D.C.

Libraries

There are very few places that exert a more calming effect on me than libraries. There’s just such a peace and excitement – you just know that anything you want to know is somewhere in those walls (unless it’s already checked out but that’s beside the point…). But seriously, libraries are the greatest first alternative to finding books without having to break the budget. Membership is free and generally pretty easy. Most libraries these days have websites so you can search ahead of time, place books on hold, or recheck a book you already have. Even better? Quite a few libraries these days participate in online sharing as well. A library card for any of the municipal libraries in the Phoenix metro area will get you onto the Greater Phoenix Digital Library where you can search for digital editions of the book you’re looking for. The books are offered in different formats so they work on most reading devices.

Amazon/Barnes & Noble “Freebies”

A lot of the “classics” are now out of copyright, which means you can often find them for free (digitally anyway). Amazon and Barnes & Noble also offer quite an array of free/deeply discounted ebooks for your perusal. Just keep in mind that the price – for the newer literature anyway – can be somewhat reflective of the quality. I usually check on Goodreads first to see if it’s worth the time. Not everything that’s free is worth taking! Apps for both Kindle and Nook are available for Android and Apple for your phone, tablet, etc or you can purchase a particular reading device (“E-reader”). Amazon also offers the option to but “Used,” which is worth exploring. I’ve had mixed luck on the quality buying used, but for the price I paid, I’m not complaining.

Google Books

Google Books (formerly known as Google Print) houses books and magazines that Google has scanned and stored in a digital database. Some books you can view completely and others only a sample. The “free” books are those that are out of copyright or instances where the owner has given permission for sharing. This project was pretty controversial when it started and in some ways still is; however, it’s always worth checking to see if they have a book you’re looking for. Again, a lot of the “classics” are available and Google Books may have different versions than Amazon, etc. This is also an awesome reference for research by the way – even if you only see snippets of text, at least you know which book to look for!

Book, The Bridal Wreath

Used Book Stores

If you just can’t find what you’re looking for using the above services, I encourage you to check your local used bookstore. These guys are generally local (yay for supporting local businesses, right?) and very helpful. If you can’t find what you want used, they’re generally pretty competitive on pricing for new books. Used bookstores often offer you the option to sell or trade-in any books you may not want anymore – a great way to fund new reads (smile). One of the local used bookstores here actually has a program where you can “sell” back your ebooks for credits, but I haven’t really looked into that program in detail – yet!

Thrift Stores/Rummage Sales

If you’re up for a little whimsy, try your local thrift stores. A lot of places such as Goodwill and Salvation Army feature book sections. It’s a bit harder to find something you may be looking for specifically, but these are great places to find some new, random reads for great deals!

Other Options

These days there are so many options for accessing books – which is just so absolutely fabulous!! There are book exchanges online, local book clubs, book sales, yard sales, and all sorts of other online options. Stacey at One Trip At A Time has some other great examples in her post on saving money for travel (this read is a double win people!). I highly recommend checking out (ha) her tips and tricks!

What services do you use to find books??

Travel Tuesday: My Arizona “Must See” List

Yay for [Travel] Tuesday!! I’m going to admit that generally the most exciting part about my Tuesdays is preparing these posts and reading others – otherwise Tuesday is to me what Monday is to most. I’m not quite sure why it works out that way, but there ya go!

Anyway, as you may or may not know, I’ve been seriously toying with the idea of leaving Arizona for – literally – greener pastures for some time now. As that plan gets more serious, I’ve realized that there are still a few sites that must be seen before I can depart with clear conscience. So I thought I’d share those must see places I plan to seek out before saying adios to this desert.

Petrified Forest National ParkPetrified Forest National Park

Shamefully, as many National Parks as I’ve traveled to, I’ve yet to make it through this one. Located in the northeast-ish corner of Arizona, Petrified Forest National Park is home to over 10,000 years of human history and a portion of Route 66! It’s also said that anyone who removes a piece of the wood from the park will be cursed until the wood is returned. However, you can buy a piece at the gift shop guilt free (smile). I’m told it’s a beautiful drive and close enough to the Painted Desert to tack that on as well. Double win!

Grand Falls (aka Chocolate Falls)

These falls are located just northeast of Flagstaff, Arizona along the Little Colorado River. At 185 feet tall, the falls are actually taller than Niagara Falls! They’ve been dubbed “chocolate falls” as the water content is infamously muddy, making the water look like flowing chocolate. You have to pay attention to the timing on this one – for maximum viewing a visit after rainfall or in the spring is best. But that also means that safety is of the utmost importance getting to and from!

Havasupai Falls

Also referred to as Havasu Falls, this lovely oasis is located just west of the official Grand Canyon National Park entrance on the Havasupai Indian Reservation. The mineral content of the water is constantly changing and, along with it, also the color. The falls drop down into a series of pools that are a popular swimming spot for tired/hot hikers. As the falls are well known – and thus quite popular – I hear the optimum visiting time is somewhere mid-week or in the off season (preferably before the snow).

Antelope CanyonAntelope Canyon

The famous canyons – the photographers’ dream. Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon located just southeast of Page, Arizona on the Navajo Nation. Like many of these attractions I’ve listed, timing is key on this one. Those same gorgeous photos that inspired me in the first place have also inspired many others – and quite a few “photography tours.” I’ve heard tales of being crammed in very small spaces with many cameras – not a recipe for a happy camper! I’m definitely trying for an off season weekday!

Yuma & the Territorial Prison State Historic Park

The last bit of territory left for me to discover in southern Arizona. Yuma is the third largest city in Arizona (counting Phoenix as the greater metro area) and located in the southwest corner near both the California and Mexico borders. Due to its location, Yuma has a long and storied history. The Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park is mostly famous for being featured western movies, but also has an entertaining, non-fiction history full of wild west inmates (smile).

So what’s holding me back you ask? Well, timing mostly. These elusive spots are either located some distance from Phoenix and/or require a certain season or time of the week to be considered “enjoyable.” At least those have been my excuses to date. But I think it’s past time for me to saddle up and make some memories (smile)!

 


Come join Bonnie for more fun adventures and meet the new co-hosts!!

Travel Tuesday

Weekly Photo Challenge: The Ants Go Marching…

descent, ants, desert botanical garden, arizonaThe ants go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah
The ants go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah
The ants go marching one by one,
The little one stops to suck her thumb
And they all go marching down to the ground
To get out of the rain, BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

[This week’s photo challenge is descent. In the interest of full disclosure, this is my second entry. Something about the one posted yesterday just didn’t feel…right. Then I found myself humming this song for whatever reason this morning and couldn’t help but think how perfect this photo would be. So I’m breaking my rule about posting more than one entry. Because I’m such a rebel like that. Right. This photo was taken during an exhibition at the Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2011.]

Hope everyone is having a lovely weekend!!