Photography offers us the chance to be an artist and to witness the world through a lens – creating art through imagery, all while witnessing something unfold right before our eyes. This is why photography is such a worthwhile pursuit that you should seriously consider taking up. However, newbie photographers (me included) may find themselves frustrated at the beginning, as there are some growing pains to endure before getting that perfect shot. Fortunately, I’ve compiled a list of do’s and don’ts to help you get better relatively quickly:
Do use what you already have
As a beginner, any camera you currently have for photography will suffice, whether that’s your phone or a point and shoot camera, and then you can work up to a DSLR or Mirrorless camera. For now, use what you already have to get a good understanding of the different camera settings and practice composing pictures until you can buy that upgraded camera. Fortunately, there are plenty of good, entry-level cameras listed by Tech Radar that you can begin with. The Nikon D3500 and the Canon EOS 90D are a good start, as both are packed with features and are reasonably priced, but there are certainly others to consider.
Don’t go crazy buying equipment
Some beginners make the mistake of going for the most expensive camera, mistakenly believing that the pricier, the better. While others, stock up on pricey equipment, thinking that all that gear will make them a great photographer. Don’t make the same mistakes. It’s important to remember, it’s not the gear that makes a great photographer. Rather than focus on stockpiling equipment (some of which you might not even need), devote your energy and budget to learning about photography by attending seminars, taking courses, reading books, and learning from others.
While you don’t need to buy everything professionals have in their kit, accessorizing is still important to make the process much easier. Luckily, there are plenty of accessories to begin with, depending on your needs. In fact, the range of photography equipment on Adorama such as tripods, battery packs, and lighting equipment is a testament to just how much equipment is out there to help make the job easier. Whether you’re looking for your camera to last longer by purchasing additional battery packs, or looking to get a steady shot using a tripod, there’s bound to be an accessory to assist you. For beginners, you should start with a lens cleaning kit, a couple of new lenses, spare batteries, a bag to keep your gear organized, and a basic tripod.
Don’t settle for Auto
Photo Pro Magazine state that it can be hard to steer clear of the automatic settings, as it makes capturing photos easy and convenient. However, you should break that habit if you want to become a better photographer as there is a lot to explore beyond the typical settings. At the end of the day, the more you explore your camera’s settings, the better you’ll be at photography and shooting in different scenarios. Not to mention, you may have already invested in a DSLR/Mirrorless, so make the most out of it by testing out new things.
You get better by taking photos of different subjects in diverse scenarios using a multitude of settings. As you practice, keep in mind some guidelines, like the rule of thirds, where you divide a frame into a 3×3 grid and place your subject on any of the four intersections. It’s a purposeful misdirection, as it goes against the eyes’ natural inclination to look directly at something. Nevertheless, it creates a dynamic balance and compels the viewer to look at the entirety of the image. Now, as you practice, it’s important to keep those creative juices flowing, and my ’10 Tips for Finding Inspiration’ post will hopefully help inspire you.
Even walking around with your camera on you at all times will help you to flex those creative muscles.
What do you do when the creative well seems to be empty? When you don’t know what to blog about or what to photograph? When the creative juices just aren’t flowing? Inspiration disappears for all of us from time to time, and it’s something I personally have struggled with for months.
Since Al and I won’t be traveling much this winter (we’ll be in Phoenix, Arizona, till April), I find myself wondering what I should blog about and what might be new for me to photograph. Ever since our son moved to Phoenix in 2009, we’ve spent a substantial amount of time RVing around the Phoenix valley, and I’ve written dozens of posts in the past about our time in this Arizona city.
I suppose I could re-purpose some of my old blog posts, but that would keep me inside the RV and in front of the computer, and as much as I enjoy my computer time, the reason for living the RV lifestyle is to seek out new experiences and new sights and not sit in front of a computer screen all day.
The incentive to go out and about is easy when we’re visiting new places, but takes a little more effort and reflection on my part when I’m living a stationary life.
Reflecting on the past can help direct you in the future
Now that I’m sitting in a familiar city that we’ve already spent a significant amount of time exploring, I find myself reflecting on the past for inspiration.
During our last year of owning a sticks and bricks home along Colorado’s Front Range, Al and I decided to pretend we were tourists. After all, Colorado Springs is a major summer destination for many. It was amazing the beautiful sights we discovered right in our own backyard (well, not literally in our backyard, but around town).
I’m grateful that we took the time to explore a little more of Colorado Springs before moving away. We still never made it to the top of Pikes Peak, but perhaps that’s an impetus for us to revisit.
So, think about your past. Think about a memorable place or time, and ask yourself where, when, and why? Memories can serve as wonderful inspiration. All I have to do is think about our five week stay along the shores of Lake Powell this past April, and a smile comes to my face. There was no lack of creative inspiration with scenery like that!
Meet new people
Attending a conference, a seminar, or engaging in a local “meetup” group, forces us to mingle with new people. In the RVing world, this is an everyday event as our neighbors are forever changing. RV parks are a social mecca filled with activities, and meeting new and interesting people is always inspirational. But what if you don’t live in a setting that’s easy to meet new people?
At the end of November, I decided to attend a local WordPress meetup group. I thought it might be a good way to meet locals outside of the RVing community, as well as get a little WordPress help. You see, I’ve had difficulties commenting and liking some of my favorite blogs.
It all started about a month or so ago. I have a bunch of blogs I follow via the WordPress Reader along with receiving posts via email. I used to be able to easily comment or ‘like’ an emailed post, but no more. Grrr … without getting into the nitty-gritty of my frustrations, I was hopeful in meeting some local techies.
Although I enjoyed mingling, this meetup group is geared toward the self-hosted WP user, and therefore, of little help to me. With that said, listening to other creatives was inspirational, making my attendance worthwhile. I might go again or maybe I’ll try some other “meetup“ group.
Go for a walk and search out the beauty around you
Phoenix, Arizona, is known for its mild winters and beautiful blue skies. The other day was cold and dreary. There was a thick cloud cover and the threat of rain. It was late afternoon when I decided to don my sweatshirt and head out on a photographic outing.
My husband was perplexed and expressed concern about the poor weather conditions, but when I explained that today was the perfect day for me to shoot a waterfall, he understood …. well, not really, but he did a good job pretending he understood.
I headed off to a local park in the quaint town of Anthem, Arizona (far north Phoenix valley). It’s a beautiful park with ponds, waterfalls, a Veterans Memorial, baseball/soccer fields, a skate park, railroad, a Sunday morning farmers market, and more.
I had a fabulous time playing with my camera and searching out creative inspiration. That little outing was exactly what I needed to get the creative juices flowing, and I’m so glad I didn’t let the weather deter me.
Study other creatives
Visit a local art gallery, museum, or library and immerse yourself in other works of art. My recent sculpture tour in Scottsdale found me appreciating the talents and vision of the various artists and asking myself, “What inspires them?”
If your creative outlet is writing, are you as awed by J.K. Rowlings talent as much as I am? Sometimes I like to go to the local library and peruse cookbooks looking for recipe and photography inspiration. A library is a great way to discover works of art.
And let’s not forget about music. Listening to the words of a favorite song or dancing to an irresistible rhythm can be very inspirational. Unfortunately, the music gene doesn’t run in my family, but I’m an appreciative listener.
I’d have to say, my most favorite (my favorist 😆) way to find inspiration is via blogs. Seriously, you my friends, are the best creative inspiration around. When I’m really stuck … you know, staring at a blank screen ‘stuck’, and can’t begin to figure out what to write or share, I turn to my favorite blogs.
If that doesn’t work, I go in search of new blogs. Don’t you love it when bloggers write a post linking to other inspirational bloggers? I know I do! Of course, there’s Pinterest to consider, but blogs still rule in my humble opinion.
Write a bucket list
Ask yourself, “If money were no object, I would ….?” Write down a list of things you’d like to accomplish … places you’d like to visit … maybe it’s a dream job … maybe you’d like to publish a book, whatever comes to mind. Be honest with yourself. I bet, when you read that dream list that many of the things you’ve written down are attainable.
Research! Whatever the subject, see what other’s have to say about it. What do they say about that dream job, about publishing that book, or traveling to that destination you long to visit? If you don’t have the physicality or finances, perhaps writing a blog post about those bucket list items will be a start to fulfilling a dream, and your writings might inspire you, as well as others.
Sedona – Buddhism Park, vortex
We all have something we believe in that helps us get through life. For some, it’s attending church services regularly while for others it’s a way of living one’s life. I have friends who tap into their spiritual beliefs by reading the bible or devotionals everyday. Another friend of mine has quotes delivered to her inbox daily, and these quotes serve as her inspiration and enlightenment. Many use meditation, prayer, or both.
I know when I tap into my spirituality, I feel a sense of renewal and hope. That renewed feeling helps me focus and work toward goals.
Meet a friend for coffee (or a drink)
Enjoy some one on one time with a friend over a cup of coffee or a cocktail. Be the listener and really listen to what’s going on in your friend’s life. What are their motivations and goals? How do your ambitions compare or differ?
Maybe they recently read a fascinating book that would make for a great blog article or maybe that photo shared on their phone was taken at an unusual angle, giving you inspiration for your next outing with the camera.
A relaxed get together with a friend is something we should all do regularly!
Take your camera in search
Take your camera (or phone) on an outing devoted to photography. Be a tourist in your hometown. What would you share with someone visiting your town/city for the first time? Walk around your neighborhood and find unique things to photograph.
My neighbor, here in the RV park in Phoenix, is a photographer. In an effort to exercise, he walks around the park, up and down the streets, regularly photographing interesting sights … the little yard decorations, door details, interesting plants, colors, etc., and in the process, he gets in his steps.
If the weather is too cold and blustery in your neck of the woods, think about heading into the kitchen and cook/bake something new … then photograph it. Step outside of your comfort zone. Photography is about finding out who you are and focusing on the world around you.
Listen to your thoughts
Allow yourself to slow down, look inward, and listen to your thoughts. Although my camera shutter clicked often at the park the other day, I did take time to just sit on a park bench and watch the world go by. I watched the ducks drift by on the pond. I listened to the trickle of water from the nearby waterfall. I watched the storm clouds swirl about. I watched the changing light on a mountain as the sun was beginning to set.
I thought about the photographs I had just made, and recognized my strengths and weaknesses. I was feeling creative, a feeling which I hadn’t felt in some time, and it felt good. I needed this time at the park to just be … to listen to my inner voice and listen to my thoughts.
It was at that moment I realized, I don’t have to travel to far away places to be creative … to find blog material, photographic material, inspirational material. I just need to look at things from a fresh angle and shake up my routine.
10 Tips on how to find creative inspiration
Reflect on the past. Analyze fond memories and decide to create new ones.
Meet new people – interact, learn, and find out what inspires others.
Go for a walk and immerse yourself in your surroundings
Study other creatives
Write a bucket list
Embrace spiritual enlightenment
Meet a friend for coffee or a drink
Take your camera in search
Listen to your thoughts
If we look at the world with a love of life, the world will reveal its beauty to us – Daisaku Ikeda
How do you find blogging ideas and subjects to write about? How do you tap into your creativity or decide what to photograph? What inspires you?
We were off to an early start. It was the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and I was on a mission. I was in desperate need of blog material and photogenic subjects. I needed some inspiration and knew Scottsdale, Arizona, was just the place to visit.
I enlisted the company of my daughter and husband. Although, I’ll admit, neither were particularly eager to join me on my photographic outing. I remember there being some eye rolls and me being the subject of their amusement, but when I bribed them with mouth-watering treats found at the Scottsdale farmers market, they quickly jumped on board …. and they didn’t even complain when I told them I wanted an early start to the day …. much to my surprise, I might add.
(To enlarge photos in a gallery, simple click on any image. To return to the post, click on the x found at the top right corner)
steamed buns filled with your choice of meat or veggie – one of our favs at the market
My husband and daughter like making fun of me when I’m on a photographic mission
Entertainment at the Old Town Scottsdale farmers market
After we were fueled with coffee and filled with sustenance purchased from local vendors at the farmers market, I consulted my little map of downtown Scottsdale. We would be going on a walking tour visiting seven of Scottsdale’s most beloved public art sculptures.
Sculptures in Historic Old Town Scottsdale
It’s impossible to visit Old Town Scottsdale and not walk by our first sculpture on the tour; The Yearlings by George-Ann Tognoni. This is a monument to wild horses and depicts three bronze yearlings galloping in full stride.
This sculpture serves as a backdrop to family photo shoots and is especially popular during the holiday season when the sleigh and Christmas tree are set up.
Another popular photo shoot spot is at the LOVE sculpture. LOVE by Robert Indiana was conceived when the United States was involved with the Vietnam War and became a symbol for peace. This famous sculpture is one of the most celebrated works within the pop art movement.
Robert Indiana created the first version of LOVE with stacked capital letters for a personal Christmas card designed for friends in 1964. In 1965, the Museum of Modern Art selected Indiana’s LOVE design for its official Christmas card.
The original sculptural rendition of LOVE was fabricated from Cor-ten steel in 1970. It can be seen at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Dozens of other LOVE sculptures are now on display around the world.
As of this writing (12/18), the Scottsdale LOVE sculpture is located at a temporary site near the Scottsdale public library. The bridge in the area sustained severe water damage caused by a leaking fountain resulting in the closure of Drinkwater Blvd and the necessity to relocate the sculpture.
Our walk takes us into Scottsdale’s Art District
With two sculptures checked off the list, we continued our walking tour which found us venturing into Scottsdale’s Art District. The Jack Knife sculpture serves as the center of attention for the art district and sits in the middle of the road.
Scottsdale’s Art District. The Jack Knife sculpture sits on an island in the center of the street.
Jack Knife sculpture – center of a round about
Daughter photographing the Jack Knife sculpture
Jack Knife by Ed Mell is a giant bronze sculpture of a cowboy on a bucking bronco giving a nod to Scottsdale’s Western heritage and the city’s official seal.
On to the Fifth Avenue Shopping District
Who knew Scottsdale had a “Fifth Avenue” shopping district! Now for those of us that have actually shopped at the real 5th Avenue …. as in New York City’s Fifth Avenue, this Fifth Avenue is quite a bit different, but still fun. It’s kitschy, small, and is a long-time favorite with tourists boasting dozens of unique shops, award-winning restaurants, and the famous Bronze Horse Fountain.
Bronze Horse Fountain
Bronze Horse Fountain
The Bronze Horse Fountain was created by Bob Parks, who owned an art gallery in town. This piece showcases the beauty of five Arabian horses as they play in the fountain. I love how they were decorated for the holiday season with wreaths.
The Scottsdale Water District
We continued our trek. Not far from the Bronze Horse Fountain, we rounded a corner and walked up some stairs. We found ourselves along the Arizona Canal and noticed the bronze sculpture on the other side of a bridge.
“Passing the Legacy” by Herb Mignery
“Passing the Legacy”
Colorado Artist Herb Mignery is a noted western artist and sculptor. He gained early recognition for his classic and humorous western cartoons and rose to fame when he started sculpting scenes from his early Nebraska farm and ranch days.
In Passing the Legacy, a vintage 1860s horse and rider represent the original Pony Express. The lead rider reaches back to grasp the passing legacy, ready to plunge forward into a new era. It took twelve months for the artist and fabricators to refine and create the life-and-a-quarter size bronze monument, which is 20’ long.
As we continued our walking tour along the canal and amongst a beautiful park setting, we took great pleasure in the wonderful fall weather that Phoenix is known for.
Water is a precious commodity in a desert and controlling flood water is crucial, especially in a high density urban environment. Phoenix and her surrounding suburbs do a great job in beautifying these man-made waterways. More efforts are ongoing toward waterside recreation and beautification along these canals.
This Scottsdale section of the Arizona Canal is particularly attractive and popular with cyclists and pedestrians alike. Lighted art over and in the water are changed up regularly and the picturesque park setting serves as a great spot for festivals.
TheSoleri Bridge & Plaza was designed by the late Italian architect Paolo Soleri. The bridge was designed to demonstrate the importance of solar movement.
Soleri Bridge, Scottsdale, AZ
Walking toward the “Soleri Bridge & Plaza”
The bridge is anchored by two 64-foot pylons and is twenty-seven feet wide on the south side narrowing to eighteen feet on the north. Situated at a true north axis, the bridge is intended to mark solar events produced by the sun’s shadow. The six-inch gap between both sets of pylons allows the sun to create a shaft of light as the earth moves.
Most Entertaining Sculpture
The Doors by Donald Lipski is an interesting and entertaining work of art. The structure consists of three 28 foot tall doors that lean against one another on an angle. They are made of Brazilian hardwood, mirror polished stainless steel, and thousands of hand forged steel rivets and strapping.
When we stepped in between the doors, we were met with a kaleidoscope effect that shines from sunlight during the day and LED lights at night. We were entertained by multiple reflections of ourselves. The experience is enhanced with sound … various sounds of bells, chimes, swooshing, and flute can be heard in and around the sculpture.
“The Doors” in Scottsdale, Arizona
Al and Ashton exploring in and around “The Doors” sculpture.
I’d have to say, we found this sculpture rather entertaining and found ourselves lingering in and around it. I’d love to go back at night to see what it looks like all lit up from the LED lights.
End of our walking Tour of Scottsdale
Our Scottsdale walking tour visiting the most popular art sculptures in the area took us less than 2 hours full-circle and accounts for all the photo-op stopping and playing around that we did. The sculptures gave us purpose to meander down streets that we had never ventured down before. What a fun and special excuse to explore this entertaining desert southwest city!
Old Town Scottsdale
Loved the jackrabbit sculpture!
Scottsdale offers an abundance of great restaurants.
This leisurely city walk allowed us the opportunity to see interesting sights and take note of eating establishments for future visits. There’s no shortage of fantastic eateries in Scottsdale. The biggest problem is deciding where to eat when given so many choices.
Okay … time to plan our next adventure!
Additional Scottsdale Information
For more information and downloadable maps – click here.
There’s a major up side to returning to familiar territory. I think we can all relate; we go on vacation to some new and exciting place and have such a wonderful time that we can’t wait to return again and again and again. And although that may mean we’re not exploring other exciting destinations, that doesn’t mean new discoveries aren’t made.
To me, it’s kind of like watching a movie for the second or third time. Character lines are heard that may have missed the first go around, or there’s a better understanding of a plot. I feel, some movies are actually better the second time around.
I think the same can be said about traveling to a familiar place. This was our third January spent in the Rockport, Texas, area and our best visit yet. I’ll be the first to admit, this is a place I probably wouldn’t recommend to most folks unless one’s interests are either birding, photography, or sportsman activities (fishing/hunting). Considering Al and I enjoy that stuff, it works perfectly for us.
For those more interested in beaches, quaint shops, and plenty of dining options; Port Aransas on Mustang Island is the place to go. I even found myself visiting the island three times during the month of January exploring some of my favorite places.
Mustang Island and the Corpus Christi area hold special memories for Al and me individually. During Al’s Navy days, he was stationed in Corpus Christi and the aircraft carrier he was trained to land a plane on has now been turned into a museum. My memories center around my parents and their RVing days. It was not uncommon for the kids and me to visit my parents during their winter sojourn to Mustang Island. Fond memories, indeed.
Back to Rockport – Fulton and my new discoveries … these two quaint Texas coastal communities offer plenty of options to keep me entertained (in addition to my birding, that is). After a two-year renovation, the Fulton Mansion was once again open to the public and at the top of my list to visit. This 1870’s French inspired home has been beautifully restored. (click on any photo to enlarge into a slide show)
The dining room
one room upstairs, shows materials
The basement was for the servants
kitchen appliances from the 1800’s
sits on a beautiful piece of property
I found the self-guided tour of the mansion interesting as I was transported back in time. One of the rooms on the second floor was left as original as possible showcasing damaged lath and plaster walls. Parts of the ceiling and flooring were also left exposed to share some unique materials used in the construction. I never would’ve thought to use sand and seashells as insulation between floors. My Real Estate background had me reading each word displayed regarding ownership of the property and the prices each party paid. Back in the 1960’s the front yard was actually an RV park and all the historical photos were extremely entertaining.
Touring the grounds alone is also worthwhile with its wind swept Oak Trees, manicured garden, and serene ocean view.
There was more history for me to discover in downtown Rockport. Since I didn’t have anything to shop for, I strolled the main street looking for things to photograph. Architectural photography remains a challenge for me, so I’m always looking for opportunities to practice.
No shortage here of things to photograph as all the buildings are unique and one of a kind. And just because I didn’t have any knickknacks to shop for doesn’t mean this former shopaholic didn’t step into a shop or two.
Even the local hardware store stocks items for tourists
Should I get the seahorse or the flamingo?
What was once a gas station is now a shop!
a local Tom protecting his neighborhood
Most of the shops cater to the tourist crowd, even the local Ace Hardware store gets in on the action. Aside from exploring the little shops in the downtown area, I found myself visiting stores throughout the community. Stores I normally wouldn’t visit if it hadn’t been for my quest to find a pair of rubber boots. You see, I was in dire need of a pair of rain boots if I was to go out on the boat with Dennis. His funky little boat required that I board from the water and the temps were way to cold for my Keen’s, thus the need for boots. But not just any old rubber boot would do. Come on, they had to be somewhat fashionable after all.
Finding rubber boots wasn’t an issue in this coastal community. It was the fashionably cute part that was difficult. I wound up running all over town, including the hardware store, feed store, stores an hour away in Corpus Christi, and eventually turned to Amazon. Every time I found a pair of boots I liked, they didn’t have my size!
Whew…. all that shopping had me working up an appetite and this year’s new restaurant discovery was just five minutes up the road from our RV Park. Stevie Lew’s is a locally owned, family run business with everything homemade. My chicken BBQ sandwich was delicious as were the chicken tacos that I tested on visit number two.
They even roast their own coffee beans and it smelled wonderful. I forgot to buy some coffee on my way out 😦 Next time! See, there’s always a reason to return.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the wonderful markets around here. Texas is home to a grocery store chain called H.E.B. I’m always able to find what I need at a reasonable price and the employees are usually very helpful and friendly. I’ve never had a bad experience at a H.E.B. And then there are all the local seafood market’s which need to be explored. We pulled out of Rockport, Texas, with every square inch of our RV freezer filled with fresh shrimp and fish.
Our time along the Gulf Coast flew by, and I’ll admit, we weren’t ready to leave. That said, we’ve talked about spending two months along the coast next winter, but then again, the desert has a strong pull. Ah, we’ll need to sit down and do a little scheduling and time management. There are worse things to contemplate!
Last year I did a post on the places we camped in this part of Texas. Click here if you’d like more information on camping options.
So, I think I’ve about summed up our time along the Texas Gulf Coast – shopping, museums, photography, fishing, hunting, birding, photography, eating, boating, sunsets, sunrises, did I mention photography. That’s a wrap! Next up, we’re back in the desert southwest .
The intoxicating beauty of towering red rock sandstone monoliths and buttes…. rocks aptly named Coffee Pot Rock and Cathedral Rock…. equal parts of rugged and luxury…. a small town blessed with an abundance of beauty and surrounded by National Forest land…..
These words barely begin to personify stunning Sedona, Arizona. Sedona served as stop number two for my excursion with my daughter, and as you might expect, it did not disappoint. Ashton was pleasantly awed by the angular rock formations, high mesas, and stunning colors.
Talk about a visual treat. A feast for the eyes. An abundance of beauty in all directions.
Those beautiful red rocks serve as a backdrop for a number of outdoor activities ranging from spiritual pursuits to hundreds of hiking and biking trails to guided Jeep excursions.
Since Ashton and I only had a couple of hours to tour the area, we set our sights on exploring the shops. Sedona is well-known for its vortex energy and folks from around the world come here for healing and spiritual renewal.
Many of the shops focus on the metaphysical and sell jewelry made from various crystals and stones, each serving a distinct purpose. We stepped into the Sedona Crystal Vortex shop and found ourselves learning the metaphysical value of the array of polished stones. The store offered everything from loose stones, to stunning pieces of jewelry that I would classify as “Art”, to simple elasticized bracelets.
As we perused the numerous bracelets, we read the special benefits of wearing particular stones. It seems there’s a stone for whatever ails a person.
My skeptical nature may have had me doing an eye roll, but the bracelets were cute and thus I figured what the heck. It certainly couldn’t hurt to wear one of these ‘healing‘ bracelets and I can always use a little help. Hmm….. I pondered which stone(s) would be most beneficial for me; creativity, energizing, harmony, inspiration, courage, grounding, prosperity, calming, balance? The list went on, and although I was tempted to walk out of there with half a dozen bracelets, my wallet thanked me for walking out empty-handed. Perhaps I should have indulged in a citrine stone bracelet = prosperity!
Ashton, on the other hand, found healing and inspirational therapy at a wine shop. Following a little wine tasting, she walked out of the store with two bottles of Arizona wines.
We spent another hour engrossed in retail therapybefore heading off for a little spiritual enlightenment.
Regardless of one’s faith, a visit to the Chapel of the Holy Cross is a must. Built in 1956 this Catholic Chapel rises 70 feet (21m) out of a 1,000 foot (300m) red rock cliff.
I must admit, a quiet moment of reflection inside this church had more of an impact on my aura than any of the crystals or healing stones I handled that day. Perhaps my chakras are in need of attention.
On that note, I know just the place to go to have my chakras aligned, engage in vortex energy, have my aura analyzed, or purchase stones to help heal whatever ails me 😉 Yes, Sedona…. I shall return. I’m itching to hit your trails!
Before heading out of town, we made one final stop. Not only had I worked up a thirst, but I felt compelled to show Ashton the architecture on this one of a kind McDonald’s. Yep, this is the only McDonald’s in the world where the arches are turquoise instead of golden. So when I told her we were stopping at the Turquoise Arches for soft drinks, she was initially perplexed and later humored.
October! With a briskness in the air, it’s the time of year to enjoy fall colors, carving jack-o-lanterns, sipping pumpkin spiced lattes, and embracing ghosts and goblins. Halloween is one of my daughters favorite holidays and since this October finds her living in Phoenix, Arizona, I knew just the place to take her for a ghostly adventure.
First – on the home front, it didn’t take Ashton long to settle into her new home. She’s become quite proficient at moving. This however, is the first time she’ll be living with two straight guys – her roommates (one of which is her brother). Her entrance into the home might be compared to that of a tornado whipping through Kansas. She obviously has no trouble taking charge of a situation.
The first thing the whirlwind did was reorganize the kitchen and clean out the fridge, followed by some house cleaning and the rearranging of furniture. I’m not sure the guys initially knew what hit them, but they seemed to be ok with her take charge attitude and actually like some of the changes she made. I know they certainly aren’t complaining about Ashton’s culinary skills.
So once she felt settled, I took her on her first Arizona excursion. A little over an hours drive north of Phoenix is the quaint mountain town of Jerome. Jerome prides itself as being America’s largest ghost town.
This former copper mining town grew from a settlement of tents to a roaring mining community and is now a bustling tourist and artistic community. On the outside, Jerome doesn’t appear to have changed much over the past 100 years. Many of the buildings built in the late 1800’s are still standing and have been proudly renovated. However, due to the 30 degree incline of the mountainside, some of these historic buildings have slid a bit down the hill from their original location; the most famous being the town jail.
Checking out the famous sliding jail was first on our list followed by shopping. My daughter and I always enjoy strolling through shops especially when there are unique, one of a kind items like the huge kaleidoscope assortment at Nellie Bly’s.
In addition to the world’s largest collection of kaleidoscopes there are other one of a kind collectibles. Ashton and I were enthralled with the creative talents displayed in the numerous shops in Jerome. But all that shopping had us working up an appetite.
After climbing a bunch of stairs (remember this town is built into the side of a mountain and there’s nothing flat around here), we arrived at the Haunted Hamburger.
We dined outside and enjoyed drinks, a great meal, and an awesome view. But no ghosts. Only skeletons. Supposedly the building is haunted and you can read the story here if you’re interested.
With nothing spooky happening at lunch, we continued our search and trekked up the road to the Jerome Grand Hotel. Constructed in 1926, this Spanish Mission style building was once home to a modern and well equipped hospital.
By 1950, the hospital closed due to the slow down in mining, and the building stood vacant for 44 years. In 1994, the building was purchased, renovated, and turned into the Jerome Grand Hotel. There seems to be a high level of alleged hauntings, from strange moans, to coughs and images, to doors slamming without explanation making this a very popular destination for amateur ghost hunters.
After I was totally grossed out by some of the decorations, it was time for me to pull daughter out of the haunted Jerome Hotel…… not that we had any paranormal encounter mind you, but the place in general gave me goose bumps, and not in good way. Was it the decorations or the aura? Didn’t matter, it was time to move on. Somehow I didn’t sense Casper, the friendly ghost, lived here.
Next stop; the glass blower. Watching this artist create little glass blown pumpkins was much more to my liking, although daughter is still laughing about my unease at the hotel. Aren’t these glass pumpkins adorable?
The town of Jerome is well-known as being haunted and has been featured in several paranormal television programs and publications, but the over all history and vibe to this town is what keeps many returning…. me included.
Ashton and I shared a fabulous day exploring Jerome and October seems to be the perfect month to visit for a hauntingly good time. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time for the mine tour or wine tasting (much to daughters dismay) or exploring some of the side streets. Having merely scratched the surface of this quaint town, she and I are already talking about a return visit. Next time Ashton wants to spend the night, some place haunted preferably. I don’t think so!!!
By now, you all know I grew up in the Chicago suburbs. Thus, the city of Chicago will always hold a special place in my heart. During past Illinois family visits, we always managed to squeeze in at least one trip into this iconic city.When I was in my twenties, I thought nothing of driving into the city. With the exception of a school bus, public transportation was foreign to me. Plus, I always preferred the freedom of driving my own car. Now a days, I wouldn’t fathom driving in downtown Chicago traffic, opting instead to take the train and walk to all the amazing sights this city has to offer. Plus the Metra Transit System is just so very convenient.
With Lollapalooza scheduled during our targeted downtown venture, we chose to forgo a Chicago sojourn during this Illinois trip. The addition of hundreds of thousands of concert goers invading the city acted as a deterrent to us like Raid to a bug. Ah, next time I’ll do a better job checking event dates.
It you’ve never visited Chicago, I highly recommend you do. Obviously it’s one of my favorite cities. Here’s a sampling of things to see and do……
1. Millennium Park is a wonderful place to stroll around. This 24 acre park was constructed in the late 1990’s. Sculptures, water features, a music venue, and gardens are a pleasure to explore during a warm summer day. The “Cloud Gate” elliptical sculpture other wise known as “The Bean” is a photographers delight. The Chicago skyline is uniquely reflected in this seamless stainless steel structure resembling a drop of mercury.
2. – Next door to Millennium Park is the Chicago Art Institute Museum. I was in elementary school the first time I visited this beautiful art museum.
Although at the time I found the visit rather boring, today I’m extremely grateful to have been exposed to this level of art at such a young age. I remember one painting in particular making an indelible impression upon me (I was a mere eight years old) – Seurat’s – A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of LaGrande Jatte.
Until this day, this Seurat is one of my favorites. So much so, that I had a large print hanging in my home office that I purchased at the museum. Did you know there’s not one brush stroke, only dots? The entire canvas is composed of dots. Amazing!
I’m such a huge fan of French Impressionism that our sticks and bricks home was decorated almost exclusively with art purchased from the Museum Shop. And they remain waiting for me in a storage locker 🙂
My 2009 visit with my daughter, is most memorable. Ashton had just completed a college prerequisite “Art” course of some sort and was sharing all kinds of fascinating tidbits on various artists including Seurat and Monet. Until this art class, she hadn’t realized she grew up surrounded by famous works of art. Cultured, indeed 😉
3.– A nice walk down Michigan Avenue (Magnificent Mile) is a shoppers delight but head south and it’ll take you to the Field Museum. Everyone loves the Field Museum; young and old alike. The new dinosaur room even impressed me and I’m not necessarily into dinosaurs. I can most likely be found in the Gem Room salivating over the largest pink diamond or blue sapphire.
My son, Logan, has always had an interest in dinosaurs…. what boy doesn’t? He was in elementary school when the original Jurassic Park movie was released and visiting this display had his imagination running wild. However, the Field Museum offers so much more than dinosaurs and gems. Free admittance day is usually on a Monday and thus a perfect time to take a quick stroll through the museum without feeling a need to dedicate an entire day. Two hours in a museum is usually long enough for me.
4. Skyline; I’ve had the privilege of traveling to most of America’s major cities as well as those in Germany. That said, in my opinion Chicago has the most photogenic skyline I’ve ever seen.
With the exception of being in a boat on Lake Michigan, the next best place for a Chicago skyline photograph is near the Adler Planetarium. One of these days, I’d like to be here at sunrise to photograph the skyline.
You could spend an entire day just walking around Chicago looking at buildings. I know, I’ve done it.
Not to be missed is a visit to a sky deck/observatory. I’ve been to both the Willis Tower and John Hancock and although I prefer the view out of the Hancock building, others prefer the Willis view. Regardless, a visit to one is a must.
6. We all know what a taxi is, but did you know Chicago offers a water taxi? This is a fun way to get from the Field Museum to Navy Pier or from Navy Pier to the train station. In an effort to give our legs a break, we’ve taken both. It’s a great way to see the city from another angle.
7. Entertainment; Chicago is known as the Second City….. second to New York City. Therefore, there’s always wonderful theater and live entertainment to be found. My favorite; Second City. Here’s a list of comedians who got their start at Chicago’s Second City – list. Many ended up later joining Saturday Night Live.
Seriously, there is so much to see and do in Chicago that I feel guilty ending my list here, and don’t even get me started on the shopping. So many fantastic shops. Moving on….
Lodging in Chicago is also part of the adventure with endless options. We stayed at the historic Knickerbocker Hotel several years ago and enjoyed it. We flew from Denver to Chicago partly to spend Christmas with family but to also expose our children to the city around the holidays. If I had to visit Chicago in the winter, December is the perfect month to do so. The holiday decorations are incredibly pretty.
Chicago’s a huge city offering an abundance of things to see, do, and experience, but a little street smarts will serve you well. Safety first and always be aware of your surroundings.
Chicago has long been associated with gun violence; from the Al Capone days to today’s gang violence. Much of the gang activity is within their neighborhoods and not much of a concern for any of the areas I’ve mentioned in this blog post.
What about RVing in Chicago? I’ve recently read a couple of blog posts on people boondocking (dry camping) at McCormick Place, Illinois’ premiere conference and convention center. In both instances (at separate times) the couples found themselves parked in the parking lot alone. The only RV on site….. Hmm, I wonder why? Fortunately, they both had an uneventful and safe experience. However, it’s not a place I would stay.
Staying in the country at the Paul Wolff Campground surrounded by forest preserve and cornfields sounds like the perfect place to camp for anyone wanting to visit Chicago with an RV. From there, a one-hour train ride into the windy city will allow you to enjoy all this marvelous place has to offer. So why is Chicago nicknamed “The Windy City”. Since the city sits at the shores of Lake Michigan it does experience a fair amount of wind from weather, but no more than a bunch of other places. The power of the name lies in the metaphorical use “windy” for “talkative” or “boastful.” Early on, Chicago politicians became famous for long-windedness. Chicagoans were also considered braggarts.
But in another way, Chicago is actually earning the title of “windy city”. Architects and engineers did not foresee the effects of tall buildings and air current. In some areas, the wind is literally sucked down into the streets. It may be perfectly calm in one area and extremely breezy in another. Ladies hang on to your dresses, and men your hats!
While February found us exploring southern Arizona, March had us meandering around the Phoenix valley. Phoenix, Arizona, has become a regular stomping ground for hubby and me ever since our son moved here five years ago.
Over the past five years, Al and I have taken advantage of our visits by exploring all corners of picturesque Maricopa County. As an RV’er, we’ve found this area to be one of the most RV friendliest of places giving us oodles of parking options.
Not into RVing? That’s ok as the lodging options are endless in that arena as well; from quaint Bed & Breakfast’s to Mega Resorts and everything in between.
Maricopa County wants you to visit. It’s a tourist destination. Whether you spend a long weekend or spend the entire winter, all visitors are greeted with open arms and offered amenities for just about anyone’s personal interests and taste. And with nine months of beautiful weather and plenty of sunshine, it’s no wonder northerners flock here during the winter months.
Speaking from experience; June, July, and August can be uncomfortably hot making it near impossible to engage in any outdoor activities. This is the desert after all.
There’s no shortage of beautiful Golf Courses, wonderful hiking trails, or delicious restaurants. Then there’s the various festivals, music venues, and sporting events. This past February, Phoenix even hosted the Super Bowl.
Folks that enjoy baseball usually plan a vacation to Arizona in March to take in a Spring Training game. The Cactus League is big business around here.
With only so many hours in a day, hubby and I picked our priorities for the month of March. Hiking, socializing, and festivals seem to top our agenda. Since I’ve already posted on some of the hiking we’ve done around Phoenix, I’ll focus on the socializing today.
We reconnected with some old friends and met new ones along the way. New friendships were forged with fellow bloggers. As bloggers following each other on the internet, we seem to know a lot about one another but rarely meet in person. It’s always an entertaining time though when we do connect face to face.
Since Phoenix is such a great place to live AND visit, it’s not uncommon for one to live here full-time, part-time (like me), or sometime meaning there’s always another blogger in the vicinity. So if you visit Phoenix, be sure to put it out on your blog – if you’re into socializing that is. You never know who will reach out to you and say, “Hey, I’m in the area. Interested in meeting?”
That said, it’s easy for two strangers to quickly become new friends.
A one hour coffee date turned into a three-hour chat fest with Nancy over at Two Trails One Road. We could have easily moved from coffee onto cocktails as we got to know one another beyond our blogs, but alas obligations had us bidding farewell to each other.
We were so engrossed in our visit, that neither one of us remembered to take a photo. Oh well next time, as I am sure there will be a next time.
Another morning I headed off to a Fine Arts Festival in the town of Carefree; a community on the far north side of the Phoenix valley. This was my second time attending a festival in this lovely community. The first time was with fellow blogger LuAnn and involved chocolate.
No chocolate involved this time, but meeting this artistic couple was right up there. Mary and Al are a couple of VERY talented people.
Not only was it great meeting Mary and Al, I loved seeing their art work. Did I already mention how incredibly talented these two are? Impressive! I hope to run into them boondocking in the desert next season.
The communities of Carefree, Cave Creek, and old town Scottsdale are known for their art galleries, unique one of a kind shopping venues, art walks, and festivals. It almost makes me want a house again. I’ve always appreciated the arts and find people’s talents almost mind-boggling. I’m amazed by the vision of an artist and awed by the wonderful sculptures and paintings one creates.
If fine art isn’t your thing, stay tuned for a little rough and tumble type of Expo we attended. No arts or crafts involved…. it’s a guy thing!I’ve managed to do a bunch of previous posts on Phoenix, Arizona. For another post with some different info, click here. AND if you’d like to meet a lot of bloggers all in one place, consider attending the WordPress Event being held in Phoenix on April 18th. Click here for more info on Press Publish.
As I continued to do more and more research on things to see and do in Denver, Colorado, I came across the Denver Botanic Garden website and realized they were featuring a Chihuly exhibit.
You can’t imagine how excited I became upon this discovery. When we were in Phoenix this past winter, I had every intention of visiting the Chihuly exhibit at the Phoenix Botanical Gardens. However, my body due to illness had other plans and thus I had to forgo the exhibition.So here I am, months later sitting in Denver, and I get to see first hand this gifted artists’ creations.
I was shocked by how many pieces of blown glass were strategically placed throughout the gardens. The Denver Botanic Garden in and of itself is worth a visit and then add to it the Chihuly blown glass exhibit and this becomes a must see.
Ah, but to entice you further….. the first Monday of the month is free admittance day to the Denver Botanic Garden. Chihuly, flowers, and free?Yes, I was one happy camper 🙂
It’s obvious to me that Mr. Chihuly modeled the below glass sculptures after me and my curly hair. Amazing likeness!
I enjoyed myself so much that I may need to revisit and won’t even mind paying an admittance fee….. it is most definitely worth it.
I leave you with a few more photos of my day. You can never be too rich, too thin, or have too many photos….. eh!