Sunday Picture Show (Keeping Afloat)

I’d typically be calling this my Photography Friday post, but since I’m two days late, we’re trying something new. This week’s Photo Challenge prompt is to share photos that exemplify what “afloat” means to us, and I’ve taken quite a few lately…

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My workouts at Iron Tribe can be a bit intense, but I love every minute of it. Even better than feeling strong and capable is the fact that a hard workout every day keeps me happy and relaxed. These are the blisters on my right hand after a kettlebell workout earlier this week.

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My Isabel. I love my cats – there’s nothing like having a good cuddle after a hard day, though Izzy isn’t prone to being that affectionate unless it’s bedtime. When I was sick and feeling miserable last week, she came and napped with me on the couch.

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One of my favorite things to do is walk around New Orleans and take photos of the things that capture my attention. Street art never fails to captivate and stir my imagination. I take a lot of photos of cool graffiti around town, but this one struck my fancy last week. Let me find out, indeed.

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Small details help keep me grounded (or afloat, whichever turn of phrase you prefer). I love that looking for little things helps keep me mindful and “in the moment”, and while I’m walking around town, I try to capture these moments in photos if possible. This is a shot I took of water droplets collecting on a newly painted front stoop the other day. I loved how the water was pooling, and was pretty satisfied with the colors of the shot in the end. The stoop was a brilliant shade of teal, but the shadows gave a purple sheen.

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The idea that I’ll be leaving for the Camino in six months is definitely keeping me sane and happy. I walk to and from work (about 2 miles) each day, and on the way to work, I cross over Spain Street. Each time that I notice the street sign, I can’t help but be reminded of how lucky I am, and how amazing it’s going to be to finally get my boots on the ground in Spain this October.

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You, you amazing man. I don’t know how I made it this long without you in my life. You’re everything I’ve been looking for for all this time. Thank you for making me so much stronger, and giving me the strength to realize that I didn’t need a man in my life to be complete – but having the right one could make everything that much sweeter. You make me laugh, you make me think, and you’ve helped me make myself whole. Your encouragement and faith have pushed me to new heights as a person, and I only hope that I can return the favor. I love you.

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Photography Friday: Abstract Orange

I must not take a lot of photos incorporating the color orange in my day-to-day. In general I’m really not a fan of the shade, so wondering if orange things just don’t catch my eye that often (kind of the opposite of how I go gaga over purple objects). Today’s photo challenge asks us to share a photograph that features the color orange, but a brief look through my phone shows almost nothing of use. However, I love this shot that my camera took on its own one day on a trip to the mall, and it’s orange enough, right?

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Photography Friday: Rewards

Today’s photo challenge at the Daily Post is to show what “reward” means to us. It turns out that I’ve taken a few photos over the course of the last few weeks that exemplify the term in various ways. Looking back through them has made me realize how easily I forget the simple pleasures encountered every day. I tend to notice details, and love the little scenes captured on my walks through New Orleans (and elsewhere), but it would be nice to hold on to the feeling of discovering these vignettes in my heart, rather than having to be reminded by looking back over my Instagram page.

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I walk through the French Quarter every day, and often pass a little art gallery full of really cool/creepy art. Every now and then there’s a cat sitting in the window, along with the artwork. Each time I pass, I look for the cat, and when I see her I’m always happy. It feels like a privilege, somehow; she’s so regal.

The other part of the story that makes this an even better reward is that you can’t see it in this photo, but the cat’s other ear is docked at the tip. In New Orleans, when feral cats are part of the catch and release program (where they’re caught, spayed/neutered, then released), they get one ear docked. This tells me that this gorgeous girl was once living on the streets, but has since become the queen of her own art gallery. Pretty sweet rags to riches story.

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I love looking for good new graffiti, no matter what city I’m in. Thus far, my all-time favorite street art has been in Venice, but New Orleans’ scene isn’t too shabby. Our city attracts a lot of outside artists, including WRDSMTH, a Los Angeles-based writer/painter who’s been posting awesome stuff like this typewriter and message around town for awhile. This popped up in my neighborhood, and every time I look at it I end up laughing. So I guess that the reward is two-fold for this photo, as well. First finding it, then getting to laugh over and over.

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This shot was taken on Lundi Gras night (the night before Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday), down by the Mississippi River. I was with friends, just hanging out, and we didn’t know that there were going to be fireworks. This was a great reward for me because I really hadn’t felt like leaving my house that day, despite (or maybe because of) the celebration that was going on. I adore fireworks, so getting to see them was like a little “thank you” from the Universe for just pushing myself to lighten up a bit and go have fun.

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While in Chicago last week, I decided (quite stupidly) to walk from the restaurant where I’d just had dinner, all the way to the nearest movie theater. A distance of about a mile and a half isn’t bad in decent weather, but when it’s 10 degrees out and you’re not at all accustomed to that kind of cold, it’s just a crappy idea to try to do it on foot. But I did, and it all worked out just fine. Still got all of my digits. Bonus: it was beautiful and quiet out, didn’t meet very many people on the way, and every now and then a scene like this would present itself.

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This is the least exciting photo, but my favorite. I took it last night; it’s the parking garage that sits behind my gym. I had a good workout, then left the gym to see that the parking garage was looking really nice with the contrast of streetlights and night sky. Sometimes I feel like being allowed to notice and appreciate beauty in such mundane things is its own reward. The fact that it showed up after a particularly good night of working out was just that much sweeter.

Photography Friday: Rule Of Thirds

In keeping with my new goal to get back on a regular writing schedule, I’m picking back up with an old theme for Fridays, photography. I’m in Chicago on work, so not a ton of time to post new photos, but here’s a shot I took on Wednesday in New Orleans. The current Daily Post photo prompt is to show a photo that follows the rule of thirds, where the focal point is off center. I didn’t take this shot with the post in mind, but I certainly did have the rule of thirds in mind, as it’s a great guide for creating visual interest in even the simplest of scenes.

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First Adventure In My New Boots

In November, I got to take my new boots out for a spin. One of my friends in Chicago has a yearly hike around his birthday, and a bunch of my group of friends get together to spend a day in nature. Of course, our version of a nature hike includes wine, snacks, enough chattering to scare away the wildlife, and typically at least one stupidity-induced injury. In short, it’s not exactly serious, but it is a lot of fun.

The friend who puts all of this together, Nate, is an architectural history enthusiast, and when I lived in Chicago, we’d regularly go and explore cemeteries and old historic sites together. I was so happy to have my monthly work trip up to Chicago coincide with his birthday hike, since he always picks somewhere interesting to go. What’s great about hanging out with Nate is that he’s able to find the historic gem in the middle of the most banal setting. For instance, the following pictures are from Red Gate Woods, a forest preserve in Lemont, IL. I found out during our hike that it was the site of Site A & Plot M – the world’s first nuclear reactor (and subsequent disposal area).

One of the nature trails in Red Gate Woods.

One of the nature trails in Red Gate Woods.

Nate at the Site A marker.

Nate at the Site A marker.

A close up of the marker.

A close up of the marker.

Most of the trail was in the woods, but there were some open areas, too. Plenty of prairie grass here.

Most of the trail was in the woods, but there were some open areas, too. Plenty of prairie grass here.

Do Not Dig. Seriously, don't do it. You won't like the results.

Do Not Dig. Seriously, don’t do it. You won’t like the results.

We found a pond near sunset. It was frozen over enough that some of us (not me - I'm not crazy) were able to walk out onto the ice.

We found a pond near sunset. It was frozen over enough that some of us (not me – I’m not crazy) were able to walk out onto the ice.

The day was perfect, and my boots did their job perfectly. By the end they were caked in mud from the trail, but throughout the course of the day I was able to try them for extended periods on asphalt, gravel, grass, dirt, and mud. They were warm and waterproof, and I think they’re going to do me well on The Camino!

Alarms In The Heart

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Last week, I went to one of the best concerts of my life. As far as stage presence and sound quality go, I’m putting it in my personal Top 5, along with Neutral Milk Hotel (NOLA – Feb 2014), The Flaming Lips (NOLA – Oct 2009), Gogol Bordello (NOLA – Apr 2011), and Ben Folds (NOLA – Oct 2002). Garbage, Ween, No Doubt, Tears for Fears, and Mouse On Mars (at the Chelsea, in Vienna – talk about great acoustics) get honorable mention.

This new addition to my “holy shit, that concert blew my mind” is a band called Dry The River, out of London. I was introduced to them back in March, and fell in love within a few lines of the first song (if you’re interested, it’s called “No Rest”). So when I heard they were going to be playing in Chicago on the US leg of their tour, I immediately snagged a couple of tickets.

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The show was in a small venue called Schuba’s. They’re known for having intimate shows and great sound quality. Nothing about the space is too fancy – it’s just a solid little theater, perfect for getting to watch your favorite performers on stage. For certain songs, the sound was so on-point that it felt like standing inside of a record, somehow. I’m still impressed that I got to see what’s turning out to be my favorite band in such a tiny music club, because it feels like they’re going to get huge. So glad that this time I got to chat with them at the merch table after hearing/singing along to an incredibly emotional set.

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Ever since the show, the title track off of their new album, “Alarms In The Heart,” keeps going through my mind. When I was stuck in the airport the next night – Halloween – for about 8 hours longer than I should have been, the song kept me from losing my mind completely. The lyrics in the chorus are particularly catchy:

“Half the town is underground,
and half are halfway there,
and we’re the only good ones left.

If there’s a tremor in earth, love
a ripple in the water,
come back to haunt you,
keeping you awake,
I heard it before now,
that we don’t listen very much,
to alarms in the heart, love.”

Give them a listen. They’ll haunt you (in a good way).

(The Return of) Photography Friday! Murder Mystery Dinner Edition

It’s been awhile since my last installment of Photography Friday! – sorry about the delay. Since moving to my new neighborhood, I’ve been getting back into taking snapshots of my day, so I’m planning to get back into the habit of sharing my week in photos again on a regular basis.

First up, though, here are some fun snapshots from last night. As I’ve been mentioning here and there (OK, you’ve got me – everywhere) on the blog lately, I’ve gone through some pretty major life shifts in the past few months. One of those shifts involves making new friends. After a few years back in NOLA, feeling generally lonely and rather bored with most of my best girls scattered around the globe, I’m finally starting to get out and live a little. Weirdly enough, it turns out that once you leave your house, you tend to meet new people. Crazy, right? Of course, it doesn’t hurt when the new person in your life happens to have a ton of lovely friends who’re willing to adopt you as part of their pack. 🙂

Last night, accompanied by boyfriend and friends, I got to mark a longstanding goal off of my bucket list: attending a murder mystery dinner! The event was tons of fun, made even more so by the fact that our team ended up schooling everyone, solving two murders, and winning the Detective of the Night award. Not too shabby!

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One of our party, Glenn, was chosen to be a character in the murder mystery game – Sleezy McQueen, talent scout and all-around bad boy from the Bronx.

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Happier than I’ve been in a long time. ❤

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Alex and Fish make a great team when it comes to crime solving…as well as extortion.

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Looks like old Sleezy finally met his match in Angie…

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Brains and beauty…the guys really lucked out.

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Champions! That’s what happens when you get a group of geeks together on a Thursday night 🙂

A big thank you to Angie for letting me use all of her photos for this post, since I was too busy having fun to remember to take snapshots at dinner.