travel

Back from Austin!

I'm back! It's amazing what a few days of soaking up the sun, warmth, good, no... AMAZING food, and super creative vibes will do for your soul. I'm back from Austin, TX and I'm feeling incredibly energetic and inspired. Austin is such a rad (can I even say "rad" if i'm not from the west coast?) fun, and colorful city. I love it there. I love that the city embraces "weirdness" which is evident in the "Keep Austin Weird" signs I saw everywhere!

Keep Austin Weird. Austin Vacation Recap
Do What You Love Graffiti Baylor Street Austin Texas

First of all, if you ever go to Austin, plan accordingly and bring elastic waist stretchy pants. Seriously. I wish someone would have told me to pack my yoga pants because I totally needed them. There's no good way to undo the button on your jeans and walk around. Trust me on this. Austin has so much amazing food. BBQ from The Salt Lick in Driftwood is the best. No lie. The smoked turkey and sausage were to die for. Tex Mex from Chuys was soooooo good and Hopdoddy had the best burgers... I'm drooling thinking about it. Maybe it's because I'm starving. Since arrivingback home,  it's nothing but salads for me, but that's a story for another day.

So now I'm home and it's back to the daily routine, except that now I'm super inspired to keep taking photos, keep painting, start sketching again, and to keep working on my new-ish art/photography shop. While I'm still filled with a lot (A LOT!) of self doubt, I need to keep on truckin' and moving past the fear/worry/doubt. I've been listening to some really good creative & business-y podcasts during my soul sucking commute home from work (Raise Your Hand and Say Yes and She Percolates are two of my favorites) and the message that resonates the most for me is to do your thing and keep doing it because the world needs it. It may seem kinda mushy or woo-woo, but sometimes it's nice to be reminded that there is value in creative works and it is important to express them and for other folks to hear/read/see them.

Moral of the post? It's really okay to be weird so own it and do your thing! I'm going to be over here doing my thing and If you'd like to receive periodic updates, to chat, or to just keep in touch, feel free to sign up for my newsletter. I'd love to hear about what you're doing/working on! Let me know in the comments section below or send me an email. Let's connect!

 


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Italy Vacation recap

Why didn't anyone ever tell me how amazing Italy is? We spent the first two weeks of April in Italy and had such an incredible time. I was leery about going on this trip for a few reasons-- first of all, G had already been there with his family years ago. I really wanted us to go someplace neither of us had been before. Secondly, this trip was part of a church tour. I was a little (okay, VERY) apprehensive about being stuck on a tour bus. I'm more of a loner (or very small group) traveler. I like being able to go along at my own pace and stop when I want to stop. I was worried that we'd spend all day on a tour bus and that we wouldn't have enough time for me to take photographs (because you know, trips and adventures are all about the photos!)

The trip far exceeded my expectations. It was, if I had to sum it up in one word- AMAZING. Really and truly life altering amazing. We spent at least one day in almost every place we visited--which made the time on the tour bus bearable. We saw some pretty incredible things-- incorruptible saints and relics, a Eucharistic miracle, and the most amazing art ever! Bernini and Michelangelo statues and sculptures are just hanging around EVERYWHERE! Also, because we were with a church group, we had a lot of older folks who were a little on the slow side so I had plenty of time to stop or step away and take photos and catch up with the group again!

Rome, Assisi, and Venice were my favorite cities. Rome was so modern and lively. The locals were so fashionable and beautiful. We couldn't believe how there was no road rage (the traffic in Rome was nuts!) No honking, no cursing, no flipping the bird. And the history! Ancient ruins are EVERYWHERE! Rome does an amazing job of keeping the old and blending it with the new.

Ruins in Rome
St. Peter's Square and the Vatican
Navona Square
Day 3- Rome. Basilica Santa Maria sopra Minerva

Assisi was gorgeous with it's super steep hills and quaint little shops. I wish we could have spent more time there (we were there for two days only) So many cute little stores and streets to photograph!

Assisi, Italy
Street Scene in Assisi
Street Scene in Assisi
Basicilia of St. Francis of Assisi

Now Venice was a photographers dream (at least, it was this photographer's dream!) It was so vibrant and fun! The gondola ride was awesome, the architecture was so gorgeous, the history was really cool! We took a boat ride across the lagoon to the island of Burano which had to be, hands down, my most favorite place to photograph! I LOVED LOVED LOVED all the brightly color buildings and the laundry hanging from clotheslines! How FUN!  

Venice04.jpg
Venice Canal
Venice Shop
Burano

here are a few of the highlights from our whirlwind, action packed 10 day trip:

Rome:

  • Trevi Fountain and the Forum & Senate at night.
  • Audience with the Pope
  • Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls
  • Basilica of St. John Latern and the weeping stairs
  • Basilica of Mary Major
  • Sistine Chapel
  • St. Pete's Basilica
  • Colosseum
  • Arch of Titus
  • Piazza Navona
  • The Pantheon
  • Basilica Santa Maria sopra Minerva
  • the Jewish Ghetto
  • Mass at St. Peters Tomb inside the grottos of St. Pete's Basilica

Cascia:

  • St. Rita's Basilica


Assisi:

  • St. Mary of the Angels Basilica and the Portiuncola
  • Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi
  • Basicila of St. Claire of Assisi
  • Carceri Hermatige
  • Monastery of St. Damian
  • Spello (and the most amazing dinner at Il Molino)

 

Siena:

  • Piazza Del Campo, theater of the biannual Palio, Siena’s spectacular medieval-style horse race
  • Sanctuary or St. Catherine
  • Basilica of St. Dominic

 

Florence:

  • Santa Maria Novella Basilica
  • Checked out the exterior of the Duomo, Giotto’s Bell Tower, the Baptistry’s heavy bronze “Gate of Paradise,”
  • Signoria Square
  • Santa Croce Basilica with the tombs of Michelangelo, Dante, Rossini, and others
  • San Gimignano

 

Pavia:

  • Carthusian Monastery

 

Milan:

  • Church of Santa Maria Delle Grazie
  • Last Supper Painting

 

Padua:

  • Basilica of St. Anthony

 

Vience:

  • St. Mark's Square and it's Basilica
  • lavish Doges' Palace and the Bridge of Sighs
  • Venetian Master Glassblowers
  • Gondola Serenade
  • The island of Burano

 

I have approximately 2500 photos to sort through (I know, only 2500!)  I'll be adding some to flickr everyday. If you'd like to check out more photos from my amazing trip to Italy, check out my flickr:  Italy Adventure Photos

 

Have you been to Italy? I'd love if you commented below and let me know what your favorite part of the country is and what your favorite moments were!!!

 

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My Love/Hate Relationship with Las Vegas part 2: What I Loved

Last time I told you about what I hated in Las Vegas. Let me tell you about the parts of Vegas that I loved:

1. Red Rock Canyon. GORGEOUS! We got up really early one morning and drove out there just after sunrise. It. Was. Gorgeous. I would go back in a heart beat.
(show photos!)

I might have to go back-- the combination of the cropped sensor camera and 85mm lens that I rented prevented me from being able to capture the amazing expansive landscapes. Thank God for the iPhone (you should see the husbands panoramas!)

I gotta give props to the husbter for taking this amazing panoramic shot!

2. I LOVED the Neon Museum! I have to go back. This is the place where the old iconic vintage Vegas signs either get restored, or retired and spend the rest of their days sitting out basking in the sun. This tour was fantastic. Great history, incredible signs. Again, I have to go back with my camera and lenses!

3. Fremont Street was pretty neat. The dome or canopy was cool, i guess. There's a laser light show and music. I wish that I had been to that section of Vegas before that canopy was created. I LOVED the iconic signs that would have been much cooler photos without all the light/noise behind them.

4. The hoover dam was amazing! Such a feat of human ingenuity! It was definitely something to see. I really didn't think I would like the dam and the dam tour (ha! the dam tour!) but it was really educational. I'm so glad we got to go!


5. The dolphin show at the Mirage! Seriously, I think that was one of the highlights of the trip (for me, anyway! The hubster's highlight was shaking hands with the old man from pawn stars) We went just before the show closed so it wasn't crowded, we had great views of the dolphins, and I got some pretty awesome photos! we were so close that i could have just reached out and petted them!

I know! So close, right?!!  

I had a really good time, especially when we weren't on the Strip. I'm really glad that I stopped fighting G and agreed to go!

Our next adventure? Monterey and Big Sur in California! We're leaving tomorrow for a little weekend getaway to celebrate our first anniversary. (HOLY CRAP! It's been a YEAR already!) I'm sure I'll have a few (ahem!) photos to share with you from this adventure and I'll be sharing some on Instagram, so follow me!!! In the meantime, if you know any place that I HAVE to see while I'm in Monterey and Big Sur, please let me know!!!

 

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My Love/Hate Relationship with Las Vegas part 1: What I hated

So the hubster and I decided we needed a little getaway and Vegas was one of the possibilities we were throwing around. Personally, I think it was all the Vegas.com commercials we kept seeing on cable TV… I never ever really wanted to go there. In my head, I thought all of Vegas was super seedy and dirty. Kind of like a combination of driving down the seedy area on Mannheim in Stone Park and the CSI: Las Vegas TV show. 

I hate to admit it, but I did have fun. Oh, don't get me wrong, there were parts that I hated and would never want to visit again --all those parts were the on or around the Strip… But there were also places that were super awesome and really fun that I would LOVE the opportunity to go back (this time, with my camera gear!)

The trip started out with getting to the airport & all the way through security and then realizing that I forgot my camera bag.  I burst into tears right then and there and wanted to turn around and cancel the trip. I wasn't going to have any fun without my camera. My husband, God bless him, is the problem solver in the relationship and went into "NEED TO GET APRIL TO STOP CRYING" mode and came up with a solution-- he would ask his dad to overnight my camera bag. Brilliant!! but…. I didn't want to wait for it (i would be in Vegas a whole day before the camera would arrive!) and i also was terrified that it would get damaged.  Again, husband to the rescue-- we could rent! I got on the googles and searched for places that that rented camera gear and I found one shop, B&C Camera. They were awesome! Great service. Great people. We had a teeny little issue when I went in the next day to pick up the gear I reserved, but they took care of it and I left super happy.

whew! crisis averted! I had a camera! I was a very happy camper!

so here's what I hated about Vegas:

1. We stayed at the Treasure Island hotel, which is now called TI. The husband had fond memories of this hotel when he was younger-- pirates, pirate ship, water slides, and arcades. Well, I guess the family friendly theme didn't cut it. We got to the TI and found a tired, theme-less, boring and old looking hotel. The room was… tired. the casino was… tired. The restaurants inside the hotel were lackluster and sub par. The giant pirate ship was still outside, but instead of an exciting swashbuckling pirate show there were super scantily clad women dancing on the boat getting rained on. 

Next time we're staying next door at the Mirage or the Venetian.

2. The strip was, well, overwhelming. (And HOT! Remind me not to go there in July ever again!) The part I liked least about it was every time we walked outside, not only did we have to worry about spontaneously combusting at any moment, we had to dodge soooo many people handing us smut, or trying to get us to see their smutty show, or sell us a smutty hotel room someplace. It was really obnoxious. Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was all the walking, but I seriously wanted to punch people when they tried accosting us with their smutty salespitch.

3. People were smoking in the Casinos. That was gross. I'm spoiled now that Illinois is a non-smoking state. You can't smoke in restaurants, bars, or public buildings anymore. We walked through the casino to get to the elevators to go up to our room and my clothes and hair smelled like cigarettes. I might go back when smoking is banned from public spaces. Or, if i feel the need to gamble, I'll just go to the casino that's 15 minutes from my house! 

Next time, I'll share what I loved about Vegas (which surprisingly, there were a lot of things!)

So, have you been to Vegas? Did you love it? Hate it? Let me know your opinions in the comment section below! I'd love to hear your thoughts!  

 

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