Category Archives: travel

Galleries & Published Works

Hi y’all!  Happy Tuesday!

Just wanted to take a moment and invite you to check out some of the pages here at my website.  For example, my Galleries page and my Published Works page.

You’ll find images of my artwork in the GALLERIES, including photography, collage, and mixed-media. Here are a few examples of images that live there – won’t you visit the rest?

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This photo of the Rock of Cashel (in Ireland) is in the Travel collection.

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This pink water lily image is in the Nature collection.

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This glass bottle image is in the Man-Made collection.

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This piece, made in memory of my Aunt Bobby, is in the Collage collection.

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This up-cycled metal can project is in the Mixed-Media collection.

If you visit my PUBLISHED WORKS page you can see where I’ve had my art and writings published – and in many cases you can click on the work’s title to see a scan of the tear sheet (magazines) or can link over to the website my work appears on.  Projects range from collages and cards to Memory Jars (love that one!) and more!  So please take a peek.

Here are a few projects/articles you might particularly like – I hope you’ll also take a peek at the others:

Fictitious Family Album

Sowing the Seeds of Inspiration

Time in a Bottle (Memory Jars)

You may also visit my About page to learn more about my background, my Art Program page to learn how you can help me provide art education and supplies to at-risk public school children, and my Contact page if you’d like to email me with any questions or comments.

Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day!  Don’t forget to save your chocolate boxes so you can make your own version of my Heart’s Desire project!

Warm regards,
Melody

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Santa Ana Artists Village

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Southern California is full of wonderful cultural and culinary opportunities, and the creative spirit and great eats boldly collide in the Santa Ana Artists Village.  Located in Downtown Santa Ana, the Artists Village is home to galleries, “make and take” studios geared towards paper arts and mixed-media, street corner food carts, and fabulous restaurants.

A bit grungy, bohemian and decidedly urban, the Artists Village also has beauty and charm galore.  From the distinctive architecture of structures like the Santora Building, to the “slice of life” peek at locals going about their business, the Artists Village is a sight to see.  With its varied eateries, you’ll definitely want to take a bite out of the Artists Village!

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Artistic Endeavors

The Santa Ana Artist Village is home to many galleries, ranging in size from very small to very large, and the most common mediums shown are paint and sculpture.  Some studios offer hands-on experiences and classes, and two of my favorites are Studio Crescendoh and The Art Bar.  Geared towards those of us who love paper arts and mixed-media, Studio Crescendoh and the Art Bar offer a wide variety of classes – from lettering and art journaling to painting.  I recommend these venues if you’d like to make art – not just look at it!

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Grand Central is one of the anchors in the Santa Ana Artists Village.

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Colorful paintings grace the walls of Studio Crescendoh, but they offer classes in a variety of artistic mediums…

Restaurants

I certainly haven’t been to all the eateries in the Artists Village, but I’ve really enjoyed those I have visited.  Two of my favorites are the Gypsy Den and Memphis.

Gypsy DenBudget-friendly, this is the most artsy and bohemian of my three picks.  Their baked goods are delicious, and the coffee house feel takes me back to the Beatnik scene in the 60’s – though I hadn’t even been born yet!

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I love the decor at the Gypsy Den – so eclectic and colorful!

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It’s only right that some artwork should grace the walls…

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There’s plenty of seating to enjoy a bite.  I took this photo just after they’d closed on New Year’s Eve day, so it’s customer-free.

MemphisA bit pricier than the Gypsy Den, Memphis has fab food and a great, modern interior.  I love that the afternoon sun creates wrought-iron-shaped shadows in the restaurant’s interior windows, and having breakfast for lunch was a treat!

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A bit of the interior at Memphis, including the wrought iron work up top…

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I opted for breakfast, though it was after 2 p.m.

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Eggs over easy, French Toast, and chicken-apple sausage.  Yum!

I’ve also heard great things about Lola Gaspar, but haven’t made it there to taste their food for myself yet and hope to change that very soon.  Located just down the way from Memphis, and across the courtyard from the Grand Central Building, this restaurant is right in the center of the action…

Art Walk

The Artist Village really comes alive on the first Saturday of each month, when many of the galleries throw open their doors and welcome in the public.  From larger galleries with special shows to single-artist studios displaying their on-going work, the Art Walk is a great way to see a variety of artwork.  You can also sip some wine and nosh on the snacks folks often lay out, if you’re just looking for a nibble.

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Architecture & Ambiance

One of my favorite things about the Santa Ana Artists Village is the look of it – all the the little details that give it a unique flavor.  Naturally, architecture and some historic buildings play a big part in that. In my mind, the gorgeous Santora Building is the grand dame of the village, and the center of it all.  Built in 1929, it’s Spanish Ultra Baroque Design delights me.

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The ornate stone work combined with wrought iron (seen elsewhere on/in the building) is lovely…

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An interior photograph of the Santora Building.

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A clock tower in Santa Ana…

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Bare branches reach out to the Grand Central Building.

It’s more than the big structures, though.  It’s the old street lamps, the trees, and even the streets themselves.  These are some of my favorite things about the Santa Ana Artists Village, and if you’re a fan of details like this, it’s best that you visit during daylight hours to take in all the lovely visual details that make this area unique.

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The base of an old lamp post beckoned to me.

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Gritty, yet still beautiful – near the Santora Building.

Hope to See You There…

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little peek at the Santa Ana Artists Village.  If you live in Southern California – or if you’re planning a trip to Orange County – I hope you’ll stop in for a visit!

Warm regards,
Melody

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A Photographic Tour: New York City

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New York City – what a wild ride!  I joined hubby partway through one of his business trips in New York in 2005, and had a blast.  Though I was only there for four days it was long enough for me to take a bite of the Big Apple and know that it tasted very sweet.

Not that it was perfect, mind you.  It was hot that July, and so humid that the air seemed to both surround and smother me.  Traffic lanes are mere suggestions, and though most of my taxi drivers seemed to have a death wish, I survived unscathed.  Some of the smells were less than charming as well, but the few drawbacks were eclipsed by the city’s charms.

From the white-knuckle taxi rides to the incredible variety of people, cuisines, and things to do, New York City is a thrilling destination.  And for this California girl, a trip there was a chance to see and do things I’d only read about or seen on a T.V. or movie screen: hailing a cab, ambling around Central Park, getting a hot dog from a street vendor, and visiting mind-blowing museums like MoMA and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  It was a thrill, and a pleasure, and my trip was all too brief.  I hope to see you again soon, NYC – I’d love for us to get better acquainted!

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Chinatown, New York style.  I did some shopping, and was treated to the sight of some silvery, scaly beauty.

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Riding the subway for the first time was a treat, and as we came out from underground, and rode along the tracks in the sunlight, I spied the iconic brick buildings and fire escapes I’d seen so many times before on T.V. or in a movie.

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The Empire State Building was incredible.  It was amazing to see the city from above – the taxis and cars looked like little ants down below.

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Hubby and I – 102 stories up on the observation deck of the Empire State Building.

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Our trip to MoMA touched my heart.  An art major in college, and a big fan of van Gogh, I was thrilled to see Starry Night in person.

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We just took in a fraction of the work at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  The collection is so vast, it would take days – maybe weeks- to enjoy it all properly.  It was surreal, and a joy, to see works of art I’d only seen in textbooks and in slideshows in person! This photo was taken on the second story of the museum, looking across Central Park.

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Central Park was the place to be – it was full of people enjoying the summer’s day, and it’s truly a haven in the midst of all the concrete, glass and steel.

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Times Square – talk about sensory overload!  All the people, the lights, signs, and traffic!  Oh, and all the horses – pulling tourists in carriages, that is.

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We visited Carnegie Deli in Times Square, and shared a mammoth, delectable piece of cheesecake.  Yuuuuumy!

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Our trip to Ground Zero was solemn, and it didn’t surprise me that it started raining as we left the site – it was as if Mother Nature was trying to cleanse the wound that had been opened nearly four years before.

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French restaurant Les Sans Culottes was scrumptious!  I had the Shrimp Provencal…

One of my favorite meals and experiences from the whole trip was a meal at Dominick’s out in the Bronx.  There was no set menu, and it was a delicious, authentic, charming experience.  We were with a group of locals – a very friendly group – and were so busy eating the food that hit the table (antipasto salad, stuffed mushrooms, and much more!) that I failed to take any photos.  Dessert?  The most fabulous strawberry gelato from a place a few doors down.  The experience was deeply satisfying on every level.

We also had great meals at PJ Clarke’s (where I had the best corn on the cob I’d had in decades!) and Little Johnnies – a pizza place (we dined on a white bean salad and a scrumptious thin crust pizza).

Though I crammed a lot of wonderful experiences and meals into my short stay, what I fit in barely scratched the surface of all that New York City has to offer.  The city is so diverse and so densely packed, there are literally wonderful things to do, see, and taste around every corner.  It’s like they say in the musical On the Town: “New York, New York! It’s a helluva town!”  I hope I’m able to entrust my life to one of those fearless taxi drivers and make my way onto the island of Manhattan again soon…

Warm regards,
Melody

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A Quick Trip to “Persia”

One of my favorite cheap ways to “travel” is to visit ethnic markets and restaurants.  Real travel isn’t in the budget this year, so hubby and I decided to take in some Persian markets and cuisine last Sunday and had a great time!  We’re lucky enough to live in a very diverse area, and enjoy the exposure we get to different lands and peoples even while staying close to home.  I hope you enjoy this peek into our recent adventure, and hope you’re inspired to visit an ethnic market in your area.

Our first stop was Wholesome Choice market, and while the store is more of a multi-ethnic international market, it had a lot of Persian food items – Indian as well.  We began in the produce department, and I drank in the gorgeous and unusual sights.  Discovering a new (to me) fruit or veggie is always fun!

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Such pretty colors! 

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Can you tell what this is? 

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Yep – melon! 

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Beautiful – and unfamiliar.  This is the fruit from a Rambutan tree, and I was relieved to read on Wikipedia that the fruit is peeled before it’s eaten!

As we made our way through the store we found some more interesting things.  I fell in love with an unusual jar of honey – it was filled with nuts, and was called Ari’s Aligned Nuts.  Gorgeous!  I didn’t purchase it, though I wanted to, because the jar was nearly $8 and I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy eating the contents.  I may head back for it at some point.  So pretty…

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Ari’s Aligned Nuts (in honey)

Naturally there was a large selection of rice, spices, and grains.  Though the store features many “standard American” brands and products, there were some decidedly more exotic items in the store as well.  For example, they sell hookahs and the related hoses.  You won’t see that at Albertsons!

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Hubby shopping in the rice section…

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Hookah hoses on the household goods aisle.

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We ended up purchasing an assortment of goodies, including some Persian sweets, and a yogurt/soda drink.

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We also got some olives, lentils, and unusually-colored tomatoes. 

Our next stop was Caspian, a nearby Persian restaurant, and the food was delicious!  I ordered the Chicken Soltana, while hubby ate an assortment of goodies from their buffet. My meal portion was huge, and we both had the leftovers for dinner!

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Chicken Soltana at Caspian – my lunch and our dinner! 

Tummies full, we proceeded to Super Irvine, a market that’s a stone’s throw from Caspian.  I oohed and aahed over the bags of rice near the door – they zipped open and closed, had handles, and featured appealing graphics!  I reluctantly walked away though – it was just too much rice for two people to use in a reasonable amount of time.

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One of two signs on the Super Irvine storefront.

Moving on, I had to take a picture with the lavash bread (huge!) before meandering through the rest of the store.  Our purchases at Super Irvine included a bottle of pomegranate juice, and some feta cheese.

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Big slabs of bread!

The last stop on our Persian adventure was a sweet shop called Assal Pastry, which was just down the way from Super Irvine.  Hubby was quick to pick out four cake-like pastries, and I selected something called Bamieh, which is likely deep fried dough drizzled in a sweet syrup.  Yum!

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Bamieh

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Some of the sweets we purchased – almond tarts, bamieh, and pistachio nougat.

Though our outing was brief, and was a mere glimpse into the Persian food experience, I’m really glad we went.  Trips like these give my senses a little jolt, and I cherish the new sights, sounds, tastes, and smells.  Exploring new things energizes my artistic and creative spirit, and though I still want to travel much farther afield, you can’t beat getting a dash of a “foreign” experience without having to pack a thing or experience jet lag!

Have you visited any ethic markets lately?  If not, are you hoping to?  I’d love to hear about it and welcome you to comment.  I also invite you to take a peek at my blog posts on Little India, a Korean market and Chinatown if you haven’t seen them already…

Warm regards,
Melody

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From the Archives: some blogtastic posts you may have missed the first time around…

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I’ve been a very busy girl!  I’ve published over 135 posts in the last year, and since you may have missed a few – especially if you’re a newer reader – I thought I’d mention the ARCHIVES feature that resides along the right side of this page – just below RECENT POSTS.  Simply select a month and go!  You may start at the very beginning (August 2010) and read forward, or just skip around.

In addition, here’s a compilation of links, by category, to some of the more popular posts I’ve published in the last year.  I hope you’ll all find something interesting (and possibly “new to you”) to enjoy!*


Photography

Visual Nutrition

The Joys of iPhone Photography

Harvesting Bounty at the Farmers Market

 

Life in General

A Flower For Neva Lenora

Letting My Inner Child Out to Play: Roller Skating

Mad for Movies!

 

Art

Making the Most of a Travel Journal

Collage Basics: Less is More!

Drawing a Blank? Prompts for Writers & Artists

 

Recipes

Something Sweet: Triple Chocolate Cake Recipe

Something Sweet: Blueberry-Lemon Muffins Recipe

Something Sweet: Almond Brittle Recipe

 

Crafts

Green Craft Project: Upcycled & Embellished Metal Cans

A Helpful Hint for My Fellow Paper Addicts: Making a Paper Swatch Ring

Paper, Glass & Wire Butterflies

 

Travel

A Photographic Tour: Peru

A Photographic Tour: Ireland

A Photographic Tour: New Orleans, Louisiana

 

Haiku

Nature’s Lace

Often Overlooked

A Santa Barbara Morning

 

Ethnic Markets

Little India: So Near, Yet So Far Away

Chinatown

Shopping at a Korean Market

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Friendly Giveaway Reminder

My blog birthday giveaway winners will be announced on August 30, 2011 so please enter today.  You could win a $15 iTunes gift card, a pack of my handmade photo notecards, or a $25 Visa gift card!  (Giveaway details/entry HERE) I hope you join the fun…

Warm regards,
Melody

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A Photographic Tour: Kansas

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I had the pleasure of traveling to Kansas two years ago, and really enjoyed my trip.  Three Southern California friends and I converged on Lincoln, Kansas in August of 2008, and we met up with three other friends there – including a friend who actually lives in Lincoln.  We were there to attend an art show that many of us had artwork in, and to see some of the local sights.  Lincoln, Kansas may be a small town, but they’ve got a great art center, and an active arts community.

What a great trip!  We visited, laughed endlessly, saw the sights, shopped, tromped through sunflower fields, and ate some yummy food.  Oh, and attended the art show!  It was a wonderful trip for me – one I’ll always look back on with fondness and a big smile.  Thanks to my two friends who live in Kansas and hosted, we had lovely breakfasts – including a printed menu of what we’d be dining on each day.  Many other special touches – like a surprise guest, scrumptious desserts, and handmade souvenir books – added to the “they thought of everything” glow the weekend took on.

We did a fair amount of rambling around the countryside and surrounding areas in a vehicular caravan, and did some sightseeing in Lincoln proper as well.  Here are some of the photos I took – I hope you enjoy them.

Oh, and I found out well after my trip that my beloved maternal grandmother, Neva, was born in Lincoln.  I was flabbergasted!  Of all the places in Kansas, I ended up staying in the town she was born in?!  I may share more on that in a later post, but in the meantime I’ll say that I think the six degrees of separation just shrank to about three degrees…

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On our first morning of sightseeing we came across this field of “spent” sunflowers.  

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The blooms were dried, but the sunflowers were still beautiful.

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And yep, the field was out in the middle of nowhere…
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Our next stop was the town of Hunter, where I photographed a lovely, worn building.
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This window was “compromised”, but was still beautiful to me…
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We continued on to Cawker City, and saw the World’s Largest Ball of Sisal Twine!
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They let folks add twine to the ball, so here I am – tying some on!
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While on our way back to Lincoln, we hit the motherlode – a blooming field of sunflowers!
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We jumped out of the cars and started wading into the field of flowers, armed with our cameras. 
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This experience was heavenly – pure bliss – for an adventuresome photographer and nature lover like me.  And how wonderful to share it with friends!
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The art show was fantastic, and the Lincoln Art Center is a jewel in Lincoln.
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My submission was a series of collages that combined autobiographical sentiments with vintage images and ephemera. You can see five of the nine collages here, in my gallery.
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Our second day of sightseeing started in Lincoln proper.  I found some great bargains at the local thrift store, as well as some other goodies at one of the stores there on the main strip.
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Another town we visited was Minneapolis, Kansas.
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I found this gorgeous, rusted car in between a few buildings when I was roaming around and taking photos.
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Proof that the post of a simple street sign can be beautiful…
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After lunch and some more shopping in Concordia, we stopped at this INCREDIBLE brick mural.  Look at the surface texture, and the movement of the brick.  It undulates – undulates, for God’s sake!
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A detail shot of the custom mural, that was painstakingly created – brick by brick. AMAZING.
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I only had two days to sightsee in Kansas, and it wasn’t nearly enough. I know there are many things yet to see and do there.  However, I’ll always be thankful for all that I did see and do on this first trip.  Hopefully it won’t be my last.  I hope to visit the state and town that my sweet grandmother was born in again, and soon.
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Warm regards,
Melody
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p.s. Have you entered this month’s giveaway yet?
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Haiku: A Santa Barbara Morning

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Pelican flying
glides above a glassy sea
such tranquil beauty…

I hope you’re all having a tranquil and beautiful week, dear readers.

Warm regards,
Melody

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A Photographic Tour: New Orleans, Louisiana

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I traveled to New Orleans in Feburary 2010 to participate in the inaugural Mardi Gras Half Marathon (which took place a few weeks after the actual Mardi Gras), and am SO glad I did.  What a city!  New Orleans is truly a feast for the senses. There’s plenty to see and do, and good God – the food is incredible!  I can’t wait to return, and hope to make it back to the Big Easy soon – very soon!

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See & Do

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Though New Orleans at large still shows some residual effects of the havoc wreaked by Katrina, it’s business as usual where tourism is concerned and I saw very little evidence of the hurricane in the areas I visited.  I was happy to support the city and its inhabitants with my tourism dollars.

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I read someplace that New Orleans is the “most foreign” city on U.S. soil, and I agree – it’s certainly unique.  I was utterly charmed by the architecture – from large, stately homes in the Garden District, to the ornate railings lining the balconies in the French Quarter.  A sense of history saturates New Orleans – and visual reminders of days past are plentiful.  The streetcars rumbling through the city were particularly pleasing, as were the plastic Mardi Gras beads dripping off many of the city’s trees – a reminder of their famous yearly party.

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Historic Final Resting Places

Somber but beautiful, New Orleans cemeteries are worth a visit – particularly the older ones.  Instead of being buried underground, the deceased in New Orleans are interred in above ground crypts.  Why?  The water level in the area is so high that coffins often float if buried.  These stone resting places are an interesting glimpse into the past and are yet another reminder of how New Orleans is undeniably unique.

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Go Wild!

If you want to get out of the city, try the swamps – there are a number of tours you can take.  I took a swamp tour, and really enjoyed the scenery – including beautiful moss-laden trees.  We even saw an alligator or two, though it was a bit cold/early in the season.  Folks that go on swamp tours during the warmer months are sure to see many more gators!

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Sightseeing By Foot

If you’re a distance walker or runner, please consider doing the marathon or half marathon – it’s a great time!  With bands dotting the course, and incredible sights to see all along the 13.1 or 26.2 miles, this race is a winner!

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OMG – the food!

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My mouth is watering just remembering some of the scrumptious things I ate in New Orleans.  I was lucky enough to eat at a wide range of eateries during my stay – from Emeril’s restaurant (great food and service!) to a place with a decidedly more “dive bar & grill ” kind of feel (had a shrimp Po’ Boy sandwich), and I enjoyed them all.  I’ll share five of my eating experiences in pictures below.  I hope to eat at all these places again next time – yum!

If you want a light breakfast to start off your day, don’t go to the Fleur de Lis Café in the French Quarter.  My breakfast was beyond hearty and massive, but it was perfect for my last meal in New Orleans, since I’d be eating little and sporadically while flying home.  The ladies working at the Fleur de Lis charmed me with their southern accents – and I fondly remember being called “baby” in a way that wasn’t demeaning or condescending – just friendly and kind.

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New Orleans is known for their muffalettas – Italian sandwiches with marinated olive salad, salami, ham, and cheese on a round sesame loaf – so I visited Central Grocery, where the sandwiches originated.  I bought half of a muffaletta and some iced tea, and had a picnic outside.  Though the olive salad mixture was a bit strong for my palate, I enjoyed the sandwich once I’d taken most of it off. (I know that’s probably sacrilege – sorry!)  I was happy to have tried a true New Orleans original.  Oh, and I love the bag I bought at Central Grocery!

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The Acme Oyster House was recommended to me, and my meal there was what I ate right after walking the half marathon. I had grilled oysters, hush puppies, jumbalaya, and pecan cobbler.  Ravenous and eager to eat just about anything, I was thrilled when the food turned out to be truly delicious.  Acme tends to have a line, so be prepared.

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Another edible treat that New Orleans is known for is the beignets.  A pastry made from deep-fried dough, and liberally coated in Confectioner’s sugar, beignets are both messy and delicious.  Perhaps the best-known place to get these goodies is Café Du Monde, and their French Quarter location is open 24 hours a day!

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Willie Mae’s Scotch House has been an institution in New Orleans for decades and with good reason. The fried chicken is amazing!  It’s so good that when the restaurant was damaged by hurricane Katrina, and was in danger of not re-opening, volunteers banded together to help rebuild and restore the restaurant.  Having seen the restaurant on one of the food channels, I planned much of my trip’s sightseeing schedule around when I could go to Willie Mae’s.

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Suggestion: Do some research on Willie Mae’s before arriving in New Orleans.  Long lines and a long food wait can be avoided by getting there right when the restaurant opens, and I seem to recall them only accepting cash and having somewhat limited business hours.

That said, all my Willie Mae’s Scotch House planning and preparation was worth it.  I usually only eat chicken breast (without bone or skin) and I ate everything they brought me, including the skin.  It was fantastically good fried chicken!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek into my trip to New Orleans.  I wholeheartedly recommend that you visit and explore this incredible city if you have the means.  A trip to New Orleans will feed both your body and soul…

Warm regards,
Melody

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My Week in Cambria, California

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As you may recall, I spent a week in Cambria last month.  After a crazy and stressful start to the year it was a much-needed break, and I’m so thankful I was able to recharge my batteries in such a beautiful place.  Though I really just needed some down time, I was also very productive creatively.  I completed three art projects, redlined my novel draft, took tons of photos, and enjoyed some local attractions.  Nice!

If you’re not familiar with Cambria, it’s a small coastal town in Central California.  North of San Luis Obispo and south of Monterey, Cambria’s slogan “Pines by the Sea” is very appropriate.  The scenery is gorgeous, and pine trees do abound.  The scenery in and around Cambria is an incredibly beautiful combination of mountain, country, and beach-y elements.  It’s heavenly!

Cambria is a quiet town with population under 7,000, so if you’re into nightlife and a fast-paced vibe you’ll need to go elsewhere.  However, if you’re looking to relax, slow down, and enjoy a gorgeous piece of California, Cambria is for you.  Cambria may be a two-day destination for many, but if you’re an artist or a nature lover, the way I am, you’ll be able to pass a happy week – or more – in this charming town.

The Beach

I went to the beach nearly every day, and took photos as far north as San Simeon Cove. Moonstone Beach is my favorite, though.  With gorgeous beaches and wildlife (I saw birds, seals, and ground squirrels), it’s a real treat.  I made sure to visit Moonstone Beach for a sunset, and wasn’t disappointed.  It was stunning! (The photo at the very top of this post was taken at Moonstone Beach)

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San Simeon Cove

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San Simeon Pier

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Rock formations at Moonstone Beach

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Sunset at Moonstone Beach

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Shopping

Cambria is full of darling shops, and makes for a great day or two of shopping if you’re interested in some retail therapy.  Some of the stores I shopped at included:

Red Moose Cookie Company – Yum! Their “Cinnful” cookies and “Naughty Rods” are particularly fabulous.  I also liked and purchased the “Oh Joy” cookies.

A Matter of Taste – a great store for foodies

All the antique stores in town! I found two great vintage photos, including one of an incredibly dirty and rumpled little girl.  Most of the people in old-time portraits look carefully primped and dressed, so she piqued my interest.  Price? $1, so I had to adopt her!

*Bonus shopping experience: I was lucky enough to be in town for the big, twice-yearly thrift store event put on by Community Presbyterian Church, and got a bag full of art supplies (and two framed pieces of art) for $13 – major score!  Some of the things I bought (like fabric squares & playing cards) will be included in the art supply kits for this fall’s art journaling class.  I think finding inexpensive supplies for my students made me happiest of all!

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Dining

There are several great places to eat in Cambria, but two of my favorites are definitely Robin’s and the Sea Chest Oyster Bar & Restaurant.

Robin’s Salmon Bisque is scrumptious, and so was the garlic bread and Lemon Poppyseed Cheesecake.

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When I went to the Sea Chest for dinner I had some oysters, calamari (the best calamari I’ve ever had – the Sea Chest is the only place I’ll eat calamari), and garlic bread.  So good!

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Nature

In addition to the wildlife along the coast, I saw horses and cows (in the hills outside town), deer, a wild turkey, tree squirrels, woodpeckers and egrets.  Though I live in the city I think I’m a country girl at heart, so seeing all these critters was a real treat for me!  Many of the trees in Cambria were draped with a soft green moss, and I was bewitched by the sight.

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A ground squirrel at Moonstone Beach

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A flower I photographed at the local nursery

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One of the moss-draped trees

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Hearst Castle

I didn’t go to Heart Castle during this visit, but fondly remember my visit in 1998 and definitely recommend a visit. I hope to get there again on a future visit, as there are different tours and hubby and I only saw a small little bit of the property.

I did see some of the Hearst’s “residents” on this trip, though – I saw five zebras on the Hearst acreage as I zoomed past on Highway 1.  What beautiful animals…

I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek at some of my photos from Cambria.  Please let me know if you have any questions – at present I personally answer each and every comment posted and would be happy to hear from you.

Warm regards,
Melody

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A Photographic Tour: Austin, Texas

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Austin, the state capital of Texas, is an incredible city.  A college town, it’s simultaneously historic, eclectic, and progressive.  I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Austin several times in the past five years.  My brother and his wife moved there in 2006, and I’ve come to love their new hometown.  From “standard” trips, to walking a half marathon there in 2008, I’ve enjoyed each and every visit.

My most recent trip to the Lone Star state was in January of this year.  The arrival of my newest niece, a baby girl named Bryn, set me to packing my bags and flying east.  I had a great time meeting the new baby, playing with my nephew, and visiting with my brother and sister-in-law.  I also took a day to do a driving tour to some of my favorite spots in Austin so I could take pictures and share these places with you, dear readers.

These are just a sampling of some of the things to do and see – I could only visit so many places in one day, and there are still many places and things I have yet to experience in the Austin area.  That said, I hope this post will whet your appetite for a trip to Austin, and for some of the local food!

Starting the day off right…

I started my tour out in the Dripping Springs area, which is about 45 minutes away from downtown Austin.  My first stop?  The Salt Lick!

The Salt Lick Bar-B-Que is a local institution – and with good reason. Their distinctive barbeque pit turns out delicious barbequed meat, and their sides are absolutely fabulous!  For example I never eat coleslaw – except at The Salt Lick. Rather than turning out soggy slaw dripping in a milky liquid, their slaw is made from crisp, fresh cabbage with a light coating of flavorful dressing and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. Yum!

I ordered the combo plate for lunch, which included sliced turkey breast, sausage, beans, potato salad, coleslaw, and bread.  The waitress brought a pile of napkins without being asked, the sure sign of a good barbeque place.  I knew what to expect, having eaten there at least four times before, and dug right in.  In the interest of showing you a multi-course meal I also got dessert and I assure you it was a sacrifice.  (wink!)

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The side porch seating area – you’ll probably never see it this empty unless you arrive right when they open, like I did.

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My scrumptious lunch.  The beans have a rich, smoky flavor.

 

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Best slaw EVER.  Yum!

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Blackberry Cobbler á la mode – a wonderful way to finish off a delicious lunch.

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The folks at The Salt Lick were nice enough to let me behind the counter to take a picture of their incredible barbeque pit!

On the road again…

Back on the road, I pointed my car towards Austin proper. Along the way I saw these lovely red berries and had to pull over on the side of the road (not far from some grazing cows) to snap this photo.

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My next stop was Navidad Farms.  Texas is known for their pecans, and Navidad Farms serves up a plethora of pecan-related specialties.  From candied pecans to Texas Pecan Pepper Jelly, they have a little bit of everything.  My favorites are the Chocolate Toffee Pecans – yum!  They only offer this particular item in the cooler months though, so if you think you’d like to try some you’ll want to order now.

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The Navidad Farms storefront.

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Some of their goodies that I have here at home.

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My favorites – the Chocolate Toffee Pecans.

Shopping, anyone?

If you enjoy shopping you’ll want to stop on Congress Avenue, as I did.  There are wonderful businesses to be found – both stores and eateries.  I stopped at Crofts, Tesoros (love their international wares!), and Uncommon Objects.  I was thrilled to discover Uncommon Objects, a cross between a boutique and an antique store.  I drooled over $60 bundles of vintage sari trim and other fabulous finds.  They had so many things I would’ve loved to take home!  I grudgingly limited my purchase to three radio tubes that demanded I adopt them for use in my art.  Who was I to refuse?

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Crofts Original is just one of the darling boutiques work a peek on Congress Avenue.

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Tesoros has a incredible array of products from around the world.

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Uncommon Objects – could’ve spent hours and thousands of dollars in this store if I’d had more time and bigger budget!

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These vintage glass radio tubes were carefully wrapped in paper for my trip back to California.

Downtown Austin

The Austin Museum of Art – AMOA – was closed when I did my driving tour, but I really enjoyed my time there on an earlier visit to Austin.  It’s definitely worth a visit if you’re into art or are looking to expand your horizons and get in some cultural enrichment.

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The capitol building is quite a sight, and I stopped to take some photos before continuing my tour.  The gray winter weather in the photos doesn’t do the building justice – it’s a stunner when accented with sunny, blue skies, and is also beautiful lit up at night.

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By this time I was parched, and stopped into Walton’s Fancy and Staple for some refreshments.  One of two 6th Street eateries owned by Sandra Bullock (who I think is a class act), Walton’s is a deli and florist shop all in one.  I bought myself a bottle of sweet tea and a Golden Egg (nutmeg cake rolled in cinnamon sugar), as well as another Golden Egg and a loaf of Pumpkin Bread to take to my sister-in-law.  It was a nice place, and it seemed oh-so-southern to sit outside and drink sweet tea!

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Walton’s – exterior shot.

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A lovely afternoon snack.

Though Austin is the (self-proclaimed) live music capital of the world, I haven’t partaken of that particular pleasure while visiting Austin – yet.  However, since I was downtown and the downtown area is home to multiple music clubs, I stopped by the Ghost Room and took a picture for your viewing pleasure.

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Worth the wait…

My final stop of the day was at Fonda San Miguel. I really love this restaurant – such delicious food and a beautiful setting, both inside and out!  The only thing that tops the lush decor and the rotating art collection is the incredible food.  I ordered my favorite meal – the Ancho Relleno San Miguel.  I’m a wimp when it comes to spice, and this chile relleno dish isn’t spicy at all – just amazingly flavorful.

The chile ancho is filled with chicken, olives, capers, and almonds and is served in a light cilantro cream sauce.  Served with refried black beans, rice, and tortillas, this meal is incredibly good.  Olives and capers are usually a bit strong for me, but mixed in with the other ingredients they were mild and contributed to the overall yum factor of the dish.

Once again, in the interest of showing you more than one course, I ordered dessert.  The Crepas de Cajeta were so good!  The crepes were sauced with caramel and toasted almonds were served with caramel ice cream.  I ate them with pleasure, and it was around this time that I fell into a food coma.

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Fonda San Miguel’s exterior

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My fabulous dinner. The rice, beans and tortillas weren’t photographed…

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Crepas de Cajeta – caramel crepes!

As I said before, this is just a miniscule sampling of some of the things to do and see in Austin.  I hope I have the opportunity to do and see more on future visits!  Please let me know if you have any question, y’all.  I’d be happy to answer them if I can…

Warm regards,
Melody

*The photo at the very top was taken at Fonda San Miguel.  The carved face is on their front door…

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