Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Playing Photo Challenge Catch-Up

Day 11 - Something Blue

Day 12 - Sunset

Day 13 - Yourself with 13 Things
(I know, I know. It's only 12 - oops!)

Day 14 - Eyes

Day 15 - Silhouette
(I may have cheated on this one a bit, but it was just too perfect!)

Day 16 - Long Exposure

Adventures in Washington, DC

Sometimes I think people think I'm crazy for the amount of time I spend traveling. I mean, I literally can't remember the last weekend I spent in Gainesville. Sad....or awesome? To be quite honest, I LOVE traveling. If I could travel, take pictures and blog for the rest of my life, I'd be the happiest person on the planet. Hence, my excessive jetsetting. Where did I jetset off to this time? Washington, DC - one of my most favorite cities on the planet. Washington, DC is just one of those places that holds a special place in my heart. As a kid, we'd go there every summer to visit family. In my mind, I associate DC with family reunions, lightning bugs and fireworks - only the best summer activities ever! This time around, I was only there for a short three days, but had the best time. My mom's 7 sibs were in town to sort through my late grandpa's belongings, which sounds sad, right? Not necessarily. We had so much fun sorting through old pictures, videos and books - and had some great laughs while we were at it. Sidenote: I'd like to argue that I have the funniest uncles of all time. They are crazy, wild and downright hilarious. I could sit around and listen to them tell stories all. day. long.

Ok, so. Three days in DC. What to do...what to do. Bridget, my cousin/practically sister, was home from college, thankfully! We ventured to two different places over the weekend: Georgetown & the National Botanical Gardens.

Sitting atop a hill overlooking the Potomac, Georgetown definitely has a certain charm and London-esque ambience. Shops and cute little cafes line the streets, and people of all types crowd the sidewalks. Bridget and I weave in and out of the shops trying to restrain ourselves from spending our entire savings on one outfit. We decide we want to eat lunch somewhere that we cannot find anywhere else, and find ourselves at a charming little cafe called Snap. Snap is situated in a row of townhouses on a tiny, little sidestreet. Snap specializes in crepes and paninis and I, of course, need to get a crepe, while Bridget settles on a panini. Beyond the order counter and out the back door lies a quaint little brick courtyard surrounded by giant trees - the perfect place for a quiet lunch on a summer day. After gobbling up our delicious lunches, we set out to find two things: cupcakes and TOMS - both failures, may I add. Georgetown Cupcake (as seen on TLC) was jam-packed. I'm talkin "lines out the door for blocks" jam-packed. Quite the disappointment. As for the TOMS, well, let's just say everyone and their mother apparently wants grey TOMS in a size 8.5. Although unsuccessful, our day in Georgetown was perfectly pleasant and exactly what I needed in that moment.
National Botanical Gardens
Sunday morning, Washington DC. You'd think all would be quiet and calm...perfect for a stroll through the National Botanical Gardens. Well, I'm pretty sure everyone in the greater DC area also thought Sunday morning was the perfect opportunity to take the Metro into the city to visit the National Botanical Gardens. But, hey, whatcha gonna do? Nothin! Bridget and I, thankful for the no fee policy administered in all of the National Museums, happily tour the gardens. Let me tell ya - I've never seen anything quite like the National Botanical Gardens (NBG). The NBG is basically just a giant greenhouse sectioned off into different regions of the US - the jungle, the south, the desert, Hawaii, etc. - and, ok, I honestly had absolutely no idea we had that much variety of plants in this country. It's kinda crazy. Bridget and I stroll through each "room" ooo-ing and aah-ing at all the "crazy/evil/that thing's totally alive-looking" plants and comment on how we really want to have our own herb/vegetable/orchid gardens someday. (By the way, it's totally happening - that's my next project - an herb garden. I'm so excited.)
Before we head back for our final lunch with the fam, we walk the Mall just taking in the sites- the Capitol, the Washington Monument, the Smithsonian, and a totally awesome kickball tournament. DC, you will be missed!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Adventures in Minneapolis - Part II

Day 3:
I head to the conference till mid-afternoon. I learn lotsa fascinating orchestra thangs, then we decide to embark on more Minneapolis Adventures! This time, we head to Minnehaha Park (I prefer to call it Minnehahahaha Park where the hahaha is really a belly laugh - but that's just me). Minnehaha Park was just a short Light Rail ride away. The day was absolutely beautiful - sunny, and just cold enough to be comfortable in a sweater - basically, perfect! Therefore, it was destined to be a outdoors sorta day. Minnehaha Park gave me a completely new view on Minnesota. Prior to this point, I had really only seen the city - the buildings, the city parks, the river - which I loved - but I was completely blown away by the park. Minnehaha Park is home to Minnehaha Falls - where Minnehaha Creek flows into the Mississippi River. Surrounding the falls are hiking paths, playgrounds, even a little beach along the banks of the creek! I could see why it was such a hotspot. I had a hayday with my camera while there - the evening light coupled with the flowing water painted the perfect photo. It was hard to take a bad picture to be quite honest. Danny and I explored the falls and the surrounding paths, then headed to SeaSalt - a bustling little seafood eatery just outside the falls. Quite seriously, SeaSalt may have been one of my favorite restaurants I've ever been to. Not because of the fantastic food, although very tasty, but because of the ambience of the place. On a Wednesday evening, all sorts of people had come out to munch on one of their many clever entrees, indulge in a beer or two, while sitting outside under the trees next to the falls listening to the live band. Danny and I sat outside also enjoying the sites and the cooler weather - and we devoured their fish tacos (and a pitcher of beer, but shh) - mmm mmm. I've got to say...Minnehahaha was the highlight of my trip, and I would recommend it for anyone traveling in the area. It's enchanting!

Day 4:
Last day of the conference! I got to hear the founder of the Geek Squad speak, which was fascinating - and so inspiring. Danny meets me for my lunch break and we head to the "town square" where food trucks have lined the street and different musicians play each hour. The day, of course, was beautiful - sunny and in the 60s. Also, can I just say - I love food trucks. I think every city should have them. I especially love the ones that serve items you can't find anywhere else. Check out the Clover Food Truck in Boston, for instance. To this day, I still crave their rosemary fries and ginger lemonade.

After the conference, I decided I would totally regret not attending a performance of one of our conference host orchestras. I get last minute tickets for us to the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. We take a bus over to St. Paul - Minneapolis' twin! Minneapolis is by far my favorite, but St. Paul definitely had a personality of it's own with it's old churches, winding streets and Europe-like squares. Danny took me to Mickeys - a famous downhome diner in a tiny trailer in the middle of the city. This place has been opened 24/7 since 1939, and has been featured on numerous channels, including the Food Network and the Travel Channel. When I heard that, I knew I'd like it. It was surprisingly quiet and they served up the tastiest burger and baked beans a gal could ask for - literally, the best baked beans I ever had! We headed to the SPCO (St. Paul Chamber Orchestra) performance, and feel wayy too underdressed, but what they gon' do? We enjoy the performance and head back to our luxurious suite at the Holiday Inn.

Some of my favorite photos from the trip....

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Days 8/9/10

Day 8 - A Bad Habit
I admit it - I have a huge weakness for Starbucks - and it's BAD. Why is it bad you ask? Well, I could save about $3 per trip to Starbucks by brewing my own coffee at home. Trust me, I've tracked my Starbucks visits over the course of a year, and cringe whenever I think of the potential savings. However, there's something about the ambience of a Starbucks that I absolutely love and I can't get enough! The music, the big comfy chairs, the interior design, the friendly baristas, the smell, ahhhh it's just so relaxing - looks like I know where I'm headed tomorrow morning.

Day 9 - Someone You Love
Sisters - can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em!

Day 10 - A Childhood Memory
Yes, everyone, I have had this teddy bear at my side since day 1 - day 1 of my life that is. The ultimate childhood memory. No way I'm getting rid of this cuddly awkward-looking bear now!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Adventures in Minneapolis

A little background before I begin...I'm in Minneapolis, MN right now for a League of American Orchestras Conference. What an experience! I've learned an incredible amount, and have met incredible people - definitely worth the time & money it took to get here. While I have been learning and interacting and networking, I've also taken the time to be a tourist in the "Land of Lakes" - and have been pleasantly surprised.

I blame my less-than-positive outlook with Minnesota on my unfamiliarity with the whole midwest area. I had absolutely no idea the types of people who lived here, the climate, the geography, nothing! But, I made it a point to be completely open to new things, people, and activities on this trip. And I've had the best experience!

I brought Danny along as my travel buddy - he would sleep while I worked at the conference, and then when I was done we would explore the city and surrounding areas. He also acted as my temporary travel agent, researching the best places to visit, how to get there, and how much it would cost us. Quite the resource.

Here's a recap of our trip thus far:

Day 1:
After waking up early, we head to the airport. Despite two strong opinions that my bag couldn't possibly be over 50 lbs, my suitcase weighs in at a whopping 54 lbs. I embarrasingly unpack 5lbs in front of my fellow AirTran Passengers. Danny dies of embarrassment. Off to security we go. I got x-rayed for the first time. Awkward. Finally, we hop on our flight to Minneapolis, with two stops: Atlanta & Milwaukee. Arrive in Minnesota. Travel from airport to hotel downtown made surprisingly easy with the Light Rail.

Arrive at our luxurious Holiday Inn Express. Immediately, head down to the streets. We explore and are determined to find a "only-in-MN" restaurant for dinner. We settle on The Local, an Irish Pub on Nicollet Mall - the main shopping/dining hub of Minneapolis. And, yeah I know, not very Minnesota - but it looked exactly like a pub in Ireland and it was relatively cheap, and...well...let's be honest...who doesn't love a good pint at the end of a long, tiring day! Danny and I have hearty dinners, and even try their infamous drink, 2 Gingers. Tasty little meal. Next, we head down to the Mississippi. At this point, it's dusk, but still about 96 degrees. I forgot to mention earlier - Minnesota was under excessive heat warnings the first two days we were here. Talk about unlucky. Here I was, hoping for cool weather, and ended up coming to hotter weather! Ok, back to the Mississippi. We walk along river. Ooo and aah at the bridges, the old mill and the falls. Finally, exhausted, we head back to the hotel and pass out. Great first day!

Day 2:
I'm in the LAO Conference till 4PM - but, thankfully, the sun doesn't set in MN till 10PM or so, leaving lots of time for being a tourist and exploring. Danny and I decide to rent bikes to travel around the city. Minneapolis has this great program called Nice Ride, which allows riders to use a bike for free for a half hour, after which they are charged $5 for 24 hours. Thankfully, it took Danny and I less than a half hour to get to our destinations, making our travel cost $0. (Although, I may consider sweating to death and getting a sunburn a personal cost, but whatever.) First, we head to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. As you'll see in one of my previous posts, they had incredibly unique scultures all nestled within European-like giant shrubbed walls. The giant Spoonbridge & Cherry is one of Minneapolis' most famous landmarks. After photographing and exploring the grounds, we headed to Loring Park - the so-called "Central Park" of Minneapolis. Although this was nothing compared to the actual Central Park, or even the Boston Commons, Loring Park had a unique charm of its own. With Canadian geese frolicking freely, and a tiny river running through the center, this park would be the perfect place to spend an afternoon when it is NOT 97 degrees.

Danny and I decide to take our Nice Ride bikes down to the riverfront. We cross the river over to St. Anthony Main. We walk along paths on the banks of the river, and cross the Stone Arch Bridge - yet another landmark of Minneapolis. Finally, we end our evening at Pracna, the oldest restaurant on the oldest street in Minneapolis! After filling up on American favorites and Grain Belt Beer (hey, when in rome, right?), Danny and I grab our bikes and head home....exhausted!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Days 6/7

Day 6: From a Low Angle
This picture was taken in a sculpture garden in Minneapolis - as soon as I saw it, I knew I had to use it as the subject for my "low angle" shot!

Day 7 - Fruit

Ok, so it's not real fruit, but so what!
Spoonbridge & Cherry, Minneapolis, MN

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Day 3 - Clouds / Day 4 - Something Green

Clouds: I've waited patiently for 2 days for these Florida clouds to do something interesting, and they've let me down. No thunderclouds, no cool sunsets, nuthin'!

Day 3:

Something Green: I love this day's theme. I'm such a sucker for macro photography and seeing the beauty in the simplicity of a blade of grass or in the petal of a flower. This one was fun with the bright orange spores against the green background. Purty cool!

Day 4:
I couldn't pick. Which one's your favorite?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Day 2 - What You Wore Today

This is hard! Surprise surprise. I can see why they call this the 30 Day Photo Challenge. Today's (or yesterday's if we are being particular) theme was "What You Wore Today". Thankfully, I'm wearing my purple sneaks today - the perfect photo object. Obviously, I did not take this photo - that would have taken some serious flexibility. Although, I did direct my younger sister on where to shoot and how to shoot. My days this week have been jam packed, so I haven't been able to dedicate the time I'd like to for this project. Hopefully, I'll start to have a little more time to really think these shots through!

Day 3 is next - Clouds! I'm hoping some thunder clouds roll in from over the Everglades. Those suckers are the coolest.

Day 1: Self Portrait

I've come to the conclusion that self-portraits are one of the most awkward pictures to take - at least for me. Not only do I hate sitting there taking "myspace-like" shots of myself, I hate the major creativity that's required for a shot like this. Everyone knows you can't just hold a camera up in front of your face and shoot. Come on, people. So - for my first attempt - this will have to do. As you can see, at the end of the month, we have one more opportunity for a self-portrait. Hopefully by then, the creative juices will be flowing a little more freely and I'll have a better shot!

PS - I know, I know. It's June 2nd - aka - DAY TWO. I've had a heck of a past 48 hours, so I promise, from here on out, I'll stay on top of this challenge! Please, keep me in check!