A quick post from the road

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Shamy is enjoying the great American West!  It is true, everything is bigger out here.  We have enjoyed the varied landscapes so far with many more to come. During our first two weeks we have enjoyed Colorado, Utah, Arizona and Nevada.  Next up California, Oregon and Washington. 

Here are a few quickly edited photos.  Many more to come when we return from our travels.

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The four of us on top of Pike’s Peak.

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Our very remote campsite in Colorado at Eleven Mile State Park.

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My work station on the road.  Not a bad office!

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Shamy heading through Colorado.

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Beautiful view from Dead Horse Point.

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Canyonlands National Park

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The Hoodoos of Bryce Canyon

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Our refreshing oasis down in the Grand Canyon. Time for lunch!

Looking forward to sharing more!

A few perks of self employment

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Since leaving my job three weeks ago I have noticed a few perks of becoming self-employed and working from home.  Here are just a few things I have noticed since beginning this new chapter:

1.  Each day goes so fast!  I really cannot believe the day is over so quickly.  How did I have time for a full-time job?

2.  Finally I have time available to volunteer.  I have already completed three of the four training steps to volunteer at the Indy Humane Society.  This opportunity will allow me to help exercise, water and de-stress shelter dogs as they await being selected for adoption.

Indy Humane Volunteer T-shirt

3.  Eating at home more.  This is a big one for me.  While working full-time I had lunch out everyday and I wanted to go out for dinner a lot because I was too tired to cook.  My food intake is better quality and good for me.

4.  Being more fit.  Since leaving my job I have lost a few pounds mostly in the stomach area which is great!

5.  Stress level is much lower.  This is also a big one.  Stress can take its toll on the body over time, reducing stress is a wonderful way to improve your longevity.

6.  Waking up to my own natural clock.  I have found on most days I wake up around the same time, no alarm clock needed!

7.  Flexibility to pick when I work.  Sometimes I am motivated in the mornings, other times the late afternoon.   Having the ability to choose when I work truly increases my productivity level.  I am still puzzled why our current system requires people to work 8-10 hours at a time and only have two days off a week.

8.  More time to be outdoors.  This is a big one for me.  I love to be outside either in the sun or under a shade tree.  The sounds of nature, a cool breeze and a cold beverage make for a wonderful outdoor office.

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9.  Running errands on a weekday when things are slower.  This is a big time saver.  Instead of fighting traffic and lines we simply pick a different day and time to pick up items.  This not only saves time but also our sanity :-)

10.  Having the time to enjoy the simple life.  A glass of wine, a good book, an outdoor yoga session, a bike ride to the farmers market, chatting with my life partner, son &/or friends, learning something new, or simply watching fire flies in the back yard.

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11. No more case of the Mondays. When I worked full-time inevitably on Sunday evenings I would start to dread Monday morning. Just knowing my weekend was drawing to a close would bum me out. Enter Monday morning when it seemed a string of bad things would happen setting the stage for a case of the Mondays.

12. Everyday is a Saturday! Even though I may have a photo shoot, volunteer session, or some other thing scheduled, the fact it does not last all day makes every day Saturday like.

13. Really noticing the small stuff, such as the cool breeze or the chirping of the birds or the amazing amount of fireflies in our backyard. This season I have really noticed the tiny grasshoppers before they become big ones. Nature sure is cool, especially when you have time to notice it.

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I’m sure many more perks will come to mind as I continue to adapt to my new lifestyle. So far I am thrilled with my self employment status. I truly feel so free, its amazing.

As some of you know Shane, Triston and myself have planned a month-long trip out west. At this time our trip has been pushed back to the month of July. I look forward to sharing many stories and photos from our trip.  What a trip it will be. :-)

Discovering new oceans

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As I go through this transition phase of my life I want to avoid overly neglecting this blog.  I love to blog! One of the many things I am looking forward to includes posting to this blog on a regular basis.  The blogging world has been very good to me.  Before WordPress I was addicted to FaceBook.  Back then I remember spending countless hours on Face Book and walking away with nothing, no real new knowledge.  I felt my time was wasted.  Blogging has been a completely different experience.  First, I rarely find myself spending hours on blogs but I have found after reading blogs I walk away with a sense of “I just learned something”.  Finding others who are like-minded with wonderful ideas, great writing skills and excellent photographs makes the experience all the more rich.

As a photographer I love looking at others’ work.  Each time, I find myself learning something from their photographs.  Blogging has helped me grow as a person, photographer and a writer.  It’s true the more you do something the better you become.

Having said all of this, it is with regret that I must neglect the blog over the next 2 months.  With my last day at the lab approaching, my high school son graduating, and packing/planning for our month-long trip out west, time is not on my side when it comes to blogging.  Did I mention all of the above will culminate at the end of May? Oh and throw in the Indianapolis 500 race over Memorial Day weekend (we live 1.5 miles from the track and we love going to the race) and you can see why this girl may not be able to find time to blog over the next couple of months.

I am very excited by all of the big changes coming to our lives but I will be a bit overwhelmed by the end of it all. My decision to leave Indiana University after working for the lab for 8 years has been an excellent decision and I do not regret it or anticipate regretting it.  Yes I am counting down the days, as of the end of today I have 15 working days left!

So please stay tuned and be patient, fstopmama will be back and better than ever once this transition phase is complete.  I look forward to sharing more of this adventure into the next phase of this thing called life.

 

Triston's senior prom

~My son’s senior prom and I had the honor of taking the before prom pictures today.  I could not wait to share so I opted for an unedited photo.

Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore

Up next: Trading the 9-5 for truly living, all on less money

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Yesterday I told my boss and co-workers I would be leaving the lab at the end of May, to pursue my photography business full-time!  Gasp, are you crazy?  That may be the response that comes to mind for most people.  It’s true, I am giving up my steady job working for a research lab at Indiana University and in the process taking a pay cut.  More gasps.

But wait let me explain before you respond with the million reasons I should rethink my decision.  Why am I doing this?  Simple, my time.  After spending the last 8 years trading 40 + hours of work a week for a paycheck, I have come to the conclusion there is a better way to spend my time.  I recognize I need some money to survive but I do not require very much.  So why not work less and make less in the process but do something that truly makes me come alive.

I had the opportunity over the weekend to “try out a day in the next chapter of my life”.  It was such an amazing day, I hardly felt like I was working.  It was more like, did I seriously get paid to do that?  Now I know what you must be thinking, everyday will not be like this.  There is still the hours to spend behind the computer working on edits, answering emails and various other business functions.  I am fully aware my new endeavor will not be all rainbows and sunshine. It will take hard work and effort but I already work hard and that’s for someone else.  In this case, all of my efforts will be for myself.  That in itself is a huge reward.  I am super excited about this new chapter in my life and with it the new-found freedom to take control of my life and my time.  What will I do with this extra time?  Photograph, travel more, continue on my yoga path, spend more time with family and friends, relax, hike, mountain bike, read, learn new recipes and the list goes on.

I am so grateful for this opportunity to pursue my dreams and hopefully inspire others to do the same.  This has been an incredible journey over the past three years as I have worked toward this goal, never knowing for sure how long it would take.  Of course the journey is not over but has just begun.  I look forward to sharing more with you along the way.

Welcome to Amy 3.0 (an upgrade for my life)!

Motherhood

Here is a sneak peek photo from my first maternity session I shot over the weekend.  The mom to be was simply glowing.  I will share a few shots from her session after she has had the chance to view them.

People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.

 

 

 

Dreaming of warm days in New Orleans

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As the French Quarter is in full swing enjoying Fat Tuesday, I am enjoying another winter day in Indiana.  Yes that is sarcasm dripping from the last part of that statement.  Lately I have been very busy working on big changes in my life and I realized I have not posted in over a month nor have I closed out my New Orleans posts.  What better day to close out our trip to New Orleans than on Fat Tuesday.  To all of New Orleans, we truly enjoyed the hell out of your wonderful city.  It was a trip we will never forget (well except those times we consumed too many beverages).  Love New Orleans!

Splash of blue

~Loved the brilliant blue of the lights as we walked by~

Splash of green

~Splash of green, it has been too long since I have laid eyes on beautiful green plants~

Splashes of pink

~Splashes of pink, beautiful~

New Orleans in November

Friendly Marigny neighborhood cat

~This friendly neighborhood cat greeted us everyday~

Across the river

~Try as I might I could not capture New Orleans on a sunny day from across the river.  However I did enjoy the light reflecting off St. Louis Cathedral in this photo~

 Across the river

~A rainy day across the river~

102 year old musician

~Having the opportunity to see this gentleman was a highlight of our trip.  His name is Lionel Ferbos and he is 102 years old.  He plays the trumpet and sings on Saturday nights at the Palm Court.  This was a serious treat on our trip.

Fresh calamari~Another treat, one I wish I had right now.  Fresh calamari in New Orleans!~

More splashes of color~Something else I miss, the colorful houses of New Orleans~

Why do I live in Indiana again?

Spending quality time in a New Orleans Cemetery

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As crazy as the title sounds, Shane and I did in fact spend some quality time walking through the St. Louis Cemetery #1 while on vacation in New Orleans.     The details throughout the cemetery, the contrast between tombs in pristine condition and others crumbling, and the history of the place kept us enthralled for 2 hours.  If you ever travel to the New Orleans area I highly recommend walking through one of the cemeteries.  They are truly an intriguing place to spend an afternoon.

St. Louis Cemetery #1~There are walkways throughout the cemetery allowing the visitor an up close and personal look at the tombs.~

St. Louis Cemetery #1

~Beautiful roses growing among this tombs fencing, what an interesting contrast between life and death~

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~More signs of plant life once growing in between the tomb and it’s plaque displaying those who were buried here~

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~Awaiting the next burial, unique perspective of a tomb~

St. Louis Cemetery #1~Closed forever, powerful message~

St. Louis Cemetery #1~ A few of the tombs had wine bottles, probably left behind by a family member while visiting their departed loved one(s)~

St. Louis Cemetery #1

St. Louis Cemetery #1

~In some cases the elements have taken their toll~

St. Louis Cemetery #1

~Interesting contrast of the cemetery and the New Orleans skyline in the background~

St. Louis Cemetery #1

~Another interesting contrast between a modern lock and the old iron fence around this tomb~  

St. Louis Cemetery #1

~Notice the dates and ages~

The rest of the day was spent exploring the Garden District and Oak street where we enjoyed margaritas, wine, and delicious food along the way.  Yet our time at the cemetery stood out as a highlight of this day in New Orleans.

Given our winter and the lack of photographic opportunities for me at this time in Indiana I am enjoying looking back at photos from our trip to New Orleans.

More New Orleans photographs to come.  Up next: a friendly cat, splashes of color, a ferry trip across the Mississippi, and a 102 year old musician.

 

New Orleans – We have arrived!

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Note:  We took this trip almost 2 months ago but along the way I kept notes about our time away.  What follows is an account of our trip based on notes, photographs and our memories.  Enjoy!  This is part 3 in our trip to New Orleans series.  If you missed the first post follow this link to read about our time in Memphis:  http://fstopmama.wordpress.com/2013/11/10/on-the-road-to-new-orleans/

If you missed the second post follow this link to read about “Camping on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain”: http://fstopmama.wordpress.com/2013/12/29/camping-on-the-north-shore-of-lake-pontchartrain/

New Orleans

The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Bridge was impressive to say the least. At almost 24 miles long this bridge is the longest bridge over water (continuous). After doing a little research on Google, I found this bridge had been listed by Guinness World Records as the longest bridge over water since 1969.  After the opening of Jiaozhou Bay Bridge in China in 2011, Guinness decided to create two categories for bridges over water.  The one in China being the longest over water (aggregate).  (Source:  Wikipedia)

Unfortunately, I was unable to get a shot of this impressive bridge.  With no spots to pull over and a desire to be in New Orleans, snapping a shot of the bridge was not in the cards.  After crossing the bridge we quickly found our exit and looked for what would be home for the next seven days in the heart of the Marigny district.

We found the Creole Inn with little problem, it was time to park the Miata and head on over to the French quarter for some much-needed breakfast. We stopped to check in with Charlie, the innkeeper, to make sure our car would be fine where we parked it. He was very friendly and pointed out several local places in the neighborhood to explore later.  We were told our room would be ready around three and off we went.

It was a beautiful day for a walk.  The weather was perfect, 75 and sunny.  The streets were fairly quiet, no doubt people were sleeping off hangovers from the Saint’s Sunday night game. We decided on breakfast at the French Market and it was an excellent first stop.  The Cajun potatoes were delicious.

Within the first hour Shane realized shorts were in order. I had been smart and put mine on that morning.  We stopped in Fiorella’s Cafe to grab to-go drinks for our walk back to the car.  Brook the bartender, was having a bad Monday but we managed to make her smile and lifted her spirits.  She made us excellent flavored martinis to-go.

After arriving at the car to change into shorts, we were pleasantly surprised to find our room was ready ahead of schedule.  Settled and unpacked we were back at it.  A drink at the Golden Lantern, a trip down Bourbon Street in the early afternoon, a stop in Musical Legends park for some live music, a frozen mango concoction, a hand grenade, and a hurricane at Pat O’Brien’s rounded out the first part of the day.

The Golden Lantern in the French Quarter

~The Golden Lantern ended up being our home away from home, we managed to stop in at least once a day while visiting the French Quarter~

Hand grenade on Bourbon Street

~Shane’s first New Orleans tourist drink, the hand grenade~

Waking up refreshed from a much needed nap, it was time to hit up Frenchmen Street for some local flair. We wandered into the Spotted Cat off of Frenchman. The place was packed, the drinks free-flowing, and the music bumping. Two live bands rocked the house. People continued to pour in throughout the night. We met people from all over, Australia, Switzerland, Toronto, south side of Indianapolis (small world), and locals alike. A melting pot of sorts. Turns out that evening we had the most fun we’ve had on a Monday night in a long time.  Finally at 2:30 am it was time to rest our tired eyes. Our bed slept like a dream.

The Spotted Cat Music club on Frenchman Street

~The Spotted Cat during the day, my camera stays at home in the evening when the drinks are flowing~

Tuesday morning arrived and we already felt like the place fit us like a glove. We were already discussing ways to make the move down.  After a delicious breakfast at the Ruby Slipper it was time for a stroll through the Quarter.  We wandered into an Irish pub for beers and contemplated our next move, finding a barber shop for Shane.  Normally he shaves his own head but in this case he had let the hair grow too much, a barber shop was needed.

The Ruby Slipper, French Quarter

~Delicious local breakfast spot~

Beer flight

~Beer flight at the Irish pub.  Abita beer is brewed locally about 30 miles north of New Orleans~

Shane post barber shop

~Shane showing off his newly shaved head~

After relaxing and by relaxing I mean taking a nap, we headed out for dinner. I found this place called Adolfo’s after doing some searching online.  What a find! Adolfo’s was a tiny hole in the wall upstairs restaurant, with a cozy feel and some of the most delicious food I’ve ever had. We got there early and it was a good thing, the place soon had a line down the stairs. During our dinner people around us were sharing their food saying “you have got to taste this”. What a fantastic dining experience at a very reasonable price, averaging $15 a dish.  By this time I had fallen completely in love with the atmosphere of New Orleans.

Adolfo's sign

~Adolfo’s on Frenchmen Street, worth the wait~

For New Orleans, the evening had turned cold but we found a cozy, open air courtyard, Mojito bar with live music for after dinner drinks. Saddling up to the bar was surprisingly warm. On stage the oldest musician was 22, the other two were 16 and 17, incredible to see such young talent playing and after they were headed to another gig.

After having such a great time the night before we had to make our last stop of the evening, the Spotted Cat.  Another wonderful night of live New Orleans style music. Again we met lots of new people and added to the list of countries, Russia and Austria.

The Spotted Cat

~The Spotted Cat on Frenchmen Street, by day~

On Wednesday our intention was to make it over to the warehouse district but a quick stop into the Golden Lantern turned into meeting more new people and enjoying several beverages.  The day quickly melted away with stops in Flanigan’s Pub, Sneaky Pete’s, back to the Golden Lantern for trivia, The Maison, and ended with the Blue Nile night club where the music and the energy of the place was electrifying.

The Golden Lantern

Don

~Don, one of many people we met at the Golden Lantern, he had some fantastic New Orleans stories to tell us.  It also so happens he was originally from Goshen, Indiana, just down the road from where Shane grew up~

Our first three days were a whirlwind of fun, relaxation, live music, many drinks, great food, meeting lots of new people and many photographic opportunities. What would the rest of the week hold for us?

Stay tuned to find out!

A few more photos from our first few days in New Orleans:

Street musicians in the French Quarter

~A common scene in New Orleans, musicians playing in the streets of the French Quarter~

Solo musician in the French Quarter

Happy Hour in the French Quarter~Morning happy hour, this place is awesome!~

Breakfast mimosa~Mimosa at the Ruby Slipper.  I could not pass up this delicious drink with breakfast.  You know what they say “When in Rome”~

Jackson Square

~Saint Louis Cathedral overlooking Jackson Square~

Horse in Jackson Square~Another familiar sight in the French Quarter~

Canal Street at Night~A night shot down Canal Street, while waiting for the street car.  Did I mention we did not move the Miata the entire week?  Walking and street cars were the preferred mode of transportation~

Up next:  Quality time spent in the cemetery!

Camping on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain

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Note:  We took this trip about a month ago but along the way I kept notes about our time away.  What follows is an account of our trip based on notes, photographs and our memories.  Enjoy!  This is part 2 in our trip to New Orleans series.  If you missed the first post follow this link to read about our time in Memphis:  http://fstopmama.wordpress.com/2013/11/10/on-the-road-to-new-orleans/

A five-hour drive landed us on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain. We were within an hour of New Orleans, close enough to find a restaurant with all the delicious seafood New Orleans is known for. Shane ordered his first bowl of gumbo and a side of oysters. The Crabby Shack in Madisonville was proving to be an excellent first stop in Louisiana. After dinner we wanted to catch some football. After asking around we found a perfect place to enjoy a few beers and watch the New Orleans Saints beat the Dallas Cowboys! All of the locals at Hooked Up were so friendly and helpful. We left with list of places to go in the French Quarter and many well wishes on our trip. The whole bar was excited for us!

That evening  we tent camped under the stars at Fairview-Riverside State Park.   The excitement must have overwhelmed us because we were awake by 8 am. Keep in mind both of us are night owls and not early birds.  After a few morning photos and camp tear down it was time to make the last hour trek.  It was finally time to cross the 25 mile bridge, connecting the north and south shore. We would be in New Orleans within the hour!

A sampling of some the photos I took at the state park.  My camera did not accompany us to dinner or the bar after.  I do not trust myself with my equipment after a few beers:-)

Fairview-Riverside SP~The first sign to greet us near our campsite~

Fairview-Riverside SP

~A swamp stroll before sunset, no alligator sightings on this stroll~

Fairview-Riverside SP

~Sunset on the Tchefuncta River~Fairview-Riverside SP

Fairview-Riverside SP

Fairview-Riverside SP

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~Morning photo walk~

Fairview-Riverside SP

~Impressive root system for this old cypress tree~

November 11, 2013_untitled_072~This is attached to that root system~

Fairview-Riverside SP~Almost looks human with long tresses of hair~

Fairview-Riverside SP

~Spanish moss, an epiphyte, hangs from the many cypress trees in the park~Fairview-Riverside SP~Nature’s veil~

Fairview-Riverside SP~A close up of the Spanish Moss that adorns the trees here~

Fairview-Riverside SP~A beautiful November day overlooking the Tchefuncta River~

Next post:  New Orleans fun!

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year!

On the road to New Orleans

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Note:  We took this trip about a month ago but along the way I kept notes about our time away.  What follows is an account of our trip based on notes, photographs and our memories.  Enjoy!Memphis

After working a half day my excitement over our trip could not be contained!  Friday afternoon we made final preparations, loaded the last few items into the Miata and headed out.  A quick bite for lunch and vacation had officially started.  The drive ahead of us was not exciting but our stop for the night would be.  We were New Orleans bound via Memphis!

After a long 7 hour trek we finally arrived at our halfway point, Memphis, our primer for New Orleans.  After sitting in a car most of the evening it was time to hit Beale street for some live music and drinks.  We were both tired from the drive and the lack of sleep the night before.  A couple of drinks and a few shots successfully drove away the sleepy train.  Live music and free-flowing drinks at the Rum Boogie Cafe put smiles on our faces.  After they closed down we wandered across the street to Silky O’Sullivans.  Instantly we felt like the oldest people in the bar but we didn’t mind.  We made friends with the bartenders quickly.  We were a breath of fresh air after a night of serving young drunk college kids.  By now we had hit our stride.  One more stop for the night, the Jerry Lee Lewis bar.  Here karaoke overtook Shane and away he went belting out a tune, of which I cannot recall.  We finally stumbled to the hotel at 4am and slept away the night’s fun.

The next day our intention was to head south and find a spot to camp, but alas Memphis pulled us back in.  One drink at Silky O’Sullivans turned into a few more and it was decided, we would stay another night.

Drinks at Silky O'Sullivans

~The drinks that sucked us in~

Live Music abounds in Memphis

~Live music is easy to find in Memphis~

Irish Diving Goats at Silky O'Sullivans

~Notice the sign~
November 09, 2013_untitled_023~Yes there really are goats at Silky O’Sulllivans, one of the resident goats~

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We continued our liquid diet throughout the afternoon and feed our belly’s at a little hole in the wall place called the Chunky Monkey. 

Our dinner spot

~Our dining spot~

The food was delicious and the people super nice.  After a day of drinking and trying to recover from the night before it was a short-lived night on Beale street.  A comfortable bed awaited and sleep overtook us quickly.

Sunday we awoke refreshed and ready to hit the road.  It was time to make the last half of the trip to New Orleans!  Memphis had treated us well but our reserved room, just outside of the French Quarter, awaited us on Monday.

More photos from our time in Memphis:

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~At one time this was probably a happening place, now it looks like it’s in the process of being torn down~Shane on Beale Street

~Shane on Beale Street~Me enjoying my natural state of being

~Me, in my natural state~Downtown Memphis

~Downtown Memphis on Sunday~November 10, 2013_untitled_038

November 09, 2013_untitled_002The remains of an urban tree.

Next post:  Camping on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain!

Laissez les bons temps rouler! New Orleans in two weeks!

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In two weeks Shane and I are headed to the awesome city of New Orleans!

About 2 and half years ago I traveled to New Orleans for a work conference.  In addition to the conference I found time to turn my down time into a mini vacation. There was so much to see and I attempted to explore as much as possible, all the while vowing to come back on my own time and bring Shane with.  He loves live music and this city delivers on that and many fronts!

Now just two weeks away from our much-anticipated trip, I decided to sift through my photos from my previous visit.  After looking back through them I was instantly reminded of the fun, delicious food, live music, cocktails and warm days spent walking the French Quarter.  I cannot wait to explore New Orleans again but this time with my favorite travel companion!  Stay tuned for photos from this upcoming trip but for now here are a few shots from trip #1:

New Orleans 5/2011 DSC_5297

Jackson Square in black and white
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This made me stop and laugh, had to grab a shot of this sign.DSC_5357 DSC_5510

Saint Louis Cemetery Number One
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Love the festive look of this home’s front porch, located in the Garden District
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At the end of one of my evenings out and about in the French Quarter.  

“Let the Good Times Roll”

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