I eat. I drive. I write. I check out cute guys. I’m a single woman traveling — and living — solo. It occurred to me there are a million “mommy blogs,” but very few blogs for single women who aren’t sitting at home waiting for Prince Charming or watching their biological clock. Consider this the “non-mommy” blog. Think Anthony Bourdain meets Bridget Jones.  

Hello stranger…

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It’s been a long time.

There’s a huge gap between posts in here, and there are a lot of reasons for that. Primarily, this is set up as a travel blog, so I suppose my thinking has been if I can’t travel, there’s not much to blog about, right?

There’s been no opportunity to travel because of the extreme poverty I’ve gone through transitioning from a nursing career to freelance writing and work at home. I’m approaching almost two years of being (almost) nursing free and to say the road has been rocky is quite an understatement. I’ve gone through a couple of moves and find myself in Lexington, Kentucky, which has been an incredible surprise, in a good way.

I did briefly do some private duty nursing which is what brought me here, but as soon as I moved into my apartment, my private duty case ended. So I found myself in yet another new city struggling to make ends meet, even in my cheap apartment. There’s been no money for any kind of travel or hardly even eating out, which makes it kinda hard to work on a travel and foodie blog.

But in looking at the greater scheme of things, I’m coming to realize that travel is not simply moving from one place to another geographically. I’ve been on another kind of journey which is far more important than a weekend trip to the mountains or the ocean.

I’ve been on a quest to rediscover my true path of life and what it is that will make me happy. To get healthy again. To see if an old cynic like me can rediscover some sort of spiritual base, even if I’m no fan of organized religion.

In other words, midlife crisis is in full swing.

So even though my life is sorting itself out and I’m about to start making some trips again to write about travel proper, you can expect to see periodic blogs about the big picture. You know what I mean.

Plus those journeys are the kind that don’t require a lot of fancy photography, because on top of the insane bad luck I’ve experienced for almost a year, my camera is currently semi-out of commission with a 50 mm lens stuck on it that won’t come off. Not a lot of options in the photography department with a fixed 50 mm lens stuck on.

I’ll start writing up some dream destinations and reviewing restaurants, so this blog can finally get going again while I pursue… whatever it is I figure out I want in life. They say that all who wander are not lost, but I have to confess I’ve been more lost than wandering for the last year.

You probably know what I’m talking about.

So here we go again trying to relaunch what is really my favorite blog that sort of encompasses all the things I love. This is by far the most personal blog I write. I realize nobody’s reading this as nobody’s reading the blog right now, but if there’s anything I’ve learned after a year of writing professionally, sometimes you just have to sit down and write that shit out. In fact, that’s the only way to do it, and write your way through it.

Pork and (vanilla) beans: Sonic’s peanut butter and bacon shake

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Note how non-nonchalantly Dexter sits near that Sonic milkshake, pretending he doesn’t see that dreamy, creamy, milky goodness. And hoping mother will buy his act and walk away… just give him a few seconds.

Don’t do it kitty. Don’t let Sonic make a good kitty go bad.

So, anyway, when I heard that one of Sonic’s official milkshake flavors this summer is Peanut Butter and Bacon — if you don’t believe me check their sign — I had flashbacks to the Dairy Queen’s of my youth, but mixed with a healthy dose of “Chopped” or “Iron Chef America. Because as Alton Brown always tells us, (altogether now), “Everything’s better with bacon!”

I don’t know about that Alton, but let’s find out.

I have to say I was a bit disappointed in the shake. While the peanut butter came through loud and clear, the bacon… not so much. Except for a few crunchy chunks at the bottom, I didn’t really taste it at all. But maybe the Sonic workers went easy on it, as they seemed to think I had lost my damn mind ordering that thing.

The bacon didn’t make it better, but it didn’t make it worse, either. And I know at least one taste-tester who definitely gave it his stamp of approval, proclaiming it “Whisker lickin’ good!”

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whiskerlickin

O’Brien’s Pub and Grill: Ouray, Colorado

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Shepherd’s Pie, anyone? O’Brien’s Pub serves it up with some healthy veggies and salad if you like.

I love casual bars and dining, and especially a good Irish pub. Fortunately, I don’t seem to be alone, so you can find them in even remote places, like Ouray, Colorado. In this case, O’Brien’s Pub and Grill, right on the main drag in Ouray, with lots of wood, mirrors and good Irish whiskey. And, of course, some good Irish eatin’.

I popped into the pub on a weekday afternoon when it wouldn’t be too busy to satisfy a craving I had for some Irish food for weeks. I had first tried to check it out during their holiday off season, when many businesses have their breaks. But today I was going to score me some traditional Irish cuisine, and after debating over the Fish and Chips, Corned Beef and Cabbage, and Bangers and Mashed, I finally decided I was going to get me some Shepherd’s Pie or die trying. (Well, maybe not DIE trying, but it sounds good, right?)

Now calories and watching ones’ waistline is generally not a high priority if you walk into an Irish pub and grill, but I was glad the side dish served with it was a salad to compensate for the ridiculous calories I was going to consume. It’s sort of like having Diet Coke with your Big Mac… it cancels out the Big Mac calories… everyone knows this. But even the Shepherd’s Pie was actually lighter than I expected. More like a stew with some potatoes on top. I’m not sure that’s traditional, but it was a refreshing surprise. Now, I’m not naive enough to think it wasn’t loaded with stuff that’s bad for me, but hey, that’s the whole point of going to a bar — doing things that are bad for you. But delightful. The lamb was tender and aromatic. In fact, it caught the attention of the bartender who confessed he has never tried it, but he thought it looked and smelled pretty tasty and liked the fact it seemed more like a soup and salad dish than a huge stuff-till-you-burst entree.

Since I was so good and had a salad with my Shepherd’s Pie, well, I had to have dessert. DUH! So I had the warm bread pudding with whiskey sauce. Oh, it was so good on a snowy day. Or any day, but especially with a chill in the air and snow on the ground.

Now, most people expect to read about the Guinness at an Irish pub. I must confess, I haven’t developed a taste for it yet, but I suspect I just had a cheap version when I tried it.  So I did not partake of the Guinness, but… I do love my Irish whiskey. Bushmill’s Irish Whiskey, to be precise. O’Brien’s takes it’s patrons on whiskey flights if they choose, where they get four different shots of whiskey to sample.  For instance, the Middleton Distillery Flight where you get one shot each of Powers Irish Whiskey, Paddy Old Irish Whiskey, Tullamore Dew and Redbreast Aged 12 Years for the bargain price of $13 at the time of this writing.

You can also opt for a Cooley Distillery Flight, or  John Jameson Flight, but my choice on this one was a no-brainer: bring on the Bushmill’s Flight, bitches! For a mere $24 I had a shot of Bushmill’s, Bushmill’s Black, Bushmill’s 16 Year Old, and Bushmill’s 21 Year Old. Now that’s good drinkin’ y’all. You can add a pint for $3.00, but I decided I wanted to remain upright and be able to sober up for the drive back to my hotel later.

This place would be deadly on an overnighter.

Check back in for more articles on Ouray, which is one of the coolest towns I’ve ever visited, and it’s nearby neighbor Ridgeway. These are real gems off the beaten path in Colorado, along with Silverton and Durango. The best of Colorado in this old girl’s opinion, and that’s saying a lot. (I still have some photos of Ouray and Ridgeway as well as one more restaurant review coming. I need to get back to cover more, as I LOVE Ouray!)

Travel in style with Rustico Leather

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I love the nostalgia of a good  leather journal, and nothing makes a classier way to preserve memories of your travels. Don’t you love the way that leather ages with use, taking on that beautiful distressed look? Well, I can’t wait to see how this beautiful leather journal from Rustico Leather looks in a few years, because it’s beautiful even now.

The Traveler Leather Journal comes in a deep, rich, brown leather with a tie closure. The cover is sturdy enough to hold its shape, but soft enough to feel good to the touch as well. And when you open it up, filled with unlined pages made from a heavy cream-colored stock, with rough edges. So if you’re one of those people who loves to sketch things, this is a great journal where you can mix sketches and words together in one package. There are beautiful patterned end papers in a teal and brown color.

Oh, that leather smell — it’s been sitting on my desk for a few days and my whole office smells of leather. Excuse me for a few moments while I take another deep inhale of premium leather.

Anyway, the journal is the star in the writers’ set I received, and is so nice I’m reluctant to write in it. It’s something I definitely want to save for a special trip.

Rustico03 Travel in style with Rustico Leather
But I also received a passport cover in a slightly warmer shade of leather, with subtle “PASSPORT” embossing on the cover.  The passport cover is machine-stitched and sturdy leather to do the job of protecting your precious documents.

The third item in my set was a sturdy leather luggage tag. The luggage tag is, well, a luggage tag, so it’s not exactly designed to set the world on fire, but this one gets the job done. It’s sturdy, although instead of leather on the backside, it’s a wool type material.

They also make some beautiful leather satchels I would love to try out some day. the designs are very simple and not girly, but I know I actually prefer that style as I’m sure many others do as well.

I am a participating Influencer at The Entertainment New Media Network. I have received free product for review to facilitate this post. I was not compensated for this review and all expressed opinions are strictly my own.

Pack your bags: Spork it over

titanium-spork

Whether you’re traveling through a tropical rainforest or to the corporate lunchroom, the spork is an all one utensil that helps you pack light but always be prepared, like a good girl or boy scout. Whether you want fancy or simple, these sporks prove  function can take on a pretty form.

Here are the features of this titanium spork, the Cadillac of sporking. Pack your bags: Spork it over

  • Titanium spoon-knife combo
  • Tough, lightweight, and long-lasting
  • Non-corrosive, non-magnetic
  • Hypoallergenic; non-toxic
  • Weighs 17 grams

Or if you want to go colorful and even downright girly, here are a few more options:

 Pack your bags: Spork it over

colorful sporks Pack your bags: Spork it over Columbia River Knife And Tool’s Eat N Tool

  • Multiple tools in one: spoon, fork, bottle opener
  • Includes three hex wrenches
  • Equipped with a carabiner for convenient transport
  • Large central hole for finger gripping and keeps tool weight down
  • Finished with a black non-stick coating

 Pack your bags: Spork it over

pink sporks Pack your bags: Spork it overLight My Fire 3-Pack Spork Little, Think Pink.

  • Designed for children, both a spoon and a fork are available
  • Weigh only .3 ounces each
  • They won’t scratch non-stick cookware and are Teflon-friendly.
  • They are manufactured from heat-resistant and BPA free Tritan and won’t melt in hot or boiling water.
  • They are extremely durable and dishwasher safe.

 Pack your bags: Spork it overblue spork Pack your bags: Spork it overSea To Summit Delta Spork With Knife

  • Ergonomically designed for comfort
  • Spreader knife incorporated into handle
  • Spoon profile to match inside curves of Delta Plate and Delta Bowls
  • Food grade Nylon 66, BPA-free
  • Dishwasher safe

The Ol’ Hitchin’ Post

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I’m currently on travel assignment in Norwood, Colorado, where I have been hanging out for four weeks till they can move me to the town where my client actually lives, about 20 miles away. The reason I am here instead of there is because they had to squeeze me in where they could between this and their other hotel during their busy season.

No, it’s not Thanksgiving yet. Nor is Halloween the big season. We’re talking something far more sacred in this neck of the woods at this time of year…. hunting season.

I’ve spent the last four weeks in Motel Man Cave, as pretty much the only female in a sea of testosterone and camouflage. And a dumpster full of beer cans and Swiss Cake Roll boxes.

They thought they were going to be able to move me today, but the current resident in what is about to be my room is staying one more night. So now I’m stuck here in Season Two of the “Motel Man Cave” series… Elk Season. Our new batch of contestants like to sit outside and smoke cigars outside my open windows, and discuss the various merits of different truck tires, and bass vs. trout vs. crappy.

Fascinating. *COUGH*

So I decided to go out to eat. Now on any given day, my options are limited to about six options. On Mondays and Tuesdays, that number goes down due to certain restaurants taking their day off between those two days. The town’s high end Lone Cone and the artsy live music venue Two Candles were both closed, so I decided to go with the Hitchin’ Post Cowboy Saloon. I’d read reviews a lot of locals hang there, but also less than kind reviews of the food.

The latter factored heavily in my decision when I saw the special was meatloaf. I love meatloaf… GOOD meatloaf, and I knew if I was really going to embrace the “adventure” of going local that was the choice. But seeing the handful of people present for dinner, and imagining it being even slower during the day, I was picturing that meatloaf sitting around stewing all day.

I went with the half pound burger.

They caution you to be patient, because they do make their burgers to order and that half pound slab takes a while. I ordered the bacon cheeseburger, and they make a very respectable burger. It has a strong flame-broiled flavor, like a super-size whopper but not dripping with mayo and ketchup. They had options of cottage cheese, soup or tater tots instead of fries, but I went with the onion rings. Your basic frozen rings, which is what I would normally expect in a small town restaurant, but was hoping for homemade due the generally very high quality of food I’ve run into in the small towns here.

But the burger and rings were certainly acceptable, but then I decided to go with dessert, as apple and cherry pie were the daily dessert special.

Saying it’s special and being special are two very different things I’m afraid. There’s no other way to describe it but bad. Certainly not homemade, with a un-browned, limp top crust. It was served room temperature and my ice cream was covered with chocolate sauce.

Huh?

As I sat there mentally critiquing it in my best Alex Guarnaschelli, try-to-be-diplomatic imitation, I found a whole new appreciation for how kind those culinary judges can be sometimes.

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The restaurant and bar is huge, and there is a nook where the waitress stand is stocked with coffee cups, steak sauce… and the most craptastic western cowboy mural in town. I’m guessing this place must be hoppin’ at breakfast time, and even though it wasn’t the best meal I’ve ever had, I definitely need to try their biscuits and gravy, one of my favs.

But if it fails like that apple pie, no more Mr. Nice Guy. I’ll channel British food writer and Iron Chef judge Simon Majumdar — that guy’s the Simon Cowell of the culinary world.

Hooray for Ridgway and Ouray, Colorado

When people think of Colorado ski country, they usually think Aspen, Vail, Telluride… all the rich folks’ places. And if you have deep pockets, those places can be great. But here are a couple of gems close to Telluride where you can stay and eat a whole lot cheaper, and mix with a bunch of laid-back everyday folks. I’m talking the small towns of Ouray (Your-ay) and Ridgway.

About 10 miles separate these two places, and they both offer a taste of how the locals in Colorado live. In general, I’ve found locals in both towns friendly, they love the great outdoors all year round, good, local beer, and good food in varieties you don’t normally see in such small towns. I mean, sushi and Thai food — very good Thai food — in a town of less than 1,000?

Get outta here!

Let’s start with that. Ridgway has a wonderful Thai and sushi restaurant that would easily hold its own in any major metro area. I’m sorry to say I have no photos of Thai Paradise’s food, because I was having one of my weird shy moments about taking photos when I dined in, and got takeout the other times I was there during my stay. (Most of the time I’m oblivious to what people think, but I have my moments.)

The restaurant is very small and quiet, and there was no way not to overhear a couple of women discussing their massage therapy classes. There is a sort of New-Agey, holistic vibe, but not in an obnoxious way like some cities I’ve been to (*COUGH*Sedona*COUGH*). They also have their own art district, which must be pretty much the whole town, and moonwalk art events during the full moon. I’m telling you, this is a very livable small town if you want to get away from it all yet keep some culture and cool things.

OurayRidgewayJan2013 015 Hooray for Ridgway and Ouray, Colorado

You’ve also got the True Grit Cafe amongst other pubs, as much of the John Wayne classic was filmed here. Other notable celebrity ties include Dennis Weaver, who made his home here and has a park named after him with hiking trails. With Telluride 39 miles away, you’re still close enough to hit the slopes there.

I didn’t much time there, with the lure of Ouray close by, but it’s definitely on my list of places to return to. And I’ll get some photos of that yummy Thai food next time, promise.

OurayRidgewayJan2013 050 Hooray for Ridgway and Ouray, Colorado

Tucked into the mountains is Ouray, dubbed the “Switzerland of America.” Ouray has less than 1,000 locals as well, but they pack a lot of fun and variety into that small number. I’ve already sung the praises of O’Brien’s Pub and Grill, and you can find plenty of local microbrews on the rooftop patio at the Ouray Brewing Company in warmer weather, or grab a swing at the bar. (Yes, the bar has swings instead of barstools.) The big claim to fame in Ouray is the sulfur-free hot springs, and you can partake in huge hot springs pool in town. (See the top photo.)

The whole area is filled with off-road 4-WD tours, hiking, mine tours, historic architecture, pubs and great restaurants, but Ouray is also known for its Ice Park, where winter visitors can scale a huge frozen waterfall of ice.

The whole Ouray/Ridgway area is so awesomely livable, it would be a serious contender for a permanent home if I could ever settle down in one place.  I can’t wait to go back in the spring to see it then, and finish touring the sights.

Blues, brews and BBQ at the Blu Pig restaurant: Moab, Utah

moab000 Blues, brews and BBQ at the Blu Pig restaurant: Moab, Utah

Moab, Utah is known for magnificent scenery and an outdoor sports culture. I was hellbent on checking out the local Arches National park, and sampling some nostalgia at the Moab Diner, but hit a small distraction on the way.

The Blu Pig.

Even cruising by on the highway entering town, the Blues, Brews and BBQ sign was about to make me slam on the brakes, because anytime you want to combine good food, alcohol and music, I’m down. Unfortunately, I had many hours to fill till they opened at 4 pm, so I did my hiking/photography thing and pulled in as the full moon was rising over the blue neon.

The restaurant is laid out with a huge table running down the middle, and the servers seemed to be preparing for a big party. Bummer – I like a nice, quiet and preferably empty setting when I’m going to geek out taking food and restaurant photos.

My waitress was friendly and very professional, and told me they do have live music Wednesday through Sunday, but on this Tuesday night I had to settle for piped in blues. Eh, I’ll take that. It beats the hell out of Nicki Minaj, Justin Bieber, or whatever top-40 douchebag du jour is on heavy rotation on the radio.

Even though I wasn’t very hungry, I opted for the three meat platter, choosing sausage, smoked turkey and pulled pork. Call me crazy, but I have yet to meet a Texas brisket I’ve liked, so I left that for another day. You also get two sides with this order, and they have a huge selection, including southern favorites like fried okra as well as more traditional sides of baked beans.

As I figured I’d be hard pressed to find anyone else offering red beans and rice in a radius of, well… several states, I went with that, and asked for a recommendation from the waitress for my second side. She recommended the coleslaw – a classic BBQ side, and a simple dish, but one so many restaurants can’t seem to get quite right.

I got my corn bread before the main meal was served, and after smothering it with butter, couldn’t resist starting in before the rest of my food arrived. It was moist and fresh, and a nice start to the big plate that came out quickly after.

Thank goodness for take home boxes.

The waitress explained each of the sauces at the table: Carolina mustard sauce, Kansas City-style and their “house” Texas BBQ sauce. The smoked turkey comes with a special BBQ sauce, as well. And the pulled pork uses the house Texas sauce, so I tried the Carolina and Kansas City-style both on a little turkey, as well as the turkey BBQ.

Much to my surprise, I liked the Carolina sauce best, perhaps because it stands out so much from more traditional sauces – I found the Texas and Kansas City somewhat similar.

The red beans and rice was a little bland, and it occurred to me afterwards it really needed the sausage mixed in with it to give it some kick, as it didn’t really seem to have any in the side dish by itself.

But the coleslaw… I swear they resurrected my mama and had her back in that kitchen making slaw. It was a creamy, fresh cabbage (not browned, old cabbage like so many restaurants serve) adding a nice contrast to the BBQ sauces.

Good tip for me, means good tip for you, Ms. Waitress.

The sausage was my favorite of the meat offerings, with good spicy flavor and nice and juicy. The turkey had just a hint of smoky flavor, but paired well with all the sauces offered.  The pulled pork was moist, tender, but a little less flavorful than some pulled pork I’ve had, but hey, we’re in Mitt Romney/Mormon country, not the deep south or Kansas City, so how high can you really set you BBQ barometer? Especially for a girl who used to live less than a quarter mile from Slo’s BBQ in Detroit.

Tasty food, good service and good music, in a beautiful town. You can’t beat that.

BBBMoab Blues, brews and BBQ at the Blu Pig restaurant: Moab, Utah

 

You can’t go home again, indeed

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I grew up in a small town in Indiana full of cornfields and with a population of about 3,000 in the county seat. I’m thankful I got to grow up in a place where you didn’t have to lock doors and could go walking alone at night, even if I did struggle with trying to blend in, weird child that I was (and weird adult that I am now.) But I don’t regret my decision to pick up and leave that town, where my options were pretty much get married and have kids, or become a waitress or bank teller, or maybe get to keep writing for the weekly newspaper on an unlivable wage.

I often think about how simple life was then and how friendly people were and have often thought of going back. Of being somewhere where I naturally belonged and knew most everyone and could just hang out at the local bar or a pig roast on weekends. But then I get a reminder of the old saying about never being able to go home again. Like I did tonight.

I had “friended” one of my old high school friends on Facebook and had even thought that if I did go back, we would have much in common, as she had traveled and lived much of her life single, although she did eventually have kids. I felt she would be the one person most likely to understand me out of anyone.

We were exchanging comments on a thread on my Facebook about a silly B movie I love and suddenly, she hits me with how she misses her “old” buddy and how I talk too much about me… on my Facebook page (you know, the site I use to promote my writing and try to make a living.)  And just posts this out of the blue when we’re talking about “Sharknado” and Sybian machines of all things:

“you seem superficial alot…I am your biggest fan…your pics fascinate me. I have traveled as well, dined exquisitely, and dreamed…however, I don’t have a bone of conceit in my body”

Blindsided is an understatement. That was about the last person from there I would have expected to make such hurtful comments, and make them publicly without provocation. And one of the few people whose words could actually be hurtful, even 30 or so years after the last time I saw her.

I don’t even know exactly what brought it on… the fact I post links to my work, this blog… I really don’t know.

“I’m a poor photographer and writer struggling to survive. I don’t think I pretend for one minute I live some charmed glamorous life — in fact, I’m trying to convey the opposite: After 20+ years of wiping asses and stressing myself to the point I’d rather put a bullet in my head than work another day as a nurse, I now do a crappy work at home job that barely pays my bills to try to get to a point I can make a living doing something I love. But my life is my own again. I’m sorry I’m not still the same person you knew in high school. I’m sorry I’m not the same passive, weak, let everyone walk all over me person I was then, but you have NO idea what I have been through the last 30 years and no right to judge me.”

Then she kept insisting I didn’t understand and she wasn’t judging me.  She was complimenting me… she loved my “spirit.” Would that be the spirit you just did your best to crush 60 seconds ago? The one you were cutting down and trying to put back in its place even as you were complimenting it?

She only remembers the girl who let everyone walk all over her, and has never met the woman I am now. She thinks of the girl who would never stick up for herself and let everyone kick her. But that girl is gone. That doesn’t mean the one who replaced her is better or worse, and if I had to pick one, probably worse, to tell you the truth. Almost certainly worse, actually.

I don’t know… maybe I am superficial or conceited, but I can’t go back to or give time to people who want to knock me down. Why does it always seem to be women who do that?

And it reminded me again of another friend of mine from high school. A guy who went to a top college and worked in New York in advertising.  After many years he moved back for a simpler life, and threw himself into the community, resurrecting the old Canoe Races event and bringing in more tourism, which is the primary economic product there.  Then I read in back issues of the paper how he was pushed off the committee for it, and he and his wife banned from even volunteering ever again for this event they had poured their heart and soul into, because of complaints from volunteers for the annual event.

The reasons cited? His arrogance. His conceit.

I guess it’s better to get it out and see it now rather than after going back so I can avoid a huge mistake. As Susan J. Matt said in The American Journal of History:

“The phrase ‘you can’t go home again’ has entered American speech to mean that once you have left your country town or provincial backwater city for a sophisticated metropolis you can’t return to the narrow confines of your previous way of life and, more generally, attempts to relive youthful memories will always fail.”

Note that last part: “Attempts to relive youthful memories will always fail.”

It’s a hard lesson to learn and remember, but I guess you really can’t go home again, indeed.

The swanky new office (and house)

The new office, complete with sleeping fur baby.

The new office, complete with sleeping fur baby.

I found a nice little (well, not so little) house in Vicksburg, built around 1898. At almost 2000 sq ft, I can afford the luxury of using the biggest and best bedroom for an office/living room, leaving the front room open for photo work if I ever get back into the swing of that again.

The furniture is courtesy of what was there and some rummaging in one of the back sheds, as my landlords also own the house next door being renovated.  And thank goodness that big TV was still there from when the landlord’s mother lived there. Sweet!

Here are a few more photos: