Things I Bought That I Love

I’ve bought a few things lately that I’ve been really jazzed about, so obviously the only (right) thing to do is share it with the internet.

Ice Cream

This Market Pantry Peanut Butter Fudge ice cream is just phenomenal.  I found it during a late night shopping spree and it is a dead-ringer for Kemps’ Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge Revel.  As you all know, that is my favorite ice cream of all time.

It’s also one that Kemps does not sell as retail so this was an amazing (and extremely cheap!) discovery.  Otherwise, my usual go-to spot for it is the Yellow House Up North at the Cabin.  I think we  can all agree that in the most general of terms, that is NOT a convenient location 99% of the time.

I also had to buy my first CD in probably 10 years because OMG Taylor Swift.  Becky brought her copy over on Tuesday for girls’ night and we had a listening party like every other group of lady friends in America.  And then I had to go out and get my own.  If you sourced it at Target, you got a set of Taylor Polaroids.

Taylor Swift

Or as we dubbed them, Trading Cards.  I DIE.  We have finally arrived.  This also means that I used my car’s CD player for the first time ever.  When I popped the disc in, it made a grinding sound for probably a good three minutes and I thought that would be the end of all of us.  And yet, there was sound at last.

Finally, (the post office sent it to the wrong office for routing) I got this vest from the J.Crew Factory.

Vest

When I was on an adventure to the apple orchard with some girlfriends a few weeks ago, I spied more than a few people wearing it and I knew it was a must have.  It’s a slightly classier version than the one I owned in 6th grade.  Does anyone else remember Old Navy Tech Vests?  Because I do.  I didn’t own one, mine was a JC Penney Knock Off, but there is a 100% chance that I wore it for school pictures.  I think that my middle school self would be very proud that we have come full circle and that I still chose blue.

Have you bought anything lately that you have just loved?

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New Orleans: The Eats

The food heritage of New Orleans and the American South is just incredible.  I knew that the only real issue we would encounter on this trip was the painful reality that we have one stomach each.  Sadly, this is an issue we have encountered repeatedly throughout our travels.

Our food itinerary was pretty much fueled by family and friend recommendations.  It is always so fun to hear what people have loved (and despised) and what they wish they could chow down on just one more time.

Cafe Du Monde

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We (obviously) were going to eat beignets because who doesn’t want to eat pillowy bites of powdered sugar-covered joy?  Prior to this trip, the only time I have eaten beignets is when Michael and I made them from a box mix that Mom brought home as a souvenir from her trip.  It was a filthy undertaking and they were delicious that time as well.

Cochon

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I don’t want to say that Billy was a significant contributor to the food portion of our trip, but he was a significant contributor to the food portion of our trip.  He did not make it to Cochon on his trip to New Orleans and cited it as his largest regret, so I knew we had to go.  It is a popular spot (a number of walk-ins were still waiting to be seated at 9:00 PM on a Wednesday night) so you need to make reservations ahead of time.  It’s also a more expensive meal, so we planned this as a part of our big night out.  I would do it again in a heartbeat!  The food was truly phenomenal.

Wood Fired Oysters with Chili Garlic Butter

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Roasted Gulf Shrimp with Artichokes and Mushrooms

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Smoked Pork Ribs with Watermelon Pickle

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Caraway Sausage with Celery Root Mash & Caramelized Onions

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Macaroni & Cheese Casserole

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Creamy Grits

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Smothered Greens

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Tableau

This restaurant is right off of Jackson Square, really.  While you’re waiting for a table, know that there is a spectacular chandelier store just up the block and around the corner that you should take the time to wander through.  With that in mind, the food was great and the service was terrible.  We could also subtitle this meal: The One Where Everything Looked Sort Of The Same But Different.

Truffled Crab Fingers

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Turtle Soup

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Seafood Gumbo

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Creole Courtbouillon

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Cajun Mike’s Pub and Grub

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Billy to me: You are going to walk past this place and wonder, should I be here?  His observation was not incorrect.  This is absolutely a hole-in-the-wall dive bar that we never would have thought twice about!  The food was so cheap and so incredibly good, plus the low-key atmosphere was a nice break from the rest of the city.  Just how good was it?  We stopped for lunch on Wednesday and dinner on Thursday.  You must (must!) visit this place if you are in the city.

We had the Cochon du Lait sandwich.  Twice.

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The Fried Shrimp basket.  Twice.

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And Crab Claws.  Once.

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Willie Mae’s Scotch House

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Allegedly this is the best fried chicken in America.  I would have to say it is.  This restaurant is in the Treme neighborhood so we did take taxis to and from.  This seems to be the way that most all of the out-of-towners manage to make it over here.

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We both ordered the fried chicken.  Marcus chose the red beans and rice as a side.  I went with the butter beans at the advice of our server.  I also grabbed a corn muffin because it just seemed to “go” with the meal.

J’s Seafood Dock

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This spot is located in the French Market which is a great outdoor market in the French Quarter.  Half of the market is dedicated to vendors selling crafts and local items, the other half is dedicated to food stalls with local dishes and fresh seafood.

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This was my first stop in the city and I was so excited to sit down in the 75 degree weather and tuck-in to this basket of fried oysters.

I would have to say that based on the evidence presented, this trip was a successful one, feasting-wise.  We got to eat fancy things and not-so-fancy things.  Inside and outside.  And most certainly some things that we could not easily find up North!

New Orleans: The Things

Oh New Orleans, where to begin?

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The architecture and row houses really are something.  The entire city is sort of like a postcard.  Besides the parts where you should not walk or Canal Street.  Canal Street 100% does not look like a post card.

But we did the basics.  Like sitting on a balcony in the French Quarter.

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Walking through Jackson Square.  A lot.

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Wandering down the Mississippi River.

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I feel like Minnesotans have a real thing for the Mississippi River. Probably because we’ve all been to the headwaters.

Listening to live jazz at the Terrace while sipping Hurricanes.

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And listening to more live jazz at the Musical Legends Park while eating beignets from Cafe Beignet and enjoying mint juleps.

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Who knew this would be the year for juleps, right?

We got SO lucky weather-wise.  There was no rain, no humidity and no clouds in the sky.  It was like being transported directly back to summertime.  We loved it sick.

The Three Muses

We stopped by the Three Muses on Tuesday night because they had a great jazz band going and of all of the spots on Frenchman Street, that seemed like the place to be.  We had a few drinks, watched the bands switch in and out and all was well.  Ironically I only saw Laura’s comment after the fact, but I could not agree more with her – it is a great place to visit and enjoy the scene!

Snug Harbor

Since Marcus had some time earlier in the week, he had found out that Snug Harbor was hosting the Uptown Jazz Orchestra on Wednesday night.  Tickets/cover were $25/person and it was absolutely worth it.  The Jazz Orchestra was a big band-type arrangement with Wynton Marsalis’ brother Delfeayo Marsalis on the trombone.  Very cool.

The National World War II Museum

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This is a great museum, y’all.  They’re still adding buildings but the three I got to visit were more than enough for this trip.  They have a 45 minute 4-D movie about the war narrated by Tom Hanks (always a hit) and an interactive submarine tour I declined to participate in because WWII submarines give me the most serious case of the sads.  Marcus can corroborate this story because he saw me at the Pearl Harbor submarine memorial.

Anyway, when you aren’t watching the movie, they have an outdoor victory garden.  Insane fact: by the end of the war 40% of American produce was from victory gardens.  We probably would have starved without them.  There was also a building with four floors of viewing decks so that you can inspect war plans hung from the ceiling and a spectacular D-Day exhibit.

French Quarter Phantoms Cemetery Tour

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Marcus’ #1 request for our trip was to go on a walking tour of the cemetery.  That was a great choice because there were so many things we learned about the city, its founding and the horrors of yellow fever.  As we navigated the cemetery with our tour guide he shared stories with us about a deceased voodoo queen, Nicholas Cage’s pyramid-shaped future resting place (hand to God) and helpful information about the above-ground cemetery strategy used in the city.

Honey Island Swamp Tours

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My #1 request, on the other hand, was to go on a swamp tour!  I wanted to see the alligators.  Yes, I know we keep them in zoos, but what could be more exciting than seeing them in the wild?

A little side-perk to this tour was the fact that our drive to the Pearl River took us over Lake Pontchartrain.  It really was a sight to see.  Had we not traversed the waterway as a part of this, there is no way we would have gotten to see the lake on this trip.

We went on the morning tour and that seemed to be a wise decision because I know that speeding up and down the river and weaving in and out of swamps and bayous would have been far less fun if we were roasting in the sun.  For our efforts, we were rewarded with the sight of five tiny gators and all of them were so thrilling.

This trip certainly wasn’t as jam-packed as some of the others that we have taken.  We knew that there were things we wanted to see, but we also knew we wanted a healthy amount of time to just kick back and relax without a schedule.  Not shockingly, for two oldest children that can be really hard to do sometimes!  But I think we made it just fine.

 

 

Workshopping.

Oh man.   Happy Sunday, kittens.

I know we were on vacation this week, but there is nothing quite like being at home, right?  We had a fairly busy slate of activities on Friday and Saturday, but today, I finally had a day to relax.

In case you were wondering what I consider a relaxing day, it involves: Prepping breakfast for the week, prepping the meat for Monday night’s dinner, listening to the Sarah R. Bagley podcast with guest Brigid Schulte, cleaning the kitchen and the master bathroom, working out, writing my vacation blog posts and going out for family dinner.

So you know, pretty much the usual.

If I may be so honest, the last eight (seriously, eight) weekends have been absolutely packed full of things.  They have been packed full of wonderful, perfect adventures but as I’m sure you know, that can get to be a lot when it is back to back to back to back.  Once upon a time in August when all of this went down in the calendar, I took one look at Halloween Weekend and wrote “see no one, do nothing.”  Seriously.

So today was a glorious taste of what next weekend and the month of November could feel like.  I cannot wait.

From the department of things that are 100% First World, we got the iPhone 6 this weekend and my 2015 Whitney English Day Designer arrived.

Organizing

To discuss the iPhone first, (1) Yes I got gold, (2) now I know that I am matching one of the Kardashians in this regard, (3) none of my cat pictures transferred to my new phone from the cloud and this was tragic.  My last three phone transfers were extremely disruptive (Razr to BlackBerry Curve, BlackBerry Curve to DroidX, DroidX to iPhone 5) so this was a breeze in a lot of regards.  During my BlackBerry to Droid transition, the first phone I was issued had a faulty microphone and my phone number didn’t transfer for a week so it was basically like living back in 2000.

Enough about that.  On to fancy paper calendars.

I really liked my 2013 Erin Condren Life Planner.  I LOVED my Erin Condren Life Planner in 2013.  But the 2014 edition?  Was crap.  The day columns were noticeably smaller and more problematically, the laminate on the cover was awful.  Awful!  My planner sees the inside of my purse and my desk/our dining room table.  I would say this means that I use it regularly, but don’t expose it to untoward elements or especially heavy usage.  The corners of the laminate began peeling open within several months.  I know.  The Day Designer is sort of a beast, but I think the amount of space (page/day) will be helpful for 2015.  Also, there is this whole section in the front for strategic visioning/branding/goal setting that I am really excited to use.  I think it will be a good intention-setting tool for the new year.  You know?

I’m going to pop offline now because I’m so hoping to get to bed early tonight (fingers crossed!) but I can’t wait to share our vacation adventures/photos with y’all this week!

Friday Food Round-Up!

Well, cat is out of the bag now.  Marcus’ business travel started on Saturday and I didn’t head into New Orleans until Tuesday.  So mostly instead of cooking for myself, I went to Mom and Dad’s and we ate ribs and it was good.

Monday – Shakshuka and Honey and Harissa Farro Salad from The Smitten Kitchen

Monday

Jillian and I had a girl date on Monday night.  It was restaurant week in Minneapolis (which was a compelling idea) but since I was staring down a week of eating out, we agreed that dinner in sounded like a pleasant idea.  She proposed shakshuka (which is delicious if you haven’t tried it) and I made a salad with farro because it seemed sort of earth-y and appropriate.

Can we all agree that feta and parsley make everything prettier?

A living room update.

A month or so ago, my parents bought a rug at an estate sale.  Mom felt that it would work with the motif of our open kitchen/living area (neutral with maroon accents) so she and Dad stopped by with it on Sunday afternoon.

Since we’re not exactly interior design-heavy around these parts, It thought I would do a before and after.

So.  The before.

Before

Totally fine, but not exactly packed with visual interest.  Of course, a major part of this project was removing all of the furniture from the living room and sweeping like crazy.  Dust bunny fossilization was 100% NOT one of our aims of the project.

And of course, the after.

After

It’s much cozier, right?  I think the fact that we’ve made it five years in this home without a rug probably speaks to the fact that I do not have strong opinions about them.  With that in mind, New Rug is so soft and fluffy and 100% nicer than walking on wood floors.

70 Pounds

I’ll preface this by saying, apparently I have a lot to say lately as I seem to be on quite a streak.  We seem to all agree that my life insurance medical exam was just a little bit bizarre.  And let’s be serious.  It was.

But, besides life insurance rates, there was another good thing to come out of that visit.  Because that forced-march onto the scale showed me that I have officially lost 70 pounds from my highest weight.

Five years ago, when I started my weight loss journey and started to learn what it looked like to be healthy, this is the goal weight I targeted.  I had no idea what that would actually look like, what it would mean, or if it would even be reachable!

About 10 pounds (and two years) ago, I decided that I was at a weight I was happy with.  And by that, I mean that it was a healthy weight for my body size and I was at peace with the person in the mirror.  I was comfortably maintaining my weight, eating well, working out and being able to do all three of those things without worrying about disturbing the balance!

That doesn’t mean that the last 10 pounds came off by accident, because there are no accidents with weight loss.  It’s not that I have been trying to lose weight, but my life (not shockingly) has continued to change.

What has changed?  I haven’t run or trained for a marathon in the last 19 months.  Even though marathon training is easily one of the best things I have ever done in my life, when I marathon train, I gain weight and I gain muscle.  I would do it again in a heartbeat, but that’s just the reality.  I have (tragically) stopped drinking beer because it hasn’t been sitting well.  I’ll still go for it from time to time but it simply isn’t appealing.  I’ve continued to get better about balancing my frosting and sprinkles with my normal meals.  I finally have actual, honest-to-God hunger cues.  Crazy, right?

I remember when I was in the middle of the real, hard, work of losing weight and I would read all of these articles and stories about the person I would become.  How I would feel, what I would be able to do without worrying about all of the weight coming back, what I would actually want to do.  And here I am, living it.

This is normal.