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A bayou drive…

On the way from my Oma’s house in Patterson to my mom’s in Avondale, my husband and I decided to take a turn off of the main highway and do some aimless cruising through some small bayou towns.  No goals, really, other than going off the beaten path and falling in love with the scenery.  I drove, trying my best to remember the old highway 90 route.  It’s been years since we’d taken it, and I inadvertently ended up taking us almost all the way back to Morgan City in a giant circle, but the detour was completely worth it.  Miles recorded the gorgeous, foggy drive with the camera, so this gallery is all his!

Saturday night at the Foundry in Denton, about a dozen of Caroline County’s talented teens came out to play, sing, and entertain.  We saw some jazzy improv, some beautiful singing with piano accompaniment, some crunchy guitar, some acoustic guitar, and it all ended in a 45-minute free-for-all open jam that sent everyone home happy.

The cost of this evening of music was only $2.  So, for $1 an hour (that’s less than a burger, kids…and better for your brain!) you can come to the next two open mic nights and see for yourself how talented some of your classmates are!  Bring yourself, bring a friend…bring two!  The next date is November 26.  See you there!

Ravens stadium was an ocean of purple and yellow (which is kind of fun because it looks like a Tigers game), but here and there were spots of black and gold worn by some proud WhoDats.

Tailgating was an exercise in staying warm, which was harder than I thought it would be.  I guess I underestimated the frostiness of the Baltimore concrete.  Thankfully, it was an early game and we were able to go to the stadium and get into the crowds and warm up a bit.  Hot chocolate with a healthy splash of brandy didn’t hurt, either.  (With a high of 34 degrees, any little warmth helps!)

I won’t recap the entire game – that’s what ESPN is for – but I will say that the highlights were Lance Moore’s gorgeous touchdown, being able to sit in the front row on the 50-yard-line on the Saints’ side for a while, and meet some awesome folks from Metairie, Pontchatoula, and Mid City.

Even though they didn’t win this one, they played hard and came back for some nice moves in the second half.  Considering the cold, being away from home, and playing a team that’s having a really good season, I think we can still safely say “Bless you, Boys!”

How do you pack Maryland into three days?  We sure tried!  Oma flew home with us to take a much-deserved break and to spend some time up north for a change of scenery.

We arrived Tuesday night after a pretty uneventful flight from NOLA.  Holland was well-behaved on the plane until it was time to get buckled up for landing.  She’s not a fan, but we got through the few minutes of fussing well enough.  We were expecting Grammy and Aunt Molly to meet us at the airport because Miles had a show, but who met us at baggage – yep!  It was such a nice surprise and was a perfect “welcome home” (along with the cooler of goodies that Grammy sent for the drive back to the house).  It was exactly what we needed before crashing for the night.

One of the first items on our “to-do” list was The Beach.  So, Wednesday morning we packed up and drove east to Ocean City.  Cheesy?  Yes.  Touristy?  Definitely.  Fun?  Absolutely.  We found a great parking spot by the foot of the Boardwalk and spent the whole morning and afternoon wandering around, eating Thrasher’s fries, feeding the leftover fries to the seagulls, people-watching, playing in the sand, and window-shopping.  It was a beautiful, breezy day, but it wasn’t super crowded, which made it even nicer.  Once we got good and sun-drunk, it was time for a late lunch at Seacrets.  It’s amazing how hungry some sunshine can make you!  Nothing beats beach food and girly tropical drinks!  By the time we left, we had just enough time to get to the house, shower, and drop Holland off with Grammy and Granddaddy so we could meet Melissa for trivia.  We lost (terribly), but had fun and learned a few new things!

The original plan for Thursday was to leave early and visit NYC, but once we talked more about it, we decided that DC would be a better option.  Much closer, not nearly as expensive, and lots of really interesting things to do!  We stopped at the coffee shop for a breakfast beverage, drove to the Metro station, and took the train to the National Mall.  We went to the Natural History museum and went through the entire downstairs in record time, thanks to Holland’s insistence.  She doesn’t fool around.  Lunch in the cafe’, and we were ready to move on.  We went to the Botanical Gardens, because Oma loves, loves, loves flowers and gardening, so it was a perfect place to explore.  I was expecting a few flowerbeds and maybe some exotic plants, but it was a huge building with room after room of gorgeous plants and flowers, and even a children’s garden where they can play with shovels and rakes and water fountains.  From there, we made a quick stop at the Air and Space museum to grab some space ice cream for Miles.  The last place we wanted to stop was the Museum of American History, mainly so Oma could see Archie Bunker’s chair and I could see Julia Child’s kitchen.  Those two things (and Kermit!!) were the best parts of that museum.  It’s nice enough, but not nearly as exciting or interesting as the others.  Holland had fun in the “Imagination Station” room, so that was good and wore her out a bit.  Back to the Metro, and off to Gordon Biersch for dinner, and home.  We were a pooped group.

Friday was our lazy day.  We did some shopping at the outlets, and came home early.  Miles cut the grass, and Olivia came over to spend the night.  We had a great dinner at Grammy and Granddaddy’s house, and came back so the girls could camp out on the living room floor with movies, popcorn, and chocolate milk.  They stayed up ridiculously late, and once we all crawled into bed, they passed out within seconds.

Saturday’s original plan was to go to IKEA and then bring Oma to the airport, but again, some reconsidering.  It would have been silly to go there and be tempted by all the cool stuff and not be able to fly it home, so we went to the Annapolis Inner Harbor for lunch instead.  It was a much better choice!  There isn’t anything more “Maryland” than the Inner Harbor and Ego Alley and the Naval Academy, and it was a really cool way for Oma to spend the last few hours here.  We had a great lunch at McGarvey’s, a gelato, and saw the Sultana and some amazing yachts.  We brought Oma to the airport and said our “See you later”s, and came home pretty exhausted, but in a good way!

Hopefully the next visit will be in the fall and be a little longer so we can finish out our list of things to do!

Sunday was the day of Chantal’s baby shower.  We woke up early and all got dressed nice and cute.  While I was putting on my makeup, apparently Holland was, too.  She brought me an eyeshadow I didn’t realize she’d taken and gotten herself all dazzled up.  She even managed to get some on her eyelids!  Good thing baby wipes work really well on makeup.

Chantal’s shower was in Baton Rouge, so we made a quick stop at Albertson’s for a king-sized bottle of Tabasco and a few other local necessities that my kitchen desperately needs.  Then it was off to Chris’s house, since she lives close to where the shower was and I’m not exactly confident driving through the suburbs of Baton Rouge.  It was one of those really awesome showers that didn’t have a million cheesy games and whatnot.  Straightforward, with good munchies, an awesome cake, and lots of frilly, pink monogrammed things for little Ryan.  We also got to meet Reid for the first time, and he is the most handsome baby I’ve ever seen.  He has the cutest little “boy” face I’ve ever seen, and he’s only a few weeks old!  Issie slept most of the time, and Holland and Bailey kept themselves occupied with the toys that belonged to the hostess’s kids.  I had a “proud mama” moment when Holland wanted to go into the dining room that was people were blocking, and she waited, said “Excuse me” in the sweetest little voice, and everyone there “Awwwwww”ed at her.

The party wrapped up around 4:30, which was perfect because I had a date with Rachel and Tammy for Rachel’s birthday at Zea.  We got to the house, unpacked the car, and off I went.  Zea is one of those places that would do really, really well in Annapolis.  Good food with a local flair, relaxing atmosphere, and they make their own microbrews!  After dinner, we still had a couple of hours before babysitters had to be relieved, so we went to Chili’s for a birthday margarita for Rachel.  We ended up sitting at the bar, laughing so hard we were hurting until Rachel started getting “Where are you?” phone calls from her son.

Monday’s mission was to go to the lake to try and get some pictures of pelicans.  There’s a spot by the foot of the Causeway Bridge that they used to hang out, and I was hoping that hadn’t changed.  To make the morning even better, Lauren asked if we wanted to grab breakfast somewhere before she had to go to work.  Hmm.  Another reason to try a new restaurant?  Of course!

We met at the City Diner in Metairie, by the Galleria.  I read a few reviews online that were all positive, and the website menu looked promising (lots of crawfish and shrimp combined with breakfast food can’t be bad!).  We each ordered the crawfish and shrimp omelet without realizing that they came with a few side items, so we had enough food for four or five people to eat breakfast.  It had the typical diner greasiness, but was still yummy.

We stumbled to the car, stuffed with food, and drove to the lakefront with crossed fingers.  We had to park illegally at a car dealer, but we knew we wouldn’t be long and it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission!  Walking up the levee with a toddler on my shoulders and carrying a heavy camera bag more than made up for the omelet, so I felt good about that.  We got to the top and sure enough, the gulls and pelicans were on their perches.  I got a few good shots and we boogied back to the car, just to be on the safe side.  We did get scolded by some construction workers who told us that the area was closed, but then they just got in their trucks and left.  I guess they weren’t too concerned.

Holland and I brought Lauren to her car so she could go to work, and then we went to Barnes & Noble for some airplane reading material.  Then it was back to the house for an unusual day of doing…nothing!

Yesterday I found some super cool vintage dresses that I didn’t get because they needed some sewing done (just minor repairs).  Of course, I had whatever you call the opposite of buyer’s remorse, so I had to go back and get them.  Mom and Holland and I piled into the truck and went back to Magazine Street in hopes that no one else had snatched them up in the meantime.  We also had plans to score a tasty dessert before going back to the house.

We went back to Buffalo Exchange, and I found all three dresses that I was looking for.  Another customer was actually holding one of them when I got to that rack, and I nearly held my breath until she put it down, because of course it was my favorite of the bunch.  Luckily, she decided that her daughter wouldn’t like it.  Holland entertained everyone in the dressing room while I showed my mom the necessary fixes, and I ended up getting all three!

We got some salads for lunch, because we knew an amazing snack was in our near future and wanted to have lots of room for it.  We parked at Whole Foods and walked about twelve blocks to The Creole Creamery on Prytania Street.  It’s a great walk, all shady oak trees and gorgeous houses.  The only drawback is the bumpy sidewalk.  Holland looked like a bobblehead a few times in the stroller!  I definitely think I’ve found my forever neighborhood, though!

The Creole Creamery is a locally-owned ice cream shop where the menu changes all the time because they make everything fresh on site.  This means that not only is the variety mind-boggling, but everything tastes amazing.  The line was longish, but not discouraging.  The only thing that takes a while is deciding on a flavor.  Thankfully, they took this into account and they offer two different sizes of sampler dishes!  We got the six mini-scoops and chose chocolate amaretto cheesecake, strawberry buttercream, black and gold crunch, red velvet cake, oatmeal raisin cookie, and summer ale with citrus and coriander.  They were all so delicious, I can’t pick a favorite.  There was a family from Lafayette next to us that ordered the “Tchopitoulas,” which is a behemoth of eight scoops with eight toppings.  Anyone that manages to eat it with no help gets their name on a wall plaque!  (Miles says this is his mission for our Christmas trip…I can’t wait!)

Once we finished our snack, it was back to the car for a few more errands to run.  We wandered back over some different streets and stayed completely impressed with the beauty and calm of the neighborhood.  There was a tense moment when we realized Bear had fallen out of the stroller and we had to backtrack a few blocks, but other than that all was well!

We went back to Oma’s house after our other stops, and I had to do a quick change to get ready to go out with Jen, Eddie, and Lauren for dinner.

There wasn’t really a “plan” for where we were eating…just somewhere “in the Quarter.”  It took a few minutes and a coin flip for us to decide on Port of Call for burgers, but when we got there it was over an hour wait.  We were all hungrier than that, so we went back toward the river into the Marigny and saw that Mona’s Cafe had an open table with our names on it.  Mona’s was the first Mediterranean restaurant in the NOLA area, and it’s easy to realize why it’s still the favorite.  The waiter was so friendly and helpful, the food was out fast and was delicious.  It’s got a really friendly atmosphere and they don’t mind if you bring your own wine!

From there, we wandered into a few small bars on Frenchman Street, then headed back into the Quarter.  Somehow we got to Bourbon Street and we were quickly reminded of how ridiculously tacky it is.  What made it even more difficult to avoid the tackiness was that none of us really cared where we went.  We just wanted “not crazy loud (me),” “no cover charge (Eddie),” and “air conditioning (Jen).”  I’ve been doing a lot of reading about some of the historical restaurants and bars in the city, and suggested going to the Carousel Lounge at the Hotel Monteleone.  Everyone was fine with this, so we left the neon glare of Bourbon and went down to Royal Street.  Once we got there, we found everything we were looking for.  It was frosty inside, with live piano music, and some lovely soft chairs just waiting for us.  The one drink I’ve read the most about is the Sazerac.  It’s supposed to be the original “cocktail,” invented by a Creole pharmacist in the 1840s.  It contains rye whiskey, sugar, bitters, and absinthe.  I soon found out that it is not for lightweights.  It took me an hour to drink mine, and it didn’t even fill a rocks glass.

Although it wasn’t easy to leave our little comfy spot, it was getting late and my little alarm clock doesn’t take days off.  We stopped at Cafe’ du Monde for some beignets to go, and we all headed for home.

Chantal’s shower and Rachel’s birthday dinner tomorrow!

Today’s agenda had one item on the list: shopping.  I wanted to hit a few of the groovy vintage and consignment shops in the Garden District to find a few fun pieces to add to my closet.  The game plan was to visit Funky Monkey and Buffalo Exchange before grabbing lunch at Whole Foods and grabbing something healthy for dinner.

We had success at both shops, but I put back a few things that I wish I’d grabbed (there’s always tomorrow to go back, though!).  I just had problems buying dresses that I’d have to put in the sewing machine before I could wear them.  However, my mom is quite the seamstress so I should probably take advantage of that while I can!

I felt a little bad for this, but I put lunch off for a while because I wanted Holland to be good and hungry.  I’m on a mission to get her off the chicken nugget train as quickly as possible.  We were going to eat at the deli at Whole Foods, because it’s practically a restaurant in itself, but on the way there I spotted a little place called Ignatius, after Ignatius J. Reilly, the main character in A Confederacy of Dunces, one of the best novels starring NOLA ever written.  Luckily, we found a close parking spot and there was an open table right up front!

I ordered the roast beef po-boy, continuing on my quest to have the best ones in the city before we leave, and I ordered red beans and rice for Holland.  The waitress brought a brown paper bag with some slices of french bread, and Holland ate almost the whole bag before our food even showed up.  She turned her attention to lunch, though, when it was brought to the table.  Our server was kind enough to put the beans in one bowl and the rice in another because I told her that Petite Rouge is a little finicky.  Holland ate every grain of rice with enthusiasm, and my po-boy was nothing short of spectacular.  The roast beef was falling apart, juicy, and served on chewy, crusty Leidenheimer french bread.  Amazing.  It wasn’t the messiest, but the flavor more than made up for it.

We still had to fetch food for dinner, so we drove up to Whole Foods and parked, but before shopping, we took a walk back down Magazine because Holland wanted some “coffee milk” (that’s my girl!) and I saw a coffee shop called Fuel that looked promising.  We walked the nine blocks and stopped to take some pictures of a few really cool Garden District homes along the way.  Sadly, though, the shop was closed.  It wasn’t a wasted trip, though, because it was a nice walk after a good meal and I got some nifty shots!  We walked back up toward the store and stopped at PJ’s instead, which is still a tasty treat.  A Southern Pecan iced mocha, chocolate milk, and a couple of cookies later, and we were off again!  Groceries were found, we hopped in the truck, and came home in time for Holland to have a lovely evening nap.

Tomorrow we’re bringing Oma to Hansen’s for another round of snowballs!