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Archive for July, 2010

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!

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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!

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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!

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Friday, July 16 – Uptown Girls

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!

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We were debating what to do today, and I got a message from Lauren that she and our friend Cherie, along with Cherie’s two kids (Isabelle and Elliott) were planning a trip to the aquarium, and did we want to join them?  Absolutely!  That was actually one of the places I was thinking about going, and the kids being able to run around with each other made it a perfect idea!  (Also, it’s air-conditioned.)

We met up at the Aquarium of the Americas at 10:00, right when it opened, and bought our tickets.  It was too early to be really packed, so it was nice to be able to walk around and let the kids roam.  Holland and Isabelle made fast friends, and they were basically inseparable for the rest of the afternoon.  I think that Cherie and Lauren and I would have liked to have spent more time watching the penguins and otters and whatnot, but the kids barreled through the exhibits pretty quickly.  The place we stopped the longest was “Adventure Island,” the little playground upstairs.  They burned off some excess energy in there, and after that we were almost finished.  A quick wander through the Gulf and jellyfish exhibits, and of course a stop in the gift shop on the way out.  I’m glad Holland isn’t at the point where she wants the pricey stuff.  A sippy cup with some starfish on it makes her pretty happy (although she did try to walk out with a four-foot-long stuffed shark).

We piled into the truck and drove to the French Market for lunch and to help Cherie in her pursuit for a ring.  We went to the Magnolia Grill on Decatur, which isn’t the greatest place to eat in NOLA, but it’s good and kid-friendly.  I can’t complain about the catfish po-boy, but the “hot” sauce on the tables was anything but.  (Shameful.)  From there, it was on to the French Market to walk off lunch and do a little shopping.  The kids were getting a little overstimulated by the booths, toys, gator heads, and beads draped over all the tables, so we went to a few more quiet stores on our quest.  Once Cherie found her ring, we stopped for a drink at Envie on Decatur.  It was the most appropriate place, because we all certainly had the envie for something icy and delicious.  Holland and I shared a hazelnut iced mocha and a ridiculously big chocolate-chip cookie, half of which is still in a bag in the kitchen!

Since Holland had never ridden the ferry, we decided to hop on that after dropping Cherie and her kids off at their car.  At first, she wasn’t totally sure about the whole “boat” thing, but she gradually got interested in looking at the water.  It wasn’t until we were docking on the Westbank that she got brave enough to get close and look out at the river, but once she did, she didn’t want to get back in the truck!

She was a sleepy girl by this point, and snoozed all the way back to Oma’s house.  Good thing, because I wanted her to be in a good mood for her evening with Oma!  I had a date with Angie and Lauren at Skate Country.

I haven’t been skating in literally fifteen years, but thankfully it’s like riding a bike.  It only took a few wobbly minutes to get used to it again.  Angie’s a manager there now, which is funny because she and I used to be some of their most regular customers many, many years ago!  It was just as cheesy as I remembered, and the only things that have changed are the skates and the music.  The building’s room collapsed during Katrina, and it held a few feet of water because the walls are cinderblock.  It’s a little cleaner and more modern now, but the atmosphere is totally unchanged.  We skated till our legs were wobbly and then got back into our shoes.  A strange man flirted with us for a few minutes, and we left just in time because it was nearly impossible not to laugh.

Lauren and I stopped for a snack and drink at Chili’s, and then it was home and to bed for me!  Tomorrow I have to find something to wear to Chantal’s baby shower because, of course, I forgot to pack something cute.  Here’s hoping!

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Today got off to a great start.  Holland slept in late, which gave me a chance to exercise this morning and work off some of the absolutely delicious food I’ve been indulging in since we got here.  It’s worth a few extra crunches!

After a bowl of Cheerios, we packed a lunch and hopped in the truck.  The last time we went to City Park, it was so crowded we could barely find a place to play, so I was relieved today to find that it was peaceful and quiet.  We took a few minutes to stroll through the sculpture garden, and Holland was really excited to find a Blue Dog sculpture tucked into the oaks.  She wasn’t really thrilled by any of the others, so we were off to Storyland for something more her speed.

Again, no crowds made our playtime so much nicer.  Holland had almost free rein of everything she wanted to see because there were maybe a dozen other kids there.  We met some really nice displaced locals (they were born and raised here but live in Florida now) and had a shady snack break with them.  She coerced me into going down the big dragon slide a few times, and I realized how easy it is to forget that those things are pretty steep!  I saw that she was starting to wind down, though, so we made the mutual decision that it was definitely snowball time.

Hansen’s Sno-Bliz has been open since 1939.  It was the original snowball stand in New Orleans, run by husband and wife Ernest and Mary Hansen.  They kept shop from early summer to Labor Day every year until Katrina.  Sadly, both died shortly after the hurricane, but their granddaughter has kept the business running and keeps it faithful to her grandparents’ motto: “There are no shortcuts to quality.”  They aren’t lying.  The shaved ice comes from a machine based on the one Ernest built and creates the finest ice I’ve ever seen.  Once the syrup is on top, it becomes the perfect slushy consistency.  I had satsuma and Holland had strawberry-banana.  Both were works of art and it was (almost) a shame to eat them.  However, the 100-degree temperature demanded that we indulge.

Snacking nirvana achieved, we left the city and stopped to say hello to Oma at work on our way back to the house.  Tonight’s agenda, jambalaya with alligator sausage, and possibly a visit to Puccino’s for another iced almond latte’ (genius!).

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Sunday morning found us packing (we’re getting really good at this!) and moseying down Highway 90 to Patterson for a visit with Oma Wies and Opa.  At the risk of sounding like an overenthusiastic mom, I think Holland remembered the last visit, because when I turned onto Rizzo Street, she said “Oma Wies?  Opa?”  I was proud!

Opa was still in the process of being let loose from the hospital when we got there, so we had some nice quiet time with Oma Wies.  We ate lunch and chatted and waited as patiently as we could.  His goal was to get home before the Netherlands-Spain World Cup game started at 1:30, and by 1:00 we were crossing all the fingers we could.  Finally, at 1:27, the back door opened, and in walked Joey and Opa, ready to go in his “Dutch” shirt.  Frankie and Ethan came over around halftime, and Oma Wies gave up her recliner so she could sit on the sofa by “her man.”  (That’s a quote – how cute is that?!)  Sadly, Netherlands didn’t win, but it was a good game, complete with Opa talking trash about Spain.  We knew he was feeling better!  Oma Wies made turkey pastries for dinner, and I finally got the recipe.  I’m already plotting when to make them for the Maryland crew.  Everyone on earth should experience these things.  Holland passed out on the sleepy couch around 6:00 because she hadn’t napped and played hard all afternoon.  Around 9:30 I moved her to the bed, and that’s where she stayed until 7:30 the next morning!

Monday morning was quiet as well.  Aunt Lou came over in the morning for a little while before Oma Wies’s doctor’s appointment and she told us that hopefully Chris and Issie would be over for a visit.  We ate lunch and they took off for Morgan City while Opa took off for a nap.  Holland, of course, did not.  This whole “not sleeping during daylight hours” is getting to be a habit, I think, but I can’t fault her for not wanting to miss anything.  Sometime later, Chris and Issie did show up, and the little cousins-once-removed finally got to meet!  Much cuteness ensued while they got to know one another.  Oma Wies and Opa were both so excited to have two of their great-grandchildren over at the same time, and we’re already looking forward to having four of them together at Christmas!  Issie was full of smiles for LouLou (we think that’s what Aunt Lou’s decided to be called), and we were sad to see them go.  At least we kept both girls awake long enough for them to get good and tired!  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Holland crash that fast.

We woke up Tuesday and watched a fun movie about musical instruments from Aunt Lou while getting packed to go back to Oma’s house.  It may have been the first time ever that Holland flat-out refused to watch Elmo, which is huge.  We left after lunch and went straight to the mall to meet Lauren for an afternoon adventure!

Although the sign on the door said “No one under 18 allowed,” the gentlemen at Uptown Tattoos were kind enough to let Holland come in.  I guess it being a quiet Tuesday afternoon had a lot to do with it.  I’ve been carrying around a picture of a tulip for a while now, one to go with the fleur-de-lis on my left wrist, and decided to go and get it done today.  It was a longish wait, but Holland had a good time naming the pictures all over the walls.  “Mommy, that’s a sad baby!” (a devil baby with horns).  “Mommy, that’s a chicken!  Bok, bok, bok!!” (a rooster with a serpent tail).  “Mommy, that’s tiger!!  GRRRRR!!!” (these were actual tigers).  This went on for almost an hour and kept us pretty entertained.  Finally, the artist was ready to go.  Holland couldn’t come in the room, but she watched from the doorway and behaved herself wonderfully.  She almost got to see her mommy passed out for the first time!  (Almost.)  Fifteen minutes and lots of grimacing later, we were finished and now I have my Dutch flower to go with my NOLA one.

Back to Oma’s for dinner, then a quick trip to Babies ‘R’ Us for gifts for Chantal and Tess, and then a nightcap at Puccino’s Coffee from Lauren.  I swear Lauren slipped a shot of espresso into Holland’s chocolate milk, because for the hour we were there, she was nonstop all over the place.  She was running around, giggling, and entertaining the two gentlemen sitting near us.  She was a little rambunctious, but hopefully didn’t annoy anyone else there.  I’d hate for her to be “that kid” but at least she was laughing instead of screaming or crying.

Finally, we left because it was long past bedtime and we have a busy day planned for tomorrow…Storyland and a snowball from Hansen’s!

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