A Mardi Gras Trip to New Orleans

A month ago, my mom invited me to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.  She hadn’t been back for Mardi Gras since she was pregnant with me, so it only felt right that I should be there if she was going.  I said “YES!”  And so did Joey and we were beyond excited.

I think a MAJOR misconception about Mardi Gras, is that it all takes place on Bourbon Street and that you have to take your top off to get beads and while that sort of thing is happening on Bourbon, most of Mardi Gras takes place elsewhere and it’s family-friendly.  I saw so many families, with kids, having the best time together and look, we never even set foot in the French Quarter.   Let me tell you what we did instead.

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We maybe took a Spirit flight that got into Nola at 1 AM, but it was cheap so oh well!  I’m sorry for the dark and blurry picture, but let me explain.  Back in 2012, my sister and I attended our first Mardi Gras and, after taking us to a balcony party on Bourbon where we threw all the beads our hearts could desire, my Uncle went to drive us back home but we literally ran into a barricade.  He got out of the car and proceeded to move it, when a cop showed up and they had a brief argument, before she made us turn around.  Once back in the car, I reminded him that he was wearing a jester’s hat.  I requested that he wear that exact hat when he picked us up from the airport and to my SHEER DELIGHT, he did! 😛

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We slept in the next day, then headed to breakfast at Surrey’s Uptown because I could not get those Shrimp & Grits out of my head.  Happy to report they were just as good as I remembered.  Emily joined us!  Afterward, the three of us walked Magazine, stopping into a pop art gallery, Fleurty Girl and finally, the Craft Beer Cellar, where I more or less forced Joey to get a beer because he had taken like 10 work phone calls during our walk and seemed very stressed.

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It got pretty rainy that evening so we figured our Muses parade plan was done for and went to dinner at Blue Oak BBQ instead.  I thought it was so good!!!  We wanted it all so we got the “all meats, all sides” to share and man, that rib felt like changing.  By this point, the rain had cleared out, so why not head to Muses??

All the floats are ridden by women and they occasionally throw out a shoe they’ve decorated.  It’s a hot commodity and I went home with one!!!  I was so happy and so covered in glitter.  Also, there was a group of men all dressed as Freddie Mercury and seeing them all walk by, singing along to “We Will Rock You” was just too much fun.  This was Joey’s first ever Mardi Gras parade and I think it was a good introduction 🙂

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On Friday, we grabbed a quick breakfast then hit the road to run some very important errands.  First up, KING CAKE!!!  Not any King Cake, though, a Dong Phuong King Cake, specially ordered by my uncle.  I held this box on my lap and it smelled SO GOOD.  We also picked up crawfish, then the rest of the supplies at an outrageously busy Walmart.  My uncle has boiled us crawfish twice now and it is so amazing.  I feel so lucky!  This batch was seriously so good.  Spicy and flavorful and those crawfish were a real nice size.  Don’t worry, we had room for King Cake afterward.  We maybe all ate two pieces, except my mom, who ate three.  I love her!

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Saturday!  Endymion Day!  Joey and I walked over to District Donuts to grab breakfast and I ate a “taco” that was basically a baby burrito and was not mad about it.  So good!  The big parade on Saturday is Endymion and you best be prepared for it.  My uncle has access to a lot on the parade route (THANK GOD), so we showed up around noon and the place was packed already.  We walked around before and got to see bands playing on front porches, parade ladders (guys, I want one!) and all the floats lined up!  We also ate muffulettas for lunch and more on that later but it tasted really good at the time.

Endymion is just so cool!  Flo Rida was on one of the first floats and Joey caught a football he threw!  Not going to lie, the float riders were straight CHUCKING beads and frisbees and footballs and I was maybe doing more ducking than catching, but it was still fun.  I think my favorite part was my mom yelling “throw lighty things!” once the sun went down.  Don’t worry, we got some glow stick necklaces.

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We went to Bacchus on Sunday night and even though it was cold and I started to not feel very good halfway through, I think this might be my favorite parade!  Plus we managed to tag along with my uncle’s friend and neighbor Laura to the most beautiful house, with an epic view of the parade.  I didn’t mind it one bit!

This is sadly where this vacation must come to an end, because I got sick that night, my uncle got sick that night and my mom got sick that night.  I figured it was food poisoning, but the only thing we all overlapped on was that muffuletta and Joey, who didn’t get sick that night, ate the most BY FAR.  We were all bedridden the entire next day and I was still struggling when we flew home on Tuesday at 6 AM (ugh!).  I barely got off the couch, once we were back home and I don’t think I really started to feel better until Friday or Saturday.  So that’s a sad ending to an otherwise wonderful trip.

Mostly though, I want to remember (almost) everything about this trip.  I want to remember having dinner with my mom and Joey at Root Down inside DIA before our flight.  I want to remember hearing someone order a burger with extra lettuce (???) while we waited at the terminal.  I want to remember the humidity and the smell of New Orleans that hit me when I got off the plane.  I want to remember seeing that jester hat.  I want to remember standing in line at Fleurty Girl with my mom.  I want to remember looking back while we were at Muses and seeing my mom and uncle standing together.  I want to remember asking my mom to hold my parade loot and seeing her stuff it all inside her coat.  I want to remember using a light-up ring as a flashlight.  I want to remember all the arrangements my uncle made for crawfish and Endymion and how he did it all, even though he wasn’t feeling well.  I want to remember eating that King Cake.  I want to remember putting glitter on my mom and Joey’s faces and thinking how much better my sister would have been at it and missing her a lot.  I want to remember having breakfast at District Donuts, just Joey and I.  I want to remember the float with the band from Michigan rocking out at both Endymion and Bacchus.  I want to remember all the families, camping out, just enjoying themselves before the parades.  I want to remember how beautiful those floats were in the daytime.  I want to remember seeing Harry Connick Jr. visiting his dad’s house across the street (OMG!).  I want to remember being able to share this fun experience with the people I love best ♥ 

A Very Merry Christmas 2018

What does it mean if you’re sitting in your office on the morning after Christmas, thinking back on all that happened and trying not to cry over all the gifts and delicious meals and gatherings and mostly, the people who put all those things together?

I was standing in the doorway between my hallway and kitchen on Tuesday night, looking at all the presents I’d been given, our little pup asleep in his bed, Joey cleaning the last of the dishes and felt this wave of happiness and gratitude wash over me.

This holiday season felt too good to be true! ♥

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Saturday

I was about to reheat oatmeal (boring!) when Joey suggested, then made, whole grain gingerbread pancakes (not boring!).  I walked in the cold to get my nails done and we got our grocery shopping out of the way, including a trip to WF for our 22 pound turkey (!!!) but the main event was our annual holiday show with Lori.  We went to Rhein Haus first for dinner and feasted Bavarian-style on a giant pretzel and many sausages, then saw Cirque Éloize Hotel at The Buell.  I was blown away by the crazy talent of the performers and the quirkiness of the show, so the hour and a half it lasted seriously FLEW by.  What a wonderful night!

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Sunday

We packed up the turkey and a few other things and headed to my father-in-law’s, where we dry-brined the bird — she was so glittery looking and I maybe called her Lady Gobble Gobble and Joey didn’t think it was funny… — before heading up to Loveland to see my brother, sis-in-law, niece and nephew.  There were presents (Mom thought giving two kids kazoos was a good idea…), there was lunch, there were boys playing video games and football and girls drawings pictures and chatting away.  My niece braided my hair for me ♥  It was all so much fun and so so nice to see everyone for Christmas!

Back at home, I maybe made two pans of cinnamon rolls that took me until almost 11 PM and made me burn my arm on the oven rack but whatever because we also watched Love Actually and got to spend the night at home in our pajamas and that felt perfect.

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Christmas Eve!

I know I say it every year, but I really really love our Christmas Eve breakfast and a movie tradition ♥  We met up at Steuben’s for breakfast before seeing Mary Poppins Returns and look, I was fully prepared to find it just okay, but then I ended up LOVING it.  It’s technically a sequel but really, it’s a re-make because it’s a scene-for-scene copy of the original, just new takes of those scenes.  Emily Blunt as Mary Poppins flew down from the sky and I was just barely holding it together.  I think they’ve done such an amazing job capturing and re-creating what makes the original film so beloved.  Also, please don’t listen to any of the reviews, I thought the plot was fine and the music better than fine!

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Back at home, a round of presents for everyone!  We got Andi a bacon treat that he has shown zero interest in and a raccoon toy that he’s been starting to play with.  Lori got us both a bunch of wonderful things but I was really excited about this Harry Potter Sorting Hat mug that called me a Ravenclaw and though I won’t agree, I’ll take it as a compliment 🙂  We also prepped a few things for Christmas Day lunch before heading out to our Christmas Eve celebration.  Can I just take a moment to tell you Joey’s aunt Cathy had an accident at work, had surgery, is in a wheelchair and still had Christmas Eve at her house?  That is some dedication and serious family teamwork!  Soups were eaten, a new gift swap game — in which I was Rudolph and Joey was Bushy Evergreen the elf — was played and then we headed home to exchange our own gifts.

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I got Joey some snowboard/ski (he hasn’t decided which) gear that I’ve requested he also wear while shoveling snow this winter 😛  He spoiled me with too many things that I don’t deserve, including Heart coffee, a clutch that actually fits my phone and a diffuser that I’m already loving!  He’s too good to me ♥

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Christmas Part I

So this is the third year we’ve cooked the Christmas meal and it was our smoothest by far!  We pre-packed a bunch of stuff so we wouldn’t be rushing around Christmas morning (duh, why hadn’t we done that before??) plus we didn’t have to lug the turkey over to Steve’s since it was already over there brining.  What can I say except that being in the kitchen of my father-in-law’s beautiful home with Joey, a mug of coffee and a warm cinnamon roll, while White Christmas plays in the background is the best!  Joey was nervous about the bird burning since we usually cover it in foil but it turned out great and though we were worried the gravy was going to be a huge disaster, it also turned out fine.  I thought everything tasted great!

We all exchanged gifts afterward and every year, I’m impressed by all the lovely things everyone gets each other 🙂  We got to relax for a bit afterward and Joey even had time to try out the virtual reality game his cousin got for Christmas before we headed over to my parents’.

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Christmas Part II

Every year, I ask Santa to bring me a second stomach for Christmas and I guess he delivered this year because I was hungry for this prime rib meal!  We opened stockings and gifts when we got there and though I distinctly recall telling my mom NOT to buy ALL the jackets I sent her photos of, she didn’t listen.  I’ll forgive her because I love them (and her) ♥  My dad got me a super cushy yoga mat that I’m so excited to use and my sister and Wayne made our lives so much better by gifting me a mini food processor, because sometimes you need to blend a small amount of something 🙂

Lori joined us and I told Joey when we got home “I love that your mom comes over and eats with us, she’s such a good one.”  It’s true!  Forced Andi back into his elf costume one last time to take a family photo then went home and crashed into bed, feeling so lucky and loved.  I hope you all had a truly wonderful Christmas!