Sunday, June 28, 2009

In the French Quarter - part 2

We spent the majority of our time walking up and down the French Quarter. It was hot hot hot, but with our water bottles handy and some smears of sunscreen, we were good. We just got used to being constantly sweaty (and a bit stinky, too).

Here we are in that yarn shop, where they offered to wind my yarn for me. It was a lot of fun to actually see a swift in action, and the lady said she's heard of woodworking patterns for making your own. I think that would make an excellent gift (*hint hint* Gabriel).

As much fun as it was to see the different architecture and eclectic assortment of shops, perhaps the best part was actually watching all of the different people. We never knew what we'd find.

Like these people who, apparently, just got married and were out for a stroll.

Or this lady. In front of the St Louis Cathedral.

Right after I snapped her picture, she looked right at me and then began walking straight at me.


Her: You know what?

Me: Just stares dumbfounded and speechless

Her: I went in for communion, and when it was my turn, the priest said "Not for you today" (she says this as if she were impersonating Gollum, while recoiling her body around the forbidden -and imagined- chalice)

Me: Wow.

Her: It must be the way I am dressed. He was totally judging me. And I didn't even take the balloon in with me (Refer to the phallic balloon above. Point taken.) How did he know I wasn't a Messenger or something?

Me: Umm... Well, I think you have to be baptized in the Catholic church to take Communion.

Her: I am. From when I was a baby. I told him and all he said was "Not for you today" (assumes Gollum impression again).

Me: Geez. I'm really sorry.

And then she walked away. At least she wasn't mad that I took her picture...

Here's the St Louis Cathedral, where, apparently, Gollum is the priest.
It was gorgeous inside.

Just in front of the cathedral is Jackson square. And bananas grow there, too.

These horse/mule-drawn carriages were all over the Quarter.

And we couldn't spend time in the French Quarter without a stop at the famous Cafe du Monde for beignets (we passed on their equally famous chicory coffee - bleh).

It seemed that everyone else made the obligatory Cafe du Monde stop at the same time as us. It was packed. While waiting in line, this dragonfly landed on the lady in front of me. It stayed there for a few minutes. She never noticed.

While we waited, Gabriel and Liam watched them making the beignets through the window.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

In the French Quarter - part 1

Being in New Orleans was like being in another place, literally. Walking down Canal Street could have been downtown San Diego (+ 30 degrees F), and the French Quarter could have been old world Europe. The streets were narrow and lined with historic buildings just brimming with ornate iron work and lush tropical plantings. Of course Bourbon Street had more than its fair share of bars, but there were also restaurants aplenty (more on that later), curio shops, antiques and junque shops, and a great little needlework shop, where I snagged 2 skeins of alpaca yarn...

Our hotel was one corner out of the Quarter, on Frenchmen Street, and was called The Frenchmen Hotel, of course. It was built in 1860 and had lots of charm, including a courtyard pool.

And like any charming hotel built in 1860, the rooms were more hobbit-sized.

And because travelers in the 1860s didn't bring along pack n' plays to put their child into the extra small closet, ours had to sleep in the shower.
But the beautiful pool more than made up for the room's diminutive size.
Liam especially thought so.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

canal street and the river front

We spent the first night (the official business trip portion) at the Clarion on Canal street. It was an old hotel complete with creaky, clangy elevators and missing a 13th floor. Liam and I stayed behind while Gabriel went off to scope his Wal-Mart, the plan being for Liam to take a nap while we waited. That absolutely did not happen. After much screaming and protesting on Liam's part, I finally relented and we walked the several blocks down into the French Quarter, where he happily snoozed on my chest.

Since Liam is used to having his own room at night, we knew he needed a little spot all his own for sleeping. So we put him in the closet.

The pack n' play barely fit, but he slept the entire night through and didn't seem too concerned waking up in such close quarters.

You have to love those continental breakfasts.

Liam sure did...

New Orleans is made for walking. And that is what we did. All over the place. Gabriel and I both ended up with blisters and sore feet, but that wasn't as bad as the temperature outside. It was in the high 90's every day, but with the humidity it felt more like 105+. We just got used to being covered in sweat.

From our hotel, it was just a quick walk down Canal Street to the Riverfront. There was music everywhere, perfect for a dancing break.

We passed Molly on the way...

The Mississippi River
Dipping our toes in...
Liam spent the entire weekend in this Mei Tai Wrap, and he never complained about it... He was content to experience each new adventure from the comfort of our arms.

we're back

For our first ever family vacation, where the destination was not the home of family or friends, we flew down to New Orleans for the weekend. (Technically, this was a business trip for Gabriel, but Liam and I tagged along. The business part only lasted about 4 hours and the rest of the trip was at our leisure. How great is that?)

We have a lot of pictures and stories to share, but first the most pressing issue: how to fly with an often-grouchy 15 month old (who also happened to be cutting in his first molars...).

Step 1.

Zip around the airport in style. We made a t-strap to attach his car seat to our rolling-suitcase, and it worked great. Liam thought it was a lot of fun, and it allowed us to have the car seat handy if there was room on the flight (which is how it worked out for 2 of the 4 total flights).

Step 2.

Allow the pacifier whenever he wants it. Translate: all the time. A few favorite toys are good to bring along, but even better are the flight safety cards and empty drink cups.

Step 3.

Keep the blanket handy at all times.

Step 4.

Snacks. Snacks. More snacks.

Step 5.
When it comes to flying, Daddy just doesn't cut it. Liam sat by me on all of the flights except our final connection from Houston on the way home. This picture was taken just before takeoff, when Liam decided to have a MAJOR meltdown. There was lots of screaming. Lots of tears. Until we were finally in flight and Liam could safely be transferred across the aisle into my arms. He instantly laid his had on my shoulder and fell asleep for the remainder of the flight.
Lessons learned.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Now all it needs is the stove...

a short break

We lost internet connection for a few days, but now it's back and we're going to be gone for a few days. Until later, here are a few pictures to tide you over:

Picking blueberries with Simone. They are too cute in their sunhats...
Seriously eating Little Bread Company goodies...

And olive-toppped fingers.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

So, this is Arkansas...

This is what Liam and I came upon behind Atwoods (the farm store) during our walk today.
It seems that the guy lives in this thing. It comes complete with a propane tank, plumbing, a dog in the front seat, and a cage of little chickens hanging off the back. What more could you ask for in life?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

some things are best left up to me...

Such as getting Liam dressed. I grew tired of changing Liam out of Gabriel's chosen outfits, which had a reputation for being unseasonable and, well, interesting. So, then I started laying coordinated and seasonably appropriate outfits out on the changing table. All he has to do is put them on Liam.
Here's what I discovered the other morning:

a rose with some bite

Liam and I picked this Peace rose from our garden.

He liked the smell, and apparently decided he needed to taste it as well.

Monday, June 8, 2009


Update: I spoke with my dad earlier today (Tuesday), and the surgery went really well. He says he is in less pain now than before the surgery, and he is only on oral pain medication. He should go home in the next day or two. He could use continued prayer for the recovery, and so can my sister Molly who will be giving him injections every day for a week to keep his blood from clotting. Thank you for all of your prayers. Really. It means a lot.

Ever since my dad had his hip replaced several years ago, he has referred to himself as Willborg. Part human. Part machine. Sometimes he says it as a joke. Other times it is with a sob and even a note of horror. You see, all things medically related have an elevated urgency with my dad. They are extra painful. Extra scary.

He was born with Legg-Calve-Perthes (a rare disease causing deformities in the ball and joint of the hip socket), and spent a good portion of his youth in leg braces like Forrest Gump. He has always lived with pain, but rather than learning to cope with the pain, he has grown to fear it.

Today he is having another surgery. This time to correct a defect in the lining of his artificial hip, which has been releasing bits of plastic that his bones have been absorbing and then rotting. It has been incredibly painful, and this surgery will be, too.

My family is going through a very difficult time right now, this surgery aside. It seems like everything is crumbling down around us, and this surgery is just the awful icing on top.

Please, pray for my dad today.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

un petit francais, c'est vrai?

Liam models a chocolate goatee well.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

trouble maker

Lately, Liam seems to be getting into anything and everything. He especially loves to push buttons on the stereo. Here, he has just turned it off. Again. Uh-Oh!


The first time I visited the farm in Iowa, Janelle served a rhubarb pie. Apparently, it was one of Gabriel's favorite desserts. Like a true Southern California girl, I had never even heard of it.

My first response: What is it?
My second response: mmm...

And so began my love affair with rhubarb.

It is generally regarded as an old-fashioned plant, probably because once a crown is planted, it grows for generations. In the spring in Iowa, it seems to sprout up everywhere. The plant itself is as much at home in an ornamental garden as the traditional vegetable plot. Celery-like stalks of reds and greens shoot up into broad leaves, reminiscent of elephant ears. Because it needs a winter's freeze to grow, it is unheard of in California. But Arkansas freezes.
When we first bought our house, I purchased several bare roots from Atwoods, the local farm store. That first spring, they popped up, but then a hot summer's drought finished them off. Last spring, we brought home a portion of an old root crown from the farm and planted it in a full-sun location. That is how it grows in Iowa. This spring it seemed to lagging, and then I overheard a vendor at the Fayetteville Farmer's market explaining how to grow rhubarb in Arkansas. Apparently, for our Southern climate, it needs to go into the shadiest part of the garden. So, my rhubarb is now settled in behind the bench-log in the pond garden. It seems happy there.

We brought home several pounds of rhubarb from the farm last week. Of course, it is already gone. Here is what I made with it:

Rhubarb Crumb Bars from the May 2009 issue of Everyday Food. Except, I made them in a spring form pan for coffee cake instead. Yummy.
The obligatory rhubarb pie. My favorite recipe comes from Baking Illustrated, which calls for 1/2 strawberries, 1/2 rhubarb. This time I substituted all rhubarb, but didn't increase the amount of sugar. It was a bit too tart. But I kind of like it that way. My favorite pie crust recipe is Martha Stewart's pate brisee. It's amazingly flaky. But how could you go wrong with 2 sticks of butter...?

Rhubarb muffins. These turned out delicious.
here is how I made them

Sometimes Vegan Rhubarb Muffins

  • 1/4 cup butter (I've also used vegetable shortening when they need to be dairy-free)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar (I use sucanat)
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (Of course, these could also be made with all-purpose flour, or a combination of the two)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk (or soymilk)
  • 2 cups sliced rhubarb
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare muffin cups as desired. No matter how well I grease a bare muffin tin, my muffins stick, so I usually use unbleached baking cups, but in a pinch I sometimes use squares of parchment paper.
  2. Cream together butter, applesauce, and sugar. I use my KitchenAid, but these could definitely be made in a bowl with a wooden spoon.
  3. Stir in remaining ingredients, just until combined. Don't overstir or they won't rise well.
  4. Spoon into muffin cups, filling 3/4 full.
  5. Bake 35 minutes, or until tops are firm. I know, that seems like a long time for muffins, but they turn out great this way. Cool slightly before serving.