Wednesday, December 4, 2013

I'm Liking the Holidays These Days

I don't like the holidays all the time. Heartbreak, job loss, death, overall blues means that sometimes I'm a full-on scrooge.

For me, there were some happy times, some godawful sucky times. . I am trying to count blessings in my "advanced" age.

My brother and I in Rock City, Tennessee in Summer 1970. Santa had a hangover, I think.
Therefore, to all the people I care deeply about who are going through a tough time, I truly empathize with your feelings and respect your right to hate the holidays. I also will remember that, when I enter into my own dark times again as I know I will, it is important to remember that happiness and misery happen to us all and neither is permanent (with a loose reference to Proust). But to those of you sickened by the holidays, I really hope you'll still love me after this.

I whipped up this banana cake with a chocolate chip/walnut filling and topped it with a salt caramel glaze. It didn't even make it to Thanksgiving.

My daughter helped make Thanksgiving sides. My son started to help but ended up with his first roux burn. Not liking that it traumatized a kid who is already averse to most food.

My grandmother's sweet potato casserole that I think is way better than marshmallow topped yams!

This is Andy. He and his wife host Thanksgiving. A friend brings a fried turkey but their featured main is grilled teriyaki salmon that has become such a tradition I can't believe this wasn't on the menu back in the 1600s.

It's rare to get a decent photo of all four of us. This made the Holiday card.

It's so fun to just go into a bustling kitchen and get a big dinner together. 

We usually put up our tree the Friday or Saturday after Thanksgiving and somehow managed to keep to that this year. 

Let's not forget Chanukah! The same family that hosted Thanksgiving had to do it all again for even more people on Saturday for latkes and songs and candles and drinks and food, food, food. 

My kids have adopted Nathan and Matias as their cousins. Blood be damned!

Lovely pic of my husband and his sister!

Happy. Merry. All that.

Monday, October 28, 2013

My Halloween Post

I grew up on a country highway and then moved to college dorms, college apartments, apartments in DC and then San Francisco and then to Oakland. We never had Trick-or-Treaters. Well, we had one at our apartment in San Francisco and I had no candy so I gave the poor kid a freckled banana. We might have had one vanload of kids at our Oakland place. But that's about 40 years or Halloweens.

Now, I live in Trick-or-Treat mecca. I always thought it would be fun, in the same way I wanted to badly to live on a parade route during Mardi Gras when I was growing up. I thought those were the luckiest things in the world. And, now, I can tell you, it's completely insane to be in Trick-or-Treat mecca, but I LOVE it. I suck at decorating. We are just too busy and non-construction savvy to do up the yard proper. I hate dressing up (getting the kids in costume takes priority and that's ok). But I love being in the middle of it all. I love not having to go anywhere. I love walking around and being able to come back to my house for a little wine and nosh. I love seeing neighbors at the door. It's great. 

So, happy Halloween, y'all!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Drifting Down the Bayou, Part 1 (A Trip Home)

NEW ORLEANS, June 27-29, 2013

I returned recently from a really wonderful 10 days in South Louisiana with my family. My husband couldn't come so my sister-in-law subbed in. It was a wonderful combination of family, tourism, friends, urban and rural experiences.

We arrived with the night, but the next day I was just so happy to see my parents' beautiful backyard bayou view.

My parents were willing to entertain the kids for two nights while I took my sister-in-law with me to New Orleans. We spent the first night with some of my closest friends from college. She was a trooper because we literally sat at their dining room table for SEVEN hours and talked, drank wine and ate food my friend Chris brought in from a local po-boy spot. I was hoarse right out of the gate.

After the marathon session at my friends, Karen (sisinlaw) and I kicked off our 24-hour jaunt of eating and drinking. We had brunch at a great little place called Surrey's Uptown. I had cheese grits and boudin patties. Yum.

We actually lucked out with the weather while we were down, but on this day, it was really hot and humid and sitting inside in the small space was a bit tough for a native Northern Californian and an acclimated California Cajun! We survived knowing there was a pool in our future. Before heading to said hotel, we stepped into a little local artists gallery right near Surrey's and I decided to take home some S&M baby art by Nola Breeze.

Karen unloaded some of her points at the Chateau LeMoyne on Dauphine. Not a bad little spot. I recommend it. It's still a Holiday Inn, but great location that is not in the middle of the nuttiness, but not in a sketchy area either. And, it had a pool. And a bar near the pool. And very nice and helpful staff.

Before the pool, we walked to the Monteleone Carousel Bar. One of my all time favorites and a must every time I am in New Orleans. I LOVED being here on a Friday afternoon. Rotating around the bar was a mess of tourists and locals getting started on the weekend. I loved seeing a guy in a seersucker suit and bow tie. I am pretty sure he was local. I regret not sneaking a photo. He was so dapper.

The bar remodeled recently so it's not nearly as dark and dank as it used to be. And, looks like they upgraded the cocktail menu a few notches. Often this disappoints me, but the changes seem to be all positive and the martinis were BIG. They were able to upgrade without losing sight of why the place is so great. And, really, with all the dark walls, I don't think you were able to appreciate the carousel before for all it's awesomeness. The drawback for me is that it was full. We lucked out and got a seat right away. Years ago, you could walk into that bar and be the lone rider orbiting around the liquor on many an afternoon. No worries, though. There's something about drinking on a carousel that brings out the best in people, I guess.

We had reservations for dinner, but enough time in the afternoon to go hang by the pool. My cousin Kelly showed up and then my friend Karen (aka KLC, who was also joining us for dinner). Nice girlie pool time. And more cocktails. This time SisinLaw instructed the hotel bartender to make us all pineapple upside down cake cocktails. We were feeling good, but not too good right up until it was time to head to...


O. My. God.

I'm writing this weeks after this meal and I can still taste it. Unique. Casual. Great service. For me, the thing that said Cajun that only a Cajun would know was that they have cucumbers with herbed vinegar on the menu. My summer snack was a daily dose of cucumbers grown by my grandmother and walked over nearly every day until they were all gone. I'd peel them and slice them and douse them with vinegar and salt and pepper. Nothing tastes better than a home-grown cucumber. Cochon's tasted like that...with herbed vinegar that was a little more complex than my childhood spices, but so yummy. We sampled a quite a few items off the menu and the summer selections are posted on the website now so check it out.

After that, KLC took us to Frenchman Street, which has become the hipsters' Bourbon Street, I suppose. It had a cool vibe. Music and people in the streets and about five clubs with music inside. And air conditioning which ended up being our determining factor in where we wanted to pay a cover. I was quite excited when Kermit Ruffins brushed by me in a fantastic white suit.

I also really loved the night art market. We bought some cute items that were not bank-breaking. And even if we didn't buy, the market just had these cute places where you could sit down and watch the people.

We ended up at one bar but the band was so dour and pretentious, we had to walk up Bourbon Street to get the life back into us. Bourbon Street is still the same: late high school and college kids, most probably from the country or the burbs, mostly wearing either Saints or LSU clothing and there for one main purpose: to PAWWWWTEEEE, y'all. It was gross and loud and fashion backwards, but after the hipness on Frenchmen Street, very welcoming.

The next morning, I got up early and snuck out to let SISinLAW sleep in. There was a light rain and I had no umbrella, but I wanted breakfast. Walking through the Quarter in the morning is one of my favorite things and if you add a light drizzle, it was downright sublime. I ended up having breakfast at a placed called The Old Coffee Pot that's right next to Pat O'Briens (we didn't go here, but I have some fond memories of this place despite it's touristy-ness and the fact that it's a chain). The Old Coffee Pot  was featured on Diner's, Drive-Ins and Dives and got so-so reviews on Yelp. I felt good about the possibility of a decent breakfast, and I already had my foodie experience the night before. Sometimes you just need to shut off that desire to be so damned critical.

So, I had low expectations and was prepared to be in some tourist spot. It was sort of that, but sort of not. The place is pretty old with high ceilings and a nice patina'd wood bar toward the back. Just being in there, the sounds and the smells brought back fond childhood memories. The guy who seated me seemed a bit confused. I should add also that after talking with friends for seven hours the night before the last and then going out and talking MORE the previous night, my voice was shot so I was down to nearly a whisper or at best a frog-honk.

I was seated at a tall-topped table near the back. The small front section had a large table of tourists and a slightly smaller table of local gay guys (from their accents, these were NOT visiting gay guys). The wait staff all knew them by name. There was one male server. The rest were women. The women were seasoned and efficient and not shy about giving shit to the one guy who seemed very confused and the unseen kitchen staff who didn't seem to be producing at the pace the waitresses wanted.

At some point, the one guy waiter started futzing around with something that needed to be plugged in. This sent the waitress boss (I don't know if she was the boss, but she seemed to be the one who was running the show) into a frenzy. As the guy futzed with the plugs, the lights flickered on and off and all the waitresses started yelling, "don't play with that! what the hell are you doin'?" My waitress (the boss) hustled over to me to fill my coffee and said, "MEN," and shook her head. "Can't leave what they don't know alone. Always gotta be foolin with somethin." The gay guys egged them all on and there was a lot of laughing from both staff and customers. The tourists seemed to just keep to themselves.

The lights continued to flicker and they continued to give him hell while I enjoyed my grits and eggs and biscuit. YUMMMMMMM.

Then, after it seemed like the guy had given up on "foolin'" with the electrical (I should add that the drizzle had picked up a bit into a thunderstorm with lighting so the flickering lights were a bit unnerving), the boss lady heads to the front of the restaurant and suddenly breaks out into this loud, haunting gospel song. She's facing the tourists. Yes, it was for their benefit. Yes, it was hoakie and cliched, but damn, she was good and with the thunder rumbling in the back, I was ready to be raptured up, I tell you what.

Gimme a good floor show and and entertaining staff conflict and as long as I get my meal, I'm good.

SisinLaw was awake by the time I made it back. We made moves to check out and head home and walked to the Original Pierre Maspero's and had white beans and catfish and bloody marys. I love OPM, but I usually will go to the Napoleon House across the street instead. But the Napoleon House was closed. The story goes that OPM opened a year after TNH. I love the ancient building and the white beans were ok in my book.

Ready to head back to the bayou.

Stay tuned for part 2.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

And I couldn't spell "Sasquatch."

During my morning Facebook constitution a friend posted a rather dramatic photo from a "raccoon cam" of a bear. She said it was from her cousin's camera, but I'm not exactly sure. Could just be one of those things that float around the Internet that may or may not be real.

Everyone made bear comments and I made one regarding another favorite camera shy wood creature, Big Foot. I wanted to spell "Sasquatch," but it was the morning and I believe I am slowly losing the ability to spell and typed, "SasKWATCH." 

My friend who posted is also an editor and suffers from that disease where you can't stand typos and must correct them. I love my friends and many of them suffer this affliction. I used to be one of them, but now that I have this disease that is causing my loss of the ability to spell, I'm much more sympathetic to those who have suffered their entire lives. 


But, I was reminded of a favorite family rodee' when we stopped at the Big Foot Discovery Museum in Felton, California. 

Near Big Basin and on the way to Santa Cruz if you're driving down from the San Francisco Bay Area, this little shack was crammed with the best Big Foot kitsche imaginable. (How do you spell "kitsche")? And where does the ? go?

You walk in and are immediately bombarded with tabloid photos, lunch boxes, toys, and even the Beastie Boys. We paid extra for the tour and were treated to an amazing presentation on the elusive Big Foot complete with first-hand tracking accounts and recorded sounds of the creature in the wild. Our only sightings were the famous Big Foot film that everyone has seen on a continuous loop. Well worth the tour. That guy had us believing or at least pleasantly entertained. 

Our children were less than impressed.

Exploring the little town of Felton lead us to Rocky's Cafe. Great service in a rustic cabin-like place. The food was great, too.

After lunch, we let the kids run around in the big park at Felton. Lot's of open space and this fabulous covered bridge. 

So, if you're ever headed over the The Mystery Spot or the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and the weather is really crappy, head over to the Big Foot Discovery Museum until the fog burns off.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The City Cemetery, Galveston

I visited my brother and his family this past weekend. Whenever I visit there, I don't get to explore nearly as much as I want to. The Houston area holds more surprises than you'd think. 

I was there for just a long weekend and most of it was booked with significant family events (my nephew/godson's confirmation and some pre-graduation events for my niece who leaves the nest to head for college soon). 

Our intention was to go to Galveston to tour the Moody Mansion Museum. Unfortunately, there were a few SNAFUS which mean we missed out. But, having beers and sliders at great spot on the Strand was fine by us. We drove around the island a bit, but the highlight was this old graveyard blanketed with these beautiful wildflowers. (The link takes you to Yelp, which seemed to have the most info I could find).

I did a quick Google search and there really isn't much on the Internet about it. It's over 170 years old and a trip through the cemetery is a trip through Texas history. It is reported to be the final resting place for people who were around at the beginning of the Texas Republic, the Alamo, the hurricane in 1900. There are some reports of attempts to preserve it and I do hope the locals make sure this treasure does not disappear. It's one of the most beautiful cemeteries I've ever encountered. 

One part had traditionally kept grounds but most of it looked like the photo above. It was absolutely breathtaking. I wonder if that meant the graves with the cut grass were newer or if the place is in the midst of restoration. 

There were many graves with lambs and we realized we were in a section for babies and children. Very sad. In this spot was the grave of a minister who seemed to be the person to take care of these little children. Not sure if he cared for them when they were alive or if he was simply the one in charge of their burial. Many of these graves had death dates in 1900 so it's not a stretch to assume that these people died during the hurricane. But, some were after and some before so then I wonder if these bodies survived the hurricane/flood or if just the headstones remain.

My brother thought I was a bit morbid when I told him I enjoyed going to old graveyards and also reading obituaries but I told them that I just felt we owed it to the people who died before us.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

To Rodee’

What is "Rodee'" (pronounced Roe-day)?

To get in the car and wander around with no purpose is to Rodee’ in Cajun dialect. My dad would use it after Mass on a Sunday:

"Let's go rodee'." We would hop in the car and explore surrounding communities. Sometimes we'd just ride through the rich neighborhoods and ooh and aah at the houses.

He's always use it in a derogatory way as in, "I ain't gonna let you just rodee' all summer." Or, "All you do is rodee'."

The meandering life is for me and this blog will explore all the things that interest me. I realize this is not the way you become famous as a blogger, but after years of trying to figure out what I want to blog about, I decided that I don't care. I just want to write stuff every now and then. Thanks for reading.