Books · food · Life · travel

New Orleans: Where you Beignet All My Life? (Part 2)

My second day in New Orleans was an early one. I woke with the eager anticipation of a child on Christmas morning, only it wasn’t presents I was looking forward to. It was something better: Beignets! Cafe du Monde had been on my list of places to try for about 15 years now. Yes, it sounds touristy of me to say that one of my favorite things about NOLA was Cafe du Monde, but I don’t care. If there’s something wrong with eating hot, crispy French doughnuts covered in powdered sugar than I sure as hell don’t want to be right.

Strolling around the French Quarter in the morning is quite a different experience than it is during the afternoon/evening. There are less people about, making things a little more laid-back and quiet, which is always preferable. I loved strolling along the canal early in the morning, watching the ferries in the distance while the smell of beignets fresh out of the fryer filled the air. I could certainly use more mornings like that.

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Mid-morning I hopped on a streetcar and rode out to the Garden District. The Garden District has quite a different feel than the Quarter. It’s more of quiet, residential area, with picturesque homes, tree-lined streets, and old cemeteries. The first (and probably my favorite) cemetery I visited was Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. I’ve mentioned before how I’m a little obsessed with cemeteries, especially ones with lots of character. Lafayette was by far one of the coolest cemeteries I’ve ever visited. I took so many pictures that it’s hard to pick out just a few to share!

I even made a friend while I was there. 🙂

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After the cemetery, I paid a visit to another local bookshop, Garden District Books. It was a great shop with a nice variety of genres to choose from. Small as it was, I still probably could have spent a few hours wandering around there. I ventured a few  blocks over to Magazine St., to check out the shops, art galleries, and (of course) the food scene. On my way there I paid a visit to author Anne Rice’s house. (I now realize that I should have gone in the evening to see if I could catch glimpse of any vampires.)

That evening, I took part in a Haunted History tour that took us all around the Quarter, pointing out various locations that were rumored to be haunted by ghosts. I don’t really believe in ghosts, but it was still fun, nonetheless. I enjoyed learning more about the history of the city and hearing about some of the creepy/disturbing things that have happened along the way. (For all you American Horror Story fans: Part of the tour was the infamous Lalaurie mansion, which just so happened to be a couple of blocks from my hotel.) I definitely thought about sleeping with the lights on that night. Hehe.

My last day was filled with more wandering, both in and outside the French Quarter. I was truly amazed that even on day 3, I still came across places I’d yet to discover. There were street performers, musicians, and all manners of folks out and about, simply enjoying the weekend. After spending a few days eating and sight-seeing my way across the city, I was quite sad to leave. I realize now that my original perception about New Orleans was not entirely accurate. New Orleans isn’t just a city where people go to get drunk. It’s a place to celebrate beauty, culture, and the art of being alive.

food · Life · travel

New Orleans: Where You Beignet All My Life? (Part 1)

Greetings, friends! After three exciting, fun, and exhausting days in New Orleans, I am back home.

I’ll be honest with you, I was a tad nervous my first day there, as I always am when arriving in a new city by myself. I wasn’t about to let fear ruin my trip though! After a quick check in at my hotel, I took a stroll around the French Quarter to combat any doubts that had been lingering. Within minutes I was in awe of the beautiful sights the city had to offer and immediately felt more at ease. Everywhere you look in the French Quarter you’ll find stunning architecture and art. Every building, whether a small business or large mansion, is resplendent with balconies and galleries framed in cast iron railings, colorful facades, and arched windows. There are hidden courtyards with tables and chairs, elaborate fountains, and classical statues. Every nook and cranny has as much art and beauty as you’d find in any museum. It’s like stepping back into a piece of history every time you walk down the street.

 

I spent most of my first day just exploring and people-watching. I took a ten minute stroll down Bourbon St. (the famous street in New Orleans where everyone goes to get drunk and party) and quickly decided that it was not my scene. Even while avoiding Bourbon St., I found plenty of things to keep me busy. There’s so much to do in New Orleans, that it’s impossible to even make a dent during just one visit.

 

I paid a visit to Faulkner House Books, the former home of William Faulkner, where he wrote his first novel. It was a tiny little shop, but it was packed floor to ceiling with classics and rare editions. They didn’t have much in the way of the genres I like, but it was still cool to check out anyway. I discovered lots of other fun and quirky shops, the French Market (an airy, outdoor market that was half specialty stalls and half flea market), Jackson Square, the wharf, and, of course, restaurant after restaurant.

For me, no trip is ever complete without me sampling as much of the local cuisine as I can. One of the biggest reasons I’ve always wanted to visit New Orleans is because I’ve heard how amazing the cuisine is. “Amazing” doesn’t even cover it. The food I had there was probably some of the best I’ve ever had. It’s not all about the fancy restaurants either, even a po’boy from the corner deli is carefully crafted and packed with more flavor than you can imagine. I ate SO much during my trip and it was worth every freaking calorie. 🙂

Part 2 to follow!

Adult · Book Reviews · Books · Fantasy

Book Review: Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb

By the time you’re all reading this I will be on my way to New Orleans! I’m super excited about the weekend ahead of me. Don’t worry, I promise to take lots of pictures and eat my fair share (and your share) of beignets. 🙂

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My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars 

Fitz has survived his first hazardous mission as king’s assassin, but is left little more than a cripple. Battered and bitter, he vows to abandon his oath to King Shrewd, remaining in the distant mountains. But love and events of terrible urgency draw him back to the court at Buckkeep, and into the deadly intrigues of the royal family.

Renewing their vicious attacks on the coast, the Red-Ship Raiders leave burned-out villages and demented victims in their wake. The kingdom is also under assault from within, as treachery threatens the throne of the ailing king. In this time of great danger, the fate of the kingdom may rest in Fitz’s hands—and his role in its salvation may require the ultimate sacrifice.

The sequel to Assassin’s Apprentice was every bit as good as you’d want a sequel to be. No, never mind. I take that back. It was even better.

In the first book we were introduced to Fitz – bastard son to the former King in Waiting, victim of every shitty circumstance imaginable, pawn in the royals’ game. The second time around Fitz gets dragged in even deeper than he could imagine. King in Waiting Verity is off trying to save Buckeep from raiders, King Shrewd is on his deathbed, and wretched Prince Regal is vying for a chance at the crown. Fitz, the Queen, and all those loyal to the King must watch their backs as everything (and everyone) they know is in danger.

Always the victim, never pegged the hero. Fitz is worn physically and mentally thin as he struggles to finally master the Skill, while also trying to hide the fact that he’s has the ability to Wit. I loooooved the fact that we got to see more of Fitz’s Wit skills. His connection with Nighteyes is a better story of love and friendship than any I’ve encountered in a while. Nighteyes is such a brilliant character.  I was happy for Fitz’s reunion with Molly, as well, although I felt that their relationship was a pretty predictable one.

The story line and the characters are all fantastic and well-thought out. The side characters that we were introduced to in the first book take on more of a prominent role, sometimes stealing the spotlight entirely. The series is a bit Game of Thrones-esque (abeit a bit less graphic), filled with political intrigue, treason, family drama, and bastard sons running around trying to save the kingdom.

I love that this isn’t just another fantasy story. Sure, there’s magic, but there’s much more to it than that. It’s a story about endurance, loyalty, doing what’s right (even when it hurts), and looking out for one’s family/pack.

 

 

Books · Fantasy · Fiction

Top 5 Tuesday: Books I Have to Read in 2019

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Today’s Top 5 Tuesday is all about the  books we have to read in 2019. You know what books I’m talking about – the ones at the top of your TBR list, the sequel that you’ve been waiting for for 2 years now, the ones you’ve been counting down to and dreaming about . Looking back at similar posts I made last year make me chuckle. The books I actually read versus the books I planned to read were quite different lists. Did this happen to any of you?

(Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the lovely Shanah the Bionic Book Worm. Check out her blog to see the upcoming topics.)

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In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire – I loooooved the first three books in the series. This book will follow Lundy’s character. Considering how little she was present in the first book, I am excited to learn what her backstory is.

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Age of Assassins by R.J. Barker – Everyone and their mother seems to have read this one already. I need to get with the times. I hear it’s fantastic.

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Arm of the Sphinx by Josiah Bancroft – I really liked Senlin Ascends and can’t wait to see what the tower holds for Senlin in the next book. (I have a feeling it’s not going to be anything good.)

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Red Sister by Mark Lawrence – I got this one a few months ago and have yet to crack it open.

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Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo – Another one that everyone else raves about. It’s been on my TBR list for far too long at this point. I need to see what the hype is about.

Books · food · Life · mental health · travel

Reasons to Stay Alive (2018)

I wasn’t going to do a reflection post on 2018 this year. With all the “Top 9s” on social media, the New Years resolutions, and the look backs, I figured that everyone would be growing kind of sick of hearing about it at this point. This morning, however, I had a change of heart. You see, today was the first day back at work after a four day weekend. (Even longer for those of my co-workers who have been off since Christmas.) Like any day back after a mini vacation, I expected work to suck today. Surprisingly, everyone was in a cheerful mood – wishing each other a happy new year, talking about how they spent their holidays, and just generally pleased to see each other. What surprised me even more was that I was one of those people.

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This time last year I was really struggling. I’d been in therapy for a few months, but hadn’t clicked well with my therapist. Rather than make any sort of progress, I felt myself slipping further and further into the abyss. While everyone else was wishing each other a happy new year, I was walking around feeling angry with everyone and hating myself. Shortly after the start of the year I started to have all sorts of health issues. I injured my shoulder and had an almost non-stop kidney pains/infections, which would last for almost six months. My eating disorder still had a strong presence in my life, despite all the weak attempts I made to kick it back. I was eating, but not always enough. I was so focused on my weight, what I was eating, and being “good enough,” that every time I ate a meal I practically burst into tears.

By Spring I was reading books and articles expounding on all the reasons that I should not kill myself.

I was certainly not the “New Year, New Me” poster child. Slowly, I kept dragging myself along anyway until one day I began pulling myself out of the hole I’d dug. One inch at a time. With the help of my therapist, medication, and a lot of hard work, I began to understand what I needed to do to really help myself. In June, I took a huge leap outside of my comfort zone and took a trip to New York all by myself. The trip itself wasn’t wholly responsible for the transformation I made, but it definitely set the wheels in motion. During that trip I rekindled my passion for life and food, and discovered my newfound love for travel. (You can read more about that trip here.)

Since then I’ve done so many things that I’m proud of. I’ve put a ton of effort into writing my first novel (Something I’ve dreamed of doing ever since I was a child). I’ve faced my fear of doing things alone and learned to enjoy my own company. I traveled to Portland, OR and began planning future solo trips. I’ve taken charge of my health, despite my eventual diagnosis of chronic bladder/kidney problems. I’ve read the books I wanted, made more time for the things I enjoy, and spent more time with friends. I jumped back into the kitchen with abandon, trying everything I can. I’ve made things (like my holiday Buche de Noel) that sent me through the roof with joy. I started living my life again.

Of course, life will never be perfect. I’ve still had my moments of frustration, doubt, fear, and anxiety. I’ve had setbacks and bad days. About one month ago, I had to say goodbye to my dog, and best friend, of fourteen years. It was hard and I still miss him every single day. But, I know that loss is a part of life and that Beaker will always be with me, even if it’s only in my heart. Despite the setbacks, the bad days, and my grief, I am still ten times better than I was this time last year (even on my best day).

I’ve come quite a long way since the start of 2018. I not only endured and pulled myself through, but I found at least a dozen reasons to stay alive. I can’t wait to find a dozen more this year. Here’s to 2019.

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Books

2019 Reading Goals

Greetings and Happy New Year! Between all the holiday stuff the last few weeks, plus all the writing I’ve been doing, I feel like I’ve been a tad neglectful of my blog lately. Hopefully, now that the holiday season is over, I’ll find more time to write some fun posts.

I mentioned back in November that I had already reached my goal of 40 books for my Goodreads challenge. By the end of the year I managed to complete 45 books. (I’m currently in the middle of two others, but I’m not counting those, since I haven’t finished them.) Check out all the books I completed last year:

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Aren’t they beautiful?

For 2019, my goal is to read 47 books. Realistically, I know that I can probably squeeze in a few more than that, but I don’t want to set the bar too high and stress myself out.

As of right now, I don’t have any other reading goals set for myself or the blog. The biggest goal I’m focused on is getting the first draft of my book done…which it almost is. 🙂

What kinds of goals are you setting for yourself and/or your blog this year?

Books

Anticipated Reads of 2019 (Part 2)

Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone! Time to squeeze in a little more reading/writing to try to meet your goals for the year. Or, you know, just hang out and enjoy yourself. Whatever you end up doing tonight, please remember to be safe! I want to read all your lovely posts/comments in the upcoming year.

Speaking of the upcoming year, are a few more books coming out in 2019 that I’m looking forward to. (Part 1 here)

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Aurora Rising by Jay Kristoff & Amie Kaufman

The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the Academy would touch…

Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem—that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline-cases and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.

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Never Die by Rob J. Hayes

Ein is on a mission from God. A God of Death.

Time is up for the Emperor of Ten Kings and it falls to a murdered eight year old boy to render the judgement of a God. Ein knows he can’t do it alone, but the empire is rife with heroes. The only problem; in order to serve, they must first die.

Ein has four legendary heroes in mind, names from story books read to him by his father. Now he must find them and kill them, so he can bring them back to fight the Reaper’s war.

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One Word Kill by Mark Lawrence

In January 1986, fifteen-year-old boy-genius Nick Hayes discovers he’s dying. And it isn’t even the strangest thing to happen to him that week.

Nick and his Dungeons & Dragons-playing friends are used to living in their imaginations. But when a new girl, Mia, joins the group and reality becomes weirder than the fantasy world they visit in their weekly games, none of them are prepared for what comes next.  A strange—yet curiously familiar—man is following Nick, with abilities that just shouldn’t exist. And this man bears a cryptic message: Mia’s in grave danger, though she doesn’t know it yet. She needs Nick’s help—now.

He finds himself in a race against time to unravel an impossible mystery and save the girl. And all that stands in his way is a probably terminal disease, a knife-wielding maniac and the laws of physics.

What books are you most excited to read next year?