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!

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.

LIVE

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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Life

A Holiday Just for Me

I did it. I survived the holidays. And I don’t have to listen to Christmas music for 10 more months! Hooray!

As I’m sure you’ve already suspected, I’m not usually big on the holidays. Except for Halloween. Halloween is the most joyous of all occasions. Those other holidays though? No thanks. Due to the societal expectations, financial burden, family obligations, etc., I find most major holidays to be not only disappointing, but incredibly stressful. Can’t afford to fly all over the country to visit family/friends for Christmas? There’s a guilt trip for that. Can’t spend a fortune on presents? There’s a guilt trip for that. Aren’t feeling quite as merry as you should during “the most wonderful time of the year?” You’re doing it wrong, obviously. You’d rather work than use up your PTO? You’re a terrible person….And so on and so on.

I hate the pressure that comes with the holidays. Pressure that society and family slaps on us, making you feel like no matter what you do, it’s not enough. Last year, when I was still in therapy, I expressed similar sentiments to my therapist. And you know what she told me? She told me that I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t want to do. And holy moley, she was right.

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Despite the expectations laid on us during the holidays, none of us are under any obligation to fulfill them. There is never any reason to feel guilty for doing what’s best for you.

That being said, I had a lovely Christmas this year. This was probably the first I’ve had in a long time that I didn’t feel depressed. I enjoyed the time spent with Boyfriend and his daughter. Even more so, I enjoyed the time we spent by ourselves on Christmas Eve. I cooked dinner for us and we just hung out, doing what we wanted to do. He played video games, while I watched Doctor Who (a tradition of mine) and snuggled with Merlin. Christmas morning I got up and slaved over this beauty:

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I made my first ever Buche de Noel (or Yule log), including some tiny little meringue mushrooms. Did I have to do it? No. Did I want to? Hell yes. I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud or excited about a dessert I’ve made before. And I didn’t do it for anyone else, I did it just for me. It was totally worth it.

This post is a little late, but the holidays aren’t totally over yet. Don’t forget to make some of it about you.

Life

Goodbye, My Sweet Boy

Yesterday I had to say goodbye to my best friend in the entire world. He would have been 14 years old soon. Words cannot even describe how heartbroken and empty I feel today. At some point I might be able to talk more about it, but right now it’s just too hard. 😢💔

RIP Beaker. You made my life better in so many ways. I love you so much, my sweet boy.

 

Life · mental health

Fits of Gratitude (Pt. 2)

A while back I wrote a post mentioning a few of the things I was grateful for in my life. They were small things, but things that brought me joy, nonetheless. This time of year is always a difficult one for me. With the beginning of the holiday season, I often find myself feeling lonely and in a bit of a funk. This year has been no different. Compounded by some news I received a few weeks ago regarding my dog’s health, as well as my own ever-present health problems, it’s been a struggle to feel the holiday cheer.

So, in an effort to remind myself to be thankful for the little things, here’s Fits of Gratitude, Part 2.

My Animals – There isn’t a single day that goes by that I am not grateful to have Beaker and Merlin in my life. Their companionship, silly antics, and snuggles are there when I need them the most. They give my life purpose and serve as a constant reminder that I am not alone. I adore these two more than anyone/anything else on this planet.

The Bookstore – My home away from home. It’s where I spend my lunch breaks to read or get some writing done. On weekends, I browse and visit friends, both new and familiar, among the stacks. The people who work there know me and always make me feel welcome. There’s always coffee in my hand and the smell of baked goods in the background. I don’t know where I’d spend most my free time if this place didn’t exist.

Books · Life · travel

Wanderlusting: London

Have you ever wished that you were anywhere other than wherever “home” is? I’ve been feeling that way a lot lately. Not that there is anything wrong with my life or where I live. More and more, I am just finding myself wishing that I were traveling and seeing new places. Call it a major case of restless wanderlust, if you will. I was hardly home from Portland a few days before I already felt that familiar itch start to creep up. “Where can I go next?” Is a question that pops into my brain on a regular basis.

Fortunately, there are some upcoming trips in the works to look forward to. (I’ll be visiting New Orleans for the first time in Janurary, and heading back to NYC for BookCon in June.) I am also currently saving for a trip to Europe next Fall-Winter. I have been dying to visit various places in Europe since I was a teenager. And you know what? It’s time to finally make it happen. I’m tired of waiting.

I’m not 100% positive where I will end up on my European excursion, but there are a few places I am really leaning towards. One of them is London. What’s so exciting about London, you ask?

Interior of Shakespeares Globe Theatre Southbank London England. Image shot 2006. Exact date unknown.

For starters, it’s home of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater! I’ve been a Shakespeare fan since high school and would absolutely love to get a taste of what it was like to actually see one the bard’s plays in an authentic setting. (This is actually a reconstruction of the original Globe. Sadly, the original theater burned down in 1613.)

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I’m told that Charing Cross Rd. is a must for any bibliophile, as it’s lined with bookstores, selling both used and new books. (In case you don’t find what you’re looking for on Charing Cross Rd., here’s an entire map of all the different bookstores in London. *swoons*)

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The Sherlock Holmes museum!

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All the Harry Potter things! For example: Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station, the Warner Brother’s studio tour (you can go behind the scenes and see how the movies were made), Harry Potter and The Cursed Child…need I say more?

Of course, there are all the usual tourist attractions in London, as well. Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Kensington Gardens, The British Library, etc. Not to mention, all the food I have yet to try! 🙂