Today’s my birthday. I’m not a huge fan of spending my birthday at home because then I just end up cooking and cleaning and doing all the normal mom things I do every single day. I like to spend my birthday being spoiled and doing nothing more difficult than decided what to order at a restaurant. So when Mister announced that he had to go to New Orleans this week for business and asked if I wanted to come along and be there for my birthday, I only had to think about it for about three seconds. I had never been to New Orleans and was super excited to go.
Since Mister had to bring a ton of his video equipment it made more sense to drive. It’s only eight hours from Austin which is not a huge deal. I love to research stuff online so I found us a great Bed & Breakfast. It is so cute and the hosts couldn’t be sweeter. And the chef who makes breakfast is phenomenal. The name of the place is Maison de Macarty and while it’s a bit far from the French Quarter, that’s not a problem if you have a car. We stayed in the former coach house out back and it was delightful.
I have heard almost universally about how gross and dirty New Orleans is, and how nobody really likes it. I have no idea what these people are talking about because I love this place. The architecture is delightful and it makes me want a brightly painted house with shutters in the worst way.
There is such a sense of pride and history in New Orleans. If you think Texans love where they live, you’ve never met a New Orleanian. They’re crazy about their city. I’ve already been on two walking tours that were both fascinating (Tastebud Tours features a great eating tour, and I really loved the historical tour by Bill at Monde Creole.) Culturally, not many cities in America can compare. I mean, Jazz was invented here! If you’re a history buff New Orleans is the best. The Presbytery Museum (on the right side of St. Louis Cathedral) has really fascinating exhibits about Hurricane Katrina and Mardi Gras. The Cabildo Museum (on the left side of the cathedral) features the history of Louisiana and New Orleans. Lately Ada and I have been reading the American Girl books about Marie-Grace and Cécile who lived in New Orleans in the 1850′s and those stories actually got me kind of primed for a visit.
I’ll admit that there are a lot of tacky bars and souvenir shops in the French Quarter but there are also endless rows of lovely houses, quaint courtyards and cute little museums tucked away. Bourbon street gets packed with drunk people every night and the it and urine are hosed down each morning. We stayed away from The Quarter after dark so we never saw the debauchery. We have spent our evenings at nice restaurants located in the more charming neighborhoods of New Orleans. Last night we ate a place called Coquette and it was one of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life.
Mister had to work the first two days that we were here so I wandered around by myself and not once did I feel unsafe. The humidity has made my hair look hideous but that’s about the worst that I can say about this place. If you have a chance to visit New Orleans you should certainly jump at the chance.
We finally made it to Arizona. I love this place. Even though the weather is similar to Texas (they are the same temperature at this exact moment), Arizona–especially where my in-laws are–looks so different. People here take great pains to make it look all lush and gorgeous: palm trees and flowers everywhere and grass that is so obnoxiously green. In Texas we treat winter like it’s winter. Nobody overseeds their lawns because that would mean watering and mowing all winter long. Flowers are relegated to the spring when wildflower season starts (in a week or two. It’s so gorgeous!)
The drive was actually pretty great. Even though I had seven kids with me there was pretty much no fighting. When I was young my parents would give us five or ten dollars at the start of every drive. Each time we fought or sassed my parents we’d get 25¢ taken away. We sure tried to stay in line, although I’d usually lose half of my money. I told my kids we’d be doing this and they moaned and groaned. But I only ended up taking a quarter from three of them. So now I have to pay $70 for nothing. York told me yesterday that I didn’t need to pay him anything because he already has enough money. What a sweetheart! (In case you didn’t know, raising kids when money is tight and letting them know that money is tight is actually very beneficial. They are so grateful for anything they are given and are completely missing that spoiled sense of entitlement that many of their friends have.)
In case you’re wondering there are about five gas stations in all of west Texas. It took me a while to learn the law of the frontier: if you see a gas station, fill up! I’m glad I brought lots of snacks because restaurants were even fewer and far betweener. We stopped at a Taco Bell at one point that was closed on a Saturday night because they ran out of food. Yikes! Especially because you know what that means: McDonalds. Now that the kids aren’t in extra-curricular activities we rarely eat on the go. I can’t say that I have missed eating there.
But we didn’t starve to death or run out of gas. We made it OK, despite a two hour traffic jam in El Paso. I spent most of the day yesterday shopping and settling in. So today is my first genuinely lazy day. Here it is 9:30 am and I’ve only gotten out of bed once (and that was just to turn on the pool heater and get a yogurt). And, gloriously enough, there is cable TV. I’ve watched about a jillion episodes of Pawn Stars and Duck Dynasty. It’s been pretty fantastic.
I don’t know why I wasn’t born as a 18th century aristocrat. This kind of do-nothing life really suits me.
You know what’s nice about Texas? Strawberry season starts in March. It’s been Spring Break this week and our big outing was driving over an hour to Sweet Berry Farm in Marble Falls. (“Forget Disneyworld, kids, we’re going to pick strawberries in the middle of nowhere!”) You’ve got to get there early to get the best berries, and go on the right day (they’re closed on Wednesdays, so Thursday morning is when the most ripe berries are out.) The weather was lovely, the bluebonnets and wildflowers were showing off everywhere, and Mister played hookey from work and went with us.
Sweet Berry Farm has several varieties of berries and Chandler is one of my favorites for making jam. They’re a little on the soft side and very juicy, quite unlike grocery store strawberries. Because of this they turn to mush within a day or two so you’ve got to eat them or use them right now. The taste is out of this world. It’s like a strawberry explosion.
I’ve had my work cut out for me over the last couple of days. I made a strawberry almond pie and 36 jars of jam. Not to mention eating lots and lots of berries.
Massive strawberry overload.
But in a good way.
P.S. If you do go out to Sweet Berry Farm, be sure to stop at Peete’s Mesquite BBQ in Marble Falls. It has the best brisket I have ever tasted. And I’ve eaten BBQ all ever the place, even at Franklin BBQ which was voted the best in America by Bon Apétit magazine this year. Peete’s ribs were second only to Franklin’s. And their peach pie and macaroni salad are phenomenal! Seriously, go there!!!
While I do like to get dressed up and go out, my favorite is to sit around and do my little hobbies. While partying in Las Vegas can be fun (maybe like once a decade), I enjoy peace and quiet. Most of my friends are of the same mind. So when my friend Cheryl said that she’d planned a girls-only trip to a beach house over MLK weekend for four of us, we knew we wouldn’t need much more than books, knitting and food.
And indeed it proved to be laid-back and wonderful. The weather was sunny and pleasant because it’s Texas. But not warm, because it isn’t Hawaii for pete’s sake.
The rental house was teeny and slightly, ahem, rustic in a ramshackle-at-the-beach sort of way. So if you didn’t get invited, blame the fact that the house was so small it only had one bathroom and not even a kitchen table.
We stayed in our pajamas all weekend. We watched movies. We looked for shells on the beach (it hadn’t been plundered by a thousand children like it is in the summer and there were shells a-plenty). I knit (unravelled and reknit the beginning of a scarfy/shawly thing about five times), and read the first half of three different books. We took turns making meals and didn’t venture out in public the entire time.
As you can imagine I was relaxed and revived after several days of lazy bliss. So the fact that kitchen was an absolute disaster when I got home only made me slightly furious; not incredibly furious as it usually does.
I really love birds. Even seagulls. Turns out they’re sort of cannibalistic and didn’t mind eating some left over chicken. Ah, look at the joy on my face. Does anyone not like feeding birds? (Yes. Cheryl. Who cowered in the house whenever there were more than ten birds visible at any one time.)
What’s up with the seagull’s leg?
We also didn’t bring makeup.