First blog post

Just to be frank, I truly have no idea what I am doing when it comes to blogging.  But, I am excited about it, we will see where this leads me.  I have an incredible husband that is my biggest fan.  He is always encouraging me and he tells me that I will be good at this and that I should give it a try.  So here I am.  Like many of you I have a very busy, crazy life.  But I am very passionate about my family, friends, entertaining, traveling, decorating and my love for food.  On my blog I will share my adventures and loves with all of you.  Here goes, hold on tight!

Nashville Bound!

Now that our children are all driving and two are off to college (Geaux Tigers!) my husband decided that we needed to trade in my suburban (soccer mom car) and get something smaller.  I love my new car!!  He gave me a BMW X6 and it is perfect!  Next thing you know we are telling our children good-bye, throwing our suitcases in the back and heading to Nashville!

We decided to follow Natchez Trace  most of the way between New Orleans and Nashville.  It was a beautiful drive. We saw wild turkeys, deer and beautiful scenery.

We enjoy staying in boutique hotels.  In Nashville we chose to stay at The Hayes St. Hotel.  The staff was very friendly and helpful.  The interior decor was modern with a twist of southern style.  It has porch swings inside with furniture that makes you feel like you are home.  The location of the hotel is within walking distance to some restaurants, bars and music row.  The hotel is not walking distance to the main part of Broadway where all of the action is happening, but, its a quick drive or Über ride away.  They are a dog friendly hotel as well!

One of our favorite spots to grab quick bites and drinks was The Row.  The Row has a large beer menu, great cocktail menu and the best bartenders who are full of Nashville knowledge!  My favorite (pictured below) is the Tn Blood Moon which is Picker’s Blood Orange Vodka and Yazoo Hefeweizen. It’s a Spirit Blended Beer and it was fabulous!  We enjoyed listening to live music and watching the World Cup!  Great Atmosphere.  The first time we went to The Row we just ordered an appetizer of pimento cheese, salsa and bottomless chips to share.  The next time we went we had to taste their version of Hot Chicken that is the thing to order in Nashville.  At The Row they serve their Hot Chicken with a spicy hoe cake, honey, slaw and a side.  Being from New Orleans we thought we should most definitely order the “hot” Hot Chicken.  Well, it wasn’t what we expected…it was more mild.  But, it was delicious!  Just needed to add a little kick of Tabasco!  During the weekend we made our way to Hattie B’s to try their famous Hot Chicken!  One tip that I have is to remember when you go that the line will be long, but it will go fairly quickly.  The line is outside and the dining area is also outside with limited seating.  It is important to be open to sharing a table with strangers if you are planning to dine in.  You can also order online or call in for togo orders.  Believe me when I tell you that it is worth the wait.  We decided to get the “hot” again, but this time we ordered the sandwich  that was served on a Brioché bun, topped with slaw, a side of fresh cut fries and a cold local beer.  So yummy!  Another fun place that we happened upon was Acme Feed and Seed.  When we first walked up we thought that it may be a tourist trap, but we saw that they had a rooftop bar facing the Cumberland River where they had a boat racing event happening. We were greeted as soon as we walked in the door with a smile.  We asked about the rooftop bar and he explained that there was a yoga class taking place until 11:00.  He showed us to the bar and handed us menus to look at while we waited.  Well, immediately I spotted the frozen moonshine lemonade.  Oh my goodness, this drink was so good and refreshing on such a hot and humid day!  We decided to have brunch and shared the Damn Good, a bowl with pinto beans, pulled pork, and bbq sauce topped with two fried eggs.  Very good and very satisfying.  After eating, we grabbed our drinks and headed up to the rooftop to enjoy a couple more cocktails and the boat race.  The Acme Feed and Seed had great atmosphere, friendly staff and a unique menu.  Definitely a place we will re-visit when we return to Nashville.

My husband and I were only in Nashville for two days so our time was limited.  We wanted to be sure to see the Grand Ole Opry.  We went for the tour, not really knowing what to expect, thinking that it may be corny.  Well, to our surprise it was fun and we enjoyed the tour and all that we saw.  Keep in mind that we are country music fans.  Seeing where the stars enter the stage, where they get ready, and where they hangout until it’s their turn to go on stage was exciting.  After the tour we purchased tickets for the show that evening.  It was a sold out show featuring the grand daughter and daughter of Hank Williams and Hank Williams, Jr. It was a good time!  It may not be something that I will do again, but it was definitely worth experiencing!

While walking up and down Broadway shopping, listening to music and people watching we were also searching for a place to sit down, grab a cold cocktail and enjoy the World Cup (we are huge soccer fans).  We found that place in Jason Aldean’s new bar, Jason Aldean’s Kitchen + Rooftop Bar.  The downstairs bartenders were hit and miss with the service and a smile, but the music was great and so were the cocktails.  We did try to go upstairs to grab a bite to eat and check out the atmosphere, but the wait was over an hour for lunch.  So we decided to go find a different spot.  We will give it a try next time.

Having our car with us was great because it allowed us to drive around the first day and get our bearings straight, scoping out all of the places we wanted to be sure to hit.  We also enjoyed driving up and down the Music Row area seeing all of the congratulatory banners for all of the stars who won CMA awards.

One other place that we visited was The Hatch Show Print.  We actually just happened upon this store and office, but it was really cool to see.  Two of our children are artist and have made a few of their own print stamps, so it was great to see such a large production and sharing the information with our children.

Nashville is definitely a place that I would like to return.  A few things to keep in mind when you are planning your trip to Nashville.  Staying at our hotel was a great experience, but staying closer to the nightlife and the busier end of Broadway may be a better choice for our next trip.  Be prepared to wait on tables and spots at the bars, just relax, kick up your boots and wait a while – it will be worth the wait.  One final tip that I will also remember for my self, try to be in Nashville the weekend of the CMA’s.  We have friends who were and they cannot wait to return the same time next year.  They said the music in every bar is amazing and the atmosphere is full of excitement. No matter when you decide to travel to this southern gem…Nashville will not disappoint.

 

 

 

Summertime: Farmers Market and More!

One of my favorite seasons of the year is summer!  This southern girl loves the warmth of the sun, the boat rides, the lightning bugs, the smell of the ocean and the smell of chlorine (ha!), the laughter, the relaxation that it brings and most of all the food!  Living in New Orleans we experience some of the most wonderful dining experiences quite often.  But we also love to cook!  We enjoy stopping at the farmer’s markets to pick up all the summertime fruits and vegetables.  A few of our favorites are squash, creole tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, berries, melons and peaches.  Recently we made a stop and picked up a few things and came home to make some 4th of July treats to bring to our friend’s (or we like to call them framily:  friends who we’ve been lucky enough to call family), Luka and Gina, BBQ.

The first thing I made was a caramel peach sauce to top off the easy homemade vanilla ice cream.  This sauce was very easy to make and tasted amazing!  Our son walked into the kitchen and asked, “What are you cooking? It smells like summertime.”  And yes, it did! I adapted this recipe from one that was posted on the Martha Stewart website.  I made a few adjustments.  Here’s the how to:

Caramel Peach Sauce

Ingredients:

8 large peaches (about 2lbs)

1 ½ C Domino’s fine sugar

1 ½ tsp Ronald Reginald’s Pure Vanilla Extract

1C Water

Step 1:  Bring a large stock pot of water to a boil.  While you are waiting for the boil, make an ice water bath.  Take your peaches and scar an “x” on the base of the peach.  Once you have a rolling boil place peaches in the boil for 2 mins.  I did 4 at a time.  After 2 mins remove the peaches and place them in the ice bath to stop the cooking process.  Repeat this with the remaining 4 peaches.  Where the peaches were scored start peeling the peaches, remove the peach pits and slice into quarters.  Place the slices into a bowl and toss with the vanilla extract.

Step 2:  Combine sugar and ½ cup of water in a small saucepan.  Cover and cook over medium high heat until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Uncover, and reduce heat to medium low, cook until the sugar turns medium amber, this will take about 15 mins. While cooking keep a bowl of cold water close by and occasionally use a pastry brush dipped in the ice water to wipe down the side of your pot so that crystals do not form.

Step 3: Working quickly, remove the pot from the heat.  Add the peaches to the pot and using a wooden spoon, stir in the vanilla covered peach wedges.  Return the pot to the heat and continue cooking.  Continue stirring until the peaches are soft.

Step 4:  At this point your kitchen will “smell like summertime” !! Remove the pot from the heat and allow the peaches to cool slightly.  Take half the peaches from the pot and place in a bowl.  Using your emersion blender (I have tried out many emersion blenders and the best by far is made by Cuisinart) blend the peaches until completely smooth.  This will have the constancy of baby food.

Step 5:  Add the puree back into the whole peaches and stir to combine.  I then let my Caramel Peach Sauce cool and placed it in a glass container to store in our refrigerator.  This should be good for up to 2 weeks in your refrigerator. Our sauce was gone in a day, so yummy!

We just made a simple no cooking necessary vanilla ice cream topped it with our peach sauce.  Here is the quick and easy how to:

4 C Heavy Cream

4 C Whole Milk

1 ½ C Domino’s Sugar

4 T Ronald Reginald’s Pure Vanilla Extract

Pinch of Salt

Combine all of the ingredients.  Pour into your ice cream maker and turn it on…easy peasy.

**I realize that I am not sharing a picture of the finished product with the ice cream or the sauce on the ice cream.  Just trust me, it was beautiful and so tasty!  As I have mentioned before…I am new at this blogging thing and learning from my omissions and mistakes!  Ha!

 

Boston

I have a love for city life and all that it brings to the table.  I enjoy learning about the different cultures, walking through the paths of the history, experiencing the food, and getting inspired through the architecture.  One city that we recently traveled to was Boston, MA.  This is a city that much like New Orleans is very rich in history and culture.

After lots of searching, reading reviews of where to stay and why we chose The Boxer, a boutique hotel in downtown Boston on Merrimac Street. We chose this hotel because we wanted something small and intimate and we wanted to be centrally located where we could walk or ride a bike anywhere within the city. It is very close to the TD Garden which hosts basketball games, concerts, etc.  The Boxer has a wonderful restaurant, The Finch Boston North End,  with a nice variety of choices on their menu such as, clam chowder, crab cakes, fish and chips and burgers.  Their mixologist behind the bar are top notch.  We especially enjoyed their French 75 and Vieux Carré.

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We spent a lot of time walking and I suggest that you bring comfortable shoes.  Walking is definitely the best way to see everything.  One of my favorite stops was the Boston Public Market on Hanover Street.  This market is full of fresh and seasonal foods and products from local vendors.  I could have spent hours in this place.  It was absolutely inspiring.  There is shopping, dining, art, coffee, cocktails, etc.  You name it, they have it!

We enjoyed exploring this city, looking at the architecture, statues and landscaping.  Boston is a very clean city full of history and flowers everywhere!  We stopped in several hole in the wall bars for seasonal local craft beers and of course, being tourists, we stopped in where everyone knows your name…Cheers!

The food in Boston was very good!  We enjoyed clam chowders, lobster bisque, lobster rolls, and oysters.  The only thing that I can say that all of the above mentioned menu items needed was Tabasco. Being from New Orleans, we like our food to have a little kick of spice added.  We were so happy to find that every restaurant that we dined in had Tabasco!

The presence of Italian heritage was huge.  I truly enjoyed walking through Little Italy and soaking up all that it had to offer. We stopped at a little restaurant called Antico Forno for a quick pizza and glass of wine for lunch.  We ordered a Vesuvio pizza.  This pizza was made with fresh made crust, topped with fresh mozzarella, ricotta, prosciutto, roasted peppers and cherry tomatoes.  So delicious and not too heavy!  After lunch we continued walking, seeing the sights, shopping and people watching.  We stopped in for a cup of cappuccino at the Caffe dello sport.  This was one of my favorite stops in Little Italy.  First, they won me over with such an extensive coffee menu.  Then I noticed that every T.V. had soccer games playing!  Love that!  Finally, there was a group of elderly gentlemen who appeared to be regulars.  They were all speaking Italian.  It started with just a couple of them and grew to a group of 5.  They were laughing, enjoying soccer and enjoying whatever was in their flask along with their coffee.  These men were so happy to be together, hanging out, enjoying each other’s company.  Finally the last stop for us that day was the infamous Mike’s Pastry.  Just one word…WOW!  The displays were amazing to look at and made it very hard to choose.  It was like walking into Baskin Robbin’s where there are 31 flavors to choose from only there were more flavors and they were all cannolis! We picked out two to share, an espresso and a chocolate chip.  Well, needless to say we felt obligated to return on our way to the airport to pick up a couple of dozen cannolis for our children and friends to enjoy.  When we arrived  the line was out the door, but it moved incredibly fast.  So if you go to indulge at Mike’s and the line is long, no worries!  Their friendly staff is quick and very knowledgeable!  They also pack to travel!

We love sports!  Especially soccer, football and baseball (in that order)!  So of course we had to go see the Red Sox play in Fenway Park!  It was so much fun!  Our seat locations were ok, but the excitement in the air was the best part!  They, like the Chicago Cubs, have some serious Red Sox fans!

 

 

Our get-a-way to Boston was definitely one to remember and we will most definitely return.  I would actually love to maybe head to the east coast during the holidays.  maybe do a combination of New York and Boston. My biggest tips would be to check out some of the boutique hotels and to wear some comfortable shoes.  The best way to explore this city and all that it has to offer is on foot!

 

 

 

 

Goin’ Up on a Tuesday…

Mardi Gras is my absolute favorite time of the year.  The smells of burgers and chicken wings sizzling on the grills, the smell of jambalaya and gumbo simmering in the cast iron pots, the sounds of King Kooker burners heating up the crawfish pots, children, laughing,  and street vendors calling out, “Hats! Clickers! Glow Toys!”.   It is the one time of year that we come together as a city.  We all have one thing in common.  The love for a big party and big beads.  Whether it is a party with a family atmosphere or a little bit on the wild side, it is a time for traditions.  It is a time when we all come together with great appreciation for costumes, beads, parades and King Cakes.

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We own a home that is one block off of the St. Charles Avenue parade route.  This allows us to invite all of our friends over to catch all of the parades on the biggest weekend of the season, the weekend before Mardi Gras Day.   But, the excitement begins way before that weekend.  We all cook and we cook a lot.  The first step is getting a list together of what everyone is bringing from the drinks to the food.  We have everything from water to jello shots (yes), chipsand muffalettas to pastalaya (it is just like jambalaya but with pasta instead of rice). I always try to throw in some fruit here and there, but the Nonna Randazzo King Cake usually beats out the fruit.  Can’t blame a girl for trying…

Next, we shop.  We shop for food, clothes (always trying to out do each other and our outfits of choice from the year before), decorations, and household necessities (i.e., tp, paper towels, hand soap, cups, ibuprofen, first aid, paper plates, etc.).  Once the shopping is complete then we head to the house, to unload, decorate and organize.

Once we have completed the shopping we lay down floor protection in our house.  This year we decided to follow our Lowe’s salesman’s advice and use Ram Board to cover our floors.  This floor protection tough and durable.  It is a heavy duty temporary floor covering that protected our floors completely from all of the elements and hard soled shoes.  The price was very reasonable, $29.98/roll.  We only needed 1.5 rolls which covered the walking paths to the kitchen and all of the bathrooms (approximately 225 sqft).  We even had a couple of hours of rain here and there and my floors stayed dry! We secured the the Ram Board with 3M Self Release Painters Tape .  The tape stayed put even in our humid environment!  After we finished with the flooring I hung up my friendly reminder signs in the bathroom and kitchen regarding where and where not to dispose of items.

On the Wednesday before Mardi Gras weekend, all of the dads brought their family’s ladders to store at our home so that they would not have to bring them and dump them quickly on the day of parades (parking is very limited).  We also use as many as we can to hold our spot on the parade route.  Yes, you heard me correctly, we hold our spot.  Beginning on Wednesday morning around 3 a.m. our dads show up and walk to St. Charles to find the perfect spot on the neutral ground side.  (For those of you who do not know what I am referring to: The neutral ground side refers to what other states call the median.  It is the neutral area between the two directions of traffic.  It is also the area where our streetcar line runs.).  The trick here is that the streetcar doesn’t stop running for Mardi Gras until Thursday afternoon.  So when staking out your spot it is very important to remember not to block the track.  In order to make sure that you have sufficient space for all of your people you must put items such as, ladders, chairs, tables, folded tents on the ground space in front of the tracks, in the middle of the two separate tracks and behind the tracks.  Then the dads take turns staying at the house and checking on our spot beginning Wednesday until Sunday.  That’s called dedication!

On the day of the first parade we hand out keys to our housed gate to a few of our close friends.  This way there is always someone available to walk others back to the house for a bathroom run.  When we arrive for the first parade the folding tents are set up, the chairs are set up, the tables and food are set up, but most importantly the ladders are set up.  The ladders are for the sole purpose of catching the best beads.  When children are small their parents either purchase or build a seat that bolts to the top of the ladder.  The seat has a bar that goes across the front to help keep them safe.  Some parents have seat belts added as well.  The parents of the children stand behind their children to help them yell, “Throw me something’ mister!” and help catch their loot.  I love the ladders because it gives me the perfect birds eye view for great photos! We our very excited to have been invited to join the Krewe of Tucks and that next Mardi Gras season we will be riding on our favorite parade day! If you see me, let me know and I will throw you somethin’ for sure!  Happy Mardi Gras Y’all!

Lakeshore Landing

We are always up for an adventure.  Originally this past weekend we were all going separate ways with our plans.  We had one competing with his soccer team in Dallas, one competing with her team in Jackson, MS and then the other was planning on just hanging out at home.  Well, thanks to Hurricane Harvey all plans were changed.  So we canceled flights and hotels and pulled out an invitation that we had received a few weeks prior.  I made the call to our friends, apologized for our last minute R.S.V.P. making sure we were still able to attend and it was a Yes!

So, this past weekend we were invited to a special preview event at the newly developed Lakeshore Landing in New Orleans near the Lakefront Airport.  The Lakeshore Landing is a re-developed area on Lakeshore Drive that has plans to have many features such as bars, restaurants, entertainment areas, shops, and an amphitheater for entertainment.  I was so excited to see all of the work that has been completed so far.  So we loaded up the Suburban with our kiddos and their friends and headed that way.

Our friends , Otto and Kelly Dinkelacker with Atelier Orleans are the architects for this project.  They have been working with the developers Mary and Roland Von Kurnatowski , founders of the Tipitina’s Foundation, owners of the venue Tipitina’s and partners in the renovation of the Orpheum Theater.  Honestly, how could they go wrong?  This is definitely going to be amazing!

When we arrived we were already impressed just with our drive up to the venue.  We have lived in the New Orleans area for 26 years and had no idea that there was a marina near the Lakefront Airport.  It was a beautiful backdrop for this project!  When we walked up to the entrance I was afraid we were a little too early, as we were arriving exactly at the start time of 3:00p.m.  To my surprise there were many people ahead of us.  The bars were open selling local beers, cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages.  There were lots of natural and modern wooden and metal elements that fit the nautical theme.  There were plenty of areas to sit and enjoy the views of Lake Pontchartrain and the breeze from the lake was a great relief from the summertime heat.  We found our way to a set of tables that had large renditions of what’s next for this development hanging on the walls.  There was a stage with live music playing and some people were even up dancing.  Our friends arrived with their family and we walked down a winding sidewalk between the outdoor area and the marina that led us to a beautiful shaded area that I instantly thought would be great for a wedding.  It  was open to the water and the ceiling was reminiscent of a pergola, only very modern.  We sat for a minute in this area and again the breeze and views were so nice.  Our friends then led us down the walk way to find a boathouse that was showcasing the National WW II Museum‘s fully restored PT-305 boat.  This was a very impressive site and will definitely be a great attraction for this venue.  Because the restaurant area has not been completed, they had food trucks outside of the boathouse.  We ate some yummy food from Frencheeze Food Truck!  We shared a Percvial Sandwich.  The Percival consisted of very tender and full of flavor Hoison glazed brisket, bright flavors from Razz Jam, creamy goat cheese, pickled onions (we gave those to Otto…not a fan of pickled onions), on toasted french bread for just $9. We couldn’t pass up Frencheeze’s Truffle Fries that were topped with Parmesan and Rosemary Aioli for only $5!  The food was fabulous!  After eating we made our way back up to the main staged area and enjoyed time with our friends and then headed home.

We are so impressed with the areas that our friends have designed!  Can’t wait to go back and see the next phase complete!

Company’s Coming!

As a child I loved it when my mother would announce, “company’s coming!”  Immediately the house would fill with excitement.  My mother always made the best “party foods”.  Entertaining in our home meant that the aromas of her best recipes were about to be traveling through our home.  Our house would be set and decorated with the theme of the gathering.  I would spend forever exploring my closet making the oh so important decisions of what I was wearing and how to wear my hair.  I loved these moments.  I love these memories.

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As an adult I have carried on my love for entertaining in our homes.  My husband and I open our homes, wherever we are, to our friends and families as often as possible.  From large elaborate events to backyard barbecues to our traditional Sunday family dinners with our children and their friends, we enjoy entertaining.  We love to plan the menu, decorate, choose the perfect music and/or game for our events (board games and football – Go LSU!  Go Saints!).  When we travel we love exploring and finding the treasures of the area.  Learning the cultures of the regions and bringing them home with us to share with our friends and family brings on a whole new experience in entertaining.

I am excited to have you all join me through our adventures of entertaining and travel!  From our homes to our favorite restaurants and travel we will explore new places and cuisine and share our journeys with you!  We love it when company’s coming and we love that it is you!  Welcome to our adventures!